My Body, My Choice: How One Decision has Shaped me Forever

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Update with Link to Podcast related to the Blog Post and a few edits of content.

A Triangle in a Round and Square World Inventing Resilience

Exploring what it feels like to not fit in and be a Triangle in a world that feels full of Circles and Squares. Older post revisited with some new thoughts and examples. Scattered as always.
  1. A Triangle in a Round and Square World
  2. Empathy – Because More
  3. Wealth, Status and Power – The Values to the Storming of the Capital and the Freedom, plus exploring the Why
  4. Accountability: Why it builds Resilience and Saves us from A**holes
  5. Thinking Critically – Ranking, Prioritizing & Evaluating your Values

Trigger Warning: This post is the story of my own experience with abortion, the trauma, feelings and pro-choice stance. If you are unable to continue to read please stop, take a time, come back if possible or reach out. Be respectful in feedback and comments, abuse will not be tolerated.

I have tried writing this post several times in the last three years. I have started it many times, in many different ways, coming from many angles. I have stopped in tears each time, giving up, not being ready to share. I’m still not 100% ready to share or for the judgement but I believe it’s important to share our experiences, to share our stories so others can relate, understand or feel less alone.

I actually started this specific post the day that Texas came out with it’s new abortion restrictions and the U.S. Supreme decision not to strike it down. I wasn’t sure I could write it but then while driving to pick up my two oldest from school I saw a large truck with purposely graphic image pull up next to me at a light. I started writing when I got home and have come back to it several times in the last few weeks determined to finish this time, albeit a few weeks late but on the heels of the Woman’s March on Reproductive rights.

I can seem like an open book; I will talk about pretty much anything, at length and the more in depth the better. I try to have no secrets, although still some things are left hidden. Secrets are often rooted in shame.

The shame of having an abortion comes from the shame of unwanted pregnancy, the shame of having sex, the shame lack of control. I have cried so many tears trying to release this shame.

I do not regret my abortion.

The reality is that if I had made a different decision I would never have met my first husband. I would have been 8 or 9 months pregnant instead. If I hadn’t met him, I wouldn’t have my two oldest children whom are amazing humans.

I do not regret keeping my second unplanned pregnancy.

I have been pregnant twice unintended, once at 23 where I chose to have an abortion and once at 33 where I knew I had to try and make it work.

My hope is in sharing my story one can learn that choice is important. That this issue is not a simple matter of right and wrong. That pro-choice is not pro-abortion. Pro-choice is understanding that privilege and circumstance affect the quality of life and the variety of options. Different times in my life afforded me more and less privilege. Pro-choice is understanding that every woman and girl has the right to make the best decision for them, and that their lives, wants and needs matter.

When I was 23 I was working two jobs and in university. I was living in a house owned by the son of a coworker with two other girls. Rent was cheap, my roommates were nice and the location was awesome. I met the man that got me pregnant at work. I was working at a recently opened furniture store at a large mall, he came in to look at dining tables for his family home. I remember I had to crawl under the table to read the label and get the right sku, as all the tables kinda blended together a bit.

When looking up the table and the availability, he made the comment – ‘Looks like you have great tits to go with that ass.’ I didn’t know what to say. I mentioned it to my manager who laughed it off and said I should feel flattered, so I did; I put my value in my body. He came back to get the table and I honestly don’t know how I saw him again but I did.

He was separated, or so I thought, he had two young kids around 2 and 5. He was successful at work (that much I could look up) and lived in a great neighbourhood (meaning nice house/high income). We would go out decently often, I met a couple of his friends, only ever one at a time and male but that didn’t send any red flags at the time. A few months in he had to take ‘a trip’, is was to rehab for cocaine, I was floored. I was always very clear in my distaste for drugs. I was open with my family’s struggle with alcohol abuse and how much hurt it caused.

He didn’t respect my boundaries but I was so desperate to feel wanted, to be loved, that I allowed my boundaries to be crossed. I feel shame in that desperation, the need to feel wanted.

He called me from rehab, it is almost surreal to think about now, it feels so ridiculous since working on my self esteem. I had pledged I wouldn’t speak with him again, when one afternoon about 6 months afters his trip I was walking along a busy retail street in my city (17th Ave) and he drove by. He parked and chased me down; I caved agreeing to see him again.

I think back at it and can see it was my lack of self worth that led me to allow this person that was so ready to lie, to hide truths, to use me for their own comfort into my life. I was taking precautions, I was on birth control, I was being responsible, ‘safe’; I don’t remember when I figured out I was late. I do remember sitting waiting in Starbucks, waiting to tell him, half hoping he would say it would be ok.

I grew up knowing I was pro-choice, but not pro-abortion. Read that again – pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. I say it multiple times, it means that there are circumstances where it might be the best choice. It means providing grace and understanding that there are more factors at play.

When I was twenty I knew a girl that had given up a child for adoption already, and was considering her third abortion. I remember the judgement, the superiority I felt, that I would never be in that situation. I couldn’t imagine carrying a child to term and giving it up, for me, it would be too much of a loss. I couldn’t imagine having more than one unexpected pregnancy, that was my privilege at the time. My birth control had worked, condoms had worked.

I believe part of our judgement of others comes from two places, one, our desire to be better than, and two, our desire for clear expectations, clear rules and guidelines.

The first comes from our societal structure, the way we teach ourselves, our children that being better than another is a good thing. That our value, instead of being something innate in ourselves, is based on how we relate to those around us, in hindsight that’s an empty belief. Comparison is the their of joy, as the saying goes, and to that effect, pushing others down to lift yourself up is false greatness. We (as in the global We) need to adopt the belief that You matter because You do, I matter because I do.

The second comes from an inner need for calm and control. When you know what’s expected, you know how to achieve. It’s a black and white view, it’s simple, it can feel like it’s within control. Judgement coming to those that lack that control.

I saw him walk into Starbucks, and I got that pit in my stomach. Part of me wanted him to say that he wanted me to have the baby. That he would help me financially, so I could finish school. I even ran the idea of him not necessarily being a part of the baby’s life but just help me survive so I wouldn’t have to make the choice. He didn’t, he was very clear that there was only one option.

He had a wife and kids already.

I called the clinic in town that I knew performed the procedure (meaning abortion, even the need to call it a procedure is indicative of the shame). I called and although I was really early in gestation (around the 5 week mark), I wouldn’t be able to be seen until a physical procedure could be done. Meaning I couldn’t do a medicinal abortion; I couldn’t take a pill and induce it at home. I would need to go into the clinic and have a full d&c. I can’t tell you at how many weeks I would have been, I blocked it out. I knew a friend that had one and asked if they could drive me. I wasn’t able to tell anyone else, no one, the shame.

I had to wait about six weeks to get in, again I have mentally blocked out the exact length of time. There is a buzzer to get in and the administration staff are behind glass with a lock door into the waiting room. The first meeting is with a social worker that goes through every option again (they go over on the phone when booking), they provide some resources, outline the procedure and the recovery.

I remember this part because I had booked a solo trip to Mexico for three weeks after so I could cry, read, sleep and try to mentally recover. It was here where I learned I wouldn’t be able to swim, my favourite solace wouldn’t be available to me. I would need at least 6 weeks for my cervix to heal before going into a pool. I was a lifeguard and swim instructor for one of my jobs – I wasn’t going to be able to teach.

I wouldn’t be able to swim when in Mexico, to wash my sorrows away. I love to swim when I’m stressed or sad, it is my favourite, because when you cry while swimming, you get the physical and emotional release but no one is the wiser because red eyes in pools are an acceptable thing.

The next room they brought me into was for an ultrasound. They needed to ensure there is a heartbeat because if not, I could just pass the fetus in a ‘spontaneous abortion’ or better known as a miscarriage. You are required to listen to the heartbeat.

I remember climbing on the bed for the procedure, and them saying you aren’t meant to be 100% knocked out but what I remember most is lying back and tears rolling down the side of my eyes before passing out. The next thing I remember is my friend picking me up and going home; Just numb. I texted him to let him know it was done. He came over, I snuggled into him, all I wanted was comfort and all he thought about was sex.

I was not ok.

I remember as a teenager marveling at the idea of conception. The real magic of it, that the egg and a sperm meet – cells grow and there is a human. That this human could be part you and part the person you love most in the world is pure magic. That is the ideal.

I remember saying to a friend a couple months after that I wasn’t sure I should have kids anymore. I had wanted kids my whole life, my friend knew this and said I ‘had to have kids, I was destined to the next Noam Chomsky or David Suzuki. My child will change the world’. This is still my favourite compliment I have ever received.

I met my first husband in what would have been the month I was due. I probably would have never told him about my abortion but the guy decided to try and find me at work. He lived close to the Rec Centre I worked at, apparently he had been looking for me for a while. He approached me when I was walking off deck, he had found Jesus, he was back with his wife, he thanked me. This man still felt entitled to me, to my time, my care; he had no concept or care of the trauma that was caused. 

I had a full breakdown, I sobbed, I had to have a shower to calm down and that night, I told my then boyfriend (would be first husband) about the abortion I had the year before

I felt shame, I felt grief, and I cried myself to sleep.

One thing you will notice is that I don’t refer to the pregnancy as a fetus or cluster of cells. The reason being is that when you want there to be a heartbeat, a baby, it doesn’t feel like it’s just cells. Having an abortion or having to make this choice is traumatic. I believe part of needing to think of it as a cluster of cells or fetus is a coping mechanism, one used to detach from the sorrow.

My first husband and I were married two years after meeting. He started his Bachelor of Education the year we got married. We had decided to stay in our home city because I had two good jobs and could support us through his school.

It was a few months after our wedding, around Christmas, that we discovered I was pregnant. It felt almost like a honeymoon baby, if we had been able to take a honeymoon. I hadn’t been paying attention to my period so we would need a dating ultrasound. I remember lying on the table excited to hear the heartbeat this time.

There was nothing. The technician said it was possible that it was too early in the pregnancy, maybe I had just found out too early, there was definitely a baby there though. We would come back in 3 weeks for the 1st trimester screen and we would see more then.

It was a couple weeks later when I woke up in the morning to spotting. I went to the walk in clinic where they informed me I would need to go to the ER. I was a Supervisor at the Rec centre now and most of my staff were away on a ski trip that weekend, something that was planned for a long time and I was meant to cover.

It was the Friday morning, I spent the better part of 8 hours in the ER without being seen. I had to call my boss and let them know where I was, could she try and find coverage that night for me. I had an internal ultrasound, it requires a rod to be inserted to get a better picture vs a typical abdominal version. It was confirmed there was no heartbeat, I had a ‘spontaneous abortion’, a miscarriage. I was sent home to pass the tissue. I had to call in, grateful for those already working agreeing to stay late and cover, I then worked the Saturday night and Sunday morning.

It was Sunday evening while watching the Oscars that I started to bleed, I bled through a pad in 12 minutes. I called HealthLink, they confirmed that I needed to go to the ER. We went back to the Rockyview where I was seen much quicker this time. I was hooked up to IVs and told they would need to do an emergency D&C. I remember having to call my boss at my second job while up on a gurney to explain I wasn’t going to make it to my morning shift.

Why do I keep bringing up work? I think it’s because the memories are so vivid and because it makes me feels like it proves I’m a responsible person. There is a misconception that only irresponsible people get pregnant by accident.

I remember thinking that this was my fault that I had brought the miscarriage on because I had made my choice earlier. That I was never going to have the magic of my own child with someone I loved.

My husband and I waited awhile before trying again. We did get pregnant in 2012 and welcomed my daughter in December that year. She is amazing, a true spitfire – even as a baby and toddler the girl knew what she needed and wasn’t afraid to demand it. She is exhausting and wonderful.

My biggest fear about having a daughter was that I wouldn’t be able to relate to her, that I would damage or hurt her the same way I feel my mother has hurt me. I describe my mother as a wonderful person to everyone but me. She didn’t have a great example of a healthy maternal support system and it passed down to me. I was and am terrified to do the same to my own daughter. So I have never told my mother about my abortion because I know the reaction would be judgement with no compassion. She has told me I was lucky that anyone would love me. She would tell me as a pre-teen that I would be an alcoholic and have an abortion. If I did tell her it would be confirming all her most negative beliefs in me; And she is my ‘stable’ parent.

I had another miscarriage between my first and second earth side children; it is amazing how cold some people can be. Aoife was just over 1 at the time when I went for my 1st trimester scan and there was a heartbeat, it was weak, and I was recommended to have another ultrasound within a couple of weeks. I was clearly nervous given what I had been through before. The silence of the Technician led me to tears before the doctor came in.

He said, and I kid you not, ‘Well I guess you know what I’m going to say.’ I wanted to scream ‘No mother f*er, I didn’t know, I was hoping against hope but thanks for making it seem like no big deal’.

I went to my GP for a referral to the early loss clinic, as with my previous miscarriage I required the emergency D&C, they confirmed they could send the request. After not hearing for three days I called and someone had forgotten to send the referral. Again I blamed my self, the shame.

I will not go into the loss of miscarriage in this post as it is a topic all in of itself, but know that it is heartbreaking. My trauma was exacerbated by my choice and the guilt around it.

My husband had seen the pain the experience caused and offered to get a vasectomy because I always said I wouldn’t be able to go through another miscarriage again. He wanted another child, a sibling for our daughter and I said I would be ok to try one more time.

We had our second child in March 2015, about 6 months after the due date of my second miscarriage. Two kids is hard, Life is hard and it took a toll on our marriage. I would say we drifted apart the whole first year of our son’s life. I was a mess of postpartum, the lack of sleep, discontent with my potential or lack there of professional life, just everything. We decided to split in May 2016.

I met my current partner while working and married, nothing untoward but we started off as friendly conversation. We had our first date the week my husband and I decided we would need to separate.

A lot of my self worth used to come from physical relationships. I lost my virginity at sixteen to a friend, someone I knew from swimming and went to high school with. I wanted to always like the first person I had sex with, that was important to me. He, as I imagine most teen boys, was always stoked to have sex. I remember describing his as a kid in a candy store when I took my top off.

Because this was the first time I felt valued, so much of my self worth ended up being tied up in physical relationships with others. So even with the timing so close to the dissolution of my marriage, I felt like I needed sex to feel value again, self worth again (again a whole other post is in this). Marriage doesn’t just end, it’s a slow burn – often starting with the lack of physical intimacy, combined with poor communication and stress.

My partner and I had to have dates late at night because it was the only time that worked. We would meet after work as I needed to be home for my kids during the day. We would meet between 9 and 11, when I was finished work and I would leave around three in morning to go home. 

I remember going out for some drinks with a girlfriend the first Thursday in July (so about 6 weeks later), Stampede’s sneak a peek. I remember stopping myself after one because I just felt off. I waited a few days because I wasn’t yet late, but on the following Tuesday morning I took a pregnancy test and confirmed what I had already thought.

I was co-teaching a course at the time, I had called the clinic at lunch to see what appointments/options looked like. I cried a lot, I remember the class was heading to the pool and I sat in the classroom crying, when I came on deck my co-teacher asked if I was ok and jokingly said ‘Are you pregnant?’.  At this point almost no-one knew I was even separated.

By the end of the day I knew I didn’t want to have another abortion. I asked my partner to meet that night, resolved in my decision. If my husband (ex-husband) asked me to have an abortion I would, to preserve that relationship, for my kids, but not for this new person. He was clear, he enjoyed my company but it was too soon and we barely knew each other. This time I knew I had the resources, although it would be extremely hard, could drain all my savings, and I would still have shame of the unplanned pregnancy – it would be possible to keep the baby. I was clear he wouldn’t need to have anything to do with it. I needed him to decide by the three month mark.

In all honestly a large part of me didn’t believe the baby would make it past the three months mark or to birth. I always thought a large part of why I miscarried was stress, and what could be more stressful than going through a divorce with two young children, not having a permanent income and additional family stress I had at the time.

My ex-husband was nothing short of amazing. It was the hardest conversation I have ever had. I never wanted to hurt him, I loved him, love him deeply. The shame of getting pregnant. The shame of lack of control. The shame of needing sex.

When I first started telling people that I was pregnant I was pretty far along, partly because I didn’t believe the baby would make it and partly because I wasn’t ready for the judgement. I was proven this was the right decision, as when I told a long time girlfriend that I was pregnant and the first thing out of her mouth was ‘Don’t you know there is such a thing a birth control?’. This hurt deeply because of course I knew, things out of our control happen.

The thing about both choices is if I had made the opposite choice in either case I would still be shamed. If I had chosen to keep the baby at 23, I would have been a gold digger and a home wrecker. My feelings and situation wouldn’t have been considered. The fact that he was so bold to tell me he had found God, to feel entitled to my care for him, even in the face of complete lack of care for me shows that.

The second time when I did keep the baby, had I not, it would have been the shame and pain associated with an abortion, already covered. The thing is I was still judged and shamed.

My sister just recently admitted to me that my mom asked her not to tell her side of the family that I was even getting divorced, I can only imagine the panic when she found out I was pregnant.

I had one coach tell me that I better not have gotten pregnant to ‘Trap’ my partner, as if it wasn’t at all possible that I was the one that would be or feel trapped. I pulled myself together, gathered enough courage to decide to leave a relationship I had intended on being in for the rest of my life. Knowing there would be no possibility of reconciling, little lone space for myself to grow or heal. I have also been told consistently that I am so lucky that he stuck around, that he ‘took on’ my other children, as if we ourselves have no value or worth, we add nothing to his life.

I only remember one friend asking me if I was ok.

I love my youngest, Cael, so much and my family would not be the same without him but I would be lying if I said the last five years have been easy. There are days in all honesty that I’m lucky to have survived.

The reality is that we humans, like to judge. We like to point fingers, lay blame and feel superior but we aren’t always to open to pro-active solutions.

I will say it again that Pro-choice is not Pro-abortion.

Why this distinction is important is because their are those that have no real choice. If you say you are Pro-life but don’t believe in Universal Healthcare, a robust education system including sex education, post secondary education and a national childcare program, than you are not Pro-life. If you don’t believe in Black Lives Matter, Indigenous Lives Matter, or that LBGTQIA+ Lives Matter than you are not Pro-Life.

If you don’t believe Gun control, Vaccines, Masks but do believe in the Death penalty. You are not Pro-life.

You are Pro-control. You are Pro-hierarchy, Pro feeling superior, not Pro-life.

When I say no real choice, I mean the reality of having a child and all the costs that come with it. The cost of childcare, diapers, food, possibly needing a new home, possibly needing a vehicle or having to stop schooling. The cost of being tied to someone you didn’t necessarily expect or that is healthy for you. The cost on your mental health on top of all of the above. If these realities mean little to you then you are fortunate to hold privilege that others do not.

We must acknowledge that Quality of life matters; Access to resources matters.

Another reality is that social programs are needed to support individuals that have abortions. Understanding the how and why unplanned pregnancies happen, the mental health support needed to recover and prevent more, and the how individuals can be supported to successfully raise their children. These programs cost money, money that would require funding from taxes to support all people. Programs through churches or organizations come with ties and are again more about control than support.

This is a complex issue with so many factors and it is overwhelming.

I do not believe abortion should be used as a form of birth control, it causes pain and trauma. I do believe the only way to prevent multiple unplanned pregnancies is through education of both girls and boys/women and men. To improve access to birth control and the changing of the mindset that the girl/woman is the only party responsible for pregnancy.

We need to shift so many things to create a world where girls and women are safe, where we aren’t told their bodies are where their value lies. Where if someone does get pregnant they will have unconditional support.

I hope that my daughter or sons never have to experience an unwanted pregnancy; the stress, the uncertainty and the pain. I hope my daughter never needs to make a Choice.  I hope my children only choose sexual partners with which they are comfortable raising a child with. I hope that their self worth is not tied to their physical being. That if they ever do experience an unplanned pregnancy that they understand Choice is important.

That if they choose to see their pregnancy through or support their partner with their child that I will continue to love them and their child unconditionally. I will support them in any way that I can, whether financially, with childcare or emotionally.

That if they choose to abort I will continue to love them unconditionally and support their healing in any way possible.

I do not regret my abortion, I would not have survived being tied to a person that only used me for their gain, a narcissist, an addict, for the rest of my life; I would not have survived the judgement from my own family; my life matters because it does. I would not have met my husband and more importantly I would not have Aoife or Bowie, and to follow the line further I would not have Cael.

This post could be a whole book on all the factors to consider, the reasons why anything but Choice is hypocrisy but for now, know that Choice matters and Choice is a necessity.

My hope in sharing my story, as small and limited as it is, it might give perspective, to change the narrative, to open minds. My hope is to help others feel comfortable sharing their own story, to support loved ones and to view abortions and reproductive rights as the full complex issue that it is.

No Peace without Accountability: Our Responsibility to our Indigenous, First Nations, Metis and Inuit Communities

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I had a really difficult conversation this past week, one that had incredible timing because it was the day before the bodies of 215 Indigenous children were found in a mass grave under a Residential School near Kamloops, British Columbia.

I was speaking with a group of people of mixed generations from Baby Boomers to Gen X to myself, the cusp of X and Millennial. It started with an article that had been read by one person discussing how colonialism wasn’t bad to near the end having someone defending Residential schools.

I left the conversation, for lack of a better word, crushed, because these are people I believe to be caring, intelligent, compassionate and generous. To hear the lack of understanding and unwillingness to acknowledge the damage created by the Residential school system was shocking, and had me in tears.

I acknowledged my own lack of knowledge and empathy to the Indigenous while growing up in our country. I believed all the lies I was told, these lies included:

  • Indigenous can easily go to post secondary school, they will even have it paid for
  • Indigenous choose not to help themselves
  • The reserves are terrible places by choice
  • Indigenous abuse gas, drugs, alcohol, they are ungrateful
  • We live in a Mosaic of a Country, unlike the United States where you must assimilate

The last point is one that makes me so angry, because I was indoctrinated in that sneaky way, a way that didn’t open up for critical thinking, it didn’t acknowledge our treatment of the Indigenous, First Nations, Metis and Inuit people. Ya, ya, we are a mosaic, as long as your piece is white, aligns with our views, speaks a language of commerce and believes in profit over people.

The stated purpose of Residential schools was to ‘kill the Indian in the child’ – the goal was Cultural Genocide. This was done by forcibly taking children from their homes and placing them in the schools where they could have no influence of their own culture. The schools did not allow students to speak their native language, to acknowledge their heritage or practice their culture. Making students wear uniforms and cut their hair, they dehumanized them.

They ensured compliance by mental, physical and emotional abuse. It has always been known that children left and did not make it home, however this week’s discovery solidifies this truth and shows the complete lack of respect for these children.

Picture having your child forcibly taken from your home, under the guise that this will be good for them only to never have them come back.

I vividly remember when I first learned about these schools, it was not more than a decade ago. I was walking with a friend that was studying Social Work and they described the 60’s scoop. I was aghast, so much so I remember saying ‘That can’t be possible, that can’t be right, our Government wouldn’t do that. No one would let someone take their child away from them like that’. So I went home and I searched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I went down the rabbit hole that is understanding the atrocities that happened. For reference I would have been 13 the year that the last Residential school closed in 1996, there are people in my generation that attended these schools.

It is not enough to just read what happened, you must read it with the goal to understand our Indigenous, First Nations, Metis and Inuit people. To understand and imagine the trauma, the response, and resulting intergenerational trauma. You must read it and think how you would feel act/react if put in a similar situation. How would your children?

I feel if I had been placed in a Residential school, I would not have faired well. Being a child that spoke their mind constantly, one that never bowed to authority just because, a child that questioned everything – I would likely have endured many abuses and possibly death before submission.

Children as young as 4 years old were placed in these schools. I know Aoife would be similar to me with the hardships and Bowie would not mentally survive the abuse. His tender heart and desire to be loved would see his spirit crushed. Cael, I think would survive his time, but would hold deep resentment and suffer PTSD.

So now when I think of my interactions, or my past judgements of Indigenous, First Nations, Metis and Inuit people – I work hard to recognize my prejudice.

I remember working a position at a hotel where from time to time I had to ask individuals to leave. I remember an Indigenous women, mid-forties, possible intoxicated (this was my assumption at the time), was being rowdy and I had been asked to step in and ask her to leave the premises. I approached with the same level of respect as every guest, I explained the cost to stay, asked if she could afford that, at which point she declined and I walked her out. I think back and I remember her being near tears, she knew I assumed she was drunk. She tried explaining her life, and I tried but I don’t think I really listened. I remember feeling good that she was peaceful, and I think felt heard. In replaying the situation in my head, I wish I had asked more questions, listened more and said I am sorry.

Did I send her or her family to a Residential school? No. Is there benefit to understanding another’s struggle? Yes. Is there good to be done in showing another person love and compassion? Yes. Is it necessary to acknowledge our prejudices? Yes. Is it our Responsibility to acknowledge just how bad and unjust we have been to the Indigenous, First Nations, Meties and Inuit people? Yes.

If we can not acknowledge the truth, the facts, we can not take accountability, and we will not do better or grow; We will be destined to continue the systemic issues and failures.

I tell my children all the time that if they are not willing to be accountable for their mistakes or hurtful behaviour than they are bound to repeat them.

We have done an excellent job as non-Indigenous, First Nations, Metis and Inuit people of ignoring our past. Of covering up, glossing over or minimizing the impact of the actions of our ancestors; It is not serving us.

I more often than not have experienced the push back of, ‘Well I haven’t had it easy either’. How does that line of thinking serve anyone? If you experienced pain, why would you want or be ok with someone else experiencing it? What part of you needs that?

An example was having an accent as a child and being teased. For one this is no where near comparable to having your hair forcibly cut, not being allowed to speak your language, being physically abused for having an accent or different language, those are on a very different level than being teased.

It needs to be said that if you are making comparisons of your life in hopes of justifying or making the abuse and systemic racism ok, take a step back and really understand what happened, as well your own privilege and perspective. These bodies that have been found are proof of what has always been known and not wanting to be believed.

I for one, never want someone to suffer as I have or at all. I know I am an imperfect parent, I yell more than I want, I have slammed some doors, but I am trying to be a better parent than my parents. I don’t want my children to feel of me, how I feel of my parents, I want them to always feel safe. The same is said at work, why would I want someone to suffer sexism, ageism, or unfair treatment that I have? I want everyone to feel respected and be treated fairly.

The same principle applies here, why would we defend un-defendable actions with our own stories of trauma? Should we not listen, find common ground/empathy, look for solutions to try and lift others up.

It is important to know the story of Residential schools, as it is also important to know the stories of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, the murder of Colten Boushie and the RCMP handling of the case, how many reserves are sill without clean water – these are all very real recent examples of our living prejudice.

Right now, my hope is that this discovery has opened some eyes and hearts. That everyone can have hard, truthful conversations about what has happened and is happening. That we can take ourselves, our own guilt out of it, in order to show compassion to the Indigenous, First Nations, Metis and Inuit community. The Community that deserves our ears, our hearts and our minds in order to heal.

Self Esteem vs. Sense of Self

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(revisited original post Nov 2019)

Going back to explore a topic that I find super important Self Esteem vs. Sense of Self.  Definitely gets a bit rambly, tries to tie some topics and will need to revisit to bring out the topic of more single actions and behaviours don’t define us but our that requires knowing ourselves. Hopefully this is a good start –

A Triangle in a Round and Square World Inventing Resilience

Exploring what it feels like to not fit in and be a Triangle in a world that feels full of Circles and Squares. Older post revisited with some new thoughts and examples. Scattered as always.
  1. A Triangle in a Round and Square World
  2. Empathy – Because More
  3. Wealth, Status and Power – The Values to the Storming of the Capital and the Freedom, plus exploring the Why
  4. Accountability: Why it builds Resilience and Saves us from A**holes
  5. Thinking Critically – Ranking, Prioritizing & Evaluating your Values

In terms of resilience I believe there is an important topic to explore, Self Esteem vs. Sense of Self. Recognizing the difference, and understanding how they play a role within our daily lives, relationships and ourselves may open up ways to Invent Resilience while also fostering it in others.

I would like to try to mark the difference between Self Esteem and Sense of Self. Self Esteem in my mind is the ability to have confidence in yourself, your abilities, and have a high expectation around what you deserve out of life. Self Esteem is linked to self worth. Sense of Self on the other hand is an awareness of who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, values and how you interact with the world around you. Because my mind works in point form, here is how I separate them:

Self Esteem –

  • the ability to have confidence in one self
  • high expectation of what you deserve, self worth
  • acknowledgement of your strengths, value of self
  • Self Respect

Sense of Self –

  • Recognize personal strengths
  • Recognize weaknesses and failures
  • Understanding personal values
  • Understanding and care of how we affect others and how others respond to us

It is necessary to acknowledge that it is possible to have any combination of Self Esteem and Sense of Self. It is natural as humans to assume that everyone is just like us, they think like us, feel like us, have confidence like us but you know what they say about assuming – it makes and ASS out of U and ME. Acknowledging that one’s Self Esteem and Sense of Self might be vastly different from our own gives us a step in building empathy, which in turn encourages us to be kind.

I myself have Low Self Esteem and a High Sense of Self. It is consistent that others’ perception of me is that I am ‘Self Assured’ or ‘Confident’, this is simply not the case. I do however have a strong Sense of Self, this is displayed in strong opinions, standing rigid with my values and acceptance of my weaknesses. I would break down my Sense of Self as follows –

  • Strengths – Passionate, Intelligent, Hard-working, Empathetic, Caring, Friendly, Good presenter, Charismatic, Sensitive, Genuine
  • Weaknesses – Unwavering, Overly Sensitive, Assumes Capabilities and Similarities, Physical attributes, Argumentative, Impulse control, Blunt
  • Values – Fairness, Accountability, Generosity, Openness, Innovation, Diversity, Intelligence, Work Ethic, Empathy, Thoughtfulness

Why am I sharing this? Well I mentioned one of the reasons I decided to start a blog was to vent a bit but also to provide context to my thought process. As mentioned I have a high Sense of Self but Low Self Esteem – what does this look like and how does that work if I can acknowledge my strengths. Well I have only just started to acknowledge my strengths and to focus how I spend my time and energy on those, this includes my job searches, parenting style and friendships (this is going to be a whole other topic).

Anywho, historically I have focused on my weaknesses and countered every strength with a weakness. So passionate becomes unwavering and argumentative, empathetic and caring is overly sensitive (caring too much), charismatic is loud and exhausting, etc. This affects my relationships and in turn my ability to have good self esteem, i.e. self worth. I am wired this way because someone I love and admire is wired this way, intelligently I understand that they are this way because how they were raised and so on.

Now I am going to diverge a bit and go a bit deeper into the why I am how I am. I want to do this so those that know me and read this can understand me a bit better and/or hopefully others can take my story and maybe apply it to those in their lives. Think of it this way, the saying goes no one really knows a relationship like those in it. Your relationship with yourself is the same; it can only truly be understood by you because you are the one living it. Sharing with others, being open and honest is the hopefully a way to allow others a way to care and understand (empathize).

My mother and I have a contentious relationship, there rarely, if ever goes a get together that doesn’t have some sort of a quarrel. My mother’s mother was one of the hardest women I have ever met, she picked favorites, was unfair, lacked empathy and kindness. One example of this would be my 7 or 8 year old self having an asthma attack (allergy induced) and my grandmother saying to me to just breathe. Not in a relaxed, calming, you’re going to be ‘OK’ tone, but in a you’re being a drama queen that needs to just stop tone. Knowing what she was like and acknowledging that helps me to understand my mom, and her capacity to be positive, to be fair, and pay compliments. She never got them from her mother, she was raised to believe she wasn’t as worthy as her brothers and not to go for everything she was capable of. Her own Self Esteem isn’t good and I’m not sure she has a strong Sense of Self either.

As a parent my mother was not 100% like her mom. She was more generous, she is caring and more forgiving however the negativity made it through. The only reason why I ever knew that my mom thought anything positive about me was that I found a list her therapist made her write when my parents got divorced. I could not tell you a time where I received a compliment from her or positive affirmation and if I could it wouldn’t be without an immediate negative to counter. It’s just how she is wired. This is important to know, my own nurture and experience has taught me to be suspicious of my strengths while always believing my faults and because of this I continue to struggle with self worth. When I fail at something or perceive failure I inherently go back to believing that I am worthless.

Interestingly I believe my strong Sense of Self was born because of my low Self Esteem, out of a kind of necessity. On the days where I feel worthless or that I am really struggling with what I am doing; I go back to ‘Who am I?’. I am able to invent the resilience to go forward by finding hope in my potential and my intentions.

Because even though others might think I am purposely rude by interrupting or that I don’t care about what they have to say. I know that I do care but have a hard time, a physical reaction, almost like nausea with impulse control especially when there is a topic I’m passionate about or want to discuss. The strong Sense of Self allows me to forgive myself for my weaknesses. It also gives me the ability to accept differences; to know that I am unique and not in the snowflake way but in the I am a culmination of the events lived, relationships experienced and nature of me; and so is everyone else. This is where kindness and empathy comes in.

I try my best to keep in mind that everyone else has their own Self Esteem and Sense of Self. That their experiences, relationships and nature, affects whether or not they have had to develop a Sense of Self or if they have Self Esteem. Maybe they are like me, acutely aware of faults and they need some kindness, some understanding maybe they have high Self Esteem but are lost when it comes to a Sense of Self; this also requires patience and kindness because they are genuinely unaware of their actions and their affect of others.

This was longer than anticipated, a bit scrambled and somehow I feel still not all the way out but for another day. I realize I haven’t looked as much at Self Esteem as I did Sense of Self but this is because I am still working on it. I hope the sharing (maybe overly so) was at least a bit helpful. I would encourage everyone to take some time, evaluate yourself and all those you are in contact (not just family and friends but co-workers, teachers, etc.). Go forward with an open heart and mind, aim to care to understand the individual, their Self and not just their actions.

I have included one link to an article I found super interesting in my rabbit hole of reading about Self-Concept (my terminology is Sense of Self). If you aren’t yet done with the topic.

https://www.simplypsychology.org/self-concept.html

Until next week… thanks for stopping be, for reading and please share your own thoughts below in the comments or on the contact page.

Health, Beauty & Fitness: How Society teaches us to Prioritize and Confuse them.

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After trying to spend last post defining the 3 values of Health, Beauty & Fitness, this time I want to see how they play into our every day lives and how we are conditioned to prioritize and confuse them.

Recently a news story came out where Khloe Kardashian felt the need to post a LIVE video and full post in order to show her body unfiltered, as earlier in the week an unauthorized, assuming less than flattering (as it can no longer been seen) photo was posted.

This display is an excellent example of how we as Society will claim we care about Health & Fitness more than Beauty however, we are conditioned to prioritize a Beauty standard above all else.

Khloe’s reaction and ensuing statement highlights the pressure that she feels to meet a standard. It is well documented the amount of plastic surgery her famous family has done. She expresses both the incredible pain and insecurity of being in both a famous family, and of being held to an impossible standard; yet also seems to end her post by saying that now it’s her choice to fit this mould. Equating a good filter or edit, to make up, nails done – she shows the desire, the need, to control the way the world sees her.

This statement hurt my heart, it worries me that it is so hard to acknowledge that her mental health suffers due to the pressure to fit Beauty. Her need to control how people view her, to ‘Fit’ into her family. Khloe pushes products that add to your workout, like the recent ‘What Waist Official’ band, to intensify your workout. She has a size inclusive line but isn’t comfortable with unedited photos of herself on the internet. She is in what appears good physical shape, it is evident she works out hard, she has lots of privilege and access to the best of all things Health. I ask, what good is it if your Mental Health is suffering? Are you Healthy? Are you Fit? What does this standard of Beauty do to us?

I was speaking with someone about the pandemic, priorities and the idea about these posts. She is someone that I believe would hold all 3 in her top 10 values, and I told her so. She started to refute me, that only Health and Fitness were her passions, that Beauty had nothing to do with it. She pointed out how little make up she wears, as a sort of proof.

I had to tread lightly but I started by pointing out her love of music, of art and fashion, she warmed up a bit to the idea of beauty. I didn’t dare mention her breast implants, which she got because of a lifelong feeling of inadequacy around her small chested-ness. I did however ask about her eyelash extensions and fake nails, that she somehow maintained the entire lockdown period. I questioned the Why behind having them done, it was for Beauty, to be efficient in looking beautiful, but for looks none the less. She has been willing to skirt the Public Health orders, to maintain her appearance, and I think we can agree false lashes and nails are not for Health. She once told me her mother brought her up to believe her sister was the smart one and she was the pretty one, that, was where her value lies.

It is so easy for us to get lost in the blurred lines between Health, Beauty & Fitness.

I want to start with Plastic Surgery, Breast Implants as an example to start, please know this is with no judgement to those that have them – I completely understand the societal pressure to ‘Fit’ a certain look or shape. I myself, struggled with having my breasts reduced for fear that I might become disproportionate or that it might affect my appearance.

I have friends, that people, that I, would consider very Health and Fitness conscious; they eat whole foods, watch what they put in their bodies, move daily and they shop at speciality grocers for the best and freshest of produce/grains, food options, etc. These same individuals willingly put silicone sacs (which is extracted from silica, the stuff in those little packs that we are told to keep away from children and not eat), filled with gel or saline under their breast muscles for Beauty. I realize how harsh that sounds/came out, and my aim is not to be unkind but factual. There are several reports now coming out around Breast Implant illness, with the FDA and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation developing and funding new research on BII. My desire is to highlight the dichotomy of the above.

We are taught from an early age that how we look adds value to who we are, and to place that value on to others as well.

I remember when my mom had her eyes cosmetically fixed, like an eye lift, not full face, I was so perturbed. I thought, if it had been a breast reduction, or tummy tuck I would understand but not the face. In reflecting for this post, I realized that it was probably because my whole life I have been told I look like my mother. I am taller and broader, but my face is that of her family – I think she looks more like her mom, and me like her dad, but I can definitely admit, there is a strong resemblance.

I remember when struggling with my looks in my youth, my teens and young adult life, I used to sit and stare at my face in the mirror and tell myself how at least I had a good face. I would always have thick thighs, and a loaf (vs rolls) around my stomach but my face, my face is good. So when my mother, decided her natural face was no longer good enough, it hurt me, probably not rationally so and definitely not consciously but it hurt, and I gave her a hard time, and now I think I’m realizing why.

The argument could be made that if having Plastic surgery makes you more confident and you feel better in your skin than it is good for your mental health. My question is why don’t you feel happy with the body that you are born into? What creates that feeling of needing to change/improve your natural appearance? To me the answer is Societal pressures, ones that are unreasonable and irrational.

When is it that we convince ourselves that we aren’t good enough?

I saw a post on @oilandgrain’s instagram stories that was by @nourish_by_kristina that resonates with me so much because it is so true.

It’s kinda funny that I feel I need to preface this next story, which I won’t do again, so please know that the stories or examples I bring up hold questioning and curiosity more than judgement.

So my example is of a situation where appearance, size, lifestyle isn’t always as it seems. When my daughter was about 16 months I went to Mexico with my dad and two friends. I was in the middle age wise of the group, but the only parent, and by looks it would be assumed that I was the most out of shape. Both friends are naturally slimmer than me, one was conscious with what they ate and the other not at all. One actually likes to still retell the story of one time me asking her if she worked out in secret, because her natural body looks as though she is very active, like about 6 days a week, and having travelled with her I know she is a not a restrictive eater, she eats enough but not healthy, she is genetically blessed. Anywho our resort was about a 20 min walk from it’s sister resort, and I would want to walk because it was easy enough to push the stroller vs loading it into the shuttle plus a little exercise was a bonus. I’ll never forget one night, both girls gave me a hard time about me not wanting to take the shuttle. Me, from an outsider views, the ‘out of shape’ mom was the fittest of the group.

Another example of looks being deceiving is runners in water. I have one friend whom is an incredible runner, and will always forever kick my butt in that arena. And really physiologically it makes sense to me, her thighs, are incredibly strong, but also are about 1/3 the size of my own. The sheer weight of my legs in comparison to hers, makes running harder for me (not to mention how much shorter mine are) – but get us in a pool and I’m winning!

My point being that every one of our bodies are made differently and each has powers within them.

Why is that we believe there is a standard? Why is it the standard is for women to be small and men to be big? That women must shrink and men dominate?

I have always marvelled at pregnancy… how or why was it that someone addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, someone over or underweight can carry a baby to term but a seemingly healthy woman, one that is ‘fit’, eats well, doesn’t smoke, can suffer several miscarriages? or have trouble conceiving in the first place.

It’s a really hard concept to wrap ones head around because it’s a crap shoot. And it is another example of how we confuse Fit and Healthy. It an example that begs us to have compassion for our fellow humans.

One of the conversations I have had a lot this last year was around why I like to stay fit and/or eat well, if not to live longer. The idea being, and this won’t be a popular opinion but that I am not doing it to extend my life. I have no misconceived notion that physical activity is going to guarantee me extra years on this earth; or that eating a salad vs having a blizzard is somehow going gain me an extra day. I don’t believe any of it makes a difference in the end, you maker comes when it is your time.

The reasons why I like to move often, daily if possible, at least 4 times a week with intention, is because it helps my day to day life. I mind what I eat, in a reasonable way now as I definitely recognize disordered eating in my past, because I like fibre and how it feels when I have a daily bowel movement. I drink a ton of water because when I don’t my skin feels dry and my eyes (after scratching my cornea twice) don’t hurt when I blink.

I don’t think these things protect me pandemics, or will save me from getting cancer. As I mentioned in my first post around these three values, my mother, who is very physically fit and healthy, has had cancer.

Yes, swimming as a kid and learning breath control makes it easier for me to come out of asthma attacks but my anaphylactic allergy to random pollens and chemicals is out of my control.

I guess what this whole post is trying to get at is that society, media, the patriarchy, other humans in general (those that need to feel superior) try to control things, things that really aren’t meant to be in our control. The irony to me is, most that believe they are against a controlled life are the ones most interested in controlling others or subjecting others to a standard that they believe.

And again what point does the need for control wear on our Mental Health? And if we don’t have our Mental Health – can we be Beautiful, Healthy or Fit?

I could go further into the confusion and standards how they affect race relations, marginalized communities, politics but those are topics deserving of their own posts. For now I’ll leave you here.

Next week we will work inward on how we hold privilege in the 3 values or face obstacles.

Podcast Episode #1: Intro and Values: Who You Are and How You Define Yourself (Revisiting/New Thoughts)

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One of my goals this year, and specifically by May 1st was to create a Podcast, figure out the how to record, load, etc.

This is my first attempt – I wanted to do an Intro and revisit my post from the Fall when I first starting writing again, reaffirming the Values Mindset, hopefully giving a voice and some added feeling to the words.

You can listen on Spotify, if you could share and follow there as well that would be greatly appreciated.

Let me know your thoughts – I will aim to finish flushing out the last few posts on Health, Beauty and Fitness and then record. I appreciate any and all feedback. Much care – Meghan

A Triangle in a Round and Square World Inventing Resilience

Exploring what it feels like to not fit in and be a Triangle in a world that feels full of Circles and Squares. Older post revisited with some new thoughts and examples. Scattered as always.
  1. A Triangle in a Round and Square World
  2. Empathy – Because More
  3. Wealth, Status and Power – The Values to the Storming of the Capital and the Freedom, plus exploring the Why
  4. Accountability: Why it builds Resilience and Saves us from A**holes
  5. Thinking Critically – Ranking, Prioritizing & Evaluating your Values

Health, Beauty & Fitness: How Do You Define These?

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To follow up on my previous post on how we confuse Health, Beauty & Fitness, using them as synonyms, I want to dive into defining each value. I started this post and have re-written it several times, so it is proving difficult to define these three things, so I’m going to roll with what I have and hopefully it will help prompt you with your own definitions.

Starting with Health.

As defined by the WHO (World Health Organization) – Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

This is a broad definition and we will need to pick it apart, so let’s try. If there is one thing we should be able to all agree upon it is that Healthy does not look the same on everybody. The last part of the WHO’s definition may be the only universal part of the definition, meaning that the absence of disease or infirmity (even though it only says Health is not just merely the absence of) is required to be considered Healthy, right?

Well not necessarily, it depends on who you talk to and where you do your researching. Even a quick google search leads to an endless list of resources from Wikipedia to the CDC, that lump together Infectious diseases, medical conditions (such asthma, allergies, lice, etc.) and even Psychological differentials.

Ok, so let’s go back further, in middle english the word disease means the ‘lack of ease’ or ‘inconvenience’ so the very word is extremely board and reaching.

The allergies and asthma I have had my entire life by the above definition would mean I am not considered Healthy. I now need glasses when using a screen due to my astigmatism and slight near sighted-ness, again not Healthy.

Another quick gander of research and you will uncover a slew of professional athletes in the prime of their careers and lives, that died of Heart Attacks. The one that always stuck with me and coloured my understanding of Heart Health was that of Sergei Grinkov, the two time Olympic skating champion that died at age 28, while practicing with his wife. It was discovered after his death that he had Heart Disease, that it ran in his family, his father had died four years prior of the same condition.

Genetic pre-dispositions are things that are completely out of our control, yet they affect our ability to be classified as truly Healthy and can unreasonably lead to judgement by others.

There are communicable diseases that we have created vaccines for such as Measels, Mumps and Rubella. Yet there is a strong contingent that believe taking a vaccine will render you un-Healthy, that if we just eat well, exercise, sleep enough you can beat these diseases.

There is no scientific proof that this is correct – COVID although worst for the elderly and those that have compromised immune systems still took the lives of those that appeared perfectly ‘Healthy’ although perhaps they had unknown genetic pre-dispositions, which without COVID would have been consider Healthy for a much longer time.

What about Narcissists? It is a personality disorder but I wouldn’t say it is inconvenient or creates lack of ease for the individual; they don’t know any better, in fact it enables people to completely ignore others wants and needs. Sounds pretty self serving and possibly even convenient. But is this Healthy? I am getting a bit off track.

This week the goal is to define Health, which includes Mental Health and to me that starts with the ability to accept yourself as you are, regardless of pre-dispositions or others’ opinions, perceptions, etc.

Is it Healthy to be so competitive that you will train yourself into exhaustion? That you control your diet to the extent that you weigh every meal, or count every calorie. Stressing over a missed workout, or maybe having a day, a week, a month of indulgences? Is a need for control Healthy? What toll does the goal of Physical Health take on our Mental Health.

Resiliency and Self Love are key to Mental Health, being able to feel safe, to be everything that you are, is required.

Without that safety, those that suffer from Mental Health concerns such as depression, anxiety, Autism, ADHD, Chromosomal disorders and other psychological disorders will always feel out of place and unable to access help for fear of judgement.

How do you view Health? Do you separate Physical and Mental Health? What, if anything, has the above made you rethink? What are some questions you can start asking yourself and others?

Now let’s explore Beauty.

Beauty shows up in so many different areas of our lives and in our society. From art, theatre, music, fashion, architecture, nature and humanity.

Beauty by definition, Oxford languages, is a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.

I remember reading the 1996 issue of People’s Sexiest Man Alive featuring Denzel Washington, I’m pretty sure it was that issue and timeline fits, as I remember reading it at the Orthodontist office. Any who, part of the article describes how we, as in humans, find symmetry to be beautiful. Denzel, has incredibly symmetrical features, eyes, nose, mouth, etc. It also showed other celebrities and the break down of of their features and the percentage of symmetry to people that found them ‘Beautiful’.

When looking at a piece of art, do you dissect it? Does the symmetry bias apply? Does how it makes you feel matter more?

Part of Beauty to me is how something makes you feel – like with a beautiful song, the emotions that a tune can stir within someone are incredible. Similar with a beautiful painting, we can’t always put into words what exactly we like but we can usually articulate how we feel when viewing it.

Seeing the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Giza, (privileges I have yet to experience but I can imagine), and the Louvre. What draws us to these and other monuments? The sheer size, maybe. The human feat of construction, probably. The feeling of wonder, awe and accomplishment of creating such Beauty, definitely.

I live in Alberta, close to the Rocky Mountains, and I never cease to be amazed when driving near Canmore all the way until past Revelstoke. The mountains, the terrain, the expansiveness is unreal. Even the prairies, the drive to Saskatoon with the ever popping up Canola fields with their yellow blooms, can be breathtaking. Similarly the ocean and all the wondrous unknown that it holds has colours and beauty that is hard to describe. Bioluminescence anyone?

How is it when we apply the concept of beauty to fellow Humans we start with a list of desirable characteristics instead of that same feeling?

Slim bodies, hard bodies, tone bodies, big boobs, small waist, peachy bum, long eyelashes, nails done (fake or real), clothes on point, tall but not too tall, short but not too short, justtttt right.

How do you view Beauty in your life? How does you perception of beauty apply or affect how you live your life? Where would you rank Beauty as a value?

Lastly let’s define Fitness.

Well interestingly but not surprisingly there are several different ways to apply the term Fitness – I like the Oxford languages, because they are easy to find and provide options so here is what comes up when we look at Fitness –

  1. the condition of being physically fit and healthy.”disease and lack of fitness are closely related”
  2. the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.”he had a year in which to establish his fitness for the office”
  3. BIOLOGY: an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment.plural noun: fitnesses“if sharp teeth increase fitness, then genes causing teeth to be sharp will increase in frequency

If those aren’t some mind f*cks (pardon the language) than I don’t know.

Fitness, as in being physically fit and healthy, is interesting because it goes right into the concept of disease that we looked at earlier in this post and have determined that it’s really hard to narrow people down to the one piece.

Again a reminder of all the Elite athletes that have been found to suffer from pre-dispositions. The other factor I want to bring into this arena is the idea of performance enhancing drugs and the sheer number of high performance athletes found to be using them.

Would this fit into disease? According to many it would. The argument that addiction is a desire for connection, which I can accept and wrap my head around at times does not apply in this instance; the use of performance drugs is not for connection it is to get a leg up. This then would fall into the category of disease for me, because the idea of taking them is to separate yourself from peers not join in with them.

What would be your acceptable Physical Fitness level in your life? Keep in mind, I will dive into the societal and bigger picture of why we stay fit in the next post. What I want right now is for you to define what Physical Fitness looks like to you.

Is it the ability to walk up stairs without losing your breath? Is it being able to run 10km? A marathon? Is it being able to lift your kids/grandkids into seats. Is it being able to attend a yoga class and not be sore for a week after? Define what Physical Fitness is for you.

Now here is where my mind got a little f*ed – I hadn’t even thought of Fitness in terms of our roles within organizations and social structure but it’s there.

As mentioned above I really want to dive into this next week but my thoughts on this level of Fitness, or more so the question to pose here is have you ever had bias of ‘Fitness’? Meaning have you written off candidates for jobs due to the clothes someone is wearing or their appearance? Have you written off someone because of their weight or body shape? Have you thought someone might not be a fit because of their background?

I remember my friend’s Dad once told me that I would never be able to run a half marathon, we were watching his daughter (whom is crazy talented runner), run one of her first races. I think I was 22/23 years old at the time and thought that he was right, in that I couldn’t run the way she did. She is the human embodiment of a Gazelle, but, I could (and subsequently have) run a Half Marathon.

His perception was based on bias, and the man in particular is one of the kindest people I know so I really don’t think he meant offence, he was just being what he thought was honest and supportive of his child.

When I read this post to my partner he mentioned that this second definition was the one he most thought to when considering Fitness, whereas to me it was the least. Perhaps it’s because I accept that there are things that not everyone is capable of but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ‘Fit’ in the overall sense. Where he views it as a task specific definition. Do you view Fitness as task specific or general, broad term? Or maybe both, because as I said not everyone can do anything. That doesn’t make them less valuable just not the ‘Fit’ for a certain thing. Does viewing it as a task only definition lead to more bias and prejudice? Thoughts?

So let’s look at the last part, the Biology, ‘an organisms ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment’.

Survive, not thrive being the goal but also reproduce, does this mean anyone that has trouble reproducing may not be considered Fit from a biological stand point? Given that 1 in every 8 couples struggle with conception, I am really hoping not. There are many individuals that may not be able to conceive themselves yet are amazingly Fit and vice versa lots of people conceive that many would not consider Fit.

What about Mental Fitness? What would one consider Mentally fit? Does one need to experience trauma to prove their ability to be mentally fit? Does trauma help build our mental fitness or hurt it?

Are you familiar with the saying ‘God only gives you that which you can handle.’? But why? And why are some more capable than others? Is this something you consider when thinking of Fitness.

Again the importance is to recognize each individuals definition of the concept of Fitness differs. That these definitions should be challenged and are not one size fits all. I would hazard a guess that those who devote a lot of their time and energy to physical activity are doing so to more than merely survive. They do so to thrive and feel as though they are making the most of their physical bodies. Are they taking the same level of care of the Mental Fitness?

I said it at the start and I will say again that even defining these was going to be hard. If you think you have some concrete ideas please share, share even half baked ones.

Next week will probably be an extra long one, or I might even break it into two. What I hope to do is connect the dots, to show how these are made to inter connect within our social structure (I mean just look at the WHO’s definition or Health).

I will also hopefully help with the connection, understanding of how we prioritize these in our lives (so ya, definitely at least two posts). I aim to provide ways to draw inward to reflect and be honest, learning to align your values with how you live in the world. Whoa! That’s some big stuff so you know don’t get your hope too high, it will promise to be ranty as ever and possibly even more so than usual.

Until then… send me a note let me know what you think? Questions, etc.

50 Days of Movement -Halfway Giveaway

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I wanted to post a post to celebrate reaching the Halfway point in our 50 Days of Movement Challenge. It has been a great experience to try out a bunch of different workouts/Movement patterns.

We have had limited openings to our Fitness Studios (Private/Low Impact only) where I live so this Challenge has been a great motivator for me personally to make time to move. It can be so easy to put off movement when we have no place to go or push to leave our homes.

Our hosts have created a great variety of options and you don’t necessarily need to do the given workout to still engage in the Challenge.

We are making connections between our Physical Resilience and Mental Resilience.

Part of Movement is making intentional space for yourself in your day, even 10 minutes makes a huge difference. Put on your favourite music and dance, take a walk around the block, do a 10 min core set or some squats while watching a show.

Making space, giving yourself permission to focus on you is really important to build resilience. It re-inforces your value, and your recognition of valuing yourself. I encourage movement because to me, personally, getting my body going and my energy out (super high energy here) helps calm my mind and heart.

Whatever works you – be sure to make time, and if you are moving, join my Challenge, wink.

If you have any questions about the Challenge, joining or want to share how you make space for you reach out – I would love to hear from you.

Anywho part of our Halfway Celebration is a –

HALFWAY Giveaway! 🙌

To Celebrate making it to the Halfway Point of our 50 Days of Movement Challenge.

I am doing a GIVEAWAY for a copy of Untamed by @glennondoyle.

I have read this book a few time since picking up a copy for myself last Spring – I have also given a few copies as gifts because it’s just that good. Glennon shares her personal insights into life and encourages us to find our own inner Cheetahs 🐆

So in the spirit of the upcoming Easter – let’s do a little ‘Easter Egg’ Hunt of our own. Some of our Hosts will be hiding ‘Cheetahs’ in their stories between today and Thursday.

To ENTER either DM all the Hosts that featured a Cheetah to @inventingresilience (Private accounts) or share the answers via your stories being sure to tag @inventingresilience and our hosts so we can see it (Public).

You will want to make sure you are following our hosts 😉

Hosts: @oilandgrain @coach_rhi @lindsay.coghlan @mommytosubthree @perfectlyflawedfit @claudialucialc @inventingresilience

GIVEAWAY runs TUESDAY March 30th to THURSDAY April 1st, 2021.

Winner will be announced via Stories and contacted via DM from @inventingresilience by Saturday, April 3rd, 2021.

This Challenge is not affiliated or sponsored by Instagram in any way. Prizes will be drawn from entries gained through correct answers of Cheetah hunt, sharing of stories with necessary tags and using

Health, Beauty & Fitness – Mixed Up Synonyms

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I have been trying to figure out where to start and how to write all the thoughts. Being almost halfway through the 50 Days of Movement Challenge (check out the Body section of this page), I wanted to spend some time exploring the three values of Health, Beauty and Fitness. I want to first introduce how we tend to use the three values as synonyms and why this needs to be corrected within all of our thinking.

I would like to share a slightly rambling connection of thoughts and stories in hopes that it will prompt you to reflect on how you view these three values and how they have appeared in your life.

Having been raised in the Western world, although I am pretty sure this is not unique to just here, there has been a large emphasis on Beauty. This unknown, ever changing value that we all strive to reach for. Beauty appears in many aspects of our lives from Art, to Fashion, to Humans.

Having been raised by Active parents, ones that brought us to the Gym with them on the weekend to watch their tennis matches, play in the pool or just watch them work out on the rowing machine or in the gym; Fitness was a necessary outlet. We started swimming ‘competitively’ before grade school and had to do some sort of activity or sport until at least high school.

Having parents that both worked in Health (a doctor and a nurse), we learned about all things Health related from a young age. We had human body diagrams and books in our office, the ‘Big’ talks, the what happens at the Hospital info with no filter were dinner and driving conversation. Yet, my parents didn’t quit smoking until age 40 and 60 respectively (20 yrs age gap), the year was 1990.

These three values have always seemed individual and inter connected at the same time. Having been raised by parents that had differing views on the three, valuing them differently, having expectations placed on each other differently, it was confusing on what was what.

My mother was born in 1950, she was raised to believe that a woman’s value was directly correlated with her appearance. That strong legs, if on the larger side were unattractive. She works out incessantly, I believe partly because she needs it for her mental sanity; she is high energy like myself but also due to outside influence on the ‘Beauty’ aspect. It’s weird though because although she would criticize her body, my sister’s and mine – she would give us dessert with every lunch and dinner. She still has a hard time not eating something sweet, even if just a bite after dinner. Another thing I remember her telling me at a really young age, before age 7 for sure, as she used to have a real love of purple eye shadow that ended in the 90’s, but I digress, she would tell me to never start wearing make up, because once you start you can never stop.

My father was born in 1930, he was a traditionalist. He, like my mother, worked out and did sports his entire life. He would boast about his all around athletic skills, he played every sport, apparently even Synchronized Swimming as Fred and his Aquabelles. He would encourage me to stand up for myself but never complimented me. He hid or more so kept a copy of the Vanessa Williams Playboy Magazine in his bedside table. He was domineering and expected to be appeased to until much later in life. He was an excellent physician but a raging, functional alcoholic.

None of my grandparents made it much past age 80 if at all, and lived common lives for their time; my Father celebrated his 90th Birthday this past December. My Dad, as in my Dad, not his parents, and my Mom’s parents were only a few years apart but I remember as a kid joking about losing my Grandpa at the mall because he would wander away. My grandmother always seemed fragile, like she was wasting away – the complete opposite of my Dad, even though they were less than 5 years apart.

Does anyone else remember the 50-60 years old of the 80’s and 90’s, how different they are from today? I used to joke my Dad was the bionic man, he has had reconstructive surgery on his back at least twice, his shoulder done, his cataracts, he had a triple bi-pass, valve replacement and they found a hole in his heart when in there – not to mention he broke his hip twice in the last decade. Despite years of alcohol abuse never any issues with his liver, and not stopping smoking until 60, no lung issues either. My mother has had her knees scoped, now replaced, her shoulder replaced this year – the other one to be done soon, as well as her hip. She has no plans of slowing down anytime. All that Fitness was good for the heart but maybe not so great on the joints.

My Dad’s first wife passed away from Breast cancer at 27, my ex-husband’s mom passed away near age 50 of the same and my mother had her bout with it, 8 years ago and survived.

Last year someone close to me passed away in their 40’s from cirrhosis of the Liver. My father and brothers both abused alcohol for much longer periods and have never been down the road of needing a new liver. I remember sitting at an intake meeting for a Nursing home with my Father where he described drinking a full bottle of booze every night, 750 ml of hard alcohol and never once has he had issues with his liver. Yet a beautiful mom, someone that worked out, ate well, tried to maintain her fitness, health and beauty, died.

Genetics would be the difference for the Health Conditions. Genetics and Lifestyle for my parents to their parents. Genetics play a huge part in our Health, Fitness and Beauty stories.

I had a friend that used to train for triathlons, this was when I was in my early twenties, before kids, before learning to accept my body and that of others without judgement. Anywho, my friend was incredibly Fit, she ate extremely Healthy and she could finish an Ironman, which is truly inspiring, but on appearance you wouldn’t know what her body could do. She wasn’t small or toned, she was beautiful none the less for her strength and her being.

I have met others that on appearance alone would be considered ‘beautiful’. Their clothes and hair are almost always perfectly placed; they are professional looking, traditionally attractive, fit, but when they open their mouths, the hurt and hate that lives in their hearts and minds comes out, for me the ‘Beauty’ fades. The insecurity that causes the hurt and hate, is this healthy? Is that Beautiful?

I know more people than I would like to admit, that work out every day, or close to, but will drink alcohol or use drugs like cocaine on what I would consider a regular enough basis. Think of all the athletes that have been found to be doping? Does this match the ‘Health’ and ‘Fitness’ values they put forth?

In my early twenties I had a friend that decided to try the ‘Wild Rose Cleanse’. She was the first person I knew to ever do a ‘cleanse’, I had never even heard of it before. My mom worked in the GI unit as a nurse for the better part of her career, so colon health was a topic I was very familiar with, but not cleanses; my mom is totally against them. Anywho this friend of mine was someone doing the cleanse for genuine health interest, she was very slight build and overall healthy person. I can’t remember how far into the Wild Rose she got, when one night while she was sleeping, and her heart stopped. I remember her retelling the story, something about her water intake (too much), her electrolytes (imbalanced from the water consumption), her mother finding her unresponsive and apparently having to be revived twice. Now this was 19 years ago so the details could definitely be foggy but that’s what I remember about the Wild Rose Cleanse.

You would think that I would be completely against Cleanses, and by jolly I was, for a while, but in effort to lose weight, ‘feel better’ I have tried my fair share. From the Master cleanse, to Metagenics to Isagenix – it’s been a whirlwind. All in the name of Beauty and Fitness, I won’t kid myself with the ‘Health’ part anymore. Have you ever done a cleanse or known someone that did?

I’m hoping the flow of these is connecting together a bit – my overall goal with this post is to get you thinking about how these 3 values appear in your life and of the lives of those around you. Where would you place them in your value rankings? How would rank them in comparison with each other?

Next week (I’m hoping to get the next post out within the week, this one took me 3 to get totally wrapped around, so fingers crossed) but next week, I am going to dive deeper into each individual value. How they are represented in the media, what critical thinking questions we need to ask ourselves about them, what defines them. And then finally a post to look at comparison, hopefully point out how decisions can or are made based on the values and how we can acknowledge our own bias around these.

Hopefully you will enjoy the next few weeks – I really wanted to tie in the values to the Challenge going on right now. If you take a peek at the Body section, you will see I am Hosting a 50 Days of Movement challenge, the aim to link Physical Movement and Resilience with Mental Resilience. I believe recognizing these values is part of the Mental Resilience piece.

Share your thoughts with me on these values, any topics around them that you would like me to explore. Thank you for reading and I wish you a good few days – MH

Let’s Talk about Boobs: One Year Post Breast Reduction Surgery

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Yes, that’s right, let’s talk about Boobs. Today is the One Year anniversary of my Breast Reduction. I think it’s funny that it is also the day I decided, unmindfully maybe subconsciously, to start a Movement Challenge, promoting making time for yourself – building mental resilience through physical resilience; it was just meant to be.

Over the next few weeks I want to go back to evaluating and flushing out Values and look deeper into the following 3 values; Beauty, Fitness and Health. These three values often overlap, intertwine and coexist in our lives. How we prioritize each of them can make huge impacts.

I’ll start sharing my relationship with my breasts and how I came to a decision to have them reduced. I went through puberty young, exceptionally young. I got my period in Grade 3, at age 8, one month after my sister, a year older got hers – so you know I have always been ahead of the game; it was then that I started developing breasts. I remember being in my Elementary school library and having classmates comment on the fact that I already had boobs. I think it was Grade 4 when we did a night away at a local sleep away camp, we had parents and some teenage siblings as chaperones, I remember one adult that had not known me commented to my mother that by looks they thought I was one of the volunteers, not a student. This is what having Breasts at a young age did, it made others perceive me as older, and because of this I was often treated more like an adult, than the child I was.

By the time I was in Junior High, my breasts were easily what I suspect now was a size E/F cup but having no knowledge those sizes even existed I settled for DD. Other girls were just getting into bras and navigating puberty, where I was 4 years in. The thing about Junior High is, in hindsight it’s awkward for everyone. For me it was the 90’s and grunge, baggy clothing was all the rage, which any large chested person can attest too, does nothing for your shape. I vividly remember walking into Drama class to two boys (yes, I remember their names, Jon and Spencer) singing to the tune of ‘That Girl’ by Shaggy and Maxi Priest, ‘Fat Girl’ in regards to me.

The boys actions stung but what was worse was the reaction and advice I was giving when recounting the story to a friend. Instead of saying what assholes the guys were, which they were, for commenting on my body and basically bullying me in front of our entire class, she suggested I look at getting a breast reduction. She said that she heard it would make me look much thinner. I know her intention was good but let me tell you the result was really hurtful. To add insult to injury, when I went to my mom, she said if I was really interested in it, she would look at the cost and be open to covering it for me. At 14 years old, I was being told that my body was wrong and needed to be fixed.

To me this story is a great example of how we raise girls to believe that others have a right to comment on their bodies. That for some reason another person’s opinion of your body, of how you look, is more important than your own. The result is that girls and women strive to fit into an ideal, not too big, but also not too small, just right, but what is just right? With Boobs, is there an ideal?

OK, so moving on to High School, when I lost my virginity; American Pie came out in the summer between grade 10 and 11, the summer of 1999. I made a pledge to myself that I wanted to lose my virginity before the new year, kinda in a celebration of the new millennial but also to claim my body. I think of it now and how crazy young I was, 16 is not old enough to be sexually active. I was very lucky, I had a good friend from my swimming days with whom I was really close and attracted to. We would hang out and even though he would never date date me, was willing to participate and help me achieve this particular goal. Now I am not advocating for any one way to enter the sexual experience but mine was pretty great. He was really respectful (for the most part, until after almost 6 months he leaked our activities), he always asked if I was ok, and I’ll never forget his face any time I took my top off, he looked like a kid in a candy store; this was when I started to love my boobs.

I’m sometimes sad when I think of it in a critical way, that my love of an amazing part of my body, came from someone else’s enjoyment of it, not my own admiration.

The famous Teri Hatcher episode of Seinfeld gave me my favourite quote for the better part of my teens and early 20’s, the ‘They’re real and they are spectacular!”. My breasts were perfect, naturally round, like grapefruits plunked on my chest with skin on top. I don’t know if anyone else would remember the store, San Francisco, my nanny growing up lived next to a mall that had one and we used to go there. It was kinda a gag store, small silly gifts, and pop culture shirts; I remember this one shirt they had that showed all the different shapes that breasts came in, from Pancakes to Oranges to Ski Slopes, I remember being jazzed that I got the Grapefruits. So you see even at a young age, the understanding that boobs played a part in my (a women’s) worth was there. That it was acceptable for society to not just talk about them but judge them, make fun of them. I want to recognize that it’s not any easier being on the other end, possibly having boobs that are a size or shape that you feel is too small. What I am saying is that the societal pressures make all breast stories hard.

After learning to love my breasts for their shape and natural glory, I would still have to put up with others’ opinions on them. I often struggled to fit into dress codes, because button down shirts either popped across the chest or made me look frumpy, as then the waist wasn’t tailored. I would have constant comments from people that felt entitled to comment on how ‘booby’ an outfit was. In one instance, I was taking a course to become a First Aid Instructor, it was 6 months after having my second child, the Trainer felt it appropriate in my final review and in front of the class to tell me to cover up my chest when teaching. She said I wouldn’t be able to wear any v-neck/open tops because it would be too distracting to students. Even as recent as Fall of 2019, in a professional work environment, I was wearing one of my all time favourite dresses I own, a signature DVF wrap dress, and a mid fifties coworker, female, felt it appropriate to say to me that ‘I was really just putting it all out there’.

I have grown a thicker skin for sure, I now say, ‘They are there, so deal with it’. I recently did a headshot shoot for my work, and I had to pick outfits and even in doing my best, still received feedback that they might show too much cleavage. I find it crazy that this is even a thing – how is it that my body, in it’s natural state can be seen as unprofessional? That you as the viewer not being able to focus on the face would not be what was considered unprofessional. It’s a very self centred view to say to someone that their body makes you uncomfortable, as if their body has anything to do with you. If I am not rubbing my chest on you or anything of yours, you are not really entitled to an opinion and you should actively work against your desire to comment on them. My breasts, my body, do not belong to anyone but me.

Most recent Headshots taken – some still showing ‘Too Much Cleavage’, taken by Phil Crozier, http://www.photophilcro.com

My relationship with my Breasts changed after having kids. I was always open to the idea of having surgery when I was younger, not from outside pressure, but because I knew after kids I would want a lift. I didn’t realize how much my chest would balloon with kids, I went from a 30/32 E to a 32 J cup. Just one of my Breasts was the size of a full honeydew melon or small soccer ball; it would take literally 5 of my closed hands to cover just one. I know that’s a lot of describing but it’s important to paint picture. I went from loving my Boobs to hating them.

My Boobs were heavy, they were no longer mine, they were there to feed my kids. I had a strict rule of only breast feeding for 1 year. My kids all had teeth at 4 months old, like a minimum of 4 teeth that early. My breasts were hot to touch, sometimes hard, and I would need to sit in the shower for upwards of 30 min to just let the milk expel at night before bed just to be somewhat comfortable. I know these are good issues when you compare to those that maybe their milk doesn’t come in, but they were uncomfortable none the less, and when a friend says you look like you could be a fetish porn star, it doesn’t feel good.

It was after having my 3rd baby that I decided to go for a consult for a reduction. At the time I wasn’t even sure if I wanted one but I knew there was a long waiting list for it to be covered by my provincial Health care and I had thought maybe I would also inquire about a tummy tuck, because you know body and self confidence issues. I met with my surgeon, who is amazing, he was open and honest. The province I am in had just put in new restrictions (now they don’t even cover them anymore), that a minimum of 300 cc/units per breast had to be taken out. To give you an idea, if you were a size 32, it would be anywhere from 2-3 cups sizes. I was fine with that but took pause when the surgeon said he might not be able to preserve the shape, as it would be a lot of tissue taken off. This made me pause because I always loved my shape, I loved having the ‘implant’ looking shape, my Grapefruits. It took over 18 months to get off the waiting list and at that point I no longer had any hesitation. My neck and back, having started a more sedentary job, were in even more severe pain from the weight. I was at the point where I would have been ok coming out with an A cup.

A year after my surgery I am really happy with my decision; I would recommend it to anyone thinking of it. The healing process was long though, it was a good 8 weeks before I was comfortable working out and more than 6 months for all the swelling to go down. I would find a way to pay for it. The weight, literal weight that came off my shoulders was immediate. I am still wearing a 32 E cup (shows just how big they were), and my surgeon despite his reservations was successful in keeping my natural shape. I quite literally have my early twenties boobs back; what it also gave me was perspective, it made me really think about how much of my identity had been wrapped up in having large Breasts; it made me stop and think why that was.

To bring it back to Values and set us up for next week – my journey with my Breasts led me from valuing the Beauty of the them to the Health of them. The Beauty being, how they look, how others viewed them and the Health being how the feel, am I healthy and can I live a fuller life.

I want to explore all the ways we use these three values (Health, Fitness and Beauty) as synonyms, when really they are individual values and as humans we need to prioritize them; we only have some much capacity. Hopefully you got something from my overshare and will come back to the discussion next week.

Leave a comment and let me know what you thought. If you have any questions about my experience please feel free to send me a direct message via my Contact page.

Shameless plug – head over to the Body section of my page to check out the 50 Days of Movement Challenge that started today.

Celebrate Black Excellence: Black History Month Posts

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I wasn’t sure how or where to start when approaching Black History Month this year. The sad and hard truth of it, is that until this past year I didn’t spend much time thinking about Black History. I thought what little I knew from mainstream movies and media gave me a good enough foundation. That it wasn’t my place to comment, or do anything.

What I know now, is that I hardly knew anything, and I still have so much more to learn. So where to go from there – I have tried to use resources and read books, to start my great unlearn. It’s hard to admit, especially because I like to think that I was/am a caring person, a sensitive person and one interested in justice always, but I remember growing up as a child not understanding how racism still existed. I genuinely thought because there weren’t slaves anymore that there wasn’t racism; I know now how naive and ignorant that was. I bought into the line that was fed constantly to me, that life wasn’t fair and that we needed to just deal with it.

Recently I stopped and listened, truly listened to Tupac Shakur’s song Changes, released in 1996. The song details the war on drugs and police attitude towards the Black and poor population. For me there was a stark realization of how little has changed in the last 25 years, and how much better we need to do.

When Black Lives Matter first started, I too, thought they might be more successful if they said All Lives Matter. It was because I didn’t understand, I didn’t know that it was intrinsic that ALL lives matter, but that only Black lives were treated as if they didn’t. I would say that in Canada, we treat our Indigenous populations more closely to the manner of Black people in the United States. In my sheltered, privileged life I never had to worry about altercations with law enforcement. I’ve never had to worry about the medical care I was going to receive. I may not have always believed my life mattered but that was a me thing, so the intrinsic nature of All Lives wasn’t something obvious to me, I was limiting my view and understanding to only my own experience. As said I know what it’s like to feel like your life doesn’t matter, it hurts and it’s awful – the thing is I never had to worry about it, in terms of general treatment, my skin colour never dictated that, circumstance did.

If you aren’t aware this week was the anniversary of the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year old, unarmed jogger, that was murdered on tape. Whose murderers have most recently petitioned that the word ‘victim’ not be used to describe him in court. This week would have also been the birthday of Elijah McCain, who died after being put in a chokehold by police and sedated by paramedics. Elijah was anemic, and wore a ski mask to stay warm; he was walking home from the local convenience store. These are just two stories about how Black lives are not treated with the same value as others in the United Stated. Sadly there are many others (small article below, highlighting only a few) lives that have been unnecessarily cut short, and the leading factor is due to racism. The defense of fearing for your safety is used so often in these cases that it begs the questions as to why do you fear, and the truth which that is where the prejudice lies. I also highly recommend viewing 13th, by Ava Duverney to have a better understanding of the mass incarceration system.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52905408

As a white person, I believe it is important to know the names and the stories, to watch at least some of the body cams or bystander footage, because it provides proof that can’t be explained away. They are hard to watch, and will trigger you, but I know for me it triggered the point of no return. We can not continue down the path we have been going. Things have not gotten better; the lyrics that Tupac shares in Changes could very well still apply to the situation today, 25 years and no real change. I know when speaking with an older loved one, they said something to the extent that ‘well they’ve had a Black president, is that not enough?’ I had to explain that no, that one individual was not enough. That having a Black president or now a Black/Indian, Female vice president doesn’t make up for the brutality, the hurt and the disrespect that others endure. It felt like the attitude is, ‘well we gave them that, so now we don’t need to worry about the other issues’; that’s garbage.

No one should ever have to question their place in the world based on the colour of their skin or race. They shouldn’t be treated differently because they don’t look like you. We need to first be honest with ourselves about our own bias. Be honest and recognize that we are attracted to those that feel similar to us, it’s natural to want a connection with someone. By attracted I mean those that hold the positions as friends, partners, mentors, and employees in your life; you need to first be honest about the bias, in order to actively work against it. We (the collective we) need to find connections that run deeper than our skin colour and heritage, because those connections exist and they are so much more meaningful than our past. The connection of a love of art, any kind from music to literature to movies, or a favourite book growing up, or deeper connections like feeling restless or out of place at school, or possibly similar struggles at home.

There is so much focus on the negative, there are justifications, fear, etc. My goal this February, in contrast to only viewing the History, which is important to know, but what I wanted was to Celebrate Black Excellence, to show those pushing, pulling us forward. To share those that I have felt a connection to, whether it is through reading their books, viewing their stories, enjoying their art, connecting to their purpose, or if lucky enough connect with through direct messages or in person. This list is small sample, and does not come anywhere close to the Black Excellence that I follow, but it is a highlight.

I would urge everyone to check out these wonderful, amazing humans and share those, that you believe embody the same connection and/or Black Excellence to you, with your loved ones, followers and with me. We should celebrate excellence each day because it is right, and lifting each other up is so much better than holding others down.

I will share that when I spoke about trying to honour Black History Month, here and through my Instagram/Social Media, I was asked by a friend if I thought it would be seen as performative. All I can say to that is I hope not, I know I am genuine in my intent, that I tried to highlight individuals in a positive and respectful way. Is this to say that one month is enough, no, of course not. My goal is to continue to find ways to highlight Black Excellence. To continue to work on being actively anti racist. To be mindful about who I support and where I spend my money, is there a way to be more diversified (my own 15% pledge, look it up, very cool initiative). I will say that my desire to do this perfectly almost prevented me doing at all and that it took until mid-month, that I would have a knot in my stomach about my posts being taken the wrong way, or this post not coming out right.

What I know is that saying nothing is not an option, doing nothing is not an option. Imperfect as my efforts will be, I have to try, I have to be open to feedback and stay committed to learning. I hope that you will continue or start your own great unlearn. If you want a safe space to talk or discuss reach out to me, as I will gladly talk through how we can stay accountable, be open and help with change.

Below I will share a bunch of links for those I highlighted during this month – if you take a gander at my Instagram, and or any of these individuals I suggest looking at the accounts they follow, there are great people, organization to discover there –

DAY 1 – Rachel Cargle, https://rachel-cargle.com, https://thelovelandfoundation.org, @rachelcargle, @lovelandfoundation, @elizabethsofakron, @richauntiesupreme, @thegreatunlearn

DAY 2 – Sonya Renee Taylor, http://www.sonyareneetaylor.com, @sonyareneetaylor, @thebodyisnotanapology

DAY 3 – Morgan Harper Nichols, http://www.garden24.co, http://www.thestorytellerco.com/app, @morganharpernichols, @garden24co, @thestorytellerco

DAY 4 – Layla Saad, http://www.laylasaad.com, @laylafsaad, @goodancestorpodcast

DAY 5 – Ibram X Kendi, http://www.ibramxkendi.com, @ibramxk

DAY 6 – Ijeoma Oluo, http://www.ijeomaoluo.com, @ijeomaoluo

DAY 7 – Christina Lewis, http://www.giveblck.org, http://www.allstarcode.org, @thechristina99, @giveblck, @allstarcode, @reginaldflewisfoundation

DAY 8 – Tabitha St. Bernard Jacobs, http://www.womensmarch.com, @tabithastb

DAY 9 – Bowties and Books, Jesse, https://www.youtube,com/c/BowtiesandBooks, @bowtiesandbooks

DAY 10 – Black Girls Surf, @blackgirlssurf

DAY 11 – Phil Ndugga, http://www.ndugga.com, http://www.ssubifoundation.org, @philyyc, @nduggaofficial, @ssubifoundation

DAY 12 – Noelle Singleton, http://www.afroswimmers.com, @coachwiththefro, @afroswimmers

DAY 13 – Micki Harvard, http://www.mickiphit.com, @mickiphit

DAY 14 – Kelsey Ellis, http://www.kelseyellis.ca, @healthy_with_kelsey

DAY 15 – Sharee Miller, http://www.shareemiller.com, @cuteandcoily

DAY 16 – Sydonne Warren, http://www.sydtheartiste.ca, @sydtheartiste

DAY 17 – Simone Sauders, http://www.simoneelizabeth.ca, @simoneelizabethtextiles

DAY 18 – Frederick Joseph, http://www.wehavestories.org, @fredtjoseph

DAY 19 – Francesca Ramsey, http://www.franchesca.net, @chescaleigh

DAY 20 – Dr. Muriel Buque, http://www.drmurielbuque.com, @dr.murielbuque

DAY 21 – Jemele Hill, http://www.jemelestore.com, @jemelehill, @jhillunbothered

DAY 22 – Tabitha Brown, https://tabithat-brown.myshopify.com, @iamtabithabrown

DAY 23 – Aurora James, http://www.aurorajames.com, http://www.15percentpledge.org, http://www.brothervellies.com, @aurorajames, @15percentpledge, @brothervellies

DAY 24 – Sophie Roe, http://www.iamsophieroe.com, @sophie_roe, @thepillowtalksessions

DAY 25 – Anthonia Ashade, http://www.hadashjewelries.com, @hadash_jewelries

DAY 26 – Dom Roberts, http://www.theuncomfortable.org, @domrobxrts, @theuncomfortableorg

DAY 27 – Heather Chelan, http://www.hebontheweb.com, @hebontheweb

DAY 28 – Sherrell Aliza, http://www.zenliondesign.ca, @zenliondesign

Additional Accounts and/or People to check out, again this is not exhaustive but a place to start – these are all Instagram handles –

Wellness & Sports – @perfectlyflawedfit, @postpartumwellnesshub, @bethelfitmum, @donnanobleyoga, @yogineo, @_nhinds, @rolandp90x, @swimuphill

Food – @4cornersyyc

Lifestyle – @likeme_outdooredition, @colourthetrails, @amberabundance, @glowmaven, @jujumil, @raquel_willis, @ankurjain, @iamasadugger, @glimpseofmaria, @glographics, @jhanneu

Learning/Academic – @_toribell, @jodiepatterson, @paulcbrunson, @averyfrancis, @teachmrreed, @mikaelaloach, @yasminecheyenne, @mspackyetti, @iamrachelricketts, @imterencelester, @hopegiselle, @mayasideas, @janayathefuture

Non-Profit – @wewieldthehammer, check out @giveblck from a comprehensive listing

Retail and Goods – @oneberrie, @trinigeeisme, @zoezisport, @americahateus, @tallyup_, @shoprubylove, @regaliaswim, @mmashair001, @aguathetics, @trufacebygrace

Authors/Books – @morethanenough, @harlemportland, @wellreadblackgirl, @elainewelteroth, @blairimani

Art/Content – @resistancerevivalchorus, @d3mstreet, @jazmynjw, @cynthiaerivo, @mjharrisspeaks, @oumi_janta, @trevornoah, @opeytakesphotos, @priscillebuck, @knowledge_bennett, @dopesaintjude, @officiallydivinity

Subtle, Not So Subtle Messaging: How the way we Market to Girls shapes our Views and Values

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This week I was in the Gap, which is usually my favourite kids store to shop because generally the quality is good (meaning makes it to hand-me-downs) and you can get some good deals. I was struck this week because there were some even more awesome that usual graphic tees, and on sale to boot. The thing is, all the good T-shirts, and by good I mean the messaging on the shirts were in the Boys sections.

They had awesome shirts themed around Science, things like the Water Cycle, Volcanoes and Planets. There were also Sharks, Skateboarding and Sports… all of which existed only in the Boys section.

I headed over to the Girls section and the themes were considerably different. There were centered around Kindness, and taking care of the Earth and Others.

I have two Boys and one Girl, so I have the benefit of having to look around different sections to see all the variations of shirts. If you only had Girls you might only, probably would, only think to go to the one section. I mean after all we have made progress right? So there should be good options there. And look at least now we are telling Girls to be kind to each other.

It was such a stark contrast that I honestly can’t believe I never noticed before, but I know makes an impact. One example is in a meeting at work recently, we found ourselves talking about how do we elevate, and keep women in the male dominated industry in which I work. I had to say that maybe it’s time we stop being nice about it. Meaning stop holding ourselves back and call people out when they are sexist, racist, or prejudice in any way – call them out bluntly, not nicely. If we as women only ask nicely and seek to be kind, we won’t see change.

So this messaging of Kindness being only targeted at Girls, you might see how it more than irked me. Why aren’t companies working to target boys too? Why aren’t there plenty of Boys shirts promoting equality and kindness? Taking care of others or the Earth. Is this not the job of Boys and Men too?

One can argue that it’s not a company’s responsibility to teach kindness, or get kids interested in sports or science. They would be right, that’s our job, as parents, but when all kids’ see are messages sending them one way, it can be hard for us parents to course correct.

It might seem like this is harmless but I truly see the connection between how we raise girls and women to be caregivers and nurturers, while we encourage boys to just be boys. When I first heard about an all Boys school being a bonus by a friend, one of the selling points they listed was potential beds or cots for boys to nap on in the hallway if they needed a break. That Boys could be more free to horse around, talk out of turn and expend their energy. The all Girls school by contrast list the following points – focuses an understanding of the lived experience of women in local, national and global cultures, an interest in curriculum that highlights how women contribute meaningfully to our society and lead change. (see links below to example outlines from the CBE).

https://cbe.ab.ca/programs/program-options/teaching-philosopy/Pages/Alice-Jamieson-Girls-Academy.aspx

https://cbe.ab.ca/programs/program-options/teaching-philosopy/Pages/All-Boys.aspx

Where I struggle is that if we are only teaching girls to respect their bodies, to gain self confidence away from boys, to deconstruct the social norms (which are upheld by our Patriarchal society) – than what good are we doing? Why is this mandate not in an All Boys school? In my experience people with power do not easily give it up. If we are teaching one sex that their need for movement breaks, curiosity and they hold value just for as they are – without also teaching cooperation, the value of the opposite sex, the social construct of gender, we are going to get nowhere.

To add salt to my already inflamed feminist wounds ,this week – a friend posted an image of an ad her teenage daughter received from the clothing company, Garage, a subsidiary of the Dynamite Groupe. From their aesthetic of which is walking into a literal garage, to the clothing (not work wear) and the price point, it is most often shopped and targeted to the Teen and even the Tween demographic. So imagine my horror when I see the below –

Now call me an old lady, or prude if you would like, which those that know me would probably disagree, but I take issue with the focal point of an ad saying SEND NUDES. One that is specifically meant for women and girls, as they do not sell Men’s clothing. I get the idea is meant to be cheeky, as in Nudes, meaning nude clothing options, which they offer a variety of of tones (great), but the suggestive photos and the normalizing of the request to SEND NUDES is completely out of line.

My partner said that, of course the company didn’t literally mean send nudes, so he saw little issue with it but it’s the unconscious message that sending and requesting nudes is ok. That girls and women are encouraged to this, that their value is in their bodies and showing them off.

I am going to bring it together – In marketing we first are telling girls to be nice, be kind, care for others and then when they are older we telling them their body and their looks are their value. SEND NUDES.

All the while we are teaching boys to be curious, go after what they want, physical education, that they deserve the best, just the way they are.

The way this translates into adulthood is what I have seen, heard and felt at work. A self proclaimed feminist asking me; why I didn’t wear make up more often, and didn’t I wear it for me? Let’s be real, no girl starts wearing make up just for them. They start because of the pressure to look your best, which apparently when it comes to make up only applies to women and girls. If I wore make up for me or did my hair for me. I would perpetually have fun colours, crazy bed head and heavy eyeliner. Girls are told too early on, that their worth lies in their looks. The habit of doing your make up starts young, and from then on it’s hard to picture yourself without it; so much so that filter free/make up free selfies are a thing. These are of course for women and girls, not men and boys.

My sister once asked me to ponder the following question – If your child had to be one of these three things which would you pick? Ugly/Unattractive, Boring or Unintelligent. When you think of your answer, would it be different for a boy vs. a girl, and I implore you to be honest. I always chose Boring, because to me, if you are what would be considered traditionally attractive (meaning the norm/average person would find you attractive) and smart, than you could be successful. We put a high value on looks in our society, however it was argued that often for boys looks come last. If a man is Smart and Interesting or Charismatic they can be extremely successful, however the same can not be said for women, looks play a larger part in success both professionally and personally.

I don’t want to discount looking good and feeling good because of it. I have a tradition of getting fully dolled up on my birthday. Whole nine yards, make up, false eyelashes, usually get my hair done, new outfit (almost always a dress), likely one of the only times I wear high heels – and on that day, it is for me.

For me I think there is more value teaching our girls to value their intelligence, their independence, their curiosity, their strength over their beauty and teaching the same to boys. A girl’s and women’s value is not in whether or not their are kind to others, whether or not they are agreeable, whether they are in service to others but in their innate being.

This can and should be said for all beings, however the reality is that this is not yet the world we live in.

I know I was raised feeling the pressure to value looks, and to see my own personal value in them, this led to destructive behaviour in my late teens and early adult years; when after years of being the unattractive friend I finally received male attention. I allowed myself to get lost in the need for this kind of attention to find self worth. Instead of concentrating on what I could achieve if I put my value on my strength, my hard work and my goodness, I allowed myself to be distracted and feel unworthy. I made decisions that now as someone that loves themselves stills cries about. I have learned from my experience and hope that my candidness, and honesty of my mistakes, will help my own daughter, and other generations of girls and women learn from them, without having to repeat them themselves.

All this to hopefully raise the question in your own homes, to open your eyes to your own biases and those around you. To demand better from companies like the Gap and Garage. Yes, there are small companies such as, Whistle and Flute, that offer all unisex clothing and do an excellent job of promoting to all genders. The point is that we can still do better and need to consciously choose to support the organizations doing better. Teach both our girls and boys to be better. After all what do you value in yourself? What do you value in a person? Does it vary based on gender?

Picture a world where everyone is loved as they are. The potential is amazing and wouldn’t that better than where we are now?

Accountability: Why it builds Resilience and Saves us from A**holes

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*Pardon my language in this post as those that know me, know I have a bit of a potty mouth and it comes out on this one for sure.*

Accountability is something that comes up a lot in my home… having three young children, ages 3, 5 and 8 – it is a massive learning process to ensure they understand what accountability is, and how it applies to their lives.

I am adamant as a parent that my children believe in this value. I believe as parents, if we fail to set Accountability as a value within our children than we are not doing our jobs. On a side note my whole goal as a parent is to raise functional, contributing members of society. And what that looks like to me is raising someone who becomes an adult with good self esteem, a strong sense of self and personal conviction, someone with integrity (which requires accountability) and someone that gives back to their community.

When we don’t raise our children to be accountable, what happens? Well, they become self centred, hypocritical victims of the world around them. They become in short, Assholes. Yes, I realize that is exceptionally harsh sounding but it is true.

A caveat that when holding anyone Accountable, it is essential to be specific and to acknowledge your own personal perspective or lens that may skew the vision of events. Remember Facts Matter. What was said or done is more important when holding someone Accountable than your personal feelings. I say this, not because feelings don’t matter in my example below I take Accountability to another’s feelings but Facts are more important in Accountability because if we accept the refusal of fact, we can erase History.

I have worked over two decades with youth in what often was their first job, and have taught countless courses related to leadership training. I have had many a conversation with a parent that made excuses for the child either being late, not getting their work done, or not meeting a standard. The intention was good, to support their child, but the result taught their child that they did not need to take responsibility for their actions or lack there of. This in turn leads to a longer, harder road for the child in question because at some point (unless they hold strong privilege, which often they did) their child would experience a job, a course, a relationship where someone could no longer make excuses for them.

Let’s start with the idea of failing. Nobody likes to fail, nobody likes to feel like they are failing – these are facts. When we as humans do something sub-par, less than our best, or just plain wrong it doesn’t feel good; simply put, it feels bad to fuck up. Another fact is that everyone fails at some point in their life. So not learning from those failures ends up in us doing a continual loop of bad actions, behaviour and not growing.

When we fail, or do wrong – we have an opportunity to grow, however we can only grow if we are held accountable for our words and actions. It’s human nature to want to forget or minimize what we do when wrong, again, it feels bad to fuck up.

As parents we often want to protect our kids and this leads us to doing things like calling in sick for them at work, blaming teacher’s for our kids poor behaviour or lack of ability, or worse excusing dangerous behaviour as phases. If parents did a better job of holding their kids accountable, then we would have far more adults willing to do so as well.

I’ll give you an example of someone I had in a leadership class, the candidate was extremely strong in the knowledge aspect of the course, however did not have the physical strength to complete the requirements necessary. The course lead to a certification where the individual would be responsible for the safety of others and the physical requirements were directly related to their ability to do this job safely. The student when speaking with me, seemed to understand why it was important to complete the skills. We took extra time to work one on one, and with another participant to try and gain the strength. Their parents however chose to push and take the perspective that I was the issue, that I didn’t want their child to succeed. So instead of helping their child learn resilience through the failure; they fought, tried to show their child that the guidelines should not apply to them, got additional support and evaluation only to have their child fail again. In the courses I teach it is essential for people to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes. I, too had to learn from this experience because the communication from the candidate and myself had no hint of such misunderstanding. I now have a plan to acknowledge this in future classes to hopefully provide a safer space for students to share.

I could take the perspective that the candidate was two faced, that they just really didn’t want to face their own inability, that I did everything I could but that wouldn’t allow me to grow. My growth is coming from acknowledging that my message was lost, that I could do better in the future, that I will try to do better.

It is not possible for every person to be successful in everything. Read that again. It is impossible for us to be successful at everything. It is impossible for us to be perfect. Knowing this helps with Accountability, because it’s not as scary to admit we are struggling or failing, if we understand that the vast majority are doing the same, right along with us.

I have written my last few posts on privilege, representation and the values of wealth, status and power. The reason Accountability is so important to loop in, is that there is a misapplication of Accountability to marginalized people. An ideal of capitalism, that anyone can make something of themselves, does not factor in that the playing field isn’t even. It misplaces accountability on those without privilege, without representation, without wealth, status or power. It makes it so the oppressors need not take any accountability, and that those being oppressed do.

How is it possible to believe that those placed in a position with less resources, access to education, and opportunities are to be more accountable than those keeping them there. This premise directly applies to how white supremacy shows up in our lives without us even be conscious to it.

I want to take the example in Canada and how we treat the Indigenous. I was born, raised and still live in Calgary. I lived with fairly liberal parents (as liberal as Alberta gets), I read early, went to good schools, I should have been taught about Residential schools but I wasn’t. I was not aware of the existence of Residential schools until I was 28 years old. When I was first told my reaction was quite literally disbelief. I told my friend there was no way the Canadian government would do that. How could parents let their kids be taken away? It just wasn’t possible – I had to look up the Truth and Reconciliation commission and went down the rabbit hole of just exactly what had happened. That these ‘schools’ were open until 1996, when I would have been 13.

The purpose of Residential schools was to ‘kill the Indian in the child’; it was to abolish the Indigenous culture by isolating the children from their parents, their homes, their tradition, culture and heritage. To force assimilation to the dominant (white) culture. In contrast, as a white child I was taught that we, as in Canada, were a country that was a mosaic, one that embraced all cultures. We were led to believe that we were not a melting pot like the United States. That all religions, races and beliefs were important. I was taught this without ever being told that the exact opposite applied to the Indigenous in our country.

If I am starting to sound upset, it is, because I am. I remember the white hot shame I felt when I discovered everything that occurred and the misconception I had of our nation. The story we had been told, and if it was up to some politicians/historians (looking at you, Jason Kenney and Chris Champion), would still be told was that Residential schools and their lasting effects were not/are not that bad or perhaps not bad at all. There has been a recommendation to take the information out of school curriculum for younger ages, that these children wouldn’t be capable of understanding what happened. Residential schools directly affected the lives of 150,000 Indigenous youth, and generations to come after, approximately 6,000 children died in Residential schools. I would say it is more than appropriate that my children learn about what happened, how and why these schools were allowed to operate, given that they were compulsory for Indigenous children to attend at age 7.

My biggest issue with the idea of possibly taking what occurred in Residential schools out of our curriculum is that it would diminish our Accountability. We, as in white people, did that, or allowed that, or allowed ourselves to be ignorant of that. In not taking Accountability, we wrote a different narrative on the struggles of the Indigenous, one that places entirely their circumstances and any difficulties in their lives on their own shoulders.

Why is it that we can be more empathetic towards a wealthy, white drug addict? Or young, white youth breaking into facilities and injuring themselves, than we can an entire group of individuals that were subjected to years of abuse (physical, mental and emotional). Less empathy to an entire group being told that who they were born to be (culturally, language, etc.) was bad or lesser than. Perhaps it is because we haven’t been taught that we need to take ownership of the results of our actions and their long lasting effects.

In growing up, because I was so privileged and unaware I didn’t understand why Black people were still saying things like white people are racists, because I myself had never met someone my age that was racist. To me there weren’t any more slaves so what was the deal. I genuinely didn’t understand all the longstanding effects of slavery, land ownership, red-lining and the systems put in place to continually hold back an entire race. Not to mention the corrupt Justice system and all the Police brutality that they have been subjected to. That racism was still steeped in our waters. When we think of Accountability it is hard to understand that it’s not just about what we do personally, but also what we aren’t doing.

When learning about the Holocaust and the rise of the Nazi party in Germany it was easy to see how the us vs them group think got out of control. FacingHistory.org does an excellent job exploring this topic and I highly recommend checking them out.

Taking a look at what is happening in the United States and the recent attempted coup/Insurrection and the resulting lack of Accountability for those that led the charge, fed the words and created, enabled an environment that led to such violence is almost unbelievable. It is as though we have learned nothing from the past, or more so those that read about the past, took completely different lessons than what they should. Those that voted to not impeach Trump, to not hold him Accountable are doing so because they too, do not want to be Accountable for their own actions.

Yet those very same people believe that marginalized individuals need to be accountable for their actions. That a rape victim must continue to carry a fetus of their rapist because of ‘God’s will’. They protect a system that jails a teenager and holds them without trial for 3 years for allegedly stealing a backpack. The system that believes a young, white male, that excels at sports deserves a 6 months sentence for sexual assault because of their character, but that a Black athlete guilty of the same crime is sentenced to 15-25 years. A system that allows white people to shoot innocent black joggers on video with no charges for months. A system that allows a white cop to murder a Black suspect, caught on camera, for an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. Accountability only applies to those they wish to hold power over, their lens is dirty.

In Europe there are many memorials about the Holocaust in hopes of never going down that road again. Memorials to help keep us Accountable to the 6 million Jews and millions of other lives lost for the name of status and power. We teach history to learn from it, to change our societies and shape our world to a better place.

I would argue that not wanting to teach Residential schools to our children is an attempt to not take Accountability to the damage we have done. To continue to paint our world and that of Indigenous people into blurry visions of history.

Accountability stems into so many factors in our lives from Oil and Gas companies being Accountable for clean up of their sites and the environmental laws of the countries which they source their resources. To employers adhering to labour laws. To employees showing up on time and producing the work they are paid for. To travellers during the pandemic ensuring they get the right COVID test (hello, PCR) before heading home so they don’t get forced into quarantine. To politicians keeping their campaign promises. People try to fluff off Accountability all the time because it is hard work, that is the truth. Being Accountable for your actions is hard work, but it is worthy work.

Accountability starts young, it starts with picking up the toys that you take out, putting your own dish in the dishwasher, acknowledging when you have lied or done wrong. If we don’t teach these lessons young than we never learn them. If we are never Accountable than the whole world is a mess.

Valuing Accountability and holding each other to like standards is what is just and fair. Understanding the nuance of why someone reacted the way they did is important, like when one kids hits the other when the first one takes a toy out of their hand. Who is accountable in this situation? The child that hit arguable did the greater crime, but the child that took what didn’t belong to them was in the wrong too and wronged first. What are we to do? Hold both Accountable to the situation. But it’s not always that plain to see and understanding where each person comes from, where they grew up, how they were raised, their privilege or lack thereof gives us perspective. It’s not meant to be an excuse but it is meant to provide context, that if you were in the same situation, given the same options what would you do.

Holding people Accountable again gives the opportunity for growth, growth is where real change is possible. Right now, we need real change in our world. If you don’t like the image in the mirror when someone is holding you to your words, your actions or inactions than maybe it is time to re-evaluate your world, your values. Having integrity is matching who you are with what you believe and what you put out into the world.

Now I do say in the title that Accountability leads to resilience and it does. In the simple way of knowing that growth is possible when you take it. That no one is perfect, that is huge in resilience – holding ourselves up to perfect ideals is what drives our resilience down. Resilience in accepting yourself, for exactly who you are. Acknowledging that we are all doing our best drives empathy and resilience.

What happens if we aren’t doing our best? What if we aren’t being Accountable? Well then we are perpetually the victim of a world of our own making, and we are an Asshole. Let’s not be Assholes.

Unpacking Privilege

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Today I was fortunate to have a really interesting conversation with a friend, one that led me to revise privilege and how we hold it in our lives.

I think the biggest weakness we have as humans is that we often focus on the negative, the hard things in life and what doesn’t go our way. The reason why I point this out, is that it is, this focus that makes it difficult to see our own privilege.

I would argue that almost everyone carries a certain amount of privilege. Now there are a lot of factors that can diminish privilege that is held. What I mean by that is that our lives are made up of so many different factors, from relationships with parents/family, natural intelligence, race, financial stability, access to education, etc. Each factor can have a positive or negative affect in how privilege shows up in our lives.

It is my belief is that Privilege shows up when any of these factors has a positive effect on your life. How I rationalize that, is that if another has the opposite (meaning negative) experience than it can be said that you hold privilege in that aspect of life in comparison to them. Because as I mentioned above we can focus on the negative, we can be blind or down play these positives/privileges. What we value also plays into our ability to recognize privilege, because if we don’t value a factor in life than we won’t consider it a positive.

I will give you a personal example, which I return to a lot because I really struggled and can still struggle with sometimes. I grew up with quite privileged in terms of financial stability (including things such as ‘luxury’ vacations), access to health care (living in Canada with parents that were medical professionals), access to education, enrolled in a second language (bilingual schooling), and access to extra curricular programs (i.e. swimming).

All these privileges were things that I was actually able to see as privileges, but they felt diminished because they were tainted with negative experiences. The luxury vacations almost always included major blow out fights between my parents or fear of abuse. The extra curricular was about physical excellence/speed, I did not possess natural talent to really excel, I ended up not being able to keep up with my peers (so I ended up feeling less than). That doesn’t mean these aren’t still privileges, it just means they didn’t always feel that way. The were enabled by financial stability but affected my emotional instability.

One thing my whole life I never recognized as a positive was that my two parents were alive. They still are alive and now I can recognize it as a positive, because my children will get to know them. The reason why I didn’t feel the same growing up is because my parents for lack of tact, were not the kindest. It’s not that they aren’t good people; both my parents are caring for the community, they are generous, they are intelligent but they were and continue to be verbally and/or emotionally abusive. I grew up being told I was going to end up a failure, I was lazy, I was fat; nothing I did was ever good enough. I was just lucky that anyone would want to be around me. Even now, knowing and recognizing their behaviours for what they are. Their own reactions to their upbringings and their trauma, it doesn’t make it easier to manage my perception all the time.

Where I lacked empathy or recognition was for people that lost a parent and that said I was so lucky to have both of mine. I would honestly romanticize what it would be like because I would rationalize that people would at least feel sorry for me, or the parent that was living, often loved their child so deeply they would do anything for them, something I did not have with my own. On the outside I looked like I had everything but that’s not how it felt. Even now in my most insecure moments I take this for granted, because I have the inner voice (sounds just like my mother) telling me I am worthless, I’m just lucky anyone loves me, or I’ve wasted my life.

I think thoughts like this are often what hangs us up in showing gratitude towards and recognizing our privilege. The reality is that every experience makes us who we are; this includes the positive and the negative. This is a really hard thing to get across without being slightly insensitive because your feelings do matter but so does perspective.

It is important to recognize and understand another’s perspective. It is also super important to think critically about your situation and be honest about the comparison with anothers’. In my case, I don’t know what it is like to lose a parent but I can acknowledge that it is hard, it is a loss, no matter the situation. What my desire is, is that someone can see my situation and understand it was tough too. The reality is that my romanticized version of parent loss (warped) is probably not accurate. The same can be said for my financially stable, nuclear upbringing. As a result of my experiences I believe I value love, acceptance, and support more than money.

I am going to admit that when I first encountered the message Black Lives Matter, in 2013, the thought went through my head that they would get more support if they said All Lives Matter. I didn’t understand that was something that should already be clear. Of course all lives matter, that was never in question, the lives that were being treated as though the weren’t important were Black ones. It shouldn’t have been necessary for the BLM movement to point this out but they had to. They had to because we (the collective we) did not recognize the privilege we held in never having to worry about our safety the same way Black people do.

In my privileged upbringing I was never educated on Residential Schools. I had no idea they existed until I was 27/28 – so 2010 or so. In my ignorance I viewed Indigenous people as full of privilege because they had so many opportunities to better themselves for free, like post secondary education being free or that companies would reserve spots to hire Indigenous people. I didn’t know what they had collectively gone through or the generational trauma present. I do now and feel like we can still do more to assist in reconciliation and must educated our youth early in order to do better.

My privilege allowed for ignorance, it made it so I was blind to a massive injustice in my country. My privilege made me naive to even the continued rights being undermined such as clean water to drink (highly recommend looking up Indigenous access to clean water). My privilege gave me blinders to how much harder it could actually be.

I was speaking with a friend recently that has a family member applying to medical school. They made a comment about the biggest thing working against their family was that they were white. I had to pause before responding and didn’t feel like I could get out exactly why that thought process was so small and wrong. This family is wealthy, their member had every possible advantage from being set up with volunteering in hospitals through connections, to travelling abroad to work in the medical services field, to never having to work while at school because they didn’t have to make their own money. These are all privileges that are way more likely to help you succeed in getting the marks needed to enter medical school and for successfully completing. Not to mention graduating debt free, that will enable them to grow their own wealth from the start without having to worry about loan repayment, interest, etc. on top of opening a practice, hours of work, and so on.

Another example was someone I know explaining that they were given the directive to hire someone that was either female or a visible minority for a position where the most experienced candidates were white males. The factor they didn’t take into account is the reason why white males had the most experience was that historically their organization hired males first, that it has racist roots and that people have a natural tendency to promote those that seem most like them. All these factors made it so that of course, white males would have more experience than any other demographic. The reality is experience doesn’t make for the best candidate always.

Privilege is a funny thing – it’s something that in order to recognize requires identifying our values. Any time I have had a hard time recognizing my privilege, I, upon better reflection/critical thinking, have been able to see that it is because I don’t always value that privilege. Me not valuing something doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I don’t value status or power, but in being white I have held it.

I know myself and my values, this gives me the privilege of resilience. That resilience gives me the freedom to walk away from things that don’t align with my values, things that make me feel untrue to my integrity. I live in a country that has universal health care, good public education, democracy and free market – all these make my life privileged. There is of course the need to recognize choices and that we all make them; that some end up positive and some negative. What we need to realize is that choice in itself is a privilege. Lots of people go through life with limited choices because circumstances that happen. Privilege is not having to overcome a circumstance.

I had another discussion with a friend where they said travel is a right and I had to argue that it is not. Travel is a luxury. Rights are things that we as humans, as a society should ensure are available to everyone not just a few. My friend’s inability to recognize that her frequent travel was something that most can’t afford is an example of her lack of reflection.

Recently it has come out that we won’t be able to open our fitness facilities for at least a month. I saw a thread that was debating the need for sports in the lives of our youth. That the lack of access was hurting the mental health of our youth. One comment was saying that in the area they service with work, sports/extra curricular were not always accessible to youth, that this was something for the more affluent/wealthy. The point being that those that don’t always have access to such programs aren’t always suffering, that it is a luxury, that those who are normally privileged should recognize that and maybe reflect on their positions.

The idea being that there are bigger problems than not being able to travel and do sports. These are privileges. It’s not that they aren’t important or that access to them don’t vastly improve our lives, because it does, but that not everyone has the same access, the same positives, so they are privileges.

I see the importance of recognizing privilege because it makes us unpack what we value and sort out things based on what is a right and what is a privilege. I have had conversations with people that believe travel is a right but that health care is not. That access to guns is a right but strong public education is not. The reason I bring this up is that those stances are based on privilege held that if something happened to these individuals they would be ok. Whether it financially, medically or in the justice system because of the social position. This is reality.

What I hope is that after reading this, you will take a few minutes to unpack your own privilege. Do the critical thinking. Make the comparisons. Find the things to be grateful for. Decide what you believe are fundamental human rights. I know it’s a lot. I do a lot of spinning but I have to tell you that acknowledging life as it is, and doubling down on what is important has given me resilience.

Representation Matters : Why the Inauguration was so much more than just another President

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  • A caution, this piece shares stories of personal reflection that might be hurtful to marginalized individuals, they are intended as examples of growth of thought and how it is not ok to follow those lines anymore.

We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one

– Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb

A funny thing happened to me this week while watching the inauguration, I found myself in tears, uncontrollably sobbing as times. It had nothing to do with Joe, although, truth be told having the day end with no violence gave me a much needed sigh of relief. Watching Kamala Harris, the sun shining on her face, the little sniff at the start (possibly holding back tears), the beautiful smile on her face, chin up and shoulders back – this moment was truly special and it got me. Even days later and now, I am still choked up watching it, my heart swelling at all the obstacles she overcame to get there. She is not one or two, but three firsts in American history, the first Black, the first South Asian and the first female Vice President.

I didn’t realize how much it would mean to me, a Canadian, to see a woman be sworn in as Vice President of the United States. I liken it to watching the Olympics though, that although I was never someone that could aspire to such greatness in sport I still tear up knowing everything that goes into that accomplishment. Kamala did what I wasn’t sure would be possible in my lifetime and she has opened the door for many to come after.

This doesn’t mean that it’s instantly going to be easy anyone coming after but it does mean that there is precedence. I still wait with baited breathe, as I am so well aware of the often double standard we have for women over men. There will be a magnifying glass over her, just waiting to point out any failures or ‘deficiencies’ but I have faith that she will go beyond our expectations of greatness. She may stumble but she will hold the door for so many to follow. Her triple threat of representation and her success will help pave the way for more Black, South Asian and/or females to come after and hopefully hold positions of even higher significance.

I am white, so my only tie to Kamala is that of being female and let me tell you that tie is strong. It also gave me a gift, it opened my eyes to why representation matters so much – truth be told before I intellectually understood it, but never really felt it. It’s really easy to go through life being ignorant to what it’s like to not be represented. Growing up, and still now, there is massive representation of white people in North America and globally. I grew up in a neighbourhood where we had lots of Asian/South Asian students but very little Black population. I also swam growing up, a very white sport, and had little friends (one of memory) or interactions with people of different races or even different religions except when attending public vs. catholic school.

When I say ignorant, it’s not meant to be harsh but honest. I genuinely didn’t know, and didn’t or wouldn’t put the time in to understand how it might feel if I didn’t constantly see like people around me. Whether it be coaches, or teachers, doctors, actors, those in any leadership position have always had some like connection to me. I used to think I understood because my body type isn’t the ideal, meaning I’m short and squat, thick thighs, overweight but really that’s a whole other thing. I basically cared but didn’t really care enough to push for representation of other races, cultures, etc. I didn’t have a culture of my own I felt affiliation for and because of that I didn’t/wouldn’t recognize the overwhelming representation of my race in our society and the privilege that comes with that. The reality is that people gravitate to those they feel are like them and we need to actively work against that in order to ensure proper representation is present.

I am embarrassed to tell this story but feel like it’s a good example of how ingrained, naive, ignorant the thought process can be – when Halle Bailey was selected to play Ariel in the upcoming live action version of the Little Mermaid, I got my back up. Why? I wanted someone that looked like the cartoon, some one with red hair, someone my daughter could see herself in, someone without wanting to say it, but someone white. It’s not that Halle wasn’t a wonderful singer or talented actress. She is beautiful and is sure to do a terrific job. What I had such a hard time admitting, what I would dance around, and tried not to acknowledge was the race piece. That my focus was that I wanted to my daughter to picture herself as the little Mermaid, a character I love, and if she was portrayed as Black, I was worried that maybe she wouldn’t be able to. This I have learned is white centering and is one of the systemic ways in which racism presents itself in white people.

What lies in my realization is exactly why representation matters. I was worried about my daughter being able to see herself in a role that I thought was important, but the reality is that she could just watch the cartoon and the more important reality is that Black girls don’t have the same number of opportunities to see themselves represented in the princess or lead roles. So I had to ask myself why is it more important that my daughters feels that? but not a Black child, a Latina child and Indigenous child? When you see it that way, it’s clear that it’s not more important. I was being irrational, I was minimizing the importance of representation due to my own wants and needs. I was thinking my feelings matter more than representation, and that is just wrong.

It is more important for everyone, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, to feel as though they are represented than my own personal feelings. Everyone should have moments where their hearts swell seeing someone like them accomplish a dream.

Representation isn’t just about race – watching Amanda Gorman present her poem, The Hill We Climb, was incredibly moving. I went deep diving after, wanting to learn more about this amazing presence. I watched a few interviews, and made my daughter watch some more. You would never know that she grew up with a speech impediment. The grace and ease with which she spoke was exceptional. Being a hand talker myself, I was equally thrilled to watch the use of her whole body to express her words. By now it is known that Joe Biden himself also suffers from a stutter.

Although you may look at these two individuals and only see their success, it is important to acknowledge the struggle that comes with either of these speech afflictions. Part of human nature can be to focus on what could go wrong or how hard something might be to accomplish; in focusing on this we hold ourselves back. When we don’t have people to look up to, people that feel like us, look like us, our dreams can seem impossible. Watching Joe get his words out, taking pause when needed or Amanda lead with such grace shows all those with similar struggles that they shouldn’t allow that one thing to hinder or define them. By that I mean, that all the positions that require constant speaking, whether it be teaching, acting, spoken artist, leader, lawyer – there are so many others are now more imaginable than before; this is representation in action.

Another piece of representation that came up with Biden was in his first executive orders which included “all persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation”. This will help ensure that transgender individuals are protected against discrimination. It is a stepping stone to help ensure that same sex couples are entitled to the same rights and benefits as opposite sex couples. It is important because it is saying that everyone is valued and deserving of equality. Having greater protection of rights for a group that is under represented is essential to providing a safe space for these individuals.

One needs only look at the suicide stats, that 1 in 3 transgender youth attempted suicide in 2015, compared with the average population of 2.5% and more recently 1 in 20 during the pandemic (Mental Health Commission report/Canadian Mental Health Association), it is clear that we need to do a better job of ensuring transgender individuals know they are valued and cared for, by providing support and inclusion.

One of the outcries that has come out, is from groups concerned with transgender female athletes and their inclusion in Women’s sport. This has gone as far as the ridiculous hashtag #BidenErasedWomen and the claim that there is some ‘new glass ceiling’ for girls/women in Sport. Let’s just think about the hashtag for a minute, Biden Erased Women, that because his administration wants to recognize ALL women, this somehow is erasing us? Does this make sense to anyone? It’s like people are picturing a Tootsie situation, when transgender people are only trying to live true to themselves.

There are already guidelines and testing in place by the NCAA and the IOC for transgender athletes. These levels are the ones where you would think there would be concern, because of the high level of achievement. The idea that a transgender girl or woman takes away or lessens the ability of a cis-gender girl or woman to succeed, is the same line of thinking that someone else thriving or doing well makes you less likely to also succeed or do well; which I think we can all agree is nonsense.

The ability for athletes succeeding is much more based on their privilege, access to programs, parental support, their drive, their commitment and natural ability – it has little, to nothing to do with their competition.

The reality is that life for a transgender individual has enough obstacles without cis-gender people putting more on them. Being a swimmer I can only imagine just how hard it would be for a transgender athlete to be comfortable and open. The very nature of what we wear in swimming shows the entire body. It is enough pressure on individuals to fit certain ‘ideal’ body types without having the added requirement of not fitting the uniform. If someone is brave and comfortable enough with themselves to identify as being transgender than we should celebrate and welcome them, not turn them away.

I will admit when the idea first came about of allowing transgender individuals to use the bathrooms or change rooms that matched their identity I was nervous, and questioned the potential abuse/invasion of girls locker rooms. I envisioned a teenager wanting to get their kicks by claiming their preferred identity to be female, and literally in writing this out, I am hearing how absolutely absurd that line of thinking is. It would require someone to wholly commit their formative years to an identity that doesn’t match theirs. An identity, being transgender, that is often met with hostility, bullying or worse, violence. An identity that has been/can be mislabelled and/or mistreated as a mental illness. Yes, of course it would make sense that one might to pretend to be this, you know to just, to potentially see a girl undress? Yes, this sounds very logically (please note intense sarcasm). I actually was talking this point over with a friend and they mentioned that if that it’s hard to believe that this is really a concern, as many people claiming that, are the same that brush off mysogynistic locker room talk, as boys will be boys. These people tend to be the same and that messaging is completely hypocritical, so it’s really that they just don’t like, or want to try and understand transgender individuals.

The thing about the argument that transgender individuals would behave in such a way, or that there would be abuse or perversion potential comes from fear. Yes, if a grown man walked into a restroom where my 8 year old daughter was in, I would be concerned, but at that point I could accompany her. The fact is the pedophiles/abusers tend to prey closer to home but that is another discussion entirely, one that should not even come up when discussing transgender rights. The fear that people have about transgender, is that it makes them question themselves, what they know and realize how much they don’t know.

The unknown in life, the out of our control is what is the most terrifying. When we are faced with something we don’t understand or can’t imagine being, we, as humans, tend to shut down. It’s hard work to put yourself in another’s shoes, to be open to their struggle and their pain because so often we have our own things that we are trying to deal with, but does that make it ok to deny the rights of other humans just because we as individuals can’t do our own work, NO. No, it is not ok, in case you were wondering.

Biden acknowledging the rights of gender identity and sexual orientation and his choice of Rachel Levine, a openly transgender person as the Assistant Secretary of Health, is sending a clear message that everyone belongs within the government. Everyone has a stake in the success of a nation and everyone should have a voice in it’s future. Representation is necessary for Equality to exist.

I am not expecting the new Administration to be perfect, but I will say the start has was one for the books. I know for me it gave an opportunity to lean into myself. To explore feelings and ask questions, I am grateful that it opened my heart to more understanding; I hope others feel the same. My biggest wish is that we see more, more diversity, more celebration of our differences and more commitment to represent all people.

We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all

– Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb

Exploring The Why: Wealth, Status and Power

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Starting 2021 my goal was to continue to focus on a Values Mindset – I brought up my Values of Focus for the year being Grace, Perseverance, Creativity, Health and Candor.

I was thinking of my post last week and realized that there wasn’t a lot of Grace written in or extended to the values explored. I wanted to take a beat and try and dive into the why someone might hold the three values of Wealth, Status and Power. Hopefully gaining some empathy for the individual vs. the actions.

Part of the reason why I rely so heavy on a Values Mindset is because I believe it is essential to be able to separate a person and their actions, especially when making judgements on the person as a whole. Now I know the argument can be made that we are the sum of all our actions however it is unfair and unreasonable to not allow for missteps. Part of the reason why I can maintain a relationship with my parents is that I know their actions aren’t always a reflection of who they are as a whole or what they truly value. So I focus on the values of a person instead.

Before looking at the three Values specifically I want to bring up the understanding that there are two ways to view your world, I know this is stating things are this or that, right or wrong, black or white when in fact there is a ton of grey but there are some instances where these exists – one instance is that you can either view your life with gratitude or with discontent, there really isn’t an in-between. Now I know this seems overly simplified and it is a bit, but what I mean is that you can choose to focus on what you have or you can choose to focus on what you don’t. It’s that age old question of is the glass have full or half empty.

My most favourite and relatable example of this, is taxes. So often when I have spoken with people with Wealth, or those with high incomes they have an obsession on how much they pay in taxes. Here is the thing, something I think that often gets forgotten is those in the highest tax bracket only pay that high tax rate on the money they made ABOVE all the other tax brackets. That means that everyone else underneath them also paid the same amount for the brackets below and they didn’t have anything else left over above that to get taxed.

Also people forget or might not realize if you are in the lowest few tax brackets, it can be really hard to max out your tax reduction contributions because more than likely you are using your entire income to pay bills. But I am digressing and can/will I’m sure visit this thought another time – the point is, that those complaining are doing so because their focus is on what they are losing, not on what the get for those taxes or even more importantly what they get to keep (which is much more than those in lower brackets).

The mindset being grateful for what you do get to keep, of focusing on what you have is one that can make a difference in where you place these three values within your life and priority list. Remembering that we all hold a great many values but that where, and how we prioritize them comes out in where we spend our energy and how we make our decisions.

Let’s look at the Value of Wealth, a large part of this obsession comes from the Capitalist structure of our society. The miseducation of the masses on pure capitalism, socialism and communism. There are nuances and the lines are not black or white, here there is a lot a grey.

The necessity of a free market and having healthy competition is essential to business and an economy. The issue is that as a society we need to have some things be collective, think of roads, water filtration, health care, recreation centres, etc. There are so many things that we get from giving collectively that no one really thinks about, that giving, is in the form of taxes and this equals some form of socialism. Most of the Western world is Capitalist based with shades of socialism including the United States. They pay taxes too, it’s what you get for those taxes that show the underlying values of the society as a whole. In the U.S. they do heavy spending in their military and police forces in the name of Law & Order of their country so it would stand to reason that the lines of spending follow the values of Status and Power.

In other countries that have different values such as Equality, Education, Health, Compassion, Humanity – their spending is placed differently. It does generally cost most to fund more but it does all come down to values.

One issue with Wealth as a value, and this line of thinking is that Wealth is merit based and that we live in a meritocracy, when we most definitely do not. One thing the pandemic has made glaringly clear is that those working essential jobs are the ones that are forever taken for granted (health care workers) and quite often paid the least (retail, customer service, grocery).

Capitalist society demands and requires that we consume in order to keep things going. This consumption leads to Materialistic values, the need to keep up with the Joneses vs. reflecting on what is actually necessary. The thing about Materialistic values is that they can leave one feeling empty because often there is a purpose missing. When one does not have the means to have, they find purpose and joy in different areas, ones that aren’t reliant on consumption.

Wealth is something many either aspire to or are born with. When you are born into Wealth my feeling would be that it is hard to imagine life without it. I know from my own privilege that it makes me sad knowing I currently am not in a position to give my kids all the opportunities I had simply due to the fact that I don’t have the same income as my parents and live in a different, more expensive time. I can understand why the value of Wealth would be high then because it could mean feeling or being less than what you were born into, that it can feel like failure.

For others its perhaps that they saw their parents struggle financially as kids, or they were always the never haves. Meaning they never got the new ‘it’ toy at Christmas or they never got to go on that Mexican vacation. Maybe it’s that they truly struggled and had food or housing insecurity so that now they see Wealth as security and live in a state of fear of living insecurely again.

The concern I have is many confuse Wealth with security, it is not one and the same. It can mean Financial freedom but not really security. Freedom to buy anything you wish without worry, or help friends out or be philanthropic. Security is knowing that you are safe, that everything is or will be ok; Security is something totally different. Many people will spend or take on higher debt with higher income, hence the lack of true connection to security.

When valuing Wealth it is important to know the end game, to what end do you want to reach? Is it paying off your home, your children’s education, travelling – what is the goal? Hoarding Wealth is a problem, you can’t take it with you when you die. Wealth doesn’t give you kisses goodnight, it doesn’t hold your hand when you’re sick, it doesn’t do good when hoarded – so be sure if this is a value of yours that you know to what end.

The second two values I really struggle in exploring with no judgement, is Status, the reason being is that I am someone that doesn’t value either Status or Power in any way. I am incapable of truly understanding Status as a value, I can theorize and that’s it, because to me it means that someone is more/better than another. It is the exact opposite of something I value greatly and that is Equality. I would argue that you can not value both Status and Equality because that are antonyms.

Those that value Status like hierarchal organizations. Hierarchy is familiar, it is comfortable. When we are kids there is a natural order, or levels. The adults in your life have a perceived Status of authority and knowledge above your own. I have always been someone that bucked that tradition, and being a lucky parent, my daughter has followed suit (this is me joking because it is the root of most of our clashes). I believe in mutual respect and care for everyone. I’m genuine to everyone because I live my life valuing all not just those that I feel like have something to give me. That until someone has shown they do not deserve my respect, they get it, it is based on behaviour and merit. The opposite way to interact is by making Status as what determines respect. Status can also provide a feeling of control or perceived control over others.

Maybe those that value Status might do so because they felt like they didn’t have enough control in their life growing up, this could have been in their family or in a social setting. I would hazard a guess that they are the kind of individual that feels better when they put others down vs. lifting them up. Those that value Status believe in Superiority and this can come out in many ways whether it is through religion (my God is better than you God), or power seeking; they believe that it is good to be ‘above’ others.

The thing about Status is that meaningless, it is only in the eye of the beholder. I have felt this often in work situations, where many times ‘bosses’ have tried to put me in what could only be described as ‘in line’. The thing about someone that doesn’t value Status at all, is that this approach will not work, you must gain my respect through shared values. I have seen many a time a meme of the difference between a boss and a leader – picture this – two images one on top of the other – in one the Boss sits behind their desk, on a pedestal, giving orders to those below. The second image is of the leader, in the front of line of those below working with them to pull the load above.

Religions, mostly Christian have been founded on the need for Status. This isn’t my interpretation of living Christian values but it is the reality of many churches and Religious organizations. From the hierarchal structure to the very idea of Heaven and Hell, there is status everywhere. When you look at the teachings of Jesus, he believed in the value of every person and held no one of higher status than another. Power and desire for Status was created by man in the form of Religion and has created issues within our own humanity and ability to live a Christ like life. I need to bring this up now but can’t dive in fully and will need to, at another time, but I think it is important to bring up how Status plays into religion and to ask you to reflect on how it ties to your own faith and behaviours.

The sad thing about Status is that so many aim to reach a certain level, in their head they might have a goal of a certain amount of followers, or a certain income or a certain level of job title but they do this without really evaluating whether or not it is aligned with their values or something they really want or need, and to what end. Similar to Wealth, as a value, to what end does Status get you?

Power could be argued that it is similar to Status, there are important differences though. Power can be insidious. Unlike Status, Power is something that can be wielded regardless of whether or not the affected group buy ins. Power is something that doesn’t need to be earned. I am realizing now in writing that Power is something so much more complicated and problematic, as it, like Money, is not based on merit but is misconceived as such. Power has been handed down from those that have to those that have, time and time again and any effort to equalize things has been faced with backlash.

It is understandable how an obsession with Power would come about if one grew up with little or no control. The need to gain some semblance of autonomy is natural for humans. Power for kids can be something small like being able to make your own decision on what to wear or eat in day. Imagine not ever being given choice. The secondary scenario I can imagine is almost the exact opposite, never being told no. When a child is given complete Power over the decisions of their adults, they would have a hard time not understanding that they can’t have everything they want, this breeds Narcisscists. Setting boundaries is important and ensures that Power dynamics don’t get out of hand.

When Power has always been held, it is hard to to imagine life without it. Power without merit is the most dangerous kind because it will do anything to continue, it requires ruthlessness because it knows it is not earned, that without oppression and suppression it won’t be able to maintain it’s hold.

White Supremacy is a clear example of Power getting out of hand. One where people are now desperate to hold onto the status quo. Part of it is Status, but that Status part is rooted in the Power of knowing privilege. I think subconsciously more people are aware of their privilege than they are willing to admit. They know the privilege that comes with being white provides a power that isn’t provided to other races. The events at the Capital on January 6th is a prime example of white people using their privilege and assumed Power to commit heinous crimes. The Power has been left unchecked and because white people are so scared to lose their own Power (no matter how small and insignificant feeling) within their own lives they are willing to let others continue to spread dangerous rhetoric and act recklessly.

Power is a fragile ideal – the reason I say it is insidious is, as in my example of white supremacy, most white people like to believe they are good, me included, but when it comes to ensuring equality like say for example trying to have more representation in a workforce or education program white people are the first to cry fowl. The reason being, is this below the surface, subconscious, unrecognized level of power we have over minorities and any giving away of that power feels like a loss, even when it’s not. Even if it is a personal loss, like maybe you personally lose a role to someone of a different race, someone that is capable, that can but maybe hasn’t had the same opportunities as you so is less ‘experienced’ (I say this as experience is relative), due to life circumstances/race, isn’t it the right thing to give them this opportunity?

It’s a fact, that there is an over representation of white males in the top corporate seats. When you look at population stats vs that of the top CEOs and Leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies there are stark differences. One can argue that it’s because women take maternity leave, that these companies owners inherited their positions or whatever other factors they want to put in but the reality is that white men like to keep white men in Power because they are alike, it continues the cycle and that makes it possible for their own children (like them) to succeed.

The sometimes subconscious, I’m sure it’s actually conscious at times, thing is that they equate giving up space in their world to losing their position of Power. It’s the mentality of having to keep people down to hold themselves up. Or even more so that if someone else succeeds it means I won’t – this is not a correct or healthy line of thinking; It’s dangerous, it’s harmful. Giving or sharing Power with others actually gives energy and can allow for support, innovation, and other awesome things.

You can see where Power gets out of control and understand where it comes from – the key is that it can’t be a guiding value. Wanting the Power to make your own decision is fair and right. Wanting the Power to control others is not. Absolute Power or wanting Power to subdue others is vile. I was almost going to say wanting Power to lift others is good but Power is not the value you would want – Leadership or Influence quite possibly would be.

Having spent a bit more time diving into these Values has been good, albeit there is still so much to say and explore. I hope that it’s added some food for thought for you. My intention genuinely was to give more Grace and I hope I did that at least a little bit, but I am well aware that this definitely wasn’t all there. The thing about Grace in reflecting on Values is that I can provide it to individuals like I do my family but when thinking on the Values themselves it doesn’t work. For Values, and how we apply them, rank them, make us who we are. So there is the grey…. the none finite… Values may not have wiggle room but people need it.

Wealth, Status and Power: The Values to the Storming of the Capital

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I had a completely different post in mind for this week, one that would build on Values setting and defining whether you are someone that focuses on what you have vs what you don’t, but I wanted to address the storming of the US Capitol on Wednesday. This is an exceptionally long post but please stick with me as I work through what I believe to be the Values that put us in this position.

This actually links in with my original topic a little, in that those that stormed the capitol, the insurgents, their rhetoric is all based on the focus of what they don’t have vs what they do. The vast majority of those in attendance were white, and predominately male – the pinnacle of privilege, not just in North America but worldwide. All claiming their freedoms were being grossly neglected or infringed upon. The fact that they were quite literally destroying government property as they rioted, and let’s be real, they were clearly rioters, not protestors, without more injury or death shows the amount of privilege the group held.

To add insult to injury, the following day the Electoral College count went ahead and some still objected. This objection is a clear signal to those that took steps to storm, or were present, or that even perhaps thought about it, that they were right in doing so. As much as Ted Cruz wants to say that he chose to object because so many Americans also questioned the validity of the election is , pardon my french, bullshit.

What Mr. Cruz is doing is setting himself up for re-election in 2 years, because he understands that he needs their votes to keep his job. Ted Cruz is showing he values Status and Power above all else.

Below is a list from NPR with all the electors that objected to the count.

https://www.npr.org/sections/congress-electoral-college-tally-live-updates/2021/01/07/954380156/here-are-the-republicans-who-objected-to-the-electoral-college-count

It should seem inconceivable that anyone that was elected would not choose to uphold the results of an election, especially after such a long and drawn out process, recount, etc. I want to be clear I am not American, and I do not live in the United States but in nearby Canada. In a province, Alberta, that politically tends to run close to the US. So my outside view, is that outside, I only know the US through the news, visits there and friends or family that have lived there.

Before we start I want to introduce a concept known as ‘ethical relativism’ – those in the generation that became adults during the period of 1960-90 are part of a greater generation labelled the me-generation. Although the concept can be applied to any generation, the greatest numbers are seen in this timeframe. The idea of ‘ethical relativism’ is that if it’s good for me, then it’s good. The whole ethical decision making process starts with me vs we, and is self centric vs greater good. That ethics are relative to every situation and there aren’t any guiding values or principles for a community as a whole.

Now obviously not all people subscribe to this idea of ethics because we wouldn’t be able to have any kind of functioning society, however enough have adopted that we have seen a great many crimes (think white collar) and behaviour driven by this concept. It’s something I would like to explore more in depth later but please keep this in mind whenever you are exploring your own values and decisions or find yourself empathizing with others. Are you falling into this pit of relativism? Are you empathizing because you too would make a similar decision if put in the same spot.

When people question how the storming of the capital could have happened. Or say that it could never happen in Canada, it makes me shake my head. There are so many values and things to unpack here, Superority, Equality, Freedom, Education, Community, Transparency, the list is massive but I want to focus on how we got here and that is having overriding values of Wealth, Status and Power.

I will try and dig into to why I believe these are the three values are what led to the group believing what they were doing was righteous, and why politicians maintain their objection of their electoral college count even after the violence and what other potential issues stem from having these as guiding values.

Journalist Jessica Yellin did an great instagram post titled, We Need to Reform Us. In it she talks about how interns said they were just accustomed to this kind of political environment. How sad that is and how did we get to this state. She brings up the concept of needing to reform the United States from the Values up. That social media could have done better but it might have hurt their bottom line. I watched it and it just resonated with everything I’ve been hoping to get to and definitely speaks to the concept of Ethical Relativism. I highly recommend checking out Jessica, supporting her work and group, News not Noise, which the focuses on delivering the news via straight facts vs dramatization. Her insta handle is @jessicayellin and she can be supported via Patreon at the link below.

https://www.patreon.com/jessicayellin

Ok, so let’s unpack this a little bit and start with Wealth – I overheard a former colleague last year speaking with someone and they said ‘Donald Trump is not all bad. You made money last year (meaning 2019) and I made money’. I couldn’t hear the response from whom they were speaking with but I remember thinking to myself, no, Trump, Donald Trump is all bad.

The thing about the statement is that it showed exactly where the person’s individual priority and values laid, making money, and accumulating Wealth. It was acceptable to them to allow a documented Tax Evader, Racist, Narcissist to be in power because they personally benefited.

I had another conversation with a dear friend of mine, where they too argued that Trump wasn’t all bad. That he did what he said he was going to do. That for all his bad, he made people more money. This friend has wealth, so their priority is the stock market, and the wealth generated there. They are willing to forgive all his bad traits for their own gain, even though the average person can not invest in the stock market because the cost of living is so high they don’t have savings to invest in the first place. That the top 1.8% (the amount of people making over $400k/year, that the new tax proposal would affect) was more important than the bottom 98.2%. I don’t think it’s obvious to them because it’s not their world, their bubble doesn’t require that they think of those that don’t have the same resources as them, and their privilege has never put them in a position where they would need see it any other way.

Once someone is wealthy, truly wealthy, it is hard to spend all that money. There also appears to be a mental block that once you reach a certain level that you don’t ever want to fall below that, meaning, if you reached one million dollars in savings, you just want to see it keep growing. So the priority becomes to maintain that above all else. Wealth gets hoarded.

Jeff Bezos is a relatively easy target just to run an example of hoarding. His current net worth is estimated at 186 Billion dollars. If he decided to keep 1 billion and then split the remaining 185 between all his employees (est. 575,700) they would each receive approximately $321,000, and he would still have that one billion dollars left. If Jeff Bezos lives to 100 (another 46 years), than he would need to spend over 11 million dollars a day to be at zero at time of death. Now someone might hear these stats and think that’s impressive or maybe they aspire to that kind of Wealth but to what end, what would it get you.

The last argument I have experienced in favour of Trump, in regards to Wealth, is that he is more lenient on Climate Change and Environmental issues, as if this is a good thing. That because Alberta counts heavily on Oil and Gas, that we should support a candidate that will potentially help our hurting industry, regardless of how much damage he could do to his own country.

They advocated for Trump because he is Republican and Christian values are important. What behaviour does Trump demonstrate that is at all Christian? What values? What service? And those Values of goodness are prioritized below that of Wealth.

What it really came down to was that they believed he could save our (meaning Alberta) economy. That their job relied heavily on people being able to purchase new homes but they didn’t think that we have possibly lived in an unsustainable economy for a long time. That for some reason if they as an individual were profiting from Trump being elected than everything else was ok. They would use any line of reasoning to ensure their own wealth. When I brought up the potential of a civil war and that Trump was baiting people into dangerous behaviour and perpetuating lies, the response was still to go back to the need for money.

Wealth as a value can be tied to many others such as materialism, hard work, security, which can be explored at a later post.

Following a line of thought and reasoning all the way to other possible outcomes and not just stopping at what is convenient to you is so important. Putting up blinders because something is good for you is how we, as humans, in general, get ourselves in trouble. It’s how nothing gets better; we need to try and all see the whole picture.

Why bring in Status as one of the overarching values that needs consideration, well the blatant Racism and hate shown by participants (everyone has seen the photo of the noose?) as well as the gentle treatment of the insurgents is one reason but I’ll expand.

Status and where you fit in the world, or your perceived value within society, plays a big part in how one is treated, how one treats others and the amount of privilege they hold.

Status as a value is the desire to be superior to another, it’s all relative in the social structure of our societies. The whole notion of holding status as a value is so detrimental to our overall society. How I picture it is an analogy, one that is easy for me to picture due to my training as a lifeguard. Picture two people drowning and one holding onto the other in order to get their own head above water.

You can see that image and think that the one person is just trying to keep their head up by any means necessary or you can look at it and realize that they are willing to drown someone in order to hold themselves up.

The idea of status is all perception, it is not born from fact at all and it is a very precarious thing. It’s why inequality of all kinds still run rampant, because we as humans are so willing to put others down in order to hold ourselves higher. The thing about it, is that when status is all anyone cares about the only thing that can come about is hurt and pain.

When we look at the protests that took place to support Black Lives Matter, there was instant reaction to squash these mostly peaceful demonstrations. There was defence that Police couldn’t be expected to tell the difference between a protestor and a rioter, someone there to out of peace and to spread a message vs someone just out to destroy. Don’t get me wrong I am sure there were some protestors that did damage property. They were emotional, hurt, angry and rightfully so given the reason for protesting. The cause (Black Lives Matter) is rooted in the desire to protect their own lives and the lives of their young. During the protests there was more care around the businesses that were injured (which should have property and business insurance, by the way) than there was for the Black lives needlessly lost.

Yet, for the Riot, again when seeing the images, the videos and hearing the words – you can’t rationalize it as anything else. A Riot, an attempted coup, an insurrection – trying to overthrow an election result. There has been suspicious quiet.

Since this recent election, I have been highly encouraging everyone I meet to look up voter suppression. I went down the rabbit hole one day and was horrified at what I learned. In Canada, we are so privileged that if we want to vote we only need to have a piece of I.D. and a piece of mail or voter card. We don’t have to ensure we are registered, we can and should complete our census (those lovely people that come door to door every now and then) but it’s not a requirement in order to vote. There is also the Canada Elections Act that ensures every voter has a right to a minimum of 3 consecutive hours off during voting hours in order to vote, and no employer can make a deduction in pay due to the requirement.

The need to register is the first potential barrier to voting. My understand is the second is the amount of support and funding provided to every polling station. These are notorious for not being evenly distributed and having wait times ranging from 10 min to 90 min plus, mostly due solely to economic status. Think about this… if you are someone making minimum wage, or perhaps working two jobs in order to manage paying bills – how much time would you have time vote? Could you afford to take time off to ensure your voice was heard? The whole idea of voter suppression is to try and ensure the maintenance of the status of a certain voter group. To hopefully influence the outcome of the election by sheer access.

So let’s get back to those at the Capitol, they broke in windows, terrorized the guards and stole government property, among other things. There has been a lot of coverage on the fact that so few arrests have been made and that those arrested are facing much less jail time than would be expected or that of someone arrested in support of Black Lives Matter. The reason behind this I believe, is the desire of the individuals (law enforcement, politicians) involved want maintain their status and this means maintaining the white vote.

This desire to preserve the status above all else is again showing a decision making process that applies ethical relativism, meaning good for me. It does not benefit white people to raise the status of Black, Indigenous or any People of Colour and so they protect their own interests. We are too busy holding others down or being ok with others doing it for us, all in the hopes of maintaining comfort or perhaps gaining a level of status.

The third value is Power, the innate power that comes with being an elected official is tangible, we call them our law makers for a reason. As mentioned at the start, I believe that those that still voted to object to the Electoral College vote did so in order to try and keep their own seats even when they know the election was not stolen. The reality is they need the votes of those rioters, the Trump supporters, the Conspiracy theorists, in order to maintain their own power.

Power being the ability to do something or act in a particular way – that is the power I am referring to, not the Divine power, not Righteous power but just in the ability to do or act in a particular way. Think of the wording of that definition from Oxford Languages. It is exactly what people are trying so hard to hold onto and why they rioted. They want to be able to continue to hate, hurt, and kill as they see fit.

The reality is that recently white people have been claiming they want freedom, which is what they have, what is visibly getting lost is the control of Power. With the pandemic, we have asked people to think of others, to maintain their distance, to wear masks. None of these are infringements of freedoms but they can be argued to be loss of power because they are putting people in similar positions. We are all stuck at home, we are all trying to survive, we are on a more equal plain.

With the very first, Woman, and Person of Colour both of Black and Asian decent stepping into the role of Vice-President of the United States – these people are angry, they will use any rationale possible to try and regain their grip over power.

When Hilary Clinton lost the vote in 2016, I made a comment to some friends that the US is more sexist than racist, as they clearly were so threatened by a woman being in office that they voted a hateful, womanizing bigot over of a female. Even women voted for Trump – my theory on that is that we (women) have been raised to tear eachother down in order to succeed vs supporting each other, and rising together. I mean, how dare Hilary have the audacity to go after a position like that? Doesn’t she know she should stay in her own lane.

I am so grateful and heartened to know that Kamala Harris will be stepping into such an important role and hopeful that we will potentially see her become President one day. But the rhetoric and the amount of people that voted for someone that clearly cares only to hold onto their own power hurt my heart and should scare us.

Donald Trump does not have the best interest of the American people at heart – he only cares about number one, himself. He wanted the ultimate seat in leadership not to serve, but to wield power as he sees fit. The politicians that voted to object the Electoral College vote also do not wish to serve. Maybe it’s that they are attempting to gain favour within the future of the Republican party, or possibly they believe in a potential revolution and are trying to line themselves up for positions of power in a new party. At minimum they are trying to keep their own seats, at any cost. Please do not forget that they voted to discount your votes, all your votes even their supporters.

The reality is that the Republicans knew that Donald Trump is monstrous, and the beast that he was feeding was getting out of control. They could have tried to oppose him being the leader of their party, he could have been a one term president. They could have tried to force him to step down – have someone else step up but when they realized that without the votes of those that hold Trump so high they most likely wouldn’t stand a chance in winning, they sold out. Power over Peace.

Similar to the Progressive Conservatives party in Alberta, they reigned for decades until in a history making election lost their grip and the province went orange to NDP. The reason is that they had spilt up, into the Wild Rose party and the Progressive Conservatives. They couldn’t get enough votes separated because they realized they has split their base. Wild Rose couldn’t win on their own because they were just a touch too judgemental/conservative on the personal issues (ones that should not be up for debate, such as reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, etc.) and the Progressives didn’t have the numbers on their own so they have made their bed with the Wild Rose to become the UCP. All in the name to gain that Power they so desire. It isn’t to serve us as a province, as the last two years has shown. So please don’t think that Canada is so different, we have politicians that are capable of the same values and have done the similar affiliations .

The same criticism can be made to mainstream media and social sites – to Jessica Yellin’s point, it’s not that Twitter and Facebook couldn’t have shut down the misinformation or hate speech. It’s that they couldn’t have made the same returns if they had. The all mighty dollar, all that is holy and important. Money, wealth, status and power within the tech game were at stake and so they let the beast run wild.

They may not have believed it would get this bad. Similar to the person I met in the Summer, they couldn’t imagine a Civil War, they told me I couldn’t actually think it was possible. It is possible, and the thing is our privilege of having no living generation remember what it was like to have a war fought on our land is making us blind. The fact of the matter is this behaviour, these values is who some are, who the nation of the United States has always been.

If we (the collective we, as humans) continue to value Wealth, Status and Power, we will see war on our shores. For with these three Values, there is never enough. And remember war is good for money, war creates jobs, the rich would get richer; Status could be cemented, Power gained.

How is it so impossible to believe this could happen? Has history taught us nothing?

All three of the Values that led to this time, this terror, have values that almost mirror them. Wealth and Security, Status and Popularity, Power and Leadership. But small differences can be remarkable.

Make sure you define your Values, prioritize them, be honest with yourself and others. Integrity is applying your Values at the same level for yourself, as you do others.

It’s not that Wealth, Status and Power are all bad but that when combined and/or put at a level of importance above all else they are ugly, they are ethically relative and will cause divide.

2021: The Values Reset

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With the start of the New Year upon us, many are focusing on goals or traditional New Year’s resolutions. The thought process of ‘New Year, New Me’ is not necessarily a bad one, but what if we spend the time reflecting on values instead?

I want to challenge everyone, yes, I use that word a lot, but truly challenge you to use the start of the year to start the Values Mindset. What does that mean? What would that look like?

Well to start, when making your Goals for 2021, you first start with your Values instead of the desired End result, then you apply the Goal mindset to your Values; meaning that your life is dictated by fulfilling your Values vs. an end Goal that may potentially compromise those Values. I have made up a table designed in the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) goal planning method (introduced by George Doran, slightly changed) with prompts identifying your Values while hopefully giving structure as to how to apply a Goal mindset to your Values. I have also made up a list of Values and Reflection Journal Prompts (including the concept of Two Stars and a Wish by Paul Buck and Dylan Wiliam’s). The Guide is meant to help structure your journal on the Values displayed in each day. If interested in receiving a PDF copy, go to the contact page and send me a note requesting the templates and I will happily send them your way.

I suggest starting with 5 Values to focus on for the year – you can go up to 10. Focusing on 5 and repeating goals specific to those will hopefully be less overwhelming and more manageable.

My 5 Values of Focus for 2021 are: Grace, Perseverance, Creativity, Health, Candor.

There is connectivity in the Values, I picked. This was done on purpose to allow for greater success in achieving them. They also connect with my CORE Values and will support my overall goal of living true to them. How will these show up in my life? Let’s dive in and I’ll theorize how my Values of Focus will appear in my every day life –

Grace – For me Grace is a combination of compassion, patience and empathy.

I am going back to work after having the last 10 days off, being able to just relax with my family and really bask in some much needed me time. Reading, working out and resting. Not only is it back to work in the morning but it’s back to Online School, because in our province, schools are delayed at least one week before in-class work begins.

I am going to need to give myself Grace, to allow myself to accept that I can’t possibly do it all perfectly. I have a knack for stopping myself from even trying if I can’t do it perfectly or getting super frustrated with things when I think it could be better. So I am going to need to breathe a bit more, take moments when needed and give Grace to not just me but also my kids and my partner as this will be yet another shift in life flow.

Another way Grace is sure to show up is in my interactions and judgements of others. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone should think exactly the same way you do, but that’s just not reality. I will need to find ways to give Grace, and to continue to care for those that might not extend the same to myself, my family or loved ones. That doesn’t mean not holding people Accountable, because that is one of my top Values, but what it does mean is trying to lean into a person and understanding them. Finding compassion and empathy for them, being patient when they might not be ready to receive information or communication. Building arguments or discussions in ways that will enable someone to receive the information and actually reflect. I can be a bull in a china shop when I believe in something and so this year I am going to teach this bovine to dance a bit.

Perseverance – For me Perseverance is the combination of Goal Oriented, Discipline and Commitment.

I initially started this blog at the beginning of 2019. I was really good for the first few months but I let it drop off because I started a new job that became all consuming. I needed to take the time to learn balance but this year I want to commit that even if I only get a handful of views/reads, etc. that this medium, this outlet and a Value driven life is something to share. That helping others find their own Resilience and ability to self-reflect is something I want to honour.

I have some additional training and education to do at my day job, and I have made a goal to finish it by the end of 2022. That sounds huge, even just saying it but the long goal is important. I have often given up too early and this has hurt my ability to succeed, to fully realize my potential. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I haven’t accomplished much, I feel good where I’m at but that I do wonder what could have been sometimes, should I have stuck it out a bit longer. I’ll need to sacrifice to accomplish my goal, sacrifice me time and possibly family time, but the focus is when the going gets tough or when I start to negative self talk that I need to persevere, I will see it through.

Creativity – For me Creativity is the combination of Imagination, Individuality and Beauty.

Dreaming up all the ways I can connect with people and the possibility of building a community of support is a creative thing for me, it’s a beautiful thing. So this year, I am going to attempt to add a Podcast to this blog. I have goals to get creative in different mediums to reach as many people as possible. To think of ways to contribute to positive community change. This means learning whole new skill sets. The last two days I have spent trying to create a branding kit for Inventing Resilience. Picking colours, fonts, making a logo and a submark. I have tried to lay out a general outline for content for the next 12 months. I might fail and fall flat but I might also succeed. Failure is ok, mistakes will be made but growth comes from mistakes. I am choosing to value the attempt at Creativity above all else.

I am trying to do more research in reading and listening to other authors, hopefully engaging some if possible. I’ll be playing with how to make content more specific, not just for my main page but also the Relationship and Physical Resilience pages.

Health – For me Health is a combination of Fitness, Endurance and Vitality.

I started a 50 Days of Movement Challenge for myself on December 19th. I have so far successfully completed 16 Days of Movement with no break. I made sure to set myself up for success. My first week was when I only had a 4 day work week with 10 days off to follow and now I’m just hoping the whole two weeks to create a habit thing has kicked in.

The reason why I wanted to make a challenge for myself specifically around movement vs. fitness is that movement is more consistently achievable for me. If I miss a hard core workout one day (I’m following two separate online programs currently) than I can simply take my pup for a walk and not miss a beat. This will be another opportunity to practice Grace.

A massive component to true wellness for me is Mental health. Being able to move makes a big difference in my daily outlook. When the lockdowns first started I really struggled with being home all the time with no alone time. I am an introvert for sure and all of my mental energy reserves were getting used up. I fell into a familiar but unhealthy pattern of putting myself last. I wasn’t making time to move and could feel myself getting resentful and depleted. In trying to do everything for everyone I was actually hurting both those I loved and myself because I wasn’t able to be the best version of me. The saying that you can’t drink from an empty well, rings so true, yet is so easy to forget.

So Health for me this year will in large part mean taking time to read, write, and ramble without guilt. I’ll need constant reminders and check ins but I believe my others goals will help keep this in check.

Candor – For me Candor is a combination of Awareness, Vulnerability and Open-Mindedness.

This goal is near and dear to me, and is mostly aimed at what I share here. I want to be fully committed to Candor. I believe myself to be a genuine and open person in general, but to really focus on the Candor piece will be interesting. There are always parts of us that we hide, either for fear of judgement or possibly internal shame.

I am hoping that in sharing, in being vulnerable, I can help others to share. Maybe see themselves in me or someone they love. I hope that in Candor, I can spark deep conversations and bring new perspectives. When you are able to be open and really be honest with yourself and others, you can grow in the most wonderful ways. Candor provide people the knowledge of where exactly they stand with you shows Integrity, which is a guiding Value for me.

As you can see each one of my Focus Values are closely tied to others as well as my CORE values. Being tied together helps with alignment, alignment bring with peace, and peace lends itself to fulfillment and happiness.

Doing the Journals daily or weekly will help maintain my focus and perspective. Am I solely working towards a goal or am I aligning my Values? Which will fulfill me more. I am hoping you will join me in Resetting a little bit differently this year. Going deeper into Goals, figuring out the Why behind them, the Values held within them.

Christmas 2020 – the one where we can all agree that Festivus would have been better

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I wasn’t sure what to write or where to go this week. I have a lot of thoughts on the turning over to the New Year for next week but when thinking of Christmas I was getting bogged down. Please don’t get me wrong I know 2020 has been a shit, fuck year for most people and the new lockdown right before Christmas was the Star on the proverbial 2020 tree for many. So I propose there is no more perfect year than 2020 to celebrate Festivus, if you haven’t had the pleasure of watching the classic Seinfeld episode please watch the video below for a short glimpse –

We will start and focus on the Airing of Grievances as 2020 deserves them. As Mr. Costanza says – “I’ve got a lot a problems with you people, now you’re going to hear about them’.

The Airing of Grievances can be really nerve racking for some people. Some innately see a Grievance as a complaint or something that has to be negative. I advocate that it is healthy and necessary to be able to verbalize what upsets you or frustrates you. Getting things off your chest is a release. Taking the time to really flush out what is bothering you can lead to three things, 1 – the realization that it wasn’t that big a deal, 2 – a different choice, a boundary or something else could prevent it from happening again, or 3 – it is what it is and you just need to deal with it.

I’m generally a positive, optimistic person – it’s just how I roll. I do like to bitch though. Life is not perfect or ideal, working from home has had many positives and a fair share of frustrations. Having to wake up by 4:30 every morning in order to have guaranteed, uninterrupted work time hasn’t been easy. Homeschooling this spring was garbage/not existent, my kids have no interest in learning from me – it just caused stress and anguish. Having to learn new processes for work and read even more emails, or updates is hella time consuming. Never feeling truly off or unavailable now that I can log in any time, exacerbated by my work line being forwarded to my home phone. Having the bad habit of thinking I’ll just check one email and ending up working for 3 + hours.

But I have a job, I can work from home. My kids and those closest to us have been healthy. 2020 has forced me to evaluate my boundaries and made it necessary to communicate them more clearly with everyone in my life.

My second set of grievances would be for the general public – those that can’t wrap their head around why racism is not ok. Those that were cool if Trump had won, because it might be good for Alberta Oil. The ones that refuse to understand how masks work, or do but don’t care because they care more for themselves than others. Those that wanted to be able to go shopping when it was convenient for them but will happily judge the individuals that lined up on Boxing Day because they couldn’t have their ideal Christmas. Hypocrisy is not a good look.

I missed my loved ones, my extended family, the aunts, uncles, and cousins to my kids. The parties and get togethers that sometimes are our only chances to mingle with people in our worlds that we don’t often see. I missed everything about our ‘Normal’ Christmas but I am not about to let that ruin mine this year.

Could we have made different choices earlier this year to ensure we could get together for Christmas? Yes. Did we, no. Is it just as important to ensure our Health Care system doesn’t get overloaded now as it was in April, yes. Are people struggling and tired of the up, down, all around – for sure! Do you really think there is someone out there enjoying this? Really ?!?

I’m choosing to focus on the small joys for the Holidays, like when my mom said to me how chill and relaxed this holiday was because there was no pressure of a big group or get together. The relaxed atmosphere of not rushing from house to house, trying to ensure that you show up so everyone feels like you care about them.

Christmas to me has always been about giving. Being a generous as possible whether that is gifts, time, thoughts, or care. 2020 was the year where we could have all been a bit more generous – and not in any monetary way but in spirit.

In spirit of the Festivus meal, I hope you were able to enjoy something delicious this week. Whether it was a turkey or ham, Chinese take out or pizza. We had the traditional meals of perogies on Christmas Eve and Turkey on the 25th. Over the next week/month my goal will be to support more local restaurants – ordering take out (trying to avoid the 3rd party services) and including a tip. I challenge you to take the opportunity to try something new. Connect with friends in the industry and try to support where they work specifically. We have made a point of ordering every other week (for a while, every week) from a downtown noodle house, it’s almost embarrassing when the Hostess recognizes my voice to the point where she knows my order. Almost embarrassing but more heart warming than anything. Make those connections, I promise your life will be fuller because of them.

My local Sobeys had tons of prepared food bank provision bags available in different denominations from $8-15, yours might too. If you haven’t been able to have a meal, my hope is that you reach out. Pride is not something that will feed you. Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness.

Feats of Strength – can we all agree that just surviving this year is a major feat of strength.

If you had hard moments this year. If you had doubts on life, on your connections, on your worth but you are still here, that is a feat of strength. You may have had to invent your resilience, you may be faking it but in that you are making it.

For me my relationship is in a good spot, we struggled a lot at the beginning of this year. We postponed our wedding, trying to figure out our roles within the pandemic was hard but we reached out to get counselling and have committed to communicating. We are stronger because of it.

Our family has survived – spending every waking moment together in our home or close to. We had a great summer, and are lucky to live so close to incredible outdoor escapes. We have made the most of our time together, slowing down. Our evening which would normally be packed with activities for the kids instead focused on dinner together and doing something as a family.

Thankfully I got back into my fitness routine prior to the new lockdown and I have committed to 50 days of Movement (currently on Day 9).

So tonight I’ll be raising a glass to everyone. Come air your grievances, share your feats of strength with me and tell me all about your holidays. Next week will be focused on a new year and a shift in focus on the value of gratitude or FOMO.

Values and how they relate to your COVID-19 Response

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I have spent the last few weeks trying to dive into our personal values. What are our individual values, how did our values get formed and prioritizing them. I want to now address how our values relate to our individual COVID-19 responses. How they are shaping our own opinions on what measures should be taken to prevent further harm?

Maybe your response is steeped in experience, or perhaps it is tainted in fear or with the knowing and seeing how COVID is devastating. Everyone’s experience is different, some have lost jobs, others have seen the loss of life, some have lost hope, giving up on coming together to beat this.

There are so many different facets to how every individual might look at COVID-19 and it’s not always necessarily that everyone’s values are different but how they define those values are what is making the response so different.

The values that I want to specifically look at in my post today are life, generosity and freedom. There are many more values that apply to how each of us has responded to COVID, but I believe these three are foundational and can be expanded to others.

Let’s start with valuing LIFE – what does that mean to you? What do you see as LIFE? Where does it start? When should it end? Are you a Quality over Quantity person?

The reason why valuing life is so important in the discussion of COVID-19 is that it requires you to define what life is worthy of protecting. If I was to have a candid conversation with anyone I would be open to the fact that I am pro-choice, I believe in quality of life, I believe in protecting the lives of others even at the cost of inconveniencing myself.

The way these values have played out in my life is that when evaluating pro-choice vs pro-life. I take a step back and see what quality of life would a child potentially have if born to a mother that may be considering their options. The reality of the world we live in, is that women and girls are not always given the support needed in order to provide a healthy family environment to raise a child. We do not have the social programs to support them if they do not have their own familial ones to step in, whether it’s by providing financial means, or the emotional or practical support such as availability to watch a child while they look for work or housing. What if the mother does not have the emotional or mental well-being it takes to foster the optimal learning and growth environment because they have their own unresolved trauma. This is where my pro-choice stance has developed.

I have a hard time reconciling pro-life supporters that do not support every social program, as well as one that does not support every lockdown measure possible. For why is the life of an embryo is more sacred than that of the elderly. I have a hard time reconciling those that believe the lockdown measures for long term care facilities is barbaric but don’t make the time or effort to visit their family when it is possible.

I believe in quality of life, meaning that one should be able to live their life to the fullest extent that they wish, within means and ability. My father had a really bad fall 12 years ago and my sibling who was his POA at the time tried to convince me that he needed long term care. My father is fiercely independent and I believe he needed to still be able to live on his own to not deteriorate mentally. He was able to manage on his own for 8 more years prior to a cognitive decline, and further health issues (two broken hips) that eventually did force him into long term care.

To me the quality of life part was that he could still do his daily morning swim, he could travel as often as he wished and that he didn’t have someone dictating (which is a necessary factor of care facilities) when or what he ate or where he’d go. I recognize that his life now is not as full as it was before entering care, that is just a fact. He is in one of the best facilities I can imagine, he has his own room, has developed relationships with the care staff and is well looked after. But a large part of his quality of life came from independence, which he no longer has.

For the past three years since he entered long term care I have said that I feel selfish wanting him to keep living since I want my children to have a chance to know him. Selfish because I know he has lost such a big part of what he loved about life. When COVID-19 first came about I genuinely thought well, this might be an ok way for him to go. To die by the flu or an illness when you are in your later years (remembering he is 90 yrs old now) vs getting cancer or dying of starvation because you are lacking the will to keep going seems more humane to me.

I also admittedly have adopted the belief that when and how we die is out of our control. That is not to say that we don’t mitigate our risks but that I believe you are going to meet your maker at some cosmic time. I have adopted this stance to help reconcile all the unnecessary deaths that occur all the time. There are far too many children that die for me to be able to hold any other belief.

How does valuing generosity come into a COVID response? Well generosity is the root of caring for others over ourselves, to be kind and generous. This means that COVID has forced us to be generous and this isn’t as easy for some as it is others.

If you are asking what exactly do you mean, to me I look at the Lockdowns. I am fortunate enough that my work has not been impacted by the lockdowns. My main job went to working online seamlessly; there are some bumps for sure, things that take longer and no team or in-person meetings but generally seamless. The lockdowns still took a toll on our family dynamic and relationships. I had to postpone a wedding this year, had to try and navigate homeschooling, parenting and working all while not getting any personal space. It was and is hard; it’s taxing mentally, emotionally and physically.

The lockdown measures are in place again, I believe, because we ran into people losing their ability to be generous with their care for others. The first lockdown put a strain on so many people that once lifted those that honestly struggle, naturally with being generous became reckless, grounding their belief that they gave up enough so now it was their turn to get. A fact of our society is that there are givers and there are takers. Some genuinely struggle with generosity, they only give when they believe they are getting something in return, this is not true generosity.

The lockdown measures also force us to be generous to those that are at a higher risk of complications from an infection even though most of us would be ok if we were infected. This is a bigger struggle to accept for those lacking generous spirit, and because of that, individuals are looking to rationalize their risk taking as acceptable by adopting the belief that pre-existing conditions are in someone’s control. The obese, the people that smoke, the high blood pressure, the Type-2 diabetes people, these people just didn’t take care of themselves. Anyone with those conditions can, and should, eliminate themselves from the equation, so the rest of us can keep living. What about those with cancer, kidney disease, COPD, Pregnancy, immunocompromised, asthmatic, cystic fibrosis. Ok well maybe not those people but…

In order to go back to living life with some semblance of normalcy we need everyone to be generous. We need those that are uncomfortable with masks to accept that they work, not perfectly, but they provide some protection to your germs spreading. Let me be clear, I don’t love mask wearing either, but I do accept that my germs won’t spread, at least definitely not as easily, if I’m wearing a mask. My exact words to our event coordinator when choosing to postpone our wedding was that if I had to look out at sea of masks vs smiles on my wedding day I would just be sad. This coming August I am getting married no matter what, it might mean people are in masks, it might mean there is no dance, it might mean it’s just me, Coulman and the kids. I am ok with that now because I know that I wouldn’t want to cause even one death from a super-spreader event. My value of protective others is higher than that not wanting to wear a mask.

Let’s talk about Freedom – like LIFE, what does Freedom mean to you? Is it financial Freedom that is most important to you? Is is bodily Freedom? Is it the ability to make your own decisions? Or is it rooted in not having to think of anyone else before thinking of yourself?

I very much value Freedom. I am not a sheep and believe that anyone that knows me would agree that I am anything but. I question everything, just like I am questioning you now. To me Freedom is the ability to live my values. Take work, I worked in an industry that I loved for two decades. The industry and my personality were not great fit, I wasn’t free to be myself. My expectations were too high, my emotions too raw, my delivery too strong. So I looked for a position where I could be me, one where accountability, service, intelligence are valued. I had the Freedom to do so because I value things like empathy, service and compassion more so than wealth, status and conformity. I had Freedom because I had a degree, a variety of work experience, a supportive partner and ex-husband, and my privilege.

Freedom to me, doesn’t mean that I don’t follow rules or order. Freedom to me, doesn’t mean that I do whatever I want. Freedom to me, means living my values. What are your values?

I have spent a lot of time trying to understand how people are seeing mask wearing as infringing on their Freedoms. For one, if everyone wore masks and we sacrificed large gatherings for smaller ones, stayed masked, socially distanced we would still be able to run our economy which in large part seems to be the concern with lockdowns. So if you don’t want a lockdown than masks and vaccines should be the answer. They are rooted in science, in facts and are meant to enable you to enjoy your Freedom.

But it’s not Freedom, or it definitely is not my vision Freedom. The Freedom that anti-maskers or anti-vaccine individuals are talking about is one rooted in that no one can tell them what to do. It’s rooted in petulance and selfishness, the exact opposite of generosity. It’s the ingrained self centric view of Me before the We. Any individual that is reasonable understands why masks exist. They understand that if they have a medical condition that provides an exemption, it is their responsibility to provide that information. I am also cautious when it comes vaccines and want to understand more before taking one. I trust science though and am grateful to those willing to take the first rounds. Vaccines will provide Freedom from lockdowns, this is something that is true and you need to decide which value you want to prioritize. To think that everyone should to bend to your needs has nothing to do with Freedom and everything to do with your idea of self and values.

Is your Quality of Life rooted in the ability to buy things and to g out? Is your idea of a valuable life one that is your’s or only one similar? Do you believe those that earn more money have more value to society? When you give, do you expect something in return? Is your Freedom tied to never following rules?

I know I am just scratching the surface here. I was feeling really overwhelmed with the topic but wanted to get these thoughts out. Mainly because this next three weeks we are going to be home with family. We have at least 3 more weeks of lockdown. We can choose to either make the best and most of it or we can continue down a negative spiral.

If you are feeling alone, reach out to anyone, myself included. Reach out to those you love or those you are just meeting. If you have the support of others, reach out to those that you know might not. Focus on life, make the most of what you have while being generous in spirit and thankful for our freedoms.

Living Your Values: How did they come to be and how do they apply?

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I realize the order in which I am writing might not make sense and if I actually sit down one day to suss out a book I may need to make things a bit more orderly, but for now it’s go with the flow. I am good with asking you to think critically, before first asking or explaining where your values may have been founded.

It’s kind of like a Ferris Wheel when we start looking at a value, you get to the top and realize we need to pick up some more information before going back round again. The information we need to collect this time is what do you believe helped found your values and how do you apply them in your day to day life.

Our lenses are shaped by our education, relationships and experiences. You may or may not be willing or able to see through another’s lens, your metaphorical pupil is constricted. You may or may not be able to even identify your own lens and how it was shaped, suffering from something like a self astigmatism, your vision of yourself is blurred. Privilege often blurs our vision.

We will adopt or aim to share the values of those around us, our parents, our extended families, our friends or partners, teammates, co-workers, etc. But when was the last time you actually stopped to see if those values aligned with you and what you prioritize in your life.

I once managed a Customer Service Desk, and in my position I had to do a job analysis for the staff and myself. I needed to take all the different tasks we did in a day, a week, a month and put them together, then divide into a corresponding percentage out of the time spent in total. It was a great activity because it made me really break down exactly what everyone did in a day and/or what I thought should be getting done.

I like to use the same thought process when evaluating my life, my decisions and where to go next. And again this applies to my values – as mentioned in previous posts I’m not the simplest of people. I have a lot of energy, very passionate and can be intense. I am also extremely sensitive, loud and blunt. All these characteristics make me a Love or Hate person, not a lot of people would say they feel indifferent towards me and I’m ok with that.

It took me a long time to be ok with it though. It’s not easy knowing that you are unliked or misunderstood. The thing that has always recentered me is looking to my values, and was I living by them. Because, like everyone I’m an imperfect person, I didn’t always live my values and that’s when I hurt myself the most. When I was trying to live to someone’s else’s view of who I should be or what I should want.

While trying to live another’s values is when I was focused on Beauty. I have a whole slew things to say about Beauty vs. Fitness vs. Health, all different values, but that will have to wait for it’s own post. I used to get the three confused as interchangeable but they are not. Because I was confused, I rooted a lot of self-worth with the Beauty and standards of others vs my own. I always failed because I actually value being low maintenance over being put together, I value being natural over being done up. I really like treats, they make me happy, genuinely – like candy, baking, the occasional pop, these bring me joy. So in trying to limit them to be happy within someone else’s values always made me sad.

When I reframed my value to what it actually was, I am happier because I know that I live a life true to my values of Health and Balance. One that allows me to still like nice things and to dress up or care about how I look but focused on Health. Meaning I workout now mostly because I want to feel good vs look good. It gets my energy out, it helps me focus vs trying to just achieve a certain weight or look. Because I have three young kids, work one (often two) jobs and have other commitments, I need Balance over Focus. The entire pandemic I have also revelled that my at work, life is not being judged on how I look but rather my output. I realized trying to value Beauty, hurt me so I have let it go.

I believe we often state values we wish we held, or ones that we think we ‘should’ have. The thing about ‘should’s is that, they aren’t reality. If you are constantly trying to live a value that you misinterpret or claim but don’t hold you will feel empty.

People will say they value Equality but won’t stand up against systems or people in power because they are scared of losing their place in their world. This is the ranking of Self Preservation over Equality. Not many are open enough to recognize that ranking, because Equality is a virtuous value. Being someone that doesn’t value Self Preservation has hurt me because I often have to start over or I shoot myself in the foot in many a situation. I have had to start over in my career several times because I could not reconcile organizational values with my own. Whether it’s been being ‘nice’ or ‘well liked’ over competent or being ‘realistic’ over being fair. It’s never been easy but if I ever wonder what if, I know in my heart, I am good because I made my decisions based on my values of Integrity, Competence and Fairness.

Hard work is something I value greatly, my parents worked until 70 and almost 70 years old. My Father worked while starting a family and going to Medical School. I was brought up believing that if you worked hard, you would succeed. Recently my eyes have been opened not only to the fact that people see hard work very differently but that it is not a precursor to success. Until recently I was lucky enough to never experience a world where people equated the amount of money you made to how hard you work. These two things are not necessarily related, this is a fact. Some of the hardest working people I know make minimum wage. They do the jobs that we often take for granted. They have proven to be essential workers, yet they are often treated with the least respect. On the flip side some of the people I know make the most money, although they take risks, they work the least. I have realized that simply working hard doesn’t lead to success because others value status, or wealth, or superiority over actual work.

My value for hard work is still high but it now comes behind my values for Compassion and Empathy. Before judging someone’s ability to work hard, I first look at their capacity, meaning what else is going on in their life, what are they actually capable of and lack of resources they have access to. Some people have a greater output than others, some are just better at certain tasks than others, this has little to nothing to do with how hard they are actually working. Privilege, natural talent, access all factor in too.

People will say they value ‘Small Business’ over ‘Big Box’ but if you asked where they shopped this week the greater number would have admit to Costco, Amazon or Superstore. Of course we want to see our neighbours succeed and to support those we know but do you actually? How I put this into practice is that I shop at my local Sobeys, a franchise vs Superstore. I know I pay a little more for certain items, and I’m ok with that, because the Owner/Operator is wonderful. He asks after my kids every time I see him in the store and his front line staff do as well, they are patient and engage my kids when with me. I aim to make my big purchases, loading up on a month of cereal, on the first Tuesday of the month in order to take advantage of the 15% discount. Is it convenient, no. Is it easy, no. Does it mean that I pay more for some things, yes. Does it align with my value of Service, yes. It could be that you value ‘Getting a Deal’ over Service. It could be that your family struggled with money growing up so you value ‘Frugality’ or the necessity for ‘Thriftiness’. Maybe it’s that you value having more over having enough.

If you have shared something about how our new restrictions have affected small business in your city or across the globe – which I have seen many do so on Facebook recently – please review where you make your purchases. I am not judging the person that can not afford to shop anywhere other than Walmart or Superstore, some don’t have access to transit or funds so they are limited in their choices. I am not talking to those, I see them and know how difficult it is right now and possibly always to make these choices. I am not even judging the individuals that will have trees still overflowing with presents to open and have no struggle in having a big meal on Christmas day. I am only asking – Have you posted about small business and lockdown measures? What percentage of you purchases came from a small business vs big box? Did you try supporting a local business before going to the mall or large store? Did you even think of giving a non-profit membership or donation as a gift instead, bought a pass to Heritage Park, the Zoo or a local Recreation centre? Are you living your outwardly stated values?

At my work I had a coworker that made a list of small businesses that we would recommend supporting. I suggested adding the Zoo or Heritage park and she called them charities and that our Giving Campaign might be the better fit. However purchasing a membership or a service is not charity. Her value in this instance, in my view, was commerce over community.

What I am imploring you to do in the interim is to take your top values and identify where they are rooted. Why do you believe you have these values and how do you live them within you every day life. Living your values helps lead to resilience. Comment on your values here and let me know where they are founded.

Celebrating an Imperfect Person: Happy 90th Birthday to my Dad

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UPDATE: I am sharing this post again as we lost my father this week (Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021) I have been trying to wrap my head around the loss, moving through waves of grief. My father was aware until the last month, his last week he experienced pain and I am grateful he is at peace. I am trying to concentrate on the gratitude for the time my children and I had with him. If you have not yet read this post take a gander.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1771476/9663626-celebrating-an-imperfect-person-happy-birthday-and-goodbye-to-my-father.mp3?download=true

It is safe to say that today, December 3rd, 2020 does not look at all how I expected. It’s currently 16 degrees celsius in Calgary. We are on month 10 of a global pandemic, but by far my biggest shock is my Father, Dr. Frederick Hilderman is alive and turning 90 years old.

I have spent my entire adult life anticipating my father’s death. He was 52 when I was born and there was always this clock in my head on losing him because of his age. He has had a myriad of health problems in the last two decades. Heart surgery at age 70, that was supposed to just be a simple stent and ended up being a triple by-pass, stent/valve placement and finding a hole in his heart. A broken shoulder/replacement from falling off a stool while stubbornly trying to hang a photo on his own. A massive 8 hour spinal surgery (I think that was about 15 years ago) where he came out of the anesthetic so groggy that he couldn’t remember the year, who was who or anything really for at least 3 days. There was the bacterial infection in his blood that made him pass out in the local rec centre’s hot tub and required IV antibiotics for 4 months, with pill form for nearly 2 years after. And must not forget the crowning achievement of breaking his hip on my wedding day in 2009 and then again 4 years ago while I was pregnant with my third baby.

The final nail in his independent living was when trying to still recuperate from the second broken hip, he insisted on living at home with help only twice a week. Only two days after leaving an assisted living facility and the week before I was due with my third, he fell when trying to get to the bathroom and was found what must have been a good 12 hours later by the care worker and myself lying on the floor unable to get up and delirious.

My father now lives in long term care and as hard as it can be to see him or hear him complain about his lack of independence I know he is well cared for and he wouldn’t have made it to 90 without them.

I have often said to the staff at my father’s facility or to really anyone that will listen that I feel selfish that I want him to keep living. I know the quality of life for him is not what he wishes it would be, there is no more travel, no walking, no swimming. He used to say to me from a very young age that if he ever started losing his marbles (lack capacity) or not be able to do all the things he wanted then he would be taking a ‘long cold swim in the Bow’ (as in Bow River). The man has a flare for the dramatics. I feel selfish because I want him to live so my children will have an opportunity to know him because a big part of me believes it’s impossible to really know me without first knowing my dad.

My father was the youngest of 3 for his mother, the only boy with two older sisters. By all accounts that I know of, my grandmother spoiled my dad something fierce, as much as she would anyone because apparently she was a hard woman. His father was a survivor of the First World War and suffered from what I can only imagine was PTSD as he ended up very unwell in later years. My Father always sounded a bit ashamed of the unravelling of his father’s mental health. He grew up in Calgary, spending extended time in Vancouver as well, I think, I only remember parts of details from stories told when I was young. My father was a self described natural athlete, excelling at any sport including Synchronized swimming as he often liked to remind me during my own synchro and swimming years – that he was part of a group known as Fred and his Aquabelles. One of the first people to do their Bronze Cross and WSI, according to him but believable given the timeline of 1945 being the first Bronze Cross certification.

My father accomplished so many things, he was in the Military at some point. He trained officers in physical fitness and had something to do with the Korean war – I only remember this because we went on a trip to Korea when I was a child as part of some recognition.

My father married young, age 19, to whom he would forever say was the love of his life, Beverly. He would describe her as smart, good with numbers, beautiful and gave him a challenge. They had 4 children by the time they were 27, when shortly after the youngest was born (again my timing might be off) Bev developed breast cancer and passed away. He was at the time in school at the University of Alberta.

I wasn’t around so I can’t say what he was like but I picture myself in his shoes and can only imagine what it must have felt like for him. Trying to make your way, both financially and mentally through medical school while having a sick wife and 4 young children at home. Not knowing what to do, not having the skills to parent and losing the person you cared most for. My father self medicated and without knowing what he was like before I can imagine this is when his dependence on alcohol began.

My father has a temper and when he drinks he can be terrible. He is incapable of admitting fault. He spent years after Bev’s death searching for a partner to help care for his children. Getting married 4 times in total afterwards, all ending in divorce. He just could never ask for help.

One of my earliest memories is of a terrible night where my father’s drinking got out of control and he went into an uncontrollable rage. I would have been almost 3. All I picture of the evening is my sister, only 13 months older, trying to open the door to the garage so we could escape and being unable to turn the knob. We did it and ran next door to our neighbours whom called the police. We spent the night at the Women’s shelter, where my other memory of watching Smurfs in a strange room. I never remember him saying sorry or talking about it. He must have because despite breaking my mother’s nose with a phone, she took him back.

We lived our lives walking on eggshells. Better not drop a sock or he will lose it. I remember being in Grade 3 (my daughter’s age now), when I forgot a coupon to Little Caesar’s at home. My father yelled at me in front of the clerk at the store and the entire way home. It’s not like we were stressed for cash, this was just his way. I asked my mother to leave him, it wasn’t that I didn’t love my dad but living with him was hell.

This may seem a strange tribute to share these terrible tales but to really understand my relationship with my father you need to know the good and the bad.

Some good memories largely include my Father making an ass of himself, like when he lost the parking ticket after seeing Cats or maybe it was Les Mis and instead of just paying the fee he berated the parking attendant and finally leaving while waving his middle finger yelling, here’s your f’ing ticket. Or he when was once frustrated with my sister and I for not being able to open the car trunk and having to get out but forgetting to A) put the car in park and B) take his seatbelt off, just picturing him struggle while inching the car forward still give me a giggle. My coping mechanism was and is to find the humour in his ridiculousness.

The thing about it is that my Father was also a great person. He was an awful husband and a questionable dad but as a doctor and a human he was good.

I remember one time when he and I were on one of our weekend afternoons together after my parents divorced, we were behind a couple of teenagers in line to buy tickets for a movie. The boys were scrounging together all the change they could. They had mostly coins, and it looked like they might not have enough. My father stepped in before they could say anything, asked for our tickets and paid for the whole thing. Leaving in a bit of a huff, uttering, something along the lines of use your money on treats.

This to me was textbook Dad, he couldn’t do something nice without being gruff about it. You couldn’t say I love you without him brushing it aside. He doesn’t give a compliment without also reminding you of what more you could do. He is hyper critical but also been my biggest cheerleader.

My Dad instilled a love of movies, always up to see whatever movie we picked and sometimes taking us to total inappropriate shows too. He instilled a love of music, whether it was pumping Paul Simon full blast or breaking into an operatic solo. He wanted to share his love of tennis, diving and theme parks with us but he wouldn’t ask nicely.

He is caring, generous, encouraging, charismatic, intelligent and hard working. He is also surly, stubborn (oh lord, to the point of inadvertently hurting himself), and fiercely independent. Not capable of asking for help, not capable of admitting fault but desperate to be loved.

My father is a complicated man. Today I want to celebrate everything that he is – good and difficult, because celebrating the good is easy but finding compassion for the negative lends itself to peace and love.

Happy Birthday Dad! Thank you for keeping on, thank you for being you. I love you.

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Thinking Critically: Ranking, Prioritizing, and Evaluating your Values.

In my last my post I encouraged you to list your values. To start by writing down all the values you believe you hold, make a top 25 and then again try and whittle that list down to a top 10.

Now I want to look at how we rank and apply our values within those lists. This is something that can be really hard to do with the CORE values because essentially, they often feel as though they are all even. The thoughts that identify a CORE value, make up part of who you are and how you make decisions but often we need to prioritize one value over another when decision making.

When I read a snippet of my last post to a friend, they recoiled a bit and said that it sounded judgmental. The segment that talked about me no longer accepting simple tolerance. I don’t think I did the best job explaining my intention to her because I went on one my my textbook rants (for those that have had the pleasure of experiencing one , you know what I mean and if not you soon will if I start doing Insta Videos), so in hopes of explaining it better here, here I go.

The fact of the matter is we all make judgements. Every hour, every day, possibly every minute. We like to classify them under a different, less harsh sounding title like decision, or choice but truly to get to any decision or choice we must first make a judgement. Those judgments are hopefully based on something, and to me it makes most sense to have them aligned with my values.

Being able to articulate your values will help align your decisions with them and will give you a greater sense of knowing who you are, and what you are all about.

To be honest – I started the next few paragraphs 3 times already. I’m restarting again because I started Storytelling. This led to comparing different but similar values which is great but was getting off topic and super long. So I am resetting one last time to hopefully stay on today’s point.

One fact of life is that we can’t be everything to everyone. We are all doing our best, but how we define that best is where we are getting lost. An example it is impossible to value politeness, diplomacy and directness in equal measure – those values are in direct opposition with each other.

Other values that are in direct opposition are optimism and cynicism, prudence and boldness, adaptability and unyieldingness, change and consistency, sacrifice and self preservation. Basically there is pretty much a direct opposite to every possible value.

I value politeness, directness and diplomacy in differing degrees in different situations. Of all 3, Directness is the value I hold most dear. I like direct people, I like knowing exactly what someone is thinking even if it is hurtful because I feel as though at least they are honest and I can make a decision on whether or not I want to hold space for that person in my life. I value politeness in that I like my P’s and Q’s – I want my children to say please and thank you as a sign of respect for others. I do not value politeness if there is room for growth. I value the pain of honesty and directness in the face of possible growth vs politeness to spare ones feelings. Diplomacy has it’s place with diplomats, you can’t be starting wars. Diplomacy in the workplace, works in matters that are inconsequential or for self preservation. Should you be diplomatic if someone says something racist or sexist? No, an individual’s feelings are not more important than the fact, BIG caveat here, FACT that they did/said something to that directly or indirectly hurts, harms, or oppresses others. Facts matter, right matters.

I hope my decision making tree explanation of all three of these values is a bit more clear and can how it can be applied to other opposing values. I’ll try and make an actually diagram in the future to follow. It’s not that one can’t believe in the worth of each value but we do make judgements and we act accordingly. I think we as humans struggle with being open with what we actually value because if we did, we wouldn’t much like ourselves sometimes. I also believe that digging into that discomfort is where we can grow. If you take a look at your stated values and apply them to your recent decisions, can you say that the application was consistent or that you were steadfast in applying them?

When we apply our values universally to our lives, we live happier lives. I know this because when I have struggled with feeling misunderstood or unloved, I have been able to find resilience in knowing that I am living my values. I am a good person, a good person according to me, according to me and what I would like to see in the world. I am doing my best every day. I am not perfect and my values don’t align with everyone’s. As mentioned your values might change, they might shift based on circumstances or experiences.

When we evaluate our relationships and how we interact with others I would advocate to try and understand the other individual’s values. The reason being is that this can alleviate hurt feelings and misunderstanding. If someone does not hold the same values as you they will not approach a situation the same way. Simply put their lens of the world is different than yours.

I often find myself frustrated with others that don’t value the greater good above themselves. I will hazard to say a lot of individuals would say that service is on their list of values. However what service means to them, might be service to them or for them vs service to others. People that will argue with me the value of taxes, or health care or education, make me crazy. I get for lack of a better term uppity. The reality is that I have not been able to enter conversations with them and stay calm in my message delivery.

My question wants to always be, what do you value? But it comes out like, you don’t value other people, here is how little you value others and then a laundry list of what is wrong with their thoughts/values/beliefs, all said in a loud voice and directly. You can imagine how well this is received.

So here is my attempt at a more civilized conversation – what do you value? What do those around you value? How do you judge those around you based on your values? Based on theirs. To my friend’s point how do you know what is right? My answer is, what aligns with my values, what is fair, what is empathetic, what shows integrity, what is service.

There has been so much talk lately about thinking critically. So many people are willing to question one another’s ability to think critically. What is the base point for this judgement? How do you know you are thinking critically. There is a massive difference between being critical and being negative. Being critical requires seeing the whole picture and all the different factors that might come into play. Critical thinking requires that you not only see your values but also those that of the other party entering the conversations/relationship, etc. Are your really critically thinking if you are not questioning your own decision making/values within each decision.

I’m not suggesting that you become paralyzed with the overwhelmingness of applying your values to every action you make or to evaluate other’s values in full, all the time, but what I would suggest is that at the end of every day, you reflect on all your interactions for that day and run through the following – List the values present from both sides, rank them in terms of the situation and visualize the alternative endings. This will help with your critical thinking skills, possibly reinforce your values or help reevaluate them. No matter what this will help you align yourself in the future.

Just like when our body is feeling a little out of whack or need of an adjustment so too do our values, aligning them takes care of our hearts and minds.

List your values, rank them in priority order, makes decisions, reevaluate and repeat.

Values: Who you are and how you Define yourself

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A Triangle in a Round and Square World Inventing Resilience

Exploring what it feels like to not fit in and be a Triangle in a world that feels full of Circles and Squares. Older post revisited with some new thoughts and examples. Scattered as always.
  1. A Triangle in a Round and Square World
  2. Empathy – Because More
  3. Wealth, Status and Power – The Values to the Storming of the Capital and the Freedom, plus exploring the Why
  4. Accountability: Why it builds Resilience and Saves us from A**holes
  5. Thinking Critically – Ranking, Prioritizing & Evaluating your Values

UPDATE: Below is the Original Blog Post from November 2020 – I have recorded a podcast to coordinate with it with an Intro to the Blog and some additional thoughts. My aim is to write the final two Beauty, Health and Fitness in the coming weeks with a podcast to accompany old posts and then larger Full topic podcasts. Let me know what you think!

I have taken a long break from writing. I started a new job last spring and it became all consuming between that, the kids and just life – I just couldn’t make time. I have also been trying to refocus and reset. I needed to get some clarity on where to go and how to tackle all the things swirling around in my head.

On top of all that, 2020 has been a year for the books.

I wanted a unifying theme, partly to keep myself focused and the other part was because it will hopefully help keep you, the reader, engaged.

The theme that runs through all my thoughts is Values. What are you personal values? How do you live your values? How do you judge others by your values? When was the last time you reassessed and realigned what is important, both to you and in the grandeur scheme of the world.

The reason I kept coming back to values is that I keep reading about people living their most ‘authentic’ lives but when diving into their socials or words find that their proclaimed values are not aligned with stated views or actions. I believe whole heartedly, that living your values, being open and honest about them provides a better sense of self. With a better sense of self, you are more open to others and open to possibility, living a better life.

Take some time and write out as many of your personal values as you can think of. If you are stuck, just google personal values and a bunch of stuff will come up and give you an idea of where to start. You might be wondering now, well if I can just google why should I keep reading. Really all I can offer is my personal reflections and how I apply my values to situations. How I re-evaluate, make decisions and act accordingly. Hopefully by sharing you might find value and application in your own life.

Some of my values are – Strong work ethic, Generosity, Creativity, Balance, Health, Sustainability, Caring, Kindness, Collaboration, Independence, Open-Mindedness, Directness, Candor, Optimism, Freedom, Security, Courage, Efficiency, Boldness.

For others Values can include – Faith, Wealth, Status, Calmness, Even Temper, Quiet, Aesthetics, Carefulness, Humour, Cleanliness, Modesty, Mastery, Beauty, Consistency, Perfection.

The list of values can really seem endless and overwhelming for sure. What I would encourage you to do is write all the things that resonate with you, there could easily be over 100. Take your time and make a top 25, then make your top 10, think of these as your CORE values. Try to think of big life decisions and go to the top things you would need to consider when making one.

In another post I want to get into compartmentalizing values into three sections- Life, Work, Relationships but for now let’s stick with identifying your CORE values.

My top 10 CORE values, as of right now are – Fairness, Competence, Compassion, Integrity, Empathy, Innovation, Accountability, Service, Thoughtfulness, Intelligence.

The reason why I say as of right now is that some of what I would say are my COREs have changed and shifted over time, even in writing the above list I took out and replaced some things from my top 20. I used to have happiness, capability, tolerance, loyalty, motivation in my top 10 and now I don’t even know if they would be in the top 25.

The reason being that some have dropped off and/or out, is not just that others took priority, but that they directly conflicted with values I used to hold so dear. Take for example, Tolerance – I used to think it was really important to be tolerant, to tolerate everyone’s viewpoint. You see tolerating something isn’t trying to understand it, when Empathy became one of my top values, tolerance just couldn’t fit. I no longer aim to just put up with, or coexist with others or things. I want to understand them. Having empathy sometimes means that I no longer tolerate certain things, such as prejudice, racism or sexism. I used to accept that some people are just ignorant, but in a world in which we can research at the tip of our fingers there is no excuse anymore. Empathy has led me to understand why someone might hold their misguided beliefs but it has also given me the resolution that right matters.

A second example of resetting values was after I had kids. I was once told that after having kids work wouldn’t mean as much to me. This did not happen, maybe it’s not what they meant to say but what did happen was that my value of Strong Work ethic had to also work with a new value of Balance. I need to Balance my commitments to not just myself and my partner but also my children and the work it takes to be an engaged, supportive parent. I still have a Strong Work ethic and that has flowed into how I parent. Stronger Work ethic just looks different now, it has been replaced with Balance in the tiers of my values.

Other examples include integrity replacing honesty, thoughtfulness bumping generosity, compassion over perfection.

Being able to rank your values is important when it comes to your decision making process. Clearly articulating why you make a certain decision and how that decision aligns with your values will make it more clear to not just others but yourself as to why a certain path might need to be taken.

As usual I feel like I can keep going on however I think this is where we end today. We have started our journey down the rabbit hole of values, who we are and how we will define ourselves. I hope you will continue to join me, build resilience in being open and honest with what you value in life. Until next week….

Recert Day

www.instagram.com/reel/Cb6CV7xlkOD/

I completed my 12th National Lifeguard Recertification today…

The funny thing is that the same nerves in 1999 (my first NLS) or 14 when doing my original Bronze Cross were still there today.

Even with being a Trainer, there is still the recognition that I might mess up or even fail but…

Swimming is a sport and skill that has taught me not just the necessity of water safety but the persistence of trying again, of continually learning and being open to growth is the most important thing.

@lifesavingsocietyabnwt is an amazing organization that works to train all individuals in Water Safety, Swimming, Aquatic sport and Leadership training. Their vision is of a Canada free from drowning and water related injury.

I can’t say enough about the joy being a Lifeguard, Swim Instructor and Leadership trainer has brought to my life. About the skills that are transferable to every industry.

Check out @lifesavingsocietyabnwt for information on upcoming courses or send me a DM and I am happy to answer any questions you might have about where to start. It’s never too late to learn to swim.

#swimforlife #swimmerforlife #lifeguard #continuallearning #alwaysnervous #lovelearning #leadershiptraining #swiminstructor #watersafety #lifesaving #lifeskill