Me in Matera, Italy

Thursday, 18 August 2011

forgive [fəˈgɪv]

I've been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately, it's part of this Soul Restoration process ~ they tell you to forgive everyone, YES EVERYONE.  There have been numerous studies that have shown that people who forgive become less angry, feel less hurt, are more optimistic and become more compassionate. This all results in a reduction in stress and physical manifestations of stress.  Based on this, it sounds like forgiveness is something you actually do for yourself and not for others.

I recognize that I do not have a forgiving heart and that is something I want to change about myself.  I can intellectualize that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments.  The trouble is, I don't really understand forgiveness.  What does it even mean? How do you actually forgive?  Is forgiveness necessary?  I did some research on the internet machine to get some more insight and perspective;  what I learned has actually really helped me understand what forgiveness is and even more importantly what forgiveness is not.

Forgiveness IS the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger.

Forgiveness IS NOT excusing the behavior or actions of others. I think my biggest struggle with forgiveness has been the feeling that I am condoning hurt others have inflicted on me.  What I am coming to see though is that it's not about saying you are okay with what happened or that you agree with it, it's about letting go and moving on.
Forgiveness IS NOT forgetting or wiping the slate.  As Arthur Schopenhauer has said  "To forgive and forget means to throw away dearly bought experience."  Forgiveness does not mean you erase the past, or forget what has happened; all it means is that you are letting go of anger and pain and moving on to a better place.

Forgiveness IS NOT about reconciliation.  We have to make a separate decision about whether to reconcile with the person we are forgiving or whether maintaining distance is a healthier choice for us.

Forgiveness DOES NOT have to involve any interaction at all with the person you are forgiving.  It can be simply something that changes in your heart or for those who require something more tangible, there are several symbolic letting-go rituals that can help with the process. For me, I feel like it will be cathartic to write letters to express all of my feelings and explain why I need to let go and then I plan to have another burn party.  Last week I had an anger burn party where I burned some cards and letters that that were causing me anger.  This week I am going to have a forgiveness burn party where I burn the letters of forgiveness and release that into the universe.

Now that I have dissected and analyzed this concept of forgiveness and have been able to differentiate what it is versus what it is not, I believe that FORGIVENESS IS POSSIBLE and even further that forgiveness will change my life. There are people I will find hard to forgive, it will be even harder for me to forgive myself but I know it's time to really let go of the past and focus on the present.  I'm moving on.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Maximum Inefficiency

I am generally hesitant to actually give advice to others, especially on my blog; however, I am so confident in my ability to be in efficient that I am making an exception.  Over the past two days, I have been frantically cleaning, organizing and preparing for my Aunt to visit and even though I've know about this for a very long time, I left everything to the last minute and tried to cram way too much in leading to a lot of aggravation and frustration along the way.  So here I'm going to share with all of you my top 10 inefficiency tips, Letterman style.

Before you get started though, be sure you pick the right project because in order to ensure maximum inefficiency, it should be a project that you really do not want to do (like cleaning your house), if you enjoy doing something it can be more difficult to truly be inefficient. 

Tip #10. Set your expectations high, so high that given the time and resources you have the task is virtually unachievable.

Tip #9. Be tired before you start.  Be exhausted if possible.  In fact, don't take care of yourself at all.  Don't shower.  Don't eat.  It's important that you start off in the correct state of mind.

Tip #8. Feel sorry for yourself.  Convince yourself that everyone else on the planet is having so much fun and that they all have so much more help than you do.

Tip #7. Incorporate distractions ~ tv, music, telephone, texting ~ whatever distracts you most will do.

Tip #6. Create extra work as you go ~ spilling, dropping, breaking.  It doesn't matter what just as long as it creates chaos and/or frustration and is quite difficult to clean it up.

Tip #5. Keep supplies like cleaners and paper towels and especially the garbage can in a separate area from where you working, on an entirely different floor if you can.  This way you will spend lots of time and energy running around the house.  If you are inconsistent with where you keep it, you can also waste a lot of time looking for things which is excellent in this process.

Tip #4. Don't finish anything the first time around.  For example if you take dishes out of your bedroom, don't take them to the kitchen and put them directly in the dishwasher.  Maybe make a pile outside your door and then add an item to your list to take them to the kitchen later.

Tip #3. Plan a LOT.  Make lists and plan out how long you think every task will take, make schedules for yourself and repeat this process often throughout the period of time you are working on this project.  Some people underestimate the importance of planning to the inefficiency process but trust me, it works.

Tip #2.  Add in extra projects, especially ones you've been avoiding long term and aren't very important at this moment.  This can include things like washing blinds, cleaning the dust in the tiny little fan ducts with a cotton swab, clean out and organize your pantry, sort shoes.  As long as the task has minimal impact on the final outcome then it qualifies under this category and will assist you in prolonging your project.

Tip #1. And my number one tip for maximum inefficiency is to spend a lot of time thinking about how you will blog about the experience.   Try to do this in the final hour or two of your project deadline.  Distracting yourself from the task at hand when you have the least amount amount of energy and highest level of stress is sort of like icing on the proverbial inefficiency cake.

Please remember my friends that creating maximum inefficiencies in your day-to-day life is a process, it will not happen overnight.  You must practice and hone these skills but if you stick to it, I have confidence that you too one day may be as inefficient as me.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Defying Gravity

 Everyone deserves the chance to fly!

This weekend we went to see the Broadway Musical 'Wicked' as part of my plan to add more enjoyment into life.  It was such a great play and there is something really special about sharing these experiences with my daughter and creating forever memories.   

I think the song "Defying Gravity" could be my daughter's theme song ~ it is about taking chances and not playing by the rules of someone else's game or accepting limits.  I admire that about her.  From a mother's perspective, it can be scary sometimes but I still think it's much better than living life in fear and not taking chances.  She's only nineteen years old and already she has participated in a 6-month volunteer program; she has traveled to many areas of Canada as well as South America, the United Kingdom and Europe.  Her world is so different than mine was when I was that age.  

Sometimes it seems like our roles are reversed because it feels like I learn more from her than she could ever learn from me.  Who knows, maybe some day I too will try defying gravity?  It's not too late even for me.  Certainly I am blessed beyond words to have her in my life and all I ever hope for is for her to be happy and have all she's ever wanted. 

♪ I hope you're happy right now ♪


Saturday, 16 July 2011

Closing for Restoration

These past few months I have felt like I'm unraveling and I don't really know why.  It seems to me that I have been in survival mode for so long, doing superficial type "upkeep" but the damage caused from the trials and tribulations of life is severe, perhaps unrepairable.

It makes me think of a house that has suffered fires, floods, wind storms, wear and tear.  The house has aged more than it should for it's years but it has also endured more.  From the outside everything looks okay; certainly the surface work done has kept it presentable, mostly to avoid complaints from the neighbors.  The debris has been removed, walls have been painted, floors have been covered over, weeds have been killed and the lawn has been mowed.

 Underneath all of that, who really knows how bad it is.  What's the condition of the plumbing and wiring?  Are there cracks in the foundation?  Is it even worse than that; has toxic mould spread throughout?  The true damage is really unknown to the casual observer.

How important is the truth really?  Can a person indefinitely hide what's really going on underneath that tough exterior that they've worked so hard to achieve?  I have a lot of questions and very few answers.

Some time ago a random message was sent to me via facebook; a daily truth from the Brave Girls Club.  Starting with "Dear Weary Girl ... " and ending with "Everything is going to be okay, it really is.  You are going to make it.".  Whoever wrote this message knows me, I don't know how they know me but they do and their messages reach my heart.  I was so positively affected by it that I signed up for the daily emails.

From there I found a course offered on the same website called Soul Restoration and it was like they were describing me and my worn down house that I had been imagining over the past few months.  I procrastinated for a few weeks but today I finally signed up.  I believe this was sent to me for a reason, I simply don't believe in coincidences ... not to this extent.  I do feel totally disconnected and beyond repair.  I don't necessarily believe that a six week course can restore my soul but I'm willing to try.  I am joining the brave girls and I am closing for restoration.
Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

 The rules of the Versatile Blogger Award are:

*Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post.

*Tell us seven things about yourself.

*Award fifteen recently discovered new bloggers. 

 I am very honored to receive this award from Busy Mama.   Thank you for reading my blog and for providing me with encouragement and feedback.

Seven Random Things about Me (no particular order):

7. I am a self-professed nerd.  I love to read and learn.  If I'm going to do something, I want to do it well ~ with perfection if possible:)  When I am interested in or fascinated by something, I want to research or study it in pain-staking detail.

6. I love coffee and candy.

5. I am color-blind.

4. I have been single for so long now that I can't even remember what it feels like to be in a relationship.  I'm mostly okay with that; relationships scare me.

3. Chinese Astrology fascinates me, I'm not sure why.  I first started studying it on a beach in Mexico a few years ago.  I was born in the year of the metal dog ~ it makes sense to me or it helps me make sense of me I guess.

2. I used to think I was a reluctant extrovert but I have learned that I am actually an introvert.  I enjoy time with friends and social gatherings but it drains my energy. I need lots of time to myself and am only truly refreshed by alone time. 

1. Authentic relationships are the main priority in my life.  I treasure friends and family who are loyal, sincere and genuine. 

I really have not read enough blogs to have15 bloggers to pass this on to but I do follow six blogs that are very deserving of this award:

1. Of course I have to pass it back to Busy Mama for Wendy Can't Cook.
2. Busy Mama's has another blog Who Took My Last Cup of Coffee.  It's just real writing about real feelings and real life.  One of my favorite posts is Broken Homes and Fairy Tales.  Check it out!

3. A Gorgeous Life Happiness 101 for Perfectionists is such a great blog.  It's refreshing, upbeat and sure to entertain you.

4. If you want to try some amazing German recipes from an amazing German woman check out Black Forest News.

5. I was introduced to Brene Brown via a facebook link to one of her videos.  She speaks of the value of mindfulness, authenticity and vulnerability.  If you want to be inspired, check out her blog Ordinary Courage.  I especially encourage you to read her post on Authenticity.

6. I just recently started following a blog  Life is Beautiful written by an amazing woman who writes from her heart. 

I really enjoy writing my blog, it has proven to be a great outlet for expressing my feelings and life experiences.  I have also found that through this blog I have connected with some pretty amazing people as well ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Virtually There

Our world has changed dramatically with every person having internet access at our fingertips.

Social media in particular has changed our lives.  It's so amazing how we can virtually know people all over the world without ever leaving the comfort or safety of our own homes.

I have found that genuine human connections can be found through the magic of facebook ~ where people join pages for shared goals or ideas, mostly with no intention of ever physically meeting.

One miserable day when I was googling "can't cope", "hopeless" "my life is chaos", I stumbled across Your personal online coach to help you gain control.  She helped me baby step my way through the days and slowly develop routines and start to feel like life was more manageable.  A year or so later, I found flylady on facebook.  I thought that I found here an alternate way to access this household management program but instead what I found was love, support, encouragement and some of the most amazing women I've ever known.

I look forward to catching up with my flysisters and I genuinely care about how they are doing.  I am happy to offer my encouragement and delighted to receive their encouragement in return.  So how can this be?  How can I feel so connected to these women I've never met?  We share a lot of our lives, perhaps we allow ourselves to be more vulnerable and open from behind the keyboard.  I know that can be more difficult in face-to-face situations where you can't simply shut down and walk away when you want to.  Through the flylady facebook page, I have found genuine human connections that I cherish.  Isn't that amazing!

This blog has been another outlet for me to express my true feelings and I have been simply blown away by the response.  Friends can read my blog and be virtually connected to me even when the craziness of life doesn't always permit them to physically be here.  Family members can get to know me from afar.  It makes me happy when friends and family take time to read my blog and give me feedback.  I guess it helps validate my feelings and this form of expression.  One of the biggest complements I've had is "you inspire me".  Me? Inspiring?  It's such a relief to know that people can not only accept but they can appreciate all that I think and feel.

The truly unexpected yet amazing part though is when a connection is made with a virtual friend or even a virtual stranger.  I am unbelievably touched when someone I've never met, responds with "hugs" or messages me "I know exactly how you feel" or sends me a link because they think I will benefit from it's wisdom.

I feel blessed by many people in my life.  Some of them, I do not see and I may never meet them but without question, they are virtually there.  Thank you❤

Saturday, 25 June 2011

I'm loving angels instead

Saturday mornings I always looked forward to talking to my sister.  She was the one person in the world that I could actually talk to about anything.  We would talk about our lives ~ work, relationships, friendships, family, psychology, physiology, life, death, joy, pain ... anything really.

Today is Saturday and I really wish I could talk to her.  There is so much going on in my life and I feel lost; I miss her a lot.  She was such a big part of my life, I guess it would be strange if I didn't miss her.  I was cleaning house and listening to music when the song by Robbie Willams came on "Angels".  The song is about the thoughts that loved ones that have passed on come back and take care of us.

I wonder what Debbie would tell me if she were here.  I wonder if she is here with me somehow, looking after me ... like she always tried to do.

♪And through it all she offers me protection
A lot of love and affection
Whether I'm right or wrong

And down the waterfall
Wherever it may take me
I know that life won't break me

When I come to call she won't forsake me ♪

... I'm loving angels instead

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The calm after the riot

I'm in Vancouver on business this week coincidentally arriving the day of the 7th game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. What I really wanted to do was hide in my room but instead I decided to embrace the moment and join in on the excitement. I went about half hour before the game started, there was definite excitement in the air. Everyone stood and sang the national anthem, it was really quite touching. Hard to imagine that these will be the same people completely trashing the city in short order.

Watching the game at Canada Place with thousands of people was quite the experience. It was interesting to witness the growing frustration and gang mentality that was developing as the game progressed. Near the end of the second period, the vast majority of the crowd was shouting out "boston sucks" and buzz of the rioting to follow was already starting. Why is it that people think rioting is an acceptable response to losing a game? It is still a game after all isn't it? Immediately after the game, downtown Vancouver did not feel like a safe place to be. Part of me wanted to stick around to see chaos continue to unfold but the risk manager in me decided the wisest move would be to return to the safety of my hotel room.

This morning I woke up early and went for a walk back to Canada Place. It's a beautiful morning here in Vancouver, the sun is shining and the brisk morning air feels good as I walk and think ~ enjoying the calm after the riot. The crowds have all gone home, or to jail and peace has been thankfully restored.

I've been reading about reactive patterns in every day life. Aaron McNaught has written a book called 'Waking Up to the Heart of Care'. He says each person has their own triggers that cause us to react with distorted meaning, intense emotions and impulsive actions. An important part of opening your heart is recognizing what your triggers are and then manage your patterns with 4-steps (1) Attention = mental response of being entirely in the present moment (2) Breathe = breathe through the emotions & allow them to dissipate naturally rather than resisting them (3) Relax = physical response (4) Allow = recognize the moment just as it is, without your belief that it should be otherwise. Obviously this would take a lot of practice but I think the advice is practical and I want to try it.

In thinking about my triggers of fear, rejection and critism; they seem cliché but yet I know they are real and my reactions to these feeling can be very dramatic. Imagine there is an
alternative to the way for me to live my life. Imagine there is a healthier way of processing and managing my emotions. I'm starting to feel more optimistic about this next phase of my life. I am looking forward to continuing to enjoy the calm after the riot.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Reasonable doubt

Trust is a difficult thing for me.  I don't trust people very easily and I don't often give the benefit of the doubt.  When it is reasonable to doubt a friend?  An outright lie makes it easy but what about an omission?  Omissions make me extremely suspicious, especially when I follow the path of omissions and they lead me to that scary placed filled with reasonable doubt.

When I was in high school I had only one friend, Charlotte.  I had transferred from private to public school and moved to a small town where everyone had been together since Kindergarten.  I felt like an alien, I didn't fit in, I didn't understand their world.  I was endlessly bullied and harassed but I did have this one friend and she stood by me even though it clearly wasn't cool to do so.  I looked up to Charlotte, she WAS cool and we were inseparable.  We spent all out time together.  We talked about anything and everything.  We even got our first boyfriends around the same time, lost our virginities around the same time and both moved away from home the summer before grade 12.  Our plan was to move in with our boyfriends and have this "couple" friendship.

Well Charlotte moved in with that first boyfriend who she soon married and had a child with.  I deviated from the plan and moved out on my own.  We grew apart for a period of time but happily found our way back to our "couple" plan two short years later when my daughter was born and we lived in the same apartment complex.  Over time I developed doubts and suspicions about Charlotte.  She was too flirtatious with my boyfriend but I convinced myself that I was simply insecure and jealous.  Unfortunately I was right to distrust her and I was crushed when she proved herself to be the person I secretly feared she was.

Why did this girl who faithfully stood by me in high school betray me now?  I've never been able to understand and I never gave her the opportunity to explain because for me, there was no acceptable explanation and the friendship was over.  Just two years ago, I got a phone call from her sister, she was asking me to attend Charlotte's funeral.   I said I would go, I wanted to go but I didn't want to go and ultimately I did not go. 

Forget about high school; fast forward a million years ... well maybe not a million, about 20 years actually, but it feels like a million.  I'm not the same geeky social misfit with just one friend; I'm funny girl ~ not everybody's friend but I have a few precious friends.  I select my friends carefully; I treasure loyalty and trust.  I have one close friend who I spend a significant amount of time with and lately I have had trouble trusting her.  It's nothings she does or says but it's the occasional thing that she fails to say that causes me worry.  I don't know for sure whether she is being haunted by Charlotte's ghost or if she will also prove herself to be the person I secretly fear she is.  Is history repeating itself OR am I foolishly ruining a friendship over historical insecurities and doubts?

It feels like we had this strong connection and unbelievable friendship but there have been things here and there along the way that have stirred fears and anxieties within me: nothing big, nothing earth shattering but nagging doubts. I'm trying to practice loving with my whole heart but I haven't been, not in this friendship.  If she's worthy of trust than I am certainly not being the friend SHE deserves.  Is the friendship wrinkled like the paper or broken like the glass?

I like things to be clear cut: black or white, right or wrong, yes or no.  I don't like living with doubt, whether its unreasonable or reasonable, it doesn't feel good.  As I sit here, there's a voice telling me that the easiest thing in the world would be to write this friendship off and walk away, just cut my losses.  There's another voice, an unfamiliar voice of reason, telling me that real long-lasting friendships are not easy because people are complicated ~ we all have stuff going on in our lives ~we are all burdened by our baggage that we carry ~we are all imperfect. 

I am going to take a chance.  I am going to keep my heart open to this friend.  And I am going to work on being the best friend I can be.  Maybe I will get hurt, I guess there is always that chance, but then again maybe I won't.  Maybe this friendship will be worth it and I won't know unless I try.

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple".  Oscar Wilde

Monday, 6 June 2011

Go There

This weekend I went somewhere I have not been willing to go for a very long time.

When my daughter was small (K to the end of grade 3) we lived in the apartments by the river; it's a mediocre building but a very convenient location and walking paths all around.  I went through some difficult times when we lived there so I literally have not gone there since we moved.  It's in a central part of town so yes I've driven by but I haven't spent any time there or even thinking about being there.

I listened to this video clip of Brene Brown called The Power of Vulnerability; in the video she said something that triggered an 'AHA' moment for me ~ "you cannot selectively numb your feelings".  When you numb fear, guilt, grief and despair; you also numb joy, love, happiness and gratitude.  This made me realize that my unwillingness to think or feel the pain associated with that time in my life also meant that I was unable to remember the love and happiness that I felt as a mother during that time.

When I pulled up in my car, I tensed up, held my breath and braced myself for the pain and anxiety that was bound to follow.  Mylo and I got out of the car, I took and deep breath and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  And then a strange thing happened ... I was okay.  The sky was blue with fluffy white couds, the grass was greener than I remembered and the air was fresh.  As I walked along the path, I smiled as I remembered having picnics with my daughter beside the river, countless walks along the beautiful paths and the sound of her laughter as she played outside our patio door.  We had a lovely apartment and many good times, many amazing memories.  I've wasted too much time regretting the mistakes I made and allowing them to over-shadow the rest of that life which really was quite amazing.  I'm glad I was finally willing to go there and I wonder why it took me 10 years.

I guess I'm just ready now ~ ready to face my fears, ready to embrace my truth.  If you haven't seen her video clip on, I strongly recommend it.  I really enjoyed it and in fact, I'm going to take some more advice from Brene Brown (also from the video) and I hope you do too...

Be seen for who I really am 
Love with my whole heart
Practice gratitude
Believe I am enough

Saturday, 4 June 2011

The heart of the matter

I continue to be in this place of self-evaluation and I've had to face some rather unpleasant realities about myself.  While I do give and feel love where I feel absolutely safe, I can be rather closed-off and cold.  I've spent many years armoring myself in preparation for the next battle hoping to protect myself by not caring too much, not getting too close and only truly relying on myself.  If I expect nothing then I won't be disappointed ... right? 

Self-protection is really all about fear and fear really is a waste of precious time. 

Recently my brother was outfitted with a PICC, it's purpose is to protect his heart from infection.  It made me think about how I have attempted to protect my heart from rejection and hurt.  I've allowed my fears to keep barriers between me and people I really care about.  I've withheld love because I was afraid to expose my heart and be vulnerable.  I hold grudges because feels less risky to write someone off then give them another chance.  When I feel like I'm getting too close or starting to trust someone too much, I back up and close off like a snail retreating into her shell. 

If I continue to keep to myself and withhold the goodness in my heart, will I die with a heart full of love un-given? 

Recently I've been opening up more and talking about things I've been afraid to talk about.  The problem with avoiding discussions and hiding feelings is that it has the opposite effect that you are hoping for; it makes them bigger rather than making them disappear into the darkness.  Perspective is made possible by opening up, shining light on them and even seeing them from someone else's point of view. 

This week I also made an apology to someone I really care about.  I was afraid to reach out to her for fear of how she may respond and I was pleasantly surprised by her willingness to open her heart to me and generously accept my apology.  It was such an incredible feeling and I could feel my heart warm.  I wish I hadn't waited so long.

We all have enormous capacity for love, it's a gift to give not keep.  I learned a lot about love from my sister, Debbie.  She was generous with her love to me and those around her; I remember saying at her funeral "just as iron sharpens iron; love sharpens love".  The more love you give, the more love you feel ,and the more love you have to give.

Change is scary, it's uncomfortable but what's even more scary is not changing.  I'm glad I can see myself more clearly now.  I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to be more open, more giving, more forgiving and more loving.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Get out of the mud!

My sister said that depression is like slogging through really deep mud and you don't even realize how taxing it is until you get out, or more likely get into a slightly less dense area of mud.   I've been in the mud for a while now, too long; I can't remember when or how I got here but I feel better this week, lighter and brighter somehow.  Possibly baby step by baby step I've inched my way through all that heavy mud to firmer ground.  I'm not entirely sure if I'm out or on a reprieve but I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth ~ I'm enjoying this place!

'The Spirituality of Imperfection' by Ernest Kurtz is a book that I bought over 10 years ago when I was recovering from an eating disorder and severe depression.  The book is well worn, with a lot of dog-eared pages and almost the entire thing is underlined.  I revisit it's wisdom often: I've benefited greatly from the book over the years. 

No matter how many times I have read the last page, it gives me chills because it reminds me that recovery is possible and it's worth it but it's hard.  The passage is known as the promises and I have recited this line over and over to myself.  "If we are painstaking in this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through."  Kurtz adds to the promises "If we learn to accept our imperfection with humor, as a reflection of our very humanity, we will experience humility and tolerance, we will understand that we are already filled with forgiveness, we will see the gifts in our lives, we will be free - free not so much from fear or dependence but free for love, for life itself."

I've noticed that I have a tendency to make things too difficult; I over-think, over-analyze, over-research, get caught up in my perfectionism and underestimate the cumulative effect of the little things.  Just getting off the couch and going for a walk or spending 15 minutes tidying the kitchen after dinner or just "not talking" one time when I think of saying something unkind.  Even taking 5 extra minutes to put night cream on my face before going to sleep.  I don’t know what is around the corner tomorrow, next week or next month but I am happy that at this moment, everything is okay. Hopefully down the road, when I'm once again crossing the mud bogs, I can remind myself that the little things really do count.

Friday, 6 May 2011

The imperfection of happiness

I haven't blogged in a while. The truth is that I read over my blog posts and feel like a miserable failure. You see, the point of my blog is to find something good in every day and in retrospect, I see I'm really not doing a very good job of that.

Today at the bookstore I spotted a book called 'The Happiness Project'; i picked it up hoping to be inspired. I just finished reading the first chapter and I couldn't help but smile as I related to this woman's perfectionism getting in the way of her happiness project. She kept running up against paradoxes, coincidentally the very same paradoxes that baffle me:
*I want to change myself yet accept myself
**I want to take myself less seriously and also more seriously
***I want to use my time well but also spend more time wandering
****I want to think about myself and forget myself

After reading these, it's not hard to imagine why I feel lost, confused and discouraged; yet, I don't want to let my perfectionism to get in the way of my pursuit. Sure my blog is a bit of a downer but they did pass my own positivity test at the moment I posted them so perhaps that's good enough for now. My drafts folder is evidence that they don't all make the cut. 

Like the woman in the book, I am not seeking the secret to happiness; I simply want to be happier. Unlike the woman in the book, I am not preparing for adversity; I'm attempting to recover from it. Clearly I won't always get it right but what I will do is keep trying, keep looking for something good in every day and I have a feeling that I just may find it.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Welcome Back

I love the sound of birds singing in the morning. I think it's time to start sleeping with the window open so I can wake up to the crisp spring air and the melodic sound of the birds.

This evening when Mylo and I went on our walk I was surprised by how quiet it was.  How lovely it is to live in a part of the city where the sounds of nature are not drowned out by the sounds of crowds and traffic.

The last couple of days I felt like I was once again staring in one of those depression hurts commercials so I'm glad I was able to drag myself away from the sofa to enjoy this lovely evening.  Looking at the robin, I was wondering how I could stop this recurring role I have in this depression and then it came to me ~ STOP AUDITIONING! 

I wonder about the effectiveness of "fake it until you make it".  I've always been an advocate of being genuine ~ what you see is what you get but that seems to be the very thing that has kept me in this funk for so long.  If I stop acting and talking like a depressed person, they certainly won't have me in their commercials any longer.  Maybe depression will leave me if I stop making it so welcome.  I miss the person I used to be.  What a waste it is not to enjoy this beautiful life I have.

Does the robin wonder if she should sing or does she just do it because that's what robins do?  Does the robin ever feel sluggish and just stay in her nest all day long?  Sure the robin has work to do in building and maintaining a nest, looking for food, laying and hatching eggs but when she's not working what is she doing?  How unfortunate it would be for her not to explore and enjoy the world around her.

It's been a long winter and I'm delighted that the robins are back ~ so nice to see them, so nice to hear them.   Welcome back my friends.  I missed you.

Friday, 22 April 2011

2000 years of bad press

While I was on vacation, I decided I wanted to learn about my name sake Cleopatra so I read the book by Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra A Life.

As the young powerful ruler of Egypt, she was labeled the "wickedest woman in history" partially because of her perceived manipulation of two very powerful leaders, Caesar and Antony, but also because of her extensive wealth and decadence and the decisions she made during her reign.

I believe Cleopatra is misunderstood and the victim of 2000 years of bad press, a woman ruling in a man's world.  She didn't do any thing any more "wicked" then any male ruler of the time but because she was a woman she stood out and was judged much too harshly.  I see Cleopatra as a clever and ingenious survivor.  She spoke nine languages, traveled all over the world and led Egypt for twenty years, starting when she was just 19 years old.  I appreciate her tenacity; she came up with one crazy scheme after another and maneuvered her way through all kinds of ridiculous situations.

I doubt anyone really knows the truth about this elusive woman, probably one of the most talked about woman in history.  Based on the perspective presented in this book, I can't help but admire her ~ she lived and died on her own terms.  Was Cleopatra the queen of denial?  She certainly didn't deny herself power, wealth, extravagance or love;  however she clearly denied the status quo and persevered until she got what she wanted.  Even thousands of years later, Cleopatra's loves and life continues to enthrall us ~ she's given people through the ages lots to talk about.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Checking Out!

I fell in love with Mexico the first time I went there.  A trip to Mexico is magical for me; it is medicine for my soul.  

This trip came just at the right time for me.  I have been really struggling lately, not coping well with the pressures and stresses of day-to-day life.  I really needed to simply check out.

My friend and I agreed that we were taking a vacation from our problems, checking out of our lives here so we left reality at the international airport and went away for a week of relaxation, sunshine and fun.  Mission accomplished!  This vacation was the exact opposite of my life ~ no worries, no pressure, no stress.  I loved every minute of it.

I feel like a different person when I'm away from all of this.  As I laid on the beach one early morning listening to the sound of the waves, feeling the warmth of the sun and the sand and marveling at the beauty all around me I couldn't help but wonder how I could bring just a little of this feeling into my every day life.   
It felt anxious and worried checking out of our hotel in Mexico with the thoughts of checking back into life here and as I was driving home from the airport I was panic-stricken by racing thoughts of my brother's illness, my mother's aging, my daughter's strife, my challenges at work and home, Kasha being gone ... And then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I can't deal with all of that today.  I can't solve all of these problems.  All I can do is take one step and then another and live in this moment.

I'm home now and guess what, the world did not crumble down around me while I was gone.  Everyone managed just fine without me.  I look outside and I see that the sun is shining and it's a good day.  So I'm taking myself off this couch and away from this computer to live this day and enjoy this moment that I'm in ~  a little less stressed and a lot more relaxed and able to cope with checking back in.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Goodbye ... Rest in Peace

KASHA, 2000-2011
Kasha was the son of my sister's dog, Buddy.  Kasha was born during a time when my daughter was in grade three and completely dog-crazy.  We lived in an apartment and were not able to have dogs so instead we had two cats and she had 49 imaginary dogs.  As we were soon moving into a condo where dogs would be permitted, my sister kindly agreed to give us one of Buddy's puppies.  Soon after the puppies were born, we went to visit my sister to check out the puppies and we were immediately drawn to a small palm-sized little treasure; at the time, we though HE was a SHE.  We decided to bring the little one home and named him Kasha which means "costs lots of money but worth every penny".   Thankfully the arrival of Kasha signaled the departure of the 49 imaginary dogs  who fortunately (for me) decided they preferred apartment life and stayed at the apartment when we moved to the condo.  It was not too long before we realized that she was actually a he but Kasha was cute, cuddly and tons of fun.  He was very easy to train and even easier to love.

 As Kasha grew older, he was the dog that never lost his youth ~ still cute like a puppy and happy to play and go on walks.  Age took his toll on him with the poodle curse of rotting teeth and achy bones but he seemed happy most of the time.  The loss of his bladder control was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back and it was really a quick downward spiral with peeing all over the house, on people, in his bed and even slipping down the stairs.

Me & Kasha ~ our last day together
Dogs are part of our families; they are true and loyal friends; they are our constant companions.

It was so hard to say good bye to Kasha today.  I will miss him. It felt even more difficult because he was a present from my sister and having him part of my life kind of felt like she was still part of my life somehow.  I will always miss her.

Goodbyes are sadly a part of life.  During our lifetime we will say many goodbyes.  We say goodbye to friends whose lives tragically end too soon.  We say goodbye to partners and life mates.  We say goodbye to sisters.  We say goodbye to pets.

The "good" in a goodbye can be found in the reason why they are so hard ~ it is because that person or that pet was so special and such an important part of our lives that we will miss them dearly.  And when we miss them, we send love and light their way and wherever they are, they know that they mattered, they were important and they made a difference in somebody's life. 

" How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
 Carol Sobieski and Thomas Meehan

Sunday, 10 April 2011

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times ...

Today I went for a long walk, my first walk since the fall.  I'm a fair weather walker.  I love walking though, it's great thinking time!  The past few days really have been full of ups and downs, I really struggle with life's extremes.  I don't adapt well to extreme fluctuations within short periods of time.  I feel defeated and shut down.

I couldn't help but think of the famous quote from Charles Dickens which speaks to the vicissitude of life:  best of times, worst of times; age of wisdom, age of foolishness; lightness, darkness; everything before us, nothing before us. 

I had some friends over for an Italian dinner on Saturday to celebrate my daughter coming home.  We had good food, amazing company and really such a great night.  At the close of the evening, I received a phone call that my brother had been admitted to hospital with a high fever, suspected UTI again!  Here we have the best of times and the worst of times in one night.

On this journey I am on for self improvement, self fulfillment, self survival ... whatever you want to call it; I feel like I have moments of brilliance where I make good healthy decisions followed by moments of stupidity where I make such bad self-defeating decisions.  I find myself both in the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness.

Speaking of age, I turned 40 last year.  I'm trying to figure out how to live the life of a 40 year old with a 19 year old free-spirited daughter, 75 year old dependent mother, 51 year old brother virtually incapacitated by MS, a challenging and stressful career and a household to maintain.  Being 40 with a grown daughter, I feel like I should have everything before me but the reality is that I feel that I have nothing before me except a lot of challenges.

Near the end of my walk, I was watching the stream, it should be pretty but it's not right now; it's spring dirty.  In fact, the water looks cold and harsh, you can see lots of rocks.  It won't always be this way though; it's really just temporary.  Soon the sun will shine, the snow will melt and the water will warm up.  Soon I will see grass instead of snow.  Soon I will hear birds.

Clearly life is rough, cold and harsh at times.  We just have to hang in through the worst times, foolishness and darkness in order to experience the best times, wisdom and light.

I think that me and the stream just need to accept that this moment, is not our best.  This too shall pass; spring is always followed by summer.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Extraordinary Indulgence, Kindness or Care

Work has been excessively busy for some time now and when that is added to the demands at home, it's hard to actually feel any sense of balance.  Well balance or no balance, I'm taking the "just do it" approach to fit in some activities I enjoy.  Waiting until things slow down or calm down really isn't working for me.

Today was a really nice day.  My daughter and I went to the spa for pedicures and lunch using gift certificates which made it even better.  We then had a few errands to run and I needed to take my Mom for an appointment after that.

It feels really good to get a pedicure.  I just love going to the spa or for a massage.  I need to do more of this, not necessarily going out but even just taking time and making the effort to pamper myself.  Pampering is defined as to treat or gratify with excessive indulgence, kindness or care.  I think that the "excessive" part has negative connotations and in my own personal definition, I will substitute in "extraordinary".  Isn't it a lovely thought to do something extraordinary for yourself for no defined reason. 

I have a basic weekly plan that I try to follow to keep my life somewhat organized and get things done.  I'm going to incorporate "Pampering" into this because if I don't have a plan, it just won't end up happening.  Life's just too busy and it's pretty easy to put off  or not even think of doing extraordinary things for myself.  I'm also going to incorporate this into my budget, not that it will always involve spending a lot of money but I would like to have some money available for this so I can do it without feeling guilty, again because it is part of the plan.

I already have an idea for a pampering activity.  I really enjoy going to live shows or plays so I'm going to do some research, choose one and plan a night out.  Ordinarily I wouldn't spend money on a play or if I did, I would feel really guilty for wasting that money as I would definitely categorize a play as an extraordinary indulgence.  I still do these things on occasion but don't fully enjoy them because they aren't well planned, organized and/or didn't have money allocated for it.  Now I will plan them, budget for them and of course, blog about them.  What fun!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Doing it over and over and over again

I was reading a blog about do-overs and I started thinking about how life is non-stop do-overs.  I do the same things over and over and over again.

This morning, for example, I washed my car and then today I proceeded to drive through humongous puddles and over dusty dirty roads so when I got home today I realized I would have to wash my car again.  But why wash my car when I will just have to do it again soon?

It's like cleaning the house...

The repetition of life can be discouraging yet do-overs are considered a good thing?  I'm confused.

Since I'm on this mission to turn my frown upside down, I've decided that I can use the repetitious nature of life to my advantage.  If part of life is doing things over and over again then there are so many opportunities to do things differently.  For example going to work CAN be pure monotony but it also could be a place to learn and grow.  I detest driving so driving from place to place feels like a chore BUT I love sight seeing so rather than driving like a maniac from place to place to get the driving over with maybe I should look around while I'm driving and take in my surroundings, see some sights perhaps.

Unfortunately I don't have magical powers to suddenly change the way I live my life or miraculously improve my attitude.  I certainly don't expect to suddenly become little miss sunshine but if I can do one mundane thing differently, have interest or find joy where I did not before then that's a good thing AND since I am doing things over and over and over again, I can just keep trying.  After all, it's progress not perfection I'm looking for.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A dog's life

This little girl, Mylo, is my sunshine on a rainy day.  When I'm at home, she's my constant companion whether she is sitting beside me on the couch or following me around or lying at the foot of my bed.

I'm not even sure why Mylo likes me.  Yes I feed her but I almost never walk her in the winter.  I try to be sure her water dish is always full but I don't play with her that often.  So what's in it for her?  She just seems to want to be with me which is hard to understand when I don't even want to be with me!

According to the chinese zodiac, I was born in the year of the metal dog perhaps that's why I have such a strong affinity with my doggie.  I do feel like I live up to the characteristics of a metal dog ~ faithful, sincere and giving; a loyal companion; yet, can be judgmental, defensive and holds a grudge.   I've often been told that I need to soften around the edges.  I think that's a fair comment.

When life feels hard, it sure feels good to have this loyal companion around.  She's a cockapoo but she doesn't have the hyperactivity of a poodle, at all.  I feel her calmness and acceptance of me.  She certainly never judges or holds a grudge.  She appears to go with the flow.  She seems to be okay with me just the way I am.  I wonder what the world looks like through her eyes?  I wonder what it would feel like to live life as a dog, even just for one day? 

My objective in this blog is to learn to appreciate the world around me and as I do that I'm hoping that I will become a kinder, gentler version of me.  I'd like to be calmer, "softer around the edges" I guess you could say. 

“Thorns may hurt you, men desert you, sunlight turn to fog; but you’re never friendless ever, if you have a dog.”

Monday, 4 April 2011

Sun Shine

Today as I was driving home from a fairly crappy day at work, I was desperately seeking something good for my blog today but the sun kept getting in my eyes.  That's when I realized that something good was getting in the way of me trying to see something good.

One of the blessings of Alberta is the the blue sky and the bright shining sun that can cheer me up even on the coldest of days.  I spend a lot of time looking at the sky when I'm on vacation but in my day-to-day life I don't spend enough time enjoying it's beauty.

Many days I don't even notice the weather or what's going on around me.  I'm too distracted by what has happened or preoccupied with what will happen to notice what is happening.  Is that ironic? 

How many times have I been so disconnected that I don't see what I'm looking for even though it's right in front of me.  Being "present" is something I am working on but it takes practice: pay attention to this moment, take in the sights, smells, sensations and breathe.  

Today I am thankful for the beautiful clear blue sky and the I am happy to see the sun shining so brightly.  It reminds me that spring is on its way, a season of new beginnings that I am looking forward to.


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Baby Love

There is a lot to be learned from babies.  They concern themselves with their basic needs and things that entertain them.  They live in the moment.  They let you love them and love you in return.  I admire the simplicity of their lives. 

I've been struggling with relationships lately. I've felt an inability to connect with those I love the most as a culmination of past hurts, present burdens and responsibilities and tremendous worry about the future.

Today I had a visit from my great-nephew.  It felt amazing to hold him, cuddle him and I did actually feel connected to him.  Maybe it's because my relationship with this baby is not complicated; I just love him, let him love me and enjoy the time we have together. 

How can I take the simplicity of this relationship into other relationships?  Is it possible to let go of past hurts, stop worrying about the future and just enjoy the moment and treasure the relationships I have and the people I love.  It's probably easier said than done and I'm not sure how to get from here to there but I do know that this baby reminds me that relationships are to be treasured.  It's time for some baby steps, time to live in this moment, time to love and be loved.  Maybe, just maybe, the rest will take care of itself.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

To Do: Find Something Good in Every Day

Yesterday, on April Fools Day, I was having a bit of a pity party thinking about how my life was a series of unfortunate events.  Maybe it's a cosmic joke of some sort OR maybe I'm just a fool who doesn't uncover the good in life.

Today as I was driving across the bridge and marveling the beauty of the cityscape, I decided it was time to embark upon a mission.  Instead of dwelling on the difficulties in the day-to-day minutia, I'm going to find something, just one thing each day that is good and I'm going to photograph and blog about it.  I am certain that I do not understand the purpose of life, the needless suffering of mankind or really any of the "whys" but perhaps the pursuit of meaning or answers is causing me to feel in a perpetual state of unrest and dissatisfaction.

The definition of insanity is said to be "doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results".  So I plan to stop the insanity, my search for understanding and instead change my focus and search for moments of joy, instances of beauty and goodness in this world we live in.

My life does feel like a cruel joke of some sort but I'm going to see if I can stop foolishly wasting it and start enjoying it.