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Raising the Veil: When You Meet Her Again

veiled womanI am nothing if not a sensual woman.

I love to taste, touch, smell and enjoy what life has to offer. I like to let the beauty of art, food, sex and the great outdoors seep deep into my bones like water finds the most tiny of cracks and flows inward. A beautiful soul is the reflection of this sensuality, and I want to be effing gorgeous well into my senior years.

But I need to remember that, and honour it.

It’s pretty much mid-August, and we are in the true dog-days of summer. It’s that time of year when you hear so many people saying, “Where did the summer go?”

This will be followed in the fall with the same question about the whole of 2018.  If you’re not careful, this will become the melody of your life-song. A recurring durge of regret.

At the beginning of this year, I made some resolutions for myself, and I’ve ticked off every single box. Since then, some other issues have come to my attention that I need to nurture and breathe life back into.

Friendships of all shapes and sizes come to mind. Friendships, I truly believe, are the living breathing entities that keep us thriving. We should all have hobbies and passions and interests, but for me, it is the company we keep while enjoying these things that makes them memorable and meaningful.

So many women blame their families for taking away their joy, using up their time, and basically social norms and expectations of the female role for hypnotizing them into some kind of being who forgets how to experience joy and ecstasy.

I want to propose a different perspective.

It is only now, a year after my child first moved out, that I am coming to realize how trapped I was in my own mind. How I simply became attached to all that I thought I was supposed to be doing. Days, weeks and months were swallowed up tidying other peoples messes and making sure that there wasn’t a crumb on the counter. It’s like ripping off a bandage when you give in to your own pursuits and desires.

It may feel frightening to acknowledge the creative, sensual woman you have hidden behind a veil all of these years.

When you finally reveal her to yourself, you won’t be able to stop from taking her in the joyful embrace of reunion. You will feast, and you will experience the entire world again with a fresh perspective. Fear will sulk out the door and take a nap so that the wild joy of your passion can dance.

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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.

 

 

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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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Empaths; Diluted Spiritual Practice

pink tulipsWhen I’m sad I buy flowers.

Today I bought a bouquet of pink tulips.

I wasn’t sad for myself, or suffering any great loss. But I have been the strong shoulder on which to lean for a few of my friends lately, and it got me to thinking.

There’s been a lot of talk about ’empaths’ lately. It’s the hip catch-word for empathy, and kind of an annoying one at that. Heaven forbid we feel empathy for one another any more. It’s so fucking depressing and inconvenient after all.

Who needs that?! Aren’t we all supposed to be hap-hap-fucking-happy all of the time? Isn’t it best to dilute our suffering so we can ignore it a little easier and be productive? Maybe a new purse would help? Oooh! And the matching shoes!

Empathy has long been trickling out of our culture like a slow leak in a milk bag. The only thing  that it leaves behind is a disgusting sour mess.

Self-awareness has somehow eclipsed the sacred and ancient practice of being present. Fully present. As in, being as fully aware of your own actions and reactions in relation to the rest of the world.

I was sad today because I woke up to two phone calls from people  who are suffering. I also woke up to a text message from someone rather new in my life. I knew it was thoughtfully composed, and I knew why, and that made me sad too.  The collective ‘we’  complicate things unnecessarily, and all it really does is hurt.

“I’m an empath,” someone recently confided to me at a party. “I see,” I replied. It’s my standard response when someone’s utter oblivion catches me off-guard.

What I really wanted to say was, “We’re all empaths honey”.

We’re all human and we all feel a full spectrum of emotion. Remember that the next time you hold back. Whether you’re trying to play it cool in a romantic relationship, not break boundaries as a friend or colleague, or wondering whether you should defend someone in their absence.

Remember that we all feel deeply, this wild and wonderful bittersweet life.

Empath, schmempath! Enough pop-psychology drivel. Practice being fully present, and I promise, your heart will thank you for it.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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The Art of Living; I Had Wine and Sunflower Seeds for Dinner

burn with desireLife has been such a shit-show lately, that I made the executive decision (after a long day at work and a bad haircut), to have a liquid dinner. I know, I know, ‘Liquid Lunch’ sounds better, but the truth is, it was a liquid dinner. Oh, and I had a handful of sunflower seeds.

Liquid as in white Bordeaux. As in, I-pretend-to-be-strong-but-I-need-a-hug-but-there-are-no-appropriate-hugs-to-be-found, kinda liquid dinner.

It’s a sin to drink vintage wine alone. Alas, a woman has to do what a woman has to do. Besides, if I weren’t alone, I’d be with some young, ballsy stud muffin, and that my darlings would be a bad, bad thing. Bad as in, despite the temptation, my true love is worth more than that. As in, I think I’ve finally grown-the-hell-up.

Le freaking sigh…

You see, a big part of who I am is the savoir faire that I’ve acquired during a lifetime of hard-learned lessons that most folks never see in a lifetime. Combined with a calling to serve, I have an intimate knowledge of the ticking clock, counting down to an unknown end.  I do believe that despite my over-the-top caring and anxiety, I have at least gleaned the porch-light of nirvana and the art of living.

Each day I stare mortality in the face, and it’s a tremendous opportunity to remind my sassy-assed self  what truly matters.

You’ve all heard Thich Nhat Hahn’s wonderful saying;

No Mud, No Lotus

Well, if you’re like me, you’ve had about enough of this mud business. You’ve had enough of being knee deep, slogging through the stinky stuff. You’ve had enough, enough, enough…Enough anxiety-riddled panic attacks, insecurities, and weeping.

Lessons in  life  come like lightning bolts from the ground; people you never expected to learn anything from other than how to control your temper and keep your patience,  become fast teachers like beggars at a feast.

This week, I had what I like to refer to as a ‘Jazz Hands’ moment.  After an hour on the couch, I decided that I’d had enough. I’d had enough beating the hell up on myself, holding my tongue, holding my breath, and holding the damn bag of responsibility for every one else like I was some iron, emotionless maiden.

E-freaking-nough!

My sense of humour, and my ability to be silly, light-hearted, and unapologetically sensual are my gifts. I am not patient, graceful, or saintly. I’m merely capable of being myself. I am just who I am; simple, straightforward, and as lovable as hell.

That’s also why I know that during days like today, it’s ok to be silly, to drink a bit too much, to flirt with my honey, to joke around, appreciate the cut of a fine garment, an interesting mind, or even admire the courage it takes some young gentleman to ask an older, sexy, wise, broad like myself out on a date…for the second time.

This life of mine has always been about living fully and completely. It’s been about giving all of my heart and soul to everything I do, even though I know people will be careless with them. It’s always been about giving my best, so that at the end of the day I have no regrets. I leave it all out there, hoping that the people I care about know that I’ve given all of me.

If you’ve  forgotten how wonderful it is to rejoice, to be silly, and to really let yourself go and enjoy life, you need to step back and give your head a shake. Life is short and precious.

If circumstance and relationships have caused you to make yourself small; careful of your words and wants and actions, if you’ve left your tender heart alone to cry for the suffering of those who are dear to you, you need to remind yourself it’s ok to move on.

You need to step out of the shadow of the past so you can create something you love.  Like the rest of the world you need to know that your gifts are alive, appreciated, and loved. But first, you need to love them, to hold them up as an offering to the powers that be, and honour the simple gifts that you bring to your lover, your friends and to your work.

Silliness is the art of living in the moment, despite being immersed in the awareness of our own shortcomings, mortality, and limitations.

Silliness, humour and the ability to see a lighter side combined with a heart that aches for those who are suffering, is my gift to the world. Whatever your gifts are, my wish for you is that you recognize them, and that you have people in your life who honour them in such a way that you feel loved.