2019 – On Softening

2019. What can I say? It was the hardest year to date, yet on the last day of the year and decade, I am full of gratitude for all the beautiful lessons that have come from the challenges.

My word for the year was soften, because 2018 was hard and I wanted to soften in 2019. I got there, but not in any way I could have imagined.

By February Scott’s mental health crisis was under control after a really rough 16 months that impacted us all. March was glorious as we were all well and able to enjoy life again. We took a family trip to Jasper that is one of my highlights of the year! Beautiful weather and scenery was just what we needed. However, work was getting very busy and I was feeling pretty burned out, probably because I didn’t have much time to properly recover from the crisis mode we were in for so long. This continued into April and May. Even me hitting my head and sustaining a concussion in April didn’t slow me down as much as it should have, at least not right away. I took a few days off work, but still tried to push through and do it all, even though I had no energy, was extremely irritable, unable to concentrate and was extremely sensitive to light and sound. I also experienced dizziness and nausea regularly then too. Still, that didn’t slow me down and I wasn’t anywhere close to softening.

Finally in June, I couldn’t deal anymore and decided to see my Doctor, who immediately took me off of work. I’d previously seen an emergency room doctor and was being treated by a physiotherapist but after 6 weeks of getting worse I knew I needed to do something different.

I started off with being off work for a week which ended up turning into two and a half months before I felt ready to try working again. Those two months were when I finally began to soften. I was finally starting to be gentle with myself, allowing myself to sleep when I needed and giving myself permission to do nothing as that is what my body needed to heal. During this time I began to stop judging myself if I had a negative thought about where I was in the healing process or what I was experiencing. I offered myself so much compassion, and that was softening.

In August, I finally felt well enough to try to go back to work. By that time I could go through my day fairly symptom-free and even do things like go for walks and handle being at social events without feeling extreme fatigue or other symptoms. Working was a whole new challenge that required even more softening because my healing didn’t continue on an upward trajectory like it had been while I was off work. We had originally planned for me to be back to full time hours in four weeks. Now it has been nearly four months and I have not managed more than five hour days yet.

I’ve had to soften my expectations of what I can realistically do in a day at work. I’ve had to let go of the very high expectations I had of myself to manage working, my condition, my self care, my medical appointments (1 – 3 a week), being a wife, being a mom and being a friend. I’m so grateful for my husband Scott, who is being able to pick up a lot of the slack around the house because honestly most days after working I’m so exhausted that I don’t have much in me to give. The only way I can manage all of those responsibilities is to lower my expectations, prioritize my healing, and to soften.

While I’ve had to give up so much because of this – like hooping, going to social events, visiting family, watching Aurora learn to swim, and countless days spent in bed resting, I’ve also gained a lot too.

It is far easier for me now to ask for what I need. That may be as simple as asking for the volume to be turned down or bigger things like asking for accommodations at work. This has been a big lesson for me and I am grateful for how it will serve me for years to come.

I have also noticed that I have way less judgemental thoughts about myself, and when I do my immediate reaction is to shower myself in compassion, rather than double down and she myself for thinking a negative thought. This has helped a ton with my nervous system. I feel like this unwinding the mind is literally removing anxiety from my body as those thoughts created instant anxiety.

While I can no longer do one of my favourite things ever – hoop, I have deepened my meditation practice more than I ever would have if life continued as status quo. I have journaled more than ever and my spiritual practice is at an all-time high. I used to experience bliss only through movement, or movement had to come first. Now I can find that state through stillness and that is a gift.

I am far more likely to rest when I get tired, rather than giving up in frustration. Of course some days are more challenging than others, some days I do feel mad or upset that my life has change so drastically and that it feels like I’m just living to manage the post-concussion syndrome symptoms, but more often than not I just allow myself to be where I am and trust that one day I will be better. That is truly softening oh, and that is a gift

Softening is also knowing that I wish big things for myself in the future, but hold no expectations of when they will happen. I continue to take each day as it comes, one day at a time. I try not to put too many expectations on my healing process. I enjoy each moment that I’ve got. I am more present in the experiences I do have and I appreciate moments when I’m feeling well much more.

To paraphrase Ram Dass – “I don’t wish you the stroke, but I wish you the grace that the stroke brought”. That is how I feel about living with Post Concussion Syndrome. Out of the darkness has come a lot of light.

And now as I’m move into 2020, I hope to stay soft and to hold space for living in alignment so I can continue to heal.

If you got this far, thank you for reading. I hope you’ve got something to be grateful for from this year and I wish all the best for you in 2020.

Shifting to Balance

I’ve been a bad blogger!

I know it’s best practice to blog weekly but that is not something I can keep up with so I gave myself a more realistic goal of once a month. That seemed much more doable, and was for almost two years.

Then I missed a month. Then two. Then three. Now I feel all this pressure to write this epic post and I don’t feel like anything is good enough or interesting enough!

I know though, that I can glean a lot of lessons from this whole experience because this is just a reflection of how I act in other areas of my life. That whole mirror thing, you know?

I’ve got an expectation of what I should be doing, feel guilty when I don’t do it and then feel some resistance to getting started again because it feels too big and insurmountable.

But you know what?

I just need to start writing again. Get back on the wagon, so to speak. Baby steps. One step. Just one word. It’s not all or nothing.

How many times in life do we take an all or nothing attitude?

How often does that actually work?

I tried an all or nothing attitude and I ended up getting burnt out.

In fact, I’m still recovering from adrenal fatigue syndrome because I pushed myself too hard for too long. Working full time, building my business and still trying to have an active social life.

It became too much and I swung from one side of the pendulum (the crazy busy side) to the other (crash & burn). When I swung back to the non-busy side I guess my blog fell to the wayside, along with other non-essential activities that previously took up my time.

It all makes sense though, when I think about how my theme for this year is balance.

I realize that perfect balance is a myth and can never be truly achieved, it’s more like managing a juggling act or finding a flow or rhythym in life.

What I’m looking for, is a way to manage it all.

I’ve learned that I can still do it all if give myself more downtime.

At the same time, I realize that I can’t actually do it ALL, but I can do a little bit of it all if I cut out the non-important things. Reprioritize. Set boundaries.

I’ve started asking myself how something will make me feel before I do it, and if it doesn’t align with one of my core desired feelings, then I don’t do it. Simple as that.

My balanced pendulum

My pendulum is swinging back to centre.

You can explore your own core desired feelings, check out Danielle LaPorte’s “Desire Map“. It’ll totally change the way you plan your life, it’s already having a huge impact on mine.

My pendulum is finally swinging back to the middle after a few months of rest, reprioritizing and relaxation. I may be closer to finding that elusive balance than I thought.

And I guess I had a blog post in me after all.

❤ Nicole

Light My Fire

Once again I’m reminded of the importance of self care. I’ve been feeling off all week since I ingested some lemon essential oil. I know that this is a great detoxifier and added a couple drops to my water because I felt like I needed a good detox. The next day I woke up with an upset stomach which didn’t really go away all week. I didn’t have any other symptoms, flu or otherwise so I did feel like I was just removing a lot of toxins from my liver but they weren’t actually leaving my body no matter how much lemon water or green smoothies I drank.

All week I’d been aware that I was avoiding meditating and journaling and doing any of the other things that helps bring my mind, body and soul into balance. I was feeling lethargic and starting to notice a little bit of depression creeping in. This morning I woke up, still not feeling 100% though I finally felt ready to write in my journal, meditate and face whatever this was. 10 pages later, my stomach is no longer bugging me. What my body was trying to release was not just physical toxins, but past traumas and anger. After journaling I cleared away all that I was holding onto with a smudging ceremony and was inspired to draw a flame with my oil pastels. I felt it was important to create a visual image I could use to remind me that I am powerful.

ImageAs I was drawing and colouring, I realized the flame is such an important representation of my power. My flame is always burning, but sometimes I choose to let other people dampen it. I will now choose to remember that I control how bright my flame burns because when I give my power away, I become lethargic and unmotivated.

As I coloured, I allowed my inner flame to grow inside of me and to burn brightly. The more I did this, the more motivated I became to spend the day creating. I spent some time hooping and working on the Yin Yang Hoop Dance workshop I’ll be offering at Spin Milk 4. I spent some time rearranging “my room” as I like to call it. It’s a spare room that I have set up for meditation, journaling, yoga, hooping and whatever tickles my fancy. It’s my self care oasis. I reorganized my bulletin board so I could hang my flame on it and see it on a regular basis. I was inspired and motivated to blog about my experience and after this I’m still feeling inspired to go to the grocery store and pick up some ingredients to create tasty dehydrated snacks!

I know how important self care is yet sometimes choose not to make it a priority. Today is just another reminder that taking care of myself is a practice and I’m not perfect at it, but when I choose to take care of myself first instead of distracting myself with mindless activities or doing responsibility type stuff, I’m much better off for it. Self care makes me come alive and invites me to step into my power as a creator. The flame reminds me to keep stoking my inner fire so I can shine my light out to the world.