On the move

With a joyful heart I can tell you that my time on Vancouver Island is limited.  I have discovered that a large part of my pain stems from joint issues and the island and for that matter the coast of Vancouver Island has no shortage of dampness.  I knew we needed to go inland for relief.  On a recent exploratory trip to the interior of British Columbia, I felt like the old Terri.  I felt limber, I had more energy and it felt weird.  Great but weird.  No worries, I’ll deal 🙂

What this means is that soon I will be able to THRIVE, not just survive and cope.   My life will open up again, allowing me more physical exercise and most importantly a better quality of life .

I will be sad to leave my family and friends but I know they want me to feel as good as I can so I will take heart in their love of me, instead of what I am leaving behind.

There are huge changes coming up for my husband and I and I hope to be able to share them with you as we are further along in the process.  For now, enjoy pictures from our recent road trip.

 

I found hope!!

 

Osoyoos
View from bed inside a Yurt
Barefoot Beach Resort -Penticton

On Self-Compassion

In the simplest of terms Self-Compassion is turning inwards the same care and attention that you would for a friend in need.  I don’t know a single person that wouldn’t rush to the aid of a friend in need.

Dr. Kristin Neff is the Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Educational Psychology, author of “Self-Compassion”, and co-creator of the following model:

Mindfulness led me to the areas in my own life that required urgent attention and also some tough boundaries.  Boundaries are essential for a healthy balanced life.  Without the hand of Self-Compassion, I’m not sure how I would get through the day.  I am still learning to accept this disease so a soft touch is necessary for me.

I had been living a life of trying to fit into what I thought other people wanted me to be and ended up losing myself in the process.  I was still living a pretty awesome life, just not as deeply aligned with who I really was.

Beating myself up had become habitual, and also not uncommon. Harsh criticism activates the sympathetic nervous system and elevates stress hormones such as cortisol in our bloodstream, says Emma Seppala, PhD. Science Director at The Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and author of “The Happiness Track”.

In the last couple of years I have been learning how to turn self-blame into an acceptance of my imperfect self. Throughout the day, as moments of self-recrimination arise I feel the negative emotion, and I say to myself “It’s o.k.  or it’s o.k. sweetheart”. Sometimes I put a hand on my heart. Others use their hand or face. All of these activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The antidote for the fight, flight or freeze.

Self-compassion truly was a topic I was unfamiliar with and I ask you: How kind are you to yourself? How do you speak to yourself up there in your noggin’?

Just like starting over

I am a week past resigning from my job. I was able to process this as things were progressing so it did not knock me on my ass.

I am so grateful to have had a job that afforded me the ability to raise my son on my own in a comfortable manner. It was tight at times but that spoke more to my spending habits than my pay. We took some trips, he played multiple sports and he had everything he needed. The job also allowed me to take two short term disability stints with pay. In the end, it was mostly me feeling like I could never fit in there again. While nothing there has changed, I have.
I found out the other day that I am not entitled to EI benefits because I can’t work full time. My medical EI benefits ran out. This is a federal government issue and not something I can do anything about so I am not expending any energy fighting it. This is me letting you know that there are so many variables that come up when an unexpected life event happens. If you have been following me, you have seen the ups and downs, and all of the different variables that can happen.
I am grateful my team at work was built on action plans and preparation, so while I am missed, I believe my ‘legacy’ speaks for itself and hopefully I didn’t leave many f-bombs (inside joke).
The more that I let go and trust, the more great things are happening to me. Yeah, life can throw you a bag of shit, but you can either get better or get bitter. Even though there have been some dark days, I have ALWAYS chosen to be better. My natural state is one of positiveness. That is what has brought me to almost 2 years post ‘event’ for and how I can be faced with zero income, a cracked relationship with my son and still be content, still move on with exciting ideas and plans for my life.
It has taken work of a different kind to get me to today. I have scraped back layers of fear and anxieties that have built up over time. The work continues to bring me new insights, dreams and possibilities. The more awake and aware I become, the more I can see that the only thing stopping any of us from anything we want is ourselves.

“(Just Like) Starting Over”

Our life together is so precious together,
We have grown – we have grown,
Although our love is still special,
Let’s take our chance and fly away somewhere alone,It’s been so long since we took the time,
No-one’s to blame,
I know time flies so quickly,
But when I see you darling,
It’s like we both are falling in love again,
It’ll be just like starting over – starting over,Everyday we used to make it love,
Why can’t we be making love nice and easy,
It’s time to spread our wings and fly,
Don’t let another day go by my love,
It’ll be just like starting over – starting over,Why don’t we take off alone,
Take a trip somewhere far, far away,
We’ll be together all alone again,
Like we used to in the early days,
Well, well, darling,It’s been so long since we took the time,
No-one’s to blame,
I know time flies so quickly,
But when I see you darling,
It’s like we both are falling in love again,
It’ll be just like starting over – starting over,Our life together is so precious together,
We have grown – we have grown,
Although our love is still special,
Let’s take a chance and fly away somewhere alone.

The inner critic

​When we moved to this house last year, I did not have a clear vision for the studio. At the time, it was a great place to throw all of those containers of past projects (the chocolate making, hooked rug, knitting, tissue paper, gift bags…)

Then life became tough to manage on all the fronts, and I was craving an outlet.  I was also starting to recognize the feelings of fear right when they started,  and more and more I was making the conscious choice of love (of myself) over fear (fear based beliefs, thoughts etc).

So I pulled out all of the projects of the past and weeded out what I felt I could use for making art.  I started with a collage which led to art journaling.  Art journaling seemed like a safe place to experiment and start digging for the creativity I knew was in me. I also started picking up cheap thrift store art supplies like acrylic paints, stencils and papers of all sorts. I started watching tutorials and realized it wasn’t rocket science (which might actually be easier) but rather it was pretty simple. Or so it seemed.

The art journaling process is very challenging.  What better place to start my perfectionism recovery. My inner critic is right there front and centre.  E v e r y step of the way.  The fear has disguised itself as perfectionism for quite some time now.  So I say helllooo to the fear and keep on making art and repeat as many times as I need to. It is not stopping me, but it does slow me down because of the constant inner chatter and checking in with my body. It has been therapy for me, helping me to work through the fear being held in my body.

Making art has reignited  a fire inside me. I remember now why I loved art classes in school so much.  And all the projects of the past….I was so paralyzed by the fear of not making them good enough that I never completed them.

This exploration of everything art has opened my eyes. This isn’t just about art. It is about dreaming and believing in you. I am taking the time to do this for myself.  This is loving myself first, working through my fear based belief’s in order to live a more peaceful life.  For the first time, I am placing myself before any of my loved ones.  It is self care that I feel is essential not only for my soul, but for whatever is next on my path.

The L Word

Hi I am Terri, I am 48 and I walk with a cane.  Imagine the story I could tell myself about this.  Instead I am choosing to see that this is truly where I am right now and focus on how it is helping me, rather than  judgment.  I just don’t have the energy for judgement anymore.

It’s about accepting and loving yourself as you are, warts and all.  How do I know this?  Because I have gone from self loathing to learning, slowly, that caring for yourself and looking after your own health and well-being is essential before you look after the needs of others.

As my health took a downturn in late 2012, I felt like I was losing control.  It was a combination of stresses really.  I see now that the Fibromyalgia was showing up then with various symptoms but it wasn’t until I was literally forced by my own body to pay attention that I started waking up from the ‘unreal’ life that I had created.

This has not been a smooth process.   The more stressful things became, the more I found ways to manage.  Perfectionism, judgment and anger to name a few.  Coping mechanisms and mindfulness are like a marriage made in…well..…reality.  With mindfulness, you are met with the reality of your life moment to moment.  So what happens is that you are faced with your own shit.  The dramas that you create, or play a part in.  Situations created with the habitual patterns of thought and behavior built on fear, but the fear is protecting you in a sort of fight, flight, freeze way and that is not helpful unless you are up against a bear in the woods, alone without bear spray shitting your pants.  Just saying.

I have been working at untangling myself from these sorts of patterns and question anything that doesn’t feel good.  I recently recovered the ability physically to actually feel in my belly so that means the tightness of my breathing, the spasms, and my ‘gut’ feelers (intuition)  Each step has to be met with compassion.

If you have read this far, then chances are that you are a compassionate human and you feel something towards me like empathy.  That feeling is what I have to turn towards myself.  At each step.  Literally. I have slowed myself down even more in an effort to truly start from the bottom up.  Walking without support is difficult for me because at any time I can be hit with fatigue. If I rush  through or try to ignore the fatigue it just hits me even harder.

I have struggled mightily with this in the past year and a half and it has only come to be in the last few months as my despair reached a new low, that I am able to start rebuilding myself.   I don’t have it figured out.  I will never have it all figured out and neither will you.  True story.  One of the key things that I have learned about life through this journey, is that it is really all about the love.

Unlike self-criticism, which asks are you good enough, self-compassion asks what’s good for you? – Kristin Neff

The rubber meets the road

The stress of late has been too much for me to handle and it reached my body in an intensely painful way. Over the holidays when I experienced feelings of deep despair, I woke up to the connection that I was creating more suffering for myself with the out of control stressful and anxious thoughts. Since then I have been relating to my thoughts and outside stressors much differently. It didn’t happen overnight. I have logically known this since I started practicing mindfulness, but it takes time to work through old beliefs.

My intention is to get to a place where I consider my physical pain an outside stressor, and as such be able to relate to it much differently. As it is I have been relating to the pain as something that I am creating, therefore I should be able to fix it. If I can’t fix it then I’ll just try ignoring it again. Except that hasn’t been working and I am left feeling more physically helpless than ever.

So I am accepting that I am essentially disabled right now. To really not care if you agree with me or not. Or my doctor. Or the insurance company. That this is how it is. It’s been such a bitter pill to swallow and I’m sure there will be remnants of bad taste.   Letting go of what anyone thinks of me is a necessity. Sadly, this wouldn’t be as big an issue for me or any of my fellow invisible illness warriors, if I had a visible disease.

It’s ok sweetheart

As I got into my car after a Dr’s appointment and was feeling so broken open I thought…I will write about this.  The self-blame, self-loathing, guilt, resentment and self-pity.  Like a box of chocolates, depending on the day, the trigger, or the moon cycle I didn’t know which one my day would open up to.  The longer the wait for the disability decision, the more the feelings of unworthiness crept in.  I was tying my worth to this outcome just like I have tied my worth to my physical state, and my job before this. 

I know logicially that I have no control over the claim decision or over these symptoms of Fibromyalgia that I am experiencing, or the effect all of this has on the people in my life.  It didn’t matter one bit.  It has never mattered in those times of despair. It felt like a big whirlpool of negative emotions that was challenging to get out of.  The stress manifesting at night in the form of hot flashes and nightmares.  Good times.

Through practicing mindfulness, I have started dealing with these difficult emotions. Thankfully there is built in self-compassion in the form of loving-kindness. It has been difficult for me to access this at times though. For the most part it just takes my hand over my heart and a silent it’s ok sweetheart but that wasn’t cutting it this time.  

I was at my Dr.’s appointment after visiting my parents.  I had also just had a call with the insurance company regarding my disability claim.  Managing my emotions in that particular stretch of time was very difficult, so I let her know just how hard it was; mentally, physically, financially. This decision holds weight in my immediate and long-term future. I felt heard in a way that I had not before. As I walked out her assistant that I spoke about last post came out and gave me a big, soft, all enveloping hug. I cried as she held me, feeling her compassion towards me.

That evening brought exhaustion and I turned away an impromptu visit offer from my son. A visit at that particular time in that particular state, would have brought me more suffering.  I had a choice in the moments after the text exchange on what to do with the guilt that I felt. Did I want to add more suffering to a day where it already felt there was going to be no end to the pain? Or can I put my hand over my heart and remember that it’s ok sweetheart. I chose then to remember. I opened up my mindfulness course and turned that shit around before going to sleep.

Loving and accepting all parts of you is a life-long practice. Self-compassion is needed at every step, especially when you are dealing with difficult emotions. It can feel hard to find sometimes, but it is always possible.

 

Dropping the story

The stories that I have been telling myself since spring of last year is that I am no longer worthy because I cannot work; I am a shitty parent judging by how my son exited the house; and I am no longer the wife to my husband the way I used to be.

I had wrapped up so much of my identity into my job.  I really thought I had a good work /life balance and I told myself that story for 3 years through physical symptoms of joint pain, muscle fatigue and brain fog to name a few.

My son ended up going through some pretty major stuff before I kicked him out, and he had to do it without a Mom that could be all there for him.  I am still telling myself that story but really working on changing it.

It has been hard on my husband and I. We didn’t have the right tools to handle the shit-storm that came our way, but we are now learning the skills to help us.  I am so grateful we are on the same page philosophically.   He has been on a crash course in mindfulness.  You bet I tried to lead him there, but this was a massive lesson for me to leave people alone and focus on your own life.  He ultimately got there on his own time.  It is so much easier now without the stories, but rather really communicate (who knew?!)

With the recent decline on my disability claim, I was held in a negative storyline for about a week.  It was very hard for me to see how we were going to make it through the month of December, no matter what Russ said to reassure me. It was only as I was preparing for an approaching Doctor’s appointment that I started seeing light and feeling the gratitude again.  I remembered what I have been learning this past year, that all I was doing was creating a storyline that may never happen.  Creating stress and my body does a great job of that all on its own thank you very much.25 of my symptoms

I had to prepare for this appointment because I don’t have the best Doctor.  I knew I had to stand my ground very firmly. I had to prepare to stay calm.  It so happened that I had a Mindfulness Morning lined up for the Saturday before my appointment.  In walks my Doctor’s Medical Office Assistant.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  I took it as further proof that I was on the right track.  I saw her humanity and our common suffering.  I felt a new compassion towards her. If I can see the humanness in what I had always kind of considered a grumpy MOA then I can do this appointment.

I stayed in the moment the best that I could.  It worked.  I came out of there having felt really good for sticking up for myself.  I know what needs to happen in order to take the steps to achieve long lasting healing and it is not returning to work at this point in time.  No story, just the facts Jack.

Relating to life without as many made up stories in my head is providing me a lot of relief.  I am doing this within the safe confines my marriage before I take it to the streets.  Making sure I fill up on gratitude for the beautiful sights around my neighborhood and our own urban farm. This is where the healing starts.

qual-eggs-coming-soon
Quail eggs coming soon?
queen-latifah
Queen Latifah
farmland
Farmland
view-from-dog-park
View from the dog park

Waking up

This post had a much different topic yesterday.  My day started off well, I was writing, it felt good and I was looking forward to posting.

Mid-morning I received a call from my insurance company informing me that my application for long-term disability benefits was denied and I would need to appeal their decision.  I literally begged the woman to try to understand. I didn’t know how many more times I could explain what this fatigue feels like, how it and the stress of my physical symptoms is impacting me and my return to work.  I felt like I was justifying my existence.  Afterwards I cursed, cried and threw shit.  I felt very low in those moments. In my eyes our world had just come crashing down.  I now have zero income coming in.  I was so thankful to Russ for catching me.

Fast forward to evening where I continued on with my first week of a 7 week online mindfulness course called Power of Awareness. The course is put on by Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield, two well-respected mindfulness teachers as well as psychologists.

I am so grateful I made that decision.  I found answers to lingering questions I had about my meditation practice as well as learning how to really be with those negative feelings that I had learned to disassociate from.  I learned that trauma makes us does this, and that it is natural to contract your body when you are afraid.  Aversion to negative feelings is normal and so is grasping at positive feelings and wanting to hold on to them.  But they both cause unnecessary suffering.

My life has been spent between aversion and grasping and because of this very little of it has been spent in the present moment.  Boom.  To realize that I raised my child from this place is heartbreaking.  I understand now though that to beat myself with this just adds to my suffering.

I need to focus on forgiving myself and relating to my feelings of shame and guilt with tenderness instead of more shame and more guilt.  I believe that this is what is required if I want to heal.  I see that even though this disease causes me a lot of suffering at times, it can also be my way to freedom from unnecessary pain and healing of a different kind.

The Transformation of ‘T’

I finished setting up my studio space yesterday and throughout the five week process remembered something about myself.

I am more of a creative being than I thought.  I want to create things.  I have been creating things!  My job was filled with organization and planning, I just didn’t recognize it as creative. With the final touches coming into place yesterday, the inspiration truly flowed.  I now see that if I just trust in myself than what I need in any given moment will be there.  A serendipitous drive yesterday resulted in a stop at a local thrift store where again I felt inspired and came home with the LOVE mirror (a whopping $7) and a few other cool smaller pieces.

studio
Studio

studio-workbench-and-view

Studio workbench and view

As Russ and I were chillin’ in my new happy place, I opened a package with some important certificates and a plastic envelope.  Inside the envelope were copies of the result of my session with a graphic facilitator 13 years ago.  I was 35.  Adam was 5.

It was to help me form a 3 year plan, but first we needed to work through my blocks like doubt and unworthiness to get to the cheerleader inside who wanted to be brave and to love.  I saw myself happy, content, grateful, in love and proud. I would have a wedding on a beach with painted toes and a skimpy wedding dress and lighter, longer hair.  Adam would say “I’m happy for you Mom”.  He would be happy and wise for his age.  My husband would be youthful looking, close in age – maybe a bit older.  I would be a supportive leader. Spunky.  Wise.  A good role model for Adam and other young people.  For people who are struggling.  An inspiration.

the-t-strategy
The T Strategy

Are you freaking kidding me?!  I knew I manifested the wedding on the beach but the other stuff brought tears to my eyes.  Some of the detail is crazy.  So much from that final vision has either happened or is happening right now.  And not in the way that I ever imagined.

I have always wanted to live in this area.  To see the leaves changing.  I get to see that every day now in my yard and neighborhood.  I feel grateful every time.  I am a sap.  And proud of it.

leaves-and-feeder
Leaves and feeder

My old vision had a farm.  I got a large yard with fruit trees, a large garden and a chicken coop. Close enough.

My point is that sometimes you can get in your own way. Trust yourself.  If you can’t trust yourself, then work on it. Reach out.  Have a vision and keep it up to date.  Believe, in yourself but also something larger.  Whatever it is.