Monday, 23 February 2015

Could You Be Love?

Love ought not to cost you or the recipient anything. That is the bottom line.

If it does, it is something other than love. Lust perhaps, greed or neediness maybe.

Yesterday, my granddaughter was again christened in Jamaica. Again as she was already blessed in her parents' church in Edmonton, Alberta. However, she travelled with her mother and I to the land of my birth to help celebrate my 50th birthday. It was also an opportunity for her to meet her mother's paternal side of the family.

Faith-based even though it was, we felt that a second, more traditional and communal blessing, one that would be witnessed by a larger group of people who shares her heritage would be special.

We also wanted her to experience the love of family.

That is something I never did experience and to some extent, an ingredient that was sorely missing from my life to now. The expressions masked as love that filled my childhood years, cost me a lot. Self esteem, confidence, dignity and, for many years, my voice.

At my birthnight party, a couple of my childhood friends remarked on how much I talk now. They were drawing comparisons to how little I spoke growing up. Those gathered who met me much later along my journey, could not relate to that Claudette being described.

I watched and listened to a woman yesterday at my Kitten's christening who is still very much like that Claudette - voiceless, low self esteem, afraid that she cannot survive on her own, despite being arms and legs ahead of so many other women - economically, educationally and socially.

Love or what she understands to be love, has cost her her identity.

My natural instinct was to pull her aside and slap her straight! I did not because from personal experience, I know self love, "real" love, the agape kind of love is not taught but is to be opened up to.

"I've been making a list of the things they don't teach you at school. They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous. They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer. They don't teach you how to know what's going on in someone else's mind. They don't teach you what to say to someone who's dying. They don't teach you anything worth knowing." Neil Gaiman

This snippet has been shared before but bears repeating. When I broke up with the last person who I thought was the next "big love," of my life, I hardly shed a tear. Truth be told, I was dumped but in actuality, it was more of a deliverance from what would have been my next "big folly." Months later, a telephone call between said gentleman and I ended with him remarking how happy I sounded. My response was, "What did you expect? You thought I would be crying in my cups, eating out of a garbage can?"

Love is freeing.

Sometimes I refer to it as having a Plan B or even a Plan C, however, it is more a 'trick' I learned from Cheryl Carter-Scott's book - "If Life Is A Game, These Are The Rules." Using the power of my imagination, I hold my greatest desire in that moment in my right (receiving) hand. I savour, roll around with it and enjoy its deliciousness. Then, moving it to my left (releasing) hand, I open my fingers and let it go.

That is how the gift of goodbye became one of the most precious treasures ever bestowed on me. You "must" love something or someone enough to let them go, release them and invariably yourself from obligations and a debt to love you back.

It is not love if it has a price.

What have you been paying for and how long now? Are you ready to let it go? If yes, write to me should you need support to do so. Not sure and have questions, check out my coaching page for more tips.

Be blessed and be love!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Stop Striving And STRIDE

You keep doing and doing but it seems to continually elude you.

Every morning you get up, dress your best, be one of the first to arrive, maybe you even put on coffee and have lunch at your desk but come promotion time - bypassed!

Bought the car but it is not the dream one. Maybe next couple of years you can. Got a mortgage but only for a one bedroom so the living room is the makeshift bedroom for your child. That will improve say in five years, you think.

You dress well, your body not in too bad a shape and your face is really easy on any beholder's eyes but the love of your life seem to be blind!

On all or some, a couple or even one front you are striving to succeed but it just is not happening. Fatigue is setting in, not to mention frustration. Every motivational, relationship and financial expert you consult tell you to "keep at it girl!"

For how much longer? That is your question!

It certainly was mine. Then I stopped. I checked myself. No warning other than sitting at rock bottom on the relationship, then financial fronts and there was no where else to go.

Nothing seemed to work for me until I learned to stop my striving and struggling. A believer that like attracts like, eventually it became crystal clear to me that for all my striving, I was getting more reasons to strive and struggle.

The moment stillness - literally, spiritually and emotionally - became my stance, things began to change for me.

Yet to win a multimillion dollar lottery, I am comfortable with my finances. Still single, I am happy with the relationship with me and that which I have with dear friends. Every would-be financial or relationship (speaking here about the intimate type) challenge that formerly might have had me flapping my wings about in a panic, now find me calmly taking them in S.T.R.I.D.E:
Source provides
This too shall pass
Right answers always come
I am capable
Deal with what is
Embrace the lesson and move on

"Take every endeavor in your stride. If it succeeds it is wonderful, if there is setback, it is experience." Anil Sinha

What can you STRIDE towards in your life right about now? Leave a comment here or visit me on my personal coaching page and let us stride together.


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Do You Have An Exit Strategy For Your Life?

There comes a time in all of our lives when a certain invitation is delivered.

You have three choices when that happens:

  1. Decline the invitation
  2. Postpone your decision
  3. Accept the invitation

Whatever you do, your life will change. Not making a decision does not delay the change. Declining the invitation does not cancel it either. When you accept the invitation, the change will not surprise you.

This post is delayed by a day, not owing to my not accepting the invitation. I did that many years ago. The piece is a day 'late' in coming as I was taken on an adventure yesterday, one that provided me a glimpse into what life can be when we decline or delay a decision re its invitation.

We are given this life to live, not exist but live fully, consciously and holistically. There comes a point when each of us are invited to make a decision how we will live.

Yesterday, I took a ride through parts of Kingston, Jamaica with sirens blaring. No, I had not committed a crime or was the target of one. The police were not my escorts.

 It was my day of giving back, having celebrated my 50th birthday the previous day. Some very dear friends had actually gathered on Valentine's night and partied with me to ring in my half century. On Sunday, my actual birthday, I attended a church service which would normally lift me but for some reasons, ones I will not bother to detail them, it did not.

Maybe I was 'high' enough for the moment. Life felt wonderful and I with it. No additional affirmation of my path necessary.

My hostess, friend and mentor heads a local not-for-profit and each time I am here,  at least one day of my stay is dedicated to serving her organization in whatever way she needed. Yesterday, that service took the form of moral support more than anything else.

What was not anticipated was the lesson in store for me.

Without disclosing any detail of the situation, due to privacy concerns, I supported my friend as she provided services to a palliative client. As a trained chaplain, that was a very familiar environment for me, granted my training and service provision were not in Jamaica. So, the physical differences in the hospital wing as well as hospice were striking to me.

Admittedly, when I entered the hospice my heart sank at the darkness of the place and I wondered whether this was a metaphor of what awaits the clients it serves. The charm, simplicity and homeliness of the surroundings soon rose up to greet me and distracted me from taking the gloomy detour.

Sitting on the wide, wraparound verandah, a cool and gentle breeze lulled me into a doze as I sat waiting in a most comfortable wooden recliner. I thought to myself, "I could spend my last days like this."

Morbid as that might sound, transitioning is something that have been on my mind since turning 50. In my own view, I have lived a different yet very full life. Many dreams I had were shelved either because they were made from a place of "lack" or they simply were not mine.

For months now, my close friends have heard me say that should my number be called, I will answer without regrets. My last longing was to see my daughter on her own two feet. She has done that and more.

Listening to the story of the journey of the individual we accompanied to this "last point before exit" - not my description but that of the young administrator - I wondered whether she had delayed a decision or declined the invitation.

Without judgment, this was clearly not a situation where the invitation was accepted and embraced. My coming to that conclusion was based not on the humble nature of the hospice that the last days would be spent in but rather the resistance of the individual to being there.

There was an uneasiness, fear and an resigned look in the eyes that briefly met mine.

Again, without judgment, I thought to myself, "whatever time I have left will be spent stepping into life, doing only what brings me joy and loving wastefully." That is not the look, those were not the eyes that I want to adorn my face when my time comes.

Have you given thought to your life and your exit strategy? It really is nothing to be scared of nor will doing so invite the inevitable to come a minute sooner. For all the time that I have spent with end of life patients, I have never heard any expressing a desire for the stuff they had or had not acquired. Every single one wanted to have their 'dance' partners - family and loved ones - comforted and if possible by their bedside to wish them farewell.

There were those who also had tons of regrets for not living fully and intentionally and for not loving more.

Do not let that be you.


Claudette is the Founder of DOS Foundation and main author of this blog. You may send her an email with your more private questions or request for support. You may also leave a comment here or on her personal coaching page.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

I Don't Care What You Think Of Me!

Up until her 17th birthday, my daughter always told us that she wanted to study Anthropology.

She was most taken with Egyptology and the day we met a "reader" on the beach in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and he told us both to wear ankhs, it felt as if her path was confirmed.

In my mind's eye, I attended her graduation not from a bachelor's programme but some fancy "do" celebrating her doctorate in the field. I travelled to see her on various "digs" all over the world, celebrated her latest book and drank champagne at her wedding to an equally qualified PhD.

Then she dropped out of university.

As if that was not enough, she moved out to live with a "boy," who I knew without a doubt was totally, completely and utterly wrong for her!

My daughter is a soft spoken, calm and quiet young woman. I have never heard her swear until recently - something that I credit to the lioness coming alive now that she has a cub. The day that I learned of her dropping out of university and the day that she moved out were not happy ones for me. I cried, bawled and hollered, begging her to rethink her decisions. She did no such thing.

Abigail did not care what my predictions were for her relationship or her future. She did what she had and wanted to do.

Nine years later, I could not applaud her any louder for stop caring.  

If you thought that today's topic was a suggestion to be selfish and not give two hoots about anyone else, you would be halfway wrong. The idea here is that in order to live your life as you see, feel, taste and dream it, then you will of necessity need to stop caring what other people think of you, your goals, your idea of Self and your path.

What they think is their stuff not yours.

There is no doubt that my daughter loves me. However, she has her ways of expressing it as well as she learned well from me and my mistakes. She is living life on her terms. Did she make some mistakes along the way so far? Of course she did but she learned valuable lessons from them.

Well meaning people will offer you suggestions, as I am writing this, however, we must be clear that those advice, nuggets are based on their own experiences.

Go make your own and new mistakes!

Failure is nothing to be ashamed about. Not trying, not living fully, spending your life in fear particularly those imposed by others are more reasons for "shame."  Quite frankly, let there be no shame in you no matter the road you have travelled.

I remember a woman who had a profound impact on my path telling her story of trying to open a bank account after being released from prison where she spent 8 years. She described how ashamed she felt as the customer service representative questioned her regarding her whereabouts, employment, etc over the period. In that moment my friend, as she became one, said she decided to never allow what anyone thinks of her to determine how she felt about her journey and herself. She went on to do great work in the inner city communities of Edmonton, Alberta, graduated from university with a degree in psychology and created a white picket fence life.

She stopped caring.

People will judge you no matter what. If you are low on funds, they deem you broke and useless. Have some cash and you become someone to either ride with or envy. Should depression visit you, they call you psycho and shun you, while others may pity you. Be on top of your world and for sure there will be some who think you are full of it.

Misery loves company. Unhappy people do not like to be around those who are not. Well, it is not your job or mine to "fix" anyone. Be empathetic but not sympathetic. The difference in these two was taught to me by my pastoral education supervisor. Sympathy means I am going to jump in and drown with you because I too cannot swim. Empathy means I will recognize your situation, see that you need support and go get help, throw you a line or do what I can without killing us both in the process.

Mind your own business and give others the respect to do the same. Do not judge lest you be judged. Stop caring what others think of you and do you!

Now a top stylist and instructor at one of Albert's leading academy, mother and partner to a man that she is happy with, my daughter is learning every day to stop caring more and more about what others think about her.

As for me, I do not give two hoots who think I am broke, have two shillings, cocky, talkative,  on Facebook too much, independent or that I should have a partner at my age.

What they think about me is none of my business!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Suspiciously Committed

One of the reasons that I am single four days away from my 50th is commitment.

If you and I have declared that we are in a relationship or even friendship - I am 150% committed to us.

What I have found is that that kind of dedication is suspect. People shy away from someone who will be all of themself plus be there for them wherever, whenever and whatever.

Having been down the aisle a couple, okay a few times, I am shy regarding that public sort of commitment ever again. Frankly, my personal view is that marriage is overrated but who am I to speak, having not been able to stay married!

Let us be clear, it was not due to the lack of commitment on my part. Well, not in all cases. My marriages deteriorated largely due to the failure of both sides to make a commitment first to oneself and allowing that to flow into the relationship.

The greatest commitment we are all called to make is to be true to ourselves, to be loyal to our deepest desires and to always act from that frame of heart.

What happens instead is that we see commitment as an external act, something that we make to others, verbalize to them then do our best to live up to it.

Regular readers know that one of my favourite quotes from the Christian Bible is: "Guard your heart with all your might as from it flow the issues of life." This could not be more true about the way we make commitments.

Those that we make from the head often turn out to be burdens, sacrifices, boring or at the very least empty promises. Commitments made from a healthy, loving "heart space" are passionate, dedicated service driven expressions of who and what we truly are.

Some are far more comfortable operating from the head zone, unaffected by the intricacies of the heart. They avoid commitments that call them to be their highest self, thinking that such acts will put them at a disadvantage. Such persons are those we call players and schemers - their action most often have an exit strategy appended.

Yes, those who make commitments from the heart do so with two understanding:

  • This is what they would want for themselves
  • This might never be reciprocated
They dedicate themselves to a cause, a company/job, a relationship or friendships not for the returns but for the joy of being a part of something  bigger than themselves or helping to transform someone's life. Such commitment may cost them everything by worldly standards but nothing by their soul growth.

My love life might not change in the near future but what I know for sure is that my commitment to Me deepens every day. Years now I promised myself that if doing something or being with someone does not come from the freeness of my heart and said place is full of song, then I would not.

An Aboriginal Elder once told a class of trainee chaplains that I was a part of that the longest distance a human can travel is the 16 inches between the head and the heart.

Where are you on that trek to Self? From whence are your commitments being made? Share your thoughts on this or any of the topics discussed here or on my personal coaching page.

Be blessed and make some heartical commitments today! 

Claudette, from Jamaica with Mahalia!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Make No Apologies!

Have you ever met someone or been in a situation where you are expected to apologise for your happiness?

Been there and done that many times in my life. Now, I am at the point where being alone - physically and relationally - really does not bother me at all.

Being oneself is far more important than being who someone else needs you to be.

Recently, there was a situation in my professional life where an individual who did not wish to take responsibility for herself and her behaviour lashed out at me - verbally and physically. In her mind, it was unreasonable of me as the representative of the organization to expect her to do what every employee, myself included, in any job anywhere in the world is expected to do.

In essence, I was to turn a blind eye to noncompliance and non-adherence to company policies. When her actions got to the point of being totally intolerable, words had to be spoken - gently and kindly. She, however, took offence. I became the bitch for upholding policy and following senior management instruction.

There was a point when it was clear that I was to apologize for being punctual every day, getting my work done and even finding time to help others with theirs. It seems as if my efficiency was not something that ought to make me proud.

This kind of attitude I have seen before. While working with the federal government of Canada, many of my colleagues felt threatened by those of us with degrees. We were ridiculed and derided in an attempt to diminish our hopes of rising to higher levels. It was their own low self esteem that they were trying to mask by this behaviour.  Some of those targetted preferred not to mention that they had an university education. I did no such thing and in the end did not make too many friends among the rank and file.

When you have worked, studied, toiled and even struggled long and hard to reach wherever it is that you have - make no apologies for it.

"Once you've accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you. You are YOU and that's the beginning and the end, no apologies, no regrets." Unknown

Nothing stops any of us from reaching our goals but oneself. Therefore no one has the authority to demand, request, suggest or coerce apologies from you for setting standards for your life.

Your work ethic, relationship boundaries and your standard of living are yours to set. Allow no one to cause you to lower your bar to match their selfish needs. Conversely, expect no one to apologize for living life on their terms. Should that person choose not to respect and adhere to policies of a company that they have accepted employment with, or the expectations that come with say marriage, then state your position but do not settle for mediocrity performance or settle for a relationship that does not serve your highest 'good'.

Make no apologies for being the best you and desiring the best for you!


Monday, 9 February 2015

Giving My Way!

It feels as if it has been weeks since my last article and in fact it has!

Bright and beautiful it is here in Kingston, Jamaica where we, my daughter, granddaughter and I, arrived last week. We are here to celebrate life - the soon 50th year of mine and the several months of Mahalia's arrival - with family, relatives, extended family and friends who are family.

This morning as I got my bearings opening my eyes, for a few seconds it was unclear to me where I was. The thought "it does not matter as wherever you are, all is well," came to me.

Fifty years it took for a life, my life to be at this place of acceptance and peace.

As my countryman and reggae artiste Buju Banton sings, "it's not an easy road." It certainly has not been for me, however, it is one that I would not trade.

On Saturday past, I attended the funeral service of a former colleague, most certainly a mentor and friend. The service flowed well. I am not a funeral-attending kind of person. Actually, I have told my daughter and closest friends that I want none to be held in my honour.

Trying to distract myself from the fact of where I was physically sitting, my mind roamed the memories shared with the departed, few as they were in comparison to that of many others who were gathered. Once that relatively brief stroll was done, I did what I love to do best - people observe. Not watching but observing, body languages and something that have been gifted to me and expands the more I allow it to - energy/vibe reading.

Most who I could see or sense were there for the same reason that I chose to go - respect and remembering the "road travelled" by one of their own.  The family was well ahead of me so I could not see them but could imagine their grief as it was expressed by the children of the deceased from the podium.

The energy changed remarkably with the second song in tribute to the departed. Tears flowed copiously all around me as the tenor belted the words of "I Did It My Way."

My recollection of the man whose life we were remembering was that he most certainly lived it his way. 

Not only that, he "gave" to Life fully. I was one of the recipients. 

This is not a memorial piece but a testimony to giving to life what you want. Mr. Smith, yes that was his name, was a communication consultant extraordinaire. More than that, he was a teacher who shared and gave his knowledge in public relations and communications to any young upcoming communications professional.

His giving returned to him a thousand fold and in myriads of forms I am sure. If the words spoken by the many remembering him was anything to go by, Mr. Smith milked life by giving what he had and knew. He gave not to receive but in service to the young ones and country.

"Generosity is not giving me that which I need that you do, but it is giving me that which you need more that I do." Kahlil Gibran

However my own transition is marked and I do hope my wishes are respected, as with Mr. Smith's my desire is for that song to be belted out as vigorously as possible, with the following adjustments:

"And now, the end is [here];
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and ev'ry highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had [none]
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

I've loved, I've laughed and cried.
I've had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
"Oh no, oh no not me,
I did it my way".

For what is [life if not to live]
To say the things [one] truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!

Yes, it was my way."

Ralston Smith, thank you for giving to me and everyone of us who had the honour of learning at your feet. Rest In Peace