Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Dream to Write Blog

Today is the last day I'll be posting in this blog at The Dream to Write, as I'm transitioning my daily writing to my new website at It's the end of an eighteen month journey, and like all endings, it is both sad and exciting at the same time.

I have learned so much about myself by laying down my innermost thoughts and ideas for the world to read. I've grown, I've been hurt, I've soared on the exhilaration of being understood, and I've struggled with the vulnerability required to turn your heart inside out and risk your sensitivities being trampled on.

For the most part, my readers have been kind and generous, encouraging me along the way and telling me when I've moved them or given them something new to consider. I feel like a broken record when I express my intense gratitude to my loyal readers, but you will likely never know how much you have given to me as I flail around and try to find my writing legs.

I hope you will follow me over to my website, and join my community there. I'd love to hear what you think of the site, and continue to interact with you on my blog. I'm offering a contest (under Breaking News) where I will give away one of my new children's books, B the Wonder Bear, every time I add 25 new members to the site.

I'm working on a pocket-sized paperback book of some of my blog posts from early this year, when I was undergoing intense personal change. I'm designing the book myself and will make it available through the Publishing tab of my new site when it's available, both as an e-book and as a reasonably priced printed book. I learned a lot when I printed my first book of blog posts and hope to improve the product I am offering.

I have changed so much in the last eighteen months. I am no longer a slave to my desire to please other people. I have taken a large pair of ceremonial scissors and cut a number of figurative red ribbons in the last year, freeing myself from what I thought others wanted me to be. Counseling really helped me, and so did writing here every day, working through issue by issue in order to get from the blackest night into the bright sunshine of who I really am.

Thank you for coming with me on this journey. Please spread the word about my new site to your friends if you find value in my blog. Tomorrow I will change the networked blogs link on Facebook to my website instead of this blog. Please come find me there. Thank you for your support and for all you have given me as I pursue my dream to write.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Help: Go Find Your Life

I had the opportunity to attend an advance screening of The Help last week, and as a huge fan of the book, I was concerned that the movie wouldn't live up to my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the movie could stand alone as a story beautifully told, while retaining the flavour and spirit of the novel.

One of my favourite lines in the movie came near the end, when the main character Skeeter (played by Easy A's brilliant Emma Stone) is told to "go find her life." This advice rang true for me on a variety of levels, as this is what I have been doing for the last two years.

There are so many ways that we can hold ourselves back from pursuing our dreams. We secretly believe that we don't deserve to be happy, or we fear the attacks which are sure to come from others when we find success in any area. Working through these faulty beliefs and replacing them with new and positive images of ourselves is a step in the right direction.

As I age, I realize how limited our time really is. When you are in your twenties, you think you have the rest of your life to pursue your dreams, and in fact you do, but then you blink and you are in your late thirties and time seems more precious than ever before. I don't want to waste any more time idling in neutral. I want to be moving forward, going somewhere, pursuing the life I've always dreamed of living.

Go find your life. Four simple words, freeing when you are on this path, but so limiting when you are not. If there are obstacles in your way, identify them and work through them, one by one, so you can leave them by the side of the road and walk away. Putting down my backpack full of rocks has helped me to move forward, but first I had to face what was actually weighing me down, and walk through the process of changing what I believed to be true about myself.

For the most part, we hold ourselves back from pursuing our own dreams. I was prisoner for way too long to what other people thought of me. Now I've felt the pain of letting others down and going my own way, and I've survived it, and I've never been closer to finding my own life. The courage is inside all of us, provided we can access it and own it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Body Image

I have made a decision. I am going to stop obsessing over being thinner and looking better, and instead put my energy into loving myself and how I look. I want to be comfortable inside of my own skin, and feel beautiful and healthy no matter what size of pants I wear. This is not an easy task in the society we live in, but I believe it to be worthwhile, and I hope to get to that place of acceptance eventually.

I want to avoid the trap of working out, eating well, losing weight and still feeling bad about myself. I've come to realize that how we look doesn't always correspond to how we feel. The goal for me is to accept myself at whatever weight I'm at. I don't want to work hard to lose weight and still be jealous of how someone else looks, and wish regularly that I was skinnier or more toned or had smaller shoulders and feet.

Comparing ourselves to others is a dead-end road. I know this in my mind, but my emotions are often slow to catch up here. I will hear that someone is losing weight and I will feel spurred to action in a kind of strange competition that the other woman isn't remotely aware of. I know this to be foolish but yet I do it anyway.

I want to stand firm on my own square of ground in this world. I don't want to refuse all desserts and I'm certainly not giving up my popcorn and root beer ritual. I know that the results of exercising regularly are good for me, and will help me to stay healthy and energetic as I get older. I don't want to become obsessive about exercise and diet, but I also hate being on edge about it, and personally affronted when other people make positive changes to their bodies.

Genuine acceptance is hard to come by. It's one step forward and a couple steps back, like most new things we try, and if I want it to go deep and take root in my soul I must be patient. It's not a linear process. It zigs and zags and forces us to look at beliefs we hold which are faulty and often uncomfortable. I know it's unhealthy to compare myself to others and set up bogus competitions where I either lord it over someone if I win or feel miserable if I lose.

Life is too short to worry about these things. I want to make the best choices I can when it comes to the food I put in my mouth, but also extend grace to myself for the occasional chocolate bar and Chunks Ahoy cookie. I want to continue exercising, even when I have to force myself to do it, and be reminded that it serves as an investment in my overall health. I am determined to come to terms with my body, and own it as mine, and love it the way I am trying to embrace and accept my individual personality.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Safe Ground

I am finding new confidence in who I am. I stand a little taller, and feel a bit more certain of myself in any given situation. Others around me, even those who have known me forever, might not see a difference, but I know it's there. And I love this new version of myself, better than I've ever been before, and only an earlier version of what I will eventually become.

It's a good thing to stop and record the difference in ourselves. When we push so hard that we don't slow down to notice subtle changes, we miss the opportunity to marvel at the new person we have become. I don't think I've ever really noticed these personality differences before because I was working so hard to be what others wanted me to be, and not who I really was. I couldn't measure anything because the metrics were so changeable.

But now I know who I used to be, and who I am now, and the new version is standing on much firmer ground. I feel rooted to myself in a way that is fresh and exciting. I can dig deeper and find substance there. It's the difference between pretend and real, imitation and true, false and genuine. I know I have a long way to go, but beating myself up over my shortcomings does nothing but make me feel bad, and I don't want to feel bad any longer.

Learning to forgive myself and others is an important piece of this puzzle. I am not perfect, and never will be, and neither is anyone else. We are all stumbling along, trying to improve but often failing. As long as we are open to the possibility of growth and change, and willing to accept responsibility for what is ours and only ours, we are on the right track, and that is the measurement for setting my own goals now.

It's a messy process, and I'm finding the beauty in the rubble. I used to work at projecting an image of having it all together, but I can't be bothered with any of that now. It's a lie. No one has it all together. We are all inching our way through our personal journey, soaring sometimes and the rest of the time we fall and skin our knees so badly they bleed and sting. I'm not sure it ever gets any easier, and accepting this as fact encourages me a little bit.

For now, I am enjoying who I am becoming. I am myself, filled with flaws and more self-centred than I want to be, but also loving and sensitive and always reaching just a little bit higher in everything. I like this feeling of real confidence and certainty. I want to find ways to build more of it into my life, and to model it for my kids and for other women, as I have been inspired by it when I see it at work. True always trumps pretend, and truth is the only safe ground on which to stand.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

This Summer

I am not at all ready for the summer to be over. This is a good thing, as August has just begun and we still have more time for leisure and play and to enjoy the freedom and joy of being outside. This is by far the best summer of my life as I offered myself permission at the beginning of it to to enjoy myself. I pushed my endless to-do lists to the side, looked at my kids and Jason, and decided I deserved to have some fun.

These are new concepts for me. I didn't even know that I was pushing myself too hard until I unwrapped the braided cord which contained my faulty ideas that that my value was wrapped up in what I did and not in who I was. Carefully untangling this braid and slotting my value in under who I am instead of what I accomplish allowed me to experience leisure in an entirely new way.

Resting didn't mean I was lazy and uninspired. It was a deliberate choice, designed to help me enjoy the life I was living, and recognizing that my worth as a person would remain high regardless of my performance output gave me the chance to enjoy leisure with impunity. I shudder to think of what my stress level must have been like before, because now that I have tasted leisure, I want more in order to feel any semblance of balance in my life.

Summer is for recharging our tired batteries. It's designed to renew our perspective and give us memories to live on over the winter, as a squirrel hoards nuts in order to stay alive in the barren season. I really didn't understand this before, but I'm glad it's not too late for me to make these kinds of memories with my kids. I was always with them before, but stressing about all that I wasn't getting done, and longing for fall and routine so I could accomplish more.

Now I know how short these days are, and how much I want to put into them and squeeze out of them. Leisure is a big part of that, and so is travel, and finding things to do which maximize the outdoors before we are all inside again for winter. And an unexpected byproduct of pushing aside my to-do list has been productivity without stress. I have an influx of business ideas, and I'm finding time here and there to work on them, and the satisfaction derived from this relaxed pace is incredible.

I'm sad that July is already over, but thrilled that we still have another month before the machine of school and activities grinds back into gear. For now, we will enjoy every moment we have, mixing activities and rest, and taking care to remember that these halcyon days will not last forever.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What's In Front of Me

Too often I fixate on what I have yet to accomplish or attain, and I neglect to stop and notice what is right in front of me. It's the age-old half empty vs. half full argument. Do we see what is good and beautiful, or do we see all that needs to be improved? Having a family member facing serious questions of life and death has given me a new perspective on my own life.

I look at my two children and I see that they are healthy, and growing as they should, and I try to notice all of the wonderful qualities already in them instead of focusing on the behavioural issues which require some finessing. I see my husband, and I recognize how strong and functional our relationship is, as opposed to obsessing over the little things I would prefer to change.

My friends are a huge part of my life, and they give so much to me, provided I acknowledge how blessed and grateful I am in place of worrying that I don't have enough friends or that I've ticked off a few people in the course of the last year. It's a matter of focusing on what I have instead of what I lack. It's so simple and yet so easy to overlook. I don't want to be perpetually unsatisfied in my life, always reaching for what extends beyond my grasp. Now it's time to open my eyes and actually see what is in front of me, and enjoy it fully.

I have to learn how to do this within myself. I see how far I have to go sometimes in my personal growth, and forget to measure just how far I've come already. We are all works in progress. We are never finished growing and improving, but while we are in the middle of the process, it's a beautiful thing to remove the rose coloured (or dark coloured) glasses we wear and look at our life as it really is.

What relationships are working well? Invest more time there and reap the rewards of healthy communication and a sense of peace and order. Are you healthy today? Feel the pure joy and freedom of what your good health does for you. It opens doors which have been closed to other people, and so often we fail to notice and appreciate this unbelievable gift.

I don't have to look very far to feel blessed today. Straight ahead, to my left and to my right, and even turning around to see where I've come from provides immense joy and satisfaction, as long as I am looking for it. I don't want to concentrate on what isn't working today, but instead feel the satisfaction of knowing that many things in my life are running smoothly, and soak up the joy which resides in noticing what is good, and right in front of me.

Monday, August 1, 2011

One Step Forward

All of personal growth feels like it's one step forward and then one back. It's not a linear thing. It zigs and zags and leaves us feeling like we are catching up. I can feel so confident one minute and then completely sucker-punched the next, as I fall back into old patterns which I am trying to move past. It can be extremely frustrating.

A friend recently reminded me to extend the kind of grace to myself that I would give to someone I love without even thinking about it. This was excellent advice. The nature of growth is that it hurts as it stretches, and only after a hell of a lot of work does it become an implemented part of our life. Mistakes go with this territory, and I must give myself continual permission to fail on the way to improving myself for the long term.

The fact that I can recognize this at all is improvement. I'm no longer quite as blind to what I'm doing, and that in itself speaks of progress. I tend to feel butterflies in my stomach, and I experience a quiet discontent which alerts me to the fact that something is off. Now I need to remind myself not to react immediately. Patience is one of the greatest gifts we have, if we will remember to unwrap it slowly and wait until we are calmer to respond.

I seem to feel rushed when I am being drawn into a situation or an emotion which makes me uncomfortable. Probably this is because I want to regain my equilibrium and get back to my newfound confidence and certainty, but rushing isn't the way to do it. That's how the mistakes get made. Our world moves at the speed of light with communication and smart phones and a sense of being reachable 24/7. Just because I can respond instantly doesn't mean I have to.

Grace is always the answer, for ourselves and for others. Getting it perfect is not the goal. Being open to listen to our emotions and making decisions which are healthy for us is much better in the long run. I find it hard to be gentle with myself, but like so much of this life, it's a learning curve and a work in progress. I'm grateful to wake up each morning and have more chances to practice these skills, and to know myself just a little better, and to inch closer to the sort of person I most long to be.