Focus

She had heard it said that you create your own reality, write your own story, you are the artist, the craftsman, the one holding the brush, the pen. She wondered how true this was, or if it was taken too literally. She had also heard it said that it is what you focus on that drives reality. Head in the sand or purposeful focus. Thoughts were also to be observed/examined carefully because they drove actions and word. She found it helpful to reflect in the third person, maybe she was onto something. What was she focusing on, thinking and what story was she writing?

Life provides experiences that can be unwanted and downright unfair. She could not fully believe that everything was willfully created by individuals. It was too big and confusing a notion to wrap her head around. Nobody individually wants or willingly creates getting bombed for example. Due to examples such as these, she found focus made the most sense, The little moments in life that are sometimes ignored, missed, not paid attention to because she could be stuck in her own head or focusing on problems, potentially missing solutions.

This past week she had found herself focusing on things a bit differently, for example, after writing she decided to go to a meeting, alone. She picked up her youngest little one afterwards.

Before she left she had found the song Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)  by C+C Music Factory – ft. Freedom Williams and had posted it on Facebook in support of a man who had been fined by the police for singing this song out loud in his car. It had been one of her favorite songs at that time. She fully intended to play it in her car on the way.

In her car, the video would not load. She should have downloaded it onto her phone instead of playing the video but she had to leave in order to be on time at the meeting. So she just played other music along the way. Then she got to the corner of Helen-Rochester and St-Jacques and spotted a cop on the corner. The video just started to play, effortlessly at that moment. So she blasted it and started to laugh out loud. She felt like life had given her a little wink. She felt supported by unseen, loving energy.

She arrived at the meeting on time.  A friend came to say hello. It had been a while since they had seen each other or even talked. She was grateful this friend was kind. She had somehow expected that some people may not be. Perhaps it was her being hard on her own self and projecting that outwards.

One of the readings was the Just for Today. On this day the theme was about letting go of the need to control.  «We can also use the steps to improve our attitudes. » …….Ever have a day when everything seems to be working against you? What about when you find yourself snapping at your co-worker or loved one for no reason? When we find ourselves in this bleak frame of mind, we need to take action……..We examine how we are reacting to outside situations and other people. When we do, we may find that we are suffering from a plain old “bad attitude.” When we are honest with ourselves, we frequently find that the problem lies with us and our attitude. We have no control over the challenges life gives us. What we can control is how we react to those challenges. At any point in time, we can change our attitude……….Just for today: Throughout the day, I will check my attitude. I will apply the steps to improve it. »

Appropriate under her circumstances, specifically where she had the most difficulty right now. What would she focus on? How she reacted perhaps?

Things got more interesting. If she had ever wondered if the Universe listened or if it did send signs, she need not wonder any more. The reading was the 11th step – about meditation and connecting to your «higher power» or as she liked to call her «source energy». She had begun to meditate earlier that week, not consistently everyday but baby steps.

Then came what she heard, or liked to call the golden nuggets. People were sharing about how they could be mean, unappreciative and controlling when they thought they knew better, or when things were not going the way they thought they should. MIRRORS anyone? She listened to them.  Then there was a lady who was celebrating… Her mother had joined her and her daughter and her children. As she observed this gorgeous family she recalled how her mom had come to her celebrations until she no longer could. She recalled how her own mother had been her biggest supporter, loved and her and was so proud. She realized she was seeing gifts – the clarity she had asked for and was starting to receive was coming in like flood gates. She was so very moved, she started to cry. In front of people. She did not care – this was release. The readings, the shares, and the particular subjects they were addressing were very therapeutic and exactly what she need at this moment. She felt a bit of that serenity. She felt relieved. So she decided to share that she was grateful and appreciative of these meetings. She had to say thank you. She could not get into all the details, those were not hers to share.

Then the cake the little ones and daughter had made for this lovely lady. The cake was very colorful. The wasps of color represented paintbrush strokes because she was an artist, the berries dipped in white chocolate were made to look like rocks because she loved rock collecting and geology and finally the sparkles because she loves sparkly things.  She heard and watched this. Again the waves of tears. She had loved rocks ever since she was 4, loved to paint and loved fireworks and sparkly things. She took a picture of that cake. The lady’s mother came to see her and said «stay frail – stay frail because then you are open, if you stay hard, nothing can get in». This mother with clear blue eyes who made her think of her own mom had given her a message. Could it be any clearer? She was on the right track, she did not have to be hard to get through.

The lady who came to her and asked about her daughter. This lady’s daughter is 20 and lives in across the country and had issues due to her choices. She explained the very spiritual steps that we had discussed at the meeting helped. She was one of the people who shared about being mean sometimes without realizing it, thinking she knew everything. She said «I always let her know I am there for her, that I love her and that is all I can do. » She heard the message. She had been doing exactly that and it was time to realize it, accept it and let it go, surrender.

She had a wonderful day with her little one. The way he tilted his head and looked at her reminded her of her mom at the end. The next morning, she scrolled to this free guided meditation from DavidJi about Emotional Healing. The timing was once again perfect. She said a silent thank you to the Universe. She was appreciative and happy.

The morning when she was walking to the subway station and a leaf was floating around and landed right in her purse pocket. She went to work out at the gym for the first time in ages. She went after work. It was very busy. She was in her own little zone. She decided to try going early in the morning. That was the ticket. After the work out the next morning, she was so happy. This became her new routine. The morning workouts to music she loved, for herself.

Things were manageable at work; for the most part. She was aware when she felt overwhelmed. It was a sign she had bought into the illusion that everything is an emergency. She was happy to realize it. She had to believe, because she reflected that every time in the past where she had felt this way, things had always worked out. And even if they didn’t, what was the point in focusing on nonsense? It changed absolutely nothing. She recalled how difficult it had been for her to accept her mom had Alzheimer’s and was slipping away. She reflected that perhaps if she had not paid any attention to it at all, her time with her mom could have been different. The outcome would have been the same either way. She was no longer here but if she had ignored that condition, her mom would still not be here BUT she would have felt better during the time she had with her – lofty theory. She thought she would try that with her daughter.

Her daughter asked to see her on Thursday. They had a conversation in the car and then went grocery shopping. Her daughter shared things with her so she focused on the open dialogue. Maybe not all was lost. Each person has their path to live and we are not here to control the children. They are but gifts, not possessions to control. Experience can be shared but not dictated to another. She realized she left work without having completed her list of things she wanted to complete. She decided so be it. Family was more important. The Universe would just work it out somehow. She felt her mom’s presence for a while.

The day of her birthday, when she realized the little bud in her African violet, named after her mom, Tessie, was starting to open. She was certain this was a gift from her mom. She had been missing her mom terribly this week. Something about November got to her. Her birthday, her mom’s and her second dad all had birthdays in November. She was thankful to be able to feel those emotions and remembered all the wonderful things her mom would do for her birthday. The butterfly cakes, and then later on lemon meringue pie. Butterfly cake sounded like a plan.

The Friday night getting together with her daughter when they went for a drive to the Mountain. The moon was full that night. Her daughter talked to her about loss, grief, pain and all the things she could relate to. She listened, no judgment, because everything she was hearing, she had herself experienced. She shared her feelings too and told her daughter she loved her no matter what, she would be there for her. She took pictures of that gorgeous moon. A full moon, a flower, and her daughter at one of her favorite places, where she used to go with her daughter’s dad on her birthday? Life was indeed grand.

Her son in law had kindly informed her that her little man had asked if he could go to her place on Friday night. She picked him up after the meeting with her daughter. Another birthday gift, she thought to herself. She had a brownie mix and would make a butterfly brownie, ice it a decorate it to look like a butterfly. Her and her little one would eat birthday cake together. It was wonderful, especially the part where he came up to her on the couch and just snuggled with her for a while, as they listened to children songs. In that moment, all was truly well.

The morning coffee taken outside with her little one, as they discussed what he wanted from Santa. He examined her tomato, pepper and flower plants. A flock of birds flew by. She sipped her coffee. He told her there were clowns and zombies in her backyard. Good clowns, not creepy ones. She looked outside. She reflected that the ocean and beaches she adored would always be her favorite places, however she realized there was something equally special about her own backyard. It was filled with wonders if one just focused and used their imagination. Leaves were scattered in the yard, and there were those that were stubborn, hanging on to their respective trees. Different colors. As she sipped her coffee and her little one finished his piece of butterfly cake, he informed her that a clown was playing in those leaves. How fun she thought. Her little one asked her if she could see the clown, she wondered if the clown could see them. She recalled one of her first pieces of writing entitled «Coffee and butterflies». Ironic she thought, today was a coffee and butterfly kind of day.

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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.