Travelling Light: My Very First Travel Companion

mapTravelling companions can make or break a travel experience. Or so they say.

I wouldn’t know. I’ve only ever travelled alone, but for one wild weekend in the Bahamas with my BFF, and we shall never speak of that again.

Pretty soon I’m off on an adventure with my sweetie-bear, my puddin’ pie, my hunk’a-hunk’a burning man love…you get what I’m talking about don’t you ladies?

Basically what I’m saying is that having passed the age of 40, I’m travelling for the first time with a man.

There are only two words for it; Yu Ikes.

Seriously.

Just the thought of it makes me giddy. Because giddy is my inappropriate nervous reaction.

Sweet Jesus. As I look around my hotel room, I see a sight that only a busy, single parent of an active teenager could smile at. My bra is hanging over the corner of the television screen. The large garbage can that is meant for the main living area is full of ice and wine. A French version of a popular food and drink magazine is drying out beside the sink (it got soaked by a half open bottle of coconut water while I was struggling to carry everything in from the underground parking garage), and deep purple remnents of said magazine are stuck to the towel that is hanging from a hook meant to hang up jackets in the entrance. There is a wet creamer package sticking half out of a coffee bag, and my shoes are scattered on the floor. Don’t even attempt to try and picture what the bathroom looks like afer a full-on gal-sprawl of cosmetics, towels, panties and hair accoutrements.  It’s pretty only in a way that that Parisian artists of the golden age could appreciate…while on opiods.

So this travelling without a companion has been a wonderful freedom that very few of my gal-pals have been able to enjoy. I totally get loving this freedom to not give a crap about anyone else’s space or comfort. After all, when you travel alone, your ‘stuff’ is all in one place and nobody bothers the organized chaos. There is also no cleaning up after anyone else either, which is a heavenly bonus. As is the fact that there is no one else’s schedule, priorities or aversions to be considerate of.

There is also no one to share it all with either. Not the messy bathroom and bra and the television set stuff – the good stuff. Well, not unless you go out and find someone to enjoy it with, but I digress.

Simply put, I need some valium and a good whack of booze to get me over my nervousness. But maybe a hug from my sweetie will do. I’ll let you know how it all pans out, hair accoutrements and all.

 

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When Nothing Matters, It Matters Most

Toast 1Despite having a career which could easily see me lost day and night in the good and meaningful work I am blessed to be able to do, the energy I have to do that work comes from making time for rejuvenation, shenanigans, and spending time being nurtured by the people who love me.

Stirring honey into my tea today, I overheard a woman exclaim that she was feeling overwhelmed, and complaining that going away for a holiday just made it harder to come back and get up every day to get back to work.

I slipped my wooden stir-stick into the trash and stole a quick peak at her from under my luscious locks. She was a bit younger than me, and clearly, unbalanced.

That’s not a cynical observation.

She looked to be carrying the weight of the world even though she was sipping a gourmet beverage in an upscale coffee shop with a friend willing to listen. “Why is life so difficult“, her high shoulders seemed to be whimpering. I know shoulder language, because more often than not, my own shoulders are tensed right up to my ear lobes, and the margins in my life are tighter than cycling shorts on a man smack dab in the middle of a mid-life crisis.

You read that right. Men in cycling shorts should never happen. Ever.

Anyway…

Balance; the-shoulds-of-a capitalistic-society verses the shoulds of, Deep-down-I-am-a-free-thinking-spiritual-lush. Recently I’ve been up to a little ‘make herself happy’  balance plan.

laughingwomenFood, wine and friendship, the great triumvirate of happiness. Combine those three, and I’m a happy woman.

Before I allowed my joy to be stolen by a grand conspiracy of single-parenthood, economic necessity, and surrender, I was the queen of food, wine and friendship, the duchess of do-it-all-and-then-some, the grand-dame-of-damn-that-woman-can-dance. Oh yah, I lived in and for the moment.

That was long ago and far away, but not an impossible attitude to resurrect.

Trying to be a responsible-adult-woman, the final strike was entering into a relationship with a man who ruined all three for me; food, wine AND friendship.  I carried on in the relationship because that’s what I thought I was supposed to be doing when in fact, I was supposed to be doing whatever the hell I felt like.

Life as I knew it and dreamed it was over when that relationships ended. It was both heartbreaking (there would be no big, happy family or new babies) and emancipating. Turns out, I’m not sure I was ever convinced, other than the apparent security, that a traditional relationship was best for me after so many years of doing everything on my own.

More than a man who needed to lead, it turns out I need a man who values laughter, discovering new food, wine and ways of making sure moments matter even if it’s just sitting in companionable silence. I thought I had  someone like that making a place in my life this summer, but I was mistaken. Must have been the wine.

On my way home from the office I stopped on a whim and picked up a couple of bottles of wine to hold me over until the vintage release this weekend. I found a much coveted Italian varietal, and another which conjures a warm, no.  Wait. Not warm. It conjures memories of an electrically charged, white-hot  and carefree love-affair, aptly birthed in Sonoma, California and named Folies a Deux.

I will take my charming new find to be uncorked at a French restaurant tomorrow evening to share over a meal and wonderful conversation.

Being excited to try new wine, try new recipes, make time for friends, writing, and maybe a little tryst in a land far-far-away means I’ve got the groove back I thought I had lost.

"We all begin as stringers..."  ~ANDSHELAUGHS~

“We all begin as strangers…”
~ANDSHELAUGHS~

What on earth was I thinking? When you’ve got it, you can never lose it.

Get out there and be fabulous darlings. There is exquisite wine held hostage in bottles just waiting to be emancipated. There is savoury food waiting to dance on your palate, and friendships that need rekindling.

I also have a suspicion that there are delectable men who are worthy of wooing us, just waiting for our school-girl hearts to bow to the sage wisdom of serendipity.

 

 

 

 

Customer Service: The Art of Joy

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Goose. Yep. That was the message delivered from the ‘Animal Spirit Guides’ deck that was gifted to me this past Christmas.

Goose? When I think of a goose, I think of the absurd waddling they do, their plump bodies, and the way that they disguise their natural survival instincts with the appearance of total oblivion to anything other than pooping on paved park paths and wandering in circles.

This was my first week back to reality after two weeks of holiday time, away from the office, social media, housework, parenting, and anything else that required attire more formal than a bathing suit.

Having been a good-girl, I came home with some extra spending money, and decided that I could afford to treat myself to a dress that I saw while visiting The Bitter End. So, I ordered it. What ensued has been a miserable experience with HiHo Clothing’s Customer Service department, and an even more frustrating time with UPS. Lessons learned; just buy the damn dress, use FedEx, buy local.

What does this experience have to do with the Goose totem? Well, frist of all, I thought of the saying, ‘Silly
Goose’, which in my wee little girl brain means a doddering woman who is naive, and weak. Drawing the Goose totem also meant just taking an inward glance at my own attitude. A return to ‘real life’ always means kicking into high professional, domestic, and everything-else high-gear. In short, it sucked.

But why?” I asked myself over and over. Why did it feel so icky to be back to a life that I had created for myself? I love my job. I love my kid. I don’t live in a castle, but I also don’t have to shovel my own snow or mow my own grass, so it all evens out.

Satisfaction. That’s what I think it boils down to. I am very rarely satisfied with what I have, and continually strive to be better, to have more, to do more. What a lunatic!

Which leads me to believe that the atrocious lack of customer service at HiHo and UPS is a result of people showing up do to a job, get a pay-cheque, and leave to get back to their real life. It also likely means that the employees likely don’t have a great working environment, but that’s just my opinion. Rarely do satisfied employees metaphorically flip you the bird by hanging up on you or not responding to email. Satisfied employees have time to address customer questions and respond in a way that makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy.

Newsflash; Your job is your real life. Those moments on the clock are about being yourself and being of service to others, whether it’s solving problems, creating something brilliant, or cleaning up a bathroom stall so we don’t all die of some poop-bacteria-related disease.

So, as I caution you against the exceptional lack of customer service which abounds, I also challenge you to take a little look inside and ask yourself if you too are being a customer service asshole (that’s French for being useless).

Watching myself transform into an uptight-bot within 24 hours of arriving back to my ‘real world’, I took the advice of the Goose. I slowed down, took a look around and marveled at just how far I’d come, and with that attitude, I carried on with my week, trying to be kind, at work, home, and everywhere else. Most importantly, I reminded myself that it’s ok to relax, breathe deeply and trust my own value.

Doing that doesn’t make me a weak, naïve woman. It makes me healthy, helpful, and energized.

So go on ladies, dare to be a goose. Dare to create a life you life with joy.

Water: The Element of Truth

Marina Cay, BVI

Marina Cay, BVI

When I was a little girl, I fell in love. I fell head over heals in love. With a boat. My beloved allowed me to romp and roam, never do my hair, or care what I wore. There was a freedom in that loving that was so innocent and complete, that it has stayed with me, and never left.

In my youth, I would spend hours climbing down the clay cliffs along Lake Erie, and sit on the rock wall watching the waves roll by. Stormy weather was always my favourite, when the water seemed to speak to me, and the timeless knowledge of stillness that it taught would seep deep into my tender bones.

It never left even as I moved further away from a shoreline. The water has always had a pull that some call seductive. In my case, it’s a matter of survival. For too long I have been landlocked; working, momming, worrying about what comes next.

Estrangement from family at a young age is a wild and wonderful thing. Although there is no anchoring in genealogy or tradition, it gives you the freedom to heal and create a life of your choosing. Having done that, I have a visceral knowledge of the famous lyrics, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose“.

So, as I felt my breathing become more shallow, my anxiety at the breaking point, and my heart void of the ability to recognize hope or joy, I took a leap of faith. Instead of a sterile all-inclusive getaway, I put my money and my favour on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of a crew of 8 on a sailing adventure through the British Virgin Islands.

A sailing course would have been a good idea, but I tend to jump in feet first. Sink or swim. Love it or hate it. I (gulp)…committed.

I did very little of the ‘sailing’ and a lot of learning. Having had some experience on a boat with regard to the importance of speed and preparedness, I did what I could, and tried to stay out of the way.

JVD White BayYears of counseling and working in crisis situations has given me a keen sense of relationship dynamics, and having a new group together in a confined space for a period of 10 days is a telling crucible. Boats and water have a wonderful way of distilling our personalities and revealing the most miniscule cracks. Flaws that were easy to ignore on land, burst open and whether you like it or not, you’ve gotta face whatever it is.  Water has a wonderful way of washing away the superficial crud of every day. It is a truth-revealing element.

During this particular adventure, I gained a new respect for people I’ve known casually for a long time, a clear picture of who the new folks really are, and let’s just say the ugliness of another was rinsed to sparkling, and filed in the ‘Barnacles of Life’ pile and left to dry in the sun like discarded sea-creature entrails.

The ocean is vast and claustrophobic all at once. Once upon a time someone told me that when they stood on the cliffs and looked out over Lake Erie that they were at the end of the world. I knew that we were not kindred spirits. When I stood on those same cliffs and looked out over the lake with nothing but water, horizon and sky, I always felt like I was just at the beginning of everything.Sunset Boat 3

When I was a tom-boyish ten year old, with wild hair and sunkissed skin, I often dreamed of one day living on  a boat and being rocked to sleep by the sound of the water lapping at the hull. As a workaholic adult, I finally got the chance, if only for a couple of weeks.

It was just enough to reset my mind and body. It was enough to throw open the weathered shutters of fatigue and allow sunlight to shine on hope again.

Departures & Arrivals

"There is a time for departure even when there is no certain place to go." ~Tennessee Williams~

“There is a time for departure even when there is no certain place to go.”
~Tennessee Williams~

When I was a younger lady, I used to love spending time at the airport people watching. I was fascinated by where everyone was going and why. I loved to try to figure out  travel-companion relationships, and how people behaved while they were neither here nor there.

When you travel alone, airports offer a place to be in limbo.  Mothers and fathers try to impose order; naps, snacks, washroom rituals, but adults who travel on their own are a fascinating bunch to observe because they have no one else to be but themselves.

This morning at my spa appointment, I learned about my aesthetician coming to Canada as a refugee. It’s always fascinating to hear stories about how people came to be who they are, and what hard lessons they learned along the way. Outside of the waxing room, with my tootsies being pampered in a lovely, hot foot spa, and my shoulders being massaged, I relaxed into watching the movie that was playing.

Today I was almost tempted to ask for a manicure to go along with my pedicure so I could watch the ending. But I kinda had it figured out already, so I saved my twenty bucks for an airport breakfast tomorrow.

The movie was about a successful adult woman who woke  one morning as if just waking up from her 13th birthday party. It was a sweet story about reconnecting with her childhood sweetheart, and how the meaning of success gets twisted into something unrecognizable as we mature into adults.

Flashback to my 13 year old self. Where was I? Who was my best friend? What did I want out of life when I was 13?

Sometimes it’s hard to remember what we wanted when we’ve been through so much living and heartache. What we seem to forget as adults is that we need as much love and nurturing now as we did when we were those starry-eyed kids.

I think about how much I work to be ‘successful’, and how one-dimensional that word has become in our culture of glorifiying being busy and having ‘stuff’.

Success, I suppose, means being in the present, and realizing that today, this very moment, might blend in with other memories of living, but at some point, if we’re lucky, we will remember today as one of the best days of our life, from a time when we were younger, more energetic and still had our friends with us.

We depart relationships and life-roles to arrive at others, sometimes years later, without having realized how much time has passed, and who we have become.

As I find a quiet place at the gate, waiting for my connection, I think I may find my mind wandering to those ideas of success I once had, what success means to me now and how I might go about finding more balance between being nurtured and expending my emotional energy.

For a good number of sunsets over the tiny islands in the Caribbean Sea, I will be toasting my vitality, and what it means to live from the heart, with integrity and joy.

Bon voyage my friends! xo