Ode to My Dad – Raoul Hector Jourdain – on his 79th Birthday

March 29 is my dad’s birthday.  This year he will be 79.  I’m sure when he came into this world, and as the beginning days of his life unfolded, had he looked ahead, he would not have imagined where his journey would take him – the good and the bad.  I would not have imagined the shifting shape of it either.

Hector Jourdain and his youngest grandson on bridge of the Bluefin

I didn’t meet my dad when I was born.  It was some weeks or months later when he came into my life – or I came into his.  And then, for him, it was love at first sight.  Maybe for me too but I don’t remember.  What I became aware of later is the connection I’ve always had with my dad.

He was not always an easy man to live with.  There was a lot of tension in my house growing up and even after I left.  He and mom had their share of battles and I had some of my own with him, though few.

Having said that, people were always welcome in our home – from the earliest days of my memory.  No one was ever turned away – visitors, from near or far.  My friends from school came to play and often stayed for supper. Always room for more.  It fostered a sense of hospitality in me that only grew over the years.  That, and friends could be like family – experienced over and over again during Christmas holidays in particular for quite a few years as a large group of friends gathered for a traditional Gaspe meal after midnight on Christmas Eve.

The sea has always been in my dad’s blood.  He has owned a few boats over the years but his pride and joy was a beautiful wooden boat, the Bluefin, which he owned for thirty years.  With care and craftsmanship, he rebuilt that boat from stem to stern over the time he owned it.  If that boat could talk, many a story would it have to tell.

I already lived in Halifax when the Bluefin came to dad.  He and my mom always enjoyed having guests aboard – and that remained true to the final summers we went out on it.  In the early years, it was much more of a party boat.  I and my friends were always welcome.  Most of the time, anyway.

Dad's pride and joy - Bluefin

There was one time, during Chester race week in August, that a fairly large group of my university friends arrived for the weekend.  We boarded the boat, loading up with supplies we brought – food and beer… and a bit more beer.  My father watched as we brought two-four, after two-four, after two-four on the boat until he finally said to me, “How much is enough?”

Then there was one spring when we offered to help him paint the inside of the boat to get it ready for summer launch.  It all started off well enough… until the beer came out.  And then… well, let’s just say dad found yellow paint in places it wasn’t supposed to be for years afterwards.  I still can’t figure out why he never really responded to future offers of assistance!

When his first grandchild came along, he beamed.  It was probably the only time he stopped by the house unexpectedly on his way to and from the airport.  It was an unexpected delight – maybe for him too.

When my first marriage was ending, I knew I needed to tell my parents.  I took that journey alone.  Fear was in my belly and my mouth was all gummed up.  I was disappointed about disappointing, along with all my own disappointment about my marriage ending.  I thought when I shared the news – saying to my dad, “We are living under the same roof but it was like we are living very different lives,” that he would fall off his chair.  Instead, I almost fell off of mine when he said, “I kind of noticed that.”

No questions asked, he and my mom helped me move.  No judgement – not to me anyway.  A lot of love and caring.  I saw that love and caring demonstrated over and over again in obvious and less obvious ways.  In particular, I saw the love and caring my dad demonstrated towards my mother in the final decade or more of their marriage – more and more consistently than I had seen it at any other time.

If someone would have asked me years ago (and maybe they did), I would have imagined that my father would have died comparatively early in life (he did have his first triple bi-pass surgery when he was 45 – thankfully his health status leading up to that also triggered his decision to stop smoking) and my mother would still be living in the full vibrancy of who she was well into her 90s.

Instead, it was a different path that unfolded.  My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 20o1, again in 2005.  Somewhere in that period of time was the onset of dementia that ultimately took her into long term care in 2008 until her death a few weeks ago.

My father became my mother’s care giver.  At first it was in little ways.  Noticing the little things that were not quite right.  There were a few conversations about my mother forgetting this or that… like forgetting to turn off the oven, or turn on the washer.  Then it became more obvious, like mom put the banana bread in the oven, went to take it out five minutes later and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t cooked.

This eventually evolved into my father watching out for my mother 24 hours a day.  He watched over her day in and day out, night in and night out – including taking care of her hygiene – at home and sometimes in public places.

When my mother died, my parents had been married for 54 years.  On their 50th wedding anniversary in January of 2008, my brother and I had planned a celebration for them.  We had hoped for a big celebration. It ended up being a small celebration in their home.  I spoke a few words.  I had already planned to speak about the two things I felt I integrated into my life from my experience with my parents – that sense of hospitality or everyone being welcome and unconditional love and support.

This took on whole new layers of meaning in the week before the 50th anniversary when I learned that I had been adopted and had never known or suspected it at all.  The feelings of unconditional love and acceptance were magnified as that story unfolded and I had a conversation with my father about aspects of my life I had known nothing about.

As the story emerged, I was asked if I was angry.  I pondered the question and then responded, “If I looked at this from the perspective of people have been lying to me all my life, maybe I would be angry.  But I look at it from the perspective that people made the best choices they knew how to make.  They wanted to do the right thing and choices were made out of love.

My father is a man who wants to do the right thing.  This was most evident in the latter years of his marriage to my mother.  He loved my mother.  He wanted to do well by her.  He exhausted himself as he watched over her, tended her and took care of her until the very last minute when we admitted her into long term care.  Then, every day, he went to visit her for over a year.  It was hard for him seeing mom in her diminishing world while he still lived in the house that had been their home for over 3o years.

There are many stories in this man’s life.  I only know some of them.  They are not all pretty but they are all representative of a man who has lived a complexity he might never have imagined, who has given a lot, cares about craftsmanship and doing things well.  He has traveled many roads and still has a few to go.

Dad is in hospital, yet again, as I write this.  This too has been a pattern of our relationship over the last decade.  He has an amazing will to live and is incredibly resilient despite health problems that have been challenging him over the years.  We live into and learn together – through thick and thin.

There are things I know about him and things I don’t.  We have a pretty dynamic relationship and a few patterns that have been showing up.  One thing I do know about him is that he loves me.  On the rare occasions when I tell him I love him he always says to me, “I love you more.”

I wish him a happy 79th birthday knowing he would be much happier if he was home for it.  I also wish there will be many more for him with a quality of life that allows him to pursue, in ever more gentle ways, the things he loves to do and do well.

Human Tragedy Story Often Obscures Soul Journey Perspective

For a long time, I have believed we are soul journeyers having a human experience. The beauty and challenge of life is that our assumptions and beliefs get tested along the way.  Most recently for me, one way has been through my mother’s journey.

When the symptoms of my mother’s dementia were becoming more obvious in the years before she went into long term care, I knew it as a soul journey and experienced it as a human tragedy story.  This became more pronounced when she went into long term care.  Instead of being the only person in a household living out a bizarre new set of behaviours,  losing her capacity to communicate and do simple things like change the channel on the TV, she became one of many old and dying people no longer able to care for themselves, most living in their own little diminishing physical worlds.

The human tragedy story is amplified in these circumstances and places.  It is hard to see past the story of tragedy when it stares you in the face as you walk down hallways that evoke very visceral reactions in what you see, smell, hear or otherwise encounter – even in a place as loving and caring as the place my mother experienced as home in the last four years of her life.

How many people came up to me, my brother or my father after mom’s funeral to share amazing stories about her that captured the essence of who she was and then proceeded to talk about how they just couldn’t visit her at Harbourview Haven.  How hard it was if she didn’t seem to recognize them.  How hard it is to be in that building when as a culture we have become disconnected from the death chapter of the life cycle.  We no longer experience it as part of the natural flow of life but as something to be feared.  Walking in a place where death is imminent generates fear and discomfort for many of us.  It did for me when I first began visiting my mother, but through my mother the shape of my experience shifted.

For the few who were able to manage a visit or two, they expressed how amazing it was when there was a flicker of recognition in something she said.  I learned how many people besides me she called “little one” (really mom?!) and that was a point of reference for them.

There are others who saw enough through the human tragedy story to visit often.  My mother had a few of those regular visitors although we often didn’t even know it since she couldn’t remember who visited or when they did.  Deeply grateful for those dear friends.

The length of mom’s journey with dementia and her stay in long term care, invited me more deeply into this paradox of understanding  the human tragedy dressing of soul journey.   The phrase “oh, that poor soul” makes me chuckle now.  We use that phrase to describe the human tragedy perspective.  It is the physical experience that appears poor, not the soul journey perspective if you believe, like I do, that we make some choices before we manifest into physical form about what it is we want to experience for our soul journey this time around.

As my mother become more disembodied, I embodied the soul journey perspective from a deeper, more encompassing place of understanding.  Towards the end, her human tragedy story didn’t register for me anymore, only the soul journey perspective.  This gave me a high degree of peace during her long transition process, allowing me to live my life fully even while being present to my mother’s journey and our family care around it.

For the gifted people who work at Harbour View Haven, it seems to me they also see past the human tragedy perspective, treating each individual with full dignity and respect.  Treating them as if they are fully functioning, fully present human beings.  It was a gift to observe this most keenly in my mother’s final hours. It made me wonder what would happen if we all treated others all the time with this kind of dignity and respect – whether we thought they deserved it, whether we thought they were fully human or not.

Living simultaneously with my mother’s journey, my journey and the rest of life, I’ve been thinking about how to express this all so it does not fuel the human tragedy story. I now speak about “the many streams of life”.  We are all in many streams of life all at the same time. Stuff happens.  Stuff comes up.  There is a life giving invitation to be well in all of it, although a more typical response is to be stressed by all the things that come our way that we have to take care.

I’m leaning into this invitation to flow with the many streams of life as though that is what they are, rather than challenges.  Greater spaciousness beautifully shows up.

And then there are the lessons of embodiment that have been present for me in a big way already in 2012.  As I embody my experiences and my learning I understand more deeply my life’s events, my relationships and my soul’s calling.

I’m not saying the human tragedy story isn’t real.  But the soul journey perspective is also just as real although harder for many to see, obscured by the human tragedy story.  The soul journey perspective allows me to live into joy and delight and allows me to fall in love over and over again in a way living into the human tragedy story does not.

For my mother, I continue to experience a dance of joy, delight and lightness as her spirit soars free from the human tragedy unfolding of her physical body.  She continues to be my teacher and my friend and very, very real in my human experience.

Corridor of the Dying or Something Else?

It is such a small leap for me I don’t know why it never occurred to me before.

I went to visit my mother this weekend.  She has had dementia for more years than we know and she has been in long term care for almost three.  Awhile ago I wrote about only understanding her journey from a soul perspective.  This is becoming more true for me as she gets nearer to her transition.

During this visit, I sat on her bed with her, maintaining physical touch the whole time I was there.  When she looked at me and we held eye contact, she smiled and even laughed.  So did I.  Sometimes with my tears also flowing.  The rest of the time, I watched her lift her head to look very intently at things I could not see all around her room.  It is clear to me that spirit in gathering although less clear to me when she will finally decide to let go of her physical body, but likely soon.   We, her family, are becoming more ready as we walk this path her.

To get to the dementia ward in what everyone in the town calls “the Home”, you enter the front door of the building, walk a short corridor past the administration offices and enter through an electronically locked door into the main residential part of the building.  You then have to walk down a long corridor to get to the dementia ward, behind yet another locked door.

As you enter the residential part of the building, you come upon people – old people and in some cases, really old people – sitting in wheel chairs or chairs – just sitting there for the most part, most nodding off.  Those are the ones well enough to be sitting up.  As you go down the corridor, bedrooms are on either side and in most of them someone is lying on a bed, oblivious to the rest of the world.  Sleeping, snoring, unaware. And, as good as this place is – and I do believe it is one of the best, it smells of old people waiting to die, sometimes less so, sometimes more so.  It is a hard corridor to walk with regularity, know the shape of these people’s lives have shifted so dramatically.

I have always thought of these people as waiting to die.  We all know the only way people come out of long term care is in a coffin.  This is where some of our population go to die – when their loved ones can no longer take care of them and, believe me, that is not an easy decision.

For some reason, with this visit with my mom, I had a little revelation and I don’t know why it never occurred to me before, but I’m glad it has now because it expands my awareness of what else just might be going on in these corridors.

My spiritual journey over the last dozen years or so has shown me pathways to altered consciousness, to spirit journeying, to spirit guides, angels and other entities.  I am aware that it is possible to “travel” in dream states – sleeping and waking – and that much good and healing work can happen in these states of altered awareness and consciousness.

As I sat with my mother and observed her looking at that which she could see and I couldn’t, I all of a sudden became aware that her physical body might be old and weak and her brain injured, as they say at the Home, but her spirit or soul is strong.  I began to wonder just where, how far and how often she may have been journeying while her physical body slept and that thought took me to all those sleeping bodies throughout the whole facility and a curiosity about where some of those souls might be journeying to while their physical bodies sleep.  I’m sure some of them may well be wrestling with their own demons, so to speak, but whose to say that most of them aren’t off doing much needed soul work in ordinary and non-ordinary reality.

Then I could feel a bubble of light surrounding this Home. The notion that these beautiful souls might be making contributions to the world that most of us cannot see or understand made my own spirit more joyful.  And now I hold my mother’s journey with an added degree of lightness and joy which I have no doubt she feels.  She is journeying well and will continue to do so, I have no doubt.  She is a great teacher for me.  And I love her and she know that.

Funerals, Families and A Family Story

I attended my uncle’s funeral today.  He was 80 years old, lived a full life and had dementia and other health issues in recent years.  His dying was not unexpected although death always brings some grief and sorrow.

My sorrow today, however, was not for my uncle.  It was for my cousin who came into the church with his family, dressed in orange prison overalls, shackles on his hands and feet, followed by two guards.  The sight was so jarring and so unexpected, tears sprang to my eyes as my heart broke open for him.

You might wonder what a man must have done to be brought to his father’s funeral in prison gear.  I suspect it has more to do with him being a flight risk than a danger to the public, although, to be honest, I don’t know why he is in jail this time.  His family has struggled with his path for some time and, understandably, don’t want to talk about it too much and they shouldn’t have to.   He has been in trouble with the law on and off for the last twenty five years, not because he grew up on “the wrong side of the tracks” or because he had a terrible childhood or because he had a bad streak in him.

He is in trouble with the law because the part of his cognitive ability that helps him discern right from wrong, appropriate from inappropriate, ethical from in-ethical, was destroyed in his mid twenties when he suffered a brain aneurism that instantaneously changed the course of his life forever.  It was a wonder he survived, many don’t, and survival came at a very high cost.

My sorrow is for a young man who lost any chance of living out his dreams or of living a normal life because he simply doesn’t know that walking out of store without paying for merchandise is wrong.  My sorrow is for a person who, one day, had a whole life of promise ahead of him and the next was thrown into unimaginable complexity and chaos in a world that had no answers and no systems to truly support him.  While I don’t know all the ins and outs of his story, I do know his family searched high and low and tried everything they could think of and then some to find a way to help him navigate his life, including having him live with them.  He has been in and out of rehabilitation centres and programs as well as jail.  Is it really true that the only place we have to house a person who’s had this kind of traumatic brain injury is in our jail system?  That breaks my heart.

And, my heart breaks open for my cousin and the path he unexpectedly finds himself on.  There is so much about him that is still quintessentially my cousin – he looks like himself, although he is now prematurely aged and hunched over.  He has a wicked sense of humour.  He knows all the people in his life.  He just doesn’t know how to respond to events in his life.  When his brother, someone he was very close to who kept a loving eye on him, died unexpectedly at a young age a few years after his aneurism, he went to see a neighbour and said, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel.”  And not from the perspective of the grief curve, but from the loss of this integral brain function.

Well, I know what I feel.  I feel my heart breaking open for my cousin, his family, the wife and children he will never have, his unlived dreams and potential and the loss to all of us of a caring, responsible, delightful, contributing young man. I still think of him as young even though he is now in his late forties.  My heart breaks open for this good person who has walked an unexpected path due to circumstances truly beyond his control that no one could have anticipated and which are, apparently, unfixable.

To see him makes me deeply grateful for the ability to intentionally shift the shape of my own path with levels of awareness no longer available to my cousin and leaves me feeling very humble.  While I’ve thought about my cousin on and off over the years and have seen him at family funerals, seeing him walk into the church today in this way will stay forever etched in my memory and my heart will be forever open with love for this human being who is part of my family and a living example of the mystery of how our individual and inextricably linked soul journeys show up in this lifetime.  Maybe if I can hold him in a field of love, even if he doesn’t know it, it will offer some ease and levity to the dark and difficult path that is his to walk.  And, really, he is still just a young man.

Ode to My Mother on Her 79th Birthday and Mother’s Day

My mom and dad in 2000

As another Mother’s Day and my mother’s 79th birthday rolls around I am inspired to write a little dedication to my mother: Mary Patricia Ann Ritcey Jourdain.  This beautiful woman now lives in long term care because of dementia.  I write in appreciation and gratitude for all she means to me because of what she has made possible in the shifting shape of my life.

When I was a baby, my mother took me in.  I didn’t know this until recent years and not until after dementia had already significantly  impacted her, but she loved me like her own – because to her I was her own, even if she wasn’t the one who actually gave birth to me.

She loves me so fiercely she was afraid to tell me this little bit about my life story.  And I certainly felt like I belonged, even in those teenage years when I wished I was adopted so I could escape the craziness of our family dynamics to some idealized dream family – which I didn’t actually think existed but now that I know they do, I know it’s also not an idealized dream family but real people with their own crazy family dynamics and stories.  It’s good my mother wrapped me in her warm embrace and shepherded me into life.

My mother had the gift of gab.  She could talk to anyone about anything, no matter who they were.  And in the summers when we brought guests aboard the Bluefin, my dad’s pride and joy, my mother had a storehouse of knowledge about just about every home you could see from the water and every island we cruised by.  She didn’t like being on the water so much, but she loved being the social director.

When I was younger, I didn’t really appreciate her gift of gab.  I may, I hesitate to say, have even been a bit embarrassed by it.  But as I grew older and found myself in situations where the ability to make small talk would have come in handy, I grew to appreciate what I now understand as a gift and wished I had the same capacity.

My mother only learned to cook when she married my father.  I definitely heard the stories about not even being able to boil water.  She became a pretty decent cook, except for when she wasn’t paying attention – Harlequin Romances were usually the culprit and sometimes it was Another World.  There was more than one burned dinner in our household when I was growing up.  Somehow that motivated me to learn how to cook and my mother gave me free reign to cook and bake as much as I wanted.  To this day, I love cooking and baking.  I find it relaxing to cook for a large crew of people.

She was, thankfully, an adamant voice when I considered whether I should actually go to University because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.  I went and I never looked back.

Over the years, as I got married and had children, my mother showed up more than once when I called.  When I was nine months pregnant with my second child and my husband and I both came down with flu and couldn’t take care of our toddler, she came, tended us, made chicken soup and watched our son.

When I was traveling and needed a hand with the kids, she showed up.  When I moved – both with and without my husband, she was there.  Never any questions or judgment when I got married or when I divorced.  Just always there.

She had a way of unobtrusively lending a hand.  She never got in the way, she just started helping out.  This is a gift I really appreciated as I saw other people clumsily get in the way even when trying not to while my mother just began to do what needed doing, gracefully and easily.

She was amazingly resourceful, resilient and always cheerful.  She loved the few years she worked as a waitress or host in several different places during the summer months.  She could regale friends and strangers with her stories as if they happened yesterday.

She doesn’t tell her stories anymore.  Even before she went into long term care on July 2, 2008 she was losing her capacity to string thoughts and sentences together.

The hardest thing we ever did as a family was sign the admittance papers that turned Harbourview Haven into her home, what will be her last place of residence.  At first, we could take her out for little trips.  We even brought her to my home for Christmas Dinner that first year.  But it wasn’t long before taking her out was just too difficult for her.

She went from walking to sitting in a wheelchair, using the wheelchair to motor around the dementia ward to moving less and less.

My mother, who never let me sleep in, now refuses to get out of bed a lot of mornings – making up for lost time maybe.  She never complains – and almost never did – although she’s been known to suggest that maybe some people should be thrown out the window!  Sometimes I think dementia removed a filter,  allowing her inside voice to become an outside voice, maybe giving her freedom to say things she would have been horrified to say pre-dementia.

I have written before about my mother’s situation and only being able to understand it through the perspective of soul journey.  I feel that even more so now.  What I know is that even though she doesn’t talk much and her thoughts seem all jumbled and incoherent, she brightens up when she sees people she has known and loves.  It takes a bit longer these days but it still happens.  She still knows what she wants and is adamant about it.  She’s on a bit of a hunger strike at the moment – not likely a conscious one – but she is refusing to eat.  I have no doubt she wants to be acknowledged for her choices.  She does accept the milkshakes they give her full of the nutrients she needs to sustain her physical body.

For her birthday and Mother’s Day, I can’t really offer her the kinds of gifts that would have excited and delighted her in the past.  Opening presents, which use to be a much anticipated delight, has no meaning for her now.  When I see things that I know my mother would have liked, I also recognize that as a memory and an honouring of my mother more than as a gift to buy.

My mother’s world has shrunk dramatically and she has too.  She has lost much of her vibrancy and joy in life and her ability to comfort others.  But she’s still a human being.  She’s in her journey, in her way, in her soul’s calling and I would only be fooling myself if I didn’t recognize that she is in a transition from he vitality of a full life to what’s behind the veil.  The rest of her will catch up when the timing is right.

She is still a person.  She is still loved.  She is still my mother even though our relationship has shifted yet again into a next phase – as has been happening over the whole course of my lifetime.  Even when the rest of her passes beyond the veil, she’ll still be my mother and she’ll still be loved – remembered for this most amazing journey she stepped into 79 years ago.  Who knew where it would lead but thank goodness she was here for me because who knows where I would be if it weren’t for her.

My Mother and Grandmother - 1991

Reconstituted Families and the Holidays

In July 1990 I attended my 10 year high school reunion.  At the time, I was married to a handsome engineer, I had just graduated with my MBA, I had been the Executive Director of an Atlantic based health charity for just over a year and I was pregnant with my first child.  I thought I had it made.  Not in a million years would I have imagined how the shape of my life would have shifted 20 years later:  I have three children by two fathers and am twice divorced.  My two older children, now young adults, were born in my first marriage and my youngest, now 8 years old, was born in my second marriage.  Add to this, my mother is in long term care with dementia.  My father lives alone in the house they shared.  My brother also lives alone but in PEI.  And, since finding out I was adopted a few years ago, I now have birth family members in my life.  Over the holidays, to say the least, we are “stretched” in many different directions.

As I experience the comings and goings of my family over this holiday season and the times we are altogether, especially me and my three children, and as I am in conversations with so many of my friends in similar circumstances, I have been reflecting on “reconstituted families” – or, the term I became acquainted with through the adoption world, family constellations.

I like the term family constellations because it enables me to think of my vast array of family and friends, the various ways they show up in my life, and how they are connected to their constellations of family and friends, in an appreciative mode.  If I think of it any other way, I will be sad with feelings of “not enough” – not enough time with my children or my friends, not enough dinners, presents, experiences – what I’m missing instead of what I have.

What I have more than enough of  in my life and my relationships is love.  I have an abundance of love that overflows onto each of my children – individually and collectively – and onto my whole extended family and well beyond that to the people and relationships that I care deeply about – of which I also have an abundance.

I learned in my family growing up that friends can be like family and I experience that richly in my life.  I call them my soul family, knowing that we are finding each other along the way and feeling deeply grateful for how we enrich each others lives.  Some days I can hardly believe how rich I am.

When I greet my days, and my children in particular as I think about our family constellations over the holidays, with love, then there is enough.  It is perfectly right that they also spend time with their dads.  And it’s okay for me to visit with them at their dads’ place and vice versa.  Yes, please come in.  Please come visit – peak into a little part of your son’s life when he is not with you.  It is perfectly right that my children spend time with each other and with their friends.  There is enough time.  There are enough occasions.  There is an amazing amount of joy.  Even when I am the only one home.  I’m not lonely.  I don’t feel sorry for myself.  I feel grateful that these amazing children, friends and family are in my life, filling me up every single day.  I don’t need to be in their presence to feel full of them – although I love being in their presence too.

For those of us who live in increasingly complex family constellations, flood them with love (even when and where you are reluctant to do so – especially when you are reluctant to do so) and see how much love comes flooding back to you.  It is enough.  We are enough.  You are enough.  And in being enough, somehow we become more than enough and delight fills the space, as does joy and wonder.

I and my children may not live or experience a “traditional” family unit, but we fully live and experience the one that has unfolded in our lives, we are grateful for each other and the fullness of our family constellations and find our selves in a beauty and grace to be treasured.

Contemplating Joy

Byron Brown, in Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within, asserts that compassion, strength, love and joy are essential soul qualities.  He says that ego – or our internal judge or critic – would have us believe this is not true, that we are in constant search of these qualities and that usually they are unattainable, maybe because we believe we are not worthy.

A constant search for these qualities would always have them in the future and, while we may have fleeting glimpses of them, they are elusive.  We are thus, by default, relegated to a life of strife and striving, doomed to be ruled by the internal judge or critic who, when we are not doing well admonishes us that we can do better and when we do well, first congratulates us and then says, “How long do you think you can keep that up?”.  Stepping out of this habitual, ingrained pattern in our thoughts and in our life takes conscious, intentional effort but when it happens we experience moments of freedom – even joyful freedom.

Of the essential soul qualities, it is joy I am contemplating most frequently at the moment.  Joy because, as the shape of my world has shifted, I feel joyful – often.  I wake up in the morning feeling joyful, go to bed at night feeling joyful.  I don’t necessarily feel joyful every moment of every day but at least I’ve become aware of my emotional journey and am living into it – rather than walking through it as if it was happening to someone else – or, maybe, happening to just a shadow of myself rather than the multi-coloured range which has become more available to me over the last couple of years.

Joy feels freeing and expansive.  It is fed by gratitude and appreciation. It is fed by noting it and sinking deeper into it – surrendering to it, letting it seep into all my pores, breathing it in with every breath and back out into the world so other people can also feel the expression of joy – even if they do not know what it is they are experiencing.

And as I notice joy and joyfulness in my life, in any given moment, every now and then I also notice the little voice that says — yeah, sure it’s summer now, but what about the fall?  How do you know you are actually going to keep your business busy enough to sustain yourself in the fall?  You should be worried about that now!

Hmmm, you should be worried about that now.  Sounds like the voice of my internal judge wanting to be heard – in fairness to it, it does want to keep me safe and financially sustainable, but it has a limited range of options with which to do that and they all include struggle, worry and fear – emotions I am very familiar with – as I am also familiar with how constricting and how limiting they can be, shutting down the capacity of the soul to be in full expression – which includes full manifestation that comes from a place of trust.

Most of us have learned that life is full of struggle and if you want to get ahead you have to work hard, really hard – and even then there are no guarantees.  We have learned that life is not handed to us on a silver platter, we have to work in order to live and adversity makes us stronger – you know that phrase – that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Okay, so there may be some truth in that but I declared awhile ago (a bit more than a year ago in fact) that I was welcoming ease into my life.  I’ve had varying degrees of success with that over the last year and a bit – it takes intentionality and really paying attention  in any given moment, and, for now, it seems to be more and more a characteristic of how I am living my life and what is showing up in it.  It doesn’t mean there aren’t difficult things or moments that show up. My father’s diagnosis of prostate cancer is a good example, the uncertainty of this story as it unfolds over the next 6 months to a year and the impact on me as his main source of support in his health care.  Or my mother’s journey with dementia in a long term care ward.  Or entering yet another new phase of my life as both of my older children prepare to depart to different provinces in the fall for University.  But it does mean I entertain these stories, events in my life, with a different kind of graciousness which invites ease into how to hold them them.  And it doesn’t mean I can’t feel joy or be in a state of joyfulness as I experience the ebb and flow of my life and the ebb and flow of the lives of people I care about.

I am welcoming ease, welcoming joy and welcoming the full array of what all needs to show up in my life, saying no to worry and to fear, yes to presence and to calm.  I am aware that fear, worry, frustration are waiting in the wings some days, some moments, but I am no longer expecting them and no longer inviting them – consciously or unconsciously.  Every moment will take care of itself.  And, if I believe that, it is a far more playful and fun way to show up in the world, a world of joy and joyfulness.

If it is true that the other shoe will drop, why can’t it look and feel like the first one rather than the one we allude to: the heavy handed, heavy-hearted counterpart to joy, love, compassion and strength?