Monthly Archives: August 2014

Celebrations

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I’ve been on the west coast of Newfoundland for the past 4 days. Beautiful place, friendly people, and a new adventure around every corner. It’s been a blast, filled with hiking, beaches, good meals, BBQs, and one wedding.

The wedding is why I am here. My beautiful, amazing friend got married yesterday. I have known this friend for 12 years (exactly 12 years this past week), and she is one of my most favourite people in this world. She’s seen me at my best and at my very worst. She’s stood beside me through my struggles, picked me up when I’ve fallen and laughed with me until tears fell down our faces. There have been times we’ve gone months and even years without seeing one another, but once we are together again, it is like we were never apart.

That’s true friendship.

And I am so glad I got to be here to celebrate her special day. It was a gorgeous day, filled with laughter, love, beauty, fun, dancing and a bunch of Ontarians being “screeched in”. It was a true celebration of my friend and her new husband, and all the love that they share with each other and with those in attendance. They are a beautiful couple who deserve nothing but the best.

As I’ve sat in a little coffee shop for the past hour, killing time until my 8pm flight, I am thinking about celebrations. There are the celebrations like weddings, birthdays, retirement, and graduation that naturally create a time of excitement and rejoicing. These times invite gatherings and parties so the one[s] being celebrated can have fun with friends and family.

But we often miss the every day celebrations. The special moment celebrations. The grateful to be alive celebrations.

We let those moments pass us by as ordinary. We hardly give them a second thought.

Moments like waking up in the morning and seeing the sunshine.

Going to bed at night with pillows, blankets and a roof over our heads.

Seeing a flower blossom.

Hearing a baby laugh.

Finishing a great book.

Finishing a project you’ve been working on for weeks.

A coffee date with a good friend.

Finding the perfect birthday present for your mom.

Going for a long walk or hike.

Swimming in the ocean.

Standing at the top of waterfall.

A movie night with your sister.

A kiss from your significant other.

Having someone tell you you’re beautiful.

Laughing for any reason.

These are all moments that should be celebrated. They are moments that should be cherished. They are moments we should be immensely grateful for.

We spend so much time moving from one thing to the next, caught up in stress, busy schedules and the distractions of life that we hardly pay attention to these moments.

We don’t take the time to celebrate the every day ordinary.

Life is short. It can be over with the snap of a finger or the flick of a switch.

We need to stop wasting time. We need to appreciate all that we have. Forget what we don’t have. Stop focusing on tomorrow or the next day.

Concentrate on today. On this moment.

Laugh until your belly hurts and tears fall down your face.

Love despite your heartbreaks.

Appreciate all you have been given.

Celebrate life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Back on Track

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Life happens. And yes, I seriously considered using another four letter word in place of ‘life’. But I wanted to keep it clean.

We are all just living each day trying to figure things out. We have a path we’re following. A track that is our own, that we’re meant to be on.

But sometimes, as we’re walking or running down that track, something trips us. We crash to the ground, knees  and hands scraped. If we’re lucky, it’s a momentary tumble, and we’re able to get right back up and keep moving.

However, sometimes we get the wind completely knocked out of us, and we fall harder than we are prepared for. In those cases, we crawl to the sidelines and nurse our wounds from there.

Sometimes the falls are so bad that we’re too afraid to get back on that track again, and we try a new path. Often our falls lead us to a track that is not right for us. We walk toward unhealthy choices. We let fear and negativity take over. We begin to be dragged down a path we don’t want to be on.

This summer I veered off my path. I went off track, and it resulted in some tough times. I had a couple of situations that made me stumble, and then one big setback that kicked me right off my track and onto a path I didn’t want to be on.

I let the stress and negativity of the situations invade my thoughts and dictate my actions. Instead of seeing the good, I focused on the bad.

Not only did I lose track of where I was going and what I was doing, but I was losing track of who I am, what my values are, what matters to me.

I was responding to situations in uncharacteristic ways. I was over sensitive, drowning in the negativity and unkindness of others.

I was cowering in the face of these struggles and nursing my wounds instead of fighting back.

I got lost. My path became unclear and I didn’t know what move to make next. I felt helpless and defeated.

We’ve all been there. Something happens that knocks us off course. Or it freezes us right where we are, unable to move forward.

It can be caused by many things. The loss of a job, the end of a relationship, a negative friendship, added stress at work, trouble in a marriage, financial problems, anxiety, school stress, struggles in the family.

For me it was the combination of a few things. Stress at work, and dealing with an unkind co-worker. Having an allergic reaction to something in my new apartment and developing a rash that lasted 6 weeks. Dealing with some relationships that weren’t healthy for me.

And any extreme stress triggers my depression. Once that hit, I was pushed to the sidelines and down for the count.

This is life. And life happens. You get knocked down. You get sidelined. You run off track.

But what is important is how you get back up. How you get back in the race. How you get back on track.

I am finally feeling like I am back on track.

I took some time on the sidelines to look at all that had happened. I faced the struggles, stress and negativity head on.

I reminded myself what is important to me. What I value. What matters. Where my heart is.

I am not a negative person. I am not an unkind person. I am not an unreasonable person.

I also know what I am worth and I know how I deserve to be treated.

So I looked at each situation. I took the time to evaluate each circumstance, process my emotions and decide how to move forward.

I have moved out of my apartment. I can’t live somewhere that is causing me such discomfort. Yes, it’s a pain to go through moving all over again, but my health is worth the inconvenience.

I am actively choosing not to take the stress from work home. All jobs have some form of stress. But I like my job and I am good at it. I took action and spoke to my boss about my concerns. She responded right away and I felt valued and supported. And things are better. Not perfect, but I believe I am at this job for reason and I am going to make the best out of it.

With the person at work who is being unkind, I have decided to respond in kindness. I can’t control her actions or how she treats the rest of us in the office, but I can control my response. I choose not to respond in anger, but in love.

For the unhealthy relationships, I am no longer pursuing them. Instead I am focusing on the positive, wonderful relationships in my life. And there are many. My life is filled with love. I am surrounded by wonderful, beautiful people and I am choosing to focus on them.

I am back to being me and concentrating on what matters. I know who I am, what I’m worth, what is important and where my heart is. And I am very grateful to those who helped me get back on track.

Have you veered off course lately? Have you tripped or taken a wrong turn and gotten off track?

Remember it happens to all of us. Take time to look at where you are and how you got there. Remind yourself who you are and what matters to you.

Then get yourself back on track.

Taking off the mask

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Last night I got a text from a friend who was having a rough day. I called her immediately to talk about what was going on and see how I could help. As we talked about life, stress, relationships, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, she suddenly said, her voice cracking, “I just don’t want anyone to know I don’t have it all together.”

My heart broke for my beautiful friend. She is a decade younger than me and I remember being her age with the exact same fear. I remember the mask I wore everyday so that no one would see the mess I was inside.

Our society tells us we need to have it all together. We need to have it all figured out. We’re supposed to know exactly who we are, what we want, where we’re going. We’re supposed to dress a certain way, speak a certain way, act a certain way, look a certain way.

I waited a moment before I responded to my friend. Then I let her in on a secret I have recently learned. No one has it all together. No one has it all figured out.

And anyone who tells you they do is lying.

Life is complex. There are good days, there are bad days. Emotions run rampant, tempers are lost, words shoot out like bullets, mistakes are made, people are misunderstood, and it is messy. Life is messy. We are all broken in some way.

And none of us have it all together.

Those that appear to have it all together are wearing a mask. It is a facade. You have no idea what is going on below the surface. Everyone is fighting a battle that the rest of us know nothing about.

As I’ve gotten older, I am much more together than I was in my youth. I do have more things figured out. I know myself now. I know who I am. I am secure in my beliefs, morals and values.

I am more confident. I am self-aware. I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses. I know what direction I am headed in, and I know where I don’t want to be.

I am stronger. I know when I should speak up. I know when I need to listen. I know what I am worth and how I deserve to be treated.

But I most definitely do not have it all together.

I don’t have it all figured out.

And I don’t expect to in this lifetime.

Life is unpredictable. Change will come. Relationships will start, relationships will end. Tragedy can strike. I will have days where all I do is smile. I will have days where I don’t want to get out of bed.

I will continue to grow and learn.

But I will never have it all together. No one will. Not on this earth.

As I told my friend last night, the moment we will have it all together and all figured out, the moment this crazy world will finally make sense, is the moment when we stand in front of Jesus in heaven. That’s when we will find clarity.

One thing I have learned in the last few years is that we all need to stop pretending we have it all together.

We need to take off the masks. We need to be real. We need to be honest.

Because there is nothing wrong with not having it all together. We are beautiful in our brokenness.

We are perfectly imperfect.

In our flaws is where we find truth. It’s where we find honesty. It’s where we connect on the deepest levels.

The day we stop pretending to be perfect is the day we find freedom.

The day we discard the mask is the day we find peace.

Nobody is perfect. Most of us are just trying to live good lives, be good people, help others and make this world a slightly better place.

When your heart is good and your intentions are honest and positive, you are on the right track.

Don’t worry about getting it all together. Just keep moving forward, one step at a time. And if you stumble, I promise there will be someone there to help you up.

As many have helped me up on my journey.

So, to my friend and anyone else reading this, let yourself off the hook. Lower the expectations you have for yourself. Keep trying, keep growing and keeping looking up. You don’t have to be perfect.

Drop the mask.

Let the world see the real you.

Because you are beautiful.

Suddenly Everybody Cares

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On Monday evening news hit that the talented actor and comedian, Robin Williams had died at the age of 63. Suggestions were that it was a suicide as Williams has been a long sufferer of depression and substance abuse.

News sites,  entertainment sites, twitter and Facebook were plastered with the story of the apparent suicide. Pictures of his movies, his most memorable quotes, and his personal appearances surfaced all over the web.

The world mourned the loss of a man who had made many of us laugh until our stomachs hurt, until tears rolled down our faces.

Along with tributes to the great Robin Williams, the web became littered with articles and videos about depression and suicide. Once Williams’ death was confirmed as a suicide, the articles spread. Suddenly everyone had something to say about mental illness. Suddenly everybody cared about a disease that often faces judgement and ignorance.

I don’t think mental illness is talked about enough. There is still a stigma attached to it and those who suffer from it are constantly judged, demeaned and ignored. Progress has been seen over the years. There is more awareness, and information on it is easier to find.

But it’s still not enough.

And it’s sad that it takes the suicide of famous person for people to start to care. For people to start to ask questions. For people to start to raise awareness.

And even with that, just two days after Williams’ death, new sites, entertainment sites, twitter and Facebook have moved on to other stories. There are less articles about mental illness popping up on every site. There are less videos being shared.

Just two days later.

Life moved forward. And for those who have never had a personal experience with mental illness or had someone close to them suffer have no reason to keep talking about Robin Williams. They have no reason to think about or learn about the disease that killed him. To them it is just a tragic story.

But to those of us who have been where Robin was when he made the choice to take his life, to those of us who have watched loved ones suffer unspeakable pain and not be able to help, his tragic end hits home. It digs deep.

I remember once in university listening to a classmate rant about how selfish it is to commit suicide. How it messes up a family. How we should be angry at the victim.

I can see why she felt that way. She had never known what it was like to want to take your own life. She had never experienced the nightmare of depression. She had no idea what it was like to feel that hopeless.

And I am glad.

Whenever I meet someone who doesn’t understand depression, I am grateful. Because it means they have never experienced it. Only those who have been through it can understand it. Even those who study it for years can never fully understand what it is like.

Most people, when they hear of someone committing suicide, automatically think about what the family is going through. They offer prayers and support to those left behind.

Me? I automatically think of the person who took his life. My heart breaks for that person. Because I know exactly what that person felt before they ended it all.

I’ve been there. I’ve held that knife. I’ve cradled those pills. I’ve wanted so badly to be out of this world. The pain was too much.

For someone who is contemplating suicide, they don’t see it as a selfish action. They see it as a gift to the world because they honestly believe the world will be a better place without them.

They think they are doing everyone around them a favour by dying. They feel like they are a burden, that they are constantly causing their loved ones pain. They are plagued by guilt.

They are filled with complete hopelessness. They can’t see it ever getting better so it’s best if it is just over. They believe they won’t be missed. They believe that those around them will be grateful they are gone.

They really believe what they are doing is for the benefit of everyone.

And they just want to stop the pain. It’s a pain I can’t describe. You feel it from the inside out. It is so awful that it becomes physical. Sometimes it is so intense that you can’t breathe, you can’t move. It paralyzes you. And it’s terrifying.

And there are people going through it every day. People who may seem fine on the surface, but are fighting a battle within that you can’t imagine. They are good at hiding it. Trust me, I know. I am the ultimate pretender. I am good at hiding my depression and pretending everything is fine.

On the surface Robin Williams had everything. Wealth, family, fame. It looked like a great life. But he was fighting an inner war. He had demons that he was constantly battling. Unfortunately, he lost the battle.

Every time I hear about another’s suicide I can’t help but wonder why I have survived, but they couldn’t. I’ve been very close to death a few times. My brain has been poisoned with constant suicidal thoughts at certain times in my life.

So, why am I still here?

My faith has pulled me through my darkest times. I believe I am here for a purpose. I have something to accomplish. And I can’t leave this earth until God is ready to take me home.

I also understand that I am loved. I understand the devastation it would cause my friends and family to lose me that way. They have spent years fighting for me, so when I feel like I can’t survive for me anymore, I survive for them.

And finally, despite all the pain, despite the darkness and the fear, I have seen how good can come from my struggles. I’ve seen how what I’ve been through can help others. I’ve seen how my story has made others feel less alone.

So, the news stories, articles and videos about mental illness will slowly fade away as the week goes on. But I will never stop talking about it. I will never stop fighting for those who suffer.

And I will always remember and honour those who lost their battle.

May you finally find peace,  Mr. Williams.

Knowing when to walk away

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We’ve all faced this decision at least once. Many of us have faced it on numerous occasions. The question rattles around in our heads.

Should I stay or should I go?

We are in a situation, whether it be a marriage, a friendship, a job or a dating relationship, and things have not been going well. So we must decide, is it time to walk away?

It’s usually not an easy decision,  no matter what area of life you may be dealing with.

If it’s letting go of a friendship that is no longer healthy for you, you are forced to say goodbye to someone that has been a part of your life. You also face hurting them by walking away.

The same is for a romantic relationship. If you decide it’s time to move on, you are likely going to hurt the person you are with. And it will hurt you too. You will go from having someone be a huge part of your life to probably hardly seeing them at all.

With a job that you’ve decided to walk away from, you are taking a financial risk if you leave without another job lined up. You have to think about how you are going to survive if you don’t have a job for a while. How will you provide for yourself? How will you provide for your family?

With any situation, if you get to the point where you decide to walk away, even if it is the best decision, you are still going to face challenges. You are pulling yourself from what you know, from what is comfortable, and you are basically starting fresh. That’s hard to do.

It’s scary to give up what you know and walk into he unknown. Even if what you know isn’t good, at least you know what to expect. When you walk away and start from scratch, it’s terrifying. You have no idea what may happen or how things will turn out. Good or bad, at least what you had before was familiar.

I think that’s why so many people stay in bad situations. They fear starting over.

So, how do you know when it is time to walk away?

My guideline for this is usually when something is causing you more harm than it is doing you good, it is time to walk away.

When something is making you cry more than it is making you smile.

When something has gotten so bad that it causes a negative change in you and you become someone you don’t recognize.

When the cons begin to outweigh the pros.

Every relationship, every job, everything in life is going to have good and bad to it. But when it’s more bad than good, there’s a problem.

It doesn’t make walking away easy.

It’s never easy.

Because no matter how bad things are, there is always still some good. You may have a job you like, but you work with people who treat you horribly, put you down and make you miserable. Do you give up a job you enjoy because of a toxic environment?

Only you can decide that. Only you know what you can handle and where your breaking point is.

Is it time to walk away?

This is a question that has been running through my mind for over a week. It plagued my thoughts as I sat in my car in the office parking lot yesterday morning, sobbing for twenty minutes.

It hit again today as I stood in the bathroom quickly wiping tears that were falling down my cheeks.

It’s a question I’m still asking.

Because as bad as it is right now, there have also been good moments. Moments of fun, moments of laughter, moments of success.

The problem is that right now the good doesn’t outweigh the bad.

So, is it time to walk away?

I don’t know yet.

I do know that life is too short to be crying in my car in the middle of the day.

One thing I do know – walking away is not a sign of weakness. Many see it as quitting or giving up.

I don’t believe it is.

It is brave to walk away when you know something isn’t healthy for you.

It’s brave to stand up for yourself and your worth by extracting yourself from harmful situation.

If you have tried everything you can to mend the situation you are in, whether it’s a relationship or a job, and you can honestly say you gave it your all and it just didn’t work out, then there is strength in knowing when it is time to say goodbye.

You just have to decide. Is it time to say goodbye?

 

Judgement

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Human beings are constantly making judgements. We judge products, work and media. But mostly, we judge each other.

How often do you see someone walking down the street or in line at the grocery store and make a rapid judgement about that person simply by looking at them?

How often do you meet someone and instantly make assumptions about who they are, what they like and what they do after only a short conversation?

How often do you disregard or ignore another human being based on a presumptuous judgement you make when you actually know nothing about them?

We’re all guilty of it. We make judgements on appearance, how someone makes a living, where they are from, how they behave, and who they hang out with.

We decide within minutes of meeting someone whether or not we want them to be a part of our life. We do this with both friendships and dating. We make snap judgements before we even know someone.

And it’s not right.

No one likes to be judged. No one likes assumptions made about who they are, what they want or where they are going.

I’ve been judged a lot in my life for many different reasons. I’ve been judged for being “too good”, for being “too bad”, for being “too smart”, for being “too young”, for being “crazy”. I’ve been judged for my beliefs, my morals, and my illness. I’ve been called a bitch, I’ve been called an angel. I’ve been judged for being selfish, being a snob and for being mean.

In my life, I have been all of these things at one time or another. But none of them alone encompass who I am as a whole. I am much more complicated than that. We all are. We’ve all been good and bad. We’ve all been smart and dumb. We’ve all been kind and mean.

Human beings are complex and ever changing. None of us fit into a box with one label. And it is sad how we judge each other based on these simple labels.

I’ve also been judged for choices I’ve made and things I’ve said. I’ve been judged for standing up for what I believe in and I’ve been judged for keeping quiet when someone thought I should speak up.

In the last few months I have been judged by a few people who have placed a certain label on me. The judgement they have made isn’t a bad one. They are not trying to be mean. And whether or not the judgement they’ve made about me is correct doesn’t matter. What matters is that they have all made an assumption about me without taking the time to get to know me.

They’ve placed a label on me, and put me in a certain category based on that label.

I don’t like having someone else tell me who I am.

Thinking about the conversation I had with one of the people who placed this judgement on me, I remember sitting there and trying to come up with various examples to counter the assumptions made about me.

But then I stopped myself.

Why did I feel the need to argue with this person? To defend myself? I don’t have to prove anything to them. I know who I am, so why am I worried about what they think?

In the past, I have always been quite concerned with what others think. I used to make myself sick with worry over what people were saying about me.

In the last year, I have been on a journey of self discovery and self acceptance. One of the main things I have been working on is not caring what others think of me. I am trying not to concern myself with the judgements people make about me. It’s hard, but I am getting better at it.

So as I sat there listening to this person’s reasons for the judgement they had made about me, I realized I didn’t need to respond. They are entitled to their opinion.

But the truth is that this person really doesn’t know me. I know who I am. And I like who I am. So I am not going to let someone’s snap judgement of me affect how I feel about myself.

I feel pity for people who make judgements and assumptions about someone before really knowing them. They are depriving themselves of a chance to get to know someone great. In some cases, their initial judgements may turn out to be right, but I’ve found that in most cases, when you make a quick judgement about someone, you are often wrong.

And even if your first judgement is right, people are more than just one thing. Take the time to get to know them. Find out who they are below the surface. It takes time to really know someone. Most people don’t open up easily.

So, turn the judgements off. Don’t make assumptions.

You may miss out on knowing an incredible person.