Losing–and Finding–My Passion

Do you ever feel like a fraud? I was starting to feel like a writing impostor.  I’d been a freelance writer for many years and I was becoming tired of it all–not so much the actual writing but all of the stuff that goes with it: the seemingly endless work of finding markets, pitching to editors, waiting for answers, and then, if that all went well, waiting to get paid. I wanted, no, I needed, to get out of this loop. I’d lost my passion for the work, and in this game, if you’re not passionate about the writing then the rest becomes a chore. I wrote a few articles and really tried to stoke the fire but I had to let it all go, including this blog. I couldn’t really call myself a writer anymore.

What was I though?

I’d always loved sharing my passion for writing with others and really enjoyed the time I’d spent with my writing group, but how could I teach others about writing when my heart wasn’t in it?

I still wanted to teach though and enjoyed teaching a fitness class at the Seniors Outreach Services (SOS) centre in Napanee.  I’d made new friends, they enjoyed my class, and I was improving my own fitness at the same time. With the support of the program director I’d changed my class from low-impact strength training into a strength-and-stretch class. The new program was inspired by Essentrics®.  I had a new passion: learn this program well enough to teach it. As I moved along on my Eccentric Journey I became more enthusiastic. The Essentrics® program evolved and there are now two tracks for instructors. The Aging Backwards® stream is perfect for me.  I know how much it will continue to help me and the people in my classes and anyone who needs a gentler exercise program because of chronic pain or injury. I received my certification as an Essentrics Aging Backwards® instructor in December 2019.

I now teach three or four classes a week and I love it!

As my enthusiasm for teaching Essentrics® grew, a funny thing happened: I found the passion for writing again. Now I want to write articles about health and fitness and specifically how we can all “age backwards” and take better care of ourselves. I want to share what I’ve learned and tap into the knowledge of others. I won’t even mind the pitch-wait-write-wait-loop again. I want to help other writers promote the work they are passionate about, so I will be posting more book reviews here. Check the Captions Communications page on my website for more news about my writing.

My passion for freelance work is also fueled by the fact that there will be a new Canadian Freelance Guild launching in May 2020. My writers’ organization, the Professional Writers Association of Canada, is a founding partner. Being a member of this new organization will help my work as an independent writer and Essentrics Aging Backwards® instructor.

I no longer feel like a fraud or an impostor. I am a fitness leader. I am a writer. Sometimes these two passions will come together. I will continue to write about them both with more passion, which I seem to have lost but now have found once more.

What’s your passion? How do you fuel it? What do you do when you start to feel like you’re losing it? Please let me know.

When it rains…

Of course you know the saying, “When it rains, it pours.” That certainly has applied to Spring 2019 in eastern Ontario, and in this case, it applies to this blog. It’s been a long time since I posted anything and now I’ve got two posts in two days. What can I say? “The muse has awoken.”

My last post, “Thankful for a little push” included a guest blog post from my colleague Lori Straus. I’d sent an essay to Lori for her blog, and I am posting it here.

My focus in the past few months has been working on my certification as an Essentrics® instructor, which has kept me from doing a lot of writing. However that program does help my writing business too. It’s not always an even balance, but it is a good balance, and an important one for me.

Here’s the post I sent to Lori. I’m back on the writing/fitness journey. Thanks for coming along.

How does Essentrics® help my writing business?

Your first question might be, “What is Essentrics®?” The answer: a fitness program designed to re-balance the body through simultaneous stretching and strengthening all of the muscles and rebalancing the joints. Now, your second question: “How does this fitness program fit your writing business?”

Essentrics® not only rebalances my body; it rebalances my work, and by extension, my life.

It gets me out in the world

Writing is a solitary occupation. Most freelance writers work alone either at home or in an office they’ve set up. Some might do some writing in a café or library so they’re around other people but still working, writing, alone. Being in a group fitness class ends that isolation. It balances the need for solitude and quiet with the need for social interaction and some noise. Writing is also a sedentary activity.  So the passive activity has to be balanced with something more active. Some writers run; others bike; some go to a gym for a workout. I do Essentrics®. I do it at home on my own; I lead three or four classes a week and I try to take a class once a week. If you want to try it, look on the Essentrics® website to find a class near you, or check out the videos on the site to try the exercises at home. So what is it about Essentrics® that I love so much?

It keeps me moving

Although I try to get up and move around, taking regular breaks while I’m working, the truth is that I can wind up sitting for waaaaayyyy too long. Sound familiar? My problem is that I have fibromyalgia, a syndrome of muscular fatigue and pain that is often centred in my lower back and hips. It is occasionally in my neck, shoulders and upper arms. Sitting for too long is not good for any of this. In fact pain can set in fairly quickly. Doing the Essentrics® exercises, even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes, goes a long way to stretch and strengthen those muscles and reduce the pain. My classes are 30-60 minutes in length, so that really gets things moving. Many days are actually pain-free, but only if I do the exercises. Some of the women in my classes also have fibromyalgia or sciatica and they tell me that that the exercises help. Getting together with others to exercise is important to me. It’s hard to motivate yourself to exercise alone. That’s why I teach: I have to show up. No excuses. Anything done with friends is always better and many of my students have become friends.

I feel better

Once I have done my class and enjoyed some social time I am in a better mood emotionally and I feel better physically. I’m ready to get down to work. I can concentrate better and my writing comes more easily.

When you balance physical exercise with the mental exercise of writing, it is all positive. Check out Essentrics® for yourself and see if this program works for you. You can check out my website to see some videos and testimonials. Whatever you do, keep moving so that you can re-balance your work, and your life.


You Say You Want a Resolution?

Years ago, John Lennon sang “You say you want a revolution?” Well, as I’m prone to do, I’m playing with those words making this  “You say want a resolution”—referring of course to New Year’s Resolutions. Some people will say, “oh I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions,” but I think they’re lying. How can you not think about looking ahead to the new year with a resolve to make it better than the one just ended? Even if 2009 was a great year for you, there’s always room for improvement isn’t there?

Since everyone’s doing their “Best of…” or “Top…” lists, I thought I might as well join in the fun. Here are some thoughts on three of the most popular resolutions:

Popular Resolution #1: Lose weight. How many of us have, or have had this as one of our top New Year’s Resolutions? I don’t anymore, but did for many years. Obviously, if I had to repeat it, I didn’t do very well at keeping it. So, while I don’t resolve to lose a specific amount of weight, I do want to keep improving my health, and that’s bound to lead to some weight loss. The trick will be to have it happen while I’m not thinking about it. By choosing foods that are better for my body, and having a daily regimen of some kind of exercise, I am bound to be healthier, and perhaps get back into those skinny black jeans hanging in my closet.

I still follow some of the practices I learned when I was working with a  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner in 2009 and 2010. I have a chart on my office wall called  “A Guide To The Energetics Of Food” that divides foods into categories such as meats, grains, vegetables, herbs, nuts and seeds, fish, fruit, etc., and then charts what effects these will have on your body.  There are also notes on qi (pronounced chee), blood, yin and yang, tonifying and regulating foods.Copies of the chart, and other related books are available from the Redwing Book Company. I will be referring to the chart more often as I try to get, or keep, my life in better balance.

Chocolate isn’t on the chart, but hey, as I hope you’ve realized, and as my friend Doreen Pendgracs, author of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, always says: a day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine. I think we need plenty of both, especially during Canadian winters. So, ok, I do more exercise. (see below), and I am pretty careful with my diet, but as my dad used to say, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Diet is only one part of a healthier lifestyle. Exercise, which to me is essential for losing weight, is also a key factor, which is why it is a popular resolution.

Popular Resolution #2:  Get More Exercise This is one I plan to keep, not only for this year, but every year. I picked up my walking two years ago, and now have a Nordic Pole Walking Group that I meet with every week–twice a week in the nice weather. Using Nordic Poles makes a walk into a workout as you are using 90 percent of your muscles. The poles also help with stability and balance. I find they take pressure off of my joints, which makes the walk more enjoyable too. Here’s a link to an article  I wrote for a website called Parks Blogger Ontario about Nordic Walking, and one of my favourite places to walk: the Dunes Trail at Sandbanks Provincial Park, near Picton, Ontario.

Here’s a photo of some of our group at Sandbanks in November 2015:


In addition to the walking I also do something I call “Dynamic Stretching.” The exercises are based on a program called Essentrics, which was developed my Miranda Esmond-White. She has been teaching this program for many years and has a popular PBS program called Classical Stretch. I have some of Miranda’s DVDs, and one featuring her daughter Sahra. I regularly follow the website, where she posts mini-workouts. Those are great to do while I’m at my desk. As I often stand at my desk, I already have a nice pad to stand on for the exercises. I have Miranda’s first book, Aging Backwards, which features all of her Essentrics exercises, and I am looking forward to getting her newest book, Forever Painless. 

These exercises are gentle, and yet when you do them for 20 or 30 minutes, you know you have worked all of your muscles. My goal is to do at least that much every day, but I won’t call it a resolution.

Popular Resolution#3 : Quit Smoking. I smoked for a very short time when I was 16 years old, but it never became a habit. I really didn’t like the smell or taste, and more importantly to me, I had better things to do with my money.  Both of my parents smoked, and most of my relatives smoked too.  Some of them still do, in spite of the fact that heart disease and stroke, two illnesses that have been linked to smoking, have caused many premature deaths in our family. My mother died in 2000 [at the age of 68] of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), directly linked to her smoking. She’d had two strokes and many mini-strokes in the three years before she died. Her doctor advised that she quit smoking while she still had a chance to beat the COPD—advice she didn’t take. I think her philosophy was that she was here for a good time, not a long time (as the song goes). I’d like to be here for a long time, and have a good time.

It saddens me how much of our lives and her grandchildren’s lives, including their graduations, weddings, and now their children, that my mother has missed.  I’m happy to say that my Dad quit smoking when he was 60 and I believe that added years to his life. I am so happy that he was in our life for another 25 years. He died in May 2016 from congestive heart failure and kidney disease related to his long-term diabetes. His doctors were amazed how long he’d live with the illness, and how well he’d managed it. He said he never regretted quitting smoking.

So it is possible, but I know it’s hard to do.  More information and help is available from your local health unit or the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada . The tobacco companies have continuously made their product more addictive, so this is likely the hardest thing you’ll do, but your friends and family, especially your children and grandchildren, will thank you.

Of course, there are other resolutions that people make, but these are the ones that seem to top the list, and it’s no surprise they are all related to health. I figured out a long time ago that if you don’t have your health, it really doesn’t matter what else you have, or want, because you can’t enjoy it, or do it well.

I’m making plans for, and hope that I will be more productive with work, make more money doing what I love to do—write and teach—and do more travelling. All of those things will add up to a pretty terrific year. But I’ll settle for just being healthier. The rest will follow.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year, and I’d love to hear about your resolutions, and whether you make them now or not.

Updated from December 31, 2009

What Does Wellness Mean To You?

I was asked to write a column* that would be called “Wellness Words” so I started thinking about the meaning of the word wellness.  It’s not in my dictionary so I looked online and found “wellness” equated with “health”.  I’ve talked about some of this in one of my previous posts “Choices in Healthcare”.

To explore the idea further I spoke with two people who use the word wellness. Mora File, owner of the Wild Orchid Health and Wellness Centre on Centre Street in Napanee had this to say about wellness:  “It’s the integration of all aspects of the things that have an impact on our life including the work we do, the food we eat, and the things we do to keep things in balance. It’s also knowing when you need to take better care of a certain aspect of your life and how to access what you need to do that.”

Joanne Maclean, owner of Wellness in the Woods on Highway 2 east of Napanee said that she thinks of wellness as something that is “achieved from the inside out,” and “is a way of making yourself feel better.” She said her clients tell her they always feel better and more relaxed when they leave her salon, in its  lovely wooded setting, so it was easy coming up with its name.

Does wellness just mean health? It’s fortunate that while none of my health problems have been life-threatening, they have affected my quality of life, and they have led me to search outside the norm for answers to my problems. I have a family doctor who supports my belief that she is just one of many health professionals I can consult. I also have complementary care available including chiropractic, massage therapy, yoga, naturopathy, holistic nutritional counselling, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Thanks in part to this team of practitioners I maintain my wellness. I’ve referred to this in The Best of Both Worlds.

We have a hospital in my community and a number of doctors to care for us when we are not well. We also have a growing number of complementary and alternative care providers in the area. I’ve mentioned some here. Others may be introduced in upcoming posts.

Wellness is a state of being: having a healthy mind, body and spirit. It’s more than just being free of disease.  Achieving wellness requires active promotion of health and prevention of illness. While it’s good to have a team of people who can help us achieve optimum health, ultimately, it is up to us. We need to make the best choices we can and not always rely on someone else to take care of us. We need to work to achieve whatever wellness means to us. Heredity or just bad luck may give us some health challenges to deal with but if we keep wellness as the goal, and we have a range of choices, then meeting those challenges will become easier.

What does wellness mean to you? Please post a comment here on the blog and let me know.

*I won’t be writing that column because an agreement could not be reached on the contract. Certain writers’ rights were  requested that I would not license or waive. It was nice to be asked but there are other publishers who may be interested in this type of writing, and who are more willing to negotiate contracts.

What’s in A Name?

As a writer I play with words. This blog was going to be called  “Women’s Health Matters” playing on those three words because of matters related to women’s health that I wanted to discuss, and because women’s health matters– as should everyone’s health.  Sticking to writing about women’s health or health in general might be too restrictive both to me as the writer, and to readers. I’m interested in lots of other things so the blog topics may wind up being quite eclectic as is my writing.

Like many 57-year-old women I’ve had a number of health issues to deal with, and  a  number of doctors.  I’ve also read a lot about my health concerns.  In her book “Take Charge of Your Body: Women’s Health Advisor” Dr. Carolyn DeMarco calls it “bibliotherapy.” I think that’s a really good term for the idea of helping yourself through reading. Learn more at www.drdemarco.com Of course humour is also important therapy. What is it they say about “laughter being the best medicine?”

I come by my sense of humour, which some call quirky, quite honestly. Thank you Mom and Dad. I grew up in a household where spilt milk at the dinner table was a semi-regular occurence because we got laughing about something and knocked it over much to my mother’s chagrin. She’d try to get my Dad to discipline us, but more often than not, he’d started it.  Our parents taught us not to take ourselves too seriously, nor  too highly. We are more likely to give each other a funny, but somewhat insulting, birthday card than a mushy one.  I don’t always find it easy to laugh at myself, but I try. I will  laugh not at others, but with them when life situations call for it, and I can also be very empathetic.

So why a blog and why now? It started with thinking about updating my book, “With Humour and Hope: Learning From Our Mothers’ Depression and Alcoholism”, which I wrote and self-published (Trafford 2001).  You can order the book through my website, www.CaptionsCommunications.ca.  I chose that title because I needed to look at those issues with at least some sense of humour, and a sense of hope. As addiction and mental health are, well, depressing topics I need to broaden my horizons, and move forward.  So, you just never know what you’ll find here. It might be related to women’s health matters; it might be a rant about the health care system; or it might be something totally unrelated to health, but funny or hopeful.

I hope you’ll find With Humour and Hope interesting, entertaining, or at least worth the time you take to read the blog.  Your feedback is important, so please leave a comment, or e-mail me at Christine@CaptionsCommunications.ca

Always remember to keep humour and hope alive. It might not be much, but sometimes, it’s all we’ve got.