“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”
— Malala Yousafzai
If we don’t speak up, who will hear us? We can apply this concept globally by pointing out injustice or inequality, for example, and/or we can make this personal and contemplate all the ways in which we remain silent in our own lives.
Warning: here comes a Marissa catch phrase… ‘Life is about compromise, but we were never meant to compromise ourselves.’ (You’ll hear that one a lot.) We all have boundaries—lines we don’t want others to cross, parameters in which we feel comfortable operating within, i.e., our comfort zones. When people cross those boundaries, negative things happen. We can get hurt—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. We can suffer from regret, guilt, doubt, anger and self-recrimination.
When people cross our boundaries, how many of us speak up? When people impose their judgements and opinions on us, or belittle us and undermine our self-worth and confidence, how many of us speak up? Family members, peers, partners, co-workers, supervisors… when people we respect and trust do this, how many of us let it pass, or speak out only in our mind—imagining all the things we wish we could say?
Speaking our truth is never easy. We run the risk of alienation and rejection—something we as social creatures avoid at all costs. But what if the cost is our own happiness and self-worth? When do we draw the line? When do we speak up for ourselves? When do we say enough is enough?
No one likes confrontation and very few people handle criticism well, but if we’ve been wronged or hurt, we need to express it. No one is above the truth. Not even ourselves. Denying the injury or pretending we are okay is a serious roadblock to healing. We need to be honest with ourselves. That stomach lurch when we consider confronting an issue is what typically stops us from going further and we gloss the matter over or sweep it under the rug. This often results in frustration or resentment.
Communication is key in a healthy relationship. If we can’t speak about what’s on our mind, or bring up questions or concerns, or point out hurt or wrongdoing then we need to examine the relationship. In my post Relationships and Monkeys, I talk to the idea of getting rid of negative relationships in our lives. But before we get to that point, we should always try to have open and honest communication with the people in our lives. It’s not always easy—for either party— but it’s necessary.
I’ve been together with my husband for 27 years. That doesn’t happen without a solid foundation of communication (plus he’s cute and funny, so that doesn’t hurt either.) We’ve built a relationship on trust and mutual respect. My concerns are not more important than his and vice versa. We listen to each other and then we reflect: How can we do this better? How can we make this work for both of us? It’s a partnership. A team effort. When one person isn’t happy, it effects the entire relationship. We also have to be humble enough to admit when we’re wrong and apologize for any transgressions. Then we have to step up and correct our behaviour. This is all about compromise. But, compromising and being compromised are two very different things.
There’s no mutual respect and trust when someone compromises our boundaries. It’s controlling at worst, and insensitive at best. Stand up for yourself. Speak up for yourself. Honour your truth.
“Keep a little fire burning, however small, however hidden.” — Cormac McCarthy, Author
I had a conversation with a wonderful classmate of mine the other day. He took an incredible risk by following his dream. He moved his family to a new country, turned down an exceptional opportunity within the organization he worked for and went back to school full-time. Most people he talked to were in awe of his decision, but he expected that. What surprised him was how many people mentioned that they too had a dream, but they weren’t ‘brave’ enough to take the chance. They couldn’t imagine doing what he had done. They kept their dreams on lockdown, tamped and filed away, labelled as fancy and fantasy.
I didn’t relocate my family, but when I made the decision to go back to school, people called me brave too. I had a hard time reconciling the word brave with my decision. I was just acting—doing. Nothing brave about that. But in a world where so many people extinguish their own fires out of fear, going against the grain or changing our entire worlds is brave and awe inspiring.
There’s an expression: “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” What we know is comfortable—it’s safe. Taking a leap on nothing more than a dream is frightening. There’s no guaranteed outcome. We could fail… miserably. Not many of us are willing to take that risk. Sometimes it’s much easier to stay the course. After all, if things aren’t terrible, why rock the boat?
Deep inside, smoldering within each of us, is a small fire. In yoga, we call it our third chakra—Manipura. Hanging out near our solar plexus, this little bundle of spit and vinegar guides our will and motivation. It drives our passion. It’s the spark, the fire that lights us up and gets us going. We can’t let that flame blow out. We can’t let our dreams die.
Most of us have heard about SMART goals. One of the keys to a good or SMART goal is making sure it’s attainable. There are short-term and long-term goals, but all goals involve making meaningful movement forward by enacting small tactics or actions toward their achievement. Dreams, on the other hand seem like far-fetched unattainable, insurmountable wishful thinking. But what if we approached dreams like goals… deliberately making small changes, small decisions, small movements in the desired direction. Passion keeps the fire burning. Even if it’s just a gentle smolder, let your passion propel you in the direction you want to go.
Dreams can come true. One small step at a time. Find ways to move in the direction of what will make you happy. Never let your fire burn out.
Relationships can be a blessing and a curse. Everything for a reason or a season comes springing to mind. This year has been an interesting journey for me. I’ve experienced many periods and areas of growth. I went back to school, bringing with it a new set of friendships. I learned some hard lessons, letting relationships fade to the background, and I made an effort to move away from negativity and drama and resettle back into a place of peace and serenity. But in order to get there, I had to make some tough decisions.
We all have a limited amount of energy, think money in the bank. Where we choose to spend it should be ‘our choice,’ but sometimes we get so caught up in other people’s circuses that we start looking after their monkeys without even realizing it. When we spend our energy on negative people, we get depleted. We run on fumes. It’s exhausting looking after everyone else’s needs and letting our own take a backseat. The bank account drops into the red pretty easily. What are we doing to pull it back inline, to receive a return on our investment?
If the relationship depletes us, then it’s a detrimental use of our energy. If the relationship lifts us up, makes us feel loved and cherished, then it’s a good investment. Relationships can bring a lot of joy and incredible happiness, but the ones that drag us into drama, heartache or struggle need to be exorcised. And I do mean exorcised. We need to lift up and out our sense of obligation, fear and/or guilt. No one needs that shit. We need to let it go.
Relationships are not obligatory—not even within our own blood family. All relationships must be a mutually beneficial, two-way, give-and-take endeavour. Each person should feel valued and appreciated. We should never stay in a negative relationship out of feelings of guilt, nor should we be holding onto toxic relationships merely out of fear of loneliness. My experience has taught me that once you get rid of negativity, life has a great way of bringing in positive experiences to fill the void—things we genuinely want and need in our lives. But we have to open up space to receive it.
Loneliness frightens a lot of people into accepting negativity. We’re so afraid of being on our own, alone with our own thoughts that we hold onto relationships that have long outlived their value. Letting go and moving on can be a scary leap. It requires faith that things will work out for the better. Think about decisions you’ve made that were frightening at the time, moments that felt overwhelming, where the outcome was uncertain. If you look back on those moments, did everything work out? Most do. And even if they didn’t seem to at the time, can you see how they led to growth, or pushed you in a new direction, or offered a new perspective? Can you see how those results can be viewed as positive as well? They may not have taken the path you had hoped for, but in the end, something positive still resulted from them—even if it’s only proof that you can overcome hardships and adversity.
The point is, we don’t have the ability of hindsight when we’re knee-deep in a situation. It takes time and distance to gain a little perspective. But if you take the leap and remove negative relationships and negative people from your life, you’ll find you have more energy, a greater sense of self and what makes you happy, and you’ll move closer to finding people who align with your beliefs and values. A positive relationship pays dividends and you’ll be richer for it.
Here’s a short video about my reflections on 2017 and 2018. It’s about 10 minutes long. If you’d rather read the post instead, I’ve included the ‘script’ below. 🙂
I don’t normally weigh in on the passing of a year. I usually recall the positive and move right on into the next year, eager to see what awaits me in the next chapter. But, for once, I am happy to see a door close. 2017 has, for many people, been a very difficult year.
For me, I’ve had euphoric highs and soul-crushing lows. I’ve watched friends struggle through pain. I’ve watched patterns repeat and lessons fall on closed minds. I’ve watched my children flourish, seen them conquer new milestones with wonder and humility. I’ve watched them falter and doubt. I’ve revelled in enduring love and had my heart ruthlessly broken. I’ve laughed for weeks on end, and I’ve cried until I’ve had nothing left to give. I’ve been sicker than I’ve ever been in my life, barely able to function for months. I’ve been witness to and experienced a lot this year.
I try to be a positive person, and perhaps to some that philosophy is syrupy or tiresome, at worse they might feel it’s plastic or fake. But I do not feel life should be spent wallowing in negativity, lamenting what we don’t have, or spending our days waiting for a future utopia that may never happen. Life is what is happening right now, where we are, with what we’ve got. To wish it away or fail to see what we do have, is a failure to truly live. And our time here is far too short for that.
I recently had a friend say to me, ‘Can you please just tell me one shitty thing about your life, so I don’t feel so bad about mine.’
I make a choice. Every day. And I choose to focus on the positive. I choose to pay attention to all the blessings I have. All the love that surrounds me.
I make a choice to valiantly and consistently purge negativity from my life, removing toxic people, toxic experiences, and toxic energy around me.
We all have a choice. Our past is not a prison. It doesn’t define us, or trap us into following a certain path, or making certain decisions, over and over again. It creates walls, yes, but every wall can fall down if the intention and will is there to dismantle and topple it. But we have to want to break down those barriers to happiness. Excuses, labels, judgements, things that keep us stuck in our comfortable loneliness, our comfortable pain, they can all be overcome.
But you have to want to change. You have to want happiness. It’s always your choice.
2017 was a difficult year. And going forward, I choose to make 2018 a year of growth and adventure, a year of clearing out the cobwebs and throwing out the clutter, finding peace in new, open spaces, experiencing the magic and wonder in every moment, letting positive energy surge into my life.
Dear Goddess: I have the best chiropractor in the world, but her ergonomic roller chair bothers me. The oversized spongy rubber ball positioned on three legs with matching polymer casters is not only ribbed but also purple. Dr. M insists that it aids in back support, but I see other sinister utilities, some of a sexual nature. Should I switch from coffee to wine?
In this instance, a potion stronger than wine is required to make peace with the purple, ribbed bulbous sponge. If you can obtain your own ergonomic roller chair, we encourage you to put it through several unconventional uses until you no longer fear the chair and instead embrace it for all its wondrous possibilities. You may then return to coffee.
Goddess keep you,
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:
I teach yoga.
I dislike vegetables.
‘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:
When I baked, I would use whole grains (see the gingerbread recipe below.)
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.
I would try and cook at least two real, honest-to-goodness nutritious meals a week.
I would blare my music and drink wine while I cooked. Lots and lots of wine.
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.
My kids could keep one favourite refined, highly-processed treat.
We would try and fill our plates at least ½ full of fruits or vegetables.
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
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?”
“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.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day, and to my friend, let me apologize … because inevitably, a friend will always end up somewhere in a writer’s musings ;).
My friend is going through a very difficult custody battle for his daughter, and a wonderful site called Ponder Central had recently posted an excerpt from our book, Life, on detachment. My friend responded to the post by saying he didn’t agree with our philosophy. He explained that he was in the middle of a terrible, painful fight and he couldn’t just let go of it.
Here’s part of the post: “Detachment is the art of letting go…When people think of detachment, they think of being insensitive, cold or emotionally void – a kind of numb, nonchalant, indifferent attitude, where we walk around and interact with people projecting an image of being aloof and uncaring. That is not the detachment I want you to embrace…” Let me also add, that detachment is also not about ignoring difficult situations in our lives, or pretending they don’t exist … as if we could. Detachment is about letting go of the pain, and negative energy and emotions, that tend to accompany these difficult rites of passage. We cannot let the pain fester.
I explained that while we may not be able to change our current situation, (at that exact moment), we can’t allow the pain to consume us. He responded by saying, pain was the only thing motivating him to fight for his daughter.
I responded gently by suggesting that perhaps it was really his love for his daughter that was truly motivating his actions.
His pain, however, is keeping him locked in a cycle of suffering. It is very difficult to focus clearly, and find objective, productive ways to move out of a difficult situation when we are knee deep in the pain, essentially only seeing red. All of our actions, thoughts and words take on a particular slant/tint when they are filtered through that anger and pain.
During one of my recent yoga classes, a student asked how to deal with anger. The key is to understand that by telling everyone how miserable we are, by talking about our ‘story,’ our ‘plight,’ by complaining, by rehashing, ruminating upon, reflecting on and in general letting the anger and pain consume us, we keep ourselves trapped in a cycle of negative energy … which if we prescribe to the motto ‘what we get is what we project’ … we will only draw more and more negativity into our experience.
The trick is to catch ourselves in the act: be conscious of our negative thoughts, words or actions. I remember, a long time ago, thinking to myself how easy life would be if I just had amnesia. I could forget all the pain, all the negativity, all the painful memories, and all the injustice. What I realized years later, was that we all have a choice. The past, the pain, the anger, the resentment, the hurt, it stays in our life because we let it … we give it room to breathe and grow. We nurture it with our thoughts and our tenacity to cling to negativity … after all misery loves company.
The wild thing, the exciting thing, the extraordinarily wonderful life changing, weight lifting thing about all of this is that we can choose to let it all go. Pain hinders us, makes us ill, makes us unhappy and unfulfilled. If we can take a leap of faith and try letting it go, try letting the pain slough off of us … for even a moment … the lightness, the peace and relief that follows will give us the confidence to let it go for good. We don’t need pain to live, we don’t need a negative past, or difficult memories. They hold us back, they keep us from thriving.
Letting go of negative emotions might involve speaking to a counsellor, (someone who is objective, as opposed to a well intentioned, but nonetheless biased friend), or something as simple as writing about it in a journal – without censuring ourselves. The key to writing anything down is to never let anyone else read it. I find it is easiest to get it all down, moan, scream, cry, swear, spit out the injustice and pain in big block letters of indignation, and then burn it, rip it up … destroy it. The process is meant to be cathartic. It is an emptying of pain, not holding on to it—in any form. Perhaps you enjoy kick boxing, or running. Maybe you like yoga or meditation. There are as many ways to release negative energy as there are ways of collecting it. Try to find a method that works best for you and make a commitment to releasing the pain once and for all!
Do you have a tried and true method for letting go of negativity? We’d love to hear about it!