Every Moment Counts

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2016 has been a hard year. That’s not news. Personally for me, it’s been a pretty big year of firsts and with that of growth and sometimes pain. I’ve lost my way a bunch, found it, then lost it again. I’ve cried a lot of tears and I’ve learned what it is to walk beside someone else in life and share the heavy burdens of everyday. I’ve discovered that when I suffer, he suffers too and I’ve discovered that when I feel joy- likewise so does he.

It took me a long while to understand that when I live my life with someone else, it impacts them too. I think sometimes we all somehow believe we don’t have the impact we think on one another. Random encounters with strangers can have impact on their lives good and bad and of course so does the impact sit with those we live with day-to-day. We all leave an impression on one another- a residue of our energy that stays on long after we’ve gone.

I’ve thought about this through the tragic and sudden death of a young friend this year. He was kind. He lived his life in a way that shone light on others. He smiled the biggest, hugged the tightest, laughed the loudest. He had so much joy about him that in his absence, I think it’s still here. His happiness was so big you couldn’t be in his presence and not be touched by it. Isn’t that how we should all live our lives? He only got 30 years here but I think he’d figured out the secret to a full life no matter how short the years. He was present and he felt so much joy I can’t think of him without smiling.

This year has been a tough one but if I have learned anything, it has been the importance of living in joy and in being true to me. I feel like I’ve strayed from that this year more so than ever. I’ve wandered off the trail in search of happiness for others. I’ve tried to be different so I don’t upset those around me and ultimately I think it is the thing that takes me the furthest from my writing and my ability to stay in touch with who I am. The desire to make others happy is something that weighs on my mind often. Sometimes it’s like a tidal wave that takes away every true perception I have of who I am until I have no voice. Without a voice, I have no opportunity to be great in this life and I think it is the realness of this that overwhelms me most.

It’s not about the year or the circumstances within it, it’s about being true every second, making the most of the time we have, not letting life slip away. It’s about hugging one another tight when we have the chance, taking quiet moments for ourselves, being gentle with others and with ourselves always. It’s also about knowing that each and every one of us has a purpose and it is to be great in the little moments we have everyday to shine.

My friend was not famous- he didn’t invent anything to change the world and my children won’t read about him in history books. He joked a lot, laughed a lot, hugged a lot, and loved a lot. He taught me that every moment counts. My only regret this year is that I’ve wasted too many on sadness. I’ve wasted too many moments in my own head spinning wheels that make the pain of not feeling enough more real.

I’ve convinced myself that I am small when I have every opportunity to be more.

I hesitated to write this because it’s been painful but I’m taking the moments back and turning them into something I can use to be better, stronger and more resilient because truly, every moment counts.

Finding Joy

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I struggle out of bed each day, stumbling to the bathroom with my eyes half shut, taking on the day as if it’s a burden just to be me. I’m 27. I’ve only had 27 years to become this jaded but here I am. I’m cranky, and in the comfort of my home I cry for no reason- more lately if I’m honest.

I stress and worry and agonize and sometimes it’s over the things I can control and sometimes it’s over the things I can not. There’s no off switch. I don’t think the way I feel is anything out of the ordinary. I think I’m amongst friends with a whole generation of lost souls starting out with debt, a technologically-fueled competition at life and no purpose.

Every now and then I stumble onto my path in a drunken stupor and realize I’ve gained clarity in my life that has set me “right”. In those moments I feel like I have it all together and the fog clears and I have a way out. In those moments I begin to know who I am. They’re fleeting. They are like a dream I wake up from too soon. As they slip away I try to hang on to the edges so I remember what it feels like to be me.

Last week I took time away from work to join an art workshop and get re-connected with that creative side of me I keep tucked away. I’ve gone down paths in my career that have led me further and further away from the authenticity I feel when I create. At the end of the week I felt good, but I wanted the magic of creating to save me and it didn’t. I wanted it to give me back all of the things I’ve been lacking and I wanted to come off the week knowing my work reflected me and I was proud of it. It didn’t because I’ve lost my sense of what that is and one week was just a teaser. One week was re-acquainting with an old friend just long enough to scratch the surface.

Brene Brown said, “Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow, shame”.

The visual in that is so great, it forces me to understand this as a real thing- not a hysterical making of my imagination. It is a real whole piece of me that is turning sour with suppression. It’s not the whole problem but it’s a big one. I wonder how many others are on this journey, carrying only pieces of themselves through the day-to-day?

I had to get real. I had to begin the treacherous climb out of the rabbit hole.

There is no shame in admitting that success is not a paycheque and a life that looks good from the outside. Maybe it is for some but for me, success is a joy that starts at the center of your chest and spreads out through your whole body. It’s an expression of love and a connection with your real self that is untethered to anything but your personal journey. It shines out through your eyes and breathes out through your mouth in peaceful little wisps of certainty. I’ve seen it in others, but until now I didn’t recognize its value.

 

A Little Perspective

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Lately I’ve been keeping an eye on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon that’s blowing up social media and spreading like wild fire across the world. It’s incredible and inspiring. For those who have somehow missed out- participants from everywhere and anywhere dump a bucket of freezing cold ice water over their head to mimic the debilitating feeling of living with ALS, if only for a moment or two. Once they’ve completed the challenge they may nominate 3 others, who then have 24 hours to complete it. If they choose not to do the challenge they must donate $100 or are of course invited to donate and complete the challenge both.

Not only has the campaign helped to raise millions and millions of dollars for ALS research (8.6 just today!) but it’s also promoted general awareness for a disease so incredibly terrible that it takes my breath away. Just tonight I watched a video about a man whose family has a history of ALS. He watches his mother’s body deteriorate everyday while he lives with the reality that he will face the same fate. At 26 he, too, was diagnosed with the terrifying disease.

I’m 25. To be completely transparent, I’m struggling quite a bit at this point in my life. It’s not feeling like I belong, not knowing where my spot in the world is, not feeling loved or liked or understood. Day-to-day it feels frustrating and overwhelming and uncontrollable but the truth is I have the power to make changes. It is small potatoes compared to the impending tidal wave of the raw truth of living with a disease that slowly shuts down your body before you’ve had the chance to live in it. It’s not a ‘whose got it worse’ contest but it certainly puts things into perspective.

I’ve started to think about my idea of true success and happiness. I’ve been thinking about what it means to live passionately and with fulfillment and I’ve been thinking about why I have any excuse not to. There is a certain safety about colouring inside the lines, and with that a false sense of security that can be so deceptively warm and cozy that I think it’s sometime difficult to unwrap yourself from it. It’s easy to forget that life can come along and make other plans. Hearing the stories about ALS and learning about the disease through this campaign has reminded me to focus in on living everyday positively and gratefully.

With that in mind- For the next 7 days I’m going to participate in my own challenge to promote a more positive life. Every day I will post a positive quote that inspires me as well as 3 things I’m grateful for. If you’re not doing so already- I challenge you to live more positively and without the fear of leaving your comfort zone. Start with dumping a very cold bucket of water over your head and donating to a worthy cause!

Ful-FILL-ment

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A few years ago I was clicking through one of those discount sites at random when I came across some kind of majestic celestial reading. It sounded intriguing. For $10 I could get direction in my life, it said. For $10 I could know the future. Self-Quotes-–Quote-Self-fulfillment-–-Self-awareness-–-Self-help-–-Self-–improvement-Be-yourself.-There-is-something-that-you-can-do-bettNaturally I clicked purchase.

When I arrived for my reading I was on high alert. I expected spooky. I expected a smoke machine with some kind of Stevie Nicks-wannabe lurking in the shadows beckoning to me with long fingernails. Instead I found a quaint little house with a discreetly placed sign that said “CARD READINGS” and a bohemian-looking woman with incense burning on a table in the back who greeted me with a deck of cards in her hand and an easy smile.

We sat down and she began shuffling casually and listing off the steps we’d be following throughout the process. I had no idea what to expect from the actual reading. I was going for “the man of your dreams looks like Taylor Kitsch and you’ll fall in love when you work together publishing your first book”. A girl can dream right?

It wasn’t quite so specific, but I do remember that writing was a key component. The first card I drew from the deck had to do with writing as my creative expression of choice and the importance of that in my life to ensure fulfillment, peace and happiness. kumbaya.eff4a72e26f310e6cc458baba19facb0

The next part was about learning to trust the universe. In the interest of full disclosure- I started looking around for the smoke machine, crystal ball and witchy woman about this time. Trusting the universe? ohhhhkay. She went on to explain that too often we get pulled left and right into the jobs, the obligations, the responsibilities that we think we’re supposed to have because we feel we have to, but also because we don’t trust our instincts (and the universe) enough to go against them. Ie. Maybe the great job that pays loads doesn’t feel so great really, because it doesn’t allow for creative expression or a true sense of fulfillment, but dammmnnn check out the new Bentley. OR maybe the new gorgeous love interest you’ve been on four dates with seems flawless in every way, except that they don’t really get your weird aversion to Alf or your love for gently used furniture and antique hunting like you’re guest starring on Canadian Pickers.

I’m paraphrasing…she didn’t really say all that, but the universe thing and jobs, obligations, responsibilities thing, she did. She told me that when I start to relax and just listen to the universe it would all fall into place and start to make sense, but the more I fight it in my life, the less it would.

I think it is one of the hardest things in the world to live in a fulfilling way. For me what this looks like is living with a strong creative presence yet it’s the thing that gets left out of my life first when I get busy. It’s the element of myself that I have thquote-we-live-in-a-hemisphere-whose-own-revolution-has-given-birth-to-the-most-powerful-force-of-the-john-f-kennedy-320223e courage to share with very few people, and how funny is that when it’s such a critical part of me?
The other bit about personal fulfillment is having the courage to live for yourself; as you should be. I watched a short video tonight about a little boy who realized at age 3 that he- who was born a she- did not identify with his gender. He cried about it as his parents struggled through whether it was just a “phase” or not. The struggle continued for a few years until the family realized what shame it caused him to live in a way that did not truly fulfill his sense of self. Controversial certainly, but they cut his hair, changed his clothes, sent out a letter to friends and family explaining the transformation and began referring to their little girl as a ‘he’. Then, and only then, did the transformation to self acceptance begin- at the age of six! What courage- to live everyday exactly as you are.

 

Fake

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The dust of uncertainty settles neatly.

Fragments of disarray.

In the effervescent light of summer moon

The hand strokes minutes past the hour.

Nudging consciousness-

Sweetness of an unsettled tune.

Intoxicated by the slow melodic kiss,

Of dangerously solid wake.

Dizzying realness of a broken spirit,

Pawing at the edge of possibility.

Silenced.

Disappointed.

Fake.

The Light of Human Kindness

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human-kind-300x300This morning I was riding the subway into work as per my usual. I had my headphones in and my eyes were glued to the pages of a book for most of the journey; Toronto style. Nearing my stop, I dog-eared my page and gathered my stuff to prepare to get off. Just as I did so I watched a girl sitting across from me extend a long stick into its full position and I realized she was visually impaired.

She was younger than I am and travelling alone to one of the busiest parts of Toronto. I watched her make her way across the moving subway to the door. She used her long red stick to find her way, but as she approached the door and navigated through the throng of people she used her hands to feel her way. She approached the doorway and a teenage boy was seated just next to  it with his skateboard propped up in his lap. She grabbed the board, then her hand clutched  and spun a wheel as she tried to sort out what she’d encountered. The boy watched quietly as she did so. I watched as he hesitated, unsure of what to do.

Then, something beautiful happened. He reached up and gently took her by the wrist and placed her hand on the subway bar so that she could anchor herself near the door just as we squealed to a stop. They didn’t speak. She smiled in appreciation and when the subway came to a stop and the doors flew open, she walked through them in a sea of bodies in a rush to get everywhere.

I don’t know if anyone else witnessed it and it was over in such an instant that momentarily I wondered what it was I’d actually seen.Quotation-Jamie-Winship-kindness-potential-human-change-Meetville-Quotes-199628

Human kindness.

Raw human kindness.

One person helping another person out in a compassionate way not to gain recognition for his efforts but to be kind. That’s the way I saw it. The shaggy-haired, baggy clothed teenager had reached out figuratively and literally and unquestioningly the girl without sight trusted his direction and let herself be guided. I stared at him for a minute. He looked no different than anyone else sitting in that little car but he’d done something I bet many others would have veered away from entirely. He reached out.

I wonder how many of us would unflinchingly trust the actions of someone like the shaggy haired guy? I wonder if I’d have the guts to lay my hands on a complete stranger and guide them the way he had?

In the midst of life’s complications and the shade of every nuance that alter’s perception and sometimes by extension the direction of this journey we’re on, there is so much beauty around the light of human kindness. There is so much to be gained from being in this together.

Enjoy Your Own Moment

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Have you ever had the feeling that you’re not moving fast enough in life? Like everyone else has things sorted and you’re just trying to match up your socks every morning and find time to grab a coffee to keep your brain afloat? self_love1

Yeah..me either…I’ve never felt that way….

Okay lies. I felt that way yesterday.

I blame facebook for my little episode.

I truly think it’s a beautiful thing to be able to share the exciting parts of your life with your nearest and dearest via social media but there are moments that I look at the new babies and engagements and fabulous trips and think….Ugh! Gross! Thank god my life is simple and I’m on my own just taking on the world! Just kidding. I’m really thinking…is my life boring? Will I ever make it past the second date with a guy? Maybe if I put aside 1 dollar every week for 50 years I, too, will be able to afford to go on a fabulous trip like ________. 

The thing about facebook and other social media sites is that they display this glossy photoshopped version of us that’s not necessarily real. They don’t always include the bits in between that get us to those shiny glossy days. The exception to this are those special individuals that post passive aggressive rants or details none of us really needed to know but even then it’s like one big share and compare-fest. We bond over the stuff that collectively pisses us off. It’s like the most connected way to be completely disconnected. Isn’t that weird?quote-your-best-shot-at-happiness-self-worth-and-personal-satisfaction-the-things-that-constitute-real-william-raspberry-286139

Our society is built on this. I totally bought into it. This, I should mention, coming from a fairly introspective person. I saw one life event that made me compare myself to another person and I freaked out about where I am and what I’m doing. My life’s path has been different. I’m in the weeds right now doing some grunt work (that’s metaphorical, I work in an office) and that’s just what it is.

The minute I stop enjoying my own moment for what it is and get sidetracked by someone else’s, is the exact minute I decrease my own value. I think it’s okay to look at other peoples lives and set goals and be inspired, but not to give up the value of what I’m doing and who I am because of it. If I’m so fickle about my career and personal aspirations, why should I expect anyone else to believe in them and me?