My $200 Asics got a hole in them…..6 weeks after I bought them.
Although, in Asics defense, I do workout every single day. And maybe 42 workouts isn’t that horrible for a shoe.
My active lifestyle is a mutha-f-ing source of pride! And I’m not afraid to own it.
It took me DECADES of work to get to this point! And I feel like I’ve earned the habits I’ve created!
It feels weird not to sweat in a day.
And for me? Working out is automatic. Never an “option.” Always a given.
They say that 95% of our thoughts and behaviour, comes from our subconscious mind. And so, the trick to making anything routine? Is to slide it on in to the “subconscious” category.
But what about bad habits?
It’s the same deal….but in reverse. You want to bring those bad habits into conscious thought. Then DECIDE not to do them.
The bad habit of racism
This? This! Is the lesson I’ve been reminded of, over the past week….amidst the rioting and chaos and anger that surrounds the death of George Floyd.
Now, I’m not a political person. I’m not an activist. And also? Being a white woman from Canada, I speak from a certain place of…..privilege.
I would never in a million years consider myself racist.
But something that this movement has brought to light for me, is the habitual, routine, and subconscious way that racism exists in our own minds.
Generation after generation, black people had their rights and freedoms stripped away from them…..treated as property. Abused. Dehumanized.
Racism oozed it’s way into the grander scheme of things. Systemic poison.
And injustice became habitual. Automatic. A given.
It’s just the way society operated. As disgusting as it was (and still is).
And it was only in the last 60…70….years, that racism even BEGAN to be challenged. Brought to light. Taken out of the “subconsious” category, and moved into the “conscious” category.
But as we know….bad habits are hard to break…and tributaries run deep.
Unpacking your bias
I try to unpack my own subconscious mind. Struggling to understand the ways in which I too am biased. Or subtly judgmental.
And it’s uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.
I think back to my own childhood. I may have had one black friend in elementary school. But that was about it.
My neighbourhood was predominantly white. And I didn’t think much of it.
I do remember the expectations I had…."black people were always good at sports." And they could probably "dance really well."
It wasn’t a negative interpretation….but a generalization nonetheless.
Most of my experience with race? Came from TV.
Like most children who grew up in the 90s, Family Matters was a TGIF staple. I detested Steve Urkle. But not because he was black. Because, well….Jesus how annoying.
There was often a “sassy” black girl on some of my favourite shows. Lisa Turtle on Saved by the Bell. Charlie’s girlfriend, Grace, on Party of Five.
Peter on ER was one of my very favourite characters. But truthfully, I can remember my 12-year-old self thinking….wow, a black doctor….good for him.
Survivor almost always featured a “token” black guy. And I’m almost certain I learned about the stereotype that “black people can’t swim” and “black people are lazy,” by watching the show.
Once I hit high school, the phrase “once you go black you never go back” hit my ears. And I can remember being very curious about what it would be like to date a black guy. My every sexual desire supposedly satisfied.
I loved Beyonce. Usher. Jay-Z. And I was well aware of the “strangeness” of Eminem…a white rapper.
The road to un-learning
Aaaalllllll of this. Lives in my subconscious.
And it's incredibly shameful. It makes me angry. It makes me resentful. It makes me utterly uncomfortable.
And that’s not even the worst of what it could be!
There are many people who judge black people in MUCH harsher ways! Not to mention the stereotypes that exist for other races!
And so, as I shine a light on the biases that exist in my own brain, I realize the importance of bringing them to my conscious mind. To boot them out of my subconscious. To allow each interaction with someone….regardless of race…….to be fresh, new, and untainted with preconceived notions.
I mean, my god. Would I not want the same for myself?
But it feels almost impossible to un-learn something.
How do you re-program? How do you do a Ctrl-Alt-Delete hard reset?
And Jesus, if I feel frustrated by this…..I can’t imagine the frustration a black person might feel! To not be seen for who you are…..but rather, to be seen as someone you are assumed to be?!
The judgment, the characterization of a race…..it lives in the crevices of society. And we are fed the idea that everyone in life can be cast into a “role.”
Do not sit idly by
I think one of the most important things I’ve learned over the past week, is that silence……is just as harmful as active abuse.
Silence is the choice to ignore. The choice to accept. The choice to condone the status-quo.
And if we are truly committed to breaking the bad habit of racism, it’s gotta be out loud.
How do you change the story? You put down the book, and pick up a new one.
Self-education is huge. And rather than just accept what is being served to me, I’ve really become aware of the importance of changing the channel. Exploring the pages of history that were not written. Or maybe written….but appearing only as a footnote.
Show up to the battle
These thoughts? Swirl in my had as I lace up my Asics. Holes and all.
I head out for a run, and only when I reach the half-way point, and turn around, do I realize that the wind was at my back the entire way there. I have to push hard to run the same distance home.
Huh. It hits me. Imagine having to work 2x as hard, to do the same damn thing.
This is what racism does to those who bare the brunt of it.
Like wading through mud. When others get to take the bridge.
I think of my white children. Desperate for them to be sheltered from the onslaught of racial profiling that will inevitably pierce their subconscious.
But no. If they don’t know about it. They’ll never be able to help change it.
And although it may seem counterintuitive to look the beast in the eye…..love will only ever win, if it shows up to the battle.
“Uh huh. Yep. Oh yes. Fascinating.”
I try to appear as though I’m fully engaged on this Zoom call with a client, out in New York.
Meanwhile, my daughter is on the toilet, yelling at me to wipe her bum.
I’m trying so hard to wrap it up.
I’m trying so hard to say all the things that will bring this conversation to an end. “So, in conclusion….” and “Well, this was great.”
The screaming escalates to a full-on cry fest.
“Moommmmmmyyyyyy! I neee-heeee-heeee-heeee-heeeeeeed you!”
Finally. The call ends. And I storm into the bathroom.
“I’m here. Just chill!”
If I were forced to come up with a few variations of what hell looks like…..this would be one of them.
Trying to focus. Trying to do adult things. Trying to earn a living.
And there is a child who has somehow gotten a hold of a glue stick and has decided to “paint” all of her Barbies with it….over in the next room.
Quarantine life is one hell of a life-fuck.
And yes, we are all doing our part here. And oh the joys of more family time.
But, Jesus. There has got to be some kind of scale out there that can measure the affect this is having on our mental health.
Is this reeeeallly the better option, guys?
The number of times I’ve exclaimed….. “I never signed up to be a full-time teacher!”
“Stop stealing marshmallows! I can hear you in there!”
“For the love of God, don’t spray my laptop with the hose!”
It is a juggling act beyond all juggling acts.
And the worst part? The guilt that goes along with it.
The feeling of having to ignore your children. And yet somehow keep them busy, educated, and off the couch for more than 5 minutes at a time.
The feeling of failure. Like I’m not keeping up. Like I’m being a horrible mom. AND a horrible business owner.
My kids are constantly glued to screens.
And yet somehow, I’m STILL not getting any work done.
I’m making 23 snacks a day. It’s all I do.
That, and make in-app purchases. Seriously? You need to buy that hot air balloon in order to keep playing the game? I guess.
(Maybe it will buy me 10 more minutes)
In order to cope, I end up working at crazy hours of the day. 5 am. 11 pm. Because half my morning is spent getting gum out of my daughter’s hair.
I feel like I’m not doing anything well. Because my life has been thrown into a blender, and put on high-speed.
And it’s messy as fuck.
This pandemic has turned me into such an asshole mom. I snap. I loose my temper. I (maybe) give my son the finger behind his back, because he’s humming the Jurassic Park theme song for hours on end.
I have silent screams in the bathroom.
And I give time-outs like candy-canes on Christmas.
I would love to resign to the fact that….if I keep them alive, that is sufficient. But somehow I can’t.
Mom guilt is bad at the best of times. Now? I feel a bit like the Wicked Witch of the East. Flattened like a pancake.
I struggle to get by. And I tell myself….if you just set down this guilt. Shelve it. You’ll be much better off.
You’re doing the best you can.
And I try. But it keeps sneaking in the back door.
I don’t remember parenting ever feeling this difficult.
And truly? It is pure madness.
Especially when the only thing I’m eating is…..peanut butter sandwiches for lunch…..again.
And what’s crazy? Is I start layering guilt on top of guilt, like a nightmarish taco dip.
I feel guilt about secretly wanting to escape to the woods, and just stick this thing out by myself.
I feel guilt about wanting to be free of my children.
Guilt for not savouring these moments, like I’m supposed to.
And it’s because I’m falling short of my own impossible ideals.
Lower the bar, babe.
And while you’re there? Grab a glass of wine.
When this is all over, we’re all gonna get t-shirts that say, I Survived the COVID-19 outbreak. And no one will be more deserving, than parents.
And when that day comes, I hope I can say that one of the biggest lessons I learned from this whole thing, is how to have a little self-compassion. How to make good use of my emotional energy. How to be ok with “good enough.”
Because Jesus, we’re all just trying to steer our way through this crisis. One plate of Oreos at a time.
I love this time of year. I love it, because the sun rises in sync with my own energy. I’m an early bird, and when I see the peek-a-boo of light from behind the curtains, it feels……friendly. And warm.
Typically, I greet the morning with a crack of fresh air. A sip of tea. And a cozy blanket.
It is peaceful.
On a normal day.
But this morning? Not so much.
I’m tapping away on my laptop, when my cell phone lights up. It’s ringing. It’s the father of my children. It’s 6:48 am.
Huh. That's weird.
He’s a night owl.
It used to annoy the fuck out of me that it would take an entire marching band to wake the guy up in the morning. And even then.
I pick it up. He sounds wide awake. Which isn’t like him at all.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“We’re all ok. But….we just had a break and enter.”
The kids were in the house.
Of course they were. It couldn’t have been the night they were with me?!
My son was the one who heard the shatter of glass. He said, he knew what it was, because, well, he’s played a video game or two with that sound effect.
I feel a wave of panic. Then anger. Then sadness. Then guilt.
It all wells up. Builds. Darkens. Then falls like rain.
I race over to the house. As if there’s something I can do to make what just happened, go away.
And yet, the 30 minutes it takes me to get there is enough to spin a web of thoughts.
When your nightmare becomes reality
This. This exact plot line is the kind of thing you envision when you’re thinking about getting a divorce.
It’s the “worst case scenario” that you dream up.
It’s the “what if” game you play.
It’s the kind of shit that makes you think…..maybe I should just put up with this. My kids need me.
I can remember crying and crying, thinking about the idea of one of them calling out for me in the middle of the night after a bad dream….and not being there.
I had always been the one to catch their vomit. What if their dad couldn’t make it in time?
The weight of that choice? To NOT be there?
It is a horrible one to have to make. It can be paralyzing. And sweat inducing. And it will wake you up at 2 am. Then take the rest of your night’s sleep hostage.
And somehow. I chose it.
With aaallllll the agony and guilt that goes with it.
What could have been
But the thing is. You never get to see the choice you never chose.
You never get to read the alternate ending.
Sometimes I think about what it would have felt like if I stayed. Hollowed out. Empty. Shattered on the inside.
My kids. Wondering why mommy always has a headache. Always going to bed early. Trying to escape it all. Trying to live in the wake of falling OUT of love.
But maybe that’s just “worse case scenario” thinking, on the other side of the coin. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.
Or maybe it would have.
And this is the trap that, I think, I lot of us fall into. The second guessing. The questioning. Did I make a huge mistake?
ESPECIALLY when guilt rises up. Like a fiery breath. In moments like this. When the “bad guys” storm the castle.
I should have been there. I should have been the one to act as the armour. The shield.
I think back to when I was a kid. And how I was deathly afraid of the idea of burglars. “Gate night.” The night before Halloween, I would barely sleep. Shaking in bed.
I think about my son. Now traumatized by the asshole who decided to play “cops and robbers” for real. I think about how I would have felt if I had to deal with my own anxieties, without my mom there to wipe away my tears.
Sure, there comes a point in every child’s life when the rainbow of goodness….the euphoric blindness…..is broken.
But fuck! You want so desperately to protect your children from pain. From reality. From the dark side of the moon.
The worst part?
This nightmare of this morning? It comes on the heels of a month-long stint of “I miss you mommy” phone calls that I get at bedtime.
The tears that roll down his little cheeks.
I don’t know what to tell him. I don’t know how to explain that….this path? Believe it or not? It is sunnier than the one I didn’t choose. I think.
I resort to poop emoji’s. And fart jokes. And I try to get him to talk about the things that went well that day.
Stillness is never more painful in the seconds after I get off those phone calls.
There is no smooth sailing
And so when I pull up to the house, I am carrying all kinds of baggage. I walk in the front door, and I hug my kids with the kind of tightness that only ever seems to emerge in times of unease. And yet, as it’s happening, you think…..why don’t I hug them like this every day?
My eyes travel to their father’s. I walk over, and wrap my arms around him.
The echoes of arguments…….the sound of the front door slamming, again….it is all muted.
It is “I’m sorry.” It is “you did it.” It is “I love you.” It is “I’m scared.” United as part of the “good guy" squad.
This experience? It is equally a reminder of how horrible this path is, and beautiful this path is.
The choice that was chosen? I’m on it.
And whether it it was this path, or the other one. It’s a bumpy one.
I smack my lips together. I force a smile. Mmmmmm……this beat juice is……delicious…..
5 years ago, I bought a juicer.
I had watched a documentary about a guy who practically lived off of juice alone. And I was immediately sold.
Liquid gold, I thought.
THIS is what’s missing from my life!
I made crazy concoctions using aaallllll the vegetables that children deem “disgusting.”
And for 2 solid weeks, I convinced myself that…..seriously! The second you take a sip, you can just feeeeel the nutrients hitting your cells.
My enthusiasm faded.
And 2 years later, I discovered the juicer at the back of my cupboard.
The second I saw it, guilt washed over me.
Oh ya. That thing! Jesus. I should really use it.
I pulled it out, and got back into the routine for a solid 7 days.
Then hopped off the train again.
The juicer effect
THIS? Is the juicer effect. The experience of letting guilt drive your behaviour.
And ANY time you do that? The behaviour dies a (not so) slow death.
And I mean come on. We all have a “juicer” in our lives. And no, I don’t mean Brad Pitt in Fight Club…..ladies….(hayo!)
I mean the thing you’re doing, because you feel guilty NOT doing it.
Most often, this appears in the form of exercise.
“OK, ok, ok. I’m having this LAST sprinkle donut, and then it’s GO TIME. For real. I’m doing this.”
You buckle down hard. For a bit. But then the second those cringy, uncomfortable, guilty feelings start to fade?
You go back to being the “real you.” The default setting. The person you believe yourself to be, deep down inside. Even if the person you believe yourself to be, isn’t so hot.
Because it is our BELIEFS that determine our actions….and it is our actions that make up the screenplay of our lives.
And let’s be real. Our willpower will only ever last as long as it takes our pain….our guilt….to ware off.
It’s like holding your breath under water. Your true self is bound to surface. It must.
And your true self? Is who you believe yourself to be.
It’s like the guy who practically aced his SAT test, after goofing off and skipping class his whole life.
“Huh….I guess I’m smart.”
He starts putting in the work, gets his MBA, and becomes a billionaire.
Years later, he’s told he was given the wrong score. It was actually way lower.
But who cares?! He believed himself to be “the smart guy.” And he changed his actions to reflect that belief.
If you’re telling yourself, “I’m lazy.” “I’m not good enough.” “I’m unloveable.” “I’m not smart enough…..” Guess what? You start acting (even subconsciously!) in ways to support those beliefs.
You wanna be a better version of yourself? Good! Me too!
Do a little digging, and check out what you BELIEVE to be true about yourself.
But how do we “get at” our true selves?
Strip it Down
You wanna get at your belief system? You’re gonna need to strip it down, baby.
And I mean like……the equivalent of taking off alllll your make-up, and letting your hair down, wild and loose.
Who is THAT person?
Ask yourself. What do I believe about myself?
And don’t just go with….I’m a mother….a baker….a candlestick maker.
Wring that lemon OUT, and get to the good stuff.
It takes a bit of willingness to get raw and real.
But once you peek behind the curtains of who you SAY you are……that’s when the magic happens.
Do some journalling. Create stillness. Get outside. Listen to the breeze. Go for a walk. Stop multi-tasking for like…..20 mins.
My trick for digging deep? Have a creepy conversation with yourself. I do this all the time. I talk to myself in the car. Or when I go for a walk. And I legit put words to my thoughts. Out loud. Like a crazy person.
It’s like….the difference between THINKING “I love you,” and SAYING “I love you.” It means something totally different in your head, than it does out loud. So speak the truth, darling. It might sound different than it does in the echoes of your mind.
Build it up
OK, you’ve got a better idea of who you BELIEVE yourself to be. Now what?
HERE is where you define who it is you WANT to be. And this? This! Is equivalent to getting behind the wheel.
None of this “I’m a juicer” bullshit. That ain’t you! And you know it!
Once you start getting clear on where it is you want to go, your actions, your motivations, are less likely to be jerked around by guilt, and other hoodlum emotions like anxiety, and fear.
Do the same zen-ing out steps you did to find clarity on who it is you believe yourself to be, and start visualizing an upgraded, first-class version of yourself.
Like, the version of yourself that would be played in a movie-version of your life.
But don’t just do it once. Come on. You love re-runs. I know you do.
Re-run the shit out of your vision. Journal about it every morning. And tell other people where you’re headed.
THAT is how you start making those new beliefs, a little more…..true, real, and engrained. You’ve gotta do a little mind gardening, and plant that seed. On purpose.
Last step in this 1-2-3 cha-cha? Give your brain proof that you’re smart enough to ace your own SAT test.
Set yourself up with new experiences in order to prove that…..hey…..I AM the person I want to become…..just a few paces behind.
Sure, maybe you’re not rockin’ a six-pack….but you’re someone who works out on the regular.
Maybe you’re not a NY Times Bestselling author…..but you write a blog post. Every. Fucking. Sunday. Ahem.
Take action as a means towards a goal
Get behind your success by tackling what is motivating your behaviour. Beliefs about who we are can hold us back….or propel us forward. And REAL progress….REAL steps forward will hinge on your ability to take action as a means towards a goal….rather than a means to avoid pain.
Stop the juicer effect in it’s tracks, baby.
Unless you love sipping brussels sprouts. No judgement.
It’s a funny thing.
Because it doesn’t look the same from one person to the next.
Some are quick to turn emotions off, and easily move on. Some linger in suffering, and just make darkness the new normal. Some shove their emotions under the bed, refusing to even look at them. While others, still, walk towards a place of healing, only to realize that a single thread still ties them to their pain….at which point, a difficult choice is made to cut it.
The latter? That’s me.
In this instance anyways.
When you refuse to release your grip
6 months ago, I said, I’m not waiting for you. Don’t think I’m just gonna sit on the sidelines while you figure your shit out. I’m out. I’m done. You had your chance.
6 months later? There I am. On the sidelines. Waiting.
How did I get here? I thought I said I wasn’t going to do this.
Sure. Closure is not necessarily a single event. One and done. It can come in waves. Rolling in with joy. Then out again with sadness. In with peace. Out with agitation.
And trust me. I’ve been riding the tide.
But there is only so much healing you can do, when you refuse to release your grip.
The fear of letting go
And it’s funny, because you know, on paper, that unfurling your fingers will give you freedom. But sometimes, we cling to the familiar, even if it brings us pain. We get used to the pain and just put up with it, so that we can still kind of have the thing we know we should drop. Maybe it’s better to have a semblance of it, than to not have it at all. Like driving a smashed up sports car…..because technically we can still say, I drive a sports car.
To let go completely feels like forgetting. It feels like writing it all off. It feels like dismissing the good parts of it. I don’t know about you, but I hate the feeling of regret. And somehow, this feeling of release feels a little bit like regretting the whole thing ever happened. If it meant so much, shouldn’t I cling to it a little longer? Shouldn’t I hold the broken pieces, so I don’t lose the memory of it?
But truthfully, what good is shattered glass?
You hold it. And almost without knowing how it happened, you realize you’re bleeding.
The tie that binds
Over the past while, I have been paralyzing myself by holding onto the potential of what could have been. And the funny thing is, I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Until one day I did. What the hell. I’ve been walking this whole time, and I haven’t gotten anywhere.
I see a thread. This wasn’t there before, was it? It’s so tiny. It seems so flimsy. How could this be the thing that is holding me back?
The playlist I can’t erase.
The house key I can’t throw away.
The phone number I can’t delete.
The one question I need answered.
The goodbye I need to say.
These things are so tiny. And yet, intertwined, they are made of iron. Or steel. Or hope.
They symbolize everything. Because that’s all that’s left.
They are potent, because they are a distillation of memories and joy and freedom and carefree abandon.
And they have the strength to prevent true closure. True healing.
And it is so counterintuitive. Because to hold on, is to ensure an inability to feel all those wonderful, positive, beautiful things again. If but in a different shape.
The known vs the unknown
“But I want THIS!” my inner child screams. I don’t want that other flavour of ice-cream. I want this one! Because I know I’ll love it.
It’s the fear of the unfamiliar. The unknown. The chance that every new fucking flavour of ice cream I try, will only ever be compared to the original, and won’t possibly be able to surpass it in deliciousness.
But THAT is the chance you must take in order to discover new forms of joy.
To cut the thread is the only way to write the final sentence of the book. And to find closure.
And so I do.
I cut it. All in one go. And it stings so badly, I feel like I’ve cut off a part of my own body.
The pain has been a part of me for so long. And like the feeling you get when you first step off a treadmill after running for a good half an hour, it is strange to walk without the weight of something pulling me in the other direction.
I see myself, in slow motion, stumbling, falling forward. Suddenly jolted from a state of tension. I am lighter. But I am disoriented. Thrown off by the airiness of my gate. I feel like maybe I’m walking on the moon. Surely gravity has a stronger pull than this. But no. I’m just used to walking with the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Like a phantom limb, I feel as though I must still be tethered to the pain. But I reach back, and feel nothing at all. I am….unattached. Wild and free.
It is lonely here. And scary. Somehow I feel the wind on my back, just a little more.
But for me…….this is it.
We are notorious for changing our outfit five times before leaving the house for a dinner party.
Its just gotta feel right. You’ve gotta nail the right vibe.
But also? We role play a BUNCH of scenarios in our heads, while wearing each outfit.
“Oh, this old thing? You’re too kind.”
But this?! THIS?! Is something else entirely.
It’s been 30 minutes, and my 4-year old daughter is STILL getting dressed. She’s going through a phase right now. And it is testing my patience. To. The. Max.
There is a pile of clothes on the floor. And nothing is quite right.
She hates strings. Tags. Seams that don’t align. Pants that are too tight. Sleeves that are too short. Socks that are “too socky” (wtf does that mean?!). And shoes that are too pinchy.
She would be 100% happy if she could walk around completely naked. But I’m pretty sure that would raise some eyebrows.
“Good god, Clara! You’re so picky! Just throw something on and be done with it already!”
I can’t hold back my frustration any longer.
But then I stop. And realize. Huh. Wait a minute. I’m telling her a story.
A story that she’s a picky girl.
And just like any other story I tell her……Little Red Riding Hood…..Cinderella……she’s internalizing that shit. Big time.
What we think, we become
I start to think about the stories in my own head. The things people have told me over the years.
She’s good at ballet.
She’s a horrible baker.
And I wonder. How much of it is innately true? And how much of it have I simply believed to be true?
Ah yes. The stories in our own heads.
What we think, we become.
And it is worth pausing, to ask ourselves….what do we think about who we are? And where did those stories come from
We are all a collection of stories
Like a collage….or a patchwork quilt…..we a pieced together, with stories. Stories from our grade-2 teacher….our first boyfriend…..our mother…..our favourite grocery store clerk.
We see ourselves through others eyes.
And although those stories can often lift us up, and give us confidence…..they can also weigh us down, and hold us back.
And THAT is worth digging into.
Because it is our own happiness that is at stake.
The stories that hold us back
For me, it’s the simple stuff. Like the story……“I’m not a runner.”
Or “I suck at playing the piano.”
I’ve challenged both of those stories over the past few weeks. And on both fronts, I’ve actually surprised myself.
But it’s the centre of the tootsie-roll pop you really wanna get to.
It’s the soul-defining stories. The stories that are so deeply buried, you start hitting liquid hot magma as you uncover them.
These are the nasty little stories that are most likely holding you back from true happiness.
And as I’ve been journeying down this deep dark cave of wonders (cue the Aladdin theme music!), I’ve noticed two types of stories that hold me back.
I need to be who they say I should be
Oh sweet Jesus. We all just want to be liked, don’t we?
It is our worst nightmare to be the outcast. The uncool one. The one who gets eye rolls behind closed doors.
And truthfully, some of those deep-seeded stories about who we are, come from society at large. Have you played the board game, Life, lately?! It is a mandatory hard stop to get married. Don’t worry. When I played with my kids the other day, I let them choose whether they got married or not. And I was pleasantly surprised when they each chose to get married….to a member of the same sex. “Girls rule!” Clara said.
I cannot even begin to tell you the amount of pressure I felt to uphold the identity of “wife,” even though it went against my own happiness. Hell, I was more nervous to talk to my sisters, than I was my own husband, about the divorce. Almost. I was that scared about what they were gonna think about me.
So often, we sacrifice our own happiness, just to “fit in.”
But maybe being the wild flower provides even more happiness.
This theory? Currently in testing mode.
I need to be who I said I was
Did you ever have a buddy-ol-pal who said to you….. “fine then. I’m not your best friend anymore.”
Sure. You get all offended. You sulk about it.
But then you find a new best friend. Or maybe your friend comes crawling back once she sees you have cookies in your lunch bag.
Either way. Life goes on.
And truth be told, that friend can absolutely change her mind. She has every right to.
All too often, we are sticklers about holding people prisoner to their identities.
And one of the darkest stories I’ve been holding onto, is the story that I am a liar.
I told my husband, “until death do you we part.”
I told him, I would love him forever.
And I changed my mind.
That one’s been plaguing me (completely under the surface) for a while now. There’s massive guilt around not being who I said I was going to be.
And in this time of healing and self-love, I’m coming to accept that…..it’s ok to change your mind about who you are.
Your happiness is dependent upon your ability to let go of the obligation to be who you said you were. Because maybe, just maybe, the label doesn’t fit anymore.
Be picky about what stories you hold close to your heart
Our minds are more powerful than we give them credit for. They hold our past, our present, and our imagined future, all at once. And like a library, they are full of stories.
Be picky about what stories you hold close to your heart. As picky as a 4-year old girl. Because some of those stories? They are holding you back from true happiness.
Hot damn! How do I sign up to quarantine with Shawn Mendes?
The other weekend, this sexy stud-muffin and his girlfriend Camila Cabello teamed up for for a live rendition of “What a Wonderful World."
And with all kinds of dramatic hand gestures, scrunched-noses and closed eyes..…it was….an entertaining performance.
But let me tell you. My first thought was…..(see above).
I immediately started daydreaming about what would go down.
He’d wrap aaalllll his muscular deliciousness around me every night. He’d wake me up every morning by softly biting my earlobe and signing me a love song. We’d go for long walks. We’d have intimate jam sessions. And he’d beg me to stay in bed….just one more time, baby.
Sigh……(long sip of cold water….ok I’m back).
But then I got thinking.
Too much of a good thing? Not good.
As much as quarantining with Shawn Mendes would mean a KILLER 3 days (maaaybe 4), I’d quickly normalize to it all. And then get sick of it.
I am convinced that you can OD on anything. No matter how delicious.
Which is exactly what many of us are feeling during this pandemic.
We are so used to spreading ourselves thin…..stretching our figurative dough to the ends of the earth….running here there and everywhere. A mere two months ago, many of us were desperate to spend more time at home.
And now, we are. But…..a little too much.
We are now spreading ourselves thick. And every aspect of our lives is crammed into a mere 1200 square feet.
The conference calls we have.
The push-ups we do.
The people we love.
It is a pressure-cooker version of our lives.
And although I am currently cursed/blessed with single-dom, the company I do keep (two children under chin-height) is waring.
And it’s not that I don’t love them. It’s just that…..I don’t love THIS MUCH of them.
And so there’s this contradictory clash of feeling lonely….and smothered with company….all at the same time.
The physical expression of love
For me, physical touch is my love language (check out the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman!!). If I love you, I’ve no doubt clung to your arm as we crossed the road…..needed to hold your hand when I was anxious……or hugged you when something excited me.
Some of my very favourite memories are grounded in touch.
Getting my make-up done for dance recitals.
Holding my best friend’s hand as we rode The Wild Thing together at Valleyfair.
Breast-feeding my babies.
That kiss. Oh god that kiss.
I love the tangible experience of love. Evidence of closeness.
And so, you can bet your bottom dollar I am all over the morning kiddo cuddles, and bedtime snuggles right now.
But at the same time…..damn, I am definitely OD-ing on this one particular flavour of physical touch.
I miss hugs with friends, fist bumps with cronies at the gym, and the experience of sitting shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers at a coffee shop.
I’ve even gone on a few virtual dates…..and let me tell you….when I can’t caress your arm, rub my foot up your leg, or brush the hair out of your eyes….something is definitely lacking for me. No matter who you are.
And don’t even get me started on the science of touch. There is so much evidence out there around the benefits of hugs, cuddles, and hand-holding. Oddly enough, physical touch actually boosts your immune system….sooo…….huh.
My body aaaccchhhes for contact. And I can feel the effects of this massive void in my life.
It just plain sucks.
And I KNOW I’m not the only one.
And so what? What can we do in the meantime?
Find new ways to experience and express love beyond physical means.
Which….is actually an incredibly beautiful opportunity.
3 ways to explore love (beyond physical touch):
And no, I don’t just mean buying peoples’ affection with diamonds and pearls. I mean thoughtful, personal gifts. Like a hilarious t-shirt delivered right to your buddy’s door, that says, “my pen is bigger than yours.” An audiobook for your sister that can be downloaded right to her phone (might I suggest a comedy, like Trump: The Art of the Deal). Or leaving a bottle of wine on your lover’s doorstep…..like an abandoned baby.
Something to remind the ones you love (and can’t touch), that you’re thinking about them.
Offering your services
There’s gotta be something you’re good at that other people suck at. To this day, I’m still looking for someone with mad topiary skills. Google it.
Maybe you’re a comedian and can do a stand-up bit in someone’s driveway. Maybe you’re wicked at raking….and can incorporate Michael Jackson’s Thriller routine into the job. Or maybe you play the accordion, and can serenade your neighbours.
Do you. Share you.
Lending your voice
All too often, we simply text. Try calling (or Zoom-ing) instead. Record a hilarious Dear Diary confessional voice memo, that you then send to your bestie.
Write a letter. Something beautiful. Something smile-worthy. Something that will make-them-cry….in a good way. Mail that letter with an old fashioned stamp. And revel in anticipation.
The silver lining
During this chaotic time, when our lives are like a pressurized bottle of champagne ready to pop, many of us are feeling the tension.
The silver lining? Those of us who usually depend upon physical touch to show and feel love, are being forced express that love in new and different ways.
This is truly one of those experiences that can broaden your understanding of love, if you allow it to.
But trust me. Once this is all over? You better WATCH yo’self.
I’m about to run-and-jump hug you. And I ain’t holding back.
When I was 10 years old, my parents let me plan our family road trip.
I mean…..they gave me the itinerary.
But it was MY responsibility to pick out which hotels we’d be staying at along the way.
And let me tell you. To this day, nothing beats The Medicine Hat Lodge….complete with 2-story waterslide.
I LIVED for hotel swimming pools. And The Medicine Hat Lodge was the be-all-end-all.
On our trips, my sisters and I would cram into the backseat of our silver Honda Accord from dawn until dusk. Battling for elbow room. Cross-country.
Sure, my dad’s cassette tapes of Elton John and Don Henley would help to pass the time. But it was a test of endurance, like no other. And it was the hopes of a killer swimming pool at the end of the day, that kept me in it.
My ability to endure was built, one summer vacation at a time. And I’m convinced that those experiences as a child, are a big part of why I have so much patience. So much stick-to-it-ness. So much stamina.
I see happiness, off in the distance, and I ride it out. No matter what.
I put up with hard stuff to get to the good stuff.
And as a child, there was no greater happiness than a swimming pool.
The power of fluidity
This, I feel, is what children are incredible at doing. Envisioning happiness. The dream of playing on NHL ice. The goal of walking with the penguins in Antarctica. The idea of an epic water fight.
It is where we all begin. Dreaming of happiness.
And at first, our dreams are boundless.
Then, we apply the filter of what others tell us happiness looks like. A wedding dress. A power suit. An apron for making baby’s home-made organic pea puree.
And so, when people start asking us…..“what do you want to be when you grow up?” we start spouting off roles, identities, and labels (a wife, a mother, a teacher). Rather than simply responding with the answer that speaks to our soul…..“I want to be happy.”
And while specific goals can be helpful in providing us with clarity…..they are also extremely limiting.
And in my experience, the more fluid we can make our goals, the better.
Because I’m all about dreaming big.
But the thing about dreaming big, is that there’s a pretty big gap between here and there.
And by the time you GET from here to there, you’ve likely shed a few layers, shape-shifted a bit, and become a slightly (if not dramatically) different person than when you started the journey.
Redefine what it means to be happy
Take love, for instance.
When I was 23 years old, I was all in on marriage. I was psyched about settling down. I was set on the idea of growing old with someone. And I wanted to start a family.
12 years later, my identity had evolved and shifted so much, that my vision of happiness was at odds with my current reality.
I reassessed my definition of happiness.
And I realized that, as a woman, it was important for me to learn how to build a life of my own, separate from anyone else. So that if shit ever hit the fan, I’d still have my own identity. I’d still have my own life.
I felt a deep desire for independence. And I knew that my own happiness depended on it.
And so this……recalibration. This detour. It has not been an easy one to navigate.
And at the same time? It has been the greatest gift I have ever received.
Because in the biggest way possible, it has allowed me to see that WHO WE ARE, is in constant motion. And that our ultimate goal should ALWAYS be happiness. Period. No strings….no labels assigned.
And so what does that look like? I think it looks like…..allowing ourselves to recalibrate. To refine. To reform.
It looks like a continual redefinition.
Because we are all in a constant state of figuring out who we are. Becoming more ourselves.
And it is only ever FEAR that holds us back from pursuing our own happiness.
The 3 KEY questions to ask yourself
And so in this current season of COVID-19…..this season of paired-down priorities, slowed time, and simple pleasures…..I invite you to ask yourself 3 questions. 3 questions that I ask myself…..and re-ask myself…..on a regular basis, in order to make sure I am in HOT pursuit of my own happiness:
1. What is my definition of happiness?
2. Does my current reality reflect that?
3. If yes, amazing! If not, how can I recalibrate my trajectory, so that it does?
For me, my definition of happiness is to live and love deeply. With passion. With joy. And with true authenticity.
It is a glass of red wine.
It is travelling to Bali.
It is writing.
It is running.
It is reading a good book.
THIS is my definition of happiness. And THIS is what my current reality reflects. For now. And that's the important part.
As I evolve and change, so too does my definition of happiness. AND THAT'S OK!!
All too often, we are expected to stay in our lane. To choose an identity, to define what makes us happy, and to live there. But life ain't that black and white.
Who I was last year, last month, last week…..is not the same person I am today.
And although I can safely say, I will always be down for a Cadbury Cream Egg…..I can’t safely say that I will always love being a woman who “rides the wave of love” without desire or need to get married again (just wait….some incredible guy will pop the question by hiding a ring INSIDE a Cadbury Cream Egg....oh the quandary).
Mind the gap
So as the British say.....mind the gap.
The gap between here, and there…..our reality and our dreams. And know that in journeying towards our goals.....our definition of happiness....WE change and evolve as well.
Walk towards greater happiness. Always.
But allow for detours.
“It does not serve to dwell on dreams, and forget to live."
I hear the words come out of my own mouth.
My mind is blown.
They’re not my words. They are the words of Albus Dumbledore.
And I am reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to my 7-year old son.
“What, mom?” says Liam. “Why’d you stop?”
“It’s just…..he’s very wise,” I say.
All of us are SO used to planning.
We plot. We map. And we control the shit out of everything. Or at least….we think we do.
Which is exactly why this pandemic is taking a HARD toll on so many of us. It’s the level of uncertainty we are all dealing with. The unknown. The unanswered questions.
Nobody has been down this road before.
And it feels a bit like the blind leading the blind. In which case….can we please hire Stevie Wonder to do the job? He’s SO fucking cool.
(Wait a second….is Stevie Wonder still alive? Quick Google check. Yesssss. He is. My man!)
Everyone is anxious, because we don’t exactly know how this is all going to unfold. When it’s going to end. And whether or not we should drill a hole in our ceiling to mount that chin-up bar we ordered from Amazon.
Nobody can prepare for the future. And everyone is being forced to live one day at time.
Just the other day, my mom confessed to me that she likes to read the last page of a book before she gets to the end. She likes to know how it all turns out. And she wants to get a feel for where the whole thing is headed.
It is human nature to want to be able to predict things. We crave certainty.
But to what end? And does it actually serve us?
The dangers of future-tripping
We all do a little future-tripping every now and then. We imagine the future and we anticipate the outcome. And for the most part, we do it in one of two ways:
We worry. And we play out nightmarish scenes of our own lives, imagining the very worst.
Like chocolate, wine, and good porn…..these things are of benefit to us …..in moderation…..under the right circumstances.
Goal setting can be a glorious activity that provides much-needed focus, clarity, and motivation.
However, it also has the awful ability to distract us from enjoyment of the present moment. It spurs on the “I’ll be happy when” curse. And it can prevent us from experiencing and appreciating true joy, right here, right now.
Fear, too, has it’s plus side. Just a few weeks ago, I was leaving the club by myself at 1 am in downtown Winnipeg. I could literally SEE the headlines in the newspaper:
“WINNIPEG TREASURE” GONE TOO SOON, MURDERED IN DOWNTOWN WINNIPEG
Better idea? Pop into the Radisson and get the hotel security guard to walk me to my car.
The down side of fear? Well….THIS one is the kicker. Sleepless nights, shoulder knots, and a host of stress-related illnesses. Anxiety. Depression. And entire lifetimes devoid of joy, happiness and fulfillment. THIS, my friends, is where 90% of us reside on the regular.
Fear is a pandemic, in and of itself. And it is ruining lives.
And so, if we are to trust the guy with a beard that goes all the way to his belly-button (and let’s be honest….you’d be stupid not to), it’s proooooobably a good thing to start practicing “presence”…..rather than constantly distracting ourselves with “what if.” Especially when it comes to fear.
But how do you do that? How do we override fear?
It’s time to start taking risks
When learning a new skill, practice is key. And this, my friends, is no different.
It’s about unlearning our engrained mindset…..and filling that void with a fresh new way of thinking.
Instead of practicing fear, we practice it’s counter-part. It’s opposite.
I mean, think about it. What better way to stop fear from ruling our lives….than to deliberately invite it in, and show it who’s boss?
It’s like those crazy people who take cold showers every morning, just to practice “getting uncomfortable.” On purpose.
And for me? I like to practice taking risks in small ways…..playing Monopoly, and going hell-bent on scooping up aallllll the properties. Trying a new shade of lipstick. Taking a gamble on a new flavour of ice-cream.
But I also do it in big ways. Starting my own business. Ending my marriage.
I will never forget the experience of telling my parents I was getting a divorce. My dad, hearing me out, acknowledging my desire for freedom…..but at the same time, asking the question….. “but what if you leave, only to discover that it’s incredibly lonely?”
It was a valid question. And a fear that was definitely in the back of my mind.
But what was I to do? Listen to fear, for the rest of my life, while ignoring the deepest desires of my soul?
Think about the experience of riding a roller-coaster. The thrill of climbing that first hill. It’s a risk. But one that pays off in shrieks of happiness.
The more we practice risky business, the more we realize.....it's not so bad to "not know" what's gonna happen next.
It’s about embracing uncertainty.
And taking the wheel, when it comes to the “unknown.”
Don’t forget to live
OK. So practice taking risks.
Really? Is it that important?
Yes. It is.
And not to sound overly dramatic.....but.....our lives depend on it. Literally.
We are forgetting to live. Because we are afraid of what is around the corner.
And so, during these crazy, unpredictable times, I invite you to let go of your grip on "needing to know what's coming next." Needing to know the end of the story.
The quality of your life depends on your ability to get comfortable with uncertainty.
And what better way to challenge your fear of the unknown, than to bathe in it.
Now, who's got Stevie's number. I want to call him. And not just to say "I love you."
In this current season of life, many of us feel robbed.
Robbed of our work. Robbed of our hobbies. Robbed of our hugs. And robbed of the dream of what our apocalypse outfit would be…..realizing, it’s just pyjamas.
COVID-19 has stolen a great deal from our lives. But one of the things that has been gifted to us, is time.
I know I’m dealing with waaaayyy less go-go-go. And while for some, this void is being filled with an overindulgence in CNN and Netflix (is there a Tums for Tiger King-bloating?)….for others, it is an opportunity to reflect, and grow.
The choice is right there, up for grabs.
And depending on your perspective, this time is either a prison, or a palace.
For me? My relationship with time has always been a bit like…..trying to squeeze juice from a lemon. Determined to get every ounce of liquid gold out of that puppy.
I am efficient. And productive. And I multi-task the fuck out of cooking, podcasting, wine-ing, and homework helping.
Some days, I think my 30 minutes = someone else’s 4 hours.
Over the past few weeks, my death grip on time has loosened.
But something I’ve learned about myself, is that I have a severe hatred…..or maybe it’s an intense fear…..of wasting time.
The fear of wasting time
Sure. No one likes wasting time. Waiting in line anywhere, sucks (especially if you left your phone in the car). As does arriving to the Genius bar, after a 30 minute drive, without the laptop you were supposed to be getting fixed. Cough cough.
But for me, wasting time is excruciating. In fact, it is the hardest thing I have had to come to grips with, when becoming a parent.
“Playing” is challenging for me. And what usually ends up happening, is I force my kiddos into designing an elaborate mini-golf course. Or an obstacle race. A project. A goal.
Do not ask me to play “puppies.” For god’s sake. Do not ask.
And also, don’t expect me to fix the broken trunk on my car, anytime soon. Such a bother, and a huge waste of time. Especially when I’ve rigged up a rope that pulls it open manually. For real.
Mediocre movies make my skin crawl.
And driving 30 KM/hr around Kildonan Park makes me vomit.
But along with this newly allotted gift of time, is an awareness of my relationship to it. And a deliberate willingness to risk “wasting it.”
Why NOW is the perfect time to risk wasting time
You see, what I’ve realized, is that my extreme distaste for squandering time has actually led me to hesitate in starting new things.
There is risk involved in new endeavours. Because I can’t be certain they will pay off.
The potential for wasted time is huge.
But right now? This? It is the perfect moment to risk time, because we have been gifted with more of it than ever before. The supply is rich. So even if I do waste some of it….I’ll still have more than I normally do.
And so, in this Alice-in-Wonderland, upside down world we are living in right now, I have made it my goal to embrace the gift of time I’ve been given, in 3 ways:
1. Try new things
I want to challenge myself not to simply do more of the same. Not to simply invest in what I already know. But rather, to use this time to expand, in new ways.
Learn how to bake an apple pie, with crissy-cross lattice. Play my guitar, and write an original song. Write a hot and steamy romance novel. And learn how to embroider so I can make obscene tea towels.
2. Deliberately do things that aren’t “productive”
There are so many things out there that I cast judgment on, as time sucking wastes of time. And yet, I know deep down, these things would also breathe life into my soul.
Yoga. Slow and twisty. Reading fiction (not Dan Brown….don’t worry….I’m not that crazy). Listening to brainless podcasts, and standup comedy.
Fuel for joy. A worthy pursuit in and of itself.
3. Scratch things off the “to-do” list that don’t belong there
After years of wanting to do a deep clean of my house, but lacking the time, I discovered this week….that wasn’t the reason.
I will not be learning how to garden.
Nor will I be making jewellery.
And something that this gift of time has truly taught me, is that we can absolutely convince ourselves that a lack of time is the reason we aren’t doing things. When in reality, we simply do not want to do them. Period.
Lack of time is one of the biggest excuses people give for not working out. And while some people are drenching their living room carpets in sweat….others are still lying on the couch.
You want it, or you don’t. And right now, those priorities are being put to the test.
It’s time to be honest with myself, and cross things off my to-do list that don’t belong there.
The gambler’s trap
All of us cringe at the idea of “sunk costs” that cannot be recouped. It’s the very reason many people stay in shitty jobs. And shitty marriages. Driving shitty ass cars with broken trunks.
Once we’ve invested time and energy into something, we hesitate to drop it and back out. Because, well, we’ve come this far. Might as well keep going.
But just as the risk of starting new things has its just rewards, so too does the risk of ending things we’ve already begun, that no longer serve us.
When I quite my job as a librarian to become a fitness coach, I could have very easily lingered in guilt over the 6 years of higher-education that went into earning my bun and glasses.
But what I’ve come to learn, is that life has a funny way of bringing the puzzle pieces of your life together.
I wouldn’t be nearly as good of an instructor, without my practice as a storyteller to a group of 3-year olds.
I wouldn’t be nearly as a good of a marketer, without my practice as a wordsmith-ing essay-writing student.
Time is never truly wasted
And so, the zen master in me realizes that time is never truly wasted.
There is meaning in everything, if we allow ourselves to see it.
Risk wasting time.
Lie on the hood of your car, and do some star gazing. Just for the hell of it.
But if I’m with you, and it’s my car, you’re gonna have to be the one to pull the rope, and get the wine from the trunk.