I was meant to sit down and write out my topics for each week over my break but that didn’t happen so when I woke up this morning I just let the first thing that pop into my head be the topic for this post and that is Time. Reader beware this is going to be a two parter possibly more as Time is a big topic but for today I want to focus on Quality vs. Quantity.
My time is something I value greatly, it is what I believe to be my greatest asset. Reality is that all our time in finite. My partner and I were discussing why I work out and try to eat healthy, not do drugs, limit alcohol, etc, etc. if not to extend my life i.e. live longer. I responded that my goal is not to live longer, I operate that we truly have no control over when we are going to die, there are enough instances where tragedy, unfair deaths exist that I can’t function in any other way but I take care of myself because with the time I do have alive, I want to feel and be good.
So time is finite and because of that, it is precious.
I clearly could go down a rabbit hole but won’t in order to stay focused on the reason why time popped into my head and is that yesterday I got to spend the day with all my kids, unencumbered.
I’m separated from the father of my oldest two children and our custody arrangement is that the kids are with me Monday-Friday and with their dad Friday-Monday. Most people when they hear the split say something to the effect of ‘He doesn’t have any weekends off?’ and I can’t help but get my hackles up because to me, the weekends are the prime time with kids. It’s the time you get to watch Saturday morning cartoons, have brunch or visit the zoo; it’s the chill time, and that’s what I got yesterday.
My ex is teacher so it’s report card time, and in spirit of putting the kids first, when he is busy writing comments I get to have my oldest two kids on the weekend.
It’s easy to see the split and think that I get more time with my kids however when you look at the schedules on the days they are with me, they spend more actual time at school or in programs than with me. Our daily schedule generally looks like a 7:30am wake up (at that point I’ve usually been up for a couple hours either getting an hour of work in and/or a workout), breakfast, bags packed and bus to school. After school we often (3-4 days/week) have one, sometimes two programs for each kids – this means some nights we aren’t home til close to 7pm at which point it’s dinner, some hope of homework and bed (ideally 8pm). One the one program free day the kids are off the bus around 4:20pm, so still not a huge amount of time.
There is very little ‘down’ time throughout our days and overall our weeks. This to means we are high in Quantity of days, but low in Quality of our time together.
What is Quality time? To me it’s the kind of time where you get to know someone better, where there is space to allow the kids to just show themselves and to see me without the stress of schedules.
My parents were divorced as well and in thinking back to why I was able to have a strong relationship with my father, I think it’s because we always got to spend easy, unencumbered time. We would do dinner and a show almost every weekend, usually a matinee followed by the meal which gave an opportunity to just talk to each other, sometimes about the movie but often just about the week. The lack of stress or rush to another activity meant we could relax and just enjoy the time, hence quality.
The concept of Quality over Quantity for time can extend past just personal relationships to work as well, there has been a ton of memes recently around how good work and efficiency is often ‘rewarded’ i.e. punished with more work.
My experience would line up with the memes and disappointingly efficiency at work is not always appreciated. The work from home vs those insisting on back in the office is a prime example – there are some jobs and industries where WFH obviously doesn’t work. When the rest of the workforce has to be in, i.e. Service positions like retail, sport & fitness – it doesn’t work for management to be home. That being said lots of office environments have culture orbiting around the ‘Watercooler’ meaning that lots of ‘work’ time is spent talking with coworkers or visiting vs executing deliverables.
I worked somewhere once where a one of the top leadership members has a nickname of Do-Nothing-D. This was because the individual was great at filling their time with wandering around, ‘checking in’ but not actually following up on any tangible concerns which only leads to more work for all other teams members. They may have been putting in all their hours but only working for half, if that.
Value is often put more on the appearance of work or being around over the actual work itself, the Quantity of time over the Quality of how the time is spent.
I could go so much further but I can feel my brain having a hard time siloing the thoughts right now – the whole picture is huge and complicated because our personal values come in, and those vary based on each one of us.
I ended up taking a break from writing, normally I draft a whole piece, walk away, read again, edit, read, edit and possibly post – but today I started left and came back to finish, one second read, edit and post. I go to spend another day unencumbered with my littles, we went to the zoo, had brunch and then the Science Centre – it was great! I am full of gratitude and although tired from walking around, answering questions, setting limits, my cup is full from the how I spent my day. Hopefully this post isn’t lacking too much quality and just the seed of the thought of time, so much more to come.
I first started with the concept of focusing on 5 values for each year versus resolutions in 2021.
As the new year approached I notice the trend of moving away from resolutions and choosing one word to focus on for the year. One word doesn’t work for me because it’s too big, it’s too much of a focus on one thing or more so too easy to let the one thing slide when unsuccessful.
That being said whatever works for you, go for it. I advocate for values because centring your actions around values provides clarity and purpose. Clarity and purpose helps with contentedness, contentment with peace, and isn’t that what we are all searching for?
The Annual Values reset doesn’t necessarily focus on a top 10 or even top 20 values, more so reflecting on the previous year and what might have been missing or could benefit from digging deeper into. The other reflection is on possible pinch points for the upcoming year and which values might help ease them.
My 5 values of focus for 2023 are –
Generosity, Growth, Compassion, Joy and Consistency
How these show up may look different day by day or month by month. With identifying the values, taking the time daily or weekly to check in and see if I’m still aligning my actions and goals with them helps with forward vision.
The values might present individually or in tandem such as Generosity and Consistency. Having set up a monthly contribution to a couple charitable organizations locally and via payroll deductions (something my company offers) I know consistent help is provided. This is a very direct correlation which might not always exist.
Generosity may show up in many forms as well, not just financial. The idea of being generous with your time, your energy and your space can be equally or more important. I have felt like I was pulling from an empty bucket for a while and so not being a generous as I would like so remembering small moments or actively finding opportunities to be is the goal.
Growth was important because the past year was huge in growth for me and I felt tired before my Holiday. I needed a break and thought maybe I’ll just take it easy for a while, it could be so good to just rest. The thing is I know I feel best when I’m continually learning and growing so my vision with this is to finish at least one course related to work and try something new. Very general and open enough for flexibility (options).
Compassion is something I try hard to apply everyday; I know there are areas where I am better at this than others. I can get frustrated with privilege and those I describe as Ostriches, people who would rather stick their head in the sand than hash it out.
I am hoping having this as a goal will continue to let me have an open mind in every interaction and if not (because I’m human and all) when I do lead with judgement instead, when doing my reflection periods (day/week) I can sprinkle in more compassion.
Joy, it may seem like a funny one but my partner suggested happiness and I said you can’t have that because it’s not tangible. Joy, joy can be tangible in moments, in memories and sometimes even in things.
So for Joy, my goal is to capture those moments as often as possible, to revel in them, slow down and savour them.
Last is Consistency- this was the last one I thought of but it fits perfectly because consistency is what will tie them all together for the year.
Consistency in my workouts (I’m currently on a 79 day streak with PILATES and movement), consistency on my rest taking, consistency on reading for pleasure, on marking those moments of Joy, and consistency in reflection.
I have spent the last decade since having my daughter feeling all over the place. I’ve worked at over 10 different employers, never one at a time and always while taking courses. I’ve spent a decade being all over the place. I’m sure there is a post in here but the point is that this year I finally feel like I can settle in a bit. I love my job, my kids are older and all in school, I’m coming out of the postpartum/post divorce fog/sadness and Consistency I’m hoping will only help in creating peace.
My last piece to Consistency, it’s a big one, is to show up here more. I’m off work for the next week, my hope is to outline 12-24 topics. Writing 1-2 per month with a corresponding podcast episode.
I started Inventing Resilience from a need to have an outlet and to fill my creative cup. Now I just need to ensure I spend the time often and consistently to always be filling the bucket.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading and please share your values of focus for the upcoming year – or your word or resolutions.
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.
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.
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.
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 –
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
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 –
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.
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.
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
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 –
the condition of being physically fit and healthy.”disease and lack of fitness are closely related”
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”
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.
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