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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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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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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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Nanowrimo 2019: Writing Commitments vs. Life

nanowrimo2019When I was a lot younger, someone I admired once snidely commented that I did a lot of things and then asked if I was good at any of them.  It was a gut punch, and I believe that he intended it that way.

But that was long ago, and had he asked me that today, I would have said I was good at all of them. I then would have turned the question on him, complete with the raised-eyebrow-who-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are-little-minion look.

Throughout the past couple of years I’ve added to the things I’m good at. I’ve taken classes, perfected techniques, and clobbered goals over the head. But sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Sometimes you strike out, and sometimes you hit it out of the park. What I’ve always thought mattered is that you have the courage to swing.

In honour of Nanowrimo this year, I came out swinging.  I set goals, joined an accountability group, pulled my first novel out of the dark corner of my hard drive, and prepped my characters to write a full outline of my third novel. Oh yes, I had goals. Very, lofty goals. I even took time off to dedicate to writing.

And then my man popped the question, and I said yes.

Very exciting for a gal who has been single for the better part of 20 years. A swath of emotion flung doors open in my psyche that I thought didn’t keep anything worthwhile behind them any more. There’s been a lot of processing of the trauma I came from, worked through, and gratitude. Oh, so much gratitude.

I’m planning a wedding!!! And it’s going to be joyous. If you don’t know me, I will share this with you; my first wedding ripped open a wound that ran deep down through generations of physical and psychological abuse in all of their insidious forms.  It’s like I can finally wave good-bye to all of those things. The pattern has been shattered – picture me flexing my muscles and smiling….

Nanowimo-what?!

Oh yah.

So this week if I’m gonna do Nano, I have to come out swinging.  (I’m counting these words toward my first day of word counting BTW) I’ve adjusted my goals after having successfully re-read my novel from last year again. There is depth to add, secondary characters to develop, and a sub-plot that’s waiting to be birthed.

The real commitment to Nanowrimo is to commit despite whatever else life might throw at us.  (413 words).

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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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Who Wants to Get Laid?

fashionI’ve decided that it’s angst that’s missing from my mid-life journey.

It’s a truth that jumped up in all its 1980’s-headband-glory and slapped me in the face. I was sitting at a beer-tent table taking in the motley cast of characters who had come out to see two 80’s bands, have a few drinks in the heat of the summer sun and relive their youth.

The bad hair, neon shirts, and big hair were all there, but the angst was missing. The tension was gone.When the lead singer of Loverboy howled out, “Who wants to get laid?”, only a vague cheer went up. We all knew that getting laid now would never be the same as getting laid then.

The crowd who once thought the term making love was creepy, totally gets it now. An older man once wisely told me that some things are just better as fantasies. He was right. The fantasy of getting laid then is much different than the fantasy of getting laid now; tight schedules, middle-aged bodies and the been-there-done-that lack of sheen.

Just like spiral perms and acid washed jeans, angst has its place in my repertoire of nostalgia. After all, it was the perfect fuel for breathtaking passion. I have to thank it for the part it played in my well-spent youth, despite it’s lack of discernment. Angst carried with it a hungry awareness of mortality. That hungry awareness has turned to sated gratitude now that I’m past my best before date.

Oh, and don’t go on about there’s still so much time left to do what I dream of. I know that. Oh, boy do I know that. Don’t get me wrong, I still experience desire. I’m still the same hot-blooded soul that I ever was. I’m just ok with it all now. There’s less anxiety, more satisfaction. Less time wasted on the people and things that don’t make sense in an energy exchange involving the elements of life that I find satisfying.

I do not buy into the idea that I need to define myself with some great mid-life shift. It’s the great continuum of false goods sold to women these days – that we must reinvent ourselves rather than continue to become fully who we have always been.

Yes, Mr. Loverboy, I would like to get laid. I would also like to stretch out in a large, comfortable bed afterward, sip some bubbly and nod off rather than have to hump in uncomfortable spaces and rush to get my clothes back on. Thank you for asking.

Gratitude fills in quite nicely for angst, with it’s soft and ample settling into the hollow spaces. My own angst packed up and waddled off years ago, leaving me quite content with who I am, and less anxious about making mistakes.  I also have better hair.

 

 

 

 

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February is For Love Stories – Not Just Fairytales

Aggie the cat was stretched out on the roof, just past the glass of the window that was tipped open to allow her coming and going. Taped to the glass was the vintage orange, cover of Tennessee Williams’, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. You would have had to be a complete idiot to have missed the pun.

It was tucked up in the reading room of Shakespeare and Company that I read, in its’ entirety, Neil Gaiman’s, Art Matters. Amongst all of the old, hard cover, well-bound books that had possibly been in the hands of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway or even Gertrude Stein, I soaked up the love of storytelling written by one of our contemporary masters.

 

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Valentine’s day is the one day a year that we set aside to tell our love stories. There are very few of us who have lifetime love stories to tell, about meeting, marrying, raising children, and living into our twilight years hand in hand with our soul mate.  But this isn’t the only love story. Love does not follow a script. It follows the heart, and hopefully, if you are lucky enough, you have, by mid-life ,a small collection of stories that continue to inspire you.

Spending time in Paris, tucked up on the old daybeds of Shakespeare and Company will always be one of those stories. The syncronicity of how I met my late, angel-to-artists friend Nick Beat is another.

Stories are the thread that binds the fabric of our collective experience. Sharing them should be treated as a sacred honour, worthy of our full attention. Worthy of dedicated time to gather and share.

February is mostly past. Valentine’s day is over. Our love stories involve more than romance and fairy tales. Don’t forget that. Celebrate all of those things that make you vibrant; tell your stories.