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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?

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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.

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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.