Belonging

When I was in Europe in April, I fell into a personal crisis.

It began at my work retreat in Angers, France. We were coached on how to walk a labyrinth – take a quiet moment before entering, clear your thoughts, and let your truths reveal themselves to you as you walk slowly through the path. With each step, I wept – sobbed – as the words “I don’t belong” kept coming up, over and over again. I didn’t know what they meant or why they were so adamant about being heard, but I do know that it was the beginning of an unprecedented physical stress response that resulted in me being sick, in pain and very medicated for the remainder of the trip. It was undeniable that something really big and important was trying to make itself known to me.

Since that time, I’ve been struggling to understand what belonging means to me, and why it feels like something I urgently need to address. I know that it has something to do with my work – I’ve come to accept that I absolutely do not belong in my workplace, and that I need to make a move. I know that it also has something to do with where I live.

So, after an incredibly difficult several months, I’m now on a two-week trip in British Columbia checking out towns, looking for a new place I’ll be able to someday call home. My hope for this trip was to get some kind of hint about what my next steps should be; some kind of clarity about something, anything, as long as it would bring me a step ahead of where I’d been before the trip.

And then today, on day two of my trip, I had an epiphany on the drive from Chilliwack to Maple Ridge, a realization about what I need to do next in my career. It was such a deep and honest realization it literally brought me to tears, as I think it’s something I’ve wanted for a long time but subconsciously always felt was out of reach.

And today, on day two of my trip, after spending the morning driving through neighbourhoods looking at real estate listings, and after spending the afternoon hiking in Golden Ears Provincial Park, I was suddenly overcome in the most peaceful and calmest of ways with the unexpected gentle whisper of these precious words: “I belong.” They felt like warm sunshine in my heart.

I’m not sure yet how this will all unfold, but today I have great hope and joy that I am heading in the right direction.

bc me golden ears

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.

IMG_5688

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!

img257

Me as a little girl

IMG_20151224_111750

Me at age 41

2014: Year in Review

As I happily leap into 2015, I’d like to take a moment to look back on the last year, because what a year it was! This year has been pretty incredible and, because of some big steps taken, I am so looking forward to the adventure that lies ahead in the coming year. I already have some exciting things in store, but I’ll introduce those as the times draw nearer. For now, here are my highlights of 2014:

1) I finally took out the trash! After years of gingerly trying to make everyone around me happy, I finally decided it was time to make me happy and the first step was to stop tolerating toxic relationships. So, I started this year by dumping a soulless manipulative abuser who had been wreaking havoc in my life for years, and slowly re-evaluated and rme and sandraefined my social circle to include only those who truly have my best interests at heart, who nourish my soul and who value me as I am (like my bestie in the photo). The result is that my life is now filled with people I respect and admire, and my days are filled with peace. Three cheers for decluttering!

2) Climbing the career ladder. In the Spring, I was offered a promotion to Business Manager. I turned it down. I wasn’t 100% sure that was the best decision because promotions are hard to come by at my work, but it just didn’t feel like the right direction for me. Not long after, the management team approached me with a promotion tailor-made for me and I became a member of the management team on my own terms. I got to keep doing what I love with a title that will help me transition to even greater opportunities in the future. It never ceases to amaze me how life works out when you trust your gut!

me in utah3) I got giddy in Utah. Truth be told, at first I felt a bit nauseous at the thought of going on a trip alone, but taking a solo trip was on my bucket list so I figured I may as well muster up my courage and get to it. I’m so glad I did! The excitement started to hit me at the airport, and I don’t think it ever went away. I spent every day feeling absolutely giddy, hiking beautiful trails breathing in clean crisp air, looking out over unbelievably breathtaking landscapes, and meeting people from all walks of life. I discovered that I really enjoy my own company, and I never tired of that moment when someone learned that I was a girl travelling alone and said, “Wow, you’re amazing, I could never do that.”  I used to be the person who said that to others, but I like it much better being the person it’s said about! Utah will always have a special place in my heart because Utah is where I finally fell in love with myself.

IMG_20141016_180742

4) 21.1 km of WOW. Another bucket list item checked off, this year I ran my first half marathon, something I never would have imagined I’d be able to do when I first started running two years ago. moab raceThe secret for me was choosing a beautiful destination that would inspire me to want to run for two hours, and I sure did choose well! Moab, Utah had me running with a big grin on my face which, I must admit, became tear-soaked a couple of times when I was overcome by the sheer beauty and privilege of it all. In fact, it was such an amazing experience, I’m going to do it again. Next destination has already been chosen – stay tuned!

post half

first 40 years5) Welcome 40! I am THRILLED to have turned 40 last week. My thirties were a difficult decade – a really really really long emotional growth spurt – but I feel this year I’ve finally started coming into my own; I have a way better sense of who I am, and I really like me! It feels like a graduation of sorts, and a fun girls’ trip to Cuba with my best friends was my graduation party. Now I get to embark on my future knowing that I have a solid foundation within me, and I can hardly wait to see what every new day has in store and what exciting adventures I will dream up for myself! What better way to start not just a new year, but a new decade? I’m on top of the world. 🙂

Motorcycles are H-O-T

I can’t believe I’m turning 40 in a few months and I’ve just learned this now: motorcycles are hot. I don’t mean hot like the exhaust pipe will cause third degree burns to your leg if you brush against it (which it will). I mean hot like sexy, super sexy.

This past weekend a friend asked casually if I wanted to go for a ride on his bike. I’m usually up for pretty much anything, so I said sure, why not. 

As he pulled up on his bike, my heart began to race. What was I thinking, agreeing to throw myself onto the back of this death machine? I pictured my body being flung off into a ditch, rocks tearing easily through my Old Navy fleece pants, helmeted head lying at an awkward angle from the rest of my mangled body.

He glanced at me and paused. ‘You ok?’

Deep breath. ‘Yup, just a little bit nervous. I’ll be ok. Let’s do this.’

He slid the helmet onto my (apparently large) head, I hopped onto the back and he started up the engine.

As we began rolling down the road, I hung onto him for dear life. I worried about the little rocks on the road under the wheels, remembering how easily those rocks can throw off the balance of my bicycle tires.

‘So, um, this bike is pretty steady on gravel?’

‘Oh yeah, this one’s great on gravel. I could even take if off-road if I wanted to. How are you feeling about the speed?’

‘So far so good. If we stay at this speed, I’ll be totally fine.’

‘OK, well, we’re going 25 km/h, so I’ll probably speed up a little bit once we get onto a main road.’

Oh my god, speed up? Deep breath. I never would’ve imagined 25 km/h feeling fast to me, but at that moment I couldn’t imagine going any faster. I hung on a little tighter.

We slowly made our way through beautiful forested roads, lakeside trails and vast farmland. With every mile, I slowly loosened my grip, settled into my seat, and began to be able to soak it all in.

That’s when I started to realize how completely exciting it was – the vibration of the motor beneath me, my body pressed up against a strong man who literally has my life in his hands (and who I trust completely with my life), my legs gripping him tighter as we lean through turns. Holy mother of God, I thought, this is HOT.

Ladies, I don’t want to get all 50 Shades of Grey on you, but trust me: if you’ve never been on the back of a motorcycle, you need to add this to your bucket list… nowMy heart is racing again just thinking about it.

We rode around all afternoon exploring the area, stopping off at little bays and beaches, quiet diners along rural roads. As we rode, I stretched my arms out, lifted my face to the sky, listened to the flapping of my jacket sleeves in the wind. It’s the closest I’ve come to feeling like I’m flying while still on land. By the end, we were racing along at 90 km/h on a long open road, feeling free and invincible.

That night I didn’t sleep much, the excitement still coursing through my veins.  Life is a gift, and every minute I was riding on the back of that motorcycle I was squeezing every little bit of life out of every moment. That was a day well lived.

After I dismounted and shook the helmet head out of my hair, he grinned, gave me a look like he was impressed and said, ‘You’re a great passenger.’

Well, this girl is sold. I feel like I’ve just been let in on a huge secret and I’ll be a passenger again any day.

Awesome, Not Awful

I had been dreading this past weekend because it was going to be my first weekend alone since my breakup. Now, on the other side of it, I’m feeling pretty giddy and frankly proud of myself for getting through it like a champ! So, what turned things around to make this weekend awesome instead of awful? I can think of three things:

Goals Saved the Day! – Last week I gave some thought to what I could do at home over the weekend that I would actually be interested in, and decided it would be fun and useful to try to expand my culinary horizons. Since I’ve been thinking increasingly about reducing meat in my life, on Friday I printed off a stack of vegetarian recipes I wanted to try out. On Saturday, I started off by making pesto quinoa – yummy! I  then inventoried all my spices at home, went out and stocked up on all the new spices I would need for my recipe adventures – turmeric, cayenne pepper, garam masala, coriander, red curry paste, etc. On Sunday morning I woke with a sudden craving for scones and thought hey, if I’m trying to expand my horizons, maybe I can make my own scones – so I did! And while my tasty cinnamon scones were baking I made aloo gobi for the first time, which was surprisingly easy to make and quite tasty. Tonight, I’m going to try making malai kofta – mmm, can’t wait!

Forced Sociability – A couple of weeks ago I had committed to going to a party on Saturday night. It was being thrown by a friend of a friend to celebrate her birthday, and the party’s theme was “Parti de l’amour” (groan). I was dreading it. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to know anyone there, but because it was this girl’s actual birthday and it didn’t look like she was going to have a great turnout, I didn’t feel like I could cancel. I reluctantly hauled myself there full of dread and misgivings. Well, it turns out one of my best friends was a last minute RSVP and, even though there was just a small group of us, we all had a great time chatting and laughing until 1:30am! Once again I learned how important it is to go out and do things, even if I don’t necessarily feel like it in the moment.

Fabulous Friends, Old and New – Throughout the weekend, various invitations popped up for future events. Notably, my best friend asked me to be her Valentine’s Day date this Friday since her boyfriend will be working (just like last year), and an old friend proposed a dirty girls’ day doing a Mud Run this Spring – in just a few hours, we had a team of 5 confirmed and are now planning our costumes. So fun! As for new friends, I joined a few new meet-up groups last week and enjoyed the steady stream of social options pouring in. I’m really looking forward to having new adventures with new people in the coming weeks. Ok yes, the introvert in me is a bit nervous about it, but knowing there are so many people like me out there just looking for people to do things with is actually super comforting!

So, I consider this weekend a win. Of course there were tears now and again, but overall I really enjoyed it. Today I’m in a great mood and frankly wish I had more time at home to keep enjoying all the things I started over the weekend! Life is truly amazing. 

2013: Year in Review

As I sit here looking ahead to what 2014 may (or may not) bring, I thought I’d take a moment to appreciate 2013 and reflect on the things I value most about the year:

1) Rediscovering My Roots – Visiting Prague with family was something I had somewhat dreaded, but it ended up being a wonderful experience. I fell in love with the city again, reconnected with family, and rediscovered how much I value having European roots. Even though I don’t actually have that many ties to the Czech Republic, I love knowing that who I am is bigger than this life I lead in Canada.

2) Monkey Business – Mid-year, I got it into my head that I had to go to Costa Rica and I had to see monkeys in the wild. It took many months of deliberation and negotiation, but in December I finally made it to Liberia and was greeted by a troop of angry, territorial white-faced capuchins. These were not the Marcels and Curious Georges of my fantasies! Luckily, a day before departure, fate had me walk below a tree full of howler monkeys feasting on tree buds. These adorable black monkeys grabbed branches with their hands, swung by their tails, and looked expressively just as I’d always wanted to see monkeys do in the wild. Thanks to a chance encounter on Coco Beach, my Costa Rican monkey business was complete!IMG_3573

3) The Year of Running – I can’t believe in 2013 I went from being able to run 5k to running a 10k and then a 15k. I’m super proud of myself! Not only did I learn to challenge my own beliefs about what I’m capable of, but I learned how to cope with setbacks. Between my pre-10k foot injury and my post-15k knee injury, there were many days when I thought ‘well that’s it, my running days are over.’ However, inevitably, with time and patience and discipline, eventually I was lacing up my shoes again and, even though I felt like I was starting over at square one, I always felt pure giddiness at being back out there pounding the pavement.

4) Stepping Up in Social Services – When I had the opportunity to write my own job description and create a new position for myself in my organization, it seemed too good to be true. But here I am, 6 months later, still saying “I LOVE my job.” After 15 years in a career I never liked, words can’t express how grateful I am to have an amazing job that I’m proud of, that was tailor made for me, and that is exactly what I want to be doing.

5) Personal Growth – I started the year with a couple of revelations: that I can trust myself and my feelings, and that my inner critic is actually working against me. Over the course of the year, I made some good progress on boundaries and self-acceptance and I love that, these days, I am much kinder to myself. I know I still have a long way to go, but at least I’m heading in the right direction and it feels great! Perhaps 2014 will be the year I finally find some courage to start tackling my conflict avoidance issues, but if I don’t then that’s ok too. 🙂

So, not too shabby for a year in the life! I’m excited to see what I have to say at the end of 2014. Let the adventure begin!