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.

 

 

Peasant life

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I read a column in the New York Times by Ann Patchett. If you have never read any of her, treat yourself and put one of her books on your reading list this year. When I read her columns, it’s like chatting with one of my pals. I thoroughly enjoy her style.

She wrote My Year of No Shopping in 2017. I read it then and revisited it over Christmas week 2018. She discusses how she outlined her year of no spending. No clothes, which seemed hard for her, she stopped various other spending but allowed books (although you can visit your local library) and discussed gift giving. She decided to only give books except for her editor who married and thought that a book wasn’t right for that situation. But if someone gave me a book for my wedding, they would be at the top of my list of favourite people. Can you imagine a collection of lovely books to start a library of your own as a newlywed? It sounds divine but that might just be me.

I gave no spending some serious thought in 2017. Then I met my friend. She sets aside several weeks throughout the year to live frugally. She calls it Peasant Week. The biggest change she makes is to not buy groceries for an extended period and uses up all the food in her freezer and pantry. I am guilty of having a well-stocked cupboard and replenish it often. She has a monthly allowance and does not spend over that limit – ever. She has a budget. $xxx for gifts comes off her paycheque monthly along with other items that come up unexpectedly throughout the year. All of this is because she has a goal of retiring at 55. Her house will be paid off and she has some tidy investments so she can live the life she desires. That isn’t saying she doesn’t love every moment of her life now. She is humble and grateful and refuses to do chores on the weekend because those are her play days. That is what she calls them, play days. She will only do what feels fun on those two days and does all her chores after work throughout the week. Her life is lovely.

I did that to some extent only with a different goal in mind. It wasn’t about saving money for me, only at first but that changed over time. I went through a financial crisis and curbed travel spending for three years. (But Tourist, you travelled a lot in the last three years! I did, but I will get to that.) My goal was to live a simple life not complicate it by financial obligations. I have to admit it was hard watching friends travel to Disney when I could not. I unfollowed most acquaintances on facebook because I needed to change my thought patterns of jealousy and envy to appreciation and gratitude. Hard to be grateful for what I have when I am longing for what I don’t have.

Simplify is what I call it. I simplified everything from facebook followers to items in my home.

The first thing I did was join a facebook group that gave things away, didn’t sell them. That was important to me. It wasn’t about the money. It was giving things to people who needed them far more than I did. It was about helping people who are starting out in life. I gave away a dumpster full of things. A side benefit, I don’t miss a thing. I have more to give this year. I want to come home to a minimalist house. I live with three other adults. two of them have a hard time parting with things because they don’t know what to do with it. We are also working on that, so this is a process. I have all the time in the world to remove things, there is no rush. I check the site daily to see if anyone is looking for something when I have it, I give it. Simple. Occasionally I see something I need. Like a crockpot. I never had one before and am grateful for one!

Before the tree comes down this year I am getting out four small boxes to sort. One for my son, he has a collection of Santas for his grown-up tree starter kit. One for my daughter, she has an angel grown-up tree starter kit. Decorations I want to keep for a small adult tree of my own and then a give-a-way pile. I do not need an entire storage room of Christmas decorations. clutter around the house stresses me now. Those will go to a new home or Good-will.

Last summer my daughter went to Disneyland. Her first adult trip without her mom. She had travelled with her school and for work, but this felt different. She stayed on Disney property and understood how much I wanted to do that. She knew how much I love the soaps and creams so she saved them daily and brought home a giant bag full of sample sizes. I have travelled a lot for work and was gifted trips when the hubs retired. I collected some of those fantastic smelling items and brought them home. I enjoy ‘free’ souvenirs. When she returned, I went through my cupboard and discovered several bags of these things. I consolidated all of them and decided I needed to use them up instead of buying any new product. Five months later I am one-third of the way through the bag of beauty products. I haven’t bought anything including toothpaste since August. Toothpaste will run out next month but the soap and shampoo will last me until summer.

I brought this lifestyle into my work-life. We had a Secret Santa exchange. There were three rules, one for each week:

  1. The first gift must be from the dollar store and cannot cost more than $3.
  2. The second gift must be something from your home that you no longer use and can be re-gifted.
  3. The third must be home-made.

Surprisingly, everyone participated. People received amazing things. Re-gifting was magical. It felt like we did more with less. This was a huge validation for me. I did the same thing with items in our warehouse. I used up what we had before we bought new. That is important to the bottom line, but more importantly to the environment.

As I think about 2019, I know I don’t need any new clothes. I would like new boots, but mine are fine and not worn out yet. I had a hole in my puffer jacket but taped it with black electrical tape and now its fine for at least another winter so it will take me through until 2020 and I will reassess then.

I have more sheets and towels than I know what to do with, so I will sort through those and put them in the give-away pile. I went through appliances and utensils and gave them to my nephew, but I think I can do better. My pantry is the real challenge for me. I will work my way through the freezer and see what I can do with those items. I want to start a standing garden so I can easily harvest my own food. I think that will be my project for this year. I will focus on food.

Back to the “but you travelled extensively Tourist, what gives? I thought you didn’t want to spend money on travel?” Truth and I didn’t spend money on travel – sort-of.

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My hubs was given a lovely retirement gift of travel. Boom, that was how I travelled. I have a new job that lets me travel across Alberta. Boom, I saw parts of the province I had never been to before. On my down time while away for work, I would explore the towns and areas. Alberta’s Coulees are gorgeous. Prairies are beautiful. I learned that appreciating your own backyard has significant benefits and is just as beautiful and wonderful as exploring towns and villages in Europe, Australia or the US. People travel far and wide to come here. I live three hours from a world-class destination. I am lucky. I get to see Northern Lights regularly – as in ALL THE DAMN TIME. Very few people will ever see those in their lifetime. Grandpa was right, Canada is awesome.

2018 taught me about appreciation. The more I appreciated what I had, the more I received. It was crazy but true. People gave me stuff for being kind. I won things like small lottery wins, books, dinner out and movie tickets.  I learned joy doesn’t come from things, it comes from experience. Help those who need it. Don’t put a price tag on things, just give it away because you can. You will receive more in ways you never thought possible.

Abundance is a gift.

Happy New Year, may 2019 be abundant for you.

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!