A Study in Contrasts

I read Vanessa’s latest blog while having lunch and chuckled to myself. Much of her writing is about her experiences with dream yoga, the ashram, life reflections, shamanism…all very peaceful. I feel relaxed when reading her posts.

Then there’s me. I write about new homes, new relationship, new jobs, CrossFit, and boxing. Much more…ummmm, what’s the word…turbulent?

One of the reasons we started this blog is to show how two women, 3 years apart in age, can be at two very different points midlife. The one thing I’ve learned in the three years we’ve been doing this – there is no “normal”. The more we write and share our experiences, the more we learn about others and what they’re going through.

It’s our differences that keep our friendship interesting. It’s discovering our commonalities that help it grow.

I Hit a Boy and I Liked It

Me after 30 minutes of a bag workout

I’ve been looking for a new fitness program since my Crossfit gym closed during Covid. For awhile, I joined Anytime Fitness – mostly because it’s a 10 minute walk from my condo. I went regularly, but it didn’t feel right. I missed the sense of community we had at Crossfit.

I looked into other Crossfit gyms. I won’t go to the one in town for my own reasons, and the next nearest one is a 40 minute drive into the city. It didn’t make sense to me to spend 80 minutes driving for a 60 minute workout. That’s too much time out of my day.

So, I asked around and found Olympus Boxing Club. When I joined, I said to the owner, “I want the workout, but I don’t want to hit or be hit.” I truly don’t understand the psychology behind what makes people want to let someone else pound on them. Our club sponsored an amateur match and there were times I couldn’t watch. Why do people WANT to do this??

I go to two different types of classes. Recreational boxing teaches us the punches, offensive and defensive moves, and has us work with a partner. I like my partner because we focus more on technique rather than pounding the crap out of each other. We’re also likely the only two adult women in the group. Most of the class is teenagers or men.

The other class is a bag fitness class where we are given different sequences of hits to perform on the bag. This is my favourite as it gives one heck of a workout (my partner and I tend to talk a lot during rec boxing! LOL!).

One afternoon, there were only three of us in the rec class. The other people were a father/son pair. When it came time for partner work, the 16-year-old coach said he’d partner with me. Now, this young man is an amateur boxer. I’ve seen his brother, a professional boxer, spar with him and I know he can take a punch….several, in fact.

It’s just not in me to hit someone. Until I did.

I started off just aiming for the pads. “Harder”, he’d tell me. “Punch it!” Now, I know there’s no way – even with my hardest punch – that I could truly hurt him after seeing how he trains with others. But still…I was raised being told not to hit people.

Still, he kept encouraging me. Instead of doing the sequence, he’d call out the punches he wanted me to perform. He moved around the room like he was in the ring, forcing me to do the same. After a few rounds, it really felt like I was truly boxing.

Then he put on the body protection. “I want you to take body shots now” (until then, I was aiming for the pads on his hands). Again, it was a learning curve. It was bad enough hitting his padded hands; now he wanted me to hit his padded body? It felt so WRONG. Still, he encouraged me. Over time, my punches got harder. I put in more effort. I wasn’t as afraid of hurting him.

So, yeah. I hit a boy.

And I liked it.

Gratitude

I’ve been making a conscious effort to practice gratitude daily for the past few months. I feel it’s making a difference.

It’s difficult to have negative thoughts about anything when I’m constantly looking for ways to be grateful. It changes how I view the events that happen in my day. Sure, sh*t happens, but it doesn’t become the focus if I don’t dwell on it.

I’ve noticed it most in my work. Three months ago, I was giving thanks (to God, the Universe, whomever is listening) for allowing me to save enough money that I could make the switch from full-time work to freelance. I gave thanks when I signed my first contract. I gave thanks whenever someone in my network wanted to talk to me about work. I gave thanks when my second contract was signed. There seemed to be a direct correlation between the amount of gratitude I gave and the amount of work that found me. Now, I’m nearly at the point where I’m going to have to turn down work – and for that, I am truly grateful!

For the past few years, I’ve felt like I was on the cusp of something wonderful. I believe I’ve found it. I have work I love and can do from anywhere in the world as long as I have an internet connection. My work allows me flexibility in my day. For me, this means I work long hours while Martin is away so I can have more free time when he’s home. It allows me to go shopping during non-peak hours (I hate shopping, so this is a huge “plus” for me). If I want to do a noon workout rather than evening, I can schedule meetings around it. I can take an afternoon off to enjoy a beautiful winter day and explore the mountains that are nearby.

The more thankful I feel, the more abundance I notice. There are days it feels like it’s overflowing. It brings a sense of a calm…contentment. There’s a peacefulness to my life that didn’t used to exist. I have a strong sense that everything is going to work out and I don’t worry or fret as much.

I encourage everyone to find moments of daily gratitude. Some days, it’s as small as being thankful for a green light in traffic. It’s every time my adult son leaves the house and gets home safely. It’s time spent with people who are important to me. It’s time to myself.

Take a few moments and recognize it. Acknowledge it.

What are you grateful for today?

Following my path

I’m back. When I looked to see when I had last posted I was shocked to see it was April. I knew it had been a long time, but not that long!

This quote speaks to me. What have I been doing the past 7 months? Well, I’ve been working on “me”.

Those who have followed this site from the start know that my life has gone through quite a few changes in the past three years. I’ve been working on shedding where I thought I’d be at this stage of life, what it would look like, the path I took to get here.

During the spring and summer, I worked on understanding my core motivations with a friend who is also an Enneagram coach. He was starting his coaching business. He needed clients and I can always learn more about myself. I figured, “Why not?”. I learned a great deal. My learnings will be shared in upcoming blogs. (I’m a 7 on the Enneagram, if you’re familiar with it. Actually, the poster child for a 7).

Over the summer, I met quite a few of my neighbours. We’d have regular social gatherings (a.k.a. wine and beer) in the green space between our condos (and move into my garage if we were still there after 10:00 p.m). We’d also go to karaoke and live music nights at the local pub, the summer festivals in the park across the street, and visit at each other’s homes.

I watched my son get, and lose, his first job. However, as so often happens, it was the stepping stone needed to find another, better, job he truly enjoys. I never, in a million years, would have guessed my son would willingly – and consistently – get up at 0530 to be at work for 0630 and work 12 – 14 hour days.

This fall, we moved Martin’s dad to Chestermere from Kelowna. I’ve been able to get to know him better. What a sweet, quirky man. He will be 94 years old at the beginning of December. His stories are amazing. The things he’s lived through! He’s so different from my dad. As extroverted and talkative as my dad is, Martin’s dad is not (Martin comes by his introverted nature genetically). We found out they both love perogies, sausage, stuffing, and pumpkin pie so we may have the weirdest Christmas dinner this year. With them being 94 and 84 years of age, it’s all about giving them what they want and creating happy memories.

The last big change was for me to leave permanent, full-time employment and go out on my own. I now own a business called Synapse Learning, Inc. I started my instructional design career as a freelancer and I want to go into retirement the same way. I’m also looking at, eventually, going back into psychoeducational assessments and helping children with learning and behavioural problems.

Martin and I just celebrated three years since our first date and are considering buying home together in the next couple of years. Who knew relationships could be so easy?? Usually, after three years, I was starting to form an exit strategy. Not this time.

As you can see, I have quite a few stories to share as I reflect on the past several months and start my own business. My path is very different from where I thought I’d be, but I’m not lost. I welcome you to walk along with me.

Sadness is On Me

Most people enjoy April 1 because of April Fool’s Day. I used to think it was at cool day because it was my Gramma’s birthday. Now, it’s not a day about jokes or celebrations; it’s a day of grief.

You see, three years ago, my mom fell in my garage and fractured her skull. By the end of the day, she was no longer responsive. The second CT scan several hours after the first showed the brain bleed had not stopped. Mom had a health directive. She made it clear she did not want to live in a diminished capacity, so I invoked her directive. The hospital staff thought she’d die during the night, but she didn’t. She hung on for 5 more days. I swear it’s because one grandchild has a birthday on April 2nd, and another on April 4th, and there was no way she’d die on, or between, their birthdays. She waited and died the morning of April 6th.

For me, April 1 is a harder date than the 6th. I lost my mom on the 1st. It was the last day she spoke. The last day she looked at me. The last day she was truly with us. I was with her the morning she died. I watched, and heard, her last breath.

That first year, I likened grief to the waves of the ocean. Sometimes, the waves were small and lapped at the shores of my mind. The waves would increase in intensity until they’d crashed against me and I’d be reduced to body-shaking sobs. There were times I swear I was losing my mind with grief. I never understood its power until I lost Mom.

The waves have become calmer over the years. I think of Mom often. She’s been visiting in my dreams and leaving me dimes. Yesterday, however, I experienced a tsunami. I cried all day. Sometimes, it was subtle. My eyes leaked. Other times, I had gut-wrenching sobs. I really missed my mom.

Why does grief make people feel so uncomfortable? Friends sent virtual hugs. My partner rationalized why I was feeling so low. My son gave me a hug. No one offered to simply sit with me in grief, to simply be.

I felt very alone. I felt overwhelmed. I felt that no one understood just how raw it was for me again. I sat with it myself. I didn’t try to “jolly” myself out of it. I felt the feels.

I guess the Irish saying is true. Yesterday, sadness was on me for awhile. Today, it’s gratitude. I’m thankful for the years I had with Mom and know that she will always be part of me.

11:11

During our trip to Maui, and ever since, I’ve encountered the numbers 11:11 quite frequently. I knew there was significance to this, so I did some research. This is what I’ve learned.

  • It’s a clear message from the universe to become conscious and aware
  • It tells me I’m on the right path and my actions are aligned with my soul’s purpose
  • I’m being guided to grow and expand
  • I’m being asked to tune into the present moment
  • I need to engage more deeply in the mystery and wonder of existence
  • It’s indicative of a spiritual awakening
  • It’s about new things and new beginnings
  • It’s time to start manifesting what I want in my life

If I’ve learned anything in the past year, its that the universe gives me what I need at the time. Seeing these numbers now is no coincidence.

Hawai’i, and Maui specifically, is a place where I truly resonate with my surroundings. I become very reflective and introspective. It’s where my soul speaks to me. This time, I spent my time there with someone who also marvels at the mysteries of the universe and I think it made the experience even more profound for me. I was able to expand my thoughts rather than have them ridiculed and diminished.

I also received a clear message from my Mom while there. Ever since her death, Mom has been leaving dimes for me. I hadn’t seen one in quite a while. I was at a store and saw some salt water taffy. I immediately thought, “Mom would love this”, before I remembered she’s dead. When I walked out of the store, a shiny dime was waiting on the ground. Mom heard me. She’s been a frequent visitor to my dreams lately, too. I know she’s trying to tell me something but I haven’t figured it out yet.

In some ways, it’s odd to be getting signs of new beginnings now. You’d think I’d have received them last year when I moved out of the marital home and bought my own place. What signals a new beginning more than a home purchase as a single person?

Apparently, for me, it was the purchase of a new-to-me vehicle. I traded in my existing vehicle two days ago. It was the last physical tie to a toxic relationship. I pick up my new car tonight.

Why is this purchase so liberating? I believe it’s because:

  • I did it on my own
  • I bought what I *wanted*, rather than what I *needed*
  • I’m paying cash

There’s a sense of freedom with this. It’s been over 30 years since I’ve made a big purchase on my own. This time, I didn’t have to factor in cargo room for dog showing or hauling kids around and settling for a vehicle that fits the need. It’s the first time I’ve had the resources to pay cash and not be tied to payments.

In the spirit of new beginnings and listening to my soul’s purpose, I have reclaimed my birth name. As of today, I am no longer Sharon Doyle, but Sharon Papish.

It’s time, as Sharon Papish, to take my life in direction I’m guided. I need to pay attention to the opportunities presented to me and stay grounded in the present. I am full of gratitude for everything I have – family, friends, relationship, home, job – and feel I’m on the cusp of even more abundance.

The universe is asking for my attention. It has it.

Nouns and Verbs

I’ve spent time reflecting on the meaning of words. I started with the word “partner”. I refer to Martin as my partner. We’ve agreed we will never marry, and it seems awkward to call a nearly 60 year old man my ‘boyfriend’. “Partner” fits.

But, it’s more than a noun. What we do is partner – it’s an action. We join together to spend our free time, make decisions, travel, play games, share our lives. It takes effort. I wondered if getting labeled “husband” or “wife”, and forever being a noun, is a hinderance. How do you ‘husband’ or ‘wife’? They aren’t verbs. Partnering is an action and something we choose to do.

It’s the same as “love”. I think, too often, things go wrong when love spends more time as a noun – a thing – rather than an action. When we stop the practice of loving, the noun ceases to exist. It takes effort to keep the noun alive.

This week, I’ve been reflecting on the word “network”. I’m at a stage of life where I have a large, supportive network both personally and professionally. Again, to get to the noun, “network” was first a verb. I had to make the effort to meet people, talk to them, and find a connection.

I know there are some who ‘collect’ people to add to their networks. With social media and LinkedIn, they try to get as many people following them as possible. It’s more about the numbers than the connections.

For me, I need to know the people. There needs to be connection – however tenuous in some cases. Maybe I met them at a conference five years ago and we’ve never seen each other since. Still, we shared time and space. We had a conversation. We had to “network” to become part of a network.

I guess, what comes from my reflection (another noun/verb word), is a reminder to actively work towards the things that are important to me – my partner, my loves, and my work.

My Happy Place

Daylight Saving Time started today, one of the first harbingers of spring. Even before today, the days were getting noticeably longer and the temperatures warmer. I saw gophers on the golf course yesterday (I drove by, I don’t golf) – always the first sign of spring for me. All I need to “bring it home” is to see a robin.

I live in a place that has cold, dark winters for up to 7 months a year. To combat this, I take yearly tropical vacations – usually to Hawai’i – every February. That way, when I return home, winter is mostly behind me.

It was great to be back on Maui after being away for three years. There is *something* about those islands that speaks to me. I can spend hours watching the waves and listening to them crash on the shore. It’s almost hypnotic…meditative.

I also choose February because it’s when the humpback whales are there. The whales, the turtles, the waves – its bliss.

The trip was extra special this time because it was Martin’s first trip to Hawai’i. I loved seeing it through the eyes of someone who hasn’t experienced it. I also loved spending time there with someone who connects with nature. I find Hawai’i to be very spiritual, and to have someone to share that with made it even more so.

I found it interesting to get a text from Vanessa while I was in my happy place, to learn she was going to hers. We both find peace and personal growth in areas filled with natural beauty next to water. We come home rested, relaxed, and rejuvenated.

It’s important to have places that give us space and time. Some might find that in the busyness of a city. Others may find it climbing mountains or hang gliding. We all need a happy place – a place where our spirits sing.

Where is yours?

Retirement Planning

I’m sitting on the lanai of a rented condo in Maui on the eve of my 55th birthday and wondering how I can make it happen so I live here.

It’s funny how retirement planning takes on different meanings throughout our lives. My son will be 20 in a few weeks. I’ve been talking to him about saving money for retirement. His attitude, “Mom, if I haven’t made enough to live on by then, I don’t want to live”. Ah….the arrogance of youth, but I get it. At his age, 30 seems like forever.

When I started my teaching career, I imagined I’d be three years retired at this age, maybe with a grandchild or two to keep me occupied. I’d have a teacher’s pension and would likely do some substitute teaching to keep myself busy.

Little did I know, I’d give up teaching and work through being an educational psychologist before landing in instructional design. I have a small teacher’s pension, but not the one I planned on because I don’t have 30 years in the profession.

I’ve got RRSPs and investments, so I know I’m in good shape for retirement. I won’t be retiring in 4 years as was planned 10 years ago because I’m now on my own. My ex had significantly more RRSP savings, and the agreement was I’d support more of our life while we were working because I made more money, and he’d support more of our retirement. That worked so long as we were married. When your husband realizes he’s gay, that plan changes.

I’ve gone through my travel journals and have noted, many times, “All I want to do is live in a yurt with wifi, indoor plumbing, and volunteer for the Pacific Whale Foundation.” There was a time I looked at purchasing property on this island, but it wasn’t feasible. My financial advisor pointed out that – besides all the taxes, laws, estate issues – I could do a LOT of renting for the same amount of money.

He was right, of course. There’s so much world to see – why limit myself to just one spot? Well, because I love Maui. I feel at home here. I’ve been to the islands 18 times, and every time, I feel inspired, creative, at peace. Until the pandemic hit, I was planning my vacation for the following year as soon as I got home.

My 20 year old self had no idea the dream of living in Hawai’i would be something in my future. My 30 and 40 year old self saw it as something I’d very much like to do, but couldn’t afford. Twice, I’ve been approached by Hawaiian Airlines to interview for a position with them, and twice I had to turn it down. A family of three cannot live on an instructional designer’s salary down here (and truth be told, I much prefer Maui or the Big Island to Oah’u).

My 50-ish year old self now has a boyfriend who said he’d happily come visit me if I chose to be here part of the year, and an adult son who loves it here as much as me. I have a job I can do from anywhere in the world as long as I have a strong wifi connection.

My retirement planning doesn’t look the same as it did 20 or 30 years ago. I have the means to live as I’m currently living until the ripe old age of 98 – at which time I will run out of money and become my son’s problem. 🙂 Given my genetics, that lifespan is very likely. It didn’t factor in a love for travel in general, and a specific love for Maui – which has gotten more expensive to visit year after year.

To those who are just starting out, retirement age will come faster than you think. Plan for what you need, and add more for what you might want but don’t realize yet.

For those who are my age, we can still achieve our dreams. We may have to get creative in how we get to them, but it can happen. Maybe living here full-time isn’t achievable, but maybe 3 months a year is realistic. I don’t want to buy a timeshare, but maybe there’s a way to rent a two bedroom place and sublet the second bedroom for additional income and keep it free when people want to visit. Maybe I can rent out my condo at home for people who want to be close to the mountains for skiing during the winter months to help pay for me wanting to be close to the ocean during winter.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? I’ll be 55 years old tomorrow and I’m still planning my retirement. I guess the take-away is to remain open; you never know what life is going to throw your way, and you need to be ready for all of it.

Perfection is the Enemy of Done

I don’t know who originally coined this phrase, but I heard it for the first time today from one of my coworkers. It stuck with me for the remainder of the day.

How many times do we get stalled, sidetracked, or defeated because of a need for perfection? I know I do. On one hand, I’m a “Type A” personality who likes to get things done. On the other hand, I’m a perfectionist. If something is going to be done with my name attached, it needs to be the best of which I’m capable. It’s quite a dichotomy.

At work, my analysis and storyboards need to be thorough enough to give the client a picture of what the training will be, detailed enough for the development team to put it together, and have a flow that is easy for a learner to follow. I’m working on something now that I’ve written and reorganized several times. Every time I look at it, I find something I want to change. If I want to make it perfect for others, it needs to be perfect for me. At some point, I’ll get tired of reworking it and simply want to get it done.

When I was a dog groomer, I had a hard time thinking a dog was ‘done’. There was always a stray hair, wonky curl, or some part needing “just a little more” attention.

When I clean house, I may set out to simply vacuum and wash the floors, and find myself washing baseboards, door frames, and windows.

Many years ago, when stuck in yet another rut because I couldn’t get something as perfect as I wanted it, someone said to me, “Sharon, you have to realize your 80% is someone else’s 100%.” Yeah, but…

It’s one thing to hear and another to put it into practice. I am driven to always produce, what I perceive to be, my best work. Imagine how it felt when one workplace started to use agile methodology. I had to learn the concept of “good enough” and get things out the door quickly so it could be tried and reiterated upon. It was uncomfortable…at first.

It didn’t take long before I started to see things didn’t have to be perfect. In fact, perfection impeded progress. Clients preferred regular updates and offering feedback during development, rather than waiting to see a finished product at the end. It made them feel part of the process and it helped us, ultimately, produce a near-perfect product.

I groomed a dog just last night and didn’t think I was finished after two hours of work. The owner, however, loved how much better her dog looked and walked away happy. If I’d wanted it to be perfect, I may still be grooming it – he was 190 pounds of dog!

When I competed in my first CrossFit Open, I knew I was not (in any way, shape or form) close to perfection for many of the movements. There were some I couldn’t do at all. Yet, perfection wasn’t the goal. Getting it done was. Being able to say I did it, for the first time at 50 years old, was enough for me. If I’d waited for perfection…well, I simply wouldn’t live long enough!

Think about your own life. When is “done” enough? What things need to be “perfect”? Is it realistic to want to achieve perfection? If so, at what cost?

When is perfection the enemy of done?

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