An early morning reading of a blog that I follow has had me on a train of thought today. Granted, it’s a train that’s been picking up speed since I decided to move recently. A new place which is actually an old place to be exact. I am moving back into a building I left just over a year ago. A building that I loved, and that I hated leaving at the time but I had to , due to circumstances. Now I ‘ll be moving back into the building, into a suite above my old suite, a little bigger and with more windows and better light  – a good move! A move that has me excited for a place that feels good.

So my blog perusing this morning got me thinking more deeply on something that I’ve been rattling around in my head for some time now. Roots, grounding, personality in environment…home. What does it all mean to me and what do I want and need?

We’ve all been in homes that are, very simply, an extension of the people who live there. Homes that you walk into and think “yeah, this is his/her/their place!”. That feeling is what I have always wanted – and never seemed to be able to find. I’ve been in homes of people who are partners yet radically different from each other in likes and tastes and styles and their home is what they are – a mix and combination of them, beautifully, and often oddly, intertwined. I walk into my partner’s apartment and it is “her”. Items on the wall, things strewn here and there, pictures and books and all the little things that reflect her in her surroundings. I spend time at my colleagues house and from the moment you enter, it’s “him”. The leather chairs, the bookshelves, the dining room table…it all feels and is his energy.

So I look around my place now again with eyes and a soul that doesn’t see “me” in where I make my home. Cold to me and impersonal. I don’t feel “me” here. It’s a space that I don’t feel good in – and it’s not the physical suite itself even.The very few items that make me smile and that I love in my space are rare. The eclectic wine glasses that strike a chord with me, the bright, mismatched tiles that I bought because I fell in love with them but have no purpose in mind yet, the fruit bowl that sticks out like a sore thumb because of it’s bright colours that match nothing else in my kitchen, the unfinished and ugly trunk that serves as my coffee table..all items that have snuck into my life the last few years that have that “feel” of me and home for me. The vast majority of what I call home, devoid of “me”.

I can’t fix the inside by changing the outside, again (thank you, my L for that reminder). Moving to a new place because this one doesn’t feel like home won’t ever fix the problem. I need to work on filling the space I am in with my energy and what I love and what makes me smile. That way, wherever I am, it’s home. So it’s time to shop and find and fill my home with things that bring a smile to my lips and that make me feel good when I am there and surrounded by them. Stupid bead curtains and all!

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So here’s the thing that is a basic fact. For something to be strong, it needs a solid, well constructed and well laid foundation. Whether it’s something physical, like a house, or something less tangible, such as a way of life or company. It all starts with the foundation. If the base is strong and secure then it will support whatever is piled on top of it.

About 6 or 7 years ago I hit a point in my life that I took a long hard look at my structural integrity and at what I had chosen to lay as my foundation and I realized that there were some serious issues going on that needed attending to. Nothing that was going to cause things to crumble but just that it wasn’t quite “right”. So I started to do what is needed.

Let’s use the analogy of a house, for ease of the written word meandering and the mind’s eye conjuring.

When you look and see cracks in the foundation or notice that it was built faulty, you fix it. Maybe the original plan for the structure of the house was good but over the years, the purpose of the house took a different angle than what it was originally built for… and the foundation isn’t quite right for what it’s meant to support. Maybe an extra load was built on top and now the foundation needs to be reinforced to bear the force that it’s being asked to carry. Maybe there have been some nasty storms and damage and the base has been hit hard by some quakes and it needs some rebuilding. All very much fixable and what you would do when you notice it needs doing. Simple.

So I did that. I saw the changes needed and I started. Chipping away here and there to work away the rot and angles that just weren’t right. Paying close attention to the areas that needed shoring up and some extra ground work done to make the base capable and substantial.Along the way, with every strength built I saw the stability and the confidence of the structure of me grow. It went that way for a couple of years. There were some storms in there that hit hard and knocked me back a bit, but the foundation was setting as it was laid. A work in progress, yes, but very much progressing.

Then something happened that not only halted the work, it pretty much blew the whole damn thing apart. Torn apart, the structure was gone in a split second. A blast of loss that hit hard enough to shatter the base as well. Never mind cracks,most of the foundation was just simply not there anymore.

Quite simply, the roots of me that had been struggling to find their grasp and dig in were gone. Feels like they are still gone. My confidence in my Self, my abilities, my capabilities, it’s broken. My belief in Me – fundamentally fractured. Damaged.

There was a time when I may have had the odd bout of issues with self confidence or doubting myself but on a base level – I knew my power. My strength. My will. I never had any doubt that I would be ok at the end of the day. I knew, without a doubt that I was solid and unmovable. I knew Me, who I was and what I was capable of – and it was something to be reckoned with.

Loss, and grief, took that. Still has it actually.

There was a time that I knew my skills and my abilities – knew them and felt how good I was at them. There was a time that I may have had nerves going on but they were never because I didn’t think I knew my stuff or that I had the right to be giving the presentation or facing the room. I knew the truth of my capabilities.

There was a time that I didn’t doubt whether my lover would find pleasure under my hands or with our time spent intimately together. Times that I didn’t doubt if I was worth someone’s time.

There was a time that I didn’t doubt whether I could pick up a new skill or technique. I knew I could. I knew that all I needed was to be shown and to learn and that I would get it. Without a doubt.

Now, after that blast three and a half years ago, still rebuilding, I do doubt. Deeply and profoundly. Deep enough to feel shaken and to question the very base structure of my Self. Every little bit of groundwork laid so tenuous and loosely balanced it feels like it can be blown off with a whisper – and it is, often and repeatedly. Only to be picked up again and laid back in place, trying to make it stick. Trying to rebuild.

What’s holding me back?

What is it that confines me?

I wish, I hope, I want to.

Yet I almost always don’t. I let other people’s opinions and beliefs of me reinforce the whispering voice inside my own head that tells me I can’t, or I shouldn’t.

My confidence shaky at best and non-existent most of the time, if I am to be honest about it.

I sometimes actually feel it but those times are the rare exceptions.

The times that I glimpse with my feelings what it’s like to be free.

Free from restraint and fear and second guessing my Self and my choices, my wants, my desires.

Freedom that I crave and want and when I taste it the odd time, it stirs in me a thirst that hurts all the more because of how unattainable it feels to ever own that freedom.

What’s holding me back?

What stops me from the doing and the being and expressing and the living?

Me, simply, Me.

A gathering lately of friends – people who are, oddly, not necessarily closely connected yet are also,more close than can be explained. Tribe. Family. A weekend that words don’t really do justice.

Words that still elude me trying to bring essence to the awareness of my experience. A soft knowing that happened in a moment when a smile broke out instead of tears. When I knew that, at that moment, healing meant laughter and silliness and the elation of flying and sharing space with a few amazing women. An oddly secluded and intimate space of time, safe, secure, simple and easy and just… yes. No words. Just feeling.

Feeling that in welcoming joy in, it wasn’t going to be with tears and pain. The wind blowing in my hair and ruffling my skirt around my legs as I giggled and joked and connected – with my Self – and more importantly with the people who I was blessed to be with during that time. The wind and the sunshine, the calmness and the joy in the women with me, the water, the trees, the dirt, the rock that brought me back to my senses even, all of it bringing feeling back.

Words try, but they can’t tell what has to be felt and seen with the heart instead of the mind. Sometimes it takes something so deeply in your body to take you so deeply out of it.

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Since 2001 I have run with the same hat. A security blanket disguised as practicality. I have been known to chose to not run rather than to go out without it. A simple plain white cap that has so many simple plain reasons for always being with me as I run.

It shields my eyes from the sun… I can’t’ run with sunglasses on. Perfectly practical.

It keeps my face covered from the sun. Pale skin that burns easily, just being responsible.

When it rains and the wind is heavy it shelters my head and offers me some protection from the harsh elements.

As my hair has become long it is a handy place to tuck it up under and keep it contained so it stays out of my face and under control.

It’s simply….Practical and responsible and perfectly under control. Safe. From what. From being open to the elements and unprotected. It keeps me guarded…shielded…sheltered.

As my evening unfolded tonight it brought with it a growing feeling of the familiar unsettled gnawing. Not quite anger but close enough. Emotions that can’t quite come to the surface as what they are so they growl and writhe and start to whisper.

The familiar urge to run… to chase them down and push them away rises. Giving in, the water is where my sight sets to find some calm and release.

But tonight something else unfolds as I reach the water. The waves are huge tonight with the wind on the narrow beach that I find myself after my run. I stand and reach down to feel the water on my hands. It creeps higher up the beach than I thought it would and my feet are enveloped. The cold and shock feel good. My hands tingle from the cold and my entire body aches to go in. Instead, I stand, close my eyes and the tears come. I lift my arms and feel the wind moving around and over me. The emotions I can’t quite touch finds their voices and the scream feels good lost in the waves. I can feel the wind blowing and I reach up and take my hat off, letting my hair loose. The wind catches my hair and the chill send shivers through me…

Racing as fast as I can up the steps from the beach to the trail… hat in hand, feet soaked and hands almost numb from the water I splashed on my face as I left… This time as I run the trail along the cliff top the wind blows hard against me again, but differently. The change in how it feels to run with hair being blown in my face and to feel – really feel – the chill and the bite of the wind is striking. My pace quickens and I run as fast as I can… the sense of being not quite fully in control hasn’t been felt in a long time…and it feels good. A little scary, but good. Laughing, smiling, tears… what comes up is let out as I race myself along the shore until I’m winded and have to slow to an easy run. I settle and find my stride at a softer pace as I follow the path that leads away from the water and towards home.

Hat still off and hair flying as it’s blown by the blustery wind…No longer guarded, no longer sheltered and shielded. Open to the elements and feeling.
It feels good.

We spend a lot of time and energy and money on our bodies. In one way or another we “feed” our bodies so much.

Resources allocated to make it slimmer, bigger, stronger, faster, more flexible…better. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s all important. Our bodies are, after all, the vessels that we live our lives in and through. Having a healthy and capable body means we can do more, and enjoy doing what we do with less pains and aches and, hopefully, for as many years as we can squeeze out of this matter that makes up what carries us around. But, there’s always a “but”, if we look at that phrase that our bodies are just vessels, then that leaves the issue of what’s inside the vessel? Isn’t that what’s being protected and encased and isn’t what’s IN the vessel, very simply, MORE than what’s carrying it? Shouldn’t we be putting just as much, maybe even more resources to nourishing that?

I got to thinking about this personally lately as I’ve been musing decisions to make and paths to follow coming up. The truth struck me that some of the choices I keep putting off relate directly to the care and feeding of Me. Not my body, but Me. The Me that resides inside the vessel. Paths and actions that will nourish and grow and embrace the journey of Me are being sat on the shelf and given a pat on the proverbial head and told to be patient… while I put my resources to the gym, running, biking, trying to eat healthier, moisturizing…sigh. What gets done for the inside?

I thoroughly enjoy all of these things – or I wouldn’t do them. I love running and biking in the early morning. It does make me feel good on the inside as well as physically. But where is my Yoga practice that I had for years? The practice that filled my being with a feeling of unity between the inner and the outer… a practice that brought me a sense of being connected and a sense of knowing, deeply knowing, Me. It’s sitting on that shelf.
Sitting there along with time for reading books that make my mind tingle with new information and points of view… books that challenge and inspire and make me cry and laugh and look at the clock and see that I’ve lost 3 hours and my tea has gone cold. Reading for pleasure and for the pleasure of learning. Something else for Me that’s been sat back there.
My lust for travel, for exploring and seeing and experiencing. A drive to feed the hunger that sits and yearns to drink in someplace else…filling Me with sights and sounds and feels that expand who I am and what makes Me, Me.

Beyond goals and dreams, deeper than that. The fundamental neglect of cultivating growth. A sometimes, but not always, subtle ignoring of what is needed to tend to Me. Needs that just simply aren’t valued. That’s the base of it all.

It’s easier to take care of what we see and what can have “success” more easily measured. What we fail to recognize though is that eventually, the neglect and ignorance of feeding the spirit will become just as visible. What’s inside of this vessel will either shine brighter or grow dimmer as the years meander along. Which of those happens is up to how it’s tended to.

As I contemplate where to put my resources of time, energy and money this coming year, it’s clear to me now the changes that need to be made.
a soft blow on the embers and a smile to see a flame

Today is the winter solstice…the day of the year with the least hours of sunlight and the day with the most hours of darkness…a day that celebrates the return of the sun, longer days, a rebirth and renewal of the cycle of life. A day that, for me, is a more symbolic and celebratory day than the traditional new years eve.

So this is a day that I look back and reflect but more so, I look forward. I woke today with the intention of getting back to some routines that have slid away the last few weeks. As so often happens though, the universe decided that just maybe, something else needed to be drummed into my head.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been out on the bike in the mornings. Chilly winter mornings and rain and me on my bike do not mix so I’ve been taking a bit of a hiatus of late. This morning though I was ready to roll (literally, or so I thought). Spandexed up, gloves on and wind resistant coat on and I was out the door. Inspired by the day to get back to my old routines.

So, it has been a few weeks, the tires needed a bit of air. Not a big deal, I have a gas station at the end of my block. Off I go…only to find that they charge $2.00 for air…and I have no money. So on to the next gas station. Same issue. Now growling and with a bad mood brewing, I head home. Grumbling and cranky and not wanting to do anything now. Bike dropped off and I do a quick jacket change and head out for a run instead. Determined that this isn’t going to stop me from getting back to regular exercising and putting my health back as a priority.

Still trying to keep the mood from going too south, I head out. Aiming for the 5km loop route I start my run and it becomes apparent very quickly that three weeks away from running and 5lbs up is going to be felt today. Muscles aching and starting to make enough internal noise to make my internal monologue hard to shut up, I run.
Same route as always, trying for the same old pace. Nope. Definitely slower today. Trying to just accept that difference and be ok with it.
Sidewalk closures and a small detour and I grumble again as I’m forced off my “usual” and what I had “planned” once again.
As I approach my halfway point where I go down the stairs at the beach access area to get my run rock (again, another story for another time…) I actually growl out loud as I see that this is not going to happen today.

The tide is in far higher than I’ve ever seen it, the stairs are blocked completely, as is any access off the sides, by massive driftwood logs and sticks jumbled up on the beach. The rocky beach is not even visible under the wood and water.
No way I’m getting down there this morning; even if I could navigate the logs without breaking a leg falling off the wet wood, getting a pebble would be impossible under all that.
I’m surprised by how I am quite simply almost in tears at this. I feel like every point this morning I have been slapped with an obstacle and I’m fighting anger and frustration and feeling like maybe I should have just stayed in bed.
Standing there, legs hurting and body aching I look down and see at my feet a little round piece of wood. Not a pebble or rock, but it’ll have to do. The option is to not pick it up. So I pick it up,put it in my pocket like I would do “usually” and turn to run back.

Then it hits me. No, the morning hasn’t at all gone as I planned it to. I wasn’t able to execute my “usual” and get back to the routines as I wanted to. But I had done what I wanted to, on a most base, foundational, level. Just in a different way…and there’s the lesson that the universe was, methodically and repeatedly, trying to help me to see this morning.

That maybe it’s time to embrace the concept of “not the usual”. My inner control freak needs to take a breather and accept that a different way to achieve the same end result can be ok. IMAG5203

Looking forward with a wider view of possibilities and more ways to experience them is a wonderful way to celebrate the Solstice.

Happy Solstice!

There comes a time in life when you look around and take stock and have to be honest with what and where you are.

Birthdays are that for me. Having just had one, it’s was a time to reflect and analyse.

I’ve had a life that was, at times, nasty and rough and hell to wake up to. This same life has had moments that took my breath away, times that I simply could not have been any happier without bursting was how I felt. Lots of times of just middle of the road “ok” as well. We all have. I know what it’s like to be miserable and unhappy in the truest meaning of those words. I count my blessings that my life is pretty good now. I have a lot to be thankful for – and I am.

So what’s worse than “bad”? It’s becoming complacent with less than what you really want. Becoming accepting and tolerant of the unacceptable.

So I asked myself what’s so unacceptable in my life? Settling. Not going hard for what I want. What I desire. Having dreams and goals and not making them happen.

I’m tired of listening to my Self desire and to seeing my Self no further towards the realization of that.

It’s easier to look around and say “it’s pretty good”. My son said to me the other day that he wonders who he thinks he is to feel that he should have it better than other people… That made me reply swiftly that not just him, but everyone, deserves – seriously deserves – the best and to have dreams and goals come to fruition. Then I had to sit back and wonder why I wasn’t necessarily living that sentiment myself.

I have been, for a couple of years now, allowing myself to start to grieve the death of my dreams as I get older. Shelving some aspirations as unrealistic or unachievable. Telling myself to stop dreaming and smarten up and just enjoy what I have and not desire anything else. There’s always something that comes up and demands energy and focus… and I allow that “something” to be not Me. I allow that “something” to take that focus and energy in entirety…leaving nothing for me to draw from to make happen what I want to happen.

I get slightly infuriated with myself when I take time to look at where I am with regards to achievements. Knowing that I am the only reason why I haven’t progressed further. Time to change that.

I look at travel options and lifestyle choices and I ponder and I think “one day” or “maybe” to things that I want, things that speak to me living my truths. Then I face the “why not?” … and the only answer is for me to get off my ass and make it all happen. No more waiting, no more “one day”. We all have a finite number of days and we don’t usually know what that magic number of them is, so….

Good enough isn’t good enough anymore. A nice life is nice…but I want one that sweeps me off my feet and leaves me breathless and grinning and saying “again!”. It’s my life, time to craft it, nurture it and make it that way.

Why do we challenge ourselves? Why do we set goals and specific things that we hope to achieve? What is the difference between hoping to, and actually realizing that end?

Speaking for myself, this past year has been one that I have taken on a number of personally set challenges… and achieved a fair number of them…so it’s something that has been on my mind as my year wraps up.

I had someone ask me recently why I had done something. We were talking about events of the past year and I mentioned that I had just completed a race on November first. It was an outdoor, mud-based obstacle race. I had commented on how crazy I thought I was at one point when I realized that I couldn’t feel my hands from the cold and still had to use them. I was running. literally, with my hands tucked in my under arms trying to get them some feeling back. She looked at me like I was indeed crazy and asked simply “Why in the world would you do something like that?” My answer, after a second or two to ask myself that, was just as simple. To see if I could follow through.

For myself, it comes down to one thing really. Seeing if I can go from conceptualizing a goal, setting it as a goal, actually doing it and seeing that to fruition. It’s not even so much about how hard I can push myself or whether I can achieve something physically. The physical act of reaching my challenge is merely how I achieve a much bigger goal. One of knowing that I can do what I set my mind to. It’s not about the specifics, it’s about the bigger picture.

When I signed up for a 10km run that was in June, I knew that physically, it wasn’t that far of a reach. I was regularly running 5 – 7km a few times a week and had run a 10km distance a few times in the previous months so it wasn’t so much the physical. It was, somewhat unconsciously, a decision to commit to something and see if I could follow through. Even up to the day before, I was fully considering not going. I can’t stand crowds, I am not a fan of running with hordes of people in my way, the pre-run “warm up” that I never do… the list goes on of why I don’t do organized races. But I needed something to set and achieve. And I did it. In a great time; surprising myself and giving me a feeling of accomplishment more than a simple 10km race should have in my mind.

The next thing beyond that was the first of two of those aforementioned mud based obstacle races. A recap of that is here.
Coming out of that event and knowing just how hard it was physically was a huge sense of accomplishment for me. More than that though was the happiness that I felt not because of what I had achieved with the endurance or the strength but it was the mere fact that I showed up and did something that I committed to. It was something that scared me and I conquered it. Having to drive up island; knowing that I had signed up,solo, for a race that predominantly is run with people in teams; going into an experience not knowing details. I’m a control freak and hate the unknown. That race was a case of just show up and do what you have to as they don’t divulge course details other than the start location. So much more to that than just “can I do it”. Far more emotional than physical.

That alone, for me, is what this is all about. Being able to reflect and see a tangible result of my following through is more needed than any run or race to be honest.

Why do I do it? So that I can have a physical manifestation of personal achievement. That’s what is sorely needed.

Setting and achieving a physical challenge gives me proof – necessary proof – that I can do what I need to. Translate that to emotional and mental health. Can I feel joy and happiness and achieve the long game of living my potential? These little physical challenges show me “yes” and belief in that… hope… faith in my Self… that’s what it’s about. That’s why I do it.

The past…the experiences that we have had…things that have happened to us and actions that we have done… all are a part of who we are and what makes us the people we are.

I firmly believe that life should be lived like how you drive a car; eyes ahead at where you’re going with glances back every now and then and keeping a lookout for what’s edging up beside you too ;). You can’t go forward very well if all you’re doing is looking at where you came from. I am not defined by what I see of my life in my rear view mirror. Yet I am influenced by what’s back there.

Everything that I have come through – the good, the bad, the horrible and the amazing – it all has helped shape who I am today. The moments that felt impossible to live through have helped me to better be present in the moments that bring a smile to my Self.

Today marks the day, 24 years ago, that I lived through an experience that brought me to a moment that I thought would be the last one I would ever have. Attacked while walking to work and sexually assaulted at knifepoint. Thinking in my mind that I was so incredulous that this was how my end would be. Coming out of that event in shock that I made it. I went back home right after (it was less than a block from home), calmly took a shower, changed and , after assuring my husband that I was ok and just wanted to not think about, went to work. Repression and avoidance – you bet. That’s how I dealt with things. I did report it that night and followed through with legal necessities such as they were.

For many of the first few years after, I was barely able to get through the date. The rest of the year I would be oblivious to it but I would start to get anxious weeks before. Nightmares, panic attacks…the fears gripped me horribly as the date would come around. Then something happened. I decided that it wasn’t going to affect me anymore; and I pushed it down and told myself that it had no impact on me. And I did a really good job of that for a number of years.

Then two and a half years ago, a death in my life blew that ability to ignore all apart. I did my best even with that. My “best” being trying to push even that down and just move forward. That only lasted a few months before it all fell apart and I had a breakdown… a breakdown that I have spent almost two years trying to come back from. I had spent my life perfecting the art of being “fine” and “strong” and crafting the ability to take anything that came my way and keep going. The truth is though that, when you take emotions and lock them away, eventually, the dam breaks and it all has to be dealt with.

So I’ve worked at facing what I have tried to not feel for so long. Not just the assault but so many things in my life. The truth I have come to see is that for me, my strength comes not from being able to suppress and power through… my strength comes from being able to acknowledge and feel, fully feel, the pain and the hurt and the fears, and still keep going. With it all there, not driven away. To live with it, because there isn’t another option. Feeling the pain, the hurt, the loss, the fears… Feeling joy, abandon, bliss, serenity… Letting go of labelling bad or good… Feeling means I’m alive, and after living with the apathy of depression, I’ll take a rollercoaster of emotions over feeling nothing at all, thank you very much. Yes, life hurts sometimes – but it also has moments of feeling more happiness than you think you can ever experience. You can’t have one side of the coin without the other.

So today, instead of pretending it’s just another day and that it has no significance…I acknowledge it for what it is; a day that has helped bring me to where, and who, I am now. And that person is strong – strong enough to admit that sometimes I’m not. And that’s what gives me the strength to go on and be ok.