Warrior of Diversity

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“Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue; it makes it a requirement for survival.” –Rene Dubos

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
John Lennon, Imagine

“Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy–all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside.”
Cassandra Clare

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It’s okay to be different.  It’s okay to be an individual.  It’s okay to be these things because there is no such thing as being completely the same as anyone else.  We all have similarities and things that we have in common with one another, but there are no two people on planet earth that are exactly the same.  Even identical twins have differences. We are, by nature of being human, very diverse. Each one of us is a complex combination of various traits.Yet, it seems deeply ingrained within humanity to attempt to categorize and label one another so that we know where each other fits within the puzzle of belonging. It tricks us into feeling safe and secure. I know who and what you are, therefore I know where I stand in relation to you.  Unfortunately, this always seems to result in an over simplification of one another and inevitably results in us deciding whether another human being belongs with us, or with them. We focus on the differences so emphatically which leads us to take sides, choose teams, we exclude, we ridicule and we reject, until we have separated ourselves from each other so efficiently, that we as people, loose the ability to see past the labels and categories to the essence of sameness that lies underneath.  The sameness, that is ultimately, our individuality and difference.  It’s a conundrum.  We are all different from each other in some way, yet our focusing on the differences instead of the similarities is what divides us and leads to separation at best and hate towards each other at worst.

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Let’s look at the past. If we look back throughout history to the beginning of humanity, we can see a pattern. People began living within small groups or communities with a basic set of rules and values that everyone agreed on and followed, until an individual had a different idea or opinion.  This created conflict within the group if one person, or a few people were not willing to conform.  Often, this led to that individual or individuals, being rejected by the community and they became outcasts.  Quite literally, they were kicked out, or they left of their own volition.  If their ideas were so different that no one agreed with them and went with them, they would often parish, and their ideas would parish along with them. If a few people agreed with them and were brave enough to leave the larger group, this led to the development of another separate community that represented new ideas.  This pattern has repeated over and over and over and created a diverse human civilization. When we look back at history, we can clearly see that the world is not the same as it was in the 1800’s, 1930’s, 1960’s, 1990’s, etc.  Every new generation has new ideas, new values and new dreams about how they want to the world to be.  If history has taught us anything, it is that the old ways die out and the new ways determine the future of humanity.  If you want to know where the world is going, whether you like it or not, look to the youth of your community. Look to the new ideas and values. Whether you agree with change and evolution or not, history has shown us that it is inevitable.

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When we look back at human evolution, it becomes clear where we got the idea that being different, or not conforming was bad. It often lead to conflict and separation.  It meant being rejected and having to survive on your own.  It meant having a tougher path and possibly death, yet we can also see how incredibly important it was to human development.  Each individual that challenged the status quo, lead to the evolution of the human race.  We now live in a time, where human diversity is so incredibly vast that it is becoming more and more difficult to label and categorize people. Yet, we still try our level best to continue doing so.  We sort other people constantly.  He/she is the same as me, he/she is different than me. Us and Them. Yet, it is almost impossible to know someone’s ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political views, or basic values, just by looking at them. There were times in history where this was much more obvious and simpler to do, but it is far more challenging in today’s world. There are a few obvious exceptions of course, like clothing intended to signify someone’s religion, but generally speaking, we still make far too many assumptions about one another based on very little actual information. We also get very frustrated or even angry when we can’t easily put people into boxes, or if our assumptions based on appearance lead us to reprimand people for cultural appropriation, or mis-representation, without actually having the slightest clue what someone’s culture, life experience, or up-bringing has been.  Just when we think we have someone pegged, they surprise us with something we never knew about them.  For example, most people don’t know, that I have at least six different ethnicities in my heritage, one of which is Mi’kmaq (First Nations people indigenous to Canada’s Maritime Provinces).  You may just see a white girl with naturally blonde hair and blue eyes, and an Irish name.  The truth is, I am much more diverse than that.  I have also been asked on many occasions if I am Scandinavian because of how I look.  I have a diverse heritage, but Scandinavian, the ethnicity I apparently look the most like, isn’t part of it. Funny now, that I married someone who is partly Scandinavian, and so now my children are, so it has become part of my family’s culture. My story, is a common story, especially in Canada, and it is becoming more and more common with the globalization and integration of many cultures, religions, ethnicities, etc.  Inter-racial marriage, adoption, mixed families through marriages, not to mention all the people who live and raise their families within a culture that is not their culture of origin. Our ancestors fought for generations to allow the diversity and integration that is now common, to become socially acceptable. Lest we forget how it used to be, and the intolerance that previous generations had to endure.

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So, I ask myself, given the state of the world, what if we are at a tipping point in humanity, where a pattern that existed to focus on the differences between people in order to sort and separate for the sake of creating human diversity, is no longer in our best interest for our evolution?  What if, we have become so diverse and so separate now, that the only way for us to evolve further is to switch our focus to the sameness and oneness that is humanity?  What if carrying on in the same manner as we have been with a population as large and diverse as it currently is, will only lead us towards conflict and self destruction? I mean, how separate can we possibly get before it all falls apart? History has shown us again and again that too much separation makes us vulnerable. We know innately that we are stronger together, and I can’t help but notice that a shift in much of society has been occurring.  A shift towards inclusion and tolerance and in the allowing of each individual to just exist without a constant need to label them. This shift becomes quite obvious when you listen to the youth.

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To see just how complicated the world has become, just watch people ordering a coffee at Starbucks or buying a pair of jeans, there are so many options now, it’s overwhelming.  It is also overwhelming to try to constantly put people in boxes.  Gay? Straight? Bi? Male? Female? Trans-Gender? Religion? Ethnicity? Culture? Age? Liberal? Conservative? Rich? Poor?  AHHHHHHHHH?!!! Let’s not even get started on all the sub-cultures, sub-religions, etc. The diversity makes some people so frustrated, that they flatly refuse to even acknowledge some of the diversities that exist. They can’t even process more categories so they simply say, “There is male and female, that is all!  Blue and Pink.  End of story.” Well, here’s another perspective. If the complex diversity of people makes you feel threatened, or confused and overwhelmed so much so that you don’t even want to acknowledge it’s very real existence, why not stop trying so damn hard to label and categorize everyone, and just see other people as human beings instead? Admit it, trying to figure everyone out and sorting them into boxes gives us anxiety. So, let’s stop! Ask yourself, what is the point?  Why spend your time and energy doing that? To what end, and for what purpose? Why not take a load off of yourself and surrender to the simple fact that we are all Humans? We all live on planet earth, we all have a heartbeat, we all come from a woman’s body, we all have families and friends, we all feel love and fear and a multitude of emotions.We all breath air and look up at the same starry sky.  The sun rises and sets on all of us and we all move through our lives within the same 24 hours per day. We all are born, we live life and we die. We are also, each and every one of us, complex and diverse individuals.  This too, makes us the same.  We are one people. One race.  The Human Race, and our diversity is our strength.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE & THRIFTED FASHION: Fur hat, fur coat, mukluks, military-style cropped jacket, leopard print skirt, necklace, belts and rings.

CURRENT FASHION: tie-dye tights and faux septum ring from Urban Waves Winnipeg,  black military-style coat by Ralph Lauren.

The Spectre of Self

Spec*tre

a ghost.

  • something widely feared as a possible unpleasant or dangerous occurance

e.g. “the spectre of war”

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“We all have a social mask, right? We put it on, we go out, put our best foot forward, our best image. But behind that social mask is a personal truth, what we really, really believe about who we are and what we’re capable of.” – Phil McGraw

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.” – Jim Morrison

It can be the most difficult thing in the world to honestly be yourself.  Being who we truly are begins to be socialized out of us in early childhood.  We learn how to please others because we are taught that pleasing others is more important than pleasing ourselves.  We are taught that we are better people if we put ourselves aside and present to the world what the world wants us to be.  We learn how to wear masks to suite the people, places and situations in our lives.  We learn that being ourselves can be excruciatingly painful, because being ourselves makes us vulnerable.  If they see our true colours, they can criticize us, laugh at us, or reject us.  We are social creatures, so we begin to believe that fitting in and being the same is safer and more comfortable. The truth is, it causes more damage to us and those around us than being ourselves ever will.  When we are our truest selves we have so much more to offer the world that only we can give.  Wearing masks to protect our vulnerability dims the powerful light that is within each of us and weakens our ability to let it out and benefit the world.

So we suppress our truest spirit.  We put on a brave face when we are scared, a happy face when we are sad, an agreeable face when we are angry.  We pretend that we like things that we don’t, we compromise when we are fundamentally opposed to something that’s important to us, and we tell ourselves that we are being nice, and keeping the peace.  We wouldn’t want to rock the boat now would we?  But is it actually being nice and keeping the peace, or are we just trading the potential conflict with others with a very real and very immediate conflict within ourselves?  We are so afraid of what others might think of us, that we have given them all the power and have placed more significance on what they think than what we think of ourselves, and it slowly eats at our spirit.  In reality, we end up more lonely, isolated and insignificant by letting that fear rule us, than we would be if we just allowed ourselves to be authentic.

I am not saying that we should all air our dirty laundry, or go around telling everyone the details of our exceptionally crappy day when they ask how we are.  You can be real without being negative, complaining or wallowing in self pity. You can look your unhappiness or discomfort in the face, admit to it, talk to a friend or loved-one about it and then, put your energy into a solution. I do believe in the power of positivity.  I do believe in looking for the good in all situations, and I do believe in compromise for the greater good.  I don’t however, believe that these things should be done when they are in direct conflict with your truest self.  If the foot you put forward for the world to see requires you to lie to yourself about who you are and how you really feel, you do the world a great dis-service.

It’s time to throw off the veil.  Time to come out of the shadows and let the world see you.  Time to take off all the different masks we wear and be brave enough to look criticism and conflict in the eye and realize that avoiding it is not more important and less painful than being honest with yourself and finding your true place in the world.  The world needs you.  The authentic you.  The most beautiful part of this is that all we really want is love and belonging and the more of us that throw off the veil, the more authentic people there will be in the world to have real and meaningful relationships with.  The more we allow ourselves to be known, the more we allow others to be known.  Freedom and authenticity are contagious.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS, HAIR & MAKEUP: Leanne Sanders and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

STYLING: Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE: White dresses, shawls and scarves from The Goodwill Store in Winnipeg

CRYSTALS and STONES: Shakti in Winnipeg

Kaleidoscope Heart & Soul

Oh! joy for he who has escaped from this world of perfumes and color! For beyond these colors and these perfumes, these are other colors in the heart and the soul.
-Rumi

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Today is April 5th and it snowed. Giant floating fluffy white snowflakes. A thick white blanket covered the entire city within a couple of hours.  Where I’m from this is not an uncommon occurrence this time of year.  In fact, it’s quite common. Yet it still elicits an intense reaction from even those of us who have lived here our entire lives. You can actually feel the tension in the city.  It’s tangible.  The reactions range from mild irritation, to overwhelming frustration, to absolute disgust and anger.

Why do we do this to ourselves?!  It is a choice after all.  Not the snow, although you can move if you hate it, but how we choose to feel about it.  How we choose to see things and react to them is one of our most valuable abilities. I would go as far as to say that how we choose to react to our current reality is possibly the most important factor in how happy our life will be!  Yet, we are so trained as a society to be reactionary to our current situation or surroundings like everything is happening to us and we are victims of some unknown force that is trying to keep us down and make us miserable.  Are we crazy?  What an insane way to go through life?  As much as our 5 senses are a gift, which allow us different ways to experience our current reality, they can also be our downfall!  2 days ago, I was on vacation in Phoenix, Arizona.  It was hot and sunny, the air was filled with the smell of newly blooming desert flowers and I spent most of my time listening to my kids laughing and splashing in the pool. Everything I ate tasted better there.  It was heaven.  Today, it’s cold and wet, there is no smell because everything is frozen, and I heard so many people complaining about the weather it was baffling. I don’t even remember what I ate today. But, today is only today.  A drop in the bucket of a lifetime, and tomorrow will have something new to offer. What if I don’t particularly like what tomorrow has to offer, am I going to complain tomorrow too?!  How long will this go on?  Maybe it will continue until I lighten up enough that something I do particularly like happens.  Then will I be happy?  Do you see where I’m going  with this?  If we are so dependent on the circumstances of our life to decide how we are going to feel about our life, we are essentially choosing to be victims of life.  How sad is that? Shouldn’t we be deciding for ourselves how our life is going to be?  I don’t mean choosing each experience and circumstance.  I mean how we choose to feel about each experience and circumstance that comes our way.  I do believe we have much more ability to choose our reality than we are currently tapped into…but that’s another blog post!

Why not look at your life as a gift.  Possibly the greatest gift you have ever been given!  Look at each moment with wonder, like a child.  Have you ever seen a group of kids sitting around and bitching about the weather?  No!  It snowed in April, so they built a snowman and told everyone they saw about it with complete joy and exuberance!  When did we start using our senses to decide if we like things or not, instead of just experiencing things? It’s just black or white.  Good or bad.  Right or wrong. And we feel the need to share each harsh opinion with every single person we encounter!  Why can’t we just observe, and if we don’t like it, move on without reaction. Why must we waste so much energy on what we don’t like, when we can turn our attention to the things that make our hearts sing.

So, you don’t like snow in April, me neither, but I’m not about to waste my whole day focusing on it.  Sometimes, if you don’t like what you are looking at, you should look at it differently and suddenly it becomes something different.  In the absence of colour and smell and warmth, you can create your own.  When was the last time you looked at the world through a kaleidoscope?  Snow and ice as far as the eye can see, until you look through a different lens and suddenly everything is magic!  The beautiful thing is, you don’t need a kaleidoscope to do this, you just need your heart, your soul and your imagination which you carry with you at all times.  It works the same, but the effects are even more magical because there are no limits!

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“You can get to where you want to be from wherever you are—but you must stop spending so much time noticing and talking about what you do not like about where you are.”
― Esther Hicks

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”                                           – Wayne Dyer

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Gregory Chomichuk 

HAIR, MAKEUP, MODELLING & STYLING BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

CURRENT FASHION: Velvet bellbottoms from Lenni the Label

THRIFTED: Boots, dress, coat, scarf, vest, arm warmers and hat.  Special thanks to my son’s pre-school teacher Mrs. May for snagging this amazing wrap-skirt for me before it was donated.  It will be worn with love!

*Thank you to my sons for lending me your kaleidoscope and reminding me daily that I have one of my own with me at all times.* 

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