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How To Live Like You’re Dying, Without Dying

Everyone says you need to ‘live like you’re dying’, they say it’s the best way to live. You can’t really understand life unless you’ve faced death. I’m here to say not only can you live without facing death, you can thrive!

Three years ago my doctor called and asked me to come to her office. I held it together the block between our home and the gas station. It’s one of those pay inside only stations. I couldn’t slip away unnoticed. When I walked inside, she took one look at me, came around the counter, wrapped her arms around me and asked what was wrong. This lady that barely knew me, held me while I sobbed. I knew I had cancer. My doctor would never ask me to drive all the way to her office, 45 min from home, for anything other than that kind of news.

The first month after diagnosis held fear, anger, and a belief that I needed help. The second month I realized I could do it. But the third month I decided to live.

No, not really like that. I always planned to live, but I also held the possibility of death. I shared that possibility with Ryan and our children. We cried. Things crumbled. It was hard. If I lived like I was dying, that meant hiding and giving up. Instead I decided to live like I was not only living, but alive!

Think about it.

You’re not just alive, breathing in and out, in and out. Starting each day the same, but actually ALIVE!

Alive can simply mean ‘not dead’, but it can also mean so much more! Vibrant, animated, engaged, connected. Being alive means experiencing life fully.

live like you're dying
alive in a broken world

Do you want to just live, or do you want to be alive?

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit  

Being alive means loving, and accepting love in return. 

To open ourselves to someone else can hurt. It leaves us vulnerable, exposed to possible rejection or worse, disgust. Can you imagine what it’d be like if you loved yourself fully and completely? If you loved yourself, and allowed yourself to be loved without casting doubt about your own worthiness?

You might notice the love handles, but they don’t matter. You know your heart and soul and finally see the magnificent person that you are. You see the way you talked gently to your friend even though you were tired. You saw the way you went out of your way to help that lost dog even though you didn’t have to. You saw your actions, heard your thoughts, and felt your emotions. You weigh and measure your whole self and realize you’re so much more than a number that needs to change. You are enough. And you love yourself enough.

 

It Can Hurt

Opening yourself to loving yourself can hurt so much. It means you face those darkest fears. You see that lonely child crying on the playground, you comfort her, and let her know it’ll be okay. You see your darkest fears, you face them, and you continuing living. That can be one of the hardest tings to do each day. I have so many fears. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of them, but they don’t hold the same power over me that they once did. I’ve grown to love myself, not because I’m afraid, but inspire of my fear, or maybe because of how I deal with my fear. It’s all mingled together. Everyone has anxiety sometimes. Everyone is worthy of love. And so are you.

 

In order to fully live, you need to love and accept love from yourself. Once you understand your faults don’t diminish your worth, then you’ll really be living!

 

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes Success Looks Like Failure

We live in a perfect world. A world that rewards perfect and only perfect.

The world’s filled with beautiful ideas, shared in awe by others while the ‘Pinterest fails’ are shared in mockery and mirth. As adults, we often belittle ourselves and, in some cases, others, when we make mistakes. So often we hear words like, “I could never do that, I’m not a [fill in the blank].” As adults we’ve learned that unless we’re perfect, we shouldn’t even try. We became square pegs in square holes.

Take a moment for that to sink in.

When we limit ourselves to what we’re already good at, we are merely square pegs.

For a long time I was a square peg, unhappily sitting in a square hole. Fear of mistakes crippled me and held me in place. My self worth hinged on being good and right all the time. If you’ve never lived in that kind of world, let me tell you, it’s a miserable place to be! When I saw my children showing signs of living in a perfection based world, I knew something drastic needed to change.

How can we teach our children they can learn anything, be anything, do anything if we constantly send the message that we need to be perfect the first time we try something? How will our children learn that practice makes perfect, if they see us never try anything new? But also, how will they learn that not being perfect is okay, if we never point out our own mistakes?

I made a cake this week. It’s not the first cake I’ve made, but it was the first time I’ve tried this technique. It turned out great! (For a first try). Everyone gushed over it (well except that one person that sneered and said, “it’s okay.” But we won’t talk about him anymore! lol).

As I made the cake, Ella and Agatha gushed over how awesome the cake was and how amazing they thought I was. Nothing feels better than knowing your children admire you!

My cake wasn’t perfect. Not even close! It looked like a zombie garden gnome (a la Harry Potter). Not pretty! The fondant ripped in a few places, and the entire thing looked a little creepy. I’d go so far as to say it’d be worthy of a ‘Pinterest Fail’ post. Except, I’m ridiculously proud of this cake. No. It isn’t perfect, I’m very aware of the differences between mine and the professional’s cake. But I tried.

I tried something new and I think it turned out really good, for someone that doesn’t do this every day, or even every month.

I’m not a cake decorator, a baker, or a chef in anyway (sometimes I despise anything to do with cooking), but it makes my children happy to have fun parties and fun cakes. It makes them feel loved and so I do it. Even though it takes all my will power to place that cake, with all it’s faults, in front of other people, I do it.

Today it’s cakes, a different day it was wire sculptures. Sometimes it’s words. I try. I work. I make mistakes, a lot of mistakes. Sometimes it looks like failure. Sometimes it feels like failure.

I tried something and it didn’t go the way I envisioned. I compare myself to others. I compare myself to the person I wish I was. That person that knows what to say and how to say it. The one that makes gorgeous cakes and throws elaborate parties, while also looking amazing. I see the dissonance between who I am and who I wish to be. Sometimes the distance seems so vast, and then I see how far I’ve come.

It may look like failure to some, but to me, it’s a huge success.

I want my children to see these moments of failure as success too. I pointed out the differences between the way my cake looked and the way I wish it looked. Together we watched the video I used as inspiration. We talked about the differences between what she did and what I did. We took maybe 3 minutes to really pick apart the problems with my cake, then I changed course and talked about how wonderful I thought my cake was. No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was still a great try and I was able to see where my mistakes were, which meant I could learn from it.

Success!

Now that you’ve seen my cake, this is the video I used as inspiration:

 

 

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5 Steps to Increased Life Satisfaction

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale (1755-1776)

 

I deeply admire the selflessness and courage of those who serve their country. I think that’s something we all agree on, even when we don’t agree with each other on other things. 

But would you give your children’s life to your country, what about your partner’s life?

Their lives aren’t ours to give, yet so often the choices we make in life aren’t for the well being of our families, but of our country. The saddest part is we don’t even realize what we’ve done!

Ryan and I both entered adulthood with a sense of scarcity. We felt we never had enough, always wanted, always went without. One of us might do okay for a while, but that’s when the other had to buy all the things. We were the perfect target for so many advertisements. When we had our first baby, we bought all the fear, we have the premium priced receipts to prove it! We wanted nothing subpar or dangerous for our perfect darling. We paid dearly for the crib that wouldn’t kill our baby with toxic fumes.

At the time, we believed it was best for our family. In reality, our family paid in more than just dollars for those choices. We paid in happiness and increased fear. We paid in time together and Christmases with no presents. Through our fears and our spending, and the fears and spending of so many other people like us, our country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew and grew.

The country got richer, stronger, while our sense of fear increased, and our ability to buy food wasn’t guaranteed. We felt poor, but the news told us the economy soared.

Time to Bloom

We thought it was just us. Turns out it wasn’t.

Over the past several years, we’ve talked to so many people, in person and online, going through something similar.

So many of us experience a quiet dissatisfaction with our lives. It’s nothing sturdy enough to identify, rather a susurrus we catch as we walk into a room or go out with friends. We don’t know if it’s longing, loneliness, or regret. All we know is what we expected when we were 19 is not what we got.

I’ve seen and felt this dissatisfaction. I’ve fallen victim to buying things I couldn’t afford, all in the name of hoping to (finally) be enough.

Then on a day filled with determination, I discovered there’s a different way.

It’s a way I want my children to learn now. A way I want to share with others.

It’s both extremely simple, and so complex all at once.

  1. Rethink what you spend money on. Do you really need it? Is it something that’ll bring you happiness today and next week/year? Will it make it easier to experience life? So many times we hear, “Spend money on experiences, not things.” It’s true. The more life we experience, the better we feel! Maybe that means you buy that coffee, and sit in the coffee shop with a friend. Maybe it means you don’t buy that Dooney & Bourke, but instead take your children to the fair.
  2. Be vulnerable. It’s easy to throw shame at the people around us when we’re anxious or afraid, but if we open up and calmly tell others what we’re worried about, often the result is a deeper connection that brings us closer together instead of driving us apart. You’ve done something that hurt your partner. You could ignore the hurt. You can let your partner know they’re too sensitive. You could find ways to point out how it’s really your partner’s fault. Or you could walk over, let your partner know you see they’re upset and you want to make things right. You can listen and understand why your partner’s upset. Really listen to understand, not to respond, but to connect. You can open yourself to your partner and share in the vulnerability so you’ll both be stronger together.
  3. Feel your fear. Examine it. Don’t push it away. Then do what you’re afraid of and see what happens. (This does not mean putting yourself in dangerous situations, it means making a phone call, asking favours, admitting you don’t know something or trying something new). It’s applying for a job you want, even though it scares you to hand in your resume.
  4. Understand there’s a difference between humility and invisibility. It’s okay to be aware of what you’re good at. It’s even okay to tell others. Being humble is not about hiding your own value, but rather about how you rate your value compared to others. “I’ve worked really hard to learn how to do this. I’m really happy with how it turned out and think I did a great job. It’s professional quality.” vs “My work is so much better than Jim’s. I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am and am so happy with how mine is coming along.” One builds you up and allows the other person to decide for themselves what they think. The other statement tears down another person in order to make yourself look better.
  5. Be a leader. Leaders build others up. It doesn’t matter if you’re the boss, a parent, or a friend. Building others up is always better than tearing someone down. In the long run, the results will always be better. This step is the hardest to maintain, especially if you’re used to snarking or had low self esteem. I grew up believing there wasn’t enough love in the world. The only way I could be loved, is if I was the only one receiving love. If someone else received attention, that meant I wasn’t good enough. I constantly tore others down so I could feel a little more worthy. It’s really hard to change that pattern.

 

It’s time to take a stand and do what’s right for you and your family. It’s okay to feel the fear, and not act on it. It’s okay to live in the house you have and be happy with it. It’s okay to have a house with no garden. It’s even okay to not own a house at all. The government makes money every time we buy or sell something, the government wants us to spend money, lots of money. It’s time we all make decisions based on what’s actually best for our families instead of decisions based on the latests commercial or magazine article that tells us we’re not good enough!

 

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Embarrassment, Failure, Growth

Recently, I submitted some of my artwork to the Strathcona County Art Gallery@501. I hoped people would like my work. I hoped the county would buy my art to display. I hoped for a lot of things, but beneath, and on top of, that hope something else whispered to me.

Something whispered that I wasn’t good enough. Something whispered that people would laugh at my work.

I felt embarrassed by my submissions. I told myself the gallery accepted all submissions. I didn’t even need to be good and they’d still display my work. People would see my work. They’d see it for what it really was.

I saw derision.

In my head I picture people telling my they like my work just to be nice. In my head I see other people thinking my work is childish. They’re only saying nice things about my work to be – well – nice.

In my head I hear a lot of things.  In my head I hear all the reasons I should keep my art hidden at home. In my head I hear all the reasons I shouldn’t talk to real artists. In my head I am not good enough. In my head I do not deserve to have my art on display. In my head my art is not valuable to others. In my head I doubt myself. A lot.

I submitted my work anyway.

Even though I never received a phone call saying my art was selected, I attended the unveiling reception at the gallery. I talked to other artists. I praised other artist’s work. It was so hard to go. I felt rather sick while I drove to the gallery. I wanted to leave before they made the announcements. I wanted to leave as soon as the announcements were done and I knew my work wasn’t selected.

I stayed anyway. I was uncomfortable. But I stayed. I chatted. I looked at a lot of art. Particularly the art that was purchased. I wanted to see what the selection committee saw. I wanted to learn. I wanted to open my eyes a little wider.

I was sad my work wasn’t selected for purchase. I was sad my work didn’t win the people’s choice award. But in my sadness I was also happy I tried. In my sadness I see hope. I see growth. I see a chance to learn more and do better next year.

I don’t know if I’ll feel anymore worthy next year, but sometimes it isn’t about feeling worthy, it’s about proving worth just by showing up.

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Teaching Thankfulness and Gratitude

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the difference between a day and a whole life. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the difference between life and a moment. 

*The words in italics are about my spirituality. Feel free to skip that and just read about how we guide our children to being thankful and showing gratitude. *

Easter is such an important time for me. It has been a time of rebirth and new life in so many ways in my life. But over the past few years I’ve allowed myself  to drift away from the spirituality that brought huge blessings to my life. Not only did I drift aimlessly, truly without direction. I closed my eyes and refused to see where I was going or where I’d been.

Can you imagine a moment when  a great gift is given to you, only to realize you smashed it? 

I’m not sure when, but that moment hit me. Hard. I looked around and I saw my life in shambles. So many blessings that withered. Neglected. 

But the wonderful thing about God is that it doesn’t matter where we end up, He always welcomes us home. 

Easter is the perfect time to renew our faith and rejuvenate our spirituality. 

I want to invigorate my prayer life. And shift my perspective to see the glory of God.

I want to show my children the wonders of gratitude and thankfulness that I’ve known.

It’s taken me a lot of work and a lot of time to figure out how to see those moments as more than a blip on the radar of life. I want my children to grow up able to see the hardness of the world, the sharp points as mere moments, but the joy and wonder as  life. 

Until recently, I saw the hardness, the sharpness, the starkness and could barely see beyond it except in rare moments. But through a lot of meditation, mindfulness and guidance from others more experienced than I am, I was able to shift my perspective. 

In order to bring that fresh way of looking at things to my family, I placed a gratitude poster on the wall. 

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I didn’t say anything at first, but throughout the first couple days, I just wrote down things I was grateful for. I drew little pictures. And I moved on. They watched me, asked what I wrote, and listened with brilliant smiles as I read out words of love and gratitude for them. 

I invited them to write or draw on the poster as well. 

As our poster fills dup more and more each day, I let them know I had more posters and I’d just keep putting new ones on the wall as soon as we filled the old ones. 

It took  few days, but eventually one, then another added their own bits to the wall. It’s been so wonderful to see them noticing the moments more and more. But even more amazing, I’ve seen them looking to create moments to add to our wall!

So young and they already know more about life than I did as an adult.