Connecting The Dots

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

You don't get an engraved invitation

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, January 02, 2018

This has become a funny time of year for me. Certainly I am all over a new year, blank pages, calendar yet to be filled with interesting and enjoyable pursuits. Delight in it all in fact! Today though is also the last full day my mom walked this earth. She died 5 years ago tomorrow most uncomfortably waiting for her attending doctor for hours. It still fills me with horrors! This missive is not what this is about ..... 

For a good number of years I was on my mom to organize her affairs. There were many loose ends. I had friends who had a nightmare navigating their last parent's affairs. Had wanted to avoid this with mom. My frequently expressed comment to her was "You'll not get an engraved invitation (about when you'll die)." It was said jokingly and she would laugh. Not that it budged her for a good many years. My frustration was why can't she see something could happen at any time!

Mom's landing in Emergency New Year's Eve didn't set off any huge alarms. A cold had affected her bad lungs. It was in ER we found out she had quit taking her pills. Her blood pressure was through the roof. We could see she wasn't feeling well Christmas Day but at 88 and a half this happened periodically. Mom was contrite about the medications and was quite clear on her medical directives. She did want issues to be investigated but we danced around full on resuscitation. Mom had a cancer, albeit slow growing, COPD, a heart arrhythmia, severe arthritis and her mind sharp. Okay.

January 1st she had all the family come up on their way to dinner at our house. The next day when we visited we were told her blood pressure was under control and she'd be going home Friday, 2 days hence. Great! I started making plans to get her place ready for her return to her assisted living apartment. Mom was exhausted from not sleeping well in a 4 bed ward and was still having stomach discomfort. She just wanted to rest. So we left her to do so. The disconnect between the cheery report on how well she was doing and how my mom really seemed blew right over my head. She was coming home. Of course she was. Mom was strong and a fighter!

The next day more family and friends were scheduled to visit. Their reports said she was so very very sick. My brother, bless him, got up there at noon. With texts back and forth told me mom was quite unsettled but the doc would be there any time. I felt a need to get up to the hospital but not anxious. Carl was there and the Dr. coming! Finishing some appointments I headed up around 2:00 PM. This was one sick lady. A huge flu outbreak was keeping all sorts of doc and interns busy in emergency. The hours passed trying to make her comfortable. My mom then had a stroke. Our family gathered. Despite pleas and demands for her doc, no sign. The helplessness and frustration overwhelming. At one poignant moment I seemed to step out of my body. I came to 'see' that nothing we could, would do would change the course of what was to happen. It was set in motion. Mom would die. I was shocked out of my denial and utterly blown away. She did die, peacefully, shortly after finally receiving medication for her pain. We were numb. 

Time shifts some, though not all the pain around this. Mom did had a good run and was happy in her later years. That's a comfort. The ultimate irony though? After years of telling mom she wouldn't get an engraved invitation announcing when she would die, either did I.  

Baraka

Mary Johnson - Friday, December 29, 2017

A good number of years back when I worked at Telus, a little coffee bar opened up kiddie corner to the office building. It was called 'Baraka'. I loved the name and how it sounded when you said it. It seemed middle eastern. Figured it meant Coffee House or something like that. You could sit up at a bar and look out onto Jasper Ave. The place always had a good feel!

So it was with great delight I ran into the name Baraka again the other day. This time it came complete with what it really means (not coffee house!!)! Baraka has several meanings/ origins but what the one that caught my eye was in the context of being Islamic. Wiki defines it as "Baraka, the beneficent force from God that flows through the physical and spiritual spheres." This includes objects, people, transactions and relationships. The beneficent force brings being blessed as well as bringing blessings to all involved. Is that not a beautiful thought? 

Think about coming from a place of Baraka in your relationships, family, friends, our food, business, industry, community, the world. Taking the time to make sure that whatever the transaction it is good for everyone involved. When this occurs we will be blessed by the giving and receiving of kindness. This has the feel of turning up mindfulness just a notch. 

Baraka is a thoughtful and generous principle no matter where you come from. Perhaps we could all infuse a little bit more into our lives! So on that note I wish you a 2018 full of health, happiness and all things Baraka!   

Surrounded by love and memories

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, December 19, 2017

For the past 40 years we have hosted a Sunday Christmas brunch called the 'Pink Gin Float Breakfast'. Yes we make pink gin floats (pink lemonade, gin and ice cream). A summer themed drink enjoyed in the opposite season! The brunch is an appreciation gesture to family and friends. After all these years people tell us they look forward to seeing folks they only see on this day as well as yummy food!

The day before is busy with getting the food and the house ready. Mid afternoon Saturday I put up my feet and surveyed my surroundings. As Christmas carols played in the background I could see the threads of many many Christmases pulled forward into this day. Cookie recipes from my Gran, my mom's holiday table cloth, a stocking from my childhood, ceramic decorations made by my Aunt and a friend at the time to celebrate my oldest son's first Christmas. My 1st son's grade one 'forest of pinecones' sits on a small table along with a beautiful music box - gift from a dear friend who died 9 years ago. An advent calendar from the gift shop of my favourite workplaces, Seven Sleeps Before Christmas - a book authored 20 years ago by a friend of mine. Decorations made by the boys. It goes on and on. 

These are not just items that get brought out each Christmas season to 'decorate the house'. These are wonderful memories wrapped in love and fondly placed around my home each year. I am surrounded by a lifetime of love and goodness every day but especially remembered and celebrated this time of year.

I woke up relieved

Mary Johnson - Thursday, December 14, 2017

If you're like me it's hard to get away from all the news that showcases partisan politics. My personal opinion is that what has been ramping up in the States affects us here in this country. Our brand of politics is nastier too.  I have watched, with baited breath, the moves of this president and his wing man Steve Bannon in dismantling decency and democracy as it's been practice since before I was born. Both stirring the pot to create chaos and mistrust. It seemed to be working!

So it was with such relief I woke up to the news that the despicable individual that ran for the Republicans in Alabama was defeated. I was quite taken back by the strength of my feelings. After all this is not my representative or even my country. There's been a growing a sense of losing our moral compass - in what is considered right and honourable. For example being a gentleman seems a quaint old fashioned concept. Better to be a  'rootin', tootin' cowboys of the wild west'. (And we put down or are horrified at other cultures that marry young girls off, have overt male privilege, restrict women access to just about anything you can imagine). Can't we see a version of this is in our own back yard!

Well apparently we can. Those most affected by the nasty rhetoric got out and voted. Made their voices heard despite practices that would try to discourage them. Yes, yes, yes your vote does count. Your protest and speaking up does make a difference. We don't need to be saved by an authority figure. We can speak up and save ourselves. I watched a powerful reminder that if we want change it really begins with each one of us!         

What do you love?

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Are you a glass half full or half empty kinda person? When looking at a situation do you see the glaring mistakes, things that are wrong or do you marvel at what's going well? If you are like many of us the glass is half empty and our partners, kids, co-workers, the world haven't figured 'it' out yet!

Just got off the phone a while ago with someone near and dear to me. She's a wonderful gal on so many levels. When it comes to work though I am not sure why she is still there? So little seems to go right, multiple layers of process and people don't line up day over day. Now I'm not saying that isn't so. Lord knows in a big company things don't run smoothly. That said she's hard pressed to speak of anything going well. (yes I ask and get a huffy sounding reply). This is a pattern of years. Of course suggesting this isn't a great environment to be in everyday doesn't net me a cheerful response either. Thing is it's often soul sucking to speak with her. My energy levels plunge. When we are with others I watch them check out when she speaks. This impacts the world! So when I catch myself focusing on the darker side of things it makes me realize I too am putting a low energy vibe out into my world. It's a habit of thinking and speaking.

Now the flip side of this is, of course, looking for what is going well in your life. This too is a habit one can cultivate. While at lunch last week with a dear friend and colleague of mine, he shared a practice he has gotten into and does every morning. With a cup of coffee in hand, the radio on low, he looks out his window and appreciates his day. All the good things that have happened (or bullets he's dodged!) to bring him to this moment. His wonderful daughters and the lives they are launching into. All the great people he will meet today. The wonderful opportunities he knows are coming his way as well as the unknown delights that will occur as well. He said he sits for an hour or so and marinates (my word) in this space of appreciation and humility. The upshot is very little ruffles him, most delights him and he's present to the day and what it brings. I was inspired!

Taking this up a notch what if we spoke about what we love, ... on a regular basis and even out loud. Affirming the good things in our lives in person, on the phone, on email tends to have you eye see more of what is going well in your life. This sends a very different energetic vibe out into the world. I felt lighter and loving after my time with my friend. The world is impacted by this also!       

We often are flummoxed by what/ how we can do anything that would make the world better right now. We get stuck thinking the action needs to be big and bold and impact thousands. Well being conscious and responsible for the energy we bring to our lives is a great place to start. Seeing the world with appreciation, curiosity, compassion touches those in our world who touch those in their world, who touch those in their worlds. If we are all connected, then this small act indeed makes a difference for many! 

Finding peace

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, November 14, 2017

This last few weeks has felt quite different. As I wrote in my last blog (www.bridgeworkscoaching.ca/connecting-the-dots/make-peace-with-your-resistance) and in my October/ November newsletter (Living Life by Lists Revisited), I have been practicing allowing, even welcoming what I call my 3 horses of the apocalypse. Control, Approval, Security. 

 Getting underneath the heavy-handedness with which I managed life has shifted something quite weighty. Less and less Madame Control runs the show. In 'seeing her' in my mind's eye and giving a big wave and smile, she's quite content to return those with minimum fuss. Beyond her, my old story has been upgraded. The little girl who wanted to be told she was good, and loved and could do/ be anything she really wanted gets that from the adult ME. That previous programming holds less sway. It's about new neural pathways.

There is a newly minted spaciousness and ease with friends, family and myself. I wake up feeling differently about my day. Heck I sleep better too! This delicious sense of contentedness has settled over my days. Not wanting to return to that old place, the practice of stopping to check in to see who's running the show continues. A small investment for finding this measure of peace.

  

Make peace with your resistance

Mary Johnson - Friday, October 27, 2017

Tomorrow is a big day. I will co-facilitate a very large group. Close to 400 people. This is a stretch for me. In accepting this work I wanted to do it differently. Not sure if this sounds familiar but do you, like me, spend time and loads of energy organizing and listing out what to do, to revise again and again? This coupled with imagined scenarios of things gone wrong that drive more checking and rechecking. 

Well this is generally how I have worked. :( Enter a fabulous teacher. A fellow named Jim Demther. He spoke about, especially in the moments of anxiousness  about something or harsh self talk, to attune to what's happening within you. Specifically, 

~ Note the sensations within your body. 

~ What feelings do these bring up. 

~ Notice your thoughts.  

I have been to this point many times. It tends to ramp me up. Taking it a step further, Jim asked us to check and see if this was about Approval, Control, Security. Bingo! Right away this resonated. I have a Control Madame who is fierce and an Approval Sprite who is insatiable. Not pretty and frankly rather embarrassing!

Luckily Jim doesn't leave us here! The invitation then becomes to acknowledge the Approval, Control or Security. Even bolder welcome it. All of this in service of simply allowing Approval, Control or Security to be there. To quit resisting what is. While I am able to acknowledge what shows up, it's still hard for me to welcome any of these at this point. There's a lot of self judgement shows up. Clearly more to work on! What I have noticed is a lessening of my internal resistance. It feels more expansive. With that I am more available and confident about what's next.

This facilitation has been a huge opportunity to practice, practice and practice some more. The payoff is great. I am feeling into the difference between anticipation and organizing for a good event vs driving myself with endless activities to assuage my feelings of Approval, Control, Security. This has me in a place of feeling fairly relaxed and confident that I have attended to what is needed on my part to make the time a success. This is a whole new place.     

Wish me luck!

Yes, Me Too

Mary Johnson - Thursday, October 19, 2017

For the last couple of weeks I have been debating in my head space whether or not I write this blog. Last night I watched a PVR'd episode of 22 Minutes. In it Susan Kent spoke to her experience with sexual harassment/ assault. Her declaration tipped the scale for me.

There are a number of stories I want to touch on. Believe this is also many women's experience. It doesn't just happen once. The first situation took place at the old Edmonton Archives on 101 St. As kids, (and I'm talking about 5, 6, 7), we would go over to look at all the cool old artifacts of our city's past and the most fun was we got to climb all over the old equipment in the big yard at the back. (parents would be horrified today!). I was 'in charge' at the grand age of 6 or 7 of my sister who was 2 years younger and our 2 friends 1 and 3 years younger than me. One day the old curator, a man we chatted with regularly for several years, called me over to show me something. I had no reason not to go look. Sure enough it was a ruse. He grabbed me and landed a couple of kisses while he pawed me. I squirmed out of his grasp, quickly gathered up the little kids an was out of there. I told the others under no circumstances to go back there. My sister and I never did.

So why not tell my folks? Well I was afraid I would catch heck. We lived in the inner city and were warned about strangers all the time. Except as is often the case he wasn't a stranger, ..... Secondly I knew, just knew in my bones, my dad would go over there and beat the bejeezus out of him. Funny there I was protecting a creep. So you stay away and become wary.   

The next 2 incidences occurred in my early days of work. One involved the CEO of the hospital and my interactions with him as the Union President. It consisted of inappropriate comments and looking. Gals you know the look. You feel slimed. Found out much later I wasn't the only one he did this to. We kept silent because we didn't want to lose our jobs.

The second was a boss who thought he could brush up against you in the hall touching your breasts or behind. We were 2 women and the nurses a department of men. I was a little bolder then and told him the next time I'd break his %*&# face. My colleague didn't feel she could say anything. As she told me when I asked why she didn't speak up. "I'm a single mom with 3 kids. This job works for them and me. I can't go back to shift work." A while later a significant unethical issue went down in our department. When all other routes failed I blew the whistle. And was unceremoniously walked off the job under the watch of the security fellow and told to never set foot on the property again. It was humiliating. Speaking up didn't garner any 'Atta girl's'. While in the end I was vindicated. (The parent company, when my allegations arrived, came in and investigated. Some house cleaning of the culprits went down.) I was still out a job. You become tainted goods. This one haunted me for a long time.         

Even in contemplating sharing my story I noticed I was downplaying it on my mind. 'The good girl', one who doesn't make a fuss, was in full force. She's concerned for me. It's dangerous out to speak up. I've experienced this first hand. In the end isn't it the fear that continues to keep us silent? Time to change this one. Enough is enough! 

It's not mind over matter

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The other day at yoga someone commented about noticing less flexibility and referenced getting older. A very quick "oh it's just mind over matter." was tossed out. In other words don't think yourself as getting older then you won't get older. Oh I wish it were that easy. If we are lucky (and I sure hope I am!!), we will age. Period. That doesn't mean we have to get 'old'. At least not for a good long while.  

It's fascinating how much the and energy goes into avoiding thinking about or contemplating the inevitable. The 'mind over matter' comment is common as is absolute silliness like 60 is the new 40. No it's not! (I think I've done this rant before.) Last evening in our 1st session of Life's Third Act there were declarative statements. "I'm NEVER quitting work; I'm NEVER getting old; I don't intend to become frail or bent over." There is a difference in having a positive and curious attitude about getting older and another whole thing that is denial.

What if we claimed our age? Were actually proud of being 64, 73, 85. At my son's wedding this past weekend many 60+ individuals hung out late and partied pretty darn well. Could they keep up with the 30 year olds? Well they did, ..... but differently. And maybe that's the thing. It's both Mind and Matter. The Matter part of the equation exists. Arthritis, cataract surgery, fussier digestive systems, differing energy levels, hips and knee replacements were part of that over 60 age group at the wedding. Those same folks also are windsurfers, high elevation hikers/ backpackers, bikers, gardeners, swimmers, etc etc. Thing is you acknowledge it and work with it.

So let's quit pretending we can live these years the same way we did at 30. Don't become a cheap imitation of yourself. Be curious how we can live our best lives as we enter this new time. Know that both mind and matter count! It always has. We were just too young to know it! :)        

Home

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Adrienne Clarkson wrote a brilliant article on 'Canada: Making a home on Native Land' in the Saturday September 23rd Globe and Mail. I loved her story about coming to this country and how it became her family's Home. She opened with a line from Robert Frost's 'The Death of a Hired Man'. Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.' Her premise is that Home acknowledges you, invites you in, welcomes you.

My mind made a leap while contemplating her article. The experience of newcomers coming to this country also speaks to our experience of feeling at home within ourselves. I would put forth that our fully residing within ourselves is as foreign as coming to a new land. So many of us are not comfortable in ourselves - our Home. For example it's not uncommon to hear a vexing about the imperfection of our physical features and aging. We fight the changes that happen to us over our lifetime. Reliving and embellishing old stories about our lives keep us trapped in a narrative that no longer serves us. Being vulnerable and showing a soft underbelly is rare. Look at the deep resonance of Brene Brown's work. Consumerism and social media has taken the place of genuine connection and meaning. Living somewhere outside ourselves in a painful past or imagined future is where many of us spend a good part of our days. Keeping ourselves busy and distracted keeps us from hearing our authentic voice.

How are we able to welcome others when we are unable to welcome ourselves, in all our iterations? If we cannot give ourselves compassion and understanding how do we extend it to those we perceive as different than us? This doesn't mean we don't extend time and energy into the work of our world. I would suggest though that doing the work on ourselves will make what else that's needed, easier.