The Dynamics of Shame

the word "shame" in scrabble tiles on a red background

This is the story of a schoolyard bully, a conspiracy led by mom, and the dynamics of shame that can get stuck in the body.

Growing up in the 60s, we had a neighbour who lived across the street. He was a year younger than me, in my brother’s class at school.

And he was a bully. Over the years the incidents were countless.

I remember the bully raking his fingernails down my cousin’s face when she came to visit as we were playing together outside. Funny enough, when I asked her about it, she doesn’t remember a thing.

I remember him crossing the schoolyard to kick me in the shin so hard that I couldn’t walk, couldn’t control my sobbing, all because I’d complimented him on his beautiful new desert boots.

I felt shame that wasn’t mine, and when the teacher on yard duty hauled us by the arms into the principal’s office to have him deal with us. I refused to acknowledge the facts – that I had done nothing to deserve the kick, except stand in the schoolyard during recess enjoying the warmth of the late spring sun radiating off the brick wall.

I defended him. Said it was an accident. That nothing really happened, and could I just go back to class now?

The bully? He just kept wheedling that he hadn’t done anything wrong.

I just needed to hide, to retreat in fear that my name had been placed in “the book”

(What the hell was the book anyway? The fear of having your name in “the book” was real back then. Did all schools have “the book”?)

I returned home after school that day and could not face my family for the shame, going straight to my room until dinner and returning there afterwards until bedtime.

On the third day of this self-imposed punishment, my mother came to my room, sat down on the bed beside me to talk.

The bully’s mom had called my mom to let her know that her son was upset because of something that had happened in school a couple of days ago, and that I was involved. Of course, he had given her no details.

Witness the dynamics of shame.

Still I defended him, denied he’d done anything wrong, insisted it was an accident. I don’t remember if I ever set the record straight with my mom, though I doubt the incident left as big a mark on her memory as it did mine.

(And yes, she asked me if I got my name in “the book” – it wasn’t just a kid thing)

In any case, one day my mom, frustrated at hearing our complaints and pleas about the bully’s behaviour (and apparently lacking any other viable options for resolution) took a conspiratorial tone and set a plan in motion.

The next time the bully lashed out at us, she instructed me to pin him down while my younger brother beat him up.

The war to create peace approach….

Of course, as young children, this was viewed as free license to stand at the end of our driveway, taunting the bully from across the street until his rage reached the tipping point and he stomped over to deal with us.

What can I say? I’m a lover, not a fighter. The mechanics of war do not come easily to me.

Also, I’m slightly dyslexic and its effects are amplified under stress.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here’s what happened: In the heat of the moment, I got flustered and I pinned my brother down instead of the bully.

My brother fought me valiantly, but I managed to keep him down.

I’ve always been physically strong, though I grew tired of doing all the holding while the bully was not getting his due.

In actuality, the bully was wailing on my brother with me complicit.

I can still see the righteous look of unfettered rage and frustration on my brother’s face when he muttered through gritted teeth: “You’re supposed to be holding HIM down, not ME!”

And in that moment, the jig was up.

The bully’s rage spell was broken on hearing those words, the unmistakable realization that he’d been lured into a trap gradually dawning on him. The rage left his body. He sagged a little, started sobbing and ran back home.

My brother and I retreated to our own house to play in the basement, silently steaming at each other over the failed coup. We didn’t bother to bring our mom up to speed on what had happened.

We heard the bully’s mom come to the back door, and the low tone she and my mom took in speaking to each other. We managed to eavesdrop and hear my mom claiming not to know what could have gotten into us and assuring her neighbour that she’d address it.

And address it she did. We creeped up the stairs to the kitchen after the neighbour left. Mom looked at us with a smile and a nod and a twinkle in her eye and said, “Good job.”

I felt there was no need to go full debrief on the incident and describe my abject failure in executing the plan. The end result was the same either way, right?

The bully got the message that his behaviour would not be tolerated. I like to think it was the beginning of a détente.

These memories bubbled up during one of my training modules for advanced coach training in trauma resolution. The instructor, Racheal Maddox, was speaking about the dynamics of shame, and how we are conditioned to take on shame that isn’t our own when traumatic events happen.

When we experience violation of some sort, shame causes us to retreat and hide and convince ourselves that we’re bad, that what happened was our own fault, how shame is a result of trauma in the social nervous system, and how shameful behaviour is more often than not the result of feelings of shame carried by the perpetrator.

I had forgotten about the schoolyard kick in the shin until then.

I also remembered a day before that, when the bully ran crying home from the schoolyard a block away because someone had bullied him. His father’s response was to place a stick of wood in his hands and urge him to go back to the schoolyard to beat the kid up with it. He followed down the street, yelling ‘encouragement’ while, obviously distressed, tears streamed down his son’s face.

Thankfully, our neighbour who lived at the next corner, intervened and the bully and his father returned home, rage deflated by shame.

I recognize that the bully and his father were raised by a system that values toxic and hyper masculinity. I can imagine they both felt trapped by that.

I realize that as a child, I felt the bully’s shame, the shame he was unable to express because it was too big, that allowed him to do something really shitty to me while defending his behaviour. Prickly defensiveness on the outside and the frozen heart inside.

“The traumatic event is in the past but if it’s not allowed to complete and release in safety it gets stuck in our bodies and nervous systems and affects the way we navigate the present.” Rachael Maddox

The memories and emotions around these incidents bubbled up freely because I’ve tilled the healing soil for stuck feelings to move and ‘complete’. My body feels safe and resourced enough to let them flow and let them go.

I hope that sometime in the past fifty or so years the bully and his family have been able to find some healing from the intergenerational trauma caused by toxic masculinity.

And I wonder if my brother has forgiven me yet.

I am a trauma-informed somatic coach who helps people tap into the wisdom of their bodies so they can heal and thrive.
More information here.

The Scent of Lilacs

My morning altar includes a bouquet of lilacs, my father's compass, and a crone modeled in artists' clay by my father many years ago.

The scent of lilacs on my morning altar sparks musings on ancestral memory and healing.

“All the eggs a woman will every carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old foetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother.

Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb, and she in turn formed within the womb of her grandmother.

We vibrate to the rhythms of our mother’s blood before she herself is born, and this pulse is the thread of blood that runs all the way back through the grandmothers to the first mother.”

(When The Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm by Layne Redmond)

This powerful bit of ancestral science comes floating back to me in morning meditation, as I breathe in the heady scent of the lilacs.

I remember hopping in the car with my dad and a pair of clippers to scour the countryside in the spring and find a stand of lilacs to cut a bouquet to bring home to mom.

That memory and a strong call to have the scent of lilacs nearby and close to me inspired my partner and I to store a pair of clippers in our car and find the blossoms sitting on my altar now.

My maternal nonna loved lilacs, as did her eldest daughter, my mother, her sister, and as I think of it, as do all of the women in my nonna’s lineage, and it’s no wonder that we do.

The scent molecules imprinted at a cellular level as she breathed them in have been passed on to us, in her womb, as she carried my mother and her siblings.

They synthesized in the eggs that seeded our birth, and they are passed on to our offspring, physically and energetically.

In the breathing, in the scent, I feel her love and strength flowing to me, with my mother as an intermediary on its journey through the generations.

The molecules in the air that I breathe are recycled, the atoms that formed them created when the universe began, indestructible and eternal.

Those atoms form the molecules our ancestors breathed for millennia, recycled and cleansed, exchanged in our lungs at the level of the alveoli.

Oxygen in, carbon dioxide out, in a regenerative dance with nature, whose trees and plants exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen, literally sustaining life.

As I inhale and exhale, in meditation and throughout the course of my life from first breath to last, I am inhaling atoms that were inhaled and exhaled by my ancestors, through generations.

They carry the imprints of ancestral legacy. Their energy, their knowing, their experiences, their pain, their trauma, their joy, their victory, breathed into my lungs and out, held in our bodies at the cellular level.

We are connected with our ancestors physically and energetically, each time air meets flesh in the act of breathing, air meets blood, an eternal exchange, receiving nourishment, expelling toxins for the earth and nature to receive for composting.

Every breath I take cleanses, restores, energizes, alchemizes the cells of my body that hold ancestral wisdom and imprints of ancestral trauma.

It is no coincidence that lilacs grow plentiful and abundant on old farmland, in regular rows. Before flush toilets were invented, lilacs were planted over outhouse holes after they were filled and the outhouse moved to a new location.

More poignantly, lilacs have been traditionally planted over burial sites for placentae and stillborn babies. I first read about it here.

As I breathe in the scent of lilacs, I flow healing and love back through the generations to my mother, my nonnas, my ancestors. I wonder at what experiences, joy, sadness or trauma imprinted the scent in our collective memory.

What other ancestral experiences, joy, sadness or trauma have imprinted and affected me in the way I navigate life? I know my grandmother experienced two miscarriages after my birth. Were there more? How did they affect her?

I wonder if the reactions and responses I have to life situations that feel like they’re not really mine, but feel real nonetheless, stem from incidents and experiences before my time, passed on in my ancestral lineage.

In all the wondering I become more committed to my own healing, and know I am contributing to collective healing in the doing.

I am a trauma-informed somatic coach who helps people tap into the wisdom of their bodies so they can heal and thrive. More information here.

Trauma Recovery using the ReBloom Method

Painting by the author, a colourful brain reminiscent of a healthy, thriving and active nervous system

I am a trauma recovery somatic coach who helps people heal and find ease from trauma that gets stuck in the body and gets in the way of living a fulfilled and authentic life.

I have experienced the ReBloom method guided by Jo Tucker, a member of the ReBloom Hive and post-traumatic guide. I find this method of coaching to be most effective, allowing me to reconnect to the wisdom of my body and release trauma that has been stuck for decades. Jo and ReBloom have been instrumental in my journey of healing and personal post-traumatic growth.

What are somatic practices?

Somatics describes any practice that uses the mind-body connection to help you survey your internal self and listen to signals your body sends about areas of pain, discomfort, or imbalance. (Reference)

What is trauma?

The best definition of trauma comes from my teacher, post-traumatic guide and culture maker Rachael Maddox. She is the author of her newly published book ReBloom: Archetypal Trauma Resolution for Personal and Collective Healing, and the creator of the ReBloom method for trauma recovery. This is the method I use in my practice. It has served me best in my post-traumatic healing and growth experience.

Rachael defines trauma as “an embodied violation hangover”

In other words, trauma is:

  • a violation (emotional, physical, energetic, or any combination of the three)
  • that happened in the past
  • that gets stuck in the body (physical and energetic) and remains long after the violation has ended.

That stuckness, that trauma, influences our behavior. It affects the way we see ourselves, the ways we communicate with ourselves and other, and the way we view the world. Trauma impacts physical and emotional health.

This definition is expansive. Most of us have experienced trauma in some form in the course of living our lives. It is an almost unavoidable for people living in relationship with other people and communities shaped for generations by systems of oppression – colonialism, capitalism, sexism, racism, ableism, privilege…

A trauma recovery approach includes:

  • Consensual techniques and tools offered without force, trusting the inherent treatment plan and unique timeline of every individual
  • Doing what’s doable and appropriate for you in the here and now; honouring your capacity
  • Focus on the nervous system and the reverence for the body’s capacity to grow, heal and transform
  • Informed consent and sovereignty central to the coaching experience
  • Honouring ‘resistance’ as the body’s way of whispering its needs

In addition, the ReBloom trauma recovery method offers:

  • Inclusion of story, myth, ritual, archetype and metaphor as part of the healing process
  • Focus on health as the foundation of the model, as opposed to focusing on the trauma (you don’t have to recreate or even remember the trauma event to heal from its effects)
  • A critical approach that recognizes the impacts of oppressive systems (colonialism, capitalism, racism, sexism, etc.) and cultures
  • An emphasis community-regulation and nature-regulation in addition to on self-regulation and co-regulation
  • Radical consent to disclose or not disclose your personal history and story as part of the healing process
  • Permission to honour your self, to use your sacred “no” and opt out at any time from any practice that does not resonate in the moment or feels uncomfortable

A ReBloom coach guides you through trauma resolution, teaching and using somatic techniques and exploring using the seven ReBloom archetypes for post-traumatic growth.

The ReBloom method is a 3 part approach to trauma recovery:

Discovering your current ReBloom oracle

  • It starts with a question: What am I living inside? or What am I being called to address in this moment?

Growing embodied coherence

  • Learn to allow physiological trauma trapped in your body to move (or “complete”), regulate your nervous system, and nurture resilient aliveness in your body

Cultivating relational coherence

  • Explore the natural blueprints of health associated with the ReBloom archetypes to bring you into right relationship with yourself, others and the world

The ReBloom archetypes for post-traumatic growth

The ReBloom archetypes describe progressive stages of growth, development, and healing, recognizing imprints caused by trauma and returning to your natural blueprint, in seven areas.

This method facilitates learning and movement from:

Neglect to Worthiness & Receptivity
(Soul Seed)

Exploitation to Sovereignty

Shame & Repression to Whole Self Expression

Manipulation & Control to Clarity & Choice

Violence & Chaos to Vitality & Empwered Safety

Isolation & Alienation to Intimate Belonging

Colonization to Co-Creation
(Sacred Gardener)

Work with me:

I offer packages of 9 sessions to explore, excavate, heal and learn using the ReBloom method, priced at $1111CAN, taxes included (service fees apply if you live outside Canada). Payment plans available and encouraged.

Package includes a 1.5 hour intake session to set goals and identify priorities, 7 one-hour coaching sessions booked by you at your pace (one or two sessions per month recommended), and a final closing/reflection/celebration. All sessions are conducted online using Zoom.

I currently have 5 openings for this package and am offering them at the discounted price of $999CAN while they last.

If you’re feeling called to work with me as your post-traumatic and somatic coach, I invite you to reach out. You can contact me here. I am available by direct message using Instagram or Facebook messenger, or you can email me at

You can also book a free 30 minute call on my booking site to chat and discover whether working with me is a good fit.

* Information regarding the ReBloom coaching methodology is reprinted and shared with permission from Rachael Maddox

Martyrdom, Comfort, and Old Dogs

I have never been a friend of comfort, at least not as long as I can remember. But I have a feeling we might be able to get along.

I’ve internalized a voice that sings “Nothing comes easy.”

The complete soundtrack includes: “You have to struggle to get ahead.”

“You get what you pay for.”

“No pain, no gain.”

“You have to suffer to be beautiful”

and other hits.

I’m not saying there isn’t an element of truth in any of them, but somehow along the way my brain overgeneralized the concept and morphed it into the belief that I must be hard on myself, that it was somehow a noble thing, the way it should be done, the path to glory, and living your dreams. I embodied that belief with unequivocal convinction. I became a rock star at beating myself up.

Comfort might be an incidental side-effect, a reward for hard work and self-torment, but never ever something to be sought out.

That kind of internalized thinking takes its toll. It’s hard on the body, mind and soul.

(and now I’m rhymin’)

As I was typing this, an alarm went off to remind me to take some pain medication. I’ve had a flare up of acute pain over the last couple of days, a hat trick of dental chickens come home to roost as a result of procrastination and pandemic shut downs. The pain has been crippling, leaving me feeling like curling up in the fetal position and crying for my mom.

I have a deepened respect for people who live with chronic pain, and deep gratitude for my largely pain-free life.

I was able to see a dentist who assessed the situation and suggested a plan, including doubling the amount of pain medication I had been taking and timing doses regularly over a 24 hour cycle to keep it at steady levels in my system.

This strategy has been incredibly helpful. After two times, I am feeling little to no pain and able to function again. I was able to sleep deeply and through the night last night and woke up feeling like life might be okay after all.

But when the alarm went off just now, my first thought was “well it only hurts a little bit; maybe I should hold off on taking more drugs.”

It only hurts a little bit.

There is a difference between navigating pain as part of an intentional process, or because someone or something is causing you harm, and intentionally seeking it out as a reward for your efforts (also referred to as martyrdom).

Pain is a side-effect, not the goal, and it is most certainly not a reward.

I’m throwing off one of the remnants of growing up Catholic. Goodbye martyrdom. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

I already know from experience that I can take any pain life has to throw me and I hope that I’m able to do it again when it inevitably revisits.

But I’m through throwing pain at myself.

I’m writing a new song; “Comfort is healing baby” The title might need work.

I’m unlearning self-combat and replacing it with self-compassion, gradually, and with a lot of support and input from people are writing real self-love songs. To give my body, soul, and even my mind, some ease. To give my nervous system a break from the fight/flight/freeze and downregulate, to give the ego a rest so my soul can regenerate. Maybe they can be friends some day? I bet there’s something valuable in that Somatic Internal Family Systems Therapy book I’ve been longing to dig into.

What’s stopping me? Reading is comfort. Comfort is healing. Healing is my jam now.

It’s all part of the trauma-informed approach to healing. I am a shiny new student in the ReBloom trauma-informed coaching container kicking off this week with a 4 day workshop and continuing part time throughout the year.

As part of the preparation for spending 4 days online together (even a pandemic has a silver lining; this training would be much less accessible to me when offered in person on the other side of the continent in another country) it was suggested that we – gasp! – be intentional about creating ease for ourselves. This might include wearing comfortable clothes, eating healthy, nutritious and delicious food, drinking lots of water and comforting tea, and maybe having a hot water bottle on hand if you tend towards freeze as a response to trauma. (Hello, have we met? I’m Freeze’s Nonna)

I can’t remember if a weighted eye mask was suggested as well, but I’ve used them in spas and yoga classes before and love them. It just never occurred to me to buy one for myself because, well you know.

Meet my new best friends:


I’m off to read now.

Mom and Me (and a bowl of cereal)

Remember that Bee Eye Are Dee my mom and dad were thinking about getting for me for my fifth birthday?

Well, it turns out bee eye are dee spells ‘bird’ and that’s what I got for a present. He was a green and white parakeet and I named him Charlie. He lived in a cage in the corner of our dining room, next to dad’s chair by the window. The cage had a pull out tray lined with newspaper to catch Charlie poop and seeds he scattered.

For breakfast most mornings, I’d fill my bowl with dry cereal in the kitchen and carry it to the dining  room table to add milk and sugar and eat.

One morning, when I was feeling a little sleepy and not quite coordinated, I tripped, knocking the bird cage and my cereal bowl onto the floor.

I guess mom wasn’t in a very good mood. Maybe on second thought, she was in a mischievous sort of mood. Parents are humans too after all.

Whatever, she took the broom and dustpan and swiped everything up, cheerios, bird seed, bird poop, feathers. She dumped it all back into my cereal bowl, slapped the bowl on the table in front of me with a bang and said “eat it.”

Time stood still.

I remember staring at that cereal bowl, a tiny parakeet down feather stuck to one of the Cheerios, wafting gracefully in slow motion in the breeze from my breath. And the smells of bird poop, bird seed and Cheerios.

I don’t know how long I sat there. It felt like forever. I remember thinking, she’s not really serious is she? Was this some kind of joke?

I like to think that this was followed by a second edible breakfast, but I really have no recollection.

My mom lived with cyclical depression and mental health issues. I didn’t really understand that as a child. I just felt that something was not right and, as children often do, I blamed myself. I learned to silence myself, my needs, in order not to upset someone else’s equilibrium. Most of the time that someone else was my mom.

I learned to put others’ needs before my own, and I used this strategy for most of my adult life.

All I knew back then was that my mom wasn’t always there for me in the ways that I needed her to be. I got the silent message that my job was to be there for her, to take care of her, and I took on that role with fervour and skill.

I was reluctant to shed the role of parent and go back to being a daughter in the times when she was feeling stable and well. As you might imagine, that in itself was a source of conflict.

I have the greatest compassion for my mom and the life she lived without adequate mental health resources to support her. She was a brave, incredibly strong survivor who did the best with the circumstances she faced. She experienced discrimination and isolation and judgement and shame because of her mental health issues.

My mom brought a lot of joy and music and laughter into my life. She shared a fierce and loyal love with my father that I held as my standard, unwilling to settle for anything less.

I know how much my mom loved me. I cherish my memories of the smile that brightened her face every time I showed up to visit unexpected. She thought I was the most beautiful daughter in the world. I know this because she told me often, and I believe she believed it.

Whenever I’d complain about the behaviour of a male colleague or co-worker, she’d reply “Well it’s obvious isn’t it? He’s in love with you.” Every single time, and there were many. I suffer no delusions about her accuracy of assessment, but it says a lot about the way she loved me, and I cherish that.

I am proud of myself for entering into a personal journey that allowed some healing of our relationship over the years leading up to my mom’s death in 2019. A couple of years before, on her 80th birthday, I thanked her for teaching me the meaning of unconditional love. I wrote it in a card and watched her read it across the room. I know from the light in her eyes and the smile on her face that she heard me.

Mom and me at 10 in 1971

I have learned to forgive my mom. I’m learning to forgive myself as well. It’s a layered process. I get the sense that mom learned to forgive me too.

I am resourcing that incredible strength of character and unconditional love I’ve inherited from my mom, and I am grateful.

I’m learning that putting my own needs first allows me to have something to offer the world. I’m learning to reparent my inner child and to walk more gently in the world. I’m learning to redraw personal boundaries. It helps to feel less alone. I’m learning to love myself and love life.

I can tell you, though, that at the age of almost 60 years, I’ve never eaten another bowl of cheerios, and most likely never will.

One day a while after the Cheerios incident, Charlie caught a cold and got all puffy and didn’t live much longer. I’ve never really felt the urge to have another bee eye are dee either.

Just sayin’

New Year, New Thing

On New Year’s Day, buoyed by the enthusiasm of my online community, I signed up for a 30 day yoga practice.

I appreciate the benefits of yoga for my body, and eventually even my mind and soul. It used to bring forth a LOT of anger in me, until I discovered (attracted?) teachers and practitioners who were more focused on true well-being and health rather than marketing, profits and spin.

I live in a large body, arthritic, menopausal and in a fair bit of inflammatory pain a lot of the time. Day 1 of the 2021 30 day practice left me feeling excluded, frustrated and sore.

It felt too fast for me and offered no adaptations for people with bodies like mine. I felt the shame creeping in. I “should” be able to do this, and if I can’t it’s because there’s something fundamentally flawed about me.

Not allowing myself to drop completely into the freeze and despair of shame, I remembered a week long introduction to Body Positive Yoga from Amber Karnes that I’d tried earlier in the spring of 2020.

I remembered feeling seen and heard with Amber’s practice and guidance. I was able to settle into poses feeling grounded, stable and strong, some for the first time ever.

So I looked up those practices and went back to yoga challenge day 1 armed with my own adaptations. There’s something about a square peg and a round hole that comes to mind here, but yep. That’s what I did.

On the way to finding the intro to body positive yoga, I came across Amber’s post on Accessible Yoga Training website: “Stop postponing your life until you lose weight.” I recommend reading it in its entirety, but this hit home:

“Dominant culture teaches us that there is a hierarchy assigned to bodies. Beauty standards (who is considered “beautiful” and who is considered “ugly”) are based on this foundational belief: that some bodies are inherently more valuable or worthy than others. Thin bodies are valued over fat bodies, white bodies are valued over black bodies, able bodies are valued over disabled bodies, young bodies over old bodies, and so on.

All this is predicated on an extrinsic lens or external gaze: other people’s perceptions of your body and where you fall into that hierarchy.”

The crack where the light gets in was almost audible in reading that post.

Why the hell was I trying to force myself into a body box that doesn’t fit or serve me? Or follow it with making myself feel like shit because I didn’t measure up to a standard I DON’T EVEN VALUE.

Because for all of my life, I was never able to accept or love my body just as it is. Too curvy, too bulky, too tall, too short, too wide, too thick, too slow, too stiff, too feminine…

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t born thinking that way. Like many of us, I’ve internalized arbitrary standards of health and beauty imposed by systems and those dominant cultures that have nothing whatsoever to do with health, inclusion and love, and everything to do with control, and exploitation.

And because I’m pretty good at whatever I take on, I internalized those voices and made them my own; I made myself my own biggest enemy.

I embodied everything predatory, judgemental and exclusive about the systems and cultures I was raised in and rebel against, and turned that artillery on myself. Hiding, covering up, and not participating in places or activities where I didn’t see bodies like mine. And resenting every second of it.

Even if they were present, I could not fathom how anyone who looked and moved like me could love themselves. I was envious and jealous of them that could. That envy and jealousy has transformed into appreciation.

Why didn’t I just join the Body Positive community last spring when I did the week long intro and felt so good?

It wasn’t about money. Because I can tell you that between then and now I spent at least the cost of a year’s subscription on quick fix programs that triggered my shame and promised “results” (and yes, I have slipped into beating myelf up about that as well.)

Why didn’t I just sign up for what felt good? Why couldn’t I offer myself that gift?

Because I saw it as giving up, giving in, admitting failure at not being able to someone I never was, never even wanted to be, at the same time as feeling inadequate and imperfect and wrong, at the same time as hating myself.

If you’ve stuck with me this long, you’ve probably guessed that I unsubscribed from the first 30 day challenge and joined the Body Positive Clubhouse.

I’m continuing to practice with my friends who are doing the original 30 day program, but I’m doing it in a way that fits and serves me – not just my body, but my mind in heart that are in need of healing as well.

Interesting: when I shared how the program wasn’t working for me, a couple of friends said they felt that way too, for different reasons. So we’re committed to supporting each other for 30 days in the practice that works best for each of us.

It’s a small step towards learning to love myself, just as I am. A little more than two weeks until I turn 60. About time.

When I was finishing up the practice I chose for myself today, I felt like there was just too much quiet in the video towards the end and opened my eyes to look at the screen. I found this:

And I knew I was in the right place. For today, it feels good, and I’m in for more of that.

A Christmas Wish

In this very strangest of years, Christmas time has come feeling – well, feeling more Christmassy – than any other has felt for me in a very long time.

No decorations, no parties, no fancy dress (and let’s face it, maybe not even a shower). No mad dash shopping, no lights, no tree.

I don’t know about you, but we just didn’t have the energy or capacity for any of that this year.

We are spending the holiday in isolation, after bringing a kid home from university, wearing masks in our home and eating at separate stations for the time being. Hibernating.

These are indeed strange times, destabilizing and traumatizing, and enduring longer than we expected or hoped.

And yet, I find myself feeling more love, more contentment, more joy and more peace.

I think perhaps there is a gift here, the gift of slowing down, of placing focus on what’s really important – relationships, love, caring for each other. Rekindling dreams and passions.

ghosts of Christmas past

It’s a season for rekindling relationships, even if that’s happening on a screen instead of in person.

It’s a season for taking time to write cards and notes to put in the post; for preparing treats and meals to be dropped off curbside and contact-free; for spending time in real conversation with the people we care about the most, and with new friends and acquaintances. A season for appreciating each other.

It feels like an old-fashioned Christmas to me; it has nothing to do with the trappings, even if they are present, and everything to do with slowing down, spending time with each other, appreciating each other, holding each other closer than we have in a very long time.

It’s a season for doing all those things I couldn’t find time or capacity for in my previous beforetime life because, like most of us, I felt exhausted and depleted before the holidays ever rolled around,

All those those things are really what life is all about.

Connection. And Community.

It’s ironic that we’re managing to rediscover and create that without physical contact, with masks that cover our smiles and fog up our glasses.

If I could give you any gift this season, it would be the gift of feeling warm and safe and content, knowing that, despite all evidence to the contrary, all is well.

I wish you knew how delightful you are. Right here and now in this very moment. Just as you are.

I wish you the knowing of how incredibly resourced you already are.

I wish you the knowing that you have everything inside you to that you need to thrive.

I wish you the knowing that there is no one in the entire universe like you, that you are unique and amazing and wonderful.

I wish you the knowing that you don’t need to compete or struggle or hustle or climb over anyone to find that.

I wish you the knowing that there is room enough and abundance enough in this universe to support you.

I wish you the knowing that we hold the power to change the world together.

We have been challenged to face our fears as our health and safety and livelihoods have been threatened, to be creative and pivot while feeling the real trauma of the times that just makes me want to crawl back into bed a lot of days.

The times have caused us to recognize privilege and abundance of resources that are not accessible to everyone because of the systems that have shaped us for generations – colonialism, capitalism, racism, and the patriarchy.

We can find ourselves holding all of that reality, all the hope for transformative change, all the despair and all the love, all the fear and all the joy, all at once.

It’s a lot.

It doesn’t mean there isn’t room to grow, or work to do in creating a better world. It doesn’t mean we can’t wish to gather in person and hold each other in long hugs again.

It means that we have all of it in ourselves to create.

What exactly does a life coach DO?*

A life coach creates safe space for you to explore, examine and excavate, experiment and create strategies that work for you

* This blog piece is a little out of the ordinary for me, but hey, this whole year has been out of the ordinary! And I have new things to announce that I’m excited about! I hope you’ll indulge me today. I plan to be back to more regular blogging on life, the universe and everything (including some coachy kinds of things too) shortly. xo Janine

What exactly does a life coach DO?

That’s a good question, and one I’ve been asked repeatedly as I’ve made public my desire to transition into certified coaching as a career.

As is often the case, in describing what a life coach begins with describing what a life coach DOESN’T do.

A life coach is not a therapist, counsellor, or consultant.

Therapists, counsellors and consultants are the experts in those relationships.

Therapists and counsellors diagnose and treat mental illness and severe trauma effects such as PTSD. When it appears that therapy or counselling might be the best option for you, a good coach will suggest an outside referral in your best interests. Therapists and counsellors often work alongside coaches in assisting people to find inner healing and ease.

Coaching is a co-creative process of equals that recognizes and honours you as the best expert at being you, even if at times that knowledge might be clouded, distorted or buried by the impacts of the systems, cultures and families we’re raised in, by traumatic events, and by the coping mechanisms we’ve developed to survive them.

When the beliefs and strategies you use to navigate life no longer serve you, you might begin to feel stuck, unhappy, depressed, helpless or hopeless about your place in the world and the ways of moving forward.

You might just be feeling a little off about something and want to set it right. Or you might want help with problem-solving or goal-setting.

A life coach assists you in uncovering the tools and strategies that work best for you.

A life coach works with you in the here and now, creating the safe, nurturing, confidential and non-judgmental space for exploring beliefs and values that might be standing in the way of accomplishing your goals and living your dreams.

Always in an atmosphere of sacred consent, permission, and safety.

A consultant is an expert who tells you what to do. A coach understands that you already have everything you need inside yourself to discover and decide what’s best for you.

A dear friend and mentor describes the coaching relationship using the metaphor (coaches love metaphor!) of mining underground for valuable treasure; the coach holds the lamp while you do the excavating.


A life coach is someone whose role is even more valuable in these uncertain times we find ourselves. I have experienced the great value of coaching before and during the pandemic, and knowing the benefit of service that coaches can provide is the reason I’ve become certified as a professional life coach.

While coaching is largely non-regulated, certification from an International Coach Federation (ICF) approved college ensures you service steeped in coaching ethics, standards, and core competencies, coupled with my deep compassion, empathy and wisdom of life experience.

With a few rare exceptions, the coaching relationship is entirely confidential, creating the safe space for you to explore, examine and excavate, experiment and create strategies that work for you. All sessions are currently delivered online using Zoom, so location is not a barrier. I am able to serve you wherever you are in the world, as long as you have a stable internet connection. If you’re reading this, you likely do!

It would be my deepest honour to work with you in coming home to yourself.

Contact me for more information or book a free 30 minute consultation call here.

Old Scars

My right eyebrow is split by a scar incurred as a young teen.

One afternoon while my family was participating in a family day at the local YMCA, I took to the gym to play on the uneven parallel bars. I loved gymnastics despite being told repeatedly that I had the less than ideal body for it – too tall, too dense, too curvy; I heard it all, internalized the messages, and learned to believe my body was flawed.

But I loved gymnastics, moving with the equipment, the rhythms and the feeling of accomplishment in properly executing a move. I don’t pretend I was any good at it, but I loved it.

On this particular day, I took to the uneven parallel bars and while attempting a roll on the top bar smacked my head on the bottom one.

Odd. That had never happened before. I made the assumption that I hadn’t properly tucked and tried again.


Frustrated and determined to get it right, I tried the roll again, tucking my body as compactly as I could.


The third smack proved to be too much. I felt a little woozy and decided to take a rest, seating myself on the wooden benches that lined the walls of the YMCA gymnasium.

Someone walked by while I was sitting there attempting to regain my composure; his look of horror made me curious enough to touch my eyebrow.

The blood that had been flowing freely down my face without me being aware rerouted its flow down my fingers, palm, wrist and arm. It was a pretty substantial gush and I hadn’t even realized I was bleeding.

I sought assistance from the YMCA staff, who located my parents in another part of the building. They brought me to the emergency ward where it took three stitches to close the wound.

In reviewing the incident, the YMCA staff let me know that there had been a junior gymnastics class in the gym earlier in the day. The uneven bars had been adjusted to the height of a small child, and had not been returned to their regular configuration before family day hours gave us access to the gym.

It wasn’t my fault. I hadn’t done anything wrong. Except for continuing to try the move two more times. Except for not trusting my body.

The message that I am the problem when something isn’t working, that I am flawed, that I am not enough, that I am deficient in some way, had been internalized and normalized in me to the point that I could not imagine any other possibility than that I had hit my head THREE TIMES because there was something wrong with me, something wrong with my body, something wrong with the way I was moving.

What is it that they say about repeating the same behaviour and expecting different results? Yeah, I know.

And yet there countless ways in which this scenario plays out in our lives on a regular basis, a lot of the time without being conscious that the voice speaking those lies isn’t our own.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t born that way.

Where and when did I lose the ability to trust myself and my body? What is it about me that learned to rely on no one and nothing outside myself for answers when something isn’t going right? (I have a theory about this that will share with you later in another post)

I could have asked someone to spot me, to check out the equipment, to make sure there wasn’t some outside adjustment that needed to be made in order for the move to work. But I didn’t.

Somewhere along the line, I internalized the messages that I was broken and in need of fixing at the same time as not being able to rely on anyone but myself to meet my needs.

For a long time, my scar was a reminder to me of my stupidity and stubbornness, of my not-enough-ness.

I realized recently that I no longer feel the same way about my scar.

It is now a reminder that when something isn’t working it’s not always my fault, that it’s not just me; in fact that it’s almost never just me.

It’s a reminder that I have learned a lot about myself, and the way I walk in the world, and that I’ve done some good healing, some good connecting with my inner child.

It’s a reminder that I can rely on and return the support, assistance and love of others to grow and learn and thrive; that I can do that without sacrificing or depleting myself, or trying to make myself small enough to do that bar roll.

It’s a reminder that I am a grown-assed woman now and I get to choose the messages and voice I use in self-talk.

It’s a reminder that, as capable and smart and stubborn as I am, I don’t want to do this living thing alone. It’s not who I was born to be, and not where I feel most at home.

My scar is now a reminder that I can cut myself some slack, that I am not broken, flawed or lacking in anything.

And it’s a reminder that everybody has probably felt the way I did at some time or other, that we can be gentler with ourselves and each other in navigating life and that maybe, just maybe, we can thrive together and change things up for the future.

I don’t have to smash my head in the pursuit of perfection. I’m learning that on deeper levels every day.

I have a scar to remind me.

She Leaved

Confessions of a Quitter

Our family camp on the north shore of Lake Superior was the landing place for creating some of my most cherished family memories. I was young and single and enjoyed the arguable status of ‘best aunt in the whole wide world’ to my two young nephews. I think proximity had a lot to do with it but, in fairness, I was a pretty cool auntie.

During one of our camp stays, my younger nephew Aaron had been lobbying loud and hard for me to pitch a tent on the front lawn. He wanted to sleep over in the tent with me, and tonight was to be the night.

I pitched the tent and appointed it with amenities to make all a toddler’s glamping dreams come true – soft fluffy pillows, cozy comforters, every stuffed animal within a kilometre, and a stack of books including Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. (Renamed after small ears overheard one of the grandparents. We’d often hear Aaron yelling from potty training sessions in the loo: “Nonna! Bring me the Book from Hell!”)

While the summer sun still high in the bright and cloudless sky, the freshly bathed, powdered, pyjama-ed curly haired cherub and I settled in, snuggled under cozy covers and surrounded by pillows, books and stuffed animal booty.

There was a bit of a breeze that evening, causing the tent to rustle, and the shadows of the trees to dance on the tent walls. Each time, the cherub’s blue eyes would widen in fear and he’d ask “what was that?” I did my best to assure him that all was well.

Eventually, he left to use the bathroom inside and, after waiting even longer than the nearly seventeen minutes it takes to read the Book from Hell, I disembarked the tent to see what was up. I found him in the front room, snuggled under a blanket on the couch, a bowl of popcorn on his lap, and a Disney movie playing on the beta max. It was clear that he had no intention of returning to the tent of death.

When he looked up to find me standing there in bemusement, he shrugged a little shrug, said “I leaved” and returned the movie, munching on his popcorn.

And just like that “I leaved” became part of my personal lexicon.

A couple of years later, when I’d moved to Sudbury to study computer technology, I signed up for an unpaid weekend orientation session with a prospective employer, a new call centre taking incoming computer support calls. The morning session consisted of more than one senior team member subtly and not so subtly threatening immediate dismissal for anyone who might consider organizing the workers under a labour union.

I left at the Saturday morning coffee break and did not return.

Instead, I drove home, threw together a hasty overnight bag and drove the almost five hours to Nils Bay in order to salvage the rest of the weekend doing what I really and truly in my heart had wanted to do.

I arrived to find my mom and the cherub grandson in the middle of a very intense Skip Bo competition. When they looked up surprised to see me there, I pronounced “I leaved.” My mom laughed and said she’d had a feeling that that job wouldn’t work out.

My name is Janine and I am a quitter.

It wasn’t the first time I’d followed my heart and left a situation that was not working for me, and except for the fact that I have become better at creating and living situations that DO work for me, it likely won’t be the last.

I’ve become better at reading the signs, and rather than creating a crisis whose only logical outcome is burning bridges and depleting myself financially and emotionally before beating a retreat, I understand that in choosing to leave that which no longer suits me, I’m creating the space for transformation and growth that can swoop in.

I quit my job in North Bay to return to my hometown and a new career as a municipal social services worker, delivering welfare and special discretionary financial assistance to people in need. The birth of my eldest nephew, my parents’ first grandchild, triggered an immense and uncontrollable feeling of grief in me and I knew that I needed to return in order to address and heal whatever was the cause of that wound.

I quit that career in social service after 8 years in a toxic work environment whose only saving grace was the freedom to use provincially legislated resources in assisting people through difficult times – a grace that was removed when the Mike Harris Common Sense Revolution won government in Ontario and rewrote welfare legislation such that the work of social service became reducing the rolls, finding any excuse to deem someone ineligible for assistance, and policing them with paperwork in order to dissuade them from applying in the first place.

Some of my colleagues were astounded that I would leave such a well-paid position with a pension plan (I walked away from tens of thousands of dollars by leaving after 8 years when it took 10 to become vested in the plan)

And some of my colleagues expressed admiration for my courage.

It didn’t feel like courage. It felt like survival.  

But there is, as they say, no geographical cure. Wherever you go, you take you with you.

In this case I travelled a thousand kilometres east to a new workplace and career to find myself in the same toxic kind of work environment, except this time it was in the private sector, with not even the perceived protection of union representation.

So, once again, after a couple of years and hundreds of hours of Buddhist chanting, it was time to leave. This time, instead of quitting, I moved gracefully to a career with Canada’s New Democratic Party where my role and responsibilities evolved from database support to legislative aide.

It was the dream gig, but even dream gigs wear thin eventually. So, after 15 years, 8 election campaigns, and 6 Parliamentary cycles, I felt more than a little depleted. At the age when many workers are planning for retirement, I leaved.

I left in love. Sinai Johnson describes it here. I learned about Sinai and her work as part of the Feminist Copywriting Certification Course under Culture Maker Kelly Diels.

I don’t quite know what the next thing looks like yet, but I trust that when I make choices that are authentic to me, only good things will result. I have the evidence of my experience to back me up.