April Through June

I’ve been unwell. There has been a glimpse into myself and I’ve found myself striving. A card I found gave some beautiful meaning to my writhing. The idea of “passing in and out of each season and remaining intact…both light and darkness can open up different worlds and ways of seeing” resonated with me. Bits of strength, wisdom and a strengthened relationship have surfaced through severe hallucinatory depression. I was in a position of standing up for my rights as a human through a very vulnerable lens. Somehow I did a better job of asserting my rights in a hospitalized atmosphere than in my everyday life. I called upon strength I didn’t know I had to figure things out and to lobby for my own health. Now two months in to this hospital journey I find myself still wrestling with restlessness and a sense of deep sadness. There is meaning to what is happening here and I believe more of it will be revealed as the days march on. Although I can feel the fear of how I may fail. I can feel the weight of what I don’t know. I will continue to write.

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Singing Update

It was an experience. I didn’t feel ready to write about it when I made the last simple update post. I stayed open and mostly calm before singing. There were several kind people to talk with. They had stories, helpful tips and encouragement.  One woman recited her open hearted poetry while another man next to me spoke of her talent. When my turn to sing came the host talked with me letting me know and kindly set up the stage. I remembered the words through a few starts and stops. I stood stiffly and could feel myself shaking the whole time while staring mostly to one empty spot in the room. Those aspects of the experience were there, but they weren’t the important part. I knew I liked the song and I believe I sang it decently at home. I’d love to have sung perfectly and wowed the audience with my passion but this day just singing it was enough.The best part was the people. They were all talented unique and there was so much kindness. Someone complimented me that she’d love me to sing her to sleep, there were thanks and a ” you did it “. It was a gift to be in this room with these people. 

Singing

I begin to write this after spending 15 minutes of the time I’ve allotted nervous, disengaged and gnawing at my piece of mind as well as my fingers. With my kitten trying negative techniques of scratching the couch and chewing on my papers to get attention I feel a rise in annoyance. The annoyance is more about my feeling of resistance to doing what I’ve planned this morning though. I’m feeling a little bit sad and a little bit lonely. I have a sense of longing to do nothing and lay in bed all day. Maybe I will another day. Hold an experiment in stillness with myself by planning nothing and allow for quiet. 
Now I sit on my bed knees up with the blanket covering me and Swift, my kitten, has curled up in the little blanket fort under my knees. Let’s begin.
Last week I let go of an adventure writing idea that came to seem based in a selfish place. I decided to let it go and two days ago a quiet little thought cascaded gently into my mind as a petal dancing to the ground. The song between Between the Bars was that idea. Between the bars, a couple of the words came first but as I hummed them over again song became clearer. I was reminded of it and it was so appropriate for this time in my life. I decided I will sing it at a cafe tomorrow. The joy is in singing and feeling it. I will not be afraid.
To be clear, singing is something I’ve loved to do for a very long time. I remember singing and recording myself on cassette when I was six just enjoying myself, but at some point around that same time I also began to believe I wasn’t very good at singing. Singing has never left my life but it has also never flourished. I was trying to think of a time when I sang in public and nothing came to mind. Sure there have been happy birthday songs, singing with the radio, even karaoke. So I guess it’s not that I haven’t sung, what it is is that I have kept a block up. I’ve kept fear in my throat, only tried so hard, been quieter.
This song, Between the Bars, began to take shape in my understanding. I let myself explore the words, what they mean to me, how they feel. I bumped into the idea that I couldn’t bring these words off the page and into my mouth effectively but I left room for the song to marinade in my mind. I let the words sound like me. I lingered on the words and heard their tone. My voice opened and I felt free to sing fully. 
I’ve been thinking about what the experience will be to sing in front of others in public for an open mic night. I sing because I love it. This song is where I’ve come from. I know I can sit on stage and sing it and that will be enough. I don’t have to search the room for approval. Though I seek to learn more, to sing alone on stage is enough for me now. 
I will email the place I wish to sing at this afternoon. I have had thoughts about asking a neighbor or friend if they would like to play with me. Maybe I’ll sing alone, maybe someone there that night will play with me. I don’t feel fear of the unknown so much right now and I plan to stay with myself and address any fear that may come up. I plan to be calm and experience the moment, whatever happens.
I plan to post an update after the experience and video of myself singing. Is there anything you are trying out this week? I would love to learn about it in the comments.

Update
I did it! 

4 Benefits of Choosing Intrinsic Value

Looking to solidify beliefs that have made a significant difference in my life, I am writing this. They have recently come to the forefront of my existence and being not yet engrained could easily slip away. This is a way of stopping past tendencies of negativity from coming in to fill the space like life was never there.

Choosing intrinsic value for myself seems so obvious now. I had been living crushed under a belief of inferiority trying to fix what was broken without fixing the cause. What I mean by this is by believing I am valuable exactly as I am now and in every moment I am able to be free and ask myself at the deepest level, what is important to me? Intrinsic value is understanding I am enough and we are all equals in terms of our worth as people . The truth of intrinsic value of a life is evident to me in the way a parent loves a newborn simply for their existence. This idea brings a sense of calm.There is nothing I have to do to be enough. We are enough! All that lay before me are choices on how to spend my time. This truth extends to all humans. By understanding I am already whole my focus can leave the self and be attentive to others.

This is a continued practice. I find my physical self playing catch up with my mind. There is no longer the expectation to wake up one day and have arrived. The value is in the experiencing of each moment in life. I expect to explore and continually be amazed by how my experience evolves. To be connected with the precious diamonds of perception in all life has to offer as a witness and interpreter of this life.

4 Benefits

Openness

If I cannot gain or lose any value because of others opinions of me it naturally allows for openness. I can speak my truth and by doing so draw those close who connect with me.There is a sense of openness to feelings and failure because my worth isn’t determined in the perfection of my craft. If I am actually letting myself explore what I want to be doing jealousy of others falls away sheerly because I am living fully. Others successes are no longer a threat, in fact there is the idea that a rising tide lifts all ships. Letting go of my desire to control outcomes has thus far ferried me through experiences that were once terror inducing. Comparison is being ushered out as well to allow for openness. Each person is a unique mixture of experiences, talents, goals and preferences. What sense does it make to compare us? Fear seems to be an act of control, if I believe the unknown can take something from my being then fear narrows the view and can give a predictable outcome.
Presence

Each moment of life is truly a blessing and packed full of interest! Even in times of visceral pain there have veins of light woven through my life. Just by appreciatively noticing this moment a new sense of depth develops. Time slows, this presence quiets the mental noise and attention can be paid to what can happen now. All the moments lived believing I wasn’t enough are as valuable as those now, but now I can choose to savor the unknown along the way. I cannot dive into the past and change it and I cannot accurately predict the future, this present moment counts. “Be present, life is a journey” are common true phrases, but to understand the rewards of this takes practice.
Clarity

Removing the worry of past, future and perception of others leaves room to be clear sighted. Clarity to hear what’s really right for me in a moment rather than hear what the outside wants to tell me is right. Since I was a child I had this idea that the bright parts of me didn’t fit into the way the world works and to survive I had to be different from my nature. Emotional clarity now shows me that those aspects are what I need to put into the world to live free. Without the distraction of worry time can be spent understanding self and being present with others. Valuing self automatically lifts the heart to appreciate value in others.

Abundance

Understanding my motivations I can ask for what I want without shame. In the past doing what I really want has invoked shame. I’ve felt selfish for wanting to to do what makes me happy. Now I’m growing the understanding that by doing the things that make me happy I can be fully present and helpful to others to realize their dreams. By being clear about what I’m looking for it creates a clear path because others know what I’m about and can help direct me to things that help me on my journey. Giving abundantly is a part of being alive. If we have no piece of ourselves to loose because we are intrinsically valuable we can give freely of ourselves. Giving can take endless forms from presents, to time, to listening, and sometimes we don’t even perceive the gifts we have been able to give others by just being who we are.
Techniques

Barrage of positive thoughts

Some thoughts I began to repeat in my head are things like I am valuable because I exist and the lord created me, I am loved, I am good enough right now. I found this particularly useful to take up the space in my head where thoughts that would bring me down would ruminate. It was so helpful in giving me energy to try to make changes by valuing myself first.

Gratitude

Think of things I’m grateful for and why brings my mind to notice the good, the beauty the abundance in life.

Meditation

Using the app Breathe for a place to start.
Focus on body, breath, touch while laying down or sitting with eyes closed for a few minutes.
Visualize what I want in my life and why

Mindfulness
54321 Noticing 5 things I see, hear and feel in this moment and aspects about them. Next 4 of each descending to 1.

Noticing limiting or negative beliefs and replacing them with positives so they are not longer in the forefront of my thoughts

Taking steps towards fear

Taking a fear and asking questions about it? What is behind my fear? What part of me do I think could be hurt? I find the more curious questions applied to a fear the more it shrinks away. Then I am able to DO something and usually find the things I was afraid of don’t happen or if they do no longer have power over me.

Removing should

Remove should need to and have to From my vocabulary and ask why when those words come up. I wrote more about this in my Removing Should post.

I hope others can look inward, ask what they need and be willing to share themselves with the world.

Mental Health

I’ve recently opened up about the fact that I’ve experienced mental health issues over the past twelve years. In the future I plan to write more about many different personal challenges and learning. My reasons for this are to help open the topic for conversation, provide some insight to myself, and to provide relief from isolation and be connected. I am not a medical professional. I am only able to speak of my experiences from the other side.
Today I’m starting with a list of some things I noticed about myself leading up to hospitalization.

What I noticed before hospitalization

– Severe difficulty concentrating

– Difficulty getting things done

– Intense feelings of stress

– Difficulty sleeping

– Delusional thoughts

– Lack of visible emotion and random out bursts of crying

– Eating very little

Experiences Immediately before hospitalization



– Mechanical movements and chewing

– Self harm

– Extremely delusional thoughts

– Not able to sleep

– Pacing

– Speaking very little

– A focus on good and evil

Factors that effected me

– Spending large amounts of time alone

– Trying to look strong while feeling broken

– Isolating myself emotionally by sharing little

– Keeping many limiting beliefs

– History of some mental illness in the family

– Feeling like I had to figure it out on my own and carry on

Removing Should

I’ve been actively working to remove should from my life. Along with this, need to and have to have been thrown out.There was a recognition of how much these words were keeping me stuck. So when they came up in thoughts and conversation I began replacing them. I knew, for me, they felt suffocating, restrictive, like I had no choice in life because of course, I should. The word rang of a set of pre existing standards that I was required to live by. They left no room for me, they were strict and limited. The amount of my life that has been ruled by should’s is staggering and I questioned it very quietly until now.

Right now, I don’t understand what place the word can hold in life that isn’t defiling to the soul. Based on the negative context of should, I began to wonder why it exists in our language at all. In definition it means to indicate obligation, duty or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions. None of this sounds of much use to me and it calls to mind a quote from Parker Palmer ” burn out, violating my own nature in the name of nobility”. What is there I really HAVE to do? I am born and grow without having to do much. Choice remains even in circumstances that push beyond preconceived limits. 

 In learning about boundaries in relationships the word should appears to be a violation. Imposing expectations so I can feel comfortable, rather than delving into the complexities of being. Believing the way I see a situation now is the way it must unfold. This has been a particularly painful way of suppressing myself.

 Recently Ive heard the should’s prevalently in tv shows, personal conversations and YouTube. They’re  all over the place! Embedded in our daily dialogue. Should, what a weak word of indecision! Does the should offer security? If there’s a should, then the the path is defined. Does saying it ease guilt of what I wont end up doing? I thought of doing it, so that’s enough energy spent.

In investigating further, I see there are uses for should that have a place in language however obscure nowadays. The word itself holds no power, but the way my brain had learned to interpret it was removing vibrancy from life. The analyzing of its use in my life has taken away the negative power. I will continue to remove it and question every should with a WHY? If the answer is fear or conformity it will go no further.

A Step Away From Fear

Up at 6:30 AM, before the sun. It’s quiet and Drew is still sleeping. It’s time to prepare so I drowsily head for the shower. The overpacking all of the things I might need for a -21°c trip to Lake Louise begins. Lunch, socks, every pair of pants we have get piled into the hall.

Not two weeks earlier after loads of self work the idea came upon me that if other people were using social media to construct their ideal lives so could I. With a rudimentary understanding of HOW I set about emailing Lake Louise Ski Resort. Previously even this would not have been remotely close to something I believed was possible for me. The idea could have remained in my head as I mulled over all of the ways I could make my plan perfect, before trying. Or develop my one idea of how the experience needed to unfold to be defined as success. This time though, I took a step understanding why and put my intentions out into the world. Whether the contacted me or not, Success!

We’re on the wind blown road heading through Banff and Drew has a death grip on the wheel. Mountains flow by, the car has always been a place of refuge for me. He thinks about pulling over and I smile at what seems like the worlds many little tests to see if I’m serious about what I’ve set out to do. So many thoughts had come up that wanted to stop me from trying. How can I afford this, what if I can’t find transportation, what if I act strangely, what if I can’t provide what I offered, what if they think I’m a fraud, what if we’re late and on and on. Then there were the fears and uncertainties brought up by my boyfriend. What is it we’re doing, it sounds stressful, if it’s too cold I don’t want to go…

We arrive, passing rows of cars in a snow filled parking lot. Stepping out into the freezing sunny day the cars around us are playing their pump up music and I’m immediately full of excitement. It’s been too long since I’ve done this, woken up earlier than I’d like, taken a drive out to the mountains with friends and put on all of our layers for a day with the intention of fun.

To my surprise someone answered my email! Even though my Instagram following was small they were willing to take me on a guided snowshoe tour.

We head into the lodge and I meet up with the men I’ve been emailing with. They are welcoming and kind. I hear myself trying and feeling somewhat uncertain, but it doesn’t overtake me as it was likely to in the past.We chat a bit and I’m reminded of how much I’ve enjoyed the ski/snowboarding community growing up. My experiences have given me the sense that on the mountain people are in the moment. For me it’s been laughing with the chair lift operator from Australia. Laughing at ourselves as we reach the top of the chairlift and grasp on to each other collapsing in a pile as we scramble out of the way of the next group of people. Listening to music as our group easily carves it’s way down the mountain on a warm powder day with no need for a coat, and a million more moments.

Our guide leads us with a visible ease of being  we head up the mountain to take our first snowshoe steps.

Learn more about Lake Louise Ski Resort snowshoeing and see photos at

https://www.instagram.com/tearastarr/