Monday, July 30, 2007

A freeing feeling

It simply amazes me how many people consider themselves victims. It is one of my challenges, my growing edge, to sympathize with someone that is staying stuck. I realize that we all have our valleys, go through depression, and face difficulties and frustrations. What frustrates me ( thankfully I have learned how to let it go ) is that that is as far as some people can see. They claim, they can't do anything else, or they wish they could, or they should have or the could have, but they didn't. Some people blame others for all their problems, rather than identifying that they problem might be that they refuse to make any changes in their lives.

They blame the jobs, the kids, the parents, the past, the government, even God, but they never realize that they might have some part in the difficulties that are continuing in their lives. At what point does one become responsible for their own actions and choices?

I have argued this point with several people. They know my stories of abuse, of broken bones, surgery, black eyes, degradation and humiliation. I always say that the first time it was his fault, the second time was mine. NOT that I am to blame for abuse. Abuse is wrong. But at some point, I am responsible for my choices and I chose to stay, knowing that what was happening was not healthy and was not right.

I know that might sound kind of hard edged. But after I was hit once, I chose to stay. I can rationalize all the reasons I stayed, I could waste time to justify my staying by emphasizing my personal weaknesses ( ie. wanting to be loved, low self esteem etc) but the BOTTOM LINE IS I STAYED. Not only did I stay for another day or two, I stayed for years!

WE all must all be accountable to ourselves first. We must take the blame for our choices, forgive ourselves and move forward. To continually blame others weakens us. WE need to realize that there was some kind of lesson to come out of it.

For myself I learned a number of things. I learned that I am incredibly strong. I also learned what kind of long term relationship I want. I learned how to identify partners I would run the other way from. I learned that we all have faults. I learned to forgive, not only myself , but those that hurt me. I learned to get up, dust off and start again.

I would not take back those nights spent shaking, awaiting the next blow to the face, but as crazy as it sounds, there was a reason for it. That experience led me to be the person I am today, and I really like myself, and others like me too. Those experiences shaped my life and helped me to define my purpose in life. So although the abuser had no right to violate me like that, I am so blessed to be able to reverse it and see what good came from it. I wish everyone could do the same. It is such a freeing feeling!

Sunday, July 29, 2007


What are my next goals........

I have so many goals........ and I am by nature an impatient person, who is learning slowly how to have patience. Some of my current goals are:
to never have a cigarette again
to be a healthy weight
travel the entire globe
to finish ESL and take a sabbatical from work and move around overseas and teach
to have a successful business (which I am working on)
to make lasting positive changes in the world

I hope I can continue to work towards these things



Saturday, July 28, 2007

Leaving it Behind (life in the shelter)

The day had come . For two weeks I had been packing and planning. It had been difficult. To part with my dog, to find someone to take care of the cat, to change schools for the kids the third time in a year. I didn't have any money, and I was without a job, but I knew I no longer belonged here. It was time to leave this life behind and move forward to bigger and better things.

"I am moving to the shelter," I told people. "Why, isn't there somewhere else you could go?" they would ask. It was not really about finding somewhere else to go. It was about surrendering to the difficulties and trying to re-think things. I suppose if I wanted to I could have borrowed some money off of some people, went and got a job, stayed in a town I did not like, lonely and isolated, and eventually returned to the same destructive relationship I was fleeing from. However, plan A worked for me. I was focused on making a clean break this time. That was to get to a shelter, to utilize all the help I could to get me on my feet. My goals had become quite clear to me, to try to get all my bills in order, to get the kids into counselling and get myself stable enough that I could get out of this cycle I had been living for 10 years.

When I got the shelter and was greeted by the staff it was like walking into a home where I felt loved and cared for. Supportive housing means just that. It was just what I needed this time to make the everlasting changes. They told me all the rules that I would have to obide by. I understood, to manage a house with 20 women, you have to have some kind of organization. They told me there was no rush for me to move out of there. They saw that I was putting forth 100% effort, doing all I could, looking for jobs, attending courts, getting in touch with creditors and trying to get life in order. All the things I had neglected while I was busy living in chaos, now had to be taken care of. The fact that I did not have to pay for shelter freed up some space for me to focus on getting everything else done without the worries of housing on top of that.

In those short three months I got more accomplished than I did in my entire life. It was great to be with women that were in the same boat you were. They helped me through the valleys and celebrated my triumphs, such as getting an apartment, getting a job, winning in court or just getting a new resume. The counsellors were wonderful. I recall a beautiful female housing worker who used to sit with me in the early am everyday, when I told her of my life. I used to think she was so beautiful on the outside, but now I realize it was just her inside shining through to the outside. She sat with me in the smoking lounge every shift because none of the other residents were up. Her words will always be very inspiring and motivating, and they helped me to feel like a real person. She said, " I am not allowed to be your friend when you leave here (it's a conflict of interest), but I would like you to know, that if I was able to be your friend you are the kind of person I would like know." This was very validating for my own self worth and esteem. I will forever be grateful to this counsellor who was able to let her guard down long enough to be human and acknowledge the humanness in me. I did not feel like it was "us" and "them".

My life in the shelter is one I will forever be grateful for. I met some wonderful people who resided with me and are my friends to this day, and I met some wonderful counsellors and aftercare workers who really helped me through the tough times. Together I was able to problem solve and get where I am today, and that is someone that is very content with her life, and very independent.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gratitude in the morning and at night

Today somebody sent me an email about gratitude and asked if I had been grateful today?

What a relief to realize that I had been grateful several times over the day, starting with my drive to work, which I thoroughly enjoy. At 6 am when the roadways are quiet and I see the sun coming up in the east, I am grateful that I am alive. Today I looked at it's pinkish, yellowish colour, and I was grateful for the morning. I was grateful for the wonderful boss I have been blessed to work with and the safe roads I drive on. I was thinking how grateful I am that I have not had nicotine cravings in two days, and that is truly a blessing!

I thought about my two children, and how lucky I am that I have them, that they are healthy and happy. Simple things such as my car that works ( it might make some weird noises) but it gets me to where I have to go, being able to breathe, to eat, to walk, are things that we need to be grateful for. I try to remind myself of these things on the way to work daily.

i have found that the more grateful I am, the more I am blessed with. I am not sure if it is more that flows my way, because of energy and the Universal Laws of Attraction, or just the simple fact that I am more focused on good things happening and so the negative things seem to be minimized. Whatever it is I am grateful that I have been able to train my mind relatively well, to be thankful for what I have, to look forward to good things coming my way, and to meet each morning with a smile.

Sure I complain, but when I catch myself I try to override it with a positive. When I complain I find it drains me of good energy, so I try to correct it if I can, or make a joke of it. I am sure that I could never complete a gratitude book, it would just go on and on and on. I believe that alot of our success depends on whether we see the glass half empty or the glass half full, and am I ever lucky I see it as half full.

Off I go to bed to count my many blessings and hope that you will all take a moment to remember at least a few things to be thankful for at the end of the day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


It is a known fact that for centuries women have been second class citizens. They have had to fight as early as the last century for rights to education, rights to vote, and rights to earn a living. We know that we live in a male dominant society. We have had time to vent our frustrations about being inferior. That's what the 60's 70's 80's and 90's were for. Today it is 2007. WE do not have time to direct out energy anymore to male bashing or blaming.

Women have incredible strength, as shown in the latter part of the last century and into this new millennium. WE have careers, care for families, run single headed and independent households and a list that is endless. It is time for us to put our strength together and unite. WE do not have to fight for equal rights anymore, we just have to ensure that we see ourselves as equal.

By continuing to blame others for suffering, we forfeit our own personal power, continue in victim role, continue putting people before ourselves and relinquish our ability to embrace our own power and strength. If we put that energy into helping one and other, we will be much further ahead, then continuing to look to others, primarily men, to solve our problems.

When we learn to value ourselves, to love ourselves, to accept ourselves, to love our body, have self-worth and feel value, we will see that we have much more power then we ever thought we would. Once we no longer fall victim to society, to behaving as a proper woman, to looking at magazines and media for the clothes we should be wearing, the hairstyle we should be getting, and the body we should have, we will be in a better position to demand respect. By following these simple, but most difficult tasks we will not be victim ever again for one simple reason........ we will not tolerate it.

First signs of degradation, humiliation, control, manipulation or threats will send us running in another direction. Hopefully they will send us into the path of other women who feel the same way, and we can unite our power.........

As Helen Reddy once realized in her song.........

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
Oh, yes, I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to I can face anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

Friday, July 20, 2007

When you love yourself enough

I have discovered that when you love yourself enough, you wouldn't allow anyone else to love you less than you do. All of the people that have taken advantage of you, or have not appreciated you, or have not valued your contribution to their lives soon become much more unimportant than they ever were before. There are people that you once would run for, over-extend yourself for, just to seek their approval, or to have their love. Once you love yourself enough you begin to value yourself. You become clear on how you are treated and how you expect those around you to respect you. The running stops and the decision to love yourself enough sets in. When you love yourself enough you will never be walked on or run over again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Getting ready for the launch

Tonight I went and picked up magazines for my Dream ReBuilding Workshops. It was nice hearing encouraging words from an old friend that reinforced my thoughts when he said" you are on the right path." What was also interesting was hearing him speak of how far I have come. Yet, it still seems I have so far to go. I have to remind myself to pat myself on the back and see the ground I have gained in the past couple of years. There are so many exciting things to do. I am so busy right now, thinking how Direct Abundance will flourish, and thinking of all the things I wish to accomplish, how I might be able to help and be of service to others, It is important that I don't distract myself elsewhere. I am thrilled with the development of the new website, as well as preparing for the workshop on August 15, 2007 at Nellie's Shelter, Toronto, Ontario. I can't wait to meet with the women and get their feedback. Well I had better go and work on my next lesson plan, just wanted to share where I am right now. Peace, Joanne

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Asking for Help

We have been taught not to ask for help. In this society that we live in self-reliance has been stressed over and over again. In school we are taught not to disturb others, and to work independently. At work socialization is frowned upon. In society asking others for help is often looked upon as a weakness.

However, there is a time to ask for help, and to ask for as much as you need. It is all to common for people in difficult positions to ask for a little help, just enough to get by, but not enough to make things easier. When you are fleeing an abusive situation, or living on the street, it is time to put pride aside, and don't set limits on how much you can receive from others.

There will come a time when you can repay others, or that you will assist, and while you are struggling you need to gain all the strength you can, and generally this comes in the form of outside help. Needing help could mean going to a food bank so you have enough to keep the electrical bill paid, writing a letter to a summer camp for your kids to get a subsidized spot, moving into a shelter or getting Employment Insurance or Welfare to help you pay for a course, so be it.

Despite what we have been taught, people love to help. The opportunity to assist us may meet important needs another has. It may give that person a sense of being useful. It might help them to become a better person, and to feel good about themselves.

If you are ready to make serious changes in your life, ALWAYS ask for help. In the end, you will end up more grateful to those that helped you and they will be happy to have assisted you in your changes.

Just like the song says " I get by with a little help from my friends."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My Introduction

Hi. The first thing I would like to tell you my name is Joanne O’Brien. I am a 38 year old single mother and live with my two wonderful daughters, and have been on my own since 2001.

I am presently working for the TTC, and have my own on-line business. In the past 6 years I have been travelling, taking courses, upgrading my formal education, self-development, Reiki, Yoga, Meditation, and purchased a condo for my children and myself.

I am developing workshops that I will facilitate in Shelters across Ontario, Canada. Primarily I will begin with Women's Shelters, but would like to expand that vision, to include several types of shelters and support groups. My intention is to publish a book with the personal writings of people in shelters, their challenges, their triumphs and their experiences.

I will also give you some background information on myself.

I lived in shelters off and on over a 13 year period.

In 1987, I lived at Youth Without Shelter, Toronto, Ontario
In 1988, I lived at the YWCA in Kitchener, Ontario.
In 1989, 1986 and 2000 I lived in Interim Place, Mississauga, Ontario.
And I was on Welfare several times

An interesting component is that I have also worked in several shelters as a Counsellor and Housing Worker. I was also a Case Manager Welfare Worker for Ontario Works.

The shelters I have been employed with are:

Family Life Resource Centre, Brampton, Ontario
Amelie House, Toronto, Ontario
Mary’s Home, Toronto, Ontario
Esprit Place, Parry Sound, Ontario

So as you can see, I am very familiar with the Shelter system and some of the difficulties people might be facing, in addition to and more importantly some of the strange emotions and turmoil they are challenged with.

Six years ago I

· Owed more than 100, 000.00
· I was unemployed
· I was living in a shelter with my 2 children
· My Bank Account balance was -1300.00
· I had just served a week in jail while awaiting a bail hearing

On more than one occasion I thought how am I going to get through all this muck?

Some of the emotions that people residing in shelters experience are:

· Fear
· Confusion
· Failure and Inadequacy
· Helplessness and feeling very alone

And I want to tell you that the empty feeling and feeling very anxious and unable to concentrate or make decisions are NORMAL.

Residents in shelters are in SURVIVAL MODE. And you need to be in that place to survive just as the term indicates.

I want you to sincerely know that there is hope, and that I can honestly say I am so glad that those feelings are a lifetime ago for me, and I am very confident that I will never have to use my SURVIVAL skills again.

So the reason I am here blogging is to assist you in meeting your personal and professional goals, to give you a little insight about what you can do on the long road ahead. It will not be easy, but I take it the life you have lead up until now has not been easy either. I can tell you that making a change in your life will require you to break old habits, change your thinking patterns, possibly moving, and opening new doors. There will be times along that journey that you feel like giving up, and there are other times when you feel so complete and successful that you could just scream. The support you need is out there, the things that you need are out there, but the biggest step in the road and indicator of your success will begin with you and making a decision that it is time to move forward in your life.