The Big Difference (K.Blais)

Image result for negatives becoming positive

Awful things happen to us or to the people we love and care about. Terrible things occur continuously in our daily lives. We make decisions which end up being disastrous, although they may have seemed like the best option at the time, and in other cases choices are made for us without our having any say in them at all. Sometimes we hold the power in the decision-making process, and other times we are completely powerless.

Through it all though we strive to stand up and not to sink. We do our best not to let the floods drown us or to pull us down into the depths of despair, even though they may threaten to.

It isn’t always easy. And it doesn’t always work for all of us.

It is essential to remind ourselves that eventually the waters will recede. It’s tricky to remember that sometimes though and, by no means, do we ever intend to make light of the terrible things that happen, but it remains extremely important to attempt to search for the positive amidst the negative.

Out of every horrendous situation is there always a positive to be found? Depending on individual perspectives the answers may vary: maybe, maybe not… and maybe not right away. But, if we search hard enough there is always a bit of light, a small glimmer of hope, a tiny piece of dry land that we can place our feet on, even if it’s just a tiptoe to start. Maybe sometimes the negative just requires a different perspective.

A very close person to me, my dear friend Tracy, has struggled with some health issues over the past couple of years. She one day found herself with mobility issues, needed surgery to repair her knee injury, had a health scare with a dangerous item on the job site, and was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after that (all issues completely unrelated to one another). Add to that other issues which she has dealt with throughout her life, the scope of her tribulations was immense. To be perfectly honest, her world was bleak and dark and at some very low points. With so many negatives piling up on her, there were days when getting out of bed was too much for her to think about.

The floods threatened to close in on her on more than one occasion, but through it all she always searched for that tiny aspect of hope, that glimmer of light, that small piece of land on which she could attempt to stand. Her faith led her to the belief that her cancer was a blessing because having gone through what she had, she was able to be a support system to others battling with cancer. Her journey led her to new friendships which she may have otherwise not have made. Her struggles allowed her to realize the love that so many people had for her. The darkness has allowed her to appreciate the light all that much more. All the negatives that have happened to her have led to so many more positives in her life because she chose to see past them.

Some of us battle with physical or mental health issues, or have loved ones which are battling, which have affected our (and their) quality of life. Frustration, powerlessness, and a feeling of incompetency may overwhelm us. It can be hard to find the positive when we feel so awful. Sometimes we have to realize the negative for what it is. Sometimes we need to surf the waves when we cannot stop them.

Financially or materially we may be experiencing damage or loss. There may be days when our situation seems so bleak that there seems to be no place to go. It is hard to find the positive when the negatives are reflected in everything we have, even our bank accounts.

We may have lost a loved one or loved ones. We all know someone who has experienced the immense grief of losing a person very close to them. It’s extremely hard to see the positive in death and loss, especially when we are in mourning. Sometimes though death can bring us closer to those who remain in our lives. Sometimes death brings a new appreciation for all that we had and all that we have shared with that person, and it may encourage us to cherish and hold dear the time we have with the loved ones left with us. A belief that we will be reunited with our loved one one day can offer peace. Sometimes death can lead us back to life: to living each moment to the fullest and with a deeper appreciation, and may even lead us to taking nothing, even the little things, for granted.

Perhaps relationships have dissolved, friendships and partners have been lost, and life as we knew it has become an illusion. It is difficult to see the negative when everything around us in our personal life seems in a disarray. Sometimes it is difficult to understand how things can fall apart so easily… and perhaps we neglect to see that sometimes things need to fall apart so better things can come together.

Being positive does not mean to ignore the negative. There is no need to put blinders on and pretend that the negative does not exist. Being positive, and living a life which chooses to focus on the positive, can simply mean to live by overcoming the negative. That’s the big difference.

Keeping Our Heads Above Water (K.Blais)

We have been inundated by rain. Not only rain, but the consequences of water displacement, dams, and beaver habitats have wreaked havoc on many areas. Our rivers and creeks have overflowed with the sheer magnitude of the volumes of water they have struggled to hold. Our lakes, once beautiful places of serenity and peace nestled in God’s country, have become sources of gradual destruction and continuous elements of stress.

Bridges have been destroyed. Roads have washed away. Sink holes have erupted where the earth has seemed to attempt its escape from the intensity of the water’s force. Beloved cottages and breathtaking homes at the edges of our bodies of water have suffered. Belongings have been lost, and while only material, the loss of these possessions has still hurt us.

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(photo credits to RL)

We see a sense of devastation and destruction in so many physical ways, several locations around us hit harder than others, and yet how similar this flooding is to our emotional lives as well.

We often become inundated with problems in life. Those emotional wounds we know all too well, in addition to other stresses (both physical and emotional) laid upon us, can seem so much like the volumes of water poured upon our land. We feel the powerlessness of our inability to control what is happening to us.

We have been wronged and the sheer unfairness of being the person wronged can overwhelm us. We feel the injustice of being taken from and yet we are unable to fight back. We are abandoned, betrayed, and deceived. We struggle to obtain truth, only to be scorned by lies and untruths. What we have attempted to build up for ourselves, has only been torn down. More and more the complexities of life, even the every day things, saturate us.

Yet somehow, maybe even somewhat surprisingly, even through the downpours and the flooding, we do not crawl inside of ourselves to hide away. We do not permit the waves to simply continue to cascade over us, rendering us powerless. We do not allow ourselves to sink and drown.

Instead, we search for higher ground. We fill our sandbags and attempt to barricade the water from causing further destruction. We attempt to salvage what we have left. We lean on the support of our loving friends and family. We allow those who want to help, to help. We trust in our faith and in our beliefs. We face the issues assaulting us head on, doing what we can with what we have.

We take things one step at a time, one day at a time. We try to look for the positive and to acknowledge it, wherever the positive can be found. We remind ourselves that tomorrow is a new day in which the sun may shine and the water may slowly begin to evaporate. We keep our head above the water line, treading for as long as it takes because we do not give up. We will not let the waters win.

We remind ourselves to keep our faith forefront. Soon the water will recede back to its natural shoreline. Soon our feet will touch the sand again. Life will continue on. There may be some repairs ahead of us, but that is no different than how the Earth continues rotating on its axis, repairing itself as it goes.

And we trust that what was once beautiful, can be made beautiful again.

 

Mental Health Matters (K.Blais)

Spring is finally here! The sun is shining, the breeze is warm, and the grass is turning green! There is a feeling of lightness in the air, but, boy-oh-boy, am I tired! Spring is a time for renewal and regeneration, but also the time when I it seems that I need to recharge my batteries the most. My seasonal allergies come out to play and, unfortunately, they aren’t great playmates. Everything is sprouting and beginning to bloom around me, but I am emotionally and physically drained.

I know that everyone feels like this from time to time, and yes, we do all get tired. I think what I forget, and maybe some of you can relate to this, is that when we feel this exhaustion it is very important to listen to our bodies and minds and take the breaks and the rest that we need. I personally work in an emotionally demanding profession with children – a career which I love, but which can take its course on my mind and body. Taking on multiple roles (counselor, mediator, nurse, motivator, organizer, role model, etc.) in addition to being an educator in a classroom to twenty some little people, while rewarding on most days, can also be stressful and draining on others. And that’s just my day job!

For those who may not be aware, this is Canadian Mental Health week (May 6-12), also called Children’s Mental Health Week. (Check out www.cmha.ca for more information about mental health awareness and education.) (Please note: Mental Health Week is not to be confused with Mental Health Awareness Week which occurs the first full week of October in the United States, and other Mental Health Awareness Weeks around the world!)

(image from teentalk.ca)

Mental Health is truly one of the things which most of us take for granted, but is really so instrumental in our daily functioning and how we deal with what life throws at us. We often forget how important it is to maintain and preserve our mental and emotional well being. Good mental health (just like good physical health) is something we may not appreciate until we no longer have it. You know, kind of like, you don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone?

Truth be told, I’m a big supporter of “Mental Health Days”. By this I mean taking a day off when you need it, before you actually get sick from stress and from overtaxing yourself. I think it’s important to take a day (or two) to relax and unwind before, and to prevent yourself from, becoming ill, either physically or mentally, and having to take longer periods of time off because you HAVE to.

Mental Health Awareness is becoming increasingly important in our children as well. (See www.kidsmentalhealth.ca for more information.)

I read a few statistics about mental health and, while I find stats help me to put things into perspective, the following were alarmingly staggering:

  • 1 in 5 Ontario children and youth has a mental health problem (that’s about 500,000 children in Ontario).
  • Mental health problems in children can be termed ‘disorders’ which range from anxiety, depression, and conduct disorder to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder.
  • Left untreated, mental health disorders can lead to failure in school or loss of job, family conflicts, drug abuse, violence, and even suicide.

It is becoming more and more evident that nourishing and nurturing our minds and working towards good mental health is so integral to how fully we can live and enjoy our lives. Being physically active, having and promoting positive self esteem and confidence in ourselves (and others), and knowing ourselves well enough to recognize triggers and limits are all practices which can help to maintain and protect positive, emotional well-being. When we feel stressed it is a good idea to have a personal list of strategies and techniques which we can use to help recharge and refocus ourselves in a positive and uplifting way. For some ideas, check out one of my previous blog posts: 12 Ways to Restore Balance and Renew Your Spirit.

In our children, it is vitally important to portray to them positive examples of taking care of our mental and physical health and work to eliminate the stigma which is associated with Mental Health issues. There is no shame in asking for help and in confiding in a trusted friend or family member when we need to talk to someone. There is no shame in admitting our feelings of despair, loneliness, frustration, and emotional fatigue to someone who cares. There is no shame in reaching out for professional or medical help when our burdens are too much to bear.

Violence in our world today has often been attributed to the mental illness of the perpetrator. I would agree that this is often the case. It’s a fact that there is sadness and evil in the world: see Let Light Shine Out Of Darkness. Increasing knowledge of mental health issues is what an awareness week is all about. We need to have resources in place in order to help those individuals who aren’t mentally or emotionally ‘well’. There are over seven billion people living in God’s world right now – NO ONE needs to feel ALONE.


(photo from themindsanctuary.com)

We were put on this Earth to help one another. Let’s reach out to someone, to anyone, who needs a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, or even just a passing smile. Simply sending an email, a text, or placing a phone call which says, “Hey, I’m thinking of you!” can brighten someone’s day. We need to make time for those who contribute to us feeling good about ourselves and who help to eliminate stress, instead of adding to it (intentionally or unintentionally). That can be a tough reality – not everyone may want what’s best for us, unless it’s what is best for them too.

Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle (T.H. Thompson). Show compassion. Be gentle with words and actions. We need to take care of ourselves and others. A mentally ‘well’ society is best for everyone. Mental Health Matters… to all of us.

(Dear Readers, In the words of Jerry Springer (and yes, I somewhat cringe while quoting him, but his words are true and exactly fitting for this note): Take care of yourself… And each other. Love, ~ K ~)

A Fence Against The World (K.Blais)

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about fences lately. This could be because now that it seems like spring has finally arrived I am planning my garden and am seriously considering putting a fence around it. I love the wildlife we have around our home, I just don’t think they need to eat my hard work.

I have researched a few fences, spent a little (ok, a lot) of time on Pinterest, and considered the functionality of a good fence. This one is a personal favourite:

(photo courtesy of http://www.mygardenstories.blogspot.com)

A thought occurred to me: Fences keep things out, but they also work to keep things in.

Ok, it’s not exactly rocket science, nor is it an overwhelmingly deep thought, this I know. But that one idea started a thought process: Some people build emotional walls to protect themselves. I wondered if maybe an emotional fence might work just as well.

A fence is a freestanding structure designed to restrict or prevent movement across a boundary. Fences differ from walls because of the lightness of their construction and their purpose. Walls are usually barriers made from solid brick or concrete, blocking vision as well as passage, while fences are used more frequently to provide visual sectioning of spaces (information courtesy of wikipedia.com).

A fence is a form of a boundary. It is commonly accepted that a fence usually means do not enter without permission. Important things are fenced in for the protection of themselves or for the protection of others. Most often times a fence will have a gate to allow entrance, and maybe even a lock.

Fences work to keep things out. Wild animals, predators, hungry deer, rabbits, and critters who like to munch on garden goodies are often deterred by a fence. A fence offers some protection to the things which it surrounds. A fence can often still allow a line of sight, but meanwhile still draws a line of privacy.

Fences work to keep things in. Pets, yards, even small children are often fenced in. Fences work to protect the things inside of them, but also to the things outside of them. Dangerous animals and situations are often placed in a fenced in area in order to protect others from them on the outside of the fence.

An emotional fence is really no different. This type of fence surrounds the person and offers protection and security for them against other people’s opinions, judgments, biases, perceptions, and actions. It can offer the individual a way to place a boundary line between that person and other people or situations which may have caused them pain, hurt, or betrayal in the past, or which is believed might happen again in the future.

An emotional fence can also work the other way as well. An individual may choose to put up an emotional fence in an attempt to segregate himself from others. He may not be happy within himself and may not want to subject anyone else to his negativity. An individual may also feel that it is better to be “fenced off” from others, especially if he is struggling with his own issues.

Some don’t believe in putting up emotional walls, and so I’m not so sure fences will be readily accepted by those people either. I once told a friend that I saw the value of putting up walls as a way of protecting myself from getting hurt, especially from people who may have hurt me before. The wall offers protection from letting the person who caused the hurt to get too close again, it demands that they keep a respectable distance, and allows for the seclusion needed to find peace and healing within oneself. Perhaps the fence could be considered the happy medium. Conversation can still occur over and through a fence. A fence can have a gate to allow others in. A fence can even be taken down without others ever even knowing that one had been there in the first place.

The reality is that emotional walls and fences can be necessary in dealing with the world and its events. One doesn’t have to look too far to see the evil, the pain, and the torment which humanity inflicts on its own. Bombs, terrorist attacks, and senseless killings rock our world continuously. There seems to be no reason for the attacks on innocent people, some children, like those affected by the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon. Bullying still prevails even though we have educated, documented, and reported continuously. Many are determined to fill this world with hurt and sadness. I don’t know why this is – I just know that it isn’t right.

John Locke said, “The only fence against the world is a thorough knowledge of it.”

So until (read: even if ever) a thorough knowledge of the world and the people in it is obtained, I don’t think a fence is a totally bad idea. If an emotional fence offers you some protection from the hurt and pain that faces you on a regular basis, then I say there is nothing wrong with putting one up. If you need time behind that fence to regroup, rethink, and reevaluate others and the world as you perceive them, then take that time. There is nothing wrong with fencing yourself off from others who may continue to hurt you for whatever reason. There is no harm in giving yourself space, creating a boundary, and even protecting yourself from others. Just make sure that those who truly love and want the best for you know how to get through the gate.

(photo courtesy of www.ideaspectrum.com)

(Dear Readers, Thank you for your feedback, support, follows, likes, shares, and comments! Please follow me on Twitter @kim_blais and don’t forget to check out our Facebook page Writing For The Love of It. Love, ~ K ~)

Let Light Shine Out Of Darkness

2012 has been an incredible year.

This has been a year of many gains, as well as setbacks. Some of us have leapt out of our comfort zones, we have realized who the heck we are and discovered we are be-you-tiful, and several of us have securely fastened our bulletproof vests. Many of us have created worlds, and our own monsters, and have battled them accordingly. We have chased the happy medium, however elusive the chase has been, and have realized that things will not always turn out the way we expect them to. But, there is a true reality when contemplating the year 2012 : everything turned out the way it was meant to.

Now, having said that, the world in 2012 and its events, have not always seemed fair, have they?

Devastating tragedies like in Newtown, Connecticut have occurred. We have wept for strangers. We have seen and read of many other devastating incidents in the world happening on a daily or weekly basis. More personally, we have wept for loved ones who have suffered loss and heartache, much of which we can’t even imagine. We have wept for babies who never got to see the love in their parents’ eyes. We have wept for children and others who have suffered, and may have even been taken from us and from this world. We have witnessed friends and family struggling with issues such as the loss or stress of a job, the deterioration of personal relationships, and even self – destruction due to substance or drug abuse, lack of confidence, and the like.

2012 has also been full of the unknown. The Mayans predicted the world would end. It didn’t (nothing like stating the obvious, I know), but many believed it might. In my opinion, the theory of “the end of the world” should be a wake-up call. We don’t know from one moment to the next how long our world in its entirety, or even in its parts, will stay completely intact. Each second we are given is a blessing. The rug can be ripped out from under us (figuratively and literally) on any given day. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Terror and destruction can erupt without notice. A world filled with light can become very dark.

For many of us, the end of 2012 is a chance for new beginnings. Some of us will set New Year Resolutions to follow a better diet and nutrition plan, to lose weight, to exercise more, to keep in closer contact with family and friends, to get and/or stay organized, to invest and save money, and the list goes on and on. In the past, I have made a New-Year’s-to-do-self-improvement list from year to year — and sometimes I have even been moderately successful at achieving (some of) my resolutions. This year, I personally don’t intend on setting any of these types of resolutions previously listed (not that there is anything wrong with setting them!) In 2013, I intend to let light shine out of the darkness.

Darkness can creep up on us. One minute the world can be shining brightly in all its glorious light, only to be doused in the next moment by grief, sadness, injury, illness, or torment. My friends, here’s a reality : bad things will happen. There is evil, as well as good, in the world. Since original sin entered the world, evil has been around us. Bad things will happen no matter how “good” the person. But, know this : adversity, and even despair, make us stronger people. It may not seem like it at the time, but every experience, good or bad, gives us an opportunity to grow in some way. Light can come out of the darkness. We need the bad days (and even the mediocre ones) to appreciate the good days.

Light can shine through the darkness. I believe that putting energy and resources into mental health and emotional wellness should be a priority in society today. Depression and mental illnesses are destructive. Bad things happen, not just because people have guns, but because there is loneliness, sadness, and emotional turmoil that many in the world are struggling with. It’s not just about making stricter laws and enforcing them – it’s about getting back to the basics of humanity : loving and caring for the well-being of our human race. We need to reach out to others. We need to listen, really listen with our whole heart, when people need someone to hear them. We need to trust our human, compassionate instincts and make ourselves available to someone, to anyone, who needs a friend. We need to look outside of ourselves, to take a peek out of our own little boxes, and realize that everyone’s perspective and perception is different. We need to understand that, (to quote a friend), “Things are rarely as they seem.” We need to judge less and lovingly lead by example. 

Shine for others. Be the beacon of light that draws someone’s ship to a safe shore. Be a friend, a role model, a confidante, even a stranger whose smile helped to brighten a rough day. Be a light to someone in the midst of their personal darkness. We are not going to be able to “fix” everything, or everyone, but sometimes just listening, giving a hug or offering some form of human touch and connection, and simply letting someone know that you care, can mean the difference between that person’s continuing to dwell in darkness and their ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As 2012 draws to an end, let’s all make a resolution to let light shine out of darkness. Let’s make eye contact, smile, and say hello. Let’s say a kind word whenever we can. Let’s praise a job well done and look for the positive and the good as often as we are able to. Let’s search for answers, not lay blame. Let’s resolve to build each other up, not tear each other down. Let’s share our faith in a loving God and offer it as a comfort to others. The bad days are inevitable, but let’s anticipate the good ones. Dear friends, may we hold fast to the belief that light will continue to shine out of darkness.

Let your light shine in 2013 and always.

 

(Dear Readers, Thank you so much for your love and support in 2012. Your reads, likes, shares, and comments are a light that shines for me on the bright and dark days. I appreciate all of you! Shine brightly! Blessings to you in 2013 and always, ~ K ~)