The definition of me

How do you define yourself?  Do you use your job (a teacher, doctor, lawyer, stay-at-home)? Do you use your hobbies/passions (yogi, crossfitter, runner, knitter, scrapbooker)? Do you use your family (mom, dad, sister, brother, cousin, aunt)?  Do you use your accomplishments (success, failure, graduate, Olympian)?

Success definition

The concept of defining oneself has come to my mind a number of times in the last year.  Things started to hit home when I came to London for the Olympics and was surrounded by everything that alluded me.  If you’ve read my earlier posts you know that while a small part of me is saddened by the fact that I didn’t make the Olympic team (twice), you will also know it’s likely the best thing that ever happened to me.  But accepting that also meant accepting the fact that I could never call myself an Olympian – although in reality I was pretty much everything but.  In London I would also be Malcolm Howard’s wife.  Being Mrs. Howard is always a source of pride, yet to be known through someone else somehow diminishes one’s own accomplishments and identity.

It’s the same when you go to a party and meet new people and everyone starts out with “what do you do?”.  Often I feel like replying “what don’t I do?” How can you be defined by one thing.  Exactly, you can’t.  The definition of me is always changing.  As life evolves, I learn and grow and evolve too (one hopes!).

I thought about this as my husband and his teammates prepare and begin selection for the 2013 Boat Race.  These men have given years of their life to their sport, just like I did (way back when).  They put other aspects of their lives on hold, and risk failing in other areas like their education or personal lives because of the high demands required.  And so many things can go wrong.  They can get injured, sick, or those other ‘demands’ might get too demanding.  Achievement often means every star is perfectly aligned.  I first realized that as an athlete, and now I see it repeatedly as a coach and supporter.  People who could and should win, don’t.  And sometimes the people whom you never thought would be in the picture suddenly come through because everything came together at exactly the right moment.  Is it timing? Fate? Luck? Perhaps.  Maybe it is our destiny. Or maybe it is just life.  Some things go for us, some against us.  And in those times when life seems against us, and we feel like a failure – that is when we must learn, and grow, and evolve.  Winning is easy.  Not achieving what you want, but acting like a winner is TOUGH!  Seeing someone else living your dreams means you must swallow your ego and appreciate their journey.

But there’s that magical word. Journey.  Just because I took the entire road to get to the Olympics but can never call myself an Olympian – does that make me less than someone who can?  No.  And anyone who thinks it does has obviously never walked that line.

The next time you stare down your dreams and do everything in your power to achieve them – know that you can already define yourself as a winner. As strong. As courageous.  As a success.  Regardless of the outcome.


Mirror Mirror

Currently, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite.  I use this blog as a forum to share inspiration and positivity, and yet recently I haven’t been practicing what I preach.  I’ve been dwelling in the negative, not thinking with abundance and have been to self-critical.

In order to break out of my funk I do what most people do when they need something.  I talked to my mom.  She has this way of shifting how I’m viewing the world, so I realize that what I’m seeing as problems are easily solved with just a change of thinking.

How do you see yourself?
For the majority of my life I have been either a gymnast or a contemporary dancer.  I am always trying to be perfect: to match someone’s ideals or what the exact image should be/look like.  Just the other day a choreographer I was working with wanted to show us the video of the piece we were going to perform.  Video work is often used in art/sport as a tool for feedback and refinement. I hate it.  I hate seeing myself on the screen.  I dislike mirrors in dance classes.  I prefer to feel things.  When I see myself on video or in a mirror I can only ask myself “Do I really look like that?”, instead of using it as a device to improve.

The trick is – this whole seeing myself issue carries over to other aspects of my life.

I’m here in Oxford, England surrounded by likely some of the most brilliant minds and accomplished people on the planet.  Attending a formal dinner feels like ‘future nobel prize winners’ dinner… seriously!  I often think to myself “one of these things just doesn’t belong here“.

And yet, if I stop and think rationally about it I’m a pretty smart little lady even if I’m not the one currently attending Oxford (Dean’s List in Uni), I was quite accomplished when I was competing (Most Medalled athlete at 98 Commonwealth Games), I was fortunate enough to take some risks and reep some pretty amazing rewards (travelling, working with different dance companies, meeting incredible people).  As it turns out – a lot of the things I admire about other people are things that I have done too!

How do you see yourself now?
The next time I begin to question my value, or I start to diminish my worth and accomplishments I will see myself through someone else’s eyes.  I will imagine how my mother sees me.  I will picture myself through my husband’s love goggles.  I will think of the sweet image my niece has of me, or my best friend.  And if I was a mother I would think of how my children see me – full of love, gratitude, openness, and acceptance.

I’m not saying we should be soft on ourselves, and think everything we do is wonderful.  But a bit of generosity and kindess can enable us to treat OURSELVES as we treat others. Yes you read that right.

Do you ever notice that you forgive others for little things they do.  For being late, for forgetting something.  Like the other night I forgot to turn both knobs on the oven on, and so the lasagna wasn’t cooking.  And because I was not in my happy place, this contributed to me feeling like a failure – simply because we had to wait an extra half hour for dinner… But if my husband would have done it, I would have thought it was no big deal.

We need to show the same compassion for ourselves as we do to those we love (and hopefully to perfect strangers too!)

Perspective creates understanding
As a teacher/coach I have the privilege of guiding other’s to achievement.  The most rewarding aspect is to see what someone is able to overcome.  Knowing someone’s struggles and what they have accomplished in spite of it makes the result seem even greater.  From the outside it may not seem like a big deal but the bunny hill to some is the Everest for others!

See others with this eye of empathy but remember to keep some of that understanding for yourself too!


Not all skies are blue

This post has been on the back burner for a little while… In fact it was inspired my sister-in-law’s father as we skyped on Christmas.  I always love to philosophize with him, and debate ideas/concepts/ways of being/life.  He mentioned that he read my blog periodically and then asked “Do you ever have any bad days?” Amused, I replied of course.  And promised him I would write about/on one of them.


Some days we get up and I’m not even sure what side of the bed it’s on but it seems worse than the bad one!  Some days (like this morning) when all you’re trying to do is love, life gives you pain/hate (for example when my cat bit me this morning as I was petting him).  Some days it feels as if you could take on every bully, danger, demon, or villain that comes your way.  Other days it feels like if someone even looks at you the wrong way you could break.

I’m not sure why that is. Desiderata says “many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness”.  Perhaps it’s because I’m battling a little cold.  Perhaps it’s hormones.  Perhaps it’s because it’s a Thursday. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

We can rarely control what happens to us in life.  Sometimes it’s even difficult to control what we feel.  What we do have power over is how we react to those things.  I’m not saying to swipe away the bad or negative events or emotions, but if we’re not satisfied by those things we must recognize that we can change some components.  And perhaps by doing so the tides begin to change.  Today I decided I had to take command of my poopy feelings; so far I have done a yoga class, told a friend I’d love to chat, and am writing this blog.  Do I feel fantastic. Nope. Not even close. But I laughed and cried in the yoga class.  I’m sure seeing my friend’s adorable baby will remind me of my perspective. And by processing my thoughts and feelings in this blog I begin to work through what’s helpful and let go of what’s not.  I’m sure we all have different coping strategies for days like these (if you’d like to share I’d love to hear them!)

I think a lot of life is a delicate balance.  We must find harmony between our reality (feelings/events) and our desires or what’s best for us.  Before happiness one must find contentment.  I believe that involves a level of acceptance.  Not giving in mind you, but honouring what is in order to let go.  Yet, one must not dwell here…  One of the biggest reasons I write about things that are uplifting, positive, happy and inspiring is because that is what I want my life to be.  I want to be a giant magnet for good. For love. For happiness. For bliss. With all of my thoughts, feelings and actions I attract exactly what I am thinking, feeling and doing.  What do you want to attract to your life?

So David, there you go.  It’s not all sunshine and lollipops.  But even when the skies are grey I know there is a huge rainbow waiting to surprise me just around the corner!