South Park Taught Me That “Marijuana’s Bad”.

So, today is the big day. The legalization of marijuana in Canada. The day that health care and the progress of kids, will change forever in Canada.

I taught in high schools for 21 years. I have seen the societal shift of parenting, increase of pressures from both home and school to perform well, the onset of technology, increasing levels of anxiety, and the need for decreasing strictness (or what- have you) on kids that may not manage things well. While I am no longer a teacher in schools, there is one thing I find (above all) important… and that is that importance of emotional learning, regulation and balance for mental health.

As many know, I have struggled with depression my whole life. It increased when I went on medications as a teen. I was on accutane; a drug which dermatologists prescribed for bad acne in the 90’s. Being a drug that was not fully understood when it was prescribed to me- I took it for 2 years. Research now suggests a maximum of 6 month stints. Side effects include joint pain, headaches, mood swings and depression. While taking this prescribed drug, I was also told I needed to be on the pill. Ah, the pill. A birth control method, that is now also a solid contribution to some women’s mental instability, and can even show effects within the women’s reproductive organs. 2 years. 2 years during time of puberty. 2 years of contributions to adjustments to hormonal build. These were prescribed drugs that were guided… and yet still had adverse affects.

Now, as a woman who understands that some drugs actually do help when taken consistently, I teeter on a fence of right and wrong for prescribed drugs. None the less, I do not teeter on any fence when it comes to mental illness and allowing child, and teenage brains to develop properly, and at the rate it should. While I need to take medication daily for mental illness, I am also very cognizant of whether or not the medications have been: a) well researched, b) all the side effects, and c) what my values are for functionality. Along with this, I drink as much water as I can, and eat well. And, above all- exercise, play and rest are key in my daily balance. But, as an adult I have also learned to research.

Some drugs, whether they are prescribed or social, can cause great harm. Effects that are not seen until our bodies, and mind age. Or, perhaps a user may not be well versed with the side effects. My set backs were due to vain attempts to be ‘normal’ and listening to people who were quite knowledgeable. However, the setbacks of social drugs can also be in vain attempts to be normal. Teens struggle with peer pressure, fitting in, and keeping up. None the less, social drugs have a harmful side effect called addiction. The legalization of marijuana is terrible for the growing teens, twenty year olds and up… as it will make easier the purchase of such drugs. Like many do as a teen for alcohol outside the “dep”- a simple question to a known adult can buy the drugs needed for a party. The legalization will also give the idea that, it’s ok to use the drug. It’s not.

Teens, when exposed to frequent use of marijuana, decrease their recall of short term memory, decrease their ability to retain information, decrease amount of healthy sleep, decrease gross motor ability, decrease balance, and most of all, increases anxiety. The increased anxiety is then the trigger to return to use; thereby instilling the habit of use- i.e: addiction. Kids as young as 12 years old, are demonstrating signs of addiction to marijuana and developed countries. From that, an increased number of teens and young adults are showing signs of major mental illness from their withdrawal and anxiety with increased use of marijuana.

When we had the onset of technology, we lost our ability to spell, research accurately, and our understanding of seeking out an answer. Siri aids us to get a quick fix of information. As teens become increasingly exposed to marijuana, and used to the accessibility- their addiction levels increase. The withdrawal of technology is bad…but let’s be honest- drugs will be a devastating cost on healthcare and education systems, now that we have made drugs more accessible in their legalization.

With a young girl entering into the solid stage of knowledge in the world; I worry.

Finding the Pony.

The quick, abbreviated story that was told to me, goes like this…

“Two princesses are being looked at as a successor to their Queen mother. Only one is allowed to do the job. The mom places each princess into a room that has a pile of shit. They are left there to figure out the problem. Upon return, one princess is crying. The Queen mother asks why she cries. She responds that, her mother has placed her in a pile of shit, and how could she do that? The Queen, saddened by the sight, leaves her to exit the room. She goes to the next room. As she opens the door, there is shit flying everywhere! She calls to her Princess daughter. When the shit settles, she asks her daughter what it is she’s doing? With delight in her eye and excitement in her voice, she responds “if there is this much shit, something got it here… so I’m trying to find the Pony!”

So, I ask you all this: Do you know your worth? Do you all know that you have the power within you to “find the pony”? I’ve only truly understood my worth after being laid off a second time in my life. The first time, I was laid off with a team of people. This meant we were all in it together. This time however, no one else but me was let go. This was me “being buried by shit”. Yes. I sat on that pile for a good solid month. As I sat on that pile- it got hot, and I sank hard. Like, really hard. The smell though… it got to me. As I tried to dig my way out, I began the shift. I began to look for the pony. What I discovered, is because of my values and solid sense of being with people… is that I myself can actually be the pony. I am good at my job and all the things I do. Why? Because I do it all with passion, curiosity and faith. So, I discovered that, right now, I’m the pony.

Me! I’m the fuckin’ (sorry for the swear word- but it truly needs emphasis) pony! I’m the good thing. I’m the thing that can make life astonishingly super. If I think darkly, or hold on to anger, or self pity… I fail to see the beauty that surrounds me. I’m hard working, I’m dedicated, I’m caring, and damn! I’m funny!

<knock knock… who’s there? Spell. Spell who…. W-H-O! > baaaahahaha. See? Hilarious!

As I return to the question… do you know your worth? Do you know that as an individual… because each person is unique- you are a frickin’ pony! Ponies are cute, but majestic. Every kid wants a pony because of the unique brilliance they have. You have the power to be majestic, smart, supportive and adventurous in life.

Whatever pile of crap you’re in right now, dig down deep and find that inner pony. Once you do- hop on aboard and ride out in grace and style. You’ve all got it in you.

Canvas is clear- life can be beautiful with open vision.

Getting older is this odd, and magical ordeal that slowly comes over you. You slowly find more grey hairs, your muscles ache in ways you couldn’t imagine and wrinkles can no longer be moisturized by creams. The frontal lobe however, gets stronger. It’s not just developed; that common sense factor, becomes quite strong and secure with each decision that’s made.

It was four months in to the 2017 year when I began running. I was 42 years old. I wasn’t running from anything; I was just running. I ran with a friend, weekly. All this because I put words into action and had to train myself how to breathe for a 5kms stint. Some might say, “bah! 5 kilometres is nothing…” It was a big deal to me. None the less, regardless of training, that running friend became a symbol of what friendships should be in life. A friend is someone who accepts your pace in life and encourages you to push further. That encouragement shouldn’t come through comparison, nor should it come through competition. It just comes. No expectations, no punishments, and no chastising or accusations. Simple.

As we ran weekly, our trust in each other grew, as did my trust in self and stride. I have no idea for her, but I began to notice the simplicity of friendships. Finally at the age of 42/ 43, I learned that friendships were so much more than going out for dinner and catching up. It was quiet support and listening, and telling someone something flat out with no drama. Don’t get me wrong, I have so many beautiful friends who offer this. It is that I, as a grown up was  finally getting it… I was having synapses of reality strike in my brain while I was in my “meditation in motion”. As mentioned, I was never good at recognizing things in friendship because I was too busy pleasing. All along, I only had to “just be”. But more than the friendship being true, I was noticing that I had value in myself and was becoming successful at something I never thought I could be. I had created so many excuses to others about running that I began to believe them myself! These two things, working in tandem made me build upon my knowledge. They made me understand the importance of noticing. My blinders built from fear were going. My common sense and strength of self honesty grew. No more bullshit. Truth and acceptance.

As for the meditation in motion… I became more confident in my running; I craved it. I began going out on my own. I was no longer in need of the safety net of friendship. The friendship was there, when I needed it. Now, more than ever I could venture out on my own. Be true to self. Create my canvas, in essence. Then, I could have stories to share. Some runs were better than others. Sometimes, my confidence was so solid, that my pace reflected the feeling solidly. Other times I was so slow and lethargic, I longed for my running mate to be beside me and keep my pace. Analysis would kick in- why was I so slow? Why did a cramp overwhelm me? Ahhhh! Because I failed to drink enough water today, my food intake had too much sugars, my sleep was stressfilled…

You guessed it, old age voices were kicking in… I could hear ancestors in my head. “You need to drink at least 8 cups of water a day”, “Replace those bad sugars with good sugars”, and my favourite “you should read a book or think of what you are grateful for, before you go to bed.” Frontal lobe development had allowed me to be quietly calm. Basically, there’s not been as much room in me for fears. Life needs to be lived.

Then, I had a positive setback. Trips put on hold, altered and then cancelled… A pause if you will, to support our potential growing family. Complications stopped me from running. Health became important for two. But, while that excitement built, older body was not able to hold on, again. Loss came 3 months in. Yet, I’ve noticed my perspective has changed again. With similar natural losses, I once would pine and be crushed. With my gradual strength of self and ability to show people who I am, and not be afraid of that truth- I saw this loss as “it’s not my time… still”. It has been easier to see that natural occurrence happens, and it’s not your fault.

Not long after my “pause”, I’ve began to move (ahem… run) again. Very slowly, surely and with excitement to rebuild. The friends who cheer with me in life, are ready to go again. Still there, never left despite the break… and geared for challenge. Simple. True. Life. Life has become so pleasant and real that, I realized that, as you take breaks or have setbacks… it’s the true friends who allow for your bumps to hit. It’s the true friendships that keep living their own life but always has a fold up chair ready to pop open when you need. Simple. Always prepared.

My point? Get moving. Try new things. Don’t let sadness stay too long. As my running partner said “feel it out, and never feel bad for it. Once you’re done, pick yourself back up again.” Life is out there calling you. Things actually aren’t that complicated. Our over active brain makes things worse than they actually are. Look at art, run, walk, text friends annoyingly, play… play hard. The more you see, the more you’ll realize that life is simple, interconnected and taking care of yourself properly will allow for beauty to grow.

Life is so much easier than we make it sometimes.

Thankful heart.

We find excuses. But what do excuses do? They simply make life complicated and tiring.

Each fall, as the leaves change and let go from their source, we simply clean them up. The trees say nothing; they don’t apologize, they don’t make excuses. They simply stand- naked before us in humble majestic strength. They are about to face the torments of nature.

With nothing left to give, they wait.  Comfortable in the silence.

I have been challenged by someone very inspiring to me. The challenge was, to make no excuses or reasons  when given a compliment, or a gift. She challenged me to simply say, “thank you”. It’s been a week. A painful week of catching myself, and biting my tongue. A week of trying to just be simple, and accept. As the week progressed, it became easier.

I once thought that I was a failure. But, with this challenge that she offered up to me, I am suddenly hearing kind things. These kind things are being taken in, and meditated on. I am in the beginning phase of ending the cycled thoughts of  “oh, well I guess I was just lucky this time because…, but I’m sure next time will be horrible…” and saying instead, a simple “Thank you”. With no excuse, no apology, no retort; I hear their words. I feel the pride. I am feeling the calm.  Who cares if next time it all goes to shit? That’s for next time!

Acceptance of what happens, who you are, and how your leaves fall is a magical gift. Thanksgiving food, family, friends and best of all- life.

Thank you.

Here and now…

Leading is a difficult task for the best of us. Some people come by the actions naturally, while others plan out their every movement through a task that may require “one in charge”. Nonetheless, in schools, one may see leadership opportunities pop up for both Teachers and Students alike, in the most unconventional moments of a day. Guiding a student through an anxiety attack, peer teaching someone how to calculate moles, or preparing to present a play to an audience; the extremes are significant. So much so, that everyone can fall within the spectrum of leadership.

So what’s the crux of my verbal spew today? It’s two-fold.  I have come to a strong learning of myself in the past year and, have therefore been able to see more of the “parts” of leadership clearly.  Let me explain… When I was in high school, I fancied myself as one of the “top” beans in student leadership, because of my role in student council. It was actually, a place for me to feel as though I fit in.  My shyness always made me feel separate from the regular crowd. I say it often but, I was friendly with everybody, but friends with no one. Not in school at least.

My shyness came from the fact that I felt different. I knew I was not like the other students in school. My anxiety and high levels of uncontrolled energy were the two things that made me that wee bit different. I was not able to sit still for long enough to associate with people fully.  When I did make friends, I smothered them. Friendships never lasted long. So, being in student council gave me purpose, tasks and jobs that made people happy.  I would give to those around me by “being of service”.  In a backhanded way, my role in student council allowed me to be closer to people. Therefore, being in “Leadership”; I thought myself a leader.

As job placements shuffled over the years, I have been placed in to roles that lead more. Teacher. Leader of classroom. Coach. Leader of team to win. etc… My first few years of teaching and “leading” had me spinning. My energy and enthusiasm masked my fears of failing. I always found amazing jobs  in schools that had me worry that if I didn’t have passing students, I would be let go. As a result, my teaching and work always sought out the future. I would say things like when you are “there”… or “‘This’ will lead to ‘this’ success… I was always trying to teach for results that would secure my future, and my students. But, apart from my career, I also caught myself planning my weekends well in advance… booking myself up solid. I did this so much that with all the pressure, I would break down once a month. Those break downs started as 1-2 day stints. The break downs then grew to 4-5 day stints. Final result was simply a constant nervous panic filled my body. Always worrying about how I would handle the unknown of what’s to come.  I finally realised that in my worry of the future, I was failing the present and having to constantly apologize for my pasts.

I took a long time to heal when I got hit last year. That concussion, if you will knocked a great deal of sense back into me. I stopped everything. I slowly started back…. What’s funny though, is at times I feel my old self coming back.  I am so much more mindful of it though. Now, I can sit and have a drink with that old self and then tell her to get out.

Mind you, I am still in awe of those around me, and how much they truly see my weaknesses coming, and yet accept me anyways. Case in point, a great leader and colleague of mine was talking about leadership a few weeks back. She called me on my forward thinking approach of working. She actually, in one sentence, summed me up solidly. She’s only really known me since January, and yet by pulling herself back daily, saw right through me. “Tracy, try to live in the here and now. If you do, you’ll appreciate your surroundings even more…”

In everything, leading is not by standing in the front of a crowd, and pointing your finger in directions one should travel. Leading is actually to be with people, taking the situation at hand, and making it a great experience. To get to that great experience, one needs to be an ideas person, a worker, or a cheerleader (etc…). When all things come together from this process, a great appreciation for what just occurred, can then build character. The process of building this character, allows one to look back and appreciate. One can then turn and face forward for the simple….

Here and Now.

Lead by example.

An ode to reality.

One of my best friends came into my life a mere 16 years ago. I met her one night at an old “staple” watering hole of the west island that is now closed, called Clydes. My partner at the time, and I went to meet a gang of people there. I was the newbie. It was the night of “meeting the friends”.  The night of showing that you were worth meeting. Every person cordially greeted me.  They all made me feel welcome. Then, Rhi came right up to me, wrapped her arms around me and held me as if we were long lost friends seeing each other after decades of separation. She did the happy sway hug that you do when you have so much emotion of joy. She held me back, looked at me and said “I am so happy to meet you!” (spoiler alert: if you didn’t see the show, she may have had a glass of wine). She and I have been real with each other ever since. Truth, reality, acceptance and trust. True friendship.

Peace.

A calm heart occurs when love is given. Questioning subsides when truth is spoken directly to you. When truth is withheld from you, and then spoken to others, a sense of doubt in yourself and in the world around can fill you.  Acceptance comes from the truth being spoken and knowing that there is good and bad in each individual but being ready for both sides. If you will, it is loving both the Jekyll and the Hyde as equally as can be.

As I tenderly stepped through my week back to work, I saw how I listened to the broken telephone in the past, and built my solid doubt in myself. Anxiety. Nerves. It is easy to hear half of the information and, as a human, want to try to figure out a theory from only some of the parts. It is easy in chaos to leave out information and not understand the truth in someone’s words and actions. None the less, this can be what kills truth and breeds negativity. Being stronger in self and proud of who I am now, has allowed me to see that many people show love and friendship in different styles. My reaction to those styles has proven to be more calm, processed and accepting. Things that I used to take so personally have instantaneously (and suddenly) become more humbled intakes. Truth. A giggle, a blush and then a response of “you’re right. I will try differently”. Knowing self, and seeing that people see you creates equality in your heart. Equality is an even playing field that builds trust. What hit me this week is that the world is NOT against me. was against me. I did not have the love, trust and acceptance for me. In me not having that trust of self, those who are around me have felt a bit nervous, if you will. Perhaps they’ve had to walk on egg shells.

Crush those egg shells! Sweep them away. Make your path clean and know that you have a place. Not being good at something is not bad! It’s just that you are not meant for it. You’re still finding your place. Be patient! You will find it.

I carefully went to all of the beauties that have covered for me during my lengthy leave of absence. Little did (and do) they know of the  warmth it gave me, as they supported me blindly while I was on leave. It was to me, that acceptance and care of humans that sometimes lacks. I thanked each one, told them I was truly appreciative of their support. Each one will carry on with those tasks that they took on, and follow through to the end of the year. Each one will carry their strength and success they’ve built, and see it through to a final package. But, I offered to them my love and appreciation back by saying that I would be there If ever they needed me. My character is to support. My character is to show gratitude. Reality demonstrates however that knowing truth for some, can make for very awkward situations. Or, some may perhaps become very worried that I would be about to fall back into my old ways of frantic anxiety and self deprecation, after having loaded myself up too much. (I assure you, it’s not the case). From this past experience with me, they sought out support. They put up flags.

This is a solid form of reality when it comes to trying to help others. It can demonstrate care. Sadly though, so many things can be misconstrued when reality is presented in this manner.  What needs to be built is trust again. Time, consistency and positivity can only regain trust. Once that trust, pride in self and faith in others is restored; sense of place becomes whole again. Hopefully they will gradually see my calmer heart and stronger sense of self. Hopefully, I will slowly demonstrate to those around me that, I am beginning to understand my sense of place. My acceptance in myself and truth with myself will eventually show people I am not trying to prove myself anymore. It will show that, I know how to move forward. I will still offer my help, but only when I know that I am capable of being a positive support. I have learned the concept of limitations. Trust will be regained.

Rhi, like any human being, moves through this world and questions things as she goes along. Yet her ability to read others, and approach to many with understanding that we are all here together, has shown me how simple life really CAN be. She embraced me fully and completely. She took on my whole package, and tells me when that package is needing replenishment. Both her Mother and her Father taught her points that make her take on life like it is the ultimate adventure (on most days). She shares that knowledge with those around her. Her late father, Peter, always would say “Tell me what you know for sure…”. It’s funny; while one’s answer has to undeniably be “nothing”,  I do know that if you don’t accept yourself, others will have trouble doing the same in you.

So I finish off by saying:

“Go forth and be you; Wonderful!”screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-01-51-am

Cliff Jumping

“It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter…”

A beautiful couple of days, spent at a cottage with friends. The cottage; a gorgeous little shack owned and passed down through the years to my friend and her brother. This place is the type of place that encourages little kids to search out frogs, adventurers to allow their imaginations to grow and for Fairies to kiss your cheeks all day long. The lake glimmers from the magic, both day and night, in sunshine and rain. The beauty fills your heart and lasts with you for days…

One particular day, a swim was called for. Floating down the water on noodles to a high rise of space. A place that will excite you and allow you to calm your heart as you float back to the dock. A cliff. First friend goes… “whhhheeeeeeeee!” Kersplouuush.  Second friend goes… “Wheeeeeeeee!” Kersplouuuush. My turn. Fear. Terror. Unknown. Danger. Bweeep Bweeep! Internal alarm sounding. As I stood there, counting to 3 over and over and hesitating for 25 minutes, one would be able to imagine my purple ‘Fear’ character from “Inside Out” rolling on the ground in fetal position.

“1- 2- 3….”  sigh, try again. “1- 2- 3….” no luck. Correction; no courage.

As my friends encouragingly allowed hypothermia to set into their bodies, while treading water the entire time, I established a relationship with the water below. They did what any friend would do… coax me in with encouraging words. A couple of jokes came out too. This made all of us more relaxed while the water below waited to have me be enveloped. My two friends did the jump and survived.. why wouldn’t I?

I must admit now. It was so much more than that. It actually had nothing to do with potentially breaking my neck on a hiding rock. Ok… it had a 10% potential factor. It was ‘could I do all of this with the same grace, hilarity, exuberance, and tenacity’ as my friends. No. I couldn’t. I found that out once I went. I did it with awkwardness, fear and absolute humility. “AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! Kerrrrrsssssplat”. I jumped. I came up from under water still screaming. Looked at my two beautifully blue friends and heard “its about damn time. Now do it again!!!”  I did. Over and over and over. Suddenly, I started noticing something; I was starting to do all of it with the same grace, hilarity, exuberance, and tenacity as my friends did.  Courage.

As good old Gord would say; my word!!!

With Anxiety and with brain thought instability, living normally every day can be a challenge. It’s not that I am crazy. Don’t get me wrong: I do crazy things often, have crazy moments and have allowed Ms. Crazy to come out more often than she should. Yet, I realise now that I have a child, that crazy is the new normal. Anxiety however, that is hard.

It is said that if you are depressed, you look too much behind you. If you have too much anxiety, you live in the future. There are times I look so far forward, I am living in another generation. Deep breath. exhale. Again. And again… ok. I am back. The amount of “what ifs” don’t matter when you’ve missed the “what now”. I am beginning to learn oh so quickly that, you can’t get to the future without building the now. Right now. Now. If you need to make lists for every day to stay grounded and on a task, that’s ok! If you need to live by routine- do it. We’ve come in to this world without a manual. I know… religions have given us books to live by. That is a good start for many. But, while it stipulates rules on how to travel with belief, we need to also know that what we are doing and how we initiate those beliefs into the energy of the world, is good. We need to know that we haven’t caused a catastrophic shift in that energy. For those moments, there is no guide. All we can do is hold on for a second and watch if the Jenga falls. Not having a book is what can set people like me off. The care for others, the task being done properly and efficiently, the energy staying stable. That is what gets my head thinking in advance. Breathe. Exhale. Smile. Shoulders. Breathe. You are back. No books. So how do I know that I am doing things properly? I don’t. That’s just it. We don’t know. We won’t know until we do. Over and over again if we have to. We will only ever know, when we allow ourselves to just be in the moment.

So, how do we get to the moment? Breathing has become the best technique for me.And yes, I breathe… automatically. I mean deep breath. Fill those lungs up fully. Alter the pace of the breathing. I feel my chest getting tight. I take a breath. This has become my favourite, also because it makes my bust stick out just a bit. Hey, a girl can dream, no? Back to the breath. By altering the breath and refocussing, this allows you to lose your mind spiral and refocusing on you. centering yourself.

Another method that a friend taught me is to change your thought. Seems simple enough, yes. But when you’ve fallen down a deep rabbit hole, that simple shit turns complex! Changing your thoughts to what you cherish the most re-centers you. I combine it with a finger touch. Thumb to finger tip press, hold and think of your cherished item. do it three to five times and switch thumb to different finger each time.

My final one can be done anywhere. But, I am warning you that if you do it in aisle 7 of the grocery store, people may call the authorities. Child’s pose. Best. Like a hug, with deep breaths and time to think of your cherished valued things in your life. Like a sunday with the cherry on top.

If I may be metaphorical, drawing from my cliff jumping experience. You only live once. Experience thrill. There may be a rock down below. Jump feet first. Jump as far out as possible. Go with all your might. You will get bruises. But it also makes for amazing stories. It fills your heart with joy. It fills your brain with recall experiences.

Courage. My word. We need it everyday. And believe it or not… even the most confident in this world has to recall courage once in a while. But remember… if it doesn’t come, it doesn’t matter.

 

Downey, Gord. Courage (For Hugh MacLennan). The Tragically Hip. Chris Tsangarides, Piye., 1993. CD.