Gratitude

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

I have been here typing away since 2010. At the start of every new year, I usually make a list of the things I learned and the things I want to achieve for the new year. I decided a while ago that I want to just see how the year will unfold without any predetermined goals or items I need to cross off my list. I have one goal for 2019, and that is to make more memories with family.

I have no idea what that is going to look like, but I have a feeling moments and opportunities with show themselves without me manipulating situations to fit my list. I have general thoughts about things to do, but we will see what happens. 2019 is shaping up to be an expectation-free year for me.

Self-awareness and reflection are key components of my growth. It’s important to look at my actions and learn from them. Everything is a learning opportunity, and I like to think about how I could have done something better, behaved nicer or examine a missed opportunity. Many changes happened over the last twelve months. Some things were horrifyingly terrible and hurtful, and some things were so completely wonderful I don’t want to forget. I think I have learned from the lines I drew in the sand, behaviour modifications and decisions. I will still reflect and continue to learn, but thinking about what I am grateful for is more important.

  1. New Friendship. In January I prayed for a friend who I could have deep and meaningful conversations with. I thought it might be someone I was already friends with and we could take it to the next level. That didn’t happen. What did happen is something so unexpected I am overwhelmed with gratitude. A new person entered my life, and we have deep and meaningful conversations about books, circumstances, spiritual connections and guidance. We help each other navigate complicated situations. This person is a gift.
  2. Synergy. Way back in the days of University in the ’80s (not to be confused with University of my 40’s) I was working on a project where we needed to achieve synergy with the team. It didn’t happen, and I said so. We were docked marks which annoyed me because I was honest. They were actually marking us on how we gelled as a team, not on the work we did. I was so angry. I didn’t believe synergy was something contrived. I still don’t. You have it or you don’t. My first teaching experience I worked with two other women and we just connected. Our planning was legendary. I naively thought my professor was correct. That this level of connection was always possible. The 1990 planning team was euphoric. It was an excitement about the work. I felt like it was my calling. It was magic for one year. Fast forward to 2010, the last time I taught in a classroom. I never found that same connection ever again. I was able to work well with others but I didn’t achieve that same feeling. I began to hate the people and the work. I left. I went back to school and changed careers. I never expected to have that same connection with staff. I just did the best I could and kept moving forward. I had a taste of something close in the job I have post graduation. The guy I worked with was a genius and I loved working with him. Our planning was creative and fun but our hands were always tied. It was close. Then I moved on again. Seven months into my new position I figured I wouldn’t stay long. I was alone. I didn’t have anyone to throw ideas around with. Then a shuffle happened and I found myself sitting next to someone who was also alone and wanting more. We began talking and sharing ideas. Suddenly I was back in 1990 and found that synergy again. I not so naive this time that I will have this forever. People move on. But I will be grateful for it as long as it lasts.
  3. Doctor Nurse Surgeon Angels. My son was injured and bed-ridden for two years. He suffered and thought his life was over. He was misdiagnosed and was told he would have to suck it up. My husband was training for a marathon with a friend and was talking about our frustrations with our son’s situation. She said she had been to a conference where the surgeon talked about this type of injury. She gave us his name in October. By April my son had a diagnosis and a surgery date. In post-op, he said he was pain-free aside from the surgical pain. He could tell it worked and walked. He climbed stairs 4 hours after surgery and never looked back. He has his life back and has made a complete recovery. His future is bright.
  4. Angels. A few times I had experiences where I couldn’t explain what had happened. Yet it did, and it was miraculous. Angels.
  5. Health. 2017 was bad. BAD BAD BAD. My daughter calls it the time I died. I didn’t die, but I was damn close. My doctor figured it out. We have a plan and its working beautifully. I have had a temporary slip back into that dark sickness again. Only this time I recognized it earlier, I sought treatment immediately and am recovering quicker. I am so grateful I understand it better. I have a lot of life to still live plus I want to meet grandkids. I will be an amazing gran or nan or oma or lola. Whatever, I will be great at it when it happens way down the road. I have lots to be healthy for.
  6. Bake-off. I had stopped doing things that brought me joy. Why did I do that? That was the stupidest thing I ever could do. I love to bake, and I love to eat baking. There is a lot of pressure to look a certain way.  I am telling you this, fuck that. My Great Grandma lived to be 99. She ate whatever the hell she wanted from cookies to jellies. Eat the damn cookie. Lick your fingers. Enjoy that glass of wine. Moderation is key. Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith got me baking again. I loved every second of it, and I ate the cookies. I am thinking about all the voices who told me I should be… I needed to be… Here is what I learned: I need to do right by me. This is my life, not yours. I don’t care what you think. I am over you. The line is drawn. My life is peaceful and happy, and I have cookies.  You can continue to be angry just stay out of my yard.
  7. Siblings. I am the eldest. I don’t have a memory of being an only child. I usually spend my birthdays alone doing fun things. This year I invited my brother and sister over. It got me thinking about the shenanigans we got into as children. We talked about it and laughed. I need to do that more. I went to visit both of them over Christmas. Big hugs from both of them. More hugging is important. I am going to have them over, and we will do stupid stuff like operation or monopoly or beer pong.
  8. Captain. Me and my pal the dog went on epic adventures this year. He barked at bison, saved me from a raging river, pulled me up an icy hill and ate snacks while I ate dinner. He looks after me and is always gentle with me. He nips at my hubs playfully but never with me. I get loving kisses. He is the best thing to happen to our family.
  9. Ocean. I stood in the ocean and let the stresses wash away. It made me cry.
  10. Skype. My parents live in Europe for part of the year. I chat with them more when they are overseas than when they are home. I like feeling connected with them and am excited to see them when they come home. But I never feel like I can see them when they are home. There are lots of demands on their time from others, so I stand back. I am not going to do that this year. They are my parents. This is my line.
  11. Wildlife. I have travelled to Whistler, Vancouver Island, Jasper, Banff, Southern Alberta and Vancouver. I asked the universe to show me an abundance of wildlife. I saw two orcas swimming across the Georgia Straight. I watched a mama, and her three cubs eat tender grass in the spring up at Whistler. There was an abundance of whales, bears, elk, bighorn sheep, coyotes, eagles, hawks, sea lions, harbour seals, deer, mountain goats, moose and wolves everywhere we went this year. Those creatures are always the highlight of any year.

 

Make the most of what you have. Gratitude brings more great things into your life. Let the anger go and be grateful for what you have before its gone.

Happy New Year friends!

Tradition

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Every year I take a day off close to the holidays and spend it Christmas shopping. The hubs and I plan an entire day to get everything done. I was inspired to do this by my sister who loves shopping with several packages hanging from her arms. She always wanted the packages to be like hat boxes as seen in several holiday movies, but plastic bags made do for her fantasy.

We start the day off by going for breakfast, the most important and most delicious meal of the day. This year the destination is Cafe Bicyclette, a lovely French cafe in the heart of the French quarter here in Edmonton. I love their coffee and think its some of the best the city has to offer. The days they serve Eggs Benedict are my favourite so fingers crossed that will be on the menu with their grilled grapefruit!

Over breakfast, we make a list of shops we need to visit. This year its places like RAM, AMA, a great bookstore, a toy shop, a dollar store and Southgate Mall. I haven’t shopped at a mall in a very long time so this will be unusual for me. After shopping is complete, we head to Bon Ton Bakery for the best fruitcake, I am one of 7 people in the world who loves fruitcake, don’t judge. I will pick up some other treats for Christmas and then leave with the need to remortgage the house. Aside from that small detail, it is a lovely day.

The thing that is different this year is I don’t have a list for me. There is nothing I want or need other than grandbabies and those will be a few years down the road. The hubs and I are not exchanging gifts this year because we have changed. I credit 738 consecutive days of meditation for this change. I don’t desire things like I used to. I much rather experience things. Life has become a way to experience things rather than get things. Unlike previous years, I don’t have a list of goals. There are a few things I want to do but mostly I want to spend 2019 being present and see what unfolds.

I imagine the Universe has many things planned out for me but I have only one thing.

  1. Make memories with my family.

Sounds simple but also exciting. I have never been as focused on being present before and this is also a credit to the shift I made. I plan to use my inner compass to guide and dictate where and what I will do. I anticipate it being the best year yet.

Words Matter

I am invisible. 

I am insignificant.

My feelings are inconsequential. 

These are phrases that I was supposed to own as my label. 

The  conversation began with “My wife doesn’t like you.” Then the conversation continued to list all the things that were wrong with me. If I wanted people to like me then there was a list of things I needed to do to win the respect of everyone and continue to be part of the group.

If you know me or even spend 10 minutes with me, then you can probably figure out what my reaction was. I walked away. 

What I didn’t expect was everyone else walked away from me. A line was drawn and I watch everyone from the outside. I see them continue to meet yearly and participate in the hurtful hate rhetoric that is fundamental to their persona. I see others become pawns and are used or victims of hate speech or inappropriate actions that are meant to be ‘fun’.

Words matter. 

I thought I was done. 

I am confronted once again with a cast ‘mean girls’ (obviously a metaphor because no one is a girl). Not allowing people to sit with you at a party. Sacrificing teamwork for process  to force people into a box. Accusing a disabled man of unspeakable crimes so they can maintain money and power. Using words in a passive-aggressive manner as an effort to manipulate. Casting out people who have always worked hard to support you because a charlatan told you a story and you believed him. Lying about your situation so you can gain sympathy. This weighs heavy on me and my instinct is to walk away because high school was a long time ago. 

Words matter.

When I look at this repetitive scenario I think why am I doomed to repeat this endless cycle of hate speech and abusive patterns? Because self, you haven’t finished learning the lesson that stems from this. I asked myself through a series of reflections and meditations, “What do I need to learn from this?” 

It came to me on Saturday morning, 3:00 am to be exact. I need to show leadership and stand up for the underdog. I need to facilitate teamwork. I need to role model kindness. I need to be the change I wish to see. It won’t change the world but it will change my corner. This isn’t a Us vs Them scenario. This is an opportunity to raise everyone up to the same level. Fight the good fight.

It reminded me of my dad. 

When I was twelve, my family was eating at McDonald’s. A woman was standing in line screaming at her young daughter. The girl was sobbing on the floor and clinging to the leg of her mother begging her to stop. The women kicked her repeatedly. The restaurant was silently looking on in horror. My father stood up and walked over to the woman and demanded she stop. He said, “You don’t kick children, children are helpless. What is wrong with you?” The woman told my dad to F*** himself and mind his own business. He said no. He wasn’t going to let her kick the child.  It was like a switch went off in her. She stopped but continued to hurl abusive insults at my dad. He stood there like a shield absorbing the hate to protect that girl.  He eventually joined us again for and finished his dinner. My brother asked why he did it. My dad replied, “Because it was the right thing.” 

Since that day I have always made an effort to do the right thing. To protect children and animals because they are fragile. I made a career out of advocacy and non-profit organizations. Recently I have expanded it to warning women of predatory behaviour from men I know. I advocate where I can for indigenous rights because as a white person, I have the power to get other white people to understand. I remind people to say women instead of girls when referring to adults. All of these are superficial things that are easy to do. I ask questions that get people to think about standing in someone else’s shoes. But now I am back in the thick of it and am the recipient of hurtful actions and language. I know I am not alone. I think I am one of the helpers Mr. Rogers tells you to look for. I need to roll my sleeves and help for real. Stop taking the easy way out.  Put words into actions because, words matter. 

Journalist Joshua McKerrow explains it better than I can. Give this a read because, words matter. 

Sleepless

My mind is buzzing with workload and life, so my brain assumes I want to be awake every night between 2:00 am and 4:00 am. My brain is incorrect. I would prefer sleeping at 2:00. This has me thinking about a reading light… and retirement. Freedom 55 and all that. Unfortunately, I chose the Freedom 75 plan. Max out those RRSPs kids!

When I was a preschooler, I remember choosing afternoon school, so I could sleep in. Looking back at my life, I doubt I slept in because I went to work with my mom. I was probably up at 6:00, at grandma’s by 7:30. I probably could have gone to early school, but I would have missed my daily Muppet fix. Anyone who knows me, understand the importance of Kermit and his pals. I love Sesame Street as much as the Muppet Show gang, but the one constant is Kermit. He is the calm in any storm. He has control of the situation and always comes up with multiple plans because let’s be honest, Muppets are wildcards, and anything can happen from boomerang fish to exploding chickens. Kermit has control of the situation.

I suspect he didn’t sleep much.

Kermit sits on my desk at work and I have a Kermit for at home. Over the Rainbow is my favourite song and I think there aren’t enough banjos or bongos in today’s music. Soon I will start watching Muppet Christmas specials because it fills me with joy. Everyone at my office understands the importance of Kermit in my life. I look to him for all my experiential events and projects. The only difference between him and I was he had an assistant Scooter. Maybe someday I should be so lucky.

When I lay awake at night I am filled with anxiety, I make lists and play out scenarios of all the terrible things that might happen. I know Kermit does the same. When he was Jim Henson’s responsibility, he was more in control. When Henson died, and Steve Whitmire took over, I think Kermit became anxiety ridden. Kermit is back on track with Matt Vogel, more like the frog I remember from his reporter days on the street. This is my goal. Get my act together, experience less anxiety and get more sleep.

I do all the things self-help tells me to, including meditation. Sometimes it works for me but mostly it does not. Tell me what you have going on between 2 and 4, perhaps we can meet for book club, or better yet, tell me what works for you to induce sleep. I am eager to be new and improved like Kermit.

Kindred Spirits

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There was a gift sitting on my chair today. An early Christmas present. An infinity scarf with words written on it. Well, it’s more than words. I picked it up and read “When Mr. Phillips was in the back of the room hearing Prissy…” I knew immediately the text on the scarf was an excerpt from Anne of Green Gables. I cried a little.

To have a friend know you well enough to see the perfect gift and then be thoughtful enough to get it for you? I have to admit I cried. I got exactly what I wanted for Christmas.

I bet you are thinking I wanted the scarf. I didn’t even know I wanted the scarf until I received one. But that is not what I wanted. I asked for a friend who I can have deep and meaningful conversations with. I got one.

It has been years since I had a girlfriend who I can share everything with. I have had two of these types of girlfriends in my life. The first one was in Grade 7. She was new to my school but lived fairly close by. We slept over at each other’s homes, her mom was my other mom and I felt as comfortable being in my jammies at her house as I was in my own home. We were the original BFF. After high school, life changed and we drifted. I still think of her fondly and we are Facebook friends.

I met my second BFF when my son entered kindergarten. She was the mom of one of his friends. She just moved to Canada. We had the same humour, the same interests and loved coffee. When our kids graduated from junior high school we drifted apart. She is still in my phone and when we run into each other at the grocery store we stand and chat for hours. If she called me in a panic I would still run to her. I think of her fondly.

I asked the universe for a friend I could share deep and meaningful conversation with. Someone who was similar in age and shared the same values and who would listen to me. Friends who listen are rare.  My new friend arrived and we love books. We often read the same ones and discuss over lunch. Sometimes we talk about existential questions and search for answers. We strategize, we dissect, we both have husbands with the same name. She is my Diana.

Diana Barry was Anne Shirley Cuthbert’s bosom friend, kindred spirit and best friend. We aren’t quite there yet but anyone who knows me well enough to get me an Anne of Green Gables infinity scarf is very important to me. This is an old family favourite series for reasons that differ from most.

My Great Grandmother was born on Prince Edward Island. She talked about ‘Lucy’ in a way that was more familiar than a reader/author relationship. My first complicated novel was a gift from my little gram. Anne of Green Gables. She inscribed it “1978, For Robyn, Love Little Gram” Every birthday and Christmas I would get the next edition. All eight volumes were given to me. Only the first three were in hardcover.  But I have the complete set all gifted by my Little Gram. I read the stories because I wanted to know more about PEI, ‘The island you could walk across in a day”. I kept reading them because I was Anne. I was the mischief maker and child with a wild imagination. I was too sensitive and I had imaginary friends. Mine was Lucy, not Katie.

I travelled to France and was sad for Anne knowing Walter was buried there. I had a hard time separating fictional Anne from my best friend Anne. Intellectually I knew she wasn’t real, but she felt real. Still does. I am caught up in the Netflix series Anne with an E. Its different from the books but the spirit is there and I am caught up in expanded adventures. It takes me back to Little Gram, my childhood chums, my adult friends and my love of reading. I recognize the true gift of what I received today. I received a friend who truly understands me. It’s been a long time since I felt this way.

Thank you, Friend.

The lure of YES

Performance reviews are coming up this week and I was given a two-page questionnaire to fill in. The main topic is about me and all the things I did this year. The first question intrigued me. ‘What are you most proud of?’ That’s easy but it isn’t polite to talk about yourself. Thinking back to my childhood I can tell you my grandma said it wasn’t polite to brag. But her mother always asked about me what I was good at. Her son (my papa bear) always asked about my day. What was good about it and what was not so good? At my old jobby job workplace, I was conditioned to do my job, keep my opinions to myself and do more with less.

I quit that place. It felt oppressive.

I’ve been with my current employer for thirteen months. I’m given the freedom to explore new ideas and express my opinion. Then they ask me what I think I’m good at. Finding words to talk about achievements is hard. No one ever wants to be that guy who is her own biggest fan. It took me two weeks to get the words out. I would have my evaluation opened in a window on my left screen and in between tasks I would go back to it and think about how to talk about myself.

I finished my evaluation today. The meeting is on Friday.  Oprah always asks her guests “What do you know for sure?” Well, Oprah, I will tell you. I know that I need to ask for what I want because no one is going to give it to me without the ask. I asked. I mapped out a plan. I set goals and I can visualize the end. I am prepared for no, but if they say yes? YES is an exciting future. YES opens new doors. YES is taking risks. YES is trying new things. Yes is harder to ask for. No is plodding along.  If no is the answer then I will keep asking because I believe in yes.

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The Dog-Days of summer in the YEG

It is late August and I look outside thinking, “Where did the summer go?” It’s not like I didn’t do anything. My summer was FULL as in ‘TO THE BRIM’ with fun things and not fun things.

I checked off more 18 in 18 things like visiting another small town. This time I went to Calmar. It is straight west of Leduc and I heard it had a fantastic bakery. The Calmar bakery has been a fixture in this town since 1949. Apparently, the donuts are worth the trip. I respectfully disagree, but the place smelled delicious! There are a few antique shops, a post office and a mural. The fire hydrants are cute. We spent 5 minutes walking the length of the main street and popped into 3 shops. 20 minutes later we were like, “What do you want to do now?” We were fairly close to the University Botanical Gardens so we went there on a rainy day. That made the day worthwhile. Then we stopped off at Bon Ton bakery for a rustic loaf of bread to eat with soup. Next time you find yourself in Calmar…keep driving.

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I saw the moon at the Muttart. The big giant indoor moon. It was amazing.

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I checked out Folk Fest during some of the smokiest days we have had, thanks BC fires. So we live in a dystopian future now. We are past the tipping point of climate change and blue skies have been non-existent here in the blue sky capital of Canada. Its been blazes hot and smoky or ice cold and rainy. Everyone is cranky and suffering from SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder because the sun has been a tiny orange disc in the sky.

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We went to Fort Edmonton to recognize Treaty Six Lands and participate in the events there. We learned more about my children’s Métis Heritage, scripts and attended a Pow Wow. This was likely the best day of the summer. The Pow Wow was powerful and moved me to tears. Fort Edmonton goes dark next year for refurbishment, so make sure you catch it this long weekend!

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I spent a day admiring murals that are popping up around my beautiful city! The new one by Holy Roller/El Cortez is a stunner. But what I didn’t know about was the Jill Stanton Piece on the Varscona Theatre. I think that one is my favourite piece.

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I tried out a new brunch place, Pip, for my birthday. It has a great vibe and Tommie our fab server gave me a heavy pour Mimosa to help me celebrate!

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I Fringed! Twice! Some of my best summer memories are Fringing. This year I went to the box office and said, ‘randomly give me something at 8 o’clock.’ We walked to the Garneau and saw Scratch, a long-form improv that was complicated but was neatly wrapped up in a bow during the final scene. It was brillant. These guys have been appearing at the fringe for 14 years. They are worth catching if you see them next year. Risk taking is the best part of fringing. The following day we caught Sad Ass Cabaret. It was SAD – like cry sad. But the narrator could have read me the phonebook and I would have bought a recording. His storytelling abilities were fabulous. I loved it. The music was meh. We bought street-art for a friend my daughter is visiting, we ate green onion cakes because that is a must-do at the fringe. I won a prize on a spin wheel and the dude tried to give it to my daughter instead of me. ‘Um, exCUSE ME???? I won the prize, she is just cute and didn’t do anything.’ An old dude felt the need to explain to me why he was dancing. – Dance on dude! It’s the fringe! Enjoy yourself! I saw a dude in a Sombrero, he may or may not have been a real Mexican but the drunk guy he gave his guitar to could play Nirvana, and that was cool.

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A woman my age or possibly older told me how much she loves my converse. They are my homage to Doctor Who. She seemed envious that I have the courage to wear a shoe that is intended for young people. Listen friend, wear the shoe, eat the green onion cake and always give zero fucks because it’s your life and only you can live it.

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When Fringe ends, it always feels like summer ends. Except for this year, my vacation starts September first, so my summer is not ending until September 15th. I promise not to waste the remaining days of summer.

 

 

The epic 50th year comes to an end

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So many people fear 50. I chose to see it as a major milestone and embrace it. I made my epic 50th year about embracing adventure. As with all things that sit before you in the future, I had no idea what to expect. I knew I had to face every day by leaning in, purging what didn’t work for me and be present in the moment. None of these things happened overnight, but they all happened. I am turning 51 on Thursday. Let me share what happened this year. If you are interested, I will be exploring these points in great detail over at my other space Still Life, it isn’t for everyone. But it might be for you.

 

  1. Embrace Change.

At the age of 49, I was desperate for change. I knew I didn’t like where I was. I felt mired in grey matter and desperately needed sunshine. I was called on my birthday and was asked to come in for a job interview. I said yes. 5 days later I interviewed. 14 days after the interview I had a job offer. 30 days after the phone call, I was sitting at my new desk completely overwhelmed trying to navigate my new job with very little direction because my employer also wanted change but wasn’t really sure what that needed to look like. 11 months later, we are still collaborating and planning for the future. It’s exciting, inspiring and exhausting.  For the first time in my career, I feel respected and valued. Never underestimate that. It has opened my world up to infinite possibilities and that feels amazing. Being valued means different things to different people. For me, it means, have someone listen to you, respect your ideas even if they are not going to work, ask for your input and is kind and supportive.

2. Take time to value yourself.

I made a promise to myself 609 days ago.  I promised myself I would take the time to meditate every day because when I did, I was calmer, kinder and felt peaceful. I sat on my chair for 609 days and sat in silence. It wasn’t easy, I have a voice that reminds me I am not enough. I had a boyfriend who validated this message. I wasn’t thin, pretty, smart, skilled…enough. He didn’t choose me so it also validated I wasn’t enough.  I heard this message echoed in ‘friends’, family, colleagues, strangers and me. I sat for 609 days repeating my Sankalpa, it began with ‘I am happy’. Once I felt happy after months of repeating my mantra, I changed it to ‘I am enough’ as I learned I was enough I changed it to ‘I am forgiving’ because I needed to forgive myself before I could forgive others. This year I am grateful. I learned to love me, let go of outer expectations and focus on my life’s purpose. Not someone else’s. So it may feel like I abandoned you and in some ways I did. You’ll be okay.

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3. Health is more important than you think, listen to your body.

Last December I had a trip planned to go to New York City. I was excited about it. In November when I sat quietly with myself I began to feel like I shouldn’t go. It began with a friend’s reaction. I started to feel sick in the pit of my stomach thinking about this trip. I cancelled the trip and immediately felt better. I learned that intuition is my greatest ally. One week later, I was in the hospital. My daughter calls it the time I died. In many ways, I did die. It was a life changing experience. I experienced an awaking. I will talk more about that experience over on my blog Still Life: Finding Peace in Chaos. But I had ignored my body until I couldn’t. Listen to yourself. Don’t let yourself down.

4. Nurture your circle

I was incredibly ill for months. I was home from work for six weeks. If I had gone to New York, I would have died. I didn’t have anyone there to help me. I would have been alone in my hotel room with cleaning staff finding my body. I spent months having tests, hanging out in doctors offices. Learning about my health and understanding what is normal and what is not. I finally have my health sorted and back on track. I feel better than I have in 20 years. Health is important. I sat in the hospital with my daughter and went through the list of people she should call if things became too much for her to manage. I have 8 people in my circle of trust and 3 were all vacationing in Europe at the time. Two others in my circle, my children, were living with me taking care of me at a time in their life when they should be focused on friends, school and fun. The other three were close by and I knew if I needed them, they would be there. Interestingly enough, my circle consists exclusively of family. I love them fiercely.

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5. Purge

I went through a phase where I wanted to know what it felt like to be in a close-knit circle of friends. I never really experienced that. I had one or two friends that I sort of felt close to when I was a kid. But I never really felt like people got me. As an adult, I wanted to experience that. I made the mistake of picking people who were fun but also had fun at other people’s expense. They were fairly focused on themselves and took from me at every turn with the exception of one. He treated me well until he didn’t. It was stressful. I didn’t know if I was speaking to the good guy or the bad guy. My values didn’t align with anything these people did for fun. Because values were misaligned, I was hurt in ways I never expected. It distroyed me. I sat for a long time asking ‘What do I need to learn from this’. I received my answer. I learned about the true meaning of friendship. I went through a purge that rid me of toxic people. I purged things. I gave away truck-loads of things. I burned things to exorcise the demons. I purged my schedule. If I didn’t see value in it, I didn’t do it. Saying good-bye and NO were the greatest gift I gave to myself.

6. Friends

I have a circle of trust – family. They come first in my life always. I have a few friends who I would do ANYTHING for. There are family and friends that do not hear from me very often anymore. My health took centre stage this year. Some people in my life are emotional vampires. As an introvert, I need alone time to recharge. Emotional vampires literally sucked the life out me. While I was recovering, there were people who kept taking from me and never once asked how I was doing. I thought about this for a while. Why do I keep nurturing this relationship? I reach-out and if the time is not convenient to them, they would swear at me, or blow me off. You would think by the age of 50 I would understand that a friend is loyal, trustworthy, KIND and dependable to the extent they are capable of. I made a list of people who I thought fit those attributes, I have two and with a new friend I made recently it may bump up to three. Friends never want to feel like they are an inconvenience. I hope I have never made my friends feel that way. Please be frank with me if I have, it was never my intent. I am at the point in my life where I need a best friend. I want honesty, loyalty, kindness, as their values. I want someone with the same interests as me. I want someone who loves deep, meaningful conversation about life, spirituality, books, and experiences. But most importantly, I want a friend who I can call up and say, ‘Something just happened, I need you.’ And they say “Yes” or they say, “I am doing this right now….I am going to call in in 15/30/4 hours so I can give you my undivided attention.” That person exists. I just haven’t found them yet or I haven’t recognized them.

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7. Purpose

I found my purpose. I found my life’s mission. The universe takes you there without you seeing it and then it hits you over the head with a brick and says – can you see it yet? I see it. In every situation I have ever been in, I have been in a position to help people by raising them up. This is my purpose. I have a unique skill that searches for the quality in someone that is special. I point it out to them and then I teach them to use it to the best of their ability. Typically it only takes kind words or encouragement to inspire someone into action. As a child, I was told I was too sensitive. Being sensitive IS NOT A BAD THING! It’s amazing. I am empathic. I can feel what others are feeling. I can see things from other people’s perspective. This is my gift and it helps me fulfil my life’s purpose. I have set this as an intention to use in every aspect of my life including work. As a species, we can do better. It is my mission to spread kindness. I am not doing this every day because people can be cruel and it wounds me then I get crabby and angry. But I try to be this every day. Try. I am getting better at it.

8. Adventure

I want to experience things. What I mean is, I want to watch/read/learn/do things. I did things this year I haven’t done before. I stood in the ocean and felt it. I mean really felt it and I was overcome by emotion and sobbed my heart out. I explored Alberta’s prairie and appreciated it for what it was, and didn’t criticize it for being something it wasn’t. Prairies aren’t trying to be mountains. So I enjoyed them for being prairies. I read book genres I hadn’t explored before. I was correct in knowing I don’t need to read frightening books. Now I know for sure. I took the time to learn about First Nations Art, I always enjoyed it but now I have learned its purpose. I took big risks because no one is going to do it for you. I learned more about myself by doing this than by wishing someone would do it for me. I subscribed to a Broadway streaming channel because I love theatre and I have reconciled with myself that I am not going to New York or London to see these plays in person. I want to see them now not some day. This has brought me a surprising amount of joy. I love my city. I want other people to see what I see. I explore it and photograph it. I try different experiences and festivals. I have been all over the world and if you said to me, ‘Robyn, you can no longer travel where do you want to live out the rest of your days?’ I would answer ‘Edmonton…just let me live a bit closer to the valley’.

Happy Birthday to me. We had one hell of a year.

Risks

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When I started this blog, the intent was to explore myself. I had reached rock bottom. Everyone’s bottom looks different because everyone has a different pain threshold. I made a effort to to really change my life, say yes more than no, say no and mean it, take risks and try new things. The thing about taking risks is , its risky. A risk can be a fantastic amazing experience or it can be a disaster. So far it has been fairly equal, great verses disaster.

Great things:

  • I ran 9 half marathons and a bunch of 10k and 5 ks. I felt fantastic, looked pretty darn good and learned new things about myself.
  • I went back to school, got my degree and learned that I am smarter than I thought I was.
  • I became open to different points of view. This was something I was never good at, different meant fearful. Opening myself up let me become more humanistic. I learned so much and my children taught me more that I thought possible. Kindness became the number one most important thing to me. I gave it, I expected it and sometimes I raged over not being available. That was a strange journey and it still is.
  • I traveled more frequently and met new people. Some people became lifelong friends and some became the thing nightmares are made of but everything about travel was worth it. Learning about different cultures, seeing history, understanding climate change, and discovering perspective makes all the difference. I hope my travels aren’t over but if they are, I am very fortunate to have seen and learned what I have from my perspective.
  • Travel does not have to be far from your home, it can be in your own city. I met people, saw things and learned new stuff just being 10 minutes from my door step. New perspectives are everywhere.
  • I became an avid reader. I was always a book lover but I took a risk that had me reading genres that I had never explored before. It opened up my mind to scenarios I hadn’t imagined. I also learned that time is fleeting so don’t waste your time on books that bore you to tears. It isn’t worth it me. If I am not captivated then I close it.
  • I learn to value my health. Life changes on a dime. Do what you can when you have the opportunity or it will be too late. No one ever regretted doing fun things.
  • I learned work is work it is not my life. Don’t work late, leave work at work and do a job you can be proud of.
  • I have people who are in my order every single time. I have people who are not. I learned just recently that the people who are on my side are there because I am important to them. The people who are in my corner sometimes were the ones I spent too much time with trying to change their perspective. Stick with the people who love you. They deserve your loyalty, the others don’t.
  • I learned to feel and label emotion. Laugh, cry, rage, be pensive, sit in silence, do all the things that make you feel. I learned there are not negative emotions. Feelings just are and the sooner you can label your emotions and sit in it, the sooner it will pass. It is an important part of understanding your day. I helps you make better choices because quite frankly, I want to joyful all the time, I know it isn’t a reality for me but acknowledging other emotions means I can get to joyful quicker. It only took me 50 years to figure that one out. I no longer say fine. Give Terrible Thanks for Asking a listen, it will help put those emotions into perspective and help you move forward when you didn’t think you could. *Apologies for excessive use of emotional outbursts to my people, but thats who I am and you know it.

Terrible Thing: (remember taking risks opens you up to terrible things)

  • The thing about meeting new people is you are not everyone’s cup of tea. I completely expect that. However, I didn’t expect an old fashion school yard dressing down. Especially after placing my trust and friendship with a person. This goes back to kindness – if you can’t be kind just say no thank you. There is no need for a public stoning. All that does is demonstrate your sad life. Stepping on someone to gain importance is sad, there is no way around it. A lovely friend of mine pointed that out to me today. It helped me find a perspective that I couldn’t see before because pain and hurt were in the way. This man has a sad life which is evident with his vices, his free time, his friends and his wife. I couldn’t look at that before. Today I can. He needs things more than me so he can have the circle of friends, the position and the accolades. I don’t need those as much as he does. I still think he is a bully and is unkind to those he deems as having too much self confidence or those who make good choices for themselves when he did not choose it for them.  I still want to protect people from him, but mostly I look at him with pity. That whole social circle is filled with people who push back against people who are strong. Its as if they need to be alpha and no one can be equal. My take away is, I’d rather be on a team of equal proportions than have to live with in a social structure with a male privileged hieracrchy. My life is not broken with out them, on the contrary, it is peaceful and relatively drama free. All good things. So perhaps it wasn’t a terrible thing after all, I can chalk it up to a learning experience.
  • The other thing about risks is having an expectation of outcome. But a risk implies the outcome could go either way. So having expectations makes the unfavourable outcome sad in a way you never dreamed of because you always hope for the best – or at least I did. Its pretty painful. My take away is I learn better from failure and disappointment than I do from success. The hardest lesson comes from failure and disappointment. Perhaps this isn’t so terrible either, it just feels that way in the moment because pain hurts. True story. The list of outcomes I had hoped for and failed are equal to the outcomes I had hoped for and succeeded. The failures and disappointments stick with me though, its hard not to take them personal because I put my heart into those risks and the outcomes did not go as planned. Its hard to get over but I have a list of things I would do different next time. And it starts with trusting my judgement.

Looking at the great/terrible things, I guess risk taking is better than not. It’s just the terrible was really awful.  Oprah once said 40’s are for learning about yourself, 50’s are applying what you learned. I remember think pfff….what ever Oprah. Now I think, sorry Oprah, I did learn a lot and now I am ready to be 50 and move forward with my life lessons, the most important one is “let that shit go…”

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