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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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Do Unto Yourself

nap hard

Adulting can be hard, and I do believe that our lifestyle is completely unnatural and contradictory to living in a state of wellness. I do believe that’s why we discovered psychedelic drugs, have legalized cannabis and have access to an encyclopedic variety of alcoholic beverages.  A Nobel prize worthy thought? Not likely, but true nonetheless.

“Sweetheart, why don’t you just curl up and go take a nap?”

Isn’t that what we all wish someone would say once in a while? I fantasize about being  tucked  in nicely with a cozy blankie and then waking up to a freshly steeped cup of tea. Maybe a light back scratch for good measure.

I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if you went to work and your boss said, ” You know, you work hard here, looks like you could use a nice rest. Go take a break in that quiet room there, and I’ll wake you up when it’s time to clock out.”

Or perhaps it’s a coach you might like to take some pity on you during your in-season practice. “Hey ____________ (insert last name here), go get yourself one of those blankets I brought in and show me how hard you can nap.”

But no one does that do they?

for them

Nope. Not unless you’re fortunate enough to go back home to your mom or grandmother and be spoiled for a day or two.  Most of us of a certain age no longer have that luxury. We are the moms and grandmas.

Note to self: buy more wine.

My advice to you is to tuck yourself in; take a nap, take a day off, re-jig your life so that you have regular and consistent opportunities to escape and focus on yourself for an hour or two. Whether it’s seeking comfort in a spiritual community, practicing yoga, going to the gym, or escaping to a coffee shop to read the newspaper on Saturday morning. Choose your nap-from-the-grind style and commit to it.

You are your own boss, coach and primo nurturer – act like it.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The golden rule applies to yourself as well…do unto yourself as you wish others would do unto you. Now go rest!

 

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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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Sleepless Beauty

sleeping ladyWhat keeps a gal busy enough to stay away from her favourite venting place?

Summer – of course!

….and a complete lack of quality sleep.

I’ve been poked, prodded, and misdiagnosed, but what good quality of life depends on for me (and likely you too) is a good sleep.

Having moved in with the love of my life less than a year ago, my dream-domain has been adjusted to his majesties pleasures. Don’t worry friends, I’m not going to tell you about his sexual preferences, I’m totally focused on what he needs to sleep. Apparently it’s piles of clothes laid out like a landmine on the floor, lots of light, and enough silence so that when he snores, the entire universe shakes. And me. Yes, he loves to snuggle right up to me.

Oh, lucky ducky.

So when I brought home news of my new sleep plan, facilitated by a young physician who had recently attended a CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) sleep credit class; you want to make your bedroom a place you can’t wait to go, be sure it’s dark, no television, no phones –  my bedroom-bestie responded with; “Pft! She’s wrong. You sleep just fine.”

Ah…no. You sleep just fine.

insomnia

You know what I’m talking about ladies. After you do the drudge-work of housekeeping until the moment you’re ready to drop from exhaustion, Mr. Snorey-McSnorerson keeps you awake so you wander around the house until exhaustion makes you drop on the spot at about 2:30am or, when you’re blissfully asleep and Casanova keeps poking you with his love-baton.

The only reason you should wake me up when I’m sleeping is if my life is in danger, or you can romance me without much participation from me. Either get on with it or put your pistol away. From now on I”m bringing a lawnmower and a stick to bed. The lawnmower to counteract the snoring, and the stick to poke him with all night long when I’m feeling amorous.

Ladies and gents, if you, like myself, are suffering from severe sleep deprivation, do make some changes. I hope that your partner (if you have one) is more empathetic to creating a mutually comfortable space to rest than mine is.

The suggestions I was given are these;

Create a space where you love to go, instead of dreading spending hours in bed worried about not sleeping.

No goal-oriented tasks for an hour before bedtime.

Make the room dark.

Turn of all electronics or better yet, remove them from the room – esepcially the little lights that shine brightly one them.

Get a white noise machine.

Turn the light off on your alarm clock.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish you sweet dreams. xo

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On Fat, Friendship & Flipping the Bird

laughing on the insideThe other day a friend of mine said something friends are not supposed to say;

“You know that picture you posted of yourself? You looked horrid, and fat and old.”

Thanks.

Like I didn’t already feel that way underneath the smile we’re all supposed to wear every day.  I mean really, who the hell thinks that’s ever ok to say? It’s not. It’s mean, and it lacks basic goodness.

“Let’s go for a walk, and do you have time to pop into the store with me.” Now there’s a healthy response to a friend who is stressed to the point her body is showing it.

I want to lay in bed and cover up my head and cry today….all day. But instead, I will put on my suit (that’s way too tight now), and head in to the office to compassionately take on the world’s grief. And therein lies the problem, doesn’t it ladies? It’s the expectation that we will care for everything and everyone, and whatever shitty chores no one else wants to do.

Here’s a newsflash; each day only has 24 hours in it, even for women.

dream bigLately, despite being fatter than ever, and pinched for time, I’ve been really satisfied with my accomplishments. My resolution this year was to complete a course that could actually help me achieve some financial freedom. And I did it!  I did it while working full-time, managing a relationship, keeping house, and moving my son back from his first year in university. I was feeling pretty happy with myself….and then someone felt the need to let me know I was ugly, another to remind me that I don’t make enough money, and perhaps I don’t look after every-single-fucking-person-animal-and-thing-in-my-life to their liking.

With friends like this, really, who needs enemies ladies?

So it’s on these days when we don’t want to face the world, when the self-esteem that we usually have without thinking about it makes a ragged and surrendered appearance, that we need to dig deep and look at what is important to us, not someone out there marking us like a french judge at a figure skating competition.

So today, after I’m finished with a good cry and a have plastered on my professional face, you can count on my doing two things; giving those negative assholes the finger and getting on with the things in my life that make me happy.

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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.