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
There were four of us out on a Sunday afternoon, looking forward to some live music, and since we were at a table for six and the tickets were sold out, they sat another couple at our table. I was facing the stage and the woman was seated directly in front of me, so I couldn’t help but observe her as part of the experience.
She had a beautiful face, and absolutely gorgeous, chestnut brown hair, cut in a style I envied. She was wearing a strappy, summery, white dress with a black Aztec-y pattern that’s so popular right now, and it fit so perfectly she wasn’t wearing a bra. Her skin was creamy and flawless, and to top it all off, she was really nice.
Then this thought hit me so hard, I was somewhat taken aback, “I wonder what she doesn’t like about herself?”
I’m surrounded by beautiful women in my life, and not just “beautiful” because I love them, they’re legitimately stunning women, who turn heads every day, and every single one of them has expressed unhappiness with her body at some point. These aren’t the type of women who are unhealthy and complaining, yet doing nothing about it, and they aren’t the type of women who are overly self-obsessed, high-maintenance, and complaining simply for attention. They are down-to-earth, fit, funny, energetic, successful women, and yet they all feel like their bodies aren’t quite up to some distant level of perfection.
So then I started wondering, “Do dudes think about their bodies as much as girls?” Initially my hilarious subconscious inundated me with memories of dudes stripping down at parties, in hot tubs, at hostels… guys are weird. But when pressed into seriousness, I began remembering snippets of conversations I’ve had or heard over the years; the theatre guy who was refused a role until he lost weight, the gay guys who don’t eat for two days before going to the beach, the ex model who doesn’t want to be caressed near his waist since he no longer has a six-pack.. And the discussion I had with a guy after he’d been to a nude beach for the first time: He was young, attractive, in good shape, and very confident, so I was surprised when he observed, “I’ve never really seen naked guys before, except I guess in porn, and I always kind of thought maybe I was below average.. But the men on the beach, they were all so different…”
I don’t know that the intense self-scrutiny is as prevalent with guys as it is with girls, however it’s definitely there. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve absolutely done the same to myself.. But WHY? Why are we all so damn hard on ourselves??
I have this really clear memory as a kid, being in the change room at the local swimming pool, and my mom traipsing my sisters and I, and all our gear, from the lockers to one of the few cubicles, where we took turns changing. There were semi-clothed and completely naked women and girls everywhere in that room, most were discreetly turned towards their locker, and it seemed that none of them felt any awkwardness about it. I didn’t feel particularly weird about changing in private, but it did seem like unnecessary effort. I didn’t really have the understanding or confidence to broach the subject, so it just got tucked away in my subconscious.
In spite of my shy, conservative, extremely modest mother (Don’t get all defensive, Mom! I think modesty is great, and under-appreciated, and very classy), I’ve somehow ended up with a pretty laissez-faire attitude when it comes to nudity – I simply never understood what the big deal was. Changing in front of people has never bothered me. Years of theatre school engrained a sort of careless intimacy about the whole thing; simply taking off your clothes in public would be out of the norm and probably anxiety inducing (for you and any observers), but shades of nudity in appropriate or safe places is perfectly acceptable. I think being comfortable and confident in your body is crucial to overall health and happiness – plus it’s really attractive. (Sidebar: Does anyone still have sex in the pitch dark, simply to avoid having their partner see them naked?!)
I’m not sure I have any brilliant philosophies to sum up with, I just think people should be a little gentler on themselves – and enjoy getting naked.by McKinnley
It’s Sunday evening, although it’s so bright and warm it still feels like afternoon, and I’m laying in my hammock, one arm behind my head, my Tibetan prayer flags waving in the breeze, my iPad balanced on my belly. I’m reading a novel, chosen almost at random and downloaded from the public library – I love technology! and a phrase jumps out at me:
“Our mouths were sticky from red wine and salty duck…”
I’m not a fan of overly descriptive writing just for the sake of being overly descriptive, but this partial sentence – to me – was absolutely perfect.
I clicked off my iPad (this is one instance where technology is somewhat lacking, it would have sounded so much better to say “I closed my book,” and it would have felt much more satisfying in deed..) and closed my eyes, letting those 10 words tumble through my consciousness. The simple imagery they convey, of red lips slick with grease, the tastes of rich meat, crisp skin, velvety wine, the carefree stickiness remaining after a meal eaten in total enjoyment and satisfaction.. Just 10 words, which also encompass joy, passion, connection, and simple pleasures.
Beautiful, truly beautiful.
But sometimes life really is like that, so purely, exquisitely descriptive, and yet so deliciously simple at the same time. Today has been one of those days: I woke up early, without an alarm, to a sky that was clear and already sunny. I stretched and sweated my body through a yoga class, then headed to a café where I sat – side by side, knees and thighs and hands touching – and talked with one of the most caring and inspirational friends I have.
Walking in my front door was itself a pleasure, since my sister and brother-in-law are out of town, leaving me with the house to myself; as someone who’s never lived alone, there’s something so indulgently delightful about stepping into my home, knowing that everything is exactly where and how I left it, knowing that the silence will remain unbroken until I choose to break it, and knowing that the space is completely my own for that bit of time.
I went out to the garden to add some more soil – marveling at how very black it was – to the potted tomatoes, and to use my new, red, watering can – a gift. The sun was warm, but the shade cast by the apple tree cooled my yard to the perfect temperature. I wandered back and forth, enjoying the grass under my bare feet, the distinct, sun-drenched scent of the tomato plants, the slight giddiness of all the vegetable sprouts popping up in not-quite-perfect rows. I sauntered past the lilac bushes, inhaling their heady aroma, then wrapped my hands around a branch of the apple tree and lifted my feet so I dangled off the ground.
My handsome man appeared just as I dropped back to earth, and I greeted him with a very long kiss. His lips were incredibly soft – as always – and tasted faintly of vanilla and mint.
Do days get better than this??
He and I walked and talked, hand in hand. We spontaneously met up with a couple of beauties to enjoy a beverage on a patio, we cooked, we ate, we played.. And there was the hammock, the evening breeze, the novel..
..And the thought that it’s not often I get a day where I don’t have to work, or do any work, or think about work, and how truly amazing that feels. And then the thought that I also don’t have to work tomorrow! Two days, in a row, completely free, unencumbered by work, or any other pressing matter, the idea almost makes me giddy. And THEN realizing that in just four days I won’t have to work at all, I’ll be completely, blissfully FREEEEEEE.. That made me giddy for reals.
“But what do you WANT to do?” my friend asked me, as we sat enjoying the spring weather after devouring giant bowls of ramen for lunch.
There are a lot of things I want to do, however, it didn’t take me long to come up with the number one item on that list, “What I really really want, almost more than anything right now, is to take some time off work. I would be soooo happy to just NOT WORK for two months.”
“So, why don’t you?” .. And I started to cry.
Wisdom. Insight. The gentle nudgings of those who know you best.
I’ve known for awhile that I need some time off. Time to indulge in housework and yardwork and organization. Time to finally catch up with the friends who work opposite schedules from me. Time to visit my Grandma. Time to research all the crazy business ideas I’ve got rolling around in my brain. Time to cook. Time to lavish attention on my handsome man. Time to sit back and enjoy the upcoming summer weather and all the summer activities that go along with it!
For the past few months, every time a friend or customer tells me they’re not working right now, my response has been, “Funemployed?! Awesome!!” It’s garnered a few raised eyebrows, which I’ve barely noticed since I immediately slip into daydream mode. But I know how The Universe works: The things you focus on, think about, wish for, are the things that start showing up in your life. “I can’t keep telling The Universe how much I want to not work, because then that’s going to happen, and what on earth will I do if I lose my job??” Cue anxiety, stress, and despair.. because although work hasn’t been the same lately, I didn’t have a back up plan, I didn’t want to leave, I was resisting change.
But funny things happen when you open yourself up to possibility. “Maybe I need to come talk to your boss,” I continued our lunch conversation, since her boss happens to also be a previous boss of mine, and I’m confident he’d be open to the idea of my return. And then he walked in the door. For reals. We had a quick chat. “Call me any time,” he told me. Ok then. Next, as I walked to my car, I decided to pop into a place nearby to say hi to another friend. I sat at the bar while she worked around me, and we chatted. And then I realized how comfortable and happy I always am there.. “Hey, would you hire me part time, starting in August?” “Uh, absolutely!! In fact, I was just putting out into The Universe that I need more people that I know and trust to come work for me!” And then I knew that this was really really for reals what I want, and need.
I went home and typed up my resignation letter. I didn’t even write a draft, just typed it and hit Print. Less than 24 hours later it was official.
Sure, it’s a little scary, and it’s a little sad, but it feels so damn good! It feels right. And it’s the right way for me to leave a company that’s been so important to me – on my terms, and on a positive note. And it’s hella exciting!!!! There are big opportunities coming down the pipes to me, I know it with every fibre of my being.
So that. Life. She’s a funny one.
A couple of gems to wrap things up: The first was posted by a friend, a quote from an article about Mercury being in Retrograde (yeah yeah, hippies everywhere..)
“Our lives will only be as amazing as the chances we let ourselves take.” Yes. 100% Yes.
The second was my Note From The Universe, sent to me yesterday:
“You can “dance” with the illusions of time and space, McKinnley, choosing your “steps” based upon things and events as they now are, or you can dance with your dreams, choosing your steps based upon things and events as they will be.
And I bet you can guess which steps will perpetuate today’s illusions, and which ones will change everything…
#8. I don’t need anyone else to complete me.
I’m rather independent, always have been. I don’t remember ever running to my Mom for comfort, I never got home-sick, I’ve been on my own since I was 18 – paying my own bills, doing my own laundry, taking care of myself. Sure, I’ve been lonely at times, and my life wouldn’t be complete without my friends and family, but I march to the beat of my own drum, with confidence. I may have been (still be?) stubborn, serious and shy, but I’ve never been clingy.
When my ex moved out 16 months ago I was surprised to realize that the thing I missed most was the codependence. Having someone around to share a meal with, to chat about my day, someone who would run to the grocery store with me, someone to play a game of Crib with and then snuggle up on the couch. I missed sharing my life. Cohabitating was actually one of my favourite things about that relationship, and I was broken when I lost it.
Fast forward to a year later and I’m finally comfortable again. I love being able to come in late at night, turn the light on in the bedroom, and read in bed for as long as I like. I’m delighted about not having to confirm my whereabouts and daily activities with anyone. I like making last minute plans, or no plans at all, or changing my mind and making different plans – because I can. I’m happy to spend my rare evenings off of work with my girl friends and boy friends, without feeling any guilt or pressure about ditching a partner. I enjoy eating dinner at 8pm. Or 5pm. Or having a bowl of popcorn at 9pm and calling that supper. My life is my own, well, except for Quinn, she demands feeding every 7 o’clock, but she’s a really good snuggler so I keep her around.
My life is full, and I am happy, comfortable, and doing whatever I damn well please whenever I damn well please – and the things I do are exciting and glorious and fill my spirit with joy. Complaints? None. I’m comfortable in my skin, I’m pleased with the choices I’ve made, I’m thrilled with my day to day existence. Is there a piece lacking? Not that I can tell.
However, this doesn’t mean I’m not looking for Love. Yep, Love with a capital L. Come on, who isn’t?! I REALLY like holding hands, like a lot, and even though I can sometimes coerce my sister into holding my hand, I rather prefer not having to resort to alcohol or music festivals or bribery for a little hand on hand contact. So I guess that means I’ve gotta find Love.
And love I’ve had, in spades. I’ve been incredibly lucky/blessed to have dated some amaaaaaaazing people. Truly, amazing. The things I’ve learned, the fun I’ve had, the connections I’ve made – how does one girl get to have so much awesome in her life?! But no matter how much I enjoyed them, the thought of giving up even one iota of my freedom completely freaked me out. You want to spend another night? You want to keep what in my fridge? You want me to make plans how far in advance?!
Then, out of the seeming blue, along came Someone. Yep, a special Someone, who I wanted to make all the plans with. Who I was coercing into staying another night. And another. Who I immediately set up with their own toothbrush, and subsequently wondered why they hadn’t started keeping extra contact solution under the sink yet. Who I invite along everywhere. Who I can spend 8 solid hours talking to, yet feel completely comfortable spending a day apart from. Huh. Cue the anxiety? Nope. Cue the second guessing? Nope. Cue some sort of drama, internal or otherwise? Nope nope nope. Huh.
Who knows where we’ll end up, this Someone and me. Maybe we’ll part ways in a month, or maybe we’ll be inseparable for the next 28 years. I dunno. And I’m not that concerned, to be honest. Right now is fan-freaking-tastic, and that’s all that matters to me.
But does he complete me? HELL NO!! For him to complete me, we would have to assume that a piece of me is missing. That some integral part of my life was flawed or gaping open until he came along to fix it up.
My life didn’t – and doesn’t – require fixing or finishing. Is he amazing? Yup. Do I want to spend time with him? Always. Does he make me want to be a better person? He inspires me every single day. However, my happiness hasn’t increased since he entered my life, it’s just stretched around to fit him in.
And you know what? I would venture a guess that one of the reasons he likes me is because my life is so full of awesomeness. Here’s a little secret: One of the (many) reasons I like him is because his life is pretty awesome too. I don’t feel like I’m filling any holes. I don’t feel any pressure to say or do or be anything other than me. I definitely don’t feel like I have to make him happy, because we’re both already happy. And I really enjoy having his happy around my happy.
( http://www.marcandangel.com/2015/02/04/9-things-you-should-be-able-to-say-about-your-life/ )by McKinnley
There’s a moment in life when you’re attempting to embark on a new journey, only to realize you’ve gone and packed your baggage full with an encyclopedia of all the doubts you’ve learned, hole-filled gloves from the the walls you’ve built, an old toothbrush dirty with the lies you’ve told yourself, and a broken mirror etched with the fears you’ve refused to face.
That bag is so damn heavy, and doesn’t leave any room for pockets full of magic, new shoes for dancing down exciting paths, a book of dreams, or your favourite hoodie that brings you comfort, peace, and pleasure, no matter where you are.
It’s time for me to unpack that baggage. I’m not going to throw it out, it’s been all over the world with me and seen so many adventures!! But I’m going to empty it out, store all those nostalgic items in a cool trunk somewhere, clean it up, then pack it with a few shiny new ideas, some comfy old stand-bys, and make sure to leave plenty of room so that my bag is light enough to play with, and open enough to fill with all the beautiful things I find and learn on my journey.by McKinnley
I’m not even remotely athletic, and how good of shape I’m in is highly questionable (After a hike a couple of years ago, a friend who was with me commented, “I’ve heard about people like you – you’re one of those fat skinny people!!”).. I’ve been blessed with great genetics, and a career that keeps me on my feet and moving all day every day, but overall fitness = FAIL.
Then I hit my 30’s, and all the physical capabilities I’d taken for granted for three decades suddenly weren’t so readily available: My knees started hurting when I climbed stairs. Things I’d been carrying or moving at work for years were now a struggle. I’d become winded at the slightest exertion. I had to *gasp* start asking for help!
Having never exercised, I had no idea where to start. Someone gave me a free pass to a gym – which I actually went to, once, where I promptly acquired a case of severe anxiety, and never returned.
A friend suggested I join her in a yoga class. Being kind of a hippie yoga seemed right up my alley… But the hot studio was intimidating: I’m prone to dehydration, I don’t like getting sweaty, AND HOW WOULD I KNOW WHAT TO DO?? She somehow convinced me to go with her. And then go again.
I kind of thought that once I got past my excuses, yoga and I would fall madly in love. That’s not exactly what happened. For nearly two years yoga and I had an on-again off-again relationship, and even when I was practicing semi-regularly, I never looked forward to it. In fact, when yoga came up in conversation I often admitted to not liking it! “I have to do something,” was my response to the confused expressions on their faces.
However a shift was happening: I started going to yoga even when nobody could join me, I found myself maneuvering my schedule around my favourite classes, and lo and behold, I began to notice that the poses were easier some days, my limbs seemed to be getting stronger, everyday tasks that had become a struggle no longer phased me, and I could walk into a power class in a different city while on vacation without being the least bit intimidated.
Still, I wouldn’t have described yoga as being a big part of my life.
And then, about a month ago, I dislocated a rib. There’s not even a good story to go along with my injury, but it’s prevented me from doing many things I want to do – which is incredibly frustrating.
Suddenly, now that I can’t do yoga, it’s all I want to do. Turns out I DO actually like yoga, a lot. I miss it, fiercely. Funny how that works, isn’t it? That we don’t realize how much we love something until we can’t have it. (Humans are strange creatures…)
I’m attempting to be patient while my muscles and ligaments knit themselves back together (a challenge for me), and in the interim I’m dreaming about amazing yoga sequences I want to tackle one day. Turns out I have a passion, a goal, a desire, a burning for more! And I’m gonna do it!!!! Sure, I may be 36 and a little soft around the edges, but I see ABSOLUTELY NO REASON why I can’t do the splits, or master a handstand, or touch my toes to my head:
Check out these incredible videos for more mind-blowing inspiration:
(I’m ITCHING to do some acro yoga – anybody wanna partner up with me??)
And then this = HOLY CRAP PUNCHERSby McKinnley
I was at work during the afternoon of New Years Eve, and one of my regulars asked me what I was going to do that night.. But before I could reply he continued, “If you said you’re going to jump on a plane and fly to Bora Bora to watch the sun set, I wouldn’t be surprised.” I, however, was both surprised and amused by his comment.
In reality my plans were far less exotic. Does this mean I need to get cracking at planning my next adventure so that my life can keep up with the expectations? Or does it mean that my life thus far has been so filled with awesomeness that it doesn’t matter what I do, perceptions about me and my life now automatically default to thrilling?
Methinks it’s a bit of both: My life is super rad, but it’s definitely time to get adventuring!!by McKinnley
Today is different. As much as January 1st is the same as any other day, there’s an inherent new-ness to it, as you can’t help but take at least a moment to reflect on the past 12 months, and ponder the months stretching out ahead.
This morning I ate my breakfast out of a bowl that has the words “If it’s not a ‘HELL YES’ then it’s a No” inscribed around the rim. To me feeling that Hell Yes means listening to my heart, and being both brave enough and honest enough to honour what my heart is telling me.
It’s not always easy. My life is not defined by black and white, everything is a shade of grey, where all answers are debateable, and all choices are valid. It’s both a blessing and a curse. It makes me open-minded, and a great learner, but it also means making decisions is extremely difficult. Plus, my head speaks just as loudly as my heart; logic and emotion are constantly battling it out inside this little 115 lb. frame. It’s complicated.
2014 was massively self-reflective for me. My biggest goals were to be more open to whatever Life decided to throw my way, and to become a better communicator. I learned a lot, I branched out, I spoke my truth, I did some absolutely rotten things (not generally intentional, but still…..), I took a few steps back, then tried to take even more steps forward down paths better suited to my journey. I cried absolutely heart-wrenching tears, and I reveled in the bliss of pure joy.
It was one of the most beautiful years of my life.
And so I step into 2015 with so much gratitude and love, for every experience I’ve fumbled my way through, and every gorgeous soul who’s been part of my journey. I have high expectations for the adventures to come!!by McKinnley
Somebody complained about me at work this week. I get it, they expected impeccable customer service, and they didn’t receive it, that sucks. Being in the customer service industry is tough though, particularly for someone like me, for who being a people person doesn’t come naturally. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE connecting with people, I just find it really difficult to do in a work situation.
Anyway, I got a complaint, it happens, but it’s been eating me up. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this, but I’m really really hard on myself. Is everyone? I’m not too sure. I’m pretty comfortable in my skin, and I’m pretty confident, particularly at work where I feel like I’ve hit the sweet spot of both really enjoying what I do, and being really good at it. So why is it so devastating to my self-esteem and my peace of mind when I make a mistake or something goes wrong? Sure, I’m great at my job, but that doesn’t mean I’m perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s how we learn, it’s how we do better. I take it in stride when my staff make errors, I let them know that it’s ok and I still think they’re awesome, so how come I don’t give myself that same support and understanding?
I’ve been obsessing about what my upper management must think of me. I’ve been feeling absolutely wretched about not doing better, not BEING better. I’ve been replaying the situation over and over in my mind, which frankly hasn’t changed the outcome, or how lousy I feel. I accept responsibility for not acting in an appropriate manner, but I still have to deal with the consequences.
However those consequences don’t have to include me feeling stressed out, or like I’m not a valuable person or employee. It happened, I’ll try to respond better next time, and now I need to let it go. I already know where my weaknesses lie; I get defensive and aggressive when I feel like my back is up against a wall, when people are demanding things of me without discussion. I’m working at trying to ask questions, have a conversation that opens up both sides. In this most recent case, I should have asked them to explain what happened, and then to describe how they thought I could help, and why I should do so. Hindsight, right?
I’m smart, I’m capable, I’m dedicated and I’m a hard worker. I’m a valuable employee.
I have lots and lots of customers who enjoy me and the service I give (they just don’t send emails to my management about it..)
I’m human and make mistakes, but I’m taking those mistakes and growing past them.
I have no reason to feel stressed or depressed or anxious. Upwards and onwards!
I’m living and learning and loving the process. I rock!!!by McKinnley