Mental Health day?

This has been on my mind a lot the last couple of months and it’s time to let it out of my head and drop it on the “paper” 🙂

As much as we as a society have made strides forward in mental health advocacy and understanding there is still a significant stigma attached to admitting that you are less than “ok”. Being in the midst of living through the grieving process of losing my son last year I am the first to admit that there are many days when I’m not ok. Let’s be brutally honest… more not ok days than ok ones really. But I get up and I go to work and I am a shining example of OK for the day. Then I go home and I crash. Not the healthiest way to process and deal with grief and I am beginning to see a real frustration building with me over this.

Why the resentment? Simple really… because if I had broken my leg or had a bout of pneumonia and needed to take time for my care and healing then it would be open and discussed and work time management would be resolved. Days off or weeks off would be arranged, colleagues would help with taking up the slack (even begrudgingly, they would do it) and my body would have its needs met for time to heal.

But instead…this wound, this illness, is quite literally, in my head and not visible. Not only is it not visible – it is hidden, purposely – hidden so as to not have to face the implications of being viewed as less able or less competent. Hidden so as to ensure that my job security is intact and that there won’t be an undercurrent of my performance and stability being questioned. So grief and depression are pushed away as best as they can be each day until they just simply can’t be anymore and then the issue becomes how do you put it out there that you need a day off, a week off…to close your office door and not speak to anyone until the moments pass. And the resentment builds that for as much as we, as a society, are fighting to remove the stigmas, they are still fully and completely present.

This isn’t solely a rant about this issue though but also a post to bring action. Check out this link : https://www.notmyselftoday.ca/about and read and talk and get it out in the open. Dialogue can help and dialogue is needed. I’ll be doing my part. I’ll be meeting with my direct colleague and no longer hiding. As a simple man with a great vision once said “be the change you want to see”. Talk is great but action is where it’s at.

Have yourself a wonderful day, and if it’s anything else, tell it like it is.

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Little ears

Perspective is a funny thing. It can colour how you see and interpret things around you. Take 2 people viewing the same moment and experience and they will each have different interpretations of what happened. Some things are black and white and can’t really be seen differently. Is it daytime or nighttime for instance…although dusk and dawn can even throw that argument.

But I’m musing about more subjective times. I was at my son’s baseball game last night and while I have spent years at sport events and kid-filled events in general it has been a while since I’ve been in attendance. Some of the comments and interactions that I observed last night between parents and children astounded me. Even more so because it wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before…many times before. This time though, with a different perspective, I was shaken by how it affected me and how apparent it was, to me, the negative impact that their words and actions could have on their children.

Now, I don’t profess to be the uber-parent or the authority on how to treat your kids. I’ve made mistakes in parenting and have a handful of less than stellar moments that I would rather forget (and hope my kids do lol!). Having lost my son last year though I have a different perspective than I used to. While I have always believed in “pick your battles” and in watching what you say with regards to how it will leave an impression on little spirits, now I find that I am so much more aware that every moment is a treasure and that- as a parent- we need to really get that concept.

Watching last evening and sitting back and seeing the way that parents treat their kids was rough. I’m not an aggressive or intrusive person but I was having a hard time not leaping in and asking some parents what the hell they thought they would accomplish by the way they were speaking to and treating their children.

Watching a mother talk to the coach, with her child by her side listening, about how she needs to sign him up for a sport again next year because he’s lazy and needs to be made to do anything (yes, her words exactly!).  The coach, laughing and stating that they all are lazy really. Both of them oblivious to the impact of those words on the little set of ears. Sad.

The same mother throwing a ball to her daughter on the team for practice. Her daughter yelled to her mom that she wanted her to throw it harder so she could practice catching harder throws. The mom yelled back “So I’m throwing like a 9-year-old girl eh? Not good enough?” Does she have any idea what those words could mean to her 9-year-old daughter that she’s throwing to?? Or worse yet…maybe she does know and does it anyways.

Listening to a father who has nothing but criticism to his son when he comes off the field. Not a word of praise. Watching that little boys face change from a smile as he runs off the field to his dad to an expression of anger and frustration while he stomps away from his dad after the remarks. The father following, angrily yelling “how dare you walk away while I’m talking to you”. This is a 9-year-old. Would that father not walk away himself if he was subjected to that behaviour on a regular basis? I would assume he would.

Watching a child who has struck out, been given a stand to hit the ball so that he can get a run to first base in… as he gets tagged out and walks back to the players area be told by his mother that he better work on it…next year he won’t be “coddled” if he keeps striking out. His face scrunching up as he throws his batting helmet to the ground and walks off mad…his mom yelling at him to “watch his attitude”. She then turns to another parent and says “these kids have no respect nowadays”. Seriously?! She doesn’t deserve respect the way she treated her child. That’s a two-way street.

I left the game with my son with my head filled with frustration and anger. Angry at the pain and disappointment on the kids’ faces that I saw. Angry that these parents are ignorant of the impact of their words and actions. Frustration over the inability to give someone else the perspective of loss and the ability to see the treasures that their kids are. To really see it instead of just paying it lip service.

Character

char·ac·ter noun

1. the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.

2. one such feature or trait; characteristic.

3. moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character.

4. qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully.

5. reputation: a stain on one’s character.

Character, integrity, honesty, ethics, morals, values. These are words that we throw around and muse on how much they mean and how important they are.

“You are known by the company you keep” is an old adage and really does speak volumes…

We all make choices in life. We all justify those choices. Sometimes we are able to compartmentalize our lives and fool ourselves that we are good people who have done things that we’re not proud of because we “had to”. Because life left us no other option but to lie or to deceive or to cheat. The raw truth is though that we always have a choice and very often we tend to make the choice that, at the time, is the easy way out of situation. We let someone else take the blame rather than own up to a transgression; we help gossip along that we know isn’t true because it makes us look better; we hurt someone else even though we know it’s wrong because we get something we want out of it.

Or… we stand by and see all this in a friend or a lover or a partner… and we still keep them in our lives…even when we know that their character is not in line with who we are and how we strive to live our lives.

True, it’s not all black and white; we all engage in behaviour that isn’t always exemplary. But there’s a big difference between a bad choice made out of fear of loss or itentional deception and hurt.  Such as hiding something from a partner because you fear them leaving if they knew the truth…that is coming from a place of internal pain and fear and they do that with the intention of sparing themselves pain. Someone who proves time and again however that they will lie, cheat and deceive to further their own agenda and get their own needs fulfilled – at the expense of whoever gets in their way – they are coming from a place of intending to hurt and cause pain to others. Some will argue that intentions don’t matter, just the action but to me there is a difference.  While intention doesn’t make something right or better than the other…it does, for me, make the difference between being able to decide if someone is worth keeping in my life. Maybe not as close, but still there…or cut them loose completely.

It’s when we’re finally honest enough with ourselves to stop and look at who we surround ourselves with that we need to make the really tough decisions. Decisions about whether we’ll take the easy way out and just keep on with relationships and associations with people we know do not align with our own values and morals and whose ethics are so far removed from ours or… whether we’ll do what we know is right and make the choice to distance those people from our hearts and our lives.

It may mean fewer friends or losing someone (or a whole group of friends) but I believe in quality over quantity. There are things that compromise is all right for, and some that it’s not. Every now and then it’s good to look around and make sure that those who are a part of your close circle are truly those who belong there.

A Singular Truth

I had asked him to tell me what he knew to be a singular truth of life…

My eyes were closed as I lay with my back against the trunk of the tree. The tree, standing alone at the top of the small hill was sparsely decorated with leaves that rustled in the breeze. Affording a slight shade that cut the heat of the day just enough to allow it to be bearable. The roughness of the bark digging into my light shirt as I settled my body and allowed my mind to wander, waiting for his reply. The sharpness of the bark digging into my ribs slightly as I inhaled, the solid strength of the tree comforting against me.

I exhaled, resigning myself to accept whatever truth he would offer to me; not caring precisely what the truth would be but simply that I craved and needed to know something. To know, as a certainty, something…anything…to believe in my heart in a singular truth. The sage’s presence as he sat on the other side of the tree was palpable as I waited.

The sun on my face was hot and it felt good. The kind of good that makes you smile with your heart…your lips just conveying what is bursting inside. My body was damp with a sweat earned by the hike to this place and the wind that blew quietly caressed me and caused a shiver to run through me, the heat of the day gone for a second. I relaxed myself deeper into the ground where I sat and the warmth of the grass drew me to a place of physical contentment that I craved. I exhaled.

Feeling heaviness in my body and calmness in my mind, I was present.  I felt capable, strong and in control – for the first time in a long time. I barely noticed as the tears fell silently, my breathing slow as I welcomed the strength back to my spirit; missing for so long and found in the most simple of places now – within in myself.

I blinked as my eyes opened slowly….the brightness of the sun, high in the sky, burning my eyes and making me drop my head down to filter the sharpness of the light.

Taking a deep breath, I could smell the scent of the grass as the warm air filled my lungs. Releasing my breath, my shoulders set firm and my back rose straighter instead of slumping as it had been for far too long.

I leaned forward as I disengaged myself from the tree trunk, my mind focused on the reality that I had not heard the sage and no longer could I sense his presence. I turned and looked…the other side of the hilltop was empty; he wasn’t there. The small boulder just on the other side of the tree that I had noticed earlier had something on top of it that I could barely make out. I arose and walked to it.

A white piece of parchment fluttered in the breeze, held in place with a small stone. Removing the stone, picking up the paper and reading my singular truth that the sage had left for me.

“You are, as we all are, alone in our journey of this life”.

Ah, Relationships part 2 (aka Seriously, I have to maintain this?!)

You buy a new car; you’re so excited and in awe of how much you adore it! You want to show it off to all your friends and you are so proud it’s yours. It looks shiny and smells great… the engine practically purrs and it feels so smooth on the road. Even the bumps and rough patches in the road are barely noticeable all of a sudden.

And so it is with a new relationship… that first shiny phase when all is wine and roses and everything else in your life just rolls off you as you bask in the glow of your new relationship and the love/lust that you have with your new partner. Ahhhhh…..

 

The reality is though that relationships, like cars take maintenance and regular care and upkeep if they’re going to last and be around for a long time.

 

Your car is going to need oil changes and tire rotations and air pressure checks, spark plugs, fan belts, fluid changes and even car washes to get the grime and salt off that could corrode the shiny J. You don’t begrudge these things; in fact, they’re expected and planned for. Some people take great pride in the care and attention they give their cars and the fact that, because of this attentiveness, their car continues to run smoothly and have fewer problems over the long run. Sure, repairs may be needed, sometimes big and expensive ones, but that too is taken in stride. After all, you took on the responsibility when you bought that vehicle.

So why is it that so many people neglect the care and time it takes to maintain and grow their relationships? Why do people decide that they won’t put in the time or the attention needed to check in and ensure that the little pings and clunks are attended to and dealt with before they become bigger issues that are harder to fix. Why the lack of regular maintenance? It’s far too easy to put our “significant” other (or others) on the back burner time and time again… all the while expecting them to be there waiting for when we glance in that direction and want to pick it up again. Think of the attention you give when you ask how they are – and really listen and want to hear the reply – as those oil changes. Date nights and *making* time for your partner(s) as those routine check-ups that keep you up to date on making sure that all is well.

And if something isn’t all well and good? Would you go to the garage, see that your car has a flat tire and jump in and drive it anyways? Destroying the wheel and causing massive damage that will cost a small fortune to fix… The “check engine” light comes on and you drive it anyway, hoping the light will go out; and when it does (it always seems to!) then you pretend it was ok anyways and put it out of mind.

How often do we do that with our relationships? The little warnings signs are always there…we ignore them, consciously or subconsciously…we pretend we don’t see them, or worse, we actively choose to ignore them and hope for the best – raging at the injustice when it not only doesn’t get better but actually has the nerve to get worse!

 

Neglect the care and maintenance of your car and the reality is that it’ll drive great for a while, not so great for a while after that and eventually it’ll just be one issue after the other until it simply gives up and packs it in.

Not a surprise that relationships go the same route.

Ah, relationships (part one)

Out for a run today and for me, running is therapeutic. My mind wanders and my issues that are stirring about in my life rise to the surface to be attended to. Some days my running allows thoughts of turmoil and strife to settle and quiet and provide me with a sorely needed solace of quietude and calmness. Other times, my running brings those issues to the forefront and I use that time to focus and problem solve; bringing a determined process of resolution to something that needs the attention. Today was a different type of thought process all together for me.

Today’s run was both introspective and productive which is a new one for me. As I began my run my body felt heavy and slow. Sluggish and hard to move as I felt as though I was lifting and dropping each foot with tremendous effort.  My spirit soared though and it felt, inside, good to run. Such a disconnect between my body and mind however had me seriously considering turning back and just going home instead of pushing through. I kept going though… giving myself permission to move slowly and to stop and walk when I needed to. After about half an hour of this my body started to settle and as that happened, my thoughts came up, as they do. One of the things that came to the front of my mind was the following…

I was thinking today about a workshop I attending this past weekend on jealousy and communication and it made me think about the how’s and whys of relationships.

I’ve had 2 marriages and a few longer term relationships and they have each been unique and different in their own ways. I have, after much thought and soul-searching, accepted that they were not “failures” in making it work but rather experiences that have allowed me to grow and learn and move forward. They have brought me to the place where I am now with a better knowledge of myself and an understanding more fully of what is, for me, a need versus a want in a partner and in a committed relationship.

Having just recently ended a long term, committed relationship with a partner that I loved deeply and was hurt by I have been taking time to sort through my emotions and to start to move past the hurt and the sadness of it ending and look to what I am taking away from this experience. A big one for me is the truth that I need to not allow myself to be treated as less than what I deserve. I value respect, honesty and a willingness to communicate too much to not have them as an integral part of a relationship. Lesson learned.

I also am taking away a very distinct belief and understanding, true understanding, that I am enough for myself. I don’t need a partner in my life to fulfill my needs and my desires for companionship and caring and love. I have found that the love I have always had for my own company and solitude is still present. That in order for me to be content, I only need to know myself and understand myself. With that realization has come a freedom from the sadness of losing a partner and a joy in knowing that I am choosing to be single now. That I am making a conscious decision to take the time that I need to be with my own thoughts and my own musings on finding and enveloping who I am so that when the time is right I will find the partner that complements my life and time and energy. Someone who will enhance my life and be there to enjoy the moments of joy.  A partner to journey the rougher times with and offer support to each other, out of love and compassion and understanding. An understanding that will be fostered from 2 people who know themselves well enough to know what they need from someone else.

A wonderful ideal and one that doesn’t just happen but rather takes time and work and commitment to being willing to put in that time and effort. The rewards are worth it though. The reality is that the effort and the commitment start with putting in the work and the brutal honesty needed to build the strongest foundational relationship of all though – my relationship with myself.