Towards relational mapping.

Faced with a blank page and two worthwhile directions to go.

1) The process of detaching. This post has been stirring in me for quite some time particularly as a number of friends are in the process of changing careers and residency. It would follow in the wake of the post called “What are we maintaining?” Which is essentially about exploring all the things we do with our time and thinking consciously about how we might shift our activities so that we do things that are more aligned with the vision we hold of our ideal selves. It made sense I as began to think through detachment, that we first consider an inventory of sorts.

2) Meanwhile, as I was writing that piece on maintaining, I began to think about whether place and space and our relationship to them have a stronger influence on our identities than do our activities.

Today I thought it might we worthwhile to just write in a free flow form and see if anything useful arises. I’m on a bit of a writing retreat with two days remaining before I return home to the thunder of everyday commitments. As we ramp up into the summer and all of its busy-ness I’m nearly exhausted just thinking about the number of changes that are yet to be done to put our businesses back on solid financial footing. I suppose this is one reason that both maintaining and place are forefront in my mind.

I undertook a dramatic shift by relocating our store and in the process I realised that I was maintaining so much more than the store itself in the location it was. I was holding on to old retail ideas in a time where the internet and the sharing economy have transformed retail shopping habits. In the possess of moving, I began to notice that in detaching from the old location I was helped to be open to what is possible in the new location. Partly the process was to get past the hurdle of wanting to hang on to what was, and to be willing to let it be history.

As I detached I began to also understand the incredible influence of place itself. This as led me to consider a question of strength or intensity of relational influence.

Does the relational connection we have with a place or space or the physical generally have a stronger influence on us than our relationships with people? How might we surface or highlight the influence place has on us? Is there a way to compare the strength of influence that relationships have, particularly as it comes to place. Are there some indicators that could help us understand relational influence, and navigate change?

I raise this here because if the conjecture that place could have a greater influence on us than relationships with people (note: I’m aware of ideologies and their influence and will come back to that in later writing) it behoves us to consider why it does, and how we might use this knowledge to better serve ourselves and those around us.

It might help inform where we should live, how we should design our spaces, how the physical could be constructed in ways that create room for healthier living. And in this age where world governance is uncertain, are there things that, on a macro scale, we could build that would serve to transform our communities, not just now but into the future?

On a micro scale, how would this knowledge inform our own living. What might we do with our own living spaces, working spaces, and what lies in between them as we travel from space to space?

Those are all big questions. It’s perhaps the quality of the questions that guides our direction, not how well we answer the questions.

Let’s return to the the idea of indicators that might help us determine the strength that particular relationships have over our identity, whether those relationships be with ideas, people, place, or activities.

What are the questions we could ask about their influence? What are the questions that we could ask to assess the quality of those relationship, ie: do they take you in the direction you would like to go, or away from it? Are there questions we could ask about how easy or difficult it might be to change the influence of a relationship?

For now let’s consider questions in general. In future writing I think we can further categorize our questions into two groups: 1) the influence relationship have on our identity, and 2) how easy or difficult that influence might be to alter.


Consider various relationships in your life and how they influence your identity and ability to move toward your ideal self. I’m posing some questions here but you may well design many of your own.

  1. Can you identity relationships you have with:
    • people
    • spaces, places and things
    • ideas
    • activities?
  2. Can you notice now, or might you consider, how strong or weak the influence of any particular relationship has on your identity?
  3. When a particular relationship is active, are you compelled to participate more or less?
  4. Do you feel forced to participate, or are you a willing participant?
  5. Does the relationship exert influence on you as well as others?
  6. Is the relationship of your own creation, whether that be positive or negative?
  7. Is the relationship one that sustains you in tough times?
  8. Is the relationship one that depresses you?
  9. Is the relationship one that brings you joy, or does it cause you anxiety?
  10. If the relationship were to end tomorrow, would that be a good thing for you?
  11. How much do you want to attach to, or detach from, this relationship?
  12. How much control do you have to attach to, or detach from, this relationship?
  13. Are you able to look at this relationship from multiple perspectives and consider its influence on you?
  14. Does this relationship alter you physically?
  15. Can you see this relationship’s influence on others?
  16. Can you see how this relationship is influencing you or others?

Develop some of your own windows to look into your relationships. Here are a few examples to get you started. These might help you create a map of your relationships and their identical influence.

  • weak influence ——-> strong influence
  • subtle ——–> obvious
  • influences just you ——–> influences everyone
  • easy to change ———-> difficult to change

In my next post I’ll explore some ideas about relational influence, and the ease of difficulty they are to change. Then, I think it will be time to navigate the waters of detachment.

Until next time, I wish you much peace, thoughtful pondering, and strength in being your own best guide. As always people, do comment below, share this post or others with anyone whom you might think it could be of interest.

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What are we maintaining?

I suspect that many of us, at some point in our lives, have fantasised of disappearing without a trace – starting a new life elsewhere. From a relational stance however, we can’t simply just start over because we, ourselves, embody the essence of all that has gone on in our lives.

We might think of this as a relational blanket, its weave and texture a representation of our lives. From Charles M Shultz’s cartoons, Peanuts, it’s like Linus’ security blanket, it goes with us everywhere and is a comfort to us. It’s nearly attached to us and can’t be abandoned easily much as we might like to do so.

Metaphorically, our relational blanket is woven with all of our memories and the experiences of all the things that have been created in our world. If we were to move to a new location, form new relationships, and try to create a different life, we would also have the lessons, memories, and ties to much of which we’re trying to leave behind.  

These non-physical artefacts, comprise everything of which we’ve been part. Even as we change settings they continue to influence our feelings, thoughts, and attitudes. This influence is felt almost as if it were independent of ourselves, and is impossible to ignore.

Nonetheless, we may be able to escape a place and the specific ways it influences us: we do however take our blanket with us when we move. Perhaps beyond the scope of this post, there are real merits to changing the physical, and often these changes can serve as a catalyst for non-physical changes.

Hence, the idea of leaving our relational blanket and just starting over, no matter how much we might like a clean start, simply is not that easy. Our relational blankets help keep us intact, whether or not that’s our wish. Nothing says that we can’t mend the holes, adorn them differently, or… ahem … even give them a good wash from time to time.

Recently, I had some serious sickness which caused me great physical pain and some emotional despair. I guess I’m a wimp when it comes to pain. I experienced such confusion about what I want for the next part of this life — however much time is left. I spent much of my waking hours thinking about mortality.  

A cascade of questions continued to roll back and forth in my mind like a big marbles in a wooden box, clumping against the sides. The questions: “What is it that I am maintaining? What effect does maintaining everything in my life have on my time, time that I might like to use for a variety of other things?” As I thought about possible answers to these questions, the next obvious question became: “why am I maintaining these things? How much of this maintenance work might be taking me away from the activities that would help me create the life and identity I’d like?”

Much of my writing to this point has been about how our identities are formed, how we can recreate them, renew them and find ways to become the people we’d like to be. Relationships need attention, and as such we find ourselves obligated and committed to them and them to us in a cycle of constant maintenance which uses our capacity and time to make changes, or take on new things.

What are the maintenance activities that use up our time?  Do these activities contribute to the identity we want to create? What are we maintaining and why?

If we want to reset or consider making new space for new activities or new undertakings, then it becomes important to consider how our time is being used now. Some would say, how we are spending our time, but this places the control entirely on us. The world does demand things of us and uses our time. There are perhaps two categories to examine: 1) What of our time the outer world uses? and then, 2) what of our time our inner world uses?

When we begin to list our commitments and obligations we see the weave and pattern of our relational blankets.  

Finally, if we think about our time as something finite, one question might be: where is our time leaking away and what can we do to change or maintain our relationships differently so that in the end, the time is delivered to activities of our choosing, as much as is possible.

The bidirectional nature of relationship.

Let’s break this down into a series of pondering questions. At the moment I see two broad categories, since all relationships are bidirectional. We exert influence outward, and the relationships exert influence inward. Even our relationships with ourselves might be thought of as outward and inward — self-talk could be framed as participant and witness, observer and doer, student and guide. In this way we can be mentors to ourselves. Let’s group our questions bidirectionally.

Outer world influences on our time.

What are the relational structures in the world outside our minds that act upon us in ways that compel us, both consciously and unconsciously, to maintain what exists?  

The outside world exerts influence on us and as a result we use our time to maintain relationships with the outside world. Some of these are societal expectations, political obligations, financial structures and laws that govern who we are as a society. They consume our time in their maintenance. We must earn a living, pay our bills, participate in our organisations, have the car serviced, cut our lawns, walk the dog, be an attentive partner …

A lot of this has to do with being a ‘good’ citizen. We have a finite amount of time, and it gets used because we perceive obligations to the world and we receive various things in return for how we use our time.

  • Relationship expectations — doing what those around us expect of us
  • Societal expectations — doing what society expects of a good citizen, participating in ways that allow society for function reasonably.
  • Systemic obligations  — working for a living, paying the bills, contractual commitments such a financial or legal.
  • Societal pressures to conform — social media pressures, fashion.

Make no mistake, we do these activities in relationship because we perceive a benefit. We exchange our time for something, such as pleasure, learning, harmony, and laughter. Therefore, making choices about what we’d like in return will help inform what changes we might like to make with our relationships.


As you go about what you do daily, think about the benefit or negative return you receive on your investment of time and consider if each activity is high or low on your list of worthwhile activities.  

Is what you receive in return worth your time to maintain a particular relationship? If you are serious about making changes you might ask yourself about the value of what you receive. For example: does social media offer enough of a reward that you want to invest a lot of time?  Does having a green lawn offer enough joy that you want to mow it every week?

How can you pare down the list of things that draw on your time? Can you free up time to do things that take you in the direction that you would like to go?  What activities help you shape your identity and being in ways what thrill you? What activities might you eliminate, reduce or give more energy?

Inner world influences on our time.

Like outer world influences which exert themselves on our time, we also create our own internal demands. Our choices come with rewards and negative consequences as well. However unlike outer world influences, we have much more control over our choices. Obligations and commitments are to ourselves primarily and to a great extent we need only answer to ourselves for our choices. Nonetheless, much of what we choose will exert influence on the outside world which in turn will invite a response.

How we use the time that is left after all of the other things ‘required’ by the outer world are done is our choice. In many ways, it’s what is left over that is all we have to work with. There is a lot of time during activities however — that’s a wonderful thing about being human, we can often do more than one thing at a time.  

Even as I write this, there is a repairman here in the condo to fix the bamboo blinds. As he works he hums to himself. It’s lovely to be around. He’s obviously happy. Perhaps his humming is an expression of the joy he finds in the world, or perhaps he fills the gaps in times less exciting. Maybe it helps him concentrate.  

Our attitudes alone can slip into all aspects of activities. It’s important to consider not only what we do, but also how we treat ourselves, and how we talk to ourselves. These are all ways that we use our time which then shapes our identities.

Activities that we engage in shift our identities. We need also to make room for these new or increased activities by letting go of some other things. This is why the question of maintenance becomes so relevant. To live the life you want to live, to do the work you want to do, to enjoy the friends you want to enjoy, what are the competing factors? Here are some of the influences on our choices to use our time:

  1. Personal expectations — doing what we expect of ourselves as we enact our relationship with ourselves and others.
  2. Habits, vices and addictions — activities that compel us to act in a certain way, often contrary to our preferred identity.
  3. Excuses and reasons — choosing to act in ways to avoid or to do things we hold as an ideal.


As you go through your day, notice how what activities you are doing that are not required by the outer world. Notice how you treat yourself. Notice how you talk to yourself.  

Are there things that you do that keep you from doing activities that would help you be the person of your ideals.

Looking around your inner world, are there things that you do or think about often? Are your thoughts and actions in good repair?  Are there things that you keep doing in spite of their low enjoyment or benefit? Do you hold onto ideologies that serve you or hold you back?  


What we do with our time is a question that is covered in many popular leadership and self help books. To pay attention to how our time is used is not new. Where this writing differs is that I propose that when you think about time within a relational framework it’s no longer just about the benefit we achieve from using our time wisely but also the shift it makes in our identity and the world. Each activity has a relational influence for ourselves and others which makes it easier or harder for us to become the people we want to become.  

A consideration of what we are maintaining help us make changes to our relational blanket and how we are in the world.

Until next time, I wish you much peace, thoughtful pondering, and strength in being your own best guide. As always people, do comment below, share this post or others with anyone whom you might think it could be of interest.

If you haven’t already become a subscriber, please join by clicking on the button below. You’ll receive an occasional email when I post.

Wobble wobble balance.

Hello my friends. It’s been a while since I’ve written. I am searching for a way back in to my book project after what has turned out to be a tremendously challenging couple of months. This post is an update of sorts, just to let you know how my universe has unfolded recently.

Firstly I became quite ill for a while with a series of things that feel mostly resolved now, but I will have a check up or two before I signal all clear. The strange thing about UTI, which was central to my health issues, is that it affects one’s thinking as well as everything else. I found myself in a very dark place, sleeping every moment that I could get away from work, and being not particularly future-oriented – just trying to get through the next few minutes and hours. All of this was compounded by stomach problems, and then ended with that prolonged flu and cold that doesn’t seem to go away. I have to laugh out loud at the chain of events.

If you’ve been following the winter and spring as I write, you’ll know that it all occurred as we were moving Sunworks after 22 years into the new location. That’s mostly done now, just several more truck loads to clear out of the old place and some clean up. Lots of things on various buy-and-sell sites. The new tenants are starting to move in and they’re pretty happy about it. It’s going to bring new life to Ross Street.

Meanwhile, we are nearly the end of a provincial election cycle and Albertans are going to the polls in record numbers. I fear that the rise in populism hasn’t hit its peak yet and that Alberta may make that mistake as well. I see what is happening in the UK, US, and Ontario, and wonder why we cannot see. It’s likely that the fall of populism will happen when voters realise that the promises cannot be delivered or sustained over the long term. The future is almost always uncertain. To expect that it can be the same as the past is truly an impossibility. Most people need to experience the issues before they can engage with them: climate change and the economic shift away from oil and gas are two that many Albertans seem unable to accept.

No matter what happens on Tuesday when the polls close the future has lessons to teach us all. At this point those that can see it coming may just have to wait until those that need to experience it catch up. It may be a few more years … but class is in folks, and we’re not particularly fast learners here in Alberta. Instead of being angry or depressed with election results we might be able to frame this as a process of coming together to learn through experience. We will likely have a number of crises to address but hopefully collectively we’ll be able to rise to the challenge, especially if we can learn that no one person has the answers — that’s been the biggest weakness and threat of populism. Certainty corrupts inquiry and possibility.

Since I’ve been so active politically over the years it’s been impossible for me not to be engaged with this election as I try to get well and continue the changes to our business. It feels like yet one more thing to handle. However, I’ve met some truly wonderful people as a result of the campaigns. New friendships are wonderful.

So next week I will begin again to engage with my writing, give you a short update on the store since the move, and dive back into questions of detaching, becoming, and identity.

Day 16, it’s a snowy one.

A lovely neighbour shovelled our walks for us before I arrived.

It’s a snowy day in Red Deer. Looks like we’ll have about 30 cm before it stops. It’s really coming down still.

Meanwhile our builder made progress with the cabinets last night, hopefully everything will be ready for the big move tomorrow.

Things are looking great. I have a little anxiety about where we’ll put everything. Tomorrow is the big day. One more sleep and then everything shuffles for good. I keep looking at the place and pondering if it’s all going to fit. I guess we’ll find out. Gulp.

Day 13, getting ready for the big move.

Thanks to Fletcher’s Printing, the presses are fired up creating 100 numbered badges we can write names on. I put my mom’s name on this example, because after all she is number 1. 17 people have signed up to help on Saturday morning so we have room for more help. Sign up here. More people, fewer steps, more fun. Bring a friend.

If you aren’t sure yet, don’t feel you need to sign up in advance, there will be lots of room for help, and the chilli pot is bottomless. Show up, to help or just for chilli.

Day 10. Successful opening.

It was a great opening last night for Jeri Lynn Ing. We probably had about 30-40 people visit and I’m sure that of those some will be back to have a closer look at the art. We were hanging labels when the first people arrived.

Bradley Abel sang for us last night. It was a wonderful evening all around.

As of today we have seven days before the big move. And the clearance sale starts today at the old store with most things 50 percent off. The kitchen ware is not coming with us to the new store.

Here are a few shots from last night.

Paul Harris and Jeri Lynn Ing standing in front of Mercury.
Bradley Abel singing for the assembled crowd.
Jeri Lynn sitting in front of Susan Woolgar’s and Judy Sutter’s collections. Beautiful work.
Jeri Lynn Ing
Take me away to a better place, 2015
acrylic on canvas
Susan Woolgar
acrylic on canvas 36″ x 36″

Day 9, Jeri Lynn Ing’s opening reception

I’m up early this morning to get organized for the opening reception tonight between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and to shop for restaurant (Tribe). Off to the gym in between.

Susan Woolgar and Judy Sutter delivered most of their pieces yesterday. I’ve got labels and hanging still to do.

The shop is coming along nicely. We had our first sale yesterday, albeit small at least it is a start. I’m hoping that the change in direction will prove successful.

Better lighting has made all the difference. Warm white is better. Still I see I’ll need to make more adjustments and install new directional tracks for the art in the future.
Judy Sutter’s work is up.

Day 8, let there be light.

No major changes to show you yesterday morning, but this morning you can see that we made great progress on the installation of the cabinets. The rest of the card wall in the window is done now, just painting. But that will be next week. Last night as I stood in the shop at 6 p.m. and looked around I noticed how terrible the lighting was for art in the evening. I took down on of the ceiling fixtures to discover that the electrician had put low lumen directional spots in the fixtures. First thing this morning I went hit Lowe’s and have new lighting to install.

Today I will change all of the lighting and hang the remainder of the art that should be delivered this afternoon. My friend Chance will continue on the cabinets and I think by the end of the day we’ll have most of that done. I’ll be very glad to be able to merchandise on these shelves. We’ll be ready for the great move March 9th.

I think this calls for a library ladder. All in due course.

Day 6. Minus 34 defy or hide?

I couldn’t believe that it got colder than yesterday, so it was a choice this morning. Defy the weather or hide for the day. I got down to the shop around 7:30 this morning excited to see the progress on the cabinets last night.

February 26, 2019
Cabinets are being installed and will go right to the ceiling.
The beginning of Susan Woolgar’s show

Day 5, a big week ahead.

Today I’ll move a few more pieces from the old store and set up the main room. Susan Woolgar will be dropping off a big piece this afternoon for the show and I’m really excited to see it. Jeri Lynn Ing’s show is hung now and it looks fantastic. We’ll be hosting a meet the artist event on Friday evening for Jeri Lynn. Please put this in your calendar.

Jeri Lynn Ing
Acrylic on canvas