I feel the need to grow (things)

I feel the need to grow (things)

I feel the need to grow (things) 

We are well into spring, and with it, a chance to plant seeds, prompting the earth to give birth to a wonderous assortment of flowers and vegetables. I feel a deep sense of satisfaction digging my hands into the rich soil, enjoying the warmth of the long-awaited sun on my back. I know that my intentions are taking root.

Things take time to grow. We can’t eat the fruit that we planted today. In some cases, it may take years. It starts with an intention, followed by a period of nurturing, and care. This is not unlike any desired change in our lives. With patience, commitment, and gentle care, growth is inevitable.

It’s easy to get frustrated if things don’t feel quite right at a given moment. I hope that we allow ourselves the same grace as we might to the seeds that we plant, being patient as we allow ourselves to grow.

Warm thoughts,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

 

 

Gifts from the Universe

Gifts from the Universe

This month has been a bit challenging for me. My father’s health is declining, and as a result, I’ve made a few extra trips to Toronto in recent weeks.

On the last flight to Toronto, I wasn’t feeling particularly chatty. I sat beside a polished young woman. She was well-coiffed, armed in high heels, a white designer bag and immaculate make-up.

She didn’t make much eye contact, so I took it as my cue that we wouldn’t chat. I developed an internal story about who she might be based on her appearance. As we got up to leave, she stood and with her perfectly manicured hands passed me my bag from the overhead compartment, even though she did not have one of her own.

This thoughtful gesture prompted me to revise my initial appraisal of her. We chatted as we stood in line for our bags, and I learned that she holds a doctoral degree in genetic engineering and is dedicating her life working to develop drugs to cure hereditary illnesses. She was passionate, thoughtful, and inspired. My superficial impression proved to be very wrong.

This brief interaction encouraged me to be more open to the idea of getting to know people before judging them.

On the flight home, I felt exhausted, after five days in the hospital at my father’s bedside. An elderly woman, was sitting beside me, scribbling furiously into a journal. Her notes were organized and meticulous. Remembering my earlier vow, I threw her a line, asking if she was a writer. It turns out she holds a master’s degree in divinity and has spent the latter part of her life on a spiritual quest.

The next three hours proved to be a fulsome conversation around topics of Buddhism, consciousness, spirituality, quantum physics and mysticism. She writes under the penname Augusta. The conversation was good enough that I ordered two of her books. I left the plane feeling grounded, calm and appreciative.

I am grateful to the universe for sending both women my way. I wonder how often people of potential importance in our lives are sent to us, but we miss the opportunity to benefit from them because we are closed off or not looking.

I am renewed in my commitment to being open and receptive to what the universe has to offer. I hope you will do the same.

Warm thoughts,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Ticked off by the cold?

Ticked off by the cold?

Ticked off by the cold?

Well, winter is finally upon us. I’ll admit it, I’ve been a bit smug up till now, enjoying balmy off-season Nova Scotia temperatures.

Well, those days are gone!

As we find ourselves plummeting into the low twenties, I’m still smiling, in fact, even hoping it stays cold. Why you ask? Well, I’ve found the glimmer…the silver lining to this cold front.

True fact: Several consecutive days of sub -12 temperatures can harm tick populations. Intense temperature fluctuations during winter such as we’re having now do the most damage. The tick population has been exploding in recent years, primarily because of our warm winters. When it stays warm, they populate. This bout of extreme weather will give them a run for their money.

Please join me in the cold celebration dance, even as the cold blasts of air freeze smiles across our faces.

Where we focus our attention, and how we think about things, truly does impact the manner in which we experience the world. By making equal air time for the good news, we naturally nudge out the bad.

Warm thoughts,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

The power of choice

The power of choice

No matter what the situation, remind yourself “I have a choice.”
               – Deepak Chopra

Injury is often associated with powerlessness or a loss of control.  When I first started working in the federal penitentiary, I believed I was capable of evoking powerful, positive change.  Both for the inmates I was working with, as well as with the system itself.  

“You don’t belong here” the inmates repeatedly warned me.  Turns out they were right, but it took me seven years to understand that.  

I’ve never thought of myself as a quitter. I had to learn the hard way about the difference between quitting, and choosing not to continue.  Quitting is giving up.  Choosing not to continue is making an informed decision based on your experiences regarding what is healthy and sustainable, and what isn’t. It’s easy to judge ourselves based on what we were not able to do.

We can focus on the things we couldn’t do, or we can choose to focus on those things that are in our power.
I choose to do my best to help someone today
I chose to invest in my health
I chose to move forward.
I chose love.

Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

What is love anyway?

What is love anyway?

It’s hard not to ask the question, especially at this time of year. The following answers were offered by young children in response to a survey by the Couples Institute regarding the question “What is love?”  

Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your fries without making them give you any of theirs
– Chrissy age 6

Love is what makes you smile when you are tired
– Terri, age 4

Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day
– Noelle 7

Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken
– Elaine age 5

Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day
– Mary Ann age 4

You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it,  But if you mean it, you should say it a lot.  People forget
– Jessica age 8

 
Perhaps the best example of love wasn’t something that was said, but done. Leo Buscaglia shared this special moment he witnessed:

A four year old child had an elderly gentleman as a next door neighbour who had recently lost his wife.  Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.  When his mother asked what he had said to the neighbour, the little boy said “Nothing, I just helped him cry”.

For me, love is an action.  It’s about moving toward rather than moving away.  It’s about staying present, even when it’s uncomfortable.  It’s about patiently waiting through silence, until emotions can form.

Love is what keeps us whole, allows us to heal, giving the walk forward meaning.

Warm thoughts and lots of love on this Valentine’s Day,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

The surprising face of courage

The surprising face of courage

In this line of work, I’m honoured to hear countless stories of courage in the face of adversity. Recently, as part of our Identity and Transition course, veterans and first responders have been putting pen to paper.  Led by our inspired writer Karalee Ann Clerk, participants who claim they can’t write step forward into the spotlight, bearing their hearts to the group. A sacred circle has formed, woven of trust, strength, compassion and courage.  Each week my heart grows as I view their lives through the lens of their experiences.  I mentioned to the group that if anyone was willing to share their weekly writing with the greater Landing Strong community, I’d be happy to publish it.  One of our Veterans (and also a former Corrections Officer) stepped to the plate. 

Thank you R.B. for trusting us with this piece of your heart:

I remember not seeing my father’s car. It was a fire engine red 1965 Pontiac Parisienne. A boat. A convertible boat. He loved that car, and that car was gone. I was 7 or 8 and had just returned from school. My mom told me matter of factly, “Your fathers gone and he is not coming back.” 

At that young age I knew that despite how bad things had been at home and judging by my family’s current trajectory the dissolution of my parent’s marriage meant things were about to get a whole heck of a lot worse. I was terrified for myself and my siblings. 

It was within this moment that I first learned how to numb fear.

I used to think courage is when you think taking an action may hurt you, but you do it anyways because it is in line with your values. It’s pushing yourself through something despite fear.

When I learned how to turn off fear I lost with it my sense of courage. How could I experience courageousness myself when I wouldn’t allow myself to be afraid? Looking back now I wonder if this is part of the reason I found myself in such a mess to begin with. It makes sense – nothing I did could appropriately scare me.

 I’ve always been a risk taker. I used to think it was just who I was. I needed a little something extra to get a kick out of life. Were all of these risks really just a scared child trying to get back his sense of fear?

Masking emotions allowed me to excel as a grownup. I joined the army and really found my place. Here was a place where my risk taking could be rewarded.

Trauma followed me out of my childhood and into the army. Looking back it was as if we were marching in lockstep together. After several major events I knew my psyche needed out and I released after a short but exciting three years.

The experimenting that began with alcohol in my early teens turned into a full blown addiction by my early twenties with a trip into rehab for a month. Eventually fate would land me in prison – as a correctional officer where I spent nine years of my life deep-diving into the never ending well of despair that is our criminal justice system.

Of everything that happened to me, in my childhood, the army and working at the jail, I never considered anything I did courageous. How could I. I was never afraid.

This scares me though. Writing this down, wondering how all of you are going to react. Will you accept me? Will you shun me? Will I even read it?

I feel courageous when I share with people. It excites me in a good way. Will something I say resonate? Will the words I speak ignite a feeling in you? One you haven’t felt in a while, or haven’t been able to express?

I was only able to go back to the memory of my father through years of introspection and therapy. It was through the act of recovery that I was able to see just how courageous I was. Not in that moment as a child. Not because I survived all of the perils life could throw at me. But because I could take that moment, that moment I turned off that emotion of fear, and I could have it back. 

Sometimes memories can be about something that you didn’t see. Like a red convertible in the driveway. I can go back there now.

I can tell that little boy whose father just left him that everything is going to be alright, and the courageous part about my life is now I’m telling it to you.

  • R.B.


Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong