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Becoming a Master of Reinvention

Becoming a Master of Reinvention

Have I told you about my 87 year old father?  He’s a master of reinvention.  He used to be a high school art teacher, but had an opportunity to retire early at 55.  We’ve all seen the Freedom 55 commercials right? It’s supposed to be great.

In his case, though, the transition wasn’t easy.  I don’t think he quite knew what to do with himself.  Accustomed to a highly structured day with many responsibilities, he suddenly found an endless stretch of time during which nothing was happening.  I remember a lot of TV watching and listlessness that we weren’t accustomed to seeing.  Over time, though, he found his way.  He started to watch the “talking heads” as he calls them, financial advisors and news reporters on TV. 
 
He read about the stock markets and investing.  Before you knew it, he was playing both tennis and the stock markets daily, getting super fit and doubling the income he had ever earned as a teacher, all while working only an hour per day.

Now he still plays with the money markets, but as an artist, he also tackles new creative themes each year.  During COVID, he was obsessed with painting waves.  A challenging thing to capture, perhaps it was his way to escape the confinement of isolation.  Each week, my siblings in Toronto would send me photos of his work.  He’s been painting faster and more than ever before, excitedly sharing his creations.

As I lead the Identity and Transition Program, I’m reminded that we all have periods of change and transition. Times when we need to pause from life, and allow ourselves the time to figure things out.  Making sure our next steps are thoughtful, not rushed.  

For many people who’ve committed their lives to the “job,” knowing what to do in their leisure time is not easy.  That’s why we developed our Healthy Living Program, starting this November. It’s virtual, so even if you don’t live close by, you can still join us.  Call early to enroll so we know to save a spot for you.

Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Nova Scotia Thoughtful

Nova Scotia Thoughtful

Have I told you recently how proud I am to live in Nova Scotia?  It’s sentiment I know many of us share: everywhere we look, there are flags and signs celebrating the strength and loyalty of Nova Scotians. 

I’d like to add another word to our vocabulary when describing Nova Scotians: Thoughtful.

Last night I was in IKEA.  I wanted to pick up a large shelf unit and had parked my cart on the warehouse floor, wondering how the heck I was going to get the heavy unit onto my cart.  It really was a two person job. A young couple walked towards me, interested in the same unit.  

“Wait a minute,” the young man calls to me, “You’ve got the wrong kind of cart, I’m going to grab you a flat one.”  

Before I knew it he had dashed to the end of the aisle and grabbed me something more suitable.  Together we easily got it loaded.  The next step was loading this monstrosity into my car.  I parked my shopping cart by the trunk, and was walking around to unlock the door when an older couple walked by.

“Don’t try lifting that on your own,” the man called out.  “Let me give you a hand.  No sense you strainin’ yer’ back.”

I hadn’t even had a moment to ask anyone for help and here this fellow was, making sure things went smoothly.  This is the kindness of small towns and close communities.  I drove away with a warm heart and appreciation for the thoughtfulness strangers. There may be a lot of challenging things going on in the world these days, but I, for one, am happy to be living in the Atlantic Bubble, and super proud to be in Nova Scotia.

Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

The World’s Toughest Race

The World’s Toughest Race

Have you seen this show on Amazon Prime?  I love it.  Teams of four participating in one of the hardest races imaginable, spread out over nine days in untamed jungle, rivers and oceans of Fiji.  

Several teams representing various countries come to compete, the motivation to endure such extreme hardship coming from deep within.  I am consistently impressed by the grit it requires to take on such a challenge.  What amazed me most was who successfully completed the race, and who didn’t.

Spoiler alert:  Those who did the best weren’t necessarily the strongest or fittest. 

What is the ingredient for success you might ask?  

Yes, fitness was important.  So was motivation.  Most importantly, though was the team’s ability to work together, voicing their needs to one another, communicating clearly if they were faltering, and not hesitating to ask for help when necessary.

The teams that were unable to finish the race didn’t seem any less committed, or athletic as the teams that completed the challenge.  Some teams faltered because these folks were amazing at pushing through when they were injured, ignoring the messages their bodies were giving them to slow down and care for themselves.  Ultimately, it was their undoing. Teams that knew how to stop, pause when necessary, and share their concerns were more likely to succeed in the long run.

I can’t help but reflect on how PTSD is an injury of isolation.  It can be incredibly difficult to let others know what is going on, or what you may need.  One of the reasons it can be hard to cross the finish line is that so many try to do it alone.  

Running alone you may go faster, but running in a group you go further.  The world’s toughest race was evidence of that. 

Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

The moment you stare into someone’s car

The moment you stare into someone’s car

Have you ever pulled your car up to a stoplight and glanced over at the driver in the car beside you.  Magically, somehow they know you’re looking at them.  They stare right back.  

Just by looking at someone, you change your relationship with them. 

By looking at something, you change the nature of its existence.

Wayne Dyer reinforced this notion when he wrote:
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.   

When we look at things repeatedly through the same lens, our thoughts and feelings about them don’t tend to change.  By looking at our experiences through the eyes of others, we are offered the gift of being able to see them differently.  Our world expands.

We can’t change what happened to us. We can change the way we view it. 
There’s incredible power in that. 

Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

In search of the perfect cookie

In search of the perfect cookie

The chocolate chip cookie.  What a perfect creation.  Whether it was first made by accident, or a flash of brilliance and loose hand with chocolate, this mouth-watering creation has remained a classic for many years.  

This year, Mackenzie made it a goal to perfect her chocolate chip cookie recipe.  We’ve been fortunate enough to sample her different attempts, each week learning more about the chemistry and subtleties of baking.  I never would have believed that the sprinkling of flaked salt on top of a baked cookie could have such a transformative effect.  Or understand the caramelizing effect of butter versus margarine.  Small changes can indeed, have profound effects on the overall creation.

It’s amazing how often in life we use the same ingredients in a recipe, somehow expecting the outcome to be different.  In many ways, health is similar to a perfect cookie recipe.  It takes a multitude of ingredients, with the quality of each element having a significant impact on the outcome. Recovery from injury isn’t just about individual therapy.  It also involves group work, exercise, balanced nutrition, healthy lifestyle and meaningful, supportive connection with the people who are important to us.  If we’re missing an ingredient, the result won’t be as good.

If your recovery is going slower that you might like, don’t assume you’re doing it wrong.  Maybe you’re exactly on track, but just need to adjust an ingredient or two.

We still have a few spots left in our Mind/Body Health and Recovery group for Caregivers.  This is intended for partners/adult children of those who are injured.  We want to take care of you too.  

For those Veterans and First Responders who have taken a course before, feel free to join our monthly Maintaining Health Program, starting this September.

Identity and Transition is full, but there are still spots left in Healthy Living, starting in November.  Consider planning ahead and enroll in the January Emotions Management Program.

Shake up your recipe.  You may be thrilled with the result.

Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

A waste of lime

A waste of lime

It’s amazing how two people can hear the same thing but interpret it in entirely different ways.

Joe and I were at the cottage recently, and he shared a line from a country music song he’d heard recently that he found amusing.  The song is by Ingrid Andress, entitled “Waste of Lime”.

“That’s disgusting!” I exclaimed.

“What, no it’s not, it’s funny” Joe protested.

“I don’t understand what’s funny about it” I respond, looking at my husband with a tight feeling in the pit of my stomach.

“Well, she’s singing about the fact that she and a fellow shared tequila, and at the end of the evening, he left her, leaving her feeling that it had all been “Just a waste of lime and a waste of time” Joe explained.

“Oh,” I respond, with a sigh of relief “I thought she was singing about the fact that someone had been killed.. but they weren’t  even worth the lime that had been put over the body”

Joe and I started at each other.

How is it possible that something as simple as lyrics to a song could have such different meanings?

Joe immediately understood the lime reference related to drinking. 

After years working at the federal penitentiary and reading through forensic files, the same ingredients had very different meanings for me.

Different experiences, and different lenses for interpreting the world.

It makes a huge difference doing work with people with shared experiences.  They’ve been there.  They get it.  What may seem dark in one context, is just business as usual in the next.  

Come to a place where you’ll be understood, whatever lens you’re viewing the world through.  We’re offering a number of exciting fall programs. Sign up  now in order to avoid disappointment.  Seats are filling quickly.

Warm regards,

Everybody needs a prickle

Everybody needs a prickle

We all need to have a sense of belonging. Even porcupines need to connect.  Did you know that a group of porcupines is called a prickle?  Even if we don’t look approachable, it doesn’t mean we aren’t looking to connect.

I have a friend Kari MacLeod who walks both her cats and dogs through the forest near her house.  Recently, she has had an unlikely new addition to the walking crew: a porcupine has been welcomed into the ranks. 

This porcupine found its prickle with Kari and her pets.

Sometimes we find belonging in unexpected places.  Even if we are coming out of our comfort zone to create it.  Like porcupines, people who suffer from injury are not always seen as approachable.  There might be fears of getting close.  

It’s only after getting to know porcupines better that we realize their quills are only used as a protective measure.  They might look threatening, but underneath it all, they’re just as loveable as any other creature.  Their quills aren’t designed to keep people away, but to protect them from harm.

Many first time group participants have concerns about fitting in, but our shared experiences and common ground connect us in a way that is stronger than any differences that may exist.  Whether you find your prickle with us or somewhere else, we hope you find strength and support within a community. 

Warm regards,

If I just block out the pain…

If I just block out the pain…

I see a lot of people who tell me that they don’t know what they’re feeling.

Years of pain have led them to block off emotion.  An effort at self-protection.

This may be very smart over the short term.  If we are immersed in a situation that is truly intolerable, it can be very adaptive not to feel.  It minimizes suffering. The challenge is, once the threat’s gone, it can be hard knowing how to turn the emotions back on. 

By blocking out the pain, we also block out the good stuff.

The Buddhists understood this basic premise.  On one side of the coin is pain and suffering, on the other…joy and enlightenment.  It’s impossible to have one without the other.  

If we don’t truly feel, we don’t truly love.  

If we haven’t felt in a while, it may be hard at first.  But this too shall pass.  

Recovery is a road that’s not meant to be walked in isolation.  Sharing the load makes the burden that much lighter.

Walk with us.  We’re offering many new programs in the fall: for those who are injured, and those who support them.  We figure out a way to make it possible, even for those who might not have insurance.

Give us a call and we can get your journey started. It’s that simple.

Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Sleepwalking through life

Sleepwalking through life

Many clients believe that change is sudden and dramatic. 

Sometimes it’s like that.  But in my experience, more often, change is more like a gradual awakening, like a bear stirring in it’s cave after a long hibernation.

It’s easy to sleepwalk through our lives. We jump on the commuter train of daily existence, never really fully processing what’s going on around us, internally or externally. 

Change is really about noticing the small stuff: the thousands of tiny thoughts and decisions we make each day that form the fabric of who we are.    

Do I take double cream and triple sugar with my coffee or a smoothie?
Do I walk up the stairs or take an elevator?
Do invite that acquaintance to lunch or sit alone?
Do I tell my partner how much I appreciate them or complain about my day?
Do I criticize or appreciate?

Meaningful change happens through simple choices.  An awakening guided by noticing and intention.  

All of our programs contain elements of mindfulness.  Whether it’s through art, writing, yoga or meditation, together we practice setting our intention.  If it feels like the right time for you, consider joining us for a program this fall. 

Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

The beauty of simplicity

The beauty of simplicity

Summer is often a time of travel and exploration.  This year will be no different.

I won’t be leaving the province, but instead will enjoy a staycation, looking more closely at the wonder of things closer to home.  

Last weekend, Joe and I walked a dark laneway near our cottage, surrounded by hundreds of fireflies dancing in the darkness around us.  It was our own miniature Canada Day celebration courtesy of Mother Nature.  Truly magical.

A few months ago, during a full moon, I managed to capture the above image on my iphone. If I hadn’t happened to wake up in the night, I would have missed it.

Tomorrow, a farmer’s market in Belleveau Cove will have my attention.  I’ve discovered that Tyler from Bear River has the best oregano bread I’ve ever tasted.  Bliss for a mere $5 a loaf.  In a few weeks’ time, we’ll be sea kayaking near Yarmouth, an area of Nova Scotia we’ve little explored.

Sure, there are things that leave me more than a bit uneasy if I allow my thoughts to dwell on them. 

The world is in an unprecedented state of unrest.  

I don’t know when I’ll next get to see my son, or extended family who live in Ontario.  

I just need to speak to my 87 year old father to be reminded of the meaning of resilience.  An artist, he is little perturbed by the state of the world, focussing instead on the incredible landscapes he recreates on canvases.  He understands the secret…  The beauty of simplicity.  Walking his tangled garden, capturing small glimpses of beauty, and finding creative ways of recreating them.  

Way to go dad, thanks for the inspiration!

Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong