Soul Growth // Next Level Life

I’ve made it my business—my mission and sole purpose, really—to become the best me I can possibly be in this lifetime.

This is serious life work. It is bucking the trend toward mediocrity and refusing to be a slave to the status quo. It’s a rejection of merely going through the motions of a cold and robotic existence—one in which all responses are set to autopilot. And it’s a definite vote in favour of living with awareness and staying open to the full spectrum of what life has to offer, all the way from unspeakable bliss to excruciating, heart-wrenching pain and everything in between.

This commitment means being present with my feelings during the best of times, and even more so, the worst of times. By allowing my heart to remain wide open throughout times of my own pain and discomfort, I’ve learned that magic does, in fact, exist in this world, and that beauty can be found in the least likely places for anyone who is determined to find it.

Take it from me: there are many valuable life-affirming, soul expanding lessons to be excavated from the bottom of even the largest rubble heap, although it may require some serious digging, and perhaps also a very large shovel.

Living consciously and with awareness is no joke—and it’s definitely not something I get right 100 per cent of the time. Not even close! Being a student of yoga and meditation has given me some valuable tools for making the most out of my human experience. And these tools never fail to remind me that life itself is a practice, and the universe always delivers the circumstances that are in the best interest of my soul’s continuous growth. In other words, in spite of what things may look like on the surface, I know life is always giving me what I need to become the next best version of myself.

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But how do you explain this concept, or even propose to justify it, in light of why bad things happen to good people?
Well, I’m certainly glad you asked, because I recently had a conversation with a friend around that very subject…

And it went a little something like this:
Friend: “Have you ever noticed how good, honest, self-aware people seem to experience challenge after challenge and hardship after hardship, and yet there are others who do the most immoral, inhumane (and even illegal) things and somehow always seem to escape without having any consequences imposed against them for their actions?”

I was very intrigued by this subject, and got pulled into the conversation even deeper by the demands of my heavily bruised ego, having recently been a player in a number of different situations in which I felt like other people, who don’t seem to have any reservations or remorse about their own unscrupulous actions, had grossly abused their power and left a plethora of pain and suffering in their wake.

This is where I entered my default of the victim mode mentality. Over time, it has become increasingly easy for me to recognize this, as I’ve gone there many times before and I went there again in this particular moment. As someone who makes an honest effort to be a good person, to make good choices, and to always be kind to my fellow humans, I find it perplexing and hard to digest when I think about the injustices I’ve seen, both up close and from more of a wide-angle lens in the last while.

BUT when I take a step back and allow a moment (or two, or five) to process my feelings, rather than operating from my default or reactive mode, I am able to see another side to this story:

The challenges that get placed along our path—and the associated discomfort we  experience—are good for us. Although often painful, these experiences are gifts that help to move us from who we once were to who we are becoming. When we remain open, willing to feel, and ready to receive the lessons that are meant for us, our pain can be transformed into something greater, and our challenges become a powerful catalyst for helping us advance to the next level of our lives.

Consider your own answers to the following questions:
Is your pain and suffering ruling or serving you?
What if you were able to stop judging and labeling an experience as either a good or bad?
What if, instead, you deeply knew and truly believed that, no matter what experiences life gives you, it is exactly what you need? (Yes, and I do mean ALL types of experiences, including adversity, illness, job loss, accidents, financial stress, and even death.)

If we are to agree that soul growth is always the highest goal and the ultimate purpose on this journey, we must be willing to take full responsibility for ourselves, knowing that blaming others for our plight is nothing but a cop-out. We must also come to terms, solidly and squarely, with the understanding that life isn’t always going to be easy, nor should we expect it to be. Rather, in doing so we only set ourselves up, time and time again, for major disappointment and failure. And if we insist on living comfortably and in a constant state of complacency, never faced with or willing to face our problems and difficulties, we are also never in a position of adapting or expanding into our next level self to meet the demands of any new situation we might be given.

However, when we learn to see our obstacles not as barriers or deterrents to our own progress, but instead as challenges to positively overcome, (and that the process of doing so will undoubtedly make us stronger and more resilient beings), that is growth in and of itself.

I am a student of life, and perhaps one of my biggest lessons has been in learning to be grateful for every experience, even the stuff that doesn’t feel so good. Even when it’s not obvious and I can’t see it, I am learning to operate from the belief that life is not happening to me, it is happening for me.

So, if you need me, I guess I’ll just be over here, focusing on being a good human, being vulnerable, feeling my feelings, and expanding in response to change as I continue to ‘level up’ in my own life.

But first I’m just gonna run out real quick and grab myself a great big shovel. 😉

MyPhareLady

Do you share this perspective on allowing your challenges to help you grow? I’d love to hear how you apply this concept in your life. Drop me a line in the comments below!

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The Long Way

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For as many times as I’ve heard the song, Take the Long Way Home by Supertramp over the years, which coincidentally was released in 1979 when I was a mere babe of three, I never actually paid much attention to the lyrics. And while I may never know why this particular song made a very peculiar, out-of-the-blue appearance in my consciousness yesterday, now that I’ve taken a closer look at the lyrics, I’m pretty sure it’s about a heck of a lot more than a guy who’s not so eager to get home to his less-than-loving wife.

Taking the long way is often perceived by the lazy as an inefficient waste of time. To those who suffer from chronic impatience, doing so seems plain silly. And to the faint of heart, taking the long way in anything can be daunting; every single step an unbelievably grueling grind.

But when we come to think of home as less of an actual physical dwelling and more an idealistic place of peace and comfort within ourselves—a way of living and loving from the heart, if you will—perhaps taking the long way actually does have its advantages.

It certainly calls to mind some important questions. For example: What would you do if you had more time? And, moreover, if all those things you want to do are really so important to you, why aren’t you doing them in the time you have right now?

The funny thing about time, though, is the realization that it has less control over our lives than most of us would care to admit. The truth of the matter is time becomes an easy target, a willing scapegoat of sorts, when it gets away from us, or when things don’t work out the way we plan. I am certainly not immune to this flimsy belief system, having fallen prey to its clutches on more than one occasion.

After only recently making the switch to seeing my life as a long game, I’m still trying to shake this belief system all the way loose and out of my consciousness. Because I’m no longer buying into the need to beat the clock or believing the perception that I’m running out of time.

And that’s why this year I am celebrating a different type of birthday than I have in the past; one that more accurately reflects the person I’m becoming with each twist and turn on this long and winding road. This year, my birthday is not about hoopla. There will be no confetti or balloons, and most likely there will be no cake. I am not looking for fanfare, because I’ve come to the point where this day is about much more than being showered with attention and gifts. And I’m perfectly fine with that. In fact, it is exactly the way I want it.

Instead, this year I am choosing to celebrate the depth of the person I continue to become, the complexity of my journey, and the bittersweet richness of doing this life my way.

Today, I will refrain from spending time on Facebook or Instagram, instead setting my phone to airplane mode. I will use my time intentionally and wisely. I may choose to do some writing or complete an art journal spread. I will almost certainly spend time outside, walking, enjoying the opportunity to breathe in the fresh air, and simply being in the calming presence of the trees. I may indulge myself in a handcrafted latte, some luxurious chocolate, and a gourmet lunch prepared just for me. I will, no doubt, sit in silence, listening to the wisdom of my heart. And I may just go ahead and dream up a list of 42 random acts of kindness to be completed over the course of my 42nd year on planet earth.

Continuing in this spirit of giving generously, I also commit to doing something meaningful for me: making myself a priority and giving myself the gift of time, not just today, but for the next 42 consecutive days:

  • 10 minutes of meditation
  • 20 minutes of writing
  • 30 minutes of movement/yoga/exercise

The idea and meaning behind this gift to myself is two-fold:

  • Writing down these intentions (and declaring them out loud for all the world to hear) is a major maneuver in holding myself accountable; and
  • Doing these things for 40 days in a row will set me well on the path to establishing these priorities as part of a nourishing daily ritual for myself. (I’m basically just sweetening the pot by adding on a bonus two days!)

In the place where I stand now, I’d like to think I’ve become at least a little wiser over the past 42 years. (If my grey hair is any indication, I should be very smart. You can ask my stylist. lol) But I’ve said it before and I’m not afraid to say it again, right here and now: I can be a slow learner. And so I continue to learn my lessons as I take the long way on my journey through life, all with the intention of finding my own unique way of living and loving from the heart.

One such lesson I’ve needed to receive on more than one occasion is about allowing what comes, to come; what stays, to stay; and to simply let go of the rest. And although I suspect I’ll always crave meaningful connections with my fellow humans, I’ve come to see the futility in grasping and clinging to people and circumstances that were perhaps never meant for me in the first place. And of course I continue to see the tremendous benefit of practicing gratitude on the daily. I am endlessly grateful for every single person and situation that has come my way, realizing they each held an important place in my world, whether in my life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

So, as I round the corner to 42 Street, it feels like I’m inching ever closer to finding my ‘heart home’ and tapping into a more permanent place of peace within myself. And as I do, it occurs to me that maybe birthdays are merely time and route markers on our journey. And then I wonder if maybe we’re all just taking the long way home?

After all, maybe it’s the long way—with all of its peaks and valleys, detours and dead ends, speed bumps and plot twists—that makes this life worthwhile.

xo

Take the Long Way Home
Supertramp

So you think you’re a Romeo
Playing a part in a picture-show
Take the long way home
Take the long way home
‘Cause you’re the joke of the neighborhood
Why should you care if you’re feeling good
Take the long way home
Take the long way home
But there are times that you feel you’re part of the scenery
All the greenery is comin’ down, boy
And then your wife seems to think you’re part of the furniture
Oh, it’s peculiar, she used to be so nice
When lonely days turn to lonely nights
You take a trip to the city lights
And take the long way home
Take the long way home
You never see what you want to see
Forever playing to the gallery
You take the long way home
Take the long way home
And when you’re up on the stage, it’s so unbelievable,
Oh unforgettable, how they adore you,
But then your wife seems to think you’re losing your sanity,
Oh, calamity, is there no way out, oh yeah
Ooh, take it, take it out
Take it, take it out
Oh yeah
Does it feel that your life’s become a catastrophe?
Oh, it has to be for you to grow, boy
When you look through the years and see what you could have been
Oh, what you might have been,
If you’d had more time
So, when the day comes to settle down,
Who’s to blame if you’re not around?
You took the long way home
You took the long way home
Took the long way home
You took the long way home
You took the long way home, so long
You took the long way home
You took the long way home, uh yeah
You took the long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Long way home
Songwriters: Richard Davies / Roger Hodgson
Take the Long Way Home lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Moving Toward a Healthier Me

I’m a little riled up and I need to get something off my chest…

I’ve spent a lot of time focused on self-improvement and personal growth over the past five years. I’ve made no secrets about this. My own physical fitness has been a significant part of this journey, and I’ve tried a number of different approaches.

I’ve been quite open about my love affair with movement. I’ve done outdoor bootcamps, running, group fitness classes, yoga, and a whole bunch of different home workout programs.

And I’ve even hinted at how I increased my physical activity while severely restricting calories in an attempt to lose weight, inches, pant sizes, and the shame I felt around certain parts of my body being bigger than they “should be.”

But what I’ve never really talked about openly before is how I’ve done a lot of different things with the goal of making my body into something it’s not, and may never be. How I’ve tried with all my might to take up less physical space in the world, with all of my efforts stemming from a deep-seated desire to correct my perceived flaws and imperfections.

Despite successfully losing nearly 20 pounds and close to as many inches in one particularly rigorous cycle of diet and exercise a few years back, buying into the vanity side of the health and fitness industry has left me hollow and jaded. I think I may have actually lost a piece of my soul as some of my fat melted away, but then it just came back again, with a vengeance (the fat that is, not my soul). The worst part is, at the end of it all I still feel as though I don’t measure up to society’s expectations, or my own.

I’ve been on this tireless quest to reshape my body into something that more closely resembles the ideal woman, with toned arms, flat stomach, firm legs, and of course, a thigh gap. But after trying and trying and trying, reaching and striving, grasping and clawing my way through the thick of my own dissatisfaction with myself, I just have to say I’m tired. Like, exhausted.

At the risk of provoking some and offending others, I’m just gonna go ahead and say what’s on my mind: dieting and exercising for weight loss and vanity alone is shallow and short sighted. That’s the simple truth. And I’m pretty sure those who go at it from this angle will find themselves in the same position of repeatedly regaining the weight they lose, just as I have. Because as long as we’re not addressing the underlying issues— the reasons why we eat crap, or don’t eat enough, and don’t move our bodies enough—we’re only masking the problem with a temporary band-aid.

The diet and weight loss industry is built on the fear and desperation of the people it serves; it preys on our vulnerabilities. The industry knows we’re all looking for a quick fix, and that’s why it packages up the promise of a better life for us in a shiny, irresistible package. The industry knows we’ll come back time and time again for more after the initial promise stops working. The industry knows there’s no such thing as a magic pill, but will sell one to us anyway. The long and the short is that anything that’s promising you extraordinary results in a short period of time is too good to be true. Period.

These are the lies we believe when we’re afraid we’re not enough as we are. This is the garbage we buy into when we don’t love ourselves, because we are motivated by our fears.

In my attempt to see this situation from all possible perspectives, I’ve run the full gamut of emotions—from frustration to anger and despair to resignation. And I suppose you could say I’ve reached a metaphorical crossroads in deciding that it’s time for something to change. The world around me isn’t going to budge, so I guess it’s up to me.

The only thing that makes sense to me at this point is the realization that taking care of myself needs to come from a place of love, rather than being instigated by my feelings of insecurity, my hatred of my thighs, and the fear of not being good enough.

Let’s face it, exercise is not punishment for what I look like, or what I may have eaten last night. And it most definitely is not something I should engage in from the standpoint of being disgusted by what I see when I look in the mirror. As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve been guilty of this attitude in the past, but I’m really starting to see not only how damaging this is to my mental health, but also how counter-productive it is to continue down this road.

The ability to move my body is a privilege not everyone has in this life, and is something  not to be taken for granted. I want to move my body in ways that feel good to me. I want to take the best possible care of myself. I want to feed myself healthy, nutrition-dense foods, because my body—my physical container during my time here on earth—needs the highest quality fuel to function optimally.

So, if I know what’s good for me (and I’m starting to think I do), I can see how approaching nutrition and exercise as self-care, coming from a place of love instead of fear, could make all the difference. Instead of exercising because I feel like I’m not enough the way I am and feeling desperate to change what I don’t like about my body, I need to change my mindset, instead.

It’s a strange place to be in, and one that I’m not sure I entirely understand yet, but my goal is to cultivate the energy of loving myself as I am right now while being open to improving my health and wellbeing at the same time.

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The words of affirmation that will guide me (please feel free to borrow any of these if they feel right to you) are:
I am active because I love myself.
My body deserves to be treated well.
I feel good when I move my body.
I nourish my body by eating whole, healthy foods.

As I’ve already suggested, the reasons for leading a healthy, active lifestyle run way deeper and are far more meaningful than vanity alone. And according to one article I found online, thinking of exercise as beneficial for reasons other than weight loss helps people stick to exercising more regularly—about three more hours per week than people whose primary focus was solely on weight loss.

With this in mind, I’ve come up with the following list of reasons to exercise that have absolutely nothing to do with weight.

  1. Breaking a sweat is super healthy, as it allows the body to release excess sodium, keeps blood pressure in check, and rids the body of some environmental toxins. Just remember to rehydrate with plenty of water during and after a good sweat session.
  2. Increasing your heart rate with exercise strengthens the muscles of the heart, as well as reduces the risk of heart disease. With heart diseases and other related conditions on the rise, this is a very compelling reason to look after the health of your ticker.
  3. Any weight-bearing exercise, such as running, dancing, or resistance training, will help with bone density, thereby reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis that increase with age.
  4. It has been scientifically proven that those who exercise regularly actually live longer. Just 150 minutes of exercise per week (that’s just five, 30-minute sessions) can add up to seven years to your life.
  5. If you’re feeling fatigued or lacking energy, consider that exercise can leave you feeling like you have more energy thanks to the effect of endorphins—the feel-good vibes and rush you get after exercise, also known as “runner’s high”.
  6. Stressed out? Working out helps manage and release stress by battling cortisol, the stress hormone.
  7. Feeling blue? Exercise is a natural antidepressant and mood lifter, improving overall mental health and helping stave off symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  8. Aerobic exercise can reduce both the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS, alleviating mood swings, depression, fatigue, cramps, and even balancing out hormone levels.
  9. Regular exercise promotes improved restful sleep, lowers incidence of insomnia, and promotes higher quality of sleep.
  10. The habit-forming power of a consistent exercise routine is transferable. Some notable improvements you may notice as a result of engaging in regular exercise include increased ability to focus on tasks, boosting creativity, and fostering greater productivity in many areas of your life.

It seems to me these are the real and meaningful reasons to treat yourself well with regular exercise. It all comes down to putting yourself first. Loving yourself and being good to your body are the only “why” you need.

So for the love of all that is good and holy, can we just give the diet and fitness industry (and all the superficiality and lies that go along with it) a great big collective middle finger? Can we all agree it’s time to break up with the idea of being defined by our weight, measurements, and dress size? And wouldn’t it be nice to just go for a walk or ride a bike or do some other type of movement that feels good to us, and maybe eat a few extra veggies somewhere along the way today? How awesome would that be?

I’m kind of done with hating myself. I know it may seem quite radical, but I’m going to try loving myself from now on and see where that takes me.

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What if, right?

As always, if you have any thoughts to share, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

 

The Flip-side of Resistance

If I were to pick only one word to describe my life, one word to sum it all up just perfectly, it would have to be: Resistance.

Many of the people, circumstances, and experiences I encounter, I resist. I oppose. I withstand. As far as I can tell or remember, I’ve been resisting most of my life, and if someone were to make my life into a book or movie, it would have to be called, The Great Resistance.

When it comes to actually feeling all my feelings, receiving feedback, and trying new things, my first and natural reaction is to resist. I resist listening to and following my intuition, being consistent with self-care, and accepting love that is offered to me. Allowing myself to fully participate in positive experiences and doing what I know is my calling? Yup, you guessed it—even more resistance! And when I encounter struggle or conflict, I put up resistance with a capital “R”.

As you can see, I take resistance to a whole new level. You might even say I’m the master, Grand Puba, and high priestess of the resistance department. I am literally resisting my own life, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a bit like trying to sprint through Jello.

If you’re wondering how that’s working out for me, well let’s just say it’s not really.

I have enough self-awareness to know that simply being aware of my resistance is no longer copacetic. Capiche? (You know what I mean?) The Great Resistance is preventing me from experiencing sustained joy and happiness and blocking me from finding my flow, ya know?

I had a little A-HA! moment when I realized: The flip-side of resistance is acceptance.

This is BIG, life-changing stuff here, people!

acceptance

I’m not talking about taking the road of acquiescence, passivity, or even resignation. I’m talking about being able to take whatever comes my way for what it is. Greeting every moment with interest and curiosity, rather than judgment. Setting aside all of my expectations and preconceived notions about what my life should look like in favour of receiving whatever it is. And believe me when I say that for me this is as much about allowing the good stuff as it is about welcoming the negative without a bunch of unnecessary drama and hoopla.

I think I’m starting to get it…

What I need, and what I’ve been searching for all along, is acceptance. I have a choice: I can continue to cause my own suffering by resisting everything, all the time, or I can choose to walk the road of acceptance, instead.

“Acceptance does not mean you agree with, condone, appreciate, or even like what has happened. Acceptance means that you know, regardless of what has happened, that there is something bigger than you at work. It also means you know that you are okay and that you will continue to be okay.”
Iyanla Vanzant

Resistance is a close cousin of fear, so it only makes sense that acceptance is one of love’s siblings. With this massive revelation, I’m setting my sights on seeing my resistance for what it is (essentially, fear in disguise), and gently moving beyond it to a place of loving acceptance—in all ways and with all things.

radicalacceptance

Starting right now, I am choosing acceptance over resistance, and committing myself to making acceptance a daily mindfulness practice.

One day at a time, one breath and one baby step at a time:
I will practice accepting whatever comes my way.
I will practice letting go of things I cannot control.
I will practice seeking solutions instead of complaining.
I will practice listening to the whispers of my sadness, pain, anger, and frustration.
I will practice seeing the beauty that exists in the world.
I will practice gratitude and focus on positivity.

Yes, I do get it now.

I accept responsibility for myself—all the good and bad parts.
I accept that I’m human, and I will have both good days and bad days.
I accept that acceptance is a practice.
I accept that this is where I begin.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat the practice of acceptance, times infinity.

See you on the flip side…
of resistance.

Has anyone else chosen to walk the road of mindful acceptance? Do you have tips, an experience, a story, or a comment to share? I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to drop me a note in the comments below.

Good Day

Two geese are meandering in the grass near the shoreline.

Several trees are rooted in place mere feet away from the water’s edge, but one in particular catches my eye. It’s early spring, and like so many of the others, its leaves are just beginning to bloom.

But this tree is different than the others. It’s special. This one is my tree.

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I approach, gently placing one hand on its bark; a gesture meaning, “I come in peace”.

My tree looks strong, with five main limbs branching out from its trunk.

I take a few breaths before I slowly begin to move again.

The lowest of the limbs is a little higher than my chest, and looks solid enough to support me.

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I scan to see if there’s anyone around, anyone whose disapproving glances may prevent me from accomplishing my secret mission.

Only my friends—the two geese and my tree—are here with me.

I come up with a quick game plan in my head.

Get one foot on top of the low limb and then hoist myself using upper body strength assisted by the two higher limbs? Can’t get my hand position right and not enough leverage. Ironically, the realization takes me back to the challenge of indoor rock climbing, and the frustration that ensued.

With renewed determination, I take a few deep breaths and try again. The geese are honking, and I imagine they’re cheering me on. Alas, both feet end up back at ground level.

I approach from another angle; one hand on each of the higher limbs that ascend almost as straight up as the base of the tree itself, as I use my feet to scale its trunk.

My grip is slipping again, and just when I think I’m not quite strong enough and will have to let go, I get one foot up into the crook of my tree.

I pause for a moment—to catch my breath and figure out what’s next.

I’ve been afraid of heights since I broke my arm falling off a four-foot structure when I was six. It’s interesting how much I changed and how I learned to embody fear on that fateful day…

I’m only about five and a half feet off the ground, but my heart is racing. Part exhilaration, part fear. The exact ratio of the two is unclear.

I walk my feet forward over the lowest limb, very slowly, testing to see if it will hold.

There’s no discernible movement in the limb, so I lower myself into the crook, shifting my weight forward slightly to settle into this perfect resting spot.

Here I am now, grown woman in a tree. Not a care in the world—except for maybe how to get myself back down to the ground. But for now I’ll just stay up here in my tree, enjoying the view for a while.

From my sturdy perch, I look out beyond the thick of branches over the water. My thoughts are consumed by the simplicity of nature. Its sheer existence is breathtakingly beautiful.

Birds are singing to each other in the manner of call and reply. The water is still. Grass on the verge of turning green. Sky above, earth below.

In these precious moments as the trees and shrubs begin to emerge from their winter slumber, there’s a prevailing sense of calm, and a palpable sense of hope for the future.

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A penny for my thoughts?

Despite my struggles to get here, I feel strong and supported.
I feel as though I’ve come home.
I am at peace.

The auspicious nature of this day far exceeds finding two quarters in the grass on the way back down.

It is neither luck, nor coincidence.

It is all meant to be.

Every detail unfolding exactly as it was written in the grand design of it all:
The geese and the tree. The struggle and the climb. The perspective and the view.

The journey and the destination.

No doubt in my mind I’ve arrived here, in this place, on the wings of an idea called freedom.

I’ve waited a long time to be here and to feel this.

I know there is immeasurable joy to be found in simple pleasures, like riding my bike and climbing my tree. Remembering what it feels like to be a kid.

There’s so much life here, and I finally see I’m part of it.

Now that I’ve found this place, I’ll definitely be back again.

Good day? Yes, I suppose you could say that.

Signs of Spring

Anyone who lives in Alberta will attest to the fickle nature of our weather. It can be hot and sunny one minute and then a full-scale blizzard the next. As the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. Hence, marking the change of seasons using the traditional method of calendar dates can often be futile and meaningless.

Case in point: the calendar told us spring officially began on March 21, but over the past month and a half we’ve had a substantial amount of distinctly more fall and winter-like weather (including a few good snow storms), interspersed with a small percentage of shades and hints of spring. As I’ve already mentioned, this isn’t a departure from the norm, but year after year we Albertans somehow expect things to be different. When will we ever learn?

Despite my familiarity with the predictable unpredictability of our weather patterns, I am also impatient, and was beginning to feel as though Mother Nature was going above and beyond simply playing hard to get. Our spring season was being an outright tease, holding out and intentionally eluding us all. And even though I generally try my best to not allow the weather to dictate my moods, I was a little bummed out by the constant gloomy skies and cooler temperatures.

But all of that changed for me today.

As I raked the dead grass and leaves from the front lawn, sun shining down on me and birds chirping overhead, I paused to observe the Schubert Chokecherry Tree in my yard.

I noticed a series of glossy green shoots bursting forth from its branches. I admired the darling buds, not only as visible signs of life, but also the beginning of something new and inexplicably beautiful. In that moment, I understood how each one inherently holds the promise of transformation, both for itself and the greater whole of the tree from which it grows. And until the time comes for these buds to explode with new life, they  continue to lay in wait, simply trusting the intelligence of their instincts.

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And just like that I was filled with renewed hope. My faith in the divine timing of the universe—and my life and the seasons—was restored. Yes, sometimes it is that simple!

It’s exciting to bear witness to the natural world in action, and to be reassured that seasons of waiting and trusting are rewarded. And just as I am confident the buds on my tree will surely bloom into a show of breathtaking purple leaves, I understand the relevance of this observance as it applies to the current season of my own life.

Growth happens at the cellular level.

Transformation takes time. Important changes need to be allowed to simmer below the surface in order to work their way into being.

Renewal is largely invisible to the human eye, but the process is an absolute prerequisite for the physical manifestion of change.

There is no need to rush the buds to bloom. Only they can decide when the time is right to make their debut.

I know this much is true. I see the signs of spring all around me, and I feel it in my bones.

Thank you, Mother Nature, for your wisdom and showing me there is a season for everything.

Some things truly are worth the wait.

 

Freedom and Liberation, 40 Years in the Making

Never mind what the haters have to say about the trappings of turning 40. Mid-life and over the hill, my ass! And yes, I did just say ass, TWICE!

From where I stand, 40 seems to be the exact right number of years needed to walk the earth, facing trials and triumphs and learning how to appreciate the polarities at both ends of the spectrum. That’s right, the real gifts of this milestone have everything to do with a 40-years-in-the-making perspective on life that I’m in awe of being able to call mine.

To me, turning 40 represents a surprising sense of freedom, the likes of which I’ve not experienced since my youth, but with the added bonus of a broader perspective, more experience, and whole lot more wisdom.

I’m talking about the freedom of shedding layers and feeling safe enough to take off the façade of perfection.

Freedom from falsehoods and limiting beliefs I’ve finally been able to set down like bags of garbage.

Freedom from the fallacies and rigid definitions of what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mother.

Freedom from the heaviness of all the expectations, including both the ones I accepted from others and the ones I imposed upon myself.

Freedom from the need to derive my sense of belonging and worth by putting the needs of others ahead of my own.

Freedom from the sick and twisted compulsion to continually sell my ideas, and myself, short.

Freedom from unnecessary guilt and shame, about…you name it. (Not sure if there even is such a thing as necessary guilt, but you catch my drift.)

Freedom from playing the role of the victim.

Freedom in the realization that there are absolutely no guarantees and I have no control.

Freedom from caring too much what others think about me. (Okay, maybe I’m not totally there yet, but I am working on it.)

I’m not sure exactly what it is about 40, but it feels as though all the jigsaw pieces are finally beginning to click into place. The shapes and patterns and colours are starting to interlock and fit together just right. The outlines of each individual piece dissolve and reveal one breathtaking composite image. The vivid watercolours continue to bleed into each other to create a beautiful mess infused with the grace and love of both the darkness and the light.

I absolutely love this Sophia Bush quote.

I absolutely love this Sophia Bush quote.

And while I’m on the subject of light, just last week I had the honour of attending the Step Into Your Starring Role retreat, led by the mesmerizing Tanya Geisler. About midway through the afternoon during a break, with her unique brand of sincerity and shoot from the hip candor, the luminous Tanya, whom I had only just met the same day, remarked that I really have my “stuff” together. My ego jumped up and down with the giddiness of a young child and squealed with delight, as she was a genuine and unbiased witness to the work I’ve being doing on myself.

But this simple exchange did so much more than stroke my ego, it marked an important point in my continued evolution, my liberation from the shackles that have kept me frozen with fear and paralyzed by perfection. I know this is true because the ‘me’ from five years ago wouldn’t have been able to sit with her words. The ‘me’ from five years ago would have  squirmed with discomfort. The ‘me’ from five years ago would have refuted Tanya’s observation, handing over the reigns to my imposter complex with a string of nonsense about how she must be mistaken and I must just be good at faking it. But in another surprising twist of fate, that’s actually not what happened at all.

Do you want to know what really happened? In a sense, I stepped into my starring role, and I got bold. After taking a moment to collect my thoughts and let Tanya’s words settle into my soul, I took a deep breath in and simply said “thank you”. I had allowed myself to be seen AND accepted a compliment in one fell swoop. And you know what? It felt really good.

So as I sit here on my birthday eve, reflecting on this step and the many others that have brought me to this point, I’m excited to finally be showing up for the party that is my life. I am grateful for all my blessings, as well as the struggles, knowing each one has brought me to now. There’s been a lot of toiling and trudging to reach this place, and yet I know the real big and meaningful work of my life is likely just getting started.

But I’m really curious to see what lies on the other side of this proverbial hill. And I am wearing a smile about a mile wide because I know I’ve finally arrived, right where I need to be. 40 is here and it’s right on time.

Signing off with an amazing song lyric from The Strumbellas that couldn’t be more apropos for the occasion.
“I don’t want a never-ending life. I just want to be alive while I’m here.”

Check out the video for this great song here.