Waves -Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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I had a conversation with a friend the other day that has been facing a serious health battle; she was not only facing her battle with magnanimous grace she had made the decision to live every single day to the fullest. I am so proud of her and many other of my old friends who are facing the blackness of grief and trauma and those that are struggling with their health and facing their own mortality, what I am seeing time and time again is though we have been dealt unimaginable circumstances the universe has also handed us a gift and in that gift is a wisdom that perhaps we were just not ready to see before. There is nothing like tragedy to make you see things in an entirely new way. Life itself is a gift but we rush through the most important moments, always planning for the future or stuck in those places in the past that ripped our souls out, that taught us to be small and fearful, to doubt ourselves and to obey old vows and commitments that have been handed down for generation upon generation, that keep us sick and bound. I remember as young children everything I told my girls they would say “but why?”

It was incredibly irritating and I usually gave the customary answer that had been handed down among generations of mothers “because I said so”

At some point in adulthood we stop challenging the social and political norms and we follow along like good little soldiers with a little voice in the back of our minds. “mama said be polite, mama said be a lady, mama said don’t get my clothes dirty.”

We stop asking “but why” and we allow life to move us along.

For me, when tragedy hit I was so fucking terrified. My husband was my rock and facing a life without him had me panic stricken but loss brings with it a certain understanding of the world, a thoughtful consideration of the seemingly unpredictable ebbs and flows of life; that move us, cleanse us and guide us.

There is sadness in saying goodbye not just to our loved ones but to all that we believed would be our lives,  just as there is sadness in saying goodbye to the breathtaking magic and fearlessness of youth. Moments, memories and days we thought would never end slip through our fingers; like the sand we packed in our hands at the beach as children and the tighter we held on the more it seeped through the cracks.

It hadn’t yet occurred to us that we would run out of time or that the transient nature of life came with a reckoning so we lived without a fear of dying.

The thing with being a kid is that most of us didn’t know devastating loss and we hadn’t yet been faced with the impermanence of life. We hadn’t said our final goodbyes in hospital rooms our spoken heartfelt thoughts about our loved ones in eulogies. It hadn’t yet occurred to us that we would run out of time or that the transient nature of life came with a reckoning. The beauty in that is that we lived without a fear of dying.

I remember when I lost Kirk there were days that I was overcome with an irrational fear of evanescence. I believed that if I allowed myself to heal and to move forward then his memory and essence would rapidly fade. I wish I could come up with something to say to make everyone that will inevitably face loss understand, that that fear could not have been further from reality. As I began to allow myself to inch forward I began to see Kirk in a whole new way, not his death or the tragic illness that ripped him from us but as a quintessential life, something that could and would always transcend time and space to guide and support me. My memories of him are vivid and though the moments of struggle and fear we faced have insignificance now, it is the laughter and the stolen moments of candor and abandon that live in around me and propel me forward.

The wisdom that tragedy gives us is that we should all live in the wonder of youth.

I will not follow the rules that someone else made and call it living. I will not live to please everyone but myself; I will not rush through my life as if it is a race to my death. I will not allow the death of my great love to be the thing that cripples me and drains me of life little by little until I die. I will let love and death be my teachers; those things that remind me to live big, to laugh and to always choose love. The wisdom that tragedy gives us is that we should all live in the wonder of youth. Calamity knows no prejudice, at some point it will bring us all to our knees, it will not leave us unchanged but we should never allow it to diminish us.

Life, love, loss; it comes and goes in waves.

Roar (Too Much Woman) Wise Project 2018 -#TenaciousTenacity

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If you prefer to listen instead of read, you can listen HERE

I posted a piece a couple of days back called Too Much Woman by Ev’Yan Whitney, I shared it having no idea who she was and it was a couple of days later when I found myself going back to the piece to read it over and over again that I decided to look her up. The piece was written back in 2014 and published on Ev’yans blog Sex Love Liberation.

Her blog is stunning visually and it contains a lot of raw truth for anyone who struggles with their sexuality and womanhood. I would even suggest that men read it, if you are in love with a woman who has difficulty accessing and embracing her sexual side you may want to gently direct her to this blog. There is a lot crippling shame and emotional discomfort that plaques both men and women who deal with sexual issues and it can be emotionally draining on the individual with the issue as well as there intimate partner. Relationships are not easy without the added stress and shame of sexual dissatisfaction.

I was lucky to be a part of a presentation yesterday put on by The City of Edmonton and facilitated by ex British Military and intelligence Dave Ainsworth. The course has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality but as all things are relative and I find myself frequently connecting the dots of the universe, David said something that resonated with me and I wanted to share it with you both in the context that it was intended and in the way I feel that it relates to everyday life. It led me back to this piece and how we so often let our fear of embarrassment, our fear of speaking up takes precedence over what we know to be right. The course was an Active Intruder/Shooter course and Mr. Ainsworth took us through multiple scenarios where if one person had spoken up, the outcome could have been different. I was relaying this message to my daughter on a walk last night and she said “but that stuff doesn’t really happen in Canada” and the truth is yes it does. Yes it happens on a smaller scale but Canada has unfortunately had fatal instances of terrorism as well as school, domestic and work related violence. In almost every scenario we were guided through, there was an incident where someone could have and should have spoken up and didn’t and it affected everything. I highly recommend that if you have an opportunity to attend a course in your city to do it but for me this message led me back to Ev’Yan Whitney’s piece “Too Much Woman” because so often it is ingrained in our being to be small, be polite, don’t create waves, don’t speak up…

I am telling you today “FUCK THAT” ‘Too Much Woman” we need you. Keep showing up, keep speaking your truth.

I am sharing this piece below because it means something to me, it reminds that it is OK to be all of me, to be expansive and fill my space, to want, to ask, to seek and desire. To move, to expand, to feel and to be every single bit of me.

I am a “Too Much woman”

Too Much Woman

There she is. . . the “too much” woman. The one who loves too hard, feels too deeply, asks too often, desires too much.

There she is taking up too much space, with her laughter, her curves, her honesty, her sexuality. Her presence is as tall as a tree, as wide as a mountain. Her energy occupies every crevice of the room. Too much space she takes.

There she is causing a ruckus with her persistent wanting, too much wanting. She desires a lot, wants everything—too much happiness, too much alone time, too much pleasure. She’ll go through brimstone, murky river, and hellfire to get it. She’ll risk all to quell the longings of her heart and body. This makes her dangerous.

She is dangerous.

And there she goes, that “too much” woman, making people think too much, feel too much, swoon too much. She with her authentic prose and a self-assuredness in the way she carries herself. She with her belly laughs and her insatiable appetite and her proneness to fiery passion. All eyes on her, thinking she’s hot shit.

Oh, that “too much” woman. . . too loud, too vibrant, too honest, too emotional, too smart, too intense, too pretty, too difficult, too sensitive, too wild, too intimidating, too successful, too fat, too strong, too political, too joyous, too needy—too much.

She should simmer down a bit, be taken down a couple notches. Someone should put her back in a more respectable place. Someone should tell her.

Here I am. . . the Too Much Woman, with my too-tender heart and my too-much emotions.

A hedonist, feminist, pleasure seeker, empath. I want a lot—justice, sincerity, spaciousness, ease, intimacy, actualization, respect, to be seen, to be understood, your undivided attention, and all of your promises to be kept.

I’ve been called high maintenance because I want what I want, and intimidating because of the space I occupy. I’ve been called selfish because I am self-loving. I’ve been called a witch because I know how to heal myself.

And still. . . I rise. Still, I want and feel and ask and risk and take up space.

I must.

Us Too Much Women have been facing extermination for centuries—we are so afraid of her, terrified of her big presence, of the way she commands respect and wields the truth of her feelings. We’ve been trying to stifle the Too Much Woman for ions—in our sisters, in our wives, in our daughters. And even now, even today, we shame the Too Much Woman for her bigness, for her wanting, for her passionate nature.

And still. . . she thrives.

In my own world and before my very eyes, I am witnessing the reclamation and rising up of the Too Much Woman. That Too Much Woman is also known to some as Wild Woman or the Divine Feminine. In any case, she is me, she is you, and she is loving that she’s finally, finally getting some airtime.

If you’ve ever been called “too much,” or “overly emotional,” or “bitchy,” or “stuck up,” you are likely a Too Much Woman.

And if you are. . . I implore you to embrace all that you are—all of your depth, all of your vastness; to not hold yourself in, and to never abandon yourself, your bigness, your radiance.

Forget everything you’ve heard—your too much-ness is a gift; oh yes, one that can heal, incite, liberate, and cut straight to the heart of things.

Do not be afraid of this gift, and let no one shy you away from it. Your too much-ness is magic, is medicine. It can change the world.

Don’t believe me? Check this: All of your favorite women, the ones who’ve made history, the ones who’ve lent their voices for change and have courageously given themselves permission to be exactly who they are. Some examples: Oprah, Ronda Rousey, Beyoncé, Kali, Misty Copeland, Janet Mock, Mary Magdalene . . . they’re all Too Much Women.

So please, Too Much Woman: Ask. Seek. Desire. Expand. Move. Feel. Be.

Make your waves, fan your flames, give us chills.

Please, rise.
We need you.

 

Share this message with your friends, it is important that we not only are assured that we are enough but that we feel free to be all that we are. We are never “too much”

This is no time for us to roll over and purr, it’s time to ROAR

xo Michelle

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Born to be Wild- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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In 1969 Dennis Hopper took a maturely modest approach to cinematic shorthand when Wyatt and Billy rode into hearts and homes as two Southern Californian Harley Riding Hippies who complete a drug deal and then ride off on a journey of spiritual enlightenment seeking truth, peace and happiness in Nixon’s America. Watching Western’s with my Dad back in the day I noticed that they always put the good guys in white hats, omitting minutes of unnecessary explanation at the beginning of every movie. Instead of weighting the viewer down with colorless facts, Hopper brilliantly applied this approach to a Motorcycle movie and it worked. The Soundtrack to Easy Rider was a blazing success as well, 49 years later Steppenwolf’s Born to Wild, which was their first successful single, still gets tons of radio play. The minute it comes on the radio I can’t force my hips to stay still and I am convinced, more than ever, that I was indeed “Born to be Wild”

The truth is we all are.

The last couple of days have been extremely uncomfortable for me and influenced by some shitty ups and downs. I have come to the conclusion that often when I feel frustrated and upset I attack myself and I become disappointed in myself. I am beginning to see very clearly that these periods of discomfort are the consequence of a huge inner battle. An uneasy conflict between my comfort zone and my true nature; my desire to grow.  Every time I fight what is in front of me, the path that I am stepping into, I am unnerved.

For years society has put us into well arranged and tidy roles, organized by labels and ill fitting boxes.

I for one feel fucking cramped!!!

Our comfort zone keeps us safe and cozy because it is familiar and even though staying firmly rooted in it may not always be the healthiest or wisest choice, we find relief in what we know.

What happens when we outgrow the box, when jamming ourselves into that stupid box every single day, and lining up in a neat and tidy row makes us sad and sick? Do we shrink to fit; do we dim our lights to fit into a dreary row? Do we trade our freedom for the titles that society bestowed on us? We are men, women, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, leaders, role models…there are expectations and responsibilities for us after all.

I am a wild woman.  My true nature is freedom. I will not be bound by a role that society defined for me. I will not shrink into a well labeled, neatly organized box.

Do you know what I mean by the Titanic pose?

Do you ever imagine yourself as Rose at the railing of the Titanic with your arms outstretched, wind in your hair and that feeling of flying? Rose was fighting against the pressures of a relationship that made her feel dead inside. She was about to trade, liberty and choice for money and esteem, a life that would diminish her in all of the truly important ways. We see it so very clearly on the big screen, cinematic magic sweeps us into a place where for a short time we can imagine being Rose, we understand her restraints and we understand the wild independence she longs for. Alas, the credits roll and we say goodbye to the beautiful fantasies that will live only in our memories because we cannot possibly have everything we want in life and still feel free! Can we?

I think we can. I think it is possible.

Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.

~ Stephen Covey

 

When I lost my husband Kirk to the devastating effects of depression and mental illness I knew immediately that to honor him I had to live my best life, a life full of the lasting peace and joy that he so very much desired. The second I knew he was gone I was hit in the face with the reality that it would be me teaching our children how to move forward gracefully, how to embrace life and live big. Every bit of me knew how important it would be to embark on a journey with myself and take the time to fully be with me, void of the labels of wife, spouse or widow. I very much wanted to free myself from the societal fabricated restraints of what it meant to live and heal and grieve.

I learned from Anne Lamont that laughter is carbonated holiness and Glennon Doyle Melton reminded me that there is sacredness in tears and I learned that I can experience both of those things quite intensely without one experience diminishing the other.

Grief has become my teacher.

In the last several months I am working towards who I want to be in the world and sometimes I feel unnerved because parts of me are being stripped away, parts of me that I have held unto with bloody knuckles because it is all I have ever known.

There is a freedom in reclaiming the wild-hearted person you were always meant to be but sometimes you feel unrecognizable to yourself and that can be scary. It can often be mistaken for feeling broken but I truly believe it is healing and becoming.

Grief really makes you take a look at life and consider the impermanence of it all. Life, love, it is all transitional, fleeting.  Like the waves of the ocean (thanks Roberta Shephard) we can drown trying to hold unto all of it, some things are not meant to be bound.

I see my friends in various stages of discontent, holding unto things that cause them hurt or things that take away their freedom, relationships defined by chains, and expectations, magnifying insecurities and creating resentments. We have been doing things all wrong for so long!!

From the time I was a little girl I can recall a saying that I believe my mom taught me,  “When you love something set it free, if it comes back to you it’s yours, if it doesn’t, it never was”

I loved that saying forever but I want to change it up just a bit, people do not belong to each other, we are not objects and we belong only to ourselves. If we love someone we should ALWAYS, no matter what the circumstances, want them to feel free. Anything else is not love, it is fear based on attachment and the want for comfort and security. Sometimes our true power lies not in holding on with bloodstained hands but in letting go and finding our own way to create happiness and freedom.

The truth is that death has a lot to teach us about love and living. I feel deep gratitude that I had the opportunity to love a person so deeply, that even in his physical absence he is able to guide, support and encourage me.  I am reminded every single day that true love should feel like pure freedom and the importance of loving and supporting myself so that when the time comes that romantic love comes knocking, I will answer the door because I have love to give, not because I desperately need love.  I think that is a very important distinction in our relationships.

We were not born wild and free only to allow ourselves to be bound by chains. As my talented friend Charlie A ‘Court croons, chains of love, are chains just the same.

Just for a second today, imagine yourself standing at the railing of the Titanic with the ocean breeze in your hair, arms outstretched like you can fly, or imagine yourself on the top of a mountain, lungs on fire but arms in the air, relishing not in just the view from the top but the tenacity it took to climb it, that is freedom. Feel it, love it, and crave it.

You too, were born to be wild.

Make your moments count, make a difference and make sure that you live and love in a way that allows you and others to feel free.

We are driven by five genetic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.

~William Glasser

 

 

 

Hungry like the Wolf- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

There are very few people that see us from every angle, allowing that requires an extreme amount of vulnerability but it also creates beautiful and unique friendships and relationships that weather storms. These are the people you want to see you through the very best and the very worst times in your life.

In 1982 Duran Duran released Hungry like the Wolf from the album Rio. Though they initially failed to successfully crossover to U.S. markets, success was imminent in the U.K. and eventually MTV put the song on rotation earning it a #3 spot on the U.S. Billboards Top 100 in March of 1983 and in 1984 they won a Grammy for best short form music video. I was just 10 years old when Duran Duran won a Grammy and I am assuming I was oblivious to the rampant sexual undertones of the song but the parallels to the Little Red Riding Hood were not lost on me.

I know useless music facts, I have actually forgotten more than I know but I have spent many a late night arguing music trivia with my late husband and I have always been able to relate a song to something that was happening in my life and piece together a timeline. Not everyone who knows me knows how important music has been in my life but I would say most of my people do.

In September 2016 I was at English Bay with Kirk and I got a call from an old friend in Ontario that I had not seen in well over 20 years. She and her husband own an Irish pub in London Ontario, where I called home for a short time during my informative years (party)

It was music trivia night and something was not working properly and my friend was desperate to find out what a video was so that she didn’t disappoint the customers. She described the video to me and feeling a bit overwhelmed and under pressure I guessed that the video was Duran Duran’s Rio. I recall that I was really excited to speak to my old friend but also thrilled that music had made her think of me.

I myself am not musical, I played a tiny bit of guitar when I was in junior high and I played the ukulele as well but I cannot carry a tune in a bucket except for Cyndi Lauper songs and have been known to sing Time after Time on repeat to the point of nausea. However, I love music and it has connected me to the most amazing people and experiences in my lifetime. Those who know me well know that I will often use song lyrics in everyday situations but something that may be less known is that I used healing music extensively after Kirk died; Snatam Kaur’s music got me through some very difficult times. I also listen to many types of music including classical, folk and blues.

I am very open on my blog and you can get a very good idea of who I am from reading what is essentially journal type entries but I am noticing lately that some people seem to be stuck on some sort of idea of who I am that they have created in their head. I think we are all guilty of that to some extent, we glimpse into peoples lives through social media and we are looking through a very small window and then we heap our own ideas and expectations unto a person and we have now decided who they are.

I have often said the truth is expansive and one of the most valuable lessons I learned from my late husband is about judgement. When we offer love and kindness before judgement a whole new world opens up to us. I used to be extremely guilty of putting people in little boxes, labeling them and putting them into neat little piles. I no longer decide who people are, I allow them to show me who they are and the great thing is that when we approach people with kindness before judgment we invite them to be their true selves and we learn that people really can be fabulous and they do not have to be just like us to teach us, to support us and to be in our lives. What a boring place the world would be if we were all exactly the same.

I form deep connections with people, it has always been my thing, I am not immune to physical attraction but for me I really like to know someone’s mind.  I admit I spent a great deal of time wanting everyone to be like me and shunning people that weren’t and I now believe that is an insecurity in us that we will either change to be like others or surround ourselves only by like minded people.

The problem with that is we lose a great deal of ourselves by changing to be like others, we lose the things that make us unique and often we compromise our ideals. We have a great deal to offer the world by  embracing our authentic selves and giving that person to the world everyday, it is really the only way to continue to grow as individuals.

Just last week I told someone that they were into an idea of me, a profile picture and things they had projected unto me because they were qualities that their imagination wanted me to have. It was no better than a fantasy and the problem with that is people are very rarely the people we create in our heads, no matter how great our ingenuity is.

If we take 5 selfies and we post the best one, we may look absolutely stunning but we are more than that one angle. I am a culmination of who I am when I am happy, sad, struggling, creating, living and loving. I am so much more than a perfect selfie. I have friends, family, acquaintances and people I am fond of and curious about. I also have a small group of people that I call “my people”

There are very few people that see us from every angle, allowing that requires an extreme amount of vulnerability but it also creates beautiful and unique friendships and relationships that weather storms. These are the people you want to see you through the very best and the very worst times in your life.

When I was sat smack dab in the middle of black despair after losing my husband I was faced with rumors, judgment and innuendo. At that point I made a decision to continue to be who I am no matter what and if I was someone I was proud of the right people would be in my life and nothing else would matter. That alone has changed my life immensely and allowed me to see and accept myself as well as embrace others, all of the dark and all of the light that makes us fantastically beautiful mosaics.

The problem is, I can post a selfie and basically tell you what to look at, but I cannot tell you what to see. That is entirely up to you.

Some of you will read this and take from it that Michelle knows useless 1980’s music trivia and that is fine. The reason I chose that song title is that I truly believe that we are all hungry to be deeply known, loved and understood. The thing to remember is that people can only know you and love you as deeply as they know and love themselves. A person who does not love and accept themselves entirely cannot possibly love you the way you want them to and sustain that. In turn if we do not love ourselves entirely and continue to invest in ourselves it is almost arrogant to assume that anyone else should invest in us if we have already deemed ourselves unworthy.

If I could ask one thing of you today it would be to love yourself, not in five years, not when you get a promotion or lose twenty pounds or quit drinking, love yourself right now and grow from there. Love your friends, your family and your co-workers, not for who you want them to be, not for who you know they can be but for who they are. Meet them right where they are and see how acceptance and authentic love encourages them to expand and fill their space in the world.

 

Happy Tenacious Tuesday!

 

The Climb- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

It has been thirteen months since I lost my husband to the unfathomable darkness of depression. I know nobody would say thirteen months unless they were referring to a baby, they would just say a year but in this case the distinction seems important.

I grabbed a glass of wine after dinner tonight and came out to the deck to watch the colorful sky. It had been a hot day; there has been a heaviness to the heat the past couple of days, almost as if it was sitting on top of you. I had come home early to enjoy the sun in my backyard and almost immediately the sun vanished beneath a gray mass of clouds that seemed to appear out of nowhere. I put some shoes on and played catch with my youngest daughter until we decided to beat the rain inside as the sky hinted that there was an impending storm, possibly a good one.

We watched some TV till Morgan came home with her friend and I went upstairs to make dinner. I cannot believe I am saying this, but I made spaghetti tacos for the girls. Apparently, it was a thing on ICarly and Haley has been asking me to make them. Morgan was initially as freaked out as I was at the idea but seemed to enjoy them and Haley seemed beyond enamored by them. I opted for a stir-fry with this amazingly flavorful cauliflower rice. It just seemed like a normal day, almost an unfamiliar normal, one I truly haven’t seen in a lifetime. I did the dishes after supper, still peeking out the window occasionally to see if it had begun to rain. The rain was still holding off, and the sky beheld the same dismal color it had been earlier perhaps just a slight shade brighter. I decided to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine and Morgan and her friend appeared and chatted a bit before going to meet another friend. At eighteen Morgan keeps busy with her crew, avoiding quiet times that make her think and feel too much on bottomless repeat. She is not ready to release the pain and sometimes I think we get so used to pain that we wrap ourselves in it like an old blanket and its Saturday night on the couch with your favorite Netflix series. It’s worn and not entirely cozy but there is a certainty to it at a time when everything feels uncertain. Tonight, she came out to the deck and we shared some laughs. She looked nice in her Halifornia Baseball Tee and I wondered for a second if it was mine because we have the same one. The sky had started to darken again just before they left but I found myself moments later staring up at it, a tiny bit confused. The sky had completely changed in a moment that I somehow missed; it was almost like a seamless day to night transition during live theatre. Somehow I blinked and missed it entirely. It was pretty in a weird sort of way, it was like the colors of the bags of cotton candy hanging on the side of the food trucks at the summer fair, the colors started to merge together, like the faces and the people that flock to the little food mobile all day to buy water and French fries. All of the sudden Haley burst out the door running into the lawn and standing on the fire pit, rambling about the sky and how she always used to stand on the fire pit in Grade 7 and take pictures of the sky. She just finished grade 8, probably one of toughest years in all her academic ones but she pulled through it and kicked its ass on the way through. I realized that I used to take a lot of the pictures of the sky as well and besides our recent vacation in the Okanagan where I dedicated time every day to stare up into the sky picking out the funny, dirty shapes in the clouds I had not been doing so. I stared at the moon and the stars at night and meditated fresh air every day of my holidays, yet it is July 30th and this is only the second time this summer that I have sat in my backyard. That feels important. It took thirteen months.

Haley and I continued to chat about the sky and take pictures of its rapidly changing color. It was not the most amazing sky I had ever seen, it wasn’t even close to being great, but it was beautiful in its unique normalness, changing quickly into moodier cotton candy colors. Almost immediately upon noticing the temperamental palette the curtain dropped abruptly leaving the evening sky draped in a deep navy velvet. I am listening to Ben Caplan crooning and sipping on a glass of red wine and kind of swaying in my seat and writing and figuring it out and sharing it with you almost simultaneously. After all we have been in this together, for a while, you and I. You have told me that sometimes my pain has been an escape from your own and that my healing makes yours seem hopeful and possible. You cry with me, remember with me, laugh with me and sit and hold space with me just as you would for your oldest, dearest friend. In most cases I am not your friend, most of you don’t even know me personally and even those of you that would say we were close if I won the lotto or became famous, you may not recognize me anymore. When I put my shattered pieces back together I had to put them back differently. I was forced too, everything was different, as am I, and sure as shitheels I am never going to be the same again.

Like I said, you are me and I am you. Our struggles are different but we both bare the scars of black nights and early mornings on no sleep. The memory fades but you remember how easily you can slip back into that hole. You are also starting to see how easily you can stop that manipulation, the lure of familiarity, and the decent into the darkness. You are starting to see that tomorrow is a new day; you get one every 24 hours. There are days that are easy and days that are hard, none of us are immune to those.

I walk on my lunch hour at work and I am lucky to live in a city with a large urban parks trail system surrounding our river valley. I have become a creature of habit and I take the same route 5 days a week finishing with a ladder. Every day I climb the ladder. When I first started I had to catch my breath several times and then I just stopped halfway through to suck in some air and then as time passed I made it closer to the top without a pause. Some days now I don’t stop at all and some days I stop out of habit. Some days are just hard, unexpectedly, as if I cannot get enough breath into my lungs and the air feels like a massive weight sitting on my chest. I have no explanation except for sometimes life is unexpectedly hard.

I realized that very day that I have been climbing for what seems like forever and it seems like I start over at the beginning every single day. The beauty in that is that I do, I start over every day. Nothing is permanent, no feeling of despair or hopelessness or heaviness that threatens to suck you in. Joy is not permanent either; it weaves in and out of our lives, knitting our memories into stunning tapestries. The magic happens when we realize that we choose how we feel in every single moment and we can chase the bleak shadows deeper and deeper into a pit of desolation or we can follow the wonder, the pleasure and delight as it unites our memories with the sunrise and launches our hopes into the sky to land on the brightest star. Our inner world is married to our outer world and what we give our attention to sets our intention. If our intention is to seek and create a life filled with joy and to meet the highest version of ourselves, if we continue to make that choice in every moment, commit to that climb, the universe will feed on that energy like a hungry traveler and lead us and guide us and move obstacles out of our way.

We are not alone. We are never alone. Just as you and I share in our most difficult struggles and laugh together during times of joy, the universe; the birds, bees, mountains, ocean and trees move simultaneously in a hypnotic dance to produce love, joy, creativity and gratitude in our lives. When that awareness is present I believe anything is possible.

There are times in the last year that I believed life was merciless, torturing me and feeding on my agony like a vulture but a very wise man told me that Kirk would heal through my healing and that one thing has been everything really. My husband spent a great deal of his life in pain, unable to achieve the peace he desired. If I chose to sit in the blackness would I keep him there with me?

Acceptance is vital. There are so many things in our lives that can be changed that we nonchalantly accept but we fight so damn hard against the mountains that are impossible to move. We use all of our strength fighting battles that cannot be won while laying our swords down during the most important of all crusades, the fight for our lives.

I realized one day that Kirk was not going to join me in that pit of despair but his spirit along with so many loving and kind people was offering me a hand to pull me out, I just had to grab unto it every single time I started to fall. The hand was always there, it would always be extended. I choose to fall or climb, that realization has been profound.

In those early days I believed that if I allowed my self to heal that I wouldn’t feel Kirk with me anymore, that he would sense that I no longer needed him and his presence would quickly fade away. I sought some guidance and I depended a great deal on faith and trust and what I learned was that as I continue to heal not only are my memories more vivid but my awareness of his existence in my life is unmistakable. Our souls are eternal and I am confident that he will encourage me always. I know he will be with me no matter what but when I find myself in a dreary place I imagine him sitting there with me saying “C’mon pissy pants, snap out of it!” he much preferred fun Michelle, who doesn’t?

It is those times when I feel happy and free that I feel him the most. I was at a concert last week and I had so much fun and danced non stop. I felt surrounded by his love and approval and I feel like, without earthly limbs I dance for him. When I love and laugh and dance, he does the same, just as when I cry and sit around in my jammies eating endless carbs and feeling like crap, so does he. There is an amazing amount of freedom in knowing that I am guided and supported, always, I just need to continue to climb.

I finally realized that it is not about the view from the top.

Grief is an unimaginable journey, but it is not something to get to the top of. I don’t think you ever stop grieving someone you love but I do believe it changes shape, it cloaks you in a weighty and gloomy sadness but over time instead of wearing it like armor you gracefully drape it over you like an elegant shawl made of courage.

The top just seems final, like a place where you stop learning and I feel like I have a lifetime of learning to do. Death has taught so much about love and living but it feels like there would never be an end to what I could learn about my purpose here in this astonishingly big but enigmatically small world.

Every day, all day, it is a journey, it is a climb.

I feel like slowly, grace and healing is making its way through my house and the last couple of days it has planted itself in my backyard. I can’t even believe how absently I was ready to accept that there would no longer be laughter back there, no welcoming the sun or bathing in moonlight. It is amazing the things that we will accept when we have the power to change them.

How ironic that it was a perfectly normal day that seemed so extraordinary in my heart.

Our journeys are unique to us but often they intersect at the crossroads and we lean on and learn from each other. Shared wisdom and vulnerability is significant and valuable to healing and growth.

Sometimes the first step is the most important part of the journey.

“There’s no glory in climbing a mountain if all you want to do is get to the top. It’s experiencing the climb itself- in all its moments of revelation, heartbreak and fatigue-that has to be the goal.”

~Karyn Kusama

Break Free- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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I woke up yesterday to the devastating news of the Greektown shooting in Toronto Sunday night and though my instinct during these tough times is to dwell on the horrifying nature of people and to find myself in a state of overwhelm, I resisted that urge, took a couple of moments to contemplate and send love to the people of Toronto and consider how we are becoming way too conditioned to accept these things as normal. It seems that we are less shocked and appalled than we once were and the alarming part of that is that we have begun to acknowledge these unthinkable acts of violence as customary. We are suitably upset but not astonished. I am not exactly sure what the answer to this is but I feel like there is some danger in our growing indifference and the fact that the most common reactions to mass violence these days seems to be to perpetuate fear against certain groups of people instead of sitting with the discomfort of what is actually happening with the world around us.

I do often prefer the solitude of my own personal bubble, it is quiet and loving and I feel safe there. The past several weeks I started to feel the opposite of all of those things. There was a lot of noise in my brain and the love I normally give myself was a bit absent. It is no secret that I like to feel a certain way. I have a bright and sunny personality, I work really hard to put a positive spin on things and I understand the significance of self love and self care. The thing is, it has been an incredibly tough year for my family and I; and for me personally everything has changed. Though I can dig very deep to find courage, gratitude and create happiness even during times of struggle, I can also find my changing disposition deeply uncomfortable, so when I am not in the sunniest of places the feeling is so unnerving for me that I judge it and myself harshly. The truth is I am not incredibly loving and accepting of cloudy day Michelle and I cast a lot of judgement upon her and can very quickly find myself in a very unfamiliar and exceedingly uneasy place.

I spoke a lot last week about our tendency to cast judgement upon others without looking inward to see what it is in ourselves that we are trying to avoid confronting. I think the flip side of that for me, which has been an interesting and unpredictable shift is that I realize that I am often accepting of others, seeing them as beautifully messy and evolving individuals but there are times that I allow myself to be overpowered by self judgment and my refusal to accept myself as I am, where I am and give myself the same love and space to grow that I am willing to give to others.

I reached out to one of my oldest friends on the weekend because I was feeling such a disconnect with who I was as a person that it had me in a terrible state. My friend has a brilliant mind and he is constantly growing and evolving. He is not a perfect person, and even writing these nice things I fear his head may swell,  but honestly the thing I admire about him is that he has never feared discomfort. He has been a touring hip hop artist, dancer, actor, writer, director, choreographer and teacher. He has never gotten comfortable and thought, OK this feels good I think I will stay here. I know he has felt fear and unease, I am sure there are days it feels like his skin is on fire but he continues to be and to do. He continues to grow. To me, he will always be the little boy that came knocking on my door everyday to come out and play but we have both faced our own personal demons throughout the years and though we have continued to quietly support each other, it is sometimes easy to forget that despite our differences some of the things we face as humans are universal. It is nice that the person who knew you before the world wrapped you in chains of fear, judgement and expectation can remind you that you are a person first and sometimes you just have to let go or you will never be free.

“The world is small, but it’s also big and sometimes life is like a snowsuit you can’t get off on a really hot day!”  ~ Cory Bowles (Hip Club Groove)

I am learning to surrender to the discomfort. It may be clearing me out and bringing about positive change. I do not want to be small or live my life on auto pilot. I want to break free from generations of chains. I am a deeply feeling person in a noisy and messy world, sometimes I will feel unnerved but I will not be defeated.

I am not “just a person’ but I am a person and maybe to be the best version of me I need to find a little bit of comfort outside of my comfort zone.

 

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,

I’m a little teapot- Wise Project 2017 #TenaciousTuesday

Who am I anyway?

I was going to skip Tenacious Tuesday this week but I decided on a who am I poem!

I was reading a poetry book called Helium by Rudy Francisco this morning and felt inspired to tell a little bit about who I think I am. The amazing thing is every person we meet sees us as something different and I am learning that that is O.K. The important thing is who you think you are and if you realize that you never stop learning or evolving.

I was born on January 15th of 1974. That makes me a Capricorn and though I think I am way too fun and spontaneous to be born under the sign of the goat I am stubborn to a fault.

I am 5’9 and I have no idea how much I weigh but I identify as curvy and fabulous.

I think there is no medicine better than laughter.

I am a huge sucker for a guy with great eyes, I call them shipwreck eyes because that is what Ben Caplan says in my favorite song Lovers Waltz and because I can literally drown in the right eyes in the right scenario with the right story.

I have no sense of direction whatsoever but I try to make that fun. I wonder often about the people I have given directions to over the years.

I am too often loud when the occasion calls for quiet, my friends ask if I learned to whisper in a room full of chainsaws.

If you want to see me lose my cool try reading over my shoulder you filthy animal.

Until recently I was hysterically afraid of traffic circles but I am slowly becoming a road warrior.

I was born early and have spent my entire life believing if you are not early you are late, except at work where I happily prefer to make my own hours.

I value red wine, red lipstick and a sexy red dress.

I think people are fascinating. I also LOVE nerds.

I love to talk but I am learning to listen.

Listening is a superpower.

I love my mom and I sometimes snap at her unnecessarily. Her opinion means more to me than anyone else.

She thinks I am insecure. I think I am not. I do like attention though. 😉

I can write a whole book via text and I enjoy contemplative conversations with people I trust.

I think parenting is hard. We always wonder if we are getting it right and there is a delicate balance between allowing our children to spread their wings and experience all the joys of friendship and love while holding space for them during inevitible heartbreak.

I think sex is too often used as a tool and a weapon. I am comfortable talking about sex and comfortable with my sexuality. Sex is not love but it can be a beautiful expression of ourselves.

I believe that everyone crosses our path for a reason and an experience that lasts five minutes can have as much impact on our lives as one that lasts fives years.

I think dancing and general silliness are under rated. Sometimes we just need to say “fuck this shit” and dance it out!

Who are you?