Sunday, July 26, 2015


Buddha, Hawaii 2006
Gillian Cornwall. c. 2012

Let love flow through you. 
Do not attempt to hold it for questioning.
All will be well.

Walk the path of love rather than the path of fear.
Give what you have to give freely, without expectation.
Make way for those you love to follow their paths without impeding their journeys.

Hold up a light for them when they are in their darkest hours.
Hold up a mirror when they need to see their beautiful reflections more clearly.

Love freely.
This is a good job.
This is a good life.
This is a beautiful life. 

All is well.
Blessings to all.
Love to all.
Love and blessings gratefully received.

-Gillian Cornwall, revised July 26, 2015.
Original text: August 25, 2011.

Mount Baker From Willows Beach
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Life is a Ride
Gillian Cornwall, c. Spring 2015

Empathy - I have been thinking about how we behave on a daily basis in our personal and professional lives. 

Leaders and colleagues may have a void of empathy for those around them. In a professional environment, this lack of understanding can have disastrous results, not the least of which is the alienation of a team and their emotional divorce from an organization. This can be the first crumbling brick between working groups, friends, institutions, teams or businesses.

Everyone can benefit from coaching in the process of empathetic engagement. Primarily, it takes desire to learn how to acknowledge the problems or difficulties of a friend or colleague. It takes development of emotional intelligence. It requires a comprehension of your own emotional issues and learning how to express them in the best ways and at the best times. Packing your emotional stinginess into your lunch kit everyday into a sarcasm sandwich may not be the best option.

Certainly, it is unwise to climb into the crevasse with someone when then are trapped in the dark without a visible means of escape. If you are both in there, how will you be able to help the other out? Who will hold up the light to show the path and point out some options for footholds?

It is essential to first acknowledge that the person is in a crevasse and that you are aware that they may be uncomfortable, hurt and afraid in there. If you skip this step and proceed to, "Hey, at least the crevasse wasn't bottomless!" or "Don't worry, you'll get out." and walk away, it becomes entirely apparent to the person within the crevasse that you wish you had never come across the discomforting scenario of finding them in the first place. It appears that coming across them in this state of distress is an embarrassing inconvenience and that their predicament has been engineered to inconvenience you on what would have been an otherwise enjoyable day. "Crevasse person" should have quietly withered away to nothing without disturbing you. Obviously, this is not the way to assist with recovery and healing.

Once you have acknowledged the situation, as an effective leader, you can offer direct assistance if you are able; this too, is a form of empathy. If you are out of your league with a situation, it is still essential to acknowledge its existence with the person. Once you have made your acknowledgement, if you are uncertain in how to direct the person, you can tell them you will get back to them with resources (give details, such as date, time and format) and make sure you follow-up! Be real and be true. 

If you are in a position of empowerment, entitlement or leadership, your position makes your time no more or no less valuable than that of the person in the predicament. The amount of money you are paid to do your job is irrelevant in this scenario. Time taken to work together on problem-solving is an investment in any relationship, organization or group. Remember that the people with whom you work are your colleagues, fellow humans, all worthy of respect. They are not your employees; rather, they are employed by the organization and you have been hired to lead them.

Know your responsibilities as a leader.

Know the resources of your organization.

Know the rights and benefits of those you have been asked to lead.

If you do not know, find out before the next scenario arises.

Do not make assumptions about the person's experiences or feelings based on your own history.

Once you have held up that light and helped guide the person from the crevasse, set a time to follow-up and talk about the experience. This will involve listening and it may involve redirection to other resources. Keep your judgements to yourself and be clear about the time frame and methodologies you have with which to assist. Be empathetic and kind. The people with whom we work are the employer's "human resource." Think about these two words carefully. Think about them together and separately. Think about their meanings and implications. Be honest - both with yourself and with the person you are engaging. 

It is not your responsibility to "fix" whatever is happening with the person. It is unlikely they need, nor want, "fixing." As Oprah said on her last show, "...every single person you will ever meet shares the common desire. They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'..."

Try it. See people. Hear them. Acknowledge what they have said to you and let it flow through you without judgement nor personal need. You needn't carry the trauma of others, but hold up the lantern and let folks know you are willing, as a fellow human, to offer light and guidance as each of us makes our way out of the crevasse we find ourselves in from time to time.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 19, 2015 
edited and re-posted from June 22, 2014


The following articles, books and scripts have been helpful to me on my journey towards empathy and along my path towards emotional and social intelligence.

T-Shirt painted for VSAC event
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What You Want

Shasta Daisies - Brentwood Bay 
Gillian Cornwall, c. June 2015

The sun-warmed bee buzz of the Salt Spring Island summer sits softly behind my still-closed eyes as I lay in the quiet sterility of my bed. I treat this place as somewhere exotic and far, absurd when it is but a bus and a ferry away.

Why do we complicate that which is simple? Is it to afford excuses for inaction? Do we not really want that which we say we want? Do we want it given to us rather than having to ask for it or work for it? 

In my case, I think all of these are true at different times. If I want to go to Salt Spring, I need to either ask someone to go with me and simply share or pay the costs of using their car or I need to just get up on a Saturday morning and go! I would be there within a couple of hours. 

Anyway, this post isn't really about going to Salt Spring Island as much as it's about what we do or do not put in the way of our own desires. When we think about what we want, perhaps the best course of action is to sit down and write out all of the reasons and excuses why we cannot get it and all the ways and means through which it can be achieved. 

Life is a short course of choices and the ones we make can impact the others as we weave our way through myriad choices. I do not believe in right or wrong choices as much as how we act and react to those which we have made and those we decide to abandon along the way, when they no longer suit our dreams and goals. 

All I'm saying is that it is my life, it is your life, and how we choose to live our lives is up to us - regardless of what we believe we have or do not have and what we feel are our barriers to our goals and successes. So walk your path with care and do not abandon your dreams too easily. Chances are some of them are just a bus ride or a ferry away. 

With love and peace to each of you on the journey.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 12, 2015

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Walking the Path of PRIDE

Pride Crosswalk
Photo by Gillian Cornwall, c. July 2015

Hurt breeds fear. Fear breeds anger. Anger breeds hate; however, love, unconditional love given with a good heart, without any expectation of return, that love exists and cannot be taken.

If you had the chance to read my post, titled: The Life Compassionate from Sunday, May 31, then you may remember the lessons in remaining compassionate in the face of disappointment or hurt. I believe that these lessons come up for us at times when we either need them for ourselves or we need to teach them to someone else ...sometimes both.

I spoke at an event this week. Some of you are already aware of it but, for the rest of you, it was the official opening of a PRIDE crosswalk at my workplace. It may not sound like much, but it took 11 months of collaboration and work to achieve the installation of this iconic symbol of PRIDE. Most people in attendance believed this celebration of accomplishments to be a good thing and some did not. Some people were hurt and angry because there is still more to do and they felt the crosswalk misrepresented where we are on that path of equity and inclusion. All voices were heard and the crosswalk was opened. For me, it was a celebration of what has been accomplished and it shows a willingness to participate in changes to come.

I have worked at this place for 20 years and participated, as an individual and multiple committee member to affect change, to make my community more equitable and diverse through advocacy. Notice that I say making, for the work is not done - likely the work will never be finished. There have been an enormous number of people who are change-makers participating in the process, some as individuals who stand up to be seen and participate in change by being themselves, despite knowing the risk of what should be a right for all, and those that have worked actively to bring about policy change ...and those who do both. Some have been at it for much longer than I. I am grateful to every one of them for their bravery and commitment. This crosswalk is a way to acknowledge the proud past and the work of these people and it is an acknowledgement that there is always more work ahead.

Past. Present. Future. Work done. Work being done. Work to be done. I am grateful to be a part of the process, despite the hate, anger and fear I have encountered, and can still encounter along the way. Celebrations of the work done are necessary and drive us forward, particularly for those of us who have dedicated our lives to make it better for those who follow.

Here is my speech from the official opening of the crosswalk, minus the section where I offered my thanks to some folks - I did not have a chance to ask to use their names here. Like every single person walking the face of the earth, people want to know: "Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say means anything to you" ~Oprah Winfrey I hope my words will mean something to you:

"I speak, with gratitude for the strength, bravery and knowledge of the elders and all of the people of this land. I recognize I am not of this place and that I am standing, speaking my truth, on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples. Thank you.

Rainbows are a reflection of sunlight through raindrops. When white light enters a raindrop, the different wavelength colours bend at slightly different angles.(1) So we each find our path when a light is held up for us in dark or difficult times. We are enabled to walk our unique paths, following our hearts and minds on our voyages of personal discovery. 

The PRIDE crosswalk is complete. The lines are painted and they stretch from one side to the other, representing this path we walk. They represent the original PRIDE flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in San Francisco in 1978. The pink (stripe) hearkens back to the pink triangles forced upon homosexuals, rapists and paedophiles, by Nazis, when they were sent to concentration camps during World War Two, but was added by Baker to represent sexuality. Please take time to investigate the history of this iconic symbol of PRIDE. 

The weight of oppression may grow heavy at times, but lay your burden down here for it was never your fear, nor your shame, to carry. Story by story, you will be heard and acknowledged and we will heal together. 

On this, our path of PRIDE, I see opportunity for acknowledgement, recognition and healing so we can go forward together, in wellness, with good hearts. This path represents our journey as a community. We are many beautiful, different threads and, woven together, we can make a strong cloth.

Take time to listen to our change-makers; do not see them as troublemakers if their stories discomfort you. Be brave. Ask questions.

Listening may be one of the greatest acts of healing you will ever perform. Each time you cross here, remember those who have worked for equity, diversity and inclusion and that our work continues until everyone is walking this as a path of love rather than a path of fear. 

In closing, I ask you for 3 things:
  • Remember
  • Be present
  • Aspire
Our best bet has always been to start, stay and finish with kindness.

Thank you."

I wish everyone around the world a Happy Pride. For those still struggling for your basic freedoms and rights, I do see you; I hear you and what you say means something to me. We will keep working, for we do not truly have freedom until we are all free. With love and a kind heart, I wish you each peace and safety on your path and may we continue to hold lanterns up for one another in our times of darkness. Look for moments of peace and joy and embed them in your very cellular structure and in your soul to keep you going through times of drought - the rains will come again and so will the sunshine and, with them, rainbows. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 5, 2015

Victoria Pride Pin - "We Are Family"
Photo by Gillian Cornwall, c. July 2014

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Pride Steps
Gillian Cornwall, c July 2014

Ultimately, we all become the victim of our own oppressive practices. Your best bet has always been to start, stay and finish with kindness.

In the face of your greatest fears, keep your kindness close, for in your kindness you will plant the seeds of reason.

I just entered a contest in which I had to say of whom I am most proud, and why, in order to win a box of chocolates. If I do win, I will have only one or two and give away the rest as I struggle to become a less large version of my current physical self! 

I had no idea what I would write for this contest as I started but, in light of everything I have been going through recently and in light of it being PRIDE season around the world, here is what I said:

"I am most proud of myself for making it through 35 years of LGBT* advocacy - making it through the street beatings, the jeers, the never feeling safe, the glacially-paced social, employment and political change, for being proud of myself when my family wasn't, for advocating for me and the LGBT* population everywhere I have been, despite the pain, the cost and the loss. I am proud that I have stayed this long, despite my sadness and weariness, realizing this is no longer my baggage to carry alone. I will hold it up and say, "This is what it has cost and more. Never forget." I am proud of who I have become and to know that our stories are worth hearing and acknowledging - that they must be heard so that those of us who have fought so hard for equality and those of us who still fight so hard, can heal. I am proud to know that we are powerful and our words are so much more valuable  than a box of chocolates. Thank you for this opportunity."

One of my next projects will be collecting the stories of people who have been oppressed, to ensure they are heard and acknowledged, to ensure that there is opportunity to heal so we can move forward with an understanding of what has passed. It is not truly healing without recognizing the past and where we want to go in light of it: who we have been, who we are now and who we would like to be - both as individuals and as a society of loving, caring, peaceful beings. 

This PRIDE season, I respectfully request that you ask someone, who has been fighting the good fight for awhile, what it was like and how they are. Listen to the stories and grow to understand the importance behind the rainbow. 

With love and respect and a wish for all of us to walk our healing paths.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. June 28, 2015
Self Portrait
June 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day

The Cornwalls - circa 1964
Photographer Unknown

Ah, the joy of family photos -particularly those with small kids. I do not look happy. I can't recall this moment but I recall the feeling. 

There is Chris in the back left - he was a great brother and a dutiful son. I miss him. My dad was probably trying to make some kind of joke to get us all to be happy and laughing. Phil, my youngest brother on the bottom left was probably being imaginative and pretending he was launching us all into space or something.... My mum was likely being very proper and trying to simply get a nice family photo for our wall. As I said, I was probably sitting there bawling because, Bruce, my middle brother to my left in the picture was likely bugging me in some way or I was just cranky and tired. Who knows but, valiant effort photographer, valiant effort. 

Now that I am 53, I think back on my past in a different light than I did in my twenties and thirties and forties. Gad, I am aging - but that's better than the alternative! At times, I still feel like the wild child I was at 19 ...other days, not so much.

Anyway, I think of my family life as a child differently now. Not just because I have had years and thousands and thousands of dollars of counselling but also because distance from my own childhood loans a different light to it all. My family life was tempestuous and brutal at times. Bad s--t happened. My dad and mum had issues that they both brought into the relationship long before we were twinkles in their eyes. They were folks with difficult pasts and little resource to resolve their own childhood traumas. I wish they had found the kind of amazing counselling that I managed to find for myself along the way. I would like to believe they did their best - even if some days their best was less than optimal. 

My father was abusive in different ways throughout his life. He grew up at the hands of an abuser and so the cycle carried on through him. I do not mean to say he was awful all the time. This is where, now, the child Gillian has healed somewhat - though the scars still ache some days. I can remember the good days too. My dad was the guy who drove me to soccer every week and stayed silent to my mum after I was kicked in the teeth or dinged my head off the goal post. He knew I could tough it out and he didn't want her to stop me from playing. He saw my potential in sports and arts and supported my efforts and abilities. He didn't seem to want me to be a different person than that who I was (and who I am to this day in many ways).

He was the one who supported me when I wanted the drum set for Christmas - though my mum put the kibosh on that one. Apparently drums weren't a ladylike choice of instrument in the sixties... He drove us all over North America on family vacations. He bought us treats. He got to be the good guy when my mum was mad at us. 

He did his best despite the errors he made in raising us on our paths to adulthood. I can't say that I've totally let it go because I know my potential and that of my brothers, as adults, was impacted by the abuse. It takes something away from a person and it takes a very long time, if ever, to restore that sense of self-pride and ability. For many victims of abuse, you never get it back fully. You simply learn to be an advocate for goodness and understanding. You educate. You watch for it in younger folks and help them along their paths if you can. You show your scars and explain the road you have travelled. You use the lesson of your parents lives as your greatest inheritance. This is how the cycle is broken. This is how you learn to understand and, perhaps, forgive. You needn't forget. Remember your path. Remember the road you have travelled. Remember the good and the bad in the people who raised you. Allow yourself the time and the space required to heal. Forgive, if you can. 

The pain carried and doled out by others is not yours to carry forward through time. It's okay to put it down. You deserve to be joyful. If you have good memories of people who did bad things, that's okay. There are acts of kindness in each life. If you have not yet dealt with parental issues or abuse, please get help for yourself. You deserve to be unburdened and to find a life of joy. There are many resources available and your path is your path. You do not need to follow a prescribed path to wellness. Be kind and gentle with yourself. 

I wish I could travel back through time, to England, to the houses of my grandparents, or their parents before them, to provide a healing energy on those homes. I wish I could unravel that painful history and give my parents a better life. I'm grateful for the life they have given me and the opportunity to sit here today, to write this piece and to share it with you. I hope they can see from beyond and know that I am sorry for their pain, that I understand and that I am still well enough to walk my own path. 

Love heals. I breathe in the healing love of the world and return it to the world with my own breath exhaled. We are one. We are connected and together; we have all we need to heal and live well. 

On this Father's Day, I remember the guy who did his best and let him know, in the great beyond, that I am well. I am strong. I am grateful for my life. Thanks Dad.

-Gillian Cornwall, c.June 15, 2014
Edited June 21, 2915

Summer in Ontario 
at one of the many lake resorts we were lucky enough to visit
Me, Phil and our Dad
circa 1966.

If you are being hurt by someone, there are resources to help you:




Sunday, June 14, 2015

One Foot

One Foot
Gillian Cornwall, c June 2015

This photo aptly describes my current state. I am dark grey and segmented. One foot bravely treads forward despite the lack of strength and vigour for which I am usually known. I so wish I had an uplifting post for you, something that would have you go away, waving flags and racing into your life with a big smile but, the fact is, I'm not back there yet. Nonetheless, you have my honesty and my best effort for today and I hope it brings you something valuable.

Last week I told you it had been a rough week for me and that hasn't gone away. As a matter of fact, it's been harder. Work has been more challenging, relationships have been rocky and explosive and my ability to cope has hit an all time low, but I'm here and I'm telling you about it. I am doing so, not because i want you to join me down here in my dark, black hole, but because I want you to know that I am still moving, still trying, looking for ways to move forward, to get back out, asking for help and finding ways to keep going, even if the help is not always there when I need it or from whom I expect it. 

I don't want you in here with me. I don't want you to try to fix it. I want you to hear the story of how I got here (Give me time, I'm working on that one and it's big!), acknowledge that it is hard and then offer to shine a light down here if you have one so I can find my own way out. There you have the "person in the hole" parable / analogy or whatever. I like it. It works for me.

It helps that I really dislike physical pain. I have had enough of it over the course of my life and having read up on the ways to die - they all suck. In fact, they all seem to suck way worse than the pain I am experiencing in my life right now. So here I am and I am staying and I think I understand why some people get to the point where they kill themselves. They must have struggled so hard and the pain of their lives must be so impossibly intense that the pain of death would be lesser than the pain of living. Unfathomable.

For any or all of you who have been through this, I love you and have compassion for you. It is horrible and the struggle is epic. I reached out this weekend and though no one is actually physically here, the mighty power of good in social media, particularly private DMs in Twitter have got me through and helped me feel less alone. I am not saying that these can replace a hug, someone wrapping themselves around you so you can still feel that you have a body, that you are real and that you are loved; I kept my engagements this weekend and got what I needed in that regard as well. 

Keep trying. Keep walking your path. Crawl if you have to do so. Own your shit and keep going. Please. Seek help. Let's get this out in the open. Everyone loses hope at times. Please try to reach out and ask for help and know that you can keep that help on your terms. You needn't hand over your control of the situation. 

Through this hard time, complete strangers have stopped to ask me if I was okay - on foot, walking past and in cars, driving past. Makes me realize how much the weight is showing on me but also makes me realize how many beautiful souls there are out there. The person who stopped their car, right on a busy road, actually offered to give me a lift when the bus driver pulled away just as I was running for the closing door. I hope he realizes the impact of his unkindness and I hope the woman knows how grateful I am for her offer - in this day and age, she put her own fear aside and offered a complete stranger a ride because she saw how upset I was - and it wasn't pretty either - let me assure you. By this point, I was ranting and crying, because when you get this low, it's hard to make the appropriate social decisions and remain within the right social behaviours. The other person was a student at the school where I work. So, for those of you who have lost faith in our youth, be heartened. They are compassionate and caring enough to do such a thing. 

Remember your elders and mentors in your difficult times, as I have turned to mine in this time, when my usual rock-like self is worn to fine sand. Listen to them. They have seen much and travelled far and have usually survived horrors that we cannot imagine. Respect the mother earth and ocean and her ability to survive and sustain us despite the abuse we have shown her. Go to her and ask for guidance. Lay down upon her and offer your tears and your gratitude. She is as alive as your lover, mother or brother. We are not alone but sometimes we have to look to different places for support. Re-frame our patterns. Consider giving to someone else who needs, just when we think we are empty and at our lowest. 

To each of you, I apologize if I continue to appear self-serving in these last few posts. Know that I hope my truth gives you sustenance. There is no perfection to which you must strive. You are perfect if you are showing up. Try to be honest, open and willing to be loved. 

I offer myself up to you each week, in my truth, no matter how hard it is. I hope that it helps, that it gives to you - at least as much as it gives to me. As I write, I picture the eyes I have never seen, next door and around the world, Forgive me my failings. I am but human and in love with life in all its wonder and devastation. 

Here, take my hand and walk with me awhile. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c June 14, 2015

Gore Park, Brentwood Bay
Gillian Cornwall, c. May 2015