Self-Reflection Question 21

Sometimes I wonder:

“If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?”

Although it is not lost to me that part of my response to this question comes from aging, maturity and gained experience, I would still say that given the chance to tell my younger self a piece of advice, it would most likely be “Be true to yourself.”

I can look back and see that I didn’t always do that. Sometimes it was knowing that something felt off, yet I stayed in the safety of comfort. I can see the red flags that were present in what eventually led to my (first) marital relationship, yet I chose to believe in the youthful notion that “things will change.” I had a few core beliefs from childhood that I hung on to for too long and there were times when I knew that I was compromising myself in a way that wasn’t being true to what I believed and felt.

Perhaps had I been able to give myself this advice, I would have been more reflective of my choices; I would have not been so quick to lean into denial or excuse something to myself. The journey was still mine to have and I do treasure all of my experiences, both joyful and painful as they have helped to shape me into who I have become. To be true to yourself is a timeless piece of advice that I will lean into for the rest of my journey; when challenges arrive at my doorstep or I am faced with another person’s judgement of a situation. Today, it sits closer to the surface, and for that I am grateful.

Photo credit: Me and my older sister in the sombreros brought to us by our grandparents!

Self-Reflection Question 20

Last week in our self-reflection series, we explored the lessons we have learned about ourselves from the difficulties we have faced in our life. That got me to thinking about:

What have I learned about myself from my moments of pure joy? My experiences of bliss?

By the time my girls and I got to Gunstock Mountain Resort in New Hampshire for our zip lining experience, I had already ziplined a few times. Mostly on excursions on our trips south, the ziplines were manageable and not nearly as intimidating as what stood before me at Gunstock. There, you soar above the tree tops, peak to peak, with the longest zipline extending 2.5 kms! As I had already learned from my past experience, it is often the climb up the towers that give me more anxiety then stepping off the platform. The longest zipline was the last one and had the highest tower. My fear of open heights was challenged to the max as I continuously climbed up the tower, my legs shaky and my tummy queasy by the time I got up to the top. At that point, it was almost enough to convince me to climb back down as I can remember looking down the line to barely see the landing tower; racing thoughts about safety and the ‘what if’s’ were quite happy to fill in the space of my nervous energy.

But I was there with my kids, my aunt, and my nephew. I also wanted to accomplish this task and say that I did it. So I plucked up my courage and when it was my turn, stepped off the platform. The feeling was exhilarating. It was one of those moments in my life where I felt so absolutely free, without a care in the world. It was absolute joy; it was blissful. And it happened when I pushed past the fear. 

That is what I have learned about myself through my moments of pure elation – that I can create and sustain those moments. And when I challenge my doubts and fears, I always get rewarded with an experience that sustains my faith that joy is our birthright.

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Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@perrygrone

Self-Reflection Question 19

When we think about our current circumstances of trying to navigate through a pandemic, it can bring to mind other times in our lives when we have faced challenges or difficult situations. This can lead us to reflect on the question:

“What have I learned about myself through the difficulties I have faced in my life?”

My immediate reaction to this question lies somewhere in the answer of resilience. Overall, the challenges in my life have made me stronger, and yet why is that? Why for me, has it increased my sense of being capable? I have learned:

  • To believe in the power of choice. Is this experience going to make me examine my self-worth, challenge it, and recognize that I haven’t been giving it enough attention? Or is it going to contribute to lowering my sense of self and therefore de-valuing my worth? I choose to learn and grow from it.
  • To have faith. In God, in myself, in the universe, in love. To have faith that light conquers darkness, that the undercurrent of challenging experiences can include feelings of good. To have faith that “No matter what I will be okay.”
  • That I am blessed. The challenges can be tough; they can seem insurmountable at times. At yet, in every one that I have faced, I recognize and acknowledge the blessings that I have been afforded. Those can not be lost to me in the difficulty, but rather strengthen my ability to receive joy.

As Albert Camus stated, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

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Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@patrickian4

 

Self-Reflection Question 18

Our next question in our self-reflection series is:

How do I want my life to look versus how do I want it to feel?

This is an interesting question as it lands smack down in the middle of our consumer-driven, keep-up-with-the-Jones’ societal messages. Our instinct might bring us to think about the house we live in or the car we drive, the brand names on our clothes or having ‘the best’ of something. This is how our life looks to others.

And yet how it feels is a better indicator of our own level of contentment. As the old saying goes, we can have all the money in the world, and more things than we can shake a stick at, and yet still be unhappy. When I think about how I want my life to feel, it includes:

  • Simplicity. I like my house and car to be neat. It feels good to have things in their place, to not feel cluttered or scattered. I like being able to look outside and see trees and the river. My day always feels complete when I have walked in the forest.
  • Colourful. When someone enters my space (whether at home or at my office), I want them to be able to get a sense of who I am. This includes the places that I have travelled which always includes colour. When I include trips as part of my yearly goal, my life feels colourful, adventurous.
  • Whole. This comes from the quality time I spent with my loved ones. Family suppers, phone chats with treasured friends, quiet time with Kurt, strolls with Cricket, family time with the kids.
  • Interesting. I want my life to feel interesting. This is where I try new things such as my virtual mission challenges, doing something creative or crafty, reading and learning.

Do I want my life to look a certain way? Sure; I think that our natural instinct is to care how it looks. But let’s not stay there too long, or give that too much time and space. Instead, let us focus on how we want our life to feel. Doing so will bring us the peace and contentedness that our soul is designed to draw us to.

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Photo credit: Me! This is a pic from the cottage we rented this summer.

 

Self-Reflection Question 17

Today’s self-reflection question coincides with yesterday’s blog post:

“What lesson have you learned from being a parent?”

When our oldest daughter was two and a half years old, we moved her from a crib to a toddler bed. A cute, little bed that was perfect for her – and that is when her sleeping issues began. I don’t know if it was leaving the safety of the crib (although that is my best guess), but night after night, I would eventually hear her little feet tromping into our room to tell us she was scared.

Although taking her into bed with us would have solved the issue, for several reasons, we did not go that route; a) we slept in a 3/4 bed, b) her dad was an extremely light sleeper and c) I worried about long term effects for her. Eventually, we settled on a system – she would go to her own bed and fall asleep (with one of us checking on her every ten minutes until she was out), then when she woke up she would come to my side of the bed where there was a little cot set up. She would wake me (that was her non-negotiable), and she would settle on to the cot – my hand draping over the bed to hold hers until she managed to fall back asleep. This went on for several years – eventually her sister was able to begin sleeping with her and although she still had fears at night, at least the cot was put away.

There was no doubt in my mind her fears were real. We never did manage to figure out what she was afraid of, nor what triggered the sudden change. There were times when my patience was low and I would get cross with her – and I would immediately feel bad, as I could see that getting angry or impatient did nothing to make the situation better; if anything it added to her fear.

Perhaps the biggest lesson that I have learned from being a parent was that I let my own worries dictate my impatience. It was my fear that this wouldn’t resolve itself quickly enough, my fear that somehow we had caused this, my fear that we weren’t good parents, my fear that anxiety would ‘plague her for life.’ (As you can see, like any worries, mine grew out of proportion.)

I can look back now and know that it was all okay. That it didn’t matter how long it took, or that we didn’t get it perfectly right – that what did matter was the consistent manner in which we plodded along, providing a sense to her that no matter what, we would be there at 2 am to hold her hand.

I have learned that I won’t always have the answers as a parent, but that I can have faith in the underlying principles of love and attachment. My faith has moved into knowing that ‘everything will work out’  and as a result, I act much more quickly to put my worries to bed. 🙂

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Photo credit: Me! This is my oldest daughter at age 3.5  🙂

Self-Reflection Question 16

In our continuing series of questions to reflect on, today we explore the thought:

“Write about the place you call home.”

When I think about the current home that I live in, I think about its peace. I have views of the forest and the river. I love the grounded elements that we chose in terms of colour and texture; the walls and shelves feature treasures from all of our travels. I share my home with my loving and supportive partner, and my gentle and soulful-faced Great Dane. I love my home when I sit quietly in my comfy chair first thing in the morning, and I love my home when it is bustling with our children, grandchild and families.

But this isn’t the only place I call home. My home is the house on Albert St that I spent 25 years in; raising my girls, with the patter of footsteps and the lovely sound of laughter. My home is on Borris Rd where I spent my childhood, playing with my sister in the farmer’s fields behind our home, family dinners every night, quiet, languid summers and starry winter nights. My home is on Quinapoxet Lane where we visited our grandparents and American family twice a year; Christmas memories and summer seas. My home is on Ash St; my aunt teases that it is our summer vacation home and really, it is. 🙂 My home is on Mast Rd, where my sister serves family supper on Sundays and my kids come in and out of there as though it is their own. My home is the house on Ivy Ave, where my parents lived for their remaining years; sitting for visits on the swing outside, family dinners, Christmas joy.

These are all the places I call home. Home is far more than a dwelling – home is a feeling, home is family, home is love, home is where I find peace.

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Photo credit: Me! My youngest daughter spending time with her niece 🙂

Self-Reflection Question 15

There are times in our lives that we can look back with regret. Perhaps we wish we could take back something we said or did; perhaps we left something unsaid, perhaps we wish we could have done something and now it is too late.

“If given the opportunity, what would you go back and rewrite?”

I appreciate the way this question is worded as it implies that our story includes choice. Perhaps there is a wrong that can be righted, or we can set a goal in relation to a regret. Mine is one that fits into the “too late,” category, but still brings to me a valuable lesson.

Every summer since his retirement, my father would spend time in his home town in Cadillac, Abitibi. Although my mother would join him for part of that time, he would go for most of the season as he was very drawn to the simple life of a trailer by the water, fishing daily. For two years, he mentioned to my sister and I that we should come up together to spend a week – no kids or husbands, just us. I don’t really know why we didn’t make it happen – I can guess that it had something to do with short, busy summers, trying to also fit in our family vacation to Maine, my father’s way of ‘mentioning’ something without clearly asking it. I can distinctly remember a conversation that my sister and I had intimating that we would plan it for “next summer,” as we knew, that in his quiet way, it was important to him. Unfortunately, we never got the chance as he passed away the following May.

I can’t rewrite this part of my story. I sorely wish I had those memories of seeing my father where he was the most content, time spent on his boat, campfires, battling the bugs of northern Quebec – but I don’t. I was reminded instead that we can’t let life get in the way, most things can wait and  that our relationships are what need time and attention – for it is within those relationships, and time spent together, that we experience the richness of our story.

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Photo credit: Me! A young pic of my Dad 🙂

 

 

Self-Reflection Question 14

This question is for all the people pleasers; it’s for those of us who have trouble with the word “No,” and can tend to take on too much as a result.

“Am I honouring myself while serving others?”

Very often, we can become people pleasers because of our internal need to give; to take care of – hence the propensity to say “yes.” When we feel naturally inclined to help; we get meaning and purpose from serving others. This is a lovely quality and one that we don’t want to compromise within ourselves as it allows us to derive a purposeful feeling from being able to help another.

Saying no is what creates the dichotomy; when we say no to someone, it creates friction with the part of ourselves that desires to give. And yet, saying yes to everything allows us to forget one very important person – ourselves. 

I rather appreciate the way this question is worded, because it takes into account the position of “I am important and so are you.” It encompasses our need to serve others while at the same time honouring ourselves – by making sure that we are finding balance between self-care and helping others, that we learn the value of slowing down and examining just how much we have piled onto our plate, that we have begun to realize that learning to say no is possible (and healthy!)

This can become a good reminder question when we are feeling overwhelmed, frazzled, weighted. And if the answer is no, we can gently remind ourselves that by honouring ourselves as well as others, we have moved into a healthy and balanced position. Sounds like a good plan to me 🙂

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Photo credit: http://Photo by Andy Willis on Unsplash

Self-Reflection Question 13

Today’s self-reflection question is one that feels timely to me:

“What is life asking of me?”

Right now, I would answer that by saying that life right now is asking that I keep things simple. Working from home and keeping up a routine that allows me to get outside and feel refreshed. Daily prayer in the morning, walks with Cricket, finding time to read, cooking supper every evening, drives for a DQ treat, shows in the evening with Kurt.

Life is asking that I stay in touch with my loved ones. As a mom, that means still seeing our kids. It also means socially distanced walks with friends, phone calls, texts and video chats right now. Staying connected and committed.

It also means processing my feelings. I have had some blue moments about having to cancel travel plans including a trip I had planned with my girls to the Azores in June, sad feelings about not getting to see extended family, disheartened feelings about how long this will last. Processing how I feel helps me to land in acceptance (it is what it is) and gratitude (I still have so many blessings in my life.)

And lastly, I believe that life is still asking that I continue with my goals. I write in my blog daily and have started advertising it. I added training into my work day as client hours have shortened. My flower gardens make me feel accomplished, and our new house is organized and (almost) finished – it is amazing what you can order online!

And so, I would say that life has asked me these days to slow down, keep things steady, look forward to life resuming. I can handle that 🙂

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Photo credit: Me! This is a video family chat where we all represented a colour 🙂

Self-Refection Question 12

In our self-reflection series, we move to Question 12:

“What are my small victories this week?”

Based on our current climate of social distancing and staying at home, it is important to recognize our small victories. Mine include:

  • not eating the rest of my birthday cake in one sitting. (This is actually a big victory as it was double chocolate.)
  • having a positive attitude about postponing my birthday plans on Sunday. (We are all doing our part!)
  • figuring out the technical side to HIPPA compliant video sessions. (I can do this!)
  • getting outside every day for our walk along the river. (The earth is still beautiful.)
  • not allowing my fears to take over. (This can be a tough one but every day I remind myself to continue to count my blessings; take it one day at a time, and do what I can to flatten the curve.)

We often focus on our big victories, our milestone accomplishments – but our small victories are part of our every day life; they are the building blocks that pave the way for our bigger goals. Without our small victories, there would be no summit to reach 🙂

What are your small victories this week?

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Photo credit: http://Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash