Chocolate Chips

I broke a freshly baked cookie in half, and took a bite of the edge, saving the centre for last*. Closing my eyes to truly savour the moment, taste the multitude of flavours, the subtle fruitiness of the chocolate, the bitter caramel notes in the brown sugar, and the sharp brininess of the coarse sea salt on top. It was pure bliss and baked to perfection; a crispy yet chewy ridge around the outside and slowly moving to practically unbaked dough in the centre, thick and soft but not cakey. It’s been awhile since I have enjoyed a cookie this much.

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

I have not always been able to take joy in my food or let a cookie just be a cookie. Few people know this about me, I have always felt too much shame to share. Others see a young woman enjoying a cookie, I see a young woman finally enjoying her mountain top victory.

Years ago I started down the path of a very intense and extremely deadly psychiatric disease. Little did I know, every first innocent step lead me closer anorexia, an illness that somehow took the reins of my life and swallowed me hole. (I won’t give the full story now….you will see more posts about that later as it’s part of my journey of self love).

Food fell into categories of good and bad, and categories that made me good and bad. Not only did I restrict the number of calories I ate but also the types of food. But for anyone who has been on a diet might know, this pattern of omitting “bad foods” can only last so long. I wasn’t a binge eater by any stretch of the imagination but to give into these craving and to appear “normal” to those around me (or so I thought), I occasionally would have a cookie. More often than not, this was eaten in private. I had strange eating habits and felt dirty when people would see me eat perceived bad food. Shamefully I would eat the cookie, breaking it down into small pieces, directing it down to crumbs. I would pick out all the chocolate chips and line them up so I could count them, thus counting the calories. I would pick the centre of the cookie out and toss away the edges; if I was going to waste calories it would be on the best part. The greasiness and smell on my fingers gave me the sensation that I had eaten the entire thing without having to. In a manic fashion I would shove all the chocolate chips and the cookies centre in my mouth. Quite frequently I would only chew it a few times before spitting it into a tissue that I would later flush down the toilet. Even though I rarely would swallow the cookie I knew I still would have eaten a few calories. Often I would end the routine with 5 minutes of running on the spot to burn extra calories. This was a shameful ritual, and yet somehow I believe it linked to me to being a normal teen.

I look back at this now with sadness and a bit of disgust, but also with such distance. Who was this young girl holding so much pain and self loathing? Why did she think she was so bad and so unlovable…that she had to hide? How did she see this as normal?

Ironically I am now a pastry chef, surrounded by chocolate chip cookies. I don’t feel the urge to eat them all, the urge to eat them in shame in a corner or the inner rigidity to not have any. I have found peace with food (mostly) and a way to coexist; it’s a part of life whether I like it or not. I have found a way to create deeper meaning….I have found the heart of food; sharing love, creating memories and building community.

What are your memories around food? What feelings do cookies evoke for you….panic, joy, guilt shame? What is below that, what ingrained beliefs do you have about food, your value and your appearance? Quite often there is more behind our favorite food or our comfort food than we thing….good or bad.

*For those who don’t know when in a recovery program the only allowable way to eat food is “normally”, no breaking it into smaller pieces or eating edges first or last.

“No” as a complete sentence

If I reach back into the depths of my memory, I think I can remember when “No” started to slip out of my vocabulary. I was a stubborn child who danced to her own drummer; I did what I did, even if it made no sense to anybody else. I would have ruled the world if someone had let me, so much so, my mom felt the need to tell my kindergarten teacher to not let me loose this vivacious power. My mom always saw the inner power I possessed and since she was the adult, she knew how the turbulence of life can often steal that from us women.

I don’t really know what happened but somewhere in there I got lost and the world took over. I’m not too sure what it was really; it might have been one event but I’m pretty sure it was a series of events that slowly changed me. Bit by bit, much like a river carving a path, the world carved one in me. I began to learn being powerful was not ok, speaking up was not ok, saying “no” was not ok, being sarcastic and witty was not ok, being strong was just…. not…. ok. Although, I don’t think it has helped that I don’t really like conflict, I’m a bit of perfectionist and love to make people happy

When I was young, one of my siblings had some difficulties learning social cues, emotion control and communication. My innate desire to keep peace and help out kicked in. I would do whatever I could to keep things calm and peaceful; sometimes it meant doing chores without being asked other times it meant agreeing just to keep the calm. In school I started to see there was a pecking order. As much as I wanted to be at the top of that social order, I learned my place earlier enough that I just didn’t have the fight in me. As I said, like a river, the pathway, little by little, got carved and with every comment and situation it became harder and harder to stand up, and instead became so much easier to submit. I slowly became a more of everyone else and a little less of me.

Over the past few years and some life turmoil I have begun to get pretty fed up with being walked on. My mom and I have talked about it quite a bit….I realized I didn’t want to wait until I got a good dose of the mid-life “I don’t give a f***s.” I wanted to create my freedom and confidence now. So, while working with a life coach I have started to take a closer look at the things in my life and what I agree to. We have started the conversation of who am I and what is my vision. It wasn’t until I had a younger coworker struggling with boundaries at work that I was able to see my behaviours more clearly and was able to take make changes. I clearly remember the day she came to me with something and I said to her something I had heard in an Oprah interview with Viola Davis….the idea of “no” as a complete sentence. That it’s ok to say just that with no excuses or reasons, just NO. That it’s ok to put yourself first, that it’s ok to have strength and boundaries. It was only in this moment of explaining this to her I was able to reflect back on myself. I was able to look at all the moments I said “no”, and then gave a list of excuses because I felt I should have said “yes.” I was able to look at all the times I said “yes” because I had no reasons available to give…even though “no” is a completely acceptable answer.

Much like muscles that have atrophied, my ability to say “no” is a bit of learning curve. I often struggle with knowing the difference between a “yes” and “no” and when a “no” is coming from a place of fear and when a “yes” is coming from a place of guilt. See, when I started saying yes to things, I also started to loose a sense of self and what it is exactly I enjoy doing and what my values are.

What are things you say “yes” to when you mean “no”? Are they coming from a genuine place or is it because you feel you should, or no available reasons? Is the answer coming from a place of fear or guilt? What are you giving up in saying “yes” to everything?

Protostar

This week I hit a pretty big milestone, something I believed was impossible and only for “those people” (you know, the super successful ones that run in the right circles). But I, “me, little plain jane no-one special me”, this gal, she achieved it.

In my day to day life I am a pastry chef. I have never dreamed very big or thought that highly of my skill set. Sure I graduated from pastry school with a scholarship and top marks, challenged my trade ticket, again with great marks, had chances to go into competitions and even own a bakery. But, me….I could never be that girl, step into that power or do those things. Firstly, I just “wasn’t good enough” and secondly those opportunities weren’t handed to me or achieved too easily. Life achievement and the things worth having are hard work, life isn’t easy…..I’m not the one with luck, that’s everyone else, or so I thought.

I have always loved sharing food and baking with others. I thoroughly enjoy nurturing and caring for those around me; loving on others comes naturally. Nothing gives me greater joy than sharing my love of baking with others and helping them find confidence in creating delicious creations. My approach in the kitchen is seeking to understand not only the science of baking but, the fears and inhibitions of others, and to seek play, exploration, and creativity. Baking should never be stressful. Since I had such a strong passion to share my knowledge and excitement I thought I would try my hand at instructing classes. So I saddled up and started instructing a small program at a community kitchen. Assisting those who have diverse abilities and limited access to food and proper kitchen ware, to create delicious and nourishing baked goods. I created an uplifting space full of laughs and connection. It was here I realized just how much I love to teach and I have to do this! This was undeniably my next step…find a way to teach as a career.

Fast forward a year, my mentor brought it to my attention a local cook wares store is hiring for instructors for their classes. I resisted, this was too easy….all I had to do was put in an application. Not only that, I knew if I worked at this place I would get connected with “the people”…the people who make up the core, well known people in my town’s food industry. This wasn’t my way of doing things. But what the heck, let’s try something different on. For years I have thought achievement meant hard work and thus kept doing the same thing and getting the same result. So with the support of my mentor and words of my life coach swirling in my head, I thought why not. As it would appear, trying something different paid off.

We often have these ideas about life, work, friends or family; how certain things should be. For me, achievement and success only come with hard work, it has to feel hard, but what if I started to look at things differently. What if I turned it all on its head? What if all the steps I have been taking that don’t “feel” like hard work are the hard work? What if this is the answer to the equation, the gift from the universe? What if all I need to do now is step into the present moment with grace; to feel and own my power and worth. As I start to grasp my worth and my value, I can see the nuggets the universe hands to me as gifts instead of not seeing them at all or pining over something I wish I could have but I’m just not good enough for. Hello! I am….all I need to do is get out of my own way and step into it. Life isn’t any less scary when my automatic thoughts are turned on their head but life is a little less hard and feels more rewarding.

What thoughts are in your way? How do you think the world is and the people in it? What do you think you deserve? I betcha all you need to do is get out of your own way.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Photo by Daniel Spase on Pexels.com

Every weekday I wake up at about the same time, put on the same clothes and do the same morning routine. I ride my bike the same route to work, where I do the exact same thing day in and day out. When I get home I go to the gym, make dinner, make my lunch for the next day, shower and do something to unwind. The long and short of it is, each day basically mimics the one before it…..it can get a wee bit repetitive, tiring, lacklustre….mundane perhaps.

There are punctuations of “different” throughout my week; grocery shopping, meeting a friend for a coffee or going for a walk on spring day. The thing is none are all that memorable, at least none of these are thing I seek out as being memorable moments that create life. I have always waited for that next high, the next mountain top, that life altering moment and feeling….the things movies are made of. What I have come to see is that in waiting for these things I pass over what life truly is. It is the mundane, it’s grocery shopping, making dinner, folding laundry, and brushing my teeth. But if I am to go through life fully and robustly I need to truly appreciate every moment for what it’s worth and cement them in my memory. It is these moments and the ability to remember, them that create life.

Never despise the mundane. Embrace it. Unwrap it like a gift. And be one of the rare few who look deeper than just the surface.

unknown

I have only recently come to understand the value of the mundane. It sadly took loosing my entire sense of self…..hitting a place where I needed to completely rebuild myself for me to look at this one component of self, worth and experience of life

I have started the practice of not only being, but also choosing each and every moment. It’s a practice of consciously deciding what is in my life and consciously choosing the how I interact with that person or moment. I can choose whether a moment brings me joy or sadness and whether I am fully present with the activity I am doing. I can passively fold laundry with the distain towards the monotony thus loosing potential joy or I can look deep from other angles, choose to unwrap it like the gift it is and practice finding the joy. I can feel the warmth of the clothes, smell the sunshine on the line dried t-shirts, feel the buttery soft merino wool socks and revel in the quiet stillness of folding laundry. This quiet time can be used as just that, well needed quiet time to reflect and unwind. The grocery line up becomes a place to dream of my next painting or outdoor adventure instead of letting myself become aggravated that it’s cutting into my “me” time.

It is not perfect and everyday, every moment it’s a practice I choose to practice. It has allowed me to not only enjoy a simpler life, but also reconnect with what is important and of value to me. I am more ok with less as I connect to those moments more robustly. Life has found greater simplicity, meaning and stability. When we choose the moment we choose to say yes to life.

My wheels

Image by silviarita on Pixabay

I love my bike. Actually I don’t think love adequately describes the relationship we have and it’s not even just this bike, it’s the love I have for having a bike in my life. I have owned many bicycles, and although I have had unique relationships with each one, the overarching relationship is the same. My bike is my wheels, yes I own a car for those rainy west coast days, but the joy I get from driving a car is mediocre, that zing is just not there, not like it is with the bike. When I am on a bike time and space seem to merge into one and then disappear. It’s where I am free and life no longer exists. All that is there is me, the bike and nature. After the first 10 minutes of warming up and getting into the motion, my body relaxes into the discomfort and it becomes meditative. I see the world more clearly. It is there I feel joy, freedom, accomplishment, contentment and complete peace. It is also the place I have learned what persistence is and pushing through discomfort. It is on my bike I am learning how to ride through life.

I have never actually given up while on a ride. There have been many moments I have wanted to. There have been times I have been crying while riding up a hills. There have been times I have gotten off my bike, stomped around a bit, yelled at it, gave it the finger and then after a few minutes picked the stupid thing back up and kept riding. I have never given up. I have pushed my limits on my bike; going places and distances I worried I wouldn’t get back from because they were “too far” or there was the potential to get lost. I never gave up. I always carry cash, my ID, my phone, a credit card and of course my repair kit just in case; there have been so many times I could have called a cab or hopped on a bus to get home. And yet for some sick reason I kept persisting. Hungry, tired, in a pain, angry, lost…..I persisted. On my bike I have some sort of deep level spiritual commitment where quitting just isn’t a choice; this isn’t just when I’m using my wheels to go meet a friend for a coffee and I have a commitment to follow through on, this is also on a Saturday when I am bored and have nothing better to do.

As I am pushing through multiple areas of personal growth I have been thinking a lot about my level of commitment to discomfort when I am riding. No matter what I push through, giving up because “it’s too hard” is never an option, but when I am faced with personal growth in relationships or situations I deem “too hard” or “too uncomfortable” I give up. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, wondering why I give up, am I really that weak; can I not commit to anything! This Saturday while biking an uncomfortably long distance with loaded panniers to meet a friend for lunch I once again felt the feeling of wanting to give up. At kilometre 20 I wanted to stop; 6 km short of my destination I wanted to stop, yet I had made a commitment to a valued friend and no matter what I would be there. So I slowed down, took a few breaks, drank water and adjusted my positioning when I had to and sure enough arrived in one piece on time. No, I can in fact commit to a lot of things and it’s all about mind set.

I have realized pushing through discomforts can be hard and take a lot of effort. But with the right mind set it can be a great adventure, it doesn’t have to be a painful and arduous trip you are dragged on kicking and screaming. I also realized that it’s ok to slow down, readjust, take a breather and drink some water. It doesn’t mean I’m quitting or not committed to pushing through but instead I am prepping myself for the adventure ahead. It is here I have had the “ah ha moment,” what if I faced personal growth like I do my adventurous bike rides? Life could be pretty beautiful….and could you imagine the stories….oh the stories!

What remains

They weren’t mine, it wasn’t supposed to be my sadness to carry and yet all I could feel was a gaping hole where abundant love was supposed to be.

The day my family found out my brother was having twin boys was so joyous. I already had two nieces; sparkly, rough and tumble, vibrant little souls that brought so much abundance to my life. I was overwhelmed with love to find out there would be TWO more added. See, my family is very close, we always have been, and when one person experience joy, sadness, loss or strife we all do. We stick together and support each other. My brothers’ children are kinda mine, I put the time and effort in to creating and cultivating a relationship with them. So when my brother and his wife were expecting twins we were ALL expecting twins; it takes a village right.

Two years ago I experienced a type of duality I never thought I’d ever experience. When all the emotions collided I was left standing on a distant shore in a blanket of fog, screaming but no sound could be heard and no beacon could be found. It wasn’t my grief to carry and yet the hole in my heart was gaping and throbbing.

My brother was on the other end of the line, he was trying to keep it together. The littler one didn’t make it. I had a healthy nephew, but his brother didn’t make it. I wasn’t supposed to feel the loss, I’m not their mother, I wasn’t having the twins. I remember stepping outside of myself trying to focus on the the joy of the little one that did remain, congratulating my brother for the arrival of his son, how elated I was to meet him. All the while watching myself in disbelief.

I have sat down with my brother a few times since then and talked about what happened for him that day. The more we unpack it the more levels of grief we see as individuals and as a family.

Every year on this day I feel a bit of grief. I wonder who would have spoke first, taken the first step and what type of chaos and mischief they would have created for their parents, especially in collusion with their sister. I struggle with allowing myself to feel the grief as they aren’t mine and yet when a family member experiences life we all do. And in all this I feel robust happiness for getting the chance to experience the joy of my nephew. His bubbly curious personality, his little grunts when he wants something and that toothy glowing smile light up my heart.

I have realized duality is what makes life. It’s ok to feel sadness, even when I think it’s not mine to bear. It is in my soul and that alone is enough. The more I allow the sadness to seep through the cracks the greater the elation I feel.

Becoming Who I am

Throughout my life I have felt such a strong yearning to seek who I truly am. It’s been a magnetic force; something so intangible it becomes difficult to explains to those on autopilot, ploughing through the monotony of life.

person on a bridge near a lake
Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

This true place of self is only ever felt and seen in flighting moments; as I dance around my living room, paint frantically trying to get all the magic down before it’s lost, the instant I walk into a room, the joy upon my face while caring for those around me. I have always strived to hold onto these fleeting moments and at the same time struggled with conforming to societal norms. Every time I have stuffed the true me down chaos strikes. It is in those times I have had depression, anorexia, anxiety, and OCD tendencies. It’s those deep dark shameful things I never speak of and yet it is those deep dark shameful things that bring me here. It is time to speak of those things and share those struggles, bring them to the light, share the stories and rid the shame. See, it’s because of those gremlins that have I landed here. For years it has been a cycle I have turned to when I didn’t measure up, when heartache struck, life got hard or when tragedy struck. It is only now that I have finally wanted to be rid of it, it is only now that I am coming to realize how desperate I am to reconnect to my true self, my essence…..it is in this place of love, connectedness, tranquility, passion and creativeness that the chaos stops. It is this place that I desire to journey back to.

What I have realized is that I have spent a large portion of my life seeking out my purpose and who I am, constantly looking forward and looking to things around me. But the reality is I need to look back. Look back to the child I was, it is then that I can see myself in my purest form, my truest joy and my most honest essence. It’s not about becoming as I can’t become something I already am….it’s about just being.

This is my journey to reclaiming my sacred inner place and wrapping my arms around that beautiful, perfect child that so desperately wants to be loved.