Loss and meaning

This post has been brewing for a month since one of my clients lost a friend ski racing.

Death is not something we connect to ski racing usually, horrible falls and bad injuries certainly but not death.

Since the beginning of the season two ski racers have died.

It’s a horrible statement to make.

David Poisson, a member of the French ski racing team died in Nakiska in early season training in November when he caught an edge, crashed through safety netting and hit a tree. He was 35 years old.

In early December, my client was racing a downhill in the Nor-Am Cup in Lake Louise when I got texts about a teammate being involved in a bad crash.

17 year old Max Burkhart went off course into safety netting and was airlifted to hospital. He later died of his injuries.

Somehow death is not something I ever thought I’d have to deal with in my practice. I remember taking a moment and praying before calling my client. Asking for guidance to say the right words that would give her some measure of comfort. All I could do was listen and be there for her.

She was heart broken and wanted to go home.

Max’s death hit me hard. I’m still not sure why.

I attract the clients I work with for a reason. Her parents wanted her to stick it out for the rest of the race series and be with her teammates. To get back on the horse. It’s probably what my parents would have wanted too.

My client just wanted to go home so I stood by her and advocated for her.

Someone I did my graduate studies with said it was great I got to be the person I needed for my clients when I was their age.

It was a big realization for me.

I’m grateful for the relationships I have with my clients. I grow because of them. I know they learn from me as well.

I’m glad I was able to support my client through a really tough time no kid should have to go through.

Rest in peace Max. My heart goes out to his family, friends and the ski community who knew and loved him. I hope they find peace.

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Fear again

I’ve written on this topic many times here.

I was chatting with a new client this weekend and fear came up yet again.

It wasn’t till after the call was done and I had time to think, that I realized how applicable to my own life the words I imparted to her were.

This young client had an exceptional ski racing season two years ago. Last winter she felt the pressure of her own expectations take over and became focused on results instead of trusting herself to ski the way she can.

That’s a big statement coming from a 14 year old.

Great insight isn’t it? She did well in training but come race day she couldn’t seem to put things together. The good news is this is a common challenge and the tools I gave her will help her tremendously this winter.

Her being scared came up at least three times during our conversation. She wasn’t comfortable with speed and going fast. Gates coming at her rapidly in slalom unnerved her as did laying down solid slalom runs.

We talked about fear. She expressed how irrational it was to be afraid of gates coming at her face. I normalized her experience and said all humans have that natural reaction and that her confidence will come with mileage in the gates. Exposure to gates coming at your face is the only way she’s going to move through this fear.

Speed and going fast is a fear that presents itself naturally. I freaking loved speed but I’m sure my first few runs on those big fast skis were unsettling. Again, I normalized things for her and encouraged her to use her body as a tool to combat her fear. Instead of getting in the back seat and being hesitant, to charge and throw her body forward.

Our bodies can alter our feelings. Taking an athletic stance and what I like to call a hero pose of hands on hips, breathing and really feeling that confidence flow are so empowering. It’s another tool I gave her to use, one I think will have a big impact on her.

We talked about the importance of positive thinking. It’s impossible to be all rainbows, puppy dogs and unicorns all the time but instead being aware of your mindset. What are you saying to yourself?

When I do group workshops I poll the kids about their mindset. Is it 50-50 positive and negative, 70% positive, 30% negative or the reverse? It’s fascinating to see where kids lie in the spectrum and it gives me an indication of where they need to focus.

The first step in shifting mindset is awareness of what you’re actually saying to yourself. Questioning the veracity of your perception and then shifting it towards a more positive outcome.

When a negative mindset pattern has been operating for a while, it’ll take a tremendous amount of attention, energy and work to affect change. Like I tell my clients, it’s taken you a while to walk into the woods, it’ll take a while for you to walk out. Patience and gentleness are key.

What struck me afterwards was how this call applies to my own life.

I just recently started a new job and I love it. I get to write and help people with my words. I feel part of a family in the team I work with.

You’d think I’d be happy right? I was, briefly. Then self-protective, survival mechanisms took over and I drove myself into a state of anxiety so bad I could barely breathe. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is that productive thinking? Hell no.

Did I go there? Me? Someone who teaches positive psychology for a living? Yup.

Fortunately my people are close by. It only takes a phone call or a text and I’ve got someone telling me what I need to hear and bringing me back to the here and now. Reminding me to breathe, to slow my thoughts down and to question the veracity of what I’m feeling.

Feelings are not facts my friends.

I love what I do. I’m good at it and I’ve had messages from the people I work with of just that, yet I don’t trust myself to shine.

In times like these, it helps me to look at things from another perspective. What would I say to one of my clients if they were feeling this way?

I’d remind them to breathe. I’d tell them they are safe and okay. I’d ask them to list the things they like about themselves and focus on their strengths. I’d ask them to draw the lessons they needed from their past experiences and not let their past dictate their present.

Those are exactly the words I’ve been saying to myself when that four letter word called fear crawls into my brain space.

Fear means false evidence appearing real or face everything and rise.

It goes to show how powerful our minds are. It’s so important to guard our mindsets. They create the world we live in.

Healing

This piece I came across inspired me to write this post.

They asked her,

“What is the key to saving the world?”

She answered,

“You. You are they key. Heal yourself, know yourself, make yourself whole and free. Release all limits so that your love can flow unconditionally for yourself, and the world, this will open the heaven of your heart completely and it will guide you without fail.” Yung Pueblo, you are the answer

I feel as though I have been on this path for a while now. I am challenged by loving myself. I have an auto immune disorder because I am so hard on myself and my body is literally attacking itself. That simple statement makes me sad.

Your thoughts have tremendous power. They cause feelings which can cause health or dis ease. It’s important to be mindful.

I teach positive psychology for a reason, because it’s what I most need to learn and apply to my own life.

I tell my clients I am no goddess on a mountain top and have it all figured out. I am a work in progress. Imperfectly perfect. Human. I do believe we are spiritual beings living a human existence and it is our paths that makes the difference.

I grew up in a family with addiction. My father has a disease. My family is sick as well. All of us have been affected by the family disease of alcoholism which goes back generations.

My brother is an addict. My father is an alcoholic. My mother is a co dependent. I am an adult child of an alcoholic and a co dependent in recovery.

My family denies there is a problem and I am the only one in recovery.

My drugs of choice since I have been a kid have been numbing and escaping.

I did this through many things good and not so great: reading, school, sport, the military, relationships, alcohol, spending and sex.

Now being full bent on succeeding in school, sport and life are great, however, there is a shadow side to everything, especially when it comes to addiction.

After I was raped in the military and my career ended it took me a year to reintegrate back into civilian life. When you have a lot done for you, coming back to the real world takes time.

My addictive behaviors came out in the form of sex. You see, I wanted to have power over men after it was taken from me without my consent. They could have my body for a brief amount of time but they couldn’t have my heart or my mind. I played Russian roulette with my life. I didn’t care. Maybe it was being in my twenties that made me feel invincible or stupid.

When I share my story in the rooms of program, I share this part because it shows the presence of a Higher Power watching over me. The situations I put myself in, consumed with a need to fill the void, should have left me for dead.

I had an abortion because of my actions. I was a married man’s mistress for four years. Yet I never, not once, picked up a sexually transmitted infection or was sexually assaulted again. In my self-harm, to a certain degree, I was kept safe.

The damage I did to myself, however, is another story.

I abandoned myself over and over again to countless people. I felt abandoned as a child. I grew up in a family not feeling loved. Love was conditional in my house on being the perfect daughter. A hero child. I thought if I was a good enough, excelled in school and in ski racing then I’d be told I was loved. That never happened.

I’ve come to understand through recovery and therapy that my parents are human and the way they show me love is through acts of service. Seldom words of praise, touch, gifts or quality time.

As a kid I felt abandoned and questioned my worth.

That little girl is still there inside me. She’s growing up through program.

I am an adult child which means I grew up uber responsible only to become incredibly irresponsible. The disease of alcoholism is a progressive one which means that I need to keep coming back to meetings, working my program, connecting with my sponsor and helping others. Otherwise I get worse. Fast.

The 12 step program I belong to is the key to my freedom and my life.

Freedom from self seeking, self sabotaging and self hatred.

My program makes me a better human. Make no mistake, I am a good person regardless of what I did to myself and others, however, I can safely say I am a better one now.

The program gives me tools to live my life on a day to day basis. It’s the cheapest therapy in town.

My program is an anonymous one. It’s that way so we can feel safe sharing our experience, strength and hope and lifting one another up.

My sponsor keeps me real. I want what she has and I am willing to do the work it takes to get it. She tells me I have grown so much in the past year.  I believe her.

A newcomer to our program asked me to be her sponsor this week.

That’s huge. What an honor. She wants what I have. I’m blown away.

Our program teaches us that to keep it we have to give it away. I guess my time has come to play a bigger role and in so doing I know I’ll grow too.

Let the healing continue and with it, let more love and more freedom come.

Discipline

Discipline. What does that word mean to you?

It’s been over nine months since I went to a yoga class. My beloved teacher of many years moved on and I stayed home on Tuesday nights because I didn’t know the new teacher, because it was winter and therefore cold and dark. Winter went and spring came and still no Tuesday night yin class. Spring turned into summer, still no class.

I do have a home practice and a dedicated space for yoga and meditation. Does that mean I sit my butt down on my mat every morning? Um no.

Last week I made a commitment to myself to show up every morning on my mat. Yoga has saved my life over and over again. I’m not being dramatic here. I know it’s what I need to be a better version of myself, to be more grounded, peaceful and present.

Fall is like a New Year’s for me. It’s back to school, a start of new endeavors, the beginning of the last quarter and a time to hustle. A re commitment to discipline.

I started my business seven years ago after my best friend died suddenly. His death was a giant celestial kick in the pants for me. As I grieved for him, I realized life is short. Too short to not be doing what I love and is my calling. Thanks James.

I had done everything else but sports psychology since I had graduated seven years before he passed and I was miserable. The expression trying to fit a square peg in a round hole comes to mind.

It’s been a roller coaster in my business since then unfortunately. I’m not a systems person, I’m a creative so I sought out thought leaders who could teach me what I needed to know. Christine Kane was a creative who put systems into place to develop a very successful business. I read her weekly blog posts and resonated with everything she said.

Then I crossed paths with Lisa Larter at a women’s networking event. At the time, she ran a cell phone shop and was pretty savvy when it came to business and those hand held devices.

It took me three years to fully engage with her. I was so ready to grow and change.

The year I started following her systems I made the most money I ever made in my business.

I believe a great part of that success was intention. I remember sitting on the beach in the Bahamas and thinking about how many clients I wanted to work with over the winter. I felt good about ten. I thought maybe 15 but that didn’t feel right. That winter I ended up with 12 clients. That’s the power of intention setting.

I did fully commit to my passion that winter and didn’t realize till sometime later that the Universe delivered exactly what I asked for.

Discipline means showing up every week and writing a blog post because that’s what I’ve committed myself to.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write this morning. Lisa’s newsletter on the topic of resistance came in and I was inspired. I am the poster child for resistance. I procrastinate starting and finishing projects. Systems are my saving grace.

In my first blog post of the year I said I wanted to write a book. Has the book been written? No. Why? Because I didn’t set up a system to write it nor did I have the discipline to follow through on it. I’ve always known I’ve had a book in me. Just do it were my words for this year. Did I do it? No. Will I? Yes.

The same can be said for a website. Do I have one? No. Do I have the resources to create one? My dad, who is my biggest supporter, has graciously offered to pay, however, I’d have to put in the sweat equity. Has it been done? No. Why? Again because I don’t have a system or the discipline to sit down and create one.

Clearly I am truly my own worst enemy.

When I spoke to my dad a few weeks ago about contacting ski racing clubs this winter, I actually said: “what do I have to offer?” Woo. Really Natalie?

There’s a reason I teach what I most need to learn. What kid would not benefit from my knowledge and tools to help them build better confidence in sport and life?

Sometimes I need to give myself a shake and be my own best friend. I’m pretty awesome and I love helping kids be better people. Period. If they get better results in sport as a result? Great. If they become better humans because I had an impact. Holy.

That’s my sweet spot.

I’m sitting here smiling because I know I will yet again have an impact on young lives on a larger scale this winter and I truly cannot wait.

Here’s to intention, systems and the discipline to follow through. Just do it.

 

 

Truth

It’s been a while since I’ve written.

This blog is where I come to reflect, where I am fully myself and share my life experiences in the hopes of helping others whether it be at a personal, spiritual or professional level.

My silence here has been a product of going inward. I started seeing a counselor in June at a friend’s gentle suggestion. I was in a self sabotaging pattern again and my friend was able to see that I needed help. There’s a reason I do sports psychology, I often teach what I most need to learn.

In speaking with my counselor about my pattern of self sabotaging at a personal and professional level, a bigger issue emerged. Something that happened a very long time ago. It’s a part of my history, I had no idea how much it was influencing my present and robbing me of my future. My counselor believes it’s the linchpin to the pattern.

It’s not something I speak of. Unless I’m in the safety of the rooms of my program. It takes a tremendous amount of courage for me to speak of it here, however, I am on a path of truth, of bringing to light what happened and taking a stand.

Twenty two years ago I was raped while I was in the military.

He was a sexual predator who stalked me for two years before it happened. He would knock on my door at night when he knew I was alone. That feeling of fear, of holding my breath and going still, of freezing and wanting to disappear has stayed with me since. I can never forget it.

One night he came and knocked, I was in a deep sleep and woke up and opened the door. I don’t remember much of what happened. He didn’t physically overpower me because I would have fought back but the next thing I knew I was floating above my body. I remember crying in the shower afterwards. That’s all I remember. I don’t remember what he said to me or what happened.

I know there’s a reason why I don’t remember. Possibly because I don’t want to. I’ve thought about doing regression therapy and going back. I know my mind is strong and is obviously protecting me.

In the military the culture is one of silence. As a woman in the military, you had to be so careful. I protected my reputation fiercely. Had I said something, I would have been labelled. So I stayed quiet.

I remember going to the base hospital to get the morning after pill and being sick afterwards in my room alone. I remember telling the doctor what happened and being shuffled off to therapy where I was told that I was indeed raped.

Then I buried it. Because I couldn’t do anything about it. The worse part is he still came knocking. I had to go a trusted mentor and ask him to make it stop repeatedly. I never spoke of what happened. The reason it stopped is because he graduated and moved on.

So here I sit twenty two years later. A fresh diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder because of what happened and a life that has definitely been a struggle. The event ended my career in the military before it even really began.

He’s still in the military. He’s also a published author. I can’t imagine how many other women he’s done this to because that’s his nature.

This is no longer about him. It’s about me.

I’m a runner, I’ve run from most things in my life. It was and still is my coping mechanism of choice. I learned to take a stand in my last relationship. That was the gift my former partner gave me.

I am going to take a stand now and report what happened all those years ago.

I want my side of the street to be clean. I want to take my power back. I lost something that night that I will never be able to get back. It has affected my whole life. My relationships with men, my personal and professional lives. Everything has been tainted by this incident.

I will find my voice and speak my truth.

I have an amazing support team around me. I know I’m going to be alright. I also know it’s going to be a long drawn out process. I have no expectations of what will happen. The most important part is telling my story. I will let the Universe take care of the rest so I can finally let it go.

 

Parents and their role in supporting their athletes

Last night I had the opportunity to speak to a group of parents whose kids ski race.

They had a half hour to ask me questions on sports psychology. I found the questions that came up to be good ones so I’m sharing the highlights here.

Athletes your parents love you. They want to see you do well and are concerned about the best way of doing just that. I had question after question on the subject.

How do I best support my kid? How do I help my kid recover from a not so great performance? How do I help my kid deal with their emotions? How do I help my kid prepare for race day? And on it went.

From my perspective, it was really nice to see.

I felt a lot of pressure from my parents, it would have been nice to have better communication with them. Had that been present, my demise might have been mitigated.

My answers to their questions were about being present. Helping their kid re frame their results. Letting their kids come to them and how best to support them.

I spent some time educating them on some of the tools I teach to the athletes I work with.

I spoke at length about the importance and value of the mental game. If sports programs gave as much weight and importance to the mental aspects as they did the physical and technical ones, things would change for the better.

Athletes would be better equipped to deal with wins, setbacks, and injury. They would come back stronger and faster after an injury. They would be able to quickly recover from a less than desired performance. They’d handle their emotions better and not get swept up in the roller coaster of moods. They would cope with life better.

I love what I do. Helping parents be better supports for their athletes is just part of the work I do. It brings me great joy to see the kind of interaction I saw last night.

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day.

A happy day for many. A day fraught with tension for some.

A reminder for me of what I don’t have: children.

At my age, with no significant other in sight, it’s pretty safe to say it most likely won’t happen. That doesn’t make it easy to see the bombardment on social media of happy Mother’s Day pictures of my friends with their children.

I didn’t have a sad day. On the contrary, I kept myself busy putting my garden in.

I’m grateful for all that I have in my life: my family, my friends, my home and my sweet fur baby. Focusing on what I can be grateful for helps.

Sending love and light to all those who had a challenging Mother’s Day for all sorts of reasons. This too shall pass.