Thursday, 28 November 2013

A Patch of Blue

Driving home from work on Tues night in the first real snow-fall of the year, I couldn't help but notice how beautiful and simple it was.

This past weekend was a reminder of many things. Including: to enjoy the little things; to notice what matters most in life; to slow down and pay attention. And so I enjoyed the bright, white, innocent beauty of freshly fallen snow at midnight. And allowed myself to smile.

I'm still processing and will likely reflect more on the past weekend and the weeks to come, but wanted to share this brief bit at least today. A family member sent out a message of support about finding “a patch of blue” among the clouds that sometimes darken our lives. Tuesday's snow fall was one for me.

I hope you have found at least one this week too!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Solution-Focused Supposing

"Most people see what is, and never see what can be."
~ Albert Einstein
Suppose that change you wish to make has already been achieved.
How will you know? What would be different/better?
What will others notice?

Two weekends ago I attended a conference for the Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association (SFBTA). During the final discussion panel, the moderator extended some of the questions to all participants and encouraged us to share our answers with someone sitting near-by. Which highlights one of the things I noticed and appreciate about this model and the people who practice it – there is a sense of community surrounding it. A sharing not only of knowledge and research; but perhaps more importantly, of encouragement and support among like-minded colleagues who all have something to gain no matter the number of hours or years of training and experience.

The first question asked of us was:
How/where/when did you meet SFBT?”

I was surprised how many of those stories, my own included, began with a variation of “Actually, it was quite by accident...” Followed by a feeling of inspiration, and a noticed change in thinking and perspective not only in terms of the therapeutic process but of our own lives and attitudes as well.

I quite clearly remember the bubbling excitement in the core of my being as the potential of this perspective first became clear. The frustration in the challenge to disengage from “problem-focused talk” and move towards more positive, affirming, solution-focused talk*. And the light-bulb moment when I realized the switch had happened and I didn't have to work so hard to find the later. My new-found desire to bring a solution-focused perspective to all my conversations and interactions, not just the therapeutic ones.

A later question proposed the following to the larger group:
Suppose today is the beginning of something meaningful and worthwhile and precious.
How will you start to notice that a little bit of this new thing is happening?”

This type of question is quite characteristic of the SF approach*. It assumes change and success are not only possible, but may be close at hand. The answer begs a description of what would be different and, in some cases, what would be better.

My answer to this question while sitting among SF practitioners from around the world, was noticing a lasting twinge of the inspiration and motivation I was currently feeling overflowing inside me from the weekend's workshops and conversations. I would notice myself in the days and weeks to come crossing more things off my To Do list (ahem creating a to do list) and working more efficiently towards my career and personal goals.

So almost two weeks later, where am I now?

Truth: It is so much easier to hold on to the motivation and inspiration when surrounded by like-minded people, sharing encouragement and support, in a space outside of your every day experience. Once back to the daily grind, routine threatens to drown out inspiration's voice.

I have noticed the occasional twinge of the inspiration and items crossed off my To Do list, though it weakens with each passing day. So I write this blog with the hope of adding fuel to that spark again. A reminder to continue asking myself a few more “Suppose...” questions. And maybe even starting to think and act in some ways as if that suppose has already happened!

* The comments above about SFBT are basic descriptions. If you are interested in learning/talking more about this perspective please feel free to ask in the comment section below, or contact me directly!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Remembering my way, every day

...we must first THINK about these things; 
because inevitably, we become what we think and our world is a reflection of us.”

About a week before Remembrance Day I became engaged in a conversation about the Mennonite Central Committee Peace Buttons with someone who finds them offensive and disrespectful to the premise of Remembrance Day. I don't fully understand why people find it to be so; except that I can appreciate arguments that the White Poppy claiming “Peace” at it's green centre may have been a campaign better timed earlier or later in the year.

Yet I feel that the Peace Button still calls us to Remember – much like the original poppy – while affording Mennonites and other conscientious objectors an opportunity to participate in Remembrance Day in a way that they feel more comfortable with; that aligns more closely with their beliefs, their values, their reasons for remembering the sacrifices of the fallen and affected veterans and their families.

Truth: I don't always know exactly what to say to explain my pacifist stance, to defend this Mennonite value and belief that I have held on to while loosening my grip on some others. Except that I don't believe war and violence are the only way; nor even the best way to settle disputes. And I don't believe that war, violence, nor even force will lead us toward peace. I also don't have the solution that will. But I believe that if we as humanity put as much time, money, energy, and faith into discovering peaceful strategies for solving our domestic, national, and international disputes, as we put into non-peaceful strategies, that we just might find it.

Plaque at Canada's Peace Park in Cold Lake, Alberta


Peace and positivity can be powerful forces if we allow them to be; if we feed them with peaceful and positive energy.

Plaque at Canada's Peace Park in Cold Lake, Alberta

However I digress, because I also do not believe that Remembrance Day – nor the days surrounding it – are a time to debate whether war or one of it's alternatives are more effective avenues towards peace. I do not believe that Remembrance day – nor the days surrounding it – are a time to debate whether a red poppy, a white poppy, or a button are more appropriate or offensive ways to show our support and remembrance.

Remembrance Day for me is one day that serves as a reminder of all the sacrifices, mistakes and successes that have occurred because of war; because of violence; in the pursuit of peace. A one-day reminder of something we should be remembering every single day in our pursuit of peace.

I for one am grateful that I have the freedom to choose when to remember, how to remember, and why to remember.

Lest we forget.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

My Best Friend(s) – Part 2

I recently read that geese flying together in their characteristic V-formation can fly 70% farther than if they each flew on their own. 70% - that's hugely significant!

I know a lot of my writings over the past 8-months have been about loneliness, uncertainty, longing for love and confirmation. Perhaps it's because those are the spaces I've been honestly facing periodically throughout this year; and thus finding more inspiration there than in the fun and laughter. Perhaps it's in part because I feel like I've done a lot of work over the years in learning to know and love myself; in searching for and creating my own happiness and meaning; in enjoying time on my own – in learning to be my own best friend, like I wrote about last week – and now want to share that with others. Perhaps it's because there is still more work to be done; because there will always be more work to be done in those spaces and in learning to know and love myself.

But in last week's blog I left out two important lessons that I gained while on the journey to know and love myself. While learning to be my own best friend, I also learned to recognize the value of my relationships. And perhaps more importantly, I learned the need and benefit of allowing others to be my friend; to know and love me.

In that process I suppose it brought me to a place of recognizing that as much as I'm grateful to be my own best friend, I also want love and support in my life from other sources. 
Somewhere along the way I think I learned that it was wrong to go looking for something or someone else to contribute to the love and happiness in my life. So my friendships became short-lived or distant, my jobs and living spaces transient. And while I had a fun, met a lot of wonderful people, and had some pretty amazing experiences... I also continued to sometimes feel somewhat lost and like something was missing.

We are relational beings who typically thrive with close human connection. That will likely mean something different for different people. For me, I want other sources to contribute to the love, confirmation, happiness and sense of meaning in my life. Some I have had all along from my family; some I am building and creating through career aspirations and hobbies; some I am learning to accept through new and old friends; and yes, I even find myself desiring – hoping – for another experience of love in the romantic, intimate sense. I have begun to find and re-discover some of these things. And as a result, among the decreasing moments of loneliness, have had many more moments of laughter, fun, and love (it's finally about those moments)!

I still believe that learning to love yourself and creating your own happiness is important. But I also believe that connecting with others – finding multiple best friends – can be an important contributing factor to that. 
After all, love comes in all different shapes and sizes. And if together we can go 70% farther, well then I want that 70% more love!