Returning

I just had to do it. Count the number of words I wrote between September 2013 and June 2014. The amount of time it took me to successfully complete 7 classes.

I wrote 86 060 words. This works out to approximately 350 pages. I wrote a whole dissertation already!

Despite this incredible accomplishment, these words on paper were written mostly for others. They were written to fulfill requirements. It therefore feels really good to be on the other side of this particular part of the PhD process. Now onto the qualifying exam this upcoming fall in which I get to determine the reading list (primarily) and devise the topic.

To restore, recoup and reassess, I have returned home. What does returning look like? A little like this.

Fullerton Loop Lookout

Johnston Canyon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a lot like this.

Returning to nature.

Returning to family.

Returning to calm.

Returning to friends.

Returning to ‘home’.

Returning to inner voice.

Returning to inner peace.

Returning to inspiration.

Returning to motivation.

Returning to purpose.

Returning to love.

Throughout the last 10 months I’ve felt, at times, disconnected from the reasons that drove me to do my PhD in the first place. There were many demands and I found myself drifting away from my sense of purpose. It is important that I use the next two months to regain focus and control, replenish my spirit and self-initiate moments to reclaim my passion for what it is that I set out to do and why I began almost 12 months ago. And to cherish opportunities to celebrate what I’ve been able to achieve so far.

 

Spring is in the Air

Dear ones,

It has been two months since I last wrote here. I realize this is a fairly long hiatus for me, but you have not been far from my heart. Here are some of the reasons why blog writing was posing a bit of a challenge. (And as all of you know by now, I want my writing to be heartfelt and inspirational.)

1. I was writing an over-abundance of words for school.

2. I was pretty tapped out of words.

3. I was sick of winter.

4. I ‘checked out’ for awhile during my April break and had limited computer time.

5. I did a bit of traveling.

6. I was unfocused and unimaginative.

7. I was being fully present in my life.

8. I simply did not feel like it.

Every writer knows that writer’s block happens now and then. Writing this now is a good sign of things to come. I feel this post is not a stretch to compose nor is unattainable.

Inspiration has been coming in many forms and from many avenues. The weather has shifted here in Ottawa and birds are singing regularly. Spring offers moments of hope as flowers emerge from the ground, defiant against more cold weather.

I’m also much further along in my PhD program and feel rejuvenated by this progress. There are some exciting things ahead including conferences, publishing opportunities, more teaching and working towards clarity on my dissertation topic. My head has cleared.

I’m also motivated by the emotion of love (surprise) and this song that has been playing in my apartment over and over and over again the last few days. It speaks to healing a ‘bleeding’ heart by falling in love again. The lyrics suggest this is not a bad thing, despite how scary it might feel. It’s also about believing you’re worth loving, which has been very difficult for me to achieve. I’m getting there!

It’s fun for me (now it is, mind you) to look back over the last two years and see how far I’ve come since April 2012, when things fell apart. Or at least they appeared to.

More soon.

Sometimes good things fall apart…

Turning 35

turning 35

I turn 35 today. This doesn’t seem possible.

Upon reviewing My 34 list, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. A lot happened this year, much of it unexpected and done in amazement.

I have come at birthdays in the past with a deficit mindset, thinking mostly about what I have not done within the year that has gone (flown) by. I have felt intense pressure for not having met certain milestones – childbirth and marriage being the two big ones. These ‘goals’ are socially constructed and therefore a tension is present between what I ‘ought’ to be doing rather than what is happening. In fact, I have already outlived my own personal perceptions of abundance and success! I am proud to have lived whole-heartedly and courageously these last 35 years.

This year I’m celebrating by declaring the 35 things I’m most grateful for on my 35th birthday. I would like to give thanks for an amazing run so far.

Happiness=gratitude.

1. My health. Achy knees are really all I have to deal with these days. So lucky.

2. Shelter. I adore my little space in the world. I’m warm, comfortable and content in my apartment. It’s the perfect spot for the birth of a brilliant dissertation.

3. My family. Everyone says this, but I really do have the best family. My siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins – they all form a strong community of support for me and I am thankful for their compassion.

4. My friends. I have many amazing friends too. They are incredibly thoughtful and inspirational.

5. My partner. His unconditional support, ambition and kindness makes me want to be a better person.

6. Past employment. It has provided me with amazing experiences and knowledge that has helped me get to where I am today.

7. Current employment.  I love what I do. It doesn’t feel like work.

8. My education. Opportunities to learn (as a woman especially) I never take for granted.

9. My economic situation. While not wealthy by any means, I have enough. More than most. And that’s all that matters.

10. My country. I love Canada because it is at peace and free. And I feel safe here.

11. My travels & passport. Traveling has opened my mind and heart and I feel blessed to have visited all of the places I have. 

12. Spirituality. My grounding and foundation.

13. Yoga. Yoga gives me the feeling of strength, accomplishment and calm. I am so grateful to have found this practice.

14. Sports. While hockey leads the way, I am grateful for both watching and playing all kinds of sports. Nothing captures the human spirit quite like the Olympic Games.

15. Music. There is nothing like a good song to lift me up.

16. My mentors. I have some great mentors who continue to motivate me to be the best I can be.

17. Nature. Lakes, mountains, rivers, trees, oceans, beaches. Amazing.

18. Books. Like a true student, I love reading and learning from books. I’m running out of room on my shelves.

19. Possibility. I am grateful for endless possibility and the feeling that my future is open and vast.

20. My community. This one is about both my amazing neighbourhood as well as my PhD community. Thank you.

21. Democracy. I can vote without threat or fear. Full stop.

22. The clothes on my back (and shoes on my feet). ‘Nuff said. With honourable mention going to sweatpants, fleece robes and cute teal booties.

23. Food/drink & cooking. I love to cook and create in the kitchen and I feel grateful to not go hungry at night. I especially am grateful for coffee, wine, popcorn, perogies and South Asian food.

24. The Arts. Whether it is the ballet, a play, musical theatre, or artwork…the Arts make wonderful contributions to my life.

25. For each and every day. 

26. Seasons. I adore the full four-season cycle I get to witness (almost) every year.

27. Meditation. Stillness and silence ‘speaks’ volumes to my personal growth and development.

28. Technology. If it wasn’t for technology, I could not do a lot of things, including communicate with those I love.

29. Dancing. Dancing makes me feel so very alive. I need to do it more often.

30. Hot tubs/pools. Yeah, I really like relaxing in hot tubs.

31. Massages. Who doesn’t love a good massage?

32. Inspirational role models.  There are numerous people I look up to who make a positive impact in the world, famous or not. They keep me aiming high.

33. My bicycle. I feel so free (and fit) on my little bike. I also feel grateful to live in a city where there are endless paths. Now I just need a basket.

34. Sleep. My fuel. I cherish my sleep. 

35. Love and more love. It fills me full.

gratitude turns

The Journey

Today, heart day, I am thankful for my own loving voice and the journey we have been on together.

The journey

The Journey 

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house began to tremble
and you felt the old tug at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’ each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little, as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice which you slowly
recognized as your own, that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,
determined to do the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~Mary Oliver

Do date a girl who travels

Sunset

A blog post titled Don’t date a girl who travels has gone viral and was all over my Facebook news feed. I could relate to the remarkable and beautiful woman being described, however, the piece was somewhat bothersome. I read a response or two but they did not address my uneasiness. I’ve therefore slowly worked out my own rebuttal.

The post states, “And if you unintentionally fall in love with one [a girl who travels], don’t you dare keep her. Let her go.” I disagree.

This statement implies that a girl who travels is not only unattainable, but unlovable. Why is strength, open-mindedness and determination associated with singleness? As a woman who has spent the majority of her adult life in various cities, I believe these are my greatest assets. I continue to protest against the labels ‘traveller’, ‘wanderer’, ‘lost soul’ and ‘gypsy’ as much as I embrace them. There is more to the story.

A girl who travels would make a great life partner. Do not let her go. Here’s why.

A girl who travels may be unconventional, sure. She may not be as won over with the ‘ordinary’ but she appreciates a gesture no matter what size. She sees past an action to the intention and is grateful for the effort, regardless. She values each moment and adores thoughtfulness. She likes to feel special because as she moves through life on her own, she doesn’t always feel that way. Travel can be an invisible experience without any witnesses.

A girl who travels may be independent, sure. She knows how to fix and build stuff and survive alone in most situations, no matter how foreign. This doesn’t mean she will always refuse help, however. Being unwillingly rescued is different from equal and mutual partnership. A girl who travels knows the value of sharing a good meal, watching a gorgeous sunset in tandem, or sharing a laugh when things go awry. Companionship is not weakness. It’s often empowering.

Complete

A girl who travels may be opinionated, sure. She’s had to use her voice to argue for her place when she clearly did not belong. She’s had to stick up for herself many times. She’s seen injustices and experienced them herself. Having said this, she will push you with her vulnerability. She will be bold and blunt and this is refreshing. She won’t hide her thoughts and feelings because she can’t hide anything – even her wounds and fears. What you see is what you get.

A girl who travels may be uncertain, sure. She’s seen what the world has to offer and understands the endless possibilities.  She won’t settle for anything less that what her heart says is meant for her and this includes love. When she says she is committed to you she really is – she trusts her instincts and knows when something is right (or isn’t). Her vast experience informs her choices and therefore she doesn’t choose lightly. You will also benefit from her uncertainty as she will expose your rigidity and move you beyond simply living. She lavishes in the in-between.

A girl who travels is not always fancy, sure. She may get uncomfortable in situations where she has to dress up or conform to a standard that has been set by society as ‘acceptable’. She may not live in excess and likes simplicity. We are all cut from the same mould, however, and natural is what we wake up to in the morning. We must share our humanity with our partners, whether in sickness, health, birth, death, happiness, sadness. A girl who travels knows that what matters is connection and honesty. Trends, looks and wealth will fade.

A girl who travels has minimal regrets and won’t look back and say, “I wish I’d….” because she’s done it. You won’t catch her wondering about much, she is secure and confident.

A girl who travels is a nurturer. The world is her child.

A girl who travels will continually want to be challenged and this is healthy for any relationship – to grow as individuals and together. She won’t be capable of holding you back.

A girl who travels will show you parts of the world you’ve never seen through her stories, music, collections and mannerisms.

Most importantly, a girl who travels knows and loves herself. She hears with her heart. She has to. And before any girl can truly love another, she has to be happy with who she is first.

Don’t you dare let her escape. Keep this one close.

The Bags We Carry

This week I attended a funeral in bitterly cold Saskatchewan for my Grandmother. She lived a long 90 years old before she died suddenly. She leaves behind two sons (my step-dad being one), a brother, many nieces, nephews and grandchildren as well as a husband of 68 years. Sixty-eight years. My grandparents were married in 1945, after the Second World War ended and my Grandfather was discharged from the military. Their marriage was truly inspirational and admirable. I can only hope that one day I have a marriage that is as ever-lasting and committed.

baggage

During the priest’s tribute to my Grandmother, he spoke of the bags we carry through life (metaphorically, of course). This resonated with me. These invisible bags gradually accumulate stuff – and he wasn’t referring to filling them with material things such as success, wealth or achievement. What he was referring to was consciously filling these bags with the things that really matter – service to our community, being a good mother, wife and friend, dedication to our passions and living life from a place of kindness and generosity. My Grandmother was exceptional at this. Her bags are full as she moves into the light.

I was also struck by the many individuals who came to pay their respects to her. One by one, each approached her casket, carrying and holding love for my Grandmother. They came to share that love. The people in our lives are a collection of love manifested. Seeing this display was a powerful reminder to cherish, treasure and nurture this collection.

The past is past.

Amidst the academic chaos, inner-work continues at a rapid pace. I have been embracing moments where unhelpful patterns are being revealed. I am thirsty for learning, always.

As I venture out into the hinterland of intimacy once again, I’m encountering many sights and sounds that are bringing up fear, doubt and suspicion. The ghosts of relationships past are a-haunting. I’m not interested in getting pummelled again (who is?) and the fact that I somehow will (and precisely how I will…) can dominate my thought process. Not only that, but past experiences have somehow morphed into core beliefs that need to be shed. Pronto.

don't stumble

One of these dominating core beliefs is that I’m not worth it – that a partner will never prioritize me and my life over his. In my experiences to date (no pun intended), this has been the case. I’ve typically been the primary sacrificer and caregiver. I’ve been let down despite my “all-in” attitude.

I find myself projecting past events onto present situations which is extremely unfair on all parties involved. It’s unreasonable to suggest that our relationship history has no place in our future – it can carefully inform us and the decisions we make. (Hopefully for the better and not for the bitter.) However, every new experience is just that, new. It is not valid to make claims, projections, predictions or even nurture beliefs that are based on the past.

The past is the past for a reason. We need to learn to leave it there.

Top 10 Songs of 2013

I’m back again for another round: the songs I listened to the most in 2013. There are some returning faces from last year’s list, but also some new ones. The theme: exploring new territory and unlearning. The year 2013 was good to me. From Kingston to New York to Toronto to (almost) Ghana to London to Delhi to Dharamsala to Vancouver to Calgary to Ottawa, my feet have taken me many unexpected places and as a result my heart is full. These songs were the soundtrack. My favourite moment? Returning to India. Hands-down.

10. Sara Bareilles: Brave

“Say what you want to say and let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave.”

9. Regina Spektor: How

“Time can come and take away the pain. But I just want my memories to remain – to hear your voice, to see your face. There’s not one moment I’d erase. You are a guest here now.”

8. Taylor Swift: Begin Again

“And for the first time, what’s past is past.”

7. Data Romance: Can’t Keep Your Mind Off

“You come with too many politics that seem to be digging thoughts I can’t keep your mind off.”

6. Flight Facilities feat. Christine Hoberg: Clair De Lune

“Don’t go. Tell me that the lights won’t change. Tell me that it’ll stay the same.”

5. Avicii: Wake Me Up

“Feeling my way through the darkness, guided by a beating heart. I can’t tell where the journey will end, but I know where to start.”

4. Rhye: The Fall

“But I don’t want it this way, why can’t you stay?”

3. Drake: Hold On, We’re Going Home

“You’re the girl, you’re the one. Gave you everything I loved. I think there’s something, baby.”

2. Katy Perry: Roar

“You held me down, but I got up. Already brushing off the dust.”

1. John Mayer: Paper Doll

“You’re like 22 girls in one. And none of them know what they’re running from.”

Honourable mentions – Tegan & Sara: Fool for Love, Kathleen Edwards: Change the Sheets, Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams: Get Lucky, Daughter: Human, Capital Cities: Safe and Sound, Dido: No Freedom, Lorde: Tennis Court

2014: I am ready

lessons 2013

I started 2013 off with a tattoo. “Love” it now says on my right wrist.

This was placed on my body as a declaration. A declaration of what I needed to be reminded of every day: love comes first. Self-love especially.

This has been a year for finding self-love. Of letting go. Of unexpected turns. Of reclaiming joy. Of bouncing back. Of strength. Of the unimaginable.

unimaginable

2013′s troubled sister, 2012, was intimately difficult. I did the work and have rounded a corner. I am now better equipped for what the future may or may not bring.

I am forever grateful for this past year and my incredible friends and family who filled me up consistently with their love, care, time, compassion and wisdom. My gratitude is endless. I also met so many wonderful people throughout my adventures in Canada, the United States, India and Jamaica. These memories will forever influence who I am building to be.

2014: I am ready for you. Happy New Year friends!

Be Here Now

While laying in Shavasana this past weekend, the song Be Here Now by Ray LaMontagne came on gently in the background of the yoga studio. I smile crept across my face. Coincidence? I think not. Perfect timing. Perfect reminder. Take a listen and mindfully drift silently and deeply into your heart.

“Don’t let your soul get lonely
Child, it’s only time, it will go by
Don’t look for love in faces, places
It’s in you that’s where you’ll find kindness
Be here now, be here now
Be, be here now, be here now…”

Ray LaMontagne