Moving far into October, change is everywhere around me, inside and out. It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything, and there have been a variety of reasons/excuses as the case may be, but it’s time to start again, afresh.
When I last wrote, it was from the home I’d dreamed of living in on the Island I’d long dreamed of inhabiting. And for all the time there, although it was short in the scheme of things, I loved it. I loved it to my core! But that said, something in my core was amiss, and the work became figuring out what that was and finding healing.
It started almost a year ago in October, changes to my bodies routines that told me something was wrong. As the months went on, and the fall, winter and then spring passed, answers still eluded us. As everything I put into my body coursed right through it, my weight began to drop as did my level of energy and my faith that it was something minor I was contending with. I felt unwell...and that to me is not a common feeling. I was frightened to say the least.
In July, I found myself having another colonoscopy, this time with biopsies being taken, on the morning of the same day that we’d planned to start our trip back east to the Prairies. The trip had been planned all year...first of all our 40th MacGregor Collegiate High School reunion, to be followed by a week or so with family and friends before heading to Kenora to work at the 2018 Leadership Camps. I was exhausted thinking about it.
I’d warned Mark that I might not be able to do this year’s camps, as I really didn’t feel well enough to commit. The camps are high energy, high outcome events, where I knew the way I was feeling would be a struggle, but I did promise that If I felt up to it I’d be there. In the days back in Manitoba, I continually did begin to feel better, and come the last week of July I did find myself at the McGregor Leadership Camp, doing my thing...coaching, sharing stories, playing my music.
I indeed felt well enough to participate, but also knowing my limits and challenges had warned Mark that I would be sitting more activities out than I typically did. He was good with that. As a result, I had more time to myself sitting in the cottage staring out at Lake of the Woods. Sitting out on the dock, soaking up the sun and fresh air. Sitting, reflecting and awakening as it were.
By the end of the first week of camp I came to the realization that while working with and challenging our participants to be clear on their values and vision, so that they can begin living their own life’s mission, I was not being true to my own. I’ve done the work and I know that some of my own strongest values are Family, Relationships, Love and Honesty, and yet in knowing that I was living halfway across this vast country of ours. I was miles and provinces away from our kids and grandchildren, from my oldest and dearest friends, from the work that is bubbling inside me to be done. I was indeed living my dream of returning to the Island of my birth, spending time close to the ocean waters I love, embracing my love of adventure and creativity, but began to realize there was another way to be doing that!
We have always loved the Kenora area, being near the incredible body of water that is called Lake of the Woods. What if we explored that as a possibility that would give me more of what I needed in all areas of my life? More time with family and friends here, but still the quiet and solitude that I crave to be my best creative self? More time to be still in one place, instead of the hours spent covering the thousands of kilometers that separated us from our legacy....these children that are growing up before our very eyes at what seems to be the speed of light. What if?
I proposed the idea to Cecil, and the spark in his eyes told me it was a need he’d been waiting on me to awaken to as well, and the search for our next ‘dream home’ began. Like everything else in my life it seems, I threw what I imagined out to the Universe, and today, only weeks after the thought first crossed my mind, I am sitting in my new living room staring out the window at the glassy waters of the lake before me. I have been in this space for mere weeks, yet I am at home! I am loving each moment...the morning call of the loons. The eagle that regularly sours directly over the house. The chickadees the are chattering in the trees throughout the yard. Even the mink that came and greeted FeeBee and I on the dock while Cecil was out kayaking the day after we arrived here. I have found and been blessed with what my heart has been conjuring for years, and am more blessed and grateful than I can say.
My heart also treasures every moment that I was able to spend in Qualicum Beach. We’ve made amazing friends that will always be in our lives. I was able to get back to my music, writing and creativity in a way I don’t think I would ever have been able to had that move not happened. I was also able to detach myself from old pain and heartaches in a way that having stayed in place before the move would not have allowed. Another day I will write about the gifts of finding a place to hold space for yourself. But that day is not today.
And my health? Well the biopsies showed that I have been living with microscopic colitis for the past year. It can only be diagnosed through biopsy of the large intestine, but once diagnosed, can be treated with steroids to reduce the inflammation and get things back on track. I am feeling so, so much better than I did for the last ten months.
I now often ask myself, would I have even thought about this move had I been feeling well enough to live life the way I had been accustomed to? Probably not, and although my condition now has a name and a treatment available, I think it was also part of my body’s knowing that I needed to make change if I was going to be the Granny that I aspire to be. If I am going to share the legacy and the wisdom of my ancestors, the hopes and dreams they poured through their sweat and efforts paving the way for this life I am so lucky to be able to live, I need to be present for those that may most benefit. If I am to live my life in a way that is aligned with my values and vision of what this journey of mine will result in, this is where I will be best able to do that.
The stars have once again aligned to ensure that my path is well lit to best achieve my purpose for being. Life is an amazing, beautiful thing. Being clear on what it is that matters most, makes it that much more incredible!
DD entered my life when I was six years old, two years after we’d moved back to the prairies so that I could start school, leaving behind the coastal world that had been my life up until that time.
It was a very difficult time for me, a chubby little outsider, as I entered the walls of that system not knowing any other children, not knowing until then that I was ‘fat’, not knowing it wasn’t okay to be too smart or even talented because that made you a teacher’s pet in the eyes of the other children, not knowing how tough life could be just being a kid.
DD was Mr. Dobbin to me then, the principal of the school. He was a different Mr. Dobbin on weekends, as one of my Grandfather’s best friends. We’d often venture into the hills on Sundays to visit him and his wife Doris. That relationship put him in an awkward position the first time I was sent to his office when I was in Grade 2. I had blurted out the F word in a fit of anger at another 7-year-old who was tormenting me with teasing and hair pulling. I’d only just learned the word days before when I’d seen it written on the school wall and had been told it was a very bad word that you only used when you were really, really mad at someone. At that moment I was really, really mad. Standing in the principal’s office I waited for the strap that everyone had said was inevitable if you ended up being sent there. It didn’t come, instead I received a stern but compassionate explanation that even when you are really, really mad in grade two, using that word still wasn’t a good idea.
Fast forward 30 years, and Mr. Dobbin became DD, my father-in-law. He remained in that role until the day of his death in April, for although I had been widowed when his son passed and I had remarried in the years following, there was never another father-in-law. He, in return, never let me forget I was his favorite daughter-in-law, and even created a day in June to celebrate that sending a card amended to read just that each year. We had a deep and special friendship for many, many years as he supported my continued farming of the land that had once been his. He embraced the new people that came into my life as a result of my own remarrying, and he was a kind and patient confident for so many of my life’s events.
When I decided to make the move back out to the coast last year, I worried about how I was going to tell him that we were selling much of the farmland that had once been his, and that the house he’d built would be lived in by a renter while we explored other possibilities for our lives elsewhere. When I visited to tell him, it turned out he already knew about that, as people who felt it was their duty to relay all that they ‘thought’ I was doing had already been busy on phone calls to him. His words to me were that he knew that we loved the water and fishing, and we were young and should be exploring other things in life while we had our health and energy. His words regarding those that had meddled in the business that should have been between he and I were not so kind. It wasn’t often you saw DD angered by people, but he had little tolerance for those that chose to stir pots in an attempt to cause unnecessary trouble for others.
One of my fears about moving away was that I’d be so far away from him, but we kept in touch bi-weekly through phone calls, and I made sure we had good, meaningful visits when I was back in the province. I also promised him that I’d be there when needed, and when his daughter called to tell me that things were not good and that he was being put on comfort care, I was on the next plane east to be there for him.
He was the fifth loved one that I would sit vigil with as his days wound down. I’d learned much from the previous deaths I’d walked alongside and through the interest I have in reading end of life support books. Still, with every new death, much of what is forgotten resurrects itself, and new learning takes place. As had happened previous times, in being there, I found myself becoming more present and responsive to the hours and needs of this man who had been a part of my life for so long, and was grateful that I had the means and the support to be with him on this last leg of his 98-year journey.
The first night I arrived I feared I was already too late to enjoy that small, last window of time where communication and sharing was possible, as he was so unresponsive when I arrived at the care-home at midnight. But the next morning when I returned at 7 he was wide awake and so happy that I was there. We spent much of the next few days reminiscing about the loved ones lost, and I was grateful that I had memories of many that so few are left to remember now. He shared more stories of his childhood and his family. He relished moments with his wife, daughter and grandchildren, as life had blessed him with a second family late in life, and you could see the adoration he had for the little ones that were so important to him.
We took turns as a family spelling each other off when needed, and being there together for support when that seemed the more important choice to make. Throughout the days, I started to be reminded of things that often only the dying can remind us about. These are some of those things.
Have you ever read Mitch Albom’s ‘The Five People you Meet in Heaven’? Its one of my favourite books…well, maybe I should really say most of his books are ‘one of my’ favourites! But that one I love, mostly because in it Mitch proposes that heaven will be whatever we really, really want it to be, based on our life experience, our favourite moments and places, and what our perfect place would be. What a wonderful idea!
What is most incredible about is is how blessed I am that I am living in my heaven as I write. I’ve always loved and cherished this little nook in the world, but every year I think I cherish it more. We’ve created a little campground, up on the hill, in back of the main yard. It’s got the most beautiful sunsets over the Assiniboine River Valley. It’s so quiet, you could literally hear a pin drop, except when the generator is running to charge up the batteries in the 5th wheel. When it’s off, there isn’t a sound. Not the hum of a furnace, or traffic, or anything. What there is are birds, insects, the gentle breeze and occasionally the howl of coyotes in the distance.
We put our camper up here early in the year, and take advantage of as many moments as we can. I can tether my cell to get a little wifi reception, to work on things that I’m passionate about pursuing. The cell phone might ring, but most times not. And for the most part it is absolute, blissful peace and tranquility. It feeds my soul and nourishes my spirit like nothing else seems to be able to do. Time at the ocean comes close, but that always comes at a cost…the price of energy expended to share that space with the hundreds of other people who have chosen that as their get away of choice. This is different. This is ours, and the only other people that might be here in this little niche are those we’ve invited to embrace this with us.
I like the camper, because that is ‘my space’. Cecil prefers the quiet and the rustic life he can enjoy in his cabin, just feet away from where our camper is sitting. On the deck of the cabin, we’ve got the greatest swing that was given to us by friends who were moving and decided not to take it with them. We can sit and swing and just stare out into the beauty of the valley for hours, without the need for a word to be spoken. Just drinking in the beauty and the quiet that is this place.
We all need that ‘place’ that is ours to go to. To gather our spirits, reboot and reenergize our souls and ground ourselves for all that the world throws at us. I know how lucky I am to have this, and hope that you have a place of your own that does that for you. It doesn’t have to be large, or remote or even space that is your own, if it’s somewhere that allows you to breathe more deeply and connect more solidly with the source of what keeps you going day after day. If you don’t have that space for you….you need to find one. Honor yourself by making finding that space that is yours a priority, not something that you’ll do one day. Something you will do now, before the world pulls any more from you that you don’t have a chance to replenish.
Some people are pulled to nature, as I am. Others find that in a sacred building, a sanctuary, a coffee house that affords them a corner to themselves, or a museum. It can be on a bench along a small strip of greenspace, or a walkway along the water’s edge. It can be whatever your idea of Heaven might be, even if it’s a sacred space you’ve created in your own home that is yours to go to and be undisturbed for the time needed to replenish yourself. The where is as individual as each of us are, but the need to find this and gift it to ourselves is universal. Have you found your little peace of ‘heaven’ here on earth that nourishes you? If not, what are you waiting for….because you know it’s waiting for you.
As the first long day of 2015, and #IWD draw to a close, I've had much to reflect on. Earlier today, my friend Kubeketerya from Uganda asked the question, what am I and the other elite women doing to celebrate the day. I was very quick to respond that we are by no means elite, but we are very blessed. But this evening as I soaked in a long hot bath, made luxurious thanks to the bath salts from @SajeNaturalWellness that my friend Lisa sent me, I realized that in this broken, struggling world, my friends, family and I may be considered among the elite. We have safe homes, hot water, loving relationships and all the comforts that make for an amazing life. On this same day, so many other women are struggling just to get through the day, feed their children, have safe drinking water, and freedom from persecution. We do not live in the fear and heartache that our #MMIW sisters and their families are walking through on this very same day. So how do we turn this extraordinary, privileged status that we are graced with into action that will make our world a better, more compassionate place for all? As I contemplate my own next steps, I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
It takes time and energy to become who we truly are! In life, so many things can get in the way of our figuring that out..but the time comes in each of our lives where we need to be able to do that if we're going to live happy fulfilling lives that are authentic reflections of our best selves. These are just things I've learned along the way. I hope that they might help you in your own journey into being Truly You!