Making Peace with Fear

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Many say that the opposite of fear is love, and that we need to choose love over fear. To that I say, “How does one do that?” It’s a nice quip saying, that sounds true. But in my experience true fear cannot be jumped from into Love’s arms. No, in my experience, Love reaches out to us, often when we least expect it and in that place, all is nothing but love.

To tell someone that they need to choose love over fear is giving them another impossible task at which to fail and further berate themselves for another failing. I cannot say how Love comes, but it does. In some quiet moment, in some bursting audacious sunrise, in a lover’s touch, in the scent of lilacs in bloom. And it may not come today or tomorrow, or the next, or the next. It may feel as though love has abandoned you and fear will be your partner for life. I too have been there, for much longer than I would like.

I wish we learned from the seasons in a real way. If we saw ourselves as part of nature and not above it, we might learn that we are just like it. That winter in some places lasts a long time. And it is dark and cold and frozen. We could look at the frozen wasteland and cry out “Why?” And you would be right to object - winter is fucking cold, and we could die! There is not much one can do, but try to stay warm. And yet, it happens again and again each year, as though it were meant to be. And then, one day, it is gone again and warmth returns.

It could be that darkness has a vital place in our lives. It could be that this place does not need escaping from at all. It could be that in that dark, barren wasteland, we are still held, until the sun rises again.

For the One Who Might Never Get Better

Photo by Ava Sol

Photo by Ava Sol

I have come through a dark time this past year of my life. I have described it to many as the darkest year I remember experiencing. And as I’m coming out of it now, I feel like it’s easy to romanticize. But I am committed to NOT romanticizing it for the sake of respect, of understanding, of deep resonance to the horror the darkness can bring. If you are there, oh, dear one… oh…. there are no words, are there?  We would wish it on no one.

Depression and anxiety were things that I knew about cognitively, in my training and studies and in working with clients I showered them with all the listening skills and coping mechanisms I could muster. This is all some of us can provide - to cope. It wasn’t until I experienced depression and anxiety myself that I got it. IT. The true pain and darkness from these experiences and my uprising trauma.. it’s no joke. It’s truly without words, as its grip is relentless and so much stronger than any of my coping mechanisms could manage. And so, I realize that we have sold ourselves short if we believe that coping mechanisms are the answer to our suffering. These proved, to me, to be more of a distraction than any real help.

So beyond simply coping, this is what I have learned - everything that arises in us wants to be met. The greatest gift I gave myself was to feel what I felt.. to give myself the time to feel it - to sit, sleep, weep, vibrate, scream, writhe, to feel utter despair - TIME. This is no easy task.. I hope you don’t feel that I’m giving trite, glib recommendations for 5 steps out of depression. No. I’ve been there. I wanted to die. Truly. That pain is inexpressible. You know, all who have been there. You know! I don’t need to describe further.. We know why we avoid.. it’s just far too painful. It seems impossible to face. So let me give you permission to avoid it as long as you need to. It’s ok, it’s all ok. You are not alone.

One day, my therapist looked at me as I wept and told him I was afraid I would never get better. He looked at me with such compassion and love and said, “Yes.. and can you love the one who might not get better?” I looked at him incredulously as though to say, this CANNOT be an option! He looked back at me with loving eyes as though to ask, ‘can’t it?’ And as he loved me in that moment, I looked inward and tried to find a tiny glimmer of love in me for this one who might never get better. And, in time, I found it, as though finding a small, crying child within simply needing to be cuddled and loved. Of course I loved this crying child, no matter her confusion, sadness, grief, output, etc.  I wept at the freedom of that thought. And then, something in me shifted.

And so, it seems to be that there is a mysterious wisdom that goes like this: when we come to love the darkness, we are free to experience the light. When we meet ourselves as though a crying child and allow her experience whatever she is feeling and love her anyway, she begins she can feel she can continue on again with that thing she was doing.. And over and over again we meet her, loving her.. 

And so for you, now, no matter what is going on, no matter how dark the darkness, without needing to fix it.. I love you there..

Thank you, women!

Photo by Hasan Almasi

Photo by Hasan Almasi

Happy International Women’s Day, humans of the world.

I am sometimes hesitant in offering any remarks on days such as these, days that require an everyday effort. But I am also aware that designated focused times are worthwhile, for we show up and express in a way that connects us, reminds us that we’re not alone.

I become increasingly moved by the love and support women are offering other women around the globe today, and everyday. This is worth celebrating!

Here is my offering. My gratitude.

& to all the humans of this world - love!

Women, Thank You!

To the woman who
shaped me.
The one from whom
I came
Who’s body was broken
to build mine
Who tickled my back
When I couldn’t sleep
Who told me if I failed
Math
She would still love me
Who told me I was 
Beautiful
When I didn’t believe it.
Who was carried out 
of our home on a
stretcher
Yet grabbed my sister’s
hand to ensure
she knew where her
birthday gift was 
hiding.

To the one who truly
sacrificed her life
for her babes.
I don’t know that I will
Ever understand
But I am forever
grateful.
Thank you.

To the women who
adopted me
When my mother was
No more.
How can I repay
your kindness?
Those who held me,
encouraged me.
Who picked me up
like I was one
of their own.
Thank you.

To the ones who 
walked a path
of independence
Who wrote, 
Who enlightened the world
to our equality
To the ones who 
showed me what
was possible.

The strong woman,
the weak woman,
the one who keeps
getting up,
the one who stayed
in bed longer
“Still I rise!”
The one taking care
of children, friends,
the world,
To the ones married
to amazement!
You,
You!
her,
she, 
me.

I am who I am
because of all of you,
dear women.

Your love is
changing 
the world.

How to Fall in Love

How to Fall in Love

We enter love month again… Yes, I know it’s become trite.  But nothing starts trite.  Meaning has been infused into our calendar as soon as one was created.  Paganism, the Catholic church, striving to bring meaning into everyday life - to have us sit and think about a certain thing, when we would be too busy to do otherwise.  So, why not take it?  

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August - Finally, a month when you don’t have to do anything. 

Photo by Jordan Bauer

Photo by Jordan Bauer

A couple days ago, I sat in the waiting room of a salon, waiting for my hair stylist to refresh my heavy locks.  It’s uncommon for me to cut my hair regularly, but it seemed the perfect self-care thing to do during this heavy time of my life.
In front of me was placed a large glass table covered in women’s magazines.  It’s rare that I read these, for I find them largely unsubstantial.  This day though, I picked one up and starting flipping through as I sipped my iced latte - as a white woman does while she waits for her hair to be cut.  I’m so glad I did, for I found an article that did not seem as though it belonged in such a magazine.  Here I found the exact message I needed to hear in that tired moment.  It was as though finding this treasure was meant to be that day.  Meant for me, and now for you.  For it’s time, again, to remind ourselves to go gently.

Thank you Sarah Selecky.
 

August - Finally, a month when you don’t have to do anything. 

By Sarah Selecky

Let yourself collapse.  You can’t be expected to hold it all together when the heat is pursuing you like this.  Surrender to a Mason jar full of ice water, and squeeze half a lemon into it.  See how the lemon juice creates a haze in the water?  Doesn’t the haze look sort of like smog?  And yet every sip feels like clarity.

There’s a metaphor there, but it’s too hot to think about what it might mean.

Take 10 minutes to reflect on the emptiness of your dreams.  You don’t have to do anything—just feel the feelings of nothingness.  See how that pattern repeats in your life right now:  It’s there in your lack of productivity, your tired enterprises, the futility you feel around your creative pursuits, the list of things to do that don’t feel important anymore.  It’s there in the way you should feel hungry because it’s suppertime, but you don’t.  This month, all of your appetites are gone.

Good news!  That’s just as it should be.  If this feels like sadness or if it simply freaks you out, just look outside yourself to be reassured.

Watch how the grasses are finished, too.  The trees are all done.  Their leaves aren’t pulsing with green anymore, but they’re not even falling from the branches, because falling would take too much effort.  The birds are quietly exhausted, waiting to leave.  Even the waves in the lake are dragging themselves to the shore.

There is no more hustle.  Thankfully, that time is over.  It will come back soon enough.

For now, just let everything roll to a pause, the way it wants to.  Let your hips move like a slowing pendulum.  Speak only if you must.  Feel the way vowels stretch the inside of your mouth; notice how tired you become, just from speaking and thinking.  Pull one or two crucial sentences out like taffy:  “I can’t do that today. I am taking a rest.”  And then stay quiet.

It’s going to be OK.

Let yourself go slowly.  Walk to the train.  Stop at the yellow light.  You have time:  You contain epochs inside yourself.  You can’t be late when you are creating every minute with your own languid strides.  Nothing exists outside of this.  Your steps become the seconds.  When you step slowly, your time moves slowly.

When the day presses you, let yourself be pressed.  Don’t resist it.  Once you abandon your fight and slip inside that cocoon of heat, you can feel it actually lifting you.  Up there, up above in the frightening cloud of nothingness, is where you can rest.  It’s the only way.

The city matches your insides and outsides.  Everything is the haze of lemon water.  Let yourself go cloudy.  Let yourself slow to nothing.  The end of summer is the time to soften your gaze, dull your points, release your hunger and rest.

A Dance with Orthorexia

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We humans are dear strivers for perfection.  I love our efforts.  It’s so innocent.  All of us hoping to finally win the love, appreciation and affirmation we’re all craving.  Hoping that if enough effort is put forth, enough perfection attained, that we might finally reach the ‘heaven’ of our ideals.  What an innocent but destructive pursuit this can be.  It’s one I know too well.  And it has seeped into many, if not every, area of my life. 

When I discovered nutrition, I fell in love.  It was another way in which I could bring vitality into my life - a fairly easy and attainable way.  It became a new obsession, and a new ‘perfection’ preoccupation.  I devoured nutrition like all the kale I was eating.  And it wasn’t long (literally one day) before I was eating entirely ‘clean,’ well, my perception of what clean was at the time.

Animal products and processed foods were entirely removed from my diet and replaced with whole grains, legumes and tons of greens and veggies.  I was eating whole heads of broccoli with meals, daily green smoothies, eliminated caffeine, alcohol and sugar.  I soaked my nuts and seeds, made my own sprouts and consumed copious amounts of sour kraut and kimchi.  People were amazed and impressed with my tenacity and discipline for my newfound lifestyle.  And I truly fell in love with my choices and how I felt.  Until I didn’t.  What had happened over time was the weight of this commitment to ‘perfect’ eating was too much to bear.  I would stress over leaving my house, needing to make sure I had enough snacks to carry me throughout the day in case I couldn’t find any food that fit my diet.  I would bring food to friends’ homes (the memory of this causes me much discomfort).  Travel, my great love, became a great stress.  Essentially, I became bound to food.  For, my friends, it is impossible to attain perfection.  It is an unending, tiring pursuit.  For even when we imagine we have attained it, other pieces of us are diminished and wilting. 

Not only was I impacted on a psychological and relational level from this obsession, my physical being was also threatened and I eventually became quite sick.  And what a shock this was!  I had literally consumed everything I was supposed to. 

Theologian, Capon, said “moderation is not nearly as much our cup of tea as religion is.”  In other words, it seems to be very human to land, solidly and fundamentally on a ground by which we can claim Truth.  Certainty is so much more secure, isn’t it?  It is one of our addictions and driving forces.  This survival brain of ours simply won’t stop searching for a secure place to a land and breath.  And I’m sorry to say that the more disciplines I study (even the sciences), I continue to find more and more grey. God, it’s disappointing!  

And so, what does this mean for food?

Well, perhaps it is freeing for us to know that even nutrition is not black and white.  What is healthy for one, might not be for another.  And there is no perfect diet for all people at all times.  For me, this created a bit more freedom.  To get better, I had to adjust my diet (shockingly), but probably the biggest factor in regaining my health was a letting go, a trusting that my body was taking care of me even if I drank a coffee and ate a croissant.  This took so much stress out of my life, and I eventually healed.  Today, I may be the most relaxed Nutritionist you’ll meet.  Because eating is only a piece of the picture for health.   

So here is my great fundamental nutritional advice - eat and prepare your own whole, local, organic, seasonal foods as much as possible - best with humans you love, with thanks, and you will feel quite well.  You may even hear your body gratefully affirm, 'It is enough.’

Creativity & Mental Health - The Great Opportunity

Creativity & Mental Health - The Great Opportunity

When I was studying nutrition I had a professor who spoke passionately about the impact of creativity on mental health.  As a medical professional working in Vancouver, she had seen first hand the power of creativity with her patients.  She would enthusiastically declare, that it was impossible to experience depression while simultaneously creating. What a statement!  And for a time when most of us occupy the spectrum of mental health experiences and struggles, there may be no better time, no greater urgency than for us to indulge in creative pursuits!  This is more than just arts & crafts.  It could be argued that it’s necessary for a fully-functioning, thriving human being to create.  From the prospective of my professor, it’s simply and extraordinarily medicine.

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How Do I Live Without My Mother?

How Do I Live Without My Mother?

Ten years after my mother's death, I was 27.  Still at that point, the word ‘mother’ spoken from anyone, I would crumble, overwhelmed with grief and emotionally wrought.  A close friend of mine said to me that you could see on my face that the grief I had was still so raw, it was as if my mother had died yesterday. 
At the time I was working in partnership with psychologists with my clients and one of them came up to me one day and gently told me that she thought I had PTSD regarding my mothers illness and death, and she recommended an EMDR therapist for me.  I decided to take her advice.
My step into therapy was a game changer...

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Never Better, Just Different OR Paris versus Calgary

Never Better, Just Different OR Paris versus Calgary

I was talking with a client recently who expressed her deep desire to move away from Calgary as soon as possible.  It’s a common sentiment - not, I think solely for the city of Calgary, but for all places we call 'home.'  My Parisian friend just texted me this morning telling me he couldn’t stand France anymore and wanted to move to Canada. You see how similar we all are? :) This seems to be our nature - interested in offerings unavailable in our own homes.  I, too, have extreme wanderlust, and it shows.  I have lived all over the world, all over Canada, I travel as frequently as possible.  In the past 4 months I’ve spent time in both Paris and Hawaii.  I plan to leave the continent again soon.  But these are shorter trips now.  From one who has moved since she was 18, now in my 30s, this is what I’ve learned - every place holds their bit of magic! 

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The Gift of Singleness

The Gift of Singleness

"Whether you marry or not, you will regret it" - or not. ~Kierkegaard, Neith Boyce with Stephanie Schoenberg

I am single.  I have been largely single for over a decade now.  And as I am still fairly young, it is strange, to many in my life, that finding a man who will commit to me until the end of my days has not been a primary focus.  Why?  

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The Superhero Heart

The Superhero Heart

A part from the epic music scores, beautiful people, and the cliche good beats evil plot line lies what I believe I am most drawn to in these movies - an epic fight for oneself, beliefs, others.  Yes, maybe it’s too simple a storyline.  But maybe that’s the point.  And, here is the truth.  I feel like I am a superhero.  I grin as I write this, but it’s true.  And I mean this in the way that Chesterton said, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”  Therefore, I am a superhero - we all are - in the way we perceive, act in creating the world.  Isn’t this a profound perception, with very real consequences?

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Optimism in light of 2016

Optimism in light of 2016

Optimism can be easily dismissed or seemingly trivial after a year like 2016.  I have had countless conversations with friends about the darkness of this past year.  So much to mourn, so much violence, so much uncertainty and fear.  But this is only part of the story, no?  I am convinced that the dark must always be balanced with the light.  It is just as present and real, simply, and sadly, less featured.  But we must hold both, or we get risk getting lost in this busy world.  

It is after conversations like these that I am happy to be introduced to professor Steven Pinker who encourages us to look at history and data, not headlines. 

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Magic Making

Magic Making

I have never been one to make new year’s resolutions, even though I am extremely growth oriented.  Many people don’t.  It’s like dieting - it just doesn’t work.  We’re looking for sustainability, a true lifestyle change, not a short term fix.  And that’s typically how new year’s resolutions let us down - it’s hype and excitement without the tools for lasting change and growth.  SO, enter Susannah’s little gift to the world as an alternative to new year’s resolutions.  Essentially, it’s a comprehensive, self-reflective workbook to elicit your deep desires in the various aspects of your life - from the feel of your home, your desired relationships to the scope of your work in the world. 

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Play

Play

"[Life] is a musical thing and you are supposed to sing or dance while the music is being played."  ~Alan Watts

Today I am aware of my tendency to run.  Like a hamster - in a wheel.  I wake with to-do lists in my head, I scurry about all morning - task to task, very robotically and mindlessly to get ready for my day.  Most days are busy, packed, really.  Mostly with obligations, others with self-imposed disciplines such as exercise and study.  Things that are neither good or bad and sometimes both.

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Call of the Wild

Call of the Wild

After an anxious ridden week and a late Friday night, I woke up this morning feeling surprisingly light and refreshed. I opened my curtains to a bright, dewy morning sun and felt a very strong urge to be outside immediately. I dressed, threw on my runners and headed to a large, wild, local park right by my house. It was like walking to heaven. Warm sun, kiss of crisp autumn breezes, dancing grasslands, brilliant wildflowers, hawks, black birds, beetles, grasshoppers met me with their brilliant aliveness. I caught myself in silent awe around each new bend and summit. I am alive and surrounded by utter, endless beauty. How is it that we forget this so often?

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The Life Changing Act of Walking

The Life Changing Act of Walking

There is a common experience that has been frequently occurring in the past several years of my life - it's a call to walk.  This is not an astounding revelation.  I'm sure that most of us can easily recall a deep sense of satisfaction when we remember walks of leisure.  But here is the significant piece for me, there is so much that we know that we don't practice.  And practice is life changing.
So, I have many calls to walk, almost daily.  The voice inside me asking me to take that break, to move, to get outside, to observe and see again.  I often ignore this call, because, hell, I'm exhausted!  I'd rather watch Jessica Jones on Netflix with an AlterEco chocolate bar and glass of wine. 

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