I’ve lied. To everyone. It’s not one of those, you’ll-never-talk-to-me-again kind of lies. It's more of a fib, I guess. It’s just that I realized the other day, when I told someone how happy I was and then had a sad moment a few hours later, that it’s not completely true. I don’t wake up, bursting from bleached white duvets, into a room full of sunlight, singing, looking gorgeous and feeling like a million bucks. I’m not a tv ad. I’m not fake. I’m real.
I guess what I should have been saying these past few months is that I am content. With contentment comes moments of anger, disappointment, sadness, elation, boredom, you name it. But within all of those feelings, there is an acknowledgment of being okay with it all. I am so focused on the good parts of how I feel overall, that the not-so-great moments are just like little storm cells, passing over. What I’ve learned is that there’s always blue sky on the other side. And really, it’s just that. I know they will pass. Some storms take more time, but I consciously do not give them energy or fuel their fires, because the other side is just so much more fulfilling.
Don’t drown in the negative. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t burst your bubble with regrets. Keep looking forward and be proud of the little things that put a smile on your face. Replay your high points. Share out your successes, and don’t ever let someone make you rethink them. If you think something is awesome it is, no matter what someone else says later on. Look to horrible situations and sift through them to find the little morsels of positive woven through them. And then feel the warmth those tiny pieces give you. Eventually, you will do this without trying. Contentment won’t come from searching for it. It will find you. And take over your life. Which is amazing. :) ~ nina
I've chosen change and all the uncertainty and amazing adventure associated with it. This switch comes after a year of changes. I changed my relationship. My home. My priorities. My car. My hair. And now my job. Each change has brought with it a realization that each step has been pivotal to a wondrous contentment. Positive. Mindful. Happy. Existence. I've learned more about me in the last 20 months, all little tid-bits that bring me a humbled-excited-curiosity about where this new trail will lead. But like the quotation -- in the center is my dendron. My tree. Although it is mine, it's all of you that helped it grow. I'm embracing it. Stretching my arms around... And I can feel you all reaching back, telling me it will be okay. Thanks. ~ nina
Whoa. Slow down people! Take a moment. We’re living in this society where everything is immediate. We are impulsive. Hasty. Rushed. People make choices and decisions with a swipe of a finger in a fraction of a second. We’re so focused on the “what is next,” that we don’t give the “here and now” a chance to succeed.
The other day, I was in a huge line up and I just stood there, watching the crowd. There was one boy, on his Instagram, flipping and double tapping so furiously, so quickly, I couldn't comprehend how he was even really focusing on what he swiped through.
It translates into many age groups. People sit in front of tvs bouncing from channel to channel. Students struggle with sitting and listening for more than 5 minutes, because they feed on instant and quick. Drivers erupt into road rage after having to wait 30 seconds for a construction crew. People are annoyed when their bus ride is delayed because some person on crutches is trying to cross the road. Annoyed. Wow. Where is patience? Where is empathy? Does anyone know the true meaning of stop as they roll through intersections, just tapping the brake? It’s no surprise that when a teacher asks a child to stop, they have to repeat themselves many times. It seems stop actually means pause for many!
I worry for my kids. Trying to raise them with strong wills and morals, but knowing that people they think are important, may make off-hand, unpredictable decisions at some point and break their hearts. It will happen time and time again. In the online world, everyone seems to be sitting on this perpetual fence, with one foot in the, “I like you right now, world”, but leaning hard into the, “but I’ll keep checking back online to see if I might find someone I like better, world.” Even those with high self esteem feel frantic in having to devise ways of keeping the attention on them. Sometimes in ways they aren't proud of. People don’t wait to hear explanations or give a chance to hear the truth. They've already dismissed and moved on.
I’m hoping people see how damaging this is. I’m not saying you need to stop. Just slow down from time to time. Take a breath and really focus on the things in the moment. You may miss the crazy, amazing, beautiful things, if you don’t.
Do not let what you cannot do, tear from your hands what you can. ~ Ashanti Proverb
I’m on a journey to finding what I call my center. I’m mindful of this. I’m spending a lot of time focusing on all the things that support me in a way that I can be the best that I can be, but also finding happiness and contentment there. It’s a difficult journey in our society, trying to find that delicate balance. Even with public pressure to embrace mental health, there still is rampant competitiveness in every aspect of our lives. People aren't ready to look at themselves within their worlds.
I think, in general, people look at mental health in broad terms. They don’t realize or admit that the stresses they put on themselves everyday are not beneficial to their own well being. We are constantly pushed to take on more at work and try to be ahead of our peers. We are supposed to be super-parents, by balancing work, keeping up our homes, getting our kids to their programs and helping with homework, all while being up in the middle of the night tending to our children too. And through this, we stand in front of a mirror and challenge ourselves to have the body we had when we were 20. We shame ourselves if we don’t make time for that. We shame ourselves again when we forget. We shame ourselves in silence if we feel we have failed. We do all of this and then start the next day, a little more wrinkled and our spirits a little more dimmed.
It’s not realistic. Even when we hear in our friend’s voices, the cracking of tension as they explain how they are trying to keep up, we empathize and nurture them, only to run back out to our cars with our superhero capes flapping behind us, anxious to jump back into the grind. We are so busy worrying about where we stand amongst everyone else, we have forgotten to just notice where we are in within ourselves.
One night, as I lay sleepless in the silence in my home, mentally listing the things I had fallen behind on, I wondered, why? In the end, who really benefits from this way of living? How has having 26 hours of things to do, but only 24 hours in the day to achieve them, become our accepted norm? The constant state of adding to our mental list of things to do, people to see, places to go, a list that is completely unattainable, and one that just pushes our spirits down, is toxic. Certainly, my kids don’t benefit. I can’t be in a head space of centered when I feel pulled in so many directions. Certainly, my colleagues don’t either. Who does then?
And then it hit me. There was a shift in my thinking. What was this competition for? Where were the rules on how to win? What was the invisible prize at the end of this life long race? I realized that we do all this, not for ourselves at all, but because we are so concerned and aware of how others perceive us. Do I really care though? Truly, I only want to surround myself with people who think I’m amazing, strictly on the make up of my character and my achievements in my life thus far. I am quite certain that I do wonderful things every day. I am quite certain that I am a good person. A really friggin' amazing person, actually. With this switch in my head, came the realization that all those other pieces; the work, the recreation, the family, AND the health, all nicely fall into place when you just focus on being the best you can be and stop comparing yourself with others. And you can still wear the cape if you need. Or want to. When centered, you are surrounded by the people who think you rock, by virtue of how you've made an impression on them. And that’s pretty cool. It’s pretty healthy too.
In our society, we are always a minute late or a step behind. Does it really matter though? I just look at it differently now. I’m lucky to have that minute. It’s an extra minute I can spend snuggling with my children, writing a note to a friend or just sitting, taking a breath and focusing on me. Am I really a step behind? The truth is that I win in putting me first. And you know what? I kind of like hanging out in this place where we don’t really care if we are in the lead. This is my place. These are my people. I found this all on my way to my center.
And I’m a better person because of it.
~ nina :)
It's been months since I've written. Not for lack of energy or ideas. Rather, I have spent some time, sitting back, reviewing my thoughts, watching my world, renewing my spirit. Today though, especially today, as our world spins round the wrong way, I find a story on my Facebook feed from two years ago. We have so much to learn. I love to learn from the innocence of children. They keep my hope alive that we will make it through this chaos. Here's a story from my school. Let's share THESE stories. Of hope. And friendship. And acceptance.
I always tell people that the school I teach at is a special place. Today we had the most amazing thing happen.
Two years ago a family arrived at our school from Somalia. One of the little girls was in my ESL class. Then last year, she was in my class as a grade 4 student.
Today, a new Somalian family of 5 arrived at the school. Right at the beginning of the day, I am introduced to my new boy and I learn he has several siblings in the school. I take him out into the hall to get him a locker. His older brother is just steps away.
Just then, the girl I used to teach, is in her French class, just next door. Apparently, she gets frantic asking the teacher if she can leave the room to go into the hallway. I turn to see her enter the hallway speaking Somalian.
So, here is the amazing part. My new boy's brother, in grade 5 and this girl used to be BEST FRIENDS in the refugee camp in Somalia. Both families had left their homes in Africa and ended up in a camp of many tens of thousands of people. They met and became friends. Two years ago one family left and came to Hamilton. One year ago, the other family left and went to Ottawa, then relocated to Hamilton -- not knowing that their long lost friends were here. And today, they were reunited in the hallway of my school. The best part is that they are in the SAME CLASS now!!
Incredible. Of all the places in the world that these two families could have ended up, and after all that they went through to get here, they end up back together.
© Nina Waddington 2017
I have friends who struggle daily with the fears and worries of disappointment. It may be a marriage breaking up and worries of how children will react. It may be a challenging job and the constant fear of not doing quite enough. It may be an athlete wondering whether their training is up to par. It may be someone navigating the complexities of a new relationship and feeling the memories of failed ones from the past, pulling them down. There are so many negative feelings woven so tightly through disappointment. It is so complex. It can take on so many feelings. You can feel sad and worried. Angry and frustrated. It can kidnap you in the midst of complete joy and flood you with darkness. The constant worry of what people may think, what they may say, how you may feel or what they may do, what they may think of you, can be suffocating. If she separates from her husband, her kids may be disappointed. Or, even though he is enjoying a new relationship, his past may ruin it all.
In an attempt to pull something positive out of this, I focus on one word; may. Why do we channel so much energy towards the negative things that may happen? Why is it, that when we use the word “may” we often link it to the bad. I mean, if you spin it, you can change it to focus on the positive things that may happen too. From past experience, I know that if you dedicate your energy to positive things, usually the good stuff snuffs out the bad. That’s not to say that the bad things won’t be there. You will just be so absorbed in all the positivity, that people will gravitate to that. And it makes getting through the rough parts so much easier. The bad will be short lived as you will be so motivated for the great things to return.
If she separates from her husband, her kids will see her happiness return. Although they will undoubtedly be sad and confused, they will understand how positive relationships work and will make better choices for themselves one day. If he enjoys his new relationship and is dedicated to the fun parts of it, his past decisions will be voided. She will see him for the positive decisions he is making now and empathize with him about the mistakes from the past.
It takes a little more work, perhaps. Keeping positive isn’t always easy. It takes dedication to believe that, although there is a chance of bad stuff happening, that focusing on the flip side is worth it. If you keep doing it, over and over again, it becomes easier and easier to do. In that moment, when you feel the tightening in your chest and the tears building up in the corners of your eyes, when your brain begins to flood with the inky mess of bad memories, you can take a deep breath and flip the coin. So worth it. Keep practicing.
© Nina Waddington 2016
Sometimes I don’t sleep. Actually, who am I kidding? Most of the time, I don’t sleep. I go to bed. It is dark. I read. I extend my resting time before bed, to organize my thoughts and slowly relax.
That is the best of it usually. I may close my eyes for a bit of time. On a fantastically lucky night I may sleep for a few hours. If you add up the little bits and pieces, the broken little nuggets of rest that make up the time from lights off through the long, never-ending marathon to morning, I might get five hours total. If I get six hours I am doing happy backflips in my brain. Four hours consecutively and I am off and running to get a lotto ticket.
It has become so much part of my normal that most people have no idea that I am completely sleep deprived. I have had a sleep disorder for more than half my lifetime. Over 20 years of lying awake at night. I smile when people tell me that they are tired. It is a complaint I hear by many.
“How are you?” ~ me.
“Good” Pause. “Tired” ~ them.
Hmmm…Yes. I know tired. And I am pretty sure I know tired on a level that few other people do. I totally understand though. I am a bit of an expert on tired. I know how tired changes you. I know how tired makes you forget simple things. It oozes into your patience and chips away at your sense of calm. It pulls down on your shoulders and puts rocks and knots into your muscles. It screams when you want to work out. Stop! You are TIRED! It suggests that you stay in on nights when you really should escape out with friends. And what is worse is that tired is nearly invisible. You can sometimes see it in the wrinkles in the corner of your eyes, or in the lengths of your blinks, or in the number of your sighs. Or in the tension in your voice. But as I sit here in a coffee shop writing, I can guarantee that not one of the 20 people in here can guess that I got about 3 hours of sleep last night. And the night before.
What I try to focus on, is that tired is my normal. Some people have asthma. Some may have arthritis. Everyone has something whether it be stress at a job, conflict in their family, money issues, health problems, depression, whatever it may be. Everyone has something. I have insomnia.
So instead of wallowing in the claws of what 4 hours of sleep can do to me, I focus on all the things I can do and that I do have. Too many times people focus on the list of things they want and do not celebrate everything they have worked so hard to acquire. I have plenty of time to acknowledge all of those things. My children. My home. Food. Friends. Peace. A country without war.
My list of good things is pretty long. I work on it from 10pm until 6am. Every. Single. Day.
~ nina :)
© Nina Waddington 2016
The Value of a Laugh
I have laughed a lot over the past few days. Sitting around my parent’s dining room table on Christmas in the evening, my family decided to play a game. Right at the end, really in the final play, we were all in stitches. Doubled over. Gut cramping, crying laughter. It felt so good. It was silly. It was ridiculous. We are all professionals. We are all mature adults. But my family sees and understands the value in fun.
Plain and simple, good ole’ fashioned fun.
We can relax with each other to a level where we feel complete ease. We feel safe. And in those times, we can tease and taunt and charade all in the hopes of a smile or laugh.
I have a few close friends with whom I feel the same way. Some of these friends I have known for 40 years. With others, our paths have just crossed in the past few years. I can share and expose secrets and feel safe. Always ends with laughter.
How comforting for me to know I have all these people who keep me happy?! Change is coming in 2016. Thank you to my family and friends who keep me smiling. I will do my best to keep the laughter coming your way too.
© Nina Waddington 2015
World Kindness Day
It's World Kindness Day. Now, that's my kind of day. Today, I pull from my facebook page, a post from over two years ago. I think it fits today's theme well.
About a year ago, I was walking to my car after a day at work. A young student shouted my name, her voice bouncing happily towards me. This student had arrived in Canada from Somalia a year and a half earlier, in the middle of winter. Her mother had lost her husband. The family had witnessed things no person should ever have to see. They had come to Canada with hope for a new beginning.
So on this day, the little girl stood there, excitedly telling me about her day, in full sentences, with almost perfect English. Her mother stood beside her watching me, her eyes smiling with pride. I can't really explain the feeling I had. It was happy. It was warm. This girl, and her mother and siblings, were just one of the many, many refugee families that find a home in my school. I knew them all well. I knew all of their stories. Yet, despite all of what they had endured, they now walked calmly, happily,....confidently through the streets of my town. It took a community of kindness to build this for them. How does that make me feel? Proud.
So, today, I looked through my facebook posts, to find one special one. Here it is. I wrote it the day after they arrived.
There is something special about welcoming a new African family to Canada and to our school. First we met with the mother yesterday and through an interpreter, were able to just peek into her history,... the long exhausting story of trauma, of refugee camps, of the death of her husband, and the marathon journey to safety. She was nervous to meet us. Worried about what to share. Her eyes warming slightly as she listened to us explain how we would care for her children. We told her that we would meet her at the beginning of the following school day.
The next day she arrived, dressed in beautifully bright fabrics, her four children, wrapped up tightly in sweaters and coats and hats, hiding behind. The cold must have been yet another trauma, I thought.
I watched as her eyes glazed over, kissing her children's hands and foreheads, muttering to them in Somalian, words of love, then grasping our hands with both of hers and whole heartedly, pouring with kindness, saying "thank you." I watched her anxiety rise as we walked her children away and up the stairs, saying, "they will be fine," and knowing that she did not understand our words, but hoping, that she could understand our message, our smiles, our kindness. We were practically strangers to her, in a new country. In a strange new land with new weather, and language and customs. And we were taking her children away.
But the kindness in the school took over. There was no need for worry. I smiled as her children, with really no English, quickly made connections with their peers, exploring the things we take for granted like the water fountain, books, pencils, paper and toys. Smiled as their fear just melted away.
All in a days work. I love my job.
© Nina Waddington 2015
Finding Good Things
October 25, 2015
There are a lot of beautiful things in the world. However, lately people have spent a lot of energy, time, sweat and money trying to get people to ignore, hate, bully, fear, find and highlight all of the bad things. It brings me down. It upsets my friends. It discourages my family. The media love it. They prey on these stories, eating them up, rewriting and letting the public digest them.
But I'd rather turn my cheek and look beyond. I choose to look in another direction.
This is what I saw. I saw a rainy cold day, where I could have cried at the thought of a long winter coming soon, but instead noticed the autumn leaves, even more vibrant against the dark sky. I saw a toddler happily investigating the food in the open refrigerator at Starbucks and the adorable babble between him and his mother. I saw a man smile when I offered him a chair on the other side of the coffee table, while I sat contently typing away. I saw my daughter giggling on the front porch at midnight as a rainstorm whipped up curtains of rain. And then, I saw her take a video and share out that happiness.
The world is full of beautiful landscapes. The world is busting at the seams with smiling people.
Redirect yourself people. It is much more fun to focus on the good stuff.
© Nina Waddington 2015
Optimist at heart, I love sitting back, watching and listening and focusing on the good.