sugar_2533727b“Good luck with that, Princess.”

My office window has a view to False Creek in downtown Vancouver. On this particular day both the view and my common sense were foggy.

The chocolate I was about to consume wasn’t up to my usual snobbish standards. Its label didn’t bear the name of Bernard Callabaut or Thomas Haas. If I remember correctly Cadbury or Nestle comes to mind.

As the second piece was about to pass my lips I remember thinking, “You’re about to devastate your immune system with the sugar in this s*#t.” Piece number two quickly disappeared.

As I strolled back to my desk I felt a wave of sadness course through my heart. How was it so easy to be such a saboteur of my own wellness?

I chose to sit quiet and simply feel what I was feeling. I’ve learned that I cannot figure out why I’m feeling what I’m feeling, while still holding the feeling. I knew the feeling would pass and then I’d have an opportunity to better understand its lesson.

It wasn’t long before the ache in my heart subsided. What would take longer was to embrace the wisdom my body possessed by creating the feeling of sadness.

I ran the scene of my chocolate eating episode backwards. Just like rolling a Blu-ray movie scene, using the 10x reverse slow motion button. I paused the scene at the moment when I was about to release the chocolate into my mouth.

That’s the moment I began to feel the sadness in my body. That’s the moment I ignored the feeling.

I could feel my compassionate self begin to embrace me. When I allow that part of myself to be present I know I’m about to uncover a circumstance where I’ve disconnected from my authentic/divine self and have allowed my ego to run the show.

By allowing the presence of sadness and not figuring it out, I was beginning to see the very mechanic of how I could help bring greater healing to my life.

Sugar, via the chocolate, slams my immune system. I was even aware that it would and I gobbled it down anyways. How pathetic! This sugar infused epiphany inspired an idea.

What if I could have sugar instead of sugar having me?

So I embarked on a 30 Day Challenge clear of refined sugar from January 6th, 2015 – February 3rd, 2015. I didn’t die without sugar.

Over the course of this journey I came face-to-face with the part of me that is fully asleep when it comes to my wellness. It’s my super ‘auto-off’ button.

I know the law of attraction states to be clear about what you want, not what you don’t want. So my intention was that by the time the adventure was over I would feel my immune system as a fully functioning launch pad for the most powerful sense of wellness I’ve ever experienced. Gosh. It worked!

Here’s some of the gifts I received over the 30 days:

  • Pride
  • Heightened self esteem
  • Being in control of my life
  • Greater energy
  • Gratitude and appreciation for my body
  • Self respect
  • Integrity
  • Discipline
  • Devotion
  • Laughter
  • Ease

To support the power sugar had over me I chose to begin day one by not having sugar for one hour. I next committed to two hours, four after that and then eight. Day one ended with a victory over sugar. Not that I’m competitive.

Day two had me commit to half a day without sugar. I made a full day without it on day three and the remaining 27 days clocked by without my immune system being bombardment by that ubiquitous white stuff.

The 30 Day Challenge was humbling.

My body knows the havoc and devastation that sugar can wreak.

My work is to listen intently, keep my mouth closed before popping sugar, and switch the ‘auto-off’ button to ‘wisdom on’.

P.S. Here’s a little quiz that I failed miserably.

Are you addicted to sugar?

1. Do you struggle to walk past a sugary treat without taking ‘just one’?

2. Do you have routines around sugar consumption – for example, always having pudding, or needing a piece of chocolate to relax in front of the television?

3. Are there times when you feel as if you cannot go on without a sugar hit?

4. If you are forced to go without sugar for 24 hours, do you develop headaches and mood swings?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one of the questions above, you are addicted.

Why Sugar is ruining our health?

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TKD Little Guy

“This is our secret. Don’t tell anyone.”

One of my intentions for 2015 is to read more. These seven books top my list:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
Who Will Cry When You Die? by Robin Sharma
Daily Love by Mastin Kipp
The Future of God by Deepak Chopra
The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama
Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Each resonated with my heart. Each, I feel, has something to stir my soul. All of them come bearing gifts.

I’ve been drawn to the life and times of Maya Angelou for decades. It is my first read for 2015.

From the first line of the book, “I hadn’t so much forgot as I couldn’t bring myself to remember. Other things were more important.”, I felt a call to unearth something in my life that felt buried beneath years of shame.

On page 72 Maya writes, “Finally he was quiet, and then came the nice part. He held me so softly that I wished he wouldn’t ever let me go. I felt at home.” Something took my breath away. Shame occupied my body. I listened as I whispered a faint, “No.”

I felt like I was seven years old, perhaps even younger. The event I began to recall had me running back and forth between two men who were sitting on either side of the living room I grew up in, both of them were shirtless.

Maya’s words triggered a memory that felt more cellular in my body. This was something I hadn’t remembered in a very long time. Also, as a student of Brene Brown and the work of Debbie Ford, I knew the power of shame.

This was a secret I held, but at the time I had thought my whole world knew what was happening. No one ever said a word.

Maya’s book title, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ has greater meaning to me now. I can relate to being caged in. A part of me doesn’t want to sing a note of this story.

I have this memory of being watched by someone as I was growing up. I’d wake up and sense a presence. Even on the rare occasion when I didn’t have to share bath water with four other siblings, I felt someone watching me. Feelings of terror, sadness, numbness and an inability to speak all flooded my awareness.

It wasn’t easy to breathe. The immense pressure of shame pervaded my chest.

As a little gay boy the sexual abuse was terrifying. Yet, I was also able to notice times when I liked it. This caused me immense shame. Yet, what I read of Maya’s childhood experience and her feeling “at home” helped me understand that I wasn’t alone.

As I explore healing from these experiences I’ve come to understand the double edge sword of sexual abuse for gay boys.

In my case the perpetrator knew my sexuality. He also knew I held it as a secret and he used that against me. So although a part of me knew what was happening was horrendously wrong, the little gay boy really liked the attention. Maya has helped me begin to heal.

I’m proud to defy my perpetrator and tell everyone. Like Maya this is no longer my first big secret.

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Counting Down Sleeps

FullSizeRenderChristmas, as a child, at the Dolan house was a time when the impossible seemed possible.

As I reflect back on those childhood days of Christmas I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the way my Mom created the magic she did.

To this day I still count down the number of sleeps until Christmas. It is a ritual that keeps the little boy excited about the season and challenges the adult in me to always remember it’s magic.

As a welfare family there were always stark reminders of the Christmas that may not come. We had little money and promises of what Santa would bring were never uttered. Yet somehow, against all odds, my childhood version of Christmas would show up.

It’s like my Mom seemed to pull it all together for December 25th. I seriously wondered why the calendar didn’t always stay on that date.

My oldest brother Rick worked as a Firefighter. To this day, because of his job,  the memory of one Christmas, in particular, is seared into my heart.

The Calgary Firefighters would create this enormous Christmas Toy Drive that was held at the Stampede Corral every year. It was a Christmas party for all the underprivileged families of Calgary. What I could never figure out though was why we as children, or at least me, never attended.

The constant threat in the Dolan household was that Christmas might not happen the way it did the year before. The reasons were never clearly stated, yet the threat was imminent.

The effects and drama of alcoholism was in large part the reason why Santa might not visit. When there was a pay cheque, it was routine to have it spent by Dad on booze or it was funneled in some other direction. Mom called it, “Robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

There was one year I was convinced we’d not celebrate the holiday.

Mom seemed so gloomy. Her silence was loud when it came to the potential of Christmas disappointment. I was very familiar with the signs. This was going to be a present-less and food-less Christmas.

I remember the taste and smell of my breath frozen into my woolen scarf on that December afternoon only two more sleeps before Christmas. I was playing in the snow banks surrounding the ice skating rink beside our house. Myself and my siblings gazed up as several fire engines turned the corner and headed down our street.

Excitement was not something that came easy to us as children; we had learned disappointment and even that was to be expressed in silence.

The fire engines crept slowly down our street and the sound of the snow under the tires reminded me of someone walking over styrofoam. I had no idea why they were in our neighbourhood especially with no sirens blaring and no lights flashing.

The trucks halted in front of my house. I stood on the frozen snow banks feeling like the scene was being played out in slow motion. The next thing I heard was a voice calling out for me and my siblings to come inside. I obeyed; after all I always did what I was told.

The next thing I remember were Firemen bringing in boxes and boxes of presents and food. I caught a glimpse of a huge frozen turkey, some mandarin oranges in the all too familiar balsa wood boxes and presents tagged with, “Boy Aged 9”, “Girl Aged 7” and so on.

The wrapping wasn’t the greatest, yet I knew that someone had known that Christmas was not a possibility for us that year.

How could our house be so silent with five young children watching Christmas being paraded in front of them?

I can still remember seeing the Firemen through my little gay eyes and thinking how strong they were as they unloaded box after box. Yet mostly I remember my Mom standing off in a corner of the living room with her hands held prayer like over her mouth. She too was silent.

The delivery stopped. A Fireman walked over to my Mom and whispered something into her ear. She hugged him and as quickly as all of them had appeared, they were gone. My silence continued with a tinge of awe.

We knew nothing of the Firemen coming that day. For years, at the bleakest of times, they would continue to deliver the magic of Christmas.

I never asked my Mom or my brother Rick how they did what they did or whether or not they conspired together. What I do know is that their gift of magic Christmas’ still has me counting down sleeps.

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I Matter

matter“Don’t you understand, if you’re gay, you’ll never play football again.” These were the words of a dear friend and former high school football coach after coming out in 1988.

I stood alone, with my truth of being of gay, yet my entire world tried to convince me I was not. What scared me most was the thought of considering listening to them and stay in my married relationship. All I heard was, “It doesn’t really matter.”

Overnight my entire world, all those I loved and whom loved me, disappeared.

July 14th, 2014 would have been my 30th wedding anniversary. As I walked through this day remembering how scared I was, at the age of 26, I began to get present to the courage I summoned in order to lose that entire world. I told my truth. Where did that strength come from?

Having endured that experience and taken the time to figure out what it was about, I am proud that my story of being married makes significance sense to who I am today.

Marriage represented an opportunity to escape the pathological dysfunction of my family. Alcoholism, violence, drugs, sexual abuse, living off welfare and believing suffering had some degree of nobility.

The act of being married, even after being forgiven by my former wife, still felt chicken shit and it took a long time to forgive myself and embrace the real lesson I had created for myself.

As I reflect on my personal evolution from a closeted married man to this fully expressed and powerfully contributing, out gay man, I pause to be grateful for a quality I’ve discovered that’s supported my choices.

I’m 1 of ten children. I’m number 7, lucky 7 I like to think.

I made up a story, my parents never told me this nor did any one else, but the story was that I didn’t matter.

Not mattering was at the heart of being married. Not mattering was the foundation of not coming out. Not mattering inspired hundreds of choices that would simply have me disappear. After all, that was exactly the point of disappearing… no one thought I mattered anyway.

Today, I understand how I did everything to make sure my story was true.

Six years ago I stood in the kitchen of my home and shared with my partner that I felt I needed to change my relationship with him. We both agreed that what we had been enduring wasn’t working for either of us. Together, we began to dismantle our intimate relationship.

I knew there was something extraordinary, at the heart of spending nearly 6 years with him, that was available for me to learn.

So I chose to participate in a coaching program, a 12 week process, called Spiritual Divorce.

What appeared in short order was the discovery of my old story of not mattering. At the heart of creating circumstances that felt so painful, within my relationship, was a part of me that believed I didn’t matter.

The old story had never been healed.

It’s classic for me to want to discard a part of me I hate. Yet my coach, with ruthless compassion, invited me instead to learn to love this part of me that felt I didn’t matter.

There actually were gifts from thinking I didn’t matter. I got to let go, not care what people thought and I could also let go of expectation. All pretty freeing gifts.

What was really available to learn was how to create a story that was completely opposite. What would life be like if I mattered?

I’m proud, today, to have built a story about my life as mattering.

Here’s what I receive by knowing I matter: love, truth, unbridled passion, significant relationship, forgiveness, play, vision, clarity, heartfelt desire, worthiness, patience, gratitude, appreciation, boundaries and immense self love.

Each morning, as part of my ritual of self love, I place a silver ring on my left thumb and  proclaim, “I matter.”


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I’m Not Feeling My Usual Wellness

Anns handI find myself tender and lost in places I used to feel confident and familiar. I thought I was stronger.

I’m not able to hold people where they are, at least that’s my story. It feels hard to listen to others heart pain and when I do, it pains mine.

Having held the energy of four people dying since November 2012, two of them siblings, has me feeling sad and frightened. A part of me feels I will never have as much strength, resilience, stamina, or energy, or be able to do everything I used to.

In the last two months of my life I’ve felt the slow descent of grief. I’ve noticed a fatigue that is familiarly daunting, the remnants of it relentless. Yet I’ve put off choosing to take the time to regain my vitality or even notice that it might be missing.

Was I going to keep pushing the limits of my body’s endurance, trying to maintain some semblance of a life I could not honestly or honourably pretend to be living? Or would I accept, make peace with, what had been taken from me?

My healing could only begin if I dropped the reluctance to tell the world what was going on for me.

I could still be kind, listen well, offer something of beauty to others’ hearts. The most I could give is my unhurried, undistracted company.

I could stop hiding.

Choosing to tell this to my world, to say that I need to live slowly, slowly into this new, smaller life, is a gift of powerful generosity to myself.

I now hear others share their experience of grief and more readily recognize its manifestation even if it remains a secret.

I’m on the receiving end of accepting that it’s ok to acknowledge the limitation that grief has bestowed upon me and to hold it with grace. I’ve found some peace in cutting myself some slack.

I can own my particular limitation, with its physical and energetic constraints. Today, I can respond to these choice points, without using vital energy to cover them up.

In his book, “a life of being, having, and doing enough”, Wayne Muller shares a Tibetan parable.

If we put a tablespoon of salt in a glass of water and drink it, the water will taste terrible and bitter. But if we were to stir that same tablespoon of salt into an enormous, clear blue mountain lake, the water in the lake would remain sweet; we would not taste the salt at all.

The problem, the Tibetans say, is not the salt we are given. The real problem is how spacious is the container into which the salt is poured.

My challenge is not, never, ever, whether or not I will be given challenges and limitations. I will. The question is, how will I hold them, how will I be changed, how will they shape me, what will I bring to the healing of them, what, if anything, will be born in its place?

Will I summon the courage to tell you that I’m not feeling my usual wellness?

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