Why Yoga for Stress & Anxiety?
I do not do well with prolonged repeated daily stressors that accumulate over time. My body tends to build up intolerance (weight gain, sleep disturbance, digestive issues), I lose patience with those I love most and I generally become more edgy and confrontational than I prefer to admit. So, last year, when I got to a point where I really wasn’t enjoying being in the skin I was in, I realized that Stress, that nasty sucker, had gotten its grip so tightly wound around my throat that I could no longer function as the person that I truly am. The joy was gone, my true self was squandered. It was time for a change.
Enter Yoga. Yoga was - at that time - and still continues to be a saviour of sorts. Yoga is a place where my physical body can move in ways that allow my mental body to slow down, to relax and to press the reset button. Best of all, it’s socially acceptable and encouraged to relax, lay down and do NOTHING!
Not too long ago a yoga student of mine said “I have never heard the word stress used as much as I have lately”, and I distinctly recall two years ago right after meet the teacher night hearing a fellow colleague remark that she had never heard the word “anxiety” used as much as she had that evening. There’s a reason why we hear these two words so often and that is because almost 25% of the Canadian population reported feeling “stressed and overwhelmed” on a day to day basis in 2014. (Both male and female populations) *STATS CAN
We all experience stress in different ways, and for different reasons. For some, a social situation may invoke feelings of connection and excitement while for others a social situation may invoke feelings of stress and anxiety – wondering if they will fit in with the crowd, or say something they ought not to. Work can be a source of stress to many but for some it may be something to look forward to. We are all different in how we experience stress.
The truth is, we have never-ending news feeds with tragedy and horror filling the airwaves, we are connected to work more than ever at home through email and cell phones – some of us never even stop working! The list truly does go on. Things are different now, and the need for coping skills and strategies and the self-discipline of SELF CARE is even higher. (That's right I said self care needs to be self disciplined.)
I am offering this upcoming course Yoga for Stress & Anxiety to be of service to others. I now know that this is part of my life’s purpose. I myself underwent a major life shift last year when I said NO to stress and the negative effects it was having on my life, relationships and health. As a Student Therapist and Yoga Practitioner I've spent years studying the effects of stress on the body and mind and practicing yoga and other techniques to build a tool box of manageable and sustainable ways to cope with daily life and all of the ups and downs that come with it!
I am so excited to dive into it, to share my story and to hear the stories of others. I can’t wait to help my students build a repertoire and a tool box of their own to take out into the world in order to live in a more peaceful and sustainable existence.
If you or someone that you know could benefit from this upcoming course please feel free to pass this email along, print out and put on your staff room table, or register yourself.
Yoga for Stress & Anxiety
Dates: Monday, November 7 – Monday December 12, 2016 (6 weeks)
Time: 7:30 – 9pm (note the time change)
6 spaces remaining
email to register: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year a dear friend of mine suffered a major brain injury: memory loss and brain damage. Self-inflicted. Tragic. Devastating to those of us who know her to be a happy and bubbly human. There really are no words to describe the effect that this had on me.
Almost a year after this devastating event I was walking through the Toronto Christmas Market with my friend who was then still recovering from her brain injury and still putting the pieces of her memories back together. We stopped for dinner and I began telling her my own struggles. I told her that I had taken a partial leave from work due to my mental stress and exhaustion. I told her how work stress was ruining my emotional well-being and affecting my home life and relationships with loved ones. She stopped, put her fork down and looked me square in the eyes. She said, “Work is the reason that this happened to me you know? I was under too much pressure, I took on too much, I said yes to everything. It was partly my fault for taking on so much, but also partly my work’s fault for letting me.” And then she floated in and out of memories as she sometimes does, exercising her synaptic networks but still wondering and questioning whether or not she is connecting the dots.
Tears welled up in my eyes at her honesty and insight.
Is this what it's come to? That our work rules our lives over passion, dream seeking, and joy? To the point of literally running ourselves to near death?!?!?!
I had a feeling that this would be my mission somehow before she spoke those words. But when those words formed on her lips – the precious lips of my friend whom I almost LOST FOREVER because of work stress – I just knew that this would become my driving force – selfishly for my own benefit, but also for the good of others feeling the same way.
Work- Life Balance.
That’s it. That’s my mission. How do I find it and how do I inspire others to find it also?
Last week my colleague and dear friend and I presented at the school board office. Our main focus was how to safely be authentic as teachers (and as students). We recognized the difficulty of bringing our whole selves to the table in our profession – in any profession, without somehow being met with judgement, guilt or fear...all of which then led to stress.
“She works so late – doesn’t she ever see her kids?” (judgement)
“She leaves right after the bell goes to get her kids – and she wants a job next year?”(judgement)
“I used to coach sports after school until I had kids” (guilt ensues)
“I hate coaching sports after school because I miss seeing my own kids” (more guilt ensues)
“My family complains that I never spend time with them because I’m always marking or prepping at home” (guilt)
“I’m an LTO I need to do everything perfectly” (shame, pressure, stress, guilt)
“I’m exhausted, I need a break.” (guilt)
"Ya but you get the whole summer off" (weird guilt and trying to justify)
I hear you.
What we found to ring most true throughout the research of our project (which led us to our presentation at the school board) was that authentic communication is a must.
We must learn to speak our truths and hear the truths of others while at work. This takes practice and grace. We must also therefore learn to deeply listen to each other, accept, not judge and still continue to collaborate. We must not forget the human aspect of each other and our students and alleviate our expectations of achievement. Yes it has its place, but so does seeing each other as humans with flaws and room to grow. This - many teachers said - is key to alleviating work stress.
"I wish I could help you out but I am swamped and cannot safely and effectively take anything else on right now." (firm boundaries met with acceptance and non judgement)
Yes, teachers thought about their workloads and benchmarks for reading, but most teachers that I have spoken to have been more concerned about the stress that has come through the lack of clear communication, lack of training and perceived lack of support. All of those factors contributed to work stress.
It is my wholehearted belief that Teachers (like Parents) must be allowed and trained to take care of themselves fully. I believe that we as teachers must learn to put the proverbial “oxygen mask” on before we can adequately assist and teach others. I firmly believe that we have a duty to ourselves, our families and our students to de-stress and live in a state of wellness. But we need support to do so.
I feel as though I am only just scratching the surface here, which is why I have designed a workshop that deals with these subject s and also gives you techniques to de-stress and to work through becoming grounded in your practice therefore lessening the effects of real or perceived judgement (PS often we judge ourselves and put pressure on ourselves more than anyone else does).
After all, we got into this profession to teach little humans, to see their light shine and reflect our own beautiful light in return. We can't do this if stress is clouding our vision!
So if you need a little boost to help with stress and get your through the next few months join us at Tone Yoga on May 1, 2016 from 3 – 5:30pm for Emotional Fitness for Teachers & Educators. Learn to relax, use breathing and yoga postures to deeply restore your body while lowering cortisol levels to combat stress.
Lastly, I can’t post something of this nature without mentioning that if at any point you are having any kind of thoughts of self-harm, or are feeling like you are drowning in an overwhelming amount of stress – PLEASE I beg you to reach out, call a friend, make a doctor’s appointment, write an email, ANYTHING, but don’t do it alone. We need each other when things are tough.
I am a monster when I am stressed. I hate it. I feel like I am getting a handle on it and then BAM something shitty happens (like two houses flooding at the exact same time) that’s hard and I feel like I turn into a two year old having a tantrum. And then I get embarrassed by my behaviour and feel like a dip shit. Stress literally takes over me. I swear it’s a hormonal thing that I have yet to get to the bottom of but I will figure this thing out one of these days. (Think adrenals, pms, lack of sleep.)
It is hard as a yoga teacher to admit that I get beyond stressed to the point where I literally scream at the chair that I just stubbed my toe on because it was in the way because I didn’t have the energy nor desire to empty my laundry basket and put my lovely yoga clothes in the closet where they belong. I’m messy, and more often than not I cannot find matching socks. It annoys the snot out of me, but truth be told I don’t like folding laundry. I’m not good at that either.
The point being here that when I feel stressed and overwhelmed a dark fog of stress droplets cloud my vision and disable my ability to see joy in the little things and to be appreciative of all of the amazing things and people in my life that deep down I really am overwhelmingly grateful for. In fact stress clouds my vision so much so that sometimes I even lose sight of the humanity of the person sitting next to me. This is big. This is a big no no. I’m working extra super hard on this one. (ex. NOT snapping when supper isn’t made because he didn’t read my mind and know that he was supposed to make it. UGH. How dare he, lowly human.)
Why stress? Why must you enter this way? Just when everything was getting better, feeling better, looking better….BAM you hit like a snow storm in April. Why why why?!!!
I am still trying to figure out the best way to actively manage stress in my life. I am happy to report that I am continuously and more often than not consciously getting better. I thought I would share a few tips and strategies for what I do when I am in the right frame of mind to proactively reduce stress and also what I sometimes do when I have a moment of clarity in the middle of a stress storm.
1. Exercise. I mean aerobically kick the snot out of myself to the point where I am dripping and drenched and feeling AMAZING. Endorphins baby, they work.
2. Meditate. This one is hard on my own; I find it much easier to lead a meditation or to be in a group of people meditating. In fact a collective group of like-minded meditators (meditatetees?) can really jazz me up and be quite a profound experience. (Side note: last week I was at the Yoga Conference studying with Richard Miller learning about iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation and a group of us yogis, maybe 100 people starting sounding with some ahhs and ehhs and it was AMAZING. Just saying.... it’s worth getting some peeps together to OM....get over it Ego just try it...no really...try it...OMMMM.)
3. Breathe. Do any kind of breathing exercise that works for you. Three part breath, alternate nostril (not my fave), Ujjayi Breath (TOTALLY my fave) and just get to it. I like this one because you have to breathe anyways so you may as well make the most of it! The neato thing about the breathing thing is that it takes you right out of your head and right into your body. Brain changer. Literally.
4. Call a friend. I mean it. Learn to ask for help and lean on people that are strong enough to take it. Pick the people who don’t judge you and who know the difference between an “I need help” and “I need to vent”. That’s important. Or, learn to premise your call for help with “ I need help with (insert specific action or task)” and “ I just need you to listen, be a sounding board – I don’t need anything but an ear”. This can really help the person on the other side of the phone too because let’s face it, it’s so hard not to jump into fixing mode, but it becomes easier to “fix” when we know all we need to do is listen.
5. Write about it. Paint about it. Whatever. Just get it out somehow! Maybe dance around the room to Madonna, I don’t know what you need to do to get it out but you do, so do it!
Okay, I was feeling super stressed before I sat down to write this and now I am already feeling a million times better. Maybe that’s because I also did number 1, 2,4 and 5 today! Ooooh I have to go and work on number 3! Perfect, just in time for bed and wind down time!
What helps you when you’re stressed? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks! Comment below or share on my facebook post!
Hi...me again....if you feel like you would like some further help managing stress....I'm available for hire. But really though. Thai Yoga Bodywork, Reiki, Yoga, Yoga Nidra Meditation and Wellness Coaching. Shoot me an email at email@example.com and we can chat!
Also I just can't leave my blog without saying that when I referred to the "lowly human" above it was pure satire and sarcasm I do in fact have the most amazingly supportive partner EVER. Just had to say it....cause the stress monster wouldn't.
I think Valentine's Day has lost the focus of Real Love. It becomes centered around romantic love and the measure of your worth becomes correlated to whether or not you have a partner or what you do to celebrate being with that partner. It’s all crap really. The cliché runs true in my mind that it should be celebrated every day.
But it does have me thinking about love and... in particular, real love. The deep kind that goes beyond the Valentine's Day hearts and chocolate. The kind we are all capable of giving.
A few days ago we went to Mount Sinai to visit our friends who just gave birth to triplets. It all happened quite frantically and with urgency. No books or stories or months to “prepare” yourselves for triplets could prepare you for the journey that they are now on. All three boys are in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and are being cared for around the clock. It is (as our friend said) an experience full of “extreme highs, and extreme lows” throughout the course of a single day.
The baby boys are growing and striving for life and healthy development. One of them is striving for the very air that he breathes. The other is working on digesting the very sustenance designed to help him grow. The third has had the chance to be cuddled with both mom and dad! They are beautiful, tiny, magical human beings. I couldn’t help but be lit up by the very sight of them.
To watch their parents – our friends – watch their babies through the glass of the incubators, to wave and to talk to their baby boys was beyond moving and was the essence of Real Love. The love that they show their babies with a single glance is enough to make your heart swell bigger than your chest cavity allows for. The flicker of light in the eyes of their mom and the grin of their dad as they bid them goodnight. I’ll never for the rest of my life forget the sweet sound of their mother cooing “goodnight baby boy, mommy loves you.” Or the look on her face when she told me that through a video call her 2 year old daughter asked "Mommy, where da bradurs?". Real Love.
I can't help but think of other miracles of life. Some miracles were waited for patiently and the struggles came before the life even began. There are many people in my heart facing a struggle to conceive life and yet the love is there already before the life has even started. A miracle before the miracle – to love something or someone that is yet to come. Even more miraculous, to love someone that almost came but had to leave. A love that is so deep within our cells that it precedes us. It is a deeply human love, one full of connection to each other and to the possibility and hope of literally carrying that connection onwards. It seems like magic, pure magic. When you tap into it and are around it, it emanates from those who give it and want to give more of it. It is absorbent.
Real love is the kind of love that I see on a daily basis from those of us who care so much for others. Whether they be our children, our pets, our friends – and sometimes strangers. It’s the real human love that keeps us going, that keeps us connected and willing to open doors for someone, to hold space for someone who needs an ear, to make a meal for a friend and share time together over coffee. It’s the kind that you give without thinking, it’s so deeply entrenched in your bones that you just can’t help it. Over time, I think that it can become dulled and muted and so I hope that by reading this it ignites a flame in you to show the kind of real love that I’m feeling and talking about as I write this. It doesn’t have to come in the form of grandiose gestures, just small loving and caring moments shared between humans.
And so as I think again of our friends who are living in downtown Toronto and staying at the Ronald McDonald House (what an amazing organization!) while their three baby boys are loved and cared for by amazing doctors and nurses, I ask that you take a moment and send a little love their way, and to all those in your life who show and share love – and even those who don’t (because likely it’s they who need it most!)
This piece was painted with the Williams Family in heart and mind.
Follow them on Facebook at:
Here is the link to their GoFundMe Page
Since today is Bell’s Let’s Talk Day, and I have been hiding in a writing slump for over a week now, I thought I had better put on my big girl britches and hit pen to paper. First off, I’m not an official sponsor for Bell, but I do believe that what they are doing is good work and good advertising. Well done Bell. But what’s more important is the fact that even though it is Bell Let’s Talk Day I scrolled through my Facebook feed and saw mere smatterings of it on this social media hub. Then I was reminded of the email I sent out to colleagues last year on this very day saying “Let’s Talk” in the spirit of Bell’s day. Only one staff responded – and she did so in a very private corner at work. This makes me wonder…are we really talking yet?
The answer for ME is slowly becoming yes since I have taken to this blog and begun to open up about my personal struggles with anxiety and depression. But the fact remains that it’s still a taboo subject. Most people close to me will ask me how I’m doing and turn to the weather. My very small group of truth-tellers will ask how I’m dealing and get down and dirty with unpacking that anxious baggage. For the most part, I’m still making small talk with people who don’t know what to say. And that’s ok. It’s not easy. No one teaches you social etiquette around these things.
What’s even harder than talking about it is pretending that it isn’t there. Last year a dear friend of mine tried to stuff and squash her depression and anxiety into a proverbial duffel bag so full that eventually it exploded and ended up in a serious trauma - to which there remain lasting effects. I can only assume that she thought it was too much of a burden to ask anyone to help carry it with her. I wish I had been there to help her sit down on the side of her bed and slowly unpack that bag together. Dirty laundry and all.
The fact is that things are changing and bless the folks who make those amazing commercials about mental health and stigma. I think they are really poignant and allow for a spring board for conversation. Use them if you can. Be a champion for change in the lunch room when the conversation starts to blame or scrutinize others for what YOU perceive to be an easy situation. For THEM it may not be. If someone opens up to you about their struggles, listen and offer support, but try not to bombard them with a list of “should’s”. No one suffering depression wants to hear what they “should” do…they know what they should do, and they can’t and that is why they are depressed, anxious and full of shame. In fact, even when I’m feeling well I don’t want to hear a list of “should’s”!!!
People with depression and anxiety desire connection and compassion. We are sensitive folk who care deeply for our loved ones and truly don’t want to make things worse for anyone. Really we just want to know that we are loved through thick and thin, through happiness and sadness. We want to be normalized and understood as "this is something that is happening to me, this is NOT ME."
My wish is that we talk more about this difficult issue, not in the sense of pity. Not in the sense of “should’s”. Let’s talk about it in the sense of compassion and understanding. Let’s treat each other with respect and know that life is hard sometimes and amazing other times and we are all doing the best we damn well can in any given moment!
I invite you to keep an open mind, to remember that
each of us has a proverbial duffel bag. Sometimes they are light and easy to carry. Sometimes they are full of rocks and heavy things. But I’m here to let you know that if you should ever need it, I can help you unpack your duffel bag, one rock or sock at a time.
Yoga has been known to aid in the management of anxiety and depression. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week I wrote about my happy place: the beach. And it still is, trust me. Even after visiting it in its frozen state three times this week I’m reminded of how much I love that place. Is it okay to have two happy places? Man I’m lucky. I seem to find happiness in many places these days.
My man has been working hard on our backyard rink. He obsesses over it, dreams about it, stares upon it. He’s out there late at night flooding it, building the ice up, checking the boards and scraping it off. It is definitely his obsession, but I know that a part of him does it for me and for knowing that this frozen backyard landscape holds a piece of my heart. He built our first rink four years ago; it was small and humble and has truly grown in size and stature. (And three summers of new sod and two dump truck loads of dirt but that’s another story…) Yesterday he raced home from work to meet me at the door with excited anticipation. The first skate.
As a kid I was a figure skater. Not the most celebrated, not even close actually. I entered one competition and came last and that was enough for me. Skating had never felt like competition for me. I always yearned for the ice to myself instead of sharing it with others who were judging or preparing to be judged. I wanted to skate to loud music and feel the air rush by. I wanted to dance on the ice like no one was watching. But that never happened, there were always people watching, it is a watched sport. I think that’s why I love Yoga so much, there is - in its purest form - no competition and no judgement. In Yoga, we don’t perform poses we feel them.
This morning I was able to get out on the ice all by myself. I finally had it. The rink to myself. I must have wanted this for 25 years. Somehow I always knew that I would have my own skating rink, not to be an Olympic gold medalist, but to just skate. To feel the edges of my blades carve into that freshly flooded ice. To hear the gripping of the metal against the cold. This morning I had it. I was twirling and whirling and free all by myself with music in my ears. It was heaven, pure, icy heaven. It was Yoga on skates. I wasn’t performing, I was finally just feeling the ice under my feet, the way I’d always known it could be.
Later today, interestingly enough I met up with a very special person who told me that she could feel a Grand-Motherly energy coming through me, one that said “Dance off and laugh loud!” I have never heard this saying before but I can imagine my Nana who passed away years and years ago saying it, smiling and laughing. (When I picture her I always imagine the orange Buddha statue that she had in her house) How fitting that I was doing just so this morning with my Yoga on skates. Heaven, pure icy Yoga heaven.
I remember the first time I really knew that my parents trusted me. I was 17 years old, had just gotten my license and was a girl full of hormones and distraught about social life at school. I didn’t “fit in” anymore. It seemed that my group of friends had outgrown me (which I later learned meant that I had outgrown them). My anxiety began to express itself then. I remember I used to drive in to the school parking lot and circle before I had the confidence to park anywhere and get out. Sometimes I would be so fraught with anxiety I would burst into tears and have to turn around and drive back home again. And this is before the age of social media or even texting, we just gossiped in each other's ears or on paper. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for teenagers now.
Strangely, I found myself in a déja vu: the same thing happened to me two months ago, (although this time I was the teacher not the teenager). I couldn’t even get out of the car in the morning without giving myself a pep talk, sometimes I could barely release the grip of my hands from the steering wheel and eventually one morning, I didn’t even get in the car at all. (Upon retrospect my dad did laugh when I told him I was going to Teacher's College, he said "but you hated school! Now you want to spend your life there?"....foreshadowing.....?)
One of those days at 17 I asked my parents if I could borrow their car and drive up to the cottage. I wanted to go and sit peacefully on the beach and wander by the water’s edge. I wanted to stare out into the horizon and allow the sense of peace and calm wash over me, that sense that you can’t ever really describe with words. It is a felt sense. Your heart feels it. My dad was reluctant, my mom somehow got it, and finally after pleading my case, they allowed it but I had to wake up early and be back at school the next morning. Thinking back I can’t believe they said yes to me. I was a new driver wanting to drive 2 hours north to the cottage in the middle of a school week to sleep over by myself. But they must have somehow trusted me. (I can be very convincing)
I drove up, listening to music and likely singing terribly loud and off key and definitely driving through every Tim Horton's I found. I stayed over and slept in my parent’s bed so that I could see the water upon waking and because it felt more grown up. The next morning at dawn I wandered down to the beach. It was misty and damp and the air was thick. I sat there on a large piece of driftwood on the beach, it was early May. I was feeling truly at home. Wasaga Beach has a "bad rap" as a town and for its demographics, but when I’m on that beach in the early morning or at sunset it is nothing short of Heaven on Earth. The waves were beginning to lap and the gulls were waking. It was time for me to get to school. And so, I got back in my car and drove back to hold up my end of the bargain. I realize now that that morning was the first time I ever truly meditated or sat still in the present moment.
Just yesterday I was at the cottage checking on things, making sure the water is still running and that the heat hadn’t turned off or frozen the pipes. I was rushing around and in a hurry, but I stopped for a moment from what I was doing and walked down to the frozen shoreline. It was there that I remembered that trip up to the cottage at 17.
The water is beginning to freeze up into still life images of waves crashing against each other, frozen in time. I could see the water every once and awhile smashing up against its newly frozen self. Powerful and silent. Good God I love that place. The kind of peace that comes over me there is breathtaking. I can’t help but smirk. Thinking of how it looks in mid-July, strewn about with oil soaked bodies and umbrellas and bustling activity.
And so, tomorrow I’ll be driving back into the school parking lot. I’m going to go early in case I end up having to circle or my hands become frozen and locked around the steering wheel. I’m going to picture the beach when I start to breathe fast and the heaviness comes. I’m going to try and have the courage that my parents did when they let their 17 year old get in the car and drive 2 hours north just to look at the water. They trusted me then; they saw something trustworthy inside of me. They knew I could handle it. Now I just have to learn how to trust my own self and remember that I know how to handle this.
My sister is a foodie. A so called recipe junkie who loves to create. Oh and her craft is good my friend, OH SO good. In fact it’s downright decadent. She bakes things that Betty Crocker only wishes she could have thought of. Rachael Ray, move over there’s a new chef in town. Pastries, pies, squares, tarts and cookies…oh my God the cookies. Anyway aside from my sister’s lifelong mission to fatten me up she really is an artist. A guru in the kitchen, she slaves away lovingly trying new craft after craft until the icing is at that level of sweetness between “oh dear Lord” and “my teeth hurt”. Just right.
So..........she did what any self-respecting Pastry Chef and Sweet’s Connoisseur would do and….bought a diner. Yep. A road side diner snuggled in beside a road side gas station. Leather booths, deep fryers, rooster paintings and all.
At first I was reluctant. I mean the talent! The pastries! The baking! Traded in for fries and burgers? (Don't worry she is TOTALLY SELLING HER BAKING!) But yesterday we went to the FarmHouse Diner to pitch in (with forks and with brad nail guns) and help prep this diner desire of hers and I started to understand.
What I noticed immediately upon entrance was not the delicious smell of my niece’s favourite food group: bacon. (okay I did smell bacon) But the swarms of people like worker bees busying themselves to get this place ready to open. Family was there, friends were there, new faces came and went. All working hard to make sure that my sister’s latest dream (when she and I were in France studying the art of Macaron’s and Crêpe’s and French Living we decided that she has had about 35+ “jobs” that were all born out of some dream or another)
We all joke about Stephie’s slave labour. But it doesn’t take more than a minute to see that this is a labour of love.
Throughout the day we accomplished much. We built a wall, a new food prep station and scrubbed that baby from head to toe. Rome wasn’t built in a day but we were pretty proud of our accomplishments. Over and over I kept reveling in my sister’s friends who were there out of loyalty and goodwill and who have been there through ALL of her ideas and her two greatest projects of all (her kids). My sister’s friends are like an army of love. A true community. They set their minds to something whether it be a backcountry camping trip, having kids, starting a new job or opening a diner and they support each other.
Stephie is always there for her friends when they need her, whether cooking them meals, sending them home with cookies or having all of their kids over to her house. When our mom was ill with cancer Steph’s friends were there for us. When Steph needed help with the kids her friend’s were there again. And they’ve been at every birthday and milestone I can remember. They give and they take and then they give even more. I like to think that they are even my friends too. (But of course a little sister will always piggy back on her siblings accomplishments).
Stephie does food well. Like really well. I’m talking drool worthy stuff here. But I’ll tell you what she does even better: COMMUNITY. If you go to the FarmHouse Diner for breakfast you’ll get a delicious meal no doubt, but you will absolutely without question also become part of Stephie’s community of friends. And that is the true nourishment.
The FarmHouse Diner is opening January 4, 2016 3 minutes north of Greenbank, Ontario!
Also you will be privy to Stephie's sense of humour and fun loving-ness. I'm pretty sure she meant Fresh Coffee AND Baking!
Good Luck to my Sis!
2015 was a year of opposites for me and seemingly for those around me. Emotional shit storms one minute and moments of hope and gratitude the next. Scared to high heaven one moment and relief and fortune soon after. New love of all kinds found and, people and relationships lost by others. Memories forgotten and then remembered. I suppose that is why I resonate so much with waves. They ebb and flow, are calm and lapping one day and furious and rolling the next. This is in essence why I chose Wave to represent the work I’m doing.
Truthfully, it really was the year that I came out. (No, I am not dangling a carrot of some scandal of sexual orientation reveal….sorry!) In 2015 I sunk into the darkest hole of anxious depression that I’d ever seen. But I decided to come out about it, to talk about it, to ask for help, to accept help and to write about it. And in doing so, I also came out of that dark hole of depression. Coming out about it lifted the dark sullen veil that was covering my eyes and that had been draped heavily over my heart. The weight has been lifted. I can breathe again.
2015 was the year I came out of teaching, I needed a break. My mental health was suffering and I did not feel that I could adequately serve my students and give them what they needed. Coming out of this came with a choice: I could be ashamed that I needed a break and squirm in the stigma that is still surrounding mental illness or, I could use this time to become well again. I chose to become well again and because of that I am now working my way back in, new and refreshed hoping to make a new difference through my teaching.
In 2015 I came out of my comfort zone and became a Yoga Teacher. I don’t have the “yoga body” as seen in all yoga magazines and Pinterest but I’ll be damned if it stops me from reaping the soul serving benefits of this ancient practice and sharing it with others. Yoga revitalizes me, grounds me and reminds me that it’s not about having a “perfect” body. My body is perfect right now dammit. And so is yours.
2015 was the year that I came out of my fear of what people would think about me. Yes, it’s scary and I still have moments of shame, regret, and wanting to stay in the comfortable little box wrapped in a nice little bow that says “Everything is fine”. But the truth is: life isn’t always fine. It ebbs and flows like the waves. It’s hard and scary and thrilling and wonderfully awesome all at the same time. It’s getting to know the motions of the tides, and to understand that the weather always changes but that “after the storm, there is always a rainbow….and then another storm”. But if you build your own ship, you learn that you can at least own it, and do your best to navigate your life the way that feels best for you.
I feel braver, stronger and more beautiful than ever. And if those are the results of coming out, then I’ll take it.
Yesterday a family member of mine was gracious enough to volunteer for the Salvation Army and stand between the two sets of automatic doors at the local LCBO. I could see her from my car as I pulled up, she was happily jingling sleigh bells and greeting patrons while wearing a bright red sweater and looking festive. Volunteering is second nature to her, it’s what she does. I made my way in with my 7lb Maltese-Poodle Jean Luc under my arm and I admit I was intrigued as I chatted with her and watched the activity of it all.
She was dutifully ringing the bells and smiling while I made my donation. Curious to see what this was all about, I stuck around for awhile. At first it seemed like I was doing the “right thing” by joining her in saying “Merry Christmas” and “Hello” to those passersby that either donated or didn’t. She noted that she was performing a Social Science Study while performing her voluntary duties. “It’s VERY interesting” she said. Observing who would look you straight in the eye and donate; those who wouldn’t look you in the eye but still donate; those who would avoid acknowledging your existence; those who would say things like “I don’t have any change!” or “I already donated!” while the feelings of guilt ridden anxiety undoubtedly flushed their faces with colour. The longer I stood there with the bells ringing, the easier it became to greet people (even those with no eye contact) with a boisterous “Hello!” In fact, I have to admit, I was having a GREAT time!
In the last year or so my own social anxieties have kept me from truly enjoying life and being fully present in some pretty monumental moments. I missed birthdays and baby showers because of it. But lately as I’m healing and becoming more emotionally fit, I realize that what I was missing was Connection. To expect someone to heal from social anxiety through social isolation is like putting someone on an island with only the “essential” resources. Sure you have food, water and shelter but your true humanistic and emotional needs will never be met (According to Maslow). By isolating myself because of my anxiety I was actually making things worse. As Dr. Gabor Maté states “we must provide an island of relief. We have to demonstrate that esteem, acceptance, love and humane interaction are realities in this world…” The word HUMANE in there seems extreme. But I kind of think it’s gotten to that point. In my observations, we don’t greet each other readily anymore. Even when walking into a store I am instantly weary of the overzealous store person shining a bright “Hello” in my eyes. My general dis-trust in people is proof.
Yesterday was different. Something shifted. I had a genuine feeling of excitement and happiness when someone new was coming into the store to be greeted by my “Hello!” and my family member’s smiling face. Perhaps it was the thrill of filling the Salvation Army Pot and the feeling that I had a hand in helping.
Okay, Jean Luc’s new hipster dog vest with little wee pockets may have had something to do with it. In fact he was an ice breaker that sometimes led to a different kind of donation. The donation of time and conversation. If only for a moment people would chat a few words. By having the dog there we learned that people can show love and affection in front of strangers. That something about the unconditional love that a dog brings helps to connect us back to our own desire for unconditional love. Even the most outwardly “scary” looking men with coveralls and burly beards and grease stained hands stopped to say hello and furrow JL’s scruffy brow. A lesson in appearances and the age old book-cover judgement played out in these exchanges.
Everyone likes to be greeted and treated nicely. It’s just that simple. People can feel sincerity. I think we can all feel and know in our hearts when someone means it. I suppose that is why I chose the quote “We teach what we most need to learn – and sometimes we give what we most need to get” to headline this post. I guess I hope that in teaching sincerity and authenticity I will embody it as well. And certainly what I realized yesterday was that in boasting sincere and happy greetings, I was giving what I in turn really need: Human Connection. Maybe we didn’t end up with thousands of dollars in the pot, but I think we may have helped re-connect to one and others human-ness. And that for me is where charity begins.