Sunday, June 26, 2016

Be Brilliant, Bold and Mitigate Expectations

Maui - North Shore
Oil Pastel on Paper | Approx. 8"x 10"
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

I originally posted this piece in 2014. I wanted to reflect on it from my perspective today. I hope it gives something to you too: 

My brother once told me, "Expect nothing and hope for the best." Many seasons have passed since he imparted this sage advice and, to this day, hope and expectation can blur on my page like once vivid watercolours, running from brilliant individual rivulets into a murky pool.

Love. Fear. Love. Fear. Love. Fear. Love. Fear. Love. Fear. Love.

There they go again, marching across the page, weaving together the precept of every piece I've ever written. Tiresome, isn't it? ...but also true. With every step, every breath, every crossroad, we must decide which path to tread. 

This brings me to the title of this week's piece. Let's look at the parts:

Brilliant: bright, clever, impressive, excellent - from the French brillant: shining

Bold: willing to take risks, confident, courageous

Mitigate: make something (bad) less severe or lessen the gravity of something painful; from Latin mitigat- softened, alleviated

So, it looks like I'm saying: shine and be courageous but make sure you do it as your truth rather than from a desire to receive a response or change from something or someone because if you expect results, you can be disappointed or hurt. Yes, that is what I meant. Good. Sorry to take you down that road with me but I wanted to make sure I was going where I need to go with this. 

Hopev. want something to happen or be the case 

Interestingly, as a verb, hope relates more to want than expectation; whereas, as a noun, expectation is dominant in the use of the word

Expectv. regard something as likely to happen

My brother's wise words convey that it is okay to want something but not to rely on it. I agree with this too.

Recognize that the greater your brilliance, boldness and joie de vivre, the more likely it is that you will be met with an equal and opposite energy of naysayers and folks who need to shadow themselves from your light. I want to remind you that reaction is not a measurement of the value of your action. If your intent is for the positive, if your action comes from a place of love rather than fear, then you may listen and consider but it is not for you to own or carry the reaction of another. 

So if you shine, shine. Be bold. Explore. Your light may be the very thing that someone needs to light their path or it may take you to a place that opens your heart and soul to reaches you have never imagined. Do not let your brilliance and boldness be extinguished by other people's fears. Your light is a foundation of greatness, of living a full and passionate life. Do not walk your path as though it is a red carpet, looking for applause or judgement. Walk your path for the journey, for the delight and learning of life. I'll see you along the way. 

-Gillian Cornwall, August 24, 2014*

* Since I wrote this back in 2014, I feel I have changed. Perhaps my hope is less vivid in the spectrum. I see so much fear around me and everyone struggling to maintain what they see online as the way a person should live if they are to be considered a success. My experience lately has shown what lengths people will go to in order to "win."  I see less care for one another and more greed. I hope it is just in my realm and not worldwide, but I am not hopeful. Out of being brilliant, bold and mitigating expectations, I feel only capable of the last.

May we have less fear and more love on each of our paths. That which we hold too tightly will only result in loss. The tighter we try to hold on to that which we have, the more likely it is to slip through our fingers to where there is room for it to be without pressure. Let go. Don't buy in to the fear. Houses, X-Box, private school - it's all for naught if you believe it is a must have. May we make more decisions out of love and less out of fear. Wishing each of you some freedom in letting go of fear. Share what you have if you can give it freely and without expectation of return on investment - other than the good feeling of having given something. Avoid resentment. It is toxic and will poison your well-being. 

Be well and live with as much freedom as you can and, to all the folks that keep shining in their brilliance, thank you for your light. 

-Gillian Cornwall, re-posted on June 26, 2016

Surf - Oil Pastel on Paper 
Approx. 8" x 10"
Gillian Cornwall, c. 1988

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fathers and Family Memories

My father, my brother and me
Probably in The Muskokas, Ontario
Circa 1965-66

Every time I look at this picture, I laugh to myself. It evokes exactly what it was like when my brother and I were little kids. I have two older brothers as well, one of whom may have been taking this picture, or it could have been taken by my mother. In this image, my dad is probably taking us swimming at the lake. My parents both loved to swim and my youngest brother and I took instruction at the local pool and at the camp we attended from age 4 onward until we were sufficiently competent not to drown ourselves without great effort. My brother is being a ham. He loved to be a ham. I was likely being attacked by mosquitoes or blackflies; they thrived on my lily white complexion. 

The reason I put this picture up is that without these old photos and our home movies, which I recently watched with my girlfriend, who was seeing them for the first time, I would only remember the childhood hardships I faced. I wouldn't remember that my family had two sides. Not only were there epic battles, difficulties, inherited patterns of abuse and ineptitude in dealing with the cycle of abuse, there were also huge efforts put in by both my parents and my eldest brother Chris (RIP) to give us two youngest kids the time of our lives. We had great vacation adventures throughout Ontario, the eastern United States and in England - the homeland of my family.

Without watching these home movies now with people who love me, I wouldn't see my childhood through their eyes. Granted, it's not like we filmed the bad times - that would have been totally weird, but it really makes a difference to see the gargantuan effort my mum put into birthdays and Christmases. My girlfriend pointed out how many cakes were made by my mum, with four children having birthdays and Christmas cakes and puddings made every year - taking weeks and weeks to prepare and plan parties and buy presents. Every summer, they took us away with them to cottages and on road trips - sometimes on business trips during the summer as well. They both worked - running their own company from the time they returned from England for the second time in 1961, with my mother heavily pregnant with me, entertaining the husband and wife of the parent company in England until mere weeks before she was to give birth. We were always impeccably dressed, heading to camp, riding lessons, theatre productions, restaurant experiences, day trips to different gardens and on trips through North America and England. They did a HUGE amount for us and included us in many unique learning experiences. I am endlessly grateful for the cultural experiences they provided. It must have been exhausting with four kids and a business.

My father supported my leisure pursuits. He took me to every soccer practice and game - shared tips and laughed at my tenacity in the net. I remember the time I dove for the ball to prevent a goal just as the player was going to kick, taking the kick to my mouth, leaving my teeth slightly chipped and my gums bleeding. My coach came over and told me not to be a baby. I lost it and told him to "f*** off" - which did not please him very well. My father tried to be upset but was also holding back laughter as his eight or nine year old daughter was behaving like an FCUK player already. He did make me go to my coach's house that night to apologize so I could learn a lesson in team spirit and so I could keep my place on the team. He said it was probably best not to mention the incident to my mum if I wanted to continue to play. I never told her.

He was the one who would have bought me the stellar Pearl red sparkle surf drum set I coveted in the window of the Richmond Hill Drum Shop. My mum ...well, not so keen as it wasn't "a very lady-like instrument" to  play. I still think I could have been a rock star and did in fact build a set in the basement out of pots and pans and buckets and tin pie plates - needs must.

I still think my mum had the hardest role. She lost the love of her life in the war and married my father afterward. They look pretty happy in the beginning and when we were young but things kind of went pear shaped for them after that. It had to be so hard for her - losing her first love, giving up any idea of being independent in the late 1940s, getting married, having kids and working full time while trying to maintain a household and half of the family business. I was pretty happy when they finally split up and home was fairly quiet again. I didn't actually want to live with either of them but never said anything as I was aware that would have hurt their feelings. My dad didn't offer to take us so we went with my mum. She did her best and raised us well as a single mum with a small stipend of child support. 

The thing is, when we were little - there were good days and bad. Both my parents brought there own history of abuse into the relationship and the subsequent family. People back then didn't really do therapy and even when women started to look to it for survival and recovery, men did not so much. Generations of history told them to "man up" and get over it. Don't cry. Don't complain. Laugh it off ...and strike out, often in abhorrent ways as a result of suppression of emotions and pain.

It makes me sad that in this day and age, many men around the world still shun their hearts. You are allowed to feel, you do get to reach out for help and you do have a chance to stop the hurt. 

My wish for every single male out there on this Fathers' Day is that you can stop and reflect on the beliefs that you carry about yourself as a male and think of your place in society. Think about the ways you hurt and the ways you may have hurt others and find healthy, positive ways to move forward with a peaceful heart and spirit. Perhaps some of you have suffered at the hands of your own fathers or wish you could express your feelings in a safe and peaceful way. Give yourself permission to do so. You will benefit from letting go of what is not working for you in your life.

I'm not a male bodied person and I do not subscribe to gender roles so maybe I'm the last person in the world who should be taking about this. I only know what I have seen in my own family. I believe the males with whom I grew up had so much potential, but the harms they experienced, passed on from one generation to the next, perhaps as sons of warriors, left them hurt and ill-equipped to deal with those hurts. This means that their hurts held them back and manifested in behaviours which held them back even more. They are intelligent and talented; however, a large amount energy goes into trying to find ways to cope with their individual hurts without healthy expression and assistance in processing. 

As a woman, I "allowed" myself to go to counselling and bore the thousands of dollars of cost to keep myself from being a complete emotional right-off as an adult and I am still a work in progress, so I can't imagine what it would be like to disallow myself the healing path I took and still be an okay, non-violent person. I feel sad that some men won't allow themselves the space for healing - not only for them but for everyone they encounter thereafter because the dis-function leaks. It comes out and not in good ways: spurts of anger, violence, self-harm, addiction... the list goes on. 

The fact is, if you aren't processing the harm in some way, it will manifest in illness, violence and harm - to self or others; therefore, now, when I think of the term, "man-up", I think of it as dealing with your history, processing your pain, crying, and feeling what it is you have experienced - both good and bad. I wish this gift for everyone on this fathers' day. 

For my part, I'm grateful for the kind and loving things my father did and I am frustrated by the unkind, abusive things he did and the impact of those acts - it didn't have to be that way and it is up to this generation to stop the cycle. I've done my best to end it and pass on to the young people in my life the lessons I have learned. May we all do our best to love, learn and recover. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. June 19, 2016

A family vacation in England (the homeland)
Photo - BF Cornwall, c. 1966

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Love in the Thought

Rainbow Steps
Gillian Cornwall, c. Spring 2015

This is in particular dedication to the 49 who were murdered and the more than 50 who were injured by a single gunman at Pulse gay nightclub in the early hours of June 12, 2016 (CBC News). May we find ways to love and keep the light, in the face of fear, anger and hate. With love and condolences to the friends and loved ones who remain in the wake of this heinous act. 

"The thought manifests as the word,
The word manifests as the deed,
The deed develops into habit,
And the habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its way with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings."
K. Sri Dhammananda
-How to Live Without Fear and Worry

There is no light so great as the light of the universe that shines through me. With this light, I have all that I need. That which is not held cannot be taken. I will continue to walk my path of truth regardless of the decisions of others. I cannot be made to act against my heart. The light of life shines through me eternal. There is peace in this. No matter what is said or done around me, I act in my best truth and light. The breath of all that is and ever has been or will be flows through me. I am one with all. Peace and light are my path.

Gillian Cornwall, rewritten, June 12, 2016
Original post, May 24, 2012

Above all else, let there be love.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2015

Sunday, June 05, 2016


Oak Bay Tea Party
Gillian Cornwall, June 4, 2016

How many of us require a stuffed pig wearing a T-shirt that reads, I love bacon?

Stuff. We all have some of it. Some of us have a great deal of it, some of us less of it. 

I am not fond of stuff for the most part, though I have some stuff of which I am quite fond. My stuff even contains stuffed animals - the two I've had since childhood - Lamby (is a lamb - perhaps I wasn't a very imaginative child) and Teddy (my bear - enough said). 

So, why do I get to talk about stuff when, clearly, I have it and hold onto it? The fact is, I have stuff that I:
  1. use,
  2. keep as a reminder of a time or activity,
  3. am trying to pawn of on someone else because I don't want it anymore and
  4. that which I have to take somewhere for someone else to use.
I love getting rid of stuff. I have a rule that if I haven't looked at it, used it, worn it, shared it, talked about it or engaged with it in any way in a year, it goes. 

I just don't want the responsibility. I suppose you could say I have commitment issues. Perhaps I just like to be able to pack up and go quickly and easily. For the first time in my life, at 54, I have actively sought out furniture that I like and want in my home - stuff that I will keep for as long as I have a home. Perhaps, I now feel the need for a little more comfort and a little less speed. I'm okay with that. 

I have lived in Victoria for just under 22 years. I have moved approximately a dozen times - maybe a little more. I don't feel like counting. What I am trying to say is that my time here has been a bit nomadic. I stayed in one place for five or six years, but other than that, one or two at the most. Moving is a great way to keep stuff to a minimum. Less to move and always purging the unused and unwanted. 

In my life, experiences have far outweighed my desire for belongings. I have only ever owned two cars ...and one scooter. I have never owned my own home. It's Victoria - who actually owns their home when the average house price is over half a million dollars?  I don't make a ton of money but I have had enough for a roof over my head, basics and occasional treats since I have lived here. 

Rather than buying things, I have had adventures and helped others where I could. The things I have spent money on or gone into debt for have been trips to Hawaii, continental America and the UK. I know that is a luxury for which many people on Earth could never even hope. I am aware of my privilege in this regard. 

I like original art. Financial folks say this should be the last thing you invest in for your financial portfolio. I fail. I have bought art and I have been given art. Lucky me! I would rather wait and buy an original painting, or at least a quality print, over work that is mass produced. 

I guess I prefer quality over quantity when it comes to stuff. I do not care for that which I deem substandard. I have high standards and expectations for myself, my belongings, my friends, colleagues - to a fault. Sometimes this works against me. I mean, how dare I, really? What right have I to set the bar so high and why do I insist on this for myself? I guess that's just my "stuff" and I am trying to work it out. I am a work in progress. 

I guess the reason I am writing this today is, after going to the fair yesterday, I walked away with some great memories, some FREE stuff (which is always great stuff until you get sick of it and either give it away or use it up or throw it away ....but it was FREE so it was kind of awesome and mostly useful. One of my favourite parts is taking photos of all of the old school rides and signage and lights to share online. Also, it was the best people watching ever:

That's me on the left - with a couple of new friends...
Oak Bay Tea Party 
Photo by: T. Fitch, c. June 4, 2016

Maybe, like everything, stuff is all about balance: enough of it to feel comfortable and not so much that it is a burden and a time thief through its maintenance.  

Dare I be so bold as to end with the time tested adage, You can't take it with you.

Live, love, laugh, be present, share, invite and talk to folks. Try something new. Give up some old thing that doesn't work for you anymore. 

I may need to go swimming today. Maybe I will jump in the ocean - burr. I hate swimsuits but maybe I will go in with yoga shorts and top! There is also an air show.... So many choices and all free!

Have a great day doing something you love - something that will give you a happy memory. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. June 5, 2016

Mount Baker from Willows Beach, Oak Bay
Doing. Being. Living.
Gillian Cornwall, c. June 4, 2016

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Expanding, peeling back the layers - the white birch
Gillian Cornwall, c. Spring, 2015

Growth: the way we become, the way we change. The distance between our conception and our end point. Growth - we are doing it by the very nature of our being within a system of other beings and influences.

I am not a patient being. I am not patient with myself nor with my fellows on their paths. In the last month, I have thought about this as I believe it is a skill upon which I can work. I have watched the flowers grow on my balcony, somewhat patiently, awaiting the blooms as the goal - the reason I went to the effort of planting them. 

Yesterday, I sat on my deck chair contemplating the portulaca buds in their state just prior to bursting forth into full blossom. The colour was as intense as any precious gem, the shape perfect and compact, like miniature space capsules on the edge of discovery and I realized that they were perfect just then, as stunning as the full blossom and a little further away from the end of their cycle.

I wondered if this were also true of me, as I learned this lesson in, not so much patience rather, being in the moment. There is no better nor worse in the moment. There is simply the moment. There is light and darkness. There is colour and absence of colour. There is joy and sorrow. There is fear and contentment. There cannot be one without the other and this in itself is an equity, a balance. 

If we did not taste that which we dislike, we could not know the joy of the delicious. So I learn to be, more patient - if you wish to call it that, but perhaps I simply grow more willing and open, more fluid in the knowledge that there is a greater balance than that of my mind - my desires and petty complaints. I am part of a greater balance, a greater perfection. 

I am allowed to be, to learn, to grow and to change. I am changing. We are all changing - some quickly, some slowly, some with intent and some simply in the course of nature. I want to be allowed to change and not shoved into some box and labelled. I have never wanted that. Does anyone? 

It is comforting for us to identify, to label, to place and understand things and people, but most of us do not want to have this done to us. We do it out of fear, a need to create order through which we can navigate with a minimal amount of disruption and disaster. The thing is, what we perceive as chaos is simply that which we do not understand and cannot control. It frightens us and drives us into fight or flight mode. 

I am learning that sometimes I can breathe my way through the chaos - leave it be - and move on. I don't need to fix, change, make right nor drive it to order for it simply is part of the all and a necessary part of our journeys. 

Once again, I learn that it is the journey, not the destination. May we all be fully present on our paths, for it is the path on which our lives take place - moment by precious moment. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 29, 2016

The Magnolia - On its way
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2015

Sunday, May 22, 2016

One Thing

A Window of Opportunity - Hampstead, UK
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015.

The one thing I know is that life is precious - fleeting and precious. 

It is hard to remember that there are moments of incomparable joy and beauty in the times when we feel as though we are in competition with the biblical Job for worst life ever. We lose our job, our partner is gone, we are ill or all of the above. 

How best to respect the sadness, loss and lack of well-being while maintaining the knowledge that there is beauty and there is hope where life remains?

How best to remember that in the midst of our greatest suffering, the birds still sing without hating them for it in the face of our own loss or sadness? Remember W.H. Auden's poem, Funeral Blues
"Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come...."

Auden speaks of how the world must stop and that "...nothing now can ever come to any good."

Our loss can overshadow all the good in the world. Our heartbreak can create a pall that covers our lives in a dark emptiness. Thank heavens we have the capacity to feel our sadness so truly and completely for, if we could not, then how would we know its opposite - the euphoria of the birth of a child, falling in love, finishing a work of art and knowing it is your best or simply staring at the waves roll in from across the sea in a moment of complete contentment. 

Last evening, my girlfriend and I watched some of my old 1960's home movies as my parents crossed the Atlantic for the second time to create a new life for themselves in Canada as immigrants from England. From a great distance from my childhood and a great deal of counselling later, I am able to view these with a less self-centered eye, with the understanding of an adult rather than the need and grief of a child. 

While, certainly, the movie camera only came out for celebrations and epic adventures, it is fascinating to look back on one's life from the perspective of being older now that my parents were in the film we are watching and to have a greater understanding of their experience. I am able to see how many things they did for us, how many adventures they took us on, how damn lucky we were to have the resources to travel and explore, to stay at lakefront cottages and travel through Algonquin Park - not to mention, travelling back and forth to England to visit the family there. 

My parents battled like wildfire and eventually divorced when I was 13, but before then and after, there were so many celebrations for us. There were birthday parties and homemade cakes, Christmas after Christmas with a sea of presents for us, trips to beautiful gardens and visits with friends and family. 

I truly hope that my parents are able to see and know, from a post life place, that I understand better now, that I am grateful for all they did and that I am endlessly grateful for my life. 

I am getting older. I worry sometimes about how much time I might have left and how I want to spend it. I have the luxury of considering this at all as opposed to the majority of the population of the earth who have an endless, daily focus on survival - food and shelter. I have the luxury of deciding how I wish to live and what I might want to change about myself. My entitlement lies in the luxury of living in Canada as a white woman with resources and loved ones to help me through the difficult times. 

Okay, I know two things, not just one:
  1. Life is precious.
  2. Worrying won't help.
Let us stop and think of life itself - the greatest gift we could ever be given and look no further for heaven than to the beauty of another day, as the bird sings outside my window and my girlfriend tells me my tea is ready and I sit here writing to you. It is enough. It is plenty. I am grateful.

With love to every single one of you. 

I dedicate this piece to my parents for the life they have given me and in the knowledge that they did their best to raise four children and give them a good life. To my mum, you were amazing. I can't believe how much you had to do and the grace with which you did it. Thank you. To my dad, thanks for taking me to all the soccer games and allowing me to be the tomboy I was. Too bad, we couldn't convince mum to let me have the drum set - I'm still sure I would have been a rock star. ;-)

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 22, 2016

Hampstead Heath
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Less Fear = More Time
Gillian Cornwall, c. May, 2016

Space: even the act of writing or speaking the word helps me to breathe a little more deeply. It denotes an air of sufficiency - a sense that there is enough, enough of whatever it is you need for peace. It indicates room to stop and simply be. Space allows us to let go off the "busy as a badge of honour" pretence of importance that has been rampantly awarded in the last decade. The busier we are, the more we validate ourselves and one another. I recall a time when I could ask someone, "How are you?" and receive a different answer than, "Busy." The sad thing is, the busier we claim to be, the less we seem to be accomplishing. I strongly believe that if we stop, breathe, hold our space and let the energy of the universe flow through us, we will be less stressed, less fearful, more joyful and increase our capacity for true accomplishment.

Why are people working 24 hours a day on their mobile devices, doing email and attempting to complete tasks? There isn't really more work than there used to be; it is that we have convinced ourselves it must be done more quickly. We have convinced ourselves that it is expected of us; however, I see few job descriptions that have changed to indicate that the hours of work are 24/7. We are allowing our mobiles devices to rule our lives rather than serve our lives and, in this practice, we have completely lost the art of stopping and taking space.

I am learning to replace the artlessness of being busy with the art of stopping. I am busy with release - moments of release from all but assessing my own wants and needs. Does it sound selfish? Is selfishness wrong if the result is greater capacity for giving? If we do not know what we want or need for ourselves, how can we possibly be ready and able to serve others? Self-fulfilment is essential - we must be able to fill ourselves in order to participate and interact effectively outside of ourselves. 

How clear and honest can we be in a world that so values chicanery and conniving? I watch many people clawing their way to mere perceptions of power that are so far gone from truth and knowledge. I feel as though I have been air-dropped onto the set of an underfunded, unknown opera: there is a great deal of effort being put into attempts at singing and drama and swordplay, but everyone seems to have lost the plot!

I am letting go. I do not need to question the acts of others nor challenge them. I do not need to know, understand nor fix behaviours I perceive as unfair. I need to work, pay bills, keep a safe space for myself, write and create art that I hope will ultimately draw people closer to themselves and to their inter-connectivity with the universal energy force; for it is this force that offers us space and the knowledge that there is enough - when we let go, when we stop holding on with fear of loss. Listen to the waves, the wind, the bird song - their lyrics are the same - "let go and fly free of fear." It really is your life. 

There will always be the subtle balance of maintaining our wants with our needs; however, if we do not stop to create space to breathe and listen, we will always be afraid of losing something. We will always fear insufficiency.

Let us balance our outer space with our inner until we can live fully in the space of greatest intake and output. Let us save ourselves with a balance between thought (inner) and action (outer). Balance is where we will find our greatest capacity for achievement. One may fuel the ship to its greatest capacity, but if one is not keeping an eye open for obstacles, well, we know the result - tragic and unnecessary loss. 

Stop. Seek your space. Refuel. Trust yourself. Move forward. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 15, 2016

Seek Your Space
Gillian Cornwall, c May, 2016