Can I listen to this?

I discovered a new artist recently: Anna Vandas

She has a haunting soothing beautiful vocal sound.

The thing is, when I heard the first few songs (and fell in love), I didn’t realize that many of her songs are about God as she is a Christian vocalist.  My immediate and unfiltered response was disappointment – a mixture of sadness and regret that I could no longer enjoy her sound.

I don’t think I’m alone in this kind of response and I don’t quite know why this happens.

Somehow, my gut reaction was that as a non-Christian (or at least non-practicing), I could not enjoy music relating to religion and salvation.  However, I really loved her voice, and that caused me to take a second look at my thinking.

There is no other music genre where I can like the musical sounds but feel that same wall.  I’m generally not fond of death metal, but that’s the music itself that I don’t enjoy.  If I found a death metal artist or song that I connected with, I wouldn’t feel excluded from enjoying that particular artist.  Likewise, I enjoy quite a few country songs even though I’m not a cow-girl.  It would never even occur to me that I needed to fit into a certain box in order to listen to these other forms of music.

So why do I react differently to Christian music?

It doesn’t make any sense when I look at it rationally.  It’s music that I like.  Religion is such a hot topic though and I think that’s where I get confused and reactive.  In all things (religion, sales, politics, etc), I become resistant the second I feel that someone is trying to persuade me of something.  It’s an immediate withdrawal for me.  If you are trying to convince me of something, then I don’t want it.  Whatever it is.  This stance is clearly  overgeneralized and something I am trying to change.  Sometimes I might actually want or benefit from what is being sold to me… but that’s another post. 🙂

Somehow I associate mental weakness with giving in to a sales pitch.  I have also stretched this into believing that Christian music is a form of sales pitch for Christianity.  Which then led to my visceral dismissal once I realized her music celebrating God.

This is one of the rare times I am glad for my introspective and ruminative nature.  In realizing this, I can do something about it.  And I have.  I bought her album and I enjoy it.  There don’t seem to be any subliminal messages about Christ (please note: that was self deprecating humour).  Her voice is uplifting as are her songs; I feel good listening to it and really, that’s what good music is all about.

I think I’ll go have a listen right now.

Angry

I’m angry.

Which is pretty amazing for me as it’s an emotion I generally take a “deny deny deny” approach.  It’s not comfortable and I struggle to know how to feel it and experience it in non self-destructive ways.  It’s about my ex.  We broke up over a month ago but he asked to come over last night and I said yes.  I often feel like I’m donning an unwanted pathetic female stereotype when I write about relationships, wailing and moaning about imperfect love.

Even now, I am tempted to expound here on the intricacies of anger… to distance myself from the anger by intellectualizing.  However, I know it’s healthy to feel this anger.

My default is to want to excuse him and blame me.  Which is ironic, b/c one of the reasons I’m angry is that he kept saying “I don’t blame you for anything”.  It felt false even in the moment.  You don’t say that unless you think there is blame to be had.

I’m angry because…

  • We broke up because the constant roller coaster was too hard to navigate while also focusing on healing as individuals – so why open those wounds when nothing has yet changed?
  • I wish I had said no when he asked to come over
  • He still tried for sex
  • His words sounded and felt manipulative
  • I feel guilty for even thinking, let alone writing, the above words
  • I get thrown two steps (okay, maybe two MILES back) when we talk.  And he knows that.
  • He kept throwing recovery in my face – how long he thinks it will take, how alone he is during this, how he’s not getting any younger, how much time we will miss while I get well
  • He didn’t respect my boundaries, and I didn’t either
  • Within this anger is hurt… pure and simple hurt

That being said… well actually, now that I’ve expressed it here, the anger is slowing and easing.  Now I just feel sad and tired and drained.

How about that?  The way past the anger is through it.  I have a feeling that theme will come up again.

 

Sitting by the sea

Apparently the theme in my life these days is re-awakening to the little moments and actually being mentally present to experience them.

In today’s edition, I was once again out for a walk, though in the afternoon this time.  I was walking beside the ocean on an overcast day that looked like it could go either way… small pockets of blue hand in hand with bushy dark clouds.  The dark clouds won.

If you have read my previous posts, you know I have curls – if you have curls, you’ll know why I don’t like rain falling on my uncovered head.

However, I was quite some distance from home and for once, I just didn’t care.  No, that’s not quite true… I did care and yet I decided to go with the experience instead of resisting it (hello mindfulness training!).  So I stopped and sat down on a park bench.

It was a light rain, the kind that is more like backsplash… hardly worthy of the word “rain” but enough to cause people to pull out their umbrellas.

I sat and just was.  (I know it looks like I forgot something in that last sentence but it is exactly what I meant and wanted).  I was. I existed.  I sat there and I tried to feel each drop of rain individually.  I tuned in to the soundtrack all around me (leaves rustling, waves crashing, kids laughing, even a harmonica harmonica-ing).  I closed my eyes and allowed myself to just sit there and be there.

I felt at peace.

I won’t lie, I had urges to check my phone.  I worried about getting on to the next *thing* in my day.  I started planning my week.  I again turned to mindfulness and accepted all my busy-ness of mind too.  It didn’t make it all stop but at least I wasn’t feeling bad about that too!

Hence (really, one doesn’t get to say “hence” nearly enough in life!).. wait, what was I saying?

Oh yes, hence, my aim over the next week is to *stop* a little bit more.  I won’t to commit to any specific numbers b/c I tend to get a little obsessive with numbers.  This will just be me checking in with myself and noticing when I could use a little pause.  A quiet little break from the busy, perhaps again sitting by the sea.

The perfection of morning

There are very few cars at 5 am.  I know this because I was out for a walk at that hour today.

I’m a poor sleeper at the best of times, but usually when I wake up at 3:30, I toss and turn for a bit and stay snuggled in my bed, eventually getting a few more hours.  Today I decided to get up.  I don’t know what moved me to do so but I am glad I did.  Maybe it was my ongoing angst and self doubt.  Maybe it was the anxiety about not having some answers I need.  Maybe it was the wine I had last night.  Or maybe it’s because I live beside a fire hall.

In general, once I get past the pain of rising, I love the early morning.  Not in an exuberant, jump out of bed way.  In a quietly creeping possibility type of way.

(Just don’t try to talk to me during these precious hours.. my morning contentment is a solitary experience)

I joke about my morning grouchiness, but on reflection, I see that an important element of my love of morning really is the quiet peace.  It is a time when I feel joy and contentment in solitude.  In a way that is not fending off loneliness, nor pushing loved ones away.  Rather, in a way that simply appreciates life in the silence, a particular silence that is best experienced on my own.

I walked slowly.  I felt the freshness of morning air on my skin after overnight rain.  I smelled the damp trees.  I noticed buildings and views that I walk past dozens of times a week but never make it into my consciousness.  I saw lights coming on in windows and smelled coffee being brewed.  I heard birds telling their tales in the trees.  I smelled cinnamon and butter from the bakery nearby.

It is precious watching the world start to emerge and breathe again.

There is so much possibility in morning.  The rich quality of light is matched only by sunset.  And while I love the views of sunset too, sunset occurs amidst busyness… people out and about, life in full swing.  Sunrise is more like a quiet gift.  When I experience it, I feel as if I am sharing in a delicate secret world.  The people I do see actually make eye contact, with a universal respect for the contract of silence, greetings made through nods and smiles only.

The awakening of the day fills my soul and gives me hope.  I am grateful for that sustenance.

“Just looking”

Do you every feel out of place in a high end store?  I do.

I have a funny relationship with money.  I’ve never been really and truly poor, nor really and truly rich.  My parents have worked hard and we never had to wonder if we’d have enough for food or clothes.  But my sister and I paid for our educations (or rather, borrowed for them, and will be repaying those student loans until approximately the 22nd century!).  We went on one big vacation to Australia when I was 8 that was preplanned and budgeted for.  Other than that, it was camping or visiting nearby relatives.

I write the above mostly to provide a bit of context… I *know* I am luckier than many and relatively well off.  However, not the kind of well off that buys any single item costing more than $50 without some serious thought.

I’ve also been known, with embarrassing frequency, to buy the cheapest of an item, only to have it break/snap/wear out/die within the day.  Followed by the grumbling purchase of the step-up version.

All this being said, I like to believe that I fully live my life with the belief that money is necessary in our society but that it absolutely does NOT determine one’s worth.  It allows us to acquire basic life needs, but the distribution of money is pure chance, in my books.

So, why, oh why, do I still feel guilty and ashamed when I enter a store and realize that everything is beyond my price range?

I recently had that moment of looking at the price tag at a clothing store and realizing “oh shit.  I can’t buy anything in here” and then smiling apologetically at the saleswoman, as if it is a personal failing of my character that I am not able to spend $300 on the cute sweater I picked up.  It dawned on me that this happens to me with regularity.

Another example comes from the wine store… when the sales clerk tries to assist me, I immediately ask about regions and body and oakiness, all the while thinking to myself, which one doesn’t taste like grape juice and costs under $10?  And if I find one for that price, I feel compelled to make excuses for purchasing it!  I want to assure the clerk that I really could afford the pricier bottle, and with it assure myself that I am not lacking in depth and richness of person just because I am lacking in depth and richness of my pockets.

What is it about these settings that instills in me that self judgment based solely on my ability to pay?  I feel like I *should* know better.  Yet the anxiety comes up every time.  This internalized belief that not being wealthy is not simply a situational factor, but instead a stain on my value as a human being.

Not to dig too deep into social commentary on a Sunday evening, but I do think it’s hard to escape the linkage between self worth and self wealth in North American culture.  We are socialized to spend spend spend from a very young age.  We are exposed to images and media that reinforces this message.  Somehow, it still surprises me, though, how very much those beliefs are ingrained even when I think I embrace a different perspective.

It’s another lesson for me to continue unlearning.

Boundaries

I have trouble with boundaries.

Mostly because I seem to see them as one-way valves.  Or like those one-way mirrors they use for interrogation.  This is apparently not the way to healthy relationships.  Who knew?

I am one of those people who tends to have a few close friends, rather than a large circle.  Within those friendships, there is a lot of sharing and intimacy.  That is what I associate with any friendship.  However, I realize I often take in other people’s stories without sharing my own.  It’s part of the reason I have withdrawn and self-isolated during times of depression or crisis… I feel false about withholding my experience and I am often unwilling to expose that vulnerability – hence, it’s easier and *safer* to stay alone in these moments.  It’s too draining to keep that one way valve open and try to block off any leakage of my own wounds.

Yet another piece in the boundary puzzle is my extreme difficulty asserting them with people who I like, but with whom I know I need to have limits.  The friend who only calls every six months but wants an immediate baring of the souls.  The friendly homeless guy who wants me to buy a paper from him.  The kind lady who used to be a patient of mine, turned into a quasi-friend and is now alone and wanting me to help her.  I struggle with these.  I feel extreme guilt because I know that I need to assert boundaries and that for me to be healthy I can’t give them what they want.  Yet, somehow I have come to believe that I can only enforce a personal boundary if someone is undeserving or unworthy.  Since these people are neither, I feel as if I should put their needs ahead of my own.  Not surprising I then feel resentment.

As I am learning to be more vulnerable and genuine, I am starting to allow myself to be vulnerable within certain relationships.  It’s really really hard for me.

As I ponder boundaries, I see that an element of my feeling of separateness comes from my definition of boundaries.  I feel disconnected from people unless they let me in to the emotional experience of their lives.  I tend to move to that level quickly, asking questions about feelings and reactions and deep thoughts.  When people keep things at a more superficial level, I feel shut out.  In reality, they simply have boundaries that go both ways.  Healthy ones.

On the other side of my all or none thinking is the one-way boundary the other way.  I hesitate to ever ask a personal question of my counsellor b/c I see that as firm boundary I should not cross.  I make the presumption that she would not desire to have any reciprocity in our relationship – this space is my flow of emotion and feeling and sharing.  I often wonder about her experience, but feel I am not *allowed* to question it because of the my assumption about the quality of this boundary.

The lesson for me in all this rumination?  I’m still working on that.  It’s something to do with boundaries… 😉

I think I see now that healthy boundaries are flexible and variable.  It’s okay to have relationships that are not based on soul to soul communication.  With both of us choosing the pieces and level at which we share.  It doesn’t mean those relationships are inferior, just different.  What’s more, it’s okay to put myself first.  That is not a comment on the worthiness of the other person, it’s a vital recognition of my own value.  I don’t have to feel guilty.

It’s also okay and even necessary that I share my vulnerability with those who I ask to share their own.  Two ways.  Reciprocity.  The ability and safety to sometimes say ‘no’ without threatening the bond.  That’s how strong authentic connection happens.

Next challenge?  Actually putting this lesson into life…

The Liebster love goes on

Thanks once again to Erika and Rita-Marie for the nominations for the Liebster Award!  My answers to their questions can be found here.  Now on to the 2nd part where I list eleven personal facts and pose eleven questions for my not quite eleven nominees. 🙂

Eleven Facts About Me

  1. I’m a Pisces – which I always remind people is the wisest sign b/c it is the last in the zodiac and has absorbed the lessons of all the other signs.

  2. My eye colour changes depending on what I’m wearing – they can look blue or green or grey.
  3. I still get a newspaper delivered every day (a real paper version!)
  4. I only get a paper delivered b/c I’m addicted to crosswords and sudoku 🙂
  5. I try to meditate every day.

  6. I really believe mindfulness could save the world.
  7. My curly hair used to be the bane of my existence but I have learned to love it lately.
  8. I like taking public transit and just riding to the last stop to see what is there.
  9. I say “I love you” a lot to the people I love.
  10. I am easily influenced by the opinions of others.
  11. I’m learning to hear my own voice and follow it..

My Eleven Questions:

  1. What something you do in error that never fails to make you smile? (e.g. my fingers always want to type “thanks you” or “bothe” (note the letters added) – totally random but makes me smile when I do it!)
  2. What does being authentic mean to you?
  3. Do you like things scheduled or free form, take life as it comes?
  4. What is one thing you have changed about yourself for someone else then later changed back when you realized you preferred the original?
  5. What is one thing you have changed about yourself just for yourself?
  6. Who is your ICE on your cell (ICE = In case of emergency, call…)?
  7. What makes you feel most like you?

  8. What do you do to center or ground yourself?
  9. What time do you generally get to bed?
  10. Minimalist or hoarder?
  11. Do you have a pet?  Why or why not?

My Nominees!

I can’t wait to hear their answers either on their own blogs (with a link in my comments section) or just in the comments here..

Liebster?! For me?! :)

I feel double happiness today.

A couple of days ago I was nominated for Liebster award by Erika… and then, amazingly, I was nominated again, this time by Rita-Marie!  I feel extremely touched and honoured as I know I am a newbie to the blog world and sometimes I feel rather lost.  Nice to know I have these lovely beacon-esses in the night with me.

Both shining souls describe the award process well here and here.

In an effort not to overwhelm, I’ll answer each of their eleven questions in my post today.  Then I’ll post again in a few days (probably next week, let’s be honest) with my eleven facts, questions and nominees.

Answers to Erika:

1. Why did you start blogging?

This spring I found myself off work because of my eating disorder and stress and just being overwhelmed and burned out.  As I began my recovery journey, I decided I needed an outlet.  Somewhere I could stretch myself a little and see what it felt like to use my healthy voice.  To be honest.  To do it without weighing all the judgments.  That’s also why I’m anonymous – I need to know that I won’t be consciously or unconsciously filtering every word *just in case*.

2. If a genie granted you three wishes that you could only use on yourself, what would they be and why?

1 – Go back in time 10 minutes and save my draft of this post.  Ug.  2 – The ability to see myself as others see me, with kindness and love.  3 – Instant debt removal – I am still paying off student loans from my first master’s and I’m racking up more with my second.  Debt be gone!

3. What’s your favorite go-to snack?

Strawberries!  Organic if possible, but I usually can’t afford that.  Strawberries are one food though that I truly think tastes better when organic.

 

4. Where’s one place you never want to visit and why?

Any of the ice hotels out there (seriously, why is there more than one!).  I hate being cold so it would be a foolish option for me.

5. Did you enjoy high school? Why or why not?

Nope.  I was not part of either the in crowd or the out crowd.  I feel like I just drifted through it, waiting to get out and start my “real” life.  Kind of sad really.

6. What do you believe your “calling” in life is? Do you believe in a “calling?”

I don’t know yet.  Lately I have been thinking more and more about writing.  I also love counselling but the rigors of grad school make it difficult to really appreciate the end goal sometimes.  I think I need to be further in recovery (and thus, clearer in my head) before I make any proclamations here.  Erika, I am SO curious about your process and conclusion in this regard!

7. Favorite guilty pleasure song and/or TV show?

Tom Jones – It’s Not Unusual.  I think it’s the combo of the song itself and the mental image of Carlton that just makes me smile.

Bachelor/ette – I think this show survives solely on the likes of me, people with a desperate love-hate relationship with the show.  I hate the concept. I hate the fakeness.  I hate the complete unreality of it.  Yet I watch.  Every. Damn. Week.

8. Besides blogging, what’s your favorite social media outlet and why?

I don’t really have one.  I love the blogging world (though I’m such a newbie) but I’m really not overly techie so I haven’t figured other things out yet.

9. What’s one of your proudest moments or accomplishments?

Remembering most of my answers (see question 2)!  Kidding. I think it would actually be stopping.  Stopping all the activity this year and settling down into acceptance that I need help.  That act of just stepping back was terrifying and yet so necessary.  There haven’t been any lightning strike moment just a series of little shoots of myself finally springing up from all the layers of muck I’d put on top of them.

10. What are three qualities that are mandatory that your friends have?

Patience, kindness, acceptance.

11. You can take a 12-day, all-inclusive vacation somewhere with three other people. Who do you pick and where do you go?

Italy.  I have wanted to go since I was very young but it hasn’t happened so far.  I think I was waiting to have a partner to go with.  I think, as I’m coming more and more into who I am, I might go alone and bring along three novels instead of people.  It’ll be a journey of peace with myself.

Answers to Rita-Marie:
Favorite mixed drink?
Manhattan – yum!
Favorite inspirational saying or thought?
Favorite thing about blogging?
I have become connected with this amazing community of people who inspire and support one another from all parts of world.  It “bloggles” the mind.  🙂  (Did I mention I like puns?)
Favorite thing about being single?
Time to reflect and think about what *I* want to do.  Being an indecisive person, this is also the worst thing.
Favorite outfit?
Long flowy dresses.  But not with flowers – I have something against flowers on clothing on me.  It’s fine on other people, but whenever I break down and try wearing them, I look like an old fuddy duddy grandma.  And not the sweet kind, the senile and dotty kind!  Especially if they are tiny little delicate flowers.
Favorite summer snack?
Still strawberries (see above in response to Erika).
Favorite summer outdoor activity?
Walking and taking pictures with my big fancy camera that spends way too much time on a shelf.
Favorite sexual position?
I can’t decide if you are describing your own preferences (blindfolded?) or really asking so I’ll answer anyway.  Face to face seated.  Intense.

Favorite way to wear your hair?
This has two parts (my answer, not the hair)… for comfort, low ponytail all the way.  For looking good, hanging loosely down and straightened.
Favorite beauty product?
I don’t normally wear scents, but I recently bought Pink Sugar perfume… totally girly and fun!
Five favorite blogs?
Ooh, this is cruel (don’t make me choose!)  🙂
Favorite song on your Itunes list?
Changes daily… today goes to Kyle Forester – Fan of Shades.

Liebster-Award

 

Music and me

Inspired by posts over at Many the Miles and ChimErikal, this post is dedicated to music.  It is kind of a random sampling of some songs and artists that have inspired me over the years.  As I tried to pick songs that represent who I am, there is a definite theme of love and empowerment in my tastes and collections – some of that is evident below.  Music, for me, is inspiring and comforting and of course, nostalgic.

If you listen to most of these, you will quickly discover I have a definite weakness for the singer/songwriter genre.  I am still not even sure exactly what that genre means exactly, but it is often the one I gravitate to.

I’m still learning about how to link to videos, etc., so I’m hoping it all works okay 🙂

Hollywood – Angus & Julia Stone

This brother and sister duo have a great dynamic – since this song and album from 2010 they have split into solo acts but I still prefer their work together.  In recent times, I’ve wondered if I am too idealistic so this song really strikes a chord with me (pun totally intended!).

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First Day of My Life – Bright Eyes

This was “our song” with my ex – I have so many wonderful associations with this song and it also makes me sad for all that future we no longer have.  The video is precious – it captures the intimacy and shared moments of love in a sweet beautiful way.

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I Think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany

Okay this is just because I’m a child of the 80s.  So along with the battles of the boy bands was the great rivalry of Tiffany vs. Debbie Gibson.  You now know where I stand.

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Who Says – Selena Gomez & the Scene

This is a cute little song that my niece’s highland dance class used for a performance.  It was a great choice as it has such a positive message.  I found myself humming it days later, bought it on iTunes and it makes me smile every time I hear it.

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Have a Little Faith in Me – John Hiatt

This song has long been a favourite.  One of those songs that is timeless and perfect in my mind.  I feel soothed by it no matter what my circumstance.

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David Blair – Let You Go

This song makes me cry… it embodies all the pain of a breakup and the despair of wanting to move on but finding it so hard.  How hard it is to just get back life.  Listen.  Have tissues nearby.

Denzal Sinclaire – Tofu and Greens

Denzal Sinclaire has the most silky amazing voice – after hearing him perform live I truly understand what people mean when they say a voice sounds like butter… he’s that smooth.  He’s also a vegetarian (as am I!) – I love the fun nature of this song but really I love anything he does.  He does some amazing covers of Nat King Cole.

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Smashing Pumpkins – 1979

This was the song chosen as our “anthem” when I graduated high school back in 1997 – most of us were born in 1979… other than that (plus the popularity of the Pumpkins back then), I’m not sure how the song had much relation to us.

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Andrea Menard – Sparkle

Christmas is my favourite holiday so I had to finish with a Christmas song!  Andrea Menard is a Canadian singer/songwriter who I saw perform live.. she’s got a beautiful voice and I love her original Christmas songs – this one is on repeat for me during the holidays.

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