A couple of years ago I attended an empowerment for women seminar that focused on teaching the power of positive thinking. I remember learning how the power of negative thoughts outweighed the power of positive thoughts and that you really had to work hard to bring positivity to the forefront of your mind. It was really challenging for me to change my way of thinking. I have a good girlfriend who is the queen of positivity and seeing the bright side of things comes very easy to her. I admire this in her, as it certainly wasn’t easy for me. I have a tendency to wallow; it’s a fairly major character flaw, one that I was hoping to change. To help get me out of my funks of negativity I would force myself to think about happy memories. Gradually I would manage to avoid wallowing altogether. You know how when you’re watching the news and they have twenty terrible stories and one warm and fuzzy story? Well the goal in all of this was to make the warm fuzzy story my focus, which as you can imagine with the torrent of negativity, isn’t easy.
One of the memories that I would use to replace the cringe-worthy ones from my formative years was of one when people truly surprised me. Aren’t those the best kind of stories, the kind where the people who you have a somewhat terrible view of are redeemed, even if it’s just for a moment?
I was in grade eight gym class and we were practicing our track and field skills, more specifically the high jump. Now there’s something you should know about me first, no one, at any point in my life would describe me as athletic. I enjoyed sports and liked playing but I was usually picked last and was never all that good. I think I still have nightmares about people fighting over whose team I had to be on because no one wanted me. As you can imagine with that sort of reputation with regards to my athletics, gym class was usually full of much misery. So back to the high jump, everyone was taking their turns running and sailing over the bar, well everyone except me. It was nearing the end of class and I still hadn’t managed to make it over the bar even on its lowest setting but I was bound and determined to do so. The other kids were all standing at the other end of the gym impatiently waiting for me to finish. I don’t remember how many tries I had but I do remember my teacher saying this was my last one. I remember running just as fast as I could, pushing my body up in the air just as high as I could and I managed to make it over with about a millimetre to spare. I shocked myself! I had done it! I must have shocked everyone else too because the other kids in class actually cheered for me. These kids that didn’t particularly like me and generally treated me horribly were all smiling and patting me on the back. I had surprised them and they had in return surprised me. At times when the world is feeling extra bleak and I’m struggling to stay positive, I remind myself with this story that even horrible people are capable of kindness sometimes. Even if you have to surprise it out of them.
Yesterday I went traipsing through an oasis jungle to get to a beautiful Wadi and I got to see some of the most breath taking views this planet has to offer. I went off-roading with friends up a mountain side on steep, narrow, winding roads. I put my trust in strangers to help us find the wadi safely. I held on tightly to Momma’s hand while we navigated the winding steep stairway down to the wadi. I cringed every time a palm leaf would scrape against my body, making me think of all the creepy crawlies around me. I went completely and utterly out of my comfort zone and I was rewarded beautifully for it.
Since leaving the comfort of our home and life in Canada, I’ve continuously put myself in uncomfortable situations. Allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to establish new friendships, being scared to drive on my own but doing it anyways, flying across the world on my own with our dog, and jumping into a vehicle with my new friends for a grand adventure. All these moments began with me being very uncomfortable and all finished with a sense of awe and wonder. Not just in seeing and experiencing new things but also a sense of awe at my own courage in these moments.
Now I’m not foolish enough to believe that every time I step out of my comfort zone I will be rewarded with wonder and awe. Sometimes things will go incredibly wrong. Like for example the first time I went to a beauty salon here.
I had a really hard time when we first arrived. We were staying in a rough place, infested with cockroaches as it was the only hotel that allowed dogs. I was too scared to drive but knew I needed to get myself out of the roach motel for a bit. I made up my mind and went to a beauty salon in the building next to our hotel. I decided to get a conditioning treatment for my hair and I ended up being there for four hours. The ladies spent the time talking about how straw like my hair was and stared at me like I was an alien. The hairdresser used an old eyebrow brush to apply the treatment and they had to run outside to fill up a cistern for the sink to rinse it out as they didn’t have running water. Then they blowed my crazy curly hair dry with a blow dryer and brushed it out. My hair was horribly frizz-tastic.
When I got back to the hotel with my crazy hair and laughed with Alex, I knew it was still worth it. I may not have had the experience I was hoping for but I knew that this little step out of my comfort zone was leading me to take bigger ones in the future. Uncomfortable moments that lead to moments full of wonder and awe and beauty that takes your breath away. I would say that the frizzy hair was worth it.
Photo credit for the above photo goes to my lovely friend and 4×4 queen Gemma ❤
Last night I went to a ladies evening to meet and mingle with the local ladies in the expat community. It was a lovely evening, lots of laughs and good conversations. At the end of the night when I had returned home I looked at some pictures that were taken and I stood out, being so much bigger and taller than the rest of the women there. I had a bit of a moment looking at the pictures and my old insecurities started to arise. That word ‘big’ it’s like a knife to my heart every time someone says it to me. I creates an immediate response of shame, like I have to apologize to the rest of the world for taking up more space than them.
I didn’t like the response I had to this word so I took some time for reflection. Some time to figure out what the word ‘big’ truly means to me.
Recently my father was speaking of the gorgeous plus sized model Ashley Graham and he said “oh that big girl!” I cringed and my response to him was that you should never, ever call a woman big! He didn’t seem to understand why big was so bad. After all he married my Mom and she is a gorgeous tall woman herself and he just adores her. So why then, can my father look at my mother and say “you’re a big, beautiful, brilliant woman” and mean every word with love and all my Mom and I hear is BIG?
I suppose I could start blaming the media, the fashion industry, movies and television but blame doesn’t solve anything. What I need, is to change my inner narrative. I want to hear the word big being used to describe a woman and think, that woman is powerful, she owns her space, she is BIG and she is exactly the way she is supposed to be.
I want to feel that way and I know with some hard work it’s possible. There is great power to be had from affirmations and positive reinforcement. So although now it’s a struggle; I know that someday in the near future I will look at a picture of myself standing tall and owning my space and think, Catherine you’re a BIG woman, and I will smile.