Friday, 21 July 2017

Unconscious rituals created by childhood trauma

Some days I am amazed by the power of self reflection on an hour long walk.

I have recently, like just 5 days ago, begun the transformation to a ketogenic lifestyle which essentially is a low carb diet. I also recently started bullet journalling. These two things combined have created a huge shift in my life and health in 5 small days.

The bullet journal helps me stay on track with my daily routine, habits and self care. This includes my new diet.

I have been feeling GREAT! So yesterday when I went to town and I suddenly felt like Fall was upon us and started feeling down I was boggled. Why does Fall always get me down? Heck it's only July, why am I thinking Fall?

As I walked this morning (part of my routine and habits tracked in my journal) I thought about why I woke feeling down and didn't even want to walk. It's Fall! It's an unconscious ritual that has been living in me since I started school in kindergarten. It begins when I see school supplies in the store.....which coincidentally happened yesterday (what are you thinking Walmart, it's only July?).

So I thought more about the transitional rituals in my life and the feelings that go with them. Here they are:

Back to school (Fall) - depressed
Christmas break - excited, feeling great
Back to school (winter) - depressed
March break - excited, feeling great
Back to school - (end of year) - depressed
Summer break - the best times of my life

There is a pattern here. The childhood trauma I experienced was in the school setting. Light bulb! I have been living out these learned rituals for my whole life. Now that I am conscious of them I can change them. I am going to start with the Fall. I am going to learn a new, celebratory ritual for transitioning during those "back to school" times of year.

Rituals, conscious or unconscious are very important to explore. They have a great impact on who we are, what we do, who we choose to be with. They tell us a lot about what is important to us in life. They identify areas where me might need some support to cope. I know my husband has recognized these negative transitions for me and I have always brushed them off. I have never identified how to support me with them. Now I can do that. This Fall I will identify ways to help me cope and work toward creating a positive way of embracing the new season because there possibilities for good things are endless.

Rituals are something that I am consistently conscious of (or try to be) because they are a great tool that I use in my job. I use rituals to get to know people, I train other to use rituals to get to know people. Again I am reminded of how useful the work I do can be for anyone in any situation. Most importantly they have helped me change my life.

It's amazing what a good walk and some self reflection can do.

"Once you know better, you do better!" Maya Angelou

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Bold or duty to society?

I have been mulling something around in my head for many years now -

making contact with the man who so graciously inserted all of this trauma into my life, my brain, my world!

It started with wanting to contact him to angrily force him to hear all of the awfulness he left me with without a second thought. I wanted him to feel guilty, I wanted him to remember like I do and feel as sick as I do every time I am triggered.

As I started the healing process and did some therapy and I learned how to "forgive" or rather let go or release my own responsibility in it....I wanted to contact him to let him know that I was leaving all of the responsibility with him and that I was no longer going to carry it with me. I was going to force him to feel guilty and be angry that I didn't carry it anymore.

Then it changed to simply wanting to write him a letter and tell him he no longer has control over me, I have grown and healed and know how to cope now.....that I am an adult just like him and he no longer scares me.

I have never contacted him. I don't know if it is because I'm not 100% sure I believe everything I want to say to him or because the thought of even hearing his voice or being within a bazillion feet of him makes me nauseous, shaky and feel like that little helpless girl again. Yet every once in a while I look up his address and phone number and consider taking the step.

Lastnight I found myself considering it again. I think its time to make a decision, do I do it or not? What would be the purpose in doing it? How would I benefit from the contact or would I only suffer? What am I trying to prove anyway?

So I took the time to really think about those questions last night and I have come up with a potential answer for myself. I would like my readers input and support.

I came to the conclusion that I still haven't brought the awareness to society that I feel is the only potential silver lining to my experience. I have always believed it is our duty as humans to share our experiences in order to help others. It's a huge item on my bucket list and I have put it by the wayside for a while now making small attempts here and there, mind you those attempts have been successful but I feel like there is more to do.

Here's my plan. I want to work with a convicted pedophile who has had successful treatment to bring awareness to both sides of the issue. I want to have a public conversation of sorts that explains what is happening in the minds of both victim and abuser. I want to write a script and act it out or have actors act it out. The script will need to be developed with a convicted "healed" pedophile as I have no idea what the script would say on their part. Maybe this is all just another piece of my healing journey but I think it is important for society to understand how intricately woven sexual assault is and how difficult it is for people to come forward when the current stigmas continue to exist.

Here's where you can help. Do I make the contact and approach my abuser about working on this with me? Of course I think this would be the most powerful or do I work on it with a random convicted pedophile that has done a lot of work to understand themselves and reduce the possibility that I become revictimized by association? Personally I think I have done a lot of work myself and I am in a healthy space to be able to do this and cope with it with support from others but I question that as well.

So what say you? Bold or duty to society?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Found and lost

I was born into a family of two parents and two older brothers.

I had no idea what I had found. My sister came along to add to our blessings. Over the years there were many ups and downs.

The bond we built between the 6 of us was unbreakable.

I lost a cousin. I hurt.

I lost aunts and uncles. I hurt.

I lost amazing grandparents. I hurt.

I lost my oldest brother. My world was shattered.

I have been blessed by not having lost my parents or my children....God willing I will outlive my children but reality is I will experience the loss of my parents. That pain will be it's own.

All year I think about the great memories. This time of year I think about those last month's,  days, minutes.

I wonder what he was thinking, what he wanted me to do. I try hard to reassure myself that I did right by him.

I will never know.

This pain will never leave. It is the worst pain I have ever felt.

I miss him and want nothing more than one more day, one more moment, one more smile, one more beer, one more phone call, one more campfire, one more Hollywood howl!

Johnny I miss you! I love you and my heart will never be as full as it was when you were here.

We found each other by luck, through biology and we lost each other by death but only until we meet again. ♡

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Feminism or Equalism?

I have recently become involved in a peer mentorship program for survivors of sexual violence. The journey to becoming a mentor includes 40 hours of training which I have been attending every Tuesday afternoon for a number of weeks.

Each week I come away with more motivation and inspiration. I have a one hour drive home from the training and always leave my radio off and think about what I have just learned.

One of the greatest pieces of learning I have found is about Feminism. I was 100% of the belief that feminists hate men and want women to control the world. I did not consider myself a feminist, in fact,  I strongly reconsidered getting involved in the program because the agency that is offering this opportunity is a feminist agency and I wasn't sure I fit with their philosophy. Well, I am glad I decided to give it a try because I learned what feminism really is.

It is about being equal. Not about burning bras in protest of men's position in the world or fighting to take away the rights of men. It is about sharing the world with men. Feminists want to have the same opportunities in the workplace, home, society as anyone else.

Men are feminists. Yes, there are men who truly believe that the world can be shared equally with women very peacefully. They even believe that women have a right to equality in the workplace, home, society. I would dare to go so far as to say that Feminists believe in equality of all humans regardless of sex, race, colour, creed or sexual orientation.

I am a feminist. Who knew?

So why is it still called feminism? I understand historically women fought very hard for the rights of women and I thank them greatly for all they did to allow me the freedoms I have today. However, I think the word feminist is misleading. I would also venture a guess that many men who are feminists would deny it because of the label and the stigma that goes with it.

Isn't it time that we move with the ages and call it what it is? EQUALISM!

Not to minimize the work of the feminist movement but to offer gratitude and show their success. We have moved, we have a long way to go, lets make it socially acceptable to be a man and fight for equality for all humans.

I am an equalist and proud of it.

Friday, 22 April 2016


We all have aspirations. I have started my 101 item Bucket list full of things I aspire to do.

What about who we aspire to BE?

I have just returned home from our annual HSA/Learning Community Gathering which is always so very inspirational and includes leaders and followers from various countries. We talked a lot about aspirations this year.  I have very much admired Helen Sanderson (the UK CEO of HSA) since I first got to meet her via social media. Julie Malette (HSA Canada lead) is also a woman I very much admire, not to mention many other associates. These two ladies particularly have a presence about them, a sense of strong mindfulness, a  level of conscious awareness that I covet.

Now covet is a strong word, much stronger than admire and that is a realization that I came to during this week together. Since I have known these amazing women I have aspired to BE them. I wanted to be the person who leads an international or national organization in person centred practices. I wanted to be the person who has led so many people on such inspirational journeys and introduced brilliant work to the world. I coveted their success superior to admiring their qualities.

This year it felt different. I didn't want to BE them I wanted to BE WITH them. I wanted to enjoy their presence, learn from them and share learning with them.

My journey of self awareness, mindfulness and conscious awareness continues and will never end and I recognized the movement I have made through the past year. I no longer covet what they have, I admire who they are and what they contribute to my work and personal life. I dont want to BE them. I want to BE MY BEST ME!

I aspire to be Barb Swartz-Biscaro, the best woman I can be acknowledging my faults, quirks, failures, lessons, successes and qualities along the way. The woman who does the best work she can in the areas of her interest. The woman who is the best she can be for her family. I dont need to be internationally known or respected, I need to be introspect-fully known and respected. I aspire to be ME.

It wasn't a waste of time to covet these women. I learned a lot about the qualities I want to emulate as a successful woman. I aspire to strengthen some of those same qualities to be the best me.

I can't be Helen Sanderson or Julie Malette, they already have those titles and carry them very well. I can only be Barb Swartz-Biscaro.

It is pointless to aspire to BE someone else, find the qualities you find admirable in the people you covet. Do your best to be your best YOU, that's your only choice. You were given one title in life what do you aspire to do with it?

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

A letter of forgiveness - to my abuser

(I would say Dear, but he's not dear to me)

James Elson Tulloch;

Today I found my purpose in life.

I thought I forgave you about a year ago; and I truly did try but I held onto hatred. Now I know that I can really let go.

I can forgive you.


Not for you, but for me. For my mental health, for my future.

You stole my childhood!

You stole my adolescence!

You stole my young adulthood!

You had a strong hand in my divorce from my children's father!

It took me about 32 years after you left my life to start to learn to not let you to control me.

Now 34 years later, YOU ARE HISTORY!

It sure has been a long road.

There will always be triggers.

There will always be reminders.

But no longer will I submit to them. No longer will I surrender to them, relent, concede, yield......YOU HAVE NO CONTROL ANY LONGER.

I  am FREE!

Today I found my life purpose! I knew I would eventually find a way to help other survivors and I have been searching.

Today I found it!

I give gratitude for your influence on my life and appreciate the direction you have given me to help other survivors.

Did you ever think I would thank you?

Me either.

I guess I should thank Karma because she is helping me help others and I no longer care what she does with you.


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Person Centred Budgeting

Recently I have adopted a new budgeting system. My husband and I were at odds weekly about where the money goes so I decided that we need to have a common understanding of how we would use our money, therefore we would be on the same page and there could be no misunderstandings. 

I have watched Gail Vaz-Oxlade on the television show "Till Debt Do Us Part" a few times. Actually I usually catch the end of it as I wait for my one hour favourite program to start each night. Anyway, I really like her jar budgeting system. It seems to work for the people she works with so why not do some more research on it. I looked it up online where she has many tools and budget worksheets that are downloadable and can be personalized. I went ahead and personalized a budget for us. I created a budget binder, the 5 jars that she suggests having for spending money each week and tracking sheets to keep track of what we spend and where. NO PLASTIC! We can only use the cash in the jars.

I knew this would be a transition as I am a plastic girl. My husband has always been a cash man. With him away all week he usually takes his weekly allowance out of the bank and doesn't touch the account all week. I am typically the one who does all the household shopping and spends the money during the week. We thought it would be easy peasy for him and really tough for me. We are learning as we go.

So with 5 jars set aside for Transportation, Food, Clothing and Gifts, Entertainment and Everything Else each with its own weekly amount determined by the budget spreadsheet we are limited and have to pay very close attention and track every penny not he tracking sheets.

My husband is not working this week so he accompanied me to town yesterday. The first place he wanted to go was to price a new lawn tractor, the second place was to price a new farm tractor, then to pick up new u-joints for our broken farm tractor, then to Canadian Tire to get a new air pressure gauge for the air compressor. Do you see where I am going here? 

I had taken $45 from the Transportation jar to put diesel in my car, $25 from the Everything Else jar for a pair of shoes I had bought on a buy and sell site and $5 from the food jar to pick up eggs. NO PLASTIC.

Luckily my husband had his weekly allowance in his pocket and used it for the parts he needed but then asked "What about my allowance money?" to which I responded "You just spent it for this week." He was a bit frustrated that this meant he couldn't go and use his debit or credit card to buy us lunch at Tim Horton's like we like to do on our trips to town. It wasn't planned, I didn't bring the cash, it can't happen. He agreed but quickly said he thinks this budget isn't correct and her (Gail's) approach doesn't make any sense. When we got home I put her show on so that he could learn more about her approaches and see the success of others who persist with it.

In trying to teach him I taught myself something. I really paid a lot of attention to how she spoke to people and her approach to their budget. She spends a lot of time learning about who people are, whats important to them and how to support them in order to be successful during her month supporting them on their budgeting journey.

AHA - Person Centred Approaches to Budgeting

Sounds like common sense but a bit more complicated than one would think. It takes a lot of self reflection and introspective searching to budget this way. It also takes a lot of determination, persistence, compromise and will power to follow through with goals you have set for yourself.

Its like anything else in life really. We use person centred approaches to everything we do, we just don't name them and write them down necessarily although I suggest writing them down, it certainly makes it more concrete.

We know that we are much less likely to do something that is good for us unless it is directly related to something that is important to us.

So after all these years of saying that we need to develop a budget and the many creative discussions we have had about money, what made me decide to tackle it now? Something that is IMPORTANT TO husband retiring and being home all week. It has always been important to me but now it is also IMPORTANT TO HIM. I had to wait for it to be important enough to him. He really wants it now but is concerned about finances so I need to show him that it is manageable to alleviate his anxiety. I am happy to say it is working. The kids are less happy about it but thats another whole blog.

A number of years ago I created this Person Centred Budget to help people I was supporting in my job at Community Living Parry Sound to budget. (It is actually normally in a nice table format but I can't insert a pdf here so you get the idea.)

Personal Financial Plan
What is Important to Me to buy each month?
What Is Important For Me to pay for each month?
Is there anything above that can be eliminated or negotiated to make room for balance? If
yes, what?

Total Monthly Income:
Total I must pay out:
Total recreational (divide by 4 to get weekly amount):

Where and When I will spend my recreational budget

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday

Include activity and cost

I thought this would be a great way to help people and other staff members to think more person centred when budgeting so that people we were supporting weren't losing things that were important to them in a month because of the need to pay bills. There is always room for negotiation, self reflection and balance.

So I did a bit of reflection of my own. In our budget I have included weekly lunch money for the kids. I have included wine and beer or us. I have included lottery tickets, buy and sell site budget, a generous amount for gifts as I like to give. I did consider what was important to all family members in the development of our budget, there is still some tweaking that can be done but overall our budget is person centred. It reflects who we are and what is important in our lives as well as the things that are not negotiable and have to be paid. It includes a good balance of what is important to us as a family and what is important for us as a family if we want to maintain our current lifestyle.

I am always amazed at the AHA moments. I have always known these approaches not just for people supported by agencies or facilities, I use these approaches in my everyday life, why does it still hit me that these approaches are so useful? Because being person centred, thinking about the person first.....thinking about you first and then planning life around what you learned primarily about what is important to and for you is hard work. It has to be the most intrinsic and simplistic part of life but takes time and energy to really know yourself mindfully. 

I for one am very thankful I have taken this journey and I continue to learn and amaze myself.