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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Keepin’ It Real

I woke up feeling on top of the world. I snuck out the door in the early morning light to squeak in a glorious hot yoga class while my husband and the kids slept peacefully and saved time afterwards to pop by my favorite spot beside the lake to meditate.

I closed my eyes for a blissful 15 minutes and when I opened them I had the most spectacular view of the sun over the icy cold lake that I felt inspired to capture the moment. I took a picture and posted it on social media with the caption “my post-meditation view”.

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The house was still quiet when I returned home so I hopped in a shower and managed to get myself dressed up in something that was NOT yoga pants and apply some grown-up makeup- more than just my typical  finger-full of goo from a tube of lip balm.

Although I felt a tad guilty, I left my husband to deal with the morning chaos and headed off to Toronto for a full day of voice overs. Traffic was light so I cranked up my favourite tunes, hit the drive-thru for a chai tea and belted out Salt ‘N Pepa songs the whole way to the city (Push it…push it good!)

My sessions couldn’t have gone better. The clients were appreciative and kind, the recordings ran on time and my voice was clear and smooth. A person I’ve worked with for years took the time to offer up some encouraging words and my agent texted right after the session with another awesome booking.  I was feeling like a freakin’ rockstar!

And then I returned home.

The first thing I noticed (aside from the fact that the breakfast dishes were haphazardly piled in the sink) was that the dog had chewed up the garbage in the bathroom and left a nice selection of used maxi pads ground into the bath math. My charming 4-year-old continuously shot me in the butt with his nerf gun while I tried to clean it up AND the entire time I prepared dinner- despite numerous semi-polite requests to “cut it out already!” I picked a fight with my husband about the state of the kitchen and he fired back with something about “being in the moment” with the kids (jerk!). My older two kids bickered non-stop while we choked down a less-than-inspired stir fry and even though I tried at least three times to start a rousing round of “family appreciations” – the only nice thing my son could muster to say about his sister was “well I guess she doesn’t suck too much.” Sigh.

Soon after dinner my husband had to rush off to hockey (double jerk!) and I was left with a sink full of breakfast and dinner dishes, three cantankerous kids and my own festering bitterness. What went wrong?!

If you had looked at my social media from that day – you might have thought the following about me: I’m uber spiritual (I find time to meditate by the lake for heaven’s sake!), my life is in balance (meditation…..by the lake) and I’m calm and contented (did I mention that I meditate by the lake?)

But the reality of my life is much more layered and complicated than social media would lead you to believe. Due to the miracle of technology, I’m able to carefully edit out the crappy bits and only show the world the very best parts of my life. And because we are so darn busy ALL the time – sometimes even the people who are closest to me check in with my Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to find out how I’m doing. And they assume that I’m killing it. But the truth is- sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not.

Most often we present a version of ourselves online that doesn’t match up with reality. We post our successes and accomplishments and moments meditating by the lake and conveniently leave out all of the fights and tears and vulnerable parts of ourselves. And when we look around and think everyone else has it all together, we can feel terribly alone with our own struggles. Ironically, this vehicle for keeping us connected can ultimately leave us feeling discouraged and disconnected.

I’ve been joking that I’m going to start my own site called “Keepin’ it Real” where we can share not only pictures of smiling children festooned with medals and uber positive motivational tidbits but also things that will connect us on a more honest and realistic level. Because that’s what life is like isn’t it?  One day you are sailing along like a boss and other times you want to hide under the covers all day and only pop out for an episode of the Kardashians and a giant glass of wine (or is that just me?).

So let me get the ball rolling with a selection of postings on Lori Wilson’s Keepin’ it Real account:

“Feeling Conflicted” – trying to reconcile my passion for healthy eating and green smoothies with my cravings for potato chips and caramel chocolates. Hoping that smoothie for breakfast cancels out the small bag of Doritos I just snuck from my son’s Halloween bag.

(smily face) Realized my 5-year-old hasn’t said “bitch” for an entire week. Booyah!

(frowny face) Caught myself standing off to the side of my mirror brushing my hair in an attempt to avoid looking at my own face. How did I go from loving the mirror to not being able to look at myself?

“Teetering on the Edge” – husband away for fourth week in a row and I’m sending out a 911 call to all girlfriends within a 10 km radius to proceed to my house asap with prosecco to talk me off the ledge.

(grossed-out face) Anyone else have a dog who won’t stop eating their own poop? Anyone????

So who’s with me? I’m looking for a new generation of social media superstars- some fellow brave souls who are willing to be more vulnerable and real with each other. Let’s break through the facade that we all throw up on the web and get a bit more honest with each other. Because sometimes we are sailing through life belting out 80’s rap tunes at the top of our lungs and sometimes we’re on all fours in the bathroom picking up garbage with a Nerf dart sticking out of our butts. Hey -I’m just keepin’ it real : )

Who “Gets” You?

When I was in public school, my dad came home one day with a beautiful new piano and my parents decided that my sister and I should learn how to play it. My mom signed us up for lessons at a local convent and our first teacher was a very elderly nun. Her name escapes me but what I DO remember is that she kept a wad of kleenexes stuffed in the wrist of her shirt and constantly re-used them to catch the steady drips that ran from her nose. She also had breath that smelled like a pungent combination of stale coffee and mothballs and she would blow it in my face when she leaned in to offer her frequent musical corrections. Needless to say – my piano playing was pathetic because I was way more focused on dodging the boogery tissues and chronic halitosis to focus on the music. Thankfully after a month or so my mom decided we should try out a different instructor.

Mr. Carr was a gentle, patient and talented musician who offered classes at my family church. I liked him right away. He was funny and spunky and his breath smelled like spearmint. And miraculously my playing improved exponentially. After only a few weeks together he offered up a challenge: “Lori” he said “I want you to sing along when you play this next piece.” I was only too happy to oblige because I was absolutely certain I was destined to become a world-famous singer. I belted out the song as I plunked away at the keyboard and after I was done Mr. Carr just smiled and continued on with our lesson.

Shortly after Mr. Carr approached my parents and asked if they would be willing to let me do singing lessons with him in addition to our piano sessions. Thankfully they said that would be fine and I embarked some of the most joyful years of my childhood. I adored my vocal classes with Mr. Carr – he made me feel like the most amazing singer in the world and even signed me up to compete at local music festivals. I was on cloud nine. Up in the choir room during those 1/2 hour lessons, I was free to indulge in one of my passions and I got tons of positive reinforcement for doing something I loved.

What I realize now as an adult looking back on my time with Mr. Carr is that aside from my family- he was the first person who really GOT me. He saw the real me and he acknowledged the spark that was inside of me. I’m not quite sure how he figured out that singing was what I really wanted to do during those lessons but he managed to tap into something that made me feel special. He didn’t think my singing was frivolous or a waste of time – he encouraged me to embrace my inner artist.

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I have been incredibly fortunate to have had a long list of amazing mentors who have nudged me along my path in life. People who have encouraged me, inspired me, pushed me and taught me to become the woman I am today. There was Ms. Simmons in high school who took notice of my writing and taught me how to tell my own authentic stories. A university senior named Steve who recognized my homesickness and helped me to see the adventure and fun in the changes of life. My dear friend Gerald who heard me talking on the phone while I was working at one of my first jobs as a receptionist and decided he would help me get into the voice over business. Gentle sweet Paul who took me under his wing at a new job in public relations and taught me the value in being kind and appreciative to your colleagues. Alyson, Bev and Georgine who opened my eyes to a kind and friendly approach to parenting and marriage. Tanya who took my call just five years ago and has been generous enough to offer excellent mentorship in the highly competitive voice over industry. And nutritionist Megan who taught me to look at my diet in a whole new way…. to name just a few.

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This business of “mentoring” is not an easy thing to do- one has to be willing to put aside their own ego and agenda to truly focus and nurture the needs of another. It’s a selfless act of caring and love. And the good news is there are lots of incredible people out there filled to the brim with knowledge and experience who would make excellent mentors. You just have to know where to look. Here are a few things you can intentionally do to uncover the people who will “get” you:

REACH OUT: Although some of the mentors in my life came to me by chance – I have also reached out many times to ask for guidance. Of course sometimes others are too busy or not interested but I’ve found that most often people are more than happy to help. Figure out what area of your life would benefit from some mentorship (relationships, parenting, career, fitness, health, volunteering), make a list possible candidates and reach out!

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER: Don’t worry if you feel too “young” or too “old” to start a mentoring relationship. I have benefitted greatly from special teachers from the time I was little right up to today. And I hope to continue to be inspired by mentors for many years to come.

LOOSEN THE TERMS: Perhaps asking someone to “mentor” you might sound a bit too heavy or intense in certain instances. Instead, ask a friend for coffee or a glass of wine and pick their brain about the things you admire or are curious about. You might ignite an informal mentorship and friendship at the same time.

BE A MENTOR: One of the best ways to connect with others is to offer your own mentorship to someone who is struggling. We all have unique talents that can be used to inspire those around us. Be careful not to force information on someone who isn’t interested – but if you find a kindred spirit who is curious about your approach to life- that is the perfect opportunity to share your wisdom.

APPRECIATE YOUR MENTORS: A few years ago I wrote letters to some of my own personal mentors expressing my gratitude. It was a wonderful experience to offer this appreciation and I also got the opportunity to reconnect with some of my heroes.

Now that I’m a mom, I am keenly aware of the people who take the time to acknowledge the sparks in my own children. I can see the beams of light shooting from them bright and strong but I know how valuable it is to have that light acknowledged by another. I try my best to surround them with people who make them feel special, who nurture their passions and who will lovingly nudge them along their own unique paths. Perhaps if they are very lucky, they will find their own minty-fresh breathed Mr. Carr. And they will feel seen. You just can’t ask for anything better than that.

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 : )