Why 2016 didn’t really suck that bad

Everywhere I look these days- and especially as December 31 winds to a close- I see posts on social media wishing away this year calling it the worst year people can remember and saying we have had nothing but doom and gloom and disaster for the last 364 days…

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m going to miss David Bowie and George Michael and Alan Rickman (and the seemingly dozens of others)

as much as the next gal. Not to mention I’m still grieving the results of the US election. But I think these blogs and countdowns are a symptom of the failings in our current way of looking at our lives and the world at large.

As most of you have probably heard before, our memories are Teflon for the good but Velcro for the bad. We tend to forget the good stuff and focus on the negatives- the losses, the mistakes. We even say things like “Yeah, that was good, but…” We simply can’t allow for positives to outweigh negatives. We skew our whole recollections to one rude receptionist, the one unhelpful call center employee, the one billing error and allow those skews to become our story. We even find ourselves competing with each other to win the “whose life sucks worse” award. We have all had that friend who when we have a headache, they have a tumour. When we have a bad day, they have a bad week. And to one extent or another, most of us do this.

What would life feel like if we released the “negatives” as we label them, freely and calmly from our thoughts? What could we see is possible if we allow that there are no real “good” or “bad” events in our lives at all? What if we saw each event as just that thing that happened that has no control over our enjoyment of THIS moment?

We trap ourselves in unhappiness by repeatedly identifying ourselves through the “bad” things that have happened to us.

We can view 2016 in the context of the number of deaths, the struggles of the few against the powerful, strife and warfare in countries we would have trouble finding on a map. Or we can view 2016 in the glow of the art we have been given over lifetimes; the triumphs (however uncertain) of dedicated, average people over the interests of big business; and the hope spread by the loving people opening their borders and their homes to provide safe refuge to those in need.

I’m not advocating a Pollyanna approach of unrealistic, blind optimism. What I am saying is that we can re-energize ourselves and our world by giving the beauty we are capable of as a species its due. Make room for the abundance and gifts of the universe to shine in your life. What is tended, will grow. You truly do find what you look for.

What are you looking for?

‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas

And as such, was marked by the crinkle of wrapping paper, the slosh of wine in my glass and a certain melancholy nostalgia.

Well, nostalgia of a sort.

I wax poetic about scenes of family gathered early around a Christmas tree so beautiful as to seem lit from within by the very spirit of the holiday. The spicy smell of evergreen mingled with pancakes and Christmas chocolates. Mother and Father reclined beneficently in their chairs sniffing their cups of strong coffee while pajama clad children sit cross-legged beside the tree, a Christmas movie on TV in the background.

I dream of huge family dinners with a kids’ table and aunts and uncles gathered noisily around trays and trays of food spread on every flat surface the kitchen can offer up. The bustle of holiday travel, and arrivals festooned in long scarves and snowy boots. A driveway packed bumper to bumper with cars.

I imagine a Hallmark Sunday movie of a holiday season- love, reunion, family and a moral to the story that wraps the day up in a neat little bow.

You see, my family has never been the traditional type. Fights and emotional outbursts replace easy gatherings and family closeness. Every year the argument about who “has to” visit who and who got screwed out of the turkey leftovers. Awkward silences and impersonal gifts marking the once-a-year we all see one another.

I am 40 years old and think of Christmas with the hopes and wishes of a child.

In this middle place of my life I have found the promise of this holiday season. An in-law paradise of FaceTiming, coffee dates, family vacations and calls just to see how I am doing. I have found a veritable flurry of Christmas cards in my mailbox- each from someone wishing my little family the best for the holidays and sending loving goodwill. There are Grandparents far away sending teary messages about missing us especially at this time of year and battling to schedule who can fly in when to stay with us.

It has taken me many years, and the arrival of my infant daughter, to realize that in continuing to wish for things that can not be, from people who can not give them, I have been complicit in ruining Christmas for myself, my grown son and my husband.

This year I am speaking up for my vision of a peaceful and loving holiday. I am backing out of the fight; I am excusing myself from the role I have played in keeping this little family melodrama alive for so many years. Christmas is at my house this year. In the country, with a huge fresh-cut tree. All of our family have been invited and the rest is up to them. I decline to argue or be baited. I decline to sacrifice my peace of mind and joy of heart just to see family that would truly rather be elsewhere.

So on Christmas morning you will find me- curled up on my couch, cuddled around a hot cup of coffee and my hubby. My son will be here in his new jammies opening his stocking and my daughter will be tearing into the wrappings of her very first Christmas. My sister-in-law will come with her kids and we will eat like there’s no tomorrow and probably drink a little too! There will be love and laughter, gratitude and real affection.

I will have myself a Merry little Christmas now.

 

 

Letting Go of Thought Habits

A bad day, a fight with a friend, a rude client, a harsh criticism. We try to put things back in perspective by telling ourselves that these things don’t matter; we can release the way they made us feel,and yet we rewind our minds and see, hear, smell and taste them over and over- reliving every nuance. Imagining what we would say if we could do it over.

We have all looked back and felt- “If only I could let that go”.  We identify incidents in our pasts; memories we keep reliving; pains inflicted upon us that we can’t seem to move beyond… we know if we could just process and release these things somehow, we could evolve; we could become happier, healthier, and more of who we thought we would always be if only… We rob ourselves of today by replaying yesterdays.

Our day to day lives are filled with any number of examples of how we beat ourselves up for not being good enough- and beat others up for perceived slights, indiscretions, and insults. These thoughts make up a good portion of the background soundtrack of our daily thought habits.

If we could silence the noise we could find love,peace, relief.

So how do we do that? How do we “let go”?

The answer is deceptively simple:  first we must realize that all of the painful thoughts we have about how things should be, or could have been are just that: thoughts. And although we do most of our thinking in an automatic way, we can CHOOSE new thoughts. We can choose to stop replaying past hurts. We can choose how we respond in any situation. Once we realize that thoughts are chosen (even those thought patterns that have become habit for us, were once chosen) we can embrace the full power of choosing to entertain new thoughts.

The powerful act of letting go of unhealthy thought patterns will shift the way we experience our lives moment to moment every day. The past is done. The future is uncertain. All we achieve by focusing all of our thought ahead or behind us, is to rob ourselves of the joy of NOW.

And NOW is truly the only time we have to be happy, feel love, give love, and create peace.

When you hear yourself blaming or judging, be aware that those thoughts are stealing your chance to be happy NOW. Interrupt those thoughts. Replace them. This is a conscious and purposeful exercise in creating new thought habits that will free you from the pain and frustration of your old habits.

No one is saying it is going to be easy or quick to shift from old to new behaviours. You have spent years doing things the way you do them now. Be patient with yourself and recognize that every time you make a new choice in the way you view your world, you are removing one more brick from the wall of habit that has been holding you back.

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You Are The Sky

I’ve been pondering the nature of Self lately. The constant stream of words- judgement, doubt, frustration, striving, resisting (Ego)- are not who I Am. There is an awareness that notices these thoughts. A greater Self behind all of that. A Presence that extends past the boundaries of all I thought was “me”.

I am so much more than I ever understood  myself to be. Spirit. Soul. Consciousness.

I am the ears that hear the noise- I am not the noise.

I am not the clouds. I Am The Sky.

You are the sky.

You are the limitless expanse of all that is visible 

and invisible-

Sensed rather than seen.

The deep velvety blackness on which all the stars and planets are painted

The blue behind the clouds

The home of the wind

You are the reaches and the depths 

You are the calm Presence that transcends the voice of your mind.

Know your nature- 

Great

Powerful

Loving

You are the Observer, not the noise.

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Another breastfeeding confessional

SPOILER ALERT: This blog is gonna be personal. And I’ll warn ya now- there are pictures.

I’m certain that every mom on my page has read a million and a half other blogs, medical studies, books and How-Tos about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding in public. Breastfeeding at family functions. Co-sleeping to breastfeed. Pumping for milk production- but never pumping too early! Latching and nipple soreness. To supplement or not to supplement with bottles. And don’t get me started on soothers!

I’m the kind of woman who likes to be informed. Prepared. I like to have a plan, to know what my options are in advance. To form opinions about how I want MY experience to be, and make choices based on that.

Let me tell you, having Olivia was a BIG wake-up call for me. She never read the blogs or the books. She didn’t get the memo. What we had here was a language barrier I simply could not plan my way past. I couldn’t get her on board with How Breastfeeding Is Going To Be For Me.

My Vision

  • she would do the breast crawl
  • she would latch
  • my body would know what to do- I am built for it!
  • she would know what to do- she’s wired for it!
  • she would exclusively breastfeed until at least 6 months old
  • we would breastfeed until she was a year old

Our Reality

  • we were induced 10 days early
  • neither she nor I were ready yet
  • we had a Csection so my milk was delayed
  • she had a tongue tie and a lip tie so she could not latch well enough to stimulate my milk
  • I had to start a bottle at 6 days because she was reacting to my breastmilk and ended up at emergency
  • I had to start pumping right away to try and bring my milk in
  • I started fenugreek, Blessed thistle and domperidone and STILL have to supplement with formula
  • we hired a lactation consultant to give us advice- her advice was to take what we had accomplished and stop beating myself up.

THIS, AFTER ALL,  WOULD BE OUR BREASTFEEDING RELATIONSHIP

I think the hardest part of all of this was the well-intentioned advice and opinions of the die hard “lactivists” and breastfeeding “specialists”. They insisted only 2-3% of women do not make enough milk and that after week 12, things would miraculously just get better. I heard from doulas that moms who bottle-fed should be pitied and that “breast is best” to the exclusion of anything else being good enough. By their definition, I would never be good enough. For a long time I bought into it. I was failing. I must not being trying everything. I must not be committed. Try the 24 hour cure. Ditch the pacifier. Refuse her the bottle. Pump more often. Pump less often.

I trust that these people weren’t trying to drive me crazy. Or break my heart. Or be bullies. But that is exactly how I experienced it. I barely remember my actual time with Olivia because it is all a blur of striving, crying and problem solving.

Somehow, in the push to breastfeed, I forgot the point.

To love and nurture my daughter. To show her my devotion, and give her a safe and loving platform on which to build herself up. To bond with her and open myself to the incredible wonder of being a mom to this new little human. I had the intention, I just let the pressure obscure the way to get there.

The breastfeeding community bemoans a lack of support as the reason breastfeeding mothers have dwindled in number. They blame society, media, big pharma, the government and fashion for the number of formula fed babies. They say they are here to help mothers reclaim their power and return us to an age where the beauty of the female form was enhanced by our ability to nurture life; however, what they have created is a divisive, blame-filled system that vilifies moms who struggle or who choose not to breastfeed; leaving new moms- who are already in danger of depression, anxiety and self-doubt- at risk for further alienation and pain.

This is not the answer we were looking for.

Be powerful mamas. Breastfeed. Or don’t. Pump. Or don’t. Love your babies and yourselves. Enjoy this time. Hold them close. Breathe their scent. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Allow that what you have is exactly what your baby needs from you.

Your journey is your journey and no two moms will have the same path. You are not failing. You are the mom your baby needs. YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Yours, with love

Brandy