Making Yourself a Priority. Not Selfish – Vital.

As a working mother, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, friend, teacher – I know all too well what it means to live for others. And, I didn’t even realize how detrimental that was to my identity until I felt completely and utterly empty. I became a void. I felt nothing and it didn’t matter because as long as the to-do list was done and everyone else was okay – then I had accomplished my job.

I didn’t even see how poisoned I was until one little Instagram post last summer. I discussed my deep gratitude for the life I created; however, I couldn’t help but feel exhausted by all of it’s demands. The responses tremendously echoed my sentiments of feeling like all we – as working, married moms – were good for was to serve others.

How had this happened? How had two university degrees, a wonderful career, life-long learning through travel, reading and establishing meaningful connections been boiled down to cooking, cleaning, mountains of laundry, managing a household while still having to look good, keep up said career and aspirations and be gleeful about it? Fuck.

I have never not been happy. Even during the most trying times of my life – I have found an inner joy which kept me going. When I felt that flame was extinguishing – I knew I was in trouble.

Fortunately, the universe brought into my life a chance encounter with a woman whose malas I’ve purchased. And, she, with her deep intuitive knowledge, instantly read my lack of joy, my blocks and gave me some brief direction on how to deal with it.

A plan of action? Sign me up! If there’s a problem I’m the type who needs to find a way to fix it – and fast. I dove in.

Daily meditation. Daily gratitude practice. Daily journaling. Daily excavation of all the things I had buried in order to be the best mom, wife, home owner, guidance counsellor, friend…this led me to Yoga Teacher Training.

But, there were so many BUTS…the time away from the kids and home, the imposition on my husband, mother and mother-in-law to hold things down at home, the amount of reading and work and yoga practice which would take me away from my family.

BUT, the need to do something solely for me was too loud. I somehow worked things out by asking for help, by outlining clearly the time it would take, by allowing my husband to be the father I know he is and my children to know they are just fine without me. I relinquished control on the weekends I was gone – and it was amazing.

I’m just finishing up the in-class portion of my yoga teacher training. It has been a journey of self-discovery unlike any I have ever been on. Yoga has changed my life. I am deeply grateful for the women who encouraged me to go for it, for the women who were by my side for the intense 22 hours every other weekend, for my husband’s humor and complete support at home and our mothers who were there for me by being there for my family.

When I heard the words spoken by Rachel Hollis during my listening to the book, as seen in the excerpts in this post, they resonated in every cell of my body.

The message about being good for others first is delivered so quietly as we grow up, we never think to object. But it slowly eats at our soul and it is up to us to end it. Our children and husbands are happy when we are our best selves because we show up differently. The boundaries I’ve established around mommy’s meditation time and yoga time have been difficult for my children to understand – but they are slowly adjusting. And, I am so bloody happy and full when I finish meditating and my practice – that I mother & wife whole-heartedly. I am once again full of the joy I’ve always felt in my life.

I don’t want to put out the message that my life is perfect and all problems have been solved. Far from it. My struggle now lies in making time to write when my family is at home. That is a big one for me. At least I can see it and acknowledge it. And, do something about it.

In putting my needs first, most of the time(this is still a practice, after all), I can be for my family from a place of love – not obligation, not guilt, not shame, not trying to prove something…but just because I love them.

As hard as it may be, I encourage all of you to find the one thing which sparks you so brightly you feel like you want to explode. And, do it. See the excuses for what they are and lay them to rest. Be the best version of yourself for you, and magically you will be the best version of you for those you love.

Tell me what your journey has been like in the comments below!

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Living Your Life With More Ease ~ Yoga Lessons

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Yoga Lesson 1: Keep Your Eyes Open

When the pose is tough and kicking your butt, focus on one spot. Concentrating on the one spot helps you to ignore the screaming muscles. They call this Drishti.

When I first started practising, I would fall into pigeon at the end of practice, feeling the breath ripple through me and my body thanking me for making it to class. My eyes were always closed as I took in each sensation. One night the instructor said, keep your eyes open. Don’t close yourself off, even during the relaxing, releasing part of the practice. Feel everything. Keep your focus.

Hmm. We all hear about people’s fear of failure…this reminded me of fear of success. Keeping your eyes opens tells your inner self that it’s ok to enjoy the fruits of your labour, to take pride in reaping the rewards of your success. At the end of a challenging practice, we shouldn’t close ourselves to the amazing feelings of having made it by going inward and closing our eyes.

In life too, keep your eyes open and enjoy all for which you have worked.

Yoga Lesson 2: Go Into The Pose With Ease

Speaking of work, nothing should ever really feel like work. No matter how difficult the pose, nor how far you can get into it, the struggle automatically doubles when you fight it, or try to beat it into submission, or constantly think, this is so hard.

The instructor’s cues during difficult poses always include: take a breath, relax your face and smile.

The same thing happens in life, no matter how annoying the task. For example, God help me, making lunches is the last thing I want to do after a full day of being everything to everyone. So, I breath. And, I’ve actually started to express thanks for the food in my fridge which means I can feed my family, for the health to stand in my kitchen and use my hands to make this food, and for the children I’m feeding because I really wanted to have them. That’s when I smile. Voila. Instant ease. I’m still making the lunches, but suddenly, the task doesn’t feel so heavy. I’m not fighting it, but completing it with ease.

Yoga Lesson 3: Isn’t It Great That It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect?

Oooooh, this is a big one for me. BIG. The mat gets messy, and some days are ah-mazing. I    breathe, I flow, I move, I stand on my head, I nearly get my hips up for hand-stand….other days, ugh. Child’s pose please!

The point is…listen to yourself. Our bodies tell us what we need. The beat of our hearts, the pit of our stomachs, the sweat in our armpits, the ache in our guts, the constriction of our throats, the tightening of our shoulders….the list is endless. LISTEN! And, then agree that enough is just enough. And, that in itself is perfect.

Yoga Lesson 4: Have Fun

What’s the point if it isn’t? There’s always room for laughter, smiles, giggles. When we fall, when we soar…leaving room for fun is essentially what makes all of this worth it.

Any lessons you would add which have helped you navigate life with a little more ease and fun?

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The Secret to Holiday Magic is Self-Care

christmas-2910468_640I read an unsettling article on The Huffington Post entitled Holiday Magic Is Made By Women. And, It’s Killing Us.

The writer is honest about all of the ways in which the holidays, more importantly, preparing for the holiday magic, tug at her, until she is left feeling depleted, empty, with nothing left to give.

I felt so sad and helpless as I read about her experience. I also felt anger.

Most of us have been her at one point in time as we try to make everything perfect for the people we love. We do it so they can enjoy this festive season and have memories to cherish as they grow up and grow old. There’s so much magic to the holidays and we want those we love to experience all of it. We do this out of love. It’s a beautiful thing.

What’s not so beautiful is the cost. When was this unspoken expectation that it’s mom’s job to make the holiday magic born?

I asked my husband if he would do half the things the writer listed in her article for the holidays. He responded with a resounding “No fn way.” “Why not?” “Why?”

Why? indeed. It seems men understand the magic of the holidays, but aren’t prepared to burden themselves with it. Because my husband also doesn’t expect me to do it, when I prompted him further. So, why do I feel the need to do it?

December is upon us, and while some are completely ready for the holiday magic, others (like me) are still in the midst of preparing. This article served as a reminder that unless I take care of me, slow down and enjoy the holidays myself, no one around me will either.

So here’s to all the moms that make things happen. The extra touches are always nice, but are they truly necessary? Perhaps, if you’re feeling stretched during your holiday preparation time, take a moment to ask yourself, is this truly necessary?

The holidays are a time for magic, however they are also a time for family and friends. Hopefully this will help when we are in the midst of wrapping, baking, checking off the to-do list. And, in that moment of self-care, when we fill ourselves up so we can fill up the others who need us, we will feel the holiday magic.

How do you plan on making time for yourself during December? Tell me in the comments!

Wishing you a great, restful and magical few weeks before Christmas!

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Journey Into Vulnerability: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

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A very inspiring woman (lookin’ at you Jackie), eagerly/enthusiastically/totally/robustly recommended Brene Brown’s TED talk. And, now I’d love to share each one with those of you who like me, until very recently, had no idea who Brene Brown is.

I went home and immediately watched both of her TED talks on Vulnerability and Listening to Shame.

The next day I found myself at Indigo as part of my kids’ P.A.Day/Fun Day (we went to watch Coco afterwards, which ended up being awesome). We all left with a haul of books. My haul was Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection and Rising Strong.

I’m into the third chapter of The Gifts of Imperfection and will review it when I’m done…but I think you can already tell that I’m absolutely loving it. I’m feeling the fierce pull between gobble it up and go slow…take it in…a friend (who is a life coach, you can find her at Joanna Durkin) out in Alberta said she makes it a yearly read. And, I can see why.

Why Vulnerability?

I didn’t realize how damn frightening this word is for me until I started reading about it and began to feel so squirmy. The more I read and think and look at my life, it has become clear that I’ve been keeping vulnerability at bay because it means exposure.

The invitation to take a trip into my own vulnerability has been extended. And, I accept. Stay tuned for more on that topic.

Please use the links above to watch each of Brene Brown’s TED talks (about 20 minutes each). There are beautiful insights which I think we can all bring into practice with ourselves, our spouses, our children, our families, our students (for my teacher friends).

Who knows…it may spark your own vulnerability revolution.

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6 Things I’ve Learned About Motherhood

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#6. The laundry.

Oh, the laundry! If you’re just starting your family, invest in the best & largest washer/dryer set your budget allows. Stock up on your favourite brand of stain remover and be prepared to rewash a load which has been sitting in the washer for a few days or wear wrinkled clothes that never quite made it to the hanger because life.

#5. Your Calendar will never be your own again.

Play dates, birthday parties, dentist, doctor, eye doctor, practices, rehearsals, games, recitals. Curriculum nights. Due dates. Is it library or gym day today? Book orders, fundraisers, spirit days, food drives. Pizza orders, milk orders, lunch pails orders because making lunches is the bane of my existence (I wonder if that should be it’s own category?)

#4. You will shop incessantly, except not for yourself.

Because growing bodies need new clothes for every bloody season. Shoes can’t be so big they’re a danger to everyone or so small they’re outgrown in a month. You must analyze weather patterns, predictions for how cold or warm fall/winter or spring/summer will be and then say “f*%! it!” and buy whatever they’ll wear anyway because who has time for arguments about clothes in the morning. Regardless if you go thrift, mall, online, discount stores…you will shop. For them. (And don’t even get me started on gear for sports which need to be purchased months in advanced because by the time the sport is in season, every store everywhere will have every size available except the one which fits your child).

#3. The hostile take-over of your home.

Everywhere you turn there will be evidence of the people you created. And, I don’t mean the play pen, high chair, bouncy chair kind of take over because you decide where those actually go. I mean the toys. The toys! In every corner. And you may swear you will never spoil your child with toys, but everyone else will. And, of course, you will too. Regardless of how many times you sing the damn clean up song, or swear to throw it all away each time your foot is impaled by a sharp object in the middle of the night, or create a game or rewards chart or simply threaten the entire household…the toys will take over your home. (Add to that every single piece of paper they scribble on at school; the problem exponentially grows before your very eyes).

#2. The energy it all takes.

Motherhood is a continuous ebbing and needling and prodding for attention. Everyone needs something. So it’s important to put your energy where it matters.

Weaning them off needing you takes work, too: “You can pour your own cup of milk” “Try the step stool” “Did you check the dishwasher?” “The milk may have been pushed to the back of the fridge” “There’s more paper towels in the storage room downstairs”.

One thing to remember is that every battle doesn’t need to be fought: yes, you may wear a t-shirt and shorts to school on the first cold day of autumn because the cold will get you into warmer clothes faster than I ever can.

Everyone needs something. All the time. And while daddy is sitting right next to them, willing to address their needs, mommy is always the first resource. Even on the good days, the energy required to mother two children, maintain a home and a career is almost miraculous. Never mind this ambitious endeavour of writing on the side.

#1. Self-Care is paramount.

I always loved going to the gym and having “me” time…who doesn’t? I didn’t realize that it would become vital to my very survival. Making time for myself is the only way to keep from breaking down. I do that by (in)consistent yoga practice, (not so) daily meditation and writing, sprinkled with a few outings with dear friends when I can get away. I can feel my entire being rebelling when I haven’t spent the time on my mat, at my keyboard or chatting away with someone I love who is not a part of my family. It’s easy to be swept up in the feeling of being needed by your family, of being indispensable to them…but one day, they will be their own independent people (because that’s the goal, right?) and I want to still have something that’s mine, that can’t be taken away when they’re continuing their journey without my everyday care & guidance.

I think I could write on this topic forever because with motherhood the learning curve has been steep…and, oh so worth it. After all, I wouldn’t be the woman I am without my two and I have to admit, I kinda like her.

Any lessons you’ve learned you’d care to impart? How do you self-care in order to keep going?

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