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!
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.”
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.
“The universe doesn’t give you what you ask for with your thoughts – it gives you what you demand with your actions.”
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.
“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”
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.
“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.”
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.
So I recently took some time to do a long overdue road trip to my hometown in Saskatchewan. I was lucky enough to be raised in this beautiful prairie landscape. I had an amazing childhood exploring the blanketed golden fields and basking under the vast and unending skies that once belonged to me. Or that was how it felt. That it was all for me and me alone. That is how the wide open prairies can make you feel. No noise. No chaos. No weight.
So as I ventured out on my road trip, I reflected. I gripped the steering wheel with both hands as I passed a highway sign ripped in two from the beautiful breeze that is often passing through the prairies. I amused myself by counting the cows along the highway… wait… is that a donkey? That’s new. Okay. Still. I drive. And I appreciate. And I reflect.
I did not always feel that way about the prairies. Like any restless young individual, I wanted out. I wanted the noise. And the chaos. And the weight. I had a thirst for more. I was tired of the vast nothingness. I stopped noticing the endless skies and all the stars that lived there. I focused solely on the boredom that only a young unappreciative brat could focus on. And the cold. And the wind. And the mosquitos. Ugh. Blech. Blah. (Okay still don’t like that stuff)
So I left. I left and I quenched my thirst. Life was not easy as you know but I did learn and I explored and I ventured. And sometimes it was good. Bud sadly, I lost my roots. I was pulled away without realizing what was happening. I was disconnected from what I knew and what would always be there for me. I was blocked from what was my foundation. And I got lost. Someone led me away and I got lost.
It took me a lot of courage and strength to find my way back. And when I did, I vowed I would never break those roots again. As is only the way of a solid foundation, it is always there waiting for you. Waiting to replant the roots and nurture them so they can grow once again. Deeper and stronger than they were before.
Although this is no longer my current home (and I do love my current home), this is and will always be home to a piece of my heart. The people and the landscape house my roots and water and feed them regularly. So I drive. And I appreciate. And I reflect. And my heart is full.
This is all for me and me alone. And the donkey. I can share.
“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
“Forgiveness is for you – not the other person. It’s something you do inside yourself that you feel in your body and heart that releases you from your past and frees you to live life fully.”
Barbara J Hunt
My healing process has been slow. I have taken my time. A reason why my process took so long is because of my stubbornness to admit that I have wounds. Chin up. Shoulders back. Move forward. I. Am. Fine.
I have discovered the hard way that to heal your wounds is to admit that they exist. You can’t tend to your wounds until you look at them. Be curious about them. Poke at them and see if they bleed. Then let them. That’s how they clot. And the clot is what closes them. And when they close, they heal.
But they will leave their marks. The scars will always be there and that is not a bad thing. The scars are what remind us that we have weathered a storm. We have the strength to weather another storm. They will remind us that we are who we are because we were once wounded and we healed. They will also remind us to forgive.
To forgive. Oh boy. That’s a big one. I ignored my wounds for a long time and by doing this, I also avoided having to forgive. I was angry that karma didn’t take immediate action and kick some serious ass. But she (or he) didn’t. She (or he) abandoned me. So I was left to watch someone who caused me so much pain, move on as if nothing happened and live a happy little life. I hated that. I couldn’t even think about forgiveness. I wanted revenge.
This year has taught me many things but one is that people are going to be who they are. You can’t change them. You can’t fix them and you can’t change them. Even when they cause others pain and even if they do pay for that pain. Nothing you do will change them. I have learned to accept people for who they are. All people. And through this, I have learned to forgive. To stop looking for karma. For revenge. Just forgive and let go.
Chin up. Shoulders back. Move forward. I have scars and I am not fine. I am great!
“Singing connects the mind with the heart and the heart with the soul. So sing. I dare you.”
Neale Donald Walsch
I remember a time when I used to get in the car and turn on my favorite music and sing along at the top of my lungs. Like a superstar. I stopped doing that. I don’t even know when I stopped. I didn’t even realize I stopped. It just dawned on me one day that I did.
Why did I stop doing these things? When did I Iet things get so serious that I stopped doing the silly things that gave me so much pleasure. The simple things. The things that took no effort at all. I let my mind fill up with all the things that consumed me from day to day. And instead of singing, I thought. I planned. I organized. I stressed. Maybe it’s just me.
I think maybe we all tend to fill our lives with so much. Good bad and indifferent. But we fill up. Our days fly by and we check things off of our lists. Maybe some days we achieve great things. Reach a goal. Celebrate a victory. All good things. But when do we pause? When do we let ourselves be kids again? Be actors practicing our Oscar acceptance speech (yes I did that… so?). Musicians winning a Grammy. Play dress up. Whatever. When do we give ourselves permission to stop being adults and play again.
Yesterday I arrived at a weekend retreat on a beautiful beach. It is an hours drive from my home and when I got in the car, I opened the sunroof, I turned on the music and I sang. I sang for an hour. And it was amazing. I sang loud and bold. And it felt great. Now its your turn. Go jump in a puddle. Put your toes in the water on your lunch break. Laugh at nothing when your walking down the street. Who cares who’s looking or listening. Let them. What’s the worst that can happen. Hey – maybe they will join you. Maybe just maybe you will be driving home from work today and look at the car next to you at the red light and see someone singing. Or just playing the drums on their steering wheel ;).
Take a moment today to be silly. Take a moment to sing. Just sing. But make sure it’s off key. It’s way more fun when it’s off key.
I was at a funeral last year. I didn’t know Grant well but he was a good friend of my boss. So I went to show my support. I felt I needed to go but did so grudgingly. I was even bitter about feeling I had to be there. Don’t get me wrong, I had met Grant a number of times and knew a lot about him and he was an amazing individual. But I don’t do well with funerals. Who does! I know! But I reeeaaalllyyy don’t do well. My anxiety hits an all time high. Especially when I don’t know the person well and really don’t feel I belong there. But I needed to go and I knew that. And I’m glad I went as I could see from my boss that it meant a great deal. I don’t always agree with him but the fact is he has been there for me. And would do anything for me and I know this. So I went.
So I finally get there, late. Swearing because I had to park far away and because, well… I’m an asshole in this moment. I’m standing in place outside the seating area just as the service is about to start and up on the screen I notice the dates of his life lived. 1971 – 2019. 1971. One year after I was born. I felt like I got slapped in the face.
The past few days, weeks, months prior to this I had been struggling with depression. Anger. Bitterness. And depression. And a whole big bash of a pity party on top of it. Here is a guy one year younger than me and he has built a successful business, coached and mentored countless kids in hockey, dedicated spare time to snow mobiles and lake life, and had a wife and child that loved him desperately. He had it all. And then one day he contracted bacterial meningitis and the man everyone knew was gone. It took 4 months for him to pass but he was gone that night. I had to park far away for a reason. This man was revered.
It made me stop and think. Funny but a funeral lifted my mood. Maybe that sounds bad. But it kicked me in the ass. It’ was time to stand the fuck up again. I think I had forgotten that for awhile. Yes, life is hard. Full of challenges but, I am here. I am alive and I am capable of anything. I am here.
I walked away from that day feeling a new determination to succeed. To find my purpose and passion. And with that, my strengths and my weaknesses. I need to be weak so I can be strong. I need to be vulnerable so I can be trusting. I need to ask for help so I can help others. I was waiting for life to get easier. But it doesn’t. It never gets easier. It just gets more rewarding.
So this is for you Grant. I can do this. And I will do this.
“There is no paycheck that can equal the feeling of contentment that comes from being the person you are meant to be.”
Life does not wait for you to catch up. It moves and it grows. It continues relentlessly on its path. It is up to us to follow and maybe, just maybe, we can lead. If we work hard and accept that complacency is not an option, maybe we can control it. We can shape it into what we want it to be. What we need it to be. What we deserve it to be.
I left my job after 9 years. That is a long time. A long time of building relationships. Learning new skills and improving on old ones. A long time of showing up everyday and doing the best damn job I could do. And then one day I decided it was time to walk out that door. And my life’s path changed direction. But. It’s not slowing down. It’s still moving. And growing. So must I.
I am so incredibly excited to follow this new path. This fast moving, out of control life’s path. But not so out of control if you really thing of it. I moved the path. Me. I decided. I control that path. We all control our path. Sometimes we just don’t realize it. Sometimes it moves so fast all we can do is try to keep up. And those days are okay too.
Today, this is my path. Mine. And I will direct it and I will determine the speed and the grace at which it moves. I own my path and it will be a good path. A strong and sure path that invites guests to travel it with me. And I am so incredibly excited to have our paths join from time to time. So incredibly grateful that your path and my path bump into each other. For however long. I am grateful.
Life is full of challenges and I choose to walk into them. Face them. Look them in the eye. For me there is no longer any other way.
Today I walked through a door. It won’t be the last one.
Mental health is hard. It is sneaky and it is consuming. And sometimes it is tragic. You do not always know when people are suffering. You may not have any idea. Because to truly know would be to be in a persons mind. In their heart. Behind their closed door.
Hopefully. You can make a different in the lives of your crew. Your people. Your inner circle. You can pay attention and see when someone is having a hard time and offer them a hand or a shoulder. We see the people close to us. We pay attention to the people close to us. Hopefully.
But we don’t always pay attention to the people that enter our lives every day. Sometimes only for a split second. Sometimes for 50 minutes at a time. Sometimes only once. Sometimes 5 times a week. These are the people we see but do not know. These are the people that sneak by us. Living their life while we live ours.
So think about this. Next time offer them a brighter smile. Ask them more questions about themselves. Notice them. See them. Pay more attention.
And think of this the next time you take your bad day out on some poor cashier. Or server. Think about this the next time you ignore someone who is trying to offer you a friendly smile or trying to get to know you. Think about this too. And don’t stop thinking about this.
Be quick with a compliment. Don’t just think that someone has beautiful eyes or a nice smile. Tell them. Use your voice. Have you ever had a stranger come up to you and pay you an unexpected compliment? I have. It can make your day. It can turn around a bad day. It can make a difference. It DOES make a difference. So use your voice. And use it for good. Use it to make a difference in someone’s day. Someone’s life.
You never know what is going on in someones mind. In their home. In their heart. Behind their door.
Think about this. Be thoughtful. Be generous. Open your door.