Posts Tagged ‘learning’

‎It used to be important to me to appear effortless.

You’ll notice is said ‘appear’ effortless because let’s be at least a little bit honest, I know enough about myself and my life to know it will never actually be effortless so instead I attempted to strive for the appearance of it.

I think it’s always been there, in the back of my head, don’t look like you’re struggling, don’t look like you can’t handle it, and certainly don’t ask for help.

And then, when I became a mother it just multiplied to the tenth degree. ‎

Because what I was striving for was what (I thought) I could see in all of the other mothers around ‎me.

They made it seem so effortless.

They looked like they weren’t even trying. ‎

And that certainly wasn’t ‎what I looked like. So I tried and tried and tried and then slowly I began to realize that I was sick of it.

I’m not sure what changed, and it certainly didn’t happen overnight, but somewhere along the journey from new mother to not-so-new-mother, it grew exhausting to feel one way on the inside and appear another way on the outside.

And frankly, as the years went on and my struggles with motherhood, and honestly, all the other aspects of my life, continued‎, I knew I wasn’t doing a very good job at appearing effortless anyway. The input wasn’t really resulting in the output I had hoped for.

Recently my bestie turned me on to Brene Brown. I had heard of her before – if you know Oprah, you’ve at least heard of Brene – but had only gone as far as borrowing a book from the library and returning it three weeks later, still unread.

But something about now, about where my life and my head are now made me want to look a little deeper. That’s how I found myself sitting in the upstairs hallway of my house, watching the Brene Brown TedTalks on youtube, tears streaming down my face.‎

She talks (and writes) about a lot of things, a lot of really great, amazing things that have touched me and made me come to realizations about the way I am and the way I live and the way I think about things.  So many things that there’s no way I can, or would even try, to articulate them here.

What I will say though is that she has helped me realize things are a lot of work.  Life and parenting and mothering and relationships and friendships and having a job and wondering and wanting, it’s all a lot of work.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay that it is all a lot of work and it’s okay to show that you struggle with it sometimes – or all the time.

Because it’s in those struggles, and in the act of sharing those stuggles with other people, that the work becomes worth it.

So I’m done with hiding the struggles.  Done with pretending it’s not a lot of work.  Done with trying to appear effortless.

I wasn’t very good at it anyway.‎

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‎As has become something of a tradition here at the Palace, today I have put together my new year’s realizations for the year that has passed.

1) ‎There’s a time to battle and fight and push against, and there’s a time to stop fighting and let the tide take you where it will. There is a certain gentle ease to be found in letting the universe lead and simply sitting back and enjoying the ride.

2) Sometimes you just need to make a change – whether it’s good or bad is really irrelevant, it’s better just because it’s different. Different people, different places, different conversations, a different view – sometimes all of those differences can also help you to see yourself in a new light too.

3) ‎No one is as happy as they seem on Instagram, as witty as they seem on Twitter or as perfect as they seem on Facebook, so stop using these mediums as a gage of how you stack up. And also don’t use them to determine the realities of other people’s lives. You want to see what someone is doing, check out their feed, you want to see how someone is doing, give them a call, or better yet sit down across a steaming cup of tea and ask them. The reality is usually very different than it appears on the screen.

4) The things that are meant to last, will last, no matter the time or space or distance. They may take a bit of work but everything worth having is worth working for and when it’s meaningful, it doesn’t seem like work. On the other hand, the things that aren’t meant to last, the things for which the effort given greatly outweighs the rewards received, will drag you down if you let them. The biggest difficulty is looking at all of the things in your life and determining which category they fall in to.

5) You are stronger than you ‎think, and also weaker than you think. There will be times when you amaze yourself with your ability to handle difficult situations, and you will also be disappointed with your inability to deal with other situations. Be proud of yourself when you show strength, but also be gentle with yourself during the times when you huddle under the covers. You’ll do better next time, or you won’t, but either way you need to be your own biggest cheerleader.

6) The surest way to ruin any situation, activity, event or interaction is to go in with expectations. Even if you think those expectations are realistic (or even err to the side of low), they taint the way you see things from that point on. Go in with nothing. Go in with a clear head and an open mind and a willingness to take what comes and suddenly it’s infinitely easier to just participate rather than trying to mold things to fit what you thought they were going to be.
And on that note, I wish each of you a year in which you expect nothing, and are therefore pleasantly surprised by all that 2015 brings to you.

Happy New Year!

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Today I left the house at a different time and went to a different place.

I sat in a different chair and talked to different people.

I drank a different cup of tea and used a different pen and learned different things.

I heard about different perspectives and different ways to do things.

I had a different lunch and managed to think some different thoughts.

I even almost started to see myself a little bit differently.


Today I spent a day outside of my comfort zone. Tomorrow I will be back to doing the same as has always been done but I hope I manage to carry a little bit of different with me.

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So here we go again, something that seems to have become an annual tradition here at the Palace, my new year’s “realizations.”  While others make resolutions about what they want to see happen in the new year, I find it much more helpful to look back at the year that has passed and examine the lessons I have learned (or should have learned) from the last 12 months.

1) Tears don’t fix things, but that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable.  They don’t solve problems or heal wounds or right what has gone wrong but sometimes they help.  They help wash away the pain for long enough that I can get up off the floor and get back to what I’m supposed to be doing, even if just for a short period of time.  Don’t fight the tears; they come for a reason.  They come when the pain is too much to keep inside and it needs to be released.  Embrace the tears, welcome them and appreciate their purpose.  Let them come, and when they’re done, wipe away what’s left and go on.

2) I have no idea what’s going on in other people’s minds and guessing just makes things worse.  It’s hard enough to figure out my own motivation for doing things, let alone trying to guess what makes other people tick.  I assume I know you, I assume I know what you’re going through and how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking.  But I don’t.  I don’t have a clue.  I don’t know any of it and trying to guess is unfair to you.  If you want me to know, you’ll tell me and then we’ll deal with it together.  In the meantime, I’ll be over here trying to figure out my own shit.

3) I’m tired of being sorry.  I’m tired of assuming that I should be sorry for things, even if I don’t specifically know what they are.  I’m tired of apologizing for things I don’t think are wrong.  So I’m not going to do it any more.  And I’m not even going to be sorry about it.

4) There is very little in the world that I can control so I need to stop thinking I can.  I have spent a lot of time in the last 12 months thinking that if only I had done things differently, they wouldn’t have turned out the way they did.  Now I finally realize that I’ve given myself way too much credit.  I can’t control the universe or fate or karma or the thoughts and opinions of others.  I can barely control my own thoughts.  It’s time to stop thinking otherwise.  Maybe that will stop me from feeling like a failure most of the time.

5) Life is tough and it takes work, hard work, to get through it.  But at the end of the day it’s worth it.  It’s worth the hard work and the sweat and the tears and the back-breaking weight of it all.  Because there are moments that make it seem like not so much work after all, and that’s what I have to strive for; to push my way through the work to get to the reward.  And then to enjoy the reward when I get there and appreciate the work it took.  Even if it’s just for a moment, just for one breath or one giggle or one hug.  I will let those things fill me back up and give me the strength to get to the next one.  That’s what it’s about.

Now let’s just hope I can remember these lessons going forward, so that I don’t have to keep learning them over and over and over again.  Because I’m sure 2014 will have its share of things to teach me, whether I want to learn them or not!

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‎If there’s one thing I know for certain about parenting, it’s that just when you think you have a handle on things, everything changes .

Just got used to the whole pregnancy thing? You’ll probably go into labour the next day.

Finally got you child to sleep through the night? Not so fast! Now it’s time to potty train.

Terrible twos (and threes and fours) finally a thing of the past? Now it’s time to start school and deal with teacher troubles and friend troubles and homework troubles.

And although I am reminded of this fact on a regular basis, I still find myself surprised by it all the time.

Like this past Sunday.

Both of my kids play hockey. My son started last year and the learning curve was steep (more so for me than for him). I have watched hockey for years and was under the (mistaken) impression that the jump from hockey fan to hockey mom would be a fairly smooth one. That was until the day I had to get him dressed in all of his equipment.

It was more complicated than ‎I ever expected. His bag was stuffed full of strange looking pieces of padding with straps and velcro, all of which served a very specific purpose and all of which had to be put on in a very specific way, in a very specific order. I felt completely lost. But, as the weeks went by I learned, with more than a little help from my five year old.

So going into this season I felt much more confident. I now know what the two different types of hockey tape are for and how to make sure his socks don’t fall down. I’m good. We’ve got this covered.

That was until he announced he wanted to be a goalie.

And just like that I felt like I had fallen down the slide on the Snakes and Ladders version of my life.

For those of you who may not be very familiar with hockey, the goalie wears about five times as much padding as the other players on the ice, including two huge pads strapped to the outside of their legs. There are buckles and straps and laces and more buckles and more straps.

So everything I learned last year was now pretty much useless. Just as I figured out how to be a hockey mom, I now had to figure out how to be a goalie mom. A goalie mom on a competitive team that is on the ice four to five times a week.

And that takes us to last Sunday afternoon. It was a regular practice day and I was sitting in my regular spot in the stands, travel mug in hand, one blanket between my butt and the cold wooden bench and another wrapped around my legs. My gloves were on, my imitation Uggs from Costco helped warm my feet. I was feeling good. I had a moment of peace pass over me. Sure, I may not yet know‎ which pad goes where but I have confidence I will learn. Things are okay; I’ll get there.

And then I looked down to the ice and noticed my husband waiving at me. He was ushering my son to the gate. He had to go to the bathroom. We made it to the change room and then it hit me…how was I going to get him out of his equipment in time? And even if I could, how would I get him back into it all? My hubby was on the ice helping th other coaches with the practice. This was all on me.

So somehow I figured it out. I devised a plan to take off just enough of the padding to do what needed to be done, but not too much that I couldn’t get him dressed again. ‎ Just like I figured out how to change a dirty diaper in an airplane bathroom, or how to cram myself in one of those little elementary school chairs during a parent teacher conference. Or how I re-learned long division and how to multiply things without a calculator so I could help my daughter with her homework.

Because there’s no manual for being a parent. I just have to learn as I go and trust that I’ll figure it out, eventually. And just when I do, things will change and I’ll end up in a bathroom stall with a 6 year old in 15 pounds of hockey equipment.

At the very least it keeps things interesting!

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For years when my kids were really little I felt like I would never get a break. Their needs seemed constant, unending, crucial; so much more important than anything else I could or should be doing.

Their needs were physical. Things I needed to do for them, get for them, make for them. Over and over it went. I honestly thought it would be like that forever. For me, early motherhood was about the short term, the immediate, filling what was empty, fixing what was broken, finding what was missing.

It was always a matter of “what now?” I would finish one thing and look around for the next. If I was lucky, I would have five minutes to try and anticipate, guess which ball was going to fall out of the air next. Of course there was never actually enough time to avoid it; but rather just enough time to see it coming.

But slowly, so slowly in fact that I didn’t notice at first, things started to change. The needs are now less physical and more emotional. Less skinned knees and more hurt feelings, less “play with me” and more “watch what I can do,” less cuddling and more getting out of the way.

Of course, they still need me and I hope, to a certain extent, they always will. But something has shifted and just as when they were babies and I wondered if I would ever adapt to the new normal, I am once again feeling lost, uncertain, unbalanced.

I have time for me, and I don’t know what to do with it. I can’t remember what I used to do, what I used to enjoy, what I used to dream about. I have forgotten how to imagine without being realistic; forgotten how to plan without being prudent. There are spaces in my life and I don’t know how to fill them, or even if I should.

And there are some decisions to be made that have nothing to do with them and everything to do with me; how I see myself, and where I see myself going in the future.

Only now I don’t know how to make them.

I don’t remember how to plan ahead further than the next moment or minute or inhale and exhale. I don’t remember how to look ahead further than the next ball coming at me. Everything has changed from “what now” to “now what?”

Now what am I going to do?

Now what do I want to do?

Now what am I going to be?

Now what?

And to be honest, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I’m going to choose unwisely, make a bad decision, or, perhaps even worse, that fear will keep me from making any decision at all. I fear that I will accept the status quo as the best I can do, so unsure of myself that I will ignore the possibilities and instead be resigned to simply accept the realities.

There was no instruction manual for becoming a mother, and now I’m discovering that there’s also no map for finding my way back to the person I was, and no compass to lead me to the person I’m supposed to become.

I find myself just as lost as when my children were babies, only now it seems that I’m the one who needs to grow.

If only I can figure out how.

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I told myself I would always remember. I promised I would never forget.

I am learning I was wrong.

My daughter comes home from school some days and is upset, upset because of something someone said, a misunderstanding, a disagreement that only those who were involved could even remotely begin to understand. Someone wanted to play something and someone else didn’t. Someone whispered something and said it was nothing but no one believed them. A look was misinterpreted, a joke wasn’t funny.

Each day it is something different and yet very much the same.

I see her sitting there, upset, and I hear myself saying the words that I think will help. I talk about friendships, how to treat people, how to ensure people treat us the way we want to be treated.

On and on I go.

I hear myself saying the words that my mother probably said to me and I hear myself breaking the promise I made to myself so many years ago.

I promised myself I wouldn’t forget what it was like to be young.

I promised that when I was a “grown up” I would remember how hard it is to be a kid.

I know there was a time when I went through all of the exact same things. I have blurry memories of school yards and scraped knees and bruised feelings. Vague remembrances of choosing friends and not being chosen myself. I know it happened to me, you’d be hard pressed to find someone it didn’t happen to.

But I don’t remember the feelings. I don’t remember the raw pain of being left out, the inherent lack of perspective that comes with that time in a person’s life. I find myself advocating for a long-range view, knowing from where I sit now that all of this will come to be but a small chapter, a set of lessons learned and filed away. But she can’t see it from where she sits, just as I couldn’t at that age.

I want to teach her the things that will help get her through this. But quite honestly I don’t know what those things are, and even more honestly, I’m beginning to realize that she doesn’t want to be taught.

She wants to be understood. She wants me to wipe away the tears and tell her that I know what she’s going through. She wants to hear that I realize things are hard, today, right in this moment, not to be told that they will all get better years from now.

And maybe that’s the solution for now.

Less teaching and more understanding. Less talking and more listening. Less words and more hugs.

Less forgetting and more remembering.

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