Comforting Words: 12/2005

Thursday, December 29, 2005

New Year Resolutions: Meaningful or Waste of Time?

I can recall a time in my life when I would make a list of New Year's Resolution. If my memory serves me correctly, I can also recall that most of them I would not keep.

Losing weight was usually very high on the list; in fact, most years it was the first resolution I would make. Then there was the one to stop sucking my thumb. Did I ever share that tidbit - the joys of thumb sucking? One day I will, and yes Miss C in Ontario that is where my big grin comes from -- buckteeth!

One resolution that I would always quietly make, never brave enough to actually write it on my list in fear that prying eyes would discover it, was to 'do and be better'.

Up until I was maybe ten or so, I never thought along the lines of rich and poor. Of course I was aware that our household lacked some of the amenities that the neighbours had, most notable was warmth and affection.

However, my humble surroundings was par for the course as by the mid 1970s in Jamaica, times were really tough economically. The country was also virtually under siege by local political thugs and the more sophisticated ones imported from not too distant shores.

As the entire nation lived through the consequences of having a so-called Democratic Socialist as its Prime Minister, families like my own lived the reality of being borderline poor. One of the political slogans that rang so true for me, as we dined on dumplings and callaloo (spinach) prepared in 101 ways for breakfast lunch and dinner, was "Better Must Come."

It would take another 20 or so years for me to realise how ingrained this notion was, of "better" coming from somewhere external to me and my world. Living in the former Soviet Union as I did and having had the opportunity to travel across Europe and later visiting a few of the great United States did much to help me to realise that better is truly a state of mind, an attitude and a decision.

So for many years now, I have stopped making New Year's Resolutions, especially the ones that were made on the premise that if things changed externally, according to what society considers "better."

For the past three or so years, on New Year's Eve night I offer a prayer of gratitude - for what I have been gifted and blessed with and for the unlimited possibilities that lie ahead.

New Year's Eve night 2004, my prayer of gratitude included a thank you for the unconditional love of my partner and my child, health, strength, courage, food, employment, money supply and opportunities to serve. In 2005, my prayer was answered when:
(1) My partner and I celebrated 15 'through hell and high water' years of being together, defying and making a lie that same-sex relationships are immoral.

(2) My daughter who was partially paralyzed for six weeks recovered with a diagnosis far less frightening than what was previously feared. She graduated from high school and is now in her first year of college, doing her degree in Anthropology.

(3) My own health, although it would benefit from just a little more physical exertion (read as going to the gym), is good.

(4)Despite and in spite of the challenges of being a new Canadian, we found the strength and courage to forge ahead and continue our training. My partner has now graduated as a professional Chef and I have the privilege of being trained as a Chaplain.

(5) We ate well everyday. It might not be steak and eggs for breakfast but we have never gone to bed hungry, not one night, in 2005.

(6) Both my partner and I have been employed, albeit part time, while in training for most of 2005.

(7) Money has flowed to us constantly, sometimes from unexpected and unimagined sources and in the nick of time to pay a bill.

(8) I have met some very wonderful people who have opened the doors for me to be of service to others, namely, through this blog, through my faith community and through non-profit groups here in Edmonton.

This New Year's Eve night, I will say a prayer of gratitude, much in the same way as I have done over the last three or so years. This time, however, I will say "Thank You God, for the people who have read Comforting Words and who have shared their lives with me throughout 2005."

Then I will enter 2006, knowing that miracles will happen.

Will you join me this in prayers of gratitude?



Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Reflection #12

this is an audio post - click to play

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Reflection #11

I draw the eleventh lesson from the wisdom of the professor of a Theological Reflection course I recently attended.

From the first day of this course, the professor frequently referred to “thick listening in thin moments,” and as she unpacked this concept, or better yet approach to relationships, I knew it was going to be a valuable lesson for me.

She shared Walter Bruegmann’s review of Maria Harris’ book, Proclaim Jubilee, in which he describes ‘thick listening’ as the author’s way of speaking of prayer: “thick listening . . . understands and relishes the deep touch points that take place between suffering and imagination, touch points that can produce energy for the ‘healing of the world’."

“Thin moments,” my professor explained, "is a term used by a Thomas Groome, one which has its roots in Celtic spirituality. ‘Thin moments’ according to Groome occur when and where ‘separation between worlds is thin.’"

As she contrasted both terms and illustrated for us how they are nevertheless complementary, the proverbial light bulb went on for me. “How many times in my life,” I thought, “in the midst of what should have been my greatest suffering, I get a vision of what the future holds!”

This year for instance, the reality of thin moments came sharply into focus for me.

In May, I entered a new world through a training programme I had enrolled in. This three month programme opened my eyes to the possibilities to walk my talk of being a instrument of love and comfort, one person at a time. However, another more familiar world of under-employment, the one that I entered when we migrated to Canada, was beckoning me to return as the programme was coming to an end.

Sitting in the office of my then soon-to-be former Supervisor, I was kicking myself for not realizing earlier how much I would love being in this field. As I shared with my supervisor the anxiety I was feeling about the immediate future and the financial strain my family and I were experiencing due to under-employment, she asked me if I was serious about wanting to pursue a career in the particular field.

Looking back, it is now clear to me that that was a thin moment.

I could not understand why this petite woman had such a big smile on her face listening to my tale of woe and, quite honestly, some part of me wanted to wipe it off her face.

As if she read my mind and suspected that I was about to end her amusement, she said “Claudette, I am smiling because I just got an email from my colleague, telling me that her facility still has an opening.”

For almost two years, I had convinced myself that the particular path that I had chosen was the only one that would lead me to my calling, and this three month programme was a necessary detour, at least that was how I had planned things.

What I thought was a detour was in fact my destiny, only I did not know it and was suffering as I was now facing the prospect of another year of working in at a fast-food chain or call center, until I could get a place in an extended programme.

Combined with her smile, through that sentence I understood what Joseph Campbell meant when he said:
“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

Listening thick in thin moments is another way of saying that.

How and when are you listening?



Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Reflection #10

Lesson #10 for me this year is so simple that it was one that I often overlooked. Self-care.

My partner for years tried to get me to do this -- take some time for me and take better care of myself. This was and to some extent still remains a challenge for me as the guilt hooks that have been plunged into my psyche seem to go deeper every time I do something for myself.

Through my new career, I have the honour and pleasure of being with people who are teaching me the lesson of self care. What I have learnt is that at the end of the day, if I am not well - be that spiritually, mentally or physically - then I am really of no use to anyone.

Many religious traditions teach that self-sacrifice is the key to salvation and to think about taking care of self first is individualistic and self-centered. While there is much self-centeredness in our world, and we see that playing out even in international relations, I disagree with that philosophy.

It is my view that there is a big "S" in the kind of care referred to here. To not understand that is to misread the teachings of prophets such as Jesus.

What I have learnt this year is that when I serve and give from the fullness of my heart and in a spirit of abundance, i.e., from my sense of Self, not only am I being a blessing but I am being blessed.

However, if my giving and serving is coming from a tired, worn and disgruntled self, the one that is focussed on impressing (or kissing up to) the world, not only am I not blessing anyone, I am punishing myself.

A Course in Miracles states this somewhat differently, in nicer language. It reads "What you give you receive," and if what I am giving is broken, misguided, depressed and/or bankrupt is there any wonder that my life experiences are unsatifsying, reasons to jump off a bridge or bill collectors are constantly at my door?

This year, 2005, was the time that I really began to hear this message and have taken some steps in that direction. In 2006, I intend to step it up a notch and invite you to look in the mirror and ask, "Am I taking care of self or Self?



Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Reflection #9

Thus far, there have been eight important lessons for me during 2005:
1. Celebration of womanhood
2. Speaking one’s truth
3. Age is truly just a number and an opportunity to celebrate one’s uniqueness
4. Liberating Parenting
5. The strength of vulnerability
6. Moving on to be all that I can be
7. Friendship and family: the ties that bind
8. Taking a risk on life

These eight lessons points to the ninth – the healing in story-telling. In an article posted here at Comforting Words, I shared what I considered words of wisdom regarding this ancient and natural art of story-telling.

“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.”Isak Dinesen (1885 – 1962)

"If it had not been for storytelling, the black family would not have survived. It was the responsibility of the Uncle Remus types to transfer philosophies, attitudes, values, and advice, by way of storytelling using creatures in the woods as symbols."
(Jackie Torrence b. 1944)

I have borne my sorrows and have done more than survive this year – I have celebrated my life – through telling and sharing stories with readers of these pages.

Without the stories, if I had been silenced one more year I know for sure that a very different story would have been told about me.

As we close this chapter and look to open a new one in 2006, I invite you my dear readers and storytellers, shout out your own tales, let your voices be heard in which ever small corner you inhabit. Feel free to use Comforting Words in 2006 as one of venues for sharing your art – I will be here to hear you into your true selves.



Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas Reflection #8

I came across a very interesting quote in the June 2005 issue of The United Church Observer that succinctly describes my eighth lesson of this year.

“Figuring out who you are, then acting like it, means taking risks.”

David Wilson wrote these words in his article about the United Church of Christ in the USA (Observer, June 2005, page 32) but they resonate completely with the personal mission that I have been on, one that thrusts me into dark places and places of light.

Being authentic and living authentically means taking risks – something that never really scared me. Teresa of Avila would probably call this living in the “Interior Castle,” of who you are. I would also describe it as moving out of the narrow places.

As this year comes to an end, I am not only moving out of narrow places, I have demolished quite a few that I once inhabited and working on evacuating others. This is not simply hard labour, it is a venture that involves much emotional suffering.

My own words, from my article “Tell the People to Move Forward,” serve as a balm during the times of intense suffering:

"If we are to grow, if we are to move on to the next level, if we are to become all that we can be and make a way for the next generation, there will be pain and, because we are humans - thinking beings - there will be suffering."

And so I move forward, into 2006, acting on what I figure God has call me to be. It is a risky endeavour and often I am misunderstood but the duet, Mary, Mary, says it well: “I just can’t give up now; I’ve come too far from where I started from…”

What about you – will you risk the possibilities of being all that you are called to be?



Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas Reflection #7 by Sonya

An important lesson for me this year was that no matter how far we may be, my friends are really "better than pocket money." Sonya, my woman-friend and kindred spirit, resides in Australia but through sometimes infrequent emails and rare telephone conversations, our spirits have remained in constant contact.

During this year, Sonya contributed articles to Comforting Words, and as we close this chapter, here is another from her:

Christmas Reflection
By Sonya
After reading some of your "Christmas Reflections", I have been thinking of doing some of that myself. Then I realised that with the travel that lay in front of me right now, I am in an interesting semi-reflective yet moderately "poor me" kind of situation. It does tie in, though I am not yet sure how...

In about 48 hours, I will board the airplane and make my bi-annual trip "home" to join my family for Christmas. Finances dictate that I am only able to do this in alternate years.

However, this Christmas feels really different, for a few reasons. It is Christmas number three without my Mom. I also have two new nephews to meet on this trip. Then there is a new woman to meet who has become important to my father in the past year. I am also bringing my partner along to meet my family.

Actually, now that I list things out like that, I am not sure what this Christmas has in common with any other previous Christmases!! So many things have changed, and "my" family has lost and gained faces, so I am not worrying about the anxious feeling that has taken over my life in the past 10 days.

They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Last year at this time, I was content with my identity as a sporadically-employed frustrated English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher. I have now spent the past year as a High school French teacher (luckily, continuously employed). I have continued to learn and hopefully improve in this chosen career and will move on to another position- still teaching French at high school level.

As always, I am looking back over the obstacles and challenges that I have been faced with this past year, and I am mostly struck by the almost "doppler effect" time has on the severity of each one. At the time I was faced with the challenge, it felt significant and momentous, but now that I have gone past it and grown from it, it seems rather small and insignificant.

"This too, shall pass." Everything is impermanent, or as more devout buddhists would word it, simply: "anicca." I try to remember these teachings on a daily basis, but the 'heat of the moment' certainly makes things quite another matter.

I hope I can remember this "doppler effect" and keep it close to heart over the next 48 hours. I have been feeling quite nervous and anxious about the whole concept of this trip for a while now. Listing all those changes I mentioned above, I am starting to understand why. Just knowing the cause of the problem seems to lessen the severity of the problem itself.

So, I am going to be trying to remember "anicca" when meeting these new 'family members' and mourning the loss of other faces that I would normally expect to be seeing. Well, that is my plan, anyway.

The slightly more significant problem to overcome is convincing myself that this trip is a good idea full stop. I mean, I am voluntarily leaving 35 degree sunny summer weather and world-famous beautiful beaches. Worse yet, I am voluntarily heading toward -35 degree snowy winter. Why any sane being would leave Sydney, Australia and head to Regina, Canada-- now, really, other than "love of family", I cannot come up with a single good reason at all. Seriously, I am thinking this is proof of my insanity, really.

I am certainly grateful for the loved ones around me- my challenges have taught me that, for sure. So, I wish all your readers more challenges, growth opportunities and joyous changes to come in 2006.

May this season help you realise how and why we do those crazy little things we do for the ones we love.

May all beings be happy.


Photograph courtesy of Yahoo Images

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas Reflection #6

It was not intentional on my part but I am also sure it was not accidental that I chose yesterday (Friday) to visit the Canada Citizenship and Immigration web site.

Even before our feet touched the soil of this wonderful country, my partner and I were very clear that as soon as possible we would apply to become citizens of Canada. We (or rather I) checked the various government sites to find out exactly when permanent residents, which we are, can do this and learnt that we had to wait at least three full years after living here.

So, we waited and in September of this year as we celebrated our third year of residency in Canada, our thoughts went to applying for citizenship but this time I did not go back to check on what to do next.

For some reason my thoughts went to this matter yesterday and I went to the Canada Citizenship and Immigration site and downloaded the requisite application forms and noted that citizenship will cost us Cdn$200 each. "That's a small price to pay to live in this great country," I thought.

Canada is my home now. As a child, my mother would talk about this country and there was a time when she had a slim chance of coming here - as a nanny or something of that nature. She did not grasp the opportunity, however, as she claims she did not want to leave me behind for any length of time while she settled in Canada. That was the story she stuck to at least. This was her way of reminding me how much I owed her.

The way my mother spoke about Canada planted a seed in my heart and regardless of what she would later say it did not change my unexpressed curiosity about this country.

As I grew up, I would periodically seek out information about Canada and much later, when my partner and I knew we could no longer 'survive' in Jamaica, Canada became, at least for me, The Promised Land on many levels, not least of which is its celebration of diversity and difference. This celebration was so clear to me last night (Friday) as I watched the English-language Leaders' Debate on CBC.

Much time was spent by these four men trying to outdo each other, which led me to remark to my partner how similar politicians are in every country I/we have ever visited or lived in. The rhetoric, the posturing and the selective use of statistics to score points were as much in evidence as in any political campaign I have witnessed in Jamaica, the Ukraine or in Britain for example.

Nevertheless, it was the tone of the debate that left me thinking that what these four political leaders and the people of Canada, for the most part, are exhibiting is a love of a country so diverse in its cultures, philosophies and political outlooks.

The main issues of this campaign thus far have been, not in order of priority, same-sex marriage, national unity and ethical conduct. My sense is, as I watched the debate and the rhetoric from the campaign trail thus far, is that a more important issue is fermenting beneath all the talk.

That issue is really a call for a renewed vision of a Canada, something that has not been clearly articulated by any of these leaders, at least not in a manner that excites and enthuses the people.

Growing up in the political strident times of the 1970s in Jamaica, hearing and seeing leaders such as Michael Manley, late Prime Minister of Jamaica, I understand what the people of Canada wants of their politicians. Nevertheless, many people across the world have learnt that ‘talk is really cheap’ and that it is what our leaders do that is a much clearer articulation of a vision.

Something that I have felt deeply even before coming here, but it has become more concrete for me throughout this year is that my dream of Canada, The Promised Land, has less to do with economic opportunities, although being able to grasp some really would hurt us none.

The dream and an image that I, yes I a new-comer, have for Canada is of a world-leader that models for those who care to see a way of being that is not simply inclusive or multicultural but pluralistic.

Canada is a place where diversity and differences reside side-by-side united in the vision of a nation and a world that truly creates and sustains opportunity for every human being, every creature and every inch of our environment is respected and cared for - in spite of their colour, stripes, faith, sexuality or whether they are right or left-handed or have paws.

This is my sixth lesson of this year - that it is possible for people, animals and nature of all shapes, size and forms can (and must) live together in harmony. Canada has given me a glimpse into this reality.

Next year this time, all things being equal, I will be a citizen of Canada and my prayer is that the people of this country, myself included, will choose leaders who "walk the talk," in the interest of bringing to reality a country that continues to be a front-runner in celebrating diversity.



Photograph courtesy of

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas Reflection #5

Most of you might have known this and I thought I did too - but to my surprise one of my biggest lessons this year was learning the difference between "weakness" and "vulnerability."

In June, I shared the drama of our move from the North side of town to the South, an experience through which my understanding of vulnerability started to shift.

The real shift, more like a turn, that occurred for me took place as I carried out my professional duties - one which calls me to be with people at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives, such as receiving the news that they have a much shorter time to be here than they thought or at the beside of someone making his/her transition from this Earth plane.

One of my deepest fears was to be considered weak - you know - one of those women who cry for everything, unable to get on with their lives without a man (or woman) at her side or to be needy. During a session with one of my more recent supervisors, she challenged me about that - my understanding of weakness, inviting me to consider that there is a difference between being needy and expressing vulnerability.

As we discussed this, I realized that that has been my challenge - my inability to differentiate between neediness and when someone is being vulnerable and expressing it. I understood the big picture meaning of vulnerability but did not get the finer undertones to the word.

When you watch the news, for example, the word vulnerable is usual equivalent to some notion of weakness. "Our nuclear plants are vulnerable to terrorist attacks," or "Your computer system may be vulnerable to hackers," are some of the things you see on the news that suggest that vulnerability is not a nice condition to be in and so I resisted.

The mover was the first person to challenge that fear of mine and then my supervisor - God bless them both, because what I have learnt this year is that to be vulnerable is to be alive. Thomas Hardy says it well:

"If all hearts were open and all desires known -- as they would be if people showed their souls -- how many gapings, sighing, clenched fists, knotted brows, broad grins, and red eyes should we see in the market-place!"



Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas Reflection #4

Parenting was a big issue for me this year. It was less about my parenting skills or abilities and more about how I was parented.

In one of my articles, Parenting 101a, I shared with you some of the anxiety, the barb-wire like moments, I was feeling about how I parented my own baby girl – who is now 18 and a first year college student.

While I still harbour some of those anxieties, particularly the one having to do with the day she moves out, what I have learnt coming to the end of this chapter is that the thing that I most feared doing is what I am in fact modelling.

This insight came during a recent telephone conversation with my woman-friend A., who I had called because I was in deep distress about my own mother and what to do next. As I bawled over the telephone to A., telling her how much I see my baby girl as the end of the cycle that started with my grandmother and how hard I have tried to ensure that she understood that as women we do not have to fall into the same trap my mother did and that I have fought so hard to escape, I could hear A. waiting for me to shut up.

Then, in her usual quiet, no-nonsense way she said to me, “But my dear Claudette, you are doing exactly what you say you don’t want to do.” Now on the defensive, I retorted, “How?”

What she said next is a front-runner for "Lesson of the year" in my books.

All this time I was worried about being a role model of confidence, strength and compassion – or so I thought – for my daughter, I was unwittingly continuing to support my mother’s co-dependency and poor choices. I thought I was being a good parent and role model, teaching my daughter the lessons of forgiveness and compassion but here was my trusted woman-friend showing me that the “road to hell is [truly] paved with good intentions.”

She suggested to me that I was in fact showing my daughter "how to feel guilty but pretend not to be" through seeming acts of compassion and responsibilities. The 'good works' so to speak. At first I thought this was outrageous but sitting with what A. said for a while the light went on.

I have shared with you some of my life story, at least the road I have walked in the early years and the pain and struggles of my relationship with my mother. I promise to continue sharing this story with you in the New Year but for now and through this conversation with my woman-friend I have come to a deeper understanding that as parents, we model for our children all the time, in our actions and even in our non-actions. I have come to learn that guilt is more insidious and pervasive than one would think and it permeates all our experiences in not-so easy to recognize ways.

No haute couture myself but I can now totally identify with this quote by Coco Chanel: “Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death.”

This is my lesson on parenting and being parented for 2005 and I pray that it will inform my living as a parent and as a child in 2006. It is the gift of life that I am giving myself and in fact, my daughter, this Christmas.

What gift are you giving to your children?



Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas Reflection #3

I turned forty during this year and although it was not an age I was really dreading, the number – 40 – was significant to me, in a world where everyone is so caught up with being “forever young.”

A few years ago, there was an interview with Maya Angelou either on the eve of her 70th birthday or close to it. The interviewer, Oprah, asked her about her feelings with regard to this number. While I cannot remember exactly what she said, I know it held the same gem that this quote from Confucianism offered me on my 40th:
"At fifteen I set my heart upon learning. At thirty, I had planted my feet upon firm ground. At forty, I no longer suffered from perplexities. At fifty, I knew what the biddings of Heaven were. At sixty, I heard them with a docile ear. At seventy, I could follow the dictates of my own heart, for what I desired no longer overstepped the boundaries of right.”

Soon after posting the article, The Power of Forty, here at Comforting Words, I received a message from my dear woman-friend and mentor, Ms P., who advised me to not only embrace my 40th birthday but celebrate it all year long.

Well Ms P (or should I say Dr. P?) you will be pleased to know that I took your advise – for the most part. Always asking myself, “Am I the Question,” I ventured forth into this my fortieth year on this Earth plane, convinced that my life has purpose and meaning, despite and in spite of the seeming curve balls that have come my way.

What I learnt this year is that 40 is just another number to celebrate and be thankful that the Divine had chosen me to be here. I have been given 40 years thus far to pose a unique question to this world and I have the choice to either do so or be caught up with everyone else about numbers.

As I made the choice to celebrate all year long my 40 years of uniqueness, God cleared the way to many opportunities for me to be a blessing and to be blessed. For this, I am truly grateful.

For your part – how many years of uniqueness are you celebrating?



Photograph courtesy of

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas Reflection #2

In my Christmas Reflection yesterday, I shared with you some inspiring quotes from women who inspire, words that I will take with me into 2006 and words I hope will guide my living in that year.

At the core of these inspiring words, at least to me, is the message of 'speaking one's truth'. This, speaking my truth, has been an important lesson for me this year, so much so that I wrote an article on the topic.

Another so-called celebrity and for me 'strong woman', Iyanla Vanzant, taught me this lesson through her writings. It is a lesson that was reinforced for me during this year that is ending - a way of living that I have tried to keep in step with.

In my professional and my private lives, I have come to learn that the failure to tell the truth or to give voice to one's own truth is to murder your spirit. For many years I have done that - killed my own soul - just to make sure that I was accepted by society and by people who I so dearly wanted to like me.

What I have learnt is that when I fail to speak my truth, I also fail to acknowledge my reality. The end result is that I am less liked, first and foremost by myself and then others.

I know that some people in my life are uncomfortable with my speaking the truth, telling the story of pain and struggles that I have lived and endured. To these people I have said, hopefully not in a crude way, "to bad, to sad."

I must speak the truth to live and become all that I can be - this I know is true.

Emily Dickinson it was who said, "Truth is such a rare thing, it is [delightful] to tell it." That is what I am experiencing and continue to experience since I have started telling the truth - delight and moments of sheer joy - as I see the freedom speaking my truth gives to the person hearing it.

Will you speak your truth in 2006? Will you step up to life's microphone and give voice to the real you this New Year?

I dare you!



Monday, December 12, 2005

Christmas Reflection #1

Reviewing the first few articles I wrote for Comforting Words I was struck by the fact that they all related to ‘womanhood’ – the strength of character and pride some women have even in times of major challenges, the literal struggle women continue to face to claim their place in the world, the resilience of women in light of rape and other forms of abuse and the confusion some of us women experience, resulting in cat-fighting and competition amongst ourselves.

As I look at how I lived out of my womanhood this year, there are moments that I share the same strength of character and resilience but it would be disingenuous of me not to accept that I harbored some of the confusion.

Most of my confusion this year came as I sought to find my place in this world which, unfortunately, is increasingly communicating to women that the North American concept of womanhood is correct. My favorite talk-show host can often be heard saying that women in the United States are the luckiest in the world, because they live in a free society.

To some extent I agree with her but there have been occasions when I have wondered whether my dear Oprah really knows what is going on behind the closed doors of the countless amounts of women being battered and raped in the United States, the women who are shamed into believing they should not breast feed and those who rely on needles and formulas to be forever young.

What I have learnt this year about womanhood – my womanhood – is well summarized in these quotes:
1. "If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it."
— Margaret Fuller

2. "Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got." —Janis Joplin

3. "Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent." —Eleanor Roosevelt

4. "I am also very proud to be a liberal. Why is that so terrible these days? The liberals were liberators—they fought slavery, fought for women to have the right to vote, fought against Hitler, Stalin, fought to end segregation, fought to end apartheid. Liberals put an end to child labor and they gave us the five day work week! What's to be ashamed of?"—Barbra Streisand

5. "As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world." —Virginia Woolf

With these words, I await the dawn of 2006. What about you?



Sunday, December 11, 2005

As We Close This Chapter

My first post to Comforting Words blog was on December 29, 2004 and in it I recalled how nervous I was on my first blind date (and last), that also took place in the month of December.

It was the same sense of nervousness I had when I started Comforting Words, introducing myself to people I might never meet outside of cyberspace almost one year ago.

It has been a wonderful year, hosting and writing for Comforting Words, meeting some of you in person, reacquainting myself with old contacts and talking with others of you on the telephone fairly frequently.

As it was then, so it remains, my reason that is for hosting and writing Comforting Words. Back in December 204, I wrote:
"Long past the age of thinking that I could live up to anyone's expectation, my hope is that through this blog you will have a place where you will receive and share words of comfort with those in need. There is a special place in my heart for women and those who mainstream society regard as "those people" -- people who like me have been hurt by the callous remarks of blind dates and others who are intolerant of differences."

Over these past twelve months, I have received from and shared words of comfort with many of you. We have told intimate stories about our live's journey, I in particular. Some of you have shared bits and pieces of your own story with me privately and I thank you for the honour you bestowed on me in doing so.

Particularly, I would like to thank my woman-friend, Sonya, for contributing articles for Comforting Words over this year. Girlfriend, although we are thousands of miles apart, you in Australia and I in Canada, the love and friendship that I receive from you is truly a blessing.

In our sharing and in my own reflections, as I write my thoughts here at Comforting Words, I have learnt much. I made commitments to myself, not New Year's resolutions, when I started this blog:
"This year, I am taking a different approach. No promises, no resolutions have I made. This year I will take life as it comes and roll with the punches. What I hope to achieve by December 31, 2005 is that I would have lived an authentic year - being and doing the best of me. At the end of the year, I will take an inventory of the cupboard of promises that I have been consciously filling for over 20 years now. Something tells me that I will be in for a surprise."

Together we watched the news unfold during this year, we saw how life changes and in many ways remained constant. The heroes of the tsunami-like events, the continuing struggle of ordinary women like you and I for respect and full human dignity, the stigma of 'ageism' that women of a certain maturity experience, the challenge of parenting and the daily discrimination and abuse of those who are different were some of the topics we discussed during this year.

What have I learnt from this? That is what I intend to share with you in a series I am calling, Christmas Reflections. Each day for twelve days, beginning Monday, December 12, 2005, through my Christmas Reflections I will offer some food for thought arising out of my hosting and writing Comforting Words.

The conversations we had, either via emails or telephone, as you read or listened to my posts or talked with me in the InComfort Discussion Forum, was rich fodder for my learning. Leading right up to Christmas day, I will lay the banquet table, so to speak, with these insights (food for thought) that I received.

I offer this spread for your feasting -- take what you will as you go into Christmas Day; use what you can as you reflect on the real meaning of the season and as you think about your own commitments for 2006.

It was a privilege being able to journey with you, one that I hope we will continue well into the New Year – with some changes and developments of course, as life never remains static.

By the way, the last recipient of a Comforting Words Surprise for 2005 is a dear and gentle man who I met here in Edmonton and who has been a quiet presence in our lives. D my dear, we will more than likely see you over the season to deliver your gift.

Blessings to all,