Things I learned in 2016

Early January I remember reading a spirituality-related article about the course for 2016 and it stated clearly, it was going to be a year of Transformation. I took it to heart. And thus, started 2016 with optimism and excitement. There were goals to accomplish; thoughtful intentions set; a specific frame of mind brought to focus; and deliberate choices made to stay optimistic and work hard to overcome any adversity the year would send our way.

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And send adversity it did! 2016, the last 6 months of it has been nothing short of emotionally, mentally, and spiritually draining in a pretty brutal way. Through it all, here’s what I’ve learned:

Eat the donut

I get it, you’re eating healthy. You’re eating paleo, low-fat, no dairy, etc. But sometimes you’re going to crave a donut, a cookie, a potato chip. Eat it. Savour it! Enjoy it  and go back to “as you were”.

Let It Go

This probably isn’t what you think. It doesn’t mean letting go of negative thoughts or anything that philosophical. This is coming from a place of burnout from my professional and volunteer commitments. I haven’t been happy to be there, excited about the mission, or eager to participate actively in a long time. Over the past few months, I’ve toyed around with the idea of moving on. And it wasn’t until Bruno died, I realized life was too short to be committed to something I didn’t really care about anymore. I’ve finally made peace with moving on, determined I’ll find something else to commit my time to while contributing to the greater good.

Be kind & be fierce

“Please”, “Thank You”, “Excuse me”, are still magic phrases. Oh, let’s not forget, “Sorry”. I have to admit, I’m one of those over “apologetic Canadians” who over-uses the word for no reason other than to be polite. Crazy, I know. I’m not proud of it. Saying “sorry” all of the time made me feel meek and added to my struggles with letting go of guilt.

I’m learning to pepper “Sorry” with less frequency, only saying it when it’s appropriate and when I really mean it. I’ve also stopped using words like, “just”, as in “Just checking in…” to “I’m checking in….” And I’ve done away with, “I’m wondering if I could…please” to “Yes. I’d like that, please.” Being polite without sounding like push-over. I’m into it.

I’m stronger than i think

This surprised me the most. I am stronger than I thought I was. I’m going through some my darkest days, saddest moments, and greatest heartbreak. But somehow, underneath it all, I have my breath, determination, gratitude, and love. And that’s more than I could ever  hoped for.

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Self-Care During the Holiday Season

Photo by, Marcin Milewski

Photo by, Marcin Milewski

This is a magical time of year for many people. The leaves have fallen. Shorter days. Longer nights. Lights, music, friends, family, and celebrations.

But this can also be a stressful time of year for many people. A lot of things could weigh on us–financial stress, family issues, relationships, health and wellness. We can get caught up putting everything together for everyone else that we forget to forget or, don’t have time to take care of our needs. And, for other reasons, it can be a time when we isolate ourselves because we’re struggling and find it hard to find the joy in celebrating this time of year.

In the small circles I keep, okay, my Yoga class is that circle, I’ve been hearing stuff about the importance of self-care during this time of year. One of the things I’m learning is,  whether you have an hour or a few minutes to yourself, take it. Do it. Work for it and don’t feel bad about it.  Find a time and/or day that works best for you and your schedule and resources. Here are some ideas:

Avoid the busy shopping times

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If your schedule allows, arrive early and beat the influx of crowds, or the rush at the mall and stores. One thing we’ve tried (if we need to got to the mall), we’ll try to go on a week night, after work and a few hours before closing. Or, if we’re up early on the weekends we try to get to the store right as it’s opening. With our local grocery store? We try to avoid the hours of 2-4 p.m. And instead go right before or after at the dinner hour on weekends. But our favourite stress management shopping “technique”? Shopping online!

Adopt an attitude of gratitude

Gratitude helps create and shift our perspective and helps us recognize and appreciate all of the positive things in our lives. It turns what we have into more.

Disconnect 

Turn off your phone and stop checking emails after a certain time; commit to a chunk of time where you’re not exposed to so much stimuli–turn off the car radio on the ride home; take off the headphones and enjoy what’s around you; put the holiday lights on steady glow (without blinking) or light a candle instead.

Indulge in moderation

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Butter, sugar, cookies, roasts, stews, it all comes with the holiday territory. It’s great to indulge and celebrate! It’s good to remember that moderation is healthy. Savouring is key. Enjoy the taste and texture and chew your food. Have one of each item instead of going back for seconds and thirds. That way, you get to taste everything!

Move

Exercise, that is! Go to the gym, play a sport, take the “long way” back to your desk, stand while you’re at the computer, park a little further than you’re accustomed to and enjoy the walk to get to the entrance. Breathe deeply, exhale and take it all in–the sights, sounds, smells of wherever you are. Now I know it’s that time of year where it’s cold in some places, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the outdoors. Enjoy the softness of bundling up and how invigorating the cold air is (even if it’s for a few minutes).

Treat yourself

It doesn’t have to be lavish. It doesn’t have to fancy. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Treat yourself to a new nail polish color; stay in bed an extra hour on a weekend morning; read a good book for an hour; enjoy a quiet cup of coffee/tea; or my new favourite, soak your feet. That’s right. Feet! I haven’t had a lot of time to take detox baths. So instead, I’ve opted to soak my feet for 10 minutes. I fill the tub with warm-hot water (enough to cover your feet), add epsom salts and a few drops of lavender, sit, and relax. You’d be surprised what a foot soak can do! It’s a great way soothe any aches and pains and helps remove toxins from the body.

Photo by, Worth of Elegance

Photo by, Worth of Elegance

My Pet Loss Journey: Grieving & Trying to Heal

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Quote, Unknown My Delights by Tess, 2016

It’s been 21 days since we lost Bruno. It’s been 21 days without his sweet smile or pawing my leg for a treat. It’s been 21 heartbreaking days of missing his bark. It’s been 4 Tuesdays without an 85 pound Bernese Mountain Dog walking back and forth between my legs to tell me how much he loves me. It’s been 504 hours since I scratched him behind his ears or rubbed his backside. It’s been 504 hours since we cuddled in the bed or on the sofa.  It’s been 4 Mondays and 3 Saturdays with one less cookie to give, one less pup to walk with, one less pup to load in the car and enjoy a car ride. It’s been 504 hours of our lives being turned upside down. It’s been 30,240 minutes of quiet and missing him beyond anything I ever thought possible. It’s been 30,240 minutes of cycling through unimaginable heartbreaking grief, sadness, and learning how to move on.

“How are we supposed to move on,” is a question we’d ask ourselves in the middle of this soul crushing sadness. Turns out we move on by embracing our grief and sorrow and taking one step at a time. I’m learning a few things:

We’re not alone.

A lot of our friends and family understand and empathize with our loss because they’ve lost a pet too. Sharing our story allows them to share theirs and somehow, we’re all able to comfort each other.

The cycle is real.

That is, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance and all of the stuff in between is normal when we experience loss. It’s real and we have to “let” ourselves experience them so we can feel again. There’s no time limit. There’s no “style” about it. We grieve in our own way.

And it’s kind of interesting…the grief, the tears, the sadness, the “downs” as I’ve called it, come and go. The other day was great. I was back at it, getting things done, being productive as they say. And in one moment, it’s like everything came rushing in like a tidal wave–a wave of memories and the aching and longing to hear, pet, smell, and cuddle with him again. I was in agony. A pet momma in agony. It hurt so much.

Not everyone will respond to your grief in the same way.

Each person responds to it differently and in a way you can never really predict. I’m learning who my friends are. Well, not all true. I’m learning, among my friends (and family), what they’re comfort levels are regarding sharing grief. For fellow pet owners and Bernese Mountain Dog parents, we share the devastation and sorrow of having our pups for a short time. For other pet owners, I’ve noticed they take comfort in our loss, sharing their journey, stories, struggles, and tears. Others who don’t share the pet parent journey are supportive and empathetic. While the rest, I’m learning, are unsure or uncomfortable on how to act when stuff like this happens and they see a different “version” of you. I’m learning to forgive them, because it isn’t always easy to “know” what to say or how to act.

Bruno was Is my family. He was My baby, my sweet boy.

I’m not going to belittle my grief or down play Bruno’s memory, because he may have been “just a dog” to some people. He wasn’t just a dog. He’s wasn’t “like family”. He was our family. He was our Sun and Stars. To honor his memory and our family, I’ve made a commitment NOT to apologize for my grief and sadness because he was a pet. He was more than that, he was our companion for 9 amazing years, our biggest fan, our funniest and most loyal friend.

We’ve been slowly picking up the pieces and moving on. Most of the time, moving on without him feels like the hardest part. We could be going about our day and then something, it could be a scent,  a tree, the way the wind blows, or the way the light casts on the ground, or even opening the pantry door and seeing enough dog food for two reminds us of him and all of a sudden, everything feels like it’s crushing us. Some days are easier than others. Either way, there’s still an emptiness inside, a part of us is still missing. One day we’ll reconcile this grief and live with memories that comfort instead of hurt.