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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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The Frustration of Focus & The Benefit of Flow

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This is the first time in my life that I’m focussed on doing what I love. Being my healthiest self, and focussed on focus.

I’ve never been a believer in having it all, at least not at the same time. Now more than ever I’m sure of that.

Life has stabilized after a handful of years getting settled as a nearly-empty nester, a coupled up singleton, and one of the more experienced of a great group of colleagues.  Life has finally opened up into a chapter of more breathing room to focus on what brings me joy.

I’m not talking about my child or my lovely partner, or the beautiful friendships that I’ve nurtured throughout the years. I’m talking about what brings ME joy; nurturing a healthier, more active body, and carving out time and space (have you seen my awesome little writing space?!), to focus on writing.

I’m SO focussed. I spent an entire afternoon plotting 12 months of writing submissions. I dug out all of my old writing and put it in one of the drawers in the two desks I need to keep all of my scribbling organized. I consulted with a life coach. I became accountable to myself. I took a project on my winter beach vacation. I give a shit about letting my precious, wild, creative ideas get away from me without nurturing them.

“I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

It’s spring, so I had to take a break away to plan and plant my garden, welcome my baby boy home from uni, and spend more time at the yoga studio. All this joyful living has made me jolly. Trying to focus on family, health and the garden has made my writing suffer. So frustrating!

How fortunate am I to be frustrated that I don’t have enough time between my good job, spoiling my adult son, being a loving partner, and keeping up with the people who have buoyed me up all of those tough years, to write all day, every day? Very. I’m very fortunate.

Focus is wonderful, but so is a blessed life. And I don’t want to forget that as I scroll through my insta-feed of minimalist works spaces and uber-achievers.  My big, messy, patchwork life of love and vitality is more than a lot of people ever dream of having. And I intend to go with it. To flow. To savour every second. Nothing lasts forever.

Focus is something I can come back to again and again. So here I am, in a window seat at the coffee shop, keyboard and second draft of my novel ready for a serious workout.

If you haven’t quite made it to this place in life where you can see your blessing manifest and you feel like a suffocated artist, buy yourself  Big Magic . It saved my creative spirit, and kept me plodding away when I had too many bills and not enough time or space to feel justified in spending the extra time to create.  Just keep going. Just keep telling the universe what you need, and somehow you will pass from survival to thriving. I promise.

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The Buddha at Our Feet: The Wisdom of Annie

buddhist toesBecause life is short, and our intuition is bang on.

That’s why we need women in our lives like Annie.

Annie is my new pedicure professional. She’s voluptuous, has a full-rolling-belly laugh, and swears like a sailor. She also believes in spirits and the unexplainable.

I had stumbled into her shop after having a wonderful massage from another great lady, Erin, my massage therapist. She had just finished up our hour long appointment by rubbing sweet orange essential oil in my scalp on on my face. I looked the full part of a wild woman, and I smelled like heaven.

“Oh my god, it looks fantastic! I thought you had mousse in it.” Was Annie’s response when I tried to explain away my crazy she-wolf hair.

Annie could barely take her eyes off her phone when I walked in, no doubt skeptical about having to deal with another ho-hum woman who wanted her nails shaped just so-and-not-like-that-but-like-this. But both being straightforward and open women, it didn’t take long for us to connect.

Crouched at my feet was a wise-goddess disguised as a blue-collar-service worker.

Sometimes we stumble upon people in our lives that reinforce our own wild nature. Annie is one of those people.

At first, I thought, “Sweet Jesus, save me from the blabber-mouthed fool.” But she kept talking, and I realized that although some of what she said was shocking, it was all true. True to her, true in the world, and deeper than talking about the weather, or how our children were doing so well in school. Annie gets it.

She gets feeling nervous about firsts, body image, the plate full of worries that every woman sits down to every morning. She knows what it’s like to look down and think; I’d rather go hungry than digest this shit, and she carries on. We are kindred spirits.

It is so easy to slip into the Stepford-trap of conformity, of body-hating, of tame language, or wanting what the Jones’ have. It’s so easy to not be satisfied, to crave more, to fall into the trap of feeling not-good-enough.

Women like Annie are few and far between. I have been blessed to have her in my life; a Buddha at my feet.

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Letting Fear Scream Like the Child It Is

It’s April 7th and there is snow on the ground. I feel (physically) like I’ve been hit by a truck , and you know what? I’m so miserable I want to crawl out of my own skin.

zen circle.jpgWhich is really crappy. But sometimes crappy is ok. Sometimes we must embrace the tired, sore, discouraged and frustrated parts of our psyche and let them have their say.

Today I’m not in a shit mood, that’s why I’m writing about it. I’ve gained a little more perspective and had a little more sleep.

You see,  I was also in a shit mood on the 9th. Despite the sun shining in as I drove to work,  some poor sod got the finger when he rode my bumper, and not just a flip of the bird. I must have held it up there  and waved it around for a full 10 seconds like a hillbilly waving the confederate flag. I wanted to make sure he saw it. Yah, not a proud moment.
It’s in these moments, I want to not only be aware of, but practice, Thich Nhat Hahn’s famous teaching about cradling our suffering like a newborn baby. I want to be aware of that, but what I usually do is spiritually squirm like a spoiled toddler, wanting to stamp my feet, whine until someone gives me ice cream and then tucks me in for a nap.  But I am getting better at it.

Spiritual practice is long and sometimes it feels grueling. In a culture that praises speed, cultivating grace is a long, slow, lifetime process.

Recently I’ve had the benefit of more solitude and silence than usual. Unlike during years past, I’ve had questions of clarity pop into my mind about my attitudes, reactions and fears. Better still, I’ve had the opportunity to let the reasons why come to the surface.

angry trollWaving a white flag and needing a hug, all of these reasons have come crawling out of the past. Finally. Since the distillation of my emotions and thoughts, fear seems to be their leader.

When you’re angry, jealous, sad or hurt, ask yourself why? And then ask yourself why again. And again, and again….trust me, it always, always boils down to fear.

So give yourself the bad days, the pissy, miserable moods, and yah, every once in a while you might slip up and lay on your horn for thirty seconds or flip an intentional bird. Just look a little deeper if you can when the clouds have passed. You might catch a glimpse of your fear poking out of hiding, ready to make friends.

 

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Us vs. Them: A Dangerous Game During Dangerous Times

single-issues-struggleIt was super important to me to  able to take part in the Women’s March on Washington, here in my own country.

I have been sick like a dog for over a week, but felt the need to show up and be present.

As we gathered at Queen’s Park in Toronto, I initially felt a little disappointed with the crowd, but estimates are that approximately 60,000 people attended. How they come up with these numbers, I will never know.

Standing on the muddy ground of our provincial legislature, I was humbled. How could I express my gratitude to be able to gather like this on public lands to advocate for human rights, when so many times in (relatively) recent history, people have been tortured, killed and imprisoned for doing the same thing?

I was also a bit cynical . I’d never seen so many pairs of pricey Blundstones and Doc Martin’s in one place in my life, and from where I stood, the crowd looked pretty darn, middle-class-privileged-and-very-white. Let’s face it, the folks working for minimum wage were working their minimum wage jobs while I was out there in my down-filled coat and Canadian made hat, looking forward to a warm pub and a hearty beer after all was said and done.

But that’s the point really. If people with some affluence and power do not advocate, the marginalized may never have a voice big enough to be heard.

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This all lingers under the shadow of the recent inauguration of a man who espouses so many vile qualities and completely lacks empathy. As a bit of an economic conservative and extremely social liberal, I fear the future. Even though I favour the left, this election wasn’t about Conservative vs. Liberal or Republican vs. Democrat. It was about how deeply disturbing it is that a man who is so cruel could be looked to as a leader by so many.

Kindness, above all else, matters. I’m not talking about  naivete or handouts.What I’m talking about is ensuring the basic needs of everyone are met; meaningful work that affords food on the table and a safe place to live. I know what it’s like to worry about both, and that kind of worry isn’t healthy.

What I’m trying to get at is that yesterday during the Womens’ March, I was very aware of how quickly my rights can be taken away. How easily it becomes an us against them game; I’m more of a victim than you because of my gender, my skin colour, my profession….in other words, how easy it is to fracture our basic bond as human beings, and how easily our political world can turn to horror.

We need to let the different freedoms we’re fighting for bring us together rather than divide us.

It was empowering to see so many of us care enough to get out of our comfort zones to gather together this weekend. I just hope that we can keep the momentum going instead of letting our privileged, North American apathy carry us back to relive a very dark time in our recent history. More than ever we need action. More than ever we need to be present.

 

 

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2017- Wishing You Enough

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“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.” ~Walt Whitman~
Enough.

It was a simple sign that hung above the chair of my friend’s father during the last years of his life. We were never sure whether it meant he’d had enough, or that he felt like all that he had was enough; a distinct difference.

It was a quiet transition from the old to the new this year, but a transition nonetheless. With change on the horizon at our home for  the slippery, tail end of 2017,  it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In the moment however, I feel like I have enough, and that’s an awfully nice feeling.

One thing that I’ve noticed contributes to much unsatisfaction and anxiety is how ruthlessly we subject the minutiae of our lives to the scrutiny of being under the microscope.

Enough navel gazing already!

Enough analyzing to death every, single, damn thing that you do. Be. In.The. Moment.

My wish for you during 2017 is that your, “Enough”, is the deep, soul-satisfying kind.

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Life As Poetry: A Lesson From L. Cohen

bubblesI woke up this morning and don’t you know it, that tiniest bit of fear about change had crept in while I was sleeping.

Change often is an uncomfortable process that yeilds beautiful results – if you let it.

So, as I padded around in my bare feet looking for my glasses, I paused to open an email from a couple whom I consider kindred spirits.  It inspired me, motivated me, and chased that little inkling of fear right out of my heart. It reminded me that my life ought to be more like my poetry; free flowing and without too much overthinking.

It’s time for change. It’s time to give my creativity, ‘land, lots of land under starry skies above,’. It’s been fenced in far too long.

I have work to do, and what better way to get motivated to clear physical and existential space than to listen to the wisdom of Leonard Cohen???

Wishing you a beautiful day…xo