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Photo: Silmara Emde, the Orange Lamphouse Studio

 

Greetings and happy new year. If that’s your thing. I have mixed feelings about it. The holidays can be a highly fraught time and so many of us feel the pressure to emerge on the first or second day of the calendar year with a plethora of resolutions. I’m going for a more sustainable approach: setting some goals and intentions that are aligned with my values and reasonable to maintain. I’m also showing up as my whole self, which is alarming but necessary. This means vulnerability and authenticity in every area of my life, including business.

Big props to Marie Forleo for this crystallizing method of identifying what to give my attention to.

First up, going for my driver’s license. Somehow I’ve managed to get around the world without a license for decades. My excuses snowballed over time: I got hit by a car when I was little/ At 18, when I first had my learner’s permit, some ragey guy yelled at me and I had to pull over and cry/It’s environmentally responsible/I save so much money/Vancouver drivers are scary! 

But here’s the thing: there’s so much freedom behind the wheel. I had the chance to attend the Whistler Film Fest in November and Shannon, my colleague from Women in Film, generously gave me a ride. She shared stories of getting away from the city whenever she needed some peace. An easy accomplishment with a vehicle. She was so calm as she piloted through the spectacular mountain scenery. She motivated me to show up and try it out, plus it means I can say yes to more contracts that are further afield. I’ve set at date of February 14th to take the learner’s test.

Secondly (and this one is big and scary and oh so necessary) Complete a first draft of my book project, Unexpressed by May 2019. I began work on this in late 2017 and it’s been percolating on the back burner long enough. I’ve been hesitant to share much of the back story publicly, so as not to appear fragile, but it is part of my narrative, and I’ve cultivated deep fortitude as a result. Big. Breath. In.

Here’s an excerpt from the book proposal:

In late August 2017, I presented at the emergency room of the Vancouver General Hospital with profound head and hand tremors. Convinced I had early onset Parkinson’s Disease, (I was 49 at the time) I was frightened and anxious. My hands shook so violently I couldn’t manage a pen to sign the intake form. As my partner and I waited to see the doctor, he cracked jokes and I tried in vain to steady my hands and head.

After a CT scan and myriad tests, the neurologist looked me square in the eye and told me I was experiencing psychogenic movement disorder (PMD), not Parkinson’s. Here’s the clinical definition according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokePsychogenic movement is an unwanted muscle movement such as a spasm or tremor that is caused by an underlying psychological condition. 

Oh dear.

I propped my hand under my chin to quell the tremors. The neurologist asked if I had been under intense stress or trauma. I couldn’t think of anything. We had just returned from Alberta following my partner’s gallery show in Edmonton. While he was setting up, I took a day trip to Calgary. Nothing came to mind. Frustration welled as I picked up on the subtext from the doctor: it was all in my head.

When we got home from the hospital ten hours later, I started Googling. The phrase that resonated for me in all the pages about the topic was so rational and simple, yet it gave me agency to pursue solutions.  It’s not a hardware issue, it’s a software issue. I sat down to think. The Edmonton part of our trip had been relaxed, so that wasn’t it.

Then I started reflecting about my time in Calgary. I had chosen to stay with my brother in his subsidized apartment. He has been dealing with borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia for 30 years. His capacity for conflict is very low and we share a troubled history. He is also an inside smoker so I had trouble breathing, which was further aggravated by the smoke from nearby forest fires. My fear of telling him how I really felt was so strong, I made excruciating small talk over the course of 24 hours, rather than risk upsetting him

I began writing about my complex feelings with Hugh (using his middle name for discretion) and have since shared drafts at the SFU Writers Studio reading series and the Vancouver Public Library New Voices series.

The tremors have mostly ceased, although if I choose not to express an emotion, my head will bob and shake immediately. I’ve learned to experience my feelings in the moment. In addition, I have embraced mindfulness training that creates space in my mental infrastructure for friction and allows me to choose a creative response.  Six months after my diagnosis, a follow up appointment with the neurologist I saw at the ER confirmed the shaking had diminished dramatically and no further intervention was recommended.

As I read this part of the proposal, I’m grateful for how quickly I was able to identify the source of the issue and to do the work to move past it. I credit my journalism and research experience with giving me the clarity and capacity to unearth solutions and move beyond reactive experiences.  There are facets of my story that can help others overcome challenges so it’s with a keen sense of responsibility that I’m taking action on getting the draft completed.

Number three is food related and short but sweet. (get it?) I’ve been feeling the negative effects of sugar recently. For example, getting hyped up after a sweet drink, cleaning every surface in my home, then needing to curl up on the sofa for an hour. Or indulging in a rich dessert then struggling to fall asleep. Not sustainable. I’m setting a goal of being entirely sugar free for 90 days and seeing how my sleep and energy respond. Even though I eat a pretty clean diet, it’s the sneaky chunks of artisanal chocolate and tea lattes infused with rose petals and sickly sweet syrups that are eroding my energy levels. So it’s a discipline thing.

Three goals to start the year is ample, methinks. Reflecting on the three ways I’m expanding this year, a single word comes to mind: courage. That’s what it will take to meet these goals. There’s heft in this word. It just feels good, down into my bones.  I’d love to hear what you’re working towards so feel free to share in the comments or send me a private message.

 

 

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