2013: A year in review post…sort of

People are posting their “year in review” prompts on Facebook (which is where I hang out), and it’s got me thinking about 2013 and how it went.

Honestly? 2013 felt like a non-year to me. A limbo year. A year of mostly-stuck.

2013 was the year I made 59,000,000 potentially life-changing resolutions and didn’t stick with any of them.

2013 was the year I shoulded on myself so hard I made myself feel like less than nothing. A big, fat, non-doing failure.

2013 was the year I worked myself ragged looking after everyone but me. The year I decided it was too much trouble to ask for what I needed.

2013 was the year I did my best to make myself a non-person, to not-express most of the things I felt and thought, to NEVER (or rarely) ask for help).

BUT…

2013 was the year I realized all of this…and realized that it Had. To. Stop.

2013 was the year I realized that my Word for the Year (Tend) didn’t mean what I thought it did. It didn’t mean taking immaculate care of the house or feeding my family only organic food or learning to be on top of everything. It took me 11 months of this year to learn that the essence of Tend was “look after your damn self, Meg, and if you do that, magic will happen.”

It took all year for that to really and truly sink in, and for me to learn what I actually NEED.

I need dance. I knew that. But I’ve found out that I also need stillness. Give me 10 minutes to meditate and 10-30 minutes to dance every day, and the frazzled, miserable mess of stressed-out Mommy martyrdom disappears. Add regular yoga, and WATCH OUT, WORLD.

When I take care of myself, my light can shine.

Looking back over my blog, I see that my light HAS been shining. I didn’t realize it, I didn’t feel it, but it has. So imagine how life will be if I take care of myself.

2013 was the year I looked everywhere outside of myself for the answer, when the answer was to go inward. It was a precious lesson, and I will always be grateful to 2013 for teaching it.

Thank you, 2013. I love the gifts you brought. I love the lessons you’re leaving me with. Thank you thank you thank you.

 

In which I reclaim my original Word of the Year…

Want to know a secret?

The first Word of the Year I picked for 2013 was not ANY of the 9 words I ended up with. It was also, in retrospect, completely perfect.

From the beginning of my processing-the-past-year-envisioning-the-new-year session (which went from about December 15th, 2012 until January 15th, 2013) I felt very strongly that this year was going to be about creating systems that allow me and my family to live the lives we want to live. It was going to be about learning how to care for the house, creating rhythms and routines that nurtured and nourished us, about cleaning up my messes and caring for myself by doing my chores. The word I chose was Tend.

And then I second-guessed myself because it felt like I was “playing small”…and I ended up picking a bunch of words that seemed more inspiring and felt sort of right at the time…but not so much in hindsight.

“Tending” may seem boring and uninspiring…until you consider how crucial it is to devote regular time to things. You don’t have a yoga practice unless you do yoga most days. You don’t have a clean house unless you work to maintain it, you don’t have tasty veggies or beautiful flowers unless you weed the garden and nourish the plants you want to grow.

That’s really the metaphor for this word of the year: weeding the garden and tending the plants I want. The more I think about the past 8 months and the closer I get to integrating the year so far, the more I see this. I’m choosing what to devote time and energy to, what’s worth going after, what’s not. I’m realizing the value of ritual, routine, and habit, and I’m working on cultivating ones that work for me and my family.

So today I reclaim my Official Word of 2013. It’s Tend. And it’s the perfect word for my life right now.

I’m like the opposite of the Toys R Us kid…

Today I went to Google and typed in “How to be a grown-up”

…well, technically I typed in “how to be a gro” and it filled in the rest because I am clearly not the only person in the world who wants to know.

I keep expecting people to go “Oh NO, don’t be a grown up! Why would you ever want to grow up?”

And here’s the truth: I don’t want to “grow up” in the way that people mean when they say “Oh grow up.” No. Here’s what I want:

To clean up my messes and not leave them all over the house. To know when bills are due and pay them on time instead of paying them whenever I happen to be able to. To have savings. To use food up before buying more. To never run out of toilet paper or hand soap. To have up-to-date passports, a will, and the same last name in both the US and Canada (long LONG story). To “get around to” all the things I mean to “get around to” instead of going from day to day hoping the sky doesn’t fall on me and then waking up in a panic one morning in July and realizing that, while I did pay my taxes, I didn’t actually file them. Yeah…that happened. Not 100% my fault, but the fact that I didn’t notice for a month is kind of sad.

I know that the answer to my problem is habits: creating them, keeping them. I know that I can learn all the stuff I need to know fairly easily if I put my mind to it. But I’m embarrassed and sad that I’m 32 years old and I’m basically a teenager in a grown-up’s body. I may feel old sometimes (like when I try to listen to dubstep or find out that Eminem’s daughter is now 18), but in many important ways I’m not acting like someone who has a kid and a house and taxes and bills and things to do other than crochet and play Minecraft. 

I don’t have all the answers (and no, I didn’t find them on Google), but I know in my heart that it’s possible to dot your Is and cross your Ts and STILL be a total kid at heart. And that’s the kind of growing up I want to do.

On self care and spasms

Last weekend we went on a road trip to PEI. It was FABULOUS. It rained…but not when we were setting up, putting down, or needing to get into the tent. We went to the beach in the sun…and didn’t get burned. We spent our final night at the Delta Prince Edward for almost-free (thank you, Aeroplan points), and we came home sun-kissed and relaxed.

And then I bent forward ever-so-slightly in the shower to reach the shampoo on Wednesday morning and BAM! Back spasm.

It figures.

Know the one thing I didn’t do while I was eating and talking and sunbathing? STRETCH MY MUSCLES.

Coincidence? I think not.

So for the past 48 hours I’ve been in Radical Self-Care mode. I’ve been stretching my calves and hamstrings like crazy (because back pain is often directly connected to tightness in the backs of the legs), and I learned a new psoas relaxing technique that I’m quickly becoming addicted to (because I’m starting to think that this may be Le Grand Issue #1 for this former ballerina and couch potato). I’ve been trying out new and awesome $5 stretching classes from my favourite biomechanic and sitting on the floor instead of the sofa…basically all the things I’ve been meaning to do daily but just not bothering to.

The back pain is starting to ease up—it gets better with every stretch that I do. And I’m hoping the lesson sticks this time. Self care or spasms…it’s a pretty easy choice, really.

Some Thoughts from Lunch Hour

Ahoy!

Why can’t I write a post more than once a month anymore?! Urgh.

I’m writing during a belated lunch hour today. I was watching the email pile up and up and the days pass with no writing being done and I thought to myself, “Self, you know, you could take your damn laptop to work and do this stuff there.”

So here I am.

Working full-time is weird. I know it feels normal for most people, but trust someone who spent the last 4.25 years not-working: it’s weird. Your entire life suddenly revolves around this place you go to do things you never really thought about before. Like answer admissions emails, create new digital filing systems, order textbooks, and learn how online courses are made (I’m the assistant to the Distance Education Coordinator at the School of Social Work at my alma mater…this is the stuff I do).

The view from the doorway of my building at work.

This isn’t what I expected to be doing this fall. I signed up for a 2-week gig leading to part-time work…and then the person I was filling in for passed away (yes, really). And I realized that I enjoyed the job and I was good at it…and when they asked if I could keep going for a while, I said yes almost immediately. Sometimes things just happen and you need to listen to your gut and ride the wave. And now I’m working full-time (at least until New Years) with an actual salary that was quoted to me in annual terms for the first time in my entire life.

It’s turned our world upside down, this change. Suddenly I’m the one leaving every morning, kissing my baby goodbye and coming home a couple of hours before bedtime. My husband is home trying to parent AND house-keep AND run his business. And we’re both experiencing growing pains while we adjust to it. That’s really why you haven’t heard from me much lately.

I’m finding my way. I’m finding that there are moments (like this one) that can be snatched during my day and used for whatever I need–like the 10 minutes I spend stretching in the morning before I start my day, the 15 minutes per lunch-hour I used to crochet an amazing rainbow scarf, the 20 minutes of lounging/net-surfing/crafting/snuggling I grab after the next day’s clothes are laid out and the lunch is packed.

I’m noticing on an almost-daily basis that I am smarter than I thought I was, more capable, a more creative thinker. Things about me that I took for granted are suddenly things that make me special–I don’t know anyone else who closes the door and has a 2-minute dance party whenever her energy slumps (not at this office, anyway). I’m the Big Tea Mug girl, the Filing Whiz, the Crocheter of Rainbow Scarves.

See? ISN’T IT BEAUTIFUL?!?!

It’s fun to play around with my definition of me in this space that I live in for 7.5 hours a day–figuring out who I am by seeing myself through other peoples’ eyes for a while.

I don’t know what’s coming next. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay here after December 31. But I’m planning to make the most of it while I’m here, to learn a lot, to stretch my wings, and hopefully to write more damn blog posts. It’s all a big learning curve, darlings, and I appreciate you bearing with me while I find my feet.

The First Cuts are the Scariest: Life lessons from a haircutting adventure

Last night I did something crazy…

I cut off my hair.

Not like, “I went to a salon and had my hair cut,” (although I did that this afternoon…just to tidy things up). Nope. I stuck my hair in 2 bunches, grabbed the scissors, and lopped it off. Seriously.

The last time I did that was when I was 19 an in a major bout of depression. And it SUCKED (the depression AND the haircut). This time? This is something different.

 

…Before…

 

I’ve been feeling increasingly weighed down. Not just by my hair (although I have…had…a HELL of a lot of it), but by all kinds of garbage and limiting beliefs that have built up over the past 2.5 years. “I can’t”s and “I should”s and “I have to”s. Bitterness, resentment, martyrdom, victimhood. It’s been pressing down on me.

Yesterday I was playing guinea pig for a friend’s art therapy session, and my drawing of myself looked like this:

 

See that hair? That hair is the weight of the freaking world, my friend.

 

Last night I had one of those pivotal moments of realization…one of those moments when everything clicks into focus and all my patterns turned into what they really are: not “this is the way it is,” but “this is the way I have been limiting myself, and I’m effing tired of it.” And my hair felt like the embodiment of all of it, just like in my drawing. So I cut it off (honestly, I was this-close to giving myself a buzz cut).

 

…the clippers were RIGHT THERE. It was a near thing!

 

Before I started cutting, I took a deep breath and visualized my hair containing all the limiting beliefs and emotional baggage that was holding me back and weighing me down.

And then…

Snip snip snip.

The minute the scissors hit the hair, I was terrified. There’s a certain “Holy shit, I can’t go back now” to beginning a major transformation (whether it’s a haircut or something bigger). All I could do is keep cutting and hoping that everything would turn out OK in the end.

I kept cutting. The hair came off.

…I’m thinking of donating them. That’s a LOT of hair!

 

It turned out OK…

No…more than OK. It turned out really freaking awesome. It was JUST what I needed!

Eeeeeeee! No regrets whatsoever!

Honestly, I was pretty thrilled with the end results. I felt 10 pounds lighter, and infinitely freer. It was amazing.

And here’s the final cut, after the hairdresser fixed it up a bit.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

And I feel different. More present, less stuck. Ready to make other, bigger transformations.

The moral of the story: The first cuts are the scariest. Everything else is just shaping and trimming.

Coming home: a strategy for re-inhabiting the body

One of my core beliefs is that the body and the mind are completely intertwined. We cannot live fully, cannot fully express our creativity and passion, if we live up in our heads all the time. My mission in life, I’ve come to realize, is to help people get back down in their bodies and rediscover the magic of embodied living.

So it helps when I myself am embodied. Funny thing about that…

I’ve been really quiet on the blog lately. There’s been so much stress and worry and house-buying and stress and epiphanies and mental whirls…I’ve been almost entirely up in my head. I basically stopped moving apart from outside time with Xander.

I completely stopped stretching. I started sitting at LOT more, and not in healthy ways. And I started noticing last week that when I get up in the mornings or get up from the sofa, my calves are starting to hurt because they’re so tight. Again. And my back has started hurting. Again. And now I have a nagging issue in one hip. Again.

This is what happens to me when I stop moving expressively, stop taking care of my body, and start living up in my head. I know because it feels all too familiar (although it used to be worse because I used to wear shoes with heels, so my legs were even tighter).

I’m glad I finally noticed what was going on. Because now I can take steps to cut it the heck out. And I can share the process with you.

Here’s my plan (some of it I’ve already implemented, some of it I plan to, and most of it I’ve done in the past and just got away from when things got tough…which is, of course, when it’s most needed):

1. Ditch the chairs.

I’ve done a lot of reading this year about how sitting and chairs are horrible for our bodies. And I know that I feel really tight and awful after a long night of working in a chair or on the sofa. So I’m replacing them. I have two options: Standing up, like I am now (added bonus, I can stretch out my super-tight calves and do all kinds of other fun stretches while I work), or sitting on the floor (here are some awesome suggestions for this).

2. Stretch stretch stretch

I already mentioned the calf stretch. I’m also going to add a hamstring stretch, a psoas stretch, and an abdominal release or a spinal twist. Oh, and eventually I want to be able to squat.

3. Get grounded

For someone as air-sign-y as I am, not to mention someone who KNOWS that grounding helps me 99% of the time, I sure spend a lot of my time with my feet several inches above the ground. Clearly, spending significantly more time standing will give me more opportunities to ground myself, but I still wanted to give it its own item on the list because it’s just that important. Here are a couple of techniques I’d like to incorporate into my week.

4. Breathe consciously

At the worst of this busy period, I found myself getting actual dizzy spells from not-breathing. Seriously. That’s not good, people. I want to move through my day with an awareness of how I’m breathing. I also want to explore different breath-centred meditations (if you have any favourites, I’d love to see them). And I would LOVE to get back into yoga…that always helps me breathe.

5. Be gentle

An embodied life, to me, is a life focused on sensations in the body, accessing the body’s wisdom instead of ruling it with the mind. That means moving when you want to move, eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full, paying attention to the body’s requests for rest and nourishing activities like stretching or baths. It means playing and exploring and feeling things out. It means feeling emotions and expressing things physically.

To me, it’s a life full of more textures, tastes, smells, sights, and sounds than my thinking mind can comprehend. That’s what the body experiences. That’s how I want to live.

(Expect to hear more about this!)