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Modern Christmas: For Empaths & Introverts

What happened to our society? Especially at Christmas time?

Who else remembers a time when November and December were full of social engagements and excuses to dress up? There once was a time that I looked forward to the annual company party, where everyone was expected to dress up, socialize, and participate in some good clean fun…until most everyone drank too much and had to be chauffeured home.

And what the hell is with not playing that wonderful song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”? Give. Me. A. Break.

Maybe it’s the new cultural trend of insta-worthy-over-sized sweaters and hands wrapped around steaming mugs of cocoa. Hell, it’s a lot easier to pull off than heels, strapless dresses, and a clearly defined ‘date’. I totally get that everyone has either become an empath or an introvert; a modern way of saying; I’m sensitive, so don’t hold me to your cultural standard of politeness and respectful interaction….the penultimate of victim culture.

Just a tip – half of the fun was watching everyone interact. It was fun to play with our persona’s of  sequined flirts with no other intention than to share a few laughs; to entertain and to be entertained by virtue of our very own selves.

I miss what I so fondly refer to as Gatsby-Socializing. When you were expected to flirt with everyone, the art of telling a joke was appreciated, and keeping up with current events wasn’t quite enough. People actually had discussions intelligent enough to persuade, entertain and engage.

There was no distraction appropriate at the table. I mean really, cell phones at the table are akin to someone in the 80’s taking out a handwritten letter, smoothing it out on their lap, lowering their reading specs, and totally disengaging with the people in front of them. Talk about a slap in the face of civilized behavior.

For a while I thought that the slow fade of high-end socializing was directly related to my age. I was wrong. It’s the result of fear. Everyone’s afraid that they’re going to be fingered for being inappropriate, being blamed for the irresponsible behavior of another adult, and painted with the pariah brush of our I’m-not-responsible-for-my-own-behavior culture.

So get out your cocktail dresses and brush off your dyed satin shoes. Break out your costume jewelry, shake up a mean cocktail. Invite a wild mix of personalities over and watch the magic of real-live human interaction unfold all in the name of Christmas cheer. I’m dying for some superficial and super-fun festivities.

 

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Making Room in My Jeans for Enchantment

distractionBecause of my inability to focus, my jeans are getting snug.

As in, I’ve gone beyond muffin-top to mid-section-souffle. I’ve been home a lot lately, and although I’m busy as stink caregiving, I have lots of time on my hands while I stay up way too late and overthink everything.

Today, while having a meltdown (likely a bloodsugar low), I ate another of my beautifully decorated sugar cookies, gave myself a tummy-ache and got to thinking while I laid down to sweat it out. Perhaps I should just really focus on what makes me feel good.

And what is that?

Well, it’s my writing, my inspiration, or ‘enchantment’ as Elizabeth Gilbert refers to it in her book, Big Magic, (a book every creative soul needs).  Given that my nervous baking habit has made me pack on pounds and feel like crap since I’ve been at home for the past number of weeks, I couldn’t help but listen when my nauseous tummy and tight waistband went from a whisper to a scream; “QUIT BAKING THIS SHIT!!!”…and in a much more kind, caring voice, “Do what you love sweetheart.”

One idea from Big Magic that stuck with me the first time I read the book is,

However, I’ve always had the sense that the muse of the tormented artist – while the artist himself is throwing temper tantrums – is sitting quietly in a corner of the studio, buffing its fingernails, patiently waiting for the guy to calm down and sober up so everyone can get back to work.”

I have a lot of interests; baking, cooking, reading, writing, yoga, gardening, being an enthusiastic sports mom…and the list goes on. These are the equivalent of my temper tantrums. Convincing myself that I don’t have enough time to write is akin to a temper tantrum.

I’m so funny.

I have time to do most of my hobbies, except write.  Why??? the only explanation I can come up with is that my upbringing as a hard-working-protestant-country-girl saves the best for last. “I’ll write after I…..” And then the day is finished. I have no energy left for the good stuff.

It’s hard to think of a tortured artist baking and decorating cookies, but it’s my very civilized-flirting-with-diabetes form of torment. But it is no more. No more half-hearted attempts at making slippers, meringues, paintings, blankets or any other whim I get snagged on while cruising Pinterest.  No more tummy aches and sugar lows. No more cursing myself for my jeans getting even smaller.

In Big Magic, Ms. Gilbert talks about enchantment, and whether you meet it with the resistance of the stereotypical tortured artist or like gracious host who makes room for it.

I’m going to try and be the gracious host. And that includes not wearing pants that are way too tight.

Posted in Advent, Andshelaughs, Art of LIving, Coping, Creative Life, Fearless Living, Friendship, Friendships, Graceful Living, Gracious Living, Healthy Living, Joyful Living, Life, Life Lessons, Lifestyle, Living, Meaning of Life, Mental Health, Middle Age, Midlife, Mindful Living, Opinion, Personal Development, Perspective, Self-Care, Simple Living, Spiritual Living, The Art of Living, Uncategorized, Whole Living

Always Say YES!

lovesomeone

During a quick lunch with my Mumster the topic of keeping oneself vibrant while in the midst of feeling stuck became a theme. I like to think that our conversation was inspiring to us both. Just having a quick visit with a kindred spirit, helped my sense of well being.

As some of you may know, my day-to-day life has changed recently. I now find myself in the position of stay-at-home-caregiver. It’s the longest time I’ve ever been away from work, and frankly, it’s like living in a thick fog.

Anxiety has its’ natural place during times of transition and healing. I wish I had someone here to give me a hug, offer me a passionate escape, or a giddy drunken Christmas date night.  But that is not so.  What I have is myself; the stalwart, courageous, positive, kick-you-in-the-ass-just-enough-to-keep-you-going-all-day fabulous woman that I am.

The first thing I reluctantly gave up being here doing what I’m doing, was my sleep pattern. I’m a natural night owl, and later nights are always the first thing to come galloping back into my life  when I’m not on my work-home routine. If  I could force away the anxiety of wondering how I’ll adjust when I do go back to work, late nights aren’t a bad thing.  Mostly because just last night, head on the pillow, I was lulling myself to sleep, silently re-telling the stories of my literally ‘shitty’ day,  and it came to me! Novel number 3! Late nights are a breading ground for creativity, and that’s heady stuff.

Quietly, I got up in the darkness, crept past the orange-pink glow of the salt lamp, and made my way to my notebook, scrounging a pen from the medication log on the nursing cart in the makeshift hospital room that is now the living/dining room.

I curled up under my favourite wool blanket from Ireland, and wrote a basic outline, including main characters, and a handful of their personality quirks. I then pounded back a piece of lemon cake, the crumbs at the bottom of a bag of dill pickle chips, swigged back a hot cup of tea, and then went back to bed. Inspired.

That’s the same way I woke up.

Not only do I have a full novel to edit, I have another one ready to be born, and butter softening on the counter for a batch of sugar cookies which I will decorate in layers over the next two days for the sole purpose of doing something other than letting my brain rot. I have a list of books to read, and have managed to finish 3 of them, and I”m slowly grinding my way through the fourth (  a dense book of essays).  I also have wine. And whiskey. And tea.

These things are enough.

Enough to keep me motivated, creative and vibrant (under the circumstances).

Yes, I miss my yoga classes. I miss taking my time and poking about my favourite shops. I miss even going for a flipping walk! But these are not things I have control over right now. I can control what I manage to do while I’m limited to the house with brief periods of respite and so can you.

advent

As I’ve written many times, the spirit of Advent (waiting with wonder in the darkness) is one that resonates deeply with me. It reassures me of an idea that I believe in; out of the darkness and the muck of life, sprout the most fruitful of ideas and experiences.

If you are feeling stuck, take a few minutes to yourself. Grab a notebook and pen; jot down unfinished projects you’d really like to finish. Maybe it’s a new skill you’d like to learn  or  a book you would love to tuck in to read from start to finish.  Just let yourself relax into some kind of stillness of mind that will accompany you on a journey of wonder and discovery.

Most importantly if you have friends out there who offer a different perspective, a couple hours of respite, a moment of escape, always, always, always say YES!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Andshelaughs, andshelaughs writing, Christmas, Christmas Letters, Holidays, Meaning of Christmas, Mental Health, Middle Age, Midlife, Opinion, Parenting, Perspective, Uncategorized

How Are Your Christmas Lights?

giphy

In the darkness, the Christmas tree lights are a true symbol of advent. Mystery in the darkness. A sense of wonder.

Advent is my favourite season of the year, even though November is my least favourite month. Layers of grey permeate every hour, and the dampness makes everything, even the ethereal heavy. Besides being a Scorpio, November sucks.

Alas my friends,  then there are the Christmas lights! They’re the first thing that I attend to in the morning, getting down on my knees to find the plug and make the connection. As a young mother, I wanted my son to have the same sense of wonder that I did upon waking and seeing the tree illuminated in the dark, chill morning.  As the mother of a young adult, I want to continue that sense of wonder, the feeling that something wonderful can come of the darkness, that stillness can be a time of self-discovery and that there is joy in silent reflection.  As a partner and caregiver, I hope that my darling wakes up to the lights and feels the very same things.

Realistically, I live in a house with people whom I’m not sure have such a deep, symbolic appreciation of this season as I do.  Whatever.

‘Whatever’ has become a word that pops  up more and more in my silent thoughts. It’s the 80’s baby version of WTF.

The reality is that Christmas has changed for me. I’ve gone from a child waiting for Santa, to being Santa.  I’ve gone from a young woman excited about the romance of the season to an older woman who has officially let all hope of Christmas romance go. I do however find joy helping in any way that I can to fan the flames of that excitement in the life of my friends and family who are in the midst of that, ‘Hallmark Romance’ period of their lives.

This morning I woke up to an email from my Mumster about the energy of the fuss and muss of Christmas, and how this year, her sister will be hiring a cater rather than doing the cooking herself. In her wisdom, Mumster  has deduced that age 55 is the age at which you pretty much get tired of the foo-fur-ah (foo-fur-ah def. bullshit) of the Christmas season.  I’ll let you know if I agree when I reach the spritely age of  55.

Inevitably life changes as you know darlings. Our energy levels ebb and flow, as do our priorities. Health remains our  biggest asset, and it becomes more valuable the older we get.

Although I’m not the marathon baker, wrapper and Christmas-party-throwing woman I was ten years ago, I like to hope that I can keep my own sense of wonder alive through the season.  Sometimes it’s just wondering where the wine went, and how my ass got this robust.

Humor and wonder is what will keep me young. It’s what will keep my eyes open to the little twinkle of light in life that brings happy surprises, belly laughter and passion. This is the stuff of a youthful spirit. Let humor and wonder be your own Christmas miracles, regardless of your age or circumstance.

 

Posted in Advice for Women, Andshelaughs, Health, Healthy Living, Jimmy Buffett, Men's Health, Mental Health, Midlife, Opinion, Perspective, Self-Care, Social Commentary, Society, Spiritual Living, Uncategorized, Wellness, women, Women's Issues

Mid-Life Clarity-Did You Work at it Your Whole Life?

hit you with a carThere is little that gifts perspective as much as experience.  And I’ve had experience in spades.

I’m pretty much home-bound with an ill sweetie these days, and have had lots of time to reflect, get frustrated, feel grateful, be sad, be relieved, be worried, and be overwhelmed. In other words, to be human.

Although I was a professional palliative care giver for the best part of a decade, nothing really prepares  you for personal crisis. The stress of organization, paperwork and dealing with an over-burdened health care system has been an eye opener.

What life has prepared me for though is clarity with regard to circumstantial right and wrong, and life is nothing if not circumstantial.

As I was rushing to pick up  a few groceries yesterday, the cashier tossed a bag on top of my groceries, and then began checking out the next person, who was looking sour-faced and in a hurry. When did we give up our expectation as consumers to have some quality interaction with the businesses that we give our money to?  When did every person having a pleasant interaction with someone else become a pain in the ass? Oh, darling, that’s easy, it was when you became an asshole.

Our caring civility has slowly eroded over time Even errands have become unpleasant interactions instead of being instances during the day we exchange kindness with people.  We have all become assholes to some extent, consuming, rushing, and being caught up in the necrotic social ideal that the material trumps relationship.

This is part of mid-life clarity. This is part of holding myself to the standard of living and overall health to which I aspire – happiness.

Making my way out of the parking lot of the store yesterday, traffic was impatient with pedestrians and pedestrians with traffic.  Everyone assumes that they come first. Which reminds me of a classic Jimmy Buffett question,

Were you born an asshole? Or did you work at it your whole life?

I do believe that no one is born an asshole. I also believe that you have to work at it to be extraordinary at it. You also have to work to be kind, compassionate and engaged with humanity. Perhaps choosing unwisely is the collective tragic comedy on the stage of life.

Posted in Advice for Men, Advice for Women, Advice for Writers, Andshelaughs, Canadian Writers, Coping, Creative Writing, Friends, Friendship, Health, Healthy Living, Men's Health, Men's Issues, Mental Health, Middle Age, Midlife, Opinion, Personal Development, Perspective, Self-Care, Uncategorized, women, Women's Issues, Women's Rights, Working Women, Writers

Caregiving & Not Caring At All

twofacedI found him on the floor.

And that’s how our little cozy home changed, for better or worse this year.

I’ve deleted three posts about how awful people are with their criticism and how deep down in my human soul, I hope that karma slaps them in the face. Le sigh….this is where not caring at all becomes spiritual practice, oh, and also letting go of all of that karma’s-gonna-get-you-bullshit.

My home has always been my sanctuary, filled in every nook and cranny with something meaningful, inspiring or fun (including the people in it).

As a writer, caregiving is rife with stories to tell, lessons to be learned and emotion.

One thing I’ve learned is that organized living helps reduce stress during times of crisis. Having some financial wiggle room is essential to being able to stay home and provide care, and self-care is golden. Also, the quality of the company I keep has been revealed as well. That’s right, I’ve heard how you’ve said I don’t need to be here right now. It stung, but I’m over it. Mostly because it says everything about your lack of character and nothing about mine.

Not only have I been indoctrinated into the lack of modesty of my partner, introduced to body fluids that are not my own, and run my chubby little ass off, I have also come to cherish two things dearly; my hours alone after my love has been tucked in and medicated to sleep, and the escape I get with my writing.

I would be lying if I told you that I’m not scared to death about how we’re going to get through this, with complicated issues including fever and infection that I never really thought about. But I would also be lying if I said I’d have it any other way. I belong here right now for the safety of my sweetie, and that is caregiving. Truly not giving a shit about those people who have no empathy, well, that’s going to take some practice…but I”m up for the challenge.

As a writer, I like to think that this experience is enhancing my craft. As a partner, I wish I could trade places and take the pain away. As a friend, frankly I’m relieved to have revealed to me who is true and who is not. My nature is a caregiver…not giving a shit, not so much.

 

Posted in Advice, Advice for Men, Advice for Women, Aging, Life Lessons, Lifestyle, Meaning of Life, Middle Age, Midlife, Opinion, Perspective, Relationship Advice, Relationships, Uncategorized

Loss of Hearing at Mid-Life – Is it such a bad thing?

batBolstering overall  health remains a top priority as I cruise into middle age. Not just for myself, but for my friends as well.

Last night, over a high-decibel ‘relaxing’  night watching the political madness south of the border unfold, I asked for the zillionth time for my sweety to stop yelling. You see, his hearing isn’t what it used to be before he killed it with Teenage Head concerts and annoying b-side early 80’s punk.

Despite knowing he needs some hearing assistance, I’m not sure if I really want him to go for help. And every single person out there who lives with someone who is selectively hearing impaired knows why…because we get away with a lot of mumbling when they can’t hear us, and that mumbling is incredibly therapeutic.

There are certain changes that happen in our bodies that make this stage of life more pleasant, in my new life as a couple, I’ve decided that one partner with decreased hearing capability is one of those changes.

For example, calling our partner a jack-ass without them being able to hear it. What? Being able to muck around after they’ve gone to sleep without waking them, and having a full conversation in the next room about what  you’re buying them for Christmas without having to lower your voice are both, very wonderful things. Another fine example; Toots. Yes, who really needs to hear that?  No one.

So, if your sweetie is refusing to go for a hearing test and is annoyingly loud, think about the consequences of bat-like hearing. You may consider choosing a healthier opportunity for your relationship; ear plugs.