Sunday, March 29, 2015

You Are the Gift

Spring in Victoria
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Have you ever worked your hardest at something and been over the moon excited to deliver it, only to receive little or no response or a different response than the one for which you had hoped?

Have you ever felt terribly dejected and hopeless, wanting to throw in the towel, certain you had failed, that you made no difference or impact whatsoever even though you had given it your all?

It's a disappointment, a debilitating feeling that most of us (okay, probably all) have faced or will face at different times in our lives. For those of you out there who are carrying these feelings, whether from recent or long past disappointments, I would like you to consider this:

We may believe we have failed, been ignored, misunderstood, overlooked or pushed aside but, the fact is, most of the time we are projecting the term failure onto the truth, which is: we are unaware of the actual impact we are having as a result of our actions. Sometimes, we miss the facts because we are so focused on the fiction we have written for ourselves around our own value and impact on others. We wrap our gift, whether verbal, physical, emotional or physical, in a hyperbole of our own expectations of the reception of the gift. 

"I have given this;
therefore, I expect that."

This is a pointless exercise as we cannot control the way our gifts are received - we can only give them. The truth is, we don't always know when or how our actions and words impact others. All we can do is be kind and true in our interactions.

If you feel as though you don't make a difference in the lives of others, I can guarantee that you are mistaken. You matter. If you have ever smiled at someone - friend or stranger, held a door open for someone or even thought a positive thought about a fellow being, then you have facilitated an endless ripple effect of positive energy and opportunity throughout time and space! You matter. You are a vessel of possibility and love. You are unique and irreplaceable. 

Your capacity to see another, to lift them with a smile, to give of yourself freely without expectation of return - this is your greatest gift to the world. Never doubt for a minute that you make a difference. You may not always get the reaction you hoped you would get or the result you expected, but if you put your heart into something, that in itself makes the world better. You may not know the difference you made right there and then, but be patient. Your good works will feed you and guide you and, if you are too focused on waiting and looking in one direction for your expected outcome, you may miss a beautiful gift being delivered from another direction. 

Give the gifts of yourself with a good heart. Do not worry about how they are received as that is beyond your control. Trust in your value as a loving person. Give what you are free to give and let go. 

I dedicate this to all those who suffer from anxiety and worry that they are somehow insufficient, not producing enough, or not succeeding enough, or not giving enough. I see your kind hearts and you are enough. Wishing you love and hoping I offer some light along your paths. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. March 29, 2015

From sky to tree to sea
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Being the Ladder

"Tying a Rope to a Mooring Ring"
by Crystal Przybille
Victoria BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall

What is the value of being the ladder?

I've been considering my career and my role in the organization with whom I work. Then I have been taking a broader look from a greater height at the way I go about things. Part of it comes from some of the learning I did about how I work on my writing at the WordsThaw event in Victoria yesterday.

I had my first session with an author, reviewing a first draft page of short fiction that I had written. I was a bit terrified that he would throw it on the floor and tell me it was an offense to his senses. He didn't. He was very helpful. It made me wonder though, why do I assume the worst about my self in the work I do, whether writing or day job or anything at which I work? How did I come to feel so "less than" about many of the things I do? As I have said before, I think there is merit in a modicum of self-doubt. I think we should review how and why we go about things and question our reasoning. The thing I don't want to do is compare my value against that of another. When we start holding our work, ourselves, up against others, it does not always serve us well as one must always be "less than" and one "more than". 

In my paid work, I feel as though I have hit a glass ceiling. Recently, when I apply for jobs and do not get them, I ask for feedback - ways I could improve my lot and my chances of "moving up". I am usually met with a "You did great but the successful candidate had 'more experience' or 'a degree'". Okay, that may be all there is to it. There is a lot of competition out there. I do feel that sometimes people don't want to have the difficult conversations about why a candidate was not selected. I would rather know than not, but there is little one can do about the actions of others. 

One thing I have realized is that I have (joyously) spent a lot of time helping others with their careers and life decisions - mentoring and guiding them in ways to facilitate their success. They are all wonderful people who have had or created great opportunities for themselves with respect to their lives and their educations and, sometimes, they are more willing to conform within an organization than I am. Perhaps it is a lifetime of standing up and pointing out elephants in the room, clearing paths for those that have been treated as "less than" and saying "no" to discrimination and dismissal of the value of difference as someone who identifies as LGBT*. I think that has come to be a part of my role - who I am and what I do. It's not on my resume and it may not be in my job description, but it is the heart of the work I do. I'm good at it and I enjoy it. 

So, I am wondering, perhaps my role is to be the ladder rather than the person who climbs it. Not with my writing - I don't even look at my writing that way - it's just that yesterday's symposium set me thinking about how I view myself. When I think about being the ladder or the conduit, I feel quite good about myself. Sometimes this type of role is undervalued in a society where those who make more money are considered more valuable, even though that doesn't really make sense ...just cents. 

As far as my writing goes, it's difficult to think about it in terms of a value statement. It is valuable to me because I love to do it. I love to write this blog. I love to write fiction and CNF and poetry. I am excited by the thought of finishing my novel and starting the next project. I wish I could be paid to stay home and write but I am grateful for my paid position and the things it affords me. I LOVE the volunteer work I do through my paid work because it forwards the causes of equity, diversity and inclusion. I am grateful for those opportunities and the brilliant people who serve on the committees and from whom I learn so much.

I suppose what I would like to let go of is the financial "have and have not" comparison and live happily with my way of being. I am not less than because I have chosen this role for myself - one that is not as financially valued. I am doing well. I enjoy serving my fellow humans. I love helping people reach their potential whether they are friends, students, colleagues, partners or strangers. It is a good life, a life with meaning and a value that is measured beyond the dollar. Being the ladder is good. 

I apologize for the self-serving nature of this post, but I do hope that it helps someone out there, for we are all in this together - this life thing. As well, I want to acknowledge and express my gratitude to all of the amazing people who have been my ladder along the way, all of those who hold up the lantern to light my path when I fall off course or when I get lost in the darkness. By no means do I walk this road alone! You know who you are and I am blessed by your love throughout my life. 

If you have insights or questions, please leave a comment and, as always, thank you for reading.

-Gillian Cornwall, c March 22, 2015

 Digging our way through
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

More or Less
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Trusting Me

Me. Garden of the Gods - Lana'i, Hawaii

There are times when I think, "Really, you are still learning this?" I suppose, like everything in life, we go through times when we flourish and times when we recede. 

This past week, I had a truly wonderful flourishing experience and it was all about trusting myself and using what I have learned from others along the way, integrated with my own personal experience. 

I was giving a presentation and decided to apply the ways I have learned from our Indigenous Elders on campus. The elders teach us by telling their truth, their history and applying it to the situation and people to whom they are speaking to create a climate of understanding, sharing, trust and learning. They teach us through story - a way as old as time.

I was speaking about showcasing our people at work, who they are and their backgrounds and how our excellence comes from engaging the hearts and minds of our people. Shining a light for one another on our paths to achievement rather than just lighting up the finish line.

Anyway, what I want to talk about is the risks we take in life and being true to ourselves. This isn't exactly earth shattering, cutting edge thinking but it astounds me that, at 53, I'm still learning to trust myself. Not that I ever want to be over-confident; perhaps a modicum of self-doubt is healthy.

It is a risk, getting up in front of a group of people that includes your leaders and mentors and speaking your personal truth, your story, as it relates to the subject at hand. It is a fine intersection point between being anecdotal and hoping that the experience you bring and share offers a common ground for everyone present - a place from which each individual can be heard and appreciated. 

It feels good to know I hit the mark on this occasion, that I had an impact and created an opening for thought and discussion of the issues at hand. It feels good to know that I am learning, growing and that I'm a little more at home in my skin than I was last week. That's the whole point, isn't it? We learn; we grow; we succeed; we fail. We persist. We stand tall in our own skin and say, "I am here. I belong. I have something to share with you." 

We can only give what we have to give - freely and with a good heart. How it is received is beyond our control; still, we must give and be true to ourselves. Try it out - slowly and gently if you need, but be "you". Be strong, simple, perfectly good, "you".

Enjoy yourself along the way.

-Gillian Cornwall, March 15, 2015

Me. Strong, simple, perfectly good, "me".

Sunday, March 08, 2015


Sunset Sky Over Victoria, BC 
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012.

Women - we are all here because of women. 

Women are essential and equal to all in mind, body and spirit - different perhaps, but equal. 

Women love, care, share and protect fiercely and softly. 

Women have expanded the world knowledge of science, art, philosophy, medicine, literature, sport, engineering, communications - every field under the sun.

If all this is true, then why do we need an International Women's Day?

We need International Women's Day because, around the world, women are being treated as 'less than'. 

Please, everyone, regardless of where you place yourself on the gender spectrum or where you are in the world, let's work together to make the world an equitable and inclusive place for all. We can #MakeItHappen!

Please visit the UN International Women's Day website or to gain greater understanding and find ways you are able to help.

"If anyone makes you feel less than you are, for the colour of your skin, for where you come from, for the gender of the person you love, for the religion you have faith in, stand up, speak up, roar. No silence till we are equal." ~ Thisuri Wanniarachchi

-Gillian Cornwall, c. March 8, 2015

 My brother and I "surfing" - Cape Cod, 1960s
When I just "did", before I was told I "could not"
From 8mm home movie footage

Under the sky, with the sky, we are one.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Sunday, March 01, 2015


The Rose Garden - Fairmont Empress Hotel
Victoria, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011's kind of a big deal with us humans.


Spare change. Change is gonna come. Be the change.... Change agents. Change is hard. You better change. Change of life. Quick change artist. 

You can read a gazillion quotations on change - it's as important to us humans as it is unavoidable.

I believe it is the inevitability that is precisely why it impacts us with such force, excitement and fear. Some folks I know thrive on change. If things aren't getting different on their own, then they will make things different. Others rue change and would prefer to keep the drink coaster precisely in the exact, measured location on the same end table where it has sat for the last 35 years. 

Now, is this difference among us genetic or a result of personal experience? Do some of us reach our change quota early in life and choose to put the brakes on when we become independent of our parents? I am thinking of children of military personnel who are forced to move schools and homes frequently and grow up to set down roots and stay in one town and keep their kids in one school to offer a more stable environment while others maintain the nomadic lifestyle because it is what they know and they are comfortable with it.

Is less change better than more change? I have no idea. I lean toward a stable way of being. I have worked for the same university for twenty years and changed within it. I tend to stay in the same home for fairly long periods of time. I buy many of the same groceries each week and rarely consider myself adventurous. In my younger days, I would have said that I was much more of a risk taker and actively trying new things but now, getting up and getting out the door each day seems risky enough. That being said, I do try new things and I love meeting new people. I try to travel at least once a year and I enjoy changing my hair styles though I don't suppose any of this makes me a left wing radical in the government of life! 

I admire those friends who have the creativity and desire to change their life environments regularly. Sometimes, I wish I were more like them. I'm not that way right now ...but I could change. 

The thing is, we are all changing - there is no choice, no autonomy from that truth. From our conception, perhaps even before, the very elements that integrate to create our 'being' in thought and action all result from perpetual flux. We are never not changing. Our inter-connectivity ensures this. I believe we are all connected and connected to all things and there is no opt out. There is no beginning and no end. There is only change. Every action we take, every thought we create, every smile and frown is an agent of change and, like ripples in the sea, our thoughts and actions change our world, change our universe. 

So, why do I bring it up then, like change is an option, a choice? As usual, it ends up being about me, because I need to write about what I know, my own experience, my truth and, the fact is, I'm swimming through a rather high tide of change at the moment. I'll spare you the gory details - suffice to say, it's significant. 

I share my thoughts with you because if any of you are going through change, I want you to know you can make it! Don't let it drown you. If you need to be swept along with it for a while, that can be okay. Conserve your energy and dig in when it's important, when you need to get to shore and rest. Breathe in and breathe out. Repeat. All will be well. Remember to share your stories as you go through them. It will ease your burden and the burdens of those around you. We learn from one another through experience. 

"If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'"Oprah Winfrey

Be the change - we are anyway. I suppose we just have to choose the kind of legacy we will leave as a result of the change we are, the change we create.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. February 28, 2015
Published March 01, 2015

The Rose Garden - Fairmont Empress Hotel
Victoria, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011

 The Beautiful Mountains of Molokai
Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2014

Sunset on Maui
Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2014

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hands Around the World

Toward the Olympic Range
Gillian Cornwall c. 2011

It really works. I probably shouldn't be surprised. I have made connections all over the world through new media, but this past week it has really hit home. Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever your sharing tool of choice, it works. It brings hands together around the world. 

I do realize that the paragraph above is not ground-breaking information, but sometimes it's hard to know if the content is received at all or received well. It is easy to produce content (harder to produce good content) but difficult to know how widely and positively it is being received, understood and appreciated. Yes, we have analytics to measure reach and make some fact-based assessment of readership but that doesn't always give us the kind of feedback we desire. 

There is nothing that boosts a writer's spirit more than contact with one's readers, through comment, email or direct message. Even if that contact is a challenge, it's great to know that you are engaging with people - some who you know in real life and some you are meeting in cyber-space for the first time. 

Back on November 10, 2013 - just before Remembrance Day - I published a post entitled, Love and Molecules - Lest We Forget. It is the synopsis of the story of my mother's participation in the Second World War and her love of a pilot by the name of Richard N. Foster.

I won't tell the story again here. I'll let you have a look at that in your own time through the link in the previous paragraph. I had researched quite heavily into my mum's service at RAF Base Biggin Hill and into Richard's service in the British Air Force. It was difficult to find fact-based information and I am ever so grateful to all the people in the UK and France who dedicate all of their time outside of their day jobs to ensure those who served are remembered for their sacrifice. It is those people with whom I initially had contact for this project - sometimes they found me and sometimes I found them - reinforcing the impact of new media and the world as it exists with internet connectivity. 

The next aspect of engagement with this project was the response to that post back in 2013. I was astounded by the number of hits it received and by the heartfelt feedback. I had always hoped that I had the facts right and was doing justice to my mother's and Richard's past. 

Last week, the most phenomenal thing happened with respect to that post. Richard's nephew found it (and other sites to which I had added information) by Google searching "RN Foster" and he contacted me by email! I had no idea there were any living relatives to find. My searches in this regard had not come to fruition. Imagine my surprise, after my initial reaction thinking it was likely all spam and almost ignoring the emails and comments. It took a call from Richard's niece, before I could accept - they are real! They are descendants of one of Richard's siblings! I won't release their names as I haven't their permission but, suffice to say, there are 3 family members in total who contacted me in the past week. As if that weren't enough, Richard's niece lives a 30 minute drive from me and we had lunch together this past week and shared photos and stories! Uncanny! She knew my mother as well ("I called her Auntie Eunice"). She has Richard's smile.

All of this has brought me closer to Richard's and my mother's lives and verified everything I thought to be true about their relationship. Had he lived, everyone expected he and my mother would have married and I either wouldn't be here or I would be here in a different embodiment of myself! I wonder how different their lives would have been. It's mind-boggling to think of the possibilities and to think of how many lives, full of promise, were taken so early as a result of that war. We must never forget. 

Had I not written that piece, with the goal of honouring my mother, Richard, their service, and her lifelong commitment to her love for him - despite his physical absence and despite her marriage to my father which resulted in four children before their divorce - I never would have had this opportunity to continue this story and develop this bond with Richard's family. I feel somewhat inarticulate in describing it here; I am still absorbing the uniqueness of this opportunity. 

Reach out. Use your social media accounts to share your stories. Reach out, because you never know who has their ear to the ground, half way around the world, listening for your heartbeat across the sea, across time. You may never know the impact that acknowledging a tweet or commenting on something shared means to someone. Use these tools for good. Use these tools to reach out around the world in loving thought and action. 

I dedicate this post to Richard's family - who I feel are, in some way, my newly found family. Thank you for your interest and persistence and for helping me to remember why I do this and why I believe in the power of the internet and new media to heal the wounds to our world. 

With love to each of you.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. February 22, 2015.

Eunice Jay
Richard Foster

Flying Officer, Richard N Foster
Rest in Peace, Guidel Communal Cemetery
Morbihan, France
Picture taken by: Alain Octavie

Sunday, February 15, 2015

LOVE. What is it?

 Spring Bouquet
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011

Ah love, amour, the passion of the heart! Odes are written to it, people die for it, statues and edifices are built to it, but what the blazes is it actually and why is it causing such a kerfuffle?

Is it what happens between the sheets?

 Gumby and Pokey - cuddling ...that is all.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Is it a feeling like you have gone to heaven because someone makes you feel all funny inside?

Is it a walk with someone on a Spring day, thinking of all the wonders you have shared and will share, today and ever more?
 Spring in Victoria, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011

What is it, anyway?

All I have is this, as we pass Valentine's Day in whatever state of togetherness or separateness from another human:

Love is energy. It is the energy that is constant, just as in physics. It is an energy that cannot be taken away. It may change along the way. It may shift from one way of being to another but it is eternal regardless of its form. 

If we think of love as energy, as the energy of the universe, that flows through us, that is all around us, then perhaps we can let go of fear a little. Perhaps we can breath more deeply, (for holding tightly serves no-one) and let love, energy, flow through us freely. In this way, like a fountain, we will always be full. There will always be enough. We will have nothing to lose. 

Let us be brave. Let us love freely and kindly without holding. As far as people go, if we truly love someone, we must be brave when they need to go and wish them luck on their paths. Love means we want others to be happy. We want them to follow their dreams and sometimes that means letting go of the physical connection and letting their energy continue to flow through our hearts. It does not mean there is no longer love between the two, it only means that energy has shifted and changed shape. In this, there is no real loss. 

Fine for me to say! I know, I'm no expert. Have I hurt when someone has left? Heck, yes! What helped? -realizing that they weren't leaving me; they were just leaving. We cannot take on the actions of others; we can only control our own actions and reactions. Do we love only as a result of someone loving us or is it something we choose to give freely, without expectation, without holding? That is for each of us to decide as we walk our own paths of love. 

May your love day be everyday. May your love expand your heart rather than cause it pain and depletion. May we all hold hands around the world, for many threads woven together make a strong cloth. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. February 15, 2015

 "Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back, even from the most difficult times.... Your ability to thrive, depends, in the end, on your attitude to life circumstances. Take everything in stride with grace, putting forth energy when it is needed, yet always staying calm inwardly." 
~ Ping Fu, Author of Bend, Not break: A Life in Two Worlds

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