Posts Tagged ‘fear


Fat is a Four Letter Word.

Ok, so I shared in a recent post that I got to a place of being about 100lbs overweight. Saying that number aloud, I’m front of God and everyone…well, that was a little scary. I had to go hide under the covers and be an alien for a while before I could talk about it any further.

But talk about it we’re going to.

Because I know damn well that I’m not alone. Some of you have left comments or emailed me telling me your stories. And the parallels between us all are really quite overwhelming.

Does anyone want to be overweight? I suppose it’s possible, but it’s nothing I’ve come across in my sphere of experience. To really desire to be overweight? Desire and acceptance are two different things. But to start with, we need to get very, very clear on one thing.

Wanting to maintain a healthy weight – whatever that is for you – and being judgmental about body size are two polar opposites. Let me say it again: there is no place for judgement on this journey.

Zoinks! Bam! Pow! (Think Batman & Robin sound effects and cartoon speech bubbles here.) That’s a hard one, isn’t it? I have, at times, been my own harshest critic. Anyone who has ever dealt with weight issues can probably relate to that. I judge myself more harshly than anyone else ever could. And in turn, I’ve probably done my share of judging others.

I have, eventually, realized that all those awful things I’ve said, and sometimes still catch myself saying, in my head about other overweight people…those are really just criticisms of myself I’m making in my own head before anyone else can say them out loud.


“Just back away from the table, asshole.”

“Are you sure that bike can actually support you, lardass?”

“Whoah, wideload.”

These, and worse (far worse), are all things that I’ve said in my head to myself. These, and worse (far worse), are all things I’ve said in my head, and maybe to a friend, about people I’ve seen out and about.

Sometimes I’ve said these things (and worse) to be “funny.” None of these things are funny. Not in any way, shape, form, or context.

Thank goodness the older I get, and the more conscious I get, the more I catch myself earlier in the process. It’s not that those thoughts don’t come (about myself, and about others – which is really another way of criticizing myself), but my immediate response now is to interrupt them, to cut them off, and replace them with compassion.

“Good for them. They’re out getting some exercise. That’s more than I’m doing.”

“You just never know somebody’s situation unless you’re in their shoes. Stop being so judgy, asshole.”

“Send them some love vibes. Just love them. That’s all.”

Notice anything about all those sentiments? Yup, they’re all focused on someone else. I’ve managed to interrupt the negative assault on others and replace it with positive and supportive thoughts. Which are, by the way, entirely genuine. Now that I recognize my own process, when I interrupt it, I genuinely feel love and support for others. But I still have a little more trouble showing myself compassion. I can break into the cycle of judgement and shut it down (sometimes), but the compassion doesn’t always flow so easily, not towards myself. But I’m working on it. One step at a time, right?

One of the most terrifying experiences of my life was being at an amusement park while overweight. Now, at this time I was probably about 70 lbs overweight. I adore roller coasters. Rides that flip you upside down. Adrenaline shit. Love it, love it, love it. But going on rides when I have been quite overweight has been the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Not because the ride itself was scary, but because I was terrified that I would be that story in the newspaper the next morning:

“Obese Woman Falls To Her Death.

Fat, Not Roller Coaster To Blame.”

And instead of enjoying any part of any ride, that’s all I could think about. And it took all the joy out of an experience that should be nothing but joy and laughter.

Did I fall out? Am I here telling you this story? So…obviously no. But was there any joy in the experience? Also no. You know what there was a great deal of?


That one’s a powerful word. Shame. Total gut hit. A little bit pukey. Teary. Constricting. Terrifying in every way. Doing something like getting on a ride with a bunch of other people, and having to deal with seatbelts that don’t fit properly, or chest bars that won’t cinch down all the way until the attendant comes and leans on it? That’s shame. And I can never decide which is worse: doing it in front of a bunch of strangers you don’t know but being alone, or doing it in front of people you know but having someone you love there to support you. Both are godawful. And ultimately, I just stopped doing either.

I have talked to more health professionals than most about the issue of my weight, given that it comes up as we talk about all my other trillions of ailments (and the bajillions of doctors, etc. I’ve seen for them.) And they always say the same thing: reduced calories in = weight loss. Throw exercise in there and you’re golden.

Guess what?

After almost 30 years of struggling with my weight and body image issues, and dealing with my body on such an intense, intimate level, I have learned one thing about myself. Yes, there’s something to the above equation. But for me, for this body I live in, my weight is determined by something far, far more deep-rooted than that.

Self-acceptance and gratitude.

Seems like a weird thing to control weight, right? Well, for anything long term or significant to shift in my weight, that’s where it’s at.

At various times in my life I have participated in a lot of eating-related regimes aimed at controlling one’s weight. But I call bullshit. Diets don’t work and the control games played out in dieting wreak havok with my self-acceptance, my self-confidence, and my trust issues. Yeah, you heard me.

I have read a lot of Geneen Roth, who espouses trust as being the number one issue in getting your body to it’s ideal, natural weight, and staying there. Trust in your body’s innate wisdom and trust in yourself and your ability to nourish yourself. Not through a set meal plan. Not by following someone else’s instructions. By listening, really learning to listen and trust your body, and give your body what it’s asking for, and learning to trust that what you want will be there when you want it, so you don’t need to eat it when you don’t actually want it. I’m paraphrasing, and I’m simplifying quite a bit. But ultimately, these are the core beliefs that changed my life. Reading Geneen Roth’s books (pretty sure I’ve read all of them), and working for a stretch with a therapist who specialized in eating disorders (I’m a compulsive eater and an emotional eater) and worked on the same premises that Ms. Roth speaks of, these things made a huge impact on my life. Still, for years my weight went up and down.

And then I had an epiphany moment. (I must say, they’re weird when they strike, but I got over it. I epiphanized.)

I was sitting on my bed one evening, and I felt this overwhelming surge of gratitude for my body. This body that I have fought and hated and judged. And I sat there on the edge of my bed, naked (I was getting ready for bed), and rubbed my thighs. I was enveloped ingratitude for these strong thighs that had carried me through so much in my life. So many struggles, so many trials and tribulations. But there they were, strong and large, keeping me safe. And I just sat there with tears streaming down my face. Instead of wishing them away, I was drowning in thankfulness for a body that had protected me when I had been unable to protect myself. Taken care of me when no one else had been there to take care of me. And I felt love and gratitude for this body as I would a friend who had stood by me through thick and thin.

Now, it’s difficult to write, to explain without sounding cheesy. But as I sat there, running my hands up and down these amazing legs that had brought me from there to here, I really was overcome with emotions beyond explanation.

And that turned the tide.

Once I felt gratitude for my body, love and appreciation, totally devoid of hate or fight or shame, I could release whatever bound that body to me. And the weight started to fall away. At the time I swore I wasn’t eating any differently than I usually did, but the pounds were falling away. 45 pounds, actually. I got to a weight I could have been comfortable being for the rest of my life. At most, 20 pounds away from the lowest I’d really want to go and feel healthy.

Life throws you curve balls, though. After about a year at that weight, I injured my back, became quite immobile, and due to a particular medication, I gained 40 pounds in 6 weeks, and over the ensuing 3-4 years, and various medications, it crept up another 35-40 from there. And that, right there, put me smack at 100 pounds over what I would consider a healthy weight for me. It was within 5 pounds of the weight I saw on the scale just before I gave birth to twins, my full twin pregnancy weight, the highest I’ve ever been in my life. Due to another medication, I am now down 30 over the last 4 months, which puts me right back about where I started when I was having a love-fest with my legs. But I am finally, finally, in a place where I can see straight to appreciate my body for what it has given me. How it has protected me. How it has taken care of me as best it could.

And now, my job is to love my body. Every imperfect roll. Every wrinkle, every line. Every muffin top and chafe-worthy thigh. Every gobble-arm and double chin. Because it’s not about judgement. In fact, if my experience has taught me anything, judgement does the polar opposite of what we are striving for. Acceptance, yes. Love and gratitude? Now we’re talking holy trinity.

This is how I started to send love to people I saw, who I guessed were probably hurting and struggling inside, the same as I have/was/do. And the people who were acting brave and not showing it to the world. And the people who were super-duper badass and had already figured out how to love themselves for what they were, knowing that the package doesn’t matter. Because, as far as appearance goes, I don’t care if you’re 88 pounds or 388 pounds or 688 pounds. We’re all fighting the same demons. And for the precious few who’ve won that battle, who’ve learned to put their demons in their place and love their body, I commend your bravery, your honesty, and your heart. I hope you can help gently guide the rest of us home too.

There does come a time when our health becomes a bigger priority than proving our non-judgementalness about body size. Sometimes losing some weight would make a striking difference in our ability to function. I know that since 30 pounds, my blood sugars have come out of the pre-diabetic range, back into the regular-old-joe range, for instance. I haven’t had my cholesterol numbers checked yet, but I am expecting to see some of the same there too. Most people have an easier time with their joints once they lose some weight.

And that all comes down to a choice, I guess. What’s the priority for you? Staying in a nonjudgemental place about your weight and keeping the status quo? Or staying nonjudgemental about your weight and trying to improve your health? Getting a little more active? A doctor will tell you there is only one right answer. I don’t agree with that. I think that you have a choice, as long as you are clear about the consequences and you make a conscious choice, knowing that there will be a price tag to pay, and you’re willing to pay it. But that requires some very intense self-examination and brutal honesty, because it’s easy to bamboozle yourself into thinking that you’ll pay the price tag because the change is too scary to contemplate. I get that. I’ve been there. I’ve done that.

Either way, we can all strive towards a more accepting, loving, nonjudgemental place when it comes to bodies.

We can probably love each other better. We can probably love ourselves more. It’s so worth doing it. And once again, it starts with gratitude.

{The following is a song I wrote the night of the naked, crying, thigh-rubbing, love-fest with my body. It’s a thank-you letter from me to my body. Maybe you can relate, or use it in your own process. If it helps you in any way, then I’m happy to share it with you. xoxo}

{One caveat: please know that this is a very rough writing demo only. Less than optimally recorded. But seeing as I’m still having MBox / ProTools issues, I couldn’t record a better version of it in time for this post. So you reeeeeally get to hear the nitty gritty! And, for your listening pleasure, you also get to hear many guest appearances by the fan on my laptop. Because that’s cool shit, yo. Click the song title and it’ll take you to the track…fancy, right?)

Fragile Emotions

Thank you for proteecting me when the world fell apart
Thank you for connecting me to the fear in my heart
For sheltering a lonely soul, who had nowhere safe to go

Thank you for keeping promises better left unsaid
Thank you for for the trust I felt, twisted but nonetheless
You kept me safe and when I hated you, took care of me the best way you knew how

Now I release you
Now I embrace you
Oh, I love you
And so I free you
Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through

Thank you for the walls you built that kept it all at bay
Thank you for the padded cell that kept them all away
Fueling the fire, yearning and burning within

Now I release you
Now I embrace you
Oh, I love you
Yes I adore you
Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through

The harder I tried, the further we’d collide
A slow angry burn at their failure to provide

Thank you for speaking up for me when I couldn’t find the words
Thank you for your loving curves and the beauty I have learned
The journey has been much bigger than ever I imagined

Now I release you
Now I embrace you
Oh, I love you
And I forgive you
Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through


It’s OK To Feel Angry. (I’m just not very good at it.)

It’s OK to feel angry.

I just don’t know how to process it.

So the fact that I’m feeling a little angry about all these fucking hurdles is leaving me…in no man’s land. Intellectually I know that it’s OK, and in fact it can be quite healthy, to feel angry and work through it. But not having the tools to do so just makes me shy away from anger most of the time. Except sometimes I can’t. Then I’m screwed. And so we meet.

Three-ish years ago, when I was working and had saved up some money, I bought myself an MBox so that I could record demos of my writing at home. We have a studio, yes. But honestly, I have no idea how to run that board, and every time I have tried to go in and do something, I would spend 5 hours just trying to get the sounds out of the board before leaving frustrated. Plus, as time has gone on, it has been getting more and more difficult to schedule time in the studio, because although it started out as a family studio, it has become a working studio with a professional life. And that’s cool. I have no issues with any of that. Thus, I purchased an MBox, figuring I could run that myself, and it was all I really needed anyway.

Josh had been using my Dad’s MBox for working at home, but it bit the dust. He had some stuff he really needed to be able to do, so I happily offered to lend him mine. I knew it would take a little while for me to get around to installing it anyway. But, as has a way of happening, it was about 3 years before I got it back from him. Shit happens. That I’m not upset about.

But that’s where things get a little murky. Unfortunately, in that three years I moved. I knew exactly where the ProTools install disk was in my old house. I have turned my (new) house upside down looking for said disk, and…nothing. It’s possible that it mistakenly got thrown away when we were moving. I have no idea. It might still be packed in some box, although I think I’ve gone through every possible box three times now. You see, there was no point in installing the program, because it won’t run without the hardware plugged into the computer. So until I had the MBox back from Josh, there was no point going any further.

Now that I have the MBox back, I have at least gotten it running with GarageBand. (I won’t do my album on GarageBand, however. I am so much more comfortable using ProTools, and it’s just a much more comprehensive program, with way better editing capabilities.) So I can throw down a quick writing demo. You’d think.

Except that tonight, when I was trying to do just that, everything was all good for the first hour or two. Then, out of nowhere, the MBox started making this hideous feedback-y, awfully loud, buzzing noise. Nothing I did would stop it. Well, that’s not true. Some buttons pushed did stop it, but unfortunately when I pushed them again to set things where they actually needed to be, the noise was still going strong. My only option left was to take my mic out of Input 1 and plug it into Input 2 instead.

Ahh, problem solved.

For another hour or two.

Then, wham! Same bullshit started happening again. Of course, I tried reverting to Input 1, but it was still reacting the same way there too. So now two of two channels were fucked. My only possible brainchild of a solution was to try a different mic cord. So I did.

Ahh, problem solved.


Except that now it sounded like ass. Instead of a lovely, present sound, my guitar or vocal tracks recorded with the new cord sounded like I was halfway down a tunnel. Far away. Strangely echo-y, although there were no effects on the track.

Oh, that’s about when I got angry.

And maybe I’m having a little pity party.

I’m a single mum, unable to work, on disability, with barely enough income to pay the rent. Literally. Scary, paycheque to paycheque kind of existence. (I know I am absolutely not the first, nor will I be the last to go through this. But anyone who’s ever been in this position can attest to the awful fear that it holds hanging over your head on a constant basis when you are responsible for three other little beings as well as yourself.) I did what I was supposed to do: I saved up the money to set up a creative outlet for myself. And now it’s not working. And I can’t afford to replace it with something new that does work. And this is too old and out of warranty and probably not worth fixing. And now that I’m finally, after 20 years of NOT getting off my ass, doing the one thing I’ve wanted to do since I was 5 years old, I feel like there are hurdles where there shouldn’t be. And I’m pissed. I kind of want to have a tantrum all over the floor like a toddler.

And I’m not saying I won’t either.

Will I figure out a solution? You bet your fucking ass I will. Will I let myself have a little pity party and feel angry about where I’m at right now, and the hurdles that I have to jump…again (it’s a recurring fucking theme in my life)…yup, probably. What would be the most constructive? To figure out how to feel angry without sliding into a pity party. Because anger and self-pity are not the same thing. But it sure is easy to intertwine them.

In the past, this is when I would self-medicate with food or cigarettes or booze or a few other things…anything to stuff down those angry feelings and Not. Feel. Anything. Anger was too scary. That may have had a little something to do with getting to be 100 lbs overweight. (Yeah, haven’t ever really said it out loud in quite those terms before. That’s probably a whole other post on it’s own. But for now, just realize that those were big words for me to say out loud. Or type out loud. Or, well, I think you get the idea.) Sure I have had some health issues that more than contributed to my weight. But an awful lot of it has had to do with stuffing my feelings – lots of different feelings, but surprisingly often it comes down to anger – down my pie hole.

Tonight I made a salad for dinner, a very specific one that I was honestly craving, and had been all day. I did not eat the box of Oreos in the cupboard for dinner. Or toast and butter. Or any of the things that would not have been listening to my body and honouring what it was asking for. Tonight I did not pour a drink. (This one hasn’t been an issue for a lot of years, and really, really isn’t much of an issue these days because my medication doesn’t combine well with alcohol. It just makes me feel ill after one or two drinks. So I’m a lightweight in this arena these days.) Tonight I did not light a cigarette. (I quit in September of 2009.) You know what I did?

I sat down and I wrote this post.

I stayed with my feelings, even though they were uncomfortable as hell, and they really…um…sucked.

I observed the vibrating, gnawing, slightly nauseous ache in my belly. The one that is somehow attached to the pull and tightness through my shoulders. The one that gives me slightly painful heart palpitations. And the same one that is all pulled together by the pain in my head, the throbbing in my temples.

And I waited. I waited to see how it would process. I waited to see how I could or could not let go of feeling angry. I waited, but I did not try to change anything. I just waited and observed.

Now, to be fair (and realistic), I should be honest with you. I’m still waiting. And I’m still observing. And nothing’s changing yet. (Maybe I’m just not that evolved. A distinct possibility.) But I’ve also made up my mind not to “do” anything about it. It’s been about 2 -3 hours. And I’m just simply trying to get more “conscious” of the process of observing and not trying to change. It’s a weird and uncomfortable things to observe yourself feeling angry and not try to change it.

Anger is so uncomfortable, and our society has made it so unacceptable, that we try to skip out on that place as quickly as possible. Get. The. Fuck. Out. But maybe this is how you successfully process it? By just allowing yourself to be there, no judgements, no actions. (On the other hand, it is entirely possible that I’m talking out of my ass. Just keep that one in mind.)

Time will tell, I guess.

How do you process anger? What are some of the healthy and unhealthy ways you’ve worked through, or gotten stuck, in anger?


Long Time Coming

With really only one notable exception, I haven’t posted here in almost a year and a half. That’s a long time, no matter how you slice it. Sit back and hold on – I know this one will shock you – in that time, my life has once more fallen apart and I am trying my damndest to fit the pieces back together, like a Lego tower a toddler builds, destroys, and rebuilds, time and time again.

Does that make me the toddler?

Because I really seem to have a propensity for destroying any semblance of routine or security that I trick myself into believing I have cultivated, only to have to rebuild something in its place.

A quick overview…other than my random Ash Ambirge post (I still love her madly, and have a lot to thank her for, but we’ll get to that later), we last left off in January of 2010. I went back to work in April 2010, and realized how much I loved my job. I got sick again in September 2010 and have been off work since. Joint pain and swelling, nerve pain and weakness/numbness, cognitive dysfunction, memory and speech impairment, extreme fatigue, balance trouble / vertigo, migraines, sleep apnea, some funky heart stuff, and most recently, about 80% hearing loss in my left ear. Those are the big things. Oh, and there are a bunch of lesions on my brain. Sweet. And to top it off, this past winter was perhaps the most debilitating depression I have ever had to contend with. I climbed into a giant hole and took a break from everything, including social media, for several months. There are plenty of other little things I won’t bore you with…I think that’s enough whining.

I now spend my life at doctor’s offices. For a long while, the prevailing theory was that I had MS. But three neurologist, two MS specialists, and 3 MRI’s later, it would seem that is not the diagnosis. And there but for the grace of God…

So, at least for now, that has brought us back to a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. I guess I’m still having trouble accepting that a diagnosis of FM explains all the stuff I deal with. It doesn’t seem like a big enough diagnosis to explain the fact that sometimes I can’t remember my kids names. (Yup, it’s horrifyingly true.) Or that I can’t get out of bed for days at a time or make myself sound like I’m not drunk when I’m speaking.

It seems to me that we are striking diagnoses off the list one by one. Which is, of course, exactly what has to happen. But each diagnosis requires tests and specialists and time and energy. And energy is one area where I am sadly lacking. So it is a bit of a double-edged sword: getting a diagnosis for an illness, one of whose primary symptoms is fatigue, requires energy. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Throughout the Fall of 2011, I completed a Chronic Pain Management Course at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. There was a lot of info I already knew, but it was great having it all tied up in one place. There were a few tidbits of information that I found immensely useful however:

  1. One of the most useful things you can do for yourself is DO THINGS YOU ENJOY. Sounds simple, right? There are so many things that I “need” to get done, and not enough energy to do them, plus I have spent so much time being afraid that insurance companies or work or people in my life who don’t really believe that I’m sick will see me doing something enjoyable and jump to, “well, if you can do that, then you should be able to do this” that I avoid one in order to avoid the other. Turns out, that’s dumb. (Not the first time I’ve made a dumb assumption; undoubtedly it won’t be the last.) In fact, chemically speaking, doing something that you enjoy does all sorts of good juju in your brain, releasing yummy ephrines and opamines and whatnots into the system which help you to feel better. Translation: doing something that you enjoy helps you feel better. Both mentally and physically. Say what? Life can’t just be full of musts and shoulds?
  2. It’s all about pacing. I can’t do all the things I used to. It sucks. Yup. Get over it. I’ve had to. I now have to plan my days and my weeks in such a way that I space activities out. Not too much in one day. Not too many days of tiring activity in a row. Rest time in between. I still feel like an idiot sometimes, but I literally have to plan to sit on the couch and watch TV, read/listen to a book, or nap.
  3. When I am going through a time of depression (October to March, roughly), I have to schedule seeing people and doing things into my calendar so I don’t hole myself up in my house and continue to spiral downwards. Period.
  4. For those of us living with chronic pain, pain is not necessarily a good indicator of injury. In other words, when we get to a point in activity where we hit the pain reaction, that is not indicative of an impending injury. It’s simply our hyper-reactive nervous systems hitting the “flare” point, and we need to learn to push beyond that point – gently, and over time – to become more active. Inactivity and chronic pain dance a frightening dance and one begets the other, and somewhere we have to break into that cycle.

Somewhere in and amongst all of this, my kids and I moved out of our house and into a townhouse. I think it was June of 2010. I had been so terrified of that move for so many reasons, but it turns out that it was the most positive thing that could have happened. Like most things we are staunchly afraid of, the reality surprised the hell out of me, and I couldn’t have been happier. I now have a dear friend who lives across the street. She deals with some of the same emotional issues that I do and is also an artistic soul, and we have been invaluable to each other in making it through the winter. There has been communal parenting when there needed to be. Our kids go to school together, and play out in the townhouse complex and park area constantly. Having a sense of neighbourhood and community was something that was always lacking at my old house, and that in and of itself has made this move worth it.

I think that about brings us up to speed. Now that’s over with, I can get back to posting about more interesting things…


Thank you Ash. Just…thank you.

Dear Ash –

I’m really glad you sent the email version of your blog post to me (and probably a few others) twice today. Funny, because it was probably in error – slightly ironic given the subject matter, don’t you think? But the fact of the matter is, I didn’t read it the first time around.
I’m having a really hard time these days for a lot of reasons beyond my control (yeah, I create my own fucking reality and all that…and yet i’m sicker than shit and have been for months and keep getting worse and ending up in hospital…pretty sure I’m not doing it on purpose…and yes I know that I could still be creating it because it serves me in some way and all that shit. I’m really very enlightened. Fuck.)
But I digress. Point being, I’m in huge avoidance mode. I avoid answering the phone. I avoid opening any emails that are anything less than emergent. Sometimes I avoid making dinner and settle for chocolate and ice cream. I avoid doing pretty much anything that doesn’t relate directly to making sure my children are fed and well, and keeping my symptoms as low-key as possible. Sometimes I even avoid those things. Pretty sad-ass, if I do say so myself.
And so when your first email arrived, I did not open it, just like I have not opened any of yours for the last couple of months (sorry, just being honest.) I also have not opened any of Danielle LaPorte‘s, Satya Colombo‘s, Karol Gajda‘s, Chris Guillebeau‘s, or any of the other people I find inspiring. I just figure I’ll get around to them when I get around to them, or I’ll pick up from a new starting point when I’m ready.
But yours arrived twice.
And I recently watched Oprah talk about life whispering to you, each time a little louder, until it’s screaming and knocking you over the head. So how about learning to listen to the whispers? I decided that receiving your email twice was a whisper.
And your post was exactly what I needed to hear. Don’t think I even need to explain that further, do I?
Sometimes we need to just give ourselves permission to be where we are. Thanks for giving me the permission to give myself permission. (Um, yeah, I know that’s ridiculous.) I’m putting your post up on my fridge.

Just. Do. Something.

We spend an awful lot of time in the past.

Acknowledging pathology is one thing, but getting stuck in blame and bitterness, and just, well, STUCK in the past doesn’t help any of us in our lives. I am as guilty as anybody on this one. I’m sure my therapist would agree.

I was sitting at my kitchen table tonight, having put in several hours today on some bizzy-fabulous-ness, rewarding myself with some promised ME time. Currently, that’s working my way through Danielle LaPorte’s The Fire Starter Sessions. And, holy hell, Ms. Thang is lighting a fire under my ass. Or really, helping me to find my own fire, which is the best compliment I could give her.

Me with Danielle LaPorte.

I completed Exercise 2 (clearly, I am just starting to burn my way through the program), which has to do with identifying past “failures” in business so as to move beyond. Danielle clearly has a fantastic sense of humour (or at least she shares my particular irreverent sense of humour.) There was a footnote at the bottom of the exercise, suggesting several things to do with the paper, once the exercise had been completed, all in the name of release. One of the suggestions was to write “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” across the page.

So I did.

And promptly started laughing like a fucking lunatic.

I mean out loud. Really loud. (Thank God no one else was home and none of my children were trying to sleep.) Kind of maniacally. (OK, possibly super maniacally. Stephen King would have been proud.) Unstoppably. (It just went on and on and on. And on.) I eventually had tears streaming down my face. And a newfound lightness in my being.

Looking at my bizzy-not-always-so-fabulous past has always been a source of bitterness and disappointment for me. But it doesn’t actually matter what other 99 descriptors I could add there, the past is the past is the past. No, don’t forget it, because it A) got you where you are now, which is a fabulous jumping off point for what comes next, B) made you who you are today, and that person is equipped with everything they need to take the next step, and C) taught you every lesson you’ve got in your arsenal, lessons that you can turn around and NOT repeat (you know what they say: know better, do better.)

So don’t forget it. But don’t stay stuck in it. Move along. No…no excuses. Just. Move. Along.

In all the many business- and success-related books I’ve read and speakers I’ve heard, that is an overwhelmingly common thread. Do something. It almost doesn’t matter what. But keep moving. I understood it rationally, but it hadn’t hit me on a visceral level until I sat there laughing uncontrollably at my kitchen table tonight.

This was exactly the kick in the ass I needed in order to move beyond. Sure, shit’s happened. Yep, shit will happen in the future too. But for God’s sake, lighten up and don’t drag it around. That baggage can be incredibly freakin’ heavy. Don’t let it define everything you do. Don’t let it define YOU!

I will no longer let it define me.

Now I can give a rockin’ elevator speech that leaves you as in the dark about irrelevant parts of my past as before I started. And almost all of it is irrelevant. Unless it has to do with my business now, or looking forward, it doesn’t matter to you.

So I am in deep gratitude to Danielle. This hit me just the right way, at just the right time. It freed up in me something that has long been stuck. Instead I’m in a place of joy, doing something. Staying in motion. Doing. Something. Best of all, I’m doing it all while laughing.

Because laughter is really effing important. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!


Change: Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Change. Is. Opportunity.

Sometimes it whispers. Sometimes it yells and screams. But it is always, always opportunity.

My life is on the precipice of huge, enormous, agoraphobic change. This process will be locked into a specific timeframe, which for me is a great thing; I always work best to deadline. It will be overflowing with the opportunity to Purge and Simplify. In my life, I tend easily towards Acquire and Complexify. (That’s right, complexify. Check it, yo.) So Purge and Simplify feel like devouring a ripping breath of fresh air after being submerged in dark, murky depths for longer than my lungs could handle.

With this change comes Hope. That feels entirely foreign to my lips, my tongue, my skin. Hope. Hope that I really have hit bottom and I’m on the upswing in my life. Hope that shedding attachments and responsibility is not, in fact, a recession into immaturity and recklessness, but rather a broad stroke with the Growing Up brush. Simplifying. Redefining. Making my life into what I want it to be.

Taking control instead of giving it away like candy.

This change is mine to define. Mine to choose. Mine to live. In a world where we constantly strive for more, more, more, I want less, less, less. Less responsibility that I can’t manage. Less stuff. Less space. But I want those things that remain to really count. The change in my life needs to be the trade in of quantity for quality. Kids these days (yeah, I’m actually at an age where I can start using the phrase, “kids these days”) compete to see who has the most Facebook friends. I don’t care how many Facebook friends I have. I care how many friends I have with whom I can sit down for dinner and bare our souls to one another. That kind of quantity for quality.

I am constantly drowning in stress. It sounds like a metaphor, but I’m not so sure it is. I can literally feel an enormous weight on my chest, pretty much all of the time. My nervous system fires all wrong – weird nerve shocks regularly go down my arms into my hands or flare across my back. The panic is barely concealed under the hopefully well-heeled exterior. But it is stress, and it is panic, and it is making me sick. Another not-so-metaphor. The stress in my life is literally making me sick.

Back injury. Recurrent strep throat, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Unknown viruses aplenty. My body is an open vessel when it comes to ailments that I succumb to, and I’m quite sure that my constant stress level makes me super susceptible to all invaders small and large.

So change is necessary. Welcomed, if not whole-heartedly, then at least with arms thrown open in defiance of my own fears. Change will, again and again, rip the carpet out from under my feet and knock me on my ass. But think about the picture that might come suddenly clear on the way down. The new perspective to glean looking up from down there. The new people to meet as we all get to our feet again, this time adopting a wider (and wiser) stance so as not to be so easily upended.

Change is necessary to shake things up a little. Everybody needs to fall on their ass now and then. Keeps the body limber, having to get ourselves up off the floor on a regular basis. Right? Shit, I think I better start doing more yoga…limber up those falling-on-my-ass muscles. Lord knows they get a workout in my life.

So here’s to it! Change. Facing the fears that change embodies. Being willing to fall on our asses and, to quote an old jazz tune, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” What’s the worst that can happen? I already know how to fall on my ass. In fact, I already know how to get myself up off my ass. So really? Bring it. I’m game. Let’s see what life can bring me when I’m conscious about the journey, conscious about inviting positive things, positive people, positive change, and positive energy into my life.

Game on. Yeah, chicken.


Stripped Bare – Terror or Redemption?

The thing we fear the most can set us free, if we let it. True? False? Let’s discuss.

My greatest fears surround the safety of the people I love.  My second greatest fears are all tied up in money. Not like the neat string around a butcher’s package either.  Tangled like the drawer full of 312 old TV and computer cables, maybe even some from your stereo (replete with turntable) from 1978 which you’ll probably never use again, but you’re not even sure what they’re for anymore, so you’d better hang onto them in case Dad or Boyfriend is trying to help you out with some electrical mojo one day and asks for that cord, and they’re all balled up in that drawer together, inextricably linked for life (which makes good for the argument that you couldn’t throw any away because that would require hours of untangling that, frankly, you just don’t have to devote to something so inconsequential.) Whew. THAT kind of tied up and tangled.

Why, for me, is money so devastatingly fraught with fear and…um…fear? I wish I knew. I grew up in a middle class household. Mum was pretty good with managing money. Dad was pretty good at making money. You’d think things would work just fine. Dad was also good at spending money on the toys he wanted in the here and now. Mum was not a fan of the conflict that arose when she managed the money, so she handed that task over to dad. Dad worked in a business that paid big chunks at semi-random intervals, as well as a base-level income on a regular basis. But those big chunks often heralded a shopping spree…not like, “Ooh, I bought a couple of new pairs of shoes!” kind of shopping spree.  More like, “Check out my new Mercedes!” kind of shopping spree.  We had plenty of nice stuff in the here and now.

I also remember some hard times. His business was hit hard by the recession in the late 80’s. There were other hits they took over the years, but that was the biggest one I remember. All of a sudden there was talk of selling the boat or this or that car, or maybe even the house. There were no vacations for a while. All of these things impacted the niceties in life, but never in my childhood do I ever remember being worried that there wouldn’t be a roof over my head or food on the table. My older sister remembers lots of PB&J dinners before I was born, but it never got quite that scary again. That being said, there was never any sense of ongoing security. When everyone at Dad’s company took a pay cut to keep the company afloat, there was not a lot in the way of savings in the bank, put away for just such an emergency. And when Dad retired, he was pretty darn grateful for the RRSP’s that his union had automatically invested his money into, because he hadn’t made many alternate plans. But STILL nothing points to a reasonable fear of being out on the street with nothing to eat and nowhere to live.

You would think, however, growing up and seeing the positives and negatives in the ways that my parents dealt with money (quite consciously and as objectively as one can from smack dab in the middle of it all) that I would formulate a better working model for myself. You’d think. If you have read other posts of mine, you may have been lightly introduced to the concept of what I should do and what I do do are often rather at odds with one another. This would be one of those times. I have grown up to be less than fabulous with money. Restraint is something I dream of, but have never really tasted for myself. Money management requires restraint. Hence: me, 3 kids, 37 27 years old, with no savings, still living paycheque to paycheque. Still getting my gas or TV cut off from time to time. Some of that is because I don’t make enough money. Some of that is because I’m not diligent enough about staying present, focused and engaged in the financial side of my life. And a little teensy-weensy (OK, maybe not always so teensy-weensy) part of it is because I am a complete, self-diagnosed, unadulterated, unabashed shoe whore. But I digress.

So for the past 7 years, I have been in a complicated financial arrangement with my parents: my house. Complicated because initial intentions were never put down on paper. Complicated because the time-frame of the arrangement extended far beyond the initial intent. Complicated because through divorce, retirement, injury, bankruptcy, economic downturns, hell and high water, no one’s current financial picture is what was anticipated 7 years ago, and the tax man cometh. The long and the short of it is that I cannot afford to live here any longer.

But my kids were babies here. I was married when I moved into this house. I watched my parents split up, my mum move in, my dad sail around the world, my mum move out, my mum date her high-school boyfriend, my dad try internet dating, and my parents get back together, all from this house. I’ve gone through debilitating depression in this house and made it through the other side…so far anyway. I’ve watched my brother work his ass off to become a household name with a certain demographic, and finally watch his records go gold and platinum. I’ve watched my sister fight tooth and nail to support her kids while delicately extricating them from a damaging relationship with their father. I moved from this house with one husband and three children aged three and under, all the way to England, returning 6 months later with three children, less the fourth child husband. I started smoking again in this house, and quit 6 years later. I spent a year stoned out of my fucking mind in this house. I spent a lot of years being not present enough with my children in this house, and those are years I will never get back. Which has brought me to this place: it’s time to simplify.

The thought of moving out of this house is staggering. I amass a fuck of a lot of shit. Those who know me will stand up and testify. I may feature heavily in a future episode of A&E’s Hoarders. But it’s not just that the work involved is staggering. It is terrifying to me to contemplate losing the security of the first family “home” I have created as an adult, without having anything as or more secure to move on to. I don’t know what will happen after this. I may have to go back to renting for a while. I may have to go back to renting for a long while. (At least until my Sugar Daddy shows up. Him or Prince Charming. Whoever gets here first. Ready, set…aaaand go!) The reality is, it is entirely possible I won’t ever be able to get back into the market again. And I have to swallow that one whole.

So I’m thinking…I have lost everything at one time or another over the last few years. I lost my financial sense of self, and a whole lot of pride when I had to file for bankruptcy. I lost my sense of family, security, and to a degree, hope when my parents split up, shortly followed by the implosion of my own marriage. I lost my physical capability when I injured myself. I lost my sense of self when I lost my ability to work. I very nearly lost all my marbles (and I say that only minimally in jest) thereafter, when I plunged into a debilitating and suicidal depression, which turned into a diagnosis of bipolar II eventually. I lost contact with most of my friends…and much of reality…when I spent a year on prescription narcotic painkillers. Through all of these things I have lost bits of my kids’ childhoods, through my own inability to stay present. My house – overloaded with unattainable responsibility and unspoken expectations though it has been – has been the one constant throughout all of these disappointments. It has been the one sense of security as I have watched everything else in my life shatter around me, little bits at a time.

It is the one thing that I have had a deathgrip on, clawing at its porous bones, terrified that if I let go, I would be letting go of the last vestige of my personal sense of safety and security. But the time has come. I have made the decision. I have told my kids. I have posted it on Facebook, for Christ’s sake. (NOW it’s final, if it’s on FB!) I have chosen to be stripped bare.


Bare could be taken to mean Empty. Devoid. Without. Or it could mean Blank. Awaiting. Ready. It’s the old glass half empty, or glass half full. I am choosing – and yes, I do believe this is my choice – to make this a new beginning. This is Bare. Blank. Ready to be Rebuilt. Reborn. Renewed. Redefined. Reawakened. So is it terrifying? Absolutely and unequivocally. Is it redemption? I choose to believe so. Redemption in the form of a new start, unhindered, without strings, without the weight of all that has gone wrong before. It is redemption in the form of the opportunity to simplify and come together as a family with my children – rediscover and redefine who we are and what is important to us. It is redemption in the form of flying free of outdated responsibilities, energetic roles, expectations, and fears. That which you fear the most can set you free, if you let it.

I choose to let go and let God.

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