Through my own eyes

Good morning everyone!

Do you think when you look at yourself you see yourself through the eyes of someone else? When you make your decisions, do you subconsciously let others weigh in?

I’ve always said if it wasn’t for my mother being who she was, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. She was always in my corner boosting me up and letting me know that I could do anything. Sure, there were times when her advice was misguided because she feared for me and my well-being. Our opinions differed only because as a mother she wanted to protect me and I wanted to take risks. Now that I am a mother myself, I get that. She always let me know that I was smart, she let me know that I was beautiful and that I had many things to offer. She let me know that I was worth something and that I was a prize. Hearing that all through my life gave me confidence, it gave me strength, it made me stand up for myself and it also made others treat me the way she saw me.

You teach people how to treat you.

It’s only now, when she is no longer here, I see the fact that for a long time, I had been looking at myself through her eyes. My kindness and gentleness, my sense of fairness and generosity, my loyalty and honesty are all things that she wanted me to be, what she thought me to be and I manifested that and became all those things. Over the years, I had become that woman.

Interestingly enough, while I had a voice in my heart telling me how to be a good person, there were also other voices creeping in with disparaging words; words that told me that I am other things too. In the past, there was someone in my life through whose eyes I also saw myself and the Vikera I saw was not so good. The Vikera I saw was lazy, loud, aggressive, overly talkative, too smart, a mediocre mother, cheap, naive, a little bit stupid and overly ambitious. I saw myself through that person’s eyes for a long time and it took its toll on me.

Over time, I started to believe those things, in varying degrees. My mother had created such a strong foundation that this other stuff couldn’t possibly be true, but for pockets of time, I did question if I talked too much, I did think that I could be a better mother, I did wonder if I should dampen my rambunctious, vivacious personality. I realized that I started looking at myself through that person’s eyes.

Isn’t that strange?

Luckily for me, though, over time, I started looking at myself through my own eyes: a skill that took A LONG TIME to get a handle on. It took a long time to start looking at myself objectively and judging myself and my actions based on the person I wanted to be not who someone else thought I was.

I do not judge my actions based on what others think about me. I judge my actions based on what is right and fair to others.

This circles back to how strongly I feel about the media and body image and all of that stuff. This comes back to all these forces in our lives telling us things about ourselves that we may not necessarily buy into but before you know it, we start believing it and repeating it. We start looking at ourselves through others’ eyes – others who do not have our best interest at heart, others who don’t know who we are, others who try to hurt us, others who are not trying to build us up. We have to be vigilant, we have to be aware. We have to think if our opinions are actually our opinions or if we are voicing or thinking someone else’s.

I do like my rambunctious personality, I am hella smart, I am definitely loud and funny, I can be lazy. I am a wonderful mother. I hate doing dishes and laundry. I can do anything. I have thick thighs. I am a procrastinator. My wit is everything! I can be too generous sometimes. I am loyal. I love hard. I snore.

Photo taken by Vikera Hunte. Please do not squirrel off with it without asking first.

Photo taken by Vikera Hunte. Please do not squirrel off with it without asking first.

All in all, I’m not perfect, but I’m fucking awesome and will only get better! <— That’s me looking at myself through my own eyes and I look goooooood!

Have a great day guys! <3

V

Plan B

Morning!

Kidlet and I went to the drugstore last week. When I pulled into the stall, I hadn’t seen the box nor did I see it when I came out of the car to go into the store. It was when I was walking back to it, I noticed the blue box on the ground.

Photo taken by Vikera Hunte. Do not copy without asking, please.

Photo taken by Vikera Hunte. Do not copy without asking, please.

For those who are not aware, Plan B is emergency contraception. Apparently if the condom broke or you have unprotected sex or you forgot to take the pill, you just pop this puppy and no diapers and university tuition for you!

I saw the box and it reeked of desperation and anxiety. I didn’t get close enough to see the actual teeth marks, but it looked like there might have been some on it. She probably swallowed it with no water either, with one foot on the ground and the other in the car then tossed out the evidence and, with shaky hands and a prayer, backed out of the parking spot and on with her life.

Plan B. Hmm…what a concept!

When you’re young, you think you will have full control over the life you want. Sure, some people at a very young age, decide what they want to be or where they want to live or who they want to share their lives with, and they bring that into fruition. It’s an amazing thing – to make your dreams materialize. For the rest of us, we have to carve out our lives day by day, not knowing what the hell is going to happen next. Our whole lives are a series of plans – in no particular alphabetic order. How many times do we think we know how something’s going to go or what’s going to happen only to be thrown completely off track? Some of us don’t get to take a magic pill to keep us on track!

If only all your bad decisions and things you regret can be washed away by a pill bought over the counter mere hours after your poor choices. Wouldn’t that be lovely? It just does not work that way. All your choices are a sum total of who you are a person and they all direct your destiny. Even if this woman was able to avoid pregnancy, her life will be changed by the “close call” at the very least. Almost getting pregnant if you don’t want to be is sobering, especially if it’s by Random Guy. Perhaps that experience, once reflected on, will lead to self- discovery…or not.

I don’t know, but sometimes the more I think I can control my life, the less I see I have actual control. Everything that happens to me these days I take in stride. I try not to get carried away and freak out because in the end, not every situation has a Plan B box that I can just rip open and swallow and get on with my life, not even bothering to dispose of the wrapping. Sometimes I get a second chance. Sometimes I don’t. That’s just the way it goes…

I’ve just embarked on a new journey fraught with uncertainty and excitement. My heart and mind tell me to have a Plan B tucked away just in case, but the reality is that now that I’ve embraced the fact that life will do its own thing and we don’t get our script until it’s too late to change it, I’m much more relaxed about stepping forward. Sure, things could happen that I probably won’t like or enjoy, but it’s all part of living.

So I go forward, with an open heart and mind, a smile on my face and only Plan A in my back pocket!

V

Yeah, it’s not flat…and?

Monday? Again? Seriously? Well, if we must, we must.

I haven’t posted about body image in a while. I guess it’s been winter and every body has been under 14 layers of clothes. Okay, so despite not trying (and much to my friend’s annoyance), I have trimmed down a bit. Not sure how it happened or when, but it did. I notice it in the way my clothes fit. I notice it in the smaller clothes I buy these days.

As I’ve said before, I don’t exercise. I am not interested in going to the gym or any of that stuff. I did give it a go though. Last summer, I was a bit more active: getting out on my bike and generally being busy. Now, I drive to work, so there’s minimal walking and it’s been cold, so I’ve been indoors way more, yet, I’ve trimmed down. I’m not going to lie, I do feel healthier and less jiggly.

We were invited to a house party for New Year’s at a friend’s house and on a whim, I bought a dress to wear. It wasn’t something I would EVER wear, let’s say, two years ago. I would never expose my stomach because it wasn’t flat and toned and with nary an ab in sight. These days though, I’ve really gotten used to my new old body. In the end, I never did wear the dress. I thought it might have been too fancy to wear to a house party and opted for something a bit more casual. Flashforward three months and I had to attend a dance festival social and I thought, “Hell yeah!”

One night last week, one of my besties came over and I tried on the dress and she gave her stamp of approval. My stomach still wasn’t flat and it was still going to be exposed, but I was stoked. I asked Kidlet, “This looks great, right?” Here he comes with, “Yes, but your belly is a little big-ish!” What came next was the gasp heard around the world! My wee kidlet had an opinion on my body? What? Um…

Right there and then, I thought, this world is F**KED UP. At first, I thought, “Wow, prior to that comment, I felt good about myself and my non-flat stomach and now there’s this cold bucket of water poured unceremoniously over my self-confidence.” The second thought was “What does this boy know about flat stomachs?” Though not actually flat, this is the flattest my stomach has ever been, so what’s he comparing my body to? The third thought was, “Thank goodness I don’t have a girl because right about now, I’d be even more PISSED!”

I’ve discussed this before. If your wee kidlet has an opinion of your body, and a negative one at that, what the heck is wrong with the world? What about unconditional love? What about loving yourself? Then the panic set in…does HE have things about himself that he wishes was different? EEEEEEK!

Okay, I may be overreacting here, but still. See? This is why I am a believer in positive body image! This is why I’m always trying to see the beauty in people. This is why I’m always trying to lift people up. This is why I always compliment people, not just women, but people in general. There are all these latent opinions and judgements lurking out there that HAVE to be counterbalanced. Grrrrrr….I know people who don’t like their ankles or their necks or their ears or their knees or whatever! Sigh. I try to tell them it’s okay, it’s good, but I’m only one person. Double sigh.

Inadvertently, though, by even buying that dress, it was to counterbalance the perception that only rock hard abs can be put on display. I wasn’t making a statement when I bought it, but I sure am making one now! By wearing the dress, I’ve said, “Yeah, it’s not flat. And?”

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We have to make up our minds not to give in to what ‘they’ want us to think about ourselves. We have to push through and accept our bodies as is! It’s the only one we have and if it’s a healthy body, ROCK ON!

Inside a human’s heart

Hello friends and followers and new visitors! Today’s post is a little longer than usual, but it’s a good one, I promise you.

So yesterday, I had a real life “Humans of New York” moment at the park yesterday.

Me and my stuff had taken over a park bench and an old man, came over and apologized to me because “my hip won’t let me take another step” and asked if he could sit down. Of course, I made room for him and, you know me, I almost immediately started chatting. As we sat there, with the sun bouncing off his aviator glasses, I realized that this man was old but not cold. He wore jeans, which surprised me, a very stylish combination of a sweater, collared shirt and t-shirt and, another surprise, canvas shoes. He had a British accent, which I liked.

We talked about the weather at first, remarking at how warm it was and how lucky we are to live in Vancouver. He said he had lived in Montreal for years and does not miss the snow. Many families made up of various components passed by as we sat there – dads, moms, children, dogs, scooters, bikes, skateboards – all out, making the most of the weather. I said, “Well, it’s a nice day to come to the park, anyway.” Then he started his confession:

“I lost my wife about a year ago and we would come here all the time. When I come here now, I come to think about her. We started courting when I was 17 years old and I’ll be 85 this year. It’s been hard without her.”

As I sat there listening to this stranger’s story, my heart squeezed a little bit. I know the sound of grief when I hear it. I know what it feels to reach a point where you are forced to contemplate a life you’re not ready for but got started anyway. Like a new diet, you continue to put it off, but you it’s something you’ll eventually have to do.

He went on to tell me about how good of a dancer she was and that everyone loved to watch them dance at the jazz club. “We never even had to talk about it. She was such a good dancer, we didn’t have to even discuss what we were going to do. It came so naturally to us.” To that I mumbled thoughtfully, “It’s because you were the same person.”

Anyone who has ever grieved deeply comes to a point where they just need to talk about the person. They need to keep the loss at bay. There is a need to bring the memory back and talk casually as if the person was at home or just stepped out for a minute. For as long as they are talked about, they are still real. I got it. I understood and it’s painful and it’s devastating, but that’s how the memories never fade. Because, I knew that, I let him talk. I let him tell me about how hard it is for him now, I let him tell me about how lovely she was. I let him confess to me that he wakes up from a nap in his chair and still expects her to be across the room on the sofa. I offered him a banana to which he declined because it doesn’t agree with him and he forgets which pills to take to help him digest “what’s the name of that thing bananas are full of again?” I replied, “Potassium.” I let him tell me that he forgets what he goes to the grocery store for and that the sweater he’s wearing is one that his wife bought him. I let him unload to me. I interspersed his story with snippets from my own story.

I told him about how years after my Mum had died, I called her cell phone, hoping against hope that she might actually answer and that she really wasn’t gone. I told him that when I got divorced, I didn’t know how to be or what to do or who I was and that I had just been recovering from that when I had to redefine myself again as a motherless child. I told him that grief is not something to “get over” despite what everybody says. It’s a condition that you learn to live with and don’t make anyone make you feel like you should be cured.

So here we were, two strangers on a park bench. Everybody around us was laughing, enjoying the unexpected warm February sunshine with their loved ones and here we were visiting our lost loved ones through stories and sharing. I wanted to hug him and tell him it gets better, but I couldn’t because it doesn’t. We connected in a wordless way, despite the many words we had exchanged. Both our lives touched in those moments.

He eventually got up and said he wanted to continue his walk. I told him not to run. He laughed and said, “Those days are long gone. I couldn’t even if I wanted to.” As he walked off, I noticed that he was hunched over and he walked with a limp, looking like all those old men whose body had betrayed them in the sunset years of their lives.

I sat there for a while and let what had just happened to me sink in. Later on, he walked past and said to me, “Goodbye love. I’m on my way back.” I looked into his glasses, held his hand and said, “It was wonderful to have met you,” and he said it back to me and he slowly walked away.

Wow! Where does the time go? We’re in the last week of February already! I still remember New Year’s! Time marches along, I guess, whether you’re on board or not. I barely have a plan together for this year and we’re two thirds through the first quarter. Seriously? Sheesh!

Anyway, before I get too hard on myself for not getting my sh…self together, I have to remind myself about my new philosophy. In my defence, it’s new, so I keep forgetting about it! Whoops!

When I wasn’t working last year, I had applied for income assistance from the Government (which I didn’t end up getting, so “Boo!). In the documents they gave me, there was a tracking sheet that I would have had to submit showing how much time I had dedicated to work search on a daily basis. While I never had to submit the form, at the time, I thought it was still a good idea to use it as a motivator. Pretty soon, I was using the form every day and it helped me get through those long days when I felt like I had accomplished nothing.

While decluttering a couple weeks ago, I had come across those lists and what I noticed was that I had started making lists, not only of jobs I had applied for, but other things I had done that day. Even looking at it almost a year later, I felt accomplished. For those of you who have ever had to be off work for any length of time looking for work, it can get very discouraging and I had figured out a way of motivating myself.

This brings me to my very motivating “Done List”. This weekend, I was very busy. I had gone out both Friday and Saturday nights, coming home in the wee hours both nights. Needless to say, yesterday morning, I did not feel particularly vibrant, but there was a lot of things I wanted to do. Nevertheless, I rolled out of bed around noon and started my day. I knew that it would be extremely easy to waste the day, justifiably because of exhaustion, and watch movies all day, but I was determined to be productive. I started my “Done List”.

So this list is exactly what it sounds like: a list of things I had done for the day. I put all the things on there that I didn’t have to do, but did anyway. I put things on there that when I woke up I had no real intention of doing, but managed to do. I’m not going to lie, “Get dressed” and “Brush teeth” were on that list! Once I was up and started making the list, the rest of the day rolled along nicely with me adding items on the list. I was able to get a shocking amount of tasks done, and I’m proud of yesterday’s list.

As I lament about the time flying by, maybe I should make a little ‘Done List’ for 2015 so far, so it doesn’t seem like I’m wasting time and have accomplished precious little.

My Done List as at February 23, 2015

  • Invested in a pair of hiking boots as a first step toward being more active
  • Learned how to make delicious cornbread, which will go a long way at any potluck I have to attend
  • Learned how to braid my hair from back to front (which is a wonderful accomplishment!)
  • Sticking it out with online dating – even going on a couple dates!
  • Accepting that I may not be able to go to Trinidad this year (which is HUGE for me!)
  • Decluttering the house (with two trips to the donation centre)
  • Rearranging my bedroom after 6 years of it being the same way
  • Keeping the inside of the car relatively clean
  • Bought a tablet, so I can work online easier
  • Starting experimenting with makeup
  • Was asked to present in a creative writing forum

Okay, at first glance, this list is not earth-shattering by any means, but for me and my life, this is incredible. Even while I was thinking about the things to put on it, I amazed myself. It feels good to have done so much in such a short time.

I guess, from this point on, it’s onward and upward, and if I do nothing else for the rest of the year, I’ve done quite a bit already! When I started to write this, I felt like I didn’t have a plan for this year, meanwhile, it seems like a pretty wonderful plan is already underway!

V

Betsy’s baaaack!

Hello boys and girls!

I’m hoping that this finds you well. I went a friend’s house for New Year’s Eve and left my good ole Betsy over there (for recent followers: Betsy is my trusty camera). I picked it up last weekend and took shots again like I used to last year. I forgot the joy of capturing moments and playing with light and shadows and trying to convey an emotion felt one moment in time.

Since I got Betsy back, I’ve been busy.

I went for a Family Day hike with my family to Golden Ears Provincial Park in Maple Ridge. It was an overcast day and it rained the ENTIRE time we were there, but it was fun and interesting. This is the scene from part of the hike. Man, it was majestic! Meanwhile, my hiking partner exclaimed, “Wouldn’t it be cool to see a bear…over there..on the other side of the bank?” Hmmm….since bears can swim, my answer was an emphatic,  “No!”

Photo taken by Vikera Hunte. Please do not copy without consent.

Then we continued walking in the forest, covered by the evergreen trees. We came across a couple skinny dippers – pre-skinny dipping – no pictures to follow! Ha! As we continued, closer to the waterfall, there was a pronounced increase in strength of the water rushing down. It was hypnotic and for me, it was very soothing.

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As we stood there watching the water gush down, I looked at what was underneath. Those rocks that get pounded every minute of every day and they just lay there, taking the beating day after day….trees, though, are sometimes not as resilient. But Nature is brutal to all and only the strong survive, I suppose.

Photo taken by Vikera Hunte. Please do not copy without consent.

After that walk in nature, I continued along my week, putting in quality time at the office, meeting with friends, living my life. Then came this weekend: the auspicious Valentine’s weekend! Ooh la la….um, whatever!

Love was definitely in the air though….

Photo taken by Vikera Hunte. Please do not copy without consent.

Don’t get carried away…this wasn’t my car. It was the scene at a Tim Horton’s car park on Valentine’s Day. When I saw it, I exclaimed, “Somebody’s car got Valentined!” Ah….the big romantic gesture! My day will come again soon….

Then that leaves us with yesterday: Sunday.

It was a nice sunny 12 degrees C (53 degrees F) today. Kidlet and I enjoyed a game of muddy mini golf. Since that one time last year in Cultus Lake, he fancies himself a pro. It was good fun since I actually hit the ball a few times. Yay! I think after my performance today, I’ll be ready for the big rematch this summer. I’m not messing around.

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As if that wasn’t enough, we hung around the park, and Kidlet very nonchalantly asked to join some children playing football (soccer) and so I walked laps for about 45 minutes around the race track while he enjoyed the fresh air and the camaraderie. I’m not going to lie, walking around, people watching and getting some exercise and fresh air in my lungs in the brilliant sunshine was a welcome break from the non-stop rain we’ve been having here on the West Coast. I even felt inspired to maybe buy some running shoes and make it a couple-times-a-week thing, but that moment passed as soon as I got to the car. (Whoops!)

While I was waiting for the tied football game to end, I also took some selfies and fooled around with the camera…you know…for science. ;)

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All in all, it’s been a good week. I’m glad to have Betsy back and we’ll see what other adventures we can document in the next few months as the season changes.

I want to take this opportunity to say a big “Hang in there!” to my East Coast friends and family and all those tormented by the white stuff. I know this winter has been particularly harrowing, but remember those warm summer months are just around the corner. It’s always darkest before the dawn and that sun will be coming before you know it! Sending you warm thoughts!

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Have a great week ahead, my friends!

V

All photos in this post were taken by Vikera Hunte. Please do not copy without permission.

If loving you is wrong….

Meanwhile, this whole time I’ve been lactose intolerant. Can you believe that?

As is the tradition in our family and in most Trinidadian families, I suspect, every morning, to greet the day, we have a steaming cup of Lipton orange pekoe tea with two teaspoons (or tablespoons, who cares?) of sugar and a healthy spoon of condensed milk or a generous pour of evaporated milk or a splash ‘water milk’ as my Mum called it, which I think would be equivalent to ‘regular’ 3.25% milk in North America. I don’t really know. The point is, it wasn’t lactose free milk and I’ve had milk most days of the year. Couple that with the milk and cheese in the weekly Trinidadian staple of macaroni pie (which is our version of baked mac and cheese), I have consumed A LOT of dairy in my lifetime. The thing is, not knowing that my body did not really care for milk and its by-products, I just pressed on with my daily tea and cheese on everything.

Flash forward to this job I’m at now where a couple co-workers are lactose intolerant. They often bring in milk for sharing for coffee and it’s invariably skim milk or lactose-free milk. Because I never thought it needed it, I have never really had skim milk before. Besides, it was too watery for my tea. Anyway, one day, my co-worker was talking about the effects of milk if consumed and I stood there, wide eyed and stupefied. It sounded like my morning routine! That was when I suspected my body had a hard time with lactose. I went out and bought a 2 litre box of lactose-free milk and ate a bowl of cereal just to see if I would notice the difference. Immediately after having that bowl of milk, I felt the difference. I didn’t feel bloated. I didn’t feel gassy or had an upset tummy. I felt ‘normal’ and then I knew! It made me think for a long time. What else have I been doing that’s not good for me but I kept doing because I didn’t know any differently? How long and in what other ways have I been ignoring my body and its needs? Hmmmm

Flash forward to December: eggnog season. Hmmm…eggnog. I’ve ALWAYS liked it. In Trinidad, we make this thing called ponche de creme, which is like three kinds of milk and eggs and RUM. I have always enjoyed sips of the drink, but because of the alcohol, I didn’t get to really enjoy it (I don’t drink alcohol at all). When I moved to North America where you can just buy litres of its equivalent with no alcohol, I was all over that like a dirty shirt! I looked forward to December where I could have cups and cups of the stuff. This time around though, I knew that while my taste buds enjoyed it, my stomach was NOT looking forward to eggnog season. What should I do?

What do you think I did knowing what I know? I bought litres of the stuff and drank it all.

The point of this story is that sometimes you do bad things to yourself over and over again without even knowing it and then wonder why things aren’t good. Then again, sometimes you do bad things to yourself over and over again fully aware of the repercussions, but you make that conscious choice! It’s called being a human.

Having said all that, realistically, I can’t live my life without cheese, so, I pick my battles and make that conscious choice to be bloated and gassy (sorry to the people I will be around). I don’t over do it. I try to have green tea at work, so I cut down on the milk consumption and I do buy lactose-free milk for home now. I will take the bullet for cheese though.

I know it’s wrong, but I don’t want to be right….