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.

Eternal Optimist -February Journal Notes -W.I.S.E Project

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Someone once referred to me as  “Michelle the Eternal Optimist”, in the context that it was said it was hurled at me intending to be an insult. Once I tripped the offender, tied them up with dirty socks and made them sniff dog farts they changed their mind and decided it was a compliment. I like being an Optimist, I think pessimism is a really unattractive quality and I prefer to be around hopeful people.

I put the above quote on the white board in my office and it has been so helpful to me. In doing this project and I think this applies to any  lifestyle change; you will experience  ups and downs and what can feel like two steps forward and three steps back at times. I went into this so excited and I made a bunch of changes immediately, kept up on my journal and then some things changed. Not all of it was bad, I am still proud of the changes I have made and honestly I am proud of where I am at. I started writing again, I started a book several years ago and I was inspired to pick it up again. It’s fiction which I have always loved. I love creating characters, giving them personalities, bringing them to life through their experiences and their struggles. The largest problem I have with writing fiction is that I tend to get pretty involved in the characters lives, if they are happy I am happy and if they are struggling I feel that stress. I set a goal this weekend of 10 000 words, which I am happy to say that I exceeded by 11 words. Some of it was pretty emotional and every night I was mentally exhausted by 8 pm. I need to complete this book, for myself. These characters mean something to me (which I know sounds silly), but several times over the years I have picked it back up. Maybe seeing them through their struggles is therapeutic for me, I can’t say for sure but I know that they are important to me and I feel that I need to give them closure someday.

I feel like spending all my free time writing has taken me from other things but one of the biggest things I have done for my mental health in the past 6 months is to change my expectations. I have tried to eliminate the expectations I have of others so that I am continually surprised pleasantly instead of disappointed. I feel I owed myself the very same courtesy. I don’t feel that I have failed myself, I just feel that things look differently this month then I set out for them to be.

One of my wise principles for this once was INSPIRE and something inspired me to write again and that is a beautiful thing. I remember 23 three days ago searching books and documentaries wanting so badly to feel inspired. Sometimes inspiration comes from unlikely places and may not look like you intended.

Worthy-I continue to treat myself like I am worthy by treating myself better, choosing food, activities and hobbies that are good for me and spending time with people that are a positive influence on me. I also take time for me when I need it. My kids continue to be mystified as to why I would want time to myself and they are very persuasive when they want ‘Mom’ time. I know that a day will come when I wish I could have them with me playing scrabble or curled up watching mindless TV so I am learning to put unimportant things aside and embrace the opportunities now to be with them. Being their Mom makes me feel extremely worthy!

Simplify- I have simplified by taking on less and only doing things that I truly want to do, saying ‘No’ more and enjoying my free time without guilt. I have also simplified by pre-prepping meals for the week and making shopping easier by buying mostly fresh. I spend of most my time in a circle at the outer edges of the grocery store. I always felt I bought convenience foods because they made my life easier but I am now positive that that is something that media leads us to believe. Fresh is easy, simple and the better choice.


 

Empower- I hope to touch even one person with this project, to empower them to make changes and lead a better, more mindful, more positive life. I started this project because I felt like everything was a chore, I was going through the motions without truly enjoying my life and it wasn’t a good feeling. I feel so much happier and much more fulfilled.  There is not a perfect life, choosing to be happy does not mean everything is superb, it means you are grateful and appreciate what you have and make a conscious effort to lead a positive and fulfilling life.

In being more mindful I have learned to un-complicate things. There is a certain beauty in simplicity.

We never noticed the beauty because we were to busy trying to create it.

We are nearing the end of Fabulous February. Be W.I.S.E. Remember that you are worthy of happiness and a fulfilling life. Find inspiration in unlikely places. Save complicated for someone else and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Empower yourself and take a moment to share that power with others.

P.S.

After I stopped trying to find inspiration, it fell in my lap in many different forms. I was at a Combat Crime evening with my daughter who was presenting for ‘Bright Ideas’ a text a buddy app to help youth who were being bullied, suffered depression or simply needed a friend. I was inspired to tears by her and all of the other youth leaders. I spent some time with an inspiring friend who runs a heart warming project called Love Letters 2 Strangers that never fails to remind me about the good in people.

I was sitting in my truck waiting for my daughter and mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. I saw that my friend Robb Scott had posted a video. Robb is a talented artist but he also has this insatiable need for attention. I always describe him as ‘sideways’ and I mean it in the best possible way. His antics have made me laugh till there are tears running down my cheeks. The video he posted that day was not funny, but it was one of the most honest and heartfelt things I have ever seen. I love the real emotion that he captured sitting in his vehicle telling the world about something very important to him, Down Syndrome. I cannot tell you how much his words touched my heart. The video has gone viral, as it should, it is a positive and uplifting message. I was sharing the video on twitter and what struck me when using the hashtag #DownSyndrome was how many people use that hastag to insult others. The ignorance is astounding. I read a post from a mother whose friend said “How’s your down’s girl?” Not, “how is your daughter or how is Bethany?” I can’t imagine how hurt I would be if someone said “How is your gay girl?” How ignorant to not see someone for their abilities, their strengths, their individuality. To look at someone and only see their differences or their limitations we have failed ourselves in my opinion.

This video has really opened my eyes wide and I hope that you will take a moment to watch it and please share it with others. In my opinion we are a society that is way to quick to share hate…spread some love and knowledge today.

Father’s emotion defense of Down Syndrome sparks outpouring

FANTASIC February! -W.I.S.E. Project 2016

 

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If you listened to my weekly Podcast on Living a GOOD LIFE, you already know that I think that the W.I.S.E. Project has been a success for me so far and how excited I am to engage in the W.I.S.E. principles for February. If you have not listened but would like to, you can listen HERE

Februarys W.I.S.E. Principles are :

Worthiness~ I know that I am deserving of the time I invest in myself to live a happier and more fulfilling life. In February I will make choices, keeping in mind that the time I spend on myself is worth it!

Inspire~ I love that feeling of being truly inspired by something. I find inspiration in nature, in art, in music and in interactions. I want to find that one thing that stimulates and motivates me, igniting excitement and change!

Simplify– A simple life is a happy life. I will embrace anything that makes my life simpler. Whether this means de-cluttering, pre-prepping meals, less obligations…I am all in.

“The Mother of genius is simplicity”

Empower-Being in control of my life and happiness makes me feel very powerful and sharing my experiences through blogging and podcasting not only keeps me accountable to myself but hopefully I can empower others to make changes to lead their own best life!

As a side note I was thinking the other day about how much I love that feeling of being in the mountains. The crisp, fresh air, the larger than life landscapes, Caribbean blue lakes nestled into mountainsides. The feeling I feel when I am there is best described as gratefulness and I think I need more of that in my life. I know that, as much as I love the mountains and the ocean and the feeling I get when I am there, what I am looking for is not there, it resides in me. I want to have that feeling, everywhere I go!

Have a FANTASTIC February! You are worthy! Be inspired. Be W.I.S.E.!

I would love to hear your ideas about what inspires you and what “Happy Hacks” you have to simplify your life.

 

Chat soon

xo

Michelle