When plans change

When I retunred from Cuba, I was really looking forward to a family trip. Initially, this road trip was supposed to be with my daughter, her boyfriend and my two grandsons. I had reserved a two bedroom cottage, The Beachcomber, at the Old Shipyard Campground, Spencer Island in Nova Scotia. Instead, because my daughter was feeling quite ill at the time, she suggested that I go with Aidan. I was not overjoyed that she was ill, however, I was happy to have this opportunity to bring Aidan to the ocean with me for the first time. The road trip to the ocean with Aidan was supposed to be for three nights.

Instinct told me to call to confirm my reservation because after giving my credit card information, I had not heard back. It just so happened, they never received that email. However, it also just so happened that they had a 1 bedroom cottage for the same number of nights available. Ironic that I no longer needed two bedrooms. They told me to drive safe and they would see us the next day.

We left Montreal around 3pm. He is quite the good little traveller. Road stops along the way were ensured to help Aidan not feel bored or restless. We would run around the trees and pretend they were magic forests. Indeed, they were. He would ask repeatedly «Where is the ocean Nana? » This warmed my heart because I felt the same way. Except I am an adult and I know it takes a while to get there. So I would explain that we had to get back into the car so we could get closer. No problems there.

I had promised him he would see the ocean before his head hit the pillow that night. We succeeded in driving to St John, New Brunswick. This choice was because there is a harbour there and, while my geography skills need improvement, I knew that was the «beginning» of the ocean. I was determined to keep my promise. We drove through fog, and darkness. There are moose in New Brunswick, so I was very cautious. We drove slowly, but we made it to the ocean by midnight. The place we stayed at for the night was next to the water. I showed Aidan the ocean before his head hit the pillow.

St John

The next morning, we had breakfast and left for our ultimate destination. Spencer Island. This place has meaning for me. I had never been there, but my second dad and mom would go there every year and they adored the place. Claude had told me about the tides and the ocean. How they would come in so high that they would almost touch the camper. He told me about the cottages. He told me about the serenity of this place. How you could fall asleep to the ocean sounds. I listened to him. Going there with Aidan was meaningful to me on so many levels. I knew I would feel my mom there and I knew she would be overjoyed to see her great grandson there as well.

It was about 3 hours away and Aidan was very excited. I had been told about the road there. It would twist and turn and then a clearing where the ocean would appear in full view. When I saw this, I told Aidan to look and see the ocean. We were beside ourselves with excitement. We were so very close. Then I saw this:

 

May 28th we are at a family gathering. My dad and his wife are in town. My daughter, son in law, grandsons, brother, sister in law, nieces are all together for brunch. They took Aidan for a walk by the river. It was time to leave and Aidan cried «I don’t want to go, I want to see the sea!!!!!!!!! »

I laughed and cried at the sight of that sign.

The couple that owns this campground knew my parents well. When I arrived I was, well, emotional. I said I had a reservation. I told the lady that my parents had been going there for years. She asked their names and then slowly, recognition crossed her face. She asked if Claude had a water company. I confirmed he did and then she said «We were just talking about them yesterday, wondering why they had not been here in a couple of years. » I explained why. She called her husband and explained what had just happened. They hugged me. We cried. They asked how many nights the reservation was for. I explained that it was available for 2 nights. She stated that a third night had just opened up. That was a no-brainer. I took it. They told me they had never seen a couple that enjoyed just being together so much, walking hand in hand on the beach, going for dinner. I agreed.

Our cottage was named «Sea Urchin» and it was perfect. Fully equipped and so cozy. The view from the cottage was perfection.

Interesting how the ocean is. In the Bay of Fundy, the tides are in, out and the ocean looks different every hour. Every day there is something new about it. No matter what, it is still the ocean. So many facets, so many changes, still it is the ocean. The tides are high or low. I suppose that is how life is too.

This location had rocky beaches. Aidan took to the beach immediately and played in the rocks. Aidan would run, trip and fall. He would get up and in minutes, all had passed and all was well again. He found seas shells, rocks and I did too. I even found my first piece of sea glass. One day, we walked along the beach for 2 hours, exploring, playing in the rocks, sand and finding our treasures.

We visited the surrounding areas. Lighthouses, cliffs with each view more breathtaking than the last. Each view of the ocean in all its glory, different that the last.

On the day we were supposed to return to Montreal, we decided to extend the trip. We went to Parlee beach, a beach on the ocean with sand. Aidan would love that. We made sand castles and when the tide started coming in, we were in the water. Aidan felt the little waves on his legs and started to laugh. I wish I had caught that sound on video. The sound of his laughter filled my heart. He sounded just like me. I laugh like a child when I play in the waves. I could relate to Aidan. We had a picnic on the beach. Then it was time to move on to our next destination. We chose Alma. New Brunswick, the Bay of Fundy, NB side. Always by the ocean of course. There was a quaint motel with rooms that had kitchenettes. We had bought food for our journey, opting to cook instead of eating out. We had a nice little dinner by the ocean that night. Aidan wanted to speak to his mommy, daddy and William each night. I loved this because I would get to chat with William. I requested one more night with Aidan and my daughter agreed.

Aidan settled down for bed and I decided to check my work emails. There was one from my partner entitled Personal and Confidential. He thanked me for responding to a client request. Then he informed me that they had decided to present me for a promotion to Senior Manager with a rating of 2. The decision of yay or nay was in progress. The exact polar opposite of what I had been told during my evaluation. I did not know what to make of this email. I was surprised. I had come to some realizations in the recent weeks about work. I went outside to reflect, by the ocean. In the silence I understood that this was out of my hands and I would let the Universe reveal what would happen with this. I let it go.

The next day I walked along the shore and thanked the ocean for a wonderful time, again. You see, there was fog in the mornings but it would always dissipate because of the sun. We had not seen a drop of rain this whole time.

We did not know which route to take on our journey home. I knew of Rocky Harbour, where there is a ferry, a huge boat that goes to Grand Manan Island. The trip is 90 minutes one way. Just anything to keep me on the ocean. However, we had just missed the ferry when we arrived. At that moment, my brother sent me a picture of his African violet that just so happened to have three beautiful flowers. It was my mom’s plant. It had not flowered since her passing. He was in Vancouver visiting my dad and my sister in law had informed him of this news. I was overjoyed for him. I too had purchased an African violet, named her Tessie, after my mom and she had given me three flowers just before my vacation started. It would appear that mom was watching over all of us during our vacations.

We headed towards Fredericton, away from the ocean but next to the St John river which eventually does lead to the ocean…………but I digress. We enjoyed a wonderful sunset that night, as we had every night of our vacation.

Sunsets 2Sunsets

Eventually we made it back to Montreal the next day. I promised Aidan to make a treasure jar with what he had found at the beach.  The following day, I left to go to Sainte Agathe in the north of Montreal. The following day it rained. I walked in the woods and enjoyed the rain. My first day of rain since my vacation had begun. I came across a stream. I decided I would return the next day. I had been hoping to see some animals in the woods, but they were absent that day

I was sitting by the stream in silence. Listening to the rustling trees and feeling the breeze. It was so serene there. A butterfly flew around me. I was surprised because I was wearing black. They are typically attracted to bright colours. It would not stop flying around me. Eventually it flew around my face and fluttered against my eyelid. I called out «Mommy» and it flew around me once more and then went on its way. On my way home, I stopped at Mont Tremblant National Park and saw deer within minutes of entering the park. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach. I thought of Aidan as I made castles in the sand with plastic beer glasses to the interest of little children around me that had boatloads of sand toys.

I suppose things do not always go as planned. I understand there is something precious in this when it happens. Trees, oceans, lakes, streams and nature in general hold secrets to life. This has been my experience in the last three weeks. No matter what the conditions, nature carries on with grace and finds a way to thrive. Every once in a while I feel that way. More so when I am alone, but slowly I am finding ways to be in that state around people. That was one gift of my time spent with Aidan and my vacation in general. Sometimes you really do need to talk with a three year old just to understand life again.

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Wherever you go, there you are

I went to Cuba, not to explore the culture, but to take one week of time to myself to sit and relax by the place I love so much – the ocean. The thought of waking, meditating, swimming and just being by the ocean for one week felt like the perfect thing for me to do. One week may not seem like a lot, but then again, time is relative. I had little expectations for this week other than to be gentle myself and reconnect with my spirit. I felt like I was a human doing instead of a human being.  I was tired and this was my plan. Nothing earth shattering happened in 7 days. But then again, that is also a matter of perspective. What happens when you try to reconnect with your spirit and open your mind to letting things flow? To begin with, I flew through passport control and got my luggage in very little time. I got in the bus to the resort. The tour guide starts off by saying that in Cuba the motto is «Be happy – there is no room for complaints or sadness here. Just be happy». I laugh inside. I will do my best. I am the only person checking into this hotel. There is a terrace and I see palm trees and the ocean is in the distance. I can hear its waves. I go downstairs to explore a bit. The ocean is right down the stairs. I go to the beach. There is lightening, it is spectacular. I put my feet in the ocean. I have arrived.

Day 1

I slept until my eyes opened. All work out plans are out the window. I am going to explore this resort and figure out where i can get a «cafe negro grande» (Americano). The coffee here is delicious. The lady that served it to me is happy and dancing around. It is stunning here. I am noticing how my breath is deep and slow. I am relaxing. This is good. The ocean is calling my name. Time to go for a swim. I see a secluded place under the cliffs with a dot of beach. I decide to swim there. It appeared closer than in reality. I realize I have been swimming a long time now. Once there, I explore and, happy with my accomplishment, I swim back. I then lay back and let the waves do their dance. I am at peace. One nice side effect – work out for today is complete. I moved and did what I love, swam in the ocean. I am liking this time with myself. Me, myself and I are getting along just fine. Success number 1. I am lost in my bubble and hear someone next to me. I realize I almost bumped into this person. I apologize and laugh that I was in my bubble and then realize maybe she is French, I say «Désolé» (Sorry). She laughs and is very happy that I speak French. She too is from Montreal and here alone and is happy to make a friend. I go with this and it becomes apparent that she also likes her space and will not be imposing herself on mine. I say a silent «Thank you» to the Universe. I will call her Miss N. We make plans to eat dinner together at some point but nothing firm and nothing resembling commitment. Success number 2. I am sitting on the terrace and the palm trees are swaying in the wind, the sound is soothing and with the ocean waves, it is almost like the Universe is breathing or meditating. I see a tiny bird and notice it is a hummingbird. I am very happy to see this, I love birds.

At dinner, I am enjoying the mango in my plate and the song «Tears in heaven» plays. I feel tears rising, I am happy .My surroundings have not changed. I realize it is acceptable to let the tears flow and still be okay. I love my mom and Natalino very much. Success number 3.

Day 2

I wake up when my eyes open. I am going to the beach to exercise. I bring my music and start running. I am laughing. I feel a sense of freedom like I have not felt before. It is hot and humid but I run. Until I feel like stopping. I look around at the sand, the waves and the sky. I turn around and run back. I do this multiple times. I notice Miss N is also working out by the beach. I smile to myself. I can relate to Miss N.

It is now time to meditate. I feel this is a good place and time. My guided Davidji meditation is called «Awakening acceptance». I love this theme. I find the buffet and there is mango! My favorite fruit. I only eat fruit because this is all I feel like eating. So it is.

More swimming and relaxing. I have my book «Life loves you» by Louise L Hay. Today’s chapter is «Affirming your life». The question asked is «How would it feel to stop judging yourself»? I ponder on this for a moment. I realize that I would feel good enough, my mind would feel healthy enough. My body would feel good enough and healthy enough. I would be a good enough writer. I would feel capable, competent, and creative enough. My soul pure enough. I imagine I would love myself the way I am. I let myself feel this way for a while and I realize, if I am he thinker of my thoughts, then I can feel this way more often. I can notice when I am being unkind to me. Success for the day. I notice my mind reverting to work. It is thinking «check your emails». I notice this thought and let it float away, like a cloud. These thoughts come from doubt and / or worry and are not soul thoughts. The waves are crashing on the shore. I am going to play in the waves. I do not have to check my work emails. This is more in line with my soul.

Day 3

I decided to check out the gym. There is a stepper there that reminds me of the machine my friend and trainer has at her gym »Jacobs ladder». I decide to give it a try and do intervals for two minutes and then run on the treadmill. It is hot in the gym. I finish my session and decide to go for my mango. As long as it is available I will be eating it. Today’s meditation is « Awakening forgiveness». The chapter in my book is also on the topic of forgiveness. It asks on a scale of 0-100 how much I have forgiven various people in my life, including myself. The first time I had read the book, I had forgiven myself 58%. My parents and Natalino were at 90%.When I saw this, I felt sad. I realized from my previous meditation and now reading this, I had some forgiving to do. I went back to the waves and reflected on this for a while.

I hear music in the background. There is a band playing. I go closer to observe. There are people sitting, enjoying the band. I see a table of three men smoking cigars and having a good time. A table is free next to them. One of the men asks me if I am Spanish. I answer no, and he is disappointed that I do not speak Spanish. He looks like he is from Lebanon. I think of an old friend there. He looks a lot like him. They ask me to take a picture of them. I happily oblige. One of the men is not smiling so much. So I smile directly at him and say «Smile for the camera» and slowly but surely, by the third photo, I get him to smile. Yay me. I sit back down and enjoy the music. I have dinner plans today with Miss N. We are going to the international restaurant here. It has gotten rave reviews.

There is a group of violinists that are playing at dinner. They are extremely talented. The music is gorgeous. One of them comes to ask us what we would like to hear, so I suggest that they play something they love. This is usually where an artist will perform the best. They play Hallelujah. My heart swells and the tears rise because one of the musicians is just beautiful when he plays. His eyes are closed and you can feel the passion he has. Spectacular.

Play the violin for me, play it with passion, your eyes closed for all to see, you’re feeling. Our eyes meet but I look away, I cannot show you me that is not for you to see. Only an artist can expose themselves and right now, that is not me. 

Play the violin for me, I see me in you, the passion you feel, your eyes closed again as you play. I thank you for your artistry. As our eyes meet again, I do not look away. You see me, I see you, playing the violin, a beautiful melody.

 Day 4

I found a perfect spot on the beach. There is an area that is away from the main space. The massage gazebo is just behind it. There are tiki huts with tables. Close to everything but just secluded enough. There are towels on chairs but nobody there. There are two men standing at the last tiki hut with a table not reserved by towels. They ask if I would like the spot. I confirm but did not want to disturb their conversation. They happily let me have the spot and they step back and continue talking. Meditation today was «Awakening Gratitude». I have much to be grateful for. Today my thoughts are with my family. I am also thinking of Aidan and William, my grandsons and my daughter. I adore them. There is nothing quite like meditating by the ocean.

I am relaxed go swimming / playing in the waves. When I return, to my surprise, a man is sitting at the chair next to mine and has taken the other half of the table. I am surprised because there are a multitude of free chairs available. It appears he too thinks this is the perfect spot and has decided that there is only one resident under this tiki hut and therefore the other space is free. I nod hello as does he. We are both sitting in our chairs, relaxing, reading and not speaking. I find this oddly enjoyable. I have accepted the idea I have a roommate for the day. One who does not speak. He gets up to go get a drink. I go for a swim. When we return we both smile and carry on in our shared spot.

Activities have begun. He goes to check them out. The band starts playing so I now go as well. I have always dreamed of dancing the salsa in Cuba, under the sun, outdoors to real live Cuban music. A song starts and one of the entertainers comes right up to me and asks me to dance. I say yes, get up and start dancing with him. He pauses, looks at me and asks where I am from. I respond Canada and he lets me know that I dance very well, that it is not often people keep up with him from the start. Then he asks if I have danced before. I have not really. I just love to dance. We keep dancing I am laughing and feel wonderful. The band is really good too. The song ends and he says I should dance more. I agree. My goal of dancing the salsa has been achieved with someone from Cuba no less.

When I got back to my shared spot, I was grateful my roommate was there. We smiled at each other. I continued reading my book. The chapter is on Gratitude. I realize I have had a most pleasant day at the beach with this stranger. We were mutually watching over each other’s belongings. It was very nice and I decided to write him a thank you note for a nice day at the beach. I decided I would slip it into his bag when he got up to go somewhere.

I was at the restaurant having a beverage when he returned. I noticed him find my note, look around and smile. I giggled. I was having a great time and nobody was invading my space. When I returned, he introduced himself. Mr. X. is from Belgium and had spent 20 days travelling around Cuba. He was not even staying at this resort, but a «casa particular» and had wanted a nice beach to spend the day. The hotel charged him some pesos and here he was. We were both getting ready to leave. It was almost 6pm. He said he would be back tomorrow. Maybe we would run into each other.

I had dinner with Miss N again. We then went to the terrace where I met more of her friends who were in their mid-20s, Italian and also from Montreal. I was not sure about how long I wanted to spend with this group. I figured I would see how I felt as the night went on. I chatted for a while with Mr. M. Age is a funny thing. I used to think it was just a number. In the last few months I noticed myself starting to doubt that. Tonight became clear that age means nothing. I will not go into more detail on this but suffice to say, the message was received. That doubt can now be put to rest.

Day 4

Day 5

Sure enough, Mr. X and I were in the same spot today, sharing our space. I meditated to «Awakening compassion» He asked me to join him for a beverage. He works in marketing, for a chocolate company. He lives 5 minutes away from his work. He told me about his friends and their traditions, such as a men’s weekend once per year, no matter what. Wives and girlfriends are warned this is happening. He let me know he was the only bachelor of his group. He asked what I did and I explained I was a chartered accountant working in the advisory department at KPMG. He had friends that work at KPMG in Belgium and they all left due to long hours, stress and lack of advancement in their career. How ironic I thought. He was leaving tomorrow, going to Havana for a couple of days before returning to Belgium. I enjoyed our little chat and was not sure how to proceed. I did not come to Cuba to meet people or anything of that sort, although he was very interesting and pleasant. It was almost as if he sensed that. We returned to our beach chairs and our little hut and carried on with our day. When 6pm came around, I got up to leave and get ready for dinner. We said goodbye, it was nice meeting you and I wished him safe travels home. I hope Mr. X made it safely back home.

Miss N and I had dinner with her friend Peter. The sunset was glorious, the most beautiful this week. We exchanged information. She is leaving tomorrow.

Day 6

Today is my last full day here. My meditation is «Awakening the divine». Both my companions have left. I am thankful for them too. I see gorgeous flower trees and thank my mom. It might sound stupid but Natalino had this hair gel and I kept it when I emptied his apartment. I asked Jade, our daughter’s permission and she said it was fine with her. In the humidity, his gel is keeping my hair manageable. I feel like he is with me. After dinner I went to see the show. It was my first this week. It was dancing. However, I was not prepared for what would happen here.

March 30 2017, it is just past midnight. I am with my mom and she has just taken her last breath. I am waiting for Claude now. As he walks in, a song is playing. It is one that our little circle know. The name escapes me. He kneels down by my mother’s bed to say his last goodbye. My heart is breaking watching this.

The couple on stage is dancing to this song. The routine is brilliant. Tears start to well up.

June 2017 – sidewalk sale on St Laurent Blvd. – I am packing Natalino’s things. I am in the apartment, alone. I find one of his hoodies, on the armchair. It smells like him. I hold it in my arms, like we are dancing. I dance with the hoodie in the living room and I say my goodbyes.

Then the song, «All of me» came on and a man, alone on the stage, danced with a pink dress. That is when I lost it…………..

I thought all the tears were out and gone. I thought I was finished. I started to cry, but wanted to keep it together. I thought I had succeeded.

One week in Cuba was for me to take time to realign myself with myself. Be with me and take care of myself. One week in Cuba and I feel so grateful, blessed, abundant and happy. I spent as much time with the ocean as humanly possible. However, this last night in Cuba taught me that just like the waves don’t play around, emotions don’t either. I cried like I never have before. I was not even depressed or heartbroken. I just had to let those tears out. I had no choice. They were coming like waves. There was no stopping them. This last night in Cuba, got to me. The dancing, the songs, the everything. There was no stopping the tears, just like you cannot stop a wave. I went to my room. «I accept» I said out loud, «I accept, I accept, I accept». I know one thing – I may not have transformed in one week but I do know that I released something significant this last night. And for that, I am grateful.

Day 7

I went to the beach and meditated to «Awakening abundance» I certainly feel abundant this week. The weather has been perfect, the location has been perfect. I have done what I wanted, when I wanted. I have swam in the ocean for hours on end and relaxed listening to the waves. I thank the Universe over and over again. I went to the ocean and talked with it for quite a while. I thanked the waves and the ocean for being the way it is. I wanted to stay for as long as possible until it was time to leave.

As I went for my last swim, I realized that I had not found one of the beautiful spiral shells that I am accustomed to seeing in Cuba, it is almost like they are not in season. I thought to myself wouldn’t it be nice to find just one? As I looked down, there was one beautiful spiral shell at my feet. No waves were coming to take it away. I was able to pick it up. I started to laugh out loud. I was so happy about this shell. I kissed it and thanked the ocean over and over again. I thanked the palm trees, the flowers, the birds, and the people who had taken care of me during the week. I would prefer to stay but I was also happily accepting that I had to leave and go home.

Mom and Natalino I know you are here with me. If I have to cry like that again, I accept. With all my love to Cuba, the ocean, beach and everyone who was so nice to me. I will never forget these 7 days on my own in Cuba, where on the last night I broke the rule. In Cuba people come to be happy and this is where I let out my deepest sorrows, in happiness, gratitude and acceptance. No matter where you go, there you are. If that is the case, I want to bring back the «me» that I was in Cuba and practice what I did in Cuba at home. It is possible, all I have to do is close my eyes, hear the waves and remember to breathe. I have that seashell as a tangible reminder.


Not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck

Today is Canada Day where I currently live. Canada is 150 years old. I feel thankful to live in this country because there is an abundance of beautiful nature, natural resources, fresh water, and it is generally a peaceful country. It feels good to reflect on what I have that is «good» versus what I do not like. I have noticed over the  last two weeks, that we or I often look around and find so many things wrong with the world, politics, wars, the so-called «elite».what we don’t have and what we did not get.  It is all noise. It certainly does not feel good or right inside when I focus there. My energy feels much better when I look around at what I love, my family, my friends, my little grandchildren, our overall good health, the list goes on, but one simple thing we take for granted – just being able to breathe – that in itself is abindance.I have come to realize that this attitude serves me well in every area of my life. The last two weeks have been full of intangible elements that have contributed to my ongoing internal shift.

Remember that not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck – Dalai Lama

I have read this quote in the past, many times and always wondered how nice it would be to actually truly understand internalize and appreciate what this meant. Sure, if I look back years ago I can see that not getting what I wanted was actually for the best. I was hoping that one day, I would arrive at this happy conclusion with less time between the «not getting» and the realization that «this is a wonderful stroke of luck». Well I happily report that this week, it happened. I did not get what I wanted at work from the parties I had wanted it the most from. This week was evaluation week at work. This is where we receive feedback about our performance and we discuss our rating, from 1 to 5. 1 being the best and 5 needing improvement. I did not get a glowing evaluation. As a matter of fact, I received valuable feedback on what I can improve. I am perceived, by the person who evaluated me, as inconsistent and while I did good work on one client (our biggest global client), I did not perform as well in two other instances. Anything I thought I had done well was to be expected and nothing to write home about. Because of this, my promotion is at best doubtful.

There will always be someone who can’t see your worth. Don’t let it be you.

What happened after this meeting was that I did not feel bad. In the last few years, the evaluation period had me stressed, as if my self-worth as a professional depended on it. I was always trying to prove myself. This is clearly not anybody’s responsibility but my own. I just did not «get it» back then. I would read books about «Not giving a fuck» and these were excellent reads, but I had not internalized it, truly.

The saying «Rule #1: Fuck what they think» sounded good on paper, but I would only get there in my head out of anger, or resentment. This does not last. What does last and what is a major shift is when I was sitting there and a little voice glowed in my head that said «Your opinion is not my reality». That is when I knew, I finally knew that I could truly let go of the need to please these people because I no longer wanted to in order to feel good about myself. I already did feel good about myself and nothing they could say would be changing that.

I left the office and did not feel destroyed. On the contrary I felt relief and pretty solid inside. I went outside to take the air. The Universe works in wonderful ways. As I was standing there contemplating things, a colleague, who had resigned in January, came walking towards me. She was my performance manager in the past, and seeing her was really nice. She asked me how I was, I just looked at her, my  liquid eyes doing the talking. She hugged me and told me «I am your friend, not your PM». I told her what had just happened, literally 10 minutes ago and she provided me with her own experience/wisdom. What stood out to me most in what she said was «You are worth gold, trust me». Interesting that so little time passed between my perception of reality and the Universe giving me the confirmation of what I now no longer needed or craved in order to feel self worth. It was coming from within.

I am now open to other options in my career. I feel hopeful, I feel free, like I have truly been given a gift. I also recalled how many times my mom, my two dads, family, even colleagues that had left, friends, had all been telling me all along what I now realized for myself.

What used to bring me fear about looking elsewhere, at other opportunities and leaving the place I had worked for so long, was now a breath of fresh air, full of possibilities. I would be doing this out of wanting something good for me, a fit for me, to do what I love instead of leaving a situation I did not like. The difference is subtle and intangible, but how it feels is the evidence. Anything i spossible. Things truly do work out for me.

We cannot control the wind, but we can direct the sail

I love this quote because of its reference to sailing. I associate sailing with freedom. I spoke to another colleague who is new and he provided some valuable insight. I kept an open mind. I did end up following his advice, and let’s just say that in doing so, other unexpected opportunities have presented themselves. Being open to «whatever it is», arrives in unexpected forms. The perspectives I have received from various people this week are so appreciated and reminded me to look at the bigger picture. The «where», no longer matters. There are people in my «work life» who do inspire me. Those people have provided me valuable insight and joy in working with then. Ironically, I never sought to prove myself to these people and these are the people I receive it from. So what, how and when are completely unknown. And I could not be more thrilled. «“Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.” – Epictetus. The same day that I saw my friend outside, I received an email from her, the subject «Taking back control». If there is one thing I accomplish in my life, it will be that. Taking back my power or understanding what I can control. It started years ago in one area and now I am seeing the fruits of that presenting itself in other areas of my life. Realizing what is in my control and outside of it, is truly an art I would love to master. Like sailing.

«Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t». – Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free. From where I sit, one thing I do have control over is my attitude and my perception of reality. The last 6 months, and all the events in it, appreciated, sad and outright unpleasant, have helped me to arrive at this realization. So in other words, contrast is my friend and I now see the value in looking for the lessons, because, I was given the proof in the most ironic way- not getting what I thought I wanted.  I do love the Dalai Lama and Buddhism. I am really enjoying how this is all playing out right now.

I am reminded of a Native American proverb: «Listen to the wind it talks, Listen to the silence, it speaks, listen to the heart, it knows». In exactly 7 days I will be with the ocean, on a beach, with myself for company. I am really looking forward to that. I feel like it is the perfect way to start my vacation. I will use this time alone to meditate, create and visualize. I so appreciate the ocean and its power. I will drink it all in as I surrender and let myself flow with the waves. Another irony, the place I initially wanted, was completely booked and no longer available.  I wonder what wonderful experience I will have at this new place that I previously had never been interested in.  Maybe I will write about it.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Balance

Balance  has been on my mind. I accept that I have created a life that includes working for someone else. I understand that I put myself through University and CA classes in order to become of member of the Chartered Accountancy profession. I wanted to be a professional. I wanted a stable career. I wanted these things because I wanted to provide for my family. I wanted to be a responsible member of society. These are not bad things. Nothing is good or bad. It really depends on your perspective. I understand that too. I imagine that an artist would probably despise the path I chose. They would not understand the choice. To an artist, this life would be torture. Then, they would make a different choice. The choice they would likely make would be one I would find scary, unknown and I would not have been able to make that choice in the past.

Career and work life balance

My career choice has a lot of benefits, but there are also elements I do not appreciate as much. Lately, I have allowed work to take over my life. I work long hours and, for the first time in a long time I worked all weekend last week. I had a report to write that was important, not only to our office, and to the client, but the report was important to me. The one thing I love most about my work is helping the client and working with a team. Our team is a good team. The people are brilliant. However, there are also politics and a way of doing things in my firm that are simply the reality of the many people that work for the firm. There is an unspoken rule about how many hours we should work. If you want to get ahead, you just work, day, night and weekends. There is hardly ever an eyebrow raised when this is discussed. It is the norm. Expected. The way it is.

Perception of reality

That is «their» perception of reality. It is clashing with mine now. I do not believe in working this way. I want something different. I just do not know what that is right now.

This year I truly believed would be my year to thrive. In October, they had spoken of a promotion for me and I latched onto that. I imagine this was a good step for me to attain. The title would reflect appreciation for my work and that I had succeeded in some way.

To that end, I took on many projects, with the goal of proving I could do it. I wanted to prove I was capable of multi-tasking so many projects for a large client, I wanted to prove I was able to coach our team, deliver, and manage the complexities that come with a large global client and their politics. I wanted to prove I could do all of that – and of course, I may have gone overboard. I was told that I was 85% there – I was told what I needed to work on to make it. So my goal was to be 100%. Perfection.

Whose perception of perfection?

Perfection is a lofty goal. In making the choice I made, I ensured that I could not attain it. I have come to realise that I was relying on other people’s perception of what perfect is. In striving to attain this promotion, in making my choices based on other people’s perceptions, I forgot about something – myself. What do I believe is good enough? What do I believe perfection is? I also forgot the most important question – why do I want this promotion and does it really prove success? Whose definition of success? What do I believe now?

I was asked to work with a new client, with a team outside my department. This is supposed to be a good thing. I was happy to learn something new, get different experience and add that to my portfolio of clients. My department told me it is good to work with other departments, but then followed that with a message that I may be putting my current clients at risk. In their view, I have little time to spare until my vacation and I will most likely work nights to make all this possible. They were very concerned about this report I had to deliver. I responded that I was already working nights and this was not an issue – like a good little worker.

In my department, there is no room for any mistake, it would appear. For every good thing I achieve, I am always told of something to work on, to improve. The idea is to keep people striving to be the best, compete, and keep getting better. From where I sit, after 9 months of working this way, I do not feel appreciated, I feel overworked and overwhelmed and I find myself wondering what I am doing this all for?

What happened?

That report, I gave my 100%. I know I did. I re-read that report, I ensured no detail was missed, I ensured all the links were made, I ensured I covered the major points for this client. The client is what was most important to me. I also knew my report would be reviewed, and changed, modified, ripped apart by the senior people in my office.

Then something happened. I stopped caring about what they thought. It was very uncomfortable this week. I was told this and that about my report. Some of the advice was good and I took it, but I never once believed I was not good enough and that my report was not good. I did not listen when the conversation got negative and in my opinion, of no value. I remained professional and calm. I watched as the person rewrote my sentences to fit their view. It was then that I knew – I would never be 100% for these people. I would never be perfect and they would always do this. So I surrendered and I have stopped wanting to achieve perfection in their eyes.

I started to relax a bit. I decided that I would question other people’s perception of me. Just because someone believes something about me does not make it true. They may believe I am lacking in some way, but I no longer do. I have decided to be happy with the way I am now. I am always willing to improve and be better, but not at the expense of my self-esteem, self-acceptance and self worth. I have decided to pat myself on the back more often for every little thing I am able to achieve in a day. I have decided to provide even more positive feedback, more frequently to my team. I have decided to let the water roll off my back – like a duck. I am tired of trying to please and achieve in order to receive validation from other people where my work is concerned. I have decided that my validation is important. My perception of myself is key. These decisions did not come in anger. I feel no resentment towards anyone. I just gave up on trying to get their approval. It is no longer necessary. I have given up on the promotion as well. It is no longer my goal. My goal now is to be happy with me, do the best I can and try to improve on myself, for myself. If they appreciate my work, that is a bonus, if they do not, that is not my problem. I know I have a generally good relationship with my clients. I was told by one partner that the client was impressed with our conversation. I was happy with it, and so that comment was received with appreciation. It confirmed for me that I am not crazy, that I do know what I am doing. I already thought that the conversation had gone well and then I received confirmation. Not validation.

I came to all this realization stuff because I have been thinking of my mother. She always thought the best of me and was proud. I never accepted that fully, until now. I imagine she would not be happy to see me doubt myself and place my beliefs about myself in the hands of other people. Therefore, I am going to make her proud and love myself as she did. In this way she lives on. I am also happier as a result. Not perfect.

New goals

There will be more consequences to thinking this way – my goals will be to learn about balancing my work with my life. I will re-invest in myself as I had started doing in early April – re-implement my routine of training consistently, and not haphazardly as is the current situation. My vacation is coming up and I have made the decision to go away, by myself for 7 days. I will ensure self-care is part of my daily routine. They say it takes 21 days to break or make a habit. The 14 days remaining of my vacation will be to implement my strategy. It is my year to thrive – for myself, not for other people. I get to define what thrive means for me. I get to decide how I want to thrive. Progress, not perfection. Life and living, not slaving away for other people’s validation. If I choose to work hard, it will be for me, or because I choose to do so to help a client. I will no longer struggle for some promotion or to get approval or validation. I have proof that this does not work and I have decided to stop the circle of insanity- doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

It is time for me to set goals based on what I love and my perception of reality. You know, all this unpleasant, stressful stuff is not fun, but I persevered and never give up, and got through it. I see the lessons that were to be learned. It is time, to let go of resistance and struggle, it is time to reap the benefits of these experiences. Self-care is more important than anything and that is now my new goal.  I am now thankful for the experiences that led to this conclusion. If it were not for that, maybe I never would have realized that I was imbalanced and not really taking care of me in all the ways that really matter. Life really does happen for me and not to me. I can remain positive and optimistic. It also helps that my vacation starts in 21 days. I will keep visualizing the ocean where I intend to be, on my own, for 7 days YaY!!!! Have a great week!


Questioning my beliefs

The last few weeks I have not kept the two promises I made to myself this year – to write every week and to train 3 times per week to the best of my ability. Life has been mostly about work, although I have spent the weekends with family. I have nothing to complain about, I just see that time has been a factor and I have felt overwhelmed by the number of things to take care of at work and in my personal life. I think what has happened as a result is that I have become aware that I am questioning some of my heartfelt beliefs. They have been turned upside down and examined. When this started a few weeks ago, I was feeling angry, resentful, overwhelmed and confused.  The trigger that started this was the «expected» passing of my mom and then the totally unexpected passing of the father of my child. I am seeing so many analogies between life and what I do on a daily basis for work. My work is in the consulting field. I have clients and we go into their business and assess their processes and provide recommendations to improve their processes and help them mitigate risk. How does this translate into challenging my beliefs? Hang on, here we go.

Control environment

In my line of work it is best practice to have a sound control environment based on a set of principles for which the company should have elements, or mechanisms in place to help ensure the environment is sound. There is documented guidance around this. A theory or policy, if you will, that details these principles and provides examples of what good mechanisms would be. It is called COSO 2013 and three important elements are control environment, risk assessment and control activities.

In daily life I have come to the conclusion that society also has the same thing but for control environment, the main one is religion, the one of your choice, and for those that do not believe in any religion, we have spirituality. Many spiritual principles are found in religion. I am of the opinion that religion is more rules based and prescriptive whereas spirituality is more guidance based. Documented policy for religions are found in the Bible or the Quoran or the Torah to name just a few. For spirituality we have hundreds of «teachers» who have their own view on spiritual principles and how to apply these in our daily life.  The risk here is inconsistent guidance and application of these religions and spiritual principles that I believe in.

Risk assessment and controls

Nevertheless, in the business world, once you assess your risks – what could go wrong – you are supposed to implement controls to mitigate the risk, or reduce what could go wrong to an acceptable level – i.e. no huge impact on operations and / or profit or life as the analogy. The following chart provides only a few examples of things that could go wrong and controls:

chart

Spiritual teachers do not really believe in things going wrong, examples of this are as follows:

  • Dis-ease – because there is no such thing as disease, it is simply your mental state of being causing the dis-ease.
  • Death is not really death but «passing» and nothing has gone wrong because we are infinite beings and we have merely transitioned to the non-physical. There is absolutely nothing to feel bad about. Our loved ones are still with us and life goes on. They have merely gone to a better place and we physical people are here continuing the circle of life. We are born, we live, and we die. No problem.

Many of the spiritual teachers preach that your thoughts create reality, therefore thinking about what could go wrong will surely bring it to be and therefore the focus is mainly over loving, kindness, truth, understanding, compassion, tolerance, gratitude, and service or helping one another. Stay positive. I think the Dalai Lama said that these basic principles are found in all religions. I have not read the Torah or Quoran so I am basing this on his word and corroborated with what other people have said. The only one I know enough about is the Bible and therefore the bible will be used in my analogy.

Life – In life we have my example, the Bible, and it has Ten Commandments. These would be the rules. The authority is God and if you break the rules you are to feel very bad and go to hell. This is the control. Comply or burn in hell. Until you do, feel guilty about it. In addition, monitoring is through the form of weekly attendance at meetings – church. To ensure adequate revenue to offset increased expenses and help ensure adequate profit, or enough to go around and be of service to others, there is the donation portion of the church mass. However, in my humble assessment, they have done a poor job of ensuring consistent understanding of their basic guide. The Bible has been translated over thousands of years, leaving the book open to some questionable interpretation. For example, intolerance and killing is frowned upon, except in war, and intolerance over those who do not fit into a box. Whose box? Who decided? Oh right, the authority God, but he, as portrayed in the bible, is shifty at best and inconsistent in His own application of his own rules. I am reminded of the monologue from the movie the Devil’s Advocate:

« Who are you carrying all those bricks for anyway? God? Is that it? God? Well, I tell ya, let me give you a little inside information about God. God likes to watch. He’s a prankster. Think about it. He gives man instincts. He gives you this extraordinary gift and then what does He do? I swear, for His own amusement, His own private cosmic gag reel, He sets the rules in opposition. It’s the goof of all time. Look, but don’t touch. Touch, but don’t taste. Taste, don’t swallow. And while you’re jumpin’ from one foot to the next, what is He doin’? He’s laughin’ His sick, fuckin’ ass off. He’s a tight-ass. He’s a sadist. He’s an absentee landlord. Worship that? Never! »

But I had questioned this belief system long ago. I feel more comfortable with spirituality. But some beliefs I have come to hold dear to my heart, or as Louis CK likes to call it «believes» have been turned on their head and I have a new assessment today.

Believees around «Thoughts create your reality, stay positive, everything happens for a reason»

This sounds like the perfect control to mitigate anything ever going wrong. Just think love, compassion and be grateful and all will be well. Anger is a secondary emotion, only the «good feelings» should be given attention. Anything else is a sign of sickness or dis-ease, ignore these and they will go away. There is something wrong with you if you feel sad, depressed, and angry. In some groups, these are signs of addiction. Everything happens for a reason. Go to church or a meeting. Meetings would be those monitoring controls like church mass for support groups.

In my recent experience, this is completely and totally false. It is blanket statements like this that are dangerous. Case in point, the unexpected passing of my daughter’s father. He was released from a hospital with a severe skin infection and at risk for sceptic shock. He was an amputee with no legs, living alone. There was no compensating factor to help ensure he would be ok if something went wrong in his apartment. What went wrong? He fell over from the sceptic shock and could not do anything to help himself, like reach his cell phone and call for help. He was left that way for 3 whole days and died of sceptic shock. What were his thoughts before he passed this way?

  1. He was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, having been released from intensive care and on the road to recovery.
  2. He was looking forward to moving into his newer larger apartment and looking forward to seeing myself, his daughter and grandsons.
  3. He had been working out to improve his upper body strength.
  4. He had recently stated «Life is a process, not a struggle. Keep smiling».

Sounds pretty positive to me and if those thoughts were supposed to create his reality, then something went horribly wrong. Not according to the spiritual gurus though – no. He is in a better place now and no longer suffering. I have a question: should we just off all these people we consider to be suffering? Of course not. It is not up to us physical beings, there is infinite intelligence out there that decides all that. Circle of life remember? Everything may happen for a reason?

Believees around Spiritual principles – Love, compassion, tolerance, understanding, hope, faith, gratitude, and open mindedness

I still believe in these. I do. However, the challenge I faced recently was in the application of these by other people who apparently follow these same principles, supposedly. I see a lot of intolerance from spiritual people towards people who do not follow their rules. Case in point – my daughter was feeling very shocked by the sudden loss of her father. Well-meaning people reached out to her, with heartfelt intent, and told her that anger was not a healthy emotion and it was secondary. She was told to get over it and let it go. At least now she could get over her daddy issues. She asked for space but she was told to go to meetings and that her life was at stake if she did not go. Really? That because she did not identify as an addict at this time of grief she could die. She was not listening to advice and people were getting intolerant of her feelings and her.

It would appear, that much like the bible, if you do not follow the rules and do not attend that monitoring control, you will be faced with the same inconsistent application of those very principles that are preached. If you disagree with something, you are in denial. If you do not comply, you are sick. If you feel angry you are unhealthy and, again, are negative, attracting shit and etc……… If everything happens for a reason, then maybe feelings and emotion arise for a reason too? Maybe open-mindedness is a two way street?

Believee #3 – Believing in other people’s perception of reality

I became aware that all those above guidance examples had driven some of my beliefs. Other people wrote books, articles and policies. I found myself believing in their perceptions. Not my own. I never questioned them because they were embedded in my mainstream day to day life. Experts must know better, books that have been around for centuries must know better, despite the fact that the same nonsense has been occurring for the same number of centuries. I never questioned any of these, and always doubted myself. It felt awful, but negative feelings must be ignored and so on and so on. I believed more experienced people telling me I was not good enough. I believed that professionals knew better than me. I felt very conflicted. I should be allowed to question things. That is what my mind is for.

So I felt all of those feelings. I did not attempt to change any of them. I was no longer afraid to attract negativity because I was angry, resentful, and sad. I went through it. I am stubborn by nature and pretty determined, and on a positive day perseverant. I did not give up during the overwhelming moments of the past weeks but I stopped beating up on myself for anything. I started to question the above. I allowed myself to chill and accept at my own pace. Nobody else’s. I would find relief in breathing, appreciating the wind, trees and flowers, seeing/talking with my daughter and grandsons, and of course, thinking of the ocean.

Conclusion

Here is my conclusion – there is no control. You cannot prepare for things going wrong to ever guarantee they will not. We humans were given a mind and feelings. If feelings are here to guide us then there is NO secondary emotion. They are all valid and must be addressed in order for these feelings to provide the value they were supposed to provide, otherwise we would not have all these feelings. Just like there is a reason for every part of our physical body, so too is there a reason for those pesky intangible things like thoughts, and feelings/emotions. Logical, scientific and now what? What happens now?

I was feeling pretty shaky when I lost my faith in my believees. After all, these are what helped me get out of my cycle of self-destructive behaviours. I started wondering if maybe I was wrong and that maybe I was sick in the head. Maybe I was a diseased addict and needed to go back to meetings. If I was losing touch with my spirituality, where could I find it again?

Here is where I found it – in myself. I have heard multiple times that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond. THIS makes sense. This is how thoughts help with perception of reality.  The reality is that life will happen on its own terms. No matter how loving, compassionate, tolerant, understanding, patient, grateful and kind you are, life will happen and it will not always be your preferred way. No matter how many positive thoughts you think, negative things will happen. Why? Because that is life. You cannot control life. The one thing you can control is your response to it. And in optimal scenarios, learn from it. Lessons learned. Resistance is still futile, but it exists, until it passes – the choice is mine.

I have a mind, feelings and thoughts and I am able to make choices. Because of that I no longer believe that I am powerless or diseased. I have the power to change how I think, not to prevent reality (fear) but to make the most out of reality (love).  I will not always comply with everything because I a human being. I will make mistakes, let myself and other people down. I will not be perfect. I will feel all ranges of emotions and this will not make me sick or diseased. I am alive and life is to be experienced. As a result, I know the following to be true in my experience, that ironically those mistakes previously alluded to, helped me learn:

  1. In order for me to accept that life is good enough, I must also accept that I am good enough. I will continue to do my best and that is enough.
  2. My perception of reality is as valid as anyone else’s – it is time to believe in my own and myself for that matter.
  3. Life is not a dream but an experience, best felt in appreciation, but with the understanding that when it is not fun, this too passes, like waves.
  4. Experts can make mistakes too. Mistakes lead to learning. Learning leads to more awareness.
  5. It feels better to love, understand, empathize, tolerate and be compassionate, not because I am told to but because it feels better to me. How I feel matters.
  6. I need to learn to prioritize myself, listen to myself, my mind and body.
  7. I also need to learn to chill and relax. Finding balance in my life has become a goal.
  8. Regardless of how some people preach and apply spiritual principles (sometimes using blanket statements and intolerance when their rules are not followed) I still believe in spiritual principles. My mind is open.
  9. Thoughts create your perception of reality, life creates reality with all of us being players in it.
  10. I still love life and believe that life does love me.

I feel relieved having written this. The waters feel calm, still, more at peace somewhat. I understand that changes in my life are required, but I think I am in good shape to change what I can and I accept that which I cannot. My new found belief in myself feels good enough for today. Just the way I am. I will still talk to my mom and loved ones that have passed, because my perception of reality is that they are here in spirit and that makes me feel better. Regardless of what the experts say. After all of the recent events, I still feel hope and appreciation for life. I am happy about that. It means that all those feelings had a purpose and brought me to where I am at this moment. So seize the day, make the most of what you have. Relax – nothing is under control.


The circle of life

It is Mother’s Day weekend. My mother passed away not too long ago, so this weekend is bittersweet. I am remembering my mother, of course, with love. She is in my heart. My first experience with losing a parent. This week, my daughter was informed that her father had passed away unexpectedly and she was the one who had to inform me of this news. As a mother, my heart breaks for my daughter. As someone I loved deeply, my heart is also saddened because the love that we shared, lives on in my daughter. Having made our amends, we had remained friends and shared in the joys of being grandparents. We are told death is part of life that the people who pass are happier and no longer suffer. This is supposed to help us feel better. It seems that sadness and all that goes along with grieving the loss of a loved one is supposed to go away because this is life and they are in a better place.

Reflections

Today would have been his 45th birthday. He was very young to have passed away. Of course, that is my belief. We are “supposed to” live a certain minimum time, otherwise, I do not understand. Life is funny. I see there are no rules. Nothing is guaranteed and there is no threshold with respect to the number of years we have. I have so many feelings that are all welled up inside. As they come up, I find myself dissecting them as either appropriate, inappropriate, questioning whether these thoughts and feelings serve me. I think this is indicative of desperately wanting to be in control and to feel the way I am “supposed to”. Then I question: Who decides what is “supposed to” be appropriate and correct?

On another note I am so touched by his family in Portugal who have been son kind and keeping in touch with Jade and myself. Ironically we are now keeping in touch after all these years. My mother had such grace and love and I am hoping I learned from her to apply to this situation. It appears we learn a lot from people, and usually in hindsight, or too late to be able to apply the lesson learned with the people who taught us the lesson.

Crazy stupid love

Our relationship was complicated. I have heard the best ones usually are. I do not know that for certain. However, as I reflect on our past I remember the good times, the more difficult times and the gift that is our daughter. We were so young when we met. I was getting over a heartbreak. I had been in love with an older man, my teacher in college. When I met Natalino, I was with a friend at a bar. I sitting at the bar, and he appeared from the door at the top of the stairs. He lowered his sunglasses and our eyes met. He had the most beautiful eyes, contagious smile and laugh. He kept that until the day he passed. That evening he bought me a rose after playing a round of pool, where he cleared the table in one turn. We were together pretty much all the time after that. However, I was rebounding, he had a jealous streak, we both had anger in us and coupled with chemistry and passion, was a lot of fighting. He called me cold, I called him controlling. But were crazy about each other, loved going to the “Mountain” we loved the outdoors, we loved each other but we could also hate each other. There is a fine line between love and hate. When he broke up with me, I felt lost, abandoned and devastated. I did not deal with it well. I did everything I could to get him back. He was the love of my life then.

The father

After a couple of years, we did reunite and not long after, I got pregnant. It was a surprise. He was overjoyed and even though we were young, unprepared, no education or career to speak of, I knew I was going to keep this baby. Our daughter Jade. My mother was so supportive. Those were the best times. He was a really good dad. One of my favorite memories is when he was being a clown, dancing and making funny faces while we were changing her. It was the first time she belly laughed. A real heartfelt laugh out loud baby laugh. I still hear her laugh, I still see his clown act. I will never forget. His aunt, a wonderful woman with great energy and a kind soul would take care of Jade when we worked. She has children too, they were amazing. All was well with our little family, except the moments when things were not.

Things happen in life, we make choices and we ended up separating when Jade was 3 years old. He moved out, and I would bring Jade to her dad’s every weekend. She adored him. By all accounts, from his aunt, he was the happiest on weekends when he was with Jade.

Judgement

Then, mistakes caught up to us and he went away for a while. Consequences of bad decisions. I moved on with my life and did what I could to take care of Jade. He did what he had to do as well to get his life back in order.

He did exactly that. He became a counsellor at Portage, a drug rehabilitation centre and became a guidance counsellor to younger adults and teens. He dedicated his life to that. He did not brag about what he had succeeded in doing or how many people he helped. In fact, much of him remains a mystery to me, even today. Upon having to announce his passing to family and friends, I discovered many, many people telling me how he had saved their life. How much he helped and inspired people. How he had given so much of his time to guide young souls who are now happy healthy functioning adults today. These are the things not everyone knows. These are the things I could not allow myself to believe.  You see I had visited him in Portage with Jade while he was there, and I was full of judgement and refused to believe he could be well again. I found it easier to keep the anger and resentment, than to forgive because it had taken me so long to put him out of my heart that I did not want to allow anything to crack that wall. I desperately wanted to feel indifference and worked very hard at getting there. Lesson learned – judgement – don, t judge a man by his past, appearance, or how about do not judge another at all?

Life goes on

I was a hypocrite, I had my issues with substances too but felt I was functional responsible, having raised my daughter gone back to school and made a career for myself and Jade. Denial, is not just a river in Egypt.

I remember a time in 2005, when I was engaged to be married and he reached out to us. That had me spiralling. You see, the truth was, it affected me. Here I was about to be married and one phone call from him and I was upside down. I only ever told one person, my best friend at the time. She advised me to really think about getting married if this is how I felt. I blamed it on the alcohol that I had consumed at my bachelorette party and denied I felt anything at all. I was determined to get married and provide a stable family life for my daughter. I got married in 2005 and was separated in 2009.

Forgiveness and love

When I decided to clean up my act in 2011, I reached out to him to make amends for my part in our past. He was generous and forgave me. He even helped me with books, guidance and an ear to listen. I really wanted him and Jade to reconnect and that happened. She had always adored her dad and I knew he adored her, but where there is guilt, there is difficulty letting it go. I think that is why he kept his distance from us during those years when he was getting his life back and making such a huge difference in those lives he touched. Jade knows that and so do I, now.

In the last few years, they talked and saw each other. He attended her birthday party, we went to a New Year’s Eve party together and he spent some time with his grandson Aidan. Aidan loved him immediately. He never really talked about his health issues. He lost a leg due to DVT and then more recently lost the second one. He was always so upbeat and optimistic when we saw him. I thought how brave and strong he was. I wondered how he could go through that. He kept that to himself. When he would share just enough information to explain why he was away for long periods of time, he would always say not to worry, that he would be fine. He even said he understood how busy we were and not to go see him. There is my regret. He would say not to bother. Well I regret and feel guilt about that.

More recently his health issues were severe and he spent some time in intensive care due to unknown infections of the skin. One phone call I remember is he said how sorry he was about everything that happened. I just sat there and wondered why, because I thought we had put that in the past and made peace. I told him I bore no ill will or harboured no resentment about any of it. I told him we were good, all was well with us. The past was the past. Done. He thanked me. In my opinion, he never truly forgave himself for certain things and guilt can really harm a person. It is one thing to become aware of a mistake and try to change it. But it is quite another to have changed for the better and still hold on to that guilt.  He would often tell me he loved me, but I always figured it was out of respect as the mother of his child. I could not allow myself to believe or feel different. Therefore I could not say it back out loud. That is the last time we spoke. Recently he did post some pictures if himself after being released from intensive care – Ho quoted “life is not a struggle it’s a process” and said even after going through all that he had, he would keep smiling. A man who had lost both legs and had skin grafts.

That is character. That is strength. That is hope. That is spirit. That is embracing life. That is love. That is a man. I am humbled.

In loving memory

It is therapeutic for me to selfishly write a memoir about Jade’s father. I want to put something out there that reveals that while he was a private person, he was passionate for life and so optimistic. How much he helped other and never spoke about it. I choose to recall the love we shared, the laughs, the talks, the passion, the joy, the wonderful father he was to Jade when given the chance, by himself and by us. I want that to be his memory. He is proof that your past does not define you. He did succeed in learning and growing from his mistakes. I want to do him justice and refuse to allow people to remember him based on how he was when he was in his early twenties. Nobody is perfect. I certainly had my flaws. He was not the same man. Hell no. He was a grown, mature, kind and gentle spirit but so strong. He not only got his life together. He did more than that, he gave back. He gave time and energy and hope and required nothing in return. Nothing. He never asked for anything.  He never spoke of himself. He was a strong man, an optimistic, kind, loving, brave man. This is what I want to leave as his legacy. His generous loving spirit. He taught people about faith and helped people reconnect to their spirit. There is no price for that. These are priceless gifts he gave people. You cannot buy that. That is who Natalino Duarte truly was. Any outward appearance to the contrary is but an illusion. I want to thank the people who have reached out and told us of how much Natalino meant to them, even the man from the online chess club, who never met him in person but told me there were hundreds of people online who were inspired by him. He was hoping to come to Montreal one day to meet him. More revelations that I was not aware of. I hope Jade can see now how much he did love her. In his own way.

Going forward

I like to imagine that he is with my mom because she always saw the best in him. He respected and loved her too. I hope they have connected wherever they are and are watching over Jade, Aidan and William. He never got to meet William but he surely sees him now. That is what I like to believe. Hopefully he will find a way to help sooth Jade’s grief and maybe she will find some peace in talking with him. I am sure he can hear. He believed in the afterlife. I imagine that he can “speak” to her now. He lives on through Jade, Aidan and William. As does my mother. I will keep that in mind this weekend. I will go visit my mother’s urn and leave her a Mother’s Day gift. Today, I will help Jade plan her father’s funeral. On her father’s birthday. I hope to be able to be the mother Jade needs me to be. It is mother’s day weekend after all and she is one beautiful, loving, and inspiring mom. She deserves to be happy. She is my heart and I know hers is breaking. I hope I can help her fix it. I will do my best to channel all the good that was my mother.

This is the circle of life. My uncle gave me this piece of advice when my mom passed away. I need that now. I need to be able to help my daughter. I heard once that when we agreed to come here, we knew this would be the case. Just once we get here, we seem to forget that. It is part of being human I suppose. The thrill of life, inevitably ends with death. Lesson learned- enjoy life while you can; tomorrow is not guaranteed.

I believe that guilt can kill someone and we need to be aware but not beat up on ourselves so much for our past mistakes. We all do the best we can with what we know at the time. Feel the love, accept the fearful feelings but challenge them with love. Break down the walls and set up healthy boundaries. Believe we are good enough. It is okay to be okay with who we are. Let go of resentment and judgement.And most of all just love. I will do my best to practice these lessons in my life.

On that note, I wish all the mom’s out there Happy Mother’s day, whether you are a biological, adoptive or step mom. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend filled with love, peace, hope, serenity and joy. Happy Mother’s Day Jade and mommy. I love you.

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PLAYING TO WIN VERSUS PLAYING NOT TO LOSE

The last couple of weeks have been busy, to say the least. Feelings of overwhelm at work , while trying to move on in other areas of my life while remaining as positive as possible and looking to the areas in my life that are easier, has been a bit more difficult than I would prefer. I did not even write last week. Saturday was so beautiful that I headed out early in the morning and played tourist in my city. I suppose I could have written about that, and perhaps I will soon. I just could not bring myself to open my computer last weekend. It reminded me of work and I really did not want to think about that for the weekend. I know these times pass and this is life. This week, I was given a little nugget to reflect upon.

I was sitting with a senior manager in our team. He is new and we were reviewing a client scoping document to present to the partner. He noted a few semi-colons missing and I would say “Sorry, that is my attention to detail, I am working on that.” Then we discussed wording. He had some very valid points and I learned from the review. Once we were finished, he told me that I apologize far too much for little things. He perceived that there is a sense of not wanting to get things wrong and apologizing when they do. I just started at him. You see, this “new guy” is different from the other senior managers I have worked with in the recent past. He is positive, easy going while respecting the quality that we have as our mission.

He told me about this article he had read Playing to win versus playing NOT to lose. In this article about athletes, it stated that they perform better when they are playing towards achieving a wanted goal. When athletes were coached to perform in order to prevent something unwanted, they did not perform as well. He had experienced with both mind sets and he knew what it felt like to play not to lose. His advice was that I play to win.

So I did some research.

How this applied to Athletes

The article Don’t Choke: The Difference Between Playing to Win, and Playing Not to Lose, by John O’Sullivan, investigates the two mind sets. The article studied the research performed over penalty kick shootouts in professional soccer, which are used to determine a winner in knockout competitions such as the World Cup. “Researches Gier Jordet and Esther Hartman studied the conversion rate of penalty takers who were kicking the final shot of a penalty shootout. They compared the following scenarios:

  • The shooter’s team was down by a goal and he had to make the kick to tie; if he missed, the team would lose
  • The shooter’s team was tied, and he did not have to make the shot, but if he did, the team would win the game

Jordet and Hartman found that in the first scenario, when missing the kick would cause the team to lose, professional players only converted 62% of those shots. However, when conversion would result in a win, kickers were successful 92% of the time! Same kick, same distance, same target, but a 30% improvement when the player was shooting to win, and not shooting NOT to lose.”

The article leaves the reader with the question: “Have I framed today’s competition as a challenge to be aspired to, or a threatening test where the consequences of failure are grave.”

Application for the “business world”

I felt like I was getting some clarity over my feelings of dissatisfaction at work. So I did more research. I am not an athlete and lucky me, I found another article from the Harvard Business Review entitled “Do You Play to Win—or to Not Lose?” by Heidi Grant and E. Tory Higgins. This article examines in what kinds of situations are people most effective and what factors strengthen—or undermine—their motivation. The two types they present are as follows: promotion focused or prevention focused individuals.

Promotion-focused people

Prevention-focused people

work quickly work slowly and deliberately
consider lots of alternatives and are great brainstormers tend to be accurate
are open to new opportunities are prepared for the worst
are optimists are stressed by short deadlines
plan only for best-case scenarios stick to tried-and-true ways of doing things
seek positive feedback and lose steam without it are uncomfortable with praise or optimism
feel dejected or depressed when things go wrong feel worried or anxious when things go wrong

I feel I fit in the promotion focused side of the table. According to the article, prevention focused people tend to work in administration, bookkeepers, accountants, technicians, and manufacturing workers. Work where knowledge of rules and regulations, careful execution, and a propensity for thoroughness and jobs in which attention to detail is what really pays off.

On the other hand, promotion-focused people are likely to seek work in areas such as musicians, copywriters, inventors, and consultants, where thinking outside the box jobs being creative and innovative is the key and being practical is not emphasized.

Ironically, I am a Chartered Accountant, however I work in the Advisory department of my accounting firm, as a Management consultant. No wonder I sometimes feel uninspired and confused  about my work.

How to provide instructions

Then, the kicker is the article goes on to discuss an experiment given to people to write a report. One set of instructions was to fit a promotion focused individual. They were told to imagine a convenient time, and a comfortable, quiet place to write the report where the individual visualized themselves capturing as many details and making the report interesting. That sounds like a really good idea to me. I love it.

The other set of instructions was to fit prevention focused individuals. They were told to imagine a time that would be inconvenient, uncomfortable and include lots of distractions for writing to avoid them and to visualize not forgetting any details and being careful not to make the report bland or boring. This is my work environement in a nutshell when it comes to reports. In my case, I am told to make sure my report is not unstructured and I am always told not to forget details. At my work, I am constantly told to improve my French report writing skills and to pay attention to detail. The new senior manager is of the opinion that I have been repeated this far too much. I would tend to agree.

I work with prevention focused people and I am getting the sense that I am a promotion focused person. The results? “Students who received instructions suited to their dominant motivational focus were about 50% more likely than others to turn in their reports.”

Giving feedback and incentives

As a manager, the following quote gave me something I can use for my team when giving feedback:

“Don’t be overly effusive with the prevention-focused or overly critical with the promotion-focused.”

This made me laugh. I really do not enjoy overly critical people, especially when their criticism is directed at me. I am thankful for this senior manager. I think he will bring some necessary positivity to our team. After all, perception is everything, but it is difficult to perceive over 60% of a department leaving as anything other than a sign that things need to improve in our department, especially in the way the “upper management” manage people. I, in the middle of this hierarchy, have a great team. They are really intelligent and talented people. I would like to keep them and not have them leave, as so many others in my posiiton have, recently.

Going forward

This new senior manager, appears to be a promotion focused individual. I really appreciate the talk I had with him this week. He gave me a nugget of information and upon investigation and reflection, I now have new information to help me manage my team as well. In addition, I have a new found understanding of the root cause of the conflict I feel at work. Now it is up to me to adjust how I will manage that and try to bring out the best in myself, regardless of prevention focused individual I answer to and to keep bringing in out from my team – who already are amazing talented individuals.

That is enough time spent on work today, I suppose that is another irony. I wrote about work on a weekend. I have a bit of clarity but not all the answers, and that is fine. I will continue to focus on playing to win. That fits who I am and feels right to me.

Today I think I will go for a run even if it is raining here in Montreal. My friend and trainer told me it will help clear my mind. She is right about that. Not only that but she told me “Don’t let it get to you, you are a soldier.” Just that little note meant the world to me. Something else to keep in mind. We make far too much out of all this. Days like today remind me of St Stephen’s Green in Dublin. It is a beautiful park, right in the middle of Dublin, except when you enter it, you feel secluded in a peaceful green space, calm and serene. Now that is a nice place to visualize.


Doing what I love

I was thinking about a quote, by Marsha Sinetar, that I had read “Do what you love and the money will follow.”  This is because I made it through my week, having done what I am supposed to do, work, work out, take care of myself, spend time with family and write. I feel uninspired by work. The things I love doing, I feel I do not do enough. The things that take up most of my time, such as work, challenge my ability to do things that I love. I am not alone in this situation, I know this. I also know that I have a career that is from many viewpoints, good, and I am thankful for the job I have. I also realize that I call it a job and that might even be a problem. I am also very aware that I am not comfortable saying that I love what I do. On the other hand, I am readily able to identify aspects of my work that I do enjoy. If I look at other jobs out there, I am well paid, if that conclusion is based on averages and median income in my country. All of this has me reflecting on how do I do what I love and believe the money will follow?

In the same vein, Alan Watts is quoted as saying “And uh, forget the money. Because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life wasting your time. You will be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is, in order to do things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of things you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.” This gives me pause. I cannot forget the money. I am sure many people can’t. Is that the problem? People, or in this case, I am too focused on money? I live a relatively simple life. However I do like to help my family as much as possible. I do have basic necessities that need to be paid for, with money. I am finding it difficult to “forget about money”. Case in point, I love to travel. This requires money. Money is not the most important thing, I have always known this. Travel is not a necessity either, but I simply cannot forget about money when money helps feed my little ones, including myself. The article about Alan Watts goes on to say that we should identify what we desire.

What do I desire?

This is simple, I desire a life where I am free to work my own hours. I am not afraid of work, quite the opposite actually. However I like flexibility and freedom to work from home when possible, and take time to work out during the day. I can always get back to the work, afterwards. I would like the freedom to spend time with my little ones on a weekday, if that is what I am inspired to do on any given day. I would also like to be able to write, and not have to schedule this on weekend mornings. I love learning too, however taking courses, takes time. Time my current work does not allow me to take. Taking courses also costs money. I think I can even find courses that are free, however in general taking courses to get really knowledgeable about a subject usually requires money. Even as I am writing this, there is a little voice inside of me saying, “I would love to work for myself”. I know this is how I truly feel. Then the question: Doing what? Writing? Photography? Or both? When I travelled to other countries, I met people and learned about their cultures, some were quite similar, while others were very different. I enjoyed each and every one of those experiences. Those experiences have taught me there is much more to this world and life than what we are told by the media. Travel is an education in itself. Learning about other people and cultures has taught me that we are more similar than different. Many differences are superficial in nature. I love people, I love nature and the ocean and lakes of this planet in general. I love beaches, not only tropical ones, but the wild ones, like those in Ireland. I love boats and would love to learn to sail. Sailboats represent freedom to me, as do the ocean and wild beaches. It is fun to think about what I love. I wonder if people do this. I am seeing the benefit in spending time thinking about what I love instead of thinking about things that worry me.

Challenging the status quo

I think I have some beliefs that are fear or doubt based. The things I love doing the most, are not what most would call a possibility. Writing and photography are generally fields that I hear are difficult to enter into and be successful. I guess I believe this and my own beliefs could be part of the issue at the moment. Maybe it is time for me to reflect on my beliefs or challenge them, even change them.

I recall years ago when I decided to return to school. I was a single mom and I wanted to get a law degree. I wanted to go to McGill. All of these goals were considered difficult, but I went after this anyways, despite the people that told me how hard it would be and how many people failed at McGill, especially since I was working and raising a child.

Steve Jobs is quoted as saying “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

I can relate to this quote. Since my mother has passed, I give a lot of thought to how I want to live the rest of my life. I know I need to change something. I have already changed some aspects of my life, but I know I need to do more. Realizing that is 50% of the solution, or so I have been told. The next step is finding that determination and drive to change what I feel needs to be changed. I also have enough self-confidence to realize there are a few fields in which I could provide services and add value.

How?

I do not know the answer to this question. All I know is I need to change something. I need to decide what I want to do and go for it, the same way I did when I decided to become a Chartered Accountant. This time, I am motivated by finding what I love to do instead of what I think I should be doing. I believe anything is possible, especially if I get out of my own way.

I wonder how many people feel this way. Do they even realize they do? It is pretty uncomfortable to feel this way. Not knowing the how, just knowing something needs to change.

In my experience, the “big picture how” did not matter when I made decisions that others found risky. I just took a first step and focused on that step and the other steps followed in due course. Each step I faced with determination and perseverance. I suppose I can also use the analogy of the body. There came a time when I realized I had not taken care of myself to the best of my ability. I decided to change that. I know many people say that it is hard and that the goal I have cannot be reached easily. I do not care. I just know what steps I need to take today and in the near future. I know that. If I keep doing that, the rest will follow.

I suppose that I should heed my own advice. What do I want to change? Define what I really want to do and identify a small step towards reaching that goal. The next step will appear and I can face it when it does. Life, in hindsight has always been this way for me. I can also stop reading quotes that are blanket statements without context. Maybe it is time for me to trust in my own ideas and come up with my own quotes, instead of looking to others that are quoted. It is odd that they are all people who state these things once they are perceived as successful. What I would love to know is how they were thinking before, when they first got started. Now that would be interesting.

As Confucius says “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”

On that note, I will keep reflecting, writing and doing what I love as much as I can. The answer to how to work for myself doing what I love will come. All I need to do is take a first step. For today, that is the realization that something needs to change and accepting that. It is humbling to admit on paper that you do not have all the answers. I am happy about my ability to be honest with myself and to accept the discomfort. It also means accepting that more will be revealed, as long as I make doing what I love my new goal. Accepting that I do not know all the answers is also required. I think I can be alright with that for today. There is much to be thankful for and appreciate. I am looking at my little one sleeping next to me as I write. I see that I am doing and experiencing something I love right now. I hope everyone can find that.


 

Moving on, is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard. Dave Mustaine

Being moved, moving forward, physically moving my body, moving in, moving out, and moving on. The theme for my week, upon reflection, is move.

Being moved

My mom’s service was beautiful. It was well attended. Despite everything going on in our personal life, my boyfriend also came with his mom. A woman going through her own battle with cancer. A colleague from work came to pay her respects. I was so very moved by her presence, everyone’s presence. Aidan and William were so nice with her and her husband. He held William; as if they had known them from the beginning. All of my sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews were there. My aunts and uncles too. Friends, loved ones. Aidan was intrigued by all the flowers, they were gorgeous, and he wanted to know all of their names. It was so cute. I was able to stand and speak for my mother, without breaking down crying. I think she would be proud. Aidan had Kleenex and was wiping away his mom’s tears. He even held his little hand out to shake the lady’s hand at the end of the service. Impressive.

My father had come down from Vancouver and we had a wonderful breakfast/brunch at a sugar shack the next morning. The family gathering, that afternoon was also beautiful. All of my sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, and partners were there. My grandsons were so calm and Aidan was very sociable. He talked with everyone. People of all ages were playing together. My second dad watched and I told him how beautiful it was. People were impressed with the little ones. A weekend spent with family. But more finality.

Moving forward

Monday was back to work. A busy day to be sure. A new audit started and I still had other projects to plan and/or manage. The week was looking to be busy and I had travel arrangements to make. I was leaving for the Saguenay region that Monday night for three days. Just move, keep moving. All I could think was just handle one thing at a time, as it comes and do the best I can. It appears to have worked for this week, at any rate. The audit progressed well. My other projects are on track. I keep thinking to myself “How will I get this all done, on time, with quality delivery, and client satisfaction?” I do not know how I will do so. All I know is that if I keep doing what I did this week, I should be able to pull it off. Just keep on focusing, doing, moving, applying, and trying. The travel was also pretty easy and uneventful. The flights were on time, the car rental was smooth, no line ups. The people at the site were also welcoming, helpful and nice in general. No conflicts. My team is amazing. I find myself very appreciative of that this week.

Physically moving my body

I have been working with Claudia, my friend and personal trainer since April 3. I had a session with her Monday afternoon before leaving town for work. It was amazing, as usual. However, I needed a plan for the rest of the week until Friday. She gave me a plan to follow. I had made sure the hotel had a gym and that I would be able to continue on my plan, even while out of town. It turns out the gym was under renovation. I was disappointed and texted her that I would not be able to do what we had planned. Plan B was take the stairs and walk around a lot. So I made a decision to make my own routine. Every morning I woke up and walked around outside for about 5 minutes to “warm up”. Then I went up and down the 4 flights of stairs and did the plank for 1 minutes. I repeated this three times. The whole thing took about 30 minutes and I felt better about not having a gym. Keep moving, just keep moving. That I all I could think to myself.

I arrived back in town on Thursday night. I was relieved and cried a tiny bit that day. I did not feel like dealing, speaking or managing anything when I got home. I did not even cook. I ordered a pizza, my cheat for the week and watched T.V. I ignored my phone. I ignored everything. It was the beginning of my 4 day Easter weekend. Friday morning I woke up and relaxed. I had a session with Claudia that afternoon. I love having the day off to go work out at whatever time I choose. An unexpected gift, we were alone in the gym for the full hour. I gave it everything I had. Just move, just keep trying. It is the best therapy for me right now. As I sit writing this, I am still feeling sore in muscles two days later. I am so looking forward to Monday.

Moving in

After the session with Claudia, I went shopping. It turns out my shoes are finished and not good enough anymore for my work outs. She has told me this multiple times and I finally took the time to get new running shoes. Nike Freedom. I like the name. They also fit and are comfortable, which is nice. I found a water bottle so that I can stop buying plastic water bottles. It is about time I suppose. I love oceans, lakes and water in general, and I have been guilty of not helping the environment by my consumption of water bottles. Well that stops now. I have done something positive with this bottle. It also helps that it is has flowers on it. I can also put fruit in my water because it has a mechanism for doing that. Flowers remind me of my mom. I looked for workout clothes but I did not find any I really liked for a reasonable price so I let that go. I went to the market after my work out, with my boyfriend, to buy fish. I have been advised to eat protein and my nuts and seeds are not going to cut it. Given I do not eat chicken, red meat, pork and I do not like eggs, I bought salmon. The market also has flowers. The last time I was there, I thought I would browse the flowers, but I started to cry, so I cut that short. This time, my plan was to find an African violet, my mom’s favorite house plant, and bring one home. I found a beautiful little African violet. She cost $3.00. I brought her home. I named her Tessie, after my mom. She sits with seashells and four leaf clovers and gets the sunlight she needs. I talk to her daily. She maybe small, but she means everything to me. I hope I get my mom’s green thumb. She could grow any plant and had multiple African violets when I was younger. She was known for her talents with flowers and how much she loved them. Tessie has moved in and I hope she stays with me for many years to come.

I sat on my balcony that afternoon, in the glorious sun as my boyfriend cooked the salmon. It was delicious and I am certain mom was with me. I cried but I am not sure if it was sadness or the relief of knowing that even if I move on I am not forgetting her.

Moving out

Saturday morning was the day we were to move my mom’s personal effects and furniture out of the home she had been staying in. My brother, sister, and nieces with their partners were there to help with the move. Saturday is the day I usually write. I had made that promise to myself on New Year’s Eve. It has also been very good for me to do this. But yesterday, I did not wake up early enough to write. Instead, I went to help with the move. I was in charge of packing her clothes. I had been worried about what would be done with her things, and these concerns were put to rest by, one, my own realization not to worry, probably my mom talking to me and two, by my brother and sister who affirmed my belief that sorting and giving away her personal effects will come later. I had not expected to feel an overwhelming wave of sadness as I opened the closet and touched her clothes. I thought I was doing well under the circumstances. Just one touch of her robe and I felt like a helpless child longing for mommy. My sister was with me and we did it together. Then we started to remember how beautiful she looked in this top or that vest. The time she wanted a dress and Martin, my brother, took her shopping for one. We started to remember all the good times. Packing became easier. Then in the corner of the closet, we found “work out” clothes. Or comfortable clothing. Whatever, take your pick? We looked at them and there was a vest, perfect for running outdoors, leggings, the shorter ones, perfect for this time of year, and tops, exactly what I had been looking for the day before. I had never seen my mother wear these. Apparently, she had taken my niece Judith, shopping at Costco and she liked them so much she bought some for Judith and herself. But this would have been at least two years ago. Before the conditions took over. My sister asked if I wanted them. This time, I said yes. The other items of clothing, I could not imagine ever wearing because I thought I would feel sad, but these items, I decided I would use to keep motivating me to move. In her memory, I will wear them and take care of my body. I went to my brother’s house afterwards. We sat outside and talked, the sun was shining on us. I had my trusty water bottle with lemon. I did not worry about writing yesterday. I did not worry about much. I just spent time with my brother. I came home and fed the birds some seeds my boyfriend had brought, talked to Tessie, made my mom’s spaghetti sauce for dinner and I slept for almost 12 hours last night.

Moving on

Today is Easter in my part of the world. I am not religious, but Happy Easter nonetheless. I have made plans to go see my second dad. He has a lot of children and grandchildren to spend time with him. I am happy about that. Most of them work for him too. The only link I have with him is my mom. I am hoping I can keep my relationship with him, despite the fact that she is not physically here anymore. I enjoy my talks with him. We both share a love for red wine, responsibly and in moderation. I think he has wisdom and I always respected how he worked for his dad and continued to grow his company afterwards. I respect how he was with my mom. I also realize that I could be a painful reminder of my mom, at a time when he is trying to heal. I am happy that I will be able to go see him today. Maybe one of my brothers or sisters will be there too. I realize I have taken many things for granted in all of this. Another promise I made myself was to stop. This week, I texted my family for no other reason than to let them know I was thinking about them. I just realized I forgot about my friends and my dad. I will try and do better this week.

I have so many plans for this week. I hope it all works out. Looking back at last week, I can see that things usually do work out. For that I am thankful. Moving on does not mean forgetting my mom. I have found ways to move on and forwards while still keeping her with me. At least for today.


In three words I can sum up everything I have learned about life: It goes on. – Robert Frost

Keeping my promises to myself is a top priority for me. With that in mind, I am sitting with my coffee this morning and taking the time to reflect on this week and write something about it. It is ironic that 4 months ago, I had made an appointment for my hair with the artist Robbie. I did not know then what today would be. He did an amazing job and we reflected that the timing was……….odd but perfect.

I have a busy day ahead of me. Today is my mom’s service. I will be attending of course. I will be seeing a lot of family and old friends. I was told I will be feeling all sorts of emotions. I was asked if I wanted to speak. I have chosen to do so, however, I am not quite sure what I will say. I would like to be able to write something down and have that something to rely on, when the time comes. There is so much I could say about my mom. If I think about this week past, as challenging as it was, I think I did alright, because I believe she was with me. In some form, like a force, almost as if her love is still here and she is somehow guiding me. Looking back at this week, I am coming to realize that things did kind of work out for me in all areas – work, family, friends, and new decisions and my general mental health. My brother had told me that he “was doing his best to go by what he thought mom would want to see from him.” I think that is a good idea and tried to apply it this week. What would my mom want from me? I have come up with the following concepts.

Appreciate what I have 

Work – I have a new appreciation for the people I work for. I was told to take the time I needed for myself. I kept saying that there were deadlines to meet and that I would do my best to meet them. To this, my senior manager replied, “The priority right now is you. I will take care of any emergencies, if there are any.” I felt relieved. I had spent Sunday with family and I did feel sick at the prospect of going to work on Monday. My daughter had said to me on Sunday evening “If I find out you went to work on Monday, I will be very angry.” Well, I can say that I did not go back until Thursday. I was given three days for myself. Had I needed more, the message was clear, that it would have been perfectly fine. My mom would be happy, I think. She always told me to take care of myself. I had felt guilty in the past, doing that. This week I did not feel guilt about taking time off and taking care of me. I think my mom helped me there. At least I like to believe that. It feels reassuring.

My colleagues had all sent me nice, touching emails. I thanked them for that. When I did go back to work on Thursday, people were really nice, as usual, but I got the sense that they were letting me be. Or maybe I was just letting myself be and so they did too? I am not sure, but on Friday, I did find myself enjoying the meetings I had with my team and I did laugh. I did pretty well on Friday I think. I am also looking forward to next week, to some degree, when I felt only dread a few days before. I have a busy month ahead, but I feel better about my ability to face whatever comes. There is a little spring of hope somewhere. I appreciate that.

Friends – Through all of this, my friends have been very nice. I am a big fan of personal space. I am not a chatty phone person. I am not very good at keeping in touch with people either. Despite this, my friends all sent me warm wishes and wrote me nice emails offering to be there for me in whatever way I needed. I have made a decision to keep in touch with my friends, or at least try and do a better job going forward. A lesson learned has been to stop taking things for granted. Even the little things. Just stop. Whether it be a smile, twinkle in the eye, laughter, note, text, whatever it is, I think I can take time to appreciate these things and pay them forward, i.e. let them know. More on that in decisions.

Unconditional love – at least try.

Family – there are no words to adequately express how much I love my family. I saw them as much as possible this week. We all grieve in different ways and I respect that. I dislike using the term “step” so from this moment forward, I will stop. On Saturday, I had spoken to my second dad and he sounded better. He said he had spoken to mom and he felt she was with him. This reassured him. My heart filled with joy at the thought of that. He was spending the evening with one of my sisters and his three granddaughters. My brothers were also doing alright. They were surrounded by “their people”. On Sunday I spent the afternoon with my two of my sisters and second dad. We talked, and for a while, we laughed at some things. Then we had dinner. It became clear that Sunday was not as good, but through talking and being together, I think it was bearable, or at least better than being alone.

I had offered to help my brother with any preparations for the service and he declined. But he did ask me for help with the photographs we were to obtain in memory of mom, for her service. We did that on Tuesday. My brother, niece and second dad had dinner together. I had made a fresh meat sauce. My mom’s recipe. I remember going to the market that day, because I never have the time to do that when I work. I asked her to help me make the sauce, so that I tasted good. Maybe not exactly like hers, because she was such a wonderful cook, but good enough. It was a hit. The smell brought tears to our eyes and we ate together. My second dad opened a bottle of wine I had given him about 20 years ago. Then we sifted through hundreds of pictures, to find the ones that would honour the woman who had been a wonderful woman, sister, friend, wife, mother, wife, grandmother and great grandmother.

I was impressed at my second dad’s ability to go through these pictures with us. There was a price to pay for that though – emotions. Sadness and tears flowed. Regrets, guilt, and for me, that rage started to well up again. But together, we did it. Talked and expressed it. Wednesday, I was exhausted, mentally and emotionally. My brother put it all together and did an amazing job. Thank you to my brother for all that he did this week, in addition to forgiving me for a being a bitch for a moment when I could not find one of the pictures I liked. Not what mom would have liked from me and I quickly realized that and apologized.

Take care of me – she always told me to do that.

Decisions – Saturday, as stated before was a decent day. I was certain that my mom was taking charge, wherever she is. I had the sense that she had been busy because my family seemed better than the day before. For me personally, Saturday I made three decisions:

  1. Take care of myself
  2. Release my anger and rage, feel my emotions
  3. Set goals and stick to them, no negotiations, no matter what.
  1. Take care of me:
  • Saturday, I decided to go get my nails and eyebrows done. That may sound like nothing and even vain, but my mom always loved when I did that. She loved it for herself too. I had let all that go, for quite a while. I was a mess so to speak. I did not know where to go, so I found a place close to my house called “Clin d’oeil”. This means wink in English. My mom’s eyes were all we had left to communicate with at the end. Her winks were our confirmation she was with us and knew who we were. The fact that I found a place called Wink, to me, is a direct message from mom. Thank you for that.
  • I also contacted that friend of mine who is a trainer now. I asked for an appointment. She responded almost immediately. I was hoping to start ASAP, i.e. Monday, and was hoping this would be possible. It turns out that it was. On Monday she asked me if I could be there at 6:15 pm. I went. She is an amazing trainer. She is also tough as nails. They have an expression there “You have been Claudia-ed”. Yes, indeed I was on that day.
  • I also took 3 days off work to give myself time to feel, rest, be with family and just be.
  1. Release my anger and rage – feel my emotions
  • I found myself alone in my car about to drive on a long stretch of highway. I blasted music and let out several loud screams. Release. I did not speed. I did not have road rage. I did let it out, alone in my car. No harm done to anyone.
  • On Sunday evening, a full old dish set that I no longer like got the message. I recall a time when I was young, we were all sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner. Something happened to set my mom off. She calmly picked up her plate, turned to the side. I thought she was going to get up and walk away from the table, but she just smashed that plate on the floor. I know my mom had character and I love that about her. On Sunday evening, I did the same. I smashed every plate, side plate and bowl of that set, on the floor. Nobody was hurt. It had to come out. The dishes got it and it felt really, really, good. I think maybe mom would approve.
  • My dad flew in Friday, from Vancouver. We had a bite together at the hotel. When I was leaving he said “Let your emotions run, but do not let them ruin you.” Wise words to keep in mind, especially when it comes to anger and rage. In other words “Control your emotions or they will control you.”
  1. Non-negotiable goals:
  • I cut down my smoking to less than 15 per day. I plan to bring it down even more and eventually release this habit that does not serve me.
  • I will keep in touch with those who matter to me more. I will do my best not to take them for granted. I will surround myself with “my people.”
  • I trained 3 times this week. I went on Monday, my day off, I left work on my first day back at work to go train, under the guise of an “appointment” and I arrived late on Friday, under the guise of “something I had to take care of”, i.e. Me. I will continue to do so, 3 days per week, at a minimum. With my friend, and trainer, that is the best decision I have made in a long time. The third day, Friday, after a difficult exercise, I did not feel strong at all. She looked at me and said, “It is fine, you are here and you are doing it.” I just stared back at those eyes of hers and admitted out loud “I don’t feel very strong right now,” and started to cry, release, again. She told me she had been waiting for that moment for three days. Anger and rage may be normal but I needed to release it and fuel it into something good for me. She told me that my decision was going to be the best therapy. Training, she explained, was beneficial not only for the body but also the mind and the spirit. She told me, “you might go down, but you get right back up and keep trying.”

My mom did that. The cancer and dementia may have gotten her down, but the love, well that kept coming back up, through her eyes. Words to live by and perhaps another message from my mom. Thank you mom for allowing all of that to be possible. I see that I did have a decent week. I really did, despite feeling lost, sad and angry. I know I have a dark side and I accept that part of me, but I have decided to do is let that out in the healthiest way I can. I also choose to see all the wonderful things in my life now. My mom always told me how proud she was of me, that I did not give myself enough credit. Last night, when I got home, exhausted, I said out loud “You did a good job today.” I think my mom would approve.

So life goes one. True. But it goes on even better with my mom in my heart.

So on that note, I will now focus on writing something about my mom, to speak at her service. I feel ready to do that now. I hope that everyone has a wonderful weekend, doing something they love, for themselves, or for someone else. Any act of love or small kindness has a ripple effect that can turn into waves. Trust me, I am seeing it happen.