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Pressed: Staying Forever Young Together

8 Aug

Staying Forever Young Together.

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Staying Forever Young Together
by Shelley Robinson, July 27

Eternal Youth: People are always wondering about how to stay eternally youthful. It would be the most wonderful thing to know what we know as more mature people while having a second chance at being and then staying young physically. People pay big money to try to freeze time.  In doing so, they hope to keep their relationships with others vital and vibrant. We often blame our aging for things like not being able to be leaner, mobile, adventurous, sexual and so forth. At the head of the Wurzburg Cathedral yesterday I observed to statues of two skeletons on the front doors greeting its parishioners with the text: “We are operating from dust to dust”. We come into this world as dust, and we leave the world in the same way. The topic is a depressing one for people, and so we do everything possible to delay this eventuality.

Fighting death a futile battle, but I believe that it is a good fight to stay fit and prolong life as long as possible, even to go as far as tricking the brain into believing that it is younger than it actually is chronologically. If we are only on this earth for a short while, then I believe that we should be on the earth in our very best bodies possible, living a life that affords us the optimal physical experience. How can this be done? I have been asked quite a bit on this trip about how I stay so young looking. When I met my Finnish relative for the first time, she commented that I looked like a young girl. It has been a flattering question because aging for me has been a relative thing for me over my fifty years. I would say that the answer is quite simple: live in moderation, and by God, have fun!

I have looked very old in my lifetime at a much younger age, and I have looked very young at a much older age. The question of my aging is a matter of attitude and life experience at the time. I have watched myself shape shift from moment to moment when life joys or traumas cause my body to go through sudden metamorphoses. I suddenly look younger or older, depending on my belief of my age at the time. When I am tired, I feel old, and visa versa. Lately, I have decided to be younger, and I hope that it is coming across in the same way in how I project myself into the world.

The Logistics of Good Health: What I have learned most profoundly is that there is a direct correlation to my looking and feeling OLD when I am NOT eating, sleeping or exercising regularly nor well. As well, stress has been a huge contributing factor to creating these circumstances, or, perhaps, being a result of these circumstances. The spiral of poor health is a cycle of circumstances that we sometimes feel is beyond our control. Fortunately, I am finding that if I make positive healthy experiences my priority, that I have the ability to influence the rest of my life experiences through it. We all experience the world through the body as our temple, and we need to honour this special place in which we reside, regardless of the challenges that we each have in the universe.

This idea of being “meta-kinesthetic” that I wrote about in my research on the five meta-learning domains, seems to be of greater value to me the further that I proceed through my life. The “meta” self is always hovering above each of us to lucidly evaluate what works best in our lives. I have always been interested in what inspires or blocks us cognitively (thoughts), conatively (motivation), affectively (feelings), physically, and spiritually? The road to good health is an important experiential domain, but not an easy one. The path of least resistance is always clearly marked on the trail and can sometimes distract us from the best course of action. This idea of being disciplined to do what works best for our bodies, is a critical one.

Having a Relationship with Our Bodies First: Before we can have a relationship with someone else in these five learning domains, we have to have a relationship with ourselves first. When we know who we are and how we can best operate through body, mind and spirit with ourselves, we can offer it to the rest of the world. For example, when we are doing the good work for our bodies in this regard, we can let someone physically into our lives. Only when we can turn ourselves on sexually, can we truly turn someone else on sexually. It has not been until I have been older that I have truly listened to what my body has been screaming at me through its various signs and symptoms.

We Are What We Breathe and Eat: I coughed most of my life, likely because my body was inflamed. I breathed air and ate foods that kept me from breathing well. When our bodies and lungs are inflamed, the life breath that we need to take in and exhale moment to moment, is impaired. When we do not breath well, we do not live well. Good breathing is fundamental to a good life. The slow inhale and exhale that fills our body with restorative energy is the basis of our good living. Without it, we die. I was dying until I figured out that what I was breathing and eating were killing me. A high altitude, dry climate, polluted city, cold weather and other breathing variables were not treating me well in my native city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and so I moved.

However, I did not move before I learned from a wise naturopath that I had been eating wheat, dairy and eggs to which I had been having terrible physical inflammation reactions my entire lifetime (phlegm and restrictive airways). My blood work indicated extreme allergies to beef, wheat (all grains and gluten), dairy (not just lactose), eggs (whole egg), and a few other odds and ends. When I cut them out, the reaction was dramatic over time. My body shed some of its weight. I could start breathing without medicine, and I was more energized than I had been before. With that being said, the external variables were still coming into play, and so I decided to move to BC to be in a warmer climate, by the ocean with a less-polluted environment. The trees became my friends with their humidity and oxygen. The ocean granted me its salt water frangrance. By managing both my diet and my air, I had discovered a healthier place to live so that I was not fighting against my own limitations. Now the challenge for me continues to be how to minimize work stress. This dilemma is a big one for many people.

Being in Relationship: Even though Chris does not need much reminding as he is very healthy, I do remind him to eat, drink water, and sleep regularly. We all need reminding. When we are in the flow of our life experiences, we can sometimes lose track. He is often so busy wanting to experience the world very actively, that he forgets that he needs to tend to his body so that he can enjoy it. Just as I remind him of what his body needs, so does he with me. He puts vitamins in front of me, and promotes various types of good food ideas so that we are living leanly and staying fit. We both enjoy hiking in the outdoors, and we are convinced that the trees speak to us in very physical ways when we are out enjoying the energy that they give back to our world for us.  In short, we are both tree freaks!

When we are cranky or unsure of ourselves, there is almost always a definite connection to what we did not do that day in terms of eating, drinking and sleeping well; and as well, any hormones (time of month) or fatigue from work. I believe that 90 percent of the troubles that we have experienced together (and for the most part, we have very few big troubles), I can attribute to our bodies having been depleted at the time of these minor relationship disconnections. What we do for our bodies, our bodies give back to our relationships ten-fold. Now, instead of delving too deeply into the angst of an argument, I just simply think, “When did we last eat?” Or, he suggests that we get into the woods.  I believe that it is always helpful to recruit someone to help us be strong and well, but not to put him or her in the driver’s seat of making us happy.

Last Thoughts: As a woman, I am both surprised and confused by my body on a regular basis; however, the closer that I pay attention, the more that I can work with it, and not against it. In turn, I can show Chris how to figure it out as well. This applies very directly to the physical domain, and one where we need to be very thoughtful of as we get older. Between the two of us, we can find ways to achieve some very positive and exciting physical experiences together. In doing so, I believe that we can stay young together for longer, and that will make all of the difference to our long term relationship. I want him to find me as physically attractive as possible for as long as possible because I find myself physically capable of being so.

Blake said that the body was the soul’s prison unless the five senses are fully developed and open. He considered the senses the ‘windows of the soul.’ When sex involves all the senses intensely, it can be like a mystical experence.

Jim Morrison

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure

6 Aug

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure.

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Getting on the Train: My recent move to the Comox Valley to live on my own in a new culture, and in a paradise setting, has taught me three things. I can do it. Secondly, that it is not exactly where I want to be at this time in my life, and thirdly, I am not living out my true potential in my major career (although I appreciate my good fortune in having such a good job in the Comox Valley, and I enjoy some of this work very much). I am at a critical turning point. Pender Island, the cottage that I bought in tandem with moving to BC to work as an administrator, was clearly the right decision. This has become a place where I will set down some roots and return to it time and again, as my little sanctuary for as long as I can afford to do so.

My friend, who recently visited my cottage, left me with an interesting quote that she found from watching the movie The Lunchbox: “Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station.” To some degree I feel similarly to the lead character in the movie. I have gotten on a train, and am confident that this was a good step towards getting towards where I need to be (although I am not exactly sure of my destination). At least I got on a train, as many of us talk ourselves out of doing that because we want guarantees that we are safe in whatever we do. Whereas, life is really a journey. It is about taking a series of steps that head in the direction of our souls, and hopefully, allow us to do what we are called to do along the way so that we live authentic and rich life experiences.

What is the Grand Adventure? It is difficult to describe to someone what a grand adventure actually means. So many of us get into relationships to achieve the outcome of having a relationship. We work at jobs for the satisfaction of achieving our career goals. We have children to raise and launch them into adulthood. In many ways, we go through a series of developmental tasks that help us to experience key personal and professional goals through to fruition in very componential and linear ways.

Whatever the goal, the Grand Adventure is something big, important, meaningful and memorable. It is deemed an adventure because it requires preparation, courage, and possibly, training, to carry it through to fruition. It is something that we will be proud to tell our friends and family, and to look back on with happiness and pride. We will be able to reminisce in the glow of accomplishment, and say, “We did this together!” Or, “We built this!” This memorable lived legacy can be something either internal, external or both.

I believe that a Grand Adventure is something bigger than any one developmental task in our lifetimes. It affords us to have a relationship within a bigger life trajectory. It allows us to consider our career within a larger overarching plan or series of plans. We can then bring our children into a bigger conceptual space about their purpose for being. Rather than simply raising them within some established structures and formative milestones that are typically accepted as “growing up” in our cultures in safe and acceptable ways, we broaden their life experiences through a bigger life vision that often involves building strength, confidence, and helping ourselves and others to be better people.

Vision-Making: The Grand Adventure is something that we can do ourselves, or with others. I believe living out this type of big dream would be most satisfying, albeit, most challenging, to do with a partner. I also think that this is the type of thing that relationships benefit from to help us align our spirits. Living on a shared Grand Adventure requires a kind of vision-making of each partner so that we can first find meaning in our own independent plans, and then in our shared visions. I believe that it is important that both people in partnership own part of the dream so that we feel some shared passion and motivation in fulfilling it. We are co-pilots and rely on each other flying towards our connected dreams.

Essentially, when striking out towards this vision, we each sit side-by-side at our easels considering what colours we will throw onto it, or how we might delicately paint over our blank canvasses. Everyone has a different visioning style. There are no paint by numbers. There are no rules that make one painting right and the other wrong. It is dreaming aloud without any preconceived notions. Writers refer to this as “free writing”. As we create, ideas come into shape, rather than what is typically accepted which is that all things need to have an outline, or clearly measured blue prints.

From time to time, we will peek over at our partner’s painting, and see what is emerging. We give each other space to dream and grow, trusting that we are both committed to building something together and in some synchronicity and on a similar timeline. And then together, we compare our creations. It might be a cacophony of colour, or a clearly rendered painting from a picture held in our minds, perhaps from childhood. Then we consider how the ideas align. What brainstorming needs to occur to make each one independently as beautiful as possible. And then, what happens when we bring them together and merge them? What are even more possibilities when both dreams are combined? The logistics are not the point at this part of the adventure. All that is required is hope, enthusiasm, inspiration and raw courage.

Imagine travelling to a foreign country to work with a non-profit charitable organization to help bring water to communities. Consider what it might be like to climb key mountains in the world that are both beautiful and challenging. What if the grand adventure is to co-author a book while travelling and living somewhere that is unfamiliar and new? What if it looks like sailing from one coast to another and learning to live off of the sea? What if it means living in a community of people working towards the goal of saving an animal or ecosystem that is fragile? Perhaps it is living for a year or two discovering different spiritual practices? What if it might be to research a certain thing or situation and publish the findings? It might be simpler, and could involve setting personal goals of physical well-being or building something tangible that has value to both people and is helpful to others who need this support. What if…? is the type of talk that occurs at this stage.

Living the Dream Aloud: Eventually, the time comes to live it aloud. The architect and the carpenter need to work together to carefully craft what the dream might be. The logistics of how the blocks from the quarry are lifted, cut and crafted together, need to be considered. It takes ongoing communication and disciplined planning in order to see it through so that there is a nice sense of possibility and momentum in its creation. Most importantly, both partners need to share in the leadership. The skill set of each partner is respected, but neither is made responsible for motivating the project. Instead, it is agreed that if it matters to both, both must contribute to its launching. Each must relish in the work and joy that it will bring the partnership. Both must appreciate how to open our arms and abandon ourselves openly to the unknown that happens on every adventure. No one person is left holding the bag, as having a trusting and reciprocal commitment is the key element of a shared adventure. At times, this takes discipline, effort and might require education or guidance from external sources where challenges emerge.

Doing It: Finally, the adventure begins to unfold. It can sometimes happen while it is still being planned, and it might continue and branch off into many directions; but most importantly, it happens. It might not happen exactly as planned. It might become too large or too small, and require revisions along the way. There might be some breaks for rest, or modifications so that both people can sustain the journey. However, again, the point is that there is follow-through. The dream comes to life. There will be a wonderful story to tell before, during and after it happens. I like to believe that the partnership will benefit and grow from the experience, and so will others that we encounter along the way, provided that we act from a place of love and integrity. And then, at the end of the adventure, hopefully we will find that it is really only the beginning of our next adventure together.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure

5 Aug

IMG_7181

Getting on the Train: My recent move to the Comox Valley to live on my own in a new culture, and in a paradise setting, has taught me three things. I can do it. Secondly, that it is not exactly where I want to be at this time in my life, and thirdly, I am not living out my true potential in my major career (although I appreciate my good fortune in having such a good job in the Comox Valley, and I enjoy some of this work very much). I am at a critical turning point. Pender Island, the cottage that I bought in tandem with moving to BC to work as an administrator, was clearly the right decision. This has become a place where I will set down some roots and return to it time and again, as my little sanctuary for as long as I can afford to do so.

My friend, who recently visited my cottage, left me with an interesting quote that she found from watching the movie The Lunchbox: “Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station.” To some degree I feel similarly to the lead character in the movie. I have gotten on a train, and am confident that this was a good step towards getting towards where I need to be (although I am not exactly sure of my destination). At least I got on a train, as many of us talk ourselves out of doing that because we want guarantees that we are safe in whatever we do. Whereas, life is really a journey. It is about taking a series of steps that head in the direction of our souls, and hopefully, allow us to do what we are called to do along the way so that we live authentic and rich life experiences.

What is the Grand Adventure? It is difficult to describe to someone what a grand adventure actually means. So many of us get into relationships to achieve the outcome of having a relationship. We work at jobs for the satisfaction of achieving our career goals. We have children to raise and launch them into adulthood. In many ways, we go through a series of developmental tasks that help us to experience key personal and professional goals through to fruition in very componential and linear ways.

Whatever the goal, the Grand Adventure is something big, important, meaningful and memorable. It is deemed an adventure because it requires preparation, courage, and possibly, training, to carry it through to fruition. It is something that we will be proud to tell our friends and family, and to look back on with happiness and pride. We will be able to reminisce in the glow of accomplishment, and say, “We did this together!” Or, “We built this!” This memorable lived legacy can be something either internal, external or both.

I believe that a Grand Adventure is something bigger than any one developmental task in our lifetimes. It affords us to have a relationship within a bigger life trajectory. It allows us to consider our career within a larger overarching plan or series of plans. We can then bring our children into a bigger conceptual space about their purpose for being. Rather than simply raising them within some established structures and formative milestones that are typically accepted as “growing up” in our cultures in safe and acceptable ways, we broaden their life experiences through a bigger life vision that often involves building strength, confidence, and helping ourselves and others to be better people.

Vision-Making: The Grand Adventure is something that we can do ourselves, or with others. I believe living out this type of big dream would be most satisfying, albeit, most challenging, to do with a partner. I also think that this is the type of thing that relationships benefit from to help us align our spirits. Living on a shared Grand Adventure requires a kind of vision-making of each partner so that we can first find meaning in our own independent plans, and then in our shared visions. I believe that it is important that both people in partnership own part of the dream so that we feel some shared passion and motivation in fulfilling it. We are co-pilots and rely on each other flying towards our connected dreams.

Essentially, when striking out towards this vision, we each sit side-by-side at our easels considering what colours we will throw onto it, or how we might delicately paint over our blank canvasses. Everyone has a different visioning style. There are no paint by numbers. There are no rules that make one painting right and the other wrong. It is dreaming aloud without any preconceived notions. Writers refer to this as “free writing”. As we create, ideas come into shape, rather than what is typically accepted which is that all things need to have an outline, or clearly measured blue prints.

From time to time, we will peek over at our partner’s painting, and see what is emerging. We give each other space to dream and grow, trusting that we are both committed to building something together and in some synchronicity and on a similar timeline. And then together, we compare our creations. It might be a cacophony of colour, or a clearly rendered painting from a picture held in our minds, perhaps from childhood. Then we consider how the ideas align. What brainstorming needs to occur to make each one independently as beautiful as possible. And then, what happens when we bring them together and merge them? What are even more possibilities when both dreams are combined? The logistics are not the point at this part of the adventure. All that is required is hope, enthusiasm, inspiration and raw courage.

Imagine travelling to a foreign country to work with a non-profit charitable organization to help bring water to communities. Consider what it might be like to climb key mountains in the world that are both beautiful and challenging. What if the grand adventure is to co-author a book while travelling and living somewhere that is unfamiliar and new? What if it looks like sailing from one coast to another and learning to live off of the sea? What if it means living in a community of people working towards the goal of saving an animal or ecosystem that is fragile? Perhaps it is living for a year or two discovering different spiritual practices? What if it might be to research a certain thing or situation and publish the findings? It might be simpler, and could involve setting personal goals of physical well-being or building something tangible that has value to both people and is helpful to others who need this support. What if…? is the type of talk that occurs at this stage.

Living the Dream Aloud: Eventually, the time comes to live it aloud. The architect and the carpenter need to work together to carefully craft what the dream might be. The logistics of how the blocks from the quarry are lifted, cut and crafted together, need to be considered. It takes ongoing communication and disciplined planning in order to see it through so that there is a nice sense of possibility and momentum in its creation. Most importantly, both partners need to share in the leadership. The skill set of each partner is respected, but neither is made responsible for motivating the project. Instead, it is agreed that if it matters to both, both must contribute to its launching. Each must relish in the work and joy that it will bring the partnership. Both must appreciate how to open our arms and abandon ourselves openly to the unknown that happens on every adventure. No one person is left holding the bag, as having a trusting and reciprocal commitment is the key element of a shared adventure. At times, this takes discipline, effort and might require education or guidance from external sources where challenges emerge.

Doing It: Finally, the adventure begins to unfold. It can sometimes happen while it is still being planned, and it might continue and branch off into many directions; but most importantly, it happens. It might not happen exactly as planned. It might become too large or too small, and require revisions along the way. There might be some breaks for rest, or modifications so that both people can sustain the journey. However, again, the point is that there is follow-through. The dream comes to life. There will be a wonderful story to tell before, during and after it happens. I like to believe that the partnership will benefit and grow from the experience, and so will others that we encounter along the way, provided that we act from a place of love and integrity. And then, at the end of the adventure, hopefully we will find that it is really only the beginning of our next adventure together.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Four: Mail Order Bride and the Leap of Faith

6 Jul

slushpile

What if… you were a young woman in Finland, writing back and forth to a young man from Finland living in Canada (whom you have never met) who has taken it upon himself to pioneer out to Canada in the early 1900’s? You have been hooked up to each other through friends and are now part of a series correspondence blind dates. Through beautifully scripted hand-written letters (as you are both creative), you forge a strong friendship over the course of a year. You start to learn more about him and his adventures in Canada, and he starts to learn a bit more about you. You exchange a couple of photos, and the rest of the correspondence is an outpouring of hopes and dreams.

You realize that you are getting older (late 20’s), and are now one of the few single ladies left in your town. This is an eligible bachelor, well-respected in his community (through word of mouth) regardless of his desire to live in another country. Even though you haven’t met him, you have a pretty good feeling and intuition about him through his letters because he is educated, articulate and motivated to make his way in the Canadian frontier. If he proposed on his next visit to Finland and asked you to go with him to Canada, would you?

From Mail to Meeting: This was the correspondence that occurred over the course of several months between my grandmother, Tyyne Kattelus; and my grandfather, Onni Kattelus while he was getting oriented in British Columbia. In 1931, he went back to Finland to finally meet my grandmother, Tyyne Kattelus) in person; marry her; and, as a result, return with her back to Canada (all in one trip). It was a magnificent leap of faith. The words and the time that they took in their initial correspondence helped them to forge a strong enough belief in each other and their respective dreams, to act upon them.

Settling: After much hardship surviving the rough and undeveloped landscape around Field, BC, they eventually settled into Golden, BC where my mother and her two siblings grew up. They had a hard-working life amongst other Finnish settlers in the Columbia Valley with very little leisure time. I remember from my visits to their home that they were always working at something on their property: chopping wood, planting and harvesting the orchards and gardens, making carpets on the loom, etc. However, I especially enjoyed the hot steam saunas that we would share at the end of the day.

They had a small farm, a larger garden and ran properties within the town, while my grandfather worked on the CPR as a carpenter until he passed away and left my grandmother to tend all of it on her own. She took care of her property admirably until she passed away in her 90’s. In the end, they were well-respected members of their community, and she in particular as one of the oldest living Finnish pioneers. In retrospect, both of my grandparents were highly conservative people with an incredible aversion to risk and failure. They worked hard and were incredibly meticulous and careful about everything that they did. By nature, they were not prone to making large risky decisions.

Leaps of Faith: Sometimes our circumstances, personalities, dreams, fears and issues call us to make leaps of faith. I am always fascinated by what actually motivates people to take that final step. The idea of “readiness” is an important one, but sometimes, people may not be entirely prepared for the big jump, but they do it anyway. Why?

Impetus: I would suspect that sometimes people want to jump out of the fire, hoping that they will land anywhere but where they have been. The fire that they are escaping is burning them alive, and they need to jump away, just as people sometimes do from burning buildings. Other times, people believe that what they are jumping to is so incredible–this fantasy opportunity, that they will do anything to experience it. These motivators, I believe, are the two extremes on the leap of faith continuum and can also sometimes be equated with being “impulsive”. However, other leaps of faith happen for other reasons (sometimes ranging from the simple to the complex). The stories about why people make these life-changing decisions can be fascinating as each tale holds some very small detail of their impetus for change. “Impetus”, from the Latin word “Impetere” means “to attack”. It often involves the passion to actually “attack” our dreams.

Second-Order Change: However, what is even more fascinating to me is why so many of us don’t leap. Fear is the obvious reason. None of us like to be outside of our comfort zones for long. In some cases, it is wise to stay put, and be present in the now without having any need to search and grasp beyond this moment in time, place or people. However, there are times in our lives where if we pay close enough attention, we know that we need to make a change. However, sometimes, in order for the change to be the meaningful one that we know that it needs to be, it has be to be a big change. There is no other way around it. We can’t just talk about it. We can’t pick at it or tweak it. Instead, it needs to be true “second order change” (starting all over again and building from the ground up). It requires incredible courage and then fortitude to first make the change, and then to make the change work.

Commitment: I think of so many immigrants to Canada whose stories were successful ones. They made their decisions work. There was simply no choice. They had no safety net or people or finances. They just did it. Others pioneers, some from my father’s ancestral family (writing that I will save for another article), were not as successful. Therefore, leaps of faith require leaps of intentional action, but they also need steel-willed fortitude and calculated follow-through. It may not need to all be preemptively planned and orchestrated ahead of time, but there needs to be a deep commitment by the people involved so that they can draw upon it when they need to count on it for determination: “I am going to land on the other side, and I am going to enjoy the landing.”

Sisu: I write this article because I have taken a leap of faith moving to BC, and am now working on “enjoying the landing”. What will I need to do to be sure that I am happy and successful now that I have made the leap? It will continue to require of me a tenacity that is sometimes evasive. Therefore, I look to my Finnish ancestors as examples of those who took a leap of faith (independently and interdependently) and made it work on the other side. I have to trust that I, too, have this Finnish personality trait defined as “sisu” that my grandmother always said that I possessed. It means “bravery, determination and resilience”. In some cases, I also think there needs to be a measure of good luck, and so I will wish for a little of that as well.

“If we never had the courage to take a leap of faith, we’d be cheating God out of a chance to mount us up with wings like eagles and watch us soar.”
― Jen Stephens, The Heart’s Journey Home

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Sixteen: The Purple Hostel

2 Feb

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Sixteen: The Purple Hostel.

solo pic

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Sixteen: The Purple Hostel

Am I on the Right Path? Most of us have had those times in our lives where we had to make distinct choices between opening door number one or door number two. We sometimes even chose door number three. We then wonder, “Was it the right decision?” Then when we are further down our path and we hit a point of what we perceive to be no return, we wonder, “Is this as good as it gets?” Typically, people are not always satisfied with their present course. We are always passively or actively seeking a better route, calculating what might be just a little bit nicer, easier, faster, more exciting, etc. We are so busy speculating on whether we should be where we are, being single, a parent, married, separated, committed, un-committed, and other, that we tread uncertainly on our path. We don’t take long confident strides on the ground we are on. Instead, we ruminate, perseverate, and second-guess the course we have chosen, and walk tentatively. In doing so, we do not find our rhythm, our groove, and happiness in the moments of our experience.

What if this is as good as it gets? What if right now is all we will ever have? Imagine that. If this thought is unnerving, and causes a sense of regret, then it is time to reconsider everything.

Choices: Many times in life I have made choices. I have a job where I have to make 1000 decisions a day, and hope that most of them lead myself or other people in positive directions. I have also made personal choices, some with too much calculation, and some with too much impulsivity, but I have made these choices never-the-less. The things that I have regretted most, in retrospect, were those experiences that were truly out of my control. I regretted not being able to influence the outcome more. They were, in fact, non-choices. As for those things I could influence, it has turned out remarkably well — by my own standards. This is because I have decided that it has turned out well. Someone else looking in might think otherwise, examining me as that chick who ran to BC and lives with her cats (weird). Others might think, “Wow, she ran away to paradise and lives with her cats” (enviously). Either way, I now live in Comox with my cats, and the choice has led me to the next choice that is just around the corner. In the meantime, I am enjoying my moments here.

South Carolina: One year, I remember closing my eyes and pointed to somewhere in the USA that I thought would be a good get-away on a small budget. I knew very little about the good old USA, so any place seemed like a good idea, provided that it was warmer than Calgary at that time of year. I landed on the decision to go to Charleston, South Carolina. I found a ticket online. I booked a room in a hostel in a location that appeared close to the downtown, and a month later, I landed with my suitcase in front of a wild looking old purple building on the edge of a seedy part of town. I was a little nervous. I was led up creaky stairs to a small room (again purple), and lay down exhausted on an old, but comfortable bed on some relatively clean linen.

I slept for two days. I was a single mother who worked full time, and I was finally on holidays with the luxury of having some time to myself. I think that the owner thought I had gone upstairs and died, and I could feel uneasiness about my absence in the common room downstairs. However, I chose not to care, as sleep seemed more important to me than anything else. I slept through loud music, parties downstairs and a whole host of big city outside sounds like sirens and men fighting. I finally emerged from a dead sleep on Day Three, and came down the stairs and said hello to a group of strangers that looked up at me and smiled.

They were mostly fellows from all over the world. They all had the most amazing personalities and over the next couple of days in between our independent explorations of a very historical city loaded with American history, we got to know each other. Every morning, I had someone making me breakfast, or offering to go out with me somewhere to explore the East Coast together. I connected with these people in unique ways that would never have happened in a five star hotel. Sitting together on ratty old chairs eating our Kraft dinner and drinking our whiskey seemed to be the right friendship tonic.

This choice to visit Charleston led to a series of events that stand out in my memory as one of my best holidays. I felt the water of the Atlantic on that side of the continent for the first time. I ate alligator. I learned about slavery. I grew a little bit more as a person as I grasped the reality of vivid racial discrimination.

Had I ruminated on and researched my choice to go to Charleston or even that hostel a little bit more, I might have talked myself into something a little bit safer. Instead, I was a little bit careless and a little bit intuitive, and found myself in the middle of a city that has a strong character, and an even more powerful spirit than I could have imagined. I was not insulated from it. I was in the center of it because I chose to be.

My Next Journey: In a week, I go to San Francisco. I go to a conference on creative thinking, and learn about brain-based research. http://www.learningandthebrain.com/brochures/Feb%20SF%20Brochure2013-ASHA.pdf I have volunteered to have an MRI of my body to better understand how the body and mind work as we visit one of the best neuro-science laboratories in North America. What will I learn? What will happen as a result of this one decision to attend this conference? Who might I meet? What might putting this on my resume gain me? What will I enjoy most about the experience itself? I won’t know until I get there, so it is best to not speculate too much. It will unfold the way it is supposed to. I just made the decision to go. The impetus is the critical part. Living it out with a positive attitude is the next most important step.

“Choices are the hinges of destiny.” ~Attributed to both Edwin Markham and Pythagoras

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Fourteen: The Pregnant Pause of Reflection

13 Jan

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The Last Steps:   The final steps of my move away from Calgary, such as formally selling my house in Calgary; giving up my Alberta Health Care Card; transferring my Alberta pension to British Columbia; transferring my doctors’ files and severing these longstanding relationships; giving much of my furniture to my son, and other endings, remind me of the finality of my “big life change”.  I have truly “done it”, and now the reality of it all settles in.  My kitties sit beside me as I sit in front of my little fireplace, and together we contemplate what this all means.  Why did I do this?  Where do I go from here?  With whom do I share the next part of my BC journey?  My son came to visit me, and I think he is proud of my hard work to get here and establish myself.  I think he is a little bit in awe of what I have done, and holds a new respect for my new found independence.  He speaks of my parenting of him with a new sense of pride.   I have modelled to him that a life change is possible with enough hard work and perseverence.

I will admit now that this has been gutsy.  People were telling me that it was, but I wasn’t really hearing them, and understanding it.  There was no time to look over the edge and speculate what I might be losing by leaving at the time, but now that I peek over, I am a little dizzy from the realization that I am here now, and I did it by myself.  I missed a work day last week out of sheer exhaustion.  I slept all day.  It is finally dawning on me the sheer scope of this move, and that the transfer of my 47 years of identity in one place to another place is truly life altering.  I have been keeping up with the unboxing into my two new homes on Pender and Comox and making them feel like home; a new job, and my new BC status in all regards.  However, the dawning of a new life is hitting me now.

Now What?  I was “called” to come here, and now I have to seek the deeper meaning in all of it and savour the changes so that the magnitude of why I am here is not lost on me.  I have been so busy making the changes that I have to now sit down and look out at the vista around me.  And rest.  For example, today I noticed that the snow looks and feels different here than in Calgary.  It holds a new meaning as everyone here marvels at it as it only comes once in awhile.  What a new perspective on the dreaded snow that Calgarians hate seeing so much of the year.  I look forward to reflecting on life in new ways.  I have been exploring and enjoying it, but all of it has not embedded itself within me yet as I ask, “Why am I here?”

No Regrets:  Don’t get me wrong, as I have very few regrets in the change.  I am not pining nor romanticizing the past, although I miss people from time to time.  It is scary to sit and face the future alone and with a blank slate on which to write my new story.  I have a home, a job, but “now what?”  I am confident that there is a “now what”, but I need to be clear and open to understand “what is NOW” first.  I am slowly getting more time to really sit and look and listen.  It takes courage to be alone and really think about things.  It is much easier to stay busy and keep moving.  I need to pay attention to what messages I can get from new people, places and things.  What can I learn from all of this newness?  Everything has a new implication or life lesson.

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way,  creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything  useful.”  Margaret Wheatley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 10: The Rubber Hits the Road

3 Nov

52 Weeks Begin Now:  Week 10:  The Rubber Hits the Road

“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”
―    Deepak Chopra

Imagine Having to Think About Breathing:   Imagine that instead of being able to breath in and out automatically without having to think about it, you had to think about every inhalation–every exhalation.  When starting new and being immersed into a new culture, nothing is automatic.  There are no routines.  I have found that all processes have to be re-invented from figuring out where to put things in my home and office, and then how to operate within the newness of each and every decision.  Each choice, whether it is small or large, has implications because it affects how I live today, and how I might choose to live tomorrow.  It makes me realize how much of my previous life I took for granted.  After defining myself for so long in the same place, things just happened.  It started to feel a bit like walking in circles.  I always remembered the polar bear at the Calgary Zoo in the 1980’s that went crazy walking back and forth over the same territory.  He simply could not pull himself off his relentless path of sameness and we all watched him from his windowed cage.

Because I want to be successful in my life change, I am making decisions carefully so that I don’t fall into old habits.  I ask myself whether to re-adopt old systems that have worked for me in the past, or whether to consider a new way of operating so that I am healthier and happier.  However, not everything is new.  As I hang each of my old pictures (from trips around the world) on new walls, I am excited to see them through new eyes.  Like me, these little treasures are coming to life again in new light in my new home.  How nice to have the familiar amidst the new.

I am beginning to accept that as much as we shun the idea of being reified by our daily habits, having a few familiar working systems makes things manageable.  I am finding that full scale second order change is exhausting and at times debilitating.  I need to find or make a few solid paths that I can call my own.  For example, I want to find a breakfast diner that will become my regular hang-out in the early hours.  I am already gravitating to favourite places like the Filberg Lodge http://filberg.com/ and the Black Fin Pub. I sometimes return to places because I am really tired of getting lost.  Yes, it is relatively easy to do in a Vancouver Island town in the dark on wet roads in what feels like the middle of nowhere.  Addresses, and street lights seem to be at a premium here.

The Fish Bowl:  On top of all of the changes I make in my new little world, it is a bit of a fish bowl in a small town.  People recognize me in the grocery store or the gas station.  It seems that  people are politely watching to see how it all turns out for me.  As welcoming as some people have been (a few special people in particular), I can see many speculating on the odds of my success.  They both relish in  me trying to fit in with them, but they take some pleasure in reminding me that “it is different here in BC”.  They love telling me that I am going to get depressed in the rain, despite this being something that I am really loving.   The other night I savored the sound of the rain on the sky light and my two little kitties purring on either side of me as I wrote on the computer.  I realize that true acceptance from the people in this new culture, will come with time.  A wise mentor once told me, “Trust equals action over time”.  People need to learn to trust me, and I need to know who I can trust.

Pioneering and Paper Trails:  The paperwork continues as I now find new doctors, and manage my new benefits, financial, insurance and utility transfers.  All processes have required one, two and three phone calls to insure that things actually happen.  I am often suprised at how often people will say when I phone back that something was overlooked, and excuses are made that a step was forgotten.  I dread going to the mailbox as I wonder what paperwork has come or not come.  As well, my house in Calgary still has not sold, so the juggling of multiple finances is taxing…literally.

This pioneering may not be as tough as it was for my great grandparents who emigrated from Ireland (1908) and my grandparents from Finland (1930’s).  Although they left everything behind, they truly had to “build” a new life from scratch.  Both families experienced incredible hardship.  My mother’s parents lived in a tiny shack on the side of the train tracks just outside of Golden BC before they finally got their own land.  My father’s grandparents and then parents lived on a small homestead in the town of Etzikom just south of Medicine Hat.  This family did not survive it successfully like many pioneers in Southern Alberta.  The isolation was too much for my grandmother, and the children were all adopted out.  Despite my move being at a time in life where I am more established, I still feel the elements of risk and stress as I attempt this on my own.

Experiences:  Feeling the slight tremor of the 7.7 earthquake emanating from  Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) last weekend, was a wake-up call for me.  I felt the whole earth move, and I got pretty queezy in the episode.  Another new experience was watching the salmon run on the Puntledge River.  I was so overwhelmed by the smell of the dead fish and the sea gulls swooping in to eat them, that I almost fainted.  The elements challenge me to see my vulnerabilities here.  Fortunately, people are stepping out to help me and this kindness is appreciated, but ultimately, the buck stops with me.  The aloneness (not the loneliness) is palpable.  This is new.  This is true change.  This is pushing me to understand who I truly am as a person.  I have to enjoy my own company because guess what?  I am my only company most of the time.

The Piano Man:  I sit writing this in the Griffin Pub on a rainy Hallowe’en night while everyone sings with a piano bar singer who is pretty amazing for a small town entertainer. His tunes are familiar and everyone is relaxed.  It is that time in the night when the Irish tunes are starting up.  Hands are clapping.  People are dancing all around me.  My computer is my companion tonight.  I sit on the periphery watching the customers come in from the rain to escape giving out candy to excited children.   Writing comes easily to me amidst this jovial white noise.  There are some universal truths in every culture.  People like to drink, sing and dance.  They forget everything else when they are doing it.   This feels familiar to me, and for awhile, a bit of familiarity is good.