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Stay Humble My Friends

coffee-cold-mug-winter

Humble. That’s the best we can all try to be right now.

Humble enough to be still, kind, and for the love of all that’s holy, quiet.

If I were a medical professional in the midst of this pandemic, I think that during my time off, earplugs would be as important as any personal protective gear during my time ‘on’.

You know what I’m talking about, the incessant chatter of  how this pandemic is spreading, what the symptoms are, and how long it will take before we can all get back to thoughtless, mass consumption.

After a most stressful five days of dealing with a sick person, a young man’s plea for a place to stay after being illegally evicted due to fear of the Coronavirus and worrying about my own job, I woke up this morning snug and warm among my fluffy duvets.

Bliss.

Until the chatter started. A thoughtful phone call to check in on my sick sweetie turned into an amateur COVID 19 medical conference right there in my bed.

I jammed an earplug in the ear that wasn’t on the pillow, took a few deep breaths, and then gave up before frustration set in. Earplug out, I padded down the stairs to enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the solitude of morning.

This, after drifting off to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, wondering about the outward object of ‘adoration’ in the context of rapture…it’s ok, you don’t have to understand. All you need to know is that I was delighted to have had some time to submerge myself in the type of writing and thought that is all encompassing.  Something bigger than myself. 

The stress of the day washed away with my wordplay, and the ability to surrender to whatever comes next flexed it’s muscle and settled around me like a cocoon. I fell asleep with pen and notebook on my chest.

 

When you realize nothing is lacking,

The whole world belongs to you

~Lau Tzu~

 

I hope that everyone has that kind of escape right now; something that they love which gives them purpose.  Or even a guilty pleasure to binge on like The Tiger King , a raw example of chattering pride (pun no intended).

Being humble can come from a place of great joy, simple pleasures, or curiosity. Wherever it comes from, it can be a gentle teacher and an anchor in a world that seems to have gone mad. During times like these, humility can offer up a calm raft in the deluge of  uncertainty and change. It can also save you from yourself in ways you didn’t  even know that you need saving.

 

 

 

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Building Pandemic Panic Resistance

squirrelSquirrels are jacked, Wish sells sex toys, and I found the perfect shade of lipstick at Sephora Canada for twenty-eight bucks.

If someone told me a month ago that I’d have the time to discover these little things, I would have told you they were mad.

Had I not been respecting this physical-distancing protocol, I never would have equated the relative muscle mass of a squirrel’s front haunches with the thick, muscular neck of a wolf, because I never would have had the time to stare out the window and wonder about something other than the demands of my own day.

I also never would have clicked on the promos from Wish, and discovered that they sell clothing, male chastity devices, as well as plastic parrot solar lights that would be fantastic for our Parrothead soirees – the lights, not the sex toys. The outline of a third book likely wouldn’t have unfolded into anything other than the outline either.

Luckily our household hasn’t been as adversely effected as others. Everyone is still working, everyone is still getting paid. Everyone is going a bit bonkers adjusting to being at home together.

Incidentally, I think that social media is going a bit bonkers right now too. Currently, it’s a five minute distraction at most for me. The same with the news. Once a day is enough to keep me informed, without making me paranoid.

After two weeks of being glued to news updates, being terrified of what I’m being exposed to at work, about a week ago I shut down the newsfeed and the unnecessary obsessing.  Now  my sweetie has fallen ill and I’ve raised my white-flag of surrender.  I will not subject myself to the massive influx of emails and private messages about COVID 19.

As always, I have a new writing project simmering, a pile of books on my desk waiting to be read (the ones I had previously designated as beach-reads for my annual Central American beach holiday), and a needlework project half finished. Perhaps it’s a Gen X thing , but I think I’ll just tuck in and ride this out, taking it day by day.

I have settled nicely into the routine of surrender.

It’s lovely to have time to sip my first and second cups of morning coffee bundled up on the patio in the fresh air. It’s blissful to have the time to  wonder about squirrel anatomy, who the wonderful guitarist is down the street, and to allow the poetic flow of words to dance in my imagination so that I can write it down on paper a little later on. Not being able to go out has been a wonderful retreat.

Next week, a new, temporary shift schedule starts at work to help adjust to the demands of our new reality. I will not be having leisurely, morning coffee save for weekends.

If you’re stuck in a rut of scrolling through social media, watching the news spool over and over, might I suggest staring out the window for a while, and noticing the little things that otherwise go unnoticed.

 

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Travelling Light: Decluttering

travel lightAfter learning that my friend died a week ago, I wondered what I had to remember her by. Keepsakes are precious and the one I have from her is a tiny tile she brought back from Delft in her Dutch homeland.

Along with my grandmother’s nurses cap, my son’s framed art, and my one photo album, that tile is among  the things that will likely stay with me forever.

You read that correctly by the way. I only have one photo album.

Trust me. After twenty some years working in the funeral business you really can’t take it with you, and those who try to, make it really damn hard on their family.

The burden of leaving a huge pile of stuff for your loved ones to sort through after your death equals a crap load of emotional guilt when they realize that they too, can’t possibly save your precious memories.

Like I said, I have one photo album. When I moved into my current home, I realized just how much I had stashed away during the eight year stay we had at our previous home. I didn’t want to burden my child with having to sift through over 30 albums of meaningless photos should anything happen to me (and it will).  Photos were paired down to one album for myself, and five for the kid.

I kept at least one photo of each of my favourite people. When I open that album, which is rarely, my memories come flooding back. I remember how far I’ve come, who I loved and who loved me back. I don’t need a multi-volume album collection to remember the most meaningful moments in my life.

What I cherish from the days at that old apartment are the memories. The feeling that I get, no matter how foggy the details, thinking of the time  I spent parenting my favourite person in the world.  Nothing can bring those times back.

I’m ready to go. As far as my stuff goes anyway.  What I mean is, there’s not a hell of a lot I’m attached to. Almost everything of sentimental value fits inside a small trunk that I use for a coffee table.  The rest I hold in my heart.

Despite priding myself on my eclectic home, which is filled with framed art created by my friends, and special momentos, I really have very little stuff that I’m attached to.

More important than decluttering is the realization that the things that are special to me are connected to memories that are unique to me. Very few things hold meaning for anyone else, so why should I burden anybody  with sorting through meaningless stuff?

Pass down your stories, not your stuff.

Offer your sentimental items to someone who may also have an emotional appreciation for them. Donate anything that someone else would be grateful to have and use.  If you must, photograph the things that break your heart to part with but didn’t make the final cut, and load them in an album to look at when you need to reminisce.

Let your lightness lift you to new places and spaces.

 

 

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Reminder: Women’s Day is Every Day

International Womens Day HistoryJust prior to quitting time on Friday, I got a call put through to my desk . It was the kind of phone call that we all dread.

My best friend, the woman I lived with during my university days, giggled with uncontrollably, and knew me before I was married, had a child, or knew the weight of being a responsible adult, had died.

We hadn’t seen each other in too long.

As with many conversations between women my age, our last digital conversation this week had ended with, ” We should get together soon.”

That was the last thing she wrote to me. My friend, who was going to be a great novelist.  Who giggled as we staggered home from middle-of-the-week-nights out,  and egged me up onto the stage on my 21st birthday to sing a Hank Williams song.

We won’t be getting together soon. I’d feel sorry for myself, but my heart is breaking for her children who will not be seeing their mother again.

In honour of Women’s Day, I waxed my mustache.

She would have liked that. She had my sense of humour.

My friend was one of the first women who shared my passion for feminism and free speech.

She was there for me when my mother couldn’t be. What I mean is, my mother was one of those women who felt trapped her entire life because she was a woman. She never had an opportunity, or the support we often give one another as women, to realize our worth, our power, and our innate depth as women.

International Women’s Day is a day I try to honour every year for that reason.  My best friend and I spoke up, protested, railed against the patriarchy if only in our university theses and ability to drink anyone under the table during informal debates.

And then life happened.  We got married, went back to school and had children in alternating patterns, and time became an enemy.  Time is the greatest of gifts, and we all need to be more careful how we spend it.

During Women’s Day and Mother’s Day, my phone lights up with messages and thoughts from friends and colleagues. I have the best women friends.

On this Women’s Day I am so thankful to be going out with friends as a balm for my grief.  My gregarious friend will be looking down on me, or perhaps even the devil on my shoulder, while I swig a cold beer and toast her joi de vivre.  Women’s day also involves receiving token recognition from  organizations that keep the systems running in such a way that ‘Women’s Day’ is necessary.

Women very much live in patriarchal construct of time. This mostly includes honouring the  9-5 grind on top of fulfilling the much undervalued drives of mothering and our need for connection.

Let Women’s Day remind you this year of how important it is to spend time with our gal-pals. Let it be a reminder for you, above anyone else, to prioritize and respect the energy you put in to how you spend your time.

Happy Women’s Day to all of my dear friends, regardless of gender and age.

Go out there, and make some memories. Remind us all that we have safe harbour, infinite potential, and reasons to laugh until we can’t catch our breath.

 

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Don’t Smell like a bag of Potato Chips? Count Your Blessings

Bubble BathWhenever I’m frustrated and someone tries to make it all better by telling me to be grateful for the simple things, it makes me want to put them in a headlock and give them the world’s biggest noogie.

Seriously, there’s soooo much sanctimonious poo-ha floating around these days, it’s hard to be real. Real as in; being able to express any emotion other than wide-toothed-grinning-joy. We’re human. We feel things, and I heartily believe that if we felt a little more – as in stood up for what we really believe in- the world would be a much better place.

Real is what it’s been around my place for the past few weeks. Real-ly painful. Real-ly restless, and really, well, not normal.  It’s made me…grateful for the simple things.

Slip-on boots that don’t require laces…….stretchy clothes…….slippers…….a warm coat…….get-well cards…….access to the internet…….someone cooking a meal…….being able to watch the birds at the feeder…….going for a walk…….the remote within reach…….

It doesn’t take long before not being able to do simple things gets old.  I haven’t been able to sink into a hot bath in almost a month.  Just prior to that, I had two full weeks of sponge baths. Ick, of the highest order of Ewwww. I also couldn’t wear deodorant because it would infect the incisions. There’s only so much self confidence you can get from breezing a washcloth near your armpits.

But I knew all of this was coming. So I stocked up on mother’s-little-helper and  a fresh bar of my favourite lemon soap in anticipation of the day that I could give myself a proper wash.

When you can finally be confident that you don’t stink like a bag of salt and vinegar chips, well, that’s something to be grateful for. And I know I will be grateful for that every day for quite some time.

It all sounds trite when I write it down. After all, during the first few days, ice cubes in my gingerale and milky tea were like manna from heaven.  And to be honest, I haven’t been ill as in I-don’t-know-if-I’ll-get-better-ill. I am healthy which is why I was able to go through with a pro-active surgery.

Still, being unable to do every-day tasks made me incredibly grateful for things that I usually take for granted  and made me realize how difficult some people have it. I am so very fortunate.

Whether it’s being able to access a place to get clean and safely get some rest, or reach for your morning joe at a drive through window (which I can’t do right now), or carry your groceries into the house (which I also can’t do), I’m going to be one of those annoying, sanctimonious birds who tell you to try to find the joy in simple things today.

It will indeed, do you good.

 

 

 

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Redefining What You Love: Passion, Purpose & Pretty Things

By this time last year I was two life-coaching seminars down, had logged a one-on-one with a literary agent, and was laser focussed on pursuing my passion.

That was then.

This is now – I’m into the third week of recovering from a major surgery and not doing as gung-ho as my tough-old-bird persona is want to do.  I have the same focus as I did last year, with a lot more realistic expectations of the work involved, and the skills I have yet to hone.  I’m training my anxiety to learn how to enjoy the work of building strong foundations.

And I’m having fun with it. Yes, fun.  Passion, purpose and pretty things might very well be my words for 2020. Passion for my passions, purpose for my vocation, and pretty things for everything I find myself engaged in. Sounds pretty good and a load less messy than panicking by throwing myself at wine, unhealthy relationships and meaningless pooh-ha.

pretty typewriter

PASSION

Of course it’s my novel writing. But I need to refine my craft. Re-writing and giving my characters and stories depth has become my focus. Learning, refining, being creative in ways I’ve never tried.  Focus is a stern master when it comes to us creative types, but I think I’ve finally been tamed.

be kind to one another

PURPOSE

Kindness. That’s really it. Kindness isn’t as simple as it seems, and it takes character. To be kind in my profession means being knowledgable, patient (not a natural gift of mine), and also providing myself enough self-care time so that I have the energy to hold space for my clients and colleagues.

pretty paris

PRETTY THINGS

It seems simple and self-explanatory, but it’s not. I’m sure many women can relate to having body image issues. I’ve been fat, thin, struggled with an eating disorder, fit, flabby, and everything in between. I spent many years listening to self-talk that hissed how very undeserving I was of pretty things.  I’m over it. Not 100%, but my gratitude for my body has finally come in to it’s own.

My recent surgery has totally changed the shape of my body, and I have to learn how to dress again. As much as my chubby belly has now taken over prominence from my recently departed breasts, I’m having a blast playing with my own style. I turned here for inspiration ; https://www.stitchfix.com/women/blog/fashion-tips/find-fit-for-your-body-type/    I’m focussed on respecting my body by giving it a lot healthier input…with the occasional chocolate bar thrown in of course. And gin.

I haven’t come to this place easily. I’ve felt a little bit lost. The things I once loved don’t mean what they used to.  I’ve wavered with regard to my preference for weekly book reviews. It sounds trite, but it’s always been a part of my life that I look forward to and could count on.

My friendships have changed. I no longer feel obligated to feel obligated. I no longer get satisfaction from the work of trying to bring large groups of my diverse friends together.  I now prefer one-on-one time.  I care more about who I spend my time with because time is so very precious.

Social media time has been dialed down. One-must-be-peaceful, happy and paid for their passion (take a read of this article) memes are Stepfordesque, and I’ve had enough.

Stripping back what truly makes your life balanced and happy  includes a balance of the reality of work, and the pleasure of play.  There isn’t a lifestyle guru out there who can define that for you. You have to do it yourself.

Passion, purpose & pretty things. I’m gonna go with that.

 

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5 Ways Not to Be a Weirdo

strangeI guarantee you that someone, somewhere, thinks you’re a weirdo.

“Why the hell are people so freaking weird?!”I ask myself this question a lot. Like, a-lot-a-lot.

Anyone who has to get up, go to work, or interact with another human being during the day thinks the same way.

Mostly weirdness comes into play if you are an ignorant stunner when you’re dealing with  people. Not a stunner like the Hope Diamond. Just stunned. I suspect most weirdos are so ignorant of their surroundings that they think they’re perfectly normal.

Most people who make me think they’re from another planet are the ones who are just on the edge of rude-enough-to-make-me-do-a-double-take, but not so rude as to warrant one of my very calm, but forward diplomatic chats.

Recently, with eyeballs as big as a saucer after walking away from a real weirdo, I realized that most weirdos are likely just victims of our time. Most  have unreal expectations about what is humanly possible based on our instant-access-to-information world. Either they expect you to snap your fingers and so-mote-it-be, or they don’t realize that you can do things as quickly as you can.

Most annoying of course are the people who think you can pull bunnies, doves and miracles out of your ass. Kind of like someone in line for an extra-hot-non-fat-no-whip-double-shot-venti-with-a-carmel-pump getting frustrated with the wait at their favourite coffee shop. Some things obviously take time. Use your new millenium meditation skills and deal with it weirdo. Try to actually think something through.

Now more than ever we live in a world where people have no concept of face-to-face etiquette. As consumers we feel entitled, and as workers we feel stretched. Nobody’s happy.  Weird.

5 Ways To Not Be A Weirdo

  1. When attending appointments, dates or get-togethers, please try to adhere to the same time-space continuum as everyone else in your time zone. In plain-speak- show up on time.
  2. Don’t carry food and drink with you everywhere. This goes for parents with kids. You know they need to eat, it’s not a new development in our evolution.  Plan for it. You know you have to eat. Plan for it. And no, you will not die if you don’t have a paper cup filled with joe or bottle of water attached to your hand.
  3. Be aware of personal space and appropriate length of eye contact. As a matter of fact, make sure you also blink. Non-blinkers are ultra-weird.
  4. Practice the art of conversation, especially the listening portion. Making someone repeat themselves for any other reason than a hearing issue is just strange. Get out of your own little weirdo, narcissistic head and l.i.s.t.e.n. and then act appropriately.
  5. Which brings me to magic #5….be aware and considerate of your surroundings…..weirdo.