Oh April.

I’m sitting in Starbucks, where I do my best work. That’s not true, really. It’s just that when I’m away, the wifi is the way I like it: Free. This time, I’m in San Diego. I’m bumming around while Adam is training coaches, which of course means I bought new shoes. They look like this (Jen: More shoes for collecting the eggs <<wink wink>>):

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This Starbucks is awesome. So far, I’ve seen two chihuahuas and one cute and one bizarre-looking French bulldog come wandering in. There are lots of dogs here, which is good when you’re missing your pets. I’ve also seen a girl wearing brown cowboy boots, star-printed jean cut-offs that showed the crease of her bum, a tank top with no bra (all of these things were really obvious. I wasn’t being super creepy). The thing is, she looked great. I’m serious. Normally, I’m full of judgment and this time, I think I’m just wishing I could pull it off (I’m not going to try. I promise.). The best part? She just reached down into her boot to pull out her phone. Seriously. She’s amazing. I think she might be Daisy Duke, if Daisy Duke were a pirate (I don’t know why I think only pirates keep things in their boots, but there it is).

Anyway, I’m off to check out Seaport Village today. I picked a super-cute outfit and then spilled on it (if you look closely in the photo above, you can see the marks on my dress). Sigh. C’mon, Bay. Get it together. Tonight we head to LA, which sounds fancy, but really, Disneyland is the destination. I can’t wait! It’s SO much fun. Also? It’s supposed to get up to 35º. It will be sweaty and magical in The Happiest Place on Earth.

It feels like time to catch you up on what’s been going on, so here you go:

Wow. What a month April has been. Lots of ups and downs and most of them in breakdown. The good news is that when you’re in breakdown, that means that a breakthrough is available and (hopefully) imminent. This is always much easier to remember when someone else is experiencing breakdown in their life than when it’s your own. The less-good news is that being in breakdown sucks. Even more annoying is the fact that how much it sucks has little to do with the actual circumstances and a lot to do with how you’re being about them. Needless to say, I’ve been being less than understanding about my breakdown, so it feels like my circumstances are making up the difference in enthusiasm. Awesome.

I’m coming to the end of this breakdown cycle, which is to say that I’m surrendering my resistance to Life and its shenanigans and trying out some compassion instead. This might sound obvious to you, but compassion is not something I can access too easily for myself, though I have it in spades for everyone else. When things get tough, I like to grit my teeth, pushing to work harder. It’s kind of like when someone is talking to someone who doesn’t speak English, so they say everything again, just louder. Super effective.

This compassion has looked like taking care of myself without calling myself a lazy slacker (a self judgment I clear daily): Taking the pressure off my projects (in a surprising turn of events, the extra judgment wasn’t creating results. Huh.); getting enough sleep; getting my nails done, because it makes me feel good to have pretty fingers and toes; getting lots of exercise — running, cycling and yoga; long walks to enjoy the beauty of springtime; and lots of time to chill out.

Here’s some of what happened this month:

  • I realized that my childhood resilience methods, while awesome and highly effective at the time, are no longer serving me. They haven’t been for a long time, if I’m being honest. I’m taking responsibility for this stuff I haven’t wanted to examine, so that I can decide what to do with it, instead of having it creep around in my blindspots.
  • I got angry at someone, instead of stuffing it, like usual. This doesn’t mean I got into a fight or anything, but I got angry on purpose and I let off a little steam. Turns out, when you are the one choosing to allow the expression of anger (and, importantly, the manner in which it is expressed) no one gets hurt and you feel A LOT better. The issue isn’t necessarily something I can change (as it requires the other person wishing to change it, too), but I can change the way I’m being about it. I can be a human about it, instead of a robot.
  • We lost Maui on Wednesday, April 23. This brings the sting of tears as I write it. I loved that cat. For 10 years, Maui’s been a quirky and beautiful part of our little family. She was born on the first of April, so we like to think of her as our little April Fool’s cat. She’s been with Adam and I through some ups and downs along our way and I adore her. She’s been faring poorly for a while now, with the decline starting slowly a couple of years ago. The long and short of it is that she was sick and she wasn’t enjoying her life. So, we had to make the brave choice that was best for her and the rest of our family, even if it is the hardest decision to make. I will always love her and I will always be grateful for her soft and gentle affection that she only shared with us. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to hold her safely surrounded by love in my arms as we said farewell and she went to sleep. We’ll see you at the Rainbow Bridge, Maui. xoxo

Maui

  • It hasn’t all been difficult and sad. Case in point: I learned how to cut a mango. This was practically an epiphany. Usually, cutting these delicious tropical treats is a messy and disorganized affair and every time I slice massacre one, I think to myself, “There has got to be a better way to do this.“Obviously it was not a big issue, since it never occurred to me to use any of the plethora of resources at my fingertips to discover a better way. But then! One day, last week, I decided I’d slice one the way you see pictures of mangoes on smoothy bottles, because I’m wild and free and that’s just the way I roll. HOLY CRAP! They show it like that because it’s SO MUCH EASIER to cut up a mango that way! I’m a genius (sort of)!

Oh, and I bet some of you wonder how I’m doing since I left my job with the government. I’m doing great. No regrets, whatsoever. I knew I wouldn’t have any, but some of you may have wondered. I’m happy to report that being self-employed, no matter how scary and unsure it can sometimes feel, is definitely the right path for me. I’m clear that coaching is what I want to do, instead of pretending it’s one of the many things I want. There are still lots of things I want to do, but I can say I’m a coach without worrying that I need some back-up plan or safety net to keep people (read: Me) from worrying about my future.

 

When I grow up.

As of tomorrow, it will be four weeks since I became self-employed. This is what it looks like when I work:

Photo on 2014-03-23 at 5.12 PM_2

There’s a lot of coffee and tea involved (you can’t just sit in coffee shops without ordering a drink! There are rules and I follow them!). It’s pretty awesome. I’m not going to lie; there’ve been ups and downs and stressful times, but all of my own doing, seeing’s how I am, in fact, the boss of me (see below).

mr. manager

One thing there hasn’t been is regret, which isn’t surprising to me, but still a nice validation of my decision, nonetheless. Regret isn’t really my style. I don’t generally linger in my decision making and once I’ve committed to my choice, I look forward from there at what’s next.* Giant ball of fears and insecurities though I am (remember; I’m a human), I tend to follow this advice:

lookback

* That being said, there have for sure been areas of my life where I was carrying around a lot of significance and not letting go of my past, partly because I hadn’t yet realized that who I am is not the same as the things that have happened to me. I’m a work in progress, but it’s progress!

The week before last, I was talking to my coach about a familiar story that is driving me Up The Proverbial Wall: When I get to X, then I can Y. It’s very closely related to my “not-good-enough/all-or-nothing” story; the one in which I’m simultaneously the tragic protagonist and nasty-ass villain in my own story.

Yeah, there’s going to be a lot of storybook references in this post. I’ve always loved make believe and fairy tales. I’ve lived in a committed certainty that my fantasy just outside my peripheral vision. I don’t ever open a wardrobe without hoping, just a little bit, that there might be pine trees and snow just past the jackets.

What I wanted to work on with my coach was the way I continue to get in my own way. As in, here I am, in the future I’d oh-so-longed for, and yet, I wasn’t doing the stuff I wanted to be doing. Why wouldn’t I look at what I wanted? What was stopping me from creating my vision? There was nothing in my way but me and it was getting really, really irritating. When I get irritated/irritating, all possibility of self-compassion takes off, fleeing for safety in higher ground, and I’m left being a not very nice person to me.

It was time to bankrupt this story and that’s precisely what we did. I looked at every single way in which this story was costing me joy and happiness. The evidence was plentiful and obvious. Eventually, we got to the point at which we realized that I believed I had to bust my ass to deserve anything, and even when I did just that, I still couldn’t enjoy the fruits of my labours.

“You’re addicted to suffering,” said my coach. “What’s that about?”

“Well, I am Catholic; it makes sense,” I joked half-heartedly. And then I got frustrated. After all, I actually remember a time when this wasn’t the case.

“I don’t get it,” I said, my frustration mounting. “I used to be so happy. When I was a kid, I was happy.”

It’s true: Despite growing up in a pretty stressful family life and amidst lots of sadness, fear and anger, I was a happy-go-lucky little kid. If it wasn’t fun, I’d go off and play by myself and find some fun. I was a genuine Sally Sunshine.

“Seriously,” I said, “I loved my childhood. When other kids wanted to play grown up, I’d peace out. I never wanted to grow up. Ask my mom.”

“So, what happened?” asked my coach.

“I don’t know. It’s like I just passed this imaginary line and life got all hard and—oh! Oh my god. I can see it.”

Forget the penny dropping: It was like a massive tree falling right in front of me. It all made sense and it had never occurred to me before.

Here’s what I saw:

I’d lived in my happy childhood (my therapist thinks it’s hilarious when I try to convince her my childhood was happy; she knows my family situation from way back when), never wanting to grow up, because all the grown ups I knew were sad, scared, angry, stressed out and unhappy. Why would I want that? Nope. I had a serious case of Peter Pan-itis: If that’s what growing up entailed, then I wasn’t ever going to do it. Other kids couldn’t wait until they were a grown up for real. This was not my idea of a fun game or promising future.

So what happened? Well, somewhere along the way, I guess I grew up anyway, despite my protestations and denials. When I wasn’t looking, Life caught up to me and turned me into an adult. I inadvertently stepped over the line I’d drawn in the sand and I grew up, and from that point forward, I looked at my life the only way I understood adulthood to be: Hard, scary, stressful and unhappy.

This kind of took my breath away. I mean, I can see it. I can see how I made this real, without meaning to do it at all. How I’d been suiting up for a fight and approaching my life like a linebacker heading for a tackle, all the while wondering what the heck happened, like the concussed quarterback who got taken down.

The day you realize that you’re the reason your life feels hard is a pretty big day. Suddenly, I could choose anything else. Today is going to be fun. Today will be peaceful. This day, I’m going to enjoy myself. This one is going to be an adventure.

[Tweet “The day you realize that you’re the reason your life feels hard is a pretty big day.”]

It turns out, I’d been living a fantasy the whole time, but I’d been picking pretty crappy chapters for my choose-my-own-adventure. If I could choose joy before, I can choose it again.

Now, I’m not saying that life is easy, but does life have to be hard?

Only if I say so. And this time, I say something different.

 

 

Buying Shoes in the Desert.

green-hd-spring-wallpaper

We set our clocks ahead this weekend and, well, I’ll be: Didn’t it just turn to spring overnight. Apart from the annoying way that losing one hour of sleep seems so much worse when you weren’t staying up doing something fun and possibly regrettable in the morning, it’s nice to have the sun up for so much longer. Summer’s a-coming, people!

I do realize that spring is coming first, but since I find spring to be a mostly soggy affair, and an allergy-ridden poor cousin to my favourite other seasons (read: all the other seasons), the fact is that it is getting decidedly warmer out. While out running today, it occurred to me that I may need to switch to shorts soon.  And I have a serious spring-cleaning thing going on, too. Our friends, Ben and Ashley, are clearing out their stuff so that they can sail off into the life of their dreams. This is inspiring in about a thousand ways. Follow your dreams? Okay!

Additionally, it’s inspiring to think of asking myself if this will fit on a boat anytime I contemplate making a purchase (this is the question Ben and Ash ask themselves all the time). Currently, I’m not making purchases, because I gave up buying stuff for Lent (food doesn’t count because I need food and also because I make the rules). Normally, I give up dessert and candy and sweets and joy-flavoured foods, but as Adam pointed out, that’s not particularly hard for me to do. I have pretty strong willpower when it comes to food, except for kryptonite chips. I briefly contemplated giving up chips, but thought to myself, “that’s crazy talk.” Then I weighed myself at a friend’s place and, well, sigh. I should probably give up chips, too… For now, I will give up shopping. Jesus couldn’t buy shoes in the desert and neither will I.

But I digress. I’ve long wanted to clear out about 90 percent of our material belongings (my shoes are not a part of this exodus. Obviously.), but I get so overwhelmed by all the stuff. OMIGOSH ALL THE STUFFS.

How did we get this much stuff? And why is it so hard to part with it? We don’t even use most of it, most of the time (and some of it, any of the time). It seems so easy in my head, or whenever I’m looking at small home designs on Pinterest, which is pretty frequently (they’re so cute and tiny!). As soon as I’m face to face with the endless piles of stuff we’ve accumulated, however, I start to wonder if maybe we might need it at some yet-to-be-determined time in the nondescript future. For example, the punch bowl: We have one. Why, I don’t know, since we’ve never, ever needed one. Punch is not really a thing people drink these days. I don’t know when I’m going to make a blend of juice that sits in a bowl and people ladle out into matching glass cups. I think it might be never.

In fact, our buffet is filled with stuff we don’t use but feel we can’t ditch. Actually, that’s not true: Adam would gladly huck it all out the window and then I have to remind him that windows are not places through which we chuck things. No.

So far, I’ve been reducing my makeup and nail polish collections. I haven’t enough faces, fingers or toes to EVER USE THAT MUCH ever in seven human life spans. It’s ridiculous. No seriously. It’s ridiculous. I can’t even tell you how much I have, because then I’ll be institutionalized or put on that Intervention show. DEAR MAC/OPI/SPARitual/CHINA GLAZE/BUTTER LONDON: PLEASE DEAR HEAVEN ABOVE STOP MAKING MORE STUFF WITH CUTE NAMES THAT IS SHIMMERY AND NEARLY/TOTALLY IDENTICAL TO A BAJILLION MAKEUPS/NAIL POLISHES THAT I ALREADY OWN. Stop it. Please. Help me help me. It’s unethical. I’m a colour addict and you are an enabler. You should be ashamed. I am. Mostly of myself, but still. Still. You, too.

The closet was hit next. I’ve got laundry baskets full of clothes that are being donated and I still want to get rid of more. I even have some shoes in there. Some. More like a handful, or very few pairs. But still, you guys; it’s some shoes and that’s a big step for someone like me. Because I love shoes more than I love makeup and nail polish (take THAT, cosmetics industry!).

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on. Oh, and this:

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I have waited for this moment forever. I’ve always wanted pets who’d snuggle. Granted, Hermes was sleeping here before Grimby sidled up to share the sunbeam, and it’s distinctly possible that Chubbs Hermes was too lazy to move, but whatever. It’s a snuggle and it counts!

 

Getting older is kind of awesome.

So, you know that quote:

growing olderYeah, that’s the one. Adam and I just got back from Urbanite, which was awesome. Now that I work from home, I know that finding events that get me out of the house are really important. And, yes, it’s distinctly possible I showered and got ready for this event approximately 30 minutes prior to showing up (it’s a work in process, this new life). Partly that’s because I really thought I was going to yoga, so I decided to hold off on my post-run shower. Yoga never happened, at least not beyond two sun salutations A.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. What is super cool, however, is how many amazing people we know and the fact that they were largely represented at Urbanite (you should come). What an amazing opportunity to connect with people I love and admire, especially two weeks after leaving my job.

On another note, I had three beverages and am, for the most part, what one might describe as “under the table”. Now, I’ve never been a big drinker (I’m all talk—I’m from Nova Scotia after all, so I feel the need to represent), but three? At least now in my adult maturity, only my legs get drunk.*

So here I am, blogging (while somewhat impressed at my ability to spell under the influence) and ordering pizza, because some things never go out of style.

You stay classy, Victoria. I’ll endeavour to do the same.

I frigging love my life.

xo Bay

* My legs are not the only part of me that are drunk. All the other parts, including and especially my brain, are affected by as little as two-thirds of a single adult beverage.

 

Doing Impossible Things.

Well, I finally did it: I achieved the impossible. I know I should be proud, but I feel kind of guilty, instead.

So, what’s the big impossible thing I did?

image

I killed an air plant.

How hard can it be to keep an air plant alive? Actually, don’t answer that; clearly it is hard for me.

I mean, how do you even do that? I understand that some of my plants have suffered under my care (or, I suppose, more accurately, my lack of care thereof):

I will admit that I have occasionally forgotten to water and sing to them on a regular basis. I don’t know if it’s the water, the singing or the combination of the two that keeps my plants thriving, but I don’t want to risk the lives of innocent vegetation to find out through empirical experimentation. Repotting happens roughly eighteen months — at the soonest — after it first looked necessary to repot the plant for its future well-being and viability.

But an air plant? How? It’s an air plant. It’s called that because it lives on air, for crying out loud. We have plenty of that in our condo and it requires no action on my part, which was sort of the idea. I mist it every few days, as per the instructions, and it’s been fine since Christmas, when it joined our happy home.

We got a second air plant (they hang in these cool little glass bubble-like thingys) on Valentine’s Day. I wonder if the first one died of a broken heart, thinking we’d grown weary of it. We didn’t, little air plant, I swear! We loved you! We gave you the best air we had!

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I’d like to get a new air plant to replace him. Partly because it makes me sad and partly because the dead one kind of looks like a hideous spider and it’s freaking me out. All his legs are sticking up and everything. I gave up shopping for Lent, though (purchasing anything other than food), so here’s hoping that Adam feels compelled to replace him. Even Hermes feels bad for the little guy.

Seriously. How do you kill an air plant? Sigh…

NB: I just read up on air plant care and it turns out they do NOT live on air after all. Kind of misleading, actually. Still, though. I was watering it. I swear I watered it. HOW DID YOU DIE, LITTLE PLANT DUDE? Maybe it is the singing…

 

 

Day One.

Courage1

Well, it’s five minutes before the end of my first day as an entrepreneur. I’d love to say it’s been full of inspiration and provide you with mental images of me channeling my inner Braveheart with courageous shouts of “FREEDOM”, but that wouldn’t be super accurate.

Truth be told, today was largely full of fear and frustration. Fear about what I don’t know (which seems fairly vast, right about now) and frustration with a project I’m working on and my resoundingly crappy not-good-enough story.

On my last day, yesterday, my team threw me an amazing farewell tea, complete with all manner of sweets and treats as befitting the Health Promotion Girl’s final hurrah. Last night, after leaving the office in tears (I’m sad to leave my teammates and can’t help but feel a little fear of missing out), Adam took me out to dinner to celebrate, which was awesome, because a) I wouldn’t have thought to, b) I’d have stayed in and been a sad sack, and c) we went to Il Terrazzo, which is my favourite Italian place. I am so grateful that I get to share my adventures with him.

This morning, The First Morning, I woke up and was super lazy. Fairly anti-climactic, really. I succeeded in putting on my running gear, wearing it for three hours and then eventually conceded the fact that there was no way I was going to make it for a run between the calls I had scheduled. So I showered and dressed. I will NOT not dress nicely, just because no one’s around to see it. I may need to begin wearing shoes in the house though, lest I go into footwear withdrawal.

Technically, I’m taking two weeks off (apart from my current coaching clients, that is), to relax and enjoy this shift. So far, I notice a lot of judgment about what I’m doing: Either I’m not accomplishing The Stuff I need to do in order to be a success (clearly, I’ve got a lot riding on Getting There [where? I don’t know…] in the first 24 hours) or I’m failing at relaxing (how did you know I’m a perfectionist?).

This week is pretty much chock-full of work, for a week off. Looks like Adam’s right: I need to take another week off on the end, if I’m going to be in integrity with my declaration for a couple weeks’ break. From here on out, I know I’m going to need to be intentional about, well, just about everything. The time I’m working and the time I’m not. I can already tell which one will be trickier…

I wanted to post all day, but didn’t want to sound like a downer. “If I’m not smiling 115 percent of the time, people will think I’m failing.”

inferior

To be honest, I was afraid people would gloat. Which is pretty lame, because who would gloat? And even if they did, why would I care? How would I even know? I was watching The Princess Diaries on the weekend (don’t judge me) and was reminded that no one can make me feel small without my permission. No one includes me, too.

So, since keeping up pretences is exhausting, I decided to just be honest about the day. I know some of you want to know and I really wish I could say it was rainbows and unicorns, but it was a busy and stressful day, following a predictably busy, momentous and sad day.

So that’s it. Day one. I do think it’s kind of cool that my first day was blue sky and sunshine-filled. Tomorrow will be brighter. I have to let go of this one, first, though, so that’s what I’m doing. One day at a time.

letitgo

Quitting and beginning.

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The above is the message that was in my fortune cookie yesterday. I don’t normally ascribe a lot of meaning to the things I find in cookies or horoscopes, but this time, it made me smile. It’s true: Things are a-changing over here in my world.

It’s been a long time, My Blog. A long time, indeed. It’s weird, how if I don’t write anything on here, nothing happens on my blog. I need blog elves. Partly because then my blog would be updated and partly because then I’d have an elf, and that would be be pretty much the coolest frigging thing in the world.

At least this time, I have a good excuse for being incommunicado: Like I said, I’ve been busy making some big changes and some even bigger decisions. You probably know that I write over at www.evergrowthcoaching.com, the blog that Adam and I share for our coaching company. Coaching has been getting cooler and cooler and busier and busier, all of which is really good news. I’m loving the work I’m doing.

I less love working nine zillion hours a day, but I’ve been doing it (okay, more like 10–12 hours) in service of a cunning plan: I wanted to build my coaching practice so that I could go to part time at my job and eventually be self employed. It turns out that “eventually” was a lot sooner than I thought!

Long story made short, I have [at last] resigned my position with the provincial government/public service of British Columbia. This decision was a really big one for me. I’m talking throat-constricting-and-gasping-panic-attacks-while-jogging kind of big decision. Not-sleeping-and-tossing-and-turning-coated-in-cold-sweat kind of decision. Several factors precipitated my choice and I immensely grateful for the whole experience: Without the stuff that went on, I would not have made the choice I’ve been wanting to make since, oh, before I began working with the provincial government.

I’ve always wanted to freelance, but couldn’t figure out how to make it work. I didn’t trust myself and I didn’t trust the universe, either. Without doing the work to become a coach, and utterly transforming who I am being in my life and in this world, I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t have been able to choose to let go of my desperately clasping hands and step outside of my comfort zone. Thank God I let go.

Now, I am not a person who would describe herself as brave. I’ve always been a timid little thing, from the time I was, well, a timid little thing. I know I’ve done a lot of things that were atypical or different, but for the first time ever, I really, really understand that courage isn’t the absence of fear; rather, it is something that is created when you face your fear and move forward anyway.

I am so excited for what’s ahead. I’m exhilarated. Every now and then, I’m afraid, too, just to keep it interesting. What I learned this week, and shared with my team (I’m a mentor coach in Seattle—so much has happened since I last blogged here!) is this:

It turns out that fear doesn’t stop me from doing things: I do. It turns out, I can have fear and move forward anyway. Forward movement doesn’t only happen in the sunshine.

goforit