Happy birthday to me! And happy birthday to my daughter!

I’ve been absorbed, just a little bit, in feeling changes coming, in looking towards 40, in feeling really angry at my body and how it’s rebelling and resisting my healing efforts, and I’ve also been absorbed in working towards acceptance, focus and being real. Being authentic. Just being myself.

But here’s the thing. I’m not yet 40.

Tomorrow, on Monday, I’m turning 38. I still have two more years to get to 40, and, although I’ve heard more than a few women describe their 40s as the ‘fuck-you-40s’ in gleeful, liberated, joyous terms, I’ve been feeling, as I witness the glowing blossoming fertility of my daughter, a sense of age in myself, a sense of change, and an overwhelm.

The truth is that I’m still young, but comparison is a fucking bastard.

And I’ve been involved in the comparison game as long as I can remember. I felt so old when I was 19 that I didn’t sign up to live in my university residence, even though I longed to, because I thought I was way too old, two years out of high school, to possibly fit in with and live with 17 and 18 year-olds straight out of high school and their parents’ homes.

I realize now how ridiculous that was. But it’s the way I felt. So powerfully felt that I limited and changed my choiced because I felt such a depth of not-fitting-in agedness, despite my youthfull 19 years.

Because of this, I’m so glad I’m 38. So glad.

I do in fact feel younger now than I ever have – because mentally I felt tired and old when I was young (having chronic fatigue in my teens and 20s didn’t help that) but now, as I get older, I become lighter and freer and care less about judgments (both external and internal).

I so look forward to my own ‘fuck-you’40s’. They can’t get here fast enough – in part because I am still not quite free of my own internal judgments and thoughts.

And so.

I am about to turn 38 (on Monday). I’m 5’10” tall (which I’ve always loved), and I’m mothering a magnificent young woman, 5’11” tall, who is about to turn 14 (on Tuesday).

My mind/selfhood feels so humbled. I can’t even understand how this flickering girl goddess ever came from my own body, how she could ever ever have been hoisted up by me, could ever have been tiny enough to be held in my arms, and I also can’t understand how I am still not yet 40.

My daughter has, in her bedroom, pinned to the wall, a photo of myself and my mother. I’m young, sitting, in a yellow shirt, with my tiny tiny mom (5’3″) standing behind me, doing my hair. We’re both looking down.

I’m getting ready for my high school graduation, prom, and my mom is putting my fine flyaway brown hair (which I got from my dad) into a sweet little updo, her thick dark hair (which I so envied) hanging down around her. We look so similar. In that picture I’m 17 and my mom is only 36. She’s one year younger than I am now, and this blows my mind.

It’s the season for being humbled. A funny bittersweet sort of stage I’m in with my daughter, highlighted by that picture on the wall.

My mom was smaller than me, I was almost a grown woman, and now I’m smaller than my daughter, and she’s almost a grown woman.

Not yet 40. Neither my mom in that picture, nor I now, nor yet my daughter. How DO these things happen? Time, inching so slowly by when I was solo mothering an infant, a toddler, a child, feeling like the days would never ever end, and there were so many moments that felt like pure drudgery – diapers, accidents, tears (all of us), and now here I am, and it’s all new and different again.

It’s all so beautiful.

And so. The only thing that makes sense to me in this world is to write and share what it is that I experience, as I experience it.

Right now, it’s this.

I start a new full-time carpentry dayjob on Monday. Thank fucking god for a little more ease paying the bills.

This life of barely getting by, working so hard to pay the bills, working so hard to get ahead (by which I only mean this: paying off student loans, paying the basics (transportation, food, shelter, essentials), it’s a reality when you don’t own your own home, didn’t buy it 10 or 15 years ago, and prices are skyrocketing, and almost everyone I speak to in Canada, even two income households with good wages, are mostly only just getting by.

Everyone, for the most part, is really trying hard to do the right thing, to get by, to get ahead.

Here’s the thing. When we’re all struggling, sometimes it feels like there’s a loss of empathy and compassion. “Well, I’ve got it tough too, so I don’t want to pay attention to the ways in which your struggles are actually even more challenging than mine.”

It feels too painful. We’re all wanting a hand up, and yet we’re all still a step ahead of someone else with even more difficulties.

It’s almost like a hardship game of one-upmanship.

And I confess, I can play it better than most. I get pissed off when people that coparent their children claim to be single parents because they don’t have a clue what it’s like to actually parent 100% of the time with no help and limited financial assistance (child support). I get pissed off too when friends complain about their generally very supportive partners, because I don’t have that. Oh yes. The judgment.

As if I like being able to say it’s really tough for me, because my daughter’s father has only spent 11 days with my daughter in her entire life, and I haven’t yet found a beloved to share my, and my daughter’s life with.

But the thing is, it’s true.

Things are tough for a lot of us, and there’s a lot of shame around sharing, being honest, opening up. We’ve all been raised in this North American dream of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and getting ahead and succeeding through sheer force of will.

It doesn’t always happen that way, even when we have class and various kinds of privilege on our side. It feels like we all are somehow forgetting that there are structural issues, gender inequities, legal systems that favour certain kinds of situations and people over others, as if these are issues to be bootstrapped out of as well. When in fact these are issues that require societal and community effort to change deeply set attitudes.

I find in situations like this it’s easy to start to freeze up, to start to shut down, to shut other people out, to claim hardship as an excuse for coldness, regardless of where we are on the spectrum of challenges.

I’ve been guilty of this. The choice to freeze up and shut down because the reality of feeling my own pain, and feeling the pain of others feels so excruciatingly overwhelming.

Except. Except, except, except, my entire life’s work has come down to this: unfreezing.

My own pain of being so highly sensitive, and coping by shutting down and freezing up and numbing myself only led to chronic fatigue, intense sadness and grief, and such emotional and spiritual pain that I started stepping into my pain, learning how to facilitate other people’s growth through their pain, and it’s become my life’s work.

Helping people feel, helping people reconnect with their bodies, helping people tap into their creative flow. It’s what I do. This requires feeling, noticing and not turning away (even when it feels more comfortable to do so.)

And so, if I return to my birthday. And my new job. I’m working as a carpenter’s apprentice. It’s a man’s world for sure. There are still only 3% women in the construction industry. There is still a lot of prejudice.

I’m fortunate, I’ve found an employer who was apprenticed by a woman, a man who believes in quality, and passion for what you do, who believes in safety, in teaching, a man who also has steady work for at least a year. Hurrah!

But the main reasons I’m choosing to do two jobs right now – this work of helping women get unfrozen, unstuck, and also carpentry – these reasons are nuanced. Not entirely straightforward.

I want a steady paycheck for a while. Absolutely. But, I also want to do this unfreezing work. And there is a synergistic alchemy that happens for me when I combine these two types of work. It’s an alchemy that doesn’t happen when I only devote myself to teaching and one-on-one work, or combine it with in-person hands-on healing work. And it definitely has not happened when I’ve taken on supplemental work that involves administration or office work or retail work.

The truth is this: I don’t think I could do this unfreezing teaching online work without doing carpentry – routines and process and patience have always been challenging for me, and it hasn’t been until I started working in construction that I started learning the building blocks of building (literally) but also figuratively – the building and process and steps it takes to create this kind of work in the world too….

Before I started carpentry work, I didn’t know how to make mistakes and encounter frustrations, and stick with the process and follow it through. I’d get so overwhelmed I’d find shortcuts (which weren’t sustainable), I’d doubt myself, I’d feel like a failure.

However, because of the lessons I’ve been learning through carpentry, I’m becoming steadier, more patient, more able to accept that mistakes will happen, no matter how careful you are, but the most important thing is how you’ll fix the mistakes, and carry on. Because everything is fixable, and there is nothing to do but continue on with the task at hand (even when you/I want to shrivel up and die from the shame of not being ‘perfect.’)

My new job starts on my birthday. And Tuesday is my daughter’s birthday.
New numbers: 14 and 38.

I’m sitting here, writing this on a Saturday evening – my daughter has gone to the movies with her classmates, after a fun dinner of pizza and treats and giddy 14 year old laughter filling my house (so wonderful) and all I want to do is WORK – to rule the world with my online healing-wholing-unfreezing-women work.

You guys. I’m driven. I’m so driven, in a way that I’ve never been before. In a focused clear and spacious way. In a way that feels so good.

I’m about to leap into a world of radical focus. A world of limited time, deep risk taking, audaciousness.

I don’t know how I’m going to do it, except I can’t not do it. I really can’t not do it. And I KNOW things are about to fly off the hook. Change is coming. This time I’m single-mindedly courting it, instead of fearfully embracing/resisting it.

Much appreciation, much love, and with a roaring fire that can’t be quenched (I have visions of what my life will look like a year from now – and it involves a great deal more freedom, money, and emotional/intellectual and physical stimulation than I’ve had for a long while – holy fuck how scary).

And please know – I’ll look out for each of you too – you only have to state what you need, and ask for support. And I hope the writing I do, the courses I offer, my upcoming podcast, that it all serves to support and teach and inspire, and that if it speaks to you, you’ll step into the fear and thrill of change, and sign up for these journeys with me.

And for you? Are there ways in which you’re hunkering down? Getting ready to get steady, but are there also ways in which you’re gathering the steam to become radically focused, intent and single-minded?

I’m genuinely curious,

Janelle

ps – because it’s my birthday, I’m offering two discounts on upcoming courses. Please see below (redeemable only this week, my birthday week).

Connecting Through Touch: October 30th, Duncan, BC

This day-long in-person workshop is one I love teaching, but it usually only happens once a year.

Learning how to receive sensation and pleasure through our skin, and our sense of touch, is an uncommon experience, and this is a safe and gentle space in which to connect and learn.

And, because this is my birthday e-mail, here’s a special deal: if you’re in the area, and you want to join in, instead of $145 to join me on Sunday October 30th, you can join in at a discount (my age – $38 dollars off!) = $107.

Paying it forward: giving back in small and creative ways

Fun ways to make a difference, even with just a $5 dollar donation.

1: My landlords Bob and Helen Nation leave today for Tanzania, to work on their heartfelt project, one that has been over 5 years in the making, of bringing potable water to remote villages in Tanzania.

Although I sometimes feel uncomfortable with development work that ignores the very real plights that local communities also face in my corner of the world, Bob and Helen volunteer everywhere they live, always contribute to their communities, and also, because of their lifetime of overseas work, have relationships that extend all over the globe.

The work they do to bring clean drinking water to entire communities, while keeping it community based, and stretching their fundraising dollars and personal savings as far as possible, is deserving of promotion. Even $5 helps, and if that’s too much, sharing this link widely is also SO helpful.

2: Be the Bridge. Monday Night Workshop’s On One Dance Studio in the Bay Area is creating an environment of creativity and safety, diversity and fun. A place where anyone, regardless of age or skill level, can learn something new and find joy in dance.

3: Take Root Cafe is a newly created non-profit community cafe in Kirksville, MO. Their mission is to alleviate hunger and promote health by offering nourishing, high quality, local food on a pay-what-you-can basis.