Podcast: Always Say the Unsaid Episode 1

I recently decided to start a podcast to explore the topic of Truth. In my mind as I currently have it, this will be a six-part series entirely focused on the workings of the inner voice. Below is the transcript for episode 1. You can listen to the episode on Spotify, or by clicking here.

Transcript to the Podcast:

Hello! This is Always Say the Unsaid.

This is episode 1 of what I imagine to be a 6 part series on truth and truth-seeking. 

My name is Maria and I… have never made a podcast before, so this will be a new venture into something incredibly unknown to me. Truth: I really only began listening to podcasts about 4 months ago if you can believe it. But now, I can’t imagine why it took me so long. I love podcasts.

There’s nothing specific that qualifies me to make a podcast, and on this subject particularly. I’m just an average woman living a typically average life. Married with kids, a homeowner trying to pay off the dang mortgage, hoping to live a life with meaning while still making sure to pay the bills. I could be any person, on any given day. 

But I decided to create this podcast anyway, and for a number of reasons.

For one, I was curious. I wondered, can I? Can someone who is relatively a no one just go ahead and make a podcast? Second, and more importantly, accountability. I am an introvert, and not at all comfortable with the spoken word. I generally dislike talking and avoid it as much as is humanly possible (while still trying to function in society). I needed to choose a medium that was outside of my comfort zone to hold myself accountable to my goal for this new year, and for life in general: Tell the truth. Be honest. Always speak from a place of truth. Never hold in what should be spoken out. Always say the unsaid. 

So this will be a podcast that delves into and explores the many facets of truth-telling, and what it means to be truthful: why it’s important, what it means to me and what it could potentially mean to you. 

And given that, I think, the only natural place to begin is to ask the question, What is truth? 

I don’t know if this story will resonate but, a few years ago my husband and I were looking to purchase a cottage. I wasn’t sure whether we actually should – financially, practically – but my heart wanted and still wants a cabin in the woods. For better or for worse, we decided to aim for the dream. We went full throttle, but the entire time I was asking myself whether or not we were doing the right thing. I kept going, though, choosing to keep my eye on that dream. Long story short, we put an offer on a place that was set to be ours, but at the last possible minute, the deal fell through. I got a phone call from the realtor to let me know, and when I hung up the phone, my entire body experienced a sigh of relief. The entire time I had been operating from my mind, logically telling myself that I should go after my dream. But at the end of the day, my insides kicked in and let me know that this was not the right time, and that there was nothing to regret; that the outcome had been exactly as it should have been. The truth had kicked in. 

Whether you believe in God or universe or spirit or source or fill-in-the-blank, you may know the feeling. I call it God, in a non-religious sense. This is the way God talks with me. It happened to me with an old boyfriend, at a tipping point between staying in the relationship or moving on. The truth told me what I needed to do. It happened to me when we purchased our current home. After looking at probably hundreds of houses online, when I pulled up the realtor listing for our home, the truth said, this is the right one for you right now. It happened to me before conceiving our third child, too.

Truth is the deepest part of ourselves. Truth is where our integrity resides. Truth is the thing within us that – although it can be easily ignored, will never go away. Every time we do ignore our truth – something that can go on for years, or even our entire lives – we hurt ourselves on mental, physical, spiritual and emotional levels. Breaking from the truth prevents us from living our best lives. 

It’s like in the movies, you know? It’s like Nicolas Cage inThe Family Man or Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness or Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire or the animated film Inside Out. How many times has Hollywood tried to tell us, ironically through the practice of make believe, that the truth will set you free. The truth will set you free. The truth will set you free. 

Take a moment and think about truth in your own life, to one of your moments when you felt the truth spring up within you, to how you felt in that moment, to know it was the truth, without a doubt, unequivocally… 

And now compare that to another moment where you were ignoring the truth. We all have those, too. Moments where we actually knew within ourselves that we are stepping away from our integrity.

As an introvert, and as someone who was raised to be a people pleaser – to think about what other people will think and say, their judgments and their opinions; to care about outward appearances – and as a wallflower who never understood what to do whenever the attention was on me, I have repeatedly in my life stepped away from my truth. 

This is a common example: Often, when I’m presented with a question that requires me to make a choice between at least two possible options, I will freeze. I freeze because I get stuck between making a choice that is better for MOST people, and making a choice that is better for ME. The choices just end up rolling around in my head, over and over and over again. Eventually anxiety over not having made a choice will seep in, which causes the rolling in my mind to pick up speed. So rather than making a decision, I allow the choices to turn my mind into a whirlpool of confusion. I get myself really stressed out over things that, ultimately, are pretty banal. 

And often, when I finally do make a choice, I’ll choose the answer that will make the most people happy, at the expense of my own happiness. This can happen with small decisions, like what food I want to eat, and it can happen with big decisions, like taking on a big project at work that I know does not match my skill set. 

In hindsight, I always look back at these situations and know that I have ignored my truth. Being unhappy with the decisions I fall on, the stress and anxiety, all happen because I stepped away from truth. 

So, all this to answer the question: What is truth? 

Truth, then, is that place inside ourselves that is the best of us. The real us. The us that we were born to be and intended to be. Truth is your source. Truth is the God within you. Truth is your integrity – wholeness, before our choices chip away the pieces. Truth is what you can always come back to. Truth is what will always remain. Truth is the basis for all of it – all of this – all of everything. 

Truth is what I strive for, as a 40-something woman who is doing away with the bullshit of life and no longer interested in what other people think or say about me. Truth is the light in the distance that I keep my eye on, like in driver’s ed where they tell you to look far ahead in the distance as everything else falls away. 

That is truth for me. 

But adhering to my truth, that is my challenge.

So tell me, what is truth for you? I’m curious. If you have a personal definition of truth I would love to know.

That’s all for this episode, but for next time: Defining the ins and outs of being true to yourself. Because the inner voice is the first to always say the unsaid. 

Assumptions: Making an Ass Out of Me, Every Day of My Life

Back in November, my husband let me know that our daughter would be performing in a Christmas recital.

“Cool,” I replied. I assumed that the recital would be online, as all recitals had been since the start of COVID.

A week went by, and as we were discussing the recital, I learned that it would be in person this time, and not online at all. “You never told me!” was my response. The introvert in me was like, Ahhh, people! But, ultimately, it was fine. I assumed the recital would be a small affair of immediate family in the instructor’s home, as past in-person recitals had been.

Another week went by, and I learned that the recital was actually going to be a big affair, with lots of people, and in a public venue. What? “You never told me!” We were now in December, a week before said recital, and I needed to go shopping for an outfit because there was also a dress code for this very public recital and I never knew. I roamed the mall in a state of stress and anxiety. No one waits until December to buy their Christmas outfits! There was hardly anything left!

I passed my stress off onto my husband, obviously. I was frustrated that he never told me these details from the very beginning. But then, I had an important realization: It’s me that had made a lot of assumptions, right from the start. I never asked any questions, I had merely assumed that I knew the answers. How could I expect my husband to know what information was or wasn’t relevant to me? (I mean, I like to think that he should know anyway, but that’s besides the point…)

A week after that, something similar happened, another assumption that caused me stress, and it really drove the point home. My stress was caused by my own self, my own choice to make an assumption rather than inquire as to truth and fact. Byron Katie says that “what’s true is always what’s happening, not the story about what should be happening,” and that when we only pay attention to what we think is happening, we cause ourselves pain. I realized that every time I make assumptions, I cause myself pain.

You know what they say about assumptions….

It made me think back to other times in my life, and I realized that there were so many instances when I caused myself unnecessary stress and anxiety, so many instances where I could have saved myself pain.

I remember one Christmas, I saw my mother-in-law whispering with my brother-in-law. I could tell there was something coming, something that I didn’t know about. I made an assumption. What else could they have been whispering about but pregnancy? My sister-in-law must be pregnant! Normally this would have been a happy thing, except, at the time, I was still emotionally unstable from suffering miscarriages. Learning a person is pregnant after a miscarriage is an experience that happens with a heavy heart, even if you are genuinely happy for the person.

I went to my room to breathe it out, mentally preparing myself to hear the news. When I went back downstairs, using every ounce of my inner strength, I noticed everyone standing around, waiting for me. I stood there as my husband and brother-in -law stepped out, carrying a table saw. A table saw, just for tool-loving me. My mother-in-law’s gift to me was giving me her late husband’s machine, this is what she had been whispering about.

All that pain and upset, all for nothing.

I remember this other time, in my early twenties. I had been at my workplace for the better part of six years. I was doing many jobs there, capable of fulfilling many roles. I was a good worker and knew it. I assumed, however, that I was the only one who had noticed. I became grumpy because no one was giving me any credit for how capable I really was. I felt like I deserved something –pay, recognition –and I was upset that I wasn’t getting it. I didn’t speak with anyone about my feelings, I simply simmered, assuming that, if anyone noticed, they would understand exactly why I was simmering.

First, I don’t think anyone noticed my mood, or, if they did, they didn’t attribute it to the workplace. Second, in reality, my good work was being noticed. I ended up getting a sizeable raise and a promotion. By then, my bitter attitude was so engrained that I was barely able to enjoy it.

Pain. For nothing.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about truth lately, and the importance of inner truth. As with anything, truth is something that has to be understood from within.

The reality is that we lie to ourselves all the time. We make up stories, and then we enter them into our psyches as fact. It’s illogical, and yet we do it anyway. We treat perceptions like reality rather than make believe, yet, make believe is what they are.

I think sometimes to the things that trigger me: When I feel like someone is judging me, when I feel like someone is insulting my intelligence, when I feel misunderstood. Without trying to invalidate my feelings, the common element above is “when I feel like,” or rather, “when I assume another person is thinking/feeling xyz about me.” Unless I ask outright – which, obviously, given that I am making assumptions, I don’t – how do I really know that a person is judging me? How do I really know they are insulting my intelligence (as opposed to, for example, simply disagreeing with me)? How do I really know that I’m being misunderstood? For that matter, how do I ever really know that I am being understood?

The truth is that I can never know anything for sure, not without communication. Therefore, I am left with only two choices. Choose to assume and live with hurt feelings as a result, or, choose to acknowledge that I am unaware of the reality, and move on with my life.

I’m growing a deep fondness for Byron Katie’s definition of truth and reality. Life is so much easier when you don’t believe your own stories.

Assumptions hurt. Assumptions block the truth. Assumptions blind us and hinder our ability to engage honestly with the life around us. Assumptions are lies; theories we believe without bothering with the factual evidence.

I mean, they truly do make an ass out of me, each and every time I form one. Which means I’ve been an ass for most of my life… When my head is up my arse, it’s pretty hard to see the truth.

-mtg

Living Like Betty White

Betty White

My favourite book as a pre-teen girl was The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Although Anne of Green Gables touched my (and the world’s) heart, it’s The Blue Castle that touched my soul. Although I was always an avid reader, this was the first book to ever have this effect on me.

The story is about a young woman named Valancy who is, by all accounts, the wallflower/doormat/old maid of her family. Privately, she is imaginative, curious and intelligent. However, she isn’t given any credit within her clan (nor does she demand it). As a result her life is not her own, but rather subject to the whims and folly, judgments and perceptions of her family. That is, until one day when she is given a terminal diagnosis, at which point she decides to take living into her own hands. Choice by choice, she grabs the reins with all her might and steers her life into something full of colour and energy, something that is of her own making. She is a wallflower no more.

And of course, at the end of the story, we learn her terminal diagnosis was given in error and she gets to go on living her new wonderful, magical life. Yay, Valancy!

******

My parents are immigrants. My dad was the youngest child of a rural, post-war Italian family, and was only allowed as much as a third grade education before he had to leave school to help out on the family farm. My mom, the youngest of three, moved to Canada from Italy when she was eight years old. She was held back a few years in school on account of her lack of English, which may have helped her learn the language, but did nothing for her confidence in education. My parents grew up practically, thinking about making ends meet, putting food on the table, and not messing around with any lofty ideas. Take care of your family, take care of your home, be a good citizen in your community: these are the rules by which they abided, even and especially if sacrifice was required.

My sister always understood the rules. She has straight hair and is a teacher. Her feet are solidly on the ground. 

It was much more difficult for a stubborn dreamer like me. 

I was born knowing I was different. I didn’t know how to keep my feet on the ground when my head was in the clouds. I didn’t know how to stay grounded when my soul wanted to fly free. 

This struggle has woven itself through the whole of my life: trying to be the child I was raised to be, wanting to follow the call of my soul. This paradox has pulled me in opposite directions, and often has left me paralyzed when action was needed. 

I’ve been disappointed in myself. Saddened. Infuriated. By not choosing a side I’ve lived in limbo, but not choosing myself led to a break in confidence. I allowed myself to fall to the wayside, to become a wallflower to my own life. 

******

There’s a scene at the end of Titanic, after Jack helps Rose onto the door but can’t find a way to get up there himself (gawd!), where the camera rolls through pictures of the life Rose went on to lead after surviving her near-death experience. She did not fall back into the claws of her parents, she did not continue to allow them to control her. She made a choice to be her own person, and, by the looks of it, led an incredible fictional life. 

That takes courage. It takes guts. It takes a person making a choice to listen to the truth within themself, rather than cater to the fear raised by outside influences.

This scene, also, spoke to my soul.

******

About five years ago I was going through a bit of a difficult time with my health. My doctor tested me for a few different things, one of them being cancer, and there was a period of several months where I lived with this question mark over my head. It wasn’t, and eventually my symptoms went away. I had this nagging feeling that I was meant to learn something from this experience. 

******

The concept of reincarnation or past lives is not accepted by everyone, and I’m not about to sit here and make a case for or against it, but if there were such a thing as past lives, a few thoughts have developed in my mind. 

We all have random and strange thoughts that we don’t admit to out loud; snippets of scenes that pop in like memories, things we pass off as probably having happened in a dream. If, for the sake of argument, these snippets were actually bits and pieces of past lives streaming through our subconsciousness, mine would provide me with the following information: I get claustrophobic in water because I previously died by drowning; I have an irrational fear of driving over bridges for the same reason. I get a pull when I hear about shipwrecks so I don’t ever want to go on a cruise. I have a memory that is not actually a memory (because it wasn’t actually me) of being tied up with my family (who wasn’t actually my family) in a home invasion. It was gruesome and violent. It might have been a dream, I really don’t know, but when, as a teenager, my home was actually invaded, I felt deeply affected. 

Cumulatively, all my unexplainable and irrational thoughts and fears make me feel (because this is how my brain works) as though I died a bunch of early deaths in past lives, deaths that affect me emotionally in this life. I like to see my name in writing, for example, it gives me a feeling of permanence. It doesn’t make sense but that’s what it is. I have a deep desire to grow into a lippy old lady, to be one of those old ladies who people look at with awe as someone who has lived her life well and not put up with any bullshit. My desire to grow old is tangible. I’ve never been afraid of death itself, but I have always been afraid of dying unfinished.

******

Betty White died on New Year’s Eve. Already, it’s a night fraught with self-reflection. But, Betty White?! Betty White was an inspiration. Betty White with her sense of humour and quick wit and lack of bullshit. Betty White was truly the best. I want to be just like Betty White.

******

I feel like my life’s calling is to follow the path that Valancy followed; the same path as Rose. To be like Betty White and to live a lot, love a lot, and walk to the beat of my own drum. I feel like my life’s calling is to find freedom – to be spiritually, emotionally free. 

And also, I recognize that this has been the single hardest thing for me to achieve in my life. I have tethered myself, inexplicably, via self-imposed guilt to the messages that I was raised hearing. Even if I didn’t agree with them, even if I still don’t. 

Because I know my family are good people with good intentions, and because I’m the only “one of these things that doesn’t belong here,” I have an incredibly difficult time separating myself from the emotional ties that bind (leaving me fighting both for and against a need to belong). And I can only blame myself, and I can only make the choice to change for myself. And yet, even though I want this and know this, I can’t seem to flip the switch. Dr. Wayne Dyer would call this a shift. I need a f’ing shift. Why can’t I shift?

******

As a woman in my 40s, I have come to learn, through all of my life experience, that peace and calm arise in the embracing of life’s many paradoxes. It doesn’t mean that I have succeeded in achieving this peace and calm, but just that I totally get this concept. As humans we tend to fight against the things that heal us. If we can relax and allow it all to exist in unison – the good and the bad, the joys and the hurts, the successes and the failures – then we can achieve flow.

By that logic, the formula for achieving my desired shift is simply this: Accept my free spirit as valid and accept my family for the practical beings they are. Let go of any perception that one way is better than the other, and know that one way won’t make me a better daughter than the other. Allowing all to exist without judgement or denial, fault or interference. Stop fighting to belong, and stop fighting to be independent. Belong and be independent. Embrace all to achieve flow.

******

When I was twenty-four, I went ziplining in Whistler. Nobody knew that I was there that day, it was my own private little adventure. At one point along the several passes our group made between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, I decided to release my grasp on the harness. That is, rather than hold tightly the reins, keeping myself in the standard upright position, I completely let go. My body turned upside down, my hair flew in all directions. I felt like I was flying. I felt wonderfully, beautifully free. 

In hindsight, that was probably a little dangerous. I don’t know how well I was actually strapped to that harness… I mean, was it well enough to protect my body against gravity for real? I don’t know. But I trusted the harness, and I let go, and I became free. 

If I can trust a nylon strap, can I not trust in the universe that made me, to hold me and guide me to the other side? To not drop me while I fly free? 

******

I do personally believe that the universe communicates with each and every one of us, whether or not we choose to listen. And I do believe the universe has communicated with me, asking me to pay attention.

And when I pay attention, I understand that I’m being asked to live my life, to be myself, to be free. Nothing and no one is weighing me down. Nothing but my own fear. 

Valancy let go of her fear. So did Rose. They lived like Betty White. 

I know they’re fictional but, if they can live like Betty, I imagine, so can I.

******

As a P.S., I thought I was finished writing this piece, except for one thing that kept nagging at me: I hadn’t shifted. Unintentionally, I expected to shift once the words were down. So, I went for a walk (I often walk when I feel a need to process). As I walked, I came to recognize that my desire for freedom was so strong that I wasn’t allowing it to be free: I have inadvertently tethered my tether.

Last fall I read Beck’s book The Art of Integrity, I highly recommend. One of the things she talks about in this book is how, when you know that you want to change in a particular direction but are having trouble making the switch, to instead focus on making one degree turns in the direction that you want to go. That is, baby steps. Eventually, all the baby steps will accumulate to a significant and noticeable alteration in our life’s course.

My first one degree turn toward freedom was to take a day off. My next one degree turn toward freedom was to take myself seriously. And next… and next. Between me and freedom, between me and Betty White, lie 180 one degree turns. And I can make them, one day at a time.

-mtg

Wonderul, Colourful, Magnificent

About 18 years ago I wrote a children’s story. I decided that I wanted to do the illustrations myself, but it was one of those things that just intimidated me. How to do it? Could I do it? Would they turn out? Etc etc. I had the images in my mind, I just wasn’t confident that I could translate them onto paper. Now here we are, 18 years later, and it really took no time at all to actually do the work. There’s nothing more intimidating than a blank page, but sometimes all it takes is one step at a time.

Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart 😀, but I’m now one step closer to bringing this 18 year old idea to life. It will take a bit more time before the print version is complete, but the book is now digitally available on Amazon Kindle. Whew! And, yay!

Wonderful, Colourful, Magnificent

Book Summary:

Wonderful, Colourful, Magnificent is the story of a little girl named Marta, who one day makes a painting that she is very proud of. As she shows her creation to those around her, her confidence begins to deteriorate and many different feelings emerge. With the help of her mother, she learns to recognize the importance of having confidence in herself, as well as the value of her colourful imagination. Wonderful, Colourful, Magnificent uses colours to assist with the expression of emotions, in order to guide child readers in the process of recognizing and idenifying their own feelings and emotions.

Atlas of the Heart: Brené Brown

I consider myself a bit of a junkie when it comes to books that are personal develpment in nature.

I recently started reading Atlas of the Heart, the newest book by Brené Brown. 

Prior to this book, I read The Art of Surrender by David Hawkins, which taught me to go inside and look my feelings in the face, rather than submit to my internal ostrich and bury them in the sand. In doing so, I realized that I have anxiety…. Like, literally. I had no idea. There is this feeling of stress that has lived in my chest for so much of my life that I just assumed it was normal, I didn’t stop to think that this was not how I actually could or should feel on the inside. 

It’s kind of fortuitous that I read The Art of Surrender before starting Atlas of the Heart, because this new trick I’ve learned at paying attention to my feelings makes Brené Brown’s analysis of said feelings that much more poignant. (Note: If you want to get the most out of Brené’s years of research analysis, don’t ignore the truths that live inside you.) 

I am currently reading the section regarding expectations, and it is so spot on in my life. So many of my frustrations and disappointments have come because of unexamined expectations that I set up in my mind, both big and small. A lot of these made up scenarios occur because I’m an introvert, and an INFJ, and I basically live in my mind like a snail in a shell. But just because it’s something my personality is prone to, doesn’t make it useful or healthy (hence this life-long build up of anxiety that I now need to backpedal through). Now that I see this tendency (Hawkins), and now that I understand it (Brown), I can actually apply positive changes to my life to correct something that really only brings me pain. 

This is the shit, people. This is really the shit.

I am currently applying these practices to my life at home with children who are, once again, doing distance learning. Expectations of the kids, fulfilling teacher expectations, expectations around what should be possible with my time, all are out the window. There is freedom in just allowing things to unfold in the most humanly possible way, without pressure to do more than we can realistically do. Our best is our best. Knowing this from the outset keeps the frustration, disappointment and anxiety at bay. So much more healthy than, let’s say, March of 2020.

If you are interested in the understanding of feelings from a researcher’s perspective, I highly recommend this book. The insights it provides from a clinical POV are valuable, helping to make logical sense of emotions that continuously bubble to the surface, every day of our lives.  

Personal Essay: The Girl Who Never Knew What She Wanted to Do With Her Life

They gathered all of us into the school auditorium, the entire senior class. We were there to listen to university reps do their best to sell their respective schools. We were told, by our own high school teachers, without too much mincing of words, that the smart kids would go to university. College was meant for the trades. 

I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My friends and I spent hours agonizing over cups of coffee we were probably still too young to be drinking, afraid that a wrong decision made at seventeen could ruin our lives as adults before they even got started. I didn’t know what I wanted, I only knew that I was a smart kid – one of the “so much potential” kids – so off to university I went, propelled by a teenage desire for independence and freedom, and pure blind faith that school would teach me the answers to the questions of my life. 

I learned a lot over five years and two fancy pieces of paper. I learned how to live independently. How far to stretch a buck. The side effects of too much coffee from the free refill bar. I learned a lot of facts that I can no longer remember, how to write an essay on the fly and with no sleep, and that I had little interest in critically thinking about much of the stuff I was being asked to critically think about. I was a fish floundering in a stream of many, all going the same way, but some with more confidence than others. I was wounded by stories of high school classmates who had already made life-enforcing decisions with their lives: one going to college to become a chef and now working professionally, one who did a one year certificate program and moved immediately to full-time employment and home ownership from there, one who got in his car one evening and ended up in Mexico with an entirely new existence. And there I was, still struggling with this one essential question: What in all hell did I want to do with my life? 

By my mid-twenties I had decided that adventure would provide me the answers I needed. I craved new experiences. Sure, I would travel if an opportunity presented itself. Sure, I would move to a new city just because. Sure, I would try out many different jobs, each time telling myself, I can do that…

And how many times did I take the elevator up to a job, and then feel physically unable to move until the doors closed, bringing me back down to ground zero and the exit. 

Just keep moving, I said. Just keep adventuring, keep experiencing. The answer will come. 

But that’s not how life works, is it? The answers don’t come just because you want them too. They’re not like the family dog that responds to treats when you command them to come.  I think I was in my mid-thirties by the time I came to this understanding that the answer wouldn’t come just because. That I couldn’t chase it. That I couldn’t hunt it.

I’d like to say that this understanding came to me suddenly. It didn’t, gawd no. It came to me after years of trying gig after gig. It came to me after being buried in motherhood and the judgment of mothers. It came to me after my health flared into big red flashing lights saying Stop, Stop, Stop

It came to me that I needed to sit still. That I needed to get down and comfortable with silence. That I needed to be the honey that attracts the fly, play hard to get a little, pretend I didn’t really care. I needed to allow the answers to come, in their own time. 

So I got comfortable with waiting. I got comfortable with my journal and my self-help books and my TED talks. I got comfortable with self-analyzing, with my barriers, with my boundaries. I got comfortable with having clear definitions around what I liked and what I never would like. I got comfortable with the sound of my own thoughts. 

And I learned some interesting things. 

I learned that waiting doesn’t mean inaction. I learned that you still need to do things with your life, still need a forward motion, even when you’re not sure of the direction. I learned that I could be inspired by things that were not even in the realm of what I thought I wanted to do with my life, and I learned to just appreciate these bits of inspiration for what they were. I learned to listen to the sound of silence. 

But I didn’t learn The Answer, still. It didn’t present itself to me, still. 

So I went on working, being inspired, thinking, listening. I obsessed over personal projects that brought me personal joy and a sense of accomplishment. I found things to be proud of. And I realized that I was no longer a floundering fish in a stream of other more competent fish. Rather, I was in my own stream. And I hoped this stream would lead me to the holy grail, to the answer of all answers. 

And it did. In a way. 

Now in my forties, I have learned something that I never expected to learn. It’s not so much an a-ha! as it is a Whoa, Nelly. Because who could have guessed, really. Who could have known?

That the answer is really no answer at all. 

There is no answer to what I want to do with my life. There is only an answer to what I want to be

And what I want to be is alive. And present. And comfortable in my own skin. And myself. 

And I think I’m a slow learner – which is, perhaps, surprising for a smart girl with “so much potential.” But maybe you can be both smart and stupid. Maybe it just takes some of us longer to figure things out. 

Nevertheless, it’s very obvious to me now, the many paradoxes of life. That you have to not care to care. That you have to let go to get. That you have to work hard and do nothing, keep active and be still. That you have to do things you love but that the doing is not being. That something is not everything. 

And that there is one answer which is the only answer, which is really no answer at all.  

This girl, who never understood what she wanted to do with her life, finally learned how to let go and be.

-mtg

Self-Care Mama

When I was 22 I saw a therapist. It was a required component of my school curriculum. I went to the counseling centre on campus and spoke with one of the resident therapists. I didn’t expect it, but as soon as I sat down in that chair and opened my mouth, I began to cry. And cry. And cry. 

I began talking about my mother and our relationship. I had moved away from home at 18. University was my key, my means of escaping what felt like an oppressive teenagehood. I had revelled in the freedom of living on my own, but I hadn’t stopped to process the pent-up feelings I had accumulated over the years, living with a mom that felt both absent and overbearing. When I sat in that chair, when I opened my mouth to speak, the pain of years came out. Week after week I cried, so much so that the therapist couldn’t get a handle on why I was crying. So much so that the therapist actually became annoyed by my crying. So much so that she suggested I read a book called Don’t Blame Mother, then passed me off onto one of her students. I did buy the book, I was just too incensed to read it. 

My mom did want to be a mom, but she wasn’t ready for it. An immigrant in a new world, the youngest daughter in a strict family, she was young and craved freedom, and marriage was one way to get it. Little did she realize that getting married and having kids would ground her even more. She probably wanted to leave it all behind on several occasions. Because of that, she remained emotionally aloof. She made sure we knew how to wash dishes and fold laundry, she made sure we were well fed, dressed, and groomed, but she wasn’t a nurturing mom in the storybook sense of the word. She was a presence in my life, she was my mother, but the emotional strings that attached us at birth were frayed early on. That is how I ended up on the university-hired therapist’s chair, balling my eyes out in an uncontrollable yet nonsensical way. 

Years later I became a mother myself. No one prepared me for the physical and emotional toll that comes with parenthood; how much kids take of your body and soul as a mother. No one warned me how consuming motherhood can be. I wanted to be a good mom, I strove to be a great mom, yet that my kids were so needy of me, wanting me with them to no end, that was both surprising and exhausting to me. I learned to take care of myself from a very young age, it was hard for me to learn boundaries when it came to taking care of them. And yet, over the years, I gave. Each time they asked, I gave. And gave. And gave. 

Until one day it dawned on me that I was no longer giving to myself. One day I realized that I was completely depleted. One day I understood that I had nothing left to give. 

This began an era of learning to care for myself, too. The primary lesson of self-care is that you cannot give forth to the world if your own cup is not full. I understood that my cup was empty, therefore I had nothing left to give to my family. I began to fill my cup, slowly at first, and with greater intention as I went along. I instated a mom’s night out, where once per week I would sit at Starbucks with a book or my journal and drink herbal tea. Some nights I was productive, some nights I stared out the window watching the traffic pass by. It didn’t matter, it was my night. I instilled weekend getaways, once in the spring and once in the fall, where I would drive to the hotel around the corner from our house and stay from check-in until check-out. Sometimes on these overnights, I would become deep and self-reflective and write pages in my journal, other times I would stay in bed and watch television. I always gave myself what I needed at the time. At home, I began setting my alarm to wake up one hour earlier than everyone else. What I do during this time depends on my mood and energy. Sometimes it means that I read books or go for walks, and sometimes it means that I Netflix. But just having that time at the start of each day, quiet time, without chaos, without anybody needing from me, sets me up for the rest of the day. 

As time went on, self-care continued to evolve. More exercise. More boundaries. More finding of my voice and inner strength. Less desire for drama, less patience for anything that did not ring as authentically true. More of what either my body or spirit needed. It was and is an ever evolving process as the more you give to yourself, the more your needs change. If what I needed most five years ago was a strict bedtime routine and more hydration, what I need now might be an exercise regimen or meditation practice. The path of self-care is like building a block tower: Start with the basic foundation, and add one block at a time when the moment is right. 

I realized only recently, however, that what I have actually been doing is mothering myself. I spent much of my life struggling with my need for a nurturing mother, when I realized that I can be my own mother, that I can nurture myself, my self-care took on an entirely different dimension. By realizing that I could be my own mother, that I could fulfill that need for myself, it gave me the allowance to nurture myself in the ways in which I most needed to be nurtured. I knew my needs, and therefore, I could no longer be disappointed in not having my needs met by another. Look inside yourself, and you will find the answers you are looking for, they say. 

When I need to be alone, I allow myself to be alone. When I need to be with friends, I find ways to make that happen. When I need cuddles, I communicate that, or when I don’t want to be touched at all, I communicate that, too. When I have projects to work on, projects that are necessary to my soul, I find ways to make that happen. I will schedule my kids’ time around my time, rather than the other way around. They don’t notice, and they don’t seem to mind. And I still get what I need most. 

I learned that self-care comes from within. Self-care is literally caring for yourself. It is not a chore to be added to your day. It is not saving time for meditation or taking on a yoga practice or finding time to sit in a cafe on your own once per week. It can look like these things, but these are merely tools. Self-care is about mothering yourself, in the same way that you take care of the rest of your household, your children, your pets, and perhaps even your partner. Include yourself on that list, allow yourself and your energy to matter as much as they matter to you.

My kids are getting bigger. My daughter, my eldest, has begun displaying pre-teen attitude to an extent that makes me afraid for when she actually reaches those teenage years. But there are moments when she still needs her mama, where my role as mom is still clearly carved out. We were walking home recently, and as we walked she held my hand. My son was on the other side of me, chatting and vying for my attention, and my daughter contentedly listened on. I, as Mom was walking in the centre, feeling grateful and whole. Not all moments as a parent feel as magical, but for me this was one of them. 

-mtg

(originally written September, 2020)

Uncovering the Now

So we found a tick embedded in my kid’s scalp from a hike last weekend…always a fun find. As it happens, she was in the woods again today doing a cross country meet with her school. Being the absolutely chill, uber not paranoid, completely relaxed mom that I am, I went to find her in the woods after leaving the pharmacy armed with the anti-Lyme meds. And since I happened to be in the woods, I took myself on a mini solo hike.

Being on maternity leave, I constantly have this feeling like I should be using this time to accomplish something (other than, you know, raising a tiny human). I should be looking for that next goal, completing that desired project, figuring out my life. Except, I had those as goals on my other maternity leaves, and I don’t think I ever did quite figure out my life. I had decided that this time, I would just aim to be present. I practiced this on my hike this morning, and you wouldn’t believe how much more pleasant a hike it was, how many more details I noticed, and just how much more fulfilled I was by the experience. Although living in the now is something I’ve always aspired to, it’s something I have perpetually sucked at. But succeeding today felt victorious, and it reminded me of a story that I told my daughter about when I was her age and doing a cross-country run of my own.

Each class was scheduled to run at a different time. When I got to the finishing line everyone was cheering, and I thought Wow, I must’ve done really well. Slowly, I noticed that I wasn’t running with my peers. Everyone was clapping for the leaders of the group that followed my class. I was in fact the last one from my class to have passed the line. I was never a fast runner, nor have I been a quick student in the art of being present. Some people are, and they make it to that particular finishing line without much effort. The just GET it. Me, I have been finding my way there with much faltering and struggling and with excruciating slowness. But accomplishing this goal this morning was like arriving at that finishing line. It didn’t matter that others had passed me along the way, and that there was no fanfare just for me. I had made it. At least for today.

Re: The Way of Integrity

The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck

I’m a bit of a self-help book junkie. I love to read self-help books, whether memoir in nature or this-is-how-you-do-life directives. There was a time in my life when I needed the ideas and inspiration they provided, I was looking for someone to kick me in the rear. Now, I look at these books more as guideposts. Sometimes the books I read don’t sit well with me, and so they actually steer me away from the written text and more into myself (this happens most especially with “radiate positivity” type messages… I’m more of a be your authentic self even if you’re grumpy type of person), and sometimes the books provide exactly the message I need to get me to the next level of my own personal development. I am also, you could say, a personal development junkie. Being an introvert, I look to books as my teachers.

I have this thing that started several years ago. I’ll often walk into my local library, look at the books on display of this one particular bookshelf, and a book will just pop out at me. It’s happened several times over the years, and each time it’s a book that I didn’t know I wanted or needed until I read it. This happened last week with Martha Beck’s The Way of Integrity, the book I’m currently reading and my latest “teacher.”

Self discovery is a process of removing layers, and this book matches the layer I am at in an eerily perfect way. So much so that I just feel calmer when I’m reading it, as opposed to the high alert can’t sit still much to be done setting which is my standard. This tells me, without question, that this is the book for me at this time.

My library trick has not let me down.

@themarthabeck#youaremyteacher
#book#thewayofintegrity#reading#selfhelp#integrity#truthfullness

What Happened After I Surrendered

I had this moment, at the start of March 2020. I was lying on a bed in a hotel room. My son was lying againt me, my daughter and husband in the neighbouring bed. We were watching some tv after a day of exploring – the kids were on spring break. It was one of those tired and cozy moments, no one was fighting or asking for snacks, everyone was relaxed. And in my relaxation my mind wandered as it’s wont to do. I thought about being 40, how the most important people in my life were in that very room. I thought about the goals I still hold for myself. And in that moment I made a decision — a very clear, solid-in-my-soul decision: I decided to get my tubes tied.

I’ve been very honest in the past about my miscarriages. I write about them honestly because many don’t, because so many women experience that particular pain and feel very alone in the process. I write about them as a part of my own processing, also. The last time I wrote about my miscarriages came after this date last March. It was my closing of doors, my moving on, my good-bye. After years of either trying for another baby, or, at the very least, secretly hoping for one, I was ready to move on. I surrendered.

There’s a certain liberation that comes with the act of surrendering, a freeing of the soul. It’s like I had placed this idea of another child into a hot air balloon, and then tied it down with weights. Finally freeing the balloon removed the weights within myself, too.

But I never got that operation. One week after that hotel room moment, the world was engulfed in a global pandemic. I wasn’t making any unnecessary doctor appointments, let alone trips to the hospital for elective surgeries. So life went on, much as it had been. I certainly wasn’t trying to have another child, and I certainly didn’t think it was any more possible than in any of the previous 6 years.

What I did do was continue to grow. Without that added weight holding me down I allowed myself to breathe and move forward. I completed goals, set new ones, then completed those too. And with every step forward I healed that place within myself that had been in pain; the very raw pain that only someone who has experienced pregnancy loss can understand. And as I healed I came to an understanding, one that I could only come to because of my emotional surrending. I was not a victim of pregnancy loss. It’s something shitty that happened to me, a few more times than I’d have liked, but I wasn’t a victim. This is just life. Messy life. Beyond my control life. Let go of expectations life. Good things and bad things will happen life. I am the only thing within my own control life.

And then a funny thing happened. I had a moment last November when I was sure I was pregnant — I felt it at my core. And I needed to think about it, to really assess my feelings around it. And I realized that, were I pregnant, baby would have been as welcome as always, but, if not, it was okay. My life was okay. No sadness. No attachment. No expectations.

And in fact, I wasn’t pregnant. And, aside from confusing my strong sense of intuition, I really was okay. I was in my forties, I had plans, life was moving on.

Later that month my daughter, ironically, asked for a baby sister in her letter to Santa. And I laughed, and I told her it wasn’t going to happen.

And then, a month later, I was. I was actually pregnant.

And trust me, no one was more surprised than I.

Resting on Mother’s Day

There’s a certain level of fear engrained into any pregnancy that follows miscarriage. It’s hard to relax, it’s hard to just enjoy the process. Every day you wake up wondering if everything is okay. Every trip to the bathroom you wonder if you’ll see blood. Rather than look to a future with your baby you think only day by day, refusing to allow yourself to become too emotionally attached to either process or outcome. You take nothing for granted.

Yet I had this feeling, a small voice from somewhere deep within. That I was pregnant now, just as I had turned my back on the whole idea, just as I had moved on: it was too perfect, too textbook. On the outside I didn’t want to admit it, I wanted to keep myself protected just in case. But on the inside, I felt, at my core, that this was divine timing at its finest.

Now that I’m nearing my 3rd trimester, I’m finally allowing myself to breathe. I’m listening to the little voice telling me that everything is going to be okay, rather than heed my fears. I’m living with the understanding, the knowledge earned through experience, that no matter what happens, the outcome is perfect. I have no control over the rest of this pregnancy. I have no say over whether or not or when or how I will get to meet this baby, but the outcome is perfect. As it was meant to be. I am still surrendered to the process. I am still only in control of how I choose to handle each day along the way.

The fears are still there — they don’t simply disappear. This is the natural side effect of loss. But I’ve gained wisdom, I’ve gained knowledge and, I’ve developed a strength only experience can define. And I am going to be okay. No matter what. I am okay.

-mtg

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