Skip to content

Category: Personal Journey

Journal type entries about my personal life.

My Perimenopause Journey

When I was 11 years old I became obsessed with puberty and the transition to adulthood. I devoured every book and pamphlet on the subject. Thanks to the flowery text from feminine hygiene product companies I had high hopes for puberty. I thought it would lead me to an immediate state of confidence and equanimity. I was deeply disappointed. Instead, like most, my teen years were turbulent.  Pimples, growth spurts, allergies and so many feelings. Thank you hormones, you powerful substances produced by endocrine glands, for all that you did and continue to do to make life so confusing and exciting.

I’ve come to appreciate my puberty experience so much more now that my body is changing again. Yep, I’m in perimenopause and it’s throwing me for a loop and has for a few years now. Thankfully, I have my adult brain and access to much better reading material to help me make sense of it all. I feel like I am going through puberty once again, but with the wisdom of years by my side.

I’ve been posting a fair bit about it on Instagram and I’ve had many women reach out to me to commiserate as well as ask me questions. I have a whole lot of questions of my own so I decided to write a little more in depth about my personal experiences here at my blog.

I’ve been purposefully and diligently doing my research to get a better sense of what the science says and what I’ve found is a lot of inaccurate information (mainly that perimenopause IS menopause – when they are two very different states), lots of Big Pharma hype, and thousands of infommerical type blogs selling supplements. It’s pretty depressing.

Thankfully, I also found a few easy to understand well-researched resources. They match my way of thinking about this time in my life, this experience – that it’s normal and natural and that the attitude you have about it, the way you frame it, will greatly affect the way you experience it. While I’ve long been on the path of healthy living, based on what I’ve discovered I’m more determined than ever to focus on plant based, low fat high fibre eating, daily movement and stress reduction. It truly does seem to me the key to vitality through out the lifespan – during all phases. Pharmaceutical hormones may be in my future, but for the time being I’m looking to my daily choices to create a high standard of living.

A little background and a little catch up…

My perimenopause journey began a few years ago. Shortly after I got sober (December 27th 2013) I started noticing some physical symptoms (shorter menstrual cycles and the occasional night sweat) and at age 45 they began to intensify. No surprise there in terms of timing, but it was also when I became quite stressed because of my move to a new city, new job and greater role in my family’s life. Even without the perimenopause symptoms I would have wanted to make some improvements to my life, but the peri symptoms made my research and lifestyle choices all the more pressing. I’m starting to get a handle on things in recent weeks so it’s the perfect time to focus on blogging about all the things I’m learning and to bring my readers on my journey.

I especially want to reach out to women who are in the thick of it, but this journey is also one for younger women who are hoping to be well prepared for the experience and those who are past it. We can all learn from one another. Remember, it’s like puberty but with the wisdom of our age.

3 Comments

If you could give all human beings one virtue which would you choose?

Tolerance of our differences – without the desire to change others or want them change to be like us.On a personal level – with our families, friends, lovers, and significant others – this would save us a lot of frustration and heartache. Can you imagine never fighting about how to place the toilet paper roll? ;-)

And on an international level I think if we were more tolerant we’d avoid so much political strife and greatly improve the living conditions of others (1.44 billion people live in extreme poverty and subsist on an average of US $1.25 or less a day).

I think a greater virtue might be empathy (to appreciate the feelings of others) and compassion (sympathy for the suffering of others), but I think it begins with tolerance of our differences.

I feel I’m still in the early stages of my own journey in increasing my tolerance of differences. I’m thankful that I’ve been exposed to people and experiences different than me and my own. I think without this exposure I’d have a small world view and be stuck in a scarcity and fearful mindset. I’m thankful that I’m curious and excited when some sense of newness is introduced in my life. I think using curiosity as a key to tolerance is a pretty powerful thing.

What virtue do you think we humans need more of? What virtues do you have and would like to further nourish in yourself? At the end of the day these virtues do begin with ourselves.

Leave a Comment

The Big Tattoo

It came to pass. It did not come to stay.

This statement lives on the right side of my torso. It was beautifully painful to get. People with large tattoos in tender spots know what I’m talking about. The experience – it’s a special kind of high.

I got it in the fall of 2011. I was about 18 months into my healing journey. I was still in a place of deep pain, but I was trying new things (like holistic nutrition classes) and reading a lot of Buddhist inspired teachings (like Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha and When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times). I was discovering who I was and what I valued. I was also drawn to toxic people and dark, dramatic situations. There was a whole lot of two steps forward one step back going on.

Forward steps included exploring impermanence – the Buddhist belief that existence is always changing, always evanescent. This brought me much relief. It helped me reframe my suffering. It allowed me to accept that how like joy is not a constant state, neither is anguish.

This tattoo is quite clear in it’s message to myself. That emotional states will change just as the material aspects of life will change. That the people in your life may come and go, live and die. My tattoo is a meditation of sorts on loss that makes me feel grounded to the reality of constant change and experience equanimity no matter what life throws at me.

A Silly Story About This Tattoo

One time I was with some new acquaintances – a couple. I clicked with her, but not so much with him. I think he was not very bright in terms of emotional intelligence or vocabulary. At one point we were talking about tattoos. He said he wanted to get one along the lines of live hard, die young. I mentioned what I had and when he heard about my larger piece he looked puzzled and said he didn’t understand what it meant. His girlfriend explained it to him and then a light went off for him and he said he would get that one too.

I wasn’t impressed before and I certainly wasn’t impressed then.

I bumped into them another time and he told me he got a tattoo saying no regrets.

PS – Here is a lovely post by Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) about impermanence because I have to leave you with some optimism not cynicism.

2 Comments

Vitality

The third of my small tattoos is a V for Vitality. It’s on the back of my neck – the nape. I like that word, but I digress.I desire vitality inside and out.  I want to be vibrant in mind, body and spirit. I want to be active and strong. I think this comes from a general desire to age well, to age gracefully, to age with dignity.  And that in part is because my father died of colon cancer when he was 54 and I was 24.

He was diagnosed at age 49 and died 5 years later. He went through all kinds of treatments – traditional and experimental. He fought hard. I know he was doing it for himself and for his love for me and our family. I want to live with wellness to honour him, my family and myself.

But I saw what cancer does to the body and the mind. I want to avoid it – very badly. Prevention and early screening are my tools. Not 100% guaranteed of course.

I was already a nutrition geek (had been since I was in elementary school) and fascinated by physical wellness science. Seeing my father edge then leap towards disease and decay inspired me to have a different future.

So I embrace vitality. I seek it out. I create it. I am active in my pursuit. I use all the wellness tools available to me. I focus on getting enough sleep and eating a whole foods diet. I have never smoked and I have quit drinking. I meditate and practice loving kindness and gratitude. I surround myself with people I love and that love me.

This is my path to vitality.

Leave a Comment

Goals With Soul 2017

The Desire Map is a workbook, a guide, a process.

It’s a tool to help you get crystal clear on how you want to feel and take action to nourish and embody your Core Desired Feelings in all that you do.

For the past few years on around New Year Day I revisit my Core Desired Feelings. I take out my old Desire Map workbooks and personal journals and look back. I reflect on the actions I took and the feelings I felt. Then I look ahead at how I want to feel and the goals (with soul) that I want to attain in the coming year. For me it’s part of my evolving journey of getting in touch with what I desire and making it happen on my terms. Even more so it’s my foundation. The process supports my goal of living with intention, vitality, reslience and equanimity.

There are many ways you can tap into The Desire Map. Some facilitators provide online coaching. Others in-person workshops. Some people explore the material on their own in one long night or over the course of a few weeks. It’s quite a flexible programme.

With that in mind, Danielle LaPorte (the creator of The Desire Map) is offering a condensed audio + workbook course, designed for crossing the threshold of a New Year. This is a rich and useful process. Danielle will walk you through a customized New Year Desire Map process with prompts to glean the lessons from the past and set Goals + Intentions that nourish you through 2017.

BONUS: If you purchase the Goals With Soul 2017 programme via my Affiliate Link I will offer you a 30-minute check-in call about your work with The Desire Map at the end of January.

Want to get super clear on how you want to feel for 2017? I bet ya’ – you do. Wonderful you.

All my best,

Seska

PS Want to get the programme for yourself and gift one to a friend (30% off)? Click Here

1 Comment

Intention

Let me start with a little reflection on decluttering…

I started my decluttering in 2011. I think I was ahead of the trend. By a smidge anyway. I had a tonne of boxes to go through because of my separation and move to my solo life apartment. I was depressed and anxious. I wanted to feel better about myself, my stuff and my space. I happened upon the book Magical Housekeeping: Simple Charms and Practical Tips for Creating a Harmonious Home by Tess Whitehurst and used it to clear up my space both physically and emotionally. It might not be the book for everyone, but I learned a lot from that book. It started me on my road to minimalism and simple living.

It also got me shaking maracas I got in Cuba during a solo heart healing vacation and burning sage to move energy around. I love doing both of these things.

There is something to be said about doing things with intention. Doing things with intention makes action more meaningful. It makes change more likely to stick. it sets a foundation and focus on how you want to feel and what actions you need to take to get you there. It helps you get things done, stay present and optimistic.

I think it’s a very powerful thing.

I have a tattoo of the letter I on the inside of my right wrist. It stands for INTENTION.

Leave a Comment

Resilience

I have four tattoos. Three of which are small. I got them on the same day. They were a part of my healing after the end of my marriage. One of them is the letter R on the inside of my left wrist. It stands for Resilience.

Here are few of my favourite quotes about resilience.

She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails. – Elizabeth Edwards

If all you can do is crawl, start crawling. – Rumi

You drown not by falling in the river, but by staying submerged in it. – Paulo Coehlo

Leave a Comment

When you’re down what do you do to feel better?

The way I feel better is by acknowledging that I feel bad and I don’t try to deny it, fight it or turn it into something different.

This technique has had such impact in my life. Likely my most powerful strategy for my mental and physical health.

I say physical because as I age I want to mitigate the physical consequences of stress. My body doesn’t bounce back like it used to if I feel muscles tightening in my back, shallow breathing or acid reflux. It’s never too late to address this part of our human experience!

Here is what I do:

When I feel down I take time to recognize that I’m feeling trapped by a difficult feeling or negative thought and then I acknowledge the feelings without trying to change them. Sometimes I whisper to myself “yes and this too” as a way of accepting the feelings instead of denying or fighting them. Then I investigate the feelings and where they live in my body. I often find they are more nuanced than I initially think them to be. I try to get precise with the language I use to describe the feeling. I do this examination gently and with loving kindness. I ask myself what do I need in this vulnerable moment? What am I missing? And then I answer it as best I can with nourishing statements. This process helps me centre myself and feel more at ease with myself and what is going on in the moment.

This technique is called the RAIN technique. I discovered it in the work of meditation teacher Tara Brach and it has done me a world of good.

Now this is mostly a mental exercise. I also believe in the power of changing your physical state in order to change your mental state. If I feel emotionally or intellectually stuck, I like to move around. At home that might be doing some jumping jacks, pushups or dancing like no one is watching (great because no is). Out in public it might be walking to another place in a room and looking out the window or going somewhere private to shake it all out. Sometimes I wiggle my toes in my shoes and then wiggle my hands in my lap.

 

And when all else fails there is this kitten video on YouTube. ;-)

PS For a bunch of reasons I wasn’t taught how to acknowledge my feelings and manage stress, conflict and challenges in a healthy way. When these things occurred I would deny any difficult/negative feelings and then they would resurface in weird and ugly ways. You can read a more in-depth exploration here.

Leave a Comment

Do you live more in the past, present, or future?

I think at this point in my life I’m focused on the present in ways I wasn’t able to before. I meditate and have a mindfulness practice. This has helped clear away much mental clutter. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about the past and the present much of the time. I seriously do. ALL THE TIME!

I have a nostalgic and romantic streak so I like to think back about the pleasant experiences of childhood – like family picnics and adventures in nature with friends. I like to tap into the excitement and infatuations of adolescence and my early 20s – like discovering interesting pieces of world knowledge and figuring out my sense of self and values. I also look back with a sense of regret though when I catch myself doing this I change things up. I bring loving kindness to the younger version of myself. This is a very healing practice and I’m so glad I discovered it.

As for the future, I do worry. I’m 45 years old. I’m about half way through my life – if accidents or illness doesn’t strike. I want my future to be filled with connection and purpose. I fear poverty and poor quality of life. I want to live with a sense of stability and security. I want to be well.

I also like to dream about the future. To ponder about what it will look like. These dreams can easily turn into post-apocalyptic nightmares so I need to step back and remember that I can only control my own actions and the more I focus on my Core Desired Feelings and acting accordingly the more resilient I will be regardless of what the future holds.

And this brings me back to the present moment (by way of the past).  I’m reminded of my favourite yoga pose – Warrior 2.  A yoga teacher I had some 15 years ago would describe the position as having us being planted firmly in the present with one arm stretching back to the past and the other stretching towards the future. This pose has become one of the keys to my sanity.

The more I action I take – mental, emotional and physical – to ground myself in the present moment the more I feel content with each breath and step I take towards to the future and the past are but gentle reminders of personal evolution and growth.

 

Leave a Comment

A Revelation

What I am about to share is a very big deal for me. It’s something I have not shared with anyone online.

Big breath. OK, here goes.

This photo isn’t an accurate representation of how I look. At least not now, in person, on a day to day basis.

seska lee headshot 2

You see, that is because in the fall of 2013 I cut off most of my hair and in the spring of 2015 I stopped dying it. And during all that time if I was to go on stage for a burlesque show or take a selfie for the Internetz I wore a wig. This is what I actually look like today.

2016-08-29 17.48.42-2

Let the age-ist opinions and mysoginistic judgements of strangers and trolls begin!

Why I Cut My Hair

I wanted a change. After having pretty much the same look for 16 years I felt a strong compulsion to change things up. While I was actively performing on my personal website I never changed my hairstyle very much. I always had long hair with bangs. There were many times I wanted to cut my hair, but because I didn’t want to deal with the backlash I would get from my public fanbase I didn’t. Yes, I had concerns that playing with my look would affect my bottomline. Legitimate concerns because fans and members always had an opinion about my appearance. Back then, complaints that I grew out my bangs or cut my hair was not something I felt I could handle. It was a fear thing.

When the site started to die a slow death because people stopped paying for adult content I felt a little more confident testing out a significant trim. In August of 2009 I bobbed my hair. It was about 6 months before my separation and I recognize now that it was an expression of a greater desire for change and a sign of things to come.

I did not feel good in my own skin so I got a haircut. Classic! After the separation I grew it back as I had cowlicks that made a bob impossible to keep straight, but deep down I knew another cut was in my future.

This desire, I think, was about figuring out who I was without my husband, without my website, without my objectification. I wanted to separate myself from my sex work which was a big part of my identity but no longer served me as it had. I wanted some discretion and boundaries in my life.

It took much therapy and personal development work for me to come to terms with it all. Slowly but surely I began to feel confident in claiming some privacy for myself AND recognizing that a part of me would always be up for public consumption. By that time I was ready to have the hair I wanted and I got a significant cut inspired by Michelle William’s look in the Louis Vuitton ads. This was in the fall of 2013 – a few months before I had my last drink. No coincidence, I think!

Later after performing in The Graduate in the fall of 2014 I wanted it even shorter so I went with pixie style similar to Winona Ryder circa 1997. I am told after certain roles actresses often cut their hair. I guess that makes me an actress. ;-)

So Why the Wigs?

If people meet me while I am wearing my glasses and then see me without them, they do not recognize me. Similarly, if they meet me first in person and then see my photos, they don’t recognize me in the pics. I have that kind of face, I guess. Easily altered based on a few little tricks.

So when I sought out to have more boundaries and privacy I decided to capitalize on my chameleon nature. I thought wearing wigs when I was in Seska mode (which was mostly at burlesque shows and on social media) and going without in my day to day life would help me ease myself into a more separate life.

And it worked. People didn’t recognize me. It was great. I got to have a strong sense of separation between the consumable me and the me that belongs just to myself for myself. I’m not sure if people outside of the public eye understand how precious this is. It’s been such a gift of relaxation. Most definitely something I’m glad I experienced even though it has been somewhat convoluted.

Oh, and the bonus of wearing wigs has meant saving 1-2 hours of prep time and having healthy hair once again. But that doesn’t make for such a dramatic story. ;-)

Why I Stopped Dying My Hair

I started going grey in my early twenties. At first it was just a few hairs and then by the time I was 28 I needed to get it dyed every 6 weeks if I wanted to cover it up. By 35 it was every 4 weeks. This was expensive and I felt it was adding too much to my chemical load and could be avoided. For about 2 years I chatted with my colourist about how to go grey. Finally I decided to buzz it off and just start fresh.

I ended up loving it.

Ever since I have gone short AND grey I receive daily compliments on my hair. I have a confidence I never had before and a sense of freedom from the rules of beauty that are so often imposed on us by media and the beauty industry.

So Why the Big Reveal?

I have been itching to share more of myself once again. I want to blog more. I want to document more. I want express more. I want to connect more. The wigs were an amazing protective tool when I needed them, but I do not feel I need them anymore. At least not in the same way. Now they are just getting in the way. My way.

I must say I feel quite light and free since I have decided to get this out into the open. It’s exciting.  In terms of burlesque, the wigs will remain. They are amazing elements of my acts and help me inhabit a character. I absolutely love them and could not do burlesque without them. But now you can expect many more selfies and such on Instagram. I will still post food and cat pics, but there will be more spontaneous me!

And now a little walk down memory lane of how I went from long hair to short….

Me with shortish dyed hair.

2013-11-22 01.09.03

2014-03-31 18.07.16

March 2014

2014-06-17 11.52.44

Then with the dyed pixie.

2014-11-14 14.08.23

Even though I had a horrible flu I got dressed up to see a live taping of The Social.
I am such a nerd for this show!
November 2014

2014-11-14 14.10.31-1

Now I get to share the pic I have of me and the ladies!!!
November 2014

Then with the buzz cut. There was still a bit of dye left.

2015-04-23 17.34.05-1

April 2015

Finally all natural.

2015-07-05 07.53.19

July 2015

2015-09-16 12.04.55

September 2015

A big thank you to Damon and Andrea of Salon Adikt in Montreal for all the amazing times I had in the salon. Damon is a god of colour – so creative, professional and precise! And there is no one like Andrea in terms of expertise for cuts, styling and up-dos. With her years of experience, appreciation for classic styles and trends, and keen eye for detail I knew I was always in good hands for each and every look. I was with them for 9 years and I highly recommend them both!

12 Comments

I Am Multi Passionate

I love love love this new video from Marie Forleo. She answers a viewer’s question on how QUESTIONS. Sounds quite a bit like someone I know – me!

Have a look and then come back. Below I will break down my journey as a multipassionate woman for you. There are some key threads that hold it all together even when I am mixed up with fears and hopes. I think it will give a little insight into how my seemingly unrelated life choices do make sense. And if you are struggling with being multipassionate yourself, I hope you find it helpful too.

My Foundation

My foundation for my multiple passions is made up of books and my love learning and knowledge.

Ever since I was a little girl (about age 9 or 10) I have been interested in nutrition and wellness. I think it all started when I found an eating guide created by the Canadian government in the 1960s at a garage sale. I read it over and over. I remember it so well. Later when deciding my next steps after high school I wanted to pursue holistic nutrition and naturopathy, but was discouraged by my parents as they thought it was quackery and I would never make a living at it. Little did they know how big an industry it would become! In any case, I went to university and studied other subjects while keeping up with my nutrition reading. This was in the early 1990s and I was especially interested in the benefits of a plant based diets. I collected many books by Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Dean Ornish and dietician Brenda Davis.

As a teenager and young adult I was also fascinated by sexuality and agency. Our Bodies, Ourselves, The Teenage Body Book: A New Edition for a New Generation, and The Joy of Sex: The Ultimate Revised Edition were books I took out from the school library on the regular. Well, the first two. I am not sure where I got a copy of The Joy of Sex. I doubt it was from my high school library.

I wanted to be informed and empowered to make decisions that would best ensure my health and pleasure. I am not sure why I thought connecting to my sexuality was my birthright, but I did. Maybe it was the 1980s and what was going on during those years (HIV AIDS, the fight to have abortion decriminalized in Canada, and Madonna). In any case, the ideas behind our sexual beliefs, attitudes and actions – it was very interesting to me.

Another early interest of mine was new age spirituality. I was raised attending the United Church of Canada and enjoyed religion as part of my upbringing. It was about kindness, compassion and generosity. It was also about of friendship as my best friend went to the same church and we had many silly adventures together there at Sunday School and Girl Guides. We are friends to this day and I have such good memories from those days. All the while though I was interested in other systems of belief and understanding such as astrology, tarot and energetic modalities. I was drawn towards exploring to the universe and humanity beyond organized religion. Again, much reading was done. The work of Marianne Williamson being an early favourite.

My Work

When I was 19 I worked at a summer camp that taught English to very uninterested French children who had failed it during their school year. It was a horrible job but my fellow camp counsellors were nice (the manager – not so much). Somehow it created in me a desire to teach. I went to university and got two bachelor degrees (Child Studies and Psychology) and worked as an educational consultant for learning disabled children and adolescents. I quite liked being part of a team that assessed a person’s strengths and weakness and developed a plan of action to help them succeed at attaining their goals. Reading comprehension, problem solving, task management and were my areas of interest and expertise.

In my late 20s I switched careers in a big way. I went from teaching to starring and running my own independent personal adult website. The exploration of my sexuality was a big part of why I chose to make the switch. I felt a need in me to do something daring and revolutionary (it was 1998 – digital cameras, reality TV and exhibitionism on the World Wide Web were in their early stages – a new frontier).  I loved that my website gave me a platform to explore and connect. Beyond performing in webcams and photoshoots, I began researching and writing articles and essays about sexuality, body image, relationships, and sex work stigmatization. I volunteered at Scarleteen, worked as a community moderator and advice columnist at the adult website Homegrown Video, and created and led workshops and presentations on sex work on the Internet.

Now I am in my 40s and no longer interested in sex as performance. I have a bit of a cynical ‘been there, done that, have the scars to prove it’ mentality. No regrets, but I definitely have a whole lot of hard earned wisdom and am happy to be working in the field of sex education in a new way and sharing of my life in a different way (here at this website, on social media and a YouTube channel is in the works).

Nutrition has not take a back seat as I have work in the adult industry. I live a vegan lifestyle and I am still fascinated with food as a powerful wellness tool. A few years back I went back to school and studied holistic nutrition. Combined with my work in therapy my interests began merging and transforming into something new for me.

Putting It All Together

Nutrition, sexuality and spirituality now exist a little bit more formally here on this website and in my work with life coaching clients. As a lifestyle blogger and Instagrammer (is that what it’s called?) and as a licensed Desire Map facilitator I can bring all my passions to my work. It feels very cohesive. Very connected. Very grounded. It also feels so authentic for me to share these passions with others. And that has always been very important to me.

Leave a Comment

I Fell Off The Wagon – Vegan Edition

On January 1st 2012, after not eating meat (no fish, cow, pig, chicken, sheep, goat, turkey, etc…) for nineteen years (fifteen of which I was vegan – no eggs, dairy or honey) I had a Big Mac. A cold Big Mac because I was too ashamed to eat it in the restaurant. I brought it home by taxi and ate it all by my lonesome. A true reflection of how disconnected I was from my self, my soul. That night I felt such shame which then turned into numbness. Cognitive dissonance kicked in, separating me from the consequences of my actions – the animal, environmental and human suffering associated with our culture’s (anti) nourishment status quo. This disconnect stuck around for four years.

For four years every time I ate meat my mind would block out compassionate thoughts and replace them with rationalizations for why I should eat this dead animal (nineteen years – I had done my part, if it’s organic it must be humane, why must *I* be the change you want to see in the world?).

I still feel some shame about this experience, but in retrospect I see it for what it was –  a sad yet fascinating experience that taught me a lot about how we humans can talk ourselves into doing something that goes against our core (yet not socially supported) values. Sad and fascinating, but mostly sad.

But Why?

I think the main reason I went back to eating animals was my poor mental health and my alcoholism. Through therapy, mindfulness mediation and spiritual practices I was exploring new healthy ways of coping with difficult emotions (like fear, anxiety and anger), but I was still very early on in this process. I was weak and tired. I wasn’t sure of who I was and what I believed in. My marriage, my stigmatized work, my divorce – they all did a number on me.

Eating eggs, cheese and then later animals became a bit of an obsessive thought. I think this was because there was so much focus for so long on my weaknesses, flaws and failures. Post-divorce I rebelled. I was tired of being good and subservient. I was tired of always being wrong. I was just plain tired.

I see now it was a destructive attempt at self-discovery. Had I not hit my bottom… well, let’s not go there.

Thankfully, I came out the other side knowing what was important to me, how I wanted to live my life and

How Did I Get Back to My Values and Living According to Them?

Quick answer – by developing a mindfulness practice AND getting very specific on how I wanted to feel.

Learning to be comfortable with discomfort was a key to my healing and my journey back to veganism. I had all kinds of very unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with emotional pain. I had to develop a higher tolerance AND discover new ways of dealing with my suffering. I’ve written about this process here and here.

I discovered and how to my Cored Desired Feelings (CDFs) via The Desire Map and thought about them on a daily basis. I examined my choices, big and small and made sure that I was acting in a way that served my CDFs. Learn more about The Desire Map process here.

I realized that I felt FULL when I practiced self-care in the form of healthy habits (mindfulness mediation, higher quality sleep, staying sober). I nurtured myself in kind and compassionate ways – kind to me and my health, to animals, to the planet, and those in the farming industry.

I remembered how I began eating vegan the first time.

I figured out my triggers and avoided them (McDonalds, McDonalds, McDonalds).

I took it one day at a time and didn’t demand perfection of myself.

I informed myself of animal suffering, the environmental impact to raising animals for food, and the health benefits to a plant based whole foods diet.

I focused on delicious, nourishing and energizing vegan meals.

However, there was a lot of start and stop, a lot of two steps forward and one step back. For about a year I managed and waitressed at a restaurant – a deli.  Staying vegan or even vegetarian while working there was a challenge. I would eat consistently vegan for a couple of weeks then slip. Also I found myself often at McDonalds if I was on my own or travelling (wtf is it about McDonalds? so freaking addictive). I didn’t beat myself about all of this as I knew that would make the situation worse. I was doing the best I could but I knew I could do better.

Turning Point

When I moved to Ottawa this past spring I thought the change in environment would inspire me to stick to a strict plant based diet. However, I struggled with it the first few weeks. I had a new job. I had a horrible sinus infection. I was spending a lot of time with my sister and her young family. She was used to me making some sort of declaration about my diet and then not sticking to it. I didn’t want to do that again so a very personal and family of origin fear came into play. Plus, I didn’t want to burden her with my diet. She has so much to deal with. So I ate what they ate. However, as we spent more time together we developed a new connection based on who we are now and not who were used to be five, ten and fifteen years ago. This gave me the confidence to bring my own meals over or to turn things down at her place. I eased into vegetarianism and then veganism.

I feel quite solid about it now. I’m enjoying my kitchen in my new apartment (I have proper counters for the first time) and cooking once again. I’m exploring new recipes and revisiting old favourites. I feel so good inside and out now that I am eating a whole foods plant based diet again. Like most everything good in my life today I wish I had figured it out long ago. I am still learning to accept that. But if I remember my CDFs and stay present with loving kindness to my all of my feelings I think things will be OK.

2 Comments

Good Reads About Drinking & Sobriety

When I was coming to terms with my alcoholism I was drawn to reading memoirs about drinking. I knew I had a problem and that something had to change, but I was afraid. I wanted to feel less alone in my experience AND find examples of women who had made the life altering decision to quit drinking. I wanted to know what sobriety looked like. It felt so unknown and I wanted reassurance, a sense of hope, that giving up alcohol was something I could do.

Reading about it rather than attending meetings was a gentle and safe way to explore the concept of sobriety in private. I wasn’t quite ready to say aloud that I had a problem. I wasn’t quite ready to quit for good. Reading these books and essays helped me get to the place where I was able to take that first step and then subsequently do all the necessary work (for me) to embrace sobriety and recovery.

Books –

Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola

Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp

Some online essays by Emily McCombs –

I’m Turning 30 And I’m Having My First Sober Birthday Party Ever (And I’m A Little Scared)

I Would Not Like To Discuss Your Alcohol Problem, Thank You (which now with two and half years of sobriety under my belt I relate to in a BIG way)

Drinking A Love Story

Addicted To Everything – Blame It On The A A A A Alcohol

Bonus –

After a year or so of sobriety I discovered After Party Magazine. It’s an offshoot of Rehab Reviews and features first-person content and interviews on sobriety and recovery. It’s a useful spot to find diverse perspectives on all kinds of substance abuse. I especially like the How I Got Sober series.

I hope by sharing my experiences and the strategies I used to get and stay sober others in need might find their way to health and recovery too.

Leave a Comment

What Sobriety Means To Me

I have not had an alcoholic beverage since December 27th, 2013. On January 4th, 2014 I went in front a room of strangers and declared that I was an alcoholic. This declaration was important.  A public reality check of sorts that helped me create a final ending of a specific pattern of behaviour and start a new one. It helped me find a community of similarly minded people and feel less alone in my experience. It provided me with access to resources as I started to live my life without alcohol as a part of it – without my culturally celebrated pacifier.

While I am now at ease with calling myself an alcoholic (it wasn’t easy at first), I do not think of myself as an addict. When I stopped drinking I did not experience any physical withdrawal. It was much more of a MIND thing than a BODY thing (though my excessive drinking was greatly affecting my health – something I will write about another time). I didn’t crave alcohol or feel compelled to drink. I did think about it a lot the first month, but it was all part of figuring out new ways to manage my time and energy now that I wasn’t dulled by booze, messily drunk or hungover.

Yes, alcohol consumption for me was a destructive and near impossible thing for me to control (especially once I get started) because I associated it with stress relief, avoiding pain and coping with anxiety. I thought of drinking as “relaxation”, as something owed to me for being so “good” or working hard. Rather than a physical addiction drinking was a habit forming activity based on faulty associations.

Booze numbed me and allowed me (for a short time) to feel comfortable and be social. I didn’t drink every day and there were times I handled suffering without it, went to events without drinking, but I couldn’t predict which times those would be. As the years progressed I couldn’t manage my drinking and subsequently I got worse and worse at managing my life. What I believe I had is a learning disorder around alcohol and emotional well-being.

Here is an article that looks at drinking through that lens. I found it really interesting and helpful.

This learning disorder began early for me. When I was younger, from childhood until age 40 (ah!!! half a lifetime!!!), I had very little tolerance for my suffering. Especially related to fear, anger and disappointing others. I also had messed up beliefs like if I was perfect (whatever that was) I would never feel pain, everyone would accept me, and I would always be happy. Read more about this, my old way of thinking, here. Then I entered therapy and learned new ways of approaching my anxiety and fear. I think if it had not been for therapy and working on my skills to observe, accept and view my feelings with loving kindness I would never have been able to stop drinking.

I really wished I had learned earlier how to manage my uncomfortable feelings in a healthy way. I think instead I learned to deny my difficult feelings by having beliefs like: look on the brighter side, other people have it worse than me, and the classic don’t cry out loud and keep it inside

If I look back – before alcohol was even part of the picture – I was an escape artist more than an addict. I was an avid user of not-so-healthy and sometimes even quite destructive coping mechanisms to soothe myself. The choice of strategies changed through out the years (hitting myself and others in my family when I was a child, cutting as an early teen, picking as a late teen and young adult *, then trying to be as disciplined and controlled as my ex-husband in my 30s). All very different things, but they were my attempt to make awful feelings go away.

I have stopped trying to find something outside of myself to deal with my fears, anxiety and struggles. The suffering will always be there and I allow myself to feel what I feel. No longer am I questing for perfection in hopes of it making me happy and pain free, to be accepted by others. I am now in a place of equanimity and resilience. With my mindful and compassionate practices AND my sobriety I am no longer twirling around in the vicious circle of trying to be perfect because I felt like a failure for being less than perfect.

* A good article on picking and how to cope.

6 Comments

Seska Trivia

I have a BA in Child Studies and a BA in Psychology. In my twenties I worked as an educational consultant. I have continued my education by taking courses in nutrition, energy healing, mindfulness and online business.

I have been active as a burlesque performer and cabaret producer since 2003.

7940
my costume for my Welcome to the Jungle number

After recovering from a rare autoimmune disease called Paroxysmal Cold Hemoglobinuria I was inspired to train for a 1/2 marathon. I ran it in 2 hours and 14 minutes in the freezing rain. After a break from exercise I have switched things up and now take daily early morning 40 minute power walks.

seska-run-5k-mascot-127d-640x800
my 1st 5k race

In the fall of 2014  I made my professional theatrical debut in the Segal Centre’s The Graduate.

I’m a former adult industry performer and I wrote an essay on why I do not hide or deny my past here. I have spoken about my personal and professional experiences at SXSW, Concordia University, McGill University, Sexual Attitude Reassessment Seminars and various adult industry conferences.

Yes, that was me on HBO’s Real Sex Xtra : Pornocopia : Going Down in the Valley : Women on Top. The business has changed dramatically from when that was filmed (2004). I cannot provide you with any relevant advice on how to “make it’ in the industry in its current state. It’s changed too much.

I have two cats – Rufus and Martha.

rufus-martha
Rufus on left – Martha on the right

4 Comments

I Am Afraid of Money

Financial insecurity follows me around like a little pesky, taunting entity. It’s based in my reality. As a freelancer my income is inconsistent. I have debt. I was never taught money management skills and I never sought them out.

Above all, I’m afraid of money – having it AND not having it.

This is because I see my financial worth as a reflection of my personal worth. My heart knows this isn’t true, but my busy little poisoned mind likes to tell tall tales and say that it is true.

I’m working on it. Unpacking it. Observing it. Releasing it.

My bank account, my tax return, my debt – they don’t reflect my worth as a human being.


I wrote this entry about 1 week after I got the You Need A Budget app. A game changer for me.

Leave a Comment

Simple Yet Glamorous?

My life is simple in that I discovered some mindful and minimalist life strategies that bring balance and serenity to my day-to-day. It’s glamorous in that I love burlesque and I adore creating dazzling, silly performances and shows. Having both in my life brings me much satisfaction and pleasure.

It also means that I find bobby-pins by the door and glitter most everywhere, but that is OK by me. They remind me I’m living the life I want to live.

Perhaps SIMPLICITY & GLAMOUR is an odd combination, but it’s my version of Yin and Yang. They help me embrace LIFE in a BIG JOYFUL way  and I think bringing both into my life is an important part of my journey.

Life is complex.

My simple living and compassionate mindset allows me to meet life’s challenges, express what’s on my mind and in my heart. It’s what keeps me grounded yet able to fly free. It’s what helps me connect to those I love.

Keeping certain things simple lets me bounce around in the complex with joy, gratitude and authenticity. Bounce around in the unpredictability, uncertainty and vulnerability knowing I have a safety net. Having a toolbox of strategies and skills makes me more resilient when sh*t hits the fan – because it will.

So, what do I simplify?

Everything involved in my everyday is structured in a simple way. This took some time. I had to reflect on what I owned and what owned me. I had to think about my possessions and my space and how they made me feel. Yes, I used the Marie Kondo Method. While I’m not a 100 item minimalist, I have downsized in a BIG way. I know each and every one of my belongings and where they live. And I love them all.

My burlesque costumes may have sequins and fancy fringe trim, but they also are chosen and made with simplicity in mind. They are easy to store, maintain and to perform in (and out of). Streamlining my burlesque life means I don’t tear through my space last minute looking for a costume piece or have to create something last minute. I have just what I need. Not more, not less. When I have a show I know I can focus on my performance, deliver as best I can and be present for the entire process.

My internal life?

I simplify that too. It’s absolutely essential in fact because there is a part of my mind that likes to tell stories  – often attaching shame, guilt and fear to them. Then there is my gut that likes to do somersaults. And of course, my heart that likes to race.

I’m betting this all sounds terribly familiar.

Thank goodness there is a solution to this mess of stress and struggle. Mindfulness meditation – it’s the simple antidote to the busy mind poison. Sure, it’s a popular buzz word these days but there is a reason for that. It’s incredibly powerful. It’s an active way of thinking that helps calm the mind. For goodness sake, it creates new neuro-pathways! So freaking neat!

In a nutshell, it’s about observing yourself, your body, your mind’s stories, you name it and not trying to change anything. Experience them without judgement. Let all the weird, uncomfortable and painful sensations and thoughts just be. Then approaching it all – especially yourself – loving kindness. So simple yet so radical.

One of my favourite meditation resources is the work of Tara Brach. She has a wonderful weekly podcast aswell as incredible books I refer to. My therapist suggested I read Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance and helped me immensely in developing some equanimity. Something I had been seeking since I was a little girl.

And of course, there is Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. His books on finding peace within the present moment are some of the most accessible and beautiful out there.

I am sure I will write more about these topics in the coming weeks and months (maybe years – who knows!). If there is something specific you would like me to write about with regards to my exploration of simplicity and glamour, let me know!

Thank you for being a part of my journey.

Leave a Comment

Avoiding Pain

I have circled around this for a few months (actually years but very specifically more recently). Not pain but the various strategies I have used throughout my life to try to avoid pain, why I have tried to do so and why none have ever worked. It’s been interesting to unpack this deep-set of wounds. Challenging for sure, but interesting too.

Perfection

When I was a teenager and into my twenties I thought that if only I did such and such a thing I would be perfect and then I would not be in pain, that I would be happy. I thought pain was something to be avoided (more on how I came to that false conclusion below) and perfection was the best way to do that.

Of course, as a teenager I was still forming my identity and I looked to others for my idea of perfection. I looked to peers I admired – the cool kids who seemed to never mess up except to be the perfect rebels with perfect hair and skin. I looked to movie and TV stars. I looked to pop stars. I looked to fictional characters I read about in those 1980s ever-so-popular teen series about cheerleaders and beauty queens.

I have long known that this strategy was useless. It actually made pain all the more prevalent in my life because perfection is a myth and unattainable. Trying to achieve it is a struggle that takes so much time and effort. It leaves you hollow and exhausted.

Parenting

In her manifesto for Wholehearted parenting Brené Brown writes…

Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.

My parents did not teach me to sit with discomfort, pain or suffering and this led me to have many bad habits and significantly damaging strategies to deal with grief, fear, hurt and other challenging feelings.

This is not a blame game. I have come to terms with how my childhood experiences encouraged this type of thinking. I have empathy for my parents and their upbringings. For them vulnerability was not part of being resilient. They wanted to protect me from suffering (impossible). I do not think they knew there was an alternative – to learn to experience it and use it to grow and connect with myself, others and Universe ( all the energy that surrounds us, is in us and things – I suppose you could say it is what I call my higher power).

Being with these emotions is something I have learned to do in my 40s. Never too late, but I do wish I had figured it out earlier. In any case, I am much more comfortable with the uncomfortable now. I am better able to ride the waves of the hostile and scary emotions and not let them be destructive. The waves are there as always. They do not disappeared. They never will. I am just a much more competent emotional surfer.

My Answer

Now I sit with my feelings – pain with regards to this particular post but this is useful for all of my feelings. I observe the feeling. I welcome it with curiosity. I ask it questions. Where are you in my body? What are your qualities? What are you trying to tell me. I hold it. I embrace it with loving kindness. I have compassion with myself.

The less I implode or explode these feelings that I am “not allowed to feel”, the more of a moderate relationship I have with them.
– Alanis Morisette

Leave a Comment