(Post taken from my Instagram account @taishka_lefler)
Our society glorifies youth & the young. Firm bodies, supple skin. Worship bodies, not minds. Fawn over skin, not knowledge, wisdom & highly tuned skills.
We’re supposed to believe that youth is the end all & be all.
Youth isn’t the end of the story, youth is the beginning of the story.
As I get older I enjoy the perks that come with age – even though it’s age unseen (I look young for 43). Without living this long I couldn’t have the life experiences that I’ve had.
I couldn’t grow the way I have.
I couldn’t learn the knowledge & acquire the wisdom that I have.
I couldn’t have the people skills, the diplomacy, the life & job skills that I have.
It took 43 years for me to develop into who I currently am. I’m so much more than I was in my 20’s & 30’s. And I’ll be so much more in my 50’s & 60’s.
I have stretch marks from carrying a child & there are businesses that will help me fix that.
I CREATED & GREW A LIFE and I’m supposed to feel bad that I don’t have my pre-life-creating body? To be self-conscious of the evidence?
Our best & brightest scientists can’t even do that!
Without women having babies humanity will die off. Yet THE VERY THING KEEPING OUR SPECIES ALIVE is supposed to be something to be ashamed of, to be fixed, to be corrected.
That, ladies & gentlemen, is the irrational thinking that I’m writing this post about. What we idolize & what we scorn is out of whack.
(This post is from my Instagram account @taishka_lefler)
We seem to always be comparing ourselves to someone. We women compare ourselves to other women. Men compare themselves to other men.
But it’s truly comparing apples to oranges. These comparisons are shallow. Purely on the surface. We can never truly compare one person against another.
There’s a Carl Sagan joke: if you want to make an apple pie from scratch, first you have to create the universe.
Someone can only be compared to me if they have lived my life. Every second of it. But no one has. Not one out of 7.5 billion people has lived a life exactly like mine.
Looks are a culmination of DNA from 2 sources. But those 2 sources are a culmination of DNA from thousands of ancestors. What is the point in comparing looks unless we’re willing to compare ancestors? Just as skin colour is a direct correlation to sun exposure our ancestors experienced, features are a direct correlation to the elements.
We compare strength knowing nothing of the tools provided, or lacking, in that person’s upbringing or in their life.
We judge financial wealth, assuming others care about money the same way that we do.
We judge the looks of someone’s partner, assuming that person looks for the same things we do, knowing nothing of the character, sense of humour or compassion of that partner that drew the person in in the first place.
We compare clothes, accessories, cars…
Brand name clothes are still just clothes. A Gucci handbag is still just a handbag. A Lamborghini is still just a car. And money is merely a tool, only one of many that can usually get the job done.
You are not your things & neither am I. We are all so much more.
We bring so much to the table. We shouldn’t short change ourselves. We shouldn’t make baseless comparisons.
We can really only compare ourselves to… ourselves.
When we think of love this is what we think of, this picture above. In English speaking culture the word “love” is first applied to romantic love, then secondly applied to platonic love. But mostly we delegate love as meaning romance.
This limited thinking creates many barriers. We go through life hesitant to express the platonic love we have for people because it’s just not done. As I get older I notice more and more how old customs and ways of doing things are damaging society and holding humanity back.
We see barriers everywhere that do not exist. We limit friendship to people we already know. We’re slow to let new people in once we have a circle of friends. And we’ll only work on building that circle of friends while we feel we still need friends. Then once we’re content with our circle we just stop. We just stop. I’ve seen this many times in my years of attending college and university.
A circle can look a bit like a round fence. Keeping people in and keeping others out. And we may have various circles due to our jobs, groups we belong to and relationships we’re in. And each person in our individual circles has their own set of circles, circles we’re not allowed into unless invited. So we can have an intricate pattern of circles, our own and ones we’ve been invited into. Yet each circle has its fence, keeping some people in and everyone else out.
Love, platonic love, is present in these circles but withheld from anyone not in these circles. Being in a circle is like being a member of a private club. Being a member is great! Being invited to events, having access to this whole network of people and their contacts, and basking in the friendship and platonic love that comes with membership. But all of this is only available to members.
We are willing to love people in our various circles but not those outside of our circles. This seems to defy logic. How does someone you know automatically become deserving of love while a stranger, merely for the sake of being a stranger, become undeserving of our love?
We decide they must earn our love by doing something to become our friend; likely by doing something nice for us. Possibly repeatedly. So to do something for them, to love them, they must first do something for us.
This circle is a fence that keeps love in but also keeps love out.
Love has absolutely no limit. We will never run out of love. Yet we get stingy with our love. We treat it like a precious commodity. Even though we expect others to be free and easy with their love towards us.
Love cannot be fenced in. It cannot be withheld from people, merely because we do not yet know them. It cannot be treated as a reward for positive behaviour. It cannot be stifled. If love is not given room to grow it will wither and die.
After oxygen, water, food and shelter love is the next absolute necessity for survival. We use love to handle all of life’s hurdles. We use love to build confidence to do what we have to do in life and to make the decisions we have to make. We use love to rebuild our lives after we’ve suffered tragedies. We use love to empathize with others who are going through tragedy, to take action to help end that tragedy.
And we use love to say a few kinds words to someone that, unbeknownst to us, kept them from going home and committing suicide as they had planned.
As a fetus, before we have a brain we have a heart.
Love surpasses geography and time. Love is magical and everlasting. And there has yet to be a weapon designed that can conquer it.
Sometimes the easiest way to handle things is to turn our emotions off, so that we’re only dealing with the situation at hand. I treated my impending homelessness like an event. It was going to happen anyway, there was nothing I could do to stop it, so I just planned for my eventual homelessness. I donated everything, only keeping my text books and clothes in a storage unit I rented. Damn was that storage unit a drain on my monthly welfare cheque! Now I know why people would actually consider living in their storage unit….because I sure did!
Because I rented a storage unit I’ve been asked why I didn’t just keep everything. I gave my stuff away because it felt like this was a learning lesson. Being homeless is a big fear. Losing our possessions is a big fear. I’d use this situation to confront both. And you know what? It’s not as scary as you think! It’s quite freeing actually. (Luckily I live in a socialist country that provides homeless shelters.)
After I became certified as a Life Coach in 2012 or 2013 I started paying attention to people and their behaviours, as well as my own. I wanted to have a better understanding of people and why we do what we do. This understanding included my shelter-mates. In them I was able to see behaviours that led to their living in such an environment. It doesn’t matter whether we have a roof over our head or not, many of us create our own problems. We do not take a lot of responsibility for our own actions, reactions, or decisions. If someone is raised or always around people who behave this way then they also learn to behave this way. Our society also has a lot of self-centeredness. This grows mainly out of fear. Fear of not having enough and fear of losing what we do have. We are also taught this fear. We get this from our caregivers who worry for us and who only want what’s best for us. They think instilling this fear in us will protect us from the big bad world. We also get this fear from all forms of media because it sells goods and services. Fear is a great motivator so the advertising and marketing industry milk it for all it’s worth.
Since my life has been pretty nomadic I wasn’t falling far by becoming homeless and possession-less (that was the 4th time I’d had to give up by belongings). But I did get to see things through new eyes; I got to see things through the eyes of others. I lost friends due to being homeless. Why? I imagine the fear it instilled in them was just too much, it made them too uncomfortable. Fear, even when it doesn’t directly impact someone, will still affect them and drive their actions. This thing, which only exists in our mind, becomes as real as anything we can touch.
I was fed, clothed, given a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, daily access to a shower, and provided with personal hygiene products. Yet all around me I saw people acting out of fear of lack. They did NOT lack anything essential yet the fear was all around me. The need for more, more, more. That tells you why so many people are so far in debt. They spend money they Do Not have on things they Do Not need. Will Farrell’s movie Everything Must Go is a serious look at a man who is forced to let go of his possessions. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1531663/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_31
What I learned:
We CAN get by on less and with less.
When you really need things: money, clothes, food, shelter they will become available. There are programs to help, though you may only find out about them when you need them. But trust me, they are there.
Possessions are just things. The world is full of things. THERE ARE MORE THINGS. Don’t live your life afraid of losing your things. Don’t make decisions solely to keep things in your life. The world has more houses, the world has more cars. On your deathbed you won’t be surrounded by your things, with them telling you what a great person you were and how they’ll miss you. Think about it.
What, and who, truly matter will never be impacted by where you live or anything else material. Aim for living a life that matters.
People will not usually take the first step to being kind, caring or thoughtful. YOU must take that first step. People are more willing to reciprocate than to initiate.
The world you live in is what you make it. This is not affected by material possessions or titles or anything fleeting. It is the way you see the world, your behaviour, your actions, your character. It is YOU. The world you live in is what YOU make it. It is all about you and only about you. Most people had no idea I lived in a shelter for that year. I didn’t tell people, act like it or look like it. Each day that I walked out those doors it ceased to be my reality.
We are too impressed by titles. The lowest segment of society is VERY impressed by titles. They actually see them as better than the rest of us, like a whole other breed of human. I have gotten to know people with titles, people with higher education. And you know what? They are just like the rest of us! They are just as fallible. They cheat, having drinking problems, have poor social skills, suffer depression, etc. They are no different from you or I and ARE NO BETTER. Please stop being impressed by titles. Please. There are so many amazing people we meet every day who get underestimated. People who Have done and Are doing amazing things.
Life paths tend to be more bumpy than smooth.
I get underestimated by everyone, all the time. This pisses me off but doesn’t deter me. I answer only to me and I’m Very happy with who I am and what I’ve become. It’s been a rough ride but I’ve come out better and stronger than ever. Without every twist and turn and detour in my life I wouldn’t have become the person I am today. Don’t ever regret a single thing that has happened in your life. Years later you’ll be able to look back and see how each event helped you to become a better, stronger person. You’ll see how your own hardships gave you the strength to help others along the way.
We are all superheroes in the making, helping countless people along the way.
Update: I wrote this over a year ago. I’ve been out of the shelter system since March 2015. The 3 places I’ve lived since have actually been worse than living in the shelter. I was more upbeat, productive and treated better while living in the shelter. I never had to deal with being ignored (like I’d become Casper type of ignored), flooding, mold, my room smelling of drugs 24/7, blasting music, screaming matches….. We tend to see things from only one perspective, such as nothing could be as bad as living in a shelter, until we’ve arrived at that point. I honestly fear very little now. I’m actually living in a pretty negative environment right now (since July actually). It’s my fault I’m here and it’s my responsibility to get myself out. Freedom….. is within sight 😄
If you read my post https://taishka.com/2014/12/01/jesus-take-the-wheel/ you know that I’m currently living in a shelter and have been for almost a year. This is about to come to an end but in that year no one has had a clue that I live in a shelter. I don’t dress like it, I don’t act like it and I’m a pretty happy, grateful person despite my circumstances.
I have learned a LOT during this past year and I’m going to share it with you. Some good advice is courtesy of Sonia Ricotti http://www.leadoutloud.ca/index-1.html. In the shelter system I have learned, unequivocally, that we are responsible for MOST of our problems. No one is immune from this responsibility. I’ve been watching, listening and learning from the people around me, and in the past year my learning and self-growth has been speed up exponentially. I couldn’t put a price tag on the benefits of this experience. I also plan on never repeating it again 😉
We are indeed responsible for most of what happens to us. Not all, but most. In how we react, how we make decisions and live based on fear, how we communicate, how we don’t listen, how we assume, how we just don’t try hard enough or give up too quickly, etc. Almost everyone does these things to some degree. Feel bad? Don’t. Welcome to the human race.
I wake up every day in a shelter bed. How would you feel? What would you think if this were you? My days have many pros and very few cons.
I woke up
I was warm
Someone in another room was noisy and woke me up early. Was I angry? No, it was almost time to wake up anyway so I had a head start on my morning.
I was able to have breakfast and catch the morning news playing on the TV, even if it’s donuts. I have not gone hungry while living in the shelter. I’ve put on weight but have not gone hungry.
I had access to a shower. I’m able to bathe every day.
Meals can come with entertainment; the other residents usually do or say something that makes me LOL.
Cons are really just of my making. Things are only hard to deal with if I decide so. I don’t have to interact with my environment if I don’t like that environment, including people. As long as it’s not after curfew I can leave the shelter at any time for a break, go for a walk or hop on the subway. I also have library books I can escape into. I can listen to music. I can do things on my laptop. As Sonia says we have no worries “in this moment”. Right now, right this exact moment, we have Nothing to worry about. Getting myself out of the shelter is not a worry, it is just something to do, like a goal. Being in a shelter is not a problem, it’s merely my current situation. We live where we live. If we don’t like it we should work on finding better housing, but in the meantime we live where we live.
A place is only as good or as bad as we make it out to be. It’s all about perception.
I am currently housed, fed, and kept warm. I have access to donated clothing and government services. I live with some kooky characters who both frustrate me and make me laugh (that sounds a bit like family, doesn’t it?). I felt the need to give up almost everything I owned last March yet in the meantime I have been given…enough. When we have absolutely no money new money will come our way. When we have no possessions new possessions will come our way. Maybe not a lot but enough.
When I walk out of the shelter every day I hear beautiful birdsong, I appreciate the tea in my travel mug, and I’m happy for being able to afford a bus pass so that I can get to where I need to for the day. My mindset is of gratitude and it truly colours how I see the world and my situation at any given time. I have what I need, I have enough.
Imagine if everyone you knew and loved felt that what they had in life was…enough.
Imagine if teenagers were content with the clothes their parents/guardians bought them. Imagine if they were content with the dwelling the family could afford. Imagine if they were ok with whatever vehicles their parents/guardians drove. Imagine teenagers that didn’t compare material possessions. Wouldn’t they be healthier, happier teenagers? Teenagers who were more likely to get involved in volunteering, in their community, in social or environmental causes, in starting their own business.
Imagine neighbours not comparing houses, cars, grass, lawn ornaments. Yes, seriously, lawn ornaments. Instead imagine happy, content neighbours who actually befriend each other. Entire neighbourhoods of people who help each other out, who actually care about each other. Just imagine….
What we Need are clothes to keep our bodies covered and warm. What we’re Told we need are stylish clothes, any old clothes just won’t do! And of Course those styles change every year. Last year’s stylish clothes just won’t do this year. They just won’t do! What we Need are clothes that do the job that clothes are supposed to do and that are acceptable for our chosen career and industry. That should be enough.
P.S. clothes are marked up like 400%. You might want to consider used or outlet stores.
Cars (this one REALLY gets me!)
What we Need is go get from point A to point B. Since public transportation tends to suck when compared to a car… we get a car. But we’re told any old car just won’t do! (Starting to see a pattern here?) It should be shiny. Rusty spots just won’t do! Does Joe Blow have rusty spots? Noooo. You don’t want Joe Blow to have a nicer car than you…do you? (Marketers just make you feel all warm and fuzzy, don’t they?) So to compete with Joe Blow you need a clean car (Oh dear God, don’t let your car get dirty! Anything but that!!), that’s shiny (because his is), that drives fast (because his does), that has pretty rims (because his does), that…… Jeez Louise! None of that actually matters. What’s going on under the hood is all that matters. If the engine works then the car moves, end of story. A moving car is better than public transit and that should be enough.
P.S. cars depreciate the second you drive them off the lot. They are nothing but a money suck, choose your money suck wisely.
Why this one “REALLY gets me“: What Should make a car is what’s under the hood. Since that’s meaningless to most people we’re impressed by the body. This car, an Aston Martin, has a different body shape from any other brand. But it’s just a brand! It’s just the body of the car! Why does it matter that much? Because the ‘brand’ of car lets us know how much someone spent on the car and hence how much $ they have (or how in debt they are) and how we should judge them. The fact that people are impressed by anyone’s NONRENEWABLE fossil fuel vehicle is beyond me. Electric cars have been around since the 1800’s http://energy.gov/articles/history-electric-car. Oil companies made them disappear for a century but they’re BACK, thank God. VERY LITTLE has changed about cars since Henry Ford started building them on his factory line. They really haven’t. That is not even remotely impressive. PLEASE stop being impressed by vehicles.
Having protection from the elements and heat in the winter is what we Need. What we’re told we need is Big! Pretty! Modern! Filled with expensive furniture! Because Joe Blow’s house is big, pretty, modern and filled with expensive furniture. A dwelling that protects us from the elements and that provides heat in the winter should be enough. (My foster-father bought a picnic table for our living room when we moved into an apartment. It did the job and looked kinda cool. And was much cheaper than a regular dinning table. But main point; It. Did. The. Job.) Many people are moving into tiny houses, even building the houses themselves for fairly cheap, and really enjoy the minimalist living.
We Need time off of work – in North America we spend ENTIRELY too much time working – to relax, recharge, get refreshed and reboot. What we’re Told to do is buy prepackaged trips to resorts in exotic locales. And then maybe go on prepackaged excursions, basically with the same people who are staying at the resort. We’re told not to experience the land we’re visiting, the people who live there (like those who service the resorts and operate the excursions) or learn about their unique ways of life, cultures, customs, beliefs or language. You know…the stuff that makes us grow as a person, that we’re Supposed to get from travelling. We’re told Nooooo it’s too dangerous. Joe Blow isn’t dumb enough to risk his life exposing himself to all the crime and violence just awaiting him if he explores on his own. You’re not that dumb either…are you? (Again, making us feel all warm and fuzzy. God bless those marketers’ hearts.) To reiterate what we Need is to relax, recharge, get refreshed and reboot. It’s up to us to determine where in the world, and How, we are able to accomplish those vacation goals. Maybe it’s inexpensive camping, backpacking or voluntourism. Figure out what mode of vacation is enough for you. And do lots of it!! One thing you can never have enough of is travel.
P.S. meeting people around the globe, being exposed to different cultures, beliefs and ways of thinking is PRICELESS. Travelling will never be a waste of money. Travel, self-development and personal learning reap the most rewards for money spent.
After all of my years of being a student (I’ve taken much more than I mention in my about page) I’ve seen that formal education is just a very expensive hoop to jump through to get a job. There is very little that we actually learn that we can’t learn on the job, and learn much faster. The problem becomes Getting the job. Our resumes get sorted into piles and we want our resume to be sorted into the good pile. Joe Blow got accepted into (insert your opinion of a top school) and whether you have his financial resources or not you feel the need to get into a similar school. Because it’s not about the level of education you’ll get but about the prestige of having a certain school on your resume. Of being an alumni of said Institution. Because you’re Told you’re competing with all the Joe Blow’s out there. That you don’t stand a Chance if you don’t attend the right school, if you don’t get the right education. Fact: Big name schools mean big name contacts in someone’s network, that’s all. Fact: People will pay a lot of money for an MBA purely for the contacts they make. It has been found (a study I read a couple of years ago) that an MBA really only benefits someone in getting that initial post-MBA job, it doesn’t really benefit the jobs after that. Fact: You can get just about any job you want if you put the work into making good contacts. You can sell yourself better than any resume can. You are much more than a few bullet points. Let people meet YOU before they meet your resume, that’s the secret to getting great jobs and having a great career, not going to an expensive school. Many successful, well known people are university drop-outs (Harvard, Yale, MIT, etc).
Once you determine where you want to go in life the brain between your ears can decide what school is enough, what program is enough, what length of time to stay in school is enough. If you’re not sure what you want to do then you’re better off working and making money and gaining experience (the biggest hurdle to finding work) and skill, than spending money and not necessarily gaining any more insight. In many professions there are short certifications and workshops that are considered equivalent to courses offered at college and university, you’ll be able to learn what you need when you need it.
Once working many people get hired or promoted, based on their individual abilities, into roles that may have nothing to do with their education. People can go Very far based on Themselves, not based on where they went to school or what education they have. It’s all about getting your foot in the door, making a name for yourself and making contacts. The enough route will give you more time for this and less time wasted on chasing unnecessary paper. I actually created a Facebook page years ago due to classmates not knowing good job search tactics (the co-op department will teach you just enough to keep themselves in a job): https://www.facebook.com/JobSearchSkills/
This one is the kicker. How much someone makes is no indication of how rich they are or how well they manage their own funds. If you compete with the Joe Blows you’ll never save enough. If you work too hard and too long to make partner, CEO or to get that corner office because Joe Blow has a corner office then you’ll likely lose your health. And then lose all your money trying to get your health back. Money is the absolute WORST enough. Having enough money actually has nothing to do with money. Money is a tool. Money is used to buy goods and services. We are taught we need more goods and services to be happy. We taught we can’t possibly be happy with what we have now, with where we are in life now. Joe Blow has more. Joe Blow gets more. And don’t we want to be more like Joe Blow?
No! Here’s the thing about Joe Blow. Poor old Joe has serious health issues. His company isn’t doing so well. His job is unsteady. His marriage is rocky. His kids hate him. His family hates him. Even the dog hates him. He’s stressed. His hair is falling out. He’s growing pudgy from poor health, poor diet and all the stress. He’s in so much debt he’s one missed payment away from needing to declare bankruptcy. Again.
You do NOT want to be like Joe Blow.
We don’t need the goods and services we think we do. We don’t need anywhere as much as we think we do. (And ladies, we don’t need as much in our ever growing purses as we think we do.) There are a lot of things we can do ourselves. And a lot of things we can do without. What we have, right now, IS enough. What we make, right now, IS enough. What we drive IS enough (Though I don’t even drive, its public transit for me, which is enough), what we wear IS enough (Except for me, I walk the fashion faux-pas fine line. I need to up my game. So exception for me.), where we live IS enough (Though renting a room….I’d like to up that game too. So exception for everyone renting a room.)
There’s a big difference between the mindset of wanting more and the mindset of feeling that something is enough…for now. There’s still the drive for improvement, for advancement, but there’s also the appreciation for what is now, for what you have now. Appreciation is a magical thing. Suddenly it will seem like you have more money and that what money you have goes further. You will be able to do more with the money that you do have. Up until this line in this post the spotlight has been on the things that money can buy us, the things that money represents to us. That is how we’re taught to see the world. But once appreciation comes into the mix we add a much bigger element into our lives; the universe. Money is Nothing. It’s words and designs printed on paper (plastic in Canada) that’s a promissory note denoted a value, to be used as tender. You can use a $5 promissory note to buy something from someone, or you can do some work for that person in exchange for that same item; a barter. Your time, your work, your skill can also be used as ‘tender’. Money is just a tool. So is your time, your ability to work, and your skill set. You can also trade the things that you don’t really need for the things that you really want. Bartering takes the power away from money and lets you see all the things you can do without it.
We never really want money anyway, we want all the things we can Do with money. Money isn’t the only way.
You clothes, car and dwelling are a ball and chain. They cost time and money, taking away resources from other areas of your life. Right now stop, clear your head and imagine you’re on your death bed. Your life is done. Over. You’re looking back. What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want to have accomplished? What experiences do you want to have had? What influence do you want to have had on others? What do you want to be known and remembered for?
From this moment on base all of your decisions on those ‘What’s. Money will never be the cause of those what’s, nor the home you lived in, the car you drove or the clothes you wore. The naked body underneath; what’s in your heart, what’s in your head, that’s what will drive and deliver your ‘What’s. At all times make the best with what you have and always appreciate What you have. The universe will smile upon you, and bestow more upon you. And everyone likes a happy, appreciative person so your tribe of acquaintances, friends and connections will grow. Also your brain will become more creative in finding solutions to your problems, with the resources available to you.
Enough can get you very, very far.
If ‘Lord’ offends just read as “It means being thankful for all you have.”
Whether you’ve just found this blog or have been following it out for years, you may wonder how I’m qualified to say the things I say. You may think “Does she even know what adversity is? Who is she to tell me to do x, y and z??” I’ve been tempted to write this in the past but felt it might be taken as a pity party, so I never did.
We’re all different and we all deal with life differently. Since I’m not you I haven’t been through what you’ve been through and I never will. Only YOU experience what you experience, and how. No one can truly compare ‘wounds’ in this fashion.
Here’s part of my story…
My mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she was about 20. I accidentally came along 7 years later, to a mentally ill mother and an alcoholic father. My sister was born 13 months later. Before I was old enough to remember them, my father took my sister and they both moved to British Columbia, while my mother and I remained in Ontario. I was 6 when my half-brother was born. (I’m going to omit the part of the story where my mother dated a man who likely dated her because she had a daughter.)
My sister and I as toddlers. One of us is hungry ;-) (There aren’t many pictures of my youth)
My half-brother Damian
One day when I was 8, while my brother and I were playing on the living room floor, my mother turned to me and said “I can’t do this anymore.” Even though I was only 8 I understood what she meant (I’m not sure how, but I did). As all children do I promised I’d behave better, I tried to talk her out of it. Up to this point I’d spent about half of my life in foster homes. When I was 30 I found out I pronounce my own name wrong. Yes indeed, I’ve lived in many foster homes.
Visiting my mother at a mental institution, with my grandmother. This was taken outside on the institution’s grounds.
My mother relinquished her parental rights to the Children’s Aid Society and my brother and I went back into foster care as crown wards. A year later I went to live with my maternal grandparents (my father’s family have never been involved in my life) and my brother was adopted by an aunt and uncle, who had 4 children of their own. They decided that he’d fit in better if I treated him like a cousin instead of a brother, and I was instructed to behave accordingly. I tried to talk my aunt out of this but I failed. I was 9. This has irreparably harmed the close bond my brother and I had. Due to the realities of living with a schizophrenic, single mother I had taken on motherly duties (I’m told this, I have no memory) and my brother showed that he saw me as his protector. The adoption took away his mother-figure and protector. When I was 11 I stopped joining my grandparents on visits to see my brother and started letting him go. In my mind I just can’t connect my baby brother with the man he is now. To me they’re 2 different people.
Camping with my grandparents (this was after Church on Sunday) when I was 12. My youth was plagued by bad haircuts haha.
When I graduated from high school at 20 that was my 13th school, at best guess. I “aged out” of the foster care system at 21 – the extension was due to still being in school at 18.
The summer when I was 23 two things happened. The Haldol that my mother had been on for many years had stopped working and she ‘ran away from home’; she had put all of her belongings on the front lawn, left the furniture and just took off. Aside from one letter mailed from Northern Ontario there was no word from her. For the rest of the summer I had no idea if she was dead or alive. I also got pregnant. I’d been with that boyfriend for 3 years at that point but he pushed me to have an abortion using a lie. (I found out, after 6 years together, that he’d started looking for his next girlfriend after our 1st year together. After 8 years together, when he found her, he still didn’t tell me.) He also said that I didn’t have his permission to have his child. I dealt with the abortion alone because he didn’t want to talk about it, as well as the disappearance of my mother.
My mother, grandmother and myself. Taken at Christmas before the ‘big escape’.
My mother did finally return. She was found living behind a dumpster in Scarborough at the end of August but wouldn’t tell anyone her name for 3 weeks. My mother spent the rest of her years living in group homes. A life-long smoker, she developed COPD which led to her death. Every year I’m usually able to successfully ignore Mother’s Day (except for the reminder from well-meaning friends) but not so on the day of her passing, which she unfortunately shares with Michael Jackson.
I’ll omit the rape and date rape in my past, but I will mention my bad relationships. I now see how I’ve had a hand in every one; I allowed men to mistreat me. I didn’t stand up for myself. The police arrested a landlord of mine and that situation happened because I, again, didn’t stand up for myself. I tolerated bad behaviour, thinking being kind and forgiving (turning the other cheek) would make it stop. Men who are bullies don’t ever stop, won’t ever stop, until you make them. There need to be VERY firm boundaries that men are NOT allowed to cross. Actually women too, not just men. We’re not just victimized or bullied sexually. Boundaries are Very, very important.
The fallout from sexual assault/abuse/rape is that the one thing that we’re supposed to have complete ownership of, our bodies, we don’t. I was shown at age 5 or 6 (I just know my know my brother hadn’t been born yet) that my body was not my own. I couldn’t stop anyone from taking what they wanted (and I’ve been shown this as an adult, from men no bigger than me). Respect and love for self is how we set boundaries, how we demand a certain amount of respect from others. When our bodies have been violated, especially at such a young age, there is no foundation to even build this respect on to begin with. We don’t learn respect for our bodies, we don’t learn respect for ourselves. We become people-pleasers, we put others first. This problem persists into adulthood and we can become life-long victims of people who see this weakness in us and exploit it. I never saw this connection until, in my 20’s, I saw an episode of Oprah where she talked about her own rape and this subsequent fallout for victims. Sex, seen as an intimate, loving act between 2 people, is something that may never be felt by a victim of assault. Sex may always just be sex. Intimacy may have to come from other avenues, like trust, affection, protection. And trust, for many of us, may never come at all. Some women become ‘lesbians’ not because they’re gay but because they’ve been too brutalized by men in their lifetime.
My grandparents were the only ones who never lied to me, betrayed me or hurt me. Most others have seen me as fair game.
Despite what men did to me I didn’t ‘evict’ any of them from my life. I should have but I didn’t. My self-esteem still had a long way to go. (Only in the last few months have I started ‘cleaning house’. Better late than never.)
A few months before my mother passed away I had a son. The father is someone I knew briefly (who I haven’t been able to find since because he told a lot of lies – something men like to do with me). When my son was 4 months old I decided that the best decision for both of us was to relinquish custody. I was 35 but with no support from family or friends, and with welfare looming in our future, I may as well have been a teenager. Raising a baby completely alone is unbelievably scary and daunting, regardless of age.
My mother passed away right after I’d made the decision to give my son up for adoption. Between these 2 situations I couldn’t handle attending her funeral and because of that decision my mother’s death has never quite been real to me. I just concerned myself with my son’s adoption and put my mother out of my mind. She’d had a hard life and I was just happy that her hardship was finally over. Also our relationship improved, since you can’t be angry with a ghost 😉
My sister almost disowned me when she found out I’d decided to relinquish custody of my son (which was the 2nd time she’d almost done this). She did stop speaking to me nearly 3 years ago, for reasons unknown. (She still resides in B.C., as does my father.)
I found a family for my son, through private adoption, and he was adopted at 5 ½ months old. It’s an open adoption and I see him about once a year on his birthday. He just turned 7.
Everything that’s happened in my life I’ve pretty much dealt with on my own; there hasn’t really been any other option. I lived with my grandparents for 5 years before returning to the foster care system at age 14 (my choice; I won’t get into that). I didn’t appreciate it then but those years greatly shaped who I am today. My grandparents were the only people to ever truly accept me for who I am. My mother and my grandparents were the only ones who ever really loved me and now they’re gone. But are the ones we love really gone? I miss them and would give anything to feel their embrace again but somehow it doesn’t feel like they’re…gone. Something is still here with us. How can we come from nothing and return to nothing if the memory of a deceased loved one can spark such strong feelings in us years, even decades, later? How can we still feel such a strong connection to someone who no longer ‘is’? I’ll never believe in this nothingness theory. It just doesn’t hold up for me.
Shortly before I went to go live with my grandparents.
My life hasn’t been easy, and I think it would be safe to say that No one’s life has been easy. We all have our burdens to bear and we all bear those burdens differently. I’ve been taught to be strong from birth, to learn to rely on no one but myself. The funny thing, that I wasn’t prepared for, is that despite the physical, psychological and sexual abuse I’ve received, despite all the lying and betrayal, it’s the adoption that’s been the hardest to deal with. Nothing in life has been as hard as this has been, these past 6 ½ years. Aside from the first year, my visits with my birth son have just been on his birthday and usually only for the length of the party. A brief visit yet I still found that I needed to lessen the pain by paying as much attention to the other children as to my birth son. The love you feel for your child, no matter how infrequently you see them, is staggering. I was never prepared for the experience of this love gushing through my entire body like a brush fire. It’s almost painful. That has surprised me every time. (For his past 3 birthdays I’ve only seen him once; for ½ hour when he turned 5 because I missed his party trying to get there. I won’t go into this further.)
I’d have to say the hardest part of my life was the 3 weeks after signing the adoption papers. In Ontario you have 3 weeks to rescind the adoption. Those were the longest, most excruciating 3 weeks of my life. I Desperately wanted to take my son back but I knew that I couldn’t do that to that family. They’d already fallen in love with him and they were offering him such a good life. And at that point I already cared about them too, and would never want to hurt them that way. I don’t think those feelings have ever been reciprocated but such is life. We need only concern ourselves with our own conduct, not worry about the conduct of others.
As time passes the easiest way to deal with this situation is to put it entirely out of my mind. For chunks of time I try to make myself, to let myself, forget that I had a child (a coping mechanism many birth mothers use). But every single day my stomach says otherwise. I’ll always have this visual reminder. I would dearly love to be a mother again but at 42 I don’t see that happening. Foster mother perhaps?
3 days before my son went to live with his new family. His short-lived ‘puff fish’ phase. I only bought a digital camera 1 week before he left so decent pictures are only from that time frame.
My birth son has fit right in with his adoptive family since day one. He immediately bonded with their other adopted son, his big brother. The adoptive relationship hasn’t been a smooth one these past 6 ½ years, far from it, but the point wasn’t to pick a family that was a good fit for Me but to pick a family that was a good fit for my Son. And I did just that. My birth son lives a life I could only dream of and that is what I wanted for him.
The things that have made me so strong I wouldn’t wish on anyone. My birth son doesn’t have to be strong like I’ve had to be and that’s the life I want for him.
This movie, Mother and Child, showcases what it’s like for the birth mother and the adopted child, and what hardships both face in a closed adoption. I resonate strongly with this movie. There are 8 parts.
I lived in a shelter for a year and I’ve been out for a year. That was the 4th time I’ve had to give up nearly everything I own (damn expensive lifestyle!!). I’ve also slept on couches at various times in the past few years. School is expensive in more ways than one. I’ve graduated from both college And the school of hard knocks 😛!
Even the strongest of us can still find life hard. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling despair, we all do at various times. But we always find our way back and you will too. Humans have this unbelievable drive to persevere. You’re not aware of it until you need it, then there it is. (Whoop, there it is! Haha)
As a teenager I was hospitalized 3 times for attempted suicide. As far as I was concerned the last time I was committing suicide, not attempting. I’d heard that 20 sleeping pills would kill you so I took 100. Over the years I’ve begged God to take me many times, but apparently God is more stubborn than I am. I guess I’m here so stay. The one thing we don’t realize is how strong each successive hurdle makes us. We honestly don’t realize how strong we are, we doubt our capacity to deal, to handle. As a baby my mother’s medication was so strong that she’d sleep through my crying so I cried myself to sleep all the time. For food she used to put a box of cookies on a chair; if she slept through my being hungry I could crawl over to the chair, pull myself up and get my own food. This has been a blessing and a curse. I am very strong and very independent, too much so if you ask many people.
I’ve also moved a lot in my life (a few times using only public transit, all by myself). Due to the frequent moves in my youth I don’t feel comfortable staying in one place for long. The required 5-year address list for the Navy Reserves (I didn’t join) was 2 pages long. Someone once told me they knew how it felt to move often….they’d moved 4 times in their life 😒 People see things from where they are, not from where you are. True empathy is rare.
My biological family is big; 3 aunts, 3 uncles and 28 cousins. Due to my mother’s paranoia we didn’t interact with family members much and aside from the years living with my grandparents the rest of my life has been spent estranged from them. I don’t think about it much, that’s just the way it is. I’ve lived most of my life without them. At age 30 I not only found out I pronounce my own name wrong but also why my father’s family had never been part of my life. They’d disowned me when I was 9, when my father tried to get custody of me. When he lost they washed their hands of me…even though they had never been involved in my life to begin with. They’ve only been involved in my sister’s life.
I’d say what’s gotten me through all these years is reading, spending time by myself (truly liking who I am and enjoying my own company) – to center, balance and get away from all the crap – and humour. (In this tweet if you don’t see a disco dancer then think John Travolta. That’s what I see.) Having a dark sense of humour is greatly beneficial. Life is funny in some pretty inappropriate ways. If I could still laugh, sitting in a homeless shelter surrounded by mentally ill people talking to themselves, then I guarantee you can find things to laugh about. Life isn’t that serious, laugh it off 😅
Because I love you guys here’s a 2nd post for today. These 2 videos I found very inspiring; talks given by 2 very well-known men. Please share the links with anyone you know who could benefit from hearing these words.
No matter who we are we all have tough times and find ourselves in need of encouragement from time to time. We all just want to be loved.