Archives for posts with tag: childhood

Remember that old game of Truth or Dare? The one where you had a choice of telling the truth OR taking a dare. Showing your cowardice or courage. What were you willing to do? A game that held exhilaration and dread all wrapped neatly into one messy secretive childhood right of passage.

Soooo….

I dare you…

I dare you to be bold, for “boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”

I dare you to be brilliant, strong and clear, vivid and bright”

I dare you to see beautiful,  be you.

Genius, Power and Magic!

Strong Clear Vivid and Bright!

Be You

I dare you.

All it takes is a little courage, a little daring. And you know what?

Here’s the truth, it’s in you! And it’s in me too.

So dare to dare yourself!

It really is all good, it’s just about how you choose to look at things. Do you dare darlings?

©2017 J Fries/Rise Like Air

 

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I love Marcel Proust quotes and this morning seemed a good day to remind myself of a few of my favourites.  While curled up waiting for my tea to steep I thought that just maybe someone else would enjoy his wisdom on this Tuesday as well.

 

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.

My personal favourite. I have never ceased to be amazed at how  a different perspective can literally change my world.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

Is there a better feeling than experiencing a soul blossoming?

If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.

So many argue this point, but those I know who have given up on dreaming seem to have given up on the joy of life too.

We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.

Probably the hardest lesson I am still learning. And what a journey it is.  I am honoured to a part of so many wonderful people’s journey.

We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full.

Being a procrastinator and avoider I argued this one for a very long time and still like to put my fingers in my ears and go “lalalalala” but, yes, “what you resist persists” And boy oh boy, does it ever……

Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.

Sigh, need we really say more….

Everything great in the world comes from neurotics. They alone have founded our religions and composed our masterpieces.

Ok, maybe not EVERYTHING but…… you have to admit there does seem to be a possible connection…. maybe…

Only through art can we emerge from ourselves and know what another person sees.

Still mulling this one, but I have to admit there is something about those aha moments….

Illness is the doctor to whom we pay most heed; to kindness, to knowledge, we make promise only; pain we obey.

I really really want to argue this one but there is at least some truth in it for far too many of us.

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.

Oh to have the days of childhood and endless reading.

 

So there you have it, some of my favourite Marcel Proust quotes to ponder this terrific Tuesday.  And if it’s not so terrific?  I have a suggestion….. go back to quote #1 and give it a shot.  Change up your eyes and shift that perspective.  You might just be amazed.

©2016 JFries/Rise Like Air

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We’ve all had bad things happen to us. We’ve faced challenges, been dealt hands we’d rather not play. But it’s play what you’ve got or play nothing at all. There’s really no sitting out.  It’s game on. What’s your next move? That depends on the player.

Some people choose to sit back and complain, maybe loudly, maybe quietly but the first card of the game is played, the Victim card.  “Woe is me. What did I do to deserve this?  I’m a good person!”

This determines the second card often chosen, the Blame card. “It’s not my fault!  If that hadn’t happened…  If she would have… But no one told me…”

The final card is thrown down with vigour. The Despair card. “There’s nothing I can do!  I’m too insignificant, I’m the victim after all!  Won’t someone else fix this?”

It’s understandable. Tough challenges, disappointments, well, they just aren’t fair, or fun.

photo-5

So while the reaction is understandable it doesn’t affect much benefit. Instead there’s more wallowing in self pity and sorrow. Still not experiencing much fun. Nothing gets better.

But then there is another kind of player. These players get knocked down, but they get up again.  Even if that means getting back up many times.

I Get Knocked Down Again by Chumbawumba

Their approach to the game is different. The first card they prefer to play is the Patience card. They get their bearings, see what they’re really up against, size up the situation.

The second card they select is Determination.  Strategies are considered and they proceed to carry out the plan adjusting as required along the way.

Weeble’s commercial circa 1970s

Their third and final card, played without fanfare, is Resilience. They turn into Weebles® if you remember the toy from the 1970’s. Their slogan was  “Weebles wobble but they don’t  fall down.”  Resilience means they keep at it and are set up to handle whatever their opponent has planned. They do what they need to to meet the challenge, to succeed.  They may wobble a bit but they won’t fall down, not now. They play the hand they’re dealt and more often than not they come out ahead. If they don’t, they adjust again.

I recently came across a young father who is busy playing the hand he and his family have been dealt with a smile. It’s a hand many of us may think about folding on but not Darren. Our first encounter was nothing really special. We are both members of Life Vest Inside and I saw a request come through from Darren that said his son was turning 10. If anyone was interested he’d appreciate some happy birthday wishes.  It seemed an easy way to spread a little kindness and cheer so I popped off a message.  His subsequent post of appreciation put his original request into context.

As it turns out Jayden has been faced with challenges since he was born with the heart condition Truncus Arteriosus, the same condition that killed his Aunt Karena, Darren’s younger sister, when she was only 17 weeks. Almost 20 years later medical advances in surgery allowed her nephew to survive, but it’s not an easy journey.

Jayden remained in hospital ICU for three and a half years, his mother seldom leaving his side for more than a few moments in all that time. He lives with global development delay and a high level of autism. Jayden has already endured 2 heart surgeries and will soon be undergoing his third. He has a tracheostomy to aid in breathing properly and since Jayden doesn’t have a very strong immune system once a month he spends a day in hospital for an immune booster.

Jayden’s conditions create a risk of choking meaning he must have an attendant 24/7.  Darren and Rhonda share the exhausting job of watching him around the clock. But all you have to do is listen to Darren talk about their son to know what a positive influence he has on his parents and others. Darren calls him a hero, super man, a survivor. With love and compassion and lots of time and dedication he proved sceptics wrong by learning to walk, he goes to school and he’s gaining skills. He is overcoming anxiety about eating from a spoon and he’s mastering his colours.  He has lots of challenges but he has a loving family to help him meet them.  That doesn’t make him less, maybe it actually makes him even more.

Jayden and Darren used with permission

Jayden and Darren
used with permission

“When my son wakes up in the morning and he smiles at me, that’s my payment.” Darren Kontista

Jayden eating

Darren knows first hand the struggles that Jayden faces. He himself was born with a heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot and nearly died as a child.  Like his sister and his son, Darren required the assistance of a heart and lung bypass machine and has also endured two heart surgeries. He is expecting to undergo a third operation within six short years.

As I read Darren’s post about his sister and his son Jayden’s story I was left speechless. When I wrote my birthday greeting never in my wildest imaginings did I think that this family was going through so much every single day.

Darren and Rhonda could certainly choose to focus only on themselves, their challenges and no one would blame them. They could play the blame card, the victim card and the despair card without question. But that’s not what they’ve chosen to do. Instead Darren has undertaken a serious fund raising  campaign to procure a heart and lung machine for The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. The cost of the machine is $500,000. Darren and Jayden have set their sights on contributing $5,000. towards that. Checkout their fundraising page through Hearts for Life HERE.

They didn’t stop at a simple page though. Darren has a love of music and a talent to create it. He came upon the idea to have a fundraising event! November 1st a musical charity fundraiser Jayden’s Hearts for Life will take place. This family knows first hand just how important this life saving machine is.

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Recently Darren and his family moved to a new home. They were so happy to be settling in but for reasons out of their control they may be forced to pull up stakes once more before they’ve even had time to settle in and catch their breath. Something most of us would be angered by and this family is no different, especially given the extra challenges they face. Jayden doesn’t find change all that easy, being 24/7 caregivers takes planning, preparation and is exhausting without throwing in a full blown relocation again. But Darren puts it in perspective. At least some things are already packed! Or well, still packed.  And though they are tired Darren joked it was good his last surgery went so well and he feels strong like an ox. Looking on the bright side, even if the light is rather dim. That’s how these players play the game.

When I heard the news I felt tired and frustrated for them but my advice reflected Darren’s already positive attitude. Sometimes when you think you’ve arrived you discover it’s only a pit stop on the way to your true and even better destination. Deep breath, do a little dance, sing a little song and get ready to move on – to something fantastic, even if the road is a bit bumpy. Glad you’re looking on the bright side. “

When I thought about it I realized that it’s all the trials and tribulations, the challenges and pain that they’ve already experienced that are probably making them strong enough to face yet again, another unexpected and daunting challenge.

And that’s what this family is doing. Instead of wallowing in frustration and disappointment they’re playing their best cards. They are patient, determined and resilient.

And they’re already showing how that pays off.  Ticket sales for the upcoming fundraiser are selling well even before the the official advertising campaign kicked off.  If you want to show your support in some way click HERE! There are a lot of people who would really appreciate it.

Even though life can deal you a tough hand, Darren knows how to be grateful and see beautiful no matter how elusive it might seem.  He recently showed how well Jayden is doing at school and as a parent I know exactly how that thrill of success and pride feels.

Jayden learning at school

Kindness and gratitude help make the world a better place in my opinion, and Darren agrees.  Although generous himself in many ways he has been “blown away” by the support he’s received from their friends, whether it be financially, a helping hand or a listening ear.

Darren, Rhonda and Jayden exemplify  how to play the game of life everyday, with patience, determination, and resilience. Be kind, be grateful and you really can’t lose. With their dedication and determination we are certain they will have great success in helping so many people whose health and life will be greatly improved with the new heart and lung bypass machine.  Please show your support if you can.   A kind message, sharing their story, or if you are so inclined a financial contribution. All forms of support are appreciated.

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In memory of Karena

To hear more about Darren’s life and background in 8 minutes watch this video:

To see Life Vest Inside’s inspirational kindness video that started it all watch The Kindness Boomerang:

©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Photo credit: Leah Fries Qu'Appelle Water Tower A beacon that points home

Photo credit: Leah Fries
Qu’Appelle Water Tower
A beacon that points home

Our guest contributor is Leah Fries, a recent high school graduate who is excited to embark on all the adventures that make up life. She is a writer, artist and dreamer who possesses a quick wit and a kind soul. Her essay The Spirit of Qu’Appelle was selected as a winner of the 2014-2015 Qu’Appelle Spirit Award. I’m glad I get to be her aunt.

Being a grown up isn’t as fun as it was growing up, and I’m glad I got to do that here. Leah Fries

Leah has managed to capture life growing up in a small town. The beauty, the angst, the humour and the special spirit you come to recognize living there. As a young adult what once may have seemed scary now provides the beacon pointing the way home.

The Spirit of Qu’Appelle

LEAH FRIES

There’s a reason small towns are small – because not a lot of people want to live in them. To many people, Qu’Appelle must seem like a place that isn’t important. People drive through every day on the 35 and they keep going. They don’t stop and they don’t come back. But for people like me, people that have lived here, we will never know that feeling of being able to leave this place. Maybe physically we’ll leave, but we can never really leave this town because this town will never leave us, no matter how far we go. This is a place that someone might not want to live in at first glance, and maybe not even after the second or third, but given a chance I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else. I haven’t lived in Qu’Appelle as long as a lot of people. Even people my age have lived here longer than me. I moved here with my family in the fall of 1999. I was 2 and a half years old. Now I am 18, and almost a high school graduate. Being a grown up isn’t as fun as it was growing up, and I’m glad I got to do that here. I’ve made a lot of memories, and I’ve learned a lot.

One of the first things I think of when I think of Qu’Appelle is the water tower. I was always scared of it when I was little; scared it would fall over and crush my house and flood the town. Yet whenever my family would be driving toward home at night on the highway, seeing that tiny blinking red light was always a source of comfort. It was always there, steady and consistent and always pointing the way home.

Going to school at James Hamblin School. For me, it was the absolute best experience. Unlike many others in my grade, I stayed at JHS until I was finished grade 9. I’d be lying if I said I never considered leaving early, which is why I don’t blame my friends that pursued their education somewhere else in grade 9. I wish they hadn’t done that though. They could have benefitted from the lesson we learned by staying: take pride in your community because it’s part of who you are. I learned about empathy there, and about respect and voice and kindness and how important all these things are. I am lucky enough to have gotten that lesson, and can thank James Hamblin School for nurturing me and pushing me to be who I am today. I will carry what I learned there with me always.

The spirit of this town can’t be summarized with descriptions and anecdotes. There is an underlying spirit here, and it is in everything we do. I feel it when I walk into a public building and I’m greeted by name. The spirit of the town is in the wind that breezes through the banners and flower baskets that hang on Main Street in the warmer seasons, and the Christmas decorations that sparkle in the winter. I feel it when I volunteer at the tourist booth every summer and I read our town’s proud history book. I see it when I look at our huge old town hall, its majestic appearance earning it the nickname Prairie Castle by my friends and myself. So many Summer Reading Programs and various other activities were spent there and not just by my friends and me, but many generations before us.

The spirit of Qu’Appelle is in our amazing Chinese restaurant, because like all small towns, we have a Chinese restaurant, and like all small town people, we know ours is the best.

I hold the spirit of this town every time I tell someone from Indian Head that they can say whatever they want about Qu’Appelle, at least we have an underpass. Maybe most critical, I can feel the spirit of Qu’Appelle when I visit our small cemetery with trees so tall they’re practically scraping the floors of heaven where our loved ones look down from.

The spirit of this town is alive and vibrant and I see it every day, in the small but important things that make this town what it is.

In the fall, I will be making the move to Edmonton. As author Robert Penn Warren wrote, “For west is where we all plan to go someday.” I grew up here, love it here, and learned a lot, but my time here is done. With the knowledge I gained here, I can spread my wings, and still carry the spirit of Qu’Appelle with me. I don`t know what my future will hold, but I do know that no matter where I go in life, no matter where I go from here, if I hear something calling me, I’ll know what it is and I’ll know it’s time to follow that blinking red light home again.

©2014,2015 Leah Fries

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Leah Fries

©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Mother's First Bouquet Photo Credit: J Fries

Mother’s First Bouquet
Photo Credit: J Fries

To all a happy Mother’s Day
And this a mother’s first bouquet
Clutched in a small and grubby  fist
Accompanied by a sloppy kiss
Nothing brings a quicker smile
Than a child awed by nature for a while
Sharing their love in this simple way
To wish you a Happy Mother’s Day
And if this time for you is past
Wishing you memories that forever last.

 – J Fries

©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Image from PopSugar

Image from PopSugar

 

Sharon Silver wrote a great article on PopSugar in March. The subject certainly isn’t new. We as humans, have a penchant to label. It makes us feel  knowledgeable, organized, and mainly, in control. We go happily along each day judging things, places and especially people, including ourselves. Let’s be clear, you can’t label anything unless you first judge it, form an opinion and then voila!  Affix a label and life is suddenly ordered, we can breath a sigh of relief. But that label, often tells a very incomplete story. By affixing that label, we may have unwittingly changed the story, and not necessarily in a positive way.

Words are so powerful, and we wield their sharp edges without a second thought for where the blade may land or the damage it may inflict.

Silver shares a story about an encounter she witnessed while shopping.  Unfortunately it isn’t a unique case and what’s even more unfortunate, is that all too often, the person honestly thinks they’re doing the right thing, the best for their child.

I was in line at the grocery store when I heard a mom very calmly and very firmly whisper to her son, “Are you an awful boy?” The little one tried to pull his body away from his mom, as if to escape the sting of his beloved mother’s words, but he couldn’t. He very sadly dropped his head and said, “Yes.”

This little one’s face told the whole story. It was obvious this was not the first time mom had said those words to him. You could literally see the effects of his mom’s words being accepted by his emotional self. You could see the words becoming part of how he will define himself, now, and in the future — I am an awful person.

via How to Talk to Kids When They Misbehave | POPSUGAR Moms.

I don’t know why this is such a hard lesson for so many of us to learn.  Words that motivate, encourage when used with guidance and caring consistently provide better results in improving behaviours and overall success.

Too many people equate this approach with being “soft” or “settling for less”.  That is definitely not the case.  Discipline, expectations and assistance are all still part of the picture.

Most of us have experienced people who have been cruel to us with their words at some point in our lives. We know how it makes us feel. Most of us have managed to “put it behind us” and have moved on. Yet, as adults we tend to fall back on methods that we’ve experienced, even when, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know didn’t work well for us.  But somehow, we suddenly think, “but that must be the way it’s done”.

It’s not easy to change our habits, it’s even harder when we feel pressured, under stress, short tempered, lacking sleep or simply busy. But when we see the changes that our efforts result in, it doesn’t take long to realize that the effort is more than worth it.

I like Sharon Silver’s suggestions for dealing with misbehaviour, 3 good questions.

  • Was what you did safe?
  • Was it respectful?
  • Was it kind?

That’s a pretty impressive starting point. You see, we usually don’t have to use hurtful words to get the message across.  As a matter of fact, using words that hurt simply put the other person on the defensive and removes the focus from the issue and the solution. These questions let the other person gain understanding themselves. For most people, that’s enough to start a change in behaviour.

Labelling people, even with “positive” labels stunts growth as surely as a plant is if you put a pot over it and keep it in the dark. Instead be the sunshine and rain that let’s that flower grow and bloom brilliantly.

The change starts with us. It starts now. Listen to yourself, listen to your family, listen to your children’s teachers.  Start using language that actually has a positive impact and you will be astounded at the changes you begin to see.  The sparkle in your child’s eye and their desire to please and do well will likely grow visibly, right before your very eyes.

 

©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Bullying and the potentially horrific results from it, have played out across media graphically. It’s a subject most of us are aware of, but few of us truly feel comfortable or capable of adequately addressing the issue that has plagued us, probably in one form or another, since the beginning of time. The Huffington Post recently ran the piece I Was The Maid Of Honor For The Girl I Bullied Mercilessly For Years.  Author xoJane admits to being bullied and then becoming a bully herself, something that’s not that uncommon.

So it was pretty great for me when Flick showed up in school. Finally, I wasn’t the biggest weirdo in town. I was pretty relieved everyone seemed to be bored of picking on me, and had moved on to something else.

And, as is unfortunately the case in too many schools,

In my school, tormenting others was the top social currency. I soon realized that not only did I need Flick to distract people from my own inadequacies, but if I joined in with everyone else, maybe I’d finally be accepted.

And while wounds may heal, as my mother loved to remind me, the scars may not fade away.

Years later and eating dinner at Flick’s house, her kid sister burst out, “Didn’t you used to bully Flick?” As I sat, frozen in shame, Flick replied, “Yeah… how embarrassing for her!” She winked at me, a familiar expression. That night, I gave her a long-overdue apology. “When it happened to me, I wanted to die sometimes,” I said. “Yeah,” she replied. “I know what you mean.”

It reminded me how complicated reality can be, victim, perpetrator, the lines can easily become blurred. Stress, fear and trauma can do strange things to very ordinary people. At least for these two best friends, past transgressions didn’t stop a true friendship from blossoming.  It was refreshing to read such a candid and honest experience that resulted in a very happy ending.

Not long after reading that piece, some friends and I were discussing a video  shared with us on Facebook. While bullying is a tough subject to deal with death is one a great many of us try to avoid or dance around completely. Suicide is even harder to face. This senior project created by Kenzie Marcigan riveted us to the screen while shredding our hearts. We each related to this video for our own reasons.

I’ll warn you up front that it is rather raw and heart wrenching. It brought every parent’s fear to the surface; the possibility of losing a child because they’ve given up on themselves, believed the lies other people have tormented them with, or maybe that they’ve tormented themselves with.

One of my friends shared an insight and it kept running through my mind for the rest of the day so I thought it was worthy to share.  The emphasis in the following quote is mine.

So very sad. I was bullied in Middle and High school. I was just the new kid who moved there, but I never fit in with those who grew up together. I had abuse at home and at school. And I too tried to kill myself more than once.

I’m so very glad I was never successful because I would have missed so many wonderful things that came after those terrible school years.

But kids need to be held responsible for their actions and have severe punishment for what they say and do. I was mean to one girl in collegeeven knowing how awful I felt when others were mean to me – and 30 years later I still feel bad about it, but she is no longer here to apologize to. So I strive to do better every day. ~ name withheld by request

Bullied, just the new kid, never fit in, abused at home and at school all becoming too much and creating the sole desire to make it all go away for ever.  But when it gets overwhelming and you can’t find a way to cope, or to make it go away, you decide there is one thing that you can make go away.  Yourself.

Experience doesn’t necessarily develop empathy or compassion. We know that the abused can become abusers.  For many of us who have been bullied though, eventually, even if we’ve bullied someone else, the seeds of empathy and compassion often slowly sprout and we grow from our experience, but live with the regret of our actions.

As for our friend, I have to say I’m so very glad too. Words of truth, “so many wonderful things that came after those terrible school years.” There are a lot of us who value this person, I’d hate to think that those horrid times in middle and high school may have robbed us of an opportunity to call them friend.

And that’s the thing, I’m willing to bet that every single person who has given up on themselves would ultimately find a loving, welcoming place, if only they could find the will to wait, to realize there is more beyond where they find themselves right in that instant, even when the instant feels like eternity.

Why do so many of us feel compelled to refer to at least a portion of our school years as “terrible” or “horrible”. Why is it still so and for how much longer must it remain so?

Close the door to your past, open the door to your future. Take a deep breath and step through to a new life.  Unknown

Close the doors that cause you pain, anger and suffering so you can open the ones that bring you love, acceptance and inner peace.  Unknown

They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds. Uknown

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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Eating Disorder Services: "MIRROR" Print Ad by Clemenger BBDO Wellington

Eating Disorder Services: “MIRROR” Print Ad by Clemenger BBDO Wellington 

Believing is Seeing.  What are your beliefs showing you?

A quiet killer, often hidden by baggy clothes and popularly supported in the dark recesses of the internet.  An addiction to being thin at any cost, even their lives.  When the line to good judgement has been blurred, the spiral begins.  This is an illness that has created a community that doesn’t help each other get better.  Instead, they help each other get sicker.

Antonia Eriksson has traveled this path herself and is recovering.  Her opinion of thinsperational accounts is clear.

“They’re really dangerous,” she says.  Eriksson is now in recovery from anorexia, and runs an Instagram account and blog focused on fitness and healthy eating. But back then, she was easily triggered into unhealthy behaviour by those images. “It would help me in my eating disorder, like in the most negative way… It would keep me sick,” she says.

via Pro-anorexia, bulimia communities thriving online – Health – CBC News.

I’d like to say this trend comes as a surprise, or that I’d never even heard of such a thing but of course that’s not the case.    I worry about my own children and their self image and how these sites and associated hashtags influence them. Trying on a pair of skinny jeans the other day my daughter lamented, “But my calves are too fat!”   She is in perfect physical shape and size for her body.  I reminded her that she’s just fine.  The jeans were just made for a different body.  Let’s face it the very nature of skinny jeans is a challenge.  It was obvious her first thought wasn’t that the jeans were wrong, it was that her body was wrong.

On one hand, when it comes to “thinspiration”,   it seems obvious that anyone with “half a brain” would “know better”.  But that’s not really what it’s all about after all. Whether a person is spiralling into a gloomy pit from an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia, PTSD or abuse there is one thing that everyone has in common.  They’ve crossed a line from the reality of  “normal” most of us know to a reality the rest of us don’t share. You would think they should be able to simply step back over that line but it doesn’t work that way.  Slipping over the line to illness seems so easy, but taking that one step back sometimes feels impossible.  Spoiler alert – it might be the biggest challenge you face in life but it isn’t impossible.

These thinspo accounts are like putting a line of coke in front of an addict, it’s fills the need and there is almost no way that the addict will be able to resist on their own, at least not for long. In my opinion this is like an unrecovered alcoholic being the sponsor for another alcoholic.  Pretty much doomed to failure.  Instead of helping each other they are actually encouraging and empowering each other to continue the spiral into the disease.

The good news is that I see more and more sites and resources that are dealing with recovery, self care and hope. Healthy is in, skinny is out.  Unless of course you are naturally skinny, which some people are.  Then rock it and love it.

I’m glad that many social media sites are trying to make things better.

Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest have also attempted to circumvent users’ access to material that promotes self-harm. -CBC article

Dr. Rebecka Peebles, co-director of the Eating Disorder Assessment and Treatment Program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia… found that nearly 40 per cent of the sites included pro-recovery information. Many of the troubling Instagram posts also include pro-recovery tags: #EDrecovery, #ANAwarrior, #BeatANA.  She believes that reflects the nature of the disease. “Part of you wants to get better, and part of you wants to stay sick.” – CBC Article

We all know that there are different body types.  Within each type there is an infinite number of slightly different shapes and sizes.  They are normal.  They are healthy.  They are beautiful.  Instead of embracing this fact, we watch the photoshopped ads, the models that have countless groomers and preeners fawning over them, that have been selected because they have this very specific body type.  And don’t kid yourself, even though they are “perfect” in our eyes, the industry tells them they aren’t quite good enough, they have the same qualms and self doubts as all of us “average” girls (and guys) out there.

Don’t ever fool yourself that any of these images are put out there because big business really cares about you.  They care almost exclusively about making money.  Really, most of them don’t care at all about you.  I mean honestly, not at all.  Those ads with all those beautiful people are meant to do one thing.  Get money from you.  Period.  They don’t care if you become prettier, smarter, fatter, skinnier, healthier even if their fake smiles seem to say otherwise.

We all have our moments, or maybe lifetimes, of wishing “something” was different about us or our lives.  No one is completely immune.  Unless.

Unless you make the conscious choice to begin loving yourself AS YOU ARE TODAY.  With all your perfection and all your flaws (which by the way, are almost always your own opinion).

We are all perfectly imperfect.  Quit fighting it!  It’s a battle you will never win, and were never meant to.

No matter what you do, unless you can love yourself (or at least like yourself) as you are, nothing you do will satisfy you for long.  You will always come from a place of lack.  You don’t have to.  Just start seeing your own good, your own beauty little by little.  Trust that it’s there and you’ll find it.

I really do recommend taking time every single day to look at yourself and tell yourself you love you!  Find the little things that you can love.  Maybe it’s your smile, or a dimple, or the way your one eyebrow raises when you smile. Maybe it’s how you can make your mother laugh or your little sister asks for your help.

Like any addict, or someone with a habit that needs breaking, do it one step at a time.  And don’t beat yourself up for every single little misstep.  Work to stop following the propaganda and start following things that inspire you and give you hope to be all you can really be.  Ask for help.  Then ask again, and again and again.  Do not give up.  Be kind to yourself and others.  It’s a start, and that’s what has to happen first.  A start.  A very simple start.

Life and love are so much more than thigh gap, or protruding bones, or the vision of outer beauty.  

If that’s all you can focus on right now you are missing out on so much, actually all the wonderful awesome stuff. Need help?  That’s ok.  Recognizing it is the first step.  We all need help for something at sometime.  Don’t give up.  Keep looking, keep trying.

If you are overweight an unhealthy amount, and I do mean unhealthy, not your own jaded opinion, then yes, do something positive and constructive to move yourself to a place of health.  But do it because you love yourself and you are worth it.  And if you don’t believe that right now it’s ok.  Believe me.  You are worth it.  Change your focus from one of controlling yourself and your weight to one of loving yourself and working together with your body towards wonderful health.

If you still need some convincing, I encourage you to listen to Maya Angelou explain and read her poem “Still I Rise”. Never doubt, that you too can say, “Still I rise.”

Eriksson was once an #ANAwarrior. She started an Instagram account, which has since grown to nearly 40,000 followers, the day before she was hospitalized to document her six-week in-hospital treatment and recovery.

What she calls her Instagram family helped motivate her recovery. “I wanted to show them that it was possible,” she says. “So I just kept fighting it.” – CBC article

As Eriksson reminds us,  it is possible.  Don’t give up.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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You Are Blooming!

Painting by Mary Kruger

Painting by Mary Kruger

We can all bloom with a little care and patience

Don’t get so busy with the process

That you miss your own wonderful blooming.

©2015 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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image from sodahead.com

image from sodahead.com

Overheard in a restaurant:

Little Girl:  “I hate boys.”

Mother: “Well, boys can be fun to play with sometimes.”

Little Girl:  “No!  Well, I don’t like Jacob*.  He’s mean.”

Mother:  “He’s not mean.”

Little Girl:  “Yes, he is mean.  He is mean to me.” 

Mother:  “Jacob is a nice boy, he’s not mean.”

Little Girl:  “He’s mean.  He throws stuff.  And I don’t like it.”

Mother:  “Oh, well make sure you don’t throw stuff back ok.  Because that isn’t nice.”

And the conversation moved to another subject.  Discussion finished.  But what underlying message did mom really leave with her daughter?   “Oh my”, I thought.

All right, first I do want to say that this was not a rotten mother, I hold no ill will and am not shaming her and truthfully the interactions I witnessed between mother and daughter were loving, touching and I think she’s probably a great mom. Being a mother myself and having struggled for a lot of years trying to craft my own thoughts and messages to my daughter, this conversation struck me as a perfect example of what is missing in how we talk to our children, especially our daughters.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

I’ve never bought into the belief that girls are wired to be catty and mean any more than I believe boys are wired not to cry, or to never hit the laundry basket.  I’ve begun to wonder if it may be in part because of the mixed message we have given girls for generations.

Back to my eavesdropping.  (I’m sorry, the restaurant was really quiet, the little girl was quite loud and our elbows were almost touching… and I had nothing to distract myself with.)   Let’s dissect the conversation

Little Girl:  “I hate boys.”

Typical of children especially, it’s that all or nothing attitude.  I hate all boys.

Mother: “Well, boys can be fun to play with sometimes.”

Well done!  A great attempt to help her daughter open her mind and engage in discussion.  I agree that boys, in general, can sometimes be fun to play with.  The message?  Consider the bigger picture, avoid the all or nothing assumptions.  Let’s talk about this.  Sometimes is a pretty good word.

Little Girl:  “No, well I don’t like Jacob*.  He’s mean.”

The message got through, the little girl decides it’s not “boys” but one “boy” in particular.

Mother:  “He’s not mean.”

Here’s where mom got my cringe response going.  There was no open dialogue, the message I heard clearly is “you are wrong”  An open ended question like “what happened” or engaging her with “tell me more about Jacob being mean” is more likely to uncover and hidden worries or feelings that are beneath a blanket statement.

Little Girl:  “Yes, he is mean.  He is mean to me.”  

Undeterred, she was determined to make her case, be heard and listened to.  This is obviously important to her.  Bravo!

Mother:  “Jacob is a nice boy, he’s not mean.”

Mom undermines her daughter’s opinion and by doing so gives the message, “your opinion and how you feel don’t matter”.  She might have helped the conversation by affirming her feelings, “You don’t sound happy about playing with Jacob.”

Little Girl:  “He’s mean.  He throws stuff.  And I don’t like it.”

Undaunted the little girl offers her proof of why Jacob is mean and she doesn’t like him.

Mother:  “Oh, well make sure you don’t throw stuff back ok.  Because that isn’t nice.”

Mom might have had more luck in getting to the real issue by reflecting what her daughter was trying to tell her.  “So, Jacob has been throwing things.  I can see why you were annoyed.  Was Jacob angry?”  Finally she could have summarized the situation to let her daughter know she understood.  “You aren’t happy playing with Jacob when he’s throwing things.  But if he stopped throwing things, it might be fun?”  This way a child knows she’s at least heard and understood even if there isn’t a simple solution available.

Not sure what to do, I think the mother tried to brush it off, the “mean” event maybe wasn’t such a big deal really.  But it was to her daughter.  The underlying message I heard was, “People are sometimes like that, it’s just the way it is, but be nice anyway; perceptions of others are more important than how you feel and you are powerless to change it.”  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the message mom intended to give at all.

The important thing about underlying messages is that they are never spelled out.  Sometimes they even aren’t intended, but what we say and what is heard are often different, especially by children who don’t have the wisdom and experience of adults.  Children love to tell us about their lives, they also come to us for help in learning to navigate that life.  This is the time where the real life lessons occur, helping them navigate all the interactions they will have over their lifetime.

And here is the crux of the problem in my opinion.  We are still giving girls the incomplete message of “just be nice”.

I am all for being nice.  This whole Rise Like Air thing is about finding our greatness, being kind, overcoming adversity, helping ourselves and others. 

We need to teach our children to be nice, but so much more than that. The challenge we face as parents and educators is to help children be nice, but at the same time to utilize the skills they need to be function with others in the world.  Nice is only one facet and as parents with girls we focus on it almost solely.  Somewhere deep down I think we still believe a husband or father will always be there to take care of our little girl.  I’ll let you in on a little secret, even if you’re there, they still need to be able to take care of themselves; period.  It is our job, our duty to ensure they have the skills, and we are falling short; way short.

Our children need the skills to be able to be nice without fearing being walked on and stepped over.  Remember the saying, “Nice guys finish last?”  It doesn’t need to be that way, it shouldn’t be that way. 

We need to give our children the skills then need to socialize well and we do a very poor job of it because so often when our little children come to us with problems like this our first response is “just be nice” like that will just make it go away.  We need to teach our children how to be nice while at the same time standing up for themselves and their beliefs, we need to help them learn how to be nice while still dealing with the Jacobs.  

I think girls often end up meaner and cattier because they don’t know how to do the other things while being nice.  So they ensure the perfect facade is in place; look pretty, smile, be nice, always appear innocent and then do whatever you need to do to survive in the real world, but never get caught without your facade in place.  

And you know what?  Sometimes being nice means walking away from those who aren’t, it means being true to ourselves and letting those who don’t value us go.  

One thing I do know is that if you continually undermine a child’s opinion long enough, eventually they will either stop sharing it with you or they will begin to believe they are wrong, their feelings don’t count and that they are unable to change their circumstances.  We wonder why children stop talking to us.  To a degree it’s a natural step in the gaining independence process, but it can also be an indicator that communication has gone awry.

 I have found girls and women who have high self esteem tend to be nice, strong, confident and very successful at navigating life and relationships without meanness or cattiness.  The girls and women who tend to be catty and mean may appear to be the nicest of the nice on the surface and have the world by the tail, but behind the facade you will often find a woman who is terrified of making a wrong move and feels like a victim of her own life.

Ultimately I think a parent wants their children, regardless of gender, to grow up to possess many positive traits including but not limited to:

  • kindness
  • joyfulness in life
  • resilience
  • self-discipline
  • honesty
  • bravery
  • confidence

Developing those traits starts early and it starts with the messages we give both with what we say and what we don’t say.

Here’s some tips on actively listening to your children (and even adults!) from Alberta Health Services

  1. Ask open ended questions
  2. Use reflective listening
  3. Affirm your child’s feelings
  4. Summarize what you’ve heard

* Names have been changed to protect their identity. (Truth be told I missed the boy’s name so who knows if I’m right or wrong.)

Further reading:

Huffington Post: by Hilary Wilce  6 Qualities Kids Need To Succeed and One They Don’t

How To Listen Actively To Your Children from Alberta Heath Services

How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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