Writing About What Matters To Me

Over the last few years, I’ve written about many different things and for various publications: spring cleaning ideas for a magazine, little girls’ dresses for an e-store, company bios for a financial website, my own memoirs for anthologies, grant applications for a charity, Facebook posts for a small business, articles on conscious living for an online magazine, and a whole lot more. And of course here on my blog, where I share personal stories and thoughts on living a creative, authentic and kind life. You name it, and I’ve probably got at least one sample of it. Basically, I’ve been finding my way as a writer and I am grateful I’ve had these opportunities to do that.

But over the last year and a half, I’ve felt a pull toward writing the things that really matter to me. I’ve found that these topics aren’t always easy to tackle, and are often more nerve-wracking to publish than anything else I’ve ever written. My ideas on how we can live together in harmony, my worries and hopes for the next generations, and my need to share the stories that bridge the gap between us aren’t easily squelched; giving them voice has been the most fulfilling part of my writing journey so far.

There isn’t a clear market for these thoughts. I have many writer friends, some who make really good coin doing product reviews for companies or writing about travel destinations. And they work their butts off doing it, all the while loving it. Sometimes I think to myself, I could do that too. And I know I technically can, but something inside me won’t let me. That’s not my work. I need to work my butt off doing what I love. 

So I’m still finding my way, but I don’t feel like I’m doing it as blindly as I was before.

I know who I am as a writer now, and when I try to sway from that I am stopped every time by my inner voice. I guess you can say my creative Self is pretty stubborn, and I think over the years of reading and writing about creativity, I’ve developed a closer relationship with that Self of mine. I can no longer deny it what it wants.

If you are part of my Facebook community, you might have seen that I’ve started writing a column for my local newspaper, Peace Arch News. My column is called Building Bridges, and that’s what I intend to do through the thoughts and stories I share there. So far, I’m two articles in and working on the third.

I’d love it if you had a read! In the first one, I talk about my experiences growing up bi-culturally as a child of immigrant parents. I thought that would be a good introduction to myself, and where I come from (literally and figuratively).

In the second one, I talk about the fact that tolerance is beneath us. I really don’t think we should be tolerating each other. Do you?

peace arch news, taslim jaffer, tolerance, building bridges, column, columnist, multiculturalism, acceptance

I’d love to hear your thoughts which you can share right under the article on the newspaper’s website if you wish. Or feel free to message me privately. There are also social media icons on each article if you are interested in sharing.

If you have any stories about cultural connections you’d like me to consider for future articles (your name would never be mentioned), please drop me a line.

I hope that whatever path you’re on, you’re choosing authenticity as a measure for what you do, how you be, what you put out in the world. It’s not always easy, but I just think it must be worth it in the end. You’ve got a light in you that is stubborn, too. Pay attention!

Thanks for reading!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

When A Passion Led To A Path (And Details Of A Speaking Engagement)

Like every young child, I asked a lot of questions. My curiosity was particularly piqued by relationships among people and groups. Further along in childhood and adolescence, when I learned more about discrimination on a personal level I questioned why prejudice existed. And as a practicing woman of faith, I wondered why there were barriers – and wars – between different religions. Some of the answers were found in history; there was usually an event or circumstance that ‘explained’ why things were the way they were…but on a soul level, I am still searching for that answer.

I think that’s because, as a soul, I know that prejudice, discrimination, and inequality shouldn’t exist. They are human constructs rooted in the way we choose to see the world. I guess that part of me wonders why it’s so difficult to take a step back, objectively look at a situation and see that there could be another side to it. I wonder why it’s so difficult to accept that another viewpoint, though different from our own, is just as valid.

I’ve had a lifetime of experience caught in the middle of various viewpoints. Growing up South Asian-Canadian meant I had the tricky task of interpreting one culture for the other, constantly explaining to someone (whether my parents or my peers) why I do the things I do, why I think the way I do, why I want the things I want. Though I resented this role of interpreter many times as an adolescent, I can now see that it gave me the cultural sensitivity that is the antidote to things like discrimination.

A year and a bit ago, I accidentally turned this passion into a path. I wrote an article for Huffington Post on a bit of a whim,  not expecting anyone to read it. Well, many people did: 23K people ‘liked’ it on Facebook and it gathered just over 700 comments. The comments were shocking and the hate that exuded from them made me wonder if I had not made a great mistake.

From that article, though, I ended up on CBC Radio and in a couple of churches, with the intention of building bridges amongst communities. The speaking engagements were beyond my expectations, and I was truly uplifted by the positive feedback I received from the congregations.

And I’m thrilled to be doing it again on a larger stage, this time at a women’s interfaith conference held on Saturday March 5, 2016 in Surrey B.C! This will be a space for women of faith to come together and bridge gaps, embrace their commonalities and contemplate on how we can move forward as people with a great impact on the next generation. My talk will include some basics on Islam with a heavy emphasis on celebrating what we have in common and using that to build a happier, healthier, safer future.

The details and tickets are available here – if there is chance you will be there, please let me know because I’d love to look out for you.

Whether this talk or this topic is something that interests you or not, I hope that this post made you think of your own passions. What is it you were always curious about as a child, an adolescent? How about now? Where can that curiosity lead you if you just let it? Perhaps on a path you never would have even dreamed of.

Thanks for reading!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

“Radical Honesty” – Guest Post By Natalia Sanyal

I’m starting with this week off with a guest post from a woman who never ceases to amaze me. I met Natalia in the fall of 2012 at a dinner with several other top mom bloggers for that year. She ended up sitting next to me, and we did not stop talking to each other the whole evening. I felt as though I had known her forever, yet still had that excitement of meeting a significant person for the first time.

When she agreed to share about her guiding phrase for 2016, I knew she’d write something raw, something many of us can relate to. Her post, Radical Honesty, is one of my favourite things I’ve ever read from her. And I call her my Word Maven, so that says a lot.

Please take some time to connect with Natalia on Instagram where she describes herself perfectly as Adventurer, Yogi, Wild Woman, Girl Boss and Tribal Queen.

My guiding phrase for 2016 is: radical honesty, which for me, means, I get to choose to be myself—a decision I had always avoided. Although it was out of fear, disguised as good intentions, I used to lie compulsively. I’m pretty sure my filipino genes were the only thing that saved me from Pinocchio nose.

Growing up, I was always the “good kid” at home; the teacher’s pet in school; the one who was friends with everyone—from the cool kids to the outsiders.

I had perfected the art of being lovable. I followed my formula to a tee and it worked every time.

There wasn’t much to it.

Smile a lot. Tell them what they want to hear. Do what is expected of you. And don’t ever, EVER, ruffle any feathers.

That’s it. That’s all I had to do. And they all loved “me”.

I thought I was winning at life.

I remember having many conversations with the more honest friends and siblings of mine who were often confronted or rejected—what I considered to be a death sentence—for telling the truth.

Why would anyone put themselves through that? Just lie about it. If you’re not physically hurting anyone, what’s the big deal? You’re saving everyone from a lot of unnecessary pain. At the least, you steer clear from awkward moments—which I believed, should be avoided at all costs.

Sure I felt slight pangs of guilt and shame from time to time, but hey, the discomfort wasn’t unbearable.

…Until, life taught me that the refusal of my truth would come back to haunt me. Not because Karma’s a bitch. Because the root of the issue, was some serious lack of self love.

For four years, I was pulling all-nighters “studying hard for university” when I was actually out partying with pimps and con artists. Yeah…ask me about that some other time.

I chose partners who cheated on me so many times that I couldn’t meet a new female in my city without wondering if he had slept with her.

My jaw muscles were so tight from biting down to hold my truth in, that many days, I couldn’t open my mouth more than a few millimetres.

I suffered a LOT before I let life break through my armour. That’s when it hit me: everybody loved “me”— but I didn’t love myself.

My whole life I had been so worried about my truth making me unworthy of love from others. What I didn’t realize was, that every truth I chose not to express, was reinforcing the biggest lie of all time: that love comes from somewhere outside of me.

I finally got it on one unsuspecting sunny day in June of 2015. I experienced freedom. It’s hard to put into words. Every cell in my body was vibrating with one message: I AM love. I have nothing to protect, nothing to lose and nothing to hide.

Ironically, in that moment, I felt so alone. But it was so #*@$!ing beautiful.

So if it takes being alone, with just me and my truth, I’m definitely down with that. I’d rather have you hate me for my truth than love “me” for my lies.

So now, 2016 is for training—so that I rewire my brain to express truth with every chance I get, without a moment’s hesitation. So far, I’ve noticed that with every radically truthful expression, I become more and more brutally beautifully honest.

Here’s to all the stunningly awkward moments in 2016 and onward.

I’d love your support. Go ahead. Ask me the most uncomfortable question you can come up with about anything: me, you, sex, drugs, religion…etc.  I promise to be radically honest.

natalia sanyal, the uncommoners club, nat nanton, ami sanyal

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

Why We Take All Those Online Quizzes!

People are curious…about other people! Some are so curious they end up getting a degree in Psychology (like yours truly) and others simply ask a lot of questions. “How are you?” “What do you do for work?” “Why do you do that?” “What do you do for fun?” “What was it like to grow up in another country?” “What movies do you like?” And it goes on. Really, the art of getting to know each other is based on spending time together, observing behaviours and asking questions.

Guess who else we’re really curious about? OURSELVES! We take these random online quizzes to learn about our personality type, our perfect career, our spirit animal, and even which Sex and the City character we are most like. We love learning about ourselves and we should. Because if we know what makes us tick, if we know what brings us down, if we know what fills our life with purpose, we can forge an authentic path. And you know how much happier you are when you are being true to yourself!

When was the last time you spent time with yourself? Unplugged, I mean. Truly been present with yourself. When was the last time you turned your attention to your own behaviours and asked YOURSELF questions?

I’ve been journalling for 27 years so I know something about talking to myself. I know about questioning and observing. And spending time with myself is one of my favourite things! I have found this practice to be ground-breaking at times and pure fun at other times. But most importantly, it’s allowed me to make decisions that create a life and a legacy that I am happy with.

Asking yourself questions is simple; answering them can be a journey. I’ve made it a little more simple and a little more of a structured road for you by creating What If…?: 52 Questions Designed for an Entire Year of Self-Discovery.

It’s a portable journal with 52 questions that will have you thinking about your values, the lessons you’ve learned and your dreams for the future. Knowing these parts of yourself will help you make choices for your own best outcome.

Although this journey can begin at any time, with a new year coming up many of us are thinking about our intentions for 2016. If your intention is to know yourself better, live more authentically, add more joy and purpose to your life, consider picking one of these up. The What If…? journal also makes a great Christmas gift, birthday gift or just-because gift.

I don’t want to sell you on self-discovery. You know when you’re ready for it. It looks different for everyone. But I’m sharing because I’m passionate about creativity, authenticity and kindness – and this journey is all of that rolled into one!

Here’s a ‘what if’ question for you to answer in the comments (from the book): What if you had to leave behind all your worldly possessions except one? What would you take with you?

I’d love to hear your answers!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

The One Thing I Intend To Do In 2016

I know – it’s not December yet, and I’m already thinking about the one thing I intend to do in 2016. I feel a pull around mid-November to look ahead and think about what I want out of the next calendar year. The last two weeks of December are a combination of dinners, movies, get-togethers and late nights wrapping last-minute gifts. There’s magic in that, yes. But the quiet reflection of what was and the hopeful anticipation of what’s to come is a beautiful space. And I like to sit here, in that space, and set my intention. It’s an interesting concept – to claim something that has so many variables. In reality, we don’t actually know what a year holds. But we can go forth with a mindset that will allow us to ride the ups and downs; settling into that mindset is part of setting intentions for the new year.

The one thing I intend to do in 2016 is shine.

Over the last few years, I have been an archaeologist, digging into my core, recovering evidence of who I truly am. I’ve unearthed bits and pieces: a writer, a musician, a teacher, a Nature-lover and a participant in the circle of giving. With each recovery, each remembrance of who I am and what truly fulfills me, I’ve added to my life more joy and purpose. Launching this blog 4 years ago was instrumental in my quest for an authentic life; as I have been writing content and creating workbooks to help you on your journey, I’ve made enormous strides in letting ME out.

So, now on the cusp of a new year, I hold in my hand these shiny bits of my soul. These sparkly things that light me up and that I hope light up those around me. I am a writer with messages that get people thinking and feeling, and I teach others to use writing as a healing tool. I am a pianist who fills her home with soulful sounds. My kids know I love mossy trees. In fact, I am certain trees will be a part of my legacy. And I try in whatever way I can to give – not because I have more or am more, but because I know that the shiny bits inside me also exist in every single person out there. And everyone deserves the chance to shine.

shine, new years resolution, new years 2016, 2016, let me out creative, taslim jaffer, sparkler, soul, shiny, sparkly, musician, writer, poet, teacher, nature

Including me.

I wrote here about how fully stepping into who I am will result in a domino of change, and that change can feel scary. But I think what is even more scary to me is being 90-something years old, on my deathbed, and wishing I had done what I had come here to do. And what is even more motivating, is knowing that I am not guaranteed those 90-something years. On the brink of a new year, when I am reminded of the passage of time, that is the thought that propels me forward.

In 2016, I intend to write more, play music more, get out and experience more, and serve, serve, serve.

In 2016, I intend to shine.

Is it too early for you to start thinking about your guiding word for the new year? I’d love to hear your intention in the comments!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

My Thoughts Today On Leaving My Career For My Passion

If you’ve been following my blog long enough, you know that I didn’t start out my career life as a writer. I earned a B.A. in Psychology and Linguistics then a post-graduate diploma in Communicative Disorders before finishing off my 8 year stint of post-secondary education with an M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology. I worked as a speech-language pathologist in the school district and private practice full time for two years before having my first child and then part-time for another 4 years until I found myself at a crossroads.

Essentially, I had limited hours in the day – as do we all – and I had to decide what I would do with that time. Would I continue on in a career that wasn’t fulfilling me, or would I follow my heart into an abyss, not knowing what was to come…but certain that I had the potential to add more passion to my life?

Well, you know what I chose.

I have wrestled with a lot over these past few years, on my self-discovery journey. I’ve had to ask myself questions like, did I waste 8 years of my life ‘studying the wrong thing’? What about all that time and money and energy? What about the money I could be earning right now as a speech-language pathologist? If I worked full-time in private practice…whoa…very different ballgame here.

But it always comes down to this: Every day that I show up in this world as a professional writer – not a hobby writer, not a wish-I-was-a-writer, not a someday-in-the-future-writer – is a day that I show up authentically in the world. It’s a day that my soul rejoices and celebrates the fact that I know who I am and I’m acting on it.

I absolutely know that circumstances can dictate the amount of time we spend on the things that make our soul happy: sometimes they are hobbies and sometimes they are careers. Sometimes they are hobbies that transition into careers. And every circumstance is perfect as long as that *thing* that screams “This is ME!” is in our lives in one way or another. For me, it was an eyes closed, heart open, deep dive into the unknown. I am grateful every day for the support the Universe has provided me in this lifetime to be able to do this.

The writing and speaking work has ebbed and flowed in perfect time. Sometimes things come up unexpectedly: one article led to a radio interview which then led to two speaking engagements. It’s been exciting and unpredictable and a full-time learning experience. I’ve had to deal with my own ego and learn to be super patient with the Universe (and myself!). I’ve had to learn to go after opportunities or simply create them myself. If you’d have been a fly on my wall at any given moment over the last few years, you’d undoubtedly have found me crying on the kitchen floor at some point, wondering how I would grow my business and my family without going totally bonkers. Where would the time come from? And the energy? And why wasn’t I where I thought I should be at that point?

But I would never go back in time to that crossroads and opt for the other choice. I would never exchange my life over the past 4 years for anything else. Why?

Because I am moved by my own work. I am moved by the messages I share on my blog and in other publications. I’m moved by the thoughts that flow out of me on stage when I’m talking about love and kindness and building bridges. I’m awe-struck that the very deep, quiet thoughts I had as a child about the way we ought to live with each other on this planet are actually being published. And people are inviting me to share these thoughts with them. Most importantly, I’m grateful for every night I put my head on my pillow after a day of being who I truly am – and that I can share this part of me with my kids.

Being moved by my own work allows me to be a cheerleader to those around me who are also paving their own way. I strongly believe we each have messages to share with this world, even by simply being those messages, and I think it’s a crying shame when we suppress that part of ourselves. So when I see friends or strangers stepping into who they are, I feel a sense of relief for them.

Here’s a quote I love from Gabrielle Bernstein who sums this up, brilliantly:

Gabrielle Bernstein, moved by your work, success, definition of success, addicted to success, let me out creative, taslim jaffer, career change, writer, speech-language pathologist

I wrote about my definition of success last week and this really resonated with many of you. I think acting on our personal definitions will help us create more fulfilling lives.

I’m looking forward to seeing Gabrielle Bernstein speak in Vancouver on Saturday December 5, 2015. I always love being in the presence of someone who has made a living doing what they are passionate about, and I love the crowd that chooses to go to these events, too.

If you’re feeling like something is missing from your life, it’s probably your ‘ME’ factor. So, I encourage you to get back to the things you love doing, in whatever capacity, and make them a regular part of your life. Remember that everything ebbs and flows in perfect time, and your current circumstance won’t exist a year from now, or maybe even 6 months from now. Just do what you can with what you have, but let there be something in your life that screams, “This is ME!”

 

 

 

 

That C- In Poetry Turned Out To Be A Gift After All

The C- I received in my Poems and Novels class in first year college made me feel ridiculous for ever considering myself a poet. Never mind that I fell in love with poetry in Grade 8. Never mind that I memorized poems so I could whisper them to myself and feel the thrill of the words rolling off my tongue. Never mind that I wrote my heartache in lyrical language and line breaks all through my high school years.

The C- made me feel like a fake, and yes – it bruised my ego. I stopped writing poetry and stuck to journaling and short stories. I still read other people’s work, and it still moved me. Some of my favourite moments listening to Wayne Dyer on stage was when he recited Emily Dickinson and others, making the words and their meaning come alive. I didn’t completely abandon the art, but I did place a great distance between it and me.

Until 6 years ago, when I was desperately trying to piece myself back together, trying to engage in life with passion instead of listlessness. I was encouraged by an intuitive woman to meet other writers; she thought it would help me unblock. So I Google’d poetry readings+Vancouver and up popped Pandora’s Collective: a registered charity and literary arts organization that makes poetry accessible to all, as a tool for healing and self-discovery.

I took a leap and went out to one of their events in April 2009. It was far from my home and I didn’t know a soul, but it was not as uncomfortable as living a life without my Self. While I want to say I stepped outside my comfort zone, the truth is, I was stepping away from confusion, frustration and sadness, and into a life that was whole.

Fast forward to October 2015: I have been reading my poetry on stages through Pandora’s Collective and on my own for 5 years now. I also host the South Surrey/White Rock Word Whips group under their umbrella – a free, drop-in group where people come and practice writing to prompts.

Nobody has ever questioned my authenticity as a poet. Nobody has sat me down and grilled me on the iambic pentameter or asked me to get off the stage because I broke any kind of rules. Maybe I’m lucky to read to such polite people 🙂 Or maybe…art allows me to be who I am without judgment.

Every time I sit down to write a poem, I have to undo that C- in my head. I have to move past logic and into my heart where my ideas and feelings reside, ready to take flight. I have to allow them their wings and let them show up just the way they want to. And when I am writing for a reading, when I know other poets will also share their work, I have to get to that quiet place inside me that knows we all have stories and we have a right to share them in our own way. I have a right to share my story in my own way.

The more I write and read, the less I have to convince myself to accept ‘poet’ as part of my identity. And after a reading, when someone comes up to me and says my work touched them, I know that is a much deeper satisfaction than that A would have been. I can’t even imagine what my days would look like now,without my art – all of it.

I can’t imagine who I would be right now if that C- was stronger than my soul’s longing.

I’m filled with gratitude today after last night’s poetry reading at the Sidney and Gertrude Zack Art Gallery in Vancouver. I am just filled.

This is me: the poet.

Jewish Community Centre, Vancouver, Sidney and Gertrude Zack Gallery, Pandora's Collective, poetry readings, Vancouver, Lori Goldbert, urban forest

{Photo Credit for this post: Una Bruhns}

Next week I get to do something else I love – I get to facilitate other people’s healing in a poetry workshop at a treatment centre. It is an honour and a privilege to be a facilitator and perhaps, in this light, that C- was a gift: it has taught me to create, share and teach art with love and non-judgement.

I’ve Got 99 Definitions Of Success…And This Ain’t One Of Them

When I was in high school, I journaled about what my life would be like as an adult…because I wanted to be an adult with every fibre of my being. I wanted freedom and I wanted to BE somebody. Somebody powerful; as a teenager, I didn’t feel I had any control over my environment.

I wrote about this life of high heels and power suits, a blue convertible BMW with a gold nameplate above my parking spot, an office in a very tall building with a view, and a penthouse apartment overlooking English Bay. In this imagined life, I was a high-powered executive (there’s that word ‘power’ again) at an advertising firm. That was a testament to my then-favourite TV show, Melrose Place. (You know exactly what I’m talking about, right?)

This scenario had absolutely nothing to do with everything else I journaled or thought about: social justice, volunteering overseas, cross-cultural relations, building community centres, developing programs to boost self-esteem in adolescents. Seriously, my high school journal is a goldmine of compassionate, heart-centred ideas. Except for those few pages when what I focused on was being on top of the world, literally (in my penthouse and my top-floor office).

What I loved about that life was the fact that I would ride up the elevator, alone, to my own apartment, come in and kick my shoes off, toss my keys onto a table by the door, walk over my plush white carpet to turn on my stereo, flop onto a bean bag chair and just be. My answering machine would have a few messages from close friends wanting to make plans for the weekend – a weekend I could fill as I please. I could decide what I would eat for dinner, and how I would spend my evening. I imagined reading books in the quiet, taking long bubble baths, and sauntering out to restaurants at my will. That is like the ultimate introvert dream.

And it’s really the opposite of my life now. I live in Suburbia – with a capital S – and I live in a home with 4 other people, 3 of whom need me for an insane number of things. We did lease a BMW for a few years – but I rarely drove it because it didn’t fit enough children. That car was known as Papa’s car.  I have a minivan, and I thank God for it every day! (Space = sanity)

I rarely wear my high heels, I don’t own a suit that says “Heather Locklear,” or make presentations that will wow an entire boardroom full of people and there isn’t a team of people waiting with baited breath for me to make some monumental decision for a large company.

While words like power and ambition and success are extremely celebrated in my world, they resemble practically nothing of my old definitions.

Power. I love power. Personal power. Every day, I strive to stand in my personal power to affect positive change in the world. Maybe through a blog post that will get you thinking about something in a different light. Perhaps through a magazine article or a letter to the editor to show a new perspective. I also value your personal power; if we all felt more comfortable in our skin and happy in our authenticity we would have a much more peaceful world – so I created workbooks to help with that. I’m now working on the next phase of my business which is building workshops for you – for your health, joy and legacy. Because that is some powerful stuff.

Ambition. Oh, this word. This word means something different to me since becoming a mom of 3. Ambition has nothing to do with my Masters degree. Ambition now means standing in my personal power, helping you find health and joy, and running a household while not losing sight of: my spirituality, the things that bring me joy and what it is I wish to leave behind. That is one ambitious to-do list.

Success. On a successful day, I make decisions based on what I envision for myself and my family. On a successful day, I get feedback from readers that say I changed their world somehow, opened their minds a little, or helped them remember who they are inside. On a successful day, my kids will say something that makes me proud, makes me feel like if today were my last day, then I could go knowing I did something right in this world. On a successful day, I can look myself in the mirror and say, “I love you. You are enough.” And I can feel good about my typical outfit of leggings and a T-shirt with an empowering phrase. I can love the fact that I could, in theory, dye the tips of my hair pink and still be taken seriously when I go out in the world to do what I love. In fact, I’d probably get some high-fives for my creative expression 😉

Taslim Jaffer, endless possibilities, old navy, empowering phrase, 99 definitions of success

It’s so strange – those few pages in my high school journal – they are so not a part of the life I have worked hard to create. Underlyingly, all I wanted was the freedom to be me: powerful, ambitious and successful. I just had to live a little to know what that would look like. I had to grow into myself and, at one point, I had to remember all those things that truly matter to me most: art, social change, and my spiritual journey.

I have nothing against power suits and corporate jobs; they’re just not for me. And that doesn’t make me any less than someone who is built that way. That is a liberating realization, and I’m sharing it because maybe it can be for you, too.

I am enough. And so are you.

 

Overcoming Struggle Through Connections

Sometimes it seems like it’s just one thing after another. I started off September with a bang. I mean, laundry every day, people. I was knocking things off my to-do list (including self-care!), nailing school lunches and getting out a bit more. And then last week I literally got knocked off track in a car accident which also set my emotions in a spin, and this week, life threw another curve ball.

My first impulse, and please pay attention because this is super important…my first impulse is to throw a pity party. To the party, I invite any and every instance in the past when something has derailed me. I remember all the times I’ve felt totally out of control or have had to ask for help. And I get angry that I ever felt so helpless.

And when people, like real life people, want to hang out, I cringe. No, people. I’m cocooning. I’m hibernating. I’m wallowing. I’m too annoyed to see you. So then I cocoon and hibernate and wallow and be annoyed…which further propagates the anxiety and frustration.

But not this time. I can’t. I can’t do those things anymore. Yes, I had a Friday evening last week where I grumbled about a dark cloud hanging over me, and the rest of the weekend I alternated between tears and laughter. But things are smoothing out fairly quickly because I have no choice.

Why don’t I have a choice? Because it’s not who I am. I’m not really a glass half-empty kind of person. I’m not really a hermit. I’m not really someone who thinks life is crappy. Crappy things happen, but in general I’m being shown blessings all the time. I look for them, these blessings, and I find them in every little thing. I even say hello to the spider near my side door gate when I see her in the morning and thank her for keeping the other bugs out of my way. Like, out loud.

My friend Jamie, from Styling the Inside, texted me the other day asking if we could hang out – coffee, tea, painting – and my response was, I’d love to but I’m cocooning.

And I really would LOVE to. I crave connection with girlfriends and I really do have some awesome ladies in my life. They inspire me, they support me, and they genuinely care. I’m in touch with women daily usually online or by quick text messages, and short blips during the day at school. But meeting in person at a time that is meant for true connection is so completely different.

Last week I met with Claire deBoer from The Gift of Writing; it was our first time seeing each other in person after following each other online for a couple of years. One of the things we talked about was this face-to-face connection and how important it is. In fact, I shared with her a dream of mine of building an offline community of artists.

So, really, feeling a bit low for a couple days is fine and allowed…but to cut myself off from that which I crave just to prove to myself that yes, life does crappy things seems very counter-productive. Almost self-sabotagey. I’m glad I’m at a point where I can identify this about myself. I think it will only serve me to understand this about me.

And today Jamie wrote a post all about the importance of face-to-face community with some tips on how you can get out there and find yours. It was really her post that prompted me to text her again saying, let’s meet up! And it reminded me of the joy I get from sharing space and time with people who are journeying along on this unpredictable but beautiful life.

All of this is to say, if your first response is to throw a pity-party, make it a short one and don’t invite all the old baggage as guests. Then remember that human beings are social animals – no matter where we fall on the introvert/extravert continuum – so take steps to feed that innate desire to connect offline.

And stay on top of your laundry. It helps with the overwhelm.

 

Realizing I’ve Been Side-Stepping This Critical Part About Authenticity

Ok, so…kind of a breakthrough-y weekend. I went to the one-day business retreat for heart-centred women put on by Kate Muker and Lara Kozan called Being Woman. It was essentially a very full and intense – yet loving and gentle – day of revealing our soul’s whispers and owning them. This intimate group of ours held space for each other as we dug through layers and came out the other side. I didn’t realize how transformational it was until today, two days later.

By the end of the retreat, I was pretty happy standing in front of this group and stating who I am at my soul level, even though my internal censor was nattering away in the peanut gallery of my mind – chiding me with questions like, “Who are YOU to think you can be this?”

I had carpooled with my friend Jamie of Styling the Inside and on the rainy drive home, opened up to her about some of my ‘grandiose’ plans. I shared a little about the cement wall I keep bumping up against that doesn’t allow me to take the leap. To actually JUMP into the great abyss and be me, fully. To 100% participate in life, the big picture, as the person I really am. The cement wall is so thick and sturdy and unbreakable that I dim down who I am, shine a little less brightly, play a little more small. But on that drive home, I can now see, a little crack had started creeping up through this block.

When I got home, I thanked and paid the sitter, then couldn’t decide if I was hungry. Realizing I was just bone-tired, I decided to go to bed when the baby did. I was sure I’d be asleep instantly and would probably sleep right through the morning.

I was so wrong. The red numbers 3:17 glared at me from my alarm clock as I tossed and turned, half grateful that my husband was out of town with the other kids so I wasn’t disturbing anyone, but also feeling alone and lost. The tears came then as I let myself feel totally unsure of what was happening, in that night and along the rest of my path. I cried out to my mom for help, literally talking out loud to her, asking for guidance.

The images that flashed through my mind after the tears stopped were the guidance I needed. They were pictures of me being the things I said I was. Like, BEING them.

Because it’s one thing to know who you are and what you believe in and why you are here. And it is SUCH a different thing to actually act on it.

And I realized in that moment, seeing myself in my mind glowing and radiant and purposeful, that I have to get out – just like the name of my blog. I have to get out of my house, out of my shell and out of my head.

Yes, over the years since I started this blog I have participated in the writing community and I’ve done my share of fundraising for causes I believe in. But primarily, I’ve taken the scraps of what is left over after the rest of my family schedules in their activities and then have had to decide: do I use this little sliver of time to work toward my purpose, or should I add this little sliver to the rest of the time that I am already giving my family?

To be fair, my husband has to make the same decisions and he often foregoes social events to be with the family. He turns down invitations to hang out with others so that he makes sure he has time to nurture his relationships with his kids and me. But he also has his business and has a large chunk of that pie to devote to what he is passionate about.

When my husband and I talked about this last night, we both realized I don’t actually need a lot more time than I already have. ‘A lack of time’ was actually a scapegoat; the real story is that me fully stepping into who I am will result in a domino effect of change and change can feel scary.

But it will also positively impact the growth and development of this family.

[Tweet “A parent who is living his or her truth is the greatest gift to a child. “]

Just a few minutes ago, Jamie tagged me in this SoulPancake video on Facebook. If you have a couple minutes, please watch this. Understanding the message here is critical to living an authentic life.

What most resonated with you about this video or what I shared? I have to admit, I’m stalling a bit before hitting publish on this one. It must mean this is really important. I hope you are able to take something from it.

I’d love to hear your comments below!