Gimme Some Love

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Love is in the air…and on the door!

It’s the season of love so we are gearing up for Valentine’s Day!

This idea has been floating around social media for a few weeks.  I’m not sure of the original source as so many people have shared it and reposted it.  My sincere thanks to whomever the brilliant, innovative person is who thought this up.

Here’s how it works. Starting February 1st, every night while they are sleeping, you tack a heart to your child’s bedroom door professing what you love about them.  Super simple to do and the impact is huge!  Here are some example of what I have written:

You are a really good friend.

You always look after everyone and make sure they’re okay.

We are so proud of you.  Proud of who you are.  Proud of what you do.

You are so artistic!  Your art is amazing!

You are beautiful, inside and out!

My children wake up so excited to see what has been added to their doors.  A little tidbit of love to start their day off on the right foot and fill them with all of my love.  The bonus is that it delays the sibling fighting for all of five minutes! Hahaha!  But seriously, it is a little thing that warms them and reminds them how much we love them.

You could do this for your significant other too!  You could tape hearts full of love on the bathroom mirror for them to read while getting ready in the morning or maybe sneak them into their bag/purse or tape them to the dashboard of their car. That would be such a nice surprise!

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?  How do you show your love?

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

It is all a Facade

 

Portrait of a beautiful woman

Look at me.

Really look at me.

What do you see?

You likely see a woman who is put together quite well.  Beautifully styled hair. Flattering make up. Conservative clothing;  perhaps leggings, a designer sweater, high boots and a favourite handbag.

You are probably thinking that I have it all. The house, the car, the wardrobe, the successful husband.

Well, I don’t.

I do not have it all.

It’s all a facade.

Created to trick you into thinking that I have it all.

It masks my internal despair.

For on the inside, I am in a state of emergency.  Always on red alert.  Wildly searching for my sanity.  Terrified that I am going to die or go insane.  Scared to be alone. Trapped in my mind.

Yes, when you see me, I look well put together.  I am a pillar of strength.  A woman who can take on anything, be anything.  A woman thought highly of in the community.  A woman that people can lean on, depend on, confide in.  A woman of unparalleled character.

And yet, I have lost myself.

On the outside, it is all a facade.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.

 

 

Someone Was Here

Inukshuk on the coast in Eastern Passage, Canada

Where were you?

Ah yes, selfishly tucked away somewhere trying to bury the guilt wrestling your soul. Too dependent to leave, not strong enough to stay.

The ultimate battle.

It wasn’t that I asked for help, it wasn’t that I told you I needed you.  That would have been a different story.  In fact, it was you that announced you were coming to help me, wanted to be here for me, support me, love me.  It was you who made phone calls to ensure people knew you were compassionate, caring and ready to take action.

All to save your own face.

The guilt wasn’t that you weren’t here to help me. The guilt was that you were worried people were judging you, questioning your decisions, your loyalty.

The reality, of course, is that you should have been here.

You should have been the one to lead me through the darkness, help me redefine myself and help me to function within the confines of anxiety and panic.

Yes, it should have been you.

But it wasn’t.

It was a select few of my dearest friends and family who guided me through this storm, wiped my tears and gave me the strength to persevere.  It was this small group of warriors who came together to check on me every day, offer their time and calm me in a panic.

Someone was here, but it wasn’t you.

Each day that passes, my mindset improves, my confidence grows.

I should have known you wouldn’t be here. I suppose that’s why I didn’t ask.

Your actions were driven by your need to look good to others; so terribly selfish and yet, not surprising.

Your insecurity is difficult to hide, dependency unparalleled.

As I write this, I can’t help but think what will happen if you read it.

It suddenly occurs to me that I don’t care.

I can sleep at night with the choices I have made.

Can you?

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

Just Breathe II

Yoga woman meditating at sunset

 

I just finished a private yoga session in my home.  I have chosen to have someone come to my home so that (a) I can’t make excuses and not attend and (b) I honestly don’t think I could handle the stress and anxiety of being in a room with a lot of people.  Turns out I made the right decision; more on that in a moment.

My yoga instructor is a young woman who has the most lovely voice; serenity beyond compare.  Calmness was radiating from her as she walked through my front door.

We had talked over the telephone about my current struggles and whether yoga could play a role in helping to still my mind and calm my soul.  She had actually been drawn to yoga after a time in her life that was riddled with anxiety and panic attacks.  Thus, she could appreciate what I had been experiencing.  It was yoga that ultimately provided her with the tools to stop the anxiety in its tracks and she hasn’t had a panic attack since.

We started off with slow, deep breathing.  Yes, I know.  Complete contradiction to my earlier post, but hear me out.  There is a difference between telling someone to breathe during a panic attack and teaching someone to breathe to help deter a panic attack;  to help them focus and use their inner strength to find calmness.

We moved to some of the easier poses and about midway through the session came to warrior pose.  Now, this is a relatively easy pose.  You are in a bit of a lunge with your arms extended.  Nothing too complicated.  It was at this time however, that I started to notice sensations in my body that initiated my fight or flight switch.  My heart was beating faster, I was sweating and my legs were shaking. Logically, I knew it was natural for my heart to beat faster because I was exercising.  I knew I should have been sweating because I was moving my body.  As for my legs, well I haven’t used them in three months so my muscles were likely in shock.  Logic can be so bloody logical!

It didn’t matter how hard I tried to convince myself of this logic.  The switch had been flipped and there was no turning back!  I was sprinting down a path of sheer panic!

I told my instructor that I had to stop.  She quite firmly told me to go to child’s pose. Child’s pose is where you are curled up into a ball and your forehead is on the ground. She started speaking with her angelic voice and counting out breathing.

Inhale, 1, 2, 3, 4…exhale 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Inhale, 1, 2, 3, 4…exhale 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

She continued for about five minutes.  Just breathing.  Focusing solely on the breath.

The relief was immediate.

As soon as my forehead was resting on the ground and I started breathing, I was bathed in serenity.  My heart slowed down.  I was no longer hot.  The shaking had subsided.

It was instantaneous.

I was in shock.  How could this pose and this breathing quite literally stop me from sprinting down the path of panic?  Me, the non-believer.  The person who quite vehemently declared that no one should ever tell me to just breathe!

Afterwards, she explained that it is the breath that is the tool that will ultimately give me the power to stop the anxiety.  She also said it is crucial that my forehead be on the ground because it will trigger my vagus nerve which in turn, will help to calm me.  She instructed me to go to child’s pose whenever I feel the first twinge of anxiety and/or panic.  She told me to leave my yoga mat in the middle of my living room and go there when I need to.

Breathe.

Count my breaths.

Our session lasted an hour and a half.  I am sitting here recalling all that she said, so angelically.  Any chance I get to breathe, I am to practice.  If I am sitting in the car, watching television or in the line at the grocery store, it is an opportunity to breathe. To focus on my well being.  Find my inner strength and peace through breathing.

I know it sounds mystical, intangible, unbelievable.  A few hours ago, I would have agreed.  But having been the fortunate recipient of the immediate relief that yoga offered me in the midst of a downward spiral, I am a believer.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Repeat.

Namaste.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

The Curtain

Red curtains and vintage wood floor

What is behind your curtain?

Let me tell you about mine.

Behind my curtain, I am a ball of anxiety.  A bundle of nerves.  A million electrical currents trying to find their way; searching for a way to become grounded.

Insecurities abound.  They are limitless.

Questions are insurmountable.
Questions pertaining to my sanity, my sense of self, my worldview.

What is to become of me?

The once strong, confident woman, who possesses a touch of arrogance and an uncanny, sarcastic sense of humour has changed.

I am not what I once was.  There is a new strain to my identity, one that is characterized by nervousness, anxiety and insecurity.  One that I am not familiar with and do not want to get to know.  I suppose however, that in order to defeat your enemy, you must get to know them.  Walk in their shoes and discover their plans in an effort to foil them.  Thus, I am forced to get to know this most suffocating strain of my identity; this nervousness, this anxiety, this insecurity.

Behind my curtain, I am struggling to maintain my power over anxiety.
I must make every effort to get up, go out; resist the urge to stay in bed, rolled up in that ball of nerves.
Behind my curtain is a woman who once soared.
Behind my curtain is a leader who has lost her footing but will not falter.
Behind my curtain is a woman who is scared but will always show you a smile of sincerity and give you a hand to hold.

Although my curtain is drawn, I am reminded of the person I was just a few short months ago.  My power and my tenacity are still within me, they have just been hushed by the overbearing sound of anxiety.

I must get louder.

Free my old self, rescue her from the depths of the darkness.

Cue the orchestra.

The curtain is about to open.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

 

Just Breathe

Young athletic woman practicing yoga on a meadow at sunset, silhouette

 

If one more person tells me to just breathe, I am going to lose my fucking shit.

Just sayin’.

To anyone reading this who does not have an anxiety or panic disorder but knows someone who does, never…and I mean never, tell them to just breathe.

Do not tell them to just breathe.

Do not tell them to calm the fuck down.  

Do not tell them everything is going to be okay.

Because for them, everything is not fucking okay and it’s not going to be okay!

Just be there.  It may even be better you don’t talk at all.  They want to know they are safe.  They want to know you are there for them, that you give a shit. Let them talk. Don’t pretend like you have any idea what the fuck is going on in their heads, because you don’t.  Be compassionate.  But whatever you do, please do not tell them to just breathe.

Ahhh, glad I got that off my chest.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled program.

Which means I can resume my full blown panic attack.

‘Til next time.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.

 

 

On Entitlement

School sign on blur traffic road background.

Ah, the kiss & ride.

Could there be a more stressful way to start your day than to participate in your local school’s kiss & ride?  I don’t think so.

It is hell.

All encompassing, rip your hair out, hell on wheels.

And sadly, it is reflective of our society as a whole.

Here’s why.

We are in the age of entitlement.  Unfortunately, it’s not just today’s children that feel they are entitled.  Their parents are proudly paving the path to entitlement.

Somewhere over the last decade, our society has changed.  There has been a dynamic shift in what is acceptable from a behavioural perspective.

Somewhere along the lines, common courtesy and good character have been thrown to the wayside and replaced with rage, annoyance, disrespect and entitlement.

Per the Merriam-Webster dictionary, entitlement is defined as,

the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something;

the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges)

Which brings us back to the kiss & ride;  the proof in our day to day lives that our society has lost its bearings.

There are civil rules, hell, there are laws, in the kiss & ride.  For example,

Do not park in the fire route. Do not leave your car.

Do not leave your car running. Yield to pedestrians.

Use common sense (especially challenging for many people).

This does not happen.  Ever.  Instead, there are cars abandoned everywhere, blocking fire routes and blocking other cars.  Blocking the driveway.  Children don’t know where it is safe to cross so they can be seen dangerously running about traffic searching for their parents.  Crossing guards, bless their souls, are frantically trying to maintain order amidst chaos while being sworn at or ignored altogether.

The message being sent is loud and clear.

I am here for my child.  I do not care why you are here.  The only thing that matters is that I get my child.  I do not care if I have to run yours over to get to mine.  If I have to speed down the street to ensure I am there on time.  If I have to give you the finger, yell at you in the driveway or break the law.  I am entitled to get what I want, when I want it and I want to get my child right now. 

If everyone took a step back, demonstrated patience, showed respect for others, we would all be able to pick our children up from school in a safe and orderly fashion.

When did your sense of entitlement become more important than the safety of all other children?

Why does your rush to get somewhere threaten our entire neighbourhood’s safety?

There is a disturbing parallel.  This age of entitlement coincides with an increase in bullying and behavioural issues in schools.

According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research,

1 in 3 adolescents reported being bullied recently.

47% of Canadian parents reported their child has been a victim of bullying.

40% of working Canadians reported being bullied on a weekly basis.

How can we put an end to bullying when adults continue to exhibit such bold disobedience of societal norms and expectations?

We, the adults, are responsible for guiding our children and teaching them that societal norms matter and that disobedience of societal norms and values will not be tolerated.  But this disobedience continues to be tolerated!

Why?

It circles back to this sense of entitlement.

Some 21st century parents have lost their good character, their respect for others, their rational thought.  There is an urgency driven by check lists and extra curriculars; by responsibilities and stress;  by family dynamics that appear to no longer foster respect, patience and tolerance.

These parents will do anything they can to check something off their list, to move onto the next task.  At any cost.  Even at the cost of your child’s safety. There just isn’t time, in their minds, to be cautious or slow;  there is too much to do.

Is that it?  Is it that this world we are living in is so demanding and moving at such a fast pace that there just isn’t time to think of others; to slow down, to show respect for humanity as a whole?  It is the me generation.  Me, me, me.

As a result, our children are growing up in an environment where they are taught to put their needs first and to do so at any cost.  We are creating a generation that will grow up to be dependent, selfish individuals.  No collective reasoning.  No actions to support the greater good (look at vaccinations, don’t get me started).  A worldview that no longer considers the world.  A very narrow view of self and their immediate surroundings.

We have to get off this road to entitlement.

It is critical that our children are taught the societal norms and values that ensure the day to day functioning of our world.

Who is going to do this?

It starts with you.

It starts at home.

It starts in the kiss & ride.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.