Friday, April 29, 2016

"Welcome To The New Age"

If the overwhelming theme of my 2015 was "Let It Go", then it is becoming abundantly clear to me that 2016 is going to be about moving forward.

The thing about letting go, is that often it is too tempting to let it ALL go. It is not a surprise to those who know me that I have battled the desire, throughout a difficult and dark 2015, to walk way. Actually, run away.

I tried once last year to really leave everything behind. Fortunately, I had a few (a lot) of friends who wouldn't let me, and one friend who saw me try to sneak away, and fought for me.

Some days I still want to run. Run far away. Not ever look back. But really, I just want to move on.

In the midst of my challenging year, I don't have to look far to find so very much to be grateful for, and it is in these incredible blessings that I will find both my reason and my strength to move forward.

I have added so many new and incredible relationships to my life through my new job.

I am finding ways to gather my people back into my life, as I have stepped back from some relationships that fed my happiness and joy in order to adapt to so much change. I need my people, and I know they understand, and will be waiting. Hold on tight, girls! I'm coming back.

This will be, the last "Find Your CORE" blog. Not because I am letting it go, but because I am moving on. COREfitness and Wellness also will be dissolved. This is part of my past, and I am beyond grateful for it, for feeding my children and bringing me some of the most wonderful people ever.

I am still planning on teaching, and in fact expanding, my current fitness classes and personal training, and this is a priority for me, because moving forward means doing what I love.
I will be blogging, but in a different direction, and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I will enjoy writing it. Annie's Hope, my dreamchild foundation for Mental Health for youth, is going to be a real thing. It must. It is needed, and it is my calling to make big things happen there.

So that's the bare bones of my plan to move forward. To continue to let go, whilst gathering all the tools I need to move ahead and change the world. Because I know I am meant to do big things. I am not good at anything, but I am determined, and I recognize that I am unstoppable. It's time I proved it.

All this is not going to happen tomorrow. The last year has taught me to be patient and realistic with myself, and I want to enjoy the process again. Bit by bit, we rebuild, stronger and better than before. I recognize what a fantastic opportunity this is, and intend to make good on it.

To my darling Katie - you always tell me the absolute truth. When I am laying on the kitchen floor, it is your voice I hear yelling at me to get the fuck up, and then whispering gently, because I love you. And because you are worth it.

To my SharkL our runs have changed my life. Thank you for listening. And not being gentle with me. And for your always laugh worthy occasion cards and healing lemon loaf.

To my Lil'Kim - for understanding. And for making me laugh. And for giving me the nickname, "slutpig" which I wear with pride. Never settle - our motto for life.

To Sue - it started with a run, and will never end. Thank you for noticing me, and feeding me, and seeing that I need you in my life.

To all of my darling people, CORE and otherwise: I never let you go, but I had to step away. Thank you for being right there as I step back in. Kinda like you had the confidence in me all along. Which is kinda the best feeling ever.

To all of the dear lovely people I have met in my crazy last year, many of whom I will line up to run with at the Goodlife Marathon on Sunday: Thank you for the acceptance.It is an honour to share my favourite activity with so many truly wonderful human beings. Thank you for making me feel welcome, and a valued part of our community. I don't know where I would be without you all. Our motto at the Whitby Running Room is "a place and a pace for everyone". With humility, I finally accept that that even includes a place for me, and I am grateful.

So let's raise a glass (or since it's morning, maybe a mug?) to moving forward. I can't quite believe that it's time, but man am I excited!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

"All You Need Is Love"

As the American writer Richard Bach said,
"A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are."

That right there is some LOVELY sentiment.

It's St.Valentines' Day, the time for romantic love and grand gestures of flowers, champagne, chocolates, diamonds.....whatever. As my friend Alex shared in her brilliant blog: I Don't Blog (yes - check her out she's amazing and my inspiration for all things) all men really want for Valentines' Day is a blow job. I can find little evidence that disputes this so I won't argue it.

I'm a sucker for love. And I always thought I had found my soulmate. Until I stepped out to be completely and honestly who I am.

I'm a sucker for romance. I have had the grandest gestures surprise me, but the most memorable are the simple, thoughtful things that tell me that the giver knows, completely and honestly, who I am.

I love romantic movies, especially classics and fairy tales, where true love wins out and happily ever after is the order of the day.

Who among us is immune to the lure of being loved so completely, so truthfully, so purely, that we feel safe enough to pursue our dreams and live our lives confidently, honestly and with the utmost belief in ourselves and our worth.

Why, though, do we outsource this all important job of soulmate to another imperfect being?
In other words, why do we not empower ourselves, when we alone hold that precious key that unlocks our own self worth.

No one completes you. You have every single tool dwelling within you to be what you want, achieve what you want and live how you want. You even have every ounce of bravery required to be wholly and truthfully you. You. You have it all.

As you go through life you will find all manner of connections with people.

If you are lucky you will love someone so deeply that their name is always on the tip of your tongue and their face is the most beautiful sight you will ever see.
If you are lucky you will love someone so deeply that you feel completely and utterly lost without them in your life, or even at the very thought.
If you are lucky you will love someone so deeply that the thought of even a single trouble crossing their path makes you want to move mountains to change that.
If you are lucky you will love someone so much that your heart grows 5 times its size when you see them.
If you are lucky you will love someone so much that you want them to succeed, to win, to achieve, to be recognized as the best and you want this more for them than you ever would for yourself.
If you are lucky you will love someone so completely flawed and fucked up that you realize how normal it is to be flawed and fucked up.

If you are really lucky you will be loved in return, and accepted as wholly who you are. No matter what that may be.

This is not romantic love, this is real love. These and so many other facets of love can be fulfilled by one or many people, family, friends, lovers, husbands, doesn't matter. Love is love. And it is your reflection and starting point for building a relationship for yourself with your real soulmate. YOU.

Look in the mirror.

Love that face.

Look in your heart.

Love that too.

Bring YOU to your own attention so that YOU can change your life.

Show yourself everything that holds you back.

Forgive yourself for being imperfect. Praise yourself for being brave.

Complete yourself. Hold your own keys. Be confident and be free.

Love yourself in a way that frees you to be everything you wish to be.

Then go and change the world. Or whatever makes you happy.

Being loved is important. But being love is everything.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to get my pint of ice cream and pint of Guiness and send anti-Valentine's Day messages to all those who done me wrong.

I may be evolved, but I'm still a work in progress, after all.

Find Your CORE

Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens" A few of my favourite things....

I know I've been Debbie Downer (Wah-Waaaaah) lately and that my writing has suited the worst parts of my currently not the greatest mood. I promise, however that I have not completely lost the charming (if I do say so myself, and I do because it's my blog) naivete and youthful exhuberance about ALL THE THINGS. I still force myself to keep my eyes up - because I certainly do not want to miss something magical within the mundane. It's this gratitude for the beauty of life that is my greatest coping mechanism, and the reason why I love running so very much. It affords me the opportunity to witness simple miracles and breathtaking beauty, and reminds me to stop and take those in, both on my run, and in every day life.
I went to the Christmas Market last night in downtown Toronto's Distillery District. I am a reluctant admitter to enjoying Christmas (My kids don't call me Mummy Grinch for nothing), but I have to admit that when I turned the corner and took in the lights and spectacle ahead of me, I may have gasped. People milling about, beautiful lights, Father Christmas, Christmas Carolers and the most beautiful, spectacular Christmas tree I have ever seen. The atmosphere was electric and, well, downright merry. While standing in the outdoor marketplace, my friend and I discussed how wandering around on a crisp winter evening was one of the best things ever ever ever to do (and made exponentially better by partaking in mulled wine).
So I woke up this morning thinking about some of my favourite things, which I realize are too many to list in one, or ten, or a hundred blogs. These are some of my favourite simple miracles:
-the sound a guitar makes when hand slides between one chord(?) note(?) I dunno what the technical term is - but that uniquely guitar sound makes my heart melt
-the swish swish sound your feet make when walking through fall leaves
-warm sun that invites you to tilt your head up and close your eyes for a moment
-the sound of laughter, and twinkly, laughy eyes
-that moment when a piece of music comes on and you recognize it, making your heart beat a little faster with excitement and the mind reach for the memories and feelings associated with it.
-movies with a narrator. Mostly because I am certain if my life was narrated, it would be done so by the Queen, or Julie Andrews, if QEII is a bit busy that day.
-the first smell of bread, baking in the oven
-the "heart skips a beat" feeling when you get a text/email/phone call etc...from someone you love, whether you last heard from them 5 minutes or 5 years ago
-a well poured and ready to drink Guiness. It's a stout piece of art and begs to be admired before consumption.
-the sound of footsteps, or, even better, hoofbeats. It's the sound of moving forward
-the smell of a fir tree on a crisp winter day
-an old tree, after it's leaves have fallen and it's branches are laid bare and vulnerable for all to see
-the roots of a tree peeking out of the earth
-anything about a tree actually, so to save some time I'll leave it there
-the first taste of a baked good after it's come out of the oven. You've had to wait for it to cool, it has taunted you with it's delicious aroma. That cookie is YOURS! All the sweeter for the patience.
-the Toronto skyline - most beautiful ever
-random talks to strangers
-the contented sigh a dog makes after laying down
-opening a card (any card - cards are amazing and simple and marvellous). Cards say someone has thought of you, and taken the time to show it.
and finally,(although I could go on), in the spirit of the season:
- Christmas Carols gone wrong. Such hits as "Santa Claus Doesn't Come To the Ghetto" by Yellowman, "Reggae Christmas" by Bryan Adams & PeeWee Herman, "Ludacrismas"by Ludacris, "Funky Funky Christmas" by NKOTB, "Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul Mcartney
-The Little Drummer Boy, as performed by David Bowie & Bing Crosby. If exposed to any of the above Christmas gigglers, this song will restore you faith in festive music. Although this song is my least favourite Christmas Carol, done by David and Bing, it is perfection, and my all time favourite.

It's sometimes impossible to see the beauty, I understand the truth of that. But a wise woman I knew before once said,
"Don't get so wrapped up in the details that you forget to enjoy the journey"

Find Your CORE

Monday, December 14, 2015

"I Used To Recognize Myself" A Reflection

Right now, in this moment, in fact, in this month and some of the bigger chunks of this year, I cannot see myself anymore. The woman I worked so hard to set free is nowhere in sight.
I went through treatment for my mental health issues. I have diligently done all the things that keep a person like myself content and sailing along smoothly. And by "person like myself" I mean someone with a predisposition to suffer anxiety and depression. I have taken meds, exercised diligently, exposed myself to sunlight, taken vitamin D, eaten healthily, knitted, sought professional help as needed. In short, I have been a model for recovery and living life to it's fullest with mental illness. In fact, if I didn't talk openly about it, before this year you likely had zero clue that I ever even had a bad day. That's because, for the most part, I rarely did. I was genuinely happy and full (brimming in fact) with joy and enthusiasm. When life tossed me lemons, I'd squeeze the fuck out of those little bastards and make the bestest lemonade ever, goshdarnit, and then deliver it to someone whose day needed a little cheering up. I was nice and unselfish and funny and kind and succesful and a good mother and a good wife and a good person. I was pretty happy if a little unfulfilled in some ways, and I sought even to change that and make that better.

Seeking to change, made everything change.

At some point in my life I will share the events of the last year with more people, but for now, just know that 2015 has not been my easiest year.

And I am, to put it blankly, a shell of the person I fought so hard to love.

I realised when chatting to runners the other day, that the hardest part of every run, is the actual decision to get out of bed in the morning and go. I understand, because truly, there is no greater task that I face every single day. It takes every single ounce of my strength and willpower to sit up and get on with my day. This is NOT me.

I have, despite all that I have been handled to cope with, a charmed life, and yet I have to fight myself to get up and live it. There are problems I must face every day,that's for sure, but mine are so insignificant in the scheme of things that it's laughable that I give them more a passing glance and struggle to get on with my day. I have a roof over my head, people who love me, a nice car, a full time job, friends and so much more to celebrate. But, to my chagrin, I can't find an ounce of joy and gratitude for even one little bit of it.

I am lost.

The fact that my IPod needs charging and I have nowhere to charge it today, was akin to a national tragedy for me today.

Who am I.

Where is the self-confident, got it together motivator who makes things happen. The woman who thrives on pressure, loves a challenge and makes shit happen? Where is she?


The overwhelming shame and guilt and grief for feeling like this when people are starvingdyinglivinginfearpovertywarfamine. I live in Canada for goodness sake.


I never stopped looking after myself - never missed workouts or ignored signs. I have taken care of myself.

Yet here I am.


My persistent best frenemy.

Dragged myself to yoga this morning to hear this timely little pearl of wisdom:
"Sometimes we have feelings, physical and emotional, that arise in times we are challenged. The hardest part is not attempting to fix them, but just allowing ourselves to live with them until they pass and we feel whole again."

I realized, when talking to my running friends the other day, that they were right.

The hardest part about life, is deciding to live it.

See you tomorrow.

Find Your CORE

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"A Candle Of Hope In November's Dark Night"

I get out and see a lot of things, and like a lot of people of an advanced age (ahem)I have had a range of life experiences.
I've watched a brand new life take it's very first breath on earth and held the hand of a life at end as it breathed it's last.
These are the two extremes of life as we know it.
Both were immeasurable in the immensity of the moment, and in the very privilege of being present.

There are times in life that you feel as if your heart has exploded and in it's tattered place beats an emotion so extreme it envelopes your entire soul.
This is not an unfamiliar feeling to me - despite my claims to the contrary and my desire to be otherwise, I am a person who feels things immensely. I don't do feelings in small measure.
I have felt overwhelmed with joy upon turning a corner and seeing the sun bursting through the trees ahead.
I have been overcome with happiness watching an air show with my kids because the moment recalled a similar moment shared with my Dad in my childhood.
I have been torn apart by anger when someone I love has been hurt or wronged.
I have been overwrought with sadness when I couldn't take away the pain of someone who suffered.

We have all felt these emotions. We have all felt these and many others so strongly that the feelings overtake us and the moment becomes something bigger than us ourselves, little humans on a small planet in a mediocre solar system in the vast unknown of the universe.

I have heard this referred to as a "thin space" by a wonderful and wise minister, during a particularly meaningful sermon he once preached.
This expression has stuck with me as a description for this amazing and terrifying feeling.

When had such a feeling recently I, ever research minded, decided to google that shit.

A "thin place" is described in Celtic lore as " a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. A place where we can sense the divine more readily".

I read several sources, that state various similar descriptions, often touting the boundaries of life and death, where people experience the "Divine" (insert your belief in whatever Deity you deem fit) most strongly. Either in an earthly place, or through human experience.

The advent season, in Christian traditions, is a period defined by waiting and preparing. Preparing for the miraculous and wondrous arrival of that most human of emotions. This, my friends, is why Christmas is so infinitely beautiful. It is the ultimate thin space. At heart, we celebrate the human ability to nurture,to love and to HOPE.

I don't know what will happen tomorrow or next year. But in those quiet moments of overwhelming feels, I know that the people I love are with me.
I know that the warm brush of sunlight that randomly brought a lump to my throat and made my heart swell means I am not alone. I know that when I see a friend suffer and feel the crushing anvil of defeat in my inability to save them, it means I am not alone. Don't push the moment away, however painful it may be. Stand on the edge of your own divinity and live.

Find Your CORE.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

"You Asked For Healing" My Thoughts; On Letting Go

Occasionally I get asked to write something and I actually get paid for it. I'm often asked why I don't write a book, or publish my writings etc...
The answer to that is two fold. First - I haven't spent enough time really putting thought and effort into making my efforts at writing produce a sustaining income, and second - if I write about what I know, there would be too many things that I don't want out in the public about my life. Not because I am ashamed of it, but because there are other members of my family that would be affected by. There is no such thing as a victimless crime, and no family history is free of it's own set of criminals.

I have been asked recently to submit a piece of writing about "Letting Go Of Mental Illness".

That's a thing?

I missed that memo, apparently.

There is no letting go of illness. It changes your DNA. Depression is the deceitful dark cloud that robs my days of colour and paints me as useless and unworthy. It's hissing voice tells me it's right, and that I'm a piece of shit and don't deserve my skin,my friends,my children,my job,my car, my love,my life. It reminds me that I have to keep pushing, doing better, being nicer, being prettier, being skinnier, being smarter,being funnier. No one will like me if I'm not the best,the best,the best,the best. I have only it to thank for my success, because it's voice of truth keeps me at my best, stops me from being weak,stops me from being me. Because no one, it hisses, would like that. Don't let them see.

I don't write a book because that voice I hear, is my mothers'.

I let her go. I asked her to leave my home around ten years ago, my husband drove her home. I called her a few times at Christmas, and on her birthday, but I even gave that up. I went to visit her after my favourite uncle died, to see if she was okay. It was polite.
She left my home and never once picked up the phone again to speak to me, or make any attempt to contact me. We hadn't parted on terrible terms. But I hadn't lived up to her. And I lost her that day when she walked out my door, and all I have to remind me of her now is the voice of my own self loathing and wretchedness. The last time I saw her was after I received the phone call that she had passed away unexpectedly through the night, and I stood weeping beside her lifeless body at the funeral home that afternoon.

The truth is, I'd give everything I had to turn time back to the day that she left my life. And on the days that I struggle most, it's not that I believe that I am worthless or useless. It's that I so badly want to make her love me, that I'd gladly play the part.

I know if I hadn't let her go, it would've been me in that funeral home. And there are too many times I wish I had played my cards differently, so I could have bought us more time together.

I know she didn't love me. She hadn't the capacity, she was so enveloped in her own turmoil. I was a conduit for her own pain and torment.

I know that things couldn't have been different, unless she too had sought proper help for what troubled her.

I know I made the right choice because my own children will not hear my voice in torment, but in support. I hurt still. But I heal continuously.

My Mum was not a horrible person. She was ill. In so many ways. And I was available and vulnerable and able to take all that on for her. I paid the price. My children will not.

So, when I talk about letting go of mental illness, that is what I did. I let go of the person who meant more to me than life itself. It's not something I'm proud of, but it had to be done, for the sake of my family and my children.

We don't, no can't, let go of mental illness, or cancer, or diabetes, or any other kind of life changing condition. We can simply heal the wounds the best we can, and hope that we can patch up the rest enough to keep us afloat.

We can let go of habits that don't heal, and let go of thoughts that make us hurt. And we can let go of people who cause us harm. To quote a line in an article I read recently, "We can choose to let these people go. We don't have to, and it's hard to choose to do so. But we CAN".

In my perfect world, my Mum and I would have had a reunion, and she'd have seen the strong and healthy Annie, and would've loved her. But I've let that dream go. My Mum would have hated me as I am now. Because she herself was trapped, she wouldn't have ever been able to recognize the beauty that is freedom.

I hope she is free now. And that we have a chance for that reunion one day, somehow. And the part of me that was, is and always will be her daughter wants nothing more than to believe that she has found peace, and is happy that I have found mine.

Find Your CORE

Sunday, October 25, 2015

"Such a Perfect Place to Hide" My Celebration of 13.1

One final surge as I reached the final 100m. My heart was beating with excitement, my tired legs changed cadence to push harder towards the finish. The sun burst through the clouds. The angel's trumpets blared. Crowds roared their support, chanting my name (which is 2 syllables and coincidentally imminently chant-able) and pumping their fists to the sky as I passed by. I might have been in slow motion, hair swept back in the wind, victorious smile on my calm and triumphant face. Gentle beads of sweat glisten on my brow. Dramatic and uplifting music sets the tone for epic victory. This is totally how I celebrated the finish of the 2015 Scotiabank Half Marathon and 10 year Discharge-A-Versary from hospital after completing a stay in Toronto General Hospital's Eating Disorder Unit.
Stop. Press rewind please. Let's take it back a bit.
I had a great run. From starting gun to final surge,the entire run went like any other..strong,beautiful and full of joy. I ran with music for the first time, and set myself a lengthy playlist of songs that mean something to me, I enjoy, or remind me of people who would be cheering me on. From there I pressed shuffle and set off on my run.
Music, as always, did not disappoint, sending me a sublime set of musical awesomeness to enjoy along the way. I was fast enough, strong enough and thoroughly exhilerated by the atmosphere. It was, as the first two songs that played so aptly stated, a Wonderful World, and a Beautiful Day.
As KD Lang soulfully belted out Halellujah on my soundtrack, I took a moment to revel in the truly breathtaking truth that I was running with all the skinny, perfect people. That I had eaten breakfast that morning. And every morning for the last ten years. That all the people who had astounded me before were now my peers. And that I was as worthy and capable of the achievement as they were.
I ran briefly alongside a true survivor, a real hero. JP Bedard was 5km into his third consecutive marathon to raise awareness for survivors of sexual abuse. I told him how he inspired me and how he was my hero. This was bravery.
The songs played on. My feet kept plodding on. My heart was full.
I thought that the ending would be, in a word, unforgettable.
I turned the corner and saw the crowds and beautiful Toronto City Hall up ahead. All the other runners streamed out ahead and around me. The stage was set. I noticed my music for the first time, really, knowing that the music Gods would choose a song to commemorate this incomparable moment.
Instead the music Gods decided to have a bit of a laugh and sent me low key, somewhat (okay,very) dark song by George Ezra, about depression.
It actually shook me a bit. What. The. Fuck. would this song come on for (because IPods care about my epic soundtrack, right), but I wasn't about to waste any precious time by fiddling and skipping the song.
It's just my name,
It's just my skin,
Holding a boulder,
Can you swim?
Oh as we fall,
Through the water,
You find a piece within,
And you know it's just your skin
So I looked toward the finish and plowed ahead, determined to just ignore the music and finish strong. But, instead of just listening, for the first time I actually heard.
I trust myself implicitly to make the right decisions. I feel capable, strong and beautiful. I listen to the needs of my body and adjust to ensure that I am able to perform at my best. I am confident and on top of the world.
Now add "when I am running" to those above statements.
Because only when I am running, all of the above and more are true.
But in my life, I let doubt creep in. I let the opinions of others lead me. I don't trust that I know what I need.
When I look back over ten years of making the right decisions, listening to the needs of my body and adjusting to ensure that I am able to perform at my best, I know that having confidence in myself is key to my being a rare success story.
When I doubt myself, when I turn away from my gut instincts, and when I convince myself that I can't, I slip and fall.
But the part that doubts? It's just my skin. Not my heart, my soul. It's just my name. A diagnosis.
And God knows, I have held a fucking gigantic boulder or ten. And God knows, because He has helped me, I can swim.
So when I crossed that finish line in downtown Toronto, I did it like I have lived most of my life. Alone,in giant crowd.
No fanfare. No fist pumps. No triumphant angelic horn section. Me and George and the black dog.
Black dog, black dog, that I'll never know,
Oh black dog haunts you mind, your world, your soul,
Oh black dog, black dog, can't you see I am fine?
Oh black dog, black dog, you're no plague of mine.

It was the perfect finish to my perfect run.

It's just my skin. And I'm proud to say I'm comfortable in it.

Find Your CORE