Saturday, January 29, 2011

You in the world -- a journalling exercise

Saturday, January 29, 2011

This journalling exercise gives you a chance to examine the impact on you of community or world events. Sometimes doing this is simply interesting, and sometimes it's quite revealing of what  your childhood world was like.

Think of a world or community event from your childhood or youth. Find out the date it happened and then figure out what age you were on that day. Ask yourself these questions:
  • What was going on in your life that at that time? Did you have siblings? Where did you live?
  • What do you remember about the event?
  • What did the adults in your life say and feel about it at the time? 
  • As a child at the time, did you feel the event affected you or your immediate world? Now that you're older, do you see any effects that you didn't notice at the time?
As you write, see what else comes to mind (and heart). Children have a unique take on things, and remembering your own youthful perspective can be enjoyable and sometimes revealing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Change -- a journalling exercise

Monday, January 24, 2011

Some people say that change is one of the few things we can count on. In any case, change affects us all in different ways at different times and in different circumstances. Sometimes we like change, such as when an unpleasant person becomes more pleasant. Sometimes we don't like change, such as when we have to move away from a beloved home. And no matter how we feel about it, we change often in the course of growing up and getting older.

Set aside some time to consider how you have changed in the last five, ten, or twenty years...and what affect those changes have had. Think about the changes you consider to be "good," as well as the ones you think of as "bad" or "negative."

First, write down all the big and small changes you can think of. Decide how many of them you want to look at closely. One? Three? All of them?

Then, for each change you decide to examine, answer the questions below, taking time to muse and remember:
  1. Was the change fairly easy to deal with, or was it hard?
  2. Did you react to this change differently than ususal?
  3. If you resisted the change, what did you think and do in your resistance -- refuse to discuss it, get really busy, take out your feelings on others? How did you feel -- afraid, satisfied, angry, resentful, excited, willing, sad, ashamed, etc.?
  4. If you accepted or enjoyed the change, what did you feel, think, and do to help the change occur?
  5. How did the change affect other people? How did you feel about those affects at the time?
  6. At this moment, how do you see the change and its results? What do you think and feel about it? Do you feel differently now than you did when the change occurred?
Self-evaluation like this fosters growth and healing. It provides opportunities to understand the nature of change and to embrace, or at least accept it, as a natural part of life. Through self-examination we find wisdom and forgiveness. Our fears can diminish because we learn to see change as a normal process.

You might have uncovered old feelings of guilt or shame while doing this exercise. This isn't unusual, and it doesn't mean you're a bad person. It means you're human. We're very good at burying unpleasant feelings, often because we don't know what to do with them at the time we feel them. This journalling exercise gives you a chance to re-examine your difficult feelings; the gift of time might have given you new perspectives or emotional skills. Use these to help yourself understand and deal with old pain. You might find help in earlier posts I've written. To read more about dealing with guilt, click here. To read more about dealing with shame, click here.

If you have trouble coming to terms with past changes, feelings, or actions, I encourage you (as always) to talk with a trusted friend or counsellor. Sometimes another person's perspective can be very helpful.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Never Too Late

Monday, January 17, 2011

For the past several months I've been teaching a number of college and community courses for adults -- primarily lifeskills, computers, and English. Over the years, my students have ranged in age from 16 to 70+. Every time I teach another course, I'm encouraged, awed, and renewed by those who risk moving forward.

It often takes courage to go back to school after being away. People wonder if they can do it. They wonder if they'll be laughed at for being "too old" for school. Some they don't really know what they'll be dealing with or exactly how it might help them, while others have a definite plan. As with many things, people's confidence covers a spectrum from near-terror to absolute certainty.

Many, many of my students over the years have met the challenges of returning to school as an adult and have then continued to meet more. They've learned that they're smarter than they thought and that asking for help is smart, too. Some have made friends, found entirely new directions to pursue, felt proud to provide an example for their children and grandchildren. Just as importantly, some have learned that school is not the best choice for them, not at that moment, anyway.

I take my hat off to anyone who decides to learn something new, in any setting, for any reason, at any time. Keep up the good work (and play).

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Hardest & the Best

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tweny-seven years ago today, I was very large with child...our third child. His dad, older brother, Logan,  and I were so excited about this baby! Having lost our first son, we were perhaps more appreciative of this healthy pregnancy and aware of the unpredictable nature of life than many young parents might be.

Well, Lucas did arrive safe and sound as anything. He was followed a few years later by another brother, Graham. Over the years of raising these boys, partly as a married parent and partly as a single parent, I came up with one of my personal axioms:

Being a parent is the hardest, best, & most satisfying thing in my life.In the course of time, I've also been blessed with step-children, grandchildren, and other Bonus Kids, as I call all the young ones I get to hang out with. Birth Kids and Bonus Kids. Fantastic.

Today, with most of my Kids in their twenties and thirties, it's still true that being a parent, auntie, and grandparent -- as conscious, loving, and dedicated as I can be -- is the hardest, best, and most satisfying aspect of my life.

I've certainly screwed up. I've tried things and failed miserably. I've felt so frustrated with my little lovelies I could have shaken them; I nearly did, actually. But I kept paying attention to how friends with older kids handled situations. I asked questions. I learned to listen to my own opinion and began my own healing work. I lost two children and felt terror at losing others. I watch them suffer and wish I could carry that for them, but I can't. And I shouldn't.

This is life.

If you have a friendly or loving relationship with any child or younger person, you are both so fortunate. You get to enjoy a ride that enables you both to have fun and work hard and grow up. What a great gift!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A quotation

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cultivate everything

that brings you some joy

in being alive.

– from Carl Jung's letters

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Word Wonder -- comfort

Saturday, January 8, 2011

noun: 1. A state of mental or physical ease, especially one free from pain, want, or other afflictions.  2. Relief from sorrow, distress, etc.; solace; consolation.    3. One who or that which gives or brings ease or consolation.  4. Help or support... 
verb: 1. To cheer in time of grief or trouble; solace; console.  2. To relieve physical pain.  3. Law  To aid; help.  [from the Old French confort, which comes from the Old French conforter. That, in turn, comes from the Low Latin word confortare, meaning "to strengthen." The two parts of the word "comfort" are com-, which means "with" and fortis, which means "strong."] -- Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary

It's likely that none of what you've read so far surprised you about today's Word Wonder. It didn't surprise me, either, at first. But what was new to me was the strong association the word has with the idea of strength. I'd never thought about that before.

The "-fort" part of comfort comes from one branch of the ancient Indo-European root bhergh-, which meant "high; with derivatives referring to hills and hill-forts." [Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, page 1643] At a time when being higher than your enemy increased your chances of survival, hills were crucial. A bhergh- meant strength (-fort)...thus, hill-forts. A number of languages have words related to this root: burg, which meant a fortified town; borough; belfry; burgomaster; even burglar; plus fort, force, forte, effort, enforce, fortify, fortissimo, pianoforte, and reinforce. They all have to do with height, strength and/or safety.

Fast forward a good many years, and comfort becomes the allies and reserves that arrive to support an army -- strength and fortification to help in battle. Further on in history (or perhaps all along), the term "comfort for the troops" came to mean having women or boys available for sexual gratification.

Somewhere along the way, the strengthening nature of comfort evolved into the softer meaning generally used in English today. We think of the solace, ease, and consolation mentioned in the definition above. We think of warm, cozy comforters and muffins and cups of tea or hot chocolate. Comfort means a friend who will listen and offer support.

Ivor Brown, author of A Word in Your Ear & Just Another Word, believes "This is one of the admirable words which have turened soft and it needs to be re-stiffened to its proper shape and value." Although it is, as he continues, " origin, the giver of strength and valour," I don't agree with him that comfort has lost its power.

Upon reflection, I've come to think that the comfort we derive from soft blankets and rich carbohydrates and solace in times of grief is closely similar to the strength ensured by high places in times of war. No matter how comfort comes to us, it usually does, indeed, make us stronger. Whether we fight enemies on a battlefield or struggle with the onslaught of life's problems, comfort is welcome. It helps us move from feeling overwhelmed by sadness or depression or loneliness to feeling stronger and better equipped to move forward.

I hope that, whatever the circumstances, you will offer and accept comfort, thus helping strength to return.