Personal Mission Statement

I’ve been engaged in a learning program through the Satir Global Network, which is a body dedicated to “to furthering the creation of healthy and just relationships with self and others based on the teachings of Virginia Satir.” Virginia Satir was an American psychotherapist. At the end of the program I will be certified as a trainer and coach in Satir method, which will give me an extra boost of confidence going into my Masters in  psychotherapy.

Part of my current assignment is to develop a three word mission statement. These are increasingly popular and are meant to be immediately impactful. Consider “Just do it” or “Do no harm”.

I’ve been listing words and reading blogs (apart from on Pinterest, I just can’t handle that site). I’ve been overthinking this as is my wont, and taking it seriously due to my frustratingly earnest nature.

I started at “Kindness centred growth” but ack, I hate it. I’m bored halfway through it- which I guess would be at cent–, snore. The lesson plan has a list of words attached. I found another cool list in this helpful blog post.

I wanted it to capture the feeling of facilitating growth – my own, that of other individuals, and that of organisations or communities. I wanted it to capture my taste for adventure and my insatiable curiosity. But I also value the strength and autonomy that can arise from integrity. All of this in three words.

All the blog posts encourage the readers to try their personal mission statement out for a while and to change it as needed. So I’m not marrying myself to these three words. They might change. For now though, and I hope I don’t fall asleep halfway through reading them, what I’ve got is:

Nurture Authentic Curiosity

Nesting Dolls

Tonight I got to make art with my daughter. I did spoken word and she did a juggling routine, the two interwoven and set to music. Only I was too moved by the experience and by watching her juggle and I forgot my last lines. Luckily we were performing for our beautiful theatre community in a room of support and love. And now she has a new routine and I have a new poem

Once upon a time as a young aspiring poet learning to rhyme I’d hold my pen so serious hitting the flow young and making myself delirious writing poems about snowdrops in the spring or the voices of the dead joining to sing to the living – I wrote everything I felt in haiku and rhyming couplets – dropping everything to snatch poems from the air – catch them and pen them to the page to keep them there.

Irving Layton once told me not to BE a poet but to leave poetry to fun and make some more sensible plan. Long after his death my banker-self cursed that man – but the poet child lives inside me still and always will see poems dancing in sunlight on autumn leaves and swipe their stories off a passing breeze.

One summer in my childhood when we were out all day and home by the time the street lights came on I tossed around the idea of playing the bully – just to feel how that felt in my bones and my body.

 One day, I threw a boy – not pushed or shoved – but threw him into a bush. And I knew it was wrong but I loved the rush of power and control – of course it was just a role and I quickly dropped the act. It’s good to know though that if I ask, that alpha kid will step out from inside me and stand beside me to assert boundaries and make me free to stand tall and strong when that’s the only way I see to get along. 

And maybe I wanted to play bully a while because like most other childhoods mine was manipulated by the false promises and uneasy patterns of adults and the best way to survive was to smile and be quiet and pleasantly small – because a kid doesn’t understand alcoholism or mental illness at all.

You only know that to stay safe when they’re looking for someone to blame, you stay small and smile – and as a grown up it’s often the same. So I thank that young freckled self for learning how to smile just sweetly enough because my friends, sometimes when the going gets tough, the tough are just the ones still smiling in the end. 

These past versions of me live still right inside of me – holding their lessons and skills for me to use and I can willfully pick and choose who best to augment my current self with.

I call on each for different reasons but on occasion and in some seasons they call on me knock knocking at my door asking – can I come out and play? Like now it’s spring and the bird are singing mating songs as dawn is breaking and bulbs are thrusting stalks through damp earth making all the natural world ache to give birth.

And inside my middle-aged reasonable self, a much younger self stirs, sniffs the air and laughs. Flirting with flowers and sighing with sunbeams, she stretches her youthful limbs and – thinking thoughts of love – takes centre stage.

(this is when my daughter enters and starts her juggling routine. Part way through I finish the poem)

Poet child, erstwhile bully, sweet survivor, would be lover – everything and everyone you’ve ever been – you still are. Each inside you and inside each other like nesting dolls of former selves, standing ready to give you help. Inside this beautiful mess of your complicated parts is you, capitol Y O U, your truest you, your “to thine own self be true” you.

With all embellishments swept away, the unbedazzled and honest face behind every social mask. Every gut reaction, every “I feel it in my bones” is your truest self whispering stories of your soul and we best hone our listening skills because your innermost self speaks truth, and always will. 

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

At a music conference last September, I got lost in some conflicted feelings when someone asked about my music and I said, “Oh, I’m not an artist, I’m a volunteer.” The dissonance arose because if life had gone differently, I might well have been a singer songwriter. Or maybe a lounge singer. Or an actor. Or a writer. As it was I have been a single mom and a banker. I mean, it’s not over yet and right now in the realm of “what do you do”, I’m nothing. I’m between jobs. Between incarnations. I’m awaiting news on an application to study psychotherapy.

My roomie at the conference said I sure seemed like an artist to her – and really, it seemed, to the majority of people I spoke with – and I needed to take some time to explore that. As I was holding a one way ticket to London with zero plans, time to explore my artistic side seemed in the cards. She made me promise to get the book The Artist’s Way , and to really DO the program. I bought the book in an Art Gallery Gift Shop in London and I began the weekly exercises in Alicante.

The concept of this book is that you tackle a chapter each week and you transform yourself from a snivelling, terrified person who hasn’t done anything artistic in years because of having been victimised by external forces, into a confident person who believes in their art, engages in it daily and has rediscovered their playful inner artist-child. This is NOT how the author would describe it. My very first journal entry regarding the process (and you write every day for 12 weeks and then on until you die) uses the words “sappy, basic, and judgy”. And really, this impression held for the whole twelve weeks. Probably this book just wasn’t meant for a person like me where I am in life. I’ve always written and acted. I had just quit a career in personal finance in part because success in career sales in the personal finance industry just did not play well with an artistically rich life. I already write most days so the “Morning Pages” wasn’t of any new use to me, and is not in the slightest a unique idea. The concept of taking your Inner Artist on Artist’s Dates once a week is unnecessarily artificial to me. I am well in touch with my inner child. I am generally joyful, in the moment and playful. I indulge this side of myself too much, if that’s possible. Too much for a banker, that’s for certain.

I was frequently offended by the theme of victimhood and recovery; although, at some places the theme of being in recovery was useful for me. For instance, I had been affected by my parents cancelling my music lessons and selling the organ when I was young. I can see how they felt it was taking up space as I didn’t practice it properly – all I did was play on it. Given that I wore headphones, they might not even really have known how often I played on it. But I played around with music and wrote songs and enjoyed creating music. That’s a memory I’d forgotten and I’ve since bought a keyboard – I have the Artist’s Way to thank for that.

I benefited from the chapters on seeing myself as an artist and practised telling strangers in Europe that I was a writer, or that I was an actor. Both of which are true – though not in the professional sense. It felt good though and brought me in touch with how much I value these aspects of myself.

My biggest problem with this book was how Christian it was, without overtly disclosing anywhere on the covers that this was the case. In the Introduction, she says “When the word God is used in these pages, you may substitute the thought good orderly direction or flow. What we are talking about here is a creative energy. God is useful shorthand for many of us…” (xii) but then sprinkles biblical quotes throughout the remainder of the book. If “God” is just shorthand, why not use “flow” instead? It’s so much less laden with concepts external to the apparently intended meaning of “creative energy”. Why not go with a simpler term? In the same vein, the author refers fairly often to science and then displays a complete lack of understanding of science. All told, it’s intellectually lazy.

I did finish all twelve weeks. I completed the exercises and several of them were  interesting and helpful. The “Reading List”, or references, contains a number of resources from which she borrowed all or most of the exercises that I think would be of greater use to me than this book. But that isn’t to say this book wasn’t helpful. I bought a keyboard. I gained confidence in thinking of myself as an artist. I grew in clarity regarding what roles I want writing, acting, and music to play in my life. Psychotherapy is at least as much a passion as the artistic pursuits and one can’t go full tilt in all directions at once. And dabbling in psychotherapy is a lot more dangerous than dabbling in the arts!

I think The Artist’s Way would be useful for someone who truly does need to recover their inner child-artist. Someone who used to enjoy their artistic gifts and then because of Life, turned their back on them. If that person is an atheist, they will have to deal with the feeling that the author is trying to subtly convert heathens to the true path.

The Write Thing


“Sometimes the right thing, that’s hard to do”

I’m walking around my apartment singing listening to Danny Michel’s album White and Gold and cussing at myself for not updating my little vanity blog. Then I had to laugh, because I starting reinterpreting The Right Thing as the write thing, and yeah, man. It’s hard to do.

I have two post drafts sitting around from a few months ago. Geewhillikers Kate, just vomit up some words and hit publish. As a side note, I’m trying to find an exclamation that really suits me. I don’t like Geez or other ones derived from Jesus. They don’t offend me personally but I know they likely make Christians wince, and I would rather be more “do not harm” with my interjections.

When I was working I would daydream about all the writing I would do if I could only have time off. And reading! And fitness, by golly (by golly, maybe?) I would be the fittest of the fit! But here I am with time off achieving so close to nothing on a daily basis and only just managing to not gain weight.

I think part of it is when you’re working you just don’t have time to sit around staring at the pointlessness of everything.

Holy Mackerel (ugh, no) – that makes me sound so down! I think it’s really just the sound of anyone middle-aged if they stop spinning for a minute. There’s not much chance of that for the sandwich generation. Huh, I just realised I’m an open-faced sandwich now! Delicious. Less carbs.

One of the posts I haven’t finished is about that almost a month of not drinking. I wanted to write what I thought about it but I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Still and all and nonetheless, I have nothing to finish that sentence with.

The other is a post about my not really resolutions from New Years but first I have to teach myself how to turn my first ever power point (not a historical thing, it’s from this year) into a YouTube video. But up there ^^ I figured out inserting a link, so that’s something.

Oh, and I want to do a DIY video on how I fix/broke my alarm clock! Really, I could generate blog ideas like a machine, like some ideas generation app where you just click and it spits out new ideas. I just need to somehow install a “seeing the idea through” app into my (barely) operating system.

I know there’s a balance point between being harsh with myself, and being self-indulgent; between being self-critical and having self-compassion. Later in the song, Danny sings “let’s forgive and forget.” Dealio, I’ll try it with myself.

I gotta go flip the record.

Parked dog at Timportance

The kids used to call Tim Hortons “Timportance”. I’ve always like that.

Being the unemployed recipient of a Tim’s card for Christmas and owing to the fact that I got up at 9:15, I got take-out coffee and a breakfast sandwich to punctuate the dog’s walk this morning. Can I just add a shout out to my small dog’s bladder? Way to adapt to changing definitions of “morning walk.”

There were five tables occupied at the Timmys. The staff were super quick throwing together the food so I didn’t get a good look at the table occupants. And it’s impolite to stare they say, yadayada.

Table one: a man and a woman in animated discussion. Papers strewn on tabletop being shuffled and referred to. Some with letterhead, some without. Some appeared to be reports. She’s smiling; I can’t see his face. Maybe numbers are up? Maybe they’re in the planning stages of their Big Idea? Maybe these are the papers they stole to finally bring down the Company, after a quick coffee break?

Table two: a woman sitting alone, reading. She has a hot beverage cup – maybe it’s a coffee, maybe it’s a Caramel Fudge Hot Chocolate – and is eating a Timbit. She gazes out the window at my parked dog, scans the room and then smiles kindly at me. Her book is called “Stop Eating Your Feelings.”

Table Three: a man by the fire. There are four comfortable looking chairs by the fire-feature and he is by himself in one of them. His phone is held aloft as he is immersed in a video chat. I don’t see earphones but I can’t hear the person on the phone, either. Maybe there are Bluetooth earphones under the man’s hat. I can’t hear him really either so maybe he’s using those earphones that turn your jaw movements into sound. Whatever silent thing is said makes him scowl and he pauses to stretch and to look around but not see anyone. It’s like he’s not really there at all.

Table Four: a man in dirty, worn-out clothes. He’s in layers, mismatched, rumpled, with greasy, hat-head hair. His coffee is done or forgotten. He’s playing a scratch ticket with enviable intensity.

Table Five: two older men. No phones on this table. Two disposable hot beverage cups and two sets of old hands. They hold eye contact while they talk. There doesn’t seem to be any tension between them, but also no expansive, heavily-gestured, shoot-the-shit energy. Two older men in companionable conversation. Past co-workers? Old friends? Ex-husband and widower of the same long gone woman?

And me. Me at the counter at 10AM getting breakfast to go. With my warm winter coat and cute pink hat to hide my bed-head. My adorable little dog waiting patiently outside. Smiling, looking at my phone, saying thank-you. Does the woman with the book wonder if I feel bad to be eating breakfast so late? Because I do, I feel guilty for sleeping in until 9:15. I have no routine and it’s overcast so I slept. Does she wonder if I eat out all the time? I don’t – I’m not working and eating out makes me feel guilty apart from this because I have a Tim’s card. I think I must look confident and put together on the outside most of the time but really I’m at a loss.

I didn’t go to Europe to find myself. I did go in part because I got married during University so I never did the run away to Europe thing. I did it like a middle-aged person – I went to lose myself. And I was famously successful. But now I need to pay bills and I can’t look for a career-type job because I want to start my Masters in the Autumn. And having been weightlessly nothing for an extended period of time, I don’t really want to stop. But “Sleeps in if it’s Cloudy” is not a title that pays the bills.

What self am I creating? Big ideas self? Lonely self-improvement self? Not really there at all self? Fervent scratch ticket self? Comfortable chat self?

For now I guess I’ll focus on becoming “makes enough to pay the bills” self and take it from there.