Thursday, August 24, 2023

Chapter 13 - Respect Your Inner Person

Respect your personal limitations, listen to your body, your energy level. 

Another thing I’ve learned is, be “your” self. Not “someone else's” self. 

My first attempt at climbing out of this space was the strategy of busy-ness. Distraction. I was on the other side of all this pain, right? I can just move on now. So just keep swimming. Keep doing. The rest will come. It seems to work for others, so it should work for me, right?

I also erringly thought busy-ness would somehow enact a reward. Fix me. Fix life. 

So I gave every bit of myself spiritually, desperately trying to put it above all else, even while being physically sick through most of it. I felt like if I did, good had to finally come. Alas, during that time, My husband’s sister died a very sudden death, the "sale" of Dad’s property was disappointing, spiritual children and friends had left us, and I watched my Uncle die from cancer. 

Effort seemed to produce disappointment instead of blessings. And I was tired. Tired of trying. I wore myself out going at this pace. My joy was gone. I never had time to be creative. My once open loving spirit, became closed and emotionally autonomous in order to survive. Life was a chore. I had just enough time to keep up. No extras, no getting ahead, or getting things accomplished. All I ever wanted to do since I was a little girl, was be a housewife and take care of my family. I didn't "take care", I just got by. Got fed. Got done what was minimally required.  I thought that with my Dads death I could eventually stop working, and aux pioneer. But I haven't. And now the desire to pioneer has left me, its died. Along with my eternal optimist. I just didn’t care anymore, I just wanted to be alone. Not be obligated to anyone or anything. I lost the person I wanted to be. And even the person I was. There is mourning in that loss.  And it showed. So many people came up to me during that time and sincerely asked how I was. They knew. My good friend told me my eyes aren't sparkly like they usually are. I guess realizing I lost my inner being does that. Whatever light was in me before had now dimmed. The battery worn low.  

But I'll be fine. "I’m fine." I say.

I buried these thoughts so deeply most of my closest friends and loved ones didn't know they existed. (till now)

After all this struggling and just surviving for so long, I had changed my focus and forgot about nurturing me. I needed to slow down. Refocus. The writing I did while in the middle of my health issues helped soooo much, but I abandoned it in the years following, focusing only on my spiritual life and not ever on myself. Thinking that would somehow Fulfill All and result in some kind of reward. But I needed to find reward not just in a future promise, but also in the gift of everyday, of being human, of the earthly gifts God gave us. 

It was like an epiphany. I realized, I don’t need to mentally prepare to leave this earth! I am an earth creature. I LOVE this earth and all it has to offer. I need to feed that. It’s ok to live in the moment, enjoy now. Not tomorrow, not later, or in Paradise.  To slow down for goodness sake!  Why was I eating fast, cleaning fast, cooking fast, walking fast. Stop rushing!! Its ok to avail myself of earthly pleasures as long as it doesn't interfere with spiritual things. In fact, it can complement my spirituality, not erode it. This realization was a turning point for me. 

Some people need to keep busy, to be distracted, because being alone with their thoughts is scary. I tried that, keeping busy and distracted. But I didn't realize the damage I was doing to my inner person, burying her, not giving her time to live. I like my inner person. I like being alone with her, just thinking. I am an introvert. And I like being an introvert. I like who I am. Being introverted isn’t a negative thing. I recharge by being alone with my thoughts, to reset. I had not done that in for so long. I’m not a surface dweller. I need to dive deep, deep into myself and express what’s been buried. 

I wrote this during a camping trip, one of the things we do every year to make time to just “be”. 

To Just “Be” 

I am an only child. And thankfully, I am also comfortable in solitude. I never appreciated this quality till much later in life. Although I was comfortable in my solitude, I also felt that I had much to give others. My desire to "fulfill" made me want to devote my life to family, being a housewife. A pipe dream that was never realized. And now, after being fractured into so many different roles, for so very long, I have come to appreciate the ability to be in solitude. To just "be".  And yet it's so elusive. That's why camping is such a treasure, a yearly need. I find moments of myself, to be, and simply exist. Without obligation, the choice to read, write, draw, pet my fluffy, or my Molly, to stare out at the forest, to think, let things roll around in my mind and wander untethered.  Or just take a long nap without guilt or disturbance. The choice is mine. To breathe free of obligation, that is what it means to "be".  To,   Just,  Be…..

Writing releases and organizes my subconscious. I desperately needed that right now. I needed to make the time to do it. But to dig myself out of this darkness I needed to do something structured. Life wasn’t going to change, so the only thing I could change was my outlook.  I needed to get Back to Basics. A plan of how to get back to myself. Reboot this thing back into life.

And so I made a list:

The Basics

- Text

- Prayer

- Meditate

- Bible Reading

- Apply small things to improve your personality, day     to day. 

- Relationships 

- Boys

- Manageable routine of service.

- Remember, You can sacrifice too much. 

- Meals

- Do Stuff with Hubby

- Take care of family

- Take care of friends

- Be creative, make art, write.

-Do something that you feel accomplishes something.     A house improvement.

- Reminisce, write about Dad. Upload pics.

- Reconnect with friends

- Write them, connect, even if its just a short hello.


- Gratitude. 


Guidepost #3 wasn’t a single thing, but a series of little guideposts, nudging me along the way, tucked away in the back of my mind. I kept reading everywhere about the power of Gratitude. On the internet, in a daily text, in the publications. 3 things. 3 things kept coming back. Just think of 3 things.  

I guess it’s worth a try. I was floundering. So I started using an app that would remind me to write those 3 things down. Just simple things. They don’t have to be big. A flower, the warmth of the sun, a random smile from a stranger. Just 3 things that made me happy for just a moment. Doing this REALLY helped turn my thinking around. Helped me find joy again. I encourage everyone to do it! 

My animals were featured often in my 3 things. I finally had a cat in my life again, and he brought so much simple joy to be grateful for. The softness of his fur. His youthful curiosity. His joy at discovering new things, how fun it is to make a bed with the sheets flying and folding above. The feel of the brisk wind coming in the door. It was all so exciting for him. Seeing life through his big yellow eyes was a delight. 

Then there were other little steps I took along the way. Little steps to make more joy. I made it my aim to find time to be creative in any form. I looked through all my old art. Appreciated it. Reflected. I dragged out a cross stitch I bought 20 years ago. The most complex one I ever bought. I started having breakfast and lunch on the deck, making time to enjoy a simple task like eating. Just musing about those things, consciously slowing down, allowing myself time to think. It was so refreshing. To "Pause and Reset".

This was the name of a talk by a grandfatherly brother. Accompanied by thought provoking images of creation, he lovingly reminds us that its ok to slow down and enjoy life. It embodies the thoughts and feelings I was trying to enact. It was so profound and affected me so deeply, I want to share some of those thoughts with you here:

Happiness can be tricky. We all know people who by all standards should be happy, but they’re not. On the other hand, we know people who face many, many difficult challenges every day, but they seem to radiate happiness. Happiness is not dependent on things, on circumstances, or even on people. Because true happiness is not an end goal; it is a byproduct. Being joyful is an act of worship. Imperfect humans can lose their appreciation for things that become a routine part of life, even if these things are a reflection of God’s loving concern. Each festival the Israelites celebrated was a time when they stopped what they were doing, they would pause, and reflect on the blessings that they had received. What effect did this pause and reset have? One word — Gratitude. You know what happens when we feel gratitude? Happiness always follows. Gratitude reminds us that our Creator loves us and that he cares about us. It reminds us that God’s goodness exists even in the worst that life has to offer. Gratitude nullifies negativity. Gratitude is more than just a feeling, it’s a mind-set, it’s a disposition, and it’s a choice. We can make a conscious decision to see blessings instead of curses. Our Creator has bejeweled our world with daily reminders of his goodness, his power, but most of all, his love for us. All we have to do is take the time to look…..

Contemplate the abundance and the diversity of life.

Drink in the awesomeness of the universe on a starry night.

No two sunrises and no two sunsets are ever exactly alike.

Look up to the clouds.

What you see is ever changing.

There was nothing exactly like it before, nor will there ever be again.

The feeling you will experience is a refreshment of the soul; it’s a reset.

Eyes see only light, and ears hear only sound; but a grateful heart perceives meaning.

We perceive that God created all these things as a gift for us.

That’s right; each day was to be a very special gift, unique unto itself.

To make endless life not just special but amazing, wondrous, and always a joy.

Connecting with God’s creation helps to discharge anxiety. It shifts our attention to something safe, something enduring, something outside ourselves. Gratitude is the ability to experience life, not as a test, but as a gift. It helps us to accept life’s uncertainties by reassuring us that we are a part of something larger, something everlasting, something immensely important. We are a part of God’s purpose. Let gratefulness flow from the inside out to others. It will liberate you from the prison of self-preoccupation. 

We are never more than one grateful thought away from increased peace of mind and greater peace of heart. Just remember, to pause and reflect.

It’s such a beautiful video!! I rewatch it here and there, to refresh my mind and heart. To remind me to be Grateful. Each time, it touches me. 

(If you’d like to watch the video and refresh your heart too, please message me at and I’ll send you the link.)

It’s now been 8 years…. Since I began cautiously living…… 14 years , since cancer first reared its ugly head, and my Dad died.  Both changed my life forever.  But after forcing myself to slow down, to take the time to find gratitude and joy in the small things in life, I finally feel like “me” again. I found her! I remember her. She’s still there. And I am grateful. 

Is everything great? Is everything the way I want it? Am I bursting with energy and joy? Happy? No. I'm still tired. I'm still struggling. But I’m here! I’m home. I know myself again. There was a certain numbness before. I kept a wall up around my heart, out of fear that all of the emotions would spill out in one big mess. Now the wall is gone. How do I know? Because for the longest time, I couldn’t allow sentiment in. I couldn’t cry watching a movie, or hearing an experience, singing a song. I had to remain numb. But now? I actually mist up watching movies again! A song can make me cry big rolling tears. I wasn’t able to allow myself the luxury to do that before. Finally, that barrier is gone. And all the energy I once used to push down my feelings, can now be used to explore old loves. Books, Bible study, Writing, Art, Friendships. I’ve gained back some perspective. I’m not lost anymore. I can see myself more clearly in the bigger picture. I can see good again despite the imperfections. I see the stirring of warmth in the sunrise on the horizon. The faint glow of optimism. I just hope this break lasts long enough for me to write it all down, before the next curve ball. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Chapter 12 - Guideposts to Gratitude

The next few years did bring us a move to a new house, the sale of my Dad’s, ......sort of…… and the changes did help for sure! But those years also came with a series of heartaches. 

One of which made me sob uncontrolled bent over, declaring through broken breaths that, I NEVER, wanted, to help someone spiritually again….. I was crushed. It’s too hard. It hurt too much. I gave everything. I give too much. And then I was left. Discarded. 

This was huge for me. Generally I don’t cry. And I certainly don’t sob! I was broken. It was another type of mourning. I had always wanted to help people. And now helping people had broken me. So much of who I am had been broken down in different ways. I couldn’t do it again. All my efforts were for nothing. 

Later I came to appreciate that maybe the Bible studies weren’t for my students, but for me.  Maybe God gave them to me, just for me? To help me through the hard times. They had certainly done that. Been bright spots along the darkness. This thought made me cry yet again. “There's more happiness in giving” it says. But even that wasn’t enough to cheer me. When it came to helping anyone again, I was in a very negative space emotionally. I definitely had some PTSD. 

Then, a few months later, I met Guidepost # 2. 

We’ll call her Mary.

First time I met her, she finished our conversation gruffly and firmly with, “ You can bring me the magazines but I don’t want to join anything and I don’t want to go to any meetings”.  Alright! Boundary clearly defined. I could tell there was something a little odd about her, not your average person. But no matter, she obviously had a spiritual interest. I would bring her some magazines then, with zero expectations. 

So for the next 6 months I deliver the mags without much fanfare. Then one day she invites me in. She told us a little about her life, some of the losses she’d had, some of her life challenges.  I told her about a book I thought she might like that I could bring to her next time, she agreed, and then said matter of factly, “So then we can get together and study it together, when is good for you to come over, I’m free Fridays?” So she started her own Bible Study!! 

And I laughed at God. “Good one! Good one….”  I said out loud shaking my head. He’s a pretty funny guy.  I said I would never study with anyone again cuz it hurt too much. Then he gives me this unique lady to study with who explicitly said on day one, she does NOT want to go to meetings.  So I have literally NO expectations for her right from the start, except to feed her spiritually.

So we study every week. Like my other studies, she is a bright spot in the darkness. Her best friend had died a couple years ago, and she felt like she had been living life on hold since then. When I started coming to see her, she felt like God was nudging her to move on with life, get back on track, so she listened. 

Again, there were times when I think God gave this study to me, to help me, and not the other way round. But it was mutual. She needed me to balance and focus her spiritually, solidify her faith. I needed her to see a beautiful example of gratitude amongst great difficulty. I was constantly amazed at her outlook on life, her gratitude for the smallest of things. She was poor, living on disability, family issues, mental health issues, overcame addictions, didn’t have many friends, Yet she was sooooooo grateful for life! She was simply grateful to still be alive when she probably shouldn’t be. She was proud of herself. And rightfully so. She had overcome so much

I had so much more, and yet here I was feeling bad for myself. What right did I have. She really did help me see that I needed to find more joy in life, find the good in the small accomplishments. I so love her. She saw God in everything when I was having a hard time seeing him anywhere. 

I was teaching her? No, ……….she was teaching me. 

“By iron, iron itself is sharpened. So one man sharpens the face of another.”

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Chapter 11 - Who Was I Before All This Began?

I think I am fine…… 

Until I take a deep breath in, and it rattles its way out, like I've just been crying in earnest. Obviously my subconscious doesn't agree. Deep within, I am sobbing. Outwardly, I carry on as usual. I don't dare glance in its direction. I really don't have time for this now. Maybe next month. Maybe the one after that? Maybe.....just maybe, I will allow myself the luxury of feeling. So many years of sucking it up and carrying on. I'm not sure I quite know how anymore. I hope I haven't murdered my inner being with neglect and dismissal.

I wrote this in July 2020. Five years after the chapter, “Cautiously Living”.

The road between pain and healing has been longer than expected, a real coaster of deep lows mixed with highs of progress. Some of the bumps were created by my own imbalance, trying to find my footing again after the pain. Not remembering who I was before all this began.  Some were created by the caveats of life. “Time and unforeseen occurrences that befall us all.” But just as I needed to be an active participant in my melanoma journey, I needed to start being an active conscious participant in my journey back to myself.

Who was I before all this began?? Before Dad died. Before cancer? I needed to remember. To see what I would have done differently.  So I know where I should be going, where I left off in this path. 

There were times when every day felt tiring, with no joy or reward, it was hard to see the good. The eternal optimist I once was, was dead inside. Beat relentlessly into submission by life, tragedy and disappointments. In all the trauma, I lost track of myself. Sadly, just surviving means I stopped doing joyful things, the little extras and nuances that make me, "Me". I now had the task of figuring out where I hid my inner being, deep inside, for self preservation. I just hoped I hadn't buried it so long that it got lost altogether. You know how you do that? Put something important in a "safe" place and then not know where that “safe place” is?!? I did that with my inner being. I needed to resurrect my optimism. But how does one do that? ?

One, step, at, a, time.

I will try to outline the steps I took to get this far. Maybe you will see some Guideposts for yourself along the way. 

So let’s rewind a when I saw my first guidepost.

I had finally buried my Dad. It took 5 years to feel emotionally “ok” with selling his property and saying goodbye. I fought long and hard to try and make it work, but it was too much. Too far. When he was alive, my Dad and his property were linked almost inextricably. It was so much a part of him. Letting go of it, was too much to bear.  But enough time had finally passed that it didn’t resemble him the way it had. It was finally ok to let go. 

But selling wasn’t “simple” by any means. It had been a service station since the 30’s. I began the arduous process of getting an expensive environmental assessment, along with a large line of credit to fund it. I talked for hours on the phone, over many months with the ever so helpful enviro guy. Weighing the pros and cons of each decision. Not to mention the weeks spent getting the house ready to sell. It was a task to be reckoned with, but we got it done. The property was now up for sale, searching for that special buyer who would see it’s potential despite the environmental hickups. 

With the decision to sell made, and the wheels in motion, we also decided to sell our house. As "Cautiously Living" outlined, I needed change. There were beautiful memories in this house, of our boys growing up, friends and family who helped us renovate, but now, there was also much heartache. I needed a new pole marker in life. Instead of “5 years after Dad died”, I wanted to be able to say, “2 years after we moved.”  So we started getting our house ready to sell.  I had been feeling motivated and  energetic for change, almost happy again. Finally things felt like they were coming together. All my sacrifice, heartache and years of work were coming together.  I felt a new day dawning!!  Hooray!!  But…….. then, …… all kinda fell apart…. 

We found the perfect house to buy. A gorgeous old heritage house with a reasonable piece of land, a shady garden, and tons of character. It was my dream home. I commented once, that “I could die here and feel content.” It needed some “polishing” for sure, but the recent inspection the owner gave was great!

Thing is, she only gave us the parts that were good. Asbestos, knob and tube wiring wrapped around old metal plumbing, ducting that wasn’t even attached in most places, an oil furnace that smelled like it leaked, a beam that wasn’t attached above the living room. It was truly heartbreaking. We had to walk away. I loved that house already. In my dreams, I had already hosted family dinners with my grandchildren there. I still love that house.

One thing I have learned about myself over the years, if I don’t see a direction forward, or have a way to feel like I’m making progress somewhere, that’s when I start to lose it. I feel like a caged animal. Trapped. I was emotionally ready to leave, my bags packed and at the door, but my trip was cancelled. …….The house was ready to sell so there was nothing left to do there. Up Island was ready to sell, nothing to do there. Now what, Hurry up and wait?

This is some of My Journal from that time…..

Depressed 1

“ For the past 3 months I really felt positive, like I was being pushed to deal with this, move forward, get somewhere, have relief in a new place. New beginnings. Everything was coming together so well, so quickly…….  Maybe I was finally getting blessed instead of just surviving? I thought maybe, providence had sped things up, so we can move on to the next phase, so we could finally do more spiritually.  But now, I just feel stale, like I’m stuck in mud, slow motion.  After years of trial, were my feelings of being finally blessed a hoax? A cruel joke?..... “

“Expectation postponed makes the heart sick.”

Enter Guidepost #1. 

In Dec, we got to see a favourite band play live. They always cheer me up!  They’re so dynamic. But it wasn’t one of their upbeat songs that touched and lifted me, it was a simple, emotional acoustic song.  I know the history of this song, why he wrote it, where he wrote it and how he was feeling when he did. He was feeling how I felt now. Stuck in life, disappointed. At the time, a friend of his told him to go down to a certain part of Toronto where people were “down on their luck.” To watch them and think. So he did. And he wrote that song while he was there. You could see how much meaning it still held for him as he performed. He was fully immersed. Emotionally tuned in & very much inside his own head.. 

While listening, it clicked inside me. 

I know losing the dream house was more than just the loss of that house. Not the real reason I was feeling so low.  It was the culmination of so many losses. Just when I thought I was finally getting out.

This song put things into perspective for me. 

I shouldn’t be feeling regretful, I should be grateful instead. 

I could crawl up our willow tree or wallow and dread, ( the choice was mine )

I could be everything, or nothing at all, 

but I needed to keep it together, long enough to trust, 

long enough to feel love. 

Should the sky fall? well then I'll build a scaffold. 

I’m gonna build a new wheel, instead of fixing a slow leak. 

And when I put it all together, I'm strong enough to trust.   

Theres nothing to be scared of. 

We will rebuild, its just going to take a bit more time. In the meantime,  I needed to be grateful for what we had. That I was “healthy” now. That the bulk of the work at Dad’s had been done. I was still far closer to the end than I was before. I needed to acknowledge and be thankful for that. There were 3 more journals labelled “Depressed” after this, so this definitely wasn’t the final leg home, but it was the First Guidepost, My Guideposts to Gratitude, which is what ultimately led me back to myself and the way out.