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.

HERE WE ARE!

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!

Rainbow

365 Opportunities

Tis the season… you know Champagne, Resolutions, Life-evaluations. That sort of thing.
Since I aspire to those things on an almost daily basis, this will and won’t be one of those kinds of posts.  New Year’s resolutions seem a bit funny to me.  Once a year goals are wayyyyyy to few and far between.  But it does seem like a convenient time to look back at the year that is soon to pass… perhaps it’s because generally speaking we finally have a bit of time off!

I feel that way too.  In fact I did a lovely Gratitude exercise today at the end of my little Yoga Session where thought over everything/one I was thankful for… It has been quite a remarkable year – for myself and my dear husband.  There were many firsts, many moments that took my breath away/made my heart swell/brought tears to my eyes (ok a lot of those!)/and that I learned and grew from!  There are things I never would have imagined – announcing at the Olympics or being in Oxford to name a few!  None the less these opportunities and adventures are what make life so rich and interesting.  Being open to them and listening to the lessons of the universe is what helps me live fully, learn immensely, and feel so deeply!  To be open is one of my missions in life.  (And it is always on top of my resolution list – that is if I had one!)

This year, my wish for you is to OWN YOUR POWER.  You are in charge of your destiny.  You command your happiness.  Each day is an opportunity.  Each moment a choice.  Perhaps this may seem like an over-simplification but I believe if you’re not happy with the choices you have made – the life you are living – you have the power to change that.  You may feel like you don’t have the will power, resources, ability or strength. But you do.  If you look around you, or search the internet you will see incredible people taking charge of their lives.  There’s the old adage: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  How badly do you want it?  How much do you believe in your dreams?  Do you think you are worth it?

I hope you know that you CAN be everything you ever wanted.  It may not happen over night. It may not happen easily.  But then again, the best things in life never do – do they?!  So keep your dreams close to your heart.  Listen to the universe for clues, signs and support.  This is your year… and even though there are hardships and disasters, disease and misfortune – all around there is also kindness, beauty, love, friendship.  We have a choice with what we focus on.  And in doing so what we attract to our lives.  What do you want to draw to you with magnetic force?

It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
~ J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

And so, as this New Year and its 365 days of possibilities hover on the horizon I wish for you a few simple things: love, peace, faith, challenges, opportunities, learning, growth, laughter, triumph and BLISS!  Two questions for you… what’s in your heart? And what are you doing New Year’s Eve?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSq1cez_flQ

(I’m having a fun little party a la moi – which means me+Basil+a bottle of bubbly = 2013 here we come!!!)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here's to an amazing 2013!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here’s to an amazing 2013!

Presence: the best gift

Basil adds the final touch to our tree!

Basil adds the final touch to our tree!

For the past few years, Christmas has provided me an opportunity to write a note to those close to me, reflecting on the year and sending wishes for the upcoming New Year… However this year, Christmas has come and gone and alas, no message.  While I love cards, I’m horrible at sending/mailing Christmas ones.  I do appreciate the internet for it’s ability to reach across the miles – especially since the last few years have taken me here, there & everywhere.  So as the time to write a note diminished, and my guilt for not doing so increased I had a realization.  Perhaps the lesson of that experience is: to go with the flow.  I am big on setting high expectations (for myself, situations, and often others as well).  Perhaps it was as I was running in the sunshine yesterday, or laughing with my niece on video chat, or even as I lay savouring (also known as attempting to digest) all of the delicious tastes, sights & sounds of the day that this realization dawned on me… perhaps it’s just a simple way for me to feel better… or perhaps it’s the knowledge that we all have a choice.  I can choose to feel angry/sad/upset that I didn’t accomplish what I had set out to do in my mind. Or I could instead, choose to fall asleep sending thoughts and wishes of love and fondness to those whom I wish I had been able to write or speak to…

Yesterday was the second Christmas I’ve spent as “Mrs. Howard”, and the first time that Malcolm and I hosted Christmas.  It just happened to be in Oxford, England – and we were hosting other rowers from the crew (who didn’t go back to North America) as well as some of their friends and family.  This could be perhaps one of the reasons why the note didn’t get sent out… but it is also the reason that Christmas felt so special this year.  First of all because Malcolm and I were together, and secondly because our little flat became a home as we welcomed other friends who were far from their homes.

This year, the role of Santa Claus (for me) was played by the UK Border Agency!  They gave me an early gift of seeing some of my family and friends as I returned briefly to acquire my Visa.  Then just as I was fearing it would take longer than expected and I would be in Canada for the Holidays, my visa was issued and passport returned!  I headed back to my UK home, just in time to prepare our little flat for the Holidays and for Malcolm’s return from their training camp.

Christmas to me this year (and all [adult] years to be honest) is never about the presents, and always about the presence. It is easy to take for granted the people you spend so much time with – your family, close friends, co-workers.  While we love these people so much, we can easily get on one another’s nerves, or take our frustrations out one another… but geography has given me perspective.  I have so many wonderful people who care so deeply for me.  They support me immensely, each in their own way.  They enrich my life with their love-stories-talent-perspectives-generosity-kindness (I could go on and on).  They love me for all of the beautiful-horrible-interesting-boring-lovely-awful things about me… and each time life takes me away from them I realize more and more how very precious each one of those relationships are.  I am so grateful to each of you.

Another Christmas lesson I learned this year is to appreciate the little things.  For example, I was in the kitchen baking and watching a Christmas movie when I heard the sound of music.  I paused the movie, but the sound faded out.  I continued on until I heard it again.  This time I peaked out our front window and saw a group of carolers!  I threw my jacket and shoes on and rushed out just to hear the tail end of a song.  A kind man and his daughter informed me that I had happened across our street’s annual carol sing, and then welcomed me to join in… and so as if in a fairy tale I walked along a sweet English road, surrounded by kind strangers and candle light, singing music celebrating this special time of year.

Caroling combines the joy of music, fellowship, and the spirit of the season!

Caroling combines the joy of music, fellowship, and the spirit of the season!

All of these small lessons and realizations have helped me see and appreciate the wonder of this time of year, and of the people I get to share it with.  Perhaps they will help you too… And so my (after) Christmas wish for you is to treasure those close to you, and reach out to those whom you wish were closer; to find beauty and joy in the simple pleasures of life (a song, a dance, a hug, a word); to recognize that all of the gifts you need you’ve likely already been given; to be open to what the universe might be suggesting (if we can listen closely enough); and finally to stay hopeful.  I think the poem Desiderata said it best:

With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

May you and those you love find peace and happiness this Holiday.  And may the coming year bring you new opportunity, courage, strength, faith, joy, and bliss!  Much love, from our little family to yours!!

xo Erika (and Malcolm & Sir Basil)

Kindness will keep the world afloat!

A friend posted this video, and it started my day with a beautiful smile, hope and an intention to share kindness throughout every step of my day.  This video illustrates the boomerang effect of the way our good deeds and actions truly come back to us (often times twofold). How will your kindness come back to you?  Experiment today and encourage others to pay it forward.  It takes less energy and effort to be kind!

Our kindness will keep the world afloat, and if we all work together we can surf on the (huge) ripples our actions create!

I believe…

Deep within my heart I believe that people are good.  I believe that our nature is one of  peace, hope and love.  One need only look at children to see the innocence and caring they display.  Or how we treat animals, or those who are sick or injured.  Being good to one another simply feels good. Loving creates more love. Generosity creates more giving.

In the aftermath of today’s tragic shooting in Newton, Connecticut it’s easy to become pessimistic and expect the worst in others.  I am in no way trying to downplay the heartache, sorrow, and dispair in regards to the lives that were devastatingly lost; however I urge one and all to remember that one bad apple needn’t spoil the bunch.  During many of the most difficult times in history, there have been numerous touching and beautiful acts which stand out as beacons of light and hope amongst the darkness.  If you need to be reminded about some of the best of these please click on the link below – just maybe grab a tissue first!

Events in 2012 that restored our faith in humanity

Every moment we live is a chance, a choice, an opportunity.  We can plant a seed of goodwill, support one another, be patient and kind, show love and generosity, and inspire others to do the same.  What legacy do you want to leave?

We often diminish our value. People tend to think that their lives are not important, or at least less important than others. We see others and appreciate their intelligence, ability, beauty, accomplishments. Yet what if we saw ourselves through someone else’s eyes?  You are an incredible, powerful, capable, talented, and full of beauty, potential and love kind-of-person!  Be what you want to be. Be the good. Be good to others. And together, let’s create the kind of legacy that doesn’t make people question what kind of people we are – but instead remark what kind people we are!

Tell those you love how much you care for them.  Hug them as often as possible.  Light and love ~ eh.

Give some MO!

As November comes to a close you can see the women of the world a little more jovial and optimistic.  Why? you ask… Well the last day of Movember is upon us, and as a wise man once said: [It’s] A day of much rejoicing and grief all wrapped into one. The ladies cheer and the men shed a tear for the lip fur coats worn at this time of year.  (ps. check out Dave’s Mo Space for his sweet manscaping skills)

I myself am filled with mixed emotions. Pride that my dear husband’s ‘lip fur coat’ is coming on stronger than ever, and relief that it will soon be gone (please no Decembeard).  [Husband Note: at least by the time I’m back! Thanks!]

How convenient that the Boat Race photos were taking during Movember!

This cause is something near and dear to our hearts as Malcolm’s father battled Prostate Cancer.  I know that most of us have known someone closely who have been affected by Cancer. If you’re able I’m asking you to donate whatever you can.  Please feel free to check out Malcolm’s page and donate there (or if you’d prefer go to Dave’s page – the link is above, or even on the Movember site).  Together, we can make a difference!

For more information check out Prostate Cancer Canada!  Thank you for your generosity and support.  My philosophy is: If your Mo can’t be big and full, at least your donation pot can be!

My Mo… putting the boys to shame

Tis the Season

As December quickly approaches, the joy of the season fills the air and Christmas spirit is all around.  I am enjoying the All Christmas Music radio station (in small doses mind you but I am none the less), and have already taken in a few Holiday Movies.  So I thought I would share some “oldies but goodies” to help kick start your Christmas fun!

My brother and I loved this one when we were kids.  It may come under the category of ‘you can’t go back’ rather than classic, but it’s at least slightly amusing! Besides my brother got his classic line “I’ll have one with extra butter” from it! Enjoy a Claymation Christmas!!! (please click on the link. I didn’t find the whole thing on Youtube so I thought I would attach it this way to make it easier to view!)

I also came across The Snowman.  I don’t believe I’ve seen it before, however it is a lovely little fantasy about a young boy’s creation coming to life.  I love how music describes the conversations and drama unfolding throughout their adventure.

What are your Holiday favourites? Songs, movies or specials? I’d love to share in the spirit that makes this season so much fun!

365 days of Awesome.

Even though there are miles between us, and eight hours time difference, today my dearest and I celebrated our One Year Anniversary.  There were perhaps less candles and romantic dinners than most typical anniversaries, however Malcolm and I don’t tend to do things in the ‘normal’ way.  And even though we weren’t together for our anniversary, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Supporting one another through our hopes and dreams (and challenges) is perhaps one of our strongest qualities.  Also, I have always found that for us distance simply serves to reinforce all that we love about one another, and enhances our communication.  I know it was during the periods of long distance (where we would have to email, bbm, or talk on the phone) that I fell in love… because that is when we became friends.

My idols in relationships are the couples I see (who look like they’ve been together for 50+ years), and who simply sit there holding hands; or when one gets something for the other even before they ask; how they have long talks and debates but could share space in silence for hours. They are friends first and foremost, and lovers (a close but important) second.  That is my goal for our marriage.  And from the first year, I feel like we’re off to a good start.

We had two beloved friends speak during our ceremony and I thought I would share again the words that touched us so deeply:

Love
I love you
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.
I love you
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what you are making of me.
I love you
For the part of me that you bring out.
I love you for putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can’t help
Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.
I love you because you
Are helping to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple,
Out of the words
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.
I love you because you have done
More than any creed
Could have done
To make me good,
And more than any fate
Could have done
To make me happy.
You have done it

Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.
You have done it
By being yourself.
– Roy Croft
(as read by Lynndsey Larre)

From T.S Eliot’s Four Quartets
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning
(as part of a reading by Aaron Holzapfel)

So in life (as in love), may we all continue to discover ourselves over & over… and in that knowledge may we become better partners, friends, lovers, siblings, offspring, parents, employees & people.  May we realize that throughout the up and down journey there are so many lessons and opportunities, and throughout it all if we can keep smiling, keep our sense of humour, share a little and perhaps leave things a little better it will be an incredible ride. Enjoy the journey. And to my love – it’s been a wicked ride so far and this is just the beginning. WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!! ~ eh.

Here are some of our pictures taken by the incredible Lisa Mark (ps. more to come)

New Adventure: Prologue

Today, Malcolm departed for Oxford and so it begins: The NEW Adventure! (Although my Nanna would argue that it’s just the next, as the world is our home and we’re on adventures constantly).  I haven’t departed quite yet, I’m letting my husband chivalrously set up our flat and scope things out, but I will be joining him in a few weeks!

It all feels much more real now – the fact that we’re moving to a new country, leaving our friends and family (for a year or so), starting school again (Malcolm), trying to find a job (me), and getting our first place together (OH NO, what will we do without our Mom/Mum).  My Mother has a brilliant saying: “the anticipation is worse than the participation”  Now you might think from that quote that I am not SUPER DUPER excited – which would be false. My use of cap-locks demonstrates I am clearly thrilled. However, it is change, which brings with it not only incredible possibilities but also the need to let go (which, when you are a control-aholic like me is an itsybitsy bit challenging).  I do think that change is good for us. And I know this coming year is going to be an eye-opening, mind expanding, awe inspiring, heart filling adventure and I am totally up for it!

Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be. -John Wooden 

Before we headed off, we were joined by two dear friends of ours for a brief visit while they were on the West Coast.  Sharing in laughs and catching up makes me very very happy!  I am constantly overwhelmed at how blessed I am to have so many wonderful people in my life. For me, this is what makes my life complete – the people I get to share it with!  So if you are reading this – you’re likely one of those people that makes such a positive contribution to my life, sharing your love, hugs, insight, knowledge & support (no matter where in this world you are), and for that I thank you!

An image I took during my visit to NY.

It also feels appropriate to begin this adventure on this day 9/11… a day that will always reinforce our perspective of what is truly important.  My thoughts are with the people who give so much of themselves not only in times of crisis, but on a daily basis. And my mind also goes to those who are my personal heroes… my anchors.  Your service, your support and your selflessness help and unite us all.

I saw this quote (below) today, and I feel it is an apt reminder for us all.

Fortune favours the brave. — Virgil

Keep your head up, your heart open, your mind focused and your nerves steeled… believe in your dreams, go after adventures, and know what a difference you can make (after all we’re in this together). ~ eh.

Both images were taken during my 2007 Visit to NY.