Fear and Anxiety vs Strength and Confidence

Day 15.

15 days of working from home and pretending everything is status quo. It’s not though. I am sure it isn’t for you either. Maybe it is, I don’t know. From the look of things on social media, I suspect things are not okay for you either. I received some good news at work today and until I heard those words, I didn’t realize how much fear and anxiety I was carrying. No wonder it has been difficult to do my work or provide comfort for family and friends. This shit is hard.

I am wrestling with a lot of “you should do this..” messaging in my head. It is as if Good Robyn is fighting with Bad Robyn. I have a Good Donald Duck and Bad Donald Duck that I can wear on my shoulders. They adhere with magnets and remind me of the old cartoons with the devil whispering bad yet fun things to do in Donald’s ear. That is what has been happening in my head this week.

Good Robyn thinks I should keep busy, there is an endless pile of tasks to do from cleaning out the junk drawer to washing baseboards. She wants me to take advantage of this “extra time” everyone is talking about. Bad Robyn wants to watch Disney+, read trashy novels and let the housework pile up around her. I have been forcing myself to do extra things but to be fair, my routine isn’t all that different until the weekend.

I work a 7.5 hour day and sometimes it stretches to 8 or 8.5 hours. There is work to do, granted I am lucky because I can work from home and this helps keep me and my famjam safe and healthy. I save time on a commute and I don’t have to pack a lunch. Honestly, this is the best thing ever. I go upstairs and make lunch. Yesterday I blistered fresh tomatoes and laid them on a bed of ricotta. It was delicious. This is a lunch I can’t normally do on a work day. It isn’t a portable snack and it would get soggy. I love not scraping my windshield and sweeping off 15 cms of snow. You heard right, it is still winter here in Edmonton. March came in like a lion and out like a lion. Weather is broken but I can only focus on one bad thing at a time, sorry climate change, but don’t worry, I am still practicing single use plastic avoidance and recycling.

Evenings are pretty much the same as well, except the family makes an effort to connect before and during dinner. This is hard with 3 introverts and one extrovert. But we do it because social interaction is important and reassuring for each other. We watch tv or youtube favs and read. Sometimes we call people because keeping in touch with family and friends is also important.

Weekends for me start at 5:00 p.m. on Fridays. I go upstairs and we make dinner, chat and decide on a family night movie. Well, the daughter decides because Friday is her night for media control. We only have a single tv. I know that’s odd, but that is how we roll. The basement tv is for video games. I miss adventuring and exploring. Instead I spend my weekends stress baking. We love the results of that. No butter this week, so that might be problematic but I have a pound in the freezer for just such an emergency. Bad Robyn wants to stay in bed until noon, eat garbage and read trashy novels. Good Robyn wants chores done, books colour coded, spices alphabetized and virtual dinner parties organized. Bad Robyn wants to not shower for two days and have hideous hair. She wants to cry and rage, then eat doritos. She thinks about drinking all the wine and sending hate mail to politicians. She wants to yell at people to go home and behave and do what they’re told for once in their goddamn life. She wants to say “fuck off and do it yourself” when someone asks for a favour. Good Robyn sighs and does what is expected of her…mostly.

As a mom and a responsible citizen, it’s a fine line between doing what I want and what I need. I am beginning the practice of Saturday is for Bad Robyn and Sunday is for Good Robyn. Weeknights after 7:00 p.m. Bad Robyn is going to rule the roost because Good Robyn holds the fort all damn day.

I think the key to getting through this new normal is being kind to ourselves. Stir crazy is normal. Sadness is normal. Happiness is normal. Fear is normal. Confidence is normal. The point is, no matter what you are feeling it’s all okay. Do what you need to do to get by. Just like you do in regular life. We do what we need to do, it just feels a little different.

Hang in there friends. We’ve got this. And maybe, just maybe, we will come out of this better for experiencing it.

Trust the Journey

AC366 Back

I have been drifting lately.

I went for my annual MRI and lots of ‘stuff’ surfaces while I am alone with my thoughts for two hours. Perhaps I should do that more often….be alone with the thoughts. My busy life prevents me from dwelling too much, then suddenly I need to stop and think and it leaves me in an unsettled state of mind.

When I go in for my MRI, they need to get a clear picture of my brain and my acoustic neuroma. To do that, they place a cage over my head and attach it firmly to the bed while they roll me into the tube. I’m not going to lie, it isn’t at all pleasant. I suffer from claustrophobia and tried to keep myself calm enough to not have an anxiety attack. My mind was reeling between thoughts – none of them were positive in the way that made me feel great about my journey. In fact, some thoughts were actually harmful to my psyche.

I had spoken in great length to an incredible friend earlier in the week. We talked about my frustration with people constantly telling me I will be fine.

Dear People: YOU DON’T KNOW THAT. Telling me I am fine makes me feel like my feelings are inconsequential. My feelings just are. I cannot control them, they exist in a way that cannot be altered. I don’t like it, but I have learned to accept my feelings for what they are and not numb them. I know you mean well, and are trying to reassure me, but it just makes me angry.

There is a group of cancer survivors that come to my place of work every Monday night. They are part of a run/walk group that support each other and understand their situations in ways people around them just don’t. i have learned plenty from them. One gal in particular talked about not sharing details about her cancer because she didn’t want to alarm anyone, instead, it made things worse. People worried more about her.

I struggle with how much to share. I grew up with people telling me to stop being so mellow dramatic.


So how much is too much?

I cry on my own a lot. I blame other situations to ease the fear of the one I am facing.

So what exactly am I facing and why does it scare the crap out of me?

Well, here we go.

My Fear for all to see, judge and dissect.

  1. I fear my bran being altered in a huge way. I notice changes already, like not being able to recall nouns. Descriptors are fine, I can do that. Its like the door in my brain that holds all the nouns is locked. I can see it picture, word, image, but I cannot speak it. it evades me. Not every time, but enough that is scares me.
  2. I fear my intelligence vanishing. This part may be mellow dramatic, but it is a real fear. I never felt smart. Ever. I have learned and read studies that the more intelligent you are, the less you think you are. Which is why there are shows like JackAss. Those people are not bright, but are POSITIVE they are. With intelligence comes a humbling notation that you do not know everything, sure I tell everyone I do, but I don’t. Going back to University really proved a lot to me. I am smart, capable and understand a whole lot more than I give myself credit for. It scares me that I will lose this. Although sometimes, it might be nice to be dumb enough not to worry about things. It sounds peaceful.
  3. I fear my personality changing.  I like who I am. Whether its a real fear or not, I don’t want to be different unless I make those changes. I like being in control of who and what I am, the thought of a tumour being in control makes me angry.
  4. I fear I will look like an old person. I am 47 years old. There is a real possibility of me losing the strength in my face, making me look like I had a stroke. Apparently I am vain. I have never felt pretty, or desired…ever. But what I have I embrace. A lot of damage has been done to me over the course of my lifetime. I let men make judgements, and them believed them. I am at the point in my life right now where I am not over it entirely, but over it enough to say I look damn good for someone pushing 50. Please don’t make me look different until I am ready.
  5. I fear I will not be available for my children. My work has taken me away from them. This upsets me more than the tumour making me unavailable. But a real truth is all four fear reasons I listed above could make become emotionally unavailable or worse, physically unavailable. Death isn’t so much a reality, but vegetablism is. If that happens, please unplug me.  I trust my surgeon but anyone can have a bad day. Brain surgery is a big deal and I am not ready for it…now or likely ever. Thankfully I am not in the position to have it…yet.


Over the past 5 years, I am not going lie, my life has been difficult. I recognize other people’s lives haven’t been a cakewalk  either. Everyone has their own struggles. I do know this, I am not the same person I was 5 years ago. If you told me I would be standing here with the circumstances that surround me, I would never have believed it.

Yet here I am.

There is one thing I know when everything else seems so lost to me.

Trust the Journey.

It all seems to work out in the end.

I’m just not at the end yet.



Facing My Fears and having it go OH SO WRONG!

fears Since my Edmonton Tourist Journey began and I started saying YES more than NO. I also began taking risks and facing my fears. Some of the biggest obstacles I have overcome involved me speaking up, saying what I thinking and using my passion and intellect to support my convictions. It has worked out mostly good. Not everything was good, some things were painful and embarrassing but I do not regret anything I have done since 2010. I have been intentional about change, trying new things and being a risk taker. I regret nothing…until today. Today was baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad. I’ll come back to why it was bad, but first I feel a list coming on. I feel the need to list the fears I have overcome since this project has began.

The Edmonton Tourist’s Top 11 List of Faced Fears

  1. I let other people plan my vacation. That was hard for me, I like to be in control and know what is going on. Consequently, I two amazing vacations that were very relaxing. I won’t do it every time because planning is fun for me, but I did contact my new travel agent  – I like her a lot. She is planning a little  (big) trip for my son’s graduation. It will be EPIC and I am not scared!
  2. University. I was scared I wasn’t smart enough for University. I was scared I couldn’t write a paper. I learned I am pretty good at research and writing, so much so that I will graduate with awesome marks (honors), AND in December of this year. I faced a big fear, overcame it and now I am about to reap it’s rewards. SUPER EXCITED!
  3. Less Food. Weird for people who don’t use food to feed their emotions or use it to provide emotional support, but I do both. Or rather did. I still do occasionally but now I catch myself doing it. It was a long hard road to face the fact that food is fuel and not therapy. I am halfway there. By the time I am 50, I will be on the beach somewhere rocking a bikini. Something I haven’t done since I was 14. AND WILL I BE AWESOME!!
  4. Run. I had a gym teacher in grade 7 (Mr. Snow I am looking at YOU) You weren’t even a real teacher yet, one of those Student Teachers that are either great or sucked. You sucked. You called me a candy ass because I couldn’t run. News flash: Fat kids can’t run 2.5km without stopping on the very first day. We are fat for a lot of reasons but one of them was WE DID NOT RUN EVER! Now I run. I ran 13km the other day, this week is 14km for my LSD and you know what Mr. Snow? I learned how to do it with people calling me names. Except for that one time I had to teach the mean girls a lesson in politeness and teach them that everyone has a different starting point. They were like you, narrow minded and egotistical. I hope you learned some empathy or you were going to end up being the WORST TEACHER EVER.
  5. Trying New Things. I had a project where I tried 52 new things in a year. One new thing a week. It was easier than I figured it would be. I learned trying new stuff can be fun, at the very least it is hilarious if you can laugh at yourself.
  6. Public Speaking. When I was the Chairperson for the parent council at my kids elementary school, I had to speak in front of the entire parent population. I won’t lie, I was terrified. As I continued through my project facing my fears, I became better at public speaking. I am now a motivational speaker and lead workshops and seminars. I have even been apart of a media scrum and answered questions from reporters on TV. It is now easy. I never would have thought that possible.
  7. Racing. As a kid, I was the one who came in last. I would skip school so I wouldn’t have to go to Track and Field Day and be last. Last totally sucks when you are a kid. Now I enter races and I expect to be last. I do it for new reasons. Runners never expect to win, so please stop asking me if I think I have a chance at winning. In my head I am laughing at you. I enter a race for the experience, the challenge (I push myself harder during a race than I do on a Sunday morning), to raise money for a cause and I like shiny things. Medals rule.
  8. Saying No. Remember how I said I needed to Yes more than No? That was true, that is how I made new friends that I actually like. Not that I didn’t like my old friends…well…but I really dig my new friends! ANYWAYS…I always felt like I couldn’t disappoint people. I needed to be a people pleaser. I now don’t feel that way. I don’t volunteer for everything under the sun now, I only volunteer for things that are meaningful to me. I only help people I like and I only give to things I believe in. It makes me sound selfish but actually, I do help and give WAY more than I ever did before and its awesome.
  9. Narcissists. I was married to one. I am related to a couple. I don’t fear them anymore. It took their power away and now my life is peaceful and AWESOME.
  10. Heights. I once hid in under my bed at camp to get out of the zipline required activity for all councillors. Murdo found me and talked me through it. I jumped into a 5 story freefall and didn’t die. I no longer fear heights…just ladders and hitting the ground.
  11. The Gym. Gyms are only for skinny people. True story. It takes courage for a fat girl to walk into that room. Everyone needs to start somewhere. The secret is to walk like you belong and before you know it, you do belong. Then one day, you are the skinny person working out like everyone else.

Fears I am still working on:

  1. Birds – irrational but true
  2. Mice – also irrational but true
  3. Expired food – which brings me to my big regret today.

First of all, in a work situation or with my friends I am very clear about my boundaries.


Never ever ever ever never!

I don’t care if the expiration date is today – I am NOT DOING IT.

At lunch I made a sandwich. I cut an avocado and spread half of it onto my bread, added cheese, tomato, sprouts and cucumber. It is my favorite sandwich. My first mistake was making lunch in the dark. It was raining and I don’t turn the lights on during the day because I shouldn’t have to. So even when its dark, I rebel and leave the lights off during the day. My second mistake was seeing dark spots on the avocado and thinking I could scoop around them. The last mistake was eating.

Avocados are not suppose to foam and sparkle like carbonated fruit in your mouth. It was wrong on SO MANY LEVELS. I broke my 3rd rule – DON’T EAT UGLY FOOD!

I have come so far and yet have many miles to go.


I am scared, so the dream must be big enough

Checking out my countdown clock I am told I have 2 days to go until the Calgary Jugo Juice 10km race.

I feel sick.

Why you ask? Good question.

I can run 10km, I have done it before and quite recently in fact…last Sunday, the Sunday before, the Sunday before that…

But nerves are attracting the butterflies and the butterflies are scared off because my belly is filled with bats.

Can I do it? Absolutely.

So what is the problem?


I am afraid I will not push myself. If I go at a relaxed pace that will have me finish the 10k like I do on my LSD days, I will reach a time of 1:55:00 for 10km. For those of you who don’t run, that is super slow-mo speed. Most people will finish the race at about an hour to an hour and a half. If I push myself to my limit, I will finish in 1:40:00. I dream of finishing in 1:30:00. My body isn’t ready for that. I think I could push it but I’d be puking and Jeff Galloway frowns on puking during a race, that means I am over exerting.

There is nothing wrong with pushing yourself to the limits of what you can do. I know for a fact that my body can do more than I anticipate it will, but by how much? There is the question that no one ever gets to know the answer to. We can always do more than we think we can.

My support team is all happy and sunshiney, saying things like “It doesn’t matter if you come in last” – well, I fully expect to come in last…I just don’t want too. They say things like, “The medal is the same for first and last place finishers” I know, that is why I am doing it. My medal will be made of sweat and tenacity. THey say things like “You’ll do fine.” Sure I will, I have trained for this, my muscles know what to do – it’s the brain that scares me.

A whole bunch of ‘What if’s’ are rolling through my head.

  1. What if I can’t find parking?
  2. What if I injure myself and get pulled?
  3. What if I feel crappy race morning and can’t pull myself together?
  4. What if I run out of fuel/water/water and water?

That is the problem with race day. You plan and train for the best, but nothing ever happens as planned. You hope for a personal best but race day is like the Mickey Mouse Club equivalent to ‘Anything Can Happen Day!’  I can mull over all possible scenarios but the reality is I am nervous. My first running race…with my Dad…on his birthday…in a City that isn’t mine…on a course I don’t know…filled with Calgarians who taunt Edmontonians…


My coach says “If your dreams aren’t scary they aren’t big enough”. I didn’t think 10km was big enough. I am scared. It is big enough. I need this to take me to the next level. To calm my nerves I think I will go for a run in the rain – at race pace. I need to remind myself I am ready.




In addition to running the 10k in Calgary with my Dad, my other goal is to raise money for the Dream Team Make-A-Wish Project. I chose to run for the Dream Team project for several reasons, the team, the support, the coaching but the most important reason is to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Project. I have family and friends who have benefited from this amazing charity and it is time to give back. Our Team slogan is Because you can’t smile on the outside without feeling better on the inside. 

Please consider donating on my behalf, Robyn Engel Couture here DONATEYou enter any amount from $1 – infinity and beyond

I thank you, my team thanks you and some little kid who’s wish came true thanks you.

For more information about the Dream Team Project, please visit here.

The Fear and Passion I faced to become a Hero…True Story

I gazed into the face of fear tonight and screamed like a little girl.

I was petrified, my heart raced and I lost all words. All you could see was me pointing my finger and shaking…

My parents invited my family to go and watch the Passion (a musical version – and no it wasn’t Jesus Christ Superstar – it was an original version). The play itself was quite predictable but good. The live donkey was surprising. During the Crucifixion of Christ, a wee little black beast scurried across the floor and stood in front of me.

We were seated in the front row, so the beast was about 2 feet away from me. It didn’t moved. It just watched me with it’s beady little eyes, plotting the best way to take me down. I lifted my feet, shook my hands at it and prayed it wouldn’t come closer. I sold my last house because there was a mouse in the garden. They terrify me, although not as much as birds. Birds are still the scariest thing on the planet. Mice come a very close second.

My heart was pounding loud in my ears. mice are vile creatures riddle with disease. They are not cute and cuddly as Stuart Little would have us to believe. I firmly believe they are out to take over the world. I was praying for a miracle. Then it happened.

Jesus was on the cross and lightning flashed throughout the building. It lit the little critter up and I expected it to leap my throat and go in for the kill. To my utter relief, it stayed still. Strangely still. Then I feared it was dead. The lights flashed again and to my great relief I saw that little critter in all its glorious beauty. It was not a mouse after all.

It was a beyblade. A kid from behind me thanked me for saving it. I was gracious and said “you are welcome”. The kid never knew what a coward I really was. That is a secret just for between us.