I Need Space!

What is it about Christmas decorations? Up until Christmas day, they make the house look festive. Boxing Day arrives and I want to put everything away. Suddenly, the house looks cluttered and busy.

Over the past year, I’ve had quite a few moments of purging. I watched some of the Marie Kondo (KonMari) shows on TV and started to look at my possessions and think, “Do they bring me joy?” Some do. Some didn’t – and they’ve been donated, sold, recycled, or thrown away.

Creating physical space, surprisingly, brought a sense of peace and satisfaction. A less cluttered environment created a less cluttered mind – something my 18 year old has recently discovered. Usually, he lives in a room that can be only described as “urban pig-sty”. Once in awhile, when we ran out of bowls or cutlery downstairs, he’d bring down his dishes and garbage.

A few weeks ago, he cleaned his room – top to bottom. A few days later, I see him carrying down his dishes. I teased him, saying, “It’s only been two days. You’re bringing down dishes?”

He responds, “I’ve been bringing them down everyday, Mom. Haven’t you noticed? I cleaned my room and it feels better. I’m going to keep it clean from now on.”

Having space, orderliness, and tidiness is necessary for me to function. When I was working on my Masters Degree, I had the cleanest house. I needed to clean and order to think. My mind couldn’t work efficiently in a space that was cluttered or untidy.

My house is, mostly, in order. There is space. Energy can move freely through each room (except the garage, which is my roommate’s domain. It drives me nuts). As I look towards 2021, I want to work on creating space mentally. My son is on the verge of adulthood, my marriage is done, and it’s time for me to create space to invite whatever life has to offer to present itself. I need the mental space to be open to new experiences. No longer defined as “wife” or “mother, I need space to figure out what it means to be me.

What makes me happy? What brings experiences, thoughts, ideas bring me joy? How do I want to spend my time and energy?

I need the space to figure it all out.

The Karmic Carrot

I have been curious about ashrams for years. Yes, in part, because of the movie “Eat, Pray, Love.” Beyond that though, I had a yearning for the experience. I found one close enough to visit in the Kootenays of BC. One of my nieces is usually game to come along with me as I explore things that are “off the beaten path”. So, off we went. The place is wonderful. A big central compound with communal kitchen and dining. A yoga studio with natural light coming in all directions. A bit of paradise nestled on the lakeshore. At orientation there was the opportunity to choose various practices and sessions to attend to enhance the stay. We both decided we definitely wanted to try something called “Karmic Yoga”.

Cell phone service is discouraged during your stay so I didn’t Google exactly what kind of yoga “karmic” was. My niece and I settled in to a routine of morning flow, community vegan eating and ample time to partake in meditation and chanting in the lotus temple. The place was designed with tranquility in mind. Coves, wooded glens, nature walks and small cabins facing the lake that are filled with cushions and collective ornaments. All the ingredients present for you to relax, take the pressure off and sink into “just being”.

On the second day, we reported bright and early to the front office dressed in our yoga outfits and ready to practice Karmic Yoga. We soon figured out that it wasn’t what we thought it was. My niece is assigned to help clear a section of beach for an upcoming retreat. I was directed towards one of the garden patches. Right, well ok, at least it’s kind of like exercise. I am game to pull some weeds. One of the volunteers points me towards a couple of rows of what appears to be over grown with everything but vegetables. She assures me that there are carrots somewhere in the mix. I am determined to demonstrate my thoroughness and kneel down in what I think is the outside of the rows of plants. “Who sowed these seeds?”, I contemplate while I meticulously pluck at the foreign bodies that have been allowed to grow. It appeared that someone just scattered them everywhere without making an effort to keep them in lines. I spend a good solid hour creating order in the the carrot patch and I am only half way up the rows when the worker is back to tell me my time is up.

I look at her skeptically, then peer down the still wild vegetation rows and shake my head. I have learned some things about myself over the years. I have a compelling desire to see a tasks or project to fruition. Now, career-wise, it has come in handy. They call me “the finisher”. Want something done ? Work with Vanessa. I pride myself on tasks completed well and thoroughly. In this case, though, I had missed an opportunity. I was clueless to the purpose of the time. I forgot where I was and couldn’t see the carrots through the weeds. I told the worker that I wanted to stay and finish the job. I was compelled to make sure the rows were a reflection of order and tidiness. To her credit, she didn’t roll her eyes at me. She smiled and said. “Why would you deprive the next person the opportunity to uncover what they need to experience as they take their turn in the garden?”

I stumbled away confused and not sure that the women didn’t have sun stroke or something. Deprive someone else from weeding carrots? I decided to go sit in one of the meditation chairs in the lake cabins. I was staring out the windows trying to grasp the conversation purpose. I was missing the point. At least I knew that much. As I reflected on the garden task I started to contemplate my behaviour. When did I become so rigid? Since when was I that person who only felt satisfied when I could see straight rows of carrots? It wasn’t lost on me that the worker had cringed when she noticed I had pulled out all of the vegetation that had grown outside the rows. I chastised myself for being so brutal with the destruction. There are all sorts of yoga and variations of practice. My favourite ones are combination packs where you can meditate and connect a flow at the same time. A similar practice is labyrinth or mediation walking. Combining spirit, body and mind to synch up and tune in to what’s happening. It’s a bonus when you can give back to a community while honouring your practice.

I have had plenty of time now to reflect back on this experience and start to understand the point of the practice. It’s not about the weeds unless you get stuck in them and become obsessed with eradicating their existence. I have meditated with plants since then on other workshops, as well as in nature, and have grasped profound insights into myself through their gentle energies. My gardens around my home are natural and intermixed with chaos and spots of structure. I have let go of some of the need for rigid order and embraced the opportunity to just be present. To practice Karmic Yoga is to embrace connecting to, in this case, nature’s lessons given freely when I am ready to acknowledge their presence. I was forever altered in that patch and I am grateful for the carrot.

Yasodhara Ashram

Grey Haired Ladies Taking Over The World

Women grow radically with age. One day, a bunch of grey haired women will take over the world. Until that time, listen into our chat about some ways we can start.

Two grey haired ladies plotting to take over the world

Senior Moments

You might think the title refers to moments I’m having myself. Nope. While, I admit, I do have a few “senior moments” of my own, I prefer to attribute them to “the time of life” I currently inhabit.

No, what I’m talking to is living with seniors. Three and a half years ago, my parents moved in with me. Mom died in April 2019, and I still have my dad. He is a never-ending source of amusement.

When he was more able-bodied, he attended a senior’s group three times a week. He came home one day and told me, “Those people are so funny.”

“Why’s that, Dad?”
“The things they talk about! They’re all so OLD!”

My dad is one of the oldest members of the group.

Another time, Mom and I took Dad to get his hearing tested. He needed hearing aids. At first, he complained everything was “too loud”. We explained he was hearing at the same volume as everyone else. He just wasn’t used to it.

Often, he’d have the TV blaring. We’d ask if he was wearing his hearing aids.
“Yes!”
“Then, please, turn down the TV. You can turn up the volume on your hearing aids.”
“I can’t! My fingers are too fat!”

After a few months, he’d only wear one aid. I told him he needed both as they are stereophonic.

“I can’t. They hurt my ears.”
“Then we need to go back and get them fitted properly.
“No, I don’t want to bother you to do that.”
Because, apparently, shouting and/or repeating everything wasn’t a bother.

Do you want to know why they hurt his ears?

He spent a year wearing the aids in the wrong ears. The individual aids are colour marked to indicate left/right ear. Dad is colour-blind.

My favourite “senior moment” was teaching him to use the Google home mini to set an alarm.

“Dad, you have to say, “Hey Google to wake it up.”
“OK.. Hello Goo-goo. Hello. Hello.”
“No, Dad. Just say “Hey Google” like you’d say to someone on the street.”
“Hey, Goo-goo. Hello, Hello.”

Dad is nothing if not polite but Google was confused.

“Like this, Dad. “Hey Google. Set alarm for 8:00”
“Oh. OK – that’s good. It’s set now, right?”
“Yes.”
“I don’t trust it. I’ll be surprised if it works tonight.” (We were setting it for 15 minutes later to test it)
“It’ll work, Dad. When the alarm starts, you have to say, ‘Hey Google, stop’ or ‘Hey Google, quit’. Whatever you want it to do, you have to start with ‘Hey Google’.”
“OK, I’ve got it.”

A few minutes later the alarm goes off.

“Ok. Thank you….thank you…That’s enough! Thank you! THANK YOU!!!! Why isn’t she listening? How do I shut off this damn thing?”

Bah, humbug…or not

I have to admit, I’m not feeling “Christmassy” this year. As I sit and write, I’m listening to Christmas carols, hoping to get inspired to start baking. So far, it’s not working.

I don’t know what it is, but Christmas is starting to feel like an obligation. It’s something I *have* to do, rather than something I *want* to do. Thirty years ago, I was one of those people who put up their tree after Remembrance Day and left it up until after Ukrainian Christmas in January. This year, I struggled to find a reason to put it up at all.

But, it’s up. I ‘unfluffed’ the packed artificial tree on my own. I decorated it myself. I will bake treats for my family without their help. I do all the shopping and wrapping of gifts. It very much feels like the story of “The Little Red Hen” – everyone wants to enjoy the outcome, but no one wants to contribute to what makes it happen.

Bah, humbug.

I’ve decided to change my mindset and see this year as an opportunity to start new traditions. We are all adults now; no small children and the magic they bring to Christmas. No early mornings to open gifts. There aren’t piles of presents anymore. As adults, we have enough “stuff.” I’ve bought a few gifts for my son and Dad. I’ll make the traditional foods we enjoy – lefse and krumkake being the two favourites.

One new tradition I started was getting a second Christmas tree and decorating it with all the rosettes my dogs have won over the years. The rosettes had been in a bin for years and I didn’t know what to do with them. A friend suggested I display them on a tree. I loved going through the bin and reliving the memories I shared with my various dogs. It brought me joy.

Another new – what I hope will become a tradition – is deciding to make an experience the gift my partner and I give each other. This year, we plan to find a remote cabin in mountains for a weekend getaway. We’d rather explore the world around us and make memories instead of worrying about what to buy each other.

I want to find other things to make into traditions. Maybe it’s getting a real tree each year instead of setting up the artificial tree. Maybe it’s finding new movies or games to enjoy with family and friends. Maybe it’s going on a trip and having Christmas in another country.

Whatever it is, it needs to be something I look forward to each year.

Do any readers have suggestions?

Land of a thousand Lights

We land in Marrakech and quickly are swept away by a complete stranger holding up a sign that reads “Knecht”. My research on the camel trek was sketchy at best. I am not that big on details when it comes to adventures. Sometimes, it’s best not to know and just “go with it”. I did, however, review the itinerary and noted the need for warm clothes in June (which was not needed). The drive through the Atlas Mountains takes 5 hours and is mired in near miss car crashes around mountain corners, construction, police stops for speeding along with some language barriers about why we needed to speed. We are dropped off in the middle of the desert. In the distance I can see the camels and the nomads. Oh, the nomads, what a wonderful breed of maleness. I ask one “Where were you born?” He points off into the distance,”There”. I look confused, he clarifies “I was born in the desert”. “Ah,” I sigh. So amazing.

There is a brief tutorial about how to get on the hump and we are off. I pinch myself because I can’t believe this is real. I am riding on a camel in the north edge of the Sahara desert. It never occurred to me that the ride would quickly become uncomfortable. These are dromedary camels (only one hump) and you are sitting directly on the hard substance bouncing up and down over uneven terrain for over 2 hours. It was breathtaking, magical, but my female parts were ready to descend when we finally got to the camp. The lowering of the camel was like a lift going down. The height of this magnificent creature is staggering.

We were assigned a yurt and went to clean up for dinner. Dinner was a variety of Tangine foods. This means food cooked in clay pots and consists mostly of root vegetables, lamb and spices. It goes dark quickly as we emerged from the dining tent. Our jaws dropped to see the sky. They don’t call it the land of a thousands lights for nothing. The night sky was breathtaking.

A fire was set up and the nomads began to drum and sing for us. They encouraged us to try our hand at the drums. I was in heaven. Much later we drifted off to bed in our Arabian tents. A gust of wind caused our door to swing open about 4 am. I felt it and was awakened. I got up, quickly dressed and made my way up the nearest sand dune to watch the sunrise. The camels were hobbled half way up the dune and I stopped to sit and hang with them for a bit. It’s a moment I will never forget and have used to help me transition from awake to meditation on occasion.

We come from the earth. The berbers of North Africa have something subtle in the way they move and exist. It’s a sense of being content that I am not sure I have ever experienced before or at least noticed. They live in a mystic world and I am so grateful I got to experience it for just a moment.

It’s more a Life guide than a religion…

Life long discipline of practice

I grew up in an extensive Mormon family with a mom deep-rooted in the beliefs and a dad willing to go with the flow as long as he could research genealogy. The religion is fine and does teach some useful values on how to raise kids and stay humble. What rubbed me was the definitive roles of men and women. I am not going to explain this deeper right now (maybe in another post) as it doesn’t pertain to this conversation. I would call myself agnostic as I believe in energies, karma and connections to the universe. Through my searching, I came across Shamanism and signed up for a weekend workshop. As I sat in the opening circle with 13 other people, I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of the situation. The workshop was being hosted in an annex connected to a Catholic church. There were pictures of popes lined up on the walls. Here I was an ex-Mormon in a Catholic church about to experience journeying with a shaman practice that predates Christianity. Hah! The universe has one hell of a sense of humour and the irony wasn’t lost on me.

I love the fact the word ‘shaman’ some say means ‘he or she who knows’. It’s actually a practiced discipline instead of a religion and has many variations depending on the culture and country. The workshop I first attended was a contemporary western version. Which, in short, is a type that tries not to be too specific about meanings or practice. That way, you can experience the discipline before getting detailed protocols based on culture and beliefs. Our first journey involved a quest to find our spirit animal. For non-believers it seems a bit strange to lay down on the floor, cover your eyes, listen to the sound of the drums and focus in on your cleverly crafted question of what animal will guide you as you start this trek. I consider myself an intuitive person. I meditate on occasion and sign up for workshops that will push me into all sorts of uncomfortable situations.

This was different for me though. As I took some slow, easy breaths and listened to the instructions, I had the feelings of rightness. The spirit animal was waiting for me as I opened my mind and the animal was not what I expected. I always assumed I was a deer or grizzly kind of being. Nope.

Spirit allies in animal form (The Shamanism Bible by John Matthews). I like that explanation of what a spirit animal is. As I grow in my practice and partake in many journeys, I have gathered quite a collection of -not only animals – but guides that help me with various challenges and questions I can’t seem to figure out on my own. It’s been a life saver for me in many ways and has helped me get through some very dark moments in my life.

If you are curious about learning more on the practice or the subject, here are some suggestions to explore:

The Foundation of Shamanic Studies -Calgary Chapter

The Foundation of Shamanic Studies -Main site

O Holy Night

The promise of peace

It’s the early part of December 2015. I am sunk down into the cushions of my sister’s couch, side-by-side, we are holding hands as we admire her Christmas ornaments in a dimly lit room. The lights twinkle and glow with promise and hope. She confesses, almost whispering, that she is terrified of the coming year. Our grip tightens and we hold onto the moment, sinking deeper into the abyss. I can’t help but remember the panic because the year before her husband died of a stroke on December 25, 2014. My sister passed away of cancer January 2016. I won’t say she battled it because there wasn’t time to even armour up before the war was over. I couldn’t put up a tree or set out a single decoration for 4 years without bursting into tears. So I didn’t try. I still bought gifts for my adult kids but, other than that, I tried to keep Christmas very low-key.Then COVID hit and I had nothing but isolated time to think about connections, relationships and navigating through tough times. Don’t get me wrong, the flood is still there just waiting to burst open. What’s different? I have learned that I need to feel my sister’s joy and childlike enthusiasm for the season. Christmas maybe cancelled in many ways this year, but I will be darned if I am going to shut it down completely. So ,as I watched my neighbours add more and more lights to their yards and get excited about looking forward to something more than a vaccine in 2021, I decided to get into the spirit once again.

Now, I look at my ornaments and blinking lights and I can feel my sister with me. We are snuggled together and once again holding hands and hearts. Such a simple thing and yet it brings me comfort when comfort is all we have to look forward to in times like these.

Merry Christmas to you all. If you are separated from your loved ones, whether they are alive or passed on, I hope you find peace, joy and heartfelt connections.

Coming back to being in the season

Middle of Chaos

Chaos

“If you think about it, we are always centred in the middle of chaos. It never goes away.” (Melanie Iglesias)

Wow – such a true statement. You’d think by now, being midlife, life would be less chaotic, yet nothing is further from the truth. I’m starting to believe I thrive in chaos, which is probably a good thing, given the circumstances of my life.

In the past year, I’ve started online dating. Do you know what that’s like at this stage of life? Ugh. The reason I’m dating is because my third marriage is ending. We are trying to live “separate but apart” in the same house. Why? Because we both love the house, yard, and neighbourhood. Financially, it makes sense. Also, there’s still an eighteen year old at home, as well as my 82 year old dad who needs a caregiver. There are two dogs. I don’t know if I’d be able to find a place that can accommodate my visually impaired father (who gets lost in this house after living here for three years), my son, my Rottweiler, and the resident mutt.

To add to the chaos, I was laid off at the end of September due to restructuring. Just when I thought I was finally in a place where I’d stay until retirement, I find myself looking for work. I’ve learned virtual interviews are akin to online dating. Who knew?

I’ve also had a yearning to write; to share myself with others. I’ve tried journalling, short stories, nothing seemed to “scratch the itch”. As if there’s not enough going on, I need to keep my mind stimulated and have an outlet for all that goes on in my head.

So, here I am. Midlife and once again rising above the chaos – stronger, more resilient, and excited to see what the future holds. Vanee has been part of this chaotic journey for the past five years and has her own stories to share.

How do we do it? What keeps us motivated? What keeps us up at night? What aspirations do we have, both personally and professional at this stage of midlife? We will explore these questions, and many more.

We invite you to join us.

Stuck in the middle with you

This is my 10 year old goldfish name Beethoven.

What a year! Am I right? Not turning out quite like I had planned in January 2020. What a brilliant plan all laid out on a vision board, color coded with a timeline attached. Full of travel, intrigue, working abroad, spiritual journeys with healers, guides and gurus. It was the year of transformational work and life experiences. As each trip was cancelled, each concert postponed, the year began to get darker and darker. More layoffs came about, more downsizing occurred, less work was created for everyone while co-workers scrambled to set up their “home” offices. That wasn’t a huge change for me as I had been working from home, as a learning design and developer, for several years already. What did impact me was the layoffs. 15 minutes on a video call ended over 32 years of service to one company.

As I focus now on why midLife Arises, I am becoming more in tune with what I really want to share with you and the community we build..together. I can’t help and wonder….”Why now?” and “Why me?” and “Why us?”

I am a huge believer in timing, synchronicity, karma and intuition.

Does anybody out there really care what I have to say about life, leadership, or career options for the over 50, juggling motherhood and 35 years of marriage?

Maybe you do and then again maybe you don’t. If you then I am encouraged.

Join us in our adventure. We won’t promise we have everything figured out. We can offer you some advice and insights, based of course on our experiences. When you cross paths with some “clowns to the left of you” and “jokers to the right” remember we will be right here….

Stuck in the middle of midLife with you