Fuck the Walk -Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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I had quite a weekend and there were moments that I felt like I was walking on sunshine. I adore those moments where I feel at relative ease and in my belly, I feel rumblings of excitement for the future. There are fleeting moments where I feel like if I had wings I could surely fly and there was definitely a time that I didn’t think I would experience those feelings again. Those feelings come and go for me and sometimes mired in the darkness of grief that euphoric feeling gets very cloudy, but I always know with certainty that I have control over what I choose to feel and what feelings I choose to hang onto and move forward with. That is an extremely powerful realization for me and sadly, not everyone gets that fair shake.

Support and non-judgement can go a long way

This weekend I had the great pleasure of meeting and speaking with Michael Landsberg. Michael is a Canadian sports journalist and the former host of Off the Record for TSN. Michael has also had an impact on many lives as the face and voice of #sicknotweak where he talks openly and honestly about his struggles with Depression and Anxiety, helping people to understand that Mental Illness is a sickness, not a weakness. Michael was in the city doing a talk to Pharmacists about their role in dealing with people suffering with their Mental Health because ultimately the conversations that we have with people have the potential to change a and sometimes save a life. Support and non-judgement can go a long way.

 

When I found out Michael was coming to speak in Edmonton I called the coordinator of the event and was able to get myself on the guest list. A great lesson I have learned in the past several months is that you can often get what you want by simply asking.

 

When I met Michael he was warm, funny and forthright.  I immediately recognized something in his eyes, the friend I had brought with me had the same look and my late husband carried it as well. It is the look of someone that has struggled with tumultuous depression. It is the look of great strength from having battled in a way that I cannot possibly understand.

 

Michael talked about waking up in the morning and realizing that he was not going to experience any joy that day. I had heard Kirk say that on more than one occasion and I found it extremely difficult not to take personally. It was something that I wrestled with but hearing someone else speak of that feeling and others nod knowingly put it in a much different perspective for me.

For the most part Mental Illness is a lifelong struggle

Depression is a chemical imbalance that creates unique feelings in the individuals it affects. Depression is something that the healthy brain cannot quite understand, yet it wants to and often arrogance makes us believe that we do. Regularly parallels are drawn between sadness and sickness as if they are the same, and we truly want to believe we have the cure all. We believe we have suffered, we believe we have experienced depression and we believe that we have beaten it. For the most part Mental Illness is a lifelong struggle. Most of us successfully tackle sadness, grief and/or adversity in our lives; those are situations, not sicknesses. The distinction is a very important one because mental Illness is a sickness, not a weakness. People do not often beat it, they battle it and whether they do that with a combination of medication, therapy, diet and exercise…it is a commitment. For those that have suicidal thoughts living another day with the pain can feel scarier than death.

 

Michael asked how many people who suffer have been told “You should go for a walk”

There were laughs, knowing nods and audible gasps throughout the room and then Landsberg said three very important words, “FUCK THE WALK”

 

Going for a walk, taking up a hobby, watching a movie, thinking positive are all really great things, they are not a cure for mental illness. I truly believe that leading a healthy lifestyle can be beneficial to everyone, but I also believe the narrative that we use when talking about mental Illness can often do more harm than good. I asked as a friend or family member how can you best support someone who is struggling with depression. Some of the feedback was that rather than tell them what they should be doing (FUCK THE WALK), ask what you can do for them, ask how you can help. Listen.

Listen to understand, not to reply.

 

If you suffer from Depression reach out to your loved ones. They cannot help if they do not know how. Let us help you.

A PhD does not protect you from Mental Illness

Michael told us about a talk he did with fifty Psychiatrists where he asked them to raise their hand if any of them had ever suffered depression. The fact that not one person in that group raised their hand spoke volumes. A PhD does not protect you from Mental Illness. The absence of honest sharing among that group reiterated that a stigma still exists surrounding mental illness; a delusion of weakness, even amid the very people that are trained to help.

 

Just yesterday morning I got a message from an old work colleague and friend of Kirks. He had had just found out about Kirk’s death. He was devastated. He had questions.My first instinct was to ignore the message, it was my birthday after all and I did not want to spend it in tears. I quickly realized that that was selfish, but if I was going to answer I had a responsibility to be honest. I told him that we lost Kirk to suicide in June; I told him everything I knew, I told him about the darkness that Kirk struggled with for much of his life. We talked for a bit and shared stories and a couple laughs and some tears. He loved Kirk and I felt I owed him some time and some truth.

Silence is a killer

I don’t want anyone to be uncomfortable talking about Kirk’s suicide. Suicides largest collaborator is silence and what you don’t hear in the awkward silence at the end of a phone call is the person you love begging for help. Silence is a killer.

It means that he never gets to feel that wildly uninhibited feeling of walking on sunshine, but it also means that he has given up the 0-3 range as well and that is huge

When I was feeling the immense feeling of walking on sunshine it was halted by the realization that Michael and many others may never get the opportunity to feel those amazing feelings. As Michael explained, he has been on medication for a very long time and it significantly limits his range of emotion. If I experience emotions on a scale of 1-10 his range is 4-7. His commitment to continue to battle his illness and live the best life possible means he has given up 8,9 and 10. It means that he never gets to feel that wildly uninhibited feeling of walking on sunshine, but it also means that he has given up the 0-3 range as well and that is huge. He explained that to the healthy brain it is inconceivable that one would give up the ability to experience those upper ranges of joy but that those that suffer the devastating affects of mental illness like himself will tolerate the intolerable because it is better than the alternative.

 

I highly recommend the sick not weak community for candid conversation about Depression and Mental Illness. In cases where we cannot help, we should never harm. Let’s be kind to one another.

The Dance- Wise Project 2018- #tenacioustuesday

 

Life is fucking cruel sometimes

I just sat down at Starbucks and took my laptop out of my bag and I realized that not only is this my first post of 2018, it is the beginning of year three for my little project, the Wise Project. In fact, that is the first time I typed 2018 and it feels weighty and powerful. A new year, a blank canvas. I still firmly believe in the importance of sharing our stories and being honest about our struggles, we belong to each other and is important to know that we are never alone. These connections we form, these invisible bonds, help us grow and they help fuel change. This is why we read books and watch movies, for wisdom, perspective, growth and to hear and see important stories as they unfold and learn from them.

Year two of my project saw a complete change in format and theme from the inaugural year and if you are not a newcomer here you know that I lost my husband to suicide in June and the remainder of the year I was basically just looking for ways to keep my shit together and inch forward with my life as I talked about what grief looked like for me and how I was grasping onto shreds of hope to help myself and my family through a very sad time.

One of the hardest things about healing the past several months was resisting the urge to live in the past, in the fairy-tale what-ifs and happily ever afters. Life is fucking cruel sometimes, it gives us what it gives us, and we do with that what we choose to do with it. We will all suffer loss and adversity in our lives, and though our circumstances and our advantages and disadvantages may differ, I think our biggest asset in healing is our own heart and the decisions that we make to either sink or swim. I chose swim. For my family and I there really is not another option and though I am willing to admit that a lot of 2017 was spent treading water, I am proud of that too.

When our wings feel broken, it is then that we discover that we have claws and sometimes we need to claw our way up and out of the dark.

A difficult lesson I learned last year is that often the thing that causes our heartbreak is the very thing to heal us. My deep love for my husband was obviously the reason my heart imploded when he was taken from us and my first instinct was to put a wall around that part of me, but the love that so many people had for him that extends to the children and I, as well as the love from friends, family and people that seemed to appear into my life by happy accident to make me see that I am indeed love and that if I continue to put that very thing into the world, I will continue to get it back has been one of the most instrumental parts of my healing. So many times I have heard people refer to themselves as broken, I have been brought to my knees by that very feeling but I am not broken and neither are you. We have cracks, battle scars, proof that we loved and lost and yet we continue to live and love and fight, that is far from broken.

In the gaps between tears and heartbreak there are glimpses of the real magic of life and I know that I will never touch that magic for long if I stay in the past. My friend Cody who I did some personal coaching with reminds me that “trying is lying” so I am doing. I am doing my best, living the day and enjoying the moments, laughing when something is funny and doing my best to hold onto those moments where I feel un-tethered.

I discovered quite recently, that though I fared quite well with not living in the past I had catapulted myself into another issue entirely, trying to control every single situation which took me out of the present a great deal and into the uncertain future. Oddly I had not been dreaming since Kirk passed away, I am not sure if that is a normal symptom of grief or not but in the past couple of weeks my dreams have returned and with them something unexpected-and unwelcome -ANXIETY

This has become a bit of a fear based theme in my life, trying to control upcoming situations so there would be no element of surprise or disappointment

I discovered that my dreams were looping and I would be stuck inside the same dream all night because I was desperately trying to control the outcome of the dream. This has become a bit of a fear based theme in my life, trying to control upcoming situations so there would be no element of surprise or disappointment. I was attaching expectations to everything I did or planned to do and spending a great deal of time in my head, so much so that I would find myself pulling into parking lots, overwhelmed and unable to breath.

I have meditated in a lot of parking lots the past few weeks. Thank You Sobeys, Subway, Liquor Depot…

2017 was a year of firsts for me and though there have been plenty of tears and dread, mingled in the midst of the great unknown I am doing my best to welcome exciting new opportunities and experiences and simply enjoy my life. I would be amiss to discount the smiles and good times. The challenge for me has been control, over thinking and self sabotage. I am guessing that for some of you these are common themes and though I never thought they were for me, looking back, these things have been lurking in the shadows of my life for quite some time, thieving joy from me little bits at a time.  Too often I follow uncertainty down the rabbit hole into a place of apprehension and worry. Angst can literally suck all the pleasure out of life.

At a time when it was extremely difficult to breath, we felt like every breath we dared to take was being assessed

The last day I saw my husband we had planned for a quiet movie night. “Cuddled up on the couch” were the words he used when he called me mere minutes after I left the house. I was going to BBQ cheeseburgers and I had made him the very best potato salad in the world. He kept saying he couldn’t wait to eat it. It went untouched in the fridge in his garage and sometime in July I threw it out, bowl and all. I felt so goddamn robbed in so many ways and yet no amount of stress or worry could have prepared me for that day or anything that followed. The pain, the grief and heartache were all multiplied by the rumors, personal attacks and innuendo by people I had once considered friends. I spent nineteen years loving and supporting my husband and at the very lowest point of mine and my children’s lives we felt like we were living under a microscope. At a time when it was extremely difficult to catch our breath, we felt like every breath we dared to take was being assessed.

Not only is life cruel but people can be amazingly cruel and it was challenging not to drown in despair.  The beauty the children and I eventually found in that, is that you find out quickly that there are people that belong in your life and people that do not. There are people that will always quietly cheer you on from afar and emerge exactly when you need them, and there are people that will lift the sun into the sky each morning and replace it with the moon each night if that is what it takes for you to make it through the blackness of it all. A gaping wound as it heals is a hard thing to see, it is even harder to be around. The people that embrace you while you heal your ugly wounds, those are your people. How blessed we are to have those people in in our lives. For the others, it is almost as if the trash took itself out.

The love, the wisdom, and the encouragement that people have shared with us has been a phenomenal gift.

People ask me if I would have done anything differently that day had I had a suspicion of what was coming. Of course I would never have left the house, but I also know that would have been a temporary solution. Considering it now is what has really made me decide to work on my issue with control and facing uncertainty. I know where my fear was born but I also know better than most that you can never prepare yourself for what happens next and trying to can significantly limit the happiness you desire in your life. There have been many times in the past several months that I have had to give in and trust that the universe would help lead me. The world is always at work for us, we can’t always see that or feel it and maybe things don’t always work out the way we imagined that they would but that doesn’t mean that big things are not happening. You may question how I can believe that after losing my husband in such a tragic way and it is all perspective really. The world was working for us individually. Kirk was tired of being sick, he was faced with constant fear and unimaginable blackness. It broke his heart to think that he was a burden to his family. I read a quote once that said that only when the earth claims your limbs will you truly learn to dance. I often think of the magnitude of that freedom and inhibition and I imagine my Kirk, free from pain and fear; dancing. I have to find solace in that.

He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

We simply cannot plan every moment of our lives. There is a line in the Garth Brooks ballad “The Dance” that has resonated with me for many years. When I was 16 and my Dad died I played that song incessantly and Garth croons, Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance”

Your hands have the weight of your whole body and then some behind you, so you are connected, you need to feel each other, to move together

Typing this through tears I am reminded of a conversation I had just weeks ago with a very wise friend that I admire about the beauty of partner dance and he said ‘as light as it looks there is a lot of push and pull, grip, pressure. Your hands have the weight of your whole body and then some behind you, so you are connected, you need to feel each other, to move together. That is what makes it so graceful, the effort, the exertion. The sharing of the weight. It’s powerful.

Sipping on my snobby Venti Americano at Starbucks, with tears in my eyes recalling 2017; that conversation popped in my head as easily as the words to Garth Brooks The Dance. (yes for the astronomical price of coffee you get fantastic service and you can cry if you want to)

Despite the sting, the fear, the uncertainty…we need to just fucking DANCE

Maybe Shakespeare had it right and all the world is a stage. We are all playing parts, making entrances and exits. We are dancing. We need connections. We need to feel each other. Sometimes we need to feel the weight of the world, of each other. Sometimes we need to lift others up and sometimes we need to be OK with being held. Sometimes we push, sometimes we pull but sometimes we need to let it all go, we need to trust that no matter what crippling heartache that we have faced in the past that the universe has our backs. If we constantly protect our hearts from hurt, we also protect ourselves from love and joy because you cannot selectively numb emotion. Sometimes we need to dance like nobody is watching, like our hearts have never been broken, like we have never stared down the darkness and wondered if we would ever overcome the pain. Despite the sting, the fear, the uncertainty…we need to just fucking DANCE.

There is grace and power and forgiveness in the dance of life, and when we are spent and sweaty and our heart is thumping in our chest we will know we have lived.

You can be unhappy that you can’t dance, or you can find some music and start moving. Happiness isn’t about places, things, accomplishments, or even other people. It’s about embracing your power, making things happen and looking out for others along the way. Anyone can dance-You’ll feel the beat as you begin to move ~ Begin with yes. 

In 2018 I finally realized that I am not trying to change me, the truth is I quite like me. I am proud of the woman that has emerged out of unimaginable grief with a huge desire to live and love and dance and to show her children how to be bold and unafraid and to allow their courage to be bigger than their fears and to make their dreams more important than their uncertainties.

I will not leave them a legacy of brokenness, and one day when I am but a memory, in the residue that remains I want my loved ones to uncover strength and hope.

I want to show them how to treat triumph and disaster the same;

as lessons,

as important steps of the dance.

I don’t want to change me . I just want to become me!

I want to un-become the cautious, uncertain girl that is afraid of the unknown. I want to be more like the bird that doesn’t fear the strength of the branch below because she knows she has wings.

I want to remember what it feels like to have a heartbeat, to dance in the rain and to laugh until my stomach hurts.

So much of me has been buried under grief and heartbreak, under fear and expectation. Over the years I lost pieces of myself, and being a wife and a mom I habitually forgot that I also had a responsibility to me. I forgot that taking care of me was a necessity, not a luxury.

A great deal of our lives we are told by our parents, teachers and superiors to “do as I say, not as I do!” but the best teachers lead and teach by example. They engage their students.

Now more than ever it is important for me to lead by example. I am a mirror for my children. I was telling my daughter just the other night how important it was to me that she make the right choices for her, that she always put her dreams first, that her happiness is essential. I want her to not just give her love to others but to wholeheartedly love herself. I can continue to say that until I am blue in the face, but I know the most effective way to make her understand is to see me do exactly that.

2018

I GOT THIS

Watch me fucking dance…

I believe it is in my nature to dance by virtue of the beat of my heart, the pulse of my blood and the music in my mind. ~Robert Fulghum

Home- WISE Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

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The Lighthouse at Cape D’or Nova Scotia

When I was around 20 years old and living in my very first apartment in London, Ontario; all by myself with no roommate and no boyfriend and no pets, I discovered a nondescript 24-hour diner a short walk away. It was just called DINER and that was blasted in bright red lights from the flat roofed building sitting in the most dubious of areas. I usually walked there in the middle of the night after a long shift when I found myself at home unable to unwind and looking for a bit of familiarity.

There were only a couple of small tables with two chairs and a big semi-circle counter with attached red swivel stools. The grill and fryer were open behind the counter and the old white-haired man was always dressed in a white shirt and a knee length white apron. He didn’t say much, just sighed and grunted a lot and when he suspected that you were ready to order from the menu that was on the wall behind the counter he casually looked your way. He didn’t have time for indecision or a bunch of questions and if there was even a hint of rudeness or disrespect in your tone or demeanor you simply did not get served. He reminded me of Seinfeld’s soup Nazi in that way only his authority was quieter but no less commanding. I usually ordered two scrambled eggs and brown toast. It was nothing fancy, just simple comfort food.

I ate quietly as I discreetly observed the other patrons that came to visit the diner. I saw many people get refused service. I learned the rules and obeyed them. I didn’t hesitate on my order, I spoke clearly, and I didn’t raise my voice, speak out of turn or make unreasonable demands. The atmosphere became familiar, welcoming even. Something drew me there in the wee hours of the morning, while the moon hung low and the sun had not begun its ascent into the morning sky.

“When you feel homesick,’ he said, “Just look up. Because the moon is the same wherever you go.”

~ Goldfinch

There was little conversation between me and the old guy in the white shirt and white apron, but we had developed an understanding and perhaps our own respectful way to communicate. I was in around Christmas time and there were a few worn decorations from Christmas’s past scattered throughout the familiar space.  It was way too late for me to be up and sneaking through parking lots to get to my usual haunt but there I was on my normal stool, ordering my habitual late night scrambled eggs and brown toast when I was nodded at. There was a radio playing on low, I am not sure if this was a regular thing that I never noticed because of the noise from other patrons, but it was just me there and old guy was humming with his back to me at the grill as he tousled my eggs into shape. Old guy brought my plate of eggs and toast to me and I ate as he continued to gently hum along with the radio. I am certain I saw him look my way with a hint of a smile but quickly decided that it was my imagination. I barely put my napkin on my plate when old guy scooped it up and said in what I decided was a thick, grumbly, middle eastern accent, “You no pay. You good”

I stood up, fighting the urge to loudly profess my gratitude because I just knew that it was outside of the unspoken rules. I gushed on the inside as I put on my coat; old guy had already turned his back and was humming as he cleaned the grill.

I was a very young woman when I lived in London. Everyday I was faced with potential, possibility and choice. I had freedom. What I longed for the most back then was home and I only knew home as a place.

Over the years as I have faced change and challenges that caused sleepless nights and I have often  thought of that plain Diner and wished that I could throw a coat on and hurriedly walk two blocks over to that flat roofed building with the bold and familiar red sign. It was the familiarity I missed, the belonging, the feeling of home.

This year has been a challenge to say the least. Losing my husband and the father of my children to suicide changed my entire world in and instant and left me in a perpetual state of fear and despair. This past weekend we had to unexpectedly say goodbye to our dog which wrapped us in another blanket of deep sadness.

I remind myself everyday that I picked myself up out of bed, off the shower floor, out of the darkness and through extreme heartache, scrambling to find the buried pieces of myself and piece me back together. This is life, it’s complicated and messy and often so fucking un-glamorous it’s brutal. There are days I feel everything at once and days that I cannot form thoughts. There are days I am afraid and uncertain and days that light radiates from me as I imagine a bright future. Some days I lose my shit and others I feel more myself than I have in a long time. It makes no sense at all and yet it makes perfect sense.

My husband felt like home to me, no matter where we were in the world, and the loss of that feeling has been very difficult.

To our detriment we often chase the feelings we crave, some of us with food, some with drugs and alcohol and sometimes with sex.

I think home is a healthy feeling and not one we have to chase but rather create.

We create it with community, friendship and that deep feeling of warmth, peace, belonging, non judgement and love.

As much as I long to hear the waves of the ocean and feel the salt air on my face, smell the baking in my mothers house, home to me, is not just these things, but the tangible feelings that they create.

I believe it can be described as resonance.

As this taxing year draws to a close I would be amiss to not recognize that the feeling of home has helped to carry the girls and me across some very troubled waters. When we were facing unimaginable darkness we found that incredible feeling of home in some familiar places and some more unexpected ones. In people, faces, embraces, memories, comfort, shared grief, understanding, grace and courage.

In a couple of days we will be flying home to Nova Scotia to spend Christmas with loved ones. Nova Scotia is my first love, my forever love, but in my heart I will carry many homes.

To everyone who gave of your time, your comfort and your love to lift the moon up into the sky on the darkest of nights and make sure the sun rose for us, even when we didn’t notice, I thank you. You are home to me.

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas I hope you can create that amazing feeling of home.

Merry Christmas

 

xoxox

Michelle

 

You’re Going to Miss This! WISE Project 2017 #TenaciousTuesday

I wrote this four years ago but today it feels very relevant, as the world turns as it continually does, life as we know it changes quickly but one thing will always remain the same; the moments that at the time seem like nothing special or out of the ordinary are the moments that we would do anything to have back.

I wish you a Christmas season full of love, laughter and warm memories. xoxxo

Dancing in the rain!

I am sitting here on this frigid and snowy winter night thinking how quickly the moments of your life sail by and all the things you wished away that now you would give anything to have back. When you are five you want to be ten and at ten you just want to be a teenager and when you become a teen you can’t wait to become an adult. Then it happens, you legally become an adult and you just want to be a kid, you want to have the freedom to make your own choices but none of the adult responsibilities that come along with that.

Your parents inevitably told you to be careful what you wish for, they told you how quick it would pass by and how you would long to have the time back. What did they know? Old fogies! THEY KNEW EVERYTHING!

I remember how…

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It’s a heartache- Wise Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

My late husband Kirk was my cheerleader. He literally thought that I was capable of anything and he encouraged me to be all that I could be. I never really believed in myself the way he did sadly, and he never believed in himself the way that I believed in him.

It is probably one of life’s greatest tragedies, that people discover much too late their passions and purpose in life; yet they say there are gifts in grief and for me nestled in among the heartache and sadness I have discovered my self-worth, my resiliency, my fierce need to be my authentic self, profound acceptance and a deep appreciation for kindness and empathy.

I opened up my email today and I receive Daily Spark emails from Heatherash amara who wrote one of my favorite books; Warrior Goddess Training. The emails always include a very inspiring quote and then her thoughts on the attached quote. Below is today’s email.

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. ~ Rumi

 

Wisdom does not come without the scouring of pain to deepen your soul. But grief can either harden our hearts or polish us smooth so we shine with an inner sun. Pain can be a beautiful spade to break up the soil and allow the water of compassion to penetrate deep into our bones. Today, let the poignancy of life – the grief, the pain, the loss  – be allies rather than an enemies. Hold hands with these companions and let them sing you the song of wisdom from the heart of experience. ~Heatherash amara

 

This literally sang to my heart today. It is no secret that that mindfulness has been so helpful to me in moving through grief, I am human, and I have good days and horrible days and that may never change. I am continually working hard to move forward in my life and be a role model for our children, to let them know that loss is not something we will ever stop feeling but we do not have to be afraid to live a big, colorful life.

There are a lot of questions and assumptions when you lose someone so tragically to suicide. In fact, just this morning I got a message from someone that said, I keep looking through your pictures and you and Kirk seemed so damn happy. That was all real, Kirk and I share, and always will share a great love but his depression and anxiety was also very real too, and as many people that suffer know all too well, sometimes it is in the dark hours that you spend alone that you are plagued with doubt, fear, uncertainty, racing thoughts and sometimes an overwhelming nothingness. I am choosing, every second of every day to focus on everything I gained by loving Kirk and not just on what we lost. I have a deep understanding of love, compassion, pleasure, joy and happiness. If anything, loving Kirk and losing Kirk validated how very tangible those things are, and how important they will continue to be in our lives.

I have spent many mornings in the last several months very afraid that I was losing myself in grief. I can only imagine that depression creates a very similar fear. I never imagined finding myself in this spot, but it is where I am and I need to meet myself where I am, not where I imagined I would be.

I am working with a personal coach to help me realize the most important things in my life, set goals and be accountable. I have also been using some mindful strategies to deal with trauma and loss and encourage healing for me and my family. A lot of you ask how I do it. Truthfully a lot of it is faith and deep breaths but below are some things that have been valuable to me:

 

1.     Don’t be afraid to reach out and/or accept help and support. It may come from unlikely places. Your circle will inevitably change but your energy will attract the people that you need in your life right now. We often wonder out loud why those suffering with depression do not reach out for help but truthfully, we know how hard it can be to take that step. Friends, spiritual leaders, support groups and professionals can all ensure that you do not deal with trauma alone.
2.     Tap into your internal strength. Remind yourself that you have made it through all the terrible things life has thrown at you so far and this is no different. You are a warrior. Pain has a memory but so does courage.

 

3.     Keep yourself centered through the agonizing feelings of grief. When the tides of heartbreak and helplessness wash over you don’t have be afraid to feel all the emotions; tears are sacred and cleansing, but don’t forget to breath, take deep breaths and allow them to guide you back to the present.

 

4.      Picture what a future will look like for yourself. Even amid immeasurable pain and loss it is OK to imagine what your future might look like and take baby steps to move forward.

 

5.     Practice Mindfulness: While doing grounding practices such as meditation, yoga, or even walking in nature remember that grief is not linear. There is no way over or around grief and there are no shortcuts. You will have good days and bad days, in no order. I liken grief to seasons and during the bitterly frigid winter I remind myself that inside of me is an indomitable summer.

 

6.     C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear” Part of our journey through grief is realizing that our fears hold us captive. We fear that moving forward is moving on from our loved ones, we fear that their memories will fade as we heal and that if we let go of the pain that grips us that we will be letting go of our loved ones forever. Pain during the grieving process is inevitable but fear can create unnecessary suffering. Our love is immortal, but our suffering need not be.

Remember that every single journey begins with a single step.

 

 

xoxo

Michelle

 

 

 

I’ll be home for Christmas-WISE project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

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Snow tumbles gently to the ground illuminated by white Christmas lights.  Holly and huge red bows adorn every street corner, cheeks are flushed, hearts are racing and the soothing sound of silver bells escapes every doorway as shoppers happily flee with their bounty. Unfortunately this coveted Christmas scene is one we long for and rarely see in our own lives.

Christmas should be an exciting time, a time of festive food, laughter and love but all too often we find ourselves overwhelmed and pulled in several different directions, under pressure to over spend on gifts, over eat and over-complicate every single detail.

When I recall Christmas’s past, my most treasured memories come from time spent with family and friends and though gifts are nice, there are only a few over the years that stand out as being memorable and that is because they were gifts that came from the heart. A well thought out gift means so much and unfortunately the commercialism of Christmas makes this almost impossible to achieve. I find Christmas is becoming like a gift swap where we are exchanging gifts cards and awkward gag gifts, and though our intentions may have been to send something thoughtful, the stress of the holidays leave us so frazzled that we find ourselves scrambling at the last minute. There are some people that genuinely love gift giving and others that feel that it adds a great deal of pressure, financially and otherwise.

Year after year after year, I have fallen into the trap of trying to load up the gifts under the Christmas tree, spending a fortune on our children on things that they really didn’t need. I would start out strong reminding myself of all of the most important things about Christmas and then I would scramble last minute to bulk up the pile under the tree.

The last couple of years my late husband and I agreed that the most important thing about Christmas was time spent together so the bulk of our gift giving was focused on experiences and time spent as a family. Last year our girls got a game night out at the local game cafe, sisters manicure & pedicure, concert tickets and as a family we got our summer family vacation at our special place in the mountains.

This year is a challenge; we are going home at Christmas for the first time in years, a wonderful gift from sweet friends who understand the importance of being with loved ones during our first Christmas without Kirk. With our super hero absent everything has changed but we are reminded now more than ever of what is really important and it is not gifts underneath the tree.

The holidays can amplify depression and anxiety as well as shine a spotlight on dysfunction and addictions in families. For a lot of people it is not the joyful and lively time that the media sells us and no amount of money can buy those feelings that we desire.

Maybe the answer is not to check out but to check in with yourself, use your wisdom and be courageous enough to set clear boundaries so that Christmas is not only what you desire it to be, but what it was always meant to be.

For me, going home has always caused me a bit of anxiety, there are always a lot of people that want my time, and my time is limited so it can cause a great deal of stress. I sensed that my kids were feeling some of that familiar anxiety around the topic as well so we sat down and had a little chat as a family and discussed some clear boundaries.

We realize that we are responsible for our own experience at Christmas and this is an important trip home for us, we will be seeing some of our loved ones for the first time since Kirk passed away and we are prepared for tears and healing. However, we have spent the past several months working extremely hard on our own personal healing journeys and well-being and we want to continue to do the next best thing to continue on that path to wellness.  We have given ourselves permission to avoid or back away from situations that have the potential to rob us of our peace of mind.

In the past our instinct would have been to tolerate situations as they arose as not to hurt or offend anyone but we decided as a family to not over promise or over complicate and to do as much or as little as we want to depending upon or own needs. This may seem selfish but it is actually self care.  Sometimes silent tolerance makes a complex situation much worse and can quickly steal the joy that the holidays are meant to bring.

The most important gifts will not take up a great deal of room in our suitcases. We are bringing love, friendship and memories with us; to share with the special people in our lives. We may not come dragging a red sack of full of colorfully wrapped good intentions but our hearts will be abundant with Christmas spirit. Whenever I feel stress creeping in I am going to ask myself “How can I simplify this?” After all, peace and simplicity go hand in hand.

Today I surprisingly found myself  dressed in red and humming Christmas carols. This has been a tough year, I never imagined making it through a day without Kirk and the thought of facing Christmas without him is not something I was able to think about but I am finding myself feeling grateful for the memories we shared as a family and holding those close in my heart.

I find myself imagining the smell of my mothers Christmas baking, the laughter of my granddaughters, the joy when the girls get to see their brother and the good natured ribbing I will get from my own brothers. I am looking forward to sharing a great big hug with my sister in law and telling funny stories and toasting Kirk with my mother in law. I am going to sink into the comfort of my parents and do my best to steal some moments with important friends.

The best we can be expected to do at any given moment is the next best thing, and the I believe the next best thing for us is to bring the all the love and joy to Christmas that money cannot buy because this will be one of our most important Christmas’s.  I truly believe that the way we choose to celebrate it and to honor Kirk will make a huge difference in our lives going forward.

 

A couple of tips to simplify your Christmas

  1. Focus on what the Holiday means to you. What do you like most about the season and what do you like the least? Look at ways that you can have more of what brings you joy and eliminate that which brings you stress.
  2. Simplify gift giving. Gift giving has gone way beyond its intention and we are spending more money and putting in less thought. Remember that gifts are not always necessary; sometimes the greatest gift we can give is our time. I like the idea of a gift exchange in families where you can draw names and focus on one special gift for someone important to you instead of spending a lot of unnecessary time and money just because. Decide what works for you personally and do that.
  3. Make a list and break it in three. Make a list of everything you want to get done and put it under three headers, Must do, possibly and bonus. Do the things you must do first, add what you can from the possibly list and the bonus list is nice but not at all a necessity. Set a budget for food, gifts and decor and stick to it so that Christmas bills do not follow you into the New Year.
  4. Recall a good Christmas memory that makes you smile, think about how it makes you feel and why. Keep that gratitude in your heart and bring it into your holiday celebrations.
  5. It is your experience, you do not have to go to every party or follow traditions that no longer suit you. It is OK to have quiet time with your family in front of the fire, it is OK to retire old worn out traditions and it is OK to make new ones. The only rule should be that whatever you do is based in love and the spirit of the season.

 

I’ll be home for Christmas and not just in my dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m still standing. Wise project 2017- #tenacioustuesday

“So what is it in a human life that creates bravery, kindness, wisdom, and resilience? What if it’s pain? What if it’s the struggle?”

Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

For the past several months after the death of my husband I have been faced with some extremely tough questions, mostly questions that I ask myself to reconcile a life that I thought I had and a future that I had planned for; with the life that I currently have and a future for the girls and I that is a little uncertain.

Knowing how short life is I have questioned whether this is it? Is this the beginning of the end or is this end in fact a beginning?

I have been tasked to face my thoughts and fears surrounding humility, loss and desire.

Do I focus on what I lost when my husband left the physical world, or do I focus on what I gained while he was here?

Will I leave my children a legacy of brokeness or an endowment of great strength and fearlessness?

Do I dare desire to move forward in my life and imagine a bright future?

Will this loss break me or teach me?

Knowing that I am a mirror for our children I have been working hard to find my footing on this new path, my vulnerability and tenderness allows me to feel all the emotions as they wash over me, yet it is my bravery and tenacious spirit, traits we do not always associate with being feminine, that allow me the audacity to dream of a big future.

Somedays I feel as soft and fragile as mountain of cotton balls but more and more often, as I drift from heartache to daydreams I find myself moving with a sureness through this great big world, rising as resolute as an old oak tree, with roots planted so securely into the earth that I know that there isn’t a storm so fierce that it can knock me down.

 

“My courage will come from knowing I can handle whatever I encounter there — because I was designed by my creator to not only survive pain and love but also to become whole inside it. I was born to do this. I am a Warrior.”

Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

 

It is really scary, yet equally motivating to slowly discover the place that you want to occupy in this world and work diligently to fabricate a brilliant and shiny future built from ruins.

I love Kirk as much in death as I did in life, my love for him has not changed, only my attachment to him physically.

I believe the human experience is such a very small part of our existence and the spirit world is more expansive than we can ever truly imagine. In life I wanted Kirk to have freedom from the demons that tortured him, and he wanted me to fully embrace my affable spirit and shine as brightly as I possibly could. None of that has changed, for either of us. I can remember vividly a conversation Kirk and I had at Easter in Vancouver about unconditional love. We talk a lot about unconditional love, while putting conditions on our love. When behaviors change or certain conditions are not met in our relationships, they suffer, some irreparably so. When our conditions are not met the love inevitably fades away. This had been an ongoing conversation for days, whether that type of love was possible in a romantic relationship. We both waivered and changed our minds countless times, settling on yes it was possible but could prove extremely  difficult. Now more than ever I realize the value and the depth of unconditional love. The promises and commitments we made can no longer be honored, yet, the love remains and always will; unconditionally.

Daily we face the unimaginable pain and trauma of our tragic loss, but our story continues. When we sift through the ragged debris of a life that once was I am finding that some important things remain, in fact all the things I need to plant the seeds of a new life. Hope, faith and love.

I know for certain that I do not want to be just lovely, I want to be love. I know that every bit of the love I gave to Kirk he will give back to me now so that I will contine to have the capability to face all of my  fears and embrace optimism and put that love back into the world so that I attract the right people and experiences to design a future of gratitude and abundance for me and my family.

I have a deep understanding of my worthiness and I know I am deserving of good things. The choices I make and the intentions I set will determine the foundation that I build a future on. I am forever changed but I will continue to live from an untamed heart, not a disenchanted one.

A family member asked me yesterday if I was angry and how did I manage to keep myself going?

The truth is pain is merciless; fighting it will neither solve nor diminish it. We need to heal our pain because if we continue to dwell in the hurt, hurt is what we will continue to bring into the world. 

Yes, some days I am angry and sometimes I cry out of nowhere but that is not the entire story. Pain cripples our capacity for love and joy. Pain is a place to visit, not a place to live. I choose mercy over misery.  That is the best way I know to honor him. 

I want to bring love into the world and that starts with unabashedly loving myself and deeming myself worthy of all of  the things I desire in life. There was a time that I believed that it was my job to hold everyones pain, that it was OK if I came last. I know longer believe those things. 

Throughout this challenging grief journey there are days I will not always feel brave, on those days when I am soft and giving and loving; other true essences of myself; I will work harder to beat down the walls of fear, as I cannot shine my bright light into the world if I constantly build protective walls around me and my heart to keep the light out.

I am courageous, yet vulnerable, I am uncomfortable yet authentic and I am showing up every day, even the days when it hurts the most, without sacrificing any of the things that make me….me.

I’m still standing.

“First the pain, then the rising.

Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

 

So when you ask how I am and I say I am ok, I am. I am not ok because I am over Kirk or I no longer feel his loss, I am ok because I know more than ever that the love we shared is still and will always be very real. It is in the eyes of our children, every song we danced too, every movie we curled up and watched and every single memory that brings me a smile. If I tore apart every piece of myself there would be evidence of him in every cell, he will never truly be gone. 

 In life Kirk was my biggest cheerleader and now, in a world that likes to scrutinize and cast harsh judgement it feels really good to know that I have the best cheerleader in the universe looking out for me, someone who genuinely wants the very best for me in every situation.

I ran into a new friend the other day that I have not seen since August, she asked how I was and her eyes immediately filled with tears and automatically registered sadness. People so often feel that it is their duty to take on the pain of others. I have definitely carried the weight of other people’s pain and it gets extremely heavy. I assured her that I was ok and I was doing well and healing. I later met a friend who told me that my good energy was infectious. If I can pass along anything to you, I would not choose my pain, or my suffering, I would choose my energy and my love.

I’m still standing and so are you. Now it is our time to rise.

 Adversity can not rob of of the opportunity to have a great life. Pain is in fact a great teacher. Many people who have faced unimaginable struggle have gone on to lead inspiring and impactful lives.

Just as Kirk will always be more than the illness that stole his life away, we will be more than the tragedy that robbed us of him. 

Holding unto pain is like drinking poison in your coffee everyday. We will continue to suffer with no end in sight. Sadness and suffering are not the same. 

Today, whatever you are holding unto that is causing you pain and shutting peace out of your heart, ask yourself…

1. Will holding unto this pain change the situation for the better? Should I hold the pain or heal it?

2. Will letting go of and moving through the pain be of benefit to me?

3. Will I choose misery or will I choose mercy? Why? 

“What if pain – like love – is just a place brave people visit?” ― Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

 

 

xoxo-michelle1