Thursday, July 19, 2018

Another Writing Self-help Story

I recently took a needed hiatus from my writing – self-induced yet situational. I couldn’t write and I needed to step back. Other things took my focus away – family, life stress, etc – and what I needed to do was turn my attention to something completely different and out of the norm for me.

Archery.

Writing is and has never been far from my soul, but given that various personal factors were consuming my mind and heart, nothing was making sense. Nothing worked. Words jumbled. Emotions blurred. Fingers froze. I wanted to write. I needed to write. I knew that if I simply wrote something, ANYTHING, that that would be the answer. Sure occasionally I had a few moments of clarity and inspiration, and a first chapter would be written, a few plots fleshed out, and a few ideas entertained and written down.

But I never got further than those false starts, idea jotting, plot scheming. But, I kept telling myself, at least I still have the desire, the passion, and the want.

It just wasn’t the right time for me.

But still guilt consumed my soul; self-doubt made me nauseous. Was I now a has-been? Was I washed up? Was the writer I was before a total sham? Was I a fraud? Was that life I had over?

Yet, the desire, passion and want – never mind all the plot scheming, idea generating, and false starts – never left me. All that guilt, self-doubt and nausea was a mere second to the passion, desire and want that I knew was still there. I just needed to NOT write for a while. I had to give myself permission to NOT write. I had to allow myself to let go of the guilt, ignore the self-doubt, and simply take a Gravol for the nausea.

Because deep down I knew I was a writer and always would be a writer. Maybe I was in a writer’s mid-life crisis, I don’t know. And I know even as I write this, I’m still not there, and I have to keep pushing away the guilt-laden mantra ‘you’re only a ‘writer’ if you’re writing.’
Well – screw the mantra.

I would write when the time was right, and when I was ready. When I had sorted through my SELF and when I knew it would feel right. I kept pushing myself – flogging a dead horse, as it were – and trying for something that wasn’t meant to be AT THAT TIME. And the more I pushed for something that wasn’t there – that wasn’t meant to be – the worse it got.

I didn’t need anyone else’s idea of what a writer is ‘supposed to be’ to define who I know I am.

A writer.

So back to the archery.

With all that was going on in my life, I had a focus – something bigger than me, something different than me, and something beyond me – and that was archery. It could have been pickle ball, curling, bowling, or cricket – I don’t think it would have mattered. But archery has become something bigger than I had ever imagined for myself. It has been something that has kept me active and moving. Something that has kept me moving forward and not back. You HAVE to erase all that is bugging you at the time in the moment of each shot. The sport has had me toughening up mentally – it truly IS a game of mental strength – and has had me learning how to deal with highs, lows, competition and intimidation. But most of all, I have had to learn to get out of my own head - get out of my own way. Because recently I learned I was my own worst enemy. No snotty competitor, no ‘big shot’ who would try to cut me down because I’m a girl (happens everywhere), and no injury could truly bring me down. Only allowing any of those to get into my head would bring me down, and that would be my fault if I let them in, not theirs. I had to learn that I was responsible for letting people or situations get in my own way. I had to get stronger and tougher. I had to remember that during times of weakness that I was so much more than the guy or girl who could try to knock me down - and most of the time that girl was me.

And that doesn’t just apply to archery.

I realized recently that I was responsible for letting things get to me. People or situations, stress or sadness, could not rule me. I had accomplished so much – in life, in my writing, in my little archery ‘career’ that was only in its infancy – so why would I let little things get into my head?

As I write this – see? I AM writing – my archery club has started a 13-week tournament were registrants from across Canada sign up and each week your score is submitted and tallied against others in your respective category. At the end of the 13 weeks, your top 6 scores get averaged, and a winner in each category is announced.

I won gold last year.

I won gold despite during the whole 13 weeks I was a stressed out wreck. Truly. But I get like that. I overthink, I over-do, I over-worry. It’s supposed to be fun! It’s supposed to be engaging! Why was I acting and feeling like a freak?

But of course, I got in my own way.

Back-track for a moment to the Spring where I went to a national championship in Maple Ridge. It was my goal to go – just to know, for ME, that I had done that. I had no hopes of winning anything – I was up against big shots – but I wanted to know for MYSELF that I had done that. And despite sitting in the parking lot of the range crying after practice the first day there – I was overwhelmed, felt like a fool and felt like I was way beyond in-over-my-head – I forged on in 32degree temperatures with non-existent mascara that had melted away in the heat and came in fourth.

And I sang the whole way home in the car knowing I had done that. I. HAD. DONE. THAT.

Little old me.

So fast forward to the beginning of January and that 13-week tournament. I’m not cocky, nor over-confident, but I was secure in the knowledge that I could do this – look at all I had accomplished! – and I had the experience both technically and mentally to do things like this.
The first day I was calm. No problem. I can do this. I was prepared for a few false starts, which is natural, and the slate was clean – last year’s gold meant nothing now. I had to just do what I could do NOW.

And of course, I lost it. I stressed, shook, sweated and near-barfed. I got myself so psyched out for no reason. I let other competitors get into my head. My equipment went wonky. I had cramps. Outside life stresses weighed me down.

And my first scores were horrid.

And my second scores were horrid.

I lost sleep.

My heart raced.

I couldn’t shake it off the panicking, all-consuming feelings that made my heart race and my spit dry up.

I had to get my mental game on and I couldn’t.

But.....

But then........

I fell back on what I knew how to do, and what WOULD help.

Writing.

I didn’t write about this immediate tournament, I wrote about that national championship that I had done.

Chicken Soup for the Soul recently had a call for submissions for an upcoming book ‘The Empowered Woman.’ True, I hadn’t been ‘writing’ lately, but as I said above writing was never far from my mind. I knew I wanted to do a story for this book, but was hesitant – how could I empower others if I, frankly, wasn’t exactly feeling very empowered? What kind of a sham would I be even entertaining writing a story for them on this topic give my constant state of self-doubt?

But I knew – or at least hoped – that maybe my perseverance and accomplishment of my goal of competing in that national championship MIGHT hopefully inspire someone. I hoped that my own sense of empowerment, independence and confidence gained from competing in that tournament might help someone to do something beyond their insecurities.

I knew the deadline was sometime in January, so I had to be quick. I knew I had write about what I had done during that national competition to not only help someone else (if they published it), but mostly I had to write about it to for myself. I had to remember what I CAN do, would I COULD do, and what I HAD achieved. If I was going to get through these 13 weeks, I had to get out of my way and remember a mantra I had come up with after that national tournament – ‘If I can do THAT, I can do anything!’

So I wrote about the experience – and finished it in a day. I wrote SOMETHING and FINISHED it! Writing gave me perspective. It was cathartic.

It was empowering.

It was timely.

And it was only after I finished and patted myself on the back did I think ‘gee, I better go check on the deadline for that.’

I wrote it on January 9.

The deadline was January 10th.

WOW.

Well if that wasn’t meant to be, I don’t know what was....

The act of writing my accomplishment – which was both self-serving and hopefully an inspiration to someone else – along with other mental strengthening tactics I acquired, I settled myself down and have, as of today, competed twice more in the 13-week tournament CALMLY and without self-doubt. Without negative thought. I refuse to feel that stress again – this is supposed to be fun! – and I refuse to let anyone get into my head – especially if that someone is me. My last two scores were better than I had ever imagined – but it wasn’t about the scores. It was about me getting out of my own way – out of my own head.

All I had to do was write.


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Since I've Been Gone...

Kelly Clarkson has a fabulous toe-tapping, in-the-car-singing tune - "Since U Been Gone!" I take it from the words - and I haven't asked her myself - that it's about how a girl has grown and changed since being away from her guy. Distance, time, and life events all have us growing and changing - we wouldn't be human if we didn't.

So since I'VE been gone from this blog and the wonderful world of wordsmithing I love so much, I've been growing. Life events have consumed my heart and time - a blank page to fill with meaningful and entertaining words has not been the escape I needed. I have found calm and healing outside in nature's finest - when I'm not pounding the pavement in a healthy/hearty powerwalk with Kelly Clarkson's songs urging my every step faster through my ipod, I've been at the archery range slinging arrow after arrow. In writing, word by word you get somewhere, those thoughts, ideas and creations taking you down paths you didn't know you'd be going. With archery I have found that with every arrow, and all those steps needed to go retrieve those arrows - some on the target and some, sadly, in the 'green ring' (grass) - I have found order and a sense of knowing where I was going. You can only go forward or back on an archery range with only the wind blowing things off course. But wind is just wind - it eventually goes away and you got a bit stronger from having to brace yourself against it. You can't control wind, but you know you can get back on course. Words on the page have eluded me - arrows have kept me going forward. Writing won't ever leave me - just the wind of life.

None of this likely makes any sense - but that's okay. Since I've been gone the act of putting pen to paper hasn't truly left me - the itch to write is always deep down - but you get rusty, you see. Just like archery, word-spinning takes and needs practice. It's just good to know I can always come back to it - when the time is right and the wind shifts accordingly.

So for now I will savor this moment of writing and I'll think of tomorrow when I'll be back on the archery range. And when I come back from where I've been gone, I'll be a different version of who I am, with that much more to share - and write.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Life Lessons With the 5-Second Rule

I dropped half of my toasted English muffin on the floor of the kitchen at work.

And then I ate it.

It was only there for five seconds.

It hadn’t yet been slathered with the inch-thick glob of peanut butter I usually apply, so surely nothing would stick to it. I dusted it off just in case, glanced over my shoulder to make sure no one was around, then slathered on the peanut butter and chowed down like it was nobody’s business.

And I didn’t die.

The muffin was barely on the ground five seconds before I snatched it up. For a brief second I wondered if the ‘open’ side of the muffin – the side one would typically spread something delicious – being face down on the floor would be worse than if it had been the ‘wrong’ side, or the outside of the muffin. But the ‘side’ of the food touching the ground truly wouldn’t matter.

The food that had been on the floor that hadn’t been washed since God knows when.

And I didn’t care.

And again, I didn’t die.

And as I ate my now likely plague-riddled muffin, I thought about ‘five seconds’ and all that can happen in that seemingly short amount of time - aside from food being near-infected by dirty kitchen infestations.

The five second rule – when it comes to food, that is – has long been argued, proven/disproven/proven, de-bunked, tested/re-tested, agreed/disagreed and gagged over. Scientists and doctors and myth-busters alike have long queried the probability of bacteria clinging to food in a short amount of time. Many refuse to eat ANYTHING that has fallen on the floor, yet many scream FIVE SECOND RULE at the top of their lungs when something delicious like a brownie hits the floor – as if screaming it will scare the germs away and ward-off disgusted looks from others in the room. But I contradict myself - I often think twice about WHAT the food item is before pleading the rule of 5 seconds before devouring. If it’s a glomb of oatmeal I’m not going to lick it off the floor. If it’s a piece of $20 steak? Well you can bet your barbeque sauce I’ll be snatching that tasty little morsel off the floor faster than the cat can come charging over!

My peanut buttery, plague-riddled muffin nearly gone, and my body still intact and no worse for wear, I further contemplated those infamous and highly controversial ‘five seconds’ so many equate to food and germs. A lot of GOOD things can happen in 5 seconds. Yes, a lot of BAD things can happen as well, but in the spirit of speaking and acting positive this new year where I’m sure science will, once again, take a turn and discover a new reason not to eat food off the floor, here’s a list of GOOD things we can do in five seconds – to make this world a better place – if only for a second:

1. Smile. Yep. Just smile. Try it. You won’t break a sweat. You have time – just do it.
2. Say ‘Good morning’ (and fake it if you must). Two words. That’s it.
3. Say ‘Good morning’ AND smile – that’s a double whammy there, but it’s worth it.
4. Say ‘I love you’ and mean it.
5. Hug someone. SQUEEZE them. Squish the snot right out of them.
6. Think a happy thought – but then if you’re like me where one thought leads to the next, then the next, then next, then the next, then the next, then the next, then the next, and then suddenly a whole hour has gone by and you have done nothing but stare out a window and think and then for the life of you you can’t figure how you got to thinking about why the worm you saw that morning on your walk was so big – what DID that guy eat for breakfast? – and you can’t remember what your original happy thought was and then……*deep breath*….you’re exhausted. Just a QUICK happy thought then. One that will only take five seconds.
7. Wipe the crumbs off the counter into the sink. You don’t even have to use a cloth. Just a quick swipe and they’re GONE! (*this is a hint to my family, but it’s a good reminder for all)
8. Stop and admire a tree. Yep – just a tree. Any tree. Walking somewhere with your head down and feeling in a funk? Look up for five seconds and admire that tree standing there waiting for you to admire. It’ll be thankful you paid attention to it for once, and doing so will give you pause out of your funk. Go on – try it. Give BACK to that tree.
9. See some litter? You know what to do….
10. And last but not least – blow your nose (but privately). It’s healthy and socially needed – nobody likes someone who always sniffs.

Yes, these have gone from the obvious to the absurd, but every little bit counts, I say. But in this world where we are neurotic germaphobes - gloves for this, sprays for that, antibacterial gels strong enough to near-peel the skin off our hands - eating a few germs off the floor will likely do us a world of good (build up our immunity), do the WORLD a load of good by not wasting food, and those POSITIVE five seconds will remind us there truly IS so much good we CAN do – for ourselves AND each other.

Remember to make the most of every second, and doing great things always happens in little increments – either eating something off the floor laden with germs before five seconds is over, or doing something little like smiling at someone to make their day – it’s what you DO with your time is what matters. Make every second count.

So drop that steak, brush it off, pop it in your mouth and smile at that tree. You won’t get sick and you’ll be happier for it - and full!


(Disclaimer - I'm no scientist and have no medical or scientific knowledge or background to support or argue the hygenic/non-hygenic merits of eating food off the floor. It's not for everyone, and to each their own and all that. So like I tell my kids - 'if something doesn't feel right, don't do it!')

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Pineapple Express to Polar Express: Getting in the Spirit of Things

And just like that – Christmas is here.

People say it every year that ‘Christmas just snuck up’ on us – as if we didn’t know it was coming for the last 364 days of the year. One minute it’s summer, then it’s back to school, then Thanksgiving, Halloween and Remembrance Day (in that order if you’re in Canada), then WHAM! It’s deck the halls, untangle the lights, and start panicking!

And this year, for me, it simply DID sneak up on me – and I think the weather played a big part in what feels like Christmas’ sudden appearance. Because it truly feels – as cliché as it is – that just yesterday was summer. I spent the summer on the archery range, and even up until the middle of October I was out there with just a t-shirt and shorts. I was still swimming in the lake at the end of September, the trees with their changing leaves reflecting on the waters’ surface. Aside from one FREAK snowstorm one Thursday night merely a few weeks ago, we truly haven’t had much of a winter – yet. They say it’s coming and will hit us hard when it does, but until then we will enjoy all the rain and above normal temperatures we have been getting. A Pineapple Express weather system courtesy of Hawaii has been soaking our Christmas wrapping paper along my beloved west coast – or should I say ‘wet’ coast. There have been clouds, clouds and more clouds, bringing rain, rain, and more rain. But what is specific to this Pineapple Express is the temperature - warm, warm, and more warm - with temperatures being up around 15 degrees Celsius (59 for those in Fahrenheit). Yes, the buckets of rain we have been getting make playing outside a tad challenging, however not totally impossible, and the warm breeze that comes through when the rain DOES decide to take a break is rather....alarming. I hope Santa brings his bathing suit.

But Hawaii we are not, and Christmas is coming no matter what the weather. Today (as I write this) the sun is shining for a mere few hours before the rain hits again. No frost, no runny noses, no brisk mornings and chilly fireplace-needing nights. Yet, Christmas is supposed to be a feeling – a season – a way of being of spreading goodwill to all men, no matter what day or time of year it is and no matter what the weather is ‘supposed’ to be. I think it feels like it ‘snuck’ up on us in part because our weather had been so nice for so long that we haven’t had ‘winter’ yet to put us in the mood. But even if we WERE in Hawaii, where when it rains it pours but is gone faster than you can grab your surf board, Christmas would still come and all the lights and baubles would still twinkle and sparkle. Just like here, but hotter.
Most stores were politically correct in waiting until after Remembrance Day to allow ‘Christmas’ to explode all over their aisles and shelves, and I’m so very, very thankful they have finally started waiting until an appropriate time (it didn’t always used to be like that). But I don’t blame ‘lack of decorations’ on my lack of Christmas enthusiasm. I think it’s because I have been in a blur these last few months, changes and transitions making me pensive and reflective and therefore sabotaging my creative spirit. So it’s only been recently when I’ve run into a store and the silver, gold, holy and ivy have smacked me in the face that have I sort of ‘come to’ and realized how much time has passed while I was grey.

I needed my bells jingled.

I needed a little sparkle.

And despite the rain and dark clouds in the sky and in my head, Christmas decorations are still going up on every street corner while strings of lights are just about all untangled.

So where I had been in a foggy cloud of pensive self-reflection, I now realize that the Hawaiian Christmas we are seemingly having, along with the materialistic glitz and glam that has thrown-up in the stores and on the streets, is maybe just what the doctor ordered. Maybe seasons, celebrations and annual events are needed to stop and think and assess all that we have, no matter the weather, no matter the tradition, no matter the ebb and flow of the polar express of change. Maybe, after all, it wasn’t the lack of traditional Christmasy winter weather that didn’t get me in the mood, but maybe it was ME that prevented me from getting into the spirit of it all. It’s been a weird year, personally and globally, and despite all the great things I have done this year, despite the most important being that my family is safe and healthy, I let clouds get in the way of seeing the sparkle that is there year round. I think I let the rain we have so recently been deluged with water-down my already non-Christmas cheer.

But I also realize that Christmas suddenly appearing all over the place actually put me in my place; it woke me up enough to get me out of my pensive cloud. Sure the clouds have ACTUALLY been around for a while – all those pineapples whamming up against the windows and whatnot – but who says I have to keep MY head in the clouds? Who says I have stay in the grey? Yes, things change – transition is always upon us no matter what – but we have to keep going. We have to keep watching for the bright and shiny around every corner, no matter what time of year and no matter the weather. Deep down I know things could be so much worse. Perspective bops me on the head every so often, and right now I guess I needed that candy cane to whack me over the head. Heck, I'm lucky I even get to HAVE 'Christmas' with all it's festivities, glam and glitz, and indulgences. A season is what you make of it - excitement, joy and love are there for the taking no matter one's beliefs.

I have to keep looking up, and not down at the puddles. Puddles DO eventually go away, and before we know it Christmas will be gone, a new year will be here, and spring will be making an appearance. It’s time to get out of my funk, get creative and get DOING, and get in the Christmas spirit - because time keeps flying by. And I intend on enjoying every moment of the Pineapple Express while I wait for the Polar Express that always comes our way no matter what, no matter the weather.










Friday, October 13, 2017

Here's to October the 13th, My Chiropractor and Whatever Else is Out There....

It’s Friday the 13th, the most ominous day for the superstitious!

And to make matters worse it’s in October, the most frightfully haunted superstitious month of the year!

And of course, as always, the day and its ‘meaning’ is on my mind. What will happen today? Should I be afraid? Many pessimists and realists will say, ‘It’s just a date. We are the masters of our own destiny. You are just ‘looking’ for things to happen.’ I believe anything is possible – I also believe in the possibility OF things – so for me, anything and everything is possible. And can happen. And is real.

True or not, stuff happens, not just on this day, but on any day. And of course, it’s an ominous kind of day out there, the grey clouds overhead reflective of what may or may not happen. A sign, perhaps?

A few weeks ago after my chiropractic treatment, the doctor and I were looking at the calendar and planning when would be my next regularly-scheduled three-week visit. He flipped the calendar pages – it was still September at that time – and the quiet, soft-spoken man that he is looked up me with a hint of a smirk and said, “Three weeks from today will bring you in on Friday, October 13th. Are you sure you want to do that?”

I swear I saw devil-like horns coming out of his head.

I gulped and made the appointment. He wrote down my time on a card and then handed it to me with that same demure, devil-like smirk. He’s a quiet one, but man oh man, it was then that I realized gotta watch him.

(Note: I have been seeing him for a year and I very much like him, his bedside manner, and the results I have had from his care.)

So today as I anticipate my chiropractor visit with the joke of it being on Friday the 13th, I contemplate: is anything truly cracked up to be what we think it is? Many folks don’t agree with, or are afraid of, chiropractors. And despite their skepticism some folks have tried that practice of medicine, but without no success. Then there are the folks who don’t ‘buy in to’ the omen-filled Friday the 13th. Those same folks don’t believe that things happen for a reason, citing that our destinies are solely within our control.

‘What works for one might not work for the other.’

I believe in the practice of chiropractic medicine – it works for me. I believe in the spookiness of Friday the 13th, and this one being in October is a double-whammy. The practice of chiropractic medicine has been around since the late 1800’s, and October the 13th has been considered a most unlucky day since what seems like forever – depending on who you ask, of course. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/friday-the-13th-why-is-it-so-unlucky/

So is it a matter of IF we believe in something hard enough then - in our minds at least – it’s true? Is anything really real? They say our minds are more powerful than what we really realise – so powerful that we can out think reality and what is true? But who’s to know WHAT is true? And who has the final say in the matter? Is anything we experience really REAL, or just an over thought figments of our imagination; if we believe it to be real, then it is real.

Wow, Friday the 13th is making me very philosophical! But I’m no philosopher and have never had a philosophy class. I’m just a girl who thinks a lot and feels a need to write about her thoughts, whether they make sense, are contradictory of each other, or erratic.

Some people that had previously sworn off ‘this or that’ were made a ‘believer’ simply through experiencing it themselves. Then there are those who believed in ‘this or that’ and automatically became NON-believers when something didn’t go their way. Did that mean they still actually believe in it, even if it means believing against its’ possibility?

Again, the heavy thoughts today….

I go to the chiropractor because I believe in the practice. I keep my wits about me as I venture outside on this Friday, October 13th. I know what I believe, and I’m content.

So today as I wish I was still curled up in bed, and the rain comes down, and the clouds stay grey, and I anticipate my much-need chiropractor visit, and I throw salt over my shoulder and avoid black cats like the plague, and wish those same clouds would clear tonight so I could wish on a falling star because one WILL appear right when I want it to if I believe hard enough, I also know….

…given that I can write about any of this tells me I’m upright, alive, thinking, being, hurting, healing, fearing, believing, contradicting and existing, and that I’m pretty lucky I get to experience all that, and more. And that’s a fact.

Believe it or not.



Authors note:

The often-considered controversial practice of chiropractic medicine has been around since 1890. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_David_Palmer

The history of the unlucky belief of Friday the 13th is also controversial in its origin http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/friday-the-13th-why-is-it-so-unlucky/




Thursday, September 28, 2017

Cleaning Out the Closet

It fit me like a glove and I felt good wearing it.

Made of red cotton eyelet fabric – lacy and feminine but not too revealing, if you know what I mean – and with a hint of ruffle on the cuff of the sleeves, my favourite blouse was girly, but not too girly. Sure it needed ironing after being washed, but the cotton was sturdy so I didn’t have to worry about any snags.

But after a few years – it lasted THAT long – my favourite blouse had finally had enough. The unrepairable wear-and-tear practically screamed at me that the time had come; it had worn-out its’ welcome and the time had come to hang it up for good.

But good-byes aren’t my thing and I have a hard time letting go – of anything.

It was my favourite blouse and I knew I’d never find another like it. I wonder if in some weird neurotic recess of my brain was hope that if I just hung it up in my closet and left it alone that it would repair itself. I mean, why else would I hang on to something that couldn’t be fixed, right?

So it sat there in my closet, its finery longingly gazed at every so often, holding court among all the dispensable clothes I could so fickly let go of at the drop of a hat.

Fast forward four years – yes, that’s how long it had been – and we were yet again at that time where summer changes to fall seemingly overnight. Running around downtown for work wearing light and airy little skirts with my little white KEDS runners and my legs bare just wouldn’t do any more. It was time to pack away summer to the far reaches of the closet and switch over to fall and winter attire.
And as I rearranged, sorted, and put too big/small/outdated clothes in a bag for charity, my favourite red blouse silently hung waiting for me to make a move. With hope and nostalgia coursing through my veins I tried it on – it still fit! – and then I analysed the fabric for any remote chance of repair.

Finality and truth washed over me and my shoulders slumped in acknowledgement: The time had come, to say good-bye. It was time to let go.
So with a heavy heart I by-passed the charity bag and my favourite blouse went right into the garbage. It would be insulting to send it to charity – the blouse was that far gone – and if I was sewing like I did many years ago, I’d be savvy and re-purpose any salvageable fabric. But it was done. There was no going back. I had to move forward and let go and let the past be the past and let the memories of wearing that favourite blouse carry me forward and know I had definitely gotten my money’s worth out of it and, and, and…..

But as I finished sorting my fall and winter clothes I realised one thing: I had been managing just fine all these years without my favourite blouse in regular circulation. Maybe I didn’t really miss it, but I just missed the idea of it. Other garments had come and gone and still made me feel good wearing them, and I was never forced to go to work naked (just like those ‘showing up at work naked’ nightmares we sometimes get?)

My life didn’t change without that red blouse (and I never showed up at work naked, either!). My sense of self-worth and being didn’t come to a grinding halt without it, either. Leaving it in the closet taking up space didn’t change anything. I had other clothes I could wear and there were bigger, far more important issues that needed my attention.

And despite hanging on to it for all those years, I had been forced move on and forced to accept change – without even thinking about it. Just as September usually speeds along and the mornings get cooler and cooler, we naturally throw on a little sweater or jacket and go on about our days. We go with the flow, are no worse for wear in assimilating into fall, and still chug along despite summer being over. Summer lovers despise us autumn lovers – those of us who rejoice at the first sign of cooler days and crunchy leaves on the ground. But seasons come and go whether we like it or not, and we have no choice BUT to get used to the new season at hand. Things – objects – can’t stay forever, and in the end they are only that – THINGS. Adjusting and making accommodations is all part of life.

The bag of clothes went off to charity and my favorite blouse went in the garbage - as well as a few thread-bare socks and unmentionables that had been taking up space in my drawers. A lot had happened over those four years of the blouse taking up space in my closet, and when I look back now, I realize I really truly didn’t miss it – and it really didn’t matter in the great scheme of things.

My thinner closet and drawers made me feel a whole lot lighter, freer, and not as bogged down. Stuff is just STUFF, and that red blouse was a reminder to just let stuff go and keep that closet of in our minds as clutter-free as we can. I held on to the blouse hoping it would miraculously change, but of course it never did – things often doing miraculously change on their own, and we still get on with our lives inspite of it all. I DID carry on without that blouse and it’s only purpose all these years was to take up space in my closet that could have been use for other important things (I also store books in my closet!).

So while everyone mumbled and moaned about the end of summer and the inevitable arrival of fall and all the ‘bad’ weather it brings (which is a matter of opinion – I LOVE the rain), I skipped through the fall leaves at the promise of a new start – a fresh start. And what made the skip that much skippier was the realization that letting go was the best thing I could have done for myself, and I ended up with a cleaner closet, at that!


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Who I Am

Who am I?

It’s an age-old question – and is there ever truly a correct, definitive answer? We ‘think’ we know who we are at various stages of our lives, but do we ever truly KNOW? The question of ‘who am I?’ is all very philosophical and a philosopher I am not, so for my own purposes – and for the purposes of this writing – I will be exploring ‘who I am’ in the sense of my nationality and ethnicity, from a very SIMPLE point of view.

And I know I will likely be blurring nationality with ethnicity, but I’m a simple girl trying to figure out who her simple self is, so work with me here....

Take, for instance, the concept of ‘we are what we eat,’ but in a cultural sense. What we eat can often define who we are and where we come from. And apparently as a Canadian, and a West Coast girl at that, there are certain foods I’m supposed to like or eat on a regular basis - just because of where I live. But what if I don’t like those things? Does that mean I’m not Canadian? Does that mean I’m not truly a West Coast girl? So then, therefore, who am I?

Historically speaking, and to make it all sound so much more glamorous than it really is (for the sake of entertainment), I was born on an island – Lulu Island aka Richmond to be exact – surrounded by ocean and river waters. Confusing, but true. Years later I moved to another island - Vancouver Island, to Victoria to be exact – only to be, yet again, surrounded by ocean waters. So being surrounded by ocean water means that seafood is BIG in these parts, with salmon and crab on many menus.

But I guess I’m a disappointment to all Canadians, West Coast folks, and especially my family because I don’t like salmon or any kind of fish, crab or any other kind of shellfish. However - just to contradict myself - I like tuna from a can, shrimp that comes frozen in a bag, de-veined and de-everything-ed, crab or lobster that has been de-shelled for me and looks nothing like it's original form, and fish and chips that are made for me, and all preferably in a restaurant. But not salmon in any form.

When I tell people I don’t like salmon, they are simply AGHAST – especially people I meet from across Canada or overseas (I live in a tourist town, so I meet lots of folks). They are shocked to know I have always lived here yet don’t indulge in any of the local fresh seafood, and even more shocked to know I don’t go fishing.

I know it’s all very contradictory. I WISH I could be one of those people who goes down to the boat docks and buys fresh seafood right off the boats like everyone else. And I know people come from MILES to experience what I have right in my own backyard.

So does all this mean I’m not a West Coast girl? It’s ONLY seafood after all.

But then am I still Canadian?

So I have to really wonder about my Canadian-self because I don’t like poutine and I have never had a Beaver Tail. I hate smoked meats, and don’t get me near at tortiere (a meat pie made with all kinds of ‘meats').

Buy maybe there is hope for me yet, as I love Tim Horton’s, Nanaimo Bars, Butter Tarts (I didn’t know butter tarts are ‘Canadian’), potatoes, and Labatt’s Blue beer. Finding this list of ‘Canadian’ foods sent me on a further tailspin, but at the same time gave me hope. (click here)

I was born and raised in this country, still live here, so I truly do know I’m Canadian. My birth certificate tells me so and my driver’s licence, however horrible the picture, tells me so, as well. But am I really who I think I am?

And does hating all these culturally specific foods make me a fraud? Am I not who I think I am?

I have to talk to my parents on that one, I guess…..

Aside from my birth certificate telling me I’m from British Columbia, Canada, I DO know I have strong Irish roots on both sides of my parents (don’t many of us?), so maybe that plays a part in my hating all these different kind of Pacific Ocean grown seafoods. I’m more of a meat and potatoes kind of girl, or more to the point, potatoes in any format. I love stews, tea, butter and bread. I’m no expert in Irish foods, but when I read this list of Irish-typical foods, my stomach growled and my heart longed….until I noticed their affinity for salmon and shellfish. (click here)

Despite the landing papers from my great, great grandfather showing him arriving to Massachusetts, USA from Galway, Ireland, I still wondered…

Right about this time during my self-identity crisis, my sister took a DNA test through Ancestry.com – you send in a sample of saliva, and your DNA ‘will be analyzed at more than 700,000 genetic markers then with in 6-8 weeks, you get an email with your online results.’

To think that these days our ethnic and geographic origins are basically at our fingertips with a few spits of gob! Who knew spitting would actually be useful versus disgusting (at least we aren’t doing it on sidewalks). We can finally answer the age old question - Who Am I?

So with technology making our ancestry and heritage questions more easily answered, maybe we can all be a bit more sane and settled with ‘who we are.’ (Except for the cases of discovering information about ourselves and ancestors that can be shocking and life-altering, but that’s another blog post in itself.)

So given she’s my sister and we ARE related (AS FAR AS WE KNOW), we all watched her live performance of ‘extracting’, sealing and mailing her precious spit, then waited in anticipation to find out who we are – and more importantly, WHO I AM.
But of course with the Pony Express having imperfections as we all humanly do, the spit got lost in the mail. All that waiting only to have her spit lost and leaving us wondering if someone is going to clone her (hey, that would make for a good story….)

So again, my conflicted inner self had to wait and wonder about who I am for a while longer....

So again with another kit in hand, my sister extracted her spit and again we waited with baited breath - our own spit intact. I secretly wondered if some sordid family history would be revealed – it would make for good daytime TV drama, if nothing else.

And the day finally arrived....


The results: a high percentage of Irish decent with a good percentage of....Scandinavian? THAT was a surprise! Now I know that each sister would have a slightly different test result, otherwise we'd be twins, but it's safe to say that I 'THINK' we are all pretty much the same. Although we didn't expect the Scandinavian influence (wanna go Viking anyone?), the results were pretty much as expected.

But the Irish AND Scandinavian mix still has me a bit perplexed, however. They are all big seafood lovers, why aren't I?

And is one little DNA test or one little fish really gonna tell me WHO I am?

Not only does it go to show you aren’t always what you eat – and for that matter, you can‘t be judged on what you do and don't eat - but at the end of the day spit, blood, landing papers, and epicurean tendencies cannot truly define who you are. Yes, we all have a genetic, cultural root basis, and just like the tides in the oceans separating me from my lands of heritage are always changing, who we are is always changing. I know I'm Canadian. I know I'm of strong Irish decent. I know I hate seafood, except for all my caveats and contradictions. Maybe I WILL like seafood one day. And heck - for all I know maybe I will move and become a citizen of Vanuatu (Google it) one day. Who knows?

But as my family, who are only merely separated by geographic location and nothing else, all watched my sister spit in a tube via the wonderful thing called the internet, I realized: no DNA test is going to change us. We are who we are NOW.

And just as importantly, I know who I am NOW, I love where I live NOW, and I love what what I do NOW. And I know I will always love and adore my family near and far for all time, no matter who they are.

Because at the end of the day that's all that really matters, and that's all I need to know, and my family is more important to me than worrying about the never-answered question of who I am.

Now off for some fish and chips....