Chains of Love-WISE PROJECT 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

I am one of the rare one’s that loves Valentine’s Day and even though there have definitely been times that I have felt bombarded by the commercialism of it all, who doesn’t like flowers and chocolate?

People say Valentine’s Day comes with too much pressure and I say Pf-ft. As with most things we put that pressure on ourselves.

Valentine’s Days has infinite legends and folklore attached to it so basically you can pick and choose what you want to believe and/or celebrate. Valentine’s Day is recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country. The custom of sending flowers, chocolates and greeting cards actually originated in the U.K.

My favorite account of the emergence of Valentine’s Day dates to ancient Rome, when the Roman Emperor Claudius ll forbid soldiers to marry in order to grow his army as he believed that married men did not make good soldiers. It is believed that St. Valentine performed clandestine Christian weddings for lovebirds during that time.

During that time, it was customary for Christian bishops to wear amethyst rings. It is rumored that Saint Valentine wore a purple amethyst ring with an image of a cupid engraved on it. The Cupid was a widely recognized symbol associated with love and romance and at the time it was legal under the Roman Empire. Roman soldiers would recognize the ring and ask Saint Valentine to perform Marriage ceremonies for them. Many believe that it is the association of Saint Valentine with amethyst that led to it becoming the birthstone for February and the stone is thought to attract love.

A possible origin of the use of hearts associated with Valentine’s Day is the legend that Saint Valentine cut hearts out of parchment paper and presented them to the soldiers to remind them of their vows.

That is the whimsical tale that my romantic heart has chosen to believe for many years.

I had the same Valentine for the past nineteen years. We always celebrated Valentine’s Day in some fashion; some years it was very elaborate and others we agreed on quiet and handmade gifts only. I have a Valentine’s Day card in my bedside table that Kirk made me over 12 years ago and it will always be one of my best memories. There were times during our relationship that we celebrated Valentine’s Day by spending the weekend at a romantic Oceanside cabin or dressed up for fancy steak dinners out, with copious amounts of fine red wine but that particular Valentine’s Day we were broke and we agreed that we were only going to give each other handmade gifts. I was blown away with the card that Kirk presented to me. He had taken pictures of me, in places we had visited together, and he cut them out and pasted them throughout the inside of the card and each of them had a caption, one was in downtown Boston, one was at the top of Mount Washington, one was at Loudon International Speedway in New Hampshire and one was at Salty Rose Cottages in Rose Bay, Nova Scotia. At the top of the card he wrote PLACES I HAVE LOVED YOU. On the back of the card was a photo of him and I together and at the top he wrote THE PLACE I LOVE YOU THE MOST and the caption on the photo was ‘beside me’. My eyes fill with tears just thinking of it, but I often take it out of my bedside table and admire it and wrap myself in all that love.

Kirk and I endured some very difficult times, especially in our earliest years when we were still getting to know each other and more importantly ourselves; and in the past several years at the height of his struggle with depression. The most important thing for me is knowing the growth that emerged from those struggles and the abundance of love that was always present, even when times were tough.

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

We spend so much of our lives consumed by the very idea of love. We constantly throw it at people, hoping they will catch it and desperately hoping that they will throw some back to us. We don’t share the best of ourselves; we in fact give away large chunks of ourselves trying to be all that we can be to the people that we give all our love away to. We lose ourselves piece by piece until our true self becomes a mystery. The problem is that we often forget one very important person in the love equation, ourselves. Until we can learn to truly love and be happy with ourselves and believe that we are worthy of the love and affection we bestow on others, we are essentially telling people that we are just not worth the investment. We are literally begging people to love us, while inadvertently deeming ourselves unworthy of love.

We are all born worthy. No matter what circumstances that we are born into, we are all inherently worthy. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we forgot to bestow the amazing love and attention on ourselves that we reserve for others.

A great deal of people fear love. Love can devour us whole and that can be scary. As humans we become easily attached and so we are terrified of giving our love freely and not getting anything back in return. Love is not like a vending machine, you don’t insert love and automatically get love. There are no guarantees in love. Love is often a mystery.

We are attached by things, experiences and people. We get attached to our favorite sweater, the mountains, our daily routines, the weather, the possibilities are endless.

Attachment however, can become self-serving as we tend to feed our needs with the things we are attached to and people are not an exception to this rule. We tend to get attached to people because they make us feel a certain way. We come to depend on those feelings and so our love depends them as well. We rarely love someone for who they truly are when we are completely dependent on them to make us feel a certain way. There is a lyric from a song called Chains of Love by one of my favorite artists; Charlie A’Court, who also happens to be from my hometown; and he sings, ‘chains of love, are chains just the same’ and that to me describes the attachment side of love.

It isn’t unusual to confuse attachment with love and we are all guilty of it to one extent or another, myself included. Sometimes when we love something we want to own it, wrap ourselves in it, keep it to ourselves.
LOVE however, should not be so demanding, frantic or self-absorbed. Love is an action word. We give love, we receive love. We put love into the world, regardless of any expectation of getting it back. Love is also a feeling; free of judgement, it should make us fee as light as air.

Our fundamental purpose here on earth is simply to love, giving love and being open to love without conditions. There are so many articles circulating about how to attract love when the very best way to attract the right kind of love to your life is to unabashedly love yourself first and foremost. People who truly love themselves are more likely to love without conditions and in turn entice and accept the love that they deserve. Be curious about yourself, that is an act of love. Discover who you are and what you desire in the world.

I like to remind you often that you are never alone, we all belong to each other, but you belong to yourself first. The love you give to yourself will always be welcome, and always be true. When you feel loved, you will want to share that love with others, without conditions, without fear.

At the end of our lives we will never wish that we had loved anyone less.

When I lost Kirk I never wished that I had loved him more or less, just better. I wish that I had learned to love myself first so that in those early years we would have struggled less to figure it all out. Attachment and fear-based love can put a lot of pressure on a relationship.

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

In essence, we should strive to be the love we wish to see in the world as love can appear and manifest in all sorts of ways, volunteerism, social activism, writing and performing, are all acts of love. Love should always be rooted in a deep sense of esteem and admiration for ourselves and others and the complicated but divine humanity that we share. Love is imperfect, it requires delicate vulnerability, truth and forgiveness.

We will make mistakes, we will hurt and unfortunately, we will sometimes hurt others, but love is a beautiful reward for our efforts and not one person has ever died from a broken heart.

So… Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. There are probably a lot of you that want to sleep through your alarm, but Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and you are love. Your very purpose is to love. This is your celebration. Love does not require a partner. Buy the dress, eat the cake, drink the wine, make yourself a juicy steak dinner, dance in your underwear, hug yourself.

Spend time with your children, your friends, your dogs or spend some quality time with yourself. Valentine’s Day should not make you feel like less, it is marketed to couples purely to sell more flowers and chocolate. If you like flowers and chocolate buy your own, or send something sweet to someone you secretly admire.

When I talk about love I am always reminded of a little girl I met years ago when I was picking Haley up from school in grade three. She was running through the field chasing kids and dispelling illusory magic from her right hand and yelling with rampant joy “Zing, Zing, I am throwing love at you!” That little girl was bursting with love and just wanted to share it, without any illusions or expectations of having the love she so freely gave reciprocated. My mother always told me I could be anything I wanted so I think I am going to be that little girl.

ZING ZING.

P.S. Now the fun part. Wanna be my Valentine? I remember like it was yesterday being a young child and sorting through my flimsy Valentine’s Day cards to find the perfect one for my childhood crush. I now have the perfect one for you! If we are not connected personally, you can link to my Twitter, Wise Project Facebook or Instagram on the right side of this page. Simply send or post a Valentine’s Greeting or message and you will get one back. I am going to be the best damn Valentine ever xo

 

“Don’t you lock up something
That you wanted to see fly”
~ Chris Cornell (from Soundgardens Fell on Black Days)

Torn Cape- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

I was feeling a little heavy the last couple of days, sometimes the weight of the hatred and the negativity in the world is a lot for my heart to process. I believe our fundamental purpose here on Earth is to love so when I feel such disparity between what I believe should be and what actually is I struggle. I know that it is important to keep shining my light and the candles that need lit will find me but today I gave my flame a little rest and handed the reigns over to my beautiful and huge hearted daughter Morgan. Morgan often struggles with the injustice in the world around her, with love, with overwhelming emotion and self identity. Yet I see her at the tender age of eighteen, curiosly finding her freedom, her wings and her courage to fly. To say I am proud would be an understatement. As I post this I am reminded that in life and love sometimes we are the teacher and sometimes we are the student. Sometimes it is okay to shut up and listen.

Listen. Learn.

xo

Michelle

“There are moments when you fall to the ground
But you are stronger than you feel you are now
You don’t always have to speak so loud, no
Just be as you are
Life is not always a comfortable ride
Everybody’s got scars that they hide
And everybody plays the fool sometimes, yeah
Just be as you are”

~Mike Posner

Recently I engulfed on a journey and as selfish as it may seem the adventure is all about me.

This expedition is so utterly important because there are prominent parts of me lost in the atmosphere and I can’t just stand here anymore and feel half full. As an optimist I know how extraordinary life can be and to prosper I can no longer put limitations on myself for those who say they love me.

To some this may be a tough pill to swallow but in this world our being is all that we truly have promised to us, something that will always be there no matter what.

As human beings; without even realizing, we give away abundant fragments of ourselves. Me, myself… I’m a culprit of this, but I’ve come to understand that the more I give away the less complete I feel.

There are times that I am like a thousand piece puzzle but I’m not absolutely sure where the other five hundred segments went.

I’ve spent my entire life in a cape trying to be everybody else’s hero and I often forgot about the most important person in my life; me!

Being an empath, I devoted a great deal of my energy trying to be everyone’s super hero and I unknowingly put myself in a corner.

When I love someone I give all of me to them, I’m not the type to half do things. In other words my brain is here but my heart is doing all the thinking. As someone who feels everything all at once at such a deep level; I hopelessly, fall. For me it’s so incredibly hard for me to say no. The anxiety of not fulfilling the wants/needs of others is overwhelming for me and though it would be so simple to say yes, I know I must reverse it.

On June 18th on Father’s Day my dad was swallowed whole by the darkness. I’ve now lived just about eight months without him. I’ve spent about seven of those worrying about others, putting my feelings aside, and being the hero that I needed to be for everyone. Now at the core I feel damaged and cracked.

Luckily my parents built me strong and taught me that I can get through anything. So now I am grieving, loving and breathing.

Today I am alive and I know that tomorrow is not guaranteed so I’ll walk this path and learn to love myself.

Deep down I know he’ll be walking right beside me, holding my hand.

Love has flaws. In love there is loss. Within love there is me and there is you.

Remember that none of us are broken. We all have battle wounds that turn into warrior like scars.

Loving and learning

Morgan DeBay

Beautiful Trauma- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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“I actually don’t mind falling apart. It gives me a chance to go, “Okay, NOW we have something to put back together’ Falling apart makes you stop and at least look at your arms and legs and god forbid, your eyebrows. You create a kind of ground zero for yourself.”

~Jann Arden

Dear beautiful people,

Some of you will think I am crazy for posting this, it started out as is me journal-ling, trying to pull myself out of the dark depths despair. For no apparent reason I found myself in the powerful grip of grief and trauma this weekend. It doesn’t come knocking and wait for you to let it in. It barges in aggressively and unannounced, wreaking havoc. It brings with it crippling fear and anxiety. It feels familiar yet like the scary stranger your parents warned you about when you were a kid. It doesn’t feel temporary and I think that is the most frightening thing of all. It robs you of the very best of yourself and you need to stand toe to toe with it. At your weakest, you need to fight your hardest battle, the battle for yourself. Some of you will understand this in a very intimate way, some of you face this daily. You fight an invisible sickness that screams at you from the inside. This is for you…

I am not OK. I am not OK. I am not fucking OK.

I am looking at the splendid sun filtering through the blinds of my picture window, tiny snowflakes are gently swirling around illuminated by the early afternoon light. My dog and my brilliant green Ficus are basking in the warm rays as my oil diffuser sends calming and healing bursts of lavender through the air. I am sipping on coffee brewed in my new Chemex, it’s Coast to Coast Damn Good drip, a smooth yet discreetly smoky blend, one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had to be honest. George Michael is seducing me with his familiar and pleasing tone softly in the background. All of the elements are here. It should be a good day but I feel like I am on the outside looking in.

I cannot stop seeing myself sitting on the step with my head in my lap in total shock wondering what the fuck I am going to do. For two days I have been stuck in that horrible day in June when I came home on Father’s Day to find that my husbands demons had stolen him away from us. I did everything I possibly could till the paramedics came, using all the skills I had learned in my First Aid and CPR course a week prior. I remember how freaked out I got imagining trying to save a stranger, nothing can quite prepare you for using your training on the love of your life in the most heartbreaking and tragic circumstances imaginable. When the Paramedics took over I collapsed on the corner of my step, I just sat there in front of the kitchen door, knowing that I had had to go inside and console and reassure our girls, tell them everything was going to be okay, that we were going to be okay but I couldn’t move. It felt remotely similar to how I felt when my Dad died suddenly when I was just 16, like everything was moving lightning fast yet in slow motion. That there were expectations and I needed to make a move.

I am so goddamn sad looking at that woman with her head in her lap. I hurt so fucking bad for her. She hurts so bad for him, the life that he should have had, for her children and the memories they won’t get to make with their Dad, she knows all to well what they will miss. I can’t stop sobbing for her. Her pain has me immobilized.

What the F is happening to me???

Looking at her is tearing me to pieces but for some reason she is all I can see. It doesn’t matter if my eyes are opened or closed, I see her, I feel her. She is a part of me. She is in color, yet I am in black and white, all the good in me, all the love, laughter and color has faded. I am an empty, colorless shell. I don’t know why. I don’t feel real. None of this feels close to being fucking real.

She is me. I am her.

I see all of it. The entire day and the days that follow keep playing in my mind like a bad movie. It seems to be in slow motion but for some reason I keep coming back to her. She is not moving, she needs to do something. She needs to fucking do something!!!

Her pain in that moment is ripping me a part piece by piece and seeping into the pores of my skin, my blood and my being. Her and I are one, yet I don’t want to know her. I can’t function as her.

That woman was like Humpty Dumpty after he fell off the wall, except she put herself back together. I know she did because I helped her. I don’t understand why she can’t move and why I am being suffocated by her pain.

Give me back.

It was a sunny day in June, not too hot, just right if I remember correctly. I just wanted to BBQ burgers and curl up and watch a movie with my husband. None of this could be right. This couldn’t be my life.

All the sudden I heard the sounds of the neighborhood, kids playing, birds singing, the bus stopping across the road. It was all very intense, as if everything had been temporarily paused while my body waged war with my mind rendering me unable to think or feel or move my limbs for what felt like years but was more likely just minutes. My body fought against it, but eventually I got up and held unto the side of the house, steadying myself until the dizziness gave way I and went in to face our children and a whole new life I never wanted.

Until that day I couldn’t even say the word suicide out loud without stammering. It always came out in a whisper, like a mouse standing in the middle of a castle and trying to yell. When all my senses came back I knew I would need to say the word. I would need to say it over and over. Even in those horrible first moments I knew how important it would be in everything I said and did moving forward, to acknowledge Kirk’s demons, his illness, his pain and his suicide. Saying it takes the power out of it, it takes the stigma out of it. People are shamed by their thoughts of suicide, by their fears of being unworthy and broken. That shame multiplies in the dark recesses of their minds and mocks and belittles them. We need to shine a spotlight on suicide, hold it in the light so that people are not afraid to talk about their scariest thoughts.

I still and will always believe that our stories are such powerful messengers. We are never alone. We have so much to learn from one another.

Last night I went to bed knowing that I would not sleep. My limbs felt hollow but curiously heavy and I couldn’t control my tears. They were silent for a time, just leaking down my face slowly at first and then falling so fast that they were blinding me, eventually turning into choked sobs. I laid back on the bed and I actually could see myself falling, it was the first time I noticed that I was seeing myself in black and white, like all of the color and anything good had been drained out of me and my world. I was like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. I could see myself, limbs outstretched and falling, with nothing and nobody to grab onto. I started to get scared because there seemed to be no end to the blackness I was falling through, and I didn’t want to allow myself to fall so far that I couldn’t claw my way back out of the dark this time.

I dozed off for an hour at best and found myself in a dream. Everything was normal, I had just cleaned the house and the kids and I were all waiting anxiously for Kirk to come home. The dream seemed to last forever and we were all just fucking waiting around for Kirk to come home. Kirk doesn’t come home. I just laid in a pit of murky nothingness until 7 am when my brother started texting me.

I have always held tight to the fact that no matter what is happening in my life, no matter what kind of struggle I am facing, the moon and the sun have NEVER let me down. There will always be darkness pushing up against the light; like when a cloud passes over the sun and seems to swallow it whole, but there is always a glimmer of moonlight to counter the darkness of the night and the sun always rises to meet the morning. No matter what shitty things happened the night before the sun never says, “Fuck it! I’m out”.

The sun keeps showing up.

Even in the dark heaviness of it all I have a sense that I can find my way out. I have been here before, I need to stand up and fight and follow the breadcrumbs. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is a luxury that many people do not get. I don’t just have the means to fight this, I have a responsibility.

Healing is not a simple, one size fits all solution that will miraculously cure all suffering. Grief is not linear and pain is not predictable. What I do know is that many of us have suffered trauma, to one degree or another. We are all survivors of something. We can imagine ourselves as self-sufficient or strong or unbreakable, but the truth is nobody is immune to struggle, and struggle doesn’t make us weak. Denying our struggles, fleeing our pain in record time, heaping our pain unto others and concealing our unhealed trauma behind work, food, booze and sex does not make us strong, it makes us sick.

Today I went and sat in the corner of my step by my kitchen door, the place where I abandoned a part of me several months ago. It was -16 and I cried, and my tears nearly froze to my face. It was a little bit humbling. I have been doing really well so to find myself so lost and hurt was confusing and unnerving. I was never separate from the woman on the step, we are the same. I needed to go out and pick her up and bring her along on my healing journey. I needed to marry the pain with the present. I need to heal every bit of me so I can continue to move forward.

My husbands story was much different than mine but so similar to many others who cannot seem to find the light, the beacon of hope in the darkness.

Tomorrow is #BellLetsTalkDay but in reality we need to keep talking loudly; every single day. Some people struggle with Mental Illness their entire lives, the impact of not talking or keeping Mental Illness that thing we talk about in hushed whispers has not and will not help.

Let’s get real.

Let’s talk.

Let’s be authentic.

Let’s be vulnerable.

Let’s share our stories and our struggles.

Let’s be good listeners to the important people in our lives and if you are hurting please reach out.

You are important, you are worthy, you are loved. Do not suffer in silence.

Silence is a serial killer.

Mental Illness is a sickness, not a weakness. Spread the word.

#sicknotweak

“We cannot judge a human life, by how it ends and we so often do, what we die of has nothing to do with what we “lived for”…

~ Jann Arden

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xo Michelle

Fuck the Walk -Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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I had quite a weekend and there were moments that I felt like I was walking on sunshine. I adore those moments where I feel at relative ease and in my belly, I feel rumblings of excitement for the future. There are fleeting moments where I feel like if I had wings I could surely fly and there was definitely a time that I didn’t think I would experience those feelings again. Those feelings come and go for me and sometimes mired in the darkness of grief that euphoric feeling gets very cloudy, but I always know with certainty that I have control over what I choose to feel and what feelings I choose to hang onto and move forward with. That is an extremely powerful realization for me and sadly, not everyone gets that fair shake.

Support and non-judgement can go a long way

This weekend I had the great pleasure of meeting and speaking with Michael Landsberg. Michael is a Canadian sports journalist and the former host of Off the Record for TSN. Michael has also had an impact on many lives as the face and voice of #sicknotweak where he talks openly and honestly about his struggles with Depression and Anxiety, helping people to understand that Mental Illness is a sickness, not a weakness. Michael was in the city doing a talk to Pharmacists about their role in dealing with people suffering with their Mental Health because ultimately the conversations that we have with people have the potential to change a and sometimes save a life. Support and non-judgement can go a long way.

 

When I found out Michael was coming to speak in Edmonton I called the coordinator of the event and was able to get myself on the guest list. A great lesson I have learned in the past several months is that you can often get what you want by simply asking.

 

When I met Michael he was warm, funny and forthright.  I immediately recognized something in his eyes, the friend I had brought with me had the same look and my late husband carried it as well. It is the look of someone that has struggled with tumultuous depression. It is the look of great strength from having battled in a way that I cannot possibly understand.

 

Michael talked about waking up in the morning and realizing that he was not going to experience any joy that day. I had heard Kirk say that on more than one occasion and I found it extremely difficult not to take personally. It was something that I wrestled with but hearing someone else speak of that feeling and others nod knowingly put it in a much different perspective for me.

For the most part Mental Illness is a lifelong struggle

Depression is a chemical imbalance that creates unique feelings in the individuals it affects. Depression is something that the healthy brain cannot quite understand, yet it wants to and often arrogance makes us believe that we do. Regularly parallels are drawn between sadness and sickness as if they are the same, and we truly want to believe we have the cure all. We believe we have suffered, we believe we have experienced depression and we believe that we have beaten it. For the most part Mental Illness is a lifelong struggle. Most of us successfully tackle sadness, grief and/or adversity in our lives; those are situations, not sicknesses. The distinction is a very important one because mental Illness is a sickness, not a weakness. People do not often beat it, they battle it and whether they do that with a combination of medication, therapy, diet and exercise…it is a commitment. For those that have suicidal thoughts living another day with the pain can feel scarier than death.

 

Michael asked how many people who suffer have been told “You should go for a walk”

There were laughs, knowing nods and audible gasps throughout the room and then Landsberg said three very important words, “FUCK THE WALK”

 

Going for a walk, taking up a hobby, watching a movie, thinking positive are all really great things, they are not a cure for mental illness. I truly believe that leading a healthy lifestyle can be beneficial to everyone, but I also believe the narrative that we use when talking about mental Illness can often do more harm than good. I asked as a friend or family member how can you best support someone who is struggling with depression. Some of the feedback was that rather than tell them what they should be doing (FUCK THE WALK), ask what you can do for them, ask how you can help. Listen.

Listen to understand, not to reply.

 

If you suffer from Depression reach out to your loved ones. They cannot help if they do not know how. Let us help you.

A PhD does not protect you from Mental Illness

Michael told us about a talk he did with fifty Psychiatrists where he asked them to raise their hand if any of them had ever suffered depression. The fact that not one person in that group raised their hand spoke volumes. A PhD does not protect you from Mental Illness. The absence of honest sharing among that group reiterated that a stigma still exists surrounding mental illness; a delusion of weakness, even amid the very people that are trained to help.

 

Just yesterday morning I got a message from an old work colleague and friend of Kirks. He had had just found out about Kirk’s death. He was devastated. He had questions.My first instinct was to ignore the message, it was my birthday after all and I did not want to spend it in tears. I quickly realized that that was selfish, but if I was going to answer I had a responsibility to be honest. I told him that we lost Kirk to suicide in June; I told him everything I knew, I told him about the darkness that Kirk struggled with for much of his life. We talked for a bit and shared stories and a couple laughs and some tears. He loved Kirk and I felt I owed him some time and some truth.

Silence is a killer

I don’t want anyone to be uncomfortable talking about Kirk’s suicide. Suicides largest collaborator is silence and what you don’t hear in the awkward silence at the end of a phone call is the person you love begging for help. Silence is a killer.

It means that he never gets to feel that wildly uninhibited feeling of walking on sunshine, but it also means that he has given up the 0-3 range as well and that is huge

When I was feeling the immense feeling of walking on sunshine it was halted by the realization that Michael and many others may never get the opportunity to feel those amazing feelings. As Michael explained, he has been on medication for a very long time and it significantly limits his range of emotion. If I experience emotions on a scale of 1-10 his range is 4-7. His commitment to continue to battle his illness and live the best life possible means he has given up 8,9 and 10. It means that he never gets to feel that wildly uninhibited feeling of walking on sunshine, but it also means that he has given up the 0-3 range as well and that is huge. He explained that to the healthy brain it is inconceivable that one would give up the ability to experience those upper ranges of joy but that those that suffer the devastating affects of mental illness like himself will tolerate the intolerable because it is better than the alternative.

 

I highly recommend the sick not weak community for candid conversation about Depression and Mental Illness. In cases where we cannot help, we should never harm. Let’s be kind to one another.

The Dance- Wise Project 2018- #tenacioustuesday

 

Life is fucking cruel sometimes

I just sat down at Starbucks and took my laptop out of my bag and I realized that not only is this my first post of 2018, it is the beginning of year three for my little project, the Wise Project. In fact, that is the first time I typed 2018 and it feels weighty and powerful. A new year, a blank canvas. I still firmly believe in the importance of sharing our stories and being honest about our struggles, we belong to each other and it is important to know that we are never alone. These connections we form, these invisible bonds, help us grow and they help fuel change. This is why we read books and watch movies, for wisdom, perspective, growth and to hear and see important stories as they unfold and learn from them.

Year two of my project saw a complete change in format and theme from the inaugural year and if you are not a newcomer here you know that I lost my husband to suicide in June and the remainder of the year I was basically just looking for ways to keep my shit together and inch forward with my life as I talked about what grief looked like for me and how I was grasping onto shreds of hope to help myself and my family through a very sad time.

One of the hardest things about healing the past several months was resisting the urge to live in the past, in the fairy-tale what-ifs and happily ever afters. Life is fucking cruel sometimes, it gives us what it gives us, and we do with that what we choose to do with it. We will all suffer loss and adversity in our lives, and though our circumstances and our advantages and disadvantages may differ, I think our biggest asset in healing is our own heart and the decisions that we make to either sink or swim. I chose swim. For my family and I there really is not another option and though I am willing to admit that a lot of 2017 was spent treading water, I am proud of that too.

When our wings feel broken, it is then that we discover that we have claws and sometimes we need to claw our way up and out of the dark.

A difficult lesson I learned last year is that often the thing that causes our heartbreak is the very thing to heal us. My deep love for my husband was obviously the reason my heart imploded when he was taken from us and my first instinct was to put a wall around that part of me, but the love that so many people had for him that extends to the children and I, as well as the love from friends, family and people that seemed to appear into my life by happy accident to make me see that I am indeed love and that if I continue to put that very thing into the world, I will continue to get it back has been one of the most instrumental parts of my healing. So many times I have heard people refer to themselves as broken, I have been brought to my knees by that very feeling but I am not broken and neither are you. We have cracks, battle scars, proof that we loved and lost and yet we continue to live and love and fight, that is far from broken.

In the gaps between tears and heartbreak there are glimpses of the real magic of life and I know that I will never touch that magic for long if I stay in the past. My friend Cody who I did some personal coaching with reminds me that “trying is lying” so I am doing. I am doing my best, living the day and enjoying the moments, laughing when something is funny and doing my best to hold onto those moments where I feel un-tethered.

I discovered quite recently, that though I fared quite well with not living in the past I had catapulted myself into another issue entirely, trying to control every single situation which took me out of the present a great deal and into the uncertain future. Oddly I had not been dreaming since Kirk passed away, I am not sure if that is a normal symptom of grief or not but in the past couple of weeks my dreams have returned and with them something unexpected-and unwelcome -ANXIETY

This has become a bit of a fear based theme in my life, trying to control upcoming situations so there would be no element of surprise or disappointment

I discovered that my dreams were looping and I would be stuck inside the same dream all night because I was desperately trying to control the outcome. This has become a bit of a fear based theme in my life, trying to control upcoming situations so there would be no element of surprise or disappointment. I was attaching expectations to everything I did or planned to do and spending a great deal of time in my head, so much so that I would find myself pulling into parking lots, overwhelmed and unable to breath.

I have meditated in a lot of parking lots the past few weeks. Thank You Sobeys, Subway, Liquor Depot…

2017 was a year of firsts for me and though there have been plenty of tears and dread, mingled in the midst of the great unknown I am doing my best to welcome exciting new opportunities and experiences and simply enjoy my life. I would be amiss to discount the smiles and good times. The challenge for me has been control, over thinking and self sabotage. I am guessing that for some of you these are common themes and though I never thought they were for me, looking back, these things have been lurking in the shadows of my life for quite some time, thieving joy from me little bits at a time.  Too often I follow uncertainty down the rabbit hole into a place of apprehension and worry. Angst can literally suck all the pleasure out of life.

At a time when it was extremely difficult to breath, we felt like every breath we dared to take was being assessed

The last day I saw my husband we had planned for a quiet movie night. “Cuddled up on the couch” were the words he used when he called me mere minutes after I left the house. I was going to BBQ cheeseburgers and I had made him the very best potato salad in the world. He kept saying he couldn’t wait to eat it. It went untouched in the fridge in his garage and sometime in July I threw it out, bowl and all. I felt so goddamn robbed in so many ways and yet no amount of stress or worry could have prepared me for that day or anything that followed. The pain, the grief and heartache were all multiplied by the rumors, personal attacks and innuendo by people I had once considered friends. I spent nineteen years loving and supporting my husband and at the very lowest point of mine and my children’s lives we felt like we were living under a microscope. At a time when it was extremely difficult to catch our breath, we felt like every breath we dared to take was being assessed.

Not only is life cruel but people can be amazingly cruel and it was challenging not to drown in despair.  The beauty the children and I eventually found in that, is that you find out quickly that there are people that belong in your life and people that do not. There are people that will always quietly cheer you on from afar and emerge exactly when you need them, and there are people that will lift the sun into the sky each morning and replace it with the moon each night if that is what it takes for you to make it through the blackness of it all. A gaping wound as it heals is a hard thing to see, it is even harder to be around. The people that embrace you while you heal your ugly wounds, those are your people. How blessed we are to have those people in in our lives. For the others, it is almost as if the trash took itself out.

The love, the wisdom, and the encouragement that people have shared with us has been a phenomenal gift.

People ask me if I would have done anything differently that day had I had a suspicion of what was coming. Of course I would never have left the house, but I also know that would have been a temporary solution. Considering it now is what has really made me decide to work on my issue with control and facing uncertainty. I know where my fear was born but I also know better than most that you can never prepare yourself for what happens next and trying to can significantly limit the happiness you desire in your life. There have been many times in the past several months that I have had to give in and trust that the universe would help lead me. The world is always at work for us, we can’t always see that or feel it and maybe things don’t always work out the way we imagined that they would but that doesn’t mean that big things are not happening. You may question how I can believe that after losing my husband in such a tragic way and it is all perspective really. The world was working for us individually. Kirk was tired of being sick, he was faced with constant fear and unimaginable blackness. It broke his heart to think that he was a burden to his family. I read a quote once that said that only when the earth claims your limbs will you truly learn to dance. I often think of the magnitude of that freedom and inhibition and I imagine my Kirk, free from pain and fear; dancing. I have to find solace in that.

He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

We simply cannot plan every moment of our lives. There is a line in the Garth Brooks ballad “The Dance” that has resonated with me for many years. When I was 16 and my Dad died I played that song incessantly and Garth croons, Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance”

Your hands have the weight of your whole body and then some behind you, so you are connected, you need to feel each other, to move together

Typing this through tears I am reminded of a conversation I had just weeks ago with a very wise friend that I admire about the beauty of partner dance and he said ‘as light as it looks there is a lot of push and pull, grip, pressure. Your hands have the weight of your whole body and then some behind you, so you are connected, you need to feel each other, to move together. That is what makes it so graceful, the effort, the exertion. The sharing of the weight. It’s powerful.

Sipping on my snobby Venti Americano at Starbucks, with tears in my eyes recalling 2017; that conversation popped in my head as easily as the words to Garth Brooks The Dance. (yes for the astronomical price of coffee you get fantastic service and you can cry if you want to)

Despite the sting, the fear, the uncertainty…we need to just fucking DANCE

Maybe Shakespeare had it right and all the world is a stage. We are all playing parts, making entrances and exits. We are dancing. We need connections. We need to feel each other. Sometimes we need to feel the weight of the world, of each other. Sometimes we need to lift others up and sometimes we need to be OK with being held. Sometimes we push, sometimes we pull but sometimes we need to let it all go, we need to trust that no matter what crippling heartache that we have faced in the past that the universe has our backs. If we constantly protect our hearts from hurt, we also protect ourselves from love and joy because you cannot selectively numb emotion. Sometimes we need to dance like nobody is watching, like our hearts have never been broken, like we have never stared down the darkness and wondered if we would ever overcome the pain. Despite the sting, the fear, the uncertainty…we need to just fucking DANCE.

There is grace and power and forgiveness in the dance of life, and when we are spent and sweaty and our heart is thumping in our chest we will know we have lived.

You can be unhappy that you can’t dance, or you can find some music and start moving. Happiness isn’t about places, things, accomplishments, or even other people. It’s about embracing your power, making things happen and looking out for others along the way. Anyone can dance-You’ll feel the beat as you begin to move ~ Begin with yes. 

In 2018 I finally realized that I am not trying to change me, the truth is I quite like me. I am proud of the woman that has emerged out of unimaginable grief with a huge desire to live and love and dance and to show her children how to be bold and unafraid and to allow their courage to be bigger than their fears and to make their dreams more important than their uncertainties.

I will not leave them a legacy of brokenness, and one day when I am but a memory, in the residue that remains I want my loved ones to uncover strength and hope.

I want to show them how to treat triumph and disaster the same;

as lessons,

as important steps of the dance.

I don’t want to change me . I just want to become me!

I want to un-become the cautious, uncertain girl that is afraid of the unknown. I want to be more like the bird that doesn’t fear the strength of the branch below because she knows she has wings.

I want to remember what it feels like to have a heartbeat, to dance in the rain and to laugh until my stomach hurts.

So much of me has been buried under grief and heartbreak, under fear and expectation. Over the years I lost pieces of myself, and being a wife and a mom I habitually forgot that I also had a responsibility to me. I forgot that taking care of me was a necessity, not a luxury.

A great deal of our lives we are told by our parents, teachers and superiors to “do as I say, not as I do!” but the best teachers lead and teach by example. They engage their students.

Now more than ever it is important for me to lead by example. I am a mirror for my children. I was telling my daughter just the other night how important it was to me that she make the right choices for her, that she always put her dreams first, that her happiness is essential. I want her to not just give her love to others but to wholeheartedly love herself. I can continue to say that until I am blue in the face, but I know the most effective way to make her understand is to see me do exactly that.

2018

I GOT THIS

Watch me fucking dance…

I believe it is in my nature to dance by virtue of the beat of my heart, the pulse of my blood and the music in my mind. ~Robert Fulghum

Home- WISE Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

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The Lighthouse at Cape D’or Nova Scotia

When I was around 20 years old and living in my very first apartment in London, Ontario; all by myself with no roommate and no boyfriend and no pets, I discovered a nondescript 24-hour diner a short walk away. It was just called DINER and that was blasted in bright red lights from the flat roofed building sitting in the most dubious of areas. I usually walked there in the middle of the night after a long shift when I found myself at home unable to unwind and looking for a bit of familiarity.

There were only a couple of small tables with two chairs and a big semi-circle counter with attached red swivel stools. The grill and fryer were open behind the counter and the old white-haired man was always dressed in a white shirt and a knee length white apron. He didn’t say much, just sighed and grunted a lot and when he suspected that you were ready to order from the menu that was on the wall behind the counter he casually looked your way. He didn’t have time for indecision or a bunch of questions and if there was even a hint of rudeness or disrespect in your tone or demeanor you simply did not get served. He reminded me of Seinfeld’s soup Nazi in that way only his authority was quieter but no less commanding. I usually ordered two scrambled eggs and brown toast. It was nothing fancy, just simple comfort food.

I ate quietly as I discreetly observed the other patrons that came to visit the diner. I saw many people get refused service. I learned the rules and obeyed them. I didn’t hesitate on my order, I spoke clearly, and I didn’t raise my voice, speak out of turn or make unreasonable demands. The atmosphere became familiar, welcoming even. Something drew me there in the wee hours of the morning, while the moon hung low and the sun had not begun its ascent into the morning sky.

“When you feel homesick,’ he said, “Just look up. Because the moon is the same wherever you go.”

~ Goldfinch

There was little conversation between me and the old guy in the white shirt and white apron, but we had developed an understanding and perhaps our own respectful way to communicate. I was in around Christmas time and there were a few worn decorations from Christmas’s past scattered throughout the familiar space.  It was way too late for me to be up and sneaking through parking lots to get to my usual haunt but there I was on my normal stool, ordering my habitual late night scrambled eggs and brown toast when I was nodded at. There was a radio playing on low, I am not sure if this was a regular thing that I never noticed because of the noise from other patrons, but it was just me there and old guy was humming with his back to me at the grill as he tousled my eggs into shape. Old guy brought my plate of eggs and toast to me and I ate as he continued to gently hum along with the radio. I am certain I saw him look my way with a hint of a smile but quickly decided that it was my imagination. I barely put my napkin on my plate when old guy scooped it up and said in what I decided was a thick, grumbly, middle eastern accent, “You no pay. You good”

I stood up, fighting the urge to loudly profess my gratitude because I just knew that it was outside of the unspoken rules. I gushed on the inside as I put on my coat; old guy had already turned his back and was humming as he cleaned the grill.

I was a very young woman when I lived in London. Everyday I was faced with potential, possibility and choice. I had freedom. What I longed for the most back then was home and I only knew home as a place.

Over the years as I have faced change and challenges that caused sleepless nights and I have often  thought of that plain Diner and wished that I could throw a coat on and hurriedly walk two blocks over to that flat roofed building with the bold and familiar red sign. It was the familiarity I missed, the belonging, the feeling of home.

This year has been a challenge to say the least. Losing my husband and the father of my children to suicide changed my entire world in and instant and left me in a perpetual state of fear and despair. This past weekend we had to unexpectedly say goodbye to our dog which wrapped us in another blanket of deep sadness.

I remind myself everyday that I picked myself up out of bed, off the shower floor, out of the darkness and through extreme heartache, scrambling to find the buried pieces of myself and piece me back together. This is life, it’s complicated and messy and often so fucking un-glamorous it’s brutal. There are days I feel everything at once and days that I cannot form thoughts. There are days I am afraid and uncertain and days that light radiates from me as I imagine a bright future. Some days I lose my shit and others I feel more myself than I have in a long time. It makes no sense at all and yet it makes perfect sense.

My husband felt like home to me, no matter where we were in the world, and the loss of that feeling has been very difficult.

To our detriment we often chase the feelings we crave, some of us with food, some with drugs and alcohol and sometimes with sex.

I think home is a healthy feeling and not one we have to chase but rather create.

We create it with community, friendship and that deep feeling of warmth, peace, belonging, non judgement and love.

As much as I long to hear the waves of the ocean and feel the salt air on my face, smell the baking in my mothers house, home to me, is not just these things, but the tangible feelings that they create.

I believe it can be described as resonance.

As this taxing year draws to a close I would be amiss to not recognize that the feeling of home has helped to carry the girls and me across some very troubled waters. When we were facing unimaginable darkness we found that incredible feeling of home in some familiar places and some more unexpected ones. In people, faces, embraces, memories, comfort, shared grief, understanding, grace and courage.

In a couple of days we will be flying home to Nova Scotia to spend Christmas with loved ones. Nova Scotia is my first love, my forever love, but in my heart I will carry many homes.

To everyone who gave of your time, your comfort and your love to lift the moon up into the sky on the darkest of nights and make sure the sun rose for us, even when we didn’t notice, I thank you. You are home to me.

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas I hope you can create that amazing feeling of home.

Merry Christmas

 

xoxox

Michelle

 

You’re Going to Miss This! WISE Project 2017 #TenaciousTuesday

I wrote this four years ago but today it feels very relevant, as the world turns as it continually does, life as we know it changes quickly but one thing will always remain the same; the moments that at the time seem like nothing special or out of the ordinary are the moments that we would do anything to have back.

I wish you a Christmas season full of love, laughter and warm memories. xoxxo

Dancing in the rain!

I am sitting here on this frigid and snowy winter night thinking how quickly the moments of your life sail by and all the things you wished away that now you would give anything to have back. When you are five you want to be ten and at ten you just want to be a teenager and when you become a teen you can’t wait to become an adult. Then it happens, you legally become an adult and you just want to be a kid, you want to have the freedom to make your own choices but none of the adult responsibilities that come along with that.

Your parents inevitably told you to be careful what you wish for, they told you how quick it would pass by and how you would long to have the time back. What did they know? Old fogies! THEY KNEW EVERYTHING!

I remember how…

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