Connecting The Dots

Discussing the threads of my own passions which have culminated in my work as coach, mentor, presenter in my own business.

It's taken time

Mary Johnson - Thursday, August 09, 2018

Got together will a woman I used to work with. Over the (10) years since we both left the place where we worked, we have maintained a regular coffee schedule and developed a wonderful friendship. It's always enlightening to periodically give pause and consider where you have come from. Today's conversation was one of those times, ......

We were talking about my upcoming workshop series (Offerings) which looks at the personal transition side of being 60 - 65+. The last 30 years of your life come with some angst as well as much freedom. Though it takes awhile to come around to that. Loy told me about a meeting she recently had with a woman approximately 9 years younger than her. This woman was all over the map in terms of what will she do, how will she manage, was retirement the right decision. Not because she was a flighty individual but because as work recedes we have no real idea what this time brings. The biggest question at the root of it all is 'Who Am I Now?' We rush to fill the space left by the route of work because sitting for a time empty scares the crap out of us! We feel the deep need to describe ourselves as a something or still doing. I am still coaching, working part time, volunteer _ days/week, look after my grandkids, have taken up pickle ball, etc etc When we make these statements to others the "I" is still attached to a recognizable something. The "I" still exists.

Loy saw this process happening with her friend. She reflected that this was what she too did when she was at this gal's age/ stage. Didn't see herself as 'wandering the desert'. That's something you don't want to even consider, .... that you are really for a time lost. We laughed. I remember our visits from back then. It was not an easy few years. One is truly in the grip of the bottom of the change curve solidly in 'chaos'. It can suck! :) 

My good friend though actively engaged this time. Fast forward 7 years down the road. There is a deep contentedness with her life. She's does the things that genuinely suit her. Is able to say 'no' to the asks that don't suit. She's comfy with who she is now and in her skin. It's taken time, .... but then doesn't it usually?  

Bravo Loy! 


Dancing with the Now

Mary Johnson - Monday, July 23, 2018

It's been a lovely summer so far! I am at the stage of my life where I want to savour what has begun to feel like shorter and shorter summers (and correspondingly longer winters!) . Of course they aren't technically but summertime seems to go much more quickly these days. Now the counterpoint to this is a long anticipated trip down to the Maritimes. Seems that for we Westerners this is a bit of a pilgrimage, a right of passage as a Canadian, to travel and experience the breadth of our country. This can't be a spur of the moment proposition. At least not for me. There are things that need attending.

My challenge has been to deliberately stay present - as often as I can remind myself and to plan our trip a number of weeks hence. My head feels like it's in a ping pong match. Oh the ever present list is on hand as I think of one more thing to add. Then I work on pulling myself back to the present. My default for years has been to live off in some imagined future. The bright shiny possibilities are endless and fun to get lost in! :)) And I have often missed the joy of Now. Now of course is our summer with all it's delights. To add to all of this, a large aspect of me is Ms. Organizer. This Now business has her just twitching and running around in my head projecting great mishap if I don't spend more time with her - in the future. This way of thinking and being has run the show for a long time. It's been harder than I thought to try and tame it. 

So I am learning, albeit slowly, the dance steps of planning and preparing while remembering to pause often to smell the roses. Wish me luckl!           

Jasper's Pines

Mary Johnson - Thursday, July 05, 2018
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Spent a wonderful long weekend in Jasper AB. It had only been ten months since our last time there. I was blown away by the exponential jump in devastation of the Pine Beetle on the trees. Almost half the pines round the townsite were dead. Needles rusty red in death. The valley was similarly coloured in large swatches. We were told this year as we were last year a fire ban was in effect. The weather was cool. Missed the warmth of a fire but the place would go up like a tinderbox if a spark escaped and caught. We realized this would be the way it would be for the foreseeable future. Fire bans and rusty red.

The Parks people told us the Pine Beetle will have completed it's devastation in about 3 years. Approximately 15 years after that we'd see pines again in the National Park. I did the math. In 18+ years I would be more or less mid 80's. Have every desire to travel to Jasper at that age from this time and place in my life. And I will never see the giant pines again. My grandkids will but not me. That really sat me on my backside. 

I as with many of us have been intellectually aware of climate change. The warning signs of warming weather dutifully reported. Graphic pictures abound. Heck I have been going to Jasper for 60 years. Have watched these past few the beetle do it's work. This significant increase in dead trees this past week really brought it home. How our planet is changing. What we are losing. Our grandkids had all sorts of questions about what they saw. Where do you begin?

I came home with a renewed energy to look at my lifestyle and choices. Where are the places where I can ask less of Mother Earth? My contributions, and actions are, pardon the expression, mice nuts in the scheme of things. Yet how could I see what I saw and not try.   

On the road to healing

Mary Johnson - Thursday, June 28, 2018

Last evening I had a most interesting conversation with my neighbour's nephew. He is facing a chronic progressive illness. Like most of us should this happen, we search for the 'right' answer to fix this. There is the thinking that I was doing something wrong, now I just need to do something right. 'I brought this on so I should be able to make better.' 

I've been here.  Become more spiritual, eat better or change your diet completely, give up bad habits, exercise more, banish negative thoughts. There are a myriad of teachers, programs, books that are prepared to give you the right answer. Oh if it were only that simple. This man is discovering this. He's taken on several practices, jettisoned much crap or is working to morph it. While his head space is better, his disease isn't. Yet. As we talked he spoke about his difficult relationship with his mother, his life of fears, of wanting to be famous and successful and not measuring up. This is the crackerjack stuff. The deeper work of a lifetime. Acknowledging it cognitively is a start but it doesn't 'cure' what ails you. It's a process. A delightful (if we let it) process of coming to love ourselves and how we ended up in this place. That is so counter to finding the fix!

When I asked if he loved himself, his energy became very quiet. Eyes looking inward, tremor increasing. "I'm working on that." Yes he is. And that is the deep, deep layer of this journey. Truly knowing you are enough. Accepting your past without recriminations. Letting go. Forgiving those who have wronged us. Forgiving ourselves. And to laugh - certainly at ourselves. 

A we spoke, I realized I had been traveling this road a good while longer than D. My journey has entailed been many side roads and wrong off ramps. But always I found my way back to the road home, .... until the next detour! Ha! This too is part and parcel of the journey.  In the end I could only offer 'Stay the course. Look at where it's taking you. If you don't like it change. If you do, carry on!' There is no right answer. Only the best answer for you.              

Do not assume Ask

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, June 13, 2018

It's Spring. Projects around the house and cabin at the lake are in the air. And they are best served when my husband and I are on the same page. That's a no-brainer, right?! Well not for a 'knower'. Or a recovering one. A knower is someone who thinks and feels s/he already has the answer, the way is clear, no real need to check in. Ha! 

In our situation there is also a wee bit of tuff war stuff happening. We are both oldests. Two in-charge kinda folks. I like to organize what needs doing; figure out the steps,  and (from where I sit), Neil likes to just jump in. (He's an introvert and has it all worked out in his head). I see things one way and he sees things another. So I don't tend too ask because it begins a negotiating process that comes with lots of insistence, stubbornness and some ruffled feathers. It can be exhausting! 

In service of being more intentional and transparent, I have been deliberately parking my 'knower' and asking Neil his thoughts and opinions - ahead of the game vs questioning what he's doing as it's happening. I wish I could say it's made things all sunshine and roses. It's a work in progress. The tensions are less. Gaps are surfaced in each others thinking about the work that needs to be done. We hammer out our roles better before crossing swords. Our collective thinking is darn good. When something is complete we are pretty happy with the result and each other. 

Many of you have long since figured this out I am sure. I thought we had too. Being around each other wayyy more at this stage of the game has meant this process of who's in-charge of what (yes we both like to be the boss on occasion) is renegotiated one more time. If this sounds like something you are grappling with, my advice is swallow your pride, don't assume. Ask. Ask where the other person is at; what are they thinking. It is a far less bumpy ride!  

      

The Third Way

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, June 05, 2018

The world feels a lot like a roller coaster right now. Or it might be more accurate to say I feel like a roller coaster, .... As the news of Trump, pipelines, protests, populism, interest rates, #MeToo etc. unfolds, I feel like a yoyo alternating between an anger and frustration at wanting to lash out and hit something to wanting to hide off in the wilderness somewhere waiting til this all settles out and life returns to something I recognize. Yet in my heart of hearts I know it won't just 'blow over'. Been needing a better strategy for my day-to-day. 

Ah the Universe is wonderful. The other day a dear colleague of mine posted a beautiful meditation entitled Third Way by Richard Rohr**. It speaks of a stance that is neither flight or fight. As I read it I could understand it with my mind. More importantly there was a physical sense of what this Third Way feels like in my body. It offers a position of positive contribution to the energy of the world rather than a perpetuation of what's swirling so densely. 

I offer it here for your consideration and contemplation. More of the same isn't working. 

"The contemplative stance is the Third Way. We stand in the middle, neither taking the world on from another power position nor denying it for fear of the pain it will bring. We hold the hardness of reality and the suffering of the world until it transforms us, knowing that we are both complicit in evil and can participate in wholeness and holiness. Once we can stand in that third spacious way, neither directly fighting or fleeing, we are in the place of grace out of which genuine newness can come. This is where creativity and new forms of life and healing emerge."
Richard Rohr Daily Meditations. (https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/)  

** Richard Rohr OFM (born 1943) is an American author, spiritual writer, and Franciscan friar based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was ordained to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church in 1970.      

Giving ourselves permission

Mary Johnson - Thursday, May 31, 2018

Had a long overdue catch-up with a dear friend of mine. She has had a rough good number of months. It started of when she realized she was in perimenopause. That threw her for a loop. We feel ourselves, indeed tell ourselves we are still only 26, 37, 42 or what ever your version of young is! Our bodies remind us that time does march on. 'The Change' as it was so quaintly called tells us so. Then she fell and sustained a concussion back in March. Around the same time they became short handed at work. We've all had some version of this in our lives. A tsunami of events threatens to drown us. The concussion, in particular, humbled this high energy, uber positive, excellently thinking, active woman. She had brain fog, jumbled words in books and signs and an aversion to noise. Her brain needed time and little to no activity to heal. Ah nothing like time alone with your thoughts, no matter how jumbled, to scare the crap our of you! Playing off on the edges of her psyche are some relationship rubs that are making themselves felt. 

So the upshot for my dear friend?!? 'I have such tremendous fatigue. I'm going to see an alternate health Dr. to see how I can get my energy back.' Did you catch the trap of thinking that grabs many of us? I'm fatigued > fix. She's keeping multiple balls in the air and putting on the good face that all is as usual. That takes energy and lots of it! So we reach for some sort of pill or potion, program to give me back myself or get me through this. (For me it was always chocolate chip cookies. :)) Got a short term lift and could keep going a while longer. And I'll work on that 10 lbs. later.)  

I'm not dissing my friend. Indeed hers is a very common response. I have done it myself repeatedly. We feel we can't slow down. We are impatient and want things the way they were. There is huge resistance to what our bodies and psyche are telling us. Yet the reality is the fatigue is there to slow us down. Attend to ourselves. In a larger way than just getting a pedicure or going shopping with friend. It's about nourishing ourselves at a deep level and over a sustained period of time. That scares us. What if we never come out the other side? What if we are irreparably changed? What if I don't recognize myself, or no one else does? These are large hairy audacious questions and scary outcomes.  

We talked about this. The 'perfect storm' of events is heralding a major transition. How the internal resistance to moving at the pace dictated by our energy perpetuates the fatigue and delays the process. Forget 'mind over matter'. Befriend what is happening.  Be curious about what this time is about. Give yourself permission to engage it fully. I don't want to make it sound like it's easy. It's not. Know though you will come out the other side! And for the better.          

Settling in

Mary Johnson - Thursday, May 24, 2018

The last good while has been a funny space. One where the 'goal' is not clearly defined. The end point not visible. So I have been taking time to see where my energy is and what calls me forward in my days. Have to admit it's been a struggle to let go of my internal recriminations. I have reassured 'Betty' - my satin gowned, 50's styled, smoking inner critic. She's cutting me some slack (though not for long she tells me!) and I'm grateful. 

My days have a very different rhythm to them. Especially in this heat. And I'm loving it. Time in the garden, a little work, walks and yoga, camping, reading and sleep. Solid deep sleep. I seem to manage my way through all the things that need doing and even some that don't need doing so much as a little attention. Gone, .... well greatly reduced, a internal frenetic-ness. The feeling that I was not doing the right something or enough of it. 

Ran across a paragraph in a book called Coming Home: The Return to True Self by Martia Nelson. She framed up the potential of this time eloquently. 

"..... consider that your destiny may be a pull rather than a plan, a process rather than an outcome, a matter of following the vibrancy of life force rather than being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.

This is a destiny that has no particular form and that, in fact, is not dependent on specific events or situations for it's expression. There is no fixed map with a set path that you are to follow to make your life worthwhile, ......... In such a reality, destiny is less about 'proper' unfolding of your life and more about inane unfolding of your being."     

I know I'm not there yet but am learning to distinguish between the two. To trust the 'pull vs the plan' just a little more.     


Reflecting back to move forward

Mary Johnson - Thursday, May 10, 2018

My last post was about looking for purpose at this stage of the game. (What is my purpose?)  Not really any closer but have had some fun casting about my life for clues. A good place to start has been looking at my career path. First off I calculated that since I finished nurses training I have been in the workforce 44 years. 44 years! That blew me away. In this time I have worked in 11 organizations/ businesses including 2 iterations on my own and in 8 other roles. I think that's what has kept me going. The reinvention or re-bundling of my work skills in a number of different settings and situations. What fun really!  

Then there were the 3 years in nurses training. We supplied 'labour' to the hospital in repayment for our schooling. There was a lot of payback! Part time work while in high school as a salesperson/ sewing instructor and waitressing, including being a cigarette girl for the Klondike Days cabaret in the hotel I worked. As well as cigarettes I also sold pickled eggs. Ha! Can you imagine? And of course did my share of babysitting in the neighbourhood before that. 

Geez! No wonder it's hard to see oneself outside the realm of paid work. I have been doing a version of it for a long, long time! Suspect this is one of the reasons people find the idea of 'retirement' hard. I'm not unusual in my work history. Work provides a 'purpose' or a place to play out our purpose. Contemplating shifting away from this is a huge rethink of who you are and what now are my days all about. 

Looking closer some themes and clues for me are embedded in my career. Several of these roles were brand new. Never done before. Loved making something my own. Then there was the opportunity to bring new ways of looking at situations to the table. I also frequently worked with eclectic individuals. All of this was very juicy. I still get excited when I think about those times.  

I feel pretty pleased looking back at my career. There is direction, certainly a 'feel' of what could be possible. It's not immediate but something more to bring into my reflections at this time. Nice!



What is my purpose?

Mary Johnson - Monday, April 30, 2018

Purpose. A big concept. Current wisdom says we all have one. We are all on this earth for a reason, have a purpose to fulfill. This is something I have been struggling with. What is MY purpose? What is inviting my time, enthusiasm and energy? Today. Right now ...

For years it was a no brainer. I wanted an education and career. Tick.  Was lucky to find a good partner and marry. We had 3 boys. I knew what I was about in a very practical way every day. Tick. Work required certain skills and abilities I was able to provide. Tick. My parents got older and needed care before they died. Tick.  Friends, travel, new learnings. Tick, tick, tick. Somewhere in there I was fulfilling a purpose. I hope!

Now I won't be so foolish to say 'what's left?' There is much out there. Trouble is nothing has really grabbed me. Throwing myself at things because I can doesn't interest me any more. I have more than enough day-to-day activities to fill that box. No I am looking for the 'the one thing' that turn my head and creates that whole body 'Yes'. I have a couple of friends that have been clear on their purpose for years. 'To touch the lives of a million people.' is one.' To support and create resilience in young women in our still misogynistic workplace'. These provide a clear direction every day. My sense of purpose has never seemed this large or well articulated. If I am truly honest what still gets me excited and spun out are new ideas, new concepts and how they might apply to everyday life. How they might explain behaviours and actions. I can get completely lost in the world of ideas for hours and hours. Or lose time exploring those ideas and concepts with like minded individuals. This is certainly a passion. Is it a purpose?

Or could it be I am looking for a purpose bigger than it needs to be? One that I can hold up against my friends and say 'see me too!'. Perhaps I have fallen into the trap of comparing myself to others. Wouldn't be the first time! Or maybe purpose is an invitation. A siren call that you can't resist. One recognizes it when it shows up. Either way I'd like to think I will know it when it appears. 

In the meantime I cannot force a 'purpose'. As much as I'd like to have that tick mark. Ha! My challenge is to sit for a time empty and leave enough space so I will recognize it when it shows up.