Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sweeping away the cobwebs

“Sometimes you have to do what’s best for you and your life, now what’s best for everybody else.”

This is on my mind, tonight.

Well, to be honest. Not just tonight, but a lot recently.

There is more change afoot, or at least a cross-road to be considered. And it seems that whenever this is the case, writing is what I must do. I seem to do best when I think with key strokes. The tappet tap puts order to the discomfort of unrest, helps me find a path to calm the sea of uncertainty.

They say we should trust our heart (or our gut-depends on how you feel it). But I find this so hard to do. Whatever message my heart is sending, it never seems to speak a language I can completely understand. The path is always grey and muddied. I feel the tug and pull of two directions, and in both I see different kinds of challenge and contentment. I find apple reason to take each path. And no absolute reason to choose one over the other. It’s so bloody frustrating.

This time, I’m doing something different. I’m trying really hard to take the people out of it, to ask myself what is best for me. What is it that I want. I’m not very good at thinking this way. Most of my life I’ve been guided by expectation. Funny that, isn’t it, expectation, and  how it has a way of seeming crystal clear.

But of course it’s not, of course we shouldn’t presume to assume what others think she we do, or want us to do. But we do, don’t we? And what a tongue twister that is all around. Assumptions, presumptions, expectations, motivations, sensations. All of these nothing but vague representations of what we believe to be real. And certainly  none of it for certain. Yep. Read that 10 times.

Maybe it’s easier to make decisions based on what we think to be the needs of others, because it allows us to avoid the discomfort of doing our deep thinking. If we can blame it on someone else, it is a whole lot easier to leap. Because if we do it for ourself, we have no one to blame. And that just sucks.

How can one know which path is right, and which decision will lead to the next bit of happiness.

It has been a long, long time since I’ve felt my path to be absolutely clear. In fact, I don’t think I really have since the haze of adolescence. Isn’t that funny. The very time when we are conceivably open to being the most misguided or misdirected is, or at least was for me, the time that pointed in the most decisive directions.

It’s because with age you realize your decisions can lead to uncomfortable impact, impacts that are not so easy to recover from and that affect more than just oneself. A career—for example—may offer limitless potential and opportunity for happiness and opportunity, but at the same time, as a job they feed our families, pay the bills and help make dreams come true for more than just ourselves. As I grow older this becomes painfully more obvious. And extremely frightening. The truth is I cannot sit idly and indulge every intention. There is just more to lose than ever before.

And so it is harder to leap. To have faith. To be sure that, at the end of the day, it will all work out as it should.

There have been only a handful of occasions in my life when I’ve asked for spiritual help, and these were without a doubt the times I needed it most. In these moments, I can honestly say I just felt and understood what I had to do with certainty. Whoever is out there granting support, well he or she has come through when I needed it in spades. But I don’t want to abuse that gift. I want to sometimes be able to feel a sense of direction for myself.

And so here I am. Writing it out, and yet being purposefully vague.  By putting in black and white, letting the key strokes wander where they must go, I start the work of sweeping away some of the cobwebs.

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Comfort of mother and son

My boys are growing up. And no matter how often I remind myself, slow down, remember to pay attention, I know this will all be over too soon. I often feel I’m being swept away by life. It’s hard work  to pay attention. It’s even harder to remember to pay attention. I’m delighted by them, by our family, and this precious gift called motherhood. It sounds quaint I know, but the truth is, I’m in awe of it. They are people. People I made. And now, as their arms and legs stretch the limits of boyhood, as their minds expand to explore thoughts unknown to me, I sometimes forget that I made them. They are me. But now, they are no longer me. They are them. It’s kind of a mind twist isn’t it?

But when I do look at them and see them for who they are, my heart literally bursts with pride. Wow. They are something.

I just wish they would slow down.

I want to inhale one more deep breath of their baby softness. I want to feel their round thighs and stroke the baby softness of their chubby little fingers. I want to hear the squeals and delight in the joy they feel when they seem after even a short separation. I want to be their centre.

They say this is what we are meant to do, that our job is to help them learn to fly free. And I want what that for them, of course. But I find it hard knowing that they are living lives without me, that things happen to them every day, at school and even under my own roof, to which I am not privy. How can that be? How can I not be part of it all? It’s not fair. I struggle with this. And sometimes the depth of the struggle surprises me. They’ll talk about things I know nothing about and I’ll feel jealous and hurt. It’s silly really, but it’s the honest truth.

I’ll never hold them accountable for this. It’s my pain, the pain of motherhood. But, it’s also the joy. The joy of knowing that they are stretching their wings and learning it’s safe to fly free.

Right now my oldest and I are sitting together companionably. He’s reading. I’m taking a taste of my writing again for the first time in a while and I feel the contentment surrounding us. I feel sure that this will always be available to me. This companionship and deep comfort that is mother and son just being, together.

I think they take me for granted. I hope that they do.

Making choices

Lately it feels like I’m coming here more and more to write about how busy I am. And if I’m not writing about how busy I am here, or here, I’m thinking about how busy I am. And then I start to think about what I can do to slow down the pace of my life, to remember to breathe, to protect myself from getting caught up in it all in an unhealthy way. No matter how much I turn it around in my head, right now, today, something has to give.

My life is rich and full. I’m finally well, consistently well. Of course, I have bad days. And yes, I’m still working through many personal challenges. But I’m happy more often than not, I’m productive more often than not, and my well of patience feels mostly full again for the first time since before my children were born. At least most days.

I’m working on several stimulating, yet incredibly intellectually and time-challenging projects. They are soaking up most of my creative energy and capacity to think. 

I’m trying hard to make my relationships with my husband, and downtime with him really about being with him, rather than escaping into my computer. I admit, I’m not always good at this, but I’m working on it.

My children are flourishing and growing and generally challenging us in so many wonderful and irritating ways every day. They are 3 and 5 1/2 now. When did that happen? They are settling later at night which leaves less time for me. I’m okay with this. It’s how I expect it to be.

I’m surrounded by friends who care for me, and who make a difference in my life in so many ways. Some of them are online and who I hope will remain firmly a part of my life, but many more are offline and I want to give them my attention. Some of them need my attention.

And so my life is full—to brimming if I’m being quite honest.

And that leaves little room for what I do here. This writing, this connecting and sharing. There is so little of me left to devote to this space in a way that I would want to be able to do that. It’s not that writing has become less important to me, it’s just that I have to make choices in my life. Isn’t that what motherhood and womanhood and balance are all about?

Making choices—choices we can support and sustain.

And for now I can’t sustain this blog. I’m spent by the time I carve out a moment to write, and that means I’m not writing the things I want to be writing. That means it becomes a chore. When it becomes a chore, it creates guilt.

The last thing I need in my life is guilt. I’ve worked too hard to find some emotional and mental stability.

So when I’m not coming here, when I’m unable to visit all my favourite blog spaces and read and connect, I feel guilty. I also feel sad, and somewhat empty, but mostly I feel guilty.

But the thing is, that guilt is entirely of my own making. So the only way I see to undo it, at least for now, is to eliminate it. I have to give myself permission to let it go so that it doesn’t hang over me every day, so it doesn’t gnaw at my conscience.

To leave this space untended is gut-wrenching, even as I write this I can feel myself resisting. It has been so many things to me over the last few years. But I realize now that those thing will never leave me, I can always come back when I’m ready. Or not, if I never am. But when I do, I want it to be for the right reasons. I want it to feel comfortable and natural and a privilege rather than a chore. I want it to be because I have something to say, and to share. Just now, I don’t feel that way.

So for now, I’m stepping away. I expect this will be a long break. The things that are taking up so much of my energy at the moment are far from being over, the light in the tunnel is still only a speck. And who knows, maybe next week I’ll have something burning to write about and you’ll see me back here eating crow. But I don’t think so. I think that this permission I’m giving myself is going to free up just the right amount of space, space that I desperately need.

In the meantime, you’ll still find me in all the usual places like here, or here. Or you can always drop me a line here. I’ll be around, just in a different, more simple way for the next little while.

 

Getting comfortable with discomfort

If you were to ask me to describe myself here is what I’d tell you:

I’m enthusiastic and emotional. I laugh and cry openly. I can be argumentative. I have heart. I’m empathetic. I’m willing to listen. I take everything personal, and I over-analyze every conversation. I’m easily convinced. And I’m a people pleaser.

I like to talk, but more than that, I like to communicate and connect. I’m honest and open. I’m willing to be vulnerable.

I believe I am all of these things. Of these, I would argue that my willingness to be honest, open and vulnerable are my most strongly routed qualities, or so I’ve always believed of myself. That is, until recently when I learned something very important about myself. It was eye-opening and somewhat humbling and was completely unexpected. I AM this person, but I’m not very good at BEING this person.

In this space, this ironically very public space, I do a very good job of living this honestly. Here, I share openly.

But when I step away, I’m actually very different. I am tremendously intimated by myself. I lack confidence. I’m willing to be honest, but to a point. If I feel strongly about something, I’ll tell you, but I won’t push it.

In real life, I can be very guarded. And if I let down my protective barriers, if I put myself into a situation where I feel vulnerable or I’m losing control, I quickly surrender. It a self-protection mechanism that I’ve perfected to the point that I failed to recognize it in myself. Deep down I know myself to be someone different, rightly believed myself to be that person that I had actually convinced myself that I was that person.

Here’s what I mean.

When my thoughts, feelings, perceptions and assumptions (the very things that make our emotional psyche) are rolling around in my head they make sense. They are weighty and important. I believe them, I trust them, I live by them. And when I write them here,  they feel okay. I’m comfortable with sharing, secure in their black and white absoluteness. I can speculate on the many reasons that may be. Perhaps it’s because I ultimately don’t have to hit publish. Even as my fingers clickety clack across the keys, the words are still anonymous, exist only on the screen, in a draft only I can see, and thus, arguably are still very much safe in my head. As they roll off my fingertips, offering comfort and self-understanding, I’m still protected, protected until I release them into the universe, or the Internet as it were. Or maybe it’s because I know that even when you, my dear friends, read them they still, in a way maintain their silence. I’m not there with you. I don’t need to witness, see or hear your reaction. It’s safe. When I hit publish there is still silence.

But when I say them, articulate them out loud, it feels prickly. When I talk with friends, colleagues, mentors, family and even my husband, the words just never seem good enough. They feel cheap, almost fake. I  worry there will be consequences. And that sensation makes me believe my thoughts aren’t important. It makes me feel silly, even provincial.

My husband reads my blog pretty faithfully. I appreciate his support, and feel blessed by his encouragement and interest. But he’s the kind of person who likes to read out loud. When he reads these words, my words out loud it makes me profoundly uncomfortable. It’s prickly. For some reason hearing them feels like a judgment.

Extend this to the rest of my life and you see the struggle I’m facing. It’s unpleasant. Well it’s more than unpleasant, it’s downright debilitating.

I need to find a way to get comfortable with my own discomfort. And to further complicate it, I need to do it so that I can be myself. Twisted in a way. But our subconscious has a funny way of protecting us.

I took some early steps recently but talking about all of this with my husband. Explaining it as honestly and openly as I could. You might think it would be easy, but it isn’t. It took me almost a month to muster the courage, to describe why this is, what is has meant, and what I must do now. It all makes sense in my head, but as soon as I say it, it makes it real, and the reality is very hard for me to accept.

So this blog post is step two. It’s me coming clean so to speak. I’m practicing for the harder parts I still have to face, the more difficult discussions that will need to be had, and the person I need to learn to be.

 

 

Calm

Today has been quiet, not in a literal way since I live in a home filled with boys, but in a figurative way. After months of being swept up in the cadence of a busy life, I’ve gently reminded myself of the importance of protecting quiet time, time that is free of obligation, when I can let myself wander from task to task without pressure or any particular plan, a day spent at home in the company of my family when we all do whatever we feel like doing. These are the days that make me most happy. These are days that help me maintain calm.

Instead of setting any resolutions for myself this year, I decided to choose one word to sum up who I want to be and how I want to live. I’ve never done this before, but I noticed that so many did last year, and after my post late in 2011 when I wrote about focussing on moments of quiet, taking long deep breaths and maintaining perspective, it seemed clear that this would be a good exercise for me—a mantra by which to frame my life over the coming months.

It didn’t take me long to realize that my word would have to be calm. In fact, it kind of just came to me. I’d discussed the feeling that I was losing control of my life again with my therapist and with my yoga instructor, and how I wanted to nip it in the bud before it became a problem. It’s the very thing I value most in my life, and the thing that often seems the most elusive.   I write often enough about how busy my life is, how easy it spins out of control, because as simply as I try to keep it, working full-time while raising a family is no easy feat. It’s busy. At times it feels like there is too much. I realized that if I wanted to live it, than I should just do it—make it a priority, make it my word.

So calm it is. A simple word. A good way to live.

The reality of living it fits so comfortably and perfectly that I wish I had thought of it sooner.  Over the last week I’ve reminded myself of it often. I’ve sat in meetings at work and reigned in my thoughts by saying it to silently to myself. I’ve returned to yoga to intentionally set aside time to let it grow. I take deep breaths when my children’s energy boils over and remind myself to keep my cool. I’ve turned off the radio when I drive just to allow myself space to think. Baby steps toward change, but steps forward nonetheless.

For many, many months I’ve been singly focused on looking inward, assessing, reorganizing, evaluating, and forgiving myself. And I’ve changed. It may not be outwardly obvious, but I feel it deep within myself. I am not the person I was two years ago. I am profoundly different. The way I think, the way I feel, my dreams and my hopes, they’ve re-calibrated. The shift, for me, has been as palpable as stepping from a pair of heals into a new pair of comfortable running shoes.

Several weeks ago I wrote about my struggle with the notion of getting out of my own way. Within the space of a few days two people whom I admire and trust had gently suggested it to me. The idea of it was weighed on me, and if I’m being honest, it still does. I think that is because it’s important that I figure it out, that it’s time to actually do it. I’ve realized that for me it means acknowledging the pesky voices in my head that hold me captive and undermine my confidence but trusting myself enough to set them aside  and move beyond them.

So I’ve realized that the next step is to begin to live this change, infuse all parts of my life with it, weave it into the fabric of who I am on the outside. This is the year I’ll begin to do that. And this word, this intention will provide the platform from which I’ll find the strength to do it.

 

 

Intoxicating

The most important revelations always happen when you aren’t expecting them. I think it’s when we let down our guard, or when we are looking the other way. We spend so much of our lives searching for meaning that we easily forget that many of the answers are right there inside us, just waiting to be found. I know this has often been the case for me, particularly as I’ve learned to focus on looking inward, to slow down and listen to my heart.

It happened just the other night. I was sitting cross legged, relaxed, but tuned-in, talking with a woman who has seen the very heart of me, a woman to whom I’ve opened my heart and my mind in the most courageous and vulnerable way when I had a breakthrough. It wasn’t something she led me too. We were exploring something completely different, and yet at the same time centrally related. I think it was because of that  the crack opened just a hairsbreath and made the awareness available to me, otherwise I probably would have missed it completely.

I stopped our conversation short, just like when you’re walking and the person ahead of you suddenly stops and you walk right into her. I could almost hear the thud in my brain, and then see the awareness of what had happened as I saw myself clearly for the first time ever.

In a moment I had a pivotal discovery about myself that, to date, had been hiding in plain sight. The obviousness of it once I turned myself to it and acknowledged it for what it was changed everything—my assumptions about myself and the demons that have haunted me.

Within the space of a moment I realized that all these long months of trying so hard to come up for air, I’d been fighting so hard to unlock the meaning of something that was nothing more than a misunderstood demon. And while the realization of it feels entirely happenstance, it offered an important key to my struggles that is vitally liberating.

And that’s what demons are right? They are unclean spirits that sit with us, haunting and tormenting, but never facing us head on where they can be dealt with, defined, eliminated. They stay hidden, but always there. They know that if you can name them you finally get the upper hand. You learn how to fight back. You understand. And with knowledge comes power.

That’s how I feel right now, that I’ve finally found something tangible and specific that I can extinguish. It’s a heady feeling, a welcome and hard fought for feeling. It’s the taste of success, but better than that it’s the taste of self-understanding and God it’s intoxicating.

The crux of it

Last night I asked Twitter if I should do the obvious and write a resolutions post. Those who responded overwhelmingly answered no, at least not unless I was going to do a different kind of resolutions post. And that was the problem, I couldn’t think of a different way to do it. But I was feeling that I should just write—write all of my hopes and my dreams for the coming year and organize my thoughts and priorities with the words that have always helped to keep me rooted and accountable, to me, to you, to the universe in general.

I am an incredibly organized person. I try to keep my life as clutter free as possible, I write lists, lots of lists; I plan and track my days with an eye to evaluating and reevaluating every action and reaction. My life fits in neat, categorized mental boxes and I have a knack for over-analyzing them. It’s how I think—tight, neat, programmed, in control. I like it that way, I do well that way.

But as much as this I believe is my greatest gift and has helped me achieve so much in my life, it has also been my greatest struggle. For more than a year now, I’ve been working hard on learning to let little bits of control go. It hasn’t been easy, it takes a lot of  personal reminders about what matters and what really doesn’t. It takes trust, and I’m not very good at that. This fall I fell deeply into old habits, habits that fed and bred on this compulsion, habits that ironically eventually start spiral out of control. I was tilted too far in one direction, and could feel that I was on the verge of losing my balance.

So I wrote about my need to do a little personal reset, to implement some checks and balances to help me get back on track. It was time to remind myself of where I’ve been, how far I’ve come, and what I need to do keep moving forward in a positive way. And I’ve been doing just that —thinking and considering. 

Yesterday I went for a coaching session with my yoga and meditation instructor. She asked me what I needed, what I wanted to focus on. I told her that my life was beginning to once again feel like a freight train, and that I needed to start 2012 in a calmer more confident way.

And so that’s the crux of it, the places I’ve been, and the place I want to go leads me over and over to a profound sense that all I need is calm. So for 2012 I won’t make any grand declarations or promises, I’ll just keep honouring the work that I’ve done, pulling myself back whenever I need to, practicing all this change, learning to make it habit and routine. I’ll focus on moments of quiet, deep long breaths and perspective. I’ll pull it together so that I can continue to work on defining my life instead of letting my life define me.

 

Get out of my own way

Twice this year I’ve been told by people I admire and respect that all I have to do is get out of my own way. The first time I thought: Why of course! That makes perfect sense. The second time I realized I have no idea what that actually means.

Get out of my own way.

How does one do that exactly? And is that meant as a constructive criticism? Because I’ll admit, on the face of it, it doesn’t exactly feel like it.

The truth is, for the last year I would argue that is exactly what I’ve been doing by acknowledging my triggers and learning to set and keep personal barriers. But now I’m not so sure. Because after all of it, the change that I’ve made my life and the calming of emotions, I continue to struggle every single day with one important fact: I still don’t trust myself.

So last night, when I heard this again, in a more intimate and significant way, I felt shaken and confused. I realized that the hard work I’ve done to pull myself out of the trenches of depression and anxiety has been important and valuable, but hasn’t yet fully addressed the root of my struggles—my sense of self-worth and my ability to love and honour myself.

I’m not very good at seeing the forest for the trees and tend to get wrapped up in the little things and then let them eat away at me.

Like my own thoughts, and the words and emotions that sit lodged in my head and that seek to negate all the progress that I’ve made.  

And so I realized that that is what is meant by this well-meaning advice: To get out of my own way is to acknowledge those thoughts and then trust myself enough to be able to move beyond them. What’s more, I know that it has less to do with my day-to-day happiness, but rather with day to day life management.

Seems simple enough stated here, crisp and bold in black and white. But in reality I think this will be the biggest hurdle of my life.

Shaken

I’m struggling with faith right now. I’m struggling just when I could use it most. I’ll be honest, I feel like I’ve given God more than His fair share of chances, and I’m tired of him taking and taking. I know I sound spoiled and ungrateful. I know that in the grand scheme, my life is charmed in so many ways.

But tonight, I feel empty of Him. (Or Her, or It, or whatever) And I’m desperately hoping I can find a way to fill up my spiritual well. Because I need it. I need it in spades.

I’ve always been a believer. I’ve not done a very good job of honouring that belief, struggling much of my life with notions of religion and spiritual observance, but I’ve never questioned that there is a power higher than humanity. It’s always just fit for me.

But tonight that belief is shaken, shaken to the core.

And I’m angry. I’m angry and pitiful. And that self-pity is festering. I’m letting it, I’m letting it lick at my wounds and gain traction.

Yet I’m leaving room, just a scrap of space for a sign, some token that I should keep believing. That there is a reason to believe. That all will be fine.

But that’s not life right? Life is full of wretched, difficult stuff. What I’ve got going on, what I’ve been through, is ultimately no worse and no better than anyone else.  The things that the people I love must endure., the things that they struggle with that I wish I could sweep away, they are  all part of the human condition.

It’s all just life.

And though we learn that we must not take life for granted, it still has a way of leaving us feeling superfluous. Like surplus.

So tonight I struggle with faith. I struggle to believe when I need to believe, when trust is just what I need to help me find the strength I need right now.

Because ultimately I know it’s trust that will provide the grace and strength to see anything through.

I wrote this as part of Heather at The Extraordinary-Ordinary’s Just Write exercise. Head on over if you want to learn and read more.

 

One year

It has been a year. Three hundred and sixty-five long and yet intensely spiritual days since I first admitted publicly, and more importantly to myself, that I was drowning from depression.

I came here in those early days to share my first tentative steps forward. It has been here that I’ve shared all of my fears and vulnerabilities. It was here that I promised myself that I would become healthy.

It isn’t easy  to fully describe the life that I’ve lived in the space of this one life-changing year —the shift has been profoundly monumental. There is truly no one who can understand from where I’ve come, and how I got here. That’s the way it should be, the way I think it will stay.

And yet, I was broken and this place offered me a safe and comfortable place from which to put the pieces back together. My words formed the path, and all of you provided the encouraging and supportive shelter I needed to keep taking each step forward.

For that I am deeply, and eternally grateful.

A year ago I retired to my bed. I was exhausted and spent. For a while it provided the cocoon from which to lick my wounds and  gather the self-acceptance I needed to begin to once  again to live my life. Over the long winter months I wrote and wrote of the pain and the darkness. I made changes in my life, important changes. I started to meditate and found a sense of serenity I had not known before. I questioned myself, every little piece of myself. I was raw, but I pushed through and let myself be vulnerable.

I cried. God how I cried. I believed I was broken, physically I felt myself scattered into a million little fragments. I couldn’t imagine how I would every feel whole again.

But I kept going: to therapy, to meditation, deep into my writing. I cleared my calendar, and started to acknowledge and accept my triggers. And because of that I set boundaries. I learned that I couldn’t do it all, and funnily realized that I didn’t even want to. I thought about the things that really mattered. I was honest with myself. That was the hardest of all.

And as spring started to bloom, there was a freshness in the air and in my heart. I was feeling better. I was doing better. The winter had been dark, long and hard, but the brightness of spring and summer dawned brighter than it had for many years before. So I sat with this new feeling, I just allowed myself to luxuriate in the sense that I was so much better, that I felt like myself again. For weeks and weeks I just let myself feel it. The whole summer actually.

The thing about coming through the darkness is that that the lightness can be addictive. This place I’ve come to. It’s just right. It’s not wonderful, it’s not perfect, there are still hard days. I still question and wonder so much about myself. I work at this contentment every day. And I never want it to leave. I cannot ever feel like I did one year ago again. I just can’t.

So this is the next part of my journey. It’s to focus on staying well, on practicing what I’ve learned, on reminding myself from where I’ve come so that I can live my life today. Because that is what it means to be human.  There is glory in the good, and there is honesty in the bad and they both make us whole.

And so, if you ask me what I’ve learned this year—after all the reading and introspection, this hard, soul work—I’ve learned that this is just it. Today. This moment. Life is best lived now, not in the past or the future. If you can understand that, I mean really, really grasp it, then everything else either falls into place, or it falls away. All of it.