Tag Archives: writing

The Big Melt(down)

It’s been awhile since I have updated here. My life has been hectic in recent months and today it finally seems like I might have the time to sit down and have a good rest.

A lot is going on in my life at the moment…

Today I am 41 years old. I woke up this morning to Happy Birthday messages all over my Facebook. The truth is that I completely forgot about my birthday until I checked my phone this morning, which makes it official…I am old enough to not give a shit about my birthday! Yay!

Yesterday I started a new job in a familiar place. Two weeks ago my family and two very nervous cats moved into a new apartment in the city. Seven weeks ago my kids and I packed one bag each of clothing, dropped the cats off at my parents and drove 4 hours south to Toronto to stay with my husband in a hotel room for an undetermined amount of time and start over…again. Eight weeks ago I handed in my resignation for reasons I can’t talk about here.

Today I am sitting in downtown Toronto in my previous place of work, with a new job on my old team. My kids have adjusted to their new schools and being back in the city. There were lots of tears at first and it wasn’t easy, but they are happy again. Our new apartment is fabulous and HUGE and I am looking forward to hosting a dinner party for our friends. The cats were completely freaked out from the move but I can report that they are now happy and comfortable in the new pad. Actually, I was pretty freaked out by the whole thing too, but I am doing much, much better now. (Purrrrrrr)

Oreo and Luna

A post shared by Billie-Jo (@bearheartwoman) on

This past year has been a long and hard journey. I am not sure why I had to go through it or what kind of lessons I can take from it. I am sure there are many gems of wisdom to gain from the experience but for now I am feeling incredibly grateful that my family and I made it through in one piece and everything has worked out better than I ever hoped for.

Depression still lurks around the corners and threatens to slip in through the cracks under my doorway. I have random anxiety attacks which have been difficult but I am learning to manage them. Despite it, I think I am doing much better than I was earlier this year. At least I don’t feel like a cardboard cut out of myself anymore and I got my feelings back. The problem is, my feelings are BIG and all over the place and I have zero control over them. Crying in public has never been my thing and now I have random outbursts of emotion which is the worst nightmare for a super self-control freak like myself. Yes, I get the lesson here. Putting a lid on your emotions is really, really bad for you. I just wish I can at least wait until I get home to cry over nothing.

But, I am doing better. The desire to write is a good sign of my old self and I look forward to sitting down and putting words together again. I can’t say that I am completely back to normal but honestly, I don’t think I will ever be the same again. Perhaps that is a good thing.

It was a hard year and the past two months have been a roller coaster off all kinds of emotions. The good news is that I am actually feeling real, full emotions again. They may not all be pretty and some of them are downright ugly, but in the midst of the big meltdown of every emotion that ever existed, I am feeling something that is vaguely familiar to me. I think it’s called Happiness.

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The bear comes out of hibernation

The snow and ice have melted and the local falls are roaring

The snow and ice have melted and the local falls are roaring

Depression is a difficult thing to live with and keep under control. Managing my mood is part of my daily maintenance that I have to keep ahead of. Sometimes it’s hard to wear all those hats of who I am – mother, daughter, community member, social worker, social justice advocate, writer…depressive.

I have written before about my struggles with S.A.D. but I have recently come to realize that my depression has so much more to it than just the season. I suppose moving back to where I grew up has made me see that and although it has been hard to face, I think it is better for me to deal with it and work on my personal healing in my home community.

I went through a pretty dark depressive episode this winter. I haven’t felt that way in years and it scared me. Depression is something that has haunted me since my early twenties and I think there has always been a part of me that has feared the darkness overcoming me again. I’m feeling better now, but I realize that taking care of myself has to be my top priority.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I feel like I am coming out of the other side of the depression tunnel and things are looking up. I love my new job. It took some time to find my niche and fit in, but now I am feeling comfortable and I have some great ideas and projects to work on. One of the most exciting things about my job is that I have an opportunity to write for the community newsletter and I’m hoping to get an agency blog started. It’s not a big deal really, but it’s something that makes me feel good and well, I’m a writer at heart so any chance to share my writing is welcome.

Moving my family out of the city to a small town has been harder than I thought it would be. But all in all, everything is good. The kids are happy, I have a job that I love and the long winter is finally over. Spring has arrived.

I’m looking forward to doing some spring cleaning and finding happiness in the simplicity of daily life.

Follow me on Instagram: @bearheartwoman

Open your eyes

I have been feeling really good this week. I’m sure this is a combination of the warmer weather, spending more time outdoors and me being twenty pounds lighter. This past weekend I fit into a pair of skinny jeans that have been hibernating in my drawer for about five years. Victory!

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I’m also feeling great today because I had a really nice little photo walk with my daughter last night. You know you’ve been bitten by the photography bug when you get totally excited about rocks, textures and the subtle palette of colours in the sky. My daughter enjoys taking photos too and she happily tags along with me, iPod in hand on my photo taking detours on the way home or between errands.

Purple cityscape - Toronto

This morning my six-year-old son was looking through my edited photos on my phone and he asked me if that is really how I see things, with all the colours. I explained to him that no it’s not actually how I see the world, it’s more like how I would like to see things. But there’s more to it than that. Since I started learning more about photography composition, I notice details in the landscape that I never paid much attention to before. I see the subtle pinks and purples in the sky, the hues of blue and green in the water, the details and textures in the rocks and grass. I pay attention to the clouds, the weather and the light and I feel more in tune with nature when I’m in that zone.

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In post-processing, I sometimes use filters to enhance my photos and have a little fun, but more often I simply make adjustments to the ambiance, contrast/saturation and white balance to bring out the colours. Even though the eye doesn’t initially recognize it, all the colours are already there. You just have to slow down, open your eyes and let them reveal themselves to you.

Lakeside meditation

All photos are my own, taken and processed with various apps on my iPhone5. You can follow me on Instagram: @bearheartwoman and on Eye’em: @callmeshebear

Dry spells, creative slumps and taking risks

I have not been going out for photo walks at all lately. And to be absolutely honest, I haven’t felt like it. I don’t know if I have fallen into a creative slump or if it’s just the natural course of creativity. Dry spells happen sometimes.

Of course, it could also be this dismal winter weather that is curtailing my inspiration.

But that does not mean that I have not been thinking about artsy things and expressing my creative side.

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My daughter, who is ten, came home from art class last weekend and showed me her latest drawing. It’s a simple drawing of a crayon, coloured and shaded with a skill and precision that makes me wonder where she gets her artistic eye from. It’s certainly not from me…

…and then I could kick myself because there I go again with the negative self-talk disguised as self-deprecating humour.

I catch myself saying stupid things like “she obviously doesn’t get her creative talents from me” or “she gets this from her dad” who is a musician, “or the artistic talents must have skipped a generation, she gets it from my mom” who used to do oil paintings.

Why do I do that? My negative inner dialogue feels like a really bad habit that is impossible to break. I worry that if I keep it up I will drive away whatever creative juices I have managed to recover in the last few years and make them dry up completely. I worry that whatever creative projects I produce will completely stink, and then suddenly expressing myself feels like too much of a risk that I am not willing to take. So I don’t and I go on continuing to be unhappy and unfulfilled because I silence my own creative voice.

Okay, so maybe I am in a bit of a slump.

Today I am reminded that living a creative life is not so much about the finished product, whether that may be a drawing, a photo taken with my iPhone or my thoughts expressed in words on the screen in front of me. Perhaps for me, it has more to do with finding the courage to pick myself up, ignore the negative voices in my head and go out and do the things I enjoy because they make me feel good and they inspire me.

The thing about creative expression is that sometimes inspiration doesn’t just show up on your doorstep or fall in your lap. Sometimes you have to get out there and find it.

Pondering blog fright, and dealing with change

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I have to admit that I am feeling some stage fright, or should I say “blog fright”, since being featured on Freshly Pressed. I know that I already did my obligatory “post-Freshly Pressed” blog, but this fear only became apparent to me when i last looked at my follower count a few days ago and it sunk in that I went from a modest forty-nine followers to over three hundred in a matter of days.

Gulp.

So yesterday, I went down to the lake to take some photos because that always makes me feel better, and to ponder my fear…

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I never look at my blog stats, mostly because I don’t care all that much, and also because they don’t make a lot of sense to me. It could also be that more numbers and stats means more eyes watching me, and that kind of freaks me out. When I peaked at my stats this morning and started thinking about what to write about next, some silly thoughts started running through my head like “maybe I’m a one blog wonder”, a flash in the pan of the blogosphere and now I will just fade away into obscurity…

No pressure or anything!

I’m not complaining, really. Freshly Pressed was a pleasant surprise that showed up when I least expected it and because of it I have found some wonderful new bloggers to follow. It’s awesome!

Still, I’m feeling a rather irrational fear of not living up to expectations (my own), and not letting anyone (myself) down. Once again, I’m faced with either listening to that harsh critical voice in my head that makes me go silent, or that soft and quiet voice that tells me the only thing I should continue to do here is just be myself.

That soft and quiet voice is so much more sensible.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Follow me on Instagram: @callmeSheBear

Random happiness

A few days ago, I had the afternoon off from work yesterday so I could run some errands. As should be expected when applying for government records and documents, things didn’t go as planned and it turned out to be quite a stressful afternoon. I wasn’t able to get anything completed. Instead of getting upset about it, I decided to try again the next day, and go pick my kids up from school since I was in the neighbourhood. It’s such a rare thing that I pick them up. They usually get picked up by their After School Club.

At this time of year, we never get home while it’s still daylight. It’s dark and looks like ten o’clock at night when we open our door. But yesterday since we were off early, I decided to go for a drive down to the lake for sunset. We drove, sang along to some music and joked around on the way there. My daughter remarked that I was in a very good mood and that my “Happy Lamp must be working”. I’ve been using it every morning for the last few weeks or so, and I hadn’t really paid much attention to whether it was making a difference or not. It was almost like a surprise to me when she made mention of my good mood.

I don’t know if it’s the UV light therapy lamp that is making or difference or I’m just starting to feel better. Either way, it doesn’t harm me or anyone to sit in front of it for 30 minutes each morning while I check my email and catch up on blog reading

My kids are pretty amazing and every day they make me laugh with their candor and wit. They say and do the funniest things and I can’t remember what life was like before them. My daughter and I agree that her six-year-old brother could be one of two things when he grows up – a race car driver or a stand up comedian. I’m hoping for the latter because it’s not life threatening and far more entertaining.

My daughter , who is ten, says she wants to be a photographer when she grows up. She often comes along with me for photo walks taking pics with her iPod. She took these two shots below:

Caught red-handed, Instagramming.

Caught red-handed, Instagramming.

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“I also would like to be a writer, just like you”, she says.

We didn’t stay at the lake very long because it was cold. I think we were there for only about twenty minutes, but it was twenty minutes of pure quality time together, laughing, chatting and having fun on the cold shore of Lake Ontario.

On the drive home, my daughter said “I like it when you’re happy Mommy”.

I like it too.

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Follow me on Instagram: @callmeSheBear

Freshly Pressed, 15 minutes of internet fame and a self-realization to last a lifetime

Not that long ago, I came to a rather surprising self-realization that I have a lifelong issue with feeling that I never get heard. Let me explain (and share some of my iPhone photos that have nothing at all to do with this post)…

Lake Ontario

I grew up in a family that was tight-knit, loud, obnoxious, crazy and of course, REALLY dysfunctional. Being the oldest of three girls, I had a lot of responsibility. Both my parents worked full-time and also ran a small business during the summer which left me in charge of my two younger sisters a lot. Despite the amount of responsibilities I had, I never really had much say in the family because my parents were busy just trying to survive. I don’t blame them for anything. They did the best they could. I learned at an early age that in order to make myself heard, I had to kick, scream and put up a huge fuss about it. Since that generally didn’t go over with my parents very well (or anyone else for that matter), I mostly kept my mouth shut and did what I was told.

I only just recently put this all together and it seems so obvious to me now – I have spent much of my life either fighting to get myself heard or quietly blending into the wallpaper. As a result of this, I have held onto a lot of hurt, anger and resentment towards people in my life who probably didn’t fully deserve it.

Wait…some of them totally deserved it but not all of them.

So, when I received an email last week that my post was chosen to be featured on Freshly Pressed, I wasn’t sure what to do. I checked my email again a few times to be sure it wasn’t a hoax. Nope, not a hoax. It was real and it immediately sent me into a panic as if the Queen just called and said she was coming to visit.

I flung open my dashboard like a crazy lady and started to “clean up”. I ran a spell check, fixed some widgets, added some new ones, changed my About Me page fifteen times and then I waited. And waited. And waited some more. The usual two-day weekend felt like it was the longest wait of my life.

Fast forward to Monday morning, “My Life, Plan B” went live on Freshly Pressed and then the emails and WordPress app notifications started to roll in – right as I was in the middle of an intense two-hour long meeting at work. Gah!

For the next two days, it was an avalanche of ‘likes’, comments and follows that I am still astonished by. In that short time, my humble little blog received over 3,000 page views, 308 likes, 135 new followers and 144 comments. WOW! My iPhone was buzzing so much that I had to turn it off so I could catch my breath.

It was like a surprise party for me and I had absolutely no way of blending into the wallpaper at that celebration. It was fun, exhilarating and damn scary all at the same time. Talk about feeling vulnerable!

Three days later, my post slipped off the Freshly Pressed page and then…there was silence.

[Insert cricket sounds here]

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I’m still going through comments and likes and clicking on profiles to check out all your wonderful blogs. This will keep me busy for the next little while. I would like to respond to each and every one of you, but I’m afraid I will set myself up for disappointment if I commit to that. Please know, that I have read every comment and I appreciate everyone taking the time to leave some encouraging words. I must admit, I was so touched by the outpouring of support, it made me cry.

(sniffle, sniffle)

Seriously, I was so deeply moved by your words that for the first time I really understood the reason of all reasons for my need to write and put myself out there on the internet…

I write because I have a Voice and I deserve to be heard.

That deeply ingrained, unconscious belief from my formative years does not have to have so much power over me, and I see that now. I have something important to say and there really are people out there who are genuinely interested. Imagine that.

Thank you Internet, for stopping by and listening. It means the world to me.

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(Todays photos were taken last Sunday on the shore of Lake Ontario, Ashbridges Bay in Toronto, Ontario, using my iPhone 3Gs)