When you’re a young, solo backpacker, staying in hostels definitely makes the most sense; obviously the price is right, but the opportunity to cross paths with like-minded travelers is key. And it’s easy to connect with people when you’re all young, beautiful, and as free as birds while you travel. Friendships are formed quickly, and romantic dalliances are as hot, bright, and fleeting as falling stars.
However, there was something extra special about the hostel in Lisbon. Or maybe it wasn’t the hostel at all, maybe the stars had aligned that week in November, 2008, bringing together the perfect group of people at the perfect time and place. All I know is it wasn’t just me feeling the magic. The Australian trio ended up staying there for over two weeks! There was a big group of us who spent most nights and many of the days together: exploring the sites of Lisbon, sitting out in the backyard swapping stories and talking about life, checking out local markets, bombarding the tiny little neighbourhood bars – there were so many of us we’d spill out into the street and sit on the curb with our plastic cups of beer – we even went to a concert one night! It’s not unusual to meet people in hostels who become friends, but it’s not very common to have an entire group of travelers stick around long enough to have the kind of experiences together that we did. It was so much fun.
I still spent a fair bit of time alone, but more often than not if our hostel group wasn’t hanging out, then I was with the Aussie boys. They were 23, really easy-going, a lot of fun, very cute, and they didn’t seem to mind having me tag along. They showed me some places they liked, and other days I would just follow them to the park where they’d kick a soccer ball around, while I sat and sort of read a book (but mostly laughed at their antics).
As the days progressed, I found myself more and more drawn to one particular Australian guy. Not only was he easy to be around and very attractive, he was also incredibly sweet, and a genuinely interesting person. I was liking him. A lot. However, there were a few reasons why I was in no way going to pursue this attraction:
So I continued to enjoy their company, splitting my attention equally between the three of them, and enjoying all the fun times with our hostel group. I had to go back to Barcelona eventually, but I had no desire to leave Lisbon and travel anywhere else until then.
My last night there, our crazy group was all out on the town, together as usual, having the best time. There was dancing and drinks, we were all sweaty, we all had smiles that refused to fade, hugs were being swapped and photos snapped. At one point as I glanced across the room my eyes met the eyes of the gorgeous Aussie guy, and I was stunned to realize that he was looking at me the exact same way I was looking at him. Through the crush of people we managed to find each other’s side, and our fingers twined together. There was an intensity sizzling between us that couldn’t be ignored. How we’d managed to go a week without acknowledging it was mind-boggling! By mutual agreement, and still hand-in-hand, we slipped away from the group and the party, letting the quiet of the night enfold us. Our last night in Lisbon. Our first night together.by McKinnley
Before I left for Spain, I’d written, “I hope I find a reason to not come home…. But I’m also terrified that I’ll find that reason.” It seems I was feeling stagnant, ready for change, wanting something big to show up in my life and blow me away, but also deep down I knew that I wasn’t the type of person to leap into the unknown or to take chances. An interesting dichotomy that I was aware of, and yet unable or unwilling to fully address. Yet.
It’s November 2008, I’m barely a week into my third decade, and I’m alone in a foreign country. More than alone, I’m lonely. Making my way through Spain I’d seen and done some amazing things, but without someone to share those moments and memories with, there was a spark that was lacking and the novelty of travel was wearing off.
I got off the bus in Lisbon, Portugal, too disoriented to be charmed by the cobblestone streets. I didn’t speak a single word of Portuguese, and I didn’t know which direction to head to find my hostel. Also, my last few hostel experiences had been less than ideal – they were cold, both physically and emotionally. I was tired, a little under the weather, and missing human connection. I’d come up with a plan to stay a couple nights at the hostel in Lisbon, then head north to Porto where I was looking forward to staying in a home with a local CouchSurfing host.
I arrived at the hostel, thanks to a kind man who saw I was lost and walked me all the way to the door, and quickly realized that things were going to be different. As I entered the lobby there was someone coming down a stairwell, who took one look at me and disappeared back up the stairs. Odd. I checked in and as I turned around the guy from the stairs handed me a drink – my first caipirinha – and said, “Follow me.” He showed me to a room with an open bunk, “Leave your bag here, come on!”
He took me to the common area, and a dozen other travelers all looked our way: “Hey! What’s your name? Where are you from? Come join us!” This. This was what traveling was meant to look like.
I dipped a cup into the communal vat of sangria, joined the massage train, and a couple hours later found myself laughing in the streets as we explored Lisbon’s night life.
A very young backpacker who’d been staying at the hostel for a while was our unofficial guide through the narrow streets. He was impish and impulsive, too much of an open book to be charming, but still intriguing. I quickly learned that he was the type of guy who didn’t think twice before jumping in with both feet. By the end of the night he’d asked me to marry him, and I had no doubt that if I agreed he would have immediately swept me into his joyous whirlwind, which would have blown us to the nearest chaplain’s office, then off onto some wild adventure.
I was awestruck. I’ve always been overly cautious and yet I’d been yearning to break free, do something wild. I didn’t accept his proposal that night, or the next few nights when he continued to ask. I did spend more time with him, more curious than anything, and he truly lived his life immersed in each moment. It was fascinating, and totally foreign. However, I soon realized this usually meant he was doing what felt best for him, regardless of the people around him. He was open and caring, but totally unfazed by most social norms or potential consequences, and that made me uncomfortable.
I realized that I didn’t, in fact, want to live my life like that. I’m rational, and sensitive to people and situations around me, which I (eventually) decided are strengths, not weaknesses. Sure, I still wanted to learn to open up and embrace opportunities, but in hopes that it would bring more connection and intimacy into my life. Despite this guy’s fascination with me, I felt in no way connected to him. Apparently a willingness to make sweeping split second decisions was not synonymous with commitment. I no longer envied his carefree being. It’s funny how much relief you can feel, when you realize that you actually like yourself the way you are.
There were others in our makeshift group of new friends who were just as interesting: a couple of American girls with hippie names, a sweet Australian girl traveling solo, a Portuguese guy and girl who it was unclear whether they worked at the hostel or just enjoyed the atmosphere, a trio of Aussie guys who were traipsing through Europe, and a handful of other fellow nomads.
I never made it to Porto. My couple of nights in Lisbon stretched to over a week, and I didn’t leave until I was in danger of missing my flight from Barcelona back to Calgary. Even then I didn’t want to go – by that point there was a very specific reason why.by McKinnley
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
I wasn’t supposed to be in Portugal. First of all, I’d never had any desire to travel Europe. Secondly, when my friend invited me to come visit him in Spain, I certainly didn’t plan to end up alone in another country.
It was 2008. In the past decade I’d been a bit of a gypsy, living in four countries, moving to different cities 11 times, traveling, teaching, going to school, following some dreams, letting go of others, running away from who I didn’t want to be, then finding myself again.
I was about to turn 30. 30! I was living in a city I’d sworn I’d never live in again. I was single. I’d just finished college for the third time and still had no idea what I wanted to pursue as a career. I don’t know that I’d ever sat down and envisioned what my life would look like at 30 years old, but I was pretty sure that this wasn’t it. And despite all of that, I was EXCITED to turn 30. For the first time I actually felt comfortable in my own skin, and that was enough reason to be celebrating.
My best friend was in Spain for a semester, and although Europe wasn’t even on my travel list, when he invited me to come visit Barcelona, it seemed the perfect place to spend my birthday. Another friend and I hopped on a plane across the ocean, and so my 30th birthday consisted of Spanish markets, paella and wine for dinner, and an incredible celebration with almost 15 friends! It was perfect.
Then my girl friend flew back to Canada, and the boys were in school, so I decided to get on a train and go explore the Spanish countryside. I walked the halls of a castle. I spent hours photographing incredible graffiti. I met a Catalan gypsy who didn’t speak English, but somehow we connected (he gave me a special stone that I still carry). I shared meals in a cave carved into the mountainside. My Spanish improved in leaps and bounds. I also got sick when it was pouring rain and the hostel didn’t have any spare blankets. And I was crushingly lonely.
I was in the South of Spain, intending to circle back north, but I kept talking to people who said, “Go to Portugal instead, it’s incredible.” And so, I got on a bus to Portugal. As I crossed the border I suddenly realized that this was not in the game plan, nobody knew where I was, and I didn’t speak a single word of Portuguese. What was I doing??
But I arrived in Lisbon, and my life changed forever.by McKinnley
Ease. It’s a major 2017 focus for me. How can I make my life run more smoothly? Freedom from stress and anxiety. A lessening of effort, concern, and annoyance. Increasing tranquility, comfort, and bliss.
I feel like “ease” may have some negative connotations, that it may be lumped in with laziness or luck. But to me it means knowing what I really want, so I can ensure all my decisions point towards that. It also means really knowing myself, and what I need to get to those places.
Learning what you need – what your body needs, what your mind needs, what your soul needs – can be a lifelong pursuit, but it’s so important to be in tune with all three of those aspects. Knowing what it is that energizes, refreshes, and inspires you will make your life infinitely easier.
So how do you differentiate between what you need to do, what you should do, and what you want to do? Often, when I’m really in the zone and on the right path, those all align. Sometimes, however, the choice isn’t particularly clear.
Need is pretty easy, since when we need to do something, it’s generally a requirement or an obligation, and things simply won’t progress if we don’t do them. We must do it, so do it we shall.
What about the things we should do versus the things we want to do? That is when I ask myself, “How do I want to feel? Where do I want to get to?”
Years ago I read a story about a young girl who was a competitive swimmer. She had to get up every morning before school to practice, which she did without fail. One day her grandmother was talking to her about swimming and commented that it must be so fun. “Oh, no,” the girl replied, “I love swimming, but it’s not fun.” She was referring to the early mornings, the long, tedious hours of practice, the frustrations that inevitably accompany progress. Yet even at her young age she understood the pay off, how her commitment did in the end bring her joy and satisfaction.
That story stuck with me. Often, the most worthwhile things in life are the ones we pour the most effort into.
Back to my year of ease, and how am I going to decide between should and want? Does ease always equate to doing and getting what I want? Ah ha! Doing what I want and getting what I want are two entirely different questions!
This year I also want to be productive. And I want to have fun. I want to be really supportive and connected. I want to be successful, energetic, and really really healthy.
Those words, those ideas, they paint a pretty clear picture of how I want to feel. So when I have to decide what to do with my day, I can ask myself, “How do I want to feel?”
January 1. The perfect day to start with a clean slate and get the year off to a roaring start. I could be productive, oh yes I could! And I potentially should have used the free day to start checking things off my life list, however I had been so busy over the holidays and working so hard, what I was desperately craving was relaxation (ease) and connection with my hot man. The entire day was spent wrapped in my robe, the majority while propped opposite Marcus on the couch, books open and beverages at hand. I tackled no chores, no duties, no organization, and I didn’t have one iota of regret about it.
Fast forward through another long, busy week, and I have committed to attending a seminar all weekend. I do not want to go. I absolutely do not want to spend my precious free time waking up early, sitting in a conference room, being surrounded by strangers, listening to a lecture. I agreed to this for a reason though, and I should go. It will be good for me to focus on myself for a few days. It will be an enforced opportunity to set this year off on the right foot. I know that I will either learn something new and valuable, or be reminded of something important.
When the seminar begins our educator for the weekend asks everyone who is excited to be there to stand. I do not stand. Then she asks who has shown up but is wondering why they signed up when they have so many other places to be and things to do. I stand up. Honesty is always key.
I attend. I learn. And I’m glad for the experience, as I knew I would be.
Despite this being a “should” decision and not so much of a “want,” I know myself well enough to know that I need to put myself in a position to succeed, if I’m to receive any benefit. Before the seminar begins for the weekend, I make a grocery list, go to the store, and organize meals for my next three days. I know that I am more alert and focused if I eat properly. It is important. I cancel all my social engagements for the weekend, knowing I will need time to decompress from all the enforced interaction with strangers, and will also need time to quietly process what I’m learning. I show up to the space with hot tea, an extra sweater, and a giant scarf to wrap around my shoulders – knowing that the rooms are often cold. And when our lunch break arrives, I’ve been struggling with a nasty headache, and the thought of dealing with bright lights and crowds of people for any excess time fills me with anxiety, so I choose to drive all the way home, where I can nap and decompress for a few short minutes, even though it logically doesn’t make much sense to do so.
These things are what I needed to do in order to show up and succeed at this seminar. And so I did them. I could easily have canceled, but I would not have felt as productive, fulfilled, or as if I was setting myself up to progress.
Know yourself. Weigh out your “shoulds” versus your “wants.” Only you know which is the best choice for you. And most importantly, pinpoint how you want to feel, this more than anything will be able to guide the decisions you are faced with making.by McKinnley
As a child I was impossibly stubborn. There was a day in Kindergarten where our class went to the airport and they were taking all the kids up for a ride in a tiny four-seater plane. And I decided that there was absolutely no way I was getting in that thing. While I remember the day so clearly, I have zero recollection of my rationale behind not wanting to fly. However I do recall my unflinching tenacity in sticking with my decision: I refused to get in the plane, no matter how much cajoling my teachers did, not even when they told me I could have the coveted front seat. I even remember feeling my hold beginning to soften with that one, maybe it would be worth it, since everyone was going to so much trouble to tell me how great it would be, and I could even have the best seat! But NO. I had decided I wasn’t doing it, and nobody was going to change my mind. I never got in the plane.
Fast forward 30 years and I retain very few of the qualities that stubborn and unsmiling child embodied. For better or for worse, I’ve grown up, and I’m no longer as impossibly stubborn as I used to be. In fact, I often find myself being far too flexible, and my decision-making skills are rather insubstantial – I can be coerced into almost anything by anyone charming and persistent enough to try.
While I don’t believe pig-headed stubbornness is a valuable life skill, I do think that decision-making should be simple, definitive, and not lead to sleepless, anxiety filled nights.
A friend recently lent me some books, including “You Are A Badass” by Jen Sincero. I really didn’t think there would be anything new or exciting for me in this book, since I’ve read everything I can get my hands on by amazingly insightful authors such as Brené Brown, Danielle LaPorte, Pam Grout, and dozens of others. To my delight I found this book to be a fantastic amalgamation of many ideas and tenets I’ve been embracing. There’s a wicked little chapter called “The Almighty Decision,” which I think really hits the nail on the head.
So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable.
I TOTALLY DO THAT. I sit on the fence for ages. I ask people on both sides how the grass is. I reach over and wriggle my toes around to see how it feels. Eventually I’ll climb down onto one side, but rarely do I let go of the fence, I keep my hand on that wooden post just in case I see something exciting happening on that other side and need to scramble back over. Sure, sometimes I get enjoyment from both worlds, but most of the time I miss out on the best that either side has to offer because I’m holding too damn tightly to the fence to go out and enjoy frolicking in the meadow.
“I’m a terrible decision maker.” “Making decisions gives me anxiety.” I’ve said both of these things, frequently and repeatedly. It’s time to stop. It’s time to start saying, “I’m a great decision maker!” It’s time for me to actually BE a great decision maker.
I wrote about making the decision to quit my favourite job. How that moment was crystal clear and it was the only time I felt 100% confident that it was what I both needed and wanted to do. It would be amazing if every decision came with that amount of clarity, but it doesn’t, and I need to be able to make quick, decisive choices even when the answer doesn’t come ringing.
This is where we turn back to Jen Sincero, who talks about signing up fully, wanting it badly enough, and, as Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Yep, ok, cool. Then she gets to the good stuff, the How To’s:
In order to do this you need to have the audacity to be honest about what you really want to do, not what you should do, believe it’s available to you regardless of any evidence otherwise, and go for it.
To decide means literally “to cut off.” No wonder so many people are totally freaked out by it! Indecision is one of the most popular tricks for staying stuck within the boundaries of what’s safe and familiar. Which is why a common trait of successful people is that they make decisions quickly and change them slowly. And by quickly I don’t mean that you must know exactly what to do the moment a decision presents itself (although there are those people who do), but rather that you immediately face the damn thing and start working through your decision-making process, whatever that may look like.
If you’re a waffler, or prefer to avoid the process altogether, a great thing to do is practice on the little things to build up your decision-making muscle. When eating at restaurants, make yourself pick something off the menu in under thirty seconds. Once you choose, you are unauthorized to change your mind or your order. Give yourself twenty minutes to go online and research the best garlic press and then make the purchase.
Decisions are not up for negotiation
The whole point of deciding is to stop wasting time and to move forward, NOT to spend time figuring out how you can wiggle out of your decision! It helped me to think of it this way: I’m not going to go home and negotiate about whether or not I’m going to smoke a cigarette just as I’m not going to go home and negotiate about whether or not to snort some horse tranquilizers. I don’t negotiate about snorting horse tranquilizers because I’m not a horse-tranquilizer snorter. Now that I don’t smoke, I’m not going to negotiate about smoking because I don’t smoke.
Whenever I asked all these hugely successful business owners what the secret to their success was, the overwhelming majority answered: Tenacity. Be the last person standing. Wear down your obstacles and excuses and fears and doubts..
GENIUS!!!!!! I never would have thought that you can practice things like being a better decision maker, but it absolutely makes sense.
She also gives an analogy of how birthing your dreams is like giving birth, and it’s pretty spot on. The entire book is worth a read. You can check her out at www.jensincero.com
As for me, I’ve learned that making definitive decisions brings peace and confidence. I’ve also learned that I can get better at making decisions. I no longer tell myself – or others – that I’m a rotten decision-maker. I don’t even tell myself what kind of person I want to be, I just try to be that person.
So when I’m feeling bored and snacky at work, and I’m tempted to sneak a few French fries from the greasy bowl under the heat lamp, I tell myself, “I’m not the kind of person who eats French fries at midnight.”
I think it’s important to remember that being a great decision-maker doesn’t mean you’re ever wrong, or that you never change your mind, it simply means that mistakes are merely learning opportunities, and that if a decision doesn’t feel right any more you give yourself permission to make a different decision.
Get out there and make some life-changing decisions, my friends!!by McKinnley
The energy that flows in and out of and around all of us.
Whether you acknowledge it or not, it is there, and whether you know it or not, you are influencing it. Once you’re aware of it, then you start seeing how it unfolds, and then you learn how responsive The Universe is, and how much she enjoys a good conversation.
A year ago I was working a job that wasn’t just a job, it was my home, my family, my heart, and a huge part of my identity. I’d been with the company for 5 ½ years and I loved it, I had no desire or plans to leave, and felt there was plenty of opportunity for me to remain with them for as long as I wanted. I’d been working in a new role, putting in long hours and a ton of energy, but despite my joy I was craving a break.
I started realizing this when chatting with customers and frequently many would mention being unemployed or taking leaves of absence, and every time I would sigh and respond, “Oh, you’re so lucky, that sounds delightful!” Unemployment generally isn’t something to be jealous of, but the thought of so much free time set off visions of relaxation, travel, and bliss somewhere inside of me. Even as I vocalized my envy, in my head I was aware, “Be careful, McKinnley, or else The Universe will listen, and you do NOT want to lose this amazing job.”
Fast forward a couple of months and a change in management began to drastically affect my workplace. Inexperience, unethical practices, and outright lies plummeted morale, and personally made me both angry and uncomfortable.
At lunch with a friend I talked about the turmoil at work and the emotional toll it was taking. I used her as a sounding board as I considered meeting with the CEO, or confronting the offending management, or taking a stand, or simply putting my head down and hoping it would pass.
Then she asked me, “What do you WANT to do?”
The answer came to my lips immediately, and I swear I could hear a ringing like a crystal bell inside my head. “I want a break,” I replied, surprised with the answer, and with the fierce desire behind it, and with the accompanying tears that flooded my eyes. I didn’t want to hash out nasty “He said She said” confrontations, I didn’t want to suffer in an unhealthy environment, I didn’t want to pour even more time and energy into something that had turned poisonous, no matter how much I had loved it. I had some money saved, summer was just around the corner, I knew I could get another job, and I knew that the absolute best thing for me to do was to take a breather, and then step forward onto an unknown path in the future.
I’m not one for rash decisions, but the ringing clarity of that answer felt so absolutely clear that I went home and drafted my resignation letter that afternoon, then submitted it less than 24 hours later. I never thought I would walk away from that job, and I never thought I could do it so quickly, but somewhere deep inside me I knew with 100% certainty that it was the right thing to do. I can’t remember ever feeling that clear about a decision. It was crystalline. It was magical.
Did it end up being an easy transition? Not in the least. Walking away from that workplace home and family was extremely difficult. Discovering how much of my identity was wrapped up in that company, and the subsequent grasping for a foothold as I created a new path was shocking and disheartening. Watching the place and people I loved so much spiral downwards for a time was heartbreaking.
Was it the right decision? Abso-frickin-lutely. I held onto that moment of clarity with faith and conviction. I thoroughly enjoyed my summer of funemployment more than I ever imagined possible. I trusted that I would weather the shock with strength and come out the other side changed for the better and poised for success.
Now I know that kind of ringing can occur, and that I’m capable of making decisions based on trusting my instinct of what is right for me. That clarity doesn’t occur if you’re not in tune with yourself and The Universe, and so I constantly have to remind myself to stay clear and connected, but the places it can take you are amazing!by McKinnley
“I just know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I can feel it in every cell of my body. It feels like it did when I started painting – it doesn’t necessarily make sense, and may not be the “right” timing, but none of that matters.”
Sam is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. She’s brave and vulnerable and intense and open and her life is ALWAYS exciting. That doesn’t mean she’s never scared or overwhelmed or that she doesn’t have to work hard or communicate better, it just means that she DOES THE WORK, and it always leads her where she needs to go, into increasingly beautiful moments and experiences.
We talked about that feeling of knowing you’re on exactly the right path. It doesn’t necessarily happen often, but when it does, it’s unmistakeable.
“It’s like choosing one of a dozen glasses. They are of varying sizes and shapes, some are more appealing than others. Some seem better suited to everyday water glasses, but you worry they are too boring and practical, others are gorgeously ornate but you worry they might sit preciously on the shelf. You look them over, you pick them up, you run your fingers over the etchings, you pour liquids in and out, you take sips. Sometimes you don’t do any of that, you just choose one on a whim. And then one day you tap one of the glasses, and it rings. And you realize that glass isn’t actually glass, it’s crystal, and it’s exactly what you’ve been looking for.”
Once you’ve heard the ring of the “right” thing, and felt it vibrate through your being, there is no mistaking what it means, and you learn to seek it out. There isn’t always a crystal glass in the midst of your choices, sometimes you simply have to choose a glass and one will likely be as good as another, but when you strike crystal, there is absolutely no other choice.
As for me, I’m not a great decision maker. I tend to overanalyze my options, and I often have “buyers remorse” once I finally do make a decision. I suppose it can be an asset to see both the pros and cons in almost any situation, but I’m learning that there is strength and peace in quickly making definitive decisions.
Hearing the “ring” can make decision-making easier, but you can also train yourself to become better at making decisions. I’ll tell you about both…..by McKinnley
February 14, a day we all hate to love… or something. I’ve been in the restaurant industry for most of my adult life, so things like “long weekends” generally mean the opposite of what the status quo are getting excited about – they get a weekend that is extended, extra days to relax and binge watch The Walking Dead. Nice. Us poor chumps in the service industry cringe when those civic holidays or special days pop up, because for us they mean loooooooong weekends, extra shifts, and extra long days.
Valentine’s Day. Lucky us, it fell on a Sunday this year, my favourite day of rest – in my dreams! An already busy day in the brunch world, made busier by all you lovebirds wanting to do something “special.” (I think having someone cook me dinner at home is waaaaay more special, but I do spend most of my waking hours in restaurants..)
SO, it’s Sunday, it’s Cupid’s day, we don’t have heart-shaped pancakes or anything but we’ve still got a lineup out the door. Managing a restaurant is a bit like herding cats sometimes – no matter how hard you focus or how great of a cat herder you are, getting all those little furballs moving in the same direction at the same time is damn near impossible. While families and couples gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes over their eggs benny, I spend nine and a half hours madly directing staff, directing customers, washing dishes, running food, clearing tables, blending smoothies, washing more dishes, and organizing paperwork. Good times.
Finally I’m home. I sprawl on the couch with my feet draped over the back, staring into space. My lovely man friend makes me a cup of tea and attempts to get me to play Scrabble with him, or have a conversation, or even just make out…. Eventually he decides that cleaning the storage closet is a more entertaining prospect, so that’s what he does while I continue to stare at the ceiling.
About an hour before bed my arm starts to hurt. It’s kind of numb and slightly uncomfortable, but I figure it won’t kill me and decide to ignore it. Around 1:00 am I wake up. I need to pee, and my arm still hurts – I’m not sure which sensation woke me. I use the bathroom, rub my arm, and fall back to sleep. 3:30 am I wake again, this time I’m certain it’s my arm that woke me, because the numbness has turned into full-fledged pain, radiating from my shoulder all the way to my fingertips.
I’m no longer certain it’s not going to kill me.
I lay awake for the next hour, getting increasingly panicky: “It’s my left arm, my LEFT arm, doesn’t your left arm hurt when you have a heart attack? Isn’t there some statistic about women dying from heart attacks because they don’t acknowledge the symptoms for what they are?? I’ve been pretty stressed lately I guess, am I having a heart attack???”
*pause while I put my hand on my heart and pay attention to it beating for awhile*
“Hmmm, my heartbeat seems to be pretty regular, and this pain has been happening for hours now, I guess that would be an awfully long heart attack. So, I’m pretty sort of sure I’m not having a heart attack. ….. BUT WHAT THE CRAP IS GOING ON??? Stress? Am I that stressed out? Is it some sort of physiological reaction to all the work cray cray I’ve been dealing with? Or maybe I’m out of alignment. That’s it. I haven’t been to the chiropractor in ages, I must’ve done some weird movement and I just wacked out my alignment. Dr. Mike will fix me right up, I’ll call first thing in the morning… Actually it’s extra special Valentine’s AND Family Day long weekend so tomorrow is going to be bonkers at work as well, weeeeeeeeeeee!!”
*not panicking, totally not panicking, I just can’t get comfortable, why can’t I fall back to sleep, WHY DOES MY FREAKING ARM HURT SO FREAKING MUCH?!?!*
Lovely man friend wakes up. I think I’m playing it cool, but he can’t get back to sleep either and asks me if I need to go to the 24 hour clinic. *do I need to go to emergency at 4:30am?! What does this mean???* I dig my fingers into the nerve at the top of my shoulder. The sensation sizzles down my arm, but somehow also relieves the pain just enough for me to stay clear-headed: I obstinately refuse to go to the clinic. I’m still on the fence about whether or not this is going to kill me, and until I’m firmly on the side of “Medical Attention Absolutely And Obviously Required” I’m holding out here at home.
More long, dark, uncomfortable, wide awake minutes pass. I ask Lovely Man to get me an Advil. In my head this is only a fingers breadth away from medical intervention – the scale is teetering towards death. I start to wonder how Lovely Man will react when he wakes in the morning and finds me cold and lifeless beside him. I start to feel bad for him, he didn’t ask for this, nobody should have to wake up beside their lover’s dead body. At least I get to die in my bed, that’s pretty alright.
About half an hour later the Advil kicks in (which is a bloody miracle, those stupid drugs never work for me) and I stop caring about dying as I finally drift back to sleep.
February 15. I’m even less impressed with my alarm than usual. My cat is also cranky – I must’ve kept her awake as well. But hey! I’m alive!!!!
My arm still hurts. I think it’s bearable? It’s only been a few hours since the Advil, guess I’ll wait and see what happens when it wears off. Back to work for the final installment of the February long weekend.
More managing, more directing, a few less cats to herd, but still more plates full of food, and more empty plates to clean… I duck into the dish pit to tackle a stack of dirty plates. I pick up the top one in my left hand, chisel off the eggy smears with the scrub brush, then slot it into the rack on my left. Next plate, same drill, into the rack… hey, my arm still hurts. Another plate. The plates are pretty big, and pretty heavy. Another plate gets hauled out of the sludgy sink by my left hand and I realize that this is actively hurting my arm, all the way up to my shoulder……. OHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
It’s a good thing I didn’t go to the stupid clinic in the middle of the night: “We’re sorry to inform you that you’ve done way too many dishes, and not nearly enough push ups. Go home, put some ice on it, stop being a baby, and do some more push ups.” See, I TOLD you it wasn’t a heart attack.
And for those who are wondering, or pitying, I got not one but TWO bouquets of flowers on Valentine’s Day, so it wouldn’t have been such a bad day to make my exit after all.by McKinnley
It seems that a majority of the conversations I’m having these days are centered around the Power of Intention, Conversations with The Universe, and all varieties of incredible, philosophical, spiritual learnings. It’s exciting and inspiring!
Exciting in that more and more people are talking about this stuff, are asking questions about how to live their lives bigger and fuller and with more purpose. I LOVE these conversations. I love reading the books, perusing the websites, pondering the implications, doing the experiments, and sharing my thoughts and experiences.
When a friend asked me if I’d like to attend a Belief Re-Patterning seminar with her, I quickly agreed. Even though I’m unemployed, giving up a Wednesday evening to go sit in a conference room wasn’t entirely appealing. And like I said, I eat, sleep and breathe this stuff, so I wasn’t confident the speaker would have anything new to add to my repertoire. But just like learning to play guitar, or draw, or speak Spanish, if you practice once a week, chances are your skill level isn’t going to improve much. If you practice every day, even for 20 minutes, you’ll retain more information and muscle memory, and you’ll improve pretty quickly. But the only way to really become proficient is by becoming immersed in the activity, by taking every opportunity to talk about it, learn about it, and practice the techniques you are learning.
I went to the seminar, and not only did it feel good to be surrounded by like-minded people and to absorb the energy they generated, but I actually learned a few new things.
The event was called, “Inner Critic to Inner Coach,” and the very engaging speaker was Hay House author (and Calgary native) Suze Casey. My favourite technique from the night was when Suze asked everyone to write down the days of the week, beginning with Thursday (the next day). She then had us write beside each day a feeling we want to experience more frequently, such as “secure” or “free.” We now had our intentions for the week mapped out, so each day we would be able to look at this list to remind us what to focus on. Of course the next step being to concentrate on that feeling, in order to draw more of it into our immediate daily life. So if you’d decided you wanted to feel more freedom in your life, on the designated day you would devote a few moments in the morning thinking about all the times you’ve previously felt free. You’d recall specific details about what you were doing, who was there, what prompted your freedom, and exactly how it felt. Throughout the day you would take snippets of time to draw up that feeling of freedom again, and really feel it: how your lungs expanded, your skin was tingling, your muscles were loose and relaxed, your brain was calm yet excited yet laser-focused all at the same time. You feel all of that again. No need to think it through, no need to ponder why you were feeling free, or to try and formulate a plan to replicate it, just feel. And keep on feeling.
Suze’s theory here is that so much of our “New Age” manifesting is focused on things. Sure, if you’re in tune enough with The Universe you can manifest yourself a brand, spanking new car, it happens all the time. However, for the majority of us, no matter how much we WANT to believe this is possible, our logical know-it-all brains just roll their eyes at us and put their ear buds back in – effectively ignoring the thing we’re desperate to manifest: “Pfffft! You think you can just dream up a new car and it will “magically” appear?! Riiiiiiiiiiiight.” The champagne coloured Audi A4 allroad quattro inevitably doesn’t arrive and we subsequently dismiss the entire notion of manifesting.
The reason we’re so crap at manifesting specific things is simply because we’ve been taught our entire lives that it’s not possible, it’s not that simple, and it’s pretty darn difficult to turn 36 years (in my case) of cultural conditioning on its head. You most certainly can flip your worldview 180 degrees, but it usually takes a few steps and a lot of determined effort to get there.
So what if, instead of trying to materialize arbitrary items out of thin air, you start setting goals? And instead of having objects become the focus of your goals, what if feelings were what you were after? For example, what does that gorgeous Audi represent for me? Success perhaps. If somebody were to hand me my dream car tomorrow, would I actually feel successful? Probably not. Oh, I’d be pretty stoked about it, but if I’m counting on an Audi to make me feel happy and fulfilled, I’ll likely be disappointed, and then confused as to why achieving this goal didn’t tip my success scale. How do I define success? What does success FEEL like? If I focus on those questions, instead of what success might look like, I’ll be much more likely to achieve success (and who knows, maybe I’ll end up with that Audi after all).
A few years ago I learned about feeling oriented goal setting from the always enlightening Danielle LaPorte (check her out! www.daniellelaporte.com “What will I do to feel the way I want to feel?”) but suddenly Suze had handed me a new tool to really be able to create these emotions, as opposed to just trying to manifest them. Talk about a lightbulb moment!!!! Now, instead of telling myself, “Hey, I’d really like to feel more accepting. K, thanks, bye,” and then hoping all these opportunities to feel accepting appear in front of me, I can go, “I really haven’t been feeling very accepting lately. Sonja is an amazing example of Accepting because she just radiates light and love, I should spend more time around her and try to emulate that kind of presence. And remember the time in a ferry terminal where I opened up and was really attentive and kind to the odd hippie dragging around a giant garbage bag? How he was sweet and interesting when I decided to actually listen to him, and then he gave me a hand-dyed shirt out of his bag, simply as a gesture of appreciation and good Karma? It felt like I was sending little tendrils of love from my heart to his, that’s what accepting felt like, and I want to repeat that experience regularly.” Now I can conjure up that syrupy, rose-gold tinged heart-feel at will throughout the day, and if I continue to recreate that feeling of acceptance, it won’t be long until I simply AM an accepting person.
My list looked like this:
Already I’m feeling more focused!!
If this strikes a chord with you, Suze is having another FREE seminar in Calgary on Tuesday, September 15. You should reserve a seat at www.critic2coach.ca (you can use code 1182 when signing up). You can also check her out at www.beliefrepatterning.com Or pick up her book Belief Re-Patterning http://www.amazon.ca/Belief-Re-patterning-Technique-Flipping-Positive/dp/1401935567/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440989564&sr=8-1&keywords=suze+caseyby McKinnley
A friend called me this morning, “Oh McKinnley, this guy just asked me out in the nicest, funniest, cutest, sweetest way, and I don’t know what to say. All I can think is, ‘I’m just going to ruin this too.’ “
And I understand. It’s difficult being in your mid 30’s, single, with a trail of broken relationships behind you, and a whole whack of messy dating piled on top. You begin to wonder what’s wrong with you. Actually, you began wondering that so long ago you now assume it’s an unsolvable mystery, just like you assume all romantic encounters are (eventually) going to end in heartache and ruin. So you make a vow to stop. Quit dating. At least for awhile. At least until you can pinpoint all your many character flaws and morph them into some new, shiny, perfectly dateable version of yourself.
We often forget, when hindsight is only showing us all the stupid, selfish, scandalous ways we acted in our last relationship, that it takes two to tango. Oh, and NOBODY IS PERFECT.
Do the work. Take time to be introspective, and get really really honest with yourself about your wants, needs, and actions (both past and present). Talk it out, hash it to death, write and write and write. Go to counseling. Read. And then, finally, start doing better. Recognize your triggers. Actively engage. Speak. For the love of all that’s good and holy, SPEAK!!! Speak your truth. Learn how to communicate.
If there is ONE thing you can do for yourself, it’s this: learn how to communicate. This entails learning how to actively listen, as well as learning how to effectively express yourself.
Then go. Do. Be out there in the big, scary, exciting world. Meet people, have conversations, make connections, explore those connections, appreciate the moments and the people for what they are, keep making connections, keep learning, keep exploring, keep growing, keep communicating.
And one day, suddenly, being with someone will just work. It will be easy and fun and great and exciting… But most of all, it will just work.
This doesn’t mean it will be perfect.
So you will have a conversation with yourself that will go a little something like this:
“Is this good enough? Am I good enough? Is the work going to be worth it? I’m pretty sure it’s much easier to be single.”
After some thought you’ll realize, “This IS good enough, in fact it’s not good enough it’s just plain good. And enough. As for me? I’m definitely good enough. The work, well it’s been easy so far, we just keep communicating, and I’m pretty sure we can figure anything and everything out. Sure, being single means I can do what I want when I want – and that’s pretty awesome… BUT, sometimes having a partner is actually much easier, they’re supporting and laughing and helping and picking up the pieces when I’m too tired – and that’s pretty awesome.”
Getting to know yourself, that takes time. Developing relationships, that takes time too. But having fulfilling friendships, productive encounters with coworkers, endearing moments with family, engaging conversations with strangers, and romantic relationships that truly lift you up and enhance your being and your life…? It’s soooooooooo worth it.by McKinnley