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.

healing · Mental Health · Parenting

My baby, my son, my young man


Alex was an infant when he was born. A tautology? Yes. But what many didn’t see is that I (his mother) was also an infant at his birth … no more ready to be a mother than he was to be a baby. So, together, we grew. Most of the time he grew faster. He showed me his internal self,  in music first, then with ASL, and finally in words. Once the words started it seemed they would never stop. They poured out of his person, bubbled along his perambulations and lit up the crannies and corners of his emotional world.

I stumbled along behind. Falling, often, catching him almost never yet somehow always persevering. I had lots and lots of help. A therapist, many and various mental health professionals, an (invaluable) parenting support worker, and (gradually) the discipline and friendship I found in my martial arts. Throughout I was (almost) always following Alex’s forays, struggling to catch up.

And now I find myself looking up at him. He towers over me, stomping around in his size 11 shoes. He is just as verbose as he always was, and his intelligence is used mostly to figure out how to muddle through a school system that neither inspires nor engages him. Other people see more of him than I, his world is larger than our shared reality. As it should be.

I, too, have changed. I am more whole than I was, more present, more conscious. As I begin to explore the other side of 50 I find myself saying hullo to my own emotional landscape. I am happy, sometimes, sad, sometimes, and all that falls in-between. I am a mother, a step-mother, and a wife. But enough of me. The world waits for Alex, he is champing to get out there and be himself. Meanwhile, my role has changed. I stand back further, ready to catch him if he stumbles, and I watch him unfold, physically, mentally, emotionally. He is and always will be, irrepressible, verbal, gentle. My baby boy, my son, my young man, of whom I am very proud.


healing · healing · Mental Health

Words to live by

There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken,

The shattered out of which blooms the unshatterable.

There is a sorrow beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space too vast for words through which
we pass with each loss, out of whose darkness we are
sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound whose serrated edges
cut the heart as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole, while learning to sing.

(Author unknown.)

I love this poem. My heart-mother shared it with me recently. She, upon whose compassion I shattered my old self, agonizingly, and then slowly rebuilt my soul, my life, my me.

She saved me, I grew her in her gift, together we are larger than we were before we met.