eleventhbeatnik

musings of an aquarian age counterculturist


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Becoming the Best We Can Be

“What if our ancestors got it wrong?”
Lyn White

Hello friends.  It’s been awhile.  All attempts at writing lately have ended before ever really starting.  Basically, I’ve been feeling flat and uninspired.

Until now.  I stumbled across a presentation called Becoming the Best We Can Be the other day.  Watching it set off firecrackers in my head and filled my heart to the brim. It is so good, so hopeful, so inspiring, so beautiful. So much so, I saw it twice.  It has awakened a part of me that has been quiet for awhile.  Suddenly I’m remembering all the things that matter most to me and why.  Things that too often get buried under the weight of the day-to-day distractions and to do lists.

Do yourself a favour.  Do the world a favour.  Press play.  The entire presentation is available to view online for free and is worth every second of your time.

More soon. I feel it.  xo

Full presentation available here:
Becoming the Best We Can Be

Lyn White


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Strength in Community

photo credit: google images

photo credit: google images

After viewing the film Food Matters, I started reading everything I could find on the subject of Orthomolecular Medicine.  Last week I attended a seminar rooted in that philosophy.  The topic was “Dietary and Supplemental Support for Stress, Anxiety and Depression.” Some of the information presented was new to me; other parts were review of nuggets I had previously stumbled across on my own.

The presentation was really interesting and reinforced many, if not all, of my personal beliefs surrounding the role of nutrition in achieving and maintaining vibrant health.  I attended this talk with certain filters in place, keeping in mind that as an ethical vegan, I often find myself on the sidelines of many discussions involving mainstream nutrition or flavour-of-the-month dietary fads .  As always, I had to remind myself going in that this was a generalized nutrition talk within the realm of “natural medicine”, meaning I would have to do “compassionate replacement therapy” in my head every time I heard the words “meat”, “protein” and/or “fish oil”, etc.  Gah!   Anyway.  By reminding myself that the animal protein bandwagon is firmly not an option for me, and that there are always compassionate alternatives available, I took in the information relevant to my situation and set aside everything else not in line with my personal ethics around food.

In the end, it was not the content of the talk that turned out to be a major revelation for me.  The light-bulb moment that evening occurred as I surveyed my surroundings.  Looking around, I was amazed to realize that the event was not simply well-attended, but brimming to capacity.  It was a full house:  standing room only.

At this realization, one thought dropped down in my mind like a tonne of bricks:  “A sold out seminar directed at those suffering from depression and anxiety.  This is a sign of the times.”

Every person in that room was touched in one way or another by ‘mental illness’ (a term I abhor, but have yet to hear another that everyone understands or accepts).

Every person in that room was someone, knew someone, or had heard of someone suffering with major depressive disorder, general/social anxiety, PTSD, bi-polar disorder or perhaps one of many other stress-related conditions.

Every person in that room was looking for answers, alternatives, ideas.

Every person in that room was hopeful.

Every person in that room was in community.

Perhaps it seems rather Pollyanna-ish to focus on hope in the face of the mind-boggling numbers of people struggling with the symptoms of this far-reaching spectrum of dis-ease.  But I sincerely believe that as long as people are seeking solutions there is hope.  That room was full of people seeking solutions.  Full to capacity.  Full of hope.

I believe depression can be overcome with time, patience and guidance.  And my heart is full.

I believe that suicide is not a foregone conclusion with respect to mental illness.  And my heart is full.

I believe there are antidotes to stress and anxiety available and possible.  And my heart is full.

I believe there is love and healing in community.  No matter what that community looks like.  And my heart is full.

It is my intention to incorporate orthomolecular medicine into my own experience of depression and anxiety in a way that works for me.  I am hopeful.  In community.

My heart is full.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
Marin Luther King, Jr


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Unconscious Uncoupling

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars.
You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”
– C. S. Lewis

So I have a Divorce Order in hand.

Shit sounds heavy.  But basically what a Divorce Order means in the Province of Ontario is that the marriage is dissolved 31 days following the date of the order.

The magic date, you wonder?  Let’s just say the wedding anniversary and divorce date shall forevermore converge.  Ironic, much?

The entire situation at this moment feels inexplicably odd.  A conclusion to the events comprising the train wreck that was 2013 is swiftly approaching in a thankfully undramatic fashion and with an unexpected neutrality of emotion.  The torrential rain of tears and grief that overtook me at the beginning of that story have pretty much dried up. Aside from a smidgen of PTSD, all that remains is a sense of relief.  I marvel at the thought of where I was, and where I am now, with a beautiful future flowering before me.

Lately I’ve given some consideration to the currently popular term “conscious uncoupling” with varying degrees of nausea.  For the few of us who actually had the opportunity to consciously choose to untangle ourselves from unhealthy relationships, I say: congrats on your decision!  For the rest of us, who were tossed into a toxic soup of misery and forced to sink or swim in the dark cold waters of grief, I say:  congrats on not drowning!

Perhaps it is more p.c. to refer to this divorce as “unconscious uncoupling” rather than “blindsided and tossed into a cesspool of shit”, but the song remains the same. That is to say:  Given the circumstances of said “uncoupling”, there really was no “conscious choice” involved here, at least not on my part.   That said, onward ho.  Yes, I’ll spare you from the myriad of jokes that particular phrase invokes in this situation.  You’re welcome 🙂

In any case.  The result of a door closing on that painful time is that another door has cracked open to a gorgeous new beginning filled with hope, love, support, peace and understanding.

I’ve come full circle and I’m so very grateful for the lovely path opening before me.

To those who rushed in with super-sized band-aids for my heart when I couldn’t find a way to stop the bleeding:  thank you.

To those who stood with me in the flames when I felt I was the last tree standing in a forest fire: you are my heroes.

To those who held me tight when I felt I could no longer stand on my own:  I love you.

To those going through similar turmoil and upset right now:  hold on.  Please hold on.  It gets better.  Truly, it does.

xo

photo credit: google images

photo credit: google images


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Seeking the ‘Good’ in Good-Bye: Part 2

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
~William Shakespeare

A decision had been made.  Accompanying my parents on their road trip to Ontario in summer of 1994 was out of the question.  I was starting a new job that was financing my upcoming return to school and which prevented me from taking time off in time to go with them.

That in mind, I explained to my father in a telephone conversation that I wouldn’t be able to take vacation before August.  Agreeing that I would instead come to visit in Manitoba in early August before school started, my Dad said, “Sounds good.  See ya then.”  And we hung up the phone.

That moment in time replays in my mind, in my dreams, and in my heart to this day.  It was the last time I ever heard my father’s voice.

In the midst of all of that I booked my flight to Manitoba.  I was to arrive the day after my parents returned from their road trip to Ontario, intending to stay for a week.

The date of my arrival?  August 3, 1994.

On August 1, I moved into the Edmonton apartment that I would be staying in for the duration of school.  My husband was to commute from his work to the city, until I graduated.

August 2, the day before I was to leave for Manitoba, was filled with the usual pre-travel errands and arrangements.   A bit of shopping, un-packing from the move, cleaning, and packing for the trip.  I was exhausted from everything going on but excited about the impending visit.

In the early evening, I decided to have a bath and wash my hair so I could save some time in the morning and sleep a little later.  I took my time, turned on some music, lit a candle and relaxed.

Coming out of the bathroom, hair tied in a turban, I gasped in surprise as my husband walked into the apartment.  He wasn’t expected to arrive from work until the following morning, in time to take me to the airport.

I started to say “Hi, what are you doing here…?”  But I didn’t get a chance to finish the sentence.

His hands gripping my shoulders, eyes awash with tears and boring into mine, he said almost harshly, “Jill. Your Dad was killed in an accident today.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t want to be the one to tell you.”

My heart stopped.  The room started contracting.  My surroundings began to look like those old fun house mirrors where everything is real but grotesquely distorted in every imaginable way.

I slowly shook my head, incapable of acknowledging the life-altering words just spoken.

“There’s been a mistake”, I said firmly.  “It couldn’t be my Dad”.

My husband then squeezed me so tight I wondered if another breath would come.  He said urgently,”Please call your mother.”

With leaden feet I walked into the hallway, leaned my back on the wall and slid to the floor as my husband handed me the phone.

With shaking hands I dialed and as the ringing tone began, everything around me retreated into a tunnel I could not name.

Abruptly, my mother answered the phone.

I couldn’t think or breathe.  In a voice that to me sounded loud and crazed, these words rushed out of my mouth:  “WHAT HAPPENED???”

Answering me in a soft, shaky voice, my mother unleashed a litany that would alter my world on every level.  “The police came to the door when I came home from work today.  Your father bought a truck and he was going to pick it up and insure it in Brandon.  On his way home, just as he left the city, he was hit head on by an oncoming car swerving erratically into his lane.  Emergency crews were called to the scene but it was too late.  Dad died instantly.  So did the couple in the other car.  They were from New Jersey and it is suspected that the man who was driving had a heart attack.  I couldn’t bring myself to call you, so I asked your husband to drive in and tell you in person so you wouldn’t be alone when you heard the news.”

We talked a little while longer.  Shocked and in disbelief, and even in the face of confirmation from my mother, I still could not take it in.  We ended the call with hushed tones and tears, nonsensical ramblings in a nonsensical time.

That night I did not sleep.  I cried and tossed and turned and cried some more.  Arriving at the airport the next morning, I was completely unprepared for what lay ahead.

As I checked in at the airport, the absurdity of what was happening suddenly and furiously hit me:  I had turned down my father’s request to join his final road trip, thinking there would be lots of time to visit later in the summer.  To add insult to injury, I had pre-purchased an airline ticket to arrive the day after my father died.

I missed him by a day.  ONE. FUCKING. DAY.

As this realization came over me, in front of a ticket agent in a major airport and all in sundry, I began to sob uncontrollably.  My knees buckled.  I could not see.  Not knowing what else to do with my sorry ass, the agent (bless her) came around the counter and gave me a huge hug, essentially holding me upright.  She whispered:  okay sweetie, let’s get this done quickly.  Hold on to me and I’ll get you where you need to go.

And so she did.  I don’t think I could have taken a step further without her.  In hindsight, I wish I had asked for her name.  Because her kindness will live with me forever.  So wherever you are compassionate airline ticket agent:  thank you.

On August 3, 1994, I boarded a plane to Winnipeg.

Not to visit my family as originally planned.

No.  I was about to attend my father’s funeral.

 

Dad

Writing 101:
Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t anymore.

PART 2 f 3 – PART SERIES.

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2


Seeking the ‘Good’ in Good-Bye: Part 1

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
~William Shakespeare

1994 was a turbulent and confusing time in my life.

I was a young married woman, in the throes of discontent, trying to understand and figure out my place in the world.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that not much has changed from that time to this, but I digress.

During that time, I had recently moved from Edmonton to a small Alberta town with my then husband.  Out of my element and out of sorts, I found myself bored and unfulfilled professionally and I started looking for an escape route.  Ultimately, I decided returning to school was the better way.

Social justice was important to me and somehow that led me to the conclusion that becoming a paralegal would align my beliefs with my career.  Yeah …. I know.  In my defence, youthful idealism was running the show.  I had not yet figured out that the concepts of law and justice were not exactly one and the same.

My classes were to commence in the fall of that year.  I called my mother to say I would have some time later in the summer to come home to Manitoba for a visit before classes started.  She thought it was a good idea.  After we finished chatting, my mom passed the phone to my father.  I repeated my thoughts to him about coming for a visit in August.  He replied, “Well your mother and I are going to Ontario to visit your grandparents the last two weeks of July, so why don’t you come with us?”  I was a little taken aback by the question.  Firstly, because I hadn’t expected the invitation.  Mostly, because my father had always been a man of few words and for him, this was A LOT of words.

Immediately, I felt the urge to say, “Yes!  I’ll come with you.”  For a moment I imagined how much fun it would be to do a road trip to Ontario with my parents, something I hadn’t done since I was a kid.

And then reality intervened.  I had just started a job that was financing school and I had been told I wouldn’t be allowed any vacation days until August.

With that in mind I said, “Thanks for asking Dad, but I have to work so I can’t get away in July.  So how about if I come to Manitoba after you get back from Ontario?   I’ll come to visit the first week of August”.

“Sounds good.  See ya then, ” he said, before hanging up.

Little did I know, that was the last time I would ever hear his voice.

Dad

Writing 101:  Day 4
Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t anymore.

PART 1 of 3-PART SERIES.

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2


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Judge Not. Failing that? Learn a lot.

It took me a long time not to judge myself
through someone else’s eyes.

~ Sally Field ~

It has always been important for me to do my best to be non-judgmental toward myself and others.

Looking at this concept more deeply, I realize that the entire topic is far more complex than a sweeping statement of intent could possibly encompass.

I don’t want to judge others.  But I have done so.
As we all have, to some degree.

I don’t want to judge myself.  But I have done so.
As we all have, to some degree.

I don’t want to be judged by others.  But I have been subjected to it.
As we all have, to some degree.

At one time or another, I’m sure you’ve heard yourself or someone else say the words:  “I never judge”.

Over time, I’ve come to view statements framed in absolutes as suspect, including those uttered from my own mouth.  Such rigid declarations can only be spouted from an ivory tower.  A disconnected place where assumptions are too easily made and illusions of perfection are foolishly constructed.

It is only when we choose to leave that place of lofty, often isolated, perception that humility is learned and empathy and understanding begin to unfold, if our hearts and senses are open to it.  Stepping away from an impossibly restrictive way of thinking allows us to consider the idea that what we aspire to is not necessarily what is, no how much we wish otherwise.

So please excuse me while I descend my ivory tower and burn the drawbridge on the way out.

From a more grounded place, I can better state my intention with greater clarity:  I aspire to be non-judgmental toward myself and others.  I am not entirely there yet, but I will continue to make a conscious effort.  Rather than berating myself or giving up should I fail in those efforts, I will remember why this intention is important to me, and take steps to do better next time.

Attempting to avoid judging others while also being strongly opinionated about subjects that are important to us individually is a struggle we all share.  It is at times both a perplexing and highly illuminating contradiction.  Here’s the thing.  Opinions are often formed through personal experience, hearing other people’s stories, or through the lens of popular culture, but they are not necessarily based in fact.  Knowing that, I’ve come to see that when I express an opinion based on little more than observation and less than personal experience, I come away with a lesson.  Generally a painful one, but infinitely educational.

With that in mind, I will take care to avoid saying “I never judge”.  Instead, I will focus on self-awareness around my original intention not to do so.   The reality is that I do not want to judge, but sometimes I do.  Ultimately, I want to learn to notice if I’m passing judgment in some way, identify the thoughts I’m having around it, and change the course of my thinking in a loving and compassionate direction.  I believe that it is in those moments of conscious self-reflection that real, lasting change in our own patterns can be made.

Getting it wrong once in a while does not extinguish the many future opportunities available to get it right.  And so I am embracing every chance I can get to do and be better in this life, with gratitude.

photo credit: google images

photo credit: google images


Esther the Wonder Pig

Steve, Derek & Esther

Steve, Derek & Esther

Have you heard about Esther and her two Dads?  If not:  run, do not walk, to check out their story:  Peace Love Esther

Esther’s facebook page has become just a little bit of an addiction for me.  Okay, edit that.   I am absolutely smitten.  It is so much fun reading the daily photo captions and watching this family evolve and grow (literally grow: Esther is 450+ pounds!)

And the best is yet to come.  Plans are in the works to open an animal sanctuary in Esther’s name.  It is a really exciting journey of compassion and an opportunity for others to share in it.   My own experience working at an animal sanctuary taught me that although it is hard work and costly to manage, it is an endlessly rewarding and enlightening experience.

If you are so moved, please consider donating to help bring this sanctuary to life:

Let’s Build a Sanctuary

The Esther Effect.  What a beautiful thing!

 

Esther & Shelby

Esther & Shelby