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.

Lessons From Inside A Circle – How Hooping Lit Up My Life

When people first find out that I’m a hooper, I often get asked why I do it. Is it for exercise? Do I compete in dance competitions? When I tell them no to both, they often give me a confused look, and that is when I tell them I do it for fun. While that is the truth, I don’t often get the chance to talk about the deeper reasons why I hoop. Hooping has taught me many lessons, this practice, just like yoga, will never be complete and I’m happy to keep learning. Here are a few lessons that have helped me light up my life!

Lesson #1 –  What goes up must come down – unless you choose to keep it up!
Whether hand hooping above my head or hooping on my chest, gravity seems to want to pull the hoop down to the ground. It takes a lot of effort to keep the hoop up. I think of the hoop like my mood or happiness level, it rises, it falls and it takes work to keep it up. I have the choice to keep working to be happy, or the choice to let whatever wants to bring me down take over and stay stuck in that mind frame. I know it’s not always as easy as just flicking a switch to be happy, but there are things you can do to help yourself. Playing in my hoop for a few minutes is enough to shake up my energy so I can move through whatever is bugging me. I’ve written about the power of movement before and how much movement can alter your mood, it’s pretty amazing actually. I’m not 100% happy all the time, and that’s OK, but hooping reminds me to make the choice to be positive.

Lesson #2 – It’s never appropriate for a lady to thrust her hips in the air in public – unless she has a hoola hoop around her waist, then it’s OK!
As a woman, there are some hoop moves that I would be very uncomfortable doing without a hoop on my body, like sky angle hooping for instance. That trick involves a lot of hip thrusting and that movement would be totally inappropriate to do in any public situation – but add a hoop to the mix and it’s a-ok. Hooping has given me permission to be comfortable with moving in a way that could be considered sexy, even though I’m not trying to put that vibe out there. When I’m shaking and swirling my hips, I do feel connected to my power as a woman and it feels pretty great! I think it’s really important for young girls see that type of girl power so they can learn that self worth doesn’t come from the attention received from the opposite sex for dressing or acting a certain way. What’s sexy is confidence and that leads me to my next lesson –

Owning my inner awesome at Motion Notion Music Festival

Lesson #3 – Being yourself is incredibly awesome!
Think about your favourite hooper. You might like their style because they have awesome flow or they have a funky spin on a popular trick. You might try their move out for yourself but find you just don’t feel as good doing it as they look.  Philo of hooping.org pointed this out to me and I completely agree – what you’re admiring is that person owning who they are and expressing their inner awesomness, it’s not just their fancy moves or funky style. You are never going to look as awesome trying to imitate someone else as you will by simply being yourself. It takes confidence to be ourselves and that is what we’re attracted to in others. Maybe you’re not there yet, but you can fake it until you make it. If you catch yourself saying you’re not as good as someone else, just stop and re-frame that thought to be something like “that person is awesome, and I am awesome too!” Our thoughts become our reality, so if you keep thinking you’re awesome (and you are!), you’ll start believing you’re awesome (because you are!) and in no time at all you will start radiating the awesomeness that was always inside of you. How awesome is that?!?!