dear me

hey theremotherhood isn’t exactly what you imagined it to be.

is it?

sometimes i see you watching the way other mothers speak and behave with their children and secretly question why you can’t be more like them. more put together, more ‘smiley’, more fun…. i see those deep, sharp powerful impulses that quickly surge from your heart into your arms in a desperate attempt to control your sons behaviour. i see you struggle with his struggle.

life doesn’t prepare you for a serious and complicated labour,  heart failure, facing your mortality days after giving birth, becoming a mother, feeling lonely, raising a ‘spirited’ child, losing your temper, feeling resentful (jealous) towards your partner and burying yourself in a place where you feel you are failing as a mother.

but maybe that’s the point…

life is messy and unpredictable and how we deal with this mess is what matters most.

i’ve been with you the whole way. i see how heavily this weighs on your soul. you want(ed) to be the perfect mother raising the perfect child.

recently a friend said

‘perfection is what rots a women’s soul

(i am sure this is true of men as well). i am not sure you heard this the way i did so i thought i’d say it again.

perfection is a myth.

life, kids, motherhood, spouses, friends, jobs, our health etc…will never be perfect. they are always in a state of change and will be for as long as we are alive. that is what living is….states of expansions and contractions. perfection implies a fixed way of being with little to no wiggle room for making mistakes and

in the end this will suffocate you.

i know how hard you work, the books you read, the courses you take, the therapists you see, the writing you do, how honest you are with your son and how often you try to communicate to him about your imperfections as a parent. when you lose your temper or yell at him you immediately make sure to talk to him about it.  you’re teaching him that there is no such thing as ‘perfect’ and that grown ups make mistakes too.

i know you blame yourself for his ‘oppositional’ behaviour and his attention deficit disorder because you believe it is a symptom of not being attuned to him when he was a baby. you thought you were going to die of heart failure. remember? of course you weren’t attuned to his needs in the way he may have needed. he was also your first child and noone really knows what they are doing with their first born.  wanting to be the perfect mother put you on a very frayed and narrow tight rope so no wonder you are so easily stressed and hyper focused on what is going wrong.

remember when you read that story about how most parents want their kids to be happy but helping them find their purpose was more important? maybe the purpose in parenting is not to be perfect. maybe the purpose in parenting is to show your kids that life is messy and to show up anyway. to show them we (and they) can do hard things and we will go a lot further if we can be honest and do them together.

you’re a great (and not perfect) parent. you encourage your children to make mistakes so they can learn from them. i think motherhood has simply highlighted the areas within you that still need healing.  be gentle and patient with yourself and you will teach your children some great life skills.

and hey…..

i see you

of the heart

courage and fearsomeone who isn’t afraid is
fearless
someone who is afraid
& does it anyway is
courageous

here’s to courageous acts of
living
writing
speaking
listening
loving

Do you believe in magic?

magicwhen my son was 6 he started to ask questions about santa.

‘is santa real’? he asked rather hesitantly.

‘ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies’

was my quick witted answer which i think was enough to confuse him and hold him off another year.

at 7 he asked me again, but this time he sincerely wanted to know. i don’t lie to my kids (when they ask direct questions…except for the fact that i let them believe Santa was real in the first place)….i know…the contradictions abound…but i asked him if he really, REALLY wanted to know. and he said yes.

my mother let us believe in Santa for a long time. i think perhaps we wanted to believe because ultimately we benefitted from it. but it wasn’t really about Santa, she wanted us to believe in magic and wonder. honestly i can remember getting lost in my imagination finding little nooks around the house to build my forts to quietly reseed into my world of make believe.  this was an important part of my childhood.

i was afraid i would take this away from him.

it felt like i was on a precipice standing between my son’s precious childhood innocence and the reality that grown ups have been lying to their kids for years. what was the right thing to do?!

so I told him the truth.

‘no santa is not real’ i said.

for a moment he looked content that his suspicions were correct, a small satisfied smile….then later he told me he felt sad.

so did i.

i imagined this moment would be etched in his memories forever…the day his mother killed his belief in magic. i quickly texted my husband to tell him what i had done. he replied….‘oh don’t worry, you’re building trust’.

i wondered how i could keep the magic of the holidays alive even after he stopped believing in the man in the red suit. magic and believing in things that can’t always be explained have always been important…they give us hope.

in the spirit of keeping the magic of the holidays alive for my son, i bought us a book (which is what i usually do when i am looking for answers to difficult questions).  ‘Love, Santa’, The Beautiful Truth About Santa by Martha Brockenbrough did a great job of explaining what and who santa was….much better than i did.

‘santa is bigger than any one person….but his real work isn’t delivering presents….Santa is a teacher who helps us believe. All you life you will need to have faith; in your family, in your friends, in yourself…even in things you can’t see or touch…here i am talking about love, which will light up your life from the inside out, even when things feel cold and dark’ 

this quickly became my son’s favorite book. i asked if he still believed in magic and he said ‘yes, just because santa isn’t real doesn’t mean magic doesn’t exist’

…..phew…..

thank you Martha Brockenbrough! and the upside to all this is when my son asks me something and isn’t sure i am telling him the truth (perhaps because he doesn’t like the answer) i always say ‘I wouldn’t lie to you’ and he knows that’s true…..

yep building trust. that’s a powerful kind of magic.

 

 

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.