I have had enormous privilege in my life. I am grateful that the world is changing and I am trying to listen, learn, up-post, donate, support. Posting this list of what I have collected so far in case it is useful to others.
Last year I was throwing my dreams into space and changing …everything. It’s so hard to believe that I have moved countries, changed careers, started school, and (so far at least) survived a global pandemic, but all the while my hair is still blue.
I had saved this post from Rupi Kaur well before the world changed – back when we were a familiar kind of tired – but after 2 months of lockdown, separated from friends and family and community, there is nothing truer than that everything is temporary and above all, we need to be kind.
These days, I have trouble saying that the year has been hard. I have been so lucky.
I am grateful every day that we moved back to Canada when we did, that I finally made the leap to becoming a healer and mental health therapist, that I am in excellent health, my school has transitioned more or less seamlessly to online, and I am home with my dogs mitigating loneliness with many projects and zoom calls.
I have just started my second semester of grad school in counselling psychology, and it is tough, but I am grateful that it is not nearly as hard as some of the things I have put my mind to in the past. I know that I can do this and that knowledge gives me some peace during those days when I can’t seem to focus for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
So I have been keeping busy. I did a few extracurricular workshops in trauma and telehealth, a series of art classes in Spanish, did some baking, painted my hallway and put in most of the garden. I also started dancing again, now that my schedule allows for it, and learning flamenco over Zoom / practicing flamenco in one’s house is really just amazingly hard but with lots of time to practice it is possible. None of it has been particularly beautiful, but I am forgiving myself for being sloppy and trying to enjoying the art, the emotion, the community and the exercise.
I know I should be resting more and taking advantage of this time to reconnect with my city and my neighbourhood, with nature and with my husband, but the truth is that I have never been good with too much unstructured downtime. The quote on my About page used to read, “better a misadventure than a missed adventure” and if I am not up to something, I usually find myself sinking into the couch.
I think that the fear of inertia is what has kept me moving. I’m afraid that it will become a habit and then I will not be able to get out of the habit and back into productivity. It only takes 30 days for a habit to stick and too many years of being a project manager have left me with one eye on the clock and the other on the task list. But these days are different. The whole world has slowed and become strange, unfamiliar. We are learning new ways of being and I am caught between wanting to hold space for the stress and emotion of these times, and also not wanting to grow moss.
Tara Mohr wrote recently, “We’ve been taught to fear that slowing down for a while might somehow mean slowing down forever. And we’ve been taught that slowing down forever would mean never again producing anything of value” and it made me sit right up like she was saying it straight to me.
Many experts (see links in the articles section, below) are saying that what we are dealing with right now is grief – we are grieving our old lives as we transition to the new normal and this resonates with me a bit, but mostly because I’ve been living it for a while. Moving to Seattle and back has been disruptive (to say the least) and while a lot of good things came out of it, in many ways it has been a process of trying unsuccessfully to recreate a life I was familiar with; find a job, find a home, find friends, find things to do…and all the while the busyness has kept me from making space for a truly new life.
Tara Mohr continues, “Rest. Rest in the softest chair. Rest again, listening to the rain. Take it slow – slow meals, slow glances out the window, slow growth of your branches into your oak tree self” and it sounds like a lullaby as I wake up from a nap and look out the window, trying to see the seasons change.
Normally I write a post around my birthday, with some comments on time passing, my plans for the year, and an updated photograph. Well, my birthday slid by with some restaurant take-out in April, but I did change out of sweats and took my hair down long enough to be pleased that it is still blue instead of grey.
And who knows what the next year will bring? My counselling program at Adler has committed to being online through the summer, but it doesn’t seem like there will be any travelling this year, so I used my travel budget to purchase the painting below – “Instinct” by Anne Siems. She looks so much more like who I want to be right now that I am considering it a portrait of my alter ego.
This snippet from “Antidotes to Fear of Death” by Rebecca Elson was posted at brainpickings a little while ago and I feel like the defiant courage and passion and peppery hotness of it aligns with the ferocity of my Instinct lady.
It’s going to be a long road ahead, but there are a few things I know for sure; we have enough, we will get through this, everything is temporary and above all, we need to be kind. I’m so grateful for all the essential workers and everyone who is doing their best.
Got home from an amazing 10 days in Mexico that including a tasting menu at Pujol, exploring the ruins of Teotihuacan, Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum, scuba diving and taking part in a traditional temazcal ceremony. Pictures are coming but here are a couple:
Then I started grad school for my Masters in Counselling Psychology and from what I’ve seen so far, I am going to love it. Really glad that I have finally made the jump to a career that feels right.
What was beautiful:
“All of it — the rings of Saturn and my father’s wedding band, the underbelly of the clouds pinked by the rising sun, Einstein’s brain bathing in a jar of formaldehyde, every grain of sand that made the glass that made the jar and each idea Einstein ever had, the shepherdess singing in the Rila mountains of my native Bulgaria and each one of her sheep, every hair on Chance’s velveteen dog ears and Marianne Moore’s red braid and the whiskers of Montaigne’s cat, every translucent fingernail on my friend Amanda’s newborn son, every stone with which Virginia Woolf filled her coat pockets before wading into the River Ouse to drown, every copper atom composing the disc that carried arias aboard the first human-made object to enter interstellar space and every oak splinter of the floor-boards onto which Beethoven collapsed in the fit of fury that cost him his hearing, the wetness of every tear that has ever been wept over a grave and the yellow of the beak of every raven that has ever watched the weepers, every cell in Galileo’s fleshy finger and every molecule of gas and dust that made the moons of Jupiter to which it pointed, the Dipper of freckles constellating the olive firmament of a certain forearm I love and every axonal flutter of the tenderness with which I love her, all the facts and figments by which we are perpetually figuring and reconfiguring reality — it all banged into being 13.8 billion years ago from a single source, no louder than the opening note of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, no larger than the dot levitating over the small i, the I lowered from the pedestal of ego.”
Why Americans work so much; the average American worker labors more hours than her counterparts in just about every similarly rich country, including Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom….because computing has shifted much of the economy from manufacturing to neurofacturing
A few years ago I read about Gerald Murnane, an Australian author who won an award that normally required the recipient to travel abroad but instead he travelled to places in his home state that had been personally significant to him – his “geographies”. As I’ve been moving home and settling into life in Vancouver, I’ve been thinking a lot about the areas where I have lived and spent time, how they’ve changed and how we are stewards for places that existed before us and continue on after the relationship is discontinued.
My parents liked to live in new buildings and built two of my childhood homes were built for us, from the ground up, but I have realized that I prefer old places with history and secrets. I love finding evidence of past lives and making things slightly better for the people who will come after. I have realized in recent years how powerful my sense of place is. I can be gardening in a section of the yard and recall an audiobook that I was listening to there the summer before, or driving down a stretch of road recalling memories encoded into something like the shape of a tree. Some places are crowded with memory while others, even if I spent a lot of time there, seem weak.
I decided to recreate Murnane’s experiment (inasmuch as I could remember it) and visit all of the places I have lived in Langley, Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle. It was a fascinating journey down memory lane but also eye-opening in terms of what we remember. Some places I found I could not recognize at all, others only from photographs.
That was not my favourite year (nor my favourite decade) but I did a lot of work to get things pointed in a great new direction; quit my job & career, moved back to Canada and got prepped for my Masters of Counselling Psychology (that starts on Thursday EEEK!!!! 😳). In between, I snuck in sundry other adventures, a bunch of dancing and some travel. Bonus round of firsts and life list items:
Visited Cuba and México City (twice!)
Visited the Smithsonian in DC
Performed flamenco in public
Did a solo moto trip through Oregon, Idaho, Montana & California (plus the regular parts of WA and BC)
Rode > 1000 miles in 1 day
Sold our house in under a week
Finally made a paella over an open orange wood fire
Rode my vintage bike in the pride parade (first time back on it since it launched me into a truck in 2017)
Bought a home in YVR
Rode motos through England and Wales (including cruising past Stonehenge!) to see our friends married in a castle
Participated in a week long art retreat in Oaxaca during Day of the Dead
Got an A on all of my undergrad psych courses (including one I failed in my BA)
Renovated our basement suite and have almost finished amazifying the dining room
Visted Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza ruins and dove in a cenote
I’m grateful for all the opportunities to learn, experience, explore and adventure – and especially for the support – and I am super looking forward to a less intense year in 2020.
Recovering from all the cramming that went into November, and enjoying the calm before grad school starts in January. So, lots of tea, sleep, dog walks in the woods, freshly made everything, books read for fun…but also catching up with friends, repairing the damage to my body (as best I can), and some work on the house.
Pretty soon we will go to Mexico for 10 days and somewhere in there I will need to do my goal setting for the year but it’s not going to involve much more than going to school and getting back into shape.
“What is the bare minimum we expect of society, and how does that differ from a fully human response? It is the bare minimum for a city to provide shelter beds to its homeless. It is human to create a sanctuary for them in their daily lives. It is the bare minimum to pay librarians to take on an unthinkable range of tasks to maintain this sanctuary. It is human to deal with the deep internal struggles and burnout this will cause.”
Petra: the hidden heart of Nabatea—a 2,300-year-old empire, a crossroad of antiquity, of fabulous monuments, of palaces and grand avenues chiseled into a sandstone canyon far above the Rift Valley of Jordan. Towers. Columns. Stairs. Altars. Pediments. Aqueducts. Palaces. Petra is a city scooped from living rock. Its architecture rivals the majesty of Rome, the clean beauty of classical Greece—just two of the many empires with whom it traded. The Nabateans were once nomads, proto-Arabs. For centuries they monopolized the incense trade. Their gods are depicted as cubes, as pure geometry, as triangles, as abstract squares. (Al Qaum, the warrior god, a night deity who protected the caravans, was a guardian of all sleepers, whose wandering souls took the form of stars.) They held wine-soaked feasts for their dead. In Mada’in Salih, Saudi Arabia, they carved gigantic tombs from bergs of rock that stand like colossal Fabergé eggs in the barren deserts. Awesome. Imposing. Monuments to raw power. To monomania.
BC Milestone (2017). “the courts have been increasingly firm that the Crown in B.C. does not have clear title to the land and its resources…In the rush to establish the colony of British Columbia, governor James Douglas skipped over the stage of negotiating treaties. In 1859, he issued a proclamation that declared all the lands and resources in British Columbia belong to the Crown. At that time, the colony had about 1,000 Europeans and an estimated 30,000 Indigenous people.”
Why some people become life-long readers. Not an introvert, didn’t see parents read, didn’t have books at home growing up…somehow (my birth mother was an avid reader), I am the exception and just like them.
The myth of soulmates. “while I hate the idea of marriage as “hard work,” long-term relationships are borne out of deliberate choices, not fate. We choose to stay together, or not; we choose to put the other person’s happiness first, or to lay it aside in favor of our own. We decide to stay faithful or cheat, to be an equal partner or let the other carry the weight.”