New Medium

 

I started making art with alcohol inks a few months ago.

I had been painting with acrylic and watercolor, but I had never tried the inks and really had no idea how they worked…

Passing through Edmonton, I stopped at the Paint Spot (a mecca for the art supply enthusiast – me! me! me!) and asked them what I would need. I picked up a pack of Piñata inks (really the only multi-pack of inks they had), alcohol blending solution and some Yupo paper.

Yupo is a synthetic paper extruded from polypropylene pellets (so from recyclable material, not trees – cool). I thought at first that it was a bit like photo paper by look and feel (although it isn’t glossy), but it actually quite different. According to the info page, Yupo is:

  • Super-smooth
  • Prints consistently and effortlessly
  • Holds ink with razor-sharp precision
  • Durable
  • Wipes clean
  • Waterproof
  • Will not tear (I tried, it really doesn’t)
  • Bright White

There is no Yupo here at Michael’s (our go-to store for art supplies), which is why I grabbed it in Edmonton. I was shocked at the price! Seriously, a pack of 10 sheets was $42 (gasp!). I have since discovered that I can order it online for about half the price. Phew!

I started exploring by googling (now a verb – exciting!) a few alcohol ink tutorials. I didn’t learn a ton from these, other than the space needs to be well-ventilated and it is hard to predict what will happen with the inks, as they kind of flow and move on their own (and that some people on tutorials talk a lot and need to perhaps do more editing).

So instead of following what others have done, I simply decided to play and explore. I started slowly, one drop at a time, mixing colors and watching what happened. I found observing the colors mixing and expanding to be a very meditative experience.

I love how each piece turns out so differently. Some of mine looked like flowers, so I decided to do some drawing once the inks were dry.

A couple of caveats about drawing on your alcohol ink artwork:

  • make sure your alcohol ink is totally dry. I don’t use much ink on so this usually takes about 20 minutes (or less). For those who use more ink, I would recommend letting it dry overnight or for a couple of nights.
  • check to see if your pen or other marker wipes off. It is important to test your products on a small piece of Yupo because there are very few that won’t smudge.
  •  if using a gel pen to let the lines dry really well. Here is a blog with amazing examples of how different materials work on Yupo.

I tend to put my ink on straight from the bottle, as I love the vibrancy of the colors! I have seen some beautiful work done with diluted inks and a blow dryer (not too hot because the Yupo will warp with heat) but I have yet to try that!

Here are a few more examples of my work:

Have you tried making art with alcohol inks? It can take courage to start a new hobby and be a beginner at something, but once you get over all that it can be really rewarding!

~Heide xo

 

 

Nap Time

Are you a napper? I am!

I love to nap! Sometimes I get up in the morning already daydreaming about my future nap. It’s one of my favourite moments of the day.

I once saw a post on social media, which I’m pretty sure was a joke, for a 30-Day Napping Challenge. I thought, well, I may not be up for a 30-Day Squat Challenge, but a napping challenge, YES WAY!! I would totally rock that challenge!

There is also, believe it or not (I’m not sure I do because I learned about it through the internet) A National Competitive Napping League. Napping as sport?

Apparently, this “sport” was first documented as the 2010 Siesta Competition in Madrid. The contestants (or should we call them athletes?) slept on blue couches in a shopping centre for 20 minutes.

Competitors were rated on their speed of falling asleep, the depth of their sleep, how much they snore, twitch, etc. According to Daniel Blanco, president of the National Association of Friends of the Siesta, the event was a way to bring awareness of the modern-day possibility of losing the siesta as a regular practice.

In 2016, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy proposed to end the normal working day at 6pm, rather than 7pm or later, which could mean no more after lunch siesta.

Here in Canada, the siesta isn’t common. We don’t have the blisteringly hot weather in the afternoon to merit this sleep time, nor do our work days support this practice.

I also know people who feel that napping is an unproductive waste of time, but I feel so much better once I’ve had a nap.

I wouldn’t win the cash prize for the Siesta Competition anyway because I’m a bed napper, not not a couch napper.

I love the feeling of cuddling into my cozy duvet when the sun is still shining. It seems decadent and luxurious to crawl into bed when everyone else is awake. Even better is when I feel the soft fur of my cat, while she purrs and snuggles up against me. I feel like my cat and I are one, curled up in a sunbeam.

I used to take naps as more of a treat to myself. I didn’t need them every day, but I usually felt better if I had one.

Now that I’m off work on disability, I absolutely need at least one nap if not two every day. Sometimes I get up early (today at 4:40 am) and then by 8:30 or 9:00 I’m back in bed again.

For a while I felt a bit useless, needing to nap everyday. I would fight the need to rest. I’d have another coffee, try to stay awake, but I finally just accepted that my body needs the extra rest. At least now that I’m done teaching, I can rest whenever I need. I’m grateful for this.

What do you think about napping? A good idea or a waste of time?

 

Gotta Have Faith

I wasn’t raised in an Ashram or a Hippie community. I did not grow up with parents doing yoga, meditating, smudging, using crystals, any of the things that you may associate with a New-Age state of being. (Well, we did have the Jesus Christ Super Star album so that might count a tiny bit toward making me the spiritual person that I am today.)

I didn’t grow up in a religious household either. Our family did not attend church, recite Scripture or pray before eating. There was no Crucifix hanging or Bible in the desk drawer. Despite this, I took myself to church as a young child (the First Church of Nazarene was close to our house) because I could feel the Spirit in the teachings and in the building.

I have always been in touch with the supernatural. I have always believed in and resonated with something bigger than myself; something powerful and universal. For years I called it God. I’ve also called it Spirit, the Universe, the Source, the Superconsciousness, the Überconsciousness (that one is especially fun to say and write), the Oneness, the Creator…you get the point. Star Wars fans would call it “The Force.” I will be using many of these different terms interchangeably. If one term rubs you the wrong way feel free to substitute another in its place.

The presence of Spirit is larger and more glorious than our human brains can truly contemplate on an intellectual level. Those of you who have experienced it know exactly what it feels like to be connected to that ultimate source of light and love.

I had moments of insecurity about this connection to Spirit as many around me did not have the same sensitivity or proclivity. Once in a while I would question whether or not it was simply a figment of my imagination. Of course, this is understandable. If Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy aren’t real, and I believed in them for a while, who is to say that God is real?

I always came to the same conclusion. I believed in a higher power simply because I felt the connection and I knew it was real. I could not really explain it to anyone who didn’t. How could I prove the existence of something to someone who does not believe that it exists? How could I explain the invisible presence and love that was dwelling in me and everywhere around me?

Many people continue to be deeply rooted in the idea that they need to “see it to believe it.” It can be easier for some to cling to a worldview as seen only through the lens of the five senses. It is understandable to question whether something exists that we can’t see, feel, smell, taste or touch.

When I taught in the Catholic school system, the conversation circled a lot around the concept of “faith”. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines faith as: a belief and trust in and loyalty to God, or a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.  I told my students that you just have to believe in God. I couldn’t prove it in the traditional sense.

I also taught them about Transubstantiation – that the wine at church was actually Jesus’ blood and the thin dry wafer was his body. (My grade one students were always particularly confused about this one-as much as some thought it would be cool to try wine they were not interested in eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood-yuck!) I explained to them, “It is actually happening, you just can’t see it.“

I would talk to the students about what it means to feel God. I would share situations in which I felt that Spirit was supporting me and loving me. I asked them if they had ever felt that there was something larger than themselves (“yes, our dads!” – gotta love six year olds). Interestingly enough, many of the students completely understood what I was talking about.

There is something amazing about this concept. I was teaching the children to sense with more than their five senses. I was telling them that there are supernatural things that exist beyond the scope of their limited physical sensory-receptive abilities. Most seemed able to accept the premise that there are invisible, magical and miraculous things occurring that we cannot fully comprehend. They felt connected to Spirit in a way that went deeper than words could encapsulate.

 

How does your faith express itself? When do you feel most connected to Spirit, God, the Creator?

Creative Sadhana

One of my goals is to create every day.

Somedays I paint, others I explore with alcohol inks, or I make a collage. I usually write every morning when my brain is fresh and my ideas are percolating. I may create a post for my blog, ramble on in a stream-of-consciousness way in my morning pages, or I might even work on a chapter in my soon to be published bestselling book (the power of positive thinking, right?). This is my creative sadhana.

It was in one of my first Kundalini yoga practices that I heard the term sadhana.

Sadhana means daily practice. It is a commitment or a dedication to do something on a regular basis.

Yogi Bhajan, the incredible visionary who brought Kundalini yoga to the West in the late 60’s, had this to say about sadhana:

“What is sadhana? It’s a committed prayer. It is self-enrichment. It is not something which is done to please somebody or to gain something. Sadhana is a personal process in which you bring out your best.”

A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary defines the term sadhana in an even simpler way:

Sadhana means literally “a means of accomplishing something.”

Not only is sadhana a way to get something done, there is an intention behind it. When you’re living your sadhana every day it is because you have a desire to practice something consistently with dedication and focus.

Sadhana is often understood in a spiritual context. A person may set aside time daily for meditation, prayer, yoga, chanting or reading spiritual / sacred texts. All of these are sadhana.

Personally, I have my daily meditative and Kundalini practice as well as my creative practice. I have made sadhana a priority in my life and I consistently dedicate time in my day for it.

Do I always feel like it? No. Do I miss a day once in a while? Yes, but I do my best not to beat myself up about it.

I find that it is usually easier to do my sadhana first thing in the morning (often early before anyone else in the house is up) as it starts my day off right. When I am grounded, centered and connected my day simply flows better and I feel better.

There are times when I do my sadhana later in the day, but sometimes I get busy with other activities and the sadhana gets pushed to the side or doesn’t happen. I definitely notice that when I miss my daily practice, something just feels “off” and things don’t go as well.

Could you incorporate a creative or spiritual sadhana into your daily routine? If you practice sadhana already, what helps you to stay on track and committed?

Thanks for reading!

~Heide

P.S. The featured art for this post is a watercolour and oil pastel masterpiece by a grade one student in my class. Young children are such amazing artists!

 

 

100% Authentic

I am authentic.

I am me.

Which me am I?

There are so many parts,

So many facets,

So many bags,

So many screws, nuts, and bolts,

And no instructions.

Steps 1 – 20…

I think I mixed up the order.

The left is on the right,

And the right is upside down.

I’m a face card,

A queen of hearts,

A palindrome.

Am I me?

Am I authentic?

I started this blog mostly because I have a crapload of time on my hands, but also because I have a bunch of ideas that I want to share. Since I’ve been off work on disability I’ve been working on a book, but I’m having a difficult time with it right now.

It’s hard work! I am in awe when I go into a bookstore or library and see how many people have done it. Then I am confronted with the realization that millions of people have written books! How can anyone possibly write anything new? How can I have anything to say that hasn’t already been said?

It’s been an emotional roller coaster. Some days I am pumped and super proud of what I write. I save my work and close the file feeling confident that my book will be a big hit.

Other days the words don’t flow, and I feel like a fake and a failure. I doubt my abilities and doubt my motives. Is it just my ego that is taking me over? I can pretend that I’m writing just for myself, to get to know myself better, but deep down I know that I want to be successful. I want my book to be on the bestseller list.

I begin to question why anyone would ever publish my ramblings. Why do I bother? Who really gives a shit what I have to say?

I get discouraged, I stop writing for days and I want to abandon the whole thing. I do some art to distract me and to give me the feeling that I’m doing something useful with my abundance of free time. Sometimes I watch mindless T.V. or I nap.

I’m enjoying writing for my blog so far. The smaller posts make it seem more manageable, and it gets me into the habit of writing every day. It’s much less daunting than a book.

As excited as I was about starting a blog, I was really nervous about sharing my blog on Facebook. Well, I actually shared it and then I deleted it. I just felt weird and waaaay too vulnerable. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to put myself out there 100%.

So here I am, claiming to be all about authenticity and I’m struggling with being authentic. I’m struggling with sharing my true self through my writing.

I worry that some of my “friends” on Facebook might think that I’m too weird or flaky. They might not know that I’m interested in New-Age topics and spiritual stuff. I teach in the Catholic School system. What will people say if I espouse ideas that are challenging to the Catholic doctrine and dogma? What if some people don’t want to be friends with me anymore?

It’s embarrassing to admit that I’m 46 years old and I’m having thoughts like this. I’m searching for approval and likes and people to validate my self-worth. I realize that not only do I still have my people-pleasing tendencies; I’m still letting them run the show.

So, in an effort to be more authentic, 100% authentic, super duper authentic (can one really be partially authentic? Um…) I am sharing my blog on all my social media platforms; including Facebook.

If I lose friends, so be it. I’m putting myself out there – I’m embracing my vulnerability and I’m hoping that in doing so I inspire you to do the same. I’m sharing my authentic self.

In the wise words of Brené Brown

“Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice – – a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen. “

Do you ever struggle to share your authentic self with those in your life? What are some of the ways you’ve overcome this? Please let me know I’m not the only one dealing with this!!

Spiritual Signs

So you’re becoming more Spiritual? Awesome! But what does that really mean?

Spirituality is a really difficult thing to define. It manifests in a myriad of ways as an extremely individualized and personal experience. Here are the top 20 signs you may be becoming more “spiritual”:

TOP 20 SIGNS YOU ARE BECOMING MORE “SPIRITUAL”

  1. Meditation – You’ve started meditating and finding more space for mental quiet. You may even have downloaded the Insight Timer or another meditation app.
  2. Mantras – Not only do you chant them, you find yourself listening to them on Spotify. You may even listen to White Sun on a regular basis.
  3.  Astrology -You not only know your Zodiac “sign”, you might know that you have a “moon sign” and you might even know what it means when Mercury is in retrograde.
  4. Numerology – You know your life path, destiny and karmic numbers, and what this actually means. You are stoked that 2018 is an 11 year.
  5. Tarot – You do a Tarot spread (or Angel Cards, Medicine Wheel cards) for yourself or a friend “just for fun. You may even ask for a message of the day.
  6. Animals – When an animal crosses your path you get excited and you search for what it could possibly symbolize. You may even have an animal totem.
  7. Crystals – You find yourself buying more crystals and putting them around your house. You may even have jewelry with crystals in it.
  8. Smudging – You have purchased a smudge stick (maybe sage, sweetgrass or Cedar) and you have smudged your home, office or yourself to purify and clean the energy or vibes.
  9. Energy Work / Reiki – You may have taken Reiki training, had a Reiki session or gone to an energy healer. You believe in the power of hands-on healing techniques.
  10. Yoga – You may be attending more yoga classes and you are starting to say Namaste a lot more outside of yoga classes. You may even do some Kundalini yoga.
  11. Plant-Based – You may find that you are more interested in plant-based medicines or maybe consuming a more plant-based diet.
  12. Sound Baths – You have attended a sound bath or you know what a crystal bowl or Tibetan bowl sounds like. You may even own one!
  13. Incense – You are beginning to light incense a lot more often. You know what Nag Champa is.
  14. Guru – You have a Guru and you may even have a picture of said Guru or a spiritual mentor on your altar.
  15. Books – You read books about spiritual growth and enlightenment. You may have a book by Gabby Berenstein, Brené Brown, Danielle Laporte, Eckhart Tolle or Marianne Williamson.
  16. Podcasts – You have subscribed to a more spiritual themed podcast like Oprah’s Supersoul Conversations or Luke Storey’s The Life Stylist.
  17. Chakras – You know that the word is pronounced Chakras with a hard “ch” and you know the names and colours associated with each one. You may have even gone for a chakra balancing or clearing.
  18. Pendulum – You have a pendulum and you’ve used it for divination, healing or answering questions.
  19. Energy – You talk about energy and vibes a lot. You may be an “empath” or you’re extra sensitive and pick up on what others are feeling.
  20. Intuition –  You listen for that inner voice to inform you in your daily life. You may make judgments or adjustments to plans based on your intuition.

Any of these sound familiar?

How does spirituality manifest in your life? Do you have any signs to add?

Now that you have a seat on the Spiritual train…here is a link to a hilarious video by JP Sears on “How to be Ultra Spiritual”.

Namaste ~

Creativity & Collage

Creating art is a way of tapping into your soul and your authentic self. I hear so many people say “I’m not artistic” and I simply don’t believe that’s true. I think that everyone has an inner creative spark – we are born to create. It is our birthright.

Many of us have had experiences in our childhood or in our life that have succeeded in shutting us down creatively. All it takes is one critique or the disapproval of someone else to make you feel “less than.”

I stopped drawing for years because of an incident in grade two. I used to love drawing and I did it all the time. So, as you can imagine, I was super stoked when I heard that my school was having an animal art drawing contest. I drew a duck sitting on a post in pencil and coloured it with pencil crayons. I worked on it for a week and I was so proud of it – it was beautifully-done and super-realistic.

It was apparently too good. The teachers who were judging disqualified me from the contest claiming there was no way that I could draw that well. I was devastated. I remember crying and crying until I basically had no tears left.

No matter how much I insisted that I had done the work myself, the teachers would not believe me. How horrible. In hindsight I don’t know why my parents didn’t go in and speak with them…they had seen me drawing the damn duck forever. What was even more insulting was the fact that a friend of mine won with a picture of a bunny that her brother had drawn! Isn’t it incredible how, even as adults, we remember these traumatic experiences with extraordinary clarity?

I struggled a lot with perfectionism, so it was my tendency to work on a picture, and if it wasn’t exactly perfect in my mind, I would crumple up the paper and start over. Suddenly, this perfectionist tendency was my downfall. Go figure.

I dabbled in painting in elementary school, but I didn’t draw or do much else in terms of art until my friend Derrick Denholm (an incredibly talented artist, writer and musician) introduced me to collages in 1995.  He had a bunch of random stuff, paper, paint, ink and glue, and he basically let me do whatever I wanted with it. It was so liberating!

I fell immediately in love with the process and I loved the freedom it provided.

Creativity comes in many forms, and you can express creatively in your life without necessarily making art! Perhaps your creativity shines through in the way you dress, how you cook, how you decorate your home, how you communicate or in how you do your job? Maybe the parameters around creativity need to be expanded.

How do you express your creativity? Have you tried collage as a medium?

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Spiritual Awakening

I believe in Spirits, aka ghosts. I grew up reading books on mystical topics like ghosts, UFO’s, the Pyramids, The Bermuda Triangle and Stonehenge. I was never 100% sure how legit the ghost stories were, until I met my first ghost when I was in grade 4.

My parents had just separated. It was a damn good thing too, because my mom really needed to get away from my controlling father. She left Red Deer with a carload of stuff and me, my older sister and my younger brother. 7 hours later we were in Grande Prairie, Alberta, getting settled at my grandparent’s house.

I was excited about attending a new school and I made new friends quickly, one of whom was named Denise (I do not remember her last name – if I did I’d look her up on social media). If you read this Denise you can corroborate my story.

Denise was always telling me about a ghost that she had at her house. Despite my eye rolling and doubtful looks, Denise explained repeatedly to me that her ghost was a man, and that he was friendly but annoying. She would often complain of getting little sleep because her ghost friend would pull off her sheets when she was sleeping, pester her and play pranks on her.

I, the complete skeptic, thought Denise was completely full of shit (yes, you read it right, THOUGHT) and I would pepper her stories with comments like “yeah, right” and “as if.”

I didn’t believe a word of it. Not even one measly little syllable. “Suuuuuurrrrreeeee Denise, he kept you up all night when all you wanted to do was sleep…”

I was the voice of reason. Ghosts were a bunch of hooey and I knew it.

I figured Denise was simply being ridiculous and telling these stories to get attention (although in hindsight I don’t think she really told anyone other than me).

After hearing countless stories of this phantom menace (tee hee) I challenged her (Denise if you ever end up reading this, I’m sorrythat I can’t remember your last name) to show me the ghost (with “show me the money!” conviction).

With creepy excitement, Denise invited me to her house so she could prove it. She lived in an older house close to the school we attended (the house had a little cupboard for the milkman to leave a bottle of milk by the door! Never had I seen anything like it. Of course, not that old when it comes down to it, but for my super shallow elementary school self it seemed really ancient).

We walked to her house at lunchtime, and I remember being really cocky and not at all afraid because I did not believe in ghosts. We entered through the back door. Her house was a typical bi-level – there were stairs leading up the kitchen and the main floor and stairs leading into the basement. The back door was creaky (you know, like in a Halloween sound effect way) and she told me to wait in the entrance while she went to look for the ghost.

She went downstairs, saying with conviction, and an over-the-shoulder glance, “he’s usually down here.” I don’t remember the intricacies of my reaction, but I’m pretty sure it resembled something like a tight-lipped smile and a hand on the hip. I thought it was hilarious how she was playing the whole thing. She opened the door to the basement and then another door to a room and said, “nope, he’s not in here.”

At this point I was expecting her to finally come clean. I was convinced that she would just admit she was lying or she would make up some other fib about the ghost being gone for the day.

I heard Denise’s distant voice say, “he’s not in here…, no not in here either…”

As I walked halfway down the wooden stairs to let her know that I was heading back to school, I heard her yell, with amused delight, “oh, here he is!”

And, as the word “is” left her mouth, I shit you not, I felt an ice-cold shockwave through my body. It was if something had penetrated my skin and traveled completely through me. It was freezing cold, it was nauseating, and it felt very volatile.

I burst into tears and ran from her house back to school, without ever looking back. When I got to the school grounds I was completely freaked out and hyper-ventilating. I felt like I was going to throw up. Denise wasn’t lying! I vowed to never return to her house.

I was so beyond petrified that I refused to talk about it with Denise, who was busy excusing his behavior and telling me that he was just mad because I didn’t believe in him. I told Denise with extreme conviction to never ever EVER speak to me about this ghost again, that I was never going to her house, and that I didn’t want to hear another word about it.

Poor Denise. I finally believed her and I was far too frightened to dialogue about it. I moved back to Red Deer at the end of that school year and never heard from Denise again. I never told anyone about this story until I was in High School, and even then it was an abridged version, as I did not want to acknowledge the existence of the entity for fear that it might somehow find me.

Wherever you are Denise, I’m sorry that I didn’t believe you. I hope that ghost eventually left you alone and let you get some sleep.

Have you even seen or felt a ghost? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Identity Crisis

One of those life trajectory-changing moments happened about a year and a half ago. My kidneys officially started to go downhill – they were losing function and fast. Over one summer they went from Salsa dancing five nights a week to barely boogieing (how does one spell this word?) in the kitchen. Not that this was a complete surprise – I had been diagnosed with an inherited disease called Polycystic Kidney Disease when I was 8 (we pseudo medical folk like to call it PCK, not to be confused with KFC).

Without going into too much detail, because, yawnsville, you don’t need to know all the amazing details about kidney function et al, my kidneys were underachieving. As a pair they were filtering at about 22%. Which I was like, wha?? when I got a phone call from the doctor ‘s office telling me I’d better get my hiney in there because there was some sh – – going down in ma nephrology area.

I was a little bit worried, because from my training in the scholastic arena over the years, I knew that 22% was really pretty bad!! It’s way lower than even 50%, which is crappy in and of itself, ‘cause as we all know 100% is the goal, right? And, last time I checked, the kidneys were still in the major organ category, non?

After an initial bout of semi-panic, I was referred to an internal medicine specialist and I was asked to check my GFR more often. (Glomerular Filtration Rate – please click on the link for more info if interested). I learned that 22% function wasn’t great but it also wasn’t as big of a deal as I had initially thought. The kidneys are pretty amazing organs – they can keep on truckin’ quite well until they are in the >14% or lower category. You don’t even need dialysis at 22%.

In general, I was feeling pretty good aside from being super tired all the time; but mostly I chalked that up to being a grade one teacher. Seriously, try hanging with 24-27 six and seven-year olds five days a week (that’s a lot of numbers in one sentence!). It’s exhausting. Fulfilling, but exhausting. It’s lot like planning a never-ending learning-focused birthday party EVERY day for months.

Fast-forward about a year and a half, to February 10th, 2017, my official last day of work. After teaching for fifteen years, I was written off on disability, waiting for a new kidney. All I can say about this is thank God for the Canadian health care system and for my doctor who was on the ball. As soon as I got off of full-time work my kidney function stopped plummeting and stabilized at around 18%.

HOME SWEET HOME

You might think, “sweeeeeeeet! How great would that be? Getting paid to stay home…sign me up!” As fantastic as it sounds, being home from work was really difficult for me at first. I suddenly felt as though I had no direction, no focus and no reason to be. I was devastated. I sat at home mostly doing nothing and sleeping a lot of the day, partly due to exhaustion and partly due to just feeling really low. In my mind I had purpose as a teacher. I had made a difference every day and the world was a better place because I had a positive impact on so many young lives. Now what was I doing? Housecleaning? Making my bed? Watching TV? Reading? A depression crept over me like a dark fog and I didn’t want to get out of bed. Talk about an identity crisis.

I felt isolated, alone and unimportant. I was used to so many daily social interactions with students, parents and other teachers. Now I was at home doing nothing of significance, saying nothing much…I felt like I was using up good air. This might sound like I was being a drama queen but the experience really threw me for a loop. One day I was a viable person contributing in the world, and then I was lump on the couch with a shitload of time on my hands.

This is what I wrote about the experience:

None of us is irreplaceable. It is a humbling realization to recognize that if we disappear or are suddenly removed from this random and ever-changing plethora of scenarios and scenes, it isn’t really that big of a deal. The veritable play will continue on without us. The sun will rise and set, the moon will play reflective peek-a-boo at night, and people will go about their business in a very similar semblance of the way that they did before you evaporated.

I’m not saying that there won’t be ripples. It will be noticed here and there that something has changed. A once relatively consistent factor or presence is no longer there, and that counts for something.

The loops in which we circulate in as humans cycle on ad infinitum, and each of us is only the most miniscule piece of the puzzle; less than a stitch on the grandiose patchwork quilt of life. The coffee barista might for a moment realize that he or she hasn’t seen you for a while. Perhaps an image of you crosses the mind of a previous neighbor, they wonder whatever happened to so and so? An old school friend recalls a crazy childhood memory in which you played a key role, and for a minute you come to life in their recollections.

But once you are gone, you are physically nowhere around to be found. Just poof! A snap of the fingers and you may never have even existed. The group of horses that trod the same path and tamped down the grass will continue to use this pathway even if one of the horses dies or goes missing. Birds will continue to fly South for the winter. People will get up and go to work and run on their people hamster wheels tomorrow and the next day and the next day, even if you are gone. In a few decades, you will be but a ghostly echo and a retinal image burned into a fraction of someone’s consciousness. In a century or longer you will be all but forgotten.

Is this part of the difficulty of life? When we are alive, our existence is a big deal to us. We are the stars of our own movie and every subtlety counts. Every gesture is meaningful and contributes to the creation and reinforcement of the identity that we carry around with us all day every day.

I have become strongly attached and identified with the job that I do. Despite my best efforts to regard my job as “what I do, not who I am,” I recognize that the phrase “I am a teacher” is my external and internal affirmation. Who am I? I am a teacher. Of course, I am also a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and all those other roles and jobs that I assume in life. The danger in working in the field of education is that for myself it was more than just a job. It was my vocation. I believe that it was my calling.

A teacher, a mentor, a leader, a guide, an emissary, a counselor – going to work everyday gave my life structure and purpose. I felt as though I made a difference. I am important! I matter! I change lives! I mould the cerebellums of so many young people, and this influence made me feel that my presence counted for something and amounted to something.

Then suddenly, I am still a teacher but I am not teaching. If I am not teaching, am I still actually a teacher? If I am a chef by trade but don’t cook, then for all intents and purposes I am not really a chef anymore, right?

Cue the existential crisis, lift up the cue cards with the giant looming questions about the meaning of life and the role that I play. When I left the school on Wednesday, I knew that the students would miss me, at least for a while. Part of me, in a selfish and very unapologetic fashion wanted the new teacher to fail. Fail miserably? No. Struggle and stumble? Make some mistakes? Yes. I wanted her to be worse than me so that in my mind I could justify that I was important and that the classroom machine without my particular brand of cog just didn’t work as well without me.

But guess what? I’m not at school and everyone who teaches there is still going everyday. The students are in the same desks, they follow the same daily schedule and routines – they learn and grow without me. This stings a bit as I come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t really necessary. I am replaceable. This ‘aha’ moment conjures up feelings of inadequacy and it causes me to question the identity that I’ve been constructing and clinging to all this time. Who am I really? Without the job, pulled out of my comfortable and repetitive loop, I feel less special. This is all a bit unsettling to say the least.

Has this ever happened to you? Something in your life changes and you find yourself struggling with your identity? I’d love to hear from you about your own personal experiences in this area.

Xo Heide