Posts tagged ‘overcoming’

November 30, 2013

Book Recommendation – “Finding Jim” by Susan Oakey-Baker

On April 30, 1999, Susan Oakey-Baker lost her mountaineer husband, Jim Haberl, to an avalanche on Mount Ultima Thule, Alaska. Finding Jim is Oakey-Baker’s incredibly candid story of her journey through the grief that followed. Oakey-Baker hides nothing about the intensity of her struggles to make sense of the tragedy and “do well” in the aftermath. Her writing is honest, unapologetic and deeply poignant, the emotions sometimes so raw and present that they seem to well up from within your own body. If you have ever “lost” a loved one (in any sense of the word), this book will speak to aspects of your experience. Oakey-Baker has bravely put herself “out there” in a way most people don’t, and the result is an intensely beautiful testament to both the messy complexity of human feeling, and the resilience within each of us to finally accept and move on.

Cover image of the book "Finding Jim" by Susan Oakey-Baker

“Finding Jim” by Susan Oakey-Baker

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November 23, 2013

It’s the storms that make us stronger

I just finished reading Katherine Palmer Gordon’s new book We are Born with the Songs Inside Us, a collection of stories profiling 16 successful and inspiring First Nations people living in British Columbia. One of the persons featured, First Nations educator Anne Tenning from the Chemainus First Nation, now a resident of Penticton, shares my exact perspective on the cyclical nature of life and the benefits of surmounting hardship. Says Anne:

Yes, life has highs and lows. But sometimes the most valuable teachings come from the lows. You just have to hang on, hunker down and ride out the storm. No matter how tumultuous it may be, the storm inevitably passes and the sun comes out again, and you will be left stronger and wiser for that storm you just weathered.

My opinion — and my experience — exactly.

It can definitely be hard to recognize the potential for sun when you’re stuck in the middle of a long, dark night. But nothing lasts forever, not even the worst storm imaginable. Relief — and light — will come again, and you will be so much stronger for it.

August 2, 2013

Instructions for life (#1): Do the things you love NOW

Do the things you love now, because you never know when the possibility or the ability to do those things will be taken away from you. As improbable or impossible as it may seem to you in this moment, you could very well wake up tomorrow and find yourself unable to write, sing, run, speak, walk, swim, go outside, dance, see, hold your children, or what have you. Do the things you love now, while you have the ability to do them. Don’t waste this time, for it is a time-limited gift, and it will not be available to you forever.

Prioritize the things you love above all else. There is little point in frittering away the time that you do have on lesser activities or pursuits. Do only the things that give you true joy, do them often, and do them whole-heartedly. Do not feel guilty about this. This is your life, after all, and the best way to spend it is in doing the things that make you feel the most happy.

Remember that even if you are forced to give up some crucial part of your life because of circumstances beyond your control, you will survive the loss. You will. There are other parts of yourself, as yet explored, waiting to be shown the light. The old parts of you will live on in fond memory, and the new parts will carry you forward into the future.

There are many chapters in your book of life. Not all chapters will be easy or fun to read, but all chapters will be meaningful. Live each chapter fully, while it is before you, because eventually — perhaps at a moment you least expect or desire — that chapter will close for good, leaving you with an entirely different set of words and sentences from which to compose your path and craft your identity.

June 22, 2013

In the abyss lies the treasure

I like this quote from American mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell about life’s hardships and the gifts they can give us:

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.  Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.

How true.

April 3, 2013

I am not what I once thought was mine

I like this passage from Susannah Conway’s book This I Know: Notes on Unravelling the Heart:

We could all spend a lifetime unravelling the knots of our childhood, but at some point you realize the knots are no longer yours. They belong to your parents, and their parents before them. The legacy is long and complicated, the damage passed on through generations, until one day someone finally stops and says: This story does not belong to me. 

So many of us blame our troubles and our limitations on our childhoods — on how we were raised; on how we were perceived or treated as children; on the messages we received or didn’t receive in our formative years; on unmet expectations, emotional disappointments, missing pieces and unfulfilled hopes.

But do these stories really apply to the people we are today — to the experiences we have had in our adult years? Many of us have grown beyond the bounds of these old narratives, yet we continue to cling to them, to let them drag us backwards in our vulnerable moments.

What if we were to let them all go? To say to ourselves, “This is a story, yes, but it is not my story. It does not speak about the person I am today. I am more than that. I have travelled beyond the reaches of that tale.” Would our associated troubles lessen? Would our perceived limitations fade away?

Writes Conway:

The past is just the soil we grew up in, a blueprint we can redraft if we look at it from another perspective. What if we retell our stories, and in the retelling the new tale becomes the truth?

A truth in which we are not a victim, not small, not forsaken. A truth in which there is space inside us for love, compassion, forgiveness and empathy — for ourselves and for the people in our lives.

What if, indeed.

March 18, 2013

Observed on the street: A snowy reminder to “just be”

A message in the snow from a walk I took recently:

Message written in fresh snow: "Smile, it will be OK."