Stand Up and Sit Down

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Last summer, my life-long best friend visited. While she was in town, we got inked. Mine’s simple, placed in the center of my forearm where I can always see it. It says stand up. It’s based on my favourite Sugarland song because its lyrics sing to me. They ask us all to stand up, to use our voices; to have hope, to wrap yourself in love. They call for action. They tell me that intentional, authentic living, and knowing there’s more than just one moment, may be part of the answer to a question that a lot of us constantly seek: how to be a part of something more.Call it seeking balance or not, when she returns in May, I have another tattoo planned for my other arm: Sit Down. It’s to remind me to seek meditation, resting and finding contentment even though I’m so driven toward constantly pushing ahead. It’s a call for internal silence and outward stillness, which seems like it’s in opposition to its predecessor, but really is a support for it.I’m of no help to myself or others — I can’t stand up and use my voice — if my tank is empty. So I have to recharge, connect with my inner guidance, sit down and listen.It’s taken a long time, and I’ve run into a lot of walls while I was running uphill, but now I know. I understand. And I see you.Twelve years ago, when I started a journey into Digital Media, I had a dream of where I would end up. As idealistic as I was, I couldn’t imagine I’d be here, today, telling you why I’m so driven to be both a net and a podium for moms; why I became so damn passionate about helping them find peace — and maybe even some joy.Or that I would share my story as part of it. ***Like a lot of people who’ve struggled with periods of mental health challenges, like depression or anxiety, I’ve gone back and forth between wanting to keep my story a secret, hidden as deep as it could be, or broadcasting it for everyone to know. I’ve found that trapeze act between one end and the other to be one of the toughest challenges I’ve dealt with (and still face). When I was living in the dark, it sometimes seemed as though it would always be like that, unending. That there was no way out, even though I sought solace desperately. No reading or therapy seemed to ‘fix’ it. I took a different approach: I tried nightclubs, monkey’s lunches, and two-stepping, to try to lift the fear that I would always hurt. I worried that I would always have to live unhealed, so I laughed, I danced, and I lived loud. I tried to swing over to the other side. Regardless of which way I swung, I betrayed myself. I told myself whatever I needed to hear in the moment, whatever kept me afloat, or numbed me to everything that I didn’t want to know. But when I swung, it was just above the seas of sorrow. Waves were always lapping at my heels, threatening to reach up and yank me under. They nearly did a few times. Damn if I didn’t kick my way to the top, despite coming up empty.I had an incessant fountain of energy inside, and no idea what to do with it. So many emotions raged through me — anger, fear, sadness, resentment — and I was so scared to let them loose. So I did what so many do, I bottled them up, sealed them in, and I threw them into depths, thinking that would do it. I bid adieu to all of those squelched emotions, having convinced myself that it was the only way I would stay afloat.Shut it off. Shut it all off.***My mom struggled with darkness, too. If I’m honest (and that’s the point of being here, sharing my story), I held on to a whole lot of resentment, for a long time. I blamed her; I blamed myself.  Surface living worked for a while. Life was even ok. And it got better when I met the man who would become my husband and father to my children. And then later, See? That voice inside me said. You can do this. Look at you, doing life. He’s an awesome man, and those little babies are so cute and fun-loving. You got this.Soon, I was immersed again. But this time, I swam with the intention to break the cycle that my mother and I had lived out.I never thought I would go to work. I planned to stay home, vigilantly protecting my children from darkness for their entire childhood. As if I carried a huge, magical shield. Kind of delusional, right? Who has that ability? No one.Life happened. Soon after my second beautiful baby arrived, I felt like I was drowning, again. I thought I can’t do this. I can’t protect them, if I’m flailing in secret.So, I went to work. I found the most amazing nanny in the world, so then I could get started. She was an angel during that super-challenging time (I’m pretty sure she was sent from God, to help carry us for two years), and she loved my babies like her own. We love her hard to this day. I wanted to help other moms find what might have helped me earlier: connection, support and a place to be seen. I hoped that could help keep them above the surface, too. Enter MomMeSpace. I would create events, gathering moms around experts, who could guide us all through the nasty storms. They must know the way! They’re experts! And there’s only one route, right? One problem: I have impaired hearing, so the group events totally flopped for me. Oops. Lesson learned, I moved online to MommyClub.ca in 2007. Our tagline was EverythingMom, and less than two years later, the EverythingMom domain became available. Kismet! My dream grew bigger. More supporting moms in more ways, while more experts helped guided us. More navigating our own paths.It was definitely more. It grew into a much larger, incorporated venture. Then came the business loans, ad networks, venture capitalists, investment bankers … Each step, hot on top of cold, until one pushed the other, and that got pushed by this. A storm touched down. It sucked me into its eye, the calmest spot I’d been in for a little while, and then it spat me back out into a darkness unlike any I’d visited in a long time. Imposter syndrome gnawed away at my insides.Did you pick up on what was happening? I didn’t, at the time.While erratic surges pummeled this entity I’d created to help me and other moms become even better mothers, I was hiding in the storm, never really there for my family. Yet, I was hell-bent that my kids should never, ever feel even a drop of hopelessness that I did. If they somehow did, I was ready, armed with an arsenal of experts, to help me help them, step-by-step.These are the kinds of things we moms tell ourselves is possible. We can be physically caving under the pressure, and we’ll still believe we’re not doing enough to protect our kids. Now, I realize how ludicrous my goal was: pain is a part of life, and saving my children from it could both do me in, and prevent them from learning how to process it in a healthy way.Now, I have teens. Well-adjusted, fun-loving, compassionate kids, who have weathered all of the storms with grace – so far. I’m so thankful that they seem to have a solid inner ground to stand on, regardless of whatever squalls come their way. It is all I have ever wanted, really. I’m so lucky … no, we’re so lucky that the deep darkness I’ve felt hasn’t touched them. There’s no immunity — it can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime. For any reason, or none, whatsoever.They inspire me every damn day. ***On the other hand, I unintentionally deserted my husband during all of those years that I sought protection for myself and my children. When he needed me, I was giving them every bit of me that I had; none of my energy or time was left for him. Actually, I was depending on him to be my life raft, and boy, did I get hella mad when he wasn’t available and I had to blow up my own life raft. He wasn’t enough, I thought. I needed more… I even threatened to leave him.Man, that makes me sad to write.It’s pretty evident that I was looking through tinted glasses, unable to step away from my own concerns and exhaustion. Of course, it was never about him., I’ve realized that. Yes, he’s not perfect, just like anyone else. And yes, he’s still learning, just like we all are. But it was me, who largely stood in the way for a long time, of our partnership’s need: to meet each other on (at least, somewhat) solid ground. I wanted, and we needed, that ground, if we had any hope of honest love.Once I recognized my part, I got busy. I dove deep under all of the murkiness, to recover what’s mine. I looked for a way that I could give true love from a healthy place without any more surface shit.I’m doing some pretty deep work with professionals and friends. I don’t recommend anyone dive this deeply alone. My therapist is incredibly sentient. Trained in Analytical Psychology, she facilitates great conversations about archetypes, the personal and collective unconscious, and the soul/self. It’s a type of therapy that is perfect for me, so I’ve lucked out, really. I highly recommend therapy. Having a therapist I resonate with, who you resonate with, is so, so important. Therapy is only as good for you as the work you put in, and that comes in part from the work you can put in. Having someone that you don’t click with is a roadblock to doing the work. Trust me.Not everyone will have the same success at finding their perfect therapy at first. I didn’t. I spent years lost, immersed in an overly-complicated clutter of fixes. I tried everything, I swear: webinars, courses, conferences, books, apps, podcasts, techniques, masterminds, retreats, oracles, chakras. I don’t think there’s anything I didn’t sample, not because absolutely everything was wrong, but because it can be nearly impossible to navigate the space between trying one thing and finding The One thing. The One that resonates.I found gems in those trials. I’m looking forward to sharing more about what has worked for me — the things that helped me be okay with meeting the mystery of the moment in the messy middle.I sure do have a long way to go still. Don’t we all? I’m learning. I am a student. But I’m having a hella lotta fun these days — I laugh a lot more, I’m lighter and I’m in dialed in.It’s because I’ve come a long way. I’ve learned how to sit with my feelings — to let agitation arise without drowning it out. I’m practicing Radical Forgiveness, to make it just a little bit easier for me to be closer to those I love. I still feel crazed sometimes, but not as often, and the people who used to incite it now open my heart to compassion. I am a little more self-aware, and in touch with my essence. And I finally started charging good money for the beautiful designs I create with MAKIA. I dropped the please like me discount, and guess what? I found more success. The work comes one thin layer at a time. I’m recovering pieces of myself that I buried a long time ago, and that I didn’t even know existed or were possible. Every layer I lift lets a little more love in, and with it more peace.***Everyone struggles with something, and it’s okay. It’s okay if you’re suffering a little (or a lot). We grow, together, when we share our stories. This is my story, and with it comes my voice. “The Toolkit” is a cache of tools and trials that have worked for me and others in our community. Perhaps something will resonate with you. This is where I leave you with something deep that hopefully speaks to what’s in your soul. I always find some relativity in Danielle Laporte’s words, so … “NOBODY knows better than you what’s right for you. NOBODY. Let me say what I really mean: NOBODY. Advice? Get some. Oracles? Consult them. Friends? Worship them. Gurus? Honour them. Final say? YOU. All you. No matter what. Your body knows. Your heart knows. Your mind will help you act on what you know.”As always, friends, I’m hoping you’ll join me. That you, too, will #StandUp and Use Your Voice while you Fight for Your Life. Xoxo
Michelle

PS. I don’t write this good, people. I sent my Shitty First Draft (as Anne Lamott calls it) to my friend Terra, who knows me and my story well – and can write like the wind. She fixed it. 

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