Abounding Grace & The ‘F’ Word

angrywomanFor months, maybe even years I wrote about how I had observed the incredible life-affirming beauty of grace in action.

I wrote about people overcoming heart-shattering loss, adversity, and hardship with incredible grace; without fists to the sky, without making the lives of those around them miserable, without despair.

I wanted to be able to handle shit that way. I think we all do. What I have discovered is that we don’t necessarily want the practice that it takes to be graceful. In other words, it takes hardship to to learn how to navigate the rough rapids of change with some savvy and style; Without using the ‘F’ word, without letting the shit show shadow all of the other other elements of our lives that we have to be thankful for.

As I have been chronicling in my mid-life-move blog, Andsheshines, (Be sure to subscribe!!!)

I believe I’ve finally leveled up when it comes to coping. You can read about some of my experiences in the great adventure of preparing to empty-nest,  moving in with a man for the first time in two decades, and everything else that goes bump-in-the-night while those stages of life march onward. Time waits for no woman, and I’m going to ride my time like the wild woman that I am.

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Blowing Out the Candles

candlesOn the eve of my 4o-plus-somethingish birthday, I cannot help but reflect upon the lessons I have learned this year. In theory I’m an expert.  In practice, however, that’s another story.

I do believe that the difference between theory and practice is the key to successful living though darlings, because bridging that gap is the difference between annoying should-sayers, and the people who shine brightly and inspire the rest of us.

Grace has been a concept I’ve wanted to put into practice  throughout the past few years. There are  times I have failed miserably; my birthday breakdown at a bar while trying to sort out my mother issues; my insecurity as a partner, my ability to maintain a positive attitude in light of the every day demands of living. Yah, I’ve failed a few times.

But I have learned a few things from all of that bluster, and I’m old enough to take the liberty of sharing them with you;

  1. I have spent way too much time on my hair.
  2. We allow ourselves to be led by a false economy and fabricated news. Does it feel right? Do it. Does it feel wrong? Don’t. The world would be a better place if we all followed the golden rule.
  3.  If you love your body, it will love back. At a certain point you realize your body feels better when you eat this and not that; when you do this and not that.  It loves water and apples and decadent butter cream chocolate from your favourite Chocolaterie. It does not like to listen to people incessantly rambling about fad diets or extreme routines. Love your body, let it gently communicate to you, and it will love you back.
  4. Kindred spirits aren’t terribly hard to find, but it’s terribly hard to be vulnerable enough to get to know one.
  5. Create things. Anything. Creativity is your human spirit making itself present in the world. Let it sing, paint, write, carve, stitch, bake….whatever! Let your mind wander and your spirit reveal itself.
  6. Do not let bitchy people ruin your day. Attitude is contagious – be sure to protect yourself.
  7. Nobody’s watching. Seriously. Just relax.
  8. Change is scary, but constant. If you can be excited through the fear, you have life licked.
  9. You need friends of all ages; older ones and younger ones, and people who transcend age. You need nurturing and affection and the awesome healing power of human touch.
  10. Flannel jammies, hot tea and a good hobby to keep you occupied are three simple things that are highly under-rated.
  11. Always, always, always buy the shoes.

Beach Life: Bathing Suits for the Rest of Us

Sennett-Bathing-Beauties-1915_thumbI bought a bathing suit today.

Yes, I know it’s the middle of Canadian winter. No, I haven’t booked a sun-holiday…yet.

I’m debating the merits of an Irish romp with my sweetheart, or a solo beach holiday.

Either way I’m taking a two-piece bathing suit with me that would have made my mother convulse.

You see, I was raised by a woman who suffered extremely low self-esteem and did her best to pass that little nugget of twisted psychology on to her youngest daughter. That’s me by the way.

I grew up in a small town and lived at the beach. Winter, spring, summer and fall. Summer was my favourite. There was nothing better than swimming in the lake all day, the smell of malt vinegar on the homemade French fries that they sold at the little snack shack that would sometimes be lifted off it’s foundation and dragged with the tide when the spring water was high.

Somewhere out there is a photograph of me grinning a grin so wild and wonderful, that I have held that image in my mind for all of these years. It’s a moment of bliss I remind myself I’m capable of, even as an adult.

There I was, white caps at my back,  standing naked, proudly holding my bathing suit at arms length. My waist-long, blonde, pig-tails tangled with lake water and sand, just daring someone to try and get that wet, sticky bathing suit back onto my body.

I may not have been skinny enough, pretty enough, or worried enough about what people thought about what I wore every day. But I was wise enough. Typical of anyone who suffered childhood trauma, I was quiet and very observant. I was constantly tuned in to the tiniest nuance of mood, just in case.

At a very young age, I came to realize that no matter how thin, how pretty, or how well-turned out they were, there were a whole lot of unhappy women out there. And that unhappiness was ugly. Like, soul-deep ugly. Their fear of not being good enough came out as anger and jealousy, and missed trips to fun places. It stopped them from smiling. IT stopped them from going to the beach, getting their hair wet, or smudging their mascara. Their insecurity overshadowed everything. They  let their tummies and their thighs hold them back.

You see, before I even reached puberty I had decided that fat would not keep me from enjoying the beach. Or the snow, or going out to eat a delicious meal. Later on in life, I decided that fat would also not keep me from making wild, passionate love to the man I loved. Some crazy idea of being not good enough would not keep me from having fun.

Being an average looking woman would not keep me from savouring all of the wonderful bits of life, and it certainly did not make me less worthy of healthy curiosity and joy. In fact, I think this joie de vivre is one of the qualities that make many of us beautiful.

I will never be solicited for the cover of Vogue, nor will I turn the heads of men because I’m the ideal beauty. But I will turn the heads of like-minded people. These are the people who buy big, bright bathing suits, get their hair wet, and laugh with every inch of their sun-soaked, skin.

Buy the bathing suit, not because it’s going to turn you into a model. Buy it because it’s a tool in your tickle-trunk of living fully.

 

 

Fear – You Show Me Yours & I’ll Show You Mine

storytotellFear is a slippery little fella. Sometimes you need to hang on to it so you don’t get damaged, and other times, you need to set it adrift on a flaming raft with an over-zealous shove and a one-fingered salute.

This past weekend, fear crept in and tried to snuggle up in my heart. Good thing I can be a cold-hearted, logical gal when I need to be. Good thing I have friends who remind me not to let my imagination get the best of me and conjure up all sorts of possible ways that my happiness can be sabotaged. Good thing I didn’t turn tail and run. Good thing.

Regardless of what we identify as being bountiful or lacking in our lives, we live within the comfort zone of the known. We live rooted in the identities that we have crafted for ourselves. We cling to our wounds until they no longer serve as shields.

The truth is, we often cling to our wounds long past their expiry date, and we do this because that is the only way we know how to go on living. We do this often without knowing we’re doing it. We fear leaving what is known and comfortable to seek what is meaningful.

During the past 48 hours I  have received calls, and had coffee with friends who have all experienced some sort of crisis rooted in fear. I was an addict. I’m drinking too much. I keep winding up in toxic relationships. Today I heard all of these symptoms, and I offered as much compassion and humour as I could. After all, being fearful is normal. We need to tell and re-tell our stories. We need to be the storyteller, and we need to be the witness to the life-stories woven by others. Change is scary, and we need our friends to walk beside us when we don’t know if we have the courage to take another step on a path that leads to goodness-only-knows-where-but-there-had-better-be-margaritas-and-a-bed.

Fear of feeling, dealing with the here and now, or not having someone to prop up an ego seem to have been  served up a la carte over the weekend. It’s  a menu everyone eventually gets served; long in the planning and very bitter. It keeps popping up on the menu until you get tired of the bitter aftertaste and are inspired to take over the kitchen.

brokenThe most curious of fears is the fear of getting what you want. It means letting go of an identity that was defined by lack of the thing itself; career success, loving relationship, independence, you name it. You have to be brave enough to break down the walls protecting your own kingdom of fear.

While trying to shake off the snug embrace of a well-known-and-outlived-it’s-usefulness-fear-of intimacy which had slithered it’s way into my mind, I had a rather synchronistic encounter.

After zenning out and treating myself to some self-care paraphernalia at an over-incensed and herbal-tea’d hippie hang-out, I wandered back to my car completely and utterly distracted. Rationalizing with oneself can be very engrossing, and I was neck deep. I was not going to half-ass this one. I was going to face this thing down even if it meant a haze of incense, tantra-drumming, and Buddhist-throat-singing loud enough to scare the bejeezus out of the neighbours. While I was getting all bad-assed and spiritual with this fear, I was being watched.

Two men of questionable intent approached my car, one wedged between the driver’s side door and the car next to me, pulled on my door handle and banged on my window while the other stood at the right side.

Thanks to good habits, my door was locked, and the car was started. Thanks to a friend who was texting an invitation for a drinky-poo, I was head-down-distracted, allowing these two men to target me.

Hours after I had safely pulled away and caught my breath from the initial shock, I sank into the corner of my couch and cried. I sobbed and relived those few seconds of that man’s face just inches from my own.

But why? I was safe in my own space now. I was ok.

I cried because the threat of harm pulled me back into the rational fear I had developed throughout years of abuse and  assault. It was like someone tossed me back into the arena to face another hungry beast after I thought I’d finally made it out alive.

What I did next was remarkable. I reached out. Well, I reached out the best I could. Via text of course, because I couldn’t bear to speak and have anyone hear my voice tremble. My pride wouldn’t hear of it.  “I kinda need you.”

It’s rather ironic that my fear of letting someone in was challenged head on by someone literally trying to get in.

presence.jpgPart of healing and kicking fear in the ass is learning that it’s ok to be vulnerable sometimes.  It’s a lesson that I have found extremely challenging. But with true self-compassion, vulnerability can be the greatest warrior in the battle on the front-line of fear.

There is a spiritual alchemy exchanged every time we offer support or receive it. This alchemy is grace in action, mercy in motion, the very human breath of compassionate and spiritual living. It is the greatest enemy of fear. It’s ok to kinda need someone, they kinda need you too. Trust me, if you show them yours, they’ll show you theirs.

 

 

 

 

Advent Challenge: The Life-Changing Power of Small-Talk

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What better place to start a conversation than in a long Christmas-shopping-season line-up?

The season of Advent is upon us. A season of darkness and stillness, awaiting the mystery to unfold.

 

Hell, if that’s what it’s about, I think perhaps I’ve been living a lifetime of Advent!

It’s strange and wonderful how conversation and communication work.

I remember being a little girl and hanging off my grandmother’s shirttails, head thrown back, eyes lolling at a great and dangerous sarcastic angle, whining, “Come oooooo-ooooon! Mom!”, while she jabbered away to someone.

When I was younger I used to think that long, winding conversations were pointless.  Much like advent, impromptu conversations can be ever so revealing about our own hopes and dreams.

Exposing your ideas and dreams to concrete language can be the first step to creating a new reality for yourself.

Once upon a time a poet-mentor of mine asked if he could read some of my poetry aloud to me. I felt reserved and shy at first. He knew that hearing my own words spoken would be a very powerful experience. And it was.

More than once I’ve had a conversation with someone I don’t know so well and then ask myself where the heck that came from. Engaging in conversation with a diverse cross section of ages, genders and intellect is a wonderful way to get to know yourself.

For instance, tonight I had an unexpected and rather lengthy conversation with a gentleman who worked with my mumster (he thinks she’s the cat’s meow). We discussed his career, the professional acquaintances we have in common, his semi-retirement and subsequent move. That lead to a review of my C.V., and some of my dreams for the future.

As only perspective from someone older, more experienced and wiser can do, the conversation really shed some new light on what my future might hold. If only I have the courage to pursue it.

One thing that I’ve learned in my lifetime is that you have to ‘put it out there’. In other words, whatever it is that you want, that you crave, that gets you excited to get out of bed in the morning; you need to talk about it with everyone and anyone who will listen.

It’s not what you know darlings, it’s who you know. The person next to you in line at the coffee shop may know someone who knows something about what you’re dreaming of.

Put it out there. Give a friendly hello, and start with the dreaded small talk. Just talk to people.

Wake up with intention and do something about it. Research. Ask Questions. Go do it.

This Advent season, let the mystery of what’s holding you back from the life you desire, unfold in your every-day interactions with the people around you.

Wine: The Cure-All for Driver Training, PMS and Annoying Old Ladies

"Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together." ~Liz Taylor~

“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.”
~Liz Taylor~

Let’s work backward from the annoying old lady shall we?

Given that I, myself am an annoying old lady according to my kiddo’s generation, you can take this with a grain of salt.

DO NOT ask forty-something year old women if they are married and have a family (in the same breath).  If you must ask, you clearly don’t know me well enough to ask and clearly it is none of your damn business darling.

First of all, it does not endear us to you, and second of all because you’re likely to get an answer that confuses your out of touch moronic-question-asking priorities. My answer, “No, and yes,” with a smile that silently said, “All the better to eat you with you gauche old cow“, was clearly confusing. So, I did what I thought most prudent under the circumstances; spun on my well turned-out heels and walked away.

Women are not baby-factories or defined by their marital status any more. We have credentials, and likely a better grip on our own personal world of finance, family and friendship than any man whom may have coddled previous generations of women through life. We generally do not subscribe to the rule of, the bigger the sin, the bigger the diamond. We conduct ourselves with discretion and expect our wonderful men to carry themselves the same way.

We also have PMS.

I don’t care what we think big-pharma is pulling over our eyes. I already KNOW they’re killing us while making trillions of dollars off of our unnatural lifestyles. What I also know is that I get tired, bitchy, and a tad prone to tears when mother nature comes to collect on all the party time down under. Whilst preaching the benefit of some wonder-contraceptive today, my body was secretly laughing.

“Maybe you’re just PMS’ing”, a pal said when I told her I was feeling a bit edgy.

Nah, I don’t PMS. I was a skeptic, but have this new wonderful-better-than-gawd-birth-control, ” I giggled like a mad woman, “I don’t get periods any more.” Ah, yes, the beauty of aging. Clearly that was the confidence of over two decades of successful birth control and no unwanted pregnancies speaking, not my rational self.

But mother nature can be even more cruel than little old ladies who judge you according to whether or not you’re married and as miserable as they are. Mother nature promptly, and without warning tapped me on the head with her magic-menstruation-cudgel. Wonderfreakingful.

The only thing that could possibly have been better is if I were wearing brand new panties and white short-shorts in a canoe a thousand miles away from a tampon, which, just in case you’re wondering, has happened to every Canadian woman who has ever had an in-the-great-outdoors-adventure.

Perfect.

The only good part about my day was getting home before dawn, and actually having time to run some errands and see my kiddo. Who, incidentally hates me by default because he’s a teenager. “Are you ever actually going to take me driving?”. I think he may have even made eye contact while he  spoke, so it must have been really important to him.

It’s a good thing he asked after I’d had a chance to load up on some vintage vino, with one particularly lovely Shiraz from the Southern Barossa Valley which was silently wooing me from the trunk like a secret lover who had managed to squirrel away a few hours for passionate love-making..

So there you have it.  After having some old bag call into question my value as a woman because I’m not with-band-on-ring-finger, having the equivalent of a rogue-wave-in-a-mud-puddle anomaly of a period arrive, and have to sit through a driving lesson with my teenager, I am finally resigning myself to being completely and utterly in the moment.

It doesn’t hurt to have some classic jazz and a lip-smacking, seductive wine to help me get my Zen on. So long as no strangers ask me any more judgmental-quasi-Christian-have-you-been-saved-questions, we all just might make it out of this week alive. Cheers to you my fellow fearless ladies. May your wine racks overfloweth!