Monthly Archives: February 2011

It’s hot as hell in here

– Contributed by Big L

I have my mat, water bottle and large towel in hand. At my regular yoga studio I use their mats, so having to bring a kit bag with all of these supplies, plus a change of clothes, feels like a fair bit of effort. Hmph. Plus, my yoga mat isn’t the fanciest. It’s OK for at-home use, but I don’t know how it’s going to hold up in the sauna. We shall see.

I leave my socks on for now, because everyone’s bare feet padding around from the washroom to the sweaty studio and back again kind of grosses me out. It reminds me of my many days spent at the pool. But we wore shower sandals on the pool deck, because many feet makes for many germs. Yucky.

I crack open the door and step inside. Holy mother of god. It’s as hot as hell in here. My lungs tighten. My stomach gets a little closer to my throat. Is this for real? I glance over at Wee C, wide-eyed, and she gestures to a spot in the corner where we can put our mats side by side. I lay down as quickly as possible, trying not to over exert myself already.

My heart is pounding. I can hear it in my ears and feel it pumping in my arms and stomach. It’s several minutes before class begins, thank goodness. I need time to pull myself together. Deep breaths. In for 1….2….3….hold….out for 1….2….3.

My mind is reeling.

“You can do this. You like the heat. Imagine you’re on the beach. In Barbados. It was bloody hot there. You like it.”

“Focus. Deep breaths. Calm the hell down.”

In for 1….2….3….hold….out for 1….2….3.

“I feel queasy already. Crap. How long would it take me to dart to the bathroom? Has that ever happened to someone? Surely not everyone can manage to exercise in a sauna? I should have ate less at dinner. Crap.”

In for 1….2….3….hold….out for 1….2….3.

“Why don’t they give you a warning? Shouldn’t they have said something, like ‘drink lots of water’ or ‘go into child’s pose if you feel lightheaded?’ Something?”

In for 1….2….3….hold….out for 1….2….3.

“OK, cut it out. You can do this. You know the poses. Just settle down, concentrate, breathe, listen to your body. You can do it.”

The teacher instructs us to roll over into child’s pose. I wonder how long it’s going to take before I start sweating. I don’t sweat much. This should be interesting.

Slowly, she leads us through a sequence of familiar poses. And good thing, because they’re not explained in nearly as much detail as I’m used to. She explains how to enter and exit the pose, but not where you should be feeling it, and where you shouldn’t, and how to make adjustments. And there’s no Sanskrit being spoken, sadly.

I try to recall the things my brilliant teachers have taught me over the past six months. I try to self correct and adjust. All the while, being on the look out for any wooziness.

About half way through, I start to think maybe I’ll make it. Maybe I won’t pass out or puke. That’s nice. I’m also sweating by now. All I can smell is the onion, green pepper and garlic I had in my pasta sauce. Yuck.

“How many people actually know what this pose is supposed to feel like? Is this the only yoga they’ve ever learned?”

With that thought, I realize the appreciation I have for my fave studio, where the girls are extremely knowledgable and talented. I’m in awe of how much they know about the human body. It’s fascinating, really. And I much prefer that over this.

But nevertheless, I concentrate and make it through. Being grossed out by my pasta sauce smell along the way. And wishing I didn’t hate shorts so much, because it’d be reeeal nice to be wearing them right now.

I stay very concentrated on my own activities and personal space. I don’t want to know how other people are huffing, puffing, sweating, or smelling. I pretend I’m the only one in the room.

And then, it’s over. I realize I made it. And actually, it wasn’t so bad. Not really.

So after navigating around the tight quarters and naked bodies in the changing room (not the most fun), I sign up for a 30-day trial pass. In part because it’s cheap and because I’m looking for added motivation to be working out on the regular. But also, because that’s what 30 Things maintenance is all about. Once a month, I still need to push myself to have an open mind and be open to new experiences. So I will try this sweat lodge yoga thing again. Just to experiment. But after that, I reserve the right to never do it again.

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Making The Rules

– Contributed by Wee C

I’ve always said that I could run for politics because I’d be one of the few people I know who has only a handful of skeletons in their closet. And, truth be told, the few skeletons I have aren’t so much skeletons as dolls that got put away after I got too old. I don’t have a particularly storied past filled with missteps and wrong doings. Sure, I have a few (that I could count on one hand, for Pete’s sake), but nothing remarkable. There’s one simple reason for this: I’m a rule follower. I respect the rules, I follow the rules, I seriously embrace the rules. Which may or may not make me a tragically drab person. I, however, believe I make up for it in other ways. Someone, anyone back me up here??

But I’ve realized something incredibly important in the past week. I don’t follow my own rules. I follow everyone else’s. And I do it because I want them to be happy with me. Over the moon happy with me. I followed my parents’ rules, I followed the church’s rules, I followed my husband’s rules,  I followed all of my boss’ rules over the years, I’ve followed friends’ rules, heck, I’ve even followed the rules of people I don’t much like or care about. All in the name of securing the approval of others. Is she that desperate, you ask? In fact, I may very well be. But I think it’s something different. For me it’s always been more about doing what’s right. I’ve always felt that respecting other people’s rules was more important than respecting my own because putting others first was right and “that’s what makes you a good person, isn’t it?”. And truthfully, that’s all I really want in life…to be considered a kind, respectful, good person.

Now, this may seem all very altruistic, but over a chat with Big L, we explored this approach to life and found a massive flaw. In following everyone else’s rules, I expect that they will too. Heck, if I can give them that courtesy, surely they will return the favour? But most people don’t pay as much attention to the rules as I do…even if they’re making them. So often people don’t even follow their own rules.  The problem is when I’m following their rules, but they’re not, or they change the rules (as routinely happens), the disappointment I feel is overwhelming. It causes me an inordinate amount of stress. It makes me really angry and hurt. I followed all your rules, damn it, why are you changing them? Why aren’t you following them? What did I do wrong? Did I screw up again? It’s not their faults, they’re human. But it sure is disappointing and disillusioning. It causes me to question humanity and, truthfully, it breaks my heart.

In the midst of this realization, this week someone incredibly close to me broke every, single one of their own rules. Rules that I had believed to be true for as long as I had known them. Rules that I deeply admired and loved them for. Rules that I believed with a certainty beyond reason. Rules that allowed me to trust them implicitly (and in fact caused me to vehemently defend them to other people). Rules that I had followed and embraced as my own. Rules that I thought could never and would never be broken.

But they were. They were broken in the most catastrophic and devastating way imaginable. I can honestly say that Friday was the worst day of my life. And the aftershock continues to pulse through my body, finding its way into the nooks and crannies and dark crevices of my life.

As you’ve no doubt come to realize about me, I’m not much for letting an opportunity to learn pass me by. So, true to form, this experience taught me a pretty important life lesson: live your life by your own rules, Wee C. I’ve talked about this through my 30 Things journey, and I’ve genuinely tried to embrace this notion, but have never done so successfully…at least not fully and completely. But now, well I’m operating in a new world order these days. One that’s unfamiliar in every way possible. Everything else is changing, and it’s time to embrace this ideal.

So, I started by following my own rules. For the past couple of days I’ve done what I believe is the right thing to do. It may not be what others agree with, but I’m OK with that. Acting this way felt big and bold and scary. But it also made me feel more comfortable in my own skin than I have in a long time, if only for a moment.

I have an uphill internal battle ahead of me, which, despite being surrounded by incredible friends and family, it’s a battle that I need to go through alone. Supported, loved and being cheered on from the sidelines, but ultimately, alone. That means the only rules I can take with me are my own. And to that I say: onward and upward.

The five reasons we should pay it forward

-Contributed by Big L

I guess it’s hard for people who are so used to things the way they are – even if they’re bad – to change. ‘Cause they kind of give up. And when they do, everybody kind of loses.  – from Pay It Forward

Pay it forward; a concept I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

To me, it’s not just about receiving and giving acts of kindness (although that’s nice), it’s about sharing your insights and struggles so other people can reflect on and benefit from what you’ve experienced. It’s about not giving up or shutting up. Because like the quote says, when you do, you’re not the only one who loses.

Here are five reasons why I believe we should pay it forward more often:

1.) There is positive meaning to be found in even the most uncomfortable things we experience. I know, easy to say when my life is bountiful and easy right? But things like sick pets, outlook-altering experiences, and hard lessons definitely count – and I’ve had those recently. Anything that upsets the balance and order in your world in a big way, counts. Those things can be uncomfortable, yucky, scary, and even devastating. But I believe there are always benefits within them. They always make us better for the next time and they give us the gift of having overcome adversity, learned something new, and solved a problem.

In other words, there is always a nugget of insight; something we’ll carry with us beyond the negative stuff we felt while we were in the thick of it.

2.)  We all possess the power of communication. Again, easy for me to say because I’m a professional communicator, right? But when things happen to me – lessons are learned, hardships are endured, mistakes are made, perspectives are altered – I can’t help but pause and think “Hmmm. What is the lesson here? How can I help make the world (or at least my world) a little better through this experience?” You don’t need to work in public relations to ask yourself that. We all have the ability to speak, write or express ourselves in some way. That’s a big, powerful tool.

3.) As a society, we share a lot of sentiments. Despite how alone we might feel when going through something icky, the truth is there is someone – and probably many, many people – who can relate. Sure, the exact circumstances of the death, sickness, break up, job loss, failure, or change will be unique. But the self-talk, thoughts and emotions associated with it are most likely not. Sadness, worry, fear, disappointment, regret, uncertainty, and anger? They’re a common human condition. When we’re in those places, very rarely are we actually alone.

4.) Life is a continuum. In other words, where I am in life – physically, emotionally, mentally – is not where everyone else is. Even if someone had the same experience as me at the same time, I may have moved through it faster or differently than they have. I may have discovered something they overlooked. Therefore, they could probably benefit from what I learned along the way. Certainly the people who end up in that place after me could benefit from my experience.

Think about it:

You’re visiting a new city. You check your map and notice there are multiple routes to get from your hotel to the restaurant you want to try. Because you don’t know the area, wouldn’t it make sense to ask a local for the best way to get there? If they know about traffic, construction, one way streets, or sketchy neighbourhoods, don’t you want to know? You could figure it out on your own, most definitely, but you’d appreciate their insight, yes?

I rest my case.

5.) Sometimes, it’s not about you (or me). Sometimes, really bad things happen to really good people. Sometimes, we get the short end of the stick. Have you ever wondered if sometimes, we’re dealt a shitty hand so that we can teach or save someone else in the process? I have. I’ve wondered whether untimely death, critical illness, divorce, and hardship have happened to people I know so that they can lead the way for others. For me, or for someone in their family, or maybe for an anonymous person who reads their blog post or overhears their conversation at Starbucks.

So far, my thought process ends there. But as I reflect on the life lessons happening within me and around me right now, I can’t help but wonder: how can we all do a better job of paying it forward?

Conditionless Love

– Contributed by Wee C

When I was young and I would hit a low point, my mother was always there with arms wide open, a free hand to stroke my head, and her famous line “it’s hard to be a little girl”, which she said to me long after “little girl” was still an appropriate term. Regardless, it was always what I needed to talk me off the ledge. I grew up knowing exactly what unconditional love felt like.

Lately, my mom and dad have been back in full-on support mode. These days, they don’t need to talk me off the ledge…I’ve learned how to stay back from the danger zone…and my mom doesn’t tell me it’s hard to be a little girl any more (although she still strokes my head from time to time), but they’re once again showing me what unconditional love truly means. It’s not big or grandiose. It doesn’t swoon or gush. It doesn’t walk through the door with flowers (although sometimes it does come in the form of a home cooked meal). It’s simply consistent and predictable. It’s being there because you said you would always be there and for no other reason than that. It’s giving what you can, even if that’s only the size of a pebble. It is exactly what it says it is: loving without conditions.

And that’s where I think we as humans falter. Somehow, we’ve learned to love with all kinds of conditions attached to that love. “I’ll love you if you do this”, or “I’ll love you, but only if you don’t do that”. We’ve given one another labels: boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father, husband, wife. And within those labels we have assigned job descriptions, must-dos, qualifications. We’ve become so tied up in what another person’s “role” is within our lives, that we’ve forgotten what it’s really about: love in the unconditional form. A celebration of who the other person is, not frustration in who they are not.

So, as we approach the Hallmark-sanctioned day of love, here’s my challenge to you. Look at your relationships. How are you applying labels and expectations to others in your lives? What are you telling them they must do in order to earn your love? Have you forgotten what unconditional love looks like? I did. And so did my husband. And the results were disastrous and I fear, irreversible.

Life wraps its grip around all of us, and it’s so easy to say “tomorrow, I’ll be kinder, more loving tomorrow, but today, I’m too stressed, too tired, and you’re annoying me.” What I’ve learned is that at some point, tomorrow simply doesn’t come. And even though deep down you know that you love the people in your life with a love that is so profound it takes your breath away, if you’re not loving them unconditionally, you’re not loving them enough.

I owe my parents a lifetime of gratitude. I can’t remember a single time that they have ever made me feel as though I am a burden or nuisance to them. Yes, arriving late to a family dinner has noticeably annoyed my dad, but a big hug has always been more than enough to wipe the slate clean. And so, these days, as I spend a lot of time looking at what the future will bring, the only thing that I’m sure of is that conditionless love will abound.

Indeed, gratitude is uber important

– Contributed by Big L

Something I'm celebrating!

Lately, I’ve been feeling frustrated. January is odd like that, isn’t it? The sugar withdrawl from the holidays, the dropping temps, the swirling thoughts about what the year will bring, the self-imposed pressure of new resolutions and commitments, and the uncertainty about how and where to start. Indeed, January is a weird month.

As I’m sure you know, Wee C and I both strongly believe in the power of positive thought. The law of attraction you may prefer to call it. Or, simply a belief in something bigger. Some power, force or magic that exists in the universe around us. We both try to leverage that magic as much as we can. We ask for what we want. We write and talk in positives. We turn everything into an opportunity. We try to put as little negative energy into the world as possible, knowing it will come back to bite us if we do. We believe that what’s meant to happen, will.

But you know what? Even the most positive, fate-believing person is only human. Even people like us falter; sometimes in a big way. Sometimes we find ourselves temporarily stuck in a zone that leaves us dwelling about the unknown, obsessing about what we could’ve done differently, panicking about the state of our bank accounts or lives, or longing for more of something, instead of being grateful for the many, many somethings we already have.

This past month we’ve both been feeling a little stuck in that place, although for very different reasons. Regardless of why and regardless of the extent of it – how dramatic and ominous it is or isn’t – it’s still a shitty place to be.

And it’s tough for me to not be hard on myself for being there. Because I know, I know, that if I have negative thoughts, I will get negative returns. It literally makes me nervous and anxious; I start scolding myself by saying things like “You’d better stop that right fuckin now. You’re going to get what you’re asking for.”

Where’s the panic button? I’m ready to press it! I need to turn my thoughts and actions around, 180 degrees, stat!

This morning, I’m resolving to start the turn. Maybe even if I make it 90 degrees, I’ll feel better. Over coffee and a bagel, I just spent 45 minutes writing five pages of gratitude notes. In five pages, I thanked 24 people for things I want them to do. I started every note with Thank You and ended every note with I Appreciate You. I wrote every note as if that thing had already happened.

I thanked clients for paying me promptly. I thanked will-be clients for hiring me. I thanked the wedding photographer and caterer I want, I thanked friends for doing me specific favours, I thanked someone I don’t even know for coming into my life to take a project off my plate that I’m trying to get rid of. I thanked people for a whole host of things I want to happen. I appreciated them.

The next step? A reflection of all of the great things that January brought into my life. There was a lot of them, despite feelings of the contrary.

Gratitude is uber important. I am grateful that in January 2011:

1) I became a Shareholder of a now incorporated small business.
2) I, together with Wee C, launched a 30 Things community (which now has 37 members, BTW!).
3) I watched three Oscar-nominated movies with my Dad.
4) I won two big pieces of right-fit business.
5)  I spoke to a class of budding PR students and received an amazingly sweet note from one of them, thanking me for my inspiration.
6) I resumed creative writing Fridays on my work blog.
7) I had a very inspiring brunch meeting about a potentially crazy-good opportunity, which I can’t really talk about yet.
8 )  I became a Season 4 Stratejoy blogger (note the badge up top; that’s me!), an opportunity I’m extremely excited about.
9) I created two themes for my year.
10) I completed a personal vision board and wedding vision board, and they give me comfort daily.
11) I started reading Rework, a mindbogglingly good book.
12) I swiped my credit card for a trip to a sexy hotel in the Mayan Riviera for a dear friend’s wedding. It’s going to be an absolute blast and the cost will become irrelevant.
13) I received three more Bust a Move donations and got thisclose to surpassing the $1,000 minimum.
14) I had many productive discussions with my new Red Balloon team members, Wee C and Ben (BIG news – a separate post on that life change will follow later!)
15)  I went to several yoga classes with my Mom.
16) I looked at a dream-come-true wedding venue with Hunny.
17) I received apology flowers from a sweet person.
18) A made an action plan for upholding my values this year.
19) I participated in two helpful business coaching calls with three very special ladies.
20) I had dinner with three other lovely ladies who I don’t spend enough time with.

See? That’s almost one thing per day! I could probably come up with more if I really tried.

Because the thing is, there’s always things to celebrate, big and small. And celebrating them will attract more celebrations! That’s where my energy needs to go, right there.

P.S. My debut post on Stratejoy went live yesterday, check it out. I’ll be sharing there every Wednesday for the next six months and I really hope you’ll visit!