Sunday, April 1, 2018

Ink Bird

New Ink and new horizons.
While I can't yet say all that this tattoo commemorates for me, there's a little bird I'd love to tell you about.
Story time. 
Gather blankets and tea if you will. 

Long ago, swallow tattoos were popular among sailors. 
These birds with their tiny wing spans never travelled that far out to sea. Sailors, battered, bearded, (yeah, even the women I imagine!), and full to their guts of rough seas and rough food looked up. They weren't looking for the horizon, they were looking for any sign that it existed. 
The appearance of the swallow was a sign to a weary crew that there was indeed a shore. That their voyage, every storm, every wave, every becalmed sea where nothing moved, the waiting and star navigating and plotting paths, was coming to an end. 

I can only imagine how their hearts must have gone out to those little birds. How much hope the sight of those little wings beating above them must have carried. And I can understand why the swallow tattoo became a sign of hope and horizons. 

Over the years I have travelled, as you do. The hardest travelling were the voyages I undertook while deciding to stay at home. The days I made myself show up for the reality of my life and deal with the dark. When I stopped and decided to really see this thing out. And in the midst of this travelling one beloved woman said to me, "I can't wait to see you with wings and flying." 

At the time her words were a vague hope of a shoreline I didn't even know how to aim for. I remember sitting in the chair opposite her picking at the leather arm rest. It was well picked. And it was that kind of chair. 
So I sat there. 
I mean that. I could not have stood if I wanted to. I didn't know how to get my feet underneath me, much less find wings. But this woman saw something in me. And she held hope.

Many years on and I can say I finally looked up. And I did indeed see evidence of a horizon. I found I had my own wings on my own back awaiting my discovery of flight. 

When thinking about the right tattoo to embody where I am today I knew only that I wanted a bird. I wanted there to be wings on my arm and the dates where evidence of that horizon first took place. It was only after that I learnt about swallows and what they meant all those moons ago to weary sailors. I guess we often know what our hearts are trying to say before we can find words. 

So, here's to flying, to waters passed and those still to come before I reach the shore and to all the waters I still hope to venture into. This tattoo is for to all those who believed in my ability and for me. The woman who found the darn wings and finally decided to see what the bloody things could do!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The skin I am in.

Hey everyone. 
So, I just wanted to share something that has been making a big difference in my life recently. 

Many of you know that I was abused as a child. The result of that in adult life, (among many other things), has been a complete disconnect to my body. Over the years of much counselling and dang hard work, I have managed to overcome many things, but the disconnect to my body is still incredibly difficult. It's more than not loving the body I am in. It is about feeling that this body has let me down or isn't good enough. That fundamentally, it is flawed. Now I know in my head that this is untrue, but my heart has been a shy and reluctant believer. 

This year the word I chose to focus my intentions is PEACE. And finally, I have decided that it is time to have peace within my body. To really belong inside the skin I was born in and to once again own my body and reclaim my own sense of beauty and worth. No small task. 

My first commitment was to stop pushing myself with exercise to go faster and harder. This journey was to be a GENTLE one. If I was going to look in the mirror and ever feel that I loved my body I had to be gentle about the process. 

So, I quit the gym. Yup. Quit. Cold turkey. 

No biggie perhaps, but for me it felt huge. I have always worked out on some level, but it has never been about gentleness. If I am really honest, and I am trying to be, then exercise has almost been a punishment for my body. Something I did to reject myself further. Now I know this isn't the case for everyone, but for me with my past of abuse, it certainly was.

And then, as so often happens when we let go of something that isn't right for us, something that WAS right for me came along. I started doing online yoga in the privacy of my own home.

Now I have tried yoga before. The whole mind body connection has been recommended to me numerous times even by counsellors. And I'd like to say this, (especially to any professionals reading this post out there), yoga is incredibly confronting for someone who cannot connect to their body. 
Getting into strange poses felt like a loss of control. No small reminder of what happened to me when I was a child. And having to hold poses for long periods of time felt like being trapped or pinned down. Again, no small flash back to personal trauma. And the sound of my own deep breathing?...Freak me out!

So, what was different about this yoga?

Well, firstly, it's at home and not with others. That's important to me. I couldn't do this work in a class situation. Not yet. 
And second, and most important- I met Adriene. 
She is a softly spoken and gentle yoga teacher. On her videos she actively encourages you to move around and play with poses. She encourages you NOT to hold positions that don't feel comfortable and to find what feels good on the yoga mat even if that means, (shock, horror), completely stepping away from the traditional yoga positions and doing something that feels right for your body. Throughout the yoga videos she speaks such wisdom. Words inviting me to notice how I feel, to be okay with whatever those feelings are and to pull out of any position that feels wrong. Adriene seldom holds any position for long periods of time, which means I never feel trapped or overwhelmed. She often says to simply go with whatever breath feels right. She says things like, "You're my hero today just for showing up on the yoga mat!"

No judgement. No strict adherence to 'yoga positions'. And no long work outs with super long holds in strange shapes.

In short- she is UNORTHODOX.
And I love her for it.

I get to play around with movement. I notice how I feel. I ask myself if this movement feels right or wrong. I take heed of my inner response to that question. And little by little I am beginning to value that I listen to myself. I don't force myself into positions. I am not trapped. I am not held down (yes, we can hold ourselves down in many ways) I am free to explore what feels good!

I have a long way to go, but my hope is that this will be the year I can stand butt naked, in the privacy of my own room, look in the mirror and say, "That is my body and I love it!" 

Yeah, that could sound weird to you, but if I get to that point, trust me when I tell you, a MASSIVE battle will have been won. 

My body will belong to me again.

Oh, and did I mention that Adriene has a yoga dog? Yup. So when my chihuahua joins me on the yoga mat I also have a yoga dog. And there are many times when patting her fur is enough to help me breathe deeper and be braver.

So, to all of you women out there who don't really love your body...maybe you even hate your body, I see you. I understand. Oh, do I ever understand that. I am wondering if you too might make this your year to begin to love the skin you were born in?
Standing butt naked in front of the mirror is optional :)

And if you are interested, here are Adriene's videos

Saturday, December 30, 2017

New Year. New Word. 2018

Each year I select a word (or phrase) to guide me:

In 2017 my word was RELENTLESS

And in my blog post from this time last year I wrote:
"Not relentless as in cruel, uncaring or harsh.
But, relentless in hope. Relentless in chasing. Relentless in writing. Relentless in faith. Relentless in love. Relentless in caring. Relentless in dreaming. This year I will not give up. I will continue in everything I hoped and dreamed for last year. I will continue to expand my wings of being myself and  embracing truth and vulnerability.
I will be more fully myself. I will continue to grow as a writer and show up on both the page and in my daily life. I will embrace relentless courage. Relentless bravery. Relentless ME."

I began 2017 with an over arching goal to pursue my dreams for my writing, to be the person I wanted to be regardless of circumstances and to follow hard after what was placed in my heart. I began the year without an agent, with the full of my manuscript having been requested by a few agents and waiting to hear back from at least four of them. It took until October of this year to finally hear back from one of those agent who would offer to represent me as an author. In the months of waiting I had to complete another massive revision of the manuscript based on the feedback of another agent. That agent, as lovely as she was, was not the agent who offered representation. She was placed in my life, I believe, to help steer that book where it needed to go. It was that revision that piqued the interested and passion of my agent, Nicole of Golden Wheat Literary, who eventually offered to represent me. 

I want to say this, there were many many days of waiting. I had NO IDEA which way to go next. I felt overwhelmed, weary, bone-tired. But I took hold of that word RELENTLESS and a butt-headed , stubborn- assed refusal to give up. Even time an opportunity came along, no matter how small or if I could see where it would lead, I took it. Every time someone offered help with my book, or another author reached out with encouragement, I took it. I spent time each morning praying, I tried to trust, to give God the dream that was bigger than me... but here's the truth...

...I faulted, I failed, I tripped over my own fears and self-doubt more times than I can remember, I  felt defeated, confused, worried anxious. I wondered if God cared, I wonder if He heard, I wondered if I was really meant to be a writer after all... BUT I also decided to refocus, to believe again, to trust again, to try again, to rinse, wash and repeat, and friends.... I did not have to be perfect to achieve my goals. I just had to get back up. THAT is enough.


What stands between us and where we want to go is not how good we are, how perfect, how creative, how talented, how faithful, prayerful or purposeful we are. It is not our inadequacies or brokenness that holds us back. What stands between us and where we want to go is our dog-eared determination to KEEP GOING. 

The biggest lesson the word relentless taught me, was that I can be me with all my imperfections and still achieve my goals. 

In 2018 I will have more MASSIVE book news to share. I am sitting on this news like a little kid on Christmas morning waiting for next year when I can tell you all. 

And I am so thankful!

My word for 2018 is PEACE.

I not only want to keep going, I want to learn to do it grounded in peace. To actively pursue peace, pick my battles wisely and not shy away from battles which are wise to fight. To learn stillness when surrounded by wildness for all of life is wild. To be completely obedient to my God and to the truth I know in my heart. To believe more consistently in what He says about me and in myself. To accept that peace is not perfection, but inner stillness and being grounded.
I think PEACE is a good word to have after a year of RELENTLESS.

I wonder...what will your words be in 2018? 
You get to pick anything you like. Life will try to give you many words. Fear, anxiety, doubt, not good enough, not mother enough, not woman enough, not man enough...
But what words will YOU chose?