2016: Year in Review

To be honest, I feel a bit shell shocked by this year. Nevertheless, growth and progress come in many forms and now this year too has passed so, without further ado, here are my highlights (or perhaps more aptly named, key themes) of 2016:

1) Exploring the West: In the summer I took a 2-week solo trip to the Western US and Canada, starting with a 10k race in Oregon, moving on to rainforest hikes and ocean beach walks in Washington, mountain hiking in British Columbia, and horseback riding in the Alberta Rockies. Mid-trip I took a break in Nelson BC, staying with a friend for a few days, cementing what is becoming a soulful lifelong friendship. On this trip I discovered my strength and visceral need for connection with body and nature. Coming back from this trip, I started biking to work instead of driving and making day trips to Algonquin Park on long weekends for hiking with a view. I was embarking on an important and much-needed lifestyle shift.

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2) Exploring Love: After two years of purposeful singledom, I started dating again in the Spring, learning a little bit more about myself from each brief relationship. From a nice guy with no sexual chemistry, to an annoying guy with abundant sexual chemistry, to a wealthy guy with no self-reflection, to an unconventional guy with little empathy, I am gradually learning more about what I need, and refining and solidifying my dealbreakers. Whether or not I’ll ever meet a guy who will someday become my best friend is anyone’s guess, but I think there’s value and personal growth in the search.

img_20140419_1421443) Exploring Loss: On December 1, a dear friend of mine died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 63. I’ve never lost anyone close to me before, I had no idea how to even begin to process that she’s no longer in this world. I don’t think I’ve quite wrapped my head around it yet. And then on December 25, my childhood idol whose music I’d hung on to through my worst years of loneliness growing up, passed away suddenly at age 53. I’m surprised at how complicated my grief over George Michael’s passing has been. These two sudden losses at vastly different levels and degrees of proximity to my life have left me feeling very melancholic, and focused on the importance of living fully and immediately rather than perfectly.

img_20160810_1131544) Exploring Change: On my Western adventure, I came to realize that I experience myself and the world differently when I’m around mountains. In the mountains I feel like there is room for me in the world, and I feel like I can breathe in a way that eludes me in this flat congested landscape that I currently call home. I realized that I have unconsciously been travelling to mountains every chance I’ve gotten over the last few years since I started travelling alone, and I think I’m starting to understand why. I’ve now begun to lay the groundwork to make a big move in my life within the next couple of years which feels a bit scary but also exciting and very life-living.

So, those are the biggest themes/highlights of 2016. The only thing left to do now is choose the song of the year!

Song of the Year: 2016

It’s hard to choose this year’s song since 2016 has been so emotionally dichotomous for me. At various points I would have thought my selection would be one of my most-played Awolnation songs of the year – either “MF” or “Windows” – but I’ve decided it’s going to be an old Cage the Elephant song from 2013 that I just discovered a few months ago. As much as I love their newer release “Trouble”, this older song “Telescope” really represents my state of mind this year, ending with the important reminder: Time is like a leaf in the wind / Either it’s time worth spent or time I’ve wasted / Don’t waste it.

With that, I thank you for reading and wish you a happy, healthy 2017 full of love, peace and joy.

RIP George Michael

I george-michael-faithwas in that second wave of young girls who joined George’s fandom when he released Faith (as opposed to the first wave of girls who caught on during the Wham! years). I was an insecure, lonely girl whose family never talked about sex or feelings or anything at all for that matter. His overt sexuality was exciting and intriguing for me as I was still trying to understand what the heck sex actually was. And his deep sadness and longing for belonging resonated with me, though I wouldn’t have been able to articulate that at the time.

George Michael provided the soundtrack and the backdrop for a good 10 years of my life. I was obsessed with owning every piece of music he’d ever released, as I hwham-in-chinaunted down 45″ singles for their B-side instrumental versions, relentlessly called in to obscure radio shows requesting elusive instrumental versions I hadn’t been able to hunt down anywhere, and special ordered t-shirts and the Wham! in China video on VHS that my mother had to drive to a far-away mall to pick up for me. I scoured magazines for even the tiniest mentions of George to see what he was up to and what he looked like “in real life.” In the days before the internet, it took real effort and persistence to be a hardcore fan. It was a labour of love.

My high school lockers were full of George Michael photos, my room was plastered in George posters, my binder was a George Michael binder. I wore a gold cross earring my girlfriends gave me for my birthday one year. When I got punished at home, my mother took away all my George Michael stuff – posters, cassettes, magazines, everything – and hid it, saying I’d have to earn it back one piece at a time. In that moment, I despised her with such rage that I suddenly understood how wars were started. I found where she had stashed everything and secretly made copies of all the tapes and smuggled out posters. Nothing was going to stand between me and my George Michael!

George Michael was my first concert ever, and when I heard that he’d named Elton John and Billy Joel as musical influences, I started listening to them too. He shaped my musical taste for years to come.

Sometime after Listen Without Prejudice, I lost track of George Michael. I had become a mother at age 18, life had gotten busy and he hadn’t released any new music for a while. When he finally did release a new CD, the music seemed really.. old? boring? I was a busy, energetic twenty-something, I couldn’t relate to his style at all anymore. And at some point I heard something about a lewd act. I didn’t really know what had happened but felt vaguely embarrassed as people smugly mocked my former fandom. Every June 25 I had a fleeting remembrance that it was his birthday, but otherwise he gradually faded out of my life.

And now he’s gone and I can’t seem to stop trying to fill ingeorge-and-anselmo the gap of everything I missed about his life over the last twenty years. I didn’t know his father had been so critical of him. I didn’t know he had been so conflicted about his sexuality and that his ‘lewd act’ had ultimately resulted in his coming out. I didn’t know he had fallen in love with a man who heartbreakingly ended up dying just a couple of years later. I didn’t know he’d fallen into deep depression after his mother died. I didn’t know he’d almost died of pneumonia a few years ago.

I didn’t know he was an addict. I imagine he couldn’t have been easy to live with, especially when you add his perfectionism on top of it. I also didn’t know he was such a generous humanitarian, anonymously donating to multiple charities and anonymously volunteering at a homeless shelter.

I’m learning all this about him and appreciating what a complex individual he was, full of struggle and hope and love. His messiness and imperfection are resonating deeply for me.

george-michael-olderI’m taking the time to discover his post-Listen Without Prejudice music and now that I’m older and more mellow, it doesn’t feel boring to me anymore. It’s beautiful in its pain. Life is hard, I feel that in his music. (The first time I heard his version of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” a couple of days ago – posted below – it literally brought me to tears.) Maybe there is a reason for his music coming into my life again at this point,  maybe I wouldn’t have been ready for it sooner.

I feel a sense of loss and sadness that I wasn’t there for the whole ride, but I’m so incredibly grateful for everything George Michael has been and is going to be for me in my life. Despite his flaws and vices, he did good in the world and brought love to those around him, and I feel a weird sort of pride to have been his fan. The world – my world – doesn’t feel the same without him.

Rest in peace, George.

Trump and Crickets: The end of a relationship

“Bummer about Trump, eh!”

Those words marked the beginning of the end of my latest relationship.

I was still in shock, reeling from the news I’d woken up to at 4:45am – the news that overnight, the world had changed in a way that I naively never saw coming. I was still grasping to understand how this could have happened and what it meant to me, to vulnerable people in America, and to the world. I didn’t know how to make sense of it, I couldn’t find the words, but I knew “bummer” was not one of them.

Prior to that day, I had already been starting to struggle with my partner’s lack of awareness of his privilege, his lack of deep engagement in meaningful discussions, and his seemingly superficial, self-interested approach to life.

Just a few days earlier, in response to me sharing that I’m feeling a strong and urgent pull to figure out bigger ways that I can make positive change in the world, his response was: “Not everyone can be Nelson Mandela or Ghandi.” I countered that, in fact, there are lots of people – seemingly ordinary people – who make big and small important change in the world all the time, and gave him the example of the two college change-makers in the documentary The Hunting Ground, who found a way to force colleges to deal with sexual assaults on campus. But I knew it was a bad sign that instead of lifting me up, his immediate response was to try to pull me down ‘to reality.’

I knew it was a bad sign a few weeks earlier that, when he was telling me about his first volunteering shift playing squash with underprivileged youth, his story about what made it so great was all about what a great guy he was and how much the youth talked about how great he was, but I didn’t recall him talking about how great any of the youth were.

That conversation came in the middle of a volunteering shift we did together, sorting shoes that were being sent to Haiti as part of a microloan initiative to help families build self-sustaining businesses. When I’d asked him at the end of the shift what he’d thought of it, he replied he’d been hoping we’d only have had to be there for an hour or two so we could have just gone for coffee and hung out, but it was “fine”. I couldn’t help picking up on the tone of annoyance that he was trying to hide.

And it was definitely a bad sign when he chose to dress up as Trump for Halloween, telling me “it was fun to be politically incorrect for a bit. I told some gals that I’d spank them but they were only a ‘4’ so not worth it.”

And so the day came when I learned that Trump was president-elect, and I received an email from this guy talking about how much he had killed it in his squash game the night before, how he was going to a fancy restaurant with corporate finance brokers that night, and then ended with that throwaway line, “Oh, and bummer about Trump eh!”

I replied that bummer was an understatement and explained how and why I was struggling, and that I was just trying to surround myself with like-minded people to process and work through it. I distanced myself from him for the day.

The next night when he came over, I had decided that I wouldn’t try to gloss over my feelings or pretend everything was fine just to make things more comfortable for him. Instead, I told him I was still not ok. I explained how that election decision made me feel disillusioned with society, and how I instantly felt less safe in the world as a woman. I told him about how heartbroken and hopeless I felt that the bad guy won, people made the bad guy win.

While I talked, he ‘listened’, periodically sticking his nose deep into his wine glass and breathing in deeply to once again admire just how fantastic the red wine he’d brought was.

He dismissively made comments like, “well we just have to be glad we live in Canada” and “I just don’t stress about it because there’s nothing I can do about it”. I felt deflated. His commitment to complacency was fierce.

He commented about how I’m always thinking and grinned in a self-pleased way as he said, “In my head, there’s nothing, it’s just crickets.”

Crickets.

My son said to me yesterday that I have a “big mind”. He said it with a tone of admiration and respect, which was a contrast to that almost condescending remark my so-called partner had made a couple of days earlier.

It all became crystal clear. I ended the relationship.

Because in the world I want to live in, people will choose to actively work toward creating a society that is safe for all, whether it impacts them directly or not. People actively engage in critical thinking to challenge dominant beliefs and systems that are not only holding us back as a society but, in many cases, damaging us and the world we live in. Because for me, ultimately, complacency and ignorance are not sexy and frankly are no longer acceptable. And neither are crickets.

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Our Broken System Needs To Be Fixed: A response to the Jian Ghomeshi verdict

For a long time now I have been increasingly frustrated and enraged by the discourse that’s happening around sexual assault, consent, violence against women. As a conflict-avoider, I have been afraid to step into the conversational battlefield. As a short-fused person, I have had to remove myself even as a spectator to avoid jumping into a battle I wouldn’t feel equipped to handle. But honestly, I don’t know how to do this anymore. I don’t know how to come to terms with the sheer ignorance and gleeful hatred with which some people are responding to the Jian Ghomeshi verdict that was released yesterday.

I don’t know that any of us could have been surprised by that verdict. If you followed the trial even loosely it was clear that the judge was going to have rule in Ghomeshi’s favour. I think that makes us have to ask the question – what is wrong with this system in which the judicially correct result is to find innocent a man who freely admits to choking women and punching them in the head?

Yes, we have to talk about what consent really means. That’s a huge problem, partly because consent usually comes down to a he-said/she-said scenario — sorry for the hetero norming, I fully acknowledge this can happen in any relationship dynamic — and in a patriarchal society which defaults to giving men power and voice, the ‘he-said’ part of that equation always holds more weight. So let’s be clear…

Consent does not mean ‘you said yes to going out with me so now I get to do whatever I want to your body’. Consent does not mean ‘you sent me a bikini photo later so you were obviously ok with what I did to you before’. Consent means that in the moment, in every moment, both parties are each individually fully capable of making the decision to engage in a behaviour, are freely choosing to do so, and are fully capable of withdrawing/ending that interaction without fear of personal harm/retribution. When you’re on a fun date with a guy and he suddenly and unexpectedly assaults you, that’s not consent.

But this case in particular wasn’t really about consent since it’s pretty clear the women couldn’t have consented to those assaults, so it became all about the women’s behaviour after the assaults occurred. So, let’s set aside consent for a moment, because we really need to talk about the system itself.

We have a system that requires traumatized people to behave in untraumatized ways in order to be believed. A system that doesn’t take any responsibility for understanding what ‘normal’ behaviour is following an assault, or years of abuse, but has full power to rule on that behaviour. A system that seems to require victims to prove that they didn’t somehow invite the assault rather than focusing on the fact that an assault occurred.

We have a system that requires victims to find strength in the exact areas they’ve been wounded – confidence, clarity, consistency – none of which are compatible with the symptoms of trauma in people who have experienced abuse. It would be like asking someone with a broken leg to prove it’s broken by jumping on it over and over again – they just can’t do it, but that doesn’t mean the leg’s not broken. A woman traumatized by assault can’t remember details with 100% fullness or precision, that doesn’t mean the assault didn’t happen. A woman traumatized by years of abuse can’t explain why she didn’t leave after the first time he hit her, that doesn’t mean he didn’t hit her. And it sure as hell doesn’t mean she consented to being hit.

This system supports abusers. Yes, there has to be presumption of innocence, but there also needs to be understanding of reality and what can be considered to be reasonable behaviour in the context of trauma. The system favours the abuser from the moment a woman is asked to tell her story while she is still confused and trying to make sense of what has happened to her, to the moment much later on when every detail of her initial report is being examined under a microscope and questioned.

‘Why did you talk to him after he suddenly punched you in the head? That doesn’t make sense.’ Neither does somebody suddenly punching you in the head.

‘Why did you make him breakfast in the morning after he raped you the night before? That doesn’t make sense.’ Neither does being raped by someone you had previously always been able to trust.

Assault and abuse don’t make sense, so of course victims are going to be confused and it can take a long time to sort out realities. There is a process called cognitive dissonance by which a person tries to reconcile mutually exclusive pieces of information – inevitably one thing has to stop being true but it can often be excruciatingly confusing to figure out which one.

If you’re on a fun date with a ‘nice guy’ who then assaults you, you have to try to make sense of that. Is he a nice guy or is he a violent guy? Which personality that was presented to you on that fun date is the right one? Taking it further, if you have years of established trust with someone who then rapes you, you are trying to reconcile a large amount of data (years of trust) with one piece of directly conflicting data (the rape). How long might it take to make sense of that?

To an outsider it may seem black and white, but imagine a trusted person in your life did this to you right now, would it be so clear to you? Imagine through your whole life you have been conditioned to believe that if something bad happens to you, it’s probably your fault – you asked for it, you made yourself too pretty, you laughed too much – would it be so clear to you? Imagine everyone else thinks this other person is such a great person and they suggest that maybe it was all just a big misunderstanding – would it be so clear to you then? How hard would you work to try to find some answers, to make it all make sense somehow? Would you talk to other people? Would you try to talk to or see this ‘trusted person’ again, to try to gather more data? Would you be confused?

Until you’re in the situation yourself you can’t possibly know how you’d react, but if you listen to the stories of people who have been there, and if you read some of the studies that have gathered information from large groups of survivors, you can start to get an idea that ‘normal’ takes on a whole new meaning after abuse.Normal isn’t what outsiders would judge it to be, it’s shifted and confusing and messy. Don’t judge what you don’t know, and if you want to judge, then learn what you don’t know.

Our broken system needs to be fixed.

We need in-depth training for everyone from police officers to judges so that they can understand the impact of trauma on survivors of violence. We need society to stop blaming victims, and start deciding that it is simply not acceptable for men to abuse women (physically, sexually, financially, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually). We need women to stop competing with each other for men’s attention and start supporting each other to create a stronger, safer society for all of us. And we need men to recognize that we’re simply asking for fairness and safety and the right to control our own bodies, which are not unreasonable demands.

I believe that most people fundamentally support the ideas of safety and fairness for women and accountability for crimes committed, but I think some people are afraid of what change would look like and what that might mean for them. In the absence of knowledge and understanding, these people are resorting to extremist illogical arguments to try to protect the status quo. I get it, change is uncomfortable, but change is also necessary.

I would like us all to be able to work together, to have open and respectful discourse to try to problem solve our way to a reasonable solution for this serious problem. But if that’s not possible, then I just want to be very clear: no matter how many generations it takes, no matter how many insults and personal attacks are thrown at us along the way, we will not stop, we will not be silenced, and change will come, whether you like it or not.

And suddenly, she was dating…

Healing from abuse is a crazy ride. Just over two years ago, I walked away from an abusive guy, cut off all contact and decided it was time to ‘deal with my shit.’ No more distractions, no dating, just me and my mountain of baggage.

I cried, I drank, I got depressed, I ate Nutella by the truckload, I got confused, I ran, I got angry, I did yoga, I felt like giving up on life, I isolated. I blogged about it, a lot, and will forever be thankful for the online community of caring strangers who caught me every time I was falling, strangers who knew exactly what I was going through because they had been through it too.

Over time I slowly started to find my footing, but still didn’t know if I’d ever be able to take the plunge into dating again. It’s a scary prospect, once you know for sure that there is evil in the world, that there are people out there perpetually hunting for someone to hurt. It feels safer to stay behind the wall.

I told myself as long as I felt any internal drive or pressure to date, it was a sign that I wasn’t ready to be dating. I told myself that for two years and eventually settled comfortably into imagining the rest of my life as a single woman. (With cats, of course.)

I learned to travel alone, and to set goals that were mine and mine alone. I learned to hold my own in a room of married people, I learned how to cheer myself up on bad days and how to stop binging on that damn Nutella.

And now suddenly, unexpectedly, here I am… dating.

As it turns out, all this time I’ve been figuring myself out and making sense of my life, I’ve also somehow figured out where to draw my lines – boundaries, if you will – and how to enforce them.

It turns out I can tell the difference now between good and evil, between caring and controlling, between genuine and manipulative. I know there are evil people out there but now I can recognize them, and that gives me tremendous power and protection.

I can also recognize the good people and appreciate them. I can take it slow, proceeding on my own terms, because good people understand and respect that. Good people treat me with consideration without me having to ask for it, they just do it because that’s who they are. As “he” says: it’s nice to be nice.

To my utter amazement, on my first swim back in the dating pool, I managed to avoid all the sharks in all their different forms, and find a good guy – one who is open and honest and thoughtful and smart and funny and all the things I want and deserve in my life; one who recognizes and appreciates all those things in me, too. One who I can hang out with easily for hours with endless conversation meandering between utter hilariousness and sincere seriousness. One who is as amazed to have found me, as I am to have found him.

Two years ago I couldn’t have imagined this would ever be possible again, but here it is – proof that there is light if you fight your way through the dark, and that there is good in a world that is also evil. Through all the inner wars and doubts and fears I have somehow emerged victorious – stronger, smarter, and surer.

Who knows what will come of this new relationship, it really doesn’t even matter. I am just taking every day as it comes, still marvelling to be suddenly in this new world, in the light again, very unexpectedly but quite happily… dating.

Dating

 

2015: Year in Review

Heading into 2015, I had a feeling it was going to be a great year and it was! Since turning 40 last year felt like a rebirth, this first year in my ‘new life’ was unsurprisingly a year of great growth. Here are my highlights of 2015:

1) Universal connection. In the Spring I took my second solo trip, this time to Iceland where I was humbled by spectacular glaciers, terrifying winter driving, and an unexpected spiritual expansion that kept sparking my soul on every day of the trip. I learned on this trip that I’m tough, and vulnerable, and connected to the universe in deeper ways than I’d ever known before.

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2) I found my place. Mid-year, I left the women’s agency where I’d worked since my move out of the corporate world three years ago, and joined a different women’s agency. It was an emotional move that was made primarily for financial reasons, not because I’d wanted to leave. I feared I would regret leaving a place I love, but with four months under my belt now I know that I am where I’m meant to be. This takes me to #3…

3) I found my voice. For reasons unknown to me, at this new agency, I speak my mind, I go against the grain, I’m referred to as someone who is ‘shaking things up’, all of which are tremendously out of character for me. I have always been afraid of rocking the boat and saying something people disagree with, but now it just flows out of me whether I like it or not. For the first month or two of speaking my mind, it was actually incredibly unsettling. I would go home and question over and over why I had said whatever I’d said and what the potential ramifications might be; yet, the very next day, I would go in and rock the boat again. Now I don’t worry about it anymore, I love that I’ve found my voice and my team is so relieved to finally have someone providing real leadership. I have no doubt that I’m where I’m meant to be, becoming the person I’m meant to be.

B612-2015-09-13-20-41-524) |-/. This is the symbol for Twenty One Pilots, a band that sings about the struggle of fighting depression and anxiety; a band that urges their listeners to stay alive; a band whose fans continuously say “thank you for saving my life”. I discovered TOP last year, but 2015 was the year I really became a die-hard fan. I got to know what the boys were all about, I went to my first TOP concert with my little sister this Fall (our first concert together), and next year I’ll be going to see them again with my son and his friend. Twenty One Pilots does more than get me through the hard days, they have become a bonding agent between me and the twenty-somethings in my family. I love this band!

chicago first class5) A first class year. Thanks to a generous offer from my sister and an Aeroplan glitch that prompted even more generosity, I got to fly business class for my brief trip to Chicago this summer. It was an incredibly fun experience – smoked salmon, white wine, glassware instead of plastic, and all the leg room a girl could ever want on a plane. I loved every second of it! Then, for my birthday last week, my son treated me to a VIP movie experience that reminded me of those first class flights – cushy big seats, good food and wine brought to our seats, and again, all the leg room! What a wonderfully luxurious cap to a great year.

One final thing before I go…

Last year I ended Year in Review with an Imagine Dragons video. The video I’ve selected for this year is Ode to Sleep by Twenty One Pilots (of course) – not just because it’s a great song and a heartwarming video concept that fits beautifully with this year’s theme of growth, but because today is the one year anniversary of this video being posted which I think makes it the perfect fit!

On that note, happy new year blogging friends! I wish you all a happy, healthy 2016 full of love, peace and joy.

Birthday Awesomeness

Guess what – today’s my birthday and I’m giddy about it!

Growing up as a Christmas Eve baby in a family of self-centred people wasn’t easy – often my birthday was completely forgotten, and always it was treated like an inconvenience – so I have had to work HARD to get to the point where my birthday is something to be celebrated rather than dreaded. Over the years I have drowned in depression, flirted with suicidal thoughts, and questioned my worth in this world, but not this year!

I would never have imagined that this year I would be sitting here on this beautiful day, the sun shining and my heart bursting with love for myself and the world, feeling absolutely giddy that it’s my birthday.

So today, on my 41st birthday, grinning like an idiot in this Starbucks sipping my free birthday latte, I want to take a self-indulgent moment to acknowledge all the awesomeness that is me and my life. (I’ll understand if you choose not to read on – I know how annoying super-happy people can be. :))

Awesomeness #1: I have awesome friends! I have done a fair bit of culling and cultivation of friends in the last few years, and I am so blessed now to have people in my life who are loving and supportive and smart and fun and funny. I think for many years I didn’t feel I was deserving of all these great people and their time, but I have come to recognize that I’m a freakin’ awesome person myself and a great friend and they’re as lucky to have me as I am to have them!

Awesomeness #2: It’s fifteen degrees in December. Yes global warming is terrible and I do care tremendously about the environment, but selfishly I am so happy to be basking in the beautiful sunny warmth of today. I don’t have to worry about bundling up or driving in a snowstorm, I can just live my day however I’d like which is an unusual luxury on my birthday. Thanks, universe!

Awesomeness #3: I run! Despite my struggles this year with my back injury and lack of motivation due to work stress, I haven’t given up. Running is my sanity, my freedom, my challenger, my salvation. This morning I went for a run in capris and a light jacket and thought about how today’s run felt like a renewal of vows, of sorts – no matter what obstacles will try to pull us apart, running and I are partners for life. I read about someone who runs his age in miles on every birthday. I doubt I’ll ever be that person (I can’t even run my age in kilometres!), but I think it would be cool to make sure that on every birthday I give myself the gift of running. I’m sure glad I did it today.

Awesomeness #4: Music! In the last couple of years, I have reignited my love affair with music, and become an out-and-proud fangirl of Twenty One Pilots and My Chemical Romance. More than that, though, in my teen years I used to compose songs and dream of becoming a songwriter. After recently sharing that with my son who is a tremendous musician in his own right, he has set me up with a DAW (Digital Audio Workspace) connected to my digital keyboard so that I can start composing again. He says he can’t wait to hear what kind of music I make, and I can’t wait either!

Awesomeness #5: My family sucks, and that’s ok! I’ve finally been able to let go of that impossible dream of turning these blood relatives into a great loving supportive family, because I’ve learned how to give myself that life of peace and love that I was chasing for all those years. My parents and siblings, they’re just part of my story, my history, but they don’t shape my present or future. I don’t have to hate them or need them or feel guilty about not trying harder with them, and I don’t have to love them or like them either. We survived a lot of bad years together, and now we can go in our different directions and that’s totally ok! It’s so lovely to feel free of that weight and claim my life as my own.

And finally…

The greatest awesomeness of all: I make this world a better place. In work, in friendship, in love, I make this world a better place. I’m smart, funny, caring, compassionate, honest, adventurous, life-loving. If I wasn’t here, the world would get along just fine, but I make it just a little better. I don’t do it in big flashy ways – I don’t have millions to donate, I don’t create brilliant inventions, and I don’t compel massive audiences to change their lives – but people in my life have told me they admire me, they respect me, they’re inspired by me and they’re so grateful to have me in their life. My presence brings joy to those around me, and really I can’t think of a better reason than that to celebrate that 41 years ago today, I was born.

So here we are, December 24 2015: Happy birthday to me!

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Me as a little girl

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Me at age 41