Desperately Seeking…W.I.S.E. Project 2017/Tenacious Tuesday

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I heard an interesting phrase this weekend, “What you are seeking is seeking you!”

It is interesting on so many levels. Saturday night I was seeking low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt mixed with strawberries and shredded coconut and a couple of blocks away at Marble Slab Creamery there was a tall, disinterested teenage boy waiting to scoop and mix  yogurt and “fixins” in his sluggish and non-hurried manner. In a way, what I was seeking in that moment was also lazily seeking me.

A better example might be the night that I had just finished Deepak Chopra’s Quantum Healing on Audible and came across an advertisement on Facebook for an Evening with Deepak close by. He was the speaking guest for Edmonton’s Autism Services this year and they were seeking to fill all the seats to raise money for their charity and clearly, I was seeking wisdom and enlightenment. What I was seeking was also seeking me.

Moments like this happen all the time, sometimes they speak very loudly in the form of a 35% off coupon for your favorite online shop while you are late night internet surfing, but often they are subtle and you need to follow the trail of breadcrumbs.

Sometimes we are heartbroken about community or Global issues and struggles and seeking answers to make sense in times of despair and uncertainty. Those same issues are seeking someone like us to be a part of the conversation, to advocate for a group or cause or to play a role in positive change.

We talk a lot about change and how badly it is needed but we fail to see that we are being sought daily. Collectively we can speak up, support, educate, make a lot of noise and help break the unrelenting cycles such as abuse, violence and sexual assault that can lead to the endless pain and stigma surrounding mental health and trauma.

When author and activist Glennon Melton Doyle started the Compassion Collective in response the Syrian Refugee crisis she wrote a simple but touching narrative that merely stated, “There is no such thing as other people’s children. The idea that we can see people in pain, and just look away and not be affected by it, to keep telling ourselves that our silence will not hurt us; is easily one of the biggest lies we will ever tell ourselves.

Friday night I was dropping my daughter off to be with her friends and there were several cop cars and media parked at the Good Shepherd Church next door in our Edmonton community. Forensics was on sight and I knew immediately that something incredibly horrible had happened. I slowed my truck to a crawl and I saw a man carrying a white sheet. I pulled into a parking lot up the road and dug out my cell phone and learned that it was the body of a toddler and that the police were investigating a suspicious death. I was shaken.

Police did not know who the child was and reached out to the public to assist in identifying the child through his clothing. At that point details were very sketchy but this child automatically became the child of the community. There were no such thing as other people’s children, this baby, belonged to all of us as the hours ticked away.

As I lay awake in the still of the night refreshing my internet browser and trying to make sense of a poorly detailed story, my heart ached for the unnamed baby.

An excerpt from my Facebook post on the weekend summed up my feelings well.

“Even in those quiet moments in the middle of the night when the neighborhood is still I couldn’t shake off the extreme heaviness that had fallen across me and wrapped around me like a blanket. I do not know the beautiful soul that met such a terrible fate, I do not know his family or their circumstances, but somehow, he is not just a child of the world, he is every child. He is my child!”

That heaviness continued throughout the weekend as arrests were made in the death of 19-month-old Anthony Rain; and accounts of his horrific last days and the abuse he suffered that ultimately led to his death were revealed. The Edmonton Police said the young boy lived a terrible life of violence. His father and his father’s girlfriend have been charged with second degree murder, failing to provide the necessities of life, criminal negligence causing death and the father has also been charged with assault causing bodily harm. Social media played a large role in the arrest of the accused but whether Anthony will get justice remains to be seen.

On Saturday morning, I had felt unusually connected to this case, I felt like there was a reason that I was there at the exact moment that the lifeless body of young Anthony was being removed. At that point, he remained unnamed and I felt that I was needed in some way. A lot of community members felt that same need, that something drew them to the church yard to be there for the nameless child they felt an un-explainable obligation to. This baby that laid in the cold since early Tuesday, before being discovered by a passerby on Friday. He was strangely unaccounted for and not reported missing during that time.

Sadness, disbelief and heartbreak will surround this case for a while and then sadly as new events emerge that require our attention the memory of little Anthony will begin to fade from our incessant thought.

Unfortunately, there will be other tragedies, other lives lost, other grieving families struggling to find answers while members of the community mourn the losses of people they never met. The perpetual wheel of misfortune will continue to spin.

The last couple of days when I was glued to the computer seeking answers to the myriad of questions that arose surrounding the tragic death of little Anthony Rain, I thought what if this is one of those times that what I am seeking is also seeking me?

I visited his memorial at the church twice, left flowers, placed a teddy bear, said prayers, shared social media posts, but what if I was called upon to do something more? Certainly little Anthony deserves more than a snowy memorial of toys and flowers and Facebook condolences. His life mattered, yet somehow he was failed. What would it take to write myself into this story, and to help affect change so that another young mother doesn’t receive that dreaded knock on her door in the dark of night?

I don’t have any answers; but every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. The story of Anthony’s life ended in unimaginable tragedy but maybe the story of how his young life impacted others and influenced change is just at the beginning and maybe my community that adopted him as their own, can help tell it.

I wrote a letter to Mayor Don Iveson this morning and I am hoping that the anger and sadness that we are all feeling can in some way be redirected to help create change in our communities.

Are you actively passionate about a cause at the moment?

Do you feel drawn towards a global or community issues that break your heart?

How do you write yourself into the stories that are close to your heart and help affect positive change?

 

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. SeussThe Lorax

 

Turn the Page-W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

Stories are wrought with struggle, it is the battle within us and the transformation that occurs afterwards that makes for such beautiful words on paper, drenched in heartache but cloaked in truth and wisdom.

Last night I redid the Courageworks workshop; The Wisdom of Story with Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton. The foundation of the course is surrounding storytelling; owning our stories and taking the brave steps to write our own daring endings while learning to rise strong and influence others through our shared experiences. Brené; research professor, storyteller and bestselling author along with writer and activist Glennon share with us the importance of storytelling to help build a better world. Brené reveals that wisdom and worth lie inside our stories and she and Glennon communicate how to fully own our stories before sharing them so we can harness their absolute power.

We are sensitive beings and storytelling connects us to each other emotionally!

When I think of Glennon’s story Love Warrior, a book you might initially think is all about surviving infidelity, it very well could have been a different book if Glennon didn’t take the time to sit with her pain, to find the wisdom in her story and draw her truth from it. I recall a quote by Alex Den Heijer, “When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, you don’t fix the flower.”

Glennon wasn’t broken, but she lived in an environment that was toxic to her. She lived by rules that kept her small and quiet. She wasn’t grounded and she wasn’t at peace with herself, in her marriage or with her body. Glennon, was able to eventually, with time; make sense of the chaos that she had been thrown into and to make decisions to live better, to be better, to challenge the rules of the world, to explore her emotions, intimacy and her relationship with her body. I am certain; if Glennon had chosen to write her story in the thick of her anguish, it would have been lost in agony and grief. She was able to step back, to sift and find the beautiful messages in her pain. Taking time to sit with her story, allowed her to tell it from the inside but from a place of gratitude and reason. It became a story not of the fall of her marriage but of her rising as a woman, and as a Love Warrior. She describes the transformation as an unbecoming.

Brené has spent several years researching such topics as vulnerability, shame and courage. She is the best-selling author of such books as Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. Her Ted Talk on Vulnerability was life changing for me. Discovering that vulnerability was actually a strength and not a weakness as I once believed, that to allow myself to be deeply seen, was actually an act of courage that would allow me to open up to love with my whole heart. I was encouraged to reclaim my wholeness and reunite with parts of myself that I had kept hidden from the world. My own stories have emerged and I have grown from honoring my vulnerability and living authentically.

Brené told the world that “Vulnerability is not a weakness and that myth is profoundly dangerous. Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change”

When to share your story

“When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.”
Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

Brené shares the above Margaret Atwood quote as she and Glennon discuss the significance of when to share your story, with whom and why.

Stories are wrought with struggle, it is the battle within us and the transformation that occurs afterwards that makes for such beautiful words on paper, drenched in heartache but cloaked in truth and wisdom.

Glennon, who wrote the bestselling book Love Warrior after discovering that her husband had been unfaithful to her their entire marriage, expresses that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. She recalls from her own wisdom filled experiences that pain is where we find our wholeness and Brené agrees that wisdom and strength are born of pain.

We need to inhabit our stories and sit with the pain awhile before we are ready to share our stories. If our intention is to share what we have learned from struggle, how we have grown and what has changed for us and in our world then we are probably in a place where we can tell our story from the inside. Brené assesses this as speaking from your heart, not from hurt and Glennon recalls advice from her friend Nadia about speaking from a scar and not an open wound.

If you are feeling desperate for help or connection, you may still be in the midst of the fight of your life, things are starting to fall apart and you cannot quite make sense of it, but you want to fix it immediately and avoid the pain. This is the time to reach out for support from a friend, a family member or a therapist but it is not the time to share your story with the world. I think journalling can be helpful when you are in the heart of crisis because this is when you are figuring it all out. This is a clever way to look back on the process later and put your fragmented thoughts into order and start to figure out what has changed and what stories have emerged.

What do you need to give yourself permission to do, feel, or not do?

Glennon communicates that when we share our stories with a lot of people they should be a service. Once you have sat with the pain; you have fully inhabited your story, you have found the gifts and wisdom inside the pain, you are ready to share your story with others.

The course is broken into a familiar three act process.

Bru-tiful

Act 1 | Lesson 1

In act 1 we are asked “What is the “bru-tiful” (brutal + beautiful) adventure that you’re on?”

By identifying the “bru-itiful” adventure you are on you accept the relationship between beauty and pain in the world. Unfortunately, we cannot experience one without the other. Pain and beauty are both a significant part of our lives and when we learn to marry the two of those together, we can sit with pain without passing it along to others, we will take from it wise lessons and something beautiful will emerge if we allow it. As Glennon explains, in life we will love one another, and we will lose one another.  Life is brut-iful.

Instead of using our easy buttons and trying to numb pain, we need love ourselves through it and instead of tapping out when things get tough, we need to tap in because it is in our struggles that we find our true strength.

Rules in the world

Sometimes there are “rules in the world” that are a hotbed of shame and they often provide the environment for struggle in our stories. These “rules” may be unspoken but they are rules you believe, that you live by and they are relevant in your family, community or culture. What are your rules? Do you stay quiet and not rock the boat? Do you smile through pain and never let anyone perceive you as anything but strong? Do you keep your problems to yourself and just be thankful for the life you have?

Inciting incident

What is the moment when everything falls apart?

There is a moment when everything comes crashing down, it could be something huge or a succession of smaller things that send you over the edge. You realize that you can no longer carry on with the charade. The perception that you have been desperate to portray, that everything is fine,  has gone to shit. You haven’t washed your hair or changed out of your pajama pants in days. The blinds are closed and you just want to sleep and avoid the pain. Buckle in.

Staying on the mat

Act 2 | Lesson 2

What is it going to take to keep you “on the mat”?

Act 2 is when things are difficult. You have tried extremely hard to give the perception that everything is OK but you can no longer keep it together. You are randomly bursting into tears and you cannot seem to make sense of anything in your life, except that maybe pajama pants are suitable attire for public and the outside world is too people-ly!

This is the winter of your life, it is cold and bleak and hard. When winter comes, we gather firewood, pull out our boots and our heavy sweaters. We gather supplies. During this bleak time in our lives we decide what we will need to get us through this time, what connections and support systems we will call to action. What supporting characters we will call into our lives to help guide us through our story.

What are the easy buttons that we need to be aware of, the buttons that we will use to numb our way through the pain? Alcohol, drugs, food, social media?

What are the reset buttons that we will use to keep us tapped into life instead of tapping out?  Eating well, exercising, regular sleep, time with friends?

Glennon refers to a hot yoga lesson where she wanted to run from the class but decided to stick out the hour, to sit on the mat with her pain and attempt to work through it. What are the things that make it difficult for you to stay on your mat in the midst of emotional turmoil?

How do you want it to end?

Act 3 | Lesson 3

How do you want your story to end?

When we use drugs, alcohol, food or mindless TV to numb pain we also numb the beauty of life. We are essentially shutting the light out. When our world falls apart we often fall with it. Down, down down the rabbit hole we fall. We often feel small and frightened. Pain is an invitation, it means we are needed. So, we crawl up from the hole, through the dirt, through the rain, and we notice the sights along the way. In our memories, we recall not the hole, not the struggle up, but the emerging. We recall our resilience and our strength. For one day, the lights will dim again and those times when we find ourselves in darkness we will need to remember that we have been here before and that we can navigate our way out. We don’t lose our faith in love and goodness or happy endings because we know that they don’t just exist, that they live inside us. We are light, we are joy, and we are love. When our world looks unrecognizable we need to keep showing up, even when it hurts like hell.

What is the wisdom in your story?

This is how you find the wisdom in your story, through the emergence. One day, it won’t hurt as much and though it doesn’t mean that you will never hurt again, it means that you know the way out. The only way out is through. You cannot go around pain; you need to be still, you need to sit with it awhile. Glennon and Brené aptly remind us that you cannot rewrite a truth; the plot of our story is largely out of our control. We control our character, how we live inside of our story and how we emerge from it.  The three-act process is a great reminder during the bleak winter of Act #2. The winter can be long and harsh and even though experience may not shed any light on your struggle, deep down you will know that there is a way out. Glennon likens crisis to a child at the beach sifting through the sand, they let everything fall away and see what is left over. When troubles overwhelm us, we are forced to do the same, sift through the wreckage of our lives; allow what is not needed to fall away. When this happens, we are left with exactly everything we need.  As we write the endings to our stories we may find that the rules have changed, that is our redemption. You do not have to be strong all the time, yes, it is ok to not be ok, and you don’t have to fix everything. You make your own rules! You get to look back and stroll through your story with a new outlook on life. You can draw from your strengths to assist in your transformation.

Just as pain lets us know we are alive, stories let us know that we are not alone. If we have the courage to dig deep and be honest our stories have the power to help others on their journey. Whether our story is one of tragedy, of disaster or heartbreak, we are not alone.

An activist inside all of us

Lesson 4

How will you use the wisdom of your story?

This was an addition on to the three-act story. Brené and Glennon talk about their work with the Compassion Collective, which emerged as a response to the Syrian Refugee crisis. They call on us as individuals to identify what global story or community struggle that we desire to influence and how we would propose to write ourselves into that story. This is a really interesting exercise, simply by identifying something that truly breaks your heart you can also realize your ability to affect positive change. There is an activist inside all of us.

We are more than one story, we are a range of our own inspiring stories, the stories our grandparents told and the stories that have influenced and entertained us over the years.

The energy in our stories

In the past couple of years, I have become keenly aware of energy, I try hard to bring positive energy to the world in hopes of getting it back. Bad energy is tiring and it sucks the life out of me. I limit my exposure to negative people and when I did The Warrior Goddess Training with Heatherash Amara I realized how important it is to tell stories that serve us. As Brené said, we cannot change the plot of our story but Heatherash Amara reminds us that we can re-wire and re-write our stories so that they help us to be more present instead of deeply rooted in the past. The narratives by which we choose to express ourselves can energize and excite us, or drain us. We can choose how we want to use our words and our energy to share our stories.

Once we have walked through our stories and gained perspective we may be able to see them from a different viewpoint, focusing on the growth, the wisdom and the positives, instead an exhausting tale of woe that leaves us weary.

My interactive challenge to you is to be aware of the energy you are putting out into the world when you share your stories. Has time enabled you to gain perspective? Can your story be re-wired to focus on the growth and change that emerged?

For the next week when you share your stories reflect on how they make you feel and try to be aware of how they are being received by others!

 

Lover’s Waltz -W.I.S.E. Project 2017

The message was wrought with hurt and anger but above all else it was a surrender. I thought that I was giving him what he wanted and needed; a resolution and one less thing to worry about so he could focus on the most important thing, getting well.

Last year when my husband found himself in the intense grip of depression I found myself in a sink or swim situation. I cannot recollect a time that it was more important to love and care for myself. I read a quote recently about the importance of writing from a scar and not an open wound. I agree that when your heart is suffering your reminiscence might be very different than recollecting the hardship at a later time. For me the pain has become another life lesson, and a reason to re-evaluate everything I ever thought about love.

Everyone has their own definition of love, as well they should; but I fear that love, the very idea of it has taken on such a transformation that it is hard to express in words. It is almost easier to tell you all the things that do not constitute love, than to actually define love. In spite of that I think that most people would agree that love is a feeling and that the very idea of love can be hard for a lot of people. Singles put themselves out there; constantly trying to find love while couples are continuously striving to keep love alive.

Is Unconditional love possible in a romantic relationship?

A term that I have heard a lot, as well as used a lot over the years is unconditional love. Unconditional love is a love without conditions which I think, in reality, is very hard to achieve. Speaking as a woman, falling in love, “true” love as it is often defined, is because we have found someone who fulfills our physical and emotional needs, and we imagine that this person will provide us with a stable home and a good life. As time goes on if that person does not satisfy our physical or emotional needs or offer us a secure home and a suitable life then problems arise. We are no longer happy because our conditions are not being met. That sweet feeling of love begins to turn sour. Some lovers part ways fairly quickly while others choose to stay and fight for love. Staying is right for some people and leaving is right for others but loving someone unconditionally does not dictate either of those things. Here is where I question if unconditional love in a romantic relationship is possible.

I have been with my husband for over 18 years. The most useful things I have learned about love have been have been most recent and I believe; if I am being honest with myself and the world, that I have only loved him unconditionally for a very short time, if at all.

To not only believe in the existence of unconditional love (as it relates to romantic love) but to also love someone unconditionally requires a great deal of vulnerability, courage and effort. True love is not about receiving love, it is about giving love, without the expectation of anything in return. Are we capable of caring about the happiness of another without any thought whatsoever of what we might get in return?

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The beautiful madness of falling in love…

Falling in love is beautiful madness. When you think of it, in the terms “falling” and the total abandon that overcomes you, it is quite surreal. We talk about being raised up by love but falling in love is quite different. That moment you realize you are falling  it seems completely out of your control, you are sitting there feeling so completely consumed by your love for another that you feel like you have fallen into them. Moments without them feel like days and you feel like you could die without them. Falling in love is quite a dramatic undertaking. During this phase of ‘falling in love” we are often so caught up by love that we fail to see our partners authentically. We cannot see them in any sort of negative light, and we simply overlook their faults. Without genuinely looking at things without blinders on it is not feasible to love unconditionally because we need to be aware of the good and the bad before we can make the declaration that nothing is more important than loving this person.

Loving someone doesn’t not mean you will always like them. In life and relationships, we make mistakes, but there are times that I have put my heart in a jar on the bedside table, sealed up tight and if I wasn’t getting what I expected from my relationship or if I was angry or annoyed my heart stayed in the jar, impenetrable. I was still there even though I had closed him off from a part of me, so I thought that meant I loved him unconditionally.

To love unconditionally is to choose to give love under all conditions.

Is loving under all conditions feasible? Is it healthy? What if your spouse is physically or mentally abusive? What if you set boundaries in the relationship and your spouse does not respect those boundaries? Are you then no better than a doormat? Are you willing to be the dust under their feet?

If love itself is a feeling and the feeling of love is commonly in response to something we are getting from another person; is it therefore conditional? Unconditional love is something we do, despite the conditions so does that make it an action? I do believe the feeling of love can be unconditional. Sometimes, no matter what a partner does, feelings towards them do not change or go away. Relationships, however, are working partnerships and as such, they require conditions, boundaries, and aims to be successful. I think it is possible to continue to love (the feeling) under any conditions but to continue to actively give our love under any circumstances is what I am not sure of.

We are not islands; eventually things will come between us.

About seven months ago my husband was in the throes of crippling depression. He was working away at the time and I didn’t recognize the signs immediately. We have endured some tough times throughout the years but in my opinion this was the worst, or at the very least the impact was the worst for me. Initially I took it personally and I think that is a common misstep. I have learned that you cannot love away depression, no matter how hard you try. There is not a manual on how to deal with your spouse’s depression so of course I made mistakes. However, once I got a sense of what was happening, I did a lot of research and every day I had to make a choice and endeavor to do the most loving thing for him in the moment. Some days he needed to talk to me and he needed me to be engaged and others he needed me to permit him some space and some silence. He wasn’t in charge of much in his life at that point as his demons had their arms wrapped tightly around him. I had to let him be in charge of something so I had to step back as best I could, and allow him to determine when we talked and what we talked about; it was more difficult then I care to admit. There was a comfortable, loving and flirty element to our relationship that disappeared and I struggled really hard with that. I faltered often, it is hard not to take depression personally, none of my emotional needs were being met and as I wrestled with the uncertainty of it all I tried not to lose myself. I was anxious to find some measure of structure in the chaos that had become my life. There were days that it felt like there was an ocean between us and that it would be impossible to swim to that place where we could meet in the middle. There were others that you couldn’t put a paper in the space between us. It reminds me of the old Dolly and Kenny song; Islands in the Steam, “nothing in between, how can we go wrong?” they croon. Well we are not islands and eventually things come between us.

Though it was all very confusing, the entire time my husband insisted that he felt like something was pulling him away, he felt like he was the captain of a sinking ship spirally into a black void and I know he wanted to get me to safety before the ship sank forever into the dark abyss. I spent many a night staring at the ceiling and telling myself that no matter what that the kuds and I were going to be okay. In my head, I made plans for a future that didn’t include the person I loved so much it hurt. I made a very big effort to be well, knowing that he could barely lift himself up to make it through the day and that worrying about me was too much. The most loving thing I could do for him in that moment was to take care of myself.

It is really hard to reach out to people when you are in the midst of something you can barely put into words but one day I texted a friend and I told her what was going on. She called me and prayed for me while I sobbed hunched over the steering wheel of my truck. It was such a powerful feeling to be embraced in love and understanding that was void of any sort of judgement; either of me or of him. It felt how I would imagine “true” unconditional love, the kind that god gives us, to feel like.

I never stopped giving my love to him but I felt at some point weeks later that the most loving thing that I could do is to let go, not to stop loving him but to loosen my grip and make plans to move on separately. He had told me so many times that he couldn’t see the light and that he so desperately wanted me to be okay because he felt like he was ruining my spirit and the very thought was killing him. I began to recognize that his frantic worry about me and my relentless longing for a connection that he couldn’t offer me was only serving to cause him more anguish. He was trying to lesson his own pain by lessening mine, all the while going to bed with his nightmares and waking up with his nightmares and trying urgently to sail his ship out of the storm. He couldn’t give me any reassurances because for him there was no end in sight to the way he was feeling. He was basically holding on tight to the little grip of reality he had.

Sometimes; sadly, loving another person means walking away.

I took my wedding rings off on the evening of November 22nd before I went to bed. I hadn’t taken them off much in15 years and it had definitely been awhile. They had become as much a part of my hand as my fingers were. I had to cut up tights, loop the nylon through each ring one at a time, lather up my hand and slowly wind the nylon around my finger until they finally came over my knuckle. After they came off I didn’t really feel much, a little physical pain on my finger but emotionally I just felt weary.

I know that depression is hard for people to understand, even well intentioned people will tell you to “look on the bright side” and to “snap out of it” I only wish that it were possible.

My husband has suffered some sort of depression for years but the depression that hit in July of 2015 was different than anything we had every experienced together, it stole so much of our lives from us. My husband suffered trauma in his childhood that has followed him into adulthood. He has tried therapy but he has not found the right person for him. He asked me to help him find an older lady, someone motherly to speak too. I did that and though it wasn’t the perfect fit for him I sincerely think there is someone he is looking for. However, until he is ready to truly sit with the pain, to walk through it, not around it, and to face his lifelong fears and terrors head on instead of just keeping them at bay as long as possible, depression will loom; just around the corner. Unfortunately, these are not my choices to make and even though I think it is possible, I do know that it will not be easy. I have come to accept that he is not ready.

Things got better for a while, in fact things were so good that we remarked frequently how grateful we were to have made it through that terrible time and we hung on tight to each other, loving fiercely in the aftermath. Depression however is a formidable force in breaking down trust and tearing couples apart. Fast forward to that night in 2016 after 2 months of life altering moods and indecision and my husband’s insistence that he was not good enough for me and that I needed to move on. Finding the strength through tears after I had decided over and over, day after day that I would be strong enough for both of us, that I would hold on no matter what, and that I would be the light in the darkness. That glimmer of hope got further and further away, just out of my reach, the reassurances, the reciprocation, and the plans for a future together; they all faded away. I tried to be what he needed, when he needed it, even realizing that he was struggling so hard within himself that as much as I was reeling I couldn’t expect him to be there for me. He stopped wearing his wedding ring; it was part of his conclusion that we had to move on separately as he did not want to envelope me in his gloom. My decision to stop wearing my wedding rings was largely based on doing what I thought was best for all of us, especially him, but my letting go was swathed in a great deal of hurt, anger and emotion. Sometimes; sadly, loving another person means walking away.

I was entering the stage of grief that fluctuates between sorrow and resentment.

A part of me felt that he had given up on all of us; that he had mentally walked out on us. In my heart of hearts, I knew that nothing could be further from the truth but months of grief, heartache, and shattered hope had left me raw and angry. Most of all I was very sad. I felt like I had showed up for him, every single day, that I was probably the one person in his life that never let him down, that loved him unconditionally through every imaginable scenario and here I was left in a mess of tears. I was entering the stage of grief that fluctuates between sorrow and resentment.

I sent the love of my life a message and a picture of my red swollen ring finger and the rings that he had given me as a symbol of our forever love, sitting alone on my bedside table. The message was wrought with hurt and anger but above all else it was a surrender. I thought that I was giving him what he wanted and needed; a resolution and one less thing to worry about so he could focus on the most important thing, getting well. I turned my phone off and conceded to the restorative power of deep sleep.

I didn’t turn my phone on until about 10 am at work the next day. The return message I got from my husband was brave and honest and full of heartache; cloaked in a tiny bit of hope. Looking back on it, I feel like my willingness to finally loosen my grip was a turning point not just in our relationship but in my husband’s lifelong struggle with his demons. It catapulted us into a place of honestly and sincerity and allowed us to be open and candid about our feelings. Some of the things I learned during that time were shocking and hurtful and others brought me to my knees. When the person you adore has spent a great deal of their life in unimaginable pain it can be difficult to grasp the realities of that.

I would put my heart in the glass jar on my bedside table and put the lid on tight

I realize now that the demons for my husband are never very far away. From the beginning of our relationship when they came to visit I would sense a withdrawal from him and I would immediately withdraw as well. I would put my heart in the glass jar on my bedside table and put the lid on tight. For a good part of our relationship there were times that he needed me the most that I would be emotionally unavailable. Though I thought I loved unconditionally by always being there physically; I was cutting my husband off from the most important part of me. I believe that all relationships should have boundaries but I made mine red lines in the sand and I feel like there was many times that my husband had to struggle without me because my unconditional love had so many limitations. I didn’t have the courage to love freely; my love was always full of expectation.

Love is a feeling, but loving someone is a voyage that requires vulnerability and a courage that not everyone is capable of. I asked my husband s week ago what he thought unconditional love was and he said it was simple, “love without conditions, true love!” I asked him if he thought it was hard and he said, “It shouldn’t be.” A couple days later her waivered significantly on whether unconditional love was even possible.

Maybe I overcomplicate things but I have finally realized that if your number one goal is to protect your heart from hurt; as it was for me, then unconditional love will be impossible for you. Love is a feeling but unconditional love is also an action, it is something you do, not just something you feel. Sometimes it is the hardest thing you can do; to continue to give love without the anticipation of anything in return. We all struggle, we rise, we fall and we learn.

Depression is something we will likely always struggle with. I now know the value of setting loving boundaries in my relationship, but when hard times hit I think in some cases it is possible to keep on giving love. Sometimes that action, void of judgement is the most loving thing that you can do at the time. I know that when I make a mistake that hurts people, I judge myself harshly. There is a difference between we have done something bad, and we are bad. In the same token if our partner disappoints us, they often feel just as bad as we feel, guilt is healthy and inevitable but “you are bad” is shame and shame is not healthy for us or our relationships.

I took my heart out of the stupid glass jar for good. That glass jar can be shattered anyway but my heart is pretty enduring.

It’s the summation of small steps that make possible the substantial changes in an emotionally impaired relationship! We didn’t land back in the place where we were before the tough times hit, but we found ourselves in a new place and hopeful place ,a place we have grown into, and can continue to cultivate a healthy and loving marriage.

Mistakes happen; we need to forgive ourselves the things we didn’t know before we knew them. Loving someone is “trial and error”, often with a lot of error! In my opinion, there can be no true love without vulnerability; I think it has always been my largest struggle. You have to be willing to show up even when you have no control of the outcome. Opening up your heart to someone, can be the most vulnerable and courageous thing you can do but protecting your heart from hurt also shelters it from love.

I did shed some tears writing this, sometimes when you peel back the many layers of scar tissue over a wound it will bleed.

My goal is to love better, to have a love that is kind and giving, that has boundaries but is also forgiving.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned since starting the W.I.S.E Project is the importance of self-love. I don’t think “true” unconditional love is possible in any relationship outside of a parent-child relationship if you do not first learn to love and take care of yourself.

Loving myself and learning to take care of my own health and wellness has made me a better partner and a better parent. When I chose to let go of my marriage, it was because I knew that I could be ok, no matter what. I have never bought into the “two becomes one mentality” of marriage. I am healthiest as an individual, responsible for my own happiness and harboring my own beliefs. I think loving yourself is the very best protection you can have for your heart. Your heart can endure grief and loss and pain and all of the beautiful and challenging things that come with love, if you love and take care of yourself first, the more aware and understanding we are to our own needs, the more giving and loving we can be towards others. When we are willing to risk our heart, we are also opening it up to love.

My goal is to love better, to have a love that is kind and giving, that has boundaries but is also forgiving. I am not sold on the dictionary definition of unconditional love, at least not in the way that it pertains to romantic love. I think the action of unconditional love (with healthy relationship boundaries) requires a great deal of compassion, and wisdom. I think our capacity to love and to give love to another can grow immensely as we grow as people. I also think that loving someone unconditionally, occasionally requires walking away.

That being said the only thing I am really certain of is that I am not completely certain of anything!

What do you think unconditional love is?

Do you think it is possible?

Do you think it is healthy?15541249_10211047297515845_5487702828603847435_n

 “I think unconditional love for another is: You see them for who they are, as much as possible; you accept them for who they are and where they are on their journey. You know they are human with strengths, weaknesses and wounds, just like you. You are willing to go with them or understand and love them when their wounds get exposed for healing purposes and you pray for them. I think it takes a lot of grace! And if they walk away and go in a different direction, you might have to work through grief, anger and hatred because you had expectations and wanted them, but you land in the place of letting go and still loving them and wanting God’s best for them.”

~Rebecca Mcmaster

Part of Me-W.I.S.E. Project 2017/Tenacious Tuesday (Self Love)

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In the summer of 2012 when my daughters were 7 and 12  I took them to see Katy Perry’s Part of Me. To say that Katy was at the height of her career would not be an understatement, she played to sold out shows in arenas in 124 cities all over the world during her yearlong California Dreams tour.

There was an Alice in Wonderland-esque meets fairy-tale feel to each show and she played both Alice and the Princess flawlessly. Many a pink tutu, ruffles, lollipops and glitter were exhausted during every performance. It was everything I would have expected from a live Katy Perry Performance but so much more.

Filmmakers Dan Cutworth and Jane Lipsitz gave fans a unique experience which was a culmination of backstage pass,  front row fantasy and raw human emotion. Perry never faltered in her commitment to her fans, giving stellar performances night after night, all the while defying exhaustion and facing some incredibly challenging difficulties in her personal life.

In October of 2010 Katy married comedian Russel Brand; embarking on her first career altering tour just four months later in February of 2011. Perry went to remarkable lengths to fan the flames of her marriage, often taking her only days off to journey across the Atlantic to be with Brand even though he was unwilling to put forth an equal effort to stay connected to her and their marriage.

As the tour wore on Brand continued to push for a family but Perry was not in a place to commit to being a full-time mom. She continued to sacrifice her time and her health for a man that appeared to want to exert a certain measure of control over the young songstress.

I know for a fact that at 7 and 12 years old, my daughters were not impacted by the movie in the same way that I was. I watched a woman in the throes of super stardom, lift herself to the an amazingly high throne in the pop music industry and at the very same time get broken up with; in a text, moments before having to get ready to go onstage.

I watched the movie again this past Friday and I recall her being rushed to the stage while her team was quietly uncomfortable, wondering if the singer would perform. They attempted support and encouragement but it was apparent that they were uncertain as to what exactly was going on and how to react to it.

Katy, faced with the reality that her marriage had crumbled, doubled over sobbing a couple of times on the way to the stage. She was overcome by grief and sadness and as a spectator, having watched her vulnerability unfold and her marriage emplode, it was gut wrenching. You could almost feel the tightness in her chest, the heaviness in heart, I must admit I choked back some tears myself.

As they say in the biz, “the show must go on” and it did.

Katy  was on a platform under the stage, in Brazil I believe, and tech was waiting to rise her up. As she was waiting she wiped away tears, and then spun the candy embellishments that rotated across the chest of her dress, nodded to be lifted up and plastered on the best smile she could manage under the circumstances.

Ready or not, it was time to be Katy Perry the star, Katy with the broken heart would have to wait.

I was so moved by that moment. Her pain wrapped itself around me like a blanket.

To this day, I cannot fathom how Katy was able to will herself to perform that night. I think society is somewhat programmed to believe that stars are exempt from feelings, that somehow money and fame trumps pain and anguish. On the contrary, I cannot imagine enduring that type of all-consuming heartbreak in the public eye.

Strangely, that performance may have been the best one of the tour, possibly of her career. She was able to connect with the audience and her own lyrics in an authentic and emotional way. I am certain the love and energy of the crowd that night and the nights following must have helped  to keep her together when the cards were falling down all around her.

Some tough times followed but in adversity Katy Perry found redemption. She made her mess her message!

When Katy Perry released her album Prism, she said that the title came from her letting the light in. In the midst of a crisis she found her identity and the genuine need for self-love.

For several reasons, I became a bigger fan of Katy Perry after her public despair and the transformation that occurred following that difficult time. I heard an interview subsequently where she said, “What I need is self-love, first and foremost. I think everything follows in such a fantastic way after you have that love for yourself.

We give little pieces of ourselves to the people we love, but when we truly love ourselves there are parts of us that can never be taken away. Our worth, our value and our sense of who we are as a person, independent of our relationships.

You can temporarily chain a heart but you cannot break a soul.

Have you experienced heartbreak? Have you been able to let go of the pain and grow from it? Do you view vulnerability in relationships as a strength or a weakness?

Chasing the sun-W.I.S.E. Project 2017

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Is confidence important to you?

Nineteenth century philosopher and psychologist William James once said “Most people live in a restricted circle of potential”

This remains true today though some would prefer to believe that intelligence, opportunity and resources play the largest role in determining ones impending possibilities, rather than an evident lack of belief in ourselves.

Though popular opinion might lead us to believe that confidence was handed out to a select few at birth it is simply not true. Confidence is not something that is reserved for the wealthy or for those with luck, quite the contrary; it is simply the result of our thoughts and actions.

Too often my children have heard me quoting Henry Ford by saying “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right either way. “

If we truly believe we can’t we will not bother to try, our thoughts become the director of our actions and these actions become the sculptors of our lives.

Confidence is not something we either have or we don’t have. That is not the end of the story. Psychologists describe confidence as volitional in nature; therefore it is a cognitive process by which we as individuals can commit to a particular course of action. Purpose striving is one of the primary human psychological functions.

Without getting too deeply rooted into the science of it, like so many things we can make a conscious choice to build self confidence, we can practice it and over time it will become a habit. This is really good news for all of us! It means that confidence is a choice, with effort and the courage to take risks we can grow our self confidence and continue to build on it.

As humans we need to be mindful of the extent that we rely on outside affirmations for our confidence as we get a quick boost when our efforts are praised but we are hit quite hard when despite our best efforts we fall short of reaching a goal. We need to put more value on taking risks and putting the work in and if we do not achieve the end results we had hoped for we need to be proud of what we did achieve and use that foundation to continue to develop our ideas and work towards our ambitions. Every journey begins with that first step and every step in that journey counts.

Our self confidence is directly related to our self worth, we need to believe that we are enough, that our efforts are enough and when things don’t go the way we had hoped we need to be our own best friend. We need to immediately silence our inner self critic and instead give ourselves the same support that we would give to a friend in the same situation. Most likely we would tell them things like, ‘you did your best, don’t give up, keep working on it, learn from this…”

Focus on what you really like to do. When we have an active interest in something we are able to face the work with optimism and enthusiasm and therefore get better results. However, it is essential that we step out of our comfort zone as much as possible. There is minimal risk of failure in our comfort zone and that alone makes it attractive but there is also very little opportunity for growth. Taking small risks and lifting up the security blanket that we have draped over ourselves can lead to bigger successes and in turn a greater boost in confidence.

Often we focus on the possibility of a negative outcome instead of focusing on what great things could happen. We automatically set ourselves up for failure. If we train ourselves to focus on the positive things we can achieve we will be inspired to put in a greater effort.

Comparison is indeed the thief of joy, if we continually compare our lives to the lives of others we will come up short and feel bad about ourselves. It is okay to look to our role models though. Perhaps we like the way that they speak or handle tough questions, we admire their tenacity and their willingness to embrace new opportunities. If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery then it is more than okay to emulate these qualities that we admire in others. If we take baby steps and we are able to successfully reproduce these merits of tenacity, courage and persistence we will not become the people we admire; but by radiating some of the qualities we hold in high esteem we will harness an energetic and dynamic new boldness that will leave us feeling poised and self assured.

Confidence, like all of the emotions, leads to the production of more confidence. The very word itself “confidence” is hard to put into mere words, but we recognize it anywhere, in ourselves and in others. When we feel confident we will say yes to new opportunities and take on bold new challenges and without it we will keep giving into that nagging little voice of self-doubt that tells us we can’t.

Oh baby, you can and you will! If you want something bad enough and you are willing to put in the hard work, you can work towards it, one important step at a time! You can chase the sun, you can dance in the rain!

My Michelle-W.I.S.E. Project 2017


Womanhood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does any of it matter?

Yes and no. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voices Carry-W.I.S.E. Project 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endeavor– The realization of achievements through hard work.

Be W.I.S.E. friends.