No bad lessons.

“When you accept yourself, you are freed from the burden of needing others to accept you. Don’t allow anyone or anything control, limit, repress, or discourage you from being your true self.”

Steve Maraboli

I’ve had an ‘aha’ moment. It came to me after writing a recent post. I struggled with that post. Firstly because I was rushed and couldn’t make it ‘my perfect’. No big deal. Secondly because I shared the draft with someone and asked for feedback.

The feedback came from a very kind and well educated gentleman who was so very happy to be asked for his opinion. He was sweet with his pointers and suggestions. I was looking for feedback on the content of my post. He was trying to give an English lesson. And as you know if you are reading this, my writing will never win any English essays. Nor are they intended too.

I listened to the intended lesson with gratitude, respect and openness as I always do. But it made me question myself. I let it frazzle me. Stress me out… Hello anxiety, my oldest friend… how are you?

I read the post over and over again. Finding flaws. But the flaws I found were not in the grammar or spelling. The flaws were in the lack of ‘me’ that I like to pour into my writing. I realized that I let some well meaning tips and suggestions bring me back to a place that I thought I had left behind. That place of self-doubt. That place of not being good enough. Oh how close that place continues to be for me. Always beckoning. Always such a short trip away.

So I stopped. Revisited my intention. Here comes the ‘aha’ moment… I asked myself who I was really writing this for. A kind, well educated gentleman?… A supportive friend who likes my writing?… A struggling person who needs to know they are not alone?…

Ultimately, nope.

I am writing this for me. These are my words. This is my voice. You don’t have to read it. You don’t have to share it. You don’t have to like it. I will always be grateful for feedback. But at the end of the day, I decide. I straightened up, turned my back on that place of self-doubt and once again, walked away.

I write. I publish. I heal. I decide.

Doing the hard things. Part 2.

It’s a great quote… worth repeating…

“If we always choose comfort, we will never learn the deepest capabilities of our mind or body.”

Wim Hof

Well. I did it. I walked into Okanagan Lake on November 17, 2020. I walked confidently and boldly and it was amazing. I felt every cell of my body come alive. I was alive.

I had a short amount of time to write Part 1 of this blog so let me digress a bit. Leading up to this moment I travelled through a gambit of emotions and mind numbing noise. Fear. Anxiousness. Nervousness. Excitement. Anticipation.

Anticipation. Let’s visit that one. What was the hardest part of this entire process was without doubt, hesitation or question… the anticipation. Part 1. Part 1 is what sometimes holds us back from doing the hard things. From committing ourselves to follow through. To step up. To step out. Anticipation can be a glorious part of our process. But it can also be the detriment. We can allow the anticipation to consume us and control us. But as I mentioned in part 1. It is only temporary. The anticipation is ALWAYS temporary. Because regardless of how the story ends, the anticipation will end. It has too. Whether it is a happy ending or a disappointing ending. Anticipation passes and the deed… the experience… is done.

In this case, the story had a good ending. I did what I set out to do. And what an amazing experience. What a ride. I didn’t walk in to that water and let loose a string of expletives that would make a trucker blush. I didn’t walk in and scream like a little girl at a Justin Bieber concert. I walked in and thought to myself, I can do this and it is doable. I can and I will and I did.

I walked in and I felt cold. I felt courage. I felt strength. I noticed the clarity of the water enveloping my body. The softness of the sand at my feet. The fresh scent of the air entering my lungs. Breath in. Breath out.

In this moment, everything stopped and my mind became still. And it was beautiful.

I can do the hard things.

And I noticed the laughter. The team of misfits that walked with me. Led me. Thank you Thank you Thank you.

Doing the hard things. Part 1.

“If we always choose comfort, we will never learn the deepest capabilities of our mind or body.”

Wim Hof

Guess what I am doing today. Waaaayyyyy out of my comfort zone. Yup. I am walking into a lake. In November. I am doing this. The polar dip.

Let me walk you through my day so far. It started out sleepy as I was up for 2 hours last night obsessing about my commitment to my friend to do this crazy thing.

Ok wait. Let’s back up a bit. I had heard about cold water therapy and Wim Hof (look him up, he’s amazing!) for about a year now. No big deal. Then someone else recently reminded me of him and his amazing teachings. Getting closer. Then a friend who I admire greatly and would blindly trust with my life asked me if I would do a polar dip with her. I said no. She said it was all she wanted for her birthday. Fuck. I committed.

So back to today. Sleepy but trying to stay calm. Keeping focused. Writing as it is my meditation. Focus. Focus. Focus. Doing a bit of research on breathing. Good. Feeling good. I can do this. I can do hard things.

In my mind I am picturing myself walking towards the water. Calmly but not too slow. Steady and strong. Determined and focused. After all this is only temporary state. And that is my key. This is temporary. Isn’t everything really? It can all be temporary if you choose to let it go. Pain can be temporary. Stress can be temporary. Even laughter is temporary. And cold… Cold is temporary.

Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out.

Here I go.

Gratitude, faith and courage.

“When faith and courage meet, the world changes.”

Unknown (but it is posted above my bathroom sink to remind me)

I wake up each day trying to practice gratitude. Today I will try even harder to appreciate and not complain about the little things. To find positive over negative. I will start by appreciating faith and courage. Today seems to be a good day for this focus.

I remember the first few months that I was on my own thinking, how am I going to do all the things I want to do? I had a limited income as I had never truly focused on a career before. But I was now free to do and experience what I wanted. Which was to travel. I really wanted to travel. I also wanted to own a modestly nice home. A nice car. With the features I wanted and not someone else. But all of these things took more than my limited income could cover. I sadly thought that the only way I would have financial freedom would be if I met someone that was financially stable. That was stupid. And I hated that I was so ready to depend on someone again. Once again, I was wrong.

What happened after is still something that causes me to pause and wonder in amazement. And what happened after is not one thing. Not one event or one occurrence. It was a string of days, months and years that came together simply because I decided that I could do all the things I wanted to do and have all the things I wanted to have. And I didn’t need anyone else to achieve my goals. It was all up to me. No one was stopping me. The ceiling, my ceiling, was shattered.

What happened was, I began to believe. To have faith. In me. I started by setting my mind to ask ‘why not?’ instead of ‘why?’. And things started happening. My income increased because I said it should. An opportunity to join a successful part time business presented itself. I started getting requests for custom artwork again. Things just started to happen. All because I believed.

Sounds easy but it was not. Just believe. Two simple words that took an immense amount of courage to say. To trust. To have faith. It all takes courage. I stood with my head held high and I believed that I could do whatever I set my mind to do. And it didn’t just fall in my lap. It didn’t appear one day and bam! Life got better. It took patience and hard work. It took putting myself out there to be open to change. To be on the battlefield ready. To face fear and vulnerability. But I stood my ground and I walked forward. I didn’t charge. It wasn’t really a battlefield. I walked forward on steady feet. And even when they weren’t steady… I stumbled forward. Always forward.

Faith and courage. And gratitude. So much gratitude.

The blame game is lame.

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”

Dr. Robert Anthony

I grew up in a family of seven. Three sisters, one brother and two parents. My family is my constant. My parents my role model. My siblings and I were always their priority. We never doubted being wanted. They taught me all of the most important things I value today. Honesty, respect, hard work, kindness… and accountability.

I have met a lot of people that have suffered abusive relationships and there is often a common background story of neglect and/or abuse that led up to the relationship. So why did I go down the path I did? Why, when I had parents who gave me everything they had available to them, beautifully and unselfishly? Where did I go wrong? It took me a great deal of reluctant digging to find where and how I got off of a healthy path. Reluctant because I knew I had no one to blame. I had no narcissistic or abusive adult to point a finger at. I was not neglected by an alcoholic parent. So then, I had to look at myself.

I was a painfully shy kid. The kid that hid behind my mother or father when we went anywhere because I couldn’t talk to anyone. On top of that, I always felt different than everyone else. I just didn’t feel like I belonged. When I got older, I found myself wanting more than what I could find in my small hometown. I wanted adventure and challenge. But. I was so shy. So scared of the world. I was stuck. I was stuck and hungry. I was stuck and looking to belong. And then I met him.

He entered my world promising a life of excitement. He told me stories of his travels. Stories of his adventures. Plans of more to come. And I hooked my wagon up to his train for the free ride. Because that was the hook. I was waiting for the free ride. The ride where I didn’t have to overcome my shyness. Or be brave enough to face any challenges on my own. I could just let someone else take control. I took the easy road. We never went on any of those adventures. There was little excitement and a lot of hardship. Struggles. Battles. I took what I thought was the easy road but in fact in was a very hard road. And a long one.

There is no easy road. I know that now. The easy road isn’t so fun. It is not filled with the adventure and excitement that you think it is. It is a dangerous road and I travelled it. And I am accountable for that path. I took that path because I didn’t know how or want to know how to make my own. So I cannot blame a guy who made me feel disrespected and worthless. I cannot blame an upbringing that was nothing but happy and safe. I can only look at the choices I made and understand that I and I alone am accountable.

Accountable for the hard life I chose. The hard times I endured. The life I changed. The life I now own and embrace. And… (pay attention – this is important!)… for not making the same mistake twice. Accountability works both ways. And when you own the bad choices, it leaves space for you to learn. To make better choices. To be better. And I am also accountable for that. Accountable for my courage. My own adventures. My happy.

So do I point a finger at someone else because life got hard? Nope.

The blame game is lame. Look in the mirror. Because that person is the only one ultimately responsible for your life.

Give me a new mind.

“The two things in life you are in total control over are your attitude and your effort.”

Billy Cox

I spend approximately 6 hours at the gym each week training my body. Training to be strong. Training to be healthy. Training to be in this life for the long haul and kicking ass when I am 80. This is what I do for my physical health. But I’ll admit I slack off on training my mind. Controlling my attitude. Putting in the work for my mental health. Also to be in this life for the long haul and kicking ass. Success is an attitude. Growth is an attitude. Happiness is an attitude. And if we don’t train our minds to control our attitudes, none of that is attainable or sustainable. Just like if we are not physically active, our physical health is not attainable or sustainable. It just isn’t. Simple.

I can tell you from my own experience that training your mind to control your attitude is harder than any amount of push ups at the gym. It takes more strength and perseverance that any physical activity I do. It takes constant reminders. Constant. Like any kind of training that we do, it takes repetitions. And it is so easy to procrastinate and get lazy. So easy to get off track. Because let’s face it, we get knocked down. And the easy road is to wallow in self pity. To judge and gossip. To be angry and bitter. I am so good at all of these things! Way too good. But like anything else, practice is key. I catch myself. I pivot. Train my mind to control my attitude. Find something, anything, to appreciate. No matter how small because the small movements can also get you closer to your goal. And my goal is to be a positive and energetic influence to those around me. I think it’s a good goal.

A friend of mine introduced me to one of my favorite songs last year… ‘Rejoice’ by Steve Angello. There is so much in this song that resonates with me… here is just a little piece of it…

Put your hand on your head and say: Give me a new mind
Give me new mind means give me a new perspective
Give me a new perspective
Give me a new way of looking at my situation
Give me a new way of looking at my circumstances
Get my mind ready for this year
Because when I get this year there’s gonna be blessings
There’s gonna be miracles, there’s gonna to be opportunities
Oh, yes, it’s gonna be some struggles
It’s gonna be some challenges
It’s gonna be some tests
But even the struggles are an opportunity for me to show off
The victory if my mind can handle the change

I play this song for when I forget. When I am slow on the pivot. When I get knocked down.

I put my hand on my head and say ‘Give me a new mind’. And take a deep breath. And pivot.

Pause for a rant.

I just read an article citing that 25% of Canadians feel their mental health is suffering more now than at the beginning of this pandemic. I get it. Winter is coming. Infections are up. We are scared. This is not surprising. I am scared too. But what I am afraid of is not of being cooped up inside or getting sick. I am afraid because you are afraid. Mental Health is so overlooked. We seem to be mostly focused (and all good!) on wearing masks, social distancing and sanitizing. I am not going to say ‘washing our hands’ because if you weren’t doing that before… well… I have no words. Go buy some toilet paper!

I digress.

We can do all the zoom calls and virtual parties that we want but it just doesn’t measure up to real human interaction. There is no way around it. We. Need. People. We need connection. We need touch. We need to look each other in the eyes and see a smile. Feel a smile. Laugh. Roll on the floor and laugh. Have you ever tried to roll on the floor laughing while holding your smart phone cause you are Face-timing? Not the same thing. And awkward. So awkward.

So yes, I am afraid too. Studies have shown that loneliness is a contributing factor to poor health. It can even slow down recovery times. It is a thing. A real thing. So don’t discount how you are feeling. Don’t pretend that you are not in that 25% of Canadians if you are. Because if you are, it is okay. It sucks but it is okay.

“All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul and they will never notice how broken you really are.”

Robin Williams

So here is my rant. While the government is handing out all the financial aid, where is our mental health assistance? The financial aid is great and necessary for many people. But where is our health care coverage for mental illness? Why isn’t mental therapy covered by our health care system? We are covered for basic physical ailments. Why does it stop there? We can go for regular check ups to ensure our physical health is where it should be. What about our regular check ups for our mental health? And if it does exist please let me know so I can share it. I would love to be proved wrong here.

And on that note, here is another point I would like everyone to consider. Mental Health is not something that you can go to a doctor for and be cured with a prescription. It is ongoing. A life’s worth of work. And we can all benefit from it because we all have our ‘shit’. All of us! And regular check ups are necessary. Reminders to stay on our path are necessary.

Think about it this way. If you are recovering from a heart attack, you don’t go home and settle back in to the old lifestyle that lead you to the heart attack to begin with. You make changes. And you go back to your doctor for regular check ups to make sure you are on the right path. Now how about your mental health? As I mentioned, we all have our ‘shit’. And getting help to work through it is important. Go see a professional. Get help. Make the changes. And go back for regular check ups to make sure you are on the right path. Just like recovering from the heart attack.

Just saying. Something to think about.

Rant over. Thanks for listening 🙂

You only get a clue.

“The universe doesn’t give you what you ask for with your thoughts – it gives you what you demand with your actions.”

Steve Maraboli

I am a big believer in everything happens for a reason.  Sometimes we have no idea what that reason is.  A lot of times none of it makes sense.  And then occasionally we are forced to face some uncomfortable facts that we just don’t want to accept. 

Call it the universe and it’s grand plan.  Call it God and His plan.  Call it Karma.  Call it whatever you like and whatever your comfortable with.  No matter what you call it, it exists.  Sometimes it creeps up on you and sometimes it hits you like a ton of bricks.  Only one thing is certain.  We have to face it. 

And sometimes it is not pleasant.

Whether it is death, illness, broken heart, betrayal, or just plain ignorance.  It is there to teach us something. 

I recently passed a moment in my life where something completely unexpected happened.  I knew it was there to present me with an opportunity.  I just had no idea what that opportunity was.  And what I thought it was, what I whole heartedly believed it was, what I even allowed myself to hope it was… it was not.  I misread this moment.  But before I got too far down this path, I made myself – no forced myself – to stop. Although disguised as a really nice path, it was not a healthy one.  You see, it was one I had been down before. It took a great deal of energy for me to stop and pause.  Take a breath.  Take a moment to understand that this moment had happened for another reason.  This moment was there to teach me to weigh all my options. 

This moment was also there to teach me my value.  How valuable I am and will always be.  It taught me that I am deserving of all great things and those things are not necessarily easy.  That my hard work is not yet over. Someday maybe this path will be easier. But it’s okay if it is not because this path is so very rewarding. These lessons so very valuable.

So don’t ignore the ‘universe and it’s plan’. But don’t expect it to give you the answers. It won’t. It will only give you clues. It is up to you to find the answers. Keep your eyes open. Keep your mind open. Keep your heart open.

Rivers will flow.

“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”

John O’Donohue

Life is full of choices. Hard choices. I’ve said that before but it warrants repeating because it is a constant. Fearing, resisting or ignoring these hard choices is not an option. It will get you nowhere. No growth. No progress. No successes. And so… another choice must be made.

Life will present you with opportunities or situations that bring you to those choices. Just when you think everything is going smoothly. Just when you think “I got this”. Just when you get comfortable, you look up and there it is. Or sometimes it comes up from the side and surprises you. Either way. It is another option. Staring you right in the eye. Sometimes these options are easy. And sometimes they make you question everything you have been feeling and doing. They make you question what you really need and want.

Fighting these moments are pointless. Ignoring these moments is not a solution. As with all questions and opportunities, they need attention. They won’t go away. Or they will and you miss out and have a harder choice down the road. So don’t ignore them. See them. Hear them. Feel them.

Think of it as a river. Let it flow. Through you. Past you. Watch it. Absorb it and ask yourself what it can bring to you. There is only one thing that is certain. The river will continue to flow. You can’t stop it. You can never stop the flow of a river. Nor can you stop the moments in your life that will change your course. Your journey.

Choices are hard and they are scary. Life is hard and it is scary. But it is also so amazingly beautiful if you accept it as it flows. See it. Hear it. Feel it.

Love it.

No filters.

“It’s none of my business what people say of me and think of me. I am what I am and I do what I do. I expect nothing and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier.”

Anthony Hopkins

I think we all strive for perfection. In some form or another. And I plead guilty to this without hesitation. I am guilty of this to a fault. Some would call it being competitive. And yup. Guilty again. But as with all of the components of my character, I am working on it. I am working harder every day to accept imperfect. Expect nothing and accept everything.

That doesn’t mean I stop trying to get better at things. I still work at being a better writer. A better artist. A better person. I will continue to work hard at my physical and mental health. All of these things are important to me. Essential to my goal of being perfectly imperfect.

I am guilty of wanting to be the best. I am guilty of wanting to have the best hair and the perfect physique. I am guilty of wanting to have the nicer car and the cleanest home. I struggle to not give in to false appearances. To not use a filter on my selfies. To portray an image that simply isn’t me. Please don’t think I am judging anyone for having or doing these things. I am not. I respect everyone’s choices that are made for their own happiness and well being. This is just my choice for me.

A choice I make because it is the best way for me to love myself for me. To accept myself for all my imperfections and flaws. I did not love myself for a long time. I found everything wrong and nothing right. I focused only on an inconvenient blemish or a soft cushy muffin top hanging out of my jeans. I did not focus on my bright smile or my kind heart. On my many qualities that make me someone to be proud of. Instead I felt shame. Shame to be imperfect.

I am working hard to overcome this. I have learned that the only opinion that really matters is mine. That what everyone else thinks of me is simply none of my business. If I love myself, then that is enough. I am enough. And I am enough. And what is most remarkable about this discovery is that the people that have stayed or entered into my life with this new self-love are people that want to share that love. Not take it away.

So this is me. No filters. No glamour. No smoke and mirrors. I am imperfect. And I am beautiful.