Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Justin Trudeau's Apology to LGBT

For all the people who have told me to "just get over it" this is what I have been talking about and continue to talk about because it happened and still happens here despite the laws changing and the public apologies. 

Don't get me wrong, I am pleased to hear this apology finally happen for lesbian and gay people. It is the throwing open of a door that makes me weep with relief and sorrow. It's time to out the hating. 

I am thinking of all the friends I watched die as the AIDS epidemic destroyed my community while people stood by blaming those who were sick and doing nothing but finger point and blame. Thinking of all the beatings, deaths, and torture we have experienced. Thinking of the love I lost, the family I lost in the United States because I couldn't stay there, couldn't marry there - the loss and the impact that lasted for years of sadness and pain. 

These wrongs have taken so much, so much from me and my sweet brother (RIP Chris Cornwall) who was forced into the torture called "aversion therapy." The cost is immeasurable and cannot be repaid; however, restitution would help folks like me and so many others to not live out our senior years in the poverty caused by those who held power over us and held us down. 

Please listen to this entire speech and use it as a springboard for learning. We have been assaulted and shamed throughout our lives ...repeatedly. This speech by Prime Minister Trudeau is a start. The apology is a start. 

From one who stayed despite the shame, abuse and suffering. I am still here. I am still here. My tears fall as I listen. To have spoken out for so long and to finally hear this, it's a point to rest for a moment on the path to healing.


-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 30, 2017

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Be Where You're At

Roses - Princess Gardens, Edinburgh
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

Happiness is great. Who doesn't like being happy? The thing is, if you're not feeling happy, that's okay too. Be where you're at. Feel what you feel. Walk through it in a way that makes sense to you and in a way that is sustainable within your truth. Let's not talk about "making" people better, rather let us stand guard for one another as we traverse our own personal journeys without judgement or emotional enforcement.

Perhaps we can look at the journey from pain and suffering to joy differently, for our healing must ring true to each of us individually.

When has enough of our fear, pain and loss fallen away, rendering us emptied, hollowed, then hallowed, enlightened, perhaps light enough to float above that which has weighed us down and anchored us by our very core, so much so that we cannot clearly see a way beyond the suffering?

When we can gain that distance, that view from outside, that view from above, we can see a way - an opportunity perhaps. Maybe something catches our eye and, when we zoom in, we laugh at ourselves for the shiny object was simply the top of a pop can and not a golden ring ...this time... but at least that flash of excitement, the flutter in our bellies, has reminded us of what it is like to hope, to wish and to dream - and that is enough for now.

When the feeling, the understanding, becomes the goal or prize, then perhaps we have won a vacation from our suffering - and that is enough for now. In time, sometimes, the solitary void becomes the opportunity that we ourselves can fill and maybe we are even glad that we don't have to check in with someone else before we leap. For a moment, an hour, or a day, we remember that we can be alone and not just lonely and all the light and air surrounding us is enough, for now, and maybe this time we won't ruin it looking for the villain of yesteryear or the open crevice into which we will fall once again, filled with the dread that we won't have the strength to pull ourselves out ....again.

A long time ago, I let go. I gave up and let myself fall. And nothing bad happened. As I fell, I wondered what the bottom felt like and, just when it was right below me and I cringed in expectation of the bone-crushing impact, I fell through the bottom and found myself at the top of something else.

How do we define the layers? Can our decline in fact be our pinnacle? Can the base be the apex? I suppose it depends how we feel and what we are ready to see.

Let us not judge one another for our feelings. No one needs to make us smile nor feel better. This cannot come from external influence and remain sustainable. Understanding is sustainable. We people have some burning desire to "push one another into happy" as though it were legislated. Why? - because it makes the legislator feel better.

Let people be. Sit with them in their sadness and grief. We don't have to fix it - simply acknowledge it. Feel the person soften in your arms. Let them weep on you while you stand guard for them. You won't rust. Let them be in their grief until they are not. Their feelings are as real and valid as those which are joyful.

Let us be patient and kind. Let us love one another.

Gillian Cornwall, c. October 15, 2017

Be Where You are - Lana'i, Hawaii
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2012

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Cleansing the River Woman

Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015


She is but a river exposed to the ways of man.

There are those who have stolen from her pure banks, pillaging pirates who took what was not theirs to steal. She has risen up again and again to rid their violence from her waters and wash their hurt from this life she claims as her own and one with all.

She tries. She flows. At times, she fails and hangs her river head in shame, as poison spills onto the skins and into the hearts of those she holds most dear.

She wonders, "Can a river be so harmed, so filthy, that she must run dry in order to save what remains as good around her? Can the harm she thought survived, turn her own waters black, poisoned and toxic to the world?" Yet, she flows forward - trying to be stronger, better, safer, cleaner, kinder and knowing the hurts put upon her, now hurt those she loves and those that love her, and it is an ugly thing for those she loves to see and feel.

The toxic waste within her waters strangles air and light from beauty, strength and goodness. She loses her way, her light, her friends and her loves. All those she once served move on in search of sweeter waters. She struggles on in search of cleansing ways and purification so that she may serve well once again.

She cannot continue as a conduit of poison. Those who hurt her, in turn, hurt all she holds dear as that which was forced into her, erupts as poison from her banks upon the ears, eyes, sweet lips and hearts of those she loves most dearly, stealing, thieving, and burning beauty.

She works hard. She tries to cleanse it. She tries to make herself clean and to love well but the toxin is so strong at times. She love you so, yet look at what she does and the shame she feels. And so the cycle goes. Fear breeds anger. Anger breeds hate and hate poisons love.

She is brave at times and a tired coward at others. The work is hard and ceaseless. She reinvents herself daily. She does her best and some days her best is but a disappointment. She flows through your lives as best she can, yet her water love at times runs tainted by every body that has poured their poison into her once sweet waters.

She asks for understanding, if not forgiveness. She learns to expect none as she battle the demons and thieves and wishes you wellness in your lives and in all the loves you give and in all your loves received, wherever you must go to find it.

No matter who comes nor goes, she works on to expunge the poison, to recreate a free, fresh mountain stream, to forgive the ones who stole, to cleanse their hurt from her life force, to fend off the detritus, to filter the toxins out through her reeds and pebbled bed.

At times, she does succeed, at times the banks erode and cave in upon her, and her waters run muddy once more.

To the ones with patient hearts, to those who do forgive, to those who stand strong through the storm, to those who protect themselves from the torrent, she bows her head to you in shame, she bends to your feet in gratitude, with a promise to try again, to continue in her cleansing, for we all deserve to quench our thirst for joy and peace and comfort without the fear of being washed away or poisoned."


-Gillian Cornwall, c. August 20, 2017
 
Gillian Cornwall, c. October, 2015

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Empathy


Life is a Ride
Gillian Cornwall, c. Spring 2015

Re-posted, selfishly as a reminder to me more than anything. For those of you who have not read the article, I do hope you enjoy it. 


Empathy - I have been thinking about how we behave on a daily basis in our personal and professional lives.

Leaders and colleagues may have a void of empathy for those around them. In a professional environment, this lack of understanding can have disastrous results, not the least of which is the alienation of a team and their emotional divorce from an organization. This can be the first crumbling brick between working groups, friends, institutions, teams or businesses.

Everyone can benefit from coaching in the process of empathetic engagement. Primarily, it takes desire to learn how to acknowledge the problems or difficulties of a friend or colleague. It takes development of emotional intelligence. It requires a comprehension of your own emotional issues and learning how to express them in the best ways and at the best times. Packing your emotional stinginess into your lunch kit everyday into a sarcasm sandwich may not be the best option.

Certainly, it is unwise to climb into the crevasse with someone when they are trapped in the dark without a visible means of escape. If you are both in there, how will you be able to help the other out? Who will hold up the light to show the path and point out some options for footholds?

It is essential to first acknowledge that the person is in a crevasse and that you are aware that they may be uncomfortable, hurt and afraid in there. If you skip this step and proceed to, "Hey, at least the crevasse wasn't bottomless!" or "Don't worry, you'll get out." and walk away, it becomes entirely apparent to the person within the crevasse that you wish you had never come across the discomforting scenario of finding them in the first place. It appears that coming across them in this state of distress is an embarrassing inconvenience and that their predicament has been engineered to inconvenience you on what would have been an otherwise enjoyable day. "Crevasse person" should have quietly withered away to nothing without disturbing you. Obviously, this is not the way to assist with recovery and healing.

Once you have acknowledged the situation, as an effective leader, you can offer direct assistance if you are able; this too, is a form of empathy. If you are out of your league with a situation, it is still essential to acknowledge its existence with the person. Once you have made your acknowledgement, if you are uncertain in how to direct the person, you can tell them you will get back to them with resources (give details, such as date, time and format) and make sure you follow-up! Be real and be true.

If you are in a position of empowerment, entitlement or leadership, your position makes your time no more or no less valuable than that of the person in the predicament. The amount of money you are paid to do your job is irrelevant in this scenario. Time taken to work together on problem-solving is an investment in any relationship, organization or group. Remember that the people with whom you work are your colleagues, fellow humans, all worthy of respect. They are not your employees; rather, they are employed by the organization and you have been hired to lead them.

Know your responsibilities as a leader.

Know the resources of your organization.

Know the rights and benefits of those you have been asked to lead.

If you do not know, find out before the next scenario arises.

Do not make assumptions about the person's experiences or feelings based on your own history.

Once you have held up that light and helped guide the person from the crevasse, set a time to follow-up and talk about the experience. This will involve listening and it may involve redirection to other resources. Keep your judgements to yourself and be clear about the time frame and methodologies you have with which to assist. Be empathetic and kind. The people with whom we work are the employer's "human resource." Think about these two words carefully. Think about them together and separately. Think about their meanings and implications. Be honest - both with yourself and with the person you are engaging.

It is not your responsibility to "fix" whatever is happening with the person. It is unlikely they need, nor want, "fixing." As Oprah said on her last show, "...every single person you will ever meet shares the common desire. They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'..."

Try it. See people. Hear them. Acknowledge what they have said to you and let it flow through you without judgement nor personal need. You needn't carry the trauma of others, but hold up the lantern and let folks know you are willing, as a fellow human, to offer light and guidance as each of us makes our way out of the crevasse we find ourselves in from time to time.


-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 30, 2017 
edited and re-posted from June 22, 2014


Resources:


The following articles, books and scripts have been helpful to me on my journey towards empathy and along my path towards emotional and social intelligence.


Psychology Today - I Don't Feel Your Pain - Overcoming Roadblocks to Empathy by David F. Swink


The Four Agreements - A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz


Change We Must - My Spiritual Journey by Nana Veary


Solomon's Tale by Sheila Jeffries


A Glimpse of Heaven - The Philosophy of True Health by Dr. Glen Hepker


The Laws of Thermodynamics - A Very Short Introduction by Peter Atkins



T-Shirt painted for VSAC event
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

Sunday, July 23, 2017

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, ...beer. 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 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, July 23, 2017
Original Post, c. July 27, 2014



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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fear-full

Letting Go
Garden of the Gods, Lana'i, Hawaii
Gillian Cornwall, c December 2102

How many people reading this have enough to eat every day?

How many own your homes or have a place to which you can go no matter what happens in your life?

How many of you have steady incomes or are self-employed with sufficient income? 

How many of us have at least one person we an call a friend?

How many are afraid of losing what they have?

How many would do just about anything to keep what they have no matter how it impacted others?

These are some of the questions I have been asking myself lately. As some of you know, I am in a time of income uncertainty. I could find myself in fairly dire straits should I not find work. 

This has raised questions in me with respect to privileged humanity's state of fear in the early 21st century. The privileged in North America and in financially and politically stable nations around the globe have enjoyed a great deal of breathing room and financial comfort for some time; however, there appears to be a change afoot. the earth is moving below peoples' feet and they are holding on to what they have for dear life as the shaking begins and possessions start to topple. 

A certain political clown in a nearby nation to me is causing said nation to lose its status as world political leader as it swirls the drain as some terrible cosmic joke that it created for itself. This will have a massive global impact. "Curiouser and curiouser" - to quote Lewis Carroll. 

Individually, for some of us, our situation is tenuous and we hold ourselves there through fear of loss, by being fear-full. Politics and news drive us to maintain this through their fear-mongering and conjuring of images and words that drive us into passive fear and a desire to follow, to keep, to hold what we have known....

What if the ways we have known are not the best ways? What if they are not the most sustainable ways? What if it is one giant dog and pony show that fictionalizes our true well-being into a fortress of "Work, pay and rest." Not so very long ago our work was entirely for ourselves. pre-industrial revolution, we created that which we required and desired to live. WE made our homes, our food, our families ourselves. We skipped the middle man, the boss, the company that pays us to now buy that which we require. Is it easier? Perhaps. But it takes twice as long to get to the result and it takes us away from our families, our children, our Elders. This weird way we have created for ourselves has forced us into working for more, a bottomless pit into which we pour our lives in order to have more, provide more, get more education - to GET AHEAD. Ahead of what? Your neighbour? To get the better job? The more money to buy more stuff? 

Too complicated. We have made our lives way too complicated and it has made us fear-full of losing what we have. It's made us fear-full that we have done the wrong thing. I think we are running even faster just to prove it was the right choice, the best way. Perhaps it is time for me, for all of us, to take a beat. STOP. THINK. REST. Play with your kids or your friends. STOP. Give some of what you have to someone else - as an act of goodness or just to see what it brings up in you.

Does giving make you feel that the person now owes you or was it truly a gift? Does giving away that which you earned and possess make you fear-full? 

Breathe. Let go of the fear a little. I know it's hard. I struggle with it every single minute of every day right now. Look around at the heaven in which we exist. give something back to the Mother Earth that sustains you today. Plant a tree. tend the earth. Pick up trash of the beach. Put some water out for the bees and birds and butterflies. Breathe. Let go of being full of fear. Replace it with being full of joy, love, gratitude. Try it for a minute. 

Love to each of you.

Gillian Cornwall, c. July 16, 2017

Bruce. Munro Trail
Lana'i, Hawaii
Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2012

Sunday, July 09, 2017

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. 

A year ago, 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 chose 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 lose weight when I stick to it and add in some exercise - mostly sustained, brisk walks. 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, re-posted July 9, 0217
Original post, c. July 17, 2016

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

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Land Tenure

Somerset, UK
Gillian Cornwall, c. September, 2015

FACT: No one owns anything, most particularly, the earth. No one owns land. The best you can be is her caretaker and, if you are gifted with this role, the mother may support you in return. 

It is interesting to review the term, land tenure etymologically. When we consider the French word tenir, meaning to hold, that, in itself, suggests more the role of caretaker than owner. Personally, I see the earth and all life as having the same rights as those we have fought for as humans. I believe that all living things are inherently entitled to the same rights of autonomy. 

If you attempt to own Mother Earth, you take from her - you take from her inherent perfection. It is not wise to mess with nature. Humanity has lost its relationship with its own instinctual capacity, with nature. We fail over and over again because of our greed. We take. We hold too tightly. 

I don't condone borders, land ownership and wars over land and resource - there can be no winner in these situations and the biggest loser is always the earth herself. Why do we feel this need to demarcate territory, lines on the sand, temporary streaks of our own blood that seep into the surface and poison her perfection. 

Stop. Step back. Acknowledge your fears of loss and let go. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 2, 2017

Northeast England
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

Sunday, June 25, 2017

It's All Good

On the way to Somerton, UK
c. Gillian Cornwall, September, 2015


"It's all good." Is it 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, too 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, re-posted June 25, 2017
Original copyright, July 3, 2016

The Northeast Coast of England
c.Gillian Cornwall, September 2015

Sunday, June 18, 2017

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 my sexual identity 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 lesbian 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 you. I know I have had jobs kept from me and taken from me because of people's perceptions and guesses about my identity. 

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 for who they are. In other words, this is dedicated to every lesbian and gay human throughout time. 

As always, thanks for reading. 


Gillian Cornwall, edited re-post, June 18, 2017
Original post, c. July 10, 2016


Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Art of Language

Fog in English Bay, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2009 


Sarcasm: Noun. The use of irony to mock or convey contempt. 
More on this word from wikipedia

Irony: Noun. The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect. 
More on this word from wikipedia

While recognized as literary tools, perhaps these could be known as massive bombshells of misunderstanding. 

This is what I am thinking. One has to be an extraordinary communicator in order to know where and when to pepper one's speech with irony. I have seen it used perfectly in poetry, fiction and dramatic writing; however, it is a rare phenomenon to experience its effectiveness in oral communication. In fact, personally, I have no use for sarcasm and find I only use it when backed into a corner and resort to it in retaliation. I always feel disappointed in myself afterwards. 

When used in workplace communications or any relationships where there is an imbalance of perceived power, the results can be disastrous. Consider when and how to use these tools - learn about them. Have you walked away from conversations wondering why someone would say something so unkind to you, only to find out years later, that somehow they were using a failed attempt at irony or sarcasm, alleging an absence of harmful intent? For in truth, all comedy and irony bears a weight of truth and is often used out of fear of the results of straightforward, clear communication.

In our world, language is changing rapidly, particularly with the use of technology. The art of written and spoken communication is in continuous flux. Perhaps this speed and offhandedness with which we can communicate might give us more pause to consider that which we say in advance of blurting. I am trying, though sometimes failing, to use clear and kind communication rather than irony and definitely in place of sarcasm. It isn't always easy but I want to ensure that people aren't walking away from me hurt or confused by a glib, thoughtless remark I have made.

Awareness. Intention. Kindness. Clarity. Let these words guide our path of communication. Do not let fear dictate our words and result in bitter strikes. Indeed, the pen is mightier than the sword but can wound as effectively. 

I suppose what is rather silly here is that I am simply saying something most of our parents taught us when we first formulated speech, "Think before you speak."

I wish you all a beautiful week filled with joyous, kind interactions that ripple out across the world. Thank you for taking the time to read this article.

-Gillian Cornwall, June 11, 2017
Original post date, July 14, 2013

Open
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2009

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Despondency Epidemic

 
Brighton Pier, England
Gillian Cornwall, c. October, 2015

Is there such a thing as a despondency epidemic? I feel like there is. 

This BBC report by David Robson from July 22, 2016 on the possible causes and impacts of exhaustion and burnout is not only something which I have experienced on and off since the 1990s as I struggle to survive in a world rocketing forward while I attempt to maintain my work ethic and values in a world chock-a-block with discrimination and hate.  

This quotation from the article mentions some of the effects of exhaustion, Including temporary blindness, that, until reading this I had not seen nor heard outside of my own experience. 

"We know that emotional distress can increase inflammation and exacerbate pain, for instance – and in some cases it can even bring about seizures and blindness. “It’s really hard to say that an illness is purely physical, or purely mental, because often it is both at the same time,” Schaffner says. In this light, it’s not surprising that our circumstances could cloud our minds and nearly paralyse the body with lethargy. And this fact should in no way suggest the symptoms are imaginary or made up – they may be just as ‘real’ as the fever that comes with flu."

This inexplicable temporary blindness happened to me after I moved to Salt Spring Island (ironically to get away from the pace and expectations of a busy city life) and landed up running a five acre farm with horses, chickens, sheep and a 40 foot by 80 foot garden in order to have "free" housing while also working full time at a local pub in the kitchen. Six days a week I arose at 5 am to care for the animals and get to work on time. I returned home from the pub by 5 or 6 pm and finished caring for the animals, chopping and hauling firewood and maintaining the farm by 10 pm. After several months of 5 hours, or less, sleep per night, the grey-out of my vision actually happened  while driving a Land Cruiser to work one morning. Terrifying. I could not see the road in front of me and had no idea how I would stop or pull over. I had to use the sound of the gravel on the shoulder to guide me, hoping I wouldn't strike anyone as I honked and slowed my speed sufficiently to pull over. Once I stopped, thankfully without further incident, I sat in the vehicle, rubbing my eyes and hoping I would regain my vision. I did manage to clear my sight sufficiently to continue to work and park my car. Once parked, I took myself, on foot, back up the hill to the hospital after trying to rinse my eyes and resolve the problem. I was sent to the eye specialist, who came back with no explanation and then off to my GP who was, thankfully, quick to determine the problem and sent me home to sleep for a week with no work. This was before the Internet and email era which I think has made things worse as we are physically unable to maintain the pace of productivity. 

As I look at a world where youth are engaging in terror attacks and the majority of our energy goes into social media, email and text response to maintain community - not necessarily a bad thing but is it actually effecting positive change? 

The Oxford Dictionary definition of despondency (linked above), states: Low spirits from loss of hope or courage; dejection.

I feel as though there is such a greater level of despondency in humanity and not just in our youth. What happens to society when we lose hope or courage? What actions, if any, do we take as a society when we see people losing faith in themselves and their fellow humans? How do we step away from the ping of the social media notifications and email and cell phone texts? How do we set the boundaries that allow us our much needed down time? 

How do we step away from our technological prisons? How do we break away from the heart attack lifestyle of the technological hamster wheel? Where is our light and our connection? How do we gain belief that we will not fail at our jobs if we step away - completely - to go home at a reasonable time, to go outside and play with friends or family, to share with our live, in person communities? 

I feel wrung out. I feel despondent. I am exhausted from working 10 hours a day because I do not know how to NOT do a great job. I was raised to perform and that if you gave all you could, you would be recognized and lifted up for your efforts but it does not seem to the way of the world anymore. Perhaps I am becoming a dinosaur but I really don't think so. I think my values still matter but I also believe we need to put measures in place in our work and personal lives that ensure downtime, limits on expectations of others and regaining a righteousness in rest. 

I am lonely. I never see people except at work. For most of my life I have been healing the broken spirit of the abused child and young woman. Society has done little to nothing to offer apology or restitution to the LGBT community for the absence of human rights many of us experienced throughout our lives. We are still not considered worthy of the respect that was taken. Our Indigenous communities are just beginning to receive apologies and restorative measures. There is nothing for LGBT. Sure, laws have changed, blah, blah, blah but that does not alleviate the damage done and I see hate on an increase to all marginalized peoples again because we are not diligent in our love and care as a species. 

All of this feeds the despondency epidemic and the drain of spirit, mind and body. I still see massive dysfunction in the lesbian community of my era because of the history of pain and suffering - so much so that I can barely stand to be within it. This means I am without community. Sometimes I am lonely because I am alone by choice. 

I wish I could tell you I have solutions. I don't. I can only share my meagre thoughts here, my truth and hope that sharing these truths may make someone else feel that they are not alone. I do see hope in the young children of my friends. I see them outside, playing, with their loving hearts, as much or more than with their faces to devices and I sure hope they keep that balance as they grow into teens and adults. 

I am not anti-tech, obviously, I'm sitting here every Sunday blogging. I just hope that we can all choose to seek balance and community in the world outside of the tech tools. I hope we can find ways to care for one another, without fear, with hope and care. This is what I see as the medicine for the despondency epidemic. Reach out to one another - even if you can only manage a smile to a stranger. It will ripple out and change the world.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. June 4, 2017

Reading in the Sun - Brighton Pier, England
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

Sunday, May 28, 2017

We Are One

Plumeria, Lana'i, Hawaii
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

At the risk of going all Game of Thrones on you, let's talk about being the faceless human or actually, the downside of individual identity - because I am really starting to question how it serves the one or the many.

Now, to qualify a little bit: Sure, it's just grand to be unique but I am considering that it is only great to be unique if we lift one another up in our difference and pull all those beautiful, unique, colourful threads together to make strong cloth. Right now, this does not appear to be humanity's modus operandi. We hold our difference to us as commodity and value and a reason to have something no one else can have. We use our difference to remain unique and separate. We use our difference because it has cost us to be different in the past and it owes us so we keep it close. Our difference has caused fear, hate and violence from others and we want restitution. 

Some of us strike back when we are stronger. We say, "Yes, I'm different and proud and taking back what's mine!" Sometimes, in doing so, we hurt and negate others who may have hurt us in the past or are the ones responsible for our past hurts. I am not judging this, merely exploring it, for myself - because I am no different than anyone else in my experience of pain and suffering and separation because of difference and my desire to be be see, heard and to know that what I feel means something to someone other than me.

I'm not saying we are all approaching this in the best or the worst way. Just chatting, folks. Just chatting and wondering when and how we can heal from harms done? When will we be well enough to move forward together? How does that happen? Does it take leaders of spiritual doctrines: the dalai lama, pope, archbishop or the like to give credence to the idea of solidarity? Hm, no, I don't think so. It seems to me that we are still putting some folks on the inside and some on the outside through religious doctrine and power structures. 

Is it the nature of all living things to set boundaries and separations for survival? Do other mammals ostracize and separate others for their difference? I know some vie for authority within their groupings to be head wolf, gorilla, lion and so on. Are we really just the same but with opposable thumbs and clothes? 

Humanity, with our prescription to being the top of the food chain and able to reason and be better than the rest, continues to divide and separate, ostracize and take more than we give, clinging to what we have, careless of the impact on the whole. In our fear, we cling to our blanket of protection - whatever that is to us - and pull it from the body of the perfect sleeping Mother that is the rest of the world, leaving her exposed, vulnerable, sick and dying. 

We suck. We are greedy and fearful and endlessly hungry. We divide, separate and conquer. Can we learn? Can we do it soon enough? We better start trying because our Mother is sick, cold and there is little medicine left to bring her back because we have taken all the comfort for ourselves, hungry little locusts that we are. 

Perhaps our goal is actually to self-destruct, eradicate ourselves from the planet as a weed, so the mother can go on doing what she does well without us as the tick on her neck. We are Earth's bad rash, naught but a fever soon forgotten in the big scheme of things. It's a shame that we are flawed with our all-consuming need to take and keep that which could be so easily shared. 

All I can do is think and act in a way that reduces my consumption. I can try to help other living things; try not to be so self-focused. I can give equal to that which I receive - at the very least. I can do better. We can all do better. We can start by breathing deeply and releasing our fear on the exhale. Smile ...and walk in peace. 

Who are you? Look into the eyes of another; you will find yourself there. 


-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 28, 2017

Coconut Palms, Lana'i, Hawaii
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012