Advice for Men · Advice for Women · andshelaughs writing · Art of LIving · Buddhism · Buddhist Philosophy · Buddhist Writers · Canadian Writers · Creative Writing · Fearless Living · Graceful Living · Gracious Living · Guy Stuff · Healthy Living · Joyful Living · Living · Men's Health · Men's Issues · Mental Health · Middle Age · Midlife · Mindful Living · Personal Development · Professional Writers · Simple Living · Spiritual Living · The Art of Living · Travel Writers · Uncategorized · Whole Living · women · Women's Issues · Working Women · Writers · Writing · Writing Inspiration · writing prompts

When to Retreat

This is itSpiritual care retreats aren’t for everyone. The longer I go between breaks, the more I wonder if they’re for me, if I’ve got anything left in me to nurture and to bring to the world other than a curmudgeonly attitude requisite for being a veteran mortician.

Today, I plowed my way through the two-lane-traffic-corridor from hell that takes you out of the GTA and to Kingston. It’s an exercise in patience and dreaming of creative ways to free our highways of transport trucks and drivers who do not obey the left-lane-is-for-passing rule.

I muttered through traffic, rolled my eyes at the lack of parking signage at the retreat location, and cursed the universe in general for having the rain start just as I was wrestling my basket of yoga mat, meditation cushion and blanket for deep relaxation out of my trunk.  I have under-packed for retreats before, and I was determined that based on the wet forecast, this was not going to be one of those soggy times. I looked like a 44 year old-yoga-pant-and-pink-sweater-wearing-mule trying to get all three bags  inside on one trip.

I was appalled at the woman who let me struggle with the door to the registration lounge without helping me, and the lack of smile on the face of the registrar. This is not Buddhism! Buddhism smiles for crying out loud! I could not get to my little room fast enough so I could dump my suitcase, prep for the mediation hall and ensure my precious bottle of South Australian plonk was safely stored next to the second draft of my novel.

This is how I entered my retreat space; frustrated, exhausted, and ready to give the world not a single, but a double salute using my middle fingers.

And then I entered the retreat space. I hastily set out my mat and cushion in the middle of the room and plopped myself down to breathe. Ha! To breathe…think about that one. Just taking a single, deep, focussed breath can do so much. For a veteran with this particular group, my entrance was anything but mindful. I did not bow. I did not do all of the small, but mindful ritual requirements of coming into such a sacred space. That was my first wake-up call. I needed to be exactly where I was.

I changed course, focussed on the minutiae of what I was doing, and in doing so,  I found myself at home. In observing my breath, the bell, the noble silence at the dinner hour, nourished by lip-smacking vegetarian food, in the dharma group listening, and finally back in my room (with a glass of contraband wine), alone with my thoughts.

Again I am reminded how precious these times are. I’m reminded how they crystallize my intentions, and help me manifest the kind of person I try to be.

I raise a glass to that…after all, nobody is perfect!

Advice for Men · Advice for Women · Andshelaughs · Art of LIving · Creative Life · Fearless Living · Girl Stuff · Graceful Living · Healthy Living · Joyful Living · Life · Life Lessons · Lifestyle · Meaning of Life · Men's Health · Men's Issues · Mental Health · Midlife · Mindful Living · Perspective · Professional Women · Simple Living · The Art of Living · Uncategorized · Whole Living · women · Women's Issues · Working Women

Self-Esteem in the Middle-Age of Social Media

journalI’m supposed to be doing something else right now. Chances are, you are too. But, here I am, loungewear donned, tucked in by the fireplace with hot lemon water by my side, writing to you.

This morning, after a dreamy 3.5 hours of sleep, I woke up to see my son off to work. I’m fighting a seven month infection that just won’t quit, and share a bed with a man who snores like  freight train. I lack sleep, and therefore, I find it very difficult to muster the motivation to do anything but crave a snooze.

My go-to connection to the outside world other than work, and a vacation where all I did was read and occupy a beach chair, is my social media. I try to follow sites, pages, people and accounts that inspire me to be healthy, happy and productive.

Last night I made a sincere start reading, “The Year of Yes“, by Shonda Rhimes.  I’m likely the only woman on the planet who does not know a lot about Shonda Rhimes. I was surprised to hear that she was a single mom and so successful just as much as I was shocked to learn she was a no-thank-you-RSVPing-introvert.  The reason I don’t know a

lot about Shonda Rhimes is that I’m too busy to watch tv, trying accomplish everything I’ve decided to do.

I put my book aside at 2:00 am and felt that I didn’t do enough in comparison to Ms. Shonda. If this woman could be a successful writer with three children, how come I’m just a successful funeral director with an international athlete for a son, and three post-grad diplomas on the wall (they’re not literally on my wall)? “I’m such a loser”, I thought to myself, and then went upstairs and climbed in bed next to Snorey McSnorerson.

japanesepizza hashtag on Instagram • Photos and Videos

This morning at the crack of 5:45 am (and I am by no stretch of any imagination a morning person), I was scrolling through someone’s Japanese, vegan Instagram feed and all I could think was, “Oh.My.God…that’s just way too much chopping, ” and then I thought, “I’m too lazy to chop?! I’m such loser.”

But I’m not a loser. I just temporarily lose myself in everyone else’s social media story branding (or lie as Shonda would say). When you feel lousy, people who disguise their humanity by editing out their flaws can make you feel like a big, fat, loser.

And today, yes, I am too lazy to chop. I’m too lazy to reduce the ingredients for a sweet Japanese barbecue sauce over low heat while I do crunches and make a duck face at the other end of my selfie stick. But that’s just for today, while I create, and write, and do something that makes me feel beautiful from the inside out.

Tonight, I shall dig back in to, The Year of Yes, catch my second wind, and light up my social calendar. That’s just how I roll, even without homemade, exotic sauce or perfect abs.

 

 

Andshelaughs · Art of LIving · Blogs · Creative Life · Creative Writing · Creativity · Health · Healthy Living · Humor · Life · Lifestyle · Living · Meaning of Life · Mental Health · Middle Age · Midlife · Professional Women · The Art of Living · Uncategorized · women · Women's Issues · Working Women

Flake? I’ll Be The Judge of That.

flake

I’m typing this in a dark corner of the living room, having been stirred to wakefulness again by a 2018 article about pairing champagne (one of my faves) with french fries. Yummmmm! This my friends, is what keeps me up at night.

After having slipped my love a valium, and being irritated from sleepiness to being wide awake by his snoring, I got up to find some ear plugs. Which took me to the living room, so I could  record notes for a to-do list tomorrow. You know, follow up on doctor’s appointments, what I need to buy at Ikea, reserving my space at yoga classes, and how I’m going to rearrange the spare room and my writing area.  Inevitably I checked my phone, and voila….the social media vortex had me.

Left wing aside here…he knew he was taking the Valium. It’s like an unspoken compromise. Silently it says, “Yes, I will shut up so we no longer have to engage today.”

Tapping out my to do list for tomorrow kinda worked up an appetite, or maybe it was just the  knowledge that there was a Costco sized bag of fully-loaded-nacho-flavoured Doritos in the cupboard. And a mini Flake bar (another personal favourite, this time in the chocolate bar category). All tempting leftovers from when the kiddo was home. Nachos and a piece of butter bread…and the flake. Oh, sweet, sweet, middle of the night carb cravings, have you not had enough of me? Apparently not.

This morning during  CBC interview, it was noted that people with bad short-term memories are actually smarter, because somehow this lack of short term memory makes more room to learn more things and improve long-term memory. My short term memory is absolute shit.

This little radio spot vindicated me. I am not a flake. I am a genius. According to a childhood assessment, I actually am. But that’s a story for another time.

giphy-3It is during these wee hours of the morning when my mind is whirring and I’m trying to capture my lists and ideas that I am at my most creative. I have the most energy for things that really excite me at a soul level (and I’m not talking about the Doritos).  As I take a giant swig of what I thought was iced tea (I’m colour blind – turns out it was some kind of blue jungle juice leftover from the kiddo today), I begin to wonder if I’m the only woman who does this? This middle of the night, burning the candle at both ends life?

I wonder, and every once in a while, I get an answer back from out of the still, middle-of-the-night darkness. It usually comes in the form of a message, or text or a few beautiful lines of poetry. Tonight it was a message from an author whom I admire for more than just their writing style. I admire what they stand for. These are the signs that reassure me I am not alone in my hope, my dreaming, and my creative genius.

Costo. Doritos. Leftover something-juice.  It works. Oh,and so does the valium.

Advice for Women · Advice for Writers · andshelaughs writing · Art of LIving · Buddhist Writers · Canadian Writers · Creative Life · Creative Writing · Fearless Living · Friendship · Friendships · Graceful Living · Gracious Living · Health · Healthy Living · Joyful Living · Life · Life Lessons · Lifestyle · Living · Meaning of Life · Men's Health · Mental Health · Midlife · Mindful Living · Professional Women · Sexual Health · Simple Living · Spiritual Living · The Art of Living · Travel Writers · Uncategorized · women · Women's Issues · Writers · Writing · Writing Inspiration · writing prompts

Wonder: As a Verb

wonderEven if it’s just holding space while you let yourself remember what it feels like to actively wonder, I hope this post is a gift to you…to reignite your sense of wonder.

The first time I went to Paris, I spent an entire afternoon, from lunch time to the beginning of the dinner rush, sitting at a cafe table at Les Deux Magots in wonder.

 

wonder.won·der
/ˈwəndər/Submit
noun
1.
a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.
“he had stood in front of it, observing the intricacy of the ironwork with the wonder of a child”
synonyms: awe, admiration, wonderment, fascination

I marvelled at St. Germain Church across the street, and the way that the french could grow such perfect red geraniums in those iron window enclosures.  How did they water them? Dead head them?

My intention that day was to treat myself to a piece of cake and a cup of coffee and do a little bit of writing like Hemingway and the great writers of the last century.  There were so many things to see from that little cafe chair though! I felt like I needed to stay, to observe, to figure out how the French made everything so, well, French. After the cake I ordered an entree. The waiter, in his black clothes and calf length crisp, white apron, was not impressed. It just made the entire experience that much more enjoyable for me. For kicks, I had him pose for a picture with me…and then I ordered an hors d’heurve and a glass of wine. The second shift of waiters came on, and the new waiter was lovely. He took great joy from my own, and we had a few laughs at the expense of my mediocre, but very enthusiastic french vocabulary.

That afternoon, and many others while I was in my 20’s, I wondered.

won·der
/ˈwəndər/Submitverb
1.
desire or be curious to know something.
“how many times have I written that, I wonder?”
synonyms: ponder, think about, meditate on, reflect on, muse on, puzzle over, speculate about, conjecture; be curious about
“I wondered what was on her mind”

I love that we have a  verb in the English language such as wonder.  Speculate, think, conjecture, disbelieve, inquire, meditate, puzzle, query, question; all synonyms, and yet none have the positive connotation of wonder.

To wonder is to stay young at heart. It does not judge like disbelieve, query or question. It is not out to unveil deliberately hidden truths like inquire or disbelieve.

Wonder is innocent. It is about wonder as a noun carrying over into developing an understanding of; no judgement or tinkering. Just wonder.

This year I hope to exercise my wonder. I think there is a dangerous den to be avoided at mid-life and in old age that looks comfortable, warm and safe. It has a radius of what is familiar.  I’m not attracted to that den at all, or the people in it.

This year I am wondering about;

img_0143-1.jpgFun, new, wine reviewers. For years I followed Billy’s Best Bottles, bought the annual book that reviewed primarily LCBO wines, and sought out the bottles that were highly recommended. Especially the bargain wines. I wondered at his knowledge and the way he incorporated fun and wonder into his work.  I admired him for it. It inspired me. I am loyal if nothing else, and I still follow Billy, and I want to add something new as well.

Writing meet-ups, new restaurants, travel destinations, new friends of every age, these are all things that I will actively wonder about in 2019.

Most of all I’m wondering about what I don’t already wonder about. Those are the things that will be the most important for all of us.  Those are the things that will keep us young at heart.

 

Advent · Andshelaughs · Art of LIving · Coping · Creative Life · Fearless Living · Friendship · Friendships · Graceful Living · Gracious Living · Healthy Living · Joyful Living · Life · Life Lessons · Lifestyle · Living · Meaning of Life · Mental Health · Middle Age · Midlife · Mindful Living · Opinion · Personal Development · Perspective · Self-Care · Simple Living · Spiritual Living · The Art of Living · Uncategorized · Whole Living

Always Say YES!

lovesomeone

During a quick lunch with my Mumster the topic of keeping oneself vibrant while in the midst of feeling stuck became a theme. I like to think that our conversation was inspiring to us both. Just having a quick visit with a kindred spirit, helped my sense of well being.

As some of you may know, my day-to-day life has changed recently. I now find myself in the position of stay-at-home-caregiver. It’s the longest time I’ve ever been away from work, and frankly, it’s like living in a thick fog.

Anxiety has its’ natural place during times of transition and healing. I wish I had someone here to give me a hug, offer me a passionate escape, or a giddy drunken Christmas date night.  But that is not so.  What I have is myself; the stalwart, courageous, positive, kick-you-in-the-ass-just-enough-to-keep-you-going-all-day fabulous woman that I am.

The first thing I reluctantly gave up being here doing what I’m doing, was my sleep pattern. I’m a natural night owl, and later nights are always the first thing to come galloping back into my life  when I’m not on my work-home routine. If  I could force away the anxiety of wondering how I’ll adjust when I do go back to work, late nights aren’t a bad thing.  Mostly because just last night, head on the pillow, I was lulling myself to sleep, silently re-telling the stories of my literally ‘shitty’ day,  and it came to me! Novel number 3! Late nights are a breading ground for creativity, and that’s heady stuff.

Quietly, I got up in the darkness, crept past the orange-pink glow of the salt lamp, and made my way to my notebook, scrounging a pen from the medication log on the nursing cart in the makeshift hospital room that is now the living/dining room.

I curled up under my favourite wool blanket from Ireland, and wrote a basic outline, including main characters, and a handful of their personality quirks. I then pounded back a piece of lemon cake, the crumbs at the bottom of a bag of dill pickle chips, swigged back a hot cup of tea, and then went back to bed. Inspired.

That’s the same way I woke up.

Not only do I have a full novel to edit, I have another one ready to be born, and butter softening on the counter for a batch of sugar cookies which I will decorate in layers over the next two days for the sole purpose of doing something other than letting my brain rot. I have a list of books to read, and have managed to finish 3 of them, and I”m slowly grinding my way through the fourth (  a dense book of essays).  I also have wine. And whiskey. And tea.

These things are enough.

Enough to keep me motivated, creative and vibrant (under the circumstances).

Yes, I miss my yoga classes. I miss taking my time and poking about my favourite shops. I miss even going for a flipping walk! But these are not things I have control over right now. I can control what I manage to do while I’m limited to the house with brief periods of respite and so can you.

advent

As I’ve written many times, the spirit of Advent (waiting with wonder in the darkness) is one that resonates deeply with me. It reassures me of an idea that I believe in; out of the darkness and the muck of life, sprout the most fruitful of ideas and experiences.

If you are feeling stuck, take a few minutes to yourself. Grab a notebook and pen; jot down unfinished projects you’d really like to finish. Maybe it’s a new skill you’d like to learn  or  a book you would love to tuck in to read from start to finish.  Just let yourself relax into some kind of stillness of mind that will accompany you on a journey of wonder and discovery.

Most importantly if you have friends out there who offer a different perspective, a couple hours of respite, a moment of escape, always, always, always say YES!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andshelaughs · andshelaughs writing · Christmas · Christmas Letters · Holidays · Meaning of Christmas · Mental Health · Middle Age · Midlife · Opinion · Parenting · Perspective · Uncategorized

How Are Your Christmas Lights?

giphy

In the darkness, the Christmas tree lights are a true symbol of advent. Mystery in the darkness. A sense of wonder.

Advent is my favourite season of the year, even though November is my least favourite month. Layers of grey permeate every hour, and the dampness makes everything, even the ethereal heavy. Besides being a Scorpio, November sucks.

Alas my friends,  then there are the Christmas lights! They’re the first thing that I attend to in the morning, getting down on my knees to find the plug and make the connection. As a young mother, I wanted my son to have the same sense of wonder that I did upon waking and seeing the tree illuminated in the dark, chill morning.  As the mother of a young adult, I want to continue that sense of wonder, the feeling that something wonderful can come of the darkness, that stillness can be a time of self-discovery and that there is joy in silent reflection.  As a partner and caregiver, I hope that my darling wakes up to the lights and feels the very same things.

Realistically, I live in a house with people whom I’m not sure have such a deep, symbolic appreciation of this season as I do.  Whatever.

‘Whatever’ has become a word that pops  up more and more in my silent thoughts. It’s the 80’s baby version of WTF.

The reality is that Christmas has changed for me. I’ve gone from a child waiting for Santa, to being Santa.  I’ve gone from a young woman excited about the romance of the season to an older woman who has officially let all hope of Christmas romance go. I do however find joy helping in any way that I can to fan the flames of that excitement in the life of my friends and family who are in the midst of that, ‘Hallmark Romance’ period of their lives.

This morning I woke up to an email from my Mumster about the energy of the fuss and muss of Christmas, and how this year, her sister will be hiring a cater rather than doing the cooking herself. In her wisdom, Mumster  has deduced that age 55 is the age at which you pretty much get tired of the foo-fur-ah (foo-fur-ah def. bullshit) of the Christmas season.  I’ll let you know if I agree when I reach the spritely age of  55.

Inevitably life changes as you know darlings. Our energy levels ebb and flow, as do our priorities. Health remains our  biggest asset, and it becomes more valuable the older we get.

Although I’m not the marathon baker, wrapper and Christmas-party-throwing woman I was ten years ago, I like to hope that I can keep my own sense of wonder alive through the season.  Sometimes it’s just wondering where the wine went, and how my ass got this robust.

Humor and wonder is what will keep me young. It’s what will keep my eyes open to the little twinkle of light in life that brings happy surprises, belly laughter and passion. This is the stuff of a youthful spirit. Let humor and wonder be your own Christmas miracles, regardless of your age or circumstance.

 

Advice for Women · Andshelaughs · Health · Healthy Living · Jimmy Buffett · Men's Health · Mental Health · Midlife · Opinion · Perspective · Self-Care · Social Commentary · Society · Spiritual Living · Uncategorized · Wellness · women · Women's Issues

Mid-Life Clarity-Did You Work at it Your Whole Life?

hit you with a carThere is little that gifts perspective as much as experience.  And I’ve had experience in spades.

I’m pretty much home-bound with an ill sweetie these days, and have had lots of time to reflect, get frustrated, feel grateful, be sad, be relieved, be worried, and be overwhelmed. In other words, to be human.

Although I was a professional palliative care giver for the best part of a decade, nothing really prepares  you for personal crisis. The stress of organization, paperwork and dealing with an over-burdened health care system has been an eye opener.

What life has prepared me for though is clarity with regard to circumstantial right and wrong, and life is nothing if not circumstantial.

As I was rushing to pick up  a few groceries yesterday, the cashier tossed a bag on top of my groceries, and then began checking out the next person, who was looking sour-faced and in a hurry. When did we give up our expectation as consumers to have some quality interaction with the businesses that we give our money to?  When did every person having a pleasant interaction with someone else become a pain in the ass? Oh, darling, that’s easy, it was when you became an asshole.

Our caring civility has slowly eroded over time Even errands have become unpleasant interactions instead of being instances during the day we exchange kindness with people.  We have all become assholes to some extent, consuming, rushing, and being caught up in the necrotic social ideal that the material trumps relationship.

This is part of mid-life clarity. This is part of holding myself to the standard of living and overall health to which I aspire – happiness.

Making my way out of the parking lot of the store yesterday, traffic was impatient with pedestrians and pedestrians with traffic.  Everyone assumes that they come first. Which reminds me of a classic Jimmy Buffett question,

Were you born an asshole? Or did you work at it your whole life?

I do believe that no one is born an asshole. I also believe that you have to work at it to be extraordinary at it. You also have to work to be kind, compassionate and engaged with humanity. Perhaps choosing unwisely is the collective tragic comedy on the stage of life.