Life is a struggle vs life is a climb

Life is a struggle vs life is a climb

Glancing through Facebook, it’s easy to believe that for most people, life is a series of joyful moments.  Even knowing that social media is a highlight reel of people’s lives, it’s easy to start believing that others are always happy.  
 
In reality, I think of life as more of a climb.  Some days a struggle, but most often a climb. 
 
I’ve had the opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro twice.  The night before the summit push is long, cold, dark, and tortuous.  There are many times I asked myself why I was doing it.  Reaching Uhuru peak at the break of dawn, it all made sense.  When we’re in the struggle, it’s often hard to see the point.  Glancing back in the darkness, the distant glow of headlamps of the other groups weaving their way up the mountain reminded me of how far we’d come, even though we weren’t yet at the top. 
 
We judged our movement by the needs of the group, taking breaks if people were struggling, telling stories, and singing songs when spirits needed to be lifted.  We knew we were going to do this as a team, and that we would leave no one behind.  
 
By husband Joe has led over 7 school groups up Kilimanjaro.  Of the people who attempt to summit Kilimanjaro, about 50% are successful.  With these school groups, after months of training, group work, and team building, the success rate is almost 100%.  What I have learned from this, is that we work best in teams.  The second time I summitted felt harder than the first.  Although the photos look the same, they represent two completely different experiences.  Both of which were preceded by many months of training. 
 
Perhaps life is like this, a climb, punctuated by triumphs and joyful moments.  If I’m not having fun today, that’s okay, as long as I’m content with the longer term journey.  Wherever you are on your journey, we invite you to reach out and join us as we move forward, together.  

Warm wishes,

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

Honouring who we are

Honouring who we are

This week, I devoted time to sort through stuff in my basement with the intention of clearing out junk that has accumulated over the years.  I found a box filled with all of my report cards from elementary school to the end of high school, as well as some journals, creative writing assignments, and art books.  I’ve always believed that life is about constant change, striving to be a better person, growing, adapting and taking on new challenges.  Looking back at my younger self, I’m not so sure that I’ve actually changed.  There’s a consistency to who I’ve always been that’s reflected through the art, writing, and report cards of my younger self.  
 
Striving for personal growth, fighting for social justice, practicing the voice of leadership, and expressing my thoughts through writing and art are themes that have been consistent through my entire life.
 
Even in grade five, my stories were about trauma and redemption.  I wrote about hardship, regrouping, and finding the strength to get life back on track.  In all of these stories, people had to trust in themselves and others in order to move forward.   
 
There are many days in my adult life where I question myself, and wonder if I have what it takes. Looking back, I realize I’m on the right path.  Some days, I’ll do it well.  Some days… not so much.  
 
Despite how much I think I’ve changed, maybe underneath it all we’re not that much different from who we’ve always been.  The gifts we’re born with that make us unique, are there from the beginning.  It’s a matter of how much we honour and develop them that determines whether or not we’re on the right path. 
 
If you’re injured or finding yourself off-track, it’s likely not because you’re a different person now, but rather, that you haven’t yet figured out how to continue being the person you’ve always been.  
 
We’re not just a trauma recovery centre.  We’re also a centre for resiliency and personal growth, for both those who have been injured as well as those who love and support them.  
 
If you’re interested, we still have space in our next caregiver program.  Honour who you’ve always been, but learn to take care of yourself in the process.  

Warm wishes,

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

Snow day

Snow day

Do you remember dreaming of snow days as a child?  I’d cross my fingers in hopes that school would be cancelled.  Snow day.  These two beautiful words evoke excitement and anticipation, with the thought of an unstructured and unsupervised day laying ahead.  Even as we grow older, the freedom associated with snow days persists.  Some of us might make a last-minute rush to the grocery store to stock up on storm chips.  Others might curl up on the couch for Netflix marathons.  
 
Although I know that heavy snowfalls will precipitate massive cancellations in my client schedule, I have to confess… a part of me gets excited.  I’ll have a whole day of no structure, and little supervision.  What kind of trouble can I get myself into, I wonder?
 
Okay, I know I’ll end up using this time to catch up on overdue work.  But it’s incredibly satisfying knowing that I don’t have to. 
 
At Landing Strong, we recognize that snow days aren’t as much fun for everyone.  Driving in such conditions is stressful.  For those of you in first responder roles, we acknowledge that you are putting your coats on as we are coming home and taking ours off.  For this, we thank you.  
 
Snow days are a reminder that the emotional meaning of current events is coloured by the lens of past experiences.  What might be positive for one person could be alarming or stressful to another.  Trauma is like that too. 
 
Trauma isn’t about what happens to us, rather, it’s the personal meaning of the event in the context of our lives that’s important. 
 
That’s why we can’t judge others’ reactions to things when they differ from ours.  We haven’t walked in their shoes, or seen things through the lens of their experiences.  By seeking to understand, we diminish the aloneness of their experience. 

Warm wishes,

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

Being the architect of my universe

Being the architect of my universe

I fully enjoyed my holidays, but have to admit…the thought of returning to work is somewhat daunting. 

I can’t help but think of the large to do list awaiting me.  The tightness in my chest serves as a reminder that I may be expecting too much of myself.  I don’t think I’m alone in this regard.

“I am the architect of my universe,” I remind myself.  “If I don’t like the way something feels, it’s no one’s job but mine to change it”. 

I decided to set aside some time this afternoon and draw up lists.  Get those “to do” things out of my head and onto paper.  I assigned them priorities. The list isn’t actually as long as I thought.  

The beauty of the sun glistening on the lake reminds me that deadlines are arbitrary.  There is really nothing that is urgent: no one is going to die if I don’t get it all done immediately. Instead of things I have to do, I’ll view my tasks as things I can feel good about accomplishing.

Most importantly, I’ll make sure to add a bunch of fun and creative things to my list.  If this is to be my job description for the next year…I want it to be creative, engaging and enjoyable.

I add an extra list…creative hobby ideas, and feel myself lighten.

Changing the world might be important, but so is enjoying the day 🙂 

Warm wishes,

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

Have you met Max?

Have you met Max?

He’s Doug’s dog.  Max may greet you cheerfully when you walk in the door at Landing Strong.  Wagging his fluffy white tail while showing off his fabulous winter sweater.  

Max comes in to work because he hasn’t had an easy time lately.  His lifelong companion Murphy passed away and the adjustment has been hard on him.  Always together, Max suddenly found himself without his best friend.  When I first met Max he was sad and somewhat withdrawn.  Overtime, he’s growing in confidence and is coming out of his bed more often.  The more he interacts, the better he does.

Grief is like that.  Isolating and all encompassing.  It makes it hard to get up and go out…particularly if all we want to do is lie in bed.  The thing is, grief is not meant to be experienced alone.  There’s power and strength in expressing the roar of pain associated with loss.  Pain is meant to be seen and heard…that’s why we cry out.  It’s an invitation for connection…for recovery never happens in isolation.

Extending our thoughts and hearts to each and every one of you who are experiencing the pain of loss.  Know that you are not alone.

Warm wishes,

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

Small flakes big snow

Small flakes big snow

This week I looked out the window and noticed a flurry of tiny snowflakes making their way down from the skies. Weather forecasters were calling for a large storm, and I knew that was going to make for a complicated day at the office.

“Small flakes big snow” one of the clients mentioned on their way out, “get your snow shovels ready!”

I’ve heard that expression before, and wondered about its origins.  Is there some ancient wisdom I’m unaware of that would allow me to be able to better predict my day simply by looking at the size of snowflakes?   A few minutes of google research later, I realize it’s not quite so simple.  Warmer temperatures lead to higher water content, and thus larger flakes.  Colder atmospheric temperature forms smaller flakes because there isn’t as much sticky stuff to hold the flakes together.  So in a way It’s true: if it’s warm outside it isn’t likely to stay snowy for long…it might turn to slushy wet stuff or rain.  Small snowflakes and lower temperatures are a sign that whatever falls is likely to hang around for longer.

It strikes me that change is a bit like the snow.  If we try to do too much too soon (large flakes) it isn’t likely to be lasting.  Small repeated steps in the right direction, however, accumulate over time and can lead to a mountain of change. If we turn the heat up on ourselves too quickly, it’s not sustainable.   If I want to take up running, for example, and start by trying to run 5 km at once, it’s likely too much.  Sure I did it some years ago, but that doesn’t mean my body will recognize that movement now.  A series of small steps, building up over time will increase my stamina so that I’m better equipped to do the run.  Maybe a better goal is to start walking 10,000 steps a day instead.   If I want any positive change to be lasting, easing in with gradual small changes is the way to go.

Keeping in line with our New Year commitment to self-compassion, I will embrace my inner (running) warrior, and enjoy pleasant walks through the snow this winter. Enjoying each small flake as it accumulates into something bigger. Maybe you will too?

Warm wishes,

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