Gallery-Written · Life · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care · Uncategorized

Lessons in Letting go.

The other day I was playing fetch with our puppy. Despite my inconsistent training she’s proving to be a very clever dog. I throw the ball, she runs to get it and when I yell “come” she brings it back to me. The part we’re still working on though is “give.” Most of the time she grips the ball firmly in her teeth and she holds on. If I try to forcibly pull the ball from her teeth she resists, or she pulls back. She will not share the ball until she is ready. But I’ve found if I gently hold the ball, while reminding her to “give” she seems to come to an understanding that the game can resume if she lets go. As we practice she comes to this realization quicker and quicker.

And as we played it got me thinking about what I let go of, and what I hang onto in my own life. Not unlike the dog I/we want to enjoy the game. And I don’t know about you, but when I started out regardless of what was happening I was all about the game. I would run after lots of things with vigour. But I can be a stubborn bitch too, ha! When it comes to releasing, I often struggle to let go. Somethings I can let go of easily. Usually the lighter things, the joy, the achievements. I can face them easily, I can even share them and talk openly about them, knowing that these things put me in a good light. I accept them and the game resumes. But other things I find difficult to let go. The darker parts of myself, anger, resentment, shame, my efforts to control (sometimes in the name of good or love), looking for validation, begging for attention, feeling embarrassed about all of the above and again the anger that has been an ever present companion in my grief. All of the things I/we might wrestle with. So maybe we hide them. Not just from others, we try to hide them from ourselves. Or we defend or deflect, we right fight, or shove them deep down so we don’t have to face it. We bare our teeth, and if anyone tries to get in there and look at what we are holding onto we resist. It seems no one understands why we must keep holding tightly to it. So we pull back, or we fight, or we twist ourselves up so no one can get it. No one must see it. But before we know it this friendly game of fetch and release, has become a tug-o-war.

Sometimes it’s internal, and it affects our physical and mental health (ahem, me). Sometimes it’s external, maybe we lash out, blame, runaway or hide. most likely it’s a combination. And we think we have no choice.

So we hold on. But I’m discovering if you hold onto it, you never get to escape it. Somehow, someway it’s right there even if we run from it. And you start to think the people around you are to blame. Why do they always have to test you? If not them, is the universe testing you? You find yourself thinking, “Seriously? What the f*ck!” all the damn time.

I’ll give you an example from my own life. My husband and I have been trying for another baby off and on for the last several years. The last couple of years I had been working really hard on myself, and my health issues. We were doing what we could and seeking fertility treatments. I couldn’t let go of this picture in my head of having another. But I started to realized the dream was getting in the way of enjoying what I had right in front of me. I would either feel really good and clear, or really bad and confused about everything (not just fertility). So after a lot of thought I finally decided to call it quits, I called the clinic and canceled the treatments for the cycle. And I thought I was ok with it. But I kid you not, the next several days I could not escape pregnant women. Every woman I see is pregnant. And then the final kick in teeth. Not even a week later, several people I know announce their pregnancies. One of which is a teenager, and the other is a drug addict. And while that news is great for them, I think my head almost exploded. I was home alone so I lost it. I beat up our garbage can while trying to rage clean. I went to town and tried to distract myself, but I couldn’t stop crying. I was bawling in traffic so I turned around and went home. I think I had let go of the dream, but I hadn’t let go of the emotional toll that infertility brings. Those emotions where just waiting to explode.

I had felt so angry and scared, knowing it’s not fair, ashamed of myself for secretly hoping the drug addict would miscarry, feeling that I’m not worthy as a woman if I can’t do this easily, fearing maybe I’m not worthy as a mother. I still hadn’t faced those things because they are so ugly. And what if I find out they are true? So I held them right there in my teeth, and as I resisted letting them go they persisted. And despite the struggle it’s so hard to admit that we are the only one standing in the way of game. By holding onto those emotions we stand in the way of our own peace and happiness.

But here’s the good news. I’m also discovering we always have a choice. And you don’t have to become a hermit or tell off every person you encounter. Because friends it’s never about “them,” or those things that happened to you. This is about you and how you feel about yourself after they happen.

I had previously deemed light as good or beautiful, and dark as bad or ugly. So I hid what I thought may be perceived as dark. Or I focused my energy on trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong, what was good, what was bad. But by doing so I denied the dark, and in turn I denied a part of myself. And the more I hid it (or the more I lashed out), the more I held onto what I believed were dark emotions. And the more I held them close, the more they blinded me. It became harder and harder to see or fully experience the light. And although at times I’ve wished it wasn’t so, I’m coming to accept that I/we are and will always be a combination of light and dark. And as I peel back each layer in this self discovery journey, I find more and more light and dark. Sometimes it’s not easy to let go, and as I learn I often make mistakes. Like I said, I’m stubborn. But now when I’m playing the stories in my head on repeat and I feel a lot of emotions bubbling up, I know there is something I’m holding back. So instead of fighting it, I gently hold myself there. I try to be aware of it, accept it as it is. Just cry, or yell, just feel it. I know I won’t let go until I’m ready. So I lay more love on it. I ask myself why I feel that way, I ask myself what I need, and if there’s anything I can do. And lately I’ve found it really effective just to look at myself in the mirror and say, “I was there and I acknowledge those feelings, thank you for the experience, I’m willing to let that go now.”

And while it’s taking a lot of patience and practice on my part, I keep getting better at it. And each time I let go, I accept myself more, I love myself more, I feel stronger physically and mentally. And the award for all of this hard work; I notice more and more light as I get back in the game. So bring it on self! Let’s play ball!

What are you holding on to? How do you let go? For those of you that are struggling with the chronic condition we call life today. I hope you can find enough self compassion to love yourself in whatever way you see fit. When life gets heavy, let love do the lifting.

Love you,

Jessie.

Gallery-Written · Life · Marriage · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care · Uncategorized

Dark Nights

From my “Dark Nights” collection.

Thankfully I’m not in this place anymore. But as I was going through some of my things I found this. There are others, little rhymes that scratch at the surface of how I’ve felt in the past. These are things I didn’t dare to share before. I was too ashamed. I would try to hide these parts of myself from my husband, the guilt, the shame, jealousy, resentment. Feeling like he’d never understand. So I tried to keep a lot of heavy emotions at bay and honestly I didn’t just hide from him, I hid from myself for years. In the light of day I’d try to white knuckle it, and mostly do ok. But I might blow up at the kid or curse out my husband under my breathe. And I’d wonder why they always gotta be testing me? Ha!

And then other days I didn’t do so great. I’d criticize everyone, society, my family, sometimes even my friends choices. There’s always something else you can focus on. Someone else you can criticize. For some reason in the light of day we think we can look outside of ourselves for the problem. But on the dark nights you can’t see anything but what’s inside of yourself.

And sometimes lately I’m still frustrated with myself, as I sift through years of mental build up I just want to get to the finish line. But I’m coming to realize there is no destination to get to in this life. Just more understanding. And as I re-visited this poem I was amazed and really proud of how far I’ve come. I want to share all of it, and I’m caring less and less how it’s judged. I’m getting to a point where I can honestly say I’m grateful, I’m thankful for all of it. The highs, the lows, the light and the dark. I can see how much I’ve risen above this moment, and as I give thanks, I feel a renewed sense of purpose to reach for the next experience. ‘Cause now I know the answer is never out there, it’s always, ALWAYS in me.

Love, Jessie

Gallery-Written · Life · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care · Uncategorized

To all of the people I knew before.

To all the people I knew before.

This is goodbye.

Goodbye from the girl you thought you knew that is. You know the girl that was holding back. Welp, I don’t know how to say this, except to just say it.

She’s dead.

Ha! You see, something weird and wonderful has happened. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly how to describe it though. So I’ve just been letting myself live it. And it’s been overwhelming in the best possible way. I find myself just bursting into tears because the sky is so beautiful. Seriously. And I know some of you might be thinking that the cheese has finally slid off the cracker. And to be honest I have felt like I’ve been flirting with the edge of madness for years. But I promise you that the cheese is right up on there, and I am eating that shit up. Because, well, it’s delicious.

But let me back up a bit. I want to tell you a story, to help you understand where I was. It’s a bit of a mouthful but I’m hoping if you stick with me you’ll see it’s all worth it. For those of you that have been following along, you know I started this project as an outlet for the pain and grief I had experienced throughout my life. I had kept it a secret initially, as I’m definitely not a writer. And honestly I was scared to share this side of myself. But sharing my feelings and my story was therapeutic, and art fed my soul. What I haven’t shared though, is that I have been battling big emotions, and either trying to manipulate my environment or make everyone get along for as long as I can remember. I would never peg myself as a victim though, in fact I would tell most people I had a great life. And despite it all I am resilient as fuck, and have managed quite well for myself (and alongside my husband). What I didn’t often share though, was that this life of mine had never felt like a charmed one. I was surrounded by addiction and the disfunction that goes along with it as a kid. While my mom worked evenings and my sisters found reasons to stay out, I would often stay home. I’d put my drunk Dad to bed after school. I’d clean the house or act silly, noticing that if I could make everything nice, and make everyone happy, our home would be peaceful and much more loving. But the murder of my Grandma due to domestic violence shook me up. I had just turned eight. It was confusing and scary. And then, just as my Dad was getting a handle on his addiction, he died. And despite his flaws I had loved him as much as I’d ever loved anyone. I still do. His death broke my heart. After that, despite my efforts to get on with it, life just seemed like an endless series of unfortunate events. I was kind of embarrassed about it, but I had no drive to become anything. I just wanted to work mediocre jobs. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in my early twenties. I was married to my love, but I struggled to navigate my role as a step parent to the son he had been blessed with as a teen. I was always worried our distance would make him believe he was hard to love. Which of course was never the case. He was incredibly easy to love, which just seemed to make everything about the situation seem more difficult. And I made many bad choices in my life, which I’ll get to later. But I tried to do better too, even though my self shame often got in the way. I had dealt with anxiety since I was a kid, and would freeze up in most new situations. I thought I was managing it, but I was so afraid to fail or look stupid, I wouldn’t try anything. If I did go anywhere I would hide these fears with my big personality, or by talking a mile a minute. In the same way I would entertain or manipulate my family to keep the peace, I could fool everyone. Then I suffered through many years of infertility before doctors discovered I had a pituitary tumour (on the underside of my brain). But thankfully this discovery and it’s treatment helped me to enjoy the pregnancy I’d always wanted. Only to have my bliss interrupted by postpartum depression and rank hormone shifts for years following his birth. And so the cracks began to show, I was angry all the time. I felt unworthy as a mom and wife. It took a toll on my mind, my body, and my marriage. Then my sister died. And although I didn’t really let many people get close to me anyway, it seemed like everyone was always leaving me. My brother in-law battled a cancer scare. My father-in law died. A diagnosis of PCOS, during another battle with infertility. My entire family seemed fucked. Everyone of us, was sick or in pain. And despite years of trying to make everyone see eye to eye, it all seemed to be unraveling. And my own mind was split. I loved everyone so much. But I couldn’t be everything, (or anything) to most of them anymore. I was too tired, so I just stopped trying. But I also felt like I might explode. I either wanted to go yell at everyone in the world, or just cry. I usually just cried. I felt completely misunderstood, and utterly alone. Physically, I felt like shit all of the time. I was always swollen. I kept getting rashes all over my face. I was always tired no matter how much sleep I got. Some days I struggled to walk. I tried to get help. And I’m a good patient, I took my medicine faithfully and followed their advice, but I never felt good. I told the doctors I couldn’t live like this anymore. The more empathetic doctors offered anti-depressants and more medication, to deal with the effects of the other medicines. But most of them treated my complaints like an annoyance. I felt that ultimately I was on my own.

So I’d scratch and claw my way to health, to love, to life. Which is how this project was born. Self care became my health care. And although I’d get little glimmers of light, sometimes even believing I might be on the right track, something else would happen and I’d be down again. I kept telling myself to accept it all, “it is what it is,” I’d say to myself.

I’d try to live my life through the lens of love, but it seemed so many things were outside of my control. These things kept affecting my life. So all too often I would fall back into fear. Life seemed so unfair, I was so mad, and so filled with pain. I was so scared of disconnection, and the thought of losing another person I love. But I hid it fairly well, and I would try to have a good time and ignore my anger. But the reality was that I was always prepared to throw down and fight anyone that I deemed as a threat. And it seemed like more and more things were bothering me. I couldn’t get off of the complain train anymore. Being around people took up so much energy, I rarely spoke to anyone. It was too risky. At the same time I thought I had it all figured out, and they were all wrong. Alot of these people said they were “healed,” and “saved,” that they knew the “truth.” And just as could use my intuitive powers to sense emotions, build people up, entertain or help them co-exist, if I was mad or scared enough, I’d employ my skills to knock those threats down. I had read the same books they had, and I knew how to hit where it would hurt the most. I would think“I have to show them!”

I’d think, “How can they be so blind?”

“Why can’t they see how mean, how manipulative, how judgmental and controlling they are?”

I thought my good intentions made it ok. I desperately wanted to lead by example, and I had the right idea. I knew that love was the answer. But for the first time in my life I didn’t care if anyone saw me as the bad guy, because I thought if I felt I was right and they were wrong it was ok. And despite feeling morally superior at times, for some reason I also felt more and more that I was becoming a walking dead girl. A shell of who I was, and wanted to be. I wasn’t suicidal or anything, I just didn’t want to be here anymore. I knew if I didn’t do something soon I would be fucked. So I screamed up into the sky, asking what the fucking point is. I cried, and I begged for help, over and over.

And then in the midst of this embarrassingly lame existential crisis, something weird started happening. It seemed like I started getting answers. I had been seeing repeating numbers for the last several years. And while I hadn’t taken much stock in those things, now I couldn’t escape them. My phone would buzz to life by itself. I started to see little blurbs about local healers and natural healing every time I went online. So I got on the waiting list for a naturopath, and I started acupuncture. I started doing affirmations and working more intensely on self love, self control, emotional intelligence and body love. I started feeling a lot better, but I still felt like my focus was all over the place. Something was holding me back and I just didn’t know how to let it go.

I finally saw the naturopath though, and we made a plan for my health. Which included my emotional health. I had done talk therapies, and felt I’d gone as far as I could with it. So she suggested I check out energy healing. I was open to it, and I left her office with a plan. I was feeling cautiously optimistic.

I started to do the work. And following some energy healing, I was struck with this moment of extreme clarity. My entire life flashed before my eyes. And all of the things I had been struggling with bubbled up and I felt myself let go of them. I could see while I’d been doing a lot of things since I was a little kid to make life seem easier, I had in fact been holding in a lot. And eventually holding back a lot. And I could keep looking for people or things to blame, or I could face the fact that all of the really long term damage I had done to myself. The release was uncomfortable, as big emotions often are. And it was scary letting go, because if I let go of Jessie the sick person, Jessie the comedic relief, or the fixer, then who was I?

But I knew it would set me free.

I suddenly realized all of these things hadn’t happened to me, they had happened for me. And each diagnosis had been a wake up call. And anyone that knows me well, knows I don’t like phone calls. It usually takes at least three calls,(hoping you’ll just text me instead) before I finally pick up and see what you want. And so, true to form, that’s what I did. I had ignored each call, until I couldn’t stand to ignore them anymore. But I finally took the call. I knew I was either going to die, or learn to love myself, learn to accept myself, learn to be myself. I could suddenly see that all of my external struggles where in fact a mirror to my own internal struggle for self love. It’s like everything I had been through, and everything I was doing, was this gift that had been coming together. A lesson that I needed to learn. Feeling unworthy, made me realize my worth. Feeling like I wasn’t accepted, pushed me to accept myself. Feeling lonely, made me realize the joy of my own company. Feeling unloved pushed me to fall in love with myself. And while everyone else was on there own path, I could see how all of our paths were interwoven. I felt so much love for everyone. Any anger or frustration, or push to control seemed to evaporate. I was filled with so much compassion for them, I could clearly see that they were all reacting through their own fear and pain, just as I had been. I knew I could forgive them. And I knew I could forgive myself. I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. ALWAYS! And so were they. I realized the only role I had to play in anyone’s life, was to love them.

This beautiful release and a lot of emotions continued for several days. Every time I’d meditate I’d have very clear memories of love and of friendship. It was overwhelming. I could see even more clearly how those moments of love had saved me. A few days after (what I’m calling my awakening) though, it sort of occurred to me that I’m still human. Ha! I would still have to experience grief, sadness, and frustration, but now I could also experience joy and pleasure. And while I started to worry about falling back on my old methods, I stopped myself. I even considered deleting everything I had previously written or created, because I just didn’t feel any attachment to those feelings anymore. But those things had also gotten me to where I am right now, so I knew I couldn’t regret them. And I realized I’m still going to be learning. But it’s like I’ve been scrubbed clean, and now I just need to see where this new chapter is going to take me. And I’m so glad y’all are hear to join me. I will eventually be sharing more stories and creating more art. And I am certain I will be healing, and not just emotionally. I believe my health will heal as I do. But like I mentioned earlier, I’m also just letting myself live. I’ve decided the best thing I can do with my time right now is to bask in the summer sun, while my son looks for a lucky four leaf clover. And all I can do is to smile as I watch him, knowing we don’t need it.

Gallery-Written · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care · Uncategorized

Holding back.

Hey all, Jessie here. Just keeping it sexy in Sask! Ha! 😄 I was out for my walk and I was thinking about what I’m doing with this page. If you’ve been here awhile you’ve heard me say before that I just wanted to make art and feel good. And that’s true, that’s the goal. But lately it feels like I’m all over the place, and so is this blog. The blog is about life though, and trying to figure out how to live my best life, so maybe that’s ok? Maybe this is a part of the process? I keep thinking about why I started this project. There are so many reasons. But a big one was that I just felt so restless. I’m somewhat isolated and often alone and although I would try not to, if I did express loneliness or try to connect through social media on my personal page I just ended up feeling even more lonely, embarrassed and misunderstood. I guess I started wondering if anyone really values my presence or even my voice. Don’t get me wrong I know there are people who care about me, but I’ve never felt like anyone really gets me. It’s not their fault though. I don’t really let anyone see all of me. Too often I hold back, or I bend and mould myself into some preconceived notion of who I think they expect me to be. And though I created this as an outlet, and it’s been surprisingly therapeutic, there’s still a loud voice inside of me screaming ‘who the fuck do you think you are though? What’s the point of this? You’re just some goofy girl with mediocre talents from some small town. Why should anyone care about your voice?

And so I hold back. Back from the fierce as fuck, confident, fun and powerful self that I know is in me too. Back from the stories, thoughts and projects I want to do and share with y’all. Sometimes I get on a roll and come out of the cave, but before long I crawl back in because I fear an eye roll on your end, afraid of some silent vibes that I’m a bit too big for these boots.

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I’ve been told I’m ‘too much’. That I’m too silly, too serious, too chatty, too shy, too childish, that need to stop complaining, be more positive. I’m an all vibes are good vibes kinda girl, in a ‘positive vibes only’ kinda world. And I myself have thought I should be different, hold back. But I’m kinda starting to think——F*ck all that?

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I think we are all meant to shine. Something deep down feels like I’m meant for something bigger, that there’s more to life than ‘this’. Something in me so badly wants and needs to share my message with the world, it’s there just waiting to break free. But there’s also something deep down holding me back.

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Sometimes I feel like I’ll always be an amateur at everything, whether it’s art or adulting, ha. But I’m wondering if maybe the problem isn’t that I don’t know what to do. It’s that I know what to do but I’m still not doing anything about it. I set up bullshit barriers like I’ll do it tomorrow, I have to clean my entire house first, or maybe I just end up watching all the series on Netflix with a bar of chocolate or three (how did that get there). Or I fill up my entire schedule without giving myself a minute to breathe so I can put off doing the shit that is going to bring me closer to my dreams. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Cause the truth is, the only person holding me back from living my dreams is me. I can tell myself all the affirmations, repeat all the mantras and visualise all I want. But if I don’t actually get my subconscious on board and clear these blocks I’ll be f*cked. I’ll continue going round in the same cycle of feeling like I’m being torn in a million directions, feeling stuck and unsatisfied because I’m not living to my full potential and sharing my light with the world.

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And I guess that’s why I’m still here.

Maybe if I’m here I’ll push myself to let it all hang out. Maybe something I share can help you suffer less than I did. Maybe you’ll feel like you’re not alone. Or you’ll be smart enough to learn from my mistakes and be more forgiving of yourself when you make your own. Maybe you’ll see me questioning everything under the sun and you’ll say damn I do that too—we should stop doing that, ha! I dunno, I just know I want to see more stories like mine, someone who is still battling their demons, and trying their damndest to win. And if I want that, maybe someone else out is waiting to hear my story too. Maybe we can cheer each other on and watch each other turn our pain into something beautiful. That’s all I want. And hopefully one day you’ll look at this page and say look at her—just living her best life, spreading love and being so authentically true to herself. And maybe you’ll think you can too!

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Hey all! Thanks for being here! I’m happy to report that some things have changed. So I hope you’ll also check out https://smartandsmitten.com/2019/07/21/to-all-of-the-people-i-knew-before/

Gallery-Paint · Gallery-Written · Life · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care · Uncategorized

Understanding and Improving my Approach to Conflict.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my approach to conflict. I usually use humour to deflect or diffuse arguments. And it works, so I rarely get into arguments. I rarely debate. And I try to avoid giving my energy to opposing someone’s opinion. As my mother in law once said, “you’re likely just gonna waste your breath trying to change a mind that’s already made up.”

But as you’ll often here me say, I am a fence sitter. I’m a woman of many shades. So, while I have gone out of my way to diffuse situations for others. I also get overwhelmed by conflict, and have isolated myself at times to avoid it all together. A friend recently said that I’m spiritual enough to pray for y’all, but probably still hood enough to swing on you too. Its a bit of a problem. One I’ve been trying to work on, but one that is kinda confusing. It’s not easy to have a good cop/bad cop reaction playing out in your brain, simultaneously, pretty much all the damn time.

Around this time last year I found these two beasts wrestling with one another over the meaning of a quote that my sister had shared on Facebook. Ironically, I thought it was about what comes out of you, and how you react when things go to hell. An old family friend, felt it had another meaning, and went about saying so in a way that I found abrasive and unnecessarily rude. So I questioned him, I could have just scrolled on and let him be wrong but I didn’t. And ultimately we just ended up trading barbs, and by the end we still disagreed. By the next day though, I realized how ridiculous the entire thing was. I tried to make a joke out of it, but that pissed him off more, so I apologized to him. I told him that I wanted to believe because he had said something I thought was rude and mean, I had the right to knock him down in an effort to stand up for my sister.

And from the start I could have just said that. But when I responded to his comments on that quote, I knew that, that wasn’t what I was doing. I knew deep down, that a part of me also really wanted to put him in his place. I went into it telling myself I was just asking questions, hoping to understand his comment better. But that’s not what I did. I was mad, and when I’m angry I rarely take the time to think about anything other than where I’m gonna hit you below the belt. And if I feel I’ve knocked you down a peg, I might start to think I’ve won. It’s like this old arcade game I used to play at the nearby ski hill when I was growing up. I don’t even like video games, but I was a hopeless skier and snowboarder (and I was poor and couldn’t afford that shit anyway). So while friends enjoyed the slopes, I actually got pretty decent at “Mortal Combat.” And sometimes when I argue I think of it. If you can throw your opponent off balance, you’ll hear a voice commanding you to “Finish Him!”

I’m not particularly proud of this method of operating. And I guess that’s why it keeps bubbling up. I’m realizing that if the objective of my discussion is to win, I usually end up being the loser. Even if I sway them to take on my point of view, I will often end up feeling guilty, regretting how I spoke or treated the other person. I’m also realizing that although I want to evolve into a more loving person, it takes emotional maturity, it takes time, it takes knowledge, and it takes practice.

Practice I’m not going to get if I hide out and isolate myself all of the time. So I keep trying and hoping that if I continue, I might become my own version of the examples that I look up to. And maybe if this light of mine can warm even one heart with my silly doodles and rambling stories, it’s a win. Because I think every time we choose love, life and connection we can elevate and work together for good. It lifts my heart, and I feel hopeful about this life and this world, it feels right and damnit it feels good. So friends tell me, how do you face conflict and share your light? I’d love to hear from you.

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Hey all! Thanks for being here. Somethings are really changing on this self awareness journey of mine. I hope you’ll also check out https://smartandsmitten.com/2019/07/21/to-all-of-the-people-i-knew-before/

Gallery-Paint · Gallery-Written · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care · Uncategorized

Think Grey in May.

In late 2010 I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. A benign (non-cancerous) but hormone secreting tumor, on the pituitary gland. Since then I have painted and drawn brains many times, as my brain is often on my mind. Since then I have had to adjust and even give up what I think my life and dreams should look like. I have grieved many times because of it.

I have had struggles to say the least. But as the great Frida Kaloh once said “at the end of the day we can endure much more than we think we can.” And as I was creating this piece for brain tumour awareness month I was struck by this truth. In my lived experience I have discovered that life will always find ways to bring us to our knees. But this is the amazing thing. We all have these choices. In every moment. I have the control to change how I am reacting to any given situation. I don’t fake positivity. But I now try to bring love to the situation. I legit say I’m sorry this is happening, I say this to myself, then I ask myself what I need. How I can love myself through this. When life gets me down, love brings me back up.

So here’s to those of you that are struggling with the chronic condition we call life today. I hope you can find enough self compassion to love yourself today in whatever way you see fit.

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Hey all thanks for being here. If you enjoyed this story I hope you’ll also check out https://smartandsmitten.com/2019/07/21/to-all-of-the-people-i-knew-before/

Gallery-Paint · Gallery-Written · Life · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care · Uncategorized

Getting out of ruts, by crushing comfort zones.

Words and Art by J.Thoresen.

I’ve been giving the idea of comfort a lot of thought lately. Where we go for comfort. The things we do. And while I think we all need a space that provides us with less stress and anxiety. I’ve also been thinking that in many ways when we strive for comfort, we can actually throw ourselves in a rut. Although comfort is a natural program that we create to keep us safe with less energy input, sometimes it can become our prison.

Some people use drugs or alcohol to seek comfort, some people use relationships, food or sex. These are all more obvious examples in which comfort can create a rut. But I think we all pick our own poison. I don’t abuse substances but I get stuck in comfort zones. I hide at home and in my own mind. I avoid discomfort. I give in to my fear and anxiety. We likely all do in our own way. My Dad struggled with alcoholism, and while the ruts I create for myself are less treacherous, I’ve recognized just as he did that I can get stuck in a pattern of avoidance. And that can really be damaging. So just as he did, I’m fighting that urge to run back to my comfort zones. It’s a tough act to break though. And I’ve never felt more empathetic towards those trying to pull themselves out of the deep ruts of addiction. Even without that struggle, my mind keeps thinking and acting in a manner consistent with what I have done and said in the past. I get emotionally and physically uncomfortable when I attempt to try something new and different. And while my subconscious keeps pulling me back toward my comfort zone. Each time I try something new, I have learned that if I can withstand the discomfort for a short time, I open myself up to a life much more glorious than the one I live within a comfort zone. Through this practice I’ve started to recognize when I’m sliding back into my ruts. And I’ve found a few ways to move forward when I start feeling stuck. This is what works for me, so I thought I’d share with you.

1. Try something new.

Personally I’ve found the best way to push myself out of my comfort zone is to try something new. It forces me to meet new people, builds confidence, and has pretty much always been a catalyst for new creative endeavours. You’ll never know what you can do, if you never try.

2. Do something scary.

What is something you have always wanted to do but talked yourself out of? Whatever it is, do it! Sometimes growth is not only uncomfortable, it’s scary. While I’m perfectly ok with being silly and oversharing ridiculous things about myself, I often try to talk myself out of sharing my deeper thoughts and feelings for fear of rejection or conflict. So I decided to start a blog. I share my thoughts, poems, and art, and it’s really been a beautiful thing. I am learning it’s ok to share even the darkest parts of myself and I’m practicing being ok with rejection, and people opposing my opinion. Those things aren’t always easy to face but the more I practice the more I open myself up to deeper, and authentic interactions and relationships.

3. Agree to something you wouldn’t normally consider.

I don’t love group activities, but sometimes I agree and I almost always enjoy myself. It has helped me to discover how adaptable I can be with different types of people.

I get pretty stressed in a leadership role, but I’ve taken them, and have found I can actually be pretty great at pulling people together.

I love making art, but I dislike commissions. While I know part of this is that I prefer the freedom to make what I like, I also know that deep down I struggle to believe I am good enough. But I’m trying to throw that belief away. If someone approaches me to do something, they likely believe I am capable. So I try to believe it too. Because I am.

This is and will always be an evolving list. Because I’m always evolving, and I’m committed to the challenge of figuring out how to be my best self. And I’m discovering that the toughest part of that growth is facing the fact that I am often my own worst enemy.

Doing what you want takes courage. And it seems quite often we stand in our own way. I’m certainly not perfect, I’m always trying to sell myself on some story of doubt. Telling myself I can’t do this, or that. I say, “well maybe it’s just easy for that guy, if I was richer, more privileged, more talented, more personable, maybe I could do it too.” I shouldn’t even try, right? Wrong! It doesn’t matter if I’m taking a big leap or a tiny step, when I step out of my comfort zone I’m setting fire to all of the stories I’ve written to myself that say “I can’t.” You see I finally got sick of my own bullshit. I got sick of trying to adapt for everyone else. I got sick of the limitations I imposed on myself. I got sick of waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel and I lit that bitch myself.

And you can too!

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Hey all thanks for being here! My healing path is just getting better and better. I hope you’ll also check out https://smartandsmitten.com/2019/07/21/to-all-of-the-people-i-knew-before/

Gallery-Written · Kiddos · Life · Marriage · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care

Goodness.

I know I’m starting to sound like the bad news bear on here, but I promise you I am really a very happy person. I am happy, but the fact of the matter is that life can really be very hard. There are times when it is just best to allow yourself to be sad. If we are lucky enough to have a life filled with love, it only makes sense that we will have a life touched by grief. Grief may be the price of love, but it is worth every penny. My family recently lost someone very important to us. His name was Ed, he was my father in law, my husbands Dad and our sons Grandpa. We will always miss him, but he was a wonderful man who left an impression on people wherever he went. I can’t help but want to share his memory, and the message his life represented. We would like nothing more than to carry on his legacy, sharing love, and goodness. And hopefully helping others to look for, or find something sweet when everything seems sour.

This is the story of Ed, according to someone who loved him:

-The other day my son and I were at the pharmacy picking up a few things for the funeral. While we were waiting in line my little guy was looking at the packages of mini aero bars. He just stared at them and then finally said, “It’s too bad Grandpa died, now I won’t get anymore aero bars”. As you can imagine my heart ached hearing our boy try to make sense of this loss. I stopped what I was doing and we had a little talk. I told him we can still have aero bars, and now when we do we can think of Grandpa. I told him we can even share them like Grandpa used to. I cleared that shelf, filling our cart with the aero bars.

It also prompted me to write this. We shared it, and our chocolate bars today as we celebrated Ed. I hope he would have been honoured.

If you knew Ed, you’d know that when ever something was hard, or unfair or unfavourable, there was one phrase that was sure to come out of Ed’s mouth. That phrase was “Goodness”.

If he heard someone was going through a hard time, he’d say: “Goodness “.

If he was working, and things weren’t going well, he’d say: “Goodness”.

Or even when something simple happened-maybe seeing one of his grandkids spill their cup, he’d smile encouragingly and say : “Goodness!”

Say it with me now : “Goodness!”

Ed lived his life, saying and spreading goodness. He worked hard, up to the age of 78 in fact. He shared what he had and helped people when he could. He enjoyed the simple life. Family and friends were on the top of his list. He enjoyed nothing more than a good visit over coffee, and he never forgot to make sure his grand kids always had their fill of chocolate—usually the biggest aero bars he could find.

If he wasn’t spending time with family, he was likely on the tractor, both at work and home. Or maybe puttering away in the garden. He enjoyed fellowship with friends at church. And was often found reading his bible, the bargain hunter, or one of his natural health books—and then trying to convince his family and friends to check out whatever he’d been reading. His top recommendation for almost every ailment was to try apple cider vinegar. And if that didn’t work, try chocolate.

Something sour and something sweet. Ed knew something we all will. He knew that in this life, we are going to have to face our share of sour and sweet. Hardships and blessings.

Right now we are enduring our hardships. Our hearts although broken continue to beat. So I think right now it’s best to remember Ed and everything he taught us. Remember to take the sour, but always be on the look out for something sweet. And when you find it, get your fill! Share it! And remember that regardless of what this life brings you, don’t forget——“Goodness”

Be sure to like Sm’Art & Smitten on Facebook. Thank you for sharing.

Gallery-Written · Kiddos · Life · Marriage · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care

Infertility Anonymous: We are 1 in 6.

I would say this club was exclusive but with statistics saying that 1 in 6 couples are dealing with the pain of infertility I know this can’t be true. Why is it then that it feels exclusive? It feels like you are the only one dealing with this? That the universe has singled you out, maybe even punishing you for your past sins? It took me awhile to get it, but I finally realized that although this wasn’t an exclusive club it was definitely a secret one!

My dad had struggled with alcoholism, so I knew a thing or two about keeping secrets, telling lies to hide the pain, shame and anger of it all. Tuck it back, keep a stiff upper lip, don’t let anybody see that you are weak, you are flawed, you are broken. And there you are, somehow you’ve arrived, your own secret club: Infertility Anonymous.

I had never expected to find myself in this club. I had fallen in love with Mike in high school. He had already navigated the world of teen parenthood, and he was fully aware of the stigma that stained him. He was just a child himself when he was blessed with that bouncing baby boy. His relationship with the mother was a mess, however, and the break up even worse.

He was always in a tug of war with himself: fight for a relationship and potentially make things worse; or, let him go and accept whatever he was offered, hoping the lil’ guy wouldn’t hate him too much for it. For the most part Mike chose the latter, hoping that if he wasn’t intruding too much, Joe would be better off. It was less painful for him to view it as an adoption of sorts, but at the same time he knowingly accepted the title of deadbeat. Needless to say the thought of pregnancy and parenthood made me a little apprehensive and Mike utterly terrified. With my always irregular cycle, I know there were many times we both stared at a pregnancy test praying it was negative, never knowing that years later we’d be doing the same but trying to will it to be positive.

We were married just over three years (we were together for eight) when we started trying. I was only 23 and he was 25, so it still felt kind of rebellious. It was fun back then, we’d pull the goalie so to speak (that’s Canadian for having unprotected sex) and I assumed that in no time I’d be knocked up. How hard could it be? He’d done it before, and my family was like a baby factory so I figured we would have this baby making business in the bag.

Almost a year slides by and nothing. My always irregular periods are now nearly nonexistent, so I visit my GP. Blood tests and ultrasounds reveal nothing. It might be PCOS or endometriosis, but they aren’t sure. I read anything I can find on these topics and it appears to make sense: my weight gain seems out of control; my period is irregular; and my hormones are all over the place. I research every possibility and try to listen to what my doctor told me: “You are young, some of these things make it take longer, keep trying.” I am diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis and honestly I’m thrilled. I think, “that must be the problem.” Now I can fix it and all of my dreams and plans can start happening. We keep trying and I can’t help but buy things for our baby. We have discussions all the time about this hypothetical baby. What will the gender be? What should we name him/her? Will this angel have my eyes or Mike’s adorable dimples? I dare to think there is hope. Another year slides by and then another. I’ve seen several specialists, each one passing me along to another, and with each one, I’m put on waiting lists. Everything moves at a snails pace and I try to be patient, but it seems that no one can help me and my frustration grows. I get all kinds of instruments and doctors poking around in my downstairs. They still aren’t sure what the problem is, but we try clomid again, do more tests and talk about other methods to induce ovulation, injections and way more tests.

By this time it all feels very clinical, the passion, excitement and glowing prospect of pregnancy have long since faded.

But shortly after year five, finally a breakthrough: an MRI confirms that I have a brain tumour. I take it in stride as its benign and thankfully the treatment means I may get pregnant after all. Unfortunately, though, the medication makes me feel nauseous all the time and my mood swings border on dangerous. Again we find another year creeping by and still no baby. To make matters worse, everywhere I turn there are beautiful little babies being born. Each perfect chubby cherub I see rubs salt in my wounds.

My family and friends had been asking for some time if we plan on starting a family. One old fella at the restaurant I worked even goes as far as to say I should throw my wedding rings in the bush if I don’t wanna give my man a family. I try my best to keep my secret hidden, brush their questions and comments aside and stay where I feel safe: hidden within the walls of my secret club. Every now and then the cracks would show. I would tell someone my secret, and they would offer advice, all with good intentions of course, but nothing they say can help. It just makes me angry. They say “Maybe you should adopt” and I’d think sure, no biggie, just years of being under a microscope, years of waiting, a hefty price tag for foreign adoption or the potential of heartbreak if the “real mother” as I saw it at the time, changes her mind and takes the baby back. Or they’d casually tell me “just do IVF,” as if the physical and financial burdens that go along with it could possibly come close to a casual decision. But the most common nugget of advice was just to “RELAX” and honestly its not the worst advice, but it didn’t help in any way. I always found myself fantasizing about inflicting pain on the person who so graciously offered this bit of wisdom. It was far too painful to tell them we’d been researching adoption since about year three. I was too embarrassed to tell them how I’d been saving for years to “buy my baby” and that with each medical attempt and subsequent failure I would retreat even farther into my secret club. I built walls, I dug holes, I did whatever I could to keep people out, even my husband. This was my cross to bear. After all it was my fault, it was my body that wasn’t doing as it was intended. How could I tell anyone that deep down I feared I had somehow been marked by death? With my Dad and grandparents all gone, it was as if the grim reaper was on my heels, definitely to close to bring forth life.

Depression washed over me. The pain of the infertility was like the grief of losing my father, maybe worse,because it seemed like no one would understand. It was like it didn’t matter to anyone. I was carrying all of this pain and they didn’t even notice. But how could they know, after all I always kept the doors to my secret club locked up tight.

I hate to compare infertility to death, it sounds so dramatic, but for me it was like that. I had dreamed of growing old with someone, having a bunch of babies and one day watching our grand babes play while we sat on our front porch. They were simple dreams, maybe even kinda cheesy, but they seemed to be dying and there was nothing I could do but work through the grief. Like one does with any kind of loss; I went through the shock and denial, moved onto anger, bargaining and depression and finally acceptance. And I know, this all sounds very heavy, but that was why I had my club. And although I felt safe when I would retreat there. It was a very lonely place to be. It took a long time, but eventually I accepted that my vision of “how things were supposed to go” had died. I slowly realized that by tearing down that old dream, I was able to open up, let a bit of sun shine in and start building some new dreams. I found friends I loved and trusted, I let some of my pain spill out and they listened. I finally opened up to one of my high school friends and found she was building her own secret club. I wondered how many of us are out there? Each situation is similar but just different enough to keep us feeling alone, secluded. I started talking and slowly my walls came down. I reached out to groups on the internet. Each story was bittersweet, filled with ups and downs. I began to view things in a new light. Each couple pushed past fear and loss and kept trying, despite enormous challenges. They weren’t broken or weak. They were strong, determined and resilient. If they were all of those things, then maybe I was too. I was still in a secret club as the internet offered anonymity, but I could speak and share my feelings without fear. We Infertile had our own code, a secret language I couldn’t seem to get the hang of…TTC 6.5yrs, 2 rounds s.o, iui’s, considering ivf. Every story was like a lifeline, a rope that helped me cling to hope. Maybe I would be somebody’s mama someday, even if it wasn’t the way I had envisioned. Each friend that let me cry on there shoulder or listened to an angry rant, was actually helping me climb out of the holes I had dug. I told my husband all of my deep dark secrets, the jealousy I harboured toward the people who had been bestowed this blessing, pregnant woman especially. I was even upset with him, he was a father and even if the situation hadn’t been ideal, he had a child and I had nothing. I revealed the anger I felt when someone dared to complain to me about their superb fertility, the pitfalls of parenting, their pregnancy, or, the circumstances of the birth. It was an envy I couldn’t escape. I’d give anything to have those things to complain about, to trade in my membership, switch from Infertility Anonymous over to the Mommy Martyrs Club. I worried that with those thoughts, he’d think I was a monster; but he didn’t. So I’d test him, say something ridiculous or crazy, we’d see a cute baby and I’d ask him “Do you want that one? I mean it comes with a stroller and everything.” It’s an awful joke I know, but oddly, even that level of crazy didn’t scare him off. I figured he must really love me, maybe I’m safe out here after all. We both have clouds that follow us and they roll in from time to time, and sometimes we get caught in the storm. Even though we couldn’t stop the rain from falling, we could hold each other till it went away. That’s what we did. As they say “without the rain, there would never be rainbows,” and for us this was true. Finally in August of 2012 after nearly seven years of waiting, we received our miracle, our baby. I had heard that a baby may be one of the most common place of miracles, but it was miracle just the same.

I suppose I’ll never know why we were chosen to be in this infertility club, but mine will no longer be anonymous. I hope that like me you find some comfort in finding out that you aren’t alone. I hope that you find people you trust to talk to and help you carry this burden. And most of all I pray that you all find a way to cling together, weathering the storm while you wait for your miracle. Keep your hope alive and focus on seeing that rainbow.