Contentment: A Contrast

I missed my New Years post this year. The truth is I wasn’t quite sure how to write it. This year has brought more evolutions than one shift in calendar years can reflect. I suppose that it reflects the turning of a century more than ever.

Last I wrote I spoke to creating space for things to unfold. Space was created across the board and my awareness was heightened to all areas where I was off kilter. I often feel as though one speaking to their own maturity discredits that maturity- however I have felt new stability and maturity enter into all my reactions, decisions and consistencies since allowing space to simply be.

In the fall of 2019 we booked a trip to New Zealand for which we depart in a few weeks. About a decade ago, a ticket booked to New Zealand started this blog. The contrast I am finding between who I was on that first trip in 2011 to New Zealand, a totally unprepared 19year old, to who I am now is ripe with metaphors.

This upcoming holiday is already vastly different in almost every way to the working gap year I ventured on in 2011. At 19 I departed shortly after my birthday in September to New Zealand where I landed into a groom job at a “renowned” show jumping farm just outside of Auckland. The plan I had formed was to spend nine months working on this farm in what I assumed would be my dream job. Laugh out loud.

What really happened was a blurred six months of extreme and very tough self discovery. I lasted two months at what can only be referred to as the “job” (more like volunteer experience, that made me realize I was better suited to self employment, experienced Auckland during the rugby world up (and got lost/wandered the city until 4am), got sick too many times, experienced the rodeo circuit, got sick some more, shaved my head for moneyI desperately needed, became the bald girl, exercised steeplechase horses, hiked a glacier, somewhere between these two events developed a cyst in the area around my tail bone, ignored pain, developed infection, ended my trip with septic shock and a five day excursion in the Dunedin hospital fighting off surgery before flying home.

It was a tough trip and a huge growth point. On that trip, for all the scary/lonely/difficult moments I also experienced support from unexpected places, the magic that is NZ, and enough reflective material for a life time. I changed my career path on that trip and that led me into the AT program at UWinnipeg, which was the launch point for my career as it is now. I learned how to take care of myself on that trip. I learned the cause and effect of ignoring my body on that trip. I experienced life beyond superficiality in appearance and began to figure out how to set my standards for how others treated me.

Life is different now.

I wrote in my journal on Jan 1, 2020: “If 2019 was the year that burned things down to ask, 2020 is the year the phoenix rises”.

2019 felt to me like a slow burn of everything I had held onto to create who I thought I was.  I was aware I was going through a major shift – and how things manifested never felt incorrect though it often surprised me.

I began to consciously choose things that fertilized evolution, and let die the things that no longer served. I became aware of coping mechanisms that had served me once perhaps, but no longer had a progressive purpose. Things like my relationship to food, my relationship to money, my expression of truth in various situations, and my relationship to motivation all shifted.

As evident in my last post on creating space, I chose “doing less” much more consciously than I chose “doing more”. In the years that followed my last adventure to NZ I had always chosen “more”. I filled my life to the brim with education, relationships, jobs, businesses, ambition. Over those years my motivation changed. My ability to push through died. Burn out became normal. Toxic relationships prevailed and my ability to effectively lead, express and maintain balance fizzled. And then.. I just couldn’t any more. My body wouldn’t allow it and anxiety woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me things had to change.

My rebrand in the fall was my conscious expression of choosing myself again. Redirecting my efforts towards my true expression, professionally and personally, and creating space for that evolution to organically occur instead of attempting to force it.

In the last month or so I’ve experienced a rebirth of all those things I had to let go of. I reframed my relationship to food and to money. I left space where shadows told me to fill it. I expressed what my intuition called for me to express on my professional forums and let myself be guided in how I approach treating others. I stayed present in my awareness for my reactions in all sorts of situations and in that space created I began to heal myself on numerous levels of my being.

And now… I feel well enough to add more back in. I crave riding again. I crave going to the gym to push myself again. I truly can and want to do more once again, in a way I don’t think I’ve felt since the beginning of the decade.

All of this is a testament to the power of rest. To leaning in to fatigue and exhaustion instead of rallying against those signals. We so often treat calls from our body as inconveniences and yet when we allow our body to guide us, with patience, we find it’s the only true way to heal ourselves.

When we first booked this upcoming excursion to NZ I struggled with negative flashbacks for a few weeks. Visions of pain, mistreatment, near death experiences clouded my excitement. My tailbone hurt for a week after we booked the tickets, the same way it hurts every March around the same time of year it hurt originally. Those who say our body doesn’t remember are lost in a world of ignorance.

Yet, in space and time those visions of resentment became rallying excitement. How lucky am I to return to a place that holds such magic, memories, and luxury at a time in my life where I can create a whole new experience?

“You cannot erase memories but you can let go of the heavy energy that is attached to them” – Yung Pueblo

If I were to write a letter to that nineteen year old experiencing life at the beginning of this decade the words would encourage her to continue walking through the world with her eyes wide open.

If I were to write to the fiery, ambitious twenty something that scorched her way through competitive riding and university life the words would remind her to listen to her body and not use exercise as her only outlet for stress. That burnout takes more patience than she’ll have, and that the body will get the rest it needs one way or another.

If I were to write to a future version of me I would write in a way that would remind her to exercise expressions of gratitude no matter her circumstance, and remind her that she has a tendency to underestimate her power to create exactly the reality she wants. Her contentment comes from creating space to enjoy each moment, from balance, not from trying to create more moments.

Life is good. My relationships to material aspects in my life, to my SO, to my body, and to my work are ritualized by gratitude and presence. Contentment fills space created.

Stay tuned for NZ adventures round two 😉

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So here we are.

“So here we are, in our rags, walking down a road we’ve never seen before with the mark of our wild nature glowing through us. It is fair to say that conjunctio is insisting on a revision of the old you. Conjunctio is not something that goes out and gets. It is something that occurs because hard, hard work is being done.” CPE, Women Who Run With Wolves

I wrote last about exhaustion and faith. Of clarity through the fog.

Conjunctio- a theme that appeared in my morning read of Clarissa Pinkola Estes “Women Who Run With Wolves”, is a term coming from the practice of alchemy meaning a higher transformative union of unlike substances. A process of conjunction and pressure of dissimilar elements inhabiting the same space where insight and knowing are made. The part of the book she brings this up in is after the description of the “devil” aspect of our psyche, where a dual nature is symbolized within the psyche. A nature that both badgers us for something and heals us simultaneously. A process where something is lost or transmuted into the combination becoming more.

My dreams a few nights in a row now have been frequented with images of my time in New Zealand. Mostly periods of time spent in contemplation. Which, looking back, was a large theme of the trip (after coming face to face with myself for the first extended period of time distraction free). Long bus rides, long walks, long walks fronting for escapes from a reality I didn’t like. Time to mull over my emotion (at the time, I’m not sure I realized this is what I was doing) and time to prepare myself for the negativity I was keeping myself in during that brief period. Monotonous days made monotonous only due to the fact I was running from the truth I was feeling so strongly within. And, after this period, snapshot style images floating through my subconscious dream-state of even longer times of sitting with my surroundings (internally and externally), digesting, observing.

Through the last couple weeks I’ve been hit with many realizations.

The things I used to describe my ideal life by have become truths of my everyday ventures.

Last weekend I ended a week of clients with a day spent at a sporting event promoting my business while offering services and medical coverage to athletes. This day filled with being thrown right back into the field and having a line of up of sweaty, battle-worn athletes that needed everything I had all day was like reliving the reasons that drew me into this career in the first place. I took a short break away from this event to teach a class under the RideWell heading- where another group of dedicated athletes encompassed the other portion of why I love what I do. Teaching, educating, empowering those who are ready and looking for what I can offer.

After all that I hopped on a plane and flew to a city quickly feeling like a second home, Calgary. Here I spent 3 days enveloped in new professional and personal focuses. From old connections to new, the whole time I spent there I was continually surrounded by the calmness that I described in my last blog. A faith so strong that it’s next to impossible to imagine things not working out or aligning just right.

Indeed, through conversations had while in Calgary- it came to light that things I’d been saying for years, or had in the back of my mind as “eventuals” were seemingly already occurring or about to. Needless to say, it is not hard for me to find and create opportunity out West.

A life lived in many facets has always sat well with me. It’s what I’ve looked towards. Endless opportunity.

Since beginning a slow return to riding myself I’ve noticed a shift back into what I think of as “athlete mind”. Something that can be a trickster for us who work with athletes, but a trait that sets many apart on their journeys nonetheless.

As thing seem to align West, the little irritations or blocks I’ve noticed home in Winnipeg seem to be more.. synchronistic. In that, as I trust and direct my energy towards what feels right, everything else seems to solve itself. The practice I’ve built here is becoming more observably more then just myself. The idea of me creating a self-sustaining (to an extent) opportunity for clients and practitioners to thrive within while I pursue endless other ideas is all of a sudden much more realistic and timely.

RideWell (new venture) is heading West to networking at Spruce Meadows this summer. Integrative is moving into new, open space with a strong team within it. Making it logical for me to let it grow into the vision I’ve set for it, while I create avenues leading away (and back to) the original brand.

The idea of my equestrian focused practice expanding to a larger market all of a sudden is pushed into gear as I put some vested energy into opening the door I shoved my foot into West of MB.

Did I think these motivations and ideas would be brought to light so soon in my career because of a sporadic decision to fly to another province for a date? Absolutely not, but would it be me if there wasn’t a hint of wild adventure along the way?

Energy flows where attention goes, and lately I’ve had to stop and contemplate the strange way my motivation has moved and drawn me towards what I’ve always said I wanted.

Unsurprisingly the theme of my meditation this morning, and the tarot card I drew for myself was a card of contemplation.

Imagery wise, seven pentacles (symbol of material possessions, career, etc) aligned in a diagonal row- with symmetrical lines forming square points at each circled pentacle. An orderly, curious image- all at once.

The last few years I’ve seen myself move away from a intrinsically hyper-motivated athlete mind to a “go with the flow, let go, recovery” state. Partially due to injury and illness, and shifts in focus. It’s nonetheless been a beneficial state.. and now, things are moving back to operating for high performance (this doesn’t exclude periods of the above recovery minded state). The win being whatever the f I want it to be in the short and long term.

It often takes a minute of stepping back, counting the things lining up and the possibilities behind each, taking in the larger perspective to really note what is more valuable: wandering along or a intentional direction.

When I look back on the last two years I see a intentional direction with a unintentional lack of long view purpose.

In the last 6months I’ve seen that purpose align and clarify.

In the last 3months I’ve become confident in that purpose and noticed other doors open.

Behind each door is more reflection, more contemplation, more energy to direct.

As I observe that process I am noting that I’ve only begun to tap into my potential, and the potential of my ideas. I am so much more then what I am right now, and I have already proven that in looking behind at the chapters I’ve written.

The fascinating thing about creating a business (or two+) out of your dreams and ideas is that it is a tangible measure of your personal development and commitment to your purpose.

Every step forward comes with the acknowledgement of a reflection shining back at me from some other aspect of my life. A person, a memory, a emotion I can’t quite place, a connection or disconnection that’s stuck with me. More then ever I’m aware of inconspicuous guides surrounding me. Often in the form of fellow humans entering (and exiting) my life as if right on cue.

This is all a reminder of staying focused, but not too focused on it all. Often the most subtle, only seen in the peripheral (or hindsight) are the things with the strongest meaning.

“The psyche of woman must constantly sow, train, and harvest new energy in order to replace what has been worn out.. there is constant living, constant death dealing, constant replacement of ideas, images, energies…” -CPE, Women Who Run With Wolves

A period of contemplation, indeed. The soil is fertilized and ready for spring, now which seeds to plant and how to nurture the growth?

Retreat

It’s the season for retreating for many of us.

This time of year I am systemically faced with the culmination of the year’s deeper meaning.

Most years a lot of things bubble up to the surface around November and December- leaving me a little raw and cracked open come the end of the year.

I stopped viewing this as a negative thing a few years ago, because with that rawness and openness has come endlessly valuable insights — among many internal “you have got to be f****** me”– and growth (of course).

I started to write this blog a few weeks ago. I titled it “Inhale”, as all I was doing as November rolled out and December rolled in was desperately trying to maintain a livable blood pressure through deep breathing. Every where I turned personally and professionally a fire needed stifling.

On the last day of reckoning I was driving to my rural clinic and as often happens I was transported in my minds eye to a moment or two I’ve had on one of my travel expeditions.

This time I travelled to a cliff’s edge deep in the Himalayas of Nepal. On the way to basecamp. As I was in this reality driving through the frozen prairies, I was remembering taking deep inhales and long exhales on the side of a mountain watching the mists lift and the sun peak through as Mt. Everest flirted with us through the clouds. I remember moments like this vividly from this trek. Every emotion was raw, clear, and aggressively intense. There were multiple times I found myself standing, gasping for air, looking out on that scene while waves of emotions at their purest form rushed over me. Emotions I wasn’t even sure how to define coming through with every deep breath. Simultaneous to this was the inhale of fresh, untouched air and the scenery very few people get to experience opening up before me.

You want to experience going from pure joy to deep sorrow in a matter of seconds- travelling through your darkest thoughts right back into your happiest memories in a span of a few minutes? Try a trek in altitudes above 3000masl. It’s a great way to get mental whiplash.

As undesirable as that may sound, in this relived moment it was extremely peaceful. The thing about getting to know all your emotions at their deepest points is that you also get to know the deepest serenity.

It’s a level of discomfort that has helped me with all the hugely uncomfortable parts of learning. Of failing, of getting back up, of learning humbleness and of practicing the art of being and honouring yourself. There’s vivid points where I’ve caught myself feeling like my world is ending, only to stop and think— wait.. nope this is actually just the learning process.. it’s supposed to be this uncomfortable. F***.

I knew early on 2017 was to be a year of learning. Collecting, reviewing, gathering and sorting. There has been so many moments where a tiny voice has said “just.. wait”, “hold that thought”, or said nothing at all except a small shrug suggesting “yeah go ahead act on that thought- you need this lesson to smack you in the face, clearly”. It seems almost too symbolic that near the end of the year I’ve gone through major, dramatic and seemingly sudden shifts to emerge into a new calm- almost fresh feeling start- almost a full 360 but with a new sheen from a year ago.

There’s been moments the last few weeks where I’ve been rushing to and fro, only to be halted in my tracks (literally) because a whiff of nature, a gust of wind, or a thought so vivid and clear makes me take notice. I stood in front of my apartment building last week like a lunatic deep inhaling the smell of the spruce trees on the walk way. In the moment they smelled like another world. In a world of chaos, the calm reached out and grabbed me- just for a moment. A reminder to stop, to inhale, to exhale. Then, it let go and set me back into the spiral I had been living in.

Lately, those moments of calm are more frequent. The path has become clearer again, and my purpose on it even moreso.

It’s like multiple days from my latest trip in Spain- basking in the sun getting day tipsy in full holiday mode with the strongest feeling that it’s all going to be fine, wandering historic streets and feeling reassured that many have felt whatever they’ve felt before you (and they’ve survived), or watching the sun set over the ocean in San Sebastián drinking cocktails— feeling gratitude for the people who have come and gone in your life, and the lessons they’ve cued for you.

In the aftermath of everything shifting and settling again I’ve seen a mission statement and foundation for my business come forth. Ideas and visions and questions I have been mulling over and collecting information for all year have seemingly come to obvious conclusions. I feel like I am ready to stand tall and speak my dialogue, on a foundation of values I’ve found through a year or two of shedding, collecting and inquiring on many different levels.

I’ve found myself in the last couple days peering back on previous chapters with bittersweet gratitude.. the highs and the lows all had sweet and tough moments. Sometimes extremely heart warming and often extremely challenging emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Being the kinaesthetic learner that I am, it makes sense that I’ve chosen the last couple years to explore the world, physically challenge myself, and delve deeper and deeper through uncomfortable experiences into my own psyche.. to come to where I stand now, a little more knowledgeable and a little more comfortable being uncomfortable.. or at least, knowing that it’s all just moments passing by.

While I expect that the coming New Year is going to bring on whole new exciting themes, challenges, and developments… as always, it’s a new adventure to live through. More stories to tell, and more memories to ponder.

Stay tuned… and I wish you all a restorative holiday season- and hope you find some time to retreat back to yourself as we close out 2017. It’s the season for guilt-free napping- take advantage!

Powerful

“You don’t even know how powerful you are yet”

A friend told me that, earlier this year.

They were right.

This whole year I’ve been in a power struggle with my own being.

I started the year on the fumes of a year full of a “let go” theme. I rolled into the New Year set on shedding and grooming my self care. And in that new routine practice I found a voice that had been waiting.. waiting for a chance to speak.

That voice came out with friends, in self talk, with clients, in my business, and in networking.

It scared me. Often.

Then I noticed.. it only was scary when I tried to hold it in, or didn’t trust it.

The more I got comfortable with speaking the truth pouring out from within- the less terrifying it became. As I learned how to express tact with honesty I saw how my words created power for others.. empowered their own inner dialogue to shift.

In that process I began sensing efficacy in that inner fire. The inner power.

I realized that for so long I associated power with ego, and ego was something I’d worked so hard on releasing attachements to.

But.. are power and ego the same thing?

Not essentially, no.

“You haven’t realized how powerful you are”.. no.. I haven’t. But- I’m learning to experience power and not judge it for inspiring ego. Ego comes with being human- but observing it as part of our being enables it to let go of it’s hold on us.

So I continued to let go, to allow a flow to occur. Things, people, places- they come, they go, they call, they don’t call. It all ebbs and flows.

The pace of our lives sometimes carries us and sometimes we have to exercise control to gain perspective.

Where I sit now I sit in extreme accord with the voice that resides within and the fire that creates action. However I also am at peace with sometimes sitting and letting that voice mature.

My recent trip to Spain was the first travel experience where I honestly didn’t feel the need to reflect, examine, or exercise personal growth tactics.

I just was.

I came home with ideas and thoughts and progressions that I”ve been able to enact with new energy and a stronger voice then before.

I’ve had meetings and experiences since that have caused me to question everything about my experience so far, and how I want to use that experience to create new endeavours and what my purpose is.

I’ve seen love change forms in my life only to strengthen in it’s diversity. Expectations shift from set in stone to malleable elements serving equally those involved. Realities shift from what and who we are taught to be to understanding who we truly are, deep down, and exploring the purpose we all arrive with. Allowing that purpose to take on varying forms.

My life as it stands is wonderful and I look on it every day with newfound gratitude. For the opportunities and the power that resides within me- to give back, to create change, to build the reality I want to exist within.

True unhappiness or unsettledness stems in ignorance of self, distrust in the inner voice.

We learn to listen to that voice through experiencing the smallest moments life brings to us. A client planking for the first time in their two year history with you- and rocking it. A group fitness class that shows enthusiasm for the changes they are ready to make. Listening to an inspiring person in your life speak and feeling blessed to have them in your life. Seeing a friend break through their own internal struggles and let light into their being again.

All these small things are why we are here, and they are only found once we let go enough to let them shine through.

 

(Thank you to Jenaya Larisse Photography for the wonderful portrait 💖)  

The here and now.

I officially graduated this past week, and it was more emotional then I thought it would be.

 I’ve been operating under the assumption that I’d already completed my degree for a while now, so convocation was just the official handing of the paper. However, the night before I found myself reflecting on how much I’ve worked through to get to now. Yeah I’ve been done technically for a while, but all of a sudden the official completeness of it hit me. This chapter is closing, and now it’s time to reveal the next page.

I’ve written a lot about transition the last little while. Fall is always a transitional time, and as I find myself stepping away from academics for a bit to develop my business and career… I’m a little terrified. The past year has been all about me doing me, and for someone who finds it easy to get wrapped up in the 5 years from now and into other people’s lives… I’ve worked pretty hard at staying true to myself and doing what I need to to further my own personal development. Now, here we are at another stepping stone. I have a paper that succinctly sums up 4 years (and a bit) of endless learning, hard bouts of burn out, low points, high points, and enlightenment. Can a piece of paper signify the amount of personal growth I’ve done emotionally and mentally? Not really.

I wasn’t hit with this wave of emotions because of the next steps I face in my career or even academically.. I think the emotions were stemming from the more unknowns that are at my door step, and the known fact that I still have a lot of personal development and experience to go through (which is something that never ends, I’m learning). The things I know right now are that I have a vision for the next year of my life. Any ideas I have for the next 5 years are hazy, and while some of them may occur the truth is I don’t know where I want to be. I know who I want to be, and what I want to accomplish within that time frame… but in what order, where, and how is still unclear. As, again I’m learning, it probably should be for where I’m at. I’m uncomfortable with the unknown. Not that I want to know my exact future. But I’m uncomfortable with the known that things as they are now are likely to change, again and again. I recognize that this is okay, and normal, and even to be expected… but the simple act of graduating unleashed all these new, somewhat unfamiliar emotions and concerns about my personal life.

I vaguely remember feeling like this after my high school graduation. In a different capacity, of course, but some of the same “fear of the unknowns”.

I’ve talked to and read about many who say the 20s are the most difficult age for this reason. Everything is always transitional. You’re always learning, adjusting, losing, gaining, and finding out who you are and where you’re supposed to end up. Life is all about not knowing when the next curveball will be thrown, but still managing to swing at it with some success. The support systems you develop are there to rebound off of as you ricochet towards the next thing. The ones you love bolster you, and/or keep you focused in their own ways.

I’ve been taking some time the last few days to reflect on where I’m at, and make peace with not knowing what comes next.. even if I have strong feelings about what is coming next. It’s really easy to get wrapped up living 5 years from now, and ignore the amount of work, exploration, learning and turmoil that has to come first. It’s very interesting to me that I can feel so confident in my education and professional life, while so confused about parts of my emotional life. Even operating under the deep sense of “it will be what it will be”, why can’t I quit pondering the “it”? I have this intuition that I always get exactly what I need, even if it is tough to process.. and that long term there is some sort of path we are all placed on. Our decisions and choices lead us towards ultimately what we’re supposed to experience, and those experiences cultivate the individual we are to be. All you can do in the process is enjoy the here and now.

Intention and the questions no-one can answer

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I have this vague memory of driving to the city with my mom when I was 5 or 6 (ish). Being a typical kid of that age, I was asking non-stop questions, and when given an answer.. my response would be “but.. why?”. Whatever answer I got wasn’t enough to satisfy the questions I had in my head.

I’ve been feeling a lot like that kid lately. Though, my questions aren’t as black and white.

Last week I wrote about working on being at peace with things. One of those things is accepting that sometimes (quite a bit of the time) there won’t be answers for the questions I have. As someone who is fairly open with my personal dilemmas, whether it be via blogging or long discussions with those close to me.. it’s clear that more often the not, nobody else can answer or solve certain things for me. I’m rarely happy with the answers I get, anyway. The discussion can offer great insight and further opportunity for reflection, yes, but it won’t bring a clear cut set of directions or a guide to the next step. There isn’t a handbook for growing up, another fact both twenty-something me and mature, young professional me are equally upset about.

What does give answers?

Time.

Following gut feelings. Trusting intuition.

Reflection.

That’s what I’ve come up with so far, anyway.

What I’ve noticed is that life seems to put us where we need to be, if we are able to pay attention to it’s directions. Whether those places make sense or not at first, time and reflection allow for the reasoning and answers to become a little clearer. The directions for the next step are those subtle little gut feelings. The intuition is developed via those gut and heart guidances. It’s the learning to listen with patience that’s the hardest part.

I struggled at first when I began my University career and began falling in love with my profession with how I would have room in my life for two all-consuming passions. My sport and my career. I had two deep down feelings: I would have to give up one to be successful at the other, or I would have to find a way to make them both work. It took years for the answer to become clear. Answers I didn’t even know were answers until now.. where I am living the dreams of my past self.

As cheesy as it sounds, setting an intention on what you want in your life, and then going about your daily life- making effective and conscious choices that are best for you at whatever stage you’re at- can lead to you being where you wanted to be all along.

In a different example.. I spent a lot of years complaining and making criticisms on the way my sport (and many sports) are run. Yesterday I was voted onto the board of directors for my provincial association. My intentions (roundabout) for change and evolution in the equestrian sport came about in a way I didn’t necessarily predict, but in a way that I have a feeling will give me some interesting opportunities.

Choices. Change. Letting time pass and having patience. These things come a long with fear, frustration, disappointment.. but also knowledge, gratitude, joy. You can’t have one without the other. Positives cannot exist without the negatives.

Nobody can say what the future will bring. Nobody can answers the questions of your deepest desires and hopes. You can set your intentions in motion. You can reflect on what you’ve been dealt. You can decide how you’re going to learn and wait for the next clue. However you’re doing, don’t be blind to the choices in your control and the doors opening toward opportunity.

Philosophical post complete. Now for a quick weekly update.

As noted above, I am officially a part of the Board of Directors for MHJA. I will be running for the chair of athletic development, for which I am already brainstorming ideas for. February is here and I have a busy month of writing up my research and submitting it for a national writing award, putting together presentations for the seminars and clinics coming up quick in March, and a few other articles on the go as well. I’ve hit a great rhythm in my internships and in my personal life. I have at least two evenings off a week with which I actually take off. I even read a novel this week, between work and school.. “A Scientific Romance” by Ronald Wright (definitely a  must read!). This is probably the most sane I’ve been during a winter semester.. ever. At least I figured it out before I finished my degree, right?

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Re: 2014… An open letter to myself

I usually do a Top 10 of the year to bring in the New Year, but this year I thought I’d do something a little different. In place of a list, here is a letter written to myself on the past 12 months. 

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Dec 31, 2014

As 2014 comes to an end, you are reliving countless moments from the year past. Most of them good, some of them not so much. 2014 began for you with fate halting you in your tracks (quite literally), with a broken leg and a ambulance ride (this post has more detail). You probably won’t ever forget that night.

The year continued as your leg healed and your eyes were opened to new things and new experiences. 2014 was a busy year for you, in almost all areas. You began work on your own brand with Katmah Training, starting out with a strength and conditioning class for riders- and, now at the end of the year, you find yourself promoting biomechanics and position assessments, booking group clinics for riders on biomechanics, and working on your own research project. Not a bad progression. As spring came and your leg continued to mend- you had to deal with some fear around getting back in the saddle. By refusing to let fear control your season, you pushed through and got yourself through one of the toughest competition seasons of your life which brought true meaning to the saying “sweat, blood and tears”- and even made the transition from hunter land in the the jumper ring (why you chose to do this while recovering from a broken leg and nerve damage is still up for question).. all the while having great support from your teammates and now close friends M and L, your coaches, parents and boyfriend. As the show season ended, and your fear became less- you faced another hurdle when you made the decision to sell your long-time teammate Will (see When you know, you know for more on this). This meant letting go of yet another fear and letting yourself let go of the belief that taking a break from the sport meant giving it up forever, or that it made you any less of an athlete. Again- the support you had from those close to you was outstanding. Without these people- what you did this year probably wouldn’t have been possible. One of 2014’s biggest marks was likely showing you how much you appreciate the people in your life.

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Academically, you faced the most challenging year yet. However, you surprised yourself with your dedication to your studies and the profession of athletic therapy. You realized you’ve found your calling, and you began to see your own potential. You took on a leadership role in your student association, and a few teaching assistant roles. Early in the year you even applied to go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for their AT-student internship, but fate had it that you were meant to stick around home this year. Instead you began your own research and focused your in class work towards the equestrian sport. In the field you spent the spring covering the MB Winter Games (click here for more on that experience), and football. Summer brought working at the Winnipeg Folk Fest, the Morris Stampede, and then more football, basketball and hockey in the fall. You were the main therapist with your football team this year, and got to see a truck load of injuries. Unfortunate for the kids, but excellent for your confidence levels in the field (this and this are good reads on how your football seasons went. )! You even got published again by CATA with your post Meet Your Athletic Therapist. As an executive of the student association, you were also lucky to attend the first annual Gupta Faculty of Kinesiology and Applied Health Fundraising Gala. This event inspired you and kept you in love with the ever growing profession of kinesiology in Canada. The passion of those involved in it is slowly but surely making it a well-respected part of the health care system.

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Other then being swamped by football, you were also working in the clinic(s), manning the student association, teaching, and taking the four final AT courses, and then hockey. While the entire year had it’s ups and downs, the fall took a lot out of you. While the summer made you feel like you were living a double life, being both the athlete and the therapist, the fall flew by until sh** it the fan for about 2 months straight. This is usually how you experience burn out, and you’re finally starting to understand the pattern. First your car got broken into (and all of your ID and medical supplies stolen). Then you got some marks back that demonstrated a clear case of burn out, and your leg began acting up more then necessary. Then your car got towed (you hoped it’d been stolen). Following this, and numerous breakdowns, you headed into final exams while simultaneously facing the end of your first major relationship. Oh, and then your car broke down and completely died. Ya think the universe was sending clear enough message? This post gives a longer summary. Here, again, you got a front seat view of how much support you have within your different circles. M and L, your riding teammates, didn’t just stop being your friends when you left the sport- they stepped up in a big way for you this fall and winter. Your parents were endlessly supportive, as well as all your friends and colleagues at school. Even through closing the chapter on your relationship, J remained a big support and friend for you too.

When you look back at 2014, it’s easy to see that it was a year of learning (as every year is) for you. Learning took place in new areas. You were forced to deal with many emotions and feelings you either hadn’t given time for (love), or had locked away (fear). You proved your ambition within your career, and that is paying off looking into the new year. Before the year ended, your research took off and you began to form your own biomechanics program for riders. While it’s in the early stages, it will come in handy for the few clinics and talks you’ve been booked for early in 2015. It was very much a year of growing pains, in pretty much every aspect of your life- whether it be sport, career, or personal life. After getting through December full of exams and focusing on your research before taking some time off around Christmas, you road-tripped out to Lake Louise with your cousins. You definitely couldn’t afford this excursion- but your head thanks you for it. It was a great way to hit reset and bring in the New Year.

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As the clock nears midnight, you’re sitting in the Fairmont Chateau watching rich people in velvet suit jackets get progressively more confident on the dance floor (it’s as entertaining as it sounds). You have a fresh mindset on many things, and are looking forward to 2015 as a exciting year for you. Right now you have plans to work the Scotties tournament, the National Badminton Championships, and are starting in a few new clinics. You will continue with hockey, now with a younger student shadowing you, be a teaching assistant in two new classes, continue your own research, and come spring return to you beloved football team. You are done course work now, with just two humanities left to finish- which means your schedule is much more flexible and coordinated to your AT life. You will return to MORFit, after a month off, continue running your own business, and tutoring. With a little more wisdom when it comes to scheduling (we think) you will get back into the gym and yoga on a regular basis, because you know it’s what you need– that time for you– to stay sane and keep the Universe off your back. Since you aren’t riding competitively anymore, you need to find other ways to keep your body moving and your mind settled. Hopefully you’ll make it to this years CATA conference in Halifax, and surely you’ll find some new adventures to fill your summer with. This will be the first summer without a heavy training and competition schedule to keep you busy- but also the summer before you challenge the national certification exams.  After reflecting on 2014, you’re grateful for all the things it’s shown you- and are welcoming 2015 with a smile!

For future reference- practice gratitude everyday, it’s one of the things that kept you going through the low points of 2014.

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Driving in White Out Conditions

The usual driving condition for those of us living on the cold, wide-open, wind blown prairies during the winter months.. could it be a metaphor for life?

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In the last few weeks I’ve found myself feeling emotions I don’t know if I have felt much before, going through a few personal stressors that both surprised me but then didn’t. I’ve found myself at the funeral of a long time mentor and former coach, dealing with a new up cropping of feelings and re-instillation of the fear I thought I was making progress on with riding, and finding myself lost within a myriad of personal relationship stress. This lead to a week or so of not eating properly, and the gains I’d made on rehabbing my ever persistent leg and nerve injuries back slide as I wasn’t about to slip down the overtraining slope on zero nutrition (plus side.. lost some weight?). Most recently having finally thought I was getting myself picked up and well on my way to being done this semester (only two exams and one paper to go) to have my car hit what may be it’s final bump, and finding myself driving through white-out conditions in a car that’s not mine (dad if you’re reading this from your warm location.. I’m borrowing your car) pondering what the last few weeks have dragged me through and wondering what could possibly come next.

While over the last few weeks my go-to answer to the question “how’s it going” has been a very simple “oh.. it’s going”. Somedays profs would find me sitting in my office literally banging my head against my desk.. and unfortunately for them dare to ask how I was. His only response to the half hour long rant he got was “how are you not an insane person by now? You always seem so calm and collected.” Thankfully, my profs and mentors are all unbelievably compassionate and understanding human beings.. and every day I’m grateful for what they’ve done, said, and taught me over the last few years.. especially this year. There’s been a lot of rough days in the last few months for me.. hence the “it’s going” response.. but, the more I go through, the easier it is for me to just adapt and move on from all those little personal stressors. Time rolls on.

I’ve always liked driving through winter storms. Maybe it’s because I was raised doing it, but if we get a little more deep- maybe it’s the feeling of not being able to see where you’re headed.. but having to trust you’re on the right path anyway.

When I began this semester, just shy of turning twenty-two, I foresaw what was likely going to be the most challenging academic year yet. What I didn’t see was non-stop challenges from  every other aspect of my life in between the demanding school life.

I feel like I’m coming out of this semester with more then just 4yrs of education in kinesiology. I’m coming out of it with a better understanding of who I am, and who I want to be.

While at the funeral last week, I expected to feel sad.. and finally snap out of the shock I’d been feeling at her death the week leading up to the funeral. Instead, I found myself, once again, feeling inspired by the life she had lead. From having a successful career in more then one area, chasing her dreams relentlessly and achieving whatever she set out to achieve, having a loving marriage and family, and travelling to her heart’s content. She lead the life I see and dream of for myself. She wasn’t slowed down, or if she was not for long, by all the bumps and bruises life can bring.. and she was always smiling. You could tell by her passion and enthusiasm that she was fulfilled in every way, and had passion for everything that she did (and she did pretty much everything). I grew up with women and men like her in my life. People who have gone through hardships, but have chased their chosen paths without being held back. I left the funeral both still in shock, but mostly grateful to have known her- and to be blessed with her inspiration even now that she isn’t humanly here. I was also overwhelmed with the people I have surrounding me now. All filled with their own passions, stuck with their own challenges, and moving down their own paths. While we all have different reasons for doing what we do on this earth- we all face many of the same challenges, fears, and “white out conditions” if you will.

Things are not always going to go smoothly. Actually, I’ve come to learn that if they seem to be going smoothly.. you must be doing something wrong. Life is full of challenges, big and small, and different for each person. Growing up and figuring those things out and learning how you react to stress is sometimes the hardest part. But being able to follow that path even when it’s completely blown over and visability is crap.. that’s sometimes where you just gotta trust in your belief, your support systems, and keep your head up.

As weird as it is, the last two months started out as having an effect on my marks. Big time. But even though exam season came with a whole new wave of the Universe laughing at me… I was able to just throw myself into full AT mode as it has been the one constant for me this year. Studying, writing, working with clients (exciting research has happened here.. I’ll really write a post on this like I’ve been promising soon!!!), even doing practical exams.. it’s become my happy place. That and spending time with my spectacular friends and family. Yes I rant a lot.. but it’s times like these when having dreams that are becoming a reality keeps you going. Everything falls into place.. just not always at the same time.

The same prof that found me banging my head against the desk a few days ago just walked by as I was finishing this post and tentatively asked how I was doing.. and when I told him “I’m doing okay, you know, I’ve decided that I’m letting all the stress go and just gonna roll with whatever happens next”. He kind of chuckled and said, you know.. we should have you teaching classes at that skill- you are unbelievably good at it!

So as I finish my final week of my last full-on semester.. I find myself blasting Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” (don’t judge me) and realizing that being stressed is overrated when you have been doing it for months.. all I can do is control the controllables, and mainly.. my reaction to what I cannot control.

 

 

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Fair Perspective

This past weekend I went back to my roots for the charmin’ Carman Country Fair, taking Felix (The Rio Zipper), through his paces in some pleasure classes. I haven’t shown there, or at any Country Fair in a few years- the hunter/jumper world kind of kidnapped me and wouldn’t let go. It was kind of cool looking back at the different perspectives I’ve had as a participant over time, and how things change (and don’t) as I age.

I wasn’t one of those kids who competed at country fairs in the “hobby horse” classes, or the lead-line classes from an early age. I didn’t start showing until I was 11 or 12. When I did, it was through 4H on my first horse, Otis. Back then, I couldn’t care less what ribbon I got- or how precise our stop was at cone 2 in Western Horsemanship, or if our lope was slow enough for the judge; I did however hate showmanship. For the most part, I was just happy to be on my favourite horse. The stress of competing can’t phase a horse-crazy kid. Or shouldn’t anyway.

As I got older, progressed through horses and levels, started going to more fairs and started trying out for the Regional team- I enjoyed the competition more. It mattered more if I placed in my horsemanship classes, or got Monty over every jump in our little equitation classes. I wanted those points. I wanted those ribbons. I wanted to beat my peers, the ones who always seemed to have the perfect patterns, and have no problem getting that perfect lope in pleasure classes. I still hated showmanship, but I wanted so badly to make that regional team, win those stake classes, and be named a high-point.

The year I finally made the regional team and got to go to my first provincials was so exciting! I was finally one of the cool kids who could did well enough to be named to the legendary Central Region Team. The confidence this gave me through the next few years of country fair showing was irreplaceable. Belonging to that team proved that I had potential. I could hold my own against my team-mates in try-outs, and we were the top team in the Province 3 years running. Therefore, I was someone in this world. Having those perfect patterns, the perfect turnout, it was expected now. With that behind me, all the sweat, blood, and tears before (and after) were made worth it. Showmanship still sucked (maybe not as much as trail now), though, even if I could pull off a good pattern. Also, who could forget the Central Team rap of ’07?
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After I had retired from 4H, and there was no more provincials to attend, country fairs were still a staple in my summer schedule. Now combined with a few more hunter/jumper shows, I was starting to be torn in different directions. HJ shows were new, and I felt like a nobody again. I was showing up on my humble appy and paint, lost among the close knit barn-groups that dominate that world. The braiding techniques that were more than acceptable at 4H shows were nowhere near close to HJ level. I knew how to rock a show hack/road hack class (thank you country fairs), but found that many of the norms from country fairs were not present (prize money, for one). It was a different world. One where I was being pushed in new ways, having to start all over at the bottom. Country fairs remained my home turf for a few years yet. Me and my trusty (somedays) chestnut mare were rock solid with each other. Just don’t ask us to do trail. Showmanship was acceptable, though. The jumping classes at these shows were no problem. Summer after summer we rocked the fair circuit, whether it was a great show, or hilariously awful show (if you knew Flash, you’ll recall those), high-points weren’t uncommon. Those were some of the best summers. Those of us still left-over from the Central Team were the cool Senior class regulars. The ones who chatted and joked in the line up while the judge made their decisions. Or even in rail classes as we passed one another. It wasn’t the same if one of us wasn’t there. Something felt off.

One by one, us regulars drifted away. Whether it be to move for school, just get busy with “real-life”, or get involved more heavily in another part of the horse-world (Hunter/Jumper, for example). The classes started getting smaller, and the atmosphere that once surrounded the fair circuit changed. Other things took over; there were bigger classes to win, other high-points, different teams to make that took precedence. The skills we learned from all those years on the circuit forming our base for success in all these other areas. Showmanship, funny enough, probably lending it’s fair share life skills (as stupid as it is).

Coming back to Carman Fair this year was fun, and exciting- for many reasons. I was riding a gorgeous young prospect, I got to pull out my fabulous Western saddle, and there is just a novelty to going to a country fair whether or not you’re participating, or just taking in the sites, sounds, and smells. One of the challenges to Carman Fair has always been that the Midway is traditionally set up right beside the horse ring. From my point of view, this is a right of passage every rider on the fair circuit goes through. Getting their horse used to the crazy carnies popping in and out of the trees, or the “dragon wagon” rattling from the corner, or the kids shooting out of the slide behind the trees (with the carnies). What a perfect experience for a young horse.

Coming home to Ctown Fair, I knew I was likely to be the only one of the “regulars” from the prov. team days there. The fair itself has shrunk dramatically since the “good old days” (I did not just use that term, what am I, 60?). I was going to give Felix some experience, and maybe catch a glimpse of the magic that used to surround the show. A hilarious perspective change that I noticed immediately was me preaching to my mom about the importance of making sure Fe was clipped and ring ready- whereas she kept saying “Oh, it’s just carman fair. It won’t matter that much”. Completely the flip side of where we started out. The next thing I noticed was the emptiness of the barns the night before. There were some horses there, but not that many competitors as there used to be, braiding tails, putting slinkies on, making sure everything was show ready for the early morning start. It was like a shadow of what used to be.

I’m making this sound depressingly nostalgic. It wasn’t, it was just somewhat different then the memories that hold true. Overall it was a great show, both results wise and enjoyment wise. It was somewhat lonely, not knowing many people I was competing against (and there only being 5-10 of us).

I’ve been talking a lot about how things have changed over the years, which is easy to do when you look back at how much you’ve grown as an individual. But really, things haven’t changed too much in the bigger picture. The people running the show are still bickering about the same things. There are still some riders complaining about the same things. There are still fussy show moms, and kids showing only because they’ve been doing it since they were 2 and their parents love it. It was still classically hot, and it still stormed as it always does right after the fireworks. It’s still very much the Carman Fair. The same, but different.

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Showmanship still sucks, for the record.

A Flash In Time

I’ve always held the belief that we learn from every experience. From every person we meet; coaches, friends, family, teachers, to every sight we see; a busy cross walk, a sunrise, rush hour. Sometimes it takes some tough love from the universe for things to sink in. Sometimes it takes years to find what we didn’t know we needed.

For athletes, there is always one coach they will say taught them the most- or a fellow teammate or opponent.  Something that stuck with them- good or bad, bad or worse- the experience leaves a mark that becomes a part of who we are. For equestrian athletes, there is lessons learnt from each horse we ride- and always the few extra special ones that stick with us.

I’ve personally had many different coaches, teachers, horses, and experiences-good and bad- that have left their mark on me. I can’t honestly say one has shown me more than another, or that one holds more value, because that would be going against what I stated earlier. But certainly there are more experiences that come to mind at different points in life.

The phrase “tough love” definitely comes to mind when I think of many experiences I had with one of my most memorable equine teachers, Flash. I can’t count the amount of tears this horse made me cry. She was frustrating, and heart breakingly stubborn, all while being talented, beautiful, and full of heart. From day one she made it clear that if things were going to go well, it was because she decided they would. She was a complete jigsaw, until you figured her out- cracked her hard exterior- and knew how to read her. If you were patient, she’d give you clues. Weeks of frustration, and then she’d give you an inch. Any of you who have rode or worked with a “chestnut mare”, you’ll know exactly the feeling I’m trying to get across. She taught me how to be a better loser, and as a result a better winner. She showed me that things are probably not always going to work out exactly to plan, and that that’s okay, because sometimes what you really need is a step in another direction anyway. She taught me how to laugh at myself; horses keep you humble- afterall. She gave me a determination that has gotten me through things that could have easily brought me down. It wasn’t always a case of getting off in a better mood with her, but, I always ended up with a different perspective. Because of her I ended up on the path that brought me my current mount, Willard, who has turned out to be a wonderful partnership as well. And the right one for where I’m at.

With the year I’ve had, it would be easy to look back on the years Flash and I were abusing trail class patterns and say that was nothing compared to this. But it’s really just a statement of how much I’ve grown from those experiences, and been able to handle the new ones. There were competitions with her where she would have me in tears from the halter classes until the last class of the day. And yet we kept going into the ring, both stubborn enough to keep pushing each other, and at the end of the day our bond was even stronger then before.

It was through her that I proved to myself that even when things don’t work out, even when nothing goes right- pushing through that brings you strength to deal with anything. Through this horse I began using the phrase “If I can do this, I can do anything” when things got rough, as they have and as they will. Nothing easy is worth having. Sometimes the best memories are made during the toughest times. It does nothing to compare yourself to others, because even the best have bad days. Be humble, be determined, and open your heart to everything you can. Everybody, everything, everyday has something to teach you.

RIP Flash, and thanks for all the tough love you gave me.