Here’s a short video about my reflections on 2017 and 2018. It’s about 10 minutes long. If you’d rather read the post instead, I’ve included the ‘script’ below. 🙂
I don’t normally weigh in on the passing of a year. I usually recall the positive and move right on into the next year, eager to see what awaits me in the next chapter. But, for once, I am happy to see a door close. 2017 has, for many people, been a very difficult year.
For me, I’ve had euphoric highs and soul-crushing lows. I’ve watched friends struggle through pain. I’ve watched patterns repeat and lessons fall on closed minds. I’ve watched my children flourish, seen them conquer new milestones with wonder and humility. I’ve watched them falter and doubt. I’ve revelled in enduring love and had my heart ruthlessly broken. I’ve laughed for weeks on end, and I’ve cried until I’ve had nothing left to give. I’ve been sicker than I’ve ever been in my life, barely able to function for months. I’ve been witness to and experienced a lot this year.
I try to be a positive person, and perhaps to some that philosophy is syrupy or tiresome, at worse they might feel it’s plastic or fake. But I do not feel life should be spent wallowing in negativity, lamenting what we don’t have, or spending our days waiting for a future utopia that may never happen. Life is what is happening right now, where we are, with what we’ve got. To wish it away or fail to see what we do have, is a failure to truly live. And our time here is far too short for that.
I recently had a friend say to me, ‘Can you please just tell me one shitty thing about your life, so I don’t feel so bad about mine.’
I make a choice. Every day. And I choose to focus on the positive. I choose to pay attention to all the blessings I have. All the love that surrounds me.
I make a choice to valiantly and consistently purge negativity from my life, removing toxic people, toxic experiences, and toxic energy around me.
We all have a choice. Our past is not a prison. It doesn’t define us, or trap us into following a certain path, or making certain decisions, over and over again. It creates walls, yes, but every wall can fall down if the intention and will is there to dismantle and topple it. But we have to want to break down those barriers to happiness. Excuses, labels, judgements, things that keep us stuck in our comfortable loneliness, our comfortable pain, they can all be overcome.
But you have to want to change. You have to want happiness. It’s always your choice.
2017 was a difficult year. And going forward, I choose to make 2018 a year of growth and adventure, a year of clearing out the cobwebs and throwing out the clutter, finding peace in new, open spaces, experiencing the magic and wonder in every moment, letting positive energy surge into my life.
Dear Goddess: I have the best chiropractor in the world, but her ergonomic roller chair bothers me. The oversized spongy rubber ball positioned on three legs with matching polymer casters is not only ribbed but also purple. Dr. M insists that it aids in back support, but I see other sinister utilities, some of a sexual nature. Should I switch from coffee to wine?
In this instance, a potion stronger than wine is required to make peace with the purple, ribbed bulbous sponge. If you can obtain your own ergonomic roller chair, we encourage you to put it through several unconventional uses until you no longer fear the chair and instead embrace it for all its wondrous possibilities. You may then return to coffee.
Goddess keep you,
There. I’ve said it. It’s out in the open (I also dislike cleaning, laundry, and organizing but perhaps that’s best left for another post.)
Here are a few things you might need to know about me:
I teach yoga.
I dislike vegetables.
‘I don’t like cooking’ is such a weak phrase, I’m going to try that again—I hate cooking.
As a yoga teacher, people often assume that I love nuts and seeds and binge on berries and pomegranate, all the while sitting cross-legged. While I can certainly eat cross-legged, I can’t eat nuts and seeds, since they irritate my IBS and cause all sorts of debilitating intestinal distress, and I really don’t like pomegranates. I love berries, though. You have me there.
The truth of the matter is, I eat like I did growing up. My mother wasn’t a fan of cooking either, and I often lucked out at super time with delicacies like Kraft Dinner and Chef Boyardee. To me, that was fine dining (and way better than the stews and pot roasts my brother and I would occasionally have to endure.) Dinner was often served with canned or frozen peas and/or corn and mashed potatoes. I really hate peas. Even more than I hate cooking.
With such a varied diet, I never developed a taste for vegetables. At all. Couldn’t stand them. I even went to a hypnotist to try and convince myself I liked vegetables. I didn’t work. What did work was a concerted effort to add these foreign substances to my plate, bit by bitter bit. Several years and many failed attempts later, I can now tolerate Caesar salad, garden salad with balsamic and olive oil (this garden salad btw is just lettuce, nothing else, all right, maybe a shredded carrot ribbon or two, but no other weird crunchy substances.) I can abide mushrooms on my pizza, maybe even adding a roasted red pepper or two, or sundried tomatoes with spinach. I’ve even developed a fondness for onions, though only the Vidalia sweet ones. Regular onions continue to haunt me long after I’ve eaten them.
I love potatoes: mashed with garlic, baked with butter, scalloped with cheese, roasted with oil and herbs. I even enjoy sweet potatoes roasted or julienned for French fries. Of course, a nice chipotle mayonnaise dip is a lovely addition too.
Due to my lack of vegetables, I’m happy to fill the void with carbs and sweets. I love cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, ice cream, turnovers, cupcakes, fudge, brownies, chocolate, candy … am I missing anything?
Are you perhaps sensing a theme? I eat like crap. I’ve known for years that my bad eating habits would one day catch up with me, and I knew I had to do something about it. So, I decided to embark on a quest.
I wanted simple eating, cooked simply.
I gobbled up lots of information on the Mediterranean diet, but there were so many recipes that involved nuts, seeds and fish, I couldn’t do it. Oh, did I forget to mention, I dislike fish as well? 🙂
All my research and internet poking and prodding brought me to Lisa Leake and her book: 100 Days of Real Food. http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/ Lisa’s book is all about eliminating refined sugars, grains, and cooking oils and focusing on foods that contain a maximum of five ingredients (the number of ingredients are actually flexible, but they should be things you can pronounce and elements you would use in your own kitchen.) This seemed reasonable.
Armed with the book, my husband and I headed to the Whole Foods Market (a thirty minute drive from our house) and bought whole wheat pastas, organic vegetables and fruits, healthy spaghetti sauce, natural white cheeses and whole wheat flour. We even drove thirty minutes in the opposite direction to visit a mill to pick up organic whole wheat pastry flour.
With our cornucopia of plenty, we enlightened our children as to our new diet and met an explosion of discord. They would not give up their granola bars or their chocolate chip cookies. This diet was grounds for mutiny. Things seemed pretty shaky.
After listening to their grievances and realizing the amount of work involved to bake cookies and granola bars to appease their adamant taste buds—all the while juggling a wholesome dinner, oh, yeah and a life outside the kitchen—I decided a compromise was in order.
I loved Lisa’s message. I wanted on that bandwagon, but my family was ready to throw mama from the train. Here’s what we came up with:
When I baked, I would use whole grains (see the gingerbread recipe below.)
I would try and use the bread machine I bought several years ago. Using only whole grains, I was determined to find something that didn’t taste like cardboard.
I would try and cook at least two real, honest-to-goodness nutritious meals a week.
I would blare my music and drink wine while I cooked. Lots and lots of wine.
My kids would eat the strange new food stuffs I was slaving over … for hours … creating a kitchen masterpiece of sauce splashes, scattered diced vegetables, discarded measuring cups and spoons, stockpiled pots and pans, and a smattering of waste products worthy of Jackson Pollock.
My kids could keep one favourite refined, highly-processed treat.
We would try and fill our plates at least ½ full of fruits or vegetables.
From Lisa’s book, I’ve made Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Quinoa stuffed peppers and you know what? My kids survived. They complained. They wondered what was inside the meatballs: “Is this real meat?” possibly referring to my stint at becoming a vegetarian and only eating tofu. I honestly did try. I survived on tofu nuggets and fruit smoothies.
The concepts in Lisa’s book are not foreign to me. Reducing our consumption of refined, highly-processed foods, eliminating toxins and foods filled with antibodies, hormones, pesticides, and fungicides are things we should all be striving toward. Making time to sit down with our families, enjoying the satisfaction that comes from a meal cooked with love (yes, blood, sweat, and tears too) is a quarry worth pursuing. I can’t say for certain how this scheme is going to end, but this week anyway, I’m determined to give it my all.
So by now, you might be wondering how this affects you. Here’s another C word “Christmas.” In tandem with this festive season comes lofty expectations and constant stressors. Part of that equation might involve cooking for family and friends. For instance, I’m cooking a turkey (truly my nemesis) but I’ve learned that by compromising, by accepting my limitations and not sweating the small stuff, I can make it through this ordeal relatively unscathed.
Turkey is a lot of work, but fortunately, I’ve learned my lesson and my expectations are low. My side dishes will not be ready at the same time as the main event, and the entire process will be long and involved … but I’m not stressing about it. Whatever will be will be. The same with my real-food cooking experiment. Our family met in the middle. I realized cooking for hours every day was going to be impossible and would set up unrealistic expectations that would add a ridiculous amount of stress to my life—something I strive to eliminate and reduce at all costs.
The house doesn’t have to be perfect, nor does the main course and trimmings. Things may not look like what we had in our minds, and often that’s a good thing. We are, many of us, perfectionists by nature and very hard on ourselves when things don’t turn out the way we expected. Lose the image and be happy with whatever manifests. Let go of expectations and the pursuit of perfection. Be flawed. Accept that. Revel in that.
In the grand scheme of things, life is short. Worrying about minor details is trivial and wasted time and energy. Enjoy being with the ones you love and let go of the end result. Living a passionate life is all about going with the flow and loving the moment. Have fun with it. See where things take you.
Remember when you were young? When you used to ride your bicycle down a big hill and you closed your eyes and lifted your hands from the handle bars. Remember the feel of the wind on your face, the sound of the air whooshing past your ears, the sense of freedom, of invincibility, that anything was possible. Life’s meant to feel like that—wondrous, thrilling, exciting, and fun. Find a way to let go of the handle bars. Loosen your grip. Close your eyes and fly.
Who knows where your passionate life will lead you. 🙂 xo
To take my one-word-a-post concept even further, I’m going to attempt to go through the entire alphabet, highlighting the keys to an abundant, passionate life one word at a time. And to start this crazy train off right, I’m picking the word: Awesome.
I love the word awesome. I remember meeting someone who said that awesome was overused. He complained that we had lost the original meaning of the word and it was just superfluous. Bummer, man. Seriously.
Here’s what my tried and true, 1977 edition of The Living Webster has to say: Awesome: Inspiring awe; as, an awesome display of talent; characterized by awe. Now let’s flash forward a few years to my 2006 edition of the Oxford Canadian Dictionary: Awesome: 1. Inspiring awe; 2. slang excellent.
Great, fantastic, excellent, wonderful . . . these are all good, but awesome? That hits the spot. It’s a simple word expressing supreme awesomeness!
“How do you feel today?”
“I feel awesome!”
“How was the concert?”
“What kind of day would you like to have?”
“I’d like to have a lovely day.” or
“I’d like to have a wonderful day?” or perhaps
“I’d like to have a wicked, totally freaking awesome day today!”
Even if we added all the adverbs to lovely, wonderful, or great, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it. And who’s to say we have lost the original meaning of the word? I’d love each day to inspire and create awe in me. I’d love to be blown away by life, in awe of each moment. I want my life to be most excellent, dude. I want it to be freaking awesome!
Far from being overused, this word isn’t used nearly enough. Why? Because most people don’t feel awesome every day of their lives. We get too bogged down in expectations and demands. We force ourselves to fit into other people’s visions for us, to allow their judgements to influence our behaviours and our choice of words, clothes, actions, careers, music, etc. We can’t be awesome when we are giving up our authenticity, or our passions and dreams. There’s no room for awesome there.
Awesome stems from being enlivened by life, by allowing our passions and dreams, our goals and desires a place to grow and flourish. When we allow others to tamp down our vitality, it’s very difficult to find awe in our daily lives, to find awe in each moment. But if we plant our feet firmly on the passionate path, staying true to what makes us happy, being honest with ourselves and others when we explain what we need and what we want out of our relationships, careers, etc., we will find that life can and should be totally awesome.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day, and to my friend, let me apologize … because inevitably, a friend will always end up somewhere in a writer’s musings ;).
My friend is going through a very difficult custody battle for his daughter, and a wonderful site called Ponder Central had recently posted an excerpt from our book, Life, on detachment. My friend responded to the post by saying he didn’t agree with our philosophy. He explained that he was in the middle of a terrible, painful fight and he couldn’t just let go of it.
Here’s part of the post: “Detachment is the art of letting go…When people think of detachment, they think of being insensitive, cold or emotionally void – a kind of numb, nonchalant, indifferent attitude, where we walk around and interact with people projecting an image of being aloof and uncaring. That is not the detachment I want you to embrace…” Let me also add, that detachment is also not about ignoring difficult situations in our lives, or pretending they don’t exist … as if we could. Detachment is about letting go of the pain, and negative energy and emotions, that tend to accompany these difficult rites of passage. We cannot let the pain fester.
I explained that while we may not be able to change our current situation, (at that exact moment), we can’t allow the pain to consume us. He responded by saying, pain was the only thing motivating him to fight for his daughter.
I responded gently by suggesting that perhaps it was really his love for his daughter that was truly motivating his actions.
His pain, however, is keeping him locked in a cycle of suffering. It is very difficult to focus clearly, and find objective, productive ways to move out of a difficult situation when we are knee deep in the pain, essentially only seeing red. All of our actions, thoughts and words take on a particular slant/tint when they are filtered through that anger and pain.
During one of my recent yoga classes, a student asked how to deal with anger. The key is to understand that by telling everyone how miserable we are, by talking about our ‘story,’ our ‘plight,’ by complaining, by rehashing, ruminating upon, reflecting on and in general letting the anger and pain consume us, we keep ourselves trapped in a cycle of negative energy … which if we prescribe to the motto ‘what we get is what we project’ … we will only draw more and more negativity into our experience.
The trick is to catch ourselves in the act: be conscious of our negative thoughts, words or actions. I remember, a long time ago, thinking to myself how easy life would be if I just had amnesia. I could forget all the pain, all the negativity, all the painful memories, and all the injustice. What I realized years later, was that we all have a choice. The past, the pain, the anger, the resentment, the hurt, it stays in our life because we let it … we give it room to breathe and grow. We nurture it with our thoughts and our tenacity to cling to negativity … after all misery loves company.
The wild thing, the exciting thing, the extraordinarily wonderful life changing, weight lifting thing about all of this is that we can choose to let it all go. Pain hinders us, makes us ill, makes us unhappy and unfulfilled. If we can take a leap of faith and try letting it go, try letting the pain slough off of us … for even a moment … the lightness, the peace and relief that follows will give us the confidence to let it go for good. We don’t need pain to live, we don’t need a negative past, or difficult memories. They hold us back, they keep us from thriving.
Letting go of negative emotions might involve speaking to a counsellor, (someone who is objective, as opposed to a well intentioned, but nonetheless biased friend), or something as simple as writing about it in a journal – without censuring ourselves. The key to writing anything down is to never let anyone else read it. I find it is easiest to get it all down, moan, scream, cry, swear, spit out the injustice and pain in big block letters of indignation, and then burn it, rip it up … destroy it. The process is meant to be cathartic. It is an emptying of pain, not holding on to it—in any form. Perhaps you enjoy kick boxing, or running. Maybe you like yoga or meditation. There are as many ways to release negative energy as there are ways of collecting it. Try to find a method that works best for you and make a commitment to releasing the pain once and for all!
Do you have a tried and true method for letting go of negativity? We’d love to hear about it!
My son recently got a job. His first job … ever. He was not really looking for a job; he was quite content to pass his summer in idle pursuits, like computer games, hanging out with friends, or creating a permanent indent in the couch. But when a wonderful opportunity landed in his lap, he changed his mind and became genuinely interested—the gobs of cash he would make with a full-time position over the entire summer was not lost to him. He went to the interview, landed the position, and started the next day. As we were traveling home from the interview, he was elated and excited until I mentioned he couldn’t go to Canada’s Wonderland for his brother’s year end band trip (they always invite siblings to join the trip—since it’s the parents that do all the driving.)
I watched this news sink in, and then sink in further still, and his mood became somber, disappointment written on his handsome face. This was not a fleeting ‘ah bummer’ sort of mood, it was a deep disappointment—a lament for the loss of his summer. Most would say he had been lucky. At nineteen, we had never pushed him into getting a job. We told him, his school was his career, and as long as he applied himself and succeeded, we would give him the jolts of cash he needed to have a respectable social life. However, that was all before university. University sucks a lot of money into its sizable vortex, and Mom and Dad are not made of money, so a job was very much a necessity. But as I watched him realize that his entire summer was now to be spent working, I couldn’t help but feel his pain.
This was not just a job. It was a symbol of his youth disappearing. The days of idleness and carefree sojourns, free of responsibility, were coming to an end. He was moving into the adult world, a world typically comprised of hard work, long hours, ambition, expectations, pressure, and stress—definitely not the world of his youth.
How many of us lament the loss of our own summer? We get swept into a life that may not look like the one we had imagined for ourselves. We get swept up in the want to prove, the want to keep up with the Jones, the want to establish ourselves as successful in the eyes of others. And often, we lose ourselves and our dreams, our desires, and our sense of fun and playfulness in the process. We can become automatons just churning out a good wage, chugging through the daily grind. We can become stuck. And when we are stuck in a situation we are unhappy about, we will often look to that grass on the other side and lament what we don’t have, or lament what we have lost.
That lamentation is a glimpse into our soul, our true nature; it is a peak into our deepest desires: long since relegated to the back seat. It is our passions trying to re-establish themselves, trying to let us know ‘hey, this is not all we are.’ It is an invitation to try and incorporate some of the things we love back into our lives, to take a moment each day to follow what feels good, instead of what is expected of us.
Summer doesn’t have to be lost forever. It is a choice to let it slip through our fingers, becoming a figment of our past. Summer can be now: every day. Remember what it felt like to just lay around, free of responsibility, to go swimming, or hiking through the forest, running through the fields, or climbing trees … rekindle that sense of fun, that sense of joy and peace. Make happiness a priority. Make engaging in activities that make you happy, your life’s pursuit. We can’t always pick up and change our life completely, but we can make small changes every day that move us closer to a glorious summer.
I’ve encouraged my son to put half of the money he will make toward his university fund, the other half is for him to live—and I don’t mean on things like food, board, or utilities, it needs to be spent on him, on things he will enjoy, that will make him happy. Things like trips to Canada’s Wonderland with his friends or something as grand as a vacation in Europe.
We get caught up in the necessities, putting every cent we make toward just carving out an existence. We need to start a ‘Fun Fund’—a little something for a ‘rainy mood day’ so we can do something to make us feel good. Fun Funds can go toward a bouquet of flowers, a new mani/pedi, an hour at the library just basking in the silence, curling up with a good book by the fire, or in bed, going to a movie—yes, even alone, buying a new electronic toy, or new shoes, tinkering with a hobby. The list is endless, and obviously very personal.
The key is to take some ‘me time,’ whenever you can eke out a moment and toss any feelings of guilt whatsoever out the window and just enjoy yourself. You are entitled to happiness. You deserve happiness. Happiness is your birthright; make it a priority—make YOU a priority. And no matter where life takes you, don’t compromise that happiness.