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The Frustration of Focus & The Benefit of Flow

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This is the first time in my life that I’m focussed on doing what I love. Being my healthiest self, and focussed on focus.

I’ve never been a believer in having it all, at least not at the same time. Now more than ever I’m sure of that.

Life has stabilized after a handful of years getting settled as a nearly-empty nester, a coupled up singleton, and one of the more experienced of a great group of colleagues.  Life has finally opened up into a chapter of more breathing room to focus on what brings me joy.

I’m not talking about my child or my lovely partner, or the beautiful friendships that I’ve nurtured throughout the years. I’m talking about what brings ME joy; nurturing a healthier, more active body, and carving out time and space (have you seen my awesome little writing space?!), to focus on writing.

I’m SO focussed. I spent an entire afternoon plotting 12 months of writing submissions. I dug out all of my old writing and put it in one of the drawers in the two desks I need to keep all of my scribbling organized. I consulted with a life coach. I became accountable to myself. I took a project on my winter beach vacation. I give a shit about letting my precious, wild, creative ideas get away from me without nurturing them.

“I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

It’s spring, so I had to take a break away to plan and plant my garden, welcome my baby boy home from uni, and spend more time at the yoga studio. All this joyful living has made me jolly. Trying to focus on family, health and the garden has made my writing suffer. So frustrating!

How fortunate am I to be frustrated that I don’t have enough time between my good job, spoiling my adult son, being a loving partner, and keeping up with the people who have buoyed me up all of those tough years, to write all day, every day? Very. I’m very fortunate.

Focus is wonderful, but so is a blessed life. And I don’t want to forget that as I scroll through my insta-feed of minimalist works spaces and uber-achievers.  My big, messy, patchwork life of love and vitality is more than a lot of people ever dream of having. And I intend to go with it. To flow. To savour every second. Nothing lasts forever.

Focus is something I can come back to again and again. So here I am, in a window seat at the coffee shop, keyboard and second draft of my novel ready for a serious workout.

If you haven’t quite made it to this place in life where you can see your blessing manifest and you feel like a suffocated artist, buy yourself  Big Magic . It saved my creative spirit, and kept me plodding away when I had too many bills and not enough time or space to feel justified in spending the extra time to create.  Just keep going. Just keep telling the universe what you need, and somehow you will pass from survival to thriving. I promise.

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Misery Loves Company

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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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What You Need to Know About Paris

 

First of all, you need to know that I love Paris. Like: Love as-in-I-would-move-there-tonight-with-nothing-but-a-carry-on-kind-of-love. Looooooove…..

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Recently I was asked by an acquaintance to send some information about my most recent holiday in the City of Light. It took me forever to get back to her. Mainly because I knew just how into it I would get, and therefor how much time it would take me to compose an email as full of useful information as I could muster with all of the enthusiasm I have for the city. I enjoyed every.single.second.

I went on about my favourite places, included links and maps, tips and tricks, and loads of my very own opinion. Which, of course, the world needs more of.

paris cafeYes, I adore all of the idiosyncrisies of the French. This includes terrible and rude (if not also terribly rude) service and their casual sense of elegance.  I love the tiny streets of Montmartre with the colourful shops squeezed together like hippies on a road trip. I love the billionaire-on-a-budget attitude of St. Germain, the connection to great artists I feel when I sink into the reading nooks on the second floor of Shakespeare and Company, and the thrum of those places where new worlds collide and your footsteps become unsure.

Had I only been able to make one suggestion to her though about getting a feel for what to expect, it would be this;

Find a lovely scarf which is slightly too long to wield delicately, and get thee to a crowded outdoor patio in the spring time. Order wine or coffee and a tiny glass of water, and no matter what the menu, expect an exquisite presentation of deliciously prepared food. All of this served to you by the most disinterested and apathetic server that you can imagine while your scarf blows in the wind like a prop from an Audrey Hepburn movie.

Welcome to Paris.

 

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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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Don’t Make Me Break Out My Mom Voice

giphy-1If you don’t know me, they refer to me as Mrs. Doubtfire at work.  I’m not as old as Mrs. Doubtfire, but we have the same boobs and demeanour.

I prefer to be kind and sweet and doting even, but don’t mess with me. I’m one mother of a tough broad, and I’m not afraid to let you know that, in a very kind, diplomatic way. In other words, I’m very good at the subtle, ‘fuck-off’, and not shy about the not-so-subtle.

Which brings me to my current state of being; extremely tired of being a whipping post for other people’s problems.

Which is draining. I no  longer want to be subtle about the fuck off. Nor do I want to be having to deal with anyone’s el poopo. I’m too old for that.

What I really want is to go about my business in a conscious way with other people who are doing the same. As one care provider who comes into our home put it, “Don’t get old and grouchy”.

I want to get old and more giddy, giggly, hippie-like in my approach, and perhaps even increase my alcohol  and muscular flexibility tolerance. It may seem like one goal is not compatible with the other, but I disagree.  Lower inhibitions and increased relaxation should surely result in a more yoga-like groove.

Also, I’m looking for a small camper van that I can paint lemon-yellow and pack full with a duvet, some good books, tea, red wine, some Jameson Whiskey, and a bottle of good bourbon. You know, for the nights you want to feel like you’re dying. Also there should be ibuprofen. I’ll call the camper Mellow Yellow and make use of the horn.

If you inspire me to feel like you’re putting me on the spot, or making me feel uncomfortable because you’re being an asshole, I will unleash the Mrs. Doubtfire fire, and quite frankly, that takes way more energy than I want to expend on you. Not only will I be annoyed, but I will be verbally annoyed.

Going forward, let’s all approach one another as if we’ve just come from the worst berating ever, shall we? Perhaps some gentleness, kindness, and common, public courtesy.

We are, as the old saying goes, all fighting battles that others cannot see.

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Autumn-Show Me Your Hoodies & Pumpkin Spice

I woke up this morning to a plethora of “WELCOME OCTOBER” posts such as this gem.

Thank God! Had so many people not posted pics of sweaters, fall leaves, and well-manicured hands wrapped around steaming mugs of pumpkin-spice flavoured everything, I may have been stuck in the dreaded September-Time-Warp!

Autumn has always been my favourite season. It’s a do-over for me. I was a school supply nut, and loved the smell of fresh pencil crayons and the feel of a new pen. Ok, I was a book-nerd. I was also a little chunky, which meant that I could layer on a sweater and pants, and finally not feel naked.

Now that I’m into my 40’s, chunky fall sweaters just make me look like an exceptionally well-fed homeless person. And all of those pumpkin spice lattes – yah, I love the half-sweet version, but I can’t handle the sugar anymore (hence looking like a well-fed homeless person). Give me a strong Irish tea with some skim milk, and I’m  autumn AF.

( I pause now to put on the kettle…)

pumpkin spice

Autumn requires some serious planning  if you’re going to create all of those Instagram-photo-worthy pics for family and friends. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about???

The reality of my fall season is getting back to work after a beautiful and romantic holiday, and getting to as many of my son’s football games as I can. There’s also Thanksgiving (two adults and 7 young adult children around the table-one vegetarian), and Hallowe’en to get ready for. Since I don’t have to work this Hallowe’en, there shall be costumes and a dinner party, complete with a meat-wrapped-skull charcuterie board and brain-mold jelly dessert.

This all leaves (no pun intended) very little time for curling up with that over-sized mug of pumpkin spice goodness, frolicking on beautifully amber-and-red-leaved-lined trails and posing for that perfect shot with my pumpkin-spice beverage of the day.

At this stage what I need is a daily-high-fiber-digestive aid that comes in pumpkin spice version, and a sinewy house-lad who looks good in a cable-knit and knows how to brew a perfect pot of tea. Note to self: buy my honey a new cable knit and ask him to make my apres-dinner tea in his tighty-whities and the new sweater.

Hmmm…perhaps this could be a season of autumn romance after all – you wouldn’t make me a cup of tea would you darling?

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Do Not Wash the Floor: Putting on Your Big Hat

tiredwomanDoes it amaze you that the people you live with (aka your family) know where to go get stuff but they can’t remember how to put it away? It kind of makes you twitch doesn’t it? The high level of frustration which comes with lack of respect for your  time.

If I took a survey of all of my women-friends and asked how they were feeling, most of them would answer the same way; Tired.

I’m tired.

Fatigue. It seems to be a running theme among women in their 40’s. Most are smack in the middle of feeling the pressure of their long-forgotten wild selves tugging relentlessly at their heart-strings.  We’re now in the middle of our  lifetime on this earth, and we can feel it in our bones.

We can feel it slip away every time that we clean up someone else’s mess, and every time we sweep the floor.

Time seems to have accelerated just as we need things to slow down.  Something inside of us feels like it needs to be uncaged.  If we listen hard enough, we can hear our goddess call out from deep down in the dark visceral places of our suppressed soul: Let me out!

How the hell do we do that?!

We must use our precious energy to build firm boundaries and defend them with (and for) our lives. For the majority of women, the idea of leaving work, taking time to rediscover and recover their passions is an impossible ideal.  Yet, we must take time away to listen to our own intuition.

Another way to strengthen connection to intuition is to refuse to allow anyone to repress your vivid energies…that means your opinions, your thoughts, your ideas, your values, your morals, your ideals.

I’m a woman of strength and courage, and I even find that carving out time for this self-care is a tug-of-war. We all know that days off are filled with domestic chores which women are expected to do; organizing, planning and preparing meals, laundry, the never-ending business of tidying and picking up miscellaneous crap.

One day, years later, after washing the kitchen and living room floors by hand, she slipped into her very best silk blouse, buttoned her long skirt, and pinned on her big hat.  She pressed her husband’s shotgun to the roof of her mouth and pulled the trigger. Every woman alive knows why she washed the floors first.

Taking time to refresh your spirit in the privacy of your own thoughts is essential. Understanding where those thoughts are coming from, helps to understand why we’re so damn tired.

During busy times, creative pursuits may be put on hold, and our time even more precious. For these times, I reach for a book. A few minutes of quiet time to read words of wisdom from other women always sustains me.

For the these important moments during the day when you get to nourish your divine feminine, I suggest a few good reads;

  1. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  2. Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy
  3. Women & Power by Mary Beard
  4. Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes ( I confess, I can’t get enough of this book right now…reading and re-reading)
  5. Living Beautifully with Uncertainty & Change by Pema Chodrun

Whatever you do, do not wash the floors. Let someone else take a turn.

Put on your best silk blouse, button up your skirt, put on your big hat and go out into the world.

We need one another at this time in our lives more than ever before ladies, and we need to see our courage and hunger for life reflected back to us by our peers when we aren’t feeling that courageous ourselves.

All quotes taken from Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.