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When to Retreat

This is itSpiritual care retreats aren’t for everyone. The longer I go between breaks, the more I wonder if they’re for me, if I’ve got anything left in me to nurture and to bring to the world other than a curmudgeonly attitude requisite for being a veteran mortician.

Today, I plowed my way through the two-lane-traffic-corridor from hell that takes you out of the GTA and to Kingston. It’s an exercise in patience and dreaming of creative ways to free our highways of transport trucks and drivers who do not obey the left-lane-is-for-passing rule.

I muttered through traffic, rolled my eyes at the lack of parking signage at the retreat location, and cursed the universe in general for having the rain start just as I was wrestling my basket of yoga mat, meditation cushion and blanket for deep relaxation out of my trunk.  I have under-packed for retreats before, and I was determined that based on the wet forecast, this was not going to be one of those soggy times. I looked like a 44 year old-yoga-pant-and-pink-sweater-wearing-mule trying to get all three bags  inside on one trip.

I was appalled at the woman who let me struggle with the door to the registration lounge without helping me, and the lack of smile on the face of the registrar. This is not Buddhism! Buddhism smiles for crying out loud! I could not get to my little room fast enough so I could dump my suitcase, prep for the mediation hall and ensure my precious bottle of South Australian plonk was safely stored next to the second draft of my novel.

This is how I entered my retreat space; frustrated, exhausted, and ready to give the world not a single, but a double salute using my middle fingers.

And then I entered the retreat space. I hastily set out my mat and cushion in the middle of the room and plopped myself down to breathe. Ha! To breathe…think about that one. Just taking a single, deep, focussed breath can do so much. For a veteran with this particular group, my entrance was anything but mindful. I did not bow. I did not do all of the small, but mindful ritual requirements of coming into such a sacred space. That was my first wake-up call. I needed to be exactly where I was.

I changed course, focussed on the minutiae of what I was doing, and in doing so,  I found myself at home. In observing my breath, the bell, the noble silence at the dinner hour, nourished by lip-smacking vegetarian food, in the dharma group listening, and finally back in my room (with a glass of contraband wine), alone with my thoughts.

Again I am reminded how precious these times are. I’m reminded how they crystallize my intentions, and help me manifest the kind of person I try to be.

I raise a glass to that…after all, nobody is perfect!

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Self-Esteem in the Middle-Age of Social Media

journalI’m supposed to be doing something else right now. Chances are, you are too. But, here I am, loungewear donned, tucked in by the fireplace with hot lemon water by my side, writing to you.

This morning, after a dreamy 3.5 hours of sleep, I woke up to see my son off to work. I’m fighting a seven month infection that just won’t quit, and share a bed with a man who snores like  freight train. I lack sleep, and therefore, I find it very difficult to muster the motivation to do anything but crave a snooze.

My go-to connection to the outside world other than work, and a vacation where all I did was read and occupy a beach chair, is my social media. I try to follow sites, pages, people and accounts that inspire me to be healthy, happy and productive.

Last night I made a sincere start reading, “The Year of Yes“, by Shonda Rhimes.  I’m likely the only woman on the planet who does not know a lot about Shonda Rhimes. I was surprised to hear that she was a single mom and so successful just as much as I was shocked to learn she was a no-thank-you-RSVPing-introvert.  The reason I don’t know a

lot about Shonda Rhimes is that I’m too busy to watch tv, trying accomplish everything I’ve decided to do.

I put my book aside at 2:00 am and felt that I didn’t do enough in comparison to Ms. Shonda. If this woman could be a successful writer with three children, how come I’m just a successful funeral director with an international athlete for a son, and three post-grad diplomas on the wall (they’re not literally on my wall)? “I’m such a loser”, I thought to myself, and then went upstairs and climbed in bed next to Snorey McSnorerson.

japanesepizza hashtag on Instagram • Photos and Videos

This morning at the crack of 5:45 am (and I am by no stretch of any imagination a morning person), I was scrolling through someone’s Japanese, vegan Instagram feed and all I could think was, “Oh.My.God…that’s just way too much chopping, ” and then I thought, “I’m too lazy to chop?! I’m such loser.”

But I’m not a loser. I just temporarily lose myself in everyone else’s social media story branding (or lie as Shonda would say). When you feel lousy, people who disguise their humanity by editing out their flaws can make you feel like a big, fat, loser.

And today, yes, I am too lazy to chop. I’m too lazy to reduce the ingredients for a sweet Japanese barbecue sauce over low heat while I do crunches and make a duck face at the other end of my selfie stick. But that’s just for today, while I create, and write, and do something that makes me feel beautiful from the inside out.

Tonight, I shall dig back in to, The Year of Yes, catch my second wind, and light up my social calendar. That’s just how I roll, even without homemade, exotic sauce or perfect abs.

 

 

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Misery Loves Company

complaining

I was at a workshop this weekend (yah, you know, the kind that privileged middle-aged-middle-class women attend to re-energize their lives). Our warm-up was to introduce ourselves one-on-one and tell the other person what our dream was.

For a split second I faltered. What was my dream? I knew what it was, but would that sound foolish???

Yah, that was my saboteur talking, so I gave her the finger and a shove, and repeated myself over and over until everyone in the room knew what my dream was, and I believed it could happen.  Worth the money and the time, thank you very much.

Although we were focussing on realigning our lives, there was a lot of misery in the room.  I supposed that’s why we all went – to banish it to the realm of 80’s hairspray and baby oil sun-tanning.

My mother, whom I relied on to teach me how not to be in the world, imparted  two solid pieces of wisdom upon me;

  1. Time goes by faster as you get older.
  2. There will always be assholes.

She was right about both of those things.

What I also learned from observing her was that misery loves company. And what I’m learning at this ripe old age of mid-forty-something is that not only does it love company, it absolutely requires it to survive.

There seems to be something entirely blasé about this time in life for most people. Whether they are in the throes of child-rearing, stale marriages, or realizing that their prowess now gives up the occasional purr rather than a ferocious growl, people in general connect via the lack in their lives rather than the abundance and joy. Cool has become the preferred carnival mask of middle age.

giphyI’m too old for cool.

I’m middle aged,(don’t argue with me about what middle-aged is, I’m a mortician, and mid-forties is way past middle aged for most of us, so get with the program), I want to be cool about nothing. I want to be passionately engaged about what gets me excited, and dismiss what drains my energy.

Misery invites company, it’s a seducer. It loves to lock it’s lips on our sexy, positive energy and suck the last breath from it.  Leaving it limp and impotent.

Misery is easy. Being miserable means you don’t have to invest or commit to anything.  And that’s so fucking easy to get away with. Misery sucks the life out of everything around it, in order to stay above water.

Joy, unlike misery is so busy smelling the flowers and investing in more joyful interactions that it generates enough energy to keep itself afloat.

If you are lonely go out join something. If you are bored at work, take a class and learn something new. If you’re fat, go for a walk. If you’re sex starved, trust me ladies, it’s out there to be had. If you don’t have enough time to do what you love, set boundaries….You get the picture.  Oh, and quit making excuses, that’s misery wrestling you to the ground, and not in the sweaty, sexy, one-garter-came-loose kind of way.

If you were to step into the room that I did on the weekend and were asked to everyone what your dream was, and you don’t know…you absolutely need to know. Misery has kept you company for far too long.

 

 

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When the Community Board is Empty

Most of you know that I have recently moved. I live in a very strange community that has come to make me appreciate the effects of foreign property investment on our ‘communities’.  In effect, all of the empty grand homes in our neighbourhood  are mostly empty, with lights on timers, regular professional landscaping, and someone who clears the local newspaper and flyer delivery from their front porch. There is no neighbourhood here, only bank accounts in the form of houses.

It robs us of community. It robs us of mom and pop shops able to keep their doors open to provide goods and services for the neighbourhood.

Yesterday I popped in to a local  Starbucks for a delightfully refreshing iced drink, and while I was waiting for my sweetie’s pour-over, I turn to the community board as I’m often want to do.

This is what I saw;

A picture is worth a thousand words. Nothing. There is regularly nothing related to community posted on this board. Despite there being a steady stream of people in line to buy their caffeinated bevvies at all hours through the weekdays and on the weekends, there is little if any sense of community.

I’m a writer, and admittedly, I’ve spent way too much time in coffee shops picking away at my keyboard, and I’ve spent way too much money on coffee. I have however honed a keen sense of place while I’m out and about mooching free office space.

I have never (not even once) settled into this location for my hour long writing sessions, arranged for a meeting with friends, or lingered any longer than it takes to make my Sunday-morning-one-bag-in-one-bag-out herbal tea.

This weekend in Toronto while getting settled in to a workshop, I was recommended to a coffee shop just down the street from where we were gathering. And this is what their community board looked like;

 

img_1025
Mallo – Located at 785 Bathurst Street. Worth becoming a regular meet-up spot. Definitely make time to try their absolutely delish menu.

I stopped, took off my coat, enjoyed a cup of tea, and ordered one to go. The staff were so friendly, and vibe was so great, that I came back again after my workshop and tried their menu with a pal who was in the neighbourhood. $70.00 later I felt like I had a new place to add to my favourites. Lesson learned; a sense of community translates to profit.

Earlier this week, I was back in my old stomping grounds at my favourite Starbucks in Mississauga, and their community board looked like this;

community board

 

When your community boards are empty at informal meeting spaces like coffee shops, there is a fundamental problem within the local community. There is a disconnect.  People go out to write, to gather, and to get their over-priced half-caf-low-fat-made-exclusively-for-me beverages because they are craving connection as much as they are craving sugar and caffeine.

When your community board is empty, I challenge you to go out and find one that is overflowing with posters for yoga in the park,  poetry readings, amateur nights at the local coffee house. I guarantee you’ll be a happier, healthier person.

 

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Just Say No

grocery storeI’ve spent the better part of my 40’s scouring the grocery store for Shake’n Bake and marjoram, figuring out that flannel jimmies stick like velcro to flannel sheets, and annoyed at how closely hostility boils at the surface of every-single-freaking retail transaction I make. Hey sweetheart, I’ve worked retail too, so please, save me the passive aggressive bullshit and bag my groceries already.

By all accounts, I’ve achieved an acceptable definition of success; I have had a career most people find fascinating, I married, produced offspring, and divorced. I am in a socially acceptable relationship. Despite the lively shenanigans in my second and third decades of existence, I have remained alive and don’t have a prison record. Success!

I now have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. So I  can finally work on my own definition of success, writing, creating, and spending my time off imparting my hard won wisdom onto my child whilst sipping copious amounts of gin and wearing the grooviest muumuus I can find.

Oh, and I need to shed some of this joy-weight. You know, the kind that comes from trying to be the best mom, gal-pal out for drinks, and stress eating (because a lot of people are selfish assholes). The rest of the people are cool, and should be considered kindred spirits. Good luck figuring out which are which.

If you are a young woman reading this, skip directly to where middle age has positioned me emotionally.  Do not give a shit what others think.  Speed immediately past GO and tear up your Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Cards. Screw it…just keep doing what you feel you must do, and save yourself a tidy little nest egg while you’re at it. If you can’t save, cultivate your charm. You’ll need it.

This rant comes courtesy of telling myself not to take my own self care seriously, giving up my yoga and writing time until my routine at home becomes somewhat normal again.

As I wandered down a grocery store aisle (for the second time) in search of Shake’n Bake, I realized that what I was feeling was not frustration. Just an aside, Shake’n Bake should be sold above the meat cooler like the wise old grocer did in my childhood village. What I was feeling was not frustration, but resentment. Resentment that it was my precious time being wasted searching for the solution to someone else’s craving for baked chicken.

But the thing is ladies, no one holds a gun to our heads while we frantically search grocery store aisles for 1970’s chicken coating. No. We take it on all by ourselves, and wear our tidy, well-stocked homes as a badge of honour.  I am the only one in my house who ventures to Costco because they know what a colossal time-sucking-black-hole the entire expedition is, same goes for restocking grocery trips and big-box store runs.

As I was finishing my errands today ( on my day off when I should have just ran away with my laptop to some wonderful cafe for four hours) I received a text;

Hey, can you stop by Costco and pick up a couple of boxes?

 

Which begs the question; Seriousfuckingly???

Seriousfuckingly ladies. Just say no.

 

 

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An Ode to Younger Women

women circle

Let me clarify. This is not a perverted rant from an saggy-testicled male poet. This is a rant from one woman to another.

This afternoon on my way to a photoshoot to update my online identity, I made a quick phone call.

This essentially makes me vintage. As in; I prefer a phone call to a text or any other kind of message.

I called a young lady with whom I work, and consider a pal. She’s younger than me, educated, capable, and way more in touch with how the world works. I am that friend to my older friends, and so it goes.

At one time, I was the younger-more-in-touch-with-reality-and-technology friends. I considered myself fortunate to be present with these ladies. I was deeply grateful to them for sharing their experience and their well-intentioned advice. I learned about becoming the woman I always wanted to be; professional, funny, sensual, and confident. Thanks to these older women I learned to live my life intentionally.

giphy-5

I still need women in my life who have been-there-done-that, and know how to order a proper cocktail in order to tell their story effectively.  I also find myself now admiring the  younger women in my circles for their enthusiasm, unrestrained hopes and dreams and even their naivety.

To all of the young women out there who are now just exploring their identity as grown-up, professional, artist, or mother, we need you. We need your voice, your ideas, and your participation in all parts of life. You are valuable and loved. You’re part of a community of women, ever-evolving, ever-aging, and always, always, always in need of one another.

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The Year of Meh…

cancel

I love mornings. I hate mornings when I’m woken by anything other than the natural flow of coming out of my semi-conscious dreams. You know, the kind where you’re aware that you’re dreaming, and you can choose your own adventure.

This morning, the official Sunday of my shift work week, I woke up to make a trip to the powder room, and of course, like everyone else, I checked my messages.

I can’t meet you this evening. I’m sick…I’m so sorry about this…

My unfortunate pal had been taken out by the dreaded winter cold and flu. She could not make it to our, “Year of Yes” event tonight, with pre-girl talk at the cool bar next door.  My heart broke for her. A hard working scholar and mother of three does not need the flu. She needs a three week vacation and stiff drink. She needs a year of yes.

I followed this early morning text with a quick message to another pal who was part of the trio of new-year-new-you-mid-life-hot-mammas. I wanted to let her know we were flying as a duo instead of a trio, to give her an out if she needed one….and so begins my year of yes. I was secretly hoping she’d cancel so I could stay in where I have become quite comfortable with wishing I was doing something else. And then I went back to bed.

I’ll take you back to late December/ early January. This year started off with all kinds of grand plans. So much so that about six days in, I sat in my writing chair and had not a small, but a rather substantial anxiety attack. All in my own mind of course, because I live with a functional type of chronic anxiety.

I promised myself a LOT this year. I even dared to whisper to myself  that this was my year of yes.  Not yes to crazy shit that wasn’t true to who I am, but yes to making the time and putting the work in to use my creative energy  for designing new path for my future.

Back to work after a long stint of caregiving, I find myself at the mercy of the needs of everyone besides myself. I would have been delightful had pal #2 returned the text saying that nah, she didn’t want to go to our “Year of Yes” event either. It would have been an escape hatch. But only in the moment.

kick ass

I know that surely I would be disappointed with myself tomorrow for not going, despite my fatigue and frustration.  Sometimes we need a team of friends to make sure that we’re accountable to our own needs and desires.

Sometimes our hoorah intentions fizzle out because we see an escape hatch that’s easier than getting up and actually doing the things that we talk about. Don’t let that be your standard. Don’t let your yes turn into meh.