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
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’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