It’s Not About Willpower!

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2576209288_2747b80538_oPicking, picking, picking

Fingernails digging into flesh

looking for imperfect skin

to claw away.

Making blemishes worse,

bleeding.

I can’t stop.

Fingers always need to be busy,

hurting myself is too easy.

Sometimes boredom,

sometimes stress,

always pain.

No body part is safe.

Blackheads, pimples, ingrown hairs

and imaginary imperfections.

Making a mess.

Shoulders, back, chest, legs, face

my fingers go everywhere

and I can’t make them stop.

I stick them under my pillow

and breathe into the need

to pick, pick, pick….

3711055069_43e819b138_oI wrote this poem as I lay in bed this past weekend trying to stop picking so I could go to sleep and then the following scenario played out in my home the other night before bed: my daughter came looking for a band-aid. Her finger was bleeding and I asked what she had done. Then, as she held her thumb clenched in the fingers of her other hand, I asked her if she’d been picking at herself again?

She had picked at the dry skin on her thumb until she had drawn blood.

I flash back to myself, I’m about her age and I am picking at the dry skin on my big toe and I dig and dig until it suddenly starts to bleed. The blood startles me and I panic. I get a band-aid, I make up a story, why didn’t I stop before I drew blood? Why couldn’t I stop?

Neither of these stories are isolated incidents and though separated by years and time, both feel all too familiar.

As my husband is tucking our daughter into bed he catches her picking or scratching again and he gives her a stern look. Some words are exchanged and then he says,

“Or you can use willpower to make yourself stop.”

5610963733_f775bd4601_oMy heart breaks as I hear those words. I have heard them too and I know how hard it is to stop. I am all too familiar with the feelings of wanting so desperately to stop because my skin hurts. It is red and blistered and raw from scratching and digging and no matter how much I might want to stop, I do not feel like I am the one in control.

Time means nothing, it could be one minute, fifteen minutes or an hour. Yes, I’ve easily spent more than an hour digging at my skin, sometimes two or three. It’s not about willpower. Of course I want to stop and if it were that easy, willpower would be enough but it’s not.  It’s a repetitive behaviour that soothes the constantly churning whirl of thoughts and anxieties. I have to literally fight with my hands, repress them, restrain them to make myself stop. Sometimes I just want to cry I get so frustrated with myself and now I see my daughter struggling with the same impulses, damaging herself and I don’t know how to help because I have yet to figure out how to help myself.

I do know that telling her to use her willpower is not helpful, it just makes you feel more broken.

I look back over my life and there is a history of self-mutilation but as I would conquer one bad habit I’d replace it with another. I used to bite my tongue and the inside of my mouth until I bled. It hurt, a lot. I finally made myself stop by stuffing Kleenexes in my cheeks at bedtime. Once I stopped, then the picking started.

I still pick though not as badly because I’ve discovered something else to keep my hands and mind busy – my cell phone. I’m always trading up one bad habit for another, and now I see my daughter struggling too, inheriting, copying, trapped.

I do have a theory behind my daughter’s and I’s behaviours. She is diagnosed ADHD and I believe her picking is how she copes with her feelings of being hyper and restless. She hates boredom, mentally and physically, and when there is nowhere else for her energy to go, she picks. It calms her mind, it becomes trance-like, even the pain offers some stimulation, something for her to focus on.

Last year I was reading a book entitled “Driven to Distraction” by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and John J. Rodey, M.D. I was reading it so I could better help and understand my oldest child but it opened my eyes to my own ADD issues, something I didn’t think was a problem for me. I did well in school, I didn’t portray the classic signs of ADD growing up but I believe it was and continues to be something I struggle with. It also helps explain my need to constantly be doing stuff with my hands and the constantly whirling thoughts in my head that I struggle to pin down and sort through and follow to conclusions instead of things just piling up around me as UFO’s (Un-Finished Objects), or forgotten as I move to the next thing. My picking, my incessant need to fiddle with my phone quiets those impulses and crazy thoughts, allows me to zone out the stimuli that are over-whelming me, including the emotions I have not learned to cope with. For those moments, I’m focused.

Through my daughter, I am gaining an understanding of my own habits and through understanding my own habits, I am understanding her.

So what is the solution, how do I fix this, change how the story ends for my daughter?

Right now, I don’t know but I am going to explore this further through my blog, as well as how we live and cope with ADD/ADHD in my family. Almost every one of us has some degree of handicap because of this disorder, and the one thing I do know, willpower alone is not enough to break the cycle of self-harm, negative thoughts and bad habits.

I do believe that there is a power that is more than up to the task: love.

“…. love works. Positive human relationships work. The human connection is indispensable. I call it “the other Vitamin C,” Vitamin Connection. And if you do not get enough of it, you will languish and never thrive.” pg xvii, Driven to Distraction.

For more information about excoriation or the need to pick at one’s skin, follow this link: http://www.trich.org/about/skin-picking.html

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I Feel Pregnant…

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The Beauty Of Pregnancy

I am not actually pregnant but I have been experiencing sensations as if there is something going on within my body akin to the process of growing new life.

I have been sitting with the feelings trying to hear the messages, decipher the tenderness of my breasts and delve into the warmth of my womb to investigate the percolatings, what it is that is evolving and how it wants to change my world.

3572990050_345a844585_oIt is a knot, a knot comprised of the DNA of all my thoughts, my investigations, my dreams, my experiences of the last year coming together, entwining in their awesomeness to show me my future but not quite coalesced. It’s still looking for form and shape, right now it is just raw DNA material, as an embryo at conception.

It’s questions but not quite answers. It’s paint and canvas but not yet a painting. It’s threads and fabric but not a finished piece. The building blocks are there, now I must figure out the finished piece and how I will birth it into the world. I’ve been given the tools, the people, the foundation, the love I need to blossom but only I can bear down and bring the life forward.

3468330509_db1ded1c1b_oI go in-ward, I feel the pulsing energy looking for form. The ideas and memories finding each other, connecting the dots and duplicating like the cells of an embryo growing into a fetus, burrowing down, implanting in my soul, nourished by my enthusiasm, my words, my hopes.

But there is also fear. There is holding back. There is doubt. I am learning my worth and slowly believing in my abilities, letting go of my perceptions of myself as unworthy, and developing new behaviours that when the darkness of doubt knocks on my soul’s door, I can look it in the eyes and claim my worth, my value to this world, and not let any more darkness in.

Where the darkness has already taken up residency, I am serving eviction notices. There is resistance, 20 years of pain, shame and anger does not simply pack its bags and move on. Those emotions are too comfortably enmeshed into the fabric of my soul, they believe they’ve earned the right to live there and they are filing appeals to my eviction notices and organizing demonstrations with picket signs “We will not go!”, but I say “Yes, you are. Be gone!”

I am re-writing my story, finding a new narrative, my voice has power, people are listening, hearing, seeing me, taking notice.

3971578022_fe5fd2475a_oThe fetus nourishes and grows on that evolving power and grace. It is calling to me the people and resources I need. In the last year I have come so far from the beginning tentative steps into the ways of the older religions and traditions. Last New Year’s Eve I included a smudging ceremony as part of our evening with friends, a way to cleanse the negativity of 2013 and open ourselves to the possibilities of 2014, and now a year later those ways have become an integral part of my path and I’m thirsty to learn more.

I’m not ready to label myself pagan or Wicca or whatever variance thereof I am drawn to. There is not enough that I really understand yet, but names come with birth and so 2015 is all about birthing this energy growing within me, it’s about giving this embryo bones, a heartbeat, lungs and all its senses to hear, feel, touch, smell and taste with. And, of course, a name….

As this child gets stronger, the negative gunk will have no choice but to leave. I will finish re-writing my narratives and finally leave the past in the past. The child will grow, will organize itself into the finished work of art, and will let herself be known and seen, her limbs pushing against my insides as she stretches, flexes and expands, filling every cell of my body with her newness, her power, her beauty.

When she is ready to be born, she will become me and I will become her and we will become one, ready to take on the world.

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It is done!

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IMG_20150105_012454Every day brings new insights into my world, expands my understanding of the energy fields around me and the ways in which I can influence them. One such experience is the moon ceremonies I have begun to incorporate into my life with the Full and New Moon. The first Full Moon of 2015 was January 5 and I was supposed to go to a group ceremony but due to the weather it was cancelled so I planned one for myself.

When I began attending the ceremonies last August, I had no idea how influential and powerful they would become in my life. That 45 minutes every two weeks or so refreshes me, re-awakens me and is an opportunity to reflect, reassess and change the path I am taking in my life or simply re-affirm the path I am on, perhaps with some slight modifications to my bearings and sign posts.

The act of going inward to reflect and then to physically write down the burdens I release and the energy I wish to welcome into my world has become an integral part of my life, one that when I miss a ceremony I feel the heaviness build up as anxiety and my path before me blurs a little around the edges. I begin to feel lost like I’m drifting off course.

The night of the Full Moon I lay in bed tossing about, I could feel the pull of the moon, it was whispering sweet promises to me in the quiet of the night, calling me to come out for a chat. It didn’t matter that it was 1 am and the rest of the house was asleep. Intuitively I knew it was something I had to do and it had to be done right then. I could lay in bed fighting the intuition or get up and take care of business.

So there I was sitting in my living room at 1 am lighting a sage bundle to cleanse myself and meditating on what I needed to release and what intentions I needed to set, often they are two sides of the same coin, for example I released my dependence on sugar and set my intention to eat healthier. It can also be the releasing of a negative event, perhaps words that were said that caused pain or an action or lack of action that caused a dissonance in one’s spirit. It’s good to meditate on why the words or event or lack causes the pain reaction within us but it must also be released to make room for healing.

In my limited understanding of the energy systems, I walked myself though a grounding where I visualize my energy literally going into the earth and then coming back up through my spine and out the top of my head so that I am connected to both the earth and the spiritual plane.

I took the opportunity to bathe myself in white healing light and to send out healing energy to the friends I knew in need of some extra good energy vibes as well as to my immediate family and friends regardless of needs because everyone can use some good juju!

Having cleansed and meditated on my releases and intentions, I wrote them down on pages torn from the journal I received in my gift bag in Paris at the Relationship Retreat. I wanted to add some of the good vibes from a place and time that meant so much to me.

IMG_20150105_011453IMG_20150105_011508~2Once I was happy with the grounding and energy work and I had finished writing down everything I felt called to release and the intentions I felt called to set for myself, I put my jacket and shoes on and ventured out into the frigid night air where I was met with a breathtaking sight. The storms had passed, the sky had cleared and through the ice laden branches of the trees the moon was visible in all its power and beauty. I caught my breath and took a few moments to simply inhale the energy descending  from the sky to bless my releases and intentions.

IMG_20150105_012405First I burned my releases, and in the wind and cold, they were more stubborn than usual. I often find the release paper slower to burn, and maybe it’s because often releasing is harder than setting our intentions for the future. I was more stubborn than the negative energies and they were soon ashes.

Before burning my intentions, I spoke each aloud, sending them up to the moon, amplifying their strength and then I set them on fire and let the smoke carry my words, my intentions up to the universe with endless gratitude.

IMG_20150105_012852Thank you, thank you, thank you!

And with a stomp of my foot to seal the ceremony, so mote it be! It is done!

I returned indoors to my warm living room and regained my meditative pose, reiterating my gratitude and closing off the earth and spirit plane connection by sending my energy back into the earth and closing my Chakras like a zipper.

Then I was at peace and so I returned to bed and fell asleep almost immediately, the power of the moon still shining overhead and now within my heart as well.

Cracking Open

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3991345044_b37d8372bb_oMy words often feel scripted to me like I’m playing it safe, holding back, sanitizing them, censoring the gritty emotions. I use words like pain, regret, loss and loneliness but do you even understand what I mean when I use those words? I often wonder if you do and why I hold back?

All I want is to crack open my chest and massage my heart back to life with words so powerful the blood can’t help but pump through my veins with passion, allowing the oxygenated blood to bring the healing salve of forgiveness to a system ravaged by self-inflicted hate, anger and shame.

139136870_4fadd2f255_oI am trying to remember the last time I really cried. I think it was nine years ago. My husband and I were fighting over how to pay the condo levy for the new windows we couldn’t afford.  A failed business, maxed out credit cards and credit counseling had left us backed into a financial corner. We needed help. My husband wouldn’t ask his dad and I was tired of my parents always bailing us out. I went upstairs into the bathroom and looked into the eyes of the woman in the mirror, she was overwhelmed and helpless to support her family.  She let out a scream that came from the bowels of her soul and then collapsed into a sobbing heap, pounding her head and fists against the wall and tiled floor, inflicting pain to feel pain.

My husband tried to get into the bathroom and as he pushed the door open, I pushed back. I didn’t want him to witness my pain, my anger, my tears falling uncontrolled. I just wanted to tear my world apart in peace but he found his way to me and he held me until I calmed down and I put the woman in the mirror back in the mirror.

I don’t remember exactly what happened after I stopped crying but the windows were paid for, split almost 50/50 by our parents, and we avoided a lean against our house. Life went on. My husband has probably filed this moment away under things to forget but for me it was a rare moment of raw, uncontrolled emotions and those are so rare that I remember them and hold them close like cherished mementos.

There’s a line from a song by Three Days Grace, “I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all” and it resonates profoundly with me because most days I walk through life numb. I have trained myself to push back every emotion, good, bad, in-between. I can stop tears from falling to the point that I have almost forgotten how to cry. I can put on a smile when I want to scream, I can play nice when all I want to do is run away. I’m guarded. I hold back, physically and emotionally, from engaging with the world. I’m so good at it many people perceive me as standoff-ish. It’s in remembering the moments of extreme agony, where I lost control of my emotions, that I remember what pain, what love, what feeling feels like and yes, I would rather feel pain than nothing at all.

I am ready to learn to cry again, to let down my guard and let others see my emotions, to let others into my world and simultaneously allow myself to be welcomed into the worlds of others. I am ready to erase the loneliness from my vocabulary and to let my words crack me wide open and fill my veins with life-sustaining prose – one uncensored word after another, an IV tapped directly into my soul, each word releasing a link of the chains I’ve entrapped myself with, slowly allowing me to come alive and live my life unashamed of who I am and her arrays of emotions because it’s okay to hurt, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to love with abandon.

12640988324_89b56bc2c6_oThere will always be pain but I am ready to process the difficult emotions and let them go instead of giving them the keys to my cell. I am ready to live again, to love again and to let myself experience all my emotions so I can process them and where I am broken, let the salve of love heal the brokenness into a new whole.

Will you bear witness to my healing journey? I ask a lot of you, I know I do. Being present as someone bleeds tears of repressed agony is a huge request to ask of anyone, let alone strangers, but in the witnessing and the speaking aloud there is power. The feeling of hands laid upon your soul holding you up so you don’t drown, reminding you to breathe when you forget to, reminding you of your beauty when you feel ugly, and reminding you to look up and see the light that surrounds you, that is power and we all have that power. I am asking, are you ready, willing and able to use your power and bear witness to my cracking open?

Say yes if you are….

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I Am Ready!

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14948052391_ddb365bc4d_oI am ready to be who I was always meant to be. To let go of the pain that holds me prisoner in my past, present and future. A prisoner to a story that I’ve relied on to define me, the story of being out of control of all the shitty things I’ve been through and letting those definitions be my calling card in my present and future. Those crazy, out of control, painful events happened to me, and yes they did shape the course of my life, but they are not who I am.

I am ready to shake the mantle of descriptors like depressed, lonely, uneducated, teen mom, loner and to open myself to immeasurable possibilities and beauty that exist in the world. To take the hands of those willing to teach, to support, to listen and to help me as I learn to trust my instincts and take these steps forward into a future life that will bring everything I need; abundance, love, family and blessings beyond count.

2014 brought me to the water and in 2015 I will drink deeply from the source and redefine my life. It will be an intense process of shedding an old weary skin and filling out the new skin as I learn to wear it comfortably.

What does that mean exactly? Well I’m not 100% sure yet, I’m still in the very early stages of the process but one thing I am sure of is 2014 brought me the teachers I need: Anni and Tim Daulter, Carrie, Gillian and Jennifer. In 2014 I began to learn a lot of release techniques, and I have been exploring paganism and Wiccan traditions, traditions that have always intrigued me but with my religious upbringing was slow to investigate. The biggest revelation I’ve had since delving into these traditions is that my religious beliefs are not at odds with the more earthy and grounded beliefs of the Pagans and Wiccans. I can find my niche and embrace the best of everything that works for me.

In 2015 I’m going to delve deeper into crystal energy, Reiki healing, psychic awareness, and learn more about the earth centered traditions so I can more thoroughly adopt them into my day-to-day living practices. And most importantly I am going to document this journey on my blog, so please join me as I embark on these new adventures in 2015.

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A Paint and Sparkles Christmas

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IMG_20141225_105458The last week leading up to Christmas was a mad dash to the finish line and we crossed it exhausted and feeling a little overwhelmed by everything. The presents were wrapped but without the fancy dressings I usually enjoy adding. The tree was up but only barely decorated in time. I forgot to pick up cookies for Santa and ran out of time to make some from scratch so Santa found chocolate kisses when he came to our house. It’s what I had in the pantry! And money, or lack thereof, was a source of anxiety and the reason I was clamouring in the last 36 hours leading up to the big day to pick up gifts and even though it didn’t feel like we bought very much, our bank account still says it was too much.

With all these external stressors weighing heavily into our Christmas equation, at times it was hard to embrace the spirit of the season, to let go of any expectations and let the flow of love carry us through because whether the gifts got wrapped or the tree decorated Christmas morning would dawn with excited children jumping on our bed and waking us up from our slumber all too early.

IMG_20141224_183521On Christmas Eve day I spent the afternoon making two kinds of dough ornaments with my children, a salt dough and a cinnamon dough. I found myself a couple of times trying to control the look of the ornaments but once I reminded myself it wasn’t about the look of the end product but the memories I was making with my children as we mixed and rolled and cut out shapes, the building anxiety dissipated. Once the dough was dry came the really fun part and the part my 4 yo loved the most, making a huge mess with 3-D paints as we decorated them. His ornaments were very thick with paint and took a long time to dry but he didn’t really care if they even ended up on the tree.

IMG_20141224_194350We also made ornaments out of wet noodles, glue and sparkles. The kids loved the sparkles and I may never get rid of all the sparkles in my dining room but they will serve as a reminder to our day of tree decorating from scratch. And then there were the pipe cleaners. I have discovered if you want to keep a 4 yo busy for a period of time, give them a bag of pipe cleaners and watch what they invent. It’s pretty awesome! There were a few twisted candy cane shapes and some angels, but most of what my 4 yo crafted that went on the tree was strange and beautiful and wonderful and while he claimed one was a spider, most were just organic pipe cleaner sculptures.

I could have hauled the box of ornaments out of storage but I just had no desire to unpack or more importantly pack it back up. I was looking for simple, for fun, for some memories to make 2014 memorable for reasons other than the gifts and in the simple act of finding the time to make a big mess with my children and let their crafty sides flaunt themselves in all their glory, I created a beautiful Christmas memory for my children and I that will hopefully be remembered long after they’ve forgotten which gifts were from Santa.

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Christmas morning arrived and there were gifts for each child to open under a tree decorated with all homemade ornaments and stockings filled with treats to enjoy and share. All that my husband and I had managed to pull together was enough and everyone was happy. When the stressors were stripped away, nothing was lacking, not the Santa picture we never made it to the mall for, not the huge pile of gifts, not the homemade cookies for Santa, not even all our traditional ornaments. A reminder that there are far more important traditions than surrounding ourselves with want.

When I finally posted the picture of our tree, fully decorated, which actually didn’t happen until December 28th, one of my friends gave me the best compliment ever: “It is so perfectly you”, and she was right. IMG_20141228_205425

http://www.education.com/activity/article/spaghetti-ornament/

http://www.funezcrafts.com/Easy-Angel-Crafts-Wire-Cross-Angel-Ornament.html

http://creativemeinspiredyou.com/heavenly-scented-cinnamon-ornaments/  (this is where I got the idea to decorate with 3-D paint, not the recipe for the cinnamon dough)

http://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/11/no-cook-cinnamon-ornaments.html

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Dough-Ornament-Recipe/

Making Love

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IMG_20141206_154515“I love making love to you and how you make love to me.”

Society’s interpretation of this statement is usually sexual. If that was the case for you, I am inviting you to read the words again and re-think your first interpretation. While sexual love is amazing, it’s not the only way to love someone deeply, beautifully and with conviction. Those words can and should be defined differently for every couple, and the meaning can evolve and grow through the cycles of our lives. In a dynamic, healthy relationship those words are alive and I will share with you what they mean to me in my relationship at this moment in its growth cycle.

They mean a pilgrimage to Paris. They represent my husband’s willingness to get on an airplane, despite his fear of flying, and meet me in a very vulnerable place, with an openness to facing and working on our relationship with people he had never met.

My husband makes love to me through a willingness to sit and hear my words and be open to change, and to loving me in a different way going forward, even if it’s something outside his comfort zone and even if it means making difficult compromises.IMG_64244612633576

In Paris we rediscovered our love and passion for each other and we built the foundation on which the rest of our lives will be supported. My husband showed up to do the hard work, to name our sorrows, our frustrations and our pain and in naming them, we have taken their strength away. We have released them into the Universe to make more room for love.

Making love to my husband is about listening to him when he talks, really hearing his words. It’s about finding time for laughter and fun and kissing every day, and reminding him to let things go that are no longer serving him. It’s also about giving him space to heal his own wounds and find his own forgiveness, but reminding him that throughout his journey, he is loved deeply and unconditionally. My arms and my heart will be open and ready to love him wherever he is in his process.

Paris gave us the space and the time we needed to hear each others love languages and to work out better ways to make love to each other that will be heard and understood. The more we live our lives out as if everything we do for each other is an act of making love to one another, the more connection and beauty and happiness we will find in life, in our family and in each other.

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