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 take a swig of my water bottle. I wipe the sweat off my brow. And I glance up at the scoreboard, with a nervous squint. Tie game.
My grade 7 basketball coach is drawing, what looks to be a game of X’s and 0’s on a mini white board, and he’s all business. All business, as if this one game is THE defining moment for his career.
The whistle blows, and I race back onto the court.
The ball gets thrown to me, and with every ounce of skill I have, I drive hard towards the net. I can hear the energy from the crowd. They’re cheering me on!
Somehow, no one is around me, and I do a quick one two step for a layup. Swish! I nail it!
Only to realize that I just scored on the other team’s net.
Worse yet? The other team ended up winning the game. By 2 points.
Growing up, I always told myself I was a good basketball player. I watched all my dad’s games. We shot hoops in the backyard together. It was in the genes. I was destined to be MVP.
But that moment. That moment changed everything for me. All of a sudden, I started to tell myself that I was a horrible basketball player. And guess what? I was.
Your body believes what your mind tells it. And like it or not….good or bad…..your body will listen to the boss….your own mind.
One of my all-time favourite rituals with my kiddos, is a short meditation before they go to bed. Sometimes they rustle around. Sometimes they pick their noses. But every now and then, magic happens, and they’re into it.
My favourite meditation is one that includes affirmations. And I absolutely love it, because I adore the sound of my four-year old daughter’s sweet little voice repeating things like: “I am unique,” and “I am confident.”
But aside from that, I also love it, because it works.
Just the other day, my daughter looked at herself in the mirror after putting on her tutu for ballet class, and she said, without hesitation, “I am beautiful.”
Coincidence? No fucking way.
Guys, it is my life’s passion to teach my own children to believe in themselves, no matter what others say or think about them. Their self-worth is not determined by what others think.
And for me to truly convey that message with conviction….I need to live it myself. I need to embody those beliefs. And I need to know my shit so well, that it comes as second nature.
As we round the corner on Valentine’s Day, I remind myself of this.
I don’t need to wait for permission. I don’t need someone else to tell me who I am. I get to decide.
But first, I need to believe it.
And on this journey of self-love, as a single, independent woman, I have realized that the best way to love myself is to have confidence in who I am. And to give myself the gift of self-assuredness.
My own son is convinced that he is going to be an NHL goalie one day. He knows what he loves. He believes in his own talent. And he unashamedly dreams big!
Guys, believe in the power of your own mind. Know that you are setting yourself up for success. Or failure. Depending on your perspective.
Everyone has some place they want to go. Better health. More free time. A deeper relationship. Financial independence. A fulfilling career.
But you can’t get there unless you take command of where you’re going.
So many people are afraid to sail into the high seas. But as the saying goes, “a ship in port is safe….but that’s not what ships were built for.”
I have a list a mile long of who I believe I am.
But don’t worry. I’m not hankering for the role of point guard in the WNBA. LA Lakers Cheerleader? Maybe.
Your heart will never race faster than in the moment you are about to kiss someone for the first time.
It’s a gamble. A leap. Like playing with fire. Or skating on thin ice.
I can remember the pure exhilaration of my first kiss. It was at the end of my parents drive-way. And it was of those summer nights when you can still be outside in a tank top, even though the sun is long gone.
Steve was dropping me off after a trip to the movie theatre, and as we sauntered towards each other, I can remember my palms being an absolute mess of sweat and buttery popcorn grease.
Does he like me? Oh god. I like him. What if he thinks I’m an awful kisser? Jesus. Do I lean in, or wait for the lean? What the fuck do I do with my hands? Shit. What if I step on his toes? For fuck’s sake. How long should it last?
The kiss itself was all tongue and teeth. A spectacle of pure beginner’s awkwardness. But regardless….it was amazing. And electrifying. And just right.
You never forget those moments of truly putting yourself out there. Times when things could go one of two ways: Pure magic. Or rejection.
And being a newly single woman, I get to experience the rush of adolescent “does he like me” in all its glory. At 36.
Having married my high-school sweetheart, I never really “dated.” And so this whole crazy upside world of seduction is entirely new to me.
But let me tell you. “Get to” is said with a bit of “tongue-in-cheek” sassiness.
The sting of rejection can be absolutely brutal.
And what I am slowly learning, is that the more I take it personally, the worse it is.
I have absolutely had my fair share of feeling not good enough. Insufficient. And unworthy. I have wallowed in fuck-you feistiness, defensive as all get-out. Lying in a puddle of my own tears, coddling my bruised ego.
And guys, healing from heartbreak is SUCH a journey.
But putting myself in a place of potential rejection is really the only way to ignite the fireworks.
Being an entrepreneur, I taste the bitter pill of rejection in my career as well. And let me tell you. There are days when something as simple as a “No, I can’t make it to class tomorrow.” Will throw me into a tailspin of “I’m not good enough.”
Then I smile. And say to myself….“suck it up buttercup. This isn’t a personal attack on you.”
And truly.....it is the ability to possess an unwavering belief in the value of ourselves, and what we have to offer, that is the difference-maker between those who succeed, and those who do not.
Just the other day, I watched a TED Talk called “What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection.” Jia Jing spent 100 days putting himself out there in different ways. Deliberately seeking rejection.
And you know what he learned?
That rejection, so often, ISN’T EVEN ABOUT YOU.
After going up to a stranger’s front door, and asking him if he could plant a flower in his backyard, Jia got an immediate “no.”
But instead of running away and wallowing in self-defeat, he asked “why not?”
The man said that he had a dog that would likely dig it up….and he actually suggested to go across the street to his neighbour’s house to see if she might like the flower….because well, she was much more into gardening than him.
And so he did. And the neighbour accepted his offer.
“Had I left after the initial rejection, I would have thought it was because the guy didn’t trust me, or because he thought I was crazy or wasn’t dressed well enough. It was none of those those things. It was because what I offered, didn’t fit with what he wanted.”
My god. If only I could remind myself of that more often. What I have to offer is amazing. It is uniquely me. It is beautiful in and of itself. And sometimes, that’s exactly what someone else is looking for.
But even with this knowledge, I struggle.
Because I think as human beings, we are hardwired to connect. Rejection cuts so deep because it makes us question where we fit in. And Jesus. If we aren't good enough to get a “yes,” where does that leave us?
As social beings, we we crrrrraaave acceptance. And getting rejected feels like the opposite of belonging.
MRI studies show that the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection, as when we experience physical pain. So yes. Rejection hurts. Neurologically speaking.
But through the pain, I can still see that there is no reward without the possibility of rejection.
Some of my sweetest successes stem from moments when I could have either won the entire showcase showdown…..or gone home with confetti on my shoulder and tears on my face.
(Side note. I’ve never actually been on The Price is Right. But if I was, it would be THE highlight of my life. As long as Bob Barker was the host. And I was a Barker’s Beauty. Not a contestant).
It is so much safer to go for the “sure bet.” But who wants the mediocrity of the thing that requires no effort, energy, or risk?!
Rejection is not a character assassination. It is a mismatch in values. And if that truly is the case, then should we not celebrate the opportunity to “get it right?”
Staying in your comfort zone will never lead you to the game-winning on-the-buzzer three-pointer. Because dude. You’ve gotta throw the ball from across the court to even stand a chance at nailing it.
And when it comes to our health, I think SO many people just linger in the familiar, out of the fear of ridicule from others. We have nightmare memories of being picked last for the recess soccer game. And we fear embarrassment.
Putting yourself out there is SCARY. But the rewards are so worth the risks.
And so as I practice my sexy winks, and coy smiles, I try to stay grounded in who I am. Knowing that I’ve got a KILLER kitchen dance party goin’ on. And if you ain’t into my tune-age, that’s totally cool.
Saying “yes” is easy.
Saying “no” is hard.
Except when you’re 4.
Somehow, when you’re 4, you do not give a shit about what everyone else thinks. And there are no apologies about it.
I realize this. Yet again. As I watch my 4-year old daughter in her Tip Toe Ballet class. Hair, wild and untamed, looking like she just spent the last 2 weeks fending for herself in the great outdoors, surviving only on rain water and small rodents that she caught with her bare hands.
I still remember the exact moment I found out I was having a girl. The ultrasound room was dimly lit. My belly was slathered in jelly. And the technician leaned over with an excited whisper. “Do you want to know what you’re having?”
You could hear my high-pitched squeal from several doors down.
And I kid you not. My first thought? My god! I’ll get to braid her hair!
Fast forward 4 years.
My daughter is crumpled on the floor. Screaming bloody murder. Because I even so much as picked up her hair-brush.
She doesn’t want to look like Elsa. Or Anna. Or Rapunzel. And she has no qualms about saying so. Not even to please me.
And as much as it pisses me off, I also admire her for it.
Because I know that I am a recovering people-pleaser.
And for me, saying “no” has always been extremely uncomfortable.
But we’ll get to that.
As a child, I was all about achieving, and doing whatever my parents….my sisters….and my friends valued.
I went to church. I played trumpet in the school band. I went to university. I married my high-school sweetheart. I drank milk. I had 2.0 kids. I baked cookies on Saturdays.
I adapted my life to the expectations of others.
And not because anyone held a gun to my head.
Not at all.
I was simply worried about what others would think about me if I veered off the path. I was petrified of being rejected. And scared shit-less of failing….then having to swallow the words “I told you so” as a chaser.
My identity in many ways was based on the approval of what everyone else wanted.
And so when I was faced with the question…..”what do YOU want?”….it was a bitter pill to swallow only to realize that what I wanted? Was very different from what WAS.
But guys, the craziest part for me? The realization that my people pleasing addiction was actually harming me…..and others…..more than it was bringing happiness.
In fact, it was downright assholery!
To continually say “yes” to what others want (even when I don’t want that thing)…..is patronizing! Because it assumes that other people can’t handle the truth.
Not only that, it prioritizes my own fear of rejection (gasp….what will they say if I say no), above everything else.
And guys, I know I’m not alone here.
How many of us are spending less time getting a good night’s sleep…..working out…..cooking a deliciously healthy meal……reading a good book before bed….because we are trying to keep up with promises we made to others?
How many of us are over-committed, stressed the fuck out, over stuff that simply keeps the peace, rather than makes us happy.
If you ask me, the number one killer of our own health, happiness and fulfillment….is our desire to make other people happy.
Because sure, people pleasers are some of the nicest, most helpful you will ever meet.
But they can also be the most drained, exhausted, and unhappy people you will ever meet, as well.
By saying “no” to what is NOT important, you will have more time for what IS important. Relationships. Hobbies. Your health.
And the older I get, the more I realize that TIME is our most valuable resource. You can’t get it back. And many of us give it away far too liberally. Without leaving enough for ourselves.
And so, over the last year, I have pissed a lot of people off. I have said no, when I normally would have said yes. And I have even heard the words, “I am so disappointed in you,” on more than one occasion.
I am a single mother.
I am an entrepreneur.
I am a vegetarian.
I am not a milk drinker.
I am someone who will ask her parents to babysit, on the regular, just to workout.
And I guarantee you.....one (or all) of those things piss someone off.
[Insert complaint letter from Dairy Industry]
I’m going off-script. I am ditching the people-pleasing mask (although, not perfectly, I might add).
And I am embracing the wild bush-girl spirit. With everything I have.
The day you become a mother, everything changes. All of a sudden, you’re responsible for shaping this tiny little human being into a kind, loving, well-rounded, well-dressed, PhD wielding citizen. There’s a lot of pressure to raise a CEO. Not a criminal.
And what’s crazy, is the majority of that pressure comes from our fear of other peoples’ opinions. It is the weight we place on how other people perceive our mother-li-ness. It is the pressure we place on ourselves to keep up, or fall short.
And that pressure is magnified by the “perfect mom” image we see all around us. Everyday.
It’s the highlight reel on Instagram. The impossible toddler birthday parties on Pinterest. The bounce-back body of the celebrity mother.
We are told that in order to be a good mom, we need to BE a certain way. ACT a certain way. SHOW UP in a certain way. And we are told that a good mom, is the kind of mom that lives only and ever for her children.
And so how do we deal with that pressure?
Either we put the peddle to the metal, and go hell-bent on trying to keep up….all the while, feeling exhausted, depleted and worn-out from over-accommodating our childrens’ needs, and under-accommodating our own.
We pursue our own dreams, chase the thing that lights our soul on fire, and become the CEO ourselves….all the while shackling ourselves to guilt over doing so.
Mom guilt is an insidious epidemic that is running rampant in women's’ lives. And yet, mom guilt does not serve us in any way. Nor does it serve our children.
We were someone before we had our children. And that person still matters.
If we truly want to inspire our children, and support them in being the best versions of themselves, we need to show them, in real time, what it looks like to pursue our dreams. To live a fulfilled life. And to prioritize our own well-being. Especially when it comes to our physical health.
The greatest gift we can give to ourselves, and our children, is to stop giving so much weight to other peoples’ opinions, and to start living according to our own internal compass. Guilt free.