What does your heart say?

Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to remember the earliest whisperings of our heart?  All the things our hearts told our childhood selves that we had the boldness and bravery to follow through on IMMEDIATELY?

“Come on…you can walk! Do it! Or wait, Yes! RUN!”

“I really need you to eat this dirt so you can learn the meaning of ‘Yucky!’!”

“It’s ok. Just cry. And don’t worry if anyone tells you you shouldn’t.”

I’m certainly not saying that we all lack bravery and boldness now — in fact, I think it is the everyday acts of bravery, small or large, that are the most inspiring to us all.  But we have all seen it as we’ve ‘grown up’ — the ways in which, over time, we become conditioned to be more cautious in our approach, to listen to the voices around us rather than the quiet voice inside. Experience has shown me that choices with far less reason behind them than you would expect (and a healthy amount of buzzing excitement) are typically on the path you are meant to follow, to bring you closer to that elusive P word…Purpose.

I can think, off the top of my head, of 4 things that I have done that were called into question and ended up being undeniably the most powerful choice for my own growth and evolution as a human being:

To travel to Morocco (‘It’s so far! It could be dangerous and they harass women there! It’s expensive!’)

To take a yoga training in Bali (‘It’s even further away! And it’s even MORE expensive to get there!’)

To subsequently [I hear it happens a lot after people do yoga trainings in Bali 😉] leave a job surrounded by people I considered a ‘second family’ in pursuit of a change (‘So do you have another job lined up?’)

Then there was the 4th thing. A choice that, in order to explain the ways this moment changed all areas of my life — creating beautiful,  criss-crossing webs of connection — would take an entire novel. (Or at least a novella.)

11 years ago today, I had a life-altering talk with my now-husband who was, at that time, my not-yet-boyfriend. We were sitting in a field on campus eating falafel and iced tea. He had asked me out on a date and my 20-year-old heart (which was admittedly, at the time, a bit hung up on another fantastic fellow) clearly explained his viewpoint on my ‘heart mess.’

He spoke so calmly and warmly, looking straight into my eyes. Cliche or not, I could truly see the depths of his beautiful soul. I’m sure he didn’t know at that time how his words would change both of our lives, but they did.”I can’t tell you what to do…The only thing you need to do is follow your heart. Wherever you follow your heart to, I know that’s where you’ll be happy. And as long as you’re happy, then I will be happy too.”

In that moment, the fog completely cleared. My heart spoke more loudly, and with more certainty, than I think it ever has:

“Him. It’s Him.”

Even greater than that, his words highlighted for me a scattered trail of synchronistic breadcrumbs. I had been told in acting class that week that when I performed, it unmistakably came from my heart. I had received an e-mail from my high school boyfriend about how I had always made decisions with my heart…and here was this wonderful guy, telling me to follow my heart and to be happy in doing so. It was in this moment that it started to become evident to me that my life was meant to be lived from that place. All the years before that in school, I thought it was about filling your head with knowledge, and trying hard to get good grades. Suddenly, I was being shown my greatest asset. Since then, my heart has not let me forget that it’s there. I am telling you this story today because my heart literally yanked me off my yoga mat, drew me here and begged me to put words to my feelings.

This moment eleven years ago continues to remind me of what the path of Purpose should feel like — a stirring in your heart that cannot be ignored…a quiet nod of ‘Yes’… a gentle nudge…a summoning of courage to take the leap…

It may not always be the easiest path, or the most practical, or one that everyone will understand. As far as I have seen, though, it is the most meaningful, beautiful, exciting path of all.

What does your heart say? Where will it take you today?

Whispered the heart ALG Nov 26 2013.jpg

Thank God for My Broken Heart

If you look at the number of different types of experiences we will be privvy to over our collective lifetimes, I can guarantee that we will overlap on many of them. We will  believe that our experience is unique, which, to a certain degree it is — unique people in a common situation. Because the individuals involved are unique, that can certainly make the situation unique too. In the grand scheme of things, though, our experiences are universal… it’s our ‘take-away’ from our unique view on this experience that holds something strong.  And if we feel so compelled, we may feel drawn to sharing it, in the hopes that it touches someone, teaches them something new, or opens them to hearing something they were ready to hear.

 To be frank, break-ups suck. My heart goes out to those of you who feel you have had one too many of these. My heart has broken and been broken a handful of times when it comes to romantic love, and the depth of those experiences were key in revealing what I was both forced to learn, and chose to learn, in finding my way back to Me.

 I certainly hadn’t anticipated getting married, and then blogging about the lessons I learned in hindsight from the pivotal years I worked with heartbreak.  A 30-something woman who has just entered the doorway of  long-term (and legal) commitment to a man she is, admittedly, in perfectly-imperfect deep love with… who is suddenly delving back into what’s past… Strange? Or just timely.

A big part of the journey towards our marriage — in both the big picture and in the months leading up to the day — was about honoring where we had come from, where we were, and where we envisioned ourselves going.

Most importantly, this wasn’t something that we purely honored as a twosome. It was essential for each of us as individuals. Preparing for our marriage — beyond the details of colours, flowers, the dress, the rings, the venue, blah blah blah– held decisions much more pivotal than what the external shell of our wedding would be:

For me, every step towards being a married woman held this striking realization that, to love someone in the way you truly desire to, there has got to be one mama of a solid foundation in how much you love yourself. Make your wedding as elaborate, fancy or unique as you want. Stress about the details to no end. But when the event is teared down at the end of the fastest-moving day of your life (and it will feel like you blinked and it is over!), what you’ve got left are two people who have made a commitment. For life. And if neither of them has a shred of love and respect for who they are, and a decorative wicker basket of love for everyone else…then it may just be a long road.

We still unanimously agree that breaking up (twice) was one of the best things we could have ever done. Once we got back together after the first break-up, I was so committed to making this deeply seeded feeling of mine (“He’s the one! I know it!”) come to fruition that I did exactly what a woman in her mid-twenties would do for love:

I completely lost myself.

Though I felt more wretched than I had ever felt, it finally hit me hardest when one of my dearest friends (who had just been through a break-up herself) held a mirror up to who I was leading up to “It’s Over”:

“I’ve watched you slowly disappearing over the past year and half, wearing yourself to a shadow over your relationship. I’ve been worried about you, because it always seemed that you were steadily turning him into the centre of the universe. I watched as the sweet, bubbly, always-positive girl I knew started to get bitter and anxious and jaded, and my heart broke for you, my darling friend, because I recognized the same self-destructive pattern I had with [my ex]. That’s the thing with these relationships; we work so hard for the men that we love, we strive and strain to be their dream girl, and it starts to eat away at the person they fell in love with in the first place.”

I know, sounds like I was in the weeds, right?

I was. My heart was in pieces. But I was lucky. I had undying support from friends and family. I also had a tendency to listen to my heart, and a solid guidance in my gut.  When those things became temporarily obscured, my dear friend advised that I momentarily turn my eyes & ears to the loving guidance of those around me who would lead me back into the light. Once I started to see the sun as not just a reminder of another day rising in my heartbroken life, but as a sign of promise for what a new day could hold, I was able to listen to my heart more intently. The guidance I received in that raw, uncertain time was strong and powerful. Some of the greatest things in my present life were born out of that time. I was lead where I needed to be, and my life, in all facets, changed significantly, and for the positive.

This year, in the anticipatory weeks before my love and I officially said ‘I do,’ I began to see the most beautiful things…

I saw a stunning tapestry of experiences had, people met, things that had happened all for a reason. Even the moments of uncertainty, doubt, fear or pain came into view as being absolutely on purpose. I saw the intricate road map of my life not as being all over the place, but as being beautifully connected. The “wrong turns” were right turns. The “pitfalls” were not so deep that I couldn’t surmount them. Whether I knew it at that moment or not, they were leading me in directions I was meant to travel, meeting people that I was meant to meet, that I could never have expected.

I had this ever-growing feeling  that all of the ups & downs were undeniably right. I may not have clearly been able to see what lies ahead (and still can’t a lot of the time), but I began to make sense of what had come before.

The sweet thing about hindsight (besides that it is 20/20) is that you get to actually experience yourself saying things that, years, months or days ago, when you were going through that thing that you just couldn’t envision ever getting out of alive,  you’d NEVER think you’d say. Ever. Or be grateful for. EVER! My 7-years-ago-self that was balled up under the covers sobbing her eyes out with grief couldn’t snap herself out of her saline-coma to assure herself that, years down the road, she was actually going to marry the man she was grieving the loss of. Not only that, she couldn’t have fathomed ever feeling grateful for the world of pain she was in at that time.

“Pre-wedding Allison” had a landslide of thoughts, feelings and revelations, but this one took the cake:

Thank God For My Broken Heart.

I dropped into child’s pose one day in a yoga class, and it came to me from a place of such certainty that I had to stop myself from actually saying it outloud. This phrase was echoing so clearly off the walls of my heart. I then inwardly poured out a list of all the things that I was grateful for that had led me up to this moment. Then even more strange, I smiled…and cried. I knew the reason for it all…

On the day we were married, I felt overwhelming peace. A mosquito bit my face that morning and it swelled into a red welt. I hadn’t put myself through bridal bootcamp. I stayed up late the night before connecting with my incredible friends. I don’t remember what the tables looked like. I had no concept of timing and anything being off or on it. A button popped off my bustle. It was hot and I got sweaty. My hair frizzed. Before I even got that dress on, or ‘prettified’ myself, I knew one thing for certain: the man I would see at the end of the aisle would marry and be married to me no matter what; he had already proven, through breaking my heart, letting me go,  and finding me again, that he loved me unconditionally. What’s more, he fell deeper in love with me when I clearly defined my strength of who I am — not who I am for him. Who I Am. Period. What will always stick in my memory of that day, however, was the feeling of being totally and utterly in love with everyone who has ever crossed my path, and grateful for the roles they have played and continue to play in my life story. I sat amidst the celebrating, the singing, the dancing, the toasting, and I smiled… and laughed… and cried tears of joy.

Thank God For My Broken Heart. Its once being broken has made me whole. 

“When there’s a disappointment, I don’t know if it’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure.”

~ Pema Chödron

Have a ‘Nice’ Day

When I started this blog a few weeks ago, I made a commitment that I would be honest and, dare I say, more vulnerable in what I had to share. I want it to be a nugget that has been aching to be spilled out, even in the event that only one person reads it, let alone identifies with it. (Bonus!) And maybe, just maybe, what is straining to break through the gate and get out there isn’t necessarily ‘neat.’ A girl I met last weekend joked about the idea of ‘being good at life.’ If we were all experts at life, then my bet is we wouldn’t even be living on earth at all.

So if your mind & heart is totally organized in colour-coded folders when it comes to feelings and thoughts, rock on.

This is for the rest of us who dare to be messy and sort through the tangled threads that help to reveal all the most beautiful things we can find in being human.

While in training for a summer camp leadership position back in 2006, I was told (very kindly) by the trainer we were working with that he could see clearly that I “wanted communication to be tied up neatly with a nice little pink bow.” This was one of those moments that you know you will never forget. At that phase in time, I was going through a break-up with my now husband. Our 23.5 year old selves had experienced a block in communication, a confusing crossroads. I knew even then, in the deep recesses of my heart, that there was more; this was IT. But at 23.5 and on the threshold of being spat out into the big post-Bachelor’s Degree world (and in the fine arts, nonetheless), our visions of the future weren’t lining up.  Why? We couldn’t see beyond the hood of the car we were sitting in outside my parents’ house in the dark, let alone what the months ahead held for us. We were both nice people capable of a lot of love — we still are. At that juncture, we knew our relationship was on the brink of change. In a strange way, talking about our impending separation had made us closer, but I hoped we would be plunging to a deeper level of commitment.  At 23.5, getting married seemed, well, a bit soon.

In our total confusion as to how to move ahead, we moved apart instead…Nicely. As nicely as a break-up could be. We even tried to carry on as friends, which was a devastating experiment in facing broken love head on just as often as we did when we were together, with the expectation of saying goodbye casually; no romantic undertones whatsoever. Impossible. When he told me he was ‘over me,’ I responded with the hard fact that my love for him hadn’t waned in the slightest, that I had known from day one that we were meant to be. My truth, in a nutshell. In one particularly heart-wrenching night of trying to hash things out and hitting walls at every turn, I finally had nothing left but sobs. He held me in his arms, let me cry, and eventually broke the silence with another truth of his:

“Who knows, Al. Maybe one day we’ll look back on this and laugh.”

Eventually, we did. What got us to that point is an entire blog post within itself, but over the course of a handful more years, we re-built our friendship in a healthy way.  Through that process came many honest conversations which, somehow, led to a re-blossoming of a deeper love than we had experienced before. All in time, we moved in together, then eventually got engaged, and now married…

Last week, I read through my old journal from the year we first broke up. It’s amazing to read about this period from the other side. Our break-ups yielded some of the most direct, honest, intention-filled writing I have ever done. During that time, I messily expressed every confused feeling I felt. I also, very clearly, calmly and purposefully, expressed gratitude for all that was going right in my life, for all the things and people I loved, for every lesson I was learning, for every new person who entered my life and brought renewed light to my world… When it came to Love, I knew exactly what I wanted, and through all the hurt and anger, the part of me that was true to my gut (and my heart) never changed. My words were bold. At the time, his were too: “I’m not in love with you and I’m not getting back together with you.” Ouch.

But here’s the thing.

It was his truth. It hurt me to the very core of my being. (I’m pretty sure I felt the crack in my heart widen hearing those words.) As he would still say, “It was true… at the time.”

My truth was different. Even in the hardest conversations, my truth was that I loved him, and couldn’t imagine loving anyone else in the way I did, or being loved in the way he loved me. If there was any way to dispel my habit of communicating with neatly tied pink bows, it was with him, in this time, that I laid the foundation for communicating from a place of truth. Sometimes, what I had to say didn’t sound ‘nice.’ It would come out in a torrent of mixed emotions, or oftentimes, from a still, peaceful point in me that I had never experienced before. At least I was saying what I felt, what I meant, rather than stifling what I felt I couldn’t say.

I say all this to speak on communication, as well as a general state of being — the stereotypically Canadian trait of being ‘nice.’ I will always find the ‘nicest’ way to communicate a point. I will politely acknowledge a ‘wrong number text’ with a ‘sorry!’ and a ‘have a nice day!’ I will be pleasant in a situation that is frustrating, choosing the perfect words to not disturb any peace, or even just saying how I feel with the intention of being kind. I could argue that this benefits relationships in the long run. I say what I say in the way that I do with a long-term vision in mind: Am I going to wreck a relationship because I reacted rashly to someone else’s rash reaction? What’s the good in two people reacting back and forth at each other? Someone’s got to stay grounded while the other person flies off the handle, right? But at what cost?

In one of the most confrontational interactions I have ever experienced (over the phone, nonetheless), I simply got quiet, took the brunt of someone else’s anger, and then said something so genuinely nice and loving to this person that I was surprised they didn’t break down and confess that they had been horribly unkind. Yes, I chose the high road, but if that had been a fist fight in a dark alley, would I have let this person beat me to a pulp?

As of late, I’ve begun to see that ‘being true to myself’ is not always ‘nice’ for everyone. Sometimes, it doesn’t even feel ‘nice’ for me. It can feel a bit like getting snow in the sleeve of your fleece jacket — bracing, uncomfortable and awkward.  It catches me off guard. I’m sure it still will to those who know me best. Like that classic movie scene,  where the lead character has given a passionate ‘call-to-arms’ (with standing-ovation-provoking bravado, of course), and you’re expecting the heinous boss to furiously pick it apart and fire their ass…and instead, they start an epic slow clap that ripples throughout the entire board room…

Yeah, like that. You say it… and then you hover there in nanoseconds of limbo, just waiting for the world to fall down around you, and for the person you spoke to to write you off completely. For.ev.er.

But the world doesn’t collapse. And the person is still there.

My truth is like a shaky toddler, learning to walk. It comes out a bit more raw and jagged than it sounds in my head. If, for some reason it hurts your feelings, I’m sorry for that. That isn’t the intention at all. I’m just learning to stand my ground. At 30. Whether we make it clear to everyone around us, or we just silently wish it for ourselves, we all have a burning desire to just be liked, goshdarnit. To be impeccable, to be everything to everyone, to be NICE and spew out perfection laced with rainbows and unicorns whenever we open our mouths. (Wouldn’t THAT be magical?) But as one of my dear yoga teachers told me once, if you are authentic and true to who you are, people won’t just like you, they will love you.

Go forth, truthful ones.

Be lovable in a way that re-defines the normal ways you aim to be adored.

May you be truthful and authentic to no end, and may you be loved deeply for it.