My External Brain

``We should have recorded this one.”

I’m finding this thought, whether I say it aloud or simply think it in my head, frequents my mind a lot during my conversations with Ian.  Everyone should have an Ian in their life: someone with whom you feel safe, and with whom you can be your true self, whether that self is a smiling giddy person having just discovered the mother load in assorted vegan cheeses at a local health food store, or whether that person is a sobbing mess, someone who bites their lower lip as they try to fight off the all-too-frequent tears.

Ian and I have shared some really transformative discussions now over the last year and a bit, but more so during the last 5 months, as we have both been navigating our respective journeys.


Ian loves a good pun.  Or one-hundred.

We got together yesterday morning, on my invitation for tea.  As is often the case, I wanted to run a few things by Ian, vent a little and repeat what has become my more common refrain of “I just feel so lost.”

When I invite Ian to engage in one of these conversations with me-when I need to lean on him-I never go into the conversation or time together consciously thinking that it is going to be necessarily enlightening or provide me with direction.  The amazing thing is that our conversations ALWAYS do just those two things for me.

After my post about disconnection, and feeling separate from my family, I received a few really lovely emails from some of my aunties.  My immediate family is a small one, and we all live very close to one another, but my extended family is quite large, stretching all the way to the west coast of Canada, and also in Europe and England.  Because of the distance, I was never very close with my extended family.  My Auntie Carole lived for a time near Ottawa, so growing up I certainly had a relationship with her and my two cousins Amber and Ashleigh, but the rest of my extended family all lived overseas and as such, we would only see them about once every several years or so.   While there is a lot I could bemoan about modern technology and the internet, it has ultimately afforded me a relationship with some of my overseas family and allowed me to maintain my relationship with my Auntie Carole who now lives much further away, and I love that.

After sitting down with tea, I shared with Ian my feelings of despondency and frustration.  “When you went through your big breakthrough and change, how long was it before you started to FEEL the change?”  I asked him.  As I have now detailed a few times, I feel like I am making very little progress in my own journey and at times it seems like I am running up against a proverbial wall, making the same mistakes and trying to control everything, just like I’ve been doing for the last 20 odd years.

At the moment, one of my biggest frustrations lies with my sleep, or lack thereof.  I admittedly assumed that once I stopped working, it would be a big weight off my shoulders, and quality, consistent sleep would return to me … overnight.  It hasn’t happened.  I seem to average about one night’s worth of good sleep over two weeks.  As I am not sleeping well, I immediately discredit my energy, and as I ruminate over the low energy levels I am feeling, I end up trying to do more, and inevitably end up trying to control everything.  Again.

In a different conversation from a few days ago, I told Ian that I had concluded that if I could only get my sleep right, so many other things would fall into place.  Like magic.

This is where Ian corrected me-by focusing on improving something-in my case, my sleep-for the sake of another thing (again for me, better sleep would equal more energy, more energy would mean more happiness and so on), I would never really be able to improve that one thing.  It’s like the mantra I know so many of us repeat to ourselves: if I can only lose the weight, everything else will be amazing.  If I only get that job, everything will be wonderful.  Once I find a partner, everything will just click.  It’s always THEN and WILL.  Never NOW and HERE.

Ian explained that the goal of improving my sleep was a great one, but it would only be effective if I was improving my sleep for the sake of improving my sleep, and not so much for all of the other benefits that I envisioned would come afterwards.

When I shared with Ian my feelings of disconnection and separateness yesterday morning, he looked at me and smiled (with what I am now coming to recognize as his I See Something You Don’t smile) and told me that I was in fact disconnected from myself.  I have, again, stopped listening to myself, and have begun flitting back and forth from band-aid solution to band-aid solution.  All the while, looking at some other end result that I haven’t even really been able to articulate.

Ian detailed how it might be worth a try to think bigger: instead of focusing on getting better sleep, or drinking more water, or eating better, focus on what I could be, if all of those mini-goals were lined up.

I want to have more energy.

I want to love myself more.

I want to live with greater intention.

I want to live a more vibrant life.  I want to enjoy life.  I want to have energy stores which I can use to get out into the world and explore and experience it.   I want to learn.  I want to live with enthusiasm and curiosity.

Ian suggested that I take all of the mini-goals I have been bouncing around and use them, and apply them all to help me reach that ultimate goal of vibrancy.  Test the waters out, and determine which mini-goals work, and which need tweaking.  Commit myself to them, absorb myself in them and enjoy them all for what they are-not what they promise to be.

It is an idea that seems doable, if not obvious.  A few hours after our time together yesterday, I spent some time reflecting, as I often do after talking with Ian and marvelled at how he JUST GETS IT.  It’s never brain-surgery complicated, and as Ian reminds me on a regular basis, the answers are always already there, often within me.  I am beyond grateful at this time, during this journey that I have someone who can help clear the fog and point the flashlight on what was right front of me the whole time.

Everyone should have an Ian.

With Love,

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Olivia Shaw

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