Nice Matters: A Shout-Out of Gratitude

peonyToday I’ve written a bit about mean, so let’s shake that crappy mojo. I’m going to  write about something more important; nice (aka kindness).

Kindness matters. It’s part of that grace thing that I’ve been trying master for a few years.  We get it right sometimes, and we get it wrong sometimes, but what matters is that we strive to get better at it.

It’s good for us. Just as good as a healthy diet, or eight hours of sleep. Nice makes our bodies happy and our spirits calm.

Lately there has been a lot of nice in my life. My ‘crazy’ family and friends have been generous in their support of my son’s flight from the nest. He as been encouraged, supported, and cheered on. As a mother, there is nothing better than knowing your child is thriving and that they have a solid support network or friends, mentors, coaches and family. Thank you for being nice.

I’m taking a little longer to adjust to the transition. I tear up daily, and am struggling with the transition of being totally dedicated to my kiddo to being totally dedicated, but from a distance. My friends have been kind and gentle and supportive. Thank you for being nice.

I have flooded my social media feed with proud mom moments and not once has anyone told me how annoying it is. Thank you for being nice.

This is a challenging transition year for me, once again wondering where I will live, work and mom from in a year. In advance to my friends and family; thank you for being nice.

 

 

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Decluttering; Physical Space for Our Spiritual Mojo

letitgoChange is the only constant. It’s one of those cliché sayings which sings a universal truth.

As a professional in the area of saying good-bye, I’ve had most of my adult life to contemplate what change and loss mean. I’ve discovered after all of this time and all of the practice I’ve had waving bon voyage to life, that I’m neither good nor bad dealing with my own emotions. I’m merely human.

I’m about three months late here getting to my annual decluttering.  I tend to start at the back of our little abode, and work my way to the front.  My walk-in-closet has become a repository for stuff I’m not ready to say a final adieu, and craft projects that moved with me here over eight years ago.

So often we equate loss to death or divorce, or the careers that build up our egos. But loss is as shapeshifter, forever appearing and then becoming invisible in our lives. It’s there, like music at the dentist’s office; for the most part you don’t hear it over your whirring mind, but every once in a while you notice the sound of the piano, or pan flute, and it either irritates the hell out of you, or lifts your spirits. Either way, it’s there.

One of my projects is to sift through a pile of photo albums. By pile I mean about 30 books.  They’re all little tickle-trunks of memory and persona that myself and my loved ones have tried on over the years.

It’s time to say good-bye to those things.  Keeping a few photos to pass along to my kiddo, and tossing the rest will not only give me more space, but also release some of the tidbits of  old memories that cling like dust-bunnies to my identity.

This morning I had a brief chat about building new relationships and not dragging shit from the past into them. That’s something I’ve become good at – not reliving my many adventures in man-land. At this stage, I do not want to punish any man for someone else’s behaviour, nor do I wish to relive any of my past relationships with anyone else. I certainly am not ready for a starring role as spectator to someone else’s ended love-affair. I’m too old for that darlings, and frankly, it’s a little dull.

At this age and stage, after all of my life experience, I appreciate true love, laughter, silliness and shenanigans. Kindness is king, and nice matters.

Decluttering is often the physical evidence of letting go of the past, and being able to step unencumbered into the present moment. Spiritually it’s a cleanse, and it re-invigorates us.

With the release of physical items that hold the energy of past experience, I often feel lighter, more grounded in who I am and what I’m about.  I also have room for fresh, new clothes and fresh, new adventures. There may even be some space in there for new memories that we declutter years from now, smiling and happy in our hearts about remembering-when.

 

 

Beach Life: Bathing Suits for the Rest of Us

Sennett-Bathing-Beauties-1915_thumbI bought a bathing suit today.

Yes, I know it’s the middle of Canadian winter. No, I haven’t booked a sun-holiday…yet.

I’m debating the merits of an Irish romp with my sweetheart, or a solo beach holiday.

Either way I’m taking a two-piece bathing suit with me that would have made my mother convulse.

You see, I was raised by a woman who suffered extremely low self-esteem and did her best to pass that little nugget of twisted psychology on to her youngest daughter. That’s me by the way.

I grew up in a small town and lived at the beach. Winter, spring, summer and fall. Summer was my favourite. There was nothing better than swimming in the lake all day, the smell of malt vinegar on the homemade French fries that they sold at the little snack shack that would sometimes be lifted off it’s foundation and dragged with the tide when the spring water was high.

Somewhere out there is a photograph of me grinning a grin so wild and wonderful, that I have held that image in my mind for all of these years. It’s a moment of bliss I remind myself I’m capable of, even as an adult.

There I was, white caps at my back,  standing naked, proudly holding my bathing suit at arms length. My waist-long, blonde, pig-tails tangled with lake water and sand, just daring someone to try and get that wet, sticky bathing suit back onto my body.

I may not have been skinny enough, pretty enough, or worried enough about what people thought about what I wore every day. But I was wise enough. Typical of anyone who suffered childhood trauma, I was quiet and very observant. I was constantly tuned in to the tiniest nuance of mood, just in case.

At a very young age, I came to realize that no matter how thin, how pretty, or how well-turned out they were, there were a whole lot of unhappy women out there. And that unhappiness was ugly. Like, soul-deep ugly. Their fear of not being good enough came out as anger and jealousy, and missed trips to fun places. It stopped them from smiling. IT stopped them from going to the beach, getting their hair wet, or smudging their mascara. Their insecurity overshadowed everything. They  let their tummies and their thighs hold them back.

You see, before I even reached puberty I had decided that fat would not keep me from enjoying the beach. Or the snow, or going out to eat a delicious meal. Later on in life, I decided that fat would also not keep me from making wild, passionate love to the man I loved. Some crazy idea of being not good enough would not keep me from having fun.

Being an average looking woman would not keep me from savouring all of the wonderful bits of life, and it certainly did not make me less worthy of healthy curiosity and joy. In fact, I think this joie de vivre is one of the qualities that make many of us beautiful.

I will never be solicited for the cover of Vogue, nor will I turn the heads of men because I’m the ideal beauty. But I will turn the heads of like-minded people. These are the people who buy big, bright bathing suits, get their hair wet, and laugh with every inch of their sun-soaked, skin.

Buy the bathing suit, not because it’s going to turn you into a model. Buy it because it’s a tool in your tickle-trunk of living fully.

 

 

Sunday Chores: It’s All About Perspective

danceinthekitchenAbout ten years ago I was in a supervisory meeting and was asked how I was feeling about my life in general.

I was happy. Deeply happy. My son was at, what I thought then, was the perfect age (around 7 or 8 years old). My career was both paying the bills and meaningful. I was single, but content going home to my own space, and feeling safe when I closed the door. I had time to concentrate on the spiritual elements of my life, and I took the time to be creative; painting, singing, writing, playing.

It’s been a long ten years.

Shortly after that I entered into one of the most difficult and enlightening relationships of my life. It fundamentally changed my perception of the world, it challenged me to re-think what it was I really wanted and expected from relationship. Most importantly, it made me even more deeply grateful for the simple life I had as a two-person-parent-and-child household.

During the past ten years, my son remained at what I always thought was the perfect age. As his birthdays passed,  I remained in tremendous awe of watching this person unfold and grow into who he was meant to be.

My needs changed, and my career became a source of grief. I left a place that had a piece of my heart and started over. I started over again after that, and then one more time until I found what I needed.

Ten years. A decade. The wheel has turned full circle.

I’m happy.

My son, towering over me is doing all of the things that a young man his age should be doing; asking to take the car out on dates, goofing around with the guys, getting his grades in order, and excelling in a sport that has the right people watching.

How can mundane tasks like cooking and cleaning and making mothering a priority be considered cumbersome now? I just can’t see it that way.

Even though my thoughts upon waking were a list of must-do’s today; cooking so there is food in the house for my long week of shift work, cleaning so home feels like home, not a shelter,getting my taxes in order, and of course, the creative finances of a single income home.  These are all chores of a charmed life, and I am grateful.

Wishing you enough peace and joy in your heart that you can clearly see your blessings, even it they’re dressed in an apron and sweeping the floor.

 

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.

 

 

 

Sink Or Swim; Nostalgia & a Little Shove

mylifeHolidays tend to make us nostalgic. Thank goodness that they’re officially over for 2015.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard, “2015 was a terrible year“. Wow.

I prefer to frame my year as a deli sandwich. The bread was delicious, but the meat of it was a little sour. In other words, the first and last thirds were great (as in; good enough), but the middle really blew.

How often as children did we say a year was terrible? We didn’t darlings. We just did the 10 second countdown to the new year and moved forward with joyful, curious abandon.

sufferingNow we yearn for the days when life was simple and  we still believed in magic. Friendships and family were taken for granted, and happiness was just on the other side of the screen door.

As adults, we tend to overcomplicate things. ‘Be kind and play fair’, seem to have gotten lost in the big, adult personal ethics playbook. And that just stinks. Because it hurts. Yes, people can be selfish and cruel, but they can also be kind, giving, and lovely to snuggle up with. Naked.

As human beings, we all want to be loved. We all need and want strong friendships, a true love with whom we can  share our most intimate selves , and bourbon. Ok, maybe the last bit is all about me, but whatever.

When we lose ourselves in the fray of losing the one person we fell in love with, we feel broken. I’ve been there. It hurts. It’s scary, and it puts a pretty harsh filter on our vision of the future.

Just this summer, I sat, sobbing on my friend’s front step, while she nursed my broken heart and damaged pride. I felt empty, hopeless, afraid and lost.

We live in a world that prizes the individual and yet makes it impossible to live without the safety net of community, family and friends. Yes, the great Western-way-of-life has unfolded into a wonderful cock-up of psychological dissonance. But what do I know? I’m just a girl after all.

I do know this. The holiday season has seen a lot of falling in and out of love; happy hearts and hearts that have been broken and need time to heal, relationships that are worn thin, or worn out altogether.

The beautifully terrifying part of it all, is that the only way to heal a heart is to live life. The very life that has tossed you like a small boat on a big, angry, ocean, leaving you feeling washed up and broken beyond repair.

Cling to curiosity. Let your friends lead you when you are  blinded by tears. Be wary of the seductive pull of too much sleep, lack of self care, and try to remember how good it feels to laugh after you decide to, ‘fuck it’.

As a quasi-Buddhist-lover-of-Christian-ritual, this speaks to me. You have two choices; get up, dive back into that same unpredictable ocean to wash yourself clean, or wallow in the sand getting burned by the sun and possibly gnawed to death by vicious, exotic fauna.

Sometimes you need a friend to role you back into the ocean. In some cases, you need a friend to drag you, kicking and screaming, back to life. It’s called tough love, and we all need it once in a while.

Nostalgia and wishing for a happily-ever-after is a waste of time.

havetimeYou and I both know that more than anything else, this is true; life is short and precious.

Take the time you need to sit quietly with your broken heart. Don’t run away from it, or deny it what it needs to tell you.  Take your sadness and swaddle it like a helpless infant. As difficult as this may seem, you will see that soon enough, you will be at peace with it.

Weep. Cry. Scream into your pillow…and as you take your last gasp of sobbing breath, get ready for a shove back into the ocean of life.

You’ve always been a beautiful swimmer darling. Always.

 

 

 

Everyone is a Kid at Christmas

kidsThis is for teenagers, young adults, and parents.

Let me tell you a short story. Today was my day off. I work long hours, at a very (physically & psychologically) demanding job (which I love). Even so, I L-O-V-E my days off.

No-alarm-clock days are luxurious. After all darlings, I have mastered the art of living and relaxing. But today I set my alarm for 6 a.m. You see, my kiddo had to get up and out before 7 a.m., and I wanted to give him a drive.

Yes, he’s old enough to get there himself. Yes, he knows how to pack his own lunch, cook, clean and do his own laundry. Despite the kiddo’s protests,  “Mom, why do you want to drive me? I’m fine on my own. Go back to bed“, I often get up even on the days I work a late shift.

Why? Well, as any parent will tell you, they cherish those moments with their children, and those moments come fewer and more far between as our children grow up.

The Christmas season offers many opportunities to argue, fight, and to feel annoyed with one another.

When we want to be with you to decorate the tree,  have dinner with friends, and participate in family traditions, please remember that it’s not intended as a form of torture.

When we ask how your day was, we’re not so much checking up on whether you were a stand-up human being, we want to make sure you’re ok. Ok as in, we’ve been there, and we know that the world can be cruel and hard. We want to make sure you never leave for the day, or go to bed at night feeling, ‘less than’.

When we pack you a lunch, or suggest you take more food, we’re not criticizing your menu choice. We don’t want you to be hungry.

When we make sure you have a winter coat for the season, and suggest you take a hat or gloves, it’s not because we want to send you out looking like an over-grown toddler or out of style. We don’t want you to feel the cold.

When we ask you about your first crush, we don’t want to give you a moral lecture on sexual behavior. We want to know if your crush is treating your tender heart with care. We don’t want you to feel heartache.

When we ask you what you want to study or what you want to be be when you grow up, we don’t care if you have a definitive answer. We want you to go after your dreams.

We don’t want you to suffer; to feel pain, cold, hunger, loneliness or sadness.

No matter how old you are, if you are lucky, you will always be someone’s little boy or little girl. At a certain point in life, the roles reverse, and like I feel about my mumster, you’ll want to swaddle us in protective love too.

Wishing kids of all ages, a very happy holiday.

 

 

Being Jolly on a Budget

Each year I come up with some grand ideas about how to spend time with the ones you hold near and dear without breaking the bank.

I mean really, isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Spending time together is my very favourite gift.

So, this year, I bring you a list of ideas for being jolly on a budget, and I encourage to you to do at least TWO of them.

 

  1. Have a Christmas movie marathon. Define that however you like, but it implies watching more than one movie. It requires that you snuggle under a cozy blanket and sip hot cocoa laced with something that will make you giddy.

snuggle up

If you’re not sure which movies to watch, try one of these;

White Christmas

Holiday Inn

The Holiday

It’s a Wonderful Life

Miracle on 34th Street

2) Wander through a Christmas Market – no purchase required, except for a minimal entrance fee and optional hot cocoa or eggnog. If you go on a cold night, all the better; it’s a great excuse to snuggle your sweetie.

distillery market

3) Attend a local carol sing. Usually the admission cost is a bit of food for a local food bank. What better way to celebrate the true meaning of the season?

Children's Christmas Pageant 2011 + Christmas in Fan Concert

 

4) Have a Christmas themed games night with your closest pals or your family. BYOB and a snack to share. Voila!

twister-4x3

5) Go for a walk on a snowy night. Take in the Christmas decorations and talk about your hopes, dreams, what your favourite traditions are.

windowshopping

6) Bake and decorate a gingerbread house of your own design. Pick out your favourite candy together, make the gingerbread (gingerbread often has to sit overnight before you bake it, so it could be a romantic pj party!), decorate the house just the way you want I to be.

gingerbread house

7) Read your favourite Christmas poems or stories.

robert-frost-the-road-not-taken

8) One of my favourite Christmas traditions is to watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas. It makes me smile, laugh, and remember what the true spirit of the season is really all about.

Wishing you a very happy holiday season that brings you closer to the ones you love.

 

Christmas Dreaming; Joy Rapture & Ecstasy

christmas datingEvery single woman (and women who are in relationships that lack relating) dream of Christmas Romance, passion and at the very least, a decent meal and some intelligent conversation.

Emotions run high at Christmas time, and the word Joy can be found on everything from teacups to the ass of red panties that jingle-all-the-way.

So let’s start with the romantic scenarios that inspire joy…

Joy; the emotion evoked by the prospect of possessing what one desires.

Last year I had a blast-from-the-past-he’s-the-one propose a very romantic date.

“Whatever you want. You name it. I want to do something special with you this Christmas”

I was joyous. “Really,” I though to myself. “After all of these years, it’s this guy.” This guy that I’ve known for so very long and idealized since the night he took me for a romantic dinner and kissed me outside a winter, storefront window more than ten years ago. I remember the boots I was wearing that night, and I still have the skirt.

Rapture ; the experience of being swept away by overwhelming emotion or passion.

Ah yes. It was a passionate date. We shared a delicious meal at one of my favourite restaurants. We had just enough of my favourite bottle of wine to make me even more giddy, and went for a long, romantic walk which meandered outside the Grange at the AGO and included a long, slow, kiss.

Ecsatsy; a state of being beyond reason and self control.

Well, a lady can’t expect everything now can she? Mr. Wonderful-After-All-These-Years turned out to be exactly who he had proven himself to be years before.

We never reached the ecstasy stage as date number two never happened.  Oh, don’t worry, he asked for a second date. I just didn’t give it to him. I was hurt. I cried, and I raged, and I called my bestie to rant about what a colossal, self-absorbed dick he was, and then I moved on.

What I did not do is turn to a brand of romantic atheism and man-hating.

I let myself want that decent meal and intelligent conversation. Oh, and the wine, the really delicious wine.

I let myself be satisfied with the company of friends old and new. Most importantly, I allowed my heart to stay open to all of the possibilities of joy, rapture and ecstasy.

Wishing you all three romantic stages this Christmas time, even if the joy and rapture come in the form of wonderful get-togethers with friends and the ecstasy comes from too much eggnog and a  bad one-night-stand decision…xo

 

 

Hump Day Hilarity: Because Sometimes You Just Need to Lighten Up & Laugh

The Swedish Chef makes me laugh uncontrollably. He’s right up there with King Julien, the other intellectual stimulation I sometimes seek after particularly stressful days.

I send this out with a heart full of love and a wish to hear your laughter ring out amid the crappola that can be the middle of the work-week.

Have fun people, and don’t forget that just because you’re an adult does not mean you can’t be silly.