Friday, June 5, 2009

Four-leaf clovers, guardian angels, and their ilk

So far my overseas trip has been going extraordinarily well.

When I consider that I left the planning very late and that I shortened the UK portion of my trip by two days in order to squeeze in The Wall prior to my departure, it feels almost miraculous that it has been going as smoothly as it has.

If I am to see everyone I hope to see here, my UK itinerary contains no room for error. I have been incredibly fortunate that everything has lined up in my favour. In fact things have not merely worked out as well as could have been expected. So far they have exceeded my hopes.

My British rellies and friends have been amused by my assertion that I have horseshoes up my ass. But, if you had witnessed how obstacle after obstacle had evaported, I believe you would agree.

Although I had been reluctant to leave Nanaimo at a critical time in the life of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, I am very much enjoying my reunions with family members and friends in the UK. For the first time, I've also seen something of the UK beyond London. I've been to Wales and Devon.

I am enjoying the UK's gorgeous and charming old buildings but, in contrast to my previous visits to Europe, seeing all this history has not left me with a sense of deprivation. I do not feel as if Canada is deficient because it lacks this kind of architecture. I just feel as if Canada is different from Europe. Different. Neither inferior nor superior.

On the train between Wales and Devon, a woman asked me where I came from. I said I lived on Vancouver Island in Canada. She asked me what it was like there. I said I loved it. She said she was psychic, and she could tell that I was very happy. She said it was a burden being psychic. She said that, in light of the amount of unhappiness she detected on any given day, it was a pleasure to meet someone who was as happy as I was.

The woman may or may not have been psychic. I won't bother speculating about that. But, as my niece subsequently said, you didn't need to be psychic to know how I felt when I talked about Vancouver Island.

Monday, June 1, 2009

My Wall

This past weekend I completed a three and a half day workshop called The Wall. The objective of the workshop was to identify my driving needs and life purpose.

For me it was a profound experience. Prior to this, I had undertaken other activities that had been designed to help me understand who I was and what made me tick. I had gone into therapy, done other workshops, hired a life coach, read self-help books, kept a journal, and meditated. Along the way, I had found out magnificent and terrible things about my family of origin and about myself.

During this latest workshop, I peeled away another layer of the onion, and went deeper than I had gone on previous occasions. I realised that, almost my whole life, I had operated from the premise that, if I revealed that I was clever and capable, my father would kill me. It started out as a belief about my father, but later transformed into a belief about all men and, I would go so far as to say, a belief about the world in general.

If previous experience is anything to go by, my mother and my parents' friends would think I was stark raving mad if they heard this assertion. I once shared a much less significant revelation with them, and they reacted very negatively. "How could you say such a thing about your father? He was such a wonderful person."

Yes, I know what an awesome person he was. According to some people's values, he did great things for society. He also loved his family and gave us some happy times. When I was a young kid, he used to have "circus hour" after dinner every night. He would get down on the living room floor and do acrobatic tricks with us kids. Alternatively, he would take us outside, lie down on the lawn, look up at the sky, and point out the constellations to us. We lived on a farm without light pollution, so we had the luxury of a dark sky. He used to take us hiking, camping, boating and fishing. He adored the ocean. Whenever I'm at the seaside or at a lake, I am aware of his presence. I can feel the delight that he would experience in a scene like that.

So, yes, I do know that he was a terrific person and that he loved me. And, yes, I also know that he would have wanted to kill me if I had not dumbed myself down and protected his fragile ego.

I now have a better understanding of the terror that I experienced when I separated from my husband, bought into Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, and moved from Calgary to Nanaimo. It wasn't just the uncertainty of leaving family and friends behind, moving to an unfamiliar place, and getting involved in a somewhat experimental venture.

Yes, to be sure, it was all of that. But it also was the fact that, like Bluebeard's wife, I was unlocking the door to the forbidden room and, if I was caught, I would die.

During my first couple of months in Nanaimo, when I was experiencing both exhilaration and panic, I watched a movie called The Void. It was about Joe Simpson's terrifying mountaineering ordeal in the Peruvian Andes. Simpson's courage and perseverance were a great inspiration to me as I stared into the abyss and broke into a cold sweat.

Tomorrow I will be leaving Nanaimo for eight weeks. Amongst other things, I will be participating in a family reunion in Swaziland to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday. Things have been crazy busy, and this was an insane time at which to take out three and a half days in order to participate in a workshop. Yet, as I was going into it, Kari, one of my fellow Pacific Gardeners who was a graduate of the workshop, said that it would be invaluable for me to do it prior to my meeting with my family. Having come out the other end, I wholeheartedly agree with her. I feel way more grounded and ready to see them.

I also am leaving in the happy knowledge that Pacific Gardens is even more closely aligned with my driving needs and my life purpose than I had dreamed. It's as if someone had taken my driving needs and life purpose and used them as a template to create a model. They then gave that model a name. It's called cohousing.

I am so glad that I scaled the symbolic wall that isolated me from a life affirming community and that I now belong.