Making waves

When I picked fierce as my word for this year, I had no idea that the Universe would so quickly and eagerly leap to answer my invitation!

The idea of being fierce was to be clear in walking my path. To be 100% fully me in my life.  Fierce, as defined by the Urban Dictionary –

the combination of a positive mental spirit, bold words and unapologetic actions used collectively.

I think I should have also ordered a large dose of bravery to go with that fierceness.

Because here’s what I’m learning in just the first few weeks of my word.  I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do and how I want to be in this life. So deciding *what* to do isn’t the issue. The issue is in putting it into action. In stating my truth and then letting the chips fall where they may.

There is a terrifying moment when you state your truth and it hangs there in the air in frozen silence and you wait to see how it will be received.

I am afraid of the falling chips. Of disappointing my friends and loved ones. Of letting people down. Of making anyone feel sad. Or angry. Of being anything less than perfect. Of not being what others want me to be. What I am “supposed” to be.

In this integrated, intertwined world of mine, decisions have ripples. I am afraid that they will become waves.

I’ve already made some hard decisions, taken some firm actions and drawn some boundaries. I’m not sure how they’ll be received. But, even in just these first few forays into being fierce, I already know what has been holding me back.

My fear.

So, I guess I’ll see how the waves are this year. I hope that true friends, who know the real me, will support me and celebrate in my journey. Those who don’t can be forgiven for not knowing the real me. After all, what have I shown them?

Already the Universe has brought some amazing new possibilities into my life. And, I am more excited for this year than I have been in a long time. Especially in a cold, dark and rainy January.

I guess I’ll see how many friends I have left at the end of the year!

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A summer of single days

In the middle of this summer, I have made startling discovery. As I try to live my life one day at a time, the anxiety of achieving a future state of happiness has gone away and I am, well, pretty relaxed.

It used to be that days were marked by day, month and season. Weekdays (aka workdays) were dreaded and weekends were celebrated. Rainy months were supposed to be dreary and summer months were eagerly hyped as a time for play.

I have always that found vaguely stressful. There seems to be a lot of pressure placed on the “good times” of weekends and summer to have, well, good times. I always felt that I wasn’t quite doing enough – camping enough, partying enough, have crazy adventures enough.

Here’s the weird thing. As I’ve focused on just living one day at a time, I am finding that those expectations have fallen away and I am learning to appreciate the presents of the present.

Sometimes, I am focused on just one day because that’s all I can manage to think of getting through. It’s kind of relief to know that I don’t have to make things better. I can accept the sadness or loneliness of the day as just one day.

Sometimes, there seems so much that “should” be done that I’m overwhelmed and have to break it down to what I can do just for today.

Sometimes, the day is great and I can enjoy each slow moment of contentment.  I can treasure the little things, express gratitude for my many blessings and laugh and be silly.

As I try to live each single day being the person I want to be in this world rather than some version of me that I think I am supposed to be, I find that there are no wasted days and each comes with its own gifts. I am inspired to keep striving, to pushing my boundaries, to live with my whole heart and to be authentic each day.

This week, I spent what is normally a work day out kayaking with some friends. It didn’t feel strange at all to be not at work. It was just what that day had in store. I have had great days at work. I have had long, lonely weekend days. I have frittered away a sunny day indoors when I should be outside. I have reveled in the return of the rain. I have let the depression win some days (and the potato chips). I have said “no thanks, I’ve camped enough for one summer.” I have treasured quiet coffee chats with friends. I’ve gone to bed before the sun goes down and I have partied late into the night til the sun was coming up again.

And, somewhere in there, I think I stopped living for an imaginary future where I accomplish all my “should” be items. Waiting for a future vacation, or a future weekend. Or a future anything.

And you know what? I’m having a really great summer.

One day at a time.

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Walking through fire … literally!

They say that life happens at the edge of your comfort zone. If that’s true, I certainly experienced life this weekend.

In my desire to bring the joy of singing back into my life, I’ve teamed up with an old band-mate to rejuvenate our band. This weekend was our first public gig at a Festival outside Edmonton.

I’ll get to that in a second. Because one of the other things that happened at this Festival was a fire walk. Yup, that’s right. The chance to walk on hot coals. Given my emerging theme of fire so far this year how could I possibly not do this?

On the other hand, it’s burning coals. How could I possibly do that!!

Which brought me to that pivotal moment that so marks life and growth and learning and healing. That timeless moment when you really want to do something but are really afraid. That balance point between “I really want to do this” and “I really don’t think I can do this”.

For me, it is a stripped down moment of clarity when I come face to face with the essence of me. The anxiety that holds me back in perfect counterbalance with the force that drives me forward. The angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.

But instead of trying to get rid of the anxiety, I am learning to let it be. To stop and connect to that still, quiet inner space in my heart and ask it, “Who do you want to be in the world? How do you want to be in this world?” And, then accept the answer. Maybe I am someone who walks over hot coals. Maybe I’m someone not ready for that. Either way is okay. But, what I’m not okay with is letting fear make the decision for me.  Of having regrets rather than good memories. As Shirley Valentine would say, of having a little life with all those unused parts.

Turns out, at least this weekend I was someone who could walk over hot coals. And, someone who could walk over broken glass which is what we did first to practice for the fire.  And, I was someone who could get up on stage and sing. An act which requires me to lower the walls of defense and risk. Risk being seen and heard. Perhaps only when those walls come down can the joy come through.  And, maybe, sometimes that takes a little fire.

A lot of life happened this weekend. In all it’s uncomfortable glory.

Walking on glass …

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The Sacred Fire …

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Prepping the coals …

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The fire walk …

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The waters of Lake Louise to balance the fire …

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Days that help me be myself

I think it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

I completely agree. Sometimes, it seems like each day is a struggle to figure out who I am, to remember it and to live and breathe it in my actions, my words and my choices. Days when self-doubt is the demon that requires repeated slaying.

And then there are the other times. Those all-to-rare days when I feel completely myself and completely at ease. Days when I know that despite the hard decisions, my heart and my life are in alignment. Days which replenish my soul and re-stoke my fires.

Days like this past weekend.

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Days away with amazing women who listen and support and never doubt for a minute that I am perfect just the way I am.

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Days spent exploring the beach, listening to birdsong and attuning with nature.

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Days spent listening, reading and eating good food made with love. Days of quiet solitude and burst of laughter. Days of story-telling, sharing wisdom and  confiding secrets.

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Days when I have time to stop, slow down, notice the little things. Time to consider things from another perspective.

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Days where all the worries leave me and I know that everything will be okay. That I will be okay.

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Days that help me be myself. Not just for the weekend but hopefully for all the days to come.

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Music Monday – My Inner Ninja!

Hey yo, I’ve been high and I’ve been real low
I’ve been beaten and broken but I healed though
So many ups and downs, roughed up & clowned
We all got problems, but we deal though

I’m tryin’ to do better now, find my inner peace
Learn my art form, and find my energy
When my backs on the wall, I don’t freeze up
Nah, I find my inner strength and I re-up

My inner ninja!!!!!!!

No choice but fear

Sometimes the Universe waits patiently while you gather your courage to face your fear. Other times it sneaks up on you and shoves you from behind.

Yesterday, C and S and I headed to Glastonbury to check out the Abbey, the Chalice Well and the Glastonbury Tor. The Tor is a big steep-sided hill, jutting up from the English countryside in a defiant juxtaposition to the gentle, rolling landscape around it.

I was looking forward to the view from the top, especially with my new camera in hand. I was even looking forward to the climb up. In the past, such a climb would have been beyond me but the last 5 years of hard work to get healthier meant that I was sure I could climb the Tor, even if I had to stop a few times along the way.

What I did not expect was the heart-stopping, limb paralyzing fear of falling that hit me like a ton of bricks when I was almost to the top.

I have never been afraid of heights so I’m not sure why I was suddenly gripped with the irrational fear that I was going to fall down the steep slope of the Tor and completely lose control of my bearings. Or, given how strong the wind was, just be blown right off into empty air.

I sometimes have claustrophobia and anxiety attacks and what was amazing to me was that this feeling and the response of my body was exactly the same. Racing heart, shortness of breath, constricted chest, a little voice in my head crescendoing “no, no, no” and that sense that everything was spinning completely out of control, no matter how hard I tried to hold it together.

I know it’s not rational, which I find really annoying. But it is still very real. And as little as I understand the why’s and how’s of it, one thing I have learned is to stop and deal with it.

Step One – acknowledge the feeling no matter how silly/stupid/ridiculous I think it is. So, I tell C and S that I’ve having problems with being up that high, and the steep slope and that I’m not sure how I am going to get back down. I am trying not to cry.

S very helpfully says, “Well, you don’t really have a choice.”

While part of me wants to smack him for pointing out that I have to do what every cell in my body is screaming I can’t do, the small rational part of my brain still left recognizes that he is, of course, right.

I have no choice. I am going to have to do this so I’d better figure out how.

Step Two – ask for help. Ever am I grateful for my true friends. The ones who bring out the best in me but who also stand steadfast beside me when I am, ahem, less than my best. Including the times when I’m a total mess. So, C ran around with my camera and took some pics since my back was glued to the building at the top. Then, she walked in front of me holding my hand while I made my way back down the path to the safety of level ground.

Step Three – be gentle with myself. I don’t know why I reacted the way I did. But one thing I do know is that beating myself up about it doesn’t help. It is love and acceptance and forgiveness and understanding that defeats fear. Not anger. Whether it is directed inward or outward. I don’t care what anyone thought of we two 40+ women holding hands as we slowly walked down the hill. Together, we did it.

I’m not sure if the time that the Universe gives us is a gift or a barrier. In this case, I was forced to walk off the edge of that steep hill of fear because I had no choice. I had to get moving forward.

I wonder how much time we waste in that place of constricted hearts, feeling like things are spinning out of control, trying to catch our breaths before we accept that have no choice but to face toward the fear and then head straight into it. Otherwise, we’re just stuck on a hill. Or, in a rut.

Perhaps the hardest thing might be that sometimes we do have a choice.

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Out of the pothole and into the firing squad

After Saturday’s post, I have a whole new level of understanding around why it is hard to talk publicly about depression.

Not that I regret sharing. The comments on what people do to self-care were so enlightening.  The number of  “me, toos” that came in made me feel so much less alone and more normal.  And, the check-ins from my friends by phone, text and e-mail filled me with gratitude for the love and support that I have.

So, not for a moment am I complaining. Quite the opposite.

But the thing about depression is that it thrives in the dark and in the isolation.  When I took that away, and when I shone the light right into it’s scaly little eyes, wow was it uncomfortable!

In fact, the vulnerability was excruciating. Squirmy, skin crawling, bolt for the door, in the firing line excruciating. Every fibre in my being was saying Run! Hide! Don’t let them see you! Don’t talk to me or acknowledge me!

And as much as I hate it when people worry about me – who me? I’m fine – I think what I really fear is that people will pity me. Or that people will think I am pitying myself. After all, who am I to complain! Snap out of it!!!

Things are much better today.

The self-care helped. The writing helped. The sunshine helped. Talking helped. Friends helped. Hugs helped.

Growth happens at the edge of our comfort zone.  Dammit.

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