The Rewards of Vulnerability

Every time you take a chance, face a fear, question an old belief, and put yourself in a position of vulnerability you reap the greatest reward ever – the feeling of freedom and authentically living who you are. And if that isn’t enough, there is always a tangible reward that you hoped for but were afraid to expect.

Last week I wrote about the undercurrents of vulnerability when one goes back and reconnects to past ideas, dreams, patterns, and people. Last week I reconnected with my dream of being a presenter and motivational speaker. But to make all dreams a reality, it starts with the “first time.” For the first time in my life, I delivered a presentation and motivational talk on Compassion Fatigue to 50-60 people. One would think that as a teacher, presenting in front of a crowd of people is no big deal, but one would be wrong. As I told my students before I embarked on my journey, I would feel more comfortable presenting to them than a room full of adults because adults are more judgmental and much less forgiving than a room full of teenagers.

For the first time in my life I used technology in a presentation, a new program at that – power point. One would think that as a teacher I would be accustomed to using technology in my classes and that I would be well versed in the fine art of power point, but one would be wrong. I am a “motivational speaker” kind of teacher and every time I have tried to “jazz up” my classes with technology, something inevitably goes wrong. As for power point??? Because of its over use in the classroom, I have sat through more boring power point presentations than I care to acknowledge, so I never bothered to acquaint myself with the “finer” aspects of the program.

So picture this. It is 45 minutes before the presentation. I’ve basically been awake all night going through the presentation in my head. I’ve been up since the crack of dawn tweaking the power point presentation and praying it’ll work. I’m packed and I’ve got my suitcase in the car. All that’s left in the hotel room is what I need for the presentation. My nerves are well on edge. I am working through the checklist of things to have ready, what I am going to say, if I have everything. I’m shoring up my confidence as my inner cheerleader tells me that I will be fine, people will love the presentation, I am meant to be here, I can do this. I take one last look in the mirror, readjust my clothing a little, and split…there goes the seam of my pants!!! “Noooooo,” screams my head as I check to see if I heard correctly.

Yep. 45 minutes before I am to deliver the first presentation of my dreams; I split my pants.

What was interesting for me in that moment, was that my brain went immediately into problem solving mode and my inner cheerleader went to work on how to use this story in the presentation. My inner cheerleader also silenced my inner critic explaining that this is a sign from the Universe that the presentation is going to be a pant splitting one and people are going to love it!! And they did. So much so, that by Monday I received an email asking me to do another presentation to a group in Ottawa.

In Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly she says: “Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of feeling hurt. But as I look back on my own life and what Daring Greatly has meant to me, I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.”

Facing my fear and living my dream reinforced that every time I dare to be vulnerable, I leave the situation feeling free and proud to be me. And shortly thereafter there is always a reward leading to the next step in the dream to be me.

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Reconnecting and Vulnerability

Last Thursday and Friday I was gifted with an opportunity to get reconnected to my business, Sweet Perspectives, and to my dream of being a presenter and motivational speaker. What I find interesting, as I ponder over this concept of reconnecting, is the recurring feeling of resistance in the going back to rekindle what was once “normal.” And what I realized this morning is this: at the root of that resistance to reconnect is vulnerability – feelings of guilt, feelings of shame, feelings of not being good enough, feelings of being judged, feelings of not living up to perceived responsibilities and expectations, and on and on the litany goes.

It has been 4 months since I wrote my last blog and nearly every day since that time I have been telling myself I need to write a blog. I need to focus attention on Sweet Perspectives. I kept reminding myself that I took a huge risk to get this life coaching, motivational speaking, presenting business going and now I am letting it go by the wayside because…because I’m in a new partnership, because I am going back to teaching, because I am busy with my girls, because it was summer, because I’ve nothing interesting to write about, because I am letting people down, because I do not know how to explain that I am…what? What am I?

Vulnerable. Vulnerable to the insidious and quiet “attack” of my inner critic and bully. Vulnerable to the criticisms of the hypocrisy in going back to teaching, to a job I hoped I would not have to return. Vulnerable to the disappointment that I couldn’t support myself without my teaching position. Vulnerable to the shame that I didn’t want to make my writing the place where I made money; that I didn’t like marketing myself because it was “too hard,” too close to feeling like I am “justifying” my capabilities. Vulnerable to the guilt that I am still not done writing my book and that it too has moved to the back burner, again.

And as I ponder this space of vulnerability, I realize that it has been an undercurrent to all aspects of reconnecting that I have experienced these past 4 months. Reconnecting to the idea of entering a partnership has made me vulnerable to past “failures” and fears. Reconnecting to teaching and the classroom has made me vulnerable to old wounds and emotional strains of being responsible for everything and everyone, yet not being valued, in any sincere way, by my employer. Reconnecting to presenting and motivational speaking at a Provincial Conference on “Journaling to Believe” and “Compassion Fatigue” made me vulnerable to fears of not being interesting, informative and inspirational. Reconnecting to writing a blog and feeling like I’ve let my “readership” down, my supporters, and ultimately me for not consistently writing, for letting too much time pass.

But really, at the end of the day, those “vulnerabilities” are simply old fears, old wounds, old excuses and old thought patterns that kept me from experiencing life, from changing opinions and perspectives, from trying old things in new ways.

Fortunately I have worked hard at re-wiring my old thought patterns and beliefs and I didn’t let my inners, critic and bully, stop me from reconnecting. Instead, my newly established inners, cheerleader and activist, filled me full of love, encouragement and support. In actual fact, I am appreciating the lesson and realization that reconnecting to dreams, ideas, past practices, and people surfaces fears, makes us vulnerable and gives us another opportunity to connect with our true inner self and continue to grow and love who we are.

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Feeling Summer

Summer. A time of joy and sunshine. A time to rejuvenate and flourish. A time to experience and grow into those thought provoking inner changes that surfaced in the cold of winter.

One of those surfaced changes for me was to truly start experiencing life and by that I mean, concentrating, focusing and listening to how I feel and then act versus what I think I should do and think about how I should feel. On the surface and intellectually it seems like a splitting of hairs, feeling versus thinking, but in a heart-felt sense, there is a huge difference.

All of my life I did what I thought was right. I followed what I was told to do that would make me happy. I would always think before I acted so that I could map out all consequences and cautiously take all the necessary steps. I would always think before I spoke so that I could weigh the impact of my words on all people, made certain that I took everyone’s feelings into consideration and made sure that I chose the words carefully so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. All that thinking has gotten me to where I am today, but over the past several years I realized there was a huge consequence to so much thinking – I cut off my heart, my feeling centre, my intuition, my gut, if you will.

I never trusted my gut, my intuition; that inexplicable feeling one gets. My brain was trained to negate those feelings because I couldn’t logically explain or justify them to others. Those gut reactions felt like they went against everything I was taught or told, so I went the route of the intellectual and like all good intellectuals, I intellectualized my feelings away.

So this summer has been a concentrated effort of feeling and experiencing. Not thinking about what others will think. Not thinking about consequences. Not thinking about whether I should or shouldn’t do something. Instead I have given myself permission to concentrate on being as true to me and how I feel at any given time. I have concentrated on expressing my feelings in the moment, or as close to the moment as I feel them. (My friend and mentor used to tell me I have a “delayed ouch” – meaning I would feel the pain of someone’s actions 6 months after the fact because I would spend so much time listening to my head tell me how I was wrong and what was wrong with me). I have concentrated on keeping those critical mental tracks at bay and am taking chances with my heart left, right and centre!

The result? I feel alive. I feel hurt. I feel joy. I feel sadness. I feel peace. I feel pain. I feel freedom. I feel more connected and real with the people I love and care about because I feel more honest and sincere. I feel less ashamed about who I am and how I feel. I feel more pride in taking chances and doing what I want instead of doing what I think others want of me. I feel more present with what I am doing. I feel less distracted by the 101 thoughts of all that I should be doing and the 1001 thoughts that put me down for failing to do all that I should be doing.

All of this feeling is far easier to practice during the heart of summer when life naturally feels lighter. And truthfully, if you are going to challenge your thinking, an extremely difficult task, summer is the time to exercise and cultivate change, to build in new routines and ways of being, to lay the foundation of feeling and flourishing into yourself. Not to mention time to sit, be still and listen to your heart. Wishing everyone a happy feeling summer!

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Kindness

Kindness. The quality of being caring, friendly, and generous. A kind act. According to the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, that is the definition of kindness.

I believe that kindness is at the heart of loving oneself, of making people happy and making the world a more peaceful place to live. There is a warmth that fills one’s heart when you do something for someone, especially when that person is not expecting it. There is a genuine feeling of love and appreciation when someone takes you into consideration and does something for you, without expectation of payback somewhere down the road. When someone is kind to you or when you are genuinely kind to others, you instantly feel better about your self, your life and the world. Imagine a world where the first quality that is valued above all others is kindness; a society where people are caring, friendly and generous.

Seems so simple really. An easy solution to the world’s problems. Just be kind.

So why do we struggle to be kind to one another? Why do we need to have “Act of Kindness” day? Why do we need to have it explained to us that if we are kind to others, others will be kind to you? Where have we missed the lesson that we like it when people are kind to us, so we are kind in return? Why do we need to “learn” a quality such as kindness?

And honestly, I am trying really hard not to be overtly sarcastic and caustic about this, but admittedly, this is a sore spot for me. In the last couple of years, “Random Act of Kindness Week” has been introduced into the school system. I am a person who is truly kind to the core, and I am all about kindness, but “Random Act of Kindness” week invokes a deep anger within me. I have surveyed every class that I have about whether they prefer people to be kind to them or mean to them. An Overwhelming Majority – 100% – responded that they prefer people who are kind to them versus mean to them. 100%. I have never had a person, not student or adult, say they prefer acts of meanness over acts of kindness.

So this could be faulty logic on my part, math not being a strong suit, but if 100% of the people surveyed prefer people to be kind to them, then presumably, kindness is a quality they value. If kindness is a quality they value, then logically, they should act kind to others. No teaching required. No days or weeks needed to be dedicated to kindness.

So why is it then that kindness is not a quality we aspire towards? Why is kindness not a quality that we value in our society and our culture? I believe it is because we value money over all else. We have learned that if you are kind you will be taken advantage of, walked over, treated like the proverbial welcome mat. In the world of work, it is a cut-throat environment where you lie to get what you want, where you hold your cards close and you cut yourself off from your feelings or you’ll never get anywhere in life. We value a system where the strong survive and the weak, in other words, the kind, are used and abused. We promote the intellect versus the heart. We care more about the bottom line than we do about people and the environment.

As adults we wonder why “kids today” are spoiled and entitled. As adults we need to look in the mirror at our behaviour and our words because kids today have learned from the adults around them that kindness doesn’t pay. Kids are learning that adults will complain about the lack of kindness, and in the next breath say something mean about a friend, neighbour or collegue. We are modeling for children that if you are kind to someone they owe you, or if they are kind to you, expect that you’ll have to pay something back.

Does it make me sad that kindness is not valued by our society to the degree that it has become a “special day?” Yes. Do I believe it is possible to change our psyche to one that values kindness? Yes. One kind act at a time.

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Mother’s Day Gifts & Insights

“Mommy…” pulled me awake at just after midnight.

“Yes, Honey.”

“I don’t feel very good…” my daughter said as she crawled into bed with me.

And she didn’t. Burning up with a fever of 103, Mother’s Day started early with the mad scramble that comes with sick children – searching for medicine and throw up pots, praying for a quick painless passage and hopes that it’s really nothing…

“I think I’m going to be sick…”

“Happy Mother’s Day,” I thought as I pulled my daughter’s hair away from her face just in time.

Nursing sick children is not one of my strengths as a mother. Helping bolster their self-esteem and self-love; helping find solutions to emotional concerns, encouraging independence and putting on the odd band-aide is a strength, but caring nurturing doting nursing – not so much.

Spending Mother’s Day out of my happy mothering place was not exactly what I had in mind, but it proved a wonderful reminder for me of the challenges of single parenting and the importance of giving myself permission to take a “me break.” Regardless of whether or not one has a partner at home for support with chores and sick children, mothers all too often take on the role of caring for the needs of everyone and putting themselves at the bottom of the list, if they make the list at all. Mother’s also carry an intense guilt if they consider their needs and try to take some much needed time for themselves; hence, Mother’s Day, a day of appreciation for all that a mother does.

But this Mother’s Day reminded me of the importance of giving myself permission to take some time to do what I want. Despite all of our conditioning to the contrary, taking time for yourself, insisting on time for yourself, does not make you selfish; it keeps you sane. Whether it is shutting the door to the needs of others to have a hot relaxing bath or going for a walk or out with friends for a drink and leaving the sick child at home, taking the time is critical to one’s ability to handle all of the duties and responsibilities we heap upon ourselves as mothers.

So if you struggle with putting your needs first, write yourself a permission slip, show it to the people you care about, and then go and do what you want and need to do guilt free. The people you care about might complain at first, but go anyway because in the end, you’ll feel better and you’ll show people how you value yourself and how you want them to value you.

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A World of Empathy

Well the irony is not lost on me that here I sit, a year later, still watching the river waters as they flow by, reflecting on a year that’s gone past and what gifts I will bring into the coming year.

I was saying to a friend of mine that I feel like I am in the middle of the ocean and a heavy fog is surrounding me, like the ones I remember of Newfoundland where the fog comes in so fast and so thick you can’t see your hand in front of your face. I feel like the gift I am searching for is right in front of me; I can feel it, but I can’t see it or touch it. I just know it’s there. I want to swim towards it. I want to claim it. I want to know its secret; its gift for me for the coming year – am I to go back to work? Am I to get this new voice I need for my writing? Am I to get more life coaching clients? Am I to… Am I to what? I don’t know…but I feel the answer is so close, yet so far away.

I was telling my friend that I have spent the past three weeks sitting on my couch staring at the river. I haven’t written. I haven’t wanted to write. I haven’t wanted to do anything, except cry. I’ve cried a lot. I’ve watched the birds. The spring birds are back now – juncos, song sparrows, american tree sparrows, chipping sparrows, and my favourite, white-throated sparrows. The hooded merganzers are migrating through heading north, as are the common golden-eyes. The buffleheads that fished the river these last two weeks have moved on. And me, I imagine myself floating and diving with them in the river. I just want to get in the water.

My friend suggested that I push through the fog and simply start writing. Force it. Push it, even though I don’t feel it. That’s what he does. He trusts that part of his process. I don’t. And that was my point to him. Our entire society and training is to work and work harder if it’s not working. That if we keep pushing, eventually something will break through. But what if, by virtue of pushing it, we actually miss it?

So here I am in the ocean surrounded by fog with my joy package in front of me, but I can’t see it. I could try to swim towards it, because I know it’s close and I’m pretty sure I’m facing the right direction. If I listen to the pearls of wisdom of our society, I have to work to get it. No gift just comes to you. But what if I start swimming, swim harder and harder, and all I end up doing is swim away from my gift such that when the fog lifts, it is no where to be found??? What if what I am actually supposed to do is continue to tread water and feel what is around me and learn patience and the lessons of the waters without sight? What if “working” is precisely what I am not supposed to be doing?

I can tell you first hand, that sitting and staring out the window waiting for passion or direction or something inspirational to hit is a hell of a lot harder than working and forcing the writing and inspiration!! And since I don’t want to swim away from my gift that I know is right before me, I need to go against my very training and just sit. Sit, be patient, and wait for the fog to clear so that I can actually see my gift – my Seed of Change.

Swirling around in my fog are all of my old beliefs that need to be cleared so that the new ones can be experienced. New ones like a world governed by Empathy, real empathy, not the fake kind we present. A future where Empathy pricing becomes the norm, where you pay what you can afford and a person asks for what they need in order to maintain a modest lifestyle. A society where life is not about accumulating wealth, but rather helping people live life joyously. The pursuit of upping the energy level on the planet to one of love versus hate. An educational system that starts promoting and supporting emotional healing and healthy processing of anger and hate and frustration and resentment. A place where the intellect is processed through the heart not the bottom line. A place where the concept of work gets redefined and value is placed on the creative process, including honouring the need to sit and wait in the fog.

I really am an idealist, but I really do believe it is possible. I believe we have mastered workaholism and accumulation of goods. We have more than everything we physically need. Now it is time to evolve our selves and our system and place our focus on empathy, care, compassion, and courtesy. They might not be big money makers, but they sure feel a lot kinder and sweeter. The foggy question remains, how do we make Empathy the reality of the world?

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Less is More

Good beautiful Easter morning. For the first time in over 20 days I finally feel like writing. For the past two months I gave up my daily journal writing with the intention of channeling my writing focus into my book, The Beauty of Disaster. What transpired in me by not writing daily is a story for another blog entry, but suffice to say, I arrived to a point where I felt I lost my voice. And I can honestly say that terrified me. What I have come to understand though is that I didn’t actually lose my voice; I was looking for my voice. The voice that people listen to, internalize, and act upon. The voice that has integrity in its authority, versus the one that has authority over others. A voice I can use in my personal and public writings and speeches. In essence, an “I believe in you” voice. And what more beautiful time to exercise that voice but on a beautiful Easter morning.

So I am giving myself permission to merge my morning journal writing with my blog writing. What that means in the long run, I have no idea. What it means for today and the next while? That I am finding and practicing a voice of integrity for me and thereby for compassionate people because I am tired of having to raise my voice for people to listen. I’m tired of having to raise my voice so that I yell louder than the controlling negative bully so that people can hear me. And in this difficult voice finding process, I am giving myself permission to simply sit and watch the river, for hours, for days, and contemplate and feel and move when I feel the need. I’m even honouring this as work. Very hard work. Because to sit in silence in order to listen to your heart is hard work. And this is what my heart had to say this morning:

“It is time. And this new journal series will be called “Finding a Voice” which is exactly what I am trying to do – Find My Voice. My Voice of Authority. My Voice of Integrity. A Voice that gets heard by people. People of Compassion – yes. But even more – by people of power. People who won’t listen. People who have disregarded their quiet contemplative compassionate counterparts along the way. It is their turn to be quiet, but more importantly, to take ownership for their part, their contribution to why their relationships, their place of employment, their controlling ways has contributed to why our system and its people are so messed up.

But truly, at the end of the day, it is time for all of us to take Ownership. No one in this glorious country of ours has a gun pointing to our heads forcing us to say and do what we do. No one. It’s time for us to stop playing the role of the victim and start acting like the honourable people that we are. It’s time to start caring for each other and to stop assuming the other person is trying to cheat us – that is a patriarchal business plan and strategy. That is an archaic system! Ours is an archaic system!

For us to have a sustainable system, one where we don’t deplete Mother Nature’s assets, then we have to start striving for LESS!!! We have to instill in our behaviours and our hearts the adage that – Less is More. Because right now we have a tonne of More. The proof is in the landfills that are exploding with our More.

But it sure feels like, as a people, we have less. Beyond the fact that we are in a perpetual state of complaint about how little we have, we are shallow in our intelligence. We are disconnected from our heart. There is very little passion. Integrity is looked down upon. As is truth and honesty. Look at our legal system, our government system, any system that we have put into place. It’s all about hiding truth and honesty. If you tell the truth you’ll be punished. If you lie through your teeth you’ll be rewarded.

Never ask permission. Only ask for forgiveness. Because you know there’s a rule out there somewhere saying you can’t. We have given our power and control way to the loud, the negative, the obnoxious – did I mention loud? The ones who complain, cajole, criticize, shame, blame, guilt.

We have all learned and have been indoctrinated to do all of those things. But there are those few of us, although I believe many more than we realize, of people who are naturally empathetic. We were and are easily identified. We are the kind children in the playground. Sensitive and caring. We listen to instruction and we want to please those around us because we know that if we can make everyone happy the energy shifts to one of joy and then we can have fun too. We don’t understand why everyone else chooses to make things difficult; why they choose not to work together. Why they choose not to listen. Why their opinion has to be more right when it doesn’t solve anything to be more right. Why.

Why won’t they listen to me? The true voice of reason and compassion. The one who will make everyone feel good about their ideas and help everyone find a meeting place where parts of all the ideas work together. A place where everyone’s talents shine because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A place where it’s not about whose part of the puzzle is the shiniest. The best. The brightest.

The reason it all works. It all works because we are all a part of it. Just like in nature. Take away the annoying biting insignificant insect and you destroy an entire eco-system that relies on that annoyance for sustenance. Who is to say that insect does not play an integral part in the whole of the eco-system? Or the beautiful dandelion. The one the Weed Man keeps attacking. That nasty beautiful yellow flower that blows wispy floats into the breeze spreading gorgeous golden colour. That bad dandelion!

That’s how I feel as a compassionate caring person. That I have kept things pretty and humming. Problem is that I, and other compassionate people, have allowed the loud, obnoxious, “I’m more shiny than you” people to run the show. You see them everywhere. In the classroom they are the 3-10 students who believe that it is their right to make life miserable for everyone. They are the 3-10 adults in each work place that carry such a negative energy the environment is toxic. So then we promote them to the “Upper Up Positions,” not because we believe them good at their jobs, but because we want to be rid of their negative controlling energy.

I watched a Dr. Phil show, a long while ago now, on the new face of the teenage bully – the smart intellectual ones that come from the “good” homes and I was so irritated. We adults are funny about the bully, especially when we can’t see that these young people are learning from us. I was irritated because I wondered where Dr. Phil thought these saavy, cruel, intelligent young teens went when they grew up? They become the bosses and CEO’s of companies. They are the Principals and Superintendents and Human Resource Officers. They move into positions of power and control. They are the ones we read about on Wall Street who have taken everyone’s retirement savings and get a meager slap on the wrist as they are locked up in their $10 million dollar mansions for 5 years. Poor things. How they suffer so. As for the people who lost their retirement savings? Well the business wrote that off so it’s all good, right?

Do you detect a note of bitterness? Irritation? Yes. It is time. It is time for me, for you to act from a place of authority and make change. How? I’m working on that a mile a minute, but the first place I’m starting is to recognize and believe in me and simply say, “Enough.” I have had more than enough. I am tried of walking through a society that acts like it is so hard done by. How tragic we are as Canadians to have all that we do. Poor us.

Get over it! Stop striving for More and start striving for Less. As for you compassionate people who have been run over by the egotist – start exercising your voice. Even if you have to scream and carry on like the bully. Sadly people don’t seem to listen anymore unless you’re yelling. But know this – You’ll never be a bully, even when you employ their tactics. It’s not in you.

What we compassionate people need to do is move the controlling negative people aside and take their place as Compassionate Leaders. A place where we can enforce kindness and compassion first. Business and bullshit second. I’m sure that from a “money making bottom line” standpoint it’s not a multi-million dollar profit idea. Instead its one where everyone has enough. And people feel valued. And care for others starts to be seen and people feel worthy and happy.

And the Controlling Bully Rationalist that is reading this is thinking, “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. It’ll never work!” And that’s precisely why I know it will!!”

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March 31st

Well ladies and gentleman, I have to admit that for the past two weeks I have sat every morning in my writing place looking out the window with the intention of writing this blog and I am still at a loss for what I want to write about!!! Which of course I find very interesting, because it’s not like I have a shortage of things that I want to say, nor a shortage of things I am thinking about, I simply feel without a focus.

So I practiced honouring that feeling and I didn’t force my writing, which was a interesting head space battle as my ingrained work work work brain went head to head with my new Inner Cheerleader and supporter. My Inner Cheerleader said it is better to sit and wait for the right topic to come. That this is an exercise in learning patience, in slowing down, in listening to your heart. All words that felt good, but sent my brain a reeling. On a couple of occasions my brain even tried to write a blog, but to no avail as the words didn’t flow.

So here I sit, two Mondays later, still experiencing the same only this time I’m giving myself permission to write about it. I’m giving myself permission to admit that even writers drift in and out of the flow of words. I’m giving myself permission to admit that despite my intention of writing every week, that by not doing so does not make me a failure. I’m giving myself permission to continue to live by my theory of doing what I want because I want to, not because I have to. And writing a blog is a want to do not a have to do.

Finally, I am giving myself permission to honour that the creative process does not follow working rules imposed by humans. The creative process requires time in front of the window staring at the diving ducks and watching the snow melt, or fall. The creative process requires patience and faith. The creative process goes against the flow of work work work work work, because you can’t force creativity. You can’t “goal” set creativity. You can’t “persevere through” creativity. You have to honour creativity.

So on this beautiful last day of March, I honour creativity and the creative process. Like this spring, it will surely come. I simply need to exercise patience and faith. And that is easier written than done.

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Facing Fear

Thank you to my wonderful reader, supporter and commenter, Kelvin, for the topic of this week’s blog. Last week, in his second comment to my blog, he wrote a piece about vehicle shopping and the fears that “rear their ugly head” as we take steps towards getting what we want.

First come the indoctrinated fears of “what will people think?” and “how will people treat me when they find out…?” It saddens me that we have been raised and our brains have been trained to go to these questions first, as opposed to: “I can’t wait to go because all sales people are going to be excited to work with me and help me find what I need because I live in a world where people don’t make judgments about personality based on how much money I have.” What saddens me even more is that we have all had experiences, too many to tell, where we have been judged by other people and we have been treated differently because they have found out about…

Fortunately, Kelvin didn’t experience “judgments” on the part of the sales people. As he stated in his comment: “…it turns out that when you are car shopping on a tight budget they [dealerships] are just not the place to go. It seems that they don’t keep much in the way of older cheaper vehicles. It makes their lot less appealing to prospective new car buyers.” Which speaks to another sad trend in our society that increases our fear – we value the optics of new and shiny. This adds to our daily diet of fear. Many stretch their budget to its limit in the name of new and shiny. Many stretch their stress in the name of new and shiny. There is less and less respect and appreciation for reliable and experienced; that is considered “used” or “old.”

In writing this I cannot help but see the correlation between the car and us. We value the young and hip. We do everything we can to stay young and hip. Thousands and thousands of dollars are spent on young and hip because once you hit reliable and experienced you are considered “old school” and “outdated” which hits a whole other set of fear buttons.

Turns out though, to find reliable and experienced older car models you have to turn to technology and go to Auto Trader and Kijiji, a whole other world ripe with fears. The “why are you” fear. The “how are you trying to cheat me” fear. The “are you telling me everything” fear. Again it saddens me that these are our first thoughts because it suggests that as humans we are liars and cheats first. Even sadder is that it is understandable that these are our first thoughts. We see it everywhere – our government officials are embroiled in scandals, the news is about the negative aspects of humanity, even in our daily interactions and conversations there seems to be an underlying tone of negativity and distrust.

My problem is that I don’t believe that people are liars and cheats first. I believe we came into this world with goodness and joy in our hearts. I do not believe that a baby came out of the womb as a lying and cheating baby. I believe people learn to lie and cheat in the same way that we learn to be skeptical, cynical and fearful; which means I also believe that we can learn to be honest and truthful, to be joyous, kind and respectful. In order for us to do that though, we must face our fears, give people the benefit of the doubt and trust our feelings.

Just like Kelvin did. He “…picked a few [cars] to look at and after careful inspection [he] chose one that [he] felt was the best of the worst…[he] made it home and…it is working well…Woo hoo take that fear.” And Woo hoo to you Kelvin! Thanks for sharing. Thanks for taking a chance. Thanks for facing your fear. Thanks for trusting your feeling.

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Are You Afraid?

I was walking home from Molly’s Bistro the other day and had the good fortune to run into a beautiful friend of mine who asked me, “Are you worried about the river?”

“Do you mean, am I worried about the river flooding again this spring?” I clarified.

“Yes,” she said.

“No,” I said, “Not at all. I love this river and I’m not afraid of it or its flooding. Truthfully, if Mother Nature wants this river to flood, it’ll flood. I am more concerned about ‘the powers that be’ who have a stake in this particular water system. I have more faith in Mother Nature than I do in them. I hope that they have learned from their errors that contributed to last year’s spring flooding”

“I love this river too,” she honestly replied, “but I am afraid of what might happen this spring. And you’re right, if Mother Nature chooses, there is nothing we can do about it, but I’ve been working in my basement all winter. We’ve done everything to the house that we can to protect it from another flooding. I just can’t go through it again.”

“Fair enough. I don’t want to go through another flooding disaster like last spring either. And, in a practical sense, I’ve got all basement renovations on hold now until after the spring melt, but I am also not worried about it. Simply because there is nothing I can do about it. I don’t believe in wasting my mental energy on something I cannot do anything about.

And in my personal belief system, everything happens for a reason. If it wasn’t for last year’s flood, you and I would not have met because I would not have presented at The Reading Writing Connection. If it wasn’t for the flood, you and I wouldn’t have experienced the strength of this community and its fine spirit. If it wasn’t for the flood, I would be unhappily stuck in my old job feeling miserable, as opposed to writing, presenting, life coaching and mentoring. And if it wasn’t for the flood, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and for that alone, it was worth it.” With that we hugged, said our personal prayers to the river, and went our separate ways.

But the conversation stayed with me as I find myself reflecting on the question “am I afraid?” As I recall everything that has happened over the past year, I realize that nothing, absolutely nothing, about this year is like any other year I have experienced. All routines have been changed. All past patterns have been dismantled; continue to be dismantled. Everything is different.

As I write out this blog I think that I should feel daunted by that fact; however, I am awed that the exact opposite is true. I am so eternally grateful that everything is different. I am eternally grateful that my life is upside down; that I am writing chapter 5 of my manuscript; that I am still squeaking by on a line of credit; that I have made the decision to focus on life mentoring and joy coaching; that I continue to battle my personal fears and demons.

I feel more alive and invigorated by life than I have in a long while. That is the underlying difference in my life and the gift I received from the mental anguish I felt during the spring flood. Do I want to go through it again? No. Am I afraid to go through it again? No.

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