I had such fun on Friday! I firmly believe that it does the soul and mind some good to do something that takes us away from our daily routine. And I do this from time to time. Friday afternoon I left the house at 4:30pm and went out to dinner with a girlfriend. We chatted during the entire half hour drive to town, all during the meal and all the way home. After dinner, we went to Giant Tiger. Normally I don’t buy much there, especially in the clothing section. But I found the cutest blue/white print, tried it on, and it was a perfect fit. Have received many compliments on it when I wore it for the first time. After we returned home, we sat in my driveway and discussed our individual takes on the state of the world, the nation, our community, and our own personal lives. It was 8:30 when we finally decided to get back to our routines. As I was leaving my friend’s vehicle, I remarked that we should definitely “do this again”. My friend responded, “I only hope we live long enough…” I must have looked startled because she quickly added, “… to see some of the world’s problems solved”. What a relief! I thought she was going to say “…before we get together again”. It was a lovely outing and definitely going to get together again soon, while there’s still life left in us.
First, I would like to explain my personal preference: I enjoy any exchange of ideas because that is how I like to learn about new things. I do not enjoy arguing about anything. In my experience, arguments lead to loud voices and illogical presentations. Nothing is learned, and feelings may be hurt. Second, I am not a member of any “group-think”. I think for myself; I do not need someone else to do my thinking for me.
That being said, I recently experienced a rather unpleasant encounter when someone took great exception to an opinion that I expressed on the topic of the new dollar coin. I am not in favor of it. My opinion is just that: I’m not interested whatsoever in converting anyone to my way of thinking.
What I thought would be a discussion turned out to be a shouting match. I was, in a very short period of time, accused of being homo-phobic, verbally assaulted with all kinds of politically correct rhetoric, and accused of ‘blaming the victim’,and of having no compassion. The entire situation astounded me. It has taken some time to process what happened. I was exhausted afterwards – drained.
I learned nothing except a reluctance to express myself, ever again. And this was from one who initially cheered me on to write a ‘blog’ in the first place. I would like to point out, however, that my feelings were not hurt. My accuser is so much younger than I, and has not had my life experiences. After much thought, I am still firm in the belief that I am entitled to my opinions, as is everyone else.
So on that note: I am still not in favor of the new dollar coin, and I am not in favor of politicians marching in LGBTQ parades to “show their support”. Politicians should do their jobs by enacting and enforcing the rights of all citizens, And to the one who expressed such a low opinion of me…that’s your opinion, not mine. And that’s OK with me.
Empathy: actually feeling the experiences and emotions of another person.
For me, empathy has proven, often, to be rather debilitating and exhausting. It requires quite an effort to extract myself from another’s woes in order to be of any use to them or to myself. For that reason, I consider ’empathy’ rather a hindrance than a gift.
Compassion: the almost instinctive reaching out to another when they are troubled or suffering.
Compassion is a natural out-pouring of a loving spirit. It is a gift and a necessity for the advancement of my spirit and the spirit of the entire world. It is the innate desire to help, to be kind. It is the ultimate expression of Love – a gift to a world weary of strife and stagnation.
However, one has to exercise caution. Compassion should be exercised without any expectation of outcome. Also, I must practice discernment and not allow others to abuse my gift. I think self-care and self respect must come first. I need to be aware of the chronic ‘people-users’ and ‘takers’ around me.
Having compassion for others does not make me a ‘saint’, by any meaning of that word. Far from it…there are many times when my Ego gets in the way, and I may behave selfishly. But I keep on trying to improve myself and to put the Ego in its proper place.
So, all that being said, I will stop inflicting my ideas on this topic onto my patient readers. 🙂
To many people the ego defines who they are. The ego likes to think it is the ‘boss’. However to me, the ego is nothing more than a toolbox in which reside all of our feelings – both negative and positive. The emotions are necessary tools that we need to spur us into action. Therefore the ego is necessary in order for us to function in the physical world.
When I am confronted with difficult situations or difficult people, there is a quick mental exercise that I perform, in order to set my Ego aside. This requires using my imagination. I picture my Ego as a soft spiky ball which I hold gently. I place this ball on a shelf in my mind. Then I say, “I’ll be back for you later”, and I quietly close the door. After putting the Ego aside, I then become very calm and wait for the answer or solution to come to me. At that time, I hold no expectations and no emotions, other than Love.
This exercise has produced some of the most amazing results, even to me.
I’ve been doing a lot of work on my interior Life lately, and here’s what I discovered about Anger.
Anger is never the first emotion we experience as a reaction to any difficult or unpleasant situation. So, in order to get to the root of our anger, we must first identify the primary (negative) emotion, and its accompanying self-belief. This does not require a lot of effort, but it does require some quiet reflection, and possibly a little time, at first.
First, we must remember that our core beliefs about ourselves are formed in childhood – starting from birth to about 7 years of age. These beliefs are the results of the emotional impact of situations that the child experiences. These core beliefs become lodged in our subconscious.. Anything the child experiences after the age of 7 will merely appear as a confirmation of these self-beliefs.
As we progress through Life, these hidden beliefs will come to form our attitude towards Life and our place in it. Our attitudes will produce our behaviour, in our dealings with ourselves and our dealings with others.
Here is an example from my own Life. When I was 6 years old, my mother gave me a serious warning: “You are responsible for the younger ones. You have to keep them safe. And you must never give them scandal, or it would be better that you have a stone tied around your neck and be thrown into the ocean.” It was certainly not her intention to frighten me or to place a burden on me. She merely wanted me to be her second set of eyes as we played outside.
That warning left a deep impression on my subconscious. The primary emotion was fear. I only learned the meaning of “scandal” when I was 11 years old. I did not know, at the age of 7, what the word ‘scandal’ meant. I assumed it was something I had, and something I should never give them. I certainly took her words seriously. The self-belief formed when I was 7, translated into: “I am totally responsible for the welfare of my siblings, or there would be dire consequences”. So my sense of responsibility was always accompanied by a sense of fear. My parents produced many siblings, therefore many burdens on my psyche.
As a result of this core self-belief, whenever I had any dealings with my siblings (even as an adult in my sixties), I would have severe anxiety and fear if I felt that their actions would not benefit them, or if their behaviour could lead to their unhappiness in any way (attitude). This resulted in my becoming an ever-relentless ‘teacher’, and a self-proclaimed saviour/fixer of all their perceived problems. In other words, I was an obnoxious ‘big sister’, as well as a constantly stressed woman.
I certainly did not enjoy Life in general, always taking things too seriously and always in the ‘fixer’ mode – always stressed (because I really couldn’t fix anything for anyone but myself).
Some time in my sixties, I did realize that the only person I could control was ME! That’s when work on myself began to take shape. I happened upon a long-standing situation that began to take its toll on me. I felt frustrated and angry almost all the time. So I began to ask myself, “What is MY role in this situation?”
It took me a couple of months to work my way backwards in order to solve my dilemma. This is how I did it. First I began daily meditation in order to get the answers to the following question.
- Q: What feelings did I have in this situation (before the frustration/anger point)? A: fear
- Q: When was the first time I felt this way (pertaining to my siblings)? A:The answer took a few days before I could recall my mother’s words when I was 7.
- This realization actually made me laugh out loud to think that I was holding on to such an idea for decades without ever trying to investigate the source. Q: What was I afraid of? A: I was afraid of not living up to my mother’s expectations of me.
- Q: Was this fear reasonable? A: Absolutely not! My mother has been dead for decades. I have never given scandal (knowingly) to anyone. My siblings are all adults, capable of making the best decisions for themselves.
The results of this process – an immediate sense of relief and even joy! I also came to see that my anger and frustration did not stem from the situation with my siblings, but from my psyche trying to protect itself from the initial fear. I also came to realize that the psyche always tries to protect itself from the negative feelings in any situation. Feelings of being dismissed (non-importance), feelings of fear of rejection, of failure, of judgment, etc. I also gained a much deeper appreciation of what makes others ‘tick’.
Now, I am able to enjoy my siblings and relax into the next step of my journey, which is to share my experience with others, in the hopes that others can learn from it, and I hope it doesn’t take until you are in your sixties to figure out what ‘care of the self’ really means.
My friends are the flowers in the garden of my heart. True friendship is like having an extended family – people who love and accept me exactly as I am with no judgment, people who lift me up when I’m down, people who nurture me when I feel ill, and who make me laugh a lot.
I am fortunate in my acquisition of friends – people who accept me without judgment. Through the years I have learned one important thing about the difference between love and trust. Love is a gift, freely given in the form of kindness, support and caring. Trust, on the other hand, must be earned.
I have also learned that real true friends will always defend me and never lie to me or about me.
There are those folks who are as necessary to me as food or air. Each has unique gifts to bring to the table and it is a feast for the soul whenever we get together. Some friends are newly acquired; others have been with me on my journey for decades. There is no age barrier when it comes to friends. I have friends in their eighties and in their forties, and even some teenagers. Each friend is a most valued treasure in my gift-box of Life.
My brother, who was six years my junior, died suddenly, in Montreal. He was in ill health from a young age and lived long past the doctors’ medical prognosis. Growing up in our family life expectations were, for the most part, governed by an ancient feudal standards. The eldest son was to inherit everything while the remaining siblings would have to fend for themselves in the world. According to my parents’ wishes, if the eldest boy died first then the next male child would inherit everything. We were all schooled in these proceedings from the age of six. The girls in the family were expected to marry and produce offspring, with their choice of possible career being given little or no thought.
Consequently, there were feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness residing in all of us. These feelings very much colored how we dealt with each other as adults. For many years, I had very little contact with my siblings. The occasional phone call was about all we could manage at the time. Real or imagined slights often took on immense proportions and meaning. We had all grown into extremely judgmental adults, especially when it came to family members.
In the later years, I tried to keep regular contact with all of my siblings. By then I had learned the important lesson of not accepting every little comment as a personal attack. Communication became much easier for me. So it was that my brother and I were in almost bi-weekly contact, when I received the news of his sudden death. To say that I was in shock is putting it mildly. I was on auto-pilot for the next twenty-four hours, packing making arrangements for my pets and my temporary house guest, and scraping together enough money for the plane fare from Prince Edward Island to Montreal. My cousin, whom I had not seen nor spoken with in years, met me at the airport. He was so kind, and we so comfortable together as he ferried me around the never-ending city detours.
I had thought that, since my younger brother was the executor and sole heir to the older man’s estate, he would be the one to make all the arrangements. I found out that absolutely nothing had been done. Of course I had to go into fix-it mode (a habit acquired from raising four children). To the hospital to claim the body and collect the personal effects, to the funeral home to make arrangements for the cremation and to compose the obituary. No one had the funds available to make the immediate payments, but as the result of some kind of premonition, I had just transferred all that was necessary to my bank account. What I failed to realize was that my account was restricted to a daily limit. Well, I tried to figure out how to make the payment – perhaps transfer the money to a credit card, or pay them in daily installments. However neither plan would work. The funeral home would not even accept an e-transfer, only cash or credit card. I can’t remember a time when I have ever felt so frustrated!
Finally, through installments, I was able to pay everything off. The final day when we went to collect the cremated remains, I made the last payment. My sister stated, “We have come to ransom our brother”. The shocked look on the undertakers face sent me into a fit of giggles .
My brother’s final wish was to have his ashes scattered on his farm, which he loved so much. So a 2 1/2 hour drive led us to this destination where, once again, nothing had been planned. To my surprise, there were almost one hundred people. Everyone had donated food; and it was definitely a mix-and-mingle kind of gathering. For two hours, not one person came forward to offer their condolences – not one. However everyone had a story to tell that demonstrated how much my brother meant to them. I realized then that this was his family, and what an amazing family it was! And what a privilege it was for me to have met them all! Through this time there were a few tears and much laughter. It was truly a Celebration of Life!
As I said, nothing had been planned in advance. It was the first time that I had ever experienced such a celebration. Suddenly, it occurred to me that we had not scattered the ashes. And how does one do that, I wondered. Again as if on auto-pilot, I gathered everyone present around a tall pine tree in front of the house. I announced that the container of ashes would be passed around the circle, and each person could speak whatever their hearts moved them to say before taking a turn to shake loose some of the ashes.
That was an intensely emotional time for all. I was so moved by this image of my brother that I had never witnessed before!
My youngest sister, my younger brother, and I were standing around with a few of the guests. I walked towards my brother to let him know that there were still some ashes remaining. Looking down I noticed that not only was the lid of the cylindrical container loose, but the inner tube was slightly raised. No problem, I thought. I would just fix that inside the house. Younger brother noticed the raised lid at the same time. His hand raised, and before I could shout “No!”, he smacked the top of the container firmly. My mouth had been open. Startled, I inhaled. A severe coughing fit ensued. Then I laughed when I realized that coughing wasn’t going to help. It was too late! From then things seemed to be happening in slow motion. I stared at my brother whose many feelings wrote themselves across his face – shock, horror, fear, embarrassment! Suddenly I became aware of some helpful woman beating on my chest in a futile attempt to clear the fine coating of grey from my black jacket. I couldn’t help it as a loud laugh erupted from me. My brother’s response was, “Now you can truly claim that your brother will always be part of you.” Just for a second, I swear that I could hear laughter coming from above!
There was a man present who had been a friend of my mother’s (I was to learn this later) and a good friend to my deceased brother. He had a sad but calm air about him. After most of the guests had left, he called me over to ask, “Have you received any messages?” He seemed to need to hear something from me, but I couldn’t help but wonder why from me. There were two other siblings present. I had never been asked such a thing before, and I wondered how he knew about my inner self. I was truthful when I answered, “To receive an actual message, if that was going to happen, I think I would have to be alone and quiet. But I can tell you that my predominant feeling right now is one of joy and peace.” Those words surprised me most! The friend just smiled and nodded.
So, my brother’s funeral – Celebration of Life – was a seriously transformative experience for me. I had so much work to do on myself – shedding my pre-conceived ideas of others, letting go of the demands of ego, opening myself up to the expressions of love that are all around me. What an exciting journey I have been on ever since!
This leads me to the narrative of my experiences with my father’s funeral. After the shocking events regarding my mother’s burial, all of the siblings agreed to take care of family business ourselves.
First of all, I want to share the events leading up to my father’s death. My husband was an adult trainer with the government and he travelled at lot giving courses all over the country. For the first time I was able to accompany him to Ottawa, so we left on Friday and stopped in Montreal to visit my sister and my father for the weekend. It had been such a long time since seeing my Dad and I spent the hours chatting and thoroughly enjoying the visit. When it came time to leave, I was sad to say goodbye but promises were made to visit again soon. As we were about to pull out of the parking lot, a tremendous wave of sadness washed over me, and I began to sob uncontrollably. My husband was startled, to say the least. He had never seen me like this. It took a good few minutes for me to come to myself again. When I could finally explain, I said, “That’s the last time I will see Dad”. My husband assured me that we would return the following month, I became quiet. But I knew that next month’s visit would be too late. I just knew it! And I was right.
Although I stayed calm during Dad’s wake and funeral, I was nervous about the plans that we, siblings, had agreed upon to “take care of family business”. I went with my sister to make the final arrangements with the funeral director. At first, my sister did all the talking as she finalized the choice of coffin, costs, and time for the wake. When that was done, I spoke up and informed the director of how things were going to happen at the grave-site. I said we were going to make sure that the grave-robbers would have no use for the coffin when we got done with it. The funeral director’s face became extremely red when he realized that we knew all about the casket scam, that was prevalent in the area. He agreed to allow us to ‘do our thing’ when the time came.
I have very little recollection of what happened between the funeral parlor and the grave. However, the memory of five middle-aged, trench-coated, miserable-looking folks, bundled against the bitter, damp. cold November day is deeply etched in my mind. It occurred to me at the time that we must have looked like a bunch of druids as we shuffled around the grave, shifting from foot, in our nervousness.
After the graveside prayers, everyone else left the site. We then asked the mortuary pall bearers to lower the casket and remove the straps. The poor young fellows looked almost as nervous as we felt. Finally one of the found a small ladder and descended into the hole to remove the straps. My youngest brother, who does not handle emotional situations very well at the best of times, was his usual unpredictable self. “What would happen if we took the ladder away and left him down there?” We were used to his warped sense of humor, but the look of horror on the young man’s face was worthy of any scary movie!
When the pall bearers finally left us to our own devices, we began the work. Brother number 1, retrieved several shovels from his car, and we set to work. Each of us selected some fairly good-sized rocks and hurled them down on top of the casket. I said a prayer with each rock that I threw. This was the last gift I would be able to give Dad. By the time we had exhausted ourselves with this activity, the casket was badly dented and scarred – hopefully of absolutely no use to anyone else.
This event made us, five middle-aged siblings, a unit, probably for the first time since we were kids, when it was “us against them” (whoever ‘they’ were). I left with a strong sense of fulfillment, of resolution at last! I realized then that, no matter how we are separated by space and time…no matter our differences, our family is strong.
So, I haven’t posted for a long time. No real excuse, just doing other things.
This brings me to my mother’s death and burial. First weird thing to happen was the manner of my affording the trip to Montreal for the funeral. Usually I was in the habit of doing my own and my husband’s taxes and sending the forms in to the tax department. However, that year I sent only my husband’s forms. For some reason unknown to me at the time, I kept mine aside.
My mother died April 1st (Good Friday). She had been very sick with cancer for quite some time. On the preceding Tuesday, I became almost feverishly distracted. So the following morning, I finally decided, or was driven to, take my forms in to a tax preparation office where I would be able to get an advance on my yearly rebate.
When I presented my completed forms to the gentleman who greeted me, I was told that this would take 3 working days. As this was Wednesday of Easter week, that would mean the money would be ready only on the Tuesday following Easter. I became quite agitated! That would not do at all. I had to have the money in my hand by the next day, Thursday. I insisted so strongly that the man asked what I needed the money for. He probably thought there were loan shark enforcers waiting in the wings; I had be come so frantic.
I told the man that my mother was going to die on the Friday, and I needed the money to make the trip to Montreal. Well, he was astounded and asked just how I could be so sure that she would die on Friday. Suddenly I calmed down a bit and realized just how crazy I was sounding. However I had no idea how I knew; I just knew! He agreed to make an exception for me and said I could pick up the check the next afternoon, with one stipulation – I was to return after the funeral to let him know what happened. I agreed; I cashed the check the next afternoon and purchased my plane ticket on Saturday morning. Mother had passed away on Friday. Needless to say, when I returned to the office a week later, I notified the man of my mother’s death. He was totally freaked out!
The Wake – Upon arriving at Montreal, I stayed the night with my sister. Even after retiring early, when I awoke the next morning, I still felt exhausted. My face looked paler than usual and my hair was a mess! So before attending the wake, I took my time showering, setting my hair, and applying some makeup. Satisfied that I at least looked healthy, I headed off with the rest of the family to the funeral parlor.
After mingling with the friends and relatives (some of whom I had not seen since I was a little girl), I was reintroduced to my father’s distant cousin. She looked at me and said, “Oh my dear! I never realized just how much you look like your mother”, and she cast a glance toward the coffin at the front of the room. “Especially now.”
So much for looking ‘healthy’! I knew she was being kind, but I almost choked trying to hold back an unholy fit of the giggles. With a strangled “Excuse me”, I ran to the opposite side of the room where all the coats were hanging. While I was laughing and searching my pockets for a Kleenex, my sister came over to console me. She thought I was crying. Not wanting her to see me laughing at our mother’s wake, I let her think that I needed consoling. I didn’t think she would understand the reason for my mirth.
Well, they do say ‘Pride comes before a fall’. I could just imagine my mother laughing from up above!
Aftermath – About a year later, my father decided to buy his own plot in the cemetery. Arrangements were made to have Mother’s casket exhumed (from my grandmother’s plot) to the new spot. When the grave was opened up, there was no casket – just my mother’s body. A terrible scene, to say the least! It was explained that a solid oak casket with brass handles had disintegrated in the ground! I’m not an expert in the physics of decay but that was a Lie! I was not present for this, but I was seriously upset. However I did subsequently learn that ‘organized’ crime was responsible for the theft. I have told everyone I know that this is common practice in every major city in North America.
These events dictated how we were to govern subsequent family burials.
This posting will be a little long, as no funerals that I have attended have ever progressed without incident. The first wake that I attended was held at a funeral parlor where we had to ascend a long flight of cement stairs. The grief of those in attendance was devastating; a little boy had been killed by a bus as he rode his bicycle. I was overwhelmed by the tragedy of the whole affair. Now as I came out of the funeral parlor, I was accompanied by my mother. I turned to comment on the beauty of the sunset across the river. Suddenly, without warning, my knees buckled and I rolled, head first down the cement steps. When I regained consciousness, a gaggle of strangers was crowded around me, all making distress sounds. A man came and helped me to my feet, while my mother kept asking what had happened.
I was so embarrassed that I had fainted; I tried to brush the dirt off and noticed that my brand new stockings were now hanging in threads; my knee was bleeding and I had a large lump quickly forming on my forehead. However I was so embarrassed that I claimed totally perfect health.
That was my first experience with fainting, although not my last.
The next post will be about my mother’s wake.