The Shadow of Shame

Head down, absorbed with your mundane task,
you diligently work with pregnant anticipation.
Hesitantly, I approach,
offering commendation.
Straightening, you stare through me
and turn your back
your silence a concrete wall
between us.

Embarrassed, I retreat
across the frozen landscape
of your inhospitality,
stinging with rejection,
stumbling in my own

Lounging, you revel
in upcoming adventures
Confident and capable
Shining with radiance.

Overshadowed by your beauty
and superior wit
I am silent,
floundering in my incapability,
not wishing to appear the fool.

I catch you searching,
seeking a place to land
and call your name,
hurrying to catch you,
but you ignore me,
intent on finding your own answer.
Feeling inadequate I shrink back
and hope no one has seen.

I never measure up.
Something about me
elicits shunning.
I am nondescript

A young man,
tortured and in trouble
invites me in.
We share a lot in common,
he too knows loss
and condemnation.
He too has made mistakes
and suffered consequences.
He is a willing companion,
and I have found acceptance.


Believe in Yourself

Brightly clad and bristling,
Ego scrambles to organize,
persuade, and manipulate
while Greatness watches calmly,
a knowing smile on her face.

Knowledge trembles with anticipation,
eager, yet hesitant,
confident in her training,
doubting her ability to perform.
Greatness nods encouragingly.

Judgment resists Ego’s wants,
sets up roadblocks, spews criticism.
Ego reeling at the blows,
views herself anew with disgust.
Greatness is nowhere in sight.

Plans thwarted, Ego recoils
back to the source of her dreams.
Greatness waits at the center
Graciously open to listening.
Embarrassed and disheveled, Ego sits.

“I’ve been a fool!” she blurts,
“I wanted so much, thought I could do it all,
but I was wrong. So wrong!”
Greatness does not comply with this ranting,
Offering only silent reassurance.

Ego calms herself, considering her companion.
“You must have struggled in your time,” she observes.
“Known heartache and disapproval.”
“Oh yes!” Greatness nods,
a humourous twinkle in her eye.

“But you never gave up?”
“No. I did not,” comes the kind reply.
“I do look a bit foolish,” Ego persists
“Just overzealous, perhaps.”
Ego pauses to reflect.

“Knowledge stumbled with self-doubt,
yet you knew that she’d succeed,
is that why you supported her?”
Greatness smiles generously,
her nod implying more.

So focused on perfection,
Ego now sees the fault.
Potential, she realizes
doesn’t not come ready-polished
but with willingness to try.

“I need to make some changes,”
she confesses to Greatness and herself.
“To tone down my outer professes,
and tune up my inner strengths.”
“Believe in yourself,” comes the response.


Day 238 One Woman’s Quest

I started this blog in 2011 as a gift to myself.  I had just undergone a lumpectomy to remove abnormal cells from my right breast, and was awaiting the results.  Because of the Christmas holiday, I would not hear for five weeks.  Those were five long weeks, and a whole gamut of thoughts and emotions.

Since that time, my husband has been diagnosed with and received treatment for Stage III, Prostrate cancer, and while I escaped the ‘C’ word, I am now confined to my home with ME/CFS.

But life has not been just struggle.  At the same time as I awaited word, I found out that my middle daughter was pregnant with our second grandchild – a joy that never ends!

Nor were these the first challenges that I had faced in my life, just more in a long line, actually.

So why a quest?  What is that a woman of mature age quests for?

Let me try to answer.

I seek a sense of autonomy in my life – to be able to feel that my decisions/ needs/ wants are not overshadowed by the dictates of another, or a past that is always looming.

I want to know what it means to feel truly empowered.  To know, for once and for all, that I have laid the victim to rest and instead, embraced my authentic self.

I want to live life from a place of inner peace; a trust that no matter what life throws at me, I can continue, because I believe in myself.  And in that peace, I want to know what it feels like to live without guilt, need for permission, or a sense of unworthiness.  I want to be able to forgive (myself and others) in order to be free.

I want to be able to breath freely and stand firmly upon this sacred Earth and make a difference.  To engage with life.  To seek understanding and share passion with all people – no exclusions.

I want to live a life that at the end of my time I will want to celebrate, so that my dying words will be:  I did it!

I am not there yet.  As Robert Frost said, I have “miles to go before I sleep”, and so I quest on.

At least now you know what I am looking for, and if at some point you and I should meet in these pages, maybe you could share a little of your wisdom, and I might come closer to finding my own truth.



aging · culture · life · Love · media · nonfiction · women's issues

Divine Self

I am letting my hair go grey.

“It will age you ten years!” My daughters and hairdresser protest.

“No, it won’t,” I smile.  “I will still be the same age.”

I am doing it to make a statement.

When my seventeen year relationship with my children’s father ended abruptly, I lost forty pounds in two months. Previously a dowdy mother of three, men would stop mid stride to open doors for me.   Heads turned and smiles of appreciation showered me.  I was no longer invisible.  I felt curiously vibrant in the midst of personal darkness.  I also felt like a fraud.

Growing up, I was the third youngest sister in a house with only two mirrors.  My mother would insist that I brush my hair, but it was impossible to find an opportunity to view my efforts, so I usually did a haphazard job.

“Who is ever going to love you?”  my mother would shake her head.

I was confused.  Was love only accessible to those with well preened looks?  No wonder my sisters spent so much time looking at themselves.

Vanity, I decided, was not going to be my precursor to love.  I wanted someone who would love me for what was on the inside.  So I read more, and wrote, and designed, and played, focusing on developing a personality that included empathy, compassion, a sense of humour, and intelligence.

“No man wants to marry a woman who is smarter than him,”   my mother warned.

Not sure I believed her, I started to pay attention.  Wives of important men, I noted, were attractive, and for the most part silent.  Intelligence was associated with the bra-burning feminists, and everybody knew they were radicals and bitches…..and single.

So I dumbed myself down, but continued to be nice, and outgoing, and fun.  I did, after all, desire to be loved too.

But I couldn’t hide my natural passion, and aggressive ambition, and impatience with ignorance, forever, and I came to see myself as a dark horse, with unbridled energy and a spirit that needed to be tamed, and I chose a man who would do that for me: put me in a stable and take me out in little jaunts and break me. And it worked.

Until he set me free, and the dark horse in me reawakened, and I vowed never to let her be extinguished again – love or no love.

But I found myself suddenly being that physically alluring woman, and I realized a new sense of power: sexual power, and for a time, I coveted it.  Men noticed me, flirted with me, went out of their way to do things for me, which was soon became tiresome.  None of them knew me.  There was nothing authentic about their actions; it was self-serving:  a primal reaction.  By now, I knew enough from my sisters’ failed affairs that physical attraction does not equate with long-term commitment and love.  It is only a shallow beginning.

Yet, advertisers spend billions of dollars of money to convince us otherwise.  The message is that we can never be too thin, too fit, too young.  Mastering our physical perfection is the key to true happiness, they imply.

Something inside me screams Stop the madness!  Stop it people!  This has all gotten so out of control!

What should matter, in the greater scheme of things, is the person that we are on the inside.  Our achievements, accomplishments, willingness to help others, and the gifts that we bring to this community that is humanity are what really count.  Think about it.

In my times of despair, it was not the fact that someone looked ten years younger that soothed me, it was their willingness to listen patiently, and hold my hand.

When I was wounded and needed surgery, it was not some size zero nurse with the latest do that helped me through, it was the efficiency and expertise of my caregiver.

I have grey hair.  It is part of being fifty-five.  I have wrinkles and a soft belly that protrudes.  They do not make me less of a person, nor do they diminish my capacity to problem-solve, or participate as a successful citizen of life.

So I am making a statement.  To all young women out there who think that they are somehow less than they should be, deficient.  You are perfect the way you are.  Embrace it.

That is divine.

I think it was St. Augustine who said that to reject self is to reject God.


Day 150 “Daily Loss”

I was just twenty-two when I met my children’s father.  With one failed marriage behind me, I was grateful for this man that considered me worthy of sharing a house and raising his family,  so when he took me home for the first time, as a new wife and mother, I wanted to make a good impression.

Stewart’s mother had passed away the year before we met, and his father had been to visit prior to us making our vows, but his siblings were a mystery.  We arrived unannounced, having flown eight hours with our four-month-old daughter.  His father greeted us with open arms, thrilled that we made the trip.  We had barely settled in when his first sister and husband arrived.  I waited, out of sight, giving Stewart a chance to say hello.

Squeals of delight accompanied the greetings, and I gathered that the couple had just returned from a vacation in a sunny locale.  In response to a question about their trip, Stewart’s sister responded:  “It was lovely, except for those bloody northerners.”

I felt my face begin to flush.  My father’s family came from the north of England.  I had no time to compose myself before they were ushered into the kitchen to make my acquaintance.  Thrusting out my hand, I declared:  “Hi, I’m your new sister-in-law – one of those bloody northerners.”  It was not a good start.

The day progressed in much the same way.  When my husband’s older brother arrived, I noticed that his loafers were missing one of their tassels.  Trying to inject some humour into an uncomfortably stuffy situation, I blurted:  “Nice tassel.”  All eyes were immediately upon me. 

“Pardon me?” the tone was incredulous.

“You are missing a tassel.  I was just trying to be funny.”

My new brother-in-law looked at me with a glint in his eye.  “Do you know what the word ‘tassel’ means to us?” 

I didn’t know, but I was certain it wasn’t good.

“It means penis”  his wife chirped in.  “You’ve just admired his personals.”

If I hadn’t felt so close to tears, I might have found it funny.

Stewart’s youngest sister just came right out and said what she was thinking.  “We don’t honestly know what to think of you – we never thought Stewart would marry, and now here you are and with a baby as well.”

After a night’s sleep, I was ready to try anew.  Having settled the baby, I busied myself in the kitchen, making a hearty breakfast for the others.   The smell of bacon and sausages lured them in with murmurs of appreciation.  Freshly brewed tea was sipped in anticipation of the feast to follow.   I heaped the food onto plates, added fresh toast, and watched as my new family happily consumed my offerings.  Brushing aside yesterday’s disappointment, I felt renewed hope.  When the food was all gone, and everyone was sated, Stewart’s youngest sister offered to clean up.  I went to retrieve the now waking baby.

“You’ve ruined a perfectly good pan,’  my sister-in-law confronted me when I returned.  “What kind of an idiot are you that you would use a steel spatula on a non-stick pan?”

I didn’t know, was what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t risk responding – the tears were threatening.  I had never used a non-stick pan before.  At home, we had cast iron.  “Sorry”  was all I could blurt out.

“I should think so!”

I knew in that moment that I would never be good enough for this family, and I felt and all the guilt and shame that had shadowed me all my life, as the daughter of dysfunctional parents.

* * *

“You must look back and forgive that young woman,”  my therapist advises.  “See it from a new perspective.”

Let go of some of your clutter, Derek Lin writes in today’s reflection.  Let go of something everyday. 

The clutter I need to clear out is emotional and psychological.  Every time I cook eggs, I am reminded of that day and how I was such a disappointment to that family.  We are divorced now, and they are no longer a part of my life, but the guilt and shame obviously live on.

Today, I will let go of the guilt that serves no purpose.  I will recognize that making mistakes does not make me a bad person, and let go of the shame. 

Today, I will let go of those emotions that stop me from enjoying life, and make room for self-acceptance instead.


abuse · creativity · Family · life · nonfiction · recovery

Criticism Be Gone!

I was forty before I could finally ask my mother about her constant criticism of me growing up.   We were alone together, in the car, driving out of town.  I had her undivided attention.

th-4“Help me to understand, something,” I prefaced the conversation.  “When I was young, you always told me no one would ever love me.  What was that about?”

“I didn’t say it to be mean,”  she explained and I believed her.  My mother was not typically a malicious person.  “It’s just that you were so different from your sisters, and I was afraid for you.  I thought I was helping you by preparing you for the inevitable.”

“But why, Mom?  What was it about me that you thought was unloveable?”

“You were just so smart, and independent minded……”  she trailed off.  “I guess I thought that men don’t like smart women.”

“Do you understand that I heard what you said to mean that I was impossible to love?”

“Oh my God, that is not what I intended at all!  Of course you are loveable.  You are compassionate and kind, and you deserve to be loved.  I thought I was preparing you, that’s all.  You were just so different,  and I thought I had to protect you.  I never meant for you to think you weren’t loveable.”

She paused in reflection.

“When the school came to us and told us they had done some testing and wanted to send you to a special school for the gifted, I was scared.  I didn’t know how to handle it.  Your father was all for it, but all I could think about was how would you fit in, and who would ever love you.  I guess I thought I was helping.  You were an enigma to me.”

Mother’s criticism of me was born out of fear and ignorance;  my acceptance of her harsh words was a reflection of my need for her approval. 

I understood.  Within the context of my mother’s upbringing and beliefs, I did not fit the mold.  She was merely expressing fear related to her own limitations.  Unfortunately, for the first forty years of my life, I lived out my mother’s legacy, choosing partners who were incapable of loving me.

My mother was not the only one to be critical of my intellectual abilities.  “Everyone hated you,”  a drunken cousin once confessed to me, then added, “but I don’t know why – you’re so nice.”  Classmates called me Browner, implying that I only got good grades because I ‘kissed up’ to the teachers.   Even close friends have commented that I’m not really that smart.

By listening to the criticism, I began to devalue myself.  Driven by a need to be accepted, I started to act dumb.  Better to deny self than to be criticized, right?


Embracing criticism and taking it to heart is ultimately a sin against the self.  We are each uniquely created, and destined, and it is only through accepting our differences, and nurturing them, that we can truly be fulfilled.

th-3Rejecting criticism is the first step to living authentically, and the only hope for living purposefully and to full potential.

Armed with this new understanding, I will stop apologizing for who I am.  I will let go of the need for praise from others, and recognize that their criticism is more about their process than mine, and let it be.  I will celebrate who I am by committing to my own process, and focusing on my goals and gifts.

I will finally start living.