my post-cancer bod

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I just finished reading Hunger by Roxane Gay.  This is an honest book about food, weight and self-image.  Emboldened by Roxane’s writing, I want to talk about bodies.

Every body has a story and a history. – Roxane Gay

Like many women, I have had a tortured relationship with my physical self ever since I was a young girl.  At age 48, I finally had slid into a semi-solid state of acceptance. Then breast cancer appeared last February and totally erased any hard-fought body peace I nurtured over the past 40 years.

The past few months, I was gifted a scarred dent in my left breast, permanent radiation tattoos and a recently-burned boob.  Tamoxifen has added greatly-unwanted fat around my waist.  If nothing else, before my diagnosis I was okay with my hourglass figure, which is now slowly thickening.  Radiation caused fatigue and I’ve been (situationally) depressed.  None of this has helped with the weight gain.

Part of the body torture in my past was an eating disorder, where I became obsessed with numbers – pounds and calories ruled my life.  At the doctor’s, I close my eyes at the scale and ask they not tell me how much I weigh. But I know I weigh more because I now barely fit into what used to be a ‘bad size’ for me.  Who decides what is a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ size?  And why do I believe them?  (Fuck you fashion industry).

I don’t have the energy to acquire an eating disorder right now.  An eating disorder is a full-time job, and while adopting the control associated with not-eating is sort-of attractive to me, I also want to be kind to my poor body – it has been through a lot.

So this leaves me with resigned acceptance.  (And yes, being active and drinking water and eating healthy – don’t worry.  I know the drill).  Oddly, when I was very thin after my first marriage broke up, I did not love my body one bit – instead, I was at constant war with myself.

Now that I’m chunky and been through cancer treatment, I oddly feel a glimmer of love for my beleaguered self. My dear husband is pro-Sue. My hips carried three children. My breasts breastfed three kids. A tiny ridge in my left breast signalled the tumour that was growing underneath.  I’m grateful to that ridge too – serendipity (and a family physician who listened to me) caught my cancer early.

We just returned from holidays and being on the beach for two weeks was totally freeing.  I stopped wearing make-up.  My curly hair became a rat’s nest.  I wore a bikini to the beach.  A bikini!  Me with my post-cancer bod and all my scars and lady lumps.  (I am thankful to the ladies at the swimsuit store Nettle’s Tale and my daughter who helped me pick out flattering bathing suits – I appreciate their collective body acceptance philosophy).

I mean, I’m not going to compete with the 18 year old surfing girls on the beach! So why bother trying.  I’m an almost-50 year old mom who has a soft bod.  I gave up caring for those two magical weeks, but when I squeezed into my jeans when I arrived back home, the self-doubt started creeping back in.

Why is this all so hard?  An acquaintance told me she stopped taking Tamoxifen because she gained weight.  Let that sink in:  she would rather increase her risk of cancer recurrence than be fat.  This shows how we glorify thinness at any cost.

“What does it say about our culture that the desire for weight loss is considered a default feature of womanhood?” – Roxane Gay

So many women after breast cancer treatment struggle with added weight due to chemo, steroids or Tamoxifen.  I can’t exactly wear a sign around my neck that says:  I gained weight because of cancer drugs. I am who I am for whatever reason.

My only hard-fought lesson so far from having cancer is this:  Love yourself.  And that includes honouring your body, no matter what.  I’ll just keep bumbling along with my love-hate struggle with the physical embodiment of me.  I won’t forget (and you shouldn’t either), as Roxane Gay says:  “I am stronger than I am broken.”  I hereby welcome you to be jiggly (or not) with me.

once i ate a doughnut

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the doughnut in question

It was your shitty lifestyle that gave you cancer, and if you don’t change your shitty lifestyle, your cancer will recur.

This was the key message to a two-day workshop for cancer patients that I attended last week. Half way through day two, I stood up and walked out. If my time here on Earth is limited, I don’t need to spend my days being lectured to about this kind of sanctimonious crap.

Instead, I went for a long walk, met my husband for a lunch (I had a salad, just for the record, since I’m feeling defensive now), went for another long walk along the beautiful Vancouver seawall and met up with a dear friend for tea. This seemed like a healthier way to spend my time.

I signed up for the workshop for my Summer of Healing after my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment this year.  I thought: I’ll show up and be open to learning. I lasted a day and a half before the blaming, finger pointing and judgmental tone of the lectures from the ‘experts’ did me in.

The room was filled with people with cancer who had lived healthy lifestyles. I’d call this the classic west coast way of life – in this case, there were many fit, nutrition-conscious women who happened to have breast cancer. (And they were pretty pissed off about it, too). There were also three young people whose cancer had recurred.

The presenters did not understand their audience. I’m not sure how blaming people with cancer for getting cancer in the first place is helpful. Patients do not need more fodder to add to our own feelings of guilt.   We are also not stupid.  We know that being active and eating healthy is important.  No kidding.

Even if I smoked, drank, was obese, ate too many doughnuts, warmed up my food in plastic containers in the microwave, does this mean that I deserved to get cancer or that I am less deserving of care or compassion for my cancer?

The ‘it is your own fault you got sick’ mentality is what is feeding the repeal of Obamacare in the US with the BCRA Act. I follow this awful Act carefully on Twitter and feel deeply outraged for my American friends. We’d be so hooped if we lived just a few kilometers to the south in the US – my husband and I are both self-employed, we have a kid with a disability and now I have cancer.  We’d also be bankrupt if we didn’t have proper insurance coverage.

This patient-blaming attitude is pervasive everywhere, including in Canada. (Although I’m extremely grateful for our Medicare, which is our quasi-universal health care coverage for hospital and physician office care. This means I don’t have to pay for my medical care because I got sick).

“Maybe you will live a healthier lifestyle afterwards,” a friend said to me on the phone, not so helpfully, when I was first diagnosed. I was lying on the couch recovering from surgery. This implied blame is thankfully mostly unspoken, but was the overt attitude at this ‘cancer care’ workshop.

The truth: cancer is a combination of genetics, bad luck, rogue cells – and yes, environment and lifestyle are factors too. But there is no one cause of all cancers – cancer is much more insidious than that. Our own cells turn feral on us for all sorts of reasons. If researchers knew what that reason really was, we would already have a cure for cancer. You can’t prevent cancer by doing any one thing.  (Read about a recent study from John Hopkins about the topic of risk factors here).

The real reason I think people are blamed for getting cancer is because we are all terrified of becoming vulnerable, needing help and dying. We think that we can do all sorts of things to avoid death.  Alas, there is a randomness to living that is out of our control. There was a 1 in 700 chance I’d have a kid with Down syndrome, but I had him anyhow. (Many feel my son’s birth could have been prevented, but that’s for another blog post). The current stat is that 1 in 9 women in Canada get breast cancer. I happen to be one of those women.

I know I have lived through many women’s biggest fear. Once you start with the boob-squishing mammograms, the idea that you might have breast cancer begins floating around in your mind. I thought I was immune from breast cancer because I breastfed all my children. That was an arrogant, naïve and mistaken notion.

I’m not suggesting you don’t live a healthy life, whatever that means to you. That would just be silly. But…stop the patient blaming when people do get sick. None of us are going to escape this world without acquiring some sort of illness and eventually dying. This is part of life.

My healthy lifestyle changes since getting cancer include: holding those who showed up for me close, more hugging, going to therapy to finally figure out how to love myself, meandering on long walks, marvelling at sunsets and remembering to breathe.  I still eat cheese, lie around in my bed watching Netflix and enjoy a tall glass of cider. Everything in moderation, folks. My best advice is to go forth and live your life under the guise of joy and not fear.

Cancer workshop organizers, shaming patients is not going to lead to behaviour change. (See this great post by Carolyn Thomas about ‘non-compliant’ patients).  Being perfect does not prevent cancer.  Try treating those who are suffering with respect and compassion. Suspend your pious judgment and meet people where they are at.  People who have cancer need your help (not your disdain) to learn how to heal, inside and out.

where’s my freaking silver lining?

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I keep reading that people who have had cancer are now better people: they know what’s important in life, focus on the positive and appreciate every moment.

Here’s what cancer has done for me:  uncovered all my unresolved pain, given me a ball of anxiety that has set up permanent home in my stomach, caused me to waver in my confidence and made me feel even more vulnerable than I was before. (Recall, I am the person who transferred out of nursing because I wasn’t tough enough.  Plus, I’m a Pisces, astrology sign of the super-sensitive).

That’s some silver lining, cancer!  It is more like an ugly brown lining! Thanks a lot cancer!

Obviously I have a wee bit of personal work to do.  I remain shocked how cancer care in this province totally disassociates the mind from the body, and how mental health isn’t integrated into the medical care.  So I’m pretty much on my own with taking care of my mind.

Here’s one thing I’ve discovered that has helped so far:  breathing.

Meditation is a practice that can take a lifetime to master.  My sister-in-law referred me to The Calm Monkey right after my surgery.  I dragged myself to one of Wendy Quan’s sessions, sore and particularly raw.  I left feeling a bit better, with a couple of counting practices that I actually used under the radiation machine to calm the f*ck down.  I also attend the cancer agency’s weekly relaxation classes (Which I’m grateful for.  Please don’t cancel them!).  There I’ve learned you can trick your body into feeling like it isn’t under stress, even when it is, just by breathing.

I’m not into woo-woo stuff, but meditation has been scientifically proven to help with stress.  (Look, it is even sanctioned by the Mayo Clinic).  Mindfulness is a practice, so it takes practice.  I think of it as a little gift of self-compassion.   I’m such a newbie that I have no actual meditation advice to give.  But if you are feeling stressed and anxious for whatever reason, here are a few articles that have helped me:

Surely you have three minutes to spare?  Try this.

New York Times has a super Meditation for Real Life column.  How to be mindful with a barking dog!  How to be mindful while holding a baby!  These are sweet and easy to do.

My friend Louise Kinross has published a great interview in Bloom about how mindfulness helps with depression and stress in families who have adult children with disabilities.

The Calm Monkey’s blog posts have suggestions for beginners.

Now everybody does cancer differently.  Everybody does life differently, too.  But whatever you do, however you do it, my friends, don’t forget to breathe.  Inhale.  Exhale.  It is a good place to start.

learning to breathe again

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The Butterflies and Pebbles Instagram feed is the best.

Yesterday when I was at a local bakery, happily meeting a new friend and drinking tea, my phone rang. It was The BC Cancer people. I felt like yelling in the phone: STOP CALLING ME YOU CREEPS but then I remembered that I have cancer.

Over three months post diagnosis, I finally start radiation treatment on Friday at 8:15 am. They give you two days’ notice and it is at the worst possible time, as I have a kid to get to school for 8:50 am, but there was no negotiating with the person on the phone.  My whole life lately has been entirely at the mercy of booking clerks.

They (whoever ‘they’ are – I’m not even sure) dole out information into little tiny packages, only telling you the details of the very next step, which pushes you into even a more heightened state of anxiety because you don’t know what’s coming around the corner.  It turns people into wounded animals.

This makes it impossible to plan or even think about the future. Besides there is a version of the near future where I might be dead, so maybe it is best not to think about that anyhow. I suddenly understand the notion of living in the moment that everybody wiser than me keeps going on about.

At the therapist last week, I was jumping around topics like I was playing whack-a-mole and she finally said to me – after I spent 50 minutes splaying out my thoughts like machine gun bullets – why don’t you put both your feet on the ground and close your eyes? I did that and immediately I calmed down. We mutually decided that my one take-away task was to work on relaxation.

On Monday I nervously drove myself to a relaxation class at the cancer centre. Now being nervous going to a relaxation class is kind of stupid. But I there I was.

There were about seven people in the room, all women, who I presumed to be in treatment or post-treatment. It opened with a roundtable segment – the anticipation of which increased my wide-eyed nervousness. To my great relief, nobody introduced themselves by their diagnosis – instead we had to share an image that was calming to us. I didn’t have an image, but I did have an auditory memory: the sound of the croaking frogs outside our bedroom window that puts me to sleep when I go to bed, and then lulls me back to sleep when I wake up my typical five or six times during the night. (Thanks for the insomnia, Tamoxifen). The croaking frogs turn into singing birds when the sky lightens and even thinking about those sounds gives me a small zing of calm pleasure.

I was the only ‘new’ person in the room and many of the ladies seemed to know each other. I also felt young, which doesn’t happen very often anymore. I’d describe many of the women there as sad. I am sad too.

The facilitator was a social worker and had a lovely way about her. I didn’t have my little notebook out, so I can’t remember much she said, except this: we can trick our bodies into feeling calm by breathing. If we take nice deep breaths, our bodies feel we are calm, even if we are not. This makes sense to me. Don’t forget to breathe, silly.

Later, we laid down on mats and were covered by blankets by volunteers and the facilitator walked about, giving a guided meditation made up of all the images we had shared with her. Then, oh my god, the volunteers came around and touched our heads and feet in a most therapeutic way and man did that feel good. This might sound weird but it really was the best thing. I realize how little we touch each other in this world, especially in health care environments. Most touch in the hospital involves inflicting  pain and this gentle touch is the perfect antidote to that. I think more healing touch could help make hospitals more human again.  (I have so many ideas to make this whole cancer experience better for patients, but nobody has bothered to ask me my opinion).

Afterwards, everybody packed up the mattresses and pillows like after a yoga class and we met back in the circle. At this point, nobody had spoken to each other directly. One woman leaned over and said to me: I like your nail polish. I smiled at her generous olive branch, tears threatening to spill behind my eyes.

I was happily and calmly heading back home when three of the older ladies said to me, ‘we meet up for coffee afterwards. Do you want to join us?’ Sure, I’ll just go to the washroom first, I said, overly enthusiastically. I went into the washroom, locked myself in the stall, and cried like I was a little girl again.

These women all knew what it felt like to be the new person. They hadn’t forgotten what it felt like to feel scared all the time. I felt on-my-knees grateful for this kindness.

Later, in the cafeteria, I found out little pieces of their own stories and I shared a bit of mine. When I confessed I only had stage one breast cancer, one woman admonished me: you don’t ever only have cancer, she said. You have cancer and that’s always a serious thing. Then they said, ‘watch out or we will mother you!’ I blinked back tears and nodded, biting my lip, starting to break open again. Being cared for is the one exact thing that I so desperately need.

Tomorrow morning, I will be at the cancer centre, wearing a thin hospital gown. When I’m laying at the mercy of the radiation machine, as they line up the punishing rays with the tattoos on my poor beleaguered left breast, I will close my eyes, remember to breathe, surrender and draw upon the spirits of the kind women who have gone before me.

Cue the frogs, my friends.  Namaste.

my monkey brain

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(Warning:  this post is a rambling mess, just like me).

The other day I spent the entire afternoon at the botanical gardens.  I had my Vancouver Trees book clutched in one hand and my umbrella in the other as I wandered around identifying flowering trees in the drippy rain.

In doing this, it struck me that since my diagnosis three months ago, my world has either gotten very small – say about 2.8 cm (the size of my tumour) – or very large.  I don’t know the answer to this, just like I don’t know the answer to anything anymore.

I typically write essays that have a definitive beginning, middle and end, like writers are supposed to do.  Marry that up with a couple of poignant life lessons, and voila:  there’s a tidy story I’m happy to slap my name on.  Lately, I don’t even think in complete thoughts, never mind poignant life lessons.  My mind jumps around like this:

-What did I do to deserve cancer?
-Is it going to rain today?
-Why is the cancer research building so fancy while the patient treatment centre is so shoddy?
-What should we have for dinner tonight?
-Why is the breast cancer world so polarized and politicized?
-How am I ever going to find a swimsuit now?
-Do people know how little of their breast cancer fundraising dollars go into services for actual patients?
-I feel guilty for not needing chemo.
-When can I go for a walk today?
-Why has this been such a shitty year?  Everybody told me when I had to leave my job that when one door closed, another door opened.  But that door wasn’t supposed to be CANCER!  It was supposed to be something BETTER NOT WORSE!  (I think this a lot).
-When is that booking clerk going to call me for my next appointment?
-How many days until I see my adult kids again?
-Why aren’t mental health services offered to newly diagnosed patients?
-Why are the Republicans so cruel?
-Why can’t I motivate myself to work on my book?
-Is the new episode of VEEP on?
-Why have so many of my so-called friends and family dumped me?
-How many steps have I taken today?
-I am over-sharing on my blog?
-Why are people with disabilities so devalued by society?
-Are the Oilers going to drop out of the playoffs so I can get my husband back again?
-How do I accept my new ‘sick person’ identity without getting stuck in being a cancer patient forever?
-When is Aaron going to finally get that sleep study?
-I need to calm the f*ck down.
-Should I delete my Facebook account?
-What’s with the war metaphors and cancer?
-Is radiation going to burn my skin?
-Where is the nest of the bald eagles that fly past our window?
-Is it too early in the day to have a drink?
-Is this Tamoxifen making me sad?  Or is this sadness just situational?
-Are the Liberals going to win our provincial election? (God, I hope not).

I mean, this doesn’t even form an inkling of a well-constructed essay.  This are clearly signs of a ruminating monkey brain.

I am in the in-between days as I wait for radiation. (Teva Harrison eloquently termed the phrase ‘the in-between days’ in her book of the same name).  I am so far from having my shit together, I wonder if my old life was just a carefully curated illusion.  I fear this cancer has triggered a mid-life identity crisis.

On Wednesday, I finally saw a therapist at the cancer agency.  She gently suggested that maybe it is okay to allow myself to be stuck in the mud.  This kind permission helped, a lot.

So while I am stuck with no epiphanies in hand, I am eagerly gobbling up lessons from others further down the path.  Melissa McAllister wrote this fine piece for The Underbelly called Where Are All the Silver Linings four years after her own breast cancer diagnosis.  I lean on her wisdom:

You don’t get to step away from cancer and climb back into your old self. That person is gone in a lot of ways….the only way out is FORWARD. Remember that.

No wonder I feel as if I’ve been disappearing, invisibly inching along the side of the road while the world zooms past me.

Melissa also talks about the steps she has taken to make her feel good and right again.  I’ve only figured out these three things so far (I document these things often on my Instagram account):

1. Go for a walk to look for some beauty
2. Practice being still
3. Try to be kind to myself

Perhaps I have to be okay with not being okay.  Maybe that’s enough for now.  As the dearly-missed Lisa Bonchek Adams said:

Make the most of this day. Whatever that means to you, whatever you can do, no matter how small it seems.

I will endeavour to listen to all these beautiful women who have recently floated into my life.  For if we can’t learn from those who have stared at their own mortality, who can we learn from?

And now I will press publish on this messy, imperfect post. It isn’t that well-constructed and it doesn’t even have a proper ending – but then again, neither do I. xo.

It is what it is

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I breastfed my three kids for six years (not each, sillies…but all together) and naively thought that made me immune to breast cancer. This is an arrogant way to think: to be so pious to assume others with cancer brought it on themselves and you are somehow above that because you ran marathons or breastfed your babies or didn’t eat sugar.

Cancer doesn’t work that way. That’s the problem with risk factors – they are only factors, not absolutes. And even if this is all my fault, does that mean I deserve any less treatment or compassion? Think about that for a moment. If you believe that, I might be able to sell you a membership to the Republican party.

So when I felt a lump last October, I didn’t become alarmed until the lump resulted in a mammogram and then an ultrasound and then a long biopsy at the end of January. And then, sure enough, a diagnosis of breast cancer followed a week later.

(Note for my friends going through the same process: 80% of biopsies come back benign. If 1 in 9 Canadian women get breast cancer, consider me your ‘1’ out of 9 women you know, including yourself. I’m taking that ‘1’ for the team).

Believe me, I’ve heaped enough blame on myself: I’m soft as opposed to firm and I do enjoy a regular glass of wine. Both are risk factors that I calculated in my darkest hours probably wiped out any advantage from all that childbearing and subsequent breastfeeding.

Then I moved to blaming the environment – hormones in my food (but wait, this meant I didn’t make healthy food choices – damn) or growing up in oil-loving Alberta, with refinery dust settling on me as I biked to elementary school. Since my dad has had two different types of cancer and he worked at the oil refineries, my muddled brain attached itself to this explanation.

(Don’t fear, Alberta friends, this is made up in my head – see this Cancer Report from the Government of Canada for actual facts).

Of course, this is all speculation, also known as the blame part of grief. I went through the same process when my son was born with Down syndrome (My eggs are old and wrinkly! It was the refineries!) to no avail.

As far as a philosophy, my dad, in remission from both leukemia and prostate cancer, says simply, It is what it is. This seems useful.

A friend, who has had a lot of shit happen in her life, says equally profoundly, Shit happens.

Even Science magazine chimes in, saying, “66 per cent of mutations that contribute to cancer are due to unavoidable DNA-replication mistakes.”

Now I have a son with three copies of his 21st chromosome and I’d never consider him a mistake. I have always felt he has a chromosomal difference, not a disorder, and that he is a part of the natural human fabric just like everybody else. Me with my cell-mutation – well, true, it will kill me if I don’t treat it, so that’s a problem. But these things happen.

But in order to inch towards acceptance, I’m going to conclude that shit happens and it is what it is so that I can shut off my monkey brain and sleep at night. In this pre-treatment time, I am attempting to be as kind to myself as possible in order to find a little peace in my heart. I have a sense that I’m going to need to draw upon this peace for some dark days ahead.

leaning out

…or the work-life balance and how I’m totally faking it all the time.

I’ve never struggled this much to prepare a presentation.  I was asked to speak to the Rare Disease Foundation‘s parent support group in Vancouver on the topic of work-life balance.  I pulled some quotes.  Wrote speaking notes.  Created some questions.  The presentation was last night and still I floundered.  I have no definitive solution to how to achieve work-life balance, especially if you have a kid with a disability, like I do.

How do you balance work and life?  I have no freakin’ idea.  I didn’t know how to do it when I had two typically-developing kids in the 1990’s, and I most certainly don’t know how to do it now, with my remaining complicated kid in my nest.

I called my talk Leaning Out to temper Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Leaning In.  Her book is described as ‘compelling women to reach their full potential at work.’ Well, in November, I had to resign from my job because I couldn’t figure out how to be available to my kid and to keep working in a staff position.  So I’ve leaned out.  Way out.

I used to believe that you can have it all, but not all at the same time.  My youngest son has taught me that having it all is overrated – what is this ‘all’ anyhow?  A big house, full-time job, annual tropical vacations?  I think we’ve been sold a big fat lie about what’s really important in life.

My talk was a jumble of what I’ve learned over the past 23 years of motherhood.  In the paid work world, I’ve worked full-time, part-time, on contract and as a freelancer.  Other times I’ve immersed myself in unpaid work.  Some days I fill with grocery shopping and sitting on a log, watching the dogs at Kitsilano dog beach.  In leaning out, I’ve been humbled about how much I don’t know.  It was so easy to adopt an identity when I had a job – it was handed to me in a position description. Now, I’m making it up as I go along.

Here is some inspiration that I lean on instead to find my way.  As Ian Brown says, having a kid with a disability means recalibrating all the time.   Most of this is not in your control. In redefining my own identity, these three philosophies help.

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1. Reject the Perfect
Brene Brown describes this best in her TEDTalk, The Power of Vulnerability. She says, “imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.” We must stop pretending everything is okay all the time and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  To do this, we have to find safe places to let our guards down to stop being ‘special needs mom’ cheerleaders – like with other moms over coffee or Facebook and in support groups like one I spoke to last night.  It is so important to find people who demonstrate that they’ve got your back, no matter what.  (That, and never clean your house before another mom comes over – this sets a really bad precedent).

 

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2.  Embrace the Slow 
Having a kid with a difference forces you to get off the ‘regular person’ treadmill of life.  Life is busy, yes, but in a different way.  You get transported to a different planet that you never bought a ticket to – one with great frustrations with hospitals, society, social services and education systems.  There are times of great slowness – while helping a child get dressed, or waiting for a whole sentence to come out, or summoning all your patience for a kid to finish their meal.  In these slow times, it is so important to embrace the small joy, as Lisa Bonchek Adams gently reminded us.

I’m also fond of this New York Times Essay by Tim Kreider called The Busy Trap.  In it, he says, “busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day”.  Carl Honore’s In Praise of Slow book and movement also offers similar sage guidance.

 

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3.  Remember that unpaid work is work too.
Finally, I suggested banning the words ‘just a mom’ and ‘volunteering’ from your vocabulary.  Work is work is work.  We focus so much on what we do and how we do it, we forget about the why, as Simon Sinek reminds us.  Caring for another vulnerable human being is the most important work there is.  It is what makes our world go round. Our society doesn’t value unpaid work, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t value work that doesn’t come with a paycheque.  Think about writing a Mom Resume that outlines all the skills you’ve acquired since your child was born.  Writing it down gives it power and makes it real.

But sadly for last night’s audience, I had no real wisdom, no solutions, no fixes, no way to achieve this elusive work-life balance. I mostly talked out of my butt, and used other people’s words as inspiration.  I was pleased to spark conversation, and it was heartening that others felt safe enough to open up about their own struggles.

Accept that recalibrating is okay and to be expected.  Talk about your imperfect life in safe spaces.  And value the work you do, even if others don’t.  As I seek acceptance of my current messy life so I can find peace in my heart, I hope you can too – in your own way and in your own time. xo.