2016: A Blank Canvas.

narnia street light
via Pinterest

Well here we are, rolling into 2016.

I had such high hopes for how things would be by now. Some things seems clearer, but life isn’t glamorous.

Today was spent going to all three of “my” houses, working a little, blocked out of Facebook, head mildly sore from last night’s gin and tonics over beautiful warm improv jazz. We did a shot of whiskey with the bartender, because Dawn is…well, Dawn. And that’s what happens in Montreal.

It’s his birthday, so I can’t help but think of him. But he’s just another person I need to not have in my life anymore.

I messaged J earlier to let her know that I’m still riding the amazingness that was 2013 and 2014 — not in an overly-nostalgic way, it’s just that those two nights will be hard to top, ever. I miss them — the times, the people. Everything.

Those were the most perfect nights.

I still haven’t found community here and it wears on me a little every day. I try to focus on how much beautiful space there is instead, but it’s hard.

So it’s 650p on NYE and I’m sitting in my new kitchen having just finished a salami sandwich with fresh Portuguese bun, drinking Scarlett’s leftover vodka with Orangina. Later I’ll try out my new teeny tub — it’s not much, but enough for me, for now.

I’m in one of the most amazing cities in the world, but with no desire to go out.

I just left the fabulous Esplanade ladies for the last time. It was nice to say goodbye to them properly, but it still feels like another failed relationship. They didn’t find anyone to take my place. Mr. Boo (the cat) returned after a day or two away, and I was glad that I got to give him a little love too.

I forgot to return the keys on the way out, then felt like an ass when I read the text but didn’t turn around — bad etiquette for the last day of the year, I know. But I promise(d) to drop them first thing tomorrow.

Trudging through the snow on the way home, awkwardly carrying the last remnants of that place, I stopped to look at an old style street light and thought of the Narnia books.

It was then that I felt the cold weight of my new alone-ness.

I’m in a fresh new space for myself: white walls, white snow outside. It’s new, it’s bright, it’s clear. This is my first time ever living alone without even a cat to come home to. It feels more intense than I expected.

I can finally unpack, unload.

I can breathe here. And that’s why I’m here…to breathe.

I have one white plate, one white bowl, a few glasses, and bits and pieces of cutlery…I like it like this. I’ll have to buy a few more dishes, but not much.

There’s a spot for everything, I’m not in anyone’s way (nor me in theirs) and I have exactly what I need. The bed is comfortable and the walls are stark…there is so much space to play with.

I’ve always been scared of a blank canvas; I tend to get indecisive sometimes if there’s no guidance. I see the joy in it too. This is the test for now.

I’m scared that I will be this alone forever. I really do not want to, but I’m also finding myself less and less able to offer energy to others. I guess I wasn’t ever that good at it. But the thing is that I want to be good at it. I want to share my life with another / others in a real way.

It just doesn’t seem to work. So I embrace it (again) in the hopes that this is (again) only a temporary and healing respite. And there’s work to do.

There’s color to add, food to cook, people to drop by.

Basically my resolution is to fill in the blanks in a way that is fulfilling. Like, I don’t want to have days that I want to end. There have been too many of those lately. That’s no way to live, feeling like that.

Will I do it, for real, this time?

Will I fill in my life with actual, proper, full on joy in a way that I never have?

~

“Trouble
Oh trouble please be kind
I don’t want no fight
And I haven’t got a lot of time.” ~ Cat Stevens


 
~

“Oh take me home
Let me go all day
Just be here til I know
Til I know that the riot’s gone, the riot’s gone away .”  ~ Santigold

 

Why energy healing works (just maybe not in the way that you expect)

IMG_0591I recently had a healing session with a friend at Quantum of Solace Healing.  She is trained in several modalities, one of which is called Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT.  In EFT, healer and client work to identify a key problem and rate the emotional intensity of it.  Then, via several rounds of repeating phrases aloud while tapping on various parts of the body (the client can do this themselves with guidance and/or the practitioner will do it for them), the emotional intensity that the patient feels gradually decreases, so that they should feel lighter and calmer about the problem in the end.

As our session progressed, I struggled to pinpoint the real issue(s), the reasons why I was still anxious and sad about having broken up with my partner a few months before.

We tried one round of tapping, then went back to revise, refine and dig deeper.

As we progressed, a sense of discomfort arose in my heart, and I began to choke up.  Like a massage therapist might work on a knotty muscle, we had found that emotional tender point, and she was – gently – loosening it.

As we went through the repetition and the tapping, she sensed the exact moment when something shifted for me.  She actually noticed when when I welled up, even though I struggled like crazy to hide it.

In her ability to sense this place of fear, she was compassionately pressing me to acknowledge things that I didn’t want to admit about myself.  

In these moments, I felt raw, vulnerable, exposed.  I recognized just how much I was still grieving my last relationship, and it scared me.  After all (I’d assumed), wasn’t I the strong, independent woman who was ‘moving on’ with her life?  Especially after several months of being apart?  Especially after a relationship that wasn’t truly serving either one of us that well?

How could I still be so scared about love, so lonely, still grieving this thing that was supposed to be long over, when I knew that splitting up was the best thing for me (us)?

That kind of shift can sometimes ease into a sense of peace fairly quickly.  But, the stuff that the session brought to the surface sat with me for the next couple of weeks.

What I realized from this is that one healing session doesn’t necessarily lead to immediate lightness.  The ‘feeling better’ part of the healing doesn’t always happen right away: sometimes you have to hang out with the discomfort for a while, get to know it a little, before your load is lightened.

In this case, I needed to acknowledge these things that I was feeling and process them so that I could really break free of that weight and move forward.

A good healer should be able to recognize this kind of a shift, to loosen the knot and understand that discomfort can be a part of the process.  The shift might manifest as a lightening, or a breaking, an opening, or some sense of uneasiness, but it’s the practitioner’s job to acknowledge it.

It might not be that comfortable, but it (often) needs to happen.

You know the Leonard Cohen quote: “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

For me, this time, deep fears had been unearthed, and I had to stare them in the face.  And this was a key lesson of the session: it didn’t fix me.  It opened me up, it exposed me, it shook me, cracked me, but it didn’t fix me.

By offering a safe space to acknowledge some of this pain and help me be OK with it, my healer friend helped me understand how I could help myself.

When I told her later how I’d felt, my friend (bless her giant gentle heart) asked me if she had been being too pushy.  I told her that if I had felt a little bit pushed, it meant that she was doing her job well.

In order to help another change, grow, heal, there has to (sometimes) be a compassionate nudge beyond their comfort zone.

An effective healer (or trainer, friend, partner) will be there to nudge you forward, will know when you are feeling uncomfortable in the right way.  They will sense your pain, and will be there to help you through it – if and when you are ready.

It can be scary – really scary.  But if you aren’t scared, you aren’t growing.

Sometimes in the EFT sessions my friend says something in a really cute way, and we giggle, or I giggle at myself out of nervousness.  And there is something about that little moment that reminds me of Pema Chodron’s concept of smiling at the fear.  So in that way, just being there with someone with the mutual intention of facing a fear can lighten the load.

The people in my life that I love the most are those that challenge me, stretch me, open me up.  They are people that are willing to have radically honest dialogue, who are self-aware, compassionate, conscious.  Something unspoken connects me with them, and them with me.  And we each thrive on this to grow.

So, if, energetically speaking, this is the kind of relationship that can be healing, then why wouldn’t an energy healing mode like EFT be successful?  Why do scientists sit around arguing the ‘validity’ of alternative healing modes, when maybe just this connection and mutual intention is exactly what makes it effective?

So, let us establish the kinds of connections where both parties are moved to examine and question themselves so that they may grow in whatever aspect is needed.  Let us create safe spaces where we can practice radical honesty in facing our deepest dreams and fears.

The right person at the right time will sit with you through the pain of cracking open, guiding you into your own light, which will in turn help another.

Why I’ll never look great in a bikini (and I don’t care)

Ladies, look at this bikini: is it not the cutest, sexiest thing on the planet?  Would you feel confident slipping it on, showing off your flat abs and prancing around on a beach?

I’m going to guess that most of you expressed a resounding “no way” and experienced an inner ‘shudder’ at the thought of your (belly) flab bounding around instead (if you answered yes to this, you are one of the lucky few.  And if you are naturally thin and see the drawbacks to that, still consider yourself one of the lucky few for the purposes of this article).

I went bathing suit shopping recently because I was looking for something I could swim in, because I swim for exercise (and fun) once a week.  When I mentioned this experience to other women, I was happy to find out that most of them – even people that I thought would look/feel great in swimwear – hated bathing suit shopping just as much as me!  Even people who appear to be confident, well-balanced, healthy, and in good shape – they hate it too!  It is so comforting to know I’m not alone.

Why do we hate it SO much, though?  Well, besides the ugly fluorescent change room lights  that highlight everything we don’t really want to see (ugh!! why do they do that to us?) we hate it because the beauty industry sets impossible standards.

But wait, we already know that!  By now we’ve probably read countless articles blaming the media for our body image issues, etc.  We are relatively educated about that and are probably maturing beyond many such insecurities.  We get that not every body is the same, we are learning to appreciate our ‘curves’, we are accepting of each other, etc.  We are intelligent, open minded, mature, healthy people.  Carefree but slightly less skinny TV characters (like Hannah in Girls) are popping up a little more frequently in the media and inspiring better body acceptance.  We understand the values of exercise and healthy eating, and many of us do just that.  We know why and how to keep our weight to a reasonable level, and we learn to stop judging our Oprah wings/cellulite/belly/etc.  as bad things.  So why is something like bathing suit shopping still such a bane?

I think we still have a misconception that we can all ‘get’ to looking (something) like this

if we work our asses of.  But I’ll bet that for most of us, this is an unattainable goal.  And focusing on any unattainable goal will ruin the FUN!

So, do us all a favor: the next time you are trying on a swimsuit, will you please try to think really hard about how much FUN you will have while you are in it, instead of how you look? Of course you want to find something flattering and comfortable for your needs and your body type!  Being comfortable is a given.  But, most of us will never look anything like this picture.  And that really has to be OK.  It just does.

Even if you have some kind of extreme diet/exercise regimen and get close to looking this way, how long will it really last?  What are you willing to sacrifice?  It depends what you value.

I have to say that I completely support all those out there who have made a lifelong commitment to genuinely healthy, fit lifestyles, and this shows.  Ko Kaleo is certainly an inspiration and I hope to have a journey similar to hers.  But it took her years to really get off the weight and get toned.

I am not saying you can’t transform your body or shouldn’t try.  I’m just encouraging us to be realistic about our expectations and priorities: we must align your goals to your lifestyle and your natural body type, including your naturally fatter or muscular areas.  Some types of fat will take a long time to go.  Some of us will end up with loose skin.  Sometimes we can build muscle and fix this kind of thing, but it’s just not going to be the same for everyone.

I have been exercising more and watching what I eat more, trying for a while now.  I’ve not  really lost alot of fat but I DO feel a little stronger and more energetic.  I recognize now that I have to keep building muscle for the rest of my life or that I will gain weight/age more rapidly and probably develop way more health problems.  I will probably always be a bit stocky, and have sort of muscular arms.  I am aligning my fitness goals with my body type and they DO relate to the way I look but are not about an unattainable image.  I’m expecting it to take years to really change my body composition.

Given this, here are my workout goals:

1. To lose some fat around my waist, because it is a risk factor in diabetes, etc.  This will probably also make me look more proportioned and womanly (bonus) but I’ll probably always have some belly fat.

2. To have a strong core and better posture.

3. To have more energy, especially as I age.

4. To challenge myself and learn new things.

5. To have fun, be social, and be outdoors.

I will probably never look ‘great’ in a bikini, but maybe I’ll just stay healthy and avoid many health problems as I get into my 40’s, 50’s, 60’s.  Maybe I will be good and feel loved (love myself) anyhow.  Maybe I’ll even prance around on a beach in one someday anyhow, despite the bits and pieces of flab that will probably be bouncing around.  Maybe I’ll surprise myself and my body will really transform unexpectedly as I get used to exercising more and push myself harder.  I don’t know.

I do know that every time I put my bathing suit on and have fun and get exercise, I care a little less about how I look, and a little more about how I feel, and I know that’s a huge step in the right direction.