Monthly Archives: February 2018

Embracing Your Gifts

Every single one of us is unique. When I was in university, a coworker passed on advice he had been given to us all:

“Find out what you love to do and are good at and then find someone to pay you for it.”

Despite working at a bookstore, I hadn’t heard of Tony Robbins yet so I was impressed. While I wasn’t ready to make any big life choices at the time, the coworker’s passed on advice (from his grandmother – not Tony Robbins) stuck with me for many years.

When I needed inspiration, I thought back to that young man that I worked with for only a few short weeks. When I was annoyed with graduating into a recession and the blame passed onto millennials for wanting a better career, the words stung my soul.  Luckily I’m resilient (and a privileged white woman), so I’ve scraped through the recession and find myself on the journey into an exciting career that I never would have imagined for myself in university. (I always imagined myself in a downtown condo, working for a magazine or publishing company, and still waiting to settle down in my early thirties.) Despite my cynicism, I uncovered what made me unique in order to find a job satisfying enough to turn it into a career.

That’s how that advice can succeed on a lifelong level, but what about in the day-to-day?  I think it’s actually more practical on a day-to-day. As I have mentioned before, my life unfolds spontaneously, and rarely according to plan.  I get to where I am meant to be by making decisions every day that are right for me. Maybe those decisions are not always right, but they are at the time. And, just like the little decisions that shape my big life, it’s the little things I am good at that have shaped the satisfying career I find myself in today.

For example, I loved cooking as a child. I continued to cook as an adult, and was always mildly interested in working with food. I never thought that I would one day be a manager at a restaurant, though. Or working in Produce at a grocery store.  And then be selling products to restaurants and grocery stores. But I followed my interest there. I was interested into raw food in a city where it was fairly new, so the owners of a new restaurant that focused on raw food reached out to me. Then, I had spent a few years listening to chefs order from produce suppliers, so I became quick friends with the reps I had to deal with at the grocery store. I hadn’t sought out either of those jobs but they somehow fell into my lap and I ended up loving and learning from them so much.

Occasionally, I think back to that image I had of myself in my early thirties. I was strong, confident, and really well organized in that idea of myself. Now I would say that I am two of those things, and the third no longer matters to me. Neither does the idea of living in a condo downtown interest me any longer. Perhaps I have suddenly become old and lost the dreams of my youth but I would rather think of myself as having accepted myself for who I really am than for who I wish I was. I remember feeling jealous of my university friends for continuing their education and getting into professional fields…but I knew a decade ago (and have every year since continued to believe it) that I needed to be in this “real world.” I may be ridiculously bored sometimes, but I also know that I am doing what I am good at, and making the difference that I need to be right now.

Perhaps it is a curse of being a millennial that I continue to think about what I love to do so that I can create the life that I want to be in. I was told as a young adult that previous generations had one career; millennials will have 4-10. Frankly, I don’t think of this as a curse as I enjoy new challenges and thinking outside of the box of how it has always been done. As I have learned in my long decade of working in the new world, those skills might be the most valuable going forward.

Body Love – Not a Reflection

We have very few mirrors in our house. It was never a conscious decision to not have mirrors in our house so much as it never became a priority to have a good mirror among our possessions. I realized this when my aunt asked for a baby bump selfie (a bumpfie) that featured my face as well as my growing baby. We do not have a proper full length mirror in our house. (The closest thing is a warped IKEA mirror that has been cracked for well over 7 years.)

Our baby loves his reflection! So, I have spent much more time in front of the few small mirrors that we do have in our house. When I am looking at the mirror, though, I am focused on his reflection, and the reaction happening there. I maybe look at myself once every other day when I am putting my hair in a clip, or brushing out my part. Of course, there is a quick glance when I’m brushing my teeth, and maybe as I wash my face. For the most part, though, everything I do does not require actually looking at myself.

When I did catch a glimpse of myself in a full-length mirror, it was therefore a pretty big shock for me. Now, I was also in my bathing suit, which is not an outfit I normally think about myself in. And, I was looking over my shoulder, holding a squirming 20-lb baby when I happened to glance at myself.

I was out in public, so I repressed the emotional reaction that this had on me. I fixed the gap that had caught the most of my attention, and carried on the conversation with a fellow mother. My internal dialogue was doing a number to repress the shame I instinctively felt upon seeing this body that I live my life in every day.

I knew that I wasn’t at my physical best, and I was okay with that. My body has had many aches and pains so far this year, and I am focused on strengthening it so that those aches go away. Like many new parents, I am sleep-deprived, distracted, and not making my own health as much of a priority as my child’s health. My health is still important to me, which is why I have been putting more and more energy into regaining my strength from before my pregnancy. My appearance, though, is way below both of those aspects to my life on the scale of priorities. However, I was still really taken aback.

I haven’t always loved myself, and a lot of that neglect comes from not loving the looks of my body. “Hello, my name is Jodi, and I am a woman in our current culture.”  As a young adult, though, I decided to change that. And, not in the usual way of working out every single day, counting all of my calories, and losing weight in all the right areas and adding some weight in all the other areas. Nope! While I have always been interested in fitness, being a healthy weight, and living healthier, I knew at 19 that health and appearance were two different aspects of myself.  By the age of 8, I started to realize that it wasn’t “baby weight” that I would one day outgrow, but that I was actually overweight and should do something about that. For the next ten years, it became my fault that I was so overweight, and I felt the shame associated with being “so unhealthy.” However, at my healthiest age – 25/26 – I still wouldn’t have fit into the cultural idea of what a “healthy body” looks like.  I didn’t need that, though, as I was just elated to fit into a single digit size of clothing.

As a young woman, after years of feeling ashamed for being overweight, I knew that changing myself physically wouldn’t change the shame I had for my body. Instinctively, I used positive psychology to slowly fall in love with my body. I started with what I already liked about myself: my hair, and my feet. I have these golden locks of hair, and even today – as the dirty blonde has more and more wisdom glitter in it every day – it is still one of my best features (and needs the least amount of maintenance).  I had never realized, though, that my feet were really gorgeous!  In fact, I joked with a coworker that I should have them photographed for a foot fetish website.

I started with what I liked about myself, and soon realized that I loved those aspects of my physical body. Then, it started to grow. My calves became super strong in my mind’s eyes, and my knees were pretty perfect, too. My face – contorted into the right angle for the age of selfies – was great. I would stare at it in mirrors, working on different expressions in high school, and by university, I decided to start loving the little lines that were starting to form. Laugh lines, to me, meant that I had been so happy in my life! Soon, I discovered my collar bones and realized that they were amazing. My shoulders were super strong! And my breasts, well, I have never disliked my breasts.

By this point, I had kicked that shame about my body in its ugly face.  This is, of course, the only kind of violence I tolerate. Every time I look at my hands, I see my mother’s long fingers and perfectly shaped nails, working hard in service for her loved ones. My forearms are adequate. And the rest? Well, I have found reasons to love them, too. My inner thighs may ALWAYS rub against one another, but that’s just how powerful my THUNDER THIGHS are! As a bicycle commuter, I loved their strength and the speed it provided me, even in the winter months.  Always a little bit of a comedian, I fell in love with my upper arms when I lived in an 18th floor apartment. “In case of an emergency,” I joked, “I’ll just open the window, and let my squirrel arms fly us to safety.”

As an older woman, I know that the shame is not my fault. Looking at that body in the bathing suit, I knew that what I looked like didn’t matter to anybody who mattered.  As Dr. Seuss wrote:

“Those who matter, don’t mind. And those who mind, don’t matter.”

And yet, that shame still popped up. It lingered below the surface for the rest of the day before I brought it up with my husband that night. As I started to tell him about seeing my reflection, tears came flowing from my eyes. I hadn’t realized until that point how much that shame was still there. Nor how much it needed to be released.

In my day to day life, the appearance of my body matters so very little. What it can do – create life, build sanctuary barns, comfort a stranger – is so much more of a way bigger deal. Body shame, though, is still so prevalent in our lives that after more than a decade of dedicated body love – and a lifetime of caring less about what people think than the average person – it can still bring a strong woman like me to tears.

Remember this any time you think something negative about a woman’s body. It’s fine, we can all have those thoughts. But what you do with those thoughts – something like telling her them – is pretty important. My suggestion would be to keep any negative thoughts to yourself…and then think of ten positive ones to believe instead. <3 <3 <3

Consistency vs Commitment

It is okay to go down crying as long as you get up fighting.

~ Marjorie Shier

The leader of a New Moms Group that I was a part of invited us to share something about ourselves that wasn’t about our career or our new babies. Of the myriad of things that I could share, the one that first came to mind was my approach to fitness:

“I’m a runner. And always a novice runner. I really want to commit to it for a length of time, but something always comes up – like an injury, a busy work schedule, or more recently – my pregnancy. But, I am always interested in getting started again. I love running!”

Like the majority of the culture around me, the new year is always a reminder for me to take care of my health more than I was (if only in December!). As part of that resolution, getting more active has been on my radar, and I have been doing more and more every week. As I listened to a workout video from before my pregnancy, though, I started to contemplate how important it really is to be consistent every day.

I did one of the workout videos for the first time in 16 months last Thursday. After encouragement from a fellow mother, I set up my baby as my cheerleader in his jolly jumper, and I talked to him through the whole thing. (He loved the first 10 minutes of watching Mum’s new moves, but started to protest for the last 10 minutes of the video. The middle ten minutes were precarious.) I wrapped up the video sooner than I would have had I been alone, but celebrated the success of being more active even with a 5-month-old under foot.

The next day, I was walking like a spring chicken…because my quads were on fire!

In my old life, I would have just pushed through and put on another video – no pain, no gain, right?  Wrong! I snapped at my husband because I was in pain. I cried when my baby needed me to pick him up again because my legs felt like they were ripping apart. Despite all of the extra stretching I did after the baby had gone to bed, my body was broken. I could not be the mom I want to be when I had done something to make my body stronger.

So, do I stop working out entirely to focus on being that mom I want to be?   If consistency is so important to gaining strength and working through that pain is essential to being fit, did I ruin it all by NOT putting the next video in the next day?

There are so many things in my life that I want to do and so many roles that I want to fill that the activities might not get executed perfectly, and I may not be the person I want to be in those roles all of the time. Does that mean I am failing at them all? Not at all. Just like tearing apart the muscles in my quads in order to rebuild stronger ones, my life needs to be torn apart every so often in order to be a stronger me, too. And being a stronger me is truly the Mum I want to be for my baby.

When I really think about consistency, I realize that my need for it is not coming from myself, but from what the fitness guru on the video was telling me. If fitness were the only thing happening in my life, maybe it would be more important for me to be consistent at it. But I am committed to so much more than fitness in my life right now. When I look back at what has worked in my life, commitments are much stronger than consistency.

For the first few years of my compassionate lifestyle, I “cheated.” I referred to myself as the “Cheatin’ Vegan” as a result, joking at my failure because I wasn’t always consistent. I was still committed to being a vegan, though, and after a few years, it became the easiest part of my life.  I did this through a commitment to being more of the person that I wanted to be than consistently doing the most I could every day. The only consistency I had was in re-committing to being a vegan every single day.

One of my friends had this sentiment to say in regards to my “vegan cheats”:

You can choose to re-commit first thing tomorrow, or not even that far ahead – re-commit at your next meal, your next snack, even the next bite.

You are free to commit or re-commit at any moment. That is the one consistency you will always have.

I did the second workout video this morning. My baby went in his Jumperoo to work on his cheerleading skills and I zoomed past the exercises that my back isn’t strong enough to do just yet. My quads are still sore, and they might be for the next few weeks, but I’m pretty sure that I will be able to pick up my baby without tears running down my face tomorrow. Maybe I didn’t bring “all that I have and then a little bit more” this time, but I brought enough for the change I am willing to put our lives through right now. And that’s more important to me than being a fitness guru leading a workout video right now. Maybe I will do another video tomorrow, maybe it won’t happen again until Wednesday. I can’t commit to any specific consistent time, but I can commit to always growing, changing, and being stronger.

The Right Kind of Politician

I am a passionate, dedicated person who has always been interested in making an impact on the world. For this reason, as well as probably many others, I have been told often that I should run for political office. I would be lying if I said that I had never thought about it.

In contemplating it, I realize that it would not be a good fit for me. The biggest factor in that decision is that I would not like to be the kind of politician that I think is the right kind of politician.  Let me tell you about the first time I realized this to illustrate it.

I was working at an event that was not as busy as we had all hoped it would be when I found myself listening to another vendor. For simplicity, I will call her Rachel. Since I was working, I found myself being more polite than if I were at a social gathering. Rachel had spent the better part of three hours talking to the other vendors more than talking to the attendees – it was a slow market. Her voice carried well, and I could tell she had some strong opinions – Rachel was a passionate individual. She spent much more time sharing her passion with the other people than she spent listening to them or reading their reactions. I was intrigued, and had spent a lot of time watching her interactions with the other people there.

At some point, this vendor had set up her metaphorical soap box between my table and the table of another young woman. I will call the young woman Emily. Emily was younger than I, and we had been chatting for some time, so I knew that she was working for her employer at the time, and was new to being at markets. Emily was very polite and kind, and I enjoyed her as a market neighbour. I noticed Emily being polite in her responses to Rachel. Since I was working, I focused more on the attendees of the market, and had lost the interest of Rachel. (Truth bomb: I was being “silent polite” in hopes to be left alone.)

In the course of Rachel talking to Emily, the topic came around politics.  As it turns out, Rachel had run for office in the last election. Rachel was very interested in politics, and had been working for the party she was running under for what seemed like a few years.  She told this story about how she had created this bill that another party wanted to use, and it got to be too much for me. Rachel was upset because the other party was not going to credit her party with the bill. I, too, am a passionate person, and I couldn’t listen to this idea of politics for any longer.  So, in true Socratic style, I started to ask her questions.

“Is it important to you that this bill get passed? Or more important that you get recognized for it?”

“Well, it’s not giving us any credit for it.”

“So, you need to have credit for something in order for it to be the right thing for the country?”

“Well, it’s the principle of it…” she trailed into some more of a rant about copyrights to the bill or some sort of thing.  My apologies as I wasn’t doing my best at listening by this point, having tried to politely listen to this proselytizer for so long.

“Is it what your constituents would want, though?  I’ve watched you for the better part of this market, go around to all of these people – these potential voters – and tell them your opinion. But what do the people actually want.”

“Well, I asked them during the last election. I knocked on so many doors…”

Aha! There’s the rub. “But that’s not the only time that a politician is supposed to be listening and representing what the people want.”

It was in this moment that I truly understood that myself. People no longer trust politicians and this might be part of the reason why. We elect the politicians to represent us and what we want for our country, province, and our community. To make this decision, we listen to their platforms prior to an election. At that time, we get to know them – as if we were interviewing them for the position that we get to grant them. But what happens after the election? If they have (or have not, in this case) been chosen as our representative, how do we know that they are still representing our best interests?

Many people don’t realize it or perhaps don’t think about it very often, but elected officials are always (supposed to be) working for us. If they aren’t, we need to hold them accountable – and not just during an election. Every politician is required to hold constituency hours, and are there to have discussions with the people they are representing. Just like you would tell an employee or be told as an employee, this is a great opportunity to not only tell the elected official that they’re doing a good job but to also have your voice heard.  Frankly, I want the politicians I elect to be better at this part of the job than at the election part.

That doesn’t seem to be the case, though. Somewhere along the way, we got caught up in the glamour of the election more than the day-to-day duties of our elected officials. We yell at politicians for not holding up their promise only when they are running for re-election rather than talking to them in the moment.  An election might be years apart, whereas employee reviews are recommended every 3 months.

So, yes, I might make a great elected official…one day. I’m passionate, and I care about my community, my country, and most of all the world. Does my community share that same passion with me, though?  Would I be the best representative for them?  Personally, I think my passions are too important for me to be in full service to the issues that are important to the people who would elect me. However, if I wrote a bill that was going to be passed through, I would be rejoicing in having made such a mark on the law. It is not the glory that attracts me to politics so much as it is the impact one can have on our society.