I need your help.

Mahatma Gandi apparently said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world”. Cheesy, I know. Also misquoted (hilarious, especially coming from someone who thinks misquoting and taking things out of context is funny – I’m looking at you, anyone with a “To thine own self be true” tattoo). However cheesy and misquoted it is, it’s one of my guiding principles. I try to be good to my fellow humans because I think that kindness is important and something that the world needs. I volunteer my time and energy out to the world because who knows what will change the world. Today, though, I have an idea. A hope, a wish, a crazy Christmas thought.

The first time I volunteered, I was about 8 or 9. Maybe 10.

My mom and I went to Santas Anonymous to fill hampers. I spent the morning in a warehouse with a tinny radio, carefully following a checklist so each basket had the right gifts for the right age group. I also had to check if each basket had the right food – Kraft Dinner, instant mashed potatoes, that kind of thing. The people were nice, it made my heart happy, and it was one morning in late November.

The next year, I was on the ground crew. Rather than pack the hampers, we delivered them. Now, as some people might know, my little hometown is full of drugs – specifically, meth. So that was harder – my little heart broke at some of the places we visited. We got to be Santa for these people – some of whom I recognized from school. I remember feeling super grateful for my parents at that moment – grateful that we had a house and food every night, grateful for my baby brother and for our Christmas mornings, grateful for my two kick-ass amazing parents who remain amazing and kickass.

My parents taught me how lucky I was, and that we had so much that we owed our communities to give back. I always have. Since that period at Santas Anonymous, I have had quite the volunteer log. Much to my failing memory, here’s the list so far:

  • Walked dogs and cuddled cats at the Hinton SPCA
  • Did media relations for the Canadian Breast Cancer CIBC Run for the Cure
  • Became the Run Director for the same run
  • Organized a charity breakfast for 800
  • Taught taekwon do (yes, part of my black belt training, but definitely something I would have done otherwise)
  • Taught illiterate addicts to read and write (hey, did you know that 42% of Canadian adults have low-literacy levels?!)
  • Joined an arts board in support of mental health
  • Joined the Freewill Shakespeare Board (after 6 years volunteering before that)
  • Became a karma yogi at Noorish
  • Joined an awesome crew for Edmonton Folk Music Fest
  • Flew to Africa to teach communications and advocacy strategy at a childs rights organization

And my memory fails me – as Yul Brenner once said “Etc, etc, etc!” There is more. I have more events that I can count – times where I leaned in and carried water or food and pushed and created and joined. Because I believe that I can help make the world a better place (not alone, mind you. Maybe I can start a ripple that becomes a tsunami of change).

To that – at one point in my career, I began working with the homeless. Not directly with (I’m not a social worker), but as the communications pro telling the story. I was told in my interview that people working for this not-for-profit (and generally in this sector overall) had an 18-month shelf life. I made a year and 4 months – 2 months shy of 18. My heart, while has capacity to grow and change and adapt, was far too soft to handle this work. After my second Homeless Connect, for example, I ended up in my shower for an hour sobbing. I had talked to a girl – she was 14, LBGTQ, and her parents had thrown her out. She couldn’t find a home, because who wants to rent to a kid, so was selling herself to supply her drug habit. My heart broke a thousand times over in the 14 months I was working there – I still have friends working in this sector, and I am in awe of them. Their amazing selves and amazing work do so much good for our world.

Recently, sadly, I became aware of the death of one of our cities’ homeless – a sad tale of freezing to death behind a dumpster. Even more sadly – he’s one of 1,752 homeless in Edmonton. The numbers are down (thanks to our amazing agencies and hardworking front-line workers!!) but we still have over 1,700 people without a roof over their heads. And, suddenly, in all its Canadian-ness – winter has arrived in Edmonton, with temperatures forecasted to be -20 ish all week (and the wind making it feel like -30), and winter will be here for awhile. I’ve been thinking about this since Saturday, and now – I’m asking you to help me.

Every single front-line agency in the city needs help. They need mittens and jackets and warm socks and long johns and blankets because winter is HERE and death due to exposure is a real thing. I’m starting to collect these items – I’m planning on starting a collection at my workplace as well – but I will be collecting these things personally as well to be delivered in a week or two.

Help me with this. Send me new socks and mittens and whatever gently used or new items you can manage. I’m happy to meet you, or give you my address – hell, I’m even happy to wash your gently used items before I deliver this stuff! – but I can’t not be involved any longer. Neither can you – 1,750 people need us.

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Keep your eyes on your own work!

During my last year of university, I was an RA and dating a dude who wasn’t good for me. We had a fight two days after my grandmother died, and I retreated to my music and my laptop to write a paper rather than continue to duke it out. I don’t like to fight, never have, so grieving and writing about The Monk was the best choice for me. He called me later that night, so drunk that he could barely say my name, and mumbled that he needed me. Tired of fighting, tired of crying, (and, let’s be honest, wanting some cuddles) I walked over to his place in my boots and fuzzy shorts (ah, university) and found him in the bathtub with an empty bottle of gin, a note, a knife, and arms full of slashes.

Even though I’d been trained in suicide counselling, I had no idea what to do. I got my BF out of the tub and cleaned his wounds, checking for depth (thank God, none of them were anything but flesh wounds). I sat next to my guy as he slept that night and listened to him breathe, too afraid to sleep. I called the RA on duty, who called our boss, who showed up at 8 a.m. to escort both my boyfriend and I to the campus counselling office.

To put it mildly, I was fucking furious. And heartbroken. And afraid.

I am a late bloomer, in the emotional sense of the word. I suppose, reflecting back, I have been learning this lesson for the last ten years, but I’m really learning it all now.

A few years ago, I realized that I, through a mess of my own damn making, am in emotional shambles. In times where joy isn’t an option, I default to anger – I always have – because being angry hurts less than being sad or lonely or afraid. I find it infinitely easier  to be pissed rather than allowing myself to feel the pain. And, if being angry isn’t an option, I will bury the feelings that I don’t want to feel. This is a battle that I am open about, a battle I am constantly fighting, and one that I want to end. It doesn’t serve me, it makes for hellish yoga sessions (because I’m constantly at war with myself), and I think it makes me more awkward than ever.

And then, a book found me. I read an excerpt from a book called Emotional Agility, and it resonated in a big way. So, thanks to Amazon, a bunch of weeks later, my new book in hand, I dig in. The things I’ve noticed so far:

  • I love/hate books that are so right that you can’t argue it.
  • It references A Course in Miracles, because of course it bloody well does. That literally makes every single self help book that I’ve picked up over the last 3 years
  • It’s already a game changer for me.

So, now, is the part I’ve been batting around.

I have an active presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. And, as much as I like keeping up with my friends and family, social media is one of those mediums where you are constantly up close and personal in people’s best lives. I especially have a hard time because I want to be married and be a mother so so badly. And I am of the age that most of my friends are either one or both of these things. So I have to struggle with envy as I’m overwhelmed with my friend’s joyous celebrations. And I don’t like that. I am happy for you, dammit, let me be just bliss. I have started this work – I started during the GYGC Challenge, and now it’s time to use all the tools available to heal this hurt.

Social media can be used to look into the lives of anyone – former lovers, employers, former classmates who made your life hell, strangers that you will never meet. In full disclosure, I have blocked the people I’m afraid to see – and the harder my life is, the easier it is to slip behind a screen and disappear into a world where I feel more confident. I’ve always felt like it was easier to make friends behind a screen – my best friend through my teenage years was the result of a random ICQ search, and our friendship lasted a long time. And yes, we ended up meeting IRL almost 10 years after we connected. At the same time, I disappear into a world where I am boring, and alone, and a geek – a world full of “best selves” at a time where I’m trying to unearth my best self. Social media makes me lonelier than ever, and also makes me wonder if the Beatles didn’t have a clue when they asked where do all the lonely people come from.

Here is what I know.

My biggest source of anxiety is that I’m never going to be good enough. That I’ll never be normal enough for a big true love, that I am going to be alone forever and die with 8 cats. And this book is really helping me dig into that, to feel it as I ought to, to help me deal with the pain and sadness in a healthy way. The author also suggests writing every day, and being mindful with social media, to really remember whose journey it is that you are on. “We’ve been taught this idea since grade school – keep your eyes on your own work!” Pretty much as soon as I read that chapter, I looked at my online presence – really looked. I’ve maintained a constant stream of jokes for over 3 years – a timeline that started when my heart was broken. My feed is something that I’ve crafted to make people around me – and, by extension, myself -feel better. I love doing it – but is it something that makes me better?

So today I’m challenging myself. Throwing the gauntlet. Drawing the line in the sand. Steeling my nerves. Screwing my courage to the sticking place. Running out of bad metaphors.

I’m taking a week away from social media – something I’ve literally never done while on Canadian soil. As of 12 p.m., November 1, I will be away from it for a week (maybe 2, depending on how it goes) – and really, really away from it. The only caveat – because I maintain social media presence for both of my jobs, I will be signing in because it’s part of my employment. Email is also not covered in this challenge – because it’s the sole communication tool for my second job, and my Board commitments, etc. So. No personal social media. No online dating. Email. Only employment-based social media.

So, if you and I maintain our friendship on Facebook Messenger. If we send each other funny pictures. Keep messaging, keep sending. I promise I’ll get back to you. If it’s an emergency – maybe try texting (or calling) me. Until then… I’m planning on being buried in books.

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The art of balance

I don’t know if I like Facebook memories or not.

Right now, I’m at a period of really amazing things. January has been epic – I’ve been getting up early, spending lots of time prepping my food, fitting in lots of yoga and walking, spending time with my friends – and I’m really enjoying it. I feel great, I’m starting to shrink a little – I can see my collarbones again, and my face has slimmed down considerably, which I love – things are amazing (and don’t worry – I’m going to get into the whole “new year, new me” thing shortly) and I am really happy (albeit very busy).

So, in a way, Facebook memories are awesome to remember where I’d been. Right now, for example, I’ve been brought back to Africa. I spent an insane three weeks in Accra, Ghana three years ago, and that’s what I’m relieving on my timeline. I got to work with a childs’ rights organization doing communication and advocacy strategy, I met some incredible people, had some wild adventures. Three years ago last week, actually, my friend HB and I went on an elephant trek to Mole National Park. We booked it on a whim – hoped for the best with the hotel, danced at a Container until 3 AM, went to the airport for 5 AM, and hired a taxi in Tamale for 8 AM. We went on a sunset trek that ended with us off Jeep, in our hiking boots in the savanna, with a dude with a gun hoisted on his shoulder by twine, standing in a bluff of trees, surrounded by female elephants.

I’m seeing posts from when I lived in Perth – I’m reminded of the time I met an amazing dude underwater. The notes I wrote when I was travelling for a year, trying to figure my life out. I’m seeing the first time I lived with someone, and how much I loved him. I’m seeing friend love and funny and inspirational. So, in a lot of ways – Facebook memories make me really happy.

And then there is the not-so-happy stuff that I’m hyper aware of. Facebook, can we keep the ex boyfriends and heartache and breakups hidden? K thanks.

Anywho. More on the good stuff right now!

I’ve been planning and preparing my meals like a crazy woman. I’ve gone to the vegan side of things – not because I don’t enjoy meat, but because I struggle sometimes with it being easy to make 1) healthy, and 2) tasty. Dairy is easy enough to ignore, minus cheese. Oh cheese. With the exception of one really dizzy few days, it’s been mostly easy. That said – I’m not super strict about it. A few night ago, while rushing to a board meeting, I had an apple and cheese as I was driving. If I was as dedicated I needed to be, I would have taken out a quinoa cookie (vegan, and always in my freezer) – but, really, it’s not the end of the world. Although, I may have to slow down with the whole “freezer” breakfast thing – at the moment, I have 10 bags of frozen kale and banana for smoothies, about a dozen blueberry-walnut-lavender scones, and about 1.5 dozen peanut butter-walnut muffins, roughly 2 dozen quinoa cookies. Delicious choices in the morning, makes me look rather insane when someone looks in my freezer. But my “food” life looks like this, mostly.

As for my yoga practice – the first week into this lifestyle overhaul, I was ALL OVER IT. It’s something that is super easy on all my sore bones, I love the peace that accompanies it, I love the community that is Noorish. I think I logged 5 or 6 practices in, and I could feel my body glowing gratefully. And then, as it sometimes does, life happened.

One of the biggest challenges of my getting and staying healthy is my effort to grow and maintain my friendships – that balance is hard for me. For example, starting January 11, this was my schedule:

  • January 11 – curling with the ESSC
  • January 12 – Star Wars with a friend
  • January 13 – writing assignment
  • January 14 – karma @ Noorish
  • January 15 – spontaneous movie date with a friend
  • January 16 – lunch date in Red Deer
  • January 17 – “family” dinner
  • January 18 – curling with the ESSC
  • January 19 – condo AGM
  • January 20 – Freewill Shakespeare AGM & Board meeting
  • January 21 – karma @ Noorish
  • January 22 – I AM TOTALLY TAKING THIS NIGHT FOR MYSELF
  • January 23 – Beauty and the Beast to support YESS

And so on. So, if I’m up and gone by 715 AM, I’m at work for 815 AM, leave work by 415 PM to be home for 515 PM. That gives me roughly 5 hours to do my thing at night – which, lately, has been mostly away from the kiva. I generally don’t mind this kind of existence for brief periods, but last week, I was freaking exhausted. Had a coffee before lunch, want to sleep under my desk, do I have to do anything besides collapse into bed, exhausted . I hadn’t been to bed once last week before 11 PM, and that’s about an hour too late for me. I come home from the various awesome things, make lunch (thank God for prep!), make some tea, and crash into bed to wait for my mind to stop reeling so I can sleep.

So, my current state of questions – how can I balance this? Do I stop striving for friend excellence and settle into myself? Where should my line be between “give myself permission” and “lean in”? The hardest question is – how on Earth can I manage to get up at 530 AM for a short, in-building workout while I’m also trying to break the weekday coffee addiction?

But. The hard work and all the questions are worth it. Baby steps… but I’m seeing big progress.

Raise your vibration

So.

I’ve been quiet. I don’t mean to be. I tend to be one of those humans who works without stopping, being busy without any thought or meaning to it, and then looks up and two months has flown by. I also tend to be quiet when I’m not entirely certain what to say, alternatively I don’t say anything because I’m afraid of losing control of what comes from me. A great example – when I’m really upset, I don’t make a sound, for fear of angry tears following. This latest stint of silence, though, has been because of something wonderful. Something earth shaking, something elemental and beautiful and shiny.

It started with the New Job – which has had a domino effect on my life. I haven’t had a panic attack since November. I started eating better, and sleeping better. I found I wanted to drink endless water, and dance while getting ready in the morning. I am happy – happier than I remember being in a very, very long time. I’m surrounded by amazing, educated, creative people who inspire me. I found myself smiling more, and being told how much happier I seem. My friend REC pointed out that my forehead, once the centre of my tension, was completely smooth. Without seeing me for months, my friend was able to point out the difference in moments. I’m reading more than I have in years – so far the book a week plan has been a huge success. As the new job gets busier and busier, I get happier and happier. So with this effect, I decided to get my own planets in order. My favourite yoga studio advertised an 8 week “Get Your Glow On” challenge. Unlimited yoga, weekly meetings with a nutritionist. Basically a rewind button. I feel like I’ve done a lot of damage to my body, and this challenge, mixed with all of the happy goodness from the rest of my life – can really help me reset some of it.

So, for the last 4 weeks, and the next 4 weeks, I’ll be in the kiva at least 5 days a week. Getting back down to my bones, feeling my muscles stretch and grow again. Taking everything out on the mat. I’ve been spending at least 30 minutes a day meditating, and at least an hour a week creating something – writing for myself, or for this space, or for another free lance project that I’ve been working on for about 5 years. Maybe I’ll finally dig into writing a novel. I’ll be checking in with my nutritionist for sure once a week, and eating cleaner than I have in a very long time. And by clean, I mean gluten and sugar free, with a little bit of “how dairy free can I go” (which, I have to admit, has been easier than I expected). There will be lots of tea, lots of chanting, hopefully lots of laughs and new friends.

So far, this Get Your Glow On Challenge has been intense. The sugar withdrawal was so hard – I get migraines when I do it. Since I also started a class at the beginning of my challenge, I was literally away from my house 7 days a week, so I’ve been able to experience all sorts of yoga that I’ve never done before. Said experiences have ranged from my becoming a regular, to “This is the strangest thing that I’ve ever done”. And believe me, I have managed some really strange experiences in my life. But I can safely state that the strangest thing I have ever done happened at my yoga studio, in the last month. I’ve been learning more about my body – what works for me, what doesn’t. I’ve learned that I can eat spinach for days, in all sorts of forms. I’ve learned about my limits, and how much I really need time to be with myself.

Mostly, though, I’ve been doing a lot of what my nutritionist calls “raising your vibration”. I’ve given myself permission to take care of me – something that started out as a very strange feeling. I’ve never really just looked out for myself before. And the past month – I’ve been feeding my soul, my body, my mind, my creativity. I am a firm believer of the Laws of Attraction – you get what you give. You attract what you want, simply by wanting it and working for it. This challenge, and the people participating in it, are proof of that. For a long time, I was attracting anger, and sadness to me, because I was in a place where those two things ruled. And now that I’m moving into happier times, happy is what I’m attracting (and hope to continue to attract!).

I don’t have much else – I just wanted to write it down, since it’s half way point. Lots of energy work, lots of washing away the remains of a life that was ruled by anxiety.

This is the quote driving me right now – marrying the intellectual to the spiritual side.

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The Dating Game (aka. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here)

There are a lot of exciting things happening right now. New job (C’mon, next Monday!!!), the possibility of moving, the new (and final!) Hobbit movie. I finally get a Christmas where I won’t be planning parties or stressed out and not sleeping. The weather is blissful – yes, I know, unpopular opinion but I love the snow and cold. Life is good, and I am so happy to be moving in a positive direction, rather than the usual round and round.

But. I have to say the one thing that I’ve been thinking about for the last 24 hours. What in the actual truck is up with dating?

I know, I know. Like my brother recently stated to me – “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Touché, bro. I am also not the sort of woman who defines her life in the having of a man. I don’t need a man to complete me, my happiness does not hinge on having a boyfriend – the older I get, the more completely aware I am of the self-sufficient lady I have become. Sticky jars? I have a pile of tricks to use, right down to the good old elastic on the lid after the slamming of the bottom of the jar. Light bulb out? No worries – I have a headlight we can use. I can unplunge the toilet, move my winter and summer tires around, and then bake a cake after bringing home the bacon. I got this. I have no functional need for a man, I’m content and more than able to take care of business.

Let’s be honest, though. It’s nice to have a partner in crime. When I turned 25, my thoughts started drifting towards marriage. I was of the school that when I met him, I’d know. Enter JM (UGH. I KNOW.), who was pretty much on the same page (or so I thought). I pretty much thought of him as my soulmate, my One, my Darcy. And we all know how that ended up (And will forever end up, because I won’t allow a coward back into my life). So, with that ending, I fell into the dating game. I started joking – I’m going to find a Leonard, in reference to Dr. Leonard Hofstadter, a fictional character from The Big Bang Theory. Handsome, geeky, brilliant, kind – I joked that I was going to wait for my own version of Leonard. So, dating – not for a very long time, though, because I met SK and we settled into a relationship of sorts that was on and off for a while. Again, better off when that lil relationship ended – no one needs a manipulator in their life.

But, now I’m dating again. Trying to date again. Far less a comedy of errors this time around, I’m taking it seriously… And then, all of a sudden, my version of Leonard comes into the picture. And I’m dead serious – brilliant with degrees in physics and math, co-founder of a successful tech business, finishing his masters in international business, recording artist, well dressed, handsome, amazing hands, and willing to debate the Walking Dead and doesn’t talk through the trailers of the movies. We won’t get into the accent or the kissing ability, or the scary matchy belief in the same kind of God who loves good music, or the mutual dedication to A Course in Miracles. Or the love of travelling.

Are you kidding me, universe? Our first date took place by candlelight – so needless to say, after months (…years) of joking and hoping for a Leonard, I’m crushing a little bit on this version of Leonard. Our dates were stimulating, the first kiss blew my socks off, and I had a crush. I hadn’t had butterflies since I met JM. Leonard gave me mad butterflies. Every. Single. Date.

So, when we get to date 5, and we are hanging out at the other’s houses, and watching movies… things are getting a bit more intense. So I, following the lessons I’ve learned after 2 years in the dating pool, ask what Leonard’s goals are. I know what my end goal with dating is – namely, I don’t want to date forever. So I lay my cards down – I like the guy, I am not pushing for a commitment (because this kitten needs WAY MORE TIME before she can commit to anything), but I want to know what he’s after. I get a beautiful, articulate answer – that doesn’t answer anything. When I reframe the question, and ask again (what’s with the vague, Leonard?)…. Same beautiful, flowery language, no answer. I tell him that I like him, lay out my goals, ask again….. Nada.

Date 5 ends, he leaves, N is left with massive confusion. What the hell, Leonard? Then Leonard goes missing. More or less for a week – given both of us having a busy schedule, we can’t find a time to meet. So he calls. Thank God. Because I have the world’s worst poker face, and wouldn’t have been able to hide my confusion when he said:

“I like you, but when we were talking the other night, we were talking about crazy dating stories. I met someone else (N’s note – we are both dating other people. Full disclaimer, we both knew about it), and she got super attached after we got intimate. So I got scared, I’m not dating anymore, but I’d like to see you when I get home from Australia in January. Will you stay single until then?”

So I dig for a little more clarity – did I freak him out? No, he likes me. Is he expecting me to remain single while he’s away, to wait for him? Yes, because I like him. Are we playing a game? I flat out asked – and I get back “do you think I’m playing a game?”

Well, Leonard, I really don’t know. Why don’t you give me a straight answer and then I’ll judge?

As a woman who doesn’t need a guy, and who is looking at this like a “nice to have” over a “need to have”…. I hate dating. I hate feeling like I’m being judged, I hate preening to date, I hate feeling like I have a crush only to have the rug pulled out from under my feet, I hate that I’m awkward, I even hate the godawful dates that make great stories later (“Oh, you hate freckles enough that you think women who have them should be flayed? Why are you on a date with freckly, Irish me, again?”). The level of abhorrence I have toward dating cannot be overstated. I hate dating. To echo Sex and the City – “I’ve been dating since I was 15. I’m exhausted. Where is he?”

In the meantime, while I wait for Mr. Darcy – I’m focusing on the career. The new job! The aim of a house and travelling and living alone. Because I literally cannot handle any more games from men right now. I have so many good things happening to me, and that is my focus – I think I just needed to write down my confusion, because holy schmoo. I’m so confused!

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The Song of Joy

It’s been too long since I’ve sat down here. I keep thinking about this post, and I think it’s mainly because lately, I’ve let anxiety and sadness drag me down. I’m going to try to post at least once a week, something with brightness and hope and lots of love. Because, really, who doesn’t need more of that?

So this, this is a song of joy. Of celebration, and love. And, of course, geekdom.

First, though, I want to tell you a short story. Because this story has been instrumental in the creation of N. And without it, there would be no song of joy today. Be warned – this is a sad, and true, story.

When I was 14, I finally fit in at my school. I had a group of friends that I dug, friends that were new and old, friends that had known me since my career as a student began. I was comfortable there – I showed everyone who I really was, a weird, New Age loving movie geek who loved reading and school. I trusted each of these friends implicitly – we played with each other’s hair, went to dances together, laid awake during sleepovers to disclose the names of the boys that we loved. This was the first time, in my whole life, that I fit in. And I loved every moment of it. I loved being surrounded by people who cared, and people who I cared about.

I remember the day that all changed – February 10. I was passed a note (which was also a new thing – I HAD PEOPLE TO WRITE TO! I loved that!), and opened it under my desk during class. I was surrounded by my friends, because we were allowed to select seats in some of our classes. That note contained a sentence that changed my life – “We think that the world would be a better place if you killed yourself”. That lovely little piece of literature also contained the signature of every single friend that I had at that school. I was dumbfounded – how did all of my friends manage to agree that the world would be better without me in it? I don’t remember the class. But I remember feeling like icy cold water had been thrown on me. I went home, and I wept. I want to say that it got better with time, but really it only stopped when I left the school for the day. Because we got to choose our seats, I was surrounded by these people in almost EVERY CLASS. They laughed at my clothes, at my handwriting, about my glasses. I got passed another note exactly 10 days after the first – they egged me on, telling me that things would be so much better without me around. Every class was hell – and for awhile, I thought about following the note’s advice. Thankfully, I have an amazing family, who support me every moment. Eventually I left that particular school, and found a new group of friends who didn’t know me, didn’t know my story, or my wounds. I grew away from the thinking that leaving might be easier.

But the reason I tell this (rather sad) story is this – once that note was passed to me, I was irrevocably changed. I was no longer free and open with the people I met. Like a mixture of Shrek and Fox Mulder, I grew into a shelled, sceptical person. I revealed myself slowly, sometimes over years, to people – layer after layer of me shedding and slipping away, as my fear of once again being abandoned was ever present. Even as I slowly began to show all of me, I was in constant fear that the person would run. Who would want me? All of my geeky, bibliophile layers were closely protected, and I grew a layer of spikes to scare people away. Don’t get me wrong – I love people. I love meeting new people, but I’m not very good at it. However, once we are friends, I am friends with you until I have reason to not be. But spikes ensured that only the people who wouldn’t hurt me were allowed to approach. As I grew older, my geeky and introverted tendencies took over. I got more awkward, but a little less spikey. I made friends, went to school, traveled. But the fear of being truly exposed – showing my entire self to the people I wanted in my life – stayed with me, and grew the older I got.

SO. Are we sad yet? Can we hear the world’s tiniest violins? Right – here is the good part!

Last year, I hit a bit of a sad. I left JM, which was astoundingly hard. Because, as my sister-from-another-mister puts it, we connected like nobody’s business. She insists that sparks flew the night that we met (she introduced JM and I), and they did. Because of those sparks, my usual years to trust took mere months – and I was utterly and completely me with JM. He knew everything about me – the twisty bits, the scared bits, the total nerd bits – he knew them all. When we broke up, I was once again facing the facts – he didn’t like all of me. Hell, I don’t even know if he liked any of me. So I was sad, but trying to be happy. And then, out of the blue, I got a message from a schoolmate, KM (for Karate Maven), inviting me to a Geek Girls Dinner. She was going with her sister, and would I care to join. I’m a geek, and I always dug KM – so I said yes.

That Dinner was a turning point. I was surrounded by incredible women – KM, her sister JB, BE. That first dinner honestly brought me to tears (once I was home, because let ‘s be honest – no one likes a crying nerd at an awesome dinner). It inspired me to start this blog, and gave the blog its name. I was not alone in the universe. There were people who made their lives about being true to themselves, and to hell what other people thought – whether it was designing geeky baby clothes, or learning karate, or teaching ladies code, or writing like a motherfucker FOR A FULL TIME JOB (this still leaves me in awe). These were people I knew I wanted in my life – because I was in awe of, and terrified of, these powerful and inspiring ladies.

Since that dinner, especially, I have put a lot of focus into my friendships. Specifically, I try to surround myself with people who do what they love, and love what they are doing. I might not reach out all the time, to everyone, but I have a group of friends around me that I would never replace. I am so proud to boast that I have beer fiends, triathletes, runners, writers, teachers, mothers, geeks, gender warriors, gurus, yogis, domestic goddesses, survivors, chefs, artists in my life – and every single one of them inspire me to be a better person. Every person that I have currently in my life pushes me (whether they are aware or not) to be better. To be stronger, braver, push harder, write more. And every single person in my life sees me. It scares me like nothing else to be open with the people I love. But I am. I strive every single day to be more human, and less of a Shrek/Mulder. Who wants a sceptical onion in their life, clinging to their layers like a child clinging to the blankets? No one, that’s who.

I asked above who would want me. And now, so many years after that note, I have an answer for myself. Sometimes, I need to remind myself of it, but I have the answer. Everyone should want me the way that I am, every layer, every facet. And if you don’t….. man. Are you missing out.

Much love, readers. Let’s see if I can manage another bright shiny point next week 🙂

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God, the Force, & Miracles

So, last year to celebrate my 30th birthday, my mother and I took a girl’s trip out to Vancouver Island. I’d wanted to go to Victoria and Tofino for a long time, and 30 seemed like the time to do it. I’d just left a long time partner, needed a kick in the ass to save me from the “I broke my own heart now what” blues.

To put it mildly- we had a blast. Tofino came first, and we spent our days there eating sushi, bear watching, and on patios by the ocean. I’d move to Tofino in a hot minute if I could get work there (I have been job hunting in Victoria and Tofino ever since I came back). Our first day back in Victoria, however, is the origin of this blog post.

Mom went to drop off the rental car (no need to drive in a city like Victoria!!!), and I found a cool little pub, whose name is currently escaping me. I sat at the bar, and instantly started chatting with an older man, who I will call Yoda. Yoda is a real estate agent, and before long we were talking about God and broken hearts. I told him that I was pretty lost – how do you recover your path when it’s been so altered? – and Yoda pondered this while he took a long, slow drink from his pint.

“Well, I suggest A Course in Miracles,” said Yoda, after a long silence. “I read it after my divorce, and it changed my whole life. It’s not about God, though. Don’t read it with religion in mind.”

“A Course in Miracles?” I echoed.

“Yep. A Course in Miracles. Get the book. I promise you won’t regret it.”

We swapped email addresses, and Mom and I went looking for dinner. I looked for it in Victoria, and picked it up immediately after I landed in Edmonton. A blue bound book, with onion skin pages that read like a religious text. I started to have doubts in Yoda. Within the first few pages, though, I had tears streaming down my face. After the first hundred, I closed the book, and cried myself to sleep. I finished the book like that – rushing through it, tears streaming down my face, and thinking (at the end) that it held nothing for me.

Clearly, I’m a little bit like Luke Skywalker – eager to learn, a bit dull at times, and a bit of a dark side. You see, I react. You can call it an Aries trait, or an Irish temper – but when I react, I usually pick anger. It’s easier than anything else – easier to be pissed off then deal with sadness, or grief, or anxiety. My knee jerk reactions – learned from years of “well, if I let you hurt me, I’m going to lose” – cause irrevocable damage. I’ve lost my last two relationships to a reaction – if you push them away first, they can’t hurt you anymore – and then, I struggle with anger and regret. Every. Single. Time. So, reading A Course in Miracles and weeping…. I thought it meant nothing. I thought it meant that I was still raw from JM, and that it was just hitting all the sore, anger hidden sweet spots.

It’s literally a year later. I still alternate between “That was best for me” and “What the fuck am I doing”. And now, I have a second breakup coupled with “my plan for my future needs to drastically change”. “What the fuck am I doing” is currently the question that haunts me – while I’m at work, while I run, while I meditate – and I have been desperately searching for answers. The why, the how – how can I possible focus all of this negative energy into something that manifests positive results for me? With all of this, I feel like Luke at the beginning of a “New Hope” – lost, lonely, desperate for adventure and stuck in a rut so big that it doesn’t matter if it’s one harvest or one hundred because getting out seems impossible no matter the timeline. So, I did precisely what I have done with every single existential crisis I have ever had.

I went to Chapters, and bought a few books about meditating and faith. I called my mom. I signed up for a guided meditation course.

Now, here is the kicker. Here is where the Star Wars reference really comes into play.

My mom lent me a book about energy. Specifically, it’s about energy experiments – using positive thinking to change your fate. This book brings up the idea of God, but not as the bearded old man that we come to associate with God. Oh no, this book looks at God as nothing but sheer energy – an entire dimension in the universe that WE have control over, a force that we can all control if we only look into ourselves to find the power. This book literally advises the reader to look at God as The Force – something within our control, something that has a dark side and a light side, something that we can learn to master if given the right tools and the right amount of time. (And yes, my first thought was “SWEET. I’m changing my religion to JEDI!”)And then, this book names the right tools. Are you ready?

That’s right – this book names A Course in Miracles as the right tool. In fact, every single non-fiction book I have picked up SINCE my time with Yoda has referenced A Course in Miracles. Every single meditation book, every free guided meditation has either directly referenced it, or mentioned a topic covered in A Course in Miracles.

Also like Luke Skywalker – I can be a bit thick. I have prayed often, to my angels and to God, often in tears and aloud, to be given a sign. “Give me a sign, Lord,” I weep. “I’m not strong enough to do this anymore. Please, please give me a sign. Help me heal, help me find a way out of here. I can’t do this alone.”

I am certain that for the last year, all my guardian angels have been facepalming, saying “What kind of moron prays for a sign WHEN WE GAVE HER ONE IN VICTORIA. And why is she STILL PRAYING when EVERY SINGLE TEXT THAT SHE NEEDS is sitting on her GD nightstand?!?!”

It has become incredibly clear that change needs to happen. I told my (now ex) partner SK about this revelation, and in his ever so loving way, he gave me a big hug and told me to get on it. One of my best gals AM advised me to break my cleanse, and get into that book with a bottle of wine and a bathtub. And now, standing in a little bit more hand crafted wreckage… I think the time has come. And, like Luke learned – sometimes, you get what you wish for but mostly, you get what you work for. Sometimes, saying something in anger or frustration leads to sadness, but eventually… you will escape from the rut (side note to all those angels facepalming…. when plotting the escape from my handcrafted rut, can I please request a handsome scoundrel who is also a brute/bad boy/great man? I don’t specifically need a Han Solo or a Millennium Falcon, but it’d be hella sweet).

I’m looking forward to this. Since tomorrow is my country’s birthday, I think that’s a good day to start. I always like birthdays as the beginning of something new – I always start new projects on my birthday. So, Happy birthday Canada! And new project time for N.

Thoughts from a Self-Rescuing Princess

I found one of my all-time favourite books when I was in grade 9 – Pride and Prejudice. The heroine is still someone I identify with – a book loving, cynical, romantic. Her love story, of course, is based around a man who, at first glance, is handsome yet conceited. They can’t stand one another, and even though he falls in love with her, she turns him away. He then turns away, begins to fix everything she accuses him of, and she falls in love with him.

As I’m sure you know… when Mr. Darcy propose the second time, he drops one of the most romantic lines of all time. He comes for her, and they live happily ever after.

This blog post has been rattling around in my head for days – weeks, even. A bit of a departure, but I’m trying this thing where I’m open. And fearless.

I thought I had found my Darcy – of course, I’ve been searching for him since I was 16. When I was 26, I thought I’d found him. JM was – is, I guess. He’s not dead, just gone – my instant friend. We connected on every level, immediately, and even though I was in a relationship with another man, I knew that JM would be in my life in a big capacity. My relationship grew rockier, and more unhappy, but JM was there. He made me laugh when I thought I couldn’t anymore, and provided companionship when things got really dark for me. He kissed me for the first time just after my relationship ended, and I will never forget that kiss. Even now, a year and a half since my lips have touched his…. I know that kiss. I’d know his voice anywhere, would recognize the brush of his hand against mine. If I had any artistic talent, I could close my eyes and draw his face from memory, right down to the flecks of gold in his eyes. Sometimes, to say that I miss him is the understatement of my life. There are days that my soul aches so much, one of my girlfriends gets a weeping phone call, or desperate text message.

“I’m texting you so I don’t text him.” (sidenote. I love my girlfriends. Best ladies anywhere, hands down. And I love love love all of you for the zero bullshit, tough love, sweet voices that you have. Mwah.)

Our breakup was sad – we tried, and several times I spoke about wanting a hero. Wanting a Darcy, or a Wesley (oh, Princess Bride. Loves.) To say that I wanted him to prove it – “it” being that he loved me, that he wanted to be with me – again, is an understatement. I wanted him to come for me- for him to prove that our huge, undefinable, radiant love MEANT SOMETHING – and I wished for that with every fibre of my being. I have such a romantic heart – and my rational side knows that JM is gone. If I wanted him, I’d have to be the one to fight. And a girl can only fight so much.

However, since my big news, I have dreamed of JM every night. I can see him vividly, right down to the muscles in his arms, to his going-blonde-in-the-sun hair. In my dream, he’s standing in a campsite, in a place that we went together exactly once. He’s chopping wood, and wearing a pair of cargo shorts that I LOVED on him, and I can see the sweat rolling down his back and through his chest hair. I try telling him – about the news, about the fear, about my blind rage at it – and he keeps splitting wood with his axe. When he looks up, his eyes meet mine – and then, he looks through me.

I wonder how he’d react – the man I met that November night so many years ago would be so concerned. First he’d make me a drink, and then he’d make me laugh. And then, he’d help me plan. My JM would make a plan with me, one full of hope and strength, one that he would support me on. The man that I lived with, and eventually left…. I honestly don’t know if he’d care that I need surgery. I wonder if he’d punish me as much as I am punishing myself. Sometimes, on a weak night (which happen more infrequently now), I wonder if he would (or will) ever prove that my initial impression was the right one – that he is my breathing version of Mr. Darcy.

Most times, though, I think that holding out for a hero, for a fictional dream, is ridiculous. Then I really look at myself, and wonder if I shouldn’t just accept that I’m my own hero. I think that, maybe, JM was right (“It’s fiction, N. FIC. TION.”) and that I need to realize that I need to be willing to rescue myself. It’s not a new concept to me – I’ve been a self rescuing princess since I was a teenager. I meditate a lot on this – I sit in the silence, and have been learning to deal with the less frequent waves of guilt and sadness. I see my mistakes, and am trying to learn from them. With the running, and the yoga, and the meditating… maybe my heart will open back up to the universe. And I won’t dwell on it anymore.

Knowing that, and feeling that, doesn’t make me want a Darcy any less.

Bravery & Bridges

Once, not too many years ago, I was sitting on a bridge in New Zealand having my lower legs tied together. I decided that no visit to Queenstown could go without leaping off of the Kawarau Bridge, and paid to leap 43 meters into a river. Clearly, I was out of my damn mind.

My memory of this day is so vivid. I remember what the air felt like, what the sky looked like, what I was wearing, what music was playing. The man who tied my legs was named Sully, and he was a Brit with green eyes and glasses. And I was silent. I was shaking as he wrapped that towel around my shins, and then cinched a canvas strap around my feet. I looked down at this (handsome. Stupidly handsome.) man, who was singing along to the Metallica song blaring through the loudspeakers as he tied my legs together.

“If I don’t jump, Sully, will you push me?” 

He looked up, as he was kneeling at my feet. He pushed his glasses up his nose and said: “Nope, girl. It’s against AJ Hackett policy. We believe that you have the power in you to leap – but you have to be brave enough to take that first step.”

I did leap. I screamed the whole way down, but I jumped. 

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This past week, I have been thinking about that leap. How much courage we hold within us, and, specifically, how much courage I have. I have spent a lot of my life afraid, scared to move or point in a direction. Lately, I’ve been trying for direction in my life. I have a pile of goals that require movement, that require bravery – and lately, I’ve been acting like a big old cowardly lion, holding my tail for fear. 

No more. I can’t wait anymore. My soul can’t stay in this holding pattern. I need to free myself from my fear and leap off this proverbial bridge. So I’m writing it down. I want to lose weight. I want to find my way to peace, I want to silence this inner screaming child howling for peace. I want to be HAPPY, dammit. And not just “Oh, look, a new X-Men movie!” happy. Enough happy that I never need to search for it again. Dear Sugar would say that I need to be braver than all of it – she’s written that I need to be brave enough to break my own heart. 

Today, I don’t feel brave. To be perfectly honest, I feel like a big, fat, miserable failure. As of right now, though – I’m starting with leaping again. Sully was right – I do have the courage. I just need to find it. 

Maybe this time I need to jump out of a plane instead. 

Monsters, Aliens, and me

Last weekend was the Calgary Comic Expo. I bought my tickets in November, and proceeded to get RIDICULOUSLY excited the closer it came, and with almost every guest announcement. Like, giddy excited, complete with GEEKGASM posts on my Facebook (they brought a huge chunk of Middle Earth this year. I’m a Tolkien-ite. And if that’s not a fandom, I’m starting my own.)

Comic expos are a new thing for me. In fact, this whole uber-geek thing that I have built over the last year is pretty new. I’ve always been into film, and was introduced to Star Wars, Batman and Indiana Jones at a young age. But the Firefly thing, the superheroes (and preferences – Marvel over DC, but Batman forever!), the comics, the zombies, and science… this is pretty new. My friend bought me a ticket for my 30th birthday – Nathan Fillion (see above Firefly. And Castle. Oh, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog.) was going. I was instantly hooked. Here was a population of people who shamelessly loved, and embraced their inner geek. I bought tickets for the Edmonton Expo soon after my initial experience.

Edmonton was different for one reason – Ron Perlman was attending. Ever heard of Mr. Perlman? Go IMDB him if not. He’s astounding. He plays Hellboy (and Clay Morrow in Sons of Anarchy), and to say that I fangirled during his panel in Edmonton is an understatement. I wept. Here he was, this towering, growling man who always tackles these complex, tortured souls – talking about the beauty of writing, and how his production company is based on beautiful writing. What?! My main reason for loving Mr. Perlman, however, is that I feel connected to him. He has described himself as “monstrous”. That’s why most of his roles he is hidden behind make-up, and huge prosthetics – he always felt too ugly, too hideous to show himself.

I know that feeling. Not that I need to hide my face, or my body, even though I am rather shy about the latter. I hide so much of myself. I hide the parts that I don’t want people to see, I hide the weakness, I hide the tears, I hide the writer. I hid the geek. I never felt worthy enough to see. This, my friends, is a battle that I have been fighting for most of the last year. I don’t want to hide anymore. Even if my parts are monstrous (which they AREN’T. I think I’m a lovely human being, most days.) I have been hiding parts of myself since I was 14 – I can ever remember the date that I stopped showing my true self to people. There are few – very few, in fact – that have seen all of me. I am ashamed of this. I understand what Mr. Perlman means when he says that he was too much of a monster. I am also trying to follow in his footsteps of showing his true self.

This past weekend’s highlight was Ms. Sigourney Weaver, perhaps known best as Lt. Ellen Ripley. Or as the first female lead character in a science fiction movie who saved her own ass, as well as many of the people around her – one of the baddest bitches in film, portrayed as both a virgin and a mother figure. Powerful, unstoppable, passionate – Ms. Weaver is BADASS. Also, hilarious (please see GhostBusters for further proof). I love Ms. Weaver. And, last Sunday night, I burst into fangirl tears to see her. Beautiful. Fierce. Able to conquer aliens, ghosts, and gorillas. She has inspired me since she was looking for the Gatekeeper. She paved the way in science fiction for women – there was never anyone really like Ripley before her.

The reason I bring up both of these human beings, is simply because they inspire me so. I strive to be a badass woman – one capable of taking care of her damn self, and anyone else who needs looking after. I strive to be a person in the light – a soul who doesn’t hide, or, rather, a soul tired of hiding. I think this is where the geek comes in. I can safely look up to these characters, these people who have paved the way as monsters and alien killers. I look up to that because I long to be fierce. I long to stop hiding. And I fight, every single day, to come into the light. To be open, and honest. To be fierce. To let the parts of me that I deem monstrous out to play.

Especially the geeky parts.