The Gratitude Challenge

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231625731_32865d1061_oThere has been a trend going around Facebook where people nominate each other to do the Gratitude Challenge. It was very popular a month or so ago but at the moment it is pretty quiet. There were some variations on the challenge but the basic premise was for five days to post three items that you are grateful for and then to nominate three more people each day.

I only nominated one person each day as my friends list isn’t huge and I don’t like nominating people for the sake of filling a quota so I adapted the Gratitude Challenge to my own needs and comfort level. I also didn’t limit myself to three items per day. If some days I felt like adding more I did.

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It was a challenge I very much enjoyed as it didn’t involve calling anyone out to do something crazy or to shame anyone or to give money, and the idea didn’t get so diluted from being passed around that the original intent was lost. A gratitude challenge is exactly what it sounds like, a challenge that gets you to look at your life and see everything you have to be grateful for. In a society that never seems happy with what they have it’s good to challenge ourselves to see past our complaints and our often long lists of wants and acknowledge all the good stuff already in our lives, as well as to thank the people we often forget to thank in our fast paced lives.

As North Americans and other advanced societies in general we’ve come to see the state of wanting as normal. No matter how much we have, how big our houses are, how much stuff we cram in them, how new or advanced our technology is, we always want more. Even more mentally debilitating we refer to our wants as needs so they become something we must have instead of something we would like to have but could live without. As a result we base our merit as human beings on our ability to obtain these “needed” items.

The dilemma that arises is we never have enough and when we tie our worth to wants and needs that can never be fulfilled we as individuals also become never enough. The truth is we are all enough. The price tags society affixes to our worth are illusions. If money ceased to have any value, we’d all still be of value to the universe. The currency of the universe is energy.

How often do we say, if only we had more money…. But would more money make any real difference? What if we said instead, if only we had more energy? Many of us do say that but I’m not talking about more energy to get through a grinding work week or force ourselves out of bed to fit into a mold society prepares for us just so we can pay the bills and buy more of our wants which in turn keeps the grinding wheels of our society turning. The energy of the universe is innately empowering and a first step to claiming that energy is accepting we are enough and we have inside of us everything we need to be what we feel called to be.

The next step to claiming that energy and owning ourselves is gratitude. Don’t wait to be nominated for a Gratitude Challenge, take the time to be grateful every day. Breathe in love, exhale gratitude. Exhale love, breathe in gratitude. That’s the real cycle of living that matters.

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I am challenging all my readers, friends, family who read my work to start your own Gratitude Challenge. Make up whatever rules work for you, challenge others to do the same and let go of the needs that are only wants and see how blessed and beautiful and wonderful life is. Even on the darkest day there are rays of gratitude to be found and when you find your center and realize you have all you need, that will radiate out into the world and infect others.

This is the revolution the world needs and it starts with each and every one of us.

Here’s my Gratitude Challenge for today.

1) I am grateful for my mother. She is my rock and my foundation. She is there when I need her, even when I don’t feel deserving of her care.

2) I am grateful for my husband who is willing to get on an airplane and fly across the Atlantic Ocean for the purpose of working on our relationship.

3) I am grateful to the energy workers I have met and am meeting in my life who are showing me new ways to find peace and healing energy and who are encouraging me as I start my path towards being an energy worker as well.

4) I am grateful for having found the Sacred Living movement and being able to integrate it into my life’s work.

5) I am grateful for all those who read and share my blog. I write for me but I also write to connect with you.

If you follow my Facebook page or my twitter account, I will start randomly posting Gratitude Challenge updates and you are welcome to share them and carry them into your own lives and use them to find your own center of gratitude.

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Change and Changing

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5655715130_22866414c7_oLife changes, a truth we must accept. Time carries us in its ebb and flow, always towards tomorrow. My own life is moving towards a new chapter. None of my children are babies anymore. In three weeks I will be the mom of an 18-year-old, an adult in the eyes of most of the world and definitely in the eyes of the law. I don’t feel old enough or mature enough to be the parent of an adult but on October 11 that will become part of my résumé, along with also being the parent of a kindergartener.

My youngest, who celebrated his fourth birthday over the summer, is enjoying the challenge and excitement of being in Kindergarten. His mornings are full of new children, new toys and new experiences and then he spends his afternoons with me, visiting our favourite haunts, reading and having quiet time.

It is a slow letting go but in that letting go my life is changing. I am pursuing my sacred living studies and honing my skills as a birth worker, healer and a women’s health educator. I spend time playing with words and emotions, sharing the results on my blog and connecting with a social web of like-minded people. I spend time nurturing my own evolving persona which involves the physical practice of releasing the baggage that has weighed me down for too long and a cracking open of the armour that has imprisoned me under the guise of protection. It is a process of learning and exchanging old beliefs for new beliefs. New beliefs that embrace possibility and redefine my relationships with the natural world around me and the people in that world.

I am changing my inner dialogue, beginning to truly believe I am worthy, worthy of being called a good mother, worthy of being loved, worthy of following my dreams, worthy of opening my arms and my heart to the world and in turn worthy of finding and keeping friends who reflect my soul and heart back to me.

For the first time since I was teenager, I am looking towards the future with happiness, believing that the path before me is leading me towards self-fulfillment. I am not afraid of the changes ahead, I am embracing them. Tired of feeling broken, lost and angry, I am ready to trade those negative emotions in for ones that will serve me into the future.

It will take time and patience and self-love. There will be obstacles but a change of perspective turns obstacles into challenges that nurture growth. Words are so powerful and I’m learning how to use them to empower myself to change my present and my future.

Change is constant. I can’t stop it but I can embrace it, love it and own my place within its ebb and flow.

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My Smile is Missing Something…

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961018_10152143165725505_11215161_nI sat in the tub with my youngest, he with a paint brush in hand, asking me to smile but he wasn’t satisfied with the smile I gave him. He said it was missing something, some lines, so he proceeded to fix my smile with his paint and paintbrush.

The idea that my smile is missing something stuck with me. I’ve rolled the words over and over in my brain. I think of the pictures that exist of me, which are few due to the fact that I am the primary family photographer, and in so many of my recent pictures my genuinely happy smile appears to be missing. I always seem unhappy, guarded. The smile never quite makes it all the way to my eyes.

People are always telling me to smile, even when I think I already am. I smile and people tell me I’m not smiling, so I smile wider, feeling like my cheeks are about ready to burst and they still tell me I’m not smiling. I feel confused, I don’t know what more to do to smile.

Then the words of a three-year old got me thinking….

Where is my genuine smile? My happy smile? You know the kind of smile that fills your eyes and radiates from within you?

Did I lose it? Maybe I dropped it somewhere? Maybe I gave it to someone or it was stolen? Or maybe it’s in a safe place and I’ve just forgotten where I put it, kind of like my sunglasses or my car keys….

Is it even possible to lose your smile? I know I’ve been happy, and I’ve seen childhood pictures of a beautiful smile so I must have had one at one time.

How do you lose your smile?

Maybe I haven’t lost it really, and on occasions where I let my guard down it pays a rare visit, but the sadness my smile struggles through to be seen feels immense. The walls I have put up to keep others out are thick and tall and the layers of barricaded pain distort my smile. For people on the outside looking in it’s like seeing my smile from a million miles away through a dirty spyglass, the details are fuzzy and the smile looks incomplete, and, in the words of my three-year old, like it’s missing something, some lines, which was easy for him to fix with paint and a paintbrush.

Not such an easy task to bring down the barricades so people can see me smile and truly be happy again. I have a strong suspicion that happy person has been missing for so long many of my friends have forgotten her. A good cry would probably help but that’s a story for another time. Perhaps with some luck I will find her and my smile among my words and in the pursuit of my dreams, and hopefully I’ll be able to convince them both to stick around.

My Tug-of-War

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WARNING – SUICIDE DISCUSSION
hog-s-back-fallsI fought to live to give my son life.

There were some days on my walks home from my many doctor’s appointments I would cross over Hog’s Back Falls and I’d think about jumping. I’d stare at the rushing water and think of the blissful silence death would bring as I was pulled along and under, filling my lungs with water instead of air, ending it for me and the child I had yet to meet.

I would no longer have to face the pain that tore at my insides 24/7. I wouldn’t have to find out if I was a good or bad parent, or make anymore monumental choices that I felt too young, too immature, too lonely to make. I just wanted to escape, to hide somewhere no one could find me, no one could look at me with disapproving eyes for impossible decisions that I never seemed to get right, really I couldn’t get right even if I’d had a cheat sheet at my disposal.

But jumping would have been the easy choice and I’d have simply been transferring my burden of pain and guilt to my friends and loved ones. I was more worried about their happiness than whether I was strong enough to carry my pain alone. So every time I walked over that bridge and the waters called to me, I held tight to the railing and pulled my eyes away to look at where I was going and face my decisions, my choices, my mistakes, and live whatever life they made for me.

Eighteen years on I’m still fighting every day for my child to live, to find happiness and peace within himself. A combination of genetic codes, bad parenting choices from my lack of experience and lack of knowledge have left my son struggling through a fog of diagnoses, jumping from one social net to the next and hiding inside his video games where he finds an outlet for his intense anger and an escape from a world where he can’t get it right no matter what he does.

Right now I’m caught in an epic tug-of-war. I’m the rope and the divided parties are pulling very hard, so h2972358342_6af6e789f0_oard I sometimes think I will snap in two. On one side I have my son and his long list of needs and his cries for help and a mother’s love unwilling to abandon her child. On the other the voice of “reason” that he needs to learn for himself and I can’t save him if he doesn’t want to be saved, as well as the needs of my other children and my husband and how I’m going to lose the rest of my family if I don’t let the oldest go.

How do you win that game of tug-of-war?

I can’t. My soul and heart are being torn in two. I will lose a part of me no matter which side wins and if the rope snaps, I fear I will lose everything, even myself.

I drive over Hog’s Back Falls a fair bit in my travels now and sometimes I still wonder what that cold solitude where you feel nothing would be like. I wonder what it would be like to not hurt anymore. Not to have to choose between my oldest son and the rest of my family. And I wonder how I fought so hard to save my son and I’s life eighteen years ago to still be fighting that same fight today, sometimes feeling like my oldest resents the fact I gave him life at all.

My son and I are bleeding out slowly and the tourniquets aren’t holding. Something has to give but I’m afraid of what that will look like for all of us.

For now I’m just trying to keep the tug-of-war going long enough to get help, real lasting help that opens everyone’s eyes and makes them realize what’s truly on the line. It is a life or death struggle, and while I can’t speak for my oldest, I want to live, and I want a family where everyone’s needs are met, everyone feels loved and accepted for who they are, and we work together to support, honour and help each other overcome our problems and follow our dreams.

Til then I pray I am strong enough.

Holding Space

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10453309_10152753801500572_7444336559685040366_nIt was a life-altering experience.

For four days I had nothing to do but take care of myself. My meals were prepared for me. There was very little housecleaning to do. No toys to pick up. No mountains of laundry to wash. My only responsibility was learning and connecting with my soul and heart.

At first it was really hard, I mean REALLY HARD. Even with coming back to my writing this year the moments of connection I had experienced were fragmented, disrupted and often overwhelmed by a world of negativity. For four days I could no longer hide behind my excuses. I was surrounded by a group of women all there to do their own soul-searching and together we supported each other as we faced our pain, our regrets, our demons. They took many different shapes and sizes but there was no competition to out do each other or downplay anyone’s journey. We all just accepted that each of us were facing what we needed to in that space and so we honoured the journeys, held space for the stories and allowed each women to process what they were ready to process and to do so in their own way. For many of us I think that was a first.

For me I know it was a first.

To be able to talk about my pain, past and present, without being shamed, tuned out, ignored or downplayed was an incredible gift and to receive that gift from virtual strangers was even more incredible. I had never met any of these women before sharing that crazy house with them for four days and I now consider them my tribe, my safe place to find refuge when my world is turning upside down and inside out.

My plan is to take these moments of connection out to others who like me are desperately searching for them. To create circles of women supporting women without shame. To be able to hold space for the incredible amount of pain in this world that just wants to be seen and heard. And through rituals and cleansing practices support each other to let go, to accept ourselves, our stories, and realize our worth as a person, as a human being living on this planet connected to everything and everyone.

If the world could collectively exhale its burden of pain and anger, we might find peace. It starts with acknowledgment and a willingness to sit in circle with each other and hear each others stories. To hold space for every individual person to feel the peace that comes from the release of our pain and when we release our pain there is more room for love. If more people experience that life-altering love peace stands a chance, barriers will come down and we will see each other as the connected people we are.

Anni Daulter has created a sacred living movement with the ability to change our world. I am deeply honoured to have spent those four days with her, learning from her amazing zest for life and love and to now take her teachings back to my small corner of the world and help spread that love a little further.

https://www.facebook.com/SacredPregnancy

http://www.sacredpregnancy.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sacred-Pregnancy-Ottawa/492137364217191

I have so much more to write about my experiences on this retreat but these are the first real words I’ve put to paper since I got home. There will be more posts to come with more details about the specific experiences and my hopes and dreams for my personal future as well as details about how I intend to bring this movement to my community. Stay tuned.

 

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A Soul Review

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5632294010_fc3cddc11d_bI sit in the tub, my refuge from the world, rereading my words, editing, wondering if I have the strength to publish them, to share them, knowing there are parts that may upset people close to me. I talk about how I feel, sometimes those words are hard to hear. I’ve referenced divorce, not because I want one but because some days I don’t know if I’m strong enough to make the changes I’m trying to make or if I can live with the things I can’t change about our situation.

I married very young. I was lost and floundering as a single mom. I thought my marriage could save me. It didn’t. But I learned that my expectations were unreasonable. Marriage based on salvationary ideas will fail. It was never my husband’s job. And he had no idea where to start or what I needed, partly because I didn’t either.

We have both tried and are still trying almost sixteen years on. My husband has followed me to every counsellor, marriage help session, couples therapy and family therapy I could drag him to. We met with some success and for a while things would get better.

We’ve had some wonderful times, made some great memories, birthed two amazing children, and enjoyed some very passionate chemistry.

There’s a great deal I love about my husband but there are also a few traits that I wish I could change. I’m sure the sentiment is mutual. I have no delusions of perfection, if anything I don’t give myself enough credit for what I do get right.

I know I can’t change my husband. I can’t make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. And he shouldn’t be trying to change me either. It doesn’t mean we can’t change but that the changes have to come from within ourselves to be truly life altering.

But here’s the question and the point we find ourselves at. Can we live with what we can’t (or won’t) change?

I do explore those ideas in my writings, my feelings surrounding our current situation. They are my feelings and while they may elicit a visceral reaction, the reaction is yours. As I own my feelings, you must own your reactions. It’s easy to lash out, not so easy to sit with the emotions and examine where they come from and why.

Part of the reason for my blog and my writings is exactly that. I am conducting a soul review, digging up what I’ve long kept buried, figuring out what I need and want and going through what I already have and doing a clean sweep to choose what will stay and what no longer serves me. Some decisions will be easy to make, others more complicated but at the end of it all, the question that needs answering is this, “does this honour me, my soul, my life?” If the answer is no than it is time to let go and move on and to find a way to do so in a way that honours the past, present and future.

All I ask is to bear with me as I go through this soul review. It’s a new road for me too and there will be mistakes, but I am pleading for understanding, patience and space to try new things, to let go and to scream and cry and laugh and be real, really real. It’s not an easy thing to ask, but it is what’s needed and as the title of my blog is soul nudism, it’s part of the journey too.

Bathtub Contemplations

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4318089749_fafc96b0fb_bSitting in the tub

Candlelight bouncing off the white enamel

The water quiet,

Rippling with my subtle movements.

I sit, contemplating,

wondering how to do it all.

So many needs to balance.

Where are my needs in that tangled web?

Making others happy,

stretching everything to the limit,

giving all.

I sink back into the quiet, warm embracing water,

I can hear the world outside

the bathroom door.

But I am neither a part of it

Or apart from it

In this moment of heat and

candlelight and quiet,

soaking away the aches

of my labours of giving.

Perspiration running down my cheeks.

The room warm and close,

intimately by myself

and yet the world outside is so close,

a whining voice at the door

“Daddy won’t give me cake.”

Balance.

Searching for it.

Elusive.

This is my one space.

I hide in the bathroom to escape

but the world outside is

constantly there to remind me

“Come back.”

I must go back.

When the room cools

and water chills

and the candles flicker their final flames

I must go back.

Til then I submerge and

try to ignore.

Go into my head, hear my thoughts.

Bleeding my thoughts in ink

so when the real world is drowning me

I can reread the water streaked pages

and remember this place,

this moment, this quiet

just outside the noise

and escape back into it.

Penned May 25, 2014