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I talk a great deal these days about the “Refurbished self.” Part of that is staying true to the person you are or want to become during times when social expectations and lifestyle look very prescriptive.You know, how we “should” be, who we “need” to be and what others might think if we aren’t that person. These are themes many of us struggle with during the holidays.
Our reality is often in stark contrast to what the Hallmark Christmas movies portray. We are living amidst unpredictable, challenging times financially, socially and intrinsically. Who we choose to be during the holiday season can really define the type of lifestyle and relationships that carry us into the New year. It’s often a continuation of attitudes and hard hitting habits that don’t support our personal happiness and definition of self.
I’m talking about those pivotal moments during the month of December when we are asked to do one more thing or attend another holiday gathering or buy one more gift, or dream up some fantastic representation of Christmas for our children that will forever establish unattainable expectations for future holidays.
It continues relentlessly as our anxiety and irritability levels increase, our bank accounts dwindle, self-care becomes a distant memory, we may feel alone or isolated and our energy levels spiral into the abyss. January is often referred to as the “holiday hang over” for a reason. It’s a tough month!
They say you can’t pour from an empty cup, but I’m being real here when I say sometimes you can’t even find the cup. We need to start saying “no,” without the guilt, without the fear of not being the best parent or adult child or friend or colleague. We need to prioritize our own time and needs.
I’m writing this blog for all of us, whatever our circumstances may be because there is something fundamentally misconstrued about the holiday experience we are “supposed” to have and the one we actually endure. I had to really ask myself why that is. The answer is more simple than it is complicated: It’s because we allow it to be that way.
You see, holiday marketing is a beautiful and tragic thing all bundled into one seasonal gift. We see images in the stores, on social media, in commercials and in conversations with friends that suggest the purpose behind the holiday experience is acquisition of “things,” followed by a complete reversal in January. Promises to lose weight, increase your wealth, be the best version of yourself and live your life like never before, are just around the corner. We get stuck in this ever evolving hamster wheel of wanting more at the expense of ourselves. Wash and repeat.
Maybe it’s less about a complete overhaul of the self in January and more about starting to recognize some patterns in our emotions and thoughts that lead us to the same reactions, escapism from our lives and relationships. It’s the patterns that lead us farther away from who we want to be and those patterns originate from some underlying feeling (i.e. I”m not good enough, I don’t have enough, people don’t like me, my family isn’t like other families etc) that we aren’t fully acknowledging. Quite often these feelings live below the surface of our consciousness.
Give yourself the gift of honouring what matters most for you, align with your personal values and decide how you want to fully embody that life and that version of you throughout the holidays and beyond.
You get to choose what and who you allow into your holiday scene.
To our creation of beautiful experiences in 2023!
I took a trip to Montreal and it, like my furniture painting became an exercise in my expression of self and further discovering those parts that had been a bit camouflaged for a long time. I had been feeling boxed in, a little confined with my identity. I’ll be honest, I sometimes wonder if my social media presence looks a bit like Mary Poppins (true story: someone actually called me that once and I cringed from every part of who I am), living a peaceful and perfect life by the lake and that is definitely NOT my reality.
I work at it though with a compassion for myself and a respect for how far I’ve come. It took practice to get to this place and a willingness to be really vulnerable and accepting of ALL aspects of who I am.
So this trip to Montreal ended up being a lot more than just a bit of experimentation with my image and a photo shoot. It became a glimpse into the many aspects of who I am and the permission to express that in order to feel complete as a person. Some might say it was a bit of a “reinvention” of self. I think we all go through a reinvention at some point in our lives. Sometimes it’s a critical moment like a divorce or a death of a loved one and other times, it’s the smaller every day, nuanced experiences that help guide us in shaping who we truly are.
Sometimes we do the opposite as well. We make a choice based on what is socially acceptable or what seems to be the more approved way of doing things and living our life. It is inauthentic and it often takes us farther away from the essence of who we really are. It’s those choices that don’t “fit” us that can lead to an unhappy marriage, a profession we never wanted but chose because our parents supported it, a lifestyle that is far from anything we enjoy.
And that’s how we lose the footing, the happiness and the fulfillment in our lives, BUT….we can find it again when we allow our curiosity to guide us and our openness to the unknown to expand the rooms of our self-identity that we inhabit.
You see, we are not fixed in any of this. That’s a construct many of us exist within because it is the safer way to be. We are actually meant to grow and expand and evolve every day from little experiences to the more soul defining ones.
I had to really put myself out there for this experience in Montreal. It required me to dig deep within the recesses of my sunny personality and let the other “colours” cascade through. You’ll see it in the photos. I can see it. I see a woman who had to rebuild her life, her business, her M.O. from the ground up. I see a woman that was heartbroken at times, really challenged by some difficult situations and for that, I am grateful because it’s in knowing that depth of emotion that I became a better therapist, a more compassionate person and a better version of myself.
I learned to appreciate the dark with the light.
In those moments where we feel conflicted with who we TRULY are and those desires to express ourselves versus who we feel obligated to be and how we should portray ourselves to the outside world, we need to:
So where do you start, you might ask?
How many times do we stay on the sidelines of our life wishing we could make a change or go do something, but with hesitation and fears of something not working out, we simply keep everything as it’s always been.
Status quo. No drama, no upset.
When we step outside of what we know, when we take a chance, we grow!
It doesn’t always work out the way we had intended. Sometimes it’s better and sometimes it’s an experience. It’s all in the way that we look at a situation.
I took some time and painted the buffet that has been calling me back to it, asking for my creative insight and beckoning my expression of self in the process. I’ll admit, I deferred, I declined, I made excuses for why I couldn’t find the time to do this piece. In the end, it boiled down to me being really unsure about what colour to pick for it.
What if it didn’t look good? What if I spent all that time that I really don’t have on it and in the end, it just didn’t reflect its true personality (yes, antiques have character and a personality!).
So it sat there for weeks and weeks as I looked at it and myself and wondered if I would ever make the “right” choice of colour for it and me. I felt disappointed in myself for not trying, for being stuck in non-action (it happens to all of us by the way). I actually made up reasons why it was o.k. for me not to make an attempt at painting this. I was too busy, I had more pressing priorities, etc, etc.
I finally decided that I needed to attempt completion of this and bring my beautiful buffet back to life with colourful expression. I mean that was my intention and I chose a deep charcoal for it, thinking that it would offer distinction and presence. I painted the whole thing. I spent an entire morning on it. I really enjoyed the peace it brought me with every stroke and the creativity that was elicited in my own mind and being.
BUT….after I finished it??
The colour just didn’t suit this grand buffet. Was it the wrong choice? Not really. The process had gifted me with so much more than simply a trial and error attempt at painting this piece. It gave me time, space and grace to express myself, to imagine, to better connect with a creative process.
Every experience, every choice, leads us down a path of some sort of self-discovery. It’s up to us to decide if it’s the right fit (and sometimes it is for a time) or if we need to make some changes.
I repainted that buffet in a colour that speaks to me. A deep, yet vibrant representation of depth and character. If a colour could speak, this one would say, “I have wisdom and presence, yet I am elegant and peaceful.” I also added a touch of uniqueness and “pzaz” that better reflects myself in this piece.
I didn’t make the “wrong choice.” I had an experience.
Remember that the next time you want to make a choice or a change. It all leads you to just where you were meant to be in the end!
Stay tuned for my grand reveal of this beautiful piece (curious about the paints I use? Check them out HERE!)
What do we do when we find an old piece of furniture in need of a paint job? Many of us will walk right by it. Some of us will stop, pick it up and evaluate it to see if it has potential. And some of us will take the time to sand it down, paint it and bring it back to life.
Are we not the same?
How many of us walk past ourselves, thinking we need to change and condemn who we are without taking the time to see beyond the surface?
I speak a great deal about authenticity in my work and I try to live according to my personal values and truths. Sometimes, it isn’t as easy to do as we would like it to be and sometimes the reality of a personal or self transformation that did not occur can later stare us down as a harsh reality and a call to personal transformation.
I had an experience recently where all of this just made more sense. I stepped out of who I knew myself traditionally to be and embarked on a new experience in Florida, taking a furniture refurbishing course. It created a lot of opportunity for self reflection as I challenged my personal beliefs in my ability to learn something so opposite to what I do on a daily basis. As I was sanding, priming and painting these ancient pieces of furniture, I realized the power in doing the work to see what lies beneath its surface, taking stock and preparing it for a renewal. It was a mindset shift in accepting other versions of these otherwise run-down cabinets and tables, and it prompted me to appreciate and embrace the metaphor for my own refurbishment.
But before we begin this process, I learned that we need to take stock of all that we are before we try to change ourselves. When we look at ourselves in the mirror, we are often convinced that there isn’t any hope for change, and we reject what we see as our representation of the lives we have created. Sometimes it’s as though there are glimmers of the past looking at us with a knowing of where we have been and a questioning of who we have yet to become.
Much like those antiques that are being refurbished, we have an opportunity to embrace our past as part of what makes us unique, part of what defines every edge of our being. It is not a brokenness, but rather a representation of depth and character. It’s all in how we look at it.
It is much more liberating and gratifying when we allow ourselves to evolve and express who we are becoming rather than living in an image of our past.
During this season of self-reflection, I have spent my days watching old pieces of antique furniture transform into beautiful depictions of art. As I now sand down my own pieces of furniture on my porch and reflect on the past, I ask myself often how it is that we view the markings of an antique as a threshold to a cherished era, or its flawed surfaces as aged beauty? Often when we scrutinize our own past or the weathered lines of our aging visage, it is met instead with criticism and condemnation.