Red Jellybeans…

We’ve often heard that the only thing one can be certain of in life, is uncertainty. Call it change, call it growth, call it whatever you will, I call it – stress, discombobulation, and absolute chaos.

While knowing that the sun will always rise in the east, and fall in the west – I cannot count on seeing the sun every, single day. For some, this is not a big a deal. They roll with the punches and most of all, they don’t put as much stock into certainty. But for someone like me, someone who needs predictability and order to help me get through the day, it’s amazing just how much a little bit more to the left or a sudden change to the right can affect my world.

The end of the school year is always a hectic one – and it has been for as long as I can remember.

When we were kids, growing up on the other side of the world in Saudi Arabia, the end of the school year meant that we were packing our suitcases for weeks long vacations through Europe and to come and visit my dad’s family here in Canada. It meant that I could go from my daily routine of school, to being able to ride bikes down the hill at my cousin’s house (and try not to crash in the parked cars!) in idyllic Hamilton, or swing from the tire swing at the park near my grandma’s house in St. Catharines and best of all, walk down the street and buy a Freezie from the convenient store.

My mom would pack those suitcases for days, my dad would make sure all the papers, hotel reservations and tickets were in order. All I had to do was show up, little sister in tow.  Now it’s my turn. And there are days when I truly feel like I’m drowning in all the chaos; drowning in all of the choices and responsibilities; unable to see the calm.

They say it’s personality.

Some people have this innate ability to navigate their way through life without ever letting on that the pressure is getting to them.

I, on the other hand, am the epitome of a pressure cooker…with a release valve that seemingly appears to be sealed shut…until it’s not.

And it very loudly alerts all those around that I’m about to go off!!

I repeat to myself, over and over again, “I must try and take my steps more lightly. I must try and take my steps more lightly.” I mean, they will not define my every being. Yet the pressure in the cooker increases and it gets louder and I can barely hear myself above the FFFFFSSSSSHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Part of the problem is me, of course. Like most modern women, we want it all. Like most modern women, we don’t want to let any of the balls we’re juggling come tumbling to the ground because they’re important to us: partners, kids, family, jobs, friends, commitments and so on. Like most modern women, we even find it difficult to just put any one of those balls on the shelf or in our pocket even for a moment for fear that we may be missing out on something or worse yet, make the wrong choice.

Oh to have the strength of clarity…even in the face of uncertainty!

My seven year old is exceptional at limits and at being direct. He does what he does in such a way as to not even show any doubt in his decision making abilities and eventual choices. That is, unless of course it’s free dress day and he has to wear what his best friend is going to wear and I have to miraculously guess what that’s going to be!

In any case, every week when the boys would go to their swim class, as a reward for a job well done, they’d each get a quarter to use on the dispensing machines on our way out. These machines are a child’s dream: an assortment of candies and bouncy balls. My older son now has a healthy collection of bouncy balls – a testament to his many weeks of hard work and perseverance. My younger son, on the other hand does not. Not because he doesn’t also earn his quarters, but because he prefers to use his quarter to buy jellybeans, a consumable that’s gone within minutes.

I cannot understand the seven year old’s choice. The almost eleven year old and I are the same: we like stuff that lasts. Neither of us are good at delayed gratification (i.e. saving those quarters for something bigger in the end) but we sure do like our stuff. And those bouncy balls are a metaphor for things…material things…trophies! The seven year old is more like Mr. Niceguy: all about the experience.

One week, unable to let go, and accept buying jellybeans as a wise way to use his quarter, I asked the seven year old,

“Why do you keep buying jellybeans? Don’t you know we can easily get these at the store and you can have them whenever you want? Don’t you CARE about bouncy balls?”

To which he replied most matter-of-factly, “I CARE about red jellybeans.”

Point made. I was completely surprised and delighted all at once. This little boy had the freedom to choose but most importantly he had given himself the freedom to be at peace with his choice. There’s a lesson here…

Nothing is perfect – so it follows that uncertainty is a normal state. However, in it, there are elements of certainty: love, fun, laughter and our amazing ability to come through whatever it is we face – even if we’re not exactly who we were when we started. And while there will be days when the loud FSSSSHHHH of the pressure cooker seems to completely block my ears and keep me from remembering to take my steps more lightheartedly, I know I’ll get through them, one red jellybean at a time.

Epilogue: Modern day life is complicated. While many advances have contributed to increasing the length and quality of our lives, they have also presented us with more choices and options than ever before which can sometimes be daunting. Taking a step back, a deep breath and listening to what we really want despite what we think we want, as difficult as it can be, is a good way to move ahead. Try it…and have a safe and happy summer!

Synchronicity

Do you believe in God?  Or that some being exists “up there” in the universe and is all knowing, all seeing, with your best interests at heart?  What about destiny, or fate…that everything happens for a reason and that your path has already been chosen for you. Do you believe that not-so-modern but certainly North American notion that you should go out and make your own destiny – that only you are in charge of your life and it will be what you make of it…and yet, there’s something inside you that tells you there’s more to it than that…

They say that life is a series of choices – like the movie, Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow (a definite fave of mine).  You wake up in the morning, you’re running late so you skip getting that coffee and make it to your desk and realize you’ve missed a spontaneous meeting with your boss and nothing seems to be going your way…  Or, you say, “hey, I’m going to be late anyway…I could really use a cup of coffee” and you line up, grab your tall-lactose free-nonfat latte, get into work late and discover that your boss is out of the office so no one’s the wiser and you can just ease into your day – perhaps by writing your next blog post or something…

True story.  Mine.  Was it coincidence?  Or just good luck?  Or was it, synchronicity?

So what is synchronicity?  Is it just a fancy word for when things are all seemingly going “in sync”?  Carl Jung, famous psychologist and founder of analytical psychology “scientific-ized” this concept.

Synchronicity holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.*

In other words, and to put it in more of my own, plain language, when things just seem to happen out of nowhere and somehow they all just make sense.  Like when you feel like you can’t seem to find the right dress for that special event and lo and behold, the dress was hanging in your closet the whole time – you just needed a new belt and pair of shoes to make it all come together which you ended up buying because the shoe store next to your favourite dress shop had a 40% off sale sign that drew you in.

But synchronicity is not just about the frivolity of shoes and dresses…no.  Now what if that outfit that you put together ends up being the very one that the hiring manager at the company you recently applied for a job at, really admired and wished she was wearing?  So…she couldn’t help commenting on it at the event you both find yourselves and you, not knowing who she is or her role, happen to make a comment like, “Yes.  It makes me feel like a million bucks!  So much so, that I’ve forgotten how nervous I am for my upcoming interview.  Imagine if you could go into interviews wearing your favourite stilettos and dress?”  And the hiring manager says, “I’m sure you’ll be great!  Where did you apply?”  And…as I said before, lo and behold.

Interesting?  Coincidence or synchronicity?  Another way to describe synchronicity is to say that “the universe has your back”.  That saying, “be careful what you wish for – you just may get it” that’s all part of this idea.  Is it energy?  Is it some higher being?  Is it God?


So here’s what I believe.  And what I’ve really come to notice.  It’s very hard to make sense and logic out of the idea of things happening out of nowhere and without a plan.  For someone like me, who is extremely analytical – yes, even when I’m in my imaginary, movie-like world – I need scientific reasoning.  While synchronicity was a significant part of Carl Jung’s contributions to modern day psychology – the science of psychology – the idea itself still seems, well, “paranormal.”

Thanks to my ongoing journey as a student of life, and hence, the new book I’ve been reading called The Artist’s Way, I’ve tried one exercise in synchronicity and it’s had me questioning my black and white views on cause and effect.  I’ll share it with you.  The idea is to accept (accept blindly, I might add) that the universe (or God or whatever you may believe) is actually acting in your interests.  To put in a nutshell, rather than plan for what you want, just declare what you want – the how you get there will present itself…by way of synchronicity.  Today, we refer to some of this as networking.  A friend of a friend who has a colleague who has the answer we’re looking for.  How much more interesting it would be if that chain of events was viewed as synchronicity.

The next time you’re encountered with a “coincidence” just stop for a second and think about it…did it just seem to come out of nowhere?  And yet, did it somehow answer a question that was in your head?  Hmmmm….

In the meantime, perhaps the most “synchronistic” thing that has ever happened to me – other than the time when I was so stressed out I really needed desperately to release some steam in a foreign city and lo and behold, the regular pianist at the restaurant I went to was absent and so the manager allowed me to play the piano to a round of applause and a wonderful feeling of joy and renewed reassurance in myself – has been becoming a mother.  This month, take a moment and remember yours.  The path to and of motherhood is full of challenges, chance, happenstance and wonder…and we could use a whole lot of synchronicity!

*As it appears in Tarnas, Richard (2006). Cosmos and Psyche. New York: Penguin Group. p. 50. ISBN 0-670-03292-1.

Brains…or guts??

What do you think is the most important organ in your body?  Is it THE BRAIN – after all, it is your command centre.  How about your heart?  Surely the largest organ, our skin, plays a significant role too as it holds everything together and protects us from the elements?  Since this is not a scientific inquiry…at least, not really, I’m going to say it’s the organ that stretches like a rope to about the length of a swimming pool…your guts.

There’s no arguing that the brain is our CPU – or central processing unit.  Here is borne logic, reason and analysis.  The way we see and interpret the world and how we in turn interact with it – it all comes from the brain…or does it?

Last month I touched upon the subject of “gut feelings” – while these may give rise to superstitious behaviours, I’m beginning to appreciate these “feelings” for their other capabilities.  In trying to navigate through life, I sometimes lose my way.  But I’ve been told that while I may think, analyze and use logic, in many situations (particularly important if I want Mr. Niceguy to “hear” me), I should also be consulting with my gut.  And lately, I’ve been doing just that.

Today I stand perfectly square and centred at the crossroads of mid-life.  In determining which path to take, I am trying to quiet the noise and listen more closely to what’s inside me… to my gut.  Most recently I passed up an incredible work opportunity – a decision I struggled with a great deal as it felt like this chance was handpicked for me…or who I think myself to be.  At this crossroad, however, I am weaving my chrysalis and am in transition and what I think I want may not actually be what I really want.

Oufff!  Why can’t we all be handed a map?!

Ingrained in many of us is the mentality, “when opportunity knocks, answer the door.” The idea that it’s wrong to let opportunities slip through your fingers – if you don’t grab it, it’s gone forever. But is that true?  Is the universe not much more benevolent than that?  Isn’t that just “Fear” talking?  Fear that IF I do or don’t do something then I’ll land in a stinky pile of regret.

I’m transported back to my Grandma’s living room in St. Catharines to countless episodes of The Price is Right and when contestants pass on the first showcase showdown (even though it’s a trip to Tahiti and a new car!) expecting the prize behind door number 2 to be better but no, all they find is a Sea Doo and a new washer dryer combination – a whole lotta “no thanks” for someone from Kansas.

Well, when I was faced with this recent choice, I quieted those automatic “GRAB IT!” fear signals from my brain and listened to my gut.  The payoff was not immediate.  Left muddling through feelings of inadequacy, cowardice, and like I’ve let down the modern female woman for not trying harder to find a balance, or the more traditional woman in me, for even entertaining something that would put my children second…I trust that my gut led me in the right direction.

In my search for greater fulfillment, perhaps my gut is leading me back to a time when practicality was not the key driver.  To a time when what people thought, and their expectations of me, was less important.  Perhaps my gut is leading me out of, and away from, attracting the same kinds of opportunities that made me stand up and (quietly) demand something more…only I’m starting to hear that voice inside me a little bit louder…a little bit clearer…and while I’m frustrated that I can’t always hear what it’s saying, or trust that it has my good intentions at heart.

Sometimes, stepping out and trying something totally different makes you realize just how big the world is.  I’m on a journey…

So where am I headed?  Wherever that inner tide will take me…and it’s scary to trust that it will all work out.  The world is big and full of opportunities – and experiencing it in new and different ways takes courage.  It takes fearlessness.  And feeling fearless, even for just a moment like when I, today, for the very first time in my forty-something years went to a movie all by myself, can become more of a habit.  That example tells you just how measured and analytical I can be…perhaps you were expecting that I bungee jumped?  Oh no…

The key, you see, is that feeling like I’m a small part of something so much bigger seems to make all my cares and concerns that much more manageable.  I guess it’s like finding religion…terribly appropriate for this time of year.

***I will add this as an addendum to the above.  While “mid-life questioning” applies to both men and women, I believe that women often don’t listen to their gut questioning and muffle that inner voice, after all, who can hear with all the noise?  We struggle with maintaining careers and families, struggle with feelings of inadequacy when we choose one over the other, and oftentimes, shelve our inner “artists” for the needs of others.  This can also happen at any time in one’s life…mid life age not necessary.  Yet, while I’m old enough to know that I can’t have it all, I refuse to give up on myself.  It’s time to trust in my gut and take my cobblestone path…be sure to get out and find your own in this big, big world!

Spincycle Diaries:  Chaos Theory – the explanation for my insanity?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result

This according to Albert Einstein, one of the smartest human beings to ever walk the earth so it must be right, right?  So if it’s as simple as trying something different each time until you get the result that you seek or hope to get, why do some of us – namely me – have so much difficulty understanding this and are prone to rinse, repeat, redo, rinse, repeat, redo, rinse, repeat, redo…caught in a spincycle of insanity?

I’ll offer up a quasi-hollywoodesque-scientific reason:  Chaos Theory.

spincycle-octoberSee, I became the proud owner of a very big screen television – a dream come true, really. So now I get to watch The Bachelor, Survivor, and my favourite movies virtually in life-size. While most people would be excited during a renovation with the prospect of a gigantic closet, full automation or the latest and greatest kitchen appliances, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this TV. I dreamt up a list of all of my favourite movies that I would watch on this giant TV. As an official member of the Arsenal Canada fan club, Mr. Niceguy had a simple request: to watch the Arsenal vs. Hull City soccer match. The 10 year old was keen to hook up his video games – NO – and the 6 year old just wanted anything Netflix. Top of my list, Jurassic Park. The idea of watching a gigantic T-Rex on the screen both excited and thrilled me at the same time.

Needless to say, in a house full of boys, I’m still waiting for my turn.

But I digress, one of my favourite characters of all time is Dr. Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum in said movie. He is a mathematician and devotee of Chaos Theory. So what is chaos theory?  It is a branch of mathematics and the key to understanding the cause of my insanity.  In fact, I say this to all the moms out there, it may also be the answer for you.

Physics has had great success in explaining certain kinds of behaviour, like the regular movement of the planets in our solar system, or the way a pendulum swings.  These are what’s called “linear equations”.  Think of it this way:  if you have 5 apples and you eat 1 apple you are left with 4 apples; linear. But physics does not handle another type of behaviour, described as “turbulent”, or non-linear, quite as well.

You know what’s “turbulent”?  Boys.  Boys in September.  When they go back to school and everything is new and exciting, frightening and freaky, and their personalities are completely out of whack because I, their mother, still haven’t figured out just how to enforce an earlier “school time” bedtime and have been beaten down to now hoping that the time change, and with it, the dark will do my bidding.  All of a sudden I am once again dealing with umbrella sword fights in the car, backtalk, insubordination and a general feeling like I’m undervalued, unappreciated and just irrelevant and the 10 year old and 6 year old have already turned into pimply faced, hormonal teenage boys for whom I am simply the large megaphone from Charlie Brown (for those who are not familiar with the “megaphone”, it’s Charlie Brown’s teacher and when she speaks, the children only hear, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah”).  Incidentally, and just as a side note, I have a healthy fear of teenagers.  They can turn on you on a dime and before you know it, you’re wishing you were never born.

But back to chaos theory. If turbulent events are described as non-linear equations, then is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result really insane?  Perhaps being in a spincycle, then, is not a predictor of the final result. My favourite example is that which is used in the movie: a drop of water is placed on the back of the hand – the water, rolls down a certain path.  When the same drop of water is placed at the same spot, again, on the back of the hand, it now travels a different path because the hairs on the skin have risen or the microscopic cells on the surface of the skin itself have changed.  Thus, a non-linear, turbulent event.  Physics can only explain that the water will drip down, but which path it takes, is determined by numerous factors which may, or may not, come into play – chaos.

Now for a real-life example.  My kids like to play a (dreaded, awful) game – it’s called, “Opposite Day”.  Usually it comes up when they’re starting to get annoyed with one another and they’re on the cusp of yet another fight in the backseat of the car that I’m forced to referee through the rearview mirror during rush hour traffic on the way to school.  “I think you’re the greatest…” starts the 10 year old, “…on opposite day!” To which the 6 year old replies loudly, “So what you’re saying is, I SUCK?!  Well YOU suck!  MOMMY!!!!

So when I YELL at my kids to STOP YELLING at each other because good, decent people DON’T YELL over and over again and I’m going insane because this is the umpteenth time I’ve asked them to stop and I’m afraid that one of these days I’m going to get into a car accident (yes, I’m a hypochondriac and yes, that’s a very linear equation when it comes to me) is it fair for me to expect that at some point I’ll get a different outcome because children are non-linear equations?  I mean, they are turbulent and ever changing so perhaps at some point they will just please stop yelling??!!

In conclusion, while it may appear to most that I, like other mothers, am insane for trying to mold my children into good and decent contributing citizens of society by repeating the same requests the same way over and over again, I ask you to remember Chaos Theory. Eventually, we will get to the right outcome and therein lies the secret and answer to all my doubts about my abilities as mother…at least for now….until some part of the non-linear equation changes again….

My very own Minecraft…

Ever feel like you’re watching yourself live your life as though you were in a video game? Do you turn left? Or go right? Do you use a shovel or a bomb-thrower to knock out some zombies? What if the zombies are your kids that were just turned into zombies? What do you do then?

Minecraft zombiesLately I feel completely discombobulated – out of my familiar environment and with a to-do list longer than my arm I feel like I’m in the eye of a tornado. I know I need to loosen the reins – as an absolute control freak I have an unwavering belief that without me in charge how else could things possibly ever get done? (Said every obsessive-compulsive, perfectionistic-tendency having control freak…)

When I wake up in the morning it’s like I’m walking straight into Minecraft – or better yet, a mine-FIELD – the slightest misstep and BLAST!

For those unaware, Minecraft is a video game my boys are obsessed with complete with zombies, weaponry and the ability to create new worlds (I’m osmotically aware of everything Minecraft).

Alarm goes off, I jump out of bed and head to the washroom because who can stand the full bladder any longer (speaking of which I swear that while my entire midsection grew after two pregnancies, my bladder seems to now be the size of an acorn)!! Brush teeth, wash face, decide that two-day dirty hair isn’t so dirty when you’re trying to get out of the door and quite frankly not heading to a high power meeting on Bay Street, although…moms in the school parking lot can be an even tougher crowd so a quick brush, some makeup and voila, I’m off to the races…

That is, until I have to wake them up…

When I was young I was drawn to those video games where the zombies come towards you with blank stares, arms outstretched in front, stiffly limbering forward, mouths agape. You would have to blast them with your laser until eventually, inevitably, you were overtaken. That’s exactly what it’s like waking up my two boys at ages 9 and nearly 6 every morning before school – only I’m overtaken in less than 5 minutes flat!

Wake up kidsEvery morning I turn on the light, I say “good morning” (in that terribly annoying and completely disingenuous happy tone that I use to mask my absolute terror that they will totally ignore me or start yelling at me to sleep longer and erupt my anger which feels like it’s on a precipice just waiting to ignite) and pull their very weighted bodies off the bed so that if I’m lucky, their autopilot will kick in the moment their toes touch the ground and we will merrily make it out on time. I’ve even resorted to reminding them that they have to rush to the bathroom (because they must need to use it) and when that doesn’t work, “Who’ll be first to go to the washroom, brush their teeth, wash their face and comb their hair?” – some friendly competition.

Today I had an extra reason to get them out of the house on time – I had a meeting with a very, very important person who had taken time out of their very, very busy day just to give me some very, very much needed advice on, well, the rest of my professional life. Mr. Niceguy would be taking “double trouble” to school and to make things easier on him lunches were prepared the night before and stored in the refrigerator, snow pants, extra shoes, and school projects all packed in backpacks (I lost 30 minutes of my life last night as well as the opportunity to watch the Bachelor because I had to cut out a million jigsaw puzzle pieces for the 9 year old with scissors that were not small enough and I swear my hands were trembling so much that I now fear I’ve finally entered the realm of hyperthyroidism or was it just that fourth cup of coffee today?)

In any case, I made it out the door – bleary eyed and all – and even though I still have a head full of matted tangles I’m presentable enough and only a few minutes late so I stake out the perfect spot and I’m sure this person will be here any moment…

…Hmmm…I’ve double checked my emails, the time on my phone, the time with the coffee shop and ok, 15 minutes is fashionably late, right?

…I’m really hungry and could really use that coffee now – I’ll send an email and just let them know I’m here…t + 22 minutes…

…I wonder, did I even confirm this meeting? Quick check of email and GASP!!! I didn’t even confirm! OMG…but what do I do now? Sometimes people don’t wait for confirmations and it’s only t + 27 minutes plus I sent all those emails letting them know I’m here!

OK think, think, THINK!! I’ll get a latte because that will grease my brain wheels and I did tell the baristas I’m waiting for someone and they’re giving me their full on pitiful stares like I’ve been jilted on Valentine’s Day!

…One latte down…one croissant inhaled …and still no contact until…PING! Oh my goodness, it’s my person and they’re not even in town! Ugh, how could I have been so amateur to not even confirm a meeting? Ugh! Ugh! UGH!!!!! *So embarrassing.

*SIGH* I guess I will just head out and find something else to do, after all I did promise the nearly 6 year old a new backpack and some kind of light up shoes for school. And the 9 year old was hoping for new play pants.

I guess it’s pretty obvious – I’m the zombie here. With so much going on I’m like the walking dead roaming around in my life, arms outstretched, mouth agape, limbering along with the blank stare.

At least my person is understanding and generous enough to give me a new meeting time but wait, what’s that on my windshield? A parking ticket???!!! I’m in a no parking before 10:00 am parking spot?! How did I ever miss that??!!

Incidentally, this author did get a chance to have that meeting and it proved to be a definite step in the right direction…and out of the eye of the storm!

Walking away

Stop muzzling me!!!

“You can’t do that!”

“Stop. Let me show you how it’s done.”

These are usually the words that come out of my mouth. These days, however, they’re all I seem to hear – from Mr. Niceguy, from my mother, and even from the 9 and 5 year olds – and all I can think is, “PLEASE, DON’T MUZZLE ME!!”

IMG_6875In less than 72 hours I, a forty-something sometimes professional and always reaching YOUNG woman, will be moving house and home into a ten-by-thirty storage unit for the next … months and moving back in with my parents – Mr. Niceguy and boys in tow. Yes, we’re taking the leap that many homeowners do in a city fraught with ever-increasing housing prices (scarily so, I might add) and undergoing a major renovation.

For the past month, I have spent the better part of every, single day packing all of our belongings. Packing is no simple task: you must judge every scrap of paper, book, clothing, memento and memorabilia and assess whether it is worthy of holding a place in storage locker #B3304 (number has been changed to protect contents deemed valuable and quite frankly, with these few hours left, contents that just got lucky to avoid being scrapped and simply thrown in boxes like many of Mr. Niceguy’s concert tickets, boarding passes and music cassettes as well as high heel shoes that are obviously never going to make a comeback but hey…these fingers are now cracked, nails are broken, and back is sore).

IMG_6891On top of the packing, anyone who’s undergone a renovation in the City, also knows that one is fraught with red-tape: applications, permits, allowances, remediation, zoning, variances – all now common vernacular. Then there’s the other “red-tape” – the neighbours and the rounds of diplomatic sessions that must and should occur to ensure that everyone is aware of everything and so that after the upheaval ends, you still have friends.

Elegant mom 2The diplomacy does not end there because above all else, one has to now enter negotiations with the mother of all negotiators, literally, my mother. This classy, Armenian woman with Parisian breeding is now facing an invasion of her peaceful, beautiful, dainty world of the worst kind: my overly casual brood with very little regard for convention and etiquette – what can I say, they’re a bunch of boys!! Thanks in large part to the smoothing over by my father (from whom I’m sure I get much of my diplomatic skills), my mom was placated and her neuroses (which I also inherited) calmed…for now. If you ask my mother, the worst thing about MY situation is that it’s happening to her!

Oh yes, and add to that regular life: homework, piano lessons, soccer practice, swimming lessons, paying bills, planning family reunion holidays and I haven’t even touched upon the countless meetings and volunteer work (well done Zoryan). Add to that having to deal with the fact that the 5 year old has now started to refer to himself in the third person, “The 5 Year Old would now like a glass of water, get it mummy” and “The 5 Year Old does not like this lunch. Make him something else.” My life truly is in the spincycle – speaking of which, I think I have a batch of laundry I put in a couple of days ago which I have yet to transfer to the dryer…eeeewww!!!

Now that I’ve painted a clear picture of where things stand, it should be quite evident that I’m completely frayed, frazzled, and fraught with my own obsessions, psychoses, hang-ups and eccentricities and while I’ve been a champion of change, it is on one very, “Je suis Charlie” point that I just can’t get over: for all my training and natural talents at peacekeeping, I draw the line at being muzzled. While I am a diplomat at heart, I’m also a lover of the limelight, and a grabber of opportunity so it follows that my greatest punishment is not being heard.

Have you ever noticed how when you’re telling someone something – maybe a story or some kind of instruction – they cut you off before you’ve fully explained, totally ignoring your efforts at imparting words of wisdom, of significance and essential to the moment?

Before you’ve even arrived at the punchline, your listener has already detoured.

Perhaps it’s because I like to write, and definitely it’s because I’m loquacious – hey, I can be efficient if the situation merits. I’ve always liked to “speak in pictures”: when I tell a story or explain a process I like it to be vivid, to be in ‘technicolour’. I do it for the listener so that they may have a real and true vision of where I am and a sense of what I feel; to immerse the listener to the point where they feel like it’s their story and they know exactly where it’s headed. Like a good movie, reality often weaves a beautiful tale and so I delve, develop and painstakingly create. Every word, every image, every facial expression is carefully selected and revealed in a sequence to carry you into my world…

So how absurdly frustrating when I am interrupted, asked to be quiet, asked to hold my temper, asked to keep calm, asked to be understanding, asked to be conciliatory, asked to be, to be, TO BE SOMEONE OTHER THAN ME!!!! I feel like my life is being hijacked. My home is being ripped out of my hands (of my own volition, I know) and I’m having to regress back to my parents rules under my parents’ roof only now it’s not about sneaking out to go clubbing with my friends or with that “odar” boy…

After a much needed tête-a-tête, and the laying of some ground rules and boundaries (not to mention some very sage advice from my mother to remain open-minded and calm), I am hopeful that at the end of it all, I will still remain friends with the people that matter most: my family. More than that, I hope to not regress to my teenage, rebellious and very stubborn know-it-all version of me and embarrass myself in front of Mr. Niceguy or the boys…

Time to be positive. Time to buck up and act my age. Time to set an example. Time to concede that sometimes muzzling is a good thing as it stops one from saying what they wish they could take back and later regret. So here goes: I see a learning opportunity ahead – I see my diplomatic skills reaching new heights – I see new memories in the making…now to survive it all.

IMG_6894

The wee hours…

It’s 3:21 in the morning. My thoughts are so scattered – summer is nearing its end, and the kids will go back to school – should I go back to school? Should I leave the safe confines of this new lifestyle and go and pursue or learn something different? Oh. My. God. I really have to tell Mr. Niceguy that his breathing is SO LOUD in the middle of the night – not quite a snore but wow it’s all I can focus on at this moment: IN. OUT. Pause….IN. OUT. Peace….IN. OUT…repeat, repeat, REPEAT. How do I think? I can’t! Do I get out of bed? Am I really admitting defeat? I’m going to be such a terrible mess tomorrow and that’ll make it TWO DAYS IN A ROW of really poor sleep… Wow my jaw hurts…why? And my shoulder is hurting too…are these all connected? I MUST PUSH past these thoughts before my brain really turns on – but how???

3:56 am. I give up. Once again I find myself on our annual pilgrimage to the great outdoors only this year I’m hoping it will be different. This year I’m actually welcoming the escape from a very busy summer. No cellphones, no email, no Facebook or Instagram updates (ok…perhaps just decreased Facebooking and Instagramming), no need to be anywhere or see anyone. And I’m prepared for it…sort of. I mean, once I got us all settled here in “The North Land” – sheets on beds, food put away, children tucked into beds and us too with the promise of a restful sleep to be broken naturally by the sweet call of the birds at dawn and the sun breaking over the lake.

2015 cottage 1Perhaps my favourite (and if I’m going to be honest, only thing I like) about cottaging is the morning – I can’t seem to wait for when the sun is getting ready to break the skies over a still, glass-like lake. This is absolute stillness. This is the feeling of being in the present. No other thoughts can penetrate its majesty but now, at 4:06 am, I know I’m still a couple of hours away… Did I pack the kids’ sunscreen??

Why is it that during these wee hours of the morn things come to my brain at light speed?

Especially here, in the great outdoors?? It’s so quiet that I can actually hear myself reciting my own thoughts to myself over and over again…

I had a colleague once tell me how he dealt with this – he kept a pen and pad of Post-It Notes on his bedside table. When he would wake in the wee hours, also full of light speed thoughts, he would write them down on sticky notes, post them on his wall and no longer feeling prey to the fear of forgetting (**because we always seem to wake up in the middle of the night with the solutions to the world’s problems or how best to plan the 5 year old’s next birthday party or that one essential item which was left-off of the 9 year old’s back to school list or for that matter, what to do with the rest of one’s life) he would drift back to a peaceful slumber. Only, I forgot my sticky notes and one fatal flaw in this methodology is that I don’t even know how I’ll choose which idea to write down and for that matter, I CAN’T WRITE IN THE DARK! Should I invent a pen that shines a light while you write?? A “night-pen-light”?

justin_trudeau heartOh Google, I miss you. My faithful companion during broken sleep. You have all the answers to my light speed thoughts: what are symptoms of insomnia – anemia – paranoia – vitamin C deficiency? What is the likelihood of scurvy in the modern era? Are oranges the best source of vitamin C? Are they genetically modified? Is genetic modification really that bad? Stress versus genetic modification, which is worse? When is the world going to end? Where is ISIS now? Should I vote for Justin ? He’s sooooo dreamy… Wait, what are the symptoms of ADD?!!

Maybe a walk would help…but I’d need to carry around this laptop for light. Gosh my eyesight really isn’t what it used to be…Shhhhh…don’t want to wake anyone up but this tossing and turning is torture!

Now I’m on the floor – the cold floor of the living area – a welcome escape from the IN…OUT…Pause pattern, and a break from the heat. 4:21 am – Not long to go now. My stomach rumbles but I’m ignoring you – got a few pounds to lose otherwise I can’t get back into my skinny jeans. Eggs, bacon, toast, coffee or that yummy cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese…I wonder…am I doing the right thing? Has giving up my career to spend more time with my family been the right move? What will I do when they no longer need me the same way? And when will that be? Will it be sudden? Will I be ready?

I think of my mom…of so many other moms. Their words echoing in my full, yet empty brain: find your own path – don’t live your life solely for the sake of others.

With back to school just around the corner I’m forced into a usual “September pattern”. Playtime is over – it’s time to get back to business and start checking things off “the list”. Yet, my “playtime” has been full of so much learning, so many new experiences and such an unprecedented rate of growth despite hours and hours wasted on watching The Bold and The Beautiful (best soap opera ever), or watching Jillian Harris on Love It or List It Vancouver (tips for any number of my weekly home improvements) – and if I’m going to be honest, wondering what I would do if I was the Bachelorette (in another life of course because hey, I found my one and only Mr. Niceguy).

Habitually forced into a pattern of insecurity I remind myself of some of these experiences and my accomplishments – none of which would have occurred had I not drastically changed course. And while I may not have all the answers, aren’t I getting closer to figuring it all out? Or further? I don’t know…maybe the answer is just supposed to land at my feet and all I’ll have to do is know when to recognize it. Or maybe I have to put in the work and avoid not making the difficult choices…

Wait a second, doesn’t lack of sleep speed up the aging process?? The floor is getting warm and I’m feeling overcome with sleep. I want to wait ‘til the break of dawn but I can’t…or I won’t.

4:53 am. It’s almost here! But sleep, I seek you. I don’t want to solve the world’s problems. I don’t want to solve my own. I just want to drift…and hey, that’s ok, isn’t it? I mean, I am on vacation now, aren’t I? I can worry about all of these things later – like tomorrow, or better yet, next week? But back to school’s right around the corner!! Pfft…I’ll navigate next week.  IN…OUT…Pause…

2015 cottage 2

Green eggs and ham!

One of my favourite people is moving on and another is hitting a major milestone – you could say they’re both on the cusp of change which I’m resisting…

Seems like the start of summer has always been full of change:  the end of the school year, the start of a new summer job, a trip somewhere exotic and of course, the promise of a summer fling!   These changes were always easy to accept, but as we age, it seems we move farther and farther away from these “fun” changes and approach different kinds of change – riskier change:  do I risk a steady paycheck and quit my job to pursue my dream?  Do I leave the man that’ll make a perfect husband and son-in-law and follow my heart?  Do I pick up and move across the world to chase my destiny? 

Another birthday comes, another candle is added onto the cake.  Why is change so hard to accept?  Is it the fear of the unknown?  Does the law of physics have anything to do with it?  (You know, an object in motion, stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest.  However in this case, the status quo or the “known” is akin to the “rest.”)  Is it sheer laziness?

Whatever their reasons, most people tend to resist change – and some with utter and abject vehemence.  Like the other day, when I was rushing to get the kids to school – ok, truth is that with just several days to go to the end of school (at time of writing), I was late…waaaaay behind and I couldn’t be as I’d been chosen to be a parent chaperone on the 5 year old’s field trip!  The bus would surely leave without us and then I’d have to find a way to make it up to him like having to bribe him with (again!!!) this gift or that and I’m seriously turning into the worst – parent – ever!!!

A furious man driving, as seen from behind the wheel. Shot using a very wide fisheye lens.

A furious man driving, as seen from behind the wheel. Shot using a very wide fisheye lens.

Anyway, we raced out the door, toaster waffles hanging out of our mouths, into the car, en route to school…only the intersection was blocked!  So irritating!  Didn’t we all learn in driver training that you are NOT supposed to block intersections?!!!  While a couple of cars made way, one remained steadfastly put, despite having ample room to move.  Suppressing my inner, road-rage-prone monster, I lowered my window and asked kindly, “Pardon me, sir?  Would you mind moving a little forward and letting me through, please?”  He snapped, “I’ve gone as far as I can!  I can’t move any further!”  Fortunately, he got dirty looks from all those around and moved up all the same, letting us through.

Why was he so opposed?  Why are we all so resistant when faced with the impetus for change?  Is it because we’ve just become comfortable with the status quo…even if that status quo became the status quo only a moment ago?  Confused?  Think of it this way.  Imagine having to get across a stream.  To do so, you have to jump from one rock to the next until you make it across.  Each rock represents change from one to the next.  When you’re preparing to jump you are most uncomfortable – most fearful of change – and as soon as you land, you are at once relieved and comfortable again.  Change can be risky…you could land in the water and most situations in life aren’t so bad that you would actually fall in the water and drown.  Most of us draw on ourselves to figure things out – to swim to the next rock, if you will.

A-Family-Crossing-Stepping-Stones-On-A-River

So now, my one friend is reaching a major milestone and while I’m happy that she’ll now be in the same decade as me, she is also the last of our “Fantastic Four” to reach it.  In a way, we have now all moved on to adulthood.  If I think about it enough though, I no longer have to feel like she could still claim to be in her thirties when I couldn’t so that’s not such a bad thing, right?  Pfft.  But that’s really not what’s bothering me at all.  I pretended like hitting that milestone was no big deal…but now that I’m in the decade – and becoming ever more entrenched – I’m not only facing change but fearing it!

My other friend is doing what I only dare to…in my dreams.  She is moving her family halfway around the world to realize a goal that she set for herself – to rediscover and make a go of it in our homeland. To some, this seems crazy – I admit it did to me at first too – leaving the creature comforts of home, the routines, the stability and security for something completely different, new, and unknown.  For me, all I can think of is the loss I’d feel of leaving behind my friends, my family, MY LIFE!!!

I do not like them, Sam I am.  I do not like green eggs and ham.  I do not like them here or there, I do not like them anywhere.

2739-3-green-eggs-ham-dr.-seuss-liteLike the stodgy, unhappy character in the famous Dr. Seuss children’s book who does not want to try something new like green eggs and ham, I admit it, I fear the unknown…I fear change.  In particular, I fear the kind of change that is thrust upon me like, “You’d be perfect for this new job – c’mon you’d be a fool to turn it down!” (despite the fact that you weren’t looking and are enjoying being master of your own domain…) or “I know you like roller coasters…who cares if this one is higher than any you’ve ridden before, you’ve just gotta try it!” (despite the fact that while you love adventure, perhaps you prefer the kind with both feet on the ground…waaaaaaay on the ground.)

But just like the Dr. Seuss character…you’ve got to try it, because you just might find that you like green eggs and ham!  Interestingly enough, one of the key traits that all happy people exhibit, aside from living in the present and trusting that everything happens for a reason, is that they all embrace change.  So join me, let’s embrace change this summer!

Life’s too short to make up all sorts of rules for ourselves that keep us from realizing its full potential.  Take a look around.  What change have you been resisting?  Why are you resisting it?  What is the chance that you’ll slip and not land on that next rock?  Will it be the end of the world as you know it?  I mean, really?  Then DO IT!  If I can ride the Behemoth roller coaster at a peak height of 230 feet (despite my hypochondriac woes about dislodging some blood clot, popping a spinal disc, or having an instant heart attack), who knows, then perhaps being fully immersed in this decade isn’t so bad…and my other friend?  Well, she’s just a plane ride and an email away…

Behemoth

In recognition of International Women’s Day

While I know I promised to write more regularly, an incredible opportunity to speak at the Armenian Relief Society’s annual International Women’s Day luncheon, occupied every spare moment for the past two and a half months.  From being buried in post-it notes full of ideas jotted down during all hours of the day…and wee hours in the night, to continuous editing and practicing in my car, in the bathroom, while cooking, and in front of any random and willing audience, I finally got it down.  This speech was delivered on Sunday, March 1st, 2015.  It is certainly geared towards a female audience, regardless, I hope all you readers enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed delivering it…

TTG SpeechGood morning.  I’d like to start by thanking the ARS (Armenian Relief Society) Rubina Chapter and today’s organizing committee for inviting me to speak at today’s luncheon.  It’s really such an honour.

When the committee asked me to speak today, they said I could talk about anything and I thought…oh, my goodness!  Where do I even start?  You know, a year ago I decided to take a break from my career and spend some more time with my family while I figured out what to do with the rest of my life.  Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be standing here in front of you.  But, with this opportunity at hand, I thought I’d talk about the challenges that thirty and forty-something women face in today’s world.

While it is a HUGE topic, I’ve distilled my very candid observations down to 5 major challenges that I believe young-ish Armenian-Canadian moms and women face these days:  moms and motherhood (gotta talk about our moms), men (another must topic), the elusive work-life balance, one’s identity and what’s really important…you’ll find out.  I wonder if some of my observations will hold true for you.  Agree or disagree, let’s start relating!

Moms and Motherhood

Challenge #1.  Our first glimpse of motherhood, comes from our own mothers.  Moms, you inspire us, you teach us, you support us – in your own controlling – I mean loving way.  My own mother is very smart, beautiful, talented, and very, very understanding…so understanding is she, that she’s not going to get mad or upset or offended by anything I’m about to say…right mom?

As a general observation, Armenians are very passionate people:  we’re passionate about food, passionate about our causes and above all, we’re passionate about our families.

So in a culture where family comes first, it follows that our parents’ happiness means everything to us – their approval is nearly always essential and consequently, one can be quite vulnerable to any critique.  If moms believe that they’re acting in our best interest, they don’t hold back.  They’ll tell you what you should or should not be doing, saying, wearing, eating and even thinking!

I mean, I’m forty, and my mom is still telling me what to do!  Not that being 40 really means anything because while I feel a lot more confident and self-assured, in some instances I’m still trying to be one of the cool kids.  I feel like I’m in a kind of limbo:  not old enough to be wise, and not young enough not to care.  Not old enough for a cosmetic procedure, not young enough to not consider the prospect of a cosmetic procedure…am I too old to wear uggs?!

But I digress…  Everytime I write a column for TorontoHye Newspaper, my mom and I have the following conversation,

[ARMENIAN]  “Talyn, ayt eench keuradz eyeer terteen mech.  Eench bedee gartze joghovourteuh?  Antzial amseuvah hotvadzeut shad avelee lav er.  Artyok, hoknadz e-yeer?  Lav goodess?  Tzezi hamar aghvor jash meuh yepem?  Chem hasgeunar tzezi.  Ays seroonteuh darper eh.  Gyankeuh avelee arak eh.  Mer adeneuh assank cher.  Akh, aghcheegeuss, assee koo amenen tjouvar dareenereut en.”

[TRANSLATION:  “Talyn, what have you written for the paper?  What are people going to think?  Last month’s column was much better.  Could you have been tired, perhaps?  Are you eating well?  Shall I cook you a nice meal?  I don’t understand you…this generation is completely different.  Life is too fast – things were not like this when we were growing up.  Oh, my dearest daughter, these are your most trying years.”]

Huh?   How many of you have had this kind of conversation?  How did we go from, I didn’t quite get this month’s column to these are your toughest years?!

When you’re young, it’s hard to understand why mothers do the things that they do.  I gave my mom such a hard time because I thought MY life was difficult.  Like the time I ran away from home for a few hours to my Armenian best friend’s house and promptly called my mother to let her know I was ok.  My mom told me that she understood I just needed the space and most of all, that she loved me.  I know now that she was probably falling apart inside.  I also know this because every now and then she reminds me…  Regardless, she stood by me.  And I know she’ll always stand by me no matter what.  So every time we have that conversation about my articles, she makes me strive more, reach more, and try harder.  And I just hope that’s what my two boys remember when I’m mothering them!

Mothering Two Boys

Speaking of my two glorious, young and active boys.  At this stage in their lives, we are their everything.  But the time where parents are everything to their children is fleeting.  So…with that in mind, I’m prepared to make sacrifices.

For example, I’m constantly having to go on “boy” adventures – I can see all you moms and aunties of boys nodding your heads – you know exactly what I mean.  My kind of adventures are more like a night out on the town with my girlfriends or an exotic trip.  Boy adventures, are like:

  1. Clothing optional sumo wrestling
  2. Or roughing it in the dreaded “North” full of mosquitoes with no restaurants, shops, and worst of all, without female companionship!!!!

It’s not easy being a parent.  Kids don’t come with an instruction manual.  They make you second guess your every move.  I’ve resorted to begging, pleading, bribery, and even manipulation – some days, I hardly recognize myself.  Unlike any other job, the job of raising our children is 24/7, forever, the stakes are infinitely higher and the pressure for perfection is omnipresent.  For while we won’t be their everything for long, they will be our everything for all time.

So moms, grandmoms, and tantigs, we get it.  Thank you for all that you’ve done and continue to do.  Thank goodness, though, we don’t have to do it alone…which brings me to my Mr. Niceguy – better known as my husband and challenge #2.

Men

Men are an interesting breed:  so even keeled and wonderfully objective – so long as they’re not tired, hungry or sick of course.  Men (and boys) have such different priorities –underwear left in the middle of the floor or dirty socks left on kitchen counters is surely not the end of their world.  For them, the end of the world looks more like a favourite soccer team losing a match – the sorrow of which is quickly forgotten with a deep fried or sugary snack of some sort.

When you’re getting married, the focus tends to be on the wedding, how you’re going to sign your name and officially moving out of your parents’ basement.  Over time, real life will test you, will make you want to move back to the safe cocoon of your parents’ basement, but hopefully it will also transform your marriage into a real balanced partnership.

For example, I’m a bit of a dreamer and an optimist – Mr. Niceguy is logical and rational.  Oftentimes, he refers to me as “passionate” – not that kind of passionate – his way of saying I’m a quick-tempered, headstrong Armenian woman. I’ve become even more passionate as a mother, particularly while trying to discipline our children who are not listening to a word that I’m screaming and when he materializes from thin air and begins to lecture me on the latest scientific research on parenting.  Ya, I’m passionate all right.

In any case, accepting our differences has made us stronger.  Just because I think that the Bachelor should stay friends with the bachelorettes he doesn’t give a rose to, and he thinks that that’s totally absurd, doesn’t mean we can’t get along.  Men are certainly from Mars and Women are from Venus but we’re all living here together on Earth so I call a truce.

The Elusive Balance

Another balancing act we’re faced with today is work-life balance… the “Elusive Balance” – Challenge #3.  Here’s what I’m going to say about this – and if I may be presumptuous, mainly for the benefit of those, like me, who are still seeking their balance: balance is what you make of it.  There is no one formula.  And while that may sound bewildering, it means that you can have a hand in its design – if you’re brave enough.

Striving for a career only to find that it interferes with your personal life is devastating…at least it was for me.  That’s why I took matters into my own hands and am carving my own path – a path that likely would not work for someone else.  Finding balance also requires help.  On the career side, you absolutely need the right environment.  You also need buy-in, you need to build your brand and your value to the point where you are supported to have more flexibility because losing you or replacing you would not be an option.  On the family side, you also need support, and you need to dial back expectations…in my case, those perfectionistic tendencies.  There will always be feelings of guilt – I wish I was more dedicated to my job, I wish I was more dedicated to my family.  I wish I had the time to have a haircut, manicure and a latte in peace instead of freezing my butt off at an arena or constantly responding to the buzz of my Blackberry!

Finding balance and maintaining balance is tough.  What’s great, however, is seeing so many women taking charge and courageously creating the kind of life that they want, rather than what someone else imposes on them.  Bravo.

Identity

Challenge #4.  Identity.  What is your identity?  How do you define it?  Identity is influenced by a number of different things like your age, gender, language, history, religion, employment and so on.  Identity is not static and is shaped and developed by you over time.  And I believe, that at some point, we all stop and ask ourselves, “Who Am I?”  I tend to ask myself this question when I’m up at two in the morning wondering if I’m ever gonna get my act together – and if my lack of sleep has anything to do with perimenopause or something – totally FREAKS me out…I think I’m having a hot flash right now!

Most women face a real identity crisis at some point.  And as an Armenian woman, this identity crisis gains a further complexity.  While we struggle with building a successful career and balance that with a full and complete personal life, many of us also struggle with the DNA-programmed need to preserve our culture and our heritage.  I know in my case I was raised with a healthy dose of “Hayeren Khoseer” and “Azad, angakh Hayasdan”.

I call this my three-legged identity tripod:  career, family and being Armenian.  These are the things that define my identity – if any one of these three legs does not match the length of the others, I topple down.

When it comes to my identity, I also realize that I don’t have to be perfect.  And that it’s really important to take risks.  Risks make you feel alive.  They make you feel like you’ve achieved.  Standing here is a HUGE risk for me.  Risks force you to expand your world and look beyond what you think you already know.

As I said before, being Armenian is a big part of who I am.  I am married to a non-Armenian (“odar”) who challenges me, supports my ambitions and respects me and my heritage.  My children speak Armenian.  They are learning about our culture and heritage and which is one way that I am preserving a very important part of who I am and passing on that ingrained Armenian DNA.  I also volunteer at the ARS Armenian Private School (if you haven’t yet donated to Telethon 2015, please do so) and the Zoryan Institute – a centre dedicated to the education, research, preservation and documentation of genocide and human rights violations, particularly the Armenian Genocide.  Working there feeds my soul.

But being Armenian and staying Armenian has not been easy.  Perhaps it’s like blasphemy to say that on some days I wished I was French or Italian – so much easier to relate and to have people understand who you are and what you’re all about without the burden of struggling to survive.  But as I’ve gotten older, and hopefully gained more wisdom, I’ve come to believe that the hardest things are the ones worth fighting for…marriage, your children, your friends, your family…and yes, your identity.  These are important things worth fighting for.

What’s Really Important

And that brings me to the final challenge.  Challenge #5, discovering what’s really important.  Some recent news about a friend’s situation really put this in perspective for me.

We all get bogged down with our own problems from time to time, and lose sight of the big picture – that we only have this one life to live and that we must make the most of it.  Don’t we all wish that we were prettier, thinner, smarter, more successful, more laid back, younger and so on.   The challenge for us is to grab hold of the magic in this life, and that magic, in my view, comes from sharing, from connecting and relating to the people around you, from being present.

It is a rare privilege to get a glimpse or to be present when people experience moments that will shape them forever, whether they’re experiencing moments of real learning, of overcoming, or even of regret.  The moment that you can share your joys and regrets, they become real and allow you to relate to people in ways unimaginable.  And the relating, well that is your legacy.

The connections that you make are what carry you – are what will sustain you.  These bonds – whether created because you had a little too much to drink and your friend held back your hair while you were sick, or you created because a friend watched your newborn, colicy baby while you finally took a shower and got some rest – these bonds are what I’m all about.  And look, you’re not going to bond with everybody, but when you do, stop and remember the magic.  I do it by writing it down – and you relate to me when you read my stories.

Thank you.

Lettuce

(Blowing off some steam post speech…biggest fear is to speak in front of an audience  with something in my teeth!)

An egotistical indulgence…

Forgive this next entry, but my speed train has almost pulled into the station and I refuse to just travel patiently!  I’m trying to relish these last few moments before I have to disembark…

As spring turns to summer all I can think of is how can I relish these last few weeks – days – hours before I have to give up a decade that has shaped me so much?  It saw my confidence grow which in turn, gave me a better sense of self.  It saw me turn (more like bumble) into motherhood, not once, but blissfully and blessedly, twice.  It tested my every boundary and forced me to accept some very hard truths and change.  And yet, through all of the upheaval, it was kind as it surrounded me with great friends, a wonderful family and some of the most amazing opportunities and experiences that were beyond imagination…

And so you can see why I’m panicking?  Why I’m having trouble letting go?

It’s been just over a quarter of a year (good effect and makes things sound longer and more significant) since “the departure”.  The identity crisis is starting to take a back seat to this glorious weather and I’m starting to find my groove.  I knew it would take some time to get over the routine of career and that I would be overwhelmed with all sorts of emotion (again, dramatic effect but deservedly so).  I was certain in the fact that I would have to respond to the same questions over and over again…all while not knowing the answers myself.  Yet, stepping out of my boundaries has been good.  I say this cautiously because for the first time in almost forever the future is an empty canvas that I can paint however I like…and I must say, I am enjoying the vastness of it all.  And as one of my very dear friends said, being “unpredictable” – perhaps a word I would never, ever use to describe myself.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my biggest challenge was getting through homework, ensuring we made it to my son’s end-of-year school concert and finding a blender.  With my newly acquired wisdom – acquired because there’s now a little room to think about things other than spreadsheets, industry trends and interest rates – I decided that I should seek to become more healthy and stop avoiding entire food groups by blending them all together into a delicious smoothie.  We’ve all seen the commercials and the demonstrations…I was finally converted.

For three mornings in a row I had the following:  kale, spinach, swiss chard, strawberry, banana, pomegranate seeds, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, mango and pineapple all whipped up with greek yoghurt.  To my surprise, an absolute delight.  And yet on the first day, a massive headache.  Was it because I was sipping on this smoothie for most of the day?  I couldn’t get over this migraine!  It came and went for the first three days!  After some googling I found that I had put myself into a state of DETOX.  My smoothie was cleansing my system!  And all the toxins were bubbling up to the surface!

I blame these toxins…I believe I may have been in a drunken haze for in that migraine-induced, dizzyingly hyper-energetic state I decided that staying true to change was of the utmost importance and the key to life.  And in that inebriation, I decided to take yet another risk: after all they’re addictive, get my adrenaline going and make me feel A-L-I-V-E!!

While booking an exciting upcoming vacation, after much research into where to go and where to stay and what to see and what to do I decided to roll the dice!  There was Mr. Niceguy, the absolute voice of reason that with a smile on his face said, “You?  You’re really going to do thatYou’re going to take that chance with the hotel?  OK.  I know what I would do…but go for it!”

Was that a dare?  Did he not think I could go through with it?  And of all the words he said, why did I cling onto “but go for it!”  Did I miss the, but?

As the smoothie haze began to wear off, my old habits bubbled to the surface:  what if I’ve made a HUGE mistake? What if this place is horrible and I’ve ruined our family vacation?   And why won’t this headache let up???   Ugh!  To win big you actually have to get in the game and play.  But the frustration and the tears and the upset that ensued over the outcome…well surely I must have been a fool!  Surely I should’ve known better!

The duality was driving me crazy!  On the one hand, a wild-eyed thrill-seeker, and on the other, a tip-toeing super-planner afraid of regret.  It was time to end it.  For my remedy, and to restore balance in my universe, I popped open a Diet Coke (the nectar of life and I won’t hear otherwise) to accompany some ketchup-covered onion rings and you know what?  After a little recalibration…I think I’m quite pleased with the outcome.  While these final miles on the train are making me giddy, I can handle this next leg of my adventure…

Featurette.Smoothies

(Extreme) Spring Cleaning…

Spring has sprung.  The amuse-bouche of warm weather we’ve had in the last little while made me get a jump on my spring cleaning.  Now I’m not just referring to dusting, vacuuming or mopping – rather the acquisition and purging of wardrobe, the home projects that we’re now ready to take on, or the much needed manis, pedis, highlights and root repair!  But now that my speed train has just about pulled into the 40s station, should I be doing more?

While I crossed off many of these “more traditional” spring cleaning items off my list throughout the week, an unexpected turn of events over the weekend left me thinking, perhaps I need to abandon the traditional, go more modern, enter the “seemingly” mainstream and engage in a different type of help.

In other words, maybe it’s time to consider some extreme spring cleaning…

The circadian clock or rhythm governs our 24-hour biological cycle:  sleeping, wakefulness, alertness and all sorts of other biological functions (that need not be mentioned).  Related, I believe, is the seasonal rhythm or cycle that we experience:  more babies are born in the spring and summer, blues that we feel due to the lack of daylight in the winter, and the need for revitalization once we’re out of “winter hibernation” – the “self-spring-clean” to get ready for summer. circadian

In my 20s, I would use this time of year to shop ‘til I dropped:  new wardrobe, new accessories, a quick visit to a spa with some friends, a trip to the hair salon together with an extreme diet of nothing but steamed rice and air-popped popcorn, a DVD exercise program and voila, a glamorous reinvention – spring cleaning complete.  But two 47 pound pregnancies later (NO, that was NOT a typo, YES I most certainly DID gain EXACTLY 47 pounds with EACH child), along with the passage of most of my 30s (OK, virtually all of my 30s…) and things are not so straightforward…they’re mostly just heading downward.  And while the circadian rhythm can be derailed with a late night TV indulgence, the passage of time cannot.

Just this past weekend while socializing with other mommies at not one, but two kids’ birthday parties (again, proof that more babies are born in the spring), it seemed I wasn’t the only mommy thinking about more drastic measures. We spoke of a number of things – like the mommy makeover that comes following a pregnancy (lift, tuck, etc.).  From the simple act of abandoning low-rise jeans – for these do nothing to contain the muffin top – to the seemingly more complex decision to visit a clinic for an injection or two, I can’t help but think that while I hadn’t noticed (or wasn’t looking) these more intense measures at “self-spring-cleaning” seem to have entered the mainstream.  Am I behind the curve?  Should I be considering these more drastic measures at self-reinvention (or for that matter, self-preservation)?  Do I even dare?

It seems quite unfair that with age comes wisdom but the price you pay is in the looks department.  I wonder, if somewhere in the universe, there existed a great big control room with a lit panel that let you push whatever button you wanted, like, “Looks and brains stop at age 25” would I push it?

Whether it’s while plucking my eyebrows or washing my face, I can’t help but notice that a light pull of my cheeks up to my ears seems to erase the past decade.  Or a smoothing of my forehead makes all those “worry lines” or “thinking lines” go away.  I look young, I look refreshed, I look at ease. I curse my wayward ways that led me down the George Hamilton path of perpetual tans!  And I remember how my mother would tell me in my late teens and 20s to stop furrowing my brows together so tightly because one day, those lines would stay, and to eat more vegetables so that my body would gain more nourishment and ward off illness and old age.

Still, the passage of time does not discriminate.  Whether I had heeded her warnings or not, those lines would still be here and I recall… I used to furrow my brows together because I wanted to appear pensive and because somehow, they took my mind on a journey of knowledge.  I worried because I wondered if I would be a good mother to the children I’d someday bring into this world.  And I indulged because with all the hard work and effort I put into obtaining my degrees and my career achievements, it was important to taste those fruits of my labour.

So while I don’t have the answer today as to whether I will one day undergo a more extreme spring clean and go through with a poke or a slice, for now, I’m content that at least in my own eyes, I can still rock it (albeit with a little extra bit of work!)  And although my face crinkles just that little bit more than it used to when I smile, nothing in the world will keep me from smiling (not even a few extra laugh lines!!)

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Coming out of the dark…

‘Coming out of the dark’ was the title I gave the first chapter of a book I started to write nearly 8 or 9 years ago…I only got about half a page down when I abandoned the idea.  Perhaps it’s in the cards for me still…

There are (many) days when I wake up and think to myself, how am I going to get everything done?  I have a list that’s at least as long as my driveway (the longest in the City of Toronto – just saying, not actually…or perhaps?) and I’m just not sure where – or how – to begin.  This is a conundrum.  For example, writing this very entry is on that driveway-long-list, and I haven’t even really decided what I will write about.

Should it be about the fact that I’m sitting at my desk for the fifth-to-last time?  And that the lights in my office keep flickering on and off like torture – I’m sure to get a headache from all the flickering which really won’t be fair as the Bachelor is on tonight and I swear I’m going to lose it if he says, just one more time, to a blubbering girl with his Spanish accent, “Look at me.  Pliss.  Look at me.  Me.  Yes.  Look.  I no wanna see you cry.  That hurt me.  Pliss.  Don cry.”  The headache will just make me want to whip off my slipper and toss it at the TV screen…the TV screen that is, in just a few days, going to be my lifeline to civilization.

clare-the-bachelor-crying-juan-pablo

Come to think of it, tossing that slipper won’t be so bad considering that every time I wear those slippers, I get little electrical shocks when I open a drawer/hug my 3 year old/reach out for a napkin you name it!  I mean, last night I spent a good 10 minutes that I don’t have Googling, “What to do when there’s too much static electricity in the house” and “How to train yourself to become immune to static electricity” and finally “Harnessing the power of static electricity.”  After all, on any given day there is an energy crisis and quite frankly, since we’ve looked into alternative sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, why not static electricity?

If an entire monster town can be powered by a child’s screams or laughter, then why not think about static electricity?

Incidentally, I did read about an attempt to charge a cellphone with static electricity…

Ridiculous.  About as ridiculous as this flickering light…which has now stopped flickering.  And so I’m sitting in the dark, in my inner office with a view of three walls and a hallway…who actually thought that this kind of muted taupe-grey and faux wood would actually promote productivity?  I am at least fortunate enough to have a mildly interesting print hanging on the wall of the ocean…at least I’ve always thought it was an ocean…or is it a lake?  Perhaps it’s just a puddle…I don’t know.  But now that I look at it, all it is, is a series of more shades of taupe and grey.  Hummpphh.

I wonder if it’s grey outside…perhaps a quick glance out the window…right…just another wall.  No matter, what I do know, is that it’s cold.  Cold and windy.  On a more positive note, over lunch I thought it would be a good idea to shop for a bathing suit cover-all…I’m really willing the warm weather to return…HAAAAAAAAAPSHOOOOOOOOO!!!!  What was that?  HAAAAAAPSHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!  Oh no!  A sneeze!  Two!  I knew it!  This morning on the subway a young buck-wishes-himself-next-titan-of-industry (aka a man who fancies himself a highly important corporate person) was sucking on a cough lozenge and I must have caught this cold from him!  He kept breathing on me and I could smell his cough lozenge and it drove me crazy the way he kept rolling that huge lozenge in his mouth for EIGHT subway stops such that I could hear it clicking and clanking against his teeth – I wanted to shrink and just disappear – oh my skin is crawling just thinking about it…

WHY IS THE LIGHT STILL OFF????  DID MY GLOBAL PROFESSIONAL SERVICE FIRM FORGET TO PAY THE BILL????  Sheesh.  Must be because I resigned…YES!  I resigned.  About a month ago (I was nice and sweet and gave a month’s notice in order to transition properly and because, well, it seemed like the thing to do given I’ve been here for over a decade.)  But seriously…would I really be singled out like that?  And the thing is…it’s not like I’m just sitting here writing this entry.  No.  I’ve had some very important work to do all morning – and it’s all happened in the dark.  Ironic.  I have to smile.  I’ve often wondered if a lot of the time while doing my job here I was “in the dark” – be it the dark side or really “in the dark” and not realizing that there was so much more out there for someone like me…

Weird…the light just went on.  Like a light bulb in my brain.  And oddly enough, I’ve just tackled one more thing off my list…actually two (hint: this article and my little announcement). Time for something more.

Promise to provide a more “Spincycle-ish” entry next week…but then, this qualifies…doesn’t it?  Promises, promises…

In the dark

The big “M”

A few weeks ago, after a very long day at work and longer evening at home, I found my husband at the computer reading intently.  When I asked him what he was up to, he told me he was reading about midlife crises.  Which got me thinking, isn’t that the time when middle-aged guys buy fancy (sport) cars and have affairs with (much) younger women?  What on earth was HE doing reading about midlife crises…Oh.  My.  God.  Was HE having a midlife crisis??  What does this mean???!!

Run upstairs, grab iPad, start research…FAST!

Psychology Today refers to midlife as: “Mortality and the idea that time is running out [which] can leave a middle-aged person feeling discontent and restless.  Often this 40- to 60-year-old may have a need to reassess life and its meaning.”

Hang on then…does this mean that I might be having a mid life crisis?  At thirty-X and fast approaching 40, am I middle aged?  I mean, I have more laugh lines and crows feet than I used to, and sometimes I huff and puff after just a flight of stairs.  Then there’s the music on the radio… sometimes it just sounds like noise.  And just the other day, I was driving home from work and a bunch of kids were crossing the street in front of me and I can’t believe their choice in clothes these days – my mother would’ve never let me leave the house looking like that!

Uh oh, I’m feeling warm, I’m feeling agitated…and oh my goodness, restless!!  I am in full, DEFCON 1 crisis mode!!!

I think I AM middle aged!!  I mean, I don’t think I can even remember the last time I did anything spontaneously like tried to get into the latest, most hip lounge/bar/restaurant on a Saturday night after 10 pm that didn’t have any high chairs, kids menus or crayons….what does this all mean?

I continued my search for an answer when Google took me in a different direction.  Apparently, in today’s kinder, gentler lexicon, we should no longer be referring to a midlife crisis as a “crisis”, but rather as a transition – a period of tremendous growth.  Transition?  Really?

I admit, I’ve been searching for how to leave my mark…searching for something more.  I ask myself regularly, have I done all that I want to do?  Achieved all that I want to achieve?  Should I just be content with where I’m at???  And then there’s the list.  You know…THAT list.  The one we all have.  And if you’re anything like me, you have a few of those lists:  categorized, colour-coded, time sequenced…the works.  I haven’t even started to knock items off MY list!

And now I’m middle aged???  I’m going through a midlife crisis?!  I mean…transition?  I’m so confused.  I yearn for the past when things were simpler.  The present seems so overwhelming and don’t even get me started about the future – positively, terrifying!

And wait, I didn’t even bring this up…my husband did.  The big “M” has infected my household!!!!

It’s all starting to make sense now.  Seemingly, out of nowhere, my husband decides that it was important to get in touch with his Scottish roots before he dies – he’s 41 and healthy as a horse.  For him, that means learning to play bagpipes.  Not guitar (mmm…sexy), or drums (cool), or even the piano (hello)…bagpipes.  See, when my husband was just a young boy, his mom would take him to a sweet, little old lady’s house for piano lessons.  She would pull into the piano teacher’s driveway to drop him off, and then he would have to make his own way home.  But instead of going in, my husband would sneak around to the side of the house, wait until his mother’s car was gone, and then kill time wandering around the neighbourhood for an hour.  This went on for weeks!!

And right now, at this very moment, my husband is “learning” to play his chanter (an instrument that looks like a long recorder but sounds like an elephant with a stuffy trunk) which he bought online and just arrived today. This instrument is to bagpipes, as a tricycle is to a bicycle…and, I mean no disrespect, I THANK GOD that we have not yet graduated to the real thing!

But NOW he practices.  NOW he’s making up for lost time.  And NOW I’m listening to the two other “chanter enthusiasts” try to get in on the act but daddy doesn’t want to share his precious new toy.  So instead, I’m surrounded by the noise of none other than my own, “pop-up boy band” comprised of the chanter-to-be-bagpipe player, the guitarist, and the drummer.

Akh!  I can’t think!

I have evaluated, re-evaluated and re-re-evaluated my purpose, my career, and “what I want to be when I grow up”.  I have given up, picked myself up and continued my search for MY holy grail more times than I can remember.

And what have I learned?  That the big “M” is indeed a transition.  That it is ongoing…like learning to play the chanter.  I’ve been through some of life’s most notable and trying times – all of which continue to shape who I am, and undoubtedly, who I will be.  And while the chanter is now in the hands of my 3 year old, under the tutelage of my husband and accompanied by the loud stomps of my nearly 7 year old, and I still feel like I’m nowhere near figuring everything out, I know that I have now, this moment, this memory during my midlife, that despite all of my transitioning, I will never forget.