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Stay Humble My Friends

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Humble. That’s the best we can all try to be right now.

Humble enough to be still, kind, and for the love of all that’s holy, quiet.

If I were a medical professional in the midst of this pandemic, I think that during my time off, earplugs would be as important as any personal protective gear during my time ‘on’.

You know what I’m talking about, the incessant chatter of  how this pandemic is spreading, what the symptoms are, and how long it will take before we can all get back to thoughtless, mass consumption.

After a most stressful five days of dealing with a sick person, a young man’s plea for a place to stay after being illegally evicted due to fear of the Coronavirus and worrying about my own job, I woke up this morning snug and warm among my fluffy duvets.

Bliss.

Until the chatter started. A thoughtful phone call to check in on my sick sweetie turned into an amateur COVID 19 medical conference right there in my bed.

I jammed an earplug in the ear that wasn’t on the pillow, took a few deep breaths, and then gave up before frustration set in. Earplug out, I padded down the stairs to enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the solitude of morning.

This, after drifting off to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, wondering about the outward object of ‘adoration’ in the context of rapture…it’s ok, you don’t have to understand. All you need to know is that I was delighted to have had some time to submerge myself in the type of writing and thought that is all encompassing.  Something bigger than myself. 

The stress of the day washed away with my wordplay, and the ability to surrender to whatever comes next flexed it’s muscle and settled around me like a cocoon. I fell asleep with pen and notebook on my chest.

 

When you realize nothing is lacking,

The whole world belongs to you

~Lau Tzu~

 

I hope that everyone has that kind of escape right now; something that they love which gives them purpose.  Or even a guilty pleasure to binge on like The Tiger King , a raw example of chattering pride (pun no intended).

Being humble can come from a place of great joy, simple pleasures, or curiosity. Wherever it comes from, it can be a gentle teacher and an anchor in a world that seems to have gone mad. During times like these, humility can offer up a calm raft in the deluge of  uncertainty and change. It can also save you from yourself in ways you didn’t  even know that you need saving.

 

 

 

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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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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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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.

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Is It Over Yet?

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“If you’re brave enough to say good-bye, life will reward you with a new hello.” ~Paolo Coelho~

 

I don’t know why, but this holiday season seems like it’s never going to end. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to work through it? Maybe it’s because I kick it off so damn early, and this year I was spoiled by being NYC in December? Maybe because I’m eager to step into a fresh new year and play with some of the options available to me?

I think it’s that one. The last one. 2019 was somewhat of a slog. 2020 feels like it’s ready to polish off the rough bits and end with something shiny and new.

Parts of me feel dead, which make the joyful and silly parts seem all that more delightful.  I feel like it’s time to pull my middle-aged ass out of the rut of what-I-should-be-doing-and-thinking-and-spending-my-time-on and getting it on track with my natural chutzpah.

I was gifted many books this Christmas, and among them was a copy of Grit.  By a person who scored about 30% on the Grit scale. I scored a 95.

It was a classic case of here-I-bought-this-because-I-want-it, not, this-made-me-think-of-you. I had read about 50 pages of anecdotes before deciding it was time to put away the Christmas decorations.  The giver of the book tossed a hissy fit over having to actually get the Christmas tree back in the box, and marched out in a huff. I was the one who wrestled with the picky branches until they succumbed to the original packaging and was set neatly aside until next year. Don’t talk to me about grit.

As a matter of fact, don’t talk to me at all if it’s going to involve anything related to what I should be ; doing, eating, or spending my energy on. Only talk to me if it’s necessary, or you’re telling me something soul-deep, or funny, or charming. Talk to me if you’re excited about learning something new, or if you need someone to listen, or you’re confessing some delicious sin.

In 2019 I had way, way too many conversations about all of the should’s.  I had way too many days that felt like I was going through the motions and not really alive.

In honour of a new decade, I closed the cover on Grit, and cracked open a copy of Kissing the Limitless that has been sitting on my writing desk for two years. Two. YEARS.

I booked a drag brunch with some gal pals, sipped my bottomless-mimosa and watched those beautiful women who have worked so hard at their craft, and their life, come out and entertain a crowd of people hungry to feel something. Anything.

The end of a year always lends itself to some self-review.  This year I’m asking; what parts of my self have been suffocated this year? How did it happen, and why?

By 2020 I will have answered those questions, which leaves the rest of the year to be fabulous, to indulge in all of the delights that make me feel alive emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Buckle up.