Parting the clouds

Morning mist

Most of my life has been operated in reactivity, with not a whole lot of intention.  I allowed myself to be led in my relationships, starting from a very early age.  I was naive and super-sensitive, sucking up the energy and the moods around me. I also learned from an early age not to make waves and that meant pleasing the people around me.  I have only learned in the past couple of years how much of an effect this has had on me, and feel like an infant at times for just how much I have yet to learn.  I have looked outside of myself my whole life for worth, answers and love. To paraphrase the beloved Brené Brown, I have been hustling for my worthiness every step of the way.  The hustling drains me of joy, makes gratitude harder to feel and does nothing to help my healing

What do I mean by hustling? Here is an example which also neatly sums up where I am right now.  Since I have looked outside of myself my entire life for moments, looks, comments, conversations that help me to feel good, this is how I measured (and still do to a degree) my self esteem.  I also measure my self-esteem on healthy I am and how much income I make.  Since all of that drastically changed in the last two years, I am finding myself in a place so foreign to me and very painful at times. Yet for all that I have heard, this is THE place to be. The place where you get to change long held behaviours like hustling for worthiness, people-pleasing and perfectionism.

I am doing my best to shed the old and bring in the new.  I know I have said it many times before but I couldn’t be in better surroundings.  I have started practicing Qigong and hope to start drumming soon.  The wonderful lady (and my new bf) who sold us the RV, also introduced me to Qigong.  Qigong was one of the activities recommended to me by a pain specialist.  I did not need to look outside myself for these things, they showed up when I was open to receiving them.

One of the things that I have at my disposal 100% of the time is a tablet and satellite permitting, internet.   Grow Your Gratitude was started partly on the premise that I wanted myself and others to share their stories of gratitude.  However, since day one I have also been met with fear about sharing myself due to such low self esteem. My nervous system has me locked in fight, flight, freeze.  I need to learn to live with this because as far as I know, even with the help of medication it will always be there.   Since my physical abilities are limited, I want to make the best of the rest of what I have and that is my heart (soul) and mind.  I feel that one of the ways for me to heal is to constantly focus on the good that I have and the good that I know is coming. I know it’s there and I also know I can access it when I want it enough.  It is easier to look for the negative because we are born that way, negatively biased and it is our life’s work to overcome that and find joy!

On that note, for the last 100 days of the year (starting Sept 21) I will be participating in Mind Heart Body Therapies social media event #100happydaysexperiment.  I participated in #100happdays a few years ago with my work mates and I can tell you that it helped me.   It wasn’t always easy, the sharing or finding things you were grateful for on a shitty day.  It did end up nourishing me and inspiring me to start this page.  I hope you’ll join us!  I will be sharing my Instagram photos to Facebook.  If you are Instagram, you can follow Danielle on Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/mindbodyhearttherapy/?hl=en . She has so many inspiring and knowledgeable posts.  Read more about her here:  http://www.danielleszasz.com/about/

To access me on Instagram, click here.   https://www.instagram.com/growyourgratitude/?hl=en

Wow

The good, the bad and the in-between

I am surrounded by trees, farmland, mountains, river and wildlife, Mother Earth couldn’t be calling to me more loudly and I am listening.  When I hear a special birdsong, or a deer snort, or a neighborhood donkey I stop what I am doing (usually thinking) and pause. It helps my stress levels to focus on natural sounds and surroundings.

There are so many beautiful spots

However, I can’t talk about how good it has been without talking about how bad it has been.  There is a dichotomy at work that has been hard to manage.  I am filled with gratitude and joy for what my husband has been able to provide for us in the form of this property, and all that it is offering in terms of healing and our future.

On the other hand, I have been suffering emotionally because I am personally nearing bankruptcy.  I am still holding out hope for success through litigation with the insurance company.  Also, our housing needs have changed so we are changing course.  What the f*ck do I do with all of that?  These things are what I have been ruminating on for over a month, causing me a great deal of anxiety.  I am thanking the universe every day for what I do have, and in the next moment feeling like shit for not contributing in a tangible way. My calls for help from others have been met with both kindness and indifference.

After taking the action that I can with the finances, I am letting it go.  I have to trust myself to help make sound decisions with my husband and trust my lawyer with the lawsuit. Instead of those worries being front and centre in my daily brain game, I am recognizing that they are unproductive thoughts and am dealing with them mindfully. I greet the unwelcome feelings as compassionately as I can, reminding myself that I didn’t ask for any of this.  Bodies age and get sick so why should mine be any different?  My circumstances are unique but what is physically manifesting is not.  I always expected to be able to meet my financial obligations and if I couldn’t, then my insurance company would.  I could have prepared better but I didn’t.

Life is good and then it’s not, and then it is again. And repeat. I have lived my almost 49 years believing I needed to make it good all of the time, for me and my family. I found out the hard way that I can’t protect myself or others from difficult times, that it IS life, and those difficult times make us grow in the ways that others can’t do for us.  There will always be pain and suffering for all of us.  There will also be peace and joy. How much we attract of each is up to us.

I can’t control a lot of what is happening and it really is f*cked up that I am in this much pain, but I am choosing to focus on whatever lifts my spirits.  (Hint:  It’s usually nature).  I can’t gloss over the shit….I acknowledge that there is a lot of shit. I must pull myself up every day out of the depths of that shit, but I do it because something deep inside me knows that it is worth it.  It is worth it to work through the perceived judgement (self included), the loss of so many old parts of myself (ego), the physical loss, the social loss. It is worth it to try my best to accept that I might not get better than this while still holding onto hope and pushing my physical limits.  Acceptance ebbs and flows just like all the other thoughts and feelings. Let them come, and let them go.  This is life. This is my life.

Sometimes the signs are obvious
Seriously…how cool is that?!
Treasures found on property

 

 

 

 

Finding Spoons in Grand Forks

I ended my career with a whimper instead of a bang. Physically I did not feel ready.  I worked for a stock brokerage firm and it wasn’t long before my senses were overloaded and I could no longer cope.  I was disappointed and scared.  I was being forced by my company to stick to a schedule, which I knew was their way of pushing me out the door given my disability.  Not an reasonable request, however in the meeting discussing this my manager and someone I considered a friend of 20+ years, was absent.  My mental health was questioned during this time at work, and in my state at the time this was inflammatory. I was hurt and it still stings. I am working through that.

I have had the support of a great work team however, and that has meant so much to me these last two years.  I am so grateful for the time I had with them.  I know that it probably helped contributed to the burnout of T-Unit, but I have no regrets.  Except maybe letting them buy me shots 😉 I know I will always refer to them as ‘my team’. Once a Heron…

We are moving to a completely new town for us!  Gratefully I have a husband who supported me being in the new town to get a feel for it.  It ended up being an amazing opportunity for my body to start healing.  It became so clear as more and more time passed that the weather had been playing a huge factor in my pain levels.  Eventually I could feel that it starts with the joints, muscles react bringing on trigger point pain and then the breathing is affected and that is how it cycles.  Isn’t that great?  I really mean that!  This fills me with such hope for my future not being filled with pain all of the time, which translates to me being more active, which means not feeling so isolated….it snowballs.  But in the best way possible.

So until we move…here are some more shots of our new town.  Isn’t she lovely?!

Geese taking advantage of the high water levels.
Deer in the fields.
Saddle Lake – I see lots of visits here to see birds.

Farmers fields

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.