Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

The not-doing

I feel good today.

In fact, I’ve felt good for five days. Five whole days. Monday to Friday. A week’s worth of good.

I’ve been cringing, waiting every day for this freakish feeling to end. Hasn’t yet. Might not.

I don’t feel high, that manic-panic feeling of everything being too bright, too sharp, too fast.

I feel…


I haven’t felt anything near the definition of that term for longer than I care to consider, so perhaps you understand my hesitation in stating it.

I feel a regular amount of tired, the amount anyone with young children and a career and a house and a child’s 5th birthday to plan might feel. (Normal.)

I find myself amused by the little things in life, several times a day – at least as often as I am frustrated by them. (Normal.)

When I swear under my breath (as I am wont to do, rather frequently), that’s it. I’m done. I was mad, I swore, now I feel better. When the swearing was directed at someone, I barely even feel guilty for swearing at them. And then I swear at my guilt, tell it to go the bleep away, and I feel better again. (Normal.)

The gorgeous spring weather helps. It helps a lot. But, I’ve been through other gorgeous springs – and at times, it hasn’t helped. There are times when no amount of beauty gets to cut through the gray darkness. Those are the times when I see the beauty, I know it’s there, and I know that I should care deeply about it – but the most I can summon is a vague irritation with myself for not caring. It is the strangest kind of disassociation you can imagine.

I think what is helping more is that I am (slowly) learning not to exhaust myself. I am starting to understand that the most important thing I can do right now is to do all the things that I need to do in order to become as physically and mentally healthy as possible – and when I don’t understand it, I do them anyway. I’ve already learned how to prioritize exercise, healthy eating, and healthy sleeping, and I’ve made each into a (more or less) solid habit. What I’m learning now is to do, and not do, all the other stuff. The stuff that makes me feel emotionally good. Painting. Sewing. Reading. Walking. Having a latte. Doing jigsaw puzzles. Taking a lunch break. Writing. Making jewellery. Napping. Some of these are harder to do than others. Most of these are harder to stop than they are to start. Hardest of all is telling myself that it’s OK to not do any of them, and instead, just sit in the sunshine, or just watch TV, or just go to bed. It’s OK to read a book instead of running errands. It is OK – it really is OK – to just do nothing. In doing so, I am not doing nothing. I am investing in myself. I am not exhausting myself.

To do this, I’ve decided to approach it the same way I approached the physical health tasks. The only way to create habits is to just plain create them. So, I decided to commit to doing one creative thing a day. It could be two minutes worth of poetry, or fifteen minutes of clarinet practice, or a nice long session of crafting with the kids. The point is not the creative result, but the act itself. This has helped me with the guilt, and occasional panic, of the not-doing – because I know that I’ll do something creative again tomorrow.

As I get ready for a weekend of birthday parties, placing a rather enormous stuffed penguin in a special spot for a very excited birthday boy to find in the morning, I savour this feeling. Creaky, gritty-eyed, somewhat frazzled, with a bit of zen thrown in, and smiling.




Sitting alone outside in the darkening twilight,
the evening warmer than my tea,
the glow of my son’s nightlight makes his window a painting.

Lesson from a peaceful warrior

I spoke with a man this morning who had survived the Rwandan genocide.

I was meeting with him to help me resolve some conflict I’ve been having with an annoying colleague at work. I knew I wasn’t the problem, but I also knew that I wanted to make the situation better than what it was, and that perhaps I could be part of the solution. So I asked for some conflict coaching.

I got so much more.

This man woke up one day in Ethiopia in 1994 and learned that his entire extended family had just been wiped out. They were part of the one million people killed in 84 days.

He quit his job.

And somehow, he doesn’t quite remember how, he ate and slept and breathed for the next six months.

And then, he received the news that he and his children were accepted to immigrate to Canada.
He came here.
He wandered the streets.
He came across a school teaching theology, and he joined, and he argued about God for years until he earned a degree.
A few years later, still wandering through his life, wondering why he was still living it when everyone else he’d grown up with wasn’t, he came across a school teaching conflict resolution. And he joined that, arguing about arguing, until he earned another degree.
Now, he works for the Canadian federal government, and contributes to world peace every day.
By meeting with people like me.

This man told me that speaking with me this morning has contributed to his healing.
That having me listen to him, about an unimaginable horror, and having him listen to me about an infinitesimally small problem, was the same thing.
That his pain, in the moment that he feels it, and my pain, in the moment that I feel it, is the same. The cause, the outcome, the import is different. But the pain is the same.
And so is the solution.
It is the acknowledgement of that pain that heals it.

This is how we make peace.
This is how we cause peace to be.
We call it into the world.
We create it.
We insist on it.
Every day.
In the smallest of ways.

This is a man who spent two decades working for the United Nations.
Who chose to spend the rest of his life practicing conflict resolution instead.
It is not such a small thing, to look someone in the eye and say you are sorry for their pain.
It is not such a small thing, to listen.
It is rather a big thing, to become aware of other people’s sore spots, and of your own, and to choose to be gentle with both.
This is a man who decided to devote his life to those small things that are not so small.
In doing so, he learned to stand tall.

This is how we make peace:
We say that it is wrong not to have it.

We try to be true to ourselves, to our natural goodness.
And we do not stay silent in the face of unnatural not-goodness. Evil, meanness, indifference, apathy, ignorance.

We do not stay silent.
We do not stop searching, and wondering, and questioning, and wandering.
We keep breathing.
We learn to stand tall.
For, we have peace to wage tomorrow.