Chasing (choosing) the sun.

It's amazing what spring does to ones soul. With the snow (finally) melting away, the sun shining longer throughout the days and the birds singing louder on the newly budding trees, life all of a sudden just seems more hopeful. That is how I am feeling today.

But first, let me tell you how I got there.

Today I learned something new. It's a phenomenon called negativity bias, and we all have it. Since the beginning of humans actually. In a nutshell, negativity bias is "the psychological phenomenon by which humans have a greater recall of unpleasant memories compared with positive memories. People are much more biased to the avoidance of negative experiences and they tend to behave in ways that will help them avoid these events. With this, humans are much more likely to recall and therefore be influenced by the negative experiences of the past."

One of my family's favourite animated movies of the past year was The Croods and that family's mantra is a perfect illustration of negativity bias at work.

The main character, Eep, starts the movie narrating and sets the stage:

"My name is Eep. And this is my family, the Croods. If you weren't clued in already by the animal skins and sloping foreheads, we're cavemen. Most days we spend in our cave, in the dark. Night after night, day after day. Yep, home sweet home. When we did go out, we struggled to find food in a harsh and hostile world. And I struggled to survive my family. We were the last ones around. There used to be neighbors. Uh, the Gorts, smashed by a mammoth. The Horks, swallowed by a sand snake. The Erfs, mosquito bite. Throgs, common cold. And the Croods, that's us. The Croods made it, because of my dad. He was strong, and he followed the rules. The ones painted on the cave walls. Anything new is bad. Curiosity is bad. Going out at night is bad. Basically, anything fun is bad. Welcome to my world!"

Or very simply, as Thug, the dad, puts it, "Never NOT be afraid."

The problem with negativity bias and this kind of thinking is that the part of our brain that still tends to behave like that of a caveman (the amygdala or "primitive" brain) is wired to go negative and store all of that information for easy access. All our childhood (and adulthood) experiences, both experienced and seen are in there and as a result our brains are programmed to overestimate threats and underestimate opportunities and resources. This all served us very well, way back when food was scarce and the risk of getting eaten by a tiger or smashed by a mammoth were imminent. Nowadays though, this kind of thinking gets us into more trouble than we think. We are a world filled with anxiety, fear and unease. We are constantly being fed a steady diet of negativity, through the news, social media, TV shows and movies. It has gotten to the point that the positive things that happen in our daily lives can seem too small and insignificant when compared to all the terrible/awful/really bad things happening in our big world.

What's even worse than the negativity bias that makes us anxious and afraid of our big world is the smaller, and perhaps even more insidious negativity bias that affects us in our own minds. Some of you know this phenomenon as the bitch in the corner, others know it as the lizard brain, and some call it the little hater. It's that voice in our head that tells us we are not _______ enough. That voice that keeps us from doing or being our wholehearted selves, because of the fear, the doubt and the insecurity that it brings with it.


I started part two of the Brene Brown "Gifts of Imperfection" course this past week and ALL of the homework was centred around creativity and embracing ourselves as creative beings. We even had to print that on a piece of paper and place it where we can see it (and say it) everyday.



And then we had to start to heal our creative wounds. The ones that we heard as kids, the ones that we inflict upon ourselves via our little haters or the ones that we internalize from the world and society around us.

I had some wounds left over from my childhood that I didn't realize still hurt ("You just don't have a dancer's body") and then there are the ones that I hear daily either from myself or that I perceive from others ("You are not the creative/play parent" and the ever present "You are not a writer, you are just a blogger.") Putting the bandages on those wounds seemed silly at first, but choosing the words to heal them was the real medicine.


And that is what it all comes down to in the end.

A choice.

Do I choose to believe the words that wound or the ones that heal? Do I choose to listen to the little haters in my mind or tell them to shut the hell up? Do I choose to live in fear, always with a certain threat level activated or do I choose to push past the fear and negativity and see the positive, no matter how small?

In The Croods, Eep and her family had to change the rules, they had to abandon their fears, reach for the sun and follow it until tomorrow. They had to evolve past the negativity bias in their brains and choose not only to live, but to live with intention. And if animated cavemen can do it, I think I can manage it too.

And that is why I am feeling hopeful today.


Every Moment is a Choice.

 Retreat to the dark cave or reach for the sun?








the ordinary life of a {closet} loner

This is what I love doing. I am sitting alone at one end of a dining room table that can easily sit 10-12 people. A cup of tea to my right and the Tar Beach Lullabies playlist from Songza playing on my iPad to my left and my sleeping pup at my feet (keeping them warm). The lights are mostly off and I am writing by the glow of my laptop and the still light dusk of a Northern Alberta spring night.

Today, I took my children to a birthday party at one of those jumpy castle play place establishments that are all the rage these days. I knew most of the parents and kids at the party and while it was nice to visit with everyone, I felt this strange urge to escape from this social situation. I wanted to hightail it out of there and run off for the two hours of the party, or at least plunk myself down in a corner and read a book, or pull out my iPad and get lost in the long list of Favourited links from my Twitter stream. I did manage to escape for about 45 minutes and ran a few errands (ie, went to Anthropologie and bought a new top. Shopping, also something that I love to do by myself.)

I know this is going to sound a bit crazy to those of you who know me, but I think I am a bit of a loner.

I sometimes dream of being that woman who hosts perfect big dinner parties or the one who has that group of Ya-Ya Sisterhood friends that meet on a regular basis and tell each other everything and know all of each others secrets - the good, the bad and the ugly. I dream of going on holidays with another family (or families) that we are so close to, our kids are more like brothers and sisters than friends. I think that these are the things that I should be dreaming about.

I just don't know if I am that person.

In one week, we will have been in our Natural Urban Home for exactly one year and we have yet to have an official house warming party. To be perfectly honest, I have only had a handful of friends over and never all at once. I am not ashamed of my house at all, it's just the opposite. I love this place so much and we worked so hard to make it 100% us and ours, that sometimes it feels strange to have other people here. And it's not just me, my husband has always been one to consider his home his sanctuary from the world and on any given day, my kids are usually 70/30 when it comes to going home to play or going out. This is our centre, our starting point and our end every day and walking through our door often feels like exhaling after having held one's breath for a long time.

Now, I know what you are all thinking, "Natasha, you are not a loner. We've seen you work a room! Your the most social of the social butterflies!" I won't deny that I feed off of the energy in a room and yes, I do like to be social, but at most events that I attend I am just that, a butterfly, flitting from one conversation to another, stopping in for a sip of the nectar from this group and then flying off to the next.  I know why I seem like the social, extroverted one. I know the reason behind my flitting about and social insect behaviours.

I fear depth.

I fear that if I spend too much time with people, that they will see deeper into the real me and then not really want to be around me. And I can feel it. I can physically feel the wall that I put up when things get serious. It's both a defence mechanism and a protective shield. I am defending myself from the inside out and protecting myself from any {perceived} attack from afar. If she could, my therapist would tell you that this all goes back to my very early childhood and my feelings of never being good enough, of always being an outsider, of always dealing better with other people's feelings and problems than facing my own. This all makes me think that perhaps then my home, my concrete walled home, and the sense of relief I feel when I walk through it's doors, is a physical manifestation of this fear.

Commander Chris Hadfield of the Iternational Space Station, tweeted this photo and caption today.

That is how I feel some days, like mostly liquid rock covered by a thin crust. For the most part I can control the hot spots and keep everyone {including myself} safe and sound on the surface. If anyone tries to crack that surface though, my biggest fear it that it is gonna get really ugly. Everyone will see the messy, not so pretty parts of me, and will head off running in the other direction. I know that this is not likely true of most people and that I should give folks more credit, but hey, it's fear! It messes with our minds!

I also saw this tweet from Maria at @boredmommy earlier tonight. It is what sparked this rambling train of thought and post.



I thought about this and then came to the realization that I wouldn't change anything. I have a really wonderful life. One that I am incredibly grateful for. I don't want to go back to the career that I had pre-children, it just wouldn't work for our family and I don't foresee myself getting back into the 9-5 workforce anytime soon. I made a choice to be the at-home parent for my children, not just for when they were babies and in the safety of my arms, but for when they are leaving them and beginning to navigate the world beyond the walls of our home. This is when I think they are going to need me the most. I believe that part of my fear in the aforementioned social situations is that someone is going to ask me the dreaded "What do you DO?" question. I am afraid that I won't have an answer that is good enough for them. That me being a stay at home mom and yes, a sometimes blogger/writer too, will not be interesting or extraordinary enough for them.

As it happens when I am tackling issues of fear and vulnerability, I defer to the expert on these things, the wonderful Brene Brown. Please watch this 2010 TEDx talk she gave. At 6:34 she kind of blows my mind (as she has a tendency to do to a lot of people I am sure) and takes ALL THE WORDS FROM MY HEAD and puts them up on her screen!


I am an ordinary woman, living an ordinary life, loving my ordinary husband and raising my ordinary kids. And I like to write alone, at the end of my huge table, in my big beautiful sanctuary of a home.

And I am trying not to be afraid of scarcity anymore.


Maybe one day you can come over for coffee and we can talk about ordinary things together.