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.

Maiden to Mama

My blog has been severely neglected over the past year. It turns out that getting pregnant and becoming a mom doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing, but now that I’m starting to get a handle on this parenting thing  (for today, anyways) I noticed I really missed writing and expressing myself creatively.

It’s hard some days to do much else than nurse my little bundle of joy. It’s been nice to spend the winter indoors, cozied up on the couch, watching  Netflix by day and hockey by night, but today I felt a call for more. I am feeling inspired to create again.

Pre-baby I had so many ways to express my creative energy on a daily basis. For fun I hooped, I danced, I taught classes and workshops, I created costumes and wrote blogs. At work, I flexed my creativity muscles all day long writing emails, newsletters and event invitations. It didn’t hit me until today just how much I missed being in that creative space where inspiration and ideas just flow out of me. One of my core desired feelings is flow, and while I feel like every day as a stay at home mom is all about going with the flow, I’ve missed the creative outlet of being in flow that my soul desires. Expressing that creativity is what helps me feel alive!

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Standing in the gateway, from maiden to mother

When I envisioned my 2017, I had a hard time being specific because I had no clue what it would be like to be a parent. My normal lofty goals for the year ahead were put aside and all I really wanted was to be able to become a parent while not completely losing myself. I wanted to maintain some form of self care. I wasn’t sure how I’d cope with having limited time for myself, but I’m doing pretty good I think, better than I thought to be honest. The time I do have for me is so special, even if it means writing this post on my phone at 1am while nursing my baby, or practicing yoga with a noisy baby in an untidy room and a husband clamouring away in the kitchen (making food and cleaning dishes so I’m not complaining at all!). Before baby,  I’d need to have complete silence and a clean setting to practice yoga at home, now I take what I can get and I’m completely ok with that. Life looks a little different but taking the time for me is that much more valuable since I can’t pour from an empty cup. So I guess this whole post is about me filling my cup so I can be there for my little Aurora Jade.

In one of my many pregnant freak out moments, I worried I wouldn’t know what I was doing when the baby arrived. I eventually realized that while I likely wouldn’t know what I was doing, I have spent years gathering all the skills and self awareness to help me be able to raise this tiny human the best I can. I didnt know exactly what I was preparing for when I invested in countless workshops and retreats, but everything I’ve learned up to this point has helped me get through these first few months as a mama. I’ve learned to trust myself, I’ve built up my confidence, I’ve developed strategies for coping with stress, I’ve learned to take care of my body physically and I’ve discovered what forms of self care are non negotiable. Without all this, I don’t think I’d be able to cope as a new mom. I’m so grateful for all the years of self discovery as a maiden.

It’s time to discover who I am as a mama. The moment I birthed my daughter, I birthed myself as a mother, but I’m just as much as an infant as Aurora and everything is new. Now I’m going to have to figure out who I am all over again, and I’m ready.

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Aurora and I, moments after birthing her into this world

2015: From Balance to Flow

While I had many goals and aspirations for 2014, my main focus was trying to find balance in my life. To achieve that balance, I ended up creating a lot of healthy habits and letting go of old beliefs and patterns. I learned so much about things I never thought had anything to do with balance. I guess that is why I didn’t feel like my life was in balance in the first place.

For the past few years at various times I’ve had experiences of burnout from trying to work a full time job, grow a business, enjoy a happy life with meaningful relationships and take care of my physical, emotional and spiritual needs as best I could. This year was no different and I had a very difficult time in the winter as my workload felt like it was at an all time high. I developed adrenal fatigue syndrome and effectively hit rock bottom. I knew this wasn’t balance. When it felt like all the pieces were crumbling, I completely surrendered and let go of any attachment to an outcome. After letting go, everything started to fall back into place. It was one final lesson (I hope) in realizing that I can’t continue that same pattern over and over again. I can celebrate this now, because I feel like it’s a lesson I finally nailed!

I’ve learned and integrated so much this year, it’s hard to narrow it down to the most meaningful, but these are the top habits I created to bring balance into my life.

Core Desired Feelings

One major shift that took place this year was discovering my core desired feelings – the ways I want to feel every day to experience a full and satisfying life. They are joyfully radiant, connection, flow, abundance and supported in case you were wondering. I became focused on how I could feel those feelings every single day and became way less focused on arbitrary goals I had previously set for myself because I hoped that they would make me feel something that I thought I might want. I became more aware of how I wanted to be instead of focused on the things I wanted to do. This was HUGE for me. Plus, through this I also learned to let go of the belief that I’m only lovable or worthy if I do this thing or that thing. I know that my worth is inherent on a conscious level, but in 2014 I actually started to to believe it at a soul level. I would highly recommend checking out The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte if you’re interested in discovering your core desired feelings.

Boundaries

In 2014, I learned that I really didn’t have any boundaries and that was causing me to give more than I wanted to and take on more than I could reasonably do. My expectations of myself were too high. I learned how to set boundaries and took back some of the power in my life I had given away.

I now use my core desired feelings as a guide. I check in with them whenever I have to make a decision and I’m not sure which way I should go. I set boundaries around how I would spend my time and used my desired feelings as a guide to ensure I was staying in alignment with it all. If an opportunity doesn’t satisfy at least one of my core desired feelings, I won’t do it. With that being said, I know there are some things that I have to do that I don’t particularly enjoy, like cleaning the house. I have learned to shift my perspective about it though from something I hate doing, to something that can help me feel a desired feeling, so a clean house can help me feel flow because I’ve cleared out stagnant.

Support

Another huge shift was learning to recognize when I needed support and how to ask for what I needed. I’m discovering that this is a hard thing for many people, because often we don’t know what we need and we certainly don’t know how to ask for it. Because I understood my core desired feelings and delved a little into non-violent communication and discovering my needs, I was able to recognize much easier when a need wasn’t being met. When you have that clarity, it’s so much easier to ask for what you need. To explore more about how to identify needs, check out my musings on the subject in this post.

Over the past year and a bit, I’ve been part of a Creation Circle. A small group of us meet monthly to learn content that can be integrated into our lives to help us create the amazing life we want and deserve. This group has been so instrumental in helping me feel supported, which is clearly important to me as it’s one of my core desired feelings. I’ve got so much other support too, from my naturopath, acupuncurist, massage therapist, chiropractor, kundalini dance facilitator, yoga teacher, meditation guides, from my husband, family and friends.

Support showed up in a big way in my work life this year in the form of a committee for the NAIT United Way campaign that I Chair. I truly appreciate the support I was given to run the campaign. For the last 6 years I had only a little support, but this year I had a committee of six other people helping me out. That support helped me to stay in alignment with my boundaries around the amount of time I feel comfortable putting into work.

This year, I celebrate all of the support I have called into my life and the ease and joy it has created.

Celebrate

Celebration is another thing we worked on integrating into our everyday lives in the Creation Circle. Practicing celebration helps me to feel and recognize all the ways abundance shows up in my life, it helps me to feel present and satisfied with what I’ve achieved and it helps me to feel joyfully radiant! I’ve made gratitude a daily practice in my life and I’ve posted what I’m grateful for on Facebook for 113 days so far. I can’t begin to express how much this has changed my life. It has helped open my heart more than I ever could have guessed. This isn’t to say that I’m happy all the time, but I now choose to see the gift in each challenging situation that shows up, whatever that may be.

This practice has allowed me to expand my context for recognizing how my core desired feelings show up in my life. When I first started out, I had very specific and limited ideas of what each feeling looked like, for example joyfully radiant meant teaching hoop classes but now I can experience that feeling from just about any activity. Practicing gratitude has taught me, it’s not what I’m doing that helps me to feel the ways I want to feel, rather, what I’m searching for is a state of being. Practicing gratitude gives me an opportunity to be the way I want to feel.

I celebrate and am grateful for all the gifts practicing gratitude has given me.

2015: Feeling Flow

As I move forward to 2015, I want to continue Flowembodying all of my core desired feelings with a focus on flow as my theme for the year. I think balance is really just about finding the flow space in life anyways. Some times are busier than others, so balance is more about going with the flow and accepting life as it comes, accepting the good and the bad. Flow is also about trusting my intuition and inner guidance. If I’m in the flow, I can let go of attachment to a specific outcome and remain open to the endless possibility that awaits. Flow is also about letting go of timelines. Goals with timelines are important, but I’m also no longer going to beat myself up if I don’t achieve everything in the initial time frame I had set out for myself. I’ve noticed this year that many things I had on my 2014 vision board will actually happen in 2015, and I’m completely OK with that.

If I embody flow, I’m sure my other desired feelings will naturally follow. I can see the flow in abundance and support showing up as giving and receiving, watching the flow of money come and go, the flow of the seasons and the food that is provided. I can see the flow in connection literally as the energy flowing in my body or as the flow in conversation with a friend. If I go with the flow I believe that I will experience all of the above and then I will certainly feel joyfully radiant.

While I don’t have a big list of to do’s in 2015, I do have a small list of big things to focus on. I want to continue supporting the local hoop dance community with Pop Up Prop Jams, I want to create an awesome reunion with my sister for our family in August, I want to support and inspire other women to with the Radiant Soul Women’s Retreat I’m hosting in September with the support of a few lovely and amazing women like Kacie Beluse Knight from Dancing into Being, Anastasia Kutt from Luminous Tranquility and Nina Infinity from Infinity Hoopdance.  I’ve got a lot to look forward to!

I am setting the intention that I will experience 2015 with ease and flow, that I will feel supported and connection and that I will feel joyfully radiant all year long.

I hope your 2015 brings you all you desire!

Aho