Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time to refraME our priorities

Take a few seconds to answer this question. Have a pen and paper handy. Who are the 5 most important people in your life? Don't think about it, just name them and keep reading.

I just finished reading a few blogposts of women I admire who are openly and courageously expressing that they have stretched themselves too thin, are feeling overwhelmed, diminished, and reduced to going through the motions, and acting up their lives rather than living them fully. As a result, some of them have decided to stop blogging (or insert favourite activity), because of the demands that it places on their time. For some of them blogging (or insert favourite activity), or going online, is an outlet, a joy, something that fills them up and distracts them from the demands of their lives. Others may have turned blogging (or insert favourite activity) into a job that "must" be done and becomes a dreadful chore. So they come to term with the fact that in order to find time and balance, they must stop blogging (or insert favourite activity).

While I applaud them for their courage and for making decisions to reclaim their life, at the same time it breaks my heart that the one thing they have chosen to end is the one thing they were doing for their "ME".

Remember that question at the top of my blog post? So when you look at your answer, is your ME at the top of your list? Is your ME even on the list?

I'd wager that none of you even included your ME on the list, and in the rare event that you did, I bet your ME didn't come first. How do I know? Because, coincidentally, I saw and answered this question today, and my ME was MIA from the list. And I know that I am just like you. I know, because I have read all those posts today and I know that the curse of our generation is that we are too busy for ME, that we put every other priority ahead of ME, and that unless we are willing to stop that way of prioritizing by putting ME first, we will never, ever, ever find balance, peace and happiness with our lives.

So I would love to take each of you beautiful, harried and overwhelmed women, give you a hug and tell you this: 

"I am sorry that you feel this overwhelmed and stretched thin. I understand. And you are right to want to shorten your to-do list so life becomes enjoyable again and not a chore. But in choosing which activity to let go of to have more time and find balance, remember ME. The ME that nurtures you and makes you who you are. The ME that strives to find a voice, and that we so quickly shove down in the name of other priorities or responsibilities. The ME who brings you joy and fills you up, that gives your soul purpose and spirit. That ME that we put last but should always come first, because without ME there is no WE. WE the couple, WE the family, WE the community. So if your ME needs blogging, gardening, knitting, or running to feel happy, then why deny yourself that pleasure? Your ME is worth 15-20 minutes per day, sometimes less and sometimes more, and if you're worried about being selfish remember that by showing your children that you need time to care for yourself every day, you are modeling a behaviour to them that will allow them to grow into well-balanced individuals. Reclaim time in your day by chopping off other to-dos or "responsibilities" (are they real or expectations) and instead, honour the time you deserve each day to nurture your ME."

From ME to your ME with all my love.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Taking care of "Me" when there's little time for "Me"

Last week my husband was travelling to California. So from Friday night to the following Friday night, I was on my own with the kids. I knew it was going to be a tough one as we had many appointments and commitments to attend during the week, so I wanted to be organized as best as possible. I also knew from the onset that I would not have a lot of "Me" time at all during the week. And so from the get go I decided that I needed to have no expectations at all about how the week would unfold and to take it day by day. If I could get some Me time at some point, great. If not, I knew I'd be able to get it once Tyler was home.

The strategy that helped me the most, beside having no expectation, was prioritizing what would be important during the week and letting go of what wouldn't. It was about getting rid of external or internal pressure to do and  be everything in the world. I had three priorities: getting the kids to their various appointments/commitments, having fun times with them so this week would be easier for them and they wouldn't miss their dad too much, and trying to get one moment during the day when I would be alone so I could catch my breath, even if it was only for a minute. The rest: blogging, chores, phone calls, and even work, had to take a back seat for the week. Once I made the decision to prioritize, this week by myself didn't seem as overwhelming. And this strategy really, really helped. The kids were fabulous and I was relaxed  because I didn't have many expectations or "must-do" items. That being said, I tip my hat off to all single parents who do this job of child-rearing on their own day in and day out, because it really, really is tough. Being responsible for everything 24/7 leaves you no breaks at all. I'm sure you get used to it, but it doesn't take away the fact that it is a tough job.

Tyler came home mid-day Friday and since then I have enjoyed lots of "Me" moments. I especially went for a run this morning which was really tough but was all about making "Me" healthier and that makes me really, really happy.

Have you done anything special for your me lately?

Monday, April 4, 2011

"Me" in the Company of Friends/Women

I'd like to think that in the last year my confidence in "Me" has soared and strengthened to the point that I no longer doubt about my self-worth in relation to others. Some days that statement is true and I soak in the power of my newly affirmed love for everything that makes me "Me". But there are times when I realize how fragile my confidence in "Me" still is and how quickly long-held thoughts can create self-doubt and self-judgment which take no time at all to chip-away what is at the core of my "Me".

I recently got together with friends for an evening that I was very much looking forward to. In the weeks leading up to it, I got more and more excited as I hadn't seen some of these friends for a while and also because the occasion would give me the chance to do something that was all about "Me" the woman, not the mother. On the day of our get together, I remember telling myself not to have expectations and to just live in the moment in order to fully enjoy myself. My intentions were to simply be "Me".

Yet, soon after I walked through the door and hugged my friends, I started editing and judging everything I was doing. I wasn't really conscious of it at first, but a little while into the evening, I took notice of the internal chatter in my head. "Should I say this or will it be disliked?" "Am I being too loud and taking over conversation?" "If I do this, will this friend regret inviting me?" "oh no, this friend isn't looking at me at all and seems to be ignoring me. Maybe I've done something to upset her." And on, and on, and on the internal chatter went through most of the evening. As I listened to the chatter, I tried to reason with myself with thoughts such as "these are your friends Em. They invited you because they love you for who you are so there's no need to be worried about your actions." That didn't work so well, even though rationally I knew it was true. Then I got really mad at myself. I mean, how stupid and frustrating is it, that with all that I know now about self-worth and self-love, I still  find myself in these "mind-battle" situations in which I still seem to be so vulnerable to other people's opinion of me and striving for their love or more specifically the validation of my worth through their eyes? In the end, I spent a whole evening judging and doubting myself and all that I did because I so desperately wanted to be feel loved and appreciated by others. I also realized that if these people knew what was going on in my head, they'd definitely not love me at all because it's absolutely crazy to be like this! And the kicker is that all this was going on not in the company of perfect strangers, but in the company of friends! If that's not crazy then what is?

In the days that have gone by since this evening with friends, I have tried to comprehend why I am still so vulnerable and why my self-love is so fragile. I think I have come to understand a few things about this. The first thing is that I am a person who cares a lot about others. It is who I am and there are some things about being caring that are a great asset, and some that are not. Being a caring person helps me in my job and makes me a great mother and doula/childbirth educator. Caring about people's happiness always propels me to want to do the right things. But sometimes, caring too much for others can come to the detriment of my self. And that is where my issue is. The second thing I realize is that the reason I care so much about my friends' love for me is because these friends are amazing people that are really important in my life. I'm afraid that I will lose these friends and this is why I turned a whole evening of celebration into an evening of self-editing so I could make sure that I wouldn't do anything that would cost me my friends. I know, it sounds so pathetic when it's written like that. But this is where it makes sense. My third realization was that in the past, back in university days, I was back-stabbed a number of times by so-called friends. Women I had trusted and given unconditionally to, friends with whom I was being authentically "Me", who didn't hesitate to betray my trust and slam me for who I was. I realize that I still carry the hurt and the betrayal from these long-gone days into my new friendships in a way that makes me wonder if when my back is turned, the daggers fly. Yet the friends that I am lucky to have in my life now have never done anything to indicate that this would be the case at all. As I said, I feel fortunate to be friends with such awe-inspiring, kind and caring women who have always been there for me. Which is how I came to realize that this had nothing to do with them and all to do with "Me", my fragile, once-hurt, always worried, beautiful "Me".

It was really hard to write this post but the reason I wanted to do it is twofold. In the recent past, I have had experiences that make me realize how precious life is and how quickly things can change. Each day is a gift to be thoroughly enjoyed and made the most of, not squandered in self-doubt, complaints and worries. I am mad myself for wasting a special evening with mental clutter, rather than enjoy every moment as it was. I know I'm not alone in doing this. The other reason for writing this post is to acknowledge that self-confidence is a process that requires understanding and patience and to remind you that when you feel vulnerable to be gentle with your "Me". If your "Me" needs love, then think about what you can do to give it to yourself. It's nice to hear others say "You are amazing, fabulous, incredible" but those words will not resonate for as long as you don't believe them to be true deep within your self. And for as long as you don't believe those words to be true wholeheartedly, the sad part is that you'll always be looking to others to say them. I know I still have lots of work to do to fill up my tank with "Me" love, but I think it's realistic to expect it to be a two-step forward, one step back process. The setbacks help us realize and comprehend things in ways that we wouldn't have otherwise. So in a way, every setback becomes an opportunity for growth towards a strong, resilient and confident "Me".

It is a dreary, rainy day here today, not the kind of day that brings a smile to your face. So it's really important to do something very caring for your "Me" today. What will you do? I think I will curl up with a book and a cup of tea at some point today and remember to breathe and enjoy every moment of the day because I am very fortunate to play this game called life and I intend to live it fully, every day, the good ones and the bad ones, and never take it for granted.

I'm thinking of you and your family, Greg Hebert, and I am praying for a miracle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYPgMXHekh8


Friday, March 25, 2011

Bucket List

A friend of mine got to scratch an item off of her bucket list yesterday and I'm very, very happy for her. A bucket list is simply a list of things you'd like to do "one day" in your life. They can be lifelong dreams, hopes and aspirations that you write down without censorship. Writing a bucket list is a very important time investment for your "Me" because it give voice to the inner child in you that is not afraid to dream big and hope one day to see that dream come true.

A typical bucket list. Handwritten is always better because it lets your personality shine.

But here's the thing: writing the list is only step one. Once you have written the bucket list, then you owe it to yourself to put action to words and tackle the items one at a time. In our busy every day life, it's easy to put dreams and aspirations aside in order to deal with the now. The problem is that if you let the every day swallow every moment of your life, you will never get to scratch off an item of your list, and realize, too late, that you dreams will never happen. If you really want to make your "Me" happy, then you must take some time to make sure that every day becomes an opportunity to make your dreams come true. Doing that also gives you a lifeline to remember that going through the motions of the every day is not all there is about life. It reminds you that amidst the daily chaos, there is a silver lining of opportunity to make the every day purposeful and to making your life an objective to achieving all that you desire.

The best part of making a bucket list? Getting to scratch off the items one by one and knowing that YOU are the reason behind this accomplishment. Fulfillment, happiness and confidence can only soar higher when you set out to make your dreams happen, and you live to tell about it. After all, you've just proven to yourself that anything is possible, and that if you believe firmly in your dream, you can overcome any obstacles that might stand in your way.

So grab a piece of paper and write down everything you're hoping for in this lifetime. There is no right or wrong dream. The point of dreaming and making a bucket list is that anything is possible. So go ahead and write it down. Once you are done, put your  bucket list in a place that you will see everyday and that is easily accessible so you can add to it, or better yet, scratch items off. Then choose one thing that is most important to you and make a commitment to make it happen. If it seems overwhelming, break down it down in steps and tackle one step at a time. Give yourself a deadline! Without deadline, we are only driftwood floating without objective or direction. Or in other words, a deadline is a friendly kick-in-the-butt that keeps us focused and on track. When your dream is about to come true, soak every moment in and live it fully. One thing my friend also remembered is to live the experience without expectations. Just go and experience it for what it is. Take lots of pictures for posterity. You might also want to create a bucket list scrapbook and dedicate a page to each item on your list. You can add pictures and favourite moments.

Take some time for yourself today to start thinking about your bucket list and write down some items on it. It will make you happy just knowing that having a dream and making it happen is something that will make your "Me" very, very fulfilled.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Want to make your "Me" happy? Stop taking things personally

The kids and I were having lunch today when I announced to them that from tomorrow until Sunday, Daddy will be taking care of them because I'm taking a 3-day workshop. As soon as I told them the news, the kids broke out in cheers and applause. "Yay! Daddy's going to take care of us!" they said, followed by Logan's comment of "It's not that we don't like you Mom, but we love Daddy a little more."

Years ago, this type of comment would have crushed me. I mean, after all I've done for these kids, you'd think I'd have the upper-hand in the love department, right? Not so! I have realized that I take things way too personally and sometimes without any reason. It's my interpretation of the events, not the events themselves that are causing me grief.

Take my kids for example, when they state that they like their daddy more, I know why they feel that way. Daddy's fun. Daddy isn't home all the time, so when he is, his presence is exotic. It's not that they don't appreciate me being around, but I'm around so much, I've become part of the furniture. I've come to terms with this and I now know that when my kids say they like Daddy more, it doesn't mean I'm not important to them. It's a different kind of love and I no longer take it personally.

How often do you take things personally? I think people who take things personally are people who are extremely kind and sensitive and try their best to always do the right thing....to please others or to prove to themselves that they are worthy. Taking things personally can be a sign of great vulnerability and lack of confidence, but you know what, there is no shame in that. What you have to realize is that most often, the people who intimidate us or who we're most worried about offending for fear they won't love us or appreciate us, actually don't necessarily think about us at all. And that's the key thing here. As my very good friend Julie once told me, "What makes you think you're so important that people will actually take some of their precious time to think about you at all?" This was one of the best statement I had ever heard because the reality is that I'm not so important to these people's lives that they would actually think about me, or what I had done that much. Most of the time, their reaction is based on something that's happening in their lives and has nothing to do with you at all. I would actually bet, that in most cases where we take things personally, it's never really about Me at all, but simply about them. Our ego has a hard time accepting that one!

The problem is that when we take things personally, we're only hurting ourselves. Self-doubt, anxiety, anger, sadness, betrayal, hurt, are painful emotions that get triggered when we take things personally, and the culprit in all this? Not the person's message or words, but our own (false) interpretation of those words. Even if those words are true, we still have a choice: either we take them personally and give the words the power to hurt and hammer us, or we choose to stand up for ourselves and ignore the words that were spoken. So what will you choose for your "Me"?

I'd like you to choose to stand up for yourself and try to no longer take anything personally. Your happiness depends on it. If you're having a hard time not taking things personally, here are a few things you can do:

1. Make sure you truly understand the message: I often find that a lot of hurt is caused by miscommunication and misunderstanding of the situation. Clarifying what was said so you really understand the cause of the criticism or comment will sometimes help you realize that it has actually nothing to do with you.

2. If you get the message by e-mail, text or other electronic devices (Facebook), ignore it until you can speak to the person face to face. I've heard many stories of people being taken aback by e-mails they received when it turns out that the author of the e-mail was in a hurry and didn't pay attention to the way the e-mail was written. Always clarify in person or over the phone.

3. Sit with it. If you are taking things personally, before you do anything, take some time to analyze your reaction. Ask yourself: "Is it my perception?" "What makes me think this is something I should take personally?" "Am I right?" and most importantly, put yourself in the other person's shoes and see if this is about their life situation, and not at all about you.

4. Remind yourself that you can choose to focus on this and make yourself miserable, or you can choose to let it go. It's hard to let it go, because deep down, we really want to know if it was about us. We want to know if we did something wrong but we're really hoping we didn't and that the person actually thinks we're great and wonderful. By choosing to let it go, you are demonstrating to yourself that you are worthy and wonderful and you don't need anyone's validation to prove it.

Finally remember that there are times in your life when you are more sensitive because you're stressed, tired, anxious, etc...When you're vulnerable, you're more likely to take things personally when there is no reason to. So be aware of how you are feeling, and if you think that your "Me" is not feeling great, then give yourself permission to nurture yourself back to feeling good before you address the situation again.

It's hard not to take things personally, but it's really important to try your best not to. It's the best thing you can do for your "Me".

What have you done for your "Me" today?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Glorious Spring days make "Me" happy

I've been in kind of a slump lately, hence the lack of blog posts. I love blogs. Reading them makes me happy. I have my favourites and check them daily. Reading blogs make me feel connected, less lonely sometimes, and normal, in the way that perfect strangers' lives ressemble my own. And they make me laugh. So much. I would love to be as prolific a blog writer as some of these women are, but right now, it's not a reality. I often marvel at the way these bloggers seem to write effortlessly, always coming up with new material, while I struggle to find something to write about. I marvel that some of these bloggers have become so successfull and so read, that they can make a living out of their blog. I find it incredible, in a very good way.

Rather than putting myself down for not being that kind of a writer (something that I would have done a lot in the past), I'm just choosing to use these writers as an inspiration. Instead of dwelling in envy and comparison ("I wish I were as ....as...", "I wish I could .... as well as ...."), I use the coveted attributes of the people I admire as catalysts to set goals for my own self-development. It's a work in progress, but all is takes to move forward are baby steps.

I'm also learning to let go of expectations. Expectations seem to always set you up for failure and disappointment. When you choose not to expect anything, you allow yourself to live in the moment, as it is, and to enjoy it for what it is, no strings attached. That's the approach I have chosen for March break, this week. I use to struggle when the kids where on vacation with expectations of what should or could happen. Lately, I've just let go of that. Instead, I'm just letting every day unfold on its own. I know I won't be able to do much work and I'm ok with that. I don't have a plan. The kids and I will wake up each day and decide what we will do. No imposition, no expectation, and that makes me feel peaceful and happy.

Over the last few days, I have been touched, as many, by the images and stories unfolding from the Japan Quake. This natural disaster has a very personal twist for us as my brother-in-law lives in a suburb of Tokyo. Though we know that he survived the quake and the tsunami, fear of radiation from the nuclear power plants is prominent in our mind and we pray that all will be well in the end. Jason was with us two weeks ago and parts of me wishes he had decided to stick around here a few more days. He arrived on Thursday in Japan, a day before the quake.

To know that so many are experiencing this tragedy is humbling. Our daily dramas certainly don't seem like a big deal when confronted by such a slap-in-the-face perspective. If we could only live every day with the knowledge of how fortunate we are and how little some of our "problems" truly are, I'm sure we'd smarten up a little about our daily dramas and we would end up being happier for it.

What have you done for your "Me" today? With March break, it might be harder to have some Me time, but today, my Me time was actually a combination of moments during which I simply gazed at the sky and magnificent sunshine, felt the warmer temperatures, and thanked the universe for signs of the upcoming Spring. Have you noticed there are more birds singing, snow melting and house plants thriving? The addition of one glorious hour of daylight is enough to boost my happiness quotient through the roof.

Have a great March break everyone.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Incredible "Me"

Joyful. Happy. Jubilant. Over-the-Moon. Excited. Euphoric. Triumphant. These are just a few adjectives I can think of to express accurately how I feel today about my incredible "Me". Truth is there are no words that can truly describe the magnitude of how incredible I am feeling right now.

Yesterday, I turned the page on a chapter of my life that, although painful, stressful, and scary, taught me so much about my incredible "Me". Three and half year after I was diagnosed with 6th-nerve palsy, and almost three years to the day that I started rehabilitation, I am finally cured, and my left eye is back to normal. And I am in awe at the strength and resilience of the human body.

It began in the August of 2007 when I started to experience daily headaches. In early September, I had made an appointment to see my doctor and on my way there, in the car, I started seeing double. I pulled over and realized then that this was more than simple headaches. My doctor perplexed, sent me to the hospital where Iwas given very powerful drugs. The docs were thinking the headache was causing the double vision. When the headache was gone and the double vision remained, the look on their face said it all. They said "Cat-Scan" and I realized they thought something was wrong with my brain. I immediately thought brain-tumour and spent the next few hours being more scared than I had ever been before. Thankfully, the cat-scan showed nothing and I was extremely relieved. They sent me home, not knowing what else to do. I went back a day later, when my left eye froze and wouldn't move from the middle of the eye to the outer corner. I could move it from the middle inward, but not outward. Once back in emergency, I had an MRI, which showed nothing again thankfully. I was diagnosed with 6th nerve palsy then but the cause wasn't known yet. Eventually, I received a spinal tap, and the resident in my care, said "you have pressure in your brain." He said the spinal tap showed intracranial pressure, and that extra pressure caused the optic nerve to compress, which caused the 6th nerve palsy. He was thrilled, gave me so pills and told me, you'll be good in a few days.

Soon after the diagnosis. My left eye, which is on the right side, froze and pulled inward.
Shortly after we got home, I started feeling really sick. I had the beginnings of what would be the most painful headache I would ever experience, and which would result in being brought back to the hospital by ambulance to treat the spinal headache. I was given morphine and was assigned a new doctor, who said that the spinal tap had been done wrong, that I did not have intra cranial pressure, and that we would need to explore the cause of the 6th nerve palsy more. It was a process of elimination of potential serious diseases such as lupus and MS. A year and a half later, my 6th nerve palsy was deemed "Idiopathic", of no-known causes, and that was the end of my neurology appointments.

The diagnosis of idiopathic causes, though good news in the sense that it wasn't any of the big, serious diseases, still left me unsettled. There is a part of me that wants to know why it happened, because maybe if understood why it happened, I could prevent it in from happening again in the future. I've learned since then that I don't have such power, nor much control and I just have to accept that. I have a theory that the palsy was caused by a medication I was on, but the gods of medicine have ignored my theory.

Living with the 6th-nerve palsy was difficult in the beginning. I had to wear an eye-patch so I could see in single vision only. Seeing double all the time is disorienting and disabilitating and my double vision was so severe that only the eye patch made me able to function. I had to learn to drive with the eye patch as well.

My first eye patch was a simple gauze taped over the eye
The next generation eye patch (or ipatch 2...that would be catchy wouldn't it?!)

The physical adjustement to wearing the eye patch wasn't too difficult, but the emotional adjustment were. It gave me a greater appreciation for how people with disabilities cope under the eyes of others. Knowing that you are looked at, or stared at, because you look different, is hard to swallow. It made me feel self-conscious, and less worthy, and there were many times when I felt I wanted to become invisible. At that point, I didn't know if my eye would ever go back to normal, so I had to adjust to the fact that this might be my normal now. It was extremely difficult, and the pirate jokes stopped being funny very quickly.

In November 2007, two months after my eye froze, it started moving again. Slowly at first, and then normally. Hope swelled in my chest when my eye started moving again. I was still seeing double, but my eye was moving and this was the first sign that maybe I could heal.

In May of 2009, I went to see an optometrist about doing some eye rehabilitation. From that first appointment, my healing took another step forward. I was given some prism glasses which would slowly train my eye muscles to work together again. The eyes are supposed to move together in exactly the same way in order to have single vision. If there is a slight deviation, double vision occurs. My deviation was huge. Thankfully, technology has allowed for the creation of film prisms that just stick to the glasses, a much better alternative to the coke-bottle look.

The prism glasses. You can see vertical lines on the glass, one for each prism.

From that first appointment until now, we have slowly decreased the amount of prisms in the glasses, and my eyes worked with us to make the therapy successful. My left eye worked really hard, especially. And here we are today, close to three years after therapy began and I am healed. Fully, fully healed. I may not know for sure what caused this glitch in my brain, and the palsy to freeze my eye, but I have been given the full proof of how strong, resilient and fabulous the body is at healing itself. I am amazed and so grateful.

I have a deeper appreciation of health, a better perspective of how lucky "normal" really is, and how quickly one can get from "normal" to life-changing and debilitating. I am one of the lucky ones, because I've been given a second chance. I was given the gift of healing. I could just as quickly have been given the other diagnosis, the permanent one, the other side of the coin that doesn't heal. When I start feeling sorry for myself, I remember that perspective. And I smarten up and count my blessings.

Take good care of your "Me" today, and be grateful for all that it is right now, in this very moment. Your "Me" is worthy of being celebrated, yet we often neglect it. Try and spend a moment each day to appreciate the gift of life, the gift of health, the gift of simply being "Me".

What will you do for your "Me" today?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Scaredy Cat

I have always admired people who are bold and unafraid and chase their dreams without fear, without holding back. I'm not one of those people and it sucks. There is not a day that go by when I don't feel fear in my gut, a fear that so far I have been unable to shake in a way that helps "Me" move forward and grow.

Right now, the fear is about going back to work. In September, my youngest will be going to school full time which will allow me to work once again. I have been home for almost 9 years now, and though I have worked from home on-and-off these last 9 years, being home with the kids was always my priority. There are a few reasons why I need to go back to work, but I find myself having stage-fright and seem unable to make any decisions about what I will do, which leaves "Me" feeling small and unable to move forward.

That's Me in my shell, afraid to stand tall and brave the world. My shell is my house and life as I know it now.
The options within my midst are full of opportunities. Though I have made peace with the idea that right now, I cannot be a birth doula regularly, I am hoping to transition to postpartum work and breastfeeding support. I would also like to start teaching Lamaze classes again, and Breastfeeding preparation classes as well. My main motivation for teaching is that, except for a very small number of classes, I find that most expectant couples do not receive a preparation for birth and postpartum that truly benefits them. I teach for an organization that only offers one-day birth preparation classes during which I can only devote 10 mn to the immediate postpartum period and 10 mn to breastfeeding. Teaching these classes in very frustrating because I can't look these couples in the eyes and tell them without a doubt that after my classes, they'll be ready for birth and parenthood. No way.

So it's not the motivation that prevents me from doing all these things, it's the execution. I always get pumped up about my ideas, but then fear rolls its ugly head and starts chipping away at my motivation. I'm afraid about having to call people and asking them for something (for exemple, asking strangers about renting space to teach classes), I'm afraid about the commitment and the responsibility of putting my ideas into execution. I'm afraid that I will let people down and that they will hate my classes, and me. I'm afraid that I'm not competent enough (I mean, who am I really to think I can do this). I'm afraid with how these decisions will affect my family (if I work evenings and week-ends, how will my kids get to their activities....we only have one working car right now). Will they resent Mom for not being there on week-nights and week-ends? I'm afraid of letting colleagues and friends down. I'm afraid they'll think I'm a quitter (because of my past maybe) or just not-committed to the cause. I'm afraid that they'll think less of me because these colleagues/friends matter a lot to me.

That's just a small sample of what goes on in my head and how fear takes over...every day. To say that I'm energized and ready to take on the world would be the biggest lie. I'm tired. I'm tired of fighting with fear. I want fear to let me go and get out of my life. I want to be bold, and brave and make my dreams happen. Instead, I continue to let fear dictate what my life is. It sucks. It hurts. It leaves me in pieces.

My therapist has encouraged me to sit with my fear, so I can better understand it. The more you fight it, she says, the more power it has over you. So I've tried. I've tried to just feel the fear, connect with it, understand it. I know what it's about. It's about confidence, it's about my history about pleasing people. Understanding it hasn't made it any less powerful at this point. There are days when I can feel the fear and, because it's a day when I feel good, I can stare it down and say "I know I'm afraid, but I have to do it anyways." Small victories are achieved on that day. Yesterday, for example, I managed to finally send an e-mail to a store owner about renting the space (it took me three weeks to work up the courage). The rest of the day, the fear had doubled in intensity because now that I done this, what would happen next? If the person said yes, now it meant that I actually had to do it and make it happen. If she said no, the fear was that now I'd have to go and talk to someone else about  renting a space. Then there are other days, when I'm not feeling good (insert tired, PMS) and then the fear cripples me to the point where I can't do anything at all to move my ideas and dream forward. Instead, I turn around in circles, check my e-mail, facebook, or favourite sites about 100 times a day, and hate myself for letting fear stop me from achieving anything.

At this point, I don't have a strategy. Breathing through the fear doesn't work. Exercising could work at giving me confidence, but lately, it has been put in the back burner (10 days of sick kids at home with no time for Me will do that). Talking myself down sometimes works but most of the time doesn't. There is something that my therapist said to me the other day that helped a little. When talking about a decision her daughter was agonizing over, she told her daughter "why worry about this right now? We're not there yet. Let's get step 1 done first. When that's done, then you'll see what your options are and which one feels right." I thought that was great advice...Her daughter is lucky that her mom is such an amazing mother who happens to be a therapist. As it relates to me, maybe I could talk down my fear if I broke my dreams into small steps and only thought about them one at a time.

Something else was revealing to me the other day. I was reading the January edition of "O" the Oprah Magazine and she was talking about creating her television network. A question in the interview was "Did you feel any fear" about creating the network, and Oprah responded: "I have never felt such fear in all my life". I was stunned. What do you mean Oprah feels fear? She is one of the most successful woman in television history and she's still scared? I know it sounds naive to think that this confident, amazing, accomplished, successful woman can be shielded from fear, but at the same time, reading that she was afraid of starting something new made me feel...normal (rather than the self-loathing "fucked up" I feel about myself sometimes).  She then talks about how she managed the anxiety. She says "There was an underlying instinct that this was a divine opportunity and I had to separate the opportunity from the fear of it (.....) For anybody who is thinking about taking a risk, you have to always come back to: What are your fundamental beliefs about yourself and your reason for doing whatever? So I thought, Well if it doesn't work (the network), that still doesn't take away the reason I wanted to do it." And I would add, it doesn't take away from anything you accomplished so far, or were trying to accomplish.

What is most frustrating to Me, is that I know I have been given a gift. I am good at what I do and it drives me crazy that I let the fear prevent me from taking the next step forward. In the end, I think the difference between Me and the people I admire is not that I have fear and they don't. Rather, it's that when they feel the fear, they don't let themselves be stopped by it. They work with it and manage to overcome it.

How do you get past fears? What is your relationship with fear? How do you cope with fear? I look forward to reading your comments about it.

Today, writing about my fears and opening up feels very good, so my Me is happy. I'm also hoping to paint my nails today, so that the colour I paint them (bold red) will inspire me to be bold too.

What will you do for your Me today?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A daily gift

In the span of a week, I have learned of four people passing away. In the last two days alone, three. Since January, this brings the total of loved ones that my friends have lost to seven. I have not personally lost anyone dear to me in the last few years, but I share in my friends' grief. Most deaths were from age, others from sickness. None of the reasons make the loss any less painful.

I have never, ever had a time when so many people died around me in such a small amount of time. Of course, being human and questioning, I'm wondering if this is the Universe trying to send a message. And if it is (though my husband would just say, it's a coincidence, get over it), then I'm sure the message is simple. Live your life as though each day was your last. Enjoy the moments and don't get bogged down by the daily stressors that suck your life away. Simple yes, but put in practice? We often forget how precious our life is, and how much this gift of life needs to be treasured and embraced every day. I have to tell you that my heart jumped a couple of beats this afternoon when I got a call from the Principal and her first words were: "I have something to tell you and it's really bad news." For a few seconds, I thought something bad had happened to Jaime (she was the only one at school then, Austin still being home sick) and panic set in. When the Principal told me that one of our teachers had passed away, I felt a mix of intense relief and overwhelming sadness for this teacher who had been with our school her entire teaching career. The Principal called because I'm co-chair of the parent council and she needed to let us know. But in the split second before I knew who she was talking about, the words "I have some terrible news" were a BIG reminder of what I could lose. It's pretty sad that we need these reminders to reframe and remember to make the most of our precious, precious life.

I have had a week where I let the little things get to me and suck my life away. Though I'm very sad and sorry for my friends' loss, I am grateful for the Universe's reminder that the breath, the heart, the body and the brain that sustain me are a privilege that needs to be honoured now and every single day.

Let's all take a great big breath, and count ourselves lucky that we still have the opportunity to live, to laugh, to love and to enjoy all that life has to offer, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Anger Management and a man-cold for laughs

Today was just one of those days. Sigh. I'm trying to not let the anger overcome me. Anger is not productive, it doesn't solve anything, and is just a gut reaction that disguises the real root of my upset. I've learned when I feel anger and rage to question what is at the root of these violent reactions. And when anger shows up in my gut and wounds its way up to my chest to the point when I just want to scream, I'm usually good at recognizing the signs, taking a deep breath or walking away until I cool down. Today, I had a really hard time to stay cool, while feeling pulled in many different directions.

My oldest started feeling sick yesterday, and from the sound of his voice and the look on his face, I knew that it wasn't going to be a "little" sickness. He came to our room at 4:30 a.m. feeling sore and achy, and after a round of motrin, lied down with me and tossed and turned uncomfortable until 6 a.m. when he went back to sleep. I crept out of bed, unable to go back to sleep, and got the day started. The other two munchkins and Tyler got up close to 7 a.m. and though they were super quiet, Austin was back up shortly after that. He was feeling gross and cranky, and the fatigue didn't help. I knew that the morning I had planned of workout/work was now gone as I had to stay by his side. By the time Logan got home at 11 a.m., Austin was feeling worse and even though I had been by his side all morning, I felt like I had to throw Logan in front of the computer to get him out of the way, so I could continue my watch over mister sick-and-demanding. Can you tell the resentment and anger was building? Argh.

I won't go into every detail of my day, but as I felt the anger rising slowly and surely, I understood the roots of my discontent and was left feeling frustrated. It's not that I resented taking care of my sick child, or that I was angry at him for being sick in the first place. No, I took care of him because I wanted to be by his side and give him some comfort as best I could. I could easily have stuck him in front of the TV and eclipsed myself to do my work, but I chose to forgo the work and sit next to him instead.

The anger came from the sense of feeling split in all directions and feeling my head spin as all my to-dos and guilts waltzed in my head. I was angry that I couldn't be at peace with taking care of him and it being enough. I was angry that I hadn't been able to do my work, yet when I sat in front of the computer with 10 minutes to myself, I couldn't focus and achieve anything either. I was mad that Logan had more than his share of computer/movies today so I could be with his brother. I was annoyed when I reluctantly gave in and made banana bread with Logan after he pleaded to please, please, please make it together, to have him announce once all the ingredients were on the table, that he didn't feel like it anymore (too bad buddy, you're gonna anyways). I was angry when I thought that for once I wished I could be a full-time working parent so I could escape my madhouse and be alone. And I was angry with myself when I snapped at Jaime cause she just happened to be there when I lost my patience. The biggest straw was pulled when after all this, the thought came to my head that today was a day during which I accomplished nothing. Are you kidding me?! The moment the thought came on, my anger came to a peak, and then I let it go. Because this may not have been the day where I achieved all that I had planned to do, but the day I made the right choices and accomplished the most important of jobs: I was there for my kid, the rest be damned.

As the anger died down, and the frustrations lost their grounding, I gained perspective and my rational mind took over the raw emotions. I know the bad days happen, and when they do, they absolutely suck. But I also know that when the day comes to an end, today will be a day in the past and tomorrow will come and will bring with it a clean slate of opportunities. Austin is still going to be sick tomorrow and I hope I can approach the day with less expectations. It will be as it will be. And if all I can do is sit next to him and read, I'll be happy to do it.

I do feel that I need to do something very special for my "Me" tonight, to refuel and give myself some "Me" love too. So tonight I will not stay on my computer and attempt to "catch up" on work that needs to be done. Instead, I will go and curl on the couch with a book that will transport me to another world and make me dream. I might also indulge in a cup of tea and bite of chocolate. After a hard day, it's the little things in life that give you the biggest boost.

I want to finish on a funny note tonight, and post a video that came to my mind a few times today and gave me the opportunity to chuckle when I was feeling ready to burst. I hope to God that Austin doesn't turn into this melodramatic guy with a man-cold, but humour does make one feel better. Enjoy!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love by definition

Happy Valentine's day everyone. Today is the day to celebrate the special love and bond you feel for a very special bunch of people. But did you remember to say "I LOVE YOU" to the most important person in your world? Yes, I am talking about your "Me". Did you wake up this morning and say to yourself, "I love myself and am so grateful for being the person that I am"? I doubt many of you did. Well, first of all, it might sound corny to wake up and tell yourself how much you adore your "Me", especially first thing in the morning with bad breath and bed head in tow. But why not? Love starts with you. And if you acknowledge the love you have for yourself, and start to feel it deep within your core, that love will gain new strength, multiply and spread outward tenfolds to the people you love most in your life. But more important, when you affirm the love you feel for your "Me" everyday, you give yourself a gift that noone else can give you, which allows you to spread your wings, gives you confidence and joy to achieve all you desire.

If you can't see yourself saying "I LOVE ME" every day, then ask yourself "why don't I?" What is it about you that makes it hard for you to say "I love everything that I am". Is your body image dragging your love for "Me" down? Are you angry with a part of you that makes it hard to love who you really are? Though it may be hard to ask these questions and face the uncomfortable feelings, try and approach this process from a non-emotional stand point. Your questioning should be based on curiosity, not judgment. The goal here is to uncover the layers of discontent, so you can then face them head on and question whether your dislike is valid or not. For example, I was watching TLC's What Not To Wear the other day, and the contestant had severe body image issues. Every time she tried on a garment, she accused her body of being too fat, inadequate and just horrible. She was extremely emotional about the clothes not fitting, and you could really tell her love for her "Me" was abysmal. So the hosts helped by showing her that rather than focus on the fact that her body was wrong, she should shift her perspective 360 degrees to understand that there was nothing wrong with her body, simply that some clothes weren't meant for it. It wasn't about her body at all. Her body was just fine the way it was, but the clothes either worked for it or did not. Was her dislike for herself valid? In the end, she was able to choose clothes and accessories that made her look and feel beautiful and her love for her "Me" grew from nothing to new heights in no time at all. We may not have $5,000 to change our wardrobe to make us feel better about our "Me", but the point is that whenever you say "I really hate my butt because it makes me look huge", ask yourself if it is a valid statement. Honestly, even if your butt is big, it doesn't mean that it makes you any less appealing that a flat butted chick. Have you seen Kim Kardashian's butt? Or J-Lo's? (Ok, I know this reference to celebrities is not about what real women look like, but honestly, the point is that we look up to celebrities as the ideal for body image, so if their big butt is deemed beautiful, then it must mean that ours isn't half bad either). A big butt can be extremely gorgeous and sexy. So your argument isn't valid. And so now, it's time to stop the hate talk and look at your sexy butt in a new way, or to any other parts of your Me you have a hate relationship with (it doesn't have to be physical. Sometimes the things we hate most are the deeper emotional or personality traits we carry).

Still too much of a stretch for you? If you can't see yourself loving your "Me" completely just yet, then focus on a few things about your "Me" that you absolutely and unconditionally love. It doesn't have to be something physical. It can be a trait of character, something that makes you unique and lovable just as you are. Once you have found a couple of things you really love, embrace them and start saying "I love these things about "Me"" every day. Your love for "Me" will start growing, and growing, and growing, until you love those little things so much, you forget the ones that were bugging you in the first place.

One thing I know for sure is that the process of loving your "Me" can be a hard journey of introspection, facing fears, and letting go. But once you start feeling the love, the power you feel within you is worth all the hard work. Without self-love, there is no love. Plain and simple. You can't love others genuinely, until you are ready to embrace and love all that you are.

The numbers refer to the finish time of my first ever half-marathon. A gift to myself.

Happy Valentine's Day to all your "Me".

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reality Check

I let it happen again. I have coveted that which I cannot have, and what's worse, I have felt ashamed of what I am because of some stupid ideal of what I think I should be. My stupid ideals. I'm sure you've had those thoughts at times too, and if you don't, then I'm proud of you. But when I have these thoughts, this is what they sound like:

- I am less than you because you are more beautiful;
- I am less worthy because you are more fit and slim;
- I am less than you because I don't have a big house like you;
- I am less than you because I can't afford the clothes on your back;
- I am less than you because I can't cook or sew or garden or knit as you so perfectly do;
- I am ashamed because I don't have your confidence, positive spirit, or happy disposition;
- I like me less because I love what you represent, the things I cannot have and never will have because they are not me.

And because those thoughts make me feel low and inadequate, I blame you who has what I covet. It's easier to blame you than to face the fact that I am the one to blame. Here's why: Everytime I long for something in me that I cannot have, I am denying who I really am, and by saying "I wish I were/I had/I could" I am slapping myself in the face and failing to embrace the gifts that I have been given. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when she said "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." And on a day like today when I look at other women and feel inferior because I don't have what they possess, I remember Roosevelt's words of wisdom and realize that the feeling of shame and inadequacy is mine and mine alone. No one has made me feel this way, but me.

The fabulous, wise and inspiring Eleanor Roosevelt

So today, I resolve once again, to stop coveting and focus on acceptance and gratefulness. Because I may not have the big house, but I have a big heart. I may not have fancy clothes, but I have the deepest love. I may not tend to gardens, but I care for people. I may not be slim but my body is beautiful and strong, and I have a half-marathon medal to prove. And did I mention my boobs? Well, let's just say that they're real, and they're spectacular!

Valentine's day is coming soon, so how about we all write our "Me" a nice and honest love letter. I think we deserve to tell ourselves all the great things that make "Me" so fabulous, and we should not have to wait for somebody else to let us know why we rock. I'm not saying that you shouldn't look forward to your hubby and kids singing your praises, but I think it would be an even bigger gift to your "Me" if you celebrated all that you are. Nothing more, nothing less. So go on, grab a pen and paper and let it flow. This is from you to you. No one else will be privy to it. So don't be afraid. Just write from the heart. And love yourself, no matter what.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Time is on my side

It's  been a week since my last post and when I realized this, the only thought that came through my head was: "WTF?" A week has gone by and really, I have no idea where the time went. It's as if some unknown alien device had decided to lock into my brain and suck every single bit of memory from last week out of it. Oh no! Wait a minute, I remember....there was driving everywhere, there was gathering with friends, there was time spent doing the day-to-day managing of house and children (although with repeating the same chores/motions everyday, it's no wonder our brain stops noticing), and yes, best of all, there was the all-nighter holding a bowl for my daughter as she proceeded to empty the contents of her stomach every hour on the hour from 11 p.m. until 10 a.m. Really, it was a week like any other, where I just chase the clock and try to do all the things that need to be done and that I want to do cramed in a 14 hour timeframe from awake to asleep. 14 hours isn't that much to get shit done. Really. And so, I often am screaming in my head for someone, something, some way to please have the gift of one more hour in my day (thought two would be even better).

See that crazy rabbit? That's me chasing time every day!
All this chasing of time has left me physicall and emotionally TIRED! My "Me" has had enough. This isn't working for "Me" anymore, and so when I stumbled upon 168 hours by Laura Vanderkam, I was eager to see how I could use my time in less harried ways.

See, the funny thing about time is that it is influenced by our perception. When we are bored to tears, minutes last a lifetime. When we are deeply involved in something we love, time seems to fly by and last only seconds. When we're looking forward to something happening, time seems to drag on and take forever. Yet when we are dreading something uncomfortable, time plays tricks and we're soon facing the unwanted. But, the reality is that time is a constant. Minutes last 60 seconds. Hours last 60 minutes. Days last 24 hours. Time does not waver and time does not discriminate. We are all given the same gift of time, every single day. This is Vanderkam's predominant point and her premise for writing 168 hours.  She begins her book by talking about Theresa Daytner, a woman who makes it a point to go out on an hour long hike on a particular morning because it is sunny out, and it would be a shame to not go out an enjoy the day. Vanderkam goes on a bit more about Daytner who seems to have an easy, well-managed daily life which might lead us to think that she's lucky and has more time to play with than others. But here's the thing, Theresa Daytner is the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation and a very involved mother to 6 children, and she volunteers her time as well. When Daytner attended a White House luncheon, upon hearing her story, President Obama looked at her stunned and asked her "Do you ever sleep?" We are all amazed at people who seem to have the ability to accomplish so much and we hold them on pedestals with justifications of our own inability to make time our friend rather than our enemy. Vanderkam spends a lot of time talking about the myth of the time crunch, which happens to be the number one concern of most people today. Yet all of us have the same 168 hours per week to choose to do whatever we want to do with. Not enough time to exercise? If you decide to work out 5 hours a week, you'll still have 163 hours to do other things with. I won't bore you with all the calculations, but recommend that you check the book out if you're interested. It is mind-opening.

What really struck with me about this book, is this: I have more time than I think. When I first came to that realization, I refused it. No way! I don't have enough time! Then I started to think about my days and how I spend my time, and you know what? Turns out I really do have lots of time, I just sometimes chose to spend it on the wrong things. If I hadn't surfed the net for 30 minutes, I would have been able to do this other thing I keep saying I want to do, but never do because I don't have enough time. Kind of silly when you think about it right?

When asked by Vanderkan what she thought was different about her that made her so successful at working with time, Theresa Daytner said: "Here's what I think is the difference. I know I'm in charge of me. Everything that I do, every minute that I spend is my choice." When I read this statement, I was in awe and I felt a shift in my way of dealing with time. I have for the longest time, let time control me. All my actions, my choices, my dreams, my way of living was controlled with my perception that time was this Sword of Damocles dictating my life. Daytner's statement says the opposite: I am in control of my time. I choose when or how I spend my time. This way of seeing my relationship with time has been liberating and  empowering, to the point that I copied Daytner's statement and have posted it so I can be reminded everyday of my power to choose how I live my life and how I spend my time. And though I have not yet fully applied this concept of time to my life (last week was actually ironic considering this new found revelation) here's the difference in my life so far: I now ask myself if what I am doing is a good use of my precious time, if the activity I choose to spend my time on makes me happy, fulfills me, helps me grow, or not. If it doesn't, then it will go by the way side.

My "Me" is feeling reenergized by this new perception of time, and I am feeling strong and empowered. If you are interested in seeing how the 168 hours can work for you, you can go on Vanderkam's website http://www.168hours.com/ and download a time sheet to help you track how you spend your time and help you make choices that will nurture your "Me" rather than deplete it. Today, I chose to write this blog and share this with you, and the 40 minutes I chose to spend writing it, were incredibly worth it.

What will you do for your Me today?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Laugh it off!

I'm a person who takes everything way too seriously and most of the time, I don't even realize it. I just tend to see things through a permanent "things are doomed" lense and for the longest time, I wasn't even aware of how that tendency to see everything so seriously was dragging me down. It all became clear to me one Summer when my beloved cousin came to visit us in Ottawa almost 4 years ago. At the time, I was really feeling low. I was a mom to three young kids who had started a home-based business and was under tremendous pressure. One of my best friends and I had started the business together and become co-owners of a $20,000 loan and the pressure to succeed was getting to our friendship as well. Juggling it all was daunting, but the worse of it was that this friend tended to favour drama and negativity, and I absorbed it and reflected it back. We ended up feeding the seriousness, negativity and drama off of each other and things were not good at all. On the surface, we smiled and pretended all was good.

When my cousin showed up, she brought with her a breath of fresh air, and her beautiful, incredible and exhilirating sense of humour. My cousin always laughs. She cracks up jokes. She loves having fun. She is witty, funny, and always laughing. Within two days of being with her and laughing till my sides ached, I realized what was so wrong in my life. I had forgotten to laugh.

My Cousin Vero, on the right, always brings out my crazy, funny side!

It didn't take long for me to find my funny back and to start lightening up about many things. My cousin's visit also made me realized that I had to be careful about who I wanted in my life, and who was not a good fit for me. I had to break up a friendship that was very negative to me, and though it was very hard to do, I knew I had to do it in order to live a happy (and funny!) life.

To this day, I remember this important lesson and when things weigh a little too heavily on me, I try to remember to laugh. I know my predisposition is not to be "funny". I am a worry-wart by nature so I don't lighten up easily. Even with my writing, I am a serious person. Some people can write funny, and be funny by nature. For me, it takes work and effort to be funny. But when I am, it always makes me feel so good and it makes "Me" very, very happy.

Here are some of the things I do to try to laugh every day, especially in those moments when "serious" tries to take over:

- Read funny novels: Have you ever read Christopher Moore? This guy is on crack and his writing is blissfully funny. Right now I'm reading his novel "Bite Me", about a teenage girl who takes on Vampire-zombie cats. Definitely worth the read, just for the pure crazyness of it. Also from Moore, try reading "Lamb: The gospel according to Biff, Jesus's childhood pal".

- Read funny blogs: I'm a big fan of Heather Armstrong at http://www.dooce.com/ Her posts make me laugh so hard. She is a brave and funny writer and because she is a work at home Mom, her life is similar to mine in ways that make me just laugh hard. I especially loved her birth story. I was laughing so hard I almost lost it before reaching the bathroom! Just google "Dooce birth story" if you are interested. It's a three-part story.

- Hang-out with funny people: laughter is contageous!

- Watch America's funniest Videos: I watch it with the kids and I can't believe how much I laugh every time. The videos that get me the most are the animal videos. Which brings me to this last strategy:

- Watch funny cat videos on YouTube: When all else fails, YouTube has an abundance of funny cat videos/or dogs/ or anything that sometimes helps me change my mood from sour and serious, to laughing hysterically in a split second.

It's silly to laugh and it feels so good. When was the last time you were laughing so hard, you couldn't breathe? How about the giggles that never stop? Time to start laughing my friends, it is so good for your "Me"!

On this snowy, no school, kind of day, what will you do for your "Me" today? I had planned to work out, but with the kids around, I'm not sure it will happen. So maybe I'll try to do some silly dancing and singing in the kitchen with the radio blarring. The kids always think I'm crazy when I do it, which makes me laugh, and feel so very good!

Have a great day!

Monday, January 31, 2011

About moods, carbs and chocolate...

I have been in a grumpy, foul and just plain irritable mood since Friday. I'm tired, I'm upset, I can't get motivated, I just want to give up on it all and hide under a blanket. This kind of behaviour is, as my husband duly noted, cyclical and temporary, thank goodness (I actually find it ironic that he seems to know my cycles better than me at this point). But it does bring up a conandrum: How do you nurture your self when you don't feel like it? How do you feed your body whole, healthy food that nurture when what you're really craving is junk food and its euphoric "feel good" fix? Is a craving your body's way of asking for what it truly needs or a mind's trick learned to ward-off negative moods? How do you elevate your mood, confidence and motivation when you feel defeated?

These are some of the questions I struggled with this week-end, as I lived on pasta (with butter) and chocolate. I'm afraid I didn't find any mind-blowing answers. Three days of carb and chocolate indulgences later, I feel gross and am trying to fend off the thoughts that want me to see my indulgences as failures. Instead, I'm choosing to see this week-end as a teachable moment, an opportunity to ask myself how do I prepare for the next time my negative moods come back (as they will in roughly 28 days). I think the only answer I came up with is that the only way to nurture myself in these days of feeling low, is if I have a plan in place and a strategy in mind. I'm not sure what my self-care plan is going to look like, but I have four weeks to come up with it which gives me ample time to come up with ideas. How about you? How do you nurture your "Me" when you're feeling low?

Today, I took care of my "Me" by being gentle with myself and not engaging in self-defeating thoughts. I also connected with friends, read a book that made me laugh, and stared at the sunlight while trying to absorb every ray. How about you? How did you take care of your Me today?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

When Being "Me" Inspires Others

"I've learned that loving yourself requires a courage unlike any other. It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something no one else can see that keeps us in the world - our own self-worth" (Book of Awakenings by Mark Nepo. January 25th)

On Tuesday, while folding laundry, I put on the Oprah show. It was a retrospective show on the evolution of the discourse on being gay and coming out over the 20 years of the Oprah show. It spanned the changes in the public discourse from when "being gay" was taboo and shunned, to the present time when the public discourse is more focused on acceptance and an open dialogue. What allowed the evolution of the discourse was the courage of many individuals, including high-profile celebrities, to speak out and come out about being gay. One such individual featured on the Oprah show was Greg Louganis, who in 1995, chose to live an authentic life by coming out publicly and announcing that he was also HIV positive. At the time of his interview with Oprah in 1995, he said that his reasons for coming out were that he was tired of living life as a fake, constantly having to edit himself, and living with the fear that "How could anybody accept me if they really knew me." But after many years of living as a "fake" and hiding of his true self, Louganis realized that he wanted to live his life "openly and with honesty".

When Louganis came out as an openly gay male, he mostly did so for himself, in order to live authentically no matter what the reaction from others would be. By choosing courage over fear, he declared that he was worthy just as he was. What he didn't know was that his courage would inspire others to live an authentic life. On Tuesday's show, Oprah talked about a young man, Michael, who was 12 years old when Greg Louganis appeared on the 1995 show. When Michael heard Louganis speak about the reasons for his coming out and the need to live life authentically, he realized that being gay still meant that you were worthy of love and was no longer something to be feared. "I'd never seen another gay person. I thought I was the only one." Validation, inspiration, love and self-worth, were gifts that Louganis gave this young boy that day that allowed him to live a life without questioning his self-worth in the world and without fear of the day when he came out. He talked about how his mother asked him "Do you think you're gay?" and his response was "No, Mom. I don't think I'm gay. I know I'm gay." That is the response of a confident, self-assured young man.

Watching this show and the story of Louganis and Michael was a joy for me. It really showed how beneficial it is for your "self" to embrace who you are and to live your life with authenticity. It takes great courage to embrace our differences, our weaknesses, our vulnerability and expose them to others, but it is necessary to do so if we hope to live a life of authenticity, rather than a fake life in which we desperately try to morph into the socially-accepted norm in order to fit in.

By the way, as Dr BrenĂ© Brown explains in the video from my previous post, the word Courage from it's linguistic roots means "telling the story of who you are with your whole heart." Dr Brown also realized that the happiest people are those who "were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were (....) who fully embraced their vulnerability because they realized that "what made them vulnerable is also what made them beautiful."

So don't be afraid to spread your wings, embrace who you are, and shout it to the world. You happiness will be increase and you might become a role model who inspires others to do the same.

What are you going to do for your "Me" today?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why the feeling of worthiness matters or "I am enough!"

I was all set to write about a reaction I got while watching an episode of the Oprah show today, when my friend Emma told me about this video. Beyond the fact that I truly enjoyed this wonderful speaker, it's the message that struck a cord with me.

It felt as though everything I had been trying to share through this blog was driven to the point in this particular talk. What was best articulated to me, was the truth that our own sense of worth has an impact not only on our own internal feelings of happiness and joy, but also on the world in which we live and the people we have connections with ("If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy").

It is so important to recognize that by loving ourselves as we are, by accepting our strengths and vulnerabilities, we are able to make ourselves stronger and more confident, and the power we get from that self-acceptance and self-love has a ripple effect on our ability to love and care for others and for the world we live in. As Dr Brown states: "We can't practice compassion with others if we can't treat ourselves kindly."

We, as individuals who treat our "Me" with the most gentle kindness and understanding, can have the power to transform our reality. Simply by accepting that you are beautiful just as you are, including your so-called flaws, and by acknowledging that you are worthy of love, affection, admiration, and kindness, you give yourself permission to tap into a power that is liberating and transforming. It takes courage to shup up the internal demons that tell you otherwise, but remember that the self-destructing thoughts are just that: thoughts and you can choose to listen to them, or to ignore them.

I invite you to take a deep look at your "Me", and to feel the love, because you are amazing, you are worthy, and you are enough just as you are.

Today I took care of "Me" by listening to some fun music and dancing and singing along. It always makes me happy when I dance and sing.

How about you? What have you done for your "Me" today?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just be "Me"!

When was the last time you were really being your authentic self? If you're taking more than a few seconds to remember, then you might be in need of reclaiming your true "Me". Most days, we are all putting on an act to "be" someone that we might not necessarily be in order to fit in, or to pretend to "be" a certain way so as to not offend others. From putting a smile on our face when we really feel low, or saying "yes" when we really feel like "no". The problem is that every time we define ourselves to meet other's expectations, we lose our identity. So who is your real "Me"?

I've been struggling to define who my real "Me" is for the last year ever since I realized that I have spent many years trying to morph into a person that I wasn't. I was trying so hard to be like other people because I really wanted to "be" the person that I admire in them. One of my friend is an avid gardener and I admire the beauty of her gardens. I tried to garden and like it too, but I realize that I'm not and never will be a gardener. It's just not "Me". Diddo with many other things. Through the self-discovery process I started this year, I have realized how much of me is also defined by what I think other people would like me to be. Trying to love the same things as some of my friends so that they will love me and think I am worthy has been my guiding principle for a long time. But I have now realized that it's ok for me not to be like anyone else, and more important that no matter who "Me" is, I am worthy, I am special, and I am lovable for who I am. Making the decision to just be "Me" is liberating and empowering. So the question now is "What makes me "Me"?

At this point, I'm still trying to figure "Me" out, but a good starting point was to say, what do I truly like? What makes "Me" happy? What brings "Me" joy? Here's a short list of my "Me". It's an ever evolving list that I'm excited to compile as I start falling in love with "Me" again.

1. I am a reader
2. I am a food lover
3. I am a runner
4. I am a great friend
5. I am not a gardener (and that's ok)
6. I am not a homemaker (and that's ok too)
7. I love to sing and dance in my house, in my car
8. I am a dreamer
9. I am a mother
10. I am a wife

There are many more things that make "Me" a great person. What about you? Have you ever thought of writing down what makes you "You"? Try it, it's enlightening. In determining what makes you "You", it's important to listen to your gut feelings. If your head tells you that you really love gardening, but every time you see a spade, you feel deep down that you'd rather be running a half-marathon than playing in dirt, then listen to your gut reaction. It's ok to be different, and actually it's pretty awesome because by being different, we are all bringing into the world a very special piece that nobody else has.

Once you have started reconnecting with who you really are, then "BE" that person all the time. Honour the fact that what you are is different from others, and that it's ok. When you are truly acting like yourself, and really loving who you are, then it won't matter what others think or whether they will love you. If you love your "Me" then you won't need the validation of others to make you feel worthy and lovable. In a 1986 song by Whitney Houston titled "Greatest Love of All", the chorus declares that "Learning to love yourself/It is the greatest love of all." I couldn't agree more.

What I have done for "Me" so far today? I've lived in the moment, enjoyed a peaceful house, exercised and spent some time thinking about "Me". How about you? What have you done for your "Me" today?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Balancing Act

There is something I want to clarify for fear that I may have sparked some crazy ideas in your head. Embarking on a journey to nurture, discover, and appreciate your "Me", while being a task that you should devote yourself to daily, does not mean that caring for your self is the only thing that you should be focusing on from now on (although sometimes I do fancy a mother-tantrum of giant proportion when I fantasize telling everyone and everything that I'm just done, going away to finally take care of Me and I'll come back when I feel like it!). I'm not asking you to reverse the trend from days spent taking care of everyone else with no time for yourself, to days where your only focus is to take care of yourself at the expense of others. Once we start listening to our needs, and making time for our selves, it can be very hard not to want to devote hours to reconnecting with "Me". But life, unfortunately, does not provide us with such quality time.

The idea is to create balance in your life by including all the roles you assume in your day, while still leaving a chunck of time dedicated to you (which is, by the way, non negotiable). That chunck of time might be 1 minute, 10 minutes, 1 hour, it doesn't matter as long as you make it a priority every day to nurture your self while living your busy life. Life is not going to get less busy, so you might as well make it a point to create space for yourself in your busy schedule. That sometimes means reassessing commitments you are considering or have made, and saying "NO" to things that come in the way of your time for "Me". You choose how you spend your time, don't let others direct your schedule. And really, it's ok to say "no" to that appointment time and reschedule it for a day that fits your schedule better. It might be hard to say "no" at first, but it gets easier once you realize how empowering it is to be in control of your time.  

This scale really looks like someone holding plates with strong arms. Make sure your time for "Me" weighs in with the rest of the items on your "to-do" list.

 Which on a day-to-day basis can be a really difficult thing to do, especially when busy days abound. So how can you create moments for yourself every day? I find that planning my day the night before and trying to fit "Me" in the schedule helps a lot. And though some days I don't have a lot of extended periods of time when I'm able to have some time to myself, if I can steal even 2 minutes a few times a day (which means that sometimes I lock myself in the bathroom for peace and quiet!), then I feel like I have taken care of "Me".

Here are some ideas for "Me" time:
- If you only have a few minutes: Find a quiet place, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, listen to the silence and say a few positive affirmations such as "I am great." "I am powerful". "I am worthy". "I matter". "I love "Me" just as I am"
- If you have 10 minutes: Listen to some great music, read a chapter of a book, read some inspiring quotes that strengthen your love for "Me", go for a quick brisk walk, dance.
- If you have an hour: Meditate, have a nap, exercise, nourish your body with food/drink, sit quietly and observe the world around you, journal, just "be".

The sky is the limit when it comes to deciding how to use your "Me" time. Making a list of things that make you happy ahead of time can help you choose what you feel most like doing. Sometimes having 10 minutes of "Me" time can bring on the indecision about how to best use this long-awaited and needed break (similar to having writer's block while facing a blank page). By being prepared, you can jump right in and indulge in some well-deserved pampering.

Today, for my "Me" time, I exercised and made some bread. While the bread-making wasn't done just by myself, it was nurturing to make bread from scratch which I knew would be good for my body. And making it with Logan also nurtured me as we shared a fun activity together. So as you can see, sometimes you can combine me-time with other "to-dos" and still feel completely like you've made yourself a priority in the scale of life.

What did you do for your "Me" today?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Checking In

Last Spring I took an Anxiety Management Course in order to learn tools and techniques to manage my anxiety. A lot of the discussion involved self-nurturing as a way to decrease anxiety, in particular the notion of the importance of listening to the body. Many people with anxiety spend the majority of their awake hours in their head, and forget that there's a body around their thoughts that needs nurturing. The link between a healthy body and a sound mind is crucial. If you don't feed or care for your body, your mind can't possibly work well, and a mind that doesn't function well can then impact the health of a body.

In my daily life as a mother of three, I spend a lot of time in my head, thinking of all the various things that need to be done. I've often spent so much time thinking or doing, that I ignore my body's call for nurturing. How many times I have delayed a bathroom trip because I had to finish something. How often I have eaten more that I needed because I was lost in thought and ignored my body's signals that I was full. I have realized that by losing touch with my body's most basic needs and signals, I have also lost touch with myself.

The Anxiety Course helped to make me understand the fundamental importance of caring for my body. One specific tool is very helpful in keeping me grounded and in teaching me how to listen to my body. It's a simple check-in performed various times a day that gets me out of my head and helps me reconnect with my body's needs for nurturing. When I check-in, I ask myself two basic questions:

1. How do I feel?
2. What do I need?

Once I have figured out how I feel and what I need, I immediately do what is needed to care for my body. For example, right now, I notice that my tongue is dry and I feel thirsty. I need a glass of water. So I'm going to go get some water to make my body feel better. Simple as that.

Try and check-in with yourself a few times a day and listen to your body. If it needs something like a glass of water, don't ignore it. Go take care of your body, and your body will reward you by making you feel amazing. 

What did I do for "Me" today? I got a massage and started reading a new book. And I'm now going to go to bed early. I've been ignoring my body's needs for rest the last few days, so it's time to check-in and nurture myself by sleeping.

Good night! 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Narcissistic, Selfish or just Plain Genius?

It's taken me some time to work up the courage to create this new blog. After all, who would be interested in reading the adventures of someone devoted to spending a whole lot of time working on her very important self?  Who would care? And why would I be doing this in the first place? Sharing my intimate mental conversations with myself and what I do to make "Me" feel good no matter what the day brings might be just plain boring and unappealing to the masses.

But then again maybe not. After all, I believe that I am one of many women who consistently puts herself last on the to-do list, who has lost a sense of who she is under the pile of obligations, and who spends most days waging a war in her head between satisfying her needs versus that of others. If I'm right about this, then maybe my efforts at trying to put my "Me" back front and centre day after day can inspire other women (and maybe men) to do the same for themselves. Because, though it may sound narcisstic to want to spend a whole lot of time caring for "me", the reality is, as the eminent Dr Phil says: "If Mommy ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Now, I'm not a big fan of Dr Phil, but this is one statement that rings profoundly true to me.

My resolution this year, and at the onset of this journey, is to treat myself as though I would treat my best friend. Have you noticed how nice and generous we can be to the people we love most, and even to perfect strangers? We spend hours on end giving our whole to the benefit of others, without realizing that the person that needs nurturing the most is the "me" inside us. I have been a nurturer and a pleaser for most of my adult life. I did it with love, without restraint, I gave it my whole. In the process, I forgot about "Me". Physically, this has meant weight gain, body image issues and a slow descent into physical self-loathing. Emotionally, it has lead to frustrations, anger, anxiety and the feeling of being drained and having nothing left to give. And that, here, is the heart of the matter my friends: if you give out too much without putting anything in, your burn out and have nothing left to give.

So the journey on the path of learning the best ways to love, nurture and appreciate the "me" inside, is neither narcissistic nor selfish. In my humble opinion, it is plain and pure genius. Every day, I resolve to do one thing to take care of me and I will share my daily act of self-kindness. I'll be looking for ideas too, so don't be shy and help me out.

I hope that this journey will help me rediscover the great person that I am and in the process I know that by treating "me" with love and respect, it will make me a better wife, mother, daughter and friend.

Today's act of "Me" kindness: writing this blog. I very often let fear come in the way of achieving even the most simple of tasks, because I lack self-confidence. I often don't trust in my own power and prefer to let my worries over what others will think dominate my desire to do something just because it makes me happy. Each little step that I take in combating that fear brings me closer to my authentic "me" who wants to soar and be successful. So tonight's blog creation and blog entry is a defiant action to let go of self-reducing fears and choose to let "me" soar once again.

How about you? What have you done for your "me" today?