Pushing the cart uphill

The last thing to leave the home in which I lived the longest in my life was my bicycle. After several days of packing, a day of moving belongings out and a day of cleaning, I locked up this home and got on my bike. 

Spring wheels in the fresh air feel fantastic. This year it came with a little extra meaning — it was the means by which I closed off a chapter of my life to begin another. I rolled across the street to say goodbye to neighbours, then crossed again to say goodbye to other neighbours and shed a few tears. I rolled a few blocks north to leave a gift for a new baby, then a few more blocks north to my old neighbourhood hardware store for some things needed to set up the new home. Fighting back tears, I got what I needed, then got back on my bike and let tears come down as I headed down into the river valley.


About three years ago, I stopped spending much time on social media. My blogging activity dropped, from four posts a week to one every month or so. I showed up sporadically on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter because I didn’t have the energy for it as I cocooned, to figure out what was happening with my life and what I needed to do about it. I wrote about it in oblique ways, but was otherwise quiet to the outside world in social media, keeping my hopes and fears close, sharing and exploring them with the people closest to me and able to hold space for me: partner Peter and dear friends.

What was happening behind the scenes: challenging events related to my work and professional identity, the end of my marriage and the end of relationships with people unable to cope with the end of my marriage. Also happening behind the scenes: a stronger sense of personal sovereignty, new and renewed relationships with people able to hold space for Beth-in-transition (and vice versa), and an unabated thirst to grow and evolve into the emerging me, for my own growth and evolution.

I write to make sense of myself and life conditions. I’ve shared little bits of that here on my blog, but I write about specific people only if I have their permission. I do not write publicly about the people I am struggling with because I do not want them to experience shame or guilt from me, and I do not want to create the conditions for others to pile on. My intention is also to make sure that the writing I share is not from a defended place; I am not defending myself, nor am I on the attack. When I share publicly what I write, it means I have learned something about myself and how I relate with the world around me. 

As my marriage was ending two and a half years ago, these were the questions I was asking myself (the Hamilton series):  

  1. How do I make room for me to be ME, for “it” to happen? (Oct 24, 2016, Room where it happens)
  2. Who gives me the space I need to figure out who I am growing into? (Dec 1, 2016, Stay in it)
  3. What did I say no to that changed my life? (Dec 5, 2016, Say no to this)
  4. Is there an ending I should be paying attention to? (Dec 13, 2016, How to say goodbye)
  5. What is the story to choose for yourself? (Dec 17, 2016, Who tells your story?)  
  6. How do I make room in my life for people with other, crazy points of view? (Jan 11, 2017, The world is wide enough)


After having sorted out all the details of our uncoupling, my partner Peter and I sent a message out to the world in February 2017: (INSERT link to Beware listening through stories)

Several blog posts over the last two years reflect what I was learning along the way and I reached deeper into myself, my longings and learnings in my interwoven personal and professional life. Some highlights:

  1. Beware listening through stories. It is not possible to know what is going on for someone else by looking at them, or having simple and shallow conversations with (May 2, 2017). 
  2. Self-empowerment threatens. We all have the same choice, whether the change comes from within or without: resist our transformation or allow it (June 30, 2017)
  3. Harm happens, intended or not. Harm is not decided by the person causing harm, but by the person harmed. Admitting that I have caused harm means I have to change. This is a good civic practice. (Nov 13, 2017) 
  4. Care out in the open. To care out in the open means I am willing to be changed by what I hear. (Nov 28, 2017) 
  5. Colonial blind spot. For relationships to repair, I need to be ready to hear about harm, receptive to having my sense of identity be shaken, and willing to step into a relationship with reciprocity. (January 20, 2018) 
  6. Welcoming outsiders. As we find ourselves increasingly challenged with the pace of change and conflict in our world, being deeply held and having the capacity to hold and examine conflict is essential. We need to do a better job of meeting and finding each other. (April 2, 2018) 
  7. Sovereignty is necessarily disruptive. Telling each other what we need to tell is uncomfortable and necessary. Hearing what we don’t want to hear is uncomfortable and necessary. It hurts. We may feel—or be told—we are causing harm by doing this, but we are causing more harm by not speaking and receiving what needs to be said. (May 1, 2018) 
  8. A castle’s not made for everyone – is a city? Making a city (or a family or an organization) that’s made for everyone involves trusting others’experience of the city. We find it hard to believe in the existence of barriers named by others if we don’t see that barrier, or experience that barrier ourselves. (May 3, 2018)
  9.  Accommodate or exclude. When I know what I need to do to accommodate people, then I am consciously including or excluding them. If I do not ask, do not listen, do not accommodate, I exclude. (Feb 6, 2019)


And since my personal and professional lives are interwoven, my decision to leave the home I’ve lived in the longest in my life is also about my city – and who I want to be in my city. 

That series of posts from when my marriage ended – the Hamilton series – shone light on questions I will welcome for the rest of my life: 

  1. How do I make room for the Me I am growing into?
  2. Who holds space for me to figure out who I am growing into?
  3. Is there an ending that needs my attention? 
  4. What am I saying yes/no to? 
  5. What is the story I choose for myself? 

On my way into the river valley, I followed a path that bends back and forth through a ravine. The spring melt made it treacherous earlier that week, the warmth of the day melting snow and covering the path with ice overnight, each day the path getting more and more clear. I rolled down until I came to the shady patches of ice, to walk beside my bike. On and off and on and off. Near the bottom, as I gingerly stepped down a narrow channel of concrete, I spotted an abandoned shopping cart. In it: two huge bags of dog food and a gym bag. 

I made my way by the cart, a bit puzzled until I stepped back onto the clear concrete and got back on my bike. I realized the cart was aiming uphill. It was abandoned because it was not possible to push it any further. I imagine the human making the choice to stop, to take what was most important to them on her way up the hill and leaving the rest behind. Perhaps they came back for it, or perhaps she left it for others to carry. As I headed down into the valley for my next chunk of life, I realized I left a burdened cart behind. I didn’t need the cart or its contents. I didn’t need any longer to push a laden cart uphill through ice that made it very difficult to make headway. I turned to a new direction, releasing the need to make something happen that doesn’t want to happen. 

This embodies many choices I have made over the last several years, personal and professional: I choose not to push my cart uphill. 

If something doesn’t want to happen, I’m not afraid to notice this, to say so, to not spend energy making it happen. 

This does not mean I don’t work hard—it means I notice when there is resistance and choose to work with it or against it. I am smarter about it. When there is resistance, in me, in others, I take the time to notice what it is and why. 

I notice where there is resistance to explore the resistance, and I dig in. I enjoy spending time with others who are willing and able to do the hard work of digging into their resistance, or our resistance. This is the flavour of the next part of my life, with fellow citizen who also enjoy this exploration, in a new part of the city.


After leaving the burdened cart of resistance behind, I made my way along the river valley. A long and flat path, full of ease. I floated along, enjoying the crisp air of the misty morning. I found a river crossing, found my way through a wee neighbourhood to the road that makes its way uphill, to my new neighbourhood. I stopped halfway to enjoy the view, now clear of the mist. A new view of my city and my place in it. 

I have acknowledged what has ended and is ending. I am clear about what I say no to and what I say yes to. I have acted on what I need to do to be the Me I am growing into.

I have moved to a new city—without moving to a new city. I am a new me without being a new me. I chose to be here. I chose how to get here. 


Post script – After finishing this post, I started to organize my post-move bookshelf. These words fell open to me: 

Resistance is an inner contraction, a hardening of the shell of the ego. You are closed. Whatever action you take in a state of inner resistance (which we could also call negativity) will create more outer resistance, and the universe will not be on your side; life will not be helpful. When you yield internally, when you surrender, a new dimension of consciousness opens up.

Eckart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

Citizen superpowers


… your mind is your best friend, but it is also your worst enemy. Positive Intelligence measures the relative strength of those two modes in your mind. High Positive Intelligence means your mind acts as your friend far more than as your enemy. Low Positive Intelligence is the reverse. 

These are the words of Shirzad Chamine, in his book Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential and How You Can Achieve Yours. This got me to thinking about how this relates to citizens and cities – how we choose to use our brains matters. We can choose to be happier citizens and have happier cities.


In each of us, according to Chamine, is a master saboteur of happiness – the Judge – and nine accomplices. Powered by the fight-or-flight parts of our brain (brain stem and limbic system), they aim for survival and power. They will do whatever it takes to convince you that your survival depends on them.  See if you recognize any of them (text below summarized from Chamine):

  1. The Judge compels you to constantly find faults with yourself, others, and your conditions and circumstances. It generates much of your anxiety, stress, anger, disappointment, shame and guilt. Its lie: without tough love, you or others would turn into lazy and unambitious being who would not achieve much.
  2. The Stickler takes perfection, order, and organization too far. It makes you and others around you anxious and uptight. It saps your own or others’ energy on extra measures of perfection that are not necessary. Its lie: perfectionism is always good and that you don’t pay a huge price for it.
  3. The Pleaser compels you to try to gain acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, rescuing, or flattering others constantly. It causes you to lose sight of your own needs and become resentful of others. Its lie: you are pleasing others because it is a good thing to do, denying that you are really trying to win affection and acceptance indirectly.
  4. The Hyper-Achiever makes you dependent on constant performance and achievement for self-respect and self-validation. It keep you focused mainly on external success rather than on internal criteria for happiness. Its lie: your self-acceptance should be conditional on performance and external validation.
  5. The Victim wants you to feel emotional and temperamental as a way of gaining attention and affection. Its lie: assuming the victim or martyr persona is the best way to attract caring and attention to yourself.
  6. The Hyper-Rational involves an intense and exlcusive foxon on the rational processing of everything, including relationships. It causes you to be impatient with people’s emotions and regard emotions as unworthy of much time or consideration. Its lie: the rational mind is the most important and helpful form of intelligence that your possess.
  7. The Hyper-Vigilant makes you feel intense and continuous anxiety about all the dangers surrounding you and what could go wrong… It results in a great deal of ongoing stress that wears you and others down. Its lie: the dangers around you are bigger than they actually are and that nonstop vigilance is the best way to tackle them.
  8. The Restless is constantly in search of greater excitement in the next activity or through perpetual busyness. It doesn’t allow you to feel much peace or contentment with your current activity. It gives you a neverending stream of distractions that make you los your focus on the things and relationships that truly matter. Its lie: by being so busy you are living life fully, but it ignores the fact that in pursuit of a full life you miss out on your life as it is happening.
  9. The Controller runs on an anxiety-based need to take charge, control situations, and bend people’s actions to one’s own will. Its lie: you need the Controller to generate the best results from the people around you.
  10. The Avoider focuses on the prositive and the pleasuant in an extreme way. It avoids difficult and unpleasant tasks and conflicts. Its lie: you are being positive, not avoiding your problems.

Notice and identify these Saboteurs, for they keep you from reaching your fullest potential. They keep you – and your brain – focused on short-term threats to your short-term survival. Through you and each and every citizen, they keep our cities from serving citizens well.


In contrast to your Saboteurs, the Sage in you is a “deeper and wiser part of you. It is the part that can rise above the fray and resist getting carried away by the drama and tension of the moment or falling victim to the lies of the saboteurs.” The Sage in you uses whole other areas of your brain for an entirely different purpose. Use of the middle prefrontal cortex, what Chabine calls the Empathic Circuitry (mirror neuron system, the insular cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex), and the right brain gives you the ability to see bigger pictures, empathize, and detect invisible things, such as energy and mood.

You and your brain choose how you are going to show up – in defensive survival mode, or as the Sage.

The Sage in you has five powers, enabling you to move “one positive step at a time, regardless of what life throws at you.” I call these your Citizen Superpowers:

  1. Explore with great curiosity and an open mind
  2. Empathize with yourself and others with compassion and understanding to any situation
  3. Innovate and create new perspectives and outside-the-box solutions
  4. Navigate and choose a path that best aligns with your deeper underlying values and mission
  5. Activate and take decisive action without the distress, interference, or distractions of the Saboteurs

These Citizen Superpowers allow you to accept “what is, rather than denying, rejecting or resenting what is. The Sage perspective accepts every outcome and circumstance as a gift and opportunity.” These Citizen Superpowers also allow you to make your cities better all the time.

The Sage moves you into action not out of feeling bad, but out of empathy, inspiration, the joy of exploration, a longing to create, a desire to contribute, and an urge to find meaning in the midst of even the greatest crises… there is no such thing as a bad circumstance or outcome…

Strengthen the Sage in you and you grow your positive intelligence – and your Citizen Superpowers. You strengthen your city.

How are you growing your Citizen Superpowers?


Choose to renew patterns


Does the new year really begin today, a time ripe with opportunity to set new patterns?

While it’s no where near January 1, a new year starts today when a familiar pattern, or a new or renewed pattern, sets in. In my family and my city, kids go back to school today. How traffic moves changes. How families organize themselves changes. People are back at work from summer holidays. The reality of fall is setting in.

I feel liberated by the structure that comes in the fall, when I feel a surge of energy to hunker down and get to work after a summer pattern where work and relaxation seem to drift into one another. As the structure returns, so does the quiet I long for to write. Here is what’s wanting to be written:

  1. A complete draft manuscript of Nest City by December 15, 2013.
  2. Nest City blog posts every Monday and Thursday.
  3. Nest City News publications the first and third Monday of the month.

To pull off the above, I have to choose how to spend my time and energy within the structure in which I operate. I have to renew my commitment to my work, family, neighbourhood, city and planet. In my work life, I have to renew my commitment to my writing projects, to my clients and the day-to-day needs of running a business. I have to renew my commitments to my self and my Highest Self.

Here’s one of my choices about where I will be spending my energy over the next three months: a book circle exploring Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer’s new book: Leading from the Emerging Future. Eight colleagues and I have committed to read the book, journal our personal journey along the way, and meet after we have read each chapter to explore what we are individually and collectively learning. That will lead to a happy new year, with emerging patterns in life and work.

Happy new year! May the returning patterns refresh you. May your new patterns revive you.

What new patterns are emerging in you?


_____ _____ _____

This post is part of Chapter 9 – Be the Best Citizen You Can Be. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities, the book I am sharing here while I search for a publisher:

_____ _____ _____

Focus, learn and choose


As we approach the winter solstice and the darkness increases, my energy levels are low.  It is hard to get out of bed in the morning and get the day underway. From a life cycle perspective, winter is time to rest, from the activities of the fall harvest and for spring and summer’s growth. I am torn; I feel the pull of rest I feel that there is much for me to be doing – I should be busy.

In this time of darkness I feel adrift, in the increasing gray nowhere described in John O’Donohue’s Blessing, “The Time of Necessary Decision” (yesterday’s post.) As regularly happens, quite naturally, I seem to have lost track of my destination. Without clear purpose, I waver as I decide what to do with my time and energy.

Today’s realization was that I am overthinking things and not listening to my Higher Self. Even as I wrote in my journal about it, I felt like I was overthinking, so I had a conversation with my Higher Self. Here is what transpired:

self: Have I been thinking about how to live from my spirit instead of really doing it? Being it?

SELF: Yes. Yet you’re not far.


self: Release what?

SELF: Release self.

self: That is my learning curve?

SELF: Yes.

self: A lot of self is released already.

SELF: Yes.

self: There’s more.

SELF: Of course.

self: That next bit is hard to figure out. I’m not sure where it is, where to go to release it.

SELF: Don’t look for it, just let it go. To look for where is about control.

Let it go.

self: Is that what I need to rest into? Over the next few weeks and into the darkness? Just sit with what needs to be let go and let it go? I imagine right now some grieving, but its weird not knowing what I am releasing.

SELF: Sit in the darkness.  It will start getting lighter soon. The self to release will find you.

Remember that what you are growing into will transcend and include what you are growing from. You are not jettisoning anything, so no need to fear losing anything but what is not needed anymore. It’s still around, repurposed.

It is difficult and murky territory when in transition. Focus, learn and choose are three words that stood out for you as you explored the oracle card this morning. You are facing a soul-full challenge right now. On what will you focus, learn and choose? 

self: I focus on reaching my fullest/highest evolutionary potential in my lifetime. I am learning to live from my spirit, my Self and all that I am, freely, expansively, deliberately, consciously. I choose to nourish my Being. 

SELF: Ahhhh… Your energy has shifted.

self: This is a higher order of understanding. It’s not just look after self, it’s nourish self.

Today, I latched on to the higher-order purpose of my work.  A moment to focus, to notice what I am learning, and to make a choice realigns to why I do what I do. I am more connected to my very existence. I am ready to settle into my work, both inwards and outwards, for the next two weeks until things start to get lighter. I can choose to get ‘busy’ and distract myself from the inner work at hand, or focus on it, to learn more about the choices I have.

The gray nowhere, as all seasons do, comes and goes. While it continues to get darker, while I continue to feel somewhat adrift, I feel more alive, connected to my personal journey that is necessarily part of the larger journey of humanity.

This bit that’s alive, connected to purpose, will steer me through all shades of gray of nowhere.