Rescripting thoughts for “i Can help myself”

At a gathering with some high-activity friends one of the group stated “I can’t help myself!.” Have you said that too? I have. This time, an image of casually handing over control grabbed me full stop. How can I help myself is a good consideration if addicted to excessive gym workouts. And I think a critical discussion when feeling stuck, regardless of your age.

I’m fifty-five (sixty, sixty-five, sixty-seven); what kind of person do I want to be now in this stage of life? What dreams and adventures call my name? I’ve never tried anything like this before.

Clearly we have limitations. I would love to heft my sea kayak onto the car rack, using saw horses or some other leveraging system I can dream up. But it’s pretty certain on this one: I can’t do it by myself. There’s a high risk of damaging my body and vehicle if I do.

Other than physical limitations what are the ways we get stuck ? I’ve listed three reasons.

#One. Our thoughts, and our belief that they are true. Thoughts. They are sentences of words that come into our mind. That doesn’t mean they’re true. Has anyone else misinterpreted something, then built a thought in your mind that someone doesn’t like you, is against you: based only on your thought evaluation?

#Two. Change. Answers to questions like ‘what’s next for me’ will probably mean doing something differently. Developing new self care practices, shifting attitudes, reaching for dreams – do I hear ‘yikes’?!

#3Three. Fear. Stepping out of our box. Knowing what to do first. Anxiety how to respond to family and peers who may question our new actions and ideas. What-if’s. It can be intimidating just to start.

Three tools that have helped me to rescript my thoughts, dare to dream, and take action.

#1 Make a mindmap: this is something new in my toolbox and I love it. Daphne from the Publication Coach showed me how to use mindmaps for writing. Now I use them for everything: to get started on a blog post, process a work decision, organize my next back-packing trip, approach a sticky situation.This is how I do it:

  • get an 8×11 sheet of paper and position it on a writing space landscape-style
  • draw a circle in the middle of the paper. Inside the circle write a question. From that middle circle draw spokes out to other circles for responses triggered by that question. This can be a short exercise, 3-7 minutes tops, jotting thoughts down as they come. There isn’t a right or wrong way. It’s getting thoughts out of the head for the vantage point of seeing them and working with them.
  • If this tool is new to you, I encourage you to test it out, perhaps related to our topic with a question, i.e. what makes my heart sing, or – what stops me from trying new things? Daphne’s website offers a download for her mindmapping instructions. If you’d like to contact me here I’d be happy to do one together.
My foray into something new: art journalling – with Anna. Creative progress without expectation for perfection!

#2 Be mindful about what is taken in through all the senses. What we read, see, listen to becomes part of what we think and believe. This message bears highlighting, especially in our current world situation with so much input blasting via every medium. Author Dr. Caroline Leaf, whose work on and off the page marries both spiritual and scientific wisdom, writes this “….what we say and do is based on what we have already built into our minds {based on implanted thoughts that form our point of view}. We evaluate this information and make our choices based on this information, then we choose a new thought, and this is what drives what we say or do.” 1.

#3 Make small doable goals. The temptation is to tackle the world and that’s a set-up for self-sabotage. This is old news but still relevant news: remember the hare and tortoise!

Graphic Credits: Laurent-Auguste Tougas ~2013

Friends, it feels easier sometimes to sit in the rut or behind the tree. Chilling out: believing we can wait a while (folks, time is a limited commodity) or that we can’t help ourselves.

Change is hard work. And there isn’t a formula to rescript your life because your life, with its dreams and goals, is one of a kind. If you’d like to connect for support on moving forward, reach out here.

Love, until next time …

Karen

  1. p. 42 Switch on Your Brain

what’s in my backpack for 2021

I am a woman in her 60’s who doesn’t have to log on to work-from-home or home-school young children. I’m able to choose my daily schedule including writing projects, work and play activities, freedom to hike local trails or beaches where I live in Nova Scotia, Canada. A sanctuary of woods is behind my house.

I am not a designated care giver for loved ones suffering with ill health, confinement and confusion. My husband and I and our children and their children haven’t had Covid and are not sick. Many people living in other parts of Canada and the world are restricted and enduring circumstances more difficult and heavier-handed than my experience.

I’m so very privileged. Yet I struggle with my yin and yang of blessings and the frustration and weariness of Covid-19.

A 2020 Christmas without family hugs and no game plan for when will we see you next was a sad, first-time-ever experience. I find trying to stay aware of my world while navigating the crush of voices with opinions, fears and judgements a tiresome dance. Isolation created by face masks that fog up my eyeglasses and conversations makes me more impatient than I like to admit.

Letter Saying Good-bye 2020, Hello 2021!

My personality, an Enneagram (http://www.canadianenneagram.ca/rheti/ type 7), leans towards fun, spontaneity, physical activity, adventuresome excursions with friends in locations now out of reach. It’s work to keep my body, soul and spirit intact through the frustrations of missing what was. It’s a tension that makes my mental health gauge feel off kilter.

Clenching my jaw is not healthy. I need to establish a different thought pattern to rescript life to what it is now.

As a long distance hiker, I love the excitement of planning where I will go and what I will need in my pack for multiple days on the trail. Experience helps. Yet I’m still learning that I wouldn’t have needed that many granola bars and wondering why didn’t I bring an extra long-sleeved shirt? Then there’s the weather, the mix of hiking companions, physical limitations and the unwanted injuries. Even with diligent planning it’s a bit of a cr*p shoot.

Metaphorically speaking, my pack for trekking through 2020 originally held gear that would typically go the distance in function and comfort. But navigating Covid’s wind and rain and tedious rocky elevations exposed inadequacies. Like real-life hiking, there were a few scrapes.

Painful Tree-Hugging

Some essentials for my 2021 pack.

Companionship beyond the walk in the woods.

Virtual gatherings are expanding my friendship base and my collection of badges to decorate my backpack. Cross-Canada family visits and birthday parties; international personal growth huddles; a Montreal supper club; kindred women-creatives from across the continent; a writer in Paris, France participating in the same writing coaching/course . Caution. Overcommitting to Zoom and online events is a bigger problem for me than packing too many granola bars in my backpack! This ‘more is better’ tendency is a common curse for my personality type and can be my undoing for losing focus for my day. It’s possible to have too many friends or meetings.

Appreciating, respecting TIME. Time is not a forever commodity. I’m asking: what are my desires, the wild wishes, the gifts only I have to offer which I’ve been barely nursing along year after year? One of those is my writing, which I’ve dabbled in since the 1990’s: fitness articles, a small publication of family stories, a newsletter, this blog that travels along in spurts. October 2019 I declared I would write my story of the biggest change in my life that began in 2007: moving with my husband, both in our fifties, from our forever-home in Alberta to begin a new life in Nova Scotia.

I’ve been showing up at my keyboard consistently the last ten months. This habit and goal is lodged in my backpack for 2021 and longer, as this is a lengthy trek. But I’m gettin’ it done.

Another thing has been on my wish list for twenty years! I’ve wanted a tattoo but never could come up with a meaningful design. Inspiration landed in 2020 after not being able to attend two planned family reunions.Triggered by gratitude for my deceased parents, who immigrated to Canada with their parents, I surfed Pinterest for symbolic images of my ancestral heritage. And with help from an artistic grandson, Laurent Tougas (@mypictograph on Instagram) the graphic revealed itself. A Scottish thistle for my Mom; Styrka, Swedish word for Strength for my Dad.

The deed was done in December. There’s a good chance another image is in my backpack!

I couldn’t be trekking 2021 without my Faith. Anyone here remember the Jesus People – Hippie Movement of the late 60’s and 70’s? It was a happening thing in my teen’s, and for me then, it was too far out! As a senior citizen now, I readily identify my faith and purpose in the ranks of being a Jesus People! Feeling divinely beloved is my experience that’s evolved over decades, and especially now in this season, encourages and grounds me “… not to worry …..to fix thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable…” (Broad translation: Philippians 4:6-8, NLT Bible.)

Keeping track. To remember the distances, where to resupply food and find water, the highs and lows – along with a cache of too many photos – I log snippets of life’s adventures and excursions. On and off trail. Bits and pieces of 2020’s notes went up in smoke Dec. 31/20. Other sections remained, reminders of joys and vistas, injuries and pain. Of healing and resilience of my body and heart.

I expect 2021 to be meaningful, mundane, maddening and more. The record-keeping devices in my pack will help me write the script en route.

Surprise Christmas Gift – 2021 Gratitude Journal

I Will Be Me and You Be You. I’ve lost some freedoms. So have you. I miss adventure activities, my family, mingling. What we’re missing and how we manage it is not a competitive sport. My schedule of online connections might swamp someone else. In the context of all the variables we are living in – family, location, health – we must do how it fits for us.

This a wrap-up my friends. I’d love to hear if you’ve stuffed a backpack for your 2021 journey.

XO

Karen Toews






rewriting life after stroke: acceptance, self-discovery and hot pickled Peppers

Catching up with Christine, 2020

I met Christine in 2001 when she and her family moved to my hometown in Alberta, Canada. We shared kindred passions for running . “Why don’t we help others to get active on the trails too?” Along with like-minded friends we formed a committee to support the running community that was already happening.

A favourite reminder of our friendship and running group relationship.

Christine’s calm attitude to just get the work done and have fun while you’re at it! – together with her recreation background and a family that was all-in – was invaluable. Our committee worked like crazy to execute fun, successful running events. Her love for family, fun and fitness was apparent straightaway. But it wasn’t until I got to know Christine better how high she set her personal bar for grit and endurance in pushing the edges for adventure. Rock-climbing, running with a team in the Canadian Death Race , spelunking (a.k.a.caving) – she was game for it all!

On a mountain, Canadian Death Race. Grande Cache, Alberta.
Under the mountain with her son.


Christine and daughter. Colour Me Rad.

I think we would have enjoyed a wild and wacky adventure of our own but the two of us were too busy in our individual worlds. Then in 2007 when my husband and I made our move to Nova Scotia, the likelihood of that happening basically vanished. Before we left Alberta Christine and her husband kindly gifted us a small medal of St. Christopher, historically the patron saint to lighten a traveller’s load and for their protection. Tucked in my wallet for safekeeping on our cross-country trip, this token found a final resting place in the framework of our back-door threshold.

Living several provinces apart, the two of us lost touch until July of 2020, while I was back home in Alberta for a family visit. I popped by her house to say hello.The sight of their comfortable living room triggered flashbacks of committee meetings with laughter and a coffee table littered with cups and snacks. Everything felt the same.

My visit was unexpected, I didn’t want to interrupt family plans on a nice summer day, so I jumped straight into “what’s been happening since we last saw one another?” We shared a few minutes of family updates, then Christine said she’d had a stroke in April of 2017.

What?!! I’d noticed her speech was slightly stilted but overall she wasn’t so different. Christine was an active woman with healthy eating, mindset and lifestyle habits. She had a full life with her family and a fulfilling job. She had been in her late 40’s. How could this be?

Christine shared her condensed version of re-writing life after a stroke:

  • debilitating physical limitations ‘forced’ her to stop denying and start accepting her new normal
  • moving ahead with therapy was rigorous work, to keep pushing ahead was a choice
  • grieving the loss of her career was the hardest part
  • deciding what, how much she could physically, mentally required filtering through new restrictions
  • accepting a stroke had happened in spite of her living a health-focused life was really tough
  • lingering physical sensations, i.e.dizziness, variable skin temperatures, over-sensitivity to noise, loss of taste. Hot pickled peppers became her go-to because everything else tasted so bland!

Coming to terms that this was her new reality, Christine determined she would become ‘The Best Stroke Survivor’. And to help others in their recovery she started a podcast, wrote and self-published a book 7 Jars of Hot Pickled Peppers and continues to write short, encouraging newsletters – with humour and a recipe that is often spicy! Wow. Still the strong woman I knew and admired.

My drop-in visit had extended longer than I intended. She gave me a copy of her book, we made plans to meet again before I went back to NS, and I left with my head in a whirl.

Her story is written as a log of events in chronological order. I’ve included some of them here.

“I knew something was wrong… ..needing to hold onto things to keep my balance…….[but I] suppressed my symptoms, resistant about going to the doctor.” (April 16, 2017)

Holubec-Jackson, Christine. “7 Jars of Hot Pickled Peppers A rollercoaster ride to acceptance.”

April 17, 2017 Christine “couldn’t ignore that quiet inner voice” any longer and went to see her doctor. This was the beginning in discovering her life would never be the same. She received a call April 18th with this message: a CT scan revealed a small bleed in her brain, on top of the brain stem between the pons – “pack your pyjamas and immediately check in at the University of Alberta hospital in Edmonton“. Two hours later Christine was hooked up to IV and underwent a deluge of procedures and examinations, i.e MRI, angiogram, multiple tests, endless questions.

Trying to make sense of it all was exhausting and finally, in a telephone chat with her sister who’d previously worked on a stroke ward, Christine got some clarity on what her angiogram had shown. In short, she had experienced a hemorrhagic stroke1. Yikes! As grateful Christine was to hear her sister’s voice – someone who loved and shared life experience with her – stroke was NOT a term she could yet accept or wrap her head around. Her health looked to be in a spin but she was not prepared for this.

April 20th Christine was discharged: her spirits revived at seeing her daughter’s Welcome Home sign. Eventually, gratefully, she climbed into her own bed; away from the hubbub of the hospital, not the least of it being her roommate’s passion for non-stop country music!

Christine had been released from the hospital with no clear directives for recovery nor medications. Surgery wasn’t an option due to where her brain had been affected. She tried to relax, wondering, now do I just get on with life? Yet the niggling dizziness, nausea and fatigue was putting her on edge. Something was going on.

April 25th, after five days of feeling off and miserable, Christine relayed the symptoms by phone to her sister: “get to emergency immediately; don’t wait for tomorrow morning!” Christine went to a hospital close to home, where a CT scan showed that bleeding in her brain had slightly increased. Providentially, this hospital has a Stroke Early Supported Discharge (ESD) program where rehab therapists come every day to your house to help in your recovery! Christine writes, “… the conglomeration of events that led us to Camrose seemed divine in nature and I thank God for bringing us to this place.”

Christine’s book walks the reader through her self discovery in the rollercoaster ride of physical, emotional and mental challenges like:

  • frustration with being dependent when you’re used to being the caregiver, the one in charge: facilitating First Aid and safety courses, organizing events and making life happen
  • would she be able to play her guitar again
  • living with sensory overload that could topple her mental and physical equilibrium

How did her husband and three teen-age/young adult children manage this? Their solid family relationship helped keep them grounded. Of course it was stretching: balancing the line between helping Christine in what she wanted to do, couldn’t do (yet) – encouraging and helping her get back to swimming, taking slow walks – even driving! Reminding her “give yourself time, rest more, you’re amazing”.

To connect with Christine for more of her healing experience and the progress of her new narrative check out her website and a recent podcast interview with Cheryl Ilor. In my view, to know her is to be inspired!I

Learning to walk again

Not giving up the bass – still part of ‘the band’.

How I wish Christine and I could have shared some exciting, edgy adventures. Yet following her desire to discover and become the best she could in life-changing health challenges is no less an adventure to admire and applaud.

Thank you Christine. Rock on!!

1Simplistic definitions: a hemorrhagic stroke is when an artery or other blood vessel leaks or ruptures blood directly into the brain (accounts for 13 to 16% of all strokes) – as compared to an ischemic stroke which refers to some type of blockage of blood supply to the brain (which accounts for almost all other strokes).

What’s nourishing you now?

If you ask yourself or a friend what’s nourishing you now the response could be a recap of a day’s food consumption. As a foodie and holistic health advocate, I’m all in for paying attention to what we eat.

Yet we crave more than physical food.

What we pay attention to, think about and act upon, turn our hearts towards – feeds all those complex corners of our body, mind, emotions and spirit. Especially now in this confusing, crazy, confining Covid season without an end date.

I need to believe I can survive as a whole person; even hope for some moments of real vibrancy. It’s a slow start but I’m proceeding by filtering life through this question posed by author Christine Valters Paintner:

Does this [what I’m doing right now to satisfy my need] nourish me or deplete me?

I appreciate how Halifax journalist Gail Lethbridge expresses this present world experience isn’t the same for everyone: “we are in the same storm, but not in the same boats”. We have individual personalities and circumstances that are all over the map. We respond in ways that surprise and puzzle us. How often I question myself: ‘where did that come from?!’

I do not have this all figured out. I’m navigating new territory also and as we take this journey I invite you to consider some possibilities. Here they are in random order.

Connect. If we’re online, have a phone, or close enough to wave and smile at a neighbour we can connect. Let’s put some of our angst-energy into making surprise connections; like the card and mandala (symbol for wholeness) I received by post from someone I never expected to contact me. Each dot in this mandala – inspired by the Nova Scotia flag – symbolizes how everyone living in this province is connected to the province, to each other. This small gift nourished my soul on a day I was feeling removed and disconnected from my Alberta family. Thank you Sharon.

Dream. Write down a wish list – this isn’t a futile exercise. Even in the best of times a bucket list (or whatever you call it) gets revised. Feed hope more often than hopelessness.

Fun, letting loose a little. Productivity and ‘getting stuff done’ was the initial theme song for this Covid season. For a while that was kind of fun because friends were doing it and we were inspired by what we were accomplishing. But feeling exhausted, weary with just keeping up, could be a message to change that gear of getting-it-done. If efficiency is your thing, I dare you (me too) to dial down and crank up on the fun. Experiment with a craft you’ve wanted to try. Walk a new route. Make some crazy cards expressing Victory can be Viral (or whatever…) Collect some rocks, paint some rocks. Coffee with a friend instead of mowing the lawn. Some of you are really good at fun; help fill our well with some ideas.

Hospitality. Oh I do love the buzz of conversation and sharing food with others around my table . Whatever we were used to, it’s not like that now. Expanding the hospitality narrative is possible. Share the garden’s bounty with a neighbour. (Anyone want some of my kale?) Deliver a basket of berries, exchange cookies or muffins with a friend. It’s not so much what’s in the package as what’s shared from the heart.

Music – Choosing from the music menu is like making a dinner plan walking through the supermarket. What am I hungry for? Often triggered by emotions: ‘why do I feel like crying right now – again‘ or ‘thank you God for my daughter’s love that’s deeper than XO or a heart emoji‘ – feel the grief or the joy, from country to jazz. On any given day my playlist can include Steve Bell’s heartful lyrics; symphony classics; an oldie but CD favourite, More than Gold by Various Artists.

Social media, news networks, chat forums. A toughie, as this pipeline keeps us in touch with friends, for our work, meetings of all kinds, AND a yawning vault of everything else. If viewing or participating in the ‘media mountain’ overwhelms you with grief and other emotions, makes your heart race, or your blood boil, listen to that wisdom of your body. I am not a therapist, yet the first step to making a change is to start with one thing we are able to do. Unplug, unfriend, un-comment: in a clear and courteous way establish boundaries. You and I are not obliged to be a sounding board or blotter soaking up viewpoints or opinions of others. To help overcome an addiction to stuff that isn’t nourishing, I urge us to ask ourselves “is this (post, comment, article, conversation, etc.) going to make me stronger or weaker?”

What am I thinking? As we do with food labels, pay attention to the ingredients on the input what we read, listen to, and watch: the pool from which our thoughts burble with anxiety or nourish us with comfort. Consider reaching for the Psalms from the Bible, other sacred texts. Meditate on that ‘which is good‘ – journal, craft liturgical prayers.

Completion. I was amazed how satisfied I felt this week after washing my bedroom windows. Such a quick, simple project, stymied by procrastination. I have the same contented feeling wrapping up this blog post. Those many days I let it sit waiting for the muse or avoiding the discipline of sitting down, I felt uneasy. Doing the mundane is sometimes nourishing.

What’s in our hand? We can choose.

Keep learning. It’s the beginning of the school year (as odd as it is) and as it feels for many of us, September is the start of something different or new. Mentally I’m feeling restless – my Enneagram 7-ness manifesting itself – so I’m researching for an online course to feed my need for focus and mental stimulation. Perhaps something new or different is calling your name – have courage to test the water.

In our ‘real food’ consumption we have days we’re distracted or don’t feel as motivated or it’s time to go grocery shopping. But we don’t quit because our life depends on it.

Whatever you do my friend, don’t give up. Nourish all of your beautiful self.

Love and hugs – and a sweeping prayer for all to be well.

Karen

Rescripting ‘this’ Story

Covid-19’s upheaval is trying to sabotage my story.

I want a script with intimate gatherings around my table, traveling, hiking with friends  on a trail, elbow-jostling and close-up conversations. This happy-buzz story where people like me thrive, has been traded out for isolation, restriction, loss – and for some, illness and great grief.

Collectively? Living from a position of vibrancy since March has been a tough call. This shifting ground is exhausting and unsettling: resilience is tested, deflated and somehow restored – all to be repeated. Living out a messy story we didn’t choose to write, we feel like calling it a bad story.  

To make sense of it, I am determined to stay involved in the script.  This is still my life, I am owning it.

Again, I appreciate many suffer burdens bigger than mine. Yet bearing witness to my story, I’m sharing four things that are helping me rebound closer to living with vibrancy.

Flowing with the way I’m wired:

  • as a #7 Enneagram personality type, Enthusiast, I naturally lean towards the positive side, fighting back with an innate drive to reframe the painful parts of my story to make it more palatable, i.e. I live in a country with medical, financial, and stable leadership resources. I’m not in a crowded refugee camp – neither are those I love. (I am learning this re-framing can annoy other people so sometimes have to keep it to myself!)
  • investing attention to  the shadows  – those challenging traits I could work on. For me, I chase after new stimulation and activity rather than sit in the moment through something uncomfortable, some kind of pain. My recent 14-day self-isolation period after being out of province was a real test in slowing down, calming down, being present. It does not come natural but I want to work on it.

Activity, moving in nature: my primal need:

  • Being in nature grounds me physically and spiritually; having access to the woods beyond our back door is a sanity-saver; it was especially so when public trails and beaches were off-limits. Developing some understanding in discovering this sacred path are: Gary Thomas’s Sacred Pathways and Reforesting Faith by Matthew Sleeth, MD. 

IMG_0056

Inspiration on the page:

  • Have You Seen Luis Velez   I listened to this novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde (this isn’t an affiliate plug but I do love Scribd for audio). I seldom read novels but weeks later I’m still reflecting on this story of kindness, connection and hope. 
  • The Wisdom of the Body: a Contemplative Journey to Wholeness for Women is a new book waiting on my desk: prompted by  kolbe time’s conversation with author Christine Valters Paintner: a Benedictine oblate, spiritual director, poet and teacher.  Initial chapter titles Veriditas: Claiming New Body Stories and Breath: The Gateway to the Body suggest appear to be pointing me towards my intenion to ‘slow down’ !

IMG_0913

Real life inspirational stories:

  • I met Christine in 2001, through kindred passions for running and adventures to push our physical boundaries. We recently re-connected after a gap more than 10 years; I was shocked to hear Christine is now a stroke survivor . Over tea in her back yard, she shared her story: processing through the denial of stroke, the life-changing physical and emotional challenges, finding her present view for moving ahead. “I can’t live in a cage and in a holding pattern, waiting for all the stars to align…my identity is based on the decisions I make each day, my actions, my attitude…” In 2018 Christine published 7 Jars of Hot Pickled Peppers – journaling her unexpected, unwelcome path. In the near future I’m sharing more of Christine’s story for her long-term commitment to living life full. It is sure to motivate us all.  

christine-1_orig

  • Heidi is a new friend in the neighbourhood. Some of her interesting life story: she and her husband Russ have worked as teachers in different countries; they’re explorers, sailors, fun-loving, AirBnB operators  – where they serve guests (and lucky friends like my husband and I ) the most amazing Pirate Pizzas; offer river sailing tours on Tillicum. Heidi’s ‘normal’ life was broad-sided by a vehicle accident a couple years ago, leaving nerve damage and on-going challenges that cramp her ambitious style and activity. Yet. She’s the one who calls “do you want to meet me in 20 minutes at Beck Lake for a swim?” Heidi inspires me for choosing a story with energy.

IMG_0159

  • I have three older brothers. They are in the small select group of men I fiercely love. Wayne is my middle brother. Generous, hard worker, gentle, quiet-spoken like our Dad, devoted to his family, knows what he thinks – and is suffering through the rigorous, painful journey of cancer and its cocktail of treatments.  We live in different provinces; considering a trip to see him this summer in his vulnerable condition was a cautious decision determined after family conversations, prayer and trusting my gut on this one. Thankfully it was right. I felt it was all right: together-time with all my siblings; with Wayne at his home, the farmstead where we grew up; nobody got sick with the virus; so much love for each other and for life.

wayneandme

This is my evolving vibrant living script. Leaning into loving and offering mercy, recognizing and pivoting from judgement. It’s praying, believing in God’s love and goodness in the story. Picking myself up after I fail and keep living –  this is my life.

Vibrant living may feel beyond reach for your present emotional and mental bandwidth. We aren’t all wired the same. My hope is that in what we can’t change, we will find space to rest. Can we try together?

IMG_0572

(photo: https://www.chocolateriveryarnsandfibres.com/)

With love for your peace and well-being,

XO, Karen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Less vulnerable with a script

We are being told: regularly wash your hands with soap and water; practice social distancing (two metres apart from people other than those in your own home); do not go anywhere except for essential services.

I’ve followed this script for a month and will do so until advised otherwise.

Complying with our government’s policies helps keep us less vulnerable from contracting or sharing the COVID-19 virus.

To be clear, I live in an environment where I feel safe: shelter, food, professional and accessible medical system, stable government leadership. Yet even in a place of privilege, we can feel mentally and emotionally vulnerable.

Writing a script could help us walk stronger through this foreign landscape.

Children and family sequestered in one place 24/7? Expect some roller-coaster angst. Using the collective we, in one moment we thank God our families are not sick from COVID-19. In the next we’re talking ourselves into getting a grip over our impatience and frustration with the squeeze on our privacy or the noise and messyness of life. We can get triggered by shots of shame or guilt but we don’t have to embrace these emotions – a hug, a smile, a sorry – and move on.

Loneliness and separation from our social community and family is a disorienting loss without real-people touch and support. Margaret Feinberg: podcaster, author, speaker shared during Holy Week the five stages of grief on her (mafeinberg) Instagram stories. I think her suggestions relate to our present journey also.

The ‘news’ and social media can inform and entertain – and can drive us crazy. Hearing the virus case numbers, and not hearing that this will soon be over, can amplify anxiety about our lack of control. Media distancing can help protect the mind and soul. You can Unfriend if you want. Use your power where you can.

Even though there’s nowhere to go and so much extra time on our hands, we don’t all have the personality or mental will to conquer the world doing all the stuff we think we could or should do. If boxes of photos have been untouched for years it’s pretty unrealistic to think now’s the time to get them all get organized. Writer and Publication coach Daphne Gray-Grant shares helpful tips for what she calls PR-LOP — pandemic-related lack of productivity. I think you might find her reassuring.

Trauma psychologist Alaa Hijazi emphatically shares her view on the push for efficiency : “This…obsession with…always spending time in a productive fruitful way is absolutely maddening. What we need is more self compassion, more gentle acceptance of all the difficult emotions coming up for us now, more focus on gentle ways to soothe ourselves and our pain and the pain of loved ones around us…..”

Yes, there is another side of that coin. The Apostle Paul’s letters and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison were written confined in prison; Shakespeare wrote King Lear and Macbeth while under quarantine resulting from the plague. I’m cheering for you if you’re feeling inspired to do your best work.

More relatable stories are the many family and friends who are choosing to nail it and are getting a whack of cleaning, creative work, and cooking accomplished.

Others are exploring ‘for fun’. My daughter Renee Tougas whom I’ve happily shared here before, produced a FB live video with me, No Knead Dutch Oven Bread. If you have a cast iron Dutch Oven with a lid – and flour, yeast, salt, water – you might want to check it out. (Note: recipe in the video didn’t include the flax option but recommend scattering a few seeds on for good measure!)

We decide what we want to do, what we’re capable of doing – while preserving our wellbeing, sanity and relationships with those sharing space in our quarantine. It’s in our court.

Resisting guilt or comparison yet thinking about what we can be comfortable with at the end of this, whenever and however that will look. Undertaking one (small) thing can be the best thing.

To wrap this up…

Author Brian D. McLaren writes in Naked Spirituality – A Life with God in 12 Simple Words (2011) “….’when new troubles come our way, new threats, we can maintain a kind of peace, a peace beyond understanding Philippians 4:7‘ ….we can rest in the eye of the storm, seeing our difficulties neither as punishment for some past offense nor as evidence that God’s protection has gone off-line….just wait…hold on, and keep your eyes open, and you will eventually behold what you do not see now.” Not simple, but easier without guilt.

Things may never be the same, but life won’t be quite like this forever.

A wee closing prayer from Ecumenical teacher Father Richard Rohr: “Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longing for the healing of our world.

We are in this together. We do the best we can.

How have you been managing with COVID-19? If you or those you love have been personally affected, my heart hurts for you.

With love and gratitude,

Karen

P.S. If you’d like to share, I would love to hear how you are doing.

a novice observing Lent

I learned about Easter in my Christian upbringing and often participated in programs and musical performances re-enacting the story of this religious holiday. But I was never taught about observing Lent.

As I grew up and met a broader scope of friends of the faith, my perception of Lent was 40 days of fasting or denying oneself certain foods, habits, pleasurable things, or unhealthy vices i.e. smoking or gossiping. My theological opinion about Lent rested on it being a sacrificial practice to mirror Christ’s fast in the wilderness and suffering leading up to Easter Sunday.

I saw my friends and family following intentions for their own Lenten practices. But never thought about it for me.

Until this year.

The Lent discussion came up in the huddle of women I meet with for friendship, growth and accountability in our spiritual and personal lives.

Why would we want to observe Lent? If we did, how would that look? How dedicated could we see ourselves to our intentions? We decided to think, meditate and pray until our next meeting, then report back if and what our individual practice could look like.

I’ve walked through the why, what, and how questions – personally and with others in my rejuvenated health work – to get clear about making changes in food, lifestyle, mindset for healthier living.

Not surprising then that my initial thought for Lent was from a similar perspective. Should I restrict or eliminate wine with dinner, my snacking on fresh-roasted peanuts, or roving around social media for 40 days?

This could be positive and challenging. I love those peanuts.

But this direction didn’t feel right for me. Instead of denial or taking away something, I reflected on the question: what could I add to my life?

I’m a believer that personality types influence most everything. My favourite testing tool is the Enneagram. If you’re familiar with it you may know your type. I won’t carry on about the Enneagram (for me a fascinating topic) other than to say I am a type Seven.

A mini definition for type seven is: The Enthusiast. Busy, fun-loving type: spontaneous, versatile, distractible, and scattered.

I love my strengths as a seven. And the other side? Authors Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson explain so well, “a busy, scattered mind that won’t simmer down …. is a problem because the quiet mind allows us to feel profoundly supported: inner knowing and guidance arise from the quiet mind and give us confidence to act in the world.”

That was it. I’d add a habit with intent to support a quieter mind.

This is my daily practice for Lent: pulling out of my active life a block of ten minutes to be physically and mentally still. Without intentional thinking or meditating or praying or planning. Only ten minutes. Yet not a simple thing when you’re wired with a mind burbling and bubbling with ideas, plans, energy.

With an inclination to talk to my Creator rather than sit and simply be and breathe together.

Lent is now at the halfway point. My mind still runs about. Skipping from one place to the next, including “don’t forget to be in stillness today!” Yet I am experiencing longer moments of mental stillness.

The point is stillness and not “thinking”, but I’ve still been taking away thoughts to journal later.

Structure. Flow. Life happens in the gaps. Courage. Stillness and rest. Breathe. Don’t force it. Endurance for suffering. Limits. Depth.

My stillness has triggered thoughts for other times in my day.

Imagining the unconceivable stillness of the Christ of Easter leading up to Easter weekend. Visualizing how universally people seek and struggle to move into stillness in their lives. Wondering how my friends online and in real life might be walking through their own Lenten practice right now.

I don’t think it serendipitous or by chance I’m doing this particular practice at this particular time.

For me it’s a kairos moment – beyond “conditions are right…..an opportune and decisive moment“.

I’m accepting it as a divine moment when the world; my country and community; my family; me – are all trying to cope with unusual uncertainties. Three weeks ago we knew the coronavirus was active on another continent, today a pandemic afflicts the whole world. Isolation, fear, disease bears down on hearts and minds. Our normal living.

My prayer – especially now – is that you are finding safe support, a place of inner stillness. If you are observing Lent and would like to share I welcome your comment.

Love and peace ….

.

 

Knowing Who We Are in our 60’s

The summer and autumn of 2019 were months of visiting and hosting family, hiking, kayaking, camping with my husband and grandkids. My personality type is naturally enthused and ready for the next fun thing so it was a wonderful season for me.

But. Months later- into a brand new year! – it’s a challenge where and how to jump into a writing rhythm.

Take one step. Value the progress. Remember my purpose.

I started a mini series on aging well months ago – discussing positivity and resilience – and am going to finish up with knowing who we are in our 60’s and beyond. A space I am in right now.

I’ll begin by sharing my backstory – for some clarity – and encouragement to stay open to asking who am I, here and now in whatever season you’re in.

I married young and had my children young. Life was a busy mix of stay-at-home Mom and part-time work: sometimes employee, other times entrepreneur. This worked well, life was purposeful, it was my norm. My husband loves to build; thanks to his ambition and diligence in the construction company he started in his 20’s, we’ve had a stable and comfortable living.

In my late 40’s our two children flew the nest for education and their dreams: including marriage and living in other parts of the country. Their leaving seemed to happen quickly – they took our ‘independence training’ seriously! But our empty nest opened up time to pursue a new and shared passion. Running brought us fitness, friends, an excuse to travel.

2005, sharing a race with grandkids Celine and Laurent, Maine, US.

Life changed dramatically in my mid-50’s. We moved cross country from our forever-home, Alberta, to Nova Scotia on Canada’s east coast. We didn’t know anyone. We’d never visited the Maritimes other than a few days to buy our home.

Someday I’ll write the longer story of this spontaneous adventure; here’s the condensed version.

We explored our new province by car, kayak – on bikes and hikes. We made new friends. We visited our kids and grandkids – who lived closer than before, yet still a one or two day’s drive to Ontario or the US.

We didn’t move for retirement (we don’t have a definition for that yet); my husband pulled out his tools and expertise to create a modified version of his former life as a builder. One with more flexibility and less stress. Wonderful!

After settling into our new nest, I followed an interest of mine in natural nutrition ; with online studies for a diploma that developed into a consulting and coaching practice.

Supporting women in their desire to live healthier has been rewarding and challenging: changing habits and mindset takes effort on both sides of the desk! This track for me, for helping others will always be part of who I am.

Yet. Looking at the things that have been part of of my core for a long time I sense a shift in what I feel matters most as I move into my 60’s stage of life. In no particular order or category, things like:

  • Feeling okay with a faith that has been changing, as Laura Locke, editor of https://www.kolbetimes.com/ articulates so well has, “…found a deeper, truer place – filled with equal parts trust and mystery ­– where I am content to rest
  • Reviving my love language of preparing food, hospitality. ‘My mother tongue’ has returned, with enthusiasm for new recipes, expanding and sharing my table, this sacred place.
  • Communing more with the Divine in nature
  • Wanting less stuff
  • Submitting to imperfection, as per Jo Saxton’s “breaking up with perfection” in The Dream of You
  • Getting active supporting a cause for justice. Days for Girls has been one for me. Author, activist Lisa Sharon Harper– founder and president for justice movement, Freedom Road inspires me to overcome obstacles. “Be like water and get around the rock.”

How can we move ahead in discovering who we are are and becoming? Observe:

  • what we read, who we watch or listen to, i.e.podcasts, documentaries
  • who do we gravitate towards in a conversation
  • where do we feel engaged
  • a prayer and meditation practice

I find inspiration from other women’s words and actions.

Elrose and Sue, coined the Trekking Twins , at 83 are not only hiking mountains but maintain a section of Snowbird Mountain Trail, North Carolina. Lugging gas-powered trimmers and large loppers.

Captain Gail, here in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, bought her lobster boat and fishing license at age 50 and has the only all-female lobster fishing crew in our area.

Blog writer Emma Scheib writes “….you don’t have to bloom when everyone else does….just like your favourite rose bush, you get to bloom over and over again. You aren’t limited to blooming in one season of your life….”

Author Margaret Feinberg discusses in Taste and See – “Once a fig tree reaches maturity, it can be expected to produce fruit once to twice per year and can continue to fruit for decades. Fruitfulness goes on!” I Love that!

That’s my Aunt Helen, who at 98 follows a daily eating, waking and resting schedule. She lives alone in her own home, knits (a lot!), does a daily Word Find Puzzle. Her life bears witness that she loves God and people, which I believe has a huge part in being grounded and settled.

I hope these thoughts will be helpful in whatever stage you’re in.

I’ve shared some of my story; I’d love to hear your’s.

Love, and all the best for knowing and being YOU in 2020.

xo, Karen

Resilience in Every Age

In my research for Aging as a Positive Project I discovered author Mary Piper: an encourager for navigating life and flourishing as we age. She referenced a short book: a legend of two old women’s resilience after being abandoned by their tribe during a brutal winter famine. Early in Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival by Velma Wallis, one says to the other:

So I say if we are going to die, my friend, let us die trying, not sitting.

You or I may not experience such ‘do or die’ circumstances to test our resilience – but for certain life is unpredictable and doesn’t come with a memo of what we’re going to be dealing with.

I’m suggesting three practices to help us bounce back from what life delivers. Reading inspirational stories like that of the elder women; seeking sound counsel from sacred texts (the Judeo-Christian tradition is my choice); and especially – putting resilience into action in the everyday-ness of living.

Present-day and up close, in the lives of people I love, resilience looks like this:

Bolstering an aging father in his struggle with depression, with forgiveness for oneself when compassion and patience runs low.

Trying a new sport or creative endeavour because of interest and curiosity. Not for expectations to be the best or maybe even very good at it.

Enduring not only the tough week of the cancer diagnosis but surviving in the painful journey that could continue with no end in sight.

Believing in the potential and possibility for personally fulfilling work; viewing course-corrections of the past as circumstantial growth.

Backpacking a long hike knowing allergies or chronic injuries might present themselves en route. ‘I’ll work it out’ over-riding ‘I’ll stay home’.

Back to the legendary story. After several physically gruelling days, Sa’- the younger of the two women – acquiesced, “each step brings us closer to where we are going. Although I do not feel good today, my mind has power over my body, and it wants us to move on instead of staying here to rest – which is what I want to do.”

If there is one thing at the core of whether we’ll resist or respond to life’s situations with resilience, I would say it is CONTROL.

We can not control our world. Circumstances are often not headed in what we believe is the right direction; we’re tempted to assume we know how it’s going to play out. Things are not going to be as expected. We quit, get upset.

We can control our choices. It’s within our power to choose a mindset to think of what’s worked for us before; to determine to stay in the game and refuse to write “The End” across our story.

Resilience helps us dare to risk living large, to navigate the unknown details ‘between here and there’. I’ve just started following Catie’s blog, a 60-ish woman from Scotland to cheer her on in the dream to cycle the world by the time she’s 65.

Resilience is greater than bearing down and forever gritting our teeth. It’s the path to growth, to rewards (think motherhood), to repetition (think motherhood), to overcoming – as in the legend of the two women – to restoration.

What does resilience look like for you? If it’s especially challenging in this stage of life you may find my free downloadable handout helpful in some area.

Love and gratitude,  

Karen

P.S. For comments, requests for a complimentary chat to consider working together for accountable vibrant living – at any age – you are welcome to contact me here.

Aging as a Positive Project

Last year when I hit my mid-sixties I realized my children are closer to middle-age than I am! Technically I’m either in the second middle-age yes, there is such a categoryor in the first stage of old-age. Yikes…

My personality type is wired to typically see the cup half full instead of half empty; so I am approaching aging as a project!

First some disclosures how I feel about me getting older:

  • I’m resistant to aging, as determined by the number of years I’ve lived. It’s been said: survival is resistance: I’m choosing to thrive with resistance . Not in denial, but in being brave and fighting back.
  • I haven’t prepared a strategy for aging (beyond financial affairs with my husband), although I did skim through Women Rowing North – Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age . Mary Pipher shares helpful aging guidelines like: everything is workable; when you feel lost or something goes wrong apply the 1st rule of the wilderness, DON’T PANIC.
  • My aging angst is not so much about wrinkles, grey hair and ‘age-related roles’ but with symptoms that interfere with my physical activities, i.e ‘cranky’ joints. It doesn’t come easy to align body, mind and emotions that another pool workout will be okay today instead of a long hike: hoping this is temporary. Regardless: it’s in the project.
  • I live in a 60’s-aged body, but my heart and mind lives in the 50’s.

50’s and plus – we’re in this together

Like everything else in life, aging is different for each of us; factored by our health, history, hopes and more. And even if our personality leans toward a mental and emotional attitude that focuses on the bright side of life as we age, the expected positive results don’t always show up!

Consider this paraphrase from psychologist Kendra Cherry “…having a positive outlook on life’s challenges doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding or ignoring the bad things; it is ……. making the most of the potentially bad situations, and viewing yourself and your abilities in a positive light.”

We can choose to make the best of those situations we can’t control.

If we are ready to approach aging as a project – with positivity, choosing to thrive and live with vibrancy – having a particular focus to aim for can help us move ahead with purpose.

A negative mind will never give you a positive life (unknown)

Looking at questions like these can help with getting started.

  • observing others in our circles – community, online, work or otherwise – has someone impressed us with particular skills or life directions that have ignited the curiosity to ask.. “what if…?” My interest in doing videos and sharing interviews has inspired my checking out a local Toastmasters to hone my skills for fewer “ums, ahs and other fillers”! Maybe I’ll pursue this more or it could be just a stepping stone to something else.
  • feeling betrayed by a body showing its physical restrictions? This one’s a challenge for many of us. A positivity spin like this could be helpful:
    • acknowledging and allowing time to feel the frustration
    • following recommended treatments
    • being open and courageous in accepting potential changes that could unfold a new version of us – that’s exciting and maybe adventuresome too!
  • what needs to be given a proper ending for space and freedom to discover and explore what the next stage of life can look like – regardless of age? Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, Finding the Beginning in the Ending shares thoughts for “letting things go, putting them to rest”- and beginning the next project.

If aging with a positive vibe is a project you want to pursue, dig into what you value and want, write down what direction you want to go. Journal your ideas how you’re going to get there. It’s a start.

I hope you choose to participate in your aging process, to own it and make it your project.

Love and gratitude,  

Karen

P.S. If Aging as a Positive Project captures your heart, my free downloadable Rescripting to a sustainable health story for any stage of life could be a positive place to start. For comments, requests for a complimentary chat to consider working together for your vibrant inspired living – at any age – you are welcome to contact me here.