Author Archives: Jocelyn

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The Call of Competition

For over twenty years, I was a competitor at Peruvian Horse shows. Last year, I began to compete in speaking competitions. I have come to believe most of the audience is hoping that I will do well. I also want my competitors to do well. As the bar is raised, we all improve.

My theory on competition is that it provides a way for me to test (and to better) myself. When I am preparing for a competition, I work at my craft. I put in the extra effort to build the excellence into my performance. When it was in partnership with my horse, I was also building connection and communication between us so that we could perform as a team. Now,in speaking, the goal is in building connection and communication with my audience.

Competition for me is also about facing fear. It gets easier over time to put myself in the cross-hairs and face criticism. I am as guilty as anyone of doing some of my best performances from the bleachers and being critical of those who are out there doing the work. Being out there demands that I walk the talk and lead by example.

When I am on stage at speaking competitions, I sometimes have flashes of loneliness. During competition, I am accustomed to having my horse with me to reassure me. I combat that by speaking about my experiences with horses so that they are there with me in spirit if not in body. I do what I need to do to comfort myself so that I can step into the performance confidently.

Competition is not about winning ribbons or trophies. If I have performed well or have learned an important lesson, I have won. There are times when I am disappointed by the results – when I feel that I should have placed better. That has led me to another understanding about competition. The results are the judges’ opinions at that time, not a permanent commentary on my performance. If the judge does not appreciate me or my horse, that does not mean that my horse is not a quality animal.

Competition provides an opportunity for me to be evaluated using someone else’s criteria – to get someone else’s opinion. I may or may not agree with their opinion. In any case, it gives me information to consider for future performances. It is unlikely that no one would agree with the judge. With that said, I must weigh the judge’s opinion with my own, and ensure that it is in keeping with my values before I make changes.

Ultimately, my opinion of myself and my performance is more important than that of the judge. However, the evaluation gives me an opportunity to hone my skills further than I could if I had only my own opinion to base it for. For me, that is the value of competition.

Wishing you all the courage to step out on your own personal stage.

Photo courtesy of Suzanne Brown.


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Fighting versus healing

What you resist persists.

Carl Yung’s full quote is ,“what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” I have been asked several times recently to help someone in their “fight”, generally against some kind of disease. I find this to be a challenge for me . My journey towards health and healing took a drastic turn when I made the decision that I was more interested in being healed than in killing the cancer I’d been told was in my body.

I was diagnosed with cancer of the right tongue base. I did not want to kill any part of my tongue, but I did want to be declared “NED” – no evidence of disease. I began to study ways that I could find healing for more than just my tongue and lymph nodes. My search led me to various methods, many of which centred around a practice of establishing mindfulness. At the base of  all of this was the concept of acceptance.

As much as I’m able, I am careful not to identify myself as a cancer patient. In fact, I have referred to myself as a “graduate of the school of cancer”. My focus was on learning what I needed to learn the first time around so that the tumours could be released from my experience permanently. My belief was that if I could learn the lessons and heal, this “teaching opportunity” afforded by the disease would not need to be repeated.

I invite you to examine what things you are resisting in your world. Ask yourself what you can do to improve the situation.  If you have lessons to learn, learn them. Then let it go.

For further discussion of this topic, I have found this article to be extremely helpful.

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The Gifts of Feedback

I have recently devised a model that helps me understand the multitude of gifts that feedback can provide for us.  On one axis is a variable of content – from empty or fluffy to specific and useful.  On the other axis is the “packaging” – from tactful and kind to awkward and insensitive.

Specific and actionable Beautiful perfume bottle filled with our signature scent Granny panties and gumboots
“Fluffy” Designer packages under the trees in Christmas displays Packages ponies leave in the pasture

Tactful and kind

Awkward and insensitive

Our family and friends may often love us so much that they cannot be unbiased enough to deliver the comments that may help us present ourselves more clearly and professionally.  They may be fearful of damaging our relationship, and value protecting that so much that they don’t want to risk upsetting us by making comments that we might see as critical.  Frankly, their concerns are likely valid – many of us are far more sensitive to a message delivered from someone very close to us.  Has anyone ever had “driving lessons” from their spouse????

The first type of criticism is both useful and beautiful.  It comes in a pretty box with a beautiful bow on it and is easily identifiable as a gift.  Caring feedback fuelled by a sincere desire to help someone improve feels more like a gift than criticism, and is easy to appreciate.

The second type of feedback is useful, but not wrapped nicely, like granny panties or gumboots.  It is useful, but requires some polishing up before it will be attractive.  Embarrassing comments might truly assist someone present themselves more effectively in the future.  We may squirm at the time we receive it, but the value is obvious, despite its wrapping or lack thereof.  This kind of message could become the first type if it were delivered privately and at the right time.  No matter how it is delivered, its benefit is obvious, but the recipient will have to concentrate on the result rather than the wrapping.

The third type of feedback is like the beautifully wrapped package under the Christmas trees in office buildings in December.  This feedback is not criticism at all, but instead empty compliments, pretty words with little or no information that can be acted upon, lovely to look at, but generally more ornamental than functional.  There is value in things whose beauty brings us joy, but much more value when it is something we can use and appreciate.  A beautiful perfume bottle is much lovelier when it contains our signature scent than when it is empty.

The last type of feedback I’d like to discuss is like the apples that are left when the pony has left the pasture.  They may be a somewhat offensive, but the little birds that pick the grain out of the horse poop will tell you that they are worth examining.  The plants also appreciate that those apples can create fertile soil in the future if they are cultivated correctly.  This type of feedback appears to be neither obviously helpful nor kind.

It can be much more challenging for us to look at that nugget and pick the kernels out of it.   Byron Katie is a personal growth expert and author of the book “Loving What Is”.  She said, “Until you look forward to criticism, your Work’s not done.”   I have learned that the stronger my negative reaction to someone’s criticism, the more likely there is a nugget of truth in it that would probably be helpful for me to look at if only I can get my ego out of the way.

Each of us has the right to choose what feedback we will incorporate into our own messages in the future.  We pick what resonates with us and is congruent with our authentic selves.  Some of it will make lasting changes in our lives and the way we present ourselves to the world.  Some of it will be a smaller tweak that will make our presentations more impactful.  We will find some of it will simply not ring true for us, and is best left to nourish the soil.

20160319ClarkCriticismIn all cases, feedback makes us aware of the perception and opinion of others and we can be grateful that they have spent their time listening to us and sharing their opinions.

This blog was originally prepared for the shared blog I contribute to.  See it and the contributions from all our contributors at Women Move It Forward shared blog.

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What a difference a year makes

November, 2014

I had just completed a course of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.  I was being fed through a nasal gastric tube.  The skin on my neck was blistered and peeling from the radiation treatments and required daily bandage changes.  I could not eat, drink or swallow.  I was nearly bald on the sides and back of my head from the radiation treatments, and had only about half the hair on the top of my head. I was unable to make it down the stairs, outside to the horses and back up the stairs without breaking into a full body sweat and requiring a rest.  I was afraid that my life wouldn’t return to some semblance of one that I wanted to live. I had many moments of despair and self-pity.

And yet, I found moments of gratitude.  Gratitude for the friends and animals that shared my world.  Facebook became a lifeline for me as people reached out to encourage me to move forward. Friends told me stories of those who walked a path similar to mine and were back out living their lives – changed, perhaps, but no less fulfilling than before their treatment experience.

November, 2015

I am still dealing with several side effects.  My salivary function is only about 15% of normal, and this can make eating a challenge.  Soups, sauces and gravies are my friends, and if my meal doesn’t contain them, I will need a lot of chewing and a drink to get it down. I wake up each morning with my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth.  I can’t spit out the thick saliva I wake up to without the help of a tap to wash it away.  I can’t lick an envelope.  I am very likely to eventually lose my teeth and perhaps my jaw due to reduced salivary and circulatory function from the chemo and radiation.  But I am still here.

Some of the other side effects of cancer have been surprisingly beneficial, as I have amended some childhood beliefs that simply don’t serve me.

I used to think that vulnerability was weakness. It was important to me that no one but my very closest friends ever saw me cry. I was taught to be very cautious about letting anyone know that I cared about them enough that they had the power to hurt me. I needed to be seen as “large and in charge”. Powerful, invincible. Although I believed that this made me admirable, in reality it pushed lots of people away as they sensed my protective barriers.

Internally, I knew that I was not immune to being hurt by others. I felt like a fraud, trying to prove myself, to measure up to some expectations put on me by someone I couldn’t really identify.

When I was diagnosed and began treatment, I began the process as a warrior. Then I became so weak that I couldn’t battle any longer. Just getting through the day required all the energy I had, and sometimes more than I had. I looked for a new way to fight, and I discovered that acceptance of the situation I was in would require every bit as much courage as battling it. I accepted that I might not survive – that either the disease or the treatments might be the end of me. And I turned it over to the universe to kill me or cure me, although I remained hopeful I’d survive.

This journey has made me aware that I have a story to tell, and a contribution to make to the world by telling that story. It has made me more human.

In my blogs, I talked about the challenges I was facing. I remained optimistic, but did not deny the sadness, weakness and frustration. People told me I was courageous in my willingness to be authentic. Brene Brown states that we believe that vulnerability makes us appear weak, and yet when we see someone behave in a way that demonstrates vulnerability, we see them as courageous.  To me, it didn’t feel courageous. The only other choice I had was to give up, and I was not ready to do that. It doesn’t take courage to do what you feel you have no choice but to do.

The people who love and support me were impacted by my diagnosis. They may have imagined attending my funeral and going on without me. They were scared, too, and they wanted to do something. I realized that they genuinely felt good when they could help me. When I asked, most came through in spades. A few didn’t, but I accepted that they had their own reasons and battles to fight and seeing me in such a vulnerable state might be more than they could handle.

Just at the time I felt weakest, I realized how many people loved me. I had never felt so supported, and it lightened the darkest of hours. For so much of my life, I would have expected that being this weak and needy would have made people run, and it did, but they ran towards me instead of away from me.

True strength requires the courage to let others know that you care about them. It means opening your heart to them, and giving them the power to hurt you. It also means knowing that when they do hurt you, that you have the strength to heal yourself and forgive them.


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Law of Circulation

For me, the law of circulation means that as I give myself to the world, the world replenishes me so that I have more to give. Generosity is so much more than just financial – the willingness to give of myself and my emotions has been acknowledged and appreciated in such a way that I am truly inspired to give more of myself.

Over the last week or so, I have been fortunate to meet with people who have allowed me to practice the law of circulation. I met with Kirby Sewell of the Kirby Sewell Band, and we had a few long discussions and filmed a FB video blog he calls Mercury Rising. During the process of determining what we were going to discuss, I got some clarity around ideas that were dancing around in my subconscious, but hadn’t yet been clarified for me in the light of day. The first of these blogs was published on May 20, and it received over 1000 views in its first day. What a wonderful confirmation that people are interested in my story, and take inspiration from hearing about it. My vision throughout my presentations is to inspire people to examine beliefs that may be holding them back, and live happy and successful lives on their own terms.

I also spent some time with a friend this weekend.  She helped me to retrieve my dog Monty’s body on Saturday.  On Sunday morning, we spent some quality time with the horses, and she wrote a beautiful blog of her experiences out here. We talked a lot about our experiences, and I know that I came to more personal insights and clarity on more nebulous ideas.

I also had the good fortune to be featured on the Steel Horse Sisterhood Summit’s pages yesterday. It’s been an amazing week.

As I seek to find answers, the Universe sends the people that can help me discover them, and it seems that they, too, are finding answers through exploring ideas with me. My dreams of helping others to find inspiration and clarity through my story are unfolding, and I am extremely grateful.

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