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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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Digital Detox: How to Get Results in 2020

Social media sites aren’t so social when you try to cut back.  Apparently you aren’t allowed to be a digital introvert. After ‘unfollowing’ a couple hundred accounts that I had spontaneously followed throughout the years on Instagram, it blocked me from unfollowing more accounts. We’ll see how long my virtual time-out-in-the-thinking-chair lasts.

Withdrawing from unhealthy habits always inspires a quick, heavy-handed jerk on the hook that snagged you in the first place. Sometimes coming clean requires a little messy work and involves a painful withdrawal.

Replace Mindless Media With:

A Beautiful Daily Journal

A Free Course E-Learning Course

Meditation Time & Daily Reflection

New Ways to Nourish Your Body While You Strive For  Positive Change

In lieu of spending mindless hours scrolling and posting navel-gazing pictures of my feet up on a footstool whilst holding a hot cup of coffee, I am turning to more satisfying media in 2020.  For instance, a quick read of a recent article in FastCompany  about how to push through and accomplish the tough goals you set in 2019.

I had goals in 2019. I sought out life coaches, accountability groups, and weekend retreats.  What I accomplished was not what I thought I was going to. I wanted two ready-for-editors-novels. What I got was a reality check about the foundational work I needed to do to get there.

So here it is: 2020, and those fully written first, second, and partially completed third drafts, are stacked neatly on the corner of my desk.  I am no longer fooling myself about my psychological or physical ability to slog through a 9-5 that drains me and be a creative dynamo. I’m raw.

The only thing that helped me get through the holidays was a complete breakdown. Yes, you heard that right. It helped because I’m older and wiser, and I’ve been there before. Experience has taught me that reaching for the life preserver when you’re drowning can be the most empowering feeling in the world.

That article in Fast Company was encouraging. It was the validation that I needed after doing much soul searching during the past two months. And goodness knows we can all use a little extra validation.

Whatever your goals for 2020, I hope that each day you take tiny, meaningful steps toward your wellness. Whether that means eating healthier, or a much lighter intake of digital poo-ha, I hope that your year is amazing. I hope that you surprise yourself with resilience. I hope you have the strength and support to form new-to-you-healthy-habits. I hope you actualize a deep respect for who you are and what you bring to the world.

May 2020 be the year you persevere. May it be a year that your spirit sings with satisfaction.

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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.

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Who Said Yes?

dogslaveHead on over to @andshelaughs1 on Twitter.

I’ve retweeted a horrifying clip from the Economist. I love the Economist by the way, it’s right up there with Hallmark Christmas movies and making it to yoga class three times a week.

In my last post, I wrote to you about burnout and wished you well on your journey out of hell.  Let me assure you, that it could be worse. You could be forced to wear a device developed by Humanyze that tracks your every move and word at work. Taking it one step further, some companies are actually microchipping their employees.

Which begs the questions;

1)What fuck-wit actually thought this was a good idea?

2)What spineless turd first agreed to wear this, thus setting a precedent for all of the poor suckers who came after?

WALK UP A set of steep stairs next to a vegan Chinese restaurant in Palo Alto in Silicon Valley, and you will see the future of work, or at least one version of it. This is the local office of Humanyze, a firm that provides “people analytics”. It counts several Fortune 500 companies among its clients (though it will not say who they are). Its employees mill around an office full of sunlight and computers, as well as beacons that track their location and interactions. Everyone is wearing an ID badge the size of a credit card and the depth of a book of matches. It contains a microphone that picks up whether they are talking to one another; Bluetooth and infrared sensors to monitor where they are; and an accelerometer to record when they move.

“Every aspect of business is becoming more data-driven. There’s no reason the people side of business shouldn’t be the same,” says Ben Waber, Humanyze’s boss. The company’s staff are treated much the same way as its clients. Data from their employees’ badges are integrated with information from their e-mail and calendars to form a full picture of how they spend their time at work. Clients get to see only team-level statistics, but Humanyze’s employees can look at their own data, which include metrics such as time spent with people of the same sex, activity levels and the ratio of time spent speaking versus listening.

Taken from the Economist March 28, 2018

 

In the hands of people who stand to make the almighty dollar from tracking our every move, these devices obviously prove that hell, indeed, exists right here on earth.

As an alternative to wearing a tracking device like a dog, I suggest you take to the streets and protest our society’s obsession with automating our souls.  Seriously, the French know how to make change, and they do it loud and proud on the pavement that their taxes paid for.

microchipped

We live in a country lauded by the rest of the planet as being fabulous, yet we are apathetic to a fault. I’m sorry we’re sorry about everything. Mostly I’m sorry that it’s gotten so bad that keeping a roof over our heads stresses us out to the point of making us sick, destroying families, and leaves us feeling powerless.

Please promise me dear readers, that if you are ever asked to wear a device around your neck or to be microchipped by your employer that you not-so-politely decline. Life is too short to be treated like a commodity. I don’t care how much you need the money, freedom is priceless, humanity is sacred, and bullshit tracking devices are cluttering the planet with waste. 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Is: Time to Cheer for Change

So I’ve been writing a lot about Christmas. I love Christmas, it’s easy to get lost in the merriment and let’s face it, I’m easily distracted by shiny things.

What I haven’t been writing about is how burnt out I am. How I have let things go so long, that now it feels like it’s gone to shit. And I don’t have the inclination to fix it, fake it, or take it.

I’m not a sissy at burn out. I’ve been there before, but now I’m too old for it. I feel like a toddler with my chubby arms crossed against my old-lady chest, lip stuck out, emphatically letting the world know that, ” I don’t have to.” It’s not cute, and it’s not pretty, but it is what it is.

I may look sad, but trust me, I’m pissed. And I will not tolerate anyone’s shit. Not for love or money.

I’m not a nervous breakdown burn-out. I’m a pissed off, middle-aged burn out.  And when I’m pissed off I cry. Then I get frustrated with myself, and I get angrier, and then I cry.

I constantly tell myself everything is rosy when it’s not. I can do it for years. It’s a long-standing type of self-preservation that only people who come from a history of abuse will understand. Take it from me, you know when it’s time to move on from any kind of toxic relationship; career, friendship, romance, family…whatever.

If your burnout is from work, try to reframe it until you can leave. Through coaching and experience, I have learned that sometimes work can give us what we need ( a pay cheque) until we find a pay cheque that stresses us less. Nothing lasts forever. And that’s a good thing.

Recently I was speaking to one of my friends who has her own counselling practice. She said that people come to her on a regular basis terrified of crying at work, totally victims of harassment and workplace bullying, the ugly step-daughters of corporate greed. I do believe that working until we have nothing left to give is one of the great social diseases of our time.  It eats away at the good things in our life, until it’s the only thing we can think about. Not cool. Not sexy. Not impossible to extricate yourself from either.

I have been very lucky in the past to have meaningful work that didn’t feel so much like work.  And that gives me hope, and I hope it gives you hope as well.

The end of the year often lends itself to retrospection, which goes hand in hand with setting goals for the new year. What was great about my year? What wasn’t so great? How am I going to change that? How am I going to make my life better?

stuckOnce upon a time my Mumster told me to go home and just look at job sites. She said knowing that so many opportunities are out there would cheer me up. She’s right. It was the same feeling I had as I drove through the city streets from our island airport. I looked up at all of the tall buildings, at all the lights, the ads, and I knew that there was opportunity if only I got out and let the world know that I was interested.

If you’re feeling burnt out, I hope you don’t get comfy in the cushy sofa of despair.  I hope that you set coffee dates with people who are doing what you want to do and are open to sharing their experience.  Spend time with people who love you and want you to be successful. Start small if you have to. Offer your services on fiverr, take free classes at the local library, be curious.

There are plenty of resources out there for you. My sweetie loves,  What Colour is Your Parachute, but I prefer Careergasm. I’m a fan of Sara Smeaton and think that in 2020 I need to spend more time at her workshops.  Last year I started off the year going to seminars, setting goals and putting myself out there. It fizzled at the end, but I gained some momentum…and I’m convinced that that momentum will continue.

As one of my  hippy dippy friends said, “Put it out to the universe.”  She was right. Put it out there. Let the world know you are open to opportunity, and it will find you.

 

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Mid-Life: Sleep is like Sex – You Have to Make it a Priority

sleeping lady

 

Sleep.

It has become a very, sexy, and alluring idea.

Admittedly, I have become too busy to fall asleep with ease. I don’t find slumber as easily as I find the perfect shade for my first pedicure of autumn or the words to change a dull passage to something memorable. Usually it’s exhaustion or mother’s little helper that guides me to sleep these days.

I’m a lover of life.  A funeral director convinced that the only way to live life is to L I V E it. Full strength, embracing everything I love with abandon, and enthusiasm. My to-do piles are a little overwhelming though, and yesterday, as I pushed my chair away from my keyboard and succumbed to the warm, sunlit cushions on my couch, a strange new reality came over me.

I take on too much. What?!

I have two desks. One filled with research for novels. One I use as command central for household concerns, travel itineraries, family gathering menus and activity planning (yes, I’m very Type A, don’t judge me). I have Christmas gift making headquarters set up in the basement next to the shelves of preserves that I fussed with all summer long. My bed is upstairs, unmade, with a pile of books, ear plugs, sleep masks, and lavender linen spray beside it.  Somethin’s gotta give.

Sleep has fallen somewhere behind my piles of fabric for homemade Christmas gifts, the books piled up for ‘research’ (and count toward my 2019 reading goal which I’ve increased by 50%), the last edit of novel number two, and the outline of novel number three. Although sleep may definitely be hiding behind the piles of jars that I have filled and have yet to fill with delights of the harvest. It could also be somewhere in the pages of itineraries for the last few trips of 2019, wedged between schedules to obtain hard-to-get dinner reservations in NYC, the best cenotes near Tulum and autumn pumpkin festivals in the Ottawa valley.

Yesterday before my weekly weigh in I drank two glasses of wine and ate trail mix topped with cool whip. What can I say, I was feeling overwhelmed. How could I not question my priorities in that moment of sweet, crunchy, wine soaked loveliness? I haven’t lost a pound in 6 months. Thanks Sonoma Valley, with a special mention to anxiety. Thank you very much.

This weekend was a rare weekend at home. Even more rare, I was able to sleep in, undisturbed two mornings in a row. I awoke refreshed and relaxed with no real agenda. It was like old times.

After soothing my scale time with a healthy dinner and one more glass of wine, I came home, packed up my editing, sorted through a pile of books to be read on my upcoming getaways, meal prepped and climbed back on the couch with re-runs of 90’s sitcoms and did some critical thinking about what to do next – how on earth to accomplish everything I had set out to do.  Not the least of which is reporting to meeting number two with my writing accountability group next Tuesday after working what we fondly refer to in the business as, “Hell Weekend”.  I have half of a damn novel to edit between now and then. Gulp…

By 8:30pm I was in the bath, covered to the chin with bubbles, sipping herbal tea, and letting my body feel tired.  I slipped my freshly washed body between the  sheets, and read until my eyes felt tired. I slept. For hours and hours uninterrupted. And I woke feeling refreshed – on a work day no less!

A year ago my immune system took a holiday, and I was sick for months. For two months I was barely able to function.  This year after rounds of tests, I was asked; are you under any stress, has your sleep been disrupted? Of course the answer was yes and yes.  I have lost a significant amount of vision due to stress and lack of sleep, and goodness only knows if it’s coming back without some kind of alien probe into my eyeball. My body is screaming for rest.

As I snuggled under the covers in the peace and quiet of morning, I reflected on how much I put on my own plate to do. It’s all good stuff, but the reality is, I only have so much time to do it in, and the time I spend relaxing is just as important as the time I spend rushing through everything.

My hobbies are too joyful to rush through. Sleep allows me to slow down, savour every moment and bring my best to each interaction, whether it’s with colleagues, family, or the characters in my book.

Sleep, much like sex at this age is something that we can often let slide down the list of priorities. After a weekend of getting some (sleep)  I’m going to make it a priority again.

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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.

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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!