This past year has been trying for everyone. The pandemic has pushed us to the brink and back again. It has taught us to cherish, to fear, to love, to lose, to guard, to distance, to yearn, and to find again. And, it created my favourite thing of all. It created a new generation of outsiders.
I imagine that when god was looking down at the world, all he was able to see was the backs of peoples heads, eyes down at the screen, forgetting to look up once in a while. I imagine him just shaking his head, while he was trying to sort out how to snap everyone out of this virtual world. How could he get us back into the land of face to face communication, face to face playing, and giving people undivided attention? How could he teach us how to remember what it felt like before screens took over our lives? Was it possible to capture the worlds attention and reverse the clock and remind everyone what life was really about?
I don’t think anyone ever predicted the world coming to a halt. Borders closing. Lives shutting down, and walls being put up around everyone’s friends and family. Isolation. Desperation. Alone with out selves, our thoughts, and our families. The initial burden, and fear, however eventually gave way to what I call the outsiders. People started putting down their phone, and opening up their hearts. They went outside. They talked, they played, they walked, the found their voice. They looked up at people and said hello. Bikes, rollerblades and scooters were dusted off, balls were kicked, and chairs were put out on the front lawns to meet safely with neighbours and friends. Time became cherished, a hug given new meaning, and the simple things found new enjoyment. Picnic blankets are finding new grass, and memories of outdoor chats in person are being remembered. Appreciation for family, friends, and how easy we all had it before is becoming known. Parks, splash pads, sprinklers and pools, finding new feet to frolic around in. Future vacations being planned and not taken for granted. Bbq’s and parties and family dinners no longer a burden, but appreciated that we were lucky enough to have been able to do those things. We became outsiders again.
Lock-down has brought on a hope for better days, and for a day when we can do of those things that we never gave a passing thought too. Things that were taken for granted, now have new meaning. I believe that through this pandemic, God was able to get us all to look up, and he now can see our faces. We see everyone around us now, and we see this beautiful world and life that has been provided for us. Our eyes have been opened to what we refused to see before, and to what we need to see now. My hope is that we continue to look forward, and that we are able to always remember what we lost. I hope that our phones stay down a little longer each day, and we remain outsiders forever.
Although Audrey Hepburn is famous for her iconic look and fashion sense, what I have learned to love and appreciate about her is that she had this unflappable ability to stay true to herself, and to be ok with making choices that might not always line up with what society feels she should do. She left Hollywood at the height of her career to spend time with her family. She knew what was important, and the spotlight wasn’t cathartic to her.
She knew what she had to do to find happiness, and while she struggled in some areas of her life, she always found a way through it. In the end, she learned to find happiness in all areas of her life, by starting with herself.
I have struggled over the last few years to find my footing. It is ingrained in myself and most women that we put others ahead of ourselves, and that we need to have the perfect kitchen, the perfect meals, the perfect bodies, the perfect kids, and the perfect life. However, that isn’t what life is about! I have spent far too much time, trying to appeal to those outside of my home. Why? Does it matter what others think of me? Do those people ever set foot in my house? Is having the perfect bikini body worth 10 months of starving myself, just to hear the words “wow , you look great”? No, it really doesn’t matter. It is time that we do things to make ourselves feel good on the inside. If having a clean house makes you feel good, then clean it! But do it for you!
I often run myself ragged trying to have everything perfect. Will my kids remember the clean house and mom saying no to playing with them? Or will my kids remember a house that was lived in, and mom chased them around the mess trying to tickle them? Which leads me to this quote from Audrey:
“There is one difference between a long life and a great dinner; in the dinner, the sweet things come last.”
This quote stopped me in my tracks. The sweet things in life are happening all around us, each and every day. We have to start being more present, and start noticing and appreciating the things we have in our life NOW, not yesterday and not tomorrow. NOW. I often read books from Deepak Chopra, and the one thing I have learned to do to be more present is to stop, bring awareness to my beating heart, and start to listen to all the sounds that are occurring around me. Open your eyes to all the things happening, like the trees swaying in the breeze, the bird flying by, and to see the life that is happening right now in front of you. You don’t want to reach the end of your life, and look back and realize that the entire time, you had everything you were searching for but you were blind to it all.
” I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.”
I have learned recently that I have a need to have moments of solitude. I have been feeling guilty about this feeling for a while. During this pandemic and subsequent lock-downs, I have not been able to work and my girls are being home schooled. This has left very little opportunity for me to take time for myself. With my health, I haven’t wanted to go out to any stores, and have tried to limit my social contacts with those outside of the home, so I do feel that it has impacted my health in some ways. The guilt comes out of feeling that I should have more gratitude for being given all this extra time to see my kids, and for having a roof over my head, and food in my belly. The guilt comes because for some reason, I haven’t felt like I was allowed to have this time. However, the more I spread myself thin, the more cranky I was getting. The more days that passed where I didn’t allow myself time to meditate, read, write, do yoga, or do things to advance my own health, I felt more sick, more unbalanced, more rage. Yes I said rage. I found myself being short and curt with my kids. I found myself irritated with my husband, and irritated with life around me in general. I was more pessimistic, more angry, more unhappy. When I heard this quote from Audrey, I felt validation. I felt that it was OK to need time alone. When she said that time alone was how she refueled, I felt this light go on inside me. That is how I felt. She wasn’t afraid to say she needed time. Why was I so afraid to ask for time? Why was I so afraid to admit that I need that time too? Why did it take me so long to realize that I needed to refuel. I created a space in my house to do that, and I wasn’t using it. I realized, that I needed to take this time, so I could be a better mom, a better wife, a better version of me. I needed to refuel my soul.
“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone”
~Audrey Hepburn ~
The way to true beauty, is through kindness, and seeing the best in people. It is time we start talking about the good we see in people, instead of the bad. It is time that we see beauty as more than just the shell that holds all of our souls. With so much bad going on around us, we have forgotten that there is still a lot of great things going on. Audrey lived through the war, and waiting on the other side was humanity wanting to help and fix all the bad that had occurred. We will get through this pandemic. There is a lot of good waiting for us on the other side of this. This pandemic has taught me to value those in my life, and to return life to the simple basics. Sit and talk with someone you love, hug someone you love, play with someone you love, and listen to someone you love. That is all we crave isn’t it?
“As you grow older you will discover you have two hands. One for helping yourself, and one for helping others”
I have had the need and desire to help people my whole life, and since being removed from paramedic I have struggled to find a way to fill that void that was created. The void wasn’t the job, the void was in no longer having a job where I was helping people everyday. However, I don’t need a job to do that. I am learning that now. I can help someone every day with a kind word. I can help some one every day with a kind gesture. I can help someone every day by checking in with them. Everyone in this world is going through something. Everyone in this world has a hidden feeling. It is hard to reject and ignore an act of kindness when it is given to you, it only spreads goodness. If we all were to just check in with someone today, can you imagine the ripple that one act would create?
“When you have nobody you can make a cup of tea for, when nobody needs you, that’s when I think life is over”
I leave you with this one final quote. Take a moment to process this. Solitude is different than loneliness. We all need to feel purpose. We all need to have a reason for living. The relationships in your life will formulate the type of path you will take. We all need to have someone to love, and to love us. Invest in the right people, and they will invest in you. Find those people that will make you a cup of tea every day. Find someone that needs you. Make life need you as much as you need life. Audrey made life work for her. She did things that made her happy, and didn’t conform to others ideals. Don’t conform to societal ideals, find your own life. There is no wrong path if it makes you happy.
I must admit, I had a little help with being inspired for this next blog. I have to give a shout out to my girl Moana, from Disney’s amazing animated movie of the same name, ‘Moana’. Now I won’t confirm or deny that it is quite possible that I am able to recite every single line from the movie, or that I often sing all the songs in shower, and that I usually persuade my daughters to watch that movie over the other ones they may opt for instead. However, it was while we were watching it again, ahem, on repeat, that I was inspired to write. A line In the song “Where you are”, hit me in the gut. It was something I had heard over and over, but it never stuck. Today, it stuck. In the song, her father Chief Tui says:
“There comes a day, when you’re gonna look around, and realize that happiness is where you are, cause every path leads you back to where you are”.
So many of us are caught in this hamster wheel, spinning and spinning, chasing the elusive dream of what other great pleasures we can pin down. When is enough, enough? Well, twelve pairs of jeans aren’t enough, we need that new pair, the ones made from silk that has been spun on sleeping beauties very spindle! Our houses aren’t big enough, we need the one in the country , where we can watch the deer stroll by, while drinking our espresso’s from our super expensive barista machine. We chase more money, we chase better jobs, we chase the perfect body, we chase the perfect children, we are chasing our way through a life that is barren. We are caught up in this web of wistful feelings that we get when we stroll through social media. We assume everyone is happy, and living a better life that we are. We want, and want and want. Yet the more we get, it never seems to be enough does it? But what if you one day you woke up, and realized that you are exactly where you need to be, and what you had is enough?
That is what happened to me
I think it is easy to forget how lucky we are. Every night, I say a prayer with my girls that starts with ” thank for the food in our bellies, and the roof over our head”, because I want them to always remember that it is a privilege to have these things, and to never take it for granted. There is a line in the song ‘Sit down’, by James, that also serves as a reminder:
“If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor”
Think about the truth behind that lyric. If you never had to compare your own self, to that of another’s, would you have this need for all these things? Would you be more satisfied with where you are? Growing up in the 80’s or 90’s, all of our photo’s of our vacations, and new outfits, and houses were private. You didn’t have the world to contend with, you had what you had. I have spent years chasing the dream of a better job, more money, more clothes, more property, bigger house, more and more and more. Who hasn’t? It is human nature. There is nothing wrong with dreaming and wanting more for yourself. It is admirable. The problem is, when it starts to take away from your own happiness. When jealousy, or negative emotions take over and it causes depression, or despair, or feelings of inadequacy. If you open up your eyes and look around. Really open them up. Like open up your soul. Sit down and take stock of what you have. Do you have your health? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food in your bellies? Do you have loved ones that you can rely on and who are there for you? Do you have a paycheque? Do you have clothes on your back, and shoes on your feet? If you answered yes to all of these, guess what? You are lucky. You are rich. You are blessed. That is all we need. The rest, is just fluff.
Let’s not spend another day blinded by what we don’t have, and instead appreciate what we do have. Every path that you take, has led you to where you are. It is where you need to be, and you are here now. You are breathing, loving, and living. Your life is yours alone to live. Don’t live someone else’s life that you perceive as perfect on social media. That’s their life, this is yours. If you change your perspective, you might just realize how lucky and envious your life really is to someone else out there, that couldn’t answer ‘yes’ to all those questions.
Instead of trying to live a life that isn’t yours, why not take the time to help someone change their life, so that they can answer ‘yes’ one day too. Someone out there is looking at your life, and thinking about how perfect it is. See it though their eyes. Chances are, you will realize, like I did, that I have all I need, and that I have the power to give someone the help they need. Helping others, is way more fulfilling than the fluff we think we need. The world needs more people that want to help. So, take off your shoes and help put someone else into your shoes. Give them a pair of shoes. Help get a roof over their head, or food in their bellies. Even small changes, are meaningful to those that receive them. Will you help change the life of someone out there?
I don’t know about you, but when I first hear my alarm clock go off in the morning my first thought is usually not PG rated. A certain charming word that begins with the letter ‘F’, usually becomes the first word of the day, followed in quick succession with the carefully crafted word ‘This’. A combination of age, and chronic illness, is then responsible for a long series of groans as I actually attempt to sit up and open my eyes. Then, I do the worst thing possible. I reach for my phone, and my eyes are immediately assailed with completely horrible news stories and just bad vibes all around. Putting my phone down exasperated, I then reach over and open the blinds, and recoil and shudder at the maddening possibility that the Canada would ever get snow in the middle of the winter! Snow in January? How absurd! After vowing not to leave the house today due to such absurdity, I spend time meticulously deciding between my grey jogging pants or my black ones, ( because why even attempt to see if my jeans still fit), and I throw on my super sleek oversized hoody, (mainly so I don’ t have to wear a bra), and I make my way downstairs. By the time I get down the first few steps, I am in a mood. By the time I make it to the kitchen, I am certifiably irritated and not someone that will be fun to be around. My husband and kids, exchange a quick look and head the other way. Good call family.
What if I pressed rewind and we did this all over with cheery ole spin instead?
Glass bubbling over
I don’t know about you, but when I first hear my alarm clock go off in the morning my first thought is usually totally PG 13! A certain charming word beginning with the word ‘F’ followed by the carefully crafted letters U and N, usually becomes the first word of the day! A combination of age and chronic illness is then responsible for my appreciating everything in this world that I am totally capable of doing today, when I find that I am lucky enough to sit up and open my eyes today! Then, I do the best thing possible! I reach for my phone and my eyes are immediately embraced with positive news and great vibes all around! I put my phone down with a huge smile, and I open up the blinds and I beam with the incredulous possibility that it snowed again, and we get to run out and make snow angels today! I love snow! After vowing that I will leave the house as much as possible today to enjoy the snow, I decide to put on a flattering pair of jeans, and a wonderfully cozy shirt, as I make my way downstairs. By the time I get down the first steps , I squeal with delight at how cute I look, and by the time I make it to the kitchen, my kids and husband run up to me with kisses and hugs abound. Admiration abound, with how great of a day this is going to be.
So here’s thing. The first example is probably how I am used to waking up a good 90% of the time. Ok, maybe 98 % of the time. The bottom one , never F#$king happens. Like ever. But that is what I am striving towards, albeit with a little less of the fluffy unicorn and rainbows feel too it. I read an article a while back that talked about how those who look at their phones when they first wake up, are more likely to feel overwhelmed and stressed, then those that wake up with a different routine not looking at negative news. So why not change up your morning routine to one with a little less negative energy and a little more positive light?
5 ways that I changed up my mornings, which started changing up my thoughts
I Changed my alarm tone
One thing that I learned from my paramedic days, is that the first thing I am trying to do now is open my eyes and say thank you. Thank you for another day. Thank you for the privilege of opening my eyes. Thank you for letting me face this day, good or bad. I am alive, breathing and living. Amen to that! The next thing I did was changed my ring tune and alarm tone on my phone. I now wake up to the gentle crescendo of ocean waves. It starts out really quiet, and then gradually gets louder. I have residual PTSD from the blaring tones that would happen when a call would come through at the EMS stations The Shrill alarm would make me jump out of my skin. It created a heart pounding and debilitating reaction to all things loud. To this day, waking up to anything resembling and alarm, isn’t allowed in our bedroom. Ocean waves is soothing to my soul, and it lets me start my day in a much calmer fashion.
Set your alarm for some ‘me’ time
Set your alarm earlier and allow yourself to stretch, have coffee, meditate, or whatever it is that you need to do to keep yourself zen to start the day. My sister-in-law taught me the art of this. She gets up an hour before her family does, so that she can start her day with a coffee and a book and for some much needed alone time. How you start your day, leaves a ripple effect in your mood that carries you through your day. So start it the way you dream of starting it.
Look good for yourself
The next one is something I think most people struggle with, especially during a pandemic. It’s easy to throw on the baggy clothes and not care what they look like. Maybe try and put on something that makes you feel good every day. Clothes, make-up, jewellery , it doesn’t matter, just FEEL GOOD! When you like the way you look, you’ll like the way you feel.
Find the positive in the most negative of places
Finally, for all those who suffer from depression, anxiety, chronic illness, Monday blues and whatever else is going on in your life that brings you down; try and find ways to be positive. If your first instinct is to be negative, stop the thought and find a way to look at it through a positive lens. Children see snow as fun, why can’t we as adults feel the same? Kids don’t start their life knowing how to be negative. They learn that feeling. Who is teaching them? Try to be a positive reflection for your kids, so that they can grow up with the right tools. Teach them that it is ok to have bad days, and negative feelings. But, also teach them how to overcome those feelings, and strive for a more positive life. Start catching yourself in the middle of a negative thought, and find one way to make it positive. Do this all day long. Eventually it will become a habit, and you will find all the positives in the most negative of places.
Make a list of 5 things you are thankful for every single night
Feeling pain and and down or crappy really sucks. But, take the time to embrace it, and know you are alive. For those of us in pain, we feel very alive every day. It is not easy to see it as a blessing, but it is. Pain or not, you are here. You are alive. You are needed. Hope for a cure. Hope for better days. Every single night, make a list of 5 things that you are thankful for every single night . When you first start, this will seem impossible. The more positive you become, the easier this gets. So look forward to the day that it is easy, and remember this quote by Dennis Brown that defines it all:
You alone are responsible for the type of life you live. You can change it, or you can accept it. I’m choosing to change it for the better.
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” ~Oscar Wilde
What does this quote mean to you. I recently heard this in one of my meditations and I paused it, whipped out my phone, and wrote it down. It resonated. This mediation was on gratitude. Specifically gratitude for 2020. My reflection when I heard this , was that we are all struggling in one form or another. With the year we have all just been dealt, we are all feeling like we couldn’t get any lower in our struggles. But for some, the golden select few out there, they are somehow able to remain positive throughout it all and focus on the present and look towards a brighter future.
During the mediation, my guide asked us to start thinking about all the things we are grateful for that occurred during 2020. In my head I scoffed at the idea of this. I thought, are you kidding me right now? This year was crap! The guide, as if reading my thoughts, gently prodded us to really dig down deep and reflect. I’ll admit, my first thoughts were filled with angry feelings. Not working, my health getting considerably worse, my uncle drowning, my husband’s step-dad dying, not being able to see friends and family properly, cancelling our away wedding, fearing the virus, and on and on. But a funny thing happened, I softened. When I really tried to throw all the negative thoughts out of my brain, new positive ones came flooding in. I started thinking about what I gained this year. It snowballed to the point where the guide rang his bell to signal the end of the reflection, and I wasn’t finished.
What I realized was that I have been caught up in this never ending cycle of negativity. I had been remembering the bad and I constantly recycle those thoughts when someone stops to ask how I am doing. Those thoughts become my belief. ” Wow this year was really crappy because….”, instead of thinking and saying, well the good thing is that… ” I got to hang out with my kids more, and see them grow up”. The problem is that we have all been feeling like we have been thrown in the gutter. So the negativity grows when it is surrounded by more gutter thoughts. It is hard to escape. It is hard to become the one that is looking at the stars.
Chronic illness and Ptsd can constantly make you feel like you are in the gutter where all those around you are glowing except you. I recently had an emotional breakdown, due to my illness spiralling out of control for the past month. I was hit with one thing after another. I have spent a majority of it lying on the floor looking at the ceiling trying to calm my pain or slow my heart rate, or on my knees trying to breathe. Without knowing the cause of the breathing issues, it has been a great source of anguish and I have started to lose my once positive glow. You see, I was one of the golden ones. I had an ability to stay positive, smile and look towards hope and a better future. For every bad day, I just tried to enjoy the good days. But, that positivity started to feel like an illusion, a painstaking process of trying to prove to others that I was ok. The pain gradually starting to unravel my light. The fear dimming out any remaining hopes. The lack of answers extinguishing my flames of positivity, to just a lingering hint of smoke. I was in the gutter. I just didn’t realize it.
However, I knew that there was still positivity lingering in the smoke. The desire to be golden still existed, and I dared not be the one lying in the gutter all year. You see, you can’t extinguish the golden ones hope. No one can. A quote from Robert Holden that has helped me is
“Holding on to grievances is a choice to suffer”
Think about that. By choosing to be angry with someone, or something, or how things have played out, or what you can’t have or used to have, you are making a conscious choice to suffer. YOU are making the choice. No one else is making YOU suffer. You can choose to get out of that gutter. You can chose to change your thought process to one that brings more positivity. You can choose to align yourself with the golden ones. You and only you can do this. So why not try? I don’t know about you, but I am tired of letting 2020 and all the other crap along the way bring me down any more. I need a change.
Making a choice not to suffer, sounds like a good way to begin 2021. Who’s with me!
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