.Joel Lately.

Did he swallow a bat?  Oma and Opa sent a package from Germany and in it was this amazing jar of Nutella. Do I, as a holistic nutritionist to be, agree with this? YES! It is all about balance and moderation. Like it is with everything in life. Eating Nutella once in a while is not a bad thing because I feed my son many good things and make sure he eats nutrient-dense foods most of the time. He is a very strong, healthy child overall so I think I do something right.

He turned five in October and I have to say, this is the most amazing and stressful time.  Now I experience single parenting at its best. I have help from my friend(s) and my friend’s parents but most of the time, I am sailing this ship alone making sure it does not sink. Joel is a very easy child. Raising and getting to know him while connecting with his soul is awesome.  I can have a normal conversation with him. He understands, he responds, and he is so involved into science, art,  building and creating things. I can take him anywhere I want to go, and I do because I cannot afford a babysitter. I sometimes feel that he knows I am struggling and that this is a very difficult time in my life, so he behaves and helps me most of the time, ha.

The other night, Joel and I visited a friend for supper. We walked to her place and suddenly, Joel turned to me and asked, “Does the universe end? Is there a wall or something?” Ahm… yeah, big question, Joel. We passed a man walking his dog (“cute doggie, I want one”) and I told him about the universe expanding, and the work of astronauts, reminded him about the exhibit we have seen at the Space and Aviation Museum (Life in Orbit) and that time we met his hero Chris Hadfield. When Joel asks questions and then after I explained it to him, asks another follow-up and another one, I have explained the meaning of life to that child in the end.  I love it because it reminds me what is important and to simply listen to him.  For some time now, he is getting really curious about the world around him and wants to know how it all works.  He is at such a sweet age where everything feels enticing and magical.

How awesome are kid’s questions? They just drop them into regular chit-chat. Apparently, children ask an average of 73 questions a day, which sounds about right.

There are a few more that Joel has busted out lately:

Is infintiy a number? Mommy, show me the Pi-number? Well, since I am really good at math, this turned out to be no problem at all…

Does the moon really always follow us? Where is the Northern Star? (show me, show , me show me…… )

How do we make water?

Do we bury bodies or just skeletons? Can I dig one up? Why not? When ghosts show up in my dreams, are those dead people?

Where was I before I was born? (Seriously, 5 years old)

Mommy, do you need to pay the bank to get some money?

Mommy, you always tell me not to eat so much before swimming. WIll I get a cramp if I eat and then swim? What if I swim and THEN eat? Or if I drink and then eat, then swim, then sleep……… [this usually goes on forever]

Mommy, can you believe that living things MAKE living things? Me: Yes, my love. Him: Like, BIRTH living things. Does that hurt? Me: …..

Mommy, why can’t I see my eyes?

Mommy, where do babies come from? Me: Ask Kevin.

Mommy, what does love mean? Me: when someone likes someone a lot. Joel: So, I love you forever. Me: sigh…. (tears)

Here are some more fun things my son is concerned about:

Joel sees how my friend plays the guitar and he wants to play, too. I asked him the other day if he would like to take lessions. Joel shook his head: “I don’t want to play real guitar yet. I like when Kevin shows me how to play but for now, I rather want to play pretend guitar.”

On a snowy, cold day this week: Joel: “What a great day to play basketball or soccer”. Me: I don’t think it is possible. Everything is covered in snow. Joel: “Let’s call Keith. He will go with me to the soccer field and play forever if you don’t want. Then we have ham steak. Don’t worry, Mommy.”

“Mommy, how long until I am older than you?”

Joel: “What does revolution mean?” Me: “Where did you hear that word?” Joel: “A song on the radio.  (long pause) The song went a bit like something, something, something, something, something, revolution, something, something, something, something, something,….”

Joel: “I made two new friends at school today.” Me: “That’s awesome. What are their names?” Joel: “I don’t know their names! I can’t remember everybody’s name!”

.Embrace Imperfection.

This blog post was triggered by a conversation I had today. I want to write about imperfections and perfectionism. This is probably a topic we can all relate to at some point in our lives. To make it personal: it is definitely something I can relate to and have previously struggled with.  It is not something that overrules every aspect of my life anymore, it rather focuses more on specific things. Previously, one thing I struggled with was that whenever it came to the content I created online or actually anything creative I produced, I felt it is not perfect which was a huge source of anxiety for me.

There was a time in my life when I worried that I am bad at being myself or being authentic which is a really important part of my life. When I take a step back or do not want to share certain private things, it is because vulnerability is still a scary thing for me. It is scary to admit that our life is not perfect.

I read The Gift of Imperfection by Brené Brown and one of my favorite quotes from the book is actually her definition of imperfections which is, that perfectionism is an addictive belief system that if we do everything perfectly we can avoid or minimize the chances of being judged, blamed or feeling ashamed. When I read that, I thought that this relates to me at so many levels. I am German, so being perfect is something that runs in our DNA. Feelings I previously had when I moved to the U.S. in 2005 were for example that I sounded weird because of my accent or I did not want to say anything at all to avoid feeling stupid or to reveal lack of knowledge. But it was not just about that. It was more about this underlying fear or attempt to avoid being judged for who I am or for what my life really looks like which was often really messy.

Life is sometimes messy and can throw us all over the place. Especially, if we are not grounded. According to our Energy Chakras, to be grounded means, we should feel stable and independent, have energy, vitality, and strength and are comfortable in our physical body, in groups or in the world as well as have a sense of belonging. We usually do not live the perfect life; at least not all of the time.  When I mentioned “messy”, I am not necessarily talking about my kitchen or bathroom (German OCD Cleaning at its best!) but the complexity of all the struggles that I go through, the fears that I have, my relationships with others.  But the reality is that nobody is perfect. Perfect does not exist. There is no such things as that. No matter what we do, judgment and criticism is always going to exist in our lives even if we try to make everything as perfect as possible or try to live up to these standards that we create for ourselves.

I think that living in this world these days with being exposed to social media everywhere and that we can reach out to anyone anytime it is important to realize that this is also a place where we compare our lives. Other people you see online with perfect polished images and seemingly perfect lives can distract and put you down. It can give you the feeling that you are not good or adequate enough. Or it may give you the feeling that you need to have what they have to be happy, and be accepted, worthy and all those things.

For a lot of us, perfectionism also manifests as a deep fear of putting anything into the world that is imperfect or quite not what we want it to be. Or we have this fear of failure, to make a mistake or we don’t do the thing we want to do because we feel we will mess up. It is the difference between striving to achieve something as best as we can versus being so fixated on the things that do not matter such as what other people think is good or how others perceive us. Perfectionism can be such a paralyzing part of life. There was a point in my life where I literally had to force myself to feel this discomfort of what I perceive to be imperfect by simply telling myself: It is fine. You are enough. It is enough. It will do. Because that is how I feel I rise above anything in life that I am afraid of. Sort of like doing it anyway, feeling it, experiencing it and gaining confidence in that way by understanding that perfection does not exist.

F*** Botox and plastic surgery! I feel that imperfections shape me into who I am in so many different ways. They are what makes me quirky, unique and different and I am able to sit down and embrace those and accept what makes me me.  I am my own unique opinion, belief, preference, and style and that is when I can really be liberated. This is when I can ultimately relate to others realizing that we go through all the same bs*** anyway. It is okay to be ourselves. It is okay to not be perfect. It is okay to have wrinkles. We do not have to be someone else to fit in or any of those thoughts to be enough; because we already are.

.Holistic Nutritionist: Meet Kristin Jillian Shropshire – An Interview.

Photo credit: Laura Kelly Photography

This is an informational interview I conducted for The Institute of Holistic Nutrition. Find out what a Holistic Nutritionist does and many more interesting insights. Enjoy!

KRISTIN JILLIAN SHROPSHIRE 

is a Registered Nutritionist (IONC), Registered Acupuncturist (CTCMPAO), and Faculty Member emeritus of The Institute of Holistic Nutrition. Between 2015 and 2018, she taught Advanced Nutrition Research, Symptomatology 2, and Comparative Diets. Kristin also has a master’s degree in Natural Health Sciences, as well as certificates in Biofeedback and Advanced Tibetan Reiki. She has her private practice at The Glebe Health House. Her business website is www.kristinshropshire.comKristin focuses on stress and nervous system disorders, fertility and family planning, pain management, healthy aging, diet optimization, and meal planning.

What does a Holistic Nutritionist do?

“Simply put, a holistic nutritionist strives to advise people regarding what constitutes a healthy diet. Foods are considered for their individual nutrients, but also for their synergy. Foods are evaluated based on the quality of the nutrients they contain—not just the quantity.

A (w)holistic nutritionist seeks to support the health and wellbeing of the whole person by teaching them how to optimize their diet for their individual life situation. This includes—but is not limited to—age, activity level, metabolic type, food sensitivities, etc.). A holistic nutritionist understands that a healthy diet is rarely a one-size-fits-all proposition. He or she will, therefore, work together with their clients to design a healthy eating plan that will suit his or her clients’ health goals, as well as their lifestyle. I like to think that a good holistic nutritionist would also find a way to satisfy his or her clients’ taste buds along with meeting their health objectives.” (winks)

Why did you choose this profession?

“I was always very enthusiastic about health and wellness. At a very young age, I knew that I wanted to become a medical doctor. More specifically, I saw myself becoming a pediatrician. All of that changed when I was 14 after I suffered a severe side effect to a standard antibiotic. The results were swift and intense. After no more than 36 hours on the antibiotic, I developed symptoms of what was eventually to be diagnosed as anxiety and depression. My symptoms were extremely severe. For five years, I could barely step outside my front door without experiencing crippling panic attacks. I had to homeschool (in partnership with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board’s Visiting Teachers program) throughout the majority of high school.

After being told by my physician that there was nothing that Western medicine could do for me, I started to examine the healing options offered via alternative medicine.  Holistic nutrition, in particular, caught my attention. While I credit numerous therapies with helping me to regain my health, including Chinese medicine, homeopathy, Reiki, talk therapy, etc., there is no doubt in my mind that holistic nutrition played one of the most vital roles in my recovery.

After suffering the way that I did, I decided that I wanted to dedicate my professional life to helping others reclaim their health. I still feel so much gratitude for those who helped me along my healing journey. One could say that I wanted to pay that kindness forward. Since holistic nutrition and Chinese medicine were two of the modalities that I found helped me the most, that is where I chose to focus my own education and clinical practice.”

Share an experience you had in dealing with a difficult person and how you handled the situation?

“To be quite honest with you, I have been very lucky and have not been faced with any particularly difficult clients thus far. That said, if I had to pick something, I would say that my greatest challenge has lain in finding the balance between giving clients good value for their money while respecting my own time and experience. For instance, should a client email me with pages upon pages of new questions that would take me in excess of an hour to answer, I might suggest that these questions be reserved for their next appointment. Certainly, I am happy to answer quick questions, such as, “What was that brand of bread you recommended to me?” That is a quick and easy answer. I love helping people but, over the years that I have worked in private practice, I have had to learn that it’s okay to love myself enough to set boundaries when I feel that someone is (often unconsciously) taking advantage of my time and genuine desire to be helpful.

Tell me how you organize, plan, and prioritize your work?

“I like to think that am a fairly organized person. When someone comes to see me for an initial nutritional consultation, it is my standard practice to generate a report following our meeting, detailing the health information that I feel will help to empower them to make the lifestyle changes required to attain their health goals. I also include a sample one week meal plan based on their health goals, dietary preferences, and so on. Given that it usually takes me at least three hours to prepare my client reports and I am committed to delivering completed nutrition reports to my clients within a week of their visit, this can take a lot of planning!

While I strive to work on my client reports at my earliest convenience, I have chosen to only rent out office space at Glebe Health House four days a week in order to give myself an extra day to catch up on any required paperwork. On Tuesdays, I work from home, prioritizing completing client reports, bookkeeping, and continuing education.

I am strongly driven by a desire for self-improvement. That is why spare time usually finds me with my nose buried in a nutrition or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) textbook. This is a regular part of my Tuesday work day. Continuing education happens on other days, too, but almost always Tuesdays.

I was blessed to grow up in a very supportive family. That said, I want to succeed based on my own merits. Part of that includes making enough money that I don’t have to be dependent on anyone. By virtue of well-structured planning and organization, I feel blessed to be able to do what I love, gaining a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment by feeling like I am making a positive difference in the world, without feeling financially stressed.

Life is all about balance. I strive to live a life I love while preparing for the years ahead. Plan for tomorrow, but live for today. If we can make a positive difference in the lives of those around us, while we do so, all the better.”

Provide an example when you were able to prevent a problem because you foresaw the reaction of a client?

“Whenever possible, I strive to warn my clients about the possible side effects of their lifestyle changes. For instance, if I have recommended that a client consider adding probiotics to their regime, I try to forewarn them that it is not unheard of for the body to respond to the new, beneficial bacterial cultures with symptoms ranging from bloating to gas to increased defecation. By educating my clients ahead of time regarding the possible side effects that their body might experience, while it adapts, I find that my clients and I are often able to circumvent problems that might have arisen from fear of the unknown. As they say, knowledge is power.”

How do you deal with “being a therapist”?

 “While I think that there is great value in having clear, compassionate channels of communication with clients, I think that it is very important for holistic nutritionists to be aware of their scope of practice.  A holistic nutritionist is not a psychologist. As such, when required, it can be very important to set clear boundaries. I have yet to ever feel the need to do so, but I always keep the possibility of recommending that a client consider seeking the professional help of a licensed therapist in the back of my mind should I feel that they need more help that I am capable of providing—help that cannot be solved by changing one’s diet.”

In your experience, what is the key to developing a good nutritionist/client connection?

 “In my experience, the key here is, to be honest, genuine, compassionate, and kind, while allowing the client to make the final choices regarding what they feel is best for them. For instance, should a client tell me that they wish to pursue a vegan diet for ethical reasons, even if I think that they might benefit from consuming animal proteins, I will cede to their wishes and help them to design the healthiest strategy to optimize their health, while staying true to their ethics. It is my place to help offer education, not impose my own opinions onto others.

Listening is vital. While I might have my own professional opinions regarding best nutritional practices, it isn’t my place to judge anyone else’s choices. Unless I have walked a mile in their shoes, that would be unfair.

Likewise, I strive not to ever judge my clients’ “missteps.” For instance, I would never wish to make anyone feel bad by asking them what they thought they were doing by drinking this milkshake or eating that cheeseburger. Should they make the choice to consume such foods, I try to ask them why they felt compelled to indulge in the milkshake or the cheeseburger. I seek to understand their motivations so that I can better help to offer them a more healthful alternative. When I have a better sense of their motivations, I am better equipped to make recommendations that might help them to more easily implement the healthy lifestyle changes I am recommending.

At the end of the day, it is all about wanting to help my clients. I am not a tough love person. If someone wants that, they had best seek out another practitioner. I am all about education, empowerment, and celebrating every little victory. After all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I say, let’s celebrate each and every one of those steps.”

Describe the methods you use to develop and implement dietary-care plans and provide nutritional counseling.

“I like to work with each of my clients on a one-on-one basis. While I think that it is true that there are some global recommendations that can help most people, I find that I can best help my clients by tailoring my recommendations to them specifically. For instance, what are their favourite foods? Do they have any allergies, sensitivities, or foods they just don’t enjoy eating? What appliances do they have at home? If a client doesn’t have a blender, it isn’t going to do them any good to have me recommend a smoothie recipe. Likewise, if I don’t take a client’s likes and dislikes into the equation, they aren’t likely to enjoy my proposed dietary changes enough to stick with them for long enough to notice a significant change in their overall state of health and wellness.

I am a visual person. As such, when factual explanations don’t serve to adequately illustrate my point, I often rely on creative mental pictures to help explain things and get my messages across. For instance, while trying to explain why it’s important to prioritize healthy foods, I somethings explain that eating the “right” foods and the “wrong” foods can be seen as a “Good Team” vs “Bad Team” battlefield. Whenever we eat something “bad,” the enemy gets more ammunition. When we eat healthful foods, we are empowering our own army. The type of ammunition given out is influenced by just how healthy or unhealthy our choices are. For instance, if we eat too much fruit, we might be giving the “enemy” a slingshot to use against us. Lots of slingshots add up, but one isn’t really that big of a deal. If, however, we go out to dinner and eat a big, greasy pizza followed by a deep-fried candy bar, we might have just given the “enemy” a few cannons to use against us. Few people are going to eat perfectly all the time. The trick is to make sure that with are giving ourselves more “ammo” than we are giving the “enemy.”

What is the most challenging part of your job? Have your ethics ever been tested?

“I think that the most challenging part of my job is that I have to be an entrepreneur as well as a healthcare practitioner. One has to wear a lot of hats when running one’s own business. I love what I do, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that learning to balance all of the myriad aspects of my job has been stressful at times. I am not just a holistic nutritionist and an acupuncturist. I have to be a secretary, bookkeeper, and marketing manager, too. Thankfully, I am pleased to say that this has gotten much easier over the years.

My ethics have definitely been tested. On several occasions, I have been asked whether it might be possible to issue an acupuncture receipt for a nutritional consultation or vice versa. While my heart goes out to people who are just trying to optimize their benefits in order to improve their health, it’s against the Code of Ethics of my regulatory College to do so. As such, this is not something that I will do.

I consider it an honour and privilege to be entrusted with the health and wellbeing of others. As such, I will do everything that I can to support my clients in their efforts to get well. While I will not falsify receipts, if I have a client who needs more treatments than they originally thought they would in order to attain their health goals and they are struggling to pay for the treatments, if it is within my power, I will lower my rate in order to accommodate their need. It bothers me greatly when people can’t get the health care that they require because they can’t afford it. While I can’t afford to treat everyone for free, it brings me joy to do what I can to help others. After all, I know how much I would appreciate it if I ever found myself in a similar situation.

Please share an experience in which you taught (successfully?) a difficult principle or concept 

“That’s an interesting question, as it depends on what each individual client considers to be a difficult principle or concept. That said, I would have to say that teaching clients about the difference between glycemic index and glycemic load falls into this category. I love the “Aha!” moment that I see reflected in my clients’ eyes when they have learned how they can successfully incorporate healthy foods that they previously thought denied to them, such as cooked carrots and watermelon, without unbalancing their blood sugar levels.”

Is there a trick to persuade a person to change their behavior or way of thinking?

 “I think that it is important to recognize the importance of baby steps. Change doesn’t have to be extreme in order to be meaningful. In fact, so often, seemingly small things like drinking more water can make an enormous difference.

In my experience, long-lasting change doesn’t usually occur overnight. It is often enough to make slow and steady changes. To use the same example, if a client tells me that they only drink two cups of water every day, instead of suggesting that they jump right to trying to drink eight or more cups of water per day, I suggest that they aim to drink three or more cups of water per week. Once they achieve their goal, we celebrate the victory. We then move on to four, then five, then six, then seven, then eight or more cups until our ultimate goal has been achieved. Setting reasonable goals is a great way to keep people motivated.

I also find that clients benefit from having a solid sense of what is motivating them to achieve their goals. If their will to change their diet and/or lifestyle is strong enough, they will have the necessary motivation to overcome any and all obstacles that they encounter along the way.

Tell me about research you have planned, conducted, and/or evaluated? Please tell me about your teaching experience at IHN.

 “I am not currently working on any particular research. That said, since one of my primary clinical focuses is fertility and family planning, I am always reading the latest research on the topic in order to improve my knowledge. The more I learn from different experts, the better able I am to devise more complex treatment plans (when required) in order to best support my clients.

I loved teaching at IHN. It made me ridiculously happy to share my knowledge and help to inspire a new generation of holistic nutritionists. That said, as I got busier in the clinic, it became too much to teach at the same time. I might rejoin the IHN faculty someday but, for now, I have chosen to place my focus on my private practice.

 What is your top advice for me starting out my own business?

“I find that it is often prudent to have an alternate source of income when starting work as a holistic nutritionist. It is not easy to build a private practice. While it is possible to make a comfortable income working exclusively as a holistic nutritionist, doing so takes time, perseverance, and ingenuity.

In my experience, most students benefit greatly from leveraging their past experience and education. If possible, try to connect your previous work experience to find a niche that you are uniquely qualified for. Network. Use all of the connections available to you to politely request guidance regarding opportunities that might be a great fit, not only for you, but also for other people that they know.

If your past experiences and education don’t offer you appropriate job opportunities, I would consider adding additional certificates and diplomas. The knowledge gained in the holistic nutrition program at IHN is extensive, but I find that new graduates really thrive when they are able to combine holistic nutrition with something else. Sadly, for so many, certification as a holistic nutritionist alone isn’t enough to earn a comfortable wage.

In terms of work environments, I would recommend investigating available opportunities at popular medical and/or holistic clinics. While renting space might take a financial investment, working out of a location that already has a lot of traffic can help people to learn about you and the services you offer. This is of enormous benefit when starting a practice.”

How many clients do you see a week and do you have a final comment?

 “I see about 15 clients in an average week. Holistic nutrition is a wonderful field. I certainly feel proud to be a part of it. Thank you for being interested in my opinions and insights into this field that I love so very much.”

Thank you so much, Kristin.

.FIVE.

Today, we celebrated Joel’s birthday. I still cannot believe he turned 5. In the morning I walked in his room with a homemade muffin and a candle in it singing happy-birthday.  He got dressed quickly because he knew his gifts were in the kitchen. Thank you Oma and Opa in Germany!!! We had breakfast, talked about our dreams like every morning but one question came up. “When someone does not call or send a gift on my birthday, does this mean they don’t love me?” I told him, that sometimes people are very busy and have no time but they still love you and sending gifts does not mean someone loves you. It takes a lot more than that. These are just materialistic things. He was fine with this explanation.

All his friends came over to our apartment and this birthday party was fantastic. Wine for the parents, food, snacks, candies, and the kids played so nicely in my son’s room for almost 2 hours straight. I had games planned, stories I wanted to read to them but they seemed so calm and content. No tears, no fights, I just let the kids be kids and play. No entertainment needed. This made me think of my birthday parties at my parents’ house. It was always awesome and comfortable. Often, I tie memories and experiences in my life to the things I had during those times. How much fun I had as a kid during my birthday parties; I want my son to experience the same things. Family, comfort, safety, and calmness even though these kids were losing it playing. [Joel’s room is still a disaster but who cares]. And I know he will remember this party, these feelings, and emotions he had because he lived in the moment. And so did all his friends.

While I sat in the kitchen with parents who wanted to stay and decided to hang out at my little apartment I thought about living in the moment. I sat there with them, we talked and it felt good. There were no problems. Often, the only difference between a problem being powerful is a sense that we chose it, and that we are responsible for it in some way. But if we shift our mind and say that it is all okay and it will all work out, it will. And experiences and memories shape us into who we are in this exact moment. While talking to the other moms I realized that our memories are built into us, and make us who we are. It was amazing to listen to some stories one mom shared about importance. While we may not remember the exact situation or times that something important happened in our lives, the results are within us. And they shared some of those experiences while the children played. It was awesome. After all, we have evolved to become the people we are today because of those past experiences.

Most of the guests left at around 6.45 pm. Some really close friends stayed longer. It was awesome to talk and hang out and chat about Panda Watch. Eventually, the guests left and we took my son to bed. He curled up and told me that he loves us and said thank you for everything. My heart melted. I cleaned up and started working on my assignments for school when my son called me again. He was still up because he was so excited and wanted to cuddle with me for a bit.  While I climbed up in his bunk bed he asked me who my (super)hero is. I told him that I do not have a (super)hero. He said that he loves me and that I am his hero because I have superpowers to make a party like this. He kissed me goodnight and fell asleep within five minutes. I stayed in his room for a bit longer and wiped away a tear or two.  What a fairytale ending to a perfect birthday party.

Am I perfect? No way. We are all always choosing. Choosing to send a gift, choosing to send an email or making a phone call. There is just this simple realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter what the external circumstances are. We cannot always control what happens to us but we can always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond. We are always responsible for our experiences. It is impossible not to be, right? Choosing to not consciously interpret events in our lives is still an interpretation of the events of our lives. Choosing to not respond to certain events is still a response.

Am I my son’s role model? Yes! He trusts me. I am his safety and security without shame, guilt, insecurity or blame. Whether we like it or not, we are always taking an active role in what is occurring to and within us. We are also always interpreting the meaning of every moment and every occurrence and choose the values by which we live and the metrics by which we measure everything that happens to us. Even if it is a kids’ birthday party. The real question is: What are we choosing to give a f*** about? What values are we choosing to base our actions on?

I received great feedback for Joel’s birthday party from parents already which is so great. It was my pleasure! As it turns out, these days I have had many worthwhile parenting experiences on my own. Do you want to know my secret?  I share emotional stability, I am warm and friendly, energetic, compassionate, and intuitive but also open, sincere and excited about life. This is such an easy way to give and receive love and have healthy relationships with people (like this afternoon). But what it all boils down to is that my heart is full, as is my life.

.Ghosts In The Shell – Two Phonecalls.

I sat in a café the other day and overheard a phone conversation a man had with a friend. I sometimes pretend-listen to music when I am at a café while working. Simply because I love to hear what people have to say, especially at this little particular café. The man who sat next to me initially spoke to the waiter telling him that a friend of his recently got diagnosed by his therapist with an “emotional cold”. He explained that he has been seeing this therapist for many years now and he had to schedule an appointment the other day because he was simply dragging his body around like a kid in trouble while examining his life and the world through dark- colored glasses. He added that he felt hopelessness, inadequacy, self-doubt and social dread. His house started to become really messy while he just laid on the couch and looked like a sad version of himself. And then out of a sudden, it stopped raining, the clouds parted, the sun came out and the sky turned blue again.

The waiter looked at him puzzled raised an eyebrow but kept listening. “I felt better. Even great. Out of a sudden, I had so much energy again. I remembered that I have my friends, family, and my health and all is good,” he added. The waiter asked, “How can this be? How can you feel so low for a while but ultimately be just fine?” and while wiping some crumbs off the table, he added, “well, maybe this was just this emotional cold your therapist suggested after all.” Wiping crumbs off my keyboard, I thought about if emotional cold could indeed be a thing. Is this natural?

This made me think that we do live in an era of increased mental health awareness. Everybody seems to have a therapist on speed-dial. I guess the difference between real depression and emotional cold would be that one can easily “snap out” of the latter but it takes a long time to deal with the former and/or medication is required. I get the emotional cold sometimes when things are out of my control, I cannot change them but I worry about it. What usually helps me is, I pinpoint what it is that bothers me (sometimes it is literally just the workload for school or planning my son’s Halloween Birthday Party). Then I usually find a balance between nurturing my “cold” and letting it run its course but without indulging in it too much. I simply just put one foot in front of the other. It usually never lasts very long which is good. Sleeping, general relaxation, meditation and talking to family and friends help me. For me, the goal is to find something positive to build on while having a perspective when I am down and to give my body and mind a little pause when it clearly demands it.

I typed most of this while the man spoke to the waiter. He finished his coffee and croissant, gave me a little nod, then left. The waiter cleaned the table and received a phone call when I was about to leave.

“Oh, Mark, how are you doing? What is going on? Anything exciting happening? How are the kids? How is Lisa?

Yep, I got your email two days ago saying that you are going away and that you will never come back. I thought it was a joke. Ottawa is so nice.  Sorry, I just did not have the time to send you an email back. I am so busy these days. I know, I should have sent you a quick reply.

What do you mean you are traveling and not coming back? What about Lisa and the kids? Is it for your job? Did you finally get that promotion? Where are you going? Can I come and visit you?  What do you mean Lisa and the kid’s stay in Ottawa?  Well, initially with your new job you will be very busy but eventually, you will settle down. Maybe your family will join you.  I guess I will visit you then. I will miss you like crazy, Mark! What the hell, what about our book club and the meetings?

What do you mean you won’t have internet? You know there are internet cafés, right?  There won’t be internet where you are going? Where are you going? What’s with all the secrecy. When are you leaving? Okay, you don’t know exactly but you know it is very soon. Well, this sounds all crazy, Mark. Seriously.

Yes, I do listen. I listened to every word you said. We are friends for over 30 years. Mark, are you in some kind of trouble? Do you need money? Do you need help?

Okay, you don’t need money, you don’t have internet, you don’t have a computer…. you cannot call or email me; you might as well be dead, buddy. Come on, give me some sort of hint. Yeah, I love you, too, but c’mon. What’s with all the emotional love-you-stuff anyway?”

Mark hung up.

.Consistency.

I mentioned this in previous posts but I have to say it again. This year has been one of the most challenging ones for me for sure. A lot of things changed. My environment and a lot of feel-good moments and habits just went out of the window. Add a ton of unnecessary stress, and the picture is perfect. After a while, this began to take a toll on my wellbeing. I reckon, there is only so much a person can take while keep moving forward. A little while ago, I made a couple of promises to myself that this insanity cannot bring me down and nobody can make my world fall apart or my empire crumble. I am strong. I promised myself that I will meditate every day, eat healthy and fresh food 95% of the time, to move my body and sweat, and to rest and sleep enough. This changed my life and eventually turned into a daily ritual. I would like to share how these little promises have kept me accountable and how I have been able to stay consistent over the last couple of months.

First, it is important to be realistic. It is easy to come up with goals in our head that we constantly repeat to ourselves. Some goals are often very big and rather discouraging from taking even the first step. I will graduate from The Institute of Holistic Nutrition soon and healthy living is obviously important to me. I also know that recommending clients to switch their diet and cut out everything they love to eat won’t work. Baby steps. For example, if you want to change your diet, cut out all refined sugars for a start. This is more than enough for most people.

I started meditating for 5 minutes initially. An hour might be unrealistic as a starting goal. Set goals that are easy to accomplish or alter them slightly to fit your needs. Listen to your body. Rest and say no when your body tells you.

Make time and prioritize. My little personal wellness rituals do not take away from my social time either. If I have dinner plans with friends for the evening but I haven’t eaten anything healthy all day, I may either go with them anyway and eat better the next day or I invite them over and we cook something healthy together. Or I will have herbal tea instead of coffee. Or an apple instead of a glass of wine (Yeah, right. There is no way those two cannot co-exist. It is the only way to make it sustainable!)

What it all boils down to is mindset and to be realistic. And the truth is, that accomplishing big goals just simply does not happen overnight. Usually, there is pretty hard work involved. I used to think all or nothing which usually stopped me from starting in the first place or made me quit shortly after. Things have gotten better as soon as I changed my mindset and recognized that everything counts towards the bigger picture. These days, one of my goals is to save money and rather invest in experiences than materialistic things. My friend is really good at saving money and I learned that finance is the best way to realize how every little thing counts. He saved that $1 the tooth fairy brought while I bought bubble gum. Oh, my son is about to lose his first tooth. Sigh! Playground talk: The tooth fairy rate is $5 or a small toy. When did that happen?

Staying consistent with my goals is of course not easy but I have created these promises from a place of self-love. It might sound cheesy but if the goals I am setting do not evolve from a loving place, I know I will end up hating myself if I do not measure up to perfection some day. There are of course also times when I over-spend, when I eat unhealthy food like nachos. There are also times when I do not have the best workout, especially not after those nachos but I forgive myself and promise to do better the next day. I have learned to fuel my rituals with compassion, love, and kindness because frankly, this is the only way to get to where I want to be. Self-hate prioritizes self-destructive activities over self-improvement.

.Limited but Tenacious Thinking .

You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth. – William W. Purkey

I am here at my desk, the cursor patiently blinking while I stare at the screen. Hey, now, after I typed a couple of words, it is a slightly less blank page in front of me. Scrolling through my website after almost three years of initial daily then once/twice -a -week-blogging I find it still amazing how much fun I have with it all. Sometimes, it takes me a while to get started even though I have the concept all laid out in my head. Even the most mangled piece of writing if less intimidating than the empty sheet, right? In these moments when I type, the possibilities are infinite, and that is scary. Writing for me is not easy. First of all, English is not my first language and even though I have a plethora of idea, it takes time to type it all out to make sense. Publishing my book was also a struggle and for some reason, I thought that writing would get easier over time. But it has not and this is what I really want to write about. What I want to say here is that I am not a great writer and I am fine writing or saying this.

Know that it is not out of self-deprecation that I suggest this. You may have come to this conclusion on your own already, in which case, I am glad we are on the same page. I am also not saying this out of a lack of positive affirmation, or a fake-it-til-you-make-it attitude. I got all this down. I am an overall positive person who feels incredibly blessed in so many ways.

My readers have to understand that when I started writing in English and in a formalized educational setting, I found it incredibly frustrating to craft sentences and paragraphs that properly reflected my feelings towards what I wanted to say in German but that needed to be translated in my head into English. Small inflections and emotions were completely lost on my attempt at a long-form written piece. It sort of almost always fell flat. I felt like my essays would miss an entire element of what I am actually trying to say (in German). I have known this all along, but what has me in a strange conundrum is that my book is selling like crazy after just two months of publication which makes me so happy. People love to read what I have to say, even if English is not my first language.

When I started blogging in 2015, I thought the idea was to write a lot, consistently improve my writing as time continued, and then success. I thought I would eventually get better at sharing ideas and thoughts while giving the reader an inside perspective on my experience, all while at the same time crafting beautifully languaged (sp? or did I just create a new word?) word art. Maybe I have gotten better at writing over the last two years or so, but what really ended up happening was that I started comparing my writing to other writers who I deeply respected. Following my blog for some time, you may know by now that I am an avid reader. What I came to view as great writing, was not what I had been doing. I was what they had been doing and continue to do. I do not consider myself to be a competitive person, however, I have continually tried to fit my writing style into what I thought good writing was supposed to be. Hypothetically sort of like, I am the “New Nora Ephron” in some way.

The funny thing is that some of my most popular posts came from a time when I could not have cared less about writing well at all but simply just had this idea to communicate ideas and tell stories without a concept. Initially and back when I did not think anyone was actually reading my writings I was the freest and perhaps that is what mattered most. That is the thing for me when I write. I want you (the reader) on this journey with me and somebody is reading all this, but at the same time, I want to write in a way that is still my speaking voice. I want to reach through this screen and hug your brain with my feelings, thoughts, learnings, and failures while really opening up in a way that should help all of us.

Whenever I am writing, I want to give you the real Daniela, not good-writer Daniela, but just, writer Daniela. So I think that is what this is now, a return to origins, perhaps, a more casual writing style, and more direct access to what I believe is the real me. Authenticity is scary as hell but it is the only way forward. I am authentic and I put myself on the line. Why is it scary? Because as a writer, I have to face the fact that my true self might not be enough to get the job done. That is a risk that I am willing to take though.

I have to keep in mind that expectations and competition can help, but it may be destructive, too. It is great to seek inspiration from those I admire, but I should never let it prevent myself from sharing my own perspective in a way that makes sense to me. The good thing is, everyone is different and that is what makes us great. Realizing all this is incredibly freeing. It releases me from the boundaries of my own expectations. Maybe this little essay encourages you to let go of what you may expect of yourself so you can simply be what you are. You may be surprised by the result. I am far from perfect, and most likely always will be – like everybody and everything.

.The Architect of my Life.

These days my nature is to do the sensible thing. To make the safe choice, keep quiet until I am sure what to say. Not to rush into things anymore. I thought I have seen it all but what I am going through these days is nothing I ever thought I would have to deal with. All I can say is that this is no way to say goodbye. At some point, two people were in love but are no longer due to certain circumstances. Reflecting on how things were a couple of years ago, the thought of being apart was overwhelming at some point. Those times when I drove him to the airport, we parked the car, walked hand in hand to the terminal, he checked in, and our hearts burst while we gazed at each other before we spoke. I remember the conversations almost verbatim. Then he left through the security checkpoint. And was gone.

As some of my readers have noticed, my husband and I have not been together for quite a while now. However, I don’t think it is fair to him to discuss specifics about our relationship on my blog or the internet.  As logical as this is, my initial thought was also to dismiss the suspicion that has built up for some time. Like a whiff of something that is just in my head. Or I just have to duck my head, cover my ears, eyes, and mouth and wait for it to blow over like the tornado in Ottawa last week. Then I can just wrap myself back inside the life that used to fit me so comfortably. And I just keep going because it would be a lot easier than what I am going through right now. But deep inside my body knows the truth, pricking tears into the corners of my eyes whenever I thought of it all, sleepless nights, adrenaline every time I probed a little further, every time I asked more questions. Last year around that time, all I felt was this unbearable hunger to have someone hold my deck of cards in their hands and gently nod in recognition telling me everything will be okay and dealt with because the house always wins.

Regardless, certain things that recently happened caught me by surprise since everything could have been solved a lot easier. I still do not understand why people who have nothing to do with “our issues” need to suffer but I reckon, there are reasons.  When I initially had been confronted with law agencies reports and files, I thought that everything looks blurry. Like I am missing something even though I haven’t lost anything or if I need something even though I have everything I used to need.

I am different now. All this stress made me even stronger. I changed and adjusted. Another piece of the puzzle has just started to crystallize. After all this time of indulging in the misplaced frustration that I was not able to see this insanity earlier, I wanted to find myself since I could not articulate who I was anymore. My life is changing. But it is not a bad thing. I am surrounded by love and the most amazing people after all.

These days I have to go through a lot of paperwork, phone calls and explaining situations, but I do send light and love whenever I think of him and then I drop it. What helped me a lot? Meditation and focusing on mySelf.  Sometimes when I meditate I feel more love than I ever felt before. I learned how to clear out most of the mess that comes in. Most people want things to stay the same way; sometimes even settled in misery because they are afraid of change. But why? Others make the same choices over and over and expect a different result. Or worse, some try to make something work or change a person. What for? If it doesn’t work or feel good, move on and leave.

These days,  I am happy and content. I can now, after all these crazy months finally articulate again who I am and I know for certain that it is something I have never been. Writing always helps me. This tight feeling in my throat when I want to cry and scream (it kind of feels like a lozenge stuck in my throat) usually disappears as soon as I write or when I am at my happy place. The other day, I had a nightmare. I won’t go into details but it was pretty bad. I got up, made myself a cup of tea and fragments of sentences swirled their way around my head and I started to type along. The words patiently waited for me to figure out how to fit them together at 2 am. Well, the positive aspect of all this is that my second book will get published soon if I keep working at this pace.

These days, I can pinpoint who I am and discern who I was, what I felt and why. I am the architect of my life and as confusing as it all seems, as disorienting, frustrating and sad as it feels, a curious thrill pulse is felt in me and my chest. It tells me that I can give myself permission to chase growth over insecurity and lies.

.One Unripe Avocado.

The other day I sent my friend a message: “What do you want to eat tonight?” “I am really not fussy. Do you want me to pick something up?” Me: “If you don’t mind. I will see if they have pretzels. Shrimp? The usual?” His response: “Can you clarify a bit?” – followed by a bunch of question marks.

I have to mention that my friend is very articulate (one of his nicest assets) and uses words that I have to look up sometimes. He would probably send me a message of some sort of straightforward communiqué, saying “I will bring two (2) ripe avocados. Looking forward to seeing you soon” – followed by a cute emoji. It is a simple message and this behavior from him is not exceptional or weird ever; it is standard. He is disciplined, organized, and his messages represent his dedication to details and are a channel for him to get to the point without a lot of fluff. I like that. A lot. It is his art of planning, the art of eating together, and even the art of making plans to eat. Sometimes, there are different lenses through which to view my friend’s messages and emails. One might suggest he is a gem of a man: so well-spoken, communicative, handsome, helpful and so clearly looking forward to the visit, the supper, the appetizers! Others may suggest he should be investigated further. But who cares what people say. I listen to my gut and  the man knows how to cook.

When we cook together, I see food as art. Cooking is my meditation and I reflect my own creation by making beautiful yummy things. Some use food as praise since it can be glory to all the senses. Especially when he makes this amazing spicy, garlicky shrimp sauce. Sometimes food is used as a ritual, to glue people and families together (family supper at 6 pm), food to mourn, food to f*** (add some cinnamon) or food to fuel this amazing wonder called the human body. The other side is that this love for food can also get twisted up with pain that we accumulate(d). Some obsess over food; they use it to distract themselves, to patch certain holes in their soul or as a pacifier. Food: we can eat to feel full in our bodies when the work to feel full in our lives seems unattainable or even intangible.

On a side note and just in case you don’t already know: I am studying holistic nutrition for almost 8 months now and having been into food and healthy eating for many years, I feel the need to tell the world that the food industry makes fake food. The food industry color “food” with bright red (*replace red with any color) powdered chemicals, put it in plastic, bleach the bread white, and call it “natural apple flavor”. Food gets thrown in dumpsters when people are hungry or starving. There are wars because of food. “They” poison the water, poison the people, to keep those Granny Smith apples extra shiny, no brown spots, no holes. Burn crops and privatize what naturally grows. We also use food to wage war on our own bodies and when our bodies get sad and full of toxins, we keep eating more toxic shit to silence the sadness. Take an Antacid and put a blanket on the sadness. Go to sleep sadness, sleep….. shhhhh.

I was not always a healthy eater or paid too much attention what the food I ate was made of. But I felt bad after eating certain food and the more I learned about eating healthier, I knew things have to change. There was a time, right after I gave birth, where I would have called myself fluffy. Some people may have thought “fat” would have been the more appropriate term. I gained a lot of weight but I would have considered myself still as healthy fluffy. I had this relationship with food in which I felt I am still the boss ( most of the time at least). When I gave birth to my son, I knew this weight has to go because I did not feel well overall. One positive asset I have is that I am very disciplined. I can pretty much make everything work. So I lost the weight. Through proper nutrition.

How am I doing this? I am using tactics to distract or channel my energy so I can stay committed to, for example, delayed gratification. Or I simply focus on my health and listen to my body. My body usually tells me what is good to eat and what is not. Yeah, we are pretty tight.

So, guess what?  My friend showed up with only one (1) unripe avocado. We did not make guacamole, which was on my mind as soon as I read two (2) ripe avocados, but he made the best salad ever. The avocado is still sitting around on the counter unused but who cares. The way he chopped those veggies and sautéed the shrimp in garlic and onion,  I am convinced he enjoys food twice as much as I am. I celebrate him for that and I am grateful he is in my life. I invited him in. He is here – in my life and in my head. He is crazy, as am I. We love food.  We want to eat. And then talk about how good it tasted. And then look forward to the next time we can enjoy it together. We are always choosing.

.The Story I am Telling in my Head is…”

I overheard this conversation the other day at a coffee shop:

-Tell me about us!

-About us?

-Tell me as if I would be a person you have never met.

– Well, we were lovers at first, then got married, then had a child, then another.

– And then? Did we take care of each other?

– What do you mean? Yes, we did. I provided for this family.

– But then one day….

– Then one day what?

– Can you tell me what happened so I can understand?

– I don’t think I can. No, I don’t want to.

– Do you want me to tell it instead? Then I most certainly will.

The couple started to fight and left shortly after. I love to listen to people’s conversations. Occasionally at the playground, I hear stories about seemingly harmonious and conflict-free marriages and how everything is so “wonderful all the time”. Part of me cannot help it but be suspicious of such accounts, trying to figure out if they are curated or selective images. What I have seen so far and experienced with either marriages or relationships is that both are most certainly not always easy, harmonious and conflict-free. Just think about it: How can it ever be? Two completely separate people with different personalities, preferences, sometimes nationalities, family backgrounds are forming a life together where things need to be negotiated on a daily basis. This person next to me is supposed to be my partner in crime, my lover, my personal chef, my mentor, my best friend, best listener and vice versa. I think it is impossible for one person to fulfill all these tasks.

These days I believe that the happiest and strongest relationships are not those conflict-free-perfect-look-how-much-in-love-we-are-ones. I reckon those relationships are the ones where partners have the most struggles and drama and cannot work through an argument or conflict at all since it is just a show. What I learned is that good relationships or marriages are created and nurtured and not automatic. Good things take time, long good conversations and by giving it this important time, things will nourish. Like raising anything that is alive – form a child to a pet to a plant, we must tend to it constantly.

Whenever there is a conflict, it is the working and tending through it that trip most people up. Tending and conflict resolution? Tending and conflict resolution comes in the form of spending quality time together, being honest and empathetic, communication, playfulness, independent inner growth, philosophizing, support, self-awareness and this sweet extending forgiveness for little things that either of the partners does wrong. In any case, communication is key, silence is not. In addition to these somewhat basic relationship hacks of tending and conflict resolution, I have discovered some ways that turn out pretty helpful when I am at my limit.

We all know these moments when fair-arguing or reasoning is just not possible with the partner. I want to share what came in handy for me in those last couple of weeks of insanity, what I learned, what saved my day(s), what kept me sane and how I have been able to defuse my piercing anger and somehow infuse me with a sweet spirit of generosity in the midst of an emotional nuclear meltdown.

Making a Positive/Negative List. Making a list of all the moments in your relationship that confirmed for you that you wanted to be in all this and how much you loved the person for certain qualities. This list obviously can include a wide range of things such as first love letters, first dates, conversations that were special, movies watched together, food shared, restaurants, concerts, trips. Then write or think about what happened along the way that started to change things. Maybe your partner has entitlement issues that exude a delusional degree of self-confidence which can be alluring to you or others at least for a little while. Mark Manson said that “in some instances, the entitled person’s delusional level of confidence can become contagious and help the people around the entitled person feel more confident in themselves too. Any attempt to reason with them is seen as simply another ‘threat’ to their superiority by another person who ‘can’t handle’ how smart/talented/good-looking/successful they are'”. Mark Manson adds that “Entitlement is impervious. People who feel entitled view every occurrence in their life as either an affirmation of or a threat to, their own greatness. If something good happens to them, it’s because of some amazing feat they accomplished. They keep their mental façade standing at all costs, even if it sometimes requires being physically or emotionally abusive to those around them”. But guess what? Entitlement is a failed strategy. It is just another high but it is not happiness. Entitled people are incapable of improving their lives in any lasting or meaningful way because all they have to do is “chasing high after high and accumulating greater and greater levels of denial”.

What I learned is that entitled people hide from their problems by making up imagined successes for themselves at every turn. And because they cannot face their problems, no matter how good they feel about themselves, they are weak. A person who actually has a high self-worth is able to look at the negative parts of their life and admit, “Yes, I messed up here”, or “Yes, I cheated”, and “Yes, sometimes I exaggerate my own success and what I have achieved or what I can do”. Guess what? Eventually, reality hits.

Remember, these items on your lists can be as dumb or meaningful as you want them to be. These are the things you write; things that only matter to you. They are reminders of why you love or don’t love this person, or why you chose to leave him or her. Once the lists are written, they are great tools to question things or to be reminded how much you love your partner and appreciate all those times he/she can still give you butterflies when thinking of them.

One more relationship hack I would like to share is to let go of “your victim story”. We all have been through some rough times. We all have a story. But many times it is the same story that repeats itself. He is late again, she ignores me, he cheated again. Each time your partner does whatever it is that you are super sensitive to, your brain goes on auto-pilot and endorses that narrative you initially created about the person. To constantly tell an “entitled person” for example what they did wrong leads nowhere. Constantly telling your partner that they are this or that, they may even start acting in ways that confirm your ideas of them because of the things you are saying. Lastly, always telling your partner they did X, Y and Z wrong are usually self-created narratives that don’t usually have anything to do with your partner. It has to do with you and your own fears and insecurities that are magnified as you misinterpret your spouses’ behavior and actions. Isn’t it that oftentimes, you are the one who has issues and you subconsciously choose external evidence to prove what you are afraid of rather than looking inward and critically examining those fears and insecurities.

Always keep in mind that these strategies or tips don’t mean you won’t get hurt. For as long as you are together with someone, from time to time, they will disappoint, hurt and enrage you. It is important to feel those emotions, talk about it and accept the pain in the situation. Just drop the bullshit. Feel the feelings, drop the story and deal with the actual issue at hand rather than going down a rabbit hole of imaginative narratives and paranoia.