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

Patience

Mystic Vale, University of Victoria, Saanich
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2016

...it'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

Food

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:
http://victoriahomelessness.ca/community-resources/meals-food-banks/

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

Sunday, July 10, 2016

PRIDE


Pride - as opposed to shame or social stigma. We took the word and marched with it. 

Pride. It's not about tolerance. No-one wants to be tolerated. It's like putting up with something irritating or bad. 

I don't want to be tolerated. I want to be celebrated. Every soul on this earth, all living things can be celebrated - even for one thing, even for potential. From the smallest of creatures to those of the grandest stature, we can find commonalities and differences. Sure - we all just want to live, but let's make that simply the starting point rather than the final goal. 

My culture, my people, have invaded just about every nation in the world in an effort to make other people "like us" because we believed we had it all going on and it would just be much easier if everyone behaved like us.If everyone had to look different then at least we could behave similarly - follow the same religious principles, same political structure and the same lust for land and what we perceived to be "riches." How could one tiny island of people contain so much ego - or was it fear? I'm not proud of that. All that being said, we British have done some pretty cool stuff over time as well and when I go back to that land of my ancestors I feel a different connection to the land of my people. I'm not sure it's national pride, but it is definitely a sense of connection to my roots.

It's not that I'm particularly "proud" of being a lesbian either. In fact, decades of abuse, beatings, marginalization and oppression have made me kind of self-phobic / homophobic. I am eroded and worn by the experience of trying to be myself and love whom I choose. It has been a lifetime fight and I am worn thin, but for all you right-wing, fundamentalist haters out there, don't think this means you have won. It only means you are bullies. I know who I am. I am proud of surviving and, at times, thriving, of moving the cause forward for those younger folks who have followed me with what I hope to be an easier path. I am proud of the brave souls who ploughed a path before me when it was still illegal to be gay in Canada.

I do worry that all the changed laws have only created a veiled acceptance and the same repugnance for those who identify as LGBT* is only held under a blanket of law. I worry that the hate is more insidious. People are aware that it is illegal to commit acts of hate and discrimination so they find ways around it - excuses for taking away your employment, for not serving you well in a store, for excluding and marginalizing. 

I know things have changed and the battles have been well-fought by centuries of people who had to find their way around the hate to the time of Stonewall and the people who stood their ground publicly and said no. I remember when it was a PRIDE march rather than a parade - when you took your life and career in your hands by making that walk. Let us not forget the millions of lesbians and gays around the world who remain imprisoned under a death sentence because of who they choose to love. There are more than seventy-six countries where it is illegal to be gay. There are ten countries where it remains punishable by death.

It is time for me to pull back from the fight somewhat. The battle scars have begun a ceaseless ache in my being and the costs keep going up. It seems the more honest I have been with what I have faced and continue to face, the greater the chicanery and subterfuge used to perpetuate hate and discrimination. So, it is time for me to lay down my sword (aka flag) for the time being and hope that it is picked up by anyone and everyone who is appalled by fear and the hate it creates. 

It's not that I am climbing back into the closet, far from it. I am making way for younger and stronger warriors to lead the charge. The whole battle analogy is weird anyway as I haven't ever raised a hand to defend who I am, with the exception of the instances in the early days where I had to defend myself against the physical blows and sexual assaults instigated by men who thought it was their job to show me what I was supposed to be like as a "real" woman. They are abusers and criminals against love and peace. 

I am a warrior, a survivor, a lover and a philosopher. I am a healer and a teacher, a spiritual guide and a storyteller. I am your daughter, your mother, your sister and your wife. I am a human animal just as you and deserving of peace, kindness and love. I give these things to myself and your hate will never finish me. Of these things, I am proud. I am proud of my physical womanhood. I have no need for the social construct you call gender for that is only a political lie to keep women down. I am a free soul, a superhero of love and of all the things I wonder in the world, it's "Why the heck are you so afraid of me?" 

May your PRIDE come from the knowledge of the worth of your life as it relates to how you value all life, how you raise each other up and celebrate one another for your beautiful uniqueness and difference, without the need to push another down to do so. 

In loving memory of every soul who has been murdered, jailed, beaten, outcast, tortured and marginalized for who they are. In other words, this is dedicated to every LGBT* human throughout time. 

As always, thanks for reading. 


Gillian Cornwall, c. July 10, 2016



Sunday, July 03, 2016

It's All Good

Tod Inlet - Gowland Tod Park, Vancouver Island
Gillian Cornwall, c. March 2016

"It's all good." 

How many times do we hear that phrase bantered around? If someone tells us they are sorry they were late, sorry they hurt our feelings, often we assume the best and say, "Don't worry; it's all good." Sometimes, the actions of others impact us and we feel worthless, saddened and invalidated.

How do we integrate the hard stuff of life: pain, suffering, heartache, trauma, sickness and loss into the "it's all good" mode of thinking?

Maybe we can't. Loss is loss. Feeling sh*t is just that. 

The thing is, we are created with the full suite of emotional response. Why? Quite simply, it is because we are made to experience the entire suite of experiences, from love to loss, pleasure to pain, in sickness and in health, blah, blah, blah, as the vows go... 

It interests me to note that when I am having trouble and I express it, whatever kind of trouble it may be, some folks are hell bent at looking at the bright side before acknowledging the hurt, pain or suffering. Perhaps it is just too difficult to see, to difficult to acknowledge and accept that you are hurting without wanting to "do something" about it. Anger, fear, sorrow - often thought of as "negative" emotions - are simply the flip side experience of their "positive" counterparts: love, joy, comfort and so on. 

Personally, I find that it is such an honest and heartfelt experience of truth when someone tells me how they REALLY are and I don't try to fix it. I think it is important to be present and to actively listen and accept a person with all of their emotions - that is humanity. To blanket suffering with platitudes and a "glass half full" mentality is not a panacea for pain. 

We needn't get into the crevasse with someone when they are down, nor do we need to tell them that they will have an awesome story to tell if they live through it ....while they are stuck in there and terrified and we are up top eating a sandwich. 

I find what is most helpful for me is finding a willing ear, acceptance that I have fallen, acknowledgement that I am hurt and a light shining - maybe helpful comments and pointing to good, solid footholds to guide me out - for what good is the person that simply jumps in with you and says, "I have no way of really helping but, at least we're in here together!"

I need to work on my empathy because I've joined too many people in the crevasse over the years and it has made me extra wary of loaning a hand and getting pulled in. I think of what they tell you in water rescue when someone is drowning: you need to be able to keep yourself from being pulled under. Perhaps just throwing a flotation device and saying "See you on shore!" is a bit of the opposite extreme... Like everyone, I'm a work in progress. 

Additionally, I may need to keep my truth to myself a bit more instead of relentlessly sharing every single thing I perceive to be true. Often people will say they don't mind, and they may believe it, but I suppose spewing your truth like a geyser, as regularly and magnificently as Old Faithful, may be a bit overwhelming for those who are near and dear. 

If I were to wrap this post up in one sentence: "It's okay to feel bad and not pretend you feel good." 

...And because I can never do anything in just one sentence, it's also okay to take a break from feeling bad and go try to enjoy yourself for awhile. It sets things on their heads and can give us new perspectives. 

You needn't fake it til you make it. Be you. Trust yourself. You are perfect on your path. Just keep walking, one step at a time and allow people to light the way for you when the darkness comes. Maybe other folks can't tell you exactly where you should be going, but they can offer a smile, a light or a helping hand. 

So, what does it mean? "It's all good." For me, it means all of your feelings, all of your emotions, are good - when you let them help you down your own particular path to enlightenment and peace with an open and loving heart, replete with self-acceptance and respect for the path of another.

As always, let's walk our paths, side by side, for as long as it is good for each of us, with good hearts and good intent.

With love.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 3, 2016

From Sheila's Garden - Somerton, Somerset, UK
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015