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Imposter Syndrome


I have had a HUGE struggle with identity for most of my adult life. But I hide it (or at least “hid” it) very well for a very long time. Because I had all these great ways to hide it. I was a big sister of a large family. So I was mom 2.0 for a lot of my formative years. I helped cook and changed diapers and hung laundry, not that these things are out of the norm, I am a firm believer that children should be a part of running the house, age appropriately of course. Likewise, my own kids grew up doing the same. God forbid they became adults who didn’t know how to wash their own clothes or sew a button. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I relished that mini-mom role in the house. And then in my teen years, I was the trailblazer. That didn’t *always* serve me well, but hey, I went out there and dig into life, hard. I was never really a jock or a theatre kid or a music kid or an academic or member of student council, but I tried a little of everything. I had friends who were into New Kids and friends who were into Metallica. I was all over the place.

And then I became a mom and a wife and I sank my teeth into that role. Five kids in eight years and I stayed home with them for almost twelve years, being a full time parent. But that wasn’t enough either. I also wrote articles for the paper, ran a cake business, did night school, babysat and auditioned for the local radio morning show. I was all over the place, because I never quite knew what place I belonged in.

And then the kids started getting older and they didn’t need me 24-7 anymore so I started going to work. I’ve done so many different jobs. But had no real career. I started one, but a move meant starting from scratch yet again and without college or university to back me up, I found that finding my niche was extremely difficult.

All this to say that I’ve worn so many hats in my life, that I started to really question who I was. To the outsider looking in, I’m this woman with talents in a myriad of places and calm, wise and driven. Actual words people have used to describe me. Inwardly, I was a dirty imposter who had NO clue who she was, but had honed the art of playing roles to suit the occasion.

I’ve been doing a lot of inward reflecting lately (my therapist is so proud) and trying, not so much to “define” myself but more to find what makes me happy, and stop looking for a reason to justify it. To find what I enjoy, and stop needing to be “the best” at it, but just….enjoy it. So if I wanted to write, then write. And not compare my style, medium, successes or abilities to those of my siblings or mentors. And if I want to sew, then to sew. I don’t need to be Christian Siriano, even though that would be amazing. If I want to paint, I should paint. I don’t have to be as good as my sister or mother. I don’t have to be perfect I just have to enjoy it and be happy. I keep telling my husband that I need a large piece of soapstone because I feel like I want to carve it. Does it matter that I have no idea how? No. Because I’m just looking for what makes me happy.

Feeling like an imposter is actually not all that uncommon, once I started to talk to other people about it. But why, why do we all need to work so hard to be defined??

I’m a mom because I have kids. I’m a wife because I’m married. I’m a sister because I have siblings and a professional because I have a job.

And I’m an artist. Because I want to be. Am I famous or renowned or great? No. But I’m happy. And that feels authentic.

My studio. A big mess of three desks for writing, painting and sewing. plus a painting I recently did from a YouTube tutorial.

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Don’t be a vacuum


I have a bad habit, that when there is negativity in my life, I become a vacuum and I let the negative swirl and swirl and suck me into the bottom of a vortex where I lie on the floor wondering where I went wrong. 

I’ve done this for years and it used to be that I couldn’t see that I was stuck.  And then I did therapy and I started to recognize it.  And then I did more therapy and I started to learn how to deal with it.  MORE therapy began teaching me how to recognize it when it was starting and work to head it off and I’m much better now but sometimes, just sometimes, I forget to pay attention to the little warnings and I get swept up.  

Lately, I’ve had a bunch of negative, hard, sad and emotional moments. All clumped together in a short span of time.  That’s the worst. It knocks me off my ass, literally.  I have had days in the last three weeks where I have come home and not been able to get out of bed.  So much suffers. My relationships, my kids, my home and my work.  I walked around in a vacuum of suckage.  

And then I started to pull out of it.  I’ve talked to friends. I’ve talked to my family and gotten the support to remember that I can’t control circumstances and other people but I can control myself. I can control what I do, say and I can allow myself to acknowledge my feelings and then move on.  

So I’ve been trying to do some things for me. Being accountable for ones own happiness is a work in progress and sometimes I forget that I am my own most important relationship and it’s oka to invest time in myself.  

So today I decided to paint.  I’m not a visual artist, by any stretch.  Anyone who knows me knows that I have a “functional” ability at a lot of things but I am clearly master of none.  Yet, something inside me needs an outlet. I keep joking with Shawn that I need him to get me a giant stone so I can sculpt it.  Today my stone was painting.  Tomorrow, it may be something else entirely.  I just know I can’t live in a vacuum.  I need to live out loud in full colour. 


Don’t be a vacuum.  

Be everything else.  

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Fear as Mistress


It’s the month of Halloween and it’s full of scary things.  Scary movies get launched, people decorate their homes and work spaces and talk about being scared.  

I’m scared.   Not because I watched a scary movie.  I don’t watch those, I can’t sleep after. I’m a total wuss when it comes to jump scares.  Sometimes it’s because my kids think it’s hilarious to hide and jump out at me.  But that usually only scares me long enough to pee my pants and then I’m just annoyed and kind of peeved.  

I’m scared about way more run of the mill things.  Everyday things.   Like car accidents. Robbery.  Fires (sweet jesus fires are scary). Rape and murder and now, thanks to the Tangerine Palpatine from down below, nuclear war. 

The news lately has been brutal.  I know, the news is always brutal, no one watches stories about adorable puppies and babies ALL day.  No one will watch an hour long report of a pleasant day with mild weather where nothing out of the ordinary happened.   

So I’m scared. Every day.  And I’m worried about what kind of world I’m giving my kids into.  It’s a good thing that there is so much dialogue happening these days and that people are talking about all the issues and god knows the #MeToo was long overdue.  But guys?  I’m tired.  I’m tired of fear being my everyday mistress. 

We need to start looking for the light again. Not forget that conversations still need to be happening, and of course to keep having them but also to look for the good.  The positive.  The beautiful.

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Care


There’s a reason why flight attendants tell you to put the mask on yourself before you help someone else. You can’t save someone if you’re dying.
I’ve had a lot of conversations about care lately. Self care, caring for others, and what it’s like to watch someone you love spiral. When to jump in and try to rescue them, and when to put your own oxygen mask on first. It’s not an easy conversation to have, at any stage in life, about anyone you care about.
Some time ago it was myself drowning. Lost in a sea of depression, anxiety, bad choices, manipulations, disorders and juxtaposing addictions to the adrenaline and the guilt. It was a beautiful, chaotic tornado that kept on circling my life and taking down everyone in its path.
So what happened? Things came a head. Some people call it “rock bottom” but I kind of rebel against that term. I, and most people I know, have hit several low points in their lives. Rock bottom is not a singular event, but a way of expressing that things are pretty much at their worst in a given situation. So, there I was, on the “bottom” of whatever was going on in my life. Sitting in the eye of the hurricane. My family alienated, my husband pushed away, my kids, well, sadly, not taken into consideration. I was going through the motions of my life and I was doing it numb. So, I was told to get help, or move on. A crossroads. An ultimatum. However you want to call it. The status quo was not only hurting me, it was hurting everyone around me. Change or leave. Because staying on the ride of that tornado was not going to work anymore.
And so began a very long period of work. Hard, gruelling work. Dr’s, psychiatrists, counsellors. They all had homework for me. Some of the homework was in pill form and some was in conversation and some in journaling and some was solitary work to do when I was alone. But it was all work. Work to get up every day and make little decisions minute by minute that propelled me forward, not in circles and certainly not backward. And I healed. Slowly.
A funny thing happened. The more time I spent doing the work on myself, and taking care of myself, the better my other relationships got. The more I did the work the more I could actually feel the changes happening. My confidence came back. My appreciation for others and for even the simplicity of my surroundings came screaming back.
Now, I’m a few years removed from the hardest of those times and although I still have to do the work, it’s less *work* now. I’m off everyday medication and have been for a while. I feel good in my skin.
I was talking to a friend today who is going through a really rough time. A loved one is spiralling. In that tornado. Chaos and mental illness sometimes are the most common/worst bedfellows. And it gets…easy…to just stop trying. I know that first hand. All I wanted to do was lie in bed. And I felt that because I was clearly not well, people should go out of their way to help me. Bring me things, do things for me. It’s the ultimate check out of life. And, irony, I have someone in my life, more than one someone, who is also going through this. In all the cases, my own people and hers, the person in question does not want to do the work. Refuses to see that it’s necessary, even takes it as an insult that it’s being suggested. I get it. I really do. That tornado is strong. So is the addiction to being ‘the broken one’. It’s hard and it’s painful and the first instinct is flight not fight. In fact, it sucks all the fight out of you.
But.
Fight you must. Because, and this is so hard, the people you love and lean on are getting tired. Burned out. And they are running out of resources to help. I told my friend today that however hard I thought it was coming out of it, it’s harder to watch someone else close to you. It’s harder to start telling them ‘no, actually, I can’t help you today. I can’t listen today’. Because it goes against everything that feels natural. We WANT to help those we love. But we can’t do it from empty tanks. And we can’t be part of the chaos for them. I watched my husband and even my children sit me down and tell me that if I would not help myself, then they were prepared to live a life without me. Because that was the healthiest choice for them and those were some of the worst conversations of my life. But, they also opened my eyes to what I was going to lose if I didn’t find my fight. I told my friend today, I can’t make the choice for her. No one can. But, she can’t save someone if she herself has no oxygen. Put on your mask, I said. Save yourself, and see how the view looks when you can breathe again.

We all have our hard things. Sometimes the hardest thing is to walk away. Sometimes the hardest is to stay.

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Of course our health care system has flaws. What system doesn’t? But, it saved my husband.

Thank you to everyone at the Regional Hospital ER and Cardiac care.

Please, if you’re in a hospital today, or seeing a health professional, thank them. Thank them from the bottom of your heart.

And say a silent thank you that we don’t have to pay every time we see a doctor, visit a clinic, go to emerg or have an operation.

Happy life day, my dearest husband.

Happy life.

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It took me four years, but I’m finally doing it. I’m finally getting back on a stage!
Moving to a new place is always a little bit tricky, but moving to a new state or a new province is positively daunting. Especially when there is no family nearby to lean on and you don’t have any friends. So you dig in and you work (or look for work, as in my case) and you feel isolated and lonely and of course start to doubt all kinds of things, and then, as if by magic, you start meeting people.
Then you start making friends. Then you find your “other family” and it starts to feel like home. That was our experience with moving out east. Peppered, of course, with a bunch of other factors, but it pretty much took nearly three full years for us to feel like this was our home and now four years in I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I love it.
Life in New Brunswick is like sticking a city right near Algonquin Park in Ontario. There are forests and wildlife everywhere. In fact, I have often commented that it seems the city’s and towns in New Brunswick were built to accommodate nature, and not the other way around as I so often found in Ontario.
However, with that adjustment period and the “finding” period of the move, (and of course, the necessity of health) we circled the wagons a lot and didn’t do a lot out, besides explore the nature trails of course. Which means I wasn’t doing any theatre, a favourite activity of mine that took up much of our five years in Tillsonburg, some of my twenties, all of my teen years and even some of my childhood. I’ve acted on stage and on camera and, well, I missed it.
I auditioned for a huge musical in the city (1 of over 200 who auditioned) and didn’t get a part, which didn’t really surprise me since the cast was of only 22 and there are some great actors out here, so I auditioned again this past summer for a show out in the valley where I live.
And I’m in.
We’re doing Sister Act (not to be confused with the movie, this is the musical). I wasn’t actually very familiar with the stage production but I gotta say, I’m loving this. The music is beautiful, fun and exciting and, in typical farce based form, there is a chase scene. We’re doing choreography based on the US Broadway tour, so it’s all move, move, move. I can’t remember the last time I danced so much. At the end of the show, we have a number with 6 part harmony. Honestly, this is an experience on stage like no other I’ve had. And it’s a great way to get my toes back onto a stage again.

If you’re local, and you want to see me as a nun, which, is kind of hilarious if you know me personally, Sister Act takes the stage August 9th.

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Here’s something I “thought” was super smart.  I booked a flight that left at 1am thinking that I would sleep On the plane and wake in Montreal fresh and ready to fly home.  Here’s something that didn’t happen. Sleep. 

I had a middle seat for the flight home and the dude on my left was asleep before we even took off.  I suspect he had chemical help.  I mean, he was out, COLD.  I tried, I really did.  But I just couldn’t do it, plus, he had left the window open which meant by half way through the flight, it was nothing but a continual sunrise out the window and it was too pretty not to watch.  Very surreal to realize that you’re not only crossing the country, but also crossing timelines, and essentially the sunrise was following us.  So I landed in Montreal and had just under an hour to connect to my flight home.  Another hour and forty five in the air, another hour forward in time, and I landed in Saint John, happy to exit and see my family.  Happier still for the knowledge I could go nap in my own bed.  

While I had been away, Shawn took the kids for a day of hiking at the Fundy trails park and they were all dying for me to go too so, that weekend, after a short three days back at work, we went. 


I mean, can you even?   

Sometimes Shawn and I will be in the car driving somewhere and we will notice how particularly beautiful it is out that day and he will ask me, “are you bored of it yet?”. Meaning, have we lived here so long now that the views have become mundane.  Ordinary. Unremarkable. 

The answer is always no.  I have never lived in a place so breathtaking. New Brunswick is often referred to as “the drive by” province.  Meaning, people pass through on their way to the more glamorous places like PEI or Nova Scotia, and it’s a real shame.  Because there are such gems here. And we’ve really only scratched the surface so far.  

Besides, nothing makes me happier, whether it’s on a provincial trail, or in our own yard, than to see my teenaged children revert back to the small kids they were, ten, eleven, twelve years ago, when we took the camping in Algonquin Park.  

I loved my trip to Edmonton.  It was everything I had hoped it to be and more. And I hope I go back there again someday.  Or to BC, or Gatineau, or St.Catherines or Orillia, or Guelph or Canning or Kitchener.  I even hope to explore more of my own new home province. 

But I’ll always love coming home the best.  There’s no family like my family.  And home really is where my heart is.  

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