How to Change the World & Still Practice Self-Care

Recently, I have noticed my energy drastically diminish while I read news stories or Instagram posts about the Amazon burning, or the wildfires in Australia, or the invasion of Indigenous lands in Canada, or the murder of Black folx in America. My mental state is scattered & upset. My physical body is in pain & I’m exhausted. If I’m feeling this way, I cannot imagine how BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) feel, and I never will. This is my privilege as a white woman.

While it is important to pay attention to what happens in the world, to participate in anti-racist work (including inner work), and to get involved in political issues that matter to us, it is also important to take care of ourselves while we do so. It’s difficult to stay focused on the cause of our activism, or even our everyday life when we aren’t honouring our energy. 

We’re living in some pretty tumultuous times. And, unless we decide to shut ourselves off completely from the world, we don’t have a choice. Racism & ecoterrorism are everywhere, every day. Yes, even in Canada. We are not immune to white supremacy here in the North.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, or all of the above; first, meditate on the emotional turmoil BIPOC must be experiencing when they read the same information you do, and then, consider these self-care strategies while you try to navigate the royally f*cked up world we must live in & continue to fight for the rights of the oppressed. 

1. Set Clear Boundaries

It’s easy to become lost in the scroll of social media, to click on every post for updates, and to say ‘yes’ to every cause that we care about. While it’s our job to stay informed & to inform others, we must also keep our precious energy in mind. This is as much a spiritual issue as it is a political one. And we must care for ourselves while we do it.

Some might see this as selfish (Aren’t we talking about helping others?) and yes, it is. By being selfish with our energy, we are saving ourselves from burnout, fatigue, & stress. Supporting a worthy cause & sharing information can be a long battle. Sometimes life-long. We must think about the long-term effects this can have on our minds, our bodies, and our souls.

Take a break from social media. Turn off news notifications. Mute stories & posts for a day or two. Use the time to practice self-care, reset your energy, and create an action plan for how you can help.

When we set clear boundaries, it can mean limiting our contact with those that shut down our ideas & create more harm than good with their comments. Sometimes it’s a family member or friend that doesn’t agree with your point-of-view or beliefs. That can hurt. A lot. Try not to take it personally. You are not responsible for changing their uninformed minds. But, it is your responsibility to start the conversation.

Educating & raising awareness is a tough job. Especially in the online world. We can argue all day long about whose ideas are right, but at the end of the day, it is what we believe & the actions we are taking that matter.

Block unapologetically. Turn off comments. Know when it’s time to step away from the keyboard or the conversation. If there doesn’t seem to have an end in sight, end it yourself. Save your energy to share with humans that you care about, or take an interest in the same actions that you do.

2. Create a Safe Container

With any supportive group, it is crucial to create a safe container or space that you, and others, can work within. Before we open our doors & hearts to those that need our help & support, we must harness the energy of safety, acceptance, & open-mindedness. The purpose of a safe space is to provide healing energy for both those affected by oppression and those supporting the oppressed. This can be your Instagram feed/stories, your blog, or actual physical space in your community.

Create a space where you can safely mobilize, discuss, & protect. These spaces create strong bonds. It is important to stick together and trust that someone has your back, even if they are a complete stranger. Regardless, you know you are on the same side of the struggle.

If you come from a place of privilege, use it to open your heart & your wallet for those directly affected by whatever or whoever is oppressing them. These actions create a container of support & safety. They tell the oppressed that someone is watching, listening, & supporting them.

3. Practice Loving-Kindness

As I said, this is a spiritual issue, too. Honour your emotions. Allow yourself to feel all the emotions you are feeling, whether it be anger, frustration, sadness, heartbreak; let it all out. Everything you feel is valid simply because you feel it. Just because we are talking politics, doesn’t mean we can’t be emotional. In fact, it means we should be emotional. Be pissed! Be radical! All for the greater good. That’s how action takes place; when we are passionate & emotional about what matters to us.

It can be hard to turn away from the ‘bad’ feelings (shame, guilt, grief, to name a few) & push past them. This is not the path to healing ourselves, others, or the Earth. We must recognize & release the emotions of helplessness & frustration. Honour them for what they are & move forward. This will bring clarity & help you on the journey to supporting & acting for others.

Show yourself & the other human beings in the struggle some loving-kindness. Allow yourself to breathe. You are only human. You can only do so much with your time here on Earth. Be kind to yourself through this process so that you may be stronger tomorrow & continue to fight for what you believe is right.

Heal ourselves. Heal the people. Heal the land.

With love,
~ZZ

The Empress ~ Mama Nature’s Messenger

Some call her the Mother of the Tarot. She is fertile like the soil after a spring rain. An archetype of Mother Nature. She is the Triple Goddess. Grounded in the feminine, she holds the power of three in her roots. She breathes creation into the souls of those who listen. The Empress whispers softly, “Nurture your dreams, dear child.”

***

The Empress spoke to me this past summer. She was my guide, silently pushing me to create, write, & connect; visiting me three significant times in those months, reminding me that to create is to live; to create is to thrive.

I’d like to share her message with you.

The Cards

While I continue to primarily use The Wild Unknown deck from Kim Krans, I recently purchased the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. An illustration of Tarot that is over 100 years old and possibly the most popular. Pamela Colman Smith illustrated the Rider-Waite deck in 1909. When I first started shuffling these cards, I felt their ancient magic come to life.

The Empress spoke to me immediately through those cards as well. She visited me in my first reading with this deck. I heard her message loud & clear, “Tell my story.” So, here I am, on Friday the 13th, the Day of the Goddess, attempting to channel her story.

The Empress is the third card in the Major Arcana journey. The number three is incredibly meaningful in her story. Threes are connected to the ideas of community & creativity, communication & support. It is a number of creation. Think of the saying, “Third time’s a charm.” Three signifies the creation of something new.

By the time we come to the three power of anything, that is, the transformative moment, the atoms leap, and where there was once lassitude, there is now locomotion.

Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.

With both decks, the imagery of The Empress is simply beautiful. Krans’ artwork in The Wild Unknown is once again awe-inspiring. She has captured the natural beauty that exudes from the Empress. The Empress is Mama Nature. She is represented not by a human image, but by a tall & shadowed tree under the crescent moon’s light. The Empress is grounded, rooted in her power. She represents growth & creation.

Maiden, Mother, Crone

The Empress is also connected to Mother Moon, (shown in the left corner of the card) encouraging the link between the intuitive self & the creative. She is the Mother of the Triple Goddess Moon (Maiden, Mother, Crone). The Mother represents the full moon; a symbol of fulfillment, fertility & power. It is also a sign to care & nurture our emotional self.

The Meaning

The keywords I associate with The Empress are: creation, nurture & nature. As mentioned above, some call her the Mother of the Tarot. I would be inclined to do so as well. She is passionate, grounded, nurturing, creative.

The Empress is also connected to Venus; the ruler of Fridays, & the goddess of love, sex, & fertility. She shares with us the power of natural beauty. The Empress is Mama Nature; she nurtures us in the fertile times of our lives (not necessarily just motherhood). Fertility can come in many forms, such as nurturing ourselves to become the best humans we can be. It can mean embracing mothering behaviours for those we love & care for. There are times of immense growth in our lives in which we are fertile, creating life from nothing, creating our futures.

In a reading, The Empress is calling us to nurture the connections present in our lives, to pay attention to our mother figures, or the mother in us, and to listen to those who care about you, and those you care for. She encourages us to focus on the growth we have experienced, on the lives we are creating, and the lives we are touching along the way. The Empress wants us to connect to Mama Nature, to ground ourselves in that connection, to nurture it. She is whispering, “Plant roots, deep in the ground, and watch what grows.”

The Empress in Me

The Empress came to me this summer, just after the Solstice, while I was setting up camp in the midst of trees and my best friends at Winnipeg’s Folk Festival. Here I am, in the depths of December, feeling her warmth and her nurturing energy.

Over the past six months, she has pushed me to question how & why I do the work that I do. “Why do you care for others in the way that you do?” Followed up with, “How can you nurture yourself, too?” She pushed me into nature. I sat in parks, went for long walks amongst the trees, listened to the wind, felt the sun soak into my skin.

The Empress inspired me to connect with my actual mother (Hi, Mama) and with those friends that mother me (Hi, Tia & Misha). It was a summer based on connection and nurturing those connections on a deeper, soul level. The Empress’ energy pushed me to be a guide for others. She continues to guide me & remind me to remain connected & grounded, to tap into my emotional self, and to create & reflect.

Mothering manifests in so many forms, just as creation manifests in many forms. We are the mothers of our creations! We can be mothers to our friends, and even mothers to our mothers. The Empress teaches us that these relationships are cyclical. We nurture those that have nurtured us.

Through the Empress’ messages, I learned to mother my creative self, to guide her into creating a business, to expand her craft, and continue to write her story.

So, while the winter winds blow outside, I keep the messages from the Empress close by for warmth. I encourage you to take the time to nurture yourself through this season. And when the time comes, allow whatever is stirring in your heart the space to be free.

With love ~ ZZ

The Magician ~ You Are Magic

Magic is within us. It surrounds us. It is us.

I am magic. You are magic. We are magic.

These are my reminders when I start to doubt myself & my journey. I encourage you to remind yourself of your magic when you feel lost too.

I also remind myself that my magical practice is continual. It is always changing, always growing, always expanding. I think that’s my favourite part of being a witch (and a human in general). There is always something to learn about my practice & my self. I’m always discovering different ways to express & create my own magic.

One of the constants in my practice is obviously Tarot. The cards are a way for me to reconnect to magic & to myself. They ground me. They help to bring my energy back to me. Reconnecting to ourselves & our magic is so important while we navigate a world designed to distract us from ourselves.

The Magician is my card for the year (2019). I was so happy to have pulled this card in my Year Ahead Spread which is a birthday tradition of mine. I feel inspired by The Magician. Inspired & grateful. I write this post in gratitude to The Magician’s energy & it’s continued inspiration on my journey to reconnect & expand throughout this year.

The Cards

As I’ve mentioned, I use The Wild Unknown tarot deck by Kim Krans for my personal & professional readings. Krans’ artwork is so beautiful & I am so deeply connected to the images that appear in every spread I read. My book will be open again soon! Please email me here to book a distance or in-person reading.

The Magician is numbered as the first card but, technically, it is the second card in the journey of the Major Arcana. The first card being The Fool who has now become The Magician. Now that they have taken the leap from their comfort zone, The Fool is learning to express their magic through their creations in this world. As with all of the Major Arcana cards, The Magician represents an archetype of the human psyche. This one being that of the spiritual self.

This card shares a very similar energy to that of The High Priestess, which is the next card on the Major Arcana journey. While The High Priestess represents an intuitive connection to magic, The Magician represents a more action-oriented magical connection. There is a duality represented between these two magical archetypes. The Divine Feminine in The High Priestess & the Divine Masculine in the Magician. Both energies can be found within all of us, regardless of gender identity or expression.

The Meaning

The keywords I associate with The Magician are: creation, activity, and empowerment. The Magician represents a strong awareness to its environment, itself & the magic that envelopes it. The Magician creates. Constantly. It has an active, forward-moving energy while maintaining a true sense of self. It gains this sense of self through its strong connection to the magical realm. The Magician represents a constant cycle of giving magical energy through creation & then receiving that same energy in abundance.

There is a warm, inspiring energy to the imagery of The Magician. The colours of orange & yellow represent the outwardly creative energy The Magician fills us with. There is a sense of radiant power. The leopard, with the infinity sign on its chest, tells us to continue to take action in our creative pursuits. Creative magic is cyclical, continuous.

The Magician encourages us to be a conscious creator in all aspects of our lives. A conscious creator is aware of its power, its magic, & its influence. They are aware of the four elements which are represented here through the four suits of the Minor Arcana (Wands, Pentacles, Cups & Swords). The “hands” of The Magician are placed upon the Pentacle, signifying a grounding connection through the element of Earth. A conscious creator connects to the Earth & all she provides.

When you receive The Magician in a reading, exhale greatly. It is a reminder that there is magic within you just waiting to be released! It is time to act on any creative endeavors you’ve been dreaming of. Make use of the magic that surrounds you & radiates from you. Step into your magic, love!

The Magician in Me

As I mentioned, The Magician is my card of the year for 2019 and what a magical year it has been already. I strongly believe that connecting to the magic within myself has brought abundance into my life in many different ways.

I have been blessed with a new & wonderful partner who may not be a witch, but is definitely full of magic. And we are connected, unintentionally (or perhaps it is intentional), through magic & the cycles of nature. Many clients reached out to me in the first quarter of this year to have readings done either through email or in-person. I am so grateful for those who choose to connect with me through Tarot. I have been gifted many new plant friends who bring me happiness & help to nurture my magical practice & connection to nature every day. I found a new oracle deck (Moonology by Yasmin Boland) to work & connect with through the moon’s phases. I was asked to join a new community that inspires me to be a better, stronger, healthier human that will give me the opportunity to connect with souls on the same journey.

I’ve kept The Magician on my “altar” for the past month as it has come up so often in my readings. (I use quotations here as I’m still not sure about the use of the word altar in my practice, but it is a sacred space I’ve created where I can make offerings, read cards, or simply light a candle). This card has been an important reminder for me to stay in my magic & to call my magic back to me every day.

Magic has found me. It follows me. Because I am magic. You are magic. We are magic.

If you need guidance in how to stay in your own magic, please reach out with a little love note below.

With love ~ zz

The Fool ~ Begin Again

Happy Spring Equinox, loves! I hope you had a blessed day full of balanced & cleansing energy.

Recently, I have been called to deepen my studies of the Tarot. I have been blessed with many new clients over the last few months and through that abundance, I have been drawn to dive deeper. Part of my studying will be to post about each card & develop the Tarot portion of my blog. I began last year with a couple cards I was working with heavily at the launch of The Wanderess Within, which you can find here. You can also contact me through that page for readings!

I decided to begin again with our dear friend ~ The Fool.

The Cards

If you’ve been following along with my blog or Instagram page, you know I work very closely with The Wild Unknown deck by Kim Krans. I still hold a very personal & powerful relationship with these cards. They continue to bring me peace, insight & strength in life’s tougher, yet magical, moments.

The Fool is Card Zero. The first card of the Major Arcana beginning the journey through the Tarot. For those unfamiliar with Tarot, there are seventy-eight cards in a traditional tarot deck. Twenty-two of those cards are called the Major Arcana (the deck’s trump cards). “Arcana” means secrets or mysteries. The Major Arcana are powerful and each one represents an archetype of the human psyche. These cards are the energies we all hold within ourselves.

The Major Arcana cards also tell a story through those human archetypes.
The keywords I associate with The Fool are; fearlessness, innocence and potential. The Fool represents the beginning of the story, the “Once upon a time,” the introduction to the deepest parts of ourselves. In order to reach those deepest parts, we have to start somewhere. The Fool asks us to put our fears aside & start now.

The Meaning

There is a sweet innocence to The Fool. An innocent energy that still has the excited eagerness to learn, explore, and begin. Blinded by excitement in the face of the unknown, The Fool is ready to take the leap that many of us are scared to take. We can see our little bird friend stretching out their foot in preparation to take it’s first flight. They are surrounded by beautiful blossoms ~ a sign of spring & new life.

When The Fool shows up in a reading, it’s telling you to begin, or, begin again. Take a step off the branch that’s been supporting you & dive into the unknown. As scary as that may seem, The Fool is telling you you’re ready.

The Fool is a reminder that we are constantly beginning. Whether that means beginning a new endeavor, like a job or degree, or starting a new relationship, with a partner or even with yourself. Beginning looks & feels different for everyone. The Fool reminds us that we have the power within us to start fresh in all aspects of our lives.

Unless you remain stuck on the branch. Unless you remain in your comfort zone.

The Fool in Me

I was stuck on the branch for a long time. I was comfortable in my distractions. Distractions from my work, my practice, my self. I allowed myself to be blinded by pain & got stuck in a space that felt safe & familiar. But “safe” does not mean positive. It does not mean growth. It certainly does not mean fearless.

“Growth is only available outside your comfort zone.” This is an idea that I find so overplayed and yet, so important. While I understand the sentiment (and it truly is the mantra of The Fool), the movement from being comfortable into a place of growth is so intimidating and I think that fact gets overlooked when we tell others to just go out & do the thing.

What if the thing we’re meant to do seems impossible & out of reach? What if we are stopped by crippling anxiety or depression? What if we have financial hurdles standing in our way? I believe the answer lies in being aware of our potential & trying to live it fully every day.

While I was studying this card & moving through my own space of comfort to one of growth, I asked myself, “How does The Fool overcome its fear?” And the answer is, at least for me, The Fool doesn’t hold fear to begin with. It does not yet know the disappointment or heartache that can come from beginning again & stepping off the branch. The Fool only sees the potential & takes the leap into flight.

So, I encourage you to take the leap this season. Spring is such an abundant time. We are surrounded by new life & fresh energy. Allow The Fool’s energy to fill your soul and push you off the branch you’ve been resting comfortably on this winter.

And, subscribe or follow to stay updated on the rest of my Tarot series! Send some love my way in the comments or in an email. I love to hear from you!

With love ~ zz

The Final Lessons: A Story of Becoming

Nothing is ever final though, is it? These lessons are far reaching, all encompassing, and continuous. We are always learning, always growing, and I find a lot of comfort in that.

Two years ago, I started the journey of my becoming. I wrote on my Instagram, “currently experiencing a revolution.” And, wow, was I ever. I had no idea of the experiences coming my way. I had just purchased a one-way ticket to Ireland for that coming summer. I was riding an existential high that I have yet to recreate. But, it will come.

During that trip to Ireland, this list of 25 Lessons came to fruition. My ideas and the courage to start this blog came to fruition. The desire to continue the creative life I had left long ago, returned. I was becoming.

Becoming what? You may ask. Becoming who I was meant to be. Becoming my most authentic self. Becoming a witch. Becoming me.

The Final Five

I had a much different idea planned for this “final” portion of the 25 Lessons series. I had some arbitrary, relatable ideas drafted. But, I decided instead to use the five lessons I wrote down surrounding that solo trip across the ocean. They are just as true as they were two years ago. And, they will always be a reminder of the growth experienced through the fearless abandon I had in my twenty-fifth year.

However, because of the challenges I also experienced during that summer, I disconnected the important lessons I learned in that time. (Summer can be rough for some of us, remember?) But, I have finally accepted that even though they happened at the same time, they are two separate experiences. And, these lessons stand on their own. Just as I do.

21. Take the Road Not Taken

As Robert Frost famously wrote, 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken: A Selection of Robert Frost’s Poems

As an English Lit major, I’ve heard this quote many times in my life. I love a good cliché. But, it wasn’t until I decided to leave my tour bus & hike the side of the Cliffs of Moher, solo, just me & the mist from the ocean, that it really resonated with me. Always take the road less traveled by. Sure, it takes courage to walk your own path. But, the courage grants you the sights that others won’t get the chance to witness.

On the other side, or at the end of the path, you will find solace & direction. Direction into yourself. Far away from the voices of the mass crowds. You will see things that others don’t; flocks of birds diving from the side of a 700 foot cliff, or puffins quietly nesting on the edge of an island, or an ice cream shop on a hot, sunny day with no queue.

Maybe you will meet someone on this path. Someone that will change your life.

Maybe that person will be you.

22. Smile!

A simple, genuine smile will go a long way. I have learned that people are inherently attracted to positivity. Good vibes bring good vibes, and all that. Good vibes also bring gifts. Gifts of abundance & gratitude, of magic, of shelter, of good food & good weed, and of new, lasting connections.

While travelling alone, I found that when others see you smiling, they are more inclined to smile too. They can’t help it, really. With that smile comes a helping hand in the form of directions to the next open hostel or an invite to the magical (and cost-free) music festival.

We can’t predict how someone is going to react to us. Especially when we are a stranger on the street in an unknown city. But, we can at least try to send positivity with a welcoming smile, in hopes they will send that positivity back to us. Couldn’t hurt, right?

Bonus: We become happier when we smile too!

23. Spend the money.

I should preface this lesson with the fact that I am not financially savvy by any means. Perhaps one day I will learn how to file my taxes, or find out what the benefits of an RRSP are, but, today is not that day.

What I am telling you with this lesson is that, sometimes, spending the extra money is worth it. I’m not rolling in cash because I live by the belief that money is meant to be spent. I’m currently doing the work to uncover where that belief stems from & what I can do about changing it, but that’s for a later blog post.

We are only here on this earth for a short time. So, why not live while we can? And, to me, that means a last-minute change of destination or, on a smaller scale, a side of chips with your beer at the pub.

If money is available to you, if you are bound to make more of it in the future, spend it with purpose, and without guilt!

24. Take the risk.

I write a lot about courage & bravery in these posts. The courage to be yourself, to live authentically, to say “no,” to buy the flight, to take the risk!

Amongst travelers, you hear the words, “I’m just going to find myself,” a lot. Even if you’re not going to “find yourself,” people will assume that’s what you’re doing out in the world anyway. What else would we be doing, buying a one-way ticket, or making a drastic move to a foreign country, if not to find out who we truly are?

We’ve created this assumption because on the other side of fear, we do find ourselves. Through being courageous & taking risks, we explore facets of our being that we would have never discovered if we hadn’t stepped out the door into the great unknown. And, yes, discovering those things is really scary! But, regardless of what happens after you take that step, you will have learned the lesson that risk was meant to teach you. And be that much better, and wiser, from it.

25. There are bigger things meant for you.

When we remain in our comfort zone, whether that be our hometown, a cushy job, or a toxic relationship (yes, those can be a space of comfort, too), we remain small. When we remain small, our energy remains stagnant. There is no space for us to move, and grow, and expand. Let me tell you; moving & growing & expanding feels so damn good. It feels like freedom. And power. And peace.

Travelers find this freedom with haste. Or, they do if they’re doing it right. Those wandering the world have the freedom to choose their next destination, “Valencia or Madrid?” and therefore, their next adventure. Freedom, and the feeling of “bigger,” quickly moves into other aspects of our lives as well. We return home and quit the soul-sucking desk job. Drop the deadbeat boyfriend. Let go of limiting beliefs. We do these things because we know now that there is a bigger world “out there” that has space for us & all of our dreams.

While I was checking in to my last hostel in Dublin, the man behind the counter tried to read my name out loud (a lot of people try this & fail). But, this guy knew his Polish pronunciation! He told me, in a very serious Irish accent, “With a name like that, you must be destined to do something grand. Something that’s going to change the world.” What a thing to say to a girl! I was at a loss for words as he handed my passport back to me. And I might have replied with a humble “thank you,” but I can’t be sure. However, I will always remember the feeling his words gave me. And I remind myself of them when I lose motivation to create, or the desire to love, or just to live.

Two years ago, under the full moon lunar eclipse, I wrote to myself, “I am so much more than I ever thought possible.”

Ah, Yes, the Conclusion

Well, my loves, I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of lessons from my, now twenty-seven, years of life on this wonderful earth. I’ve learned a lot through writing these posts as well, about myself, about the collective, about how hard it is to keep up with a blog! And, just like me, this space is becoming something I never thought it could be.

I would love to hear what you’ve thought after reading through these pages. What did you learn? What did you enjoy? What was a challenge to read?

To connect is one of my favourite activities. So, please let me know in the comments how it all has made you feel. Or, send me a little love note on the contact page.

There is so much more to come from The Wanderess Within! She is ready to become something bigger, too.

Like I told myself in the pages of my journal at the end of that summer, “Take a deep breath, the best is yet to come.”

With love ~ zz

Unbreaking Your Heart: A Lesson in Doing the Work

I know for most of us summer is far from our consciousness. By now, we are nestled in to our warm homes with no intention of facing the harsh winds of winter. And yet, my mind is still preoccupied with all that happened while the days were long & hot. This past summer was a tough one. Many clients I’ve worked with, friends I’ve caught up with, fellow witches on social media, have all shared their struggles through the past season. It’s fairly comforting to know I’m not alone.

We hold so many expectations for the season of sunlight, promise, and positivity. For some of us, however, summer is a season of distraction; a season of trying our hardest to do the work. It can be a struggle to simply get out of bed to enjoy that sweet, sweet sunshine.

Some days are really, really good! Some days just … suck. There’s no eloquent way of putting it.

Now with summer and sadly, autumn, behind us, I’m returning to my introspective nature.

I created this space just over a year ago in the midst of heartbreak & continued to use it as a distraction from the pain instead of what I meant it for; an expression of myself & a space of solace for others. I’m returning to this space having done the work. I promise. 

The thing is, with aches of the heart, they return. The aches & pains wait until you’re vulnerable again. When you open that big heart of yours to let more love in, the same old aches make their way in too. Sometimes they drag us further down than they did the first time.

I struggled to release that pain. Layer after layer I peeled back the hurt & revealed a stronger woman. A wiser woman.

A woman who doesn’t take shit from the boys that cross her path.

A woman who puts herself first.

This past summer started with such promise. Much like the one before it. With so much light & love. I shared many special moments with those I love dearly & met more wonderful souls in those moments too. 

And then my soulmate-best friend moved across the country.

And then I ran into the man who broke my heart.

And then I received a call from my father that left me disappointed and anxious. 

And then I had my hours cut at the job that I love.

It was a lot.

Any one of these hardships I could have handled with ease & perhaps a smile. But, all together, in the midst of what was supposed to be an uplifting season, they left me defeated.

Defeated & scared. Scared & anxious. Anxious & sad. 

So, what’s a witch to do? She unbreaks her own damn heart.

Unbreak My Heart

Queue: Toni Braxton.

Queue: the sweet catharsis of tears.

And, don’t forget about the restless nights spent avoiding growth & distracting myself from the pain.

Just as growth cannot happen when we stay in our comfort zone, love cannot come into our lives when our hearts remain closed.

However, it’s wildly difficult to see past the heartache & deal with the real-life challenges that require our attention. Like, our student debt, or our rent payments, or the laundry piling up behind the bedroom door. Or, more existentially, what we’re actually doing with our lives. That was (one of the many) lessons that I took from this summer’s hardships.

The first step in any rehabilitation is admitting you have a problem. So, naturally, the first step in unbreaking your own heart is admitting its still broken! This seems simple enough. But, in reality, we play tricks with ourselves and our hearts. We trick ourselves into believing that our hearts are fully mended when they’re really just poorly patched back together. Admitting this to yourself is probably (definitely) the hardest step to take. The first cut is the deepest, as Sheryl Crowe crooned to me this summer at my city’s Folk Festival.

We need to cut deep in order to heal deep. And I cut deep. I sat it my suffering constantly. Whether it was in the park on a sunny afternoon, in my sunroom in meditation, or down by the river at my favourite spot amongst the whispering trees. I did this until I could admit to myself that I still had some shit to let go of, to own up to. I had to be brutally honest with myself. And let me tell you, that shit ain’t easy.

The worst part was thinking to myself, Haven’t I done this already? Didn’t I let go of all this pain a long time ago? Shouldn’t I be on to bigger & better things by know?

I had to remind myself, and I’d like to remind you too: Time is not linear. Healing is not linear. We grow & change & transform at our own pace. Once we can acknowledge that, we can stop ignoring the emotions that come up, all the messy stuff we don’t want to admit to still feeling after all of this time. I’ve written about this before, but it will always be true. The challenge is recognizing those messy emotions, sitting in them, allowing them to wash over you & ultimately, letting them go.

This is the work.

A Short List of What Doing the Work Looks Like

1. Pull all your pieces together. 

Pick them up. Really look at them. Throw those away that no longer serve you.

2. Bring your focus to all that you’ve neglected.

What have you let slide while mourning your heart? Clean your room. Pay your bills. Water your plants. Call your grandma.

3. Be honest. 

Tell them how you feel. Tell yourself how you’re feeling. Tell the world if you need to.

4. Listen to the whisperings of your heart. 

Sit in silence & solitude. Listen to what your heart has to say. Write it down.

5. Forgive yourself. 

Send gratitude. To yourself, to those who hurt you. Continue living. Continue thriving.

Mindfully Moving Forward

Now that we’re collectively moving into a darker season of introspection & transformation, it’s important to remember that doing this “heart work” is necessary in order to get the rest of our shit together. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

It’s also important to remember that the pain doesn’t necessarily stop here.

While we may feel great, on this gratitude-induced high, following our unbroken hearts whether they may lead – be mindful of the journey. Take stock in what happened to you. Own it. Move forward with intention. Whatever that means to you.

Don’t forget what brought you to this place.

For me, that means giving thanks for the ones that taught me what pain feels like. And, it means sending loving-kindness to those who need it, those I truly care about, whenever I’m capable of doing so.

From one unbroken heart to another, I send you love.

Always ~ zz

25 Lessons I’ve Learned in 25 Years: Body Love

This is the second-last installment in which I will be focusing on body love, body positivity, self-love, all that juicy feel-good stuff. More specifically, the conversations we have about our bodies & how the practice of loving our bodies is a radical, political act.

I have delayed posting this out of my own self-doubt & consciousness. Not only because this is a sensitive subject, but also as a writer & a woman living in the Age of Instagram. I find myself thinking, “Who is going to read this?” “Who is going to care?” I have been spewing this negative self-talk and as a result finding it hard to share my work. Which is the exact opposite of what I have written below. I want this post (and all of my posts for that matter) to make you feel good. So here I am sharing it regardless of my fears & doubts.

I was inspired earlier this April by the effervescent yoga instructor & teacher, fellow writer, entrepreneur extraordinaire and all-around rad & fierce woman, Ally Maz. Ally led an unreal “vibez & vinyasa” class at the BLOOM Prairie Yogi Pop-up in Winnipeg. She spoke about our yoga practice being political & how showing up for ourselves and our bodies is radical & revolutionary.

When we show up with our own well-being, our own bodies, as a priority, we are throwing our fists in the air. We are cursing capitalism, patriarchy, The Man. We are giving a big ol’ middle finger to the powers that control our thinking, that force us to compare ourselves to each other, that tell us over & over again that we are not enough.

On some level we all struggle with self-esteem. We can thank the media-at-large and patriarchal social norms for that. We’re too big, too small, not feminine enough, not masculine enough, too tall, too short, too this and not enough that. Fill in the blank with the flaw of your choice. We are never enough. But as always, I’m here to tell you the opposite.

Ugh, that word alone. Enough. There is no growth found in “enough.” There are no lessons to be learned when we settle for “enough.” We are so much more than just enough.

With that in mind, please enjoy the following lessons! I hope you find the courage to love that beautiful body of yours.

16. Say ‘thank you’ when someone compliments you. (!!!)

Somewhere along the way, growing up, I was made to feel that I wasn’t deserving of compliments. Because I’m fat, I shouldn’t believe people when they say I’m pretty. That’s the way my mind worked, anyway. To this day that thought strikes a pain in my heart. I was bullied by my peers, my “friends,” colleagues, juvenile lovers, and family members into believing I wasn’t good enough to receive compliments because of my size (which in retrospect, was not big at all).

The media told me I wasn’t good enough for compliments either. I needed to change this, that, and the other thing before I would be worthy of someone’s attention, time, and desire. I had to be slimmer and wear certain colours & patterns. I couldn’t wear skinny jeans or form-fitting dresses. I was only worthy of someone’s time or attention when I transformed my body or covered it up to look the “right” way.

Because of that conditioning, I didn’t take people seriously when they gave me a genuine compliment. I was the fat girl. “Beautiful” and “sexy” were not words I accepted. Even if they were coming from someone I trusted or even loved. I cursed them for lying to me!

I had such a deep hatred for my body and subsequently my entire being, that I didn’t allow anyone to truly see me. Whether it was a friend, partner, or lover. I was never naked, in mind or body, for anyone. It took having my heart shattered, stomped on repeatedly, to realize – this is my only home. This is my only body. And at the end of each day, I only had myself to hold those broken pieces & put them back together again.

Yoga sparked that body love journey too. About six years ago I stepped into a yoga studio & the relationship I had with my body changed. I realized what my body could do, how it could move, and how good all of that felt. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t the thinnest or strongest in the room. It just felt so good. I took that good, yummy feeling off of the mat & allowed myself to be seen naked; body & mind. Now, I allow compliments to flood in. And I return them with a big smile & a “thank you.”

17. Only shave when you want to.

This lesson is a bit simpler. When I was growing up, body hair on women was much less socially accepted than it is now. (And there is still a long way to go). For some strange, patriarchal reason, the bodies of women have been policed so harshly that we aren’t allowed to have one stray hair where we aren’t supposed to. Even advertisements for razors show women shaving a bare leg or armpit. While men’s razors are advertised shaving a full beard. Makes sense.

When I first found hair on my body where it hadn’t been before, I felt an inherent need to remove it. I was ashamed. And I didn’t really know why. But, I took it in stride nonetheless.

While visiting my grandparents one summer in my youth, I asked Jodie, my grandma, if she had any shaving cream. I was going to shave my legs just like the many times before! (Keeping in mind I had never once done this). I wanted to feel pretty like the other girls with no leg hair. And somehow I felt cleaner more pure without it. A few nicks & gashes later, I had my clean, hairless legs. 

How “clean” became synonymous with “hairless” is beyond me. Obviously, that rule only applies to women. Do you think a man with armpit hair is questioned for his hygiene? But, armpit hair on a woman; “Go take a shower. Remember to shave!”

I know women that shave, wax, laser, grow it out, dye it. And I know men that have done the same! Do with your body hair what you will. Because it is just that – your body.

And if that dude you had over last night doesn’t appreciate your beautiful hairy body, then he’s not worth another seven seconds of your life, darling!

18. Others will judge you no matter what. Don’t judge yourself.  

As long as you like you, that’s all that matters. Or, it should be, anyway. Getting there, to a place where you like and appreciate yourself, can be more than a struggle. It can seem unreachable. I can definitely vouch for that. But it is not impossible.

If you haven’t caught on yet, I have not always been okay with how I look. I haven’t always loved myself. That’s an absolute truth.

I took everyone’s criticisms to heart; starved myself to be slimmer, grew my hair long because men (much older than me might I add) told me I looked prettier that way, convinced myself that I was a runner so that I would have the body of one, hid beneath layers of clothing & make-up so I would hopefully be invisible. Every waking moment (and sleeping moment, to be quite honest) I thought about what other people would say about me, how they would view me, without even considering my own happiness.

I have been bigger than I am now, and I have been slimmer. Used a lot of make-up & gone out au naturale. Tried to fit into all of these different boxes that others wanted me to be in. Regardless of what box it ended up being, others would still pass their judgement, use cruel words, or straight up disrespect me because of they way I looked. Along with this body love journey, however, came the ability to hold my head above their judgments & criticisms and do whatever the fuck I wanted to.

Most days, I present myself to the world as a radiant woman with a big smile. I wear crop tops & high-waisted jeans even though my stomach is “too big.” I dye my hair every colour you could think of because why not? It brings a smile to my face & joy to the kids I work with. Piercings & tiny tattoos are sprinkled across my body because I treat it like a work of art. I continue to do so in spite of others telling me I won’t get a job or a partner based on my body modifications. Art is subjective. Not everyone is going to love your work!

Once I stopped caring what everyone else had to say and started listening to myself, I stopped hearing what they had to say too. The negative talk ceased to exist. However, there will always be people that don’t like you, that will ridicule you & try to put you down, that will refuse to understand you. When you start to understand yourself & figure out the complexities of all that is you, your world changes once again. You will be able to stand up a bit taller & smile a bit bigger.

Bottom line: You should like you!

19. Fat is not a bad word.

I have been called “fat” most of my life. But I am so much more than just “fat.” I am smart, talented, witty, strong, brave, confident, compassionate, grateful, honest, and the list goes on. Somehow, being “fat” erased all of those qualities.

J.K. Rowling said it wonderfully:

‘Fat’ is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her.

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

The answer is no. There are far worse things I could be than fat. And I refuse to hate myself, or my body, because it’s bigger than the woman next to me.

We are in the midst of a huge body positive movement. My Instagram is full of inspiring women that have reclaimed & redefined what it means to be fat or simply just promote body love on all levels. Because fat does not equal ugly or “less-than.” Because you are not defined by how much you weigh, or whether your thighs touch or not, or if you have a dimpled butt like me.

There are days I wake up and I am utterly dissatisfied with myself & my body. My thick legs feel heavier as I drag them to the bathroom. I look at my exhausted reflection & curse the dark circles that have made a home under my watery eyes. Rubbing my hand across my belly, I pick, poke, and prod. “Why does my body feel this way?” “Why don’t I look like I did last summer?” “Ugh, how many chins do I actually have?”

That’s a bad day. They are few, but they exist. As I’m sure they do for you. When I do have those days, I make sure to take time to appreciate my body & treat it with care. This fat body carries me through life. It holds me when no one else will. And for that I’m so grateful.

**For those who think I’m promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, or even obesity, I encourage you to: 1. Keep your opinion to yourself. It’s not wanted here. Or anywhere, really. 2. Fat does not equal unhealthy. Just as skinny does not equal healthy. We have different bodies. We have fat in different places. What is “unhealthy” is the shame & pity given by you, by the media & the mass market. Check yourself.**

20. Accept your flaws for then they are no longer flaws.

Accepting yourself, your body, for all that it so wonderfully is, is the first step to loving yourself. Accepting your rolls, stretch marks, scars, abnormally large feet (me), while under the pressure of a whole slew of institutions telling you to change all of those things, is so fucking radical. If you are on this type of acceptance journey, allow me to commend you! That is a big deal, my loves, because it is not easy.

Many a yoga teacher has told me that our practice is not perfect. We cannot compare ourselves, our abilities, or our limits, to the one on the mat next to us. No one is perfect! We are all flawed human beings who make mistakes and have unique bodies that belong to us & only us. So, when we accept those “flaws,” no one can use them against us.  We can continue our journeys of self-awareness and self-love. We can look at our lumps & bumps, our hairy bodies, or our weaknesses and say, “This is me. This is my body. I am going to love it & care for it. I may not fit into a perfect box, but I don’t have to.”

During BLOOM, as I sat cross-legged in this extravagant room at the Fort Garry Hotel amongst all of these beautiful & strong women, listening to Ally’s words & watching her connect with everyone, I had an overwhelming sense of peace with myself, with my body and my heart. I surrendered to that feeling. A feeling of peace that was necessary to move forward, on and off the yoga mat.

I also came to the realization of why I have practiced yoga for so many years. It is to create a safe & peaceful space within my body that I can turn to when life gets shitty, when I experience anxiety, when I need a hug. My yoga practice has fostered self-love. It has become political. Because loving ourselves is revolutionary.

With love, from my big heart to yours ~ zz

 

You can find Ally Maz & her inspiring words at http://www.alexmazerolle.com/ or on Instagram: @allymaz

Some other body-pos/yogi/witchy Instragrams to follow: @lizzobeeating @mybodywpg @wildembodiedwomen @glitterinthedirt @effyourbeautystandards

The Sacred Art of Being Twenty-Something & Perpetually Single

Hello again, lovelies! I’m just now realizing how much I have neglected this space the last month. Not because I haven’t been inspired. Perhaps I’ve been too inspired. I have focused a lot of my energy this month on my tarot practice & exploring the many doors it has opened. And, I have been deeply exploring my heart space, manifesting love in my life & meditating on what it means to me to be a single woman.

I’ll be honest; I have struggled to write this. It’s important to me. Being single is a big part of my identity. You would think I would have an easier time writing about something I’m so vocal about. I thought sharing that part of myself with the community I’ve created here would be easy. But, it’s arguably the hardest thing I’ve decided to write about so far.

I’ve been searching for this balance between embracing my singleness & being jaded for not finding a partner in my twenties. Jaded, not by my singleness – I’m really good at being single – but by the people who thought they could love me when they couldn’t.

I go through phases of loving the single life & the freedom I have found and cursing all the dating apps out there & the pity I receive from everyone & their mother. (Self-pity included).

All of that being said, I hope to get my point across, or find my point along the way.

Embracing the Single Life

I am the woman that never brings a date to family dinners. The woman that invites her best friend to accompany her to holiday parties. The one that lives on her own. And takes herself out on brunch dates. And buys herself flowers.

I am even the woman that flew across the ocean by herself to explore unknown cities. And will definitely be doing that again. 

I wake up in the middle of the bed with no one beside me. That’s a true treat. I take bubble baths for as long as I want to. And enjoy books, sometimes cover-to-cover, without feeling obligated to talk to someone else. I can sit in complete silence for hours. (And when you work at a school, that is a cherished gift).

Those are little freedoms, however.

I get to explore all of my dreams too. Travel dreams. Career dreams. Creative dreams. This dream right here! I have given myself the freedom to explore whatever my heart is craving. And, I have never had to apologize for that. (Not that I would anyway).

But, all of that certainly does not make me special. I know a lot of women, and am friends with a lot of those women, who love to travel & live alone.

I also know a lot of women who are scared to explore what it means to be single & ultimately alone. Women who would never dream of riding solo through life. And guess what? That’s okay too!

Freedom is not an exclusive experience for the singletons. I believe we are all worthy of the same freedoms regardless of our status. A healthy relationship allows both parties to grow, explore themselves, find their truth.

Allowing space promotes growth. I have allowed myself that space for many years. My wish for those reading is that you find that space whether you’re in a relationship or not. If, and when, you have found that space, revel in it. Send gratitude out; to yourself & to your partner. And, if you are your own partner right now – even better.

Real Relationship Goals

So, what happens when you choose to be single for the greater part of your twenties?

You figure out what you want. Exactly what you want.

When you spend enough time alone, you have the opportunity to explore the depths of yourself. You get to sit in your alone-ness (which is not the same as loneliness).

Raw emotions can & will come up. The ones only you know exist. And at some point, I can’t tell you when, you figure out how to let others in on those raw emotions. And suddenly you are telling a stranger your heart-breaking story of love & loss over tequila in a small cocktail bar.

When you spend enough time alone, and a relationship isn’t your endgame, the way you interact with people changes. You connect with your friends & even strangers on a deeper level. You give more of yourself, more of your raw emotions, to the other person.

When you take romantic love out of the equation, you find connections that last so much longer.

I can’t even begin to count the genuine souls that I have connected with in my travels & in my own city. I carry these souls & their love with me wherever I go. And when we do get the chance to reconnect, it’s as if no time has passed & I find myself in such a state of gratitude for their presence. Now, that is a relationship goal.

There is one connection that really makes my heart soar. I met him while volunteering in the mountains of Italy where our paths so serendipitously crossed. We were almost instantly connected by our crass humour & deep love of music. But our connection ended up being so much more than that. More than a romantic relationship has ever given me. We still find the time (two & a half years later) to connect & check-in with each other. We support each other in whatever wild dreams run through our heads. And we listen. We listen to each other’s stories, musings & grand plans. Even though we live so far apart, we are so very aligned. That is a relationship goal.

To grow alongside someone while supporting each other’s dreams & aspirations, regardless of the platonic or romantic status of your relationship, is the relationship goal.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, I don’t know if there are any final thoughts on this subject. The conversation is continuing.

While putting this piece together, I found myself peeling back more & more layers of what being single means and of what being in a relationship means. Which just brings up more questions to ask, more answers to find. It’s a journey I believe a lot of people to be on. Especially in this time of online dating & endless “situationships.” But, that’s a whole other post, isn’t it?

Whether single or in a relationship, finding your space and the courage to grow can seem impossibly tough. I can vouch for that. But, I can also vouch for the gratifying feeling you receive when you do find that space & courage to grow in all the ways you are meant to.

If there are any final thoughts, allow them to be this; Be alone. Explore what that means. Learn about yourself.

So, when the right person comes along, there is no question as to whether they’re meant for you or not.

Your heart will know.

With the most love ~ zz

 

 

The High Priestess ~ Intuitive Power

As I make a much-needed return to the cards & my practice, I introduce you to The High Priestess in all of her magical, feminine & intuitive glory.

When I began my Tarot journey two years ago, I was shuffling for my Year Ahead Spread and my focus was on my own intuition. How could I connect to my intuition that year? The High Priestess was the Major Arcana card that I pulled first for January. Since I have worked with The High Priestess’s energy before, I wasn’t surprised to see her as the first card I pulled. Immediately, I felt a sense of assurance that this path of tarot reading & exploring my intuition would be of benefit. And it has truly been just that.

The Cards

I continue to work with The Wild Unknown deck by Kim Krans. The connection I have to these cards is still as strong, if not stronger, than ever. They are so beautifully illustrated. The mixture of light & dark, the unique balance, is in itself magical. In her guidebook, Krans has these illuminating words to say about the second Major Arcana card, The High Priestess:

“The High Priestess sits in stillness. From there she’s able to access realms others pass by without noticing, the vast world of intuition, dreams, and mystery. She uses silence and non-action to harness this power.”

Mystery. Power. Intuition. Stillness. I love the energy of this card. And I am so grateful when she shows herself.

When you receive The High Priestess in a reading, thank the goddesses! Much like The Magician, she is a symbol of trusting and listening to the higher self within us all. The one receiving the reading needs to trust the inklings in their heart & expand on that energy. Ask yourself, “What is my dream world made of? What is found when you look beyond?” Trust The High Priestess just as she trusts herself. She has mysterious & magical wisdom to share.

The Meaning

The keywords to associate with The High Priestess according to Krans are psychic, wisdom, and mystery. I use the word intuition when I read this card. Intuition is the basis of all magic, especially the tarot practice.

The High Priestess is the witch of the tarot. She is every witch that ever has been & ever will be. She is the strong femme within us all, regardless of our gender identity.

The High Priestess sees what we cannot see (or chose not to). She is the keeper of the cards. She holds the secrets and mysteries of the unknown.

In the image above, we can clearly see her (represented by a stoic white tiger) sitting quietly, pensively. She is joined by the crescent moon (who we see a lot of in this deck!) hanging in the dark night sky. The moon herself is a representation of intuitive and feminine power. The High Priestess is also joined by a crystal ball full of mystical purples and blues, colours of magic & witchcraft, the only colours illustrated in this card. Isn’t she beautiful? I find her mesmerizing.

When we are called to have our cards read, we are searching for an answer. We are curious about the depths of the unknown. We want to explore the realm unbeknownst to us in this physical realm.

The High Priestess tells us to sit with our questions, our desires & dreams. She asks us to trust our gut instincts and to contemplate where they might take us. Now is not the time for action, as it was with The Magician, but the time for stillness.

The High Priestess in Me

Again, I love seeing The High Priestess in a reading. I connect with her on a higher level than any other card. Which is saying a lot because I connect with many from this deck. But, there is something about her. Something mystical and wild, silent and powerful that attracts me to her energy.

To me, she is the embodiment of the tarot practice. She is the all-knowing, all-seeing femme. She is often found observing, scrying (using her crystal ball), reading, thinking, dreaming.

Working with her energy is powerful in every sense. From her influence on my daily & weekly spreads to simply having her image in my mind; she has been the reminder, the guide, that I have needed to expand my intuitive tarot practice & to trust the power of my dreams.

I would like to take this time to thank her. I send gratitude to the The High Priestess for providing courage, for inspiring trust in myself, for the strength to reach beyond. You were the perfect companion to have with me to begin this journey. I know now, just as I did when I started, that this path will be one filled with exploration of what Tarot means for my future.

And thank you for reading, my loves.

With all my love ~ zz

25 Lessons I’ve Learned in 25 Years: Curing the Holiday Hangover

Back to our regular scheduled programming! Raise your hand if you feel like a big ol’ pile of mush after the past few weeks of binge-eating chocolate & baked goods, attending one too many family dinners, and taking in all of the drama that comes with the holidays. You are not alone, my lovelies. The holidays are tough. Overwhelming. Draining. Especially for someone who celebrates the Winter Solstice, Christmas, New Year’s AND her birthday all in a two-week span. (Hi, that’s me). I am physically, emotionally, mentally, exhausted. The good news; I have returned to my practice, my writing, my self-care-ing, and am coming out of the holidays more inspired than ever!

I have rounded up another five lessons to share with you under the theme of “Curing the Holiday Hangover.” I have no doubt that many of you are feeling sluggish and a bit hazy (or perhaps literally hungover) as we move into a new year (Hello, 2018!). For some, the first week back to work and/or school is over. Didn’t that feel like the longest week ever?

Please know that I am sending you all luck & love during this transition. I hope the following lessons inspire ease into “regular” life.

11. Food is not the enemy!

I get it. I also feel like I gained about fifty pounds over the last month. But, hey, even if you did, you are still (and will always be!) absolutely beautiful. And yes, perhaps the several trays of baked goods didn’t help me feel any better about myself. But, food is seriously not the enemy. It took me a long time to truly understand that.

I’ve always been a bigger girl. Overweight. Fat. Whatever. Growing up, I hated the way I looked. I was ridiculed by other kids (and adults). And constantly made aware of my size. I blamed my “weight problem” on everyone and everything. I starved myself of the necessary fuel my body needed; fuel that was helping me grow as a young woman. It got to the point where I hated eating. I would see the pizza my family was having for dinner & dread putting it in my mouth. I would drink Red Bulls through school so I wouldn’t feel the hunger pains. (Don’t ask for the logic behind that one). Bottom line, my hate for food, and eating in general, ran deep. But, it wasn’t food’s fault. Food had done nothing to me but prepare my body for growth & provide energy for focus & exercise.

So, who was to blame for the hatred I held for my body & for food?

I’ll tell you who; thirteen-year-old boys who were clueless (and probably still are) about the female body, adults who had no business passing comments on a young girl’s body, all media outlets telling me my body was wrong, the recognition my thin friends would receive from teachers, parents, and those same clueless boys. All of this combined made for a terribly self-conscious adolescent girl.

It also made for an exceedingly confident woman. Like I said, it took a long time, but I know that I am beautiful. Regardless of what size my jeans are this year, or how much I ate over the holidays.

Regardless of all of that, you are beautiful too. Don’t be so hard on yourself, darling. And eat the damn piece of cake.

12. Your mental health does not define you.

I had a difficult time coming up with the right words to say here.

If you are suffering from mental health issues, you are stronger than you know. You continually face battles within your mind & you continue to live and even thrive!

Without getting too deep into my own mental health, I just want to extend some words of encouragement, understanding and love. I think we all need a bit of that after the busy rush of the holidays.

You are so much more than any disorder you may be suffering from. You are more than the self-deprecating words running back & forth through your head. More than trembling hands and a racing heartbeat. There is more to you than your eating disorder, or your compulsive/impulsive behaviour. You are you. With all of your wants and needs. Dreams, desires and fears. Dislikes and loves. Habits; good and bad.

You are worthy of help. And you are not alone. If any of you ever feel helpless, please reach out. I know firsthand how hard that can be. But, I promise, with all of my heart, that you will benefit. And if you don’t know where to start, my inbox is always open. Sometimes a stranger is the best kind of therapist.

13. “No.” is a complete sentence.

And it does not need an explanation.

Fun fact: it was also my first word! Imagine that. Me. A Capricorn. Unheard of.

Zodiac jokes aside, I really believe this is an important lesson. You are allowed to say “No.” You are allowed to deny an invite to a party. You can say “No” to your family. Or your friends. Or your boss. And that weird dude that keeps messaging you on Facebook … and Instagram? Please, say “No” to him too.

You may feel guilty. Like, really guilty. Especially if whoever you are saying “No” to is important to you. But, it won’t last long. You will soon realize how utterly freeing the word “No” can be. During the holidays especially, we often feel a pressure to be with our families and to give more than we have. Not everyone gets along with or is accepted by their families. “Home” can be far less than a safe space to be. To those dear souls, I hope you are now in a safer space & that you remember you are allowed to say “No” too.

I’ve heard the saying, “You don’t need to be everywhere for everyone,” a lot lately and even though I don’t know who originally said those words, I could not agree more. I believe in only saying “Yes” to the things my mind, body & soul can handle. I hope you can work that lesson into your life as well.

And a quick word about consent: If someone is saying “No” to you, stop asking. No matter what the situation is. But, especially if you are asking about sex. Don’t try to change their mind. Don’t blow up their DM’s. Just stop.

14. Try everything once.

One of the best ways to get over a hangover (holiday-induced or otherwise) or out of a slump, is to do something! Why not try something new? Have you ever tried yoga? (Your back will thank you for that choice). Hiking? Biking? What about picking up a guitar? Or a sketchbook & pencil?
It was only in my wildest dreams that I would run a blog & connect with so many wonderful people through it. Returning to this space continues to pick me up out of my literal and figurative hangovers.
I encourage you to think about all the things you have never tried up until this moment. What has been holding you back? Maybe it’s simply a fear of the unknown. Hey, we all can relate. Or, maybe a friend told you that thing sucks even though you were kinda sorta interested in trying it. So, you never bothered. This is me telling you, dear reader, to try it! Try it all! And let me know how it works out.

“You never know if you never try. If you never try, then you never know.” – Val, Broad City.

15. Remove anything in your life that only serves to hurt you.

I know I say that all of these lessons are important. And they are. But this one, while also close to my heart, is perhaps the most important. Have I said that already? Oh well. This one wins. And again, this isn’t a lesson you learn in school. This is another that you must learn and fully realize on your own. In your own time.

There is one specific relationship I was involved in that taught me this lesson. A toxic pseudo-relationship that was always on the cusp of something but never turned into more than heartache. It took many sleepless nights, late drunken phone calls, intense arguments & failed resolutions, thousands of kilometres of separation, and too many tears to make me realize how the entire relationship, from start to finish, only served to hurt me, again and again.

My friends told me what a wreck this person made me. How they brought me down instead of lifting me up. They asked how I could love someone who hurt me so much. I didn’t have an answer for them. When I finally (after three years) realized for myself all the things my friends had told me, saw the person for who they truly were, and told them they would never be in my life again, I felt the biggest weight lift from my shoulders. I didn’t know how heavy someone else’s energy could be until then. And my only regret was not letting them go sooner.

Since then, I have adopted the habit of removing anything (friends, lovers, jobs, world views, belief systems, even social media platforms) that does not serve my higher self, my most authentic self.

Moving into this new year full of promise, growth, and challenges, it is an opportune time to let go of all that hurt you in the past year(s). Let the heavy energy roll off your back and into the past. And I will be right there with you.

With love & light ~ zz