Gratitude Schmatitude

tootsieJust steps from my laptop, ready to write this post about how annoying the recent trend of the ‘Gratitude Challenge’ is, I stumbled upon something sharp. When I bent down to look, it was a diamond and emerald pendant that I bought years ago while travelling with my best friend.  I was grateful that I had  found it before the cat or the vacuum.

And then my new-home-page popped up with reports of the first confirmed Ebola case in the U.S.A.  I was grateful that my loved ones aren’t in Texas, and to some extent, that I’d just placed two professional presentations on my desk about how I would need to be prepared for an Ebola outbreak here at home.

I work in a profession that was greatly impacted by the SARS epidemic, and know what it’s like to live in fear and be obligated to care for those affected.

So, writing a tongue-in-cheek post about gratitude-schmatitude seemed ironic because within 60 seconds I had felt deep gratitude not once, but twice.  It seemed somehow inappropriate to write a cynical post about gratitude, like I was mocking the universe.

But I do inappropriate so very well, and I believe we all need a break from the madness.

Universe, if you’re listening, I work and live from a place of deep gratitude every day. Please don’t feel that it’s necessary to teach me any lessons. Just have a laugh with the rest of us, and leave karma to do the serious work tonight.

My gratitude list for today;

1) That no one questions my need for coffee before anything else happens. Should there ever be questioning, there shall also be violence on the treacherous path to the coffee pot.

2) I found not one, not two, but three mini tootsie-roll candies in my dwindling candy dish today. Just enough chocolate to soothe the over-achieving, deadline striving, driven beast I pretend to be when I’m in my suit.

3) I put my undies on the right way today. Seriously. ‘Not a morning person,’ doesn’t even begin to tell my morning madness fairytale. When I wear pants instead of a skirt, I often make it half way to my car and then check to make sure I actually did put my pants on. I’m not kidding.

4) I bought the big bottle of wine Friday. The really big bottle.

5)  I don’t care any more. As in, I don’t give a rat’s ass. What I mean is, I take chances when it come to matters of the heart, and know that it’s better to have  been made a fool of in love than to have never made anything of it at all.

6) That I’m not married to or shacked up with a skirt chasing perv. Ew. My peers and I are too old for this to be cute. It’s just creepy.  Stop it. We have moustaches thicker than you do now. It’s gonna take more than words  for us not to devour you and spit you out like a teeny-tiny grape seed.

7) I’m also grateful for Sinead O’Connor lyrics that make me wonder if anyone could possibly ‘get‘ her like I do. You’d have to be a woman to get that.   Thanks Sinead for keeping it oh-so-real.

Wishing you o- so-much to be grateful for in this mad, mad world…xo

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In the Shadow of Brilliance

lotuscandleIf you’re  Buddhist, you’re familiar with the idea of the ‘triple gem’; the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Don’t worry, you don’t have to look it up or know what that is to get the gist of the rest of this post.

Just know the following thoughts were inspired by a long, long, long career as a single woman, and as recently as this evening,  a glass of Beringer and a hot soak.

As I stretched out in the hot bath, candles flickering all around, and the dulcet tones of Sinead O’Connor singing her multi-layered lyrics trickling over the sound of the flow of water, I let my little ol’ girl brain wander to thoughts more pleasant than deadlines, finances, and how I was going to skillfully maneuver through a week with too few days to realistically accomplish all that I need to do.

In circumstances such as these, I tend to go back to my breath, to a quiet mind, and matters of the heart.

I’m good at a lot of things, I’m smart, and I get it. Women of a certain age are ok with not being the love of someone’s life, not being coveted, and merely providing a great way to spend an evening. We’re all human after all darlings, and even women need to satisfy their appetite for thick, juicy man-steaks every now and then.

But real love, and real relationships are much like any of the gems in the triple gem. They are multi-faceted, with an unlimited number of ways to delight and inspire.

It is my belief that great relationships make each partner sparkle. But when held to the light,  they also emphasize imperfections. If you can stand in the shadow of those flaws and still love someone, you’ve figured it all out. You pass go, collect two-hundred dollars and get a big, fat, wet snog, followed by the questionable joy of sleeping with someone who snores. Be careful what you wish for darlings.

My line of work and my own personal experience has taught me that it is in  darkness that the rarest of beauty is found.  Depth of wisdom often comes at the cost of darkness, the unknown, and having a willingness to explore and be curious with one another.

Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

This kind of relationship is the real gem folks; one where you can be tender and loving, silly and playful and sensual enough to make satan blush.

If you bring the elements of the triple gem into relationship with you, and are courageous enough to let them guide you, you’re on the right path.

What you need to ask yourself is how willing are you to stand in the shadow cast by the brilliance of your sweetheart? It takes courage in this crazy world, and a whole lotta love.

 

Sunday Night Music

It’s that time again. Turn down the lights, snuggle with your sweetie, or, put your head back and dream of the day when you can.

 

Landscape of a Writer

williegreeneyeIf you are a writer, poet, musician, crafter, baker or any other type of creative creature, you likely have  piles, drawers or closets full of things you’re ‘going to get to’.

Today, I set aside time to work on a presentation for ‘work’, and was expecting to find some material exactly where I thought I had left it in the little corner of my world that I reserve for writing.

Long story short, I did not find the binder I was looking for.

I did find however, (in the pile where I thought the binder was);

1) six of the books I bought at a seminar a few months ago

2) my Leonard Cohen 2008 world-tour poster

3) a half-written article I was going to submit to a Buddhist blog last March

4)a baby shower gift that will likely arrive at its destination about the same time that the child turns 12

5) my watercolour paper and paints

6) a box of cheques with my address of 8 years ago

7)  my death cartoon collection (yes, I have a death cartoon collection and  a Pez Dispenser collection, they balance each other)

8)  pamphlets that I forgot I wanted to give out with the presentation I was supposed to be working on

9) a book that a dear friend gave to me when I was busy working on my writing dream while other women my age were stuck at home with screaming babies, unfaithful husbands and prescriptions for mother’s little helper.

Inspiring, non?

If you are a writer, this pile of paper is also your landscape, your security blanket, greatest source of anxiety and inspiration. All artists have a creative mess in which their ideas are buried and fertilized.

I’m finished the presentation for tomorrow, even without the material I thought I was so desperately in need of. Now it’s time to have a little fun and get to the good stuff.

 

 

 

The Genius of Lazy Weekends

rockandspiritThere is a sly genius hidden within our unplanned weekends.

It stretches out like a bathing beauty whose supple body softly shapes itself around the curve of sand and stone. It does not wear dark sunglasses, a red bikini or a Hollywood-style headscarf for effect. No. This genius is laid bare, skin tone, as the colours of nature. It is often passed without notice.

Genius is not the button-pressing anxiety and pomp of a jeopardy champion, or the thousand-dollar suits worn by CEO’s. No, genius is like the down in your duvet, the moss on a stone, and a stream’s gurgle.

Unscheduled and unplanned time warps hours into seconds and days into months that tag memory and knowing with a clear path connecting the past, present and future.

If you spend your day- off with a to-do list,  an agenda of where-to-be-at-what-time, you may be checking off the mundane tasks you feel compelled to do. These are the tasks that rarely go undone (even if unplanned), often go unnoticed and feed the beast of hypnotic living rather than your well-being.

The creative act of being in nature, making music, stitching, painting, reading, conversation, allowing yourself the space and time to feel joy, mourn loss or fall in love, now these, these are the roots of life.

Put away your lists.

Go only where your heart and mind lead you. I guarantee, your down-time will rejuvenate, inspire, and do wonders for your whole-well-being. You will be awestruck by what you come to know through this kind of stillness.

 

Dreaming in the Gray Area

"To accomplish great things, we must not only act but dream; not only plan, but also believe." ~Anatole France~

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act but dream; not only plan, but also believe.”
~Anatole France~

Last night I had the strangest dream…

I sailed away to China, in a little row boat to find ya….

If you’re a child of the 80’s, you just sang that didn’t you?

Anyway, last night I had a dream. I really do have the strangest dreams, and I pay attention to them.

If I really took the time to listen to the quiet whispering of my dreams and intuition, I’d likely be a lot happier.  Since most people consider me some kind of weird genius twist on a Buddhist-suit-wearing-hippie-mortician, it’s surprising that I don’t do more crazy stuff.

I pay a whole lot more attention to my intuition than the average fabulous man or woman. I make a lot of decisions based on what feels right, and they usually turn out to be exactly the right thing.

Most people see the world in black and white, right and wrong. Sometimes things are that simple, but most of the time they’re not. We only like those kind of definites because our wee little human brains need to compartmentalize in order to keep us relatively sane.

Those of us with creative spirits and open hearts who actually care about the quality of life rather than the quantifiable materialism that seems to define what is normal, know that we live within the gray, and that black and white are merely the adult security blankies of our fragile psyches.

A  few weeks ago, as I was tromping my way up a staircase in high heels and freshly dry-cleaned suit, feeling like death’s older, much more sinister big sister, I thought, “I can’t do this any more”.

Then guess what I did my sweet little peaches? Did I drop to my knees in tears? Did I pack up my big, black briefcase and hand in my name badge? Did march through the office with a bass drum singing, “I quit”? No. I did none of those things. I didn’t even collapse and wave a metaphorical white flag.

Instead, I laughed. Out loud.

I laughed because immediately after I told myself, ” I can’t do this any more”, I immediately thought, “You don’t have to”. That’s what made me laugh.

That crazy well-informed and well schooled voice deep down inside my crazy-wild-woman soul was exactly right.

We always, always, always have a choice. The choices may not be ideal, or the stuff of your favourite fairytale, but we always have a choice.

Since then I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about where I want to steer this crazy bus of a life. I haven’t made a list of pro’s and con’s. I haven’t loaded up on self-help books and popular psycho-babble poo-ha.

I have let the uncertainty roam freely about in the glorious unknown corners of my human spirit. Eventually something will come to light out of the darkness, and I will be off in what will likely be an unexpected direction to an unknown destination. It is after all, about the journey folks.

I don’t know when, I don’t know how, what, where, or if anyone will accompany me. I just know that it will happen.

So, last night I had this dream, and it was a weird one, fueled by a late  dinner, wine, vampire stories  and a fever. But I trust it. I bother with it. I consider it, look up the meaning of elements that make up the whole, and I learn what my soul is trying so hard to  to tell me.

Shhh. If you listen, you’ll know what to do next. I promise sweetheart,  I promise.

 

“Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothin’ Left to Lose”

200365584-001I can’t recall when I lost it.

It was somewhere between someone else’s dream, and when I forgot that my own dreams mattered.

It was beautiful really. I had it all planned out, but there was something or maybe even someone, missing.

For the longest time I could close my eyes at night, and picture just exactly what it was I was working so hard for; My son to be raised, my bills to be paid, and a small writing desk in a quaint little cottage that overlooked the water.

After more than a dozen years, that dream has gotten much more difficult to see through the fog of every-day-living anxiety. In fact, I had forgotten about it altogether until a few weeks ago.

I always love to hear Janis Joplin sing her famous lyrics, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”.  I know exactly what she meant and how that freedom feels. I have been, and will always be my own woman. With no family other than my kid and the cat, I have more freedom to move than anyone I know.

I don’t know when and I don’t know why I gave up on my dream of my cozy little home, and my desk by the window. I’ve been thinking about it lately, and somewhere as I was trying to get it all right, it just crept away and curled up in the corner of my being. Slumbering, but not gone.

Maybe it was that I couldn’t face each day not knowing how I would make that dream come true, and be a good mom, giving my kiddo the stability he needed to step out into the world with a strong sense of who he is. It’s become apparent that my parenting is and always has been, more than adequate, and that my kiddo has become a lovely young man on all counts.

Although it will be awhile before I can pack up camp and move along, I can see it on the horizon, and that makes me happy. I think I might even see a gorgeous hunk of sexy man-steak walking towards it with me too.

At least I hope that’s what it is, because goodness knows I don’t need another cat!

 

 

Sunday Survey; Just Kidding

sidewalk cynicPleased with myself at having honoured my need for rest, I stretched out gloriously long on the chesterfield, with book in hand.

Ah yes, this was life at it’s finest; nothing to do, nowhere to go, sun shining and breeze blowing through my open patio door.

But not so.

Before I even had a chance to raise my book to read, I had a man walk across the shared lawn, over my patio stones, and right up to my screen door. I watched as he cupped his hands to his eyes, and peered through.

“Hello,” the moron said. “I’d like to talk to you about your internet service….”

I’d like you to fuck off and stop looking through my window. That’s ok darlings, I only thought it, I didn’t say it out loud.

“No thank-you.” I said.

“Do you have internet service?”

I have an Irish temper, and an iron skillet that I’d like to show you. Again, I kept my thoughts to myself, and didn’t move from my  relaxed looking position on the couch. I’m deceptively nimble for a big chick. I can pounce from prone to standing in 2.5 seconds flat.

Instead, I said, again, “No thank-you.” My reasoning was, I was in such a blissful state of yo that I just didn’t want to get myself worked up.  After another annoying exchange about no soliciting, Mr. Creepy-Bell-Canada-Look-Through-Your-Window-Guy-On-Commission moved along, and I called security.

Don’t try to tell me he wasn’t a Bell representative either you greedy monopoly-creating-shits. He was wearing a Bell shirt, had on the dorky company lanyard and a clipboard in hand. He could just as easily have been Rogers bred. Trust me, this guy wasn’t scouting for future break-ins, he was just trying to feed his kids.

I don’t have such a problem with the weirdo at my window as I do the capitalistic culture which created the poor guy. Every chooch behind a counter has a pen and a schpeel about a survey. Every time I call customer service for anything, I get an email or another call with a survey.

Enough bureaucratic  red-tape already! This is not consumer protection, it’s a make work project for some asshole in a suit who, I’ll bet my socks, makes way too much money.

Quit wasting my time, precious resources and paying people shitty commission-based, or total-commission salaries, and get the hell off my patio on Saturday afternoon! Stop calling my phone, cluttering my inbox and having your paid-to-the-poverty-line employees cling to my screen door.

If you want honest feedback, we don’t give a shit about your surveys. Just post your overly bureaucratic complaint policy on your website and leave us alone.

Our government is a sell-out and a joke. Our citizens are apathetic, and whiny. Our health care system is a system without care for health, only numbers. Yet, this is one of the best countries in the world to live in. That’s heartbreaking.

When people are desperate enough to risk their dignity for their jobs, it’s time to speak up and stop the madness. Our country is going to hell, one contract-no-benefits and commission paid employee at a time.

Always Like it’s the Last Time

nikbeatThursday night I shed my suit and slipped into my nightie with a glass of wine, and a quick check-in with my friends via social media.  It had been  a hectic week, and I was already toasting Friday afternoon.

‘RIP…..’ jumped off the screen and sucker punched me in the gut. My dear friend, fellow poet, creative genius and  editor was dead.

Just like that.

My mind reeled back to the last time I saw my friend.

We sat together in the member’s lounge at the AGO, sun streaming through the antique glass windows, distorting the view. He had ordered tea, and as usual, our conversation rambled to nowhere in particular, but deep down to the soul-stuff that fuels us. What a beautiful way to remember someone as genuine, creative and fully present as my friend.

In grief, we must look backward in order to move forward. It’s painful, but it’s an inevitable truth.

When I worked at a hospice, we often preached about treating every interaction with a client or family as if it were the last time we would see them. We did that because good-bye’s are always difficult, and sudden. Every day and every interaction had the imminent potential to be the last time.

It sounds like a depressing way to live, but it is, in fact, a fantastically liberating way to be.

Regardless of my own philosophy of living in a way that honours the human spirit, I inevitably screw up, get selfish, and have regrets. My brain is quick and sharp, and my tongue even sharper.

But with the people in my life whom I cherish, I have very few regrets, if any. Sure, there’s always room for improvement, but generally, I do the best I can with what I have.

That’s it though isn’t it? We always wish we had more; one last conversation, a hug, and some warning that now is the last time.

When I read that my friend was dead, instinct took over and I reached out to his best friend. Another wonderful, gentle and kind spirit whom I knew would have to dismantle his daily routine, and rebuild his life and heart  around the cavernous vacancy left by such a wonderful man.

“Why,” he asked. “How do I live without someone who’s been my brother for 23 years?”

He told me he wished he had given his friend one last hug, and I wished I had spent more time with my friend, had reviewed his edits, and learned more.  But we can’t go back, and I’m not so sure that we would be better if we could.

Sure, we might be able to have that one last squeeze, or ‘I love you’, but really who could live with the anxiety of knowing too much? We’d all be quivering piles of raving madness. The beauty of the human mystery is not knowing, and the persistent invitation of our collective existence to become better every day.

Beneath the heaps of distraction we invite into our lives, we have a primitive knowledge of our own mortality and, we have to live with that always.

No matter how many times we ask, we will never know why. No matter how much we wish we had one last hug, ‘I love you’ or ‘thank you’ we are never guaranteed that chance. We must live now, in the best way that we can under the circumstances. Having experienced great loss in the past, I have also come to realize regrets are pointless, and forgiveness the greatest gift I can give myself.

Like a forest annihilated by fire, covered in ash, so too do our losses force us to be fallow and lifeless for a while as we replenish our selves to allow for new growth. Life is unrelenting and beautifully bittersweet that way.

 

Thursday Thought

let it go