Sunday Everyday

“Please, Please, Please…”

This article was written by Nicole Conner on her bog Reflections of a Mugwump.

Nicole Conner

“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
 Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
A long way from home, a long way from home.”

Traditional Negro spiritual, 1870

Signs, artwork, and flowers were placed by people to pay their respects and protest the Monday death of George Floyd at the intersection of 38th St. and Chicago Ave. in Minneapolis on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

The distressing footage filmed on a phone camera was watched across the world. We literally saw the life drain from George Floyd. He pled with this murderers, “Please, please, please…I can’t breathe.” He was shown no mercy, no compassion, only sheer dehumanising brutality, and violence. No matter what the outcome of any trial will be, the world clearly saw what happened: first-degree, cold-blooded murder!

I have hesitated to put my thoughts in a blog. To do so with any sense of integrity in place, I need to acknowledge the position of unearned privilege from which I write. I am a white, educated, middle-class, cisgender woman. My very appearance and identity have allowed me to benefit from the dominant side of the power system. Privilege is as real and invisible as the air we breathe. It is simply there, a part of the world, a way of life. It is the invisible knapsack I was given at birth, filled with benefits for my travel through life. It is only if and when I stop, and choose to unpack it, that privilege becomes visible.

This knapsack can render us blind and somewhat removed when it comes to grasping racial injustice. It becomes difficult to truly understand what George Floyd feared and faced. However, we can use our privilege to become an ally and advocate – to stand in solidarity with those affected by toxic power systems built on ideas about race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, ability level, education, or wealth.

Ideas about race have forged an ugly history in places like America and here in Australia. Coming to grips with Australian history since the European invasion has proven difficult. There is a guilt or shame that comes when we are confronted with information of historical injustice. It can produce a ‘corrosive anger’, we turn to denial instead of facing the past. White privilege is very fragile and it is called ‘blind’ for a reason. 

Indigenous people were nearly wiped out because of the conquests of white colonisers. They stood no chance against ‘God’ and guns. Policies that dehumanised anyone who was not white and Christian have played a key role in shaping the attitude of a dominant culture towards anyone considered ‘other’. We may all gasp with horror at what unfolded on our TV screens as we witnessed the murder of yet another black American, but I would argue that we simply saw the brutality of a system that is alive and well not just in America, but right here in Australia. A system that has kept the knee on the neck of people since the looting, plundering, and invasion of this country.

Australia, we are Minneapolis!

Humphrey McQueen was right when he wrote, ‘Racism is the single most important component in Australian nationalism.’ We may hate it, we may ignore it, or we can stop and listen…

Please, Please, Please… it’s time to listen.

Many books and articles have been written on Australia’s racist history. A little research and you will discover that we have an incarceration epidemic of Australia’s First Peoples. Our policymakers are best mates with giant corporations that continue the looting and plundering of country, disregarding the ‘Please’ from its Traditional Custodians …

Please, Please, Please…

We listen when we stop making excuses.
We listen when we consider how we have benefitted from a ‘knee on the neck’ system.
We listen when we shut up long enough to hear the stories of those who have been pushed to the margins and silenced.
We listen when we acknowledge that the content of our invisible knapsack has been bought with blood money.
We listen when we apologise with no ‘buts’ involved.
We listen when we stop using dominant religion and politics to control policies and conversations.
We listen when we start to ask questions and defer to those who hold the answer because of life experience.

Please, Please, Please…

Will anything change this time?

Will we go through another round of outrage, feigned apologies, political bullshit by infantile demagogues, religious feel-good sermons, social media memes so everyone knows about our outrage…and then nothing?

Please, Please, Please…

For the sake of all that George Floyd was and represents, please, please, please, let lasting change come this time.

Please, Please, Please…

Let it come because I changed, 

because YOU changed, 

because WE changed…

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE…“Racism can well be that corrosive evil that will bring down the curtain on Western civilization. Arnold Toynbee has said that some twenty-six civilizations have risen upon the face of the earth. Almost all of them have descended into the junk heaps of destruction. The decline and fall of these civilizations, according to Toynbee, was not caused by external invasions but by internal decay. They failed to respond creatively to the challenges impinging upon them. If Western civilization does not now respond constructively to the challenge to banish racism, some future historian will have to say that a great civilization died because it lacked the soul and commitment to make justice a reality for all men.”— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Mums advice on finding a partner.

Mums advice on finding a partner and other words of wisdom.

This is a copy of the letter I wrote to my three children in about 2006. They are all now living happily with their own partners of choice. They have had many ups and downs but they are spectacular humans and I adore them and their choice of partners.

I thought it might be nice to share this letter with you today.

Dear Mitchell, Jordan and Chloe,

(Yes another mum letter).

I just thought I’d take some time to chat with you about what to look for when choosing a partner and maybe some suggestions on how to keep one.  Some of these pithy sayings and words of advice have been drawn from the counsel of Dr Livingston. Others are lessons that I have learned by the mistakes that I have made in my own two marriages. Think of them as rungs in a ladder or stepping stones over a river. They have resonated with me, given me direction and will hopefully help you navigate the joy and terror of finding a life mate and keeping them.

1: It is not what happens to us in this life that defines us.  It is our choices that define us.  We are never out of choices no matter how desperate the circumstances and never be afraid to ask for help in the decision making.

“Choices are never right or wrong. Perhaps, the choice you made was the best choice under the given set of circumstances and at a given point of time.  However, the rigidity in not moving ahead certainly isn’t good. Life is all about learning a few lessons, and then moving on to the next till you find that much desired peace and happiness!” 

― Neelam Saxena Chandra

  1. There are 3 components to happiness.  You Need:
  • Something to do
  • Someone to love
  • Something to look forward to.
  1. All unhappiness has loss at its core.
  • Loss of hope, or,
  • Loss of self esteem
  • Loss of time
  • Loss of love
  • Or death.
  1. If the map doesn’t agree with the ground; the map is wrong.  Life is not an exact science.  All the best made plans can go to waste.  Use what is in front of you and use what is in your hands.  Moses used a rod, David used a stone, and Sampson used the jaw of a donkey to overcome and succeed in what they were called to do.  What you need is within your reach.

It’s good to have a map, a plan, a linear line to follow.  Just every now and then a mountain appears that’s not on the map.  That’s okay, deal with it.

  1. Choosing a partner for life.

A good marriage is easy provided that both people have been astute in the selection process.

Character traits at the top of the list to look for:

  • KINDNESS: the practice of being or the tendency to be sympathetic and compassionate.
  • Courage: Willingness to give of oneself to another.
  • Empathy:  the ability to identify with and understand somebody else’s feelings or difficulties.
  • Humour: one of the most important tools to navigate a realtionship. Don’t get too serious.

When making a map to find a life partner: these will be a reliable guide and will help you avoid those who are not worthy of your time and trust.

  1. When all is said and done, more is said than done”

In judging other people it is vitally important that you pay attention not to what they promise: but to what they do.  This will prevent a lot of pain and misunderstanding.  Most of the heartbreak of life comes from ignoring the reality that past behaviour is the most reliable predictor of future behaviour.

  1. Love is demonstrated by behaviour; we define who we are and what we care about by what we do. Find ways to demonstrate your love.

Listen:  Only a mother, a good mother, will endlessly love you the way you are.  Do not expect that from a partner.

  1. You owe me, your mother, nothing.  It was my decision to bring you into the world, to love you, to provide for your needs and to adore you.  It is my obligation to raise you to survive in the world, and to point you in the right direction.  To help you realise that it is possible to be happy in an uncertain world and to give you help when you need it. I will always be here for you. 
  1. The underlying causes for failed relationships are:
  1. Diminished self respect
  2. Unmet expectations.
  3. Lack of healthy communication.
  4. Dishonesty.

The failure of expectations over time causes relationships to dissolve.  Pay particular attention to following through with what you say you will do.  Take time to find out your partners expectations.

  1. Socrates said:   “The unexamined life is not worth living’.  We must accept risk.  Sometimes a lot of it in order to win.  You don’t expect a skier to become good without falling down.  And yet many are surprised at the hurt and difficulty of relationships.  Always examine yourself and adjust yourself first before you point at anyone else.  There is always blame on both sides.
  1. Among life’s primary virtues are patience and determination.  When you think of life altering things that happen in a moment we think of accidents, death, phone calls late at night, loss of a job.  

It is hard to imagine sudden good news.  Virtually all happiness producing process in our lives takes time; usually a long time:  Learning new things, changing old behaviours, building satisfying relationships and raising children.  Live with patience and be determined to finish the journey till the end.

  1. Getting There:

Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between two pints, whoops Freudian slip, that’s points; often life has a way of confounding geometry.  Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us.  There are no maps to guide our most important searches.  We must rely on God, hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

  1. We all have Imperfections

“The love between parents and children depends heavily on forgiveness.  It is our imperfections that mark us as humans and our willingness to tolerate them in ourselves and in our families redeems the suffering to which all love makes us vulnerable.  In happy moments such at this, we celebrate the miracle of two people who found each other and created new lives together.  If love can indeed overcome death; it is only through the exercise of memory and devotion.  Memory and devotion… with it your heart, though broken, will be full and you will stay in the fight to the very last”. Quote: Mark Halprin (I may give this as a speech at your wedding).

I have not been a perfect parent, I have made many mistakes which I regret. However, I have endeavoured to be honest, devoted and apply myself to the hard work of transformation and change.

I can honestly say that death cannot conquer love.

14: Raising Children.

A few years ago I was fortunate to spend a week with Tony Campolo.  “Tony” Campolo is an American sociologist, pastor, author, public speaker and former spiritual advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton. In regard to his wisdom as a sociologist, I asked him what does it take to be a good parent. He told me this: “To be a good parent you need to have done three things.

One. You need to have fed your children and given them a place of safety to live.

Two. You need, to the best of your ability, provide them with an education.

Thirdly, you have to let them go”.

When you were born, you cried and everybody else was happy. The only question that matters is this – when you die, will you be happy when everybody else is crying?” – Tony Campolo.

I have left the important ones till last.

15: Humour

Never lose your sense of humour.  It is a bleak world without it.  Don’t marry someone who doesn’t know how to laugh.

“A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing.” –Laura Ingalls Wilder

Of all the forms of courage, the ability to laugh it the most profoundly therapeutic.  This is the most valuable lesson I learned in the journey of death with your father. To be able to experience fully the sadness and the absurdity that life so often presents and still find reasons to go on is an act of courage abetted by our ability to both love and laugh.  Never stop playing and having fun. This keeps the realationship fluid and joyful.

Things may be grave but they do not need to be serious

16: Forgiveness

Letting go.  Giving up grievances to which you are entitled.  Without forgiveness both my husbands would be prematurely dead at my hand. You cannot live successful lives without the ability to forgive.  You will eventually be poisoned by bitterness.

Forgiveness is not reconciliation; it s not forgetting, it is not something we do for others.  It is a gift we give ourselves.  It exists as does all true healing at the intersection of love and justice.

To acknowledge we have been harmed by another, but to choose to let go of our resentment requires a high order of emotional and ethical maturity.  It is a way of liberating ourselves from a sense of oppression and a hopeful statement of our capacity to change.

I just want to finish by saying how much I love you and how incredibly proud I am of you.  You are going to lead amazing lives.  There will be plenty of ups and downs but I know that you have the steel in your souls that you will need to stand strong.  Be Kind, Forgive and never stop finding the funny side of life. Make sure that you love and look after each other.

Love Mum.

Reference:   “Too Soon to Old and Too late Smart” – Gordon Livingston M.D.

COVID-19 and the Church

COVID-19 and the Church

Written by Mark Conner and published on his blog on 12 June 2020.

As of Sunday, 22nd March this year, churches in Australia could no longer meet in physical buildings due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. The majority of churches had to immediately move to some kind of online platform – ready or not. For some, this was a relatively easy step, especially for churches who had already been engaged in the digital space through live-streaming, Facebook, You Tube, or video podcasting. For others, this has been a huge and somewhat stressful learning curve. 

I was speaking at a church in Perth in mid-March this year. I spoke at 3 church services on the Sunday, each with a smaller congregation of people in the auditorium than usual, but live-streamed to the rest of the congregation. Late Sunday evening, I recorded part 2 of my series of messages to be aired the following Sunday as all church services moved online (and I was unable to fly back to Perth due to interstate travel restrictions). Since that time, due to being unable to travel or speak at public church services, seminars or training events, I have been preparing ‘video sermons’ for a variety of churches, participating in a number of webinars, and doing a lot of video coaching. This truly is an unprecedented time for all of us, including for churches and church leaders.

Here are some of the current realities 3 months on (sources listed below):

  • There was an initial upsurge in online engagement for many churches, even higher than their previous regular weekend attendance numbers. People from other states and even overseas were able to engage over the internet. Many churches have had dozens or even 100s of more people joining their online services. At the upper end, I have been told that Gateway Church in Dallas had 250,000 people watch its Easter church services online, while Christ Fellowship in Florida had 1 million viewers. 
  • Since Easter, there seems to have been a drop off of the numbers of people engaging with online church services. This is especially true of young people and young adults who find greater value in relational connection than in merely streaming more ‘content’. 
  • Personal connection and engagement are very different matters than people merely watching a church service online (which can tend towards consumerism). Digital connect cards have been helpful for some churches while ‘Facebook LIVE’ after church services or ‘ZOOM morning teas’ are working well for others.
  • A lot of churches are engaged in practical local mission such as delivering meals and shopping for shut ins. There has also been a large uptake in ALPHA online, as well as Christianity Explained courses.
  • Communication from church leaders seems to have been good, especially from pastors to staff and congregations. However, connection with volunteer leaders, especially small group leaders, could be improved in some situations. 
  • There are concerns about the financial impact of COVID-19 on churches, because of the inability to meet together (where many churches still receive physical offerings) and the loss of jobs by congregation members. According to one survey of Australian churches, 75% have experienced an income drop by at least 10%, 18% have decreased by more than 50%, while 8% of churches had an increase in income. Income reduction affects not only the church budget but also morale of the pastor. Interestingly, it appears that not much about the financial impact of COVID-19 on churches is being communicated with church members.
  • A lot of church leaders are exhausted, especially with all of the changes to the move online. Others are tired but excited about the new opportunities. Church leadership is becoming more and more difficult in our time. There is a lot of pressure. Emotional depletion and burnout is common. Many pastors are scrambling … while some are in despair.
  • Pastors and church leaders are benefiting from coaching with someone outside their context, for encouragement, support and mentoring. If you are a church leader, see what your denomination may provide in terms of coaching or contact an inter-denominational coach. For instance, Partners in Ministry here in Australia has a growing team of experienced coaches. The team, including myself, is currently offering 2-3 free coaching sessions (‘no need for you to pay’). Use the contact emails to make an enquiry if you are interested.

Here are some of the key questions currently being grappled with:

  • When will churches be able to meet again and what will this be like? How will churches re-open?
  • Could there be a second wave of the virus and what will the impact be?
  • What programs or ministries of the church would benefit by staying online?
  • Will churches go back to physical only gatherings or continue to engage in the digital space? Some are speaking about the future being more of a ‘hybrid’ model of church – both physical and digital. American church consultant Carey Nieuwhof recently noted that in many ways the church is currently a “physical organisation with an online presence” while the church of the future will be more of an “online organisation with a physical presence.” What do you think about this?
  • What is an appropriate ‘ecclesiology’, or theology of church, for this time? Is church online an appropriate regular expression of the church Jesus had in mind?
  • What needs to be different for churches as life gets back to ‘normal’? What do you think needs to be stopped? Started? Less of? More of? The same? Different?

No doubt COVID-19 is a time of disorientation for everyone, filling our lives with all kinds of uncertainty. We need to acknowledge and feel this fully. Fear, anxiety and grief are normal. Thankfully, we can draw courage, faith and wisdom from God. There is life on the other side of this and hope for the future.

Finally, here are some helpful resources:

DNA Surprise: The Sisters Speak. Part 3

DNA Surprise: The Sisters Speak is part three of my story of finding out at the age of 56 that my father was not my biological father. You can read that story here. Part 1:  When Your Father is Not Your Father: The Shock Results of Ancestry DNA Test. Part 2: You Have Three New Sisters

When I first found out about the DNA results on Ancestry.com it knocked the wind out of me. I went into deep shock for several weeks. Naturally the months progressed and as the story began to unravel things began to settle inside me.

It was time to meet my three new sisters.

The shock waves were reverberating through both sides of our families. Out of care for members of the Cassidy family, who had not yet been bought up to speed, I wrote the first two blog posts using made up names. However, now that everyone is on the same page, they have given permission for me to contiune the story. I can now reveal the identity of my sisters and our biological father. In fact, in this post they express their versions of what happened and how they felt about finding me.

Kevin Cassidy, my biological father and pictured below is described as a charming, charasmatic, sporty, fun-loving, story teller. That must be the Irish in him. He was tall, good looking and a ladies man. Tall was the word that stood out to me. My father was a jockey and about 5 ft 1. As I am 5ft 10 I felt like I never quite fitted in. Suddenly I understood where my height came from.

This is a photo of Kevin and I at about the same age.

I asked the girls permission to use their names and also if they would consider writing down how they felt about meeting me. There is more to this epic than just what happened to me and how I felt. This has effected everyone and in different ways. So I will introduce you to my new sisters in birth order.

Faye is the eldest. Faye lives in Queensland and I was fortunate recently to spend a few days in Queensland getting to know her a bit better. This is Faye and these are her thoughts.

Lisa and Faye Queensland 2019

I have always known that Lisa would find us one day. When I logged into Ancestry that day and saw her come up as a match to Jayne and myself, I was beyond excited. I knew straight away who she was.

When I first met my other 2 half sisters 9 years ago, they told me that there was another sister out there. We decided then, that we would not go looking for Lisa. If it was meant to be, Lisa would find us.

For me, my instant thought was YAY…. when can I meet her. I also knew that I can be a little impatient and that the best thing would be for Jayne to be the one to reach out to Lisa. She is the calm sister.

I was already buying a tick to Melbourne to meet Lisa.

After Jaynes initial contact, I had to put my enthusiasm on hold. Lisa needed time. One thing I’m not too good at. We all waited for Lisa to be ready to meet us and when it was my turn it was awesome. Lisa is awesome. I felt a connection straight away. It was like we had known each other before if that makes sense.

She is spiritual like Jayne, beautiful like Jackie and funny like me! She is definately our sister. I can’t wait to see what the future brings us.

Next in birth order is Me….. but you’ve alread heard my side of the story.

Jackie, who used to be the eldest, now joins me as the middle child. lol….. It was a bit of a shock when we met. I was not expecting the physical similarities.

Jackie and Lisa 2019

This photo was taken outside the cafe in Abbotsford where we met for the first time.

The year 2010 would change the dimension of Jaynes and my life. I would have to say I found it distressing at the the time. Our father was dying and to learn that we had a sister, I just found this unbelievable. Perhaps I had lived in a bubble but whatever it was, I was in shock.

I confronted Dad after I was told by a relative, of this life changing news. Dads first response was yes, you have a sister, but there was no DNA in those days. Then in his next breath he recited Lisa’s full name, her mothers name, where she went to school and the suburb that Lisa had lived! In fact Lisa had lived within a 10km radius.


Jayne and I decided that we would not go looking for Lisa, but if one day we got a knock on the door we would be ready with open arms. Late 2011 Jayne and I did receive a letter from a half sister. We would soon find out that this letter was not from Lisa, but in fact another half sister Faye. This left me in shock once again. 


As the years rolled on Faye, Jayne and myself have created a loving bond that can only be shared by sisters. Faye was delighted to gain knowledge that she shared both Irish and Italian heritage.  Ancestry.com became a daily ritual. Investigating our Grand Parents, and great grand parents! I think Faye missed her calling she should have been a detective!


Anyhow, March 2019 our beautiful Lisa found us. When Jayne called me and told me that Lisa had been linked to the family tree. “Jack, OMG…… Lisa looks like you”, I felt excitement and shock all over again. When I received photos of Lisa I was blown away the resemblance, it was incredible.

 
My turn came to meet Lisa, I was apprehensive and nervous but I couldn’t get to the cafe quick enough. I stood up, we hugged and I new instantly that we were family. In fact I think the first sentence I said to Lisa was, “it’s like looking in a mirror”, Lisa agreed.


We are extremely lucky to have all been united. I am proud to tell anyone who will listen to me. “Have I told you I have another new sister and she is beautiful just like the other two!” Genetics is amazing and in a number of ways all four of us are very similar. As the saying goes “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”
I am honoured to take the title of middle child and will be forever greatful to have three inspiring women I call my sisters. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Finally meet Jayne or as we call her Jayney. Jayney is the baby in the family. Whilst Jackie, Faye and I look the most alike, Jayney and I share a deep spiritual connection and speak the same language. This is Jaynes story.

Jayney and Jackie

With an already complex family history, and the awareness of another sibling’s potential emergence, I felt that I would be fully prepared if/when another sister walked into our lives.

Oh the naivety…..to state the obvious, “you just don’t know what you don’t know.”

I grew up as the youngest of two (very close and loving) sisters, but by the age of 42, whilst supporting our father in his final weeks, I learned I was in fact the youngest of three. This news, I must admit, was not at all a surprise. Funny how life unfolds, here I was losing a father, but now as it turned out, potentially gaining a sister. 

So many questions, so few answers….her name, we were told, was Lisa Jane.

Jackie, my (initially sole) big sister, and I decided we would not source our new found sibling in the event that, she too, was oblivious to our existence. We believed that if Lisa was to find us, either through knowledge or circumstance, we would deal with this new chapter if/when it unfolded. So it stood to reason that when we were contacted by a sister by mail some 2 years after our fathers passing, that we had finally been united with our big sister Lisa….

well, ummm, no….introduce our even bigger sister, Faye!

So now I was the youngest of four.

An instant bond with Faye, and several years that followed solidifying that love and connection, saw us again mutually agree that we would not go looking (harder than you realise for Faye) for Lisa, allowing fate to once again take it’s due course…..fast forward to March 2019….our lives were forever changed.

I had found something that I hadn’t even realised was missing.

When Lisa appeared I instantly went into ‘calm, accept and protect’ mode. This role, that I had adopted over the years, was as much about consciously holding a space for Lisa, as it was for my other two sisters and myself. Questions swirled…..What did she know about us? How long had she known? Who was she like? But nothing had prepared me for what came next….Lisa knew nothing! 

My heart broke!

It was in that moment (although not yet fully understood), when I felt Lisa’s and my breaking hearts, that I recognised an instant connection, a knowing if you will. Somehow I knew this person, not as the ‘story of another potential big sister’, but more so as a connection that defied words. Lisa looked like Jackie (as was assessed in photos), but somehow sounded and felt like me…..This I knew in my heart, and although this explosive revelation would set off a tsunami of emotions, I also somehow knew that it was all exactly as it should be. This was not just going to be a story of a family reunion….this was going to be a story of deep connection and healing.

Lisa is my sister, I don’t call her my ‘half’ sister, I call her my ‘newest’ sister. We are not only bonded by blood, but by love, an inexplicable energetic thread that was ultimately always there, a connection that I will forever be grateful for, an unbreakable connection that is fortified by acceptance, support, respect and love.

Lisa was the piece that was missing. ….she is the second eldest sister in our special ‘blended family’…..a loving little ‘sibling family’ of four.


As a final note: I have yet to meet all of my new nieces and nephews. I have only met Alanna who is a beautiful vocalist and is as nutty as her aunt. You may see a family resemblance.

Are You Raising or Mentoring a Non-Conformist

Are You Raising or Mentoring a Non-Conformist? My heart goes out to you. It is truly the most thrilling, wild, wonderful, rewarding and hair turning grey experience you will ever have. Behind every successful artist, entrepreneur, inventor, and world changer is an exhausted parent and or mentor. I know because I have raised three of my own and mentored many more.

This article will try to explain how to spot a non-conformist, how to shape and encourage them and how to survive the experience.

How do you define a non-conformist?

nonconformist is someone who doesn’t conform to other people’s ideas of how things should be. They don’t walk to the beat of another drum, they dance, hop, and twirl to the beat of another drum on another planet. Highly creative people are found to exhibit personality traits such as being intelligent, non-conformist and unconventional, and open to experience.  They have strong egos, and even have a mild form of madness.  (source Wiki and Raising a Creative Child)

In a world of brown hippopotami, they are the pink flamingos. They are pretty easy to spot. Unfortunately, brown hippopotami do not understand, nor do they like pink flamingoes. The non-conformist has no trouble thinking outside the box because for them there is no box. In fact, in the first 20 years of their lives, you will spend your life applauding them for thinking outside the box and at the same time, trying endlessly to put them back inside the box.

For them to survive the institutions of life and all of the conformists in the world, of which there are many, you have to teach them to respect the boxes that people will build for them. At the same time, you need to encourage them that the way that they see the world is correct. Remind them that not everyone will see the world the way that they do and that is okay.

The really difficult thing is that these misfits and troubadours are very sensitive souls. It is hard for them when they are misunderstood. In my experience adults, teachers, leaders are sometimes the harshest critics in their lives when they are the ones that should be the biggest cheerleaders. They are often misunderstood and seen as a threat to adults. As a parent, you must teach them to show respect to these adults who often annihilate them. You see, they must survive the system so that they can eventually stretch their wings and fly above the system.

These incredible souls are the problem-solvers, magic makers and wonder painters of the world. They see things through different lenses and paradigms. They are usually right and often blow you up with their rightness until they learn to control their volume. They hate injustice and they can’t abide ignorance. They don’t only see the world in new and innovative ways, they see normal boring things and are able to make them new.

Adam Grant gives a great example of what I am trying to say. He talks about ‘Vuja de’.

“I think my favorite strategy is ‘vuja de’ [a concept named for its opposite, déjà vu. It’s when you enter a familiar situation but feel like it’s all new]. You try to look at something familiar in a new way. You’re standing in line waiting for a taxi and you see these cars passing by, which all have empty seats in them. You’ve seen them a thousand times before you start to say ‘why can’t I have one of those seats?’ And Uber is created”.

Illustrations

The hippopotamus and pink flamingo illustration came from a conversation I had one day, a long time ago, with my daughter in love. To fill in a bit of back story, Rachel had spent a decade training for the Olympics as a gymnast and had spent 4 years performing in the exclusive Cirque Du Soliel show in Las Vegas “O”, as an aerial performer. When she returned to Melbourne she was attending a conservative fundamentalist church. Some of her ‘acquaintances’ decided to give her some ‘feedback’ about how she could be more spiritual and mentioned that possibly her performing career was impinging on her spirituality (I’m trying to say this nicely).

She called me one day close to tears and frustrated about her inability to blend in, to conform or please these ‘acquaintances’.

NOTE to all parents and mentors of nonconformists. THEY ARE THEIR BIGGEST CRITICS. They punish themselves far worse than you ever will. She was devastated because unlike these ‘other’ adults, she would have been praying, journaling, and Christianing 100 times more than they would have been. Their words cut her to the core.

ME…. trying not to hunt down these ‘friends’ and give them a piece of my mind. Diplomatically came up with an illustration to try and help her see, that she was incredibly amazing and that she did not need to take the advice of the muggles.

This is how the conversation went.

“Rach… do you like brown darling.

Rach..”No, no not really”

“Then why are you trying to be a brown hippopotamus when you are a pink flamingo?” (mike drop).

Rachel is currently traveling the world as a successful online coach/aerial instructor and is performing in Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Luzia’. She is also one of the most spiritually switched on people I know. (insert protective mumma growl). Photo of Rachel Hunt below.

Dame Gillian Lynne was a choreographer who transformed musical theatre. Lynne’s entry to dance came in a most unusual way and was courtesy (it seems) of a most unusual doctor. When she was a child, her mother took her to the doctor because she fidgeted and could not concentrate at school. Gillian felt hopeless, her teachers were exasperated, and her mother was at the end of her tether. She was on the brink of being enrolled in a special school as she was failing in the institution.

Out of desperation her mother took her to see a doctor and thank God this doctor was able to think outside the box (remember this was the 1930’s). Her mother explained that in class Gillian could not sit still and would move around the class disturbing the other students. The doctor simply got up, turned the radio on, and asked the mother to join him in an adjacent room to observe her daughter. Gillian’s mum watched her daughter begin to involuntarily dance to the music from the radio.

Gillian went on to be one of the most famous of dancers and choreographers. She moved from dance to choreography and direction, she choreographed for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Opera House and English National Opera, numerous west end shows such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and choreographed three Lloyd Webber musicals, CatsThe Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love

My sons

Let me just say that I barely survived my sons’ going to high school and you would not believe half of the stories I could tell you. The recurring theme of high school for both of them was. Yes, you are right the teacher did the wrong thing, but you still need to obey and attend class. Yes, what you said was totally correct, but it was too confrontational and can you understand that you made the teacher feel foolish. Son, do you understand why you are in detention, suspension, expulsion? and on and on it went. I do NOT miss high school.

Mitchell my eldest son exploded into the world and I have been running to keep up with him ever since.

Scenario: Me calling Mitchell at school to remind him of a dental appointment. Mitchell is 15.

“Mum I can’t take your call right now I am having a business lunch”

Me.” What… it’s lunchtime at school what do you mean a business lunch”.

Mitch. “Well my boss and I are discussing a couple of gigs coming up and what lighting we will need. I can’t drive mum so Darren has to come to me”

Or me calling to check how the school excursion to Canberra was going.

“Mum I can’t take your call I’m late for a meeting with a member of parliament” (he was in grade 5).

OR the time we went on a family holiday to Tangalooma Stradbroke Island Resort. Warning bells should have gone off when Mitchell had more luggage than everyone else and he wouldn’t let anyone help him with his extraordinarily heavy luggage. Warning bells DID go off when on the second day we were informed that we had a $500.00 telephone bill and we had only been there two days. WHAT

I marched back to the unit, past the other 5 children running for cover when they saw the look on my face. Upstairs to Mitchell’s bedroom. Open the door, look inside the cupboard to find….. computer, hard drive, keyboard and multi function printer, (we are not talking small laptop – it was the days of big computers and fax machines). He was fifteen years old.

Mitchell. “Mum.. I can’t afford to take time off work. I have proposals and lighting plans to do.”

He had bought his office with him on our Island holiday. Of course, he was disciplined. But here is the dilemma. You are usually disciplining them for something that in and of itself is good. IE:. good work ethic in this situation. BUT the ethics and morality around it are what needed to be shaped.

I use the word shape because these things that they do will ONE day be good, so you have to shape the skill set that they have, not destroy it. In this circumstance he was disciplined about the secrecy, the inability to sustain his vision financially and at 15 it was okay to have a holiday from work. (see how complicated this can get). Mitchell is one of the most successful, innovative and incredible humans that I know. He is now a Director of Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Luzia” and has been traveling in North America with his wife Rachel and the show for over 2 years now. If you are interested in what Mitch does at Cirque here is an interview with him from Projection Sound and Lighting News.

Jordan. My other amazing and spectacular son.

I will give you one example concerning this mighty non-conformist. Jordan, my charmer, my smooth talker, my quiet achiever. My ‘to cool for school son’. Honestly, I nearly did not survive his high school years. I seriously did have therapy and cannot think about some of the things that he got up to even now.

Scenario: Jordan is about to turn 18. His grandfather left him some money when he died which Jordan was due to inherit in the form of money for a car. He was a couple of weeks into year 12.

Me. Jordan, you are not having a big party. You have to focus on year 12. You can have a family afternoon tea and we will celebrate your 21st with a big party.

Jordan: “But mum I am already organising a big 18th birthday party with the ‘eastern suburbs'”.

Me. Well son, you will have to cancel it. IF you go ahead with this 18th party you are on your own. You will be grounded and you will not receive a car for your birthday.

Of course, he went ahead with the party. Unbeknown to me he hired a hall. Hired 6 Melbourne cricket ground bouncers. Placed students with clipboards in several schools around the area taking money and selling tickets because….. yes pause here…… he was CHARGING AN ENTRANCE FEE.. to attend his 18th. It was February so he had to arrange portable air conditioning, a band, lighting, food, and alcohol. OF course, there were queues around the block to even try to gain entry. Of course, the party was gatecrashed and of course, he made a profit.

I found out the morning AFTER this happened.

Me: I cannot believe that you went ahead with this knowing what would happen.

Jordan: “Mum… all my life you have told me that I need to find out what my gifts and talents are. Well, I have realised that I am an entrepreneur. How can you punish me for finding out what I was put on this earth to do?”

Jordan is now director and sales manager with an innovative company Connecting Entrepreneurs & Business Leaders. He is one of the most charming, loyal, hilarious and smart humans I know.

Picture Below: Jordan and his partner Tori who is also a genius creative non-conformist, but she will kill me if I tell any of her stories (she carries a gun), (It’s actually a tiny 2 cm gun tattoo on her finger), (oops sorry Tori). Peow Peow.

What are some strategies for raising creative, non-conformist children who might grow up to be innovators?

Step one is to focus more on values than rules.

“One mistake a lot of parents make is they basically prevent their children from thinking for themselves by saying ‘these are the rules you have to follow.’ What parents of highly original children do differently is they focus on values and say ‘these are the guiding principles in our family, now let’s have a dialogue about what this means to you.’ You see kids get to take ownership over their own values and principles. Then when they grow up and confront other people, they’re comfortable standing their ground”. Adam Grant

Step Two: Give kids broad exposure to different ways of thinking. Think hard about what they are saying to you. Usually, they are right but need help learning delivery and timing. Also, they are usually one step ahead of you but never let them know that or your life is over.

Step Three: Protect them from the Hippopotami. Especially when they are under the age of 25. They are resilient and flexible but highly sensitive. Don’t let the muggles screw up their uniqueness.

Step Four: Remember that they will most likely punish themselves before you do. Think creatively and fairly about how to shape them.

Step Five: Nurture their creativity especially when they are young. Don’t worry about mess and conformity. Childhood is the time when your kid is still developing his powerful brain.  It is also the time when they can freely explore and grow in the direction they want, and not be constrained by how society wants them to think. 

Step Six: Teach them to relish solitude and quiet times. This teaches them to know how to refuel and recharge their batteries and huge brains. Otherwise, they burn themselves out.

Step Seven: Get a good therapist. YOU will need it. Actually, they will also need it from time to time. All of my kids have seen psychologists from time to time. It’s healthy for them to get a different perspective and it also gives your brain a break.

Step Eight: CELEBRATE these amazing and incredible humans. I do and I struggled not to cry as I thought about them while I was writing this. I am so incredibly proud of my two sons and their partners, my daughter, my three stepsons, their partners and my three granddaughters – Lily, Georgia, and Luzia. The best part of my life now is spending time with these incredible souls.

 

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Love Lisa

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The Deadly Safety of Certainty

What if I told you certainty was a prison, and we lock our beliefs and our selves and our lives inside of it? What if I told you our one chance for redemption is rotting away within the prison cell of our certainty? Would you rattle the bars and clamor for a jailbreak? Dr Kelly Flanagan

Certainty is awfully dysfunctional. Safe, yes. Secure, yes. But it can tear up a life—and a world—one dogmatic belief at a time. “Certainty is perfect knowledge that has total security from error, or the mental state of being without doubt”(Wiki).

Faith in contrast to certainty is a journey of experiences and unkowing. The notion that you can know 100% the will of God, is absolute arrogance. In fact that type of certainty will blind you like it blinded the apostle Paul. Faith and truth is not about right or wrong its about curiosity and humility.

“The problem with certainty is that it is static; it can do little but endlessly reassert itself. Uncertainty, by contrast, is full of unknowns, possibilities, and risks. ” Stephen Batchelor

I have a love hate relationship with certainty. Growing up in a Christian fundamentalist cult, the best and worst of life was certainty. We had the truth. We were the chosen of God. We knew, lived and breathed the immutable and literal word of God, and from this grew our certainty.

Life was black and white, right and wrong, yes and no. It was very simple very safe but there was absolutely no grey. In fact it is the safest way to live because you simply follow the rules and you are guaranteed a life of acceptance and eternal rewards.

The problems begin when you cross the certainty of fundamentalism. For those who are not aware, fundamentalism refers to a religion that believes in the strict and literal interpretation of the scripture. Also scripture is used as a weapon to beat you into submission or terrify you into doing ‘the right thing’.

Shall I give you some examples?

This was a conversation with a fellow cult attendee about a mutual lifelong friend who had tried to leave the community because their new job meant they had to move to country Victoria. It was a 100 min drive each way to attend the weekend services so they had decided that they might ‘try’ and attend a local church. This was WRONG on so many levels as she was abouta to find out.

This was the message from her church community:

1: A tree cannot be uprooted, so if you leave the felowship, the end result will be that you will wither and die.

Scripture Weapon: Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, they shall grow like the cedar in Lebanon.

Interpretation: You are planted here. If you uproot yourself you will die. The courts of our God refer to us – THIS fellowship. Only the righteous flourish, if you uproot yourself then you are not righteous, you are following the devil.

Result: The person quit the job. Took a posittion with half the annual wage they deserved. But they did they right thing in the eyes of the fellowship and in the eyes of God, therefore they would recieve reward now, acceptance from the group, and eternal reward later for obedience to Gods word.

Another Example:

I had recently given birth to my third child. My husband and I were reeling from his cancer diagnosis. I was not feeling well. I had low mood, was fatigued and crying a lot. I was struggling and didn’t know what to do.

I made the huge decision of making an appointment to visit my GP without permission. This meant that I didn’t tell my husband I was going, nor did I consult with those who ‘had authority over me’.

My doctor told me that it was normal for me to be feeling like this considering the circumstances. That I was probably suffering from a bit of depression. He wrote a script for a low dose of antidepressent and asked me to come back in 4 weeks.

This is what happened.

I felt so guilty by the time I returned to pick up my daugher after the appointment, I automatically confessed to my cult mother the minute I walked in the door. I confessed that I had just been to see a GP about my inability to feel joy. This is what she said to me.

“What is God telling you about this event Lisa?”

Like a good cult girl I parroted Psalm 1:1-2

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night”.

Her response: You have been to recieve counsel from the ungodly instead of going to one of the elders or myself AND you did it in secret which proves how decieved you were. “For God will bring every deed into judgment and into the light, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil”. (Ecc 12:14)

I was obviously not able to fill the script or obtain the medical help that I needed. Instead as punishment and as an act of contrition, I was to meditate on the word of God day and night for a month and memorise scripture. I also had to confess to my husband and to our local leadership that I was disobedient so that they could give account for my life.

One last example – and I have hundreds.

After my husband died of Melanoman, I met a man who was not a member of the cult and who I eventually married. We have been married to now for 19 years. It was in those early years of navigating that new realtionship that my ‘certainty’ began to falter.

I was told that “I could never pursue a relationship with that man and to end it immediately”. I was 37 years old. I replied with “but the bible says that a widow is free to remarry as long as the man is “of the Lord”‘ (or provided he is a Christian). I replied with, he is a Chrisitan, he is a Baptist. However, because he did not attend our cult he was dismissed because he “was not of the Lord”. In other words, you are not a Christian unless you attend the cult. Obviously in pursuing this relationship and by disobeying the ‘messengers of God’, I was given an ultimatum. End the relationship or leave the fellowship. I chose to leave and was subsequently excommunicated. A story for another day. A very sad and horrific example of certainty.

You may think that these examples are extreme. Actually this was a very normal part of my life. The cult spoke into every area of my life and freely exercised control in every area of my life.

I did not know how to make any decision for myself. At 37 when I had left the cult I clearly remember having a panic attack when my eldest child asked to go on a school camp. His first high school camp. This was a new situation and I didnt know what to do. I went to pick up the phone to ask the elders for advice, but of course I had left. I had no access any more. I had to decide for myself.

You may think that this sounds insane and it is. But this was my normal. It was a very safe way to live in the fact that everything was clear cut. As long as you obeyed, your life was perfectly sweet.

My son went to the camp and was totally fine of course. Had I still been in the cult he would most likely have been forbidden to attend because he would have been unduely exposed to ungodly influences.

These are extreme examples and my experience would sit on the far right of the fundamentalist continuum. However, when I left the cult and began to attend a large penticostal mega church, the behaviour was similar but no where near as extreme. They held very conservative fundamentalist views and were pretty intolerant to anyone who did not fit into that belief system.

For example: I was told that gay people were free to attend our services but they would probably feel a lot more welcome if they went somewhere else. They would be welcomed but never affirmed and they would never be allowed in any leadership role. In other words, politically we have to say that we love them, but we will never accept them. This conversation was had with a very prominent leader.

Fundamentalisim can only rely on only itself for confirmation. (When you are convinced that you know God’s plan, what other confirmation do you need? What other voice will you even listen to?). When you have a Christian leader telling you that God told them this about you or that God has told them that you should do this or that to do, it is very hard to disagree. Now I would suggest that this is spiritual abuse. At the time I did not know any different. The arrogance of certainty dismisses any other view or idea because they are 100% right. How can you disagree with God? The arrogance of certainty leads to a religous dogma that is inflexible and innacurate. Ninety percent of the time the interpretation and context of the scriptures used are wrong anyway.

We must never judge others on the basis of some absolute, God-like conception of certainty. All knowledge, all information that passes between human beings, can be exchanged only within what we might call “a play of tolerance,” whether in science, literature, politics or religion. As Dr. Bronowski eloquently put it, “Human knowledge is personal and responsible, an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.” Simon Critchley

It has been 20 years of unlearning for me and then more learning. I now fall fairly strongly on the liberal side of the religious spectrum; the side that is attracted to ambiguity and allergic to certainty. I find that with certainty comes arrogance and intolerance. Eckhart Tolle says that when you become comfortabe with uncertainty, infinate possibilties open up in your life. I have found that the more I learn the less I know.

It’s why the pursuit of curiosity is so much more integral to a healthy faith than the pursuit of certainty. When we’re curious… when we allow ourselves to ask questions and wrestle with big ideas and tough issues, even if we don’t ultimately reach a final conclusion the journey of exploration is still beautifully formational. It still leads us to new growing edges and new perspective of new truths we otherwise would’ve never encountered. Rev. Rob Carter

I have never felt more whole and inspired than I am now being free to wrestle with tough issues and to walk with uncertainty and doubt. It is harder yes…. and it is a little scary at times but it feels more peaceful and well ….just right. I now have language and vision for so much that has happened to me. I have skinned knees from constantly falling but I have learned my truth myself. I am most certainly more tolerant and tolerable than I was.

When I think of how I used to be… Oh My Goodness. An unbending, self righteous, prudish, know it all who had no grace and no tolerance toward anyone who was not ‘one of the annointed of God’. I must have been unbearable and insufferable. I had an answer for everyone and every answer was 100% right because it was founded on the word of God. (I think I just vomited in my mouth).

I finish this post with a description of faith by Dr Kelly Flanagan. Because I love it so much and I couldn’t have written it better if I tried. Trigger warning….. it’s not a bible story. Gasp…

We were designed for the ground but, like birds, our beliefs were designed for the air—to flit from treetop to treetop as we chase them from below. 

“The most beautiful beliefs are rarely caught and grasped, constantly chased, and in the chasing they draw us into new and better places we never would have discovered while clutching them tightly in the safety of our homes.

I think this might be what many of us call faith—the chasing of beliefs through the treetops, eyes raised, looking up into a big-unfettered sky. Stumbling and tumbling into a bigger and more beautiful world than we ever imagined was possible. Tripping and falling and skinning our knees and getting back up again, because the chasing is even more important than the catching.

A people with belief like this—a people holding it gently and releasing it again into the wild—becomes a gentle people.

Because when we can hold our beliefs gently, we can hold ourselves and other people gently, as well“.  Dr Kelly Flanagan

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. 

Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York 

Lies and Secrets are the Currency of Control.

Three things cannot long stay hidden:

The sun, the moon and the truth. – Buddha

In this post I will attempt to talk about two things that have deeply effected my childhood, adolescence and in fact, are still causing me pain today. 

Lies and Secrets.

I struggled writing this post.  Lies and secrets are interchangeable to me, so closely linked and at some times the same thing.  Others of you reading this will have a more defined understanding of these two terms but my mind is still unravelling the threads so I apologise.  

Lies and Secrets

Lies and secrets make up the major part of my life.  The effects of which are continuing to unfold in my life now.  Secrets do not go away. It may take decades but most resurface causing pain and trauma. Many of you may have read my story of finding out about my biological father on Ancestry DNA.  You  can read about it here.  When your Father is Not Your Father.

“Family secrets are like vampires. They never really die, and can always come back to bite you.” 

Alberta J. McMorris, Mercy: a love story

Even decades on when I thought I was free of the cult and free from my upbringing, secrets keep coming back to bite me.

My Childhood.

Imagine walking through kilometres of marshland and boggy soil.  One minute your foot is on hard ground, the next it is sinking in mud.  It all looks the same and it is impossible to tell the firm ground from the quicksand.   Inevitably you end up with both feet in the mire and you are sinking.  You reach out for help, shouting “ I’m sinking, this ground is unstable”. Only to be told that the ground is solid and you are making it up.  

“Don’t be silly, you’re not stuck, you are standing on rock solid surface”. 

This is what it is like to be raised by a pathological liar.  You don’t know if you are safe or sinking.  Up is down and east is west.  You don’t trust your own perceptions and you are constantly told that what you discern is wrong. 

They have you believe that you are: ‘making it all up’.  You are the one to blame.  You have a dirty mind, you are a liar,  you exaggerate,  how can you think such evil things?

It is a life of smoke and mirrors.   The abuser does this to regulate your behaviour and to control you. They are skilled at  hiding their infidelities, addictions, illicit behaviours and the best way to get away with it and cover the shame is to make you believe that it never happened.  

Another term for the behaviour of a pathological liar or narcissist is Gaslighting.  “Gaslighting” is a term that originated with the 1938 stage play, Gaslight, by British writer Patrick Hamilton. However, most people are familiar with the story through the 1944 film of the same name, starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. In the film, Boyer convinces his wife (Bergman) that she’s imagining things, most notably the occasional dimming of the house’s gas lights, as part of his plot to steal her deceased Aunt’s money and jewels. (The lights dim whenever he’s in the attic, searching for the treasure.) Over time, Bergman comes to believe her husband’s lies and, in turn, to question her sanity (Source).

Gaslighting is where the abuser convinces you that the lies are truth and that your truth is the lie.  Whereby you doubt yourself and your perception of reality, your memory and your sanity.   You lose your confidence and become immune to trauma and abuse.  In most situations you simply give up because you can never ever get to the truth.

“The thing about families, Arlo thought, was that there was always some question nobody wanted to answer for you, and it was like a stray thread pulling loose in a sweater. You could tug at it all you wanted, but in the end, all you’d have was a pile of twisted yarn.” 

Sarah Sullivan, All That’s Missing

To be honest,  when I have found out about some of the appaling secrets,  the overwhelming feeling is relief. “I’m not going crazy”.   The trauma of the secret is secondary to the revelation of the truth.  Abused children value the truth just about more than anything else.  “Just tell me the truth, tell me I am not going mad”.

“Nearly every person has a million secrets they’re carrying around,” says Barry Lubetkin, the founder and director of the Institute for Behavior Therapy. “They can be the silliest things, or they can be very significant, like I cheat constantly on my taxes”.

We all tell lies at some point even small lies.  However, narcissists and psychopathic liars simply don’t care about the truth. They prefer to tell lies and gain control over people than be honest.  They will never, ever, reveal their secrets.  

Their lies are the gatekeepers of their secrets and they are the best liars in the world.  Why:  because they fully believe their own lies.  They could take a lie detector test and pass.  It’s called cognitive disonnence.

For narcissists and psychopaths, secrets and lies are currency.  

Lies and secrets are two of the tools that they use to manipulate and control you. Secrets are their super power and lies are their shield of confidence.  

It is your word against theirs.  As they are usually in a more powerful position they know that if they hold their ground, you will eventually back down.  Without proof there is no truth.  Even with proof, they will still lie.

If someone has a secret on you, they can use it against you to control you. 

“Whether man or beast, the secrets you kept in the fathoms of your heart always held you to ransom.” 

Dianna Hardy, Reign Of The Wolf

I grew up in a large family full of secrets.  I was also raised in a cult who were adept at controlling people with secrets and lies.  Discretions and sins, told in the confidence of the confessional, became the currency of control.  If you stepped out of line suddenly one of those secrets would be released to errode and undermine your authenticity.  To keep you small.  To keep you pliable. 

“Did you know that she once had an affair? She can never be trusted”.

“I wouldn’t believe what he says,  he has been known to have a problem with pornography”.

Secrets are Currency of Control

Within this ,community my mother had an affair with one of the leaders.  The cult leaders used her affair to control me

I was told that I carried a familiar spirit of adultery which meant that I had to be monitored.  My natural sanguine effervescent personality had to curbed and contained so that I didn’t fall into sin.  Being born me,  meant that I could sin more, attract sin and be a sin.  An outgoing, talented, creative soul was a recipe for evil.  On top of all that,  I had to be careful that I didn’t lead others into sin and make them fall.  I was assigned monitors and was reported on weekly.   This monitoring or reporting to the elders went on for about 6 years on a weekly basis and then for the next decade but through the covering of my husband.  Of course the more information they got about me the more they could control me.  I am aware now as an adult that I was also being groomed by a sexual predator and that this was a way he could keep me close.  He was the leader of the cult at the time  (a story for another day). 

I recall one time when I was at home on the weekend.  It was a hot summers day.  We were lucky to have a backyard pool.  I loved to swim so was of course in the pool enjoying the summer day.  I had also just been given my first and only bikini by an aunt outside the cult.  I figured that I was home alone so I ‘should’ be safe to try it out.  Wrong.

Unexpectedly the music director/elder, his wife and young family arrived to enjoy the pool and escape the heat.  They were close family friends.  At the time I was 14.  The wife and children came into the backyard and I excitedly waved that little girls over to come and hop in the pool.  I looked up at their mother and noticed the look of disapproval on her face.  Where is ? I asked (her husband).  

“Lisa,  he is sitting in the car in the heat.  He could not come into the backyard with you looking like that.  You will need to go and change if you want him to join us in the pool”.

I thought I was safe in my own backyard.  Nope.  I was too naive to feel ashamed.  I was however very confused and felt blame.  I was horrified that my actions had caused someone to not be able to enter our home.  I raced to get changed,  apologising profusely.  Needless to say I never wore a bikini again.  I had been the cause of much offence.  This I knew would be used against me in the future.  I could be easily punished because of this.

When I reflect on this story now I laugh at the power of a bikini that would cause a grown adult male to avoid our backyard.  Also – how dare they.  I should be able to feel safe in my own backyard.  I was a minor enjoying the privacy of my own home.  Isn’t he the one with the problem?  Unfortunately logic is something that I had to learn after I left the cult.

 “The truth will set you free, but you have to endure the labor pains of birthing it.” 

Iyanla Vanzant

A truly free person, according to Don Miguel Ruiz, is immune to both the neurotic and normal attempts of others to regulate his or her behaviour. The advice he gives us for accomplishing this is to make the following agreement with ourselves: “Don’t take anything personally.”  When we agree not to take anything personally, we regard all attempts by others to control us as statements about them, not about us. By refusing to take threats, criticism, evasion, complaints, praise, or disapproval personally, we act upon our own reality, not upon theirs (source).

The great teacher of truth Jesus, tells us that:  “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

How does the truth set us free and what is truth? 

Truth is rare.  In my experience anyway.  Some people don’t even know what the truth is or they fear the truth.  

Truth is fact,  it is reality.  When you are dealing with people who constantly invent their own reality truth is hard to find.

In the end the way to find the truth is to be true to yourself.  To come to a place where other people cannot define your reality.  We can live and act upon our own reality.  Be true to ourselves and to what defines us.  

Secrets and lies are always born and flourish in the darkness.  Truth lives in the light.  When we turn a spotlight on the darkness we find freedom.  We may find pain initially but we will eventually find freedom. 

 “The truth will set you free, but you have to endure the labor pains of birthing it.”  (Iyanla Vanzan). Sometimes the truth is painful which is why it was hidden in the first place.  We are worried about what others will think.  

“What will people think of our family, of our marriage, if they find this out?”

You know what.  I don’t even care anymore.  I am so tired of secrets and lies that I truly don’t care.  The pain of the lie/secret is so much worse than the truth.  I have always told my children,  I don’t care what has happened,  what trouble you have got yourself into, but don’t lie to me.  

Just recently some horrific secrets have come into the light within my extended family.  Too awful for me to write about.  When I found out the reality of what had happened I picked up the phone and told every single family member:  Aunt, cousin, sister, brother, uncle, son and daughter.  I heralded the news and wore the pain, shock and horror.

The buck stops here.  I pulled back the blanket, told the facts as I knew them to be and let the truth take its course.  It was crippling, it was painful but it allowed light and healing to commence.  Some family members were not happy and would have preferred that the truth remain a secret.  Most were beautiful, supportive and appropriately appalled. Additionally, I was aware that we had a whole generation watching how we handled this.  When I was a teenager trauma was minimised and hidden.  I wanted to be an example to the next generation, that the truth is worth fighting for.  It is worth the pain.  It is worth the disclosure.

We cannot heal or be whole if we are spending all our energy protecting lies and secrets.  Together we can face any problem but I refuse to entertain lies and secrets anymore.  

Maybe this is what freedom looks like?  

Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.

NOTE: When it comes to secrets I am aware that I live in a privileged time in history. In the past secrets saved lives. You did not have a child out of wedlock, it was not possible. There was no contraception, therefore – a lot of babies. There was social shame attached to divorce and unwed mothers. Sexual abuse was less understood and swept under the family carpet and mental illness and suicide not understood at all. Therefore I am aware we are dealing with a generation of older relatives who are conditioned to ‘not air the dirty laundry”.

This is a fascinating story about fear and lying by Dr. Habib Sadeghi. As I finish this post I thought that this was a great analogy of the deadly power of lies and fear.

“My wife and I were touring the Amazon jungle when our guide suddenly stopped. Carefully, he reached down and picked up a spider from a tree branch. He easily manipulated the hairy tarantula by its bulbous abdomen. We were amazed. It didn’t move. It was completely frozen, like a statue. Our guide said the spider wasn’t dead, just temporarily anesthetized. 

He pointed to a tiny, pearl-like object on the back of its abdomen and explained it was an egg, planted there by a parasitic wasp. The spider had been stung and temporarily immobilized so the wasp could transplant its egg. Soon, the spider would shake off the trauma and go about its life as usual; completely unaware of the danger it carried.

Days later and without warning, the tarantula would stop cold in its tracks. Within seconds, a new wasp, that had eaten the spider from the inside out, would emerge from its abdomen and fly away, leaving behind the empty carcass of its host.

Like the wasp larva, feelings buried alive never die, especially fear. Lying comes from fear. It’s born from our traumas, disappointments and betrayals and is always the result of something that’s happened to us. You may be late meeting someone and blame it on the traffic or cover up being fired to avoid embarrassment. The scenarios surrounding why we lie are endless. The fact is that our lies are born from our traumas, both big and small.

“Lying comes from fear.”

When we are stung by life’s traumas, especially the big ones like losing a job, relationship, financial security, or our health, we become frozen in place like the tarantula. We rarely give ourselves enough time to process the hard lessons (truth) of the situation. We may grieve briefly, but then we anesthetize ourselves and it’s on with life”.

DNA ‘Surprise’: You Have Three New Sisters

“Mental health research indicates that major, unexpected shocks have the potential to cause much emotional upheaval. As such, learning new and unexpected truths about family relationships can raise intense psychological and existential issues for individuals and families” (Psychology Today)

DNA Surprise: You Have Three New Sisters is part two to my story of finding out at the age of 56 that my father was not my biological father. You can read that story here When Your Father is Not Your Father: The Shock Results of Ancestry DNA Test.

Surprise

Meaning: An astonishing or unexpected event.

I have to say that this is not the first surprise that my mother has dropped on me. Because of a history of feeling unsafe as a child and of historical trauma and abuse, my first concern was to minimise the triggering effect that this may have on me and in turn on my family.

Finding out that I had three half-sisters was most definitely ‘astonishing and unexpected’. I have never really liked surprises, this one was no different. What does this now mean for me?

Therefore my first port of call was to contact my psychologist.

A shock like this leaves you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. When traumas happen, it can take a while to get over the pain and feel safe again.

My new sisters appointed Jade as spokes-person to help me not feel so overwhelmed. Jade kindly realised that this shock would take a while to navigate. As we were saying our good byes on that first phone call, she suggested that it may be helpful if she sent me some photos of her and the girls and also of our biological father. This was the text she sent after we had hung up.

“I hope you are okay. I completely understand this is virtually a tsunami of information. I will send through a couple of pics. I hope it helps. Please know that I am here if you need to chat, but I will just leave you to process the information from here and wait to hear from you when you are ready. Take care…. Jade”

She then sent through pictures of these glamorous creatures that were apparently somehow related to ME. Along with photos of my new nieces and nephews and a photo of my biological father.

I threw the phone across the room and started bawling like a baby. I raced down-stairs into the kitchen. My daughter in law Rachel was the only person home and the poor thing hardly knew what to do with her nearly hysterical mother in law.

She did the perfect thing and held me in her arms and cried right along with me even though at this stage she didn’t know what we were crying about. Bless her.

The next day I confirmed with Jade that I had spoken to my mother and that she had confirmed the affair, which meant that I was starting to believe her.  I then sent her photos of my husband Phil and our children.

Taking small digital steps to connect.

This was her reply.

Hi….

I’ve thought of you all day. What an enormous amount of ‘stuff’ to process with this bombshell. As I have said, I have sat on this information for so many years, only wanting to communicate what I knew WHEN you made contact with me.

I am so sorry darling, although I completely trust the process of how it unfolded, I do feel, in some small way, responsible for being the one who has delivered the news that has caused you shock and heartache.

As I said last night, I truly believe that you contacted me because you already knew.

I sincerely hope that you are okay and will follow your lead with however you want to move forward with this. NO pressure NO expectations.

Jade.

P.S. Your children and their partners are beautiful and what a gorgeous couple you and your husband make.

I included this correspondence because I think it gives such a clear picture of how Jades handling of me and the situation made the eventual contacts and ensuing meetings so much easier.

When I showed the message to Chloe and Rachel they were both shocked.

“OMG…….It’s like reading a text message from YOU mum. This is exactly something that you would say… its how you would react”.

This was not lost on me and made the mystery of our DNA connection even more insane. I will be forever grateful that I was taken care of by such a precious soul. There could have been a million reactions to my connection, but this was the one that meant that I could indeed take safe steps forward and not live under the bed for the rest of my life.

I am very aware that not everybody is held with such grace and wisdom in this unique journey. Many people are not so accepting. Some people are disbelieving, some people are angry, some people grieve the person they thought they knew and didn’t. Some people are incredibly grateful to find a sibling. Some don’t have the emotional energy or will to even care.

The choice of whether or not to reach out to these sisters was a difficult one. Was this going to bring more trauma into my life? Did my family need anymore upheaval? My psychologist, my family and friends were all amazing and echoed the same things.

This is your choice. You can control this. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. We will support whatever you want to do. They have known and waited for 10 years, they can wait a few more months.

When I showed my psychologist the message above from Jade, she just smiled and said. I feel really good about this. I think that this is going to be a positive experience for you.

“You’ve got this.”

She did advise me not to meet them all at once.

She said, ‘I know you, you will spend all your energy learning their stories and will exhaust yourself’. She suggested that I meet them one at a time on neutral ground and that I take someone with me the first time.

A month after the first contact I made a date to have lunch with Jade. I cannot even explain what this felt like. What do you wear to meet a sister for the first time? What to expect? Do we sit near the door in case I need to run out for air?

Chloe accompanied me and I will forever remember trying to look for the table where she would be seated. I had seen her photo but nothing could prepare me for the real deal. She jumped up and met me half-way and scooped me into a bear hug. We then sat and just stared for a while until the conversation and the questions naturally began to take over. Chloe was amazing. Hilariously she piped up early on in the piece with.

“I just want to say right at the beginning…. we don’t have any money”

Jade and I just looked at each other and exploded into laughter. She said that’s okay because we don’t have any either. lol…….

What followed was lots of questions, lots of long looks, secret studies of each other. Later Chloe explained it to her brothers like this when they asked what Jade was like.

“Well, it’s like having a really cool aunt. Like Jennifer Anniston on friends. What was really weird was that if you closed your eyes and just listened it was like you were sitting at the table with two of mum. They sound the same, they use the same words, the speak with the same sentence structures and have the same way of being careful of people.”

My poor husbands response: “OMG there is TWO of you” faint.

Jade later explains that seeing Chloe was like looking at a younger version of herself. She said. “I fell in love with Chloe the moment I saw her”.

The overwhelming summary of that first meeting was safety. We felt safe.

A little pause before I chat about the meeting of the other two sisters. This is a thumbnail sketch of the backstory of Kallan so that you can understand the somewhat complicated birth order of the four sisters.

At the age of 15 Kallan and a 15 year old work colleague had a rather short affair which resulted in the birth of a baby girl Felicity. It was the late 1950’s and an era that was not kind to single unmarried mothers. The young mother was put into a girls home to have the baby which was then put up for adoption. Felicity was raised by a loving family but was always on a journey of searching for her birth father.

In the early 60’s my mother and Kallan had an affair and I was conceived. Two years later Kallan and his wife had a baby daughter they called Jocelynn and not long after that baby Jade arrived.

Felicity had been on a search for her birth father for some time. We call her the ancestry sleuth. Felicity eventually found details about the other two girls by searching through death notices. She contacted the two girls expressing her desire to meet. You can imagine the shock of Jade and Jocelyn. They initially thought it was me trying to contacting them. Instead they were confronted with the news that there was ANOTHER sister.

Not long after my meeting with Jade I arranged to meet with Jocelynn. We decided to meet in a cafe in Abbotsford. I arrived first and waited anxiously for my half sister to arrive. There was no mistaking her. When she breezed into the cafe I jumped up and after a huge hug we just sat staring at each other. It was pretty confronting. I felt a little like I was looking in the mirror. We had the same build, the same colouring, the same eyes, the same chin. Talk about a mind spinning moment.

Growing up I was always told that I looked like my mother and never really identified with my siblings or father in regard to similarities. Here I was sitting opposite the other half of myself. To say I was a little wobbly was an understatement. We hit it off immediately and chatted like old friends. She was so kind, so gentle, so loving, so funny.

The meeting with Felicity was a little more orchestrated. The other two sisters advised that one of them should be there with me as I might feel a little overwhelmed. They were now understanding some of my story and were very protective of me. They had nothing to worry about. Although Jade accompanied me, Felicity was adorable. Bright, bubbly, gregarious and a lot like a puppy. She is very chatty and with a heart bigger than texas and a soul of teflon. We joke that Felicity won’t be happy until she has collected a full set of sisters.

So here I stand considering these three beautiful souls who have walked into my life. Each a vibrant expression of myself in some way. Parts of myself that are finding a place to belong for the first time. Jade the spiritually seeking, wise owl. Jocelynn the maternal, loving caregiver who cannot say ‘no’ to anyone. (Insert my daughters voice here. “As if you can say NO to anyone mum”). Felicity the bouncy, energetic sleuth who is responsible in some ways for connecting us all.

You never know when you are going to hit an epic bump in the road people and you can never prepare yourself – just hang on for the ride.

I am very aware that my experience is unique and not everyone has such a positive story to tell of DNA revelations. We are on the cusp of a new journey together and are currently planning an event where my sister, and our friends and families can all meet. We have been holding them all at bay while we navigate this space.

I now can’t imagine my life without these women in my life. I am not sure if I would have wanted to meet Kallan if he were still alive. I haven’t quite processed that yet. For the first few months I had a lot of referred anger toward him. It doesn’t make sense I know but that was how I was.

In those first few months when my life was like swimming under water. I stumbled through google trying to find resources. Unsuccessfully Googling sentences like “what to do when you find out your father is not your father”. I wrote to ancestry.com asking what support they provided for such earthquaking revelations that DNA tests revealed. This was the response I got back.

Hello Lisa,  Thank you for contacting Ancestry in regards to your DNA results. 
We’re sorry for any shock that this has caused.


Regrettably, we do not have any services like you described. Though we we completely empathize with your predicament, as a genealogy company your best bet for help with this would be to discuss this shock with your local GP who may be able to refer you to a family counselor.


  If you need additional assistance, please feel free to reply to this email or call us at 1-800-251-838 between the hours of 9 AM to 8 PM AEST, Monday through Friday or between the hours of 9 AM to 4 PM AEST, Saturday and Sunday.  

Sincerely,  

Barbara

Customer Solutions Associate Ancestry

Thanks for nothing Barbara.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many psychological resources available for people who stumble across family secrets with DNA testing. It is an ethical minefield. Support can be given by professionals like psychologists but there is little knowledge or training about these issues, perhaps due to the recency of the phenomena and the associated lack of research.

The surprises thrown up by DNA ancestry testing raise a set of complex ethical, psychological, and social issues.

Support groups have sprung up over social media like the NPE Facebook community founded by Catherine St Clair. It has a rigorous screening process. (You can’t join the group unless you’ve actually gotten the DNA rug pulled out from under you. Lurkers need not apply.) NPE stands for Not Parent Expected.

In the following posts I will be exploring the power of DNA on a person and how profound it is as opposed to nurture and family of origin. I will also share some truly mind bending episodes of meetings with the sisters.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

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Love Lisa

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