first the pain then the rising

allinthistogetherhave you ever felt as though you were disappearing?

…and not in a super hero kind of way, but in a way that makes you feel as though you are playing in the background of your own life and not front and center where you belong?

first the pain then the rising’

is what glennon doyle (author of love warrior) often says. (side note: I LOVE everything about this women).

pain is part of life. we all experience it. we’re all in it together (even though sometimes it doesn’t feel this way). truly. or as my daughter likes to say ‘for real life‘.

there are so many clever ways we have mastered to avoid feeling this pain(anything really that keeps us distracted) because lets face it, it sucks to feel like crap. except in the long run this avoidance brings with it a shit storm.

family dynamics are fascinating. how my parents were parented obviously  influenced the way they parented me which of course gave me a certain perspective on life.

it’s easy to inherit unresolved pain that has been passed down through generations of family members and never dealt with. it’s easy to continue a cycle of dysfunction especially when you are unaware of it and how deep it runs. it’s really, really, really hard to sit and face this pain

move through it

and break this cycle.

it is our most important work.

there is something powerful when people hold space for us to move through these intense and agonizing growing pains. there is something powerful in holding space for others and to remind yourself you are NOT alone in your pain. I believe many of us have a deep longing to live an authentic life

to be seen

and heard

and witnessed.

first the pain 

sometimes the pain is just too big and too scary to be contained in a little body (especially when we are young) that we find creative ways to manipulate and silence it. when i was younger

i swallowed my pain with drugs and alcohol.

i spewed hurtful things to people to cover my vulnerability.

i smiled a lot in public to cover how depressed i was feeling.

then the rising

my kids have this funny way of showing me that i still have work to do on myself. it comes out in my tone or my impatience or the feelings i carry to bed. i mean seriously, it’s always a work in progress.

I DO NOT want to pass down what i inherited (and what my mother and father inherited, and what their mother and father inherited and so on and so on. its nobody’s fault but this is how healing begins. it starts with an acknowledgment. i see you.

the world is a painful place but we have an insurmountable capacity to overcome and transform this pain (as long as we don’t avoid it) into something truly incredible.  that’s how powerful our pain can be. and that’s how powerful we can be TOGETHER.

…and we can’t do it alone. we need our tribe. they’re out there.

don’t give up.

you are changing your future and if you have children, theirs too.

monday mornings

soap-bubbles-2828275_960_720its monday morning and I already feel like bawling.

do other parents feel this way to?

big school, long days, young kids.

i feel so distracted….

all the time.

time is passing

swifly.

i want to be more present

for my kids

for myself

for our family

 

 

 

me too

merecently, there has been storm of social media posts by women all around the world sharing their stories of sexual abuse using the hashtag #metoo.

its enourmous.

its so so so many girls and women.

the ones who are speaking out for the ones who cannot.

its me too.

in this picture, i am around 11 years old. saturday mornings mum would take us to swimming lessons and then i would do judo class right after. i was the only girl in my judo so none of the boys wanted to spar with me. i worked alot with my sensei (instructor) one on one. my sensei taught me how to defend myself

BUT

when he put me in a hold on the floor his big hands would find there way up to my little chest. i couldn’t move so i would just endure it. my sensei sometimes watched me in my swim lessons from the window overlooking the pool. those days i wanted to stay in the water forever.

mum once asked if my sensei was doing anything inappropropriate but the thought of my mum making a fuss over me made me uncomfortable

so i lied.

in desperation i asked a friend to join the class in hopes i could deflect his attention away from me (not the wisest move).

it didn’t work.

he had us change and try on our new uniforms in his office

alone.

eventually i left judo.

i left doubting my own experience

and

left quietly

(like a good girl).

i have rarely spoken about this experience in part because i didn’t think it mattered and because i was too embarrased. i hope #metoo illustrates just how pervasive sexual abuse is. we need to change this narrative and teach (our culture at large) that our girls they (and their bodies) matter too.

as a friend recently said ‘for the love of our daughters and the sake of our sons‘.

belonging

belongingI can still feel those jittery impulses prickling into my skin, my jumpy heart, my half smile and my down casted head when the first day of school rolled around. I went to an affluent french school and was the k-mart girl in a sea of lacoste and tretorn wearing kids. I would beg the bus driver to drop me off last so my friends who lived in big houses with indoor pools (and cleaning ladies) wouldn’t see my humble home, where the grass didn’t grow on the front lawn (probably wasn’t a top priority for my parents) and ‘stuff’ lying all around. I was embarrassed about who I was and where I came from and tried really hard to ‘fit in’. For me the feeling of ‘not belonging’ became my closest friend.

This week my son started grade three. We switched him from french into english because we discovered he has some learning disabilities that were likely making learning a second language more difficult and stressful for him. He was happy with the decision.

Walking to school my husband and I encouraged him to look for kids that were sitting by themselves or seemed lonely since he too was nervous and starting a year not knowing anyone in his new class. Our son is still figuring out how to make friends, negotiate conflicts and control some of his impulses when he gets excited or feels hurt (aren’t we all?). Big feelings in small bodies are sometimes explosive. So we try and model or role play certain situations to help him find other ways of communicating that don’t further ostracize him from his peers. (not always easy)

I don’t want him to try to ‘fit in‘ to make others like him (like i tried to do for much of my life), I want him to feel like he really belongs. Belonging is such a basic human need that for me, it was easy to get lost and sacrifice part of who I was in order to fit in. I never knew the difference then. I just wanted people to like me…no matter what, and that came at such a big cost. Like all parents I don’t want him to make the same mistakes. The real foundation starts at home (Brene Brown has a great ‘wholehearted parenting manifesto‘) but I wanted my son to notice that he isn’t alone in his feelings and that if he looked around the school yard he might notice there are other kids standing alone that might want someone to talk to.

That very day he saw a boy sitting by himself looking as he described ‘really sad’. He walked over and asked him if he was okay. The boy didn’t say anything so he asked again ‘Are you okay‘?. The boy looked up at him and said ‘get lost!’.

Ouch….I wasn’t expecting that.

Well ‘A’ for effort. We praised his empathy and courage.  Noone said this was easy.

 

 

lemonade stand

lemonade standif you ever need a morale boost hang out by a kids lemonade stand!

my son decided he

really

really

really

wanted to have his very first lemonade stand on a hot tuesday afternoon in the middle of august. our street was very quiet. he insisted. it was pay-what-you-can.

goods received far outweighed the money he earned. people were so unbelievably generous in every way.

teaching moment.

money isn’t everything. people are.

later, a women collapsed onto the lemonade stand. pulling us into a swirl of panic and confusion. i gently brought her to the ground and held her head while she seized and vomited for what felt like an eternity.  children watching, cars stopping, neighbours helping. ambulance arriving. lemonade stand closed.

my son wanted to have a lemonade stand on a hot tuesday afternoon in the middle of august. it couldn’t have happened on a better day.

 

 

impermanence, its here to stay

deathI AM AFRAID AS HELL OF DEATH

okay there, i said it.

not exactly a conversation to get a party started (but maybe it could be).

this fear, terror, anxiety (whatever you want to call it) is, I believe, the root of all my anxieties (the ‘what if?!’ syndrome). i have a lot of fear around the unknown and unknowable. have you ever woken up in the middle of the night to feel momentarily disoriented? a wave of panic takes over as you try and figure out who and where you are? this is the fear i have about death. that i am going to be trapped in this place of confusion and insanity. crazy huh?

growing up i remember sentences like

if i die’ or

‘you’re not  going to die’,

which further separated me from the realities of life. i was a dreamer and lived in my head. even as a young adult i fantasized about living on an island with domesticated panthers. i mean seriously. i wasn’t connected or grounded in myself or life.

in chinese medicine there is a saying

‘fear and wisdom are two sides of the same coin. one has no faith in life and the other does’.

faith means ‘a complete trust in something or someone’.

as i wrestle with my own issues around death, i am don’t want to project them onto my kids. yes we all die and i don’t want it to be a scary thing for them. in many cultures it isn’t scary. some believe it is the most sacred time of your life.

fear ‘be afraid of something or someone as likely to be painful, or dangerous or threatening.

fear is something we develop around things (and people) we don’t really understand. if we live in a culture that doesn’t talk about death and is clearly so afraid of it (beauty focused, anti aging obsessed) how can be prepare ourselves for our inevitable fate? even how we visualize death as a grim reaper continues to perpetrate that death is scary, painful and to be feared.

stephen jenkinson is a man i have listened to speak on many occasions. (a very important and powerful teacher). he is purposely talking about death in a death phobic culture so we can have this important conversation, live a meaningful life and ultimately

die well.

(which for me means accepting and embracing it when its my turn)

you’re death will reflect how you live you’re life‘. if we life our lives in perpetual fear and avoidance, we might have a difficult time letting go when its our turn. yep, that’s me.

psychologist Carl Jung says “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” well i definitely don’t need my fear of death any bigger then it already is so i am bringing it out of my closet for you to witness. maybe the more i talk (and write) about it, the better i will understand it and the less scary it will be.

 

my suitcase and letting go

suitcase

Leila, my oldest friend of thirty years may say I am not the tidiest (or most organized) person around. One look at our luggage bags (getting ready to head home after our girls weekend away) says it all about our personalities. Her clothes are neatly folded (or rolled) and compartmentalized. Mine, on the other hand is a messy pile of whatever I can cram into my suitcase. I say its efficient. She might have a different word for it.

Alex Baisley is a man I met many years ago who loves helping people figure out what they want  to do with their lives. He is a salt to the earth, hilarious east coaster with a big heart and lots to give. He started a small dreams initiative and challenged his community to do one small thing over the next 21 days. Small challenges are meant to be

small.

For me its those little ‘niggly’ things I put off because I have more ‘important’ things to do.  Small things I might like to do would be planting some flowers in the empty flower box out front my house. Painting something…just for fun. Hula hooping, writing, learning more about essential oils, making real artisanal bread, spending more time outdoors, being more playful (and not to be such a serious grown up all the time) etc…

So my small dreams challenge is to purge my home. This may not sound like much of a dream or a small undertaking but I’ve been wanting to do this FOREVER and I keep putting it off. So for the next 21 days I am tackling a different aspect of the house (ie. clothes or a particular room). I really think this is going to change the feel and flow of my home. And you know the saying…’Home is where one starts from‘ (TS Eliot). I at least want to start my day from a place of harmony and balance.

Like Leila’s suitcase, everything will have a purpose and place. I’m getting rid of those annoying little boxes full of loose change and paperclips, the books I’ll never read, notes from workshops I will never look at again, expired spices (they only last a couple years) and stuff…

just

stuff.

I will hold each item in my hands and if it doesn’t spark joy in my heart…

out with it!

(from book The subtle Art of Tidying Up).

My small dream is learning to discern what is of value and when to let go.

 

 

more circles please

bubblesi used to (literally) roll my eyes when people spoke about ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactive disorder). i thought it was a made up, over diagnosed and a subjective disorder for an educational system not designed for the physiology of young boys.

i thought ADHD was diagnosed to (mostly) young boys who couldn’t sit still and fidgeted alot by grown ups who didn’t really understand that maybe they just needed to move more.

a gift raising a child that doesn’t seem to fit with what we see as ‘normal’ behaviour is that it is

extremely

humbling.

when my son was finally diagnosed with ADHD (and not from some frustrated teacher (we had a great teacher this year) but through a comprehensive assessment) i was actually relieved because it gave me a starting point from years of feeling so lost and confused.

my new and informed understanding of ADHD is that it is a neurological development disorder which impacts the way his brain develops. yes most kids fidget and have a difficult time listening and paying attention but his case is more often and more severe. he probably would have made a kick ass hunter and gatherer back in the day with his physicality, outside the box thinking and quick impulses. sadly, these traits don’t always pay off in the classroom or an office environment.

rather then trying to ‘fix’ our sons impulsiveness, his emotional regulation, inattentiveness, obsessions, impatience etc…we are learning how to help him (and us) manage them better. we have to parent him differently because discipline and consequences won’t always work for him. they often make him feel worse about himself.  he isn’t being a jerk on purpose to make us mad. he is struggling and needs our help. this has made such a huge difference for our family and even the way my husband and i relate. yes i still get mad and frustrated but i no longer take it personal (ie. it’s not my parenting). rather then trying to fit a circle into a square (rote learning, ‘A’ student, large groups), we’re looking for more circles (kinesthetic learning, curiosity, small groups). It’s a start.

An inspiring and hopeful Ted Talk on ADHD

 

 

 

the conversation

fidgetspinner

Someone at school told me fidget spinners were good for kids with ADHD. Is that true mom‘? My boy asked while he (patiently) counted down the days for the fidget spinner he ordered on-line to finally arrive….

any day now.

Yes, I think so‘, I said while wondering if this was as good a time as any to mention it.

Well, this is something you have‘, I said relieved to have found a good excuse to talk about it. ‘Actually many kids have it. I think Dad probably had it too, when he was young’.

What is ADHD‘ he asked now fully engrossed in the conversation.

Your brain just works differently then some other kids and we are looking for ways to help make reading and writing more enjoyable for you‘. I said.

My therapist told me not too long ago that the way I feel about this diagnosis is the way he is going to feel about it.  So truth is, I am learning as much as I can about

not just its deficits

but its gifts as well.

 

 

 

 

the gift is in the challenge

motherbaby

the thing that noone tells you when you become a mother is how frikkin’ hard it is. how your body will physically change…that jumping, sneezing and laughing will never be the same and proceed with caution.  how your friendships will contract with some people and expand with others (mostly other parents). that you may despise (from time to time) the person you wanted to raise your children with.

that’s a tough one

relationships get so stretched and squeezed and twisted its amazing some of us get through these times and sadly many others don’t. parenting is not for the faint of heart.

my experience of motherhood has been inextricably linked to the personality and temperament of my children.

my youngest is four years old and a happy girl. she loves to participate in activities, makes friends easily, great at listening, remembers where she puts things, good with sharing her toys, funny and is cuddly and affectionate.  she is pretty easy going and therefore my experience of motherhood is pretty straight forward. it is also important to mention that she is my second child so I used all my anxiety reserves when I didn’t know what I was doing with my first. because she is a relatively easy child

i have no doubt she has influenced the way I see and experience  motherhood and parenting (ie. other mothers).

i would likely not understand the ‘other’ kids who misbehaved in public, had trouble listening to their parents, played rough with other kids, were loud and rambunctious. i would have likely looked at their parents (mothers) with judgment and criticism.  if they only parented differently, fed their kids better foods, let them play outside more, limit screen time etc…

their kids would behave differently (better). 

my oldest child is 8. he is very much like the ‘other kids’. his gift to me was to show me a different side of parenting. the side of parenting that could see and feel the embarrassment and pain behind the faces of other mothers when their child ‘misbehaved’ and when other parents gave them ‘the look’. the side of parenting that took the blame off the mother and could recognize that not every parenting flaw is her fault. that despite all her efforts sometimes children are born with big personalities and big feelings, and…

sometimes moms need more understanding and help

then judgement and criticism. Parenting children who were born with big and creative spirits isn’t always easy.

the biggest lesson he has taught me is to not be so ‘judgy’. his gift was to give me a broader scope of what it means to be a mother and how I can be more helpful to those mama’s having a tough time. he has always kept me in check.

i couldn’t have asked for a better gift.