Archives for category: gratitude

dec 28Happiness is a muscle.

This is the thought that woke me at 5:22 this morning. The unintended wake -up call that made me jolt out of my slumber and sit up straight in bed. The message from the universe that seemed to shoot through the very darkness and point me back towards the light.

Happiness is a muscle.

So like any muscle, when you use it, it’s strength increases.

According to positive psychologist Miriam Akhtar, 40% of our happiness is under voluntary control – and that’s a lot to play for.

It means that the choices we make about our bodies, our spirits, our pursuits, and even the thoughts we focus on, have a monumental impact on our happiness levels.

It means, that in every single moment, I have a choice.

I can focus on the sources of my unhappiness, or I can flex my happiness muscles.

This is not news to me, it’s just that lately, I’ve been forgetting to work out.

No, I don’t mean I haven’t been hitting the gym enough (although I haven’t and that would probably be helpful), I’m referring to the fact that I’ve been forgetting to savour the moment, express my gratitude and practice the natural self-defense against depression, relentless optimism.

In the wake of some uncertainty surrounding my life’s meaning and purpose, instead of focusing on how much opportunity I have, I’ve only been able to see how lost I am.

And focusing on all that anxiety and fear has made me kind of miserable.

Thank goodness for 5:22am wake-up calls.

 

 

 

dec 16As I approach the end of my ‘Wunder Year’, I’ve started thinking about 2014 and beyond.

When I began writing last January, I assumed that by the time December 31st hit, I’d be a whole new person. Turns out, I didn’t need to become someone else, I just needed to learn to accept myself.

350 days in and I’m only just beginning to sort my sh*t out.

Yes, this life seems to be a series of quarter life crises and mental breakdowns. And I’m okay with it. Because the more things get shaken up, the more my fear and doubt and shame get broken apart, and the real me finds the space to break through.

Survival, as defined by dictionary.com, is “the act or fact of continuing to remain in existence, especially under adverse or unusual circumstances.” A survivor is then said to be “a person or thing that survives.” Or “a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.”

In this sense, we are all survivors. I’m fairly certain, that there isn’t a human being alive that hasn’t faced some sort of hardship, and against the odds, prospered. (Functioning is okay too I suppose, but I prefer to prosper).

Some of us have survived earthquakes and storms. Some of us have survived divorce, illness, or war. I have, and continue to, survive myself.

Now, I may very well have no idea what it takes to survive anything other than the war I’ve waged against myself, but whether my hardships were real or a figment of my own creation, the threat I posed to my own survival was (and occasionally still is) as deadly as any raging storm.

Survival is a promise I have to make to myself every day. I make it every time I take a breath, with every bite of food, every downward dog, every step forward, every step back. I make it every time I look in the mirror and choose to love the image I see. Even today I struggle to remind myself that having an extra bite of my sushi doesn’t mean I’m unworthy of living.

Survival may have begun with me, but it has taken an entire community. It has taken the help of my physicians and counselors, the understanding of my friends and family, and courage of other survivors who have shared their stories and given me hope.

Which is why the words I write here, are really the story of how I survived myself.

And I hope, when you read them, you can see that there is a survivor in you too.

 

oct 13I’m here, in this place, at this time.

I am but a particle of matter in the vastness of a universe, but I’m here, and that’s reason enough to be thankful.

I remind myself of that on these holiday weekends when my heart aches for loved ones in the prairies.

I remind myself that love cannot be separated by time or distance or mountain ranges.

I remind myself that being here, near the ocean, is where I’m supposed to be.

Curled up on the couch with a plate of sushi and a man who has become my family, I am thankful.

Thankful for a life that finally feels like the one I’m supposed to be living.

Thankful for a weekend filled with brilliant friends who make this city feel like home to me.

Thankful for a heart that beats, fingers that tap these lettered keys, and an ordinary life that feels extraordinary.

Thankful, that even in the midst of all this happiness, I can still feel the weight of longing. The ache reminds me that I left a place, a people that are so worth missing.

Tonight, as I give thanks in my own way, I think about my Auntie Jackie’s perfectly mashed potatoes. I remember the way they melt on the tongue and I think about all the people who are gathered around her table.

I would do anything to be there. But being here, though it sometimes feels like light years away, makes me appreciate all that I have, and all that I’m missing.

 

 

 

 

 

sept 24 Today was one of those days where I just couldn’t help but be blown away by the people I get to share my life with.

Do you ever look around you and wonder how the heck you were somehow invited to the same party as a whole lot of seriously rad people? ‘Cause I feel like that on a daily basis.

I could probably write an entire blog about just how incredibly cool my friends and coworkers are. And I’m not talking cool as in “They’re ridiculously good-looking and stylish” (although they are), what I’m talking about is the fact these people are up to changing the world. They’re creating bold goals, asking tough questions, open to possibility and have an immeasurable capacity for generousity.

Today I was lucky enough to share the stage with a few of these amazing people. As I listened to them share the stories of their triumphs, their failures and their learnings, I was reminded of what it means to play big in this world.

“I didn’t know I could complete an ironman. Until I did.”

For some reason, as my friend L uttered those words, I got it like I’ve never gotten it before.

I got that it doesn’t matter whether it’s learning how to cycle or learning how to walk on the moon, we don’t know we can, until we do. And the simple fact that we don’t know, means that anything is possible.

Her statement made me think about the “I cant’s” I like to use.

I can’t drive standard. I can’t ride a bike. I can’t make a million dollars. I can’t have a family and a career. I can’t do a handstand. I can’t figure out my taxes. I can’t love my body, I can’t… and the list goes on and on.

The thing is, I don’t actually know any of those things with certainty – I’ve just never done them before. I’ve either tried and failed, or haven’t attempted to do them at all.

Which got me thinking about how in a lot of ways, I’m playing really small.

Thank goodness for days like today, and people like L, who remind me that the goals worth setting are the ones that are more bold, more audacious, more thrilling than you ever dreamed could be possible.

 

 

 

aug 30In the name of full disclosure, I should probably tell you that last night I was suffering from a bad case of Neon Kitchen Dance Party.

The side of effects of a Neon Kitchen Dance Party include: laughter, feelings of nolstagia, a sense of euphoria, gratitude, blurred vision and an inability to string a coherent sentence together when you sit down to write your blog at 2am.

When I returned home from a night of dancing in my friend’s neon clad kitchen, the only words I could get out were “I’m so grateful.”

My lack of proficiency in the English language was severely impacted by the amount of wine I’d imbibed and I suppose given the circumstances “I’m so grateful” would have made a sufficient post, but I wanted to explain why.

I’m so grateful that I’m not twenty anymore.

The party last night was in honour of a good friend’s thirtieth birthday. He and his partner had decorated their seventh story apartment in a neon-chic palate and as their home filled up with brightly attired party-goers, I looked around the room and realized just how grateful I am.

The evening was filled with deep and meaningful conversations with friend’s who amaze and inspire me and as the night rolled on, our laughter-filled conversation turned an epic 90’s inspired dance party.

When I was twenty, birthday parties were filled with hook-up drama and taking turns holding the birthday girl’s hair back. I don’t imagine we had much in the way of conversation – it was always too loud in the crowded bar to hear each other.

Which means I now have to confess that in my late teens and early twenties I was what you might call a Bar Star. Yup, I was that girl making out with a random guy in the middle of the dance floor. And yup, if I could go back in time and give my eighteen year old self a serious talking to, I wouldn’t hesitate to at all.

In my late teens and early twenties I gave a pretty serious shit about what everybody thought of me. Ironically, this led to some fairly questionable behaviour. In his stint as a bouncer, I was one of the two people that my boyfriend at the time had to kick out of the bar.

There is no part of me that is proud of my semi-sordid past, but I suppose my days as a disaster have informed the things I like about me now. In those days, as I hustled for acceptance and approval, I thought I had to party and drink as much as my peers. I said yes to every shot that was ordered and welcomed drinks bought for me by gullible men at the bar.

I spent most of those years in a committed relationship, but it didn’t stop me from being a tease. The love of my then- boyfriend just wasn’t enough for me. The depth of my self-hatred was too great for him to fill.

I don’t believe there is a wrong time to love someone, but at twenty years old I didn’t love myself enough to offer him the kind of love that he deserved. I didn’t love myself enough to offer it to anyone.

So my serious talking to wouldn’t be to admonish my twenty year old self for her sometimes pathetic behaviour, I would simply go back to tell her that she was and has always been, enough.

Smart enough. Beautiful enough. Wanted enough. Worthy enough.

Because as I looked around the room last night and caught J’s eye as he rocked out on the dance floor, I realized that somehow in the last few years, I have begun to love myself. And in the loving of myself, I am letting myself love the people in my life the way that they deserve to be loved.

And that’s reason enough to be grateful that we’re getting older.

jul 10In the homeless shelter where she worked for a number of years, my mother came across remarkable people every day.

One of the men she came to know well was named Terry. She met him just before Christmas one year and as they sat and chatted, she learned that he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She listened as he told her the story of the long and winding journey that brought him to the shelter.

And though he stood looking at the end of his 59 years on this earth, he told her about his hopes and dreams for the future.

He’d been a long distance trucker most of his life (specializing in the movement of horses across the country) and though he’d been to New Orleans twice, he’d never been to Mardi Gras. He had two wishes before he passed on. One he spoke aloud and one that he whispered to the divine. A greyhound ticket that would take him to the celebrations, and the wish that when the time came, he would not be alone.

Terry never did make it to New Orleans before the cancer took it’s toll. But in the pursuit of that goal, he ended up receiving -and giving – so much more.

Terry’s dream of Mardi Gras ended up being picked up by the local news. His story was witnessed by a woman who recognized him from many years ago. The woman was married to Terry’s brother – a man he hadn’t seen or spoken to in 34 years.

And that was just the beginning of the story of how in the last months of his life, as the cancer advanced, Terry gave those around him the chance to witness the gift of unconditional love.

What had been a dream to go to Mardi Gras became a reconciliation of two brothers, the mending of a family, and unlike so many people (especially those living in shelters) Terry lived those last few months surrounded by love.

I never had the chance to meet Terry. But from what I learned about him from my mother and others who came to know him, he was patient and generous and wickedly funny in the kind of quiet way that only wickedly funny people are. What was remarkable about him, was that even in the face of his death, though he was as scared about the prospect as we all are, he never gave up dreaming. And though as a youngster he’d never dreamed that he would be spending his last days in a homeless shelter, he took responsibility for the choices he’d made and the road he’d traveled that had brought him there. He was grateful for a place that would offer him respite after the cancer had robbed him of his career and his savings. Grateful for a community that would care for him when he had nowhere else to turn. And so, he insisted that when it came time, he would not die alone- because the shelter had become his home.

Terry passed away in late May of 2011 at 3:30 in the morning. His brother was at his bedside, holding his hand as he passed on. He had gotten the one wish that mattered most; he had not been alone.

I don’t know why I thought of Terry today. Perhaps because he loved horses and I’ve been thinking a lot about spirit animals. Perhaps because the newspapers remind me daily that most of us will never have any idea about when it is our time to go. But like Terry, we all have the opportunity to live life with as much grace as we can now.

We have the opportunity to love each other deeply. To forgive and start again – even after 34 years. We have the opportunity to surrender our hurt, our heartbreak, our pain and begin again. To let people into our hearts no matter how broken we’ve been. We have the chance to dream about Mardi Gras or Paris or riding a horse again. We have the opportunity to be grateful, courageous, and even find contentment in the face of our fears.

We have the chance to love, to laugh, to do all the things we’ve ever dreamed of and live more boldly than we’ve ever lived before. We have the chance, because we are here.

jul 1As I sat on the boat’s stern and watched Gabriola Island fade slowly beyond the line of the horizon, I had a momentary urge to jump into the wake and make a break back to paradise.

Alas, reality beckoned and, as I discovered yesterday, the water’s of The Pacific North-West are a little cold for my liking.

So here I am, sitting in my sweltering apartment trying to drown out the sound of my neighbour’s yapping Chihuahua (or as my Dad refers to the breed, their “rat on a rope”) and rubbing aloe vera on my sunburnt shoulder’s every 15 minutes.

I don’t think I realized how desperately I had needed a vacation until I saw the Vancouver skyline reappear before me this afternoon. Because the moment we crossed under the Lion’s Gate, the knots of stress that three days of total relaxation had undone began to tie themselves back up into my shoulders, and stomach, and back again.

The deep line between my eyebrows that was smoothed by sunshine and seashells reemerged, my jaw clenched up, and I felt my breath – made easy by the salty air – become laboured once again.

Suddenly I am more away of what my body is telling me than I have ever been.

And if the headache and nausea I’m battling this evening are any indication, it’s high time I began to listen.

If I have any chance at pure and unadulterated happiness I have to give up being stressed out all the time.

I have to give up trying to do too much and feeling like I’m never enough.

Because in the reality I’ve created, nothing is ever good enough. And all the scarcity I’ve created has got my body in a panic all the time.

I never have enough time or money. I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, bold enough, funny enough. My work’s not good enough, my clothes aren’t nice enough, by entire life is two-steps behind. And in the race to catch up, I stress myself out trying to reach an ever moving finish line.

And I’m done. I’m tapping out. I surrender.

I cannot compete with myself anymore. I am so tired of making myself sub-par.

I am not sure what it is about being out in nature, but this weekend as I began to disconnect from the machinery and pressure that has become my life, I realized that all the stress I’m under is completely of my own design.

I watched a bald eagle flying over our boat yesterday. It is an incredible thing to witness it taking off from a treetop and spreading it’s wings to catch the air. As I watched it, it dawned on me that this magnificent creature likely never says to itself “I am just not good an enough at being an eagle.”

Because that would be ridiculous and completely detrimental to it’s continued survival.

No, an eagle doesn’t wax on about it’s right to take up space on this planet or whether it’s worthy of it’s prey; an eagle just spreads it’s wings and soars.

I may not be an eagle, but I am enough.

I may not have it all or be able to do it all, but if I’m going to fly as free as a bird, it must be enough to just be me.

 

 

 

 

jun 18I remember being 17 and thinking that 27 seemed kind of old. I figured by the time I was blowing out 27 candles I would be married to Heath Ledger, living in a Parisian loft and polishing my first Oscar.

As I sit sweating in my tiny Canadian apartment with my lovely boyfriend (who is not a now-deceased movie star) and no sign of an Oscar, I can’t help but wonder where it was that all my plans for the future hit the rails.

How did I envision that life and end up here?

I’m unmarried, unfamous, unsuccessful by society’s standards, and still in the midst of figuring it all out and barely scraping by.

So why do I still feel like a movie star?

In the past I’ve used my birthday as a time to take inventory on all the things I did wrong. With every year that passed I’d become even more conscious of all the ways I never measured up to my own expectations. Each extra candle on my cake symbolized another year I wasted living in fear.

This year, I’m celebrating the fact that even though my life is drastically different from the one I envisioned, I am so incredibly thankful that I’m here.

Because I’ve got something that’s a whole lot cooler than making the A-list or marrying a movie star. I’ve got a life that is so abundant in awesomeness it’s almost unbelievable.

I’m not sure what Birthdays are really supposed to celebrate, but this year I’m declaring that all 27 candles on my cake are a symbol of how my life is filled with incredible people.

People who make loving where I’m at simple. People who hold my accountable to my greatness, help me to see the wonder in failure and teach me that living a life I’m madly in love with is possible.

If you’re reading these words, you’re one of those people.

And if I was holed up in Parisian loft having hot sex with a celebrity and staring into the eyes of a fake gold statue, I wouldn’t have had the chance to get to know you.

 

 

 

may 20I was speaking with a good friend recently who confided that she had been struggling with a little thing called her ego. She didn’t like to admit it, but she had come to a place where she was unhappy with with where she was at, because she believed, given her credentials and her age, that she deserved to be somewhere else. She told me of how she was learning to combat her feelings of entitlement with a tool that she referred to as “gratitude”.

As she began to tell me what she was grateful for, there was a noticeable lightness to her. It was not just her eyes that were brighter, it was her whole being. In the shift out of her ego and into gratitude, I could see that this incredibly capable and brilliant friend of mine had become unstoppable in designing a life that she truly loves.

As she shared her secret with me, I realized that although it was not her intention, her words were presenting me with an incredible opportunity to look at where in my life my ego is getting the better of me.

So I looked. And the results weren’t pretty.

The ego is a funny creature. It fools each of us into thinking it’s keeping us safe, when what it’s really doing is keeping us small. I can only really speak for my ego, but I would say it spends 99% of it’s time  trying to make me look good. You’d think that looking good would be a good thing, but what I discovered as I did some inventory on my ego this weekend, is that always trying to look good is actually detrimental to my health, my happiness and the quality of my relationships. “Looking good” actually prevents me from being real.

Take for instance my relationship with my ass. This morning I caught a glimpse of it in the mirror and my ego said “Girl. You are twenty six years old, why does your butt look like your grandmas? Did you know all your friends have butts that look like supermodels. For the rest of this summer, you are not allowed to wear shorts-and you are definitely forbidden from wearing a swimsuit. Trust me. I wouldn’t want you to embarrass yourself by looking bad next to a bunch of swimsuit models.”

And you want to know the crazy thing? Not only did I believe my ego, but I actually had to hold back tears because there is a part of me that feels that I am somehow entitled to have an ass that looks like Giselle’s and Alejandra’s. And the fact that I don’t makes me really mad.

How does this affect my relationships you ask? If my ego wins this one, I am going to spend my entire summer avoiding any possibility of having to be seen in public wearing either shorts or a bathing suit. I live a block from the beach and plan to run a half marathon in August-if I don’t get grateful for the fact that I have a bum at all, I’m about to spend an entire summer alone.

So, I’ve decided to sock it to my ego where it’ll really hurt, and I’m going to start on a steady diet of gratitude.

Gratitude for the body I was born with. The one that is unique and beautiful because it allows me to dance and sing and run and swim in the ocean. Gratitude for the career that I’m just starting now at twenty six years old-because I know that all the education in the world couldn’t have prepared me to the same extent that my life has. Gratitude for the money I don’t make because it’s teaching me to be resourceful. Gratitude for what I do earn-because I make it in the company of incredible people.

There is so much I have to be grateful for. Things that might not necessarily make me look good to the outside world or to my ego, but nevertheless make me who I am and lead me to the creation of a life I love.

 

 

 

 

apr 15Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

-Mary Oliver

I know I’m not going to be here forever. Like every single being on this earth, my bones will turn to ashes, then to dust, and one day I will all but disappear into the ether.

I don’t like to dwell on the clock that is always ticking down to the unknown date of my expiry. The thought of my mortality makes me terribly uncomfortable, and like most human beings, I do my best to remain comfortable at all times. So I try instead, to make peace with the past, not worry about the future, and live in the ease of the moment as much as is possible.

But days like today, remind me of how lazy I can be in the face of my mortality.

This is my one wild and precious life and I forget sometimes that there is such little time to make the very most of it.

Will I fall asleep and be content with how I spent this time I have been given here on Earth?

I think about all the plans I’ve been making for my life. The places I want to travel, the things I intend to do. The lists I want to check off, the books I want to read and the stories I want to tell. I think about the races I want to run and the headstand I want to hold for a minute or two. I think about the kids I want to bring up, about the man whose hand I want to hold as we look out at the world from our rocking chairs.

And I realize, as the news flashes across my screen from places all over the world, that none of those dreams, those goals, those wishes matter in comparison to what’s real. What’s real is this instant. What matters is how I am spending my one precious life right now.

When I fall asleep tonight, can I say that I loved big enough today? Did I bring compassion to my conversations? Did I give others the space to be seen and heard? Did I grace the world with laughter, with light? Did I smile? Did I share myself wholeheartedly? Did I dip my toes in the ocean and feel the wind in my hair? Did I love so much and so boldly that I could leave now- knowing that no one would ever need question how much they mean to me?

What am I holding back? Why am I hiding? Why do I save the words I long to say for tomorrow? What am I waiting for?

My one wild and precious life is happening right now.