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What are you looking for? Cause that’s what you’ll find.

I don’t know about y’all but I really struggle with winter. The dreary weather, the short days, the amount of clothing we have to put on just to ensure that we don’t die going outside … Seriously, I cannot figure out what there is to like about it.

But Christine, you should try skiing, you will love ….’

Let me just stop you right there. No, I will not love it. I will not love it because I have made up my mind not to love it. I have made up my mind that winter sports are too cold, too dangerous, too expensive, and just plain stupid. Just like winter – stupid.

Okay, I am being dramatic. But sharing my ridiculous opinion of one of nature’s most magical seasons is a great example of the power of our perspective. Because in actuality, the only thing wrong with winter is my attitude towards it.

Our ability to choose our perspective or the lens through which we view the world is one of the most powerful gifts we possess. And, in my humble opinion, one of the most overlooked components of personal development.

If I told you that you have the power to control how your day goes, just by paying attention to how you choose to perceive it, you would likely scoff at me. But it’s true. And yes, it is very much a choice. The problem lies in the fact that many of us are so entrenched in a negative pattern of perception that we are often completely unaware that it is even happening.

We all know people who are perpetually negative. The ones who are always complaining about the traffic, their annoying neighbour, or how much dog hair gets on the couch when their sister-in-law brings her dog over … the people who love to highlight what is going wrong with their day. These people are usually kind-hearted, functional members of society but likely just unaware that they are looking at the world through gross, smudged up, fingerprinted glasses. And the real kicker is, if you pointed out how negative they are, you would likely get a response like, “I am not! I just hate it when she brings her dog over!”

Biologically-speaking, negativity is actually very normal as the human brain is wired to hang out on the more negative side of things. We have what is called a ‘negative bias’ meaning that our brains remember and react more strongly towards negative situations than positive ones.

We are literally born negative, winter-hating cranky pants which means we need to work a little harder to train our brains for positivity. Simply becoming aware of what ‘lens’ we are looking through or practicing gratitude through finding one positive for every complaint (ex: noting the joy on sister-in-law’s face when she looks at her dog) can be a great place to start in terms of shifting things toward a more positive outlook.

Sometimes however, things can be a little more complicated. Sometimes our negative patterns stem from old wounds and fears that we have not addressed yet. My disdain for winter doesn’t come from a childhood wound, that is just my choosing to be miserable when the temperature drops below 10 degrees. But my perception of relationships that I carried for many years, which was that I was always overlooked and undervalued, was very much related to childhood pain.

Overcoming past trauma and holding ourselves accountable for our lives is something that I have written about before. They are topics that I feel very passionately about, mostly because I have spent the last several years working on them. If you had told me 15 years ago that I was choosing to view my relationships through a lens of self-pity and victimhood, I likely would have lashed out at you. I felt incredibly justified in my hurt and anger, and to be honest, I had some very valid reasons behind it. The problem was that by not dealing with the pain and fear I had experienced as a child, I carried it with me into all of my future relationships, projecting it onto situations where quite frankly, it didn’t belong.

The lens that I viewed family relationships through was tainted and it skewed my view of things to support the negative belief that I held in my head, which was that I was not enough, and that I was not valued. Essentially, what I saw in my relationships is exactly what I went looking for. I ended up only seeing the evidence that supported my negative story. It was like my brain put a giant spotlight on anything and everything that would reinforce this belief that I was clutching so hard to. The crummy part is that it also seemed to overlook anything to the contrary. Any person or circumstance that made me feel valued was often brushed aside, or followed by a ‘Yea but ….“.

I responded to relationships from a place of pain and even though that pain was valid, in order to change my relationships, and my perspective of them, I had to heal it.

Becoming aware of my patterns and admitting that I was responsible for much of what I had previously blamed on others, was painful. As was confronting the wounds that lay underneath. But man, was it worth it.

Now when I catch myself in a pattern or telling the same story over and over again, I ask myself, “Is this true? Or is this an old wound talking?“. This doesn’t mean that any conflict or hurt I experience is all my fault but by examining my perspective, and being willing to look at the role that I might play, I give myself the power to make change. Either by dealing with an underlying wound, setting a firm boundary, or choosing a new lens to view the situation through.

Shit happens, there is no doubt about that. And we are allowed to have bad moods, bad days, and emotional reactions to things that piss us off. We are also allowed to have boundaries and hold others accountable when they hurt us. But, if there is a pattern popping up in your life, whether it is a disdain for a particular season or repeated conflict with a family member, don’t be afraid to take a step back and ask yourself, “what is really happening here? What role might I play?”

It is important to examine what we are looking for because whether it is reasons to be annoyed or reasons to feel blessed, nine times out of ten, that is exactly what we will find.

PS. I’m still find lots about winter that I don’t like, but I’m working on it. It is okay to be a work in progress too.

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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