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

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

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?

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

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.

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.

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

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. Accountability: Why it builds Resilience and Saves us from A**holes
  4. Unpacking Privilege
  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….


I have written and re-written this post so many times in the last three weeks that I am saying F*ck it and here goes my thoughts in one shot – so bear with me, there will be no double checking, no editing just pure rambling goodness.

In my last post I mentioned that the biggest thing jealously takes away from us is the ability to be grateful.

But why is being grateful so important in the first place?

It’s important because it is a fundamental building block to joy and happiness. I mean think about it, when you are feeling really awesome, and I mean good, really good – do you most often then not, think – how lucky am I? How great is this? I am thankful, I am grateful.

I know I do – I have been fortunate enough to have a lot of amazing people in my life. Each of my friends brings a different flavor, spice and support that I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for them. When I have a rough day, whether it’s beating myself up for something, just feeling blue or having something not great happen – I stop and I think of a few select people and say thanks to the universe for giving them to me.

And every time I take a moment to spend time on gratitude – I fill my cup, I feel more focused and more resilient.

When we spend too much time wallowing, or allowing ourselves to focus on the negative, we lose perspective, we lose sight of the positive. In losing sight of the positive, we lose our joy and happiness. Now I’m not saying don’t be a realist, because I am 100% one of those. What I am saying is that even when things are awful or feel totally out of control or lost, there is something or someone to be grateful for. It might be from the present, it might be from the past but every one of us has something we can be grateful for.

I wanted to write about this because I had a good conversation about my triangle peg in a round and square world post. The person I was speaking with understood how I felt and had similar struggles, they said focusing on gratitude helped. It took some time but it made me realize that part of me can often get too wrapped up in how things ‘should’ be and because of this I am not grateful for how things are.

Now you can’t be grateful for every situation but I applied this line of thinking to a few monumental failures in my life and think that had I been able to re-frame them it’s possible that I could ‘let things go’.

One such thing was my marriage, I allowed myself to get so bogged down by the seeming disparity that I wasn’t able to appreciate my husband at the time. By all means we did not have a perfect relationship but I do think that had my focus been on shared memories, good times and gratefulness then we could have had more time to work through our other areas needing improvement.

I know gratitude makes a difference because in my current relationship, we both make a point of saying thank you or showing appreciation in ways the other can receive them. I am not a words person, I think it’s easy to say thank you but showing someone you are grateful and making sure your actions match your feelings means more. I am a better partner now then I was in my previous marriage because I learned so much about myself and although it was the hardest, saddest thing to go through I am grateful because I am better for it.

I have also seen a difference when I am at work. When I have been lucky enough to be on a team where each member can appreciate each other as individuals and be grateful for what each person brings to the team, is when I have felt the most success.

On the flip side, when I have allowed myself to dwell on what is going wrong or not feeling appreciated I lose my own gratitude for my work. I let myself lose focus of the good. What others will say to me is to ‘let it go’ and this doesn’t work for me because as I have said before, I care a lot or too much but what I think I need to remember next time is to focus on what I have to be grateful for.

Nothing is perfect, not everything is awesome, sometimes nothing seems even good but as I said before there is something; there is always something past or present where you can find gratitude, and in that something you can invent resilience.

Jealousy – it’s ok!

I was having a conversation recently with a long time friend surrounding jealousy. She made a comment that she shouldn’t feel jealous, I had to stop her and say it’s totally ok to feel jealousy. She said however that she had recently come to a realization that her own jealousy had in the past stopped her from celebrating others.

This made me think that there are different ways to be jealous and to deal with jealously. I, myself, am jealous often – I am a dreamer, hopeful, and a realist and in that combo most times I can see others, be jealous, envy what they have, or have accomplished but can do so with the reality that their success or good fortune doesn’t take away from mine.

Others can not. That is where jealousy or envy can go wrong.

This friend of mine is an accomplished runner, like super fast and I admire her for it. I am jealous that she has help to watch her kids to go on long runs, I wish I was built like her so I could be even slightly be capable of what she is, but the reality is that she works her butt off and makes other sacrifices for something she loves. She is motivated, driven and exceptional – I can not begrudge her for that. She has earned her amazing times and fitness level. The reality is I am motivated but not nearly as much as she is in this goal.

Well, you might say what about people that are lucky in life. I mean truly lucky, as I do believe there are some out there that have few struggles. They are born into privilege, natural intelligent, physically gifted, etc. What about those people? You can begrudge those, right?

Nope, and why not? Because what others have doesn’t take away from me or you.

Sure, there are times my lesser self has (and might still) feel unhealthy envy but I can snap out of it by reminding myself that this persons’ happiness, luck, accomplishments have nothing to do with me and if they do than being happy for someone else is a much better feeling than begrudging.

But it’s ok to be jealous, to wish that you had an easier day. To be jealous that your family isn’t as close as others or that they have both parents or went on vacations every year or live in a nice house. It’s ok to be jealous because it’s a natural feeling, it’s an emotion and it can’t necessarily be controlled.

What can be controlled is how you react to your jealousy (maybe not in the moment, but long term). Do you allow it to lessen your own accomplishments? Do you allow it to be an excuse to hurt others? Do you allow it to prevent you from making connections?

This are where jealously and envy are not ok.

I think where we as humans fail sometimes is that we forget that we are human, we are flawed. Jealously is a flaw, an uncomfortable feeling but it’s natural. I think we are conditioned to believe that all flaws should be pushed down, and ignored but in doing so it actually exacerbates them. If we aren’t able to be honest and open about our weaknesses than we deflect and aren’t able to grow.

If you push down your feelings than your reaction or treatment of others is skewed. You might not consciously notice it but you end up being a hurtful or spiteful person. Whereas owning the feeling, looking at it, allows you to do a few things, all positive or healthy. You can choose to celebrate the event, person, etc. (that one might be tough), you can choose to let it go and be grateful for your own successes/good things, etc. , or you can choose to set a goal for yourself to get you where your perceived inequality is.

I believe that to be able to get over jealously you need to be able to understand and accept yourself. Accept what/who you are, what you value and what you are or are not capable or willing to do.

I’ll never forget watching my friend run her second half marathon (might have been first even) with her dad and I mentioned how impressed I was with her. He said to me that I would never be able to do that. Now this man is one of the most wonderful humans I have ever met, so what he said might seem harsh but I think he was just being a) proud of his daughter and b) being realistic, I would never be that fast. My response to that was to sign up for a half marathon the following year, my goal was no where near my friend’s time (because that would be silly for me) but was to finish without walking and with my own goal time (about 40 min longer than her at the time, best time). I felt so good when I accomplished my goal and I feel just as good watching my friend consistently crush hers.

The biggest thing jealousy takes away from us is the ability to be grateful. Grateful for what we have, what we ourselves are capable of and what our potential is.

Getting wrapped up in it and not reflecting inwards will end negatively. I mentioned in my last post that I have been reading some of Mark Manson’s works, he had a great article recently on understanding values, I’ll put a link at the bottom. In it he asks you to look at your values, question them, change them if needed and know yourself – at least that was my takeaway.

I believe it applies to this topic because having a greater sense of self and your own values will only help in knowing where to put your energy. As the article states, and I agree, we often think we value things that we don’t and this can also lead to jealously.

An example of something that has made me jealous recently is those that have freedom around work. Specifically those that can work tons of hours and/or make a high income. Not working a steady job right now has pushed me to an edge of stress and unhappiness.

So I have felt jealous of all those that make enough money to afford childcare for their kids and work, or those who have spouses that make enough money so they can stay home and still do activities and vacations and everything or those that have no responsibilities…. yada yada yada, spiral, spiral, spiral and snap!

See the negative thoughts that can happen – when I focus, I remind myself that I made the choice to leave my position, rightly or wrongly and I need to make the best of it. I made the choice to put my family and my integrity first. I remind myself that other’s successes (higher salary/good hours) are because they have earned those rewards, maybe they work really long hours, they probably worked harder at school, they make their choices based on their values. I remind myself that support systems can be built and that mine is pretty good. My choices were made on the values I have or had at the time and that it was the best I could do. That things will work out, it just might take time. That what others have is based on their values and mine do not need to be the same.

I have a good life, I have good people in my life, wonderful kids and if I want my life to be different I can change it. Ok, well maybe I’m not going to be running any sub 3 hour marathons but I can be the best version of me with my values.

A thought, don’t hate the smartest person in the room, or the one with most talent or the luckiest, think of this – love people are ‘more’ than you. Those are the people you can learn the most from, good or bad. I have this crazy notion that being close to awesomeness will rub off on me. Kinda like in junior high when all my friends were 2-3 inches taller and beautiful, little squat me thought I was pretty and cool by association.

So that’s my starter thoughts on jealousy – I didn’t want to dive into the jealously in a relationship topic this round but another time. Instead I hope this helps in learning how to refocus your thinking when feeling jealous and remember that it’s ok to be jealous, just don’t let it stop you from being the best version of yourself.

Link to Mark Manson post below –

A Triangle in a Round and Square World

I missed a week of posting because I didn’t know how to write this one, I kept getting upset and overwhelmed, or slightly self-indulgent and not objective. I still cried my way through writing the better part of this but I’m giving it my best shot so here goes.

I recently decided to get some help with figuring out what next, and I wasn’t sure where to start. My reasoning behind it was that I just, have never fit – not anywhere or at least not for long. I am often described as high energy or ‘too’ much. I care too much, my expectations are too high, I’m too loud, too busy, etc. etc.

So I decided to get tested for ADD/ADHD, Cognitive behavioural functions and disorders. I am very logical and I like to think I am reasonable person. After reading about how ADD/ADHD presents itself in girls I thought that sounded like it could be me or at least some of the struggles resonated. However the biggest push to get assessed was that I wanted something to be clinical or fixable because I so often feel like the odd man out.

I struggle with relationships, and it often comes back to me being the problem. When I was struggling at my last job, I decided to look at it as a problem to be solved – so I set upon the task of showing how we could make changes so that both parties would be set up to succeed, at least that’s how I looked at it. My mom’s first reaction when I told her my plan was to say maybe I need to be medicated. And the reaction from those involved or reading my proposal was thanks but no thanks, I was just the problem, I needed to ‘get along’. So much so that three months after leaving they took my solution and have made changes but are searching for someone to fill the position I was hoping for.

I don’t know why but I have a hard time just getting along and as much as I try, I fail.
It could be that doing your best, pushing others to be their best, wanting the best is more important than getting along to me. The thing is, although I’m not unreasonable if I ask for specifics about the situation that caused a rift or where others feel I have wronged them, I more often than not don’t see the problem. That or I don’t think I am wrong in my action or reaction so the problem is just me; it’s how I see things or my values, my beliefs and inflexibility in them. I am inflexible in things I am passionate about, it just so happens I have a lot of passion.

I’ll often hear, it’s not what you said but how you said it. As mentioned in my last post, I’m always blown away by this. What I said should matter, if there is value in what I am saying, it should matter. If I seem frustrated maybe listen to what I am saying because it will explain why I am upset and maybe my reaction is warranted. If there isn’t value in what I’m saying than ignore me and blow it off. If my reaction isn’t warranted then please tell me or if I am wrong, misinformed; take the time and let me know. I don’t walk around looking for ways to ruin people’s day, or make them feel bad or inadequate. I don’t want to stop learning or know what’s best, I know I’m not perfect – help me learn.

So this is what brought me to getting assessed – I was convinced that there had to be something to explain me or that I could get help. What I learned was that there is nothing. I tested at average or above for everything except self-worth and self-esteem. I am slightly hyper but have no attention deficit at all, I actually have very good attention. I’m not bi-polar, I’m not depressed, I am sensitive and I am direct.

So what is my problem? I am a triangle peg in a round and square world. If I try to fit either shape, I have to shave off or hid bits of myself or turn myself sideways and only really half fit. That’s how I feel – it can be lonely and scary. I really don’t know where to go or how to succeed.

I’m currently reading ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ by Mark Manson. My ex and kids gave this to me as a Christmas gift in hopes of it helping me figure some stuff out. I’m not all the way through so I’ll have to come back after I’m done to comment again but so far it’s interesting but not all helpful. He talks about having a finite amount if F’s to give – and although I think the concept is healthy, the fact is I don’t know how to just not to give an F, or, I try, and it makes it worse because I think more about what I’m trying not to care about.

The attempt is to say that there are things that matter and things that don’t. I’m the person that a lot of things matter to them. I’m someone that some things are right and some things are wrong – there is no gray. That doesn’t mean I don’t have empathy or compassion but that there is right and there is wrong, so some or lots of things just matter.

An example is that a few weeks ago my daughter was getting off the bus, when I could see that two boys were fighting in the back of the bus; they were genuinely laying into each other. So I stepped onto the bus (which now I know, didn’t before, is against the rules and will not do again) and said to the kids, voice raised – “Boys, is this appropriate? Get in your seats. I’m getting calls from the Vice-Principal that this bus is out of control. Stop fighting and keep your hands to yourselves. Got it’. My thought process was that if my kid was getting beat up or fighting on the bus, I would want an adult to step in, and not necessarily call the office because it would be too late to stop them from getting hurt and that might result in them getting in more trouble or even suspended from the bus. The bus driver is sweet and his job is hard, maybe he feels its at stake if he says the wrong thing or maybe there is another reason he is uncomfortable, or maybe he has tried. Anyway the behaviour was wrong and needed to stop so I did what I thought would help.

The reaction of the first two people I told this story too, was to tell me how wrong it was for me to do that. I should have kept my nose out of it, that it wasn’t my business. In all fairness the first person knows more school rules and was probably just trying to warn me I might be in trouble, but my thing was it was the right thing to do. Now if it were strangers on the street, adult strangers or teenagers that could hurt me or retaliate maybe I wouldn’t have been so brazen but I would seek help. I want to live in a world where it’s ok to call out what’s wrong – and this unfortunately makes me the odd man out a lot. I felt awful for days and didn’t feel better until I confessed to the principal that I did this, she told me the rules to which I will now follow.

The thing I get caught up in, is when not fitting in, or being told that I need to let things go. It makes me feel like there is something wrong with me, and as I have already mentioned apparently there isn’t. I wanted to write this because I know my sister doesn’t 100% believe this, in fact she said when I told her that my assessment came back with nothing that I should check the credentials of the psychologist and the tests. So even in my own my family I’m the triangle among the squares and circles.

This feeling with my family has been duplicated with relationships outside, friendships, romantic, work or otherwise. When I have bad days or more so when someone hits a spot that matches a hurtful thing others have said to me, or a weakness, or something I am actively trying to work on, even from years past, I start to beat myself up. I’ll focus on the fact that they must be right, because this person thought so too or I should be better. That my parts of my family, those closest to me believe I should be medicated so I can stop caring, and my response which is that medication won’t make someone more competent, or another person less of an asshole, falls on deaf ears so it’s again that I’m the problem.

I don’t believe we can control our feelings, we can try to put perspective on a situation but ultimately how we feel is how we feel. I often feel I have an expiry date to how long people will tolerate me for. That the longer I know someone, or more so, the more they get to know me the less likely they are to like me or love me; this feeling contributed to my lack of trust and the failure of my first marriage.

I do say I’m a ‘Love me or Hate me’ person, there are a few people that have always been great supporters and have made me feel valued. It’s not that they don’t call me out when I’m over the top but they do accept me as I am, unconditionally. I have learned to say I am hard to get to know and accept that I am tough for some to ever really know.

For a long time I tried to morph, and I tried to hide or I tried to not care but that hurt me too because I was always trying to be something I’m not. I want to say that I believe in medication for those that need it. I have heard from so many that it saved their lives and helped them be the best version of themselves. I do think there are people that medication isn’t going to help, people like me that are just triangles in the round and square world. For us, we need to invent our resiliency, be ok with being different – find focus in our sense of self, our successes, our strengths and continue to work on being the best version of yourself.

So I am going to work on accepting my odd shape and focus on opportunities or possibilities where I can be accepted even with my pointy bits. I wanted to write about this although as always it feels not quite finished but hopefully it give some perspective. Those that appear confident might be often crying when alone. That those down one minute and positive the next might be just trying to find a bright spot. That because someone seems strong doesn’t mean they aren’t hurt or injured when you aren’t fair to them.

I never know how to end but thought of this – I know life isn’t fair, but it really should be whenever possible. The things about life that aren’t fair should be natural disasters, cancer or loss of loved ones; they shouldn’t be caused by others or how we treat each other as fellow humans. Be kind to triangles, circles and squares since we are all here doing our best.

Thanks for reading.

Constructive Criticism vs. Negative Criticism – Can you tell the difference?

I had two topics I wanted to talk about this week and I wondered where to start – to me it was essential to understand that the difference between constructive and just plain negative criticism before broaching the other topic so here is my attempt. I will pre-warn that this is ranty, jumps around and I kinda go all over the place but I’ve had a long (although technically short) week so here goes:

I would like everyone to take a minute and think about what they believe the difference between constructive and negative criticism is. Hopefully everyone has had the opportunity to experience both, even if they don’t think they have. The reason I added that last part is that in my experience there is a large number of people that can’t tell the difference, so when they give or receive critiques/criticism/feedback they always take it negatively. They are not able to separate the constructive part from the negative feelings. Often these are also the individuals that can also not give constructive criticism either as they deliver negative criticism instead.

To be able to take and give feedback or criticism objectively you first must be able to separate the person from the action. This can be very difficult as many believe and it can be said that we are all the sum of our actions. I would debate that although that is not untrue, we are human and humans a flawed creatures; ones that can and must learn from their errors. Being able to focus on the action vs the person shifts from it being a personal problem to a specific behavioral one. Behavior is something that most people have a semblance of control over, where as, who someone is, is innate and hard to change. Think of those that do not have complete control over their every behavior, whether it is a OCD/ADD/ADHD or something else, they would benefit from focusing on the what vs the who because it allows a separation between the individual and action. That way if someone is frustrated, confused, hurt by an action they know it’s not necessarily the intent of the person.

I know it’s hard not to take things personal and hard not to make things personal when you are having a difficult conversation, I get that, that’s why they are referred as difficult conversations. Let me start with making things personal, often when we are giving criticism it’s because we are wanting something to change, whether it’s in a relationship, at work or maybe even ourselves. In a relationship, it might be that we are setting boundaries, at work maybe it’s that you need a more reliable team member and in ourselves it might be that we see someone that has something we don’t or that we are judging them for something that differs from our own belief.

You can see that the common denominator is you need or want something so it’s personal. The thing is that for criticism to be constructive it has to be about the other person, and it has to be specific and changeable. It has to signal out specific actions that need to or could benefit from change. I’ll use my example of a reliable team member, it might be uncomfortable to approach someone that is late, the first time for sure but the second time they are late, they show a disrespect for the workplace. Now my thoughts are that maybe they don’t realize the affect of being late, maybe to them 5 min is a minor thing and the trickle down affect doesn’t hit them. Negative criticism would be to either ignore it (because this will inevitably lead to insurmountable frustration when the behavior continues) or to say something simple like I hate it when you’re late. The wording is geared towards the person and yourself vs the action so unlikely to achieve change.

When we provide criticism for something that is a personal choice and we are judging someone, this is always negative… let me say that one more time… this is always negative. There is no benefit in imparting your judgement on another person. If you have a difference of opinion on how they live their life than you can choose to either accept them or not have them as part of your life but keeping them around and criticizing them is no good for you or them.

This doesn’t mean not having a debate on opinions, anyone that knows me knows I am always up for debate, and I value people sharing theirs. What it does mean is that if you feel like a person’s opinion or action is who they are and it doesn’t line up with what you need, want or respect, you have two choices – either try to give specific constructive feedback and set relationship boundaries or choose to disassociate. At work we don’t always have the option of not having someone in our life, this is why it is crucial to learn how to give and receive specific constructive feedback.

Another thing that needs to be said is that it never feels good to do wrong, it sucks. I know whenever I make a mistake or have been called out on doing something wrong, or make someone feel bad, I feel stupid, I feel uncomfortable and sometimes a bit worthless. It’s natural to not want to make or accept the mistakes we have made. I believe for some it’s instinctive to either lash out or deflect and believe it is the person providing the criticism who has the problem not them. That comes from a self preservation instinct and ego, that to admit a flaw or wrongdoing would unravel your entire ego or ability to do anything. The first reaction, the one that is to feel shitty or that it sucks is fair, but the second one is not ok.

When one lashes out they will often say, it’s not what you said it’s how you said it. I would really encourage everyone to stop and think of that. Is it really more important how something is said or what is said. Yes, I acknowledge tone can be important, absolutely, it can set the literal tone of a conversation however the words and what is said should be so much more important. Why? Because tone is reflexive, it’s not easily controlled. Words and what is said is something that can be and is generally more thought out. Words hold more meaning because they infer thought vs. straight emotion and as mentioned previously we are human and are flawed, reactions are flawed.

Let me give you an example, I had a conversation with someone that was trying to give me their version of ‘constructive feedback’, they were super calm, their voice was soft and warm but what they said was ‘You need to work on your energy.’ I asked how do you mean?, ‘When you walk into a room everyone knows you’re there. You’re the first person to raise your hand’ ok, and ‘And sometimes when you leave a room I just feel exhausted’. I just looked at them and was confused as to how or why any of those statements would be constructive. She was saying this as part of things I needed to work on for my work performance, my energy was a weakness that she identified. So the tone was really ‘good’ however she was basically telling me she just didn’t like me, or more so my ‘energy’. See the words were not ok, the were not constructive, they were negative and very personal.

I have spent a lot of time thinking of how I took this particular feedback and tried to find a way to make it constructive as I walked out of the meeting feeling like the person really just didn’t like me. That they weren’t able to give concrete examples of actions but it was a feeling and the feeling about me was just dislike. That’s ok, not everyone needs to like everyone or in this case me but it’s a good example for this purpose.

I like to think, it’s possible I may have felt the same regardless, but that if she had said it this way – ‘You have lots of energy, the thing is, your energy can feel overpowering and sometimes intimidating. In meetings you are excited, if you could make sure that others also are able to share, like count to 10 before answering. Also I am not the same as you, I sometimes get overwhelmed when we talk so I might ask for a break or time out it’s so I can be prepared for you.’

It sill would have got the essential points and concerns out which were that I am high energy, high energy can be good and bad, it can stifle others and that it can be exhausting to be around but it would be in a way where specific behaviors and strategies on how to better the behavior are presented. The thing about this example is that it comes down to what I said about judging someone that’s not like you, so it’s hard to make it constructive. This person because of my interactions with them, I believe just doesn’t like me, there isn’t a connection and they couldn’t be specific in examples because it was just a feeling not a specific action they didn’t like.

Another example would be forever my conversations with my mother and sister, neither see it ever. There is more recent examples I’ll bring up next week as it relates more to that, but there are two instances that always come to mind – one is with my sister whom was home for Christmas. I had just woken up and saw her for the first time in about 4 months and the first thing out of her mouth, I kid you not, was ‘You’ve gained weight’ not hello, not good morning, ‘You’ve gained weight’. Fair enough I had, but what could be gained from pointing out that I had put on a few?

The second one is an example from my mom – about 6 months after having my first baby I purchased a skirt that was one size bigger than my pre-baby size but I was happy because, a) I liked the skirt and b) It meant I was getting closer to pre-baby weight. My mom said to me and again this is first thing ‘Does buying things make you feel better about yourself?’ – my only response was ‘Does making others feel bad make you feel better about yourself?’ To which she replied ‘Well I’m glad you have such good self-esteem you don’t need to.’ These are two examples of pretty obvious negative criticisms but the things is neither person delivering it saw it. Just like example at work, the person genuinely didn’t see anything wrong with what was said.

Now I feel like I might have a ton of examples of negative vs constructive because I am a blunt person so those around me feel like they can be liberal in their critiques. Like because I am open and honest then I should be able to take it too. The thing is, when I am having a conversation with someone that I would classify as critical I take great care in being constructive. I am blunt when speaking an opinion or asking for an action to stop, not I feel like I am criticizing who a person is. I also do not like ‘Sandwich’ criticism either, I don’t really believe that is constructive because too often it whitewashes the negative behavior.

An example for me, would be I worked at a customer service desk and I had a staff member that used to rest their feet up on the desk, so picture someone leaning back in a chair, feet up when you approach. My bluntness would be to say ‘So and So, get you feet of the desk’ and I freely admit I said this. I remember the staff saying that I hurt their feelings saying that, especially in front of their peers. I looked at them and said, ‘I said it in front of everyone else because they too should have told you to put your feet down. I didn’t say you are a bad staff or a bad person or dumb, what I said was put your feet down because it’s not appropriate at work, it makes you look unapproachable and disengaged.’

Had I used the ‘Sandwich’, it would sound like this, ‘Hey So and So, I know the chairs can be uncomfortable and ‘insert compliment’ like you are really good are greeting customers but can you please make sure you don’t put your feet on the desk? It looks unprofessional and really doesn’t make you look approachable. Thanks.’ The thing with the ‘Sandwich’ is that is put equal focus on what the person is doing well (even if it’s not timely or deserved) and the action you want stopped, this minimizes the constructive part of the feedback and it can be lost. The truth of it is, the staff member felt stupid when I was direct, because their actions were stupid. They really should have thought before putting their feet up, just like we should consider the affect on others when we are late or inconsiderate. There is no positive way of telling someone what they are doing is wrong but again focusing on the action vs the person the most important thing.

I want to say that I am not perfect and could use plenty of constructive feedback, my hope is to offer a perspective from a blunt person on what constructive means. Sugar coating is not constructive, I actually find it belittling and it makes me wary to trust the person giving feedback. I also again implore everyone to work on empathy, so know your audience when providing criticism. I naturally am what I am but have learned to soften my words or pull people aside if they let me know they are nervous. And last but definitely not least think about why you are criticizing someone, is it because they can grow from it, become better or is it because you want something or don’t like something.

As warned I jumped around a lot in this and am a bit jumbled. I also didn’t delve a lot into positive feedback or when Sandwich’ing’ might be ok, that will be a whole other post. I am hoping that when I review these (all posts) in 6 months to a year I can be more centered and focused on each topic but for now lots of ramblings. In the meantime, thank you for reading and please share your thoughts, comments and share away.