What I’m feeling: Motivated and Inspired

I’ve written over the past year about leaving my job and exploring a new path working with Keener Jerseys, our family business. Over the past nine months, I’ve been awkwardly fumbling and feeling my way through this transition. Quite frankly, I’ve been experiencing some discomfort. Although I seemingly got exactly what I wanted, somehow I didn’t magically feel renewed and energized by the change. I actually felt a bit let down, if I’m being honest.

Why, when I finally gained the freedom to live the life I wanted to live, did I feel numb? Where was the growth and fulfillment I was seeking?

I tried opening myself up to the spirit of the universe and inviting opportunity in. I kept my eyes open all around me searching for a sign of how I would find my fulfillment. At the same time, I wondered why I was struggling to feel motivated and inspired to successfully do my job, both at Keener Jerseys and with this blog. I kep looking around me for something that would help me solve my problem of lackluster.

Then, and this is kind of embarrasing to admit, just a few days ago I realized that dreams and fulfillment aren’t just going to fall from the sky and into my lap. If I want fulfillment and success, I need to work for it.

Like, duh.

I’m the first to admit that I’m a slow learner. I seem to have to learn the same lessons over and over again before I finally internalize what I need to move past my own self inflicted barriers. In this case the lesson is work hard and you’ll achieve results.

In some areas of my life, like running, I’ve been living that truth every day and putting in the work. In other areas, not so much.

My fear of “did I do the right thing?” stunted me from really throwing myself into anything with passion. The lack of structure that a regular 9 to 5 job typially provides paralyzed me with a feeling of not knowing where to start. I felt a bit lost on the inside and didn’t know how to get aligned.

I truly believe that these are all feelings I had to work through in order to arrive to the a-ha moment that FINALLY came to me recently. Some readers out there may be thinking, ‘sheesh honey, get a grip.’ But my whole life I have been a strong starter and a slow finisher and this experience is no different. I got gutsy and quit the job… and then I stopped. I didn’t forge ahead into my new adventure with purpose and drive. Instead I danced around the edges hoping something or someone would come along and show me what to do next.

Feeling a bit lost at sea for so many months became increasingly more difficult to manage emotionally. Luckily, I also have a very low pain tolerance. Whether the pain be physical, emotional or spiritual, I don’t like living in discomfort. So this extended period of discomfort was quite unpleasant at times. Especially since I was afraid to talk about how I was feeling because I didn’t want to appear as though I’d made the wrong choice. I knew I did the right thing, but I didn’t know how I was going to make it work.

Turns out, I was looking all around me for an answer that was within me all along. I just need to get up every day and show up. Show up for Keener Jerseys. Show up for my kids. Show up for this blog. For running. For spirituality. For all of it. I just need to put the work in.

If I start living my vision of how I want my life to look and feel then that’s how it will start looking and feeling. The people out there that I admire who are living their best lives didn’t get there accidentally. They hustled and did the work and they KEEP doing the work. It’s actually so frigging simple, I’m not sure how I missed it.

It’s one thing to have a vision of what you want your life to be. It’s another to show up and do the work to get it there. At the age 41, perhaps I should know this already, and in so many ways I do, but I also have a long way to go.

One day at a time, I’ll get there.

(Wearing J.Crew sweater, Madewell bag and MPG Sport vest.)

What I’m doing: Half Marathon Training

I’ve been running a lot this summer! Over the last four months, I have been training for the WFPS Half Marathon and want to chat a little bit about how it’s been going. But, before I do, I also want to share a new structure I am working on to keep me consistently blogging in this space.

As you can see, I have titled this post What I’m doing: Half Marathon Training. It’s the “what I’m doing” part that I’m flagging.

You see, part of creating content is coming up with ideas to write about, which can feel difficult when life just keeps rolling along seemingly uneventful. To help me narrow in on ideas and stay consistent, I’m categorizing my posts under four different headings.

  1. What I’m Doing…
  2. What I’m Reading…
  3. What I’m Eating…
  4. What I’m Feeling…
  5. And maybe even sometimes a bonus number 5: What I’m Wearing… (this is TBD because even though I love following fashion bloggers I always feel silly taking this angle myself).

I think having these set categories will allow me to write about a multitude of thoughts and ideas while also creating a framework to generate meaningful and relatable content.

So, back to the post at hand. What I’m doing: Half Marathon Training

As I mentioned, I am running the WFPS Half Marathon in a couple of weeks and for the first time ever, I enlisted the help of a running coach to try to gain a little speed and keep me disciplined during this training season. I’ve been pretty dedicated with my running over the last couple of years, but I also let myself off the hook when the timing wasn’t working out, when I was busy, or sometimes when I was just plain tired!

Having a coach has kept me on track and accountable. I do sometimes feel like I am running all the time! But I guess that’s what sticking to a training plan does to you. In reality it’s only four times a week and there are many people who run a lot more. (But for me, it’s a lot.)

I’ve definitely gotten stronger and faster over the last few months, thanks to following a plan. Essentially, I’m a middle-of-the-road runner who’s not looking to win any races. My goal for the upcoming run on October 20 (and the primary reason I enlisted a coach) is to break 2:00 hours. In runners lingo, that’s called a sub-2:00. 😉

Tonight I had what may be the most monumental training run of this whole season! Not because I was faster than usual or went further than normal – but because my kids came with me!

I had an interval track workout scheduled and couldn’t figure out how I was going to squeeze it in between #momlife, working, and appointments. Then I had the most brilliant idea! The kids CAN COME.

There’s a little track around a ball diamond just a couple of blocks away and if they were to bring some books, toys and bikes, I’d be able to see them the whole time and we could just GO. So we did!

I was a little worried that this sneaky little plan of mine would fail big time with lots of whining and complaining about being bored and cold. Well, I am happy to report that none of those things happened! The kids did great, and I got my workout in. Win/win. So we celebrated with pizza!

Sometimes all that’s needed is a little creative thinking when it comes to solutions instead of excuses. Actually, isn’t this always true in life? (There’s an idea for a What I’m feeling post…)

This is my last heavy week of training and then we start to slow down and taper for the big day. I am hopeful I’ll hit my goal but also I’ll be okay if I don’t. Whether I’m a minute over or under, I know how hard I’ve worked this summer and isn’t that actually the point? I kind of think it is.

P.S. Juliette took the above pictures of me at the track tonight. My phone died and I couldn’t take any photos of them. They were angels though!

P.P.S. I’m wearing my favourite lululemon running tights. And thank you cooler weather so I can wear this adorable lululemon vest that was gifted to me at a run fit session last October. Oh and of course my trusty New Balance 860s.

Summer Update

Miles and me on a boat this past weekend in Lac du Bonnet.

It’s been a hot minute since I sat down to write a blog post. I’ve been living that #momlife 24/7 this summer and wouldn’t you know kids just seem to want all of you all the time! So, the rest of my life took a backseat while I played on the beach with my two littles all summer. Now we are back to city living and starting to find routine again. Hallelujah!

As mentioned, we spent the greater part of the summer at the beach – and by beach, I mean Victoria Beach where both my and Jason’s families have summer cottages. (It’s actually where we first met each other about a million years ago!)

For so many years, basically since I’ve become a mom, I have wanted to have summers off so that I could move out to the lake with the kids and enjoy that VB life all summer long. Well folks, this was my summer. I had such high expectations of carefree beach days and glorious evenings watching sunsets while the kids played. And we did enjoy beach days and sunsets, but I also solo parented two very rambunxious kids for most of the summer and they didn’t receive my serene summer memo…

I’m sure from the outside looking in, anyone who saw my Instagram page probably thought I was living the dream. And don’t get me wrong, in so many ways I was, but there were also many moments where I felt driven to tears, where I completely lost myself in anger and frustration, where I made choices that I wish I could take back, and where I wished things were all just different then they were. (I touched on it in this post.)

In so many instances (and please don’t misunderstand this as me laying blame), Miles was at the centre of all the fire and fury. Let me just tell you, this kid came out of the womb with fire in his belly. He’s had big vocals since day one and so often he uses his voice to tell me how much he loves me or to ask the sweetest little four-year-old questions. But if you try to tell this kid not to do something or correct his behaviour – LOOK OUT! He’ll come at you (well, me actually), and he won’t back down.

Over the course of the summer it became exhausting putting out emotional fires every day. Until one night my mom sent me an article that touched on WHY a kid like Miles gets so upset and acts out. Miles is definitely a strong-willed child, a characteristic that could (and hopefully will) serve him well in life. Our problem is that we wind up having power struggles when he is behaving irrationally or doing something he’s not supposed to and I then try correct that behaviour. This is when things go sideways for us and tempers (his and mine) wind up flaring.

Essentially, the article (and I have ordered her book, too) tells parents how to help kids navigate their feelings so they can understand them instead of fighting or fleeing from them. Okay, so this is where things REALLY hit home for me. As a (now recovering) alcoholic, I spent years of my life fleeing from my feelings. Burying them with drugs and alcohol and “fun.” If it was difficult and painful, I wanted no part in it.

Here’s the clincher that we all know to be true: suffering is part of the human experience. It just is. There’s no escaping that we will suffer in life. So if I can teach my kids handle suffering as children and equip them with that life skill NOW, then maybe they won’t have to hide from it later. This doesn’t mean I MAKE them suffer but rather help them see why they are hurting and then guide them handle it in a healthy way.

What I have learned is that yelling doesn’t work with my kids. Shocker, right? Yelling is just an ineffective tool that does no good for anyone. Trouble is, it was my only lame-ass tool for a long time. Time-outs don’t do much good either and separating them from the rest of the family as a punishment just reinforces feelings that they are ‘bad.’ To turn the behaviour around, I need to understand and then help THEM understand why they are acting out.

This is particularly true for Miles because at four years old, he can’t really understand without some help why he is behaving the way he is. If we can start to talk through what heppened immediately prior to whatever ‘incident’ we are dealing with at the time then things usually start to come together. Usually he’s feeling left out from something or isn’t getting his way on an issue and doesn’t understand why. So, we have made some inroads in this area and this new approach really seems to be helping. Turns out, being a parent can also help you be a better person. (And here I thought I was a good person all along!)

I am by NO MEANS a parenting expert and have no claims on what is right for anyone else’s family. I can barely figure out my own! (<– Truest statement I’ve ever written.) I am merely in this place because I basically felt like a failure as a parent for a good chunk of the summer and then I read this article and something started to click. I have yet to start the book but am looking forward to more nuggets of parenting wisdom.

I may not be able to ease all their suffering in life but maybe I can help them grow into people who are okay feeling their feelings. That is my hope, anyway…

What kind of parenting tools have you found useful? I’d love to hear – leave a comment below!

How Practising Active Gratitide Can Help Your Kids

Sometimes the lengthy #momlife list can feel never-ending and overwhelming. There’s not enough time in the day for the duties of a parent and, every once in a while, resentment can sneak its unwanted little head into the mix all the to-dos.  

I’ve found that practising active gratitude always sets me back into the right frame of mind and reminds me of all my many gifts in this life. Those pesky lunches that need to be packed every day? Those are to feed my two beautiful kids. The after-school chaos between pick-up and rushing off to the soccer field? That’s so we can enjoy a beautiful spring evening outdoors with our friends in the community while the kids get active. Yet another birthday party present to buy for a classmate? A representation of healthy social interactions for my kids.

Knowing how active gratitude has helped me, it only makes sense that it’s a tool my daughter, Juliette, can apply when her feelings become too overwhelming to manage. At seven and a half, she is old enough to reason with and encourage logical discussion when emotions run high. And trust me, her emotions have a tendency to take over.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we were having our regular Saturday morning conflict over getting ready for gymnastics. Here’s how it goes: Saturday mornings we make a pancake breakfast as a family and sit around the kitchen with kids “helping,” music playing, and just the right amount of chaos. At around 9:00 am, the kids move into the living room to watch some cartoons as Jason and I start to get ready for the rest of our day. About 30 to 45 minutes later it’s time for Juliette to get ready for gymnastics. This is when things go sideways. The transition is always difficult and, no matter how many times  I remind her of how much fun she has at her weekly gymnastics class, she more often than not full of resistance.

We inevitably get into a fight. I sometimes lose my cool or, I sometimes handle it calmly (always try for the latter, however). Recently, I tried out something new to try to de-escalate Juliette’s overwhelming frustration and anger.

First, I gave her a hug and, while I was embracing her, I took a few deep inhalations and exhalations so she could feel the rise and fall of my breath. Then I looked at her and asked her to take three deep breaths with me. Already things were starting to settle down, and I could see that she really did want to be calm.

After our deep breaths, I hugged her again and started listing all the things I was grateful for in that moment.

“I am grateful for my beautiful daughter, who made me a mother.
I am grateful that I was able to give you a little brother, Miles.
I am grateful that we get to have a barbecue with our friends later today.
I’m grateful that we get to eat pancakes every Saturday morning.
I’m grateful for Victoria Beach, where we get to enjoy summer holidays…”

I went on like that for a little while and listed everything that popped into my head. When I was finished, and without prompting her, she began to list all the things that she was grateful for.

“I’m grateful for a mommy that loves me and a daddy that loves to play with me.
I’m grateful for my little brother.
I’m grateful that I get to do active things like play soccer and go to gymnastics.
I’m grateful for our cat, Murphy.”

And so on and so forth. The whole exercise took less than five minutes and once we were finished, it was like a whole new child sitting in front of me. She was calm, happy and ready to head out the door to gymnastics class.

Now, it is certainly not groundbreaking news that practising active gratitude can help us feel more connected to the world around us and less angry and resentful. As Brenė Brown, research professor at the University of Houston and published author says, “I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practising gratitude.”

Brown links gratitude to wholehearted living which “is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means waking up in the morning and thinking no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.

The values that Brown speaks of are exactly what I want to instil in my children. Creating healthy, gratitude-building habits for our kids now could mean a lifetime of healthier habits later, too. Active gratitude has been linked to improving overall mental and physical health by boosting self-esteem, lowering blood pressure, improving relationships, increasing energy, and improving sleep.

When I take a few moments out of my day to reflect on all the many things I have to be grateful for, somehow my fears, anxiety and material desires shrink and my sense of contentment and joy increases. It only makes sense that these simple yet effective tools that work in my life will also work for my children. And just like anything, the more we practise, the easier it becomes.

Postscript: as I sat here re-reading this and making final edits this morning, I felt calmer at the end than I did in the beginning. It would appear that even reading about gratitude helps ease the mind and relieve worrisome thoughts.

Enough Already

Nothing I can buy in a store can provide me with as much joy as seeing my street in
full spring bloom.

Do you ever just get sick of your bad habits? Like, the habits that you usually enjoy but know are bad for you?

I’m feeling that way with all my unconscious consumption habit. Clothes, mostly. I suffer from the ‘never enough stuff syndrome’ that is so rampid in our society. When I think about all the clothes I acquire in the course of a year, and how much of it I don’t actually need, it makes my stomach turn. I really do need for nothing.

I have enough already.

There’s not much good that comes from having too much stuff… It’s harmful for the environment. Inevitably all this excess stuff will wind up in a landfill where it will just sit, taking up space, for longer than my lifetime. Although I donate most of my unwanted goods, I really have no idea where all those items wind up once they’ve left my hands. Do they end up in new homes where they are treasured by their new owners? Or maybe sit unsold in a thrift store before eventually getting discarded? Perhaps they wind up in another home with an abundance of stuff before eventually being sent off to the dump. Who knows where it all goes? The point is, I don’t and that’s what makes it so irresponsible.

This kind of consumption also sets a bad example for my kids. They’re now young people who are beginning to suffer from “too much stuff,” too. It seems we can’t go anywhere without them asking me to buy them something they don’t need. When I say no, it turns into a conflict and there is usually a lot of whining, maybe some tears shed. But who can blame them? It’s how they’ve been conditioned. Do all kids want more stuff or just the ones who already have a lot? I’m guessing the latter.

But really, the worst of the whole predicament, is just that it feels bad. The rush of ‘newness’ is shortlived and inevitably followed by the bitter aftertaste of regret (unless it’s a truly treasured or useful item).

With all of this in mind, I am making a commitment this month to stop the leak and start navigating a path toward more conscious consumption. Right now, today, I have EVERYTHING I NEED.

It won’t be easy, and I know the urge will strike to acquire more crap (it always does with me). But instead of succombing to the temptation, I will ask myself these three questions:

  1. Do I already own it? If this is a duplicate of an already treasured item that I own, and I am just looking to double up, then it’s a hard no.
  2. Do I need it? Is this an item that I truly need in my life to serve a purpose or just something that I am looking to fill a desire with. And here’s the thing, the only thing I actually will NEED to buy this month is groceries – everything else is fluff.
  3. Can I afford it? Plain and simple.

With these questions asked and answered, the only items I should be purchasing are necessities and food. Everything else is a superfluous luxury. I am hoping that this will provide me with a sense of cleansing and maybe even a little spiritual growth. I mean, if I’m not filling up that insatiable void with stuff, I might just fill it the nectar of the universe and all its divine offerings.

Just like as it was in my drinking days, there never seems to be enough of what I don’t need. The differentiator is that my alcoholism would have probably killed me had I not sought help. I don’t anticipate this particular consumption problem killing me but it can definitely cause me pain. Because if I am using consumption, any kind of consumption, to make me feel happier or more content the odds of it working just aren’t in my favour.

If I am being honest right now, I’d have to say this is bringing up some fear in me. I’m reminded of a saying I’ve heard over the years about, “I am either afraid of losing something I have or of not getting something I want.” I’m paraphrasing but basically it all comes down to wants. Fear crops up when I think I might lose something, maybe it’s something I have, or maybe it’s something I want, but it’s rooted in desire. And so much of what I desire is rooted in materialism. So, if I can reframe that and realize I have everything I need and fill that fear with faith and gratitude, chances are all those consumable desires will shrink and leave me feeling abundant.

I’m feeling as though this mindless materialism is no longer serving me. Like, it’s as if for a long time it kind of did make me feel better and now it just doesn’t. I’m ready to feel lighter and more awakened. My worth is not based on what I am wearing or items I own.

A month of mindfulness and gratitude lies ahead of me. I am so ready to tackle this goal and feel lighter and more centred at the end.

Am I officially middle-aged?

Me, a woman in her 40s and feeling pretty okay about it 🙂

Just writing out that title feels weird. Middle-aged? Me? At 40 years old, I think I can safely say I have arrived in the middle.

A couple of days ago, I was driving around running errands and listening to Q on CBC Radio. Tom Powers was interviewing Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20, and they were chatting about that song Smooth that he did with Carlos Santana in the late 90s. Remember that one? If you don’t, you clearly lived under a rock because it was everywhere. Listening to it, I was immediately transported back to being 20 years old and dancing with my then boyfriend at bars and parties surrounded by friends and having loads of fun. (Back in those days, the partying still WAS fun until I took a real nose-dive later on and eventually got sober at 27.)

The song has really stuck with me over the last couple of days, mostly because it’s so damn catchy but also because it represents a moment in time that will never relive itself. I will never be in my twenties again. I mean, this isn’t news but it also kind of IS news…

It sort feels like we just go along in life and do our best, right? Choosing left or right turns, buying a home, making career changes, having babies (or not having babies), and all the rest of it. And then BOOM, you realize it’s been 20 years since you were 20! When it really only feels like it’s been about five.

Truthfully, I wouldn’t want to relive my twenties. They were hard and I struggled a lot. As mentioned, I wound up making transformative changes that would redirect my life and steer me in a better direction. But in the earlier part of that decade, before it got tough, there was such a sense of carefree living and fun to be had. Old enough to live on my own, travel and be adult-ish but young enough to also still be kind of a kid. This was especially true for me because I reeeally took my time before eventually deciding to grow up.

I actually met my husband at right around age 20. Obviously, I didn’t know that we would wind up together (we didn’t start dating until five or six years later) but sitting here today with the perspective of having lived through it, it’s so interesting to me that that 20-year old Alison had NO IDEA that she met her future husband on that night. Funny how life works. Twenty-year old me had no clue that 40-year old me would marry that guy and even have a couple of kids together.

My mom, who is in her 70s, tells me that her 40s is how she pictures herself in her mind’s eye. She tells me that this version of me is the one that will stick with me the longest. The honest-to-goodness, grown-up, 40-something me is who I will think of when I am older and close my eyes to sleep at night. The middle-aged me.

I’ve told the following story to so many friends on so many occasions, but I am going to tell it here, too. A few years ago, while on maternity leave with Miles, I was on my way to the hair salon and stopped in at Starbucks along the way. As I entered the coffee shop, I caught my reflection in the window and was taken slightly aback by what I saw. “There’s a woman firmly situated in her mid- to late-30s,” I thought to myself. At age 37, that was accurate, but I had never seen myself that way before. For so many years, I looked a bit younger than I actually was. I think I handily pull off 27 until I was at least about 34 (okay, maybe 32). Catching my reflection that day was the first time I realized that was no longer the case. I definitely did NOT look 27 anymore. And it felt…strange.

Today, the creases and wrinkles in my face continue to take me by surprise. It seems that at age 40, I’m really starting to look and sometimes feel older than I ever have before (which I am, duh). I notice, sometimes with a touch of resentment, that the deep laughlines around my mouth show my age long before I have a chance to utter it. I privately curse all my years of smoking and sun-bathing as though my twenty-year old skin would remain that way, unchanged, forever. Yes, the creases tell a story of a life well-lived but damnit, they sure do take some getting used to.

Here’s the upshot though, and it’s a good one. I also feel so much more in tune with myself than I ever have before. I really know who I am today and have confidence in my abilities. It’s a confidence that has taken decades to solidify. I’ve got the benefit of time on my side and a track record to look back on to see where my past experiences can help guide my future choices. My heart and my gut lead me today, and with the benefit of having history to look back on, I know that when I trust them they always steer me down the right path.

It’s true, my days of dancing in bars as a 20 year old are done. But isn’t that actually a huge relief? I’d way rather curl up in bed next to my husband at 9:30 pm with a cup of tea and a good book. I know that today because I know who I am, and I know that simple pleasures are what make me feel content. That 20 year old me? She was fun, but she really didn’t know herself very well at all. It makes me wonder what 80 year old me will look back on and think of 40 year old me. And just as I couldn’t have imagined being 40, today I can’t imagine being 80!

How do you feel about getting older? Does it sneak up on you, too? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! 🙂

Spring has sprung

I am feeling RENEWED this week! Spring has finally arrived in Winnipeg and along with it a new sense of optimism has opened up in my mind and heart. I recently wrote about feeling a bit like I’ve been floating in limbo. Uneasiness has lingered around me like a fog for the last few months, sometimes light and other times dense, but always more or less present.

I think change presents those foggy feelings. It’s just like when you start a new job and have to learn things all over again. You might be excited for the new job but the transition part always more or less sucks. It takes time to settle into it and find your mojo. I was expecting that I was going to make this huge life change (leaving 9 to 5 to work p/t for our family biz) and have immediate mojo. Insta-mojo, if you will. I was wrong.

The good news is that this week everything shifting and the fog feels lifted. I can see sun beams shining through again and, let me tell you, it’s a relief.

This shift is no accident. Although it coincides with spring’s rather late arrival in Winnipeg, it’s also being escorted in with a new attitude I’ve been fostering. I know from years in a recovery program that when I open myself up to the universe, willingness and openness collide with opportunity and it’s no coincidence.

I’ve learned that it’s important to remember that nothing is permanent. Whether floating on a high of good feelings or struggling with discomfort and restlessness, you can always count on things changing whether you actually want them to or not. And I was getting pretty uncomfortable in recent weeks with that heavy, dense fog that followed me around with only intermittent relief. I started to worry that my discomfort wasn’t going to change.

Turns out, what was actually needed for the sunlight to burst through the fog was an inside job. You know that old saying, nothing changes if nothing changes. It was up to me to open myself up to create some space for opportunity and light to find me.

So, today I have a renewed sense of optimism and hope for a bright, meaningful future where passion collides with opportunity and output.

Happy long weekend!