Saturday, April 30, 2011

Off for a restful adventure

I spent my morning saying goodbyes. It was hard to drop the dog off. Her trip to the city was so exciting until she realized it was all a trick and she wasn't going to get to go back home. We all know what that is like, and knowing should make it harder to drop the dog off, even for a relatively short time.

Vacations are fun when you are planning them and fun when you are on them. In between can be hard. The point of a vacation is to wake up in one place and go to GED omeplac entirely different. Last year, when I finally arrived at my vacation bedroom, a bullet came through my headboard. That was entirely different than being at home, and an unsettling reminder that change can be quite disturbing.

So I spent the morning telling people I love that I love them, and touching base and finishing tasks and, of course, vacuuming the living room and imagining walking into it at the end of he trip. Leaving is like that. Even when you are just leaving for a vacation you need.

Luckily, leaving doesn't last forever. Eventually, even after you ave arrived at the airport much too early, the plane will lift off and the travels will begin. Later tonight we will drink welcoming mojitos by a lovely pool under warm skies.

And maybe you will hear more about it. Or maybe not. Vacations shouldn't be too predictable.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dancing with heartache

Tonight I watched the first year musical theatre students at Sheridan perform Glee Live! They were awesome. It took me back to the days when I watched Fame, a million years ago, and to before that, when I was as young as the students on the stage, and as fiercely passionate and ambitious. I remember being that vulnerable and that brave.

I remember the feeling when I opened the envelope, the wrong envelope at the wrong time to be good news. I had worked for four years to do my university proud by winning a particular scholarship. It was a tradition for their top students in English - and I was, without any doubt, their top student. I owed it to me and to the university of which I was as proud as you can be at twenty. And the envelope held a letter that said I would not win the scholarship because one of the required nomination forms had been missing from my application. The hole in my stomach was so large that it stretched into my lungs and made it hard to breathe. The world became strangely far away, distant from my ears and eyes. I would do the research, discover that a prof I respected had simply picked up my paper with some others and filed it away, thinking it had been safely mailed. A little mistake. The end of a dream.

And the tears started. Lots of them. And trembling, and the knowledge I would have to explain to my mother what had happened. I knew my fierce and loving mother would be so angry that this had happened to me, that it would be hard to bear her feelings and my own. I was overwhelmed. Nothing so unfair had ever happened to me, especially not at school. University was the place I found myself at home, the place I excelled as naturally as breathing. It wasn't as safe as I thought. And, at that moment, I didn't know that other scholarships would come through, and I would be a teaching assistant, and life would shift again. At that moment, I didn't know.

So, I went dancing.

I don't know if that's where the pattern started, but I know I made the choice that night to go out where the music was loud, and probably bad, and have a drink or two, and dance and show the world that I might have been knocked down, and I might wake up crying the next morning, but I was going to deliberately open myself up to the chaos and the noise and celebrate anyway.

That's where I remember it beginning, the urge to meet disaster with some symbolic celebration, some deliberate affirmation that I could keep moving.

And tonight I found myself in the theatre at Sheridan, listening to them perform the Time Warp and remembering dancing it myself, a long, long time ago.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Postcard from the bottom of the sea

Dear world above ground,

It is beautiful and strange here below the waves of consciousness. I go from hot to cold in a moment, from balanced to floating to struggling for air. The only consistency is knowing that whatever I am in this minute will be different soon.

I know that somewhere in this floor, there is a chasm that would allow me to slip farther down, to sink into the deep soft grass and close my eyes and sleep. I would like to sleep, even knowing that sleep would pull me deeper still.

I am not always sure how to find down or up from here. It is a disorienting place, a place where colours and sound is suddenly bright and loud but somehow without meaning and the air vibrates.

I feel the pull of the surface. I am not ready yet.

Be well,


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In free fall

Have you ever had a major relationship shift or disappear in what feels like an instant? Afterwards, you will think of all the different ways it was predictable, but there is something in our brain that resists this kind of change so strongly that we never do predict it. It always seems that tomorrow will come, the bad patch will pass, and we will get back to normal.

Look around your life and count on your fingers the number of days that both were normal and felt normal.

Something has changed in my life; something I thought was solid as the earth has turned to vapour. And so I am in free fall - off the mountain ledge and down and down and down. . .

A curious thing happens in some of the stories I like. A main character falls down and down, through all of the air, then through the water, and then further down until she lands in the grass and falls asleep.

Under the water, in the depths, there is always a different life. And when we climb back to the surface, the earth is reassuringly solid but everything will have shifted.

If you need me, I will be under water, searching for the thing I need to know or find to bring to the surface and move through this deep sea change.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What if 50 is only halfway?

This year I will celebrate or hide from my 50th birthday by running away to Paris with my mom. There is something intimidating about 50: a paradoxical sense of hope and dread as you imagine all that you will never do and wonder whether to push harder or simply let what you already know pull you along like a current. You might feel - I often feel - stronger and smarter and more resilient than ever before. You might feel - I often feel - that it's too late, that too many people have accomplished so much more. It seems just a little late for starting something new.

And yet - I took a silly quiz online today that promised to calibrate my life expectancy. And the result was 99 years! If the silly quiz is right, I am just halfway. Halfway is still somewhat terrifying, but is also just halfway, in the middle of the journey, half-baked. Yes, there are lots of days I feel half-baked.

So as I approach my 50th birthday, I am contemplating what it means to be so far from the edges that you can no longer see either shore, the beginning and the ending both too far for accurate perception. I am thinking about what it means to be resilient and intentional and passionate in the absence of clear indications that you are moving in the right direction, or how close or far you are from your destination. We live in a world where long-term plans last less than 5 years. We are always grabbing at signposts that promise we are on the right path. What can we learn by knowing that those signposts are not reliable indications of anything except the moment in which we encounter them?

When I was very young, I was intrigued by artists who lived long lives and were creative until the very last moment. I wonder how I knew I would need that. I wonder how I knew that I would have to live with all the hope and terror of "I am just beginning."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Isn't it time to DO something?

For many years, I have taught a simple sales process as part of a course in business writing. Today, I found the same model in a slideshare show through Linked In. The formula is

Over the years, I have used variations but they all suggest that you need to connect with someone, engage their interest, help them imagine themselves using your product or service, then tell them what to do to make it happen.

Isn't it easy to forget that final step when we are motivating ourselves? We gather great information and imagine lots of options. We might even choose one. But the step that makes all the difference is the last one: do we get active or not?

It's Easter weekend and the sun is shining (some of the time). Easter is very late this year. Whether or not you celebrate it as a religious holiday, the long weekend and family time probably prepares you to move from winter into summer (spring is a bit of a fiction in Ontario almost every year).

On Tuesday, the season in our minds will have changed. We will be heading towards summer. We will have lots of things we want.

The question is not what you want or how you know you want it. The question for this edge is: what one thing will you do on Tuesday that gets you moving in a fresh direction?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Change surprises all of us now and then

Most people hold two mutually exclusive ideas about change.

The first idea is that change is hard and takes initiative and effort and possibly discipline to bring about. Often, this is the idea that springs to mind when we think about organizational change or political change. It holds within it the seed of the idea that change, at least some change, makes logical sense and is brought about by holding on to the intention for things to change and following through on a plan to make change happen.

The other idea is that change sneaks up on us. We watch for it, maybe even build some walls around it to keep it contained. But it doesn't matter. One day we wake up, and change has already happened. We are not sure exactly when or how. We are only sure that it has stopped being a matter of choice and become a matter of accepting and adapting. This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but a whimper (T. S. Eliot). We expect that big change should be announced with a big fanfare. But often, it sneaks in the back door and squats. By the time we notice, it's living with us.

This really leaves us with two choices. One is to pretend that change is not squatting in the middle of the room: to walk around it as if it weren't there at all. The other is to figure out what to do now change has happened. We can howl our resistance, but even that is doing something. Mostly, we howl a little and then reimagine our alternatives. Our lives are not what they were, but we are still in the same skin, looking at the world through eyes that may not be happy about what they are seeing, but eyes that are still seeing nonetheless. We get to choose what will come next.

Some people will choose to adjust themselves to the change, to realign and reframe and reassess goals and relationships in light of what is the new status quo. Others will choose to push for further change - to replace the change that surprised them with a change they have strategized. Either way, change requires that we manage our state of mind and body. Change requires that we notice what we are thinking and feeling and ask ourselves, sometimes for the first time in a long time, what the best we can hope for now is.

Spring is a season of sneaky changes. It's sunny and warm one day and snowing the next. We know generally which way the world is heading, but at any moment our expectations may be challenged. Things change in the spring.

Take a deep breath. Notice what is different. Ask yourself: What's the best I can hope for now?

Then find the resources to bring the best into being.