Kicking Anxiety to the Curb

Kicking Anxiety to the Curb

Reading an excerpt from AVELYNN

You may not know this, but for almost a decade, I suffered from debilitating panic attacks. I didn’t know what they were at the time and every few months, I would find myself in a doctor’s office or emergency department with a plethora of reports to my name: blood work, CAT scans, MRI’s, ultrasounds, x-rays, EEGs, and EKGs. No one could figure out what was wrong, and never for one minute did I think my mind could be making me so violently ill.

It took a great deal of investigating and personal research about my symptoms to begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together. After seven years of suffering and fearing the next attack, I finally knew what was going on. I was experiencing repetitive panic attacks. Wave after wave after wave of attacks that would last two weeks at a time, keeping me bed ridden with nausea, dizziness, pain, migraines, and even a low grade fever. My mind had taken over my body and was controlling it like a helpless marionette. But knowledge is power. Once I learned what was happening, I was determined to make it stop, determined to get my life and my body back under conscious control.

One of those interventions involved recognizing panic and anxiety the moment it started. I gave my anxiety a name: Bob. I got very good at sensing the warning signs, the little indications that Bob was going to pay me a visit, and when that happened, I would dance.

My heart would race, my hands would turn clammy, and the surging wave of panic would start to build, but instead of letting it take over, I seized the reins and turned on my stereo. I cranked up the bass and danced and jumped, turned and twirled until Bob slunk back to his hiding place.

Bob doesn’t come around much anymore. But there are occasions where I still feel anxious. Speaking in front of groups is one of them.

Last night I had to get up in front of a lovely supportive group of writers and read an excerpt from my new novel Avelynn. I’m getting better at calming the nerves, but each time I get up behind a podium, I’m reminded how much I need to keep practicing. It’s like building a muscle at the gym. The more I use it, the stronger it gets.

I talk all the time in my yoga classes. I’ll ramble on about life, wellbeing, the chakras, philosophy, or even regale the class with amusing antidotes and jokes to lighten the mood during a tough set of poses. I don’t get nervous, and I can talk for hours.

Years ago I was involved in local theatre, once even delivering a monologue twenty-six, single-spaced, typed pages long. It was a feat of memorization and iron clad balls. But I did it, in front of a room full of strangers and discriminating judges. I preformed on stage in several plays, never once feeling nervous or worried about missing a line. But then out of nowhere something changed. I blame hormones.

I had just given birth to my third beautiful son when I started having terrifying dreams of getting up on stage and forgetting my lines. Despite the fact this had never before happened, the fear seeped into my consciousness, and I had to quit the theatre. Flash forward several years, and too many panic attacks to count, and getting up to talk in front of even one or two people became challenging.

I was determined to get my anxiety under control and enrolled in Toastmasters, a wonderfully supportive group that encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and lasso fear for good. I learned a lot during my time in the group. The most important? Practice makes perfect and reading out loud, in front of others, over and over again slowly desensitizes you to the fear.

I still get nervous reading, but no one else seems to notice. My hands still tremor a little, my knees still quake, but my voice is strong and confident. My relationship with public speaking is now healthy. It won’t be long before I can step back onto that stage as if it’s just another day in the yoga studio. :) xo

In gratitude,

Marissa

Show vs Tell

He was Old and Thin writing by Marissa Campbell

He was Old and Thin writing by Marissa Campbell

He sat in the rocker. Wooden and hard, the chair had a cushion of square fabric flattened by years of use. A brown and yellow afghan spilled over one corner. The fireplace crackled.

The wool cardigan tugged at his shoulders, the weight dragging down his stooped frame. His hand, the skin paper thin, freckled with age spots, and tinted blue with veins, reached into a trouser pocket and withdrew a yellowed handkerchief.

A barking cough stole his breath, and his eyes watered. He dabbed at the tears then pushed his thick glasses higher. They edged back down the sharp slant of his nose.

His gazed travelled to the frost covered window, the lead glass dimpled and thick. No warmth touched his eyes, only a passive disinterest. His mind a hopeless blank as he searched for some lost memory, something to tie him to this place.

This was a writing prompt from a wonderful workshop I took called Write to Win! presented by Ruth Walker & Dorothea Helms. I invite you to check out their website: http://writescape.ca/writescape/workshops-2/write-to-win/

The concept of the prompt was to ‘show’ us a character—as opposed to ‘telling’ us. Rather than write: ‘he was old and thin,’ create an image in the reader’s mind. I hope you see him as clearly as I do. xo

In gratitude,

Marissa xo

Christmas – ABCs of a Passionate Life

Campbell Family Christmas 2014

Campbell Family Christmas 2014

Christmas is done and gone.

I made a turkey and survived. I started cooking at 12:00pm and finished cleaning at 11:00pm. After careful consideration, while the meal was healthful: Caesar salad, turkey with wine gravy, roasted new potatoes, roasted asparagus, and sautéed brussels sprouts, I think I will revert to my lazy habits and load the family in the car and head out for Chinese Food—a delightful pastime we enjoyed two years in a row. There is no muss, no fuss, someone else is cooking, and someone else is cleaning.

Unless Christmas is like childbirth and I forget next December just how much effort and money and stress was involved, on December 25, 2015, I will be chasing my eggrolls down with a joyful, stress-free cup of green tea! ;) xo

In gratitude,
Marissa

Cooking – ABCs of a Passionate Life

Cooking for a Passionate Life by Marissa Campbell

Cooking by Marissa Campbell

Disclaimer: I don’t like cooking.

There. I’ve said it. It’s out in the open (I also dislike cleaning, laundry, and organizing but perhaps that’s best left for another post.)

Here are a few things you might need to know about me:

  1. I teach yoga.
  2. I dislike vegetables.
  3. ‘I don’t like cooking’ is such a weak phrase, I’m going to try that again—I hate cooking.

As a yoga teacher, people often assume that I love nuts and seeds and binge on berries and pomegranate, all the while sitting cross-legged. While I can certainly eat cross-legged, I can’t eat nuts and seeds, since they irritate my IBS and cause all sorts of debilitating intestinal distress, and I really don’t like pomegranates. I love berries, though. You have me there.

The truth of the matter is, I eat like I did growing up. My mother wasn’t a fan of cooking either, and I often lucked out at super time with delicacies like Kraft Dinner and Chef Boyardee. To me, that was fine dining (and way better than the stews and pot roasts my brother and I would occasionally have to endure.) Dinner was often served with canned or frozen peas and/or corn and mashed potatoes. I really hate peas. Even more than I hate cooking.

With such a varied diet, I never developed a taste for vegetables. At all. Couldn’t stand them. I even went to a hypnotist to try and convince myself I liked vegetables. I didn’t work. What did work was a concerted effort to add these foreign substances to my plate, bit by bitter bit. Several years and many failed attempts later, I can now tolerate Caesar salad, garden salad with balsamic and olive oil (this garden salad btw is just lettuce, nothing else, all right, maybe a shredded carrot ribbon or two, but no other weird crunchy substances.) I can abide mushrooms on my pizza, maybe even adding a roasted red pepper or two, or sundried tomatoes with spinach. I’ve even developed a fondness for onions, though only the Vidalia sweet ones. Regular onions continue to haunt me long after I’ve eaten them.

I love potatoes: mashed with garlic, baked with butter, scalloped with cheese, roasted with oil and herbs. I even enjoy sweet potatoes roasted or julienned for French fries. Of course, a nice chipotle mayonnaise dip is a lovely addition too.

Due to my lack of vegetables, I’m happy to fill the void with carbs and sweets. I love cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, ice cream, turnovers, cupcakes, fudge, brownies, chocolate, candy … am I missing anything?

Are you perhaps sensing a theme? I eat like crap. I’ve known for years that my bad eating habits would one day catch up with me, and I knew I had to do something about it. So, I decided to embark on a quest.

I wanted simple eating, cooked simply.

I gobbled up lots of information on the Mediterranean diet, but there were so many recipes that involved nuts, seeds and fish, I couldn’t do it. Oh, did I forget to mention, I dislike fish as well? :)

All my research and internet poking and prodding brought me to Lisa Leake and her book: 100 Days of Real Food. http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/ Lisa’s book is all about eliminating refined sugars, grains, and cooking oils and focusing on foods that contain a maximum of five ingredients (the number of ingredients are actually flexible, but they should be things you can pronounce and elements you would use in your own kitchen.) This seemed reasonable.

Armed with the book, my husband and I headed to the Whole Foods Market (a thirty minute drive from our house) and bought whole wheat pastas, organic vegetables and fruits, healthy spaghetti sauce, natural white cheeses and whole wheat flour. We even drove thirty minutes in the opposite direction to visit a mill to pick up organic whole wheat pastry flour.

With our cornucopia of plenty, we enlightened our children as to our new diet and met an explosion of discord. They would not give up their granola bars or their chocolate chip cookies. This diet was grounds for mutiny. Things seemed pretty shaky.

After listening to their grievances and realizing the amount of work involved to bake cookies and granola bars to appease their adamant taste buds—all the while juggling a wholesome dinner, oh, yeah and a life outside the kitchen—I decided a compromise was in order.

I loved Lisa’s message. I wanted on that bandwagon, but my family was ready to throw mama from the train. Here’s what we came up with:

  1. When I baked, I would use whole grains (see the gingerbread recipe below.)
  2. I would try and use the bread machine I bought several years ago. Using only whole grains, I was determined to find something that didn’t taste like cardboard.
  3. I would try and cook at least two real, honest-to-goodness nutritious meals a week.
  4. I would blare my music and drink wine while I cooked. Lots and lots of wine.
  5. My kids would eat the strange new food stuffs I was slaving over … for hours … creating a kitchen masterpiece of sauce splashes, scattered diced vegetables, discarded measuring cups and spoons, stockpiled pots and pans, and a smattering of waste products worthy of Jackson Pollock.
  6. My kids could keep one favourite refined, highly-processed treat.
  7. We would try and fill our plates at least ½ full of fruits or vegetables.
  8. I would enjoy more wine. J

This week, I made almond ‘sugar’ cookies http://foodbabe.com/2013/12/22/healthy-sugar-cookie/ and gingerbread cookies http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/001536.html. The gingerbread being a bigger hit than the almond ‘sugar’ cookies. With all the strange and new ingredients in the ‘sugar’ cookies, I knew they’d sense something was amiss.

From Lisa’s book, I’ve made Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Quinoa stuffed peppers and you know what? My kids survived. They complained. They wondered what was inside the meatballs: “Is this real meat?” possibly referring to my stint at becoming a vegetarian and only eating tofu. I honestly did try. I survived on tofu nuggets and fruit smoothies.

The concepts in Lisa’s book are not foreign to me. Reducing our consumption of refined, highly-processed foods, eliminating toxins and foods filled with antibodies, hormones, pesticides, and fungicides are things we should all be striving toward. Making time to sit down with our families, enjoying the satisfaction that comes from a meal cooked with love (yes, blood, sweat, and tears too) is a quarry worth pursuing. I can’t say for certain how this scheme is going to end, but this week anyway, I’m determined to give it my all.

So by now, you might be wondering how this affects you. Here’s another C word “Christmas.” In tandem with this festive season comes lofty expectations and constant stressors. Part of that equation might involve cooking for family and friends. For instance, I’m cooking a turkey (truly my nemesis) but I’ve learned that by compromising, by accepting my limitations and not sweating the small stuff, I can make it through this ordeal relatively unscathed.

Turkey is a lot of work, but fortunately, I’ve learned my lesson and my expectations are low. My side dishes will not be ready at the same time as the main event, and the entire process will be long and involved … but I’m not stressing about it. Whatever will be will be. The same with my real-food cooking experiment. Our family met in the middle. I realized cooking for hours every day was going to be impossible and would set up unrealistic expectations that would add a ridiculous amount of stress to my life—something I strive to eliminate and reduce at all costs.

The house doesn’t have to be perfect, nor does the main course and trimmings. Things may not look like what we had in our minds, and often that’s a good thing. We are, many of us, perfectionists by nature and very hard on ourselves when things don’t turn out the way we expected. Lose the image and be happy with whatever manifests. Let go of expectations and the pursuit of perfection. Be flawed. Accept that. Revel in that.

In the grand scheme of things, life is short. Worrying about minor details is trivial and wasted time and energy. Enjoy being with the ones you love and let go of the end result. Living a passionate life is all about going with the flow and loving the moment. Have fun with it. See where things take you.

Remember when you were young? When you used to ride your bicycle down a big hill and you closed your eyes and lifted your hands from the handle bars. Remember the feel of the wind on your face, the sound of the air whooshing past your ears, the sense of freedom, of invincibility, that anything was possible. Life’s meant to feel like that—wondrous, thrilling, exciting, and fun. Find a way to let go of the handle bars. Loosen your grip. Close your eyes and fly.

Who knows where your passionate life will lead you. :) xo

In gratitude,

Marissa

Avelynn: It’s coming!

Avelynn; it's coming!

Avelynn; it’s coming!

Balance – ABCs of a Passionate Life

Balance by Marissa Campbell

Can too much of a good thing really be bad?

Chocolate? Perish the thought.

Time with good friends? Never.

Shopping? Say it isn’t so!

Yet, I am loath to say that yes, indeed, too much of anything isn’t good. We need balance. A little of this, a sampling of that, a pinch of something old, a smidge of something new. Taken all together it creates a wonderful harmony, a delicious symmetry in life.

Too much work causes stress. Too much worry and fear leads to disease. Too much blood, sweat, and toil leads to disillusionment and dissatisfaction. There must be time to enjoy ourselves, to stop and smell the roses. To nap, to read, to play. There must be passion and motivation to drive us toward our dreams but we must seek to find a work ethic that maximizes efficiency yet allows ample time for relaxation.

The most disheartening word I hear often is ‘guilt.’ We feel guilty if we take time for ourselves. We feel we should be doing something else—slaving toward financial freedom, toiling toward the next rung on the corporate ladder, striving and struggling for the bigger house, the prestige, the title, the coin. Ambition is a wonderful thing, but not at the expense of our souls, our life force, our passion, and our enjoyment of life, with all its wondrous experiences waiting for us to savour.

Yes Man with Jim Carrey is a wonderful movie, filled with inspiration. A reminder that fantastic things happen when we stop trying and just let life happen, giving into the moment, allowing ourselves to experience. I try and say yes to each new opportunity that flows my way, not worrying about why they are presenting themselves. If it is something I am interested in, or find entertaining, I will usually give in to the experience, and rarely am I disappointed. While I appreciate, I can’t spend every waking moment smelling the roses, I make sure to grab each opportunity as it arises and make space for the unexpected and pleasurable.

Take a nap. Read a book. Go for a walk. Dance in your living room. Laugh over lunch with a friend. Put the work down. Breathe. Live. Enjoy. Relish a quiet moment. Break the mold. Rebellion is exhilarating. :)

In gratitude,
Marissa xo

ABCs of a Passionate Life – Awesome!

An Awesome Life by Marissa Campbell

An Awesome Life by Marissa Campbell

To take my one-word-a-post concept even further, I’m going to attempt to go through the entire alphabet, highlighting the keys to an abundant, passionate life one word at a time. And to start this crazy train off right, I’m picking the word: Awesome.

I love the word awesome. I remember meeting someone who said that awesome was overused. He complained that we had lost the original meaning of the word and it was just superfluous. Bummer, man. Seriously.

Here’s what my tried and true, 1977 edition of The Living Webster has to say: Awesome: Inspiring awe; as, an awesome display of talent; characterized by awe. Now let’s flash forward a few years to my 2006 edition of the Oxford Canadian Dictionary: Awesome: 1. Inspiring awe; 2. slang excellent.

Great, fantastic, excellent, wonderful . . . these are all good, but awesome? That hits the spot. It’s a simple word expressing supreme awesomeness!

“How do you feel today?”

“I feel awesome!”

“How was the concert?”

“Totally awesome!”

“What kind of day would you like to have?”

“I’d like to have a lovely day.” or

“I’d like to have a wonderful day?” or perhaps

“I’d like to have a wicked, totally freaking awesome day today!”

Even if we added all the adverbs to lovely, wonderful, or great, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it. And who’s to say we have lost the original meaning of the word? I’d love each day to inspire and create awe in me. I’d love to be blown away by life, in awe of each moment. I want my life to be most excellent, dude. I want it to be freaking awesome!

Far from being overused, this word isn’t used nearly enough. Why? Because most people don’t feel awesome every day of their lives. We get too bogged down in expectations and demands. We force ourselves to fit into other people’s visions for us, to allow their judgements to influence our behaviours and our choice of words, clothes, actions, careers, music, etc. We can’t be awesome when we are giving up our authenticity, or our passions and dreams. There’s no room for awesome there.

Awesome stems from being enlivened by life, by allowing our passions and dreams, our goals and desires a place to grow and flourish. When we allow others to tamp down our vitality, it’s very difficult to find awe in our daily lives, to find awe in each moment. But if we plant our feet firmly on the passionate path, staying true to what makes us happy, being honest with ourselves and others when we explain what we need and what we want out of our relationships, careers, etc., we will find that life can and should be totally awesome.

In gratitude,

Marissa xo

A Passionate Life

 

A Passionate Life

A Passionate Life

Years ago I started a little blog over at www.lifelivinginfulfillmenteveryday.com to help celebrate the wonderful message in my book Life. But it’s really hard to juggle two blogs at a time, so from this point forward, all things Marissa Campbell will be held in a nice, neat, and convenient place: here. :)

When I started on the path to writing Life, I had a plan. I wanted to live a passionate life. I wanted to feel the wondrous love of living. I wanted to experience the delicious scoop-full of vitality in my daily life. Part of the quandary was recognizing and appreciating what I already had, another part was looking for new and unique ways to bring more joy and fun into my life.

My philosophy is simple. Follow what feels good to you, what feels right. This cannot be done in a vacuum, we have to be considerate of other people’s feelings, but we also have to be considerate to our own and live our life authentically, being true to who we are and what we need and want. There must always be compassion for others as we embark on this passionate path, but we cannot compromise ourselves in the process.

As I sallied forth into this gloriously passionate life, I figured I would reflect and blog about things that I have experienced or insights I’ve had. I’ve tweaked and messaged my original idea and have come up with a new concept. Going forward, I will pick a word and expound upon it, and in my own unique and humble way, I’ll give you the nitty-gritty on feeling giddy. :)

Stayed tuned, and join me in a passionate life!

In gratitude,

Marissa xo

 

 

Let’s Make a Deal!

New Historical Fiction by Marissa Campbell

New Historical Fiction by Marissa Campbell

I am thrilled to announce that Avelynn will be published in the fall of 2015 by St. Martin’s Press imprint Thomas Dunne Books. Gratitude and much love and respect to my wonderful agent, Margaret Bail, of  Inklings Literary Agency.

As a reminder, here’s a little ditty all about Avelynn. Can’t wait to see it on the shelves!

Avelynn wants equality. She wants love, respect, and the freedom to choose her life and follow her pagan faith. Unfortunately, she lives in Anglo-Saxon England.

It is the year 869, and Somerset has flourished under twenty years of peace. But with the whisper of war against the Vikings threatening their security, Avelynn’s father makes an uncompromising decision forcing her into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status.

As tension mounts between her unwavering convictions and Demas’s ambitions, Avelynn stumbles into a passionate affair with Alrik the Bloodaxe, a Viking warlord. In a summer of awakening passion, Avelynn finds the love and respect she craves, while Demas’s tactics to possess her become more desperate and increasingly brutal.

Avelynn challenges the country’s most powerful men, disregards the Christian church, leads an army into battle, and faces Alrik on the battlefield. Passion and desire come at a high cost and through her inexorable choices and actions, Avelynn risks losing everything she values most.

Set within the social and political turmoil of Alfred the Great’s England, Avelynn brings the Dark Ages to light and illuminates one woman’s passionate struggle to fight for what she believes in.

Join me for a wonderful journey into ninth century England and on the road to publishing!

In gratitude,

Marissa xo

 

Good-bye

Goodbye: A short, short story by Marissa Campbell

Goodbye: A short, short story by Marissa Campbell

Raindrops glisten and plop, falling off glossy leaves. My boots shuffle, the dirt loose under foot. The shovel rests against a slender sapling in silent vigil. A smooth grey rock, streaked with veins of pink and white, placed with care—a reminder. The peony weeps velvet blossoms. The air is still, heavy with damp. The clouds mourn, mixing with my tears. Plop, plop. I clasp the worn collar in my hands, the leash limp hangs by the back door. Good-bye.