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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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Intimately Yours

leloIntimate pleasure in the form of a mascara wand.

Not that it’s new, but hearing about it on The Shopping Channel  – TSC, was certainly a different experience.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not here to preach about sex toys on late night television. In fact, I watched in awe as a plasticized sex therapist delivered a most 1950’s-housewife-narrative regarding the ‘pleasure objects’ up for grabs.

I actually learned something new. Apparently there are products to tone your vagina. And they have a very buttery texture.

Had I not been four glasses of wine into mourning my uni roommate’s death, I may have had a different reaction. I may have been indignant that the beauty industry had weaselled their way into my vagina. I may have ranted unabashedly about  saggy testicles that hang out in the open exposing us all to their hairy, wrinkled homeliness.  Tone the surface my vagina? Seriously.  Like I’ve got time for that. Besides, at this age, the men of my vintage need reading glasses to see anything that close-up.

As it were,  the sound of my friend’s hysterical giggles filled my imagination, and I became glued to the late-night sex-toy drive.

Where I grew up, The Shopping Channel was akin to Amazon. It was the first sit-in-your-flannel-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-order-shit-you-don’t-need home-delivery service. I know many a country-bumpkin with simulated gemstone finds.  Now I have to wonder if they were all the most sexually satisfied, oppressed women in South-Western Ontario. Maybe I’ve been wrong all this time.

As the women on the show (host, sales rep and sex therapist),  discussed the very buttery texture of the vag cream, not, incidentally to be confused or used as a lubricant, I began to admire their command of very precise language.

These women were trying to sell a 2020 audience less phallic pleasure objects so that we didn’t intimidate our partners.  Less threatening, as in; it seemed like they assumed everyone was heterosexual, and women who used sex toys had to hide them from their men in order that said men’s masculinity could be unrealistically held above all else, as sacred.

There was just so much wrong with this.

I laughed, thinking how my friend and I would have laughed until we cried.   I could hear her beautiful giggle, and her gasping, “What the actual f@*k?!”  between laughing fits.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t recommend  the sex therapist who hosted. I don’t think anyone needs to be encouraged to feel any more self conscious about their sexuality than they already are, especially when it comes to being less threatening to the phallic brutality that has dominated the lives of women since the dawn of time.

I might however recommend what I’m going to call the  mascara wand vibrator to slip into your make-up bag for weekend getaways.

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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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Five Proper Ways to Feel Yourself

First of all, you will have needed to feel yourself prior to this.

You know, when you were feeling yourself. Or rather, when you were feeling most like yourself.

For me, feeling myself means being a little loosey goosey, you know, flower-crown-wearing-sipping-a-mai-tai and talking about poetry or politics, while trying to make my way into the ocean without spilling my drink.

Feeling myself means walking into the office without dragging in a big-invisible-bag-of-suck with me every day.  It means having enough energy at the end of the day to create a new, yummy recipe, while I sip a glass of wine and listen to the CBC.

If you’re not quite ‘feeling yourself’ yet, this new year, perhaps you need to get back in touch with what you feel like.  For me, that means a hefty dose of self-care.

You’re right, ‘self-care’ has more recently become bastardized by marketing mavens as a great excuse to pay too much for spa services, luxury grooming products, and even booze. But I’m talking about real self care. The kind that doesn’t blow the budget, or require a trip to the nearest outlet mall.

In order to ‘feel yourself’ you need to get quiet. Super quiet. You need to patch the cracks in the wall of your boundaries, and put up a big freaking sign pointing to those walls. Mywould read; TRESPASS AND RISK THE MOST SEVERE TONGUE LASHING YOU’VE EVER HAD (and I’m not being sexy)!!!

Don’t rush the boundary setting part. Sometimes it takes a little quite time to figure out what that looks like.

The following are some of the things that help me find quiet within a buzzing mind, busy life and relationship commitments;

  1. Spend time alone. Not necessarily alone, alone, but on your own. For me this looks a lot like going to my favourite coffee shop and writing, or reading, or journalling. I catch up on email. I love it because there’s life humming around me, but I don’t have to interact. I can interact or withdraw as I please; no expectations. This is often the time that you can quietly reflect on what your boundaries actually are, and how you can facilitate your dear ones respecting them.

dineen

 

2. Reconnect with your spirituality, or the people, places and things that touch on the deepest part of your humanity. No, not your go-to-good-time-guy-from-2005, although that can certainly bring back a little of the way you feel.  But let’s not digress. Spirituality sometimes comes in the form of  a book, sometimes it’s going to a temple, and sometimes it’s listening to a podcast.

this is it

3. Get a hobby. Find something new, or go back to something that relaxes you. I tend to stitch or sew or create some culinary masterpiece (for example elaborate sugar cookies, or the world’s best amaretti). Whatever it is, get a hobby and do it. Get lost in it. My aunt builds teeny-tiny little doll houses with the most exquisite details and when she does it, that’s where she is-in the present moment. When I stitch fine embroidery pieces, my mind gets lost in the meditative rhythm of the stitches. That’s it. That’s where I am. There is nothing else, just the present moment.

shit happens

4. Love your body. No, this is not where I get into how to ‘feel yourself’. I’m talking about simple stuff that doesn’t require an anatomical map. Have a long soak. Shave whatever bits you want smooth, soak in hot water, remember how good it feels to let your body relax. Trim your nails, paint your toes, blow out your locks so they feel soft against your skin when you finally lay your head on the pillow at night. Give yourself time to remember how good it feels to feel good.

 

5. Learn something new; take a free class on-line (check out skillssuccessor khanacademy  or eventbrite – often they have offers for free courses or trial periods). Get a library card and go to the library. Take a walk or run in a part of the city you’ve never been to before. Download a language app. Go to a community seminar (often free and offered through the library). Sit yourself down at a cafe (see #1), and remind yourself that the world has so much to offer that you don’t even know about yet.

library

 

If like me, you’ve been not feeling yourself lately, sometimes you have to go back to square one. Yourself. Alone time. Reminding yourself of all of the things you love, not just what you’re supposed to love.