.Questions I Ask Myself.

What I usually hear is, “say yes, try something new, expand, go forward, give it a chance,  be open.” There were times when I said yes just to please others which is the worst.  How about I start a season of No because this is simply what I really need. To say, “No!”

The last couple of months I have spent a lot of time juggling quite a few things. Running around, school work, assignments, reading some ridiculous emails, answering a few but not all, a move, fitting things in between things and then add more things while getting used to a new situation and environment. In all honesty, the crazier and busier it is, the more strengths and power I seem to have. Until I crash. Hard! But this usually takes a long time. I like new plans and schedules and I am surprisingly functioning pretty well under pressure. Not when it comes to statistic homework, assignments and spreadsheets.

I lean towards perfectionism. My perfectionism comes with a very strong urge to do everything myself, so it is exactly how I want it when I want it by giving and applying 200% to anything I sign on for or that is assigned to me. A couple of weeks ago I had this feeling that I cannot go on like this anymore.  I slept badly for weeks, I was constantly tired and dealt with a foggy, cloudy brain most of the day. I was exhausted and ran myself down with more errands, self-inflicted stress and everyday life. This was the time, when my body responded to all the stress I had created by simply stopping me in my tracks. And for the first time, I really listened.

I said No to certain people and projects. This was very hard for me because I have this need to get everything done that I signed up for. Saying no felt initially weird but in hindsight, I remember feeling incredibly relieved. I wanted more of that. There was a wedding and a bachelorette-party I was supposed to help planning but I said No to both. I experienced another full-body sigh of relief when that was not on my to-do list anymore. Although I really wanted to do both things to perfection,  I knew for my own well-being that I needed to say No. I continued saying No for some time and released myself from any additional tasks outside of my son, writing, and school and it felt so good. I decided to lean more into that then because it felt awesome.

It is so natural to say yes to everyone and everything, because yes makes people happy, and making people happy naturally makes us happy. It was always yes, yes, yes with me. These days, I ask myself simple questions first before making a decision. First and foremost, how do I really feel about this? Is it really a good idea to say yes? Even though I need time to fully recharge and refocus a bit, life is good these days. My life is calming down and most importantly, I do not lose focus. I know what I want and what I do not want anymore. A major priority I will never skip again.

Other questions I ask myself are if certain things in my life reenergize and inspire me to create or rather hold me down. Whatever I am doing I want to be there and experience it fully. For example, when I am writing, I am writing. I do not have a nanny or a babysitter, so it is my responsibility to use every minute I have (usually early in the morning or when my son is asleep) to maximize my output. Time management is key for me and I became very good at it without tiring myself out.

Everything in life is a choice. I learned that I am in charge of how I spend my time and with whom as well as the effect my choices have on my life. My friend told me the other day that, “you can do it all and give 200%, but you cannot do it all well.” Sure I can say yes to everything, but something’s got to give at some point down the road. Balance is hard, but I figured it becomes easier when I simplify the things I am trying to maintain. The other day, my son wanted a toy at the store and I told him he cannot have it. He looked at me and said, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you might find you get what you need.” I listen to The Stones a lot.

So yes, I believe I CAN have it all if I define what my “all” is. I get to decide, then create it, and have this cake and eat it, too. It is up to me. I know in my life, my “all” included a deep, solid relationship with my son, friend, friends, enjoying the work I do, writing and carving time out for me. I will also add good food and lots of nature, mindful- and quietness. It is all very simple and I refuse to complicate my life anymore.

I bought my son the toy. I mean c’mon he can recite THE STONES!

.This Journey.

You are here to live big. You are here to relax. You are here to be yourself
You are here to inspire and uplift. You are here to help. You are here to live out your potential. You are not here to live small. You are not here to internalize. You are not here to shrivel and doubt. You are not here to show off.  You are not here to be anyone else – Daniela Henry 

 

Imagine you are doing exactly what you always wanted to do. Now close your eyes. Is it to travel to Australia? Learn to surf in Hawaii? Get a puppy or kitten? Write and publish that novel?  Imagine this day has arrived. Now open your eyes. How did this feel?

We all have dreams, things, goals, persons or places we think about in empty moments. The simple thought of those dreams could make us smile, tear up or laugh. It is there and lives within us all the time. A couple of months ago, when I started reduced the noise around me, my dreams got louder. When I found this space within myself that is quiet and I take the time to listen, I can hear it speak. It speaks and guides me. The more time I take to listen, the more knowledge I gather from it. The more I know, the less I fear.

Then, I realized that I am actually living my dream instead of simply day-dreaming. This is my reality now. I have spoken about my dream(s) in previous posts and my family and close friends have been hearing about it for some time now. Yet, good things take time and patience. Like a temporary work visa or becoming a permanent resident in Canada. All this aside, I am pursuing my dream of living and hopefully soon working here. There are so many stories I will soon share; stories about the process of getting here, of settling down, immigration struggles since all this definitely did not happen overnight.

I do not want people to think that trying to stay and living in this country is easy but I want you to know that it is possible. While every risk comes with challenges, it also comes with rewards and so far, in my two years here, I have witnessed magic almost every single day. I will start with this:

Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt. There was a time in my life when people told me I cannot make it on my own in this country. Repeatedly been told, it created fear and self-doubt within me. It made me think if suggested alternatives actually work better for me but after analyzing them thoroughly, I knew that those will make me feel bad in the long run and are not good for me. The thing that I have learned recently has been that I do not need to fear anything. In order for me to action my dream(s), I simply have to believe I can do and deserve it since I put so much effort, time and energy into this. I have to believe in my abilities and my self-worth which is very strong. My self-worth is what sustains me when it gets hard or I hit a block. Being selfish is not a bad thing. I just put my “self” (and my son) first.

This recent journey, even though painful at times, has truly been the biggest and best experience of my life. I have learned so much about myself, about making things happen, on how to survive, on letting friends help and support me, being resourceful, watching money even more, and most importantly about trusting the path I chose. I never really set any expectations around how I would feel or exactly what would happen once I arrived in Canada. I only knew I will start and finish the Master’s program. Now, that I accomplished that and continued studying holistic nutrition, I realize that the biggest lesson is to renew my self-confidence every day which becomes so much easier. I could not be in a better situation to work on this than now.

My recent experience has proven to me that we all have a path or flow, and when we let ourselves go with it, the people, places, and things we need all conspire to help us on that journey. Whenever we go against this flow, despite knowing where we need to go, life gets a bit rough(er). Many times, I wasn’t even aware if I am in the flow or not.
Ottawa makes me happy. Some people here make me especially happy and when people ask me why I am here, I usually answer that I feel called to be here. I want to make this work; I feel good here, comfortable and loved. Others ask me what I will be doing in terms of getting a job or a clear purpose because we humans need to categorize thing in our brain so it is easier to process. We are human and I believe that we all understand the spiritual language that sometimes does not make logical sense. Whenever I make decisions and take actions based on my spirituality (heart, feelings, and gut), it does not always make perfect logical sense but for some reason, these feeling are 99% accurate to me. And this type of sense is the only thing that really matters.

.This Woman.

This woman I know is strong. This woman you want does not exist. Despite agreeing to split two appetizers with you and seeming, in your eyes, charmingly overwhelmed by the menu’s options, her favorite time of the day is not having dinner with you at all. Her favorite time of day is when the waiter starts coming around putting little votive candles on the tables.

However, she picked this restaurant for its big booths because they make her feel like she is falling into a giant comfortable pillow; sinking into a hug trying to seek comfort. Hugs from furniture don’t mislead her; like a cushion safely placed on her stomach and held tight that acts like a soft fender for her gut. This woman also accepts hugs from the weight of a dentist’s X-ray apron. Or from Canada Goose Jackets, nicely stacked next to each other on a rack, inviting her to fold herself into them. From going to the movie theaters by herself in the day. From resting her face against cold marble surface. From stepping into the sunlight and closing her eyes. From listening to the neighbor’s dog sigh.

Yet, she is not harsh, standoffish, unwilling and up to something. She is not narcissistic, a snob, a spy or some suspect. She is not haughty, selfish, plenty vain, but she is proud and affected of what she has achieved so far. She is looking at her own reflections in the mirror that is behind you at the restaurant. Despite your grievances, she is not withholding. She will simply not tell you anymore about the things she takes an interest in, because what she does not want is this: that you procure them from her. Why? Because you yearn for her vulnerability. Which you believe comes complimentary, like pretzels on a flight; two small bags and a smile.

Vulnerability, however, she refuses to give you because she is, after all these years, gaining back control and custody of herself which feels amazing to her. She realized that somewhere, all the way down, most things lost will eventually be found. For her, it is an everyday process of retrieval moving at the speed of someone gathering dirty laundry from the floor – silently regretting this one cardigan she bought and only wore once but she remembered when and where she bought it. She also gets distracted by the labels on the back of her T-shirts that is annoyingly so she just tears it off -most of the time leaving no hole. That’s the speed she moves at. She doesn’t like to accomplish things fast. Good things take time. She is too sensitive but got sucked in and convinced to move too quickly. She loves and is fine with that many times, her thought just come up like goop squeezed out of a tube.

Your obsession is your obsession. What absorbs you though is merely her. You believe that your fascinations, ideas, and projects have manifested her. However, she is an iceberg you have mistaken for an island – discoverable in your eyes. She is open in ways that do not attract attention, in the same manner, she attracts attention. There is a difference but neither requires your sanction. She knows what she needs – you do not have to tell her. You do not have to fix her life. Rather fix your own. Do you know when she sits somewhere and extends her neck, sits up straight and communicates her posture? She is self-confident. Are you?

This woman likes completeness, security, honesty, and this feeling that she can be herself and say whatever she wants. Lies destroy things, she never wants lies. She wishes she had an understanding for small talk, cheating or arbitrary tone when airing something considered. Also, for soft-boiling an egg. Why is this always a challenge? While she sat at a library the other day, almost uninterrupted for one hour, she readjusted her posture various times. She got distracted by the Peanut M&M’s in the vending machine. The day progressed. The library’s quiet time came to be its own noise; like artificial silence forged from real silence. Is everybody playing pretend-silence? This is one of the places she is happy. Here, she can think, read and write. She was tired of reading after one hour and thought if this is how cheating must feel. Sentences begin to float off the page and the focus becomes unfaithful, and then the book starts to flop like a fainted body. Off to the next one?

This woman finishes the chapter and looks up from her page and then down at the library’s carpet beneath her feet. There is a cord close to her desk, lengths of it, looping all over the place. The janitor has started vacuuming. The library will soon close for the night. It is time to pack her things and say goodnight.

.Mostly Aware But Sometimes Raw.

Actually, not much has changed in my life, yet a lot is going on. I am still sometimes easy-going and sometimes difficult. A woman who startles easily. I still forget to wash an apple before I eat it. I am still annoyed but thankful for this rush of hot air let off from the sides of a bus. I think, “Yes, things could be grosser, hotter and nastier”. The sound of people spitting bothers me. I still interrupt occasionally when people talk but I am getting better at it. I am confused on how strange it feels to receive a postcard – this little card that traveled all the way to my apartment while I wonder how many people at the post office have read it.

I still prefer to count to twenty instead of ten. I love ice cream and the weird sensation of brain freeze I get when eating it too fast and then quickly swallowing it down. I still have the same nightmares but it is getting so much better lately. I still have trouble discerning between solitude and loneliness, and the weird feeling of sadness I get on Sundays; the same feeling I get when listening to Beethoven on a rainy day. I am still wondering why I am initially comfortable and then restless when sitting on grass. I love the size of LP records and want a record player for the longest time. Yet, I do not own one single record. I love when people collect them and play their records. I spend quite some time browsing through record stores without buying any.

Sometimes I am still shocked by how irreversible life is. That there is no going back to this old version of me that existed before. What is done is done, I try not to dwell on the past too much anymore. Or how much life was before I figured out the pleasure of doing absolutely nothing. Or before I figured out that there is no one way to live and to life. Or before I smelled city smog in New York Midtown Manhattan and thought I could never live here yet I rented an apartment for a couple of years and loved it. Or when I wept in my brother’s arms when he had to fly back to Germany because I knew I would miss him so much. Or when I read Marguerite Duras’s The Lover and thought it was the best book I have ever read. Or whatever version of me existed before I moved on, found a new perspective, saw the magnolias in early spring blooming in a somewhat different way – not just pink but rather flowering almost forcefully and ambient letting me know that a new chapter is about to begin.

Weirdly, I get shivers on very hot days and I get annoyed when a Post-it unsticks and comes off my journal. Sometimes I still confuse being misunderstood with feeling some sort of shame and uncomfortableness. I am super hungry when it is not quite lunch time or dinner yet. I love to drink red wine when reading on my couch but these days I prefer camomile tea even though I hated it as a kid and associated it with sickness. I love sitting on a porch when there is lightning, thunderstorm, and rain. Sitting at a dock at the lake watching the stars and the moon makes me happy. I still imagine my brain is the size of a pea when it comes to mathematics, statistics, spreadsheets or when I do not understand how bridges are built over large amounts of water or whenever I don’t get the exact location of countries or continents on a globe.

For whatever reasons I am drawn to the colors violet and lavender. Recently, someone told me, “People don’t change.” Listening to some people feels like hard work trying to retrieve a mutual tenderness that has already fallen from our hands and rolled into a storm drain a long time ago. How unfamiliar it feels to deal with some people or to even look at them. All these unresolved arguments and trying to test the other over nothing that now just feels colorless, sad, unnecessary and creeps back silently when least expected over emotions long forgotten. I am now in this strange possession of a history that often pulls me in different directions that I can manage pretty well. Sort of like a new responsiveness that does not pry.

I can identify now what constitutes a big drama, hot air or the difference between the former and latter. I know how it feels to be hurt. Also, the hurt we cause when we have been enduring too much in silence and have started to trust our own fixed claim that everything is just fine even though it is not. How it lightens but also strikes the heart. I learned that I should not try to change a person. The effort exerted is often ineffectual and rather upsetting. Change, I have learned, rises up like nausea – the simple promise of relief is what makes it all bearable. I learned that I have to be careful of overvaluing what people give and be cautious of how proportioned my ability to love is since I have become rather impressionable.

What I love is watching stars with a person who listens while I don’t finish my thoughts because maintaining completeness all the time grows tiresome. A person so acquainted with my treasury of reluctance, with the lines of my body, with my soul, that I forget I have those, and he forgets he has those and we just melt together into one; while the shooting stars keep shooting. There is no rush.

.Panda Watch Recommendations.

Hey you,

I am so glad you want to visit me in Ottawa. Good to hear from you. Unfortunately, I am out of town and it is a bummer that we miss each other. I will be missing in action for a while because my friend and I are sneaking away for a bit to travel and purchase a house in Morocco since we think it is a great investment. We will rent it out later on and get security to protect it when we are not in Morocco obviously. Also, while we are there, we write a book together. It is all planned out. The title is “Faster than the Speed of Love”. We are super stoked about it.  Do you like it? We will discuss all the details when we meet soon.

In any case, I know you are only around for a couple of weeks but here are the restaurants you should definitely check out while in town. For breakfast, you have to try French Insanity. They usually open by 8 am but if you are not in line by  5.30 am, forget it. On their menu is one slice of french toast only wrapped in wax paper. You are only allowed to purchase one and they usually run out by   8.10 am. They don’t serve cinnamon, butter or anything else with it. They also hate maple syrup. Sorry, I know, you are in Canada but their french toast is so good that it does not need maple syrup. Trust me! They do offer ketchup though and for whatever reason three cinnamon-raisin bagels and a large French Vanilla Latte for $6. Go figure.

For lunch, I would recommend Antonio’s. Not the original Antonio’s since the Italian mob burned down the entire building when China Town wanted to invade and take over Little Italy. It is still the best Italian food in town though. I go there, like 5 times a week for lunch. Okay, technically it is not in the city. It is actually a little stand at the main concourse of the minor-league hockey team here in Ottawa; close to the stadium. You also have to take the train to get there and purchase a ticket to see a Senator’s game, but hey, this should not deter you. You will love it. Everything on the menu is awesome. Try the triple layer cake. It is ridic. Overall, the food is to die for. FYI: Watch out for any open trunks on cars close to the river.

If you don’t like Italian food, try Holy Shit Basil. Their food is all vegetarian but you will think it is gluten/dairy free paleo autoimmune diet food. The awesome thing is that they grow all their food right in the restaurant, so you get the real table-to-table experience. Another highlight is that this restaurant is right next to the used-book store that is never open but they have a great selection. Another option for supper: I would recommend the amazingly authentic pho restaurant PHO-Me-NOW. However, you cannot get in there without a Vietnamese passport. It is kind of difficult to track those down but it is so worth it. Let me know if you need help with this and I introduce you to “my guy”. With him, it is no problem if you cannot get your paperwork in order on time. Trust me. They also change your kid’s passport overnight.

Another alternative for supper is “Le Bukowski’s aka The Buck Typewriter“. It is another new French restaurant that opened recently by a guy who is going through a divorce and threatens his wife via emails. Word on the street is that he opened this restaurant even though he got kicked off “Top French Onion Soups where Onions Simmer in Red Wine” because one of his recipes killed a judge and someone else made a way better onion soup. It is a little pricey but in the long run, every course will change your life. Some of them in ways you will never expect. It is all so worth it. The baguette they serve made me realize that I am not really afraid of anything anymore and that I am strong. I mean, wow, right? Try the Absinthe or Ricard they served with or before the appetizer.

Otherwise, Spinners is a great fun diner (diner/dinner). Heads up: the service is a little slow and do not try to get the black bubble gum from the bubble gum machine to eat there for free. You will waste too much money.  The original staff from the sixties is mostly still there. They only added some desperate students who need money. When a server or cook dies, they do not replace them so the kitchen gets pretty backlogged. Enjoy looking at the pictures all around the restaurant while you desperately wait for your food though. You cannot purchase the artwork. If you want the full Spinners-experience order the “Hungry Man”. They put sawdust in it, which Bob, the owner insists is some kind of old tradition. It tastes horrible at first and you think it is the worst breakfast you ever had. The second bite is better though and then you will end up loving it. Also, do not mention that you are from France. Mr. Bob doesn’t like immigrants and has some “opinions”.

Ready for dessert? How come no matter how full you are, there is always room for dessert? Okay, so there is this great place you have to check out. It is called INSecure. It is Japanese I believe. It is close to the hotel where you are staying. Just one block down the road actually. They have this amazing ice cream with savory toppings such as gravy, paprika or balsamic vinegar. The sweet/salty craze is all over town these days since it is so hot.  If you like it, maybe we can go together one day. Let me know what you end up doing while you are in town. And have fun.

.Forgiving Myself.

Some choose to live a valueless, pleasure-driven and self-absorbed life. All they care about is sustaining the high a little longer to avoid the inevitable failures of their life, to pretend the suffering away. Others believe they are special and unique. They exaggerate their achievements and talents. They may take advantage of others and their behavior is arrogant. They lack empathy even though they pretend to have it. They have frequent mood swings,  are impulsive and have an unstable and fluctuating self-image. But most importantly they lack self-confidence and are insecure.

When I think of forgiveness it usually has to do with seeing blame or guilt in someone else. With great effort, I say that I forgive them. I proudly tell myself and others that I don’t have an issue with that person anymore as I have forgiven him for whatever it was I believed was an affront against myself or someone close to me. If there are cases when I then still feel uncomfortable seeing them or encounter certain situations I still have work to do. Then I have forgotten to forgive myself. What? He did X, Y, and Z to me so why should I forgive myself? Am I crazy?

When I find myself drawn into the emotion of guilt or blame (myself or others) I ask myself to go back, in my mind, to the earliest time I can remember when I experienced similar emotions. Doing so helps me realize that I had actually made a decision to believe an untruth. I chose to feel abandoned or rejected which further lead me to the mistaken belief that I was not good enough and not worthy of being loved. This emotion will inevitably come back in time and again and again until it is confronted and healed. This can be accomplished by forgiving everyone involved especially myself for choosing the erroneous belief in the first place.

I accept that I made mistakes and that it’s OKAY to forgive and to remember who I am. We are all born pure, innocent and deserve being loved. With tender persistence and loving forgiveness, we can heal spiritually, emotionally, mentally and even physically (holding on to guilt and blame will take its toll). My forgiveness is imperative. It is liberating to realize we can heal ourselves by dispelling these toxic delusions. Practicing forgiveness opens myself to receiving the love I was born to experience. Forgiveness is when I truly and lovingly release myself and others of ours and their mistaken beliefs or errors absorbed in my consciousness.

Lately, I have been curious about what makes someone great. I would define greatness as being happy and living my truth. I am curious about what separates people who are happy and those who are not. I recently read a book on happiness and was reminded that all everyone wants is to be happy. I find out more and more that our happiness is largely connected to “connection” with the “right” people. The people who, when I think about them, give me the most joy, happiness and whom I can connect with. In some sense, certain connections in my life give meaning and purpose to my life.

Whenever I put myself out there through my words and pictures, I am opening the door for potential criticism and judgment. I may also expose myself to answers and opposing views which is indeed a lot more fulfilling than stagnating in the comfort of what I already know. One important aspect is, however, to stay true to myself. I am always inspired by people who love to dream, who go beyond their fears and stand up for something they believe in. Surrounding myself with them helps me stay in a headspace that is conducive to me achieving my dreams. I have been quite vulnerable in the last couple of weeks but I received help me to connect deeper, feel less alone, be happier, more content and I have been reminded that there are always solutions when I just keep perspective. Opening up and letting people see who I truly am makes me vulnerable, however, sharing certain parts is so freeing. Asking for help is okay.

These days, I found my life to be incredibly freeing and awesome. I have been given a chance to explore different possibilities, see, experience, learn, grow, and discover new ways and criteria for fulfillment. There are so many new ways and opportunities to be happy.  I have been reminded that I am enough, that I am loved and most importantly that I love and forgive myself.

.Focus.

My son and I officially killed another venus fly trap. We fed it with flies, watered it but realized in the end that this is not the environment for it to grow at its best. While trying to edit my book I observed the plant; it looked sad and waited patiently for flies. I focused on it and thought about what we did wrong this time. My mind started wandering around. I am supposed to focus on my work and this book so it gets published any day now. It’s 2 pm. How is it already 2 pm? I glanced down at my empty coffee cup that sat next to the dying venus fly trap and contemplated whether it’s time for another cup. “I have to get all the editing done today”, I thought when the nutritional pathology assignment on Hashimoto’s disease that is also due in one week came to my mind.

I looked back at the screen, to the plant, and to my coffee cup. There is so much going on outside on the street, too. Why is the neighbor wearing only his underwear while watering his lawn? Why is this guy swimming naked in his pool while five baby raccoons are playing on my balcony?  I sit back at my desk and decide to focus. But shortly after I checked my emails because maybe I missed another enlightening and funny one that brightens my day. At least I barely check Facebook anymore because I find it annoying and tiring wondering why people post every single step of their life. Who the hell cares. Who the hell cares about “likes”. Nobody.

Then I sit back and decide to focus. I have a lot of work to do. Now is my time. I open the word documents I am working on and put on headphones. I never work with my headphones on but I want to give this a try. I am really feeling this song. B-b-b-bad to the bone. They are touring again soon. The last concert was awesome. Let me check this other great song they played at the concert. What an awesome night. Let me forward this song to my friend. He would definitely appreciate it. When they are touring again we are going. Def going! Okay, I will find a calmer song now to launch me into my super creative work mode. There it is. I love this song. Now I can focus. Like hard.

In the corner of my eye, I see my phone light up and it’s a text. Yay. I sort of know who it is from but also maybe someone could be in danger and needs my help. If they were, they would obviously send me a text over a phone call. In any case, I better check. Like now. Cute message from Mr. X so all is sweet. I smile and sent him a message back. And he sent me another message. And then I….

I work great under pressure and I easily fall under the distraction spell. I love what I do, especially when it involves writing but I am easily side-tracked and have a hard time finding my way back to focus on the task, especially if I know I still have a couple of days left before I have to hand in an assignment.

Does this all sound familiar to you? At The Institute of Holistic Nutrition, I learned some amazing tips to feel more focused, energized and not get too distracted. I will share the best ones with you.

Breathe.  I breathe in and breathe out deeply and let go of all the stuff that is stuck inside of myself. I usually put one hand on my heart and one on my belly and breathe quietly. I do this anywhere and anytime I have the feeling I really have to take care of myself. With this simple notion I  feel better and can give myself a feeling of safety and that I am here. Now.

The fastest way to focus is to simply give my brain a break. Whenever I think I keep hitting a block in what I am doing (for me especially when I am writing or coming up with a solution to a problem), chances are that my brain has too many tabs open. Then I am standing up, breathing deeply, walk around, go outside and basically visit an environment different than the one I am currently in. This gives me some space to re-sort things. I feel most creative and productive when I spent time with myself or when I sleep really well. Awareness is my friend. Once I become aware that I am distracted I am in a better position to do something about it. Whenever I get distracted I am taking a moment to analyze the before, during, and after.

I am a writer and always carry a journal or notebook and a pen(s) with me. Whenever I feel most distracted and I have deadlines creeping up, I create lists. I add the things that I want to accomplish by the end of the day. When I cross things off, I feel confident. One thing at a time. When I start something really important I choose to stick with it. It usually means that I have to be super hyper-aware and listen to my strict inner voice thoroughly. I can work best when there is complete silence. I cannot work productively with music playing or any other distraction.

Life is not easy but I don’t fear trying new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have. Moving on and it feels so good.

Just focus.

.What Feels Right – One Week Birthday Aftermath.

I recently turned 37, still studying and unemployed in this awesome country I want to make my new home. When I decided (twice) to leave my stable, full-time jobs to enter into the unpredictable world of academia, research, studying, freelancing and occasionally working at a bookstore, I knew deep down that this was the right decision. My gut told me to go for it while my brain desperately tried to hold on to security, safety, routine, and comfort. Some “friends” told me that I am completely nuts for taking this step while others encouraged me and mentioned that they are proud of me for leaving something I struggled with and made me unhappy to pursue what I am passionate about.

It is all about choices in life. Choices to leave partners and find others. The choice to leave a job that did not fulfill me to find something different even if it means the start will be tougher and uncertain. However, it is something I am exploring and that I really want to do so I step outside of my comfort zone and go for it. Believe me, it is/was hard at points since I am not alone. I have an almost 5-year-old to raise and feed.

I am taking a professional skills development course this semester (best one so far!) and the instructor Lisa J. Weiss (coincidence?) told me things that I have been trying to tell myself on a daily basis for the last couple of months. It was only when she said it to me and showed me new ways to redefine my life by leading from within that it really, truly hit home. If I am being completely honest, the past couple of months have been pretty tough. I have been struggling with my marriage, divorce, and the question where I “should” be in life, what is expected of me, and where I “need” to be and what I actually want. Turning 37 was nothing big for me in terms of feeling sad. It is just a number and another day. The little parties I have had with people I treasure dearly were awesome. However, what has been completely throwing me off recently is choosing to change my career path.

Most days are awesome but others have my metabolism completely drop off the face of this earth and anxiety starts to creep in making me question my choices and life trajectories. Sort of like, “Daniela, you are 37. You should have a house or cottage, duh! (half paid off) and two garages at this point. Your property should be protected by a white wooden fence. There have to be two garages at least, a dog, a cat, two kids (boy and girl) and the occasional Friday-night babysitter on speed-dial who comes over so you and your partner can enjoy a night out. Also, get used to working 9-5 (don’t think you get out by 5 pm though!) and climb the corporate ladder as soon as possible. All this for three weeks vacation a year! Don’t sleep your way up either!”

This all made me think about societal norms and pressures and those expectations others have; but more so, the expectations we set for ourselves. This society wants people to go to school, study, get degrees, then get a job, get married, have children and buy a house. All this btw should be achieved by the time you are 30. If you really think about it, aren’t those acts nothing but a cultural representation of our primal instincts to easier adapt to the environment, pro-create and succeed? Seems pretty lame and boring to me. If it works for you, great. I asked myself a simple question, “Would I rather make decent money and work a job you hate or pretend to be an author, bookstore owner and student for life and be broke for  a while but really loving it?” The answer was immediately clear to me: I chose the latter. Thinking about it, if I try this new lifestyle and fail in a couple of years, I will have to get a real job eventually anyway. Will I have lost anything really? No. I can always add a ton of experience to my résumé and actually enjoy living life in the meantime.

I do not think it is healthy to have humans stare at computer screens crammed in a small, individual cubicle for 8+ hours every day. Are you reading this from your cubicle with a weak internet connection but you are not supposed to use the work computer for personal use anyway? Your office is outdated (Windows or Dell Computers and Windows 98 Software), and you are just sad and hate your life?

Then again, all workplaces are different. You also could watch a pirate copy (in-house made!) while sitting (when you were supposed to stand) on an assigned post. You could work double paid overtime in a greasy phone booth wearing three pairs of pants and a Russian hat while heating your rear with a fire hazard electric coil device. If this is your thing, good! Whatever makes you happy. Deep inside, you know when it is time to leave and change. Whatever bothers you in life try to leave behind. Time is not waiting. But that’s also the beauty of it all, no? Just do something about it, stop complaining and become more self-aware. Also, quit comparing yourself to others. We only have this one life. Do whatever feels right by listening to your gut, then repeat.

.37.

Every year I have mixed feelings about my birthday. Maybe because this number is changing so quickly and a 4 is in near sight. Or because my son asked me the other day, “Mommy how old are you going to be on Thursday?” Me, “37, Joel”. Joel, “Wow, this is very old, mommy. Like dinosaur-old”. Crickets and silence on my end. Then again, it is just a number. It dawned on me however that I spend a ridiculous amount of energy every year to decide whether I am comfortable with my approaching non-problematic birthday or not.

Is birthday anxiety a thing? Kind of how I don’t like Valentine’s Day? Or how I don’t really care about New Year’s Eve? Deep inside, the optimist in me believes that each and every birthday is going to be a memorable event. Yet, the misanthrope in me thinks that is it silly to place any type of significance on it at all since it is just a day like any other. Just a day on the calendar. Or is it the best day of the year? This is when I was born, on a Sunday at 11.30am, 37 years ago. Some birthdays in the past I do remember clearly while others are simply hazy memories. But maybe this year will be different? Am I trapped in a contradictory hoop of insanity, cynicism or hope? I am an analyst so I thought I give this birthday mystery a little bit of a stirrup by giving my birthday a little neurotic psychological spin by asking the questions, “Does my birthday make me sad?”

Three months out: “Awesome, it is my sister’s birthday on April 4th which means it is exactly 100 days until it’s my big day. Whoohoo. Maybe I should start planning something special like a one-week trip just by myself. Without my son. Maybe a retreat. Or travel somewhere with someone special?”

Two months out: “Okay, maybe this trip idea was a bit crazy. I mean, going somewhere over the weekend, maybe. It would also be cool to get my closest friends together for dinner and drinks.”

One month out: “I don’t even care about my birthday at all. Maybe I just don’t do anything. It is just another day. Maybe nobody remembers. Let me take my birthday date off on Facebook.”

Three weeks out: “Okay, I am just going to chill. Birthdays are completely overrated. I don’t care about mine. Whatever happens, happens.”

Two weeks out: ” Maybe someone is secretly planning a party or something special for me. That would be so sweet. Maybe they are just not telling me about it.  Then again, I hate surprises. ”

Nine days out: “Okay, obviously nobody dropped any hints about a secret birthday party. Just my son who asked if I invite him to my birthday party. Duh. To fully skip my birthday makes me feel weird, too. I will just plan a nice dinner with one or two friends.”

One week out: “Okay, a small dinner sounds kind of sad. Maybe I just invite a bunch of people to a big birthday dinner celebration. Whoever wants to come can come. And maybe we can all go out after? I get a babysitter. Maybe we can do it on Friday since my birthday is actually on a Thursday this year?”

Five days out: (putting the Facebook birthday notification back on. I am pathetic) “Formally asking people to celebrate with me makes me feel kind of weird. Also, most of my friends here have kids, so they won’t have time anyway. Babysitters are so expensive after all. And then how would they get along since many of them are from different backgrounds.”

Four days out: “Okay, do I even have friends? Like real friends? Maybe five really good ones. Okay, maybe just two. Or I invite everybody over to my new place/house occupied by Carleton University professors only,  to help me move furniture and decorate all night long. Maybe not a good idea. But we could spy on Erik Karlsson. Maybe also not a good idea.”

Three days out: “It is ridiculous at this point. F*** it. I am literally not doing anything on my birthday. It is on a Thursday, so nobody wants to hang out anyway. Also not on Friday.”

Two days out: “Shit, I think I actually do care about my birthday. Nobody will remember it. I have no friends.”

One day out: “I don’t know what is sadder: Not even mentioning my birthday at all, telling everyone or doing something awkward. Option number one. This is the best. Then I will enjoy a glass of red wine by myself tomorrow night.”

Actual BIRTHDAY: “It is my birthday, bitches. The world is my oyster. I tell everyone and everybody is supposed to treat me like a queen. Birthdays are so awesome. Awesome dinner, awesome conversations, and cheesecake with the ones who are very close! My psychology professor would be very proud of me.”

Let’s see what will happen within in the next year but some awesome things are already lined up. I am not setting unreachable targets and goals and just share some things I want to focus on. Firstly, I will start with things that are actually achievable or doable.

I will get into more detail but my book is in its final stages. About one or two more months before it gets published. It was a lot of work, editing, and public relations issues to deal with but I am very proud of myself.

My life is great these days even though the last couple of months were rough. I am not living in the past anymore. The past is over and I am moving on pretty nicely.  I stopped comparing myself to others and enjoy what I am doing.  I will look back at all this and think about what I have learned from that experience. Most importantly, however, I will treat myself with kindness and focus on my health. Welcome, 37!

.Beth & Jason.

I have written enough blog posts about heartbreak by now. It is time to move on and to leave the past behind. An interesting reader question to one of my last posts was, “How do you know when a relationship is right?”

The other day, my son and I took a walk at the Rideau River in the evening. He played with sticks and looked for ghosts while I just enjoyed the sound of the cicadas.  Shortly after,  I came across an “Ottawa moment” I will never forget. I spotted a couple having a candlelit picnic just at the river. They dined in grey lawn chairs pulled up to a fold-out camping table. As we passed them, they were just talking about the sunset and how awesome the food tasted. On the little fold-out table they had two glasses of wine, cheese, bread and a big salad. They smiled at my son and I so I introduced myself to Beth and Jason.

It was the most pleasant conversation. While my son played they asked me to join them for a glass of wine. Just like that. They told me that they have been watching the sunset every “nice and comfortable” night for over 28 years since they moved to Old Ottawa South.  After a certain amount of dates, they thought it would be great to bring some wine or beer. Neighbors asked them many times, “You guys are still going down to the river to watch the sunset?” Beth answered, “We have never stopped. This is our paradise.”

I asked them what their favorite supper conversation is and if they ever run out of things to discuss. Jane smiled and said, “We do not run out of things to discuss. The longer we are together, the more we have to talk about. We have more experiences, more friends in common, stories about people and plans for the future. We are planning our upcoming vacations and where we would love to travel to.” “Did anyone ever join you for your supper, ” I asked. Jason smiled this time and said, “Well, you just did. And so did many others. A musician came by here once. He brought his guitar and played some songs during our dinner. It was great. We shared out food with him.”

“Beth and Jason, how did you meet?”, I asked thinking that their marriage is so awesome. Jason told me that they initially met in Highschool, then did not see each other for a couple of years and met again in graduate school at Carleton University. He proposed marriage three months later. I asked Beth how she knew they were meant to be. She said that one night when she was feeling sick he walked through meters of snow (Damn, Canadian winter) to get her her favorite book from the Black Squirrel Bookstore to read her to sleep. He also made an awesome chicken broth that night.

“What’s the key to a good marriage?”, I asked. Apparently, I don’t know. Both answered pretty much at the same time saying that connecting again at the end of every single day, sitting down without distractions and talking is the most important thing. A connection is key and enjoying each others company as well as how to talk to each other and discussing, sharing and analyzing things. The advice they gave to me is that everything is easier when you are in a good mood, spend time together, have fun, be generous to another and apologize. They both added, that each partner is responsible for their own happiness because you cannot rely on your significant other to always entertain you.

They wanted to share their supper with my son and I but we decided to walk back home. While we packed sticks, water bottles, and ghost detectors, Jason took me aside and asked me, “You know what is also important?” I just stared at him and he continued, “This is for your brain on the way home:  In a relationship, it is important to laugh at each other’s jokes. Nobody has ever made me laugh as much as Beth. We are each other’s ideal audience. We had this ‘knowing’ feeling.  It wasn’t love at first sight but rather this strong feeling of ‘but of course this feels right in a good way’. I just had this feeling that this person is very important in my life. Then we became a team. We were initially just together but then we gradually solidified into a team. Then out of a sudden, we were in love. She made everything better. Being with her felt like being on vacation from real life. Disagreements did never threaten to end in a divorce. I always had the feeling we would keep going. We make plans. We keep it interesting. We do not spend too much time apart from each other.” He dropped a pebble in the water and made it dance, wiped his hands clean on his pants and smiled at me.

It has gotten dark by now. We packed our things to leave for good this time while their little candle shone brightly at the camping table.  Beth said “I could not imagine my life without him. It is all about choice. We choose to be together, nobody forces us. However, there are times when I am not entirely sure how things will evolve. We, like all couples, argue and fight at points and then there was/is doubt. Doubt is a part of life. But I believe in us, in our marriage because of the small things we do for another every day and what we have been through. We just have this energy together. He is the one.”

We said goodnight and left. There was so much positivity and thought on my mind while we walked home. I took a closer look at my life and the people who are in it and everything feels okay. Just the way it is. I am moving on.