Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: boundaries

Of Bees and Life. A Story of Boundaries

GreyThe day starts foggy and grey. You don’t feel like stopping by the farmer’s market but how about the people selling goodness by the pound, or jar or bagful? They woke up to the same fog, the same heavy sky and they showed up. So you have no excuse.

Buy potatoes from the South American lady. She always smiles. Everything she sells, from eggs to potatoes to pies, has the same roundness as her words. Some accents are that mellow and warm on a day like today. Colorful beans, two-pound bag, too colorful to miss. Fall and earth colors. To eat.

Then parsley, both root and green bushy stalks. You shake hands with unknown gardens when you hold up a bunch. The lady says they’re good, you can make a parsley puff. How? Here’s how, she tells you. You say why not. Change is good. Challenge for little people’s taste buds.

Then the honey table. You have to buy a jar. Good, golden, thick, local. You must. The lady sells jars of golden and fragrant bee’s wax.

There’s someone else there, an elderly gentleman you’ve never met. You know, he says, we were just talking, the bees had it tough this year. The wasps were vicious, attacking bees, killing entire hives. You frown. How unfair. On top of everything else that tangles their invisible dance lines, you think.

It’s like that, the honey lady explains. A somewhat cyclic sorrowful bee event; the wasps sneak in and kill. Won’t waste a drop of golden honey ever, you promise yourself. Such hard work and danger. The bees who made this honey faced peril. They prevailed. Seven dollars a jar.

You buy a basket of tomatoes from the elderly Italian farmer you always buy from. “Last ones, eh…very sweet.” A thick bunch of chard on top, and not enough arms to hold them all. He laughs, you laugh. Like a good grandpa, he helps. He holds a big bag to fit them all in. “There you go, you cook a good dinner, eh?…” He chuckles, you smile. “See you on Saturday!” He’ll be there and you’ll buy tomatoes again, and eggs. They’re always fresh.

The afternoon passes with more grey to chew on, to walk on, to breathe in. You walk with the friend who challenges you to keep your voice above the humming of everyday life, to not give up. Walk under yellow-leaf trees, sit on pink benches, celebrate life once again. “Look, an ice cream sky!” Sunset sky, scoops of kindness. Being alive is never a lesson in grace, but you knew that.

Later, as you cook dinner, you think of the bees. The jar of golden on the counter, all that work… The bees had it tough this year... The wasps go inside the hive through the opening, you remember the lady saying. Hmm, just like words and facts of life you find aggressive and mean. Scary. They find openings, they get in. They hurt thoughts, hopes, they raise fear, trying to kill dreams… Life is full of analogies, you know that. You need boundaries to survive and to thrive. You find them, again.

Because not all the bees have to die, the lady told you today. You make the hive opening smaller, so it’s gets tricky for the wasps. Boundaries…

It’s no small feat, you know that. To set boundaries that is.

You’ll never be infallible but you’ll be better protected. Your thoughts, like bees, in their home of sweetness. Afraid at times, but alive. Daring again tomorrow. And then again. Alive is a gift. Days blossoming into joy, golden and ripe, reminders of past seasons, celebrating today’s bounty and the reality of all that we are: sweetness to taste, hard work, dancing over sunny fields, fear of dying, fear of all that could hurt, courage to go out and do it again. Daring, because of the sky, the fields, the swaying trees and all the rainbows you could never see unless you fly free.

Parsley puff for dinner. The kids have learned to say “not my favorite but I’ll eat some” when dinner has too many shades of green and earthy flavors. Dinner, laughing, some food-bursting-out-of-your-mouth toilet jokes (how rude and necessary!), day falling asleep on the table…

Bedtime soon. Be grateful. You’ve learned a lot today.

Domestic Violence Is Never Acceptable

Sad...I was told recently of a case of alleged domestic abuse involving a family I know. It involves a mom’s physical and psychological abuse by her husband, complete financial dependency and the occasional physical punishment of their two young children, both under seven.

That the family looks like the average middle-class family — and nothing “shows” — is sad and infuriating.

I fear this is often the case in families who hide such dark secrets; appearances matter. Also, an odd sense of loyalty and pride prevents the victim from seeking help.

The alleged abuser in this case is, to all who know him, save for his immediate family, a good person. Both he and his wife have post-graduate degrees; their children attend private schools and attend church every Sunday — when the bruises don’t show, that is.

Now you might be tempted to ask how can a situation like this occur nowadays and why wouldn’t the mother extract herself and her children from it?

It’s not easy. Often, the abused spouse is unable to loosen the emotional ties enough to make a rational decision or is simply unable to act, out of fear. Many of those who make it to the shelter often decide to go back to their spouses. I would like to believe that counselling and support programs can enable better, happier lives and less, if any, recurrence.

Sometimes, the victim finds excuses for the abuser. Perhaps a tough childhood with physical abuse planted the seeds for such behaviour but is that enough to allow violence to affect more people? It’s easy to see the fallacy in excusing one’s abuser, but affection and fear mixed up make for blurry vision.

Due to psychological intimidation and repeated threats, the abused spouse and children might not disclose the situation because they fear retaliation or they do not believe anyone would be able to help.

There could be death threats directed toward any or all of the family members, including suicidal threats.

Sometimes the victim can be a man, too, although in Canada approximately 83 per cent of all domestic assaults are perpetrated by men against women.

Can we spot such a situation? Most likely not, unless we are witnessing it or have someone come forward. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, in most cases the abuse happens gradually and the victims are ashamed to admit it, out of fear and with hope that it will stop.

The same source estimates that on any given day in Canada, approximately 3,000 women (and their 2,500 children) are found in a shelter escaping domestic violence.

Sadly, too many.

Domestic violence is not likely to go away anytime soon. What’s worse, domestic violence breeds more domestic violence. Many of the children who witness violence in the family on a regular basis are more likely to become abusers or victims when they grow up.

It should also be noted that psychological abuse also counts as domestic abuse. Albeit not as dramatic as physical harm, psychological abuse is equally destructive and able to cause serious harm due to its insidious nature.

What can be done?

Awareness — to start with.

Domestic violence, whether the victims are spouses, children, in-laws or parents, is wrong and inexcusable.

Children and teenagers should be taught about respecting personal boundaries — theirs and others’ — and what better way than leading by example.

Whether children are victims of domestic abuse themselves, witnessing spousal violence can have the same effect direct violence would have, and will make them more complacent to violence when they grow up.

Having resources in place to educate people and also offer shelter and counselling to those in need is a must.

When women opt stay in an abused home, we need to refrain from judgment or from pushing them into taking the kind of action that seems logical to those who are not directly involved.

The best way to help is to listen, help someone know that solutions exist and most of all, never turn a blind eye. As always, any help is better than no help at all. Healthy communities rely on it.

Originally published as a column in the Saturday edition of the Kamloops Daily News on August 10, 2013

Boundaries – A Beginner’s Quest

The walks home from school with my boys are a treat. We live a good distance from the school so there’s time to talk, be silent, stomp feet if the situation calls for it, laugh our hearts out, play tag or have a snowball fight.

Today is different. My oldest son’s sulkiness sniffs at my shoes like an angry cat.

I know he is upset before he even looks into my eyes.

“How was school?” I ask.

“Good, let’s go!” he says.

No amount of squinting will help me see into his heart right now. Rolled up like a hedgehog, he has a good set of prickles out, telling me that looking for soft spots would be a fool’s errand, and a bit of a warning I might get hurt while looking too closely.

I want him to talk about what’s wrong.

Somehow I think I have the answers because the hardest thing to see is my boy’s struggle and fight invisible battles inside and me not being able to help.

Trying to hold my tongue is like holding a mouse by its tail. When you’re not swift enough it’ll jump and bite your fingers, mice are agile like that. I ask again.

“Lots of homework?”

“No. Mom, I am fine. Let’s walk.”

We walk. Silently. My youngest holds my hand, somewhat tighter than usual. A sweet reminder of his needing me. Small and warm, his hand cradles into mine.

We walk. His brother walks faster. Whatever happened at school today may or may not be forgotten tomorrow. That’s not the point.

“May I go ahead mom?”

“Sure, but take the back lane, it’ll be just us three.”

“I’ll go ahead.”

Every now and then a leaf twirls and falls into a puddle. The end? Hardly. A passage to
a different stage. Learning to let go.

My son has set boundaries I vow to respect. He’s starting early. I have barely discovered the magic of not letting people step over mine.

I am learning from them, my boys. This is the line, they say. You may be allowed to go past some times but not always.

We’ve had this conversation before about boundaries. I tell them how I always imagine the right way to be. If I’m angry, I need space. And time. If I’m sad I need the same.

Or I might need those who can be there without sticking long questioning fingers into my soul to judge me.

I call on them because I trust them to be there for me. Not how they want to be but how I need them.

My boys are growing. They need me there. To understand. To know where their boundaries are and know that I’ve been entrusted with respecting them. For what’s ahead.

The wind picks up and the mountains look darker. It might snow.

“Can we make cookies tonight?” Sure. Neither is too old to ask or to be cheated out of sweetness.

Over dinner we talk and laugh and make silly jokes. Irreverence and cookies for dessert.

I still don’t know why my oldest’s mood was crumpled earlier but that seems behind him now. If it’s not he must’ve found a way to put it aside, at least for now.

A lesson about boundaries in itself.

(Originally published in the Kamloops Daily News on November 20, 2012 under the title “Personal boundaries are about respect”)

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