Life Lessons

  • Week 2 of my sabbatical from work

    The fact that I’ve just rewritten this sentence three times in an attempt to portray an accurate representation of my place in life right now indicates that…I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

    When I first decided to take a month off work, I had grandiose visions of  me spending time with some of the most inspiring people I know and using the powerful insights gained to write my second book.

    When someone at work asked me what my plan was for my time off, and I shared my dream with her, she replied with a laugh, “Sounds pretty ambitious.” My response was-in my head, of course-“You just wait, I have this all figured out. You’ll see.”

    Ok, so turns out she was right.

    It was pretty ambitious of me. However, I’ve also come to realize that in life, doing what you want to do comes after doing what needs to be done.

    When it comes to my extremely well thought out game plan of talking to people and sharing their stories through my writing, I failed to take into account the space factor. This may very well be an introvert thing-the need to make space in our lives before we can move forward and introduce something new in our world-but maybe not.

    I found that the first week I had time off, I did some visiting (ok I visited one girlfriend one day and spent time with family the second day), had lunch with a friend (same friend I visited with the first day) did some errands, reached out to some university professors to send my first book to, phoned an old chum, walked my dogs (almost daily) and the rest of my time was spent on catching up on the myriad “unfinished things” at home.

    Far from glamorous and even farther from ambitious, but it had to be done. When I first thought of having the time off, there was the vision of my super-awesome-road-tripping-talking-with-inspiring-people-and-having-inspiring-conversations thing happening. When I actually had the time off, so many other things came up for me that needed my attention.

    I had to get things done that needed to be done, in order to make space for what I really wanted to be doing. I just cannot sit down and relax, never mind write, if the house is a mess or there’s something nagging at me that I know needs to be done. So there, first week off was basically a get ‘er done week.

    This week, however, I actually had room to take on something new-and this will absolutely shock anyone who knows me well-dinner. I made dinner for my family on both Monday and Tuesday of this week, and surprisingly, I absolutely enjoyed doing it and took great pleasure in having my family together at the kitchen table to share a meal.

    Having said that, I also spent two days sorting and organizing my husband’s receipts for his business, but I’m convinced that conquering that momentous job gave me the added inspiration to tackle dinner.

    Today is Wednesday of week two and although my first week and a half off didn’t go exactly as planned, I’m still happy that I made the decision to take this time for myself.

    I am getting a lot of things done that I wouldn’t have had time to do if I hadn’t taken the time off, and in doing so I’m making room for new things to come, whatever they may be.

    Raindrops on a leaf

     

     

     

     

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  • My Current Adventure

    Day two of my month-long sabbatical from work and I’ve never felt so relaxed and at ease. Who wouldn’t be, right? A month off work to do whatever you want with?

    When coworkers heard that I was taking a month off, I heard a multitude of comments. “How did you pull that off?”, “Must be nice. I couldn’t afford to do that.”, “Are you going to a tropical island?” and my personal favourite, “You suck.” My response was that, first of all, anyone can take a month off because it’s in our collective agreement, it just wasn’t widely known. Second of all, it’s not that I’m better off than anyone else financially or that I can “afford” to take the month off. It was something I prepared for by cutting back on spending the month before I went off,  and making sure the months bills were covered for the month I would be off. A little planning ahead makes all kinds of things possible.

    What started as a simple conversation with the director of HR-in which I expressed interest in moving to another position as an opportunity for growth-turned into my current hiatus from the workplace.

    The director only had two options for me, neither of which seemed plausible, and I said with a sigh, “I just wish I could take a month off to write and explore some other options.” When she told me that there was something in the collective agreement that allowed that type of leave, pending approval of course, I saw a shimmering of a light at the end of the tunnel. And it no longer felt like a train.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that my current job sucked, it’s just that my heart wasn’t in to it. Some of you may be thinking, “Suck it up, Sally. That’s life.” But I disagree.

    If I’m spending 7 hours a day, 5 days a week at a job that I don’t find fulfilling or inspiring, or at the very least, rewarding in some way, then I’ll never be more than where I am. Growth is a part of life and if you’re not growing, what are you doing? I’m a growth-oriented individual and a student of life. I look at everything as a learning experience and an opportunity to understand more about the person that I am and what motivates me.

    Someone at work tried to convince me that I just need to wait it out and see what happens. I said to that person, “when a flower starts to grow you don’t tell it to wait.” He told me to stop putting fertilizer on it. “It’s a good job, it’s close to home, decent pay, secure.” None of those statements speak to my soul.

    I know that most people don’t get it; my never-ending quest to discover those precious things that make my heart sing and put a smile on my face, that light me up from within and make me want to be a better person.

    But that’s ok. It’s not for them to understand, or for me to explain. All I know for sure is that following my heart and my own unique path just feels right. Life is too short to walk the path that others think you should be on.

    Our main goal in life is to find and nurture our God-given talents so we can use them to help others. If you’re not making the most of the gifts you’ve been given, no one else can either.

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  • The Introvert Adventures

    So yesterday I did something I never thought I’d do in light of the fact that I’m a die-hard introvert. I went to a psychic fair with a friend of mine and her friend, who both sell home based products (Thirty-One and Zudora). When my friend first mentioned it to me, I thought “uh-no. I don’t do crowds, sorry. Introvert, remember?” But after thinking it over, and considered the fact that it was being held in a church (which I felt was a safe enough location-not too big, and likely not too many people) and the fact that it was a craft sale and psychic fair, I figured it was a pretty safe bet that the people that frequent these types of things would be of the quieter, laid back nature.(I had, in the past, suffered from a social anxiety disorder in addition to being an introvert, so any type of socializing with strangers/crowds/unfamiliar settings would cause me a ton of grief.) But not to bore you with that, I’m apparently over it because I (shockingly) had no issues with going or with being there all day.

    Aside from it being a fun day, simply because it was something different from the norm for me and because I was in good company, I couldn’t have anticipated the positive effects that came from venturing into the unknown for one day. Not only was it a great opportunity to talk life with a couple of other soft spoken but hilariously funny ladies, it turned out to be the catalyst for change on a much deeper level.

    I joked with the ladies about needing to call in sick on Monday because I’d need the time to recuperate. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Introvert, we need time alone to recharge our batteries after socializing. Heck, I don’t let anyone talk to me for at least 15 minutes when I get home because I work in a crazy and busy building department for the municipality I live in, and am a volunteer firefighter for (but that’s another blog-me being such an introvert and engaging in such an extroverted activity, which I love and have been doing for almost 20 years).

    Fortunately, I don’t feel drained at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Even more surprising was that one of my two teenaged daughters has had a friend over all weekend, which I would normally find draining, but it has barely phased me.

    My little adventure yesterday allowed me to tap into a long forgotten part of myself-the part that often is neglected by women, wives, mothers-that part being ME. I’m so programmed to see myself first and foremost in relation to my kids (as a mother), my husband (as a wife), our two dogs (as their number one caregiver/walker/feeder/cleaner upper- the hair and other unmentionables – after), housework (as the maid) work (as a trying-to-always-do-my-best employee) before I even think about or remember that there’s a ME buried in there somewhere.

    I honestly felt like a new person when I woke up this morning. I chatted with both of the ladies that I spent the day with yesterday, on FB this morning, and smiled at the realization of how much I missed having girlfriends. My introversion can be a double edged sword-I crave the solitude to help me maintain my sense of equilibrium but I miss out on forming new friendships and therefore don’t have many close friends, and even less that I actually go out and do things with. I thought I was totally ok with that until now.

    I’ve been reminded of the gift of girlfriends, of being able to talk to other moms and wives about the issues we all have in common, to be able to share stories and experiences and offer suggestions, to inspire and empower one another, even if it’s done through baby steps, and best of all, to share a few laughs.

    I often joke about being a turtle in a shell, who every once in a while-like once a year maybe-will poke my head out to take a look around and see if I’m missing anything.

    Turns out that I was. Thank you ladies. 🙂

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  • My Meltdown

    I had a “relapse” of sorts this week. I’ve been off medication for depression since January and thought I was motoring along really well – that is, until the wheels fell completely off my wagon a few days ago. There was a boatload of tears, waves of frustration, anger and sadness all jumbled into one, and a couple of days spent laying in bed with a killer headache.

    There were a couple of factors that contributed to my meltdown. There was some stress at work, but the underlying trigger was my monthly cycle. Yes, that cycle. Otherwise known as PMS. So why on earth am I sharing this on my blog? Because I’m sure there are other women out there that struggle with this too, and there’s always great comfort in knowing that you’re not alone.

    My fall off the “I don’t have depression anymore” wagon was Wednesday, and I landed hard. My husband was the one to point out that it might be PMS related. Thursday I saw my naturopathic doctor and she explained that even though I manage fine the rest of the time, serotonin levels (the “feel good” chemical in the brain) fluctuate with hormonal changes and the drop allows the depression to sneak back in. Apparently it’s common in women that have a history of depression.

    I was frustrated with the lack of control I had over the situation, but optimistic that the doctor had options for me that would make it manageable. She suggested a naturopathic supplement called “Brain Mood” to regulate the serotonin levels during this particular time in my cycle, and a vitamin B complex and evening primrose oil to regulate the hormones and keep my brain happy.

    I still have a lingering headache that I’ve had since Thursday, but I don’t need the ice pack so far today. Whether it’s stress or hormonal, there’s a clear message in all of this. It’s important to pay attention to your health and the signs of stress in your body.

    It’s also equally important to realize that we all have struggles and to take it easy. Sometimes we’re on top of things and everything’s fine and other times we feel like we’re swimming upstream. When we feel like we’re in “hamster on a wheel” mode, it’s time to take a break. Whether that means taking a day off or just taking a walk to clear your head and give yourself some room to breathe, it’s time to get some distance.

    Progress takes time and we need to remember to be gentle and patient with ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up when you’re feeling stressed and don’t try to just muscle on through. That’ll only land you where it landed me – even if you happen to be a male or a woman that doesn’t suffer from pms – stress alone will catch up with you sooner or later.

    Remember to do the things that make you happy. For me that’s usually reading or writing, but for my husband it might be watching movies. Whatever it is for you, make time for it and DON’T feel guilty about it. The happier and more relaxed you are, the nicer you are to be around.

    🙂

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  • Listening to your gut

    They say that old habits die hard, and from what I’ve experienced with my old habits, it’s true. One completely unproductive old habit that I’m working on changing is the way I react to things. Consider the following scenario; when somebody says something that I may not necessarily agree with or like, it creates an instant passing of judgement, or a reaction. A decision is automatically made and typically my brain is telling me something along the lines of “Nope…they’re wrong. You need to say this…, or do this…, or react like this…” However, I have recently discovered that there’s another option, if you allow it. A space, a pause, a time for reflection, between stimulus and response.

    Instead of reacting instantly, spewing out a rebuttal of some sort or a barrage of reasons as to why you’re right and someone else is wrong, just pause. Catch yourself before you even let the automatic thought get started. Just wait.

    Let the words fall softly and settle. Get out of your head, and into your heart. Just giving yourself a minute to not respond or react, gives you space. It provides breathing room for you to consider what’s been said, and to just let it be. It’s quite possible that it doesn’t even require a response. In the socially connected era that we live in with instant messaging and immediate response, we think we have to respond right away. It’s a learned behaviour. A habit that could very possibly die hard if you so chose.

    The pause allows you to consider the validity of what someone else is saying and go on from there without needing to qualify it as either right or wrong, negative or positive. It just is. It’s a thought, an opinion, an observation of one kind or another. That moment that you give yourself creates an inner calm that slowly but surely undoes the reaction response. Once you’ve done it a few times you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how nice that space can be, and how easy it is to tap into it.

    So the next time you feel yourself about to react to something, remember to pause and to check in with your gut, and choose to go with the calm that’s there rather than the chatter in your head. It’s a more peaceful way to go through life. And who wouldn’t choose that?

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  • Let the walls come down

    I spent much of my life putting up walls around me. I’m so happy to see that I’m finally dismantling those walls, and letting life in. I finally understand that it’s my thinking that builds the walls, and it’s my heart that allows them to come down. My thoughts (the negative, limiting, self-sabotaging ones) create the walls or the barriers that kept me living a small life, but when I’m quiet and peaceful enough to listen to what my heart is telling me (the way I really feel deep down- my hopes, dreams and desires) and acknowledge that truth, the barriers dissolve.

     We spend much of our lives trying to be something we’re not, at least I did. I tried to be the perfect girlfriend, or the perfect wife, the perfect sister, the perfect mother, the perfect daughter, the perfect employee. Little did I realize that #1-there is no perfect anything, and #2, trying to accomplish anything by being perfect is like trying to collect water in a sieve. No matter how hard you try, it will never fill you up. You’ll always be left with that feeling that something is missing.

    There is a significant difference between leading with your head, and leading with your heart. I’ve found that whenever I’ve tried to force things (which were usually a result of thinking that I needed to do something-in order to produce a desired outcome) it has generally resulted in the opposite occurring. Yet when I feel inspired to do something, and I’ve followed through on whatever it was, it always proves to be the right move. In fact, it usually turns out better than I hoped, and it’s almost happens effortlessly.

    I firmly believe that we would not have dreams in our hearts if we were not meant to live them. Your hopes and dreams and aspirations are not merely destined to remain hobbies. Whatever ignites your passion, fuels your fire or lights you up, that my dear is exactly what you need to spend more time doing.

    It’s not selfish, don’t even think that. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, your family, and the world. When we fill ourselves up, we generate the power and the resources to fill others up. It is our job to help others with our gifts and talents.

     Whether it’s your sense of humour, your compassion, your skills in certain trades, your painting, your writing, your leadership, your willingness to go the extra mile, we all have gifts. And they are gifts that only we can give.

     We recently removed a wall between our kitchen and living room. It was something we’d talked about doing for quite a while and finally decided to do it. I was amazed at how good it felt to take down the wall, to open up our living space, to let the light shine through. To be opening things up instead of closing them off not only brightened my living room, it brightened my life.

    Let the walls come down and let your light shine. You may be the light in someone else’s darkness. There is no greater gift than that.

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