Category Archives: Honesty

Reflecting

Do you hear that—that ffff sound? It’s me, blowing the dust off my blog. It’s quite thick, months worth actually.  My dashboard looks very foreign and for the life of me I can’t remember what all these controls all for, but the blog is still here and so am I.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve felt myself being pulled in this direction, a growing desire to write and feel my fingers racing across the keyboard, but even more a desire to sit, write and reflect. When I’m not writing, I’m not good at reflecting. Writing helps me focus, and manage my thoughts. By putting things into words,my mind gets organized and I understand myself better. After the last six months, I really need to spend time understanding myself better.

I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotion, albeit carefully controlled and managed emotion, but topsy turvy, full speed ahead emotion nonetheless. Life has happened in a big way, a scary way, a I want to run far into the forest screaming kind of way. But I haven’t. I’m here. Living it. Feeling it and learning from it.

My best friend recently said to me that she’s decided that the definition of being an adult is learning to live with and cope with change. She’s right, if there is anything I’ve learned in the last 15 years it is that nothing stay stagnant and as we get older and life continues to propel forward, change seems to happen more. My guess is it just feels that way because time passes like a freight train, with the weeks and months blending into a blurry landscape.

In a couple of weeks I’ll celebrate my birthday. I’m not fond of birthdays anymore because they remind me of how quickly time is passing. But just like change, birthdays are a fact of life. As I’ve grown older, I’ve taken my birthday as a cue to reflect on life, what is was over the year that has just passed and how I would like it to be in the year to come. This birthday signals my entry into the latter half of my thirties. My husband and many of my close friends have recently celebrated or a hair’s breadth from 40. FORTY. How is that even possible? I still remember celebrating my dad’s fortieth birthday. At the time, it seemed like a lifetime away for me.

And I suppose it has been a lifetime since that celebration during my expectant adolescence to the life I have now.

So far, my thirties have been tumultuous. Everything I’ve trusted and taken for granted—even, actually —my own sense of self has been wrung out, turned upside and left shaken and floundering for a sense of direction. These last few years have made me weary.

And yet, my thirties also brought the birth of my children, tremendous growth and opportunity in my career, and a variety of fulfilling and amazing life adventures.

In many ways, the cliché of finding oneself during this decade holds true for me. However, one difference is that it hasn’t exactly been about uncovering anything I didn’t already know.  I’ve always known, I just didn’t necessarily believe and trust. Often I still don’t. And that is what I’ve learned. Despite the unrest, my thirties have brought acceptance. I don’t always know myself, I frequently have trouble finding my way, I am, by nature a cavalcade of pent up emotion, and I often lose sight of perspective and that’s okay.

Even

Even. As in level, flat, free from variation or fluctuation.

That’s how I feel right now. Even.

And I don’t like it. In its very stableness, my mind is too smooth, like a snake-oil salesman who is tricking me into believing that this is the way I’m supposed to be.

I’m used to the rolling change of my emotions, the extremes that propel me and strangely keep me grounded and full. Feeling is a good thing, even when the sensations are stormy. Because the depth of my feelings also bring relief. These days I shed so few tears that my emotions feel like they’re hiding behind a dam of obscurity. I know they are there, I just know it. But I don’t feel it.

My evenness is a state I am altogether unfamiliar with. It’s uncomfortable and foreign.

I think it’s the anti-depressants. They are doing what they are supposed to do. Most days I am completely free from the mental turbulence that plagued me for so long, and yet I still don’t feel content. They’re fooling me, and at the same time hiding me.

How odd this is. To be clear-minded, generally happy, and yet wayward and lost at the same time. I don’t even know myself. With mental health come this evenness. I am better to everyone else, and mostly to myself, but at the same time I’m not.

This is very counter-intuitive.

Remembering

April is a difficult month. It feels like one long breath caught between what has been and what should have been. It marks the anniversary of my mother’s death, 29 years ago, new mom of two young girls, and only 24 herself. At a time when she should have been cradled by the promise of a long and beautiful life, she struggled with a deadly illness and to say her goodbyes. Instead of hope and excitement for what was to come, she suffered with intense fear and anguish over what was inevitable. Instead of choosing bright Easter dresses for her young girls, she was extracting a promise from her husband to take care of “her girls.”

Her girls, her husband, her whole life would move forward without her. Her spirit snuffed out before she had a proper chance to live.

Only 24.

It’s never easy to remember. So much of who I am and who I am not is laced with this history . As each year passes and I grow years older than she did, I struggle. I struggle with my own loss and sadness and with a growing and deep awareness that I will never know who she was.

In our youth, we believe ourselves invincible, that we will be and achieve and do all the things we dream of. I have my own twisted experience with this. As a younger woman, I believed that my day would come, that I would somehow know her. I’ve never faced her death and what it really means, the loss of her as permanent. I think that’s what happens when experience the death of your most primal connection at 4 years old. The reality is quickly, succinctly swept away by a higher power. It’s impossible to deal with the emotions surrounding such an experience as such an emotionally immature age. So your spirit takes over, covers it up, with years and layers of diversions.

But it never goes away. It’s there. Deep, profound, heavy and dark. All of it. It’s only hidden.

This year is particularly hard. My sons have the remarkable distinction of having been born on my birthday and my sister’s birthday. Even more stunning is that their age gap is exactly the same as ours, just shy of three years.

This year, this month, they are the exact age we were when my mother died: almost 5, and just 2. Little. Vulnerable. So young. Not even completely out of diapers.

Yesterday afternoon we were just hanging out. The two of them were being the boisterous boys they always are, bouncing on my bed as I tried and failed to read. I chose instead to stop and watch them, squeal and giggle. I soaked up their sheer intensity, delighted in the life that fills them up and said a silent prayer of thanks for my own.

I asked my husband. “How do you suppose it would feel to know that you would be raising them alone?”

He refused to answer the question. He preferred to change the subject. I don’t really blame him. To him, it’s inconceivable. To me it is too.

And yet I think about it more and more these days, probably because I knew we approaching this significant anniversary. I feel such pain for both of us. For her, and what she has missed, and for me, for what I have missed.

Creep

This morning I was sitting in Starbucks reading the daily lesson from the Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab, and I found myself crying. Right there, curled up with my beloved laptop, in a chair in front of the door where people were running in and out, tears coursed silently from my eyes and splashed heavily onto my cheeks.

The post, by Andrea Scher, discussed two kinds of quitting. The sentiments she expressed in her piece cut to the quick, not because I’m at any real risk of quitting anything, but because I feel myself once again reaching the limits of my capacity to cope. The last couple of weeks I’ve been riding the edge of my emotions, so much is happening, while at the same time so much is not. I’ve been trying to focus on the tools I’ve learned—to slow down, ride it out, focus on the moment rather than becoming overwhelmed by what might come. While at the same time, there are small pockets of beauty, and real, intense knowing, knowing that I don’t have time to act on.

It’s not enough. My days are simply too full, and all the things I have to be doing seamlessly override all the things I should be doing. Before long, hours become days and weeks and it all overflows.

I call it creep, a fog that swirls and rolls along the edges of my mind, gently caressing and teasing. It folds in and out, searching for a crack, anything to let it drift in. It’s brings doubt, shame, sadness and guilt. In abundance. The really odd thing is that the fog seems very appealing, almost a cover to hide from it all.

In her piece, Andrea wrote about the notion of quitting as deep surrender:

There is a quitting that is like throwing your hands in the air, shouting I GIVE UP! and with passion only reserved for things we still deeply  want, we say I am out of ideas.

This is how I feel when I say that my coping mechanisms aren’t working, because there is simply no time to use them. It’s spring, and a time when I should be feeling a fever pitch of energy and contentment, instead I’m held back by a growing frustration with the pace of my life.

I feel trapped by a way of living that isn’t working and I truly see no way out. It’s oppressive.

There is this little voice inside of me that keeps saying “Suck it up, push through, you can do it. Millions before you have, millions more will after you.” And I want to tell that voice to shut up. Why do I have to be like everything else? Why do I have to judge myself so? Even worse, I wonder why I can’t just do it. Why can’t I muster the energy? Why don’t I know what to do, and since I don’t how do I find the help I need to discover it?

This creep, it’s defeat. It’s knowing that I can’t dig deep and pull it off. I just can’t. Yes, I want to throw my hands in the air, and just give up.

So now what?

Brewing

Blogging? I’m writing a book. Yes. I am.

Amongst the dishes, the laundry, the meal planning and lunch making. In the middle of endless Super Mario Brother marathons, towering cities of blocks and energetic games of hockey. Between practicing letters and numbers and learning to read. For scattered moments on each end of a long commute and days spent at work. In the midst of blogging, and a mountain of  unread books balanced precariously on my nightstand. Despite my ongoing efforts to get well and because of my efforts to unlock deep and rich parts of myself, wading tenaciously through the flux of emotions that torment me.

I am writing a book.

The words are pouring, syrupy and rich. My fingers tap, tap, tap, flying across the keyboard. I didn’t plan for it to happen. It always seemed like a possibility, but never a certainty. And then, it started. I felt a great well inside of me, a ball of energy that is gathering momentum, spreading and compelling me to just do it.

It takes a great deal of courage for me to declare it here, so publicly. And even more for me to believe that I have something worth saying. But I think I do. And I also think we wait too long for the right time. The right time is an illusion.

So I’m digging in. While I do, I may be around a little less as I balance this between the pace of my everyday life. I have no idea what it means, or whether it will lead to anything. That doesn’t matter right now. What matters is pushing forward and letting it all spill.

Image: ‘Blogging?”’ via a Creative Commons license.

Fate

reflections (B)We’re approaching the end of The Gifts of Imperfection: Mondo Beyondo Winter Dream Lab. The experience has been like an awakening for me. I’m struck by this sensation that all the emotional flailing, the writing and reading and small life changes I’ve made in recent months have finally started to come together into something solid over the last eight weeks.

Certainly I’ll take some of the credit for the clarity. The  six months since I began my battle out of depression have been hard work. Work that I’ve been willing to do because  I believed the road to healthy meant allowing myself to be vulnerable and to engage with concepts like those we’ve discussed in the dream lab. Ideas like faith, creativity, fun, and authenticity.

But I also believe in fate. I have to. That’s what happens when you face loss at such a young age. You learn to cope in ways you might not have otherwise. I confront my struggles with a strong sense that everything happens for a reason. If I didn’t, I think I would have completely lost myself many years ago.

So I believe I was meant to take this course. A year ago it wouldn’t have meant to me what it has now—at this crossroad. The timing is perfect.

Each week I shared little bits of the exploration with you here. But what’s happening beyond that has had even more significance. If you could see me every Tuesday and Thursday as I listen to audio with Brené Brown on my commute you would be amazed. I listen and cry and feel more and more pieces of myself unfold so that I can really see myself, all of me. It’s raw and pure. It’s spiritual. Brené articulated an approach that opened the door to self-understanding. I felt my soul being unlocked.

With my therapist I’ve circled around a consciousness of feeling blocked from the life I want to live by a glass wall. It’s very disconcerting to know where you want to be, but feeling unable to actually reach it. But it’s not there anymore. It’s gone. I’m finally sinking into life. I’m not trying it on, I’m actually wearing it.

It may sound trite, but I’m not overstating when I say I feel as though I’m on the cusp of my life. The sensation feels like everything is finally starting. The glass wall has finally lifted and I can reach out and touch what once seemed so elusive.

I’m writing this here so that I can hold on to it. I need to bravely declare it. I’ve been feeling that a lot, as though it’s all pouring out of me, a compass leading me to fully settle into my life. I  honour my intuition when I say that I feel I’m on the cusp of something wonderful. The beautiful thing is how comfortable I feel telling you, even though I don’t yet know what it is.

But it’s there. For the first time in a long, long time, I have no doubt.

*Update: In the Dream Lab today we’ve been asked to name our imperfection, as well as the opportunity hiding within the flaw. The idea is that our more shadow-y tendencies are also the doorway to incredible light. After reading this post last night, my husband said he felt that what I wrote here was less about fate and more about faith. That has been sitting with me ever since. Indeed, I believe I’ve found faith in myself. So I’m claiming Guidepost # 5 from The Gifts of Imperfection, Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith. More to come soon!

Image: ‘reflections (B)‘ by camil tulcan via a Creative Commons license.

My superpower

my son gives me strengthToday in the Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab Brené Brown discussed the definition of meaningful work—meaningful work as it relates to our personal gifts and nurturing our true selves. She encouraged us to think about our gifts as superpowers and to ask ourselves the question—What is it that I think I am really good at doing?

I have to be honest, I find the concept a bit prickly, just like that wool sweater you keep hidden away in the back of your closet because when you wear it, you pull it away in discomfort. Even writing this post about it makes me squirmy. I’ve got nothing. I’m not confident enough to own my own superpower.

So I asked my husband what he thought. I needed a starting point, some inspiration. He stood thoughtfully for a few moments and came up with Tornado Woman: Everything you try to achieve gets done. He described it like a swirling windstorm of activity with me as the conductor at its centre.

When he said it, I nodded and admitted I could see it like that too. I am that person. Or rather, I was that person. The thing is, it was that very windstorm that led to my undoing. Certainly it isn’t the personal gift that has helped me rise to the occasion and nurture my true self. I used to be good at juggling a lot of balls. I gave that up months ago.

So I’m back with nothing.

But here is a theory. An honest admission.

Brené argues that just as we all have a superpower, so do we have a kryptonite and I have a hunch that mine are integrally linked. I think my superpower is offering comfort to others, for the very basic reason that I seek it so intensely myself.

This realization runs very deep. I think it reaches back to the loss my mother at such a young age. Having enjoyed the comfort of a mother’s loving arms for such a short time, I’ve spent many years searching for a replacement. I never felt this more acutely then when I faced my deepest inner turmoil this past year. But it started even before that. When I had my boys, it was my undoing. Suddenly I recognized the feeling of a loving mother’s arms, but in a cruel and wondrous twist of fate, the emotions were reversed. I understood for the first time what I had lost by offering that very thing to my boys.

In the Gifts of Imperfection, Brené argues that “if we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear and even grief.”

I’ve lived this. I felt it in the deepest, darkest recesses of my soul. I’ve craved comfort for so long. The loving arms of one who loves me for nothing more than just being. And so I believe my superpower has become offering to others what I lost many years ago.

I believe this is true, and to be completely honest I’ve only just worked this out now. More pieces falling into place. But as perfect as this fits, I’m having trouble owning it. I need to sit with it a bit.

Have you ever thought about your own superpower? Are you willing to own it? What would it mean to you? Are you cultivating it in your life?

Image: ‘my son gives me strength‘ by Jeff Meyer via a Creative Commons license.

Faith and intuition

side candles 1A quick post, because I need to write this. To share it, while it feels fresh. I just settled into bed to read about this week in the Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab. It seems we’re cultivating faith, intuition and creativity. We’ve been asked to set our intention for the week; to answer what we want to experience more of, should we decide to give intuition, faith or creativity a chance.

As I read our instructions, and learned that we’ll fully explore the role faith and spirituality can play in helping us let go of our need for certainty my heart literally did back flips, and then plummeted, and now I feel butterflies lodged deep in my stomach. This my friends, this is the place I WANT TO GO but feel so afraid to visit. I’m afraid because I don’t trust it. I don’t trust it because I have some deep-rooted belief that it’s false and self-indulgent. To be completely frank, I don’t actually know what it is. I cannot fully express how empty and lost this leaves me at times.

But I have felt it. A feeling of  utter holiness infused into the depths of my heart and mind that offered a sensation of hope and complete acceptance. A feeling that lit the path to knowing that everything is well, and good and complete. Brief though these moments have been I have had a glimpse, and it was quite brilliant.

What I do know is that there is a war being waged between my heart and my head that I cannot underestimate. My desire to flee is strong. But so is the knowledge that if I continue to provide ammunition to perception and expectation, I will never get where I am supposed to be.

So here is my intention:

I vow to open my heart, to trust the wisdom of my intuition as a path to something better. I will do it freely, without fear of judgment.  I believe there is a self inside of me who is ready to shine. I want to coax her out. I want to experience the brilliance of confidence and faith.

Image: ‘side candles 1‘ via a Creative Commons licence.

Muddled

With Love...We’re talking authenticity this week in the Mondo Beyondo Winter Dream Lab. As I linger over this concept I feel uncertainty in my gut. Uncertainty about how to be authentic when I don’t necessarily know who I am. But even more uncertainty because I believe this to be the root of all my struggles, the hardest layer to unearth and shed.

I’m a people pleaser. I always have been. For as long as I can remember I have worried what others would think of me, what picture I was painting for the world. But I also worry about the needs of others and have no problem sacrificing my own comfort in the interest of pleasing others. As a little girl I vividly remember feeling responsible for my father’s emotional well-being. I hid my feelings and insecurities for fear that they would hurt him, make him worry or feel sad. It was a heavy responsibility that folded into my adult life.

In one of our sessions Brené said that she really had to work to stop creating who she was and to start discovering who she is. This makes sense to me, it’s what I’m trying to do through my writing and in other ways. But it’s hard work, it’s soul work. Like parenting there are no right or wrong answers. As I tread carefully along the path, I’m finding it difficult to separate the real from the perceived—my true self versus the self I think I should be. There are moments when I feel it acutely, but they are hard to hold on to. I get caught up in life and it all becomes very muddled.

So the question remains: How to be authentic when one hasn’t uncovered their truth and lives with so much uncertainty? It’s like a maze, just as I discover one promising pathway I turn the corner only to find a dead end, a barricade that sits firmly blocking me from something. There is no direct route, just alternate routes that lead to different obstacles, some easier to find than others. Muddled.

In the Gifts of Imperfection, Brené defines authenticity as the “daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” What a simple, yet powerful notion, one I think our generation struggles with more than any before. We’ve been raised in a society filled with expectation and opportunity. We are a generation of achievers. We have greater access to knowledge that others before us. We are taught that if we work hard enough, doing the right thing, for the right amount of time that the world can be our oyster. We learn to set aside our hearts for reason. To push ahead. To do more. To have it all.

I’ve lived this life—the life I thought I wanted and that everyone expected I would. And it has been good to me. I have a beautiful family, a promising and flourishing career, a comfortable lifestyle with a beautiful home and family vacations. I enjoy luxuries that most of the world can’t even dream of. I am a lucky woman. I know this.

And yet I feel so profoundly incomplete. I need something more. I don’t mean things, or greater success. I mean I need me. I need to know myself. I need to feel safe learning and living who I am. I want to be inspired. I want to inspire. I want my mind to swell with grace. I want to be happy and fulfilled and living my purpose.

Image: ‘With Love…‘ via a Creative Commons license.

Into focus

I wrote this post last week. I’m publising it now because I want to start the new year fresh, ready to move forward. I’m still working through things, but by writing about them I feel I can set a new course with a definite place to anchor my thoughts. I’m doing a lot of personal writing with pen and paper now.  I feel quite torn about my writing and where I plan to take it. In the short time that has passed I’ve missed blogging and at the same time not. There are moments when I feel a strong urge to write here and others when I feel like it’s time to move on.  I’m making no commitments, to this place or to myself. I’ll just continue to do what feels right day by day.

———————————————-

I felt a flash of optimism today. Actually it announced itself like a flash, but steadied itself quickly into a flickering light. There it was, dancing calmly in front of me, small, but resolute and strong. With it comes clarity, the kind of clarity that comes with a new set of glasses, the of life finally vibrant and crisp.

Because I wasn’t expecting it, it felt delicious and wondrous.

When you start to come out of a dense fog, the glint of transparency seems to sparkle brilliantly. You reflect and realize how overcome your life was by sadness and despair. The new clarity stands completely juxtaposed to the more familiar grey oppression, tantalizing with the freshness of a sunny spring day. For a short time, I reveled in it and was reminded how good life could feel.

When I first fell into my personal abyss and realized that I would need medication to help me out of the sludge of my mind, it wasn’t long before I started to feel better. Within a week the haze started to life, my energy slowly rebounded, my heart’s cadence slowed to a more manageable rhythm.

Now, many weeks later, I believe I may actually be getting better. I’m more myself than I have been in a very long time. It feels like the return of an old friend who you didn’t even realize you had missed, the familiarity bringing a new sensation full of ripe possibilities.

It’s very difficult to describe how pervasive my depression was. Now with clarity, comes the benefit of hindsight and a feeling of sadness for the self who was lost for so long and all that was missed because of it. I feel like whole pockets of the past couple of years have been taken from me, particularly the last 5 or 6 months.

I’m told this is common, that when people begin to feel better they recognize that the struggle was there far longer than they ever knew. The slide was gradual of course, but it was deep. I think that’s the true horror of this illness—how it squeezes a person’s wellbeing in the most secretive way, so that it’s not obvious to the one who matters most—yourself. 

But here’s what I now know. At the beginning of this year I set out to find myself. In the process I completely lost myself. Now I believe this is exactly what was supposed to happen.

Until recently I fought it, refusing to allow myself to be lost. That is precisely where the sadness and confusion came from. I was afraid to let go and just be. I thought self-understanding came like an achievement, something to reach. Like a place of souls. When all along it was inside me—right now—right here.

It seems cliché, but I really did need to lose myself before I could truly find myself.

I was so blind I almost missed itI floundered and sputtered and practically snuffed out my own breath in a desperate attempt to discover something that didn’t exist.

A self beyond myself.

So here I am, trying this realization on for size and reminding myself to breathe in the simplicity of a live lived each day. This very moment. Consciously reminding myself, as I do so often with my children—stop, breathe, focus. I feeling my thoughts and allow them without judgment. Testing it out, learning it.

Simple, and yet so hard. Practicing. 

Acknowledging that what I feel is real and okay. And then moving on. Deeper. But within the self who I already am.