Seeing the Failures

I see things. Thankfully, not dead people. (That’s a movie trope reference. If you don’t know it I won’t spoil it.)

I have generalized anxiety disorder. This mean that I notice all the things that can possibly go wrong in every given situation. I notice when things change. I notice when things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be.

This can be a good trait. It means I’m detail oriented and that I catch mistakes. I would make a good editor.

It does mean that I’m not so good at seeing what’s working well. Because if something is working well, I don’t have to worry about it and so I don’t need to think about it, so I don’t really need to notice it.

It’s the stuff that might go wrong, the stuff that might cause problems, the stuff that isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do that needs my attention.

So that’s the stuff I see.

But this type of seeing doesn’t make for a very good life. Because I’m always seeing what can go wrong, what could be better. And so I’m mostly only ever seeing what I’m failing at.

And so I mostly think of myself as a failure.

I could list all the ways I think I’m failing and the people who don’t know me might feel sympathy and the people who do know me would think I was crazy and then point out all the things I am definitely not failing at.

But the reality is that I only see my failures and so I feel like a failure.

The leap from the one to the other, might not be logical, but it is the leap that my brain is making.

Failing at so much stuff = Being a Failure

So this is the first bit of craziness I want to rewire in my brain. I want to figure out how to separate these two thoughts which are inextricably linked in my mind.

The first step I see is that I need to try and focus on more of the successes in my life. So I am going to start an Accomplishment Journal.

Now I know this sounds narcissistic and a piece of me is crying out at the complete ego-centrism of the idea. But I truly can’t remember the things I do well on a daily basis. When I look back over my day all I can remember are those things that I screwed up – I spent too much time cruising Facebook, I didn’t rinse out the pool pump soon enough and now it is all dry and crusty, I still haven;t put away the Fringe costumes and every flat surface in my house is covered in junk.

What I don’t easily recall is how I got the bed curtain hardware for my girls’ room all measured out and screwed into place, how I freecycled a pile of outgrown sports equipment, how I prepared my Intro to Homeschooling presentation for a MASH event, and how I spent the evening hanging out with my teens for Family Movie Night.

The needs to be done list completely obliterates the finished doing list and it’s time to stop seeing the shadows instead of the light.

Every day in my Accomplishment Journal, I want to write down three things that I accomplished during my day and at least one of them must be something that I personally feel I excelled at. These accomplishments do not have to all be tangible. They may be successful conversations I have had, moments I felt were worth savouring, activities that that proved beneficial to others. They are not supposed to be routine items that I struggle with completing (although if I feel especially proud than they would count). These are supposed to be a list that I can look back over and see where I am making progress in my life.

Accomplishment Journal


Finished the historical page’s jacket and pants for the Idol movie. Love that red velvet!

Walked the dogs and deposited the long over due Knavish finances.

Tracked most of my activities on my Eternity time tracker.


Presented a workshop, an Introduction to Homeschooling, for MASH.

Found a great science program for my ten year old daughter.

Called and had a wonderful “touch base” conversation with my mother.

Gratitude Journal

1. Running errands with my husband.

2. The guilty pleasure of a Quarter Pounder with fries and pop.

3. Watching awful reality television (Twinnings) with my teens.

4. The smell and feel of the fabric warehouse store.


5. A wonderful MASH Not-Back-To-School Picnic at Harbourview Park with my four my children.

6. A chance to reconnect with some of my Neufeld Institute comrades.

7. For Ash’s smile when I brought her hot chocolate.

9. For canned salmon on bagged salad – an easy healthy dinner.

10. For warm grilled cheese sandwiches late at night.


11. A great workout at Karate

12. A wonderful chat on the phone with my mom.

13. An incredible evening out at Mon Amis Louis to celebrate Jennifer P.’s promotion – wine, great appetizers (made by Chef friend Alex), ice cream bar and an amazing firework over the Forks!



14. A lovely morning spent with Kirby.

15. Crunchy spicy chicken sushi for afternoon snack.

16. Finally putting up the bed curtain hardware in the girls’ room.


17. Walking the dogs with Tim up to bank to take care of overdue finances.

18. A humorous exchange that my girls shared together on Facebook which shows their wittiness and love of one of another.

19. A hearty Faspah dinner bought and prepared by Kirby – sumptuous and nutritious.


20. My boys, almost men, cleaning out the gutters before the wet fall weather begins.

21. Grilled cheese sandwiches made with Harvati cheese and served with Split Pea soup.

22. A great turn out at my MASH workshop on an Introduction to Homeschooling.

23. Watching Divergent with Timothy.


Prioritizing Our Purchases

I have a running wishlist of things we would like purchase, things that we would like to replace, or things we think would be fun to own. As non-consumers we work really hard to only purchase items that we really need. But sometimes it’s hard, on a budget, to figure out which of those items should be purchased before others.

We’ve been without a teapot lid for many years now. I love the Brown Betty teapot that we own and the lack of a lid hasn’t affected it’s performance, so we haven’t replaced the teapot. Except, now my wonderful teapot is leaking. It would only be a matter of time before it cracked and set hot water splashing on people. It is now a safety issue to replace the pot. I discarded the pot and we are currently making our tea in a saucepan. I’m a tea snob, though and I don’t like tea made in a saucepan. I also am really picky about just buying any old teapot. I really want a new Brown Betty, but they cost $60! And there are already a number of other things on the purchase wishlist. SO how do I decide?

Must Have Items

These are things that we as a family feel the loss of, things that we require for health or safety, or things that in high demand because of high usage. They are also things that may provide us with long terms gains.

High Impact Items

These are things which are not necessary for health and safety, or for immediate well-being, but make us feel better on a day to day basis. These make daily life less stressful or more enjoyable.

Might Be Nice Items

These are the things that realistically we can live without, but the purchase of them would be fun or enjoyable. These are the items we often don’t get around to purchasing, or the ones we use as gifts, or the ones that sit on the list so long we forget why it was we wanted them.

So here are some of the things on my list right now:

Mattresses for the boys (about $200 each)
Googles for second daughter ($20)
Brown Betty Tea Pot ($60)
Cell phone for Oldest ($60)
Kitchen timer with really loud alarm ($65)
Toaster, 4 slot ($80)

So the mattresses are really becoming a health issue. The fact they are old and sagging didn’t mean that much a year or so ago when I put them on the list, but my oldest son has recently had a big growth spurt and his almost 6 foot frame isn’t resting comfortably in his bed anymore.

The goggles currently fall into the “might be nice” category. If she was continuing to pursue her lifeguarding qualifications, they might pass up the list to high impact or even must have (if they were required for her job.)

The cell phone is currently on the high-impact list. We have other cell phones available to her in the house so it’s not a must-have case, yet.

The kitchen timer hovers between the must have and the high impact item. We are a large family. We cannot afford to burn food becuase our wimpy kitchen timer chirps like a shy grasshopper. This timer could save us money in the long-run, but I also realize there are cheaper ways we might solve this problem (like just taking a small protable timer with us wherever we go in the house.)

The toaster has been dead for several weeks now. We’ve been using the broil setting on the oven almost daily. This is costing us extra money in electricity and has often resulted in burnt toast (often due to the quiet timer!). A new toaster seems to impact safety as well as long term financial gain, so it’s in the must-have list.

My Brown Betty? It’s falling between the High Impact and the Might be Nice lists. We make tea everyday, sometimes twice. I love my tea and I loved my Brown Betty. I realize that a $60 teapot is steep (pun intended) but it also brings a lot of joy to my partner and I and therefore falls into the High Impact list. I’m not convinced that a cheaper teapot will bring as much joy.

So how will my list look now:

Must Have
Mattresses for the boys (about $200 each)
Toaster, 4 slot ($80)
Kitchen timer with really loud alarm ($65)

High Impact
Cell phone for Oldest ($60)
Brown Betty Tea Pot ($60)

Might Be Nice
Googles for second daughter ($20)

There is currently only $250 in the large purchase fund of our YNAB budget. That means that we can purchase the mattresses out of the emergency fund, and then use the large purchases fund this month to buy the toaster and kitchen timer. Or we could buy one mattress and save a few months for the second and then continue moving down the purchase list. Or we could split the large purchase fund in two, continue saving for the mattresses, and use the other half of the budget to buy the remaining items as funds allow.

What do you all think? How would you prioritize my list? What would you buy (or not)?

Gifting Myself

I was reflecting on Rick Hanson’s post today on learning to gift ourselves:

This exercise, like many in the self-caring section of Rick’s books and in his course, “Foundations of Well-Being” (which I am working through right now) is extremely difficult for me. For some reason I am severely lacking in the area of self-caring, self-encouragement, self-compassion and self-love.

So this little exercise has been difficult for me.

Can you remember a time when you offered a gift to someone?

I am not a gifting person. I feel lost when I need to buy gifts. I panic and can’t seem think of what a person might truly appreciate, or like, or find useful. As a non-consumerist, I struggle with purchasing gifts that are “not necessary”. I try to be creative and original, but somehow I just end up feeling lost.

Can you remember a different time, when someone was giving toward you?

Unfortunetly, the first place my mind went to with this questions was all the times I received what I thought was an “off” gift – something that seemed unusual and maybe inappropriate. Damn, there goes my negative bias again. Then two things happened. I thought of some beautiful gifts I have received over the years, and I thought how some of those strange gifts, ended up being some of my favourite.

The beautiful gifts:

My thoughtful and beautifully kind mother-in-law was a gifter. Out and about on her daily errands she would spy little knick-knacks and items that she thought would be perfect for the people in her life and she would pick them up and drop them off. I don’t ever remember receiving a birthday or Christmas gift from her (although I’m sure I did) but I still use the little paring knife and smile. I still have the little bear Christmas ornament. I still put up her Christmas ivy.

The other beautiful gift I received was a gift bag with a box of Celestial Seasoning tea and a package of Orea cookies, with the instructions NOT to share the cookies with the children but to eat them all myself! They were from my sister-in-law who, like my mother-in-law is an exceptional kind person.

The strange gifts become beautiful:

Then I thought about the time my husband bought me a bag of tools for my birthday. At the time, it felt very unromantic, and (I am ashamed to admit) I might have actually cried when I opened the gift, but now almost 20 years later, I still use those tools. Everyone in the house knows the pink Xacto-blade “belongs” to Mom, and the multi-bit screwdriver still has all it’s bits (an amazing feat in our house).

Or the 1980’s sweater with giant black and white dice on it – gift from my great-Aunts. Such gifts could not be returned and were expected to be worn in the gifter’s presence. I remember feeling horrified by the thought of wearing this loud and what I considered unfashionable sweater. But now, the photo of me wearing that sweater making a funny face at my sister, is one I gaze on warmly and fondly. I don’t remember all the great gifts I received from my Aunts over the years, but I do remember that sweater and it makes me smile every time I think of it.

So what can I learn from gifts I have given and gifts I have received?

That the actual gift counts very little. That the thought really is more important than what I bought, or how much I spent. That the thought behind the gift is what lasts the longest. That many, many gifts will be forgettong, but sometimes a rare few will be remembered, and you can’t tell beforehand, what one those will be.

So give. Give freely and give often.

“Gifting yourself comes in many forms, most them in small moments in everyday life.”

The second part of Rick’s exercise was to consider how to gift myself. He talks of just taking a quiet break to enjoy to moment. Of consciously letting go of our worries. Of not doing something, that will result in a benefit to us.

“What could I give myself right now? Or: What do I long for – that’s in my power to give myself?…What’s the gift I want to offer myself today? This week? This year? Even: This life?”

Some of the answers that came to my mind:

A warm cup of my favourite Bengal Spice tea in my happy mug.
Personal sewing – not costumes, not repairs, not commission work – something just for me.
Travel – I don’t know how to do this on on such a tight budget, but I am writing it because it keeps coming to my mind
Exercise – this may be the gift I am not fond of in the beginning but endears itself with time
A massage – I’ve never tried one, but I always wonder if I would like it
A schedule – so that I can stop feeling guilty about down-time
Not worrying about library overdues – this will be a difficult gift to give myself, but also a good opportunity to practice self-compassion and letting go.

So, how about you? What would you gift yourself with? I’m always looking for more ideas and would love to hear other’s suggestions.

Letting Go

Part of my journey as a highly sensitive parent has been disconnecting from the intense feelings I carry for for my children. This may sound like an unhealthy thing, but in actuality it is the healthiest thing I can do for them, and for me.

When highly sensitive individuals bond to others that bond is intense and can be all consuming, unless it feels threatened, and then it can be awful as the sensitive individual tries to protect themselves from the overwhelming negative feelings.

So I am faced with either loving my children completely and whole heartedly, which will inevitably end with deep, unbearable pain OR protecting myself from the start by never connecting deep enough to feel that pain. Of course, a more shallow connection means less feelings of attachment.

I choose, quite deliberately, to bond deeply with my children. I have given up a good part of my own desires to ensure that I have raised them in the safest, most caring environment I could provide them with. But from the time they could talk, I’ve been bearing the wounds of that attachment. My beautiful strong babies have independent ideas and sometimes I get hurt in their struggle for independence and growth.

This is especially true as they enter into the last stages of childhood and the beginnings of their independent lives.

When I bore them and fell so deeply in love with them the very first time I held them, it didn’t occur to me that I would merely be raising them to lose them. The goal of parenting, which I have mostly subscribed to, is to raise kind, caring, mature individuals who will live happy lives that brighten their world.

But somewhere deep inside, a needy, desperate part of me wants them to always love and adore and care for me as I age.

I hope that we continue to be close as they branch out into their own lives. BUT THERE IS NO GUARANTEE.

If you love something you let it go, and I need to face the fact that it might not come back. That indeed it probably won’t come back. That is what parenting is about.

How I Plan on Coping:

So how’s a super sensitive girl going to cope?

The best way I know how:

1) When the tears come, let them flow.

Of course I need to do this when my children cannot see it. I must not add guilt to my children’s need and desire to mature. I must be brave and let them go and then tend to my own sadness.

2) I need to nurture a variety of relationships in my life.

Unlike what movies would have us believe, one person cannot be everything to us. It’s unhealthy. This includes my spouse and my children. Each of us needs to cultivate a community of caring individuals who can meet our various needs. As I feel the lose of my children, I need to try and draw closer to those individuals – more date nights with my partner, more time with my younger children who perhaps missed out on some of that when they were much younger, more girl’s nights out, more breakfast dates with aging family.

3) Remind myself that a change in a relationship does not signal the end of the relationship.

I will always be my children’s mother, but my children will not always need me to mother them. As things change between us, I need to be mindful of what they will need from me – hugs and kisses aren’t always welcomed, and sometimes the intense pain they feel requires me to just sit quietly with them in its presence. Just because they do not need me in the way they have for so many years does not mean they do not need me. I have to dance the dance of parenthood – watch and let them take the lead more and more. Hopefully this relationship will begin to shift from parenting to friendship.

4) Let them go, with my blessing.

I told my teens the other day that it’s okay if they go to a party and get drunk. That may not sound like a prudent bit of advice, but my teens know how strongly I hold some of my beliefs, especially about the misuse of alcohol. I don’t want them to feel shame if they end up drinking at a party and then feel they need to hide it. I want them to know that I understand that it may happen, that they may want it to happen, that I hope they will be safe, and that whatever choices they make, I am here to share the journey. I feel the need to give my kids permission to make mistakes, to make choices that might not agree with my own, to live their lives as they desire. That’s so huge for me. I have to constantly remind myself to let them go.

My daughter plays the piano for several hours a day. She plays a wide range of music that she loves. Today as she was playing on song she has played many time, I felt my stomach constrict, my chest tighten and tears spring to the my eyes. I don’t know what she makes of the lyrics, but I heard a call to my motherhood. May I not bind my children with ropes that hold them back.

I love you and I let you go.

Panic at the Disco with This is Gospel.

Seeing In Spite of the Sadness

It’s late today and I’m tired and I feel sad. I feel very, very sad.

As I was thinking about heading to bed I realized that I needed to write today and began wondering why I was feeling sad and how I would describe my sad day.

But as I began thinking about my day, I realized that I had a good day. I got some cleaning done this morning, I spent the afternoon with a friend and her children, I made it to an ad-hoc meeting for a community committee I love, and my husband and I had enough in the budget to go down to Sears and replace out broken microwave.

Sure, there was lots I didn’t do today – like school my kids, strike anything at all off my to do list, adopt a doomed puppy from the local shelter or create world peace.

So then why do I feel sad? And why, if I hadn’t sat down to write this article, would I have gone to bed feeling like it was a sad, and therefore possibly a bad day?

The reason is because I think that my thoughts are facts. I believe everything I think, and my thinking is based on my feelings. But the reality is that feelings are just chemical and electrical signals in my brain that may or may not have any basis in reality.

I am probably feeling sad right now because I am tired, and I have a little bit of a headache, and because my brain is noticing all the things that surround me that need to be done.

But the reality is that I HAD A GOOD DAY. I made connections with people – family, friends, acquaintances and even the two young ladies at the coffee shop who shared a joke with me about carrying a bag of change in a Ziploc baggie!

How I Plan On Changing:

Hello, sadness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again. (with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel!)

You do not define my truth. You are merely an emotion that is passing through my brain and I will feel you and perhaps shed tears, but I will remember this day as one of sharing and enjoying; of a relatively relaxed and calm day connecting with people.

I will remember finding a quarter and passing it to Tim because he hung in cleaning longer than anyone else.

I will remember tasting Edwina’s lovely tuna ciabatta sandwiches and sharing Bengal spice tea in travel mugs.

I will remember a quick meeting with Dave and Kate who I meet with only four times a year, but after six years, feel like good friends.

I will remember joking with the very young girls at the counter about the usefulness of keeping one’s money in a resealable baggie.

I will remember the large cup of warm vanilla steamed milk heating my hands while the cold rain slid down the coffee-shop windows.

I will remember sharing a simple meal of pasta and tomato sauce with family and young friends.

I will remember the ability to go and replace a luxury item like a microwave so I can once again heat a rice bag to warm my cold toes.

I will remember this as a good day.

And there will be sweetness in my sadness.

Stop Blaming Others


I don’t think of myself as someone who blames my woes on others. But recently I’ve been looking at how I communicate with those around me, and I’m beginning to have doubts about this.

I’m not talking about big things, either. Like how we were late for the umpteenth time for Learning Co-op becaase “someone” forgot to set the alarm. Again.

I’m talking about the little ways I interact with my family.

Like, when my son comes and asks me to give him more time on the computer and needs for me to re-log him in to the system that controls our screen time. I say yes but I need to finish whatever I’m working on. He disappears to wait beside the computer. I finish the task I’m doing and move onto another one and forget about the request. My son returns some time later to ask again and I say, “Well if you planned your computer time better, you wouldn’t need all this extra time.”

Or in the evening when my littlest is getting ready for bed. She likes for me to read her a story. I send her upstairs to get all ready for bed, but like any ten year old, she becomes distracted and takes her leisurely time getting herself into her bed. I end up doing other things and forget to go up and read to her. She finally pads down the stairs to ask if I’m coming to read and I say, “Well it’s too late now. You should have gotten ready for bed quicker.”

In both cases I blamed my children for my failure.

In the first case I actually blamed my son wrongly because I was embarrassed I had forgotten to assist him and then annoyed that he required my help at a time which was less than ideal for me (I was in the To-Do-List-Flow!)

In the second instance I accused my daughter of experiencing a consequence that was not her fault. Honestly, as a parent, it was my responsibility to ensure she did her evening ablutions in a timely manner so that I could read to her. Instead I let my own desires get in the way and then blamed her for my failure to parent.

I think in both cases, I felt embarrassed that I had not kept my word and frustrated that the needs of my children were infringing on my own needs.

If I am embarrassed I should just apologize to my children and work hard not make that same mistake. In my case, I need to do things when my children ask – not so that I am at their beck and call, but simply because I forget. If I can’t or don’t want to do it immediately, I should set an alarm.

Secondly, parenting is hard work, and I need to just buckle down and do it – even when I don’t feel like. I always feel better when I do it. And I generally feel awful when I don’t and I just need to keep that thought in the forefront of my mind.

How I Plan on Changing:

1. Pay attention to what I say.

I need to be aware of the words I use, because words are powerful. (This deserves it whole category!)

2. Don’t blame others. Ever.

If someone has done something injurious to me, I need to deal with that following the non-violent communication model. If there is no injury, then I should do what is asked of me and relish in giving the gift of service.

3. If my own needs are going unmet, that is a separate problem.

If I’m feeling overwhelmed by the needs of my children, that is a separate larger issue not to be dealt with in the moment of my frustration. Take note of the situation where I wished to attribute blame and revisit it later in the day to determine what the underlying problem might be and how best to solve it.

4. Apologize and accept responsibility for my actions when I catch myself blaming others.

The blame game does not have a winner and I don’t want to play it, but I know that I will occasionally get sucked into it. When I find myself playing that game, I need to immediately apologize and seek forgiveness. Apologizing for my actions does not negate poor actions from the other party, but poor actions from the other party are something that need to be dealt with as in Step 3.

5. Be kind to myself.

I have forty years of experience and a familial and cultural background that contributes to this way of interaction. I am not going to unlearn it in a few weeks, or months, or maybe even years. But I am strong and resilient and I will keep at this until I get better.

Fall seven times, stand up eight. ~Japanese Proverb

New Directions

Every Tuesday I drive across the city during rush hour. Usually the route is pretty straight forward, but over the last few months there has been a fair amount of construction along the way and with seven or eight people in the car, the tedium of waiting in long lines of traffic after a long day can feel overwhelmeing and frustrating.

So I visited Google maps began looking for other routes to travel home by. Today as I turned down onto one such new route, I thought about how many routes there are through life and how sometimes we just go the way that we always go, without really thinking about it, and then find ourselves sitting, stalled, going nowhere because everything is so backed up.

That’s like my life right now. It feels like I’m sitting in traffic, idling, and I can’t stand it anymore, but there doesn’t seem to be any way out. Everytime I trying moving, I end up getting trapped between a bus and delivery truck. Life is pressing in on all sides and I haven’t got a clue how to get out of the mess that I find myself in.

And so I think it’s time to just get home and then step back and figure out where the new routes might lie. Where am I going? Where to I want to go? How have I been trying to get there? And what might some other ways to go about travelling to that place.