**comma not hypen**

Mommy-blogger.

This is what I am often called. 

I am a mom. I have a blog. 

Ergo, if the shoe fits and all, right?

But what if the shoe fits, but it's a shoe that is really not your style? Do you still wear it? Go around telling everyone about your well-fitting, but ugly as all get out SHOES? 

PEOPLE! I DON'T *DO* UGLY SHOES!!

EXhibit one. **NOT UGLY** shoes. 

EXhibit one. **NOT UGLY** shoes. 

I mean, even the homeless guy I walked past today noticed and complimented me on my shoes. HE GETS ME!

So one might ask, if you are not a mommy blogger, then why oh why are you heading out shortly to a conference called the Mom 2.0 Summit, with the theme of "Redefining Motherhood"? 

Honestly...?

I am just going for the swag. 

OK, just kidding.

I am really going to get away from being a mom for five whole days and focus solely on myself and doing/being/creating ALL FOR ME!

I mean, I love my family to bits and pieces, but I kiss them goodbye the morning of my flight and then I am gone. In all senses of that word. 

I drive to the airport and I have only one person's bags to worry about. One passport to keep track of, once nice big coffee to buy and fully enjoy while I read my book or scroll through my Twitter feed, with no one clamouring to play Minion Rush on my phone, as I leisurely wait for my boarding announcement. I have snacks I don't have to share with anyone. No one I need to talk to. I board the plane, plug in my headphones and watch or listen to anything I want. 

I don't have to actively MOM or WIFE anyone or anything the minute that plane takes off, and there is something absolutely freeing and almost taboo about actually admitting that I love that feeling. 

Of leaving.

* * * * * 

Motherhood is a forever double edged sword. Your body, your brain, your heart, your mind, none of you is ever simply all yours anymore. There is a saying about having kids is like having your heart walking out in the open, and it is not wrong. What they forget to put in all those sappy Hallmark cards though is those parts of you walking around being actual complete human beings themselves, can also suck the life out of you and leave you feeling drained, exhausted, raw, taken for granted, and at times, rather unloved. 

Until bedtime that is, and then all they want is for you to cuddle them as they tell you that you are "the "Bestest Mom Ever" and can you please rub my back and do "moon is round" on my face." And they fall asleep in your arms and are finally not talking back to you and glaring at you like The Dark Side has taken over when you simply pointed out that they should not ride their bikes in the middle of a busy road, and all is forgiven and the weight of their beautiful little head on your arm is enormous and starting to ache a bit, as is, coincidentally, your love for them.

And that is it really, isn't it? Motherhood is a huge weight. One we carry around far longer than those few months in/on our bodies as we grow these tiny humans. It's a weight we can't ever shed, no matter how much we run, workout or go to hot yoga classes. It's those "last 10 pounds" that won't ever go away, and the longer you hold them the heavier they start to feel. It is a feeling that is virtual and real, and wonderful and awful, and so, very heavy and then so completely light as air. It's a never-ending rollercoaster of highs and lows. Sometimes you throw your hands up in the air and revel in the pure exhilaration if it all, and other times it takes all you have to hold back the bile that is creeping up the back of your throat and you close your eyes and pray for a break. Just a tiny little break to put your head between your legs and catch your breath. 

And that my friends, is why in one week I will be boarding a plane and heading to the shores of California. To catch my breath. To enjoy a week with dear friends I see once a year, and to regroup and focus on myself - my goals and my dreams and my life -  in a way that I am not able to do when I am home and have to be the manager of all the things for everyone and carry around SO. MUCH. WEIGHT. 

* * * * * 

Like I mentioned earlier, this years theme at the Mom 2.0 Summit is "Redefining Motherhood". It's about parenting in the digital age, and how motherhood has changed and continues to change. When I read the announcement about the theme a few months ago, my first thought wasn't about how we are redefining motherhood, but more so on how motherhood redefines women and how we are constantly adjusting our lives, our thoughts, our goals, and our dreams accordingly. 

I am at a point in my own life where I realize that motherhood can not be the main or only thing that defines me. I will always be mommy to two incredible human beings and for that I am eternally grateful, but I am so much more. I am a whole human being, with complexities that go beyond meal planning, soccer game scheduling, household duties, the school PTA, the never-ending piles of laundry, and all other duties I fulfil as a mother and at home parent. 

And this is why I cringe at the term 'mommy-blogger' or any other mom-ified words that get thrown around. It is not that I feel that the word Mommy is a derogatory one; on the contrary, it is one that I cherish, has deep meaning to me through my children, far beyond anything I could have imagined, and one that will always be the tug on my heart I can never ignore. And though I share the moniker with millions of other women on this planet, it is one so incredibly personal and intimate as well. 

All of this to say that I would really like everyone to stop making "mommy" (and by extension, motherhood itself) seem cutesy and inferior and disposable by hyphenating it to all the activities/jobs/endeavers/accomplishments that women who are mothers do or are involved in, thereby rendering all important roles in a person's life feeling trite and plebian. Something that I guarantee you, they are NOT!

I am a human being, a woman, a feminist, a writer, a partner, a mother, a blogger...

and so much more. 

***comma not hyphen*** 

Thank you,

N~

less is more: on fighting fear and perfection.

The white of the page stares back at me like an accusation. 

"Why aren't you filling me? Where are all the WORDS??!!

They are here, I tell it, I know they are in here. I hear them, I see them, I write them in cursive, loopy scroll all over the hills and valleys in my mind. They are here. Waiting. For what, I am not sure. 

For the perfect post? The perfect story? The perfect something.

perfect

PERFECT

PER..... FECT.....

The word loses it's meaning and any sense the more you write it or say it. 

So why am I so stuck on it? Why do so many people get stuck on it? Why do we always feel like we have to wait for some ideal, exact, precise moment in time/space/life to DO something? 

Perfect doesn't exist. It is a construct of our minds. A place/time/planetary alignment that is completely made up. And as such, this made up thing that we think will just BE at some point, becomes like an anchor, holding us in place, not moving, waiting, always waiting.... 

Want to know what I think?

I think that perfection is the flashy accessory that fear wears to disguise itself. Fear likes to be in control and the way it does that is by waving it's colourful, oversized, PERFECTION infinity scarf at us and telling us things like:

"The timing is not perfect for this right now, you shouldn't do it."

"These are not the perfect words to express your thoughts, you should wait until you have better ones."

"You aren't going to do that perfectly, so maybe it's just not for you."

Fear convinces us that if we can't do something perfectly, then it is not worth doing. That there is no use in even trying. Fear does not want us to go anywhere, have new friends, try new things. Fear is like that one controlling ex-partner you had who tried to keep you all to themselves and convince you that you are better off with just them. Fear is wrong. If there is no trying, then there can be no failing. And if there is no failing, there can be no learning, no doing better, no growing.

Right now, fear is keeping all the words locked up in my head. It is working hard to convince me that they might not even be there anymore, and maybe they never where, and I was only writing from a place of rage and righteous indignation because of my displaced anxiety and depression.

I want to tell you that fear is not winning. I want to tell you that the words are here and I am writing them and I am doing what I feel I was meant to do in this world. 

The thing is...

Some days fear wins. I over-accessorize on the quest to PERFECTION and can't string more than a few words together on a Facebook post, let along a blank page. I busy myself with other life tasks. I tell myself that I have more important things to do than write. I don't put writing on my to-do list. I read other people's writing and think that I am never going to be as good as they are so why bother. I let fear hold me down and believe the story it tells me of my lack of worth as a "real" writer.

Last night I attended a lecture given by the one and only Margaret Atwood. I found out about the lecture on Sunday and bought a couple of the last tickets available. As I sat way up in the nosebleeds and listened to her talk in her distinctive, dry, delightfully vocally-fried voice for an hour and a half about life as a writer in the 60s and 70s, I wondered how much, if ever, fear played a part in her life, in her writing. 

At one point she talked about how back in the day, she and her writer friends (you know, like Michael Ondaatje, Mordecai Richler and Marion Engel) never considered writing as a career. It was more of a vocation, a calling. Something that HAD to be done, and that was done, and then published, sometimes by hand-lettering and binding of first books in the back rooms of friends apartments and teeny publishing houses. 

That statement above all else she said, has been stuck in my head since last night and for all of today. As I sit here and fight perfectionism and fear, and struggle to get these words on this page, I am making a conscious decision. I am a writer. I need to write. It is the best way I know to communicate my thoughts and ideas, and I truly believe in my heart of hearts, it is through my writing that I will positively affect change in this world.

THIS IS MY CALLING. And that is what you do with a calling right? You make the world a better place. Even if it is just a little bit. 

My heart feels full and my mind is alive when my fingers are dancing on the keyboard. My soul is energized when I know that my words have spoken to another human being and moved them in some way (big or small). And sometimes, I also happen to crack myself up and need to write that shit down somewhere to remember it. 

So, no, maybe today is not the day the New York Times is going to come calling and say, hey, YOU, come be a regular columnist and write for us and we will pay you loads and loads of dollars. And maybe this is not the year that I will finish the book I started writing in January. 

But today, I wrote words on the page. Today, I took to heart Coco Chanel's advice,  to "always remove one thing before you leave the house. Less is more." Today I removed that oversized infinity scarf /quest for perfection and wrote the words that are here.

These imperfect, choppy, words about words. 

And this is a good thing.

N~

#fangirl stoopid grin while Margaret Atwood signs my books!

#fangirl stoopid grin while Margaret Atwood signs my books!

Spring Cl... arity.

I have been in some kind of talk therapy for the past four years. It was a necessity given all that has happened in my life in that time period. I reconnected with my estranged father and he passed away three months later. My son had a critical illness and a stroke. Friendship and family changes happened and left me questioning everything about how I relate to people. Having a place to go to work out all that has happened and how my brain is processing all of it with an objective third party, has proven an invaluable tool in my living-life-the-best-way-possible toolbox. It has also had the interesting side effect of making me incredibly curious about the human mind and how it handles the experiences and the events that shape us. 

It has been two years since the worst day of our lives - the day my son coded in the PICU and had to be resuscitated and put on life support. Thankfully he survived his sudden and unexpected illness and is now thriving, but those five minutes were the longest ones of my entire life and they changed me forever. What I didn't know then, was exactly how much, and how fundamentally those few minutes would change the very fabric of my being. 

This is the part about trauma that you don't hear about until much, much later. About how trauma changes you. And not just the person at the centre of the catastrophe, but everyone in the immediate blast zone as well. Trauma leaves an imprint on our brains, and it's effects can be felt for years after the initial traumatic event. In my efforts to understand how trauma has affected my life, how it continues to affect me, and what I need to do to heal from it, I thought I would try to write out what this process has been for me and hopefully make some sense of it all. 

Here goes...

You probably already know this, but when you are in the thick of things during a traumatic event - regardless of what that event is - your body and your mind go into automatic pilot. Much of what you do is instinct and not necessarily carefully thought out and/or planned. You are in your fight or flight mode and your body responds appropriately and automatically. You do what must be done to get through your day(s), with just enough reserve to get you up the next day and do it all over again. (And coffee, lots and lots of coffee.)

When Nine was in the hospital, I remember many people asking me how I was able to handle everything? How surprised they were at how well I was doing "considering", and how they "couldn't imagine" what it took to keep going day after day. I remember at the time thinking, "What else am I supposed to do? How is me losing my shit going to help anyone right now?". I know that no one meant any harm in what they were saying, and sometimes people don't know what to say when confronted with situations that are really terrible, but those comments struck me as odd at the time. Yes, it was difficult and terrible and awful and really, really bad, but we had to keep moving forward, stay focused on getting him well, and all of us making it to the next day. 

And we did. And those days turned into weeks, weeks into months and in record time, Nine healed physically, blew away all his therapists and doctors with his determination and goal to be discharged on a certain day and he was able to come home - on that very day. Life eventually started to feel normal again. We all went back to our routines, and everything was just FINE. 

But was it? What I didn't realize then, in those weeks and months of healing, was what I had unwittingly started to do, and what we were all doing to some degree. We were building walls around us. We insulated ourselves more and more from the outside world. In our efforts for self-preservation, we started letting fear guide us and keep us from moving past the physical healing from our shared trauma. My husband and I became the SUPER-hyper-uber-vigilant parents and our already heightened sense of risk-aversion became even more pronounced. Our reactions to the sometimes crazy things the kids did, (because you know, they were still kids) was often way out of proportion to the actual antics they were getting up to. A fever in our house sent us into a complete tailspin. A swollen lymph node or an unexplained pain in the leg was cause for a visit to the paediatrician - STAT! Casual talk in the school playground about so-and-so's kids having strep throat sets the hairs on the back of my neck on end. 

We were living in a vacuum of our own making, always waiting for the next shoe to drop, the next bad thing to happen, because now we knew - bad things can and DO happen. FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER! At times it's felt like our lives were still in autopilot mode and we were simply getting through our days as opposed to living wholehearted lives. Our fight or flight button was stuck in the ON position all the time. We were moving forward, but with so much caution that sometimes it didn't really feel like movement at all. 

There are consequences to living in this vacuum. They have names like anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration. They can only be ignored for so long before they start manifesting themselves and affecting not only our connections with the world, but also our connections to each other within our newly built up walls. In our efforts to protect ourselves from "all the bad things that COULD happen", we ended up living in a place where we couldn't see that we weren't actually protecting ourselves at all and our fears began manifesting in other destructive ways. Even when we thought what we are doing was for the "greater good" and for the safety of all, we ended up hurting and not healing. 

It has taken me two years to realize that I can't be a good mother, wife or person in this vacuum. Whatever internal generator I had that was keeping the fight or flight button in the ON position has run out of battery and all my coping reserves have been effectively used up. I recognize now that living with a constant buzz of fear in my ear and a sympathetic nervous system on overdrive is unhealthy and unproductive, not just for me, but for those around me as well. And worst of all, I am not being an good example for my children in how to work through these tough feelings and/or to admit when I need help. 

I wrote a few weeks ago about finding a new baseline, but what I didn't realize was that I also needed to accept that the trauma that we experienced had actually put me at a different baseline already. A POST-trauma baseline so to speak. THIS is the not-so-secret secret to healing from trauma, and it is what most people fight against (to no avail). We mistakenly think that healing means getting back to where we were before the "bad thing" happened to us, and fail to see that this simply can not be done. We are changed, our world has changed, and we have to first accept and then adapt to these changes. We have to find our new touchstone and move forward from that point. There is no going back. There is only now. After.

I have a clarity right now that I didn't have a month and a half ago and I know it is because I hit my limit. I know now that I was reaching backwards for a place within myself and from those around me that no longer exists. I had to say out loud that I needed help finding my way. I needed to take the anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication to clear the path in front of me. Even knowing all that I do about maternal mental health, the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses, and my hundreds of visits to a psychologist, I fully admit that this decision still made me feel like I was a failure and too weak to "handle things" all by myself. The harsh truth is that in a sense I was, and I needed help to get strong again. I know it is only with the help of the medications and continued talk therapy, that I have that clarity to see what was holding me back from truly healing and moving forward with my life. 

I feel as if I am no longer in my fight or flight mode. This in and of itself is a new mind space for me to get used to, and I am finding my way down this path slowly but surely. Now starts the work of tearing down the walls that we were building up around us. Of opening up our hearts and our lives to each other and to those around us. Of me stepping out of my own cocooned comfort/safety zone and being open to what the world has in store for me and what I make of it for myself and those I love.

It seems fitting to me that this is happening right now as spring comes anew. As the earth thaws, and new things start to grow, and there is more light in our world, and the forest creatures wake and frolic. We can not forever live within the winter of our souls. The seasons know when it is time to change and so too it seems, do our own minds. Sometimes we simply need to get better at reading Mother Nature's signs and knowing when we need a bit of help to get the buds to open up and push through the earth.

I am excited to say that there are more changes afoot in our lives this season as well and I can't wait to share these with you! And yes, all of these changes continue to stem from our new baseline. Our "after".  

Going forward.

Growing stronger together.

Without fear.

Without walls. 

With LOVE and patience and clarity and...

a little bit of help.

N~