Growing up · healing · Mental Health · therapy

Behind this Door there be Dragons

insectoid_by_jared1481-d349gvsDearest Stephanie. I have long thought that you should have a sign on your door saying: Behind here there be DRAGONS!!

However, though there are dragons, I am learning that they are not a creation of yours but that I brought them in with me – all lumpy and foul-looking with wicked teeth and breath that could kill (not to mention the fire breathing from their mouths.) Bit by bit you are helping me drag them out into the light of day, look at them and say … what? Would that I could simply yell at them with some silly phrase “DRAGON’S DREAD GO BACK TO BED” and watch them blink and sniff and slink away. But, sadly, that is not the way it happens. What actually happens is that I look at the huge, stinky, fire-breathing monstrosities and believe to the depths of my soul that not only are they beautiful but that they are MINE, MINE, MINE and I want to keep them. They are, after all, all I have known.

But slowly, session after session, phone call after phone call, you are helping me to see. At first, all that was there was the faintest possibility … the wavering, shimmering image … of something else. Slowly the biggest and most monstrous of all the dragons morphed into something I could see in all its foulness and yet, was still the hardest to banish, the most tenacious.

Gradually, however, the dragons have become smaller or at least somewhat more manageable. They still pop up in different times and places (kind of like rabbits, you know, plug one hole they find another one). The brain and the emotional self has many hiding places. But at least these dragon/rabbits are becoming a conscious choice of mine rather than the unthinking acceptance of before.

There were times when I felt pushed by you so that it seemed there was no centre to my world anymore. There were many more times when my love for you filled me until all I could do is hold onto it. I love you. I hate you. How hard is that? It is, I am finding out, the hardest thing of all.

I want to be held by you. I want to relax into your strength and let you push those nasty dragons away. But I am learning that there is no way to truly get rid of the beasts except by standing up to them, looking over each one, seeing them truly, warts, foul smell and all, and then, finally, choosing to send them away. Choosing to send them away. My god, five tiny words that describe nothing of the pain, terror, tears and (yes) laughter, that making that choice involves.

I owe a debt to you far greater than the pecuniary details our relationship had to navigate. When all is said and done I owe to you my awake and aware self, a self that allows me to decide and choose for myself rather than for the “others” I was tied to all my life.

*Image credit to:

*some slight resemblance to the language in Sheree Fitch’s awesome picture book “Sleeping Dragons All Around” should be noted. 🙂 It was intentional!

Growing up · healing · healing · Mental Health

No Man is an Island – with thanks to John Donne

_DSC4065I recently had a significant emotional upheaval in my personal life and the most interesting thing about this difficult event is the light it shed on my own emotional growth.

Some years ago my husband and I read the book Wired for Love. In the doing, we recognized habitual patterns in each other/ourselves that helped explain a fair bit about our relationship. My knee-jerk reaction to most stressors (especially any that seem to threaten my own stability) is to distance myself as best I can. Yup. I’m an “island.” Whatever is unsafe or threatening is pushed away because I am safer on my own. Like so many other coping techniques that served to keep me safe in an unsafe and undependable environment growing up, this one had turned into a dysfunctional coping skill as an adult.

Back to what happened last week and my reaction – which was to stay the course. Hang in with the person, walk the walk with them and continue to be a part of their life. I rejected my island-like nature and embraced that person, warts and all because I recognize that they are fundamentally good for me and me for them.

As Donne said “… I am involved in mankind. … never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” I am a part of the world around me – I cannot divorce myself from it without diminishing my own emotional reality.

Growing up · healing · Mental Health · Travel

Outward Bound Women of Courage week September 2004. My testimonial


Outward Bound Women of Courage September 2004

I swore, I struggled, I cried but my fellow trippers refused to let me give up or to give up on me. I was going to get that canoe from one end of the portage to the other on my own. And I did. Staggering onto the beach at the end, my face a mess of tears and my shoulders aching, I was overwhelmed. Not just by what I had done but how it echoed what I had done on that very day six years earlier. One of our leaders – Phyllis – came up to me as I sat by the water, hugged me and said “Happy Birthday mama.” Indeed. My boy’s birthday and that epic portage were on the same day.

What had brought me to that moment in my life was because Outward Bound had gifted me with the opportunity to join in a one-week long Women of Courage course. With me would be 8 other women all of whom were in various stages of recovery and 3 wonderful, giving leaders.

I made it through the week and it became a touchstone for my personal growth. I am in a loving and equal relationship now and have two awesome teen boys. I am thrilled to be in a position to give back to OB as a monthly donor. I love that the money I give will enable some other person to embark on their own healing journey, a journey that is guaranteed to move and touch them – and others in their lives – for the better.

Growing up

Border woes

Your story reminds me of one of my many border experiences. Growing up in my family meant going to the US often because my parents emigrated here from there in the early 60’s, so all our extended family was south of the border.

One day myself (maybe 14), and my two younger sisters Rebecca (12) and Gloria (9) were put on a bus in NB to go to NH. Two hours later the bus driver (or border guard?) put us OFF the bus when we tried to pass across the US/Canada border. Why? Well … for three reasons.
Problem #1: We didn’t look like siblings! Four of the six kids  in my family were adopted, so I was Caucasian, Rebecca was Pakistani and Gloria was African-Canadian. But we were sisters. Yeah. Right.
Problem #2 arose when the guard asked us where we were from.
I said Toronto (we had moved from there to NB fairly recently). Rebecca said Sussex (this was the closest town to our farm) and Gloria said Apohaqui (closest settlement to our farm).
Problem #3. We none of us had been provided with so much as a hint of documentation. It was a kinder, gentler world back then!
Result. With relatively little fuss we were taken off the bus and told to phone our parents to come pick us up. We were not getting to New Hampshire that day.
Growing up · hockey · Music · Parenting

Transferring Children between Parents

I got an e-mail today from my son’s father which read (at the end) “I am going to need a station wagon soon” and I had to laugh and wryly agree. Tony and I have been parenting Alex separately since he was not quite two. We have gone through a variety of types of shared parenting, but have landed on the week-on, week-off as being the best for all of us. What this means, though is that on the changeover day (Friday) there is an ever-increasing amount of stuff that needs to be lugged between each home.

My son plays hockey, so that in itself is a big chunk of real-estate that needs transferring. Then there is school stuff, knapsack, lunch bag and other desideratum associated with grade six. He is a proud owner of an i-pod shuffle, so that has to be remembered and brought and then he also has started taking guitar lessons (can I say he plays the guitar? Hmm, perhaps not quite yet …) so anyway, there is a guitar that needs to be shuffled as well. And, finally, although we have just had a week of OMG it is Spring, it is still not yet the end of March and so the winter and spring gear come as well.

Hence the “I need a station wagon” comment. Isn’t it lucky we don’t have to move the dogs from home to home as well? Yikes.