Practical Guide to a New Year

Practical Guide to a New Year

This morning I woke up far too early. In the early hours in the morning on the first day of a new year it is easy become nostalgic, reflective and overly sentimental. Thoughts of resolutions, change and new beginings start to seep into my head. Then it dawned on me, I don’t need to be a victim of the New Years’s tradition of “shoulds” and the self-depricating garbage that comes with it.  So this year I decided to use my early morning musings to give you some free advice. 1. New Year’s resolutions are traps Motivational speakers, personal trainers and the weight loss industry all want us to buy into the story that if we only try harder, put more focused energy into ourselves, then we can transform into our ideal self. In my experience, that isn’t how the world and people work. Change that sticks is more subtle. You can not make yourself a “project” and expect satisfying results. You are not a hobby or a construction project. You are a complex interaction of your mind, body, soul and community. You are greater than the sum of your parts.  Resolutions fail because they don’t take into account the complexity of you. Often they only focus on one aspect of ourselves and ignore the complexity of the human spirit. Resolutions imply judgement. Underneath judgment is comparison, jealousy, envy and other unflattering things. These are the uglier sides of our human nature.  They can be toxic, extreme and disconnecting.  The reality is that judgement is a form of self-protection.  It shields us from the deeper truth.  At the core of judgement...
Avoiding Death

Avoiding Death

 I think a lot about death. I talk a lot about death. I read a lot about death. I guess I’m a bit morbid. I have come to believe that the way we view death is problematic. It is something to be feared, postponed and avoided. I have seen a lot of suffering in dying. I have seen feeding tubes put in, organs transplanted, cancer removed all in an effort to avoid death. I have seen bodies radiated, medicated and mutilated in order to prolong life. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it is worth it. Sometimes the suffering is short. Often it is not. Often we only prolong suffering. Often we forget the kind of life we are saving them for. We sometimes deny people a good death only to have them struggle with slow decline. My father’s death was horrible but also kind of perfect. There was little struggle. It was expected. There was no fight. We had no choice but to accept it. We got to prioritize him. We spent time as a family that we don’t often do. All the other events in our life became unimportant for a while. I got to nurture, comfort and protect him in ways that I never did before. He got to see how strong we were and feel the pride of knowing he did well by us. While he suffered, it wasn’t long. There is something beautiful in that kind of death. We had no choice but to embrace it. Not all deaths are peaceful and expected. Death is often about trauma, heartache and failure. We sacrifice the last moments with...
Helping Children and Teens through Loss

Helping Children and Teens through Loss

Parents often struggle with finding ways to help kids dealing with hard events that happen in life. This week our community lost another young life. Here is some advice for parents on how to help their kids through this difficult time. 1. Talk to your kids.  If a tragedy happens in a community then the whole community grieves.  Regardless of the age of your child, they will likely be exposed to this event in one way or another if they are a part of this community. Even if your child does not know the victim or family directly, the school, sports teams and anyone connected directly or indirectly are likely to have a reaction. It is not just the tragic loss of a young life that has happened. The loss of his life will ripple through the lives of our youth in ways that are too soon to understand. 2. Ask questions and listen.  What is your teen hearing at school, on the field or wherever else they hang out? What are your child’s thoughts on what happened? If you are listening you will hear the misinformation and more importantly be able to hear their fears. You will be better able to dispel disinformation and reassure fear if you keep your ears open and your mouth closed. 3. Let them know that they are safe. Kids and teens are just like adults. They need to feel safe. We often like to believe that bad things don’t happen to good people. When faced with the reality of life, we all are often shaken up. While it is important not to lie,...
The Grieving Helper

The Grieving Helper

I haven’t blogged in a long time. The reason being is that I really struggled to find anything productive to say. It is hard when you are fighting your own inner battles to focus on things like writing. Every time I sat down to write I felt like a fraud and a hypocrite. Anything I wrote seemed glib and flat. Mostly I have been just putting one foot in front of the other trying to survive. There isn’t anything particularly inspirational about that. You see over the past year and a half I have been struggling with my own loss. My father died in November of cancer. He was diagnosed early and doctors were able to buy us a precious year and a half before the inevitable came.  That last year was an invaluable gift. We talked, we traveled and he helped tie up loose ends. His battle was brutal but not as brutal as some. While the struggle was long, the end came quick. I struggle to share this with you. Professionally there is only so much value in sharing my personal life. While my blog is personal in nature I try to walk a line between oversharing and being too clinical. While I was in the middle of the chaos the lines were blurred. Was I sharing for my own therapy or to help others?  It felt safer personally and professionally to remain quiet so I did. Also it didn’t always feel like my story to tell. My family members have a right to their privacy. My Dad was a private man and really didn’t want anyone...
The Red Wheelbarrow

The Red Wheelbarrow

In 1994 I was a different person, or so I thought.  I was young, naive and pretty headstrong. I got into the University of Alberta with mediocre marks thinking I didn’t belong. I was full of ideas but low on self-esteem and confidence. I was on the brink of adulthood with no plan, no map and no idea. I did have opinions, gumption and no filter. I was happy to voice an opinion without thinking through consequences, and hurt feelings. One thing I did know is that I wanted my English Professor to admit that not everything was full of metaphor and that it was not possible to write an eight page essay on a 16 word poem. It was hard to believe that “so much depends on a red wheelbarrow” or any other wheelbarrow for that matter. so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.  By William Carlos Williams Twenty-two years later I had barely thought of that class or the petite young professor with her long blonde hair perched on the table at the front of the room gracefully dodging the class’ criticism and negativity. I do however think often about the texts we read. I will never forget Frankenstein and its connection to the modern day question of humanity. I won’t forget the astonishment I had when reading Obasan and the realization that Canadians are just as guilty of human atrocities as other countries. Honestly, I think that book was the beginning of my passion for social justice. The spark of my feminist roots can also be traced...