This is a lesson I'm still learning - how to let it go.
🌷As I stand in the middle of my kitchen and wonder why it can't stay clean for 5 minutes.
🌷As I put the last piece of laundry away, only to find a new basket has been filled.
🌷As I watch my family relaxing and enjoying themselves and I question how the work will ever get done.
And then I realize that it won't and that's okay. The work is never "done" because it just regenerates. Real homes aren't "done" because families "live" in them.
And so I sit, in my lived-in home and I breathe. I breathe at the floor that still needs to be swept, and at the teenager who put a cup on the counter I just finished cleaning.
I breathe in.
I breathe out.
I feel gratitude for my house that is a home.
Real homes aren't perfect and neither am I.
I am enough...
And I release it.
Nothing comes out of nowhere.
Sometimes people just lose control.
Every reaction begins small and builds over time.
We have no idea what emotional load people are carrying on the inside, or the myriad factors that make up their complex set of coping mechanisms. There is no comparing one person's trauma with another's because nobody copes the same way.
Everyone carries an invisible load and, somedays, it's just too much to hold on to. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, any time. Even to you. And when it does, all we can do is show compassion, empathy and understanding.
So the next time we see someone lose control,
Nothing comes out of nowhere.
It doesn't have to be today!
Each year is made up of 365 opportunities, so keep going! You can do this!
If you tried today and it didn't work out, that doesn't mean it's over.
You can just try again tomorrow.
And if you don't try tomorrow because you're:
🌸need a rest
That's okay too!
You can do it tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that.
So love yourself enough to give yourself a break. Every morning is a blessing and a chance to reset, rethink, renew and try again.
Why do I talk about mindfulness so much? Why do I weave it into every class that I teach? What does mindfulness have to do with the Performing Arts anyway and why don’t I just stick to the “curriculum”?
The answer to these questions is simple: without mindfulness, nothing else matters. If we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love someone else. If we don’t understand our own humanity, we will fail to recognize the humanity in others. If we can’t live in our own bodies, and in our own moments, we will never create art from a place of authenticity.
When we read literature, study music, perform choreography, or explore a monologue, we are examining the human condition - the good, the bad, the ugly and the painstakingly beautiful.
When we know, love and care for ourselves deeply, we:
We all have sleepy days.
Stay on the couch days.
Stay in your pyjamas days.
Do lots of snacking days.
Scroll on your phone days.
Not much energy days.
We all have those days.
Listen to your body and embrace those days when they come.
Time spent recharging, is never wasted time.
Moms are always extra busy over winter holidays. We shop, we cook, we clean, we make the magic happen. Like so many moms, I have worked extra hard this year to make Christmas special. I've put lots of time and effort into gift selection. I'm trying to meet everyone's emotional needs and to be the rock they need as they mourn the loss of merriment and connection. I'm trying to keep everyone's moods lifted amidst the ever-looming shadow of Covid and isolation.
At the end of the day, I am exhausted in my bones from what feels like a massive emotional load. Mom-mode almost feels like survival mode. When my mom-mode is switched on, I do whatever needs to be done. I don't always feel the strain until it's over and by then, it's too late. I'm completely depleted.
Well, it's Christmas Eve Eve and I've already hit the emotional wall. The burden is too big and I need to set it down. I can't take everyone's pain away. People will be sad. People will be mad. People will be lonely and all of that is real, normal and understandable. It's not my job to take it away. It's my job to be there through it all.
What I've learned is that, as moms, we can't feel everything for everybody and we can't always take the hurt away. With love comes loss. With joy comes grief. With community comes isolation. If we don't experience one, we can't appreciate the other. Nor can we fully recognize the difference between the two.
By not allowing my emotional cup to run empty, I can be what matters the most. Mom. Just mom. It is my presence that counts, not my presents. The most important thing I can do for my family is be there, to listen and to love. By not allowing my emotional cup to run empty, I am giving my family the best gift of all - my strong, healthy, loving self.
Today I did a thing. I mean, it was a little thing, but it was a big thing. And it may seem like nothing at all to most people, but it has taken me 45 years and a pandemic to do it.
Today, when someone was needlessly cranky and short-tempered with me, I did not take it personally.
Not even for a moment. I did not feel hurt by it. I did not internalize it nor let it linger. I paused for mere seconds before telling myself, “It’s not about you”. I then took a deep breath and released it completely.
It was so liberating.
“It’s not about you,” I said. And it wasn’t. And, what was even more remarkable: I understood that completely.
We are all hurting, grieving, mourning, struggling, worrying, needing, raging and reacting.
We all just want to be near people again, to get out and live our lives, to forget that any of this has even happened.
We all feel victimized.
We all feel trapped.
We’re in shock.
We are experiencing trauma.
I'm not suggesting that we should allow people to treat us poorly. On the contrary, we teach people how to treat us. However, the next time someone is cranky or short-tempered with you, try to not feel hurt by it. Do not let it linger. Instead, give that cranky person all of the love, understanding and compassion that you can muster and repeat after me: “It’s not about you”.
And it really isn’t.
Do you ever have times in your life where you feel like you’re functioning on autopilot? Have you ever been half way through your commute to work and wondered how you got there, unable to remember the first part of your route? Many are the days where we coast through our lives completing perfunctory tasks, but feeling disconnected from our purpose.
The reality is that humans aren’t meant to live their lives this way. We aren’t meant to wake up every day and perform the same tasks over and over. We aren’t built to sit at desks, stare at computers or spend most of our lives indoors. As a result, we develop a type of numbness that keeps us from breaking free of these patterns of being.
When we feel disconnected from our purpose, we often fill the void by looking outwards when what we should be doing is looking within. At the end of the day, what drives us to keep going like this, to stay in jobs that don’t fulfill us, to spend more waking hours dedicated to the profit of others than to our own well-being – all of this comes down to social programming. The truth is that we are consumed by consumerism.
So desperate are we to have the things we’re supposed to have that we are prepared to abandon our precious time in the pursuit of material possessions. Yet, can we even say why we want these things? Yes, we need shelter and clothing and food, but do we need the latest and greatest of everything. Do we need to buy our own happiness with stuff? Can we really feed our emptiness or find our sense of self with possessions?
Our compulsion to consume is often connected with our social-emotional needs. A daily barrage of media messaging tells us that our lives will never live up to other people’s lives and that we are never enough.
We overeat to console ourselves. We buy new clothes to disguise our shortcomings. Even when we can’t afford to, we buy trinkets–houses, cars, baubles–beyond our means to assuage our inadequacies. We even fill our calendars with activities and commitments so as to be able to complain about our popularity.
The cycle of consumption–need followed by emptiness triggering more need and the eventual, inevitable realization of emptiness – is a spiraling vortex. IT’S TIME TO BREAK FREE. Consider the possibility that a happy life is not something we can buy because happiness doesn’t come from external “stuff”.
Life is full of ebbs and flows and we’re meant to feel it all. If we can find peace within ourselves, by prioritizing relationships over things, we can move through these ebbs and flows without needing to fill the void with “stuff”. When we live a life of purpose we feel less of a need for constant consumption. The key to happiness, therefore, is not found in owning more: it is found in being more.
There is something about being awake when the world is still and everyone else is tucked in their beds that makes you contemplate the universe. Each morning while I walk my dog, Wilbur, my mind thinks all of the thoughts that are too big for me to think at home. In fact, it is only the promise of thinking time that quiets the protest in my head when my excited pup pulls me from the comfort of slumber and into the early morning hour.
You see, I crave solitude so much that I wake up before my family every day just so that I can be alone. Don’t get me wrong: I love my family and they’re cool people and all. But, I know that being alone for regular intervals is essential to my mental health and well-being. Not only am I an introvert, but I am an anxious introvert who masquerades as an extrovert. I do this every dang day and it’s exhausting!
Even though I am a care-giver who instinctively loves and supports other people, there’s another part of me that wants to remain a quiet, unruffled observer of the world. Truth be told, other people and their needs are a constant source of pressure for me. Despite this, each and every day, I dutifully get up, get out the door and present myself to the world as an extrovert. I do good work this way, but it requires a level of emotional vulnerability that drains me every day.
As I get older, I find that I am craving quiet and solitude even more. My thoughts are like my closest friends and I can’t wait to be with them in a way that can’t happen when other people are around. Sometimes, I actually feel excitement at the thought of turning off the light and going to bed because it means that I can lay there and hear my thoughts again without interference or interruption.
The bottom line is that introverts--especially anxious ones--need periods of peace and solitude as bulwark against the insistence of socializing. We need to build in times in our day when we can recharge. For a long time, I ignored my need for this time and the result was regular emotional burnout. I have now created my own little office space in my home and that room is like a sanctuary. I’ve outlined boundaries and my family respects them. The kids knock before entering; they don’t disturb me unless it’s important. My family understands that when I emerge from my happy place, I will be rejuvenated. And, that’s good news for everyone.
And so, as Wilbur and I walked the streets this morning, when the sun had not yet risen and even the birds were barely awake, I could feel my emotional batteries charging. It only took me 45 years to understand myself and to lay down the boundaries required to function successfully as the anxious introvert in an extroverted world.
Creativity is not an inherited gene like blue eyes or wavy hair. When people say they aren’t creative, it just isn’t true. We are all born with the capacity for original thought, fantasy, creation and exploration. It is only as we get older that we are conditioned to stifle it. There is creativity swirling inside everyone, but I would argue that it is less of an attribute and more of a skill that requires developing.
And, as with all skills, creativity needs commitment, inspiration and courage in order to bloom.
When we are children, our creativity is nurtured and developed through books, colours, music, sights, sounds, experiences, relationships and play. Lots and lots of play. Sadly, the impulse for unfiltered play gets driven from us earlier and earlier in our lives. Instead, our instincts for creation and imagination are being replaced with the drone-like consumption of screen time and task completion.
I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, yeah, we use too much technology. Yada, yada, yada. The issue has certainly been discussed ad nauseam. Stick with me though, because that’s not my main point.
My point is that even though it may be half-dead deep inside you—trapped by to-do lists and daily monotony--your creativity is still there. It’s not dead, just dormant, and with practice and care, it can flourish again. You see, creativity only dies if you let it and we only let it because we are unaware of its value.
Creativity is essential to human progress. Without it, there would be no problem solving, no invention and no collaborative creation. Without creativity, there would be no scientific discovery, no medical advancements or philosophical inquiry. You see, creativity is not only important, it’s vital! So now that we understand its importance, let’s develop our creativity by following these four simple steps:
Creativity requires commitment. If you aren't committed to regular exploration, then you don’t want to be creative badly enough. Artists and poets don’t create masterpieces by waving a magic wand. They work at it daily. If you want to be creative, you need to set aside time each day to develop the skill. If you want to write: write. If you want to draw: draw. If you want to dance: dance. It’s not important whether the outcomes are good or not. In fact, don’t be so focused on the outcome. The process of creation is more important than the product itself. Just spend time exploring the skill.
Creativity requires inspiration. Fill your head full of thoughts. Your thoughts, other people’s thoughts. Thoughts about thoughts. So many thoughts! Never stop thinking! Listen to music, read books, listen to podcasts, watch films, look at art. Surround yourself with other creative thinkers and allow them to inspire you!
Lastly, creativity requires courage. You can’t be afraid to suck. In fact, you need to suck. Then you learn something. Then you try again. Then you suck less. Then you learn more. You get the idea; it’s a process of vulnerability, so let go of the ego now and focus on what you can learn. If you are too afraid to fail, you will never create a damn thing.
The world needs creative thinkers. The world needs people who can imagine the world not as it is, but how it could be. Be committed. Develop your craft. Fuel your inspiration. Be courageous. Creativity only dies if you let it. Don’t let it.