#52SmallThings

I’ve been following The Mighty for a little while, because the posts ring SO true to home for me and the entries truly resonate with me.

Today I notice a challenge that was posted for 52 Small Things – a year long challenge to get into habits, which is something I’m sorely in need of. I even joined the community in order to take part with people I could likely connect with more.

Nope. Technology strikes again. I wrote the entry, hit “post”, assigned a user name to myself, aaaaand….. blank screen. Just white. Nothing there. No words, no submission, no nothing.

I tried to comment on the post – and same thing. The site kept telling me I was logged out, when I clearly wasn’t judging by my face in the top corner of the page. I gave up. Obviously there’s a glitch in the Matrix somewhere.

I was frustrated, but then realized there’s no reason to be. I have time to rewrite it. That’s all I have, really, is time. Sitting. Because today is a bad brain day, and I’m sitting and watching movies to avoid dizzy brain space from taking over again. Like it did first thing this morning, and nearly landed my ass on the floor.

So here I am, writing it again. But on my own blog, because I think it’s a good thing to take up. Without judgement or expectation, and no beating myself up for not sticking with it. I’m gonna try, and that’s the best I can really do.

They have goals to follow, but there are some that I really need to pick up for myself first. These aren’t New Year’s resolutions – they’re self care goals.

Week 1: EYE MASK
I have a chalazion on my left eye that I’ve been treating with heat packs since my eye appointment in November. I was instructed to do this for 1-1.5 hours a day, and I was doing really well. For awhile. That habit dropped entirely for a couple of weeks, and I’ve been good about doing it daily again. But only twice a day. I need to get this thing dealt with, which means I need to take care of it more often. I makes my vision blurry for at least 15 minutes after each treatment, which takes away quite a bit of time from seeing. But there are many things I can do without proper vision. No more excuses. And who knows – maybe if it gets smaller it’ll help reduce my double vision. My care team doesn’t believe it’s the cause of it, but I’d like to think they might be wrong.

Week 2: DRINK. MORE. WATER.
I’ve been waking up early and not ready to get out of bed. Three a.m. is not conducive to movement. But if I drink water, I need to pee, and I don’t want to have to get out of bed yet, but then I spend too much time laying there after and by the time I do get up I’m struggling with dizzy spells and it starts the day of horribly. It’s time to fix that.

Week 3: YOGA.
I have too many bad excuses why I’m not practising more, and too many reasons that I should be doing it more. I have been practicing, but not as much as I’ve wanted to. I really need to drink more water to combat the dizzy spells before performing asanas, so I can sweep the animal fur up before placing my mat down. But by the time I get enough water in me it’s the afternoon, and I need food, and practicing with a full stomach is uncomfortable, and by the time I’m ready to practice I forget about it. Thankfully, I have a robo-vacuum on the way, which will take care of the sweeping issue, and if I can get my water drinking habit handled then I really have no good excuse to skip it.

Week 4: SELF MASSAGE
It’s good to increase blood flow and and lymph flow, as well as moisturize my poor, dry, malnourished winterized skin. Without the threat of getting the hose if I don’t follow through. It’s a habit I’ve sorely fallen out of, and picking it back up has been a struggle. Once a week shouldn’t be hard to turn into once a day.

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I reached out … now what?

Asking for help has never been easy. It means I owe a debt, and it’s not always a debt I’m sure I’m able to repay, so it’s only when I’m truly desperate that I do what I feel is grovelling to others to request help. If I’m able to repay the favor, then it’s not hard to ask, but without having that balance I struggle with the request.

Experiences can be humbling, can’t they?

I am at what might be my most humble. I’ve had to ask for help before, but not quite like this.

This year has been a struggle, and we’ve kept many details to ourselves. During yoga teacher training I wasn’t able to keep up well with sales so much, as there was so much going on with trying to finish training as well as my aromatherapy certification. There was also a side project underway where a new company became incorporated, and so much effort had been put into getting this endeavour underway. It was ready to go, and we were just waiting for our financing to come through. It would have been so good for us, but that’s when things started to go wrong. That’s when I could no longer make sense of the things happening. That’s when I couldn’t focus on any of the tasks I was working on without making silly mistakes. And that’s when I had to admit that I couldn’t move forward with the company we incorporated, because it was completely a team effort and we were both needed in order to move forward with it.

We cancelled all plans with the incorporation. We still own it for the time being, but nothing has progressed with it. We wanted to wait to see what would happen.

I am short of my yoga teacher training certification by 10 hours because the worst of my symptoms came up during the retreat, where I found out just how much I was affected by the sun and heat. 

I couldn’t finish my aromatherapy certification because of the brain fog, which has made it nearly impossible to not only read, but to retain new information.

I moved my products out of the house in case they were the source of my issues. This makes them difficult to sell.

All of my plans and income sources had to be put on hold because I couldn’t focus on them. Whenever I tried, I made mistakes, or forgot, and I couldn’t stand the idea of disappointing anyone. So that’s when I made the hard decision to temporarily shut down Bohemian Alchemist, with hopes I could pick it up again soon.

But I couldn’t. My inventory was stored offsite, and trying to sell it was difficult to do when I had a hard time managing the inventory. I couldn’t offer services or products out of fear of making a harmful mistake. I was making mistakes, and it was only a matter of time before I made a mistake I’d regret and hurt someone. Thankfully, they were all minor, but they were enough to make me realize that it was time for me to stop. I did the responsible thing by keeping my clients safe, rather than pushing myself further beyond my limits in order to keep everything operational. I was already beyond my limits, which had changed so, so much from the beginning of the year.

Closing was hard. So much harder than I could ever express. I love my business, and I love the products I’ve made, and I loved the direction I was heading with it. But mostly, I loved the connections I made with people. I worked hard to start and maintain it (not without help – I’ve had so much help from so many people!). I found that hanging off of “maybe”, “possibly”, “one day” and “eventually” wore on me so much, and I couldn’t answer people who wanted to know when I was opening again. The encouragement from others was well meaning, but brought my attention continuously to the responsibilities waiting for me. I felt horrible anytime someone wanted a custom order and I had to refuse. I felt inadequate, disappointing and that I was letting people down – but the one that mattered most was my husband. I have not been able to contribute to our income. He has been ever the encouraging, supportive person he always has been, but this is an insecurity of my own that stems from old, deep hurts and experiences that are difficult to keep controlled when I’m at my most vulnerable.

Everything was shut down. I found ways to keep busy and to keep my flare ups moderately controlled. The more controlled my symptoms are, the more productive I am, which is how I’ve been able to reasonably maintain our home. It hasn’t been ideal, but we’ve made it work.

But our expenses added up. Medications and supplements and specific clothes that helped reduce symptoms, fuel to get to and from appointments, window replacement, so on so forth. I’ve listed some of our expenses previously. They continue to add up.

And then our hot water tank decided to die on us right after my surgery. The nerve of it, I dare say.

What do you MEAN money isn’t everything? We are a bank!

And it’s been a struggle since then. 

I hit a low point a couple of weeks ago, which I also shared part of. But not in entirety. I had cabin fever in a bad way, and I was unsure of everything. We had been thinking about getting a service dog to help with certain things in order to get me the support I needed to function better in the day, but I wondered if maybe this was too extreme. 

And so did a few others. A few people have mentioned that they believe I may be bipolar, or that perhaps I need to find God, or meditate more, or to “just relax”. It has been implied that my symptoms are imagined and that I’m a hypochondriac. Perhaps I am just looking for attention.

These comments come from very few, select people, but they hurt, more than they could ever know. I believe they had good intentions, and truly believe the things they say. There were harmful, hurtful words regardless of intent, however. They made me think that, maybe, they weren’t wrong. They made me feel insecure. They made me feel that I was sharing too much about our situation, and that perhaps I should keep it more to myself. I found engagements with people to get less and less, and I wondered if I was believed at all or not.

To be fair, when people see me they see that I’ve lost weight and am rocking a fairly normal body size for the first time in a decade, see me walking and talking  and my clean house and see my rosy red cheeks, unaware that the redness is part of a flare up. What they see seems healthy.

What they don’t see is everything else I’ve previously mentioned. The crippling fatigue, the numb cheeks,  the thick brain fog and confusion, the double vision. I’m functional, but very carefully. They don’t see that. They don’t see the little leg pump I do before I stand up, nor do they realize why I stand up so slowly. They don’t see my balance as that bad. They don’t see me avoiding bending over to avoid passing out. It’s hard to believe, sometimes, if there’s nothing to see.

It’s there, however, if you pay attention.

For the most part people have been kind, caring and supportive. Several have offered help, and have stepped up to help where we need it most. Right now, what we need most is financial. Bad timing, I know. Our bills are paid, the animals are fed, but we’ve been maxed out in all accounts since early fall and we have been just barely getting by. The prospect of catching up hasn’t been promising – which also means no possibility of a service dog. I will not commit to getting an animal that I am not able to afford to care for.

So I  reached out.  I asked for help, as so many people have encouraged if I needed it. And I need it. I presented my case. I made a post on my Facebook page. People asked me, “What can I do to help?”

“Share my page post,” I responded. I don’t expect anyone to buy things they don’t want or need, but sharing my post would help get the word out, and perhaps reach and audience that could help. It costs nothing and is easy to do. But then, I always seemed to follow it up with, “If you can’t, then I understand.”

I don’t understand. I don’t know why I  ever said that. To be nice? To give them permission to ignore it? To make them think that we weren’t in as tight of a situation that we are? Or maybe I’m just an idiot. I really don’t know why I said it that way, but that’s what I do.

When I went to see my psychologist and he asked me how I was, I said, “I’m great! Thanks! How are you?” – which I then had to admit that I lied. When he asked why I said that if I didn’t mean it, I admitted that it’s a trained response after growing up in a place that didn’t admit to weakness. I believe working retail also encouraged said response. Customers don’t want to hear how great you’re not. They’re there to spend money, and that’s all. It’s just what we are trained to respond with in order to maintain courtesy, and I’m trying to retrain that response. It’s not an easy thing to stop doing, especially when my defence mechanisms are locked and loaded at the moment.

Anyways, Some people shared my post.

And some people never responded, and never shared it. I see so many people share things supporting other events and complete strangers, but have not supported me where I need it most. Sometimes with excuses explaining the reason of their lack of support – which I appreciate, since at least I know where they stand. Most often the response was silence, however, and it’s the silence that hurts most of all.

And that hurt contributed to my downward spiral, which also caused worsening symptoms and an emotional meltdown, which made my spiral even worse. I spoke with my internist. I was so tired. Frustrated. I was falling apart. He assured me that he believed there was something happening and that we needed to push through just a little longer to try to find some answers. He brainstormed some ideas, agreeing that I needed a break. He prescribed something to help me sleep – something I do not get nearly enough of – and agreed that a service dog would be beneficial to my case. 

This helped alot. The reassurance from both him and my psychologist made me realize that I was spiralling down the hole of other people’s perceptions and expectations again. They told me that I’ve been holding myself together so much better than many other people might in my situation. I don’t know how true that is or not, but I hung onto it. It’s been a source of strength for me to keep pushing forward.

During one of my appointments, I was asked what I would do if I had all of the power in the world. 

I answered that I’d give it away to someone who would use it well.

Then I was asked what I would do if I had all the agency in the world.

I had to think on it, but eventually I answered that I’d use it to become a better person.

Thinking on this…. I HAVE all the agency in the world. That’s not something anyone can control, change or take away from me – only I have the power to do that.

Which gives me all the power on the world to do what I said I’d do. And that’s not a power I’ll hand over to someone else, regardless of their intentions.

I need to stop giving away my power. It’s the only thing I can truly control when I keep it as my own.

I needed that challenge. And I was able to use that to find my calm once again. And my power to become that thing I want to be.

I let things be. Kept my post up, and just gave it over to the universe. A friend of mine told me, “The universe gives you only that which you can handle.” I responded that the universe has more faith in me than I do, but there was an important point in that, and one that I do agree with, even if I struggled with in that moment.

And then the most amazing thing happened. Or, rather, person, and things seem to be progressing in a way I never though I’d see.

I had asked for help, and held unrealistic expectations of others. It was never about them, however. Those expectations were based on my own disappointment in myself and my situation. Once I let go of that disappointment, as well as the expectations of others, things have changed quickly. People have taken my call out seriously and I have found myself surrounded by more support than I had hoped for. There are still those in my corner that hold silence, which is disappointing, but I hold no grudge towards anyone. No one can possibly know how the situation truly feels, and I hope they are never in a position to fully understand – which would mean being in my situation. There are those that do understand it, because they’ve been through a similar experience already. And I have never held more compassion, empathy and understanding for them than I do now.

It’s hard to accept help. Harder than asking for it, especially after the disapproval of some people. But people find themselves in situations, sometimes, and need a leg up. This time, it’s us. Now that help has been incoming, I find myself wanting to offer things to pay them back – knowing full well that we’re not able to. It’s been difficult to say “yes” to the help offered – but I have been. I’m breaking out of old habits and routines, and finding a new way to be.

And once I’m able, I’ll find way to pay it forward again.

The universe knows my gratitude, my fear, my uncertainty and my feelings of personal failure. And I’m learning to trust it to catch me with grace as I’m falling, so that I can later catch others with that same grace and help them back up.

It feels similar to performing the “Angel Walk” at the end of the YTT training during graduation. I may have been short 10 hours from a signed certificate, but I graduated in so many other ways than I ever could have expected.

I reached out for help. And now, I’m learning to accept it with gratitude, and no expectation.

Lessons Learned

Admitting that I need help with something has NEVER been easy for me. And normally, the things I needed help with were minor, so it wasn’t so bad asking for (and getting) the help, because it was small and easy.

This time it’s a bit different.

I grew up knowing that you don’t ask for help. You don’t take help. You do it yourself, or you don’t do it at all. Sure, you can give to others, as long as there’s benefit for you in it, even if it’s later. And you hold them to that. You make sure that whatever they give you, you give back in some way, because that’s the way things are done and there’s no way that you “owe any favors”. It was like being a Lannister: We always paid our debts. There is no giving without receiving, and no receiving without giving in return. It’s a tedious account of cheques and balances that can be a hard game to keep up with.

I remember one Christmas during an especially tumultuous time in our family, and my sister and I opened our gifts. One that I opened was an electric keyboard. I was confused. The betrayed and disappointed look on my sister’s face is unforgettable. My sister was the one who had asked for it, so I started to hand it to her thinking that the tags had been mixed up, and my dad stopped me. “No, that’s for you.” He turned to my sister, and explained that if she wanted to go ahead and move in with our mother, then she could go right ahead, but the keyboard was mine and she couldn’t take it with her. The keyboard was a bribe to make her stay and make her feel guilty. I don’t think we ever really talked about it. I remember being too young to truly understand the significance of this action, but I remember the hurt involved, and I remember aplogizing to my sister for getting the gift she wanted. I felt guilty.

That guilt, as well as much more, followed me into my adult life. 

This is the way I learned about gift giving. It wasn’t about making the other person happy – it was about doing it out of expectation. Sometimes even out of manipulation. The gifts I gave were often disengenous, insincere and unwanted, because the thought behind it was typically  to get them SOMETHING, even though I didn’t know what. So most often it was a guess to wrap up a thing prettily and have something to exchange, in hopes that I lucked out and they were appreciative. Sometimes the gifts were made, sometimes bought, but more and more often I found people were indifferent to the gift and I became more and more insecure about my gift giving abilities. I learned to loathe Christmas and birthday shopping, because I just didn’t know how to give something that I felt the person would genuinely enjoy. The more I loathed gift shopping, the worse my gifts got. The times I enjoyed gift shopping I usually nailed it – because that person was truly in my mind as opposed to the expectation of giving something for the sake of giving.

I didn’t understand the true value of gift giving until much later. I’ve always tried to give in whatever way I was able, without wanting anything back. I was always told that I was selfish and disingenuous when I was a kid, and I was trying to be better than what they said I was. I didn’t want to be a bad person and I wanted to be good and generous. But then I was asked by my elders what I got for giving so much, and happiness just wasn’t an acceptable answer. Trying to find a balance to please everyone seemed impossible.

When you’re growing up and trying to figure these things out, it gets really confusing to have such conflicting theories.

So for years I tried to maintain that balance of cheques and debts. If someone did something for me, I’d do something in return. If I did something for someone else….. well, I didn’t always get something in return, and usually it didn’t bother me. But I have always had a hard time taking a gift as they were, with no expectation or guilt if I didn’t have something to offer in return. It’s just the way I knew the world.

That mentality has been slowly worn down over the years, and I’ve learned that I love to give. The shift truly started with the threat of going to jail. And it’s a story I’m going to share. Not one I’m proud of, but it was a humbling lesson for me.

I was 17 or 18 years old, working two jobs to cover rent and food, couldn’t afford a bus pass and used my bike to get everywhere, no matter what the weather was like. It was exhausting. Being on my own was still fairly new, and I was struggling trying to make everything balance. One day on my way to work, my bike brakes stopped working in the middle of a major rain storm and I was scared to keep going, so needed to hop on a bus with it. I always tried to keep bus change on me, just in case, but I had nothing at that time, and I knew I was short on change. I had checked all corners, drawers and couch corners for every nickle, dime and penny I could find. The driver wouldn’t have known for sure, though, since my fare was paid in such small change, and I could only apologize and let him know it was all I had. He scowled in suspicion as each coin tinkled into the container, but he gave me my transfer and I got my bike settled in for the rest of the trip, quickly forming my own indoor pool underneath me in my drenched clothes.

In getting to work, I realized I had no lunch. I can’t remember if I forgot it or if I didn’t have any food at home. I was in the habit of not eating breakfast. And I had to work my second job after the first one. I tried to make it through the day, but by the time my late lunch came on, I was lightheaded, hangry and ready to eat anyone that crossed my path.

But I was proud, and didn’t want to beg for food.

I went to the Zellers and stuffed a pack of ichiban noodles into my shoulder bag, hoping no one noticed, and went for the exit to go eat it. I was floored when someone grabbed by elbow tightly and whipped me around. “You can come with me, ma’am”, store security said.

I was terrified. I had no idea what to expect. Obviously, I was caught. I was hungry. And I had to be back on shift in 20 minutes.

I hadn’t realized that I was carrying a second package in my hand at the time, as well. Apparently I had grabbed another one without thinking, and very obviously walked out of the store with it. I’m not the best thief that ever did thief, apparently. My sneak skills were apparently not very finely honed. (Although, there was that one time I walked around a dollar store twirling a fun keychain with full intent of buying it, only to realize much later that I had this thing on my finger and couldn’t remember where the hell I had picked it up. When I did, I brought it back with so many apologies….)

She sat me down and asked me what else I took, and I pulled the other package out of my bag. She just looked at me. I was crying. I was apologizing. She asked me why I stole $3 worth of product, and I told her I simply didn’t have anything to buy it with, and I had no food until I could get home after my shift at the bar that night. It was early afternoon still. She said that she was under obligation to report me for minor theft, but if I didn’t want to have a criminal record then I could do community service. The thought terrified me, but having a criminal record scared me more. So I agreed to the community service.

She put the soup packages back into my bag, with a few dollars to grab a snack later if I needed. I was so grateful for her kindness. I never went through Zellers again while I worked at the mall. I wish I had gone back later to thank her and bring her coffee, but being young, I was too embarrassed or insecure or scared or something – because she was so nice, despite sending me for community service, and I didn’t know how to deal with that. I wasn’t used to it.

Experience lesson #1: Don’t forget a lunch, or at least a snack.

Lesson #2: It’s better to ask for help than to take from someone else. Someone will help. And we’ve all been there.

Lesson #3: Humility. 

Lesson #4: Kindness from strangers (or people in general) isn’t a thing to fear, and they aren’t always looking for something in return.

Community service terrified me. The volunteers at the homeless shelter knew I had committed a crime, so how would I be treated? As a criminal? I was proud, bold, and didn’t want to show my fear. I had to work in one of the shelters downtown – a place I had never experienced before. I scrubbed toilets, washed walls, changed bedding and washed dishes for the homeless. Some made dirty comments and catcalled me as I worked, but most averted my curious gaze and my attempt at a friendly (although scared) smile altogether, when I finally pulled out of my own shell to look at my surroundings a bit more.

Lesson #5: Be humble.

By the time I finished my community service, I had experienced a whole new world that I hadn’t really known before. Many had mismatched shoes and socks, they were unwashed, they smelled terrible and they didn’t help around the facility. Some were quiet. Some were angry. Some were sober, others were not. Some glared at me with obvious resentment, while others had looks familiar with envy.

And they were all thankful for the help offered at the shelter. And they all had a story to share.

Lesson #6: Listen.

I was welcomed to eat with them. I didn’t, at first, but eventually took them up on it. The volunteers shared stories. Some were previously recipients of the shelter’s services. Some were homeless. Some had homes, but nothing else, and came for food. And the more I listened, the more they shared what I now know to be normal people who once led what we know as normal lives who got lost in their situations that brought them to this place, to teach me these lessons they learned themselves that would take much longer to truly sink in.

Lesson #7: Be kind.

I think of that situation often, from my own mistakes, to the kindness of the security guard and the kindness of the shelter volunteers and the people who frequented that location. And I’m grateful for all of it, because many of the lessons I learned immediately while others took a bit longer to take hold. But it changed my life and my outlook on people and their situations, and especially on judgement.

And I’ve learned that I don’t need to please anyone else with the methods of my giving, and it’s my decision to make. I learned that in giving, I always get something in return regardless. Friendships, knowledge, love, satisfaction, smiles, hugs, lessons…. it’s something I found I loved doing, but started not wanting anything back anymore. No credits, no debts, no worries.

Sometimes I gifted money, but more often it was time, or food, or things we could part with or gifts that we’d find that just suited a person so well. It just felt good to do it. I still had a hard time accepting things from others, though, and would respond with statements that it was too much, or that I didn’t have anything to give back, or that they shouldn’t have. 

And in doing so I truly was ungrateful. Someone went out of their way to do something kind for me, and I didn’t want it, because I didn’t have something to give back, which made me feel bad. And I couldn’t get the comments about being selfish or what I knew about having a debt to pay out of my head. But what about the other person?

In reversed roles, I’d feel bad if a gift was given back to me, because I’d see it as a sign that they didn’t like or appreciate the gift, or perhaps some other hidden reason that I didn’t understand regarding our relationship. So in refusing gifts, was I causing harm to my relationships? Probably. I started practicing gratitude, and accepting what people offered, how it was offered, with sincere appreciation. The hardest of those gifts to overcome have been compliments. But I’m working on it. It’ll be a lifelong practice that I’ll never perfect, I’m sure.

The best I, or anyone, can do is to be better.

Since it’s just my husband and I, we frequently buy each other gifts randomly throughout the year, as well as things for others as we see them and feel it’s something that person would truly love. When it comes to traditional gift giving at Christmas and birthdays, we’ve stopped following tradition altogether. It was just too much. We don’t give or expect Christmas or birthday gifts at all anymore. We’ve been called grinches at Christmas, and we’ve been given slightly dirty looks, but we decided to do what was best for us. Christmas used to cause us both alot of stress, and it wasn’t fun. We realized that this was not the spirit of gift giving, and we have no regrets for making this change. Due to work schedules and time off around the holiday season, it usually also caused much financial distress ontop of the expectations, which has been alleviated. We’ve learned to truly simplify the holidays and only do those things we are able without reaching a point of exhaustion, and the time spent with friends and family mean so much more to both of us now than they ever have. We can be truly grateful and loving instead of stressed and excited for the season to be over.

We gift as we’re able and as we’re thinking about people specifically. We make gifts, as well, for those who enjoy the handcrafted wares. We used to both volunteer quite a bit, but as that has declined we’ve donated monetary gifts to different organizations, events and people who need it, instead.

This year, things have changed, and we haven’t been able to gift much at all.

Asking for help is not something I’m well practiced at… but that’s changing, too.

Letter to the universe

Dear Universe,

I haven’t exactly asked for anything specific lately, or reached out looking for help. I didn’t think I needed to, and I’ve just taken each moment as they come. But you seemed to know what I needed more than I did, as usual, and you provided that to me. I paid attention this time.

Mostly, I’ve been ok. I’m been taking every day as it is, listening to what my body needs and wants and doing my best to just get through each day with a smile and a little bit of progress. I’ve been paying close attention to what’s happening around me, and living in the moment in every way. Mostly, things have been ok.

But there have been moments during some days that I’m not ok. Moments that I just want to cry and collapse and not get up again. Some moments that I DON’T get up again. There are moments that I am angry, frustrated and impatient. These kinds of moments, I’m really not ok.

And every time I’m not ok, something happens that brings me back to being ok. One day, you brought me rain – much needed relief from the heat that was causing a flare of symptoms. Another day, you gave me cucumbers in my garden. Some of those moments are ones that I am able to remind myself that I’m ok, and am able to pull myself back up. And there have been moments that I’ve just allowed everything to be just as it is, in the messy way it needs to be, with the gentle reminder that it’s ok to not be ok. And some of those moments I just need to not be ok….

Today, you brought me people I didn’t know I sorely needed to talk to.

Someone wise and loving advised me to trust the process.

How could I? I have been let down by people so many times before, and I have found it’s so much better to just do things myself. If I’m in control of my life, then I’m the one responsible for what happens.

But what happens when I don’t have control? What then?

Sometimes there are things we can’t control, situations we would never wish for and answers to questions we never asked. The reality is that no one has control, despite wanting to so badly.

Trusting the process involves letting go. Allowing things to be what they are. It is a vulnerability – one of those things I’ve never been good at. For me, it was the realization that the more control I tried to have of my life, the easier it was to lose control, and the more I try to get it back the more I’d fail.

Trust the process…..

I have an impressive list of complaints that I’m tracking closely for my care teams. These complaints are currently in control. The best thing I’ve learned to do is let those symptoms have control, and to do everything I can to reduce them until treatment starts. It’s the best I can do – and in doing my best for myself, I’m doing everything I need to.

And the more I trust the process, the better the Universe seems to respond.

And I am so grateful, for the people, the events and the lessons that keep coming this way. I feel terrible in body, but light in spirit.

I am vibrant, strong and shiny. I’ll get through this, with new lessons and perspectives I would never be able to know otherwise.

I’m ok right now. Tomorrow might be different – or it may be the same, or even better. That’s something to experience tomorrow, though.

Hari Om.

White Sock Dilemma

When I reopened my Facebook account, I unfollowed all friends and personal accounts, and would just pop in now and again to see what people would be up to. There are often things I don’t want to see, and this was a way to stay connected to people while minimizing the posts that I wanted to avoid. The posts typicially come from a place of well meaning and have good intentions, but sometimes the politics, opinions and anger behind them are overwhelming. The difference in opinions, the arguments and the atypical aggressive behavior of people I love sometimes make me not want to associate with them. In order to keep that relationship, I needed to separate myself from their Facebook persona, which is often so very different than the person themselves. It’s in this way that I’ve been able to be active on Facebook again.

I disagree with so many people about so many things, which is great! This means that we are people with differences and opinions and can have some really great conversations. I find that having face to face dialect to be the most productive way to have open minded discussions about them. I enjoy it, actually, and it seldom gets heated, and it’s seldom disrespectful from either parties. Without all communication fundamentals of eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures and tone of voice, communication often falls wayside and so much is lost in translation. It’s so easy for us to apply our own tone and meaning to words that aren’t ours, and the meaning behind the words alone can change from a simple question to a complex mindgame. I don’t want to play games. I want to know people as they are, and not how I have to guess them to be because I’m not sure what they were truly trying to say despite the words that are presented. I could make up the tone in my head and be convinced that that’s how it played out. Or, perhaps, I could clarify how they meant their message so that I could better understand how to respond.

Changing habits and perspectives can be hard, but why? It’s only in the mind that we have our mind made up. When there are no matching pairs of white socks available, yet several single, unmatching white socks, what is it that makes it so difficult not to simply wear those mismatched socks? Where did we learn that we must have matching socks on each foot? And why did we learn that? What, exactly, is the purpose of of having matching socks? Is it really so important that the thought of wearing mismatched socks becomes stressful rather than being grateful for warm toes?

Perspective is where many things can either keep us in our box or help us to fly. One day, we’re so set in our ways that we are unable to function when our habits and routines are disrupted. But with just a minor shift, we can realize that some of our perspectives, ideals and opinions aren’t always what they seem to be, nor as important as we maybe thought.

With this little shift, we can make such a big difference. We can listen better. Communicate better. Understand better. Be better.

Do you wear socks to keep your feet warm, or for another reason?

Isn’t it time to step out of the box and take a better look around at what’s really important?

Break the Cycle

We all live by certain patterns in our lives, many of which have been learned from childhood. Some of these patterns are normal day-to-day life and have no positive or negative effect – they just are how we go about our day. Other patterns, though, can be detrimental to our state of health and happiness, and we find ourselves stuck in a self-fulfilling cycle of repetition.

That cycle will keep repeating, if we let it. The only way off of that train is to break the cycle, or pattern.

But isn’t that easier said than done.

We’ll take an example of my own that I have to break time and time again. Before I actually started to break the habit, though, I was stuck in a downward spiral where the habits and patterns were getting worse and causing more problems each time I went around.

In most cycles there are five stages we go through before repeating the pattern again, and we’re going to use my own weight loss sabotage for an example.

Stage 1: Denial of the problem, or placing blame elsewhere, with no intention to change.

When someone is living in a cycle, they may deny that there’s any behavior that needs to change at all. They aren’t aware that there’s an issue.

I  knew I was a bit on the bigger side, but didn’t think it was a problem. My cholesterol levels and bloodwork all came back normal, so I figured I was just fine. I also had troubles with my knee after breaking it, and had been wanting a consult with a specialist in order to get help. I had nothing but problems with doctors not believing there was an issue beyond my weight, however, and I had many, many terrible confrontations with physicians who refused to help me. I didn’t want to visit another doctor – my anxiety for visiting a physician over rode any concern for my weight. So I decided to just be happy where I was.

Other examples that I’ve heard from others include:

  “I don’t cook, so I can’t eat healthier.”

                “I’m too stressed to think about this now.”

                “I’d rather be fat and happy than skinny and miserable.”

                “I travel too much and don’t have time to cook.”

If you really consider the options above, they are easily passed over without taking responsibility for action – my own example included. All I had to do was look at the BMI chart to know something was wrong – and I did, but decided that doctors were on glue. I was well over the obese range, but figured it wasn’t a big deal. To be fair, I still consider the BMI chart a bit “out there”, because people can’t really all be lumped into the same category. However, there’s a difference between a little overweight, and morbidly obese…. and I was in the morbidly obese range on that dreaded chart. I didn’t have just a few pounds to lose – I had roughly 110 pounds to get to a healthy weight for the type of build I have.

And the signs that it was affecting my health were all there. I was short of breath, I hurt everywhere, all of the time. I didn’t fit into any of my plus sized clothes. I was self conscious, I felt terrible and I was exhausted all of the time. I stressed when it came time to going out and doing anything because I couldn’t find anything that I thought made me looked good enough – even new clothes. Despite the signs, though, I wasn’t ready to accept there was an issue.

And what about the other excuses that are presented above?

                Every single one can be argued. It depends on your desire for change, the reasons for that change, and your willingness to look at options and act on them. Without wanting to break out of that cycle – you won’t. Without being aware of that cycle, you won’t even know to want to break out of it. There’s nothing wrong with that – as long as you’re ok with it. But if you’re NOT ok with remaining in the same habits and routine – then perhaps that’s something to carefully consider and figure out the reasons why you stay in it.

Stage 2: Aware of the problem without action.

And then something makes you wake up to the behavior in question. You start seeing things that you may not like. You become aware of it – but don’t do anything about it except watch.

Over time I realized that there was a real problem with my weight. I realized that my husband couldn’t really wrap my hands around me comfortably, and I was horribly aware of hands on the folds on my back whenever anyone put their hands on my back or gave me a hug. I didn’t want to be hugged anymore (and I’m a hugger!!). I was uncomfortable. I hated photos of myself. I couldn’t fit into new pants I had bought not that long ago. And I started looking at what is considered a “normal” weight range – and even the highest range of the “overweight” category was 60 pounds less than what I weighed at the time. That’s not so much weight, right? But it was, on my short 5’2” frame.
And the more aware of it I became, the more stressed it made me, and the more comfort food I turned to – making the situation even worse.

Step 3: Making the resolution to change.

For many people, New Year’s is the time for resolutions. For those keen on making changes in their lives to find a way to be happier, however, they become resolved in that moment to make a change.

For me, I did just that. I hurt so bad that I’d cry getting out of bed in the morning. I felt terrible, had no energy, and simply had enough. I couldn’t live like that anymore. I decided to make the change, and started looking into the best ways for me to do that.
Short-Determination-Quotes-and-Status

Step 4: Making the change

This is where people jump into a new habit or behavior and become hyper aware of it, focused on making the new habit “stick”. They may set reminders, or make appointments, or leave sticky notes. They take the steps needed to make that change that they’ve resolved to.

I decided to start light. I started trying to eat healthier. For exercise, I began with yoga asanas every day. They were enough, and I hurt just from a short 10 minute practice. But I did it, and when I felt I could add a little more, I started using the Wii Fit a little bit each day when I felt able. And then I started to walk around the block. Yes, just one block. It hurt every damned day, and I was taking handfuls of OTC meds to get through it, but I did it. I started looking into diets, nutrition and options for weight loss, but I didn’t just jump on any bandwagon. I researched it carefully before making any big decisions or changes.

Step 5: Maintaining new habits

This step is one of promise and hope. The one where people have been living their change in behavior or habits and are able to sustain their new way of living.

With the new determination, also came new levels of pain. I was struggling. I was hesitant to visit another GP, so I visited Natural Health Services and was able to get a prescription for medical marijuana, which helped me push past pain. I struggled with dosing at first, but I was able to find a happy balance to keep moving forward. While it helped with the pain, however, my knee was collapsing to the side, and I was concerned about damaging it further. This was one of the issues that had held me back for so long, so in order to keep moving forward I wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting the integrity of the joint at further risk of injury.

In my resolve to get help, I made an appointment to see a doctor in order to get a referral to a specialist. The appointment went terribly. I felt judged, dehumanized and unsupported. I was demoralized. And this is the step I’d normally get to.

Step 6: Relapse

Things happen, and life gets in the way. Something derails that track that people are on with their new habits, and they fall out of their new routine and back into old behaviors. Sometimes there’s no real reason for it, and other times external factors come into play to influence it.

This is where I’d repeat my cycle. This is the defining moment in my own cycle that I’d normally start over again, and decide that I was fine with how I was and go back to where I was comfortable so I didn’t have to deal with the anxiety, the dehumanizing treatment or the ridicule.

Back to Step 1?

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Or…..

 

Break Free!

Does your pattern repeat, or do you break free from it and continue your new life?

This time I didn’t fall back into old patterns. This time I pushed forward, because I wanted to feel better. I was definitely not feeling hopeful, but I pushed through my dismay. I bought a weight scale. I knew I had lost some weight at this point, but I made a goal to lose another 90 pounds, which would put me on the high end of the “normal” range on the BMI chart. Soon after that dreaded appointment, I received a post card in the mail for a new clinic in Leduc, and decided to give them a try. My anxiety was so high that she asked me how I was doing and I started to cry. Funny, how anxiety works. She was compassionate and could see that I was sincerely struggling. She commended my use of marijuana and sent the referral for the specialist before I even left the clinic. I had been trying to get this referral for 2 years without success, and suddenly I had renewed hope. She also send me with a prescription for a psychologist, should I choose to use it (also on my request, because I was not feeling very capable at the time). I left in higher spirits than I had in a long time. I continued with the new routine, slowly building up on it.

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60 lbs down in this photo – wearing the exact same outfit in both.

It’s been nearly two years since my resolution to change. It’s been about one year since that appointment with a physician that took me seriously enough to help me move forward. It did take awhile to build those new habits and routines, but I’m doing it. I’ve solidly lost 65 pounds and am still working on my progress. I’m still partaking in physiotherapy to increase strength to keep my knee from collapsing, which it no longer does. I frequent the  gym daily, have taken up martial arts training, can outrun most people I know now, am underway with yoga teacher training, and rarely even need to use the marijuana for pain relief. I don’t use it recreationally, so it goes untouched for longer periods of time. It used to be taken every morning and evening – but now I use it maybe once a week. Sometimes once every two weeks.

When something else came up last summer that threatened my new routine, I called in the psychology card – I was NOT going back to that place again. I was NOT starting my old habits again. As difficult as it was for me to make that phone call, it was an important phone call to make, and one that I don’t regret to this day. The therapist I found fits me well, and he has given me valuable tools to keep out of the cycle I have gone back to way too many times.

If it hadn’t been for that one physician to treat me like a person, I’m not sure I could have come this far. I still attend that same clinic, although with a different doctor because she moved to a different location. He is just as compassionate, though, and I no longer experience anxiety walking into that clinic. Sometimes you just have to find the right care team.

 

Cycles CAN be broken. New habits CAN be maintained. Change CAN happen.

 

You don’t fail until you give up.

 

Sometimes it’s a lot of work, but if you want it badly enough, you can make it happen.

 

Find your big enough reason why.

 

You’ve got this.

 

With love.

Ctrl+Alt+Del

I’ve been off since last week. Not myself. Last Monday, to be exact, when I ended up in emerg due to an extreme allergic reaction to my bird. Allot has happened in that time, including a full body and mind shut-down. And since then, my mind has been chaotic. The little things that wouldn’t normally be an issue suddenly got under my skin, I’ve been growly, I’ve been uncertain, I’ve been doubtful and all of the things that I haven’t experienced since the summer.

What….. is going…… on…..?

I figured it out, for the most part. The sudden rehoming of my bird was devastating, and I didn’t allow myself to feel the grief of that loss. I’m having ongoing confrontational issues with people nearby. I totally fell for a scam. The medication cocktail I was sent home with made me COMPLETELY loopy for most of last week and threw me off of routine. Nevermind off routine – I have no routine. It was completely annihilated and destroyed. There’s other things going on, but all of these are so little, and things that normally wouldn’t affect me this much. And I finally had to stop and just breathe, even though I felt the upheaval of anxiety stick in my throat. But I found a deep breath. And then another.

Anxiety had hit me like a tornado, and I didn’t realize what it is until I was in the middle of it.

And then I asked myself what any of the pileup of drama has to do with me. And that was the thing that I needed most. Because most of it had nothing at all to do with me. 

One of the things I’ve had to really get control of over the years is OTHER people’s emotions. I carry them, like I described in the entry I wrote about over the weekend. I pick up on other people’s troubles and celebrations and feel them like they’re my own. And while I’ve learned to separate their’s from mine over time, those boundaries were suddenly mixed and jumbled and I couldn’t figure out ass from tea-kettle. The reaction and the meds threw me way off my norm, and I’m sure was the cause of sudden confusion.

But asking that one little question – what any of it has to do with me – suddenly made things feel right again. Mostly. I have a routine to pick up again. I can feel myself calming, my focus returning and my heart slowing. And I need to get back into my gym, asana and kata routine. I finally feel capable of doing that again.

People do and say things that are often mean. They spend time trying to discredit others rather than build their own credibility. They point fingers, lash out, twist words and call names. And why?

Isn’t that the question of the day. It always, always comes down to the self.

There is no reason to be unkind. Ever. No reason to yell. No reason to point fingers. No reason to spend more effort discrediting a person rather than proving another reliable. No reason to treat people poorly or unjustly or unfairly. There’s no reason to treat anyone any differently than the person that they are. And we’re all people. And we all deserve to be recognized as such.

Even if they have starred in hundreds of movies. Even if they have 122,000 social media followers. Even if they are actually outright wrong. Even if you just don’t like them, and don’t have a reason. Even if they keep interrupting you. Even if they made a mistake. Even if that mistake was a terrible one. That business is not yours – unless you make it yours.

It’s ok to disagree. It’s ok to dislike someone. It’s ok to feel what you do. What what they do is their business, and what you do is yours. So what if they don’t like you – why does that have to affect you? So what if they disagree – they have learned something differently. You can tell them they are wrong, but if they don’t believe you then they have reason not to, just as much as you have reason to believe what they don’t. And that’s their business. So what if they keep interrupting you – sure, it’s rude, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be rude back. How you respond is your business, and how you react is a reflection of how much you let them affect you.

And the reality is, no one should have that much effect over anyone else.

The issues I’ve had to shoulder are minor, have all been dealt with and there’s no reason for any of it to affect me whatsoever. But I found myself speculating, criticizing, judging – and I hated it. So why did it affect me? Why did I become so critical again?

Because I allowed it. And now, I’m taking that control back again, because I have better things to feel, amazing things to do and gentle ripples to send out, and not disastrous waves.

And, with that, I’m excited for my next training weekend, which I’m sure will also help me get back into alignment with myself once again. I slipped, but by knowing that I can do better I’m reminding myself that I’m human, just like everyone else. Would I forgive someone else for slipping? I wouldn’t need to, because there’s nothing to forgive. There’s nothing I really did that needs forgiveness, although I have been carrying around this idea that I’ve done something wrong. But most of the wrongs have been thoughts and ideas, and there were no actions taken that need forgiveness. For anyone else faced with this situation I’d help them back up, and help them find forgiveness of their own.

I deserve to be a people, too, and treat myself the same as I would anyone else.

Hari Om.