Sunday, February 19, 2017

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. 

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 into the fear. 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, February 19, 2017
Original post, August 24, 2014

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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

You are Whole

Love - in each creation - perfection
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2015

Okay, so here's the deal, as I see it:

You need no one to make you whole; you are perfectly complete and amazing as you are. If one should enter your world to love you, and you to love them, it should only add to your already complete capacity to live your unique life. If another person depletes you over an extended period, it may not be the best course of action for either of you. If you add to the life of each other, support one another and accept one another as you were found, then jolly good!

The fact is, we needn't pair up. We can if we want to, but we cannot be completed by another. I reiterate, each of us is a whole and perfect being on our own particular path of life. As I wrote to my soul sister, the remarkable Sheila Jeffries, the other day:

"Happy Valentines Day to everyone who can feel their heart beating within their chest - each rhythmic thump is a wave of love out to the world as a gift from you to the perfect universal unity that exists within, and between, each of us ...if we just allow it to be so."

Life is opportunity to embrace the amazing machine, the open thermodynamic system, that you are. Life is your chance to be fluid, to let go, to stop holding and being afraid. There is enough love, enough energy for all. Let go. Let it flow through you from your connection to all that is - up through your feet and out through the top of your head. Let it rise up through the world and cycle down through the earth and up through your feet again.

Gillian Cornwall, c. Spring 2014

"There is force in the universe which, if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results." -Mahatma Gandhi

If you aren't sharing this weekend with a lover, do not worry. You are perfect. You are whole, beautiful and full of capacity. Go outside. Smile at someone. The life you may save in doing this is the greatest love you could ever share.

With every wish for your happiness, for your joy in the simple things and with love to each of you.

Gillian Cornwall, February 12, 2017

Original post, c. February 14, 2016

The Golden Heart - Mystic Vale
Gillian Cornwall, c. February 2016

Resource Material: 

Sunday, February 05, 2017


"Is this the snowflake that attacked you?"

I surrender. I'm getting out of the sandbox. I don't want to play nice. There is no way you are getting me out of my pyjamas today and, yes, I might choose to have candy for supper. 

I can definitely put the "I give in" stamp of authenticity on this day. 

I knew when I cut myself on my own pyjamas this morning that it was time to raise the white flag. Seriously? Who cuts themselves on their own pyjamas?! 

Me, that's who, so I give in for today. Unto itself, while absurd, an attack from ones own pyjama bottoms might not be enough to shut down a day, but when it is on top of an extremely stressful time that is chock-a-block with a massive dental bill that will sink me into an even deeper financial quagmire of insurmountable debt, impending unemployment, rent going up next month, no money to pay for PTSD counselling and a finished book that I have no idea how to publish, I'm feeling a little down in the dumps right now, so I say:

"Thanks for knocking the stuffing out of me, life. The snowflake bling attack by my own pyjama bottoms was the last straw! I am going undercover for the day to try to find a way forward without losing my mind." 

Yep, it was the offending snowflake captured in the mugshot above. Pyjama bling pushed me over the edge. Hand bleeding, cleaned and bandaged, I sit down to write this - not because I want you to feel sorry for me (...feel free to do so if you want, or just roll a bottle of wine into the room and leave quietly), but because I know that we all have days like this. 

We cope, we cope and we cope some more. We exercise our stiff upper lips until we could use them as shelving; however, sometimes, you just gotta give in to the chaos and do whatever it will take to get you through the moment. 

And giving in is different than giving up. I don't want to end it all. I actually want it to be better, easier, kinder and more gentle. I don't want to look at my pyjamas as a potential threat to my personal security - that kinda takes the pleasure out of pyjama day - but I do have the capacity to adjust my angle to the shit storm swirling around me. I cut the offending snowflake off my jammies. It's a shame really - it totally added to the pretty winter ambiance of the garment ...but not worth the health risk. 

I love that snowflake. I hate that snowflake. I was so happy when I bought these pyjamas. I wore them when I was taken up island to the lovely cabin for my 55th birthday. I sat in them in front of the cozy wood-burning fireplace and felt so content and special. Who knew they were plotting and preparing to turn on me at any moment. I have to believe it was an accident. Life... full of the unexpected: joy and hardship and sorrow and ease.

The pyjamas are like certain other experiences in my life. They do not intend to harm or make me suffer and yet I do suffer. Am I choosing to suffer? Yes, the cut hurts from the offending snowflake. I am astounded by the depth of the puncture it was able to make in my normally resilient hide. Was it done with malice? Was it about me at all? Of course not. Even I am not off the beam so far that I believe that. It's likely that most of the other things that have tripped me up on my path of life were not done with an intent to leave me penniless, harmed or on the streets. Yet, that has happened before and could happen again.

S**t happens all of us. Rich, poor, powerful, weak - no one is exempt. 

I sure hope I don't end up out of work and homeless. I've been there already when I was younger and it was awful. The prospect of it terrifies me. I'm too old and sore to sleep on the ground or to stay up all night so I can stay safe from attack and sleep during the day. 

I wish I could stay where I am currently working. I went into it knowing that probably wouldn't happen as I am just covering someone's leave. I love this job. I love the people with whom I work. It is the first time in my life I have felt safe enough to be myself and the first time I have felt valued for my work and not "othered" because of my identity. I am eternally grateful to my friends and colleagues for the experience and I know that I am doing a good job. They have told me so and I know because I feel valued and valuable for my skills and my work ethic. My identity doesn't come into play any further than being a good person, a kind person and a hard-working person so, of course I don't want to leave. 

Imagine feeling safe and valued for the first time in your life - feeling a part of something for the first time in your life and then potentially having to walk away from it. The prospect of it sucks. It's life. I'm grateful for the experience, hopeful that I may get to continue to have it some way and afraid of never feeling safe again if it ends. ...Not to mention, having to leave working with some of the best, most kind people I have ever known! I will carry them with me always. 

Even in writing this, I fear punishment for speaking any of the truth of my past experiences - many things we fear come from the reality of our histories; nonetheless, I suppose there comes a time when you just say what is going on for you. Without malice, without expectation for change, you just speak your truth because, like Oprah said, everyone just wants to be seen, heard and to know that what they said meant something to someone. 

Snowflake - I know you didn't mean to harm me. :-) It's all going to be okay - no matter what.

With love always,

Gillian Cornwall, c. February 5, 2017.

Dedicated to my work family. Thank you.

The pyjamas in happier times...
G Cornwall, c. December 16, 2016

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Rain Coast

 Rhododendron Spring - Victoria BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2007

I thought it might be nice to have a taste of Spring through this wee poem. Here, in Victoria, BC, the snow drops have popped up and buds are appearing on the trees. By February, the plum and cherry blossoms will begin their annual extravaganza of blossoms and sweet-scented confetti, twirling and dancing from the branches on the Spring breezes, to the grass and pavement below. I hope you enjoy the poem:

Every lick of colour
sopping springtime blooms
wet paint in every green
fills the canvas of my town

Splotching pinkest pinks
Camellia upon Camellia
the fair flower that leaps whole
to the grassy bed below

Rhododendrons grow as trees here
floral monsters in pastel
a million pink and purple tongues 
catching raindrops from the sky

Now I lay me down among you
on this verdant, spongy ground
raincoat and gumboot clad
wash me clean into this land

-Gillian Cornwall, January 29, 2016
Originally Posted, c. June 1, 2014

Territory of the Lekwungen speaking people
Vancouver Island, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. May 2015

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Looking for Respect
Photo by Jodi McLean - c. 2014

It's rare as hen's teeth, is respect, particularly when it comes to the interactions between everyday folks. North Americans, in particular, seem to have this wacky idea that famous people deserve adoration and respect, simply because they are famous. 

Don't get me wrong, fame often takes skill in ones field and luck ...sometimes just luck. 

The thing I don't understand is that we won't respect our neighbour who gets up at 5 every morning to go serve breakfast to the homeless then goes to Wild Arc to look after injured wildlife because he smells funny or doesn't have nice clothes or isn't privileged enough to have a post secondary education but we will idolize someone who has a nice voice and a team of people to help them sell a million copies of a song they didn't necessarily write or an actor who moved us in a particular role he or she played. I'm not saying these folks might not deserve respect, but why are we lifting them higher than everyone else?

What the blazes is wrong with us, people? How does a hateful person end up leading a country? There are many other than the "T word" (wont even say his name) around the world who have been horrific leaders over the centuries and generations. 

Why do we not lift one another up rather than tear one another down in fear?

What is it in us that makes us believe that folks are supposed to look and dress a certain way in order to be considered good people or people deserving of our attention, kindness and respect?

If my Grandma were alive, she would be appalled. She came up through life with little. She sat ram rod straight in her chair with pride - and respect for goodness - all the days of her life. At ninety-something she chased a thief from her flat. She was treated poorly as a wife and was a strong and loving mother. She worried for her grandchildren and was proud as heck of each of us. She had disdain for abusive men and refused to fall despite the hurts. 

We need to respect more grandmas. We definitely need to lift up women, the givers of life, and honour them for their abilities and strength, regardless of false fame or lack thereof.

Get a grip people. Don't be led by shiny things; they won't necessarily make you rich. 

Love your mother. Love your mother earth. Respect the givers of life.


-Gillian Cornwall, c. January 22, 2017

Oak Bay, Vancouver Island
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fuel the Positive

Fernwood Car
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

Let us, for a moment, imagine that we will take the full force of human insecurity to fuel positive acts toward others instead of placing the energy behind our insecurities into tearing down those around us - as many of us have done at some time in our lives.

Unable to raise ourselves up through positive thought and action, we raze rather than raise the folks with whom we are surrounded. This is neither an effective nor sustainable practice.

Why, if it serves no purpose, do we debase ourselves or others? This is not the same as self-effacement. It is not an act of humility. The motivators behind our behaviours are extensive: cultural, familial, gender-based, perhaps simply because we are accustomed to doing it. It may be the result of a history of abuse, war or trauma. 

Today I offer a challenge: Focus on something good within you, something positive and life-affirming. Find a way to share that light in you with another and give it in a way that raises and lights the path of a friend or a stranger. Do it simply because you can. 

Believe in yourself. Believe in another. Watch the ripples of self-love and love of another flow out endlessly. This is our power to live and share and make a positive impact.

Live well. Live with intention.
Gillian Cornwall, January 15, 2017.
Original Post, c. July 27, 2014.

Gillian Cornwall, July 2014

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The Authentic Self

Self Portrait on the train to Somerset
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

The Authentic Self recognizes the face in the mirror. One tries to stare back at that image with kindness, acceptance, celebration and love. 

Why is that so difficult for us - to say to ourselves, as we wish others to say to us:
  • "I see you
  • I hear you and
  • what you say means something to me"?
Where and when does the struggle begin? As children, many of us try to live up to our heroes - be they our parents, siblings, friends or teachers. Even as youngsters, we are taught to externalize our responsibility to ourselves onto the behaviour and ways of others. "You told me to do it!" "They made me!"

We are told there is a moral compass. We are shown what it looks like and how our behaviour relates to it and, yes, to some extent, that needs to happen. All animals learn survival skills from their packs - how to hunt through play, how to watch and how to work with others. Sometimes, we are shown how to lead. 

If everything goes well, we become adults. Then what? Most of us set our own priorities and make decisions about how we will choose to live based on our experiences of the moral compass we have known as children... OR, we entirely oppose it because we see our parents (or packs) were messed up and struggling and had no way to guide us well... OR some combination thereof (the last is probably the most likely and most common). We are all muddling through and there is no rule book that includes or fits everyone. Every single person's experience, every self, is unique.

Back to the mirror. Who do we see? Do we recognize ourselves in what is reflected back at us? If not, then what? 

I think I am describing a fairly common experience for all individuals. We all struggle with self-identity in our lives at some point and often this struggle is dependent on others opinions of what they see us to be and the box into which they are shoving us - as we kick, scream and rail against it - feeling misunderstood and powerless. If we protest, we are generally ostracized further for not "getting along with others" and simply accepting the way things are. To not fit others notions of ourselves is an affront to our communities - be they work, social or familial. 

"Why can't you just get along? Why do you have to be so contrary?"

Ah, there is the rub! The authentic self struggles against the tide of perception, the tide of ordered thought and labels. There remains no room to grow, think, change or become in the ruled and ordered society. There remains a compass on how we must look, behave, speak and feel. There is value set on people based on their fiscal worth rather than their ability to reinvent themselves,to allow themselves to grow and become daily. 

"Lie down."

These commands are not a recipe for the authentic self. Religious precepts of what is good and right and what is bad and wrong dictate our acceptability and worth and take away our accountability by telling us we are less than and fallible - and fallible is bad because there does exist perfection in an unattainable being. ...So how do we learn? How do we err? How do we learn gentleness and forgiveness if the authentic self is not given space to fall, to accept the fall, to heal and to integrate that experience into personal growth? How is it that we are not perfect for simply walking our paths as best we can and taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions?

The authentic self is amorphous. I wish for my authentic self to have a core of kindness, acceptance and the desire to lift up others and say, in all honesty, "I see you. I hear you. What you say means something to me." 

I try to do this. I succeed at it daily and I fail at it daily. I am growing, changing, falling and getting up again. I am learning strength and a wealth of ability to say no to the labels. I reject unkindness and try very hard to forgive it - in myself and others. 

The authentic self I want to see in the mirror strives to understand that the picture is always changing. I am no Dorian Gray. I embrace the change and mourn the loss of youth while celebrating the blessings of aging - for not aging is a far worse alternative as it means an end of days to this great blessing of life - the heavenly gift of each breath and the chance to learn, love and embrace the miracle of change and growth. 

My authentic self is immeasurable, connected to all and a conduit for the universal flow of energy. It IS the universal flow of energy. We ARE the universal flow of energy. The authentic self is unique and the same as all else. We are an embodiment of the cheer of the Three Musketeers: All for One and One for All

Praise yourself. Be accountable for your actions. Do not look to the gods for forgiveness nor hope and do not judge others on their unique paths. Realize that right here and right now, it (you) is all on you. You always have choice - perhaps not always in the experience, but at least in your response to it. Lead. Follow. Right. Left. It is all up to you. 

In all truth, I write this for myself - perhaps to hold myself accountable. To remember my perceived failings and re-frame them into lessons. I write it to share my thoughts, in the hope that it may spark thought elsewhere and may lead to connection with others as we walk our unique paths on our journey to self-love and love for others. 

Gillian Cornwall, revised and re-posted, January 8, 2017
Originally posted c. January 31, 2016

After the bloom, the beauty remains
Gillian Cornwall, c. September, 2015