Counselling or confession? (haibun)

I grew up in a small French Québécois village with approximately 5,000 in population. We had two huge Catholic churches at each part of the town, one United Church and one Anglican Church. There were three French Catholic primary schools, one Protestant primary school, one Catholic collegiate for boys, one convent (primary and high school) all French. I was not permitted to go to the only English school because it was Protestant and in those days the priest threatened to excommunicate us from the Catholic Church.  I suppose that was like waiting for the roof of your house to cave in, in those days.

My sister and I went a French Catholic primary school that housed two English classrooms where we fit Grades one to seven included. The first Friday of the month we had the same Catholic priest who came to our school to hear our confessions. That was basically when we would say, Bless me Father for I have sinned, my last confession was last month and I listened to 2 dirty jokes, swore at my sister, slapped Tommy for tripping me and disobeyed my mom once or twice. I remember seeing the shadow of the priest…he often sighed out of boredom and we usually always had about the same penance…Three Hail Mary’s and an Act of Contrition.

When I went to high school, we were bussed to a bigger town nearby. But that meant I had to find a way to get to confession OR ELSE! Well or else nothing, I just couldn’t go to Communion if I had not been absolved of my sins. Keep in mind that was how we thought then and today I am NOT that person and the Catholic Church has certainly evolved with the times but this is not the purpose of this post…I am getting to my point real soon…confession is the point.

My parents were struggling in their marriage for various reasons. Without getting into details, home life was tense, my feelings towards the situation was concerning me because for one thing, it is a sin to not like your parents and my dad was not an easy person to like. We didn’t have school counsellors in our schools then and quite frankly, I was not too pleased that my mother had told my principal and Grade eight Latin teacher about “our” family situation. I get it now but then, I was so ashamed. As a teen we don’t particularly want anyone knowing about our personal life. We had worked so hard keeping our family troubles private. In the 60’s it was frowned upon if marriages failed (well in a Catholic village in Quebec it was) …it was just, well, not allowed!
I started going to confession at the church. I loved going to that church because it was so beautiful. It had been originally built to be a cathedral, the stained glass, the architecture, the marble, the statues…such beautiful art! I even enjoyed doing the Station of the Cross. The huge paintings of each station were lifelike and it was always a deep spiritual experience at the 13th station, a magnificent life like statue of Mary holding her son.

Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross

13th Station of the Cross


Heart filled with sadness
kneeling in prayer for our sins
  a solemn moment.

Sometimes I would go to confession before doing the Stations of the Cross, other times it was after. But I always felt good after leaving the confessional. I also saw the same priest for my confessions because only one  priest understood English; he was le Curé, the parish priest. Every month sometimes every other week, I would go confessing my sin of having mixed feelings about my father… {Okay, maybe I threw in saying a few swear words or listening to a few dirty jokes}. He would never judge me or scold me for not respecting my father or the other transgressions.  He would simply nod; I felt his presence, his empathy and his kindness. He would give me a tiny penance of a few Hail Mary’s but always, he would end with the sign of the cross granting his absolution and saying, Je vais prier pour toi. (I will pray for you).

Somehow, I knew he did not mean he was praying for my sins but for our family situation. Little did I know that he was listening to my sister’s confessions; my mother would visit him for spiritual counselling as well and he encouraged her to leave our father. He had been silently, confidentially hearing my stories, my sister’s tales and my mother’s struggle for years.  My mother trying to do the “proper” thing for a good Catholic mother and wife. Confession for me actually became my very first experience with counselling from 1965 to 1968. Curé Chapedelaine made an impact on my life more than he or I realized.

Who would have thought that today, I would be counselling on an anonymous youth line? I knew what it meant to share something private and confidential.  He listened with respect and from a place of compassion; he very discreetly  gave my mom his blessing to separate from our father. I don’t know many Catholic priests in 1967 who would have given such advice.

Confession to me
a long time ago
meant so much more
than just fighting my foe
Satan was not my spur
in any way
I must concur.
Confession for me
was my first experience
disclosing my personal story
forming a first in my counselling history.

© Cheryl-Lynn, 2014/03/14

By George I finally get it! (haibun)


My eyes read the words,
a lotus opened, my heart
touched the light of love.

 © Cheryl-Lynn Roberts 2014/03/04

Have you ever heard the expression that when you teach you learn so much more and better? I used to say that about some of my workshops on personal and social development. When I would feel my self-esteem and self-worth slowly slipping into dark places, I knew it was high time to give a workshop on Self-esteem or Assertiveness skills.  Every time I would offer information, examples on how to enhance our self-esteem, I was reminded of my own personal struggle with this, from time to time.

It doesn’t take much really. It can be one too many criticisms on your work, a feeling you get when a lover has dumped you or the self-defeating attitude of seeking perfection…you have no choice but to feel you will never measure up…who IS perfect unless you are divine.  Well, I take that last comment back because we are all created in the image and likeness of the Divine and I believe we all have “the light” within us.  So scratch that…I digress as usual.

Where was I again? Oh, yes, rehashing former knowledge to absorb it again or better.  I find that when I am talking to callers at my work, when I am offering some guidance and giving examples, I do a quick scan…introspection … and sometimes that phone call is helping me as well. I end the call and write a few notes or take my break and reflect on what I shared. Sometimes I write a story or a poem if I feel I have tripped on an “aha” moment.

Last night I shared a few reflections by contributing to a prompt at The Seeker’s Dungeon on Secrets. I chose to write on personal experience on another blog and  write on my professional experience on this blog.  I felt there was something missing to my first offering. I like to look at all sides of a picture and then I added a second piece which was the secrets those who offend and hurt others by adding a snapshot of someone confessing his sins. I thought that was repenting, feeling guilt was a way to make it sort of alright…it was sort of a start I thought because “guilt” is such a terrible place to be, right?  Then I also could relate on some level with the priest who has to hear all sorts of confessions yet I rarely have to hear vile offences as he does.   Although I may hear of the guilt some are burdened with, their shoulders weighted heavily and I will try to help them find forgiveness and love for themselves.

But this repentance thing really got to me for I received a comment and invitation to read a post on what the true meaning of repentance is. I was absorbed and finally enlightened…and “lightened” such a burden was lifted from my shoulders as I read the beauty of grace and forgiveness. Of course I knew intellectually and remembered reading in bible class and hearing over the years in sermons that Jesus died on the cross for ALL of our sins but that is not what my church taught me. It taught me to earn forgiveness and yes, we were always judged, gauged by how much we did to fit into that “in” group of the blessed and righteous. So much pressure there was in this environment, I adopted a “I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t” so may as well do my own thing and decided to follow the Golden Rule. That is what I have tried to do most of my life.

But when I read that post on repentance, I felt relieved and comforted because you see, I didn’t understand it then, but I understand it now…

© Cheryl-Lynn, 2014/03/14

Written for: FreeWriteFridays  Here is your FWF prompt: I didn’t understand it then, but I understand it now…

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Inspired by:

Repentance: There is nothing sorrowful about it.

The Seeker’s Dungeon

Secrets of Despair

Secrets of Despair – 2

Photo Credits: The Dance of Youths. This has always been an image I have adopted and tried to include in my work. When I created Alecoute-Ntouch I had originally wanted to use a logo resembling the Dance of Youths. For me, it represented being in harmony, in touch, être à l’écoute avec soi, with self.  The dove represented so much more than the Holy Spirit…it represented my core…my mother’s name is Colombe (that is French for dove) so you see how Picasso’s art truly spoke to me and breathed life into my work and whole being.

Secrets of Despair – 2


Bless me, Father,

my last confession was many years ago

forgive me for I have sinned

I have betrayed my ********

in so many ways I am chagrined

I have abused his/her trust

manipulated and exploited her/him

I transgressed beyond Satan’s expectation

I do not deserve to receive absolution

Forgive me Father

I must pay for my sins

help me be a better father.


© Cheryl-Lynn, 2014/03/14

Secrets of despair

Photo credits: Souzacartonist

She listens with benevolence

the stories never told

of shame and guilt and violence

those tales so raw and bold.

A pause ensues, she hears a sigh

despite attempts to offer hope

they still may cry

the tears offer relief

some tales are just too hard to bear

she hears them in their grief;

the hardest tale of all to share

are secrets found in dark despair

forbidden truths,

unmasking lies

she holds their secrets in her heart

a first step they shall make in part

exploring some of their options,

tomorrow is another day

and she’ll be there to hear their say.

© Cheryl-Lynn, 2014/03/14

Written for: The Seeker’s Dungeon, Season 2, Week 11. Check out other offerings as well as last week’s.

Dear Driver,

I know it’s still winter and we should be expecting snow, storms and even blizzards.  But…and there is always a but, by this time of year, it is difficult to be as wise, preventative and proactive.  We get two or three days of wishful springtime weather and then BAM, it snows but it is that heavy, sticky melting kind…so warmer outerwear is not quite necessary.  That was on Sunday and Monday.  It was welcomed as we know it is what helps the maple trees create that lovely sweet liquid…that sap will run all night with this weather. So we embrace it …sort of.

For some odd reason, this morning I decided to throw in my neck warmer, my pilot warm hat and warm felt mittens into my backpack.  I noticed it was snowing and it did not appear to be that sticky melting type of whiteness.  Of course I weighted it down with a good umbrella incase the snow turned to heavy wet snow or even rain…you just never know.

Tonight I went out for a later dinner…I had to get some fresh air. It is healthy to walk when you have a sedentary job but it is also mentally therapeutic and healing.  So warm hat, mittens and neck warmer I wear  and out I go.  Cars are driving slowly, expecting pedestrians to run on amber lights and could slip and fall, so they wait almost patiently, it seems.

Several hours later, leaving at the end of my shift, I could not see a foot path on the sidewalk…the snow drifts were so high, I had no choice but walk on the street…my back to oncoming traffic since it is a one way. Cars passed slowly, not ONE honked or skidded to avoid me…they kept to their left and rode by slowly…Nice!

But the attitude off the island…away from the big city and on the south shore, in the suburbs something happened to some driver’s’ brains!  Driving their SUV’s or other wheels…sheesh!!…patience car person!!  While you impatiently want to cross that cross walk where travelers have just stepped off the bus, you are in a warm vehicle…the walkers are facing cold weather, strong winds…having a difficult time to keep their head up as the pinching, freezing snow is burning their cheeks, blinding their eyes…so patience while we just get out of your way…okay?

© Chery-Lynn, 2014/03/12

Winter Storm hits Montreal and much of Quebec, guess I won’t be visiting the Eastern Townships for a few days.

Photo credits: CBC

Another Little Ditty

Butterfly Sand

Mar 12 2014 014





















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On my way to work (haibun)

March 11th 2014 sunny walk to work, CLR

March 11th 2014 sunny walk to work, CLR

On my way to work today sitting on the bus I decided to put in my ear buds.  I do that sometimes to block out the noise, chit chat and drift off to my singer, my choice today Damien Rice – 9 Crimes. Today I did not turn on the music right away.  I observed the people on the bus.  The girls on either side of me were reading messages on their phones and listening to music. Perhaps they were pretending as I was…who knows?  Then the girl across from me was reading her phone.  The man next to her was scrolling on the face of his phone…perhaps reading an article, the news or a book.

An older woman (older than me, so that would be close to 70ish); The girl across from me stared at her and looked around…I supposed (I’m guessing) she was hoping someone would give her a seat…but she never offered or even shifted in her seat to show any signs she would. I was about to give her my seat but I noticed she was walking with a purpose and I looked at the far end of the bus and there were a few free seats way at the back, so I waited.

The woman continued on her quest towards the back of the bus, walking slowly, cautiously…no one lifted from their seats…she went up the 2 steps to get to the far back. I could tell she had seen a few free seats. And she sat down at the last row. Many do not go that far because of the steps.  She did.

When we get on at the front of the bus there are about 6 seats assigned for older passengers, persons with disabilities, pregnant women and parents with a baby carriage.  Rarely have I seen people giving up that seat to people who should have it. In fact even the parent with a carriage, the bus driver will have to bark out orders for passengers to give their spot that has been designated to this person.  As for the other designated passengers, even the bus driver does not intervene.  I wonder about that sometimes. If I am seated on any of those seats, I always give my spot or offer it but it disappoints me to see that many younger people do not.

Well, the purpose of this post was really to say that I was window shopping…I mean stranger gazing.  In the entire bus and it is a long double bus …you know with an accordion attaching the equivalence of a half a bus.  At the centre is a circle where passengers can stand and turn…wiiiiii with the bus when it does make turns. I only saw one couple at the centre, standing and chatting.  They looked in their early to mid-twenties.  Guy was trying to impress gal with his knowledge of bus schedules as it appeared to be gal’s first time taking this bus to get downtown.  It was interesting observing the body language.  If I were working on a research project in anthropology, I would say they were flirting.  Ah, March love affairs and the approach of Springtime…I sighed a bit thinking about this.  There is something so powerful about this time of year that seems to stir the heart.

Everyone else on the bus was either reading a book, reading or staring at their phones or had their eyes closed.  What did we do when we did not have screens to stare at? And even if we had music to listen to, did we not see, observe, and notice humanity?  Did we not witness human kindness?  I do think we still do but it may be a bit more difficult to see.  Thank goodness there is a kindness blog  I like to follow that allows me to see how wonderful we still are, and I weep happy tears at the kindness of people.

I have to say that my bus trip in the city yesterday was so much different.  I was seated next to young man with long hair; he was placing his guitar next to him and his backpack under his seat. I had suggested he use the front shelf behind the bus driver for his bag so it wouldn’t get all wet.  And we then chatted all the way to the city. He had an amazing life, coming from a small town in Northern Ontario, travelled to Vancouver a lot and would be spending the summer there with his girlfriend.  We talked about Hastings Street and I mentioned I had driven by there once and had not particularly been shocked and he said he lived on the streets by choice for several years.  I was so pleased talking with him. It was like talking to a caller I may have spoken to on our phone lines, who knows but I felt a nice connection and it really boosted my day. A great way to start my shift.

Unlike today but my walk in the glorious March sunshine, I walked slower to allow the air to wrap me with its loving Spring essence and even took a few shots for prosperity.

© Cheryl-Lynn, 2014/03/11

March 11th 2014 Hmmm maybe he could add easter eggs to this decor

March 11th 2014
Hmmm maybe he could add easter eggs to this decor


Long drawn out  winters.

forgotten decorations

Will Spring ever come?

Inspired by Strangers People Watching



Plunging toes
in salty liquid
steam doth rose
from scalding heat,
soaking like a marinade
softens like a serenade
bathed in salted water
feeling such a deepened shift
startled, winded
from this swift
ache amended
gasps for air,
heart is seized
moments concede
tears that seep
and wet her cheek
cleanse her face
bathing eyes,
panes of the soul
halts the throb
her aching dole.

© Cheryl-Lynn

Photo credits: 10 Healing and Detox Baths for Chronic Pain

Sludge the grudge

Photo credits: Edu Designgs



Bitterness and loathing

clung to her every fibre

he broke her heart

she played the part

of victim, and a martyr.

the sighing and the heaving

was part of her own grieving,

her daughters saw her sing

the same song every single year

melancholy, they did hear.

the sadness and the guilt

clung to them like a lilt

they felt her pain

yet all in vain

not theirs for them to feign.

Eventually her heart

was about to come apart

and surgeries and medicine

could never heal her heart

and years went by still grudging

depression stayed with her

until she lost her mind.

So many years of loathing

this grudge one of a kind;

you never win

with such a sin


and such bitterness

will suck your life away.

so if you find benevolence

forgiveness and compassion

do please allow this kindness

to heal and give relief

for rancor and such bitterness

will only cause you grief.

© Cheryl-Lynn, 2014/03/11 Written for: Mindlovemisery, Prompt 46, Bitter Loathing