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Intimately Yours

leloIntimate pleasure in the form of a mascara wand.

Not that it’s new, but hearing about it on The Shopping Channel  – TSC, was certainly a different experience.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not here to preach about sex toys on late night television. In fact, I watched in awe as a plasticized sex therapist delivered a most 1950’s-housewife-narrative regarding the ‘pleasure objects’ up for grabs.

I actually learned something new. Apparently there are products to tone your vagina. And they have a very buttery texture.

Had I not been four glasses of wine into mourning my uni roommate’s death, I may have had a different reaction. I may have been indignant that the beauty industry had weaselled their way into my vagina. I may have ranted unabashedly about  saggy testicles that hang out in the open exposing us all to their hairy, wrinkled homeliness.  Tone the surface my vagina? Seriously.  Like I’ve got time for that. Besides, at this age, the men of my vintage need reading glasses to see anything that close-up.

As it were,  the sound of my friend’s hysterical giggles filled my imagination, and I became glued to the late-night sex-toy drive.

Where I grew up, The Shopping Channel was akin to Amazon. It was the first sit-in-your-flannel-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-order-shit-you-don’t-need home-delivery service. I know many a country-bumpkin with simulated gemstone finds.  Now I have to wonder if they were all the most sexually satisfied, oppressed women in South-Western Ontario. Maybe I’ve been wrong all this time.

As the women on the show (host, sales rep and sex therapist),  discussed the very buttery texture of the vag cream, not, incidentally to be confused or used as a lubricant, I began to admire their command of very precise language.

These women were trying to sell a 2020 audience less phallic pleasure objects so that we didn’t intimidate our partners.  Less threatening, as in; it seemed like they assumed everyone was heterosexual, and women who used sex toys had to hide them from their men in order that said men’s masculinity could be unrealistically held above all else, as sacred.

There was just so much wrong with this.

I laughed, thinking how my friend and I would have laughed until we cried.   I could hear her beautiful giggle, and her gasping, “What the actual f@*k?!”  between laughing fits.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t recommend  the sex therapist who hosted. I don’t think anyone needs to be encouraged to feel any more self conscious about their sexuality than they already are, especially when it comes to being less threatening to the phallic brutality that has dominated the lives of women since the dawn of time.

I might however recommend what I’m going to call the  mascara wand vibrator to slip into your make-up bag for weekend getaways.

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Don’t Smell like a bag of Potato Chips? Count Your Blessings

Bubble BathWhenever I’m frustrated and someone tries to make it all better by telling me to be grateful for the simple things, it makes me want to put them in a headlock and give them the world’s biggest noogie.

Seriously, there’s soooo much sanctimonious poo-ha floating around these days, it’s hard to be real. Real as in; being able to express any emotion other than wide-toothed-grinning-joy. We’re human. We feel things, and I heartily believe that if we felt a little more – as in stood up for what we really believe in- the world would be a much better place.

Real is what it’s been around my place for the past few weeks. Real-ly painful. Real-ly restless, and really, well, not normal.  It’s made me…grateful for the simple things.

Slip-on boots that don’t require laces…….stretchy clothes…….slippers…….a warm coat…….get-well cards…….access to the internet…….someone cooking a meal…….being able to watch the birds at the feeder…….going for a walk…….the remote within reach…….

It doesn’t take long before not being able to do simple things gets old.  I haven’t been able to sink into a hot bath in almost a month.  Just prior to that, I had two full weeks of sponge baths. Ick, of the highest order of Ewwww. I also couldn’t wear deodorant because it would infect the incisions. There’s only so much self confidence you can get from breezing a washcloth near your armpits.

But I knew all of this was coming. So I stocked up on mother’s-little-helper and  a fresh bar of my favourite lemon soap in anticipation of the day that I could give myself a proper wash.

When you can finally be confident that you don’t stink like a bag of salt and vinegar chips, well, that’s something to be grateful for. And I know I will be grateful for that every day for quite some time.

It all sounds trite when I write it down. After all, during the first few days, ice cubes in my gingerale and milky tea were like manna from heaven.  And to be honest, I haven’t been ill as in I-don’t-know-if-I’ll-get-better-ill. I am healthy which is why I was able to go through with a pro-active surgery.

Still, being unable to do every-day tasks made me incredibly grateful for things that I usually take for granted  and made me realize how difficult some people have it. I am so very fortunate.

Whether it’s being able to access a place to get clean and safely get some rest, or reach for your morning joe at a drive through window (which I can’t do right now), or carry your groceries into the house (which I also can’t do), I’m going to be one of those annoying, sanctimonious birds who tell you to try to find the joy in simple things today.

It will indeed, do you good.

 

 

 

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Self-Worth: The Biggest Mid-life Myth Debunked in Under 10 Minutes

beautiful busyI have thick thighs and thin patience…

What I’m finding particularly interesting at this middle-age-stage of femininity is how we continue to be coerced into believing that women exist in a big vat of lack.

It’s wearing my patience thin.

As a child, I was born into a generation who taught little girls to be quiet, and for-God’s-sake-don’t-pull-at-your-leotards-like-that.  As a teen, I was fed a diet of magazines with super-thin-models and how-to-keep-a-man-satisfied headlines.

In my twenties and thirties, it was about having it all; relationships, career, children, bff-friendships over expensive, boozy, brunches, and more diets and fitness routines. Raise your hand if you don’t have time to do your hair after a lunch-hour work out.

Now I’m in my forties, and the thing to be doing is redefining yourself.  It all sounds great; it’s a powerful message to send that in our 40’s we have so much lost potential. Fuck off with that already. Quit telling us that more is better. This is a myth perpetuating a generation of women who feel not good enough. 

sewing bookQuit telling us that existing in this world as a female requires more.  All  while men are getting cozy in their careers, maxing out their earning potential (still on average  13.3% more than a woman’s), and being patted on the back about their wonderful achievements.

Women are being fed a big ol’spoonful of ‘you-can-do-better’.

We are in crisis because we’re being told we should be more.

We are in crisis because we bear the responsibility of reproduction after spending our most fertile years striving for a career.  We have fewer economic opportunities, and the social expectation of being caregivers to parents and children while working at often more than one job to try to ensure we can retire before we die of exhaustion.  A male’s shrivelling manhood is being exalted while we’re being told we’re not good enough. No wonder our vaginas dry out and shrivel up.

If you’re strong enough to be a woman, you’re strong enough to no.

‘No’, will immediately toss you into the pile of ‘nasty’ women who quietly, but powerfully carry on as they damn well please.  Everyone with any honesty will tell you that women over 40 lose a significant amount of social currency. While men start getting rejected from potential employment in their late 50’s, women experience it a decade earlier. Saying no to unreasonable demands and less than you’re worth claims power.  It claims the respect you deserve for doing most of the emotional work within the household, for getting up and going to your job every day so you can put food on the table, even though it’s not sexy and even claims some time to rest.

The myth tells us all that we must be working at something else in order to justify a ‘no’. You do not. You just have to do you. And you is likely exhausted.

We’re enough as we are. We do not need to strip our souls bare and redefine ourselves. We do not need to buy into this myth just because the privileged class thinks it’s cool to be in crisis.

In my world, it’s cool to be cool. It’s cool to be ok with being all that you are.

You lack nothing. Be proud of who you are.

 

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Five Proper Ways to Feel Yourself

First of all, you will have needed to feel yourself prior to this.

You know, when you were feeling yourself. Or rather, when you were feeling most like yourself.

For me, feeling myself means being a little loosey goosey, you know, flower-crown-wearing-sipping-a-mai-tai and talking about poetry or politics, while trying to make my way into the ocean without spilling my drink.

Feeling myself means walking into the office without dragging in a big-invisible-bag-of-suck with me every day.  It means having enough energy at the end of the day to create a new, yummy recipe, while I sip a glass of wine and listen to the CBC.

If you’re not quite ‘feeling yourself’ yet, this new year, perhaps you need to get back in touch with what you feel like.  For me, that means a hefty dose of self-care.

You’re right, ‘self-care’ has more recently become bastardized by marketing mavens as a great excuse to pay too much for spa services, luxury grooming products, and even booze. But I’m talking about real self care. The kind that doesn’t blow the budget, or require a trip to the nearest outlet mall.

In order to ‘feel yourself’ you need to get quiet. Super quiet. You need to patch the cracks in the wall of your boundaries, and put up a big freaking sign pointing to those walls. Mywould read; TRESPASS AND RISK THE MOST SEVERE TONGUE LASHING YOU’VE EVER HAD (and I’m not being sexy)!!!

Don’t rush the boundary setting part. Sometimes it takes a little quite time to figure out what that looks like.

The following are some of the things that help me find quiet within a buzzing mind, busy life and relationship commitments;

  1. Spend time alone. Not necessarily alone, alone, but on your own. For me this looks a lot like going to my favourite coffee shop and writing, or reading, or journalling. I catch up on email. I love it because there’s life humming around me, but I don’t have to interact. I can interact or withdraw as I please; no expectations. This is often the time that you can quietly reflect on what your boundaries actually are, and how you can facilitate your dear ones respecting them.

dineen

 

2. Reconnect with your spirituality, or the people, places and things that touch on the deepest part of your humanity. No, not your go-to-good-time-guy-from-2005, although that can certainly bring back a little of the way you feel.  But let’s not digress. Spirituality sometimes comes in the form of  a book, sometimes it’s going to a temple, and sometimes it’s listening to a podcast.

this is it

3. Get a hobby. Find something new, or go back to something that relaxes you. I tend to stitch or sew or create some culinary masterpiece (for example elaborate sugar cookies, or the world’s best amaretti). Whatever it is, get a hobby and do it. Get lost in it. My aunt builds teeny-tiny little doll houses with the most exquisite details and when she does it, that’s where she is-in the present moment. When I stitch fine embroidery pieces, my mind gets lost in the meditative rhythm of the stitches. That’s it. That’s where I am. There is nothing else, just the present moment.

shit happens

4. Love your body. No, this is not where I get into how to ‘feel yourself’. I’m talking about simple stuff that doesn’t require an anatomical map. Have a long soak. Shave whatever bits you want smooth, soak in hot water, remember how good it feels to let your body relax. Trim your nails, paint your toes, blow out your locks so they feel soft against your skin when you finally lay your head on the pillow at night. Give yourself time to remember how good it feels to feel good.

 

5. Learn something new; take a free class on-line (check out skillssuccessor khanacademy  or eventbrite – often they have offers for free courses or trial periods). Get a library card and go to the library. Take a walk or run in a part of the city you’ve never been to before. Download a language app. Go to a community seminar (often free and offered through the library). Sit yourself down at a cafe (see #1), and remind yourself that the world has so much to offer that you don’t even know about yet.

library

 

If like me, you’ve been not feeling yourself lately, sometimes you have to go back to square one. Yourself. Alone time. Reminding yourself of all of the things you love, not just what you’re supposed to love.

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Digital Detox: How to Get Results in 2020

Social media sites aren’t so social when you try to cut back.  Apparently you aren’t allowed to be a digital introvert. After ‘unfollowing’ a couple hundred accounts that I had spontaneously followed throughout the years on Instagram, it blocked me from unfollowing more accounts. We’ll see how long my virtual time-out-in-the-thinking-chair lasts.

Withdrawing from unhealthy habits always inspires a quick, heavy-handed jerk on the hook that snagged you in the first place. Sometimes coming clean requires a little messy work and involves a painful withdrawal.

Replace Mindless Media With:

A Beautiful Daily Journal

A Free Course E-Learning Course

Meditation Time & Daily Reflection

New Ways to Nourish Your Body While You Strive For  Positive Change

In lieu of spending mindless hours scrolling and posting navel-gazing pictures of my feet up on a footstool whilst holding a hot cup of coffee, I am turning to more satisfying media in 2020.  For instance, a quick read of a recent article in FastCompany  about how to push through and accomplish the tough goals you set in 2019.

I had goals in 2019. I sought out life coaches, accountability groups, and weekend retreats.  What I accomplished was not what I thought I was going to. I wanted two ready-for-editors-novels. What I got was a reality check about the foundational work I needed to do to get there.

So here it is: 2020, and those fully written first, second, and partially completed third drafts, are stacked neatly on the corner of my desk.  I am no longer fooling myself about my psychological or physical ability to slog through a 9-5 that drains me and be a creative dynamo. I’m raw.

The only thing that helped me get through the holidays was a complete breakdown. Yes, you heard that right. It helped because I’m older and wiser, and I’ve been there before. Experience has taught me that reaching for the life preserver when you’re drowning can be the most empowering feeling in the world.

That article in Fast Company was encouraging. It was the validation that I needed after doing much soul searching during the past two months. And goodness knows we can all use a little extra validation.

Whatever your goals for 2020, I hope that each day you take tiny, meaningful steps toward your wellness. Whether that means eating healthier, or a much lighter intake of digital poo-ha, I hope that your year is amazing. I hope that you surprise yourself with resilience. I hope you have the strength and support to form new-to-you-healthy-habits. I hope you actualize a deep respect for who you are and what you bring to the world.

May 2020 be the year you persevere. May it be a year that your spirit sings with satisfaction.

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Connection: Wonder in the Darkness

candle in snowIt’s that feeling when you receive an email from the person you’re thinking of at the same time as you press send on your email to them.

Synchronicity takes faith. It’s that feeling of floating above it all where everything and everyone just clicks.  My life is abundant with that…mostly.

We’re coming to the end of another year. January 1st can be a pretty important mental reset date.  Goal setting, resolutions and check-lists for the year ahead.

This year I set some pretty great goals. I met most of them. What I learned this year was way more important than checking off a list though. I learned what traps my energy and keeps me from feeling that satisfying peace of synchronicity. Now that I’ve identified it, I can do something about it.

That’s power my friends. That’s joy-brimming, creative-muscle-flexing power! It makes me giddy, and hopeful, and snuffs out the candle of despair which so easily ignites when we totter off balance.

I always save vacation time for the Christmas season. I enjoy the nesting of this holiday; baking, cooking, gift making, cocoa-sipping, movie watching, cocktails with friends, and making time for the coffee dates we put off all year long.

I also really dig Advent. I fully subscribe to the mystery of Advent, the idea of light in the darkness, and rebirth via struggle. But not too much struggle. Not struggle for struggle’s sake. I don’t dig unnecessary suffering, even as an artist.

Synonyms for ADVENT ˈæd vɛnt
  • advent, coming(noun) arrival that has been awaited (especially of something momentous) …

  • Advent(noun) the season including the four Sundays preceding Christmas. …

This holiday season, weather you celebrate Christmas or not, the darkest days of the year lend themselves to introspection, to wonder, to being open to new, yet-to-be-revealed opportunities. I hope that during this time you take the solitude you need to rest, reflect and connect.

cocoa with friends

It is through connection that I hope to reign in the things that deplete my energy.  It is through connection that I hope to ignite what brings me vitality. It is through connection that I hope to contribute to the world around me through my relationships, profession and creative pursuits.

I urge you to reflect on any feeling that tugs away at your soul and needs attention. And then connect with people whose presence alone will help heal those attention seeking areas of your life.  I hope that you connect with people who help you feel joyful, powerful and positive.

 

 

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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.