Heart at Sea

A poem for your heart. Take care of yourselves on this “snow moon”.

XOXO

Lost: Heart.

At sea.

On the beach.

In your car’s front seat.

In the street.

On your front porch.

Once bright red.

Full heart — wild and free.


It was strong; mighty.

« It’s us against the world »

Or so the heart thought….

If found, handle with care.

Place in a sturdy box,

It will be heavy.

It will have holes.

Do not patch them.

Leave them be.
The light will enter the wound,
And set the heart free – eventually.

Piece of the Puzzle: Making Sense of Chronic Trauma Through my ADHD Diagnosis.

*Updated*

I read this quote on Instagram from @one.paramita.community that resonated with me deeply. I wrote it down in my journal so I could remember to share it with you:

“When we don’t heal our subconscious or shadow sides, we either project our fear of them onto the external world or we become the receiver of other peoples’ shadows and are unable to rid ourselves of their projections, causing depression, anxiety and a handful of other mental concerns.”

In recent months, I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). ADHD has led to depressive episodes, anxiety and frightening bouts of OCD in my life.

There’s a misconception that ADHD is reserved for the hyperactive kid that can’t sit still in class. But ADHD is much more complex than that.

Personally and like many, I experience ADHD as an emotional dysregulation among many other “frontal lobe” issues like self-monitoring, self-control (impulsivity), time management, working memory etc. (executive functions)

Most of my adult life, I have been utterly ashamed of living in complete chaos. I could rarely show up on time because I could never find my keys, let alone a clean pair of pants to wear. It felt like even though I knew what needed to be done to not feel so overwhelmed, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. (This “chaos” worsened with stress.)

Romantic relationships didn’t last because I lacked in coping skills to regulate stress during disagreements and otherwise. I needed more space and time alone to self-regulate — something most partners couldn’t comprehend – and neither could I. This was the toughest pill swallow. As I saw my friends progress through life, I was lagging so far behind in training wheels, trying to catch up.

Heartbreak after heartbreak, I felt like a monster nobody wanted. I thought, “How could someone ever love and understand someone like me when I can barely understand myself?”.

I struggled with boundaries. Anybody and everybody was my “friend” – from the drug dealer next door to the homeless man outside the bar. I was totally oblivious to the types of people I was letting into my life. This lack of boundaries led to an abundant amount of trauma that I’m still healing from to this day.

At university, I sat in horror at a documentary final project viewing class when I heard my teacher say, “Claire won’t be presenting her project this term”. I had worked hard on gathering footage but had been unable to put the project together. I’ve never felt so ashamed in my life.

I’ve had a thousand good ideas come through that never saw the light of day.

I thrived in the messy, the chaos and in the “last-minute”.

I bathed in the drama, the shouting and the crying. I didn’t want to but this was my life and I didn’t know any better. I felt misunderstood and unloved all the time.

Throughout all this, I still managed to graduate high school with top grades and score two university entrance scholarships. I was a good student. I was (am) smart. I was (am) a hard worker. I knew deep down I learned differently but I never thought this was potentially due to ADHD.

After graduating from university (with top grades too) – I began to massively doubt myself. Surprisingly, I held jobs down. I would get bored easily but I managed.

I found working in TV to be perfect for me. The excitement of the fast-pace in live broadcasting was especially satisfying. I felt alive.

One of the many benefits of ADHD is that we usually thrive in fast-paced environments. We are calm in crisis and able to handle the pressure. We are quick on our feet and in our minds. We’re creative and critical thinkers and quick problem solvers. (When our nervous systems are shot with unprocessed trauma, it’s a different scenario).

We’re also extremely passionate people. When we love something or someone, we love hard. We put our hearts and souls in our work and wear our hearts on our sleeves and to our detriment at times because we push ourselves too hard. We put all we’ve got into the relationship or work and we forget to slow down and enjoy life.

In 2016, I started pushing myself with TV-related projects.

I created a show from scratch, and produced it. I could tell I loved editing and producing because I was hyperfocused (another ADHD trait) to the point where everything else in my life didn’t matter; unbeknownst to me, my health and my relationship became last on my ADHD priority list. All I wanted was to be in the studio.

When I was let-go in the big lay-offs in 2018, it was devastating to many. Co-workers and I all lost an important part of ourselves in the re-structualization of our company . For me, the devastation was likely more unbearable than I had realized at the time; that year, trauma after trauma had unfolded; losing my job had been the last straw for me. In total denial and unable to process all the crazy shit that had happened that year, I packed my bags and left for Greece with my severance money.

Fast forward to February 2021. I’m not ADHD-free but my symptoms have lowered significantly.

The term « diagnosis » can have a negative connotation. But for me, it was an « Ah-HA » moment; a feeling of freedom, really. Now I know more of what I can do to better myself and be a more productive member of society. I have a better understanding of why I do and say things a certain way or why I react how I react.

Some tools that have helped me:

-cognitive behavioural therapy

-shadow work (accepting your own darkness unconditionally)

-limiting sugar and junk food (this can cause hyperstimulation and lack of focus)

-daily meditation

-daily journaling

-breath work (Qi Qong)

-working out

-yoga

-being outside

I’ve also stopped drinking and have been sober since June 2020.

I say “no” more, I stay in when I feel emotional stress coming on, I don’t reply to emails and messages right away; I give myself space to understand what emotion I am actually feeling (sometimes I don’t even know hence why journaling helps).

For the first time, I feel like I can grow up. Not because I didn’t want to before but because now, I know HOW to. I can take care of myself and clean up after myself. It’s like a dream come true.

The more I regulate my nervous system, the more the symptoms go away. The more I purge the past, the more I feel like the person I was always meant to be.

That said, I think I will always be at higher risk of falling off the wagon if stress goes unmanaged for too long. With ADHD, you know you have tremendous potential but you also know how much it takes out of you to reach that potential. It’s constant self-doubt, blood, sweat and tears. You feel on top of the world one minute, and the next, like the biggest loser. As a result, we burn out quickly. That’s why I need to stay on top of my « self-love » game and really forget about the expectations of this society. I have to choose me radically over and over again.

I may or may not use medication in the future. I know some people who can’t function at all without medication. I know long before I experienced severe traumas, I was already disorganized – yes – but I could enjoy life and thrive in multi-tasking. After serial traumas, I could not. I could barely get up in the mornings or make myself breakfast.

All this makes me believe that there is a serious correlation with trauma and ADHD but also other mental illnesses like depression, anxiety etc. Which came first?: the mental illness or the trauma?

Right now, I am interested in seeing how a lifestyle change and trauma processing can transform my mood, my thoughts, my stress. So far, it’s been significantly better.

I pace myself, I take less on, I do a little bit every day. I go to bed at a decent time. There are days where I fall but I don’t beat myself up for it as much as I used to.

So – what do my struggles with ADHD have anything to do with the quote I shared?

Simply put, my ADHD mixed with my chronic traumas are MY “shadow” side; it was THE unconscious elephant in the room that gnawed at me alive.

It feels surprisingly good to come out in the open with this. It’s a burden I carried for a long time because I didn’t know what the heck was wrong with me.

I was unable to forgive myself for a very long time. In fact, today I am struggling as I write this. It’s extremely personal and yet I think extremely necessary for me to share; it’s a load off my chest that could help someone out in return – you never know.

As I read the One Paramita quote to myself the other day, I realized that I can still be triggered by other people’s “shadows”, whatever these may be.

Will I regress in my healing by hearing other people’s darkness? Will I turn into this person’s therapist or their “filler” person because there’s a trauma or a fear that they’re not processing? Will I “over-help” this person with their fears while forgetting to tend to mine ? These were patterns I held in the past, patterns I don’t want to re-create in my present.

I trust that this won’t be forever and that slowly, I’ll be able to communicate more openly without this fear of being triggered by other people. For now, I face this fear with people I feel safe with.

Healing is a process. It’s not a three week-long course – it’s a lifetime of unlearning behaviours you have accustomed yourself to – your own and others’.

When I was writing this, I was thinking only in ADHD terms.

I want to add that there’s power in knowledge. The more you know about yourself, the more you process emotions that have been stuffed deep inside of you, the more you free yourself. Give yourself permission to question everything – even your own diagnosis. I’m grateful that I have SOME clarity with ADHD. I do see that there is a lot of overlap with how I’ve been feeling in my late-teens until my early 30’s. But I’m also cautious with not attributing character flaws to ADHD. I try to think on a holistic level and take in consideration the serial traumas in my life, what my childhood was like, generational trauma etc. ADHD is a piece of the puzzle; there’s more…

Please note: this is my personal journey with ADHD. Please consult your health professional for your own diagnosis or other health concerns as everyone is different! Remember to be kind if you choose to leave a comment .

Check out https://www.additudemag.com/ for great info on ADHD!

Child of Misery

I do not wish To Be

Your Child of Misery

Your Little Pony

Your Bonnie to your Clyde

The spiral plunges

To the hospital basement

What comes down

Doesn’t always come back up

Smells like formol…

I do not wish To Be

Your Special Steak

That bloodies your lips

Your candy cane

That steadies your hips

Your shrink’s ears

For your heroin fix

And your private cheerleader

The one that never says never!

Your little doll that sits pretty

To fill your void, your cavity

El Nido: Preface

The mid-May’s in Montreal, where I lived from age three to 10, were largely warmer and sunnier – practically summertime weather.

When we moved out west, my birthdays in Calgary became…gray.

My birthday coincides with Canada’s May-long weekend (Victoria Day). People are usually away camping and the weather at this time of year is usually overcast. Full sun and warmth are a rarity.

In my twenties, we’d sometime end up at a bar. While my friends got loaded, you can be sure I was longing for some sun and that “perfect” birthday (which doesn’t exist by the way; or does, depending on your ability to overlook imperfections).

On my 21st birthday, out of the people I had invited to my place for drinks, one showed up. Although I was grateful (or was I?) for the one friend that did, the others had not bothered telling me they weren’t coming.

I started second guessing myself: maybe I hadn’t made it clear that it was my 21st birthday? People had said they had a lot going on and that they weren’t sure they would even be in town.

It WAS a possibility that I had miscommunicated the date, or that I low-key downplayed that it was my birthday. It’s possible. It’s all so blurry now because, in the grand scheme of things, it is so irrelevant to how far I’ve come from that time in my life.

From that moment on, I remember deciding that my birthday was not going to be a “big deal”.

I grew out of the fantasy of having the “cool” big birthday bash, being surrounded by a TON of people.

I think we all grow out of that eventually. I became OK with less.

I started understanding that less is actually more. I became grateful for a birthday spent at home with family, a grocery store-bought chocolate cake, a walk in the park.

But I think it would be denial to say our birthdays are not the least bit important to us.

They are.

Everyone likes to be remembered, thought of, and cared for; even the nonchalant among us like to have at least one other person remember our birthday.

We would be of great disservice to ourselves by pretending that the day we were born is “just another day”.

It’s not!

It became “just another day” when we started blocking out memories of being let down by ourselves (expectations) and others; people forgetting our birthdays, people not showing up or being alone on our birthdays (and seeing “alone” as a bad omen).

And so, we put walls up and pretend that it’s “just another day” (Am I far off?).

The day of our birth, we came out of a womb; we took our first breaths; we cried for the first time; we saw light for the first time!

We should not diminish our stepping into this existence as insignificant; when we do, we end up believing in nothing – not even ourselves. We are all so unimportant (we are just dust!) but important all at once. We each have purpose; we wouldn’t be here if we were insignificant, now would we? It’s OK to give yourself SOME credit!

Writing this, I am surprised to find some pain is still lodged in my bones. It’s like a wound that never got sewn up properly. I think we all carry wounds from our youth: that feeling of rejection or not being “good enough” creeps up on us at odd times:

“Really? I’m not over that?”.

The feeling goes away quickly but it still shocks me how much our bodies can remember – even with time behind us.

I do not remember most of my birthdays 21 and onward. The ones that are memorable were spontaneous. When we drop expectations, we can enjoy whatever comes our way on our birthday and in other aspects of our lives.

We learn and we grow. We learn that the “bigger” the birthday doesn’t mean « the better ».

In adulthood, even if there are birthdays spent alone, there are so many things to be grateful for. Plus, you can celebrate YOU, in your own way, MINUS the terrible company (how great is that?).

Over time, my birthdays became less of a panic-attack. It became a day that could be celebrated with others, or a day that could be celebrated on my own or with family-only.

May-long 2015 was planned loosely, totally uncontrolled and free. I felt like I was happily living in the moment and sharing this imperfect trip with imperfect people. It is sharing El Nido – a sanctuary over looking the lake and the mountains with five other beings – that made the trip so special. Sometimes, when we step out of ourselves, we gain. At El Nido, I gained. It was my birthday but it was a weekend that celebrated not just me – but all of us. And for that, I am blessed.

“El Nido” is the recollecting of a memorable vacation taken with friends in May 2015. It will be written in 3 or 4 parts. This is its preface….Stay tuned for the rest!

The Time Traveller

Pen in my hand,

I am in the past…

…or, like a rocket,

projected into the future.

They say: “time is now!”…

…But, are they really sure?

You see,

There is no beginning, middle and end.

Time is non-linear;

Time is infinite….

LOVE is infinite….

I am a time traveller,

a dreamer, a seeker of truths.

I believe in past lives,

And all the karma.

We must face responsibility,

For our self-inflicting negativity.

I am a time traveller.

Truth isn’t found in 3D reality.

And so I travel through space and time

To meet my higher self in the 5D.

There, you’ll find you,

And I’ll find me.

I am a time traveller.

I’m learning to love my shadows,

others’ and yours, too.

I am a time traveller,

But not without a few heartbreaks.

Eventually, the flinching stops,

The runner stops running

And the darkness is embraced,

Not replaced.

I am a time traveller,

Its magic frees my soul

From the finite…

…to the infinite possibilities,

of our potentiality.

I am a time traveller,

Because you are my home.

I would die a thousand lives

To get back to you.

Wherever you’ll be…

… I’ll be there too.

I am a time traveller,

Because we are on a mission.

We tune into our intuition, our deepest calling,

Our life direction.

Time is a non-issue;

time is infinite; time is non-linear.

Time is love.

I am a time traveller,

Because without love,

there is no time.

Without love,

There is no universe.

Without love,

there is no you; there is no me.

And so I write,

I time travel,

And I get lost in the great divine

And the great cosmic energy.

In the land of cats

“I wish that my writing was as mysterious as a cat.” –Edgar Allan Poe

At age 10, we welcomed our very first cat into our home. He was an all-black Norwegian Forest. At the beginning, he hid under the couch and only came out for food. The first couple of days, he called out for his brother around dinner time. It was a downhearted scene: our new six-month-old kitten meowing loudly in search of his sibling that had not been adopted with him.

Toupi (tou-pee) was the perfect cat. He never bit or scratched. He was a cuddler, a healer, and a true empath in moments of darkness. He would sit next to me until my broken heart was mended by his mere presence. He also purred at first sight. Toupi was a lover, not a fighter.

From time to time, I cat-sit my friends’ three cats. I also volunteer at an animal shelter outside of Calgary.

At the shelter, one kitten caught my eye. His gaze was both human-like and omnipresent. It was like this kitten had this uncanny gift for reading people and their deepest secrets. It felt like he understood life better than anyone I knew. It was a weird but instinctual feeling.

When I started cat-sitting Ernie, Gordon and Gandalf, I knew I would be fine because I had been around numerous stray cats in Greece and had owed a cat previously. But, it took some listening and observing to understand the dynamic between the trio.

All three cats are male. They are all around the same age, although Gandalf might be a bit younger. Ernie and Gordon have lived with each other for awhile. Gandalf, however, was a late addition to the duo, which makes me think that “playing house” with two other cats must have not been easy.

Gordon is a sweet and sensitive, orange and white cat that I see as the alpha of the group. He competes for this “alpha” title with Gandalf regularly. Lately, Gandalf seems to be OK with not being the alpha. He even welcomes licks from Gordon.

Gordon is the first cat of the trio that greets me at the door, and the one that escorts me to the front door when I leave. The last time I left, I felt an extreme sense of sadness as the boys and I had spent nine long days together, getting to know each other on a more intimate level.

Ernie is a beautiful black and white short hair. I see him as the “buffer,” the middle-child, if you will. Ernie rarely looks for trouble, if ever. He stays away from all things “alpha” and doesn’t mind going by his own business. Just like Toupi, he purrs as soon as he gets a few pets. He finishes leftovers if I forget to remove the other food bowls.

He is the biggest cat of the three. One would think Ernie would be the alpha male just for his size but his temperament is gentle and artist-like. He gets easily scared by a thunderstorm on the TV or a raised voice. When Ernie wants something, he’ll meow in my face in a very needy middle child-like way. It’s not as annoying at it sounds. It’s in fact very cute.

Usually the day before I leave, Ernie sits on my suitcase and other belongings and gives me the stare-down in a very kind Ernie way. I always wonder how he could possibly know I am leaving when I haven’t even packed my bags yet. Animals sense these things and Ernie senses departures radically.

Ernie “guarding” my suitcase.

Just like me, Gandalf is the naughty youngest child. We had a rough start, him and me; perhaps because we are similar in how we express our highs and our lows.

At first, Gandalf would hiss at me while I prepped his dinner. I would automatically raise my voice like an authoritarian father. This would scare Ernie more than anything, so, I stopped. Gandalf would also try to claw my head in the stairwell from the top ledge. It was like this cat was out to get me from the start.

I should have known better. The naughtiest children are the ones that usually need the most attention. Pets are no different than humans, kids and adults alike. When kids are being naughty, we shame them, we tell them to go to their rooms and, often, we raise our voices at them. We don’t try to understand the problem. We simply categorize them as “bad” and we leave it as that. At least, this was the old school way.

Essentially, I stopped ignoring him because of his “bad attitude”. I tried to give him that unconditional love that you give to the people closest in your life who do awfully annoying things. I started petting Gandalf more, even if it looked like he did not want to be pet and I tried harder at play time, even if he looked uninterested. With time and patience, it worked.

You see, naughty kids are not naughty because they want to be. It is usually because they want to be seen and loved. Slowly, Gandalf started coming in for pets in the morning and coming in for cuddles on the couch.

Gandalf cuddling on the couch.

As I take the time to observe the cats around me, at the shelter and at my friends’, it is not hard to see that we are more alike than we think. We seem to experience similar emotions like jealousy, anger, grumpiness, playfulness and bliss. We all need love and affection, we all like feeling taken care of and we all like clean toilets!

It’s my last day. I am going back and forth between the foyer and my car. Gordon bows his head in the stairwell in dejection.

I reach out to pet him but he sulkily turns his head the other way, as cats do when they feel they are being abandoned. As I lock the door, I hear him meow a long cry that surprisingly breaks my heart more than it should have.

Gordon pouting on my last day.

Earlier, Ernie said his goodbye attempting to block me from filling my suitcase (he was sitting on it), and from the white fluffy chair in the corner of the living room, Gandalf is pretending not to care but lifts his eyes to observe as I move my stuff to the car.

The boys are sad. I am too. But we will see each other again.

From the pandemic: 5 blessings that changed my life

I used to count my blessings sparingly. When I had a good day, I was grateful. When I had a bad day, I was ungrateful. I couldn’t see any good in a day that felt predominantly bad.

Eight months ago, I flew home to Canada in the midst of the pandemic.

It was brutal. I felt empty and dark. All I did was sleep for the first three months. That’s how emotionally and physically exhausted I was. I turned off my phone, deleted all my social media apps. I needed complete silence and complete isolation. Everything and everyone was triggering to me – especially people that were trying to invade my privacy, deliberately or not.

Almost four years ago now, my life did a 360. And a year and half after that, another big change came into my life in the form of a job lay-off and a move to Greece.

I am not the same person I used to be and there is no returning back. That, all to itself, is a blessing for me. I don’t expect people to understand who I am today and what I’ve gone through. I don’t even wish anyone harm. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I wish people peace. I wish them luck on their own journeys through life.

In June, I taped big pieces of paper to my bedroom walls. On them, I wrote: “June 2020, July 2020, August 2020, ‘What am I grateful for?'”.

The first month was the hardest. I couldn’t find things to be grateful for. So, I went back to the basics:

I am thankful for my warm bed.”. “I am thankful for the sunshine today.”.

At first, I wrote these down without feeling much of the gratitude I wanted to really feel with my whole heart. I decided to keep going anyway. The days I felt less grateful, I forced myself to write something down.

I was skeptical that writing what I was grateful for everyday would change my mood. But it did.

Over time, the sincerity of my gratitude grew. I started feeling truly grateful for the beauty that is my life and how lucky I am to live it.

Sometimes, it was as simple as “having a good conversation with my parents at dinner time” or “falling asleep to relaxing music”. The simple things truly make the earth go ’round and so it did for my happiness.

Since we are at the end of 2020, I wanted to really take some time to evaluate the past few months and what these months have given, shown or taught me.

Without the pandemic, I wouldn’t be writing to you, from my couch on which I am comfortably sitting cross legged wrapped under a blanket and eating Hardbite chips – my favourite. I am happy. Happy to feel re-inspired and happy to give back with my words once again. I try to write from my heart and that is why I cannot write authentically when I’m disconnected.

Here are five blessings from the pandemic of all shapes and sizes but of equal importance. I hope for you to find your own blessings too.

  1. The time and space to heal

The pandemic led me back home. And there, I was (still am) able to heal.

This I credit to my parents, who have welcomed be back home with open arms. They have allowed me to fully rest and have loved me unconditionally through my worst .

They have not pressured me to “get back into the rat race,” make money right away, or figure out my next move. They’ve let me be in my space, they’ve let me scream and shout and throw punches into my pillows, cry every tear in my body.

I did this in the privacy of my own bedroom and not once have they disturbed me in my healing process. They held space for me as graciously as anyone could ask for. They didn’t invade my personal space but were still there if I needed them to be.

I’ve wanted to “make it on my own” from a very young age. So, coming home under the current circumstances was very sobering for me. I am very grateful for my parents and the space they have provided with so that I can heal properly. And to heal properly, you need time.

2. Soberness

The impact of the pandemic led me to make the following life altering decision.

In June, I had a couple beers. I thought nothing of it. The next day, I was a total basket case. After that night, I decided I was done with alcohol for good. Booze has probably been at the source of most of my problems in my late teens and twenties. From emotionally-charged fights, to my social anxiety, to feelings of inadequacy, to making terrible terrible decisions.

Booze had become a crutch for everything in my life. It was dumbing me down and numbing me and numbing my surroundings. Alcohol was diminishing my light entirely.

Boozing hard sucks. We forget who we are when we drink. We think it makes us more fun and maybe it does temporarily. But the next day, we feel empty….

You know what I want? I want to feel alive without beer. I want to get up and dance without needing that shot. I want to talk to a stranger without the need for that glass of wine. I want to be free. Free from feeling self-conscious, unseen and unworthy.

And frankly, I am done.

Done feeling anxious. Done feeling disconnected. Done waking up the next day feeling sick to my stomach. Done not remembering what I said or did the previous night. Done fighting over petty shit.

I am now seven months sober. I feel much more connected and confident in life and myself. I don’t miss alcohol at all, not one bit.

3. Connecting online with others locally and all over the world

I’m truly not a fan of the online world. But with the pandemic, most activities were moved online. At first, I was resistant to take up anything online. I’d attend events and have my mic and my camera off – that’s how stand-offish I was to the whole idea.

But, what I found online was an incredible community of all the things I usually like doing non-virtually. This includes doing yoga and other physical activities, viewing films and taking a few photography and self-improvement seminars from the comfort of my own bedroom.

These last three months, I have felt more connected to myself and others thanks to new online platforms that weren’t there pre-pandemic. I was able to watch a bunch of docs at this year’s CUFF Docs. I took some incredible photography seminars from the UK that brought together 100 participants at a time from all over the world. It was truly cool to feel a part of something bigger and know that a participant in Scotland or California was taking the same seminar at the exact same time over a topic we all liked. Pre-pandemic, these seminars were led in-person, in the UK.

How incredible that the online world can increase its audience and profitability too in ways that weren’t developed pre-pandemic? We had the tools for it but not the need.

4. Reconnecting to nature

I love being outside more than I like being inside.

As a highly sensitive person, the fact that there’s less people anywhere I go nowadays due to people staying home, truly relaxes me. I feel less anxious and hurried. Less traffic is a bonus too. I love having all that space and I love having all that space while out in nature. And in Canada, we have that space, that vastness that cannot be found in other parts of the world. I can breathe here.

5. Reconnecting with my parents as an adult

It’s hard to believe I’ve come to a point in which I appreciate the darkness, the shitty days, the days where my worst insecurities come out. But I have. I have close friends who don’t have their parents around anymore, some for quite some time and others who lost a parent very recently. Some people don’t talk to theirs anymore. It’s all quite sad really.

And listen, it’s not always been bright and shiny in our family. We have problems like every other family. And living with my parents as an adult has brought out quite a few inner child wounds to the surface.

And believe me, it’s not pretty. But, what’s beautiful is that living with my parents has actually helped me in my healing, not hindered it. It forces me to face my fears and my deep inner wounds because being in their presence triggers some of these wounds. I know it sounds dark.

But after darkness comes light. Even moments of darkness are blessings. Now, even if the day has some shit in it, I see the millions of blessings it brings me, the lessons it teaches me. Lessons are also blessings and these triggers are teaching me to let go. And while I let go, I am able to reconnect with my parents as an empowered adult, not as a wounded child.

May 2021 bring you peace and many many blessings.

Three steps to becoming a more resilient individual

Resiliency is the “capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”. “Toughness”.

When I think of what it is to be resilient I think of

-being emotionally anchored

-being gentle (self-love and self-compassion)

-getting back on your feet

-having faith that everything will be OK

-pushing forward through the murky days (courage)

-continuously letting go (forgiveness)

and endless gratefulness for the every day.

It wasn’t always this way…

My road to resiliency looked like sitting in a puddle of intense emotions, day in and day out. This would affect interactions I would have with people around me and the self-talk I would have with myself. I believed I could let it all stew until, one magical day, I would eventually be able to let it all go.

It was my usual course of action: sitting with grief for years, unable to let go of the hurt and misery.

As a hypersensitive person, I have come to realize that what’s been really working for me is not suppressing my emotions but gaining an understanding of them; recognizing the difference between my ego taking over and my higher self, what I imagined and what was real, and generally knowing when and how to put my demons to sleep (action vs inaction).

I’ve learned there’s a certain responsibility that comes with difficult emotions such as grief and that we have the choice to become an active participant in our grieving process.

Dr. Lucy Hone, a resiliency researcher, swears by the three following methods that we can implement in our day to day lives to become better equipped in the throws of adversity:

  1. Instead of thinking “Why this happened to me”, “why NOT me?” To realize that I am not more special than my neighbour or anybody else on Earth and that the world doesn’t owe me anything.
  2. Will the following action that I am about to take (eg: drinking excessively, pretending everything is OK when it’s not, looking at photos of your recently deceased child) hurt me or help me in my healing process?
  3. Everyday, listing three things I am grateful for . It is said that for every negative thought, it takes three good positive ones to rewire our brains for positivity.

Here is the link to Dr.Hone’s TED talk. It’s fantastic:

Wishing you all the best in your healing journeys!

Reshaping our conversations to redefine our definition of success

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“What do you do for a living?”

“Where did you go to school”?

“How old are you?

“Where are you from?”

These are questions that we often ask others upon meeting them for the first time or that are being asked to us.

These interactions are not meant to hurt others or ill-intentioned in any way. It is simply the small talk that is automatic, unconscious and relatively risk-free. It feels safe, standard and easy.

But I want us to ask ourselves this:  is this contributing to an evolving consciousness, one with the bigger picture in mind instead of the narrower idea of what “success” is supposed to be or look like?

No. It creates limiting believes in that, our age, where we come fromour education, if any, and what we “do” for a living defines our personal success, and whether “success” is over for us because we’ve passed a certain age, or that we are a failure because we didn’t go to higher education.

But is that entirely fair or remotely true?

When I took a year off from my career, I became lost. I fell into a despair of hopelessness and deep insecurity.  Who was I apart from my job, my weekly “hustle and bustle,” my social life and my education? Who was Claire? Who was she??

I did not know.

Why?

Because I had defined my entire self around “what I did” instead of “who I was” on the inside.

Imagine in one day losing your job, your apartment and your city? Who are you without these? Who are you when you’re at your most vulnerable and exposed self? You can’t hide anymore, can you? Your true colours come up, your insecurities need to be faced head on. Your understanding of the self is put to a test because you realize that you don’t really know yourself on that deep intimate level.

What if we changed up the conversation? What if we opened up a dialogue that is devoid of work titles, age, gender even and education? What if we took the time to really see ourselves and others for who we/they are?

Now that we are on the more conscious side of this conversation,  we could start with  “What brings you joy? What are you passionate about? What are your most cherished memories? What are your greatest fears?”.

When we reshape the dialogue, slowly, we re-define success for others, and for ourselves.

As a result? We become more in tune with ourselves and we start connecting with others on a more authentic level. That, to itself,  is success to me.

 

Three ways you can reduce waste in a new city

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As a traveller for the past year and a bit, I observed first hand the amount of garbage dumped by tourists on beaches, on roads and hiking trails. It’s a shame to see that some people still see the earth as a dumping ground.

The good news is the small steps we can take as individuals to become more eco-friendly.  And believe me, small steps can make a difference.

On the road, I met eco-conscious travellers that led the way in reducing waste and the plastic-free movement.  It inspired me, really, to take a look at how I could reduce my own waste when I’ll have finally settled down in a new city.

While traveling, my wastes stayed rather small. However, at the end of my journey, I was hooked on biodegradable laundry powder and bar soaps and my most proud discovery – rewashable hygienic cotton pads. Yup. No more single-use pads.

Then it dawned on me. What will happen when I finally settle into a new place? Will old habits come back? Will I buy a shit ton of “stuff”, plastic products like shampoo bottles and toxic cleaning supplies?

Something clicked this time. Old ways weren’t an option anymore.

“I want a toxic and plastic-free house,” I told my partner a few months back when we were working and living in Santorini. As the water on the island isn’t drinkable, tourists, locals and workers alike consumed endless amounts of bottled-water year-round.

The worst part? There’s no recycling on the island so these plastic bottles are buried on the island’s dump, forever taking space and uselessly polluting the earth and water with no chance of putting these bottles to good use.

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The first few months in Amsterdam, we certainly used plastic and we still do. We recycle most of the plastic and cardboard we use, although I am not 100% sure how the plastic is sorted here in Amsterdam. I see there is no encouraged composting from the municipality, something I was a big fan of when they adapted a new composting by-law back home in Calgary, AB.

We currently live in a furnished apartment in which a few left-over plastic products remain. But slowly, once the products will be all used up, I intend to not replace it with plastics.

Here are three small steps you can take in a new city to slowly limit your waste and kick your plastic and chemical use to the curb – and for good:

  • shop second hand or vintage

The first thing I did when I arrived in Amsterdam  was to locate the vintage and second hand stores. Coming from sunny Greece, I had little work and winter appropriate clothes to wear. I found endless selections of vintage and second hand shops that were affordable. At one second-hand shop, I bought two nice work shirts for 20 euros. It was a steal and and felt good to know these articles of clothing were given a second life and not rotting in a dump somewhere.

  • buy bulk and refuse the bag

Buying bulk is ideal. It’s not always manageable but when you can, buy flour in bulk, buy your oranges in bulk without the plastic mesh netting that comes when you buy them in a bundle, buy your nuts in bulk, your veggies, you name it.  Then, simply reuse glass jars such as your jam jars and such as storage . The goal is to minimize single-use plastic. Bring reusable shopping bags with you at all times and think twice before accepting the plastic bag that comes with your newly bought purchase. Can you fit your new purchase into your purse or backpack? Can you carry it by hand? Also, do you really need that single-use paper receipt?

  • replace your body and cleaning products with biodegradable, toxic- and plastic-free options. 

This is truly one easy fix. Your shampoo bottle on its last legs? Order a couple shampoo bars – a plastic bottle-free alternative that resembles bar soap except more adapted for hair – from sites like plasticfreeamsterdam.com . Your cleaning products are on their way out? Make your own with an apple vinegar base mix. Countless recipes can be found online when you google or YouTube “homemade” anything.

But even think about single-use plastics that come with toothpaste products, plastic toothbrushes and plastic-packaged floss. There are alternative ways to these such as toothpaste that comes in a glass jar, and toothbrushes made of bamboo.

I choose Plastic Free Amsterdam because it’s packaged locally and packaged plastic-free, of course. Please note that there are other online options in North America and Australia that offer similar products. Do your research. Instagram is a great start for that.