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Mid-Life Clarity-Did You Work at it Your Whole Life?

hit you with a carThere is little that gifts perspective as much as experience.  And I’ve had experience in spades.

I’m pretty much home-bound with an ill sweetie these days, and have had lots of time to reflect, get frustrated, feel grateful, be sad, be relieved, be worried, and be overwhelmed. In other words, to be human.

Although I was a professional palliative care giver for the best part of a decade, nothing really prepares  you for personal crisis. The stress of organization, paperwork and dealing with an over-burdened health care system has been an eye opener.

What life has prepared me for though is clarity with regard to circumstantial right and wrong, and life is nothing if not circumstantial.

As I was rushing to pick up  a few groceries yesterday, the cashier tossed a bag on top of my groceries, and then began checking out the next person, who was looking sour-faced and in a hurry. When did we give up our expectation as consumers to have some quality interaction with the businesses that we give our money to?  When did every person having a pleasant interaction with someone else become a pain in the ass? Oh, darling, that’s easy, it was when you became an asshole.

Our caring civility has slowly eroded over time Even errands have become unpleasant interactions instead of being instances during the day we exchange kindness with people.  We have all become assholes to some extent, consuming, rushing, and being caught up in the necrotic social ideal that the material trumps relationship.

This is part of mid-life clarity. This is part of holding myself to the standard of living and overall health to which I aspire – happiness.

Making my way out of the parking lot of the store yesterday, traffic was impatient with pedestrians and pedestrians with traffic.  Everyone assumes that they come first. Which reminds me of a classic Jimmy Buffett question,

Were you born an asshole? Or did you work at it your whole life?

I do believe that no one is born an asshole. I also believe that you have to work at it to be extraordinary at it. You also have to work to be kind, compassionate and engaged with humanity. Perhaps choosing unwisely is the collective tragic comedy on the stage of life.

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Caregiving & Not Caring At All

twofacedI found him on the floor.

And that’s how our little cozy home changed, for better or worse this year.

I’ve deleted three posts about how awful people are with their criticism and how deep down in my human soul, I hope that karma slaps them in the face. Le sigh….this is where not caring at all becomes spiritual practice, oh, and also letting go of all of that karma’s-gonna-get-you-bullshit.

My home has always been my sanctuary, filled in every nook and cranny with something meaningful, inspiring or fun (including the people in it).

As a writer, caregiving is rife with stories to tell, lessons to be learned and emotion.

One thing I’ve learned is that organized living helps reduce stress during times of crisis. Having some financial wiggle room is essential to being able to stay home and provide care, and self-care is golden. Also, the quality of the company I keep has been revealed as well. That’s right, I’ve heard how you’ve said I don’t need to be here right now. It stung, but I’m over it. Mostly because it says everything about your lack of character and nothing about mine.

Not only have I been indoctrinated into the lack of modesty of my partner, introduced to body fluids that are not my own, and run my chubby little ass off, I have also come to cherish two things dearly; my hours alone after my love has been tucked in and medicated to sleep, and the escape I get with my writing.

I would be lying if I told you that I’m not scared to death about how we’re going to get through this, with complicated issues including fever and infection that I never really thought about. But I would also be lying if I said I’d have it any other way. I belong here right now for the safety of my sweetie, and that is caregiving. Truly not giving a shit about those people who have no empathy, well, that’s going to take some practice…but I”m up for the challenge.

As a writer, I like to think that this experience is enhancing my craft. As a partner, I wish I could trade places and take the pain away. As a friend, frankly I’m relieved to have revealed to me who is true and who is not. My nature is a caregiver…not giving a shit, not so much.

 

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Restorative Yoga: Stick With Pose One

yogaA good sign that your life is out of balance is when you’re caught doing things that your best friend would howl at.

For instance, had my best pal of over 30 years witnessed me with a bolster between my legs, and my head resting on yoga blocks, she most likely would have peed her pants laughing and had tears rolling down her cheeks.

But that’s where I’m at.

Yep. Tonight I opted for a ‘Restorative Yoga’ class as a renewed attempt to practice self-care in the face of sky-high anxiety. You’d think that all 44 years of me packed into spandex and a sports bra would be a deterrent, but no. I may be a ball of anxiety, but I’m a brave ball of anxiety.

So, off I went, anxious (of course) about what this new class might offer.

What it offered was a zillion blankets, blocks, props and sundry other things that my teacher, “Susan” helped to jostle my tense muscles with in order to get me into a completely relaxed position…or so she thought.

The first pose was great. It was the fetal position. Quite apt for the stressed out adults the class adverts appealed to.

After that, I followed Susan’s lead into the next pose. I propped myself up into a sitting position with a pillow under my knees, and then Susan came around and wrapped me in a blankie so it supported my arms. Cocooned in a snuggly ball of relaxed warmth, the grand finale was her gently placing a soft mask over my eyes to block out the already dim and relaxing lighting. Susan, you’re the bomb!

Sweet love of all that’s holy,” I thought to myself. “This class is for me!” The woman across from me began to snore.

And then we changed poses. Yes, this was the front-facing-face-down-in-a-towel-pose-that-makes-you-very-aware-of-your-belly-fat-and-how-inflexible-you-are.  From that position; legs spread, face down on a propped up pillow with arms resting on even more fluff, I regretted my decision to fully participate in the class.

Out of the corner of my eye I glanced some much more experienced restorative-yoga-goers, and those smart bastards stayed in the previous pose, reclined with their eyes covered and sound asleep. After all, as Susan had instructed, “This is your class, and you can do whatever you’re comfortable with.

Hey! Suzy!” I wanted to shout, “Could you come over here and prop me up again with that warm blankie? Oh, and can you turn up that soothing tantric audio excellence while you’re at it?”  

I wanted out of this pose! I wanted to be prone with my knees supported and so relaxed that I was snoring like the lady across from me. I wanted my boobs to be three cup sizes smaller so that they didn’t feel like they were pinching my trachea.

But I did not wiggle or call out for Susan. No, I did not. Mostly because I’ve already been kicked out of one yoga class for giggling, and I didn’t want being kicked out of yoga classes to be my thing.

As always, I gave the class a fair shot. I tried everything and came to the conclusion that my yoga classes would remain locked into something that gets my heart beating, my breathing deep, and my sweat pouring.

Should you ever have the opportunity to experience a restorative yoga class, I highly recommend staying in the very first pose. That would be the resting fetal position.

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Change the Pronoun – Change the Outcome

A child was raped and assaulted over and over. He was terrified to tell anyone, and so remained silent his entire childhood, growing into a young man wounded so deeply that he would bear the scars the rest of his life.

As an adult he could no longer stand the guilt of thinking that other children would suffer the same horror.  He spoke up. It was emotional, he felt ashamed for something he did not provoke, and at the end of it all, because he was believed, he began the real work of healing.

Does anyone remember the Penn State sexual abuse scandal? If not, refresh your memory.  Young men came forward reporting  sexual abuse, resulting in the prosecution of the perpetrator.

You’d have to have had your head buried in the sand if you haven’t heard of the reports of child abuse (overwhelmingly of boys)  reported in the Catholic Church and the  incredibly powerful conspiracy to cover that up. Overwhelmingly these young men came forward because they trusted that they would be believed.

Now read my first paragraph again with a different pronoun;

A child was raped and assaulted over and over. She was terrified to tell anyone, and so remained silent her entire childhood, growing into a young woman wounded so deeply that she would bear the scars the rest of her life. 

I was one of those girls. When I wanted to come forward (years later after much counselling and thought), to help other children who were exposed to this man’s reign of terror, I was told (by professional lawyers and psychologists) that despite my record of years of counselling ,  that it would be my word against his. Without any real physical proof (all those years later), he would not be prosecuted. Not only would he walk away without any repercussion for being a rapist and abuser, getting away with it would only reinforce his perversion.

I was told that should I break my silence in order to help the other kids at risk,  he would become bolder and continue to abuse and rape. This is the kind of support women of my generation had; none.  Not likely what those Penn State men were told.

men speak

The ‘Me Too’ movement has exposed the dirty underbelly of western misogyny. It has highlighted the history of fear-mongering and abuse of power. The frustrating and sad reality of it all is that because these victims are women, they are being poo-pooed, and condescended to by the very systems and people in power who have orchestrated silence of the vulnerable for centuries.

The common opposition about coming forward after years and years, and false accusations are non-arguments. Coming forward years later often happens after much difficult and heart-wrenching work, and with the hope of stopping the horror.

As for false accusations, I take that seriously. After all, I’m the mother of a son. It would break my heart to see his name dragged through the mud if he did not hurt someone.

Most women that you know have been sexually abused and raped. It’s a fact of life that we all know, yet our global culture shrugs it off. As North American women we set a standard for the rest of the women in the world.

In my own sphere, men often shrug it off by saying, I don’t know. It never happened to me. Well, lads, imagine being sexually assaulted and raped and then emotionally abused into being humiliated and shamed by the man or woman who did it. Would you think that they were capable of doing it again to someone else?

Remember that women (and men) report not out of vindictiveness, they report because they want to stop the cycle of abuse.

The problem is that society rallies behind sexually abused men and boys, while, by silence, apathy and blatant denial of the female voice, condoning the continued abuse of women and girls.

maya angelou quotes.jpg

Finally our voices are uniting, and are becoming stronger and louder than the din of the historical patriarchy.

 

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It’s Time to Listen: A #MeToo Breakdown For Men

introverts

It’s my staunch belief that the #MeToo movement was born the moment Trump was elected POTUS. That was a bitter pill to swallow for everyone with a pussy to be grabbed.

The men in my life are wondering what the hell happened. Men are speaking up with sheer obliviousness about how they feel they no longer know how to communicate with women. Good.

Try listening. If you can’t listen, and you want to evolve past the shameful state of the pussy-grabbing POTUS, or even just avoid some life-ruining sexual harrassment lawsuit,  take some advice; Read a book and start listening.

Books are a good place to start.  As Elizabeth Renzetti is quoted as saying in a recent Toronto Star article by Tara Henley,

A book forces you to think deeply, to think profoundly, to think at length about issues that don’t just flash before your eyes as you’re scrolling through your phone. It forces you to actually confront, and acknowledge , and come to terms with, issues that are quite complex, and that need the space to be examined.

Women have lived their lives since the dawn of time, surrounded by Donald Trumps – affluent old pigs who get away with whatever they want because they pay for it.

Anger is just frustration that doesn’t feel heard.

And a lot of us are angry.

Saturday night I went to bed angry. My other half, who is obsessed with CNN, and therefore the asshat known as Donald-Useless-Twat-Trump, officially got on my last nerve.

“Turn that shit off! The last thing I need to listen too all weekend is CNN talking about Donald Trump fucking porn stars!” I stomped up the stairs, and before I slammed the bedroom door shut I finished off my rant with, “…and don’t you dare wake me up when you finally get enough of that garbage. I deserve to be able to relax too!” Slam.

With an icon of misogyny elected as the leader of the free world, it was really the last straw.  Seriously how much could any intelligent woman take? Pussy hats dotted the streets lined with millions of women for the Women’s March on Washington, and women everywhere started to speak up for one another.

The #MeToo movement was a tipping point for women to step forward into the light, and claim their power. As survivors of sexual abuse, we all know that speaking up has traditionally been taboo. No one wants to hear that stuff. It’s akin to the visual of watching someone be disemboweled.  The pain is incomprehensible, as is relating to the victim or the perpetrator.

The tsunami of women coming forward during the past year has been overwhelming. For most men, really thinking about their sisters, girlfriends or mothers being raped or assaulted, is nearly incomprehensible. But I guarantee you, a woman you love has experienced this.

Now is the time to listen.  We need to stop being distracted by sensationalism. Turn off the twaddle blaring from CNN and reflect.

Just listen.

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To My Beautiful Friend

cannonball

I woke up this morning thinking about a conversation that I had with a friend yesterday. He is a really good guy, with a smile and attitude that goes on forever.  He was complaining about his body. We’re both part of the not-likely-to-make-the-cover-of-Vanity-Fair-crew. We will likely never-ever be swimsuit models, but we’re freaking awesome people.

What I woke up wanting to say to the world today is not to let your comparison with the bodies of others ruin your one and only precious life. What I wanted to say to my stressed-out-over-his-belly friend is that he is beautiful, and nobody cares about his body, we just care about whether he’s a good person; and he is. The best kind of person.

Oh, and his blood pressure and other health indicators are top notch. In other words, the body that he’s frustrated with is healthy. Seriously, that’s what it’s all about. Yes, life is not about the people who try to make us self-conscious about our bodies so that they can feel better about their shitty personality.

Let me tell you a tragic story; I grew up on the lake with a mother who always hated the way her body looked in a swimsuit, never wanted to get her hair wet, and let her own anxiety over comparing her  appearance with that of others essentially cripple her ability to savor the moment. It made her miserable from the inside out.

As a little (tomboy) girl, I vowed no matter how big my belly was, jiggly my thighs, or wild my hair, I was going to dive right into life, and enjoy it all.  And I’ve mostly been able to do that, although at times, I admit, my anxiety does get a grip. After all, we all want to be attractive, feel special, and even get our sexy on.

All too often I have conversations with people who are unhappy with their bodies; I’m too fat. My ass is flat. My ass is huge. My belly is big. My hair is unruly. My thighs are ugly…

The list goes on and on, and it’s starting to bother me more than just a little.

As a mortician, I marvel at the human body in it’s living form. What a miracle! What a beautiful, delightful, unique miracle. Mwah! I love it all!

Our bodies do so much of the work for us in this life, while our minds groove reckless, like wild horses. Start giving praise where praise is due; thank you, you bad-ass jiggle monster thighs for getting me where I need to go; thank you arms for carrying everything that I drag around with me every day; thank you abundant ass for giving me a nice place to sit; thank you for housing my awesome, kind, dynamic and charismatic spirit!

Take your body to the beach. Give it some fresh air. Wrap  it in that wild shirt, the bright shorts and celebrate it. It’s not just a thing, it’s part of who you are, and mostly, you are awesome.

I spent years counselling people who had their bodies ravaged by disease, just waiting for the day when their bodies finally failed them completely and they had to say good-bye to everyone they  loved. There was a lot of regret. I witnessed this thousands of times. Trust me, there will come a day when you would love to have a chance to live with that fat belly, or jiggly thighs, or unruly hair.

So love it all now while you can. Adorn your one and only body with colour, go everywhere and don’t try to make yourself small. Love your body and maybe, just maybe, it will love you back.

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New Year – New You; When Did You Stop Dancing?

mirror heartThree days ago I danced naked in front of my bathroom mirror.

I watched as every ounce of my forty-three year old body jiggled and bounced. It wasn’t pretty by anyone’s standards, but it was joyful.

Until it wasn’t. As I took in my reflection, I wondered at how different my appearance is to the way I feel on the inside. What happened to my firm body? The one I used to work so hard, make love with, gave birth with, and adorned to glorify it?

It got caught up in all of the should’s, my anxiety, eating away at my piece of mind, padded my tushy, and provided a thicker layer of protection against a demanding world.

But three days ago I used it to dance.

And being the turn of the new year, I couldn’t help but want to love it a bit more. All of it. You know, let my bones rest from carrying so much should-shaming, and shake off the madness by dancing from the inside-out.

Yes, I do need to lose weight and get in shape. I really believe that it comes from the inside though. I never make resolutions, but this year will be an exception. 2017 saw an overhaul of my emotional landscape, and damn it, I’m going to celebrate!

This year I will dance; in the moment, not wishing to be anywhere but where I am. I will do my best to be joyful, and present, letting the discomfort of my patterns make me uncomfortable enough to explore outside of my comfort zone.

One of my gal-pal’s posted her word, “GLOW”, as her word for 2018, I had to nod my head in agreement.

If I have to narrow down one word for this new year, may I suggest, “DANCE”. Not the kind of dancing that will make you an overnight YouTube star, but the kind of dancing that starts in your soul and shines in everything that you do.

2018, I will delight in dancing within the moments you gift me by loving the body that carries me through it all.

Wishing you everything you need to dance.

when did you stop dancing