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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.
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Midnight Visits from the Ghost of Granny; Living with Intention & Gratitude

There were many nights that I used to get up in the middle of the night and see my Grandmother at the kitchen table.

I thought of her last night, when the rest of the world was in slumber. I know that  she had her own heartache and troubles, but she inspired me with her courage and zest for life.

Inspired by the woman who most inspired me, I have decided to go about my day with intention. Beyond the BIG things; my son and my home, there are little things that I am grateful for every day. So I give to you a list of things that make me happy/am grateful for, and I hope that it may inspire you.

  1. A good pair of tweezers. Oh yah baby. Women of a certain age can appreciate this as much as a man appreciates that little do-hickey end of a hair trimmer that removes ear hair. Sometimes it’s just the little things.

tweezers

2. The friends who love me. Like really love me, and manage to keep the flame of silliness burning alive and well within me. You know who you are; The Lovely L., The Amazing C., The Rolicking R., The Daring D.,  the Mumster and the Fearlessly Creative C.

Sennett-Bathing-Beauties-1915_thumb

3. Creativity and the friends who value creativity as highly as I do…

drum beating

4. The legacy of a kick-ass granny, who knew how to balance compassion and strength, especially on the days when you felt like giving up. Her fearlessness and curiosity always give me a kick in the bum.

grandmothers

5. Sports. For instance, this year, the Toronto Blue Jays are playing in the semi-finals. Sports give us something common to be emotionally invested in, talk about and bond over that isn’t too personal. Sports give us easy, enthusiastic conversation without the monotony of the curse of middle-age; talking about work, our failed marriages or how we still don’t have a clue what’s going on. Sports are highly under-rated.

octoberbaseball

6. Witnessing the evolving relationship of couples who love each other. They know the value of what it means to love when it’s easy, and when it needs to be fiercely fought for. Depth never came easy. Kuddos to my pals, the Kick-Ass Ms. K and the Debonair Mr. D. I admire your commitment to one another…

karen-and-dennis

7. Junk Food. Oh yah. The ultimate narcotic.

caramel-corn

8. My cleaning lady. Yes, my granny would swat me behind the ear for not cleaning my own house, but some things change.

cleaning-lady

9. Feeling motivated to get back to the gym. Anyone who is a little on the pudgy side knows the anxiety of being seen wearing spandex in public.

gym

 

10. Bread, blue cheese and red wine. Accompanied by thoughtful, fun and intelligent conversation makes it even more delicious…

glass-red-wine-blue-cheese-15246901

 

 

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Well Hello There Anger, You Curious Beast

rozSubtlety has never been one of my shining qualities, nor do I wish it to be. It makes for hearty discussions that can be uncomfortable yet rich. Being with people who can admit that they are afraid of the dark,  yet have the courage to explore it are the best kind of people.

I’m a fiery gal. There are no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. I am not for the faint of heart or the timid.

But I’m also soft-hearted to a fault, and love nothing more than to take people in, feed them, make sure they’re safe, and take care of them.

For many years, like many women, anger was not my friend. It’s ugly, and doesn’t accessorize well. It chewed me up from the inside out, and boy oh boy, did I suffer for ignoring it. Once my practice matured, I was able to let it in, give it room to breathe it’s fire, and finally burn off the dangerous edges.

This post was inspired by my incorrect perception. Some might even say, I was wrong. But let’s not get carried away now my sweet little peaches. Being wrong is such a bitch and entirely not sexy.

The human smorgasbord of emotion is fascinating, with a little of this and a dash of that sprinkled through the entire menu. What I’ve discovered, and I believe to be true, is that the  plethora of negative emotions are all rooted in the muck of fear. To be fearless about exploring those negative emotions, well, that my darlings, is interesting stuff.

I will be the first to admit that relationships scare the hell out of me. Commitment is a word I actually had an issue saying ( it made me stutter).  Yet, I’m a devoted, loyal, stick-with-you-to-the-end friend and colleague. What gives?

Well, after years of learning and practicing, I came to understand just how healthy it is not to deny myself all of the ugly-step-sister emotions; anger, jealousy, shame. They are all rooted in fear, and we, as human beings all experience fear and the offshoots of fear every day.

After a thoughtful discussion with my sweetie last night about anger, communication, and perception, I came back to an article by Jules Shuzen Harris, Sensei; Uprooting the Seeds of Anger, (Tricycle, Summer 2012 p44-47);

We’re going to keep getting angry. It’s going to come up. It has come up in our lives before, and it will come up again. This practice is about becoming more mindful, becoming aware of how we are getting stuck. With care and work, we find ways to get unstuck. But we also know that the moment we get unstuck, we’re going to get stuck again. That’s why it is called a practice – we never arrive. So when you find yourself upset or angry, use the moment as apart of your practice, as an opportunity to notice and uproot the seeds of anger and move into the heart of genuine compassion.

This passage speaks to me of impermanence, the Five Skandhas, and the importance of self-compassion as we practice mindful living/self-awareness.

When I first sought out meditation practice and the wisdom of the monastic teachings at a local monastery, what I really was doing, was running away from fear. I thought that I was doing something wrong, and that being happy all of the time was what being a spiritual being was all about. But, surprise, surprise, the Goddess-of-Everything-Delightful was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Ick.

Denying oneself the full-spectrum of emotion is like plastering concealer over a nasty pimple. Eventually it wears off, and it just makes the problem worse.

Our daily practice consists in running away…We are afraid of the suffering that is inside us, afraid of war and conflits…But we do not want this fear to manifest, because it hurts, and so we repress it.  We try to repress our suffering and we invite other energies into our ‘lving room’ to fill it up so that the negative energies will not be able to make their appearance there…We should not adopt this boycott policy. On the contrary we should open our door so that our suffering can come out.  (Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love)

I have committed to my practice, and I feel it slip when fear enters uninvited, tracking mud through my heart. But I won’t pretend it’s not there. I will not kick it out, or wash away the dirty footprints without taking a good look at how it got in, and what I might do lovingly acknowledge it.

 

 

 

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Sunday Meditation: Every Day Ritual

takecomfortI wake up this morning of my own accord. There is no alarm clock, just time to be me.

But there is ritual in this nothingness, this casual waking and being.

I pad to the kitchen, stumble over my own feet, turn the patio blinds, come back to the enveloping embrace of my still-warm, duvet mountain of a bed and send up a prayer that I’ve come to realize I’ve been saying, in my own way, at my own speed, for many years. It is a prayer of gratitude.

And then my mind turns to wonder…this morning it’s about a lunch date with a an old flame, the pros and cons of moving, how much I’m looking forward to sprucing up my little corner of the world….

Wonder, the butler to her majesty; Curiosity.

Eventually I pour  coffee, a lot of coffee,  into one of my  oversized mugs that was gifted from friends, open the window over my writing desk, and sit down at the keyboard. My feline mentor scrambles onto the desk,past the plant that I barely manage to keep alive, and paws at the lace curtain until I lift it up, and place it over his head like a wedding veil. We both look out to the painting mother nature has created over night and breathe in the cool, fresh, morning air. .

This is my ritual. Every writer has one, and this is mine.

This morning, as I clock-watch and know that my time in front of the keyboard at my little window is short, I am grateful for my simple ritual. It grounds me just enough for inspiration to take root.

It grounds me just enough to turn anxiety into excitement, fear into courage, and sadness into a fading memory.

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When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

IMG_6406I wasn’t going to write tonight.

What I wanted to do was to turn out the lights, curl up in a ball and shut out the world.

What I really wanted to do was to turn out the lights, curl up in a ball with my sweetheart, and shut out the world, possibly hearing those magic, fairytale words, “It’s ok”.

I don’t have a sweetheart to curl up with, and I can’t sleep. Right now, it’s not ok.

You see, today, despite always trying to be kind, loving and the world’s greatest promoter of open communication, I was hurt by two people very dear to me.

Call it what you will; lying, omission, whatever.

Being played for a fool, and not being trusted with emotional content is the emotional equivalent to tunneling through my heart with a grapefruit spoon. It’s messy, and it hurts like hell.

When someone  isn’t honest with me, I figure it’s for one of two very basic reasons; They’re afraid of being judged, or they’re an asshole.

Very few people I care about would fall into the latter category. So that makes me think that it’s something that I’ve done wrong. I must make them feel like I’m critical…They must think I’m stupid…They must be ashamed and are afraid to tell me…I’m a terrible person who makes people feel like they can’t talk to me….

And so it goes. I beat myself up and feel like my best just isn’t good enough. I feel like I’ve failed the people whom I care the most about.

Guilt, sadness and feeling inadequate; The trifecta of feeling like crap. There is never any rejoicing in being lied to or taken for a fool.

I practice what I preach when it comes to matters of the heart. I leave it all out there every day. I don’t miss an opportunity to let someone know I’m thinking of them, and I always, always, always tell them I love them.

Life is, by the way, a matter of the heart. Just in case you forgot what being a human being is all about and have mistaken it for a game of who can acquire the most stuff, the quality of your character matters, not the quality of your clothing.

I know that being able to open yourself to love is the cost of being loved. In other words, if you put it all out there, like I do, it’s a risk. But it’s a great risk. If you don’t allow yourself to be seen (in the spiritual sense), you don’t allow yourself to be loved, nurtured, or to grow in the warm light of relationship.

As my humble roots might mutter, “If you half-ass it, you’ll get half-assed results”.

For wearing my heart on my sleeve, I’ve had it beaten up, mocked and treated like hell.  It’s a tough old heart, but it’s just as tender on the inside as it was when I was a school girl with the school girl crush, and that’s the way I plan on keeping it.

After all, if you don’t put it out there, the right people will never be able to capture and care for it.

When your best isn’t good enough, it’s ok to be sad, to cry, to feel alone, and to dig your heels in and battle on in the name of all that you believe to be good and true.

 

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It’s the Little Things

mabye it's caffeineSomeone recently suggested that yours truly was depressed. I insisted this was nonsense, and that it was surely just my  anxiety-overdrive that was making me more crazy than usual.

For ‘Type A’ personalities, anxiety is like being on alien-strength caffeine pills. My mind zips around like an Italian in a German sports car, making random stops and leaving a wake of unfinished business.

Believe you me, I don’t need someone pointing it out to me, I know. I live it darling, Anxiety and I are old friends. We relate intimately on a profanity-using-first-name basis.

The sad part is, it annoys the crap out of my loved ones. My constant; are you sure? Are you double sure? Are you triple super sure?, not only annoys the shit out of me, but I’m sure it makes them want to want to shove a gin and tonic down my throat, complete with an entire lime wedged at the opening of my trachea for good measure.

I think this is genetic, stemming from my maternal side. My granny used to ask you if you wanted something umpteen times, and when she finally heard the last no she could handle (being a giver can be so unsatisfying), she would respond by saying, “Well, suffer then!”. I think that was the Methodist in her. Thank the good lord that’s not genetic.

theastonishinglightWhen I get really anxious, and really aware of it, my twisted imagination kicks in, I fumble in the fog of my mind back to my meditation practice, and grasp at any cute little inspirational saying just to keep my thoughts from turning into a stomach-churning carnival ride from hell.

Today I decided to take stock of all of the things I’m grateful for, besides the biggies (my kiddo, my partner, my friends). I decided to be grateful for little things and to list them so that maybe it would help someone in the blogosphere remember to be grateful for little things to.

Here goes…

I’m grateful for;

  1. The gentleman at the fitness centre who was gracious enough to obey my panting request to turn on the air conditioning.
  2. That a book I wanted was actually on the shelf at the library when I went in.
  3. Ria Mae for an awesome song to distract my whirling thoughts as I drove back to the office from a meeting.
  4. That I only owed $2.35 for cancelling a gym membership that I never use…and that I finally remembered to cancel it.
  5. Remembering to put barrettes in my bag so that I could tame my humidity-loving-ringlets when I arrived at the office.
  6. Crazytown’s Lemonface for dragging my chubby buns through the last five minutes of my run.absolutelylovely
  7. Ok, I gotta go for the big ones; my partner my cousin and my besties L and the Amazing C for taking time to talk when they’ve got a plate full of life themselves.
  8. My blender and protein powder for being an easy dinner when I was feeling too meh, to cook for lonely little ole’ me.
  9. Letters to write to people I care about.
  10. The scent of my true love’s pillow.

Wishing you peace in your mind and in your heart.