Conversations with Mom – Courage and Character

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Mom was a very courageous woman.  While saddled with disabilities her whole life (chronic asthma and chronic diabetes), she still managed to “stay with the crowd” and raise her eight children the best she can – in spite of it all.

On many, many times over the years, I witnessed the strength she showed in both words and deeds – and nothing came easy to her.  Regardless of the circumstances, she made the best of it.  In her limited ways (also a brutal husband controlling her), she always created an environment of safety and care.

What I remember and admire most about Mom was the way she was able to “take on” risk with such ease and confidence.  She lived without fear.  (For a woman, she had a lot of balls!)

I remember asking her when I was a teenager about her viewpoint on Risk.  I don’t remember the exact circumstances to bring it up; but I remember she defended someone in the family (against some institution) and rose to the occasion.

I was in awe.

For the first time, I witnessed the power of her words and the strength in her actions.  I finally realized and experienced the courage she displayed in doing so.

Shortly afterwards, I asked (not exactly in these words) if she was afraid to take that risk.  I know I was scared as heck.

Well, Mom had a vocabulary that was a little fractured – but very understandable in any language.  Not shy to use ‘colourful metaphors’ when angered, she told me in her unique way of her philosophy regarding character:

“I don’t care what people think of me –
as long as I can hold my head high in integrity.”

Her response was ground-breaking for me.  I didn’t realize before character and dignity could be related.  I always thought dignity was controlled by the actions of our character; and if we did things that were un-liked by others, then we were to be shamed.  Then this lesson.

That empowering personal lesson stays with me today.  In every act I perform in life, I not only ensure my dignity remains intact; but I also advocate it for others.

The lesson I learned that day:

Healthy dignity (our self-esteem) is a right to everyone.  Nobody can or has the right to take it away from us.

Thanks Mom.

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The Day My Life Changed Forever – 2

Every dark cloud has a silver lining! :)At such a young age, I never considered the existence of out space to be bigger than the universe God created for us.  Man hadn’t landed on the moon yet, so what little I knew were the space walks and John Glenn.  To think space went on and on forever … well, I suddenly felt so small and meaningless.

So, in the darkness and alone, when I learned that our galaxy was one of a uncountable number – I just about died right on the spot.  (You remember last post about the world stopping?)  Given this information was not on TV (where I knew it was mostly fake) and in found in a library book, I had to consider it true.  That was the first blow to my min and difficult for me to understand – and I was confused as heck.

Then I thought … why is science, history, and religion so different?  It seems like we are supposed to believe – but what?  How am I supposed to know what is true?  Another slap in the head with another thought … if religion is true, why is there less proof?  Why do so many believe?  How is it justified?

As you can see, I had a fertile mind (and still do).  I loved understanding things and how it all fits together.  My mother came to have a habit of saying: “You will be a jack of all trades and a master of nothing.”  I was/am in awe of everything. (And she was right, I guess.)

And then to top it off – I panicked.  Then I started thinking things like: Now I’ve been duped by everyone.  Everyone is in on a conspiracy.  Is there something I don’t know yet?  What am I supposed to do and believe?  This is where I am practically wailing (silently) in the cold attic.

All of my pain and agony started to come back.  I put a lot of trust in religion.  I invested all my hope in it.  Now how do I approach religion and my spirituality?  I felt my greatest growth and development as a person through experiences that began from a religious source.  Now this astronomy thing …

***

I already had many traumatic experiences up to that point in my life (for example – I vividly remember being up close and intimate with the psychotic murder of a family next door as it happened).

Scared as heck, I tried to fit in as “normally” as possible, i.e. “not be seen or heard”.  I did what I was told; did it without question; and did it to the best of my ability.  My father conditioned us very well – we were all little child soldiers ready (and fearful) at his calling.  I did it out of safety, a sense of belonging, and for acknowledgement. (I got none!)

Then I found religion; and upon discovering everything it stood for (to a child in distress) – I thought I hit the jackpot!  It had all the answers to everything that was wrong in my world:

  • Patience, forgiveness, unconditional love, corporal punishment, sacrifice, reward of paradise, threat of eternal damnation, and much, much more.
  • It helped put my pain and suffering (and to my siblings) in a palatable acceptance of life

The biggest thing I noticed the religion I was born into did to people is what I witnessed as a power of belief and the changes it made to them.

Heck, for years, my father was transformed for 2 hours every Sunday morning for years as he proudly towed along his 8 kids to church.  He even walked differently (with attitude)!  When I caught an understanding of this a few years earlier, I knew there had to be something to being religious.

So, I remember thinking to myself that if I wanted any happiness in this world of plenty, then religion was the way to go.  By that time, I was attending St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto, Canada.  I had the scholarship and the musical talents (piano/voice); and from that, religion wrapped me in a spiritual blanket.  My inspiration was fueled with thoughts of hope, faith, humility, and service – all of which brought me great joy in those years, and they set another layer to my personal foundation.

Yes, I learned forgiveness, albeit the difficult way; and I still gained valuable lessons about people and myself.  I still benefit greatly every day from these lessons learned.

A small confession:

Being a realist at the time (in hindsight, a budding Existentialist), I always felt the Bible wasn’t something to be literally believed.  I understood clearly they were stories written down to teach us things.  When I saw people expressing their 100% devotion to the faith, I didn’t understand how that could be so.  But one thing for sure: I DID believe in Heaven an Hell – and now this astronomy.

I realize now that I was questioning the trust I put in Christianity.  I trusted every other authority figure I met; and the level of trust had eroded to the point where I thought – at least in this case – that I didn’t believe enough.  I thought I could do better, or look for more suffering, or put myself down and then I will be happy.  And don’t get me wrong.  I had a great many spiritual experiences with people over the years hence.  But …

***

According to my plan, everything was going along great at this point.  I learned to avoid my father’s wrath, I kept up my school marks, and I practiced the piano every day (the Conservatory was expensive!).  Oh yeah – I prayed a lot too. Didn’t seem to make much difference though.

I’m sure you can understand how my life could change with this new knowledge.  And I realize I was just a kid, but my thoughts grew with the expectations set upon me from all the adults in my life.  All I know and remember from almost 50 years ago is that it was a common occurrence for the adults to have a plan for me and not tell me about it.

In a great lesson from that, I learned about Fear.  I guess that’s why I have no issues with experimenting, discovering, change, creativity, expression, performance, and all the other great things about living life.

***

As you can see, my world was rocked.  In a matter of about 2 hours one evening in the fall, I had (and wasn’t aware of it, btw) a personal experience that set in motion a path for a journey that would have me take on life with an unquenchable desire to understand the world.

(tomorrow – final part: How the next 40 years turned out …)

The Day My Life Changed Forever

It was after dinner, and everything was cleaned up.  The rest of the time for the evening was mine.

In my tiny attic bedroom, quiet, alone, and free from my 7 siblings, I sat in the middle of my bed with the oversized book across my folded legs.  I leaned over and stared at the full-colour pages glowing under the eerie beam of the small reading lamp.  The moment flushed warmth from my face; and then a large teardrop raced gravity to fall below perfectly into the middle of the bright yellow sun.

weather-supercell-by-Sean-Heavey“No way…” I whispered to nobody else.  And then – time actually felt like it stood still.  No sound, no smell, no breath – not even a thought.  I noticed myself looking around the room without moving my eyes.

Up to this point in my life, I have never experienced anything like this from reading information.  I had never read anything more baffling and completely life-rocking – except maybe from some passages in the Bible or health class.  I figure the only thing that would be worse, I thought to myself, was to actually hear someone tell me that what I was reading was true.  My world was immediately tossed like a leafy dinner salad with just the very possibility.  “…No way.”  I shook my head.

If there was something I thought for sure I knew, even at this tender age of 10 years old, is when I am being duped by adults.  After all, I’d already been abused in many ways and many times by every authority figure I ever trusted in my short life.  All of a sudden, I am reading a book that was putting into question THE last refuge in which I had placed myself to gain and maintain any kind of sanity and hope in my life. Now, it too, shattered?

(I know, I know.  It’s a little heavy thinking for a kid, right?  Yet, at the same time; my life was already tested from the abuses, foster homes, continual trauma, and my (first) medical near-death experience a few years earlier.  These things change a person – even at a young age – whether I knew it or not.)

***

As a little guy fast growing up to quickly (or ‘forced-up’ as little adults, how I always explained it), I was already gaining a reputation in my family, with friends, and within my close community as a “Whyz-Guy”.  I was very extroverted and loved being around people older than me.  With them, always wondering, asking questions, and always asking why gave them a feel-good moment.  I was so fearless back then (and it’s because I didn’t know any better), I would even stop strangers on the street (I still do), and ask them why – or how (my second favourite question).

(Check out my earlier post on “asking why” called: “Asking Why Without The Stress, and have a look at the “WhyzAss Creed”.)

Was it curiosity? Getting an understanding? Being nosey? A vice or addiction? Or maybe a psychological response to other issues?  I know now from an incident a few years earlier, I felt I lost my father’s trust.  So maybe I was trying to prove my worthiness to him.  Who knows?

All I know for sure, is that if something caught my attention – and it happened often, I had to know the answers.  I was, after all, having fun learning all this stuff too. I discovered that life is interesting and can be filled full of excitement all the time if we wanted it to be so. It is just up to ourselves.  I guess that is why I have been to so many schools, training programs, and educational experiences – to keep having the fun! (And just to let you know – I was never geeky or a ‘know-it-all’ towards anybody.)

So, back to the incident and it’s foreplay.  In response to my personal angst, I decided to create a plan for myself to protect me and help me get through these years of continual pain and trauma.  What I did was to I build these emotional and social walls around my world.  I designed a lifestyle for myself that gave me a sense of safety; and a lot of it had to do with a solitary lifestyle.  Not knowing so, but I am an introvert by nature already, so it wasn’t a big stretch for me to be comfortable with the aloneness.  (Where I had the problem was in the loneliness.)

I had already been exposed to too much of life.  For example, I was travelling (on public transit) downtown on my own six days a week and saw some of the darker sides of inner-city life and survival.  I already had my first near-death experience (as memorable now as it was 50 years ago). The emotional and physical abuses at home compounded the secret trauma I was already experiencing from several incidences of sexual abuse by several adults (of both genders) – and that really messed me up that I could tell nobody.

What made it so difficult was the contradictions I saw and experienced about life, family, love (yada-yada).  Because of my treatment by my parents, I had the privilege of seeing and hearing healthy ways of child-rearing and relationships; and I just couldn’t understand why I didn’t have the same kind of lifestyle in my upbringing.  “Why wasn’t my family nice?” “Why was I always afraid?” “Why is it different?”

In my plan, I decided to keep things pretty simple.

Other than escaping to my little cave in the attic (my bedroom) to draw, paint, and read; I also hung around two places outside the home: the local recreation centre – the place that saved my life and molded my ethics, morals, and values; and the library – the window of escape to anything I would ever want to know as a kid.  If there was another thing I was sure I knew – the recreation centre was safe, friendly, nurturing, and fun; and the library was a place where I can trust the information and the people who were responsible for it (the librarians).  I volunteered at both places often there and participated in a lot of great intellectual and personal growth games and challenges.  The library is where I got the book I was currently reading (and causing me great stress!).

As far as I could tell, it was a good plan.  I stayed out of sight like my parents wanted it.  I stayed out of trouble which my parents demanded.  I stayed in line and obeyed everyone.  I thought it was working (even with the acknowledged abuses) because I was getting through it day by day. (How do you eat an elephant? One spoonful at a time.)

At school, I tried my best and did well (much to my peril).  At church, I was an altar boy and went every day.  With recreation, I can always be found at the Rec Centre.  At home, I played the piano (Conservatory scholar), did my chores, and stayed away from controversy.  Alone, in my attic refuge, I usually listened to the hockey games on the radio while I drew, painted, and dreamed of better days.  It was just a matter of time.  I believed that because I was told often.  Patience.  Reward.  Penitence.  Humility.  These were all the things I could look forward to in my young life as I exercised the best logic in my daily habits.  And still …

***

So, here I was on this evening, under the dust of yet another crumbling psycho/social pillar that held my life together; I too, broke down, cried, and shook away certainty once again.

All I want is HOPE.  If there was anything I could count on, it was at least my future and it’s possibilities.  I knew enough from my varied learnings that at least I had some kind of control over that.  (Like I said, I had already seen and done too much; so my level of thinking was more survival-mode than anything else.)

Here I was – reading a book – and now even the possibility of future inner peace and happiness in my life was questioned.  I knew I wasn’t happy, and I wanted to be.  Was I placing my trust yet again in more lies and deceptions?  I felt my life sinking into the pit of misery.  But how could this be so?  All I had to do (according to adults) was to get a good education, go to church, raise a family, and lead a life of compassion towards others.  Now this was even being destroyed – and I put all my trust in this “plan”.

Never in a million years did I ever think that astronomy would be the defining wedge that would shape and direct my life for many years to come.

***

(More tomorrow. K)

Conversations with Mom – Revenge!

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Even to the very end – Mom got the last laugh on life.  And it wasn’t over yet.  Threre was more … but those are for later. For now …

***

Here, I’d like to share something that happened to me in the last week of her life while she was clinging to every last breath she could muster in her tattered and tired lungs.  Mom was a chronic asthsma her whole life (and smoked most of it) – and when the doctor had a look at her lungs not too long earlier, he said her lungs were “just like leather”.

It must have been horrible gasping for the final hour.

***

Anyways, she was in the hospital on her birthday and it was looking grim; and the doc told her it probably wouldn’t be long.

All 8 of us kids took our turns saying goodbye. It was sad, and even though she never said she loved me, I knew she did.  We were just too much alike.

Now, Mom was always one to throw someone off – and she did.  It was one of those LMAO moments. She also had a long memory, and never let anyone get away with anything on her.

When I came into the hospital room, it was dark and shady – and incredibly alert. Mom didn’t move much and said less, but I noticed she was as sharp as a whip.  Even in her last days, she recounted and whispered her adventures and shared smiles.  We didn’t talk about us, or “my father”, (as she always called him).

This last day, when Mom knew I was there; and I noticed, I moved in closer to her side.  She wanted to say something and reached out to pull me in.  Our faces were almost close and Mom whispered decisively:

“You see, the psychic was wrong at Expo 67!”

Two days later she died.

The backstory is funny, in that, when she travelled with my sister to Montreal in 1967 in honour of Canada’s Centennial year, she went to see a psychic at the World’s Fair.  The psychic told Mom at the time she wouldn’t live to see her 68th.  She always held that grudge and over the years she would bring it up – and if there was anything she wanted to beat – was that damn psychic.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom

I Love You,

K

Is Something Wrong? or …

“My rant against the bias towards Disabilities”

Serene Pathway

*

I swore that I would,

if only I could

change my life completely around.

From many time of trying,

I’m now used to the dying

when you tell me my mind is not sound.

*

I look in your face,

vainly search for a trace

that makes me want to believe.

I’ve heard it before,

and I’ve come to abhor

your labels designed to deceive.

*

Your smiles are crooked,

and your posture does show it

there’s something amiss in our sharing.

Thinking you know,

I’m not status quo

without ability for the Daring.

*

My abilities – yes different,

my mind – most competent

seeking out dreams – just like you.

I certainly can’t,

and most definitely won’t

humble myself for you.

*

Disabled you call me,

Unable you see me

But I don’t fit your profile.

I make no transgression,

I work at discretion –

your feigned ignorance reviled.

*

Scandalous at times,

most shameful, poisoned minds

your integrity completely lost.

Stolen power is yours

knowing patience wears,

at attempts to create trust.

*

Challenges – indeed,

I still look to succeed

not discouraged from daily falling.

Strength I am gaining,

gathering, sustaining

towards living my personal calling.

*

Chasing My Dream,

Life begins to redeem

and is giving me freedom to live.

I refuse to give up,

I’ll keep getting up

I refuse to be held in captive.

*

I pass now to you,

a chance to renew

your desired belief in another.

I willingly stand,

to help you understand

we are, after all, here for each other.

*

*

Namaste

(c) 2013 Kevin Collins

Overheard at coffee shop …

MCSee

HIM: Well, how about the package I brought over to your place last week?

HER: I didn’t ask you fo it. You just gave it to me.

HIM: Well … you are a friend … and you were a friend ‘in need’ indeed.

HER: If I had known I would “owe you”, I never would have taken it.  You didn’t say it was a loan; you said as a friend you were “doing it  out of the goodness of my heart” you said.

HIM: I didn’t say you owed me.  Never mind, forget it.  You don’t have to pay me for anything.

HER: I’m paying for it right now!

The Subtle Power of Media Abuse?

The media is powerful – you know it – I know it – we all know it.

We know their power is established in doing their work with honesty, integrity, and the highest degree of professionalism.  They’ve fought for the right to hold that esteemed position; and as a result, we (the viewers/readers/listeners) have come to expect the media to live up to their responsibilities that come with being a part of the industry.

Because of the acknowledged MAJOR role media plays in our lives, our societies have developed “checks and balances” consisting of agreements, guidelines, and laws that ensure the media honours the privilege of their position in society.  It gives us, the public peace of mind in believing “Big Brother” is being watched.

Sadly, it appears that over time, the public has come to unrealistically trust and believe the media’s commitment to “the truth”.  Sadder still, recent events in the last few months have had me wonder whether the public has been duped into this false belief.

– – –

Below, I list 4 examples of recent Media releases in the Toronto Canada market (within the last 3 months) that are at the very least, in very bad taste.  When you group the incidents together according to what they do (according to the ELM Test of Integrity), it appears to me to be almost heinous in the powerful abuses they exercise in their actions.

– . –

1 – TSN:  The Sports Network – a national cable sports channel

What happened:

There was a between-period segment where a number of commentators discuss issues and games based on their hockey expertise.  The bit was about supportive relationship between a budding young hockey star and the coach of an NHL team. It was an inspiring and positive report.

After the segment, the hockey panel went on to remark on inappropriate relationships with young athletes.  Because of what the NHL coach said, the panel made an inference of child abuse by an NHL coach by joking and commenting on the coach’s remarks that he had a good relationship with the young hockey star.

They further joked about it and laughed to give the impression that it was acceptable to laugh about child abuse.

Can you see the possible media abuse when I apply the “ELM Test”?

Ethical: They crossed the line when they brought in the issue of inappropriate relationships with young athletes when it wasn’t necessary.

Legal: They may have caused a legal issue by using the NHL coach as the butt of their jokes about having inappropriate relationships with young athletes.

Moral: They minimized the seriousness of the issue of inappropriate relationships with young athletes by making jokes about the issue.

As a victim and survivor of a sports coach abuse when I was a boy, I was very upset with the segment and how it was twisted.  I wrote an email to them (mid-May), but I did not receive a response. I then wrote to another news outlet – they did not respond either.

___

2 – CP24: CityPulse24 – Toronto local 24-hr all-news channel

What happened?

A “breaking-news” story came on the TV about two missing women. As is the standard protocol with news releases by the Toronto Police Service, they included information that could help identify the person that is missing.

The second woman broadcast included a description that seemed a bit odd.  Along with the usual information (height, weight, hair, etc), it included that the person was Persian. I wondered how someone would know how to identify a Persian, and if there was still a country named Persia.

After I did some research, I found out the name of Persia is no longer in use.  I also found out something else that actually scares me:

There was no Toronto Police media report about the missing person.

Actually, the media release didn’t happen until a few days later.

I wrote an email to CP24 asking where they got the reference to Persian, how it was part of the description, and it could be considered racist. They thanked me for my writing to them.

Can you see the possible media abuse when I apply the “ELM Test”?

Ethical: They crossed the line by adding something to the description that was never included in the first place. They manipulated hard news from the police.

Legal: How did they get the information from the Toronto Police Service? The official release wasn’t listed until a few days after the news first broke.

Moral: Was morally wrong to believe they can get away with misinformation.  There was no police report (yet the inference was so), and they intentionally made up information.

___

3 – CTV: CTV News Toronto of national media network

What happened?

There was a new news host on the program this particular evening. He was doing quite well until he got flustered.  When that happened, it only got worse.

After the break, the host introduced the weather person; and unfortunately got her name wrong.  After an embarrassing chatter to recover, the host then went on to compliment her on her beauty and the connection to her work.

The weather person handled it very well, and they moved on.

Can you see the possible media abuse when I apply the “ELM Test”?

Ethical: Is it unethical to use something in poor taste (in this day and age) such as referring to a (co-worker and) woman’s beauty to recover.  What the heck was on his mind – and how did the weather person feel?

I didn’t find any other questions regarding this incident.  I was wondering how they would apologize or even if they felt there was something for which to apologize to the viewers.

___

4 – Toronto Sun: local daily tabloid newspaper

What happened?

I was reading the local newspaper and came across a photograph that didn’t look right. After further research, I noticed the “photograph” (as it was credited) appeared to be manipulated by creating an image from several others.

What caught my interest in this particular issue is that I was under the understanding that publicly published images has certain royalties, required credits, and correct information of the image.  This image was listed as a photograph when it actually was not.

So, if they are willing to take liberties with something as minor as this; how many other instances has there been in the past?  Do they often pass of images as photographs (and thereby deceiving the reading public)?

Can you see the possible media abuse when I apply the “ELM Test”?

Ethical: It appears the image has bee manipulated and has falsely given the reader the impression the image was taken as a complete shot in one take.

Legal: Given the issues with royalties and credits, I have to wonder if the image was created from just his shots or did he use public domain issues?  How can the photographer claim any credit for something that isn’t an actual photograph?

Moral: I don’t know if there is a moral dilemma with this issue other than the photographer’s own feelings.  Knowing that he did not create a photograph and only created an “image”, how does he come to terms with himself with the appearance of a fraud he is perpetrating?

– – –

In all of these incidents (as subtle as they are),

the players are all professionals;

they know the media rules and guidelines;

and yet, it appears they still chose to put their integrity

in jeopardy by not responding when questioned.