Tag Archives: change

Searching For Light

Favourite books I read as a kid were stories about ancient civilizations. Stories about humans of far away lands with rich cultures and heritages. That being said, I did not hear the words racism or slavery spoken until we moved to Canada from former Yugoslavia in 1993. I was almost 12. In an immigrant family household, survival was the main priority (we were refugees for over a year as a result of war prior to the big move across the ocean). As a 12 year old girl, I was figuring out who I was while at the same time learning about the society we were now living in. We moved to a diverse and multicultural neighbourhood and it was reflected in the students of the middle school and then high school I attended. In fact, I was a minority amongst students in a high school of just over 700 who attended, and looking back on it, I was blessed. I learned about the richness of different cultures from around the world and experienced beauty, intelligence, creativity and friendship of human beings who were mostly not white. I also felt like I was amongst my people – people who were new immigrants or first generation Canadians, people who were trying their best to study and set themselves up for some sort of a stable future, like I was.

We are shaping our tomorrows by the choices we make today. And we are accountable for those choices.

Fast forward to 2020. I am a healthcare worker who works in an inner city trauma health centre, on the frontlines of a pandemic. It is mid-June and the last time I hugged a human being was mid-March. With the exception of my brother who I’ve seen in person three times from a six feet distance, the humans I regularly interact with at work and the essential workers at the grocery stores and market I see weekly, I’ve only spoken to my friends and family via text, phone or video call. At work, I wear a mask at all times except when on break. We are advised to social distance with one another, and I wear full PPE (gloves, gown, mask, face shield, bouffant) when in contact with any patient for their exam. I’m dehydrated often and I’ve had many breakouts as a result of wearing a face mask for long stretches of time. I developed contact dermatitis on my forearms from a hand sanitizer with a high alcohol content. I am constantly tired and find it difficult to catch my breath at times (I’m basically rebreathing my own carbon dioxide for seven hours a day, five days a week). I’ve been swabbed twice for COVID19 and was negative both times, thankfully. (In case you’ve not experienced it, it feels like someone is trying to tickle your brain for five seconds.) As a healthcare worker, I am at high risk for contracting COVID19 as I come in direct contact with patients who are being tested for or are positive for the virus, yet the current Ontario government did NOT include my profession in the pandemic pay. As a healthcare worker I feel a social responsibility to be very diligent in practicing social distancing outside of my home, for I could be an asymptomatic transmitter of the virus OR I could contract the virus and then spread it to sick patients or coworkers. I feel exhausted, spent, segregated, excluded and undervalued, and I am starting to experience what I can only describe as mild depression, as I experience frequent periods where I cry often for no reason, have very little energy or motivation to do anything on weekends except rest and sleep, and often feel as if I am searching for something to grab hold of and pull myself up and out of this. This is how I feel as a result of three months of new work and social norms, three months of no human contact other than what I disclosed, three months of no hugs, three months of coming home from work exhausted and every night carrying out full decontamination and cleansing (includes shower and hair washing, placing clothing I wore that day into the washing machine for laundering, disinfecting my phone, washing my glasses etc). This is my personal experience, only if you speak to other frontline healthcare professionals, you may hear a similar story. I know because I’ve heard them.

In the midst of a pandemic, our society is highlighting injustices and societal conducts which need to be abolished and changed. Root causes of injustice began over 400 years ago and evolved into what can only be described today as institutional racism. Let’s explore a few examples, shall we?

Do you know who Kalif Browder is? Kalif is a black boy who spent more than half of THREE YEARS in solitary confinement at Rikers Island Prison without a trial after an arrest at sixteen years of age for allegedly stealing a backpack. He became depressed, felt isolated, anxious and paranoid after he was released. Can you even imagine his experience? Neither can I. (I haven’t hugged a human being in THREE MONTHS while free to move around and I am feeling depressed.) As a result of the trauma he endured in prison and unable to cope, some time after his release Kalif transitioned by suicide. My heart aches for the injustice this young soul endured. And this is just one story of a young black male getting arrested and placed in prison for an alleged crime, in this case robbery of a backpack. Why is a TEENAGER in PRISON and in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT over a backpack? (The Kalif Browder Story is playing on Netflix.)

Have you heard of Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Korey Wise and Raymond Santana Jr? In 1989, these young black boys were wrongfully accused, convicted, incarcerated and almost 20 years later exonerated, of rape and assault of a white woman in NYC Central Park. All five teenagers were sixteen years of age or younger (!) at the time of the incident. Korey Wise‘s story is especially heartbreaking – he was tried as an adult because he was 16 years old and as a result, he was sent to Rikers Island Prison, served the longest sentence and spent time in solitary confinement. Can YOU imagine going to prison as a CHILD for a crime you did not commit? (You can watch When They See Us on Netflix to learn more.)

Have you heard the name George Floyd? Breonna Taylor? Eric Garner? Trayvon Martin? Tamir Rice? Ahmaud Arbery? Philando Castile? Sandra Bland? Michael Brown? Emmett Till? These are human beings, and are just few of the souls who are no longer with us, as a result of violence by police or citizens who they encountered for the first time the day they died. Human beings who died because they have black skin.

If you found yourself exhausted when you read the paragraph about my experience of being a healthcare worker during a pandemic over a period of three months, I would think that human beings born black are exhausted from the grief, anger, and sadness of the aforementioned (and not mentioned) injustices and tragedies black people, communities they live(d) in, and their families have sustained throughout history AND in the three months we’ve been under lockdown and isolation during this pandemic. A universal truth is that we are shaping our tomorrows by the choices we make today. And we are accountable for those choices.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

I named this blog A Rainbow In The Clouds after seeing Dr Maya Angelou speak in Toronto in 2011. She opened by sharing a folk song: “when it look like the sun wouldn’t shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds”, eliciting the possibility of hope. Hope, which I seemed to have allowed to slip from my grasp, or was it taken? I’m not sure, but I want it back. Hope of light shining through is what will carry all of us through this time in history. As will the courage to keep going. Do you have hope and courage? Are you contributing to equality, inclusion, healing of your Self? I have learned that when you want something with your whole heart, the universe conspires to help you achieve it. (Paraphrased from The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.)

My spiritual director encouraged me to revisit a book I have read, Man’s Search for Meaning written by Viktor E. Frankl, a psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazi death camp as a Jewish man in WWII. I opened the book to a random page and started reading. There I found light:

“…intensification of inner life helped the prisoner find a refuge from the emptiness, desolation and spiritual poverty of his existence…”

“As the inner life of the prisoner tended to become more intense, he also experienced the beauty of art and nature as never before. Under their influence he sometimes even forgot his own frightful circumstances.”

“…I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious “Yes” in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose. At that moment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, ….and the light shineth in the darkness.”

And I remembered my own inner light, and the inner light which shines in EVERY human being, irrelevant of their creed, skin colour, religion, sex, gender. That inner light is the grace, courage and strength which is accessible for each of us to learn, grow, evolve, elevate and do better. Then I recalled a spiritual teaching which was taught by all great teachers, and introduced to me by Caroline Myss – What’s in one, is in the whole. That means that the need for AND the unravelling of past societal structures which are shown to us through news media and social media, are happening within each of us. Human beings are angry at the injustices black human beings have endured throughout history and in present time! Would you not be angry if you saw a human being murdered, asking for mercy, while handcuffed on the ground with someone’s knee on his neck, and MERCY not being granted?! (Caroline explains this eloquently in this video.)

I don’t know what it’s like to be of a different skin colour other than the one I was born with. I’m perceived by society we live in to be a white woman. I understand that comes with privilege. I also can only extrapolate a little bit of the feelings from my experience of THREE MONTHS working in healthcare during a pandemic, (mainly feeling segregated, isolated, exhausted, not seen as equal by the government, because of my work,) into what I imagine is a life long emotional space for many experiencing Earth school as a human being with black skin. Again, I don’t claim to know this for sure, I am only grasping the feelings expressed by those who have this experience, what is felt by the collective and my own limited understanding. Remember this Oprah show?

Although I don’t have the experience of being in Earth school with black skin, I KNOW that black people are not being treated the same as white people. I KNOW that more black people live in poverty than white people. I KNOW that more black people die as a result of racial prejudices and violence than white people. Those are heavy truths. Also, I am not an appointed government official who can better fund our healthcare system and put laws, policies, and people in places to abolish institutional racism. But I have something in me, which every human has, that NO ONE can touch. That is my own inner space, my own personal power. I can use mine to elevate, learn, transform and impact change in the relationships around me, which will reach all corners of the globe (think how a virus did that). I can educate myself and use my VOTE as a voice, for ultimately that IS the loudest voice. I can stay connected to my inner space, move with integrity, be loving, compassionate, move in light. And so can you. Remember, standing in light does not mean not standing up for what you believe in. Rather, stand in your light in a way that brings change, draws justice, and creates a society where a human being can go outside feeling safe to do so, no matter their race, sex, creed, religion, gender. A human being is a human being. Bring your humanness to light.

All my love,

T


The Allowance of Change

Photo © T.Nikic 2012

Photo © T.Nikic 2012

 

Happy New Year!!! As we enter this “newness”, perhaps we can entertain the idea of change. At 3am on January 1st, 2015, I had decided that then would be a great time to talk about it, so I posted a video and shared my thoughts. You can watch the entire thing here but here are a few thoughts from my brain to err your electronic computing device you’re reading this post on… 😀

 

We want things to change around us, in our life, our relationships, but we don’t allow or embrace for change of others or of our own Self, for that to truly happen. There is an interconnectedness between cause and effect; between who we are and the state of our lives. There is no way that something can change without something else being affected. But we have to be open to it. To allow it. To embrace it. In others, in our life, in ourSelves.

 

“I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being – to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.” ― Malcolm Gladwell

 

There is something to be said about committing to a project or making a decision and staying true to it in its absolutism until we see it come to fruition or full resolution, however, when it comes to ideas, perception, thoughts…an absolutism ‘state’ does not allow for growth or even learning. We are HUMAN BEINGS. Being human does not equate to perfection or ideal or right or wrong. We are in a constant state of change – from our physical to our emotional states – we are not static. Even when we are absolutely still, there is movement of molecules and atoms in our bodies which we cannot even feel, but it happens. I have taken note of the fact that for many human beings, we get comfortable in being a certain way, in our routines, in thinking a certain way, in our perspectives. However, this form of existence, as comfortable as it is (and it is comfortable because it’s familiar), does not allow for certain lessons to be learned, for a growth (on mental, emotional, spiritual levels), which is necessary for LIVING. And I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with this nor am I passing judgement, but I am concerned if we aren’t receptive to hearing someone else’s point of view or idea and we aren’t thinking about it before we make any decision if we’re going to accept it, or reject it, or break it up into bits which seem “right” or “wrong” to us.

 

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”― Aristotle, Metaphysics

It is also a concern of mine that, generally speaking, we group people as “good” or “bad” depending on how we’ve interacted with them. I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past. But the truth is, people’s actions and reactions are a reflection of their emotional, mental, sometimes spiritual states (and their level of stress), that they are in at that exact moment in time. We are all capable of making poor decisions. In fact, mistakes are the seeds of great life lessons for many of us. But we cannot apply an absolutism to a person for we, as human beings, truly are too complex for that. As beings with a capacity for sensory stimulation, we are also affected by whatever we are stimulated by visually, mentally, etc., which DOES affect our thoughts, beliefs, reasons, and such. There has to be room for us to say “there walks someone who made a poor decision but they’re still a human being”.

 

“I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes – it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self… The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.” ― Maya Angelou

(NOTE: Of course, I do not condone actions, thoughts, and intentions which hurt people – physically, mentally, emotionally – EVER. But the history of the world has marked perhaps a few hundred, and if we’re being generous we’ll say a thousand, names of people who have done despicable things to other human beings on a large-scale, in all of the history of humans. It was counted that there have been 108  BILLION humans who have walked on Earth, and 7 billion exist today. If you do the math, most humanity is not all that bad. And even the ones who intentionally hurt other people have had a few good thoughts or ideas, I’m sure. For we each have the capacity to do good or bad. Therefore it is a matter of choice. )

I’d like to end this post by extending a big thank you to every single person, in my life, who has made allowance for my own change, for your support, has added altitude to my own flight. Namaste.

Love,

T


Learn To Love…

I was off from work today. It took me some time to get myself organized and leave my place to run the errands I needed to complete.

But eventually I got myself together – I put my hair up in a bun, put some large hoops in my ears, opted for a dark pair of jeans and my white Marilyn Monroe print tee to go with my new grey jacket I bought in Chicago a few weeks ago. I left my house with the feeling that I looked as good as I felt (and I felt good!)…which is a great feeling as we all know.

My first stop was the nail shop. I walked in and there were no other customers so it was nice and quiet. My nails were made beautiful again and as I was waiting for my toes to dry, this LOUD ‘female’ walked in. I didn’t get a good look at her until she sat in the chair beside me. (I’d say she was around my age.) She was probably a few inches taller than me, minus the curves. She must have had 3-4 layers of extra long fake lashes glued onto her lids. Her lips looked like they’ve gone through one too many collagen injections, and I actually thought that they looked kind of painful to move or touch. Her hair was not combed well so you could see where the extra long extensions were glued on. But the most elaborate thing on her ‘body’ were in fact, her breasts. Imagine two basketballs, side-by-side on a long board. Except these basketballs are so heavy that they’re not only starting to sag a little, not only are the covering half of her torso, but they’re actually bending her back forward and exaggerating her kyphosis.

Because she was sitting beside me, AND was very loud, I heard everything that came out of her mouth while I was there. One thing that stood out was her story about the fact that she phoned the shop yesterday, only to get the nail shop lady’s husband on the phone. When she was trying to make the appointment she said “I’m the one who comes there all the time. You know, the one with the big boobs?” and laughed after that punchline. (That made me think of three things: 1. she was actually proud of her two basketballs, 2. she identifies herself as her basketballs, or 3. she hides her true self behind her basketballs.)

I was grateful when my nails were dry and I could go about the rest of my day. I can’t lie – I found it extremely hard NOT to stare and wonder how bad she must have felt about herself before she took such extremes to plasticize her body.

I made my way over to Kensington market where my first order of business was lunch – AND I ate dessert too, for I also remembered the loud ‘female’ at the nail shop saying how she ‘forgot to eat today’. SIDE NOTE: Natural curves on a female, are a must!

After lunch and dessert, and after completing my intended food shopping, I was making my way out of Kensington when I read a statement on a banner of sorts, which actually inspired this blog post:

“If you desire love,

learn to love.”

It’s so simple, yet so lovely, isn’t it? If you want to have love in your life, you must then learn how to love. And who better to start with, than YOU?! I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Love yourself first”. Well, that’s the key to overcoming almost every fear, every struggle, any pain or sorrow you’re holding onto in life.  For some of you, you’re reading something that is obvious to you, and that’s because you’ve probably done the work you needed to do on your Self and you understand it as the truth.  But for others, however, you may be asking “HOW DO I GET THERE? HOW DO I DO THAT? HOW DO I LEARN TO LOVE?” which is great because you’ve recognized that you have some work to do AND that you’re ready to do it!

So I’ll be honest, although I’ve reached a place of love for my Self that’s deep, vast, accepting, joyful and has brought me a deep sense of peace, I am not an expert or a doctor. However, I do have a few things I can share with you that I learned during my journey which may be helpful to you, in yours.

1. DO NOT put off doing the work you’re now aware you need to do.

2. Spend time with yourself. Write to yourself, talk to yourself, listen to your own thoughts and feelings. Pay attention to your inner reactions.

3. Deal with ALL of your baggage – NOTHING should be swept under the carpet . This may involve crying, laughter, grief, periods of highs and lows. There is nothing wrong with going to a professional (counsellor or therapist) for guidance.

4. FORGIVE YOURSELF.

5. Take ownership of your actions, reactions and words of the past, which still seem to follow you. Understand their consequences and take note of their lessons.

6. FORGIVE YOURSELF.

7. Look in the mirror and point out all the things you like and dislike about your body. Work towards loving those areas EXACTLY as they are. I bet as you start to really love your Self, your body will start to change and look better. NOTE: Everything we feel manifests itself physically – our bodies reflect what we feel. Often this shows as a noticeable outwards physical change to others and ourselves (NO, I am not talking about silicone breast implants the size of basketballs here!), and sometimes it’s an inward physical or physiological change that only we can feel (you have pain everywhere and there is no explanation that your doctor can find for it through any tests he or she has run). It’s important to become aware of our Self – body, mind, spirit, emotions are all interconnected.

8. Be honest with yourself. The truth may not be very pretty but until you face it, you won’t make any progress.

9. FORGIVE YOURSELF.

10. Embrace the change this journey will bring to your life. Know that not everyone will stay with you, and that’s okay. Be aware that there are no shortcuts and sometimes you’ll feel like you’ve reached a plateau but that’s just a small ‘break’ until you have to move on to the next part.

Last few things I need to point out are important.

Remember how you got to where you are right now. Recognize what or whom you allowed to help you lose you. We’re all only human so forgive yourself.

Know that our work on our Self is never really over. And it’s not supposed to be. We’re meant to make mistakes and learn from them in order to grow and become better. But also know that once you love yourself, it doesn’t mean that’s it and you can sign off on journey as ‘completed’. It doesn’t work like that. As long as you’re breathing, you have a choice of living. And you’re not completely living unless you’re loving. And you can’t love anyone else until you love yourself FIRST, AT ALL TIMES, ALWAYS.

One Love,

T


Wind of change…

A strong wind of change
Is blowing my way
And it’s making my every step
Much harder to take
I have to take many deep breaths
Lots of small rests
Even turn my back to it at times
But it catches the space
Between my shoes and the ground
Lifting me gently in the direction
Which I actually need to go
And when I find myself
In a peaceful place
I take a moment to look around
And I am scared by this strange place
So I turn around and start running back…
Only to find the wind at the gates
Of my old space
As if it’s guarding my memories
And all the things I can’t go back
To re-live or erase
So I’m left with a choice
To fight the wind and postpone the change
Or start exploring this strange
Peaceful place….
If you were me, what would you do?
I won’t be able to bring everyone with me to this new place
And I’m not sure that some would even be ready to go there
Yet I long for a familiar face and a warm embrace…
I won’t rush to find my space
In this unfamiliar place
But I know that I will embrace this change
As I take one last look
At the wind who saved me
From the troubles of my old heart space.

T


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