Big Bird

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I woke up sad today. It wasn’t because I went to a party last night, nor was it because I had a nice day yesterday. All those are good things, no sadness required. After my meditation I got up made breakfast sat down to read the news and learned Big Bird died today. My daughter said, “I’m so sorry.” and that made me cry.

This summer Caroll Spinney, the original puppeteer for Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, announced he would not be attending any more fan expos. That was sad but understandable, the man was 86, he deserved some alone time with his wife. I reached out to him and thanked him for being there every day for me as a kid and every day for my kids. I loved Big Bird and Oscar and told him so. Not that he likely didn’t hear it every day, but he wrote me back.

Let’s pause for a moment.

CAROLL SPINNEY WROTE ME BACK.

He told me how much he appreciated the kind words and how much it meant to him when his fans said thank you. He then invited me to join his private group for fans. I was honoured. I lost my mind for about a day, but then I was back to normal just admiring the artistry of his skills. He was a master of puppetry, improv, acting, singing and was an artist/illustrator. His work touched me deeply. Related image

Spinney originated Big Bird and Oscar fifty years ago, November 10, 1969. I was two. They have been apart of my entire life. I shared my love of muppets with my kids and one day will share them with my grandkids. I remember Oscar was orange before he was green and Big Bird was 5. Apparently, Big Bird is now six.

I loved the giant size of his nest and his imaginary friend Snuffy. I also had an imaginary friend, her name was Lucy. Only Big Bird and I knew Snuffy wasn’t imaginary, neither was Lucy, but the adults in our life never believed us. This made us get each other on a level I didn’t reach with other muppets. Big Bird was special, just like me.

Big Bird, Super Grover, and Kermit were the big three for me. Grover is the last one left. Each of them made me feel as if I was important. Little five year old me that wore a cape and had imaginary friends who were real. I was included in the ragtag bunch because they embraced diversity and uniqueness. Everyone was welcome. I wish I could say that I was welcome with everyone in real life, but I can’t. I was often on the outs because of my looks, my ideas and my interests. I still have to deal with cliques, mean girls and mean boys at the age of 52. For crying out loud… people are just unbelievable in their actions and behaviour. I suppose that’s why I love the Muppets so much. Everyone was welcome and everyone was recognized for their uniqueness. They practiced kindness. This isn’t a hard concept. BE KIND.

I am grateful to Caroll Spinney, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Fran Brill and Jim Henson. Grover and Prairie Dawn are the only ones left. I am happy I was fortunate enough to have had Seasame Street as a large part of my life. As a Tribute to Caroll Spinney, they are asking for donations to be made to the Yellow Feather Fund. They support giving kids a healthy start, think of it as Seasame Street in communities.

At least original Snuffy and Big Brid are together again.

Caroll Spinney 1933 – 2019.

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Care

I have become a very social being. This is contrary to who I thought I was or what I thought I needed. I think what happened was I just made an effort to spend time with people who and matter to me and care about me. I think it all goes back to that day about 10 years ago when I started this blog (shout out to those who still read regularly – thanks mom!). I was looking for more. I had a light bulb moment Friday when I saw this:

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First of all, I don’t know if Oprah said it. It sounds like something she or Maya Angelou would say, but I haven’t heard her say it. That part doesn’t matter. The words do.

I sat in reflection of those words for two days. Things that roll through my mind while I drive or while I knit (yep still knitting two weeks later). How do you know if the people you like don’t care? And more importantly, are you prepared to accept they don’t care? There is nothing you can do to change their minds. No amount of doing for them, giving to them or pleading with them will make them care for you. The hard truth is, you need to walk away.

Here is my handy checklist to determine if people care.

  1. Do they say “I am sorry I didn’t call/meet/see you, I have been JUST SO BUSY.”? If they care they make time for you. If they are busy you might hear them say, “Look, my schedule is stupid busy right now but I have a Saturday free in 5 weeks, are you in? Or can I call you right back as soon as I finish this? And then they actually call you back? Yep – they care.
  2. Do they call you and tell you their problems, then when they are done talking they say, well I should let you go? If they didn’t ask about you, chances are they are using you to release their problems to make themselves feel better. Once they have unloaded, they feel great and can go back to their life. Meanwhile, you are carrying this burden of truth and have no idea what to do with it. Now if they say, hey I am calling to hear how you are doing, tell me everything. Then they share their stuff, chances are they care. If you are not mentioned in the conversation except to tell you their mother/wife/friend doesn’t like you, chances are they don’t care. But sometimes you don’t see people for a year or more – just facebook or Instagram stuff. But you just know you can call them and cry or say hey I was thinking about you. Quantity doesn’t matter, quality does. Yep – they care.
  3. Does it always cost you money to get them to spend time with you? If you are always spending money to go visit them and it isn’t reciprocal. Chances are they are not the best choice for you. This includes family.
  4. Do they reach out on a special day that is important to you? Your birthday, your dog’s surgery or the last day of Mercury Retrograde? Do they know what is important to you? If they haven’t asked, they likely aren’t interested.
  5. Do they use guilt as a way to control your time? Relationships are a two-way street. If there is an ultimatum list of things you must do to get them to care about you. Walk away right now.

I think I was looking for more because I wasn’t engaging with people who cared back. Once I released the people who didn’t care, my life began to fill up with people who did. This past week I went for lunch with two friends from my teaching days. We’ve met yearly for 15 years since we stopped teaching together. It takes us all day to catch up and we send notes to each other all the time. When one of our mothers died, I asked, are you okay and she said no. We immediately went to each other. Then I had another lunch date with a gal who I  see weekly – or almost weekly. Just an hour, but the regular catch up is reciprocal. It’s lovely. I text my sister and sometimes she texts first. I invited my aunties over for tea once every one hundred years, but when we meet up, it is amazing. My mom calls me every Sunday morning and we catch up for a half-hour.  She lives in Europe so call all the time isn’t easy. We make time for each other.

I wasted a lifetime trying to get people to care about me. Here is the kicker, once I accepted the idea that there was nothing I could do to make them care about me, a new person popped into my life. I spent a lifetime being supportive, remembering details, supporting these people when they had no one. I don’t think they have even noticed I am not in the picture anymore. I just faded away. I finally believe they don’t care. I was lonely the whole time I tried to get them to care. Walking away has brought new people who actually care about me in my life. How do I know?

  1. They call me to ask to hang out.
  2. They ask me about my dog, kids, work, hobbies, my book, trips, sadness and happiness.
  3. I receive tiny surprises, a note, a text, photo, a coffee or candy for no reason.
  4. Hugs are tight and I feel them giving me energy not just taking it.
  5. They remember important days, my birthday, an interview, surgery or a doctor’s appointment.
  6. They ask about my welfare because they actually care.

I think about the years I have wasted trying to be someone special to people who just didn’t want me. It breaks my heart and now I want a do-over. Believe someone when they treat you like they don’t care because they don’t. And that is okay, you aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Let them go and hold space for those people who do care. All we can do now is do better.

 

Ritual

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I have been receiving questions about journaling and meditation from you. Either you stop to talk to me about it or you email me. I thought I would answer meditation questions here and get to journaling next time. How meditation began for me and why I continue with it. *Content warning – religion is part of that and  I no longer participate -may be triggering for some people. My spirit team helped me with the next two paragraphs – full credit goes to them.

The daily ritual is a practice by many all over the world. It brings calm and security to many and insight and relief to others. It is used as a way to bring balance. Many religions use ritual as a way to engage followers. Creating familiar patterns within their routine. These patterns are often found to be familiar and with that brings comfort. The lighting of candles, the burning of incense, and even the repetition of prayer. Finding time within your day for the practice of ritual can be a comforting way to bring order into your life.

Rituals can be rich in symbolism. But are primarily separate and have meaning to the individual. It is a way to find a mindful practice. Staying within the moment allows for a focus of presence. Being present in your life is a gift of clarity that is not readily used by everyone. We are either living in the past or worrying about the future. Using ritual to begin your day can pull you into the present moment and allow for a productive day. Often joy is associated with presence.

I grew up in the Catholic Church and it was filled with rituals. I liked not having to think about what was next, just knowing…until that one day I listened to myself repeating the Apostles Creed and I went…hey….wait a minute… I don’t believe all those things. I then attended to participate in rituals and leave out the parts of the creed that I didn’t believe. I began to feel….fake. I couldn’t go anymore because my beliefs and my ritual practice were at odds with each other. For lack of a better word, I woke up.

After I left the church I found myself feeling at odds with myself. I needed a practice that upheld my beliefs and supported my morals and values. I struggled for a long time to find this practice. I knew religion was not the answer, but my faith and beliefs were consistent with my values. This is where I could begin again.

Believe it or not, running reintroduced me to the comfort of ritual. I would stop studying every day at 10:00 am. Put my shoes on and head outside in any weather. I never ran inside. I am Canadian for crying out loud. If I let a little cold stop me, I would never see the light of day. I dressed for the weather, put one foot in front of the other and away I went.

Same…same…same…

Until one day I couldn’t anymore. Heath issues happened and running is not an option for me any longer.

I struggled again, looking for the repetitive ritual that soothed me and comforted me. Something that would give me quiet and thoughtful prayer at the same time, the way running did. Without running, situations happened that made me blind with fury. I needed to find someplace to put my anger. I would have given anything for a long run to work out my frustrations or at least the ability to have laser eyes and cut my enemy off at the knees. But that solves nothing.

I turned to ritual again. I thought about what it was about the church that I found so comforting. I loved the music, the candles, and the silence. Not being asked to answer questions, not having to problem solve…just be. Just like when I ran. I didn’t set goals to be stronger/smarter/faster. I ran to just run. Just be.

I decided to wake up early…lets back up a minute.

I was a long-time meditator and knew it could help me connect with a higher presence. I had used it in the past as a method of prayer taught to me by Sister Dominica, my grandfather’s sister who was also a nun. She lived with us and every day she sat in prayer AND in meditation. Neither was the same. She said prayer is when you talk to God and meditation is when God talks to you. I meditated when the feeling moved me. Sometimes weeks would go by before I would meditate and sometimes just a few days. I was inconsistent and never considered it to be a ritual.

I began reading about different thought leaders, Wayne Dyer was one, I watched Super Soul on a regular basis and called it my church. The more I learned about self-love and stillness the more I knew I needed to meditate with regularity…but…

BUT………..

I didn’t have time. It takes time to do this stuff. I had kids, hubs, job, home I had STUFF TO DO!

Dr. Wayne Dyer said, get up early in the morning because anything worthwhile is worth making time for. Super Soulers said, make time for you. Love yourself enough to sit in silence for 10 minutes a day because you deserve it. Take time for you.

All I could think was BUT!!!! People neeeeeed me.

I was that girl who would sleep until 8:15 and then run to school. I was that girl who had serious FOMO. I would stay up late and resist sleep. Then in the morning, I was wrecked and late and flustered and a mess.

BUT…every time I turned around I read the sign that told me to do it. Take 10 minutes for myself to prove to me I was worth it. I did it when I ran, why couldn’t I sit on my chair and do it?

December 1, 2016 I began setting my alarm 30 minutes earlier. and on December 11, I turned it off and went back to sleep. Later that day I noticed I was grouchy. I mean REALLY grouchy. I was so angry at work I left to sit in my car and have a nap. If I had laser eyes I would have used them and be the only person standing today.

December 12, 2016, I set my alarm for 5:30 am. I got up, showered and went and sat by my Christmas tree. My dog came and sat with me. This began my daily ritual. I haven’t faltered since. It changes occasionally – but for the most part it is the same.  Sometimes I meditate later in the day, but I always do it.

My day begins at 6:30 am.

  • I begin my day with water. I drink it or I bath in it. It always begins with water. When I am at the ocean, I stand in it.
  • I light a candle and set my intention for the day. Sometimes I just set the intention but it always happens with or without the candle.
  • I sit or lay down, this is dependant on what my intuition tells me. I am more focused when I lay down.
  • I thank the universe and my team for their guidance and support. Beginning the day with gratitude is the number one most important thing I do. It has changed me as a human.
  • I ask two things, “What would you have me know” and “What would you have me do”
  • Then I begin my meditation. I set the timer for 30 minutes on weekdays and 2 hours on weekends. I often step out of meditation at the one hour mark. But I leave lots of time, just in case I need longer…sometimes I do.
  • I end my practice with “thank you”.

Since I have begun this practice, I have reached 1070 consecutive days as of November 16th, 2019. I feel more joy, I am calmer than I used to be and my emotions are fleeting. I still experience all the emotions but they don’t stay around very long. I look at them from a detached perspective and watch them float away when I am done learning from them. I have very little use for lies, cruelty and hate.  I see it for what it is and try to move on from it. It doesn’t always happen. There are a couple of people in my life who still can trigger me into an insane rage. But I sit in that and then move on from it. It’s not easy but it’s easier than it used to be for me. I always ask, what do I need to learn from this…and that helps a lot. The big lesson was boundaries, but other lessons are equally as important.

My favourite part of the ritual is wooden matches. The firmness of the stick and the smell of the sulphur. It takes me back to the Church where not all the memories are terrible. I can sit anywhere for long periods of time and just be. Boredom isn’t a thing anymore because I am comfortable with my own thoughts and in my own skin.

So now you know. I am sure my ritual is wackadoodle for some of you.

That’s okay. You do you.

This works for me and I am better off for it.

Home

Have you ever gone back to your childhood home and just stared at it? I know so many people that go home to the house they grew up and don’t even think about it. Their parents lived there all their life and it’s home’. 

I lived in a few homes in Sherwood Park and when my parents moved into the city, my mom asked if I was going to be home for Christmas dinner. I asked her if the new people would mind if we all showed up for dinner. Home didn’t feel like their new house because I didn’t live there. Home was the house on the hill. A lot of things are pointing me back to the nostalgic parts of my life. I don’t get out to Sherwood Park anymore. I was in there visiting a friend and decided I would take a tour of all the old places and see how they differ from my memory.

My first stop was my high school. It’s not a high school anymore, it’s now the school that was by the traffic circle and now it’s here. When I was in grade two I lived across the street from it and now there is a playground in the rugby field. My first thought was, huh, I wonder how many pet bones they dug up. That playground did not exist. There was an empty rugby field in its place. It was a pet cemetery for me and all our friends. we had funerals ALL THE TIME. Mostly for frogs and birds, sometimes worms, but there are a few hamsters and two puppies buried there, or were.

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Then I stopped at Great Oaks I. When we moved back here from the North West Territories this was the house I remembered. We didn’t live here long, just long enough to have a super fun summer with lots of friends. I am still friends with one of the fellows. We reconnected years later. Thanks Running Room!

From that house, we moved to Glen Allan and my next stop.

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I drove by my elementary school and jr high first. I met Jean Vanier and at the time I hadn’t the foggiest who he was. If you don’t know, here is some info. He spoke French and was very kind. I was sad to note a parking lot where the outdoor hockey rink used to be. But the trees and playgrounds all looked the same. I met some very nice humans here and two influential teachers, Mrs. Anderson and Mr. Gleason. I am still in touch with some old friends who I met here. Thanks Facebook!

My house looks very different. First off, all the trees my dad planted are gone. Secondly…what the heck is happening with the wood? My house had white roman columns and green shutters. There was a patio out front with a lawn swing. We sat out there every day after supper and rocked back and forth with my mom and dad. I loved that swing. My room was the window on the bottom left. That was where the swing was. I made a fortune babysitting in the neighbourhood and because I was a money miser, I never needed loans for university. Thanks Neighbours!

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I then went to my home when I was three. I remember the friends I met and became Danger Girl in that house. I connected with a friend at Smokey Lake Pumpkin fair, I first met her on this street. I loved everything about living here. There is a fish buried in that yard and ghosts living across the street, probably because the fish. This place is still beautiful and I would consider moving in today. Pretty great for a 50-year-old complex! The memories are stellar from here. Look how happy the door is? My room was the upper right window. I swear the fence is exactly the same. Thanks Greenwood Village!

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My grandparents, both sets, lived not too far away from this house. So I decided to stop by and see what their houses look like now that my grandparents are no longer there.

I learned to build kites that would lift your feet off the ground in that garage. This house used to have red cedar siding. That’s how I remember it. It was the original showhome in Sherwood Park – or rather Campbelltown. One owner for 60 bazillion years. I ate macaroni and drank coffee in that kitchen. It was home to a print shop and the house always smelled of ink and paper. It is still one of my favourite smells. Thanks Grandpa!

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This house is where I walked to every day after school. I would sit at the table and drink tea with my great-grandma. I had my fifth birthday party in that house. I watched a lot of football and learned football minutes are longer than real minutes. I learned you could either love the Eskimos or the Riders but you had to choose. Loyalty is important.  My great-grandma taught me to count to 100 and how to talk to children so they think they are special and important. I cry when I think about how wonderful she was to me. The house used to be brown. I swear I saw my gram walking up the steps in her blue Sunday best holding her cane as I stood there looking at that house. If that house came up for sale, I would consider buying it. Thanks Little Gram!

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Nothing has changed and everything has changed. It was fun strolling down memory lane. I should have brought my siblings. Next time.

 

Nostalgia

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Nostalgia has been hitting me hard lately, and not in ways you would think. Lots of people take trips down memory lane and experience happy fond memories to the point of thinking those times were better and its a shame everything has changed. But I am not so sure.

I follow Ryan Lawless on Youtube. He is a coach both for sports and life. I know him from Edmonton’s running community and have always found him wise. He now has a biweekly vlog that challenges me. His perspective is sometimes the same as mine but like me, he questions everything. His vlog about nostalgia felt like a punch in the gut. He said… well a lot of things, but what stands out for me is this “nostalgia has purpose”.

I have memories that give me a sick feeling. I want to forget but for some reason, I can’t. They play over and over unless I practice mindfulness or distract myself with something. Everyone has these memories. The kind that pops into your head until you squeeze your eyes shut and change focus. A lot of my memories circle around bullies, but a lot circle around fun vacations and holidays. The fun ones are classed as nostalgia.

nos·tal·gia
/näˈstaljə,nəˈstaljə/
noun
  1. a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Lately, people from my past have been popping up into my life flooding it with nostalgia.

  • An old friend and I went for drinks. We were in the trenches as young mothers. We helped each other through everything. We will get together more frequently now but at the time it was almost daily and I loved every minute of it.
  • A co-worker from back in the day when we felt like we were the only people who weren’t crazy. When I saw her at the farmers market, we gazed into each other’s eyes and embraced for a long time. Her hug was giving, not taking. I love those kinds of hugs. I fondly remember her because, without her, I would have been lost.
  • A friend I have known since we were three and lived in Sherwood Park. We pop in and out of each other’s lives every few years. We joked about not seeing each other until we are in the same senior’s home in the future. She was always a lovely human, kind and thoughtful.

I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking over the nostalgic moments. There is something healing in all of the memories. From overcoming bullies to remembering how good things felt. I think I agree with Ryan’s assessment of nostalgia having a purpose. While it’s fun to trip down memory lane, it is better to see how far you’ve come.

 

 

Joy

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I met a wise woman this summer and she looked at me for a long moment. Silence hung between us as I waited for her to speak. I could tell she was thinking. It took a moment longer then she said, “Have you forgotten how to play? I think you need more joy in your life.”

Normally I get defensive, or maybe I used to get defensive. Maybe a bit of both because no one likes to hear how badly they are performing as a human. But in this case, I knew she was correct. I have spent lots of time recovering from different things.

  • Heartbreak
  • Depression
  • Disappointment
  • Rejection

You get the point. Recovering takes time. It now called ‘Growth’, either way, you can forget what fun and joy look like while you are experiencing growth. I used to laugh way more than I do now. I wanted to do that more.

She asked me what did I like to do when I was young. What did I do for fun? I thought about this for a long time and then made a list.

  • Ride
  • Music
  • Read
  • Create
  • Dance

Ride:  I dissected my list. What was it about riding my bike I liked? Not the bike. But it was able to take me places farther than my feet could carry me in a day. I lived in Sherwood Park and would ride my bike into the city every weekend to explore the river valley and I would always buy a frozen lemonade.

Music: I was in high school and I directed a children’s choir for the church. It ws the only way you could get me to go to church, that and the chance to see that cute guy sitting with his family in the third row. I belonged to a jazz choir and was often singled out for my voice. I belonged to a basement band – the 80’s version of a garage band. We performed for ourselves and played a lot of Journey and Led Zeplin – weird mix but we found it challenging and fun. I expressed all my emotions through the piano. All of them. I loved growing up with a piano.

Read: Who wants to go to bed when you can visit New York or London or Australia? I wanted to read about girls like I was, smart, adventurous and always getting in and out of scrapes. Now I like to read about women like me, smart, adventurous and always getting into and out of scrapes.

Create: I drew a lot, I mean A LOT. My dad would often show my work to people and I was always asked to draw something for someone. I even toyed with the idea of becoming a cleanup artist for Disney. I could create amazing things out of lego and build a four-story mansion from two sticks, seven blankets and three cushions. If I needed a backdrop for my imagination, out came the paper and pencil.

Dance: I never took lessons. But turn on the record player and I was a prima ballerina or Broadway star. I had the BEST jazz hands since Gwen Verdon. I could Step in Time with Bert and Mary.

Interestingly enough, I continue to do all those things – although I haven’t built a fort since I was a teacher. I expect to have to teach my future grandbabies how to do that and I am up for the challenge. What I think I lost was the ability to be present while experiencing the things that I find fun. So I did a little experiment.

I made an effort to be in the moment, not check my phone for a text, not think about work or some argument I got into about politics, not worry about the next thing. Just simply be in the moment. I do this in meditation, so why couldn’t I do this in play? I read about art being a form of meditation and prayer, but people take prayer very seriously. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be serious? Maybe it was meant to be fun and engaging!

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The first thing I did was go exploring. I do this all the time as you the reader knows, but I did it without thinking about a blog post. Or a photo for my Instagram. I did it without thinking about any conversations I had. It was hard to change that mindset at first but I have now been meditating for 1,015 consecutive days. I have a pretty good handle on being in the moment during meditation and I knew I could apply it to playtime. I explored in the woods and in the city. I found cool and new things in all those places. I took photos because it brings me joy to compose a photo and look at it later. If a blog post or Instagram photo came out of it, fine, but that was not the intention.

Then next thing I did was sign up to join a choir. I had some issues with the choir director and looked at the time commitment and decided it sounded like work not fun. The piano is used exclusively by my daughter and I don’t really feel like learning all over again. But I do have the most amazing music collection. AND I know all the words to every song. Instead of playing podcasts in the car, I turned on music a few more times a week. I sang songs that made me feel. 

Read: I read about 50 books a year. Still doing it! But… I read about 25 books about marketing and leadership this year. Obviously, this was for work and not pleasure. I realized I hadn’t been reading for fun in a while. I went to the library and signed up for a card and learned how to use the apps to get ebooks and audiobooks. I downloaded Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – she is one of the most beautiful writers I have ever come across – and became OBSESSED with Albie and Franny. I still think of them even though I know they are fictional characters. I am now listening to The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, it’s no Red Tent, but Linda Lavin is a delight to listen to. I have a couple of books I am reading one by Martha Beck, Elizabeth Gilbert and one by Rob Schwartz. Each book is in a different room in the house so when I have a moment, I crack it open. This afternoon I plan to get cozy with Martha and maybe finish the last half of the book.

I haven’t drawn or painted in a very long time, but I doodle during staff meetings. I write 6 out of seven days a week and I will still play lego – I have a box of women in science and Doctor Who lego that I like to play with when I sit at my desk. I have a nifty kaleidoscope that I look through and I often pull out my spirograph set. I create at work and right now I am in planning and creation mode so I have lots of opportunities to flex the creative gene.

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Dancing isn’t as prolific as when I was a child but I will shoulder dance or bop my head around to music. It feels good.

After being intentional with all the things I found fun as a child and still do today, something fairly amazing has begun to happen. I am happy more. Simple. I went to see Downton Abbey and was absolutely giddy. I cooked all day for a mock Thanksgiving dinner before my parents went back to Europe and I loved it. I explored the public art in my community and was thrilled there was so much of it!

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I think the moral of the joy story is to be present in what you do and joy will find you.

 

 

Release

Capture

I was poking around a bookshop on 124 street one day in July. Plans for my week were about to change, and I knew it even though no one had said a word yet. There was an electric charge in the air. I took myself to the bookstore and out for coffee as I do when I want some alone time but still want to be around people. I know it’s a weird trait I have. I like being alone but in a crowded room. As I was browsing, a woman came up to me and said – “This is going to seem strange, but I am supposed to give you this.” Then she walked away.

I have come to embrace strange and exotic messages coming from unusual sources. It has become a thing, and I no longer find it odd. The Universe is always speaking to you.

The woman handed me a book by Caroline Myss. I looked her in the eye and said thank you. As I often do, I asked a question in my head: What would you have me know? I randomly opened the book to a page and read: Just let go. Let go of how you thought your life should be and embrace the life that is trying to work its way into your consciousness. I said, “Thank you” and took a photo of the quote, closed the book and put it away. I promptly forgot about the quote until this morning when I ran across it again in an Instagram story from a person I follow who lives in Atlanta. Then I saw it again from my yoga Nidra Teacher in Venice Beach. I was looking for a particular image for a work thing, and I saw the photo from the book I took the quote. Okay universe, I hear you loud and clear.

To add more to the idea that the Universe is always speaking to you – Caroline Myss randomly showed up in various social media feeds, and until this summer, she was never on my radar before. I listened to her lecture from when she was in New Brunswick and loved how it added a new perspective to my thoughts and ideas. I shared it out – not that I think anyone actually listened, I share more for me so I can go back to it and look again.

I watched another video yesterday, and the speaker Jerry Hicks said he was living in stress and trying to please everyone, trying to help everyone, things were falling apart. And finally, he said out loud, “I am done. I can’t do this anymore.” He said it more as a prayer than as an act of defiance. He said once he released it, he felt immediate joy.

The underlying message I finally understood after the Universe had been pounding me over the head with it is, Let Go. I always thought it was acceptance, but I was wrong. Letting go is part of forgiveness. Oprah says, “Forgiveness is letting go of the idea that things could have been different.” One day last fall, I said I am done. I expected to feel guilty, but I didn’t. in its place I felt peace. PEACE! Do you know how amazing that felt? I loved the peaceful feeling so much I wrote “I am meant to live in peace” on my arm so often people thought I had a new tattoo. I posted it to my wall at work — a regular reminder of a beautiful way to live.

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One day this summer I said to no one in particular, “I AM SO DONE.” I also said this to a few people, but it was intended for me. I thought I needed to accept, get along, bend, change all in an effort to please and help everyone. But I don’t. How they live their lives and treat people is on them. How I react to it is on me. I have been mired down, and I just can’t live that way anymore. I do know it isn’t an all or nothing type of response. I have just released me from expectations. I let it go. The side benefit is joy is creeping into unexpected areas of my life. Its as if there is only a finite amount of room and now that I have released it… I am free.

Thank you, Universe.

 

Listen

Day two of my Staycation had me exploring Whyte Avenue in Old Strathcona. When I was in my 20’s, I worked and played in Old Strathcona. It still is a place that I love to explore but I don’t get here very often anymore because to unwind I tend to head into the forest. It energizes me. Occasionally I need to be around people and that’s when I grab a friend or famjam member and head to Whyte Ave.

We popped into shops, bought books from Wee Book Inn and a tiny plant from The Little Plant Shop. We ate the best ice cream on the planet at Made By Marcus, saw cool and interesting things at the Plaid Giraffe and headed towards Chapters before it leaves the neighbourhood.

Along the way we spotted this sign:

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I was intrigued.

There were two people, one male and one female, sitting back to back with chairs in front of them. The female had a gentleman sitting in her chair and he was talking to her. Her partner looked at me and offered me a chair. Not one to miss an opportunity to try something new, I sat opposite him. He began to explain that he was there to listen to anything I had to say. He promised a safe environment where no one would know what we talked about unless I confessed a murder or something else that was criminal because he would have to report that. But other than that he encouraged me to talk to him about anything. My companion stood beside me and I asked them to leave because I wanted some private time with the listening man.

I looked into his eyes and felt compassion. He smiled and asked me what I wanted to talk about. So I began to tell him how angry and hurt I was over a situation I have been living with and I didn’t know what to do with the feelings. He asked questions that made me think and draw out the conversation. For the first time in a long while, I felt like someone was invested and interested in what I had to say. But me being me, I quickly turned the tables and began asking him questions about why he was doing this and to tell me his story because I am also a listener. He began telling me his story and then as if he could hear the sound of a needle scratching a record, he said “Whoa whoa whoa…You are supposed to be talking and I am the listener.”

I smiled because I am good at gaining other people’s confidences and getting them to talk about themselves. I explained, “This is what I do. I get people to talk so I don’t have to talk about myself.”

Listener: Why do you think that is?

Me: Easy question, it keeps me safe.

We continued the conversation and he had me thinking about my role in my relationships. It takes two to have a conversation. Equal parts sharing and equal parts listening. I do feel as if I trusted the wrong people and maybe that shouldn’t stop me from trusting completely. Not everyone can be who I need them to be, but I do need to accept who they are. I often feel like I take things too seriously when I should be practicing the social norm of How are you, I am fine type of conversation. But I detest small talk. I’d rather jump right into the conversation. I test people to see if they are loyal, trustworthy and kind. When they blow me off, I get my answer. I haven’t found the loyalty I am looking for. With people I am close with, I haven’t shared enough.

I do know far more about other people than they know about me. Listening man gave me lots to think about by just listening and asking the right kind of questions. I briefly fell in love with him while he listened and asked questions for clarity. It was a wonderful feeling to have someone be that …I don’t know the word….intense? Kind? Involved? Interested? Compassionate? Caring?

Me:  I am grateful you invited me to sit.

Listener: I am grateful you sat. I get as much from this as you do. Now, let’s circle back to your original story about your hurt and anger over that friend. What is it that you really want from them?

Me: <I thought about this for a minute or two.> I want them to say what they mean, be truthful and honest so it shows respect for me and my time. Show me that I am as important to them as they are to me. But what I really want is for everything to be different and that isn’t going to happen. I cannot change the past and turn it into something that never happened.

Me: I really appreciated this.

I reached in my purse and he was worried I was going to give him money.

Listener: NO NO NO, keep your money.

Me: Can I take a photo of your sign?

Him: Absolutely.

We shook hands and I stood to leave but I wanted to hug him. I thought about taking his photo but I knew his face would be etched into my memory forever. He was the kindest man, the type you suspect was an angel that came to chat with me because I needed it and he likely doesn’t exist in this realm.

I thought a lot about what he had to say and how he made me feel. I think that is the important part. He listened hard enough so I knew he cared and that made me feel special. I have been thinking about our conversation since.

As you go about your day or your week or the rest of the year when someone talks to you maybe you should listen. I mean really listen.

  1. Ask them questions so you can gain clarity. This helps them think you are interested.
  2. Don’t offer solutions, they just want an ear. If they want your opinion they will ask for it.
  3. Look them in the eye or gaze on their face. Check to see what they are looking at.
  4. Don’t make it about you. It’s not about you. It’s about them and how they feel. They aren’t thinking about you at that moment.

I haven’t been a good listener or a good friend lately. Listening isn’t as easy as you might think. But when you find that friend who is really good at it, hang onto them. They are a keeper.

 

Gratitude

As I sit here this morning with my coffee in my hands, I gaze out the window in my office that overlooks my back yard. The sky is blue, the leaves on the trees are shimmering in a light breeze and the flowers still look good considering the rain and hail they have endured this summer. One week left of what I consider summer. As an Edmonton gal, summer for me is only July and August. Even at that, it has been cooler than most people would like. I sat on my deck all day yesterday wrapped in a shawl and had a blanket over my legs. If I hadn’t been wearing shorts and a short sleeve tee, I am sure I would be fine, but its SUMMER damit and I was dressed in shorts. Even this morning, the back door is open to allow for fresh air as my pup sits and enjoys the summer’s end and its not warm.

Its been a hecken couple of weeks. Hecken is my daughter’s favourite swear word. I have taken to it fondly as well. The busiest two weeks of my summer of work things had me leaving work early on Friday and sleeping for four hours only to wake up to Fringe and then I slept for another twelve hours, ate some food and slept hard for another two. I worked hard for the last two weeks putting in all the hours the day had to offer. I still am sore and tired but I am no longer delirious and can actually spell my name: Robyn – see? It wasn’t a sure thing Friday morning.

Heading into those busy two weeks I was feeling as if I lost my best friend…I did. And I felt as if I would be alone for a really long time…I’m not. I had been meditating on loss for about a month. I was focusing on what I didn’t have instead of what I did have. I suppose grief does that for people. You look at what you don’t have rather than what you do have. I was grateful for my heavy workload because I was able to stay focused and in the moment. I was too busy to dwell on what was absent from my life. I knuckled down and got to work. I am incredibly grateful for having that at this time. What I didn’t expect was reconnecting with things at bringing me so much joy. Joy was the last thing I expected while feeling so low. I changed my meditation practice to gratitude and the most amazing things began to happen.

  1. Usually, in my line of work, you need to have a lot of plans in your back pocket anticipating failure or wrenches or bombs thrown into the mix. Sure we ended up going through plans A-H and maybe ended up with plan Q but it wasn’t stressful. It went very smoothly. There was an energy I didn’t expect. Everyone was happy, grateful and kind. It made everything worthwhile and I actually loved my job for the first time in 30 years. (I loved my first year of teaching – it went downhill from there). What do I think the difference was? Gratitude. I was never grateful for my job, my coworkers or any part of my work life. I was this time and my experience was a million times better than I ever expected. Every night as I tucked myself into bed I said, ‘Thank you”.  I was rewarded with more of the same.
  2. I continued to be grateful as the week progressed and I found myself in Southern Alberta. Everything that could go wrong from my hotel room being cancelled to not having resources to extend to those who required them. I even was detoured on my route a few times and none of this made sense. I was rewarded with not feeling angry and defeated. I even got the sense that all of these roadblocks were there to prevent something worse from happening. Who knows what that might have been. In the end, it all turned out better than imagined. I continued to say “Thank you” at the end of the day and as I opened my eyes in the morning, it was my first thought. Thank you altered my frame of mind and kept me calm. Sure it could have been better but it could have been much worse.
  3. I have been searching for someone or something for a while. I haven’t found it in the people I know. I can’t tell you what it is I am looking for because I don’t really know myself but I can tell you I will recognize when I do find it. I have been treating myself better and I have acknowledged that I deserve better than the way some people treat me. Sure they have reasons, but I still deserve better. I think I have finally broken the unending pattern of abuse I have lived with since ‘the dark times’. I kept attracting people who treated me the same way. This happened in my personal and professional life. I would end it and a new person or situation would pop up teaching me the same lesson. I finally recognized it as a pattern. I purged all those people and have left space for them if they want to change and be kinder. I don’t expect them to. I am grateful they were in my life. I learned a lot and let them go. As soon as I did that, two old friends resurfaced. They were always kind and loving but I don’t think I was a match for them. I am now. Gratitude amplified my vibration and now I feel connected to them. This makes me incredibly happy.
  4. I grew up with a sense that you have to do everything to be valued. Let me be clear, it was never told to me or expected of me, it was just something I saw and therefore placed those expectations upon myself. Do more, be more, ignore your health because you can do more when you aren’t sick. Fuck that. Being sick and nearly dying two Christmases ago taught me a valuable lesson. I matter, not my work, not how clean my house is, not how much I can get done in a day, not how little sleep I get so I can produce more, me – I matter. I am taking time after these past two weeks to sleep and rest and read and write. I am doing what I feel like, napping when my body needs it and only looking after myself at this time. Nothing matters if I am not around to enjoy it. When my well is full then I can do for others, but right now, I am replenishing the well and I am grateful for the time I have to do that.

I used to think gratitude was about being thankful for the things I have. My kids, my hubs, my home, my family, but I learned its more than that. It’s a feeling you live in. It the sun being in the sky every damn day, it’s the fresh air I breathe, its the clear taste of water, it’s having support, it’s giving when you can, its everything I touch and everything that touches me.  I am grateful for my new outlook.

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