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.

This is what flow feels like

I am grateful for the snowy, rush hour traffic, that made me late for yoga. When I called to let the studio know I’d be late, they told me they don’t allow late arrivals but perhaps I could do some errands and catch the next class and hour and a half later. I told them that I couldn’t do that but realized that my other option was turning around to go home and fight traffic going the other way.

I am grateful that I decided to to wait it out and go to the later class because I was able to get a little more Christmas shopping done.

I am grateful that when I arrived to the yoga studio, the person checking me in suggested that I ended up in this restorative class for a reason, even though I thought I needed a yang, intense class.

I’m grateful for the anger that arose in class, because I was still upset about missing the class I originally wanted to go to, and that my schedule was all messed up and that I wouldn’t be able to do the things I wanted to do later on in the evening.

I am grateful for the yoga instructor who said just what I needed to hear when I inquired if restorative classes can bring up anger. She reminded me that we often distract ourselves by doing to avoid pain and discomfort and that when we’re forced to be still, uncomfortable feelings come up. I’m grateful that she reminded me that this was an opportunity to explore the anger and learn what was beneath it by being with it.

I am grateful for being offered the last cup of balancing auyervedic tea on my way out of the yoga studio, for the time I had after class to enjoy the tea and journal about my experience and for the Cowabunga Life Vision Quest I’m currently doing because just yesterday I learned some tips on how to sit with uncomfortable feelings.

I’m also grateful that the Cowabunga Life Vision Quest has reminded me to breathe. As I was journaling, and filing my body with deep breaths, I smiled to myself because I realized I was breathing in gratitude both figuratively and literally. In addition to grateful thoughts, I  was actually breathing in Saje‘s “Gratitude” diffuser blend because that happened to be the only blend in my car when I plugged the diffuser in a few days earlier. I find it even more interesting because I hadn’t used the diffuser in months!

This whole experience reminded me how important it is to go with the flow and to trust that things work out as they should. My intention leading up to the solstice is to give myself the time and space to go deep within so I can restore myself and get clear on what I want to create in 2014. This past week, I was very busy and slipped back into my pattern of doing and tonight, I was reminded to take it easy and the importance of being with what is.