Different Paths, Different Stones, Same Destination
That said, we lead two very different lives:
>> Keri is an introverted American who has been married for nearly 23 years and has two grown daughters. She’s an entrepreneur currently living the empty-nester lifestyle.
>> Janis is an extroverted Canadian who has never been married and is actively raising a child as a lone parent. She’s a business owner living a lifestyle that involves champagne and vintage dresses.
With different countries, different life phases, different career paths, and different personalities, one might think two women with such drastically different lifestyles wouldn’t have much in common.
Quite the opposite.
We’ve discovered that while we haven’t lived the same experiences on a day-to-day level, we have experienced so many of the same emotions and are in a similar spot along our soul’s path.
Raised with similar values, we developed similar coping mechanisms—many of which are either resolved or we are currently making progress on.
Some have asked us why we’ve chosen to write our joint articles in a single “I” perspective.
We didn’t set out with this technique in mind but found that our stories, while different on the surface, had similar roots and branches. So, rather than exposing the differences in the leaves, we’re writing from the connection in the roots and how those form the same branches.
It’s been amazing to see how we can have such different experiences, yet end up in the same place. And, this has led us to believe that this would be true between any two people, no matter how different they might seem from the outside.
This week, as we trace the individual leaves back to our roots, we hope to share with you this discovery: no matter how different someone else’s path might seem on the surface, we are all the same in our common humanity.
Even as a little girl, I felt that I was an outsider in this world. I was “overly-sensitive” to people’s opinions. I cried a lot, and too easily. I was highly aware of my environment at all times, constantly on the alert for danger. Not because I was raised in a dangerous environment, but because this is my constitution.
My family heritage is the strong, stoic, silent type—farmers, nurses, teachers. As far as I could tell, unlike me, my family didn’t struggle with such strong feelings. So I learned to keep my emotions under wraps.
Little did I know, I was living mostly on my adrenals—and constantly in fight-or-flight. I was able to continue like this for a number of years in my teens (thank you, youth), and a little into my 20s (yes, willpower), but by the time I reached my 30s, my adrenals fired out. I crashed: anxiety, depression, chronic hives, and eventually, Hashimoto’s disease.
As a long-time bookworm, I sought help in self-help books. And then, through yoga, where I made my home for 15 years. I sat at the feet of many popular teachers in those days, wanting to be a poster child for how yoga could be the cure for all our ails.
The yoga teachings were helpful for me. Through them, I found steadiness, some self-acceptance, and occasional glimpses of joy. But ultimately, there was still something missing, and that “something missing” was trust in my own emotions.
We don’t have to rehash here the issues with toxic positivity in many spiritual circles, but I can say that it was especially hard on someone like me, who really needed to be told that all of my emotions—even guilt, and shame, and fear—could be embraced. I eventually had to leave the yoga community behind as it could no longer carry me to where I wanted, and needed, to go next.
So, my 40s have been all about welcoming the different parts of myself, a true journey to wholeness. For this part of my journey, I’ve immersed myself in studying Ayurveda—yoga’s sister-science and the science of self-healing. I found joy and healing in studying story, magic, science (the quantum kind), and myth. In doing all of these things, I’m healing the child inside me who lived off her adrenals and didn’t know any other way.
I’m practicing self-forgiveness and kindness. And I’m finding and rejuvenating my source of power—my soul. In this decade, I also wrote my first book, Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness. You can read excerpts here and here!
My 50s are on the horizon…and I can only imagine, with wild curiosity, what gifts this decade may bring.
I grew up surrounded by boys and men, in a farming community in the middle of nowhere.
I had loving parents who taught me the value of hard work, and some inspiring family members who modeled the idea that opportunity was available if I followed my dreams: my maternal great aunt was the first Dean of Nursing at the University of Alberta, and my maternal grandfather was the Advanced Deputy Minister of Advanced Education and helped found a post-secondary institution.
Although the words “you can do whatever you set your heart to” were never specifically uttered, these inspiring career mavens in my family left a legacy of achievement, activism, helping others, and making a difference through vocation.
But we didn’t discuss emotions in our family. We sat them aside to weed the garden, get the work done, and go on vacation.
We were told “don’t be silly,” as a reminder that they could get in the way of our dreams and our work.
Yet I grew up with proverbial fireworks in my shoes and set off to be a burst in my own sky, chasing my dreams with a fervent passion and work ethic.
Stop one was at an advertising agency in Toronto, followed by founding my own magazine in Montreal. Next, I became the Fashion Director of Canada for Harper’s BAZAAR from an outpost in Toronto and eventually New York.
In these years, I laughed largely, I followed my passions with radiant enthusiasm, and my friends were my new family. A social butterfly and social connector, I lived an exuberant extrovert’s life.
My life changed when I became a lone parent. My career and social circle remained a focus, but raising my little one dropped a challenge into my lap that I didn’t anticipate or expect.
I was in over my head. About five years earlier, I recognized some emotional dysfunction, rooted no doubt from a childhood focus on suppression, and enrolled in a coaching program to become a coach.
I changed careers and threw myself into my new work, both on clients and myself. I found myself crying on a couch one night, fearful I would never stop, as three decades of emotions leaked out of me and I started to process events that had happened literally years prior.
I abruptly relocated to Canada with my son, leaving my life of glamor behind to open a business.
The fireworks still in my shoes, I immersed myself in courses and classes. This time, my drive was to connect to my body, my soul, and my emotions, and to help others do the same. These were the missing elements of my life, and I wanted to share all I had learned as a gift to inspire and help others. The family legacy lives on.
My somatic work has been the cornerstone of my life and teaching for over a decade.
I’m a certified yoga teacher, STOTT pilates instructor, Yamuna Body Rolling teacher trainer, plus a Rainbow Yoga kids yoga teacher. I’m anti-gravity yoga and critical alignment yoga and therapy trained, and a nutrition geek, with two certifications in holistic nutrition.
My business focuses on creating agency in the body, stripping away our cultural conditioning about exercise, and focusing on movement as a form of connection. I teach body awareness and agency over our own bodies.
In my one-to-one work, I noticed that every client with pain in their body had accompanying emotional pain. I started therapeutic training to help clients process pain and trauma. Kristen Neff’s work on self-compassion was first and I did training with her. More recently, I immersed myself in the world of Gabor Matéand am Compassionate L1 trained and currently working on my 18-month certification.
I believe in the power of change and in a focus on physical and emotional awareness as a tool for experiencing our lives.
What’s common in our stories is the journey of our humanity—from children who learned how to survive in a model of stoicism, to women who are learning to thrive.
We both tried to shut down our emotions and had to learn our way back to them.
Our stories show that we all have to journey to a place of acceptance in who we are, and we aim to highlight this in our writings.
We believe all human beings are inherently “highly sensitive,” like we were as children. But our culture has a way of beating us into submission, forcing us to “dial back” our emotions until we might believe otherwise.
We both sought help and healing outside of ourselves first, before we discovered that the real truth lay within us.
Most humans go out before going in.
We both are passionately curious and move when we get restless to learn more.
Curiosity, too, is a trait that is easily hidden away by young adulthood, but curiosity (plus humor and compassion) can lighten the path.
We both see and value the connection between the body and the mind—both of us seeking better health and well-being in these critical ways. Our bodies are the portal for our experience and a tangible way to connect to our experiences.
We’ve both been drawn to the self-help and yoga worlds, where we’ve studied all kinds of methods and techniques for greater wholeness and healing.
We can never learn enough, and education is a continuous path.
And we’ve both learned that at some point, you really can’t rely on anyone else’s recipe—you have to go in search of your own.
We can set aside the rule books and manuals and learn to connect to our own authenticity, which will almost always be surprisingly common in humanity.
We both feel the call to share what we’ve learned. As teachers, as guides, and as writers, it matters to us that if we discover a new truth, we share it with the world.
Our paths started out differently. We have different approaches and choices on the way to get here. Yet we realized that while our outsides and our paths have been different, we are the same in the ways that matter.
We write in one voice because naming whose experience it was doesn’t change the outcome or the lesson.
We are a common humanity, searching for authenticity, agency, and understanding.
The soul supersedes the speaker.