Vulnerability and Compassion – Why I Volunteer

I have stood in the middle of a remote country road with a flashlight to guide overnight runners in the Hood to Coast relay race.

I have been the Sin Bin NSO (penalty box non-skating official) for the local roller derby team.

I have wrapped presents for the local food bank and sold raffle tickets for the curling club.

I sift through donations at a local thrift store that using proceeds to help members in my community.

I am a volunteer and I love doing it.

When I first started volunteering, I thought it was a way for me to benefit others with my expertise or abilities. I thought I was helping them. That’s not true. I volunteer for a completely different reason. A selfish reason.

Last October, I started volunteers for the admin and clerical unit of Arrowhead Clubhouse. Arrowhead Clubhouse is a place where people living with mental illness on the Sunshine Coast can come to learn skills, get support and build relationships in a safe, stigma-free environment.

The Clubhouse is a community of 225 people working together towards a common goal. The Clubhouse is divided into four units that offer an opportunity for members to use their skills or learn different ones. The units are Kitchen, Clerical, Peer Support and Garden/Maintenance. The member are responsible for the running of the clubhouse, from shopping and making the daily lunch to recycling to creating yoga programs.

As a volunteer in the clerical unit, I was there to assist the members in getting their stories or promotions out to the public. I recruited for my social media history and knowledge of press releases.

I thought I was there for them.

It turns out that while I was brought in to help them with communication, they taught me how to communicate.

This stigma-free clubhouse is very much like a family. Every day, this family gathers for a few hours to pull together their resources and make a location for members to thrive. They embrace the differences in each member and set a place at the table. They are open and loving with one another.

And they hold NOTHING BACK. If they are having a rough day, they let you know. If they are on cloud nine due to getting a new job or finding a place to live, you know about it. They are open about what they are going through and they expect the same from you. That “fine” or “busy” response given to “how are you” questions will not go far here.

They share and they expect the same. It is a place of raw emotions and vulnerability. But that is what fosters the love and sense of family.

There are days I leave after my shift with a broken heart and other days my heart has grown eight sizes.

I thought I was there to help them, but they have taught me so much more about the person I want to be. A compassionate, open, honest and vulnerable person.

I volunteer to become a better person.

To learn more about Arrowhead Clubhouse, visit arrowclub.org

Where Are They Now – Games I Play With My Anxiety

It was the night before our first farmers’ market and I couldn’t sleep. I laid there in bed, Random Kitty tucked into my armpit. His snores taunting me as my mind refused to stop its restless prattle and get a good night’s sleep.

What if we don’t sell any coffee?
What if we sell it all?
What if people don’t like it?
Do we have everything?
Did I pack the kettles?

The questions weren’t meant to be answered but to keep my heart rate up, stomach in knots and sleep in the far distance. That’s when I shifted gears and started asking the important questions in a game I like to call, Where Are They Now According to Weegee.

Is Ferris Bueller married to Sloan?
Do they have kids?
Did they marry and get a divorce?
Is he a stay at home computer programmer?
Do his kids ditch school?
Is Cameron Frye a multi-millionaire? Or a recluse with a cold?

I ask myself random questions regarding how life has turned out for lead characters in popular 80s & 90s movies. In this case, it was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off I pondered in the dark.

“Are you sleeping?” My husband asked. I got the feeling he was suffering from the same next day performance jitters I was just going through.

“Not yet,” I responded. “But I soon will be. I just need to figure out if Ferris Bueller is a computer programmer or a principal in current time.”

Turns out, my husband and I, by shifting our ruminating thoughts from what can’t be figureoutable to things we can make up or envision, our minds grow tired. It wasn’t long before both of us were out for the night and snoring with the cat.

One of the things to remember is that we control our thoughts. We have the ability to redirect them or change them. We can dwell in anxiety or change the pattern.

Step Into Conversations

Don’t think of it as standing up for yourself but rather stepping into the conversation.

Catherine Leach, Director of Sunshine Coast Community Services

The communication trend of today is to explain, give reasons and be right. We seek to defend our choices and pathway rather than stop and listen to others or different ways. Disagreements in views, opinions or beliefs are dividing lines and the grounds for unfriending.

What if our differences in opinions, beliefs, and facts weren’t an act of war but an olive branch to better understand?

I overheard the director of a non-profit organization put this idea succinctly, “Don’t think of it as standing up for yourself but rather stepping into the conversation.”

Instead of being defensive of our stance, why don’t we see opposition or differences as an invitation to engage in a discussion? An open, vulnerable discussion is how two people can start to understand the other point of view and tear down the walls between them.

Even the idea of stepping forward rather than standing shows movement, or growth.

What conversations can you step into to further your understanding rather than defaulting to defensiveness?

Bringing 2020 into Focus: My Year of More

As the clock ticks down to midnight, it’s a popular custom to make promises of change. These goals and resolutions often focus on behaviours we “don’t want” such as smoking, eating sugar or social media time. We focus on changing the less than perfect sides of us to aim for that ideal we hold in our heads.

2020 is the year I focused on what I want to see more of in my life. It is a way for me to focus on what I am doing right — but to level up these activities, values to the next level. It is my year of more.

This came from a discussion I had with a friend of mine on New Year’s Eve. She mentioned wanting to continue to go green and focus on reducing single-use items. Upon reflection, I realized to do “more” in that area I would have to have a change in lifestyle.

I don’t eat at fast-food restaurants or on the go. I don’t buy a cup of coffee unless it comes in a ceramic mug or I have my handy reusable in my purse. I grab shopping and produce bags when I am headed to the store. I take my own silverware and beeswax wraps for farmers’ market finds. I buy shampoo, detergents, and soaps in glass containers from refillable stores. I don’t buy new clothes or home furnishings when there are so many awesome options at thrift and confinement stores. I walk or bus instead of drive when I can.

But there is one area where I can do more – beans. As vegan (ish), we don’t buy many products in bags or plastics. However, I do purchase cans of beans. Lots of beans. Beans, along with nut butters, is a primary protein source.

My Year Of More - Buying Bulk Beans
My Year Of More – Buying Bulk Beans

It is easy for me to say that a can of black beans isn’t going to hurt. Over time, though, the cans add up. It’s a lot of beans.

And they don’t have too.

This is where I can do more. Soaking and cooking beans I buy in bulk takes about an hour of time. However, it is an hour of time I can do while blogging, vacuuming, roasting coffee beans or cuddling with Random the Cat.

Since New Year’s Eve, I haven’t purchased a can of beans or lentils. I’m not going to lie. It involves thinking ahead to the next meal or the next day – making sure one of the key ingredients has been soaked and cooked before it is needed. I have boiled chickpeas to make hummus and kidney beans to make enchiladas.

It’s a change in lifestyle that enables me to do “more” of what I think is a good thing. Some of my other “more” projects include:

  • More walking – at least 8,000 steps a day but I’m shooting for 10k
  • More healthy eating – I make a lot of veggie-based choices, particularly when out, but I could do “more”
  • More connection face-to-face vs. screen time – I have been stepping away from social media and I’m ready for more
  • More writing – this includes blogging, journaling, and novels
  • More community – giving is the best way to connect with others

What does your 2020 look like? How can you level up?