Blog

One Choice.

I can’t be detached and invested at the same time. So it’s time to stop beating myself up for not being able to do what (when laid out like that) seems pretty much impossible anyway. Besides, when I reflect on this, there is no choice here. I mean, of course there is. But when I fight with myself over the options and try to bargain and plead my way to justify detachment – it’s pretty clear that there is only one thing I can do authentically, and for now, that is to invest. As long as that is true, there is no choice.

My only choice lies in my choice to live my values. If I decide to follow my values and live authentically – then there’s really no battle here. Not in choosing anyway, perhaps a battle of acceptance. Accepting all the stuff that comes with choosing my values.

It helps me to look at why I’m choosing it. It’s not that I’m choosing the pain and heartache per se- I am choosing to live authentically. I am choosing to live my values, even when it hurts. Even when it’s the hardest thing to do. Because it matters that much to me. So, in turn I am in fact choosing the heartache, the pain, the difficulty. I am choosing to actively ignore the fear-based messages in my head; the urge to hide, or run like hell. I’m choosing to accept that this is part of it.

When it comes down to it – authenticity, connection, and vulnerability mean more to me than any of that other shit. As shitty as it gets.

If I go down, I want to go down clinging to my values so tightly that I face-plant. Because as much as that will hurt, it will be the best way to get hurt. I’ll be proud of how hard I fell (at least deep down).  There’s no question if such a fall would kill me. My resilience is unshakable at this point; I will rise again – no matter how hard the fall. And if my history has taught me anything, I’d actually rise even stronger.

Reminding myself of what I’m choosing and why I’m choosing it helps me regain my footing. I’ve been spending some time reminding myself of who I am lately, to anchor to my strength and what I’m all about. It helps me see clearly about why it’s important to make this choice, and accept the consequences of that choice (or at least try not to fight with them).

It quiets the battle in my head about what I should/shouldn’t do when I am hurting. When we’re in pain it’s easy to get stuck on the idea that you need to take action (like hide, run, or fight back). And yet, it’s not always the truth. “Not everything that hurts is harmful.” (Dr. E.A. Wilson). And in this case, I need to focus on acceptance and sitting in the feelings without trying to get rid of them or protect myself from the pain. Feeling the pain is actually proof that I’m doing good by me – I am sticking to my values and who I am. When put that way, it’s a hell of a lot easier to accept.

I’ve been anchoring to my dragon-self by using visuals, writing, meditating, and reading books that focus on my values. I was at the buskers festival yesterday and there was a beautiful creative soul offering her gift of poetry (The Spontaneous Prose Store @Pseuodonymsays). You pick the topic and she writes you a poem. Right there, on a typewriter. I asked her for a poem about a girl who is a dragon – and explained I had a blog called “mindful dragon”. This is what she gave me. It’s so beautiful it melts me every time I read it, and I can’t help but keep reading it over and over. I cannot thank her enough for this beautiful gift.


One choice.

Make the choice. Own the choice. Accept the consequences of that choice (even if you don’t like them). Anchor to the you who made that choice. Trust yourself. Believe in yourself. Be proud. Be strong. Be a fucking dragon.

Share Tactics

I’ve been doing a lot of real life practicing and I must say, I’m getting much better at sharing my most vulnerable thoughts and feelings – even when it makes me want to fold in on myself until I disappear. A lot of times it has been valuable; builds me up, fosters connection, and makes me feel stronger. However; at other times, I have found it reinforces my insecurities and makes my fears louder.

When I feel hurt and burned from my efforts to share, it is pretty clear that I need to continue working on my self-worth. I need to be able to hold onto my worth, remind myself of the importance of following my values of authenticity and vulnerability, and hold myself in compassion and being proud for doing so -regardless of the outcome. Too often when I get burned (even a little bit) after I dare to share, my go-to is to beat myself up and judge the decision to be vulnerable as a mistake. In fact, I usually declare quite dramatically, “Fuck Vulnerability!” when I’m bringing out my star defensive player (detachment). Clearly, this is the opposite of what I stand for. But in those moments of pain I struggle with what I know because following what I know just lead me to feel so badly. By holding onto my values and self-worth with a little more muster through these not-so-ideal experiences, I could allow myself to feel the hurt of what happened without using it to “mean” something (like per se, that I’m shit and all my values are shit). I would be able to hold my own safety even when (it feels like) I’m being rejected, and not feel compelled to run away in fear.

Sometimes getting hurt is just the name of the game and I get that. I’m not happy about it, but I understand it’s the risk. Falling off branches is no fun, but going out on the limb is worth the risk. I accept that. Now maybe I should record that to play back to myself as evidence when I’m spewing anti-vulnerability propaganda, because in that mind-space it certainly doesn’t feel like I believe or accept that. Though deep down, even in those moments, I know I’m just reacting out of hurt and having a temper-tantrum in response to the pain. Growth pains from this new way of being. The wonderfully painful experience of living whole-heartedly – totally sucks but totally worth it. The pain of being truly connected. Connected to your feelings and to others. A pretty big deal; certainly not something worth throwing away over a bit of heartache.

So sometimes this is the case. You will get hurt. Not because of how someone responds, but unfortunately, because the truth itself is painful. Reality can really sting.

Other times the pain comes from the response I receive, and what I’m starting to realize is that I need to own that. At least partly.

I can wish all day long that the person I’m sharing with will understand what I need and respond with just that – but that’s extremely unreasonable to expect from them and it’s not a very dependable way to get my needs met. 

What I need to do is ASK for what it is I need from them – sharing is not enough. Even if sharing and being heard is all I want, I need to clarify that. I need to be specific about what support I want from them and/or what I need them not to do (offer advice, for example). 

We will avoid a lot of pain if we learn to practice these share-tactics. Instead of leaving it up to chance or hoping others can mind-read, we must take ownership over meeting our needs. We cannot control how someone will react to us – that part we don’t have to (or get to) own. What we do have to own is our ASK. When we share something vulnerable, we can ask for what we need in return. Instead of just blurting something out and hoping (or better yet, not even realizing we needed anything until we get a response we aren’t happy with); we can take the time to identify WHY we are sharing and what we NEED from the person we are sharing with — and then tack this information onto the end of our ‘show and tell’ presentation.

It could sound like this…. “I am struggling with feelings of insecurity right now and feeling very vulnerable. I felt it was important to share with you because I want to be open about what I’m feeling. What I need from you is to show compassion that I’m feeling this way, and to allow me the space to work through these feelings without judging me for having them.”

Just noticing how long it took me to write out that example is a good indication of how much practice I need in this. It’s a lot to take on – being able to identify what you really need can be difficult in itself, and then figuring out how to ask for it is tricky – let alone finding the courage to actually do it!

As Brene Brown discusses in her presentation on The Anatomy of TrustASKING for help and what we need is an act of building trust. When we are willing and able to ask for help, we become more trustworthy. People trust people more when they know that they will ask for what they need. So you aren’t just helping to fill your needs; you are building stronger, more trustworthy relationships and allowing others to be able to have more trust in you. And hence, more trust that they can ask you for what they need without judgement.

By taking responsibility for identifying and asking for what we need, we will not only be serving ourselves better, we will doing those around us a big favour. Taking care of ourselves and taking responsibility for meeting our own needs is one of the best gift we can give to others.

The Filter That Turns My Lemonade Into Lemons

Elevated heart rate, shallow breathing, racing mind, and tingling energy through my body. Is this an anxiety attack…..or am I just excited? It’s been noted that the difference between anxiety and excitement relies on the filter we apply. This could not be more true for me. Even the exact same thing can result in an anxiety attack or a really fun time, simply depending on what mind frame I’m in. It’s frustrating when I notice these sensations – most often for me associated with anxiety- when I’m simply looking forward to something. Since anxiety in my history has caused me such grief, I jump to apply the “anxiety filter” on what I’m experiencing, even when it’s just a good thing. Because I associate those feelings and body sensations with panic attacks they quickly get labeled as “bad” and I start reacting to the potential threat of panic, instead of noticing what else those sensations might be about.

Thankfully all the awareness and knowledge I’ve gained over the last few years has taught me that those anxious feelings don’t have to be something to be feared (even when it’s about being afraid) and that I can observe them and use tools and strategies that will help lessen the discomfort and allow me to continue on my normal life. So there’s the fact that the anxiety response isn’t as horrifying as it used to be, and certainly not something that stops me in my tracks. That alone you’d think would help lessen the automatic judgment my brain makes on all of those body sensations – but for this time is not on my side (relatively) and I know I need to be patient as I’m competing with neural pathways that have a long solid history. I have also been able to bring awareness to the similarities of anxious feelings and excitement, which has opened up a new curiosity and provided me this chance to re-wire my brain’s default.

And my fuck do I want to get in there with pliers and just rewire the crap out of it. Because, although I know what I know, it’s still very frustrating to have my mind screaming at me “Something is WRONG!!” when I’m simply getting pumped for something I’ve been looking forward to. In a dream world I’d love it if my default was “I must be excited!” even when I’m afraid- but I’ll be more than happy to settle with it not ruining my happy times.

The similarity between anxiety and excitement is really no surprise when you think about it. “You need to calm down!” being a typical thought we’d have about a child who’s trying to jump into our arms with a passing siren or when they’re bouncing off the walls on their birthday.

The Zones of Regulation identify both of these states, nervous and excited, as part of the yellow zone.

“The Yellow Zone is also used to describe a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions; however, one has some control when they are in the Yellow Zone.  A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness when in the Yellow Zone.”

What we can learn here is that we are heightened in this zone, no matter if the reason that triggered it is joy or fear. I think the similarity is often overlooked as we are quick to separate them into “good” and “bad”. I mean, I’ve already done it a few times in this post alone. And that comes down to how I want to feel. How I think I should feel. It’s like I believe that if it’s something that makes me happy and that I feel joy towards, then I should only have and experience good feelings along with that. However, it just doesn’t work that way; energy is energy and sometimes it just feels uncomfortable to be so energized.

But again, it can come back to our filter. If we choose to see this energy and elevation and increase body sensations in a positive light, then we will experience it as fun and exciting. If we take those sensations and see them in a negative light, then we will experience it as distressing.

The key here being that in order to choose a filter, we must observe the sensations non-judgmentally and bring awareness to our choice and what we want to do with the information we noticed. I’ve been able to apply this in a number of situations – especially those that are both terrifying and exciting – as I find it easier to be aware and mindful in situations where I anticipate my anxiety trying to take over. Because I know it’s going to come up, I am able to proactively change my filter and stay in observer stance while those sensations come up.

What seems to be most challenging for me is when I’m not anticipating it – i.e. the times I get excited about events/people/opportunities. I just don’t put them on the same level as those things I find distressing. And unfortunately for me, this is where my downfall is. Because, as those sensations come up and I get all deep into yellow zone without my awareness on par – my brain gets to choose its favourite filter (my neural expressway to panic-ville), and I’m sent into red zone wondering what I’m panicking about.

Perhaps if I viewed all the exciting things in my life as times to be just as alert as I am for the things that provoke panic, I’d be more able to choose a filter in the moment, instead of playing clean up crew to my already panicking mind. Even if I could do this a few times, and experience these sensations in a new light, it may help me to be curious when they show up – and avoid the instant dread.

Part of me is resistant to this plan; and I think that’s the judgment reaction. I don’t want to have to plan for the times that are “supposed to be fun”. And on top of that, I still view those sensations as “bad” because they are still very distressing to me and my brain. I don’t want to accept that they are part of good times too. However, I know the only way to truly change this is to drop the judgment, be open and curious, and compassionately self-soothe the fuck out of myself until they don’t feel so terrifying…and maybe, perhaps, even exciting. 😉

Out On A Limb

You have to be willing to break your own heart.

You really do. Over and over. To have a life worth living, you must gamble your heart. A lot. Most of the time it’s taking a risk where you know it might end in a broken heart, other times it’s a deliberate choice you make. Every time you open yourself up for something meaningful – whether it’s the possibility of true connection or going after a career dream – you open yourself up to be vulnerable. To be heartbroken. And it’s not an ‘open’ like a door where you just twist the handle and walk through, you open yourself up like a cracked egg that took a few too many hits against the pan and now has goo coming out of everywhere.

Putting yourself out there for your dreams, for love, for anything that really matters – is a vulnerable place to be. It’s never easy to convince yourself to crawl out onto that limb not knowing if it can hold you. Uncertainty alone is hard enough to bear, but when you’re risking the most intimate, fragile thing you have – no wonder it doesn’t seem worth the risk. And so many people choose not to risk it. I don’t blame them, and I’ve been one of them (and I’m sure will be again). In fact, this is all of us – at one time or another. Because we find these risks in the everyday opportunities we take or leave. We have a million branches in our lives. And as a procrastinator with vulnerability issues, I find myself often taking a few failed attempts before I take that step.

It’s not fun putting yourself out on that branch of uncertainty and vulnerability – but it’s necessary. It’s the only place to truly discover what a fulfilling life can be. And going out there is the only way to find out if it will be sturdy enough to support you – or if it will break. You must be your most authentic, cracked-open self, and take those risks, to find out which branches will help you climb higher, and which ones will teach you how to catch yourself on the way down.

It’s easy for us to deny the awesome fruits that live on some branches, the way our heart will forever be changed for the better, the way our lives will blossom and enrich our entire beings. It’s all hypothetical as we stand there debating whether we should try taking that step. I mean, it surely can’t be that great. Not worth risking this awful feeling of the unknown – and surely not worth falling when the branch cracks beneath me. What kind of fool will I look like then? How will I ever recover? Falling hurts. Fuck all of that, I’m fine right here.

And then, even when we convince ourselves it’ll be worth the risk… that getting what we want is worth the heartache of it not happening.. another fear sets in. Why do we want something so great if it can just be lost? Just because you get out there on that limb and find the best fruit in the world doesn’t mean it gets less risky or vulnerable. It just changes. Deciding to continually put yourself out there and keep your heart wide open for something you can (and will) lose is terrifying. It takes guts to keep enjoying that fruit knowing at some point the branch holding you will snap.

Rejection, failure, and loss is hard. Connection, success, and love is hard. A good life isn’t an easy life.

Life should be a terrifying, gut-wrenchingly beautiful, amazing journey.

Be willing to break your own heart.

 

Sadness’s Big Brother

Anger. It shows up when our boundaries are being pushed, when we feel unsafe, hurt, rejected. When we feel sad and hurt, we often protect ourselves with anger.

Anger feels powerful. There’s an energy to anger that feels helpful and protective to us. And sometimes, it is. Sometimes it can help by giving us the energy and power to restore those broken boundaries and take any necessary action to make ourselves feel safe.

Sometimes, however, anger isn’t helpful. It may have helped us to a certain point – like crutches when we break our leg. Hanging onto anger is like using crutches once you’ve healed. And it can be difficult to switch our mindset on anger, because it had been so helpful up until now. But there’s a point when it becomes damaging and that’s when we need to delve deeper, and deal with the underlying sadness and hurt and pain that lies underneath that protective fire ball.

Actually expressing anger is a new thing for me, and I’ve become much more comfortable being pissed off than I am with just being sad.

My emotional reaction to being hurt or feeling rejected is now usually “FUCK YOU” instead of “That hurts, I’m sad”. My relationship with anger changed from it being unsafe to it being my protector – unfortunately it has lead to the point that I’m overusing it. My default to be angry and want to say “FUCK IT!” is a huge change from the victimized girl who was just at mercy of being hurt and not being worthy enough to even be mad, and certainly too weak to change things or leave what was hurting her.

 

In a way I love my default to anger and “fuck it” response, because in many ways it’s so much better than my old unworthy-self hatred-helpless default of suppressing emotion and believing I just had to stay stuck. That being said, this new default is problematic too. I swung to the other side of the pendulum, and it’s not the best place to be either. I get that it developed to protect me. And part of the problem is that I still buy into the story that without it I’ll slip back into the old ways of dealing with all these feelings and painful situations. That story, and my reactions, are things I’m actively working on. I need to find a better in between.

Because I know, not everything that hurts is harmful. A lot of things that hurt can be opportunities to grow and heal. And being hurt is part of life, even (especially?) when it comes to people we care about.

 

Anger is a guardian of our boundaries. If we can pay attention to the feedback of our reactions, such as anger, we can see why it shows up and what needs to be restored. It can also help us look deeper into why we feel the need to protect and what other emotions are beneath it – like we’re looking past the big brother who’s standing tall and yelling at the bullies, to see the crying little brother with a scraped knee sitting on the pavement behind him. What emotions came up for us that we felt the need to protect ourselves? What emotions need to be processed, beyond the anger that is out front and center?

I find this very difficult. Sadness and hurt feels more draining than anger; though I’m sure most of that comes from actually resisting the sadness and making judgments about it, than it does from actually just being sad. My experience is that it’s easier to get side-tracked from the feeling and turn things inwards when it’s sadness. I start making judgments about myself and giving into the unworthy stories; where with anger I’m more likely to be making those judgments about the other person.

And the answer to all of it? Lean in with COMPASSION. Observe your reaction to say “fuck it”, beat yourself up, avoid the sadness, to puff up or want to run and hide… with compassion. And then encourage yourself to look deeper. You aren’t just angry, ever. And the angrier you are, the more emotions are hiding behind it.

 

Thoughts from above the clouds.

On a journey that feels surreal. I look back on this past year; it was actually a few days shy of a year ago I was on my way to finish my life coaching program.

Full of ambition, determination, and passion. And yet, I had no idea how far I’d go from there. I had no idea I’d end up back in Ontario as a Teaching Associate the very next year. I was in the planning stages of my businesses at that time; and freaking out about how crazy I was to actually try this – how ludicris it was to actually be planning to leave a full-time steady pay cheque with nothing but my ideas and hopes to fall on. I yo-yo-ed between excitement and terror, faith and doubt – with a strong dose of judgment of myself for even thinking for a second I could pull this off. Something that was clearly too good to be true.

And yet I knew I had to try. It was around the time of my Ontario trip that I was reaching the tipping point – where the fear of not trying was greater than the fear of failing.

Now I don’t want to give you the wrong impression here, it’s not like I’m some super success story of being a full-time coach yet. However, I am fully supporting myself with self-employment and I am living the life I want to live – including coaching- while continuing to expand on the coaching business I started this year.

I am proud. And yes I’m going to say that and not feel guilty or let myself erase it. It makes me squirm to admit it, but I’ve made enough peace with that squirmy uncomfortable place I teeter on when riding that self-worth seesaw, that I’m letting myself own it – as much as I squirm while doing it. Because, truth be told, I am fucking proud of myself.

For not letting fear hold me back. For not letting pretty significant life events and circumstances hold me back. For going after what I want even when that goes against the norm. For deciding that I am worth it. For deciding to live. For creating a life I’m excited to live. For figuring out what my calling is. For making my dreams a reality. For being able to write that I’m proud of myself and own it, along with everything else I did to get here.

 

There’s a lot of growing still to do. Lots of expanding on my business to do. Lots of learning and failing. Lots of living and adapting. Even still, I have a weird sense of having already “made it”. And I think it’s because I’ve made a pretty significant shift in my way of thinking about, and living life. I’ve made a switch from suffering until I make it to living my ideal lifestyle WHILE making it.

 

And I’m not naive; I know there may come a time when something happens and I won’t feel this way or maybe I won’t be able to live the way I want. But enough has happened already that I am certain it won’t break me. I even have my doubts that there is something that would cause me to sacrifice my lifestyle or values. That being said, it’s not that I don’t do my fair share of “sacrificing” aka MAKING CHOICES that may not be ideal – like living in an “apartment” without a kitchen, but I am clear and firm on what I’m willing to sacrifice and what I am not. And being able to live the way I want (mostly meaning being able to have ownership over my TIME) means the most to me. It’s now my non-negotiable and I plan to always build my life around that.

I know I want to live the rest of my life LIVING my life. And I am confident that involves coaching; helping others find their wings and live their best life.

I was starting to freak out about being old earlier this week. Will I regret these decisions when I’m 40? 50? But really, should I be trying to live for future me? Should I even be trying to guess what future me will want? It doesn’t seem like a very valid plan. I mean, old or not, I’ll still be me. And I guess I figure it will be up to the present me to figure out how to make my life meaningful and matter at that age, just like it’s up to 31 year old me to do that now. And if I have regrets, well, that’s just life I suppose. It’s funny to think of this retrospectively though, because everything I imagined 31 year old me would want when I was 20, or even 28, is completely off the mark from what is currently making my life awesome. In fact, I believe I’d be less happy now if I had what 28 year old me wanted me to have. So, more reason to not try to guess what 50 year old Jeana would want me to set up for her to be happy, and just live my fucking life as I know it now.

Maybe my 50 year old self will be ecstatic to be living in a bus, maybe she’ll rather build a mansion, or maybe she’ll rather travel the world endlessly. Fuck knows. So why bother worrying or trying to plan for it? You do you future self, I’ll do me.

The plane’s about to land. I’m ready to take on the next part of my journey, keeping my head above the clouds.

Dare To Dream

Do you give yourself permission to dream?

And what we want, we know we can’t believe,
We have all learned to kill our dreams.
-Twenty One Pilots; We Don’t Believe What’s On T.V

Allowing yourself to dream of what you truly want is an extremely vulnerable experience. It takes courage to let yourself invest (even in your mind and heart) in the possibility of having what you desire and being willing to acknowledge how it might not match your current reality.

The more stuck you feel in the life you are living, the more threatening dreaming will seem to you. If you feel powerless of being able to change your reality, you won’t want to let yourself dream of alternatives that feel completely out of your reach.

 

The catch, though, is that without dreaming we may just stay stuck. As scary and vulnerable as it feels, we must allow ourselves to dream. Once we dream, and connect to that dream and fall madly in love with that ideal reality, the more real and possible it will become to us. Unfortunately though, when we start, it feels impossible.

And might I add, impossible in a very different way than some “impossible” dreams we actually do let ourselves HYPOTHETICALLY connect to – like winning the lottery.

The “winning the lottery” dream is one a lot of people allow themselves to dream about because it is so absurd and so out of their control. Connecting to that dream doesn’t put them on the spot for doing ANYTHING (except maybe buying lotto tickets). It doesn’t confront their reality – because in this dream it will be something that magically happens to them, and then life will improve. It isn’t asking them to push their comfort zones, confront their ideas on what is achievable, what they are capable of, or ask them to test their courage or dedication in making it so. Investing in those type of impossible dreams keeps us off the hook for making meaningful changes in our lives; leaving that dream life to the fates of Lotto 649.

When we do let ourselves dream a bit, we have a lot of “rational thoughts” that quickly stop ourselves from dreaming, or disconnect from the ones we were dreaming of. Some of these are stories we have about society and the way the world works (“I need to work a full-time job until I’m 65, that’s just the reality of the world we live in.”). These stories limit us in having to follow the rules we have about the world. The other stories that rush in to pinch us out of our dream-state are stories we have about ourselves (“I would never be able to xyz” “Maybe if I was smarter/richer, but I’m not xyz enough”) . These stories limit us in an even more restrictive way; because EVEN IF this would be possible for “someone”, we believe WE are the reason it can’t happen for us.

If you find yourself here, I encourage you to challenge it. Stories are just stories. Once we fully embrace that; whether it’s a societal norm or our own doubts about our capabilities, we can see those stories as simply stories – and start editing.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been there; whether it was keeping myself awake or scaring the shit out of myself so that I’d wake up from a dream. It’s not an easy process to start allowing yourself to dream, and then once you do to keep letting yourself do it. To actually lean into the possibility instead of drowning it into the “in an ideal world” realm of ridiculousness. It’s not like all of a sudden you are going to let yourself believe the “impossible” is possible. It’s a process. A process that requires you to lean into things that feel impossible. A process that demands you keep giving yourself permission to do something that seems even more of a waste than buying lotto tickets. Investing in what you want, even if it seems like it will never come true.

Without dreaming you won’t connect. Without letting yourself connect and lean in, you can’t even begin the process of seeing the possibility in the impossible. And without seeing possibilities, your dream will always be impossible. When you start to see possibilities and ways you may be able to make it happen, the steps you could take to get closer to reaching your dream start to appear. Once you see steps, it’s time for action. Again, permission and courage are your anchors and propellers here.

PERMISSION AND COURAGE!! (Just in case you missed that)

If you haven’t seen the TED Talk or completed the “Drawing your Future” exercise, I encourage you to watch it and then do it!

The exercise involves drawing your current state and your desired reality; and then identifying 3 bold steps that would get you from here to there. I did this exercise about a year and a half ago for the first time. I still have this bristol board up against my wall. The thing that stands out to me the most on it now is the visible struggle I had to give myself permission and have the courage to really stick to what I knew was the bold move I really had to make.

I started one of my steps with the label “Quit current job” and then added “Reduce hours OR” and finally added “change hours” because I wasn’t even at the point that the dream was even remotely possible or reasonable (Not even the reducing hours felt doable!). I was starting to see my dream (as outlined in my desired reality) but I wasn’t allowing myself to lean into that dream enough to accept that quitting my job was an actual step I would take.

I look back on it now and laugh, as I did actually quit the job I had, and now that I’m on the other side it’s a whole different story. Now those impossible dreams are my almost everyday reality, and the steps I identified to get there (that once felt too insane to even write down) are simply parts of my story.

With practice, giving yourself permission and courage to dream does get easier. I find I am much more playful with my dreams now; allowing myself to dream of what I want without getting caught up in the HOW. I don’t need to feel like it’s realistic to let myself dream about it. Sure, not everything I dream will become true. I don’t even need to be sure it’s what I want in order to let myself dream and sit with it, and I think this is important because if we limit ourselves to dream about things we are sure about, it restricts our possibility-creator-machine!

Sure, maybe in a year from now I will decide not to buy a school bus and make it my home; however, by allowing myself to dream of these things that intrigue me that I hadn’t before considered, it opens up for more and more possibilities to be created too. Who knows what I’ll dream up if I keep allowing myself to dream!?

When I give myself permission to dream I start the path of making it happen. And the path to making it happen is all about new possibilities and creativity. It may not lead where I first thought, but no matter what it will lead me down a path of POSSIBILITY; instead of being stuck in the IMPOSSIBLE. And I am quite confident that if I keep dreaming and stay invested enough in a certain dream; one way or another, I will be living it.

It’s kind of funny that in order to stop getting stuck in IMPOSSIBLE, you need to invest in the IMPOSSIBLE. It’s by looking through the impossible that we see what’s really possible. It’s by DREAMING that we can create our new REALITY.

With permission and courage; be a dreamer, a possibility machine, and a creator of your ideal reality.

Dream. I dare you.

I’m not a duck.

I’ve been debating whether to write about this. I have decided that sharing this extremely uncomfortable thing is the most authentic way I can stay true to my values. To share my experience with those who are interested in hearing how I am coping with difficulty and being able to live my values and grow through it.

I’m letting her words be heard, just as she intended they’d be. Not for her. For me. For my readers who want to hear my experience of how I drew on the lessons and the strategies I’ve learned to help me move through this process.

Because unfortunately life involves being hurt by others, and it’s these times of deep hurt that it’s really hard to stay the course. It’s really difficult to pick yourself up and hold your worth and your knowing. It’s at this time that your values, your strength, and your grit must carry you on wards.

A few days ago there was a very hurtful, personal attack, published on my blog. Hate, ignited by a lie. A rumour that was spread throughout my former family like wild fire, resulting in flames being thrown my way from all over, including this post.

Dumbfounded!
joanhatcher@barbours.ca
156.34.108.106

How could you be such a hurtful person, the wounded little dragon rising from the ASHES, BULLSHIT! You need to live with the hurt you have caused several members of my family at a time when they were the most vulnerable. All they asked for was the TRUTH and some understanding of what was happening to them, as a result of your actions.

You talk about living your personal truth and being your authentic self through this journey you are on, well it is NOT supposed to be at the deliberate expense of another human being. You are not definitely not in the right profession, in actual fact you are making a mockery of others that take it so seriously.

Unbelievably dumbfounded by your actions over the last 6 months!!

I’m not going to pretend here. This devastated me. For someone who rarely cries, I sure made up for it that day. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t believe someone I loved, and felt so close to, could believe such cruel things about me. Believe them so completely that they decided it was even within their right to lash out at me publicly. From ‘one of my biggest fans’ to this.

Flooded with emotions. Hurt. Grief. Anger. Disbelief.

I know the best thing to do with this is to lean in and just let myself feel it. All the shitty, horrible emotions. In fact, I know this lesson so well now that even when encouraged to look on the bright side, or move on too quickly (before acknowledging all the feelings), I dismiss it. I’ve even taken the opportunity to share why it’s healthier not to do such things at this time. So I’m letting myself be what I am – heartbroken.

I don’t do well when people are mad at me. It feels unsafe. It goes against my safety map of keeping others happy in order to be worthy and safe. It’s been an opportunity for me to practice holding my own worth. But it hasn’t been easy. My body is stuck in fear response. I can tell I need to put more efforts into self-soothing. I wish I could let this roll off my back, but since it’s sitting heavy on my chest instead, I really need to be careful not to beat myself up that I can’t “shrug it off” and make sure to show myself compassion.

I’m not a duck. If you really know you’re not a duck, and someone calls you a duck, you don’t question whether you are one. And, though I find it hurtful that someone believes this about me, I am not in any way looking down and checking for feathers. I’m not questioning my actions, the love and support I gave them, or how authentic, compassionate, or true to my values I have been. You can call me a duck. I’m not a duck.

I found it interesting that one thing that I did let get to me was the remark about being a life coach. It’s very cool to me to see this reaction and understand exactly why that is. I’m a new coach, and it’s something I am deeply passionate about. That being said, it’s also something that brings up doubt and fear. If there’s any doubt lingering about whether I’m a quack (haha see what I did there?? :P), someone saying that you are is enough to throw you into a tail spin. I’m proud I didn’t go too far down this road; having the awareness to know exactly what was happening helped me stop myself from taking these hurtful remarks as some sort of truth or indication that I should question my ability to be a life coach.

It still feels absolutely maddening that she decided to personally and professionally attack me without even giving me the dignity of being heard. I wish I had been given the chance to defend myself. To ask the questions my mind keeps shouting into a void of frustration. To deal with the frustration of being accused of not sharing my truth with the very ones who wanted me to hide it. My work will be letting it go, making peace with never getting that chance or being shown that respect.

I know why they ate this gossip up like chocolate. It’s no mystery to me why relatives from all over were jumping down my throat within a few hours. People believe lies when the lie serves them.

They want, maybe even need, me to be the bad guy here. It’s easier for them to see me as some monster, someone who they’d never want in their family anyway. If I am this evil person, they don’t need to feel sad I’m gone, they can rejoice. It makes this loss easier for them. It also makes it easier if their family member is someone who they feel they can trust, support, and empathize with.

The more the lie serves someone, the more confidently they believe it – even when the truth is staring them in the face. It is this knowing that has provided me some comfort. It really didn’t matter who I was, what I did or didn’t do, and how good to their family I had been. I keep dwelling over it using logic and rational thought; wondering how they could even believe these things about me, when I had given no indication that I was ever that kind of person, and especially considering the source of the information.

Over and over in my mind it goes “I wonder why you’d be dumbfounded, perhaps because it’s UNFOUNDED?! You hear one thing that goes completely against everything of who you thought I was, and instead of questioning or even checking if this new thing was accurate, you instead use the rumour to decide my entire being of who I am is a fraud. ”

What I’ve realized is that none of that mattered because it wasn’t even factored in. They aren’t thinking rationally. They aren’t sitting there trying to make fair judgments. Their emotions are the only things in control here, and if the lie makes it easier emotionally, then there you go. It’s easier to condemn the one who isn’t there than to challenge the one in front of you. It’s easier to hate than to feel grief and loss.

I waited a couple days to see if there would be an attempt at an apology or remorse over this comment, as I know emotions can get the best of us and perhaps with reflection she may have a change of heart. I was disappointed when it didn’t happen, and yet not surprised. By making this public remark about me, she upped the ante on how much she now needs to believe this lie. She needs to believe these horrible things about me, not only because it’s easier, but now her own choices and values are all tied up in it. To see the truth now would involve facing a lot of her own stuff, and as much as it’s disappointing when people don’t own their stuff, it’s also not surprising.

So I get it. But it still hurts. It still sits in me like a knife in the gut; that people who used to be my family, that I loved so dearly and wholeheartedly, can be so cruel. That they can not only reject me so harshly, but outright attack me and try to demoralize me.

It fucking sucks.

But really when it comes down to it, that’s all it does. It just fucking sucks.

It doesn’t say anything about me. It only speaks to who they are.

Their beliefs and actions will not affect how I live or who I am. I am committed to living my values, at the best and worst of times. I will use your words and false judgments to reinforce my knowing. Not to convince others I’m this or that – but to be true to my authentic dragon self.

I will stand strong and fierce.

My heart is broken, my wings are not.

Lessons I’ve Learned Pumping Iron

Over the last month I’ve been exploring a new world – the gym world, and more specifically, the weight training world. Before this, I had never set foot into a gym and I was dead set on the fact that I wouldn’t enjoy it and I’d never do it. Well, I broke that weird promise/old story I had taken as truth for years, and started my most recent ‘outside of my comfort zone’ journey.

Weight training involves exercises such as dead lifts, bench press, bicep curls, and skull crushers using dumbbells and barbells. You do 3 sets of 8-12 reps. When you’re lifting these weights your muscle fibers break down a bit, and then they build back up (even stronger) while you are at rest (i.e. after your workout). 

As someone who is usually involved in more mindfulness – based spiritual forms of activity, like yoga and dancing, pumping iron seemed like it was going to be a very mindless, physically focused venture. Being a deep-meaning seeker and metaphor junkie, I’ve actually found quite a few lessons in the process of heavy lifting.

The first lesson that weight training made excruciatingly clear to me was that I need to REST. Resting, as mentioned above, is actually when and how the muscles get stronger. You need to rest the muscles you’ve worked; something I learned the hard way after my first day of weight training when I tried to justify an intense yoga class as a “rest day” activity. I got what I deserved in not respecting the need for rest; as I ended up having to spend half of yoga in child’s pose so I wouldn’t faint, and most of the rest of the day in bed feeling like shit. Resting includes getting enough SLEEP. Listening to your body and respecting the fact that sleep may be better for you than making another yoga class.

EATING is also a priority in my life now because of weight training. Not only is eating enough a daily goal I meet, but I’ve been paying much more attention to what I’m eating – making sure I’m actually giving my body what it needs (yay protein). Of course, I still have my moments of eating cereal for supper, but overall I’m much better at the quality and quantity of food I consume. It has been the most effective way I have been able to meet my nutritional goals, which I find funny as it is really only a byproduct of this new physical workout routine.

If you really want to do weight training, if you really want to grow and get stronger, you must acknowledge and embrace this need for SELF-CARE. I’ve always known the importance of resting, sleeping, and eating – but by pushing my body with weight training it has now become a non-negotiable. If I don’t take care of myself, the results are now immediate and I simply cannot function how I need to (and I’m not even talking about in the gym). I find it very interesting how much my self-care regime follow-through has improved since I picked up the dumbbells.

I was drawn to weight training because it is one of the best ways known to prevent and slow dementia, and as someone with a much higher-than-norm risk, my motivation is clear and consistent. From the research I have found on the topic of dementia prevention with exercise, it explains that strength training is helping our brains directly (improving blood flow to the brain, increasing nerve-protecting compounds, improving development and survival of neurons, etc). What I also noticed in the research, in addition to exercise, sleep and diet are noted as important factors for prevention. Looking at this now, I suspect that weight training may also be such a single significant player due to the effects it has on these other areas; as I have found the weight training itself is concurrently improving my diet and sleep in remarkable ways – ways I’ve never been able to achieve without the push of my body absolutely demanding it.

My favourite meta insight from learning the world of weight training is that you NEED to FAIL. In fact, you are STRIVING for FAILURE! You’re supposed to lift enough weight that you actually cannot finish your set of reps. FAILING is part of GROWTH. If you don’t fail, you aren’t doing it right. You aren’t growing. You can’t grow without failing. How perfect is that!?

How amazing would it be if that is the approach we take to all growing? It certainly is true; you must be willing to fail, and you will fail, on your way to making progress in all areas of your life. Learning new things, taking chances, starting businesses or new jobs, going after your passions, relationships – failing is part of the process. As much as failure is a part of all progress and living, most of us don’t like to acknowledge or accept it – and some of us do so begrudgingly at best. We are quick to think failing marks a personal deficiency, an indication that we aren’t good enough, and perhaps even that we should give up.

What if we took the weight training approach? That we are striving to fail, to push ourselves to use our best efforts, even though that means we will ultimately fail. If we adopted the idea that in order to grow the most, we should be seeing just how much we can do – how far we can go. And when we do reach our edge, when we fail, we can see it as proof that we were trying our best and that was exactly what we expected of ourselves – that it is the mark of success. When we fail, we won’t just put the weights down and never pick them back up. We will see it simply as a step, a part of the process. Next time we will continue to give it our all, and in time we will fail again – and we will fail better.

When I apply this new outlook to my life, I see things shift. I see myself uninhibitedly going after my dreams with a strength and fierceness that comes from not only losing the fear of failure, but striving to see where my edge is. To meet it so I can push it even further. The knowing that the only way to truly see what I’m capable of is to go to the point where I’m incapable of going further. It makes me curious and excited to see how having that target in mind changes my momentum, and intrigued to discover what happens to that edge when I find it. Would it be like weight training – where the more I fail the stronger I get, and the more weight I can take before failing again? If I don’t fail, does it mean I’m not giving it my all? If I’m not finding that edge, I wonder how much growing I’m really doing.

I love the idea of embracing failure as part of the process, to replace the judgment of failure with celebration, and perhaps even shifting my mindset to be seeking it.

I’m going to continue lifting weights and getting all meta on the weight bench (no wonder I always get distracted while counting). I’ve already made progress and can see results. I wonder how strong and powerful I can become. Not only do I do hard things, I now do heavy things. And I fail every time 🙂

The WHY Trap

Understanding why. Seems innocent enough really, just wanting to understand why things are the way they are, why I feel how I feel, what is making something so. Just like any good toddler, it’s my first reaction to anything that comes up – BUT WHY?!? 

There are times when understanding the reasons/ the drive/ the why/ the intention really comes in handy. It’s actually something I focus on and get my clients to focus on when developing goals. WHY is that important to you? WHY does it matter? WHY?!?! And in those cases, it’s not just helpful it’s truly what makes it valuable at all. You want to lose ten pounds? OK fair enough, but if you don’t know WHY and the bigger picture behind those little goals, if you can’t see what’s so important and meaningful about the destination, if you don’t connect with that, you’re bound to get lost on the way.

However, the dark side of WHY (The WHY trap, as I’m calling it) is a whole other story. It’s not useful, in fact it’s extremely counter productive.

For example, say as a hypothetical, you are sitting there on your couch and you randomly touch the side of your head and notice it hurts. Instead of carrying on with normal life, you may just end up sitting there (semi watching shows) while continuing to press on that spot and questioning “WHY does that hurt? That shouldn’t hurt! Does that have something to do with my sinuses? I don’t know why that part of my head would hurt though? Maybe I’m worse off than I thought with that health issue that has barely even been bugging me today.. How does this pain fit into that? What does it mean?… “

And on and on you might go for a whole fucking hour of pressing this spot that hurts, because you think “This shouldn’t hurt” “This doesn’t make sense to me”, so instead of just letting it be, you continue to press on it. And then after that hour, now with a throbbing head, you realize “Oh right, I smashed it with my car door the other night. Maybe it’s a bruise from that”. And then you laugh your ass off at yourself from now having an aching head because you’ve been pressing on a bruise for a fucking hour. Hypothetically, of course.

When I’m stressed my WHY defense is super high with physical sensations and symptoms and health worries. The one who, just tonight, spent half an hour googling “how long does it take to get symptoms of salmonella” at the off chance the chicken I ate for supper was under-cooked. The one who feels hunger as sickness, fullness as sickness, and can even make tiredness into a chronic disease (this one being one of my family’s favourite jokes). I hate this part of myself. I hate it. It really does feel like torture. Like I’m a prisoner of my mind. 

The WHY defense spreads deeper than the physical, that part just seems to be a symptom or distraction tool from the deeper issues. The WHY defense that probably gets me into all the trouble mentioned above is how I use it on my emotions. If I don’t get WHY I feel the way I do, if I can’t rationalize it, if it doesn’t make sense to me – then I just don’t let myself feel it. And not only do I not let myself just sit with the emotion or feeling that comes up, I dig my heels deep into the distraction of figuring it out – and abort the feeling part altogether.

Getting stuck in the WHY is even more fruitless and frustrating than getting caught in the relentless WHY battle with a 3 year old.

I am better off than I used to be with this stuff, because clearly I can have moments of observing what I’m doing and not doing. It might seem ridiculous, but the fact that I ONLY spent 30 minutes googling tonight before I snapped myself out of it, is a big improvement over what I used to do. And even being able to identify how the WHY is avoidance, and being able to see when I’m trapped in my mind, is progress. Very uncomfortable and frustrating progress, but progress nevertheless.

I have reflected on what I’ve been lacking lately with how I’m spending my time. I see I need to work on getting back on track on some self-care things that are probably contributing to my un-wellness – compounding the effects of avoiding mixed emotions. Things like sleep.

I drank two coffees at 9pm tonight. Hence the middle of the night blog post. This is how amazing I am at life right now.

It’s really hard to keep doing healthy things when you aren’t giving yourself permission to do what you need to be healthy (like sit with emotions). So, might as well just stop going to yoga and meditating and sleeping too, right?

At least I know I’m caught in the WHY trap. Clearly there are feelings I’m not letting myself feel. But knowing what I know, and having the intention of being connected to my feelings, the only thing I can think to say about this right now is.. WHY?!?!?! 😉