My ‘C’ Words

I love BSI sessions [] with Sheila Winter Wallace. I go with something lurking in the back of my mind and playing out in my body and, within a few hours, I’m clear about what was bugging me.  I’ve worked through and metabolized it.

Such was the case at my last session. I’ve suffered with migraine headaches for much of my adult life.  When I was completing my teaching training year, the worst migraine I had lasted for over a month.  It was bad enough that I thought that I’d have to withdraw from the programme.  And I got through it and completed the year.

What I know now is that migraines are, for me, all about performance. It’s when I’ve felt that I’ve had to put up with something and not say anything about what was bothering me, when I’ve been told, “Just do it and quit griping!”, when I’ve been told that there’s nothing wrong so what’s my problem – like I’ve been the cause of my discomfort, when I’ve questioned my right to honour what I was feeling, when I’ve felt that I should just go with it all and not make any waves – that’s when the migraine has developed.

Lately, they started to come back first as ocular migraines which severely affected my vision. Now there’s a metaphor if there ever was one – my clarity of vision for mySelf was compromised.  And then they developed to the kind of headaches I used to get – the kind that not only affected my vision but also my digestion.  It’s like my whole body has been saying to me, “Pay attention!  I’m telling you something!”

And I have paid attention and in doing that, come to know the C words in my life: care, curiosity, clarity, capacity, contribution, and courage.

I’ve always cared about the people around me. I’ve always wanted everyone else to be happy and comfortable.  I’ve always felt that it was my job to be their champion: to stand up for them against bullies and petty martinets and anyone else who seemed to believe that it was their right to make everyone else feel small and less than.  I’d ride my metaphoric horse to the rescue of everyone else.  What I forgot to do was to do that for myself first.  I’ve heard voices from my past telling me that, in caring for myself first, I was being selfish.  Selfish was a dirty word to me.   And in not caring for myself first, I ended up wondering what was wrong with me.  Why did no one stand up for me or intercede for me like I was doing for them? And in the end, what I’ve felt was despair and rage.

What I know is that being the champion for others is part of me and who I know mySelf to be. What I know is that I need to care for and about myself first.  I know that it is vital that I always listen to mySelf first.  I need to pay attention to mySelf first.  Only then can I take a stand or be a support for others.

One of the things I enjoy about me is my curiosity. I wasn’t the kind of kid who picked up bugs and examined them or would put anything I picked up in my mouth to see what it tasted like.  That wasn’t me.  I was the kid who read a wide variety of things, who listened intently to conversations and lessons, who would try a lot of things, who would look at the sky and marvel at the myriad shades of blue and listen to the wind and the rain.  I am the person who wants to know how things work just to understand the miracle that living is.  Yet, for all that I have celebrated my wanting to know, I’ve also labeled myself a dilettante because I don’t always follow through on any one thing until I’ve exhausted the information available to me.  I’ve decried what I’ve held as my lack of follow through.  I’ve heard my mother’s voice telling me that I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none.

What I know is that my curiosity and sense of wonder are an innate part of me. What I know is that I’ve explored things to the degree I’ve needed to satisfy my curiosity.  What I know is that I’ve loved being struck by the miracle of things – that’s what’s energized me.  And I know that where I feel that sense of wonder in my body suffuses every cell and feels so much greater than the confines of my body.  My curiosity does not reside in my intellect.  It lives in my whole self.

So many times in my life I’ve felt overwhelmed. There have been too many options or possibilities.  And there have been too many obligations – things I felt I needed to complete first before I could choose to do what I wanted to do.  It’s felt like such clutter and noise to me. And, when I’ve felt overwhelmed, I’ve often distracted myself usually by shutting down and choosing to ignore everything – including what I really wanted to do for mySelf.  It’s often been difficult to make decisions and to choose.  Clarity has not been easy for me.

What I know is that it’s when I’ve had options to choose from which mapped to someone else’s agenda and not my own, things have been clouded for me. And when I’ve chosen for mySelf and listened, really paid attention to what my gut or instinct or heart of hearts was telling me, then I’ve felt such a sense of clarity and vision.  The path ahead has simply presented to me with ease and direction.  That’s what making the decision to sell my last home and move felt like – easy and quick and without fear or question.  What I know is that I need always to choose clarity for mySelf first.  And, in doing that, my world will unfold as I intend to create it.

I have the ability to work on several things at the same time: to set goals for completion of tasks, organize my time, and to finish things by set time lines. In fact, I work best when I have several things on the go:  that way I never get bored and am always energized by what I’m working on.  I know that I like the variety this affords me.  And it’s also been a trap.  Because others have known that I can work on many things at the same time and get’er done, they’ve looked to me to take charge or to just do it.  It’s felt like they’ve foisted their own work on to me and then expected to accept any praise for the work which has been done.  And I haven’t felt that I was able to disabuse anyone by making it clear just who had done the work.  Tooting my own horn was frowned upon when I grew up.

As well, I know that I have said ‘yes’ when asked in the past to be involved, sign on for, work on committees – you name it. Why?  Because I believed that the more people asked me to help them, the more they valued me and my work and the more essential I was.  I have been ambushed by my capacity to do, complete, manage.

I really enjoy my ability to multi-task. I don’t get bored.  I learn new things.  I create and write and educate. What I have been learning is to say ‘No’ to others rather than ‘Yes’ immediately.  What I’ve been learning is to say ‘Yes’ to mySelf first and choose to be involved only in those things which really interest me and which light up my day.  And I know that it’s easier each day to listen to mySelf and choose for mySelf first.  And, when I do, it’s simple to let things go without any sense of question.  Then I use my capacity to accomplish a great deal for my own interests first.  Then I use my capacity to create the world in which I choose to live.

There was a time in my life when I worried that, when I’d die, no one would have even known that I had been here. I worried that I would not have made a great enough contribution to the fabric of the world to have made a difference.  And so, I would do more and generate more stuff and always look to others for their approbation.  Somehow I believed that if I didn’t get a stamp of approval from someone else, then what I had done meant nothing.

I know that a drive to make a contribution to my world and, by extension, the world of others is bred in my bones. I am an educator and not only because I love learning.  It’s just part of who I am whether it’s working in a classroom, tutoring, volunteering, coaching, teaching music privately, being a choir director, sharing what I know as a gymnastics judge.  I make a contribution to the lives of everyone I work with, talk with, or advise.  I couldn’t stop making a contribution if I tried.  I know that my knowledge and learning are to be shared.  What I know now, and keep reminding myself, is that it doesn’t matter what others say or think about what I do.  What matters is that I continue to honour the creator and contributor that I was born to be.

Throughout much of my life, I’ve never felt that I was very courageous. I’ve done whatever I’ve felt I needed to do in order to avoid arguments.  For all that I can yell with the best of them, raised voices make me cringe.  In so many ways, I’ve backed down from standing up for what I know has been right for me.  I’ve let others’ voices and wants take precedence over my own.  And I know that I’ve only been able to do that for so long and then I’ve reached a threshold where I can’t back down anymore.  Then, my rage has spewed forth to such a degree that others have chosen not to engage with me.  And, since the final straw has usually been something which, to their minds, is minor, I’ve been held as unpredictable and unstable.  And I’ve believed that this view held by others has really been the truth of who I am.

What I know is that I have the courage to stand up for what I know to be right even when it’s not convenient for me to do that. I have the courage to speak up when I feel that it’s necessary.  I’ve been able to stand up for myself and say, à la Peter Finch in Network, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” What I also know is that, often, I’ve had to plan what I wanted to say and practice it so that I would not get caught up in any emotional reaction.  And, after the fact, I’ve sometimes dissolved in a puddle of tears.

And then I remember when I took a stand about what I was willing to accept when I was a church choir director. I made the right decision for mySelf.  I followed my own agenda and listened to mySelf first and I resigned.  And I remember how I felt when I was driving home after my last Sunday at the church.  The total sense of release and freedom and power was greater than anything I could have imagined.  Being courageous might seem daunting and in being courageous I’ve been true to mySelf.  It’s not always effortless and I remind mySelf that having courage really is about expressing my truth in every breath.

In the past, it’s not been simple for me to put mySelf first in my life. And each time that I do, it’s easy. And I relish how I feel: intense, immense, and unstoppable.  What a great way to live my life.


About Authentic Vibrations

My life is about learning and personal growth. I was an educator in the public secondary system for over 33 years. I now work with women, individually and in small groups, using words and music, art and language to help them explore their individaul sense of self in ways with are authentically meaningful for each of them. I also facilitate discussions with educators at all stages of their involvement in the teaching profession to help each of us explore the meaning, value and potential of learning and teaching. It is my belief that, in working individually and in collective, we have the power to transform and evolve. In the power of the collectives which we create together is the power to create culture. As a musician, I believe that the arts have the power to change lives. Certification: CODE Model™ Coach WEL-Systems® Institute Affiliate Education: Ed. D (c) (Applied Psychology – Focus on Teaching) University of Toronto M. Ed (Curriculum Development and Design) Queen’s University (1992) B. Ed (Music, English, Elementary Education) University of Toronto (1976) Mus. Bac. (Music Education) University of Toronto (1975) RCM Grade 4 Harmony, Grade 4 History, Grade 9 Voice, Grade 10 Piano Awards: Life Membership, Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (2009)
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One Response to My ‘C’ Words

  1. Pingback: My ‘C’ Words – Engage WEL-Systems

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