Joy Journal

Joy Journal #28: November 23, 2022

There is something beautiful and sacred about the quiet, uninterrupted early morning hours. Although it is hard to get out of bed when the alarm goes off, I cherish the time it offers me to read, write, reflect and move my body. It is a pause before my day starts up in earnest: an instance when I am not a mother, sister or daughter. I am simply a woman taking a moment back for herself. #JoyBlogging

Something to Inspire

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“If you inherently long for something, become it first. If you want gardens, become the gardener. If you want love, embody love. If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation. If you want peace, exude calmness. If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint. If you want to be valued, respect your own time. If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself. This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.”

~Victoria Erickson

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #27: June 30, 2022

One of my favourite things about living in Aix was the daily outdoor market. I love that markets remains a central part of the French culture. It is a beautiful thing to be connected to where your food comes from and the people who bring it to you.

After dropping my daughter at school, I would shop with the vendors every morning. The larger market took place three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It sprawled across most of the old town, and it included clothing, antiques, housewares and fresh food. The smaller food and flower market took place on all other days.

I would wander from the larger gathering at Place des Prêcheurs to the smaller square at Place Richleme, visiting my favourite vendors. It was such a gift to choose from an ever changing, seasonal selection of fresh, locally-sourced produce, cheese, fish and meat.

Throughout our eight weeks spent in the city, I became friendly with many of the people who worked the market stalls and in the local shops (e.g. fish monger and bakery). In a place where I knew very few people, I looked forward to seeing their smiling faces brighten when I approached their stand, or wave their hand in recognition, as I passed by.

Although we did not know each by names, a familiarity grew, and we would warmly ask after each other’s health and well being. They were very kind to me and I deeply appreciated the human connection and a sense of community that came from getting to know all of them. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #26: May 25-29, 2022

My two sisters and my niece came to visit us while we were living in Aix this spring. Our plan was to spend a few days together in the city and then head down to the coast to stay in a popular seaside village, Cassis. Our family had vacationed there fifteen years previously, so it holds a special place in our hearts. We booked our accommodation months in advance, as it was a school holiday, and a very busy time of year in France.

The night before we were to set out, the VRBO owner called to cancel our booking. No real explanation was provided. He just cancelled. Needless to say, it was very upsetting, and everyone was incredibly disappointed as my family had travelled all the way from Canada to return to this special place.

We started researching our options. We looked at hotels. AirBnb. VRBO alternatives. At first, it appeared that there was nothing, as most places were booked up. It looked like we were not going to be able to go. At the last moment, I reached out to one owner on AirBnB, and I explained our situation. It turned out that she had just joined the site, and her rental was not quite ready, but she was willing to make it available to us, due to the circumstances.

The house was located in Saint Cyr-sur-Mer, a charming little town on the Mediterranean. It had a pool and it was within walking distance of the ocean. The place was lovely and it actually surpassed our original booking with its amenities. We all felt very fortunate to have found it and we enjoyed our time there together immensely. During our stay, we took a day trip to Cassis to ocean kayak in the calanques, and we visited our special town.

Although it was a bumpy start to our vacation, the experience turned out to be very memorable and wonderful in the end; and this was entirely thanks to the kindness and generosity of strangers. #JoyBlogging

A Dignified Approach

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“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

A close family member of mine is suffering and he has been suffering for as long as I can remember. The trauma and pain of his childhood has followed him throughout his life, and as it is unresolved, it is further amplified in his old age.

Over the many years of our relationship, I have tried to step in and ‘fix’ the situation. I have acted as his constant source of counsel and support, listening to his concerns and complaints. I have intervened and tried to ‘help’ him take action. And yet, the situation never changes, it never improves. It only swirls around in a deep, toxic mess: repeating and repeating and repeating itself. Upon reflection, I am not sure that anything I have done has ever really helped, it may have just enabled him to stay.

When discussing this situation with my counsellor, she wisely advised me, “You must allow him the dignity of his own suffering.” The dignity of his own suffering. What a concept. What does this mean? Firstly, he is a fully grown man and he chooses to remain firmly rooted in his current state. He stays where he is, and how he is, even if I cannot understand why. Living in pain is his place of comfort. I need to respect that choice.

Secondly, I am learning that it is not my job to ‘fix’ anyone or anything outside of myself. I need to remind myself stay in my own lane. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I am a high-functioning co-dependent, which means that I have disordered boundaries. As a child, I was taught to become overly invested in the feeling states, decisions, outcomes, and circumstances of the people in my life; and this approach has been to the detriment of my own internal peace and wellbeing. 

I recently made the difficult decision to step away from the dynamic described above. Not from the relationship itself but from my traditional role of enabler and confident. I set a strong boundary about what topics we can discuss and not; and rather than trying to find solutions, I am turning the question back upon him. “What do you think is the right thing to do?” I encourage him to trust his inner knowing.

It is hard, as we are learning a new way of being in relationship with one another, after spending over thirty years in the same dysfunctional dance. He does not like it and neither do I. I have to let go and watch him flounder. I worry that he will slip under the water but I cannot throw him a line. I have to trust in his strength and resilience. I must believe that he will swim, if given the opportunity: or accept the possibility that he may not. The bottom line is none of it is within my control. All I can do is keep showing up, holding my boundaries, and finding a way to love him and myself at the same time.

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #25: November 12, 2022

Now that the time has fallen back, and there are less hours of sunlight in the day, my friends and I are back to swimming in the ocean in the early morning hours. Rich in magnesium, seawater helps release stress, relax your muscles and promote deep sleep. Swimming in the sea has also been linked to stimulating the parasympathetic system which is responsible for rest and repair and can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. 

Exposure to full spectrum sunlight in the morning causes our bodies to produce serotonin, which not only helps later on with nighttime sleep, but improves mood throughout the day. Bright lights have been used for a long time as standard treatment for seasonal depression. Outdoor light, even on a cloudy day, delivers considerably more lux than indoor light.

I love this special time with my friends. We always laugh a lot and it is a great micro opportunity to catch up on each others lives. Although I never want to go into the cold water (and it does not get easier), I never regret doing it. It makes my body and mind feel electric for the rest of the day. #JoyBlogging