Permission


What’s the one thing we don’t give ourselves enough of?

Permission.

We don’t give ourselves permission to grieve, to hurt, to cry, to take the day off from things we need to – to take time for ourselves. So when we do try to unwind, this lack of “permission” to relax interferes with our ability to fully unwind.

Instead of unwinding, our minds race with what we should be doing or how we will get everything we need to get accomplished once we’re done unwinding.

We don’t give ourselves permission to grieve how WE need to grieve. It’s a process, an impossibly intimate and personal one at that. No grief is like the next. So instead, we “buck up” and move on, judged by those who think we haven’t done so quickly enough.

Then there are expectations, levels of impossible perfection. Yes, we should strive to be the best we can be at all times but you know what? Sometimes the best you can be is just that – the best YOU can be. Not the best she can be, or the best he can be, but the best YOU can be. It may not measure up to what you see in your head as the best you, but at the end of the day, as long as you’ve given it your all, that’s what matters.

The other thing we don’t do often enough is give ourselves permission to love ourselves or love those around us with wild abandon. We hold back a little piece of ourselves too often because we fear vulnerability. The act of blooming fully scares many of us because we have known pain and refuse to let ourselves get wounded again.

But here’s the thing about that – we don’t live if we hold ourselves back or if we let others change our sense of selves. Permission for truly being yourself is something only you can give. Realizing this is a huge leap forward toward healing any pain which may have frozen you in the past. As a popular Disney song commands us – let it go.

I’ve been growing into permission to be me. There have been days where I’ve been a wonderfully glorious blossom and others where I’ve been a wilted flower. But it’s okay because each day, I’ve been the best damn blossom and wilted flower I can be, which is what matters when the sun sets.

Then, in the evening sky, the moon rises. It waxes, it wanes, form changing with the twilight of every evening until it grows full then fades away completely.

My favourite is when the moon hangs low and grins down at us, like Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat. Sometimes, I imagine there is a devious cat just behind the inky darkness, waiting to pounce on us.

Moments like these are what help me hold onto whimsy in the face of the craziness of daily living.

Focus on the little things.

Give yourself permission to be the best YOU that you can be.

Love with wild abandon. Laugh with your belly. Sing with joy.

Above all else, grin back at the Cheshire cat and never forget to hold onto the whimsical.

A Few Ramblings About Love


When I was younger I foolishly believed in fairy tales, in the happy every after. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, animals sing, dwarfs get all ga ga, and well, happily ever after, right? Wrong.

In between, there’s housework, there is the daily mundane, the impossibly difficult discussions, the little things, the actual WORK required to make the happily ever after happen. You know, stuff which doesn’t fit neatly into a Disney movie and is over-dramatized in their sitcoms accented with a cheesy laugh reel.

Life isn’t some sitcom. It’s not a Disney fairy tale either. It is somewhere in between, it is not easy, and it requires work. Most of all, it requires intimacy, patience, trust, and the willingness to talk the hard stuff through without jumping to conclusions. It means listening instead of deciding what you’re going to say next. A partnership, a marriage.. it’s not about the day you say “I do”…it’s about all the days after.

The next time you see a couple who appears to have it all together, remind yourself you are only seeing a slice of their life. Do not compare yourself or your relationship to what they have. I used this example a few weeks ago – the story of the ugly duckling – he started out completely different from his siblings but ended up being the most beautiful and graceful creature of them all. It is also a perfect analogy for relationships. In my experience, people who have been through a lot together (and survived) have the strongest relationships.

Over the past few years through my work as a peer support advocate for women and families struggling with Perinatal Mood Disorders, I have had the deep honor of getting to peek behind the curtain of some of the most amazing people I have ever “met”. I say “met” with quotations because most of them I have only had the pleasure of talking to on through a digital medium.

This work, this advocacy, has not only allowed me to enable others to move forward with their lives through the boulder of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders but it has also taught me quite a bit about love and relationships. You see, when you are supporting a family through a PMAD episode, you have to be aware of everything going on in their life because every little thing matters. Is she getting enough support at home? Is he sleeping okay? Does he have support too? How’s work going? Are the in-laws a source of stress? Are they communicating? Are they sharing the care responsibilities? Are they taking time for each other as a couple? There are a lot of little nuances which can add up to an explanation of why she’s had a bad week or why he seems a little snippy. These are the things which must be teased out to empower a couple to communicate and move past the potholes before they become sinkholes.

In no particular order, the following are things I believe empower a strong and successful relationship. They are things I strive to do in my current relationship and don’t ever intend to stop doing:

1) Listen. I don’t mean nod your head and “uh huh” at every little thing your partner says. No. I mean actually listen. Follow the conversation, ask questions, repeat things back. Validate their feelings, their concerns, make them heard. You would expect the same from them, yes? Everyone wants to be heard, deserves to be heard and this is particularly true with your partner.

2) Check in with your partner on a daily basis. Sure, ask them how their day went but dive deeper and ask pertinent questions beyond the surface. Get them talking abut their interests or offer to listen as they vent a problem they’re having at work.

3) Hold hands just because. Holding hands has got to be one of the most intimate things you can do with a person. I’m serious! It’s a quiet yet sweet way to let them know you care and you want to be near them. I adore holding hands and it means the world to me to be able to just sit and hold hands as we watch TV.

4) Discuss serious issues like adults. I don’t mean rage at each other, yelling and screaming. I mean sit down, and in a calm, rational voice, state your side of the situation, and then listen to your partner state his side of the decision. Sometimes you may need to wait until you both calm down. Work together instead of against each other to solve problems. You are both on the same team, here. I realize this is easier said than done but when both of you are capable of this it truly is a beautiful thing, trust me. (this is where checking in with each other comes in handy because there are less likely to be blow ups if you are actually communicating to begin with!)

5) Go on a date with each other. It doesn’t have to be ritzy, heck, it doesn’t even have to qualify as a “date”. Just spending time alone, the two of you, is great. You may have kids now but that doesn’t mean you are *just* a mom & dad. You are still the people you were when you fell in love. Nurture that, celebrate it, and don’t ever lose sight of yourselves as a happy, giddy couple madly in love with each other.

6) Surprise each other with little romantic gestures. These things are cheesy but they work. Texts, notes in work bags, mailed cards. I had to travel last summer and I left a well-planned scavenger hunt for my boyfriend at our condo while I was gone. All the clues were in a coupon holder with the dates written on the outside of the envelope. I had a blast planning it and he enjoyed all the little mementos. It really is the little things which matter in the long run.

7) Laugh together, often. Laughter really is the best medicine and if you can’t be utterly ridiculous with the one you’re with? Then you’re in trouble. It’s good for the heart, the soul, the abs, and your relationship.

8) Try new things together. Chances are you’ll both be nervous but it’ll be a bonding experience and hopefully one you’ll never forget. Just make sure you wear all the proper safety gear if you decide to leap out of a plane.

9) Give each other your own space. Know who you are and respect the person your partner is by allowing him/her to indulge in his/her interests without guilt. There is the potential for abuse of this (ie, someone hogging all the alone time and not allowing their partner to have their fair share). Love should never demand someone change their interests or who they really are just to be accepted. Love is about finding someone who is amazing and accepting them for WHO THEY ARE right then and there, not the person you plan on molding them to be.

10) Love with wild abandon. There’s no other way to love the person you are with than deeply. Love so hard your heart hurts and aches and you can’t wait to jump into their arms when they get home from work. Fall in love with them all over again every day for no reason at all than the fact that they love you right back.

Am I saying that if you do all of these things you’ll have the perfect relationship? No. Because not all of us are built the same and some of us need different things from a relationship. But for me? This is it. This is my list. Some of it may work for you, the whole thing possibly.

Underlying all of this, however, is the definitive need to communicate because without communicating, you may as well build a house without a foundation in the Everglades and just wait for the whole thing to sink beneath the swamp. And that’s not getting you anywhere but in a gator’s belly.

#PPDChat Topic 02.10.14: Love In The Time of Perinatal Mood Disorders


ppdchat-02-10-14

When you are struck with a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder, as with any illness, you focus on healing yourself. It’s perfectly okay to do this but it is also important to remember that this experience extends to those you love as well. If you are in a positive environment, the people around you should be diving in to provide the safe cocoon you need to heal. Even in the most supportive environments, however, chaos still may thrive and after the initial crisis mode fades away and the sun appears on the horizon, a storm may be brewing just behind you.

It is beyond imperative for all of us, not just the one struggling against the beast, to focus on the form the relationship between our most intimate partner takes during the Perinatal episode. If we let it slide too much, the relationship may be irreparable.

Tonight’s chat will focus on how to deal with several types of relationships, a brief discussion of signs of dangerous types of relationships (and how to get help) as well as little things you can do to keep the romance alive in your marriage/partnership as you also navigate the waters of your Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder.

There won’t be a worksheet go go along with tonight’s chat but there will be a resource sheet as well as some coupons/certificates you can share with someone you love who may be depressed (or, if you’re the one who’s depressed, share with someone you love as something that they can do for you to help you out). I sincerely hope you won’t miss tonight’s chat. It’s gonna be invaluable.

See y’all on Twitter at 830pm ET!

The Trouble with Beauty and Happiness


This post is the result of a few conversations I’ve participated in on Social Media over the past couple of days. The discussions centered on beauty, self-awareness, happiness, and one even focused on the gender battle of stereotypes and how body image is presented differently to men and women. These are my general thoughts on the matter. Feel free to dive in with any thoughts you may have as well. Just an FYI, if you’re new here, all new comments must be approved before publication.
People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing you are the beholder.
~Salma Hayek~
For most of us, we wake up in the morning, stumble to the bathroom, and take care of business before we even bother looking in the mirror. Once we do, however, we judge ourselves for what sleep has done to us. Did we get enough? Do we still have circles under our eyes? What’s that crusty stuff at the corner? Dry lips? Wrinkles? Some of us may have time to do something about it, others may have a scant moment to splash water on our faces before we are overrun with children who need our every waking second.
Our vision of ourselves fades throughout the day as we tend to life at hand. Eventually we know we should shower and maybe do something beyond a messy bun with our hair but we don’t have the time or the energy. Some may go overboard, like Decoy Mom.
I am not saying that there is anything wrong with a natural approach to appearances. Nor am I saying there is anything wrong with wanting to wear make up. Both are perfectly fine as long as you are doing it for yourself and not to please some impossible unattainable standard or to buck said unattainable standard.
Beauty is not some physical state of being. It is a mental state of being. Until we, both men and women, truly believe this and begin to live by it instead of allowing companies and others to define what is perfect, we will live in a state of “faux beauty.”
Beauty is, as Salma stated, in the eye of the beholder. It truly is freeing to realize that YOU are your own beholder. We are of course, our own worst critics. Instead of tearing yourself down about baby weight or big boobs or the size of your behind, see them as how you were meant to be formed.
We are works of art, all of us. Each of us are individual paintings, all perfect in our own ways, curves, no curves, long hair, short hair, red, blonde, brown, black hair, light skin, dark skin, brown skin… we are made the way we were meant to be made. Nothing more, nothing less.
I am full figured, have long brown hair, and while I do get frustrated with what my body can do, I have no one to blame for that beyond myself for not using it for what it was made to be used for – exercise and movement. Lazy. But you know what? I am still happy with my body because I know that it is capable of moving the way it was meant to. I just need to get my head in the right place, something I want to do for ME, not in order to become the next goddess to be worshiped. It is about being healthy not about reaching a number.
The trouble with beauty is that we allow others to define it and have allowed others to define it for far too long. Women are where life grows. Life flows from man into woman. We, all of us, are where we start. We should respect this and allow ourselves slack when it comes to judging the size of the package in which we reside.
Know what I find sexy in a partner? Intelligence, compassion, a sense of humour, a love of geeky things and sporty things. Our minds are the ones that fall in love, not our bodies. Of course physical attraction helps and it is a factor for me (and for most of us) but it is not at the top of my list. Physical beauty fades. Personality, however, is what’s under the surface and THAT’S what you’ll spend your life with….your partner’s personality. I think this is one of the reasons mental health is a struggle for people in love – because it changes your soul. If you keep communication up though, the two of you can work through anything – remembering, of course, that communication is a two way street.
“If I could just be beautiful, I would be happy….”
Beauty starts with acceptance of what we have been given. It starts on the inside, this acceptance. Helen Keller believed that “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
Helen Keller felt beauty with hear heart and soul, experienced beauty through touch, she did not see it or even hear it. She did not work to gratify her inner soul with an outer appearance, rather, she worked to achieve beauty through her works with others.
Today, take the Helen Keller approach to beauty and happiness. Choose a cause dear to your heart and do something to make a difference. Then do something else to make a difference tomorrow as well. And the next. Let your love, joy, and heart be the source of your beauty instead of a jar, a treadmill, or a scalpel. (The treadmill and scalpel, of course do not apply in cases of medical necessity – I want to make that absolutely clear. Surgery or exercise are perfectly acceptable when they are for healthy reasons.)
Go. Be beautiful. Let that light inside of you shine and allow others to see just how awesome and brightly your patina radiates. As you do so, remember these wise words: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. (Eleanor Roosevelt).
Carry these words as well, by the great Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Do not, by any means, consent to allow others to define your beauty or your happiness for they are yours and yours alone to define and achieve.

On finding Serendipity


One of my favourite romantic movies is the movie Serendipity with Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack. It’s everything romance should be – magical, whimsical, unexplainable, powerful, passionate, indescribable, and beautiful. It’s a perfect romance at it’s finest. The very heart of what we all crave in our own lives which is why movies like Serendipity move us so – they are the wish we long for within ourselves.

Some of us are fortunate enough to find a love like the one portrayed in the movies. We are blessed to find our person – the one meant for us by the universe. That clichéd phrase “When it happens, you’ll just know” and the cued cheesy romantic music as the couple walks off into the distance – none of us ever think it’ll really happen to us. It only happens in Hollywood, we tell ourselves. Unless you’re like me and you still believe in the fairytale, holding on tight and refusing to settle.

Those of you who know me and have seen my tweets or FB updates about happiness lately have probably wondered what’s up with me.

Love happened, that’s what.

I’m madly and deeply in love with an amazing man who is kind, caring, compassionate, lets me be me, and doesn’t require any masks of any sort. He is hilarious, intelligent, handsome, and fills my heart with happiness, joy, love, and peace. He knows my entire story and doesn’t judge me for any piece of it. There are no words, really, to describe how I feel about him. I told him the other day that “love” is a good place to start. The most amazing thing? He loves me right back…more, even, as he tells me often.

We’ve fallen. We don’t want to get up. Ever. We are happy. We are magic. We are love. We are together. And now you know why I’ve been cryptically talking about my insane happiness. I wasn’t looking – neither was he, really. Things just blossomed and BAM. Here we are, completely blown away by the magic unfolding between us.

I am so excited to finally be sharing this with all of you. There are no words to express how truly happy and magical I feel these days – none. I smile, a lot. My heart soars, my mind gets lost, and I am lost in thoughts of him, of us. There’s a freedom here I’ve never known – a joyous, happy freedom. I want everyone to know this kind of love. I am beyond grateful I do.

If this is a dream, please don’t ever wake me. I’ve found my Prince and I don’t intend to lose him.