How’s Your Wobbly Factor?

Change is constant. How we experience change…that’s up to us.

-Meredith Grey-

DSCN3861While a few crave change, most of us avoid it like the plague. Change knocks us off centre, makes us wobbly and uncomfortable. But when life gets tough, change offers us the hope that things will get better. Three years ago I said goodbye to my daughter, Rachel. Without faith in the power of change I’d have remained emotionally paralyzed.

Life is full of endings, full of goodbyes; change. Even as we finish the last piece of a chocolate bar we’re reminded that nothing lasts forever. Poet David Whyte suggests 50% of life is saying goodbye; until we absorb that reality we’re easy prey for depression and anxiety. Besides, one day we’ll have to give it all away. Everything. Maybe if we practice we’ll be better prepared for that Big Goodbye.

We just have to open our fingers, loosen our grip.

Daehyun Kim

Daehyun Kim

As Tim Kreider reminds us in this week’s New York Times: You are older at this moment than you’ve ever been before, and it’s the youngest you’re ever going to get. The mortality rate is holding at a scandalous 100 percent.” 

We all have a date of birth, and a date of death at yet unknown. Until that day maybe it’s worth shaking things up, practice feeling wobbly: sit somewhere different, give a gift anonymously, do something others might describe as ‘not like you.’ Call it prep work. Detachment from attachment.

Changing my living situation every few weeks keeps me wobbly. Trusting that everything happens at the right time inspires a calm resolve and intuitive faith in life as it is…traits absent from an earlier life that left me ill prepared for massive change.

How we remember our lives trumps how we experience them,” claims neurosurgeon and cancer-survivor Allan Hamilton.  Today I shall reframe my thoughts about Rachel’s departure from this world. Rather than think of it as the date of her death, I shall celebrate memories of the 8533 days she lived.

“Cos’ I gotta feelin’…”

-The Black Eyed Peas-

Sources

Grey’s Anatomy, Season 7, Episode 1

You Are Going to Die by Tim Kreider

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/you-are-going-to-die/

7 Ways to Make Happiness Last by Allan Hamilton

http://www.dailygood.org/view.php?sid=378

David Whyte workshops

http://www.davidwhyte.com

Begin With The End In Mind

So much is written about New Year’s Resolutions. Some love them, others think they’re for the birds. Not a believer in goal-setting culture (it suggests either accomplishment or failure), I concur with the latter.

Stephen Covey had it right when he suggested we ‘Begin With The End In Mind’ as one of his 7 Habits. How well did you live this one wild life you’ve been given? How might others speak of you after you’ve died? Let’s put our energies toward these kinds of questions as the New Year arrives. No goals, just big picture stuff.

big sur

So, it got me thinking about my own intentions and questions for 2013. They read something like this:

  • Continue to live with joy, and in joy
  • Remind myself that meaning can only be found from within, not from the external world
  • Be open to wherever life takes me, to whomever I meet, and to whatever happens; listen to what they show me about myself
  • Consider how I can help others
  • Let others know how they help me. (I’m getting really good at this:) It’s a Think Win-Win, another of Covey’s 7 Habits.

My external world is HUGE and I love it. It allows for opportunities for my inner world to blossom and grow (Edelweiss-like) through wonder and gratitude for what I DO have, not for what I don’t. 

I relish the movement not as an escape from, but as a mirror to my soul – to what my future self might look back on and thank me for.

This constantly changing world awards endless practice in letting go and saying goodbye; things I used to hate (most of us do) yet in the past required me to do against my will, and too often! Now I choose a lifestyle that welcomes endings, hoping it heals and softens my resistance to change.

2012 has taken me from Australia to San Francisco, awarded me infinite beauty, choice times with friends and family, and more joy and laughter than I remember even as a child.

flowers on water

So, from a friend whose eloquent voice says it all:

I hope that 2013 unfolds in a way that meets your heart’s desires … and that you and those you love will be blessed in those ways that matter most.

6 Budget-Smart Tips to Get the Best of New York City

How would it be to visit New York City without seeing a Broadway show? The view from the Empire State Building? An Opera or Ballet? Would you still go? Would it be worth it?

New York conjures up images of high fashion, live entertainment, famous landmarks and incredible museums. But what about the ‘other’ New York, the one more than eight million people call home?

Thanks to a very generous friend who opened her door to me (fortunately she loved my cooking), my recent visit to New York grew from three weeks to six. Strolling in Central Park shortly before my departure, I was stopped by a French couple waving and pointing in vain, as they tried to make sense of their map.

“Excusez-moi madame, 5th Avenue? Le Guggenheim? You know?”

“Yes, I know,” I smiled, happy to have been considered a local. “Come with me, I’ll show you the way.”

After calling this place ‘home’ for a while, I came up with 6 Tips for getting the most out of your time, and the least from your pocket, while visiting New York City.

1. Walk Everywhere

NYC is a walker’s mecca with parks lining Manhattan’s perimeter: Riverside Park (Upper West Side), Carl Schurz Park (Upper East Side), Battery Park (Lower Manhattan), and the big one, Central Park (see #2)

The Highline is a true gem. ‘An historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side’,
completed in 2011.

http://thehighline.org/about/park-information

Little Italy and Greenwich Village are well worth a visit. A stroll over Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn Heights affords wonderful views of Lower Manhattan.

 

Take in a neighbourhood walk to see apartment pooches being walked en masse, toddlers with nannies, and street vendors selling fruit and veg for a song.  Walking, you overhear countless languages, and on Sunday afternoons, cheers emanating from bars broadcasting the NFL game.

 

2. Explore Central Park

Central Park stretches from 59th Street to 110th Street in the heart of Manhattan. With 58 miles of trails it keeps its many runners, walkers, and tourists happily occupied. This vast space of playgrounds, picnic sites, outdoor theatres, fields, baseball diamonds, lakes, a reservoir, a carousel, a castle, and a skating rink, has to be the best park a city could offer its people.

Spend time wandering in Central Park and you’ll be constantly amazed by the variety of entertainment; musicians playing everything
from sax to harp, dancers performing ballet to hip-hop, wedding couples being photographed. There’s even a giant bubble blower and a guy telling jokes for a $1. You start to get an idea of its obvious appeal.
   

3. Take Advantage of Special Offers

Unless money is no object, do some homework before arriving in New York about where to find deals and offers. Broadway theatres offer stand-by tickets at http://www.tdf.org Here are a couple of others:

* Save yourself the $25 admission to MoMa by visiting on Fridays between 4-8 pm for FREE.

* The Metropolitan Opera House offers $20 tickets ($25 at weekends) two hours prior to show time. (Depending on the opera, regular priced Orchestra tickets run at $150 and up.)

4. Discover Movie Locations

New York may have been featured in more films than any other city in the world! Wandering around you suddenly find yourself in movie locations. It’s kind of fun! Central Park probably tops the list (think Kramer vs Kramer, Marathon Man, The Out-Of-Towners). Scenes from You’ve Got Mail were filmed on the Upper West Side; Sex in the City, on the steps of the New York City Library; Serendipity, at the Rockefeller Centre; Moonstruck, at Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts. The famous deli, Zabars, at Broadway & 80th is mentioned in numerous TV shows (Will and Grace, The Daily Show, 30 Rock). The list goes on.

Grab a bowl of homemade soup and check out the pictures
of Jerry and friends lining the walls at Tom’s Restaurant at 2880 Broadway, the diner in Seinfeld.

5. Window Shop

This is New York City, not the place for a bargain, unless you head over to Chinatown. But it costs nothing to browse, or try on designer wear in Bloomingdales (59th & Lexington) or for the brazen, in one of the many Madison Avenue boutiques. It only costs money when you BUY.* 

SoHo’s high-end designer stores are housed along lovely narrow cobbled lanes, and the Meatpacking District enjoys a wonderful outdoor market, a beer garden and is home to designer stores the likes of Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.

* It’s worth making an exception if you’re looking for shoes. Harry’s Shoes at Broadway & 83rd carries footwear from around the world. The selection is huge, the price range too.

6. Be Entertained off Broadway

New York City is blessed with a constant stream of speakers and presentations. Here are some great options:

  • 92nd Street Y (www.92y.org) for poetry readings and author visits. We lucked out with a night of Mary Oliver. Nick Hornby was scheduled to read a couple of nights later.

 

If you’re considering a trip to NYC in the near or distant future, I hope you find these tips useful. They certainly allowed me to see the best of this wonderful city…with money left for a plane ticket home.

What would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the Comments for all to see.

 

 

 

 

Oh, Sandy

We all have memories of life-changing moments in history. Remember when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon? When the planes hit the Twin Towers? In December, 1980 a bunch of us came to New York City. It was two days after the shooting death of John Lennon. I remember it well. Now, after Sandy’s onslaught, I’m reminded not only of how well this city handles adversity, but how we confront the many surprises in life.

Here’s how I saw it from the 11th floor:

Saturday, October 27

New York awaits her arrival. They’ve seen her coming for the past week. New Yorkers ask me, “You ready for the storm?”

Sunday, October 28

2pm:  I head out for water, wine and food for dinner. The neighborhood deli is cleared out. I nab the last piece of beef for a stew I hope will feed us for a few days. The line-up winds around the store. A 15-minute wait. Hardware stores run out of flashlights, home stores of candles. The watchful eyes of meteorologists ply the weathermen with warnings, calling all those in Sandy’s projected path to prepare for the worst. Street merchants pack up, sell their fruit and veg for a song.

5pm:  We remove most things from the deck, and leave the rest to ride it out. 80 mph hour winds are predicted at ground level, 100 mph up here. What does that sound like, I wonder?

7pm: The New York transit system closes down, as do schools and the NYSE; the first time since 9-11. Stay home, stay safe, urges Mayor Bloomberg.

 

 

8pm: Skies are ominously quiet, the air deceivingly warm and still. Hard to believe there’s a hurricane a’comin’. My tummy knots up.

Monday, October 29

3am: Glass breaks, sirens scream, sheet metal goes flying somewhere too close. I consider moving my bed away from the window.

10am:  A mother screams at her child to come inside. Streets still full of people gathering supplies, just in case.

3pm: The storm is expected to reach land in a few hours. 9pm they say. Items on the building’s roof deck have been secured. The wind intensifies in furious bursts. It’s a wind I’ve never known, or felt before.

6pm: She’s coming closer. I hear her. I feel her. Another crash of metal below. I move my bed into the hall, well away from windows and possible flying objects. The Live news stream reveals the devastation. Sirens and more sirens. The wind makes conversation difficult. Over and over we stop and listen. We drink wine and wait for the stew to cook. Strangely, we still have power and we sleep.

Tuesday, October 30

The rain subsides and we head out for a walk. Downed trees block roads, tree limbs hang precariously over sidewalks, dislocated traffic signs out of commission. Yellow tape is everywhere warning ‘Stay Out’, but this is New York and nobody listens. A man shouts at his kid for shouting. I wished he hadn’t.

This is the Upper East Side and damage is minimal. Lower Manhattan has taken a beating. They have no power; the tunnels and subways are flooded. So too is the World Trade Centre construction site. The NYSE is closed for a second day. NYU is closed. Schools are closed. The subway is closed. The few stores open for business enjoy long line–ups and plenty of chatter. ‘Hunter’ wellies are everywhere (all the fashion in New York).

 

 

Wednesday, October 31

The Halloween costume parade in Greenwich Village is called off for the first time in its 39-year history. Trick-or-treating has been cancelled south of 39th Street. No candy this year kids.

 

So many here have lost so much. As Sandy’s full impact becomes clear over the hours, days and weeks ahead, today’s words from Seth Godin remind us this is the only time we have:

In the face of billions of dollars of destruction, of the loss of life, of families disrupted, it’s easy to wonder what we were so hung up on just a few days ago. There’s never been a better opportunity to step up and make an impact, while we’ve got the chance… Maybe even today.

How about you?

What are you putting off until the time is right?

 

Living the Life of Riley?

Sometimes our past is done before our future seems quite ready.

~ Julia Cameron

Four months have passed since my return to Canada and a decidedly wonderful way of living, without routine or constraints, continues to be my daily blessing.

Some say I’m living the dream. I call it the second dream (the first was swept away in a tsunami of sorts). Be it a perma-vacation or ‘living the life of Riley’ I’m not sure. All I am sure about is that I am not sure of anything.

Over the years, having grown accustomed to a life regulated by school bells, it’s proven a challenge to shape-a-day in their absence. I choose the time I wake, the way I spend my days, and ponder the demise of my old work ethic. There’s not a night that passes without a deep gratitude for living this way.

It’s a good fit me. At least for now. Some are curious, some envious, some judgmental, some inspired, others clearly puzzled by my choice. Surely I must want something more certain, more permanent? Call me jaded but ‘been there, done that’. I like to call it a time of redefinition, to reimagine a different future, one with more autonomy and no school bells.

Allowing the Universe to work its strange and wondrous magic takes an ease and quiet afforded to retirees and those like me. The flip side being with too little stress and few deadlines, the mental acuity slips and the brain power, along with the belly, grows a little plump around the edges. With that in mind, here’s what I’m doing these days…

Vast amounts of time are spent figuring out how to best convey and share my life experiences. Typically however, the floods of inspiration that claim my nights are annihilated by daybreak. Besides, procrastination is way more fun. The wealth of information available at my fingertips encourages hours absorbed in reading, responding, thinking.

Here are a few other things I’ve been up to:

* launched a Facebook Page (Joyful Mourning) about the joy and gratitude of having lost a loved one. Photos and thought-provoking questions posted daily.

http://www.facebook.com/joyfulmourning101

 

 

* co-facilitated a four-day retreat on Bowen Island for Inner Landscapes

http://www.innerlandscapes.org

* corresponded with experts in publishing, writing, editing, legal matters, social media, blogging, and life coaching. Huge learning curve.

* was interviewed by Australian documentary maker Toni Powell for her upcoming film on Gratitude

* participated in a week-long summer intensive at UBC: Pathways to Career Success

* house sat for six homeowners, searched for, applied to, accepted and rejected offers from many others. Packed, unpacked, repacked 24 times.

 

* wrote, edited and published a Beginner’s Guide to House Sitting 

 

 

* volunteered at Vancouver’s Feast of Fields (great food to offset the garbage pick- up)

* researched training courses for Life Coaching, Peer Counseling, TOEFL, and Expressive Arts Therapy. No decisions made as yet.

* bought a one-way ticket to New York, from where I presently write 🙂

Any ideas or suggestions to fire my neurons? See something I’m missing? Help? Questions?

 

My present favourites

Daily Good (DailyGood.org)

Greater Good Science Centre (Greater Good – University of CaliforniaBerkeley)

TED talks (TED: Ideas worth spreading) Check out Will Richardson and Sherry Turkle

Thought-provoking blogs (e.g. Seth Godin Seth’s Blog, Joanna Penn The Creative PennChris Kennedy Culture of Yes)

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers (Robert Sapolsky)

The Brain That Changes Itself (Norman Doidge)

Transitions (Julia Cameron)

Ever Considered Being A House Sitter But Didn’t Know Where To Start?

“Look out for eggs in strange places,” the homeowners cry joyfully, Quantas bound. It’s been three weeks now and the chooks aren’t putting out. Well not as far as I can tell. If they’re laying, they’re not letting on. Thing is, I have been looking: under boulders, piles of grass, roosting spots, but no eggs. Nada. Nothing.  What’s worse is one’s losing all her feathers.

House sitting can be full of surprises, some great, others…well, interesting.  It’s been my way of life for the past year and suits me just fine, but it’s not for everyone!

Since friends often ask me how it all works, offering my tips for house sitting seemed like a great idea. So, here it is… 

12 pages of practical tips for finding work, house sitting web sites, and those all-important tips of the trade.

If you’ve ever considered house sitting as a way to see the world, or simply as an option for a short getaway, you need to read this!

What’s in a Name?

3:10 pm Friday afternoon, Mooloolaba, Qld, 1998

Teachers scurry down to the staff room, down a few XXXX beer, then dash off to surf, swim, or continue imbibing at the local surf club.

As with all things ‘travel’ you figure out how people have fun in their part of the world. This pre-weekend Aussie ritual offered a refreshing change from the West Vancouver school I’d left on a teaching exchange.

One such Friday afternoon I decided to launch myself into the world of e-mail. I needed a name. A just-right representation of me.

“Blivingrock!” Mike yelled from across the staff room table, beer in hand.

Immediately I loved it. Others do too I’m told.

 

Be Living Rock suggests strength over rough terrain and movement in even the hardest of times, to which I can attest. Strong yet vulnerable, hard yet porous.

Rocks are constantly moving and reshaping themselves, always by external influence. Strangely, my life has come to represent that of a Living Rock.

definition

Rocks themselves are not alive. But a coral reef rock-like substance is continually produced from the skeletons of dead rock corals and the shells of mussels and other creatures which are bound together by sponges and calcareous algae.  A piece of living rock from a coral reef is a never-ending source of unique surprises.

(I love the last part!)

A recent Google search found Living Rock to be:

  1. a succulent South African plant
  2. a family church in Leicestershire, GB
  3. a song by Uncle Steve
  4. the name given to numerous churches in the USA
  5. a health resort
  6. a street name in Vegas
  7. a radio show In Rochester , NY
  8. a cavern
  9. a striker, protector and patriarch in a RuneScape
  10. a brand of South African red wine (love the label)
  11. a DVD title
  12. a ministry, fellowship and a foundation
  13. a description of Jeff Beck – world’s greatest living rock guitarist (OK, that’s a stretch)
  14. a studio museum in Brownsville Oregon
  15. an alternate name for Uluru, (Ayers Rock)
  16. an organic food store in Cairns

So it got me to thinking about how we are all Living Rock.

Consider the times you’ve stood by someone in need, helped them through a tough time, especially if you felt that without your support their struggle may have been immeasurably greater.  Remember that feeling?

Twice now I have sat beside a dying loved one. Agonizing yet beautiful. I was their Living Rock. 

Many others ‘bound together’ to keep me strong. They were my Living Rock.

Who has been a Living Rock in your life?

How did you express your gratitude? Is it worth reminding them one more time?

 

 

 

 

 

Problems Getting Back in the Saddle?

Ever had those icky post-vacation blues? Back from a long holiday, wandering and wondering where you fit in? Somewhat like an ill-fitting sweater, one that’s outgrown itself? Me too.
Even landing in Vancouver last month failed to rally the usual excitement. A place laden with memories of another life time, where we ‘did this’ or ‘went there’.
Like I’m haunting a previous life.

But it’s good to come back and feel what it feels like.

Maybe place isn’t as important as it once was. From time spent with my daughter in the Kootenays, friends visiting from Nova Scotia and Australia, and down in Seattle and Whidbey Island I’m reminded that it’s less about place than it is about people.

Living out of a suitcase however is both ridiculously simple and equally frustrating. Makes me realize how little I need. (Doesn’t seem to stop me from wanting!) My car doubles as library, pantry, and junk draw. But sometimes, just sometimes, I long to have a place to put a cookbook or hang my clothes.

Then I remind myself that having no fixed address or definitive plans, combined with a curiosity to learn more about the people that inhabit a place is a gift. A gift of time. Langley, Whidbey Island has to be one of the friendliest towns to hang out.

It’s my new favourite place.

www.visitlangley.com

As with everything, the more you have the more it grows. And the more you give, the more joyful your life and those around you. Everywhere I go the generosity of the people I meet is profound. Likewise I offer myself generously to others. If David Deida’s right in saying that, “Every moment is the most important moment of your life” then may your cup runneth over with GENEROSITY.

It’s my new favourite word. What would it take to be generous with yourself?


Rock Me Gently

Rock me gently,
Rock me slowly
Not having been much of a Neil Diamond fan I was surprised to find myself humming these lyrics as I awoke a few weeks back. Most likely my body’s way of telling me to go gently on myself as I transition back into life in Vancouver after nine months away.
The place I proudly called home for the last 30 years.
All that changed long before I embarked on new adventures. The stodgy boundaries of my comfort zone screamed for boot camp. It meant removing myself from all things familiar and taking that all-important first step. 
Of living everything. 
Of giving up control. 
Of being OK with not knowing. 
What I got was nothing short of amazing.
Probably the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
It was a year of warmth and solitude, with no agenda, no itinerary. I reveled in all things slow.  Stopping to watch something that would normally pass me by on my way to get somewhere. Allowing myself to do nothing tangible or productive without self-judgement or guilt. When you have no destination but the journey itself you get to experience life in a whole new way. 
A good traveller according to Lao Tzu is “one that has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” 
I like that.
I met more people than I could have ever imagined, shared dinners with strangers, slept in countless beds, listened to amazing stories and learned more about places than I’d ever thought at the outset. 
All this I am sure, because I was alone. 
With no one to join me at events, or turn to in an emergency, or walk with everyday, or talk with at night there was both a discomfort AND a heady freedom. 
Strangers are eager to help out the solo traveler. The vulnerability of being alone resonates with people everywhere it seems. Launching yourself into conversation with total strangers is the order of the day. There’s no holding back.
The flip side of course, is with too much solitude comes loneliness. I experienced plenty of both. Yet glad to say that tears were more often triggered by a gratitude and joy for being alive than by sadness.
My girls traveled with me everywhere: a photograph of one, the ashes of the other left in some of the most beautiful places imaginable. The poignance and healing in that simple act no words can fully express. Over the year, what used to gut me each time I unscrewed the cap from it’s small container gave way to a comfort and joy, allowing me to mend just a little more each time, knowing that another part of me was letting her go.
I’m now convinced that a grieving heart can only be healed through gratitude and wonder.  
I remain full of questions and am all right with that.In the words of the marvelous poet, David Whyte
Let my history then
be a gate unfastened
to a new life
and not a barrier
to my becoming…



Image: DepositPhotos

10 + 1 GREAT Reasons to Become a HOUSE SITTER


Looking to travel? On a budget? No home to exchange? Consider work as a house sitter… looking after someone else’s home in exchange for free accommodation. I like to call it gentle travel. Here’s my list (in no particular order)

  • It’s a Win-Win. You save money and homeowners enjoy their time away knowing their home, pets, and garden are being taken care of.
  • It provides you a home base while seeing another part of the world. For experienced travelers this is a huge PLUS. Living out of a suitcase and traveling every day can be exhausting. As one gets older and wiser housesitting holds increasing appeal, AND you get to cook at home saving on the high cost of eating out.
  • You have time to get involved in community events. Spending a few weeks or months in one place allows you to visit weekly markets, attend classes and workshops, and find your favourite shops and eateries, all the while connecting with locals. 
  • Homeowners frequently inform their friends about your pending arrival and provide you with many contact names and numbers. This is an exclusive advantage of house sitting. You can establish and nurture friendships or enjoy the solitude of your own company. Either way the choice is yours. 
  • It moves you out of your comfort zone – ALWAYS a good thing. 
  • Many homeowners allow you to use their vehicle, especially if you’re in a remote location. This saves you the cost of car rentals and leaves you with money in your pocket for another visit to your favourite bakery! 
  • It can be a wonderful way to share your love of animals without the permanent responsibility of pet ownership. (You’re often required to care for homeowner’s pets and gardens.) For solo travelers it has the added benefit of companionship and security. In taking care of a veggie garden you reap the benefits of super fresh produce and yes, more savings!
  • It provides a living situation that you would never have known had you stayed at home. You get a peek into how others live and may even get some ideas about how you might change things upon your return.
  • As a house sitter, you have a place to invite family or friends to visit, providing you have approval from the homeowners. 
  • Through Skype and email you’re able to ‘meet’ before the housesit begins. This is a huge comfort for everyone. Tip #1 The more you know about each other before the house sit begins, the better.

So there’s my top 10. If this piques your interest, subscribe to my blog (on the right side of the screen).

And here’s the new BONUS benefit:

  • Being a house sitter is good for your mental health! Engrossed in the book, The Brain That Changes Itself, the need to keep neurons firing and creating new connections is paramount to brain health. House sitting is a great stimulator. Navigating the layout of another’s house, their neighbourhood and especially their kitchen, requires focussed attention: another key factor essential to long-term plastic growth. 

 

Image: DepositPhotos