life, Uncategorized

Happiness – create it your damn self

Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. Whether it is the mild weather, the fact that fall fashion really works for me, or that it is the season in which I was born, I just feel good in the Fall. It always feels like a fresh start to me, a second ‘New Years’ of sorts. I find that I start hibernating a little more, getting more contemplative, and setting goals for myself.

This year’s contemplations and goals are focused much more around my mental health and outlook than they have been in the past. Perhaps this is a normal part of maturing, or maybe it is a result of the current events we have been facing, but I find that I am much more focused on my ‘happiness’ now than I have been in previous years.

Of course, happiness has always been on my radar. Everyone wants to be ‘happy’. All you see on social media is people #livingtheirbestlife. But my focus lately has been finding and creating happiness in my life NOW, rather than promising myself I will be content when …

  • I finally get in shape
  • I start making more money
  • My book is complete
  • I get into my dream house
  • etc., etc., etc.

Now there is nothing wrong with having goals. In fact, they are crucial. The problem is that so many of us rate our satisfaction in life with how close we are to reaching our goals.

I think we all ‘know’ that happiness isn’t something that you can buy but we still seem to get trapped in that loop that says ‘As soon as I get/have/accomplish …., then I will be happy.”. In the meantime, we shuffle along, feeling ‘semi-content’ with our lives but with our sights laser-focused on an end goal (the house, the partner, the body, the promotion). An end goal that never really seems to come, because if/when we achieve it, it isn’t enough. There is always another goalpost.

We view happiness as a destination, one which we will arrive at when we have achieved enough, accumulated enough. And while accomplishments and milestones do bring a wave of happiness, they tend to be short lived, with genuine happiness being found in the connection and the small moments of day-to-day life.

Now, I do believe that money and the feeling of mastery (feeling as though we are good at or doing well at something) can contribute to mental wellbeing. Afterall, if our basic needs aren’t met, it becomes a lot more difficult to pursue or perceive happiness in our lives. As per Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see below), food and shelter trump everything. But I do think that beyond that, it is relative.

I think we can all think of someone who seemingly ‘has it all’ yet is as crusty as they come – always griping about what they lack or striving for the next best thing. Similarly, I think we can all think of someone who may not have a lot, yet seems to relish in the small moments of life.

The bottom line is, we create our own happiness. Nothing outside of ourselves, good or bad, has the ability to have a long term effect on our happiness, unless we let it.

“Happiness is an inside job.” – William Arthur Ward

So, what gives? How do we balance having goals and striving towards them while not letting them dictate how satisfied we are day-to-day? How do we find the ever-elusive happiness that we seek?

Well, I am no happiness expert. In fact, I’m not sure I am an anything expert. But this is something that I have been working on, on and off, for years now and I do have a few tricks that I find really helpful when it comes to finding happiness. ***Hint: You don’t find it. You create it your damn self.***

Here goes …

#1 – Stop numbing everything. I know, I know, I am about to get super lame here and tell you to lay off the ol’ wobbly pops. Trust me, no one was more resistant to this idea then me. J’adore le vin! Buuuut, one cannot guzzle copious amounts of a depressant every Friday night and then wonder why they aren’t feeling 100% in the mental health department, you know? Although touted as a tonne of fun and the answer to all things, alcohol is not good for us mentally or physically and giving myself a little break from it has been a game changer in terms of my outlook and general happiness. I am not saying we should never indulge in a drink with friends, but I am saying that we should be aware of how often we do it, and why. When I really examined when and why I was drinking, I found that the answers were ‘anytime’ and ‘for any reason’. I was using alcohol to cope, grieve, celebrate, soothe, entertain, excite … let’s be honest, I used it for anything. Taking a step back from booze has allowed me to actually feel and process my feelings. My mind is more clear, I have more energy, and my mood and sleep are better. I am not numbing anymore. Am I still going to enjoy drinks with friends? Of course! But I am going to be more mindful about it. Besides, no one looks back on their fabulous life and says, “You know, my only regret is that I didn’t drink more.

#2 – Get Connected. For real. And not electronically. Connection is one of the most important factors when it comes to happiness. So much so that it ranks pretty highly on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Feeling supported, desired, loved, and cared for literally has the ability to support not only our mental health, but our physical health too. I’m not talking about being around a lot of people, or even conversing with them. A person can be in a room full of people and still be the loneliest person in the world. Connection is about vulnerability. It is about sharing all the little bits of yourself, even the shadowy parts, and feeling that someone still has your back. It is having someone to cry with or phone at 4am. Social media and electronics have been both a blessing and a curse in this department as they have made it easier to interact with people … but that doesn’t necessarily equal connection. Your funny meme or cute selfie might get a lot of ‘likes’ and make you feel good but it tends to be short lived and doesn’t fill your happiness cup in any sustainable way. So put down the phone and spend time with people who love you. Share the embarrassing childhood story. Talk about your worries and your fears. Laugh. It will light you up in a way that lasts way longer than how many followers you have on Insta. Promise.

#3 – Practice Gratitude. I remember when I was around 6 or 7 years old, I went through a stage where, every day, I would choose one thing that I was excited about. Every morning, I would sit my tiny butt down and consider what my ‘one thing’ would be for that day. I clearly remember looking down at my hand and seeing one of those chintzy little rings that you get from the dentist for being good and deciding that that was going to be my ‘one thing to be excited about’. Some days it was getting to go to a restaurant with my mom or staying up past my bedtime, and other days it was getting to have a playdate with a friend. It was always simple (after all, I was only 7), and it always made me feel good. At the time, I had no idea that I was actually practicing gratitude. I would reflect on my day and consciously focus on what I liked or what went well. I was, without knowing it, training my brain to seek out the positive and appreciate the little things.

Gratitude is still something I practice every day and in my opinion, one of the keys to creating happiness in our lives.

My advice – do it every night before bed and get specific. It becomes easy to rattle off “I am grateful for my house, food, air .…” and although it is important to be grateful for those things, the real magic is in the details. Take a few moments and really reflect upon your day. What happened that you are grateful for? Did someone let you into traffic? Did your co-worker buy you a coffee? Did your partner do the dishes? It doesn’t have to be grand. And I promise you that when you start listing things, more and more things will start popping to mind. I also do this whenever I am in a bad mood. I instantly start mentally creating a gratitude list and while it may start out feeling difficult, once I get going, it just flows. And my mood instantly lifts.

Also, pay attention to your perspective. Here is the deal, what comes out of our mouths can be an excellent indicator as to what is going on in our heads. If you find yourself bitching and complaining a lot, chances are your mind is not a very happy place. The good news is, you can change it. Just like gratitude, we can literally ‘practice’ looking at things through a positive lens, and eventually it will become a habit. We can train our brains for positivity. That is not to say we need to be ‘Positive Pollyanna’ all the time, it is okay to get ticked off from time to time. But if you notice that you are feeling ticked off more often than not, chances are the world isn’t crapping on you and … you are the problem. Whenever I notice myself bitching and complaining non-stop, I try to slow things down, give myself a breather, and consciously focus on changing my outlook.

The bottom line is, happiness is really quite simple and much more often than we realize, it is a choice. It isn’t a result of getting more money or finally getting the big promotion. It doesn’t come ‘when the kids get past this stage’ and it is not found at the bottom of a bottle. It is in the little moments that we often overlook. It is connection, appreciation, and sometimes, even chintzy little rings from the dentist.

life, Uncategorized

Judge not lest ye be a jerk

So, I have a confession to make. I’m judgemental.

For real.

It pains me to say it, but it’s true. And I feel like I have been in denial for a long time.

As a friend, a writer, and as someone who has spent their 20’s and 30’s immersed in the ‘self-improvement’ culture that is ever-present in our society, I have always prided myself on how ‘open-minded’ and ‘non-judgemental’ I am. In fact, I have always considered empathy and compassion to be some of my most positive attributes. I strive to be an open ear, a safe place where friends and loved ones can share whatever is on their minds without fear of criticism or disapproval. And although I feel as though this is still true – I am empathetic, compassionate, and open-minded … it is also true that I can be a judgmental dickhead.

Women love judgement. We think we don’t, but we do. I cannot count the number of times I have shaken my head in disgust at a woman judging another woman, so entrenched in my own self-righteousness that I have been completely oblivious that I am doing the exact. same. thing.

Ugh, she is being sooo judgemental.

Seriously …

But here is the deal, as annoying and catty as judgement is, it is actually very normal, stemming back to the dawn of time when we were dependent on our group or village for survival. The desire for everyone to stay ‘in line’ and do/be like the general collective is a primitive desire. When someone strays from what we consider the norm or represents something unfamiliar to us, we feel afraid and we judge.

We judge other people. We judge religions and lifestyles. And, much more often than we realize, we judge ourselves.

What has become apparent to me lately, and why I decided to write this blog, is that I have realized that it doesn’t matter whether I am judging someone’s clothing or hairstyle, their parenting choices, or their political beliefs, my judgements have very little to do with the person I am critical of … and everything to do with me. I have noticed a pattern – the more dissatisfied or unhappy I am with something in my own life, the more judgemental I am of others. And likewise, when I am content and at ease in my own skin, I am able to view others through a lens of compassion, empathy, and understanding, even if I disagree with them.

Judgement highlights a wound that I am avoiding or even unaware of. It allows me to take the focus off of myself, tells me that I’m not doing ‘that bad’, and allows me to feel better about whatever is going on in my life.

Now that being said, we are allowed to disagree with people and we are allowed to have boundaries. But I have found that when I am in alignment in my own life, I can offer people grace, whether we share the same opinions and values or not. I can walk away from a conversation without laying in bed for the next week and a half stewing about all of the ways that I am right and they are wrong.

About a month ago, I found myself engaging in ridiculous debates and conversations. Now, a healthy debate can be a good thing. It can be stimulating, and provide new ways of looking at things … but these were not healthy conversations. They consisted of me talking ‘at’ the other person, trying to convince them how much ‘righter’ I am, and if they could only see how right I am, they would quickly realize what an idiot they were.

Pretty reasonable, yes?

No. Of course not. And when I actually sat down and gave it some thought, I was able to see that I really didn’t care that much about the matter at hand at all. I was, quite simply, frustrated. I was tired, depressed, missing my kids, and anxious. And, rather than face that overwhelming pile of baggage, I turned my focus outwards and lashed out at people who didn’t think like me. What should have been a brief interaction and respectful exchange of thoughts and opinions, turned into me stewing in a pit of indignation for an embarrassing amount of time.

So what gives? How do we deal? Well, for me, I had to start with offering myself the same grace that I should have been giving my debate opponents. This is a stressful time, we are fatigued, and sadly, there is no end in sight. We need to be just as gentle with ourselves as we are with others. And now, when I feel a twinge of judgement pop up, I pause, and ask myself ‘What is really going on here?’, ‘What about this is triggering me to react?‘ and ‘How can I respond in a more healthy way?’

We might be judgey by nature, but we can choose compassion. We can disagree with someone’s viewpoint, while also offering them grace. We can have boundaries, and empathy, all at the same time.

It’s not always going to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be. But I am committed to trying.

PS. If you have a mullet, I’m probably judging you a little bit. (I’m working on it though).

Processing…
Success! You’re on the list.
Uncategorized

Becoming an expert on saying no. Well, working on it …

Okay, okay, I know it has been a while since I have posted a blog. A long while, actually. Truth is, I needed a little break so I decided to give myself the summer off. Between writing a book, working full-time, kids, and the continued chaos around the Coronavirus, I needed to let something go. Cause, you know … boundaries.

So I took July to let myself relax a little, enjoy time with family and friends, and get a few things off my plate that I have been needing to deal with for a while (ie: I FINALLY wrote my chapter).

The 6-week hiatus was just what the doctor ordered but I am feeling refreshed now and ready to get back at it. And I figured what better way to start back up again than to write about some of the other stuff I am committed to letting go of this year.

It is not uncommon for women in their 30’s to finally get to a point where they start saying ‘no’ to some of the stuff they have tolerated, pretended to like, or agreed to for far too long. I feel as though I got to that party a little later than some (#slowlearner) but hey, I’m here now and making up for lost time! From clothing choices to apologies, here is my list of things that are getting the heave ho this year …

#1 – Clothing items that do not make me feel good. I know I am not alone when I say that I have a pile of clothes in my closet that I never wear but pull out every so often and try on in hopes that this time they will be flattering. You know, the clothes that we keep because one day we will have lost enough weight to get into them again, they will all of a sudden fit us properly, or maybe we were just really bloated last time we tried them on?! I also know that I am not alone when I say that these closet fashion shows always leaves me feeling terrible about myself and stewing in a pit of shame and self-loathing for several days afterwards.

Well, I am done. My new rule is, if it does not fit me or flatter me, it is getting the boot.

See ya, suckers! Go find someone else’s closet to clog up.

#2 – Stilettos. Now, I considered putting these into the above category but decided against it because stilettos/high heels do not make me feel bad about myself at all. In fact, I feel hot AF when I’m wearing them … as long as I don’t have to walk. They are ridiculously uncomfortable. Actually, they HURT. And as much as they really polish off an outfit and make my legs look fantastic, it is inevitable that I will have to walk at some point (Shaune refuses to piggyback me) and it just isn’t worth the pain.

Gilda Radner once said, “I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.”, and I’ve got to say, this is an excellent rule of thumb. If it itches, chafes, doesn’t breathe, contains wires, bends the arch of my foot into inhumane angles, or makes it hard to eat … I am probably going to look for another wardrobe choice.

Besides, I can still look great in a pair of cute flats and a bralette.

#3 – Commitments and events that I don’t want to attend. Now speaking of dressing up and looking cute, that is something I usually reserve for an outing or social gathering of some sort. I LOVE a good party or night on the town with friends … except for the times that I would rather stay home. One of the hardest parts of this ‘learning how to say no’ thing has been getting comfortable with politely declining invites out to social gatherings when I do not want to go. For some reason, I find it excruciating. As in, I would rather eagerly accept the invite, tell you that I can’t wait to attend, and then call you that day of and pretend to be sick so I don’t have to go.

Seriously, what is with that?! Why is it that I feel more comfortable lying to someone I care about than just politely saying ‘No.’ #peoplepleaser

I hang my head in shame and apologize to those of you who are reading this and thinking “So she wasn’t sick that day?!”

I am working on it. As someone who fears disappointing people more than anything else in the world, this has been challenging but … I am committed to being brave and turning you down like an adult. #recoveringpeoplepleaser

P.S.

Bear with me

#3a – Excuses, explanations, and unnecessary apologies. Maybe it is my Canadian nature but I am terrible for unnecessarily apologizing. I am embarrassed to admit this but I have even apologized for apologizing before. Yeesh. Same goes for excusing and explaining every decision I make. From unwanted sexual advances to menu choices and everything in between, I always feel the need to either explain my decisions or ask for forgiveness.

What the heck?!

We don’t owe anyone anything. Well … within reason. Obviously, there are times when an apology or an explanation is warranted. And we need to use our manners,

But generally speaking, I don’t need to explain or apologize for my every move. So I’m not going to.

And I’m not even sorry about it.

4 – Toxic people. Ooooh boy, this is a big one. And to be honest, one of the most difficult. I have always craved a strong sense of community and belonging. In fact, up until recently, all I ever wanted was for people to approve of me. So when it came to drawing some lines in the sand or distancing myself from people, I struggled. I found I would make excuses such as ‘Well, they have been in my life forever.’ or ‘That’s just the way they are.

And while it is true that long term relationships are meaningful and no one is perfect, putting up with toxicity or abuse is a very different thing.

Life is short and I want to surround myself with people who cheer me on, build me up, and hold me accountable. Perfection is not necessary but I do require the people in my life to not be giant jerks, no matter how long they’ve been around.

Oh yea, and they have to be okay with the fact that sometimes I will turn down an invite out. I am really turning into a homebody.

So there you have it. It is good to be back!

I would love to hear, what are some of the things you are letting go of this year?

Processing…
Success! You’re on the list.

Uncategorized

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.

Processing…
Success! You’re on the list.
Uncategorized

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!

Uncategorized

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 😉

Uncategorized

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.