Comforting Words: 07/2005

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Three S's

For the past two years, I have been on a treadmill. No, not the one that customarily comes to mind, especially to those of you who are exercise buffs. Anyone who have seen me in the last few months would know that exercise is the activity with the least priority on my list – sad as that may be.

Before those emails start coming, questioning me about my arguments for self care – let me just say, “I know.” My daughter has been stressing me enough about the gym fees that I continue to pay without blessing my foot in Spa Lady, so I do not need any one else to give me grief.

For some reason though, my weight has remained constant – fat in the middle and all right every where else. Go figure! A man that I was dating years and years ago called it the middle age spread and he warned me that I was in danger of losing him if that happened to me. Well you all know the score on that.

Although I have not been to the gym, this past week however has been glorious, with me taking care of myself in other ways. I have spent the past two years ‘beating the books’, being “Super Student” completing a four-year Master degree programme in two, having little time for sleep and simply taking life easy.

Since this week started, I have made up for that, sleeping for more hours than I have in two years in five days – almost. Along with sleep, I have stuffed myself with home cooking and doing some of the self-care practices that are so essential.

As I prepare to leave for that conference in Vancouver, I thought to do another “S” activity - take a Shortcut and re-publish an article I wrote four years ago about “The Three S’s,” as this week’s Words of Comfort.

I share this article, along with Words from Scripture and the Words from the Heart as a reminder to check whether you are searching for the “S’s” that will give your life meaning.

While I am away, you can also enjoy the additions that we (Angelo and I) have made to Comforting Words. Do the Poll, use the Gift Reminder feature, read your Horoscope daily, catch up on Human-Interest News items and post your Comments.

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Think of me in ‘sunny’, for our standards here in Canada, British Columbia, as you read this article and enjoy all the features available here. I will return next week with a mid-week voice post – if I can tear myself away from the sun, sand and . . . (fill in the blanks, keep it clean though).

Words from Scripture

From Christian Scripture:
1Corinthian 6:19
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?”

From Jainism:
Talmud, Sanhedrin 108a
“The body is the sheath of the soul.”

From A Course In Miracles:
W.pII. 222.1-2
“God is with me. He is my Source of life, the life within, the air I breathe, the food by which I am sustained, the water which renews and cleanse me.”

Excerpts from Jainism is taken from World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts, 230

Words of Comfort

Every human being searches to find what I call "The Three S’s.

For many, the search takes a lifetime and with any ‘luck’ one or two of the S’s are found – never all. There are some who, believing that they have all three, become relaxed and complacent and end up losing all chances of finding all their S’s.

What are these S’s?

They are Security, Spouse and Sex (good Sex). For each person, the form, shape, size or frequency of these S’s are relative to their perception of good. However, there are certain things common to most.

For example, security is usually based on having a ‘fat’ bank account and a sizeable income. Having a spouse, for most, is based on a concept of partnership that is equivalent to personal happiness.

Sex is in a league of its own though. Often “no money, means no sex.” No money can also mean no security and, more significantly, for many it means no spouse (at least not the penniless one.)

Can we now begin to understand why some of us never feel satisfied, as one of the S’s is usually missing – or so it seems?

Sometimes you believe you have a spouse, the sex is relatively good but the creditors are at your windows, peeping and waiting to interrupt the afterglow.

How then can we find stability (another S)? Should we be looking to some other letter in the alphabet for better clues?

I propose that we stick with the letter S, but let us choose instead some other words, let us re-phrase our search. Let change
 Security to Source
 Spouse to Spirit
 Sex to Soul

Can you see the co-relation? Do you see where I am going with this?

To have real security, we need to recognize the Source of all things – money, house, car, etc. To have or be a loving Spouse, we need to recognize and honour the Spirit within each person but in ourselves first. To have a life-enhancing, intimate and loving relationship, we must first be willing to recognize and embrace the Soul – our own and that of our lovers.

Struggling, worrying and fighting will not provide real security. Changing ‘spouses’ monthly and constantly looking outside will not establish a long-term or life-supporting relationship.

Sex and good sex for that matter does not reside in proficiency or frequency but rather in understanding yourself to the core and in being willing and open to receiving your partner for all who they are.

What I am suggesting is that we need to find only one S.

Our search will take on a new and deeper dimension, when we consciously recognize that security, spouse and (good) sex will be long-lasting only when we truly enter relationship with the Father/Mother of all S’s.

Then and only then will we begin to appreciate and experience joy, peace and prosperity.

Words from the Heart
The Interior Castle (Excerpt)
St. Teresa of Avila (1515 – 1582)

Allow me to share with you a passage from Teresa of Avila’s masterpiece, The Interior Castle – the Seventh Dwelling Places, Chapter 2. I invite you to read this with your mind and heart wide open. Go beyond the words to the essence. Once you are able to do this, you will, I hope, see the beauty of loving from the depth of the Soul.

“The Lord appears in this center of the soul, which must be where God Himself is…”

What God communicates here to the soul in an instant is a secret so great and a favor so sublime - and the delight the soul experiences so extreme - that I don't know what to compare it to.

I can say only that the Lord wishes to reveal for that moment, in a more sublime manner than through any spiritual vision or taste, the glory of heaven. One can say no more - insofar as can be understood - than that the soul, I mean the spirit, is made one with God.

For since his Majesty is also spirit, he has wished to show his love for us by giving some persons the understanding of the point to which this love reaches so that we might praise his grandeur. For he has desired to be joined with the creature that, just as those who are married cannot be separated, he doesn't want to be separated from the soul.

The spiritual betrothal is different, for the two often separate. And the union is also different because, even though it is the joining of two things into one, in the end the two can be separated and each remains by itself.

We observe this ordinarily, for the favor of union with the Lord passes quickly, and afterward the soul remains without that company; I mean, without awareness of it. In this other favor from the Lord, no. The soul always remains with its God in that center.

Let us say that the union is like the joining of two wax candles to such an extent that the flame coming from them is but one, or that the wick, the flame, and the wax are all one. But afterward one candle can be easily separated from the other and there are two candles; the same hold for the wick.

In the spiritual marriage the union is like what we have when rain falls from the sky into a river or fount; all is water, for the rain that fell from heaven cannot be divided or separated from the water of the river.

Or it is like what we have when a little stream enters the sea, there is no means of separating the two. Or, like the bright light entering a room through two different windows; although the streams of light are separate when entering the room, they become one."

Blessings, until my mid-week voice post.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Free Therapy: Crying

Chatting online with a regular reader and listener of Comforting Words this week, I expressed surprise at how emotional I sounded while doing the most recent voice post “End the Violence Against Women.”

Confirming that I did in fact sound as if I was crying, she reassured me that my crying did not detract from the message. Although I am thankful for that, listening to the post again, I realized how much the time I have spent serving as an Intern-Chaplain has affected me.

These past three months of journeying with the sick, dying, mothers of newborns or families that have lost a loved one has truly helped me to come into a greater realization of how blessed my life is. It has also allowed me many free sessions of "crying therapy" – as I like to call them.

What the past three months have also done is to make the matter of self-care that more important to me. In May, I wrote about “Taking Care of Me” and pledged to take on certain activities, including camping.

Well, much of that did not happen due to the other issues that arose not least of which was moving house – which was a drama in itself. However, one of the activities will happen, although in a modified way.

My woman-friend B and I will travel to Vancouver this weekend to attend a Conference hosted by Affirm United, which is an organization of the United Church of Canada. Thankfully, however, we will not drive, as I do not know how I would have survived her singing or she mine, for that matter.

This will be my first visit to Vancouver and it will coincide with the Gay Pride events in that city but given my schedule I might not see much of those. Nevertheless, the time away will do me well. It will give me an opportunity to reflect on these last three months, the tears of pain and joy that I have cried with patients, their families and the grief that still lingers in my heart for Liana White.

August will also be a month of rest for me, a time to unwind and catch my breath before the next phase. I will make the most of the time, relax and take some short cuts where possible, starting with this week's Words of Comfort, a re-publishing of an article I wrote back in 2001.

I offer this short article, “Free Therapy: Crying” along with Words from Scripture and the Words from the Heart as an inspiration to those of you who are afraid to express your deepest emotions.

Words from Scripture

From Christian Scripture:
Romans 12: 15
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

From Hebrew Scripture:
Ecclesiastes 3: 4
“A time to weep, and a time to laugh.”

Words of Comfort

Should I be asked to nominate the best remedy for a good cry – a cry that would wash and heal the soul – I would select Iyanla Vanzant’s book, “Yesterday, I Cried.”

Crying was not something I liked doing. Crying is for ‘soft’ people, spineless people, and cowards – or so I thought.

Crying is a tool women use to manipulate and pressure others into doing things for them or to get their way. When necessary, crying was a great way to escape punishment or reprimand.

I knew how to ‘work’ crying, but few were the times that I really cried – the kind of crying that left your soul wet.

My partner cries. She cries at cartoons, when a dog is hit by a car, at movies, at birthday parties, during a quarrel, hearing a sad or happy story. She cries. For a long time, this was a problem for me. As far as I was concerned, she cried too much. Until I learnt how to cry – really cry.

My minister was one of the persons who recommended Vanzant’s book to me after I revealed that there are deep seated and unresolved issues from my childhood that were still haunting me. She said, “Make sure you are truly ready to let go and have a box of Kleenex.”

The crying started from “The Beginning,” the actual title of the opening section of the book. I have been crying ever since.

Crying is caring. Crying is therapeutic. Crying is loving all people and all of life. Crying is celebration. Crying is healing.

Now, I can truly say crying is brave – as you must have some measure of valour to stand in front of strangers with snot running from your nose as you bawl!

Crying heals the pain. Crying makes happiness joyous. Crying relieves stress. Crying even makes sex better.

I am hooked on crying. My partner is amazed at this transformation and that is what it is – life-changing and liberating.

Crying is a recommended therapy for all of us who take life too seriously. When you need a good laugh – cry, looking at yourself in the mirror. It is often not a remarkable sight and that is what makes it so hilarious.

The story might not be yours but purchase a copy of “Yesterday, I Cried,” or borrow it from the library and cry with the many women who have lived or are living this story right now.

You will be better for the cry.

Words from the Heart
Yesterday, I Cried (Excerpt)
Iyanla Vanzant

Yesterday, I cried.
I came home, went straight to my room, sat on the edge of my bed,
Kicked off my shoes, unhooked my bra,
and I had myself a good cry.

I’m telling you,
I cried until my nose was running all over the silk blouse I got on sale.
I cried until my ears were hot.
I cried until my head was hurting so bad that
I could hardly see the pile of soiled tissues lying on the floor at my feet.

I want you to understand,
I had myself a really good cry yesterday.

Yesterday, I cried,
for all the days that I was too busy, or too tired, or too mad to cry.
I cried for all the days, and all the ways,
and all the times I had dishonoured, disrespected, and disconnected my Self from myself,
only to have it reflected back to me in the ways others did to me,
the same things I had already done to myself.

I cried because there really does come a time when the only thing left
for you to do is cry.

Yesterday, I cried.
I cried because I hurt. I cried because I was hurt.
I cried because hurt has no place to go
except deeper into the pain that caused it in the first place,
and when it gets there, the hurt wakes you up.

I cried because it was too late. I cried because it was time.
I cried because my soul knew that I didn’t know
that my soul knew everything I needed to know.

I cried a soulful cry yesterday, and it felt so good.
It felt so very, very bad.

In the midst of my crying, I felt freedom coming,
Yesterday, I cried
with an agenda.

Blessings, until my mid-week voice post. Remember you can email me at or let's chat online at Yahoo Messenger. My id is thecomforter

Friday, July 22, 2005

End Violence Against Women

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Purveyors of Love

Like most of you who watched the early reports on television of the bombings in London approximately ten days ago, my heart sank with the question whether this was an IRA action or has the “terrorists” reached the British Isle? Not that it would have made much of a difference.

As the events unfolded, my concern grew as we have family and friends living in London. My elderly uncle, with whom I stayed as a student in Europe years ago, lives in London. A couple of our best friends are also Londoners, residing and working in that city.

For some reason, however, I was not afraid that they were dead, which I guess has something to do with a conscious decision I had made following the September 11 attacks.

As far as I am concerned, paranoia will not serve anyone, and although I was wondering whether my relative and friends were unharmed, I found myself praying that they will be in the embrace of the Divine. My prayer also went out to the families of those confirmed dead or injured in the bombing.

Ten days later and I am still praying as more details are revealed about the people who died or were injured and we learn more about the ‘terrorists’. I am also praying for the leaders of the world, particularly of Great Britain, the United States of America and Canada as they assess the situation and make decisions regarding a response to this criminal event.

My prayers are also going out for me and for healing of my heart, lest it causes anymore damage. You may ask, “Why?” Well, the Sunday immediately following the September 11 attack, the Minister of the Church I attended led us in prayer and she said something that has remained with me.

Therefore, since July 7, 2005, as I pray for those who perpetuated this atrocity against Londoners, I prayed that the Divine would make me a “Purveyor of Love.” It is this prayer, one that I hope you will pray with me; I share as my Words of Comfort along with these Words from Scripture and the Words from the Heart.

Words from Scripture
From Jainism:
Acarangsutra 1.147
“One who knows the inner self knows the external world as well. One who knows the external world knows the inner self as well.”

From African Traditional Religions:
Igbo Proverb (Nigeria)
“As you plan for somebody so God plans for you.”

From the Christian Bible:
Galatians 6:7
“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

From the Judaism and Christianity:
Hosea 8: 7
“For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”

Proverbs 4:23
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Excerpts from Jainism and African Traditional Religions are from World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts pages 212 and 125

Words of Comfort

Sitting comfortably and ‘safe’ in my living room each evening watching the news of the bombings in London I wondered when will this end. The African mother who travelled to London to find her son puts the question to us all very succinctly, “How many more people has to die before this suffering ends?”

Her grief and pain reminded me very much of Grace who a couple years ago lost her son to gang warfare in Kingston, Jamaica. She asked the same question and I would dare say has received the same answer, “We don’t know.”

Truth be told, however, we do know the answer. However, it is an answer so simple that for the majority it borders on ridiculous. The answer has been at the core of centuries-old sacred texts; it has been the lyrics of songs and it is the basis for best-selling novels and blockbuster movies.

Love. That is the answer.

Sages have told us. Saints and martyrs have told us. Philosophers and theologians have given courses and written volumes on the power of love. Poets, musicians and artists have weave this simple notion into their craft and placed it before our eyes – but we have chosen to ignore it.

One of my favourite songs from Bob Marley, “War,” speaks to this.
“Until the philosophy that holds one race inferior and another superior, is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war.”
What Bob has put to music is not a call to revolution; at least that is not how I chose to interpret it. Rather, for me it is a call to love.

What we do not know or understand we hate. People who seem different we push aside and call them “inferior,” “strangers,” “foreigners,” “aliens,” “those people,” or worse yet “infidels,” and “heretics.”

More hurtful, at least to me, is when we refuse to acknowledge their humanity and their history and call people by colours – “the blacks,” “whites,” "yellow people,” “brown people” or “reds” for Native Americans. The sad truth is we can sing Bob’s song and interchange “race” with religion, gender, culture, and sexual orientation or viewpoint.

In this most recent bombing, this need to distinguish between “us” and “them” intensified as more information about the “London Terror,” as one network chose to dub its reports, revealed that one of the terrorist is Jamaican-born.

“Jesus, no, no!” was my cry. “That is the last thing we need, dear God, for a Jamaican to be mixed up in terrorism,” I said to my mother-in-law who has been glued to the television since her arrival.

My out cry had to do with what has become the norm for such situations – where the person committing an atrocity has to be made into an “alien,” or “not really one of us.”

As the news reports developed, the young man was no longer a citizen of the United Kingdom who was born in Jamaica, hence the earlier designation “Jamaican-born.” By the second day of reporting the identities of the suicide bombers, the new designation for Lyndsay Jermaine was simply – “Jamaican.”

This is typical of news organizations and government officials of the so-called developed countries when something ‘bad’ or scandalous occurs involving one of their citizens whose parents or the “once one of us person” originates from a developing country.

We saw it with Ben Johnson, for example, when news broke of his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. No longer was he the celebrated Canadian athlete once his ‘crime’ was made public but the disgraced Jamaican athlete who so happened to run for Canada.

My reason for mentioning this is that it points to something deeper. It is indicative of the tendency to create “others” out of people who are different in any way. We also distance ourselves from situations that we deem inferior to our standards without an attempt to understand how we might have impacted the persons involved.

Not only do I contend that this tendency is wrong but it also belies the truth of our involvement in the creation of religious, ideological and political ‘terrorists’, suicide bombers, serial killers and even athletes that use performance-enhancing drugs.

I vividly remember when my then Minister asked the congregation to think about the role each of us might have played in September 11. My initial response to her challenge was “Sister, I had nothing to do with that, thank you.”

However, as she talked her talk – something that she does extremely well – it became more apparent to me that she was right. While I may not have designed the bomb or have any direct connection with the people who attacked the United States, my silence on global poverty, racism, heterosexism and fundamentalism of all types contributed to the injustice many face daily.

One more voice, I realized, can make a difference to the women and children being terrorized by men who misuse sacred texts and power entrusted to them to satisfy their personal lust, greed and thirst for power.

How can I or anyone of us forget that because so many remained distant and silent while Hitler made “others” of the Jewish people that we now mark an ‘anniversary’ of the Holocaust. Silence, inaction and thinking that it is an “African problem” caused the killing of almost a million people in Rwanda.

Thinking, “I am a good person,” while laughing at or making jokes at the expense of another’s ethnicity or culture is sowing a seed of hatred in the heart of the child listening to you.

Thumping your sacred text and praying on the hour every hour while you ignore the screams coming from next door is not being your “brother’s keeper.”

Years ago while I was a student of international relations, one of my professors reminded us that a nation’s foreign policy is reflective of its domestic policy. In other words, to understand why a government relates the way it does towards other countries, check what its policy intentions are for social security, women’s affairs, how the elderly are treated and how it manages its natural resources.

The same is true for us individually. Jesus it was who said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” Want to understand ‘my world’ then check my heart. The Proverb, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life,” has been an important one for me.

It has been even more so since September 11 and increasingly so now with this new attack. In every one of us, there is an Osama Bin Laden, a George Bush or even a Hitler. With every attack on ‘democracy’, there is the potential for a response dictated by hate, the need to avenge the death of innocent people and to defend ourselves with "pre-emptive strikes."

While it would be silly of me to suggest that governments around the world should not take steps to protect their citizens, I join the many who plea for compassion, mindfulness and love to be the guide in these decision-making process.

As I watch the news reports about these four young men who decided to participate in this criminal act on July 7, I wondered about love in their lives. How did they experience or not experience love? What led them to believe that killing others was the way to appease the hurt and pain they obviously were feeling.

I also wonder whether we, all the rest of us, would ever have the courage like these young man, misguided as we think they were, to take a stand for love, to sow love and respond in love.

Could we have the courage to be ‘sowers’ and purveyors of love rather co-creators and breeders of terrorists in our homes, in our communities, at work and abroad?

Words from the Heart

Love in Action

Thich Nhat Hanh

This Vietnamese monk and teacher of mindfulness offers these fourteen precepts for living in our contemporary world.

1. Do no be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory or ideology.
2. Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth.
3. Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever to adopt your views.
4. Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering.
5. Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry.
6. Do not maintain anger or hatred.
7. Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Plants the seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness.
8. Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break.
9. Do no say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.
10. Do not use the religious community for personal gain or profit or to transform your community into a political party. . . [but] take a clear stand against oppression and injustice.
11. Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Select a vocation that helps realise the ideal of compassion.
12. Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.
13. Possess nothing that should belong to others.
14. Do not mistreat your body.

Blessings, until Wednesday’s voice post.

Friday, July 15, 2005

My Awakening

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, July 10, 2005

My Own Fockers

Once I knew the date of her arrival, two things became clear to me, one that I had to write this piece and two, that I had to see the movie “Meet The Fockers.”

The latter was a hilarious experience, albeit it started a bit slow, resulting in Juds not sticking with it to the end. My daughter and I, however, spent the almost two hours of the movie in stitches.

Admittedly it was not the greatest comedy I have ever seen, however, bearing in mind that my inspiration for watching “Meet The Fockers,” had to do with a certain arrival – it was funny enough for me.

Almost fifteen years after meeting my personal Fockers, this is one of the first times that I am ‘officially’ reflecting on what “My Own Fockers” has meant to my life.

After reading these Words of Comfort along with these Words from Scripture and the Words from the Heart I do hope you can look at the Fockers in your life through different lenses.

Words from Scripture

From the New Testament:
Mark 3: 31 – 51

“[Jesus’] mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brother are outside, asking for you. And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.’”

Words of Comfort

Her flight gets in just after 12:10 a.m. on Wednesday and unlike many other occasions when anticipation of her arrival would cause me great consternation – this time is different.

Actually, it has been different for many years now. Take last year for example. This was her first visit to us in Canada. We had only been here just over a year and she decided it was time to accept our open invitation to “come whenever.”

She stayed six weeks and although I did my usual of purchasing new bed linen, bath towels, kitchen towels and placed flowers in her room, I was not tense but rather quite enjoyed her stay.

This was a new experience for me, as normally her visits, even when she lived less than an hour’s drive away, would have my stomach so knotted wondering what she would say. My blood pressure would soar as the visit progressed and I would need to meditate and pray for calmness for hours after she left.

My mother-in-law, for the want of a better term, is quite a nice lady, emphasis on lady. She grew up in polite society and did the things that proper ladies did, including have tea – the full works – at the end of the day. Her style of dress over the years suited the part and although I met her in 1991, she had never worn a pair of jeans in her life.

Living outside of the box for her meant using ‘swear’ words such as “damn,” and to go to a social event without her husband or an appropriate escort. Although she was an accomplished professional in her own right, my mother-in-law found certain activities unbecoming for women and if you were to curse “s…” in her presence, her ‘high-brown’ complexion would turn as red as a beet.

She had a husband who loved her to death and who did everything in his powers to support her – professionally, emotionally, financially and spiritually. He looked after the children, for example, while she went to Europe to do some professional upgrading, when my partner and her sister were quite young.

My partner tells me that every evening he would listen for her car to turn the corner of their upper middle class neighbourhood to put the kettle on for tea. Almost every Sunday, they could be seen sitting in the second front pew at church, side by side, praising God.

I remember being so shocked that after both of them drove fairly old model cars for years, when the time came to purchase and import into the island a new car – it was she who got it. Talk about being a well-kept woman, sorry lady.

Knowing some of this history before our first meeting back in 1991 made me very nervous but intrigued. My nervousness had much to do with the fact that in Jamaica meeting the parents of your lesbian partner is not a norm – still is not.

As if that was not enough, my socioeconomic background was quite the opposite of my partner and her family’s in many ways. I felt inadequate as, in my view, I was bringing very little to this table, except trouble maybe.

Looking back now, maybe I did just that – brought trouble but my entry was also the first time that this family had to really think outside the box and accept that their daughter was not going to marry a man.

My life has always been about pushing the envelope, never satisfied to accept things as they presented themselves. ‘Joining’ (forcing may be a more apt description of my entry) a family with such ideals as my partner's has, was both painful and a blessing to me.

Out of this forced entry, all parties have grown. Recently someone wisely said at a gathering that it is a lie that we do not get to choose our family. I agree. My partner’s parents and her sister, for example, after the initial upset and discomfort my persistent presence caused, have embraced A. and I and have called us family and meant it.

I have made mention before of the relationship that developed between Juds’ father and I – one of few words but such felt mutual concern and affection even, at least on my part.

My mother-in-law and I have a similar bond. Although it has been unspoken, as this is a family more of action than words, our bond goes well beyond concern and affection. She has modeled for me a different kind of motherhood – one that has helped me in my own role as mother to A.

Regular readers of Comforting Words know by now that my relationship with my own mother has been turbulent, unhealthy and suffocating in many ways.

What this Lady, and I use the designation with much love and affection, has shown me is the kind of love the Fockers gave to their son in that silly movie. It is a love that is oblivious to achievements but focussed on family and connections.

The latest book that I am reading is entitled “Soul Prints,” by Marc Gafni, in which he posits that connection might very well be the objective of our soul search and the greatest gift we might offer to other human beings.

Whether this is true for you only you can answer but I know that that is what my mother-in-law, Lady R., has gifted me - connectedness.

There have been times over the last almost fifteen years when I was not sure I could pay the price of this gift, when either her idiosyncrasies or mine would seem too much to bear. There were moments when her own struggles with our sexuality manifested as painful comments, such as “Only family,” as she excluded me from a photo session.

However, who says that it would have been any easier in a traditional family? I have asked myself that question many a times when the going got rough and uncertain whether my relationship with Juds would weather the storm.

To answer that question I have had to look to the many photographs, she has taken of A. and me right in the midst of the ‘family’. When I consider the many school functions and birthday parties she has attended for A, when she did not have to, I know the answer.

She has supported us, emotionally and financially, through tough times. How many times have I sat in her kitchen, sipping tea, while she quietly guided me to the right decision, something my own mother has never done? No wonder the passage from Mark resonates so much with me!

Now 75 (I believe), Lady R is making her second trip to Edmonton and in Juds words,“She is as excited as a child to be coming.” I can believe that and I look forward to her infectious childlike giggle to brighten up the next forty-two days.

None of us can predict the future – only death is certain and so, whatever happens with my relationship, unlike Terry McMillan, who was the subject of my last voice post, I could never regret having had the privilege of spending this time with not only Juds but Lady R.

Being connected with both have been and continues to be life-enriching and so I look forward to the lessons in ladylike manners that Lady R will teach me over the next six weeks.

I will cherish the memories of her visit and I am sure she will leave behind tons of photographs, just in case we should forget anything.

Words from the Heart

By Robert H. Madden

Source: League of American Poets


Blessings, until Wednesday’s voice post.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

How Stella Lost Her Groove

this is an audio post - click to play

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Healing a Touch –Starved World

As the week progressed, I was somewhat nervous as no idea was forming in my mind about what to share in Comforting Word this week.

Several readers have asked me where do I get ideas for my articles. Their responses have ranged from “Really?” to “That’s what happens to me also,” as I told them that ideas come to me when I am in the shower, making dinner or driving to work. Very frequently, not only will I ‘hear’ the focus of my next article clearly but will receive pointers as to how that particular point of interest connects with other issues and experiences of the week.

Although several events occurred this week, none of them immediately jumped out at me as a potential focal point for this week’s post. By Friday, I was beginning to feel very nervous as my muse was not ‘speaking’ to me. I spent much longer than I usually would in the shower, cooked more than we needed and instead of driving, took the bus to work – just to make the trip a bit longer.

All my attempts were seemingly to no avail. Feeling hopeless that I would have nothing to write about this week, very late Friday night I turned my attention to researching for a presentation that I have to make next week.

As I raked through the pile of books and my notes from the documentaries that I had viewed earlier in the week, it hit me. I could hear my muse laughing at me, saying, “Claudette, it was there all along. All the information you needed was staring you in the face and you wrote on it before so I figured you would finally get it.”

“Healing a Touch–Starved World” are my Words of Comfort this week, a concept developed by and borrowed from Mariana Caplan and I share them along with these Words from Scripture and the Words from the Heart.

Words from Scripture

From the New Testament:
Matthew 9: 21

“If I only could touch his cloak, I will be made well.”

Words of Comfort

There are weeks that are seemingly so uneventful and then there are others so chock-full of ‘happenings’ that it is hard to catch one’s breath before another news breaking moment is unfolding. The week beginning Sunday, June 26 was one of the latter.

Despite the attempts by religious, conservatives and so-called pro-traditional marriage groups, same-sex marriage bills were passed in the Parliaments of not one, but two countries – Canada and Spain.

A second reported incident of gay bashing made the headlines here in Edmonton, with some quarters calling for the provisional Government to be held responsible for promoting an environment of hate.

An interesting article, from the New York Times News Services was printed in the Edmonton Journal, entitled “Friends: The Key to Longevity,” confirmed and supported some of my arguments in a recent post on the value of friendship.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) aired what I felt is a very insightful documentary on racism. “Indecent Exposure” highlights the work being done by Jane Elliot to expose and heal the wounds of this insidious behaviour. This is a film which not only Anglo-Saxon men and women should view but also people of colour.

The final newsworthy event that caught my attention was the preparations for the Live 8 Concert. This simulcast of concerts at eight venues across the world is organised by famous musicians to increase public awareness and start a movement that would pressure the Group of Eight nations to proactively work towards ending poverty in Africa.

Being the homebody that I am, rather than going to the July 1 parades and street parties as many others did, I made myself comfortable with my books at my feet while I watched the celebrations on television. I was reading “To Touch Is to Live,” by Mariana Caplan and as I waited for my daughter to return from the Canada Day parade and festivities, the connection between these stories became clear to me.

There were several specially produced programmes on CBC marking the 138th birthday of Canada and in at least two that I saw, the interviewees were expressing their vision for Canada and what being citizens of this country meant to them. In one particular programme, the journalist focussed on new Canadian citizens who were part of the annual Canada Day Citizenship ceremonies held across the country.

Whether they were new citizens or old, they all spoke about a desire to “belong” – to a country where people are more than their cultural, religious and ethnic background, more than their sexual orientation or income status.

Men and women representing many nations and various ethnic groups spoke in almost one voice about their desire to be full members of a Canadian community that would reach out to the world and help heal its wounds.

Listening to them, I looked down at the pages of the book in my lap and noted that I was on the chapter entitled “Touch-Starved Nation.” As I read the chapter, its relevance to the desires of these Canadians was evident. I could also see the connection with the other news stories about gay bashing, friendship, basic human right to marry, exposing racism and ending poverty not only in Africa but wherever it exists.

In one of my earlier articles, “Reach Out and Touch,” I referred to the “no touching policy” of the western world. Caplan, however, made me realise that this problem with touching goes much deeper and have several sides through what she aptly describes as “untouchability” and the untouchables of North America and Europe:
“Who are the untouchables of the civilized world? They are the gay people, the African Americans, the Hispanics, the Chinese, the poor, the homeless, immigrants, people with AIDS, the elderly, people with physical and mental disabilities, and people who live in communities, spiritual groups and other alternative lifestyles. They are the ‘have-nots’ in any given society.” (14)

Another thing that struck me as I read this – it would be hard for me to miss it – was that I, Claudette, fall in several of these categories; I am an “untouchable.” This was the very point Jane Elliot made to the Aboriginal and other people of colour in that CBC documentary and she went on to ask the question – “What are you going to do about it?”

The first task, I believe, for anyone falling into one or more of these categories of untouchability is to understand why, in this day and age, this atrocity called discrimination continues to grow.

Having become more politically correct in its language, western societies have ‘removed’ certain offensive terms from its daily vocabulary. Caplan so rightly points out that, words such as ‘nigger’ has been upgraded (my term) to African-American and ‘fag’ has become ‘gay. “However,” Caplan contends, “these names are often little superficial niceties that often serve to mask the underlying fact of socially sanctioned untouchability.” (14)

For Caplan and people who share her view, and having read the material through I count myself as one, the problem continues to grow as societies, particularly North American societies and those that they influence, lose their sense of touch.

Touch here means far more than physical touch – albeit that is very much a part of the equation. By touch, what is meant is a sense of connection, that there is more to life than passing acquaintances, that people are in true relationship with each other and therefore there is genuine trust and concern.

This is the kind of touch that creates “Rainy Day Friends,” as I call them and the touch that comes from such relationships cannot be developed if "we do not acknowledge our shared humanness," says Caplan.

If it was not so painfully true I would find Caplan’s “12 Steps To Avoid Human Touch and Intimacy,” (6-7) extremely funny.

She states that in our effort to avoid human touch – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual - we:
1. Eat, exercise and dress in a way that will make [us] feel and appear strong.
2. Find a job in which [one] will be overworked and stressed out. [We] become too busy to have time for anyone or anything.
3. Pursue a profession in which . . . manipulation, swindling and gaining the upper hand is considered normal and even desirable.
4. Avoid exercise, fresh air, and nourishing foods to that [you] feel weak, toxic and unworthy to touch.
5. Spend as much time as possible in front of the television, computer . . . filling your minds with images of murder, rape and unrealistic relationships.
6. Drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and take antidepressants and other socially acceptable and unacceptable intoxicants to numb mind and body.
7. Become part of a social circle in which people are pretentious, polite and/or superficial…Live in a culture in which, as a norm, people are generally unaffectionate with one another.
8. If you have children, be sure to place your needs above theirs…and get babysitters every weekend…buy them [toys], computers and allow them to watch as much television as they would like.
9. Buy a dog or cat and place all of your love, affection and intimacy needs in that animal while avoiding giving your loved ones the same attention.
10. Make a general attempt to avoid your feelings and your own pain. In doing so, you will not notice the feelings of others.
11. Avoid close relationships with members of the same sex. They see beneath your cover and do understand you, and therefore may demand that you are real with them.
12. In sexual relationships, be aware only of your own needs and do everything to get them met. Be self-centered and selfish in relationships in general.

Do you see yourself on this list? I certainly see some aspects of me and so I am taking Caplan’s advice and refuse to be a proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water, denying that living as we do, in fear of each other, is dangerous.

Therefore, catch me if you can as I march with those people who are living healthy, working at a reasonable pace and using my computer in moderation and as necessary. More importantly, I will be entertaining myself in the company of other human beings instead of joining the ranks of those scouring Internet chat rooms for the love of their lives.

I will be following Caplan’s suggestion and invite you to join me in finding friendship and support from members of your own sex, who do not consume excessive alcohol and drugs.

Will you be a parent who will really be present with your children, touching and showing them affection appropriately and a mother who is not afraid to breast-feed?

Can you imagine yourself a pet owner who loves his/her human family members as much as you do Fido? What about finding time to explore your spirituality and walking your own spiritual path and embracing all that you are?

Better still, what about entering into relationships that are more about giving than taking; relationships in which sexuality and your body are sacred?

Could you find it in yourself to truly love and touch your neighbour as well as your own soul, whether they are gay, African-American, African-Canadian, Hindu, Chinese, elderly, mentally or physically challenged?

If any of these things appeal to your sense of goodness and community, then join me and become, what Caplan calls, a Professional Toucher – making the world whole again as we heal others and ourselves.

Words from the Heart
Touch Me
Author Unknown
Source: Motivating Moments

If I am your child . . .
Please touch me.
Find ways to meet my needs.
Your goodnight hug helps sweeten my dreams.
Your daytime touching tells me how you really feel.

If I am your teenager . . .
Please touch me.
Don't think because I'm almost grown,
I don't need to know that you still care.
I need your loving arms;
I need a tender voice.

If I am your friend . . .
Please touch me.
Nothing lets me know you care like a warm embrace.
A healing touch when I'm depressed assures me I am loved,
And reassures me that I'm not alone.
Yours may be the only comforting touch I get.

If I am your life's partner . . .
Please touch me.
You may think that your passion is enough,
But only your arms hold back my fears.
I need your tender reassuring touch,
To remind me I am loved just because I am me.

If I am your grown-up child . . .
Please touch me.
Though I may have a family of my own to hold,
I still need Mommy's and Daddy's arms when I hurt.
As a parent, the view is different;
I appreciate you more.

If I am your aging parent . . .
Please touch me.
Hold my hand,
Sit close to me, give me strength;
And warm my tired body with your nearness.
Although my skin is worn and wrinkled,
It loves to be stroked;
Don't be afraid.

Blessings, until my mid-week audio post.