Ten years ago, I discovered the beauty of optimism. Desperate to find happiness and healing, I spent hours researching online and reading every self-help book imaginable, and found what worked most for me; positive thinking.
It changed my life tremendously! I discarded any negativity that crept into my life. I became brave and started to love myself again. I fell in love with running, yoga and meditation. I fell in love with children, how they learn, and play and love so fiercely and I did my schooling to become an Educational Assistant. When I graduated I was offered a job as an Indigenous Liaison and was able to fall in love with my culture again too.
In 2012, I married my best friend!!!
( Thank you pinterest! Er, I mean positive thinking! 😉 )
That same year, we experienced our 1st of 3 miscarriages, and that was when I fell painfully in love with the idea of being a mother. It was all I thought of, dreamt of, and prayed for.
And, finally, it happened!
On March 20th, 2015 we were blessed with our precious, angel, Malakai, and soon after came our sweet baby Ellanor on September 18th,2017.
Life is so funny though. I had everything I ever asked for and yet felt the saddest I have felt in a very long time. When I became a mother, I lost myself and let all that negativity creep its way back into my life.
It’s not easy being optimistic, but in my ten years of practice I got pretty good at training my brain! But after I became a Mommy, it was like I forgot how. All that training and reading and research flung out the window with the arrival of baby girl. Maybe it was just a case of the baby blues, but either way I felt horrible. I would just sit and stare at my new gorgeous baby, who I loved so much it hurt, and thought how silly it was that I couldn’t be over the moon happy! I was sad because I was sad, hah, soo not fun! The mom guilt set in HARD and I’m sure the mom’s out there can vouch for me here – that has got to be one of the worst feelings in the world!!!
So, I vowed to TRY. I need my girls to grow up in a peaceful, loving, happy environment. It’s so important to me. I want them to love life to the fullest! And know this is really a beautiful world we live in, even if we have to search to find some good – it is there and it is beautiful, I promise!
I want to be someone they can look up to as an example of that kind of life-loving optimism and so I must get out of this rut! I’ve done it before, I can do it again.
For those that know me, know of my love for reading. Perhaps, what most don’t know is what really hooked me into books was when I began my healing journey 11 years ago. I call it my healing journey because it was when I hit my “rock bottom” after another night not remembered and continue to this day to read to heal.
I was almost 18 years old when I reached my turning point. For years I had been heavily into drinking, drugs and the whole party life scene and I don’t mean your typical “experimenting with alcohol and drugs” as a teenager.
I mean full blown up-for-days, drinking in school, drinking and driving, completely-abusing my body with many substances. I was living on the edge but not living at all.
At a very young age I had become dangerously numb.
I won’t share exactly what happened that led me to waking up that one morning suddenly motivated to change but I will say there was a very cute boy who I now call my husband that grabbed my hand just as I was about to go under.
Would I say he saved me? No.
I don’t believe people can be saved. However, he supported me, encouraged me, and loved me for the crazy mess I was, but more importantly he saw me for what he knew I could be – for what I knew I could be. And, for that I am forever grateful.
Looking back, I see the hurt I was carrying. The pain I was so desperately trying to hide from. I didn’t want to feel because feeling was too scary. There was just too much to feel and it felt much safer to stuff those feelings with alcohol and drugs.
You see, since I was a little girl there was always a lot of alcohol abuse in our home. And, with the alcohol abuse came the violence and the nights I spent staying awake to make sure everyone was okay instead of going to sleep for school the next day. I had a split family but that went on in both homes so there wasn’t really a break from it until my teen years when I too, found an escape through the numbness of drugs and alcohol.
I do not blame my parents. Not for one second. The pain they faced in their childhood was much much greater than mine. It is a generational trauma that has affected our family for decades, but I am proud to say that it has stopped with me. I should say me and my parents. We are all healing now and at times it is still messy and incredibly uncomfortable but that’s what healing is; messy and uncomfortable.
My hope is that if anyone out there is new in their healing journey that these books will help open your heart and your mind like they did for me.
So, without further ado, here are the 15 (out of a gazillion) books that helped me on my healing journey. My wish is they will help you too ❤
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.This was the first book I read on my healing journey and it set the stage for how I thought and what I focused my thoughts on. It gave me hope and opened my eyes to the possibility that truly anything is possible.
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. This one was recommended by Oprah and was on amazon’s best spiritual and self help books list so I purchased it right away and fell completely in love with Eckhart Tolle and his beliefs about spirituality and letting go of your ego in order to build a new and better world.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Like I said, I fell head over heels for this guy and so I ordered this one right after reading A New Earth even though I learned later that this one was written first. Whatever order you read them in does not matter it only matters that you read them! I’ve read this one twice now and still it had more to teach me the second time around.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. This is a memoir and not a self help book but in my opinion, storytelling in general is a form of healing and self help especially when it is true and you can relate. This book also recently became a movie so if you’re not a reader then I suggest watching the movie, it is an incredible story.
The Celestine Prophecy by John Redfield. To this day, this is still one of my all time favourite books in the world. It is not a self help nor a memoir but it is an impeccable work of fiction that resonates so deeply with my soul and core beliefs that everyone and everything is connected.
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Guys. If you don’t know who Brene Brown is you need to. Especially if you are trying to heal or better your life in anyway. She is my soul sister and she has no idea who I am. I LOVE HER. After reading Daring Greatly, I bravely said yes to teaching my first healing through writing workshop while I was two months postpartum. With a messy bun, no make up, and leaking boobs, I showed up and dared greatly. She is my hero.
The Gifts Of Imperfection by Brene Brown. Again, I have nothing but positive, amazing things to say about this woman and again I read the books backwards as this one came out first. This one has been on my mind to read again lately and I just finished watching her new Netflix show Call to Courage. You need to watch it. And read all her books. Brene Brown everything I tell ya.
After The Tears by Jane Middleton-Moz. If you are an Adult Child of Alcoholics you need to read this it will blow your mind. I think I actually said, “Holy shit!” out loud while reading this because it described things I do that I didn’t know why I did!
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. This story stole and broke my heart and yet helped me heal and understand more about my own intergenerational trauma. He says, “You can’t understand where you are going if you don’t understand where you’ve been.” Richard Wagamese became my favourite Indigenous author after reading this book and I’ve devoured all of his work since. This book just became a movie produced by Clint Eastwood and I believe every Canadian needs to watch it. Here is the trailer for it: Indian Horse – The Movie
One Native Life by Richard Wagamese. This book by Richard is written in essays about his life. Reading about other peoples hardships and struggles is helpful in your healing journey to know you are not alone. I think this is my favourite work by him.
Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. Glennon is hilarious and makes you feel like you are her best friend. This book is great for everyone but I would say it is geared more towards Mothers.
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. I actually read this authors work in order for once! This book really gets into her brutiful (brutal and beautiful) life as she calls it. She opens up about her eating disorder, her alcoholism and her struggles in her marriage.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The Four Agreements are: 1) Be impeccable with your word. 2) Don’t take anything personally. 3) Don’t make assumptions. 4) Always do your best. They are rules to live by and when I heard Ellen Degeneres recommended this book I of course ordered it!!
The Untethered Soul by Michael Alan Singer. This book was recommended to me by a yoga teacher and I absolutely loved it. It teaches you how to free yourself from patterns of pain and old habits, developing a new relationship with yourself.
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. I just recently read this book and am planning on re-reading it asap. Louise provides you with in-depth meditations, visualizations and powerful affirmations all geared toward forgiving and loving yourself as you are. It is one of the most transformational books I have read thus far.
There it is! I hope you find yourself snuggled with hot tea and one of these books on the couch soon! Keep a tissue box near by and remember healing is messy and uncomfortable and does not look the same for everyone. Please be patient and gentle with yourself along the way. It is a journey after all, not a destination.
Ten random things I’m going to ramble about to update you on my life 🙂
Okay, here we go.
1. We started spring cleaning about two weeks ago and we got so inspired we started painting and renovating and adding more and more to our to-do list. Good thing I like this kind of stuff!
2. Have you ever heard that cleaning and clearing space in your home cleans and creates space in your life? Well, I fully believe in energy and feng shui, chi, etc. – big Marie Kondo fan right here – and anyway, when we started spring cleaning we decluttered the shit out of our house, reorganized everything from closets to kitchen cupboards and even tackled the junk drawer. Literally, a day after we finished a weeks worth of decluttering/cleaning we all got sick, like really really sick. I guess we are all in detox mode, spring cleaning our body, mind, house and spirit!
3. On that note, I was planning on writing a post on the kids’ zero technology use. How in the weeks we had no TV or I-pad use we witnessed their moods shift to happier, calmer, more cheerful toddlers. They played more; alone and with each other. They were able to focus and engage more while doing puzzles, crafts, and listening to stories. Ellanor was forced to communicate more and I cannot tell you how much that has helped all of us! Everyone has been commenting on how her social skills have improved over this short period of no TV. Incredible! But, the best thing about having the TV off was the laughter. Our house was filled with much more laughter. Random dance off’s and full on concert performances; I was compelled to play with them, which at first I thought would be a little annoying since I feel like I get no “me time” as it is, but it turns out I am a much happier mom, wife and human when I play with my kids. ❤
I didn’t end up writing a post about it though, because the night I was thinking of it is the night I got sick and then both girls followed and we have been stuck on the couch with the TV on since. For this, the TV is a pure blessing. I love watching TV, can’t even deny it. There is nothing better when you’re feeling under the weather than to cuddle on the couch squished in your fuzziest blanket watching a cheesy rom-com or Netflix series. Even if that means for us, 5 billion Paw Patrol episodes in a row. I think though, that now that we are feeling better we are going to cut off TV for the girls and just allow it on the weekends! A happy medium. All about balance, right? 😉
4. I finished my 30 day weight loss program with Isagenix and lost a total of 12lbs. I feel more comfortable in my clothes and just all around much more motivated to continue on my health/fitness journey. I hate talking about weight loss because it’s such a sensitive subject. On one hand, I am proud of my dedication and hard work and am excited to get to where I want to be but I’m also being cautious not to obsess, not to let it take over my life and become connected to my happiness. In the past, I have done some really unhealthy things to my body in order to look a certain way and so this time I am approaching it with a conscious effort to make my goals come from a place of love rather than insecurity and fear.
5. Which leads me to my next “thing”! I have recently become an affirmaholic. I use affirmations on the daily now! I’ve been meditating on them. Posting them on my bathroom mirror, on my fridge and my vision board. Malakai has become super interested in it as well; she contributed to our fridge and bathroom sticky note affirmations 🙂 She’s also been doing this mirror exercise with me where you look yourself in the eye and say, “Your name, I love you and I approve of you just the way you are.” The exercise is from a life-changing book I read about a month ago called You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay and it is an INCREDIBLY hard, emotional, transformative and healing thing to practice. In the book, she basically associates everything wrong in your life with a lack of love for yourself. If you can love yourself you can have, do and be anything you want. Try it! Let me know how you feel after 🙂
P.S It is THE CUTEST THING IN THE WORLD to hear Malakai say to herself while looking in the mirror, “Malakai Mayers, I love you.” then she usually adds something silly like “and I love your butt and your poopy poop poop poop.” but still, I am proud 🙂
6. I have been dabbling in poetry again! ❤ ❤ ❤
7. And, CBD/THC oil 🙂 ❤
8. Ellanor has her appointment booked with Dr. Golden for this month! I am anxious. Equally nervous and excited. I am hoping for an answer whatever that may be, but I am also aware that there is a possibility I will hear, “Come back in a few months and we’ll assess her again”… which I guess isn’t so bad just annoying for an impatient Momma like me!
9. Malakai starts soccer in two weeks! 🙂
10. We are going to Red Deer to visit our BFF, Chris, who just became a Daddy! His handsome lil dude was born on Malakai’s birthday! Isn’t that crazy!? Nick and Chris have been best friends since elementary school and he was the best man at our wedding, too. Now their first borns share the same birth date. So cool 🙂
And that is all!
Happy Spring Break! I hope wherever you go or don’t go and whatever you do or don’t do, that you savour each moment.
Breathe, laugh, smile, cry, dance, read, relax, eat, drink, run, yell, scream, be quiet, stretch, think, enjoy the present moment and all that other good shit 😉
For the last six months or so there’s been a word invading my headspace, my home, my family, and my life. That word is Autism. About a month after Ellanor started speech therapy, the therapist along with her Pediatrician and myself (to be honest) were having concerns that maybe she had more than a speech and language delay. And, so began the testings and referrals. After each assessment, as the professionals looked to Nick and I with tilted heads, soft eyes and sorry smiles, my heart would sink and I would leave feeling utterly defeated.
I spent the last months going through sort of a grieving process I guess you could say. There have been times where I am in complete denial. Times where I am filled with so much rage I want to stick both middle fingers up to the sky and say FUCK THE WORLD AND EVERYONE IN IT. Then there are times when I can’t stop crying. Every song on the radio, every child I see playing, every person I talk to about it, every time Ellanor flaps or walks on her tip toes, I cry and cry and cry. And then, like a jolt of sudden energy, I am optimistic and I am reading and learning and involving myself in everything Autism just for this vicious cycle to repeat itself. It has been exhausting to say the least and the funniest part is that she hasn’t even received a diagnosis yet.
For a long while, I was feeling very sorry for myself. Everyone I would talk to would share their thoughts on the matter usually with an agreement that “It must be hard” and “I’m so sorry you’re going through this” and “I think she will be fine” as if having autism means you are not “fine”. All of these conversations I feel had loving intentions but they would only affirm to me that I was indeed a victim and had a right to this self-pity state I was in. But, like every time in my life where I’ve felt like I was drowning, God always throws me something to float on and this time it was in the form of two words that came from what I will call an earth angel.
I hadn’t seen this earth angel in a very long time and while we were doing the typical “So good to see you, how have you been!?” I started in on my pity party by telling her all about Ellanor possibly having autism. At first, she didn’t say anything. Just looked at me and watched as my face got hot and my eyes welled with tears about to spill and that is when she said the two most beautiful words I have ever heard, “So, what?”
She was relaxed, not smiling at all, but also not cold at all. She truly, warm-heartedly, thought, so what if she has autism? The blunt response took me by surprise and I nearly choked as I laughed, tears rolling down my face. I nodded my head crying, smiling, and agreeing.
“Yeah,” I said, “You’re so right.”
After that conversation, those two simple yet powerful words have become my mantra and I started thinking…
So what if she learns a little differently?
So what if she colours outside the lines?
So what if she spins herself into silliness and laughs hysterically by herself while looking up at the ceiling? *we need more people like this in my opinion*
So what if she isn’t considered to be developing or playing or behaving normally like her peers? What is normal anyway?
So what if she is diagnosed with Autism? Or ADHD or Anxiety or OCD or ODD or any other “disorder” they come up with.
What if she grows up and says she is gay or transgender? So What.
So what, so what, so what.
My love for her is unconditional. It is unchangeable, unstoppable, Almighty.
And, while I continue on this journey not knowing what the future holds, I will try my best to have this so what attitude and mindset. Because, as of right now, so long as we have our health and our love, nothing else matters.
This year I decided to finally get back into yoga and so I dove head first into six months of in depth training with Yoga Temple. One of my assignments was to answer the question, What is Yoga to Me? Here is my answer:
The easiest way I can explain what yoga is to me is to talk about motherhood which is actually kind of ironic considering my first yoga class was after recovering from my third miscarriage. I wanted a baby so badly. It was all I thought about, dreamt about and prayed for for two years straight. After my third miscarriage, I was exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I needed a break. Never in my life had I felt so betrayed by my body. I needed to reconnect with her, with me. And so, after countless hours of scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, a yoga add popped up and I decided to attend my first class. I was hooked. I started practicing daily, going to workshops, learning about chakras, energy healing, and praynama and reading all I could on the subject. I was able to reconnect with my body, my mind, my spirit and before I knew it I was pregnant again with what would be my first successful pregnancy.
Thrilled, elated, extremely joyous. Those adjectives don’t even begin to describe how I felt carrying my baby full term. I read all the books, bought all the unnecessary “necessities”, had all the parties and made all the plans. I was going to have a natural birth without any drugs. It was going to be a raw, natural, incredibly spiritual experience. There was no other way for it to happen after all, I was a yogi now. I was on cloud 9 and nothing could bring me down. That is until I was induced two weeks early because they could not find a regular heart beat.
I had no bag packed, and no plans on having my baby before her due date. Thirty six hours of labour and multiple doses of whatever drugs I begged for, I ended up having an emergency C-section. I woke up to my baby on her Dad’s chest and immediately started crying. I was supposed to hold my baby first. This was not the way it was supposed to be. Every single thing I envisioned about my birth did not happen and to make matters worse my milk didn’t come in in time so I had to substitute my breast milk with formula which was a big no-no, especially for a yogi mom.
For months after, I struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety. All I ever wanted was to be a mom. I spent years of praying, hoping, wishing and trying for a baby and now here she was, snuggled in my arms, the most precious beautiful baby I had ever seen and all I could do was cry. I was exhausted, frustrated, and angry. I felt so humiliated by my feelings, I hated myself. During that time I stopped practicing yoga. I was mad at the world and thought nothing would help so what would be the point in trying. It took me a while before I stepped on my mat again. Three years and another baby to be exact. But, when I did, it was like the universe whispered, “welcome home” which in reality what I probably heard was the instructor saying OHM. Either way, it felt good. A little intimidating but good. Just like being a new Mom.
Now, I am able to look back and laugh at myself for being so stuck in thinking things had to be a certain way. For imagining that pregnancy, birth, and motherhood went exactly as planned and that it would only be beautiful and extraordinary. Kind of like the time I attended my first yoga class. My make-up was on point, my hair done nicely in a cute little bun. I wore my sexiest sports bra and best pair of Lu Lu Lemons too. My intentions were to have a good workout, break a little sweat and look hot as hell while doing it.
Instead, after all my make-up melted down my face and my hair slicked back with sweat, I laid down for savasana and bawled my eyes out like a baby for the entire 10 minutes.
Both Motherhood and Yoga have brought me to my knees. With both Yoga and Motherhood I have experienced tears, fears, expectations, failure, disappointment, accomplishment, confidence, love, light, and laughter. Both continually teach me that surrendering isn’t a weakness but a strength. When I lay my head on my mat in child’s pose I feel a connection to a higher power. When I hold my daughters hands as they fall asleep, I am again, connected to that higher power. I use breath work while disciplining my now toddlers and practice ahimsa with myself by taking time to do things I love (like yoga) and not feel guilty about it. When I am on the mat, it is my kids I am breathing for. It is my kids that inspire my intention, my mantra, my prayers while practicing. It is them who cross my mind and fill my heart with love in my practice.
Yoga has taught me to be patient with myself, to love and accept myself the best I can, and to let that love expand and shine through everything I do. It has taught me that expectations are the murderers of joy and it has taught me that when all else fails, I still have by breath. I can always count on my breath to bring me back. Motherhood has taught me those things as well.
So, what is yoga to me? To me, yoga is motherhood.
Remember me? Creator of this blog….been M.I.A for about two years? Yup, names Alyssa if ya’ll forgot! So happy to be writing again… it’s definitely been a while. Before I catch you up on what I’ve been up to for the past two years I should explain why I went M.I.A in the first place.
First things first, when I started the blog I was fresh into regaining my balance in my healing journey. Everything was going great until it wasn’t. In about the span of three months, I lost my child home to flames (see post here), my mom was hospitalized and we were unsure of the outcome (she got out about a month later and hasn’t had a scare since), and tons of other family drama woven in between it all. Needless to say, it was a little too much for my fragile heart to handle at the time and I so badly just needed to pull back, go within and do some soul searching, alone. Reflecting on all the emotions and stress during that storm, I am so proud of myself for taking cover and keeping warm the way I did.
I feel like that year was a decade ago and today I feel like a completely different person.
Stronger, braver, happier.
Has it been easy? Heck no. Not in the least bit. It was the first time in my life I sought help from an outside source. The first time I felt I truly couldn’t do it on my own. I signed up for counselling, went face to face with my present circumstances, dug into past pain, and cried more than I ever had in my life. So healing. I am a strong believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason and I am grateful for that year and all the lessons and healing opportunities it has provided.
Saying that, I really do feel better than ever and thus I am writing again. Yay!
Anyhoo… Here’s a little summary of the past two years and what I’ve been up to lately!
1. I went back to work at the Catholic School District as an Indigenous Liaison. The feeling of waking up early, putting on make up, dressing in clothes, real clothes, not sweat pants or pajamas, and talking to adults for most of my day… Whoa, let me tell you, it was the best feeling ever. Fast forward a year and a bit, I am now working half time and loving the balance between mom life and work life. Actually, if I’m being completely honest, being home with my girls more has made me want to be a stay at home mom again! We will see what the future holds I s’pose 😉
2. My little Ellanor (Bee) has been seeing a speech therapist for about 6 months now. I was concerned about her lack of words around her second birthday (she had maybe 5 words by then?) and so I took her to her pediatrician who then asked me a number of questions about behaviour and such and long story short we are on the waiting list to see the infamous Dr. Golden to see if our little lady has Autism. This, along with some nightmare childcare experiences, is the reason Nick and I decided it would be best for me to work half time. It’s been about two months since we made the change and we have seen heaps of improvement in her language, behaviour, and over all development. Mama’s really do know best! And Daddy’s too, of course 😉
*I just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to all of you who have reached out and supported us in this process with Ellanor. All the encouraging words and gentle advice, all the listening ears and shoulders I have wet, have been so greatly appreciated. We feel such an incredible love from family, friends and this community and there are no words but thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you ❤
3. I have almost completed my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training!!!! Just a few more assignments to hand in and I’m certified! Cannot believe it. Shari @ Yoga Temple, you are amazing. Thank you for your wisdom and for guiding me through these last 6 months. Namaste ❤
4. I finally got back into working out again and I’ve been feeling wonderful! I started the Isagenix30 day weight loss program to shred my last few stubborn baby pounds and it’s been surprisingly easy. I don’t feel like I’m starving which is a huge plus because I get super hangry.
5. Just finished reading Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4 hour Work Week, which is life changing guys! Highly recommend it!
6. We have been going outside more and more recently. Everyday this last week! It is the best feeling. Nothing grounds me, connects me, brings me back to me and closer to God the way Mother Nature does. Winters here are hard and long and can become very depressing when you’re forced to stay inside, however, they say there’s no bad weather just bad clothing and I remember always being outside in the winter as a child so next year I am going to buy the proper gear and go outside as much as possible! No more excuses! Mother nature heals. And its free 😉
7. Every year we participate in Lent even though we are not Catholic or Christian (Nick and I were baptized Catholic but do not practice), but we do believe in God and we love Jesus! We also love Buddha and his teachings and I love learning about all religions but anyway, I digress! This year for lent, we have decided to give up screen time for the girls. That means zero TV shows, movies, I-pad etc. except if it is out of our control like going to a friends house and they have a show on. Kay, this is so embarrassing but I was SO anxious about going through with this no screen time thing that I actually googled “how to have no screen time with your kids” Bahahaha. Oh man. Surprisingly though, it has been easy peasy and the benefits have been immense. More family time, more interaction, more giggles, more spontaneous dance parties. So fun! It’s been a week (we started early) and they don’t even ask for it anymore! Malakai keeps telling everyone our TV is broken but it’s getting fixed on Easter. Lol.
8. I’ve been writing a lot more. Obvi…But not just here. I’ve started a new project that has been tugging at my heart strings for years and I am so so happy about it. And scared shitless. But mostly happy 🙂
I’ve always had a little bit of rebel in me, just the teeniest tiniest amount, but enough to want to be different and not follow the crowd. I remember as a kid I would wear baggy t-shirts when the other girls would wear dresses, I listened to rap when everyone was listening to pop, I got my tongue pierced before it became popular, and I would always be nice to the kids that were bullied even if it was in a cowardly way where no one would see. I thought caring about clothes and hair and make up was superficial and that poetry, peace, and justice were important. I remember being about 11 and staying up all night with my best friend talking about world problems and brainstorming ways we could help solve them – haha! In high school it got harder and harder to nurture that little rebel in me and so I just gave in and gave her up. It was surprisingly easy but it’s been a struggle ever since.
You see, I don’t want an alcoholic for a mother. I don’t want my brother & cousins to suffer from addictions. I don’t want to be frightened from a loud & sudden sound like the crack of my mother’s cheekbone connecting with my stepfather’s fist. I don’t want to have to count how many glasses of wine I’ve had in fear of losing control and blacking out. In this way, I want so badly to be different so I end up just being the same as everyone else.
I get lost in the trends, in the materialistic wants, in the workout obsession & clean eating phenomenon, in the status updates & Insta likes… I let myself get completely wrapped up in it all but it’s just a front, a fake, an armour I put on to cover up the fragile me, the broken me. I read somewhere once, that when you’re feeling lost, or questioning your purpose in life, to think about someone you want to be a role model for, someone you want to inspire and to think about what you want that person to learn from you. For me, aside from my girls, it has always been my niece.
She just turned 9 yesterday and has been through a lot in her short life. She has this way about her though, this kindness, this gentle courage to always to do the right thing. She reminds me a lot of myself as a child and in a lot of ways she inspires me. I started thinking about what it is I would want her to learn from me and it woke me out of my pretending-to-be-someone-else state. Do I want her to care about how many squats she does or the calories she consumed? No. Do I want her to value her self-worth on the amount of likes she gets? Hell no. Do I want her to follow the crowd and not stay true to herself? Double hell no.
I want her to love herself and her life no matter how crazy it becomes. I want her to forgive those who have hurt her and to always remember to forgive herself too. I want her to be brave, speak her mind, and always tell the truth no matter how hard it may be. I want her to wear her scars proudly and without shame no matter how painful. I want her to keep that kindness, that innocence, and that gentle courage to always do the right thing. I want her to always stay true to herself, to be who she wants to be, and do what she wants to do. I want her to be happy being different from the rest. I want her to find that little rebel within and never let her go ❤
Six days before the anniversary of the Fort McMurray Wildfire I sit on the sidewalk in front of the house I grew up in and watch in a paralyzing daze as the fire fighters run in and out and around my family’s house putting out the flames that consumed it.
I was coming for dinner. My Dad had been working non stop nights and my step mom invited us over for something to eat before he went to work. When the flashing red lights of the fire truck, ambulance and police cars blocked off the entrance to my street stopping me from turning in I knew. I didn’t know what exactly, but I knew it was my family they were there for. It always was. My heart dropped and I turned the truck around and sped to the back entrance where I found more flashing lights – it was blocked from both ends. I started to panic. I parked the truck, the two girls in the back and ran ahead a little. I saw my uncle’s truck parked and my suspicion was confirmed. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I ran back to the truck. Then I ran forward a bit again. I couldn’t leave the girls alone but I couldn’t think straight enough to take them out. I must have went into the truck, opened the door, shut it and walked towards my house and then back about 4 times before I talked myself into just getting them out of the vehicle and bringing them with me.
I was trembling as I inched closer to my house. Please let everyone be okay. Please let everyone be okay. I saw my Dad. Then Angie, my step mom. Thank you, I thought, my stomach still tying into knot after knot.
“It’s gone, Alyssa” my stepmom said walking up to me. “It’s burnt. It’s gone.”
“Fuck off” I replied, “No, it’s not”
“I’m sorry, Alyssa, I tried to call you. It’s gone. It’s burnt.”
I stared blankly tears welling up. I shook them off. This is not happening. It’s not fucking happening. It can’t be. I look around. My Dad is talking to a fire fighter, the neighbours are bunched together standing on their lawns taking it all in, my uncle and aunty are walking towards us now. There is so much commotion but it is silent at the same time like watching a film with no sound. My mind wanders to the first time we stepped foot in our house. I was 11 years old and my parents had just bought it. I was upset we were moving to Thickwood, I didn’t want to leave the Timberlea area. Angie thought it would be fun to spend the night in our first house before we actually moved in (we never lived in a house before, only apartments and mobile homes) and it was so much fun! We had no furniture, it was completely empty, but we ordered pizza, chased our dog, Peanut, around our new big house and slept in our sleeping bags on the living room floor…
My heart is sinking, closing, figuring out how to put up yet another wall around it’s tender flesh. This feeling is all too familiar. I hate it. But I’m comfortable in it. Used to it. It’s sickening.
I’m trying so hard not to become bitter over the loss of my parent’s house, the house I grew up in. There are so many reasons to become bitter and I have to admit there is still an anger inside me about it all. I can list a million reasons why it is unfair, how it shouldn’t have happened to us, how my parents have worked so hard and been through way too much to have this happen to them, but since the wildfire last year that claimed so many people’s homes in its rage, I am humbled in the fact we are not alone. The kind words, the phone calls, the text messages, the support we’ve received from family, friends, organizations, and complete strangers is remarkable. I love Fort McMurray, my family, my community… we are a different kind and I am beyond proud to call this place my home.
In my quest to keep my heart from closing off completely, I am trying to feel. Feel it all. Feel to heal. And search for God, for joy, for meaning in the little things. Yesterday, after it rained I took the girls out for a walk in the Birchwood trails. The sun was shining through the misty air. It was hot and cool at the same time. The grass was drying but the soil was still wet and gave off that sweet earthy smell just after it rains, my favourite smell of all. I closed my eyes and breathed it in. It was all so beautiful. The contrast between hot and cool, damp and dry. Mother nature has it figured out and God always gives little glimpses of hope if you look close enough. There needs to be this balance between forces. There needs to be a storm before a rainbow, despair in order for joy, heartache for happiness. And so, I wait patiently for the light to come from this darkness ❤
Slow down. Take a deep breath and get back to the basics. You stumbled too far off your path but it’s okay, you know your way back.
Trust yourself. Deep down you know what you need to do.
Staying true to yourself is the hardest thing you’ll have to do but it is so worth it. So unbelievably worth it.
You are growing and learning more about who you are and what it is you are meant to do.
Be easy on yourself.
You can’t know everything all at once. It doesn’t work that way. And it shouldn’t. Life is more exciting this way, I promise.
Trust in God. Remember to pray. And, make sure to give thanks EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Get back to the basics, love. It’s okay not to feel okay, but I know you are ready for a change.
You know what to do.
Usually, the advice we give others is what we most need to hear and listen to ourselves. I have been ignoring my needs and swaying too far away from where I am meant/truly want to be. I have been too interested in others lives and not putting in the work for my own life. I have forgotten to look within, to ask for help, to dance when I feel like dancing, to rest when I feel tired, and as a result my body, mind, and energy have been suffering. Time for me to get back to me. Time to get back to the basics.
She’s crying again. Ellanor. She’s teething, I think.
I pick her up and let her nurse but after a couple sucks she’s doesn’t want it anymore and is back to crying. I bounce her. I walk around the living room doing half lunges trying to avoid stepping on the crayons and blocks that are scattered through out the floor from yesterday’s tantrum. The neighbours probably think I’m crazy. She cries louder. I bounce faster whispering “shh…shh…shh” over and over.
Malakai hands me the remote. She wants Barney – again. I’m so sick of Barney. I try for Daniel Tiger instead, fiddling the remote in one hand, bouncing and shushing Ellanor in the other. The intro song to Daniel Tiger comes on and Malakai hits the floor with a smack. Her tiny two year old limbs mimic thick spaghetti noodles as she cries her famous words “no, no, no”.
Please, Lord, not today.
It’s okay, I remind her, it’s time for breakfast anyway. I put Bee back down and give her something to chew on. That should keep her quiet for at least 3 minutes. I step over my flailing Toddler and go into the kitchen where I grab my coffee cup, nuzzle it in my two hands – it’s still warm – I close my eyes and down the entire thing like a swift shot of vodka. Breathe in,breathe out, step over last nights macaroni + cheese stuck to the floor, rummage through the dishwasher to find a bowl because why would there be any in the cupboard where they belong? Why would any be clean, even? I rinse out the cleanest dirty bowl I can find. Fuck it. Good enough. Pour some yogurt in there, plop some blueberries in and breakfast is served.
I pick Malakai up off the floor though she wriggles and kicks and continues to protest with the most annoying “noooooo” in the world. I fight her into her chair, buckle, click – I win. She screeches and throws the bowl of berries + yogurt across the table. I smile and calmly tell her breakfast is important and remind her she’ll be hungry later if she doesn’t eat. How I managed to stage a sweet, patient voice frightened me. Who was this person?
Ellanor’s had enough now, she’s crying yet again so I go and pick her up, throw her on one hip and walk back into the kitchen. Malakai is kicking the table and repeating “no,no,no” but I just ignore her and open the utensil drawer, pull out a spoon and dig into the tube of yogurt on the counter. I stuff my mouth, swallowing gulps, ingesting as fast as I can before walking and bouncing my teething baby to sleep.
Finally, Ellanor is heavy in my arms and I unbuckle Malakai from her high chair and help her down. We go into the living room and she is horrified to find Daniel Tiger still on. Slam. Her body hits the floor again. Ellanor wakes up from the sound and I am now an outsider looking in. I watch myself as I walk sedately over to the television and turn it off. I hear more crying but I don’t know where it’s coming from. Both I assume.
I sit down on the couch, pull out my boob from my robe and nurse Ellanor back to sleep. Malakai climbs onto the couch letting out muffled whimpers through her hand that’s crammed in her mouth. Her face is red and wet with tears and I feel my eyes swelling and burning. But I don’t cry. Instead, I sit motionless, baby sucking on one side, two year old curled up in the fetal position, her little arms wrapped around my free one on the other side.
I stare blankly at the piles of clean clothes that lay wrinkled and unfolded on the dining room table and briefly I wish that I was somewhere else. Someone else, even. Oddly, I remember what we tell kindergartens at school to do when they get upset – blow bubbles. I blow hard forcing an exhalation that’s followed by a deep inhale.
I try again.
I am 5 years old. I am sitting here. Self soothing. Comforting others with no one to comfort me.
The flashback and self pity hit me hard and my chest tightens. I want to escape. I want to run away. I want to drink an entire bottle of wine and get really really high. But then, as if God had finally seen my invisible white flag waving viciously in the air, my mind was silenced by the silence.
No more crying. No more whining. Not even a sniffle. Just pure, sacred silence.
I check to see if Malakai had fallen asleep but I see her eyelashes glitter. She gets up momentarily, repositioning herself into my body and then tilts her head back and up so she can see me. I meet her teary-eyed gaze and she smiles. My chest tightens again but this time it’s my heart mending, not breaking. She snuggles up, gives my arm a long, hard squeeze and gently kisses my wrist. A knowing feeling washes over me. I kiss her on the top of her head, close my eyes and together we breathe in the stillness.
One thing I have always been concerned about is this loss of connection with the people sitting in front of us from being over connected to people a million miles away. Social media/the internet/texting has always been a double edge sword for me. I wrote about it before, here. Since Malakai was born I vowed to show her the importance of real human-contact relationships as well as being present in this ever distracted world of ours. But how could I possibly do this if I myself was so dependant and very much addicted to this distracted way of living? I couldn’t! I would be a total hypocrite. Like when parents tell their kids not to smoke in between inhalations of their export A golds. And so, not knowing how to approach this, I do what I always do when in doubt – ask Google. (A very positive side of the double edge sword 😉 )
I started reading this book that google recommended (thank you, Google <3) by Rachel Macy Stafford called Hands Free Mama about a month ago now and have been practicing (TRYING to practice) her weekly intentions of living a “hands free” life. Basically a Hands Free way of living is throwing out any distractions that cause you to lose sight of what really matters in life such as favouring your phone/computer/work/to-do lists over your relationships with the people around you. BINGO – this is exactly what I needed!!
I bought a cute little basket specifically for our phones that sits in the kitchen by my coffee pot and our family rule now is that the phone goes in the basket during every meal time and no matter if it rings we ignore until we are finished eating together. I gotta say, I was the one that initiated this – telling Nick everything I was reading in the book – and he totally jumped on board and has become even more vigilant than I am with this rule! Which can be annoying when he’s reminding me to put my phone away when he used to be worse than I was with it!
A few other things we’ve been trying is zero use of the phone while driving (this has been surprisingly easy), putting the phone away (in the cute lil basket) when someone is visiting, and not going on social media when the girls are awake. This has been super hard for me but this book asks you to reflect on each attempt at living hands free and to count the things you would have missed if you were distracted by your phone/to-do list etc. such as your child’s smile as she/he stacked that one last block atop a swaying tower, the look of excitement on your child’s face as she/he slides down the slide, an intimate talk with your husband/friend/brother/sister that could have been ignored except you noticed the look on their face that day and were present long enough to ask them what was wrong and to truly listen.
These moments are so simple but so important. It’s the little things that make life so incredibly great, isn’t it?!
Yesterday, we were at the indoor play park and there was a mother of three that was on her phone the entire time. Her children were older, but they were begging for attention with “look-at-me”‘s and “mom-mom-mom”, and at one point the youngest even slipped hitting the back of her head so hard it echoed through out the place and both Nick and I were completely shocked when we glanced over at the mom, who did not even look up from her phone once, and watched as the little girl picked herself up holding her head and walked over to her mom to tell her what happened. Now, I don’t know the woman’s situation and quite possibly that could have been me a few months back, but it just filled me with so much sadness and anger that I know with all my heart living hands free is the right thing for me and my family.
If you’d like to join me on my hands free journey, order the book or see if your library has it and we can talk about all the ups & downs along the way together! Or if you’d like to do this on your own, feel free – I am rooting for you!
Just a warning – this book will stab you in the heart with all it’s truth and make you feel guilty as F but it’s the truth that sets you free, right? And, I wanna be free! Hands free! 😉