Ballroom Blitz- Wise project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

 

“To err is human, to forgive divine”

The following post is dedicated to a beautiful soul; my late husband Kirk. For years he has implored me to love more and judge less. I finally get it, it is a constant and life changing lesson.

I have a dirty little secret that I have never told anyone but I am about to share with all of you.

I turn into a completely different person when Ballroom Blitz comes on the radio. About four months after my husband passed away I was wandering aimlessly around the Superstore when Ballroom Blitz came booming from the sound system. For the past several months I had been holding my life together with double sided sticky tape and the good thoughts and prayers of the lovely people that never failed to support me during the darkest time of my life. Sure I laughed when something was funny and I was doing my best to put one foot in front of the other but that day was particularly dark.

I recognized the song in the first couple of bars and my left foot started to tap uncontrollably, followed by the unmistakable sway of my hips and that shoulder shimmy thing I do that makes my breasts move in a way that is illegal in some parts of the world. Without a conscious thought I grabbed a can of cheddar cheese soup and started pretending to sing into it ‘OOOH YEAH,” as I grooved through the aisle. I shimmied and I shook and I lost myself in wild abandon in that grocery store while strangers looked on in a mixture of confusion, judgment, amusement and quite possibly admiration. My limbs became one with the music; I was no longer in charge of anything. It was if I, the grieving widow, was standing there quietly broken watching this badass, slightly crazy woman treat the grocery store aisle like the dance floor cage at her old small time haunt. I was in awe to be honest. Looking back it is likely in the top five of my most magnificent moments ever.

The song ended and I abruptly put down the soup can, smoothed out my polka dot dress and walked out of the store without looking back. I got in my truck and started driving as aimlessly as I had been wandering through the store and though monstrous tears spit out of my eyes and threatened to drown me I felt much lighter than I had in months, I felt a spark of my old self that if ignited could erupt into a full blown flame. It was a reassuring feeling. It felt like a promise that I was still in there, among the wreckage and if I kept digging I would emerge, bruised and bloody, but still fucking fabulous. Those people in that store that day, even if they repeat what they saw in late night conversations, over drinks, or around campfires will likely never know how important that four minutes of intemperance were for me. I abandoned my grief for four whole minutes and I was reminded that one day I would dance again, and sing, and laugh, and love. In four minutes I felt everything I was not able to feel for what seemed like a lifetime.

Their judgement, whatever it was didn’t matter, I pleaded with myself not to fuel that fire. The only judgement that mattered in that moment was my own and I got to tell you that there was a little girl inside me shaking pom poms and doing cart wheels.

I have found myself in the midst of many contemplative moments lately. I have been quite vocal that my late husband implored me to love more and judge less and that one thing alone has been nothing short of life changing. I try to be fair with people, I try to understand that humans err; I find myself frequently exploring the depths of forgiveness.

I am learning that there is a beautiful lesson in forgiveness, for both the person we forgive and the person we ask forgiveness of. We realize that we are not perfect and we shouldn’t ask that for that kind of perfection in others. We cannot claim to be attracted to the raw authenticity in people and then turn our backs when shit gets too real. There is something exquisite in seeing someone emerge from a mistake, owning the entire script of their life and working hard to write a better next chapter.

The thing that has struck me more than anything is that when I find myself sitting in judgment of others I am also forced to face my own shit and that is not always easy. It is however enlightening.

I realize that we are not always a victim or a product of the things that happen to us, but what we call into our lives and what we allow. We all have patterns, draws and habits and we are all perfectly imperfect. We are flawed, bruised, real…figuring this shit out as we go along. I find myself constantly reminding myself that when I dare to judge others that I better hold myself up for judgement as well and that is not always fun.

I have patterns of attraction that have been with me so long that I am reluctant to work on them. I feel that they are such a huge part of who I am so I struggle with what belongs and what is a security blanket for me.

My first step is owning that I am responsible for what I invite into my life. I have a pull to certain things that challenge me but also have the potential to hurt me and I wonder if I could ever be completely satisfied without that push/pull.

So much of my identity is wrapped up in the awareness that the people and experiences that have challenged me the most have also taught me the greatest lessons about life and about myself.

However, does this draw towards hard things mean that I am inviting difficult things into my life to avoid boredom?

The truth is I quite enjoy peace, and I quite enjoy being around people who expand my mind and fill me up without sucking away my energy. I can’t help wonder if I have been confusing things. I very adamantly told my friend that I had a healthy relationship with “hard stuff” because I knew that life would be hard, it is inevitable; and I was able to face the hard things head on. She gave me something huge to consider that has been nagging me, like a fly buzzing around my head for the past couple of months.

I can do hard things. I can face hard things. I am a badass. Do I want to? Should I need to? Am I provoking the universe? Am I asking for hard things to prove that I can keep conquering them?

It is not a bad thing to confront you, to question yourself and get to know yourself.

We spend way too much time with an eye on others judging what they are doing without considering what leads us to do the things we do. If we want to sit in the seat of the judge why are we so reluctant to turn our inquisitive minds to ourselves?

Sure, we judge ourselves right?! I am bad, I suck, I messed up, I could have done better, I will never be who I want to be…but how often to we consider the choices we make, why we make them and what would change if we genuinely believed that we were worth the world and made all of our decisions based on what was best for us.

We spend a great deal of  time in our lives trying to find someone to spend our lives with and once we find that person we try to be right for that person but too often we forget how important it is to be that person to ourselves. You are the person you will spend the rest of your life with. Our journey in life is not about finding “the one”, the journey is about becoming “the one”

I believe that once we learn to love and accept ourselves and own our own bullshit everything else will fall into place just as it is supposed to.

It takes time and patience is a virtue, sadly not one of mine but I am working on that one too. I indisputably believe that we can all have the life that we were born to pursue, but it takes work and part of that is allowing ourselves to see and meet ourselves and others with love first, before judgement.

Not everyone belongs in our lives and I am careful to weed my garden of people that don’t add value to my life in some way, that is not selfish, that is self care. I am also learning that when someone hurts me, it is very unlikely that it has anything to do with who I am and everything to do with who they are in that moment. Good people do bad things; sometimes our gardens are not full of weeds, just unique flowers that need watering. We can judge them as bad and throw them away or we can show them a little love and see if they bloom.

Life is weird. We are all on a journey. We all have scars and bruises. The very best people I know are made from life’s lessons, emerged from struggle and stitched back together with love and forgiveness.

Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Once you are able to love yourself where you are and how you are you will be a lot more willing to meet people where they are on their journey. We are not the judge or the jury, we are the witnesses.

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Doing All Right – Wise project 2018- #TenaciousTuesday

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I want you to know something important. I don’t always have my shit together. I am winging it at the best of times, life, eyeliner, finances…all of it.

My decision making consists of a slight pause, a deep breath and the phrase “fuck it” before diving head first into most situations.

I am not shy and some of my friends describe me as extroverted but the truth is I have this insane need to just be myself. Now granted I have a select friend or two that gets to see the full on crazy that I tuck in periodically to be acceptable for the rest of the world but generally speaking I am an open book and that is important to me because the people that belong in my life are there for the right reasons; for me, not for a version of myself that I present to the world.

We are constantly looking to the right thinking that everyone else has it all together and the truth is that most of us are really just winging it.

The bigger truth is I feel pretty damn good about it.

There was a time when I was trying to juggle all of the balls at once, motherhood, marriage, work, finances, volunteerism and I constantly had the feeling that one wrong move and everything would come tumbling down. The truth is I wasn’t doing any of those jobs particularly well because I neglected in all of that to take care of me.

When I started truly investing in myself it seemed that everything else seemed to fall gently into place, there was no more guilt or juggling. There is great deal of freedom in letting go and trusting that you are fully supported at all times by something larger than you. For me that is the universe; science, energy, spirit and guides. I believe that when we take care of ourselves we are better in tune to see the way that these things work together to constantly support us for our greatest good.

I try to make good healthy choices for myself, I limit my time with people who suck my energy and seek out opportunities for wellness and growth. The more I do this, the more things, ideas and people cross my path that I know for certain were placed there at the right time to support me and to fill my journey with light.

I don’t have all the answers but what I am trying to accomplish is to let go of the fear that sometimes goes hand in hand with not knowing what comes next.

Sometimes it is scary not knowing all of the answers but we cannot live our lives for tomorrow when today is all we are promised.

For me meditation has been a wonderful gift to keep me grounded and connects me to the present and quite frankly to my inner self, the witness, not the judge. Even in the midst of chaos I have the tools to access calm in me that for a long time I never knew existed.

Just for today take a little time to recognize where you are, look around, breath. Don’t worry that the neighbor has a backyard oasis and you have a giant toilet for your dog, don’t worry that your friend is making her family a recipe from Chrissy Tiegan’s new cookbook and your kids are getting Lucky charms with chocolate milk after practice. Take a moment to remember that you have all this under control, take that five minutes you thought you couldn’t afford, even if you are just sitting in the bathroom playing Spiderman solitaire with the door locked. You matter. The moment you realize that everything else is gravy.

You got this.

 

 

 

 

Something more than free -Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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Several months after Kirk died I was catching up with an old friend and I found myself describing this fleeting feeling that I had been having, this feeling of freedom, this feeling like I could spread my wings and fly and live a big bold life in amazing technicolor. Saying it out loud to someone for the first time felt kind of liberating, as did being in the company of someone that I felt certain at that moment wouldn’t judge me. Typing that feels rather silly but death can bring out the worst in people and rumors were rampant in my small hometown and I faced a lot of judgment for every decision I made after Kirk died, even imaginary ones. I was only choosing to live while I was alive, something that Kirk wanted desperately for me, so it seems outlandish that anyone could find fault in that, but unhappy people can find fault in the best of intentions.

We think we can never face the hard things, and often when we are onlookers to the pain or suffering of another we wonder how they are able to endure it. The truth is we either do or we don’t. They are our only two choices. No matter what tragedies and challenges we face in our lives we all have the same opportunity to move through or get stuck. Most of what we go through, we grow through.

In the past several years I have been doing some work on relationship studies. Robert Waldinger’s Ted Talk and Harvard studies on what makes a good life led me to want to improve the most important relationships in my own life and as I dug deeper into relationships I was introduced to the concept of attachment and the strain it can put on our relationships, whether they are friendships or intimate’s ones.

While studying attachment it came up time and time again our attachment to material things as well. I thought I had mastered that years ago when I sold my house in Nova Scotia, the house that Kirk and I got married at, the house we brought our children home from the hospital to, the home where learned to love each other, even during the times that we struggled to like one another. What I learned the day I stood all by myself in that empty house will never leave me, once you took the people out of the house it was just four walls. It really wasn’t that important. The memories got to come with us on our new journey and they were the most important thing.

The lesson of attachment as it pertains to relationships is a tough lesson, one that I couldn’t completely grasp or understand the relevance of. What I was about to find out is that experience would bring me wisdom that I would never find in a book. The significance and truth in attachments I would discover through my own volition.

Your identity, your self-worth, and survival should never be bound by people or things.

Attachment and fear-based love can put a lot of pressure on our relationships and the people that we love and support. When there is jealousy and possessiveness in our friendships or relationships we are not acting from a place of love, we are acting from a place of attachment. Attachment is needy, insecure and repressive. Attachment is a terrible substitute for love, but in the end, some people want security more than they want freedom.

Don’t you lock up something
That you wanted to see fly
Hands are for shaking
No, not tying, no, not tying

~ from Fell on Black Days by Soundgarden

A defining moment in my life is when a boyfriend that I had once been madly in love with and thought I would spend the rest of my life with told me that he wanted to own and control me. I had a new job and new friends and I was happy and growing as an individual and his fear at me finding my wings and his reluctance to love and support me in my growth destroyed our relationship.

Love is spacious, it should never make us feel caged. Love and friendship is an incredible thing if we can love and be loved in such a way that makes us feel free.

I have not mastered this intelligent free flow in all my relationships, but I have a good realization that not everyone is supposed to be with us for the duration of our lives. Some people come into our lives to teach us or to challenge us for a very short time and others though they may come and go are meant to be in our lives in some way; always. There is an ebb and flow to these things that will most often manage itself if we give up our need to control every little thing.

After Kirk passed away people said and did the strangest things. I felt like a lot of people tried to take a weird ownership of him, as if their connection or experiences with him diminished all his other relationships. I also saw a very beautiful thing, I saw people who genuinely loved him forging friendships with others that loved him in a very simple, loving and honest way.

I am a better person for loving Kirk and I am richer from being consumed by the depths of his love. Death has surprisingly taught me more about love than I could ever conceive of. Death ends a physical life, it does not end love. Kirk’s love lives inside of me, in my limbs, guiding me and helping me to see and experience things in ways I could never even imagine. Our love is not dependent on bonds and it knows no bounds. It is how earthly love should be.

Have you ever hiked to the top of a mountain and when you got to the top your legs were like jello and your lungs were on fire but the view from the top was incredibly breathtaking and you stood in the freedom pose with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair and you just felt so astonishingly free you wished that feeling could last forever? Imagine if our love could make someone feel like that? Wouldn’t that be powerful?

“The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage.” – Thucydides (460 BC – 395 BC), Greek Historian

Freedom-Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

 

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The other day a memory popped in my head of a summer evening a few years ago, my husband had made Margaritas and built a bonfire in the backyard and I was wrapped up in my purple fuzzy blanket which my husband affectionately referred to as my sooky blanket. The radio was blasting in the garage and like many a person before me in a similar scenario, on a similar summer night full of promise I belted out the familiar words “Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose…” from my favorite Janis Joplin song “Me and Bobby Mcgee’.

Many times over the past several months that memory has invaded my thoughts and as I imagined Janis pulling her harpoon out of her dirty red bandana, and playing soft while Bobby sang the blues,  I also imagined Kirk taking my margarita out of my hand, moving my blanket aside and pulling me to my feet so we could dance, like teenagers, right there in our backyard.  ‘Feeling good was good enough for me’.

There is a picture from that night that my sister in law and my daughters wear around their neck. His smile is magnetic and it is just a great picture to a lot of people, a picture that shows the Kirk that we all like to remember , but to me it is also a memory, one that will be forever imprinted on my soul. A memory that reminds me what freedom feels like, one that reminds me to dance, love and sing (even though I am tone deaf)

Somehow, Kirk slipped away from me. His depression shackled him in chains and bit by bit took his freedoms away.

Freedom means different things to different people.

When I think of the word freedom, I close my eyes and imagine myself outside sucking in the air and screaming from the top of my lungs, not so unlike the Four Non Blondes song. Throwing my hands up in the air, face to the sun.

I think of how for months after I lost Kirk to suicide that I was bound by his pain without ever even taking a moment to feel my own. While the world slept peacefully each night when the darkness fell upon their piece of earth my heart waged a ferocious war with my mind. I was my own worst enemy and without realizing it at the time I had the potential to be my own savior as well. While Kirk slowly climbed a stairway to heaven, I quickly descended a stairway to hell. A dark place I created in my own mind, a place that kept me unwell, that kept me small and lost and not at all living. Somewhere in the darkness I found and followed a glimmer of light. What I sought was emotional freedom. I was being held captive by my own thoughts and emotions, much like Kirk was. The difference was even at my lowest I knew that I was in control, sadly unlike those that suffer the devastating effects of depression and the attacks by their own brain, I always had a sense that I was in charge.

Shortly before Kirk passed away he got home one night and we were in the garage listening to music, I ordered Pizza and the delivery driver that came to the door was one of the most captivating young men I have ever met. I was immediately taken in by his smile and his enthusiasm. He wasn’t at all alarmed that my huge dogs surrounded him in curiosity and he seemed so genuinely eager and absorbed in the very moment, the conversation and the experience. It remains a powerful and memorable encounter for me. His name was Mustafa and he was a Syrian refugee. In our short but impressionable conversation he told me a little bit about his country and how much he missed it. When I asked him what he liked about Canada, he answered with the same elevated level of enthusiasm that directed the entire conversation and the charming smile that I will never forget.

“Freedom,” he said.

For me, freedom is a feeling and thoughts and the independence to be in control of my own ideas, feelings and decisions, regardless of what mass media or society spoon feeds me. Freedom means emotional sovereignty, knowing that I am always in control of me. Freedom is courage and self determination. Freedom is a long country road and good music to sing along to.

Freedom for me has never meant waking up without the sound of gunfire, the threat of violence or without fearing for my life and the lives of my family. That has never been my experience.

As some of you may know, February is Black History month and zealous to learn about things that we either did not learn about when I went to school or subjects that were glossed over I spent some free time educating myself. There are a couple things that stand out in my mind and one is the last scene from the Idris Elba movie Sometimes In April. The movie is based on the dark and violent hundred days when Hutu Nationalists raised arms against their Tutsi countrymen in the African Nation of Rwanda, beginning in April of 1994. As brother turned against brother, lives and families were torn apart and over 800 000 lives were lost, forever changing history. There is a scene at the end of the movie where a woman stands up and says ‘I was there. I’m a survivor.” Her name was Martine and she was a teacher at a Catholic School when the Hutu Militia storms the school gunning down all of the girls with automatic rifles. Martine had been knocked out during the encounter and somehow she and one other girl survive the unimaginable massacre. When Martine stands up and says the three simple words “I am a survivor.” Every single hair on my body stands on end.

In the past several months I have often thought of myself as a survivor. Finding freedom over the experiences I have endured, without being reduced by them. I often imagine what being a survivor means to someone like Martine, what freedom means to her.

I also watched a compelling documentary on abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass who was born into slavery sometime around 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. Douglass was chosen to live in his Masters house, believed to be his father. His mother died when he was between 7 and 10 years of age and he was moved around between slave owners and faced cruel but unfortunately not unusual punishment for its time.

He went on to become one of the most famous intellectuals of his time. A Baltimore slave owner’s wife taught him the alphabet and when she was forced to stop teaching him he learned from white kids and others in the neighborhood. Douglass, during his lifetime, advised presidents and lectured to thousands on a range of causes, including women’s rights and Irish home rule.

It was through extensive reading that Douglass’ righteous indignation to slavery began to take shape. He read newspapers keenly and sought out political writing and literature as much as possible. In later years, Douglass credited The Columbian Orator with clarifying and defining his views on human rights. Douglas shared his knowledge with other enslaved people and eventually found his way to freedom. Imagine what freedom meant to Frederick Douglas. Imagine what Freedom meant to someone born into slavery. Imagine what Freedom means to people whose ancestors were not born free.

Douglass said “Knowledge is the pathway to freedom.”

and

 “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.”

As part of my healing journey I developed a Moksha that is on a sticky note in my office and I say it out loud when I am overwhelmed. I used to say it several times a day. A Moksha is similar to a mantra but the best way I can describe it is a liberation or a release, mine is “I am emotionally free.”

Freedom, the very word and the idea is a bit of a paradox.  Is Freedom just a state of mind?

I do this exercise inspired by Tony Robbins, gratitude visualization.  I also visualize what words like gratitude, freedom, courage, love and connection mean to me. I bring in memories one by one and then I visualize moments from the future. I am very aware that my memories and visualizations are due to my own experiences. I have not and cannot live anyone else’s experience nor define or deny what something means to them.

The last several weeks when I thought of freedom I thought of people whose mental illness traps them in a devastating experience in their own minds, of North Koreans and the communist regime that forces them into modern day slavery, I think of people like Mustafa and his family forced to flee the only home they have ever known to come to a country where they are looked upon suspiciously and called terrorists out of hatred and ignorance,  I think of those that are still fighting racism and bigotry by having the perceived audacity to want the same unalienable rights as their white neighbors, the right to the fearless pursuit of happiness that everyone else gets. The freedom to feel like an equal. The freedom to be seen and heard. The freedom to walk or drive to the store without being profiled and harassed because they look or do not look a certain way. I think of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, mourning the loss of their friends to yet another senseless and horrifying school shooting yet fighting gun reform so they can feel a sense of freedom in their own communities and consequently I think of the youth of the Black Lives Matter movement who have been fighting the same fight for gun reform, to much less fanfare for years. Fighting for fair treatment from the very people sworn to protect them.

Freedom.

It means something different to everyone and we have to be aware and empathetic to the experiences of others, even though they may differ from our own. Some people fight for freedom every single day. Some people pass the fight down from generation to generation.

Nelson Mandela said “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in such a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”

 

I imagine a world where we are able to love and be loved in such a way that we feel free, that we feel the freedom to be our true selves and live the lives we want to lead without fear and we genuinely want the same freedoms that we enjoy for others.

What does freedom mean to you?

 

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free”. ~ Rosa Parks