Sunday, July 27, 2014

Let's Talk

There is little in this world that can top a great conversation with a friend, new or old, over a cup of tea, coffee, There is something powerful and comforting in the verbal exchange between two people. It can be likened to a restoration of the mind, a revitalization of our systems and our souls.

Lately, I feel like I'm down a pint, running low on this front. First of all, it seems absurdly difficult just to find time with a friend or acquaintance. Secondly, I wonder if it is becoming a dying art? Is it? Are simple, in-person, one-on-one conversations going the way of the Dodo and the hand-written letter? I sure as blazes hope not!

While I am no less an avid social media hound (I love me some Twitter) than the next person, there is nothing that can match the feeling and energy exchanged between two, free-thinking people in an open, passionate conversation. It is akin to mental love-making and meant to leave both parties inspired and rejuvenated. 

I know that it can be terribly satisfying to hold a conversation with someone who sees your point of view and agrees with you on all fronts. I have enjoyed this experience many times and felt oh so vindicated through the nods and agreement with my own perspective but what of the exchange that challenges and takes you where you have never ventured?

I will never forget the first conversation I had with someone well-versed in quantum physics. This one was over a pint - which helped me open my mind, I'm certain. I remember how great it felt to be taken to such a foreign world, a world beyond my knowledge but not beyond what made sense to me on a cellular level. I remember how, the very next day, I was scanning the shelves of my local book seller, eager to purchase a 'beginner's guide' - naive, perhaps, but I did find something to get me started. I read many web sites on thermodynamics and quantum physics and slowly ploughed through the book I purchased, having to read each page a dozen times before it made any sense to me. 

This one conversation reminded me, for the gazillionth time, that the world and its possibilities, my possibilities, are unfathomable, how with each word, each encounter, we grow and move and learn.

Conversations expand and excite me. They keep me guessing and wandering down the path that is my life. They are undeniably necessary to my existence, my growth and my quality of life. Conversations are irreplaceable.

Coffee and a chat, anyone?

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 27, 2014

Cornerstone Cafe - Fernwood
Gillian Cornwall, Victoria, BC c 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hello, Trouble

The Wave
Oil Pastel on Paper 
Approx. 8" x 10"
By Gillian E. Cornwall - c. 1988

"Hello, Trouble!" "Here comes trouble!"

I am greeted in this way, on average, 3 times a week at work and elsewhere and it tends to frustrate me. I think those using the term, use it in a cajoling or endearing way and by no means intend for it to be harmful. I think some see me as different from most women of my age and do not know how to interact with me because of it. I suppose I could be honoured that people are imbuing me with such great power - that I have the capacity to create trouble and, potentially, leave chaos in my wake. 

Then, I think of the term, "trouble the water". I was reminded of it last week, during a meeting, when a colleague used the term. I liked it and have had it roiling in my mind since. There is an African American spiritual song, with Christian biblical implications, and it goes as such:

"Wade in the water,
Wade in the water children
Wade in the water
Don't you know that
God's gonna trouble the water
Don't you know that
God's gonna trouble the water"

I believe the phrase arises from this biblical reference: 

John 5:4 - "For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had."

So, perhaps someone who is referred to as "trouble", challenges, allows for cleansing, healing and forward motion. I could go with that.... I certainly know some earth angels who trouble the waters in their quest to share peace and love. 

Unfortunately, the folks using the term "trouble", in reference to me, do not consider the workplace implications of being seen by those in authority as "trouble". Talk about a career stopper. So, have I been trouble over the years? Have I stirred the waters? I suppose so. Why? I have not been appreciative of anti-racial slurs. I didn't like hearing the term "homo" or "I think you are in the wrong washroom" and, from straight women with whom I have worked in the past,  "I know you'd like to be closer to me right now" or, having a woman flash her breasts at me (thinking I would enjoy it!) and make lurid comments speculating on my lifestyle. I haven't enjoyed being treated as "other" by both males and females based on my sexual and gender orientation and I certainly wouldn't enjoy being passed over for employment opportunities because of being thought of as "trouble". Do I know definitively that this has happened? No. How could I know? How would I prove such a thing?

So, if I am trouble, is it because you have named me so rather than because I have set out to be so? Have I set out to stir the waters rather than acquiesce to the silence in order to remain safer? Do I have to run twice as fast as everyone else just to keep up? These questions are all worthy of consideration.

Do I have to worry about posting this? Will it make it worse for me? I know some of you are thinking, "Oh, here she goes again! We are so tired of hearing about it..." I am tired too - way too tired to be trouble. I just want to go home and watch Masterpiece Theatre and have a nice cup of tea. Can I afford to stop pointing at the elephant in the room? We are all equal now - right? No harm, no foul? ....hmm. What do you think?

"Hello kind person." "Hello champion for human rights and equity!" 

Please don't let your fear be my trouble anymore. 

With love, kindness and the continuing quest for peace.

-Gillian Cornwall, July 20, 2014

Heart on a Telephone Pole
-spreading love down the line
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014


The Clematis
c. Gillian Cornwall - May, 2014'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: Google 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? 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. Here's to energy!

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 13, 2014.

Waikiki Sunset
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2006

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Over the Rainbow

It's Pride week in Victoria, BC. Today is the last day of events culminating in the traditional (seems funny to use that word here) parade and festival attended by thousands and thousands in our community and beyond. It's a grey sky morning and I am hoping, for the sake of the organizers, volunteers and all those attending for the 30th time or the first, that the rains will remain at bay and all will go well. 

Today, I look back over the years to the first Pride parade I attended at 20 years of age. I didn't go when I was 19, afraid that someone (mostly my mother) would see me and my life would be over. By 20, I worked up the nerve to attend though I remember being terrified that someone would do something: jeer at me, throw something, laugh and point, or that we might have been arrested or caught in a battle. Not an unrealistic fear, as it turns out. I have been beaten and jeered at and harassed for who I love throughout the 32 years I have been out of the closet. I still deal with ridiculous comments and both clandestine and open discrimination. I don't remember enjoying Pride with considerably less fear until the last five or ten years. It seems to me that there has been a shift in our country, that something has changed and more people, not just LGBT community members, started coming to the events in greater numbers. 

Has there been a shift in the humanity of the people of Canada? I believe so. I believe that the greatest difference is in people's hearts. Human rights issues are now more commonly considered to be issues of all people. Infringements on the rights of all peoples are the responsibility of all peoples. We are not free until we are all free. Make it your responsibility to read about the history of LGBT rights in Canada and around the world. Realize that there are people imprisoned or killed in many nations around the globe for who they are and who they love. Make it your business to pay attention and respond. Love belongs everywhere. Remember those who have fought and the price they have paid.

Today before I go out and celebrate, before I enjoy the parade and laugh and cheer with friends, I remember all of those who have gone before me - all of those who fought, who paid with their lives or their freedom and all of those who continue to do so. I know that we must remain diligent; we cannot rest until we are all free. 

Pride is not a "gay thing". Pride is for everyone: a time to hold our heads up high and shout out: "I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses... I am good... I am strong ... I am worthy, ...I belong." -Gloria Gaynor 

We are all in the spectrum of the rainbow and perhaps it is over the rainbow and on the other side of it that we will look back and see ourselves as one, perfect in our difference and vital in our desire to love and live with kind kindness in our hearts. We ARE family.

Happy Pride to everyone. To those of you around the world who read this and run the risk of jail, torture or death because of who you are and who you love, to those of you who must hide and fear for your lives, know that you are not alone and that I, and so many others, raise our voices for you and will take action for justice. We are not free until you are free. 

In light, love and respect,

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 6, 2014.

A "few" folks join in with the 2012 parade in Victoria, BC!

I dedicate this post to the beautiful, hard fought life of my brother, 
Christopher John Cornwall ~ RIP

Please take a few moments to check out the following organizations:

Human Rights Campaign:

Victoria Pride Society:

You Can Play Project:

Human Rights Watch:

United Nations - Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

LGBT History in Canada:

If you have more links of interests or comments, please send them in comments.