A friend wrote to me this week with a comment on aloneness that has me thinking. I spend a lot of time alone. I work from home. I live alone. My family and friends are close by and I see them regularly but the majority of my time I spend alone.
As I think about that I realize that, through out my life, that has often been the case. As a student and a writer it is necessary to be alone so that the muses can come and work their magic. As a mother living away from her adult children and her parents, I spent time alone. Traveling for work I was alone in hotels and airports. At the lake house I spent days alone.
So why is it that now I feel like ‘alone’ is becoming ‘on my own’? My doctor was kind enough to remind me to get out everyday where there are people. He showed genuine concern for this sixty something female living alone in a condo. So much so that I felt a little of his concern and I didn’t go straight home from his office but went and spent an hour at Chapters … alone in a crowd.
I was speaking with another friend who was talking about the increasing number of singles living alone in our city and was musing about how the city could best serve those people. He mentioned, too, that there are also a lot of married people experiencing degrees of aloneness  and loneliness even though they were a part of a couple. I guess that is true. For me that might be a higher degree of alone.
I watch my daughters with their busy schedules juggling work and children and hockey and dance and social life and I know that they would enjoy a little alone time now and then just as a break from the hectic pace they keep. Where as a day at home would be a welcome reprieve from the business of the world to them, for me it is a problem to be solved. Keeping active and engaged helps people live longer and I intend to live a long time. So I dance and I curl and I take piano lessons and I still travel for work from time to time.  I visit friends or invite them in.  I get tickets for shows and I still go to Chapters when I can’t think where else to go.
I am on my own. I make my own decisions (although I run the important ones by my daughters and sometimes a friend or two). I have created a life that is comfortable for me with enough freedom and enough opportunities for social interaction. The aloneness I experience shows up as sadness or loneliness from time to time but I believe that my friend is right … it is something that everyone experiences. It is a part of the human condition.
How we deal with it makes all the difference.


Ottawa is the capital of my country, a city where I spent some of my formative years and one of my favourite places in the world. The parliament buildings always remind me that people have been making decisions that affect my life and millions of others for generations right here in this meeting place. It is a place where both official languages are spoken as well as many “unofficial ” languages. It has beautiful river valleys and skylines and museums and galleries that hold the treasures of our land. In short, The people of the National Capital Region are engaged in the running of our country. They represent its diversity and its commitment to excellence and compassion. Ottawa is impressive. I do feel very fortunate to be Canadian. Ottawa reminds me of just how lucky I am.

This week I have been working for one of my favourite national agencies, Parks Canada. I love the work and the people who I meet. I also enjoy the sense of contribution I get from doing what I can to help members of the Parks Canada team protect and present our natural and historic treasures.

On a personal note, I miss being home. Over the past few years I have found comfort and a sense of belonging with my family and friends in St Albert that I cannot remember having experienced before now. Could it be that my wunderlust has begun to fade and I have found a place I can comfortably settle for the next few decades? I believe that I have. That is not to say that my trips to the University of the Virgin Islands and Hawaii will stop all together. That is not to say that cities like Ottawa, Halifax and Paris will not continue to be my destinations of choice. That is to say that my perspective has shifted. My home, my heart is in St Albert. And I am content.

And so it begins …. I find myself in the Calgary airport. I’ll be boarding a flight to Ottawa soon. Lots has happened since my last post. My lake property is for sale and I am firmly settling in to my condo in St Albert.

It has been a good year. I have steady work with the Federal Government. My children and their children are close by and I love being present in their lives and having them in mine. It is wonderful to witness the way everyone is maturing and changing. With all three generations ranging in age from 14 to 64 you get to see the phases of life we all go through in those 50 years. It’s interesting, heartwarming and fun. Being the matriarch, the oldest, has its rewards and its responsibilities both of which I am embracing with love and enthusiasm.

I am still working for the wonderful people in the Virgin Islands. It was heartbreaking to watch and listen to what was happening their in September and not be able to help. The stories of devastation were followed by stories of courage and renewal. I hope to visit soon to hug my friends and lend a hand. Recovery has been slow. Please keep them in your thoughts.

I love curling. My team’s expectations of each other and ourselves are to do the best we can. There is a sense of support and camaraderie that I enjoy so much that I hate to miss a game. Likewise my dance classmates are all wonderful human beings that are easy to be around. We learn and laugh and share each other’s joys and sorrow every Wednesday.

So now you are update. I have great friends, family close by, meaningful work … what more could one ask for? Maybe someone special to share it all with???? Maybe. Maybe not.

It has been more than a year since I have visited this place.  I am sorry.  I can’t make excuses because there are none.  there are probably reasons why blogging has moved down on my list of things to do.  I have turned inward and although not many people actually read these blog posts I just needed some time to mourn the loss of one of my biggest fans … my dad.  My stats will be down for sure.

It’s difficult becoming an orphan.  I don’t think it matters how old you are or where you are in your own life cycle, losing the pole who have known you for your entire life is like losing a piece of yourself.  There is no one left who knows my whole story.  Know one who can correct my thinking or tell me to sit up straight or just get on with it. And so I wallow.

I notice myself driving through Calgary and bursting into tears not because I miss it but because mum and dad and my dear friend Fay are so much apart of the life I lived there and they are all gone now.  Who will I reminisce with.  That happened in Vancouver earlier this year as I sat in the restaurant at the base of the building I lived in there and wondered about the renters and I cried because I missed my dishes.  It wasn’t really the dishes I missed but the days of walking back and forth to the bay to select just the right pieces for the apartment and hauling everything back in my little grocery bag on wheels and the pride I took in making it perfect.  Now it is perfectly set up for strangers to enjoy.  Not me.

I am at the lake house again this summer.  It represents a fresh start in some ways and yet memories of Dad are still here.  I am working from home for Parks Canada again in this 150th anniversary year and my fierce canadian pride is satisfied by this contribution.  I bought a boat with friends who live near by this week.  I am looking forward to spending time on the water.  That is bittersweet as well.  Dad so wanted to be on the lake last year but we just couldn’t make it happen.

Anyway I am sorry I have been away and I can’t even promise that I will be back tomorrow but if I am I will work on something extra special… excerpts from the new book perhaps.  I am editing it.  the order was all wrong and changing the order means a serious edit that could even be classified as a rewrite.  Maybe we can share that journey together and I will release each chapter to you as I finish the next draft of it.  I will ask you not to share it too widely.  At some point I do want to publish it and make a little money … compensation for 7 or 8 years of having it occupy a good sized section of my brain.

I have been away from the writing for a while.  Writing keeps me grounded and so I have missed the company and the clear thinking that it provides.  I always intend to write while I am on “the road” which really means “in the air” but it is becoming increasingly difficult to write while travelling for me.

I was in Hawaii and then I was home overnight before I left again for St Croix.  A six hour time difference is not easy to adjust to quickly and routines can get lost.  The work in St Croix was familiar but the surroundings and the people were not. I think that added a couple of layers of complexity to the situation and dealing with complexity takes energy. Something had to give.  Getting up early to write morning pages fell by the wayside.

I always enjoy the work in the classroom.  I had 15 members of the VIPD with me for two days.  Brave people dealing with high conflict on a regular basis.  My hat is off to them.  Then I had the privilege of working with folks who want to become mediators in the five day training program.  It is always rewarding to watch the shift that occurs when people begin to understand the role of the mediator.

St Croix also offers beauty to be explored. A half day sail was all that I could squeeze in but it was glorious.  We went from the harbour at Christiansted to Buck Island which is a national park reserve.  The beaches were beautiful and the snorkeling was out of this world.  Big, footstool type coral and a stunning array of fish was like nothing I had seen before.  The trip back under full sail was my favourite part.  I love the power of the wind.

Today here in St Albert, the wind is howling.  Mild temperatures for the next few days in the middle of winter is unusual but welcome.  It gives me a chance to get out on the water again … on the frozen water of Lac St Anne for a nice skate.  Maybe the wind will provide the power to move me there too.

Although I may complain about the disruption in my routine that traveling causes I don’t believe I will ever give it up. I enjoy being home.  I enjoy the routine of writing daily and I know if that routine is interrupted by travel and responsibility that I can reestablish it when I return. I want to be like the wind.  Go with the flow.  Travel where life takes me.  Fly the friendly skies.  Sail the seas and always enjoy the journey AND the return to port.

Where ever you are may the wind be at your back, helping you find the direction and the power to complete your travels safely.

I do love being in Hawaii.  This morning I am on the lanai looking across the golf course to the ocean.  Birds are singing.  The sun is shining.  The world is a wonderful place to be.

The contrast between that and the morning I have had on line is amazing.  A cancelled appointment, a webinar with poor sound even though there was a sound test on the new computer, a book coach who has found a new and wonderful job, a slight scrape on the rental car in a parking lot yesterday, another breach of security on one of my twitter sites, not being able to access my word press account from this computer … the trickster at work.

Although I had planned to just relax on this trip I have had some business crop up everyday.  That could be a challenge except for the wonderful weather and perfect scenery.  Breath.  Everything will be fine.  I do tell myself that a lot and I truly believe it but there are days were persistence is a constant thing.  I keep laughing at the trickster and he comes back to test me again with another “fly in the ointment” or another piece to add to the overwhelm.

Not today.  I am in Hawaii.  Negative ions in the air.  I will be fine … as soon as I figure out how to post this…. sigh.

Tomorrow UVI-PULSE presents another Webinar in the monthly series.  This one is about listening … actively.  It is about the state of being we need to have as human beings to involve ourselves in listening to others.  It is not about just showing up and being within earshot.  Listening with HEART is much, much more. It is about deliberately setting yourself the task of truly understanding the other persons position.  It asks you to understand their physical, mental, emotional, relational and spiritual well being.

HEART stands for Hush, Empathise, Attend, Reflect and Trust.  It is a neural address for a set of skills that demonstrate and strengthen Compassion.  HEART is about caring about the other person, about honouring them as a following human being with their own unique perspective on the world.  There is no judgement in this kind of listening.  Its purpose is to get over to the other person’s side and have a look at the world from there,  It is about creating understanding but not necessarily agreement.

Hush. Stop doing what ever you are doing.  Stop the chatter in your brain. Stop moving.  Stop talking.  Stop judging.  Stop editing the story.  Just stop.  Listen to what is being said NOW.  Watch what is happening NOW.  Turn off your own stuff.  Suspend what ever is going on for you so that you can feel and experience the other person’s world. Hush.

Empathise.  Imagine how it is to be in that person’s world.  Step in.  It is pretty much impossible for you to really completely understand how it is for them but if you can begin to see how or why they are thinking, talking and behaving the way they are that is a good first step.  Feel what they are feeling if you can. Sense the state they are in and emulate it as much as you can. Empathise.

Attend.  Listen with both ears.  Sit up straight.  Watch with both eyes.  Attend to the facial expressions, the body language, the tone and pace, the changes in intensity, the pauses and the words.  Put all of your attention with that person. Learn how it is for them.  Attend.

Reflect.  Let the emotional state that you see and experience reflect in your own face and body without saying anything.  This allows the speaker to continue to speak.  It also encourages expression of the emotional reality they are experiencing.  If your reflection is not true for them, they will adjust their communication to explain more clearly what is true for them until they get the right reflection back. Reflect.

Trust.  Everyone is doing the best they can with what they know.  We are social beings searching for connection with each other.  We want to believe in something bigger than ourselves.  We believe what we believe because of our own experiences.  We act the way we do because of our beliefs, expectations, assumptions, concerns and hopes.  All of this is informed by what we know to be true.  AND we can change what we know.  Trust.

Listening with HEART looks like any other kind of listening.  It is the deliberateness and purposefulness of it that makes the difference.  Put your HEART into it and listening will improve, conversations will improve and relationships will improve.