My Michelle-W.I.S.E. Project 2017


Womanhood.

 It means different things to different people and I would not presume to tell you what it should mean to you anymore than I would expect you to define it for me. 

This morning my youngest daughter (she is 12) was getting ready for school. I was getting ready to work a volunteer casino and was hurriedly answering a text from a friend who wanted fast advice. I had asked my daughter if my shirt looked Ok and then realized that I should change to a red shirt “in solidarity” of those participating in a day without women. I said to her “It is International Women’s Day. What does that mean to you?”

She replied, “I am not a woman, I am just a girl.”

“You are never “just” a girl. I replied,    “You are a girl that will become a woman, a great one and I want you to become one a lot sooner than I did. Learn from my  actions but also learn from my mistakes.” 

She and I sat and talked for five minutes about what it meant to be a young woman and the responsibilities that come with being a good friend and how important it is to lift people up and not knock them down and how if she becomes someone that she would want to be friends with she will ultimately attract the right people into her life. 

I felt proud of the conversation that we shared and hopeful that through sharing my wisdom and experiences I will influence her in a positive way.

I wasn’t always a person I would want to be friends with. I am not even certain I felt a great deal of pride in being a woman. I can blame any number of things for this but I know I had good female role models in my family.

 Though I know that at the core I was always a good person my actions did not always portray that. I wasn’t confident enough to have a sence of who I really was and this was apparent not just in the friendships I formed but in my behaviors.

If I had a friend that I admired I would like what she liked and dress like her. If I had a boyfriend I mistakenly believed that I should be everything that he wanted me to be. For much of my young life I fumbled around not really knowing who Michelle was and I am not going to lie, it led to some questionable decision making. 

I forged false connections with peope based on all if the wrong things. Gossip, sharing other peoples secrets, delighting in the misfortune of others. I know it sounds super shitty but it happened and though I am not proud of it I can say with certainty that I know the person I am today and I like her. I am friends with her. 

My Michelle, your Michelle….”me” is someone who loves being a woman. I am so excited for strong women leaders and teachers and strorytellers. When old friends have good news on Facebook I am genuinely happy for them, even the ones I know that are not happy for me. I forgive you, I was you. 

I know that people will look at me with judgement, in fact I know this to be true. Judge away because your judgement day will come and only then will you realize that the judgement that matters the most comes from you. If you can face your own scutiny and be proud of who you are I commend you. 

Social media can be such a wonderfully connecting platform but when used the wrong way it it is a shame jungle. Haters are scholling through picking you apart, disecting your life, sharing their assumptions of you. 

Does any of it matter?

Yes and no. 

For me I have reached a point in womanhood where I am comfortable with who I am. If you judge me that is on you. I blog so I put a lot of my life out there, a certain amount of judgement is expected. I have been real about my struggles as a mom, a woman and a wife. I don’t try to sugar coat things. I am gracious for my life but it is not always easy and definitely not perfect. 

 If you cannot be happy for or show empathy for another person there is a problem with you. It may hurt to find that someone has musjudged or assumed things about you but in the grand scheme of things it does not change who you are. 

The reason it should matter is because as women we are all in this together. We should support, encourage and applaud each other. That is what womanhood means to mean. If you find yourself in a place where you are not showing love, kindness and respect to the women in your life than you haven’t arrived. It is indeed an arrival, we are not born women, we become women. 

Today on International Women’s Day I am proud not just to be a woman but proud of the woman that I am. 

Celebrating being a woman, thanking women past and present who have fought and continue to fight for the rights, freedoms and equality for women does not make one ‘anti-man’. Quite the contrary. A woman who loves herself and all women enough to want the very best for women everywhere has plenty of love and compassion to go around. 

I AM every woman. You are every woman. If we empower other women, together we can accompish amazing things. 

Voices Carry-W.I.S.E. Project 2017

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“Over the moon” by Rob Gonsalves http://www.huckleberryfinart.ca

Whatever funk I was in yesterday has seemed to have subsided. An angry mood erupted in the wee hours of Monday and hung over me like a storm cloud all day long. Today I am back to a better version of myself; a hurricane of joy, kicking Tuesday’s ass like a champ!

I am involved in this project called #100virtues4100days. The virtue that chose me was self discipline. I recall having a slight moment of disappointment. I am not certain what, if any virtue I was hoping for but self discipline chose me and I committed to sitting with this virtue for 100 days.

It is officially day number two and I have to say that it is surprising the way that this virtue is speaking to me.

I shared a quote the other day by Aristotle that says ‘What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.”

I know I am going to rely very heavily on this quote throughout my journey with self discipline. Last year during year one of my W.I.S.E. project I was studying relationships in an effort to improve my most important connections  and one thing that kept emerging for me is that “every action, does not require a reaction” Trust me when I say this little mantra has served me well, especially in my marriage. It does require a great deal of self discipline to be able to take that pause and not overreact to situations. There also has to be a choice as to when action is necessary. There are times where it is OK to be silent and there are others that we absolutely should speak up.

In today’s society putting the virtue of self discipline to task, connecting with it and calling upon it when needed is significant. I am learning valuable lessons and I am seeing now more than ever how my actions or in-action can and will directly influence my children and their choices now and in the future.

The anger I felt yesterday was justified, anger often is. If nobody ever got angry would we ever create positive change? If nobody ever stood up against injustice and pushed and persisted where would we be?  Acknowledging our anger can be productive, we just have to learn to use our anger properly and decide when and if action needs to be taken.

Do not sit with anger, do not put your anger unto others, and do not let anger consume you. Let anger call on you to act appropriately in every situation and move forward.

This morning I contacted my daughter’s school in regards to an incident yesterday where a teacher told her at the Talent Show auditions that they had to have their outfits approved to make sure that they were not “slutty” My daughter is 12 and I take particular offense to the use of the word slutty in reference to any child, especially when it is used to shame. Apparently the school had a problem last year with some inappropriate outfits and I one hundred percent support the school in encouraging all students (not just the girls) to dress suitably. I do not support the reference to “slutty” which in the dictionary reads a woman prostitute; an untidy dirty woman. While the teachers are so concerned with appropriate dress they should also re-think appropriate language.

Mostly I allow my daughter’s to deal with their own issues. I am not a helicopter parent and though I know that I have a huge influence over them, my biggest influence will always be in my actions. They will learn from those. Self discipline is a great teacher in knowing when to take the pause and how to react after taking a pause.

Knowing when to stay, knowing when to walk away, and knowing when to have your say…so much to ponder.

I was out with my husband this weekend and I said to him, while jiggling excitably,

“God wouldn’t have given you maracas if he didn’t want you to shake ’em!”

That is a quote from Dirty Dancing, circa 1987 by Penny. My husband had no idea what I was talking about but rest assured I have a movie quote that fits into every conversation, but in this case, we were each given a brain, hands and a voice. I think we have a responsibility to use them for good.

Besides the self discipline virtue that I am sitting with for the next 98 days I have a couple of W.I.S.E. principles that will help guide my choices this month and feel free to follow along or adopt your own.

Wealth– Wealth is usually measured as having an abundance of valuable possessions but I think to achieve wealth your abundance comes from being grateful and being true to yourself. When you are grateful for what you have you will want for less and therefore you are inviting abundance in. A life abundant in joy and graciousness is a wealthy life.

Idealism-The belief that things can be better and that real change is possible when people care a whole lot!

Sanguine– Approaching situations cheerfully and optimistically. Instead of thinking “what could go wrong?” focus on what could go right.

Endeavor– The realization of achievements through hard work.

Be W.I.S.E. friends.

 

Manic Monday

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It was 1986 when the Bangles Susanna Hoff’s crooned in her soulful voice about having to catch an early train, in her dream she had been kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream when her alarm went off. With her soft brown eyes and her impassioned voice she made us believe that it was just another Manic Monday and how she wished it were Sunday, because that was her fun day. Oh Susanna I feel you. I have never been great at Monday’s, Tuesday is my bitch, but all the same I try to make the best of them but today ‘Monday’ and I were way out of sync.

I had been away on the weekend and when I returned my daughter told me about something that had been bothering her. She had deliberately not mentioned it to me because she didn’t want to upset me. Initially I just laughed it off. It was rather ridiculous and I was not going to waste my time on it. That seemed to make my daughter feel better, almost as if I gave her permission to not be upset about it. I went to bed and slept like a baby. I woke having to pee and held off as long as possible when I decided to get up to relieve myself, let the dogs out and get ready for Monday, everybody’s favorite day.

After I let the dogs out I turned around to check out the microwave clock to discover that it was 4:30 am. That seemed like good news because I could crawl back into the cocoon I had made with fuzzy blankets and pillows (because I am a 43 year old child). I laid in my warm and safe cocoon wide awake as the seconds turned into minutes and the minutes disappeared into the hours. If I had to guess I would say I passed out at the very moment my alarm went off. My alarm plays James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful so it is hard to be mad but all the same I woke up fit to be tied. I was angry and angry at myself for being angry. I decided that I was angry about the conversation my daughter and I had had the night before, even though I had chosen to laugh it off because it was so stupid. So now, here I was starting off a perfectly good day annoyed about something stupid.

I got ready for work and that went smoothly. I put my make-up on using all the right steps in the right order. Laugh if you will but it is harder now with all the steps the youngins are doing with the contouring and the highlighting and the moisturizing with the tears of kittens. It is a process and because I have attempted to stuff so much information into my brain in 43 years some of it leaks out frequently and I have been known to occasionally do all of the steps but in the wrong order. Most Monday’s I am just a mess of mascara and kitten tears but not today!! Today the make-up turned out well, I even took a selfie to make sure. I even smiled in my selfie. I take my morning selfies in my bathroom, against a white wall, in perfect bathroom lighting so I have no idea how I look in the real world to real people but in my little bathroom world I looked good to go. I often don’t smile in my bathroom selfies because then all of the lines around my eyes appear. If I do the sophisticated stare then I can usually get away with just a few faint lines but I am getting less self conscious about those lines day by day. I earned every single one of those damn lines. They are warrior goddess lines!! I am not quite at peace with the shock white eyebrow hairs that appear daily to mock me though. I met my husband in Calgary on the weekend and over a nice breakfast he leaned in romantically and told me to stay still. I held my warrior goddess pose and puckered up my lips expecting a kiss when he gently plucked a white hair out of my eyebrow. I thanked him of course, it made me feel so sexy!!

I was driving my youngest to school this morning and I was immediately annoyed that someone turned my radio station. My weekday staple is Now Radio with Crash and Mars (and the Ginge). She wished me a good day and I spent the rest of my commute trying not to be annoyed and half singing along with that Justin Beiber song he does with D.J. Snake. I can pretend not to like the Biebs just like the rest of you but I see you mouthing the words in your little Toyota Camry’s.

Work started like any other Monday and I can’t even point out anything bad that happened but it seemed to fade away in a mass of huge un-productively. I cannot pinpoint anything I did of great value to earn my salary today and yet it was 1:30 p.m. before I found the time in my unremarkable day to make a cup of coffee.

My youngest daughter texted me in the afternoon from school because she was in the second cut for the talent show and the teachers wanted to know what she would be wearing. She wants to wear jeans and that is what she wore today, on their request, that she wear what she intended on wearing for the talent show. She said they wanted her to wear a dress. I replied “O.K. so wear a dress” She replied that they wanted to see it, they wanted to make sure it wasn’t slutty. That sent me right off the rails. My 12 year old daughter who dresses in jeans and tees or athletic wear is being asked to have her clothing approved so it is not slutty. Upon further Mom investigation it turns out they had some problems last year with inappropriate dress. They referred to it as slutty but since these are kids I would prefer to use a term that when you google it does not bring up prostitute or dirty whore. I totally get the need and want for appropriate dress but is it really commonplace for teachers to use the word slutty? I thought we had evolved past shaming kids. I called the school but got their voicemail. That is probably for the best.

I picked up some groceries after work and then came home to a quiet house. Normally I would LOVE this but it annoyed me today. I guess I figured everyone should meet me at the doors with cheers and ‘hooray you are home’ banter. Annoyed seemed to be the theme of the day. I puttered around for awhile on my own and then decided to make myself a veggie omelette. I took it to my room with some happy water and a glass of wine. Maybe I need carbs or chocolate. Who knows.

My Collie Cross is looking at me with his endless pool of hickory colored eyes, warm like a blanket and full of love. I imagine him saying ‘I want to take your pain away mommy’.

We need more dogs and less people in the world. I am pretty sure that is the answer to whatever the question is. Dogs, wine, log cabins and chocolate. That is life.

I feel a little better now, even though I have just let the world know how crazy I can be. I am sure we have all had a Manic Monday. Don’t worry Tuesday is coming and Tuesday is my bitch. I got this!

Have a fantastic Tuesday!!

Enemy at the gates-W.I.S.E. Project 2017

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It feels like I have been absent here for awhile and honestly I have.  With the political climate the way that it currently is; coupled with the unfortunate divide it is causing, it has consumed a great deal of my head space, enough that I felt that it best to not write anything that would come across the wrong way. I never wanted this to be a political space, but I have always intended it for a place for me to be honest and open and share my experiences.

The reason I blog, especially with The W.I.S.E. project is that it keeps me accountable to living mindfully, being gracious and taking opportunities to create joy in my life. Whether one person or 50 read a post I am still accountable to myself to practice what I preach.

I did say at the first of the month that the W.I.S.E. principles that I wanted to incorporate were wisdom, integrity, sincerity and empathy. There could not be a better time in our lives to embrace these qualities. In the past several years I have been impacted by the importance of sharing our stories and embracing our wholeness. Not only is there is an acceptance in sharing our stories, there is freedom and community. When we accept who we are, our entire story, not just the good parts but the dark parts as well, we are acknowledging that our stories have shaped us and helped us to grow. We find that all of the sudden that our dark secrets can no longer be used as weapons against us but maybe as a door that invites people to find comfort and connection in our stories and to share their stories as well. There is wisdom in stories and though we may differ immensely there are similarities that unite our hearts and our minds. Though we perceive things differently, there is intelligence and knowledge in stories that cannot be bought. When people share their narratives, wrought with integrity and sincerity both the storyteller and the listener have an opportunity to grow. When we receive stories with an open heart and an open mind, we allow them to touch our souls; we are then able to respond with empathy instead of judgement.

We are who we are, but we are constantly changing and growing. Maturity, experience, incidents and circumstances change. According to quantum biology we experience a 98% cellular rejuvenation each year so we are literally constantly changing. If we open our minds and our hearts to stories, to possibilities and to ideas ‘who we are’ will change. That is growth.

How many times have we said such phrases that start with:

’I would never’ or ‘if that happened to me’, or ‘can you imagine?’

The issue with those statements is that there are some situations that we cannot truthfully predict or imagine until we find ourselves right in the middle of them.  This type of rhetoric lacks four very important things; wisdom, integrity, sincerity and empathy.

I have quoted this saying by the Dalai Lama many times but it could not be more relevant,

 “Love and compassion are necessities,not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”

The world is a scary place. The world is a beautiful place. The world is a place of constant change.

Those three phrases have one common denominator; they are all based on perception. I can tell you what to look at but I cannot tell you what to see.

Now more than ever in my lifetime, we are led to believe that there is an enemy at the gates. In that line up as well is fear, bias, judgement and indifference. The best way to face fear and indifference is with love, patience, empathy, sincerity, integrity and wisdom.

An “Us vs. Them” mindset is dangerous. Fear and division does not create positive change.

We are one. Only egos, beliefs and fear separate us.

I just feel that if we focus on promoting love instead of hate and focus on our similarities instead of our differences the world around us would be a better place. We do not have to agree on everything that would be ridiculous and boring. We should however extend more kindness, understanding and respect.

Is empathy the basis for building bridges to connect people, to understanding the motivations and fears of others and gaining a varied perspective? Can practicing empathy allow us to see the world in greater definition not just from our own perspectives but through the perception of others?

I think so.

“The story is a machine for empathy. In contrast to logic or reason, a story is about emotion that gets staged over a sequence of dramatic moments, so you empathize with the characters without really thinking about it too much. It is a really powerful tool for imagining yourself in other people’s situations”.

~ Ira Glass

I am (W.I.S.E. Project 2017)

You can accomplish anything and everything, as Nature does, effortlessly, just by Being – the world will offer itself to you, for it has no choice. –Deepak Chopra

 

Last week I had the extreme honor of meeting Deepak Chopka. I know that some of you do not know who that is; my own mother didn’t have a clue. As a thought leader Deepak and his books emerged for me as the “answers” to all of the questions I sought when I decided to live mindfully. I am very well aware that some of you make a conscious effort to dislike shiny, happy people but Deepkak might appeal even to the likes of you. He is quiet and humble, he is equally unmoved by criticism and flattery and he is an extremely intelligent and thought provoking leader in science and medicine. Even if you want to hate us Pollyanna types that try to get you to look at the world in a new way, Deepak can back up with science all of the reasons why you should be looking at the world and your own life in a different way.

 

About Deepak-

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Clinical Professor at UCSD Medical School, Researcher, Neurology and Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. www.deepakchopra.com

I found out on a Tuesday that Deepak was doing a talk in Edmonton about the future of well being. Five minutes prior I had finished his book Quantum Healing on my Audible App. Since Facebook, Google and our brains are all somehow wirelessly connected it is no wonder that the sponsored post for the Children’s Autism Services of Edmonton Fundraiser featuring Deepak turned up in my suggested posts immediately. It was the next afternoon that I definitively decided to go. I shared the post on my Facebook wall fishing to see if anyone I knew was interested in going but nobody immediately took the bait. I decided that I was one hundred percent not going to miss the opportunity. I chose to do the VIP meet and greet so I could meet this man with the brilliant mind and get a nice picture for my Instagram of course.

I had a couple of friends encourage me to go solo, reminding me that I was likely to get a lot out of the experience by meeting like minded people. That is exactly what happened. A lot of people were there on their own accord as it is the type of event that if you do not follow his work, you are not likely to spend the money just to have a night out but if you do, you are not likely to miss out because you do not have someone to hold your hand.

It was a very informative evening and the energy in the room was amazing. People who follow the work of Deepak Chopra are enlightened, open minded and mindful people so I was in very good company (in case you were worried)

One of my friends suggested that perhaps Tupac was now living as Deepak Chopra which gave me a bit of a giggle, being a huge fan of the late Rapper, producer, actor and poet. Even my Mom knows who Tupac is!!! I yelled Tupac loudly and he flinched so it is a possibility.

Deepak’s talk on the future of well being was incredible but for me the most thought provoking park of the evening was doing a Deepak guided meditation with 900 other people. I am guessing that the majority of those people have loving and energetic hearts, alert and reflective minds and they understand and practice empathy and compassion. I can tell you that it is a much different experience than being in a social media thread with thoughtless and closed minded individuals. Having the opportunity to mediate, guided by one of the World’s top thought leaders, side by side with forward thinking, intelligent and genuine people was a moving experience to say the least.

At the beginning of the mediation Deepak had us chant in our heads “I am” and our full name.

“I am Michelle DeBay, I am Michelle DeBay, I am Michelle DeBay.

He did not instruct us to breath in a particular way, just to be aware of our breath. He told us to think of our heart and be aware of it.

After several minutes had passed he instructed us to drop our last names and chant silently.

“I am Michelle, I am Michelle, I am Michelle, I am Michelle…”

He reminded us to quietly be aware of our breath and our thoughts.

After several more minutes he had us drop our name altogether.

“I am, I am, I am, I am, I am, I am, I am, I am….”

It felt very powerful and he told us to be aware of our thoughts and to just let them come.

“I am a love warrior, I am powerful, I am kind, I am a leader, I am wise, I am compassionate….”

Those are some of the thoughts that rushed to my mind in the calm yet enthusiastic room.

After several minutes he told us to think of our childhood memories and to just let the thoughts come naturally.

The room was hushed. My heart was smiling. Some really fun memories came to mind.

After the meditation I felt physically, mentally and spiritually unburdened. The incredible lightness of being.

Deepak; who is direct, in a calm and non egotistical or sentimental way, mentioned Donald Trump a couple of times during the evening. His references were rather open-ended, draw your own conclusion remarks but their belief systems are not aligned and he makes no secret of that fact.

He told us that during the mediation when we chanted our full name that we were tied to our gender, our origins and in some cases our ethnicity and religion. When we dropped off our last name we freed ourselves of some of those ties. When we dropped off our name altogether we freed ourselves to any sort of ties that weighed us down. We became a whole person.

A person of the universe.

“I am the universe.” I said to myself, clutching my signed pre-release copy of Deepak’s new book about discovering your cosmic self.

He reiterated what most of us are already aware of, so much of our identity is tied up in stuff that we never had any control of. We spend a lifetime defending things that were decided before our birth; our gender, our race, our ethnicity, and in a lot of cases our religion. There are many scientific reasons to explain how at the core we are all the same. These things unite us. Unfortunately we are living in a time where hate and fear creates division. If we were able to see beyond the things that make us different and focus on our similarities and our relationship to the universe we might be able to embrace others in a kinder, gentler way.

Sadly we find ourselves in a time where fear breeds hatred and instead of our differences being celebrated, they are condemned. I am pleased to say that I am at a time in my life that I feel awake to the realities of the world and how I fit into it all. I find now more than ever people want to share their fear with me, their hatred, their bigotry, as if they are offering to save me from myself. A peaceful world is only possible if we interact with each other as peaceful, loving beings, one individual at a time. If we can teach just one person the importance of peace and love through our own harmonious and impassioned actions than we have made a difference. If we can be taught to hate, we can be shown how to love.

Generations of creative and enduring people have torn down walls and fought for the freedoms we often take for granted. Now is not the time for silence.

Once the fabric of a just society is undone, it takes generations to weave it back together. ~Deepak Chopra

I wrote this because the internet pissed me off -true story!!

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I never considered myself the Political type but in Elementary school a couple of friends and I started the school newspaper. That was the beginning of my freelance ‘not for profit’ writing career. I had a passion for getting the right messages out to the people in my grade school. I later went on to be a part of an elite group of young, like minded lunch club geeks that met in the storage room behind my grade six teachers class. We were a forward-thinking group of pre-teens sharing ideas while huddled (hiding) on the floor of a storage room among old books and broken staplers. Fast forward to Junior High and a whole new world. My friends and I organized a walk out to protest the ‘no shorts’ rule in school. When the bell rang for second period a large group of us marched out of the school with a passion and a purpose. The thrill of that early political rising was rather hard to top and I am quite sure my political musings came to a screeching halt.

I will admit that during my party years I knew very little about politics and cared even less. I was casually dating a  smart Italian man that was very immersed in politics and it was something he took great pride in. I on the other hand was very interested in other things such as myself, partying, my friends and partying with my friends. To be fair I was also interested in him, he was a brilliant young entrepreneur, tremendously charming, he had a repertoire of thousands of jokes and he was truly fun to be around when I was not hanging out and/or partying with my friends. One night he called me around ten p.m. and asked me if I wanted to go for a drink. He said he had already eaten with some chic named Shari but he would happily buy me dinner if I was hungry. Due to our schedules it was not unusual for us to meet up later in the evening, I know you are all thinking it but too polite to say… ‘booty call!’ Let us not forget a couple very important things, it was not the middle of the night and neither of us was drunk, he was a gentleman and bought dinner always and we were two self-respecting adults who were not shackled to each other we just liked and respected each other and made time for each other when we had time; if that all makes sense. However, I was quite annoyed by being asked to go for drinks after he had dinner with some Shari girl. It just didn’t sit with me at all so I declined and closed the conversation very quickly. The next day at work one of our regular customers who just happened to be a friend of my captivating Italian, he had introduced us in fact, asked if I had seen him in the paper? There he was at dinner with none other than Jean Charest.

Jean James Charest, PC was the 29th Premier of Quebec, from 2003 to 2012. He was the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada from June 25, 1993, until November 4, 1993. Charest was the leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada from 1993 to 1998, and was the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party from 1998 to 2012. My cute Italian was working on a political campaign with him. He was quite excited about it and I recalled him talking about it avidly on numerous occasions while I recited French nursey rhymes in my head to pass the time. I never admitted to him my confusion over the whole thing because he was still holding onto the illusion that I was his intellectual equal and far be it for me to burst his bubble. He probably just assumed that I was in bed with pimple cream on my face and unshaven legs and we would get together another time. That is definitely a time in my life that I was very far removed from politics.

To this day I admit that politics is not a subject I am passionate or educated about but when I had children I subscribed to the notion, along with many other Canadians that it is my responsibility to exercise my right to vote, and to do that in an intelligent way you have to know at least a little about politics. Politicians are savvy though so it is very easy to be taken in by grandiose ideas and platforms that over promise and under deliver, that however is for another post. Let me just say that I believe that if we want a government that is for the people and by the people we have to be the people, we have to vote because every vote counts and we have to do our part to be involved in our communities as change starts in our backyards.

I wrote my first letter to a politician when I was almost 30, it was to Stephen Harper. There were two attempted abductions in Edmonton within two days, one little girl got free the other was drugged, assaulted and left at a truck stop hours away. The man that was arrested was a sex offender that had been released into the community with a warning that he was at a high risk to reoffend. The parents at the townhouse complex where he resided had no idea that a predator was living amongst them, they felt safe and secure in their neighborhood. There were two schools within a stone’s throw. I wrote a heartfelt letter to our then prime minister pleading for him to make true on his promise to toughen the laws and penalties for child offenders. I even asked how I as a citizen could get involved. I was fairly new to Edmonton, I had young girls, I felt scared and wanted a way that I could do something to not feel helpless. Anyways I never got a response, not even a typed form letter response from a staff member signed by Harper. I remained disgruntled for the entire duration of his service and I hated that the lipstick they put on him for press conferences so closely resembled my very berry signature shade. I did try to join Little Warriors as a volunteer but it was way too much for my delicate soul. I desperately wanted to help but at the same time I have to admit that my heart could not handle the depth of damage that was being done to our children across Canada and the short sentences for offenses and high risk offenders being released into family friendly communities. It was all too much. However, I did educate my children, I did take steps to keep them safe and make sure that they were busy with activities instead of hanging out where I could not oversee them. My oldest was about eight years old and quite dramatic like me so every time a car slowed down she was sure she was getting kidnapped. I was fully aware that I could be with my kids 98% of the time and something could still happen to them but I did my best to be a good mom and take care of educating them on how to be safe. It wasn’t a huge step but it was a step.

 

I feel quite blessed to live in one of the safest countries in the world. One that holds women and children in fairly high esteem. My city is racially diverse and has a proud LGBQT community. Our Prime Minister has nice hair and he is pro-women, pro-gay, pro-Muslim and though he is certainly struggling to use his power in a way that benefits all Canadians I believe that he truly cares about all of the groups of people that make up this great Country, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs.

That being said in my city people still use the word nigger to express their dislike of law abiding, contributing members of society as they walk down the street, A young boy at my daughter’s work was screamed at by a white woman because she refused to be served by a terrorist. Gay people are beat up, bullied and judged. Women fear walking at night by themselves and young girls are being sold into human trafficking right here in my city. It is happening in your city too, right under your nose. A woman in Calgary got raped and during the trial she was continually referred to as the defendant by the judge, the even shittier thing is that she was, she was essentially put on trial for allowing herself to get raped. The judge brought up her sexual history, her clothing, how much alcohol she consumed and even had the audacity to ask if she tried to keep her knees together. Unfortunately, it is all too common. We are expected to teach our children how not to get raped. If they get raped, we drag them through the mud and victimize them even more. A young Nova Scotia teen named Rehtaeh Parsons was drunk and passed out at a party while guys had sex with her and took pictures. There was even a picture of her throwing up out the bedroom window yet consent was still questioned. The pictures circulated around her school and her parents moved but the pictures followed her. Ultimately the young soul tragically took her own life. The families of the boys continued to harass the girl’s family and to sling mud. Christie Blanchard of the National Post, who by the way describes herself as a woman but I think identifies more as a disgusting sewer rat published a scathing piece in the National Post attacking the family, dredging up really ridiculous things including an Aunt’s bankruptcy and questioning the young girls character and whether she wanted sex because after all she was at a party drinking so she must have wanted it. Every girl who drinks at a party with horny guys must secretly be wanting sex. It was even suggested that she wanted it but got embarrassed after the pictures were passed around. ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?????????? I don’t know about you but I do not feel the least bit sexy when I am throwing up out a window. Should we talk about all of the missing and murdered native women? OH YEAH WE DO NOT TALK ABOUT THAT. Shhhh. We are Canada, the true North strong and free and like our good friends in the U.S. of A we have it pretty damn good, so good in fact that we should think of the people in other countries facing things such as genital mutilation, honor killings, arranged marriages and no voting rights. We should be grateful and shut the fuck up!! We have it good enough and we should NEVER, EVER dare want, ask or fight for more.

Women before us fought for the freedoms we have today, I do not think they intended for us to ever give up fighting. Gay teenagers like my own daughter faced bullying and ridicule to just simply be who they are, they are taking steps towards acceptance and inclusivity and they want you to suit up and be a part of the fight. I have a friend; Angie Reid in the transgender community that is fighting every single day and blazing a trail for people like my nephew who never ever felt like he belonged in a female body. The work has just begun my friend. I have a Facebook friend Jesse Liscombe that founded the #makeitawkward campaign. It is his resistance to the racism he has faced, he wants to make a difference for every man, woman and child that has felt the sting of racism. His fight is just beginning and I know he wants us to fight alongside him. My youngest daughter has many Muslim friends who love Canada and call it their home. Yes, they differ in their beliefs but fundamentally they are the same. They bleed, they ache, they love, they laugh. Muslims are terrorists and the terrorists are Muslim have two VERY different meanings. My daughter has Muslim friends that gave her Christmas gifts. They don’t celebrate Christmas but they cared enough to give her a gift from their hearts and their parents supported it. It was a beautiful gesture! Racism is taught, kids are not born racist. You know what isn’t beautiful?  The thought that their families that live in the U.S. may need to register as Muslim citizens under the reign of the newly elected 45th President of the United States. That is fucked up!

Yesterday on the first day after the inauguration of President Trump Women in many countries across the world marched in solidarity because they fear losing their rights and freedoms, they fear for their Muslim neighbors, they fear for their health care, they fear for minorities. Their new President is not Pro-women, he is not Pro-Muslim, He is not Pro-gay, he wants to build a wall and kick the Mexicans out. He screams fake news while providing you with fake news. I believe it is called alternative facts now but that is another story altogether. He manipulates the media and if he cannot sway the media to his favor he does his best to discredit them. It is really scary. There was a point in the election that it felt like a bad joke and it seemed so unlikely that he would get elected as president and when he did people all over the world collectively sighed. This is a man that starts Twitter wars with anyone who does not agree with him and he has the codes to the damn Nukes!! He has a very weird bromance with Putin which is cause for a great deal of unease. He promises to finally put the power back into the hands of the American people and I get it, that sounds really good. Especially to the people that were hit the hardest by the economic downturn. I totally get that you just want to feed your families and not struggle to pay your bills. You want the jobs to stay in america go to Americans. Nobody can fault you for that! I wonder how confident you feel that Trump has given so much power to his Texas Oil Tycoon buddies. That really  does not sound like there will be much power left to turn over to you; the great people of America.

Now I know that a lot of you said it wasn’t your March and that is fine. It doesn’t have to be, but the people that marched with their Mothers, sisters, children, husbands, brothers and grandmothers should be applauded. You say “I will not be a victim” I cannot quite wrap my head around what makes someone exercising their rights and freedoms, fighting for equality and marching in solidarity with other like minded individuals;  victims? These people got up and out, they got on their feet and refused to be victims!!  These people are warriors, leading a resistance and advocating for change, supporting one another. Many people marched for their own personal agenda, just as many marched to give a voice to those that couldn’t. Wage equality, healthcare, racism, sexism, segregation, division…those are just a handful of the things that people marched for.

I know a lot of you saw it as a temper tantrum and you are entitled to that opinion, but a government that has any hope of being by the people and for the people requires that the people rise and use their voices. A country that stands idly by when they feel that their way of life is being threatened is not a country that will be “great again”.

As a woman, I must say there is something about women standing together and empowering each other that gets me in the feels. Women supporting women has not always been my experience, especially in the important teen years when I was developing a sense of self. As a mother, a wife, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister and a friend I am pretty damn proud of the woman I have become. As a woman, even in Canada I have faced some challenges. I know that many of you think that Trump being taken to task for the “grab em by the pussy” comment is ridiculous. Have you ever been grabbed by the pussy? At 14 years old everyday while waiting for the bus this guy who was a grade or two ahead of me used to try to touch my bum and my breasts everyday, one day he chased me up the road on my way home and stuck his hand down my pants. It became so degrading that I tried to talk to the school but nothing was done, it was kind of shrugged off as a boys will be boys type of thing. I never told my family, my dad and two brothers probably would not have taken the situation lightly. I have kept my distance from this guy since Junior High but a friend of mine dated him in her early twenties. He never grew out of this entitled behavior and when they broke up he harassed her really bad, even going as far as threatening her family and posting naked pictures of her online. You don’t really grow out of that mentality. Some of you may argue that why would Donald Trump need to perpetuate that attitude now that he holds the highest office in the greatest country in the World? That is the attitude that he holds towards women, they are his for the taking, he now has a great deal of power so I am not sure why we should assume that he would all of the sudden develop a better respect and understanding of women. On his agenda is to abolish funds to Planned Parenthood, citing that the U.S.A. is funding the killing of babies. Being a man with zero understanding or compassion for women and certainly no research about the not for profit organization I guess that is a reasonable assumption. I guess it is easy to disregard the sexual education Planned Parenthood provides to at risk youth, the birth control it provides free of charge to people that would need to go without, the advocacy, the pre and postnatal care to people who could otherwise not afford it. The STD testing for the young teenage girl that was raped while walking home from her part time job or the abortion to the young mother that will not survive the birth of her baby due to medical reasons. It is not black and white.

What about the people of the LGBQT community that just want to love who they love? A certain amount of progress was made under the Obama administration but will it be taken away? What about funding for people with disabilities; the most vulnerable of all the US citizens?

I feel very privileged in my life. I am a survivor of sexual assault not a victim of it. It is not something I discuss with people over lunch but it something I have tried very hard to come to terms with.I fought gender stereotypes and went head to head with men who refused to respect me and asked to speak to “the man in charge”, I learned how to be my own champion and to champion for others who are not that strong yet. In past relationships I was made to feel like I had to stay because I couldn’t do it on my own. Well guess what? I did.

Those women, men and children of all religions, of all races and all social economic backgrounds that marched all over the world, you marched for women like me and I thank you. It was very much my march. Many of my friends share similar stories to mine. We clawed our way back from adversity.

What does it mean and did it make a difference? I think every man, woman and child that marched yesterday feels changed somehow. They feel supported and hopeful. Standing together for the most marginalized of us all was a bold message to the new administration, a step towards change, unification and equality for all. Relationships were formed, and resolve was strengthened.

If I took anything from.this March is the knowledge that no we do not have to accept the things we cannot change when we can work to change the things we can longer accept.

I am a warrior. I know it, I feel it and I embrace it. I am enough but being treated better than women in ‘most countries’ will never be enough. We can do better.

A typical human being is made up of 7 billion billion billion molecules so essentially we are all the same, deserving of equal rights and freedoms, regardless of our race, religion or gender.

Going to Carolina-W.I.S.E. Project 2017

Deepanshu Arora -Moraine Lake Banff

It has been so bitter cold here the last couple of days, here is Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and though we are fairly used to the winter cold here in the great white north it has been more than cold. It has been exceptionally way below freezing temperatures all week and the wind chill is so intense that it feels like the cold has icily embraced your bones. It is not very motivating to say the least and hot showers, fuzzy blankets and good books have been my evening reprieve. 

 Today I was listening to James Taylor’s Going to Carolina in my mind and literally trying to get my mind to take me somewhere warmer.

On Sunday I went for a float. I have been floating for over a year now so I am kind of a professional as floating goes. This basically means that I am experienced in the art of doing nothing and laugh all you want but I am pretty damn proud of this fact. No joke, discovering sensory deprivation has been a wonderfully serene addition to my life. I still struggle on a daily basis with trying to fill my brain with way too much stuff. I get excited about something and I want to jam all of this new information into my brain as fast as possible and often I get overwhelmed. I used to be that mom that went to bed at midnight but at 2 am I was still making my grocery lists, planning my schedule around the girl’s activities, calculating bills and making endless to do lists in my head. To those of you that can’t sit on the toilet without reading the back of the shampoo bottle I can relate. We have hardwired ourselves to constantly receive and process information and nowadays with social media our brains are busier than ever. We are excessively over stimulated. We do not know boredom and we certainly do not know what to do with silence. We crave silence yet the moment we get a taste of it we spit it out and sprinkle it with noise to make it palatable, or at least what we perceive to be most familiar.

I started meditating last January and though I do not always practice it daily as I would like to, it taught me how to find the beauty in silence. Silence benefits our well being in countless ways with abundant advantages to our physical and emotional well being. I often do a guided sleep meditation at night or a five minute mindfulness mediation in the middle of my work day. Mediating was a great benefit to me the first time I entered a float tank because though my mind wanted desperately to crowd the
silent space with thought I was quite quickly able to resist. 

The float tank expedites theta waves so it is doing some of the work for you already by taking the stimulation away.

Theta brain waves are the brain state of REM sleep (dreams), hypnosis, lucid dreaming and barely conscious state just before sleeping and after waking.

If you truly want to experience getting away from it all I highly recommend floating. The solution unlike bath water is very dense, in fact approximately five times denser than the Dead Sea. It is mainly Epsom salt, it feels silky smooth  against your skin and you are effortlessly buoyant. You are literally floating in the darkness with no outside disturbances. When you don’t have the pressure of gravity on your body and you are not responding to stimulus (such as email and texts, noise of traffic etc) your blood pressure decreases and your cortisol levels drop (those are your stress hormones). Your mind and your body are experiencing a state of total freedom, you cannot feel the water and you are quite literally in the optimal environment to experience complete relaxation. There is an eventual increase in your endorphins which I am sure you all know is your happy hormones. We all want more of those, more is good!!

When I said I am now a professional floater you all either snickered or rolled your eyes but let me explain my excitement about how skilled I have become at doing nothing. My last float I was able to relax quite quickly. I don’t eat within 2 hours of a float; I may grab an apple if it is in the morning and some water to hydrate but nothing that is going to be hard to digest and no coffee to stimulate my mind. I start by clearing my mind with a short meditation and moving my body around languidly
in the warm water. Within minutes I had drifted off and I was in the middle of a lake in the mountains. The water was neither warm nor cold, I couldn’t feel it at all, as if my body was totally one with it and I couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began. I felt indisputably blissful. Above me the clear sky was the most magnificent shade of dark navy blue littered by an explosion of endless stars and decorated by magical spiraling flares of electric green clasped by hints of pink and deep violet that seemed to erupt from the mountain peaks in a
miraculously enchanting way. It was the esteemed Aurora Borealis in a way that I had never experienced before. I was captivated by the mystic beauty of it and moved almost to the point of tears. The peaks of the mountains surrounded the lake in a protective hug and I felt untroubled and safe. I have no recollection of the amount of time that passed as I lay suspended in virtual reality in that picturesque mountain oasis enjoying the Northen lights. 

It is such a hard thing to put into words, anything I write seems slightly inadequate, but as I sit here thinking about it I am once again overwhelmed by the memory. 

The gentle music that plays as your float time is ending startled me awake and I had that feeling of falling slowly from heaven and when my eyes shot open I  thought I was still in the middle of the lake but all of the sudden I was keenly aware of the darkness. It was unnerving for a second until my mind caught up with my body and I realized where I was. For the remainder of the day I felt weightless, like I was floating through my day without a worry.

I have wanted to recount this experience for awhile but I really didn’t know how in the world I would do it justice without sounding like I was floating on LSD. I was divinely at ease and I was able to experience something in that state
that was as exquisite as it was memorable. I will never forget and though I know that I can never recreate that exact experience I am really excited to know how far my mind will allow me to go in the future. For days after I would think about that wondrous place in the mountains and when I opened up my computer there it was on my home screen; Moraine Lake in Banff, Valley of the Ten Peaks. I am in love. Swoon.

So needless to say if you have ever considered floating, or even if you have never heard of floating, you should. It is the ultimate way to hit the physical and mental reset button and to find the beautiful and powerful healing energy
of silence.

I float at Modern Gravity here in Edmonton and it is a pretty unique place. They have actual float rooms instead of pods so if you are worried about feeling claustrophobic there is no need. The atmosphere is comfortably calming and the rainfall showers are such a nice treat. Floating is a gift that you give yourself that requires zero effort for substantial gain.

Modern Gravity, Edmonton Alberta

There are many things you can do to ease stress and recalibrate your body and mind, Floating is a very good choice. 

Be W.I.S.E. friends.