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. 

 

The first step on a long winding road

IMG_0055You know when you get ‘that feeling’

deep in the pit of your stomach

that something isn’t right?

Call it intuition, insight….

and as a mother, it can be tender, sensitive, explosive. This feeling must have been packaged and past down from all the mothers generations before with alarm bells, vibration mode, disguised as anxiety, hyperviligence, anything really to get our attention to protect our babies.

my son was born 8 years ago. I almost died of heart failure. It wasn’t a great introduction to motherhood. Over the years I’ve watched my son grow and develop and although I’ve had nothing to compare my experience with, there has always been this deep aching feeling in my gut that something was not settled in him.

Our relationship has always been a little tremultuous. We argue like an old bickering married couple. He often doesnt listen, forgets where he put something two seconds earlier, teases his sister…it drives me crazy. We have a fight, feel bad, and then make up by cuddling on the couch and talking about it. Sometimes I feel that all his misbehaving was so we could end up cuddling on the couch together. Attention-deficient?

I had (and still do) a lot of confusion on how to parent this little guy properly. My anger and embarrassment over his behaviour towards me and others had me contemplating many times medication

for me

so that I could remain calm and grounded in the storm.

We finally had a psycho-educational assessment done to determine what his needs were. We discovered he has learning disabilities and ADHD.

I know labels don’t make the person, but in this case it’s a starting place.

The first step on a long winding road.

 

gremlins

house

most mornings, I lye awake in bed around 4:30am (i go to bed at 8pm, so this makes sense) thinking i should get up and write while the kids are still asleep. then i start thinking,

who wants to read what i have to say anyway?

there are more important things going on in the world then what is happening in my life!

and believe me the list goes on…..so i fall back asleep.

this morning i decided to get up anyway….and write….even if noone cares or noone reads it, because its important to me…

so here goes…

today i am on day 12 of a 21 day nourished detox. i would love to tell you that i feel great, vibrant, more energetic…..but i don’t. i am tired as hell, my stomach is bloated and i’ve been so impatient with my kids. before i fell asleep last night, i looked at my son who was sleeping and thought about how little i smile around him. i wondered if in his world i always looked like an unhappy grown-up…

in my world i do. that’s not how i want to be remembered.

i’m 45 years old. i gave up my career (temporarily, i think) to stay home and be a mother. there isn’t anything i wanted more, then to create a loving and nurturing and safe home for my family…except i don’t think i am very good at it.

i feel tired. i feel frustrated. i feel sad. i feel lonely….then i feel ungrateful…argh, and everyone know feeling gratitude is the hallmark for a happy and fulfilled life.

these gremlins in my head (my biggest critics) are so quick to negate what I feel. and they are persistent little buggers who just never shut-up. so quick to point out how i am not good enough. they really suck.

in my head, other mothers make it look so easy. like they get it. how on earth do they make it look so easy?! what is it that i am not getting?!

motherhood is no joke.

then i realize, its probably not realistic to expect a tidy house on most days, a well nourished meal that my kids will eat, good manners, quiet and cooperative playtime and quality time with my husband. yes they probably exist in some families and although they are important to me i should be wise enough to know that sometimes this is not how life shows up, so i might as well make the best of it and show up anyway. even if it means it is far from being and looking perfect.

that’s going to be my new practice… to be okay with not having it all look and feel picture perfect…because it ain’t….and it is in so many ways…

you hear that gremlins…..mamas going to be okay….imperfections and all….so lets get this day going already…

 

 

 

Dear yoga

yogaDear Yoga,

You changed me forever. Thank you for coming into my life in my late twenties. I really needed you then. You took me as I was and loved me anyway.

You found a way to help me feel at home in my body. A body I didn’t want to be in. A body that was stiff and sore. A body I didn’t understand.  It wasn’t easy. I cried a lot. Sorry for yelling and threatening to leave you. But you understood me better then I understood myself.  You were there every very step of the way

with the right words,

a gentle touch or a

firm push when I needed it.

Throughout my entire thirties we were so in love. Inseparable really. I even started to teach what you taught me to others. You helped me find my voice.  You were there when I met my husband, went back to school and had my first child. You helped me when I got really sick and thought I was going to die. Remember how scared I was? Thank you for staying so close when I needed you.

Do you remember how tired I was a few years after my son was born? Remember when I asked my body what it needed most from me and it said rest?! Remember when I decided I needed to sleep more? A lot more?!

That was the time we took a break….remember?

Things just haven’t been the same since. It feels different between us. I am not saying we’re over…I just need some time. I’m confused. My body doesn’t want to move in straight lines anymore. It wants curves, circles. It wants a little more fun. Sorry. It’s not you, it’s me.

Thanks for being so patient as I try and figure this out. I know it’s the nature for all things in life to change. You taught me that, and you taught me not to hold onto things too tight. The practice may look different from the outside but you will always be close to me on the inside.

xo

me