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New Year Week Two

Week two of the new year and all is well.

Relatively. I think. And hey, what I think is the only thing that matters when it comes to my own reality…right? Don’t answer that.

A few years ago the big thing was saying YES to new experiences and and opportunities, whether they were scary or not. I think that keeping with my focus for the new year (more exposure to new people, experiences, places and events), it will involve a lot of saying yes.

So,  I said yes to an invitation to meet someone new, and to go somewhere I’ve never been.

I set out via transit (I’m a suburbanite who always drives), and loved this new route. This opens up new ease of access, to places I’ve yet to discover, and also allows me to drink more margaritas.

campechano

I met a lovely new woman who had suggested a Toronto Fringe Festival play (Cannibal), which was well-written and marvellously executed on stage.   We strolled down to Campechano for dinner. I’m not going to rate the restaurant because I totally overdid it on Mexican food this year, and if I have another lime and cilantro soaked ceviche any time soon, I’ll die. Just beware that they are a taqueria, and the menu reflects that.They did have tres leche cake on the menu for dessert (the only dessert on the menu), so that’s something.

New acquaintance, new restaurant, new theatre. Not bad for a night out.

I simply could not leave the King Bathurst area without a spree at Forno Cultura, by far, my favourite Italian and Mexican bakery. I tried a new sour cherry type of strudel and me ta lovely employee who reminisced with me about the good-old-days of Terroni prior to one of the founders’ passing. He graciously provided me with an olive oil tasting to win me over from my Terroni stand-by, and pointed out that the  chef behind the wall of glass, who was calmly cutting blocks of butter into uniform cubes was on Iron Chef and won in the flavour category.

bookshelfOn another excursion to return my flu-addled kiddo to university I made my way to a really cool looking place that combines a very well-curated bookstore, with a cinema, and not one, but two restaurants in the same building. It’s called the Bookshelf, and it’s an amazing place to spend time (and money).

All of this because I said yes.

 

 

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New Year-New You, Which Includes New Undies

giphy-2Amid all that can be happening on any given day, death always calls us out.

As many of you know I’ve been bound to the house, with little social contact other than running necessary errands.  Ironically, today, my outing was to a funeral. There’s nothing more poignant than the thud of cold dirt hitting a plain, wooden casket on the bottom of a single grave. It makes you think about what’s important (my kid), and the things I can’t control (my kid).

As a young funeral director, death brought a hunger for life that was sated by sexy shoes, late, late nights, and a swath of of decadence for every hunger.  As an old funeral director, death brings the longing for continued relationships with the old friends, time to create and new friends with whom I can explore all of the fun and excitement still left to savour.

Which brings me back to shoes. Am I the only forty something mamma who has let her shoe game go the way of extremes? I’m a beach baby from birth. My professional uniform consists of  ultra conservative shoes and my home life is a melieu of thongs and runners.

womensundies

And then there’s undies. Today I pulled out a black pair of barely-there delicates when I was reaching into my pink and white drawer. When  was the last time that I wore these, I thought to myself, as I pushed them to the back and frantically felt around for the giant suckem-ins that I hoped I still had. You know what I’m talking about ladies, the one stretchy pair of gitch that hides the abundance of the good lord’s handiwork. The ones you pull out when you wear one of two types of outfits; one that’s a size too small after the holidays, or one that’s meant to leave little to the imagination.  I haven’t worn the latter for a very, very, very long time.

Standing at the graveside, with my tights having slithered down past my crotch against my teflon-slick miracle-granny-panties, my new friend Hayley was describing the ideal of humility that was at the core of Jewish funeral traditions. I was trying to focus on what she was saying at the same time as I was wondering how, exactly one was supposed to get tights to stay up against the ugliest slipperiest undies in the world. Perhaps I’ll go back to garters; sexier, and less likely to leave you with your tights around your knees in minus five degree weather while you shovel dirt onto a casket. I waddled back to my car like a baby penguin, knees pressed together so my dignity didn’t slip down any further underneath my black overcoat.

A few years ago, after experiencing the death of someone close t me, I  went back to a simple uniform and community anonymity.  It was a big relief.  I went from where everyone knew my name to a place where no one did.

There is always something within passion itself that opens doors to a different world and a different way of embracing the world in which we find ourselves.

The new year may bring something much different for me though. Socially I mean. My private life finds me in hippie style, barefoot and outside as much as possible, with flowy dresses, jeans, and flip flops. My mom-life is a sports mom-life (jeans, sweaters, and anything that will keep me warm while sitting on cold metal bleachers in late fall).

This new year will find me back out and about. I need it. I need you. Besides my regular ‘resolutions’ of acquiring more grace and patience, I’m going to give two new resolutions a go; no judgement (I can be such a hardass),  and new friends to go out to explore the world. This must include socially appropriate duds, including functional undies, sexy undies, and stunning footwear.

My passion is writing, and what better reason to give new experiences with new friends a try? After all, to write stories, we must have some, even making friends at a Jewish funeral with your tights around your knees.

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The Longest Night: Your Invitation

Like most adults, the magic of Christmas wanes with each passing year. This year I’m struggling to grasp that spirit at all, even a tiny shred of it.

I absolutely love getting out for Christmas dinners with my friends, I enjoy strolling the markets, and listening to Christmas music.  I realized just how un-Christmasy my life is this year after reading an update from my cousin this morning about having his first Christmas dinner in the books.

This after waking up and staring at the ceiling of what used to be my writing room, and thinking just that…this does not feel like Christmas.

When I was a young mother, doting on my son, baking, cooking and inviting friends into our home made the season so very special. Long past having a big wish list, I have always used Christmas as an excuse to connect with the people in my life whom I don’t get to spend time with often enough. It’s a special part of the year that carries me through, having reinforced the bonds of these precious friendships.

the longest night

But not this  year. This year I am bound to the house, run off my feet, and honestly, feeling lonesome for those friends.

Loneliness and isolation can make a pathetic woman, and I am anything but that. So this year, albeit late in the season, I’m going to begin my efforts to connect with the special people in my life. The sustenance of kindred spirits during times like this is essential to anyone’s well-being.

In years past, I used to host an event on the eve of winter solstice called, “The Longest Night”, where my friends would gather, bringing a piece of art (writing, music, visual art) to share with the group. The theme was always sharing light in the darkness. Celebrating the darkness where mystery was waiting to be revealed, ideas were ruminating, and reminding everyone that there is beauty even in the mystery of the dark.

So this year, once again, I’m hoping more selfishly than ever that my friends arrive in the darkness, to be received into the warmth of a circle of friends.

 

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Wisdom ‘Four’ The Ages:Soda Makes Your Hair Curly

fun on the beachIt’s been a week.

Ups, downs and all arounds.

Throughout all of it, I realized two things; I’m getting old, and I’m getting  better at the important things.

This week a childhood pal’s hubby died, and a school chum of mine died as well. They were both in their early 40’s. Before you start sending condolences, I want to be clear; neither of these two men were part of my every-day life.  My memories of them are frozen in the past somewhere among forgotten first dates, moonlit teenage-trists on the beach, and making out to Bryan Adams songs. They were pee-your-pants funny, and the kind of people you were happy to spend time with.

I’m a funeral director, so I’m not a stranger to death. But no one is immune to the rattle of mortality when she crosses your path all jangley-chained and staring you in the face with her gaunt eyes .  The death of these two vibrant men was a reminder of how fast joy and enthusiasm can get lost in adulthood.

The takeaway message is clear: enjoy it while you can. Be grateful for what you have, love the people you love without shame and with wild abandon.  Responsibility can include silliness.

Like I mentioned earlier, these things also made me realize that I’m getting better at the important stuff.

Little girl on the playgroundThe best part of my week, besides my own lovely kid at home, was a conversation that I had with a four-year-old-boy at the funeral home where I work. We discussed the benefits and drawbacks of the differnt flavours of birthday cake .We also decided that absolutely nobody is ever too old to order a Happy Meal at McDonalds because the toys are awesome sometimes.  And, at the ripe old age of almost-five, Henry decided that although he thought my hair was pretty, he would take my advise and stay away from drinking soda. That’s the reason I gave him that my hair was so curly (after all, it was the fizz from soda that bubbled all the way up from my stomach and into my head that made it that way). Henry stuck to cranberry juice.

I also dragged my middle-aged-not-a-morning-person-butt out of bed to go to an event that was very important to a beautiful woman whom I work with.  She unveiled a painting that she had been working on for a year, and let me tell you, the joy she experienced today was contagious. Life gets better the more we love other people and the more we listen to our intuition.

Friday night dinner was hosted casually without fuss, with new and old friends around the table. Not once did I wonder if it was all good enough – I relaxed and felt the overwhelming fullness of spirit we are all capable of when we let go of ego and just become present.

The takeaway message is clear: enjoy it while you can. Be grateful for what you have, love the people you love without shame and with wild abandon.  Responsibility can include silliness.  Take time to have conversations about life with four-year-olds. They’ve got this living-life thing all figured out.

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Making Space: The Genius of Silence

coffee lakePractice makes perfect.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied upon this little nugget of wisdom as a parent when my kiddo whines about not being able to do something. My response has always been; “How do you think I got so good at it? Practice makes perfect; get to it.

Yesterday I was anxious. The kind of anxious that feels like you have a thousand bees buzzing in  your head telling you all of the things you need to do, have to worry about, and can’t control. I was miserable; inside and outside.

Fortunately for me, I had a few hours of quiet time at the end of the day .Quiet for me is heaven. Quiet in the morning gives me time to meditate, and to take in just how fortunate I am.  It’s never a process whereby I sit cross-legged on a cushion wearing a mala made in Bali or a tunic made of hemp. No. It’s simply sitting with my thoughts.

Last night, in the quiet of solitude, I was able to spend some time reading the words of Thich Nhat Hanh.   It reminded me that my practice is not perfect. Far from it in fact. Just because I studied at the temple, attended dharma classes and go to silent retreats does not mean that my meditation muscle is exempt from a good workout on a regular basis.

As adults, we forget that our health as a whole is something that we need to practice on a regular basis.

It’s time for me to make space for some of the books and advice that I’ve gotten in the past. It’s time to make an effort again putting theory into practice.

It’s time for the genius of silence, and for my practice of peace to become a little bit more perfect.

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Fear – You Show Me Yours & I’ll Show You Mine

storytotellFear is a slippery little fella. Sometimes you need to hang on to it so you don’t get damaged, and other times, you need to set it adrift on a flaming raft with an over-zealous shove and a one-fingered salute.

This past weekend, fear crept in and tried to snuggle up in my heart. Good thing I can be a cold-hearted, logical gal when I need to be. Good thing I have friends who remind me not to let my imagination get the best of me and conjure up all sorts of possible ways that my happiness can be sabotaged. Good thing I didn’t turn tail and run. Good thing.

Regardless of what we identify as being bountiful or lacking in our lives, we live within the comfort zone of the known. We live rooted in the identities that we have crafted for ourselves. We cling to our wounds until they no longer serve as shields.

The truth is, we often cling to our wounds long past their expiry date, and we do this because that is the only way we know how to go on living. We do this often without knowing we’re doing it. We fear leaving what is known and comfortable to seek what is meaningful.

During the past 48 hours I  have received calls, and had coffee with friends who have all experienced some sort of crisis rooted in fear. I was an addict. I’m drinking too much. I keep winding up in toxic relationships. Today I heard all of these symptoms, and I offered as much compassion and humour as I could. After all, being fearful is normal. We need to tell and re-tell our stories. We need to be the storyteller, and we need to be the witness to the life-stories woven by others. Change is scary, and we need our friends to walk beside us when we don’t know if we have the courage to take another step on a path that leads to goodness-only-knows-where-but-there-had-better-be-margaritas-and-a-bed.

Fear of feeling, dealing with the here and now, or not having someone to prop up an ego seem to have been  served up a la carte over the weekend. It’s  a menu everyone eventually gets served; long in the planning and very bitter. It keeps popping up on the menu until you get tired of the bitter aftertaste and are inspired to take over the kitchen.

brokenThe most curious of fears is the fear of getting what you want. It means letting go of an identity that was defined by lack of the thing itself; career success, loving relationship, independence, you name it. You have to be brave enough to break down the walls protecting your own kingdom of fear.

While trying to shake off the snug embrace of a well-known-and-outlived-it’s-usefulness-fear-of intimacy which had slithered it’s way into my mind, I had a rather synchronistic encounter.

After zenning out and treating myself to some self-care paraphernalia at an over-incensed and herbal-tea’d hippie hang-out, I wandered back to my car completely and utterly distracted. Rationalizing with oneself can be very engrossing, and I was neck deep. I was not going to half-ass this one. I was going to face this thing down even if it meant a haze of incense, tantra-drumming, and Buddhist-throat-singing loud enough to scare the bejeezus out of the neighbours. While I was getting all bad-assed and spiritual with this fear, I was being watched.

Two men of questionable intent approached my car, one wedged between the driver’s side door and the car next to me, pulled on my door handle and banged on my window while the other stood at the right side.

Thanks to good habits, my door was locked, and the car was started. Thanks to a friend who was texting an invitation for a drinky-poo, I was head-down-distracted, allowing these two men to target me.

Hours after I had safely pulled away and caught my breath from the initial shock, I sank into the corner of my couch and cried. I sobbed and relived those few seconds of that man’s face just inches from my own.

But why? I was safe in my own space now. I was ok.

I cried because the threat of harm pulled me back into the rational fear I had developed throughout years of abuse and  assault. It was like someone tossed me back into the arena to face another hungry beast after I thought I’d finally made it out alive.

What I did next was remarkable. I reached out. Well, I reached out the best I could. Via text of course, because I couldn’t bear to speak and have anyone hear my voice tremble. My pride wouldn’t hear of it.  “I kinda need you.”

It’s rather ironic that my fear of letting someone in was challenged head on by someone literally trying to get in.

presence.jpgPart of healing and kicking fear in the ass is learning that it’s ok to be vulnerable sometimes.  It’s a lesson that I have found extremely challenging. But with true self-compassion, vulnerability can be the greatest warrior in the battle on the front-line of fear.

There is a spiritual alchemy exchanged every time we offer support or receive it. This alchemy is grace in action, mercy in motion, the very human breath of compassionate and spiritual living. It is the greatest enemy of fear. It’s ok to kinda need someone, they kinda need you too. Trust me, if you show them yours, they’ll show you theirs.

 

 

 

 

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Just When You Think It Can’t Get Any Worse

danceinthekitchenI have had one hell of a year.

It’s been a  ‘real doozy’ as your granny might say. Like a feather pillow at a pre-teen slumber party, sometimes you just get the emotional shit kicked out of you.

Tonight as I stretched toward the top of the cupboards with the longest barbeque tool I could find, I heard the voice of he-who-shall-not-be-named telling me that I was going to hurt myself. Deftly I scooped up a long wicker tray, and tipped it into my waiting hand…like a boss.

A few months ago, I was planning things with this he-who-shall-not-be-named sweetheart. I hadn’t been that happy in sooooo long. I was over the moon.

Tonight I’m alone.

As over the moon as I was a few months ago, I dove that deeply into mourning the loss of all that it was going to be.

What is it they say? I think it goes something like this, “ My knight in shining armor turned out to be an asshole in tinfoil“. Whatever… and at this age and stage, who cares?  It is, whatever it is. It’s. Not. My. Problem.

One thing that I do know for sure is that the future is too precious to waste dwelling on the past.

As I heard that voice in the back of my head, tipping my wicker baking basket over my head, I realized that I was truly happy. Happy. Goofy smile, humming to myself, dancing like a fool all by myself in my tiny kitchen.

I  stirred caramel corn and baked devilishly good cupcakes while bopping around my little kitchen in tights and a t-shirt, not missing anyone or anything. You see, just when you think it can’t get any worse, it often does, get better.

Over time, and with careful observation of how my mumster handles herself with grace, strength, and my favourite trait; humor, I realize just how much control we do have when it comes to having a good day or a bad day.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes life just stinks, and you need to curl up in a ball. You need to rage, cry, hate, feel insecure and alone. You need to do all of this without apology or holding back.

And one day you’ll be done with it.

You’ll find yourself all alone, smiling from the inside out, and you will realize just how damn wonderful this one, precious, life really is.