The Voices In My Head

“The voices in my head are legendary, I’ll never tell where the bodies are buried” great lyrics from a rock band named Shinedown. 

We all carry on multiple conversations in our head almost at a constant level. I think it’s how we process information, figure out our course of action and generally cope with any given situation.

I was having a conversation with someone today but before I could comment on what they had planned for activities they started to apologize. I listened as they described what they thought were my responses. I hadn’t said anything yet. I was curious if they noticed and asked them why they felt I would respond that way. I was told they are so used to people second guessing their behavior that it is a habit to comment before others have a chance.

What are the narratives that are going in your head telling you? Are we so ingrained in thinking we think what others are going to say that we don’t even need to listen anymore? I agree the voices in my head are legendary and have many years to cultivate their opinions and perspective. The key is can you change what the voices say? Can you challenge their beliefs? Can you challenge your beliefs? I don’t think it’s easy and yet I do think you can.

When we meditate, thoughts float in and out, lists appear of things that need done and then disappear as we choose to put them aside for now. I got some good advice once or twice on dealing with negative self-talk. Writing down the words used helps to take away their power. You can review the conversation and decide the amount of truth that is present. An example is an on-going internal conversation I have about having to call customer service about anything. It takes me weeks if not months to get up the courage to call. Many outcomes have already been explored in my brain. They won’t answer, they will answer, I will be put on hold forever. I will tell my story and they will not have a solution. I won’t get a refund or they won’t offer a better deal. Now, it’s not to say that doesn’t happen on occasion but I know once I do call I most often get some sort of resolution.

I wish it was that easy in relationships. When you have been in a long term relationship I am not sure your partner has a chance to change in your narrative even if they wanted to. All of the shared experiences, shared obstacles and history tend to cloud any possible alternative outcomes.

What if they were with you instead of against you? How would the scenario play out then, if you were always thinking that this person is on your side and wants to be with you? Trust is a challenge for me. I know that and I confronted big pieces of my issues with it while at the ashram. My narratives on trust are exhausting even to me sometimes. Someone is interested in an aspect of me and wants to explore it further. They ask questions and share their experiences with me. I walk away from the conversation second guessing how much I shared of myself with them. What will they think of me and my verbal diarrhea? Is it too late to take it back and ask them to forget everything I said? They must think I am a real basket case and tend to blow things out of proportion. You get the idea right? The negative self talk is mine alone. The person may or may not be thinking any of those things. I have had people thank me for being vulnerable with them and that it helped them to see their issues and perhaps face them. If they only knew the conversation I had with myself about the stuff I had shared. Why is being honest and genuine about how we feel such a challenge? I heard that verbalizing your true feelings is something you have to own. Once put out there the next step is to deal with the consequences and own those too. It gets easier with practice and is one of the reasons that I started blogging. If I think it and feel then it’s likely that someone else does too. What if we were able to share our experiences and offer some comfort and advice to each other?

I joined a community group therapy session last week virtually. It was on the topic of codependent relationships. There were 12 people who attended from all over the world. As I listened I noticed that people have similar feelings, concerns, ideas and desires. It doesn’t matter your race, culture, location or language. We share a bond and it’s called being human and living the human condition. 

I can’t stop the voices completely and have an inkling that they are there to help me as much as tear me down. I can change their speech through encouragement to positivity and well being. The effort is the same and the result is worth it. 

The name of the online counselling service is called “BetterHelp.Com

A Body of Addictions

I came across a post from a fellow blogger (Elena’s Thoughts) on WordPress about addictions. She was talking about what makes an addiction stick. It made me contemplate my own chronic habits. What got me was the comments around the cause of addictions and how over time the source becomes more and more forgotten while the frequent use increases. I never contemplated when and how the root became obtuse while the weed kept humming along. I have had my share of bad habits and addictions in my life. I used to own over a hundred pairs of shoes. Many of them never made it out of the boxes. I have used alcohol and other vices as ways to escape or just feel nothing for a while. The trouble with artificial fixes is that they don’t last. It becomes harder and harder to sustain the numbing effect until it quits working all together. 

In the summer, the boulevard by our house becomes a front seat to watching many drug addicts stick themselves full. There was a man who took his clothes off and jumped in a large BFI bin looking for something within. He was yelling and throwing all the garbage out onto the street. The cops were called and after quite a while they came. It took a long time to get a response and many calls from many neighbors complaining. It’s become the norm to see this type of behavior everywhere you look.

In the fall, we woke up to an ambulance parked outside and two police patrol cars. We went out to investigate what was happening. Laying face down just out of some trees by a building up on the boulevard was a body. I kept thinking what was the story here? At what point does the will to survive become a second choice to a person over the use of a drug?

I wasn’t going to write about what goes on out my kitchen window but after reading the blog post it hit close to home. I have watched addiction rip my family apart. We tape each other back together. We try to meet each other where we are instead of where we would each like to be. 

Addictions are tricky. A simple action that repeats and becomes more ingrained with each sip, drag or stick. In my case, dollars spent on something frivolous, helping others instead of helping myself and more than once in my life alcohol. Replacement of facing problems with effective ways of staying in a coma state is hard to break free from.  I hear and see people say that they used to be addicted but were able to stop. Years later they tell themselves they can now have an occasional drink or smoke. They can handle it now. The thing is that it’s not one and done. It’s one and then never again.

Life has been pretty tough for many people the last few years. It’s a wonder that any of us are sober at all? I am not excusing behavior I am just a realist. Like Elena, I used to wonder why those I cared about didn’t just stop self destructing? Why is it so hard to stop? I was judgy and I confess to be a bit self righteous. I know better now how hard it is to cope with life while under the influence. The steps over the edge are small and most of the time invisible until some time has passed and the way back seems impossible.

If you find yourself currently struggling, know you have made the first step by being aware. The next step is to reach out for help. If you live with someone who is an addict or have family members that are in crisis seek advice from professionals.

Knowing you aren’t alone and others are going through similar situations is a comfort.

Ode To Max’s Joy 

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in taking life seriously that we forget about the joy. We become afraid to try new things or dust off something we used to love to do. Passions fade and auto-pilot becomes the norm instead of the exception. At these times I think a jolt of joy is needed to get moving again. It doesn’t have to be big or epic. I have been thinking about selfless service lately and ways to keep my body moving. Why the combo? The first one helps with a sense of positivity of action. Making a difference in someone else’s life helps to put me in a better headspace. The second has to do with the production of endorphins that help regulate my mental health. I know that exercise does my body good. When I am in motion, I can focus, think more clearly and sort out my busy mind. Some of my favorite meditations are done while walking or in a yoga flow.

I took my sister’s puppy for a walk today. It’s her first week back at work from a leave and the stress is piling up. There is something wonderful about a dog’s unbridled joy and curiosity to explore their surroundings. They sniff everything, they check out every nook and cranny. Run here then run over there (thanks heavens he is a small dog). Everything is there for them to discover. As we chased each other down the path it felt fun to just be in that moment. 

Someone said the older we get the less likely we are to try new things. I think the opposite is true. The older I get the more likely I am to just “go for it”. Our number of days gets shorter and shorter. If we wait we may never experience that euphoric feeling of letting go and running free. The collar gets tighter and tighter. The leash we are tethered to becomes short. Opportunity to go off leash and roam can be taken away at any moment. One of the most apparent lessons from COVID has been taking our ability to travel without restrictions for granted. It was so easy to book a flight, accommodations and a few adventures the day you wanted to take off. Now a large amount of the spontaneity has been curtailed.

One thing we can still do in abundance is selfless service. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just genuine.

The Difference A Year Makes

I was reading through our blogs from the past year and came across “Bah…humbug,or not”. I was NOT feeling Christmas last year. It felt like an obligation I had to endure because it was expected of me.

This year, it’s completely different. Initially, I wasn’t going to decorate because it’s just me living here most of the time. Martin and Nathan (my son) aren’t really “into” Christmas, so it wouldn’t matter to them. Yet, as we moved into fall, I felt I *wanted* to decorate.

I found this “pencil tree” on sale. It’s perfect for my space. It holds all my ornaments, which is a feat unto itself! I have an ornament I made in Kindergarten, all the ornaments my grandmother made for me, and all the ornaments my mom bought for my son over the years so his first Christmas tree has something from her. Every trip I take, I bring home an ornament representative of where I’ve been. I even have one or two that were given to me from students when I was a teacher. I really didn’t think this narrow tree would hold all of them and am delighted it does.

Christmas isn’t the big event it’s been most of my life. Mom would spend weeks making chocolates, baking, writing cards and working herself into a tizzy of stress. Every year, she wanted to have “the perfect Christmas” and it always drove her depression to its lowest depths. Rather ironic, really, but not uncommon.

This year, we are changing things. Instead of buying gifts for EVERYONE, we have drawn names. It’ll be the first Christmas in, probably, twelve years I am not hosting. My niece and nephew-in-law have bought a beautiful home and will be taking over that function. The goal is to have less stress and more fun.

It will be fun. We can’t get everyone together in December, so we are celebrating Ukrainian Christmas in January. My nephew-in-law is Chinese, so instead of a turkey, he is cooking an authentic Chinese dinner. Nathan, at 19, is now the youngest in the family. We can play games such as “Cards Against Humanity” and spend time together as adults.

I’ll help make the krumkake this year because I *want* to, not because it’s expected. I’ll help make the lefse for the same reason. It’s amazing how removing the sense of obligation is helping me enjoy the season and all that goes with it.

It’ll be the first Ukrainian Christmas with home made Chinese food and Norwegian treats. I can’t wait.

Evergreen – Sharon’s Take On It

 retaining freshness or interest : perennial. b : universally and continually relevant : not limited in applicability to a particular event or date.

I read Vanessa’s post today about finding meaning in the song “Evergreen” and it got me thinking about my interpretation.

My first reaction was “Ha! Right – love everlasting.” If you’ve read my posts over the past year, you know that hasn’t happened for me. Each time, I thought it was FINALLY the “evergreen” relationship – one that would stand the test of time, weather storms, and maintain its individuality – while being part of a forest ecosystem – for its natural life.

In my experience, it’s not been love everlasting with one person. Each time, it was fresh and interesting – absolutely. Each time, I thought it was forever. Love is a basic human need; one that is universally and continually relevant. While many people put everything into making their wedding day special, love is not applicable to that particular event or date. It’s in the day-to-day living, the little things, that keep it fresh and interesting.

The Universe timed Vanessa’s post perfectly. It came a few days after Martin and I talked about what love means to us, and a day before our two year anniversary.

Martin and I are past the point where we believe love is eternal. Like the evergreen tree, it can be perennial if nourished and continues to grow, but there’s no certainty. A fire can take out a forest of evergreens. A landslide can rip them out by the roots. A drought can stunt their growth and, over time, starve them. The best we can do is see ‘evergreen love’ as a possibility and strive to make it happen.

We make it happen by having shared interests and experiences. We explore new things and places together. We have a shared understanding of what love means and similar expectations as to where it will go.

As a concept, “love” is ageless and unchanging. The reality of it is anything but that. Love changes over time. At the beginning, partners can’t get enough of each other and want to spend every waking minute talking or being together. I remember when Martin told me he loved me. He HAD to talk to me everyday while he was at work. When on night shift, he’d wake 30 minutes early to have time to call me. You need to know he is someone who despises talking on the phone and is chronically tired when working 12 hour nights. He’s a true introvert and very comfortable with solitude. Such is the power of love in the initial phase.

Over time, we become familiar with each other. As the saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt”, OR, it can breed deeper love. Now, we agree to talk twice a week when he’s at work. We text twice a day. If we were stuck in the first phase, this would be upsetting for both of us. It’s not. Our love has grown. It acknowledges both his needs and mine. We reach compromises that work for both of us.

Unlike the evergreen tree who is at the mercy of Mother Nature, we choose to continue growing together. If either one of us stops nurturing the relationship, it will die. It’s a joint effort. This isn’t to say the effort is always equal. Sometimes we each need to put in more to keep the relationship working. It’s acknowledging and respecting the efforts of each other that’s important.

Just as an evergreen can’t take necessary amounts of rain, soil or sunshine for granted, neither can humans assume love will simply occur. It’s not a result of a particular day or time. It’s the result of care, attention and opportunities for growth that keep love truly “evergreen”.


I have been taking a creative writing class online the past few weeks. The class’s main objective is to find a way to pull your memories of life experiences and write about them. I was intrigued by one of the exercises. The objective was to go to a website that matched music to a certain year. Put in the year that you turned 13. A magical year am I right??? Pick one of the songs that comes up for that year. Listen to it and then take some time and write about what comes up based on the song choice. I scanned the songs and came back to one of my childhood favorites. I loved the movie “A Star Is Born” with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. I know this isn’t the original movie version nor the most recent. Let’s just say it has been worthy of a few remakes. Each time the musical score has been just as good as the movies. Ok back to the song. 

Evergreen. Such simple and straightforward lyrics. Appealing to a 13 year old girl’s desires and ideals of what love should feel and look like. The song still has it, even after all this time has passed. 

“Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed” 

There are no guarantees when it comes to matters of the heart. We put a whole lot of trust in another being without any way to know the final outcome. It’s what makes the dance so inviting. The thrill of taking a chance to have a partner that shares your journey.

“Time won’t change the meaning of one love”

I am not sure I agree with the songwriter here. Time does change or at least clarifies what love means between two people. The longer you are together the more density is added to it. When you are a teenager love means instant gratification, adoration, ego driven rewards. As time passes shared hardships, support, respect, feeling valued and heard all raise what is meant by one love.

“Ageless and ever, evergreen”

What is meant by evergreen?  According to many definition sources, the gist is that it stays constant in color no matter the season or conditions. Doesn’t falter and stays universally and continually relevant. Wow, that’s a tall order to fill don’t you think?

What if when we say “I do” we promise to never falter, never change our loyalty no matter what and pledge to stay relevant in each other’s lives?

The 13 year old brain thinks that would be very easy to do. Relationships at that age are mostly based on simple needs and wants. Add layers of experience, years of twists, turns and disappointments to the joy of having kids, building your sanctuary together and here we are many moons later. 

My 57 year old self thinks a little differently about love these days. I believe it is constantly changing. I am not convinced it’s evergreen. For me it’s more of a Larch. In a state of adapting and evolving to meet the current circumstances.

If you are interested in doing this exercise the course is called “Pulling Memory Into The Present” hosted by Ashley C Ford on Skillshare.

It’s In the Cards

After a year of changes, I am facing the possibility of another one. I’ve written out the pros/cons list, I’ve talked it over with friends, and I’m 99% sure I know which direction I’ll take. For interest’s sake, I wanted to see what my cards had to say. I pulled three cards for past, present, and future.

I found it interesting to see the Butterfly card representing my past, but it makes sense. I’ve been through a great deal of change and transformation. It’s no longer telling me about my present or future because – I’m hoping – most of the change has happened.

Now, the Horse card – that’s a new one. What does it tell me about my present?

The Horse represents the most masterful form of Earth energy within the deck. It provides us with momentum so reliable, so supportive that you can ride its back toward any goal, no matter how difficult the terrain. A Horse personality is fully awakened, fully alive, and cannot be defeated. The Horse’s freedom becomes available to us when we hone and collect our energy through daily practice. Physical stamina (exercise) and mental focus (meditation) are the secret weapons behind the Horse’s legacy.

Again – interesting. In my last blog, I mentioned I was seeing a psychologist and had started working through The Artist’s Way. The psychologist is helping me put my past into perspective and “rewire” my thinking. Writing three pages every morning is a form of meditation, and a month ago, I started back at the gym. I definitely feel as though I’m on a new wave of momentum and not as “stuck” as I’ve felt the last several months. I’m feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically stronger than I have in a long time.

I was confused as to what a Bat means for my future. The question I asked before pulling these cards was, “Am I making the right decision?” Let’s see what this card states.

The Bat is the master of the subtle senses, of the underlying forces that cause some things to prosper and other things to fade. The Bat card shows up to signify the ending of a chapter, the closing of a door. The Bat comes swiftly, encouraging us to move on.

Am I making the right decision? I’d say yes. The EMDR work I’m doing with the psychologist is all about accessing subconscious core beliefs and confronting them. I’m learning what these beliefs are and how they have played a role in my life. The subconscious is becoming conscious and freeing me. In many ways, I’m ending a chapter (perhaps, several chapters from a variety of books representing different parts of my life) and I’m ready to move on.

I *am* ready to move on. I’m done with questioning why I was let go from my previous job, why my husband couldn’t be honest with me, why life was changing for me again. It was something I needed to work through to learn the lessons.

Now, it’s time to – literally – put the past behind me, take the lessons, and start embracing the next chapter; I feel as though it’s already started to write itself.

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

I don’t alway get the answers I want but I do get the answer I need….

I have spent most of my adult life in a profession where it was my job to translate the needs, feelings and wants of others into easy to do actions. Help customers to first, identify what it was they really wanted and then guide them to fruition. I would like to say I was pretty good at it. I had a pretty loyal clientele and many happy business partners and collaborators. It worked in my personal life too. I helped family and friends many times to figure out tricky situations while we worked through possible solutions. I listened. I watched for clues for unexpressed feelings of what else might be going on under the radar. I think I am pretty empathic and intuitive most times when it comes to helping others.

Despite all of this knowledge, understanding of others and the ability to help others figure out their best way forward, I find myself stuck in my own cycle of failure to communicate. It’s very difficult for me to express how I feel and stick with it when others challenge my position.

I remember as a child of about 11 trying to stop my dad from belittling my mom. I saw how much it hurt her. I thought if she can’t stick up for herself then I will. I will tell him it’s not nice to talk like that to anyone.  I was met with an indifference. From my dad I expected it but I was shattered to feel it from my mom. She played down the verbal abuse and agreed with my dad that adults fight. It’s healthy to argue. Maybe so and yet the difference is in the words used. Calling someone stupid or lacking the ability to think for themselves is unproductive nor is it healthy. Years of reinforcing the narrative leave the psyche tattered and worn down. Having a front row seat has left me with my own trauma and scars.

It has also left me with an inability to trust my feelings. To be firm on my wants and the confidence to express them to those closest to me. Why is it so easy to facilitate for others and not myself? I have a narrative in my head that is pretty negative. It goes along the lines of “you should put others’ needs before yours as they are more important”. “You don’t deserve this or you are selfish when you push your desires on others”. I recognize that it’s ok to express yourself and want to have others respect and value you. The reality is the thoughts in my head are sometimes stronger than my desire to be right or even heard let alone take a firm position.

My sister and I decided to smudge ourselves yesterday then do a tarot reading. Smudging helps to clear the air with sage and then invite positive energy in with sweetgrass. It feels amazing and helps to get specific about your question and deepen understanding. The method we used is one of my favorites. It’s called the Celtic Cross ( my version). You arrange the cards in a cross-like formation with concerns and clarification(middle), past (left), present (top), future (right) and additional clarification or insights (bottom). The deck we used was the Archangel one my sister had. 

My last card was the Ace of Michael. What stuck with me was the last sentence on the card. “Clear up communication problems with others”. Well darn, it’s not like I haven’t been trying that my whole life sigh… easier said than done for me apparently.  

At what point do you just express yourself and then let the chips fall where they may. The key, I think, is to be prepared for the consequences of your desire to be heard and seen. You may get the words out but there is no guarantee they will be valued or wanted. What are you prepared to give up in order to live your life authentically?

Right now? I am not sure. Stay tuned if you are interested in helping me discover a way to communicate that brings me peace and a sense of well being.

It’s the Little Things

Martin and I are in Kelowna visiting his dad. We are coming up on two years together and, as we sat in the hotel’s sauna watching sweat drip from our faces, I reflected on how far we’ve come.

We joke about “You know this isn’t a new relationship when…” or, “You know the bloom is off the rose when…” Off the top of my head:

  • You sit in a sauna and see who can get ten drips of sweat off their face the fastest.
  • Your boyfriend says, “You’ve got a chin hair” and reaches over to pluck it.
  • On a particularly tight turn past Rogers Pass, you tell your boyfriend, “Could we try to take it on four wheels this time?” (because you’re no longer convinced clenching your butt cheeks together will keep you on the road).
  • You pee with the bathroom door open so the conversation doesn’t have to stop.
  • Your boyfriend offers to give you a pedicure and, upon seeing the calluses on your feet tells you, “You don’t need a pedicurist, you need a farrier!”

It’s the shared moments. When we think of these things, we smile or laugh. I like that we’re past having to be on our best behaviour all the time.

I’m very fortunate. In addition to these funny moments, I’ve got a guy who:

  • tells me daily that he loves me (usually, several times a day)
  • loves to cook (and takes all my dietary restrictions into account)
  • gives hugs and kisses in public whenever the mood strikes him
  • helps around the house without having to be asked or expecting thanks
  • makes an effort to understand what I do for a living (to most, it looks like I sit at a computer all day….well, I do…)
  • actually listens when I talk and doesn’t try to “solve” things; instead, he asks questions and shares his perspective
  • helps me take my dad to medical appointments so I don’t have to go into the mens’ room when Dad needs to pee
  • buys plants for my home because he knows I like them
  • puts my feet on his lap when we’re on the couch watching TV
  • falls asleep with his arm around me

We’re sitting together on the couch and he asks, “What are you thinking about Bubaloo?”

“I’m trying to think of a way to end this blog.”

“Try: The End”.

Sometimes, he does have an answer to my problems.

It Starts With Training The Roots

Ficus Ginseng Tree age unknown

In bonsai training you become very familiar with the roots of the tree. Some you expose for their uniqueness while others you trim to preserve the strength of the trunk. Obstacles are purposely placed in the path to create a curve or change in direction. Something that seems so random and unplanned is meticulously cultivated and encouraged. 

Bonsai training is not for someone who lacks perseverance as the tiny trees take years if not decades to mature into their full potential. 

What is at my roots? How well do I know my truths about myself? I can identify when I am being manipulated and obstacles have been placed to encourage me in a different direction. I am learning to overcome my fears. To face them and expose their weakness while I seek ways to improve their core stability.

The exposed roots of the bonsai make the tree special and most often extraordinary. I marvel at their design. As I explore the craft I am humbled by the sheer patience and will power  it takes to bend a tree in a desired shape without breaking its branches and killing its roots. All done with a vision in mind that will take many years to reap the reward.

It takes balance and rebalance. Looking ahead to a desired state while being willing to work with what you currently have.  I find this true for me also. My bending is stiff sometimes and takes quite a bit of coaxing to point me in the right way. I need support wires sometimes to help me over the hurdles while I get used to my new awareness and state of being.

Understanding your core roots can help you to sort out which ones to keep and which ones should be cut to improve the situation. To maintain a healthy body and mind, training is necessary. I am always learning something new about myself and testing my abilities to flex and bend. I hope it doesn’t take me decades to mature into my best representation of me. If it does, then that is what is meant to be.

The road to enlightenment is not a straight line. Just like the bonsai, the more you twist and change directions, the more understanding comes to you. The narls, wounds, blemishes that are collected along the way make you uniquely you.

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