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Saying ‘hell no’ to the hustle

I’m going to be honest, I kind of feel like I have been failing at life lately.

Between work, household chores, writing a book, blogging, raising human beings, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life … I am about ready to explode.

I feel as though I have several balls in the air right now, none of which I am doing a particularly good job at managing.

Now, before you come at me with your validation, reassurance, and your ‘Don’t be hard on yourself, You are doing your best‘s’, let me explain … I am not doing my best right now. I haven’t been doing my best for a while and I know it.

I can feel in my gut when I am giving something 100%, and right now, I think I am hovering at 70% in most categories. Probably 65% in the housework department, if I am being completely honest, with self-care coming in at a dismal 10%. (Yikes)

I am exhausted. And I am in a cycle of putting just enough effort into things to keep them plugging along … and that’s about it.

And here is the thing, I am willing to give myself some grace because … it is a lot. I have a lot going on. I don’t need a hero cookie or a medal because, quite frankly, everyone has a lot going on and I am no more overwhelmed or busy than anyone else. But I am able to recognize that I have a full plate. A plate that I am very much grateful for.

I think the piece that I have been struggling with lately is, something’s got to give. I either need to find a better way or I need to put down one of the balls.

And I love all of my balls. (I am also a 13 year old at heart. I totally giggled as I typed that.)

But in all seriousness, how on earth can I choose?! How do I let go of something that I love in order to be able to make more room for something else that I love?

And let’s face it, some things (most of them actually) are not even options. I can’t say, “Kids, I’m taking a little vacay from parenting so that I can devote more energy to my job. Be good, okay?’

I can’t quit my job or stop doing laundry and dishes (as tempting as that is at times). And my self-care is already in the tanker. (Don’t be surprised if I roll up to your BBQ with unshaven legs and unkempt hair.)

So that leaves my passions. My book, this blog, the things that light me up … which quite frankly, don’t feel like options either.

So what to do?

Well, my first reaction was, ‘Suck it up, Christine. Quit sniveling that you have too many projects on the go and get to work. If you want it bad enough, make it happen.’

And to be honest, a part of me still believes that. Going after goals is work. The bigger the goal, the harder the work. No wildly successful person will tell you that they got where they are today because it was easy. They will tell you it was freaking hard but they made it because they didn’t give up.

But here is the thing, if you burn yourself out by trying to do too many things at once, you are guaranteed to not reach ANY of your goals, let alone one of them.

I recently wrote a blog about how I work towards goals and combat overwhelm. If you haven’t read it, you can check it out here. I wrote about how I reach goals, the importance of giving yourself some grace, and that bad days happen. But I have since realized that I forgot one of the most important steps of all.

Boundaries.

The bottom line is, the ‘hustle hard’ trend that has been circulating the entrepreneurial world in recent years can be dangerous. It implies that if you really want to make something happen, you will. And if you can’t, you must not be working hard enough.

‘Hustle hard’ tells us to work fulltime, exercise, eat clean, raise great kids, have a fantastic relationship (don’t forget the sex!), have a great social life (don’t forget the selfies!), have a hobby (and excel at it!), and look fantastic while doing it all. It tells us that not only is this possible, but it is sustainable and SEXY.

What a load of shit. Seriously.

This is why we have a bunch of people with anxiety, exhaustion, and addiction issues.

We have to stop trying to do everything, all at once.

I was on the phone with a close friend the other day and we were discussing the ‘habits and goals’ course that we were about to start creating. (I mean, I am already overwhelmed with work, kids, writing a book, and maintaining a blog … why wouldn’t I add course creation to the roster!? After all … hustle hard.)

“You know Christine, we don’t have to do this course right now. We can wait until things slow down a bit. We both have a lot going on. What you think?”

“Omgoodness, I totally think we can do it! I don’t actually think it will be too bad. We’ve got this!”, I rebutted quickly.

But then I stopped. I could feel it in my gut. A buzzing anxiety about the fact that I was about to throw another ball into the mix. One more thing. One more ‘I got this!’

So I asked myself, “Okay slow down a minute here. Can I really do this? And if I can, am I going to be able to give it my all? Can I offer this course, and my friend, the attention they both deserve?”

The answer was no. Could I do it? Probably. But could I do it well, and without it taking more from my family, my work, and my mental health? NO.

Boom. There was my boundary.

And man, did it feel good. Checking in with myself, being honest, and making the choice to do what was best for me and my most important balls instantly made me feel lighter.

I still want to do the course. And I will. When I am able to give it 100%.

Until then, I am going to work on having stronger boundaries. I am going to listen to my gut and think about whether or not I can actually take on more projects, before just diving in. I am going to resist the urge to ‘do it all’. I am going to practice saying no without feeling guilty. I am going to delegate. I am going to priotize. And I am going to put a few things down, for now.

I am driven. I have lots I want to do. But I am learning that I will be way more effective if I protect my time, energy, and emotions.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. And my mental health is so much more important than the hustle.

Setting boundaries, saying no, and pressing pause isn’t indicative of failure or laziness.

In fact, oftentimes, it is the key to success.

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All along, I thought I was a part of the solution … but I was still a part of the problem

I was going through my Facebook Memories the other day and came across a post that I had done years ago. It said “With so much darkness and sadness in the world, Choose LOVE.”

How ironic, I thought. Years later, and still so applicable.

But maybe it’s not applicable. Maybe we need to be sad and angry right now.

There was no way I was going to blog about this. Mostly because I thought, as a white woman, I don’t have a right to. But also, because this topic feels terrifying.

I watched a clip of the George Floyd murder last week and my heart has felt indescribably heavy ever since.

Nine minutes. For nine minutes, he laid on the pavement, cuffed, with a knee pressed into the back of his neck. He begged for water, for air, for his mom. He was murdered, on video,  and it happened because we have said it’s okay.

Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down while out for a jog.

Hunted.

It happened because we have said it’s okay.

Ugh, The States …” we mutter, and shake our heads in disdain.

Don’t be smug, Canada. We are like the States’ little sister. Our behavior is just as bad but we are a little bit quieter about it and have learned to smile sweetly when someone is looking.

Mamas have to tell their babies not to jog in certain areas, how to handle being followed in stores and accused of theft, and how to react if and when they get pulled over by the police.

They have to teach their babies how to stay safe. From us. And we have said it’s okay.

As a white woman, I have had the ability and privilege (one of many) to shake my head sadly, turn in the other direction, and pretend it’s not my problem.

I have said bullshit things to my non-white friends like ” I don’t see your colour, I just see you as a person”. I have asked people what their heritage is because I have been curious what kind of ‘not white’ they are. I have done all this while feeling and acting like I was part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

I am embarrassed. And I am sorry.

I want to do better. We need to do better.

We need to be angry and sad. We need to be sorry. And we need to be quiet. We need to be quiet so we can listen. We need to listen to the voices we have spoken over for so long.

My heart is broken, and humbled. I vow to do better.

~ Christine

** Where do we start? What can we do? It is overwhelming. Below are a few resources to start …

Donatehttps://blacklivesmatter.ca/donate/

Readhttps://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/# and https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234

Watchhttps://youtu.be/YrHIQIO_bdQ

Listenhttps://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-with-ibram-x-kendi-on-how-to-be-an-antiracist/

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Recovering Chameleon

I have always been a people pleaser. And a pretty darn good one, too. Like, if there was ever a ‘People Pleaser Olympics’, I would definitely have a shot at taking home a medal.

It is a skill I learned very early on – be what people want you to be and you will never be left. Simple.

I was raised an only child and have some pretty significant abandonment and daddy issues so I developed an innate ability to not only worm my way into people’s lives, but to make sure I stayed there. I craved belonging, and became the ultimate shapeshifter.

Oh, you like country music? I don’t mind it either.”

“Scary movies? Me too!

** Note, both scary movies and country music make me want to cry. But there is no way in hell I would ever risk rocking that boat so I spent much of my youth with bleeding ears and terrible nightmares.**

I was the funny kid, the sweet kid, the energetic kid, the charming kid. I was whatever was required of me in the moment.

Even as I got older and became a little more rebellious (read: a teenaged nightmare), I remained likeable. And it was a title I wore with pride.

My friends, parents, teachers, and employers all tolerated even my most rascally behaviour, because I was … agreeable.

Christine, such a nice girl.

My people pleasing nature went beyond just pretending to like the twang of a steel guitar to slightly meatier issues. From not sharing important opinions at work or biting my tongue when someone hurt me to nervously laughing at inappropriate jokes or tolerating abuse so that I wouldn’t be ‘rejected’.

I can’t remember how old I was when I realized that there was a downside to my ‘please everyone at all costs‘ approach to life, but I am guessing it was my late 20’s, a fairly typical age for women to get tired of bullshit.

I think I was getting exhausted. Exhausted from having to be a chameleon in order to feel safe in my relationships. Exhausted from pretending to like or dislike things I didn’t. Exhausted from not feeling confident enough in myself to show up in the way I wanted.

I was fed up and shit had to change.

And it did. Or … it is. Let’s just say, it’s been a s-l-o-w recovery. You don’t go your entire life making sure everyone else is happy to confidently ruffling feathers overnight, it takes time and is a bit of a process.

I have had to literally train myself that I can share my opinions without worrying about being left. I have had to get used to the super uncomfortable feeling in my stomach when I tell someone they have hurt me or I don’t agree with them.

It is like everything in my body is screaming at me, “No, don’t do it! There will be conflict. We hate conflict! What if they leave us? We will be all alone.”

But here is what I have learned, although there is a bit of a learning curve on both sides (it is an adjustment in any relationship when you drop the people-pleasing routine), and you might lose a few along the way, the people of value in your life will actually appreciate the change. Turns out, people like authenticity. Go figure.

Like anything, it is a bit of a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ process, and I stumble along the way. A lot. I have had to learn to take things slow, to let people adjust with me, and that being a people-pleaser is NOT the same thing as being ‘easy going’.

But I am working on it. And I am committed to myself and to that little girl who thought she wasn’t enough.

So for now, I say, “Hi, I’m Christine. I am a recovering chameleon.”

Are you a recovering chameleon? Drop me a comment if you can relate. Also, feel free to share using the super-easy share buttons below!

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Self-help: less talk, more action

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with self-help.

A part of me is a straight-up self-help junkie. I devour all the books, podcasts, and conferences that I can get my hands on. I love the teachings, the inspiration, and I work hard to incorporate the things I learn into my life.

But then there is the other part of me. The part of me that honestly finds all of it to be just a little too much. The buzz words, the psychobabble … I just can’t. Nothing brings out dramatic eyerolls from me quite like phrases such as ‘speaking my truth‘, ‘holding space’, or anything that references ‘leaning in‘ and ‘authenticity‘.

Newsflash, ‘speaking my truth‘ sounds like an overblown way of saying ‘here is my opinion‘. And ‘holding space‘ is basically a fancy version of saying you are ‘being supportive‘.

Perhaps I am just triggered by everyone’s authenticity and need to lean in to the discomfort and get grounded. (insert eyeroll here)

Seriously. It is a little too much sometimes. And don’t even get me started on yoga teachers who tell me to ‘breathe into my side body‘. Like, come on … who comes up with this stuff?!

K, rant over. Promise. (And to my yoga teacher, I’m sorry you had to hear it this way and I really do love you)

The bottomline is, psychobabble aside, a lot of this stuff has changed my life. And like anything, I don’t need to love it all. I can take what I like and leave the rest and that is exactly what I do. Besides, what do I care if someone says ‘holding space‘ or ‘being supportive‘? The intent and message is the same so I try to mind my own business and keep my eyerolls to myself.

Anyway, lately, with all of the covid-19 happenings, along with social isolation, I have found I have been consuming even more self-help material than usual and becoming more aware of what works for me … and what doesn’t. One of the things I have realized is that my frustrations with the self-help world have less to do with annoying buzzwords, and more to do with feeling inundated with information but then not understanding how to effectively use most of it.

When I look back, one of my biggest problems along my quest for self-improvement has been to do with goal-setting. When I really gave it some thought, I realized I was putting a tonne of effort into making goals, but then very little effort into making sure I actually accomplished them.

It is great to write out lists of dreams and cut apart magazines to create brilliant vision boards but if all I am doing to follow that up is sitting on my couch and drinking chardonnay out of a mug … I probably shouldn’t be terribly surprised if my big dreams don’t come to fruition, you know?

I’ve written on the topic of accomplishing goals before but one thing I was missing is how important it is to be aware of the steps we are actually taking to achieve them. We can visualize our dreams, manifest, and ‘speak our truth‘ all day long but unless we are actually following that up with action, we aren’t going to see a lot in the results department.

When I sat down and really looked at my daily habits and routines and asked myself, ‘Are these taking me in the direction I want to go?’ … I found the answer was an overwhelming, ‘not really’.

I mean, sure, I would write … for a few days. But then I would get discouraged. Or distracted. Or busy. And it would fall to the wayside.

I would eat healthy for a couple of weeks. But then friends would visit from out of town. It would be someone’s birthday. Or some sort of holiday. And I would fall off the wagon.

Everything I did was so willy nilly. So half-assed. And I realized that unless my big dreams involved some sort of certification in Netflix-watching, I wasn’t making any consistent moves towards my goals. My actions were not in line with my desired outcome.

That is when I realized the importance of what I have affectionately dubbed ‘goal-stepping‘ – the act of taking concrete, measurable steps every day to ensure I will reach my goals. (I also figured I might as well get on the buzz word bandwagon and invent one. If you can’t beat them, then join them, right?)

I think that one of the places that we get stuck when going after goals, at least where I do, is in the overwhelm. Let’s face it, when approaching a daunting goal such as starting a business, writing a book, or losing 50 lbs, it can be hard to know where to start, let alone maintain the motivation to keep at it. Add in multiple big goals and it gets even worse. We might take a couple of cracks at it but then it gets hard and all of a sudden a mug full chardonnay seems a heck of a lot easier, and pretty darn appealing.

The way I tackle overwhelm, and my #1 goal-stepping technique, is something I have adapted from the numerous self-help champions that I admire such as Rachel Hollis and Mel Robbins. I take 2 minutes every morning and write out my goals (I do my 5 year goals). Then I choose ONE small thing I can do that day that will take me a tiny bit closer. Depending on where I am at and how I am feeling, some days it might be as simple as writing an email to my Publisher, other days I might set the task of writing a chapter. Giving myself one task, rather than overwhelming myself with several, makes me so much more effective and able to accomplish much more overall. Whether the day allows for a small gesture or a giant leap, either way, I am taking one step in the direction I want to go.

The beauty is, oftentimes, that one step leads to another. (#goalstepping)

And here is the deal, it’s not always perfect. Sometimes, I find myself back on the couch, working towards my Netflix certification. We will have bad days, bad weeks, or sadly … sometimes even bad months. And that is okay, cut yourself some slack. But then, dust yourself off and get back at it. After all, you are the only person who is going to get yourself where you want to go.

So, keep your eye on the prize but don’t fall victim to overwhelm. Use all the psychobabble and buzzwords you like, but don’t forget the action! Do one thing everyday that will get you a little bit closer to your goal(s). It doesn’t matter if it is big or small. When we approach things in small measurable tasks, it is amazing what we can accomplish.

You know what they say … How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

So go ahead, take one tiny bite each day. I promise it will be a gamechanger.

And I’ll be here, holding space if you need me šŸ˜‰

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Running in the sand while being chased by a bear? Nahh, just anxiety

I said I wasn’t going to write about the virus again. Mostly because I am just tired of hearing about it. The death toll, the fears, the protesters, and now the conspiracy theories that ‘Big Pharma’ is trying to control us all … I am just over it.

But as the province prepares for the gradual re-open starting next week and everyone, albeit apprehensively, looks forward to a shift back towards normalcy, I have noticed that my anxiety is worse than ever. I have been fairly open with my anxiety in my social circle but have yet to really touch on it in my blog so I will give the coles notes version.

I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life. Like many mental illnesses, it gets better at times and worse at others. For the most part, I am able to manage it well, but there are times (such as last spring) when it gets unmanageable and I have to take medication.

** For some reason, even though I know better, I have always felt some shame around needing medication … which, quite frankly, I am DONE with. When you speak to shame (or in this case, write), you take away it’s power so there you have it. #medicated #noshame #endthestigma

Anyway, when Covid-19 initially hit, everyone braced themselves. There was talk of how we were experiencing a trauma response, of how we were thrust into flight, fright, or freeze as we grappled with the panic, uncertainty, and sudden restrictions. Even my doctor cautiously called me, “Christine, how are you doing? I just wanted to check up on you and make sure you were coping okay”.

Oddly, and much to my surprise, I was okay. Generally speaking, my anxiety level was very manageable. Yes, it could be argued that I seemed to do well due to the fact that I was proactive with my mental health. Or that I was not in a demographic that was highly affected by the virus (ie: I am not living in a high-risk area, a small business owner, immunocompromised, a frontline worker, etc) but still, when there is a pandemic sweeping the globe causing mass panic and economic crisis, it would certainly not be surprising to find ones anxiety a little higher than normal.

I mean, of course, I went a bit stir-crazy. I definitely had my days. But for the most part, and particularly as things went on, my mental health actually seemed to improve. In fact, I almost felt guilty about it. Seriously, Christine. You get anxious about going into a department store to get shoes but a global pandemic has you feeling all “I got this”. It didn’t make sense.

Then again, mental illness rarely does.

But, a few days ago, things shifted. As the community and my social circle started to buzz excitedly about the glimmer of hope that we might see a ‘normal’ summer, as workplaces started to get ready to ramp up for business again, as my kids expressed their hope that even schools might re-open, the only thing I felt was dread.

Okay, seriously. You have got to be kidding me.

I felt even more ashamed.

I reached out to a friend. “Of course, you are feeling anxious Christine. There is still so much uncertainty. We don’t know what is going to happen. Just be gentle with yourself.”

Although excellent advice, that wasn’t it. At least that wasn’t all of it. These past 6 weeks have been filled with uncertainty, nothing has changed on that front. I think the thing that has been causing my angst is the inevitable increase in speed that we are all going to experience. Back to the hustle.

I have realized that the reason my anxiety seemed more manageable during these last few weeks is due to the slower pace of life. I realize that I thrive in a slow, predictable routine. And the very thought of things speeding up again, has my stomach in knots.

Don’t get me wrong, I cannot wait to sit on a restaurant patio again, sipping a drink with my friends. I miss my people and I can’t wait to hug them ALL. But the idea of the work grind, the rushing, and the weekends jam packed with socializing and plans makes it feel like I can’t breathe.

We live in a world where ‘the hustle’ is not only glorified, but celebrated. And rest is considered ‘for the weak’. (Another bullshit stigma.) But one of the many things this pandemic has taught me is how badly I need downtime.

One of the things about anxiety is it always has you feeling like you are running in sand. Rush, rush, rush. Panic, panic, panic. Not getting anywhere.

The ability to slow down and convince my nervous system that we are not, in fact, being chased by a grizzly bear has been an absolute blessing.

Things are going to speed up again, there is no doubt about that. And in all reality, it would be terrible if they didn’t. After all, we need an economy. But I don’t want them to go back to full-tilt again. Not for me.

These next few months are going to be filled with a lot of learning, change, and of course, more uncertainty. But I think my main focus needs to be balance. I’ve learned what I need, and now I need to learn how to incorporate that into this new normal. How to give myself time to reset and recharge. How to recognize that when it feels like I am being chased by a bear, I need to rest, not run.

life, Uncategorized

Stop ‘just’ing your passion

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to write. Even as a very small girl, I loved nothing more than receiving a brand new notebook and pen so that I could spend my days scribbling. My mom used to laugh because most little girls wanted barbies or other typical toys, but not me, I wanted one of those fancy pens that you got from nice offices or speciality stationary stores. Give me a pen that would run smoothly across the page and not clump ink … SWOOON!

Despite my early passion, my stories were not the most riveting back then, let’s just say I’ve come a long way. They were all the same, usually starring a young princess named Christine (coincidence?) with SOFT, FLOWING red hair, and TANNED skin.

Now, if you know me personally, you know how comical that is. There is nothing soft about my hair, I could legitimately fashion it into a spear and stab someone if needed. My mother lovingly described it as having the texture of ‘steel wool’, it is not exactly nice to snuggle with nor does it ‘flow’ anywhere. And the closest I have ever gotten to a tan was when … well, never. I’ve never even come close. But hey, I was only 7. And a girl can dream, can’t she?

My stories always had a dad (the king), a sibling (although I was Dad’s favorite), and we lived in a marvelous palace … talk about using creativity to work through your abandonment and ‘only child’ issues.

Over the years my writing thankfully transitioned beyond ‘The Chronicles of Princess Christine’ to include a little more variety, and then to the dark, melancholic prose that only a teenage girl can pull off. No matter the age or stage of life, I was writing. I even remember my friends asking me to help them in English class whenever they felt stumped or overwhelmed. It is fair to mention that I was not the best student (read: barely scraped by), so to be the kid who others were coming to for help was a real source of pride for me.

There is no doubt about it, the written word has always been ‘my jam’.

Now the odd thing is, it wasn’t until just last year, when I became a published author, that I actually considered myself ‘a writer’. Even though I had been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen, loved it with my entire being, and was pretty good at it, I always thought of it as ‘just’ a hobby. ‘Just’ something I enjoyed doing in my free time. I thought that to be ‘a writer’, you had to have gone to school for a degree, have a job for which you get paid for writing, or have been published.

I’ve been giving this some thought lately and I’ve got to say … what a crock of shit. Why do we do that? Why do we ‘just’ our passions? Why do we insist on downplaying our talents unless there is a degree or a paycheck associated with them?

I am no more a writer now than I was two years ago before I had been published.

I am a writer because I write. Bottom line.

Obviously there are limits and some things do require a level of training. I can’t go around calling myself a massage therapist just because I enjoy rubbing oil on people and soothing tired muscles, even if I am darn good at it. That would be reckless and quite frankly, a little bit weird.

What I am talking about is how we minimize our gifts and passions. About how we constantly determine the value of our talents on how much money or status it brings in.

Is it nice to make money doing something we love? Of course. Is it validating to have a piece of paper recognizing hard work, effort, and skill? Yes. But do those things determine our talent or worth? No.

So next time you are talking about your passion, drop the ‘just’ in front of it.

Wear the title with pride.

You don’t ‘just play around with paint’. You are a goddamned painter!

You don’t ‘just enjoy photography in your free time’. You are a mother freaking photographer!

And if your passion does require some training or education in order to wear the title or expand on your gift … do it!

Stop hiding. Stop downplaying. Stop devaluing yourself. And stop making excuses.

You are worth it!

Go get’em, tiger.

~Christine (mother freaking writer since birth)

life, motherhood

My little piece of mom shame

Oooooh, boy! This blog is already not easy to write (You know it is going to be hard when the first five words give you grief).

But, I NEED to write this blog. I need to write it for me, and all of the other mamas in similar positions. I am tired of feeling ashamed. Shame is something that I have spoken about on stage. About how it tricks us, lies to us, and how the best way to silence shame is to SPEAK it (thank you, Brene Brown). So, in an effort to kick my shame to the curb, here goes nothing ….

My kids don’t live with me. There, I said it.

They live full time with their father and I see them every second weekend and half of all holidays.

Even writing it makes me queasy.

Like most moms, I love nothing more than to gush and brag about my kids to coworkers or acquaintances but whenever the topic of where my children live comes up, it hits me like a punch to the gut. And I tend to avoid the subject at all costs.

It happens more than you might think, usually coming up around schooling …

What grades are your kids in? Oh, that’s nice! What school do they go to?

That’s when I start nervously rambling. “They actually go to school in Castlegar, they live with their Dad.” (note: Castlegar is four hours away from my home in Kelowna, BC)

And cue the inquisitive head tilt, “Ohhhhhh …” in a slightly higher than average pitch. You can literally feel their curiosity.

And of course they are curious. I don’t blame them. In all honesty, it is a bit different than what people are used to. Although the idea of ‘normal’ within a family construct is thankfully broadening, it is still fairly uncommon for children of separated families to not reside with their mother, at least half of the time … unless there is something wrong.

Why don’t the kids live with her? Did she lose custody? Did she not want them? Did they not want to live with her?

Now whether those questions are actually what people are wondering when it comes up, I don’t know? But what I DO know is that the reason I avoid these conversations or worry about judgements is because I judge myself.

I grapple daily with whether I made the right decision or not. I constantly struggle with guilt and wonder how my children will view my choices later. And there is a huge part of me that questions if I am a good mother or not.

The irony is, if I were a dad, this would not be an issue. Not for society and not for me. Sure, I would miss my kids terribly, but I would see them every second weekend and get pats on the back for doing so. I would likely be praised for my devotion to fatherhood, and receive support and empathy when telling people about my parenting arrangement.

But I am not a dad. I am a mama. And kids need their mama.

Right?

Well, of course. But here is the thing, my kids still have a mama. I might be 4 hours away but we have a great relationship, we speak every day, and I am there when they need me. I get the phone calls about school stuff, the midday texts with questions or stories, and the early morning skypes to show off their birthday haul or what the Easter bunny brought.

I think I will always worry if we made the right choice, if we could or should have done it differently, or if my boys will resent me at the end of it all. And the thing is, they might. But that risk would also be there if we remained a nuclear family too. Maybe more so if that nuclear family was an unhappy one.

In the coming years, I know my kids will likely look back on their childhood and have feedback that I might find hard to hear. Most kids do. But I hope that it is less about which loving home they lived in as children, and more about how I was always nagging them to get off their phones and go outside, or that time I tried to give them a haircut during a pandemic quarantine.

I trust that my kids know how much I love and miss them, that they feel heard, and that they feel comfortable talking with me about anything (including this) at any time.

For now, I am going to try to shelve the self-judgement, and the shame. I have better things to do with all of that energy, such as put it towards my kids. And I’m not going to avoid the questions or the topic anymore. I feel confident that my kids are in a great situation. They have three parents that adore them, two safe and loving homes, and extended families and friends to support them. Has it been perfect? No. But perfect doesn’t exist. Not in nuclear families, or blended families, or even in separated families where the kids primarily live with mama.

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On gratitude, grief, and keeping it real during Covid-19

This weekend was hard. It wasn’t ‘worst weekend ever’ hard but it was ‘I am getting really tired of this‘ hard. I am fed up. I am sick of social isolation, Covid-19, and all of the anxiety it brings. I am frustrated. I miss my kids, I miss my friends, and I want nothing more than to do what I normally do when I feel sad, which is to go out for a nice dinner with my fiance. I want to hug my people. I want to go to work. And I never thought I would say this but I want to wear something other than sweatpants.

(I know what you’re thinking, “So dress up, Christine! Dress for the social life you want, not the one you have.” To which I will say, thanks but no thanks. I tried that. Turns out, my dress pants have gotten a little snug as a result of too many quarantine nachos and let’s face it, a good pair of joggers are just plain comfy which is pretty much all we have right now. So I will retract that last statement … I ALMOST want to wear something other than sweatpants.)

It took me a couple of days to recognize the feeling in my chest. I am no stranger to grief and that heaviness that it brings is unlike no other. My energy was low, I was irritable, and my focus was non-existent. Even walking up my short flight of stairs or completing simple tasks like unloading the dishwasher seemed daunting. There was no doubt about it, out of nowhere, my sunny covid-19 outlook that I had written about just last week was gone, and it had been replaced with melancholy.

In addition to feeling melancholy, I was pissed off with myself. I mean, come on. I am not a nurse working the front lines or a cashier dealing with anxious people all day. I am not a small business owner struggling to stay afloat or wondering if I will even have a business left when this is over. I still have a job. My family is safe. And I have ample resources available to me. And yet here I was sulking because I have to stay at home, eat quarantine nachos, and zoom call my friends. Are you freaking kidding me, Christine?!

I was embarrassed to be slipping into a pity-party when there are so many people out there who are actually struggling right now. Perspective is something that is so important to me, as is gratitude, and I felt like I was failing.

But then I had a realization (a perk of social isolation is that you have more time to think), … what if it doesn’t have to be one or the other? What if I can be grateful AND sad all at the same time? What if I can maintain a healthy perspective and still feel overwhelmed by all of the uncertainty right now? What if one does not negate the other?

Here is the deal, we are dealing with something right now that has quite literally rocked the entire world. There is a lot of anxiety and stress and uncertainty and it all hit very quickly – we are allowed to have an emotional reaction to that. Is it important to maintain perspective and stay focused on gratitude? YES! But are we allowed to miss our friends, worry about the future, and have a down day? Also, YES!

This is not an either or situation. We might have days where we feel on fire and our productivity is through the roof. And then we might have days where we get nothing done at all. We might have days when we engage with our kids, play board games, and eat nutritious meals as a family. And then we might have days where screen time is unlimited and quarantine nachos are where it’s at. There might be days where finding joy and gratitude comes easily, and others that are filled with frustration and tears.

It is all okay. And sometimes, it might change hour to hour.

It is important to use the tools we have so that we can make it through this with some semblance of normalcy, or at the very least, our sanity. And practicing gratitude and perspective is imperative (because dammit, we ARE so freaking blessed). But we are also allowed to grieve. We are allowed to be sad, miss our friends, and have days where all we accomplish is a netflix marathon.

We WILL get through this, friends. I promise. Use the tools you have, rock the sweatpants, practice gratitude, and allow yourself to grieve.

You are allowed to feel ALL the feelings right now.

-Christine

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Things I want to thank Covid-19 for

My anxiety has been a little heightened lately. Probably fairly typical when a pandemic crisis is sweeping the globe, I guess? I am tired, irritable, on edge. Quite frankly, I am having a hard time wrapping my head around it all. People are dying at alarming rates, our econcomy is in trouble, and everyone seems lost, confused, and scared.

I find I float in and out of angst. One moment I am filled with panic and finding it hard to breathe, and the next I am shrugging it off and saying “It will all be over soon. We just need to focus on …”

I bounce back and forth between reading grim news stories and statistics and then listening to podcasts and reading self-help books so that I can use this time to ‘be my best self’.

It’s exhausting really. I think we are all exhausted. I see people scurry around the grocery store, stocking up on items that they don’t truly need but because having those items makes them feel a little bit safer. I see people juggling children while trying to manage layoffs and financial stress. I see people struggling with loneliness, uncertainty and fear. Fear of loss. Fear of getting sick. Fear of what the future holds.

I’ve always been a ‘look on the bright side’ type. A glass half-full, rose-colored glasses kind of girl. And I have been trying even harder as of late to keep my focus positive and centered around gratitude.

I recognize that this might seem arrogant as it is easy for me to sit back and look for the blessings in the situation when I am lucky enough to still be working, I live in a relatively low-risk area, and thankfully, no one I love is in ICU fighting for their lives. I know that all of that can change at any time but as of right now, I am in an okay spot. I am safe. But I have been noticing something lately, pieces of gratitude and little lessons I might not have realized had it not been for Covid-19 and I want to write about them so that I have a reminder later. Because when this is all over, there are things I want to take forward with me. They say life will never be the same after this and to be honest, I think that could be a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to the days when I can dine in restaurants, travel, and spend time (in the flesh) with people I care about but there are pieces of this pandemic that I don’t want to lose, pieces for which I am thankful.

The first thing I have noticed is improved relationships and a deeper level of connection. I know this isn’t true across the board. Tensions have been high and last night I had to refrain from snapping at my fiance for breathing ‘at me’ while we slept. But I am seeing people play board games with their kids, going for walks together as a family, and having giant zoom parties with friends. I have reconnected and reached out to friends that I had lost touch with. I have set up regular chats with people that always seemed difficult to arrange before as one of us was always ‘busy’. I have received more memes, jokes, and GIF’s from friends than I ever have before as we all work hard to keep each others spirits high. The bottom line is the busyness is gone, as are the excuses. We are scared and it is causing us to seek support and be a bit more vulnerable. One of the beautiful things about vulnerability is that it makes connections stronger. I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to be ‘too busy’ to connect with friends or to spend time in nature. I feel as though many of us will exit this pandemic with stronger, more connected, more vulnerable and honest relationships. I want to make sure they stay that way.

The second thing – perspective. Man, how things have changed! And one thing Covid has shown us is just how quickly that change can happen. The things that were stressing me out 6 weeks ago aren’t even on my radar now. Now I worry about losing my job, not being able to pay my mortgage, or getting sick. And not only am I worrying about these things for myself, but also for every single person that I care about. Covid has shown me what is important, how fragile life is, and how much I have to be grateful for. It has also shown me the difference between need and want. All of those things I so badly ‘needed’ a few months ago have suddenly lost their meaning and value. It has shown me how much money I spend on crap, how much time I waste, and how damn distracted I was. It has shown me that it doesn’t matter how important you think your job is, turns out the world can make it without you just fine … unless you are a cashier, grocer, or someone in the medical field – we need you guys. So much so. And thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Social isolation is hard but I think we all needed to be sent to our rooms. The bottom line is, we are blessed. If you are lucky enough to have a home to isolate in – blessed. A government offering help when you lose your job – blessed. A hospital nearby to go to if you get sick – blessed. A bank deferring payments to ease your financial stress – blessed. You are reading this blog so you have internet and electricity – blessed.

These things have become so much more apparent to me now. I needed this. I needed to be shaken, to be humbled, because I was doing it wrong.

We will get through this, there is no doubt about that. And if we get through it a little bit kinder and a little bit more patient (because Lord knows being stuck in the house with your family for weeks will teach you patience), then that is a win. If we spend less money on things, and spend more time with the people we love. If we spend less time on screens, and spend more time outdoors. If we treat the cashier with the same kindness that we do the high-powered executive. Then those are all wins.

We are in this together. That has never been more clear.

Stay safe, friends. Stay connected. Stay vulnerable.

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I’ll be your Monica if you be my Rachel …

I was visiting with a friend the other day and as we sipped our americanos and caught up on each others lives, my friend shared that she was feeling exasperated with one of her colleagues. This woman is apparently very sweet with a kind heart but tends to be overly exhausting and my dear friend was struggling. “She just has no clue! It’s like she is oblivious to her behaviour!” As I nodded sympathetically and offered helpful suggestions as to how my friend might handle her colleagues’ antics, I couldn’t help but wonder … how do people perceive me?

Am I someone who people enjoy for a short time but then breathe a sigh of relief when I leave the room? Or am I (as I like to think) easy-going and effortless to be around? Am I completely oblivious to how my behaviour and energy impacts others? Or am I self-aware and conscious of social cues?

Well, if you know me, you are already rolling your eyes at this blog post … and if you don’t know me, the answers to the above questions are (in order) OCCASIONALLY, RARELY, SOMETIMES, and A LITTLE BIT.

And let me tell you, thank goodness for that little bit of social awareness because if not for that, I might be a real nightmare!

The bottom line is, I am fully aware that I am sometimes high-maintenance or ‘work’ to be friends with. Like on a scale of 1-10 of friendship (1 being someone who is easy peasy and 10 being a Monica Gellar vibe) … I feel like I’m a solid 7. Maybe a 6 and a half.

Now I have nothing against Monica Gellar and I’m not writing this to get a bunch of praise or arguments … “Christine, don’t be silly! You are a great friend!”

Trust me, I am equally aware that I am a good friend too. I am energetic, trustworthy, and entertaining. I am always up for fun and your mom will love me. You can tell me almost anything without me even blinking an eye and I am loyal AF.

But I would be lying if I said that being my friend is a breeze. I can be loud, overly exuberant, hyperactive, moody, and anxious. I can be demanding, inappropriate, and I need constant reassurance. I will relentlessly ask your advice even though I have already fully made up my mind about what I am going to do (otherwise known as an ‘askhole’) and I always seem to be generating chaos around me. I’m not so much breezy as I am tropical stormy.

Oh yea, I am also dramatic and ‘overly expressive’. Now I’ve never really considered my expressive nature to be a negative thing. In fact, I have always prided myself on having exceptional non-verbal communication skills (you will ALWAYS know how I am feeling), but the other day one of my co-workers said to me “It’s amazing, you can whine without actually saying anything. It is like your whole body is whining.” so I’ve since realized that perhaps it is possible to exude a little too much in the emotion department.

Points for being fairly self-aware?!

Anyway, the whole situation really got me thinking … it is a weird balance between loving and accepting who you are but also trying not to be a complete oblivious asshole.

I am always going to be excitable, anxious, and need reassurance. I am always going to ask your advice and then do whatever the hell I want anyway. But it’s also not going to hurt if I try to be a little more mindful of my surroundings … and keep my non-verbal whining to a minimum.

Friends wouldn’t have been Friends without Monica. In all reality, she’s pretty cool. And thankfully she had all of the other characters to keep her balanced and in check. So to my crew, thanks for keeping me in check and loving all of me, even when things get stormy.