The Sting of Shame

My cockapoo Scooby Doo is kind of an asshole. He’s barky and anxious and prone to dragging his butt across the carpet (and licking his weiner obsessively but why pile on to the poor guy?) Trust me, I’m well aware of his shortcomings. In fact, we’ve had him to multiple dog trainers over the 9 years of his life and he remains the same stressed-out canine he has always been. My sister is convinced he was dropped on his head as a puppy and should wear a dog-sized medical alert collar with the warning: “Mental Problems”. And she’s right.

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As a sidenote- I should mention that he’s also adorable and super loving and gentle- and has never met a person of any age that he didn’t adore within minutes. And if you’ve got a treat he’ll be your best friend for life.

Scooby is also my running buddy. Bless his little doggy heart – he politely walks along beside me as I huff and puff down the sidewalk. Recently we were out for a run when I spotted a neighbour walking his dog up ahead of us. Although this man is not an acquaintance, I’d certainly seen him pass by my house many times. “Uh-oh,” I thought to myself “my jerky dog is sure to freak out.” Scooby is especially nervous around big dogs and compensates by barking his fool head off.

Anyhow – we crossed the road to avoid a scene. But true to form, Scooby started making a fuss. I smiled sheepishly and stammered out a lame apology: “I’m so sorry . He’s harmless, just hopelessly insecure.” The man literally stopped in his tracks, crossed his arms over his belly, glared at me and shook his head slowly back and forth. At first I thought he was joking but he locked onto my eyes and continued with the silent reprimand…and I swear even his majestic-looking golden retriever scoffed at the horrid behaviour of my ill-behaved Scooby Doo and his unfortunate/negligent/shameful owner.

For a second I was frozen to the spot. My face burned bright red. And then instead of saying a word, Scooby and I both hurried off with our tails between our legs.

By the time I returned home, my embarrassment had turned to anger. How dare he?! That old fart had some nerve criticizing me and my dog! It didn’t take long for my anger to turn to meanness and I launched into a full-on personal attack. My husband sipped his coffee with his head down as I raged against this smug/self-important/holier-than-thou dog owner.

After I finally calmed down I came to a sobering realization- the real reason I was so upset was because this reprimand from a stranger made me feel something I’d rather avoid – shame. If I’m being completely honest, I feel a deep shame at the way my dog sometimes behaves. I feel like a failure as a dog owner and that is really, truly embarrassing.

Yes we’ve had him to multiple dog trainers – but did my husband and I follow through on all of the things we learned? Nope. Did we heed the advice to make him sleep in a crate? Judging by the sight of his furry butt at the foot of my bed I’d say no to that one too. Did we spend the time teaching him how to properly walk on a leash? Or to not beg for food? No and no. And the list just goes on.

I recently overheard a friend talking about an encounter she’d had with another canine and how appalled she was that this dog’s owner would allow her misbehaved pooch to bark at her perfectly well-trained pet. I nodded politely but inside, I immediately felt a kinship with the other owner (I also silently wondered if the bad dog ever eats his own poop and decided I must track them down. I have a feeling we have lots in common 🙂

Certainly I’m not condoning bad behaviour – but this experience has made me realize how often shame and judgement (intentionally or unintentionally) creeps into our conversations:

“I can’t believe how much time that mom let’s her kids spend on electronics! We only let our kids spend 1 hour a week on their ipads.” 

“That school is such a dump – I would never let my kids go there!”

“I only eat organic food. As far as I’m concerned- people who eat non-organic are poisoning their bodies.”

“I could never get a divorce – it’s too damaging for the children.”

When we hold ourselves and our own choices “above” one other – whether it pertains to dog ownership or anything else- we creative a gaping divide between us that is filled up with shame. Can you imagine how much healthier our culture would be if we could meet each other with honesty, empathy and understanding when we talk about the hard and messy stuff of life – like parenting, relationships, careers, eating, exercising, marriage, religion, politics and barky dogs?

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A few weeks later, Scooby and I were racing down the street adjacent to our house when I spotted the man and his dog at the end of the road. I felt a bit nervous as we drew closer but our meeting happened to coincide with a neighbourhood search for a lost dog. “Hi.” I said tentatively as our paths converged. I gripped Scooby’s leash tightly. “Did you hear that there is a dog missing?” I blurted out. “If you don’t mind – would you keep an eye out for him on your walk.” I braced myself for another reprimand as Scooby started to growl – I was quite sure the man had been replaying our previous encounter over in his mind too and was ready to attack.

“Oh yah” he said “I did hear about that. I’ll keep a look out.” He sounded fairly amiable but by this time, Scooby’s growls had turned to barking. “Listen,” I said preemptively, “I get the impression that you are somehow annoyed with me and my dog.” He looked genuinely confused but I pressed on- “I realize he’s not the best behaved but I can assure you that he would never hurt you or your dog.” 

“Ok” he said dismissively – I could tell he was anxious to get on with his walk and away from Scooby and I. “You know” I said, mustering up my courage “It really hurt my feelings when you shook your head at me the other day. I know I’m not the best dog owner but we are neighbours and I hope we can treat each other with respect.” I had to force myself to meet his eyes and was surprised to find the man smiling at me. I half expected us to come together in a big bear hug…but he simply grinned and carried on with his walk.

Perhaps not the most cathartic of endings for me or you – but since then, this man and I have run into each other several times. And he always offers me a kind smile and friendly “Hello”. He even bent down to pat Scooby on the head on a recent run.

I don’t know for sure, but I half suspect that when I was able to be honest with myself about my shame, maybe he was able to release some of his judgement. Or maybe he forgot all about our first encounter and simply thinks I’m a crazy person with an annoying dog. Both explanations are kind of true really.

Will the “man” and I ever be best friends? No. But I feel like we have come to a silent understanding and kinship. I almost think he likes me and Scooby now. I’ll let you know if I ever get that hug ; )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Right Way to Meditate

Martha is easily one of my favourite people in the meditation class. She turned to me midway through the second session and whispered “I have no idea what the hell is going on here.” – and I knew instantly we’d be kindred spirits.

She’s brash, outspoken, quick to laugh and definitely the most skeptical person in the bunch. And as soon as we lie on our yoga mats to meditate, she inevitably drifts off and snores like a truck driver.

In the hushed and focused environment of our gatherings, she often makes me smile with her brutal honesty. “Well I wanted no part of that meditation,” she admitted after a guided reflection where we were encouraged to imagine ourselves floating underwater. “I can’t even friggin’ swim so I just sat here and made my grocery list!”

It’s not that the class isn’t amazing. It is. I am learning a ton and breathing and trusting the process and I can see that perhaps the skyscraper of worries I’ve meticulously built up over the years is starting to crack and shift just a little tiny bit.Or maybe I’m viewing it differently. Either way – I feel better.

Just last week we were led through a half-hour seated meditation. When it came time to share our experience, Martha blurted out “I’m not doing it right! My mind wanders endlessly or I fall asleep. I keep thinking about what I have to do and what happened yesterday and when I should book my next nail appointment. And you people all look so smugly blissful. What am I doing wrong? How come you are getting it and I can’t?!”

Our leader simply smiled peacefully and said “By a show of hands – who else in the class doesn’t feel like they are meditating the right way?” All 18 of us raised our hands. And Martha started to cry.

“The answer is that there is no right way to meditate.” our teacher shared. “You come to the practice and observe what happens. So you fall asleep. That’s ok. So your mind wanders. That’s ok. Everyone will have a unique experience that is right for them. Just keep coming back to your breath. And please be gentle with yourself.”

Isn’t that just the perfect metaphor for life?  It’s so darn easy to look around and think that everyone else has their shit together. Look at that perfect family, that gorgeous couple, those well-behaved kids, the beautiful house, her amazing career, his killer body – that zenned-out person meditating across the room. And we think- what am I doing wrong? Why isn’t this working out for me? It’s frustrating and depressing and makes us feel really alone.

But the truth is we all have messy parts to our lives if you scratch just beneath the surface. We all struggle. Sometimes the dog drags his butt across the freshly washed floor, or you rip the crotch out of your jeans while  volunteering in a kindergarten class, and sometimes you flip out at your kids and threaten to move to California! (or is that just me??)

We all wonder if we are doing things right. Martha just had the guts to say it out loud.

After class I walked to my car with Martha.  Her eyes were still red from crying and I gave her a hug as we parted ways. “Thanks for saying what you did tonight,” I said. “It was really brave.” Her face broke into a wide grin. “I really feel so much better knowing the rest of you are just as shitty as I am at this whole meditating thing.” 

Then she drove off before I could tell her that I have no idea what the hell is going on most of the time either : )

There I Said It

Well hello! It’s been well over a year since I’ve written a single word on my blog.

I could site the usual excuses: Life is SO busy!, My three uber-successful and brilliantly-parented kids take up all my free time; I’m a super accomplished full-time writer now; I was tied up making homemade organic almond milk and fermented nut cheese; and my husband and I were busy planning romantic getaways to reaffirm our perfect love.

But I won’t bore you with the details. Sufficed to say, aside from the rigours of keeping myself afloat, the truth is that I simply got sick of my own writing.

I recently re-read the “About Me” page on my blog and seriously had to stifle a gag. My proudest accomplishment is getting my three kids to drink their green smoothies. Barf! How smug is this Lori Leigh Wilson character? And you people followed me…..what were you thinking?!

Ok, so if you’ll give me another chance then I’d like to start anew. Thanks to Jaclyn Desforge and her wonderful Nest & Story writing workshop, I feel reinvigorated and inspired – and I’ve decided that I want to use this space for truth telling, story sharing and vulnerability.

“I don’t even want to know someone who isn’t barely hanging on by a thread.” Amy Schumer, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo

So let’s get this party started! Here’s the real authentic me as of today: First of all, I’ve totally lost my mojo for cooking. To be honest, my association with the “whole food” movement began to make me feel uncomfortable and preachy. And it probably works both ways since I’ve added frozen veggie meatballs and taco kits into my weekly meal rotation. 

My youngest child had a wicked bout of separation anxiety at back-to-school time that pretty much brought me to my knees. I think I might have cried more than he did and I’m pretty sure it took four years off my life.

My daughter is in full blown puberty which means mood swings from hell, and my oldest son frequently responds to my brilliant pearls of wisdom with the words “the cringe is real.” 

My husband and I mostly sleep separately because the 6-year-old stealthily inserts himself into our bed. And although I love my husband – I think we both secretly like the arrangement. I get to snuggle with my little buddy and he gets to watch Netflix on his phone without me badgering him to turn it off because it’s bad for his eyesight.

I deeply enjoy junky reality tv (Kardashians included). Most days I write in my pyjamas until I have to finally face the public when I pick up my kids from school. We have mice in our kitchen. I’ve turned worrying into an Olympic sport (I’m going for the gold!). My kids fight. My jeans are tight (perhaps because I’m eating Halloween candy by the fistful). My dogs bark a LOT….and the littlest one poops on the floor at least a couple of times every week just to keep me on my toes.

On a more somber note, there have been two shocking deaths in my family that have really shaken the ground beneath my feet. A vibrant adolescent boy was gone in an instant, and a loving and feisty grandmother took her last breath after a painful health struggle. Sometimes the brutal randomness of life makes me want to grab my family and hide in a cave ..you know what I mean?

What about any good stuff you ask? Well, after my worry reached a scary peak, I signed up for a mediation class and I’m learning to breathe and find space between what happens and how I respond. It’s amazing and I’ll talk more about it in another post.

I’ve read some incredible books including Lindy West’s life-changing memoir Shrill and Glennon Doyle-Melton’s raw and brave biography Love Warrior.  I can honestly say that they fundamentally changed the way I look at myself, others and the world. I mean it – read those damn books!!

And I’ve been writing my butt off, actually pulling in a paycheque and contributing to our family finances in a meaningful way for the first time in many years. That feels good.

Phew! There I said it. And I’ll keep on saying it if you’ll be so kind as to indulge me. And I promise no more smug posts or crappy recipes – unless you want me to guide you through the process of thawing and heating some mouth-watering veggie meatballs…..: )

Thanks for your support and I’d love to hear from you. How are things going in your life? Feel free to comment below.

P.S. I am working on rejigging my site so please bear with me as I make some changes.

Resolution 2015 – Letting The Lessons In

When I was about 16 years old, my dad took my sister and I for a ski holiday in Whistler, BC. Although I was happy to be on vacation, I was also a self-absorbed little shit who was overly critical of pretty much everyone and everything. And as ashamed as I am to admit this – my dad more often than not took the brunt of my criticism. I didn’t like the way he snored, the way he clinked his spoon on the bowl when he ate his cereal, the way he breathed so darn loudly and on and on and on.

One morning as he and I rode the chair lift alone together I shot yet another barb his way (probably about the way he obnoxiously knocked the snow off of his skis for heaven’s sake!) he had had enough. He turned to me and said “Lori, you really have to stop being so critical. It seems like you are constantly annoyed with me and it really upsets me. I know I have flaws but so do you. There are always going to be people and circumstances in your life that are challenging for you to deal with and you can’t control that. You can only control yourself and how you react – and you definitely need some work in that department! No one is perfect Lori and if you wait around for your friends and family to BE perfect… then you are going to end up a very lonely person.”

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Needless to say the rest of the ride up the hill was very quiet. I think I stammered out a sheepish apology and silently vowed to keep my opinions to myself for the rest of the trip.

My point in sharing this story is not to offer insight into my angsty teenage years or to expound on my dad’s pearls of wisdom- but rather to share what I did after that chair lift ride and how it changed my life from that day forward. I listened. I really listened. I heard what he said and I let the lesson sink in. And although I certainly haven’t nailed it, becoming a less-critical, less-judgemental and more compassionate person was something I intentionally began to work towards starting on that crisp winter morning.

My sister and I were chatting recently about the most important things we have learned over the years and how they have impacted the people we are today. I shared the story from our Whistler trip (she had no idea it happened at the time) and she said she believes this is the key to life. At every age and at every stage there are lessons to be learned, new ideas to be shared, insights to be uncovered and wisdom to be gleaned- and if we can temper the “critical/all-knowing/judgmental/negative/too-busy” response that automatically pops up- we can continue to learn and grow and change and evolve for the rest of our lives.

Yes I have an opinion on that subject – but might there be another way to think about it?

I actually hadn’t thought of it that way before. How interesting!

I would love to read that book/watch that documentary/attend that class/go to that event with you. Thanks so much for introducing me to new things.

Wow! I didn’t realize that about myself. Thank you for sharing.

Perhaps I was completely wrong. I need to do more research.

I didn’t know about that. Can you tell me more?

2014 was a year of many powerful lessons for me – some of them I was more open to than others if I’m being completely honest. It takes quite a large dose of bravery and vulnerability to be truly open-hearted and I can use some work in those departments too.

But here we are in a shiny new year and I’ve decided to opt out of the typical resolutions and instead to focus on what I can learn in 2015. In fact, I was ruminating on this idea at the grocery store recently when an older man tapped me on the shoulder. “Excuse me are you ok?” he asked. “You have the most worried look on your face!” Ah yes, the patented “Lori-Wilson-I’m-Currently-Carrying-The-Weight-Of-The-World-On-My-Shoulders” look. Relax Lori, smile, breath and release those crinkles from your forehead. Thank you kind stranger for the lesson- I’m working on that one too!

Happy New Year to all of my family, friends and followers! Let’s all open up and let the lessons in this year. Who’s with me?

 

Swearing, Connection & Vulnerability

*Warning: If you are offended by swearing then this post might not be for you! 

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that my 4-year-old has picked up some unfortunate bad language. I’m not 100% sure where it all started but with his 13-year-old brother and his buddies hanging around our house all the time and with a father from Montreal (not to stereotype but I have noticed my husband’s childhood pals punctuate most of their sentences with the f-word) – it has followed that he has picked up a few doozys. And brace yourselves because he has landed on a brutal one……his latest gem is “bitch”.

I can literally hear you gasping through the computer screen. Yep – it’s awful. We certainly don’t use that word in our home but somehow he picked it up and someone laughed (probably his brother) or overreacted (probably me) and he decided that “bitch” was going to become his bad word of choice. Now don’t get me wrong – he doesn’t go around using the word all day long, but if his buttons are pushed or he’s being taunted by his siblings or teased by his cousins- he’ll let loose with a “you bitch!”

And yes this is deeply embarrassing. As much as I try to remember that my child is not a reflection of me, it still stings when he calls his brother a “bitch” at Thanksgiving dinner (sorry mom).  And I have tried absolutely everything to get him to stop and nothing has worked. Not even the threat of no Santa presents has convinced him to clean up his language.

Frankly, before I wrote this post I tried not to tell too many people because I was afraid of being judged as a bad mother. The few times I have confessed to close friends I’ve heard “oh my, we don’t allow bad language in our house” or “my children would never ever swear!”. Ok well I appreciate the honesty (and I’m happy for you…sort of ; ) but in the end those interactions always made me feel a whole lot worse about my situation.

About a month ago I was chatting with a friend who also has a 4-year-old son. We were laughing about some of the challenges and funny things they do when she suddenly admitted “oh yah – and now my little darling has started saying “fuck-wad”! He’s even using it in public if he get’s annoyed. The other day he called my daughter and a bunch of her girlfriends “fuck-wads” right in front of a big group of parents standing around at school. I could have died!”

Well I literally stopped in my tracks. “What’s wrong?” she asked. And I told her my story. She just listened and nodded and laughed. And when I finished she smiled at me and said “Well, let me know what works for you and I’ll do the same. It’s nice to know there is someone else going through the same thing.” I cannot even tell you how much better I felt just knowing that I wasn’t alone – it was like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.

“When we show up in our perfect imperfection, it gives others permission to relax into doing the same.”

Ali Schueler, Wild Woman Speaks

So I’m sharing my story -this very personal (and embarrassing) story in the hopes that you will feel inspired to also let yourself become just a little bit more vulnerable. In this social media culture, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that everyone’s lives are composed of one perfect snapshot after another. But life is messy and wonderful and sad and scary and funny….sometimes all of these things at once. That’s what it is to be human isn’t it? If we are willing to share some of our challenges and struggles then we might just find more genuine connection with the people in our lives…. and maybe even encourage them to open up as well. Sometimes our screw ups and painful experiences contain powerful lessons that we can learn from and share with others.

Let’s face it – we all have those things in our lives that we wrestle with and that make us feel vulnerable. Maybe you don’t have a 4-year-old who swears like a truck driver but perhaps you struggle with feelings of depression or anxiety, or feel overwhelmed at home or work, or are dealing with a difficult child or spouse or are feeling stuck in your current situation. Whatever it is I guarantee you will feel so much better if you can open up and share with a trusted confidante. Maybe they’ll say “Hey – me too!” And you will realize (no matter how many swear words you have had to endure) that you are not alone. What a gift!

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But What If I’m Wrong?

When I was a young child, my mom told my sister and I that if we ate candy before noon we would get worms. She even cited an example of this very horrifying thing happening to my dad when he was a kid. And I wholeheartedly believed her – so much so that I was still trying to convince my peers not to ingest gummy worms for breakfast in university! (I actually called my mom after that incident and she confessed to her very impressive trickery that successfully worked on me for 19 years).

Then there was the time I lovingly wrapped my arms around the back of my brand new husband only to find out that I’d actually snuggled up to my brand new father-in law! And the time more recently that I was absolutely certain I’d checked my rearview mirror and then proceeded to back directly into my neighbour’s brand new Mercedes resulting in thousands of dollars in damage.

In each instance I was absolutely convinced that I was right….until I learned I was wrong. And trust me, there are many more examples (which my kids would be only too happy to share if you ask). I’ve screwed up, made a fool of myself and been wrong countless times. And my point in sharing these stories is not to convince you that I’m a complete bird brain but rather to suggest that perhaps there is more vulnerability, honesty and connection in our foibles than in our certainties.

The thing is that most of us (myself included) identify much more closely with our own beliefs about life than with the things we don’t really know or understand. We think we are absolutely right about our views on politics, parenting, relationships, lifestyle, career choice, religion, exercise, sports, nutrition and on and on and we are only too happy to share our stalwart views if we are asked. So what does this unwavering loyalty to our own convictions do to our relationship with ourselves, each other and the world?

“The attachment to our rightness keeps us from preventing mistakes when we absolutely need to and causes us to treat each other terribly.”

Kathryn Schultz

A good friend recently sent me the link to this brilliant Ted Talk by Kathryn Schultz called “On Being Wrong“. It is totally worth the 20 minutes to get some insight into the importance of not only admitting to our mistakes but also to owning up to the possibility that we might be wrong…..about everything. And since I’ve already seen it I’ll busy myself with preparing my breakfast of Kit Kat bars and sour keys (take that mom ; )

*Email followers – you may need to go to my site at www.lorileighwilson.com to view the video.

Gratitude for 1000

When I started my blog in January of 2013, my 12-year-old son threw out a challenge:

“Mom – I think you should try to get 100 followers by the end of the year.”

I immediately started adding in my head: I knew I could count on my mom and dad, my husband, my sister and some close friends- but 100?! That seemed like a very tall order. But I agreed to the challenge and set about writing my posts as honestly as I could – about my plant-based diet, my family, my own personal struggles and successes and my thoughts on everything from dog food to dance makeup.

As the numbers slowly started to grow (20, 50, 60) I liked to imagine inviting everyone over to my house for a cocktail party. “How did you find me?” I’d ask – and “Here – have a glass of wine and a vegan appetizer!” I fantasized about how cool it would be to bring everyone together to learn from each other and to share our common interests.

Much to my surprise the numbers just kept increasing. After many months of learning, I dipped my toes into the worlds of Facebook and Twitter and the numbers jumped again. Sometimes I’d write something that I thought was totally brilliant and all I’d get back in return was a handful of hits and the sound of crickets chirping in the background. Other times, I’d reluctantly hit publish on a particularly sensitive topic and you would respond with a flood of support, insightful commentary and “likes”.

I know 1000 doesn’t sound like a lot when compared with the millions of followers garnered by celebrities and blogging superstars but it really feels like something special to me. A milestone of sorts. I was scared to death to start my blog but it was worth every misstep and falter just for the opportunity to express my creativity and to share a bit of myself with all of you.

Truth be told, I still don’t really know what the heck I’m doing. I’ve got the bare bones hosting software, a free platform from Word Press and very basic tech skills on a good day (and frankly I don’t know a hashtag from a hashbrown). But I’ve learned all of that matters less than just sitting my butt down at my computer and writing straight from my heart. This in turn has resulted in a connection with 1000 followers from around the world and for that I am deeply grateful.

Thank you so much to everyone on Word Press, on Twitter and on Facebook for reading, commenting, liking and following me on this journey. Your support means the world to me! There is really only 1 big problem – where do I find a venue big enough for all 1000 of us to get together for that cocktail party : )