Tag Archives: living authentically

Paying it Back, in Kind

Standard

Image

I am having a bad day. You know, the kind where you wake up annoyed and just can’t seem to snap out of it? Today, I feel like the weight above me is just heavy enough to override the wind beneath me. In other words, I feel down. What’s got me in this funk? Who really knows, but at my best guess, I think I have taken too much on again. I feel like my ‘to-do’ lists are growing wings, levitating off the kitchen island and taking flight for the sole purpose of flapping around my head all day. Like a murder of crows after a chunk of fine flesh, these lists will consume me piece by piece. My mind is always with them, ever-buzzing, never at peace. Today, these lists make me sad. Sad that I cannot seem to muster up enough empathy for myself to just let them die a quiet, pulpy death. If I could only grant myself as much kindness as I could any friend or acquaintance in a tough spot, each day would be that much more free.

Think about the last time you sat with a friend who was hurting or upset. Did you lower your voice? Speak softly to be sure they were really hearing you? Did you use empathy and really try to understand their situation so that you could give an honest outlook? Were you caring and sympathetic? So what if we could use this same kind and consoling manner with ourselves? What if today, I just took 10 minutes to create some compassion for myself, acknowledging my daily struggles and recognizing that I have some choices to make. As any good friend would, I can note that I am doing the very best that I can. I could suggest that I am being a little too hard on myself and expecting too much. Perhaps, expecting more than anyone else ever would.

Self-compassion and empathy would likely allow me to again remember that I am enough. To acknowledge my worth and my value – without all the unnecessary trimmings. I could speak softly and gently, kindly guiding the way. Then, I could let the lists rest like paper should, in a pile, waiting its turn to be dealt with. There are more important things to be done. Like tickling my children to entice their laughter, holding my husband’s hand just to feel his warmth, and twirling around the kitchen to my favorite song. All things guaranteed to lift me up above this hazy fog to clear skies and brighter days.

CB

Art Understanding

Standard

Be brave and show your colors! Source:Ticktacktoeleb.com

Be brave and show your colors!
Source:Ticktacktoeleb.com

I started my second painting class last weekend. I have newly discovered the joy and release of painting using acrylic on canvas. Placing myself with paintbrush in hand in a completely new environment at the age of 36 has been so refreshing. It’s a new way to open up creatively, throw myself off balance and choose to become vulnerable thus learning more about myself in the process. Surprisingly, it has revealed a little more about my parenting style. Painting has shown me that one of the hardest things to achieve as a parent is to let your children experience the world in their own way without introducing any of our own biases or opinions. My work is my interpretation of the world. It can be judged but the critque will not change the facts and emotions behind my experiences. My children deserve the same from me. I should allow them the experience, encourage full artistic licence and make no apologies for what they create.

My class has about 6 participants of all ages and most of us are beginners. This means we are still finding our creative voice and feeling out of place. Still lacking confidence and quick to judge our own work, it is common to hear across the room at any point, “Ooops, I think I did it wrong!”. This statement made me think about how my children approach art. When my son was 2 or 3, he showed his own interpretation of the world in his visual art with no apologies made for colors, shapes or sizes used on his impressions. But once he began to join social groups and hear critiques of his work, he would also begin to judge his artwork. That head on the dinosaur is a bit small or the lake is not the right blue. Outside opinion became influential, so I became aware of my own judgements in this manner. I have to remind myself that art is interpretation and shows glimpses of how we see the world. There is no right or wrong. Expect variety and difference.

Being the recovering perfectionist that I am (see blog post here for details) , I had previously had moments of conflict while helping my children draw or color. I used to look over my children’s works of art and feel a compulsion to add or direct color use. I would even embellish pictures after they completed them! You may have experienced similar compulsions or you may think I am a complete control freak. Either way, we can learn from this ridiculous tendency.

I believe there is great value in teaching our children that their thoughts and impression are valid, regardless of popular opinion. Through art, we can teach that not everyone will agree with what they see and feel, but that does not make their experience any less significant or important. If, as parents, we embrace their works with empathy and share our past experiences of harsh judgement, we can create a strong bond of solidarity and teach shame resilience. We can teach strength, compassion and kindness.

So when someone in my painting class announces they have screwed up….I  like to grab these moments to shout out…. “Not wrong! Just different!”. We usually have a giggle, but it lessens the judgement. It opens up our ability to use different blends of color, paint a sky with a few extra clouds, or sketch a skyline with a few extra peaks. Creative freedom found in a world where we feel constrained and must ‘fit in’. This support of being different helps us to feel conviction in our work and confidence as we press on. Such feelings I would be thrilled to pass on to my own children.

CB

“Goodbye Miss Universe”

Standard
Small prizes for self-destruction. Source: http://capriciousd.hubpages.com/hub/7-Things-I-Wish-I-Understood-Sooner

Small prizes for self-destruction.
Source: Superstock.com

This past month I have thrown myself back into a previous work environment. I am back to work at a children’s hospital in the critical care programs. I have not worked there for over 4 years and the break has done me well, but I returned to keep up my neonatal and pediatric skills. While re-orientating in the unit with an old friend he mentioned in passing ” …I know that you are a bit of a perfectionist, but since you will only be working casually here, you will have to ask for help occasionally.”.  His next words became fuzzy as I processed that statement. Wow, he was right. I was a perfectionist. When he had worked with me I was endlessly fighting to prove myself every day and be flawless. No mistakes could be made. Good enough was just not in my vocabulary. I have, thank goodness, begun to evolve and grow in many ways this past year. I used to be a devout perfectionist, but now I am doing the work of recovering from this affliction and have great hope for myself in the future!

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. – Anna Quindlen

I can almost hear some of you contesting in the background. Shrugging shoulders and scoffing in disagreement. You are asking yourselves what is so very WRONG with perfectionism. Doesn’t it make you better? Motivate you? Keep you ahead of the pack at work? Some of this may be true, but what will happen if you make a mistake? If you are caught being imperfect, you will get an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. Dread and fear. You will feel a flush of heat up your neck and into your face. Shame and embarrassment. These are not pleasant feelings. You will then vow to be even more perfect, placing your nose to the proverbial grindstone and working even harder at your perfectionism. Running from shame and judgement, forever and always.

 perfectionism

Such weight of responsibility we feel from our perfect hair to our excellent, trendy choice in shoes! To look and act and live perfect lives is exhausting but you will only recognize this if you can step away. Like a long commute in for work every day of the week, you will only know the relief of the strain of perfectionism once you have stopped the daily habit. What if you could take this weight off your shoulders? What would that feel like? I know you’ve often wondered. When paired with the weight of the iron mask of my own projected self image, my attempts at perfectionism were like chains, anchoring me to a treadmill that never stopped moving. I could not step off, because if I did, I thought myself lazy, and not worthy of any positive thoughts or love. I would be judged, feel shame and there would be fear. The fear of the loss of attention for my huge efforts. I could not risk it. The consequences would be too great.

There must be some escape from this cycle of self-destruction. I can tell you that there is and I hope to show you a way. I view myself as having thrown off all but one or two small lengths of chain with both feet planted on the stationary sides of the treadmill. I hover above it, loathing the endlessly rotating belt. It stares me right in the face and I make no effort to look away. I shout out “I know you are there, and I WILL be rid of you soon.” But there is still much work to be done.

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen: Anthem

A huge step in my personal journey evolved when I discovered mindfulness. Becoming aware of your emotions and not over-identifying with them as defining who you are is very challenging and the concept needs to be adequately explained. Dr. Dan Siegel’s work on the Mindsight project is pivotal  in helping us navigate our identity : self, separate from emotion. Not ‘I am sad’ but ‘I feel sad’. Wading through a minefield of possible highs and lows every day and letting it flow. You, as a person and powerful being, afloat and in control of how much emotion you experience. The concept is life changing.

I have my children to thank for this personal evolution because becoming a new parent is one of the scariest, most vulnerable positions to ever find yourself in. Their entry into my life kick-started some amazing changes. No control, no study guide, no possible chance of perfection. I was wrong on many occasions, I needed to adapt and learn but I had no answers readily at hand. I can now very easily admit to my children that ‘Mommy should have done it differently’ and that I too, was learning.

I have historically been very hard on myself. I was never allowed mistakes and I still marvel to this day at people that can take a correction with no offense. Could I ever be that kind to myself? Could I ever love myself enough to say ‘It’s ok Christy, even with your flaws, you are good.’ ?

A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life. – Christopher K Germer

Great change and self development is always work, but it is my life’s work and it has become a new passion. I see now that perfectionism,  quite frankly, is boring and a dead end. Seeking a better motivator than temporary nods of approval, I am choosing a life free of chains, full of mistakes and laughter over my imperfection. Seeking a commonality with others on their own journey, I am learning to open up and share my ‘woops’ moments. Laughter and connection are becoming a new driving force. I am not alone anymore.

CB

Note: A good portion of my inspiration for this blog-post came from Brene Brown’s book – The Gifts of Imperfection. Reading her work can be transformational if the timing is right. Watch her first TEDx talk here.

Confessions of a Slasher – life choice or economical necessity?

Standard

I keep hearing this great ‘new’ term: Slash Careers. You’ve heard of them before but probably labelled it offhand as a bizarre life choice for that eccentric fellow you met at your spouse’s Xmas party last year. You remember the lawyer/musician/life coach? Or your odd girlfriend from university, the hairdresser/lab tech? Who are these curious oddities? How can they be living a life with more than one primary occupation? I was confused. Until I became one of them.

I discovered firsthand… there is name for my incessant need to delve into new careers and explore my unique abilities. I belong to the odd. I belong to the undecided. I belong to the unique. Or at least I did, until slash careers started to became almost the norm after our most recent economic decline. The world is moving at a fast pace. So I figure, I’m going to grab on,dig my fingernails in and go for a good ride while I’m here!

My slashing began a few years ago when I started training to teach ballroom dancing. I had already established myself in a career as a Respiratory Therapist for 6 years, so when people asked me what I did for a living, I had always said I was an RT. After I began to teach dancing, I started to find it frustrating answering the dusty old question, “So what do you do?”. Do I answer them from a perspective of pride and accomplishment for my established health care career or do I speak of my passion for dance?

My slashes appear to follow a trend of left brain intellect vs. right brain creativity (Respiratory Therapist/dance teacher). Others follow a solid-income/life-passion pattern (engineer/activist). Some just do what they have to in order to survive (entrepreneur/medical office assistant/yoga instructor).

What a fantastic way to ensure that you have something to ‘fall back’ on if one career suddenly takes a nose-dive. This is the very best kind of insurance policy…one that you use and enjoy! If your teacher/musician/writer gig doesn’t offer enough security, you can always decide to take that amazing skill of rock-climbing and love of tourism off into a new direction with an adventure travel-guide business.

But here is the ultimate question: Are people that have slash careers happier? Is this some new methodology for self-expression? Is this a way for us to live our lives with more choices, feeling as though we can have a balance between what allows us to survive and what keeps us thriving?

For myself, I say: absolutely. All of the above. I keep adding to my slash titles every year or two, simultaneously expanding on my ability to cushion another economic downturn while experiencing great satisfaction in new-found talents.

RT week2

My happy place…critical care. Stressful but awesome.

My happy place. Photo credit: Christine Bacon 2010

My other happy place- on the dance floor. Dance is my biggest passion by far. Photo credit: Christine Bacon 2010

Some people will argue that by spreading your interests too widely, you remove your ability to become great and excel in your ‘field’ . I will argue that your renewed energy and vigour for life will keep you most able to rock out any chosen career. Shaking off the mundane daily grind with variety will give a unique perspective and likely make you better at all of your careers. My personal experience was that my public speaking ability in the critical care medicine world soared after teaching full classes in ballrooms. My confidence in my physical presence and my energy to attack and perfect my presentations were at all-time highs.

So whether you are feeling the urge to ‘Lean-out’ at your go-to workplace and try something new (part-time chef-school anyone?) or you already love doing what brings home the bacon, but cannot help but yearn for a creative outlet (sculpting class?), becoming a slasher may be just perfect for you. It’s not an odd occurrence anymore to interact with a construction worker/english tutor. In fact, it is steadily becoming the norm.

Related articles:

Marcy Alboher’s website – author of One Person/Multiple Careers

Blogpost on BreatheandSmile:  Unleashing Your Many Job Identities Through the Slash! One Person / Multiple Careers

Amy Gutman’s article: – Why Have One Career When You Can Have Three? Or Four? Or More?

CB

“Balance and fall prevention for Seniors”

Standard
Any style, any time. Photo: artandsoulcanada.com

Any style, any time.
Photo: artandsoulcanada.com

I am back in the dance studio again. There are not many places in this world that I have this reaction to. When I walk into a dance studio, I feel alive. I feel nervous, light, eager, whole and centered. It doesn’t matter what kind of class it is. Dance is dance. The expression of what I feel through my body, be it celebratory, heart-breaking or passionate. It is life.

My return to the studio is taking place in an adult contemporary class. Our weekly class routine consists of an intense, mommy-chub-busting warm up followed by jumps and turns across the floor and then choreography. I couldn’t pick a favorite moment if I tried.

I am, however, experiencing the disappointment of a new inability to do endless amounts of turns across the floor. I used to be able to keep going forever. ‘Turn and turn and, turn-and-turn-and-turn and… you know the type. Spotting the wall. Crisp and perfect.

So imagine my great annoyance to find some bizarre spinning sensation at the end of the room to greet me. Holy crap! I have to fight to stay upright. Kind of like a good night out that was side-swiped by a wayward friend pushing the tequila shots. The happy moment is gone and WHAMO!  You’re left trying to keep it together and not embarrass yourself. The only saving grace in my situation was that I was apparently not alone. The other ‘adult’ dancers were feeling it too. Being all ladies and all mothers we pondered: Is this some cruel postpartum phenomenon or is it non-gender biased?

A detail from an anecdote of my husband’s glimmers in my mind. Something about a ride at the local fair that he took our 5-year-old on and almost tossed his lunch with all the spinning. So maybe this isn’t just a female affliction? 

I used our great accomplice Google to search this new, adult-onset dizziness and was greeted by a website with the heading “Balance and Fall Prevention for Seniors.” Oh nice. Right. Well I suppose that is the extreme case of what I am experiencing. Although I am far from a senior just yet.  But that heading does get me thinking about the mind and the body disconnection that begin as we age or are stricken with a disability.

I can’t help but think that if I were to practice enough, doing turns again and again, that this might improve. Isn’t there some inner-ear muscle that I can pump to give me super-spinning powers again? But that’s very unlikely. And so , I am left with an experience that is reminiscent of old days, yet subtly changed forever. But I am not swayed. Not even an inch. My physical being may not be as pristine, but my mental strength has never been so tenacious. In the realm of dance, particularly contemporary, emotional maturity can be fortifying. At age 14, my heart was relatively unclouded. It had not yet experienced great love and fear, disappointment and shame. I had not yet known immense joy or sadness.

How my heart feels when I dance Source: balletnews.co.uk Photo by Jason Trozer. Northern Ballet dancer Hannah Bateman

How my heart feels when I dance
Source: balletnews.co.uk
Photo by Jason Trozer. Northern Ballet dancer Hannah Bateman

So while I may battle with small challenges of the physical, my heart brings more power to the floor than ever before. A tiny fleck of gray on my canvas, hidden by otherwise radiant color. True art must come from the heart and as long as my body is willing I will write it a love letter every week to remind it… “Dear Body, Keep up! There is so much more to come”.

CB

Inspiration abounds – Start living authentically right now.

Standard

IMG_3662

You haven’t seen a post from me in a while. I won’t force my writing (can I call this writing?). I  grow tired of my own voice, so you will very likely tire of it too if I post uninspired crud. So, on that train of thought, I am going to speak on inspiration. Where to find it, why some of us cannot see it, why it creates different motivation and action for all of us.

I am in the midst of witnessing a rare thing for the second time this year. A child growing up and in that process, seeing, feeling, hearing, touching and doing things for the very first time. There is no better way to appreciate our surroundings than to watch someone experience them for the first time. Just standing in the breeze makes my daughter giggle. She feels the sun on her skin and asks “Ohhh, dat nice and warm?” She will hear a bird tweeting away long before I notice it. The sound has been drowned out from my senses by all the thoughts buzzing around in my head. To watch her revel in touching the fur of a soft animal with a questioning look and a slow smile is pure heaven. There is such joy and purity in these moments, so many times lost if we do not slow down to notice them.

IMG_1674   My son experiences crawling on grass for the first time!

Looking for inspiration? My suggestion is to hang out with a toddler for a few hours. Goodness knows their parents could use the rest! Take them for a walk. Know that it will be a slow, meandering trail and that the intended destination may never be reached. This is ok. Let go of the need for a path. Slow down and see the journey. Seek out things that are achingly beautiful in their simplicity and mere existence.

A fair warning. In order to slow down to the suggested pace, you will very likely have to clear your schedule. This includes setting aside your dopamine-inducing smart phone that bleeps and flashes joyful, round, red numbers at you; inferring loving words of inclusivity. Ditch it. I do not deny the benefits of technology but we must have boundaries if we expect to become more than mediocre.

Back to the point – I often write about living authentically. What does that really mean? By definition, something authentic is of undisputed origin, something genuine. So then, to live an authentic life will be something unique for us all. Not a cookie cutter lifestyle out of a magazine. Not a life of ‘success’ defined by a megamillionaire. A life lived from the heart, where you connect to your inner child who can guide you toward beauty and simple joy, this would be authentic. A life that uncovers your passions and unique connections to allow every day to be one where you help others to find the same. To find their own authentic life inspiration.

So, if we live by the ideals of others, can we find inspiration? I believe it is far more difficult. We will wait to see what inspire others first. Those that lead us. Those we believe we aspire to be. We will tend to sit back and be entertained until these ‘leaders’ find THEIR inspiration. How perfectly sub-par. Think for yourself. We have been given this basic right, so exercise it.

Inspiration creates different motivation for us all…and what a beautiful diverse world this creates. Some are inspired to move their bodies, some to build, some to show us what they feel in pictures, colors or sounds. Others may be inspired to lead or teach. They are following their passion. Living their journey in a very solid, joyful way. Doing what they love and loving what they do. How many of us find great peace or energy in the music we listen to on an iPod? We are enjoying the fruits of what was created when the musicians were inspired but also by the creation and vision of Steve Jobs!

So get inspired! Find your way to your authentic life and start making small changes today. If you have no idea where to start, contact me and I will gladly guide you toward some resources.We all deserve to experience what touches your heart and inspires you.

CB

Modern Poets

Standard

Today I had a patient quote me some poetry. It was beautiful, had a rhythmic flow and he had it memorized perfectly. It is quite sad that this is not such a common occurrence anymore. Yet we overhear poets everyday, just in a different context. Musicians can inspire with powerful lyrics. Today’s post is about song lyrics that stimulated my thoughts and emotions perfectly this week. 


“The Age Of Worry” – John Mayer

Close your eyes and clone yourself
Build your heart an army
To defend your innocence
While you do everything wrong
 
Don’t be scared to walk alone
Don’t be scared to like it
There’s no time that you must be home
So sleep where darkness falls
 
Alive in the age of worry
Smile in the age of worry
Go wild in the age of worry
And say, “Worry, why should I care?”Know your fight is not with them
Yours is with your time here
Dream your dreams but don’t pretend
Make friends with what you are

Give your heart then change your mind
You’re allowed to do it
‘Cause God knows it’s been done to you
And somehow you got through it

Alive in the age of worry
Rage in the age of worry
Sing out in the age of worry
And say, “Worry, why should I care?”

Rage in the age of worry
Act your age in the age of worry
And say, “Worry, get out of here!”

 
I am in a wonderful, positive time in my life. I am excited and building my heart ‘an army’ to allow me to persist every day in fighting for my dreams and not back down an inch. I can make mistakes and frankly, I prefer to. I am learning more about myself now than I ever have in all my 35 years. I can walk a different path. My journey is my own.