Comforting Words: 04/2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007

On the Other Side

Slowly opening my eyes, I rolled over in the king-sized bed that has been mine for four nights now. I groped in the dark for my real vision-assistance, my spectacles, to see the clock on the night table to the right.

The red light of the clock said it was 5:15 a.m., but it was really 3:15 a.m., for me. Although I have been in this town five days now, my body was still on Edmonton time. My flight is scheduled for noon today (Sunday) and so I could sleep a few more hours but this post has been rolling over in my head for days now.

The previous night (Saturday), on my now nightly call with someone who has joined me on this leg of my continuing journey, I shared the news from the conference I am attending in Montreal, including the fact that it was now official – that as of January 2008, I will be the Chairperson of this national body.

I also shared that I needed to write this post. “But you sound tired,” my dear sojourner observed. “Yes I am,” I responded, “It was a very trying day that ended well. Maybe I should write the post on my flight back home.”

Was it the fact that today, April 22, 2007; is the 6-month anniversary of my decision to start what I then named my “Finding Wisdom in the Wilderness Journal” that woke me so early? Or was it more the realization that the four aspects of my life are coming into greater alignment that had me so excited that the king-size bed could not contain me any longer?

It was all this and more.

Six months to the day, I am in a very different place. My world as I knew it was turned upside down overnight and “shell-shocked” is the only word to describe my then state of being six months ago.

Today, April 22, the lyrics of Tracy Chapman’s song, “You and Your Sweet Smile,” poetically describes my journey over the last six months. Listen to it if you can, but here are the lines which best reflect my initial pain, my healing process, the Lesson that I have learned and where I am today:

You and your sweet smile
You and your tantalizing ways
You and your honey lips
You and all the sweet things that they say
You and your wild wild ways
One day you just up and walked away

You left me hurting
But I can forgive you for that now
You taught me something
Something took half my life to learn
When you give all yourself away
Just tell them to be careful of your heart

Be careful of my heart heart
Be careful of this heart of mine
Be careful of my heart heart
It just might break and send some splinters flying
Be careful of my heart heart
Be careful

You you you
You you you
You you you
Took my love
Thought you took it all

You you you
You you you
You you you
Took my love
And now you're gone

But I'm not breaking down
And I'm not falling apart
I just lost a little faith
When you broke my heart
Given a chance
I might try it again

But I wouldn't risk it all this time
I’d save
A little love for myself
Enough for my heart to mend
A little love for myself
One day I just might love again
One day some sweet smile might turn my head
One day I just might give all myself away

Six months to the date of my first attempt to take my own life in my desperate desire to stop the hurt; I am standing on the other side.

Six months to the date of my literal flight to escape the splintering of my heart; I am standing on the other side.

Six months to date of my losing my faith that the Creator is real in my life and could heal my pain; I am standing on the other side.

Six months to the date of my thinking I could never love again; I am standing on the other side.

A Course in Miracles teaches that there are only two emotions: Love and Fear; and the latter is not of God. Obviously, although I would describe myself as a budding student of The Course (as it is commonly referred to) I never truly got that lesson – until now.

As I continue to write, it is now 4:15 a.m., in Edmonton – an hour and two cups of coffee has passed since I started writing this post. And as I reflect on the where I am today, to use biblical language, I know it harvest time.

Like Tracey Chapman, if she was referring to herself in the song, it took me half my life to learn that in all my loving; I was neither told nor taught that I must love myself first. “You cannot give what you don’t have,” is a dictum that I have often used but truth be told it was one that someone needed to have sat me down earlier and pound in my own head.

In a way, that is exactly what Life finally did back in October 2006.

"One day you just up and walked away; You left me hurting; But I can forgive you for that now; You taught me something; Something that took half my life to learn..."

On the other side of goodbye, there are many gifts for which I can now say with all sincerity that I am grateful to have received.

Introducing my “Wilderness Journal,” back in October 2006, I wrote:

Four is also symbolic of the aspects of my being. I try to live, think, speak, do and be out of my four dimensions that I named as my 4P’s:
1. My Personal
2. My Pastoral
3. My Professional
4. My Political

Six months later and on the other side of goodbye, not in the same order as above, I can now thankfully say:

Pastorally: I am serving the people – women and children in difficult circumstances – as I committed myself to do many, many years ago. I am doing this through my paid employment, which I would be happy to do even if they did not pay me. Recently, I became Board Member of a church supported not-for-profit organization, serving children who need a place and people to call home and family.

Professionally: Although there is a major outstanding academic issue (finalizing my paper for my second Master’s degree) finally I feel I can truly and wholeheartedly focus on my calling which is also my professional path – to serve God’s children who are oppressed, marginalized and/or disenfranchised – without excuses, delaying or compromising.

Politically: This aspect of who I am has been on hold for many years – sixteen in fact. Over the years, I have kept abreast with the issues that most concern me but have limited my actual involvement in the process. Today, that is over. The preparation has started that will facilitate my stepping into the arena in a way that will best serve the communities that I feel called to journey with – women, the LGBTQ community, youth and young adults, immigrants to Canada and, more recently, the Aboriginal communities. I have added the first peoples of Canada to my list of constituents, as their spirituality has greatly helped me to weather the choppy seas that I have been through, and I have been journeying more closely and have become even more aware of their culture and way of life.

Personally: I am happy at the core of my being. My relationship with my daughter (and my ‘son-in-law’) has deepened to a degree I would never have anticipated had my life not been turned upside down. There are truly blessings in storms. My relationship with my woman-friends and man-friends have also taken a dip into a deeper level of honesty, sincerity, openness and trust as I am now free to be even more available to receive and release love. My heart has been and continues to heal – and in recent weeks it has had some extra help. Happiness does in fact sneak in through the door you never knew you left open. Thank you D for being in my life – whether for a reason, a season or a lifetime – you are an answer to a special prayer that was put out to the Universe. I just know that.

Six months later and on the other side of darkness, despair and desperate attempts (on my part) to hang on to what I thought was the truth, I have found ME.

I am finally in love with ME. Mira Kirshenbaum wrote in her book “Everything Happens for a Reason:”

The good that comes out of the bad things that happens to you is to help you
become your best, most authentic self.”

For months, I have been seeking and even begging for closure. Today, six months later and on the other side…I have “opensure,” a term coined by Kirshenbaum which basically means that one opens and remains open to life’s experiences – whatever they may be – with a soft, accepting and willing heart.

Six months, two suicide attempts, countless sleepless nights, 35 pounds lighter with a diagnosis of clinical depression brought on by severe emotional trauma - I am open.

I am also happy and know that I am truly blessed and loved.

May you all also find “opensure,” in the storms of your lives!



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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Citizen Claudette

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket When I was a child, my mother used to talk about this place called “Canada.”

She described it as a place of opportunities, which she did not go to because of me.

For a long time, I bore the false guilt of causing my mother not to have pursued her dream for making a better life for herself. Later, I came to learn about choices and released what was not mine to bear.

About ten or more years ago, when life had seemingly start to become unbearable in Jamaica for my then partner and I – due to our sexuality, the economy, family pressure (passive-aggressive) and the strong desire to “run away,” the hunt for an “exile,” started.

Canada was mentioned several times but actual unsuccessful steps were taken in other directions. Finally, we looked to Canada and I did the investigative work, single-handedly put together the formal applications, did the follow up and when the time came sold our property, car and furniture.

One of the desires that was put out to the Universe was that as soon as possible, applications would be made for citizenship. This desire had many sides but on my part, I knew that entering politics was in my charts. It has always been, ever since I was 10 years old, but I stepped away from active political involvement to keep the peace and maintain the privacy that was so important to my then partner.

Coming to Canada, however, this dream started to come alive again and this time, nothing was going to stop me from pursuing it. The first step, however, was getting my citizenship as I learned the history of the country that I have secretly called my “Promise Land.”

Canada means many things to me and I have shared some of that before. In recent months, as I reflect on my life and experiences and try to discern why The Divine has hit me over the head with a brick to get me to listen, I came into the full recognition that Canada is the country where I am to blossom. (Thanks Anni for the new name!)

So back in November 2006, having personally paid the fees for our citizenship, when the letter came that our applications would take 15 – 18 months I smiled. Then four months later, another letter arrived inviting us to sit our citizenship test in three weeks of the date of the letter! I smiled again as this was not the first time the Universe has done this in my life – shortened the wait dramatically but that’s for another post maybe.

On Thursday, April 12, after two sleepless nights preparing for this test, my daughter and I spent exactly four minutes answering the multiple choice questions and walked out of the room knowing that we will soon receive our official notification to a Citizenship Ceremony!

We “high fived,” as we walked out the exam room, beaming and thanking God for taking us through and closer, in my case, to my destiny.

The Universe truly returns to you what you put out and my intentions have been to always be the love that I want to receive. And so, as I entered my work place and unit the next day, I was greeted by my boss, colleagues and women I serve with a “Welcome to Canada,” song and cake. I cried because here I was receiving the most sincere show of love, affection and celebration in a place that many of you never even want to think of visiting for five minutes.

Later that day (Friday, April 13), contrary to the myth that this is an unlucky day, the doctor came into the house! Yes, she is a medical doctor (obstetrician-gynecologist) but she is also one of my dearest and most close woman-friends from the United States. She is always on the phone or arrives whenever I need her most -- she just knows when. She came this time as, in her words, “I hear you and read your blog that you are doing much better and that you are coming into your own finally, but M…F…, I have to lay my eyes on you for myself to make sure!”

And so, in the company of women: Dr. AA, K and my darling senior citizen and wounded healer, I yet again celebrated my soon-to-be-official new status in one of the most beautiful settings – the Strathcona Tea House & Restaurant.

Today, after chatting with AA until the wee hours of the morning, I woke up with this prayer, written by Joel S. Goldsmith in his book The Infinite Way, on my lips:

“The former things have passed away and all things are become new…Whereas I was blind, now I see and not through a glass, darkly but ‘face to face’. Yes, even
in my flesh, I have seen God. The hills have rolled away, and there is no more
horizon, but the light of heaven makes all things plain.”

I am grateful to God – She has been merciful and kind to me. I am happy and I am blessed and…

I am Canadian!




Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happiness is Your Birthright!

Happiness is not an emotion I was previously familiar with.

Many have spent a lifetime searching for this very elusive feeling of happiness. Thankfully my search lasted only forty-two years.

It would be untrue of me to say that I have never experienced moments of pleasure – but looking back they were not happy times.

I have come to learn why happiness has eluded me for so long. It is simply that my search, like many of yours, was always external, looking to objects and people to fill me with happiness and joy.

Over the past couple of months, as I re-create my living space to reflect who I am at the core, as I re-create old dreams and make new ones of a life truly worth living – as I define it – I am happy and free for the first time in my forty-two years!

If one has to stop think whether one is happy – then that is not happiness.

These days, as I wake up each morning and I thank the Divine for one more day, I know I am happy because I am living the life that I always wanted and what was meant to live. As my favourite Bishop, John Spong, loves to say, “I am loving wastefully and being all that I was meant to be!”

Certainly, there are days when the temptations to slip into the prevailing chaos, drama and sheer despair still arise. Today was one such.

What I have come to learn, however, is that because I am now far more open to experiencing each moment as they arise, allowing whatever emotion that presents itself to just be and allow myself to be loved by the angels who turn up to guide me – I return to happiness.

Despite today's temptation, the past week or so since my last post has been some of the happiest days of my entire life!

It started with my return to my church home – where I was greeted like the prodigal child. The love I felt was phenomenal not to mention the fact that my new size 12 made me a sight to behold (how modest I have become ha-ha).

Years ago, a tarot reader on a beach in Jamaica told me that my daughter was an older spirit than I am. I have come to realize that he was right on. Over the last few months she, along with her boyfriend who is really the son I lost back in Kiev over twenty years ago, have been my guide, persons who remind me that my happiness comes from honest and open relationships with my fellow human beings.

Mark Twain wrote that the best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up and that has been a surefire remedy for me. My job affords me the opportunity to do that everyday. I have been blessed to be able to continue for a couple more months working with a team that not only nurtures my growth but looks out for my security.

I was feeling a bit down in the weather on Good Friday after walking through the inner-city of Edmonton for the 27th annual “Way of the Cross,” and seeing the poverty that prevails in the richest province of Canada. My phone rang soon after I hauled myself into bed after taking a tranquilizer to get some sleep. It was a woman-friend calling from the hospital.

Within thirty minutes I was by her side as we waited for her partner to come out of surgery and it was the happiest moment for me – to be there for her and to witness the love in her partner’s eyes when she saw her. I was not envious, because I know that one day I too will have that in my life. I quietly left and drove home at about 11:00 p.m., thanking God for the chance to have been there for my woman-friends.

Another quote that I like is one from John Barrymore that says “Happiness sneaks in through the door you never knew you left open.” That has certainly been the case for me these past few weeks. My internet dating exploits have been more a source of entertainment than a serious attempt on my part to find a mate. But, “happiness has sneaked in…” I will leave that to your imaginations.

And then there are the times when others attempt to encroach on your happiness. What I have come to learn is that I can allow them to pitch a tent and capture my happiness land or I can evict them forthwith.

I am choosing the second option – as happiness is a form of courage and I am one brave woman.

I refuse to any longer allow anyone to occupy what belongs to me and pull me down to their level of unhappiness and darkness. I will take whatever human steps necessary to ‘defend’ my own and then fall to my knees in prayer knowing that there is a higher power who is merciful and just.

I am happy! I have never been happy before and I have worked hard over the last six months, I have crawled out of the bottom of the pit and I am now basking in the sun of happiness. And nobody is going to rain on my parade! P, you can take that to the bank, girlfriend!

It is said that we tend to forget that happiness does not come as a result of getting something we do not have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.

I recognize and appreciate all that I have – it might not be as much as anyone else has but it is my gift from a loving God. Happiness is my birth right and I claim it now!

Do you?