Monthly Archives: January 2011

Grateful for Gratitude

– Contributed by Wee C

I’ve been avoiding this blog. I’ve been avoiding writing this post. I’ve been avoiding you all. Even now, I’d really rather hold down the delete button and close the cover on my laptop. In fact, I can feel the chills of stress and anxiety setting in. But, alas, the time has come to soldier on.

You see, life hasn’t been all roses and sunshine lately. In fact, it’s been pretty damned hard. And while I’m not ready to get into the dirty details, suffice it to say that my world has been turned upside down, on top of its head, drowning in a bath of freezing cold water. And, truthfully, I’d rather be curled up by my fireplace with a cup of hot tea and a blanket, thank you very much.

Oh, I knew it had to come some day. Life had been all-too-perfect prior to this. I’ve always said that everyone’s ride will hit a detour some time. Just so happens that now is my time. I wasn’t sure what scenario would lead me here, but I always wondered how I would react, what I would do, when my time came. I imagined myself curled up in bed, balls of tissues practically suffocating me, my oversized hoodie swallowing me up, the blinds drawn into severe darkness. Visions of straight jackets also appeared once or twice. And while I do love a good crisp white blouse, that did feel a titch dramatic.

Truth is, that’s not what happened at all. Ok, well it’s sort of what happened…I haven’t exactly behaved like tears are a precious commodity. But it is true what they say (all those wise people – you know, like Winston Churchill and Voltaire), it is in times of adversity that we find our greatest strength. In my case, it’s where I’m finding my true self.

Over the past four weeks, I’ve seen more of myself than I have in a decade. It’s not for any other reason than that I’m exposed and vulnerable and feeling quite naked (good thing all this stress has resulted in a 10-pound weight loss). I’ve found a strength that I thought had left me a long time ago. But, perhaps most importantly, I’ve found my way back to gratitude. A place that feels so much like home, but one that I had forgotten to visit for far too long.

Let me simply proclaim this. I have been blessed. I am blessed. I will continue to be blessed. My life is rich with blessings. What’s so remarkable to me is the intensity of this feeling at a time when it feels that so much has been taken away. Instead of feeling empty and drained, most days, I’m feeling full. Like a pig feeding at the trough, full. Would I like to get back what I lost? I can’t say yes to that quickly enough. I’d say it a million times over if it would help. But in losing something so big, what I’ve learned is that we can’t ignore what we currently have…today. Not what we wish we had yesterday, not what we long for tomorrow. If I sit here and pine for what I had or what I want, I’m not honouring the love I am currently receiving from friends and family on what seems like an hourly basis. And that love is beyond profound and overwhelmingly generous.

And so, even in the deepest void my life has ever experienced, the water fills in, rises and spills over. It’s here that I realize just how grateful I am for gratitude.

A money rant, just ‘cuz

– Contributed by Big L

You know what I hate? Counting pennies. Thinking about things in terms of how much they cost, rather than how much value they have. Constantly feeling like the money you have is not enough. Always wishing for more, more, more, even if you have more than your friends, more than your parents, and certainly more than you need. That’s what I hate.

Why is it a societal norm to be consumed with spending, rather than with appreciating your money and making it work for you? In this modern day, when everything costs so damn much, we shouldn’t have to be faced with the desire to buy a house, pay off student debt, get married, see the world, open a business, or make babies, yet not have any comprehension of how we’re actually going to DO that. And by that I mean, PAY for it. Not by getting a new credit card, or another line of credit, but by actually being wise with our dollars, prioritizing, saving, and understanding the relationship between cost and value.

Remember all of those hours you worked at the gas station, ski hill or movie theatre as a teenager? Well I don’t know about you, but I wish I had done something useful with all of those dollars. I wish I had understood the value of saving then.

I wish it was normal for parents and teachers to talk to you about money at great length. It should be as important of a discussion as safe sex, because it’s impact on your future is just as great. Forget economics and chemistry. If I wanted to be an economist or chemist, I should have been able to opt in to those courses. Instead, talk to me about cash flow. About savings, interest, RRSPs, the housing market, debt. Teach me how to plan for the future; how to balance instant gratification with long term planning. Teach me how to respect this currency of life, rather than fear it, abuse it, waste it, loathe it, crave it.

Those are teachings I could have used! We all could have used them. Except, even as adults they’re damn hard to find. Especially because most people who have that knowledge and understanding to share – bankers, financial advisors, insurers, accountants, lawyers, mortgage brokers – will often put their own interests before yours, even if subtly.

Why this rant about money? Well, three reasons:

1. Money is one of the biggest personal stressors that 30 Things did not fully lead me to get over. (Although my outlook changed a lot, there’s still some serious growing to do).

2. I recently met with my financial advisor, because I want to “improve my financial health” this year. We talked for 90 minutes about all of the places my money should be going and I left feeling hopeless and overwhelmed at my ability to put money in any of them. I then proceeded to scratch the shit out of my car on a brick wall in an impossibly tight parking spot, at a place I didn’t want to be in the first place, essentially burning through hundreds of dollars in a nano second. Wicked.

3. Since I wrapped up 30 Things at the start of this month, I’ve shifted into maintenance mode. That means still saying Yes instead of No once a month, every month. In January, I’m trying to institute a family budget for Hunny and I. We don’t have combined debt or profit, we make most financial decisions independently, and the only thing we jointly save for are vacations, if we’re lucky. I’m ready to make more progress, TOGETHER, but that’s a big, big leap to take. Yet, I feel like it’s the right one and is important part of being equals and preparing for a long, happy life.

Hopefully, by January 31, we will have made enough progress on #3 to consider it accomplished, and I will have swiped my Visa to deal with issue #2 and blocked out the financial advisor convo altogether, at least for now.

{Photo credit}

Creating themes for 2011

– Contributed by Big L

I’ve never really been big on setting New Year’s resolutions. Goals for the year, sure, but big, habit-forming changes? The relaxation withdrawl, sugar crash, and dark winter days of January don’t generally inspire me to make that kind of commitment. That’s why when I heard about the notion of creating a theme for the year – an overarching guide, commitment, strategy, and point of clarity – I was excited to give it a try. Creating a theme for myself will help me make the most of the year that lies ahead and it’ll remind me to go after whatever it is I want. But I don’t have to do anything too specific right away. That means, if it takes me a while (like, all month) to recover from the post-holiday buzz kill, that’s perfectly acceptable. I can still look for tiny ways to live out my theme in the meantime.

Sounds awesome! Sign me up! In fact, I’m so excited I’m going to create two!

1. A theme for guiding my life, my work and my visions for kicking some serious authenticity ass this year:

This year I will be GRACEFULLY UNIQUE!

That’s juicy, right?! I will be graceful in my uniqueness and I will be uniquely graceful!

The graceful part stems from wanting to feel calm, peaceful, warm, sparkly, and at ease this year. It also comes from a visualization exercise that led me to picture myself transforming from a caterpillar into a butterfly. This year, I will spread my wings and soar. I will discover more of my dreams and beliefs, practice self acceptable, cultivate valuable friendships, get more fresh air, value my time and use it more wisely. I will be natural; uninhibited, relaxed, unselfconscious, genuine, open. I will be open to loving, laughing, appreciating, and accepting.

The unique part comes from a strong desire to be myself in every way and embrace the opportunities and joys that come as a result. I want to feel creative, loving, kind, excited, genuine, healthy, and inspired. I will write more, read more, share my insights with more people. I will build community, support a cause I believe in and spend time playing. I will do my best work for the right people and I will make money passionately. I will create things – solutions, words, scrapbooks, ideas, plans, crafts. I will make bold moves, challenge convention, take chances, and experience new things. I will dance, run, explore, and travel.

I will be gracefully unique as I create days full of the things I’m passionate about.

2. A theme for guiding our wedding planning and my visions for creating a truly distinct, playful and energy-filled day:

Every aspect of our wedding will be BURSTING WITH JOY!

Since we don’t yet have a date, or a venue, or well, anything except my crazy, swirling Alice in Wonderland-eque thoughts, I will refrain from describing this theme in detail. Instead, I will leave you with words. Many single words that will tickle your imagination. Enjoy!

fun | comfortable | colourful | youthful | laid back | bright | warm | memorable | celebratory | lollipops | unique | informal | jovial | balloons | games | creative | enthusiastic | love | laughter | enchanted | honesty | pearls | joy | playful | expressive | lanterns | familiar | dancing | gumballs | ribbon | polka dots | artistic | pixie dust | easy | yummy | us |

Oh, I almost forgot! A really big thing already happened this year that will help me fulfill those themes, especially the first one. Out of 50+ amazing and inspiring women who applied, I was chosen to be one of six guest bloggers on Stratejoy! Me! The little Canadian girl who lives in a time zone people barely even know exist! YES!

I’m super duper honoured and totally excited about becoming besties with my five co-bloggers and doing Molly (Stratejoy’s fearless leader) proud. I hope you’ll visit me there; I’ll let you know when I’m live!

{Photo credit}

The Road to Contentment

Today, we bring you a special treat. A guest post from a woman we both love and admire. A woman we owe much of our professional success to and who we’ve been leaning on for years, as our friend, mentor and unconditional cheerleader. Except today, that woman is leaning on us. She’s been inspired by our bravery to look inward and the honest accounts of it that we share here. She’s even gone so far as to call us her mentors in authenticity. We’re honoured to introduce you to her new personal blog, Barefoot in the Snow. We hope you’ll enjoy her debut post and will visit her site many times in the future, we definitely will. —Big L & Wee C

Ooooo-uuhhhhhmmmmm. My breath whooshes out in a loud euphoric chant, giving me my first yogic high of the day. Most likely due to lack of oxygen rather than connection to an all-knowing higher power, but I’m not really one to split hairs.

“Today is the day,” I silently pep talk myself, “The day I will finally stay on my mat the whole time, mind and body. I won’t get distracted, I won’t daydream. I will be present, serene, content and peaceful. Here we go. “

Flash forward 2.2 minutes (exactly how long it takes my pep talk to wear off apparently). My downward dog is staying strong but my mind is gone.

“Seriously, how do I always manage to get between the moaner and the heavy-breather? I feel like she’s auditioning for a bad erotic sound track. So wrong on so many levels. And him with the breathing. They should be a couple. He’s two apples tall and skinnier than I am, how in the name of god can he breathe like a freight train?” (Note to self….I am fairly certain that when one is irritated by others breathing in yoga class, one still has some serious work to do on the whole meditation front.)

And on and on and on it goes. In eight months of almost daily classes, I have made so much progress mastering challenging yoga poses. I can practically twist myself into a pretzel but my mind won’t stop. I itemize my grocery list, analyze the latest family drama and start to get anxious about my afternoon of work to-dos.

I just turned 40. And as milestones often do, it has inspired me to take stock of where I am and what the future holds.  I’m almost afraid to say this out loud, but I am so blessed. I have everything I’ve ever wanted (perfect fiancé, exciting new life in New York, wonderful family and friends). What’s missing is so simple, but yet so hard for me. I want…I need to learn how to be still. And not just on my yoga mat, in my life.

I’ve thought a lot about this, wondering if I ever had the ability to just be. I think so – but it was a long time ago. I remember crouching on my hands and knees watching ants scurry across their hill for what seemed like hours. I remember floating aimlessly in my Grandma’s hammock, doing nothing but watching the sun-dappled pattern the leaves made on my bare legs. I was able to get lost in simple joys. Then somewhere along the way I succumbed to constant motion. And I opened my eyes one day and suddenly I was 40.

Looking back on the last four decades years I imagine I’m like most people. I’ve had some proud successes, some spectacular failures and some awful tragedies. But through it all I kept moving. My life became a flurry of goals, to-do lists and always wanting more…more success, more stuff, more everything. I was compelled to fill every second of every day with commitments. Between work, volunteer and socializing I was scheduled within an inch of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying achievement and ambition are problematic. They have served me very well. But now I’m so tired of running, chasing, reaching. I certainly don’t need any more stuff.  I’m satisfied with my career and community achievements. But I’m tired. I have so many amazing people in my life, but after a 60 or 80 hour week I’m just so exhausted I don’t have the best of me left for the ones who matter most.

So why am I so afraid to slow down or even stop? Why can’t I say no? When did constant motion and crazy busyness become my vision of success?  It didn’t, at least not on purpose. I think I just got so focused on where I was going, I didn’t realize that I was already here. And if I’m really honest, I also think part of me was terrified to stop. After all, quiet and calm tend to encourage introspection and self-analysis. Maybe after several years of heartbreak and tragedy in my 30s I was deeply afraid of what I’d find if I spent too much time looking inward.

But now it’s time. I am 40 and I am here. I’m not rich. I’m not famous. But I am oh so happy. Now I just have to stop and enjoy the life I’ve built, instead of trying to create a bigger, better one. I have to learn how to be still. Watching ants on the hill, hammock-swaying still. I have to cultivate contentment. I have to make room for peace in my heart. I have to stamp out that exhausting internal diatribe that makes me doubt where I am and pushes me to start running again.

Can I just be still, be content? I don’t know is the honest answer. Is “here” enough? Will I get bored without the chase? Can I focus on building a better me, rather than on building a life full of “more”? Can I get off the shiny, sparkly materialistic train (even though I now live in the land of Saks 5th Avenue) and prove that less really is more? Can I stop working so much after a lifetime of defining my personal worth by my job title?  It’s scary. But not bloody horror movie scary, more like trekking solo through the Amazon jungle scary. In other words, doable.

In 2011 I am getting married and becoming Mrs. Kashmir. A new name, a new life and newly 40. Seems like the universe might be strongly suggesting it’s the perfect time for a fresh start, non? Here’s the plan. I am done with work that feels like drudgery. I will work less and do more of the things I love (like writing). I will stop running and be still. I will slow down, do less, love more and have entire days in my blackberry where the only “to do” on my list is something like “have tea.” I am not entirely sure what this all means or how it will actually work. But this much I know. I will live my life. I will be happy and content. I will learn to just be. Actually there’s my new internal monologue for yoga class tomorrow.  Namaste.

I will keep you posted on how it goes with the moaner, the heavy breather and the newly still me. And by the way, if you want to follow all my sweet victories and sloppy misadventures on the road to contentment, be sure to visit my new blog.

{Photo credit}

Saying farewell to 2010 and 30 Things

-Contributed by Big L

Well, I did it. I capped off the bigness of 2010 by partying it up on NYE with good friends and two bottles of champagne, then I ushered in 2011 with a big, fat hangover. But that’s not all! I also rounded out my list of 30 Things by adding the final two things to the list. Numbers 29 and 30 were fairly epic in their own right and as I write this, I realize they have something in common: nakedness.

For one, I physically stripped down (a la Wee C’s #30) and did a professional boudoir photo shoot. After seeing, and shooting, the two of us in our skivvies, photographer Liam at Applehead Studio is practically our BFF. I mean, really. He has seen more of our cellulite, nervous laughter, and awkward sex eyes than we’d ever like to remember. But on the up side, he’s also helped us look and feel more attractive than we’d ever like to forget. (Does that sentence even make sense? I don’t know, but I’m going with it.)

These photos are nothing to sneeze at. Dramatic lighting, shadows, brightly coloured underoos, and Photoshop can really work wonders! The cellulite? Smooooothed right out. The nervous laughter? Not captured on film. The awkward sex eyes? Less awkward from behind the lens. It’s definitely an experience I’d recommend. And, it feels pretty damn high on the ladder of self acceptance, so, Yay for Me!

For the other, I emotionally stripped down. Four years after the trauma of the sudden, much-too-soon death of one of my favourite people ever to live, my Uncle Larry, I finally manned up and went to visit his grave.

In four years, I’d only ever been to his final resting place twice; once to bury him there and once to see his headstone, not in place until the spring thaw following his early January death. In four years, not a day passes that I don’t think of him, miss him and wish somebody else was thinking of and missing him, too. I’m sure people are, but we don’t really talk about it.

I think I’ve come to terms with that part, and with his absence, but I was still too scared to visit. Too scared of breaking down and recalling the horrors of that five day period. From the 1 a.m. phone call from my Dad once the ambulance had arrived, to waiting for my aunt to make it back home from Sweden to bury her husband. From seeing his name on a plaque in the funeral home, to looking down at his dead body, the first I had ever seen.

Yes, there was trauma. And yes, one of the best people ever was ripped away from us before he should have been. But it’s OK now. And the truth is, visiting him wasn’t that hard. I didn’t cry. I just stood, looked at him, missed him, and told him I loved him. That’s all. It didn’t need to be more than that. And it certainly wasn’t worth avoiding for four years.

Now I know. Now I know that I can go visit and it’s not that hard. In fact, it should be easy. If you love someone, it should be easy to tell them that. Right? I guess that’s a lesson learned for me.

Before 30 Things, I did a lot of swerving and side stepping, avoiding certain emotions like pot holes in the road, which only get bigger if they’re not tended to. But I’ve come a long way, baby, and my maneuvering skills are weakening. In their place are paving skills that I’m putting to work to make my road smoother, so it’s not so laden with hazards in the first place.

And with that, I wrap up a year of saying yes to 30 things I would normally say no to. Now it’s up to me to keep the momentum going by saying yes once a month, every month, and allowing two powerful themes to guide my every move this year. I created them today and they’ll be revealed in my next post, so stay tuned.

The 30 Things Community is LIVE!

Hello! Happy New Year!

This is our first post of 2011 and we’re excited for another year of honest and inspiring blogging.

This year, we won’t be writing about doing 30 Things outside of our comfort zone, as we were last year. Instead, we’ll be writing about keeping the momentum going. That means continuing to say YES! instead of NO! once a month, every month. And it also means sharing the love. Our love for 30 Things, that is.

We want you (yes, YOU!) to tackle the low-stress, big-impact journey of 30 Things. In a nutshell, that means saying yes to something you’d normally say no to, 30 times in a one year period. It’s that simple.

Still not convinced? Watch the video clip at the bottom of the post for another peek into what 30 Things meant to us. (You’ll also get to see our faces, finally!)

But enough about us – it’s your turn!

We’ve created a little website where you can create your own personal web page, keep track of the 30 things you’re accomplishing, add photos, post stories about your experiences, and benefit from the support and encouragement that’s created when other people are experiencing the journey along side you.

It’s a new year and it’s time for new experiences and maybe even an entirely new outlook on your life. Let’s do it!! Visit http://my30things.ning.com/ RIGHT NOW to create your page, commit to doing 30 new things in 2011, and meet others who are doing the same!

We can hardly wait to see you there!

With love & gratitude,
Big L and Wee C
xxoo