Curiosity, Anxiety, Guilt, Gratitude, Peace

  1. What was happening? Describe the circumstances.

Last August, I was diagnosed with a very rare and incurable form of blood cancer.  On Nov. 11, 2014, my daughter drove me to another city to be with me for my fist appointment with yet another new doctor.  This one would be my second oncologist that will have a role in my treatment.  This one will be in charge of my care when the chemo pill that I am currently taking stops working, and the time comes for me to have the only other care option available to me…a bone marrow transplant.  A new city, a new hospital, a new doctor, a new team of professionals, all working together for the sole purpose of prolonging  my life by winning  the battle over these defective, rogue cells that are taking over my bone marrow and, if left untreated, will eventually kill me.

2. How did it / does it feel in my body (then, and/or now). Describe specifically or poetically. Include impulse (what I felt like doing). Name the feeling.

Needless to say, the start of the day was filled with curiosity and mild anxiety.  Mixed with that however, were also some complicated feelings of guilt and disappointment that, this year, I was not going to be able to take part in any of my normal Remembrance Day traditions to pay tribute to our veterans on this important day.

3. What meaning did I / do I give to it? Includes how it fits in a current relationship, as well as recurring past patterns.

My family has had a strong military history, and it felt peculiar to not be able to pay homage, in my usual fashion, to those living and dead, family and non-family, on this special day.

4. What did I choose to do with the energy?  … and what happened… Consequences can include how I felt as a result of my choice, as well as implications for others.

Once I became aware of how I was feeling, I thought everything through and came to the conclusion that though the traditional time for the moment of silence and remembrance is 11:00 AM, it would be ok to have my time of reflection, remembrance, prayer and thanksgiving at another time during this day.  I also realized that I would also probably be able to see a re-broadcast of the memorial service in Ottawa, later in the day.  Most of all though, I gained the acceptance of the fact that caring for my health is important, and having my own personal time of remembrance later in the day would in no way lessen the tribute to our vets.  I was suddenly at peace!

5. Gathering Wisdom: What do I learn about myself? How does the learning fit within major themes in my history? How does it relate to my life purpose? What does it tell me about a specific present relationship? What is unfinished?

Funny how things happen!  As it turned out, my appointment s with the doctors were finished just before 11:00 AM.  I was sitting in the lab awaiting my turn to have blood work done when an announcement came over the loudspeaker.  The staff and patients were encouraged to share in a moment of silence to pay tribute to the fallen, and all vets, on this Remembrance Day!  There was then a broadcast of recordings of a bugler and piper playing the traditional military songs, and after our moment of silence, there was a reading of the famous poem, In Flanders Fields, written by John McCrae during World War I.  What a beautiful tribute and time of remembrance!

 This experience helped me to realise that although circumstances may necessitate a change from traditional routines, different recognition is still recognition, and if it meets the diverse needs of daily living, without minimizing the reason for the tribute in the first place, there is nothing wrong with it!  It was actually quite moving to see a busy hospital grind to a stop and have silence take over the normally noisy and chaotic hospital environment.  This was truly a moving memorial and tribute to our vets, and we did in fact “remember them”!

6. What do I choose to do now in response to my learning?

 This experience has certainly reinforced my understanding of how much “tradition” means to me, and how and why I respond to days and circumstances that have traditions wrapped up in them.  However, it has also helped me to loosen up some of my perceptions of what honouring those “traditions” means, and how it is done.  I believe that this increased flexibility in my life will bring with it a greater sense of acceptance and peace, especially as I age and as health limitations change my ability to honour those old “traditions”, in what has become an ingrained and traditional manner.  Finding new, and equally valuable and respectful ways of doing so, is not only okay, but necessary as time progresses.  After all, doing things in a new way, is not always a bad thing, it is just different!.


Peace, Contentment, Happiness

A few years ago I moved into a new community, just before Christmastime. The move came after some extremely difficult years and challenging experiences. Everyone kept asking me if I liked my new home.  What could I say? In the spring, I had an answer.   Do I love my new place?  Let me count the ways…

Last night I went for my first walk on the trail that is right across the street from my new place.  One minute out of my door and I’m out of sight of my home and immersed in nature! The trail is beautiful.  You walk beside a small creek and through a park for quite a way, and then walk through an underpass/spill way for the creek.  You stay surrounded by nature as life and busy thoroughfares are left behind you.  Slowly you start to be aware that the water sounds have changed.  What was the eager gurgle, while the stream raced and wound its’ way over and around the obstructions in the creek bed out in the open park areas, has changed to a quieter peaceful murmur as it slides unhindered over the open concrete spillway, and echoes a little bit inside the metal underpass.  A little further along however, you are once again aware that the sounds of the water are changing yet again.  Now, it is the sound of falling water that you are starting to be aware of.  As you reach the end of the underpass, it is much louder and you find yourself standing at a lookout point beside a 20-30 foot waterfall!  I was so shocked!  I didn’t realize that the ground dropped off like that going down to the river at that location.  What a great way to unwind…all of those beautiful robins, cardinals, blackbirds, woodpeckers (noisy little fellow that he was!! It sounded like a jackhammer going off when he started drilling into that hollow thirty foot tree trunk!), seagulls, squirrels, the beauty and tranquility of the river itself and of course, all of those other happy folks out biking, jogging, running or walking, with or without their dogs.  The path then continues beside the river, winds through a bush before ending up at a park and suddenly I am immersed back into the hustle and bustle of suburbia.

The people are so friendly here.  I passed a number of people out walking their dogs.  Be they German Shepherds, Black Labs, Collies, Heinz 57’s etc., it made no difference.  They were all enjoying the treat of just being able to be out in the WARM, if slightly overcast, spring evening.  All had smiles on their faces and were quick to offer their version of a cheery “Hello”.  Whether spoken in English or Canine, it made no difference.  The message and the emotions were the same.  What a treat and what a beautiful evening!  One pair of ladies who were out for their walk had an older dog with them on their trek.  He looked like he was a mixed breed and probably was a cross between a Black Lab and a Collie, with the colouring of the Black Lab.  He was so old though, that all of the fur around his chin had turned snow white.  When he walked, he kind of lumbered along as he tried his best to keep up with his mistress.  You could tell that it was a real challenge for him, and he was trying so hard to hurry!  However, it just wasn’t happening for him last night.  He had that kind of “smile” on his face that dogs sometimes have when they’re happy just to be out and about with their beloved master or mistress.  As the ladies passed me by, they smiled and send “hello”, but quickly returned to their conversation.  Their faithful companion kept pace with them, albeit about 30 feet behind them.  I said to him as we passed, “They’re leaving you behind!”  He just “grinned” at me and kept plodding faithfully along behind them! I’m sure I heard him say when he looked back at me, “Yeah, but I’m not as young as I used to be and you know, it’s been one of those days.  My arthritis is acting up on me tonight!  They don’t mean to leave me behind!  It’s OK, sometimes we just like our own space!”  He didn’t care, he didn’t have to be “in their back pocket” to be content.  Just being close and out together, walking and enjoying nature and the beautiful evening, was enough for him to be content, and oh so very happy!

Now I wonder….what I will discover today, tomorrow, and the days after that?  What will I discover when I take a left turn, rather than a right turn?  It could be anything, but the most important thing, I’m sure, will be peace and contentment.  That’s because now I feel like I am at peace with myself and I am really HOME!  It may be a new community, but it’s HOME!

frustration, anger

  1. What was happening? Describe the circumstances.

It happened this week, when I started to say goodbye to my sisters and friends because soon I will be leaving Chicago for 9 months assignment in the Philippines. I remembered my experience in Chile for 2 years: my struggles and difficulties in learning a new language and adapting to a new culture, the difficulties in finding my ministry, and the frustration to find out that my degree from the USA was not recognized by the government of Chile.  In addition, when I came back here, I felt angry and very disappointment because I felt unheard and judged by certain people.

  1. How did it / does it feel in my body (then, and/or now). Describe specifically or poetically. Include impulse (what I felt like doing). Name the feeling.

I felt my chest was very heavy and my heart was beating faster.  My face suddenly became warm and I could feel that tears were rolling down from my eyes.

  1. What meaning did I / do I give to it? Includes how it fits in a current relationship, as well as recurring past patterns.

I know that it is hard for me to forgive.  I hold so many grudges and I have the ego that wants to show to others that I was right; I feel that I was judged because I was not given an opportunity to tell my story and I had to go to a painful and difficult process last year.

  1. What did I choose to do with the energy? … and what happened… Consequences can include how I felt as a result of my choice, as well as implications for others.

I felt overwhelmed and I closed my eyes.  Then, I felt the joy and gratitude that came from within.  There was a moment of deep silence where I could feel the presence of God in my life.  In my mind I could picture my experience: the ups and downs and at the end of it, I could see myself standing in front of a big ocean, with my hands reaching out to the sky.  I let the people around me know my feelings.  I shared openly about what was life for me before, what do I see the experience and what do I feel now.

  1. Gathering Wisdom: What do I learn about myself? How does the learning fit within major themes in my history? How does it relate to my life purpose? What does it tell me about a specific present relationship? What is unfinished?

I have learned to take a positive attitude towards a negative experience.  I saw that what had happened to me as an opportunity to grow.  And this had been offered to me freely.  I was glad that I took it and made it right; I made it beneficial for my growth.  I have become more resilient and compassionate towards others.  I feel that I am more prepared and ready to focus on my next assignment in the Philippines.  I choose to live in gratitude rather than to live in bitterness from the past hurts.  I thank God for this opportunity.

  1. What do I choose to do now in response to my learning?

Now I already start my process of forgiveness and do some acts of reconciliation.

Exhilaration, Peace

  1. What was happening? I was driving over the causeway to Sanibel Island (my favorite place in the world!)
  1. How did it/does it feel in my body (then and/or now)? It felt exhilarating as I was moving from the mainland to the island, looking over where the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico meet. All of my senses were heightened. I could feel the warm sun and gentle breeze move over me as I drove across the bridge. I could hear the sea birds welcoming me to the island. I could see the beauty of God’s creation above and below me. I could taste the sea air. I could smell the freshness of life. I felt exhilarated and at peace all at the same time. It felt like I was “coming home” and so grateful to be there.
  1. What meaning did I/do I give to it? I think it was a reminder for me of how life is meant to be. Something joyful and naturally comfortable and taken in to the fullest.
  1. What did I choose to do with this energy? And what happened? I chose to spend the day in complete attention and mindfulness of my place in the beautiful sanctuary of this island. The more attentive I was, the more I was aware of all that surrounded me and how blessed I was to be a part of it.
  1. Gathering wisdom: The experience reinforced what I already knew but forget constantly—that I was made to be in the moment and enjoy all life has to offer NOW. I am not meant to be worrying constantly about what might happen or could happen. Doing so blinds me to all the miracles (large and small) that are happening at any given moment.
  1. What do I choose to do now in response to my learning? To try harder to be in the present, without worrying about what waits around the corner, in order to take in all the blessings life has to offer. I will try to use a mantra/word (Sanibel?) to bring me back to the present when my mind starts to race with worry.


Concern, Frustration, Peace

  1. What was happening? Describe the circumstances.

Where I live, there is an elderly lady I have come to know since she was widowed about 1 ½ years ago.  To some extent, she is a recluse.  We had lived on the same floor in our building for about six years and I had only seen her twice before her husband was hospitalized.  She did not seem to want or need to interact on a social basis with anyone.  However, quite surprisingly, she was quick to accept my assistance in the later stages of his hospitalization, just before he passed away.   This poor soul had nobody in her life anymore!  She was well advanced in years, she and her husband had never had any children, they were immigrants, and the only family that either of them had were a couple of nieces and nephews who still lived in Europe and were over 70 themselves.  She truly was all alone in this world.  She was very frail, with multiple health issues, though mentally competent and had a great desire to remain independent.

At the beginning of our interactions, she was overwhelmed with the situation that she now found herself in, and she eagerly accepted any and all assistance that I offered her…..interacting with the funeral director, taking her to various appointments, and handling all the various things that needed to be done to finalize his estate….pensions, income tax etc.  As time went by, and things with his estate were eventually being finalized, I sensed that she was gradually withdrawing from me and trying to once again claim back her independence.  This was a good thing, but the resulting solitude, not so much.  A very positive step forward though, was when she accepted the fact that she needed to appoint a Power of Attorney for Personal Care, so someone could make medical or personal care decisions on her behalf when she was no longer capable of doing so. Not surprisingly, it was me she asked to do this for her, as she really didn’t have anyone else she could ask.  Any of the friends that they had had earlier in their life had either already passed away, or were mentally or physically incapable and already in nursing homes themselves. I was happy to accept this role for her, but it is a bit of a two edged sword!  I am happy to know that there is something in place to ensure that someone will be able to make appropriate decisions for her when she is no longer capable of doing so.  However, she is a stubborn lady.  Occasionally, she opens up a bit to tell me how she is doing and the help she needs as her physical limitations escalate.   So, we talk about the things that can be put in place to help her out.  She agrees, and we put it in place with the various social agencies.  Then, she changes her mind and she cancels everything.  And so the cycle continues.  Her personal health and safety are a concern, but my hands are tied.

2. How did it / does it feel in my body (then, and/or now). Describe specifically or poetically. Include impulse (what I felt like doing). Name the feeling.

It is so frustrating and aggravating!  This repeating cycle of complaints, problem solving, meetings with social agencies to put things in place to facilitate her on-going independence, and then her cancelling everything is so extremely exasperating. I feel so angry for my wasted time and energy.

 3.  What meaning did I / do I give to it? Includes how it fits in a current relationship, as well as recurring past patterns.

This change in our relationship where she now has withdrawn a bit and now has this recurring pattern of having me make arrangements for her care and then her immediately cancelling everything as soon as it is in place, has definitely affected my own perception as to my role in her life.  Apart from the frustration of knowing that she is making her life more difficult and painful for herself, it has also resulted in me feeling a need to withdraw substantially from our day to day interactions.

4.  What did I choose to do with the energy?  … and what happened… Consequences can include how I felt as a result of my choice, as well as implications for others.

Upon giving it very serious consideration, and discussing the situation with friends who are in the health care industry and social agencies, I came to the understanding that this is far from an unusual situation with independent seniors who are experiencing deteriorating health, while still maintaining their mental functionality. Part of them knows and accepts the limitations that they are facing, but a part of them still wants and needs to resist the necessity of reaching out to others for help!  As a result, they are constantly fluctuating back and forth in their decisions.  I decided to respect my own physical and emotional needs and not allow her to waste my time and energy, yet still look out for her when she really needs my help.  As I result, I chose to back off dramatically in our interactions, leaving it entirely up to her to contact me if she wants or needs something.  By backing off, it reduced my frustration substantially, I have no feelings of guilt, and it has helped to protect my own personal energy levels, and to be at peace about the entire situation.

 5. Gathering Wisdom: What do I learn about myself? How does the learning fit within major themes in my history? How does it relate to my life purpose? What does it tell me about a specific present relationship? What is unfinished?

In retrospect, my immediate response to jump in and help her in her time of need was a very typical response for me.  I am a person who wants to help people in whatever manner that I can.  However, from a variety of life experiences, I have come to understand that although many people may need help, not everyone is actually prepared to accept the help that they require. It is also important to remember that they have every right to make their own choices as to how they want to live their own life, while they have the mental capability to do so.   As well, as my own health situation has changed dramatically since I agreed to help her, I have come to the realization and acceptance of the fact that I need to protect my own health and energy levels.  This has to be my top priority.  So, it is not only ok, but imperative to have taken the steps that I have to alter our relationship. There are social agencies and organizations that can provide her with the care and assistance that she requires.  So, if I get them involved, I am still caring for her without me taking on the responsibility myself. A perfect solution!  I have finally learned, and accepted, that it is perfectly ok to finally put my own needs first, without guilt, and that if I don’t care for myself, nobody else will.  How freeing this is.

6. What do I choose to do now in response to my learning?

As a result of my altered circumstances, and my deeper understanding of my appropriate role in my own life and those around me, I have chosen to reduce my interaction with her and have changed how I see my responsibilities, not only in her life, but in everyone else’s as well.  Now, the onus is on her to approach me with her requests for assistance.  I will set the wheels in motion for interaction with the appropriate support agencies, but then I will back off and allow the professionals to interact with her without me.  When the time comes that she is no longer capable of making her own decisions, and she really requires my intervention, if I am able to assist her, I will.  If I can’t, I will ensure that there is someone else to take on that role, and be sure to respect my own physical needs and limitations and back off without guilt.


Helplessness, Frustration, Fear

  1. What was happening? I found out that our 19 year old granddaughter moved out of the safety of a maternity home with her baby into the home of a much older male “friend” just 10 days short of moving into independent housing arranged through the home.
  2. How did it/does it feel in my body (then and/or now.) I felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness especially since she lives 300 miles away and there was nothing I could do at that point to stop her. I felt frustration because she didn’t listen to any of my “words of wisdom” or take/appreciate all the help those who love her offered. I also felt fear for what the final outcome will be since her mom, our daughter, made similar choices years before and the outcome wasn’t good. I feel a knot in the core of my being and I want to literally scream to release that tension.
  3. What meaning did I/do I give to it? I know my feelings and reactions all go back to our daughter mentioned above. Watching the entire situation unfold is reliving what we went through years ago with our now deceased daughter. The similarities are uncanny. Déjà vu.
  4. What did I choose to do with the energy?…and what happened? I tried to center myself with deep breathing and prayer. I reminded myself that I am not in control of the situation (so hard for me) and that I can’t force her to accept the help she needs. I remind myself that she is not my daughter and the outcome may be different.
  5. Gathering wisdom: I am learning (slowly!) that I am not in control of everything around me. I cannot fix everything bad that happens to those I love. I do not need to feel guilty because I can’t fix these things. That part is a relief! I am reminded that when I fall back into this habit of thinking I can control all things, I am playing God and that is something I don’t want to do! This is an ongoing learning process for me but I am pleased that when I step back and look at a situation such as this at least I am aware and can identify what’s going on.
  6. What do I choose to do now in response to my learning? I can still offer her advice but I need to accept that she may chose not to take it. I also need to accept that she will make mistakes and that she needs my unconditional love and support in order to keep the lines of communication open.