Growing

July 2, 2020

Growing

What makes a flower creep up between the cracks of a sidewalk?

What is that divine urge to grow?

What compels it / drives it / calls it/ compels it?

When conditions are so sparse, why not dry out and rest and die?

A friend recently posed this question:

“Why are we always trying to improve ourselves? Aren’t we already just fine?”

Good question.

Is the urge to grow the same as the urge to improve?

Surely there is a way to balance self-acceptance and still enjoy the energy that comes from learning and growing.

Perhaps that urge to learn and grow is the same as creative energy – that force that causes me to seek out and create beauty; that drives me improve my craft and understand new ideas.

While meeting with my circle of crones, several of us were wondering aloud about our purpose in life, now that our children are grown, and we have retired from our careers. Marion, the eldest in our group by about 20 years, looked around at us and said, with a twinkle in her eyes,

“Now- your responsibility is to grow!”

“Aaah!”, we all said, and relaxed. 

P.S. Becoming My Own Mother

June 26, 2020

This dream came to me in September of 2010, about a month after my mother’s death. It was such a powerful dream, that I can still remember it 10 years. I cannot recall most of my dreams after 30 seconds.

For most of my life I had longed for and grieved the lack of the mothering that I had never received. There were many reasons for that lack – my mother’s poor physical and mental health, as well as having two siblings with schizophrenia – these were the main ones. You can imagine how the dominos fell from there.

Mothers and daughters naturally experience a reversal of roles as they both age. Ours happened very early. I mothered my own mother, as well as my younger siblings. 

I felt the lack of nurturing and guidance most acutely at major transition points:

My first bra.

My first period.

Beginning high school.

Beginning university.

Getting married.

Having my first child.

Menopause.

I have heard it said, that becoming a mother, is the time at which a woman most needs her own mother. I think this may be true. Fortunately for me, my wonderful mother-in-law stepped into the breach to support us, as we became new parents. Thank you Nancy. None-the-less, I can still feel echos from 1985, of that longing for that deep connection with my own mother, as women and mothers.

This dream came to me at a time when I was realizing that I had new freedom from my lifetime of responsibilities. Our children had both left the nest, and my chosen duties to care for my mother at the end of her life were discharged. 

One morning I awoke with this little dream-movie in my mind: 

One day, as I walked through the woods, I was surprised to find that I was pregnant, fully pregnant, and going into labour. So I walked to the seashore where I found myself alone on a beach. I realized that I was going to have to go through labour and birthing this baby without anyone to help me, so I lay down on the sand, near the lapping waves, and proceeded to deliver my own baby. As I gathered the baby in my arms, I looked down, and was astonished to see that the baby was… me. I had given birth to another me! I had become my own mother. I could mother myself.

There are so many ways that this message was important to me:

I could be my own mother. I could provide my own mothering, providing nurturance and guidance for myself, as well as seek it out from other women.

I now had the freedom to reinvent my life. I could now have a new life of my own making. 

I had a whole lifetime ahead of my. My life was not over – it was just beginning. 

I’m sure there are many more layers to discover.

I share this now, so that, perhaps, someone else might be inspired to give birth to something new in their life. Becoming your own mother. 

36. With Gratitude

This is the final sketch from the illustrated journal I created during the final two years of my mother’s life. Revisiting these drawings and writing about them, ten years later, has been an amazing journey. They were healing when I drew them, and healing again as I reflected on the lessons learned through that difficult passage. 

I am reminded, again, of the power of journaling as a tool for reflection and insight. Without this journal I might not have had this opportunity to remind myself of how far I have come. I have learned some pretty great life lessons through my personal challenges, and I continue to learn and relearn them. 

I continue to look for and focus on the good. These days, I see it all around me. My life is very good. I have so much to be grateful for.

And to my mother’s spirit, wherever or whatever she is now – Thank you for your love, and for bequeathing me with a life-long passion for learning and growth. 

35. A Surrendered Heart

Opening your heart – surrendering your heart – it is a risky business. 

Yes and, “What have you got to lose?”

  • Being “right” all the time?
  • A braced, constricted, atrophied heart?
  • A “safe” protected life of control and predictability? 
  • A guarded castle complete with tower and moat?

A surrendered heart is a trusting heart – surrendering fear, and trusting in the ultimate goodness of the universe. 

For me, this is a choice. I choose to believe in the ultimate goodness of the Universe. 

I could be wrong, but this is how I choose to live. 

In these mid-Pandemic Days, this trust in the goodness of the Universe is being tested, all around.  We are all looking for evidence of the goodness of humans, the resilience of nature, and hope for the future.  Meanwhile, peaceful anti-racism protests on our city streets demand the rights of all humans to be treated as equals. Change is in the wind. Break it down and start again. 

I choose to believe that, in the end, love and goodness will prevail.

And if I’m wrong, well, this is how I chose to live anyway – living each day taking another step towards the opening and surrendering of my heart. 

This is the song that keeps running through my mind these days:

At the Centerline by Brian Blade (song begins at 1.22 after the drum solo)

Give me serenity to accept the things
I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference

We won’t be forsaken
Mercy holds us when we fall
So leave the past behind us
Let the moment bring another chance

‘Cause in my heart, I love you
And only love can make a way
While the war is raging,
Can our peace be still


At the centerline,
We will find our balance
A sister’s heart and a brother’s hand
At the centerline
We will meet the challenge
Tear it down and start again

34. Freedom

What is Freedom to me?

Cessation of judgment and resistance: of myself, others, the world, anything and everything.

Letting go of regret and fear.

The release of expertise: “I don’t knooooow…”

Relaxing and rising into the rhythm of the universe,

Taking in the beauty and joy of what is right here, right now,

I find Lightness of Being

And freedom.

33. Out of Control

Have you ever thought of being “out of control” as a good thing?

Fear and anxiety can keep us up wrapped up pretty tight. My fearful younger self worked very hard to bring order into our family life by anticipating any possible problem and controlling every detail. This was my way of keeping us all safe. I was afraid of being out of control. I’d had enough of that growing up and I wanted a more stable life for my children. 

One of the ways that I strove for safety was through my involvement in the evangelical church. Evangelical Christianity came along when I was a teenager, like a lifeboat in a storm. They seemed to have all the answers to life’s difficult questions. And they were happy and fun and had purpose in their lives – give me some of that please!

Later on, the Church promised to keep my children safe, if I would just keep them involved. Awesome – sign me up! That worked well when my kids were young, but eventually my teenaged children, and my husband, refused accept the prepackaged answers to questions of creation, sexual orientation, sin and judgment, Heaven and Hell (i.e. being “saved”). They would no longer come to church.  My carefully constructed Safety Plan began to crumble. 

Eventually I would leave too. It was not easy. I was losing my entire worldview as well as my community. Instead of having the answer to everything, I had no answers. Well…I had one answer: “I don’t know.” 

I stepped into the void, crying, “I DON’T KNOOOOOOW!” 

I jumped off the cliff, and learned to fly.

“I don’t know…I am out of control…I am free…!”

32. Open Your Heart

Learning to have an open heart, to not be defensive, is an on-going, day by day challenge. Fear is not banished once and for all, but it does become more manageable and less frightening. 

I am learning to not be afraid of fear. I can now look at it: “Fear is happening” (rather than “I am afraid”), and be curious about it, “Why is there fear?” One of my most useful tools for discovery is journaling. When I feel my heart constricting with fear or anxiety, I sit down with pen and paper and I start writing, describing  the feelings I am experiencing. Once I begin, I listen carefully to my inner voice. Sometimes an echo of a memory appears (write it down), or I might be arguing with my own feelings, “Don’t be an idiot…” (write it down). I watch for ways that I am acting or feeling, based on ancient history or assumptions that I know to be incorrect. I watch for ways that I am being unreasonable or dishonest or judgmental to others or myself, and I work at being compassionate to myself and others. 

And then I breathe, to open my heart and cool my brain. 

Most often a path forward appears. A path based on a relaxed heart and a better understanding of my feelings. Sometimes I end up with an action plan based on baby steps, and staying rooted in the present moment. 

31. The Price of Freedom

Here is the alternative to a guarded heart – Vulnerability. 

Exposure is the price of freedom.

A guarded heart is a heart imprisoned. 

An exposed heart is free. 

Think of the Grinch: A guarded heart is clenched and shrinking. Fear begets fear. An exposed heart is open, relaxed and growing. Love begets love.

An exposed heart is vulnerable to hurt. This is the price of freedom: to not defend yourself, but to accept life as it happens; to let go of resisting what is, and to stay grounded in accepting the present moment, knowing that “this, too, shall pass”.

Vulnerability requires the courage and strength of the Warrior.

The reward is freedom.

30. The Guarded Heart

Like Rapunzle this heart is locked in a castle. Is it really too precious to allowed out in the world to experience life, love and loss?

Is that how you want to live?

Guarding your heart is natural, especially after you’ve been hurt, but it will not give you the life you desire.

You have the keys to the castle. Have Courage – Liberate yourself!