Category Archives: authenticity

Defrost for freedom

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[Written a few months ago, but certainly still relevant…]

Let It Go; A phrase as misunderstood and as misused as Be In the Moment.

Its December 26th, we can now say that Christmas has passed (unless you have gatherings continuing for the next week) and the calendar woefully reminds us that yet another year is over. Gone. Kaput. Though am not much for resolutions – let’ s be honest, they are just one more way we get in our own way – it seems like the notion of ‘Let It Go’ might be something to think about.

Recently I found myself talking to a friend who struggles with anxiety, encouraging her to let it go. Yes, its hard to do, but it is such an important step in our mental and emotional health as human beings — and in particular, as women. Just the whole hormonal rollercoaster of adolescence alone seems to make us hold on to things people have said or done ‘to us’.

Its simple concept, that can seem impossible – it can take an hour/day/month/years to achieve. And even then, every once in awhile whatever it was that you let go tries to sneak back into your consciousness. Almost as if ‘it’ is challenging your mental toughness, your ability to stand strong.

My strategy is to continue to take a step back from those situations that make me want to react negatively, or are hurtful, and ask ‘what about this situation is within my control?’. The answer is always the same – the only things I can control are my actions & words. Therefore, the best i can do is to check myself ‘what am I responsible for in this situation?’ ‘what words/actions did I choose?’ ‘ Is there a way to correct my actions/words/role in this situation?’.

The beauty of this plan is that (I believe) it can apply to many areas of life. Struggling with past relationships/situations? “What about _______ is within my control?” If its in the past — none of it is currently within your control, is it? You can acknowledge the memory, talk about it if needed, but at the end of it all you cannot go back and change your actions or role.

“What about my childhood was within my control?”

(In my opinion) Well, as children we are generally not in control – we trust the adults around us to make appropriate decisions for us. And sometimes the adults don’t always make (what we feel) are the right choices – they are human after all. Do you control the choices your parents made when raising you? Most likely the choices made had less to do with how your parents felt about you – and more to do with how they were raised (what they know) and what was going on in their own lives at the time.

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Good Grief!

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Thinking back over this past year there have been many lessons learned through the process of grieving. It is a strange thing, grief.  Most days I have not consciously felt that I was grieving, and then one day it reaches out to gently remind me that the heaviness is still there.  Or my massage therapist comments on how incredibly messed up my muscles are and then reminds me that we sometime store our grief in our bodies.   Am thankful that it seems to be less and less raw, less palpable, over time it has moved from being a smack upside the head to a somewhat gentle nudge that (still) stops me in my tracks.

There are now two distinct phases in life: The time when mom was with us, and the time after mom died.   I think we all try not to categorize life according to death but in our minds we inevitably, yet silently, think ‘oh right that was just after/before mom died…’.  From what I understand that frame of reference will stand forever.

I thought I would share a list of things that have surprised me about grief.

  1. How inexplicably tired you feel when grieving, particularly in the first few months. You try so hard not to think about the loss, but you somehow cannot stop. And then when you do stop you feel numb, and guilty for not thinking about it.
  1. How it pretty much takes up all available real estate in your mind.   Seriously.   In my experience I feel that I lost about two months of conscious thought – can’t remember much from the funeral onwards. After the two month mark the haze began to lift.
  1. The numbness.   It is a weird sensation – you know you should be feeling something at any given moment but you are just numb.   Child’s birthday party? Happy, right? Nope. Dance recital, happy times? Nope. You try really hard but it just does not register on the emotion meter.
  1. Exaggerated emotional experiences. Oi. Someone made the mistake of reminding me of the tumultuous end of a relationship. BIG mistake. Anger like I have never felt before – about two months worth. On the upside, it gave me something else to do beside be numb and sad. Was thankful that I was feeling something.
  1. People have very different reactions to your grief.   Some seem to assume that once the funeral is over and you have returned to ‘life’ that all is well, grieving is done. NOT.   And then there are those who have never experienced loss and just look at you with this pitiful look (and then my own reaction in my head, OMG I used to do that to people too..).   In that awkward moment you want to get mad at that person – but I think its important to remember that in a few months you will realize that they really did mean well, they just didn’t know what to say.
  1. It sneaks up on you. As time passes you begin to feel more and more normal, and then something/someone reminds you of the person you lost. And you implode. Perhaps a small implosion, perhaps large. For me the big implosions happen in places where mom made the biggest contributions, or with people who meant a lot to her. Mind you it also happens when I watch the Food Network – it was something we did together when she was in the nursing home and long-term care.   Depends on the day and the moment.
  1. Not everybody will know that you lost someone close to you and at some point they will ask you ‘How is your mom/loved one doing?’.   My estimation is that this will happen more than once over the years to come, and to most people who have experienced loss.   The first time it happens you are completely shocked, and the only thing you can say is ‘It’s ok, you didn’t know’ and mean it. Again, it is not on purpose or personal.
  1. At some point I realized that I compartmentalize it.   I live about four hours away from my parents home, so it is easy to separate myself from the grief. But, when I go home to visit there it is, awaiting my arrival with wide-open arms. Compartmentalizing isn’t always bad – it can actually be a good tool to cope with the grief and get on with living life.   I think the key is to remember where you put your grief so you can prepare yourself for it and face it, and to also revisit it once in awhile.
  1. Facing it is good. Hard, but good in the long run. Facing the loss and the pain is important – and perhaps it helps you to feel the parallel of the fullness and joy of life a little easier. Reaching out to friends or a counselor can facilitate the release of it all when needed – and sometimes when you least expect it. Letting loved ones in your life know that you are hurting – really important (and hard to do sometimes).
  1. The big lesson in grief (for me) sounds so trite. Live each day as if it were your last. Live with appreciation for the people who love you and whom you love. Have gratitude for all the good in life, in the world.   Will your life then have no pain, no sadness or struggle? No. But you will be better prepared to deal with it when it comes your way.

When grief gives me a nudge I will let it stop me in my tracks for a moment – because that moment probably is accompanied by a memory.

Remembering is healing.

Grief can be good.

Remembering is good.

 

Gettin’ Sweaty & Breathin’ Heavy (4)

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It is the last week of ‘training’ before the first 10K commitment is to be achieved. So far I’ve managed to keep up an every other day pace with my training – even kept it up during a trip down to my nephew’s wedding. That weekend I hit my 9K goal!  And since? Allergies have been, pardon my language, pissing. me. off. Haven’t done a long run since returning home. But have done a 5K and a 20 min straight up, no walking allowed, run as well.

Every step forward is a step in the right direction, yes?

Honestly, now I am a bit freaked out.   But this one is all for mom – the Freedom Run for Diabetes.  And in the end it isn’t  about how fast I can be, it is about doing this to honour my mom and her beautiful spirit.

 It is about taking another step forward.

Now….on with the blog!

Another goal in the process has been to cultivate compassion for others – right now, specifically for a person who I feel has betrayed me.   (Sorry, no details folks…)  [You may feel that you’ve been betrayed, maybe the following story might help you find your balance.]compassion-definition

For this goal  the help of a counsellor was enlisted (she also helped with the grieving process…) as well as my best friend & her hubby (txs for the fire pit!).

Asking for help = taking a step forward.

Over the past 2 months I’ve come the conclusion (supported by collected male opinions) that an apology or discussion with this particular person is probably never going to happen.  Wait.  Strike that.  Will never happen.   So it is up to me to find a way to let it go, for good  and for-ever.

S#!*.  Time to get the ‘big girl pants’ on!  Take another step forward.

Discussing my frustrations, we came to the conclusion that something symbolic needed to be done.  And that needed to be an action I probably would never do on my own, or do on a regular basis.

A fire was lit.   Yep.   Burn baby burn.  Holla!

Long story, shortened.

Bonfire.

Photos of life event together.

Weirded out by how each photo (which we of course related to the person in the photo) burned differently – kinda wild and creepy at the same time.

Yummy S’Mores.

Hatchet.

Video of life event together.

Yummy S’Mores.

More Bonfire.

More photos of life event.

You get the idea.  Most satisfying part?  Hatchet time.   Mwuahahaha!

All of this? =  One more step forward.

In the end, even though this has been a tough week for training it has been a summer of realization and moving forward.  One important lesson I’ve learned is that its ok to have compassion for someone who has betrayed you.  Compassion allows the negative emotions to be released, which then brings more balance (& positivity) to your own life.

Verbalizing this = the release of the emotions = one more GIANT step forward.  Fostering the process and allowing ourselves to go through our own individual process, in running and in life.

Just one more way that running seems to be a metaphor for life.

May have to add this to my playlist!

Gettin’ Sweaty & Breathin’ Heavy 2013

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When this blog began I had signed up for my first one month hot yoga challenge. The experience of yoga on a regular basis in addition to the experience of the hot room proved to be a physical challenge and provided some inspiration for this blog as well.  In the end it also fostered some unnecessary injuries and issues with heat stroke — so I do continue to do yoga but in a slightly different setting.

What I feel like after I've completed a run.

What I feel like post-run.

MY 2013 CHALLENGE IS…..drumroll please….  

Running 2 (yes 2) 10k races (September and October).

Holy.

Crap.

Some have asked, “What/who are you running from?”

That answer is more complex than I initially thought.

I am running from heart disease and diabetes (both were my mom’s arch nemeses).

I am committing to run to change my commitment karma, if you will.  Out with the one-sided relationships with people who cannot commit to the basic concepts of a relationship: Communication, Friendship and Honesty.   Bring on the healthy commitment karma!

I am running to get through the grief.  Running in the hope of somehow recreating my mother’s strength and perseverance, and honouring her spirit.

And  I am running to flush out the disappointment and frustrations of past relationships for good, and forever.  Maybe I can somehow cultivate compassion through running.

Finally, and equally as important as the rest, I am running because the post-run high is pretty freakin’ fabulous.

Mom lived with Diabetes for 20+ years and persevered through those last 2 years of life with a multitude of issues  and challenges (as a result of long-term diabetes), so therefore there is no reason why I couldn’t  move my butt 3-4 times a week. And by all means I can get out there on race day and give it my best.  And for what its worth – mom had diabetes, heart disease and cancer (x2) and my dad has had cancer (x1)- the odds are stacked against me and I need to keep movin’!

There are no illusions of grandeur, as there is virtually no chance of my placing in the top ten of any age group – I just want to get out there and do my best.  With any luck I will not be the last person to straggle across the finish line.

Have I ever run anything in my life? Not since about grade 5. Though I was a decent runner at that time — it was more than a few decades ago.

I want to prove to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to.   To show everyone (and myself) who is afraid of being 45, divorced, with no children, that it is going to be ok.  In fact, its pretty damn liberating at the best of times!  That at 45 yrs of age one doesn’t need to give in to what society deems as  OLD, and that to feel young one doesn’t need to pretend they are in their 20’s either. Doing new things challenges us to do and think differently, we interact with different groups of people, and in this case, we do a bit of good as well.

There.

It’s official.

I’ve made this commitment ‘public’.

Oi. Vay.

“Is this a test?”

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lilac-bushFor those who have followed this blog you have read various posts relating to many cherished family memories, as well as some challenging family moments.  On April 24, 2013, my mom passed away.  The writer in me has been struggling to find the words – and trying not to post my grief on Facebook (too much).   

They say that grief is a process.  It has stages.  I am sure that many have written books and journals on the process, analyzing it down to what may be believed to be a precise process.  What I know to be true is that grief does not form itself into a specific, set-in-stone pattern.  The loss of my mother has knocked me sideways, upside down, thrown me down, and  picked me back up, only to go through it all again.

For me, right now, the key is allowing the emotions to come to the surface.  Acknowledging the sadness, the loss, as well as the good memories that arise as you move through it all is an opportunity to let go of the pain.   Note:  ‘…to let go of the pain (not the person).’

So here we go…

Our childhood was steeped in the Lutheran community of our hometown in Minnesota.  We lived a half a block away from the church and both of our parents were involved in many aspects – from Sunday school to vacation bible school, pancake breakfasts to Lenten suppers, ushering at services to  bible studies and altar guild.  Like making a perfect pot of tea we were soaked in it like precious tea leaves.

Despite all of that – once I left home (and even before) religion seemed like a lot of pomp and circumstance and not much substance.   Admittedly, I leaned quite far away from my faith for many, many years.  Heck, I even married (& divorced) a ‘self-professed Atheist’ for heaven’s sake!

And then, after all mom had been through since the cardiac arrest – she was diagnosed with Stage IV Liver Cancer with approximately 4 months to live.  She received the news on Good Friday of all days.  Shortly thereafter mom began receiving a drug treatment to extend her life a bit longer, then Dad called to tell us she was in the hospital again.  Without asking, his voice was enough to urge us home.

Doctor G. told us that he didn’t recommend another treatment.

Pastors prayed with us.

And mom asked, “Is this a test?  Is God testing me?”

As I heard her ask the question I realized that this truly was not a test of her deep and abiding faith.  What I saw in action was that God was with her as she moved through this painful ending.

Life unfolds according to our choices, and God walks through all of it with us – if we let him.

In hindsight, it came together quite logically. Family and her dear friends gathered by her side.  The Nurses listened and worked to ease her pain.  The pastors from the church visited, prayed and offered support.   Her grandson arranged a Skype chat with her son who was overseas.   The son (J) who visited rarely called to say he was on the way.  We were all certain Mom’s eternal Hope would prevail.

And as much as mom always wrapped her children in absolute, unconditional love –  God did the same for her.

Mom and Dad had a great visit with J. when he arrived.  All of her children had visited in person or by Skype.  That evening God wrapped her in his love and took her home.

At the funeral  Pastor D quoted John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.  That whomever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.’  It was the one scripture I memorized as a child, only now does its true meaning reveal itself.  I feel that if my parents had not instilled their Faith in us when we were children, that today my heart would be eternally broken.

Through this faith I know, and believe, that mom lives on enjoying gardens that she had never imagined would ever exist, and that the skies have one more bright, shining star watching over us.  Perhaps most importantly, I know that she is with me (& our family) everyday.

Grateful for my amazing mom.  Grateful for this life lesson.

ichoose…

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[Am taking a deep breath and posting this one…it feels tremendously personal.  I have chosen to take a leap and go with it.]

My mothers’ recent health crises has, as said in previous posts, sent me spinning.

Whirling.

Tumbling.

Into an unknown that has hit us all. Hard.

My mother’s strength, perseverance, positivity, and creativity, are an inspiration.  Listening to Sarah Kay in a recent TED lecture I was moved to consider my perspective through this new life challenge.  Her words are illuminating and encouraging.

Reading Ken Robinson’s The Element inspiration is found not only in his philosophy, but in the stories he tells of  achievements against all odds or expectations.  His words have reminded me of the notion that life is a series of choices that are presented to us, with each choice there must be an acceptance of consequence and a certain commitment to fulfilling that choice.  When we follow our passion [when we are in our element], we fulfill that choice  with authenticity, in turn the process is joyful and time is fleeting.   We are then true to ourselves.   In a society focused on immediate success void of failure, it is sometimes very difficult to make those authentic choices.  I propose a new app for that.

ichoose…

‘ichoose’ is an app that takes into consideration our values, beliefs, and priorities for us.  It considers our personal histories and happenings which are woven within this crazy life.   Simply tap the ichoose app!  [wouldn’t it be great if all decision-making was so simple?]

And so, Today ichoose…

  • gratitude.
  • to seek [and remember] laughter being shared with my mother and family, for it is truly the best medicine.
  • to be thankful for family that, despite physical or emotional distance, comes together in their own way to support one another and our parents.
  • to appreciate and respect the amazing gift that is the human body with all of its systems keeping things in homeostatic check, so that we can move through life and pursue our dreams.
  • to find ways to combine all that I know, and all that I do not know, to craft ways to encourage others [and remind myself] to learn to love and appreciate moving their bodies in an attempt to prevent any possible chance of their experiencing diabetes.
  • to craft ways to encourage youth to give their health the attention it deserves.
  •  to write my way through all of this.
  • authenticity.
[if this was an app it would need accompaniment…such as Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello, Adele singing anything at all [she is brilliant], or this amazing contrast of classical music and breaking].
What would you choose?   What music might be your accompaniment?

Dear Mr/Ms Webster and Oxford…

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As children/teens we have all experienced those moments when a friend, parent or sibling was dramatically concerned about their weight or cursed themselves for having that delicious piece of chocolate cake, pecan pie, ice cream, cookie..etc.    And how many of us in our adult lives have been been completely annoyed by the thin and perfectly fit men and women in commercials, videos, films?

And today I rant.

I rant because I am tired, T – I – R – E – D of feeling that I am committing some mortal sin because I eat, and I enjoy it.

And the subsequent feeling that in my lowest moments I am not ‘allowed’ by some societal judge/s to indulge or gain a bit of weight because I perhaps am self medicating with too much chocolate/candy/steak (not at the same time though, that would just be uncouth!).

[Calling all authors of Webster’s and Oxford’s dictionaries! Now hear this!]  I say we throw the word D I E T out of the dictionary…  It is an evil word.

DIET is no longer a word, nor a slang!   Let’s replace that nasty word with eating for health, healthy eating, and consumption of fuel that sustains my brain function, heart, and allows my body to create the chemical reactions it needs to maintain my best health.  And yes, sometimes that includes cookies!!!!

[Keyword – sometimes.]

And another word to be thrown out – D E P R I V A T I O N – why are we so convinced that deprivation is the key to our weight loss/happiness/confidence?   Again, let us be honest with ourselves.   How many of us have ever been successful at completely eliminating something we enjoy from our menus?

At the end of the day it all comes down to feeling at home in our own skin, this shell we inhabit for the span of our lives.  If we allow ourselves (women and men) to give in to the subjugation of the overly processed, airbrushed, commercialization of the male and female form we will never truly BE happy WITHIN ourselves.   Each of us in inherently unique physically, mentally, and emotionally – BE with YOUR individuality.  CELEBRATE what makes YOU unique.  Our children, nieces/nephews, grandchildren, students, look to the adults in their lives to see that it is possible to be happy with ones individuality – and when we give in to what we believe others want to see in us we are no longer staying true to our individuality.   And we wonder why our children have difficulty BE-ing happy with themselves.

To BE happy with ourselves means having the courage to indulge in self-reflection, being honest about what we see physically and emotionally.

It is my belief that we are able to look inwards when we get our bodies moving in ways that bring us JOY.  Walking, running, playing, cycling, gardening, dancing, skating, skiing…whatever the form of movement, it brings us physiological  and emotional joy.  When we feel this joy we make healthier choices and decisions.    We are able to indulge ourselves and enjoy the moment in its fullness — and then move on rather than dwell in the guilt of it.

Disclaimer:  This author has struggled with this for at least the past 30 years of life.  None of us is going to get it right each and every single day, but every morning we can get up and try our hardest to do our best to BE happy with our SELVES.  Allow yourself the indulgence of imperfection.