Have you ever walked around your neighbourhood, alone, knocking on doors and talking to strangers for hours? I have. Welcome to a day in the life of a City Councillor hopeful.
I see a lot of bugs on my campaigning walks. Moths, grasshoppers, butterflies and bees drift and jump aimlessly around the bushes that line the pathways to homes of my neighbours. I’ve learned that people like figurines of owls, dogs and frogs. And that apparently “pedlars” knock on people’s doors too – and that that is frowned upon.
These experiences have offered me so many raw and real lessons. Vulnerability at its finest, I feel, is standing on a porch with dogs barking behind the door, sweating in the hot sun, fixing my hair in the door’s reflection, taking off my sunglasses, stepping back a bit after I ring the bell so that the person feels they have some personal space, smiling and preparing to talk about … anything. Absolutely anything.
I’ve gathered so many great ideas on how to improve my community from these amazing strangers. I have also learned that a welcome mat, a hockey net and a comfy chair on a porch put me at ease for some reason.
Have I skipped across a lawn or two, but told myself I wasn’t going to? Yes. I should really stop that.
So far this journey has been amazing.
I love getting my hands covered in art.
When did it become a competition as to who has worse mental health and who deserves help more?
These are photos from a post made about my daughter. Stigma is still alive and well – sadly.
This person is sick too and deserves help. But hate doesn’t need to be spread – no matter what.
Lessons I have learned over my recovery:
1. People who spread hate are hurting and need help and compassion – but that doesn’t condone their actions.
2. You are allowed to make healthy boundaries. You can always send love from afar.
3. It’s ok to take space and not reply to posts right away – that doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate and value them.
4. You will never please everyone.
5. Resentments only make pain worse. Forgiveness takes strength and brings peace.
“We have a tendency to identify with our limitations.” Gen Kelsang Suma, Jampa Ling Kadampa Buddhist Centre.
What a powerful and true statement spoken by one of the teachers at the Buddhist Centre in my hometown. I can definitely relate to this statement as I, for many years, have been identifying as a paramedic…who can’t be on the road anymore. Rather than simply sharing that I am a paramedic (because technically I still am), for a very long time I felt the need to add my limitation to the description of what I do. Many people have challenged me on this and have shared that they feel that I don’t need to identify as such because I still help people on many levels and that I am a paramedic at heart forever, and I appreciate these people and their kindness very much. But how can I change this opinion of myself permanently? How can I change my description of what I do to something new and positive like, an advocate for mental health and public speaker, and be ok with that? Well I learned the answer to this question at the Buddhist Centre too.
“Our life IS the path to enlightenment.” Gen Kelsang Suma, Jampa Ling Kadampa Buddhist Centre.
Rather than embarking on a path of self-pity because I’m, “not on the road anymore” as a paramedic, I need to be mindful that the path I am on, and have already travelled down, IS the path I NEED to be on in order to achieve the best version of me, a.k.a. enlightenment. Sure, the cultivation of new abilities and experiences takes time, but the path that is required to do so doesn’t need to seem like a life-sentence of horror and pain. Ok, let’s face it, we all have experienced a painful path in some way, but re-travelling it over and over with the high beams shining on the limitations it has caused us will only make us veer off the road to recovery and growth. When I am able to enjoy where I am on the path right now, today, I will be at ease with any part of my past.
”What a different day that could become”, Gen Kelsang Suma, Jampa Ling Kadampa Buddhist Centre.
Delighting in the opportunities that present themselves along our life-path can change our outlook as to what is actually a limitation at all. If I saw PTSD as the pathway to the many beautiful and amazing experiences I have had since being diagnosed, I wouldn’t be angry at PTSD anymore. If I simply lived in the moment and soaked up the sunshine of a day without depression, I wouldn’t need to feel loss of my career anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t wish PTSD on my worst enemy – what I do wish for is that everyone had the ability to reframe painful experiences from hopeless disasters, to seeds of possible growth. Changing our perspective sure can change our entire day.