©2020 Erin Newton, www.thewellnessgarden.ca, All rights reserved
I have never been a morning person. Even as a child, it was a running joke that people knew to stay away from me first thing in the morning. When I wake up, I need quiet, solitude, and space to just think my big and little thoughts. After I’ve had those things, a switch just flips and I’m ready to do my adulting.
Now that my children are older, I have established a predictable and satisfying morning routine. It includes meditation, quiet contemplation, reading, list making and exercise: everything I need to “warm up my brain”, and be a caring empath in the world. What a joy to be able to focus on myself, before having to fulfill the needs of so many other people. Ah, balance. Thou art a loving friend.
Then, one day, my children convinced me that we needed a new puppy. And, in the blink of an eye, all that balance and comfort and time for deep thinking went up in smoke. Just like that, my mornings transformed from calm to chaotic. Instead of solitary meditation, I now spend the first part of my day in service to him. Instead of space, I am now overwhelmed with his insistent nipping and slurping and nudging. The sedate pace of those wistful mornings have been replaced with the mad dash around the neighbourhood in search of a perfect spot for him to do his business. I glower in resentment as I pass the houses full of puppyless people, who are waking up quietly before having to flip on their adulting switch. There is no time now to fill my emotional cup before pouring my energy into him. Puppies are a pain.
But do I regret getting this little furry ball of love? Not. For. A. Second. The sacrifice is temporary and the love, laughter and joy he gives us will last his lifetime. He will learn, he will grow and someday he will need me in different, less immediate ways.
So, what is the point of this early morning musing, you ask? Simple, my friends: nothing is permanent. Everything ebbs and flows. Just as you develop a predictable rhythm—just as things begin to move in a way that feels natural and energetically balanced, everything changes. My friends, our job is not to get to a certain point and then ride the wave of peace towards the shore of eternal bliss. Rather, it is to become aware of those moments of contentment and to appreciate them for the divine, albeit fleeting gifts that they are.
Things change. Life is complicated. Sometimes you have to flip the switch before you’re ready.
Empaths should not look at social media without expecting to have an emotional battle. I am an empath which means that I am highly attuned to other people’s emotions. I regularly take on other people’s feelings and allow them to become my own. Because of this, it is imperative that I have quiet contemplation, inspirational memes and puppy photos to wrap around my heart like a protective shield. I do this as an early morning self-care practice and it provides an emotional layer between me and the cruel, cold world. I know this rule, and yet today I woke up, I reached for my phone and I plunged myself into a swirling undertow of Instagram tragedy. Covid-19. Trump. Death. Destruction.
My wrist fatigues as I swipe my way through the murky waters of politics, the environment, global crisis. The familiar heaviness of anxiety spreads across my chest and I know I should stop, but it's too late now. Like a dewy-eyed Dory, I seem driven to "just keep swimming." I plummet into darkness. So many deaths! So much despair! Within minutes, Trump’s imbecilic voice is all I can hear. A halo of Covid-19 death tolls begins to swirl around my head. What is happening in this world? Suddenly, I feel myself sliding down, down, down into a pool of grief.
It’s dramatic, I know, but some days I deserve the award for how many emotions I can feel at the same time. The struggle of the empath is real, people, and I am splashing in a pool, weighed down by anxiety for people.
The problem with being deeply sensitive is it’s just so hard to find a balance between feeling compassion for others versus committing to carrying their full emotional load. If I close myself off to the woes of the world, I am callous. If I open my heart to the suffering and tragedy, I risk feeling an almost debilitating empathy. To feel or not to feel becomes the theme of my daily soliloquy.
Then, a miracle: the sounds of my children waking up is offered like a lifeline tossed into the raging depths. I sit up and I decide to flip the switch. I remind myself that I can be compassionate and still protect my own heart. I am able to care for others and still know when I need to take a step back. I put down the phone, get out of bed, get dressed and leave my room. I close the door and I leave the sorrow behind me.
Being educated about world issues is important. Being informed about politics is crucial. Using my voice for change is my responsibility. Yet, if I don’t protect my mental health and well-being, I am powerless to act.
Empaths like me should not look at social media without preparing for an emotional battle. It is imperative that I have quiet contemplation, inspirational memes and puppy photos to wrap around my heart like a protective shield. If I consume the negativity of social media before preparing myself mentally, the emotions completely take over. And if I allow myself to take in all of the woes of the world, how can I be a positive advocate for change? So, you see, it isn’t really a question of to feel or not to feel? Instead, it’s a daily recalibration of how much to feel.
I don’t enjoy doing things that challenge me. There. I said it. Doing things I know I like and have been good at is far more my jam. I’m not lazy, far from it. It’s just that if I am interested in something, I will pursue it with gusto. I’m willing to work very hard, but I much prefer it when the predictable outcome is success. Pursuing something that challenges me? Well, that requires a certain level of risk taking and vulnerability that kinda makes me want to run in the opposite direction.
For example, working with technology is a challenge for me, so I avoid it like the plague. In particular, anything having to do with setting up electronics or learning new software has been known to send me into a rage. I would much prefer to step back and allow someone else to do it for me. It feels so good to just have other people fix things for you, install things for you, build things for you. I mean, it’s a win-win situation where a techie person gets to do what they enjoy and are good at, and you get to your goal without having to break a sweat.
Playing it safe can feel fantastic at times. The big HOWEVER, though, (and you probably saw this coming) is that this type of avoidance provides us with only a fleeting sense of satisfaction. Someone else fixed my problem so now everything is okay. Well, until the next time and the time after that when I still don’t know how to do it. Do you recall the ancient proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”? That’s kind of what I’m getting at.
I am not suggesting that you need to learn how to fix your own car. You don’t have to become omnipotent and utterly self-reliant. I mean, nobody’s going to perform their own surgery or take a pleasure trip to the moon on their own handmade rocket. Instead, I am suggesting that regularly challenging yourself to move beyond your comfort zone can help you grow in ways that are far more important.
Trying new things is challenging and we don’t usually enjoy things that challenge us. It requires a willingness to move beyond our everyday patterns and paradigms, and that takes courage. Taking risks and being vulnerable is uncomfortable and scary. But in the long run, it’s the only way to grow. The lesson: sometimes it’s important to catch your own fish.
People who don’t return their supermarket carts are monsters. I’m convinced that they are the same people who put their dog poop in a bag but drop the bag on the ground. They don’t flush a public toilet after they’ve used it and they, most assuredly, leave their garbage on the table at the food court.
If this is you, I am sorry.
Actually, no. I’m not sorry.
You’re a monster and I am judging you.
We’ve all seen them. They live among us and we don’t even know who they are until we let them in our lane and they don’t say thank you. Monsters! When I hold open the door for them and they walk right through without acknowledging my existence, I think to myself, “Who hurt them?”.
I often wonder what primitive urge creates this level of entitlement. How does this happen? Is it nature or is it nurture? Universities need to conduct studies. We need to gather a team of psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists and fund a massive study. Could this ideological notion of "Someone will come along to clean up my mess", be something that we’re born with or it is created through years of conditioning?
So how do we continue to give in a world that seems intent, nay emboldened to take, take, take? I proffer that it’s all about mindset: that is, we need to stop internalizing other people’s rude behaviour. Hear me out. What I mean is that it’s not about us: it’s about them. People who are acting out in inconsiderate ways, may not be, at their essence, inconsiderate. When we separate the action from the person, we can respond with compassion instead of anger. Is the person who leaves their supermarket cart in the middle of the parking lot a monster or a single mom whose toddler is having a melt down? Could that person who walks through the door you’re holding without saying thank you, be contemplating a divorce? Might the person who leaves their garbage on the table at the food court be rushing to tend to an elderly parent?
The truth is, we don’t know why some people lack consideration for others at any given moment. It’s too simplistic to conclude that a person is inconsiderate because their current behaviour is. One small snippet does not show us the whole picture. Having a compassionate mindset helps us to believe the best in people and to become empathetic to their situation. I mean, happy people don’t normally go through life acting like douchebags. Isn’t it more productive to assume that people are doing the best they can with what they have in any given moment? I mean, after all, isn’t that what we’re all doing?
Maybe the people who don’t return their supermarket carts are monsters. But I’d rather give them the benefit of the doubt than believe that monsters shop at my local Fortinos. Maybe if we weren’t so quick to judge others and, instead, considered what they might be going through, the world would be a better place.
When I became a mom, a part of me disappeared. I was there one day and gone the next and it took a long time for me to find myself again. It’s like placing those beautiful babies in my arms completely replaced my identity as an individual. When my children arrived I naturally put all of my love, energy and focus into them.
From that day forward, I was Maddie’s mom and then I was Liam’s mom. Yet, I‘m not sure where Erin went for all of those years. It was as if I traded in being Erin in order to become Mom. I didn’t realize that I could be both at the same time.
What I’ve since learned is that I can be as many different things as I want to be! Yes, I am a mom but I am also Erin, wife, sister, daughter, teacher, friend, artist and so much more. On any given day, at any given moment, I can be anything I want to be and so can you! All that this requires is that we are brave, we set boundaries and that we love ourselves enough to enforce them.
You see, there is nothing more powerful than a woman who loves herself fiercely. I’m so in awe of women who know their self worth. For many years, I loved my children more than I loved myself. It doesn’t have to be that way. I used to believe that to be a good mom, my children’s wants and needs must always come before my own. Only the depleted energy I had left at the end of my day was mine to reclaim for myself and my dreams.
This is utter madness! At the end of the day, I have given so much that there isn’t any energy left. Is this the mom I want my kids to see? I need them to know who Erin is. We rob our children of the opportunity to see our greatness when all we give them is our service. I want them to see me as the wife, sister, daughter, teacher, friend and artist. I want them to see me shine.
Dreams are not finite, you are allowed to have more than one! If you are blessed enough to have been granted the dream of motherhood, there’s no need to stop there! It’s not selfish to want more. Allow your children to see your greatness in every aspect of your life. Allow them to see you struggle, perhaps fail, re-commit, and triumph. Be brave, love yourself fiercely, set boundaries and remember who you are.
Photos of the kids were taken by Kelly Elliott. Beach pic of me is a shameless selfie.
After many years of thinking my magical thoughts, writing in my colourful journals and dreaming of making a blog, I have finally taken the leap. I’ve been feverishly writing and re-writing, researching and planning. I am here now with my very first blog post, but a week ago this almost didn't happen.
Last Saturday morning, I abruptly halted the process. I don’t mean that I slowed down. I mean that I came to a screeching halt and thought, What the hell am I doing? I began to feel a familiar embarrassment grow into humiliation. It was just one week until my blog was to go live and I was convinced that I was going to fail miserably.
If you are surprised by my negativity, you shouldn’t be. I’m actually very skilled at doubting myself. My imagination is so powerful that I can be embarrassed by my own failure before I’ve even started a project. As soon as my eyes opened last Saturday, my inner voice began to scream. Who the hell do you think you are and why do you think anyone will care about what you have to say? My inner voice can be one heck of a bully sometimes.
Self-doubt is nothing new to me. My entire life I have zig-zagged between confidently speaking my mind and telling myself to sit down and be quiet. Whenever I take on a new project, it’s like my inner voice says, How dare you be so bold? Sometimes I’m able to silence those thoughts, but that Saturday morning they gave me great pause.
I decided to do what I often do when I feel anxious. I went outside and walked my dog. There’s something so soothing about feeling the sunlight on my face and being with a furry pal. Wilbur is new to our family, but he never, ever doubts my greatness! Truth be told, he thinks I’m brilliant. As I walked with Wilbur, my anxiety softened. My swirling thoughts begin to organize themselves into neat, little folders in my brain and everything just becomes clearer.
What I began to realize was that every creative thinker is subject to scrutiny and anyone who expresses a point of view might be met with opposition. Those things are both inevitable and beyond my control. I would even argue that they are necessary. I mean, how do we have meaningful conversations if there is only one perspective being presented? How will we see beyond our own social conditioning, if we don’t examine things through a variety of lenses? But, if I don’t believe that my voice is worthy, if I don’t believe that what I say is relevant to the conversation, then why should anyone else believe it?
As artists, we can’t simply wait until we feel ready to make art. If we waited until we knew that we were good enough, we would never even start. And so, I will work daily to silence my inner critic and to send my art out into the world. I won’t wait until I’m good enough, until I know enough, until I am enough. I mean, if Wilbur believes in me, then the least I can do is believe in myself.