June 17, 2013 § Leave a Comment
At first, the words wouldn’t come. Blue eyes were staring back at me expectantly. A lump formed in my throat. My bottom lip began to tremble. My eyes welled with tears. I wanted to look away, but I didn’t. This was too important. The blue eyes still looking at me, also red and brimming with tears. So long as I was there, they weren’t going anywhere. Try again.
“I…” I faltered and broke down once more. But with renewed courage I tried again.
“I love you.” I stumbled on the words at the end, but at least this time it was out!
I did it again. And again. And again. Until the words were loud and clear and resounding from a place inside of me I do my best to ignore. If I could’ve hugged the figure in the mirror, what an embrace it would have been. As it was, we stared back at one another, each with a grateful smile curling on our lips. I picked up a hand towel and dried her tears.
“I love you. I see you.” She smiled back. We’ve made contact.
“If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love anybody else.”
- Jennifer Lopez
People around me are falling in love. And I’m paying attention. A colleague recently shared a scrapbook she made for her partner – full of words of love, affection and celebration. I flipped each page, looking at the photos, the mementos, the laughing eyes and faces brimmed with happiness.
“This is beautiful!” I said as I handed the scrapbook back to her.
Inside I thought, “Is this what people in love look like?” I’ve known this girl for a long time. I’ve never seen her eyes dance like this before. I think it must be.
My best friend and I have joined forces with another of our friends to complete a book study of Calling In The One by Katherine Woodward Thomas. 7 weeks of exercises and contemplation. At the centre of just about every exercise… you (me). The book is about learning to love yourself, because as J Lo pointed out, true love isn’t possible until we first love ourselves.
I met a man once in the midst of a messy marriage. As I listened to his story, all I could feel were the pain behind his words. A woman he shouldn’t have married, a house that wasn’t creating a space of love for either of them or their children. As we talked, I found myself relating to his pain. Not his situation, but the feeling behind the situation. As he told his story, I could see the parts in mine where I could take the initiative to turn all that around. Most of his story was about learning to stand up for himself and step into his light rather than skulking in his shadows.
I’ve done a great deal of work on my self-image and self-esteem, but I went deeper. I got right down next to the me that was still hurting and I watched what made her cower, made her hide, made her afraid to show her beautiful face. Anything I do that makes her feel like less of a person, I stop. Now we manage our eating habits, our spending habits, our relationships and our thoughts with much more awareness and intention. Because when I slip up, she hides.
I slip up when I’m not listening to her. She knows exactly what she wants, what she needs.
Last night as I lay in my bed, it dawned on me that I could give her what she wants.
“I love you, Wendy,” I whispered into the darkness.
This morning I woke up, all warm and snuggled in my blankets.
“I love you, Wendy.”
And then I had the brilliant idea that I should look myself in the eyes while I said it.
I trudged upstairs, hair a mess, bits of eyeliner still lining my eyes from what I didn’t wash off the night before. I looked myself in the mirror and I wouldn’t budge until I was able to say something to myself that I’ve been longing to hear.
Eyes brimming with tears, lips trembling, it took a few tries, but I did it.
“I love you, Wendy.”
May 13, 2013 § 3 Comments
Scanning my timeline on Twitter, recently, I saw my friend Stephanie in Vancouver had made a rather profound statement related to things happening in her life.
I remarked that her description of what had occurred shows that everything happens for a reason. More on Stephanie below.
Even this blog results from me meeting Wendy four years ago this month at a Website Strategy Conference in Calgary. We kept in contact and began discussing how to create an inspirational/motivational book and, voila, The Muse and Views.
It all started with a question about Twitter!
Often in the moment, especially if we’re in strife, we search for reasons of why life is unfolding as it is.
Sometimes it’s immediately obvious. On other occasions, it takes a while. Sometimes we may never know the reason. It may not be a good reason.
My career is a continuum of successive opportunities from weekly reporter to my current position as Manager of Marketing and Communications with the City of Grande Prairie.
It was a chance thing I even learned about this position being available back in the fall of 2006. I did occasionally check out the Daily Herald-Tribune online from Sault Ste. Marie to check back on the community I’d lived in for 3.5 years back in the 1980s.
But I was meant to have a second stint in Grande Prairie.
During one of my interviews for the position, I was asked why I would want to return to Alberta. I responded, “You can take the boy out of the west, but you can’t take the west out of the boy.”
Now I wasn’t yearning to return to my western roots. In fact, big changes weren’t on my radar at all. I had just been in a school board communications job full time 1.5 years, a position I had always imagined myself in.
However, I am always ready for change and opportunities. I know now that I was meant to grow in my management capabilities on a bigger stage.
Later this year, it will be 30 years since I met my wife-to-be by interviewing her for a newspaper feature. Clearly my going through the Town Directory in St. Paul and deciding to do a feature on the daycare administrator was designed to connect me to Joyce.
The statement about everything happening for a reason resonated with Stephanie: “Maybe that is why that person I was good friends with 10 years ago has all of a sudden entered my life again,” she says.
Stephanie has reflected on her own circumstances and relationships and has found herself making sense of things by putting them in perspective.
“I’m making the best of each and every day because we aren’t in godly positions to control what comes next. Letting go is the key to happiness.”
Stephanie remarked that we don’t have all the answers, especially when it comes to relationships.
That is true. There is the saying that people come into your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime and once you figure out which it is you will know what to do.
Another friend, Mandy, who lives in Quebec, found that an unsuccessful marriage has actually paved the way for the person she realizes she was meant to be.
“I wouldn’t have had the kind of work opportunities I have now. I likely would not have done much out in the community such as volunteering and serving on committees.”
Mandy recalls an incident in her childhood that has her convinced there is reason behind actions.
When she was five, her family was travelling through New York State. After hitting an icy patch, their van slid off the road and toppled over. The portion of the roof over which her infant brother had been located in his car seat was severely dented in. Luckily, her mother had removed the child to nurse him and he emerged unscathed.
All of these circumstances, either personally or stories of others make sense to me. Where I struggle with this concept of things happening for a reason, is when I cannot fathom why something has happened when everything seems so right.
A friend recently lost a child at birth. There was no sign the baby was not healthy, the umbilical cord simply strangled the baby.
I always ask myself why things like this happen to people who so richly deserve to have more children when there are so many kids born into families of abuse, poverty or to teenaged parents who can sometimes seem to get pregnant through a snow suit.
Where is the justice? My friend was so looking forward to this second child. She and her husband deserve to have as many children as they want.
Will we get the answers later on? Could the baby have had some undetected serious disease? Will it make this couple focus more on their one child? Will it make them appreciate what they have to a greater degree?
And then there were the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon. What is the reason for two brothers to carry out such heinous acts?
Their actions apparently are not linked to any higher level world issues. We do know that the spirits of Boston residents were galvanized during this ordeal. There was tragedy but also heroes. Lives were forever changed.
I attended a riveting keynote address by Amanda Lindhout, a former Canadian journalist, while at an International Association for Public Participation conference earlier this month. She told her story of being kidnapped in Somalia, tortured and released 15 months later.
Her message is one of forgiveness and she plans to find ways of improving conditions in that country.
In the bigger scheme of things, why did Amanda have to endure all of that to want to make a difference in the world?
It’s good if we can find relationships between events to make life make more sense, but we can be left scratching our heads until we have no hair if we get too wrapped up in wondering reasons behind things.
Often, we are looking for good reasons for events when there are more complex issues at stake.
The best we can do is be adaptable to situations and be ready for what life throws at us. Whatever that is may not make sense at the time, but chances are, it will in time.
It’s also a reminder to take charge of as much as we can in our lives.
The late Peter Drucker, a renowned management consultant, educator and author Peter once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
April 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” ~ Bob Proctor, Author, Speaker and Success Coach
It recently occurred that the first two letters in the word mentor are ME. I was musing on that after a colleague told me she sees me as a mentor and thanked me or my support.
When Angie Saltman, who operates Saltmedia, a web development company in Grande Prairie, mentioned this, I hadn’t realized I’d had an impact through our discussions about business.
But that’s the way it is with mentoring. You can be teaching without necessarily realizing it. It was particularly noteworthy because Angie is someone out in the community as there was no thought of providing anything more than casual advice.
“When we first met, I was taken with how confident you are and I realized I needed to work on that part of me,” Angie told me. Saltmedia has been in operation for three years. “I appreciated how you’ve taken time to share your career and business experience.”
That’s why I love the Bob Procter quote. It’s truly a thrill to recognize someone will thrive at an undertaking even with limited experience and confidence, and then watching them flourish.
Now I’ve won awards for my work and led a fruitful career. I’ve supervised numerous people, including employees with my own communications business. I certainly know I’ve made a difference to several people’s futures if by no other measure than the number of references I’ve provided. I know, of course, it has gone way beyond that and for someone to outright tell me how I’ve helped them is touching.
Although I’m not about to slow down, this feedback has happened enough lately from younger co-workers and associates that I feel at the pinnacle of my career.
Having colleagues recognize my role in shaping their careers is acknowledgement that I’ve invested time and energy as they find their way in the world. I think of it as my own way of giving back to a life that’s been rewarding to me.
What I have learned and pass on to others becomes the foresight of those with less experience. The true joy comes when mentees challenge and question what I have said and offer their own ideas. Even more thrilling are the times when I know I am learning from my younger colleagues.
A mentorship doesn’t have to involve someone in the same community or even direct involvement in their day-today work. I met Mary Leong, a student at UBC, three years ago while she was working in Grande Prairie. She’d been assigned to visit me to at City Hall to discuss a partnership with the agency employing her during the summer.
We’ve kept in touch over the last couple of years and I always enjoy hearing Mary’s latest news. She’s one of those people who you know will go as far as their ambition takes them. I look forward to saying, “I knew Mary Leong when …”
She wanted to contribute to what I had to say on this topic since she felt I’d influenced her career direction.
“To me, David is a long-distance mentor who checks in every once in a while to deliver news and information on the new initiatives he’s working on, but also to provide encouragement and support in a sometimes very rocky field.”
She recalls travelling to Grande Prairie to pursue a career path which she soon realized was ill-suited to her personality and interests. At the same time, she was discovering an interest in new media and communications.
“Our initial conversation was brief, but the topic of communications in a changing media landscape was brought up. I was surprised when David followed up with information about how the city was using new media and technology to connect with its citizens, which I found fascinating. That, for me, was the turning point as I realized that someone was taking an interest in my career development and providing information that could support my journey.
“These discussions provided a holistic view of the day-to-day tasks in a communications job, and spurred me to seek out opportunities to grow in the field.”
Mary is completing her Political Science and Psychology degree at UBC, and will be working for a year before starting the Politics and Communication Master’s program at the London School of Economics in September 2014.
Her goal is to work in the field of media and communications for a non-profit she’s passionate about to help enact policy change.
Mary’s own passion is to be a mentor to young minority girls to ensure they have the tools to succeed at whatever they set out to do, whether as a CEO, a politician or an entrepreneur.
Knowing Mary, those young ladies will be fortunate to have that leadership.
I thought this quote would be a most appropriate way to end this post:
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter. Going to bed knowing we have done something wonderful is what matters to me.” ~ Steve Jobs
February 18, 2013 § 3 Comments
It’s been some weeks since I started the Year of the External Me. Focusing on myself like that, on the things I want to achieve, the people I want in my life, it’s intimidating how quickly everything begins falling into place. Before any of it did, however, there was one key factor I was missing.
Last month was community manager appreciation day. It’s a day I love because, well, I’m a community manager! I was pondering community building and what it really boils down to. Building community is creating something that people want to be a part of. I brought that down a level further to my own life. How can I create a life full of genuine connection with people I love? By creating a life and a space that they want to be a part of. In that, it’s something I’ve got to love so deeply and so strongly that I never want to leave it and that I can’t help but want to bring more people into.
Though I’ve enjoyed many parts of my life to date, I wasn’t in that space at the beginning of the year. I had some work to do learning to love everything about who I am now and where I’m at. Meaning participating fully in the friendships and relationships (both personal and professional) that I’m engaged in and to just, excuse the language, but stop giving a shit what any of them think. Instead, I began operating from a space where my approval is the only one that matters. It’s powerful stuff!
Note: It doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped caring about the wants and needs of others, just that I put mine first. If I can meet theirs after that? Cool! But never to my detriment.
Almost as soon as I started focusing on internal rather than external approval, the domino effect began. The first result? I relaxed. Like, really relaxed. I remember a time last year where I’d wake up in the morning and my jaw would be clenched. Now, I still get tense, but I use that as a signal from my body that there’s something that requires my immediate attention. As soon as it’s taken care of, we’re on our merry way. Other noticeable changes? I sleep solidly. The time I never felt I had to spend with friends and family is suddenly there. The help I was looking for before is showing up. And I’m experiencing a shift in my relationships. The ones that don’t serve me are either falling by the wayside or evolving into something deeper and more supportive. I feel like I’ve become a part of something bigger than just myself. Like I’m contributing, but I’m not doing it alone.
And to think, it’s all because I’ve given myself permission to be bad at the things I’m bad at (like a perfect inbox. That’s just not in my cards) and to shine as brightly as I can shine where it’s easiest (writing and people!). So if you’re struggling or things in your life just aren’t falling into place like you keep wanting them to, I really have only one piece of advice for you:
Stop whatever it is you’re doing, whoever it is you’re trying to be. Instead, focus on who you actually are and accepting every single piece of you, whether you think it’s a flaw or a gift. Go for the glory, reach for the stars. Be bold. Be beautiful. Be undeniably you.
December 31, 2012 § 4 Comments
This year started out as… well, I can’t remember exactly what it started out as. It ended up being the year of the internal me. I worked long and I worked hard to uncover many of the beliefs that have been holding me back from being the person I so desperately wanted to be. The result? Self acceptance for everything I am, everything I want and permission to make it all come true.
The first of the indulgences I’ve allowed myself was getting my very first tattoo just last month in Saskatoon. I’ve been talking about it for the last four years. I quite literally wanted to put my heart on my sleeve. I had begun researching tattoo parlours in Calgary, but hadn’t gone so far as to visit them yet. I wanted the right person, the right opportunity. The “right” things in my life just seem to fall into place when it’s time (like how David and I met and began this blog). I had a feeling this tattoo would follow a similar path.
Back in September, my friend Dan got his first tattoo, his parrot Baub. I made a promise that I would follow through with mine before my 31st birthday, which is in March. Wouldn’t you know it, Dan and I planned a road trip to Saskatoon in November and he mentioned he was going to add some foliage to Baub while we were in town. His friend Baillie owns a long-standing tattoo shop called Eye Of The Needle.
“Do you think Baillie would have time to slip me in too?” I asked Dan.
A quick text message to Baillie confirmed that she thought she could do it.
I found an image of the anatomically correct heart that I wanted. The “real” shape of the heart reminds me to keep at least one foot planted in reality as I have a tendency to spend my time with my head in the clouds. We emailed it to Baillie and a couple of days later showed up for our tattoos. The heart took about an hour and a half to ink onto my upper arm. It didn’t hurt exactly, it felt more like many incessant and annoying mosquito bites. Every chance I got after that, I’d peer down at my arm. Yep, it was still there. It’s been over a month and it hasn’t washed off yet. I think this thing might be permanent.
I haven’t worn a long-sleeved shirt since the day my heart appeared on my arm. I didn’t want to cover it up. I’ve been doing that most of my life. Hiding my emotions. Pretending I don’t feel strongly about something when really I do… I feel strongly about a lot of things… but always trying to be the peace keeper. Trying not to rock the boat.
Now it’s out there. It’s out there for everyone to see. It’s my reminder to check in with myself regularly. To ask myself what my true feelings are about the situation I’m in, the decisions I’m making, the people I’m hanging around with. And it’s my opportunity to speak up for myself, to say what’s on my mind and to stand firmly in the person I am.
Now, with another New Year on my doorstep, I can proceed with creating even more of the life I want. Without a lot of the BS I used to tell myself along for the ride, it will likely come my way a whole lot faster.
May you also find the courage to be honest about what you want, where you want to go and the inner strength to make it your reality.
Happy New Year!
December 10, 2012 § 6 Comments
As 2012 draws to a close, many people will be thinking about their New Year’s resolutions.
I’ve already written that I avoid doing so. It’s more important for me to consider a given year in its totality rather than honing in on successes and failures.
Resolutions can have us concentrating on individual goals and milestones and if we don’t meet them, we tend to dwell on the negative. That is why I focus on striving to improve overall, personally and professionally.
To that end, I came across an idea that would help us look back on a year and celebrate the good things. It can take various forms but the version I saw was posted on Facebook by friend Jody Clark-Kettyle. You find a jar and each time a good thing happens, you insert a note recording it.
On Dec. 31, you open it up and reminisce about the awesome things that have happened over the past 12 months. I’ve also seen the idea referred to as a Blessings Jar. Blogmate Wendy has her own spin on it. She has a jar to insert notes to keep track of things she loves about herself when she’s feeling down.
We’ve all had setbacks in our lives in any given year. Some have been unsuccessful pledges to lose a certain amount of weight or stop smoking, exercise regularly or have better eating habits. People have lost jobs or precious people in their lives and these events can certainly place a cloud of gloom over you for months.
The jar suggestion made me wonder how full my jar would be from the past 12 months.
For example, I think back to April and attending the Elton John concert right here in Grande Prairie. The Rocket Man is one of my favourite performers ever. This joy would be added to by attending a John Fogerty gig in Dawson Creek in September. The latter ranks as one of my favourite shows ever – and I’ve been to my share of concerts.
In May, it was Anniversary Number 26. Although it was not the milestone of reaching the quarter century mark like last year, it did mean I’ve been married half my life. The better half!
In June, I attended a great Canadian Public Relations Society conference in Victoria where I connected with some great friends and colleagues and made some terrific new connections. This was followed by a fabulous holiday on Vancouver Island, a place Joyce and I love to explore. It was awesome catching up to family and friends.
In July, I had surgery on my right eye to address cataracts. This eliminated the need for glasses, except for reading. Shortly after, I bought my first “real” pair of sunglasses ever!
In August, my visit to the doctor revealed my best blood sugar results in some time. It’s three years since Doctor Muwonge chided me for less than stellar readings.
At that time he told me, “The first step to wealth is health.”
Also in that month, our son, Peter, returned to live with us while doing construction work for a few months. Although he has a busy social life, it’s a blessing to have him around for time we didn’t think we would have.
This was also the year I returned to volunteering in a big way, joining the boards of the Volunteer Services Bureau and the Council for Lifelong Learning.
On the professional side, we learned in late summer the City of Grande Prairie was the recipient of a Municipal Excellence award for its annual Municipal Government Day, an annual community barbeque and information fair that attracts about 4,000 people.
A significant career event occurred on Nov. 5 when we launched our Citizen Engagement Program, activateGP. This initiative has already had successes, including residents signing up to volunteer for City boards and committees right on the spot at the kickoff event.
These are the major occurrences I thought of off the top of my head. If I wracked my brain, there would be a lot more. I’d be able to include many everyday things that have made my day.
Friend Mindy Bush plans to implement the jar into her life in 2013.
“I think I would do the jar to remind myself of how I feel or view myself on a good day to build up confidence on days where it lacks,” she says.
Mindy is also considering separate jars for feelings and kindness she come across daily as mood boosters on bad days.
Grande Prairie resident Jennifer Upshall began using what she calls a Gratitude Jar two years ago. Here’s her take on it:
“It’s a large old mason jar with the glass lid and old silver ring from my Grandma, something and someone else I have gratitude for. The first thing that went into it was a thank-you card from a woman I’d helped. I know that maybe wasn’t the original intended purpose for it, but it feels good to be thanked for helping someone, and I liked seeing the little note in there. I think some days we all feel insignificant and it’s nice to be reminded that at least once we made even a small difference to someone!
“There aren’t as many sticky notes in there as I’d hoped there would be by now, but even the few that are, remind me that maybe things aren’t so bad. I start each note with ‘I have gratitude for…’ Most of the little sticky notes are about my kids making me laugh, or my husband doing something to help. Sometimes it’s about a hard life lesson. Regardless, when I see the jar with pretty bits of bright-coloured paper, I remember that even though I maybe don’t feel gratitude for something today, I did yesterday and probably will tomorrow.”
What great perspectives from these ladies! I look forward to keeping track of the great things that occur in 2013 and checking back with everyone to see how they fared, too.
December 4, 2012 § 2 Comments
I love my job with the City of Grande Prairie, but rarely touch on it here. That’s mainly because this blog is intended to develop content toward an inspirational/motivational book(s) and part of my work-life balance – exploring my creative side.
This time, I’ll make an exception.
Two amazing experiences this past week underline why I love promoting my community and working to make it a better place to live while on the job and as a volunteer.
First my colleague Chelsea Lewis, our Communications and Research Co-ordinator, and I met with the Grande Prairie Centre for Newcomers.
The agency wanted our input on how it can help immigrants get more involved in the community. What a joyful group to connect with – people whose native lands are as diverse as Lebanon, Bulgaria, Rwanda, Mexico, and our own homeland.
We’ve already been working with this organization as part of our Citizen Engagement Program, activateGP. Earlier this fall, we also had the delightful experience of speaking to an English-as-a-second-language combined class through the Council for Lifelong Learning where we encountered a veritable United Nations of students.
Our meeting last week with the Centre for Newcomers was truly inspiring. While we were there to help them assist their clients, a lot of the richness of the discussion was really around how connecting with the traditions from other countries will add a special flavour to our community.
This will be mutually beneficial in a city represented by at least 100 cultures.
We heard about how having celebrations involving music, food and dancing would resonate with people from other parts of the globe.
My favourite part was when the Centre’s employee from Lebanon spoke up and said, “In my homeland, you don’t need music to get us dancing, you just have to start clapping.”
The next day, it was off to the Grande Prairie Aboriginal Circle of Services. We were using this organization as a focus group as part of our research for the Citizen Engagement Program.
Although I have lived near First Nations reserves almost my entire adult life and have worked with various Aboriginal leaders, I’d never participated in a smudging ceremony. It was a first for Chelsea, too.
Smudging is the use of smoke to cleanse the mind and create a positive, peaceful mindset. Various herbs can be used. In this case, it was sage. I chose to accept the smoke so that I could truly share in the learning and reflection of the moment.
I was honoured to connect with members of the Aboriginal community in this manner. How could you not feel at home when you exchange hugs as part of the welcoming ceremonies.
I had the privilege of sitting next to Darlene Cardinal, who led the group in prayer. I learned there is even a right way to hold hands with the people next to you during this ritual.
It was also interesting participating in some of the other Aboriginal traditions during the session. One notable aspect was how a feather was passed around and held by each speaker in the circle.
This demonstrates respect for the person talking at the time.
During the meeting, we had a lot of great dialogue on how the municipality can benefit with a stronger partnership with the Aboriginal community.
Reflecting on the outcome of both sessions left me with an incredible feeling of excitement.
On one hand, I saw how Grande Prairie has much to gain by embracing the traditions of other countries. On the other, we have much to learn from the descendents of peoples who have occupied this land for thousands of years.
I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to embrace the cultural fabric of the city as part of promoting citizen engagement. Knowing what makes its people tick will help me do a better job of connecting to all people.
Maybe I’ll be an improved dancer to the music of another nation. On second thought, I’m better off sampling different cuisines!