Total eclipse of the heart-Wise Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday 

We are all guilty of telling ourselves the same tired stories from our childhood and we so often dismiss how important the dialogue we share with ourselves and others is to our lives and our well-being.

There is a common theme we use surrounding suffering and struggle. We uses words like ‘cope’ and ‘survive’ and phrases such as ‘get by’

As well intentioned as we may be I believe that this dialogue has been exhausted and it doesn’t feel relevant to my rapidly changing situation.

In June I lost my husband, my best friend and the father of my children to a long battle with mental illness. Surviving and coping with his illness was an every day burden for him.  The very first day in the world without him was one of the hardest things I will ever have to face, along with the realization that our family, our children and myself will need to face all of the days to come. Loss makes you realize how precious life is and for me I now believe we should direct our energy into leading the best lives possible. To thriving.

Grief has more ups and downs then the my elementary school teeter totter during recess, but it sure makes you appreciate the value of moments.

On the weekend I was dizzy with grief, feeling one minute like I was floating on a calm ocean at sunset and the next a Tsunami hit. It was overwhelming but not unexpected and I have embraced tear stained as my new make-up trend.

I found myself in a fleeting moment of hope and anticipation and began to contemplate some of the things that my children and I have on the go in the foreseeable future and I realized that those worn out words and phrases do not have to continue to be a part of our story.

A word popped into my head that I was so excited about. I even convinced myself that I had made up the word until google confirmed that another wise person had beat me to it. The word and the concept is THRIVIVAL! The idea that instead of merely existing in the face of adversity that we can instead learn to live vigorously, cherishing each moment of our lives. Instead of just surviving, we can thrive.

Should our goals be set on coping, on surviving this relentless emotional storm, or should we focus on the strength in the inevitable change and commit to living our lives with purpose and intent, choosing a life rooted in love and doing well and being well?

I think the answer is clear. I believe our route is thrivival and though we may stumble occasionally on this hilly path the journey will be worth it.

Kirk would not be content to see us just get by. Nothing short of a life well lived would be sufficient; and with him as our guide we will navigate this new world with intensity.

If you are reading this I hope you will join us; take a look at your own life and make the choice to not only do what you love, be a person you love and put that love out into the world and make it a better place. You are the univere. Brace for THRIVIVAL

xo Michelle

 

Clumsy- Wise Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

I feel clumsy, like I am stumbling and tripping through my days, like a small child on a playground who just learned how to walk.

I was listening to the radio on my way to work this morning and the Our Lady Peace song Clumsy came through the speakers and I had an aha moment of sorts. Grief does weird things to you and when someone asked me if I could describe it in one word I think that it would be impossible but clumsy is definitely a word that comes to mind. I feel clumsy, like I am stumbling and tripping through my days, like a small child on a playground who just learned how to walk. I think grief, like any type of challenge we face in life should be faced with the same energy a small child will give it, a child can fall down 10 times and they will get back up 11.

Every single day I stumble and fall, I do silly things like send text messages to the wrong people, and my memory is practically non existent, my kids were making fun of me for not remembering that my favorite basketball player Lebron James plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, I have to laugh along with them because my short term memory bank is virtually inaccessible right now and if I didn’t laugh I would have one more thing to cry about. I wake up with the sun every single morning and almost immediately I realize that there is something desperately wrong, and that one memory, the memory of losing my husband so tragically floods my prefrontal cortex and crowds out all of the other memories. My instinct is always initially to hide from the world, to stay in bed and not deal with any of it. Every single day this memory is accompanied by tears, nausea and indigestion that makes getting ready for work a unique task. Like a toddler that has thrown up his milk I wipe myself off and go about my day and fumble through the very best I can and at the end of the day my tank is on empty. I don’t think there is anything in the world quite as exhausting as grief, except for fighting the devastating and primarily solitary battle of depression and mental illness that my husband and many others labor with on a daily basis. There are two types of tired, one is in dire need of sleep and the other is in dire need of peace; they are similar but also very different.

I believe I was in an active state of fight of flight, waiting for the next bad thing to happen, always on high alert.

I realized almost two years ago that I spent a great deal of my life holding my breath when I was confronted with challenges during my life. I never really faced them, I just held my breath and pushed them down in my belly and soldiered on. During Christmas of 2015 I was hit in the face with pretty much every single thing in my life that I had neglected to deal with. I spent most of the holidays in tears and completely confused. I had everything I wanted in my life to make me happy, yet here I was curled up in the fetal position crying about things that should no longer have the power to hurt me. After giving it some careful thought I realized that I spent most of my life in either the past or the future and very little time in the present, enjoying what the moment had to offer. I believe I was in an active state of fight of flight, waiting for the next bad thing to happen, always on high alert. I wasn’t enjoying my life, and my reactions to everyday stress were making me sick. That is when I decided to start the W.I.S.E. Project and learn about the science of happiness and the benefits of mindfulness as tools to create a deeper experience of joy in my life, living in the present moment.

I am not sure where I would be in my life had I not decided to do this work and commit to being stronger for myself and my family. In a series of meaningful coincidences I have been lead on a healing journey that has awarded to me to the people, places and experiences that are able to support and guide me during this grueling journey.

Navigating through heartache and anguish is demanding and cruel but the important thing is that I am learning to pilot through the pain without holding my breath. That seemingly simple thing has made all of the difference in this arduous passage. Several times of the day as tears spill down my cheeks and reminiscences threaten to knock the wind out of me, I take a couple of quiet minutes to just breath.

In the last several months it has offered me not just an escape but a refuge, a safe space to work on my healing in a healthy and soul fulfilling way.

Several months back SynchroDestiny led me to a magical place with a community full of healers and givers called Lifestyle Meditation. Operating on the premise that silence is luxurious, it offered me a way to further develop my meditation technique and quiet my busy mind. In the last several months it has offered me not just an escape but a refuge, a safe space to work on my healing in a healthy and soul fulfilling way.

This past weekend I took a three day Learn to Teach Meditation course at Lifestyle meditation. I was excited to dive even deeper into the science and philosophy of meditation, to encourage my continued wellness and to at some point in my journey be able to extend the gift of meditation to others that could benefit from its remedial capabilities.

During the course I learned way more than practical knowledge and philosophy. I learned about the power of community and connection and I learned that we are never alone in our suffering. I learned that we do not spend enough time looking inward and giving the love we so desperately want to share with the world to ourselves.

When you are able to find and visit the silence that exists in your own mind and are no longer distracted by the external world meditation deepens.

Meditation is a specific method for quieting and resting the mind and realizing a state of pure consciousness that is entirely different from our natural waking state. It is the basis of understanding all the levels of our personal being and finally experiencing the center of consciousness within. Though meditation is a very old practice and it is deeply rooted in several cultures it is not religious, it is in fact a science which means that the process of meditation follows a precise order, has definitive values, and generates outcomes that can be substantiated.

In meditation, the mind is pure and relaxed and focused internally. When you meditate you are awake and aware, but your mind is not focused on external events or the world around you. Mediation involves an inner state that is single focused so that the mind can learn to be silent. When you are able to find and visit the silence that exists in your own mind and are no longer distracted by the external world meditation deepens.

From the time we are young children we are taught to observe people, things and places in the outside world with great enthusiasm. We are never taught to seek or discover things within ourselves. In relationships we strive to get to know others while remaining virtual strangers to ourselves. We are easily escorted into relations and circumstances that don’t necessarily resonate with who we truly are, which can often to a life of dissatisfaction.

Our fundamental nature is that of peace, happiness and bliss, and the goal of meditation is to reconnect with ourselves in that essential state but the mind remains our greatest barrier to this state of pure consciousness.

The mind is beautiful and mysterious yet largely unknown and little knowledge of the mind is promoted formally in the education system. Our entire body is in our mind yet our entire mind is not in the body and that can be very confusing. Meditation is designed to influence the entirety of the mind. The mind quite literally has a mind of its own, so for some trying to sit and meditate they may experience racing thoughts, daydreams or a grocery list of stresses, never truly able to attain the benefits of deep meditation. Our fundamental nature is that of peace, happiness and bliss, and the goal of meditation is to reconnect with ourselves in that essential state but the mind remains our greatest barrier to this state of pure consciousness. While we are taught how to move through the world and the expectations of behavior we are rarely guided on how to be still with ourselves and observe what is inside of us.

Meditation is a useful means to comfort and quiet the mind. It allows you to see sings the way that they are, void of worldly and personal judgements. Just like you would prepare and train your body to be strong and resilient, meditation trains your mind so that you are not constantly preoccupied and overwhelmed by an endless train of thoughts that you cannot control. The only obligation in meditation is your desire to explore yourself fully and learn to be peaceful, no matter what challenges you are facing in life.

Meditation has had a genuine affect on my overall well being and my ability to sit with pain and be an observer in my life without being overcome and destroyed by the agony of grief. As I mentioned, this is a very old practice, I barely know a fraction of its rich history and benefits but I am captivated by it and will continue to learn and grow and share with others.

 

I wonder what steps you are taking in your wellness today and what commitments you have made to your personal happiness and growth.

 

Namaste.

“The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you”

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Amazing Grace -Wise Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

Life is a beautiful disaster

Life is a beautiful disaster at the best of times and it is during our darkest times that we are challenged to find some sort of meaning in the midst of chaos. Never is this truer than when we experience tragedy, especially when it is the death of someone we love. So much of our identity, our hopes and dreams and plans for the future are wrapped up, in and around the special people in our lives and when one of them is suddenly taken away from us, looking forward can be a bleak venture.

This weekend was especially hard for me, there is really no rhyme or reason to grief, no magical step by step manual that you can pinpoint where you are and where you need to be. I think for me the best I can do is take things moment to moment, which was how I was trying to live my life way before my husband left this world so tragically.

At the moment, even tomorrow seems uncertain, so it is best for me to honor the feelings that come up as they arise. This weekend everything was wrapped in a blanket of deep sadness. In that regard I would describe grief as being  like the Cha-cha, taking a step backwards after taking a step forwards. Some may classify that as failure or being stuck, but it is movement and I have to believe that any sort of movement is a step in the right direction.

It seems like such a short time ago that I was waking up with happy anticipation and that has sadly been replaced by a blanket of dread. I dread even a day without Kirk so the thought of facing my life without him is overwhelming. I remind myself that moving through the day moment to moment is the best that can be expected of me and at the end of the day I celebrate the small victory that I made it through yet another one. Amidst the bleak despair if I am lucky enough to be gifted moments of light I try my best to hold unto them as long as possible, as it is in those moments that I am able to look towards the future with a tiny bit of hope.

This weekend I had made multiple plans and I was quite excited at the prospect of getting to that point in my journey that I could actually be excited about leaving the house for not one or two but three days in a row. Friday night after work I met a friend and we went raspberry picking, we had dinner and shared some stories over a glass of wine. I was in bed that night exhausted by 10 p.m. I had been having a good time and then all of the sudden I became literally overcome at the thought of never having dinner with Kirk again, never driving in a vehicle with Kirk again, never listening to Kirk bitch when his smoothie had raspberries in it because he despised how the seeds got stuck in his teeth. I woke early on Saturday but I wasn’t able to leave my room. I feel close to Kirk there and the thought of facing anything outside my room made me feel choked.  I was lucky to be given weekend passes to the Edmonton Folk Festival but tried desperately to pawn them off on my teenage daughter. In a reversal of sorts my daughter temporarily took over the role of voice of reason and told me that I wasn’t going to sit around, I was going to kick the ass out of that day and if that was too much to ask for, I could be just as sad at the folk festival as I could at home cleaning the house; only it was less lame. She was entirely right of course and as we weaved our way through Edmonton on city transit I was reminded that Kirk would have told me the exact same thing.

There is nothing lame about the Edmonton Folk festival. It is such a mish mosh of people and personalities that I was immediately reminded of the beauty and the fragile-ness of life.

Life is glorious sunsets, panoramic mountain vistas, ocean spray, sunrises, laughter, dancing, hot sand, cool drinks, loud music,  acne, gas, bills, mortgages, jobs, stress, heartache, birth, death and taxes. Life is all or nothing. There is no promise of a pain free life and unfortunately we need to experience all of it.

Music has always brought people together and we are always aware of how lucky we are to get to experience music live, it is such a connecting experience.

My daughter and I found a spot on the grass to lay our blanket, surrounded by babies, teenagers, parents, grandparents and people at a time in their lives that they can’t recall their age but their toes can still tap out the rhythm of the music. That alone was beautiful and I allowed myself to see and feel that. Music has always brought people together and we are always keenly aware of how lucky we are to get to experience music live. It is such a connecting experience, bringing together people from all walks of life to celebrate stories brought to life through music and melodies.

Irish Mythen is an Irish born-Canadian Contemporary Folk singer and songwriter with the wonderful gift of comfortably uniting people through her stories and her strong and fantastic voice. In her intro to Sweet Necessity she talked about being a singer-songwriter on the road and discovering the things that were the most important things in life, the things you long to come home too. These sweet necessities are the things that money cannot buy. She followed with a powerful song called 55 years that she had written after meeting an elderly man at a festival that had just lost his wife. They had been married for 55 years and had never spent a night apart and after he wandered off into the night she wondered about how that must have felt for him, the first time crawling into his bed without his true love. Tears were spraying out of my eyes even before the first strum of the guitar and as my daughter held my hand I was once again reminded of how lucky I was to get that kind of love, and that grief is love’s souvenir. I cannot rush my way through it, I need to carry it with me as I move through my days and honor all of the feelings as they come my way. I cried for that beautiful old man that lost his wife, I cried for Kirk, I cried for me and my children and our families and friends and I cried for people that I didn’t even know that would one day be faced with the same heartache. Pain is not selective. It is what we do with our pain that matters.

I looked at her with envy thinking that that was supposed to be me someday.

That night I was once again exhausted and I faced the same difficult morning; not wanting or ready to face my own reality. My daughter once again reminded me that we had plans for the last day of Folk Festival and that I could be just as sad there as I could be anywhere. The travel through the city was worse on Sunday, I remembered how funny it was traveling with Kirk on City transit and was reminded how we would never do that again. As we laid in the hot sun on our blanket listening to 78 year old Blues legend William Bell I thought of how much Kirk would have appreciated this and how connected he was to music. He communicated with me a lot through music, often sending me songs and always insisting that I listen to the lyrics because they were everything he wanted to say. My eyes leaked all day and it felt terrible. It felt like having annoying eye allergy and your eyes feel constantly wet and crusty in the corners. Tears were imminent.

My daughter nudged me to look at this elderly woman who was wildly dancing to the rock and roll/swamp/blues stylings of Canadian band MonkeyJunk. I looked at her through teary eyes, and my heart did a funny thing, perhaps a pang.  She had white hair, and she was wearing a white short sleeved sweater with brightly colored embroidered flowers, fuchsia shorts and matching sunglasses. If you googled images of smile or sunshine you might find a picture of her. I looked at her with envy thinking that that was supposed to be me someday. I was supposed to be that happy older lady in the brightly colored clothing, dancing like nobody was watching and shining as bright as the sun. I contemplated that for several minutes, turning my attention back to the crooning guitar and the beat of the drum to drown out the breaking of my heart, over and over again. I looked over at the woman again, still dancing as if freedom was her middle name. I estimated her to be in her seventies and I am pretty certain that heartache hadn’t passed over her. In 70 years I am sure she has experienced her fair share of pain, yet she danced as if her heart had never been broken, free from the shackles of emotional torment.

I know if I want to dance with freedom at 70 plus years old I have some work to do, I need to heal my heart and reconnect with my soul. I need to seek and find some grace.

I heard a word last week that is not a dictionary word but Deepak Chopra used it “SynchroDestiny”, alluding to the fact that events and encounters are more than meaningful coincidences; they are actually choices we make that are leading us towards our destiny.

“When we’re aware of our essential nature and the possibilities that are always unfolding around us, we enter a state I call SynchroDestiny. We awaken to the field of infinite possibilities, and are able to apply our intentions and attention to manifest the spontaneous fulfillment of our dreams and desires. “ –Deepak Chopra

I have felt pretty strongly in the last several months that people I meet and the experiences that I have are somehow all connected and leading me towards my purpose. I was meant to be at the Folk Festival and see that woman, dancing like she was eighteen at Woodstock. She was meant to be a part of my journey. I know if I want to dance with freedom at 70 plus years old I have some work to do, I need to heal my heart and reconnect with my soul. I need to seek and find some grace.

Author Anne Lamont presented a Ted Talk where she talked about grace and I searched for it and as I listened a meaning was revealed that I had not embraced on my previous listen.

Anne Lamott says:

Grace.

Grace is spiritual WD-40, or water wings. The mystery of grace is that God loves Henry Kissinger and Vladimir Putin and me exactly as much as He or She loves your new grandchild. Go figure. The movement of grace is what changes us, heals us and heals our world.

To summon grace, say, “Help,” and then buckle up. Grace finds you exactly where you are, but it doesn’t leave you where it found you. And grace won’t look like Casper the Friendly Ghost, regrettably. But the phone will ring or the mail will come and then against all odds, you’ll get your sense of humor about yourself back. Laughter really is carbonated holiness. It helps us breathe again and again and gives us back to ourselves, and this gives us faith in life and each other. And remember — grace always bats last.

 

So I am buckling up and asking for help and I am also taking measures to discover who it is I am meant to be in the world right now and in the future. I am taking an online Self Discovery course by the Chopra Center facilitated by Deepak Chopra.

Speaking of SynchroDestiny; I met Deepak in the winter when I attended his talk on the future of well-being. I also bought his book “You are the Universe.” I was immediately fascinated with the book but it was a slow read for me as I was underlining and using sticky notes and highlighters and then reading and discussing parts of the book with Kirk so that he could help me understand. Kirk had a brilliant mind and could grasp a concept much quicker than I could, I always put things through the filter of my heart and maybe that complicates things.

Our natural state is that of joy, creativity and abundance but throughout our lives we are reminded of our limitations and live within those constricted beliefs.

Through this course I am learning to honor my feelings but to let go of old hurt and anger that traps me in old experiences. Our natural state is that of joy, creativity and abundance but throughout our lives we are reminded of our limitations and live within those constricted beliefs. As a young child our lives and the opportunities available to us seem boundless but as we were educated about our limitations our possibilities became narrow and confined. Stored emotional pain can also significantly limit our potential to create and seek unlimited joy. For instance holding unto anger traps us in the past and clouds our perception of unison and doesn’t allow us to see the signs that the universe is offering us.

I know that dealing with the pain and trauma of this loss now is the the very best thing I can do for myself, my children and my emotional and spiritual well being. Otherwise I run the risk that the pain will resurface as aggravated poison at an equally inopportune time-showing up as hostility, anger, anxiety or fear. My goal is to deal with the feelings now as they come and begin to slowly take those hard steps towards emotional freedom. If I allow myself to let my mind take over I very quickly find myself trapped in a Karmic prison, a prison with no walls or locks but the trappings of my own terrified mind.

I am also taking a 3 day Meditation course at Lifestyle Meditation, to learn to fully integrate meditation into my lifestyle. Meditation has been a go to for me for awhile now, saving me from myself on several occasions; but I would like to fully immerse myself in the experience of meditation and mindfulness and connect to the science and philosophy in a solid way so that I can not only continue to evolve in my own personal practice but I can confidently influence others that can benefit from incorporating meditation and mindfulness techniques in their own lives and wellness.

Often what we are searching for is searching for us as well and I believe that grace is seeking me and I am indeed seeking grace.

Be Wise friends xo

Michelle

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Rise up-W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

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Phoenix Rising

Phoebe House Dewling was born in Newfoundland in 1889 and her first daughter Melvina was born when she was 21 years old. I don’t know much about Phoebe’s young life. I don’t know whether she had dark or light hair, whether she was thin or curvy or if she liked reading or preferred to knit and sip tea. I don’t know if we had met today if we would have anything in common, whether we would embrace and share stories or sit unsettled in silence. I do know that in 1917 a widowed Phoebe, having lost her husband Richard; arrived by boat to Halifax with her young daughter Melvina. Phoebe raised Melvina on her own until she remarried George Tancock in May of 1926. George and Phoebe had two more children back to back; a son Theodore followed by a daughter Phoebe like her Mom. Two years of marriage and two children later George died at sea leaving to grieve his 37-year-old wife, 18-year-old step daughter Melvina, two-year-old Theodore; and he was sadly predeceased by his wife’s namesake Phoebe who died shortly after her birth.

So much loss and sorrow.

Phoebe was my late husband Kirk’s great great grandmother. A couple of years ago I became fascinated with her story and the sadness that embraced her young life. I scoured through passenger lists, following the young widows journey from Newfoundland to Halifax, searched census information and imagined her struggles as a young mother and as a newlywed and mother once again when she married her second husband George. I felt anguish when I found George’s death notice, leaving her widowed with a young child once again, having already lost a husband and then a daughter.

I recall sitting in the rec-room with my husband, totally beguiled to tears by the threadbare story of his great great grandmother that I had mostly woven together with Ancesry.ca documents and filled in with my own sadness and angst. I imagined that George had promised Phoebe that they would grow old together, just as my husband, her great great grandson had promised me. George lost a battle to the Sea when he was 42 years old and my husband Kirk lost his own battle with depression and mental illness at 43 years old.

I hadn’t thought about Phoebe for a long time but she popped in my head today and I felt some of her sadness and struggle that I had always imagined on a whole new level.

Yesterday I attended a Transformational Healing workshop and was in the company of the most phenomenal women, each with amazing stories and struggles. Some of the stories moved me and at times, even in the face of my own agony I wanted to steal the pain of another to lighten their burden.

A voice inside me told me to deal with my own pain first, to allow myself to feel whole again so I could extend my wisdom of rising from great pain to help others.

In that room full of women, in various stages of physical life and struggle I was reminded that we are Warriors. From the beginning of time women have faced enormous tragedies and carried on in the face of pain.  Women have always been leaders in their communities, feeding the poor and nursing the wounded and sick, and holding space for their families’ pain all the while dealing with their own. They offer love and forgiveness and hope and they share those lessons with their friends, family and neighbors. Women show up, even when it’s hard and even when they think that it may not make a difference they keep on every day. I know this, I have always known this, I watched my own mother; widowed at 32 years old with three teenagers, she kept being a mom, our wisdom and our leader; even as she moved through her own great pain.

Writing has been a solace and a struggle for me this past month, I have talked about grief, about mental illness, about suicide and being deprived the luxury of hope but the message that I want to share today is that of  embracing hope.

Yesterday I was curled up in the fetal position, bound by deep sadness and emotional pain but today I am feeling the gift of hope. I know that my husband cannot be with me physically but I know that he is leading and guiding me and I need to stop fighting against that. I was feeling like any step I make is a step away from him, but it is actually just a positive step forward. Our relationship is not over, it has just changed forms and if I allow him to he will guide me towards all of the things that are meant for me.

Kirk encouraged me in so many ways; I have always said that he believed that I was so much smarter and capable than I could ever dream of being. He truly saw things in me that I allowed fear to get in the way of. The things that he wanted for me were things I also wanted for myself but could never quite grasp that I was worthy or capable of them. Fear was my crutch and fear was my cage, as it was for him in much different ways.

I read a quote recently that said FEAR can mean two things, Forget everything and run or face everything and rise. The choice is clear.

I have mentioned in a prior post a conversation that my daughter and I were having with Mandy Trapp, the owner of Lifestyle meditation where we were talking about coping mechanisms and she said “hmmm, I don’t like that, how about thriving mechanisms?”

That really resonated with me and it is never very far from my thoughts. Even those days when I don’t want to leave the comfort of my bed and I am clinging to my Kirk pillow crying and feeling nothing but despair, there is a little voice that whispers “when you are ready…”

For years we have bought and paid for that message that we just need to cope. Coping is just getting by, managing, and handling, muddling through! Why are we being taught to cope and not shown that we can thrive. What a strange concept!

Losing my soulmate to his battle with the demons of depression has been crippling. I have a lot of feelings to feel and a lot of dismal days ahead but he is showing me that I need to start taking my trash out. The garbage is piling up inside of me and I can’t keep pushing it down and piling more on top. One day soon I need to start taking that trash out one bag at a time, put it at the curb and watch the garbage truck pick it up and cart it away.

Being a part of a transformational healing circle was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had. What I got to see is women that desperately want to be well but have spent their entire life holding things in and pushing them down and now they are overwhelmingly sick and struggling, I see women that have felt the weight of the world, of depression, of addiction, of shame and hopelessness; and though they fallen down and lost their spark they rose as the whole damn fire. Their struggles are not gone but they continue to face them head on with grace and resilience. I saw in every single woman in that group something admirable and I learned from every single one of them about who I am, who I want to be and who I can be.

I know my struggle is new and fresh and I know that this good hour that I am having may fade to black in the blink of an eye but I see who and where I want to be and there is a great deal of hope in that. I see the person I want to be for myself and the person that I want to help lead my kids through this tragedy and to a place where we can rise up.

There are many people suffering the devastating effects of illness and disease that have been denied the luxury of hope, not the least of those being depression and mental illness. For those of us with the comfort of hope in our lives we need to embrace it, nurture it, love it and watch it grow.

Let’s rise up!

“and still, like air, I rise.”

~ Dr. Maya Angelou

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 quieter 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?

 

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.

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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