The 6 Month Mark

If anyone out there is wondering what it’s like to quit your job and pursue your dreams, I’ll give you a little update.

At six months in I feel great. I actually feel great most of the time about the direction my career has taken, if you don’t account for those moments of panic and insecurity. Yes, those moments still come at you with full force six months in. My future is still unknown, but I’m thinking, humph, so is everyone’s, right? You cannot plan out the future because you have no idea what will be given to you. You can try to plan, and having something in place is important, but once life throws you those curveballs what’s more important is learning to readjust. We can’t get too caught up in our plans, we just have to live life. So, in that regards, I’m enjoying the living.

Financially it took about three months to adjust. By January I had pretty much adapted to having much less and then began to donate even more. Funny, the less you have the more you realize the less you need. When money isn’t at your disposal you notice where and how you spend it, and also how you view it. It’s been an interesting case study – money and me. What having money means and what having little also means. We tie so much to the almighty dollar when so many people live miserably just so they don’t have to live miserly. I don’t think happy and poor is an easy state of affairs either, but we need to find a balance. Work hard, but seriously play harder and live more. It’s interesting to stop and ask yourself “How much is enough?” (good luck answering that).

This job – writing and teaching yoga – is my most difficult job to date. Isn’t that funny? I (mistakenly) thought that this would be…well, a dream. How wonderful it would be to wake up and write and then head to a studio and teach a class. Easy, right? Except it isn’t. It’s actually hard work. Ha! Who knew?

Writing involves a lot more editing and re-writing then I’d ever imagined. It’s a questionable combo – my impatience and my desire to write a book. I’ve learned this will take time. Definitely more time than I had planned. Sometimes I wonder if I can do it, but the only way I’ll figure that out is if I continue to try. Is this book going to make or break me? I’m surprising myself by answering no. It isn’t about this one book. It’s about giving myself this time to write and discover. I’ll keep working, making my way towards the end, but that finish line may look completely different than the one I pictured six months ago. Which is OK. Somehow I know I’m going the right way.

Teaching yoga has given me a great insight into the expectations we put on people. Before I stood before a yoga class I figured my teachers were these natural creatures in a constant state of Zen. Am I in a constant state of Zen? Ask my lovely partner, David. On second thought, please don’t. Just know that I try. And I tried really hard to be Zen about the longest Canadian winter of my life but I tell you, yoga teachers freak out. I lose it. I curse. I drink wine, beer and the occasional gin and tonic. I eat meat and wish I could master forearm stand. I am far from perfect and it has taken becoming a teacher myself to learn that my teachers, past and present, are in the same boat. This little eye-opener has made me appreciate yoga and my teachers even more. Those imperfect creatures are closer to their students then I ever realized – we are all in this together.

So this is me. Six months in and learning. Six months in and extremely grateful that I took this leap when I did. I have no idea what the next six months will bring, but I’m enjoying the living and ensuring I don’t focus on the finish. Because that’s it, right there, isn’t it? If our entire life is lived according to the finish line we will have missed it all.

 

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Hit the Re-Set Button

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I get it. Life is busy. Work is demanding. Family time is important. Eating needs tending to and so do your other commitments. We are going full speed ahead and sometimes cannot see a moment to slow it down.

But do it.

Slow it down.

Stop.

Breathe.

Now take 3 deep breaths – inhale, exhale, repeat.

Yes, I’m reminding you how to breathe. Not because I think you’ve forgotten, but because we can forget to notice what it feels like to breathe.

When I slow down – regardless of where I am – and check in with 3 deep breaths it’s actually amazing what can happen. I know I know, you might think I throw the word amazing around (that almond milk is truly amazing!) but right here I mean it. Amazing. Why? Because it makes me pause. It makes me block out anything and everything else. I could be walking the dog, standing in line at the grocery store, seated in a restaurant or sitting on my own typing a blog. 3 deep breaths. It’s like hitting the re-set button.

Taking those few seconds to stop everything and fill up your lungs is a moment of peace that you might not otherwise find in your day.

I dare you to try.

Right now. 3 deep breaths. Notice.

Any difference?

Encouragement Comes In All Forms

I’m writing, teaching, thinking and doing. Life is busy and quiet all at once. The snow is melting, Winter will inevitably turn into Spring and with that new life will blow through these windows and wake me up from hibernation. This Winter has been kind and tough. I’ve cocooned myself away, caught up on sleep, increased my yoga practice and finally gave in to the pleas to watch Breaking Bad (DUDE, that’s one INTENSE show). I plan on using the last few weeks of snow to slowly wake up from my Winter slumber, and I anxiously await the energy and renewal that Spring promises to bring. 

As I take small steps from Winter to Spring I am reminded of a poem that literally fell into my lap one day. I am normally not drawn to poetry, but within the first two lines I was hooked and have since read this one over and over about a thousand million times. I share it in case you find yourself on your own journey – whether simple or complicated – and could use some encouragement. 

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice – 

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations – 

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice,

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do – 

determined to save

the only life you could save. 

Mary Oliver

What Keeps You Going?

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I am a writer yet I cannot find the words to explain why. Is there a word for this feeling? This magnetic pull to my keyboard that I cannot shake-off nor deny? What would they call this? Insanity? Desire? Need? Love?

Whatever the word, that pull to write is there and it’s inescapable. I was chatting with a dear friend and upon explaining the love I have for the difficulty of writing she asked me, “When this is done, this book you are working on, will you do it again? Will you keep writing?”

“Yes, of course.” I replied without thinking.

Then later I really thought about that answer. Yes, I had told her. Of course I’d keep writing. But why?

Why would I keep doing something if I struggle with it? What motivates me to keep going? There are days when I wonder if I’m the world’s shittiest writer. Then I wonder if writers ever use terminology like ‘shittiest’ and I question my talent even more. On those days especially, how do I encourage myself to continue?

The answer is simple and yet intangible. I am pushed forward by this little artist inside who knows nothing else but the need to write. No matter what I say and how I try to trick and silence her, she presses on. Where I see doubt she sees an excuse. Where I see failure she sees progress. I close the laptop and she reaches down and pulls it back open:

“Try again” She whispers.

And I do.

Whatever your craft, I say do it! Find the time. Try again. Embrace those moments when you wonder if you are the worst and realize that the only way to be a better artist is to allow yourself to be a shitty one.  We learn from doing. Just do it. Don’t judge it. Write. Paint. Play. Sing. Knit.

While the results will not always be magical, each one is a step forward.

I’ve never seen a baby come out of the womb walking – let your artistic inner child learn to crawl, step, walk and run. Then maybe she will soar.

Why I Support Dreamers and the DO WHAT YOU LOVE Philosophy

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When I was growing up my mother always told me, “If you love it, you will be successful.” There was never a push to be a doctor, or a lawyer, marine biologist or teacher – though if I wanted to (and at some point I did want to be each of those) both of my parents would have supported me 100%.

In the past week I’ve come across a couple of articles talking about our present work philosophy that supported my mother’s advice – do what you love. In complete reversal to the normal things I read, these well-written pieces talked about the negative effects of doing what you love and as I poured over each word I couldn’t help but disagree continuously.

One of the things these articles talked about was the undervaluation of work involved in a society that preaches to love what you do. Why?  Why does my desire to be a writer make other people, or myself, undervalue other types of work? There are people I know in MANY different types of roles – garbage collectors, teachers, lawyers, sales people, doctors, entrepreneurs, lab technologists – that love and hate their jobs. There are writers that love their job and writers that hate their job. I love and hate my job. But it’s what I want to do, so I’m trying to do it.

The only person undervaluing other types of vocations are the people who think something is better than another. Every job has its positives and negatives and there really is something for everyone. Was I happy working as a hostess at a restaurant? No. Did I work with colleagues who loved this job? Yes. If you look down on a particular role, ask yourself why? Why can’t you imagine that someone out there is happy being (insert world’s worst job here)?

I don’t think the mantra do what you love means you’ll never have a bad day at work. Do what you love, yes, but realize it will also be hard work and work hard to love it. Do what you love doesn’t create a world of Beyonces practicing their childhood away, but if we didn’t support this idea we wouldn’t have those gifted artists who needed to believe in themselves to keep up their relentless pursuit. This philosophy doesn’t create a world of dreamers, it helps facilitate dreams into reality. Realistic dreams are hopefully the result.

If I could do anything I wanted to do I would be a singer. Yes. Me. Sing. If you’ve ever heard me sing then you know, as well as I do, that this will never happen. This dream took me as far as auditioning for a local musical in my home town of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Did I get the role? Absolutely not. Was I happy I went for it – hell yea. Then I let the dream go.

The purpose of dreaming and reaching isn’t to keep banging on closed doors, it’s to challenge us to see which ones will open. Which doors will give way and which will forever remained closed. I am a dreamer, yes, but also a realist. I need to eat, after all, and help support an adult life full of mortgage payments and bills.

But I also wanted to be a writer. So I wrote on the side, and worked my ass off for 10 years in sales positions that I didn’t love but worked tirelessly at with clear guidance to pay off my student debt and be able to take a chance on myself one day.

Fast forward to one day and here I sit. Behind a laptop typing away. I dreamed I was a writer so I’m writing. Not an easy task, and something that I struggle with at moments, but I’m doing it. Relentlessly. And I’ll keep doing it until the door closes.

My parents told me some other things besides do what you love:

Work hard. 

Respect yourself and others. 

No job/person/home/family is any better than the other. 

Don’t give up.

When I was a kid singing into a branch in the backyard my parents could see I wasn’t the next Madonna, but they let me figure that out on my own. They saw my report card and noticed I was good at English – they supported my decision to major in this in university and left me to figure out what to pair with an English major so that I knew I’d be employable. They watched me finish my MBA and then take job after unfulfilling job, all the while struggling to find time to write and fulfill my passion in other ways. Finally, when I set myself up to step away from the profession I’d worked in for a decade they looked on with words of encouragement and the same amount of doubt that I had. But did they try to stop me? No. Instead they listened to me speak my doubt, kept their own silent, and said:

You’ve never let yourself down. Keep listening to yourself and you’ll know the right thing to do. 

Thank you mom and dad; growing up I thought I had unique parents who supported my unconventional ways. Little did the three of us know that this was a professional philosophy growing in popularity. I hope it continues this way. Without the dreamers I’m not sure what this world would look like – and I don’t want to know.

Pedal by Pedal

Do you have something difficult ahead of you? Ohh, I don’t know, something like writing a book? Or raising a child? Maybe you’ve signed up to do a pilgrimage or run your first marathon? Perhaps you’re going through a difficult break-up or moving to a new country? We all have something ahead of us that requires a little courage and a lot of hard work. 

I don’t know about you but sometimes I wonder if I can finish what I’ve started. My current focus is writing this book of mine and some days as I type fear courses through my veins and whispers in my ear, “You have a lot of work ahead of you.” Then I stop typing, I stare at the screen and I go make a cup of tea. Wondering the entire time how I’ll ever accomplish this massive goal I’ve set. 

I’m not alone, right? We all get stopped by fear. Doubt pulls at our coattails and drags us back a few steps. 

But the mind is a powerful tool. We can leave doubt in our dust by tweaking our perception. 

This morning in spin we began a power climb three-quarters of the way through class. I was tired. My heart was racing and my quadriceps were burning. When the climb began I wondered how I’d make it to the end when my train of thought was interrupted by Victor shouting, “Come on team, let’s get to the top of this mountain pedal by pedal.” And then BOOM. Change of perception. I found the energy to push down my bike pedal. Then I found some more to push down on the other one. Before I knew it, I was dripping in sweat and taking the resistance off of my bike, enjoying the finish before we sprinted back down. 

Nothing else changed in that moment besides how I perceived the challenge ahead. 

If something seems insurmountable, stop looking at the whole picture. Break it down for yourself and make it do-able. 

Today I wrote some paragraphs that turned into some pages. One day those pages will turn into a book, but until then I’ll keep focused on the small steps – the pedal by pedal approach to the top of that mountain. 

 

 

 

 

It’s My Birthday and I Can Grow If I Want To!

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I’m turning 36 today.

The sun is shining and I’m going to have the BEST eggs benny in town for breakfast and then THIS for lunch and dinner. I’m going to soak up the love from friends and family and I’m going to be grateful for all of them in my world. I’ll take Parker for a nice long walk and then get a massage. I’ll drink strong coffee and hold hands with my love. All in all, a perfect day.

I don’t know what the rest of my year will look like but the image above will be the theme. This year I’ll learn that I can plan for a perfect day but not a perfect life.

Life is about progress, not perfection.

On the other side of my mid-30’s it’s much easier to see that I don’t need a perfect life, a perfect relationship, perfect writing or the perfect body. I don’t need the perfect family, or a perfect yoga practice. What I need is my life, my relationships, my writing and my body. I need the family that I have and the yoga practice I experience each time I step on my mat.

I need me, just as I am.

I need my life, just as it is.

Perfection doesn’t exist, and isn’t that knowledge the perfect birthday gift?

What Do You Choose To Love?

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Valentine’s Day – not just a couple-infested holiday but a time to look around, pause and take a breath. It’s about love, after all, and whether you hate the Hallmark moment or not, you can find something in your world to love without condition.

A couple of my friends lost loved ones this week and it’s made me slow down and take life in a little more deliberately. Life isn’t meant to be devoured, it’s meant to be savoured.

Find something you want to devour tomorrow and try and savour it. Piece by little piece. Watch what happens when you slow love down and notice all its’ little intricacies.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

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I remember a time in my life when I felt discontent. And I don’t mean a shitty day, I mean an overall numbing feeling that something was missing. I searched my outside world for months and years, looking to fill up a gaping hole but nothing that I grabbed for did the trick. Discontentment wrapped its’ arms around my shoulders pointing my gaze in the direction of other people who seemed to have it all together.

I was jealous. When I looked at these people, my friends, my family and strangers alike, I wanted their togetherness. I wanted to feel whole. I wanted not to want.

In my head I didn’t measure up, and I wouldn’t measure up until I got a piece of what they had. I told myself that when I had the big job, house, husband, car, kids, vacation, etc etc, I would finally be good enough. My worth would be measurable.

At this time in my life I wasn’t unhappy but I wasn’t at peace. My world was a complicated puzzle and I wondered if I could be happy with once piece always missing – just one piece out of a thousand other pieces, a piece that only showed a bit of the sky and no more, did that ruin the entire thing?

Yes, as it turned out, it did.

Jealously is not only ugly, it’s misleading. We end up striving for a life that someone else wanted to live. When I stepped back and re-evaluated my world I realized that I didn’t need to add to the puzzle, I needed to start taking pieces away.

Somehow I’ve ended up at peace. Instead of looking outside for the world to tell me what’s missing, I look inside and feel whole. I needed to dismantle the puzzle I had created and start with a blank canvas. I threw out the instructions and listened to my instincts. What shape did I want my life to take?

Jealousy was a great teacher – my own personal green buddha. At the time I thought it was a constant reminder of what I didn’t have, but now I realize it was teaching me what I didn’t want. Everyone has his or her own definition of a happy life; we just need to give ourselves permission to live it without apology.