Thought of the day: Darkness comes before the light

owning our light brene brown

This quote has been a major motivator for me in 2017. In fact, do yourself a favour and go read anything by Brene Brown – she is amazing. I’m onto my third book of hers at the moment and the growth and acceptance I’ve felt within since doing so, has been colossal. Here’s why.

I am a Jedi-level “Runner from my problems”.

In 2014, I packed up my life and ran away. I ran away to try and remember who I was before I got into a 7-year relationship that seemed to redefine me in some ways. I put all my happiness-eggs into the basket that was my relationship, and when that basket broke, I broke. Without realizing, I had put all my fragile self-worth from a tumultuous childhood onto the success of my relationship and how it looked to the outside world; like that was proof that I was good enough, and worthy of love, if he deemed it so and everyone else thought we were ‘perfect for each other’ (with little thought to whether I even believed that myself). But when it all fell apart, something inside told me that there was a big change coming, and I needed to release the anchor and head out into the storm and find answers. I knew there was more under the surface than just a bad break-up that was affecting my feelings of worthiness, but I wasn’t sure where to find it.

Big lesson of 2016: We are all a culmination of what we tolerate in our life. We attract the energy we give out. 

Last year, after getting out of a relationship I wasn’t ready to be in and breaking a good man’s heart (and feeling pretty rubbish about doing so), I came into contact with my first single-gal kryptonite, “The Fuckboy”. I exhausted so much wasted energy into feeling disappointed, frustrated and disrespected by an individual who was only treating me in the manner that I was willing to accept. If I weren’t in such an emotionally damaged state at the time that we met, (feeling like I’m not worthy of a good man’s love), I would never have tolerated the games and excuses; but I did, so he responded by showing me the same low level of respect I was demonstrating that I deserved. I attracted an emotionally detached, “fill-in-the-time-until-you-find-something-real” kind of person, because thats exactly who I felt I was at that time too. And then somehow I felt rejected because this person didn’t see me as the absolute best thing since sliced bread, worthy of prioritizing, when I didn’t feel like I was that person to begin with anyway. It all becomes so clear when you look back on it. But for a while there I kept going back for more, foolishly believing that there was some lesson buried under this shit storm of head-games and I was just missing the point. Really all I needed to do was pull the plug and reclaim my power, which I’m proud to report I finally did. *victory cheer*

After a string of relationships that didn’t work out in 2016, I took a break from my usual routine. I stopped using dating apps for a quick-fix “self confidence boost”, and stayed the fuck home and meditated on the root cause of my fears and doubts when it comes to love. Instead of going out and getting drunk when I was feeling down, I stayed clear headed and read books to understand myself better. I started writing out things I remember from my childhood, moments and situations which made me feel “bad” (in various forms) and practiced compassion with myself for being a young child who didn’t know any better, and put myself back in that moment and comforted the scared little child who was being blamed for problems outside of her control. I tried to unlearn the bad, reinforce the good, and create a new kind of truth for myself. I waded back into the swamplands that is the deep dark shame-filled corners of myself, and forgave myself.

15 countries, over 80 books and coming on 3 years later, I’m only just starting to really dig deep and understand a lot of the foundations of doubt I’ve existed and built a life on. The foundations which for so long have dictated to my brain who I am and what I am worthy of, and now I am learning to question whether they are real or not, instead of blindly agreeing with the big bully of negative self-talk inside my own head. And for the first time in forever, I do truly feel like I’m standing on my own two feet. All the work I’ve been doing by reading, journalling, sitting at home and sometimes crying my eyes out, have gifted me with an understanding and acceptance I’ve never truly experienced before. I don’t need anyone else to validate me, I AM ENOUGH ON MY OWN. And it’s damn powerful to know I’m owning my story yet adapting it for a healthier future, all for myself.

But…

Here’s the flip side.

At the start of this year I was doing my Beyonce-inspired dance of self-love & self-sufficiency inside my big bubble of not needing anyone else for nothing, and was feeling pretty proud of myself for not allowing anyone else’s opinions, judgements or affections affect me. I am healed, I thought, I no longer desire for a relationship to feel satisfied, I feel so wonderful in my own company again, woohoo! I am a goddess, I am awesome right here in this moment all on my own. And this is true. But then this quote came into my life and it won’t leave me alone:

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” 

And this is when I realized that healing myself is a two part process (well, it’s more like a 30 part process of ups & downs and merry-go-rounds but for me there are two major stages); I need to learn to love and accept myself wholeheartedly; and THEN learn to allow myself to be vulnerable again. Part one is yucky, sure; but part two is straight up terrifying. Anyone who’s had their trust or heart broken before can definitely relate to that feeling. And it’s easy enough to talk yourself out of it when fear takes hold, run and hide and remove the risk of ever getting hurt again by isolating yourself from love and belonging and joy and all that happy rainbow shit, but then you’re missing out on all the amazing joy that comes with it. I have too hastily given up on every loving relationship I’ve had since that one big relationship, because as soon as it starts to get real, and they start to get too close, I don’t want to gamble with my heart so I bolt. But by numbing myself and removing the risk of being hurt, I also remove the possibility of that truly wondrous feeling of love and belonging, which is a basic human need for us all.

So, in 2017 that’s where I’m at. I’ve stopped searching for distractions and people to fill the hole within me, and I’m filling it myself. I am no longer on a mission to prove that single Belle is equally as awesome as relationship Belle, and I’m just me; open, vulnerable, and often far too honest. I don’t need to be nurturing someone else to feel validated, I am nurturing myself first. I’m not looking for a relationship to make me feel worthy, I’m surrounding myself with wonderfully fun friends who allow me to be me, who listen when I share my story, and teach me the magic in not keeping people at a safe distance. Part one is coming along nicely, part two is still a work in progress but I finally see the allure in allowing myself to go with the light, and be vulnerable. After all, vulnerability is the most accurate measurement of courage, and I’m a fearless warrior woman, yo.

Happy friday 😀

  • Belle

vulnerable weaknesses

PS: And some food for thought before I go…

All of the answers to all your problems, can be found within. Do you believe that?

Thought of the day: Friends

friends

“The great thing about new friends, is they bring new energy to your soul” – Shanna Rodriguez

I had someone remark to me the other day that I’m “so brave” because of the life I’m currently living (in particular regard to leaving my life in Australia and moving overseas by myself after a break-up), and it got me thinking.

I grew up in a small town of 100,000(ish) people in Northern Australia, and until I quit my job and went overseas for the first time at 24 years of age, I’d never lived anywhere but my home town. I had made numerous attempts to leave and move to the east coast, after years of complaining (the good people of Darwin’s favourite past-time; complain about the weather and then do happy dances all dry season), but either family, boyfriends or my own laziness held me back from pulling the trigger on moving. I had friends make the big move, and many would say it was surprisingly difficult to make new friends. “Brisbane girls are super clique-y” they’d say, and “Girls in the big cities aren’t like they are in Darwin”. This all may be true, but I remember I always thought: I’m not worried at all about making friends in a new city.

And it’s true, I never have. Whether I moved overseas with a boyfriend, a friend, or completely by myself, I’ve never had a problem making new friends; locals, foreigners, Aussies, aliens, donkeys, whoever. And I love that when I meet people, they only seem to want to hang out with me more. I love knowing I’m sending that positive energy out to other people, and even better when I receive it back and you vibe on that familiar level.

So ask yourself…

  • What is your energy saying about you?
  • What kind of person are you presenting to the world as yourself?
  • Do you ask questions about others, or just talk about yourself?
  • Are you contributing to the conversation, or is someone else having to carry it?
  • Are you interrupting others when they speak?
  • Are you LISTENING to what they say?

That last one is a big one, and one I struggle with; who doesn’t tune out a little when they’re trying to wait to tell their own super awesome story. But then you’re no longer listening, and that’s Bad Friend 101.

My point is, making new friends is a fucking great thing. Have you ever made one of those new GREAT friends, where you both click instantly and start talking more often, then soon its almost daily and eventually every time you get off work it becomes “Hey what are you doing, I’m coming over”; every time you hang out, it’s a damn good time.

I LIVE FOR THOSE MOMENTS.

My life is so enriched by these kinds of friendships I’ve been fortunate enough to make over this lifetime, all over the world. And just when I think my life is so amazing, and it can’t get any better… I meet a new group of friends, or join a new workplace/team/etc and things just get SO MUCH BETTER. Sure, sometimes you don’t stay as close, or even stay friends at all. People come and go, thats the ebbs and flow of life baby. Even break-ups, love lost – I don’t hold any anger for anyone who was once a close part of my life and no longer is. Life brings people together, and then sometimes they go in a different direction than you. We are all always changing. And I love knowing there are amazing people all around the world who have touched my soul, and I theirs, and they are out there living their own version of their dreams, and I’m cheering for them from the other side of the world, wishing them all the happiness I know they deserve. So many of my best party friends are now stay-at-home Mums who are thriving in their new roles… And I couldn’t be prouder.

So I just wanted to take this moment to say THANK YOU to all the souls I’ve met in these 31 years of living on this great Earth. Thank you to the best friends I’ve had for decades who will always have my back. Thank you to the past loves who inspired me and changed me for the better. Thank you to the people I have connected with in my travels in the jungles, salt flats and big cities in nearly 30 countries and counting. Thank you to my amazing circle of people here in Canada, who are surpassing my wildest dreams of what it would be like to live in Canada. You all make this little Aussie so damn happy every damn day.

I get asked almost daily, “But don’t you miss your friends and family back home?” – “Miss” is a tricky word for me, and this is a question I struggle to answer sometimes. “Missing” someone implies that you feel sadness, and they are gone – but I don’t feel like any of these people have ever left me; As corny as it sounds, I carry all of you in my heart, in my memories, in my smile right now. I am me, because I have been touched & changed by all of you.

So thats just my thought for today. I know my most recent blog posts have had a heavier theme to them lately, as i’ve been doing some work digging into the darker parts of myself which I’m no longer running from, but have no doubt that this happy little hippy is as happy as ever! I am realizing lately how much strength and courage it takes to admit your flaws, and stare your demons in the eye… and allowing myself the space to work through them without distracting myself with people who aren’t worthy of my attention has been a huge place of growth for me.

snow

Big love from “It never snows in Vancouver but it’s snowing like crazy right now” Vancouver!

  • Belle

S H A M E

Of all the topics I’ve tried to write about on my blog, this one would be the hardest to start.

Not because I don’t know shame; we ALL know shame. Shame is present and a real struggle for every single person you know; well, except for the rare few psychopaths/sociopaths who lack the capacity to feel empathy and feelings such as shame. It’s because very few people are comfortable discussing such a touchy topic, allowing themselves to be vulnerable and open to their flaws, and we all keep our dirty little shame-filled secrets buried deep to prevent the world from ever seeing how flawed we truly feel we are on the inside.

Shame is different to guilt, and the first step in understanding and breaking free of the crippling doubt that shame washes over you, is knowing the difference. Simply put; GUILT is “I did something bad” – SHAME is “I am bad”. It’s simple enough; however so many of us blur the two and link our poor choices to a flaw in our character, and bury ourselves in un-necessary suffering because of it. Guilt can actually be helpful to your growth; shame stunts it. Learning about shame is the first step to breaking away from it.

I accidentally stumbled across this topic amid my recent quest to learn as much about myself as I can, and my goal to learn & love all the deepest darkest parts of myself once and for all. One of the top “shame researchers” on the planet, Brene Brown, was featuring on a podcast I was listening to, and I read one of her books which just blew the lid off everything I thought I knew about this topic; and greatly highlighted that even for ME, someone who openly shares my story and vulnerabilities; shame affects us all and yet we barely even whisper the word in public. Brene words it best, and she defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

Sound familiar? You betcha.

Shame is uncomfortable. Shame is a dirty secret that we hide away from people for fear of ever being revealed for what we truly are, and what is that? Human? Shame is universal. WE ALL FEEL SHAME. 

  • Shame is calling yourself a “bad mother” compared to your mommy-friends who all seem to have it down-pat, with their perfect kids and perfect house while you struggle to get out of bed some days
  • Shame is staying trapped in an abusive relationship, hiding the bruises and emotional battering because you think you can’t do better, and nobody else will love such a fucked up person anyway
  • Shame is feeling like you can’t provide the basic necessities for your family as a struggling working man in the world
  • Shame is when you’re drowning in your university studies, and feeling that you’re wasting your time and all your parents money for even daring to believe that you could ever possibly finish this fucking degree and make something of your life
  • Shame is feeling unable to have sex with your husband after your new baby, feeling unwanted and ugly because your body has changed and he’ll never want to have sex with a fat whale like you anyway.

As Brene says, “To varying degrees, we all know the struggle to feel comfortable with who we are in a society that puts so much importance on being perfect and fitting in. We also know the painful wave of emotion that washes over us when we feel judged or ridiculed about the way we look, our work, our parenting, how we spend our money, our families or even the life experiences over which we had no control. And it’s not always someone else putting us down or judging us; the most painful shaming experiences are often self-inflicted.”

In my opinion, the biggest issue in all of this, is instead of leaning into these feelings, addressing them and sorting through them, many of us by default stuff these feelings back in the box and numb them with addiction, distractions, anything but the uncomfortable feelings that arise. That consuming panic that gets stuck in your throat, your heart rate speeds up, you start to unravel with negative self talk and beating yourself up. BEATING YOURSELF UP – we don’t even need anyone else to speak the words out loud to us. We are doing it to ourselves, hiding in our homes, staring at the mirror thinking what a fat, ugly, waste of space I am. All because shame has taken over, and we don’t spend even a minute to address why we believe we are unworthy of feeling worthy.

Because nobody is talking about it.

We are all hiding behind the mask of perfection.

me-too

The thing I find most intriguing in Brene’s research is that you can’t selectively choose which feelings to numb. When feelings of shame come up and you try to numb them with your chosen poison, you also numb your capacity to feel the full effects of joy, love, and connection. So if you sometimes struggle to be fully present in a moment which should reward you with chest-bursting feelings of elation and worthiness, or it is short-lived, maybe it has something to do with your in-ability to fully lean into the uncomfortable feelings as well. And I don’t know about you, but numbing my capacity to feel connection, love, and joy is something I won’t allow.

The good news is, “shame resilience” is a real thing and you can learn to combat feelings of shame by practicing the following 4 steps:

1. Recognize shame and their triggers

2. Practice critical awareness

3. Reach out and share your stories

4. Speak shame

Shame is fed by secrecy. A woman who hates her breasts and avoids social outings which require a bikini wouldn’t feel so abnormal if Cosmo magazine would publish more articles about the many different kinds of boobs and weird shit our bodies do which we ALL feel we are flawed by. I know an amazing woman who has always hated her breasts, and never once showed them to any of her friends, and feared revealing them to a new partner because they were “fucked up and gross” – she finally got the breast implant surgery she had always wanted, and only after she had permanently changed her body did she show me a picture of the breasts I had been assured for over a decade were really fucked up; I saw nothing but a gorgeous set of tatas. Shame keeps us home on a saturday night, hating ourselves in secret.

The 3 C’s of “courage, compassion & connection” are the critical link in overcoming shame. Courage to look into it rather than stuffing it into a box; compassion for ourselves and anyone else going through something similar; and connecting with others, talking about and sharing our stories and feelings of shame to release ourselves of the grip shame holds over us. Shame sucks out our zest for life, and our ability to feel the fear and do it anyway. Shame tells you you’ll never make it, that you don’t deserve it. Shame tells you that you aren’t worthy of that promotion, and that your work sucks, you suck, and you’ll never amount to anything; and that if ANYONE were to find out who you truly were behind the mask, you’d be alone and nobody would love you. Now, we know that every single person walking the Earth with a capacity to feel all their emotions experiences shame, so do you believe that everyone really truly deserves that fate? Then why would you assume that you are the exception? Sharing shame lessens its power over all of us.

“Our culture teaches us about shame—it dictates what is acceptable and what is not. We weren’t born craving perfect bodies. We weren’t born afraid to tell our stories. We weren’t born with a fear of getting too old to feel valuable. We weren’t born with a Pottery Barn catalog in one hand and heartbreaking debt in the other. Shame comes from outside of us—from the messages and expectations of our culture. What comes from the inside of us is a very human need to belong, to relate.

We are wired for connection. It’s in our biology. As infants, our need for connection is about survival. As we grow older, connection means thriving—emotionally, physically, spiritually and intellectually. Connection is critical because we all have the basic need to feel accepted and to believe that we belong and are valued for who we are.

Shame unravels our connection to others. In fact, I often refer to shame as the fear of disconnection—the fear of being perceived as flawed and unworthy of acceptance or belonging. Shame keeps us from telling our own stories and prevents us from listening to others tell their stories.” 

shame-arena

Excerpt From: Brene Brown. “I Thought It Was Just Me.” 

I’m going to link in a very popular TED talk that Brene Brown did on this topic that become one of the top 5 TED Talks of all time; give yourself 20 minutes and watch it. Learn about shame, shine a light on shame, share your shame, and let the fuck go of shame. It holds us all back from reaching our full potential.

2017 is off to a great start. Sending love out to you all…

  • Belle

 

Courage over fear

enlightenment-is

What does courage mean to you? When have you felt courageous in your life?

To me, in this moment, courage is finding the strength to do what is difficult right now, to achieve a greater tomorrow. Putting in the work towards an uncomfortable quest, when I could be doing something more pleasurable, to make myself and the people around me stronger and happier. My quest is a personal one.

Many people will look at me, and see a happy, bubbly, energetic go-getter; and I am all those things. But like everyone, I have a story, one that led me to seek new adventures and a different way of life than what I knew back in Australia. I can’t explain the pull I feel when I’m in Australia, or living a seemingly charmed life and everything seems great; it’s like part of me has been stowed in a glass bottle and thrown out to sea somewhere around the world, and I can’t settle until I’ve covered half the earth to find it, to become whole again. My dad was the same, a hopeless wanderer who loved exploring foreign lands. And maybe it was a result of his sudden death when I was 20 years old, that opened my eyes in a very real way, that life is temporary and we only have a finite amount of time to achieve all that we set out to. My goals are different from others; what drives me doesn’t interest many other people. You can keep your bed bugs in a tiny hostel bed half way around the world, Belle.. I’ll sleep easily on my king size 300TC cotton sheets. Cue the headshakes from my family & friends back home. BUT WHEN ARE YOU HAVING BABIES?!??

Travel has always been a source of happiness for me, and I don’t imagine my thirst for travel will ever be quenched. However, I’m starting to realize that the answer to feeling “whole” isn’t out there; self-love can’t be bought with a plane ticket. The source and solution for true happiness has been inside me all along; I just needed to stop running from myself long enough to learn this valuable lesson. I have been puzzled in recent years, as to why it is that my creative side and zest for setting new goals and always reaching for MORE has been stunted a bit, but I had been telling myself – rather foolishly – that eventually it would all just wander back into my life, like a family pet who’d lost his way and would just bring himself home. I didn’t want to admit to myself that I may need to dig up the uncomfortable feelings within, and actually do the work, to achieve my goal of true and total happiness. Ever since my childhood I have just dumped distraction after distraction onto my pain, like so many of us. But now, I realize that this is a task that i need to prioritize and knuckle down with, dig up the poisoned roots to allow fresh new blooms to grow. And as they say, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. In the last month, it has become undeniably clear to me that now is the time for me to overcome this fear and become the best version of myself to date.

ego-quote

Like many people, I’ve become accustomed to numbing and escaping from my uncomfortable feelings. As soon as they start to rise, I drown it out with music, go visit friends, or chat with the most insufferable of species, “The Fuckboy” (ughh, why)… anything to replace the negative with a – well, not even a positive feeling; just something less painful/uncomfortable.

Any of these sound like your weapon of choice when it comes to avoiding uncomfortable feelings..?

Are you constantly on the go, unable to just sit and BE?

Do you peruse social media incessantly, call or text anyone available?

Do you eat, drink, and be merry – a little too much?

Spend more time scanning Tinder than you do with yourself?

Do you work long hours?

Get a front row seat into the life of someone that appears messier than you?

Do you clean your house, obsessively making sure everything is in its place?

Surround yourself with so much chaos that you can hardly hear yourself think?

Do you shop for stuff you don’t need?

You probably even have more to add to the list. We are all masters at avoidance.

Things had to get real uncomfortable for me recently, before I could see all the ways I was cock-blocking my own internal happiness. And now that the light has been switched on, and I can see all the patterns of unhelpful behaviour, I can’t undo it – and as uncomfortable as it may feel right now, I am absolutely certain that this time spent investing in myself, sitting with these feelings and addressing them, will lead me closer to being the kind of person I aspire to be. I am pumped for this new focus in my life, after feeling like the answers and motivation have been eluding me for so long.

I can see the struggle in other people even clearer than in myself. Wandering through life wholly unresolved because they have never even taken the first few step on the path to resolving their issues – failing to admit that they even have any. I see them justifying their bad behaviour, blaming others, and pushing good people away because when the fear and negative feelings come up, they are terrified – and RUN instead of facing those issues. But because they’ve never even attempted to get to the bottom of those issues, they have no idea that is whats happening. Their ego protects them from feeling accountable, their ego tells them they did the right thing and they continue on their lost path.

I am not perfect; but I am progressing. And that is more than enough for now.

Since this “AHA” moment, I now have a new routine. Each morning I lay in bed for a few minutes and just think about the quality of sleep I had, pay attention to how my body is feeling; truly feeling. Then I get up and sit on my balcony, in complete silence, and listen to the sounds of Vancouver all around me. I give thanks for this moment, and to myself for allowing myself the space and time to heal the wounds that I’ve buried for so long. At first, the silence was deafening; I ALWAYS have music playing around me – but there was a reason I did – silence creates space for the uncomfortable feelings I didn’t want to address, so I drowned them out. Now, I relish the silence. It’s amazing how much easier it allows me to stay present. So often in the past I’ve struggled to make sense of how I “feel” about something, and feel unable to make a decision… I realize now it’s because I’ve spent so long stuffing my true feelings deep inside and filling my head with other people’s opinions and judgements that I’m so out of tune to my own needs. Now, if I feel sadness or any type of emotion about a situation – I meditate on it, give it my full attention, and the answers come to me like a pizza hut delivery in 30 minutes or less.

My quest is for self-sufficient happiness. Self love. Awareness of my true feelings.

To know all the deep and dark corners of myself, and love them all.

To understand myself better than I did yesterday, so i can make better choices tomorrow.

To FEEL every uncomfortable feeling; sit with them, resolve them, and learn from them.

I share this because I think it’s important for us all to understand, that not everyone has it all figured out. That person on your social media with the seemingly perfect life is struggling with demons you can’t comprehend. Admitting your flaws and working on them is liberating, and fuck anyone who judges you for admitting and accepting your biggest fears – that says more about them than it does you. Your ego wants you to believe you’re perfect as you are, and everyone else is the problem; but when you lay your head on your pillow each night, you know the truth – so why are we all so resistant to admit it and make changes to better ourselves? Be courageous and own your journey, good or bad. And if even just one person reads this and can relate, and takes the steps to improve their life and stop avoiding their problems, my sharing has helped. We are all in this together, and with the world spiralling out of control – we need to invest in ourselves to find the inner calm and clarity needed to deal with the everyday shit.

As a side note, another major change I’ve made in my life recently, is limiting the amount of rap/hip hop music I listen to. Anyone who knows me, knows I think i’m a badass hip hop queen who spends 95% of my day spitting lyrics about not needing hoes for nothing, get money smoke weed & fuck everyone. I recently considered, for what I’m slightly embarrassed to admit was the first time, how much this affects my mentality and day-to-day life. If you’re spending 95% of your waking day with “bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks” blasting in your ears, what message is that sending? Once I thought about it, I made a major change (No hard feelings Snoop, you know you’re still my dog). Instead, I’m now listening to ‘smart-people-podcasts’ and the audiobook by a young intellect, Ryan Holiday – Ego is the Enemy. Filling my subconscious with messages of bettering myself, achieving greatness and overcoming obstacles – instead of the opposite.

I say I’m making changes, but the truth is the path to enlightenment isn’t about changing yourself – it’s about clearing the clouds and fog that has gathered over who and what you truly are. Getting back to the truest version of yourself, before all the other shit life throws at you (or what you allow to become your reality, aka the shit you throw at yourself by not honouring yourself) dampens your true ONENESS and ability to see things clearly. Uncovering your true self, who has been patiently waiting and sending out messages of what you need to do to feel happy, but we’ve been avoiding for so long. I’m finally listening and understanding and its so liberating.

Feeling buzzy with happy vibes today…

  • Belle

courage-tsem-tulku-rinpoche-picture-quote

My year as an Au-Pair in Canada

**Note: I started writing this post in my final weeks as an au pair – but since then I made a sudden decision to fly home to Australia after my last day of work to surprise my family & friends for a quick visit. I’m missing my munchkin terribly right now, and finish this post on a plane ride between Melbourne and Darwin before I head back to Vancouver**

Well, my time as an au-pair for a little Canadian/Mexican princess is almost over, and I woke up this morning feeling pensive about my time with this little girl. She is absolutely adorable for one: brown hair, big brown eyes with a wide dimpled smile and a giggle that could melt ice, she can be the funniest happiest little girl (but like all kids she has her moments!) and she has definitely stolen my heart as my “canadian sister”. I remember before I took this job, I had been offered three others which would have been a walk in the park – but I recognized something that this little girl needed to grow into all that she could be. So I took the job which was more work, but with greater rewards. And boy, am I grateful that I did. We had a magical family holiday to Disneyland in California for her 5th birthday in May, a great summer holiday in the beautiful lakeside town of Osoyoos here in B.C. in August and spending Christmas around the tree, Halloween trick or treating in the streets and Thanksgiving sharing all that we are grateful for, has been unforgettable memories for us all.

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However, It hasn’t been all rainbows & butterflies with this little one. I had my work cut out for me from the start as she was untrusting and hurt by the negative actions of a previous au pair in my role… She made me work damn hard for her trust and affection that’s for sure. But one day, about 7 weeks in, something changed. Suddenly after a weekend with her parents she ran to me and hugged me on a Monday morning, started telling me she missed me, drew me into her family pictures and more… I was prepared for the job when it was at it’s most difficult, but then suddenly things turned into a damn good time. I loved this kid, and she loved me. For someone who loves kids but is still on the fence about having my own, I’d found a role in which I could make a real difference in a child’s life. And more importantly I’d found a family I call home while being so far away from my own.

And for the most part, it has been smooth sailing ever since she let down her walls and began to trust me. The overwhelming emotion and energy I get from her is love. Even when I’m saying no, punishing her for bad behaviour, or rushing her out the door for school – she gets mad in the moment but I know she understands that everything I do for her comes from a place of love. So she forgives and gets over it quickly; much quicker than I expect sometimes. One of the best pieces of advice I received from a professional in child psychology soon after starting in this job, is that its important to be patient and understanding in teaching a child a new skill or habit. Just like an adult who is trying to stick to a diet of chicken & salad but occasionally has a bad day and eats 2 donuts and a bag of chips in 1 hour; we might know what is right and wrong, but we are all human and some days you just don’t get it right. Yelling at the poor kid or berating them for not getting it perfect 100% of the time isn’t helpful – we don’t all learn the same way. All you can do is keep encouraging the good behaviour, and gently guide them back to the right way. She is so much happier than when I first met her – last year when walking her to Pre-school at the start I would have to be firm yet insistent that she hold my hand just once for 5 seconds while we safely crossed a road, while this year during her first few weeks of Kindergarten she happily held my hand to and from the entire walk to school every day. We don’t even discuss it; as soon as we walk out the door she holds on right until she gets to class, and it just makes my heart so happy to have her little hand proudly holding mine.

I love being the role of the “fun side parent” (I’m gonna make such a good stepmom one day, single dads run at me haha); the one whom she can vent to when her friends or parents are making her feel a certain way; or when she’s confused by her own emotions and I can help her untangle and process how she is feeling. And when I teach her a particular strategy for overcoming her emotions, and i see her implementing those tools in the moment without me prompting her, thats a beautiful moment. More than just a job, I’m helping to raise this child. It’s a privilege that isn’t lost on me.

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She’s a fiery prima donna who is going to give her parents grey hairs one day for sure, but she’s also not going to take shit from anyone which I believe is a good characteristic for a woman in this generation. And I’ve already volunteered my services for when she’s driving her parents crazy as a teenager; chuck her on a plane and send her to wherever I’m living in the world, i’ll sort her out (ha, perhaps wishful thinking!). All I know, is I look forward to seeing where she goes in life, and helping to guide her and watch her blossom into the beautiful soul she already is. She’s an only child, but has two parents and an eternally doting grandmother who would all do anything for her. She is surrounded by love.

Being an au pair is definitely an experience which prepares you for being a parent. Fortunately with my schedule I never worked evenings or weekends, so I wasn’t there for the 3am wake-ups… but I have started more than a few mornings walking into a stinking bathroom with a 4-year old butthole facing me waiting to be wiped. It’s not a glamorous job, and gives new meaning to the term “Shitty Mondays”! But then again, some days I get paid to hang out at home in my PJs all day, and I spent basically all summer getting paid to tan at the beach; so you take the good with the bad. But one thing I’ve learnt for sure, is being a parent is one of the most important and challenging jobs you can do. To be solely responsible for the formative years of another human being, often with absolutely no experience (first time parents I don’t know how you keep it together) and having such a massive change in your life, to take on an entirely new role to anything you’ve ever done before in your life, with no sleep and no idea what you’re doing… It’s crazy how much your life changes. I thought I had a pretty realistic view of how hard it would be; for better or worse, I see it runs even deeper than I could have imagined after this past year.

As an avid reader and information sponge, I’ve done a bit of reading on the topic over the past year to help me in this role. Children need constant reminders of their parent’s love; and not just at the times when it suits you; often at the times when you’re most busy & preoccupied and don’t want/have the time to spare is when they seek that reassurance that everything is OK and they are loved. Children grow in stages, and at each stage of development they have certain needs that need to be met by their parents – the people who are their ENTIRE WORLD and believe they are yours too – if these needs aren’t met, they don’t develop that sense of safety and confidence and then grow to view the world in an alternative way, which in a lot of adults leads to neurosis and sometimes various forms of mental illness. As someone who had a turbulent childhood and can see how that has affected me in some ways as an adult, I can see how this is an important lesson for children to learn. And I do my best to make sure this kid is checking all the boxes for a healthy upbringing.

The good news is, i won’t have to say goodbye to my princess anytime soon. I live with her grandma who has retired after 28 years with the same company to look after her darling grand-daughter, so I know she is in good hands. And Grandma has kindly offered to let me continue staying in her home for a bit longer, which will also help phase me out of Victoria’s life in a natural way, instead of her suddenly getting ripped from her “sister”. I am so grateful for this, as i’m just not ready to leave them all yet!

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As for whats next for me, I’m not leaving Canada until they kick me out! I’m just going to take a break from working two jobs like a slave and keep my other job as a server at a neighbourhood pub as my main source of income for a while. I intend to fill my extra time with lazy sleep-ins, reading and working on my spiritual growth, work on a side project I’ve been putting off and hopefully try to find a way for Canada to let me stay here! I’m not ruling out being an Au Pair again in the future either. I’ve been toying with the idea of heading over to Europe one day and with all this experience under my belt now, surely I can snag a pretty awesome family, if I decide to do it. But as usual, I’m keeping my plans flexible and seeing wherever the wind takes me. I know I’ll end up exactly where I’m meant to be.

In the meantime, it’s been great to spend time in Australia but I’m missing my Canadian family. See you soon Vancouver!

– Belle

Thought of the day: Life is difficult

Quote from the book, “The road less travelled” By Scott Peck – “The tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.”

Life is difficult.

How often do you actually stop and process these three words, and fully accept the truth of them. Life is difficult. There is no super power or money tree which can alter the truth in this statement, because even with the best-kept schedule, planning, and all the money in the world; you can’t change the fact that sometimes, bad shit just happens. Living a life completely void of any problems, setbacks or issues isn’t realistic – yet we all throw our hands in the air in frustration when things don’t go our way, as if we expected life to favour us over anyone else.

Life is difficult.

Now, I’m not trying to tell you to give up and go drive off a bridge in exasperation, but I am trying to help empower us all to end the unnecessary suffering we place on ourselves by feeling cheated by life when it gives us lemons. Everyone’s getting lemons at some point in their life guys. However, I have been doing a lot of reading into this topic lately and want to share the thoughts and philosophies which have been presented to me which I feel could help others also. Because as the saying goes, happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.

Life is difficult, and problems are a certainty in life. Overcoming these problems inspire personal growth and development, often leaving us as stronger people once we come out the other side. I personally have been no stranger to tough times in my life; lemons have fallen in my lap on occasion and I’ve often held the belief that I have “overcome” these trials in life and moved on to become a stronger person, and I try damn hard not to identify too much with my problems and let them define who I am. But here’s the kicker that I’m starting to realize of late; I often choose to ignore or run away from my problems, rather than sit with them and wholly resolve them. At times when I thought I had, in a mature and adult way, dealt with an adversity or a difficult person, more often than not I just found a way to distract myself from the pain of the problem as quickly as I could, burying the bad feelings and pain deep inside myself, so deep that often I didn’t realize, or wouldn’t admit to myself that those painful feelings were still present. ‘No, I’m totally OK with that situation now’, I’d tell myself and those around me. I would feel proud when people would remark on how maturely I handled a situation, feeling accomplished because I had so swiftly overcome a difficult situation and moved on from it, but I hadn’t moved on from anything – I just buried it deep inside myself and carried it around like a dead weight, holding me back in life.

And here’s the problem. By not allowing ourselves to feel a full range of emotions and to healthily deal with an uncomfortable situation, all we do is push it deep inside ourselves and let it rot from the inside. That’s a dramatic statement but I want you to picture a big ball of black & red anger, disappointment, frustration and all other bad feelings, deep in your core and how you think that affects you on a daily basis. It doesn’t release anything, it just becomes the foundation for all of your emotional responses.

I don’t ever like to be seen as or to feel like a victim. I’m strong and fearless, I’d tell myself – nothing can get through and hurt my heart.  Often I think I’m doing myself a favour by “checking” myself, using harsh & negative self-talk to remind myself that there is someone out there in a worse situation than I am, suck it up princess, stop crying over your little problem when there’s people dying in the world. But does this help? Not at all. I used to feel proud of myself for not feeling, for not allowing myself to get sad, to feel all these perfectly healthy reactions to an uncomfortable situation. But goddam it I’m strong, I’m tough – I won’t cry. But crying is a perfectly healthy reaction to an uncomfortable situation. If someone told you they were forbidding themselves from feeling happiness, as if there was some weakness in allowing themselves to feel happy, we’d call them crazy. So why is blocking just the negative emotions seen as a sign of strength to some of us? In my case, and probably a few of you, my childhood was one that made me feel like showing signs of distress or fear was weak, and I am now realizing that as an adult this has disadvantaged me. There is no strength or sense in ingesting your suffering and ignoring it, because it is always there. Not only that, but you are also putting yourself in the red for any future adversities that life throws at you. You are laying a foundation of shame, anger and resentment for all the future lemons life may throw you, instead of starting at a calm, level-headed and peaceful state of mind. Yuck.

I like to think of myself as a pretty positive and compassionate person. Spending 6 months in India really opened my eyes to how the rest of the world lives, and how lucky we are to live the lives we do in the western world. I became very compassionate to other people’s struggles, and how sometimes people can do bad things to others due to a deficit in their own lives. Everyone’s got a story, everyone has struggled. So my go-to defence when somebody wrongs me, is to try and put myself in their shoes and try to make sense as to why they did what they did, perhaps it has nothing to do with me, surely they never meant to hurt me… I try to see the best in people, to such an extent that I make excuses for their bad behaviour. And so I accept people’s wrongdoings against me, telling myself I understand that they were in a bad situation; but all that does is pass the shame on to me, because it needs to land on someone. And if I tell myself they didn’t do this bad thing because of themselves, then who? Often I would unconsciously blame myself.

I don’t like to see anyone suffer. But I’m starting to realize how much I allow myself to suffer, by not taking adequate time to sit with my problems and deal with them healthily instead of burying them in a mountain of happy thoughts and think I can outrun the bad stuff. I try to meditate, but as soon as I clear my mind from distractions the first feelings that come up are the stack of bad feelings that I’ve been stuffing deep into that black box inside me, and the box is overflowing. As soon as my guard comes down and those feelings beg to be addressed, I inwardly panic and go “Oh no! Too uncomfortable, let’s be happy instead” – and my ego tries to protect me from any further pain by slamming the lid shut and distracting myself with music, friends, food, bad habits; anything. Avoidance at it’s finest. But becoming aware of these habits and patterns is the first step to resolving them.

Sometimes you just need to get upset. Release the feelings in a healthy way. Get mad if you need to! Feel outraged if you feel you were wronged. Don’t make excuses for someone’s bad choices; call them an asshole even if its just in a letter you write to them but never send. Let it out! Get uncomfortable, and commit to delaying gratification (doing something funner) to work through these issues. It won’t be easy, especially at first, but the benefits to the rest of your life and your future can and will be monumental. You can’t move forward if you’re always tied to your past, carrying your pain around like a dead weight. Set yourself free. There is no weakness in working on yourself, and taking this time will be the best investment on your future happiness and fulfilment in life.

Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit – Scott Peck

-Belle

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Thought of the day: Are you OK?

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If there was one message I wish I could spread to people all around the world as a positive energy warrior, it’s this statement above.

How often do we react negatively to a person or a situation because we take what they say/do personally, thinking they are doing it just to harm us in some way. What if it really has nothing to do with us, and our ego is just reading too much into it?

Some of the happiest, most outgoing people I know have, or are, fighting depression. That friend you don’t see cos she’s in a study/boyfriend/family hole? Have you given any thought that they might be hiding away to avoid social situations, or too afraid to admit they are depressed/riddled with anxiety? Probably not. We make assumptions based on what we choose to see.

Depression & anxiety happens, and to more of us than we’d like to admit. But why can’t we admit it? Why do we feel this shame for admitting we are struggling with life’s hurdles? Life ain’t always easy, the world is an increasingly violent & messy place – I don’t know anyone who’d say that their life is perfect.  But as soon as I talk about a problem or admit my negative feelings to a friend and say it out loud, I often find the answer – if not, they can help guide me to a solution. Talking about how you’re struggling and coming up with solutions together is a great way out. Pulling away because you don’t want to burden others does the opposite, and believe it or not… Your friends want to help.

During some of the lower points in my life, I navigated blindly through depression. I picked up the phone to call and ask for help numerous times, then hung up before my friends could answer because I didn’t want to burden them. I slept in my car crying myself to sleep at night, when home didn’t feel like home anymore after my Dad OD’ed in front of me. Around other people, I acted like everything was fine, pretending to be my normal fun self; and then as soon as I was alone, I would fall apart. And then when I had to face the world again I would pick myself up, wipe away my tears and put my “everything is fine” mask back on. I was too strong to admit I was struggling; I believed I could just “tough it out” and it would all just go away if I kept running from my true feelings of betrayal & sadness. Fuck that – that’s not strength thats suicide. A shotgun to the face for your true happiness. Trust me.

There is an annual “Are you OK?” day in September, which encourages people all over the world to stop and ask the people in your life, or even a stranger on the street – Are you OK. I fully support this day, but who’s to say that person is ready to open up in that very moment? Ask everyday. If you see someone struggling, or reacting strongly to a situation which you don’t believe requires such a strong emotional reaction, pull them aside and ask them if everything is OK. They may be reacting this way because of a deep feeling of unhappiness within themselves, and this is the way they are channelling their negative emotions – reacting with rage instead of allowing themselves to sit with their true feelings of sadness. But in that moment you ask, they may finally be at that point where they are ready to open up, and reach out for help. Nobody likes to suffer, so if you can help, do it. With the world in the sad state that it is, we all need to know someone gives a shit about us.

I have quite a few people in my life who struggle with depression and anxiety, some openly, some privately. It is a toxic disease which shames you to your core, and makes you feel there is something wrong with you for not being able to just “be happy”. But there’s no miracle cure guys, you can’t just sit back and wait for change.  Be the change.

And if like me, you’ve been there before – help a brother out. You can recognize the signs better than most people, and if you have a feeling that someone isn’t doing too well, pull them aside and ask them quietly if they want to talk. Be the person you needed in your darkest days, and remember: diamonds were just coals who survived well under pressure.

So be a fucking diamond.

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  • Belle