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Christmas Is: Time to Cheer for Change

So I’ve been writing a lot about Christmas. I love Christmas, it’s easy to get lost in the merriment and let’s face it, I’m easily distracted by shiny things.

What I haven’t been writing about is how burnt out I am. How I have let things go so long, that now it feels like it’s gone to shit. And I don’t have the inclination to fix it, fake it, or take it.

I’m not a sissy at burn out. I’ve been there before, but now I’m too old for it. I feel like a toddler with my chubby arms crossed against my old-lady chest, lip stuck out, emphatically letting the world know that, ” I don’t have to.” It’s not cute, and it’s not pretty, but it is what it is.

I may look sad, but trust me, I’m pissed. And I will not tolerate anyone’s shit. Not for love or money.

I’m not a nervous breakdown burn-out. I’m a pissed off, middle-aged burn out.  And when I’m pissed off I cry. Then I get frustrated with myself, and I get angrier, and then I cry.

I constantly tell myself everything is rosy when it’s not. I can do it for years. It’s a long-standing type of self-preservation that only people who come from a history of abuse will understand. Take it from me, you know when it’s time to move on from any kind of toxic relationship; career, friendship, romance, family…whatever.

If your burnout is from work, try to reframe it until you can leave. Through coaching and experience, I have learned that sometimes work can give us what we need ( a pay cheque) until we find a pay cheque that stresses us less. Nothing lasts forever. And that’s a good thing.

Recently I was speaking to one of my friends who has her own counselling practice. She said that people come to her on a regular basis terrified of crying at work, totally victims of harassment and workplace bullying, the ugly step-daughters of corporate greed. I do believe that working until we have nothing left to give is one of the great social diseases of our time.  It eats away at the good things in our life, until it’s the only thing we can think about. Not cool. Not sexy. Not impossible to extricate yourself from either.

I have been very lucky in the past to have meaningful work that didn’t feel so much like work.  And that gives me hope, and I hope it gives you hope as well.

The end of the year often lends itself to retrospection, which goes hand in hand with setting goals for the new year. What was great about my year? What wasn’t so great? How am I going to change that? How am I going to make my life better?

stuckOnce upon a time my Mumster told me to go home and just look at job sites. She said knowing that so many opportunities are out there would cheer me up. She’s right. It was the same feeling I had as I drove through the city streets from our island airport. I looked up at all of the tall buildings, at all the lights, the ads, and I knew that there was opportunity if only I got out and let the world know that I was interested.

If you’re feeling burnt out, I hope you don’t get comfy in the cushy sofa of despair.  I hope that you set coffee dates with people who are doing what you want to do and are open to sharing their experience.  Spend time with people who love you and want you to be successful. Start small if you have to. Offer your services on fiverr, take free classes at the local library, be curious.

There are plenty of resources out there for you. My sweetie loves,  What Colour is Your Parachute, but I prefer Careergasm. I’m a fan of Sara Smeaton and think that in 2020 I need to spend more time at her workshops.  Last year I started off the year going to seminars, setting goals and putting myself out there. It fizzled at the end, but I gained some momentum…and I’m convinced that that momentum will continue.

As one of my  hippy dippy friends said, “Put it out to the universe.”  She was right. Put it out there. Let the world know you are open to opportunity, and it will find you.

 

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Connection: Wonder in the Darkness

candle in snowIt’s that feeling when you receive an email from the person you’re thinking of at the same time as you press send on your email to them.

Synchronicity takes faith. It’s that feeling of floating above it all where everything and everyone just clicks.  My life is abundant with that…mostly.

We’re coming to the end of another year. January 1st can be a pretty important mental reset date.  Goal setting, resolutions and check-lists for the year ahead.

This year I set some pretty great goals. I met most of them. What I learned this year was way more important than checking off a list though. I learned what traps my energy and keeps me from feeling that satisfying peace of synchronicity. Now that I’ve identified it, I can do something about it.

That’s power my friends. That’s joy-brimming, creative-muscle-flexing power! It makes me giddy, and hopeful, and snuffs out the candle of despair which so easily ignites when we totter off balance.

I always save vacation time for the Christmas season. I enjoy the nesting of this holiday; baking, cooking, gift making, cocoa-sipping, movie watching, cocktails with friends, and making time for the coffee dates we put off all year long.

I also really dig Advent. I fully subscribe to the mystery of Advent, the idea of light in the darkness, and rebirth via struggle. But not too much struggle. Not struggle for struggle’s sake. I don’t dig unnecessary suffering, even as an artist.

Synonyms for ADVENT ˈæd vɛnt
  • advent, coming(noun) arrival that has been awaited (especially of something momentous) …

  • Advent(noun) the season including the four Sundays preceding Christmas. …

This holiday season, weather you celebrate Christmas or not, the darkest days of the year lend themselves to introspection, to wonder, to being open to new, yet-to-be-revealed opportunities. I hope that during this time you take the solitude you need to rest, reflect and connect.

cocoa with friends

It is through connection that I hope to reign in the things that deplete my energy.  It is through connection that I hope to ignite what brings me vitality. It is through connection that I hope to contribute to the world around me through my relationships, profession and creative pursuits.

I urge you to reflect on any feeling that tugs away at your soul and needs attention. And then connect with people whose presence alone will help heal those attention seeking areas of your life.  I hope that you connect with people who help you feel joyful, powerful and positive.

 

 

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Christmas is: For Boundaries

stressfreechristmas

Last year,  a decree went out that there would be only one gathering around a traditional Christmas table.  She who does all the planning, shopping and personalizing,  shall be making one Christmas meal whenever the hell she liked, and you could show up (on time) or not at all.  And it brought her great relief and joy.  A very durable boundary wall went up to protect her, and the world was good.

Last year, after seven, yes, count’em, seven rescheduling attempts at a  family get together, it finally happened, with the people whom I arranged a second dinner for, arriving over two hours late.

My jolly goodwill and ho-ho-home form the holidays ended. I leaned on my wee bottle of Jameson to get me through the evening, and then I did some reflecting.

I decided, after much hurt, anger and frustration, that the only thing to do was surrender. I surrendered to the values I hold dear.  This was met with love and support from people who love me.  Everyone else continues to have that glazed, “I don’t compute”, look on their face.

You can’t change people. Although it’s a saying we frequently use, really accepting that means you hold fast to your boundaries like a life raft, especially around toxic people.

I came from a kooky family but we did Christmas right. We put aside our differences, and showed up, on time, respecting the effort we had all made to have a special day together.   Homemade gifts showcased every person’s creativity, and the food, my goodness, the food!

Since those days when we gathered on Christmas Eve to see one another, make our way to church, and finish off our meal and gift giving in the wee hours of the morning, so much has changed. I’ve experienced great loss during the holidays more than once. I’ve struggled to put food on the table and gifts under the tree. I’ve had Christmases when the pain of loneliness was almost unbearable. In other words, I’ve worked damn hard for my happy, and I’m not letting anyone take it from me.

I want no part of disrespectful, entitled people under any circumstances, but especially during one of the most joyful, loving, happy times of the year.

I have stopped being the only one who engineers parties, family gatherings and sacred times to connect. Planning, shopping, cooking, and decorating take a lot of time. I love doing it when I know it means something to my family and friends, and I resent doing it when someone shits all over the plans. I stopped buying gifts I didn’t want to buy and came back to my homemade roots. I stopped hosting parties for people who may or may not show up. And you know what? The world didn’t come to an end. In fact, it feels damn good. Boozy-eggnog-in-my-cocoa-good.

My exhaustion levels have gone WAY down, and my Hallmark Christmas movie watching time has gone up. I have come back to the sweet meditation of making; sewing, baking, stitching. And the people I thought it was so important to connect with have faded into distant social media clicks. Live and learn.

Boundaries are the best gift you can give yourself for Christmas. They give you the time and space you need to heal, and root yourself in traditions, new and old, that bring you joy.

 

 

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Setting Yourself on Cruise Control

If you happen to be an adult woman with a vacant stare and princess-entitlement mentality, this post won’t make sense to you. If you are an adult man who unconsciously stands two inches closer to someone when speaking to try and elevate your power, you’re outta luck. If you think the world owes you something because you’re experiencing some slight hardship, please, for the love of all that’s holy, stop whining, raising your voice and acting like a toddler to get your way. You’re just being an asshole and making life miserable for the people around you. We won’t be treated with disrespect because you have no respect for yourself. 

zen-quotes-when-you-realize-nothing-is-lacking-the-whole-world-belongs-to-you-lao-tzu-wisdom-quotes

I think it finally happened. I think I’ve finally snapped.

And it happened in a way that I could never imagined. It was a gentle uncoiling, a beautiful unravelling, and a metaphorical metamorphosis. It was a gentle cracking and falling away of a chrysalis of habit, and spiritual spreading of my wings.

It was the ultimate in letting go. The not-giving-a-shit without having to cuss. In essence, it was a new levelling-up of realizing my own power. It felt like I had put my own heart-rate and reactions on cruise control, floating above the  mad demands that were crushing me from the outside.

With people asking me every time I turned around if I was, ‘ok’, I could actually answer with a smile and shifu-like chuckle, that yes, indeed, I was just fine. Wonderful actually. Free.

After years of buddhist training from monastics, working in crisis and trauma situations, and general life experience, I still have found myself letting the actions of selfish, spoiled, and general fuck-wits ruin my day. Or at least distract me from all of the beauty of my day.

I’d carry their nastiness with me, and mull it over, my mind would jump back to conversations and situations without me realizing how much energy I was taking away from my very happy self.

This was all until I snapped, and something came over me. It really felt like I had the peddle to the floor, let off it for a bit, hit cruise, and just checked in to a mode of complete zen. It was flipping amazing.

After being sworn at, yelled at, sitting through difficult situations, and working in a high volume, high-demand atmosphere for days, I realized that I really don’t have to deal with it. Seriously. I’m not independently wealthy. I don’t have the resources to walk through my place of work with my middle finger raised or pass by jerks and regale them with a full moon of my fat white ass, but I do have enough self respect to simply and calmly walk away from abusive people. And in Canada, they can’t fire you for that.

So I hereby cling (because I’m human after all) to my cruise control mode of being. Calmly floating above the bullshit of other people’s creation, and enjoying all of the positive things in my life. J

Just try to put it on cruise, and float above it my darling. Life really is that simple.

 

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Mid-Life: Sleep is like Sex – You Have to Make it a Priority

sleeping lady

 

Sleep.

It has become a very, sexy, and alluring idea.

Admittedly, I have become too busy to fall asleep with ease. I don’t find slumber as easily as I find the perfect shade for my first pedicure of autumn or the words to change a dull passage to something memorable. Usually it’s exhaustion or mother’s little helper that guides me to sleep these days.

I’m a lover of life.  A funeral director convinced that the only way to live life is to L I V E it. Full strength, embracing everything I love with abandon, and enthusiasm. My to-do piles are a little overwhelming though, and yesterday, as I pushed my chair away from my keyboard and succumbed to the warm, sunlit cushions on my couch, a strange new reality came over me.

I take on too much. What?!

I have two desks. One filled with research for novels. One I use as command central for household concerns, travel itineraries, family gathering menus and activity planning (yes, I’m very Type A, don’t judge me). I have Christmas gift making headquarters set up in the basement next to the shelves of preserves that I fussed with all summer long. My bed is upstairs, unmade, with a pile of books, ear plugs, sleep masks, and lavender linen spray beside it.  Somethin’s gotta give.

Sleep has fallen somewhere behind my piles of fabric for homemade Christmas gifts, the books piled up for ‘research’ (and count toward my 2019 reading goal which I’ve increased by 50%), the last edit of novel number two, and the outline of novel number three. Although sleep may definitely be hiding behind the piles of jars that I have filled and have yet to fill with delights of the harvest. It could also be somewhere in the pages of itineraries for the last few trips of 2019, wedged between schedules to obtain hard-to-get dinner reservations in NYC, the best cenotes near Tulum and autumn pumpkin festivals in the Ottawa valley.

Yesterday before my weekly weigh in I drank two glasses of wine and ate trail mix topped with cool whip. What can I say, I was feeling overwhelmed. How could I not question my priorities in that moment of sweet, crunchy, wine soaked loveliness? I haven’t lost a pound in 6 months. Thanks Sonoma Valley, with a special mention to anxiety. Thank you very much.

This weekend was a rare weekend at home. Even more rare, I was able to sleep in, undisturbed two mornings in a row. I awoke refreshed and relaxed with no real agenda. It was like old times.

After soothing my scale time with a healthy dinner and one more glass of wine, I came home, packed up my editing, sorted through a pile of books to be read on my upcoming getaways, meal prepped and climbed back on the couch with re-runs of 90’s sitcoms and did some critical thinking about what to do next – how on earth to accomplish everything I had set out to do.  Not the least of which is reporting to meeting number two with my writing accountability group next Tuesday after working what we fondly refer to in the business as, “Hell Weekend”.  I have half of a damn novel to edit between now and then. Gulp…

By 8:30pm I was in the bath, covered to the chin with bubbles, sipping herbal tea, and letting my body feel tired.  I slipped my freshly washed body between the  sheets, and read until my eyes felt tired. I slept. For hours and hours uninterrupted. And I woke feeling refreshed – on a work day no less!

A year ago my immune system took a holiday, and I was sick for months. For two months I was barely able to function.  This year after rounds of tests, I was asked; are you under any stress, has your sleep been disrupted? Of course the answer was yes and yes.  I have lost a significant amount of vision due to stress and lack of sleep, and goodness only knows if it’s coming back without some kind of alien probe into my eyeball. My body is screaming for rest.

As I snuggled under the covers in the peace and quiet of morning, I reflected on how much I put on my own plate to do. It’s all good stuff, but the reality is, I only have so much time to do it in, and the time I spend relaxing is just as important as the time I spend rushing through everything.

My hobbies are too joyful to rush through. Sleep allows me to slow down, savour every moment and bring my best to each interaction, whether it’s with colleagues, family, or the characters in my book.

Sleep, much like sex at this age is something that we can often let slide down the list of priorities. After a weekend of getting some (sleep)  I’m going to make it a priority again.

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In the Kitchen With Granny

Today I woke up and took a good look in the mirror; Fingers padding lightly across my skin, as I lean in to really see myself. I look into my tired blue eyes and know that I look like both of my grandmothers.  I have the round, kind face of my Granny Dorothy, and the body of my Granny Eileen. It’ll just have to do.

The two of them were as different as night and day. Granny Dorothy was an educated woman who married late in life to a sour, strict, everyone’s-going-to-burn-in-hell-baptist.  Her wits and grit kept the bills paid, and her sense of humour kept her alive. Had she been born today, she likely never would have married. She would have worked her way around the world. Alas, the 1930’s had other plans for her.

Granny Eileen on the other hand, was on husband number three when I came along. She’d raised six kids on her own. She was a resourceful woman with a heart of gold who didn’t take a lick of shit from anyone, especially her husband.

Both of these women taught me to make something from nothing.  Whether it was in the kitchen, or out in the world at large. They taught me how a woman could be both strong and kind.

Every year, I keep them close as I plant my garden, and every harvest season, as I take to the kitchen. These rituals keep me close to them. I’m a sentimental traditionalist when it comes to my kitchen. During the summer, I find myself preserving the same things with the same recipes that they did all those years ago.  I throw in a few more odds and ends, just because I find comfort in the routine of being in the kitchen during harvest season.

This morning I slipped on a jersey knit dress that put me in mind of Granny Dorothy. She knew what she was doing with those old house dresses. Simple, tidy, and most importantly when you’re preserving; cool. I listened to interviews with authors as I sterilized jars, peeled and chopped fruit, remembering how my Granny Eileen’s gnarled up hands seemed to be able to create anything.

During the summer months, I yearn for the slow, simple days of childhood summers. I recall the flavour of each stage of the harvest; radish, carrots, and beans snapped straight from the plant and tossed directly into our mouths.  No garden was immune to kids raiding it for a snack. We sucked on sour rhubarb stalks, and cringed at the bitterness of currents. We raided the ditches and gullies, picking raspberries and blackberries when we were lucky enough to find them. Each ripening carried back to the kitchens of our grannies where it was made into something wonderful.

 

Except pastry. I learned how not to make pastry from both of my Grandmothers. Kind of like how not to choose a mate. As it turns out, Granny Eileen  insisted that if I followed the recipe on the box of Tenderflake, my pastry would be just fine. She also lied. Years later my aunt laughted at me so hard tears streamed down her face; Granny used pre-made pastry and was full of shit. Granny Dorothy on the other hand was honest with me but produced pastry with a texture so fearsome that the dog wouldn’t even eat it.  From this I learned that sometimes we don’t always get what we need from family. Sometimes we have to reach out to become wiser and better.

 

The quiet stretches in my kitchen necessary for the process of preserving and canning gives me time to commune with the spirit of these two women. They are with me here in the steam and heat, and smell of cooked fruit. They are with me when I take a jar of something I preserved from the pantry and serve it to my family and friends. My grannies are always with me at my table.

 

 

 

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Who Wants to Get Laid?

fashionI’ve decided that it’s angst that’s missing from my mid-life journey.

It’s a truth that jumped up in all its 1980’s-headband-glory and slapped me in the face. I was sitting at a beer-tent table taking in the motley cast of characters who had come out to see two 80’s bands, have a few drinks in the heat of the summer sun and relive their youth.

The bad hair, neon shirts, and big hair were all there, but the angst was missing. The tension was gone.When the lead singer of Loverboy howled out, “Who wants to get laid?”, only a vague cheer went up. We all knew that getting laid now would never be the same as getting laid then.

The crowd who once thought the term making love was creepy, totally gets it now. An older man once wisely told me that some things are just better as fantasies. He was right. The fantasy of getting laid then is much different than the fantasy of getting laid now; tight schedules, middle-aged bodies and the been-there-done-that lack of sheen.

Just like spiral perms and acid washed jeans, angst has its place in my repertoire of nostalgia. After all, it was the perfect fuel for breathtaking passion. I have to thank it for the part it played in my well-spent youth, despite it’s lack of discernment. Angst carried with it a hungry awareness of mortality. That hungry awareness has turned to sated gratitude now that I’m past my best before date.

Oh, and don’t go on about there’s still so much time left to do what I dream of. I know that. Oh, boy do I know that. Don’t get me wrong, I still experience desire. I’m still the same hot-blooded soul that I ever was. I’m just ok with it all now. There’s less anxiety, more satisfaction. Less time wasted on the people and things that don’t make sense in an energy exchange involving the elements of life that I find satisfying.

I do not buy into the idea that I need to define myself with some great mid-life shift. It’s the great continuum of false goods sold to women these days – that we must reinvent ourselves rather than continue to become fully who we have always been.

Yes, Mr. Loverboy, I would like to get laid. I would also like to stretch out in a large, comfortable bed afterward, sip some bubbly and nod off rather than have to hump in uncomfortable spaces and rush to get my clothes back on. Thank you for asking.

Gratitude fills in quite nicely for angst, with it’s soft and ample settling into the hollow spaces. My own angst packed up and waddled off years ago, leaving me quite content with who I am, and less anxious about making mistakes.  I also have better hair.