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18 Nov

Poetic Reflections on the Dynamics of Change

hands reaching through the vailThis is a talk I gave at the Church of Truth in Victoria, BC on November 17, 2019

To Introduce the Topic of the Dynamics of Change; I’d like to recite this Ojibway Prayer

Grandfather,
Look at our brokenness.
We know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.
We know that we are the ones
Who are divided
And we are the ones
Who must come back together
To walk in the Sacred way.
Grandfather,
Sacred One,
Teach us love, compassion, and honour
That we may heal the earth
And heal each other.

Today’s topic is poetic reflections on the dynamics of change

We’re looking at poems about memories and how writing is instrumental in integrating the dynamics of change.

So, what about memories? William Standford wrote this. It’s called:

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along the shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life —

what can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

Your Life Circumstances as Poetry

We can all read the poetry of Rumi or Hafiz, David Whyte and Mary Oliver, or in this case, William Stanford, and have our hearts lifted to the heavens by the simple weaving of their words.

But what if the harshest circumstances of your life were also considered poetry? Poetry in motion. Events, when funnelled through the Heart of Awareness become the alchemy of Grace leading you to transformation, leaving you triumphant — a Phoenix rising ever upwards from its own ashes, the dynamics of change. Poetry in motion.

Perhaps by now you have come to expect the trickster lurking around every corner. God’s secret design to mould us humans into a poetic mosaic featuring all possibilities. Divinity showing off its finest attire. Forcing us to traverse and transcend as we forge through parched deserts and darkened forests, swamps and jungles of heartbreak and grief, loss and fear until we awaken upon sparkling waters and coral colour beaches leading to abundant meadows of dancing wildflowers kissed by sunbeams drizzling through raindrops that transform into rainbows. God’s glorious archway of effervescent colours offering us The Sacred Promise. A Promise Of Hope. A Promise of Coming Home while walking right here upon our Earth.

Yes, Perfect Poetry in Motion.

I had never thought of us that way until I was invited to do this talk, but as I considered it, it makes perfect sense. After all, as God’s Children — and even more — inhabiting the spark of God within us — we are that! The absolute poetry of God. At our core, we are creative, expansive, exquisite beings of Light and when we tap into that aspect of us, the purest poetry is born, birthed in a million forms, just as we are billions of people and among billions of species on this planet, each a different expression of God’s creation, one part of the vast tapestry of the One Mind. The One Heart.

And those of us of the human kind, when we fall away from our connection to our Divinity, well, the Trickster moves in to get our attention. True? So that we can grow from and out of the inevitable painful set of circumstances that are delivered to us, reflecting on the dynamics of change, only to lead us back home to the Garden once again, to The One Heart of Creation — The One Heart of God.

As Rumi so stunningly penned, “Come even if you have broken your vow a thousand times, come, yet again, come, come. Come, come again, whoever you are, come.”

Yes, the invitation is to move beyond the sorrow and back to pillars of joy! Our true natural state. Come, come back again. Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.

Rumi also wrote:

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”

One of the greatest sorrows that entered my door at the tender age of 20 is written up in a short passage from my first book, published 10 years ago, called, Re-Write Your Life — A Transformational Guide to Writing and Healing the Story of Our Lives.

Re-Write Your Life, Chapter 2, p. 9: “One day my mother sat me down . . . ”

I would like you now to listen to a poem that no one can recite better than the author himself — David Whyte. This is Sweet Darkness!

Now, I’d like to read you a poem I wrote which emerged from darkness, giving me a horizon further than I knew I could see. It was in the darkness that became the sweet confinement of my aloneness where I truly learned that anything or anyone that does not bring me alive was too dark for me. Through the dynamics of change, this poems emerged on the page:

Breathing Possibilities

You can talk about yesterday or talk about tomorrow
You can talk about the falling dollar, talk about your sorrow
You can talk about chemicals and how they’re poisoning the earth
You can talk about how bad it is and how it’s getting worse.

Or you can take this moment and softly close your eyes
Breathe a breath from deep within and do not compromise
Take another and then another and in the stillness feel
The wonder of this moment — can this too be real?

Stay within the silence and notice what you hear
Listen with your heart and watch your fears all disappear
For in this very moment a miracle is due
If you listen with your heart there will be a message just for you.

A child is being born right now; can you hear the sound of life?
In a little church just down the way, vows are being made as man and wife.
Somewhere on a hilltop a traveler has found her way.
And the dew upon the morning grass has welcomed a brand new day.

Stay within this moment for the miracle is here
There’s nothing that you need to do, nothing but be sincere
Life is bursting forth in every breath; And in the stillness find
A place to love, a place to join with every heart and mind.

Rejoice, for in this moment you can send blessings near and far
Rejoice, for in this moment you are a living star
And every time you feel afraid and wonder what to do
Come back to this one moment and know the miracle is you.

Transforming Grief to Joy, Scarcity to Abundance, and Fear to Love

The beauty of being human is that we are the only ones on the planet that can actually change our states of being through our intentions and our actions. Using the dynamics of change; we can transform grief to joy, scarcity to abundance, and fear to love. Other life forms can only respond to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Knowing that we have been given this gift by The Universe, this absolute privilege — our gift back is to change our state, to move from sadness to joy, and to intend to live a fully, loving, joy-filled, loved-filled magnificent life!

And now for another of the world’s greatest poets and musical geniuses, listen to this song by Leonard Cohen: Anthem.

My way through has always been writing. It brings me out of despair into a place of hope, into the place of all possibilities. It’s bizarre. I know that writing does that for me — yet even today, there are times that it’s not the first thing I go to in order to move through a challenge. Sometimes, it’s the fridge to toast another bagel. Or two!

I know I’m not alone. We all have our drug of choice. Me, I can’t help it. I’m Jewish. So it’s not my fault. When I was born, my mother, being a good Jewish mother, threw a dozen bagels into the blender and fed it to me as pablum. When I was teething she’d shove a whole bagel into my mouth — usually pumpernickel — until they came out with lox and cream cheese, my fave.

So, now you know why bagels are the number one comfort food for Jews across the planet! But me, I like to find ways to improve my bad habits, through the dynamics of change, so I went to a 12 step program for bagel addiction and — I thought I was at synagogue! There wasn’t one Christian or even a Muslim in the room! I have a strong suspicion that the person who set up this particular meeting place, also a bagel addict like me really doesn’t want to quit. And she doesn’t want us to either. All our meetings take place in the room above Mount Royal Bagels with the waft of sesame, pumpernickel, lox and cream cheese and everything bagels — moving through the floorboards and into each of our olfactory senses — throughout the entire meeting. So, you can hardly hold it against us when we relapse after every meeting. What can we do? Nu?

Putting Humour and Poetry Together with Music

Anyway, writing . . . poetry . . . poetry in motion. Song lyrics are definitely poetry in motion. And humour and poetry put together into song can be a spectacular way of movin’ and groovin’ out of the blues! We all know the truth of this. Put on a favourite dance tune and within seconds your body can’t sit still. Right?

So, going back to my earlier years, after many trips in and out of mental institutions, I met lots of people as screwed up as me — and didn’t feel quite as alone. We all had fears and phobias of one sort or another so I simply wrote a poem about it which is now going to be part of a musical I’m writing. My friend David just wrote the tune for it. It’s appropriately named, “The Phobia Song.” I’d like to leave you with this song.

Here is THE PHOBIA SONG, inspired by people everywhere — and all our conditions!

THE PHOBIA SONG
Lyrics by Junie Swadron
Music by David Halliwell

Fear of Dying and Afraid of Life
Fear of Flying and Afraid of Strife
Fear of Losing and Afraid to Win
Christ Almighty — Where do we Begin?

Are we crazy? — No We’re Not
We’re Simply Concerned By What We’ve Got
Fear of Anger — Afraid of Fat
Wars, Chores, and Doors — Imagine That

Claustrophobia, Agora Phobia
Phobias we can’t spell
Pathophobia — Xenophobia
We know em So Well
Hydrophobia — Zoo-o-Phobia
What’s Your Favourite? — Do Tell
Every Day is Crazy
And Life’s a Living Hell

Are We Crazy? — Well Maybe Yes
You Decide — It’s anyone’s Guess
Are We Crazy? — Well Maybe Not
Isn’t it Something Everyone’s Got?

Chorus

Fear of Cats — Afraid of Snakes
Fear of Laughter — For Goodness Sakes
Fear of Getting Old
Or Getting Too Tall

Fear of Waking — or Sleeping In
Fear of Pleasure — Afraid of Sin
Fear of Being Seen
In Your Own Skin

Outro
We’re Not Crazy — We’re Not Crazy
We’re Happy to Tell All Our Friends
We’re Not Crazy — We’re Not Crazy . . . exit stage left!

©️ Junie Swadron and David Halliwell, November 2019

My prayer for you: May you be perfect poetry in motion and co-create a magnificent, safe, loving, peaceful beautiful life of Joy, Peace, Grace, and Harmony!

All blessings,
Junie

Writing Prompt: Your Turn

Is there a story in your life that you could transform? Can you re-write it so that you can benefit from its lessons and feel free to move on? Try your hand at transforming grief to joy, scarcity to abundance, or fear to love. Write your story!

If you like, share your writing in  Junie’s Writing Sanctuary (if you’re not a member yet, just ask to join and I’ll get you in as soon as I can).

Your Life Matters book by Junie Swadron

Want to write your own memoir?

Start by downloading a free digital first chapter of my latest book, Your Life Matters! 8 Simple Steps to Writing Your Story.

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17 Nov

“Bipolar Babe” The Story of a Remarkable Woman

andrea-paquette

Dear friends,

This week it is my joy and privilege to feature Andrea Paquette, most often referred to as Bipolar Babe. If you live in Victoria and you travel in the mental health circles, you will have undoubtedly come upon her name, especially in the fields of youth, mental health, and recovery.

Andrea and I met about seven years ago when a mutual friend suggested we meet. I invited Andrea to my home and we shared some of our “war stories” from earlier years from the perspective of self-compassion with an exclamation of “Good for us, look how far we’ve come!”

Together we watched the DVD of my play, Madness, Masks and Miraclesa play to dispel myths and stigmas about mental illness, and immediately shared an unspoken agreement to become friends.

Soon thereafter, Andrea joined my 10-week Re-Write Your Life workshop, and currently she is engaging in my one-to-one author mentorship program. She is writing the stories that shaped her, some of which have never been publicly told.

Her soon-to-be-published book demonstrates her profound transformation from harrowing experiences which threatened her life, hospitalizations as a result of psychosis, and depression leading to wanting to die and making a serious suicide attempt, to becoming a genuine heroine and gift to the planet.

In spite of her painful (to say the least) past, Andrea aka Bipolar Babe is an award winning mental health activist, educator, facilitator, writer, speaker, and—Executive Director of the charity she founded, the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia.

  • Andrea is the named 2015 Courage To Come Back Award Winner in the category of Mental Health given by Coast Mental Health
  • She won the 2013 Mel Cooper Citizen of the Year in Victoria Award
  • She is also the Winner of the 2013 Award for Mentorship from the National Council for Behavioral Health in Washington, DC.

Andrea was born to a mother with a kind and gentle nature but her bipolar illness caused out of control behaviour which resulted in frequent hospitalizations. Her parents separated when she was only eight, and she was also separated from her best friend (her sister). Andrea went to live with her father and her sister stayed with her mom.

In her teens, Bipolar Babe dropped out of school, did drugs, drank alcohol daily, and hung out with a criminal crowd. After just one too many harrowing experiences, she decided to turn her life around.

She moved to BC from Ontario and attended the University of Victoria on a scholarship and immediately fell in love with political science. By age 25, Bipolar Babe was approached by a federal party to run for nomination for Member of Parliament. Although she lost, the taste of politics gave her the impetus to sell everything she owned and drive to Ottawa in her 1996 Neon, hoping to become an MP’s assistant.

From Hope to Devastation

It was then that everything came crashing down. Her bipolar illness started to manifest itself. First as hypo-mania, which included a crushing psychosis leading to unrelenting depression.

In her hypo-manic state, Andrea wrote an election strategy: a 33-page document that poised her to be the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Bipolar Babe’s illness escalated to a higher stage of mania and psychosis and after a series of painful events she was admitted to the psychiatric ward in Ottawa. After her release, she had no money, job, or friends, and her roommates kicked her out. Even her political contacts failed to answer her pleas for help.

“We treat broken minds and broken bones differently in our society.”

She felt stigmatized. She felt that if she had had a physical ailment, she would have been able to get help and compassion from others. Andrea often shares that “We treat broken minds and broken bones differently in our society.”

Although she was finally able to rent a room in a home with kind people who made her dinners and was eventually able to get work, she was paranoid now and stopped taking her meds. She left Ottawa feeling broken.

Back in BC, she suffered the other pole of the disease — severe depression and anxiety. Andrea could not even pick out food in a grocery store, and the smallest chores and tasks such as taking a shower felt like building her own house. During one of her darkest days, she attempted suicide. This hospital admission brought her face to face with a caring psychiatrist who helped her apply a new regime of wellness.

Andrea chose to teach in South Korea for two years and upon her return she secured a job with the BC government and made a decision to better her life in every way possible.

The first time she was invited to speak to a group about having bipolar disorder, she realized that she did not have to be ashamed and it became her mission in life to share her story to help others.

bipolarBipolar Disorder Society
of British Columbia

Andrea launched her blog and the Bipolar Babes website, which gives people a place to connect, find valuable information and support.

She is now the Executive Director of the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia and speaks to students, non-profits, doctors, businesses, and other groups on a regular basis. Bipolar Babe shares her personal story of struggle and triumph since her diagnosis in 2005.

Andrea is passionate about educating today’s youth on the stigma surrounding mental health and additional societal stigmas that negatively affect people’s perceptions of themselves and others.

In five short years, this extraordinary woman has presented her story at over 150 schools, workplaces, community organizations and events, reaching more than 12,000 people.

Stigma-Free Zone Superheroes
in Greater Vancouver

stigma-free-zone
In January 2016, Andrea launched a new and exciting Classroom Presentations Program called the “Stigma-Free Zone Superheroes” in Greater Vancouver with the collaboration of co-founder Dave Richardson, President, Octaform Systems Inc.

As mentioned earlier, Andrea hired me as her writing coach, excited to share her personal memoirs, including some of the most intimate details of her life.

No Matter What Our Challenges,
We Can All Live Extraordinary Lives

In her powerful message, she encapsulates that “No matter what our challenges, we can all live extraordinary lives.”

If anyone can live up to that truth and be a mentor for all people affected by mental illness, it’s my special friend, Andrea Paquette.

Andrea, bless you for your extraordinary contributions to the world.

Memory Prompt

Write about a time in your life that you knew you had to change the circumstances you were in because it was too painful or too destructive to stay where you were. The idea of making a change scared you but you did it anyway. What did you do to turn the circumstances around? Looking back at it from distance, what did this time in your life teach you about yourself? Describe the details.

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

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[email protected] | 250.813.0183