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

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.

 

Resting in The Ease of Being

It’s the final eve before our last day of our Maui family vacation. My daughter, son, and husband are all snuggled into their beds. I’ve just done some pre-packing to make life a little easier for myself tomorrow, and as I sit down with my feet up and a glass of red in hand, I am called to reflect on the last dozen days we’ve spent together here .

Maui has been good to us. Our accommodations were great. The weather has been fantastic. We’ve had some phenomenal food, including our fill of some of the freshest ocean-caught fish. We’ve enjoyed fun activities, and the wonderful company of family and friends, both old and new.

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And as I sit here sipping my wine, I can’t help but ask myself, “What has been the real story or theme of this vacation?” This is not a simple question to answer. Sure, I have some definite ideas on the subject, but it’s complicated, and I’m not even sure I fully understand. In any case, I’ll do my best to explain…

It’s an idea that seems to be following me around lately, wherever I go—even 5,000 kilometers from home across the Pacific Ocean. It first appeared a few months prior to this trip when a friend and I were discussing the contrast between the states of doing and being. The conversation centred around how we’d both been caught in the trap of constant doing, and were consequently feeling the effects of our (somewhat self-imposed) rat race; the pressure of accomplishing our goals crushing us with the constant plaguing thoughts of inadequacy and not measuring up to the world’s standards or our own potential. To put it bluntly, we were both a little…miserable.

The remedy to the loss of self and suffering that accompanies the extreme state and preoccupation with doing, we concluded, must be found on the flip side. That glorious place where thought subsides, stillness prevails, and we are…well, we just ARE. The shift to the state of being is synonymous with a move from being led by the thoughts in our head to following the truth of our heart.

In being, we are more likely to see the beauty around us, to find joy in simple pleasures, and to be content with the presenting reality, whatever it may be and regardless of whether that reality is considered good or bad. When we are in this state of being, we are more responsive to the richness of life in each moment, and more able to trust in the unfolding of the universe, opposed to feeling the need to manipulate and control situations to satisfy the needs and preferences of the ego. In being, we do not try to impress others by pretending to be something we are not. We are not looking to “be” any certain way; we just are the truest version of ourselves, pure and natural.

Given the sharp contrast between doing and being, it’s not hard to see how people get lured in by the charm of going on vacation; the saviour of taking a break from the craziness of their everyday lives and the busy-ness that comes to define not only their schedules, but also their identities. For many, vacations are the most personally and socially acceptable way of slowing down and moving from doing mode to just being.

It’s more acceptable to relax on vacation, versus the constant challenge of doing—the state of mind that focuses on getting things done, driven by what is desired, required, expected, or feared—that dominates the way we live in western culture. In other words, it’s not expected that we accomplish much, if anything, on vacation, whereas we have a never-ending list of duties, responsibilities, obligations, and goals in our day-to-day lives. We are almost always striving to achieve something, not only because this is how our society is run, but also because it is how most of us have come to define ourselves (based on the ego).

Seeing the polarity of doing and being as two completely opposite ends of a spectrum has highlighted for me how it’s not desirable to spend too much time at either end. Rather, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each and to be aware of my own natural tendencies in order to stretch and flex myself from one side to the other, as the situation dictates, or even to find the middle ground when necessary. You know what they say about too much of a good thing, right?

“Life is an immense happening. You can go on a trip, you can go on vacation, you can go to the other side of the earth, but you can’t escape life. You can go to the moon, but you still can’t escape life. You can’t escape existence.”
~Adyashanti, Falling Into Grace

Having said all of this, I feel like I’ve achieved a healthy balance of doing and being over the past 12 days, and that I am inching ever closer to uncovering my authentic self because of it. I also believe this time of learning and self-reflection has been an important part of my metamorphosis. As I undergo these important changes below the surface, I can feel myself becoming more self-aware and aligned with the truth of who I am.

And so I find myself here in this very sweet vacation-induced spot that rests delicately in the balance between the doing and the being. From this beautiful place, I’d like to offer a quick recap of a few of my favourite moments from our Maui vacation:

  • All the awesome “un-ness” of being on vacation—being completely undone, unscheduled, and unplugged (to a greater degree than normal) has allowed me to unwind and has been undeniably relaxing and rejuvenating, like a magic reset button for my central nervous system. Aaaaaaahhhhh.
  • I am grateful for having had the luxury of doing what makes my soul happy (and not feeling guilty that I should be doing something else instead), such as reading while lounging poolside, yoga, running, daydreaming, dining out, and napping.
  • Being wrapped warmly in a soothing blanket of the sun’s rays. I bow in reverence to the mysterious healing power of the sun—its light and heat a balm to my soul, not to mention how it melts away my hard, jagged edges and transforms me into a kinder, gentler version of myself.
  • Witnessing the ever graceful beauty of the palm tree port-de-bras, as the fronds dance and sway gently in the breeze, reminding me that it’s better to bend under pressure, than it is so to break from resistance.
  • The tranquility of going with the flow of floating above a coral reef teeming with colourful fish while entrusting my safety to the universe, given the strength and direction of the current.
  • Traveling over 5,000 kilometers from Edmonton to Maui to get together with a friend, who happens to live about five kilometers away from me at home.
  • Having a first-hand appreciation of the meaning of “Maui midnight.” Given all of the fresh air, activity, and time spent outdoors, I don’t think I was ever awake later than 10:00 p.m., and that’s saying something cause just staying awake until 9:00 in Maui is a feat in and of itself!
  • The commanding presence of the surf and sea. You can’t help but be in awe of its power and the emotion it evokes. I dare you to try.
  • The magnificence of the vegetation and trees along the road to Hana, branches growing toward each other from the outer banks of steep valley gorges to form a lush canopy of green. Their beauty is surpassed only by their majesty.
  • Being reminded that all living things, in their natural state, are a reflection of love. I am comforted in the knowledge that love is the natural state into which I was born and also where I will ultimately return, in this life and beyond.
  • Knowing how amazingly blessed I am to experience all of these things, as well as to be able to witness, with sincere appreciation and gratitude, the significance of it all.

So as the sun sets on yet another magnificent family vacation, my final parting thought is one of deep gratuitude to the island of Maui for sparking my inner fire and allowing me to see the natural beauty in all living things, for showing me the importance of balance, and for helping me to remember I am love.

Mahalo
xo

 

 

The Summer I Changed My Mind

A funny thing happened on the way to (and from) summer vacation—I changed my mind. I am well aware of how odd this probably sounds, but I think all should become clear if you just keep reading.

I could have chosen to write this post about the misfortunes and mishaps along the way. In fact, I probably could have dedicated multiple posts to how our original accommodation plans didn’t work out and we had to adapt on the fly (twice); how, we were already passed Banff when we learned we’d left the city without any way for my parents to get into our house to let the dog out and therefore had to call a locksmith to come break in; how, in all our moving about from one place to the next we misplaced several articles of clothing and other personal items; or finally, how I got sick with a nasty cold that has lingered for weeks.

But instead of focusing on the perceived bad stuff, I’m choosing a different path. Rather than staying bogged down in my own stories and negative soundtrack, I am making a conscious decision to focus instead on the true gems—those rare and precious moments that could have easily been overlooked and gone untold. I’m excited to share the following five stories from my summer vacation because, after some time and reflection, I honestly believe that these are the stories worth telling.

1. The drive. It’s been many years since I completed the drive from Alberta to B.C. through the mountains and Rogers Pass, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the glorious wonder of it all. I mean come on…the winding roads literally cut into the base of solid rock, surrounded on either side by 200-foot tree walls. The layers of variegated green foliage covering the mountain faces, with only pieces of jagged rock peeking out in intermittent patches. And the crystalline mountain streams and lakes that sparkle in the sunlight. I am quite convinced that the stretch of road between Banff National Park and Mt. Revelstoke National Park offers some of the most stunning scenery on planet earth, and I can honestly say that I haven’t truly appreciated the breathtaking vistas and majestic beauty that is our country before this drive. I have a renewed appreciation for Mother Nature, in all her glory, and I hereby solemnly vow to spend more time with her on a regular basis.

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Captured this beauty shot somewhere west of Revelstoke, B.C. Love the ethereal quality of the low lying clouds and their reflection in the lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. A day on Lake Okanagan. It’s no big secet that my husband and kids love the water. (I’ve often wondered if the three of them may have been fish in a previous life.) Early on in our trip, we rented a boat for the day and were able to enjoy a fantastic day exploring beautiful Lake Okanagan. Sharing the day with some of our BC and Alberta family made the experience that much sweeter. The kids had an absolute blast tubing, and the some of the guys gave wakeboarding a shot. While the water in the middle of the lake was pretty choppy, we found a bay where the sun was shining bright and the water was perfectly calm. We anchored our boats for lunch and stayed to play for several hours after, completely losing track of what time it was. A small rock island projecting out of the water about 10-12 feet at its highest point made the perfect platform for jumping in and provided hours of entertainment that day. With so much fun and so many memories created, our day on the water is one I don’t think any of us will soon forget.

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Climbing ‘The Rock’ and getting ready to jump in the water on the other side to cool off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. I fell in love with a tree more than three times my age. On the recommendation of friends and family, we had dinner at The Minstrel Café the one night in Kelowna that we were without our kids. We were seated outside on the patio, directly below the stunning 148-year-old London Plane tree for which the restaurant is known. I’ve never met a London Plane tree before but I can easily say this one was simply amazing; I’m talking regal, wise, all knowing, and breathtaking in its beauty. The size of its trunk a testament to the number of years it has been growing in the every spot where it was originally planted. With twisted branches sprawling out in all directions, it provides both a shady canopy for daytime patio goers and the perfect perch for the strands of white lights to twinkle like low-hanging stars above the heads of those who dine there. This tree had to be one of the most mesmerizing living creatures I’ve ever encountered, and it easily has to be the oldest. I can only imagine how much that great tree has seen in its years and the stories it would be able to tell! I wanted to caress its bark and wrap my arms around its body. If we hadn’t been in such a rush to leave for the concert and I had been dressed more appropriately for tree climbing, I most certainly would have found a way up onto one of its branches to just hang out there for a while. Although our time together was short, one thing is for sure: that London Plane Tree wove some strange magic over me and I left a piece of my heart with it that night.
Sidenote: the food at The Minstrel Café was also very good, and I would highly recommend going there if ever visiting Kelowna.

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Look way up! This was our view sitting under the magnificent London Plane tree.

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And here she is in all her glory from the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The road trip as a right of passage. Aside from driving to B.C. when our daughter was only nine months old, which doesn’t count because my son wasn’t born yet and she was too young to remember, this was our first major road trip as a family. Up until now I’ve been reluctant to take vacations that required long drives because I was fearful that all the bickering and whining from the backseat might drive me mad on the way. At the same time, I think a good ol’ road trip is a right of passage that all children (and parents) must be made to endure, um I mean enjoy, at least once. But I really must say the drive went much better than I anticipated. The kids did quite well overall. Granted, we came prepared with plenty of snacks and broke up the drive into smaller stints, stopping regularly for meals, bathroom breaks, and to sleep overnight. (And it probably didn’t hurt that we just got a vehicle with a built-in entertainment system and Bluetooth wireless headsets.) Regardless of the reason, there were minimal complaints of boredom, and we only had to make one emergency pit stop for my son to hydrate the foliage at a roadside turnout. Now that’s what I call road trip success.

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Our first road trip pit stop, lunch and a bathrrom break, in Banff, AB.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Lessons in receptivity and being present. The ability to experience a situation by staying present, fully processing it, letting it go, and carrying on without attachment is the very definition of receptivity. This is a muscle I continue to strengthen by doing the work. And although our trip didn’t go exactly as we had planned, I can honestly say I am grateful for its gifts—the realizations it afforded me to come to and the lessons it reinforced. Through this experience, I’ve been able to see with softer eyes the soul of all things in the world around me, and the invisible connections between everything and everything else. While it has taken me some time to wrap my head around it, I’m now able to smile with each breath, knowing I am part of the magnificent web of life.

It’s interesting how the way you choose to look at a situation can dictate how you feel about it, and maybe even determine what happens next. But this is profoundly true. These five stories changed the way I viewed my entire vacation experience, reshaping and reframing it from something undesirable to somewhat of a miracle. And so I guess this may just go down in history as the summer I changed my mind—literally changed it. It’s a bold statement, I know, and there’s a great deal of unfinished work on my part, but that’s the beauty of it. From a place of awareness and presence, I get to choose my reactions to situations and how I want to engage with the world. It really is a beautiful thing, and it’s only the beginning.