PERSONAL GROWTH ISN’T ALL SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS

Balance has never been my strong suit. Typically, when I do something or make a change, I’m ALL IN.  RIGHT NOW. I also like to feel some satisfaction right away, or my commitment to that action or change begins to wane. In the past, if I strayed off course or made a mistake, I would high-tail it back to old patterns, unable to find balance in the moment and pick myself back up. This was not an effective or healthy way to approach change and growth in my life. 

The personal growth I have experienced with EGCM and Gestalt work has helped me work through this unhealthy pattern and find some natural balance. Recently, I celebrated my 40th birthday. While I’m not one to get hung up on my age, this year, the milestone kept creeping closer, and I was unsettled and unhappy in one key area. I felt very disconnected from my physical body. It didn’t feel like mine, and I certainly didn’t like how it was showing up. The stress of work, school, business, farm, and the kids’ schedules had taken its toll over the past few years, and I was a mess. A lot of that was being stored in my physical body, and I had shut it down. This spring, I made a personal commitment to move my body more, which began with short, daily walks during my lunch period. Then, I attended an event that had a fitness component that was way outside my comfort zone. In public. Not only did I survive it, I found that it rekindled something for me that I hadn’t realized I had been ignoring. Since, I have committed to a regular yoga practice with a lot of available support, so I may continue to rebuild my connection to and honor my physical body. The kickass workout is a perk. You know what? Some days, IT’S REALLY HARD. Mentally, I don’t always want to do it, and it is tough to get on the mat. Some days, it is physically hard, and I don’t feel like I can do it, so I honor where I’m at, and I adjust.  It isn’t something that I have to do. It is something that I get to do.  Perspective is powerful.

All of this has me reflecting on how we approach personal growth. Our society demands the all-in, right-now approach.  All or nothing. But this is dishonest and unhealthy. It isn’t how a personal journey goes. There isn’t anything wrong with us when we stumble or adjust. We shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty when we do.   Balance and self-compassion are key. We won’t magically feel better when we reach the end of whatever road we are on. Instead, we have to embrace and celebrate our journey — the difficult messy parts as well as the milestones. 

Personal growth isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It requires grit and perseverance. Whether mental, emotional or physical in nature, the growth and change we seek (and even that which we don’t), lies within a few essential steps we can take as many times as we need to until we get to where we want to be…and beyond.

  1. move through fear + apprehension.  
    Our comfort zones are, well, snuggly and comfortable places to hang out. However, they do not encourage expansion and growth, certainly not through something that feels a bit difficult or even a little scary. Moving forward requires stepping through fear and apprehension of what lies outside of what we know. Take the first step, then the second, then the third. Is one full step too big to take on? Break it down into smaller pieces. Each step builds movement, and movement builds confidence. Begin where you are, honor yourself, and keep moving forward.

  2. allow for slip-ups, mistakes, + a return to old patterns.
    As humans, we are much more comfortable with what is familiar, even if it isn’t what is best for us, and, given the opportunity, our minds and bodies may take the first possible exit back to what it knows, back in the comfort zone. It takes time for our bodies and minds to make new pathways, connections, and habits. Awareness of this return to an old pattern is key to lasting change. Remember: 👇

  3. be gentle. self-acceptance and kindness are essential.
    Personal growth has no place for perfectionism or demeaning self-talk. As humans, we make mistakes. They are essential to our learning. How we respond to them is where our power lies. Be gentle with yourself. Receiving a slip-up, mistake, or return to a familiar old pattern as a learning opportunity to build self-awareness and allowing yourself a bit of grace is the first step into forward momentum.

  4. stick with it.
    Personal growth progress is not a linear process. There are ups and downs, twists and turns. Perhaps Chumbawamba said it best:
    🎵..Sing with me.. 🎵

    I get knocked down, but I get up again.
    You are never gonna keep me down.

    When you get knocked down, start back at #1, repeat.

  5. find the positive + celebrate your successes. 🌈☀️
    This is my favorite part. This is the sunshine and rainbows of personal growth, and it is something we can find in every moment. In fact, it helps us remain in the present and is essential to our long-term success. Celebrate even the smallest of successes. Did you get knocked down? Celebrate your willingness to get back up and work some more. Your focus can help determine your trajectory forward in whatever area in which you seek growth.  A positive focus creates a positive momentum forward, come what may.

→ The horses and I can help supercharge your personal growth and vision.  Want to learn more? Contact me to schedule a free 30-minute exploratory phone session.

→ Want to join me in my yoga practice? Check out Yoga with Adriene. Her monthly yoga calendar and YouTube videos are amazing.

Healing and wholeness from the inside out

At times, we see our physical bodies as a separate facet of ourselves, one that may feel at odds with the other parts of us.

Sometimes we are faced with pesky, minor illnesses or allergies, and our immune systems aren’t up to par or out of whack.

Colds.
Strep throat.
Influenza
.

Maybe our bodies simply don’t look and feel the way we want them too, despite our efforts, and we struggle with how we feel about ourselves.

Weight gain.
Exhaustion.
Poor self-image.
 

Perhaps, one day, we receive a life-changing diagnosis. 

Cancer.
Heart disease.
Addiction.
Autoimmune conditions.


When we experience a health condition, no matter how big or small, we may see our physical body as an inconvenient adversary because we don’t like how it is showing up.  We think it isn’t working properly.  But what if there is more under the surface? What if a strong sense of emotional well-being supports strong physical health?

Caring for our physical bodies with traditional medical care, especially when they are in need of extra TLC, is essential. That being said, one very powerful way we can support and help heal our physical bodies is by lovingly attending to our mental and emotional well-being at the same time. Our thoughts, outlook, and mental-emotional well-being are extraordinarily powerful and have an enormous impact on our physical healing and overall health.  Recently, I watched the documentary Heal, which is currently available on Netflix. It fascinated me to see the potential that exists for any type of healing when we carefully attend to our thoughts and shore up our emotional needs while we care for our physical body.  This, after all, explains how placebos work for some people and how others heal from conditions that are deemed ‘incurable’.  One thing that struck me during the film was the work of Dr. Kelly Turner, who cited examples of patients who experienced radical remission from some of these ‘incurable’ conditions.  She lists nine key factors that were observed as a common in the purposeful steps that these patients took in their healing journey. Surprisingly, only two of the nine relate directly to physical well-being. The other seven focus on strengthening our emotional, social, and spiritual health. All of us can adopt these nine factors, and regardless of our current level of health, we will be even healthier for it.

Dr. Kelly Turner / Radical Remission / http://www.facebook.com/healdocumentary

Sometimes, the emotions, experiences, or traumas we face in life can be ignored, stuffed down, or tucked away and not fully processed or felt, leaving them incomplete.  Often, these operate subconsciously, and we are unaware of their ongoing impact. This “unfinished business” can continue surface in both our mental-emotional and physical well-being.  Working with a certified EGCM practitioner is one way to help bring this unfinished business into our awareness and facilitate its completion, identifying subconscious patterns, releasing suppressed emotions, and helping us move forward. In fact, the word Gestalt means a return to wholeness.  A healthy self includes all parts of self, or the whole of you. Consider:

  • Are you viewing your physical body as an adversary or an ally? 
  • What opportunities do you create to take control of your health? Use your intuition?
  • Do you have a strong, readily available network of social support? If not, what is one thing you can do today to reach out and make a connection with someone?
  • Are there things in your life, big or small, that feel “stuck”? How open are you to exploring what lies beneath the surface so you can process and release it?

Despite any mental, emotional, physical challenges we face, when we heal what is under the surface and return to a greater state of wholeness, we are stronger than we were when we started. 

My story: matrescence and the seeds of Artemis & Equus


Ultimately, this is a story of strength, hope, and healing. However, I would be remiss if I did not disclose that this post includes an account of my own experience as a new mom with postpartum depression and anxiety. If you’re currently in a more fragile and sensitive state, my story may contain possible triggers.

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matrescence (noun)

1. The process of becoming a mother.


I remember the precise moment that Artemis & Equus came into being, though I didn’t know it at the time.  I was riding in the backseat of the car, returning home from a dinner with a few of our neighbors, still a bit unsettled by the impact of a relatively mundane conversation around the table. While it would take years to germinate and grow, in that moment, a seed was planted.

. . .

Sometimes life gives us more change than we can handle, and sometimes we choose it for ourselves. My mid-twenties take the cake for being a whirlwind packed full of life-altering events:  A new career. Marriage. A move. A new baby. Over the course of two years, I willingly (and quite joyfully) chose a lot of life change in a small amount of time.

. . .

Twelve years ago, I was a brand-new mom who was in a very rough spot.  My first pregnancy was relatively typical.  Though not a total breeze, I also did not experience major challenges.  As my July due date came nearer, I completed my second year of teaching, and we moved to be closer to family.

Within the last month of my pregnancy, my body staged its own revolt, and I developed pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy or PUPPS, which made an already-difficult stage of pregnancy feel nearly unbearable, and being that birth is the only remedy, I looked forward even more expectantly to welcoming our daughter into the world.

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The story of my labor and delivery is much like that of many other moms in middle-class America.  We dutifully had all of the recommended prenatal check-ups, paid close attention to all of the latest recommendations, went to our childbirth classes, and outlined our wishes in a detailed birth plan that we shared with our OB-GYN and nurses.  We were ready.

Even the best laid plans go awry.

. . . 

In the end, my birth experience did not go as we had hoped it would. Maybe it was our first lesson that in parenthood, very little goes as planned.

For a long time, I partially credited my struggle with postpartum anxiety and depression to my birth experience.  In an effort to understand what was happening, sometimes it was easier to place blame because nothing else made sense. While there is some sliver of truth in that connection (How I experienced childbirth was a factor after all.), I have come to realize that like many of our life-changing experiences, the causes of my postpartum depression and anxiety were far too multifaceted and intertwined to tease apart and understand at any one moment in time.  Singularly, there wasn’t one factor that created my postpartum experience.  Combined, all of those factors synthesized into the force of a freight train that indelibly changed my life.

I certainly struggled in a very normal way during my first four months postpartum as I recovered from surgery, adjusted to breastfeeding, and adapted to the crazy circus that is becoming a parent for the first time.  We were very fortunate that with my husband’s work schedule, accrued paternity leave, and plenty of support, we were able to spend the first three to four months together as a new family.

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Little by little, the darkness crept in. Sleep deprivation. Too much caffeine. Poor self care. Long days alone with the baby.  Lack of routine. The pressure to hold it all together. Boredom. The scale finally tipped after a routine umbilical hernia repair sometime before Thanksgiving.  I am not able to remember much about the timeline after that – my memories only come in unreliable snippets without a time and date stamp.  It is as if someone took a film reel of the next twelve months, cut it up, and spliced it back together haphazardly. I know that sleep became impossible because of the endless loop of racing, intrusive thoughts every time I went to bed. I’d lay in bed simultaneously terrified of sleep and terrified of being awake. I remember crying on the kitchen floor, talking to my baby, not really understanding why, only that I felt such immense, inexplicable sadness.  There were doctor appointments. Phone calls to our families attempted to let them know what was going on, even when there were no sufficient words to explain it. In the bathroom, sample packs of medication were tucked away in case I decided I needed them.  My mom took time off and came to spend some time with us to keep me company and help however she could.  An appointment for therapy was weeks away. For months, I compulsively locked doors and checked over the house for anything that would pose a danger to us.  Feeling alone, I would drive to Walmart, only to have a panic attack when surrounded by all of the people in the store. I could hardly watch the news, for surely being witness to someone else’s tragedy would make it my own. I would hold our daughter long after she was asleep, never wanting to let her go in case something happened to her.  She was safest with me. Everything felt dangerous. I often hid our kitchen knives because even the sight of them made me anxious. After hearing about Andrea Yates’s story on the news during her sentencing, bath time became terrifying. What if I harmed my baby, too?  The tricks my body and mind played on me were an endless loop of despair and worry. I was exhausted.

. . . 

When you’re in crisis, people tell you that you’re not alone, but I always felt as though no one truly understood what I was experiencing.  And then, at some point in the midst of that year, I learned I was not, in fact, as alone as I felt even if my experience was uniquely my own.  We accepted a random invitation to dinner out with my husband’s childhood friend and some of their friends. We did not know them well, but they were all young parents. While I do not recall how the topic came up, I left dinner that night with an understanding that a many of the moms there had experienced mild to significant struggles with their postpartum mental health. While we each took a different approach to treatment and healing, the shared experience was that in our area, our options were limited to medication, occasional therapy, time, and a few alternative treatments. As we pulled into the driveway that night, and I sat in the back seat with my daughter, I made a commitment to myself and the universe: When I was well enough and our own babies were no longer infants, I would create another option for women to heal – one that gave them space and time for themselves and their families. In that moment, a seed was planted.

Today, that seed is blossoming into Artemis & Equus.

. . . 

I am fortunate. My story has a very happy ending.  Throughout my first postpartum experience, I sought healing in many forms, traditional and alternative, and slowly regained my wholeness. Spanning multiple pregnancies and postpartum periods over the course of ten years, my own matrescence has been a significant catalyst in my life, ultimately resulting in expansion, growth, and love. Through my pain and struggle, I found my strength, and from my journey, I have found a greater purpose.

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Because of my experience, I have a heartfelt interest in full-circle healing for mothers, children, and families. Our families are a major touchstone in our lives, whether our families of origin or the families we create for ourselves. Through Artemis & Equus, it is my intention to offer an alternative for women who are transitioning to or in the midst of motherhood, including  perinatal mental health and mood disorders such as postpartum depression and anxiety. Furthermore, the well-being of our children has a significant impact on the well-being of the family, and I’m deeply committed to helping youth in a process of self-discovery and healing that allows them to move forward in life with wholeness, health,  and authenticity.  Through healing for mothers and children, we create full-circle healing for our families, past, present and future.

. . .


Author’s note:

I was under the direct care of medical and mental health professionals throughout the entirety of my pregnancies and postpartum periods. At no time was I in imminent danger of harming myself or my children.

If you are currently experiencing any sort of mental health crisis, please call your physician, local emergency number, or national emergency hotline such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Women and families seeking additional, non-crisis postpartum support can find resources through their local providers or by contacting Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773 or http://www.postpartum.net


. . .

Radically Simple

I wish I could capture the amount of growth I have experienced over the past fourteen months.  

This growth has come in surprising, subtle, and incremental shifts, and I hardly recognize the person I was just a year and half ago – a person who could not imagine flying to a large city alone; a person who was terrified of anything that took her away from her family and everyday life; a person who would see opportunities as something to fear, not adventures to be had. For so long, I kept myself from growing into my true potential.  I held myself back.

I am learning that with each new adventure, comes growth. And sometimes, adventure shows up disguised in the form of something simple.NDroad-01

As part of the Touched by a Horse certification program, we attend multi-day intensives called COREs.  On schedule, I registered for my 2017 COREs in the fall of 2016.  As can happen, life shifts, and plans change.  Unexpectedly, I needed to rearrange my CORE schedule after accepting a full-time teaching job, and suddenly, I was looking at somewhat last-minute trip to the Calgary area.  Faced with expensive flight costs, I decided to drive, assuming that I could find someone to join me. Instead, as the days passed and no one could commit to the time away, I began to consider the possibility of making the trip – 2,600 miles in all – by myself.  Solo. Alone.

As a high introvert, I require a lot of quiet, solitary time to process and recharge.  As the keeper of my own busy life, I carve out whatever time I can, but it is often in small amounts.  As women in our culture, we are not taught self-care.  Instead, we sometimes silently praise one another for being martyrs – for putting the needs of others before our own, be it our spouses, our children, our jobs, or our crazy schedules. Too often we compare the chaos of our commitments, thinking that the more we have to do, the better we measure up. This trip would allow me four days alone – four days to spend in the car, by myself, however I chose: to think, to create, to be.  This time became a way to care for myself.  And you know what? I felt excited  – almost giddy – for the opportunity. Suddenly, this simple road trip felt radical. Radically simple self-care.

My familiar companion fear stopped by for a visit as I prepared for my trip.  As it turns out, when given free reign, fear and worry are not a sound form of preparation. Fear showed up in other people’s worries that it was a bad idea for me to travel that far alone. So much could go wrong.  Fear showed up in imagined flat tires along the Trans-Canada highway (or perhaps even worse: in rural North Dakota).  Fear showed up as questions about what to do if I had trouble crossing the border. Fear showed up in the form of the many things we as women are taught we are vulnerable to if we travel alone. What if my phone didn’t work? What if I ran out of gas? Should I buy pepper spray? Vulnerability.

In those moments, I did what I was unable to do a year and a half ago: I paused, took a deep breath, and checked into my own knowing.  All was well.  I remembered: My dad taught me long ago how to change a tire; I have paper maps should my phone not work (We survived a long time without our devices, after all.); I reminded myself of my trust in the overall goodness of humanity. Should anything go awry, I’m very capable of sorting it out.  Trust.

When asked why my trip was so amazing, the answer I found is rather simple: In the face of fear, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and went on the trip anyway.  The real lesson was in taking the step to begin with – to feel into my fear, check in with myself, and move forward. Stepping out of my comfort zone always leads to adventure, and adventure leads to growth. Taking this solo road trip is one of the most self-empowering things I’ve done to both challenge and care for myself. Radically simple.

In what radically simple ways will you care for yourself today?

Looking forward,

Becky

By the Numbers: Road Trip Statistics

*2,361 miles
*7 days round trip
*4 days with some of the most open hearted, loving people on the planet
*Road trip soundtrack: The Guest House by Ellis
*Countless insights – but here are a few:

Road Trip Insights

As I set out on my trip, a friend wisely suggested, “Take backroads whenever possible.”  Truth. I’m sorry to say I did not heed her advice on my trip west. As it turns out, the Trans Canada Highway must be built through the most desolate parts of the country.  (Sorry, southern Saskatchewan.) I decided to drive a different route on the way home, which prevented me from banging my head on the steering wheel out of boredom.

That being said, it was a great opportunity to practice what I preach to my kiddos: look for something positive.

The tiny sunflowers that grow on the roadsides of rural North Dakota and Canada are not just a beautiful bright spot.  They’re to be admired for their resilience. They are beauty growing up through the asphalt, shining their pretty faces toward the light.

IMG_4233Until I made this drive, I did not fully realize how prevalent trains are in the Plains. They are e v e r y w h e r e.  I began to look for the familiar Canadian Pacific railcars just so I could check out the graffiti as they passed by. Graffiti, after all, is (unsolicited) art, someone’s creative expression. I began to look forward to seeing what the next train had to offer, to see what message might be hidden in the graffiti.

The major highways such as the Trans-Canada Highway are a by-product of our fast-paced, gotta-get-there-fast world.  How much do we miss when we forget to pause in the moment to appreciate what’s right in front of us – like the resilience of sunflowers and creative expression within graffiti?