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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Tell Me A Story

As we head into a brand new year, I’ve been reflecting on how I want to shape my blog moving forward. When I started back in 2013, my impetus was only to kick-start a personal creative practice. At the time, I was a full-time stay-at-home mom with a burning desire to honour the inner voice that was declaring a need to express more than just breast milk : )

I have always wanted this to be a space where I could share not just recipes and quick fixes – but also the real nitty-gritty of everyday life. My favourite blogs are always the ones that tell the truth about the tough stuff. The brave people who write about the messiest and most vulnerable situations with a sense of humour.

This has led me to memories of my sweet Grandma Mary. She was the kindest women I have ever known. Sadly she passed away when I was only twelve years old, but in those twelve years she made an indelible imprint on my life.

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Grandpa Ken and Grandma Mary

Aside from her killer baking skills (ginger snaps and homemade donuts!), the loving relationship she shared with my Grandpa Ken, and her gentle disposition, the thing I remember most was her passion for storytelling. She would literally spend hours snuggling in bed with my sister and I while we listened with rapt attention to the slow cadence of her voice.

I never once felt like she was in a hurry or that she wanted to be anywhere else in the world. She just seemed so perfectly content perched on the side of the bed sharing the tales of her childhood- anecdotes of her life on the farm with her many siblings and the misadventures of her dog Tupper. And when she had exhausted her reservoir of memories – she’d even recount the plot of a recent episode of The Littlest Hobo or sing us a song when we begged her for “just one more”.

Grandma Mary offered me a precious gift in those simple moments – the gift of stories. She showed me that one of the most important and powerful things we can give each other is the truth of our experiences.

Good stories afford us a place to laugh at ourselves and to share a good cry. We can marvel at the wonders of brave adventures, learn from mistakes made in the past and develop deep empathy by being invited inside the journey of another person.

So that’s where I plan to focus my writing in 2017. I want to share my stories. The ups and downs, the struggles and victories, and even the epic fails……and trust me, I’ve got some doozies for you!

To honour the memory of my beloved Grandma, I invite you all to snuggle up while I tell you a story. Stay tuned. Happy 2017!

 

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.

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 : )

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.

Looking at Vulnerability

The most interesting thing for me so far about starting this blog is how many women have reached out to connect with me regarding my very first post “I’m Gonna Look.” I think I struck a chord when I allowed myself to be open and vulnerable about my own personal struggles with my aging and changing body.

Let’s face it – as women there is a ton of pressure that we put on ourselves and on others to be the perfect woman, wife and mom. The one who can hold down an amazing and fulfilling job, make gourmet meals, raise the most amazing children, have a blissful marriage, spend the right amount of time with friends and family, make an enviable salary, have the skinny and toned body, and on and on and on.

Trust me, I struggle with all of these things too and I often allow myself to fall victim to the fruitless pursuit of perfectionism. But I sometimes wonder what is at the root of all of this craziness. What do you think would happen if we all gave ourselves permission to be more real and honest and vulnerable?

Indulge me and take a quiet 20 minutes to yourself this weekend and watch this amazing TedX talk by researcher Brene Brown. She has spent years delving into heart of vulnerability and human connection and her findings are amazing. I have probably watched it 10 times over the past few months and I learn something new each time. It’s funny, touching and might just nudge us all in the direction of letting ourselves become more vulnerable and ultimately feeling more joy and peace.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers – you might have to go to the online blog to view – www.lorileighwilson.com)