Things I Wish I Had Known about Choosing not to have Children

I never wanted kids.

Growing up, people said I would grow out of it or I’d change my mind but deep down this was something I always knew about myself. Motherhood was not something I needed to feel fulfilled.

But as I get older and the end of my child-bearing years approaches, I find myself pondering this life choice and the kind of life I’ve led, and continue to lead, as a result.

While I don’t think I would make different choices if I had to do it again, there are some things I feel I can share with others who may also be questioning whether parenthood is for them.

A quote about embracing your authentic self that says, "Authenticty is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we're supposed to be and embracing who we are."It’s a lonely path. Frankly, not wanting children will put you in the minority in your social circle. Your friends, siblings, cousins and acquaintances will marry or have long-term relationships and most of them will have, or be in some stage of trying to have, children. It will start to feel increasingly isolating as they enter a realm in which you have no experience and to which you cannot relate. They will have a life experience that you don’t and won’t share.

It affects your romantic life. As a single person in my late 30s, the question of children is one of the most important issues that arises when considering dating someone. Dating someone who wants children is a no go, which significantly decreases the pool of available partners. Dating someone who has children forces you to consider whether your desire for a child-free life applies to all children or just to children born of your own body.

People will say not nice things about you. I remember overhearing a guy talking about a female friend of his who didn’t have children, although she was in a committed relationship. “She’s too concerned about keeping her body,” he said scornfully, implying that she was selfish, shallow and vain for not having kids. People will say that you’re selfish, that you’re going against nature and that you will regret it. But here’s one thing I’ve learned: people will talk no matter what so don’t let that be a factor in your decision-making.

The decisions you make when you’re younger matter. As a teen or even into your 20s, the fact that women have limited childbearing years is an abstract concept. Time seems endless and bridges can be crossed when you come to them. But sometimes it’s better to decide if you even want to cross the bridge to begin with. Which brings me to …

People who want children won’t change their minds so don’t fall in love with them and definitely don’t marry them. They may say they’re OK with not having children, or perhaps they may appear to waver or be uncertain about parenthood. But, in the same way that you know that you don’t want kids, they absolutely know that they do. It’s a fundamental difference in what someone needs for their lives to feel complete and that rarely changes. To save heartache down the road, have that honest conversation early in any potentially serious relationship and be brave enough to recognize when love isn’t enough to build a life together.

You’ll feel pressure to conform. From parents, grandparents, siblings, co-workers, people on the street … people will want to know why you don’t have children (particularly as you get older) and, even though it’s none of their business, they may make you feel less than for not having any. That may not be their intention and it may be as much about your own internal conflict as it is about their words and actions, but by choosing not to have children, you will be in the minority. This puts you in opposition to what much of society considers “normal.”

You’ll second-guess your decision. You’ll wonder if you’ve made the right choices. You’ll try to envision what a life in retirement without grandchildren will look like. You might cry as your peers move into a stage of life that you’ll never join.

You’ll love the children who are in your life fiercely. I have four nieces whom I adore. I love being an aunt. I love being a person who may positively influence their lives (without bearing the primary responsibility of guiding them to adulthood).

Being a parent isn’t for everyone but it doesn’t mean that the question of parenthood won’t impact your life. It will, in ways that you don’t expect, and it’s a decision that requires careful thought and honesty.

In today’s society, we have more freedom to make choices that reflect our true selves and enable us to live authentic lives. We don’t have to conform to society’s expectations and we can put aside any pressure we may feel to fit a specific mould. For some people, that means building families that don’t look like those we are used to seeing. For others, it means focusing on careers over family. For still others, it means following the example set by their parents and grandparents before them.

What’s important is staying true to yourself in whichever path you follow.

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Sleep Strategies from an Insomniac

So true. If you know who drew this, please let me know so I can provide credit!
So true. If you know who drew this, please let me know so I can provide credit!

I suppose at some point I was a good sleeper but I don’t really remember it.

Like my first day of school or my first kiss, remembered only in brief snatches of a corduroy skirt or a racing heart, my ability to sleep deeply and wake rested has become a distant memory.

I started to have issues with sleep in my early 20s. I remember being uncomfortable if someone else was in the room – sleepovers or hotels, for example – and rarely feeling rested when I woke up. As I got older, and stress and anxiety grew, my sleep troubles also increased (I’m sure there’s a correlation between my decreasing sleep quality and my growing issues with anxiety and depression) so that now I’m at the point where I’ve developed stress and anxiety about sleep itself.

My issues with sleep reached a peak after my ex-husband and I separated and I became a full-blown insomniac. I rarely slept more than three hours at a time and would wake up in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep for hours. As my exhaustion grew, it affected every aspect of my life. I was unable to concentrate for prolonged periods. I’d doze off in meetings and waiting rooms. I’d struggle to stop myself from yawning in conversations with co-workers and friends. I didn’t want to drive for long because I was at risk of falling asleep at the wheel. I was so tired that I couldn’t force myself to overcome my innate procrastination tendencies and all my usual strategies for productivity failed.

Sometimes I felt so tired that I simply wanted to curl up and cry, and other times I was too exhausted for even that.

I know I’m not alone. Various studies over the past decade suggest that a third of Canadians are sleep deprived, affecting everything from moods and personality to productivity and overall health. It’s a serious health concern as chronic sleep deprivation affects your immune system and cognitive function and has the potential to pose severe long-term health problems.

(Click here and here for some relevant articles.)

I still have issues with sleep but nearly three years after my divorce, I feel the worst of my insomnia has passed. I’ve also developed some insights and sleep strategies that I thought I’d share for those of you who also have challenges with getting a good night’s sleep.

Routine – Above all else, routine seems to be key. Go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends (or if you can’t do that, try to minimize the variations in your bedtimes). Have a pre-bed routine that signals to your body that it’s time to slow down and get ready for sleep.

Limit screen time – DO NOT take your phone to bed with you. I even try to avoid it for an hour before bedtime. Not only does having your phone within reach encourage you to continue scrolling long past your bedtime but the light from smartphone screens suppresses a sleep hormone called melatonin. In short, your phone is telling your brain it’s time to wake up when it’s actually trying to do the opposite.

Stay active (but not at night) – I exercise for many reasons but one of them it to beat myself out. If I’m physically tired, I’m more likely to welcome crawling into bed and stress less about whether I will be able to sleep.

However, exercising at night has the opposite effect. Exercise gives you energy and therefore, I need to minimize my activity levels in the evening. I walk the dogs and occasionally do yoga in the evenings but avoid anything high impact or high energy. This has meant some sacrifices as I’ve had to give up my favourite sport in the fall and winter due to late game times but given the misery of chronic sleep deprivation, it’s a sacrifice I’ve decided is worth it.

Avoid caffeine – I’m not a coffee drinker but I love a cup of tea so I’m careful to only drink caffeine-free varieties in the late afternoon and evening. Other common sources of caffeine include chocolate, sodas, some flavours of ice cream, some pain relievers, and energy water and other energy drinks.

Don’t eat a large amount before bed – A big meal, particularly one high in carbs and fat, can leave you feeling overly full and uncomfortable, which can affect your ability to get into sleep mode.

Do a brain dump – Call it whatever you want (“brain dump” works for me) but give yourself five or 10 minutes to get rid of everything that’s in your brain. Set an alarm, grab a pen and paper and write, paying no attention to structure, grammar or punctuation. Anything that pops into your head goes onto the paper. This is a strategy I also use when I start to feel overwhelmed or like my to do list is getting out of control.

Journaling – You can tie this into your brain dump or use your journal in other ways. I like to take a few moments to write down the things I was grateful for that day. I find this helps shine a positive light on my day and can put me in a better and more relaxed mood before trying to sleep.

Relax – Spend some time in the evening trying to relax. For me, getting outside has the effect of calming my mind and soothing my spirit, and watching my dogs run around makes me happy. For others, a good book or a warm bath may do the same.

Read (but not a page-turner) – Don’t start reading a book you can’t put down right before bed! Save that for the weekend. If you must read, have it be something lighter that doesn’t engage strong emotions or stimulate your brain with learning activities.

Use technology in a helpful way – Although I’ve said above not to bring your phone to bed, there are some cases in which it can be useful. I don’t recommend this unless you’ve developed the self-control to avoid social media! There are some sleep-friendly apps I’ve used that can help you get a good night’s sleep.

  • Sleep Cycle lets you set an alarm and a timed wake-up period. It begins gently waking you up during that period so that you wake at a time when you’re naturally coming out of sleep. The idea is that you wake feeling more rested than if you’re jolted out of deep sleep by a blaring alarm.
  • Meditation apps – I’m just beginning to incorporate these before I go to bed. I listen to a guided meditation as I lie in bed and it’s helping me to relax. There are many options out there but a crowd-sourcing question on my Facebook page recommended Insight Timer, Calm, Omvana, and Relax and Rest. Try them out and figure out what works best for you!

White noise – Get a fan or a white noise machine to create just enough background noise that it blocks out other disturbances such as traffic, pets or other people in the house.

Have you struggled with insomnia or other sleep issues? What sleep strategies have helped you get a better rest at night? Tell me in the comments (I may use them!).

Not Sorry Anymore

Lately people have been telling me to stop apologizing.A quote that reads "Embrace who you are and don't make any apologies for being yourself."

It’s happened so often in a short period of time that it’s caused me to wonder: what exactly am I apologizing for?

Invariably, it comes down to one thing: I apologize when I’m not at my best.

Example #1: I apologized for not having the in-depth knowledge in a discussion about current events. I felt guilty for not being as informed as I feel I should be as a reasonably intelligent, aware and concerned adult in today’s world, particularly one who has always had an interest in the world to the extent that I spent a few years as a journalist simply because I want to know what’s going on around me.

In this instance, I was apologizing for not being the best version of myself, which I envision as a person who has informed opinions about the world around her.

Example #2: I offered excuses for, um, a romantic indiscretion of the drunken variety, the kind that causes one to cringe a little in hindsight.

Here I was apologizing for not exercising good judgment and therefore, not being at my best as a person who is always in control of their actions and decisions.

Clearly there’s a theme here. At some point I became fixated on showing my best self, and only my best self, to others. When that doesn’t happen, I feel ashamed.

I don’t know when or why this happened but it’s so ingrained in me that it’s become a fundamental part of my nature.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. As a young girl and teenager, I had a healthy streak of an over-achieving perfectionism but heavy course-loads in university and a fast-paced career in journalism quickly taught me that done is sometimes better than perfect.

It took me awhile to feel comfortable with not always exerting my best effort but eventually I got there and accepted its necessity – or at least, I thought I did.

Once I started paying attention, I realized that I apologize for a lot of things. I apologize for not reading books that I feel I should; being tired; not feeling sociable; forgetting things; saying “no” to requests to be involved in various community organizations; my messy house; my spoiled dogs; not walking the dogs every day; my filthy car … the list could go on.

What all of these things have in common is that they are things that I feel I should be doing and which the successful, over-achieving, perfect version of myself would have no trouble fitting into her schedule. To be honest, sometimes I feel that I let that person down, and I apologize to her too.

There’s another side to this, however, one which to me is a little more insidious.

I apologize when I think I’m not meeting people’s expectations, when I feel that I’m not doing what others think I should be doing. I feel like not only am I letting myself down but I’m letting the people in my life down as well, simply for not being able to do all things at all times in the best way possible.

I suspect this has played a big role in the anxiety I carried for many years as I pressured myself to meet those perceived expectations and inevitably, fell short.

The truth is that I will never be that person. Perfect Susan is a figment of my imagination. She doesn’t exist. Real me makes mistakes, falls down, does stupid shit, doesn’t always make good decisions and doesn’t always try my best.

Perfect is exhausting and I just don’t need it in my life.

It’s time to remind myself that the things I think I should be doing aren’t being done for a reason, and that reason is that they’re usually not a priority for me. Maybe a clean car is a priority for someone else but it isn’t for me and frankly, if you’re going to judge me for the muddy paw prints on my backseat, well, that’s just not my problem.

The things that are important to me – my friends and family, my physical and mental health, my personal growth, my dogs – are things that make me happy and help me feel fulfilled. And those are being taken care of as well as I am able.

I’m not perfect, and I don’t need to be perfect for anyone else either. I know that and I’m OK with it. But it doesn’t hurt to remind myself that the person I am is pretty decent anyway, in spite of all my flaws.

I’m not going to apologize for that.

The Resolution Question

It seems inevitable.

New Year’s Eve rolls around and we start to ask ourselves the existential questions: what does it all mean? Where am I in my life? Where do I want to be? Am I happy?

Sometimes there are practical thoughts as well. How do I feel about the year just passed? Do I need to make a New Year’s resolution? What is a resolution anyway?

I’m a long-time waverer on New Year’s resolutions. Sometimes I make them, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes they seem prophetic in hindsight (like the year I resolved to be OK with my then-husband not wanting to join me in activities I enjoyed). Other years they’ve helped me achieve a goal, and still others have been forgotten nearly as soon as they were made.

This year I’ve been struggling about whether to make a resolution, and although that may imply I don’t need to make changes in my life, that’s not the case.

2016 was a relatively quiet year for me. It began with the excitement of starting a new venture as a Beachbody coach but a concussion soon followed that kept me out of commission for several months. Really, it’s only been since the late fall that I’ve felt recovered from that injury, and no doubt that’s played a significant role in why 2016 was more low-key than its predecessors.

In all honestly, I’m ending the year feeling a little dissatisfied and even isolated. I’ve had some challenges and disappointments as well as some fun and successes. But when I look back on 2016, all I can really remember is spending time in my kitchen and hanging with my dogs.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After a couple of years of massive change, drama and upheaval, I think I needed some time to myself to restore, re-energize and reflect on where to go next. It’s given me some time to ponder the kind of life I want to have and the kind of person I want to be, and that kind of self-reflection is important. Plus, my dogs are (mostly) adorable and I finally learned to (mostly) enjoy cooking.

Regardless, I’ve had a lot of change in recent years and as a result, I’m not thinking about a change I want to make in my life as I ponder whether to make a New Year’s resolution.

Instead, as I reflect on the many positive changes I’ve made and the contentment that I now feel most of the time, I’m asking myself: what would improve my life? How can I continue on the positive path of personal growth that I’ve begun, and how can I keep making progress towards the me I want to be?Discipline-Is-Choosing-Between-What-You-Want-Now-And-What-You-Want-More.jpg

The answer jumped into my mind in capital letters and flashing neon lights: DISCIPLINE.

Motivation is fairly easy to come by, and it frequently changes. What keeps you going in between periods of inspiration is discipline, which is born of habit.

At this stage in my life, when I’m mostly happy but also feeling a little stalled in my progress and growth, discipline is key.

All of the things I want to work on in 2017 – improving my financial situation; being healthy, fit and strong; staying injury-free; growing my Beachbody business; and being a high-performing employee in my full-time job – will all be helped immensely by being disciplined in the daily work it will take to get there.

Exactly how I will develop this discipline remains to be seen (and perhaps developed through future blog posts). For now, I’m starting to enlist accountability partners and by working through my brain jumble with this blog post, I’ve at least established a direction and a place to start.

So here’s my New Year’s resolution: 2017 will be the year in which I learn to be disciplined.

Christmas Memories

Pictures of various Christmas tree ornaments.
A Christmas tree should tell a story. Clockwise from top left: a bulb from my grandmother’s tree, a sleigh ornament we made as a family when I was a kid, the key to my first home, and a ball with my first initial made by my aunt.

Although I have many wonderful holiday memories, the tradition that stands out in mind as being special for my family every year was the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree.

Each year, about three weeks before Christmas Day, my family would get bundled up in snow pants, scarves and boots and head “up in the woods,” as we say in Newfoundland. We had a few favourite back roads to which we’d head, although they didn’t always prove fruitful, and we would park the truck by the side of the highway and start the hunt.

I always tried to spot the perfectly shaped tree, like the ones in the storybooks. Brother didn’t care as long as it got him home to his game system soon. Sister would point out something wrong with my selections, just on principle’s sake. Mother looked for a fullness that could support our plethora of ornaments, and father seemed to have his own agenda and over-rode us all. Usually he could be counted on to veto Mom’s selection because it was a spruce, which he claimed lost its needles faster, and insist we keep looking for a pine or a fir.

Pictures of various Christmas tree ornaments.
Clockwise from top left: a beautiful bulb from my sister, mittens knit by my mother, a shellfish ornament from Jamaica, a delicate glass bird from Halifax.

Eventually we’d all agree, the axe would start chopping (brother and I, by ourselves in our late teens or early 20’s, nearly electrocuted ourselves one year when the tree came very close to falling on a power line), and then the lugging would begin. Without fail, we’d always gone much further from the truck than we’d intended, but even little sister, whose tiny hands and stumbling feet were more of a hindrance,
would take a turn at carrying the heavy load. I’d always moan about the myrrh on my mitts (of course I’d forgotten to wear old ones) but never too much because it smelled so good that I didn’t really mind.

Once we got it home and it had dried out after a few  days of lying under the veranda, we’d bring the tree inside, trailing needles everywhere and trying not to damage the limbs. The decorating would begin, and once we’d got past the inevitable swearing at the lights — we could never seem to pack them away with the same care they were brought out each year — the real fun would begin. Christmas carols would be blaring from the stereo, Mom would be filling the house with the kinds of aromas that linger in your memory, Dad would sit back and watch with a glass of whiskey in his hand as each ornament was carefully unfolded from its wrapping and its story told before being hung gently on the tree.

There was the little drummer boy picture frame I’d made in Sunday School, before I had even started kindergarten, nestled against the trunk; there were the delicate blown glass bells made by a far-off cousin; there were the tiny red and green mittens, embroidered with each of our names; there were the personalized and handmade balls an aunt made when she had cancer; there were the candy canes hung out of the dog’s reach; there was Mom, insisting we needed more red and pointing out the spots still waiting to be decorated.

Pictures of various Christmas tree ornaments.
More treasures. Clockwise from left: an ornament purchased on a trip to Rome, a hand-painted ornament from a far-off cousin, a bear with my birthstone.

Ours was no colour coordinated, uniquely themed, professionally decorated tree. It was a mess of memories, and as I get older and begin to form my own Christmas traditions, those trees stand out in my mind as the cornerstone of each Christmas. To me, nothing symbolized Christmas more, or told our family history better, and each one was more beautiful than the last.

* Amended from the original publication in the Stettler Independent (2007).

All Possibilities Within

A photo of me doing mermaid pose on a beach at sunset overlaid with the text "All Possibilities Within."
My latest guest blog for Nova Yoga.

I’m guest blogging for Nova Yoga again! Click here to read my take on core vinyasa, inner strength and my favourite mantra.

Excerpt:

“Om namah shivaya. As a mantra to invoke a sense of awakening, respect and honour for one’s self, these are powerful words.”

A Lesson from the Sniffles

As I lay in bed, a tissue crumpled in my hand, breathing shallowly through my mouth and wishing away the congestion in my sinuses, a thought flitted through my mind: “I just want to feel good.”

This is a meaningful phrase for me. When I was recovering from broken ribs and a year in which I had sustained a concussion, endured serious insomnia and fell victim to multiple flus and viruses, I felt broken. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt at home in my body and as I reached out to a friend who ran Beachbody challenge groups, I told her “I just want to feel good again.”

A quote about gratitude set against an ocean view.

That motivated me for several months. “I just want to feel good” became my reason for committing to an exercise program, my deal-breaker consideration when faced with unhealthy options, my “why” for resolving to work on all aspects of my mental, emotional and physical health.

And it worked! I got healthier, I felt stronger, I wasn’t sick all the time, I gained control of my insomnia (most of the time), I took courses in nutrition and I learned strategies to work on the other areas of my life. But as I continued to learn and grow, I also began to take my health for granted.

I’ve always had a weak immune system, it seems. I’m not sure if this is truth or something that I’ve incorporated into part of my being through the stories we tell ourselves (“Hi, I’m Susan, and I’ll get sick if you sneeze in my general vicinity”). Regardless, it was truth because I believed it and I did regularly get sick every few months with whatever virus was going around the office or my social group.

So to not have to deal with the sniffles for a year was a pretty big deal for me.

It took lying in bed for a few days and a cough that is still lingering to remind me that health is precious and not something to be taken for granted.

Over the past few months, I’ve faltered a little on my nutrition commitment. I’m not sure why but I’ve been indulging a lot more in junk food than I used to, and I’ve had trouble trying to motivate myself to find my triggers and start working on rebuilding those healthier habits. I’m wondering now whether the two – too much junk food and my recent illness – are connected. Did I let my body get run down, even a little, and did that make me more susceptible when the germs crossed my path?

I don’t know.

I realize that a cold isn’t the end of the world. There are plenty of people out there who face greater trials and whose illnesses, unlike mine, won’t heal.

My point is that it took catching a cold to make me realize I’ve been taking my health for granted.

And – mid-sneeze – I had a moment of gratitude for that reminder.

Guess what?

A promotional image of a blog post titled "A Practice of Respect" at www.novayogaonline.com
My first blog post for Nova Yoga talks about discovering respect through yoga.

Exciting news!

I’m guest blogging for Nova Yoga for the next few weeks. I’ve been a member of the Nova Yoga community since its very first open house several years ago so I’m really excited that they asked me to write for their new blog.

Check out my first post here: http://www.novayogaonline.com/a-practice-of-respect/ 

Relapses & Change

In the pursuit of health and fitness, we talk a lot about motivation and habits. We focus on the need for change, the importance of change, strategies to change – but we don’t talk as much about what happens when those strategies fail and we fall back on old behaviours.

Relapses are considered a failure. They’re viewed as a weakness, that we’re not strong enough to stick with the changes we’ve made or not committed enough to our programs and goals. As a result, relapses make us feel bad about ourselves. We feel weak, unmotivated and resentful of others who don’t seem to face the same challenges. And if we’re not careful, it’s a quick fall back to where we started.

But did you know that relapses are actually part of the cycle of behavioural change?*

The cycle of behavioural change outlines the various stages we go through when we’re trying to develop new habits.

Think of a habit you want to change: perhaps you want to quit smoking or eat more vegetables or workout every day. It’s important to understand where you are in that process, and what it will take to achieve the change you want to make.

A graphic illustration of the cycle of behavioural change.
The cycle of behavioural change. Relapses can occur at any point in the cycle.

What stage are you at?

Pre-contemplation: resisting change or in denial that change needs to be made.

Contemplation: thinking about change at some point in the near future.

Preparation: getting ready to change, setting goals and figuring out how to achieve them.

Action: getting started and working on the change.

Maintenance: change is achieved and the new behaviour or habit is developed and sustained.

Relapse: reverting to old behaviours or habits.

For every habit you are trying to change, you are in one of these stages. The ultimate goal is maintenance but along the way, we’re most likely going to end up in relapse at some point during the process.

And that’s OK.

Relapses are common. For me, they usually happen when my niece starts selling Girl Guide cookies or my mom sends me my annual birthday cherry cake. They’re part of the process of change, and if understood, can help us get to the maintenance stage where our new behaviour becomes a habit.

We relapse because we’ve hit a new road block. That’s it. Simple, right?

In the process of change, we understand the barriers that we face at the beginning. We know that in order to workout daily, we need to make time in our schedules. We need a gym membership or a workout buddy or a program to follow. We may need equipment or new shoes or a trainer.

These are barriers you might expect at the start of your change and so you figure out what you need to do to overcome them and get started on your daily workouts.

Let’s say you’ve been working out every day for several weeks. Things are going well, you’re feeling confident and are on your way to achieving the lifelong fitness you’ve always wanted.

But then perhaps you get injured. Maybe your dog gets sick and the vet bill means you can’t afford a gym membership anymore. Perhaps you get the flu and don’t feel up to working out for a few weeks. Maybe you plateau in your weight-loss program and get discouraged, or your workout buddy moves away and without them, you find it hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym.

These are new barriers. You didn’t expect them when you first started but they’ve come up along the way and could result in a relapse and return to your old behaviours. What do you do then?

When a relapse occurs, it’s important to take the time to figure out why. Reflect on what has been going well to this point and what hasn’t, and try to understand what you can do differently to prevent a relapse for the same reasons in the future. Just like you had to figure out strategies to get started, you will need to figure out how to overcome these new barriers. Once you do, you’ll be back on your road to the maintenance stage achieving the habit you want for yourself.

Relapses can occur at any point in the cycle of behavioural change. They may send you back to square one for a little bit but if you start trying to figure out what the new barriers are and how you can overcome them, you won’t stay there for long. Develop a new plan of action and start working on putting it into place. Soon you’ll reach or return to the maintenance stage and have a new habit to support your healthy living goals.

When things get tough, remember that healthy change is worth it.

* I am not a medical professional and am not speaking about behavioural change related to drugs or alcohol abuse.

Shavasana & Letting Go

Letting go in shavasana. Photo credit: http://mudrayogastudio.com/the-most-important-pose-of-your-practice-shavasana/

Yoga is a practice of letting go and creating space.

We create space in our bodies through our breath. We let go of tension and stress. And if we practice it with mindfulness and intention, it can help us let go of the past and create the space within ourselves to pursue a brighter path.

I’ve been working on building a home practice so that I can make yoga a more regular part of my wellness regime.

Tonight, in shavasana, a lightbulb went off.

The English translation of the Sanskrit word “shavasana” is “corpse pose,” and I’ve always interpreted it literally. The pose involves lying on your back on your mat, completely motionless, so it’s probably easy to see why I thought this way.

Turns out that, as with many of yoga’s asanas, there is a deeper meaning.

Corpse pose symbolizes the death of the old to allow for the rebirth of the new (to take the metaphor further, students are often encouraged to roll onto their sides into a fetal position before resuming a seated position. Of course, the fetal position is a more conventional symbol of birth.).

It typically closes yoga classes and is intended as a period of active rest during which you may meditate, reflect, set intentions and most of all, let go.

Let go of your day, let go of your stress, let go of whatever you are carrying around that weighs you down.

Tonight, I let go of my divorce.

As I lay prone on my back, the lightbulb moment came when I realized that it’s still weighing me down, and it was something of a surprise to me.

In the two years since my ex-husband and I ended our relationship, I have come to let myself be defined by it.

I’m the divorced one who doesn’t mention the D word at weddings out of respect for the happiness of the newlyweds. I’m the divorced one who doesn’t feel I have a right to give relationship advice to friends. I’m the divorced one who went through a rough time and demanded much of my friends’ and family’s care and attention.

Most importantly, I’ve believed that I’m the divorced one who monumentally failed at what is supposed to be one of life’s greatest achievements.

I’ve been carrying around that heartbreak and that sense of failure, and it’s been weighing me down as I try to move forward.

I don’t want to be weighed down anymore.

It’s time for me to realize that I don’t have to be defined by the end of a relationship. I don’t have to hurt at every reminder of what used to be. I can let it go.

“If we’re still holding on to what’s old, we have no space for the new and exciting,” said the instructor on my DVD. “Now that we’ve released and we’ve let go … we have all this new space. It’s a clean slate.

I am wiping my slate clean, and setting down my baggage.

I feel so much lighter!