Seasons in the Sun-W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

I have a thousand things that I want to do today but my mind is incapable of sifting through them and putting them in any sort of order. I got up today and showered, I put clothes on, I fed the dogs, I diffused some essential oils, put in a load of laundry, washed dishes, swept the family room, read one page of a book several times and listened to Brené Brown’s Rising Strong as a spiritual practice on audible, I also opened my computer. It is noon on Sunday. It may not seem like much and it is certainly not all that I had planned to do when I was driving home from work on Friday. For some reason in those moments when I was driving down the road I had a sense that I could spend the weekend doing all sorts of productive things that when I woke up on Saturday felt impossible. On Saturday, I felt immobilized in my grief. Being in the world without Kirk feels incredibly scary and even knowing that we can and will move on and that we will be ok, right now I am existing in fear and I feel powerless to leap over it. I feel like every day if I inch my toes forward just a tiny bit, I am making steps towards making steps. The steps feel scary, though they should feel like a step in the right direction they also feel like a step away from Kirk. I know that my daughters are feeling the same way, they catch themselves in a moment of lightness and they immediately feel sad because we sense Kirk all around us and we feel like the minute he thinks we are OK we won’t feel him anymore.

I have been struggling with a tweaked back all week. It is nothing major, it is from a tumble down my basement stairs and it re-occurs periodically during times of stress. My chiropractor is great and would fix me up in seconds but I have been reluctant to get rid of it, almost as if it is a comfort to feel pain physically, instead of just mentally. It lets me know that my pain is real and when my mind is struggling to overcome the mental pain I know that my body has stepped up to take on some of that burden. It then occurred to me how difficult it must be for people who suffer from depression and disorders of the brain and how that pain over time can manifest physically and make everything hard.

“Depression is such a cruel punishment. There are no fever, no rashes, no blood tests to send people scurrying in concern, just the slow erosion of self, as insidious as cancer and like cancer, it is essentially a solitary experience, a room in hell with only your name on the door.”

~ Martha Manning, Undercurrents

 

Kirk and I were together for 19 years, we struggled through those hard years when you don’t really know yourself so it is hard to truly know each other. I spent a great deal of my life learning to love myself so that I was able to love Kirk without crowding him out with my insecurities and worries. I had to process the importance of vulnerability in relationships and embrace the reality that to love another person fully you couldn’t protect your heart, you had to be all in, and love and life doesn’t come with any guarantees. The beauty of putting the hard work into loving and accepting yourself and embracing vulnerability over pride in your relationships is that you can love someone exactly as they are. You eliminate that overwhelming need to change your partner, because you realize that you are only responsible for changing yourself. When you love someone for who they truly are you get to see and be loved by the best version of them. When you love someone as they are they feel invested in, and a person that feels appreciated will always do more than expected. I always loved Kirk and I know that he always loved me, but it was really in the last several years that we learned to love each other well. We were still far from perfect; I don’t think a relationship exists that is perfect, relationships are just imperfect people that refuse to give up on each other even when things are tough.  We had many tough times but we also had many good times and through it all Kirk was more than just my husband; he was my lover and best friend.

Several days after Kirk left the world I was in our bedroom and a binder fell off the shelf and landed on my toe. I recall that some strange things had been happening and after yelling an obscenity I looked up, threw my hands in the air and yelled “what are you doing to me?” I knelt and picked up the binder and about six papers folded over, had fallen out of the binder and onto the floor. I started to shove them back in the binder but for some reason I opened them. A couple of months before Kirk and I were laying in bed and we each did this survey that asked us key questions about what we thought each others’ strengths and weaknesses were as well as our own and some questions about our relationship. There was a question that asked, “what would you change about your relationship?” Kirk had answered “nothing”. There was a question that asked what you liked best about your relationship and Kirk answered, “We don’t hate on each other anymore, we just love.” If that binder hadn’t fallen on my toe I am not sure when and if I would have ever come across those papers. It was such a powerful memory for me and the thought that it may have never been recovered, either physically or in my mind, was sad. I remember how grateful we were feeling that night because once again we felt like we had outwitted the demons of depression that tried to pull us a part. I can remember feeling so close to Kirk as I was curled up to him that night that I felt like I could crawl inside him. That may sound absurd but I am not sure how else to describe it. Depression robbed us of a lot of time and joy, so we loved really hard during what I called “the in be tweens”.  Knowing that depression for Kirk really never went away, if anything it just became more manageable or he got better at hiding it, of that I cannot be sure. I cannot say with certainty how he was feeling, but I can say that according to what he wrote and how he made me feel, he was in a good place at that time. Kirk also had high functioning anxiety and he counteracted feelings of shame and inadequacy by working as hard as a person could possibly work. He was a machine and although physically he was often spent, he did derive a great deal of satisfaction from the hard work he put in to every task he took on. It is impossible to say what goes on in another persons head but I recall him telling me one time what it felt like to have depression and anxiety, he said it felt like someone ripped your heart out of your chest, filled it with hornets and put it back in, it was one moment feeling absolutely nothing and the next feeling everything all at once, it was feeling alone and overwhelmingly lonely in a room full of people, it was 1000 thoughts running through your brain at 100 miles per hour, it was feeling like you are not good enough for the people you love no matter how hard you try and being exhausted but not able to sleep. Too me it sounded tremendously crushing and I honestly wonder, even now; how he was able to be so much to so many people and work so hard with that overpowering burden. He did though, because he was so much more than depression and anxiety and the demons that haunted him in dark times. He was a father, a son, a friend, a confidente, a co-worker and my partner. He was laughter and love and joy and fearlessness.

My favorite song growing up was Seasons in the sun, Kirk never liked it but he would play it for me periodically because he knew it reminded me of simpler times. He had a his own lyrical version of course that included the unforgettable line “fingers in our bums” and of course I would pretend it infuriated me when he sang it that way. Seasons in the sun always represented to me the easy carefree days of childhood but it popped in my head today and it is actually a song about dying which I guess I always knew but today the lyrics hit me harder than ever. Kirk and I often talked about how hard times really made us appreciate the good times. Would we really appreciate the sunny days the way we do if it wasn’t grey now and then. Lately the days seem to be dimmer and they just fade to black and start over again. Maybe grief is like a season, and sort of like a brutally cold winter where we bring out our mittens and wool socks; only in grief we unpack the memories of our good times and we wrap ourselves in them until the spring comes.

Goodbye Michelle my little one
You gave me love and helped me find the sun
And every time that I was down
You would always come around
And get my feet back on the ground
Goodbye Michelle it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
With the flowers everywhere
I wish that we could both be there

~Terry Jacks, Seasons in the Sun

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

Walkin After midnight -W.I.S.E. Project 2016

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It’s just another midnight walking through the shadows of my mind, sifting through memories and collecting my strength. There is something about the midnight hour, the moonlight, that makes me feel comforted and safe. Sometimes life seems cold and unfair but these are opportunities to be our true selves and hold unto the things that are legitimately necessary.

A week ago my boss handed me a pink journal and she said “You haven’t been writing. You always write. I notice. Write something, anything, a note, a poem, swear words. You will feel better!”

It’s nice the little ways that people show you they care. It is nice to know that when the clouds get dark there are people with umbrellas who don’t want you to get wet.

It rained that day. All the best and the and the worst days do. I walked outside and the rain was so cold against my skin that the last thing I felt like doing was dancing. It wasn’t that type of rain, the dancing kind. It was the tortuous, mocking kind that comes when your life is falling apart and mine indeed felt like it was. I stood there collecting myself by my truck and I struck the warrior pose in that cold fucking rain. Only seconds passed but in those seconds I knew that I was going to be OK. I am a warrior and I may scream, cry and fall down but dammit I always give everything I have and I always get back up.

Fast forward a week later. I woke to snow and optimism. The day didn’t end as I planned. My life is not going anywhere near according to plan. Plans don’t always go according to plan. So now what?

A couple days later the sun is shining and though my life seems to be a huge unanswered question I feel encouraged in knowing that often when we think things are falling a part they are really falling into place.

I looked back on my W.I.S.E. Principles for October which were whole, involved, spirit and engaged. Without a doubt in my mind I can say that I put my whole heart into my life, I injected my spirit into everything I did. I was involved and fully engaged. I showed up every damn day even when it was incredibly hard.

Sometimes things will still fall apart despite your best efforts. In my case I have been fighting the demons of depression for several years now and though I never once gave up this is one of those battles I cannot fight alone. They are not my demons, I hate them like they are but they do not belong to me.

The days to come already feel overwhelming. That is what happens when we get ahead of ourselves, when we don’t live in the moment. There are feelings I would love to fast forward through but  unfortunately we can’t skip over pain. My pain is my proof that it all matters, that it is real. In the hurt and loss and torment I will one day find a lesson that will make me stronger and I already know that the most important things in life can’t be taken from me. Life moves and changes so fast that you have to keep moving with it or get horribly lost in the shuffle.

I don’t do well in times of uncertainty so I am trying to focus on the certainties of the near future so I made a list of things I can be sure of:

1. A lot of people will see me with red rimmed eyes and smudged mascara and wonder if I am on drugs.

2. I will say things I don’t mean and immediately regret it and a short while later say things I don’t mean.

3. I will cycle frequently between laughing and crying

4. I will either eat a lot or nothing at all.

5. I will equally love and hate 80s love ballads.

6. I will struggle between being my authentic self and being the person who I think is needed right now.

7. I will try to focus on the things I can control like brushing my teeth, combing my hair, making sure that my pants are not inside out and backwards.

8. An episode of Bob Ross painting will always calm me down.

9. No matter what life serves me it will be better if I melt cheese on it.

10. Though it is possible to laugh or dance yourself to death nobody has died from crying.

Novembers W.I.S.E. principles are Winning, Intention, Smart and Efficient. I have been working on these essentially for the last eleven months of this project.  To have a “Winning” life I have to live with intention, my intention is to seek happiness and joy and to do that I have to choose it every second of every day, even when it is hard. When dark clouds are sitting over my head I need to stay in the gratitude line and find reasons to be thankful. That is the smart and efficient way to live. More gratitude, less worry. I got this and so do you.

If you are anything like me there will be times that it is difficult to find your comfort in the discomfort. These times can make or break you. These are the times to focus on the things that are certain in your life. Besides death and taxes what are the things you know to be a certainty in your life?

When everyone is lined up in the complaint line for hours waiting to growl and whine about how unfair life is, never deviate from the gratitude line. Be gracious and thankful for your many blessings. When you are faced with difficult times, be yourself, don’t let the world change you, don’t let how people treat you change you. Be your authentic self and that will always be your salvation. When crisis hits and you are left to sift through the wreckage of your life you will find that when everything falls away the important things will remain. We spend our lives gathering what we need, our true friends, our family, our wisdom, our strength. That is why when you push the rubble aside you will find that you still have everything you need to survive.

Be W.I.S.E. friends. This is the 11th month  of the W.I.S.E. project. Lets make it a WINNING month!

“I realized, through it all, that…in the midst of winter, I found there was within me, an invincible summer and that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me there’s something stronger, something better, pushing right back.”

~Albert Camus

 

 

Learning to fly-W.I.S.E. Project 2016

A soul in tension that’s learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try

~ Pink Floyd, Learning to Fly

My husband always tells me I have a beautiful soul. He said if he could describe me in one word he would use sunny because I always try to bring the light and see the bright side. I do try to be careful about that when the darkness comes, when the demons of depression have their arms around him, because I know that sometimes looking on the brighter side of things is just not a choice for him the way it is for me. Also, nobody likes a Pollyanna. Pain matters, sadness is for a reason.  If we constantly brush off our pain and don’t allow ourselves to feel sadness we will dismiss the lessons that those feelings bring.

I asked him this morning if he thought that the intensity of our love for each other has to do with living through the dark days of depression and learning to solidly grasp unto the good times. He thinks our tendency to love each other so profoundly has more to do with us living a great deal of our lives separately due to work.  I think there are elements of both in the way we relate and he is certainly right that we spend too much time apart; this conversation took place over text from separate provinces.  It really is a challenge and a choice, at the best of times to live our lives “together” while living separate.

Over the years, a lot of our friends have seen us in a certain way, they see this deep and passionate love that they envy, they see a couple that laughs together at ridiculous things, dances cheek to cheek to classic ballads, makes each other handmade cards, and goes on romantic getaways at a moments notice. They don’t see the other side of that. There is loneliness and a sadness that is not portrayed in our social media feeds. If what you see is a couple that is unbreakable; that loves each other but disagrees on almost everything social, political, economic, parenting, morality…I could go on. A couple that carries the scars of our histories together and separately, and even though most wounds have healed the pain sometimes bubbles to the surface, a lingering pain that reminds us that we are alive, and that we feel.  A couple with longing and regret and struggle than just maybe you are seeing us. That is how we see us, as beautiful survivors.

I often wonder if other couples feel the same way. I have talked about the space and the distance that depression puts in between us.  It’s excruciating and strange and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I have woken up and had my husband looks right through me like I am a stranger and nothing hurts more. It never gets easier, but there are other times that even living and working provinces apart you couldn’t put a handkerchief in the space between us. We are fully engaged in each others lives, we fill each others spaces with light and hearts with love. We are lovers, friends, cheerleaders, champions.

My husband sent me a picture the other night and I wanted to touch his face so badly. When things are ‘normal” and I use that term loosely, there is a comfort and warmth between us that feels impenetrable. Do the rest of you feel that belonging?  Certain  you are where you are meant to be and you are safe and happy there?

Life is so goddamn weird, it really is.

In 2016 we talk a great deal about being authentic, being true to ourselves, being real. We talk a good talk as we post flawless selfies of ourselves sipping Starbucks lattes, on our beach vacations with the perfect Margarita, our bedhead and make-up free selfies that we primed and prepped the greater part of half an hour for. This realism, this credibility that we speak of has become a bit of a joke quite frankly and it incites comparison. I think there is a lot of unnecessary comparison among friends, family and co-workers. The way we portray our lives or better still perceive the lives of others can separate and segregate us.

I want to be genuine and to do that that I have to be honest.  I do my very best to stay in the light. I choose happiness at every opportunity and sometimes it is really friggin hard. Some days I would rather stay in my pajamas and eat chocolate bars and cry because adulting sucks. Some days I don’t feel that confident and I want to hide from the world’s judgmental eyes. We should start an honest movement that when challenged you have to post a selfie of what you are doing that very moment. “Dear World, this is me, I am sad today and too emotionally drained to make supper, I have managed to feed the dogs and cat, the kids are having Kraft Dinner and  I just polished off a 250 gram bag of sour cream and onion chips and a glass of cheap Merlot. I am now sad and bloated and I have a pimple.” hashtag #truth

We follow the unspoken rules of the world to be polite and go along with the crowd as to not rock the boat.  We proceed, like good little soldiers, one foot after the other, and left over right, heal, and toe. Smile, look pretty and never let them see you sweat. What a load of authentically revolting bullshit. When did we become so afraid to shine, to fly, to reach for the stars? Probably the same time we became afraid of being different, afraid of failing?   This is the reason why the world is  sadly lacking in original content. We are remaking movies and songs because everyone is afraid to step out of the box and present new ideas but people are buying memoirs as fast as fiction because we are craving something real and we desperately want to know that there are people out there that are just as fucked up as we are! It reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book “Good people don’t” It’s about farting. We all fart. We all love, we all struggle, and according to REM everybody hurts…sometimes.

Let the world know you fall, show them you have learned to get back up again, show the world that it can knock you down ten times and you will get up 11. Sometimes you will fight a losing battle, but if you keep fighting you will never fail. You are enough, you are more than a perfect selfie on a white sand beach, you are a warrior and sometimes warriors have pimples and messy hair. Some days are hard and some days the sun is on your face and the wind at your back. These are the days of your life, full of hope, full of wonder, full of struggle. Be grateful for your life, it is not a retouched photograph, it is real and honest. It is beautiful even when it is callous. The days full of sunshine make incredible memories; the darker days are full of lessons. Breathe it in, every bit of it, live your life, moment to moment. Today is a gift, tomorrow is gone, the future is uncertain. You have today, this very minute. Embrace it, and don’t be afraid to step out of line, fight your way out of the box,  and  be you!

xo Michelle

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”

~ Peter Pan

DISCLAIMER “A couple that carries the scars of our histories together and separately, and even though most wounds have healed the pain sometimes bubbles to the surface, a lingering pain that reminds us that we are alive, and that we feel.”

When I speak of wounds and scars I am speaking metaphorically, there has never been any physical aggression, wounds, scars or the like in my marriage.

That summer feeling: W.I.S.E. project 2016

In Don Henley’s 1984 classic Boys of Summer, “The summer’s out of reach” and so is the lady in the song that crushed his heart. “Those days are gone forever,” Henley croons. “I should just let them go.” The wistful lyrics gently remind us of the past slipping away, which is what the end of summer is really all about. However; with every ending we are offered a beginning as well and let’s not forget that Don Henley indeed saw a “Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” which gave us us one of 1980s most iconic song lyrics.

The blazing evening sun hangs in the sky just a little lower than the days before, warm nights awaken to cool mornings and the emerald green of the trees has been dulled by hot days, some of the leaves have already turned to yellow, curling up around the edges. The summer of love will inevitably give way to the fall of responsibility, to sweaters, fuzzy blankets and pumpkin spice lattes. It is a time for long walks, thick socks, big books and new ideas and inspiration. Don’t mourn an ending but rejoice a beginning some would say. The promise of fall is just around the corner.

We always have a plan of what our summer is going to be like and I think no matter what we did it never seems enough. We long for just one more warm night, walk on the beach, hike in the mountains, skinny dip in the lake. It is a feeling of incomplete-ness that leaves us longing for more. Wet bathing suits wrapped in damp towels, dripping ice cream, sandy flips flops and iced coffee step aside for cardigans, hot soup and long pants. The change is inevitable, it happens every year but somehow we find ourselves not quite ready.

Fall is a beautiful time in Canada though. I felt the hint of it in the cool air this weekend as we visited Victoria. Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada, and is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada’s Pacific coast. Victoria has a temperate climate and boasts rugged shorelines and beautiful beaches. Some of the trees have already started their decent into the gold hues of autumn and tourists line up at downtown restaurants and ice cream shops for tasty eats and cool treats, one last taste of summer.

Summer slows down at my work so the shift between seasons is quite significant. Fall means more responsibility, longer hours but less daylight, more to do lists and less quiet time.

I do enjoy seasons. There is something subtle in the intervals between the changing climate that makes you cling to one while at the same time longing for what is to come. For instance I hate shoveling snow but I sure love the way street lights glow against the diamond like powder of a fresh snowfall.

My W.I.S.E. principles for August were willing, idea, strong and evolve. I didn’t focus on these as much as I would previously in the project as I tried to just focus on the good of everyday. I mentioned in an earlier post that I felt like I was focusing so much on the principles that I was losing sight of the present moment, of being mindful and seeking joy in everyday. I do however appreciate looking back on the principles and reflecting on my growth and the areas where I have learned and things I can improve on. The purpose of this project was to be more mindful and find and create a deeper experience of joy in the present moment. Unchaining myself from the shackles of the past and becoming the person I am meant to be. Instead of living in a place of pain or shame I am learning to walk through it, to feel it, to take the lesson and to move on stronger. UN-scarred but possibly with a warrior wound or two.

I visited my husband in Vancouver last week as he is working there and I had not seen him in over 40 days. My second night there we had an argument and it wasn’t awful it was inevitable. I always say that if a couple does not argue someone is getting their own way all the time.

It was one of those times where I feel like I used all of the above principles. I was willing to speak up when I encountered a problem, I had ideas on how to make things better, I was strong enough to say what I wanted and I feel like I have evolved in my fighting style to be less mean and more meaningful. I have never been the type to hold back in an argument but I was the type to hold onto the bad feelings. These are the things I am working on.

My husband has worked away for years and although it has always come with it’s own set of challenges forty days apart has never been the norm for us but it is quickly becoming so. We are at a point in our lives and our relationship that we enjoy each others company, we are not afraid to share our feelings and we genuinely want to share our time. Loneliness has become a very real thing and we are challenged everyday to find the time to stay connected. When my husband worked away in the Oilsands no matter what he told me about the work conditions and living in camps there was an undeniable disconnect between what he relayed to me and what I understood. This year I have been visiting him at his away jobs and I am able to get a sense for the solitary feeling that looms around you when you work and live alone. I want to hold unto him like I want to hold unto that summer feeling and it has had an affect on me to the point that I have to dig very deep everyday to expel the foreboding perception of emptiness that torments me.

For those of you who have spouses that work away I am more than open to ideas on how you nurture your connection during long periods apart. I want to be able to acknowledge that I miss him but I don’t want to be miserable and lonely all of the time.

My September principles are wellness, improvement, savor and effort. I am hoping with some effort I can find an improvement to my current situation of loving and longing, to savor the moments we get to steal together and to continue to journey towards wellness and living purposely in the present.

If we can’t hold onto summer lets try to hold onto that summer feeling.

Be W.I.S.E. friends!

 

 

Naked and Afraid-Marriage in the 21st Century -Podcast 3 part series

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I decided to do a three part  segment on Marriage and some things I have  learned during the last 14 years of wedded bliss and almost 18 years in a relationship with my husband in which we have  faced our share of adversity and struggles.

Marriage can be fun, beautiful and so rewarding, but the one thing that nobody tells you on your wedding day is how hard it is, how much work it requires and if you do not nurture it it can very quickly wither up and die, like a flower in the desert heat!

I entered into my marriage pretty idealistically and with a lot of silly expectations. I brought with me way too much sass and this incredible need to be right all the time. My husband brought his own ideas and idiosyncrasies. Adding us together, mixing us up, throwing in some good times and struggle on top of struggle there have been some dark moments. The thing we are proud of is that though there were times where we almost got lost in the struggles, we dug in, put in some very hard work and today we are lucky to not just call each other partners but we are best friends.

There will be times that we may not like each other but those are the times that we remind ourselves how much we love each other. We have shared some great times together and some times that have made our heads spin. My need, or desire to share this with you comes from a good place in my heart that wants everyone in a relationship that is facing hard times or  daily struggles to know that you are not alone and it is normal. I even share some tips about things that have worked for us.

Join me for a fun and honest look into being Naked and Afraid in a marriage in the 21st century.

Part One- Setting the Stage

Part Two- Stupid things your spouse does and taking the good with the bad

Part Three- Make-up sex, fighting fair and why cuddling has it’s time and place.

Thanks for joining me, I would love to hear your feedback and I adore your marriage stories.

Cheers,

Michelle

I’ll keep your memory vague-W.I.S.E. Project 2016

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I love memories. They are powerful. I think memories would be one of the most difficult things to ever have to give up .

Memories for me are not just about people I have met or places I have been but sometimes it is a feeling the memory arouses.

I have this special place that I like to go and I always wish I could capture the feeling of that place, that feeling of being connected, wholehearted and deeply and madly free. Memories, like feelings are sometimes fleeting, fading as quickly as they came. Others are enduring and they survive our greatest attempts to exile them.

Memories can warm you, like a roaring cabin fire on a dreadfully cold February day. They can recapture a time, a place, or a feeling, and envelope you in a delightfully toasty embrace.
Unfortunately just as quickly they can tear apart your insides, and rip open old wounds as if you swallowed a bucket of rusty razor blades.

Ironically bad memories come to us with greater intensity than pleasant ones because the memory is not about a place or a person as much as it is about the feelings the memory evokes. Sadly, feelings of hurt, anger, heartbreak and hopelessness can be crippling, even years later.

I told you just recently how excited I am to be in such a good and warm place in my marriage. That wasn’t always the case. Like a lot of couples, just because we have always felt like we were meant to be together doesn’t mean that it has been an easy road.

The other night in a conversation with a friend my husband brought up something that surprised me. I was upset but tried to brush it off and suceeded for a short time. It seemed out of the blue to me and I was a bit shocked because it obviously came from a place of pain and I most definititely missed the part of the conversation that made the timing relevant.

The next day I had an appointment for a ninety minute float at the Floatique, to melt away stress and clear my mind. About 60 minutes in I had an aha moment of sorts. The thing about floating and sensory deprivation is that once you have cleared you mind and relaxed sometimes things that have been mired in the mud of stress and noise pop into your brain and you get it immediately. It’s mental clarity. I had that moment and it was a comfort initially, feeling like I had found the answer to an equation.

That response was short lived however. The emotional response that I had to the memories that came up that day hit me square in the face the next morning. I was catapulted to a time of sadness and uncertainty in my marriage. I tried to refocus. I tried several times to no avail as tears that I tried desperately to hold in spilled out of the corner of my eyes. It wasn’t the memory of the time, the place, the people or even the events, it was undeniably the feelings. I fiercely wished for an override button to bring me back but it wasn’t possible. I think the only thing worse than living through those feelings the first time is living through them again and again.

A lesson I have learned from doing the W.I.S.E. project is how important it is to live in the present. The past is gone, I can’t change it, I have this moment, this very one. I can’t have yesterday and I am not promised tomorrow or next week. I have now. I knew I didn’t want to feel that pain again, I knew better than to dwell on it but I also know that our emotional memories are sometimes cautions.

Have you ever had a drink of sour milk? If you have you remember it and you never want to drink it again. This memory stays in the back of your mind and cautions you. You check the date on the carton, you smell the milk if it is close to expiry, you are vigilant about it.

I feel like that memory, that moment… those feelings; were a caution of sorts. Reminding me of our indomitable spirit, our incredible love and our valiant vulnerability. Reminding us to keep moving forward. There will always be another hurtle, another roadblock to stumble over, another fork in the road that we will have to face together and forge on.

Memories can be a holding tank of your greatest pain but they can also be a place of peace, of passion and of solace. I have learned that memories will come and go like the wind. I get to decide which memories I give power to. Some I may hold unto longer than others, feel their soothing warmth like hot sun on my face on a July day. The feel of my lips swollen from my very first kiss, the joy of falling in love, the soothing embrace of my children. The sound of the ocean, the soaring heights of the mountains, the feel of summer rain, those are the feelings I will hang unto.

Other memories may hit me hard and fast when I least expect it, bringing feelings of fear and sadness. I will let the wind carry them away just as fast.

“Memories are made of peculiar stuff, elusive and yet compelling, powerful and fleet. You cannot trust your reminiscences, and yet there is no realty except the one we remember…”

~Klaus Mann

Be. W.I.S.E. friends.

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