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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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Life After 40: Finding the Face of the Invisible Woman

 

Saturday morning I spent two hours researching wrinkle serum. Yes, serum, not cream, because at the ripe old age of just over 45, the skin on my face that once was perfect, is now taunting me with oiliness.

As usual, upon waking, I brushed my teeth and washed my face, applying a store-brand moisturizer  before I padded down the stairs on my freshly pedicured tootsies, to fill up on coffee. It was time to research anti-aging serums. I came across the Clinique Canada site which offered a skin assessment. 

I flipped the camera on my phone so I could see a reflection of my freshly scrubbed face. Gee-Sus!!! When the hell did I finish growing grandma’s jowls  on my face??? The little scanner slid across my reflection, and I was horrified at how much I looked like a sadder version of Cathy Bates in Misery.

A wise woman once told me that at a certain age, I would become invisible. After my little analysis, I was almost grateful to slide under the radar as someone unworthy of notice.

Invisible; I was shocked when it happened. Not because I didn’t believe it, but because I had always been able to stand out in a crowd.  I’ve never considered myself a beauty, but perhaps a natural beauty, with an easy laugh, and ability to gatsby-socialize and bring a smile to almost anyone’s face in any circumstance. I was a sure thing at a party, and in the sack. I was cute. I was confident. I was under 40.

You have an easy smile…

You have beautiful skin. ..

Is that your natural eye colour or are those contacts?…

These were an assortment of daily compliments that were gifted to me during the course of my day-to-day interactions. Eventually these compliments have dwindled to become merely a distant memory.

That’s how it happened. Not all of a sudden, but gradually. It was like putting on your favourite jeans one day, and not being able to button them up. I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t rock me. It was like trying to keep my balance during an earthquake. It didn’t matter what I tried to cling to in my repetoire of feel-good-physical-traits, nothing felt stable.

The older women were correct; the crepe-skinned-chain-smoking-60-something-one-time-beach-bunny who advised me to make my memories while I was young, my mumster who first presented the invisibility theory, and my granola-crunching senior advisors who cheered on my loose-morals and stiletto heeled antics from the closed-door sidelines of their lonely Friday nights.

Wisely, I did indulge in all of the sensual pleasures of youth, and I’m still a bit of a lush when it comes to wine, women and song. I am also however more aware of the pressure that we face as women to never age (on the outside).

Unless you’ve made a career of your beauty, or were privileged enough to have role models who convinced you to establish self-care habits  at an early age,  you likely have found yourself staring back at one hell of a woman whom you fear is trapped, forever under  jowls and deep wtf wrinkles between her brows.

Today I smiled when a friend of mine who just rounded the corner on 40 commented on the not-so-easy-to-transform, changes in her body. This, the same person who made me cry when she told me I looked old, just as I was feeling old for the very first time in my life.  I told her I’d just been out buying skin care products….and an absurd amount of red wine…

I shared with her some of the things I have found that bring a smile to my over-forty-face. They help to make me glow on the outside the same way I still feel on the inside;

 

  1. Dr. Jart Vital Hydra Solution Mask

dr jart

 

2. Clinique – All About Eyes

all about eyes

3. Hope’s End Red Blend

hopesend

4. Revlon Super Lustrous in Love That Pink

love that pink

5. Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair

wrinkle repair

 

6. Life Brand Bubbling Face Mask

This comes in new, white packaging now.

bubbling face mask

 

 

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Self-Worth: The Biggest Mid-life Myth Debunked in Under 10 Minutes

beautiful busyI have thick thighs and thin patience…

What I’m finding particularly interesting at this middle-age-stage of femininity is how we continue to be coerced into believing that women exist in a big vat of lack.

It’s wearing my patience thin.

As a child, I was born into a generation who taught little girls to be quiet, and for-God’s-sake-don’t-pull-at-your-leotards-like-that.  As a teen, I was fed a diet of magazines with super-thin-models and how-to-keep-a-man-satisfied headlines.

In my twenties and thirties, it was about having it all; relationships, career, children, bff-friendships over expensive, boozy, brunches, and more diets and fitness routines. Raise your hand if you don’t have time to do your hair after a lunch-hour work out.

Now I’m in my forties, and the thing to be doing is redefining yourself.  It all sounds great; it’s a powerful message to send that in our 40’s we have so much lost potential. Fuck off with that already. Quit telling us that more is better. This is a myth perpetuating a generation of women who feel not good enough. 

sewing bookQuit telling us that existing in this world as a female requires more.  All  while men are getting cozy in their careers, maxing out their earning potential (still on average  13.3% more than a woman’s), and being patted on the back about their wonderful achievements.

Women are being fed a big ol’spoonful of ‘you-can-do-better’.

We are in crisis because we’re being told we should be more.

We are in crisis because we bear the responsibility of reproduction after spending our most fertile years striving for a career.  We have fewer economic opportunities, and the social expectation of being caregivers to parents and children while working at often more than one job to try to ensure we can retire before we die of exhaustion.  A male’s shrivelling manhood is being exalted while we’re being told we’re not good enough. No wonder our vaginas dry out and shrivel up.

If you’re strong enough to be a woman, you’re strong enough to no.

‘No’, will immediately toss you into the pile of ‘nasty’ women who quietly, but powerfully carry on as they damn well please.  Everyone with any honesty will tell you that women over 40 lose a significant amount of social currency. While men start getting rejected from potential employment in their late 50’s, women experience it a decade earlier. Saying no to unreasonable demands and less than you’re worth claims power.  It claims the respect you deserve for doing most of the emotional work within the household, for getting up and going to your job every day so you can put food on the table, even though it’s not sexy and even claims some time to rest.

The myth tells us all that we must be working at something else in order to justify a ‘no’. You do not. You just have to do you. And you is likely exhausted.

We’re enough as we are. We do not need to strip our souls bare and redefine ourselves. We do not need to buy into this myth just because the privileged class thinks it’s cool to be in crisis.

In my world, it’s cool to be cool. It’s cool to be ok with being all that you are.

You lack nothing. Be proud of who you are.

 

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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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Connection: Wonder in the Darkness

candle in snowIt’s that feeling when you receive an email from the person you’re thinking of at the same time as you press send on your email to them.

Synchronicity takes faith. It’s that feeling of floating above it all where everything and everyone just clicks.  My life is abundant with that…mostly.

We’re coming to the end of another year. January 1st can be a pretty important mental reset date.  Goal setting, resolutions and check-lists for the year ahead.

This year I set some pretty great goals. I met most of them. What I learned this year was way more important than checking off a list though. I learned what traps my energy and keeps me from feeling that satisfying peace of synchronicity. Now that I’ve identified it, I can do something about it.

That’s power my friends. That’s joy-brimming, creative-muscle-flexing power! It makes me giddy, and hopeful, and snuffs out the candle of despair which so easily ignites when we totter off balance.

I always save vacation time for the Christmas season. I enjoy the nesting of this holiday; baking, cooking, gift making, cocoa-sipping, movie watching, cocktails with friends, and making time for the coffee dates we put off all year long.

I also really dig Advent. I fully subscribe to the mystery of Advent, the idea of light in the darkness, and rebirth via struggle. But not too much struggle. Not struggle for struggle’s sake. I don’t dig unnecessary suffering, even as an artist.

Synonyms for ADVENT ˈæd vɛnt
  • advent, coming(noun) arrival that has been awaited (especially of something momentous) …

  • Advent(noun) the season including the four Sundays preceding Christmas. …

This holiday season, weather you celebrate Christmas or not, the darkest days of the year lend themselves to introspection, to wonder, to being open to new, yet-to-be-revealed opportunities. I hope that during this time you take the solitude you need to rest, reflect and connect.

cocoa with friends

It is through connection that I hope to reign in the things that deplete my energy.  It is through connection that I hope to ignite what brings me vitality. It is through connection that I hope to contribute to the world around me through my relationships, profession and creative pursuits.

I urge you to reflect on any feeling that tugs away at your soul and needs attention. And then connect with people whose presence alone will help heal those attention seeking areas of your life.  I hope that you connect with people who help you feel joyful, powerful and positive.

 

 

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Christmas is: For Boundaries

stressfreechristmas

Last year,  a decree went out that there would be only one gathering around a traditional Christmas table.  She who does all the planning, shopping and personalizing,  shall be making one Christmas meal whenever the hell she liked, and you could show up (on time) or not at all.  And it brought her great relief and joy.  A very durable boundary wall went up to protect her, and the world was good.

Last year, after seven, yes, count’em, seven rescheduling attempts at a  family get together, it finally happened, with the people whom I arranged a second dinner for, arriving over two hours late.

My jolly goodwill and ho-ho-home form the holidays ended. I leaned on my wee bottle of Jameson to get me through the evening, and then I did some reflecting.

I decided, after much hurt, anger and frustration, that the only thing to do was surrender. I surrendered to the values I hold dear.  This was met with love and support from people who love me.  Everyone else continues to have that glazed, “I don’t compute”, look on their face.

You can’t change people. Although it’s a saying we frequently use, really accepting that means you hold fast to your boundaries like a life raft, especially around toxic people.

I came from a kooky family but we did Christmas right. We put aside our differences, and showed up, on time, respecting the effort we had all made to have a special day together.   Homemade gifts showcased every person’s creativity, and the food, my goodness, the food!

Since those days when we gathered on Christmas Eve to see one another, make our way to church, and finish off our meal and gift giving in the wee hours of the morning, so much has changed. I’ve experienced great loss during the holidays more than once. I’ve struggled to put food on the table and gifts under the tree. I’ve had Christmases when the pain of loneliness was almost unbearable. In other words, I’ve worked damn hard for my happy, and I’m not letting anyone take it from me.

I want no part of disrespectful, entitled people under any circumstances, but especially during one of the most joyful, loving, happy times of the year.

I have stopped being the only one who engineers parties, family gatherings and sacred times to connect. Planning, shopping, cooking, and decorating take a lot of time. I love doing it when I know it means something to my family and friends, and I resent doing it when someone shits all over the plans. I stopped buying gifts I didn’t want to buy and came back to my homemade roots. I stopped hosting parties for people who may or may not show up. And you know what? The world didn’t come to an end. In fact, it feels damn good. Boozy-eggnog-in-my-cocoa-good.

My exhaustion levels have gone WAY down, and my Hallmark Christmas movie watching time has gone up. I have come back to the sweet meditation of making; sewing, baking, stitching. And the people I thought it was so important to connect with have faded into distant social media clicks. Live and learn.

Boundaries are the best gift you can give yourself for Christmas. They give you the time and space you need to heal, and root yourself in traditions, new and old, that bring you joy.

 

 

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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.