Tag Archives: Change

Coming Back and Moving On

– Contributed by Wee C

Coming back is what I hate and love the most about any trip. I loathe the day before/travel day. That sense of despair that comes with returning to reality and accepting that the bliss of vacation simply can’t last forever. You pack with far less enthusiasm than you did pre-vacation. Your mood turns a bit somber, already remembering memories that you haven’t yet finished creating. You hold onto that pina colada with a death grip, sucking every last morsel out of the bottom of the cup. Mucho rum! Mucho rum! Insert long, heavy, sad sigh here.

But not long after that comes the post-vacation recall. I find myself smiling at random things, remembering how lovely it all was. Others may have lost their memory on the trip, and are quite likely smiling about that, too. For me, though, vacations almost always yield insights. You become quiet enough to reflect, to see life for what it is (and isn’t), to find the you that may have been lost in the driving pace of work, a troubled relationship, or just simply the mundane rhythm of life. You’re stimulated in ways you would never be at home, you experience and try things that the shackles of life may otherwise prevent, and damn it all, I guarantee you just have way more fun.

Coming back inevitably helps me to move on. I mean that both literally and figuratively. Yesterday, I came back from a beyond delightful trip to Mexico, filled with friends (old and new), laughter, and a little bit of misbehaving. Yesterday, I literally came back from one of the more memorable experiences in my life, one that has helped me move on in more ways than I can count. For that, I am grateful.

Figuratively, I’m also coming back. I’m coming back from a journey that was dark and lonely, and pretty darned miserable. It was a journey (because it sure as hell wasn’t a vacation) that led me to places I never wanted to visit and to experience things I had worked so hard to not have to experience. But, the truth of the matter was I took the journey. I went through it. I owned it. Oh, I make it sound so noble. Let’s be clear, I didn’t go willingly. But with encouragement from Big L (well, it may have been more firm directive), she sent me on a Dante-esque journey through purgatory and hell, telling me to open myself up to experiencing every ounce of pain that can I could possibly handle (she’s such a good friend). Because, as she says, you can’t action your way out of tragedy, you simply have to experience it. Seriously, where does this wisdom come from?

Truth be told, I had the same feelings about coming back from my nasty, miserable, no-fun-at-all journey as I do about the wonderful, delightful ones. Leaving it behind felt kind of sad. In the middle of my journey, I thought I would be stuck there forever…like the plane WOULD NEVER LEAVE. And boy, did I want it to leave. But crossing over to return home felt like I was leaving a piece of me behind. Indeed I was. Now that I’m here, though, I realize that it’s coming back that allows you to move on.

I don’t know that I won’t have to take another crummy trip in the not-so-distant future, in fact I fully expect I will have to, but what I can guarantee is that I’ll get on the bus and go, however bumpy, vomit-inducing and painful it may be. Because, boys and girls, the lesson of the day is that you have to go to come back. It’s not rocket science, but the outcome is equally profound.

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.

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.

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.

December Maintenance: An Empty Tree

Mine and hubby’s lives? They’ve been pretty darned blessed. We both grew up in families that took incredible care of us, never wanting for anything (well, except a pony…but I’m still holding out for that), always donning the latest fashions (well, save for the skinny jeans, of course), and always with a car sitting in the yard waiting for us to drive (and, dare I say, a gas card to fuel it with). Indeed, at a very early age, we understood all-to-well what it was like “to have”.

Now, let’s be clear. I’m not talking gobs of stuff: diamonds, multiple cars, caviar or our own personal collections of Louis Vuitton. We weren’t that kind of privileged (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course). We were simply well taken care of. Comfortable. Cozy, even.

And truthfully, I never thought much of it until we got out on our own and realized that our standards were high. Damn high. Like, who do we think we are, high. Combine these high standards with upwardly mobile careers, making increasingly more money every year, and we were just fanning the fire. One that would eventually suck us right into the white, hot centre.

For a long time, we lived our lives fancying about, enjoying all that comfort. Dinner parties complete with legs of lamb, endless wine and new plates and cutlery (things had to match, you know). Lovely throw pillows, smelly candles and soaps, chef’s-quality pots and pans, 3,000 jackets (each), and a few European adventures thrown in. It wasn’t an extravagant life, but it sure was a wee bit excessive. We likely could have done with a few less candles and a few more pieces of chicken (skin on and bone in, even). We were wasteful. We didn’t need all that stuff, but we sure did like to have it.

I make it sound as if all this is in the past. Let me be the first to own up to the fact that we’re not totally reformed. We still misbehave from time to time. But life caught up with us. Careers changed (and restarted), the burden of a mortgage crept in, and, well, other debt also found its way into our lives. I’m quite certain no one told me I’d pay for my wedding for the following 10 years. Consider yourself warned. Basically, we became like everyone else. Grown ups, accountable for grown up-like things. Nothing particularly different from anyone else. Just grown ups.

In response, we’ve had to reform our lives…to grown up lives. At first, we fought it. It somehow felt unfair, like a child who had a big bag of candy and the mean bully took it away. Then we (read: I) got depressed. Wasn’t I working my behind off to be able to do more, accumulate more, eat more (and better), get more? More, more more. And, then, I got determined. Determined that I would beat debt and reclaim my life. Insert the world’s evil laugh here. Wee C, that’s simply not how it works.

But recently, I’ve realized that amidst that journey, I’ve changed. We’ve changed. See, we cut back. A lot. And we didn’t die. Our lives didn’t become less meaningful or less fulfilling. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Yes, folks, it’s a Christmas miracle. In spending less, I suddenly feel like we have more. The burden of always needing something is a significant one. I don’t care whether it’s the fanciest shampoo or a new Coach purse, when you’re in the mindset of acquiring, you always need something. Break that habit, and you suddenly find that your “needs” are a lot less than what you think.

And, so, my December maintenance comes in the form of doing less. Well, spending less. Our normal Christmas? You got it, it was excessive. Multiple gifts of all shapes and sizes under the tree, stockings stuffed full, and a fridge bulging at the seams. This year? We’ve committed to simply enjoying the season, with the gifts to ourselves being a stress-free, less-is-more kind of holiday. For the first time in my adult life (and in my relationship with hubby), we’re simply filling stockings. No additional gifts under the tree, just socks filled with goodies. Now, to be perfectly transparent, there will be a few indulgent items in those socks, but it won’t look like Santa’s sleigh tipped over as he passed over our house.

Currently, I have an empty tree in my living room. There’s not a single thing wrapped and under it. A year ago, I would have been disheartened by this. Today, I’m joyful. My December maintenance represents much of what life has become for me: stripping things back and enjoying life without the gloss we so often want to put on it. Ok, so to be fair, I like me a bit of gloss. I always will. But I’m just trying to avoid living in a glass house. That somehow seems a dangerous situation.

I Want You To Know…

– Contributed by Wee C

Today, a woman I deeply admire bore it all. She wrote a blog post that is as honest and exposing as a blog post (or a conversation or a story) can be. A woman, who is an overachiever, who has demonstrated nothing but success and whose appearance is always impeccable was brave enough to tell the world that things are not always as they appear. She shared stories about real, legitimate anxiety attacks. She openly wondered how this could happen to HER; how she could be the girl leaving the doctor’s office with two mental health prescriptions in hand. And she admitted to being the lost girl who so many thought was found.

I can only imagine the feeling she experienced as she guided her mouse to the “Post” button on the draft page of her blog. The anticipation of knowing that sharing this blog post would be like standing naked in Times Square during rush hour traffic. You see, for those of us who blog, writing in draft format is liberating; it’s like a journal that’s under lock and key. But pressing “Post” is like leaving your diary wide open to the deepest, darkest page in the book.

“I’ve spent the majority of my 32 years being THAT girl. The one who has to have every moment of her day jam packed, planned and neatly lined up in front of her. The girl who cried her eyes out in a McDonald’s drive-thru because the plan was to go to Wendy’s. McDonald’s wasn’t the part of the plan and so, overwhelmed with anxiety and lack of control, she sobbed the whole way through her Quarter Pounder. True story. That was me.”

So why am I paying such homage to this woman, aside from the fact that she is more remarkable to me today than she was as her pristine, flawless former self? Because today was a big day in her world. Today she took a step that many of us would never be brave enough to take, let alone be self-aware enough to articulate. And because today was a big day in her world, it’s a big day in all of ours. Today, she took the pressure off those of use who know exactly what she means when she says: “But the truth is, I’m still losing myself on a daily basis. I’m over committed and I’m striving for perfection in each and every task on my to-do list.”

Perhaps most importantly, she implicitly said something that I believe more of us need to say to one another. To anyone who reads her post, she said: I want you to know. I believe that for all of us to be able to cope with the human condition, we need to tell one another what we feel, as ugly and unflattering and dark as it may seem. We need to let others know that they are not alone. We need to share our experiences so that we can learn and grow together. We need to talk openly and honestly and not be embarrassed by feelings and situations that no one (not one single one of us) is excluded from having (knowingly or not).

So, today, here’s what I want all of you to know:

  • Anxiety, depression, or even just the blues can happen to absolutely anyone, no matter how cheery you were as a kid, regardless of how many wonderful people you have in your life, no matter how perfect your home, job and family may or may not be. And, from personal experience, simply opening your mouth (and perhaps your mind) is the most profound experience you will have on the road to recovery, even if you just say it aloud to yourself.
  • Here’s the secret about perfectionism: it’s a completely and utterly unattainable goal. You will not reach it in this lifetime. Stop trying. Someone remind me of this when I wake up tomorrow, will you?
  • And, thirty-somethings of the future, I want you to know that your life will not be more fulfilled by over-filling your plates when you are 18, nor will you achieve greater successes by being a martyr for your job than you would if you lived a life of balance, and you certainly will not have a more full life by allowing stress to lead your life rather than peace. Yes, strive for excellence in what you do. Yes, work hard to be an accomplished individual. Yes, push beyond the status quo whenever you can. But do not prostitute your own life for the sake of being an overachieving workaholic. It will catch up with you, I can guarantee it.

And so, dear readers, over to you. What do you want the world to know? Please, share your wisdom. We all need it.

#2 of 30: Wee C the Card Shark

– Contributed by Wee C

You know those people who will try anything? Love to explore a new undertaking? Find great satisfaction in just givin’ it a whirl? Yeah, that’s not me. If I’m not good at something the first time I try it, I don’t want to do it. But how can you know if you’re not good at something unless you try it, you ask? I’m willing to not find out. Which is a real pickle considering I’d damn near have to be a prodigy to actually do ANYTHING in life based on this rationale. Oh, wait, that about sums it up.

Note: I just Goggled the word prodigy to be sure I was using it correctly. Clearly. I had to. It was the first time I’ve used prodigy in a written sentence; I had to use it perfectly to feel comfortable with publishing it on the blog.

So, this hang up of mine really boils down to a high need to be perfect. Boy, there’s a reasonable and achievable aspiration in life. But I’ve owned that goal and valiantly worked towards achieving it for my whole freakin’ life. Part of my hope with 30 Things is that I could overcome this need for perfection, to let myself off the hook from time to time, to actually try something new without the need to master it immediately.

Not long after my 3 am visit to the casino during the Hindu wedding, an opportunity to go back presented itself. The hubby and his buddies wanted to go to the casino. “I’ll go and watch,” I thought.

As the boys doubled-down, split their hands, and told the nice lady to hit them, I uncomfortably stood back from the table hoping that no one would ask me to sit in for a hand. Why, you ask? I had never played Black Jack, and therefore assumed I would suck at it. More specifically, I had visions of yelling out “full house” followed by everyone in the casino turning to look at me, pointing and laughing. Have I mentioned that I have tendencies of being self-absorbed? Or is the fact that I started a blog about me not blatant enough?

Right, so back to the casino. Indeed, I could hide no longer. My husband, a wonderful, caring, and pushy as hell man, not-so-gently reminded me that I ought to suck it up or I’d never get through those 30 Things. I say pushy because he literally pushed me (gently, of course) into the seat at the table, gave me my $40 and told me to play. I’m quite certain I started to itch. I didn’t know the rules of the game. I didn’t know whether to say “hit me” on 17 or hold. But in that uncomfortable situation, I quickly began to learn the ropes. And I became comfortable.

In fact, I’m awesome at Black Jack. Yes, I’m awesome (even perfect, really) at a completely random game of chance. I took home $175 for my $40 investment. But I beat more than the house. I beat myself at my own game.

#1 of 30: The Hindu Wedding

– Contributed by Wee C

I fell in love early. Eleven years and a lifetime of growing up ago. We were already friends, so the courtship was short…but the “I’m going to spend every waking moment with you and hate you when you’re doing anything else but spending time with me” timeframe was a wee bit long. Like five years too long. And suffocating. And downright crazy town. But when you’re 19 and in the throngs of dedicating every.single.moment to your beloved, well, any behaviour other than senseless passion and commitment just seems hollow, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?

Before I go on, let me be perfectly and abundantly clear. I adore and love my husband. Really, truly love and adore him. I’m more smitten today than I was when we first started dating. But for the first five of the past 11 years, I didn’t do anything social alone. I all but wrote off my friends (you all thought I didn’t know, right?). And I gave up my independence for the greater good of our little world of two. Explains a bit about what happened to my 20s, eh? So part of my 30 Things was about regaining my ability to be OK to be alone…well, alone in a crowd of people my own age, socializing in the way that people my own age tend to do. You know, like a Nell-esque re-entry into society. Only with clean hair and real words.

On June 22 (that’s my birthday), I boldly stated that I was embarking on a journey to take me into 30. “I’m going to do 30 new things that I’ve never done before,” I chirped. What I really meant was “Aren’t I endearing and fascinating? Shouldn’t I write a book about this wonderful idea?” Chirp, chirp. On June 27, the world called my bluff.

I’m in the business of managing expectations, so I feel the need to do so now: for all of you normally functioning 20-somethings, my first “30 thing” will seem nothing short of underwhelming. Boy, that was a great sell-job to encourage you to keep reading, yes? But, based on what you’ve read about me above (and elsewhere), you’ll come to understand why the first thing on my list truly set the standard.

On June 27, I attended my friend’s Hindu wedding. Alone. Without my handsome crutch. I went alone not knowing what to expect, not realizing that the groom would ride in on horseback (seems Halifax was fresh out of elephants that day) and his soon-to-be-in-laws would steal his shoes…repeatedly. I went alone not knowing how long the ceremony would be or what it would entail. I went alone knowing that there would be dinner and…gasp…dancing, of which I will normally have no part of. All of this added up to a particularly unknown situation; the likes of which I would normally just say no to.

But, here’s the next thing you need to know about 30 Things. There is no pre-existing list. 30 Things is not a bucket list. C’mon, why would a girl who has too much stress in her life create a list of things she needs to check off in order to help herself chill out? A bit counter-productive, eh? No, 30 Things is 80 per cent about saying yes to things I would normally say no to. And going to a Hindu wedding by myself was most definitely something I would normally say no to. Hence, as the first item on my list, the world had indeed called my bluff.

The day and night…and morning…turned out to be the most fun I had in years. I caught up with old high-school friends that I hadn’t seen since I was 18. I laughed and danced and danced some more. I was at the Casino AT 3 IN THE MORNING! And took a cab home at 4 am. That night, was most definitely the epitome of being comfortably uncomfortable. Nothing felt normal or comfortable to me. At least not to the me I had become. But the younger version of me – the one who existed before I became completely obsessed with being a grown up – she remembered what it was like to have fun, be silly, and let her hair down. She was pretty comfortable in that uncomfortable situation. And me? I thought she was pretty cool, so I asked her to stay. Turns out, she was quite agreeable to sticking around.