The Machine & Fierce Women

3x1wupaksuqncThe Machine and How it Works….an interesting string of thoughts in a book by  Thomas L. Freidman, Thank you For Being Late. Basically he talks about a writer being certain or at least having a theory about how the world works.

After dating someone I would consider to be a privileged male for a while, it’s clear to me that The Machine works way better for him than I. Dating a hearty feminist has not been easy for him, what, with me calling him on his sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant misogynistic bullshit.

But this isn’t a post about relationships. Not in the romantic way anyway. It’s about how the machine works for women. A shout out to my non-binary friends here; The Machine doesn’t work in your favour either.

What got me thinking about this was the suggestion that I provide a list of the cosmetics that I prefer to use.  This, after squeezing my belly fat and asking when I was going to the gym.

Answer to the first; whatever’s on sale. Answer to the second; none of your fucking business.

What does all of this personal interaction tell us about The Machine? The Machine is rigged to keep us submissive. It takes more energy (in the form of money) to buy our basic grooming products (soap, razors, feminine hygiene products).  We bear the judgement of society with regard to child-rearing, house-pride and keeping ourselves looking unrealistically young. And that’s just the beginning.

I shouldn’t say “we”, because I count myself and many of my friends among the witches and wise women; I honour my age and my experience, and I have no fear of poking a stick in the gears of the machine in order to bring your attention to it’s flaws.

That the leader of the free world was elected after condoning sexual assault, only reinforces the fact that The Machine works for the privileged male and the women who slip silently into their role as concubines to the system.

This Christmas, don’t let someone shame you because you don’t spend your hard earned dollars on cosmetic products with a label that do the same thing as those you can buy at the local store (if you use them at all). Ask for books, hell, ask for whatever you want, just don’t be a slave to The Machine, and don’t be a slave to fighting it either.

Instead, continue as if The Machine doesn’t exist. Live freely, with grace and integrity, but don’t be afraid to give the world the finger every now and then either. Being fierce is a feminine as it gets.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Not Afraid to Boogie: Living a Meaningful Life

dancing old women

“Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” ~Frederick Nietzche~

Are you doing everything you ‘should’? Should. It’s worse than the F-word, and more lethal than methamphetamine.

I live in a suburb of commuters. Each day people herd themselves into train cars bound for the city corral, and then herd themselves back on to be let loose in the pasture of traffic-congested suburbia.

Commuting on the train was a soul-smothering experience. Everyone was dressed the same, barely made eye-contact, and wished they were anywhere else but being jostled along like Mike & Ikes in a speeding box while they lived a meaningless life.

I hated it.

So I quit.

That’s right, I quit.

I didn’t lose my mind and scream like an Edvard Munch painting character. I didn’t march through the office beating a drum and telling the man to fuck off. No, I simply persisted in the direction of the type of life I wanted to build. This train is a metaphor for life;

We make ourselves small in an effort to protect ourselves. We stop dancing. We try to fit in so no one challenges us. We turn inward when reaching out has garnered painful feedback. Turning inward and shutting down when you’ve been hurt is a mechanism to protect yourself, but one that is dangerous if you don’t eventually open your heart up again to all of the wonderful love that’s out there.

Trust, is not black or white. It merely exists on a fluid continuum of trustworthiness. All relationships whether personal or professional fall along this continuum somewhere. You just can’t let the untrustworthy outweigh the trustworthy in the grand scheme of life. It is a delicate balance, but if you’re out there reading this, I know you can handle it.

This post is not a tragic story of loss and lessons learned, although I do have those stories too. Unless you’re open to sharing a bottle of bourbon on a humid night, you’re not going to hear those tales. You know why? Because they’re in the past, and from this perspective, those experiences are an integral part of the firm foundation upon which I’ve created a good life, cultivated deep friendships and learned that belly laughing, sharing a smile with a passing stranger and  hugs are the best therapy. To lock yourself away is to deny yourself all of the beauty of life.

Although, in truth, nothing was the same.

She forgot about the stars… and stopped taking notice of the sea.

She was no longer filled with all the curiosities of the world and didn’t take much notice of anything…

from The Heart & The Bottle by Oliver Jeffers

If you live in fear, and crave change, the only choice you have is to take a leap of faith and step in the direction of your dreams, regardless of how many painful lessons you may have been taught.

You either dance, or wish you were dancing. My experience has taught me to dance whenever you can, with other people who choose to hear the music.

A Guide to Achieving the Perfect Life

daring adventure or nothingPerhaps there’s been a huge cosmic shift in energy, maybe we’ve had some rare planetary eclipse, or maybe it’s just the big old world shaking us up a bit to remind us that nothing is as it seems and everything changes. You see, I can’t seem to understand what the heck happened this week in Andshelaughs land.

Just when I think I have it all figured out, somebody shakes the snowglobe and I haven’t got a clue what’s going on.

When I was a kid, I used to see adults and think how nice it would be when I finally had my life together. Ha! Anyone over 30 knows how much of an illusion ‘having it all together’ really is. Throughout  years of helping people during crisis, I have come to realize that we never, ever have our lives together in such a way that we are immune to change.

Often change can cause suffering and pain; anxiety, addiction, grief, fear, or  tightly woven combination of all of those emotions. If you can make your way through it, keeping fear at bay, and even a tiny flame of hope burning, change can be the best thing that happens to you.

This week, I had a number of conversations that were difficult, enlightening, and even shocking. People I assumed to be sensitive, intelligent and thoughtful demonstrated qualities just the opposite of that, and others, surprised me by crawling out of the dark-ages and exposing excellent quality of character.

Because the conversations were not what I expected (expectation is such a fickle bitch anyway) they made me think. Hard. Should I have said that? Should I have kept silent? Can I trust you? Who cares...

fancy dark chocolateThe bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter. Most of our big decisions in life come about as a result of something we never expected.

So I’ve decided to sit back and watch. Wait and not wait; carry on. See what happens. Go with the flow. Dream. Hope, and even laugh a little at it all.

Life will always roll like waves on the ocean, sometimes smooth, sometimes rough, and every once in a while there will be a rogue wave that knocks you down, pulls you under, and spits you out, disoriented but with a fresh perspective.

The only time we ever have life under control is when we can sit back, breathe deeply and accept that life changes. When you are aware of your reactions, you can actually stop reacting, and remain calm, observant and cultivate a deep sense of who you are and what you need to do.  In the mean time, there’s champagne; bourbon if it’s serious.

She Will Move Mountains

come easyWith a BIG day looming tomorrow, big of course being a subjective term, used mostly to describe the unreasonable pressure I put upon myself, I came to think about how little credit we give ourselves ( or maybe it’s just me), for some of the changes we transform ourselves through and the incredible amounts of energy we use to survive in this crazy western world.

This is just a little reminder to be gentle with yourself, to  fiercely be  who you need to be, and to be unapologetically authentic to your own creative spirit.

insidethebox

Mark the moments which define you and celebrate them with childlike enthusiasm, not carrying the worries of what’s next on your shoulders.

Choose your battles and only give energy to the people, places and things that recharge your own batteries.

Sending you love and light, and opening myself up to receiving some of that good stuff too!

Be amazing, and never look back!

Don’t Wait For It

Happy Monday! Don’t wait for it, go out and make it perfect…xo

perfect moment

Please Mr. Postman

pinterestpostmanThere are few things more precious to me than receiving a handwritten letter. It’s rare now, but the beauty of ‘slow’ is underappreciated.

I’m not talking about the notes you scrawl on sticky pads to remind your colleagues of something or other. I’m talking about real-live letters in the post.

Two of my dearest friends still bother to send letters and packages, and when they come, I set aside time to open their letters, and read them when the house is quiet and I’m finished with all of the ‘musts’ of the day.

Life is busy. I make my personal calls while I’m commuting. Tonight Siri dialed the Amazing C, and she told me that today she mailed a package to me.I now, have something to look forward to on Monday when it arrives. What better way to end a 14 hour work day than with a promise of a little hand-written happiness?

I have letters that were written to me over three decades ago; from family, friends, and pen-pals whom I’ve never met. I have every letter my ex-husband ever wrote to me.

This weekend, I had a long-lost love on my mind, and decided I’d pull out the letters he had written to me once-upon-a-time. For years I kept them in the same place, in the post-office package that he first sent to me, including the four printed photographs he’d carefully chosen.

Much like a journal, old letters can shed light on who you are, where you’ve come from, and maybe, in my case where you’ve gone wrong or right.

Love letters. Something I believe you should never throw away. Unless they’re from morons, and then by all means, have some strange burning ceremony and include their gochies if you have any hanging around your boudoir. Highly therapeutic darlings.

So this weekend I searched until I found these darn letters, and reread everyone. The question that was burning in my mind was; Did he ever say it? You know what I’m talking about, “I love you”.  I was looking for it because lately I’ve been asking myself some pretty tough questions about relationships.  I know, I know, it’s enough to ruin a girls’ complexion, but there you have it, I’ve been prancing around with much on my mind.

Now let me tell you, just the day before I had been speaking with a friend and telling them how rare it was for me to cry any  more.

Life has battered me about ruthlessly; body, soul and heart. I’ve seen humanity at it’s best and worst, and tears just don’t come anymore, and if they do, it’s often it’s in the dead of night upon waking from some breathtaking nightmare. Clearly I need more booze, followed by a lifetime membership at Psychoanalyst’s Plus.

Life lessonsSo, as it happened, I was about a page into these love letters from a tall, dark, handsome hunk of juicy mansteak, stretched out on my white duvet with the sun shining in my window  when I saw them. Those three words written in his all-capitals-block-letter-handwriting unlocked the classified secret code to my tears.

As I sobbed, and I do mean sob and sniffled and bawled, I read the rest of the letters.

The written word is so powerful, especially now when techno-language has bastardized the beauty and art of precisely chosen words.

Re-reading those letters from so many years ago was like putting on new prescription lenses. The world made more sense, was reflected more clearly, and I was aware of just how much I had let myself miss out on because of my past.

Time really does speed up as you age. Reviewing the past via written letters, can inspire longing nostalgia as well as hold a glowing torch, illuminating the future. Handwritten notes have the energy of spiritual alchemy that is missing in instant messaging and even the spoken word.

When life has been sour, it is very refreshing to read the sweet words of love and friendship.

Sweeter still is when reflection helps you understand something about your own self that you’ve been trying to figure out for a very, very, long time.