Published articles

Backdraft, Summer 2015

They accepted two of my articles and paid me good money for them!

Backdraft-2015-A Visit to YVFD

Backdraft-2015-One More Day

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Just enjoy the view

This is a concept discussed in the book I mentioned in my last post, Being, written by Bennet Wong and Jock McKeen:

When people stand forth they become autonomous and individuated. They derive their self-esteem from their own sense of jobs well done, from their own appreciation of  their having given a task their best effort, of their being all they can be. To them, results are often not as important as the quality of the process of their activity. They are fully involved in whatever they undertake, and experience life as being full of interesting possibilities for exploration and growth. They are self-centred–that is, centered within themselves–but not at the expense of others. They remain connected, sensitive to the needs of others as well as to their own. They have a great capacity for empathy, while avoiding sympathy (which involves a condescension from an attitude of superiority). They recognize and respect the boundaries of others, and are interested in being vulnerable and intimate. They care about others without caretaking them, since they recognize everyone’s potential for being responsible for themselves. Because they express fully and responsibly, they manifest very little resentment or blame for others. It is only by standing forth in this way, accessing and developing strength, that people can experience true intimacy with others.

To stand forth requires the courage to be oneself. …

… Rather than becoming field dependent (dependent on the opinions of those around them to indicate their own value), they remain in touch with what they desire to do; they follow their hearts. Thus they become more spontaneous, self-reliant, and self-motivated. They are more in tune with themselves and others, more fully human and fulfilled. … As they stand forth, they recognize that they just “are,” everything just “is,” and this is enough. As Kierkegaard wrote: “To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose oneself.”

I spent the last four years, and possibly the last decade, not venturing and I have definitely lost myself. Well, fuck that.

I believe the above excerpt is a good description of the chapter of my life I am beginning to enter: learning how to stand forth. I am learning to trust myself and rely on my inner direction even when people I care about think that I’m wrong.

And right now, it seems like there are a lot of people that I care about that think I am making a bad decision. This morning, someone very important to me expressed deep concern about my choice to keep the house. Very deep concern, expressed very forcefully and vocally and with great passion. And others have told me that they are concerned about me or worried about me. Apparently there are ‘a lot of people’ worried about me. So the consensus seems to be that my decision is making a lot of people uncomfortable. And after sifting through a lot of emotion as a result of being told this again and again, here’s how I feel.

  • Anger at the arrogance of others who place judgement on my decisions, and believe they have a right to judge my decisions and try to tell me what to do.
  • Softness at the love that is behind the concern that they express–thank you for loving me enough to be concerned.
  • Hurt as a result of my interpretation that their concern means that they don’t believe I can achieve my goal of owning a house by myself.
  • Strength, because I know I can do it and I know I will make intelligent, well-informed decisions because I am smart, so fucking smart that none of you probably even realize it.
  • Excitement because I have what I want right now and it is within my power, I have the strength, to keep what I want and to create the life I want to have…under my own power without having to rely on someone else. Without needing a man to help me do it.
  • Confusion as to what persona I have put out into the world that makes people think so little of me; why do they think I can’t achieve my goals? As far as I remember, I’ve achieved any goal I’ve ever wanted to achieve, except one. Passing my EMR licensing exam. And I’m not done with that yet. I will achieve that goal too, eventually.

This house is almost all I care about. I want it more than I want to write and publish a book. I love it almost as much as I love my dogs, and I love them more than anyone or anything else in the entire world (sorry, but they give me unconditional love and never hurt me or tell me that I’m not living up to their expectations).

Another aspect of this learning to stand forth is realizing that it’s okay for me to choose what I want to do. It is okay for me to take education and “waste” it. It’s okay that I have seven years of post-secondary school, a diploma in holistic health, and a degree in communications, plus all of my first aid certificates, and am employed in none of these fields. So I thank all of you well-meaning folks who like to tell me that I should just write a book or get a writing job, or I should just this, or use my education that, or I should spend more time doing this and if I just worked a little harder at that, then I’d get it. This is what I hear you saying: you think I have so much potential and you think I’m wasting it right now. You think that if I just tried a tiny bit harder, just applied myself a little more, then I’d finally get what you think I should have, or what you think I want.

I really don’t know how to explain to all of you (and there have been a number of people express this sentiment to me over the years) that this is MY life. I GET TO CHOOSE HOW TO SPEND IT. When I try to tell people this, for some reason they get offended. I really don’t understand. All I want is for people to just let me live my life and stop trying to micromanage it and control it. Yeah, it probably looks messy from the outside. And yeah, it’s not how you would do it. Not MY problem. That’s a YOU problem. They are my decisions to make (and fuck up , in your eyes).

I had a friend about five years ago, and I was deeply jealous of her. She had a beautiful singing voice, played guitar and wrote her own songs. She could draw these totally unique drawings that were cute and beautiful and I know could have been super popular. And she wrote beautiful poetry. But all she did was complain about how shitty her life was and how nothing worked out for her. She seemed to think that success would simply fall into her lap. I got really fed up with her. I saw her as lazy, as feeling entitled, and I saw her as almost stupid. I felt that she was totally wasting all of this amazing talent she had, and that made me so angry. But the anger was jealousy. I often thought “If I have what she has, I would be such an amazing success,” and I was angry that a lazy person like her was given these talents instead of a hardworking person like me. Because I’d do something with those talents. I’m not friends with her anymore, but I think our friendship ended for other reasons (she was a very dramatic person and I didn’t want the drama).

I have (had?) another friend that I recently stopped talking to. Not too long before we stopped talking, she mentioned in a serious conversation that she wanted me to stop analyzing her life and telling her how to “fix” things. She just wanted to shoot the shit and be able to vent about her work without me telling her that she needed to change her entire life to fix things and be happy. I was hurt when she said that, but she made a really good point, and I knew she was right about an hour after she said it. Who the fuck am I to tell her how to live her life? I just got caught up by putting me into her life. I dreamt about what I would do if I had her salary, her freedom, her car, her bank account. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t just jump up and start acting on the suggestions I made so that she could live out my vision of how her life should be.

I understand now. I was unhappy with my own life and I was numbing my unhappiness because I felt trapped in the life I was living. I had to stay in that life because the alternative was terrifying. Well, now that I’m on the other side of having made that decision, it was actually a great decision for me and my partner. It wasn’t that hard. It was painful, but less painful than living in a relationship where we were totally ambivalent about each other. I feel much less alone now than I did in a relationship, knowing that my partner didn’t love me. But at the time, it was easier to live vicariously through someone else than it was to make that decision and then take action on my decision.

I can definitely say it’s addictive, living vicariously through others (hence reality tv!). It’s addictive being able to tell other people how they should live their lives and use their money and interact with people. I don’t even understand why. I guess, analyzing myself, I got a charge of something, maybe a feeling of power, from imagining these friends doing what I suggested. I got a charge from imagining them becoming more successful or more happy…because I could then take credit, even in my head, for their success. My words, my plans, my thoughts, would be what made them successful. It’s like being able to live life from a distance, a safe distance where I can enjoy the good bits and shield myself from the icky bits. If I just move around the chess pieces, I don’t feel invested if I lose a pawn here or there. They’re the ones that suffer the emotional consequences.

Of course, neither of them did anything that I ever suggested/wheedled/told them to do. And I understand now why they were angry at me for trying to live their lives for them. It fucking sucks when people think they know how to live your life better than you know how to live it. I want to tell everyone who is doing it to me to fuck off and stop it, but that’s impolite and no one likes to hear that.

But I’m not a pawn or a doll. I just want you to tell me that you are there for me and that you love me no matter what I choose, and I deeply value those of you that are able to do so. I know you have opinions about my choices and behaviours, because you’re human. But you don’t feel the need to orate at me and lecture me. I know that if I got myself into a really bad situation where I had needles hanging out of my eyeballs (well, long before that), you’d step in and tell me something was really wrong. But you are the people that I know love me for who I am in this moment: messy, possibly entitled, mistake-making, education-wasting, money-poor, house-rich, drain-on-society, emotional-eating, making all the “wrong” decisions, little old me. And not only that, but you think all of these things add to the depth and complexity of my beauty.

This is how I know I’m learning to stand forth…because I love this deep, complex, beautiful me, too, and I think there is nothing wrong with what I am doing because hey, every adventure has its own merit. I’m not waking up every day and intending to hurt others or be unkind. I operate following the values of: compassion/lovingkindness for others; integrity; environmentalism; service towards others; creative self-expression. I put effort in to follow these values in every moment, in every decision that I make, and hell, sometimes I even succeed. And I follow my heart, too. Since I’ve created this equation for life, which I started using maybe in May, my life has changed dramatically, and all of the changes have been for the best, for MY best. All of the changes have helped me move towards being the most authentic expression of who I am, really, in here, inside, in my corest of cores.

I am proud of who I am. I am content with who I am. I know that I am making the decisions that will support me and the core values that I live by. That’s all I need to live a good life. I DON’T need to be happy all of the time–I know now that is unrealistic. I know now that there is value in balance, in every emotion, equal value in fear and anger and sadness and sorrow and joy and happiness. I know now that I can experience sorrow and happiness and anger and confusion all at the same time (and often do). I am not scared of being sad, or being really really sad (well, okay, I am a little, but I know that it’s okay and I know how to feel those emotions instead of running away from them).

So, all that being said, yeah, I know it’s a risky journey to take on this house by myself. I know there’s going to be a lot of pain in my future, a lot of sadness, anger, sorrow, confusion, fear. I know there will be a lot of joy and happiness and excitement and pride and strength too. And I know that those emotions will be there anyway, whether or not I strive to achieve anything. I’m still going to be scared and get sad and get confused and worry and get angry and be happy and joyful, so why the hell wouldn’t I own a house in the process?

I’m strapped into this rollercoaster ride of a life anyways. I may as well open my eyes and enjoy the view along the way, right?

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Control/Vulnerability

I learned one of my patterns of behaviour today.

Two people who are each important to me are engaging in conflict. To me, watching from the outside, it is hard to understand the conflict. I’ve done a lot of work trying to de-escalate the situation, trying to talk to each party over the past while and keep them calm so that larger conflict will not arise. I’ve been doing it totally unconsciously.

Today, based on a conversation I had, and then my resulting turmoil of thought, came the ah-ha moment. I was worrying over everything and so I went snorkelling with my dogs. It was nice to get in the cool water, see a different world and not think about anything except what was in front of my face for a while. On my drive home, the thought popped into my head. Where am I in this situation? Where does my responsibility lie? How can I be most true to myself?

I realized that I have been working really hard to manage this situation, to the point of exhaustion and worry. One of my natural actions is to manage things, control them in order to manage my exposure and vulnerability. If I can work really hard and keep everyone happy, keep everyone talking and feeling good, then at the end of the day, the situation won’t blow up and I won’t be caught in the crossfire. Which means I’m running back and forth, not telling anyone anything, soothing other people’s worries and angers, leaving nothing for myself.

So what is my responsibility here? My responsibility is to myself. I want to stop controlling the situation (it wasn’t working well anyhow) and stop trying to manage and peacemake. I am just making myself sick with worry when I do this.

Instead, I hope to take the energy I was wasting doing that and use it to strengthen my own spirit. I want to turn my efforts inward, because what I realized was that I was afraid that I won’t have the strength to face and deal with the fallout of this conflict. I haven’t trusted that I am strong enough on my own, in my own right, to deal with the terrible outcomes I have been imagining. Once I realized that I didn’t have faith in my own strength, I was able to step back for a second and see that oh, wait. Even if the worst thing happens, as long as I can remain true to MY self and who I wish to be, as long as I act in integrity with who I am and in a way that is the truest expression of my self and my values, then I remain strong no matter what troubles I face.

And then I picked up this book I’ve been reading and it synchronistically supported what I’d just realized for myself. The book is called Being, written by Bennet Wong and Jock McKeen. The part I’m reading talks about a continuum between power and strength approaches to life. In our society, the emphasis is put on the power approach to life, and we’ve become unbalanced on the continuum. They advocate the need to move fluidly between the strength and power approaches so we can benefit from both. Anyways, here is the excerpt on Control <–> Vulnerability, by Bennet Wong and Jock McKeen.

Control <–> Vulnerability
     Although the option exists to face all facets of experience, children are quickly taught to control themselves and the environment, minimizing vulnerability. To maximize pleasure and security, they learn to control their parent figures by adopting a pleasing attitude, and moulding their behaviour to assure parental protection. Of course, to control their parents, children must learn what the adults do and do not want, and then modify their behaviour accordingly. Children learn to control facial expressions, emotions, and actions, reading their parents for feedback of appropriateness. In short, they learn to control themselves in order to control others, setting a pattern for the rest of their lives. The prize is an increased sense of security and pleasure; the price is the loss of spontaneous expression, and the forfeiting of much authentic, innate experience. This becomes the prototype for subsequent relationships, and indeed for people’s way of relating to all of life. Instead of accepting information from the external world and responding to it (that is, being vulnerable), people generally try to control themselves and their environment in order to gain more predictability. In contrast, if one is willing to be vulnerable, personal strength can be enhanced by one’s willingness to respond to life instead of resisting it.
Control of both self and other involves power. Whenever people are prepared to experience all facets of life, strength develops. In the power attitude, life is an adversary. In the strength mode, a person is a willing participant in the life process; although there will be pain, uncertainty, and vulnerability, the individual grows ever stronger in the capacity to embrace these, along with joy and pleasure.

Today’s learning and reading reinforces the desire that has developed in me to be the kind of person who doesn’t shy away from life and try to find a hole to weather the storm. I want to be the person that watches the storm approach while standing in the open field, feeling the winds rise and the rain on my skin, knowing that there is danger and also know that there is beauty and value in the storm that I want to be part of. Facing life head-on, and being rocked and rolled by it, is painful and scary, but what the book excerpt says brings me a lot of hope (which I’ve recently been learning is a good feeling, not a threatening one): “the individual grows ever stronger in the capacity to embrace (pain, uncertainty, and vulnerability), along with joy and pleasure.”

Accepting and embracing the difficult emotions opens me up and strengthens me, increasing my capacity for other emotions, too, emotions like joy and pleasure.

I love the idea that life is full of adventures, and every day is a new one. Each adventure is as worthy and valid as the next, so no matter if my adventure is working as a pizza delivery girl, or going snorkelling, or being a good dog mom, or loving my family or facing my fears, each adventure is a treasure and each is valuable. Instead of waking and being afraid of what the day will bring, I desire, I strive for, I hope to wake up looking forward to my newest adventure and find an authentic experience of life and emotion in every moment.

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Growing pains

Today feels like growing pains. So much changes for me day to day. And just as I wrote that, I remembered how not even 6 months ago I was begging for change to tear me out of the deep period of stagnation I felt frozen in for months, if not a year. Sigh. I guess perspective is everything.

But I am thankful for the changes. I am ready. They are coming fast, and I feel they are huge, large-order changes. One day I have a shit job and don’t own a house, just slowly moving towards freedom from debt. The next day I’m a homeowner again and my undependable income from the shit job isn’t going to cut it anymore. A few days later I have a better job lined up, but one with it’s own aches and pains. I feel that life these days is a series of stepping stones…or perhaps a better metaphor is ice chunks in a floe. I’m walking across the floe and as I stand on it, each piece of ice is sinking, forcing me to keep moving.

I’ve been researching a job that I looked at and decided was one I should apply to. It is the type of job that I feel I should have, one that fits within my field of study, that would pay pretty well (very well? I don’t know…the guy I talked to never actually answered that question) but a job that seems a little beyond my skill level.

I feel like I’m sort of on precarious ground here. I want to move into this level of existence, a solid government job that is stable, that looks good, a job where I can look at myself with outside judgy eyes and be impressed. This is a job for keeping up with the Joneses.

But it seems like my lack of confidence is the perfect self saboteur. This is the stage of growing pains. I have my sights set on where I want to be and I’m trying my best to get there, but I’m not quite good enough to reach that level yet. Same as the EMR thing. I failed my first two attempts at my license, and the second examiner said “maybe it’s just not the right time yet.” He told me not to lose hope or give up, but maybe I should just step back and take some time before my final attempt. I was angry to hear it, but hell, he’s right. No matter how much I want something and no matter how much I skin my knuckles trying to get it, I guess sometimes it’s just not the right moment. These are the growing pains, the stages between levels of growth where everything hurts. Going back is depressing and not really an option, going forward is terrifying and requires an exhaustive amount of strength; which means I yo-yo back and forth between the two states.

Aspen logger

Over the years I’ve attempted to do one…just one…chin up. I look at the bar, I grab onto it, I hop up, I struggle, I wish, I hope, I pant, I moan, I clench my fists as hard as I can but I’ve never been able to hold myself up to that bar. What I have noticed, however, is that when I make a concerted effort and practice even one chin up per day, I do change. Of course, at this point that means that I simply fall a little slower each time, but I know that if I had the energy and perseverance I would one day achieve that goal. I don’t have the energy and perseverance, nor do I have a chin up bar, so that day of achievement is a really long time in the future, but there you go. I know, realistically, that it will happen once I’ve practiced enough, dedicated enough time and energy to it, and once the time is right.

I guess perhaps all I can really do in this in-between stage is simply make each attempt better than the last.

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10-year plan

Aug. 2, where does the time go? I feel like there have been so many changes in the past month, it boggles my mind a little.

In the past month, I have:

  • Worked as a pizza delivery girl for a month, raising just over $1000  (works out to about 12/hr), which I paid onto my VISA  (in line with my goal to pay off debt)
  • Found a great walking trail where I can take the dogs off leash
  • Took a self improvement course that was very challenging but also informative
  • Almost for sure got my old job back at the YYJ airport (just waiting on paperwork and hopefully by then my sprained ankle will be healed)
  • Returned to being a homeowner (my partner decided he is unable to afford the house and asked if I wanted it. I said absolutely)
  • Called to reduce my student loan payments and ask for Loan assistance, which means if I am approved, the 60 cents per day interest will be waived for 6 months.
  • Took stock of my current debt load and learned that it is $10,000 less than I thought it was. Hooray!

So now my priorities have changed. My main priority is working my ass off so I can pay for the house. My ex partner will stay until Oct and then move out. I may get a renter into the spare room for September who will hopefully stay for the winter or longer.

The job I’m getting is 1.5 hrs away from my house, which adds complexity, but it’s a job I like, I know I like the people, the starting wage has increased since I last worked there, and they have lots of hours for me. The job also pays benefits. My plan is to find an affordable way to stay near work on my days on and home on my days off. The one thing I don’t know yet is what to do about my dogs. My mom said she can take care of them while she’s in town but she has a trip planned late August and then may go away for the winter. Anyway, I guess I’ll cross that bridge if I have to. Maybe my place near work will allow me to bring them, but really they need someone to watch them and my shifts could be up to 10 or 11 hrs.

Other than that detail, which I’ll figure out, my plan seems pretty solid. I’ve done a budget and I think it will be affordable, just barely. It will really help to get that renter in, because the one detail I haven’t factored in is caring for the property, like yard maintenence, etc.

What worries me the most is the expenses I’ve overlooked and haven’t planned for. Hopefully I’ll be able to work those things out, while also still being able to pay down my debts.

A friend of mine recently moved into a higher position at his job. I congratulated him and he said thanks, that he’s been working for it for the past 10 years.

That’s how I’m approaching this. I want the house and it’s not going to be easy for the next few years or so, but I’m in a 10-year plan now, or longer, so I’ll just “knuckle down and be okay with this,” to quote Ani DiFranco.

I look forward to finally having something to make me get out of bed every morning. My ability to trust and have faith in myself, however, needs some work because I’m scared I’ll change my mind once it gets too hard.

Oh well, I guess at least I’ll see what I’m made of.

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Authenticity and vulnerability

It’s been a rough week and I’m not sure why. My morale has been low, I’ve been carrying a lot of anger around with me, and I’ve been taking it out unnecessarily on those close to me. I’m sorry. But yesterday I woke up and actually felt better. It’s been a week of waking up feeling groggy and achy with a headache, feeling confused and out of sorts and highly irritable, but Monday was different. I felt light, energetic. I felt motivated to push forward again. I Got Stuff Done.

Over the past year or so I’ve learned a lesson that I suspect most people learn when they’re young. When  I’m down I have to drown myself in positivity to bring my spirits back up. This is definitely a new learning for me, as I’ve spent much of my life thinking that if I searched hard enough and did the right things and picked the right job and looked right and and and…that I would reach a point where I became happy. I’d be a happy person, and to me that meant that I’d feel happy all the time…like I’d just wake up and feel happy. I think that is not realistic. What I am realizing is that being happy probably won’t be something that just alights onto my shoulders like a pretty little songbird. It is something that I have to choose every day. actually, it is something that I have to choose in every moment that I realize I am making a choice and taking an action. In every moment I want to, I have to, choose happiness. Choose compassion. Choose to let the tendrils of anger slip away instead of grab hold of me by the throat and choke the delicate happiness out of me. Delivering pizza is actually a decent test of this. Whenever I get a small tip, the temptation is there to think “what a jerk.” And sometimes I let my brain go down that road. But more often, I just choose to not let it bother me and instead just hold onto my pleasant feeling. I choose to be there to deliver to each person a very short human interaction where I look them in the eye and smile, maybe share a little pleasant small talk. I make an effort to ignore the money. It sounds easy, but it sin’t always easy. What I would like to incorporate more is mindfulness in the moments when I work. In between deliveries there is a lot of down time and it means that I sit in the pizza shop in the smoky greasy air looking at Facebook, watching the tv or doing anything I can to just check out so I can make the time go by faster and go home…to sit on the couch and look at Facebook or watch a movie…it’s kind of ridiculous when I think about it. So mindfulness at the time when I really want to switch my brain off.

I also started listening to a new audiobook yesterday. I’ve been listening to Brian Tracy audiobooks like The Science of Self-Confidence and The Psychology of Achievement and 21 Ways to Get the Job You Want, and they are really great. They’re encouraging and give some really great steps to take in order to make goals, set them and achieve them. There’s much more to the books than just that, but it’s a sum-up. Anyway, I’ve been listening to these self-improvement books and lately I’ve been wondering ‘where are the self-improvement books by women? Where are the books by women on how to empower myself as a woman?” I feel that as women we are fundamentally different than men (duh) and while I believe that action and forward motion a go-getter attitude are great and useful and things I want in my life, I feel like these are all very masculine approaches to life. I want to read about great women who are successful and have them tell me the steps they took to gain their success. I don’t want to be a woman learning men’s rules to play the man’s game best so I can achieve success in a man’s world. That won’t authentically represent who I am because I’m not a man. What I hope to find is a whole new approach to life, a way to live authentically and express my femininity and be successful in my own way. But first I have to create a picture of what this means to me, because the broad definition of success that is widely accepted by society is, I believe, has colonialism as its most basic foundation. Whomever accumulates the most wealth, resources, offspring is the most powerful and wins. These are things that are completely uninteresting to me. I don’t need to accumulate material possessions to feel successful. So the question is, what do I need to become successful? How do I achieve that success in a way that is authentic for me and allows me to truly be who I am in all ways? Since I’m in a new state of freedom, what pieces of my life serve the person I want to be, and what pieces do I let go of? And most important, how do I be the most authentic expression of me every day? Seems like authenticity is an important notion at this point.

So as I was saying, I’ve been listening to a new audiobook, Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. So far (I’m only about 3-4 chapters in) this audiobook is well worth the $18 I paid for it. I was reluctant at first to pay, because my money is extremely precious right now, but I’m glad I did. Brene Brown is a successful woman and she has become even more successful through her honesty and authenticity, through her discussions on vulnerability, despite the fact that she admits she hates vulnerability and is terrified of it. The book shares some of the research she’s found through her PhD, but also shares her personal stories, and in that vulnerability she is strong and admirable. These are qualities that I see as successful and that I want in my new picture of life. Honesty, vulnerability, authenticity. Acceptance of self, though self is messy and imperfect and nothing like I wish it to be. Another audiobook I’ll listen to once I’m done this one is Lean In, the one that became such a sensation recently. I tend to have skepticism about things that are sensational and Lean In is no exception, so I’ll read it. At worst, it just won’t fit for me. At best, it’ll give me some take away value.

I’m tired of typing now, and I feel that this post lacks a little focus, but I also just wanted to write. So I’ll end this blog post with those questions for myself. What is my definition of success? How will I know once I’ve achieved it? How do I move towards that success in a feminine way, in the most me way possible? How can I be authentic every day? What can I do every day, in every moment, to choose happiness while also accepting and allowing other equally authentic and equally valid emotions?

Life is complicated. I have a lot of work to do!

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Today is the first day of the rest of your life…

I’ve always loved that saying and I feel it is really true for me today.

It’s been 20 days since my long-term relationship ended. It’s been hard, the death of this dream. I’m 34 and single (hurts to say that), now live with my mom and I’m unemployed with debt. The past three weeks has been up and down and all around, but finally today, something feels new. The heaviness has lifted the tiniest bit.

Yesterday I talked to a friend who is always good for snapping me out of stuff. He is a realist and somehow if we talk long enough he says something that reminds me who I am and what I want. Thank you.

He listened to me talk about the things  that were bothering me and all he said at first was “You need to get out and do something.” He recognized that I was stagnating. It hasn’t been for the just the past few weeks; I’ve been stagnating and frozen in fear for months now. That is a long explanation of my inner thoughts that I’ll spare “you” the details of, but suffice it to say I’ve felt frozen, unable to take a step in the right direction because I’ve been afraid to take any step at all.

My friend reminded me that the way forward is simply a series of steps, one after another, starting small at first. That is what I need right now, that is all I can do right now. Take one small…hell, tiny…step forward, then one more and another, and just keep doing that. Head down, eyes closed, slow and shaking, stumbling if need be. just. keep. Moving.

I did three things yesterday to move myself forward. After I hung up with my friend, I got in the car and drove to the neighbouring town. I went to a cruise ship booking place I’d eyed up since I moved into mom’s place. In the window there’s a sign that says “Join Our Team.” I walked in, told them I was there about a job, and sat and listened while the lady looked me up and down and told me the job was contract, find-your-own-clients work. It was clear that she had already decided the job was not for me, but that’s fair because the minute she said the pay was full commission, I decided the same thing. I listened politely, took her card, and moved on. It’s not for me right now, with my serious lack of confidence.

The next place was the last thing in the world I want to do. Seriously. I drove past the store, saw the parking spots and kept on driving instead of stopping, just like I’d been doing for the past few weeks.

Nothing is going to get better if you keep going like this, said the unwelcome voice in my head. So two blocks away I turned around and drove back, parked, plastered a smile on my face and walked into Pizza Hut to ask about the delivery driver job. She too looked me up and down. She had a hard face and looked like she was sniffing for signs of weakness. She asked if I had a resume and I said not with me, so she handed me an application while asking some cursory questions. By the time I’d finished answering, I could tell she’d decided to give me a chance.

“Come in tomorrow at quarter to 4 and you can go out with the driver and see how it goes.”

Done. It’s what I need, one small, tiny, miniscule win, walking in and getting a job on the spot. I walked out with a smile on my face and for a minute I tried to hide it, embarrassed to be happy about getting a job at Pizza Hut, but then I thought “Fuck it. This is a win for me and I’m going to be fucking proud of this win.” So I let myself smile as big as I could, drove back to mom’s place, and texted the friend I’d phoned with the good news. A win. An end to more than six months of unemployment. The pay is shit, the job is menial and I had to push through a stunning amount of self-judgment to even ask about the job. But fuck all the derisive voices I hear in my head calling me down for this…fuck you. This is a win. One small step forward, one tiny ball rolls ahead, one tiny quake of movement shivers its way through the mountain of inaction that has crushed me for way too long. Any job is better than what I’ve been doing with time.

Back at mom’s, I applied to the community volunteer fire department, even though I don’t know what my future is or where I’ll end up, even though I’ve imagined all the ways in which they’ll reject me. I remember Bill telling me that I’m a volunteer department’s dream right now…a shit-ton of time on my hands and some good quality training to offer. And hey, I can’t get a job if I don’t apply for it. I’ve boosted my chances from 0 to 50%, which is good enough for me. Plus, my heart aches about leaving my hall. I love being a fire fighter with every part of my existence.

Then I went to yoga because I promised I would, just to get out of the house. I noticed that while in the past week of classes I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and needing gentleness in my practice, last night I felt the presence of a new strength. Not going to win any marathons, but it was there. The will to push a little, the will to breathe into the pain, to stick it out and hold on for just one breath longer…and I held out for all of the poses that I’ve been bowing out of because they’ve been too hard. Win. My own personal marathon.

Yesterday opened doors for me, and today, the first day of the rest of my life, I take that one first step over the threshold and onto my new path. Slowly, carefully at first, I will keep going.

Below is the plan that I am committing to today with this first little step. And I leave with a quote the yoga teacher shared this morning:

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

Aspen’s plan

Phase 1: Kill Debt
Step 1. Get job.
Step 2. Go to job.
Step 3. Earn money.
Step 4. Keep job until I find something I want more.
Step 5. See step 1.

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