In That Space

I can’t keep track of the number of times that my life has shifted in ways that I didn’t expect. Times when I thought or expected things to just carry on or develop in typical ways and then, “BAM! PLOT TWIST!

I guess in someways it keeps life exciting and yet, I feel like I’ve had more than enough “excitement” in my life and could actually use a little boring and mundane stability.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about contentment, recently. I’ve had very well meaning people tell me that I’m so strong and capable; that I seem to be able to “handle so much” They might mention that they don’t know how I do it; and although I believe they are good hearted people, it doesn’t exactly feel like a compliment.

Gah! I just don’t want to have to be strong enough or to have to go through difficult times. I don’t want the knowledge that I can handle weighty things. Sometimes, I just want to yell, “Enough already! I just want to breathe, rest and grow without the effort and pain of conflict and uncertainty.”

And yet, this is life.

There is pain.
There is uncertainty.
There is chaos.
There is struggle.
BUT…

There is also good and joy and love and peace and blessing and happiness and enough. Even in the midst of the pain and the chaos, of the hurt and discomfort; of the uncertainty and conflict – there is good.

How do we find that goodness when we feel overwhelmed by the hurt and pain? How do we be content?

I recently read this description of contentment and I love it!

Contentment is being happy with what you have.
Contentment is being happy with who you are.
Contentment is being happy with where you are.

Contentment is respecting the reality of the the present.

I love this statement. Read it again.

Contentment is respecting the reality of the present.

It’s not about settling. It’s not about giving up. It’s not about denying reality. It’s not glossing over or ignoring the difficult things. It’s not about toxic positivity.

It is about RESPECTING THE REALITY OF THE PRESENT in all its messy goodness, and horror. It’s holding or having space for the duality of life. Recognizing that there is good and bad. Life is full of contradictions and we have the honour and responsibility of choosing our responses in any situation.

I believe that, too often, we allow our reactions to dictate our responses, especially in difficult situations. I love this quote from Victor Frankl,

” Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

I believe that part of contentment is holding “this space.”

Being content requires self awareness. In order to be happy with what you have, who you are and where you’re at – you need to KNOW what you have, who you are and where you’re at.

Knowing WHO YOU ARE, allows you to build your life on a solid foundation. It enables you to see what you have, what you want, where you are and where you want to go. It’s easier to create the life that you want for yourself when you truly know yourself. Then, when your story has a sudden Plot Twist, you can stand in “that space” and choose your response in a way that aligns with values.

You can hold the reality of both the pain and the good; and make choices that align with who you truly are. You have the power to choose your actions and reactions.

There is something extremely empowering in recognizing that we have a choice. We get to chose our responses to the things that happen in our lives. We may not always have control over what happens because there may be outside influences that are out of our control, but we get to choose our response.

In that choice, in that space, in that moment – there is power, growth and freedom and there can be contentment, even in the difficult times.

The Body doesn’t Forget

Today was a weird day.

I felt sad. I felt angry. I felt upset. I felt overwhelmed. I wanted to run away. I wanted to hide. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to curl up in my bed and cry.

But I didn’t know why I was feeling this way; so I acknowledged my feelings and then tucked them away inside of myself because I had so much that I needed to do.

Driving home tonight I realized that today is Nathaniel’s day. January 24, 2005. If he had lived, he would have been 17 today.

Even if the mind doesn’t immediately remember, the body doesn’t forget. All those feelings I mentioned above are feelings I felt on that day. Feelings that ask me to bear witness to an event that forever changed my life.

It seems strange to grieve the loss of dreams and hopes and ideals but that’s what I had. We didn’t know what he liked and disliked or whether he was quiet or loud…..athletic or nerdy?

Regardless, my body knows the heaviness of loss. The emptiness. The pain. The loneliness. The conflict.

The grief is not intense anymore. It doesn’t steal my breath or crash over me in waves so strong that I fear I may be swept away.

The grief is a quiet sadness. A subtle and fleeting moment of desolation. It’s presence is there asking me to honor my child and his oh-so-short life by acknowledging all the feelings that carried me from there to here; and the process that shattered and rebuilt a new version of me.

The Journey

Weight has felt like an issue to me for most of my adult life.

I don’t know if it started with a modelling agent slapping a chocolate bar out of my hand when I was 13/14 and telling me I wasn’t allowed to eat it.

Me – Summer 2021

I don’t know if it was hearing about how hard my mother and grandmother and great grandmother were always fighting to lose weight.

I don’t know if it was the fact that I towered over most of my friends, both male and female, in height and stature.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that at 16 (and so thin) that I outweighed my peers by at least 20 lbs.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that food and I have had a crappy relationship. I have eaten to feel better. I have eaten to avoid and escape. I have eaten to reward. I haven’t necessarily eaten to nourish myself; to show love and respect to myself.

In August of this year, I asked my Doctor for a referral to an Obesity Clinic.

He was reluctant to refer because they have “strict criteria”. When I explained that I definitely fit their expected criteria, he took me for a height and weight check because he didn’t believe me. I don’t have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart problems or any of the other comorbidities of obesity. But, at 243lbs and 5’7” – my BMI was 38 and I was definitely considered obese.

If proving my need for a referral wasn’t difficult enough; there were communication issues between my Drs. Office and the Obesity Clinic and it took a month and me personally chasing down the referral for the process to actually get started.

If I’m being honest, I really don’t even know what I’m getting into other than I’m overweight and overwhelmed and I want and need something to change.

I’ve “been apart of the program” since September. It’s a process. It’s a slow process.

I had it in my mind that “something” would change. Something would be different. Something would be life changing.

And you know what, I think it is. But it’s also a process. I’ve spent probably 30+ years making decisions that have gotten me here and a few weeks won’t undo or reverse those decisions.

I have my third “group session” on Tuesday and I’m dreading it and looking forward to it. Both sessions 1 and 2 have had meaningful – to me – aspects and I’m sure this session will be the same.

Shame tells me that someone’s gonna call me out or tell me I’m doing something wrong or that I’m bad. (We’re starting the nutrition section of the core sessions; and food and I have such a complicated and complex relationship.)

Experience tells me that these people are lovely and supportive and want to help.

Fear whispers that I’m not going to be able to do this.

Courage calmly states that I can.

And so, I make little changes. I take small steps. I summon courage and make the best decisions that I can for today, for this meal, for this moment. I trust that I can learn new skills. I believe that I can make significant and impacting life changes that will benefit me now and in the future. I recognize that this is a long game.

If weight management was as simple as, just do it. Just try harder! Then I wouldn’t be here. But for me, this is more complicated than that. And while I wish I wasn’t in this position. I’m so thankful that I’m healthy and that I’m receiving help and support so I can be even healthier for longer.

46

Dear 16 year old me,

You’re gonna be okay. These overwhelming feeling of insecurity and intrusive thoughts are part of a life long anxiety disorder, probably a chemical imbalance and you will eventually figure that out. You’re not broken or awful.

It’s okay that you’ve not had a boyfriend, yet. You’re going to find an incredible boy who will grow up to be an even more incredible man. You are gorgeous, smart and powerful. It’s okay to be a strong woman. Your strength will serve you well in the future. You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not and who you are, is incredible. You’ve got this!

Dear 26 year old me,

3 kids, eh? You’re a rockstar!

That littlest one you’re holding?!? He is going to teach you more than you ever imagined was possible. You are going to learn patience and compassion, communication, persistence, gentleness, love, and so much more.

You’ve got a lot of life ahead of you and lots that I wish I could protect you from. You’re in for a world of heartbreak, trauma and devastation; but the flip side of all of that hurt is the most glorious awareness of grace and mercy. You are going to learn to love, have compassion and care for others in a way that will rock your world, in the best way possible.

That strength I mentioned earlier, it will do you well as we navigate these dark days ahead. You will survive. I promise. Even though it may feel like you could die from the pain and heartbreak, I can promise you that you won’t. You’ve got this!

Dear 36 year old me,

Can you believe that we have 5 incredible kids? Those 2 miracle boys born after all those losses…..AMAZING, eh? It’s a lot of work, but this second round of parenting is so much easier than the first round, isn’t it?

You thought the losses were tough but you’ve got another decade of unfathomable heart break. Between 3 years of Pediatric Cancer treatment, the physical, mental and emotional fallout from the treatment, mental health issues, trauma, school issues, and so much more – this is the decade that is going to really test you. Even though you will feel that you are walking a fine line between surviving and breaking, you will survive.

This is the decade that you learn just exactly how strong you are. Even if you wish you weren’t as strong because you’re exhausted and sometimes you wish it would all just go away or stop – you’ve got this. One day, one hour, one moment, one breath at a time. Breathe girl, breathe! This season won’t last forever.

Dear 46 year old me,

I truly wonder what this next decade will bring. I’d like to believe that the pain of the previous 2 decades will lighten up some. It’s been intense enough to last a lifetime. But the gifts that have come along side the pain have been glorious. In spite of all that we’ve been through, we’ve had the most incredible life and it’s not over yet!

You are wise! You are strong! You are brave! You are beautiful! Trust yourself! Trust your instincts! Believe in yourself! Believe that you have a voice! Believe that your dreams are valid and important! Believe that you can affect positive change in the world! Believe that you are a strong and powerful women. Know that your strength is one of your super-powers. Keep going to counselling! Keep reaching for inner healing! Have patience with yourself! You are a work in progress. You’ve got this!

Procrastination

Do any of you use “procrastination” as a tool?

I hired cleaners, at the beginning of the year, to come every other week and do the “cleaning”. (I’d like to pause and say that this has been the absolute best gift that I’ve given myself this year. I like a clean house and the rest of my family is ambivalent enough to not help out as much as I would like. So rather than overextending myself to do it or bagging at everyone, we make sacrifices so this can happen.) This means that every other weekend, we spend a day tidying our house for the cleaners to clean.

I don’t “clean” the house; I just clear it of all the daily living crap so they can apply soap and water to all the surfaces.

I need to be tidying right now; but I’m not highly motivated to do so. So I’m sitting in my bed, polishing off a piece of birthday cake, playing phone games, surfing social media and apparently writing this blog post.

I’m not worried because I know that as the day winds down I will have a shorter window of time to accomplish what I need to and I will kick it into high gear and “git-r-done!”

And then I wondered if any of you do this too. I like to think of it as using “procrastination” to my benefit – like it’s a power boost in a video game.

I’m probably just counting on the rush of adrenaline to help me do what I don’t want to do; and I bet there is a much “healthier way (emotionally and mentally) to motivate myself but it is what it is!

So, do you do this, too? Or is this just me and my unique brand of weirdness?

Self Worth and Self Esteem

Why do I struggle with not feeling worthy?

This is a thought that occupies space in my head and it frustrates me to no end. I do believe that I am good. I think I do good things for good reasons and yet….

There is this core belief way down in the very center of my being that says I’m not.

I’m not good enough.
People are going to judge me.
People are going to believe the worst about me.
I will never truly be accepted and loved just as I am.
I need to try harder to be good.
I need to be perfect to be acceptable.
I need to be smaller than I am.
I need to act in a way that’s more acceptable or palatable.
I need to diminish the things about me that are too much.

And even as those words loop through my brain, the counterpoint also continues to run.

I am enough.
I am good.
I can be big and accepted.
I don’t have to diminish my self for anyone.
I can be loud and strong and opinionated.
I don’t have to fit into anyone’s mold.
I was not created to fit inside of a humanly constructed world.
I am amazing.
I am creative.
I am loving.
I am compassionate.
I have gifts that serve myself and those around me.
I AM ENOUGH.

It feels like a war within me. It’s exhausting. The old thoughts feel less and less comfortable and the new thoughts fit better than they ever have and still…

Even though I know the truth.
I still struggle to truly accept and embrace it as such.

why?

Investment or Insanity

Sometimes I feel like a broken record.

I’m exhausted. SO exhausted! ALWAYS EXHAUSTED!

it sucks.

Right now, we are focusing a lot of our energy on our business and I understand that I’m working hard towards a goal; but I’m a firm believer in working smarter and not harder and yet I feel like I’m just working as hard as I can to just not drown.

What I struggle with is working so hard, for so long, that I end up feeling like I can barely function. This is kind of where I’m at right now.

When I boil it all down, I think I’m talking about trying to find balance. At this exact moment, I’m definitely way beyond actually “living in balance”; but where do you draw the line between investment and insanity.

It’s stupid to think that I can “invest” at this level for the next few years.

So where do I go from here?

That is one of the big questions in my mind, these days; and I don’t know that I have a quick or easy answer for myself.

Waiting For the End…or the Beginning

With 2 weeks left in this year, I’m desperate for the year to be over.

I’m exhausted. I’m overwhelmed. I miss hugging the people I love. I miss…..everything. I miss normalcy. I miss the way it used to be.

Too often I feel miserable!

Not the sad, despondent kind of misery but the angry, annoyed, grouchy kind of miserable.

It doesn’t really make sense to be wishing this year away because between December 31, 2020 and January 1, 2021 nothing magical will have changed. There will be no “returning to normal.”

I think what I’m desperately seeking is HOPE.

Hope that things will be better.
Hope that things will get easier.
Hope that things will change.

I’m so tired of “holding it together”.
I want to cry when my kids start to squabble.
I want to send them to their rooms just so I won’t have to muster up the energy to help them navigate their own feelings of exhaustion and stress.

I want to be on a beach, in the sun, doing nothing.
I want a magically clean house.
I want time to be able to take care of my responsibilities.
And the energy to actually do them.

I want space to breathe without feeling like I’m gasping for air.
I want space to be able to paint and draw and write.
I want to feel like I’m enjoying life and not like I’m constantly having to search for the glimmer of light within the darkness.

There is no “returning to normal.” I’ve been through enough trauma and tragedy to know that life doesn’t work like that. I know that holding on to the idea that things will go back to the way they were is not helpful for me. I need to grieve what has been lost and move forward. To find and create a new normal; but that’s not always easy…….

I’m tired.
I’m so very tired.
And that’s okay.

It’s been a tiring year.

Maybe in the “waiting for the end”; I’m also waiting for the beginning of what is to come.

HOPE

Why I Choose Joy

This is not my first rodeo with social distancing. In June 2010, our daughter was diagnosed with Cancer and just like that, isolation became our new normal.

On Chemo, her immune system was compromised. We had 4 younger children and we all know how kids are incredible carriers and conductors of germs and viruses and basic filth. It’s like their super power. Anyhoo…..we basically holed up and all social life halted for the 2.5 years that she was in treatment.

There are differences between then and now. One, we’re all in this together. That’s HUGE. Do not underestimate how incredible it is to have others know what you’re going through. Two, back then we were fighting only for our daughter. Today we are fighting for our world. Again, knowing that you’re not the only one going through this situation is incredible for the mind, body and spirit.

2.5 years of isolation is a long time. It’s long enough for friends to move on. It’s long enough for you to lose so much of yourself in the monotony and loneliness that you’re unsure you if you will ever find yourself again.

I’m not some naive “Pollyanna” and my life is not in any way, all rainbows and roses. Social distancing and isolation can either destroy you or make you; and I fully believe that you have a say in how you respond and move forward.

I remember the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that I felt back then. I remember standing in my living room, trapped in my home, with no end insight. I remember feeling so incredibly powerless and out of control. my only option was to hold on tight and ride this journey, until it was finished. I felt like I had no control and no power. I felt like a victim of the whole situation. I was miserable, scared and lonely.

I remember the day that I decided that I would reclaim every bit of power that I could. The sun was shining. The warm air floated in through the window. Geli and the baby were both sleeping and the other kids were occupied. I pulled out my camera to find something good, something beautiful, something that was full of life. The situation had taken so much from me, from our family. We were surrounded by the hardship and struggles ; but I was determined to balance the scales and shift my focus.

I couldn’t change the immediate situation but I could choose to look for and see the good things that were happening in spite of, or even as a result of the hardship. That was the day that I was reborn. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I see it so clearly. It wasn’t an immediate change. It was a slow, gradual process but looking for the good. Searching for the light. Finding the joy even in the middle of the darkest times, was life changing for me.

There are studies about the practice of gratitude rewiring the brain. I didn’t know this at the time, I just knew that practicing gratitude was like air to my drowning soul.

It is a practice. It requires effort, at first; and then it becomes a part of you; a glorious, life giving, transformative part of your very being.

I’m not encouraging that you lie to yourself, or that you pretend that everything is perfect. BECAUSE IT’S NOT! These are tough times that we are living in. Acknowledging the difficulties and finding the joy are compatible.

What I am encouraging is a shift of mindset.

My kids and I are trapped in this house and fighting like idiots because they are anxious and uncertain; but I am so thankful that we have this time together and that we are healthy.

I didn’t get my complete order of food because of panic and hoarding and now I don’t have any orange juice or Mr. Noodles; but I am so thankful that we do have food to eat and that I have time to bake and make meals for my family.

I can’t go out and be with my friends right now; but I’m so thankful that we have technology that enables us to connect through the internet so I can still see and chat with them.

Even finding the beauty in little things, helps to shift your focus from what you don’t have to what you do have.

That tiny bud on the tree that’s just emerging shows us that everything moves according to seasons and where there is a winter time, that a spring will follow with new growth. That the desolation of winter is always followed by the glory of spring.

Food spilled on the floor by your children is so annoying but it also means that you have food for them to eat.

My windows might be dirty but the sunlight shining in, is glorious.

There is good. There is always good. Sometimes the good things are easy to find and sometimes you have search harder. What I know is that searching “the good” is life changing. I do find that if you can acknowledge what you see in a tangible way, it seems to imprint on your soul. Whether that’s making a list on a piece of paper or in a journal; taking a picture to save on your phone, sharing your photos or thoughts with a friend or posting on social media…..there is power in acknowledging the good. It encourages you and it encourages others.

This is why I choose Joy and why I encourage you to choose Joy, as well. There is so much benefit from a shift of focus and a bit of perspective, right now. We are all in this together.

Are we listening?

It was almost a decade ago.

She sat in her chair in a small room at BC Children’s Hospital ADHD clinic and calmly and quietly spoke to my child as if he knew and understood himself.

As if he, this frantic, frenetic child who couldn’t seem to slow down enough to eat or sleep or play appropriately or articulate well, could communicate the mysteries of his mind.

I don’t remember exactly what she asked or what he said. What I do remember is thinking to myself,

She sees HIM. She really SEES him and in truly SEEING HIM; she’s giving him the opportunity to speak and to share from a space of being KNOWN. And in being seen and known, he has the permission and confidence to speak and be heard.”

This one moment is one of the many “pivotal” moments of my journey through parenting.

I remember the awareness hitting me so hard and fast that it was almost a physical impact.

My child, who I thought was an impressionable, immature being – a chaotic, unsleeping, hyper, frustrated, frustrating, exhausted and exhausting person……

I was shocked to find out that even at 10 years old, my child had insight, wisdom and knowledge of what he was feeling, dealing with and going through AND he could communicate that with us , even though it seemed he was only reactionary and impulsive.

I remember him sharing something profound about the way his brain worked, how his body and mind felt; and what he wished he could change.

I remember looking at the Dr incredulously while she carefully wrote down a few notes and thanked him for his input. She had a few suggestions for him and us. She spoke to him like his thoughts really mattered. Like he was “the patient”. Like he had some say over his life.

She wasn’t ever patronizing. I truly believe she saw and heard her patients and really believed them and cared about their input.

This moment changed my life forever. Jeremy was 10 years old when we met Dr. Jokhani and I am forever grateful for her care and support of him; but the impact of this encounter radically changed my understanding of how we interact with our kids.

Too often, we think or assume for them. We assign them thoughts or words based on what we see. But what we see, what they feel, what they perceive, what they know and if they have suggestions, desires or wants gets laid aside.

I’ve been asked how it is that my kids seem so self aware and insightful. How I’ve taught them to be able to share so eloquently? Is there something special about them?

The reality is that I’ve not taught them anything except maybe to trust themselves. Too often what we need to do is JUST ASK and then WAIT! We need to really listen to what they say. Listen to truly understand.

As an example, when Jeremy was asked to share what it felt like inside of his brain when he was at school; he explained that it felt like his brain was moving so fast that he couldn’t catch any of his thoughts. It felt like everything was buzzing so loud.

But when he took meds……everything got quiet and slower; and he could hold one thought until he wanted to put it down.

It might sound childish and simple, but it’s a brilliant explanation of the ADHD mind both on and off of a stimulant.

Mind you, he did all of this explaining, with his back to us while playing with LEGO.

Our children are going to share like children.

  • Will we stop long enough to ask them questions?
  • Will we listen long enough and with open enough hearts and minds to be able to really hear them?
  • Can we trust them to know themselves?
  • Will be give them opportunity to make a mistake and to teach them that mistakes are just a part of learning?
  • Can we give them the safe spaces to practice communication and advocacy?
  • Will we allow and champion opportunities to practise this skill?

I believe that we, as a society, win when we teach our kids self awareness. That we win when we teach our kids to self advocate. That we win when our kids believe that they have a voice worth listening to – when they believe that they have value and worth. That we win when our kids believe that they are valuable not in spite of who they are but because of who they are.

I’ve seen this play out hundreds of times with my younger sons…..starting at early as 3-4 years old.

Our kids are never too early to be heard, seen and known and loved.

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I’d love to hear about a “pivotal” parenting moment for you?