Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Authentic Self

Self Portrait on the train to Somerset
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

The Authentic Self recognizes the face in the mirror. One tries to stare back at that image with kindness, acceptance, celebration and love. 

Why is that so difficult for us - to say to ourselves, as we wish others to say to us:
  • "I see you
  • I hear you and
  • what you say means something to me"?
Where and when does the struggle begin? As children, many of us try to live up to our heroes - be they our parents, siblings, friends or teachers. Even as youngsters, we are taught to externalize our responsibility to ourselves onto the behaviour and ways of others. "You told me to do it!" "They made me!"

We are told there is a moral compass. We are shown what it looks like and how our behaviour relates to it and, yes, to some extent, that needs to happen. All animals learn survival skills from their packs - how to hunt through play, how to watch and how to work with others. Sometimes, we are shown how to lead. 

If everything goes well, we become adults. Then what? Most of us set our own priorities and make decisions about how we will choose to live based on our experiences of the moral compass we have known as children... OR, we entirely oppose it because we see our parents (or packs) were messed up and struggling and had no way to guide us well... OR some combination thereof (the last is probably the most likely and most common). We are all muddling through and there is no rule book that includes or fits everyone. Every single person's experience, every self, is unique.

Back to the mirror. Who do we see? Do we recognize ourselves in what is reflected back at us? If not, then what? 

I think I am describing a fairly common experience for all individuals. We all struggle with self-identity in our lives at some point and often this struggle is dependent on others opinions of what they see us to be and the box into which they are shoving us - as we kick, scream and rail against it - feeling misunderstood and powerless. If we protest, we are generally ostracized further for not "getting along with others" and simply accepting the way things are. To not fit others notions of ourselves is an affront to our communities - be they work, social or familial. 

"Why can't you just get along? Why do you have to be so contrary?"

Ah, there is the rub! The authentic self struggles against the tide of perception, the tide of ordered thought and labels. There is little or no room to grow, think, change or become in the ruled, ordered society. There is still a compass on how we must look, behave, speak and feel. There is value set on people based on their fiscal net worth rather than their ability to reinvent themselves,to allow themselves to grow and become daily. 

"Lie down."

These commands are not a recipe for the authentic self. Religious precepts of what is good and right and what is bad and wrong are singular to another and they try to dictate our acceptability and worth and take away our accountability by telling us we are less than and fallible and fallible is bad because there does exist perfection in an unattainable being. ...So how do we learn? How do we err? How do we learn gentleness and forgiveness if the authentic self is not given space to fall, to accept the fall, to heal and to integrate that experience into personal growth. How is it that we are not perfect for simply walking our paths as best we can and taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

The authentic self is amorphous. I wish for my authentic self to have a core of kindness, acceptance and the desire to lift up others and say, in all honesty, "I see you. I hear you. What you say means something to me." 

I try to do this. I succeed at it daily and I fail at it daily. I am growing, changing, falling and getting up again. I am learning strength and a wealth of ability to say no to the labels. I reject unkindness and try very hard to forgive it - in myself and others. 

The authentic self I want to see in the mirror strives to understand that the picture is always changing. I am no Dorian Gray. I embrace the change and mourn the loss of youth while celebrating the blessings of aging - for not aging is a far worse alternative as it means an end of days to this great blessing of life - the heavenly gift of each breath and the chance to learn, love and embrace the miracle of change and growth. 

My authentic self is immeasurable, connected to all and a conduit for the universal flow of energy. It IS the universal flow of energy. WE are the universal flow of energy. The authentic self is unique and the same as all else. We are an embodiment of the cheer of the Three Musketeers: All for One and One for All

Praise yourself. Be accountable for your actions. Do not look to the gods for forgiveness nor hope and do not judge others on their unique paths. Realize that right here and right now, it (you) is all on you. You always have choice - perhaps not always in the experience, but at least in your response to it. Lead. Follow. Right. Left. It is all up to you. 

In all truth, I write this for myself - perhaps to hold myself accountable. To remember my perceived failings and re-frame them into lessons. I write it to share my thoughts, in the hope that it may spark thought elsewhere and may lead to connection with others as we walk our unique paths on our journey to self-love and love for others. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. January 31, 2016

Clematis? - after the bloom, the beauty remains
Gillian Cornwall, c. September, 2015

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Resting on the words of another
Toronto, 1983
Photographer, Bev Gallant

I stopped hitting myself
when they did
when it no longer felt
like topping
on a beating
reminding me
I could take this 
and so much more
The day my face 
was placed 
between the bars
on Yonge St
in 1983
Damien ran
for help
No officer came
as Pam
like a Popeye punching bag 
bounced back up
after each fist hit
and I
hopeful believer
thinking they would stop
I could 
reason with them
as a hundred passed 
the scene
of the crime.
No reason given
and no reason had
as Pam was ground down
her face already purple and pulpy
and I, with the cold steel bars
cold lines down my face
where one shoved me
through the window grate
relieved my nose survived 
between the lines
I walked Pam home
swelling like a baking cake 
extracted her Murphy bed
having searched the wall
for its sweet release
to lay her down
a modern day Houdini
I made her nest appear
I bathed her face 
and held her in my arms 
before I disappeared
silently questioning 
my life
my love
my lie
and the things I need do
in order to survive.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. December 20, 2015

In fields and burial grounds
Photo by Alberta Nye c. 1985

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Hello, Trouble!

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

"Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are."
-Benjamin Franklin

This re-post comes with an invitation to everyone to attend the free Provost's Diversity Research Forum at the University of Victoria on January 21 and 22, 2016. This year's forum is entitled Critical Conversations: Reconciliation and Resurgence. There are opportunities to view the events on Thursday evening (PST) and Friday morning sessions via web live feed. Check out in-person registration if you are on or near Vancouver Island or world wide viewing options at: I volunteer on the committee for this event and have found the conference to be filled with brilliant, sentient beings, valuable learning and cutting edge research - each and every time. 

I am putting this personal piece up again because I believe it is timely for me and, I hope, brings some value and understanding to you: 

"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 those who make 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 (absence of) 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?

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, watch Netflix 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, Re-posted January 17, 2016
Originally posted, July 20, 2014

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

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Lead with Love

The Solomon Series
Books by Sheila Jeffries
Photo by Gillian Cornwall, c. 2015

In 2015, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a number of people and offering a small amount of assistance on projects that highlight the beauty of greeting the world with love through the arts. These are a few of many and I am certain I will highlight others in future posts. I am impressed with the spirit, integrity and perseverance of these folks in creating the exceptional books and films that resulted from their efforts. 

The three books featured in the photo above represent a wonderful triad of books that spring from the first - Solomon's Tale, by best selling author, Sheila Jeffries. This series can be read sequentially or independently. Personally, I preferred reading them in sequence as the stories stem from the wonderful cat, Solomon, and his role in healing the lives of the humans with whom he lives. These books go beyond the classical role of animals in books and have a distinct spiritual element to them. They work because they include real world human dilemmas and difficult subjects and the role animals have in our lives - teaching us and helping us heal. These books are for everyone - young and old. They lead with love and remind us of the importance of loving one another and our interconnectedness with all things.  You can order them through Amazon or go to your local book seller and have them ordered in (if they are not already on the shelf). 

I had the pleasure of meeting Sheila in England this past autumn. She is one of the most kind, loving, life-filled individuals I have ever had the pleasure of calling friend and soul sister. Have a look at Solomon's Tale, Solomon's Kitten and Timba Comes Home and feed your heart and soul with these wonder-filled books. 

Sheila has also written another beautiful book that I enjoyed thoroughly: The Boy With No Boots. It is an inspiring tale of love and perseverance. Find out more about Sheila Jeffries at her website

I originally came to know Michele through Twitter and we became fast friends. When she and her team began crowd-funding for their film project, Blue, I did what I could to help support it because it is a beautiful, heart-wrenching, human story shining a light on how love finds a way - even in the face of horrific human behaviour, pain and hate that stems from fear of difference. Michele is an old soul with the most kind and beautiful heart. She is a talented actor, writer and producer and Blue is one of her many projects. Blue is an independent film that was featured at the Orlando Film Festival in 2015. Find a way to see it - ask your local theatre / film festival if they will bring it in. Check out the website for Blue and watch the trailer. You will want more of this film starring Michele Martin, Drew Connick, Kenny Johnson, Sean Bridgers, Dale Dye, Kelly McGillis, Emma Rayne Lyle and Chris Cleveland

I look forward to seeing Michele's long and brilliant career, led with love, passion and beauty. 

I've known Maureen for some time and one day we crossed paths and caught up on what we were up to lately. When Maureen told me about her film project, Two4One, a romantic comedy featuring a transgender male lead character, I was excited to think of ways to help get it some attention. This wonderful and delightful film takes the heart to places, and in ways, that are off the beaten track. It is a beautiful tale that makes us think of what it takes to be authentic, to be true to oneself, in the face of adversity and difference. Two4One shows us how love comes to us and from us in all its shapes and forms as we traverse the paths of our lives. Two4One has been shown at film festivals in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and the USA. 
Writer and Director: Maureen Bradley
Two4One website and Trailer:

I was trying to think of where I first met Krista and I can't for the life of me think of where we crossed paths but I would be willing to bet it was through Twitter or some other form of social media awesomeness.

Krista is the director of Us and Them, a heart-filled and honest portrayal of her relationship with four people in the Victoria community who have lived without a home. The film is as much about the people in it and their individual experiences as it is about "homelessness." This is a film of superior quality and sincere in its participants reality and our relationship to those individuals who have suffered hardships in this life, our ability to blinker ourselves and render others invisible. This is a film about who each of us is, our relationship to our fellows and how we have arrived where we stand. This film is an opportunity to consider who we are and how we love. This is a film about where we want to go, where perhaps we can consider always being as us, as one ...not us and them. 

Vancouver author and addiction expert, Dr. Gabor Mate and Chief Phil Lane, Jr. were mentors for Krista as she made this film, along with a ton of other amazing people who believed in this project. Their belief paid off. This is a great film. This is a timely film. This is a film not to be missed. Find a way to see it. It will enter your heart and there it will stay. 

Krista, if you read this, thank you for the decade or more you spent making Us and Them. It is with me and it has made me better. You are incredible. 

Read more about Us and Them on Facebook

More media on Us and Them:

That is all the features for this week. There will be more. I will do one on wellness soon with the likes of documentary film maker, Alberta Nye and medical inuit, clinical nutritionist and energy medicine specialist,  April Danann. Also, read ahead with Dr. Glen Hepker's book, A Glimpse of Heaven: The Philosophy of True Health

Enjoy. Ask for the amazing films and books I have mentioned here. Our fellow humans and creators are the breath of our souls and as necessary in our lives as oxygen and food. 

As we head out on our adventures, let us do our best to lead the way with love, to listen with love and to live with love.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. January 10, 2016

Plumeria - Lana'i, Hawaii
Photo by Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Sunday, January 03, 2016

The Blank Slate

Toward the Mainland
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

Imagine you have been writing for as long as you can remember and you sit down to write what is usually a well thought-out post and, not only have you not prepared anything during the previous week, you are simply drawing a blank. Your mind is a snow drift in January in Northern Ontario where not even a bird has set down his tender tootsie to leave his mark of passing - a glistening, empty snow canvas - cold, fresh, untouched. Yep. That's about where I am at as I sit down this morning. 

So... I think, well that's about right, isn't it? It's a new year. Is this not a time to open our minds and hearts to possibility, to that which we may never have considered as possible or desirous? Opportunity. Passion. Desire. Freedom. All of these stirred up with some good old fashioned common sense. What does the world hold for us today? What do we need? What do we have to give away and what do we have to sell? What do we want our lives to look like and how do we achieve our goals? 

I have decided upon these considerations for myself as I approach the new year. I hope they will be useful for you too:

1. Be gentle and kind with yourself and others. Remember we are all on different paths and judgement of another will only set you back on your own.

2. Be open and fluid. Let your energy, as love, continue to flow through you and out from you because when you hold too tightly, things break or slip away. When you maintain the flow, you will always be full, for love, as energy, is like a mountain spring and will rise in you again as you release it to the world.

3. Do not let fear rule your heart and head unless you are walking down a path in the woods and a cougar jumps out at you...

4. Engage with the new - new people, new activities, new places. Explore the world beyond your usual boundaries. We are all connected. It's okay. 

5. Enjoy your clean slate - your fresh, unsullied snow bank. Fall into it face first or stand and stare at the canvas until you are moved to action. This is your time and space to live well. 

I wish each of you every joy, passion and wonder for the new year. May your hardships be few and may you be well-supported through them. May your wonders be plentiful and may you allow space for them to refill and restore you. Thank you for your love and kindness and friendship. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. January 3, 2016

Winter Wonderland, Victoria BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011