Thursday, 28 January 2016

Cool Down Contemplations

We all know that the current state of our Alberta Economy is bleak, and dire, and really freaking scary.  The Economic downturn has affected us, our friends and families in very big ways.  Every day we hear of another person who lost their job, and another who, after several months of trying is still unable to find work.  Our job markets are saturated with unemployed oilfield workers who just really need to find SOMETHING.  I feel this.  We lived this. I absolutely know the lasting effects of the deep hole that comes with being many months at a near net zero family income.  I have had to face the fear and explore the hard question "If I didn't have all this (material possessions), what am I?  Do I like that person, could I live with that person?  How then do I fit into this world?"  It was dark times.

My words today are not meant to be disrespectful, or insensitive to any who happen to be struggling with this right now.  But today, after an extremely heart touching and tearful meditation, I feel so compelled to speak MY truth.


I attend a Hot Flow Yoga class every day (well I TRY to go every day).  For those that don't know what that is, it is an hour long Flow Yoga class that takes place in a 104 degree (40 Celsius) studio.  

I typically shy away from all forms of exercise...  And I DO NOT like to sweat, so my love for Hot Flow is quite mysterious.  

There are many strategies one has to invoke in order to have a successful Hot Flow practice.  Nose breathing only, or you panic when it feels like you can't breathe - even when you are trying to catch your breath, nose.breathing.only!  It is fast moving, so you have to be mindfully present to listen to the instructor - everything else has to fall away, or you not keep up, and you might as well just go home.  You have to know your 'lefts' and 'rights' instinctively or you end up a wee bit closer to your neighbor than you anticipated and are comfortable with (remember there is lots of sweating).  There is the, always welcome,  "child's pose", your goto when you feel overwhelmed and just need a minute to catch your breath and not panic...   And the oh, so important, 'before hand hydration'.  

While I sweat more than I have ever sweat in my life while I am in that class, and I get sore muscles every time I attend, yoga is as much of an exercise for me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, as it is physically.  I know that I have that one hour - every day - where I am absolutely able to be mindfully present in the NOW.  It is the one hour every day where I can live the benefits of getting my body, my mind, my spirit and my breathing all working together to achieve something quite miraculous.  So many times I think to myself, "Wow, I didn't know I could bend like that".

At the end of your hour of stretching, bending and twisting, you enter into a final relaxation pose - savasana.  This pose encourages you find stillness as you relax every muscle that just worked so hard for you over the previous hour.  You honour your body for its hard work, and you honor your mind and your spirit by letting yourself be free of any thoughts (this is actually the HARDEST part of yoga for me.)

Today, during final savasana, the instructor guided us through mediation, and when we are at our most vulnerable and attentive state, she ended with 'food for thought' advice that left me in tears.  (Tears during savasana is pretty common, as during class, we often release the emotions we carry around in our muscles and joints.  Tears are our way of releasing those emotions.  But today, I wept)

Today's 'food for thought' advice was all about how hard we try to live up to societal norms and expectations. How we strive for acceptance and work so hard to appear a certain way, but in doing so, we forget OUR OWN truth.  How sometimes we make others opinions about how we should live our lives most important, we let that drive our bus, and over power OUR truth that lies within our own hearts.  This all hit home for me.

Jeremy and I are at a time in our lives where we are trying SO hard to financially catch up on some things, and to not get further behind on others.  Every day calls and emails come in...  We need money for this, and we have to pay that. School trips, dance school, music lessons, gas, bills, bills bills...  

The list is long, so long, and sometimes we have to deal with really cranky people whose job it is to convince you how much of a failure you are because you hit a bit of a rough patch.  They try to shame you into handing over some cash.  For me, the shaming part ALWAYS sticks, whether I can pay what they are asking, or not. Quite often I sit here with my arms open and my shoulders shrugged tearfully saying "How.the.fuck. am I going to cover it all.  There is just nothing left."  So there it is.  Our reality.

I carry that every where I go.  I hide the shame and I smile.  If I can't hide it, I don't go out.  It's that simple.  But the shame is always there.  the fear, the stress, the anxiety... it is always there.

Jeremy remains positive the majority of the time.  He wakes up early for work, brings me coffee and leaves promising me "Today IS going to be a GOOD day.  I feel it."  and quite often, it is so.

I retired from my career as a Structural Designer nearly two years ago to make my art business my full time job.  At the time we were able to live without my Engineering income, but then things changed.  So during this current time of struggle, I often think, "I need to get a job, I can help".  Ironically my specialization for pretty much my whole career was structural design in pipelines facilities, stations, and terminals.  ....ANNND there are just NO such jobs currently available in our province, nor will there be in the foreseeable future.

After today's savasana...  I sat in the change room cooling down before changing, answering a few clients emails and Facebook messages, and I was struck with a thought.  If they were still building and upgrading pipelines in our province, and if there were jobs available in my field, chances are, I would not be attending this yoga class.  I would not be answering emails and Facebook messages from my customers in a dressing room while cooling down, or planning how I would be spending my day, and figuring out what I could do TODAY to move my business forward.  I would be sitting in an office staring at a computer and a stack of drawings, or in a boardroom talking about schedules and deliverables...  

I would not have flexibility in my schedule.  I would not be driving my kids to school every morning shouting made up adjectives at them as I send them off for the day "Have a (groove-a-li-tious , fan-funk-ta-cular, rock-tastic to name a few) great day!"  I would not be in my house when my daughter comes home from school shout singing the lyrics to Adele's hit song when she enters.  I would not hear the excitement and endless chatter of their days events while they were still fresh.  I would not witness the subtle everyday ways in which they look after each other - that makes my heart burst.  I worked out of the home for most of their lives, and when I 'retired', it was with the intention that now I GET to be home with my kids.

If I did not have my home as my workplace, I would have missed so much.  Perhaps getting a job in my field would have been the easy way out of our situation.  But now that is not to be.  The Universe has spoken, it has forced my hand, as often it does when we get a little stuck behind our fear.  Sometimes things gotta get a little uncomfortable before we are inclined to make the changes we need to make.  

It's time to take things into my own hands and to move forward on my terms, in my 'called to' career, with me in the driver seat, knowing full well that I have everything in me, or the means to get it, to succeed...  That is my truth.

I don't know how all this stuff will shake out for our family, only time will tell... I do know, however, that it will be a while before we have many additional funds for life's extras.  That what used to be 'fun funds', now goes to pay the power bill, or to the grocery store for this weeks sustenance, because that's just HOW it has to be.  I know that no matter what, it will work out, and we will figure it out.

Today I am shining light on the shame, and saying "Figuring all this out really fucking sucks and I am done with caring more about what other people think, than what is in my heart.  I am getting crushed by the shame, and it need to STOP."

Because regardless of what happens, I have learned that it isn't money, or beach vacations, or houses, or cars that makes us rich.  THAT is my truth. RICH is SO much more than that.

I am squaring my shoulders, and standing tall in my glorious truth, and letting go of my debilitating fear of being judged...  And I know THAT is what will push me forward.


cool down contemplations

Monday, 4 January 2016

2016 - My year of 'Quiet'

Well, 2016 is upon us, and to some this means the start of new things.  I am not much for resolutions, but I do like to sit quietly with my thoughts at this time and reflect on the year that has passed -

I declared 2015 to be my year of 'Grace'.  When I first made the declaration, my intention was to offer more grace to others.  To love more, to judge less, to have more patience, and to have a wide open heart.  To look past disappointment and the dreaded expectations and offer 'Grace' in a kind and loving way to all whom I encountered.

However, very early into 2015 I swiftly, and somewhat brutally learned that offing 'Grace' to others was not the divine lesson that was in store for me.  It seemed that lurking behind every twist and hairpin turn in my 2015 path, the Universe was snickering "Grace huh?  Let's see how you handle this!"

Our 2015 offered many lumps and bumps, and as the calendar switched to 2016, I crossed the 2015 finish line weary, bloodied, battered and bruised.  But not broken.

I, tongue in cheek, will likely always refer to 2015 as "the year that kicked the shit out of me".  It made me question,  re-evaluate, and change how I perceived pretty much everything.  My friendships, my parenting, my family, my career choices, my business decisions, my financial choices, my marriage, my self worth... All of it.  I weathered storms - of hurricane caliber - in pretty much everyone of these areas.

2015 carried with it SO many lessons - most of which I was able to handle with an outward appearance of  'Grace'.  Some of those lessons were hard and devastating, and some were a simple but necessary affirmation of my correct path in this journey, and some, well, I guess I am still trying to figure out what the heck the lesson was...  But what I KNOW for sure is that all the lessons - good or bad - known or unknown - are all so very sacred because they truly showed me what I needed most to know about 'Grace'.

What I needed most to know about 'Grace' was that I rarely offered it to myself. 
Offering 'Grace' to others was a breeze, but offering it to myself was not something that  came easily to me at all.  I am SO very hard on myself when things do not go 'right'.  Harder on myself than I would ever allow anyone else to be on me.  In 2015, I promised to stop...  To try to show myself some of the 'Grace' I so eagerly offer to others.

While 2015 was very trying, it also holds some of my life's most magical moments.

  • I learned that even though facing the reality of aging parents as a 'now' only child still wallops me, I am able to manage the scary stuff, even when everything inside me wants nothing more than to just be little again.
  • In 2015, I learned I could take some huge hits, and still smile...  But then also reach out to my life line of heart friends when the swirling darkness threatened to pull me under...
  • I learned how to recognize what life line of heart friends really looked like.
  • In 2015 I was the recipient of a very generous act of kindness.  One that still makes me put my head down and do the ugly cry when I think about it.  I have kept it very sacred, safe, and close to my heart, but will someday openly share it.  I was an unforgettable act of pure love.
  • I got to hang out with many of my all time favorite Canadian Music Icons in 2015. 
  • In 2015 I was able to see more of our amazingly beautiful  and historically rich country, and create some lifelong memories when I travelled with Emma on her Grade 7 School trip to Quebec. 
  • I learned that miracles can happen, and the unlikeliest of forces can unite in the protection of those loved so very much.
  • I welcomed my first Grandchild, and began the next phase of my life as 'Mimi', as I tearfully and proudly watched my son become 'dad', and my husband become 'grandpa'.  This event also created some incredibly excited, doting and head over heels in love Auntie's, Uncle's and Great Grandparents among those I hold dearest.  I am SO grateful for my front row seats to witness this beauty.
  • I put my toes in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time ever when I was able to escape for some connecting time on a South Carolina Beach with some of my most beloved sisters, for some time of sacred sistering.
  • I started my stint as a teacher for Brave Girl University.
  • I was able to play a small part in several love stories this year with Fearless hART as my guide..

So, 2015 - My year of 'Grace' I respectfully and humbly bow to you for all we endured together.  All the good times, and all the challenges.  Know that I am grateful, and that I view each lesson is a perfectly beautiful albeit messy gift.
One seldom emerges from a period of trying times completely unscathed.  I am finding that there are still some things that need to be resolved, some decisions that need to be made, some questions that need to be answered, and some wounds that need to be healed.  I begin this new year feeling a wee bit scattered, disjointed, foggy and in need of some clarity.

As I leave my lesson filled year of 'Grace', I will be entering into my soul searching and reflective year, that will be guided by 'Quiet'.

I will be spending my 2016 turning down and cutting out the noise...  So that I am able to hear my own voice, my own intuition, my own needs and desires, and my own callings to serve.  It is the year of making my own voice matter as much to me as everyone else's.  It is the year of finding my center and refocusing on what really matters, and letting go of what really doesn't.  Clutter is noise, judgement is noise, speaking without action is noise, 'Should' is noise.

I will be spending more time reading books and less time reading click bait articles such as "67 characteristics of a successful person", "342 ways to be happy", "84 tips to be a better mom" - or any other generalized opinionated summation that points out the ways in which I am failing - without knowing anything about me, or my life.  It is all noise.

To cut out the noise, I am reinstating a daily yoga and meditation practice.  To honor the 'quiet' I will write every day.

I will be reducing my screen time, and increasing my face time in 2016.

May the 'Quiet' allow me to hear my own voice.  May the 'Quiet' lead me to be authentically intentional in all of my choices.  May the 'Quiet' help me to live in the present moment - not in the ones that have passed, or worrying about the ones that haven't come yet.  

And may I offer myself 'Grace' as I fumble on down this road and I gratefully accept as many 'Day Ones' as it takes - I anticipate needing many.

The Work of Byron Katie

May your 2016 be all that you need it to be.

With love and gratitude,