Being Free

Everything Will Be Okay

Just last week I came across a blog post entitled “30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself”. Much of what was listed had resonated with me at one point, and some still did. I took an interest in the blog and as I scrolled through some of the other posts I came across another one entitled “30 Things to Start Doing for Yourself”.

Readers had written to the bloggers asking them to take a more positive approach to the previous post about what “not” to do and couch it in language that expressed the positive, the “what to do”, instead. (I have included the links to these posts at the end of this blog.)

The other day I posted something called “Breaking Free”. It was a bit of a rant and while I stand by what I said, I’d like to take a similar approach to the posts mentioned above and present it in a different, more positive way.

Over the years I have been working to change any negatives into positives. I have been working hard to recognize my patterns and to move away from things that “don’t work” and towards the things that do.

The main reason I do this is because, ultimately, what we put out into the world is what we attract back to us in some form or another so to always be focused on what’s not working only attracts more of that. The process of eliminating the things that don’t work is a key element in determining what does work but eventually we’ve got to let that stuff go.

So, in response to “Breaking Free”, I give you “Being Free”:

Dear Society, Friends and Family,

I recently got a bit upset with you for expecting me to be a certain way. While I too am coming to terms with the need to let go of expecting things from you, what I am requesting is for you to see me for who I am rather than who you want or expect me to be. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this it’s that when we do what is expected, who we are becomes affected.

It can be challenging to figure this out – who we really are. I’ve been doing a lot of work around this for many years and continue to do so.

During that time I have held many jobs, some part time, some full time, some temp or contract and these have all helped me in one way or another along my journey of self-discovery. I am grateful to have had these opportunities – though get thoroughly confused when I have to submit a resume somewhere – and am now looking for something new and different; something that I truly love to do.

I appreciate that one must earn an income and contribute in some way but know there is another way for me to do this, outside of the ‘boxes’ I have found myself in. So I continue to seek this out.

Over the years my ‘unusual’ or ‘risky’ behaviour has led to people offering me advice and to me seeking it out. I began to believe that there must be something wrong with me.

I’ve been to counselors, psychologists, been prescribed medications, self-medicated to some degree, been told I need to get a “real job”, and have even had it suggested to me that I need to marry a man with money.

As I mentioned in my recent rant, these things don’t work for me. But rather than tell you why they don’t work, let me share with you what does:

Rather than discussing things with counsellors, which may have been helpful in the past, I now prefer to work with my own inner voice; to listen to and learn to trust my intuition; to take time to sit in meditation; to become aware of my thoughts; to learn to speak of the positives rather than focus on the negatives; to let go of judgments, assumptions and worries; to learn to live in the present moment.

Rather than medicate my emotions, to alter them in some way, I prefer to sit with my feelings; acknowledge that they are there; accept them without judgment and without labelling them as “good” or “bad”, welcome them even; recognize that they are not permanent, that they will pass, that I am not defined by them nor do I need to identify with them. I can simply breathe and know that they are a necessary part of my journey and will change with time and a little self-awareness.

Rather than take another job merely for the sake of paying the rent, I will work at something I am passionate about; follow my bliss; create my own path; recognize and believe that anything is possible; take risks; make mistakes; fail A LOT; learn valuable lessons and celebrate my continued growth as one of my biggest successes.

And rather than seeking out a partner in life because they have money or I am now in my 40s, I will fall in love and know that when that happens it will be timed perfectly. Until then I have been enjoying and will continue to enjoy my solitude, taking time to truly get to know myself, while maintaining my belief in romance and that I am worthy of someone’s love and affection.

I am more than what I do for a living and how much money I earn in a year. My family members are some of my greatest teachers and for that I am eternally grateful. I celebrate my emotions, especially when I am sad or depressed, because they are helping me to let go.  There is nothing wrong with me. I am perfect, even with my so-called imperfections, and I am changing with each and every breath.

So please, if I can offer you any advice in return, it’s to celebrate with me. Cry when you need to and know that you’re okay. Believe in something better. Trust that anything is possible. And see me for who I am. It’s like looking in the mirror because you are just like me: perfect as you are and changing every day.

You Are Loved

https://pippahirst.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/breaking-free/

http://www.marcandangel.com/2011/12/11/30-things-to-stop-doing-to-yourself/

http://www.marcandangel.com/2011/12/18/30-things-to-start-doing-for-yourself/

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Follow Your Bliss

Follow Your Bliss

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Breaking Free

What You Seek - Rumi

So it seems that once you hit a certain age you are meant to “have your shit together” – whatever that means. Society, friends, family all seem to expect that by the time you hit 40 you will be settled down, secure in a job or at the very least steadily employed, and perhaps even married with children.

But what if that’s not how life has gone for you? And what if part of the reason for that is because you were, knowingly or unknowingly, trying to live up to these expectations?

I thought I was following the rules, doing everything right. Going to university. Getting a 9 to 5 office job. Moving into my own apartment. Maintaining a car. Hanging out with friends. Spending time with family.

So why did it all feel so wrong then?

Because when we do what is expected, who we are becomes affected.

I don’t fit into those boxes people have put me in: the Receptionist, the Executive Assistant, the Operations Manager, the Waitress, the Bartender, the Filmmaker… and the list goes on. I did for a while but it became too damned uncomfortable as I tried to squeeze myself into a role that never had or no longer did suit me. And I have played many roles.

So what’s a girl to do when everything she has been doing isn’t working anymore. Then what?

I recently posted a poem I wrote over ten years ago about this very dilemma. I called it ‘Breathing Out’. It’s all about remembering to breathe and let go during transitions. It’s about moving away from the things you’ve been doing because, even though they are familiar, they have suddenly become more challenging than those that are new.

Have you ever tried to squeeze yourself into a box that’s too small for you? I have. In a short film I made with a friend in film school. It was actually called, ‘Girl in a Box’. Her idea was to show how definitions can hinder the growth of an individual’s identity.

In one scene we actually did squeeze me into a little box. I’d become quite good at it in the figurative sense and it felt strangely familiar, even in the literal.

But it’s hard to breathe in situations like these.

I remember waiting in a line up at a nite club in Toronto many years ago. I don’t remember what for but it was a long line and 4 or 5 people deep. I was on the inside of the line near the wall. People suddenly started to push. I felt myself getting squished up against that wall. I felt my breath getting shorter. I tried to push back but it didn’t help. I began to panic. Something felt terribly wrong.

I hoisted myself up on my friend’s shoulders and managed to crawl over the people beside us to release myself from the cluster. No club or concert was worth putting myself through the feeling of being herded like cattle. Of having my breath stifled and body broken.

I landed on the other side of the rope and bent over to take a few deep breaths, grateful to be free from the masses again. Perhaps this is why, if I can help it, I don’t do lineups anymore. And why I usually find myself leaving jobs or situations that make me feel that same way – boxed in.

A lot of people have told me I need help. Really? What sort of help? Because the help that is usually offered or suggested to someone like me is counseling, medication, getting a “real job”, or my personal favourite, finding a man with money.

Here’s why these things don’t work for me…

The counseling involves too much talking and not enough listening… listening to my own inner voice that is. Unless it’s Jungian or involves some sort of tapping into my subconscious, I am no longer interested. I no longer wish to analyze my childhood or my family, dig up the past, and label things “this” or “that”. This does not serve me anymore.

Medication simply numbs my emotions or helps me to feel emotions that, in essence, are temporary and aren’t real. This may be good for a little while, but without addressing the root cause of my true emotions, the reason for the medication, this does not serve me anymore either.

I need my emotions. I need to feel what I feel in order to understand my Self, to process what I need to process, to trust that what I am feeling is legitimate and that I can change this by working to change my own perceptions and attitudes.

I am and have been willing to do the work and will continue to do so.

The “real job”, whatever that means, no longer serves me unless it is something I feel passionately about. I am no longer content, nor was I ever really, to spend 40+ hours of my week dedicated to something merely because it pays my bills. This is no life. I want to love what I do and do what I love and so I continue to search and strive for that.

Oh, and the “marrying for money” idea is, for me anyway, absurd. I want to take care of myself. I want to earn my own living. I want to fall in love. And if that person has money… great. I will have money too.

But I am not my bank account. I am not the product of a dysfunctional family. I am not my emotions. I am capable of creating a life for myself outside of the “real job”. And I am worthy of someone’s love and affection.

So please, with all due respect, stop telling me that I need to do this or take that or talk about these things because I don’t. There is something better out there. Trust me. I’ll find it. And I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as I do.

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Empathy & Understanding

Scout-Atticus

“If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

 
~ Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck)
“To Kill A Mockingbird”

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Taking a Shot at the Bullies

Bullies Suffer Too

Bullied.

When I was a kid, I was bullied.

I can’t remember when it started or why, but it lasted through most of high school.

I guess it was because I was different somehow.

I never wanted to go to school. Turned around and walked straight home on my first day of kindergarten. I like to think I didn’t want to be put in the proverbial sandbox with everyone else.

My earliest recollection of school-ground confrontations was getting into a fight with a girl named Norah. She was tall. From Kuwait I think. We were in grade 5 at the time, so what, 11 years old?

It was winter. I remember this because she had these massive Kodiak boots on her feet and she hoofed me one right in the gut. That was the beginning and the end of that confrontation.

I don’t know why we got in a fight that day, it could very well have been my fault. I don’t remember much about Norah either except that, in grade 8, she got her period. I know this because I told her she had it, not to embarrass her but to help her. Kinda like telling someone they’ve got spinach in their teeth, something I still do.

Between grades 6-8 and into the first part of high school, I never knew from one day to the next if the girls were going to welcome me or shun me. One minute they wanted to be my friend, the next I would learn that I had done something horribly wrong, like wear the wrong jacket, and would no longer be able to hang out with them.

Ridiculous isn’t it?

On days like this, I’d go hang out with other people, usually with the boys. Shoot hoops, shoot the shit, or play catch with the Indian rubber ball. Remember those? Even though I could throw and catch pretty well, I still went home with the occasional bruise or black eye.

But it was the invisible injuries that hurt the most, the day-to-day torture of never knowing if I was going to be liked or loathed by the so-called “popular girls”. And at that age, we often aren’t strong enough to simply walk away. We want so desperately to fit in, so we put up with a lot of crap.

It didn’t change much when I got to high school. Despite my tight curly afro, shiny new braces, and pink converse shoes I did make some new friends and even attracted the attention of a star football player, but he refused to let on that he liked me in front of anyone else.

I also made friends with the class president. He was in grade 13 and I was in grade 9. He sat behind me in typing class. I thought he was sooooo smart and popular and good-looking. Ok, I’ll admit it, I had a crush on him, swooning a bit each time he talked to me in the hall. We ran into each other years later and he asked me on a date. Turns out I had left my crush behind in those high school halls and that he wasn’t my type after all.

Isn’t it funny how the tables can turn over time.

I got to know a lot of the older students and, once my little sister arrived on the scene, was meeting the younger ones too. My parents were very social people, they played a lot of sports and my dad sat on all sorts of boards and committees so they were out a lot.

This meant my sister and I threw a lot of parties. We used to joke about this whenever the 11o’clock news came on and posed the question, “It’s eleven o’clock, do you know where your children are?” For us it was, “It’s eleven o’clock, do you know where your parents are?”

It was dangerous when my sister and I threw parties because often the entire school was represented in some shape or form, from a trumpet-playing member of the band to a teen gang member with beer and cigarettes in hand.

Years later I ran into an old classmate at a nite club. He said, “I had such a crush on you in high school.” I promptly responded with, “But I was such a geek”, to which he replied, “Ah yes, but you were the cute geek who knew everybody.”

Funny, because I still got bullied.

One of my friend’s older brothers put my coat up the school flagpole once. He also cornered me one day and spit on me repeatedly. Sadly, he eventually killed himself playing chicken with a train. Turns out he was a very troubled soul.

One of the neighbourhood Mom’s even warned my mother about me. I was about 12 at the time and she suggested that I was a slut because I was hanging out with her son and all the boys. Was it my fault that most of the kids in the neighbourhood that were my age were boys?

That was the same year two of those boys showed up on my doorstep and asked me to go out with them. I said, “Sure, where are we going?” and they said, “Oh, no, we want you to be our girlfriend.” Things were so innocent back then.

As for the girls, they still played ping-pong with my emotions, liking me one day but not the next. They would invite me to sleepovers and later prank call my house, spread rumours about me, or leave nasty letters in my mailbox.

So I got bullied. Maybe not as much as Suzie or Billy, and certainly not out there in cyberspace, but sticks and stones were still thrown at me while my coat flew at half-mast and I wiped spit from my eyes.

What I wonder about now are the bullies. Not my bullies. I feel no sense of hatred or contempt, sadness or judgment. In fact, while back from university one year I ran into one of my tormentors at a party. She approached me hesitantly and said, “I’m really sorry about….” At the time, I was indifferent. Told her not to bother, that I’d forgotten about it, that it was water under the bridge. Today, I might just say thank you and leave it at that.

So what I wonder about now are the bullies. Why do they feel the need to be so cruel, so violent, so seemingly brave and yet so cowardly? Why are they so full of anger and fear? What’s going on in their world?

Growing up, I had problems. What kid doesn’t? I felt misunderstood and I was angry. I even used to throw things and have always felt a close affinity to the scene in Rebel Without A Cause when James Dean’s character yells at his parents, “You’re tearing me apart!” But overall, my life was good and while I wasn’t always well behaved, I never felt the need to bully anyone.

I had lacrosse tournaments and band practice; my typewriter and my job at the local grocery store; parents who took care of me, and friends who liked me even on the days I wore the wrong jacket.

I’m not saying the bullying didn’t hurt me. It did. The way I was treated affected me, hurting my self-esteem and causing years of emotional trauma and self-loathing that I was not always aware of. And it takes a lot of time and hard work to heal. But it also contributed to who I am today. And I like who I’ve become. Looking back on it some 25 years later, I still think I was one of the lucky ones.

The way I see it now, it’s the bullies who seem to have it bad. I mean that’s an awful lot of energy to expend hating someone one minute and liking her the next. Running coats up flagpoles, writing nasty letters, working so hard to make someone else’s life miserable. Who were they learning this from, what voices were they listening to, and didn’t they have anything better to do?

I remember going to see one of the plays put on at William Head Prison on Vancouver Island and being in awe of some of the talent amongst the prisoners performing. I wondered how their lives had taken such a turn and, had they been given other choices or found themselves in different circumstances, whether their lives could have been different somehow.

I also had the opportunity to spend time with Reena Virk’s parents while living in Victoria. Reena was brutally beaten and murdered by her peers when she was 14; a most extreme case of bullying. Two convictions were made.

The Virks forgave one of these “bullies” after he visibly showed remorse for what he had done. They went to meet with him in prison. They sat across the table from the boy who helped kill their daughter and wished him well for his future. Amazing.

I think the Virks recognized that this was a boy, a troubled human being, and that by showing him compassion he would perhaps be permitted to move forward in his life in a more positive way. And I know that this was also an important part of their personal healing process.

So how do we help the bullies? Because something must be going terribly wrong for them, don’t you think? Maybe if we spent some time with the bullies, listening to their stories, offering them different opportunities, nourishing their inner light, they’d stop being bullies. Maybe they’d see that even with our differences, we really aren’t so different; that we are all connected. Kill ‘em with kindness, as the saying goes.

Maybe I’m being naïve, but it’s worth a shot, isn’t it?

My Religion is Kindness CU

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What’s a Victim?

It is what it is

What do you tell a 5 year old when a shark attacks a Barbie doll at the beach?

My friend’s 5 year old daughter and I were playing with her dolls a few months ago. We were at the beach, well the dolls were, and a shark was fast approaching Rocker Barbie.

As we sat on her bed setting up the scene in which Luella described a day at the beach where a shark would attack one of us, I told little Luella that I, well Rocker Barbie, would be the victim and that she, well her more robust Raggedy Ann, could save me.

‘What’s a victim?” she said, peering at me inquisitively as she prepared her dolls for the adventure, fixing their dresses and their hair.

I had to stop for a minute. I don’t spend all that much time with 5 year olds so hadn’t thought about the fact that she may not have come across this word in her developing vocabulary.

“Gosh, how does one define ‘victim’ and how do I describe this to a 5 year old?” I thought to myself.

My immediate response was that there are no victims. That you are only a victim if you believe you are a victim. But this was not going to be easy to explain to a 5 year old. I can barely explain it myself, even though somewhere deep down I believe it to be true.

“The victim is the one who gets attacked by the shark”, I heard myself say.

“Ok”, she said. “Let’s play”.

As we played out the scene my mind kept wandering back to this idea that we are only victims if we believe ourselves to be. Where did this idea come from? I’d clearly read it somewhere. And how could I reconcile it with the obvious answer that someone who is ‘harmed or killed by another’ is, by dictionary definition, a victim.

The other day I was telling some friends about my best friend, Marie. Marie was the ‘victim’ of a horrible car accident in 1997. Two cars collided in the intersection and then hit her while she was standing on the sidewalk waiting to cross the street. She was in a coma for days, suffered severe brain damage, and lost the bottom half of her left leg as a result of the accident.

In 2006 I met a filmmaker, Paul Nadler, who had also been the victim of an awful car accident, left at the side of the road to die in fact, but who survived and made a film to tell the tale of his brain damage, months of intense physical therapy, and ultimate pursuit of higher education and creative expression, despite his disabilities.

Rick Hansen, who I had the honour of working with in 2001, was also a victim in a car accident which led to his life in a wheelchair, the Man in Motion world tour, and current day fundraising efforts for spinal cord injury research. Here’s a man who turned his tragedy into his life’s purpose, letting go of any victim mentality he may have been entitled to.

My friend Marie was bitter and angry for years, often asking “why me?” and complaining about the loss of her leg and inability to work. Some of this negativity was a result of the brain injury and yet today she is married to a man she met at the brain injury clinic, has a house and three dogs, drives her own car, and volunteers at the local hospital.

The bitterness I once heard has now sweetened and she even jokes about things, laughing about the day we went and got tattoos in university – she got a sunflower on the big toe of the leg she had amputated – stating quite strongly that even though she might want to, she won’t get another tattoo for fear she might lose THAT body part too!

Her life is far from perfect and not without its struggle, but she lives a pretty full life and is getting better with each passing day.

So I guess what it comes down to, this whole idea of “we are only victims if we believe ourselves to be” is attitude?

So what IS a victim then? And can this word be erased from our vocabulary altogether? Never introduced to those 5 year olds who innocently inquire, “What’s a victim?” when we talk of sharks attacking Barbie dolls at the beach.

It makes me think of that professional surfer who had her arm bitten off by a shark while surfing. Yes, she was a ‘victim’ of the attack but she’s still surfing and doesn’t seem to view herself that way at all.

Things happen and while we might want to look at them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or label ourselves ‘victims’ of some horrible fate it really is just what it is.

Things happened to these people, things that hurt them but also challenged them. Challenged them to see themselves and the world around them differently and to continue to live a life with new purpose when they could just as easily have given up, given in to that so-called ‘victim mentality’.

I remember lying on the table in a chiropractor’s office in California many years ago, the same chiropractor that worked on the late Christopher Reeve, another positive role model for those having experienced an accident, injury, and ultimately life-changing event.

I looked up and read the following quote stuck to the ceiling above me:

“Life is not about what happens to you but what you do with what happens to you.”

Life is not about what happens to you but what you do with what happens to you.

And what if it’s true that ‘there are no accidents’ just as Master Oogway says in one of my favourite films, Kung Fu Panda. That everything happens as it is meant to. That it is this way so that we may each fulfill our own destiny.

All of these people I’ve mentioned have been ‘victims’ of ‘accidents’ and yet none of them have held on to that mentality. They have each overcome the odds and gone on to do some pretty remarkable things. And that’s some pretty inspiring stuff.

I’m happy to report that Raggedy Ann saved Rocker Barbie that day at the beach. They both escaped the shark attack, celebrated life joyfully, and in the end there was no victim.

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A Different Perspective

Rose

I was reminded recently of when I went to see Sting in concert at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto years ago. I had an extra ticket and didn’t know who I was going to give it to. At the eleventh hour, a good friend of mine – a talented pianist – said he’d join me.

When Sting began to perform the song ‘Desert Rose’, I turned to my friend and said, “The lyrics to this song are amazing.”

Trevor turned to me and said, “I don’t listen to the lyrics.”

This took me by surprise. I guess I’d just assumed, perhaps because I’m a writer, that everyone listened to the lyrics.

Then he started to point out all of the different instruments. “Listen to this,” he said to me. “Now listen to that.”

It was wonderful. Unless an instrument was being featured, I’d never truly done that, singled out a particular one as it was being played. I was always so focused on the overall performance and especially the lyrics, pointing them out to Trevor throughout the rest of the concert.

It was a completely different experience from that point on, for both of us, and it taught me to not only see things in a different way, but also that even though we may see and experience things differently, this doesn’t mean we can’t learn to appreciate another person’s perspective just the same.

Here is the song that inspired the memory. This version is especially good as, not only are the lyrics incredibly beautiful, but it also features so many different instruments and talented instrumentalists.

Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUSYlotulU8

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Follow Your Own Path

Your Path - Joseph Campbell

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Energy – Part One – Choosing Our Partners Wisely

Energy

Have you ever noticed that you feel drained after spending time with a particular friend or group of people? Or, on the flipside, perhaps there’s someone who’s guaranteed to always lift your spirits every time you connect?

Maybe it’s your cat or your dog when you find them waiting anxiously at the door each time you come home. There’s an energy between you. They sense your impending arrival long before you get there so the excitement can build to a crescendo of sheer joy when you open that door and they leap into your arms.

When I was taking an Improv dance class at Lynda Raino Dance in Victoria, BC a number of years ago, I noticed something very interesting.

Improv, while it might sound free and easy, is actually very challenging; moreso than most types of dance for many people because it forces you to be in the moment, to get into your body and out of your head and to, well, improvise.

There IS some structure to it in that the teacher gives you some initial instruction, but the rest is up to you and your body.

The instruction during one of my classes was to partner up with someone and move together in whatever way worked.

This could involve body contact or not.

There was no music.

There were no rules.

And we were instructed to change partners throughout the exercise.

What I found most interesting was how different the energy between two people instructed to do the same thing can be.

I found myself low to the ground and hardly moving at all with one partner, and with the next I was running around the room, jumping in the air, giggling and being silly.

And it all had to do with our individual energies and what happened when they merged.

I learned a lot that day about surrounding myself with the right people – the right energy – and how easily things can shift from one moment to the next with just the simple switch of a partner.

Who are YOU dancing with?

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Breathing Out

It’s that struggle between sitting back and enjoying the ride, and standing up and finding a new vehicle.

It’s about moving with the times, and getting stuck in a moment.

It’s when the ride starts to become less enjoyable, and when life suddenly gets more interesting.

It’s when the things that you’ve been doing become a challenge, and those that lie ahead come to you with more ease.

It’s when you start to move in a new direction, but never lose touch with what you’re leaving behind.

Content to never return, but determined never to forget.

Taking it all in but always remembering to breathe out.

 

– Pippa Hirst, 2002

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