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Self-Worth: The Biggest Mid-life Myth Debunked in Under 10 Minutes

beautiful busyI have thick thighs and thin patience…

What I’m finding particularly interesting at this middle-age-stage of femininity is how we continue to be coerced into believing that women exist in a big vat of lack.

It’s wearing my patience thin.

As a child, I was born into a generation who taught little girls to be quiet, and for-God’s-sake-don’t-pull-at-your-leotards-like-that.  As a teen, I was fed a diet of magazines with super-thin-models and how-to-keep-a-man-satisfied headlines.

In my twenties and thirties, it was about having it all; relationships, career, children, bff-friendships over expensive, boozy, brunches, and more diets and fitness routines. Raise your hand if you don’t have time to do your hair after a lunch-hour work out.

Now I’m in my forties, and the thing to be doing is redefining yourself.  It all sounds great; it’s a powerful message to send that in our 40’s we have so much lost potential. Fuck off with that already. Quit telling us that more is better. This is a myth perpetuating a generation of women who feel not good enough. 

sewing bookQuit telling us that existing in this world as a female requires more.  All  while men are getting cozy in their careers, maxing out their earning potential (still on average  13.3% more than a woman’s), and being patted on the back about their wonderful achievements.

Women are being fed a big ol’spoonful of ‘you-can-do-better’.

We are in crisis because we’re being told we should be more.

We are in crisis because we bear the responsibility of reproduction after spending our most fertile years striving for a career.  We have fewer economic opportunities, and the social expectation of being caregivers to parents and children while working at often more than one job to try to ensure we can retire before we die of exhaustion.  A male’s shrivelling manhood is being exalted while we’re being told we’re not good enough. No wonder our vaginas dry out and shrivel up.

If you’re strong enough to be a woman, you’re strong enough to no.

‘No’, will immediately toss you into the pile of ‘nasty’ women who quietly, but powerfully carry on as they damn well please.  Everyone with any honesty will tell you that women over 40 lose a significant amount of social currency. While men start getting rejected from potential employment in their late 50’s, women experience it a decade earlier. Saying no to unreasonable demands and less than you’re worth claims power.  It claims the respect you deserve for doing most of the emotional work within the household, for getting up and going to your job every day so you can put food on the table, even though it’s not sexy and even claims some time to rest.

The myth tells us all that we must be working at something else in order to justify a ‘no’. You do not. You just have to do you. And you is likely exhausted.

We’re enough as we are. We do not need to strip our souls bare and redefine ourselves. We do not need to buy into this myth just because the privileged class thinks it’s cool to be in crisis.

In my world, it’s cool to be cool. It’s cool to be ok with being all that you are.

You lack nothing. Be proud of who you are.

 

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Is It Over Yet?

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“If you’re brave enough to say good-bye, life will reward you with a new hello.” ~Paolo Coelho~

 

I don’t know why, but this holiday season seems like it’s never going to end. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to work through it? Maybe it’s because I kick it off so damn early, and this year I was spoiled by being NYC in December? Maybe because I’m eager to step into a fresh new year and play with some of the options available to me?

I think it’s that one. The last one. 2019 was somewhat of a slog. 2020 feels like it’s ready to polish off the rough bits and end with something shiny and new.

Parts of me feel dead, which make the joyful and silly parts seem all that more delightful.  I feel like it’s time to pull my middle-aged ass out of the rut of what-I-should-be-doing-and-thinking-and-spending-my-time-on and getting it on track with my natural chutzpah.

I was gifted many books this Christmas, and among them was a copy of Grit.  By a person who scored about 30% on the Grit scale. I scored a 95.

It was a classic case of here-I-bought-this-because-I-want-it, not, this-made-me-think-of-you. I had read about 50 pages of anecdotes before deciding it was time to put away the Christmas decorations.  The giver of the book tossed a hissy fit over having to actually get the Christmas tree back in the box, and marched out in a huff. I was the one who wrestled with the picky branches until they succumbed to the original packaging and was set neatly aside until next year. Don’t talk to me about grit.

As a matter of fact, don’t talk to me at all if it’s going to involve anything related to what I should be ; doing, eating, or spending my energy on. Only talk to me if it’s necessary, or you’re telling me something soul-deep, or funny, or charming. Talk to me if you’re excited about learning something new, or if you need someone to listen, or you’re confessing some delicious sin.

In 2019 I had way, way too many conversations about all of the should’s.  I had way too many days that felt like I was going through the motions and not really alive.

In honour of a new decade, I closed the cover on Grit, and cracked open a copy of Kissing the Limitless that has been sitting on my writing desk for two years. Two. YEARS.

I booked a drag brunch with some gal pals, sipped my bottomless-mimosa and watched those beautiful women who have worked so hard at their craft, and their life, come out and entertain a crowd of people hungry to feel something. Anything.

The end of a year always lends itself to some self-review.  This year I’m asking; what parts of my self have been suffocated this year? How did it happen, and why?

By 2020 I will have answered those questions, which leaves the rest of the year to be fabulous, to indulge in all of the delights that make me feel alive emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Buckle up.

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Thanksgiving Public Etiquette Challenge

etiquette

“I said….YOU’RE A MISERABLE OLD BASTARD AND YOU DON’T GET TO SPEAK TO PEOPLE THAT WAY.”

Despite the all-caps, I did not yell that to the man across the grocery lines, I simply was repeating in a much louder voice what I’d just said to him, after he responded with, “What did you just say?”

I have to admit it wasn’t my most elegant reproach, but I think it was effective. I’m pretty sure the old coot who yelled at the cashier not once, but twice, will not behave like that in public again.

We had a bit of an exchange that included him telling me that in fact he wasn’t a sad lonely man like I guessed, and that he had a lovely wife. Whom, I responded, had to be a saint to put up with his shit, and was likely at home praying he didn’t return.

So that’s really where this ‘challenge’ is coming from. It’s my, ‘you don’t speak to people like that’ mantra. I mean, people do speak to other people like that, and that’s the problem. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these idiots? Do they really believe that they can bleed attitude all over everyone and get treated with respect? Why yes, in fact they do, because most folks are polite enough not to make a scene. But that’s where we’ve gone wrong. That’s why there’s such an imbalance these days of entitled morons making the rest of us stressed. In public no less!

While we’re stuck in line exercising our patience on what is sure to be a busy week in grocery line ups and housewares shops, I challenge you to call out the people who make the world ugly. In a safe way of course. I’m not trying to incite violence or screaming matches. What I think the world needs now is a bit of stern mothering. A good look straight in the eye and a demand that they don’t trail around their seething bullshit everywhere. Package it up, and place it neatly back on their lap.

Trust me, misery loves company, but once it’s reprimanded, it tends to crawl back in it’s cave whenever it senses someone who isn’t afraid of it.

Start small if you have to, and then work your way up. That’s how we make the world a better place. Nice matters. A lot.

 

 

 

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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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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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#whatchagonnadoaboutit

Cirle of women

Cottage country. Here we are surrounded by vast expanses of nature, spotted like a leper with cottages, out-buildings, and ice-cream shops. The noise of a chainsaw cuts across the lake drowning out the sound of the chirping toads, trilling birds, and quiet lake water kissing the shoreline.

What better place to come and reflect on life in general? What better environment to rest, reflect and focus on the issues that are most important to me at this stage in my life; where to live and what to do? Never before have I had so much freedom to choose.  Too much choice can be overwhelming.

The land, water and air here have been stamped with our nonsense. Even now, as I type out my thoughts on a laptop from the dock, I feed into the madness. My coffee cup rests on the Saturday edition of the Globe and Mail, the traditional ‘top of the fold’ importance given to a full colour photo of Tina Fontaine, “Not in vain” reads the white font against a black backdrop. Under my coffee cup, covering my coveted weekly read of the book section.

Not in vain. Genocide. As a CBC listener, I cringed at our Prime Minister solemnly declaring the atrocities that have been going on for hundreds of years.  Patronizing, distant,distain does nothing to effect change.

I do not identify as an indigenous woman, or a woman of colour, or a woman who comes from a culture where women are not considered to be persons in their own right. I’m afraid to say that I do share a border with one. I identify as a woman; sexually abused, raped, working in a culture which boasts of being a leader when it comes to gender equality, but is still entrenched in a society where misogyny has deep, strong, still thriving roots.

My mind flips like a picture book back to when I attended my first protest. I made a banner (not just a sign), and along with two school friends, we marched, chanted and made known our intolerance for violence against women. The overwhelming emotions were rage, injustice, and anger.

As I sit here, I realize how privileged I have become. I’m a long way from the village (yes, it was technically a village) I grew up in and the single-mother struggle that dominated my adult years. But here I am with all of that rich knowledge of experience, looking down at the headline of another young girl who has been murdered. And what the hell are we really doing about it other than assigning a hashtag?

Meaningful work is where my mind goes when I think about what’s next. I have always done work that has made a difference; reporting news, helping the bereaved, comforting the dying.

As a woman, I take it upon myself to help other women. My joy now comes from giving a hand to younger professionals, sharing my experience and building their confidence. I know that whatever comes next will involve sharing my opportunities, sharing my joy, and showing up for  more marches where my pain, rage and anger have naturally taken a backseat to building a community of resilient, strong, women.

 

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Boundary Breaking Turds: Containing the Stink

toilet-paper-shoeIn my late 30’s I became acutely aware of people who drained my energy. I’m sure you can relate.

As a natural caregiver, I was feeling drained by some of my family and friends. I was the go-to for help, but not the go-to if I needed anything. So I experimented with personal boundaries. I fell in love with them. They are flexible yet firm, and they love me back.

The more you care about someone, the more it hurts when those boundaries are disrespected, and yesterday that happened to me. Not for the first time, but for the last time. Every time I interact with this individual, they tromp all over everyone else’s boundaries like a rhino in a vegetable garden, ruining a lot of good stuff, and leaving destruction and a few turds in their wake.

I’m pretty relaxed, except when it comes to holding a grudge. I can hold onto a grudge forever. Not intentionally, it kind of sticks to me like a piece of dank toilet paper that I can’t kick off my shoe. It’s disgusting. And let’s be clear – it’s not my shit in the first place, it’s theirs.

So yesterday, my garden was tromped, annihilating the plans for someone I love (for the umpteenth time). Metaphorically, I stepped into their shit and it stuck.  It’s hard to shake off, and it tracks it’s stink everywhere.

When you point it out, people are disgusted by it too, but no-one’s going to help get it off because, well, it’s shit. It stinks, and it’s sticky, and they don’t want it stuck to them.

Deal with it. Get that shit outta here!

You know what I’m saying?

The only solution is to vent to good friends who are at enough of a distance not to catch a whiff of the crap. They can empathize and help you cope. The only solution though, is to avoid the shit. To stay away from the doggy park, if you know what I mean?

Whether it’s a bad boss, an annoying social acquaintance, or a family member who bulldozes everyone. Just do not engage.  At all. Or, at the very least expose yourself to their destructive ways as little as possible to avoid being the one with their shit stuck to your shoe.  Also keep your distance from people who have little or no self-awareness with regard to how much of that particular individual’s shit they are tracking through their life. Some people are just covered in it!

Boundaries are there to keep you safe from people who have no regard to how shitty they are. Keep your boundaries firm, and your shoes clean.