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Travelling Light: Decluttering

travel lightAfter learning that my friend died a week ago, I wondered what I had to remember her by. Keepsakes are precious and the one I have from her is a tiny tile she brought back from Delft in her Dutch homeland.

Along with my grandmother’s nurses cap, my son’s framed art, and my one photo album, that tile is among  the things that will likely stay with me forever.

You read that correctly by the way. I only have one photo album.

Trust me. After twenty some years working in the funeral business you really can’t take it with you, and those who try to, make it really damn hard on their family.

The burden of leaving a huge pile of stuff for your loved ones to sort through after your death equals a crap load of emotional guilt when they realize that they too, can’t possibly save your precious memories.

Like I said, I have one photo album. When I moved into my current home, I realized just how much I had stashed away during the eight year stay we had at our previous home. I didn’t want to burden my child with having to sift through over 30 albums of meaningless photos should anything happen to me (and it will).  Photos were paired down to one album for myself, and five for the kid.

I kept at least one photo of each of my favourite people. When I open that album, which is rarely, my memories come flooding back. I remember how far I’ve come, who I loved and who loved me back. I don’t need a multi-volume album collection to remember the most meaningful moments in my life.

What I cherish from the days at that old apartment are the memories. The feeling that I get, no matter how foggy the details, thinking of the time  I spent parenting my favourite person in the world.  Nothing can bring those times back.

I’m ready to go. As far as my stuff goes anyway.  What I mean is, there’s not a hell of a lot I’m attached to. Almost everything of sentimental value fits inside a small trunk that I use for a coffee table.  The rest I hold in my heart.

Despite priding myself on my eclectic home, which is filled with framed art created by my friends, and special momentos, I really have very little stuff that I’m attached to.

More important than decluttering is the realization that the things that are special to me are connected to memories that are unique to me. Very few things hold meaning for anyone else, so why should I burden anybody  with sorting through meaningless stuff?

Pass down your stories, not your stuff.

Offer your sentimental items to someone who may also have an emotional appreciation for them. Donate anything that someone else would be grateful to have and use.  If you must, photograph the things that break your heart to part with but didn’t make the final cut, and load them in an album to look at when you need to reminisce.

Let your lightness lift you to new places and spaces.

 

 

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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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Na-mas-ummer-day

 

I woke up with pillow stripes imprinted on my face. Sweat had soaked through the front of my t-shirt, and pooled down the deep, fold of venus between my breasts.

No, I hadn’t been jarred from sleep from one of my recurring nightmares. Nor did I wake up disoriented, wondering where I was. I had boldly carried out a fleece blanket and old pillow from a couch that made an unlikely escape from the 80’s  and landed at the cottage. I carried my blankie down from the deck, across the broad granite that led down to the water, and pulled it across the dock like a ball gown. There are unspoken cottage rules, and this was a ginormous no-no.

I spread out the no-no blanket in a flourish, flopped the pillow just above the finished edge, and fell to my knees in a half-cat-half-collapsed-forty-four-year-old-woman-with-a-white-wine-spritzer-buzz, and collapsed onto my stomach. For two hours.

No, I did not wake up with a sore neck. I did not have a sunburn. I did not care that the neighbours likely thought I was an eyesore of a wildwoman with curly hair that set a bad example for their granddaughter.  Swayed by the rocking motion of the dock, and the clear conscience of a woman who is both tipsy and morally upstanding, I slept the sound sleep of a child. And then I drank more wine.

marshmallowThis weekend, I slept late into the first morning in the bedroom that mercifully faces northwest and is properly dark (as all bedrooms should be). I ate an entire bag of marshmallows roasted over  late night fires. The kind that snaps and crackles and leaves you mesmerized by the flames until there are only coals left, illuminating the deafening silence of the sounds of the forest.

I spent an extra-long weekend just being. I read.  I napped. I wrote. I sipped.  I watched the movie version of one of Roald Dahl’s adult novels, and I did not come anywhere near the minimum ten-thousand steps a day which are supposed to keep all of us supple and clot-free.

And then I came home to my day-to-day habits.

There are no marshmallows in my cupboard, and I’ve rid the house of  secret chocolate stashes. Don’t get me wrong, I raid my adult son’s candy stash left over from little gifties from people who still think of him as a kid. Usually I do that late at night when my anxiety flares and my imagination won’t lay down and go to sleep like a good demon.

There is energy to be nurtured and built up during these precious, lazy days of summer, when you don’t wander anywhere but through the still, muck of your own thoughts until it settles; clear. I believe our bodies recharge like our smartphone batteries when exposed to enough sunlight and very little expectation.

A regular diet of this makes maintaining good habits much easier to abide.

Let me be clear; the marshmallows also help with clarity…the singular focus required to toast it perfectly on every surface without coming too close to the flame is a meditation in itself.

As is the sugar headache I wake up with the next morning.

These are the kind of things that remind me that getting my skinny-dipping-chunking-dunking  buns back to every-day-life and yoga class isn’t so damn bad at all.  Namaste my marshmallow-loving compadres. Na-mas-ummer-day.

 

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Self-Esteem in the Middle-Age of Social Media

journalI’m supposed to be doing something else right now. Chances are, you are too. But, here I am, loungewear donned, tucked in by the fireplace with hot lemon water by my side, writing to you.

This morning, after a dreamy 3.5 hours of sleep, I woke up to see my son off to work. I’m fighting a seven month infection that just won’t quit, and share a bed with a man who snores like  freight train. I lack sleep, and therefore, I find it very difficult to muster the motivation to do anything but crave a snooze.

My go-to connection to the outside world other than work, and a vacation where all I did was read and occupy a beach chair, is my social media. I try to follow sites, pages, people and accounts that inspire me to be healthy, happy and productive.

Last night I made a sincere start reading, “The Year of Yes“, by Shonda Rhimes.  I’m likely the only woman on the planet who does not know a lot about Shonda Rhimes. I was surprised to hear that she was a single mom and so successful just as much as I was shocked to learn she was a no-thank-you-RSVPing-introvert.  The reason I don’t know a

lot about Shonda Rhimes is that I’m too busy to watch tv, trying accomplish everything I’ve decided to do.

I put my book aside at 2:00 am and felt that I didn’t do enough in comparison to Ms. Shonda. If this woman could be a successful writer with three children, how come I’m just a successful funeral director with an international athlete for a son, and three post-grad diplomas on the wall (they’re not literally on my wall)? “I’m such a loser”, I thought to myself, and then went upstairs and climbed in bed next to Snorey McSnorerson.

japanesepizza hashtag on Instagram • Photos and Videos

This morning at the crack of 5:45 am (and I am by no stretch of any imagination a morning person), I was scrolling through someone’s Japanese, vegan Instagram feed and all I could think was, “Oh.My.God…that’s just way too much chopping, ” and then I thought, “I’m too lazy to chop?! I’m such loser.”

But I’m not a loser. I just temporarily lose myself in everyone else’s social media story branding (or lie as Shonda would say). When you feel lousy, people who disguise their humanity by editing out their flaws can make you feel like a big, fat, loser.

And today, yes, I am too lazy to chop. I’m too lazy to reduce the ingredients for a sweet Japanese barbecue sauce over low heat while I do crunches and make a duck face at the other end of my selfie stick. But that’s just for today, while I create, and write, and do something that makes me feel beautiful from the inside out.

Tonight, I shall dig back in to, The Year of Yes, catch my second wind, and light up my social calendar. That’s just how I roll, even without homemade, exotic sauce or perfect abs.

 

 

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Misery Loves Company

complaining

I was at a workshop this weekend (yah, you know, the kind that privileged middle-aged-middle-class women attend to re-energize their lives). Our warm-up was to introduce ourselves one-on-one and tell the other person what our dream was.

For a split second I faltered. What was my dream? I knew what it was, but would that sound foolish???

Yah, that was my saboteur talking, so I gave her the finger and a shove, and repeated myself over and over until everyone in the room knew what my dream was, and I believed it could happen.  Worth the money and the time, thank you very much.

Although we were focussing on realigning our lives, there was a lot of misery in the room.  I supposed that’s why we all went – to banish it to the realm of 80’s hairspray and baby oil sun-tanning.

My mother, whom I relied on to teach me how not to be in the world, imparted  two solid pieces of wisdom upon me;

  1. Time goes by faster as you get older.
  2. There will always be assholes.

She was right about both of those things.

What I also learned from observing her was that misery loves company. And what I’m learning at this ripe old age of mid-forty-something is that not only does it love company, it absolutely requires it to survive.

There seems to be something entirely blasé about this time in life for most people. Whether they are in the throes of child-rearing, stale marriages, or realizing that their prowess now gives up the occasional purr rather than a ferocious growl, people in general connect via the lack in their lives rather than the abundance and joy. Cool has become the preferred carnival mask of middle age.

giphyI’m too old for cool.

I’m middle aged,(don’t argue with me about what middle-aged is, I’m a mortician, and mid-forties is way past middle aged for most of us, so get with the program), I want to be cool about nothing. I want to be passionately engaged about what gets me excited, and dismiss what drains my energy.

Misery invites company, it’s a seducer. It loves to lock it’s lips on our sexy, positive energy and suck the last breath from it.  Leaving it limp and impotent.

Misery is easy. Being miserable means you don’t have to invest or commit to anything.  And that’s so fucking easy to get away with. Misery sucks the life out of everything around it, in order to stay above water.

Joy, unlike misery is so busy smelling the flowers and investing in more joyful interactions that it generates enough energy to keep itself afloat.

If you are lonely go out join something. If you are bored at work, take a class and learn something new. If you’re fat, go for a walk. If you’re sex starved, trust me ladies, it’s out there to be had. If you don’t have enough time to do what you love, set boundaries….You get the picture.  Oh, and quit making excuses, that’s misery wrestling you to the ground, and not in the sweaty, sexy, one-garter-came-loose kind of way.

If you were to step into the room that I did on the weekend and were asked to everyone what your dream was, and you don’t know…you absolutely need to know. Misery has kept you company for far too long.

 

 

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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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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.