Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wounded In Action

Wounded In Action
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

More than anything, I wish I were a great writer. It would be wonderful to be a great anything, but I really want to be a great and successful writer.

I am feeling incessantly mediocre as I work and work and never win a single writing contest. I have had two publishing successes with the same local magazine. I am grateful for their willingness to publish my work. Writing is what I want to do above all else and I will continue to do it, but I must work a day job everyday in order to keep a door between me and the streets.

All day, every Sunday, I work on these blog posts for the week: writing, editing, publishing and promoting. I haven't monetized it yet but I may do some very specific advertising on it that relates to the literature that inspires some of the posts. I could give it up and focus solely on submissions to literary magazines to see if my skill and luck improve with respect to writing contests and publication. Some people have told me that the blog is of value to them and that, in my estimation, makes it a worthy enough undertaking; however, if the writing is crap to mediocre and remains so despite my best efforts, then perhaps it is of no use and I should stop.

I still have no regular job following my layoff in the spring and that wears me down though I try not to worry. I'm 54 and, financially, just getting by with massive credit card debt. I try to stay positive but sometimes that is the hardest thing in the world and it takes all of my energy.

I never want to be homeless again. I couldn't go to my home when I lived with a violent alcoholic in my twenties. I spent my time wandering the streets before anyone caught on to what was happening. I have written about it. Did anyone read it? Did it make a difference or was it self-serving tripe?  I don't have a writing degree though I study daily. I will never get a university degree now. I hated post-secondary school because I was closeted and desperately lonely in my difference. I was assaulted and made to feel "less than" because of my difference. That has continued throughout my life courtesy of misogyny and hetero-normative dismissal (at best) and hate and physical/sexual attacks (at worst).

I read more books than you could imagine. I think I am getting better at writing though I will likely never make any money at it. Perhaps my work is too harsh, too honest or not cheerful enough. Perhaps it is not in the style that a publisher desires. I have no idea. I am working on the second draft of my first novel though I have no idea how to get it in front of anyone. I doubt any of you know, save the few who are writers or published authors. To you, I admire your skill, your tenacity and your good fortune. Seeing your success allows me to believe that some writers get published once in a while. Like Van Gogh, will my eventual demise guarantee me appreciation of my work in the afterlife? Seems so cruel to gain fame after a lifetime of work and not even know it because you are dead. What a torture - like screaming, unheard, into a storm. I am nothing like Van Gogh in my skill, though perhaps so in temperament. I know I am absurd in my hope and penitent in my sulking.

To those of you who have purchased visual art from me recently, thank you deeply for your patronage and appreciation of the work.

To those of you who have taken the time to read my writing and let me know that my work was of value and meant something to you, thank you - I hope I have expressed my gratitude to you, for it is massive.

To those of you who have no desire to be artists above all else, count your blessings. It is an unfortunate thing to know your love and not be able to pursue it in every waking hour, until it is the best it can be, because you must do something else in order to survive. Those of you who get paid to do what you love are fortunate to be paid for following your heart.  I like the paid work I do right now very much. I am of service and I am grateful for the kindness with which I am treated in my temporary job. I complete my duties with a good heart and do my best to go above and beyond expectations. I am cautiously grateful for the door remaining between me and what has proved itself to be a cold and brutal world at times. The loss of my permanent position has reminded me of how tenuous that state of protection is, how close I am to the street again, but this time as a middle-aged woman faced with extraordinary and seemingly impossible circumstances. The entire process to find this mangy old dog another permanent position is cruel and unusual for one whose position was made redundant having served diligently and with a good heart for twenty years. What a surprise: middle-aged, barren, spinster is deemed worthless by white, hetero-normative society. Hey, look, it's still 1950!

I am a good old soul with not so much hope left and I want to be honest about how this feels. I know it is not pretty and not empowering, but if any woman reads this who feels she is the only woman left holding the shitty end of the stick as she enters her senior years, if she thinks it is she who has failed, if she believes she is not good enough - well, if enough of us women actually speak our truth, maybe people will see that something is systemically wrong, that patriarchy and misogyny are still tearing women down and that we are still being treated as valueless - particularly if we are not attached to a man as his chattels - and we do not appear or identify as female in a way that pleases men. Gender attachment to physical sex organs is a misogynist trap to make women meet the desires of men. It is a set up and it is BS. Many of us women still feel compelled to do this to survive and it makes me sad. Every time I see myself trying to prove myself worthy to a man for ANYTHING, my level of self hate escalates; It is cumulative and as heavy as a plague upon me. It is branded into my skin:


I doubt every woman feels this way; hell, maybe no one does, but there you have it. Another week and, if nothing else, another honest post that I should or should not have kept to myself. Marching on through another week with wishes for light, love and laughter and a sense of peaceful well-being to each of you. Many things are good. I have a home. I have food to eat. I have work to do that serves well. I have the capacity to keep going. I have technology to reach out and share. Perhaps, after all, this will be enough and, for these things, and the love I have from those in my life, I am grateful. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. August 27, 2016

Once upon a time, Cape Cod, Mass. USA
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014
Photographed from home movies shot by Brian F Cornwall, c. 1966

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Small Starts

Winter in the Cowichan
Graphite, ink, water colour pencil on paper 
Approx 8"x10" - $100
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2010

small starts 
and endings with a tear
a life of hearts 
and no replacement parts
we turn from fear 
to cheer
when we realize the clock is ticking
without misgiving
without a lie 
we love
we reach 
beyond our past
make it last
this life
is yours
small starts

-Gillian Cornwall, c. August 21, 2016.

Live as though each minute counts because it does. 

Everything you do, everything you feel, counts. You affect the whole universe with each thing you feel, think, say and do. Try very hard to remember this and ingrain it into your lifestyle. Treat others as you would be treated knowing you are loved and deserving of well-being - no matter your past; no matter what you have been told; no matter what you have learnt to believe to be true about yourself that leaves you feeling "less-than." 

Each of us has the gift of life and, with each breath, there lies opportunity for joy and wonder. It is that simple. Do not let your past anchor you to pain that was never yours to carry. Let go. Release it. Break free. Thank it for the lessons of compassion it may have taught you and release the bitterness of what it has taken away - for the bitterness hurts only you. 

You are so loved by the Earth herself! She feeds you and offers you her life-giving water. Turn your heart to the great mother and thank her for this gift. Give back to her. Recreate the bond between you and her life force. Sparks; small starts; life; yours. 

We are one. 

Gillian Cornwall, c. August 21, 2016.

The Woods - on the footpath to Tring, Hertfordshire
Gillian Cornwall, c. October, 2015.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

LOVE. What is it?

Fernwood Painted Power Poles
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

Ah love, amour, the passion of the heart! Odes are written to it, people die for it, statues and edifices are built to it, but what the blazes is it actually and why is it causing such a kerfuffle?

Is it what happens between the sheets?
Gumby and Pokey - cuddling ...that is all.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Is it a feeling like you have gone to heaven because someone makes you feel all funny inside?
Mount Baker on a Summer Day
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Is it a walk with someone on a Spring day, thinking of all the wonders you have shared and will share, today and ever more?
Spring in Victoria, Finnerty Gardens, UVic, BC

Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011

What is it, anyway?

All I have is this, in whatever state of togetherness or separateness from another human:

Love is energy. It is the energy that is constant, just as in physics. It is an energy that cannot be taken away. It may change along the way. It may shift from one way of being to another but it is eternal regardless of its form.

If we think of love as energy, as the energy of the universe flowing through us and all around us, then perhaps we can let go of fear a little. Perhaps we can breathe more deeply (for holding tightly serves no-one) and let love, energy, flow through us freely. In this way, like a fresh spring, we will always be full. There will always be enough. We will have nothing to lose.

Let us be brave. Let us love freely and kindly without holding. As far as people go, if we truly love someone, we must be brave when they need to go and wish them luck on their paths. Love means we want others to be happy. We want them to follow their dreams and sometimes that means letting go of the physical connection and letting their energy continue to flow through our hearts. It does not mean there is no longer love between the two, it only means that energy has shifted and changed shape. In this, there is no real loss.

Fine for me to say! I know, I'm no expert. Have I hurt when someone has left? Heck, yes! What helped? -realizing that they weren't leaving me; they were just leaving. We cannot take on the actions of others; we can only control our own actions and reactions. Do we love only as a result of someone loving us or is it something we choose to give freely, without expectation, without holding? That is for each of us to decide as we walk our own paths.

May you love in some way in every day. May your love expand your heart rather than cause it pain and depletion. May we all hold hands around the world, for many threads woven together make strong cloth.

-Gillian Cornwall, Edit and re-post August 14, 2016
c. February 15, 2015

Bamboo, Finnerty Gardens, University of Victoria
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

"Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back, even from the most difficult times.... Your ability to thrive, depends, in the end, on your attitude to life circumstances. Take everything in stride with grace, putting forth energy when it is needed, yet always staying calm inwardly."
~ Ping Fu, Author of Bend, Not break: A Life in Two Worlds

Sunday, August 07, 2016

What You Want

Gillian Cornwall, c. 2015

The sun-warmed bee buzz of the Salt Spring Island summer sits softly behind my still-closed eyes as I lay in the quiet sterility of my bed. I treat this place as somewhere exotic and far, absurd when it is but a bus and a ferry away.

Why do we complicate that which is simple? Is it to afford excuses for inaction? Do we not really want that which we say we want? Do we want it given to us rather than having to ask for it or work for it?

In my case, I think all of these are true at different times. If I want to go to Salt Spring, I need to either ask someone to go with me and simply share or pay the costs of using their car or I need to just get up on a Saturday morning and go! I would be there within a couple of hours.

Anyway, this post isn't really about going to Salt Spring Island as much as it's about what we do or do not put in the way of our own desires. When we think about what we want, perhaps the best course of action is to sit down and write out all of the reasons and excuses why we cannot get it and all the ways and means through which it can be achieved.

Life is a short course of choices and the ones we make can impact the others as we weave our way through myriad choices. I do not believe in right or wrong choices as much as how we act and react to those which we have made and those we decide to abandon along the way, when they no longer suit our dreams and goals.

All I'm saying is that it is my life, it is your life, and how we choose to live our lives is up to us - regardless of what we believe we have or do not have and what we feel are our barriers to our goals and successes. So walk your path with care and do not abandon your dreams too easily. Chances are some of them are just a bus ride or a ferry away.

With love and peace to each of you on the journey.

-Gillian Cornwall, Re-posted August 7, 2016
c. July 12, 2015

Salt Spring Island Arbutus
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Reset Button

The Olympic Mountain Range from Rockland - Victoria BC
Gillian Cornwall, c 2010

This is a photo of the Olympic Range from the rooftop patio of the apartment I had on Rockland Avenue in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I would go out on that rooftop patio every morning and greet the day - in awe of the beauty, no matter the season, the weather nor my mood. 

This was my reset button, my way of realizing there was more to know, more to discover, more to live for. In the foreground, you can see the trees of Fairfield and the totem pole in Beacon Hill Park. I left this place when the landlord took out the rooftop patio and raised the rent beyond the living wage. I could not afford to pay half my income to rent.

Lately, my reset button has broken off and I seem stuck. The kind of issues that made me leave that apartment are a few of the things that always seem to trip me up. Most of us have a reset button; some of us call it coping skills. Every once in a while though, when all sh*t goes sideways, that reset button starts to smoke and either burst into flames or breaks off. It is the opposite of "dial up the awesome and break the knob off." - Matt Adrian (Read Matt Adrian only if you can afford to suffer the paroxysms of uncontrollable laughter - seriously, I thought I would die.)

Back to the issue at hand. My reset knob is out of order, ne marche pas, it done broke. I have been hitting it repeatedly for months, coping skill upon coping skill has been drawn from my quiver and shot into the enemy fortress of the epic goat rodeo that has been my life since April. Every arrow is emblazoned with the message, "Never mind; it could be worse." I am thinking of making a new family crest with these words swirling across a scrolled banner below the crowned lion rampant. The war cry or motto, as it stands, is: la vie durante - "During life" If things are going to be sh*t, they may as well be stylishly so.

So what does one do when the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are being delivered by fully-loaded, eighteen wheeler lorries to your doorstep? Well, you can keep sorting and shoveling and re-framing and saying positive things or you can let it go and veer around the epic pile of stinking dung or you can shovel through it or you can turn and walk away. In fact, you can do all of these. It doesn't have to be a huge, operatic, dramatic conclusion. You can pick and choose, depending on the day and the pile and your level of energy. You can take each thing as it comes and not waste time wondering if you should change your name to Job and look for your place in the Christian biblical Hall of Fame. 

The fact is, even in the worst times, the times when everything is going pear-shaped and nothing is going your way, YOU HAVE CHOICE. You are not a victim. You can respond however you want. You have your piece of road and that's all you can control from behind the wheel of your own car. Okay, I can't afford a car, but I can still choose which bus I will take and, instead of thinking of myself as a 54 year old loser who doesn't even own a car, I can consider myself an eco-friendly, considerate consumer who is totally lucky to drive her girlfriend's car when wanted or needed. 

Sure, maybe my creative writing receives sufficient digital rejection slips that, if printed, I could wallpaper my entire crappy apartment that I am fortunate enough to have despite having been laid off from my 20 year career in April. 

I still have some work and I am still getting paid. I am not hungry. I still have the autonomy of my own apartment. I have friends and loved ones. I live a twenty minute walk from the ocean. I have the capacity to write poems and stories and this blog which I hope helps someone, at least one person every week though I rarely receive any comments. When I do, it is evident that they have found value here.

I can't seem to help but keep going, despite the ongoing cruel joke that is menopause and the four or more (I am losing track) medical crises I have experienced since being laid off - probably all jump-started by stress. It's not that I am having an easy time with it all. There has rarely been a day since April without tears and pain, but I am still here. Despite all that has been done to wipe me off the surface of the earth as undeserving, out of the job market, to take away my right to equality as someone who thinks gender is hooey and sexual orientation is not something for which I should be punished because it is simply who I am - I am still here. I am staying. Any changes in my direction will be my choice. If I let go and free-fall, it will be my choice. 

Everyday, in all things, I create the path I walk and the direction I take, my choice. Each of us is unique and each of us has the choice to bring something good to the life we share. To each of you who has tried to change me, stamp me valueless, reject my right to equality, and to obliterate me entirely: 
I am still here.

To each of us who has perpetuated hate or unkindness, I wish us less fear and more kindness - for ourselves and others. I wish us all a learning path, a peaceful path, with room for difference and compassion for our fellows. We are all worthy when we walk with love in our hearts. 

I walk on with my head up, "with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child." -  Comes the Dawn; Veronica Shorffstall; 1971

I choose to stay, for tomorrow is another story, another chance.

Gillian Cornwall, c. July 31, 2016

Sunset - Protection Island
Gillian Cornwall, c. July 31, 2015

Sunday, July 24, 2016


Mystic Vale, University of Victoria, Saanich
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2016's a virtue right? patience? 

Once again I think I fall short of virtue. I can't even type the word without typing 'virture' instead." Morally good behaviour or character" - that's the definition of virtue but let's get back to patience before mine wears thin.

Patient: Oxford dictionary says: able to accept or tolerate delays, problems or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious" 

It's official - I'm not always patient. 

So when do we go from being patient to being hoodwinked by someone? There have been times in my life when I believe I am being patient but, really, I am allowing myself to be victim to the lack of willingness of another person to try or even acknowledge that their incapacity to grow or change is eroding the life of another.

Our patience is put on trial in all aspects of our world - at work, at school, at home. The fact is, our patience is not a stationary border around us, rather a fluid line depending on with whom we are dealing and what we believe to be at stake.

I follow The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz in all areas of my life but as I face new challenges, I find I need to reintegrate these principles. For those of you not familiar with these agreements, they are with oneself, and they go as follows:

1. Be impeccable with your word (think before you speak and remember that words, once spoken, cannot be unsaid)

2. Don't take things personally (most of what people do has nothing to do with you and everything to do with themselves)

3. Don't make assumptions (we all play tapes in our heads and have specific ones that we haul out when someone says or doesn't say (or do) something that hurts us - ASK! It's the only way to determine a person's intent. They won't always tell you but it puts the onus back on them to own their words, feelings and behaviours)

4. Do your best (Some days your best will be amazing and, well, other days it won't be...and that's okay. Welcome to the human race.)

So 'what the blazes does this have to do with patience?' you ask. Well, really, for me, these agreements put the work and decisions back on me. I can be as patient or as impatient as I choose in each circumstance and it will be on me to deal with the consequences of my choices. I would like to learn to err on the side of more patience than may be needed or warranted but, unfortunately, sometimes I lose it before I get to the 'more' place.... 

I am a fast thinker, a problem solver and a solution maker. I find it difficult to work with slow processors and those who don't vocalize their process, rather blurt their conclusions once reached. I'm certain my way irritates the heck out of some people. I am not very true to my 'stiff upper lip' cultural roots in this regard. I think part of the reason is that I was silenced and ridiculed by some keys folks in my childhood and now, I won't have it. Unfortunately, this has meant that I release my entire process to the world and they can find themselves taken down a highway to hell and back with me until I come to a conclusion which is far less dramatic and simple than the process warranted. Why anyone puts up with me, at times, I don't know. I guess I have some redeeming factors. 

So what is it I'm trying to say? The thing is, this life is a journey and there is no perfect ending or solution, so walk your paths and hold your heads up. Pay attention. Listen and watch along the way. Try to be kind and, yes, try to be patient, but be true to yourself as well. Watch. Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat. Enjoy yourself as much as you can along the way. 

For those of you who have felt victim to impatience - mine or another person's - I am sorry. We are all works in progress. I wish each of us joy, peace, love, light and kindness. I wish us the kind of self-actualization that makes us glow, that connects us to the greater universal energy. Once we find a way to walk our paths interconnected, we will realize our eternal impact and, hopefully, live a life of goodness, wealth of spirit and joy in our connection to life's eternal energy - the one constant to which we can offer a nod and a smile. 

-Gillian Cornwall, Re-posted July 24, 2016
Original Post date c. July 13, 2014.

Waikiki Sunset
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2006

Sunday, July 17, 2016


Fresh farm produce in exchange for work
Lana'i, Hawaii, c. 2008

Food. Sustenance. It is the fuel for our bodies, our minds and, yes, I believe, our souls. They call it soul food for a reason, right? So, why does food cause so many people so much trouble?

First, I want to acknowledge the biggest problem around the world with respect to food: hunger. Millions of people around the world, from the richest countries to the poorest, experience hunger. In Canada, there are many poverty stricken families with insufficient income to provide food for their children and themselves. There are places around the world that suffer from this appalling and unnecessary condition. I do believe that there is enough for everyone, but some people are just too greedy and selfish to share what they have while wasting enough in a year to feed a family of four. We all need to consider this and choose how we move forward.

Secondly, I acknowledge that these are just my thoughts - I'm no food expert and I know that millions of people suffer with disordered eating and I have only a cursory understanding of the path the people who suffer with eating walk. I send each of you love on your journeys.

I love food. I love to eat. Often, I have loved to eat too much of foods which taste delicious, but are silent killers. They get in with us on their good looks and charm and then start tearing us down from the inside out. I don't have to tell you what they are. I don't need to set up a mug shot of the villainous french fry and decry its offenses. I am quite certain we are all aware of this. 

Recently, I had a wee health scare, enough to make me really stop and think ...again - because I have been here before. What is my relationship with that which I put into this incredible, hard-working machine I call my body? What is my relationship with my food, my sustenance? 

I want to talk about the concept of treats. Through the passage of time and the industrial revolution, treats have become processed foods: chocolate bars, chips, candy, ice cream, cup cakes and, in my case, boozy treats. All of these are delicious to the taste buds, but can be hard as heck on our machines, our bodies, particularly in excess and particularly for those of us with addictive personalities (usually folks who have suffered and need self-soothing). Read Dr. Gabor Mate! Back in the day, a treat might have been an exotic fruit - a banana or an orange - sweet and delicious, expensive and rare. 

As a result of my scare, I have chosen to cut out most of the stuff that will cause me pain: dairy, coffee, chocolate and all unhealthy fats. It's not been so bad and, yes, I'll still have a drink now and then but nothing excessive. I have found the change to be quite good so far - particularly if I pack my own lunches for work and I am not forced to eat the quick and easy foods presented at my workplace. I am not counting calories, but have already dropped a pound or two and I haven't even upped my exercise yet. I am changing my perspective to look at the natural bounty of the earth as the treats and the rest as junk that will do me harm.

I think a huge part of my relationship with food is indicative of my relationship with my body. I am overweight. I know this to be true. My knees and back hurt more because I am carrying around about 30 to 40 pounds on top of my optimum weight and it is causing me pain and discomfort. I do not enjoy pain; therefore, I am choosing to make a change because I want to have less pain and less pain will make me happier. 

I don't deny that there is also an aspect of my physical appearance that excites me about losing weight. I am not proud of it but I want to wear different clothes than I can wear now and I am not comfortable wearing them with my current body size - not necessarily because of how they look (although I think that is part of it), but because they are uncomfortable for me in this current iteration of myself. 

It's very hard to approach it without feeling like I have failed myself somehow or that my body, injuries, health issues and menopause have betrayed me, but I acknowledge that I have been more in my head for the past five years or so than I have been in my body. My mind is sharp. I have worked through a great deal of my life's mental traumas and finished the first draft of my novel, but I forgot to bring my body along for the journey in the course of it all. I am fortunate to have supportive people in my life who will always accept and love every iteration of my physical, emotional and spiritual self. It's been a long and winding road! 

I have gone from being an incredible athlete - able to surf, swim over two kilometres, run 5 kilometres and lift epic amounts of weight to someone who now sounds like my dad used to when he was getting out of his chair and I feel like it is way too soon for me to get there. I can do better and I can do it for me. I can do it because I want to be independent and strong and able and well. I want to be grateful to this physical temple that has carried me through all that my life has brought over 54 years even though, sometimes, I have treated it like "the temple of doom!"

Awareness. For me, that is where I have started again and, with great effort on my part, without judgement of how I got here. I am doing my best and every day that looks different. I am who I am. I have done well at surviving and, at times I have thrived, despite "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune..."

I often speak in my blog about kindness and acceptance. Let us not forget that this can, and perhaps must, start with ourselves. Let us treat ourselves to our own well-being. Let the treat be wellness. Let the self-soothing behaviours be done with love. In fact, perhaps we can make the self-soothing behaviours be self-love. You are worthy. You are perfect on your path. 

I don't need a brownie to comfort me. I need to know that I am worthy, that I am loved - firstly by me and then by others. I need to remember that I am whole without another person to tell me I am. I am strong. My wellness counts on it and this body of mine deserves my best efforts as a thank you for all it has done and continues to do for me. Really, It is our bodies that are our unconditional lovers of our essence. They do their best for us always. They stand by us with their every last piece of energy. They carry our souls through this life selflessly and, at times, at the expense of their own infrastructure. 

I hope this makes sense. It is starting to, for me, and I am grateful to my body for keeping going and staying with me through all the times I have ignored and mistreated her. It's time for me to take care of my body as it has taken care of me for so long. Our bodies are our mothers to our souls. Let us treat them well for they have given us life and carried us through our greatest pleasures and difficulties. 

Today, say thank you to your body with some healthy fuel. Say thank you to mother earth for providing that fuel and give back to her. Be grateful for what you have and work together, in love, for the collective wellness of the universal energy of which we are all a part. 

For all of those with insufficient means, I will do what I can to help as I hope everyone who reads this will. We must think of one another and serve one another. There is enough if we all share. If one is suffering, we all suffer. Let's work together to end the suffering.

The World Food Programme is part of the United Nations system and is voluntarily funded. There are many other ways to share what you have with others, including food banks, for immediate aid, and local meal programmes that always need support. Here is a list of some of the options in Victoria, BC:

For great reads on wellness and healthy eating, check out April Danann's Blog

Gillian Cornwall, c. July 17, 2016

Banana Trees, Lana'i, Hawaii
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2008