The Curator

I dreamt last night of standing in a large meadow facing a familiar mountain. Sparrows darted in and out of the tall grass, keeping wild boars at bay.

Sparrows, in dreams, can symbolize innocence, restlessness, and freedom. They can also be related to family life. Wild Boars, can symbolize courage, assertiveness, and confrontation. A suggestion that one is learning to face their fears.

After a recent meditation I felt called to make a note to myself to “not edit my thoughts” and to “stop curating my experience”. In a moment of observing my normal operating I saw how endless editing was scripting the experience I thought was appropriate. Key term here, “thought”..

How can we think our existence or experience? Is it not simply something that is felt?

Where does this internal curator come from? I’ve been getting to know her over the past little while, as I’ve been becoming aware of personal tendancies towards body anxiety and even dysmorphia at times, disordered eating habits, and both a victim of and an observer of the endless stream of health and wellness “advice” on our screens and in our society.

I often wonder if before we all had “experts” at the tip of our fingers we were actually better off? I don’t necessarily mean those in immediate need of care, experiencing chronic life threatening diseases, or those benefitting from medical care. I think more of the vast majority of us that get lost in the array of fads, research, and chatter that tells us what our bad habits are, why we have them and how to break them.

This is me speaking as a professional in that exact industry.

My practice has changed dramatically in the last few years, and I’ve only been in practice for half a decade. When I look back at what I took right out of university and how each year brought the next best thing into my practice, usually for a short time before it became part of a larger melting pot of tools to use with various clients, I am not that surprised that when it comes to my personal wellness there is this curator that sits and edits what an experience should be compared to what it actually is.

I’ve struggled the last year, going through an evolution and what I’ve labelled metamorphosis, in many ways. My perspective on health has changed. My awareness of what should and shouldn’t be simple has changed. I FEEL now how interconnected all our systems are as humans, yet will still catch myself getting frustrated that my body doesn’t respond to what my mind logics.

I do my best to interact with myself as I would a client. With compassion, empathy and above all else patience. Healing, evolution, being human is a cyclical experience. The metaphor of a path or journey no longer quite fits, either. After all, none of us actually know where we are actually moving towards anyway. The pathway metaphor also implies a linear movement pattern, and the human experience is anything but that.

I see clients cycle through a curated experience frequently as well. In fact, it’s how I catch it in myself. They will come in and relay their experience to me using phrases like “I know I shouldn’t think this but..”, “this isn’t how it’s supposed to be”, “I don’t think I should feel this way”, “I know this isn’t right but”.. and the like.

Where is the guideline that says something should be exactly how it is in any moment?

We are taught that pain, discomfort, anything above a certain weight, our true feelings, our judgement, our tiredness, our desires, our addictions, our coping mechanisms, our anger/sadness/grief/envy, our timelines are incorrect. All these things don’t meet a standard that groupthink has set somewhere along the lines, and because of that they’ve been deemed something we must edit and curate.

Our thoughts have lost their permission to be free. Our conscious need to maintain our place in society keeps our subconscious unconscious.

Much of my own healing and awareness has been developed via years of meditation and recent breathwork. Instead of experiencing, I’ve found myself busy trying to curate the experience. Great healing has taken place too. That’s the thing, though. Awareness and healing takes place not always by consciously trying to process or experience. Instead a surrender, gracefully or not, into the ebb and flow is the more potent experience.

Many people I meet resist raw experience because they fear a loss of control, and that if they begin feeling the “bad” they will never feel the “good” again. They resign to a “comfortable” neutral, gray zone out of a resistance to a wave like experience. Emotions at some point weren’t safe. I’ve noticed this within myself. Approaching family gatherings I tend to go numb, recluse, and now in awareness sit in an uncomfortable place of wanting to interact more but being somewhat stuck behind layers of old armor.

It’s a strange place to be. Aware, and in my own process with it- but also working with awareness not to edit or make my experience something that creates comfort for others while sacrificing my own process in return. While I, and we all, work to develop a better relationship with our internal editors (because there is such a thing!) it can create friction in familiar relationships. Any form of personal growth can be repulsive to those closest to us. It threatens their perception of us, of the normal- and that is perceived as unsafe by our unconscious operating systems.

That is one of the top reasons and barriers for those beginning a journey towards lifestyle change. Not only was I taught this in my Applied Health degree program, I have seen this at work with clients and with myself. It’s rarely intentioned this way, but like crabs- humans can be limited by the networks they live within.

I write this not to place blame on the groups we all abide within, nor on ourselves for the curator within. I write to absolve myself and anyone else who needs to read it of the guilt that can come with process. The shame we place on ourselves in moments of frustration, impatience and metamorphosis.

Exactly how things are is how they should be. Precisely what you feel is appropriate. It doesn’t have to make sense, and you don’t have to understand it.

 

Closure + Balance

The never ending quest.
The last time I wrote about my personal journey I spoke about the concept of living at ease. This theme has become the theme of my summer. What started as a shift into realizing that it was safe and okay to NOT choose the harder road (yes, this actually took convincing) has become my personal mantra.
To say I’ve been going through a complete reconstruction of my immediate reality would be a truth.
Last month I jumped off the cliff I’d been standing on for a few months too long and closed my main business, Integrative Movement. It was one of the most freeing days of my life. This larger scale practice had been eating me up.
I’d been feeling trapped inside of that frame and had already tried a few ways to remodel and reshape it to fit who I was becoming, but nothing seemed quite right and the bindings only were getting tighter. IM had become synonymous with ME and I’d been revamping myself for a while already.. IM wasn’t keeping up. A year ago this decision seemed like the worst possible outcome.. I truly believed that it would be giving up, letting myself and others down. The key turn around there was the realization that in worrying about letting others down, I was indeed letting myself down.
Slowly I began to see all the ways in which me holding onto something that no longer fit was actually stunting my growth in other directions that were calling to me. RideWell was beginning to explode in all the good ways with calls coming from all over western Canada, and my personal practice within IM was also flourishing- though I was struggling to keep up with these positive demands due to struggling to meet the demands of management, supporting others and keeping the business itself afloat- while still trying to have a personal life and enjoy life in general.
All this alongside personal health transitions. I’ve been out of balance in some way health wise it seems for years, specifically since having Mono in my last year of University. That followed by what seemed like a never ending burn out cycle I finally seemed to step out of this year- only to be met with what is likely the after effects of all those years of imbalances.. hormonal imbalances and evident adrenal fatigue. In a matter of a few months this spring my body began to show me all the ways it’d been neglected. Weight gain, thyroid imbalance, hormonal imbalance symptoms, volatile cycles combined with anxiety and depression. Seemingly out of nowhere (but really had been building for a few years, likely).
So, I jumped off the damn cliff.
I was ready to evolve into the newest version of myself- and that meant letting go of previous versions. That also meant confronting head on body image issues, imbalances within myself and accepting all of it as part of me, too.
My landing was quite soft. Creativity flowed and I rebranding my practice into Evoke which fits nicely around my current version of self, with room to grow and evolve, too. RideWell clients continued to expand and I had the mental space and energy to expand with them. While I had some temper tantrums (and still do) around my health and ever changing body- I also have welcomed a new form of acceptance, too. The last few weeks I’ve been feeling quite balanced and content- so much so I actually had to quell some shadowy uprising of fear around that content-ness.
The decision around closing out one part of my professional life to focus in and expand into others was affirmed in many, many ways. I found and signed a lease on a beautiful new workspace that embodies where I currently am at. Supportive relationships were highlighted and my health has begun to improve in noticeable ways.
All the signs have been pointing towards learning the lesson of supporting oneself and enjoying oneself in this life that we have to do so with. Hilariously, the moments where I notice anxiety or stress creeping in is when I try to plan out the next steps. I’ve reached the capstone of my last five year map- and I haven’t quite figured out the details of my next map. I’m being guided right now to accept that unknown and let the map form itself for a while- enjoy the present moment.
Perhaps that is the only map I need.
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Revival

We’re always given what we need.. isn’t that the way things shake out?

The last week or so I struggled a bit with my old friend impatience. After a busy couple months of seeing and experiencing my business and professional image develop and blossom seemingly non-stop, things stayed consistent. Consistently great I have to say. April and May I was booked every weekend here or there doing clinics and work shops for facilities, and busy with one on one clients outside of my other shift work. As invigorating as it was seeing all that growth, when things get consistent.. I start to get bored. Not in a bad way, but the impatience crept in again. My mind had time to start craving the next step. More. Always more.

This is a staple of my personality. I live for constant improvement, learning, and change.

This past long weekend (conveniently the first show weekend of the outdoor season here too), I found myself with 4 solid days off. Off shift work. Off clients. Off teaching. It was great. I got to spend time with the guy and old friends. I got to sleep until 1pm two days in a row and not be bothered about it. It provided the perfect opportunity for me to start thinking about what I wasn’t doing yet. There is always a “yet”. Come the start of the regular week, I was full on craving for new and exciting things. Feeling already bored with what I had just started.

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Luckily, I’ve done a fair amount of personal development this year so far.. and I recognised this in myself. While acknowledging the impatience didn’t make it disappear, it did calm the fire slightly. I realise now looking back that sometimes my cases of burn-out were probably self-induced cases of letting the impatience and unending desire for more right now take over. Patience, gratitude, reflection have been my themes this year… and they are fantastic lessons to bring into motion for preventing that desire from turning into an unquenchable agitation with the pace of the Universe.

On Tuesday I all of a sudden had the drive to plant some plants. Which, if you know me, is soooooooo out of the norm. But, since I’m learning more and more to trust my intuition.. I went out and bought some little things, a bag of soil, and some cute containers. I came home, got my hands dirty, and planted some mint, rosemary, and a series of succulents. I’ve always had a thing for succulents. Probably because I know I can’t kill them easily.

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The simple act of planting those plants immediately settled me. I found myself sitting on the floor of my parking garage slowly designing where I wanted my succulents sitting and centring everything in each container.

The next day after a a great workout, and then a long afternoon of tutoring anatomy, I headed out to meet and work with one of my long time clients on her horse. I’ve been so in depth with my consulting work with riders and loving it that I haven’t A) had time to miss my own riding or B) thought that I did miss it. I ride Felix here and there, but the deep seated drive for my own riding hasn’t been around lately and I haven’t been worried about that. If I’ve missed anything lately it’s been the time spent with Lauren and Megg at the barn chatting and riding together. I do honestly miss the feeling of community there was at M&C’s barn with those ladies. While we three stay in touch, Megg is off pursuing her dreams in France and soon UC Berkeley for a PHd. and Lauren is as busy as I am most of the time. When I got to my client’s barn I got that same sense of community, and while watching and working with her on her horse, and the others around riding, I rediscovered the challenge and passion for my consulting work that I thought I was losing the last few weeks. I got my edge back for my work. I also felt a stirring of the riding bug deep down. I met a horse at that facility that stole my heart a little.. and it awakened the desire to get on. I came home from that evening feeling so revived and fulfilled.

My hard working client and Moe.

As I’m assisting a long time prof with First Responder again this year, I am getting the chance to continue my ongoing review of AT coursework preparing for November’s Certification exams. On Tuesday I was informed that I’d be teaching Thursday’s lecture/lab on boarding and wound care.. as well as reviewing a quiz the class had written, solo as the prof was away… It was a ohhhhkay here we go moment for me. The class came and I got my way through teaching boarding techniques just fine.. but it’s the first time I’ve gotten to lead a class alone and been the sole one responsible for their education. It was quite the experience and definitely reaffirmed not only my own abilities but my desire to be in this field. Just when I was starting to get anxious and impatient. Just in time.

Today I noticed my succulents had grown new bits (blooms? extensions? pods?). It was the perfect symbolism for how I feel after the last couple days. There is always growth and new things happening.. just not always so drastic as to be seen by the impatient eye. It’s sometimes enough just to slow down enough to listen to all those little worries, anxieties, and impatient thoughts zooming around… sometimes if you listen you’ll be provided with a solution to those feelings. Maybe it’s planting some plants. Maybe it’s cleaning and organising your apartment. Maybe it’s reaching out and touching base with some old friends. We are always provided with the tools.. often not easily noticed tools or solutions.. but life always gets us where we need to be at just the right time.

Chill with what my body tells me: another lesson in maturity

So I’ve been trying this new thing lately. Something I have maybe not done as much as I should’ve in the past.. and I’ve learned the hard way that doing it every once in a while is a good thing. It’s that whole “listening to and respecting what your body is telling you” thing.

Turns out mine has a lot to say.

Shocker.

We’ve had our differences in opinion, my body and I. Whether it be through injuries, spontaneous tailbone cysts, impromptu illness and food intolerances, or just reacting to the stress of what I try to pass as a sane schedule- we’ve had to learn how to learn to listen to and tolerate each other in some interesting situations. Almost a year ago now I started the journey of modifying my eating habits to better serve my body, and while there have been some ups and downs with that- I’ve been rewarded in more ways then one for my choices.

Any athlete, at one point, has to learn to deal with injuries in a more productive way then letting the injury control who they are/want to be, and I am very thankful I learned that lesson before this most recent injury. Being one of the first injuries directly related to sport that has knocked me out of commission for a long recovery, I’ve managed to not let it get into my head too much. Whether it’s maturity, or years spent figuring out coping mechanisms (are those things the same thing?).. I’ve treated myself with moderate patience so far through the rehab process, and because of that made pretty significant gains in month following my accident.

Last summer and into the fall when I was recovering from a concussion, I struggled with listening to what I needed. Anyone who has had a concussion will likely have gone through the same experiences. Tasks that were once no big deal become Mt. Everest, yet you are the only one who can see that mountain. There is no cast on your leg telling those around you that you can’t climb.. all there is is symptoms within your head that only you experience. It’s lonely, it’s depressing, and it’s scary. It is an impossible task for those go-getters among us to not try to push through those signs telling us to stop.

Going to a prof (especially one who may not know your regular personality), or a classmate, or a friend- and saying things like “studying for this exam makes me dizzy and nauseous, and I can’t follow even the simplest material…I don’t think I can do this right now” can be absolutely terrifying.  What will people think of you? Will they see me as a flake? Am I not trying hard enough? The conversations I had during this period were some of the scariest of my life. Symptoms of this injury can seem so ridiculous.. until you experience them first hand. Those experiences are partly responsible for giving me some respect for what my body tells me.

Being a student in a health field brings a whole new side into things. Talk about overthinking, try knowing every possible outcome to injuries- and then having said injury, or having someone close to you have that injury. Then you will really understand overthinking. However, again maybe it’s maturity coming into play, there comes a point where you recognise that all you can do is what you can do- that’s it. Control is relative, and intuition is a fantastic thing to utilise. Being honest with yourself about how you’re doing is a really healthy skill. Not trying to micromanage yourself is another beauty of a talent.

I spent most of last week studying for the exam I wrote on Monday: Ergonomics. This is a challenging applied biomechanics course I quite enjoy, and it’s a subject I’ve chosen to do a directed study on next year with a focus on rider mechanics and fitness. That being said, I put a lot of weight into doing well on this exam- because it would be a tad awkward if I didn’t get a good mark in this course- yet wanted to pursue research in the area. I planned it so that I could spend my study time during reading week on this course, and then use the remainder of this week to study for my other heavy exam on Thursday (Exercise Physiology- not a course I particularly enjoy).

The first half of my plan worked quite well. I walked away from my Ergo exam feeling like I managed a half decent mark (for me that’s a B ish), and ended up with an A (!!!). The second half of my plan.. not so much. Over the weekend I started getting sick (viral like symptoms)- and then got better for Monday. After my exam Monday, it all came back (damn you reading week for slowing down my immune system!!!!). My whole body felt weak, headaches, dizziness, faintness, all of which got worse when I tried to study..or move.

After day two of trying to study and only making myself sicker- and then stressing myself out thinking about how writing this exam on no preparation could only mean I was a failure….I decided to listen to my body and see a doctor (What? Me? See a doctor voluntarily?). When rolling over in bed causes me to feel like I had recently run a marathon- I reach my limit. Lets not talk about how stairs make me feel right now, and that’s not even from a busted leg perspective.

Thankfully the doctor confirmed my suspicion of just a frustrating virus being the culprit (although a blood panel is being run to rule anything else out, of course).. and decided for me that anything involving school tomorrow (including the monster exam) is out of the question. Sometimes me listening to me is really just me finding someone who will indirectly push me to make the right decision for me. This is why I surround myself with wise people. They indirectly make me smart… occasionally.

Pretty much as soon as I emailed my profs explaining what the doctor had told me, and acquiring the note to back all that up if need be- I felt so much more relaxed. The monster exam seems less big and scary now that I will have a chance to prepare for it. Sometimes being a dedicated student (or athlete) means knowing when to slow down and take the time to recover so you can perform your best.

Why did it take me so long to learn this??

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Photo cred to Jenaya MacKinnon of Out of Focus Photography (click pic for link)