Posted in Life, Life Lessons, Meaning of Life, Toronto Life, Toronto Star, Toronto Strong, Uncategorized

Toronto Strong – Take to Your Porch

tostrongI firmly believe that change starts at home. Grassroots caring is the most nasty guerrilla warfare of our time.

I woke up to a wall of ‘Toronto Strong’ on social media, but when I looked out my window, there was not a soul on the street. Not a neighbour to be found.

Laundry and dishes and meal planning suddenly took a backseat to the CBC News Network’s coverage of the mass murder that played out yesterday on a stretch of a nearby Toronto street.  Colleagues of mine watched people being mowed down on the sidewalk just outside of their office, and the rest of us watched as the scene replayed over and over on screens all afternoon.

Was it a terrorist? Was it an “involuntary celibate’ (misogynist)? How can we fortify our city against these attacks? These were the predominant questions posed by the media. But these questions merely poke at the symptoms asking for band-aid answers. They don’t come anywhere near getting at the cause of the misery that is murdering our world.

Stay Strong. That’s the overwhelming populace message choking the city today.

Let me offer another perspective; stay vulnerable. Allow your grief and fear and anger an outlet. Let your community of friends embrace you as you grieve and heal.

In a world that has become lost to the miracle of humanity, one that values material success over kindness, community, and the health of our spirit, staying strong may give a message of toughness that we just don’t need.

I concede that if it were my child or loved one callously killed, I would have a rage and hate with limitless depths. It would take a fountain of caring friends to help heal that massive dark hole in my life. We need one another, not just during times of tragedy, but every day.

Our communities have disappeared into subdivisions and condos with closed doors with invisible neighbours. We are too busy fighting a modern-day-material-survival-of-the-fittest to put the kettle on and hang out on our front porches. This is the root of the problem. We are insular and inward looking.

Reaching out and getting to know your neighbours is the first step to staying strong…as a community.

 

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How to Know When You’re Old

You know you’re getting old when…

You’ve become the person you used to look to for guidance. No where is this more evident than in my career.

I began a second career in my late twenties. Yah, I know that sounds outrageous, but it’s true. I was passionate, interested, engaged and enthusiastic.

If aging has taught me anything about the above qualities, it’s that I miss my enthusiasm the most.

growing older but not up

 

Don’t get me wrong, I get excited about things, but they’re different than they once were. After all, just this morning I actually uttered the words, ” I almost fell over when I met him. He looks just like a guy I used to date. Turned out he was a murderer.”

How much enthusiasm can you have for anything when you’ve had that kind of experience? I mean really, that kind of over-the-top-outrageousness wears thin after a while. Coming home to a cat, and  reheated take-out becomes heavenly.

And that’s how you know you’re getting old.

Yesterday my shift partner (whom has worked with me through a company change and six years) asked if the noise of our younger colleagues got to me. I had to admit that it did. I asked him, ” You know why it bothers us”?

“No,” he said.

“It’s because we’re old” I said with a little grin. “We’re the old ones now, and we used to be exactly like them.”

He nodded as he laughed and walked away muttering something about it being true.

And that’s how you know you’re getting old.

Last week I had an evening planned with one of my best gal-pals. I bought her tickets to see Jerusalem. The day-of, I received an email which I considered a warning. The gist of it was that running time of the play was three hours, so prepare to sit for a loooooong time. I was pissed. PISSED! Three hours?! What on earth could possibly be so good that I needed three hours to experience it. Goodness knows I didn’t want to be out all night. What I wanted was to go home, put on jeans and a sweater, and have some god-damned peace and quiet.

What I got instead was a very pleasant and unexpected reminder of just how amazing getting out really is for my creative spirit.

I thought I was so over the  restaurant and theatre thing in Toronto. Seen it. Done it. Don’t need to do it again.

When you start thinking like that, well, that’s how you know you’re getting old.  What makes it true is to continue to think that way and to act on it.

So yes my lovelies, we are all aging, but old really cuts to the bone.

As I age, I realize that I have to make an effort not to poo-poo what I assume I already know. That’s what makes us old from the inside out. Pushing back against this resistance of futility will keep me youthful, vibrant and creative, even if my outsides don’t look like it so much any more.

 

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Soldiers of Love; Little Old Ladies

Happy smiling senior woman showing her apricot tartI’ve been accused of acting like an old lady.

This was only after I’d gone (what seemed prematurely) through my own mid-life crisis…in my 30’s.

You see, mine has been a full life; a career where I’ve seen more trauma, death and mystery than any binge episode of the most popular television series,  a made-for-tv-movies childhood and a plethora of mischief with lovely men.

There are few things I feel that I yet need to do.  The very saying, bucket list, makes me cringe. What a bunch of pretentious, assuming crappola. Every day should be your bucket list, without assuming you have time to carefully plan a list.

What I’ve come to understand at this stage is that little old ladies are often zenned out in their own little worlds of comfort; cooking, crafting, singing, baking, volunteering, doting on their children and watching Hallmark movies. They live for gentle moments of comfort.

This reality hit me when I was speaking to some younger women at work who had inquired about my career. It’s been a wonderful winding road that served my role as a mother very well. But there’s been an unusual amount of exposure to trauma, violence, and death. Which entitles me to take comfort in ‘little old lady things’, like baking.

Women who like to live their lives amidst creating a comfortable, quiet home life are sometimes the toughest broads on earth.  Like me.

We have been given the misnomer of the weaker sex  all the while proving that really we are the strongest. This is  despite gender inequality, violence, sexual abuse and economic discrimination. It is the women who are strong enough to offer our families the unrecognized emotional work required to create the sanctuary of  home where we recharge with love and kindness.

Never underestimate the power of little old ladies, especially the ones who arrived at old-ladyhood prematurely. Underneath the homemade cookies and blankets, we are fierce.

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Why I Open My Door At Thanksgiving

give thanks…because I’m truly grateful for the abundance of friends in my life.

My Thanksgiving celebrations are always potluck, jeans and t-shirt style. I put on the turkey, and everyone else brings something to share. That way no one has to do a lot of work and I’m not too stressed out to enjoy my friends.

Potluck is also a good conversations starter; Mmm! I love this! Who made it? What’s the recipe?….and the conversation goes on from there.

That’s what life is about.

I’ve been through hell and back as a child and as a young woman. Throughout all of it, I’ve had wonderful friends who are each, in their own way, unique and perfect.

Holiday times used to be sad for me, lonely even . I was often new in town, without family, and I felt very alone. As time went on, my new friendships deepened, and although I went through times of despair and loneliness, my friends would always show up in ways that helped me understand what was really important.

So at Thanksgiving, many people are caught up in family tug-of-wars about who goes where and who is hosting what. Or, maybe they have no family at all.

Autumn is the time of year when we start turning inward. The changing colour of the leaves wave us into shorter days and cooler nights. We cozy up inside, in big sweaters and under cozy blankets. We begin the journey into a season often spiritually described as one of mystery and hope.

I open my door at this time of year so that friends have a place to come and relax. My friends are my family, and I love them all.

I don’t have much, but I hope I offer a safe space to be yourself, laugh, and be nourished; both body and soul.

 

 

 

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Vulnerability vs. Stupidity

mice and cat

 

Facebook was kind enough to send me a memory from a year ago.  I must have shared this while feeling rather on-top-of-the-world and likely somewhat smug about it all. Mea Culpa.

vulnerable

I do agree with the statement – Wholeheartedly, but today I feel much differently about my vulnerability than I did then.

I’m feeling rather stupid. You know, that lovely nausea inducing feeling of shame and embarrassment. I absolutely believe in vulnerability, and generally, when it comes to little things, like asking for help at work or sharing my  experiences with someone down and out to help them feel better, I’m good at it.

But the big things I’ve been vulnerable with have come back to bite me in the ass. Instead of feeling safe, secure and loved, I feel ashamed. I feel worse off, and the weight of the world is now resting on my shoulders way more heavily than it did a year ago.

It begs the question of how we know when to expose our bellies to a world full of people with emotional swords.  The answer is something we all know; we don’t, we never will, and it’s always a risk.

Years ago I thought that it was worth the cost, you know, all of that hokey nonsense about in order to receive great love, we need to take great risks. At this age,  I’m not so sure any more. I kind of like the idea of curling up in a big ball and keeping my war-weary heart safe and sound.

Weigh whom you share your weaknesses, needs and dreams with. Be as sure as you can that they will honour you where you are  most fragile.

Wishing you  great friends who will cherish your vulnerability, and in turn, trust you with theirs. Kindness, kindness, kindness. May it reign.

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Nice Matters: A Shout-Out of Gratitude

peonyToday I’ve written a bit about mean, so let’s shake that crappy mojo. I’m going to  write about something more important; nice (aka kindness).

Kindness matters. It’s part of that grace thing that I’ve been trying master for a few years.  We get it right sometimes, and we get it wrong sometimes, but what matters is that we strive to get better at it.

It’s good for us. Just as good as a healthy diet, or eight hours of sleep. Nice makes our bodies happy and our spirits calm.

Lately there has been a lot of nice in my life. My ‘crazy’ family and friends have been generous in their support of my son’s flight from the nest. He as been encouraged, supported, and cheered on. As a mother, there is nothing better than knowing your child is thriving and that they have a solid support network or friends, mentors, coaches and family. Thank you for being nice.

I’m taking a little longer to adjust to the transition. I tear up daily, and am struggling with the transition of being totally dedicated to my kiddo to being totally dedicated, but from a distance. My friends have been kind and gentle and supportive. Thank you for being nice.

I have flooded my social media feed with proud mom moments and not once has anyone told me how annoying it is. Thank you for being nice.

This is a challenging transition year for me, once again wondering where I will live, work and mom from in a year. In advance to my friends and family; thank you for being nice.

 

 

Posted in Advice for Men, Advice for Women, Andshelaughs, Columns, Columns Relationship Advice, Creative Life, Friendship, Health, Healthy Living, Life, Meaning of Life, Mental Health, Psychology, Sexual Health, Uncategorized, women, Women's Issues, Women's Issues

Mean People Suck: Don’t Let Them Suck the Life Out of You

ugly buzzardNice and mean. Two simple words not often given enough credit for how important they are.

Nice matters. Mean sucks.

Today I’m going to be writing about mean, because recently someone has taken all of the vulnerability I shared with them, and been very mean.

In the past 24 hours I have been told that my friends and family are crazy. That’s pretty damn mean when the person spewing bile knows that mental health struggles that have gone on due to physical, sexual and emotional abuse throughout my family and friends lives.  The security of my home has  been threatened and I’ve been told some nasty, nasty things from a person who was dear to me.

But I’ve done mean. I survived it in my childhood home, in the workplace and even relationships. Which is to say, that my ability to overcome it is great. In other words, when someone is mean, the only thing I know that I can do is to disengage, and enter survival mode.

And how much fun is that? It isn’t. And I’m too old for this shit quite frankly. I’m due for some free-spirited, joyful living, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

When someone shows me how ugly their spirit really is, I choose not to invest my time or energy there. After all, I’ve got more important shit to do, like create a non-fiction masterpiece, and have wine-soaked discussions with kindred spirits. Fuck mean.

If you’re out there with someone who is a nasty little troll, whether it ‘s at home, at work, at school or in the community, try your best to disengage. Try your best to identify the hardest times to control your reaction. Focus on what you love; your art, your job, your pet, your kids, your daily walk around the block….

beautiful birdMean sucks.

Remember, mean belongs to the person spewing hate. It doesn’t belong to you, so don’t carry it. Take a deep breath, envision yourself surrounded by light which protects you from anyone else’s bullshit, and step forward into your own life.