Life in the Fast Lane-W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

 

Saturday afternoon as I padded around the little cabin in my bathrobe, a leftover cheddar smokie drizzled with mustard and rolled up in a napkin in one hand and a Krispy Creme donut in the other I felt content. I unabashedly slept in, waking to roll over, stretch out and sleep again on repeat. It seemed like it had been forever since I had been able to do that and I wasn’t going to ruin it by feeling guilty. I happily had no responsibilities except to relax.

I had gone to visit my husband out of town and meet his work crew. He convinced me to stay an extra night but in the interim I had a whole day to myself to do as I wished. I was in the middle of nowhere so there wasn’t a whole lot to fill my time so I decided to just slow down and enjoy the quiet.

I was watching a Ted Talk with Carl Honoré about his bestselling book In Praise of Slow, about the slow movement. Carl explores the idea that if we actually slow down, in our speed obsessed society, we can actually accomplish more, be happier and create greater success.

Our culture of speed takes a toll on every aspect of our lives; living in the fast lane is damaging to our health, our diets, our well being, our communities and our relationships.  When we live our lives in fast forward, we are missing some of the most important things.

“Everybody these days wants to know how to slow down, but they want to know how to learn to slow down very quickly!” ~Carl Honoré

In the last couple of years since I started the W.I.S.E. Project one of my greatest challenges and desires was to be more mindful and learn to live in the moment. My entire life needed a complete overhaul to learn to live in the present moment instead of speeding through to the next. I learned that I wasn’t really connecting to myself and to the world around me, I was literally racing against time to accomplish everything I could possibly get done in a day. It made me ill, unhappy and detached. I longed to have deeper, richer and stronger relationships and wanted to take an active role in my own well being and pursue activities that I was passionate about but the truth was that I didn’t have time. To be clearer, and more honest; I didn’t make time and I equated a great deal of my self worth with how much I could do and how much I could achieve in a short amount of time.

The message of ‘less is more’ has many meanings and can seep into several areas of our lives. We collect things, more and more things that don’t matter; that clutter our lives and fill voids. We subscribe to the notion that time is money and we race against the clock, busying our lives and barely taking the time to just breath.

I do believe it is possible to slow down but it is an undertaking that requires careful thought and an honest desire for change.

“There is more to life than increasing it’s speed.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Personally, one of my greatest tools in my battle against time and practicing mindfulness has been meditation. A daily meditation practice has allowed me to achieve something that I have always longed for; a strong and resilient mind among the chaos that is my life. I have discovered the luxuriousness that is silence and I crave more and more quiet and unhurried moments to ease my burdens and feed my soul.

Being still can seem strange at first. Most of us run on autopilot and we are trained to constantly be doing. For me, I often have to overcome the guilt that I should be doing something. Slowing down is healthy, silence is golden.

The World Health Organization has identified noise pollution as a global health hazard affecting both developing and developed nations. The impact includes hearing impairment, sleep disturbance, mental-health effects, hypertension and increased blood pressure. People surrounded by noise are often in constant states of stress, which can degrade their immune systems.

Slowing down and taking the time to embrace a quitter and yet more fulfilling existence is a healthy escape from the everyday that can be life changing for you and your loved ones.

Do you think your life could benefit from learning to slow down?

How do you find moments of calm in your busy life?

What do you value above all else in your life?

 

Three Little Birds-W.I.S.E Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

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A few years back, possibly more as I am at the age that time is flying by in warp speed; I used to love the waterslides at World Water Park. They were exhilarating and I felt a sense of freedom and abandon as I was rushed feet first at insane speeds into the cool water. With age comes an awareness of our mortality and that feeling that we are invincible begins to fade away. Some people are very successful in defeating that feeling and proving that age is nothing but a number but as I stood at the top of the slide uneasily awaiting my turn to go on the slide aptly named “Are you fucking kidding me?” I imagined nothing but terrifying things and plunging feet first to my tragic death. My turn came way before I was ready and as I pushed off the side I was thrust into immediate darkness as the sides of the slide were completely enclosed. I struggled with several feelings that rushed to me all at once and though my mind and my body seemed to be going at a wild speed, some things seemed to be happening in slow motion. I coped by balling my hands into fists and squeezing until I was white knuckled, closing my eyes and bracing for the worst. Seconds passed which felt like years and I decided that if I was really going to die right now this would be the last exciting thing that I ever got to experience. I willed myself to open my eyes and embrace the darkness, I took a deep breath and un-clenched my fists and felt my body being rocked from side to side, the rushing water lifting me to the right side and then the left. Within seconds my entire body was dropped into cool water, rushing around my body and head. I felt this feeling of relief mixed with euphoria that filled my lungs and my limbs and shone through my heart. I didn’t just survive, I thrived. I had stared my fear in the face and on the other side of my fear was joy.

So many times over the years I have told my daughters that joy is on the other side of their fears. My oldest seemed to be so unwilling to embrace uncertainty and looking back seemed to have all sorts of irrational fears. Little things would cause an argument or a great deal of anxiety but for the most part she seemed like a loving, smart and athletic girl who had big plans and hopes for the future.

At ten years old when I couldn’t help her with math because she became too frustrated, once flipping the coffee table over or kicking the walls in her bedroom repeatedly when put on a timeout I assumed that it was goddamn hormones. Watching her struggle through the teen years was difficult and I accepted the therapist’s recommendation that she was a normal teen who just needed coping mechanisms. I agreed with that advice and would hear it and agree with it several times over the years; from therapists, doctors, school counselors and friends. I never once considered that my only coping mechanisms were tears, white knuckles or wine.

In her early teens she fell in with a group of girls who had little to no supervision so when I said No to her and we ended up in a screaming match and she later crawled out her bedroom window making me frantic with worry I cursed the damn hormones and those other parents who didn’t set boundaries for their children. At fourteen she struggled with her sexuality, but we loved her no matter what and genuinely just wanted her to be happy. We prepared for struggle as she found her way in the world and a therapist would assure all of us that she was going to be fine. She just had to learn to cope.

Over the years she would suffer ups and downs, I would see her dedicate herself to a sport she loved fully and completely and be filled with immense pride. I would see the amazing things that it did for her self esteem and her confidence but it all seemed like it hung in a very delicate balance, as if one bad game, play or unkind word from a teammate or coach could take it all away. Through it all I tried to encourage her to be herself and embrace her individuality and learn to love her differences and she did for some of the time…and then she didn’t. I saw as friends came and went and I told her that if she became the kind of person she would want to be around the right people would come to her life at the right time. She welcomed new opportunities and challenges; growing and learning new things and finding new passions, but on some of the days everything was wrong, very very wrong. She called herself ugly and stupid and she directed a great deal of her anger at me. She became disconnected from the things she loved and I blamed it on Netflix binges and encouraged her to leave the house and be active. I took her to the woods on a hike recently and she said how great it made her feel. The earth, the air and the trees reconnected her to something she had lost. Her anger in the weeks following seemed to worsen and those in between times when she was my sweet young lady seemed less and less. She started to lash out at her sister and what we perceived to be small things would make her feel rage. She told me she wanted to talk to someone, that she just had a lot to get out. I encouraged her to do her research and find someone she thought she could connect with as she had called the other Therapists stupid. One afternoon she called me after leaving the doctors office and said she had finally found a good doctor that listened to her and he was referring her to a Psychiatrist. We lucked out being the first people to answer the phone on a forty person waiting list and she got in to see the Psychiatrist without the typical five month wait. I took her to the train and she went by herself so she could feel confident in being completely honest about how she was feeling. I held back tears as the Psychiatrist called me and told me that he was shocked that Morgan had not been diagnosed sooner and that his diagnosis was clear without any uncertainty all. My heart broke as he told me that she had ADHD with underlying depression and anxiety, that untreated had also led to conduct disorder. The screaming anger, bad decisions and struggles with school and self esteem were all a part of a larger issue. The diagnosis was a bit of a blessing, but the fact that she had suffered for so long caused me an immense amount of pain. I should have known. I know that we cannot go backwards and we decided together that we would go forward. The doctor said that there was no way around medication; though he fully supports and encourages a holistic lifestyle he believes wholeheartedly the medication is needed immediately to help her, especially in school. She and I both believe that our Western society is way too medicated but we are also both tired and hopeful for a reprieve from the daily uphill battle that rages on and on.

We have been on this road for several years but our journey has just begun. Everyday brings something new and we are trying to find a way to stay connected as a family and face our challenges head on, without curling up in bed with ice cream and tissues.

There are things that are hard for her, things I cannot quite understand but I am trying my best. She is going to meditation classes with me and the first one she was so incredibly anxious I did not think she would make it through it but she was able to control her breathing and her anxious mind and find a little place where she felt safe. She actually fell asleep in class, which was the most amazing result for a first time mediator. She now refuses to go to any classes that are not facilitated by this instructor, she found a bit of safety and I am trying to understand.

She allowed me to share our story with the instructor, who is also a mom, and such a warm and genuine woman that people gravitate to her. When I explained to her that she had been told for years that she needed coping mechanisms she took a thoughtful pause and said “coping mechanisms? I don’t like that. I don’t like that at all. How about thriving mechanisms?”

That moved us and encouraged us at a time when we needed it. We do not want to move through our lives white knuckled, squeezing our eyes shut, binging on ice cream and wiping away tears. We want to be fully engaged in our lives, to encourage and support and love each other, even when things are hard.

When she is ready, my daughter wants to get involved on this blog and in the Podcast so that she can be a voice for other people that are struggling and do not know why. Right now she is busy learning how to thrive.

“Every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise”

~Deepak Chopka

 

I have been working extremely hard on my own mental health, I know that if I am not healthy than I will not be good to anyone else. I find that floating (sensory deprivation) is an amazing way to clear my troubled mind and reset. I go to Modern Gravity in Edmonton Alberta. I have amped up my daily meditation practice by attending unlimited classes with Lifestyle Meditation here in Edmonton. They have a variety of different classes for relaxation, stress relief, movement, creativity and balance. I try to get enough sleep; the absence of good and restorative sleep can be harmful to our bodies and our minds. Our minds are powerful messengers and if something is wrong it will tell us. Stress can manifest in all sorts of ways and make us ill. Not enough sleep can keep us from leading full and happy lives. I do a sleep mediation nightly and I created my own Guided Journey Sleep Meditation as a gift to my Mom but I am hoping to convince my daughter to do it with me tonight after our hike in the woods.

The keys words in the dictionary definition of Cope are struggle, deal and face. The key words in the dictionary definition of thrive are prosper, grow and develop. Which would you rather do in times of stress? The answer is clear for me, even through my instinct during times of stress has always been to curl up in the fetal position and hope for it to pass I am finding healthier ways to deal with burdens and I am hoping to be an example to my family.

This morning I woke to three little birds outside my window singing a pretty song. I know that was the great Bob Marley’s way of reminding me that every little thing is going to be alright.

 

Be WI.S.E. friends and take care of yourself.

Our minds are powerful messengers and when the burdens that weigh us down rob us of the healing and restorative power of restful sleep we find ourselves sick with stress. Join me for a guided journey to create calm, inviting you to a deep and restful sleep.

 

Be yourself- W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

I don’t have any memories of being a baby but I recall this particular picture of me on my first birthday where I was standing on a chair staring at my birthday cake. My raven black hair was in disarray, framing my porcelain like skin. I was wearing this little red checkered two piece outfit with my belly peeking out of the top of the shirt. I have seen that photo so many times over the years and countless times over the years I have heard, “aww look how chubby you were.”, and “aww look at the belly” “so cute”

The dialogue that we use when we see babies is all pretty much the same, “look she is perfect” “look at those adorable chubby thighs” “he is going to rule the world someday” and my favorite (I might be quoting my mom) “she is so ugly, she is cute (because we all know that there is no such thing as an ugly baby) Babies are impeccable and we applaud their every milestone. Babies show up everyday and they smile at you even when they have sweet potatoes in their hair and a diaper full of shit. They are not self conscious, so a baby does not push you away when they are feeling gassy or bloated. They are little love machines, they want to love you and they want you to love them and they are generally quite enamored with themselves, and why shouldn’t they be? They get praised for pooping in a plastic pot.

Apparently when you are forty-three chubby isn’t as cute and way less people remark about my belly. (Thank god)

I have a lot of wonderful childhood memories. I was an imaginative child, I loved to play make believe and tell stories but I also liked to play outside all day. I loved to dance and do cartwheels and just about anything would make me laugh uncontrollably. It wasn’t unusual for me to come home with dirty or skinned knees from playing in the mud or falling off the monkey bars. The phrases I remember from adults during that time are all very similar; from parents, babysitters, teachers, grocers, “that’s not ladylike, be a lady, sit up straight, sit with your knees together, keep your dress clean.” At a certain point in childhood you start to become very aware of yourself; self-conscious if you will, and that wildly uninhibited sense of freedom and abandon becomes a memory.

When you are kid you always want to be older, I looked up to my cool cousins and desperately wanted to be like them. Then all of the sudden I was and Junior High was a whole new world to me, I had to leave the fun and safe environment of my elementary school to become a little face in a big crowd. I remember moving through the crowded hallways of my Junior High during class changes and seeing all of the pretty girls in the higher grades with their stylish clothes and puffy hairdos and for the first time I can remember not feeling “enough”

Not smart enough, not cool enough and not pretty enough. I can remember quite clearly admiring those girls in my brother’s grade. I was just entering this whole new world of Junior High but the Queens that reigned this new castle were very comfortable there. They looked immaculate and so comfortable in their own skin. I wanted to be them.

I lucked out ironically because one of the mean girls in grade nine took an awful dislike to me. There was no specific reason for her hatred for me, I just happened to be the in the wrong place at the right time and she took advantage of the opportunity to lash out at me. I became the object of her ridicule, anger and torment. It actually became one of the very best things to happen to me that very first year in junior high because I had an older brother and younger brother that harassed me constantly and toughened me up. This mean girl didn’t intimidate me as much as she annoyed me so I used my smart mouth to snap back at her and make her look stupid. That pissed her off of course and our chirpy banter stirred through the hallways during school and spilled over to after school hours and activities. I was secretly terrified of the bully’s best friend but way too cheeky and antagonistic to admit to that. My hutzpah attracted the admiration of some of those pretty grade nine girls that I wanted to be like. To have earned the respect of those girls awarded me a confidence that was unusual for a little fish entering a big pond. I have mostly fond memories of junior high but after a three-year stint it was time to move on to the huge pond, high school.

I met a guy that summer between junior high and high school and not just any guy; “the guy”. The summer of love quickly faded into the fall of responsibility and High School was a whole new ball game. That phenomenal confidence I had once had got lost in the endless hallways. I wasn’t the smartest or the funniest and I wasn’t the prettiest. I stumbled a bit and didn’t really know what crowd I fit into. The first several weeks of High School really sucked for me. I felt awkward, shy and lonesome for the first time in my school career. I eventually settled in and found several groups of people to pass the time with.

I can recall quite clearly that I used my smart mouth whenever I was feeling insecure or not enough. I felt like I was a smart girl, I had a passion for learning and I was an engaged student. I would spend hours in my bedroom studying, taking notes, highlighting and circling key words but that wasn’t always reflected during test time. I would second guess myself and erase things a lot; I rarely trusted my first thought. My oldest brother on the other hand sailed through high school barely opening a book. I remember getting a social test back and I was so excited to have gotten a 74 and a girl that I had gone to Junior High with was devastated to tears that she only got an 85. At this point I came to realize that I wasn’t the prettiest girl in this big sea and I wasn’t going to fit in with the smart crowd so I somehow had to pretend to be cool enough to get through school.

I started hanging out with this beautiful girl that really seemed to have everything going for her. She had golden hair and eyes the color of the ocean and she just lit up any room she was in. I loved her and she quickly became my best friend. I remember laying in her basement bedroom at her Aunt’s house staring up at the Marky Mark poster above her bed and wishing I was her. She seemed to be just enough of everything and by just being her friend I felt that somehow elevated me. I seemed oblivious to the fact that she was living in her Aunt’s basement instead of at home because she had troubles with her parents and that she continued to make a string of bad decisions because maybe her life wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I saw only what I told my mind to see. She is pretty, she is great, I need to be like her.

The summer before grade 11 I was still playing a cat and mouse game with “that guy” that I had fallen for the summer before starting high school. When he called me to come see him one hot July day I jumped on my bike and pedaled all the way there. That day changed my life!

I spent a good chunk of grade 11 pregnant after that hot summer day,  so when my friends and peers were going to parties and making great memories I was home on Saturday nights in my bedroom eating heavenly hash ice cream and watching my teenage belly  grow round; contemplating the future and decisions that no sixteen year old is equipped to make. Grade 12 was a blur at best, not only was I mourning the sudden death of my father before he turned forty years old but I was also grieving the loss of the baby boy that I had given up for adoption.

My best friend had moved away and would soon start a family at a very tender age and I struggled to fit in with people that I had nothing in common with. Their teenage struggles were so different than mine. I had tipped the scales between adolescent and adulthood and as much as I would have liked to pretend that I was the same, I never would be.

I endured some destructive judgement from my peers after I put my son up for adoption, and a decision that I had come to terms with as being mature and the best for him was turned into something ugly. There is no question that I had supportive people in my life, but the voices that made snide remarks to me about giving my baby away and those that stared at me and whispered became the loudest, but none of the voices could drown out my own voice in my head and I wasn’t really my friend anymore. I think I was truly never meant to fit in anywhere, I was meant to stand out; in a way I think we all are. We spend so much of our lives trying to stuff ourselves into boxes that were not made for us, dulling our sparkle so we are mere copies of the people that we stand next to.

I spent so much of my life afraid to stand out. I wanted people to forget that I was “that girl” so I just stayed small and followed along. When I had my girls I wanted to be a great mother, they became everything to me; leaving very little room for a relationship with my husband and no room for a relationship with me. I equated my self worth with how busy I was and how much time I dedicated to other people, I thought that self love was how much love I gave to others. I really never considered taking the time to love myself.

To be enough, I thought I had to keep giving to others and I was so tired at the end of the day that I didn’t have anything left over for me.

The months leading up to being reunited with my son that I gave up for adoption at 16, I was tormented. Would I be enough? I had these terrible feelings of inadequacy, that I should be more, do more, have more. Those feelings subsided for me immediately when we were united once again. It felt even silly that I had ever felt that way. He accepted me; he believed that I was enough!

Several years later I found myself in a spot where I was so miserable that I could barely get out of bed and I was in tears constantly. I had some wonderful gifts in my life but I wasn’t sure who I was and I still had those old feelings of shame and worthlessness. Those old voices that used to tell me I wasn’t enough came back when I was still but I was too mentally tired to keep being everything to every body. I finally realized that for my well being I had to dedicate some time to myself. That was all new to me of course but if I could tell you the single most important thing that I have learned it would be that life is all about love, it is our fundamental purpose to move through this world. We need to learn to love ourselves first, that is vital. We spend a great deal of time trying to get others to love us and wondering why things do not work out. If we do not feel we are worthy of time and love and investment in self care and self worth than why would we assume that others should invest in us. You can only give so much before your cup is empty and we all know you cannot pour from an empty cup. When we take the time to cultivate love and appreciation for ourselves, that love grows and touches every thing and every body in our lives. Instead of envying people and wanting to be them, we learn to admire them for the qualities that they possess. Most likely we see glimpses of these qualities in ourselves and when we appreciate them in others we are actually seeing a reflection. We can make choices to manage and grow these qualities that we desire to see more of. When we learn to love ourselves we don’t want to be anyone else, we can be happy for others and their accomplishments but also be quite happy to be ourselves. Comparison is the thief of joy, when we constantly hold our lives up against the lives of others we are literally stealing our own hard earned happiness.

This weekend I attended an I am enough workshop here in Edmonton hosted by Wellness on Whyte. One of the keynote speakers was the owner of Wellness on Whyte Dr. Geha Gonthier, B.A., LMT, ERYT, R.Ac.

Surviving her first cardiac arrest at 7 years of age, the doctors did not hold much hope for Geha. Through Europe’s integrated medical care, Geha met a doctor that advised her to come off western drugs and use diet and herbs to manage her chronic condition. Over time her condition improved dramatically and inspired Geha to make holistic medicine her life’s journey.

Over the last twenty years she has apprenticed with various teachers both in Europe as well as Maui on the subject of Chinese Medicine and herbs. In 2007 she received her Acupuncture Diploma after completing the program at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton.

Geha has been practicing and teaching Yoga and Meditation for many years. The results of that are reflected in the gentleness and care she extends to her patients. The focus in her work is the integration of body, mind and spirit, encouraging profound healing in the most subtle levels of awareness.

I had read about Geha and was excited to meet her and hear her speak. After a glowing introduction that made me even more excited to be in her presence Geha emerged as this wonderfully warm, humble and beautiful woman who spoke of her life and experiences and that nagging feeling that had travelled with her throughout her life of “not being enough” I think it is always a little bit of shock when we hear from the people that we look up to that they face similar struggles, there is something very powerful and humanizing about it. During her talk she mentions a video by British Therapist Marissa Peer where she presents the idea of “I am enough”. I have watched the talk as well and I am not sure what segment of the talk resonated the most with Geha but for me there is a part where Marissa asked the audience to swing their left arm behind their back as far as it will go and hold it there a moment. She then asks them to drop their arm and relax for a moment. She then tells them she is going to again ask them to take their left arm behind their back but this time she is going to ask them to move it 1/3 more than they did previously, just a little bit more. She tells them to take a moment to think about it and then the audience all swings their arms back and manages to move them further than they did previously. Now if you recall, the first time she asked them to move it as far as it would go. She explains that their mind did that. They told their mind what to do and it obeyed. We tell our mind things everyday. Our mind obeys. “Don’t be foolish, you can’t do that. You are too thin. You are too fat. You are not smart enough. You are not good enough, pretty enough. You are not enough”

Our mind obeys.

What if everyday we told ourselves, “You are enough. I love you. You are amazing. You are doing a great job. You can do it. Go for it.” Imagine how different our lives would be if we all believed that we are enough. Maybe you don’t have a mansion and four fancy vehicles and a pool like Suzy in High School but you love yourself, your life has purpose, you are generous, kind, compassionate and full of love and wonder. That is more than enough!

Geha’s talk was followed by a forgiveness meditation by Mandy Trapp. I was very excited for this because Mandy is the owner of Lifestyle Mediation and I had attended her salute the sun yoga/meditation class the previous morning. Mandy is one of those sincere and buoyant people that others gravitate towards. Mandy graduated from Chopra University with their top distinction of Vedic Master Educator and has brilliantly woven her Chopra education with her athletic training education, various yoga certifications, and several trips to India and Nepal where she has founded the India/Nepal Yoga Project; a non-profit organization that empowers healing in those affected by the devastating effects of human trafficking. She has worked in the Wellness Industry for over 20 years and founded Lifestyle Meditation in 2012.

During Salute the sun Mandy reminded us that the no matter what goes on the sun rises everyday and even if it is cloudy and not able to shine it’s brightest light it still shows up every single day. She expressed to us that like the sun we are not expected to shine our brightest everyday, that some days just showing up might be our best. Life is hard and it really helps to have that articulated. We are way too hard on ourselves, pushing ourselves to always be just right when sometimes it is an effort just to put our clothes on right side out!

Mandy led us through a forgiveness meditation and I don’t know if you practice meditation or if you have ever been a part of group mediation but it can be very powerful. It is a pretty good assumption that people attending an I am enough workshop are seeking similar things so the energy in the room is mighty. The first group meditation I was ever a part of was during a talk with Deepak Chopra and it is a formidable memory.

Mandy presented a short talk on some of her own experiences and builds on Geha’s talk about being enough and that moment in our lives when things change for us. She asks us to go back in our mind to being a baby and introduce ourselves, she then asks us to find ourselves at that moment that things change, when the rules of the world have changed and look at and sit with and speak to that person. The meditation led us through the mantra “I’m sorry. I love you. I forgive you. Thank you.” So, I found myself mentally sitting face to face with a fresh faced but scared and lost sixteen year old girl. I apologized to her, she forgave me. I love her and she thanked me. To say it was moving would be under stating it. That morning I had had a major blow out with my 17 year old daughter and I pictured her carrying around this hurt, resentment and anger and not really knowing or loving herself and my heart broke into pieces and tears spilled uncontrollably down my cheeks with my head bowed to my heart silently repeating I’m sorry. I forgive you. I love you. Thank you. . As I reunited with my 16 year old self, I searched for a way to help my daughter.

Geha had quoted one of her own teachers in what she told me sums up our human purpose in one broad stroke, “Tomorrow we die, today we love”

Love is the most important thing. We need to breath from our heart, communicate from our heart. Our heart is the center of our spirit, our inspiration and our soul. We crave acceptance and approval from others but we need to be able to love ourselves and embrace our enoughness without waiting for others to give us praise or tell us that we are good or loved.

My job right now is to love myself so am able to love my daughters and hold space with them through their struggles. To not sit in judgment of them, just in love and encourage them to always be their own best friend.

Tomorrow we die, today we love.

Love yourself. Be yourself. You are enough. You always were.

Bust a move- W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

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I have promised to inundate you with a tale of my personal struggles.

The problem with posting a video on your social media saying what you are going to talk about the next day is that you are committing to it, so even though I have gone for a float, my head feels rather clear and I would rather eat my Finish chocolate and listen to audible; I have promised to inundate you with a tale of my personal struggles. Sounds incredibly exciting, I know.

If we are talking personal struggles I could talk forever about how unfair it is that when I wake up and pluck all the grey out of my eyebrows that I am left with half an eyebrow that I have to fill in, only to discover that I have three brow pencils in my make-up bag that are empty, so I consider using the color stick that I use fill in the greys that grow in between colorings along my hairline. Oh middle age; *I shake my fist at you*. It is sad really that in our twenties we have shiny hair and taut bodies but we really haven’t a clue about self care and emotional well being. Now that we are at an age that we are figuring it all out, the things that really matter, we have to worry about leaving the house with half an eyebrow and our clothes on inside out. Life is not perfect, but it is a journey and we are responsible to make it the best one possible, even with half an eyebrow.

I know that my situation of struggle I am about to share is not unique. I know that a lot of people have been affected by the Boom and Bust of Alberta’s economy. To many who work in the energy industry, the current downturn is the worst they’ve experienced.

I moved to Alberta in the summer of 2008, I was originally not so thrilled about the idea but my husband started working in the Alberta Oil sands in the fall of 2007 and at one point we spent over 6 months apart. It was the best decision for our family and nobody in their right mind would move their family across the country without putting in a great deal of effort to make it work.

There was some negativity surrounding our move, from family and friends alike, the same negativity exists today, almost ten years later; and it is based on a lot of assumptions about our lives and what would be best for us. The truth is that we have worked hard to do the best for our family, we have had great times and great struggles. Geography has been one of the greatest struggles, not just being away from our Nova Scotia family, but being away from each other!

In 2008, I sold our rural Nova Scotia house privately and spent weeks packing up our belongings before my husband arrived to sign the papers for the sale of our home and pack up the U-Haul. He drove across Canada with our belongings and our dog, I flew with our 7 and 3 year old girls and our cat.

In July of 2008 we moved into a house that I had never seen, not even in pictures. My husband had seen it once and determined more than anything that it was a safe Edmonton neighborhood for his wife and children as he would continue to work over 400 kms away.

In 2008 the Alberta Oil sands was experiencing existential growth. Workers were coming from all over Canada and when companies could not keep up with the demand they were hiring foreign workers to work in the service and construction industry for much lower wages.

We were able to live a life that wasn’t possible in rural Nova Scotia, opening up a world of opportunity for our children

We were able to live a life that wasn’t possible in rural Nova Scotia, opening up a world of opportunity for our children, seeking and nurturing the sports and arts activities that they were passionate about. Life was busy for both of us, my husband running a crew and working 80 hours weeks, sometimes working 21 days in a row in remote parts of Alberta and B.C., away from his family and me as a mother and a wife with a full time job, volunteer work and children in extracurricular activities, missing my husband.

I am sure our story sounds very similar to many  people who came to Alberta to work and raise their families. It wasn’t an easy life but it was a different kind of struggle than we had back home. In our beautiful province of Nova Scotia we were no strangers to financial struggle but the boom mentality was all new to us. I was way too caught up in the in the thick of it to consider that what goes BOOM, also goes BUST!

We bought a house when the market was at an all time high; it seemed a waste to keep throwing money away on astronomical rents.

For someone who came to Alberta very unsure I was able to navigate my way very quickly and make a place for myself here. Though I will always consider Nova Scotia to be my home, I am proud of the way that we dug in as a family, put in the hard work, and built a life.

There have been hardships all along. We have no family here and at times that can be very difficult. Being away from your significant other is a challenge as well , and as bad as it is for me, I recognize that he is the one that misses his children’s milestones as he moves place to place, saying goodnight via text in a different bed that is not his own.

Then when he came home we tried to jam the two weeks we missed into a 4 day visit. This sometimes meant spur of the moment trips to the mountains for relaxing time because otherwise you were inundated with things that needed done around the house and the four days were stolen from you in a flash.

Before things went completely bust there were hiccups, company issues, growing pains, last minute job changes and getting by on our savings during the down times. When we got through it we high fived each other as we have several times over the years because, once again, they couldn’t keep us down for long.

Then things go to BUST. It happened really quickly. The Alberta economy was devastated and though it started primarily in the Oil sands you learn pretty quickly how that trickles down, how many sub industries depend on the oil industry.

We had already depleted our savings and good graces during the hiccups. We found ourselves sadly unprepared for the bust. Even then we tried our best to be optimistic.

My husband is a fighter, he didn’t take more than a moment to feel sorry for himself, and he went out and started drumming up work in the residential construction industry

My husband is a fighter, he didn’t take more than a moment to feel sorry for himself, and he went out and started drumming up work in the residential construction industry. In a short time he landed some commercial work as well and his work ethic led him to a new career in the commercial restaurant trade. Diversifying your skills in this economy is essential. The money was a lot less but it meant being home more and being a part of a growing company that did not depend on the unpredictability of the Oil sands.

My husband being home more seemed sadly short lived. As with any growing company, the work area expanded to take him once again throughout Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. My husband spent almost eight months away from his family last year just to try to stretch the two ends of the rope to meet in the middle. Everything about our lives seemed to be hanging in the balance, relationships are strained and financial struggle is imminent as you are trying to keep up with mid boom debt on a post bust budget.

Once again, we reached deep within yourselves and decided that we will put in the fight of our lives, personally, professionally and financially.

Once again, we reached deep within yourselves and decided that we will put in the fight of our lives, personally, professionally and financially. We were committed to putting in the hard work because the promise of extensive work at home and being together as family full time was worth that effort.

Unfortunately, elsewhere; someone else is succumbing to the burdens of mismanagement during an economic downturn and my husbands hand was forced , once again to change jobs quickly. He believed in the potential of his company and promise that his hard work and sacrifice would reap the reward he desired, being with his family full time.

I could tell how torn he was to be returning to an industry and a life that he had hoped to leave behind.

He packed his bags on  Sunday night and said goodbye to his children. I could tell how torn he was to be returning to an industry and a life that he had hoped to leave behind. Realistically, one can look at the situation as an outsider and say we should be grateful. We are grateful, for many things, we are not grateful however for the time we spent apart and we have heard the “no money is worth that!” We know that too. It is not about “money” at all, except that we are trying to keep a ship full of holes afloat on a stormy sea.

We bought our house during the boom, to sell now would mean we would most likely lose any equity we put into the house. To go back home seems like an ideal idea when you think of it in terms of family and friends. The thought of the easy relaxed lifestyle we could adopt is very tempting.  However,  if we stop to construct a plan we can’t help but realize that we have over the years romanticized the idea of “going home’.

The thought of coastal drives and Sunday family barbeques brings a tear to my eye.

Being with all of my children, watching my grandkids grow up and being close to family and old friends is one of those ideas that make your heart swell with longing. The thought of coastal drives and Sunday family barbeques brings a tear to my eye.

Then I am forced to think of the fact that if we sell our house right now we could lose all of our equity, our girls have on countless occasions flat out refused to move from the only home they have known for ten years, and we would be jobless in a province that is not bursting with economic opportunity.

So, even though it feels like we have been on the same uphill foot path forever, maybe our miracle is on the other side of the mountain. We need to make healthy decisions regarding our financial future and keep moving even though it feels like we have been stuck in the same spot way too long.

We are grateful we are able to maintain close connections with most of our family and friends even though we are on the other side of the country, our hard work has afforded us some great opportunities and we have made great memories. Perhaps on the other side of this we will once again high five each other and remark how we couldn’t be held down for long.

I can’t even begin to imagine what the future will bring, it seems best to just focus on today.

I know that we all face our own personal and financial struggles. I am interested to know how you cope during times of stress. Do you believe in retreating to safety or do you just keep swimming in the hopes of one day moving forward? When you can’t get ends to meet no matter how far you stretch them are you able to keep a cool head and do the next best thing or does it tear you apart?

I believe that we can help each other. I look forward to your input!

 

 

 

Don’t Worry Be Happy -W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #TenaciousTuesday

I recall a time not so long ago that I ridiculed people who read self-help books. I cannot pinpoint when and how I became enthralled with the wildly popular genre but in the past several years about 90% of my reading has been dedicated to memoirs and self-improvement. I take courses and workshops and online boot camps dedicated to understanding myself better and reaping more joy from the world around me.

I went from So What to Don’t Worry Be Happy on the musical scale of life.

When I initially started the W.I.S.E. Project I was going through a period of uncertainty and unexplained sadness and though I was going through the motions I wasn’t living a life that was bringing me a great deal of happiness. I made some changes right away in my life by being more mindful and aware which lead to me doing a relationship study and exploring the connection between our emotions and our actions. I made a conscious effort to try to control what I search and see online and to make choosing happiness and gratitude a priority every moment of every day.

I still get sad, angry, emotional, bitter and annoyed but I am much more aware of the cause of these feelings and I know that my actions in those moments of distress truly matter. I believe it was Brené Brown that first said, “You cannot selectively numb emotion.” What she meant by that is if we numb the bad emotions in hopes that we will never experience pain or anger we will also numb those delightful feelings of happiness and joy that we want to feel as well. It would be like taking a brilliantly colored rainbow and putting a bleak filter on it, making it dismal and uninteresting. It still passes for a rainbow but it it isn’t vivid and gleaming.

I think we all want the same basic things from life, we all want to live a happy and fulfilling life, but I respect that we all follow a different path to get there.

Newly “Happy” people are like people who were very successful on a diet or that just found Jesus.  They are excited and they want to help you have the same experience. The problem with that is that we are all individuals with different thoughts, feelings, beliefs and challenges, what works for one may not be a “one size fits all” fix.

In the past month, I have encountered the same thing repeatedly relating to the happiness experience and I thank my husband for encouraging me to look at things in a new way, especially in those cases that relate to our teenage daughters. I was leaning too far into the “don’t worry be happy” approach to guidance which gives very little regard to the vast emotions that we; as humans, experience daily.

Though I still wholeheartedly believe that gratitude breeds abundance and happiness is a choice, sometimes shitty things happen to us and we have every right to feel shitty about them. Telling someone who is hurting to “get over it” or to look on the bright side” is probably not the best way to be supportive. We experience feelings for a reason and they deserve to be acknowledged so that we can keep moving through life making the very best choices we can in the moment.

We are hardwired for struggle, if we respond to our pain, our sadness, our fears, we are admitting that our feelings are real and that they deserve our attention. We cannot overcome that which we refuse to acknowledge.

There has been a hopeful shift in the way that I relate to my teenage daughters. By acknowledging their fears and their pain instead of quickly dismissing it by telling them it won’t matter in twenty years or that they need to get over it, I have observed the emergence of their own coping mechanisms. My husband reminded me to think back to when I was a teenager and how things that may not matter to me now were a very big deal. It was a huge eye opener, and so effective to put myself in their shoes, at their age for just a moment. They are assured that their feelings have substance and that pain has a beginning, a middle and an end. I am seeing them accepting their fate and recognizing the steps they need to take to move through their difficult emotions, without holding unto the bad energy or passing it along to others. As a parent, it is very satisfying to watch their character reveal itself.

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I was quite annoyed the other week as I was discussing a situation with some friends and one proceeded to tell me how I felt and how I should feel about the circumstances. I thought that is was presumptuous to tell me how to feel. It gave me a moment of pause to consider if I have been guilty of the same thing.

There is a great deal of people in the world who wrap themselves in pain and anger and live their entire lives blanketed in misery. Unlike those people, people that are willing to experience the emotions that visit them, to identify their cause and travel through their struggles, hanging on to the lessons only; are probably some of the happiest and most intelligent people I know.

Diminishing and disregarding the feelings of another does not make us a shining example of anything. Even though we may think me may mean well, in our attempts to help we may be unwittingly devaluing their emotions.

One of the society’s biggest problems is that we listen only to respond. Sometimes people just want us to listen, not to tell them how to feel or how to fix their lives, they just need us to listen.

“Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.”
― Roy T. Bennett

Five Year Engagement -Thank You

Disclaimer-I wanted to apologize if my repeated use of the word fuck in my blog post the other day offended anyone. I am not apologizing for using the versatile, emotion conveying term, I am actually just sorry for you if you are offended. I think we spend way too much time being offended and though I try to keep things very upbeat and positive here (that is the whole purpose), the truth is life really sucks sometimes and that deserves to be acknowledged as well! Sometimes you are handed a bag of shit and expected to make shit pie. We do the best we can at any given moment.

Marshall-Islands
The Marshall Islands are a sprawling chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls in the central Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and the Philippines. Someone there has read my blog!

Happy five year anniversary to me

Today is the fifth year anniversary of my first blog post. Thanks to everyone who ever popped by, even if you found yourself here by accident. This is a pretty big deal to me!!! Five years. Besides marriage and motherhood; which I hide from both occasionally,  I am not really good with long engagements. I have worked at my job for over five years but I did take a two year break in between so I am not sure if that counts. I did have a diet that lasted for five years but I only did it in one day increments. It led to a lot of other issues such as headache, lethargy and bitchiness.

Blogging has been fun and I have appreciated all of the conversations that I have had with people, and the friendships that I have formed. Writing authentically requires a great deal of vulnerability; allowing people into your life and your heart can sometimes be difficuly but my experiences over the last five years have been exceptionally positive. From the bottom of my heart I thank you!

My blog has been viewed in 108 countries

I decided to go through my google analytics today and it was pretty interesting. I found out that my blog has been viewed in 108 countries. That is an interesting statistic. I have 739 friends on Facebook, many of whom have never viewed my blog at all. That means that strangers in 55% of the countries in the entire world give a shit about what is going on with me more than the people who actually know me. This is not a dig at those friends at all, I know that lives are busy and some of you cannot read and I know that you wouldn’t even have the time to follow my blog even if I won a billion dollars or wrote a bestselling novel. So seriously, there is no offense taken whatsoever. People in the Marshall Islands and Kyrgyzstan are very interested in what I am doing and that is enough for me.

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Kyrgyzstan is a rugged Central Asian country along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean. The Tian Shan mountains, which surround the old caravan route and dominate the country, are home to snow leopards, lynx and sheep. Someone is Kyrgyzstan has read my blog.

Thousand Acre Heart Part 8 is my top viewed post

Of those 108 Countries who have read my blog; my most read blog post in 5 years was Thousand Acre Heart Part 8. Thousand Acre Heart is my account of being a pregnant sixteen year old girl in a small town who gave her baby boy up for adoption and years later searched for him. I had to peel back some layers of skin on old wounds to write about it but it was gave me a certain amount of freedom from the past. If you have not read it but you are curious (it has a happy ending) , it is on the menu bar at the top of the page, start at part one.

Strangers care about what I am doing at least as much as the people I know

Facebook and search engines were equal referrers in the past several years, so that means that strangers care about what I am doing at least as much as the people I know; if not more. Twitter was a big referrer over the years but was right in line with Storied mind, which is a support blog based out of the U.K. for spouses whose partners suffer depression. I found the blog at a time that I was in desperate need of support and because of that blog I started sharing my own stories and struggles surrounding my battles with my partners depression. I am humbled by the kindness people have shown me and the stories that have emerged from others who have a genuine desire to help me find my way when darkness falls. I sincerely hope that those that visited my blog from Storied Mind have found a bit of comfort in the knowing that they are not alone.

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Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country and former Soviet republic, extends from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Altai Mountains at its eastern border with China and Russia. Someone in  Kazakhstan has read my blog!

The top six countries that view my blog

The top six countries that view my blog are Canada, U.S., United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia and Germany, this is not really a surprise but those following closely behind like United Arab Emrites, India and South Africa are very intriguing to me as well.

There are a handful of countries that have only visited once, smaller less important countries of course. I assume that their google search led them astray and that is funny in its own right because some of the search terms they were interested in, that led them to my blog, are very facinating. In no particular order I have compiled some of my favorite search terms that lead readers to my blog, they are copied directly so I am not responsible for grammatical errors (I don’t even take responsibility for my own).

Search term favorites:

can i have a margarita while on vitamin d (ummm Cheryl Paris was this you?)

does bon jovi have eyebrows

turning 40 life ideas (not birthday but life lol)

“baby first” “marriage later”

الفيس بريسلي و بريسيلا (I translated this it means Elvis and Pricilla Presely)

was honey boo boo mom on jerry springer

what is the writing address for honey boo boo

“in his car” “had to pee”

stinky heidi shit gusts (poor Heidi)

diane lane nipple (go big or go home…just the nipple?)

card games if you lose you get a wedgie

masturbation snowsuit- (I am going to google this one myself)

is there a song about a whiny bitch

bit me nose of to spite me face (Say with a Newfie accent )

why you act like your shit don’t stink meme

so dance fucker dance

really dirty truth or dare questions (this sounds like something I would google but it was likely my Aunt Terri)

ed kowalczyk wife (please copy, paste and google this on google images)

Thanks so much for your visits, I write for myself but also for you and stats are fun!!

Have a great Wednesday!

Bucket of Fucks-W.I.S.E. Project 2017 Tenacious Tuesday

DISCLAIMER- I apologize in advance for the use of the word fuck, I am struggling to find another word that can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, an interjection or an adverb. If it bothers you, you can replace with the word flower or meatloaf.

“Now, while not giving a fuck may seem simple on the surface, it’s a whole new bag of burritos under the hood. I don’t even know what that sentence means, but I don’t give a fuck. A bag of burritos sounds awesome, so let’s just go with it.” ~Mark Manson

One of the most valuable pieces of advice I was ever given was to give up all my expectations of people. It took me a very long time to get behind that advice, the thought was foreign to me. I was heavily into volunteering at the time and I expected everyone to have the same level of commitment that I did, and because that didn’t happen often, I allowed it to cause me a great deal of stress. When I learned to stop expecting things of people it was a step in the right direction, I stopped taking it personally when people didn’t step up or follow through. Eventually I decided to move on to other things myself and albeit that was initially a difficult decision. When you put your heart into something and dedicate countless hours to a cause it is hard to walk the other way and not look back. That was the day I decided not to give a fuck. Too many fucks had been given and I was simply out of fucks to give.

I teetered through life with my bucket of fucks, giving fucks to things that really didn’t deserve a fuck. I gave a fuck if the cashier at the grocery store was rude, I threw another fuck at the driver that cut me off in traffic, I was handing out fucks to strangers and events that in the grand scheme of my life didn’t matter all. One day I found myself scraping the empty bottom of my bucket of fucks. I had given out fucks like they grew on trees, here a fuck, there a fuck…everywhere I am tossing a fuck, fuck!

I had one fuck left to give. It turns out fucks don’t grow on trees and if someone didn’t throw a fuck my way, I was going to be fuck-less!!

Simply not giving a fuck at all, ever, is apathetic, and that type of indifference is reserved for people that are lazy and uninspired. However, it is absolutely okay to not give a fuck about every little thing. It is fine to cache our fucks for things that are important, like family, friends and wine.

Younger me gave a fuck about everything and everyone. I was a people pleaser, I wanted to be liked, I gave a fuck about what people thought of me, what they said about me, whether they thought I was smart or funny or they liked my hair. I had a ton of fucks to give and I was handing them out all over town like I was that stranger with candy that your parents warned you about.

Age and maturity has taught me to be selective with the fucks I give. It is a work in progress but I find that I am certain of my identity, surer of myself, and I able to reserve my energy to give a fuck, only when it is important.

I went through this period of uncertainty not so long ago where I really struggled with who I was and how to be happy. I had it in my head that I wasn’t enough, that I was meant to do more with my life and I desperately wanted to have some sort of skill that would make that happen. After some soul searching I realized that I am never going to be a National Geographic Photographer or a Pulitzer Prize winner. I am not going to heal people or co-host a show with Ellen. I am OK with it. I am OK with being who I am and where I am in my life and as I sail through the days with my dwindling bucket of fucks I realize that it is alright not to give a fuck about every little thing. I am enough. I have everything I need and I am happy not giving a fuck a lot of the time!

It is not easy. There are days when I want to give a fuck about everything.  It gets tiring though and I find that at my age, the more fucks I give out, the less fucks I can dedicate to things that really deserve my time and energy. My goal is not to simply “not” give a fuck at all but to learn to redirect my fucks to the right people and things.

“The point is that fucks have to be earned and then invested wisely. Fucks are cultivated like a beautiful fucking garden, where if you fuck shit up and the fucks get fucked, then you’ve fucking fucked your fucks all the fuck up.” ~Mark Manson

I have come to realize that when I am giving way too many fucks to insignificant things, even things that bother me like the toilet paper not being changed, the drive through attendant’s lack of enthusiasm or whether there is toast crumbs in the butter, I am lacking something in my life, something that I genuinely give a fuck about.

Sometimes I am genuinely enthusiastic about so many things that I struggle with giving a fuck to everything , it’s like a big ol fuckstorm, blowing fucks all over the place. When the wind dies down I know that I need to gather up my fucks and put them back into my bucket of fucks and restrict my fuck giving to the things that matter the most to me because handing out fucks like they are mini chocolate bars at Halloween is not only tiring, it keeps me from offering up a fuck to the most important things.

If you are able to achieve the art of giving your fucks out selectively you will have learned a skill that takes others decades to accomplish. Like your favorite little black dress hanging in the back of the closet for the most special of occasions, your fucks to; must sometimes sit on the shelf, in wait until the time is right.

 

Do you struggle with giving a fuck?

Do you give too many fucks or not enough?

Do you give a fuck about trivial things?

Do you think there is a balance between giving a fuck and not giving a fuck?

 

If you want to learn more on the subject I highly recommend The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

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