“Us” and “Them” a Divisive Way to Think

When I was nine years old I remember very distinctively a conversation my dad had with me. He sat me down and explained to me the importance of not treating people differently based on their ethnic background or their mental or physical limitations. I felt the import of what he was trying to say very clearly.

Throughout my life I can see many areas where I have observed just the opposite of this take place. Even in myself at times, I’ve let the subtle attitudes of others around me affect me even though I knew better. Let me tell you an embarrassing story.

When I was a teenager I worked at a fast food restaurant, Wendy’s. I saw one girl about my age, get hired with a physical disability. She was a short, sweet girl, with one arm that did not work. It appeared to have never grown.

Immediately after her arrival, behind the counters there was talk. She was assigned to clean the dining area which got a little chaotic during the lunch period. The women I worked with were considerably older than me during that day time shift. I want to include that detail because this wasn’t the mindless talk of the young- these were parents and adults. They criticized her for her limitations, and complained about her to management.

Slowly this negative talk started to creep in on me and my thinking. One lunch hour I went to help her because she was behind, and I remember walking over irritated. As I stood by her cleaning trays, she spoke to me in her sweet, mild manner and the emotions in me shifted. I was humbled. What was wrong with me? I knew better. This was a decent human being with just as much right as any to work, and all that negative talk was foolish and prejudiced. The sad part?

Management listened to the complaints of all the jackals, those negative women, and my friend was let go. Looking back now it’s hard to believe this is something I witnessed, that actually took place. It seems so unethical now and I wonder how many times this has repeated itself through history.

I see these patterns take place in many ways. A common problem I’ve seen in Canada, is how French Canadians are spoken of along with the First Nations community, and Americans just south of the border. I’m not even touching on anything political, just interesting comments people make that show they are using the pattern of “us” and “them” creating divide that they don’t even realize.

I can happily say that I have dear friends that come from all of these backgrounds and more! Taking the time to get to know people from different cultures or countries than yourself definitely widens your perspective. However it wasn’t always that way for me.

I remember feeling prejudiced about French Canadians, without being aware of it. It wasn’t until I lived in Mexico, and actually happened to befriend a girl from Quebec that I changed my tune. It’s so simple. In any culture or country, their will be ignorant people but there are also good people- like you and me. We can’t label everyone to be a certain way. Now my husband is French and I am confronted by strange negative comments about his culture by people who have no idea they are actually carrying around prejudice. I feel like I’m constantly on the defence, and this is a man with the same colour skin as myself but a different culture and language.

When people are different, or come from somewhere different, it doesn’t make them somehow inferior or us superior. In fact, every person has something superior to you and me, be it a quality or skill, someone else has something better than you have. It’s good to recognize that instead of trying to bring them down.

Some people have never had the opportunity to be on the side of the “others”. If you’ve always been raised around people like you, with little exposure to other cultures and ways. I experienced this for the first time in a tiny town in Guatemala. First of all, in a different country, new language. Second, in a volunteer group made of 98% American who were actually almost all from the same State. We looked the same, and spoke the same language, had the same goals to make a difference but I spoke just a tiny bit different from them. Then came the jokes, and nit picking on these differences. “Why do you say that? That’s so weird. That’s wrong”. There is no right and wrong, it’s just different.

It was so minor in the grand scheme of things but it was frustrating being the odd man out. Nobody recognized how this made me feel and I realized, I was the “other”. An experience I’m grateful for now because it taught me I don’t want to make anyone else feel that way. We need empathy for others, what would it really feel like to be an outsider… imagine it, and get to know them.

I’ve even touched on this sort of “us” and “them” thinking when it comes to personality types. Some have a strange sense of superiority to be classed a certain way. “My type is the best” and the others are somehow lesser. Again, remember EVERYONE has something superior to you. Then you will have no need to feel superior again.

If you look closely, you can find this in almost any category of life. Once you see it, it’s hard to ignore. It’s good to take the time to recognize it and be cognizant because just like in my own personal experience, the subtle prejudice of others can rub off on us and our thinking.

That’s all.

The Logistician, or ISTJ

The little sister you didn’t know you needed, until now

I’ve been wanting to dabble into writing on other personality types from the Myers Briggs typology test, so here goes. What is this personality test? You can read more about the study here.

You may not appreciate my fascination with this, and that’s fine. Part of the reason I became interested in this personality test was because of the ISTJ. What is that?

It is a specific personality, under the “Sensor” or “Sentinel” category. The letters are an acronym that stands for: introverted, sensing, thinking and judging. This is also the personality type of my younger sister.

To break it down as simply as possible, I’ll briefly describe aspects of what this means (if you can add any extra thoughts in the comments you are more than welcome to share). Introversion vs. Extroversion is described as how we get our energy, either alone (introverts) or with people (extroverts). However it has been said that the healthiest place for a person to be is somewhere in the middle, which also has its own name now (ambivert). Both my sister and I have tested as introverts, but as we get older and move outside our comfort zones we are definitely becoming more ambiverted as time goes.

Sensing (her second letter in the acronym) has been described as how we take in information. For her, and many, it would be through the five senses. What you physically see, hear, smell, you get the picture. Don’t we all do that? Of course. However this describes a category of people who are more grounded and present than others.

I on the other hand have a difficulty being mentally present even while physically present because I’m somewhat of a dreamer and am frequently lost in thought trails. Sensors have an easier time appreciating the here and now, and not getting lost in the past/future or reading in between the lines. This is a feature I’ve come to appreciate more and try to learn more from in my sensor friends.

The “T” stands for thinking, as mentioned. Obviously we all think, and use our brains (or at least we would like to think so). Thinkers are described as using logic to determine their decision making skills. Putting feelings aside, they will take the most logical course of action. While others, such as myself may have a difficult time implementing logical courses if I know it may hurt someone else’s feelings so I try to do it in a very delicate way. My sister at least has no problem telling you how it is as directly as possible. “I don’t use fluffy words”, as she’s said before.

It’s not to say they don’t have feelings that can blur logic. Feelings are fundamental to human nature (unless, perhaps for sociopaths?). I’ve seen this many times, and I believe it’s often forgotten that feelings such as anger, frustration, etc are just that… feelings. Not all feelings are of the “fluffy” sort. I’ve also seen sensors fall head over heels, hopelessly in love, even foolishly time again just as any “Feeling” type personality would.

Last but not least, we have the “J”/judging nature. While this can literally mean to judge, it more stands for those who prefer a sense of routine and order. Those who prefer rules, knowing what is expected of them, deadlines, etc. We can all be flexible in how much we might lean one way (like being a person of order/routine) but some of us lean a little more this way than others.

Why did this personality type fuel my desire to learn more about personalities? My whole life, my sister and I have had personalities that can feel like oil and water. Sometimes we just can’t see eye to eye.

It’s not to say we don’t get along, on the contrary…When it comes to humour, and what kinds of movies or books we prefer, we are on the same page. We’ve even shared the same friends most of our lives. We can have a really good laugh, and we used to entertain my mom together on our long car rides home from town.

However when it came to interpersonal skills, for me, I didn’t understand why she would go about one way. To me, it was clear cut and albeit logical that to say something to someone in a certain manner, would get this type of reaction. She would end up in these similar predicaments of conflict and I felt like I needed to help her, help her come to my logic and understanding. What was common sense to me, was not to her.

On the flip side, she has had many frustrations with me when it comes to my understanding of technical things, and of why she felt the need to say or do things a certain way. I didn’t have the common sense that she possessed.

Learning that there are a whole group of people whose minds work in this way, helped me to understand that neither my way nor hers was necessarily correct. There is more than one way to be, and one way to perceive a matter. It has helped me to appreciate her more instead of feeling the need to correct or adjust her.

Nobody works as tirelessly as she does to reach a goal. She will bend herself backwards, and work thanklessly in behalf of others time and again to the point I think she’s going to crash and burn. She always manages to get back up again, like some sort of super human.

She is also fiercely loyal to her friends. She doesn’t let a lot of people in, so if you’ve been chosen you’re among a special few. It also means that each gift and act of service she does for you will go above and beyond. These will fill a very specific need or want that you may have thought nobody noticed. She did, because she’s observant and caring. Even if it’s difficult for her to say “I love you”, you will know she feels it by how she spoils you with her generosity and selflessness to serve you.

Not all ISTJ’s may fit this bill. I find that the same types may share a similar foundation, and leaning, but what they build off of that foundation is entirely unique to them. So don’t worry, I won’t pigeonhole any two to be identical by any means.

Do you know any ISTJ’s?

Discovering Your History

We all know and see traits whether it be physical or a certain manner from our parents/grandparents, we see where we got our eyes from or our walk. Its still amazing to me how we pass on little pieces of ourselves for generations. Can you think of a trait you have that everyone in your family says “you got that from…”?

Everyone says I look like my mom, and laugh like her (it’s probably more of a cackle than anything). Little pieces of me don’t belong to her, like my eyes, or my personality, but it’s still fascinating. Even children separated from their parents can display manners and interests from their birth families.

Who even cares to ponder these things? I do! I love people watching and seeing families go by and wondering their stories but also clearly seeing some definitive traits that have been passed on. We are obviously more than our exteriors, with each our own rich inner worlds and experiences that shape us to be who we are today and tomorrow… and still there are some things we inherit like hand me down clothes from those before us.

Experiences, such as trauma can be generational. Certain talents or interests can also “run in the family” as they say. Do you ever wonder about those oddities about yourself that nobody else has?

I feel like the only highly sensitive empath in a sea of rational thinkers sometimes in my family. Where did I come from? Why am I the way that I am?

I love to have chats with my grandma for this very reason. I’m thankful I have not one but two grandmas left. I love to hear family stories, about the great and great grand grandparents… their lives, and their history. What made the family who it is, what changed or who stayed the same?

I didn’t grow up with all of my family around but still enough. My family, on both sides are all immigrants from Finland. My grandparents immigrated to Canada and this is where I eventually came into the picture but interestingly enough I actually have aunts, uncles and cousins in Finland.

Side note this is another story BUT my maternal grandfather left a family behind in Finland, that I was unaware of until I was a teenager. One of my aunts came to visit us in Canada. Unfortunately but these stories of abandoned families are all but too common.

Thinking of immigrants, and all the many nationality’s, cultures, and languages out there we all have so much variety to draw on. Some cultures are known for certain qualities or traits but obviously we do learn that we can’t pigeon hole entire nations/cultures to be a certain way just as I exemplify in my little family that some just don’t fit in the same. I’m thankful for the variety and I’m glad we can take the time to enjoy the beauty in other cultures, and all learn from each other.

Do you wonder how much you would change if you were from another culture or family? For instance, my French-Canadian husband will tease me, imitating me with a straight face saying “this is amusing” when something is funny. I consider myself an expressive person but maybe not as much as compared to others? I can be more reserved and closed off, like most Finns I suppose. I don’t laugh very easily, or maybe it’s my humour but I usually irritate jokesters because I won’t just laugh for anyone or anything. What about you? Can you think of cultural qualities you might have?

Sometimes as a feeling personality I “feel” out of place in my family. Yet also out of place with other typical Canadian traits (although I do apologize more than my fair share) and also out of place with native Finlanders. Can you relate?

I laugh thinking about this. My sister had a project to write about her family in French class and of me she wrote: “Nadia est le mouton noir de la famille” (Nadia is the black sheep of the family). We have an odd dry humour, that makes digs at each other but perhaps there was some truth behind her words.

Black sheep, or white sheep, I find family dynamics and history so intriguing. This post is more of my rambles and musings with no real concrete information, just looking to find likeminded thinkers on the discovery of your history. It’s for this reason I love those shows on finding your ancestry.

Hopefully I’ve left you with some thoughts, and a reminder: if you have grandparents to reach out to, please do. Learning family history can only go so far, once they are gone all that knowledge leaves with them. I can also note that most older ones feel neglected by the young and so personal interest in them and their story is sure to brighten their day.

Baking with grandma is a favourite pastime of mine

Also, it’s important to remember that you can create new, healthier patterns to pass down. I was always so terrified when I was younger that I was doomed to follow the same pattern as my parents. You can break the mould, and that part is oh so freeing once you realize it.

Happy Tuesday.

A Woman In The Trades

“Girls can’t”…. scratch that, they can.

This is something I’ve neglected to write very much about

. This is what I do for a living. Writing about mental health, past experiences, personalities, are all deep interests of mine but they don’t pay the bills.

Women in the trades are growing, even though locally each woman may feel isolated and definitely of the minority. Just to think, I would have never imagined myself working in the trades only because I never saw it as a real viable option. I never saw another woman doing these sorts of things, this was a “man’s job”. There was no one I could point to and say when I was young, I want to be like her (in the trades).

You could say that’s because of the time period I grew up in but no. Talking to young girls today about the trades I still hear the phrase “man’s job”. It’s just not well represented with women, and not all women may enjoy this or choose this path but I do and I’ll share a little why.

First, what do I mean when I say I work in the trades? There are so many trades! I would say general carpentry. What I mean would include things such as: framing, roofing, flooring, tiling, drywall, taping, mudding, wood panelling, etc (not a finish carpenter, I don’t do cabinets, or any furniture although the latter would be a dream to learn some day).

I love working hard. I am very much an over thinker, I live inside my head and I need a break from myself! Working physically with my hands is a break in a sense. Typically I think in terms of the big picture, society, people, topics that weigh heavy on my mind and heart. When I’m at work I don’t have that pressure, I’m thinking about creating, I am thinking about what’s right in front of me.

You need an eye for detail, and you need to think ahead (not in a big picture where is society heading kind of way). I think women’s minds tend to work especially well in those areas, at least my husband seems to tell me. For a job to be done right, it has to be square, and plumb. I think especially with taping and mudding, it has to be smooth, there’s a bit of a Goldilocks aspect where there’s too much, not enough, and just right. It takes time and effort to learn these skills but it is so satisfying when you can look back at a job well done.

Work doesn’t consume me at home. I leave my work at work. We keep it simple and don’t take on more clients than we need or reasonably can do because we want to stick to a team of two, and so I’m not worrying about drumming enough work for a crew or handling many clients and orders.

I have a really good mentor, my husband, who is very patient and gives me confidence to try things outside of my comfort zone. Not everyone has that unfortunately, whether in a husband or Family crew member. A lot of women have expressed frustration being left the clean up jobs, or not given enough credit for their skill and being left with smaller jobs because of their gender.

In my opinion, women can do just about as much because tools let us work smart not hard. By that I mean, you don’t have to have all of the strength (and even with that said, we know there are some of you women who could out-lift your average man). There are only a few jobs I find that require a level of blunt force or upper body strength that might be difficult but even then not impossible for me or any other female. Most lifting should be done with your legs, and women have got that covered… I mean, they carry a whole other human being for nine months, those legs are pretty powerful gifts.

Do I sometimes feel discouraged or put down because of my gender? Yes. There’s a few odd comments, but the funny thing about me is if you give me any resistance I fight harder. I work harder to prove myself.

I look back and smile because even as a kid, we were in mini cars racing around a track and one boy hit my car on the side, and blew past me. My little face changed from one of pure delight to one of determination with only one thing on my mind “beat him” and I did. Unbeknownst to me, my mom and aunt were watching me laughing because they could read my face and body language and knew I was out to prove myself.

For you unbelievers, don’t knock it till you try it, or until you see a hard working trades woman for yourself. I’m not an advocate by any means, and I’m not even trying to push a feminist agenda on you… just sharing one of my many experiences in life.

A Thank You To Foster Parents

Foster parents, we wish they didn’t have to exist but we are so glad they do.

If you look up the word foster, it has two major definitions. 1. To encourage the development of something (or someone in this case). 2. To raise a child you did not give birth to. I found that interesting because a good foster parent does both: they raise a child they didn’t give birth to, and they encourage and nurture the development of that child.

Why do I wish foster parents didn’t exist? Well in a perfect world parents would not only give birth but raise their own children with love and care, looking after their physical, emotional and mental needs. In such a world kids wouldn’t have to be protected from their own parents, and have the trauma of being removed from such ones.

Aren’t we glad that since we aren’t in that perfect world, that some good hearted people exist to help fill in that gap? To fill the void of those parents and offer the care and nurturing these children need to exist and thrive. With that said, I know not all foster parents are good or safe so this is dedicated to those good ones.

I met a woman who fostered children for some thirty years, who is now retired. She and her husband volunteered to help an infant whom they were told would only survive a few months, and as time went on this child continued to thrive and lived for some nine years! This child required a lot of extra care to live even those nine short years and so with this extra experience they didn’t plan on, they were able to care for many foster children with serious disabilities. They sold their comfortable log cabin home to build a custom home to suit children with these disabilities out of the kindness of their hearts. I was baffled to hear their story and yet I know they are not alone.

While raising her own young children (and even being forced to look after her younger siblings after her parents left them), my maternal grandmother became a foster mom. She, to this day is very much a natural nurturer. She told me one simple story of a little boy, about two years old who was so afraid of taking a bath because of the abuse he received (among his mistreatment included scolding hot baths, which naturally left him terrified). He would not even let her undress him. What she did was told her two boys to climb in the bath and play and let the little boy see how safe it was and instructed them that if the boy should want to climb in, to let him, even in his clothes. After a while observing the older boys having fun and happy in the bath, he gave it a try himself, and he never gave her any issues about bath time ever again.

It was such a simple story, but it highlighted to me the love and careful thought that has to go into raising children not your own. These are children who come with baggage, left with trauma and extra fears, perhaps FAS/FASD, attachment disorders, mental health struggles or possibly some serious health concerns. These foster parents take on more than your fair share, and have to be prepared to say goodbye at any given time. It can be heartbreaking.

I myself, along with my one younger sister was in foster care. My foster parents were my aunt and uncle. They had been approved as foster parents, so when my sister and I were taken from our home by children’s aid- they naturally placed us with them. I can’t imagine two teenagers would be easy to take on, especially as they were trying to grow a family and learn to take on new foster children whom they would later adopt and yet they did. They took us on without question, and provided that care and nurturing after the initial shock of leaving our old home behind.

I observed in their home, infants, toddlers and children who would come for a weekend as a respite or for several months with each their own unique struggles. I would help sing them to sleep and give them bottles… I found myself attaching to each of them, learning to love and accept these new figures in my life and then have to watch them leave.

I’ll never forget a little blonde curly haired boy named Tristan. Anxiously attached, he had such strong separation anxiety, making it so difficult to do simple chores like the dishes while watching him. There was something about his sweet little way that I loved, and then he was approved to live with his grandparents and left.

In time as my aunt and uncle were growing a family of their own, it was then that another couple volunteered to take us on. Our time with them helped prepare us for the final stage of childhood, to venture out on our own. Simple tasks like how to prepare dinner, keep a job, be responsible with money and looking after a home seem so small and yet without them where would we be? They took the time to teach us these valuable lessons all the while loving us, sacrificing for us and enduring the crazy outbursts from my mother when she found out where they lived.

I so appreciate the ones who make these sacrifices, who learn to love and nurture children who are not their own. It takes a special sort of person to take on this huge undertaking. I’m thankful for the fostering I’ve experienced, the fostering my little brothers are experiencing right now, and for all the rest.

Thank you.

Why I Don’t Subscribe to: Follow for Follow

I’ll follow you if you follow me back, no or you follow me and I’ll follow you back. Something I didn’t hear of or think of ten years ago. I’ve also, as a disclaimer, usually been late to the party when it comes to whatever new fads or social media pages come up.

I see this all the time now that I’ve created work social media’s and even a blog site. People coming and going. There’s this fickleness, and a sense of pressure, and they come and go.

Why did you set out to create a page in the first place? Was it to have the most followers or catch some short sighted form of fame? Or was it to reach people with similar views, to share creative works or ideas and hopefully touch someone, or create a network for learning and growing from others insights?

I sit with myself and question what’s most important to me. Is this what I want? What’s my goal here?

Out of kindness, and feeling pressure… feeling naive and new to the game I’ve sunk into the follow for follow game and I hate it. The kind of people following are not the ones genuinely interested in me or anything I have to say or do, and again, they’re fickle. Here one day and gone the next. You start to question yourself, was that post bad, too honest? It’s all to easy to fall into feeling personally rejected.

On the flip side, out of pressure you could follow a page that does not serve you because of feeling pressured. Being overloaded with too much information (I get overwhelmed by frequent posts and I can’t keep up, so I back out), or information that doesn’t fit you… doesn’t make you feel good, and then what’s the point of that?

I don’t like the follow for follow, eager, and anxious to build up an empire… To me it looks like an empire of vanity. What good is it to sit on a mountain of cardboard boxes? You might sit high for a while, but your foundation isn’t stable and it’s bound to crumble underneath you.

Less is more.

Less follows, with more quality people. Doing what serves you and feels good for you, putting aside pressure and vanity. Less overload.

I understand some people are out there trying to create a business and they need more followers, more potential clients, but again- you need quality to get there. I’m not a business woman and I’m not out here even trying to make money, I’m just here to enjoy the ride and find creative outlet. However, I do know that a fickle crowd won’t help you grow a business either.

Always remember that your follows do not amount to your worth as a person. I’m not sure who needs to hear that, but I’m saying it anyways. Happy Tuesday!

-Nadia Liisa

Oh the freedom from the weight of pressure to perform

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

More than a popular quote, or a phrase to put on your wall… these words speak the truth. How grateful I am that I went out of my comfort zone. Are you contemplating a big move whether it be in your profession, location, or in some other way? Are you holding back?

Fear. Fear of the great unknown. Fear of change. Fear of failure. These fears can be suffocating.

All I had known was my small city, isolated in a rural area with many hours to the next small town. All I had known was my own comfortable language and culture, and my convenient job that paid well. I had my friends, family, everything I needed in one comfortable place.

Change was forced upon me when my sister got married. My roommate, my buddy, was leaving me- for a boy! This is an important reminder that change will happen sometimes whether we like it or not. This can come in the form of someone around us making a big change who’s a part of our life (a move, marriage, you name it!), or in the form of unexpected life events (job cutbacks, pandemic, illness, accident, etc).

It is then we learn to roll with the punches because there is no other choice. Considering that however, made it apparent to me that change would happen regardless. If I stayed, life would continue to change around me, and I had to decide if I wanted to stay or be a part of the change.

I remember the wise mentor who happened upon my life when I was 17 but then later moved in my early twenties. She was a traveller herself, having lived in Ireland and the big city, she had crazy stories of roommates and cultural lessons that I admired so much. She told me “You need the people who stay, and the people who go”.

I am one of the ones who go. I knew it in my gut. I was a big fish in a little pond and I needed to explore, to test my comfort levels. I was the quiet awkward one, who never said boo. Just another one of the girls. I wanted to grow and learn more of what I was capable of.

The rest is history. I moved to a busier, bustling area 16 hours away with all of my belongings in one van. I had to start new work and save. For what? My next adventure: living in a foreign country.

I had read that three months abroad was enough time to get the sense of a place and to really understand it and what life is like there. That was my plan. I wanted to really feel the sense of what it was to be somewhere else.

I booked a plane ticket to Mexico, and set my sails for adventure. The three months came and went, and I didn’t want to leave. I extended my stay and all in all spent about a year in Mexico and in and around Guatemala.

I met new friends, experienced new roommates from different countries and cultures. I gained perspective for other people. I saw more suffering and poverty, and questioned the life we were supposed to swallow as ‘what we ought to do’… to settle and buy a home, work full time until I retire and then I could travel. I decided it wasn’t for me, I would be a nonconformist. I could decide my own life, even at the disapproval and bewilderment of others.

I felt free, and alive.

I learned I could be funny, and loud, and adventurous. I didn’t know these things about myself before, back in the life of my safe bubble. I learned to roll a foreign tongue off my lips, clumsily, and understand new speech, new expressions and understanding.

I didn’t stay because another adventure awaited me. Adventure continues to await, and I’m so thankful that so many years ago now I decide to say “yes” to my dreams.

No more “should I” or “shouldn’t I” and lots more “I can do this”.

Would I imagine as a little girl, that I would have adventures in Mexico and abroad? That I would sing spanish songs to Mexican taxi drivers? That I would learn Chinese eat squid, or learn to make dumplings? Would I have imagined I would learn carpentry and help build a gym, or a studio for filming? Never in my wildest dreams.

I reflected on these lessons after a morning on zoom with a dear friend of mine from Mexico’s daughter. Special friends made so long ago are still meaningful to me, and now their beautiful children. It’s a blessing is it not?

What adventure awaits you?

The best is yet to come, and it’s right outside of your comfort zone!

The Past, and You

We cannot change the past but we can be like my friend Jamila and change the ending.

That was then and this is now”. How much stock should we put in the past? We can’t change the past, and we certainly don’t want to live in it but does it affect us?

This is something that baffles me because it seems at this day and age it shouldn’t be a question.

I will take you back to the past with one memory sitting in my doctors office. We were discussing the book Mind Over Mood together, a cognitive behavioural therapy book I was encouraged to use in counselling a few years prior. My doctor was keen to spend some time to continue the book with me since I had moved and it was part of her training, although not a therapist herself.

We were looking at some current sources of anxiety and she asked why it was a source of anxiety, and I thought to myself, and said perhaps it’s because such and such happened in the past and maybe it’s connected that way. “No, that can’t be because that was a long time ago.”

At that moment I knew these sessions couldn’t continue.

I am a firm believer that we don’t have to let our pasts define us. Just as some abuse and behaviour might carry on through generations, I know we can (with much effort) break the cycle. We don’t have to become our parents.

At the same time, I am forced to recognize that the past does affect us. Otherwise post traumatic stress disorder would not exist. Trauma and life experience can shape how people think and behave. I even think of attachment theory and how childhood experiences affect how we form relationships, in healthy or unhealthy styles.

For some people, maybe you are one or can think of one… talking openly about trauma, struggles or anything vulnerable is too uncomfortable. For others it’s necessary to share to be able to move past it. Both valid, and you can go too extreme in either direction so it’s not that one is inherently better than the other.

A friend of mine, let’s call her Jamila, grew up in a home where she experienced all forms of abuse from her father. She grew into a thriving young woman, met the man of her dreams, married and then past trauma started to resurface. As much as she loved her husband, the close relationship brought up a lot of uncomfortable parts from her past she had pushed down for too long. In her 30s now, she was experiencing difficult mental health, and physical health problems (our emotions and stress can actually affect us with serious ailments). It was then she was able to get help from a therapist, and learn to successfully cope with her past.

Others can come out of tough backgrounds seemingly unscathed. My mom’s mom, once told me they didn’t have things like depression in her time and she had experienced a rough life herself but she just got on with it. Does that invalidate Jamila’s struggle?

What do you think? Can the past affect us today? Is this a valid question?

Do we need to let things go? Yes of course, but some things take time and may require extra assistance… and there is nothing wrong with that. Everyone has their own load to carry, and their own unique makeup so we can’t impose our way of doing things or our experiences on another.

It can be helpful to learn from one another. To understand you are not alone. Hopefully that’s what this blog has done for you.

Want to let go of the past but having a hard time? Here’s an article for you.

Learn to write your own happy ending and use your past to fuel your ambition to be better and make a better world. It’s entirely up to you and it’s all in your hands. It’s exciting, and it’s all yours.

-Nadia

Feeling Good: The Book Club

This is a first for me

I just joined an informal book club with a group of friends two weeks ago. Our goal is to read a chapter a week and share parts that we enjoyed. I’ve only ever known book clubs to be something fictional, from movies or books, or something only highly sophisticated people did with too much time on their hands.

Does anyone watch The Office? Do you remember the “Finer Things Club”? No? It’s just me? Okay…

Like me, my friend had gone through some counselling and been recommended a cognitive behavioural therapy book. The one she was recommended was: Feeling Good by David D. Burns, M.D. After discontinuing counselling she was going to continue the book on her own but with no accountability, it was left on the shelf to collect dust for some years.

This pandemic has brought out some of the worst in us through the isolation, uncertainty in the world, fear, and anxiety. If you have any baggage that hasn’t been dealt with, you’re looking it straight in the face right now. Even for the relatively healthy and stable ones, they’re being tested like never before.

So it seemed as good a time as any to start the book club. She reached out to our group chat. Four of us women have all moved to different places, and are each living our separate lives but we love to keep in touch and up to date on each other’s lives. Amazingly, we all agreed to join the club.

I hit chapter two and there was a test, a depression checklist. It was a little alarming to receive my results. I had to be honest with how I was really doing and it’s a little discouraging but at the same time I feel grateful to be facing this head on because obviously I have some work to do.

I have learned in my very short experience with the book club that Bibliotherapy is real. Also, it can be just as effective as medication if not more… and even more if used in conjunction with medication and or therapy. So basically, you will only benefit yourself trying, and it can add to whatever treatments you are currently doing and it’s just the cost of a book.

I wanted to mention this so that I can occasionally write some insights I’ve learned and any noticed progress. As part of the book, it’s recommended to take the test to gauge progress with our mental health at regular intervals (even weekly).

If you would like to see the test yourself see here.

If you score between 0-5 this is considered normal, you’re relatively happy and content. Scores between 6-10 are still normal but could use a little improving. Scores between 11-25 are considered a mild depression, and if it persists should be treated professionally. Between 26-50 is considered moderate depression, which while labeled moderate is not to downplay anyone’s suffering. Scoring above 50 is considered severe to extreme depression!

With that said I should mention Doctor David Burns says: “it is not wise to try to treat a severe depression on your own.”

We shall see how it goes. It seems promising and perhaps I’ll do a monthly update on my progress. For now it’s a very interesting journey four friends are on together. If nothing else we educate ourselves a little more, learn a few coping techniques and draw closer in understanding as friends.

What do you think? Would you try something like this?

Are You Comfortable in Your Own Skin?

Are you? I am trying to be.

The human body is incredible. Just think for a moment how fantastic it is to have hands. Hands can create, write, carry, caress a loved one, and build. Or what about our legs? They can lift, dance, bounce a baby, and carry us to the top of a mountain! We have so many wonderful parts to us, and granted they all may work differently from one to another but we have an amazing gift to live inside the human body.

Why is it so difficult to love? I read a beautiful quote saying “I love that part”. We can say that about a song, but why not say it about our body? We have so many parts to love and cherish.

Our society, culture, family, the media all play a role in how we see body image. My friend was a missionary in Africa, and the women there would call her a fat bottom. This woman was a healthy weight, and to a Canadian-those words could cut. “They think I’m fat?” Except, in this particular area to have fat, or a “fat bottom” meant that you had enough money to eat well. It was a compliment.

I think too of the models in media displayed as the ideal… now think, how common is it to have such tall and slender people in your area? Is it not more of a rarity? How can we all strive to meet these expectations? Is it realistic?

My husband is a wonderful man, and always helps me to reason better on these issues. He used a few men we know as an example, and how each of them have wildly different builds. Adrian, for example is a very slender man. Unable to gain much weight but still muscular and lean. Another man, Jeff is revered for his muscular build, while actually not being a very tall man. He looks like a typical strong man, a “Samson” if you will. Then we have Caleb, a very tall man reaching the heights of 6”5, neither very muscular or too slender. Each man has different characteristics that the other just cannot reasonably attain because of their make and build. Yet, there is nothing wrong in any of them, they’re just different.

Take too, the example of an image I saw of six women all of the same weight: 154lbs. They have all different heights, from very tall to short, and different ways of carrying weight… some women with bigger thighs, smaller thighs, bigger chests to smaller chests- you get the picture. They all weigh the same, so it’s not as though one weight could be seen as the ideal- even for the same age category of women. We come in all shapes and sizes, how can we hold to the same standards?

It’s for this reason I don’t own or use a scale. The idea of a number, for me personally, cannot control or define me. My mother had unhealthy ideals. “I never let myself pass such and such a number”. If she ever did, or was getting close, she would stop eating for a couple of days. She would reign herself in. I hated that she shared these warped standards with me because they would haunt me.

One boyfriend of my mothers’, who became my second stepdad… told her he would pay her a dollar for every pound she lost. She would pride herself in her self control to be able to meet these standards. Yet I saw how the tore her up inside.

This is the woman kids would point to in a mall, tugging on their moms coat and saying “Look mom, it’s Barbie!”. The woman, young teenage boys at my high school would open doors for and grin dirtily and tell me “your mom’s hot”. The woman who had her breasts augmented, her eyes lifted, got her skin Botox injected, and hair coloured bleach blonde, clinging to the youth and beauty she never ever wanted to let go of.

The sad part? Her beauty will fade, and then what? What will she be left with?

Is it the worst thing in the world to be called “fat”? Or “ugly”?

I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’?

J.K Rowling

I believe in taking care of my body. Giving it enough food to work hard, and to function properly. I don’t want to deprive it, because I need my body, and love it. I believe in exercise, it helps my mind think clearer and makes me stronger (remember, I do work in the trades…). I will not work myself to the bone, exercising for weight or image ideals.

I cannot look like you, and you cannot look like me. We can try to be the best versions of ourselves. Possibly by learning to love ourselves a little more… loving the skin we are in.

This is a reminder for me. The little girl raised by Ken and Barbie, who both lived a life of vanity. I cannot and will not be Barbie, but I can be me.

Ken and Barbie.

You’re not ugly, you just feel that way.

-My husband, bless his heart.