Hello, New Decade!

Where do your focus areas reside for 2020?

The Twenties are here again, and my hopes are that they will be remembered as “roarin’ly” as they were in the 1900s. If not economically, in my interpersonal relationship with my Self and others! I am so grateful to be born at the time of year I was. As much as having a ChristBirthday can come with it’s own set of challenges, turning 30 for the 20’s feels like a giant clean slate for me and I can’t help but be excited about it.

I was recently running using the Peloton App (highly recommend trying if your treadmill motivation is lagging!) and the coach reiterated a quote I had been thinking about lately: Progress is hard to measure in a day or a week, but SO much can happen in a year if you keep working and it comes up quick! It’s very true. I started the year this year running a 5k Race on my Zwift App (another fun way to enjoy your tread!). This time last year, I was just getting back into jogging after a long hiatus, and it was a struggle. Throughout the year, I fought with myself to keep up my running and good habits, the progress never being linear or even positively sloped, but looking back in review, I am leaps and bounds from where I was 365 days ago, and it makes me excited for the next 365. This is something I want to keep at the forefront of my mind as the year progresses.

Buddhist wisdom claims we are always exactly where we are meant to be. When my relationship with myself is good, when I feel aligned, this message is comforting. When I struggle to face myself in the mirror and am filled with fears and anxieties about the future of where my life path is going, this message is maddening! What do you mean I’m meant to be sitting in a depressive episode, manically eating my fourth serving of nuts and bolts while my hair sits unwashed and my legs unshaven!? Just as moments of joy can lead you, so can moments of pain, the lessons always invaluable.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
~ Steve Jobs

The depressive episodes, the pain, the “falling off track”, it only teaches me more about the importance of staying aligned, the value of building a relationship with “my gut”, the consequences of denying it. Some people are born with a strong relationship to there gut and do not waiver. I was absolutely not one of those people, to the extent of denying mine into a deep depression for a long time and spending the last decade trying to dig it out. Trusting yourself is scary when your history hasn’t produced desired results, when you don’t have a support system of people who trust themselves, when you feel like you’re wishing on a cloud. I know for sure that we all have that inner voice , and the ability to build the relationship with it, the pain is just an inevitable part of the process of repair and there is joy to be found in the muck.

2020 Focus?

This years focus will be on creating more:

  1. Fun for myself in my every day life, as well as planning fun activities to get me out of my head and into my heart. Activities that makes me laugh out loud and just enjoy myself right where I am! I can be a serious person, always contemplating life and all of its components. This is not an area I see as an issue, but at this point it is very well developed and easy to switch “on”. The fun, not so much. Don’t get me wrong. I know I am fun, I am silly and witty and enjoy playing. I just never prioritize it and I feel it is keeping me off balance. So this year.. more fun!
  2. Feminine Energy. I grew up seriously denying myself the right to be feminine. I considered myself to be very unattractive and had incredibly low self-esteem attached to my appearance, so instead I found value in being helpful, and being funny. Again, I love those parts of me, but they don’t need attention. Funny comes easy to me now in life. Femininity, not so much. I notice that when I am around extremely Alpha like men my feminine nature can come out and IT FEELS GOOD, but otherwise it stays very hidden and the helpful part of me comes to play instead (which also activates the control part of me). I can control and direct almost any conversation and although it works for me when I want to appear confident and have the “upper hand” it isn’t helping me to feel more authentic. I am feminine, but somewhere in me is a belief that in the presence of other women that that energy is better left for them. So this year I will be consciously putting myself in more situations to activate that energy. Whether it be going out dancing, simply spending more time accessorizing, practising leaving the control of a conversation in another’s hands, accepting help when it is offered instead of resisting, being more selfish about caring for my body, embracing my nurturing nature, or simply spending more time in the presence of feminine energy I am going to work to reignite this energy in me to a place I feel more balanced.

Cheers to the new year, the new decade! May each day, week, year get you more and more aligned with your Self as this is the relationship you can for sure count on to still be here in 2030. I know I’d love to look back and connect the dots through this decade as moving me closer to building the relationship I desire. How about you?

Preparation for a New Decade

Goodbye, Twenties.

I started to write a journal entry this morning and decided instead to turn it into a blog entry for my future self to look back at. Today is my last official day in my twenties. Usually about four months before my birthday I begin to answer the “How old are you?” question with “I’ll be ___ soon.” to prepare myself for the new number. This year I found it extremely important to execute that exercise as not only was I leaving a year behind, but a decade.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid to turn the big 3-0, but it does bring out the reflecting and goal setting parts of myself more than usual. Am I proud of the way I lived the last decade? Did I “accomplish” what I wanted to? Do I have any unfinished business I’d rather let go of before I enter this next decade of my life? How does my relationship with my Self stand today? How can I bring this new Self forward in a way that will lead to the most authentic decade of my life thus far.

I was a very insecure, lonely kid. I harboured a lot of difficult feelings about my self, took everything very personally and through my pain made some fairly self-abandoning decisions. I didn’t realize that I was responsible for caring for my self, and that self-esteem was to be built and not always given. My parents loved me very much, but through there own struggles and the difficulties they shared in bringing up my younger brother I was very much left to my own devices. I didn’t cause trouble, and learned early how to feel useful by lending an ear to friends and family in need. I didn’t, however, learn anything about being a good friend to myself.

By the time I reached my twenties I was one lost individual, deeply afraid of life and what it would mean to actually live. For many of the years I lived in an episode of major depression, unable to get out of bed or do the simplest of self-care tasks like brushing my teeth. I’d try, but always end up crawling back into bed or finding temporary relief in a food binge. I sought out relationships with men I thought I had advice or support to offer, thinking I could “fix them”. None of them asked me to, or had even desired that, but I needed the distraction to avoid looking at my Self in the mirror, and to combat the extreme loneliness I felt on a regular basis. I hurt a lot of people that way, jumping in like a super hero, burning out and then running away. Deep down always knowing the person I needed to build a relationship with was myself, but not having the (as I choose my wording carefully) compassion to fully commit.

How does one fully commit to a relationship with another person, if they haven’t yet committed to a loving relationship with themselves? This question plagues and boggles my mind as I see all around me people in relationships that appear to bring them joy when they don’t seem to value themselves at the standards I have set for myself. It hasn’t been a possibility for me, or at least the opportunity to try hasn’t presented itself in a healthy way.

I’m entering my 4th decade, and I’m very much alone. I have few friendships-but those that I do have are close and committed. I have moments where I still get scared about being “lonely” forever. The difference, I notice, between now and last decade is the way I feel about me when I have these feelings. The messages I once sent myself no longer plague my mind. Instead, I’m left with more of a curiosity. If I still feel “unworthy” of a loving relationship, what improvements still need to be made to my relationship with my Self? Are we having enough fun? Do we treat our body well? Do we challenge our Self in ways that make us feel proud? Do we send loving words and thoughts our way when we make a mistake or do something that doesn’t come from our highest self? How do we honour our self?

This next decade I want to be the best friend I can be to me. Good days and bad, I want to be able to truly feel loved and accepted by me. The last decade, I realize, was about learning tolerance for my self (and others). I do not want to build a life around tolerant relationships when there are so many ways to feel pure joy!
I will spend my 30’s finding more and more of what those ways looks like for me.

Happy Birthday, Charlotte.

P.S 2020 is a new decade for ALL. How do you plan to honour your Self more?

My Reflections from an IMAGO “Keeping” Workshop

Dedicated to the “Pam” (Self) in us all.

This past weekend I was given the privilege of attending an “IMAGO: Keeping The Love You Find” Workshop created by acclaimed Marriage Therapist Harville Hendrix. It was my second experience, and I was fortunate to do the work with a group of fantastic, brave, open-minded and most importantly open-hearted strangers.

To describe the growth and healing work done in the workshop would be a disservice to anyone wanting to take on this experience for themselves, but I thought:
a) as a wrap-up for me
b) for anyone curious about the magic that can come from attending such a workshop
it would be a good experience to write a small blurb about the few important personal messages I received in my reflection.

1. The journey towards healing yourself is all about healing the relationship with your SELF. It’s about YOU and no one else. The more you not only learn about, accept and acknowledge, but embrace and honour the disowned and denied parts of your Self, the more you welcome the opportunity to step into and enjoy who you truly are.

We humans stress a lot about the quality of our relationships with others, while expecting our relationship with our Self’s carry on unmanaged. More devastatingly, we may not even acknowledge that our Self is there with us yearning for our love, affection and attention.

It seems like a silly concept if we really think about it. This is the relationship we bring with us everywhere that we go. Why is it not a huge priority for us to nurture and embrace it? How do we expect to have healthy intimacy with others when we struggle to respect and love the eyes that look back at us in every mirror?

2. The more you step in to who you really are, the more you can embrace those parts of you that cause you so much distress.

What I noticed and admired of all the participants in my workshop (which I would have to assume sets them apart from those who would not be willing to attend a growth workshop) would be that they ALL had in some way owned and stepped in to positive relationships with their true Self’s. They could tell me about specific things they had interest in and passion for. They could rave about things they enjoyed or recommended. They had given judicious thought to their opinions on different situations life had thrown their way. They had experienced pain and still found ways that they liked to play in this world.

How often do we hear someone talk about “we” when referring to their shared interests and opinions with their partner. “We love that restaurant.” or “We really enjoy relaxing and watching that show.” Couples with cultivated intimacy have found a lot of experiences they enjoy doing together to keep that relationship healthy and nurtured. What about the “we” between you and your Self? What do you like do to keep that intimacy bond strong?

As I listened to these lovely people rave about what they enjoyed I was very aware that they were all already on the journey to embracing that important “we relationship”. They found ways to embrace their uniqueness and with that comes less and less pressure to deny and disown, and more opportunity for light to enter and fill up “their cup”.

3. Healing your relationship with you may result in challenging changes to your relationships with others. In my heart I feel that knowing not only your own value, but what you value and being unabashed at any given time to own and cultivate whatever that is can lead to true joy. Unfortunately, it may come with the consequence of change and loss to the relationships you share with others. Being aware of this in advance may not make the changes less painful, but it can bring with it more understanding toward the effectiveness of the healing process. It’s about putting the trust in the universe that if you are brave enough to improve your relationship with your Self you will be provided with the right external relationships to support you in your journey.

There is no question among people who “do the work” that growth work comes with a lot of challenges. In my own experience, one of the biggest continues to be surrendering to the changing dynamics of the relationships I have surrounded my Self with and placed enphasis on. It’s scary and hard to allow the Self to change and grow when your current relationships “thrival” may demand that your Self stay the same.

Trusting in the process, letting go of control, and allowing more elasisity to your current relationships creates less pressure, and also allows room for new. It doesn’t make the loss and resistance any easier to bare, but faith in your more whole Self attracting more fulfilling relationships is an important message to receive and believe. The option is always available for them to grow with you if they choose.

4. Intentional growth is something to be very proud of. Being willing to take a look inside. Being willing to change. Being willing to accept hard truths. Being willing to take risks and come out of your shell or slow down your inner tornado. Being willing to experience and learn to sit with uncomfortable feelings. These are all things to move towards with curiosity, and be very proud of your Self for.

5. Most simply and importantly: you are not alone in your hurts, fears, hard feelings and desires when it comes to getting the love you want. Allowing your Self to even believe love is possible in todays society and being willing to take a look inside and do the work to try and find it is worth all of the praise and admiration in the world.

Ultimately for me, this workshop reinforced that life is one a big journey, and healing one large process there for the taking. When you begin to heal, you begin to change, and your world will change in turn. It can be scary, it can hurt, it can leave you with many feelings of resistance, and it can make you want to return to your old-unconscious way of being.

You never need to keep opening doors, to keep entering new levels, the choice is always yours. But, if you can view your life as a class that you are privileged to attend with one big sense of curiosity you may find that stepping in to that fear is worth the struggles because with it comes so much beauty and joy. This is your life. It is a gift. You are a gift. Regardless of who else is in your life, your Self will be good company on your journey if you don’t abandon. Enjoy it, and give your Self the honour of making the most out of it.

Don’t be afraid to really enjoy your Self. You are enough.

Who Holds Space for You?

I’ve recently realized that I am actually getting quite good at holding space for myself these days. It’s a pretty big revelation as I have always depended on others to do so for me, regardless of there capacity or interest. What do I mean by this?

For me, holding space for someone is allowing them the opportunity to be vulnerable in a time of need. Whether that is through an act of physical touch, listening to them ramble through an anxiety, allowing them to feel seen or heard or otherwise by simply being available, holding space can be one of the best gifts to receive. What I didn’t realize is that it is one of the most fickle gifts to give.

The more I know myself, the more aware I become of my limitations. The more aware of my own limitations, the more aware I have become that guess what, other people have them too! I am very guilty of having an overwhelming feeling and not knowing how to deal with it on my own. Before I’ve even tried, I am reaching for the phone and unloading on an unsuspecting friend or loved one. Sometimes I am left feeling lighter as the person I chose was able to hold space, but more often than not I am left feeling even more lonely and disappointed that the sharing experience didn’t leave me feeling better. I’ve been prone to feel let down by the person I chose to hold space for me. Misunderstood even. Sometimes angry.

Were they even listening to me? How come they changed the topic to something trivial, couldn’t they see I needed to keep going? Why weren’t they as upset for me as I was for myself? Do they even see me?

All kinds of questions like this have plagued my mind after a share that someone wasn’t quite prepared for, or was unwelcome. And why was that? Oh, duh, because they weren’t prepared, or it was unwelcome!

The impulsiveness I have been guilty of could be easily describes as a squirrel with his mouth full of acorns. He is just bursting to spit them out. If he doesn’t take the time to think before he does it, if there is no intention behind the share, then he is just going to let them fly everywhere (and very likely be disappointed by the outcome). By taking the time to stop, breathe, evaluate and ask: “Do I need someone to hold space for me on this?” it can set the whole path in a new motion. This is crucial for me, because if the answer is yes I then have to ask: Is there someone appropriate available to hold space for me on this? It truly is a bigger ask than I had previously thought. Everyone is having there own life and own experiences and struggles in the day-to-day. Even when they are trivial it can sometimes hinder there ability to be there for you in the way that you might need.

For example, if you are upset about something and decide to call your mom and unload about it, she might have just walked in the house from a chaotic trip from the grocery store and is thinking about the ten things she has to do that night. Instead of jumping into the story, it could probably save a lot of frustration on both ends if you begin by saying: “I had a bad day today, I’d like to talk about it, are you available to hold space for me?” That gives her the opportunity to pause and be honest about where she is at in that moment. Can she be present? It also provides you the opportunity not be disappointed by a possible distracted conversation.

If no one is available to hold space for you, there are many, many ways to hold space for yourself. Some that currently work for me in the healthy category are journaling, bathing, walking, and music. In the unhealthy category, the one where I am not really available to hold space for myself (or take time to chew and swallow the acorns), there is always junk food. I don’t beat up on myself when this happens, learning to hold space for myself is a process. How do you hold space for yourself?

Being able to hold space for another is such a beautiful gift, and being able to ask someone to hold space for you is a true act of self-care. Sometimes, you need a bit more space held than usual, but my experiences have shown me to always be mindful of who you ask, what there capacities are and if those meet your expectations before asking. Understand that not everyone is always in the right frame of mind to hold space, just as you accept that of yourself . Accept limitations, and respect them. For me, as less people were able to hold space for me, it has created a ying-yang effect of allowing me to learn more ways to hold space for myself.

Who holds space for you? Are you conscious about who you choose? Are you in tune with what you need from them before you ask? How do you hold space for yourself in healthy, nurturing ways? When you do turn to unhealthy ways, are you gentle with yourself about it? Life can be stressful, and it is unbelievable what having someone else (who is available and safe) hold space can heal when you know what you need. Don’t be afraid to ask, and when you are rejected, as you will be from time to time, welcome the opportunity you have been given to learn more about how to provide it for yourself.

What Do You Want Now VS. What Do You Want MOST

I have had this quote on the white pad on the front of my fridge now for the past couple of months. It’s a constant reminder to me to continue to preserver through my addictive urges with the faith that it will lead to what I truly desire. In other words, it is helping me to live in congruence with my beliefs and values.

Why is this important? Well, seeing as it’s a trial I can’t say for sure that it is. But, in assumption: when I live a life that aligns with my set of values and beliefs I feel good. I feel more in control, more balanced, more joyful, more prideful, more confident and more on the right track.

Can you think of a time where you felt you were on track? I can, and then I can also pinpoint when I fell off. I’ve fallen off a lot and each time I find my way back I have decided it is for the same reason: Congruence. And guess what? Each time I have fallen off it has been for the same reason: Incongruence.

I’d love to use the previous record in my mind with the loads of excuses for each time I walked off my path: a breakup, a disagreement, a rude comment, a rejection, a sickness, an injury, a financial setback… they are all valid reasons for why I could have walked away from myself. However, if I am honest with myself and ask why those things caused me to disrupt my sense of balance it comes down to making decisions that did not align with my value system.

This world is one crazy game, and you get to decide what you want to try to get out of it, out of this life. Who you want to be. How you want to be. What you expect out of your relationships, and most especially your relationship with yourself. If you expect to attract something into your life that aligns with a set of values you do not live by, I believe it cannot coincide. You must first do the work to live by that value system.

Each day is a clean slate. 365 of them a year! Each Sunday is a fresh week. 52 of them a year. Every 1st of a clear month. 12 of them a year. It can’t be a mistake that our calendar system is set up this way? Progress can be measured and reassessed on all three of these platforms. Be gentle with yourself, but also…use them.

What do you want most? What type of behaviours, decisions, habits, relationships and addictions do you hold that exhibit a value system that doesn’t align with your true desires? Do you want to attract a loyal mate, but continue to gossip about your friends behind there backs? Do you want to attract new opportunities but spend all of your time filled with scheduled commitments? Do you trust that the universe will bring you what you desire if you are willing to change first, even if that means letting go of the people and things and ideologies that are no longer serving you?

Who are you? Is it who you want to be? If not, why not? What value system are you living by and how closely aligned is it with your desired value system. I believe living by your desired value system right where you are is the best way to create the life you desire. Your energy will change when you are ‘on track’ to an open channel that trusts in yourself, and the universe will support that. Are you standing in the way of what you want most by settling with what will do for now? Now has a hard time changing without intention.

Figuring out what your values are, and keeping stock of what do you or don’t do that will keep you in line with that is no small feet! Maybe you value something that you have always struggled to live by. That doesn’t mean you will always struggle. But if you don’t know, if you aren’t honest with yourself, if you don’t try to make changes…you never will. You will always have what you want now, and always long for what you want most.

At least that’s my theory.

What do I want most? Balance. Within me. Every day. So that I can bring my best self to every experience and interaction.

What does that mean? I’m still figuring that out. It’s a practice. I can say for sure that the more decisions I make that are in congruence with my value system the less shaky my train is as each day passes on the track. The more confident I am that I can stay on the track even when the heavy life stuff comes up. The more joy I feel through my body. The more beauty I notice in the world around me. The more beauty I notice in myself. I am creating what I want MOST each time a make a choice that aligns with my value system. I wish the same for you.

New September, New Year: What are your ‘Fall Resolutions’?

I’ve truly never thought it was a smart idea to make New Years Resolutions in January. Not for North Americans who celebrate end of school year and routine in June through the summer and start back up into routine in September. In terms of being successful, September makes a lot more sense to me and for me as a ‘beginning of year/fresh start’, time to make new goals. Here’s why:

1. It’s already a built in dusty habit.
We trained that way for a minimum of 12 years during our formative (aka habit formation) years. You were in a new grade which was already an ‘advancement in goal’ in itself. Placebo or not, fresh year, fresh start.

2. Thoughtful reflection takes time.
Summer provides an opportunity for two months to celebrate/morn a year of goals and reflection opposed to a 1 week celebration over Christmas where emotions are heavier than any other time of year and it is hard to emotionally regulate enough to make thoughtful, sustainable new goals.

3. The season is more welcoming of change – weather-wise and culturally.
The chances of being able to stay committed to a goal in nicer weather when everyone is going back into routine at the same time seems to be a more successful approach than that of the beginning of the coldest, more isolated season of the year following the most stressful time of year.

4. Less likely to self-sabatoge by leaving the longer break for a time when habits are more strongly established.
Christmas makes a better ‘4 month check in’ on goals than a start. Summer makes a bigger, better long term celebration to look forward to. It is easier to pick goals back up after Christmas break (from habits and goals) than set them, and knowing there is summer to celebrate success and take a break at the end of the ‘journey’ is a powerful motivator.

Let’s use physical activity as an example of a New Years Resolution category that could be more successful in September than January. Say, you wanted to be more physically active in 2020. So you break that goal down to “walking 3k a week (work) day”. You know you want to start running, but know it isn’t a sustainable goal right off the hop to set as you haven’t run in a couple years. If you start this in January as someone usually would. Unless for some reason you love the outdoors and braving the elements, you are starting on a treadmill. You likely don’t own it already, and shouldn’t go out and buy one when you don’t even know if you will like moving at home. So you join a gym. That you have to scrape the snow off of your car and debate difficult driving conditions to get to. Your brain is already going to want to resist the idea of forming a new habit that doesn’t have to do with being lazy, and now you are adding in thoughts about stress and safety about leaving your nice hibernating lair to meet your newly established and resisted goal.

If you decided September was a good time to begin, children have gone back to school, summer holidays and festivities are over, everyone is already in the process of getting back into there routines, the weather is popping, and if you don’t feel like driving, you can just grab your shoes and head out your front door to enjoy some fresh air. Getting up and deciding to do it every day will still be a fight as you begin to adopt the habit of moving on the daily, but you wont have the extra fight of losing your comforts of warmth and safety.

This concept has always made more sense to me, so I make September Resolutions. What do I want to accomplish this year? What improvements do I want to make? What experiences do I want to have? What are the specific goals I can make or the habits I can try to acquire to get there? For me, another year in the class of life begins in September.

How about you? Did summer give you some time to reflect on where you’d like to be next year after another sun-drenched summer? When you look back at your summer was it full of the love you wanted at this stage of your life? Did you have a good relationship with yourself most days? What could you do, try, or change now to possibly enhance the way you feel about your life one summer from now? What are your September Resolutions?

The ‘Man Behind the Door’

Many years ago, I had a girlfriend come to me to discuss her distress with her current relationship. The couple had been together for five years, lived together, and had begun to build a story together. They had begun there relationship at a time where the future wasn’t truly thought about because she was still perusing her education, so the pressures of “future” had not been an issue. Her partner was kind, hardworking, supportive and loyal. There were no “obvious” complaints that would have made it easy to break away. Things were good, and yet as the reality of settling down and committing to life with this man in the long term began to fester, she couldn’t seem to ignore the whisper from within that told her maybe there was something more.

Its a dangerous feeling, knowing you have it good, but admitting to yourself that you aren’t quite fulfilled. Battling the voices in your head that tell you to be grateful for what you have, and then the feelings of your heart that tell you to not be afraid to look for what you truly desire. It’s almost like a game of “Deal or No Deal”. When do you decide to stop and be happy with the briefcase you have opened, regardless of what the next box may offer?Its all individual, and relative to you.

She was anxious and she babbled on and on trying to convince me (herself) of all the reasons she should stay in her current relationship and continue to disregard the whisper in her ear: more.

I decided to pose a question to her, and this question has stuck with me now for a long time. I asked her to imagine I was a genie and my power was that behind the door in front of her I could offer her a man with all of the qualities she loved about her partner, plus all of the qualities she was still longing for. The Man Behind The Door would be her ideal mate, but she’d have to open it now and be willing to release her current partner. Would she take the door? She looked at me like I was crazy and said: “Of course I’d take the door! Who wouldn’t?” I said nothing and allowed her to continue to babble her anxieties out about why she should stay.

A few months later we found ourselves sitting down for another meeting. This time she broke the news to me that she had broken it off with her boyfriend. She told me that she had asked my question to a friend of hers who had been in her relationship for a long time. It was one that my friend respected and admired. When it was her friend’s turn to choose the door, she paused and thought about it. “It would be tempting to take the door, obviously there are many things that drive me crazy about my partner, but honestly I couldn’t take it. Maybe I’d gain a lot of amazing traits, but I couldn’t imagine not going through life with my partner. I couldn’t risk losing what I have to take the door.” This was my friends ah-ha moment. She deserved someone that would make her want to stop opening boxes, someone who made her want to keep the door closed. Not only that, but her partner deserved someone who wouldn’t want to open the door either.

A year later she found someone who felt right to her, who had all the qualities she longed for in The Man Behind The Door the ones she knew she had been longing for but was afraid to believe she could get. Over time they began to the life of her dreams together, including building a home with their names written into the fall. Soon after that, she tragically passed away. Really. It’s sad, but imagine how much sadder it would have been if she hadn’t have taken the risk to go looking for what she truly wanted?

I understand that it is hard to leave a relationship, especially one you have shared a home with, or a social circle. Not only will you lose that person, but your place in your world as you know it. But what’s worse? Conforming and moving farther towards marriage with this person, or breaking ties and going after what you really want? I guess the real question to ask yourself is, if you had the chance would you be swayed by The Man Behind the Door?

The Power of ‘Modeling’

If you hang out with losers, you’re going to be a loser.” – words of wisdom from My Father

My dad was never one for philisophical views, but in his own way he has instilled me with a lot of wisdom. When I was younger, more times than I can count he told me “Charlotte, if you hang out with losers you’re going to be a loser.” He never went into detail about what a “loser” entails, that was up to my judgement, but his comment stayed strong in my mind.

Modeling is something I have been using since I was a young child. The only different between now and then would be that now I actually accept the power and effectiveness of it and use it deliberately, as I have seen its effects on my own life.

How often do you run into someone who has something about them that you want? An energy? A lifestyle? A value system? A confidence? Do you disregard it and think ‘lucky them?’ or do you allow yourself to get curious about how they have cultivated that? The big question: do you move away from it or towards it?

The long and short is spend more time around what you want to be, and less time around what you don’t. If you find you are struggling with anything you’d like to improve upon, take a look at who you spend your time with. Do they have that skill mastered, or are the two of you struggling along side one another? If you can’t find people in your real life modeling the type of change you’d like to be: Find some! If we were to be referring to ‘being someone who exercises’ it might be obvious that models can be found within a gym or some kind of fitness community. I don’t want to put pressure of you to overthink it, but do your research and find a community that feels right (and inspires) you. Find your every day ‘models’.

If you can’t find anyone in your life to model the behaviours you are looking to change, that might be one of the reasons you are looking at this blog. Don’t be afraid to go to YouTube, or seek out blogs, books, tv shows or movies for inspiration. You need to find models to be inspired to change, and you need put your focus on them, and stop focusing on the people struggling beside or behind you. Do you want to lose weight? This might sound harsh, but be ware your friends with unhealthy eating habits. If you’re serious: limit your time with them as it will be hard for there modelling to not rub off on you. For this specific goal, a friend with bad eating habits would be an example of what my dad calls a “loser” (in the serious metaphorical sense). Don’t go to the store, or the mall and pick out the people who are overweight, try to notice them as little as possible. Go into every situation trying to find a MODEL. Who is the healthiest person in the grocery store? Are you inspired? If so, did you sneak a look in her cart? Turn your blinders on to the people not modelling the behaviour you’d like to achieve and put the spotlight on the people who are. Treat it like a game. I use weight loss or body image as a primary example, but this theory applies to any change you are trying to make in your life.

Modeling can be used effectively for reaching goals and for designing a lifestyle. In truth, we use it all the time. We become what we pay attention to. Why do you think clothing, food and fashion tend to move in waves? Enough people that pay attention to a fad and are inspired by it, the more of it you will see. How many people in your community have changed there cupboards to white in the past few years? How many women do you know that have taken to curling there hair? They are following modelling and so are you, so find some models that you can be proud to follow and take pride that over time the likelihood of you being a positive model for someone else is high.

My Modeling Story:

A few years ago I decided I NEEDED to embrace my curly hair. It just had to happen, I had way too much loathing around something I was blessed (stuck!) with. At this point, I had spent a great amount of years hating and hiding my hair, so this goal was a big feat. I began by finding models: I noticed people with free, curly hair on the streets and in the stores, I began using Pinterest to create a vision board of women with curly hair who inspired me, I went on YouTube and found people who were educating women on the tips-and tricks associated with managing curly hair, and of course I practiced and experimented with technique and products! I bought a (very) expensive diffuser as an incentive for the experiment and told everyone I spoke with at work about how I was not going to straighten my hair for one year to force myself to figure this out! I made failing a very embarrassing venture. I spent a great deal of time talking about and getting educated about curly hair! I was constantly seeking out models to remain inspired. By the end of the year, not only had I found a way to feel grateful for my hair (something unique to me, and which I received a lot of compliments on) BUT I became a model to other women who wanted to learn to love there curls as I had. I had come full-circle about something I could have never dreamed I would master. Today, I don’t always wear my hair curly because depending on my mood I do enjoy the look of straight hair, but when I do wear my hair curly I don’t see it as “less than”. I’m lucky to have it and I model that.

Modeling is one of the most powerful tools out there, accessible to all. My dad may have been a bit harsh with his word choices, but I think he would be happy to know that even if he didn’t realize it, I understand the power of the philosophy behind his statement. You become what you pay attention to, what you spend your time with and the modeling you connect to. If you want to make a change: be deliberate about your modeling.

Standards, Expectations and Self-Acceptance

Sometimes, I think the biggest disconnect we humans have between where we are in our present lives and this idea of ‘fulfillment and self-acceptance’ so many of us struggle to achieve, is our inability to live up to our OWN expectations.

Expectations are a fickle kind of thing, because we all seem to have different standards for ourselves (and motives behind the standards!). As an example, I will use my current body image. At one point and time I absolutely loathed looking in the mirror. I was about 40lbs heavier than I am today as a result of little physical activity and tons of excess calories. I was in hiding, but that’s a story for another time. I knew I could do a lot better in this area. Today, I have worked hard to shift my lifestyle to that of someone who includes exercise as a habitual practice, and try hard to eat more for fuel than pleasure (or escape). Anyone who knows me will attest that I am a much healthier person than I was in the past. I agree. When I pass by my appearance in the mirror most days I am not at all repulsed by what I see, and instead practice kindness and compassion to where I am at. Honestly, it’s not uncommon for me to look at myself in the bathroom mirror and tell myself that I look healthy, good, fit, or some other uplifting message. A big change from my former self.

The problem lies in the fact that I am still not where I know I am capable of being. If I bring this up to the wrong person in my life, I am met with crazy eyes and comments about how I am silly to not accept where I am now. I do not want to be misunderstood. I am pleased with what I see. I have worked hard and am well on the path to meeting MY standard. I just know, somewhere within me that I am capable of BETTER. This, I find, for most people is where the disconnect lies and where there are only two routes towards inner peace:

Option 1. CHANGE. The funny thing about this is that if you start to make the changes towards your goal and therefore put yourself in a mindset of believing you can actually achieve it, the happiness doesn’t take long to follow. You become proud of yourself for meeting your own expectations. It is always important to remember that change is gradual, and if you wait to accept yourself until you have met a new goal, standard or milestone, you will miss the point. Why wait to accept yourself when you’re taking the actions to meet your own standards right now? That sounds like a punishment, and I am pretty firm believer that life is too short to punish yourself for past mistakes.

Do some dreaming. What kind of life does someone living up to your standard live? If we continue with the body image example my vision for where I would want to be includes someone who puts a great deal of thought into the food they allow into there body, knows what foods react well with them, has control over temptations that will not nurture, enjoys an active lifestyle, enjoys cooking, spends time with people who also value there bodies and feel good in there own skin, and someone who is passionate about getting to know there body like a friend. What kind of habits does this person have in order to achieve this standard? Think about it. Write it down. Think about a few habits that you can try to begin to incorporate (e.g a small glass of water to begin the day, or stopping eating hours before bed to allow your digestive system a chance to relax). A year is a long time if you ‘keep moving’ – it’s 365 small steps of keeping this image at the forefront of your mind and trying your best to slow down and make decisions that will move you closer towards this vision. If this is a new mountain you are climbing, you will have a lot of habits to change and if you take the time to do some research on the subject you will learn that your brain will not make that an overnight feat. The more small habits you are able to incorporate, the better you will feel, and the closer you will get to meeting your standard.

Option 2. LOWER YOUR STANDARDS. Everything in you might be rejecting what I am saying right now, because you might believe that if you were to lower your standards and stop berating yourself for whatever area you aren’t succeeding in, you’ll be stuck here forever. Wrong. Think about your life, all that is going on in it, and all the ‘expectations’ you are not currently meeting. Is the self-loathing helping you? Do you have it in you currently to make any of the appropriate changes to meet that standard? Is that standard at all realistic for where you are at right now? Is that a standard that is really going to bring you more happiness? Reevaluate your life and decide. Instead of trying to ‘change’, it might be time to instead change the way you think about yourself. To be more compassionate. To relax into where you are right now. Think about yourself as a young child: If you were to deny your child love day after day because they were not meeting an expectation, would the fire be lit under them to change? Or would they become defeated by your lack of compassion, acceptance and patience with them for where they are at? Change is definitely a deliberate and consuming task. Sometimes it’s best to just relax on yourself and let yourself breathe and enjoy where you are right now. Slow it down. If you find the unachieved standard continues to nag at you, see Option 1.

The funny thing I have found about a ‘personal standard’ that the closer you get to reaching the top, the more you realize you might not need to go all the way. You might find that 80% of that standard brings you just as much satisfaction as 100% might have brought you, or sometimes you might find you open a door to a second level and work towards 200%. You’ll be able to tell because your mind will become less consumed with alerting you to its dissatisfaction to your current standard and will move on to a different area of your life, or the standard will be raised. The farther away you are, the more you think reaching the top will bring the ‘happiness’. The closer you can come to your expectations, today, the more freedom your mind will give you for new pursuits, different areas of standards. There will always be a mountain to climb, but aligning yourself with the habits of someone who lives up to your standards is the fastest way to create fulfillment and self-acceptance.

What are YOUR expectations for yourself? How do you move closer towards them or how do you let them go to accept and enjoy yourself for where you are now?

The Gift of ‘Rolling with the Punches’

This is my very first blog post. Without trying to put too much pressure on myself to tackle all the ‘big questions’ and insights I have about life, I’ve decided to stay present and reflect on the biggest lesson reinforced to me this past weekend: there is reward in learning to roll with the punches.

It was on my bucket list this year to travel back to The Grotto in Tobemory, Ontario to tackle a 15km hike some friends and I had found by mistake four years back. A dear friend of mine and I decided to make the adventure a day trip by getting on the road before sunrise in hopes of arriving by lunch, spending the duration of the day hiking, and then travelling back home that night. Food was prepared, clothing and headphones were packed, and drive-thru coffee and breakfast was hit on the way out of town. I was excited! I knew the view throughout the hike was beautiful and after spending many years hyping up the hike to my friend I couldn’t wait to share the experience with him.

After a typo into Google Maps and a 30 minute detour down some (painfully) swerving roads we arrived at the destination: only to be turned away because of “over-crowding”. It turns out that because of social media, not only was the Grotto a heavily trafficked area, but the trail I had once had no problem accessing was now being guarded by park officials policing the amount of cars that could park in the lot at one time. The secret of this beautiful hike was out.

It wasn’t the park officials fault, but we were obviously let down. We had travelled over four hours in anticipation. When I explained my surprise, and my past experience on the trail without any sense of hostility towards the park official she allowed her guard to come down and gave us a run down of our other options in the area (not many on a busy Saturday in the summer). We thanked her and decided to head into Tobemory in hopes of coming up with another idea.

To shorten this story up, as I’m not one for details, it seemed no matter what idea we came up with it was plagued with a lot of tourists. Neither of us are one for large crowds, and the tensions in the car were running a bit high. I found myself easily irritated with my friend: the way he was driving, the lack of authority he was taking in the situation, quite honestly after awhile even the sound of his voice. I was frustrated. I wanted to go on our hike, and since we couldn’t I wanted to go home.

After some research, we ended up finding a small section of the Bruce Trail in Wiarton that was deserted. With. A. Beautiful. View.

As soon as we arrived, stretched our legs and got out exploring I could tell we both began to calm down. I stopped hating him for starters, and was able to admit to him that he had made me crazy. In turn, he was able to admit the same to me. We laughed it off, had beautiful conversation, and marveled in the view we found that (otherwise) we would never have discovered. Even more beautiful than that, it was just for us. No tourists, Instagram enthusiasts, impatient people. Just for us. A special, and unexpected, memory.

It’s funny in life, I’m guilty of it myself, that when things don’t go the way they are expected it is so very easy to let our expectations get the better of us and stop us from allowing the flow of ‘God’ to enjoy the ride we are to go on. Sometimes it ends up better than we expect, sometimes it creates room for growth, for intimacy, for connection. Sometimes it makes a good story. We forget sometimes, that life is one big adventure and when unexpected turns come up it is not a time to get angry and resist, but a time to breathe and let our hearts and minds open to new possibilities. Life will keep moving either way, so it is only us who will lose when we allow a change in our sail to disrupt our overall happiness.