Bell Let’s Talk Day #bellletstalk

Never thought my story was important enough. However, as I heal and grow and learn about self forgiveness, making amends to others and truly seeing how life is altered by our perceived and limiting beliefs, I realize my story is important. It makes sense to others who are struggling. You can read my story here:

https://www.bradfordtoday.ca/local-news/column-celebrating-3-years-sober-3299129

Spirituality is not religion

Spirituality is not religion. Religion is a means by which many live out their spirituality. So that said, how do those who do not consider themselves religious tap into this part of ourselves? Hildegard of Bingen said, “The soul is kissed by God in its innermost region.” So I ask, are you in touch with your soul, or your spirit by another name? Do you ever integrate your discontent, dissatisfaction or sadness with a longing of the soul?

https://mailchi.mp/b57a077b501c/i-am-a-journalist-4735330

Satisfaction?

There was a song in the 70’s … by The Rolling Stones called “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” and it went wild. Today we would say it went viral. Getting satisfaction, being satisfied, can be a challenge on any given day. Or can it? What does it take to be satisfied? Are we looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places?

https://www.bradfordtoday.ca/local-news/column-we-dont-know-what-we-dont-know-3137568?utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Email

Finding a sense of purpose

Finding a sense of purpose in the twilight years can be hard when your days feel endless and life is challenging you physically. Generativity and giving to others comes in the latter part of life when we are retired, or stepping back from formal generation of income. We want to care about others and in turn it helps us care for ourselves.

Read more about self-care in my weekly column.

Feeling lost … can be lovely

There was a day recently where I simply felt lost. Totally empty of desire, lacking in motivation. I was scared. I was feeling very alone in the world. Have you ever felt that way? I stood in my space in my nightgown and knew I should shower, get to work, make some progress and simply be productive. I just could not move. I went to YouTube and thought I would put on a familiar movie that would bring some warm and fuzzy into my life. As I was deciding what to look for or seek out, my guru Dr. Wayne Dyer came mind and I was prompted to watch “The Shift” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SnWOTDykAc&t=224s It is a book he wrote and also a movie done in 2009 and is available to watch on YouTube. I started to watch it.

I knit for pleasure and just finished a sweater. The left over yarn had become a bit tangled so while I watched I decided to roll this left over yarn into a neat and organized ball. I found the end and began by wrapping the yarn around three of my fingers to begin a ball. I rolled and listened to the movie. Dr. Dyer is a very wise man and his words always bring me home, bring me hope and give me strength when days seem long or especially dark. I know this movie well because I have watched it before however in learning life’s lessons this kind of a movie has a new lesson to teach every time you read it. Like wisdom literature or ancient text going back to it reveals a deeper and more profound self discovery when one is in turmoil or struggling with the dark times. The Shift is about life’s journey and realization of change and poor behaviours that we fall into. It is a reflection on how life’s monotony, routine and sameness can stifle love, wisdom and passion. How we tend to fall into a routine without watching for the miracles or paying attention to the beauty at hand. It is a message from the very source of being reminding what is important in life.

As I rolled the yarn on my fingers I was stopped dead in my rolling tracks by a knot. It was messy and tied up and the more I pulled on it the more it resisted. It was tight and wrapped around itself intimately holding on with the very fibre of its substance. I had to put down the ball, the organized part of the work and concentrate on the tangle. The more I pulled the more tangled it seemed. It was stubborn. I stopped and looked it over. I pulled gently at the outside strands coaxing it gently and with patience. I looked at the neat ball and I looked at the tangles ahead of me there was a moment where I thought of just tossing the whole thing away, in a box, for another day, and forgetting about it.

Something in me said, “just keep going, I gave you this task for a reason!” So I continued to work and tease out the tangles. I weathered through the first tangle, listening to the shift on the screen. I watched as the organized ball of yarn became larger and larger. I continued on with the tangled mess and in my darkness, I could see how this represented things in life at times. I mean, at one point the ball was in the chair and the yarn was strung and pulled from the chair across the carpet, up the two stairs, down again, over a grocery bag, over another chair and finished in one large mass on the floor. It was there I could see the other end. The finish line. My destiny, the end!

I picked up the end and thought, “hmmmm I wonder if I can work backwards” and started rolling from the other end. The tangles were the same, challenging and yet doable, and I just needed patience and wisdom to work it out. I started pulling and weaving and realized it was not a good plan to start at the end, however knowing there was an end made the middle seem less daunting. I appreciated the struggles of getting through the challenges knowing the end would come, eventually. So I went back to where I left off. An organized ball, tangles and more tangles however the end was in sight.

I spent the whole morning in my nightie, listening to the words of wisdom from Dr. Dyer and his conversations with others, sorting out my ball of yarn. When I finally rolled the final turn and the end came through my fingers, I felt accomplished. I felt completed. I felt I had done good.

This yarn or this tale is introspective of life’s journey. We get tangled up and we pull and we are in knots. Often we simply cannot realize that if we are to relax and tease away at the tangled mess it will fall into organization. It is through the tangles we grow and learn and appreciate our lives. There is a mess of tangles and our fear often comes when we do not expect it. When we cannot find the end, appreciate it, being in it is the hardest part. This is when a deep trust must come over us and we untangle with the collective spiritual wisdom of those before us and those after us. Being present … after all we are human BEINGS not human DOINGS. Being is often the most needed thing to do, right then, right there!

As I was working with the tangled words of my own life in this morning of darkness and distress many words popped up to me. Words like help, alone, stress, silence, and fear. Then as I listened to these words in my thoughts words like love, hope, today, tomorrow, wonderful and the shift replaced them. As I worked through the tangles of those in the story on the screen my own darkness lifted knowing I was not alone, or helpless or silenced. I am in charge of my own happiness and my own life and as I rolled that yarn a renewed strength flowed over me like warm syrup, coating me from the top down in sweetness. All the words were hidden under the tangles of my perceived darkness and when I took the time to look at the tangles it did not seem so dark anymore.

Lately, I had lost touch with source. Stepped away from running, meditating and focussing on my passions and my purpose so I could plan and build business. Ego and financial planning is tangling up my life to a point where it zaps motivation and desire, all that come from my greater ‘why’. My soul contract is to passionately bring excitement and desire to the world. I must watch at all times when I cover it up with EGO planning. Have faith and do and the rest will fall into place and be planned as planning is needed.

What are the tangles in your life? Can you spread it out on the living room floor and get a good bird’s eye view of it? Can you step back, step out and step up to see where you are in detangling this muddle? Will you take a minute and look at the end, knowing it will come even though you never know when? One of the greatest learnings from aging adults is how they wish they had spent more time reflecting, loving, hugging and just being once they are in the twilight of their days. Looking at your own death, writing your own eulogy, and pondering what you want people to remember you for will detangle life very quickly. Taking the time to share your tangles with a trusted wisdom walker helps to bring clarity and hope. No one can do it for you, however a good listener is good medicine. Only you can live your life and own the journey. Be in the boat, be your own captain, be in charge of your yarn, tangles and all!

May your yarn be long and strong, withstanding the tangles and knots.

May your yarn be told well and with courage.

May you find your yarn fulfilling and hope-filled.

May source and the force be with you everyday.

Care is ongoing … not a one time decision

Retirement verses long term care. People move mom or dad or older family into these beautiful hotel like atmospheres only to realize after the move they are very regulated and take away much freedom and care is often not what is expected. They may be pretty however they are overseen by regulations and authority and need to be reviewed carefully before placing your loved one under their care.

Long term care (LTC) is overseen by at least 27 regulations set by government and the MoH (Ministry of Health). Retirement is overseen by at least 10 regulations set by the RHRA (Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority). There is quite a difference. Long term care has one set of standards that says for every 8 or 9 clients there must be a caregiver or personal support worker. Under the RHRA the ratios are for every 30 clients there is one caregiver. This makes a huge difference when your loved one needs personal attention and care. The LHIN (Local Health Integrated Network) is the newest version of CCAC, a system that assigns care to older adults in their “home” environment at what is perceived as “free” care. It is not “free” it is paid for by our government system and your tax dollars. It is a contract system where companies vie for the “right” to be one of these companies that send in caregivers to your loved one and bill the government coffers.

These caregivers can and do go into retirement homes as it is considered the client’s residence. In my experience, I have been a care provider (employee) overseeing 25+ aging adults in a retirement environment, where people pay $2500+ for a 12′ X 14′ space, and I watch contract caregivers pop in and over a short period of time “put your loved one to bed”. They are scheduled anywhere from 6:30 – 8:30 pm to come in, dress, wash and literally put to bed the client. This means your mom or dad is in bed for 12 – 14 hours based on the schedule of the business overseeing this client. I have seen 3 – 4 different businesses represented and all having clients in the retirement home I have worked in. These workers make little more than minimum wage and I have witnessed one worker having 17 clients to see in a 2.5 hour span of time. Do the math, that is 8 minutes per client allowed for a bed time or morning routine. As you read this you may have a better understanding of this news article from this morning’s headline.

What I have seen in the past 20 years is a societal pressure to warehouse our aging adults. It is simply understood that as soon as mom, dad or auntie shows signs of needing help at home, families choose to look for a way to move them into a retirement community of some sort thinking it is for the best for all concerned. This is often unnecessary. With some support many older adults can remain at home in an environment that is familiar and then, during times like we have just witnessed, are not a pawn in a game of holding them hostage in the premise of “keeping them safe.” What is safety? When is safety measures imposing on overall health and wellness? When is love compromised to the point that meaning and purpose for life is lost and depression and increased threat of death moves in. In this recent pandemic, many elders have only seen the faces of their care providers for months … missing family and slipping further into cognitive disease and losing valued memories. I have had arguments defending the elder because this is not fun to be feeling like you are imprisoned in a place where you pay to stay!

As an advanced care planner, personal support assistant, and end of life care provider I wish to ask you to consider seriously when moving and caring for the aging adult in your life. Take the time to investigate all possibilities and look at private home care. At an average of $4000 per month for retirement rooms, good private care is an option for all. I can help. Do the math, at $25 per hour for private care, $4000 buys you 160 hours per month or five hours of care every day, and your loved one stays in familiar territory and you have more ability to control germs and guests.

“What would you do if …?”

Today in the wee hours of the morning before I was really awake I was in my smoky time.  That time in rest when I am between spiritual dream time and fully humanly conscious time.  It is the time where I often get a question to ponder and write about before my morning tea or coffee.  A question to ponder and dream on in what seems like hours but could only be minutes.

Today in the veiled time I was asked “what would you do if, today you awoke and knew it was your last day on earth?”  Once the question is asked, I then spend some minutes in conversation with a dream.  This meditative dream time is a knowing, an understanding, a peace that is given to me to set my heart to rest and a place where contentment is truly felt.  This simple question might be scary or morbid, however when you are friends with mortality and live each day with a choice to understand that as we are born, we shall die to this human existence to live each day as if it is the last is the ultimate gift.

In this question, I thought about my grandsons and realized I would want to sit with them and simply watch them play.  I would observe and honour them in their young ages and marvel at how life has not gripped them in that need to prove anything yet.  I would watch them dream and play their day into being.

As a death doula I have come to an understanding about human life.  This understanding is a place where if this was the last day on earth for me, that’s okay.  I have faced the unfinished business and put to bed the things that create guilt and are fractious in life.  In AA there is a step where you make amends and repair the relationships that have been broken due to a person’s drinking.  This step is an important one to any person and, while saying I am sorry may seem easy to some, it is not.  It is difficult and it is deep and it is a valuable step both for the person doing it and the receiver.  One can ask forgiveness without realizing the depth to which this request will go.  Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” It is ephemeral, fleeting and yet so beautiful.  It comes from a very deep place and forgiveness is not given or received lightly and mostly is an action of one forgiving oneself.  Forgiveness is often unable to be given and evanescent to both the giver and the receiver.  One’s life, in order to be fully happy, begins when we live in forgiveness and continues as the fragrance. When relationships need mending there are often many facets of brokenness.  When one peels back the layers and puts forth the vulnerable underbelly of their heart, in this vulnerability is where relationships are full, strong and lasting. 

Many years ago, I tended to a family and provided oversight to a daughter whose father died.  They had been estranged for years and forgiveness had never been explored.  The relationship had never been mended.  I did not know him in life, I was brought on board after his death.  I knew the daughter and the extended family.  As I prepared the funeral service, I was given some insight about broken relationships and how sometimes the ability to mend them here in this time escapes us and the painful break is taken to the other side for healing.  This often leaves one soul here and the other behind the veil trapped in a fractured existence.  That is a tough place to live.  When self-forgiveness is the fragrance then the air is sweet.

During my dreaming spiritual time this day as the question was asked, “what would you do today, if you knew it was your last day on earth?”  I would do what I do every day.  Seek the forgiveness I need to put my head down at night.  I would be kind, loving and caring to every person I meet.  I would step out in love and curiosity and wonder so at the end of the day there would be no stone unturned and no cheeks left unkissed.  I might go and say a couple of silent goodbyes, I would hug my children knowing I have given good direction, raised them well and given them the planning for what to do and how to live on.    I would hug my grandbabies a little harder and tighter and have them squirm and squeal, “let me go Gramma…” and I would smile.  I would sit under a tree and listen to the wind and I would walk in the forest and hear the birds.  I would eat a large bowl of ice cream and I would be thankful for my journey. 

I would appreciate that I have finished my emotional business, said what I needed to say, repaired what was broken to the best of my ability, recognized the  moments where I know I was obstinate, cranky, out of line, drunk and disorderly, unforgiving and simply arrogant.  I would gather all the sunshine I could into my soul and plant seeds deeply into the darkness so I can grow something cool in the next adventure.  As I await with blessed anticipation for the birth of my third grandchild any day now, I compare that wee baby’s unknown anxieties with my own.  As they have no idea what is beyond the womb of my daughter, I have no idea what is beyond the womb of this earth.  I can only imagine the next adventure and I choose to believe it is as beautiful and exciting as the family this baby is joining.  I wonder what soul contract is in play in this tiny human.

So, if I was to know it is my last day on earth, I would live it like I do every day, with love, compassion, empathy, wonder, curiosity, fun, laughter, joy and most of all, faith.