unbecoming

There’s something special about the approach of autumn. For me, the feeling is unique to this time of year, and is entirely different than the change over of any of the other seasons.

Maybe it’s the promise of relief from the heat of summer with the cooler weather we know is surely on its way. Maybe it’s the return of some much-needed structure as the kids go back to school and resume the routine of their organized activities.

Or maybe it’s something far less tangible…the mere glimpse of hope, possibility, and new beginnings I feel waiting in the wings.

There’s a special type of magic in the air in September, and the feeling is even more pronounced for me this year than any other. While I may not be able to put my finger on what it is exactly, I know with great certainty change is coming. I can feel it in my bones.

It began several weeks ago with a restless ache in my body. What started as little more than a twinge in the pit of my stomach has grown much larger and is taking shape from deep inside. The structure of my cells is being altered as this ‘thing’ takes root in my core.

Having wiped away the dust and residue from the stories of the past that previously clouded my vision, I’ve started to see with fresh eyes. I no longer need to be shielded from the truth; no more distortion or protective filters required to paint a more palatable picture of the prevailing reality for my ego self.

I think it’s human nature to seek out evidence—a sign, or better yet, some type of actual physical proof—that supports our hypotheses and assertions. It’s normal to want to be able to see, hear, smell, taste, or touch something before we can truly believe in it. But sometimes, before a thing comes to life, before it’s actually manifested in the physical form, you just need to put all of your trust into its becoming.

And yet, evidence of change is all around for those who are willing to see it. Watch the leaves show us the wisdom of the natural world, as they change from their deep, glossy greens, to the glorious shades of golds, rusts, and purples. This is the leaves way of demonstrating their trust in the knowledge that their season of life is over and the time has come for them to surrender. Although temporary, the results are remarkably beautiful, even breathtaking to behold.

Not long after the beautiful display of fall colours, we also know the trees will shed their leaves to help conserve energy for the winter. The leaves that hang on will, no doubt, be torn from their branches by a swift autumn wind eventually.

As evidence of my humanity, on a purely physical level I can see my skin is changing and I’m shedding my hair like mad. I am releasing physical and mental clutter in every corner of my life. I am more committed than ever before to my own evolution and metamorphosis, and at the very least, I continue to become increasingly aware of my actions and reactions.

And I suppose that’s how I know with all I am that the time for harvest must surely be nearing. The seeds that were planted within me long, long ago are sprouting with the beginnings of new life. It’s a life that’s bursting with the hope that anything is possible—even really difficult things and maybe even miracles—when I believe and put my faith in the power of love over fear.

Through the infinite wisdom of a universe in which everyone and everything is connected to everyone and everything else, I am aware of the change that is occurring, both all around and deep within me. I trust not only in what I can see, but also in the less quantifiable feeling of what has not yet materialized.

Like the leaves, I am immersed in the surrender of my own unraveling. As I continue to challenge old beliefs and peel away the protective layers, I’m removing the costumes and masks I’ve worn. This is the real me; exposed and vulnerable. Just being.

It’s messy and complicated, and may not look like much on the outside, but when I get very still and quiet I know that a space is being created for something significant to enter.

I don’t know what it is yet, but I trust in whatever it will be.

This is the season of my unbecoming.

Full Circle

At the risk of sounding cliché, I have no idea what happened to the summer of 2017. It seems like it was just yesterday my kids had just finished school. It literally feels like yesterday was July 1, and my kids were both excited to participate in our local Canada Day parade. Then I blinked, and there must have been a disruption in the space-time continuum, because this morning we were dropping the kids off at school again for Grade 6 and Grade 4.

Time flies when you’re having fun? Maybe so. But my perception around the passage of time certainly seems to have accelerated along with my increasing age. At first glance, making sense out of where the heck the time went was tough for me to swallow.

But as I took some time to reflect on the summer of 2017, I can see how our precious time together wasn’t wasted.

As a family, we went to the lake, rode our bikes and ate ice cream, and walked in the river valley as we watched the goats munch on grass. We took a weekend trip down to Calgary and the Rocky Mountains. We basked in the glow of a crystalline mountain lake on a sunny summer day as we marveled at the beauty that surrounded us.

We went to the movies, and I ran outdoor yoga classes one night per week.

While my husband and son traveled to Philadelphia for a hockey tournament, my daughter and I spent some quality one-on-one time together, shopping for back to school clothes, baking, and making homemade popsicles from Kool-Aid and Jell-o, just like the ones my grandma used to make when I was a kid. My son and I went to see the Emoji movie the night my husband took my daughter to the Bruno Mars concert.

In the space between kids’ activities, play dates, swimming lessons, camps, and their certain chronic boredom, I continued the work of ‘working on myself’. And when I dig a little deeper into the events of this past summer, I can detect some definite themes around challenges, lessons, and growth—both for myself and the members of my family.

One evening per week in July, I spent time in a circle of women, digging deeper into the relationship I have with my body. Through journaling, meditation, and sisterhood, I unearthed a whole bunch of unexpected sticky spots I was previously unaware of. Through these realizations, I am working to heal with the intention of being able to stand, comfortably and confidently in my own skin.

I completed 40 consecutive days of meditation practice, with the intention of softening the walls I’ve built around my heart, and encouraging myself to be more open and receptive to the love that already exists in my world.

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I focused on deepening the awareness around the reasons for my own discomfort, and I’d like to think I have made strides in learning how to be present with these less than pleasant feelings.

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And to top everything off, we started a fairly major bathroom renovation in August that will likely leave our master ensuite unusable until sometime in October. If you want to talk about feeling discomfort, there’s probably no better way of making myself uncomfortable than to throw my family into a state of upheaval by eliminating a bathroom.

This work has been challenging and difficult in every possible way, but I know with every part of me it is also absolutely essential to my continued evolution and the metamorphosis I forecasted and committed to for myself in 2017.

Another notable highlight of the summer was celebrating my 18th wedding anniversary with my husband. We had a beautiful dinner at the Hardware Grill, and on a whim decided to go to a movie at the VIP theatre in southwest Edmonton afterward. For those who aren’t familiar, the VIP theatre is 18 plus (because they serve alcohol to you in your seat), and offers a deluxe movie-going experience with reclining leather seats that feature personal drink holders and adjustable side tray tables.

There are separate washrooms for the VIP theatre goers, and each bathroom stall features quotes etched into the glass door. The quote that caught my eye was from Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, and the message emblazoned into the smoky glass read:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ironic? Just a little.

In as much time as it took my brain to register the meaning of the words, my world shifted a little. In that instant, I replayed the events of the night I had just shared with my husband: the amazing meal—the taste and lightness of my sea bass contrasted with the decadence of the truffle oil potato crepe, the smoothness of the wine, the conversation (the laughter and the tears), and the cute older couple dining across the restaurant whom we said we be us in another 35 or 40 years time.

In another moment, I relived our summer and the past 18 years of marriage and our life together—all the adventures and the highs and lows of raising our two children. The time before we were married. My teenage years, youth, and childhood flashed before me, flooding me with a lifetime of memories.

Maybe it’s not exactly what Ferris Beuller had in mind, but I agree that sometimes life can seem to move very fast. That’s why it’s so important to me to pause—to notice and appreciate—and to stand in the fullness of my life.

Summer 2017 may have, indeed, gone by quickly, but I have no doubt it served a very important  purpose. I look back over the past two months with a heart full of gratitude and appreciation for the challenges, the growth, and the memories, and for bringing me back around to what’s important in this life.

I can see so very clearly how, with every breath we take, it always comes back to love.

Full circle.

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Survival Tips for the Highly Sensitive Person

I’m just going to come right out and say it…
I think February needs to be the new January.

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As you may have guessed, January 2017 was less than stellar in my books. I started off with some fantastic intentions (I do not make New Year’s resolutions), but the universe clearly had other plans of taking me down another path.

And I’m just going to be really honest here: I felt profound sadness. It was hard, and I did not do most of the things I said I was going to do. And then I got frustrated and angry with myself, and my sadness responded by doubling itself. And then some other stuff happened within my personal circle, and in reply my sadness tripled. And then more craziness ensued in the world, and my sadness multiplied exponentially. I felt as though I had the weight of the world sitting on my chest, crushing my tender heart and making it difficult to breathe.

I was left with no other choice than to acknowledge the feeling. I had to speak the words aloud, “I am sad. I am sad and I don’t even know why.” And then I had to feel it. But a miraculous thing happened. I felt the sadness, and then I also felt it dissipate.

There is no question in my mind that we’re living in a precarious, chaotic, and seemingly irrational time. The craziness of our world is a lot to process, never mind trying to achieve anything beyond the act of getting yourself out of bed in the morning. Needless to say, I think we should be awarding medals to everyone who made it through January. Like, seriously. If you’re reading this and you survived, I salute you. (Bonus points if your sanity is still intact.) Virtual high fives and big squishy hugs, all around!

The way I see it, a new month is the perfect antidote for the confusion, hurt, and disappointment that seemed to dominate my introduction to 2017. That’s why I’m taking a personal Mulligan. A do-over. I’m pressing the reset button, wiping the slate clean and starting anew, with a fresh perspective, renewed enthusiasm, pure energy, and a positive attitude.

But I’m also able to look back at the past month with a sense of appreciation—for teaching me, although painfully at times, some valuable and much-needed lessons. In retrospect, I can see how all the crappy stuff that happened was the universe’s way of getting all up in my face and creating the prime conditions for me to recognize my own self-destructive patterns. And, if I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure I heard the universe call me out.

A small, yet incredibly powerful voice from somewhere deep inside me began to ask: “How serious are you, really? How bad do you really want this stuff? When life gets hard, are you going to curl up into a ball, or do you want it bad enough to actually fight for it? What are you going to do now? How will you respond?”

January, in all its cruelty and harsh insensitivity, was a severe blow to my tender heart. In the past I may have been inclined to just crawl back into my bed, pull the covers up, snuggle in tight, and hide for a while. But after reflecting on both my experiences and reactions, and taking into consideration what has been working for me and what absolutely hasn’t, I’m pleased to say I’ve learned a thing or two—or maybe even eight.

And because sharing is caring, I’ve decided to post these lessons here, particularly for those of us who lean toward the more sensitive end of the spectrum, as my essential tips for surviving in this crazy world when nothing seems to make sense and the world seems to be slipping off its axis:

Begin with awareness

As with just about everything else in the known universe, surviving (and thriving) as a sensitive person in this world begins with awareness. What I’m really talking about here is self-awareness and having a clear understanding of your own strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. When you work on developing your own self-awareness, it allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude, and your response to them in the moment. Self-awareness really is the first and most important step toward creating what you want and living as the master of your own life. When you take a step back and witness yourself as an objective observer, what do you notice? Whether you are interested in stopping a specific kind of emotional reaction, changing beliefs or behavior, quieting the critical voice in your head, or creating more love and happiness in your life, you must begin with awareness.

Make self-love and self-care the top priority

I’m sure I’ve talked about this at least a thousand times, but this message is so important it bears repeating. And I will continue to shout it, loud and proud, from the rooftops, over and over again, until everyone who needs this message gets to hear it. Self-love and self-care are not selfish; they are absolutely essential. Who is going to take care of you, if not for you? Do not expect anyone else to do it for you, because if you do you are giving away your power and making yourself a victim. Sorry, I know I am starting to get a bit preachy here, but it’s only because I believe so wholeheartedly in the necessity of taking good care of yourself and loving yourself above all else. You can only take care of others if you take care of yourself first. You can only love and have successful relationships with others if you love yourself first. You and your needs are important, and you need to ensure your thoughts and actions line up with that reality. Do something nice for yourself everyday, just because you are you and you deserve it.

Feel all feelings

This is a doozy for anyone who identifies as a highly sensitive person, because we have so many feelings and experience them with great intensity, but it applies to everyone, all the same. By their nature, emotions are meant to be felt and expressed. It is so essential that we allow the energy of our emotions to move through us, rather than stuffing them down inside, numbing out, or denying the experience. Stifling emotion can actually be very detrimental to your well being—both physically and emotionally. Granted, it takes work and practice to feel your feelings, and can be a little uncomfortable, particularly in the beginning, but learning to identify feelings and exploring into the messages they bring us is an invaluable survival skill. Simply start with the awareness of noticing and then allowing the feelings to naturally come up and out, without controlling them. Depending on the intensity of the emotion, sometimes physical expression is called for. This might mean finding a safe place to scream into a pillow, letting the tears flow, or even kicking and punching into the air (make sure you have a large enough space around you to do this so you won’t hurt yourself or break anything). Turn on your favourite music and dance as if no one is watching to allow the energy of your emotion to move through you. Journaling and talking with a trusted friend, family member or professional are also great options. Although the context was entirely different for Shrek, no truer words have been spoken and the sentiment is the same when it comes to emotion: they’re “better out than in”.

Be realistic about goals and intentions

Another honesty alert: this is a really big one for me. As a highly-driven and self-critical perfectionist, I have a pattern of biting off more than I can chew, which usually results in overwhelm and frustration because I just can’t do it all. In follow up to this, my next tendency is to get mean and chastise myself for all of the places I’ve fallen short. I am seriously living and learning this in real time, right now, and so I speak from the heart when I say it’s best to be honest, practical, and realistic with yourself when it comes to setting goals and intentions. Even better, remember to keep it simple: start with one small thing at a time and allow yourself to fully master it so you can use your accomplishment as a building block to further success. Remember to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) goals, and break down the big stuff into smaller chunks with detailed action plan steps. In this way, you will be better able to see your progress in terms of the baby steps you make along the way. Please trust me when I say this can be very encouraging, as every bit of progress made in the direction of your goals counts as a win. I’ve recently started making lists again, and it’s truly incredible for keeping me focused and on track. One last note on this topic: please be very kind and extra gentle with yourself, and remember you are aiming for progress, not perfection.

Limit exposure to negativity

The bottom line on this one is that you basically should not, under any circumstances, listen to the haters. I know this is hard, considering the prevalence of negativity, doom, and gloom that seems to be all around us at the moment. But again, when we begin with the awareness of where negativity is coming from in our lives—be it a specific person or people, or mainstream and social media, we are better equipped to take action to protect ourselves from it. Please do not underestimate the fact that all of the sensory impressions we take in have an impact on us, and there is definitely a danger in being overexposed. We can become anxious and angry as we gradually and unknowingly take on the negativity as our own. for this very reason, coupled with my sensitivity, I’ve personally made the conscious decision to steer clear of the mainstream media for some time, and have also found it helpful to limit the amount of time I spend on social media platforms recently as well. I encourage you to take note of how you feel after spending time around certain people. Ask yourself what your triggers are. Listen to what your heart says and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your wellbeing.

Acknowledge the darkness and counter with the light

Yes, there is darkness in the world. Acknowledge and accept the reality. Know the truth of it. Even understand the necessity of it. Then find a piece of positivity to counter balance the darkness with a little bit of light. There are two ways I like to do this. This first is practicing gratitude, and before you go grumbling about how terrible everything in your life is, know you can always, always, always find something to be grateful for. Once you start looking for the good stuff by cultivating a gratitude practice, seeing it gets easier, and you’ll be re-wiring your brain in the process. Make practicing gratitude a daily habit, and watch what happens in your life as a result.

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The second tool for focusing on positivity is using mantras and affirmations. Repeating a personal mantra or affirmation is a way of feeding the subconscious with encouraging thoughts and messages. Come up with a set of personal mantras or affirmations that you can repeat to yourself many times a day, whether you’re encountering challenges or just want to set the tone for a positive experience throughout your day. You can also write your mantras/affirmations on sticky notes and place them in various places where you will see them throughout the day, such as a bathroom mirror, computer monitor, or on the dash of your car.

Always choose love over fear

Consider this scientifically proven fact: Fear is accompanied by a contraction of energy and vibrates at a relative resonance of 100, while love is an expansion of energy that vibrates at a relative resonance or speed of 500. Even if none of this makes any sense to you whatsoever, all you really need to know is that it’s always better for your actions to be underpinned and motivated by the energy of love, as opposed to that of fear. This is the simple science behind the reason why it’s always preferable to align yourself in support of something, instead of being against the opposite. This point, perhaps above all the others, is worth keeping at the top of our minds during these tumultuous times.

Allow time for rest

As humans, many of us have a crazy compulsion to stay in perpetual motion. We literally push ourselves to the point of exhaustion—and beyond, functioning on caffeine and fumes. We get antsy when someone asks us to sit still for a moment. There’s always just one (or maybe two or five) more items on our to-do list that have to be addressed, like, immediately. We view rest as something for the weak and meager, rather than an essential component of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. So, in case you haven’t picked up on what I’m putting down, I’m just going to spell it out for you: the importance of investing in rest cannot be overstated. Taking a five-minute break away from a hectic day to meditate and reset your nervous system can be extremely beneficial, translating in stress reduction and increased feelings of peace. All you need to do is set a timer for five minutes, close your eyes and become aware of your breath. Allow your thoughts to come and go, and just keep coming back to the breath, over and over. Give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose—except for maybe anger, depression, anxiety, insecurity, and fear. In fact, I bet you’ll start to notice a difference with a consistent practice of as little as five minutes per day.

Once again, I speak from personal experience when I say the dangers of not getting enough sleep  are very real. When I am operating on a sleep-deficit, which is pretty much anything under eight hours a night, I am more emotional, cognitively impaired, and less able to deal with life in general. I’ve noticed the same to be true for my children and other adults with whom I interact on a regular basis. Although my children (and many others who suffer from lack of sleep) are reluctant to admit, they are more acutely sensitive and less able to deal with routine challenges and setbacks when they are over tired. The good news is that when you take control of the reigns by strictly enforcing a set bedtime for yourself, you will slowly and gradually begin to feel better and be more productive. I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my mood and motivation levels as a result of sticking to a regular sleep/wake schedule for the past five days, and I intend to continue to be fiercely protective of my bedtime because I don’t enjoy the consequences.

My apologies for the excessively long post, but I feel it was important to address all of the tools and strategies that are helping me along—and that I hope will help you, too. Do any of them resonate with you? Which ones? And is there anything you would add to the list? I’d love to hear from you.

One final note: As some of you may have read in my last blog post, the word I chose for myself in 2017 is metamorphosis. To be quite frank, one of the reasons I struggled as much as I did in January was because I chose this enormous theme for myself, and then I started to feel overwhelmed, and ultimately like I was writing cheques my ass couldn’t cash. I seriously began to question myself and feared the possibility that I would never fully become the metaphorical butterfly. But when I go back and reread the words I’ve just written—when I apply these concepts to my own life and couple it with the knowing that good things take time and anything worth achieving usually doesn’t come easily—I am more confident than ever that I definitely made the right choice.

So, I may not be ready to emerge as a butterfly…yet.
It’s just that I am still becoming.

All my love, always.
Andrea

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Reinventing with a Single Word for 2017

The practice of choosing a word to guide us into and through a new year has become quite common—sort of a more fluid update to the alternative resolution setting, if you will. The word should be something important and meaningful, and serves as a thematic focus or guidepost for how you want to live. As the underlying intention for your choices and actions, the word represents a feeling, sense of being, or something else you’d like to attract or create more of in your life.

The process of choosing my word for this year was surprisingly efficient, which hasn’t always been the case for me, as I am prone to chronic over thinking and analyzing these types of things until the cows come home. But this time was different. On December 29, a friend posted on Facebook asking who had chosen a word for 2017, and while I hadn’t given it much thought at that point, my word hit me very suddenly—entirely organically and with almost frightning velocity.

But it felt right. It also felt enormous and heavy, and if I’m being honest (which I generally am because it’s the only way I know how to be), it made me a touch uncomfortable. But that’s also the reason why I knew I had found the right word for me this year.

In science and biology, metamorphosis is an incredible process of change that a living creature endures after its birth, transforming it from one physical form to another entirely different state. Most commonly, we think of it as the process that changes a squiggly little tadpole into a mature frog, or a slimy caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.

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While all of this science stuff is unquestionably true, my word for 2017 has a slightly different meaning to me. I am madly in love with the idea that we as humans can be ever-evolving and changing. We can even completely reinvent ourselves if we choose. With this in mind, I can no longer stay inside the comfort of the container in which I’ve been living. I’ve become too much for the shell that surrounds me. Shedding layers and a “skin” that no longer feels like home, this is the year I will emerge, transformed—a new and improved version of myself. Cha-cha-changes!

The sheltered state of being and the span of time during which I have been inwardly focused on deep growth has served its intended purpose in bringing me here. In fact, I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it were not for taking the time and space to process, heal, and grow beyond what I once was. For the most part, these changes have happened in darkness and isolation, just like the pupa stage in the life of a butterfly. And now, as a result of having undergone the lessons and changes, the time has come for me to emerge from my chrysalis, with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence in myself.

Trusting the timing of my life and summoning all the courage I have inside, the time has come to push my way out of the walls that have enclosed me. And as the light seeps in through the cracks of my cocoon, I’ll slowly begin to make my way out. Once free from my enclosure, I will follow the cue of a butterfly, gracefully spreading my wings to show my true colours. And then, I will fly.

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And so it happened just like this: the question was posed and I quickly found my word, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say my word found me. All of this transpired in the same day, maybe even the same hour. Energized by this newly cemented positive intention, I had created a new vision board for myself, with metamoprhosis as the central focus, before the time I went to bed on December 30.

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As the board reflects, my transformation has and will continue to include regular yoga and meditation practice, writing, learning from nature, listening to the voice of my intuition, along with generous doses of fun, happiness, simplicity, confidence, grace, balance, inspiration, power, and of course love.

Now that I think of it, metamorphosis is more than my word for 2017; it’s the real and powerful process in which I’m currently immersed. It’s my intention or drishti (focus) and my mantra for continued growth during the year that lies ahead. It signifies both where I am and the direction in which I want to go. And I think it goes without saying that I’m super stoked to see what will happen next. It also doesn’t hurt that, according to numerology, 2017 is a “1” year—a year of manifestation and new beginnings, as well as creation, love, intuition, and success. I have a feeling it’s going to be an amazing year!

Have you chosen a word or theme for yourself? What plans and goals, resolutions and intentions will you be nurturing this year? I’d love to hear from you about what you’re cooking up for 2017!