Writing Through Grief

Yesterday marked 15 years since my grandma passed away. Letting her go after her sudden heart attack was a difficult process; she was a significant mother figure to me and an important teacher. Through her words and actions she taught me about resilience, faith and the power of a great story. Losing her was a shock that I worked hard to move through during my second year of marriage and grad school but the show did go on. Over the years I have remembered her fondly, kept her photo in my writing studio, and smiled to myself at memories that hover briefly like hummingbirds.

the writer and her grandma

Two days ago, however, Grief showed up and filled the entire doorway. Barged in without a knock. Pinned me to my desk with giant hands pressing my shoulders. I couldn’t move. I wasn’t permitted to do anything except feel my heart ripping again. From deep inside me, from the fleshy parts where memories reside, spilled tears I didn’t know I still had for her. I sobbed with my head bowed. I had no choice but to succumb, understanding that this would pass but, for that moment, Grief was calling the shots.

When I was done, when I could inhale and exhale without dissolving again, I reached for a blank sheet of paper and wrote:

Tomorrow is 15 years since I said bye to Maa. If it’s true, if there is such a thing, then when I see her next, I’ll be stepping off an elevator around the corner from her second floor apartment. Before I see her, I will know her door is wide open and she is waiting in the doorway. I will hear her hood fan, smell the spices. When I round that corner, I will see her ear-to-ear grin, her crinkly eyes, her outstretched arms. She will call my name and I will rush forward, feel her soft body, hear her chuckle in my ear. I will lean back so she can plant kisses on my cheeks. She will usher me in and then feed me omelette with cilantro, and decades of untold stories.

Essayist Anaïs Nin said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” I had a chance that day to taste those moments with Maa again. My eyes, my nose, my cheeks, my hands had recorded every greeting with her at that apartment, and on a day that I faced the gaping hole she left, I was able to stretch out a memory and play it against the darkness like a movie screen.

If this is it, then – if this is all there is – I am thankful for it. If I never round that corner after stepping off the elevator in some other dimension where loved ones live, then at least I can do it on the page while my mind’s eye travels over the loose skin on Maa’s hands and my body remembers her.

Taslim Jaffer writer

The Key To Being Happy

There was a long period of time when I felt like happiness and I were at two different ends of the room. Trying to catch up to happiness was like weaving through a crowd where nobody was parting the way – meanwhile, happiness kept changing location.

It was frustrating.

Over time, it’s occurred to me that happiness is not at the other end of the room or in any location outside of me, but actually exists within my perspective. I know, I know. I’ve read the memes and been to personal development conferences. I was fed a steady diet of Wayne Dyer growing up. But it’s one thing to hear the words and another to really, truly understand them.

I’ve always found journaling to be a source of reflection which helps me see things in a different light. I could start out writing about how terrible I feel about myself – maybe I’m having a yell-y mom day or feel overwhelmed when comparing myself to others – but once I start writing all of those thoughts in a space that is free of judgment and allows me to be totally real, my tone starts changing. I start talking to myself like a friend. Encouraging myself, reminding myself of the wonderful parts of me, and really helping me focus on being authentic and making decisions from that place. That ability to express freely, to reflect without bias, and to write down the loving words that come from deep inside me has kept me connected to happiness.

Yes, happiness is found inside me.

I’m also conscious of placing the responsibility of keeping me happy on myself rather than anything or anyone else. I have a great network of friends who I enjoy being with but they don’t govern my happiness. My kids – I love them to death. But God knows, in day-to-day moments, if interactions with them were the sole things that made me happy…well, my emotions would be all over the spectrum. My husband is my partner in every way and I love him deeply. But again, if I relied on him to be happy, I’d be off the mark.

While my relationships and my thoughts can sway my emotions, who I am as a person, my gifts, my talents, my dreams, my faith in goodness, are like the rocks at the bottom of the fast-moving river that can’t be budged.

Time and again, I’ve dived deep and rested on those rocks through journaling. It really helps me understand what I want, what I don’t want, where I’m at, where I’m not at, and how to be content with it all. Most of all, it helps me bring to light the things I wouldn’t trade about myself for anything even if those things mean nothing to anyone else. Even if those things don’t make me look successful or flashy or important. Because being anchored to those rocks means that I know what I value. And I think that is part of what keeps me happy.

So, the key to being happy? For me: know myself, make decisions based on what sits well in my soul, and spend time doing the things that please me. Life can be chaotic and unpredictable. But those rocks…they’re amazing places to hang out.

What keeps you happy?

taslim jaffer, let me out creative


Add Self-Discovery To Your 2017 Through Writing!

As we approach a new year, many of us are thinking about what we’d like to add to our lives to make them more fun, more relaxed, more simple…but how do we know exactly what it is we need? What is it really that would make our lives exactly what we want?

Only one person can know the answer: YOU. And writing can be one way to uncover it.

On Monday January 9, I’m starting a 4-session Writing for Self-Discovery class at South Surrey Arts Centre for anyone who has some experience journaling already and would like to go deeper into the practice. We’ll specifically be focusing on using journaling as a way to know yourself better and make decisions that will increase what you want, and perhaps kick to the curb the things you don’t want. The class runs from 6:30-8:30 pm.

It’s a Level Two class, but all this means is that you have some experience with journaling. If you are unsure of whether this applies to you, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

For more information and to register, please visit Semiahmoo Arts or ask them about Writing For Self-Discovery Level Two by calling 604-592-6970.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative



How Writing Heals

I think people shy away from the idea of writing being a healing tool because they believe it requires some sort of pre-existing experience in writing. It doesn’t, really. It’s a practice that you can develop.  (And grammar doesn’t count either so go ahead and sigh a big sigh). It’s like turning to yoga as a way of nourishing your body and soul; you don’t need experience to begin. You simply start taking classes and grow into it. You can do the same with writing. If you have a desire to examine your current circumstances, or your past, and if you want to find the courage to look forward, then expressive writing could be for you.

Right now, I’m typing away at my desk. Every so often a delicious breeze wafts in from the open window to my left. When it does, a little chime hanging in the doorway of my French doors rings its soft bells. This is a beautiful place to write. But I have also scribbled furiously on the floor in my closet at dawn so as not to wake my husband. And that’s the other wonderful thing about this therapeutic tool – you can pull it out at any time, any place. It’s there for you.

I recently wrote an article about this idea for Hello Creative Family. If you’d like to read about what I mean when I say writing is a healing tool, what it heals and how effective it is against illness, grief and loss, please hop over to the article and have a read.

From the fall, I’m dedicating more time to teaching because I strongly feel that sharing this gift with others is a purpose I need to fulfill. It’s actually beneficial for me too because I learn so much from everyone I try to ‘teach’ 🙂 Mostly I am filled with gratitude that writing came to me so early and easily, and it makes me want to show everyone else how powerful this kind of connection can be.

If you are local to Surrey, B.C. I’d love to see you in one of my classes at the South Surrey Arts Centre. These are classes for adults, 18+, and will be held at the Turnbull Gallery on Monday nights from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Writing For Self-Discovery

Join award-winning writer, Taslim Jaffer in this empowering workshop where you will take guided steps on a journey of self-discovery through writing exercises and discussion. Unearth lessons learned throughout your lifetime.  This course is perfect for writers of all levels, focusing on how to use writing as a tool for your own benefit.

Sept 12 – Oct 3 (4 sessions)


Registration begins July 25, 2016

Writing For Legacy

What do you have to offer the world? Uncover and capture your life-gained wisdom, no matter what stage of life you are in. Through written exercises and discussion, award-winning writer, Taslim Jaffer will teach you how to write about your personal legacy. At the end of this course you will come away with several pieces of writing that can be the basis of a longer project.

Nov 7 – Nov 28 (4 sessions)


Registration begins July 25, 2016

You can also register by calling 604-501-5100. And of course, if you have any questions about the course content, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with me. I will be sharing more details over the next couple weeks, so stay tuned!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative




Coming To Terms

This post is going to be short (I hope) because I am starting it dangerously close to school pick-up time!

Today I’m thinking about ‘coming to terms’ with things that change or change our world…events, people, situations. So, I’m wondering if maybe that’s something you’re thinking about too?

Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes we can mentally, logically come to a realization and accept it, but that doesn’t mean our heart completely follows suit.

Stuff happens to us, right? There’s loss (either through death or separation or disconnect). Friendships change. Kids move on to the next phase. People we think will be around forever, aren’t. And situations that we long for don’t necessarily come to fruition. So then we come to a point where we have to grab hold of the present, take stock of what we do have, what we have not lost, who is still part of our lives.

For me, it always helps to talk about it. Ask my husband. I can Talk. About. It. And then I talk about it some more with a couple trusted girl friends. But what helps me to take that next step in the healing process is always picking up my pen and writing.

I’ve been journaling since I was 10; I never knew it would become what it has. I didn’t know how well it would serve me. Or maybe some part of me did know and the rest of me is still in a bit of happy shock 🙂

What do YOU do? When you need to come to terms with something. What do you turn to? What’s your ‘go-to’ when it comes to taking the next step in the healing process?

I always love reading your comments.

And now I’m off into the gray, wet afternoon to pick up my kids and spend the rest of the day with them!

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


Why Unplugging Gives Me The Goosebumps

After Saturday morning’s 5 am feed, I couldn’t fall back to sleep. My head was a jumble of thoughts that chased each other like clothes in a dryer. It was pre-dawn and I was tired, but I knew these thoughts would add to my fatigue. I had to do something.

My laptop was in the living room on the ottoman, where I had left it the night before after finishing off some work. I let it stay there. I was doing this, unplugged. Entering my studio, it looked like a magical place. The porch light outside my windows and outside the French doors along the far wall streamed in to kiss my sparkly chandelier, and lit a rectangular path on my soft, white carpet. There was something ‘extra’ about the room, and yet, I realized it was because the laptop was missing.

I sat down at my desk and turned on the lamp, staring for a minute at the soft glow cast upon my dark grey tabletop. Look at this space. It wasn’t just the writing desk that looked bigger; the possibilities felt greater, too.

I grabbed some loose leaf paper and a pen, and alone – without a world of other people sharing information or social gab with me – I had the quiet I needed.

It’s only in that quiet that I could have heard the messages I received that morning.

I thought I would start by writing out all the things that were bugging me, but instead I ended up sculpting a paragraph of my gratitudes, which honestly surprised me. I thought the whole reason I got out of bed was to have a great big rant. It was thrilling to be in that place again, that feeling of being slightly out of control, not really knowing what would flow from my heart to my fingers as my head slowly got out of its way. Once the gratitudes were out, the dryer in my head stopped tumbling; the pen and my hand worked together to pull everything out. The paper offered a space for everything to land and finally, when I wrote out my first question, in that gorgeous quiet without technology and conscious thought, I heard things. Bits of phrases, loving words, directive language. As I heard, I wrote – as fast as I could to keep up. I kept asking, and writing, feeling loved and cared for and so very un-judged. It wasn’t like someone was listening and nodding and showing understanding. There was nothing to understand or validate. Whatever I was feeling just was. It wasn’t good or bad and I was simply loved through it all.

It might sound crazy, but you’ve heard things, too. I’m convinced none of us gets through life without gut feelings and lightbulb ideas that come out of ‘nowhere’. If you journal, you have probably had similar experiences to the one I just described. Maybe it’s the same for other artists. I know songwriters who say the music comes to them ‘from somewhere’ and they simply transcribe. My husband has built sound business relationships based on his gut. I’m sure your gut has gotten you out of trouble at times, too. (Or maybe into trouble, if you didn’t listen to it!) What I’m saying is, there’s nothing special about me that these messages came through. Or rather, we’re all that special. We just need to get quiet.

What does that quiet feel like? To me, it feels like sitting under old-growth pine trees, in front of a clear lake, watching the sunlight dance on the small ripples. It’s like hearing birdsong – and  distant childhood laughter – as I feel the warmth on my shoulders. I feel peaceful. Calm. Relieved. Content. Healthy. Loved. Significant.

On a daily basis, I can’t be exactly in that scenario physically, but I am convinced I can have more of those feelings if I unplugged more. What about you? Or does unplugging make you feel more anxious? No judgment. Just want you to think about it.

Of course, I write for online publications, including this blog! I provide social media and web content for businesses and non-profits. And if I have a how-to question or need a recipe, I turn to Google. The internet has certainly brought me a lot – I wouldn’t have gotten involved with Pandora’s Collective 5 years ago, which led me to doing all kinds of awesome things with my writing, if I hadn’t Googled ‘poetry readings+Vancouver’ in an effort to find community.

But at what point did it become too distracting? At what point did it take away my quiet? And how can I exist with it, but still live my most healthy, peaceful, content life? Where are you on that barometer, by the way? On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being sitting-by-the-lake calm, where are you today? Is this related to how often you unplug? I just want you to think about it.

Because I certainly am thinking about it. I’m thinking a lot about what keeps me relaxed yet inspired.

[Tweet “I want to be grounded, but still chase my dreams while my Spirit soars. “]

Speaking of which, I spent a good chunk of time in my studio this morning photographing these beauties while the baby rolled around on my carpet. Can we take another look?

What are your thoughts on unplugging? How do you stay grounded? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Thanks for reading!



P.S. There is a Canadian TEDx speaker, Christina Crook, who did unplug…for 31 days! She’s written a book called The Joy of Missing Out which she is launching tonight in Vancouver. If you want to swing by and ask her how and why she unplugged for so long, go to The Charles Bar in Gastown between 8 and 10 pm tonight (Feb 17). I’m waiting with bated breath to receive my copy so I can tell you my thoughts on it!

A Wonderful Way To Connect With Friends – And How I Can Help!

Earlier this year, I launched a book called What If…?: 52 Questions Designed for an Entire Year of Self-Discoveryand it was a lovely, lovely day! If you haven’t held one of these in your hands yet, you have a chance to win your own copy at the end of this post – but first, I want to tell you about a vision – and special promotion –  I have for these books!




What If…questions are designed to stretch your perspective, rotate your view a bit so you see things differently, or dive into yourself deep enough that you discover something you’d either forgotten, or didn’t quite know was there.

Answer one question a week (directly into the book, if you wish) – and learn a LOT about yourself.

Like this: “What if you were given the opportunity to address a college graduating class and share with them some wisdom you have gained? What would you talk about?”

One of my visions for this book was that it would be a place to connect with others as well. Self-discovery does not need to be a journey we take alone. Discussing our thoughts with others we trust allows us to learn even more – the way we answer, how we feel when we are talking about our truths…these are all part of the process.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a trusted group of friends meet once a month and share their responses to their favourite questions?

If I were to hold a What If…circle, I would suggest we take the first 4 questions and answer them on our own, in our own spaces, throughout the month, then meet and share our favourite one with the group (or more if time permitted). Then the next 4 questions for the next month.

I think it would be the perfect way to make 2015 a year of connection – both with ourselves and with others.

When I picture these What If…circles, I imagine at least 5 people sitting together. So, to honour the number 5, I’ve decided to host a time-limited special! Buy 5 What If…? books, and get 20% off the entire order. This is basically like buying 4, getting 1 free. In other words, each member of the group gets the book for just $12!

All you have to do is click HERE to head over to my online store, add at least 5 What If…? books to your cart, type in the promo code WhatIf and you’re good to go!

Would it be a bit difficult to share deeply with people you know? Then why not start a What If…circle with complete strangers? You could meet at a public place (the public library often has rooms available if you pre-book) and use the same format. If I were to start a group this way, I would post something like this on community centre bulletin boards, free space in online or print community newspapers, at the library etc:

Do you want to embark on a journey of self-discovery, and be accompanied by others doing the same?

We are looking for people to join our trusted circle, inspired by Taslim Jaffer’s What If…? journal.

For more information, contact _____ at ________.

Let’s make 2015 be a year of connecting, learning and new perspectives!

Of course, you can throw your own spin on it, or don’t hesitate to drop me a line for help getting started!

If you don’t think a circle is in the cards for your new year (I understand – it can be hard to fit one more thing into your month!), you can still take advantage of this discount. Get some friends together and share in the savings – or make 4 other people really happy on Christmas morning!

Here are a few testimonials from the authors, thought leaders, moms and entrepreneurs who took this book for a test drive:

“I’m a busy mom of 2 kids, but after reading only the first question in Taslim’s What If? workbook, I found my thoughts drifting back to it throughout my day. The profound questions give the readers an opportunity to be enlightened about how they view the world. An excellent source of discussion for book clubs and wherever people gather.”

~ Shay Meszaros, mom and entrepreneur

“Ask yourself ‘What if…’ and all of a sudden a whole world of possibility that has been aching to be known to you shows up! Taslim Jaffer is a wizard at posing the perfect prompts to unlock the creative, the bold and the genius in all of us!”

~Farhana Dhalla, international bestselling author

“An eye-opening experience! Emotions effortlessly flowed as I fondly recalled forgotten moments. Even a second time around with this book, it was a new journey. Treat yourself to these 52 fabulous questions!”

~Georgina Grace, author and entrepreneur

“Simple yet profound – journeying through these questions will transform your world! Don’t miss out on this experience!”

~Azim Jamal, international speaker and author

“Through life’s journey, we are bound to question our thoughts, actions and beliefs. Taslim Jaffer’s new workbook, What If?, allows us to do just that in a structured format. For every week of the year, we are given a what if question to ponder and asked to jot down our thoughts. What if this is the best activity we could do for ourselves this year?”

~E. Patricia Connor, author and co-founder of Kindness is Key Training and Publishing, Inc.

Click on the image below or HERE to shop! Thank you for your support – and I would love to hear your feedback or questions any time.



P.S. Leave a comment below about your favourite way to connect with yourself OR those you love and be entered to win your own copy of What If…?: 52 Questions Designed for an Entire Year of Self-Discovery!

**Giveaway open to U.S. or Canadian residents only – thank you! Contest closes Tuesday Nov. 11 at 12 pm.




Pinned In A Space Between Two Cultures

I’d like to take credit for the title of this blog post, but it originally sat boldly atop an article written by Anne Bains, published in the Toronto Star on January 3, 1994.  Her descriptions of being a hyphenated Canadian university student mirrored my own experiences and up until that point, I had felt there was not a single soul who knew what it felt like to be caught between two worlds with such vastly different value systems.  At least, I hadn’t ‘met’ anyone brave enough to try to grasp the issue with both hands and blurt it all out on paper.







My adolescence was a lonely time during which I didn’t feel I fit in with my friends at school or with my friends at the mosque.  I no longer felt like my parents were the ones I could turn to for understanding.  It’s not an exaggeration or an attempt at being dramatic when I say that my journal was my best friend, without which I’m not sure how I would have made it to the other side of my teen years.  The article written by Anne Bains sits on the table beside me now as I type this, taking a short breather from its home between the pages of one of the journals I kept in high school. Pulling it out today has evoked the same feelings of isolation and sadness I felt at that time my dad placed it on my study desk some 20 years ago.

I can go further in my personal history and pull out stories of being Indian in Victoria, B.C. in the early ‘80s.  By the way, at that time, not only people who were from India were called Indian, but also First Nations people.  That was confusing as a child, I can tell you that!  I knew from the get-go in Kindergarten that I was different from the other kids.  For one thing, because English was my second language, there were still several words for which I didn’t know the English word.  I became painfully aware that my skin was a different colour than the other kids’ when a group of older boys threw dog poop at me on the playground because I was ‘brown like it.’  (They stopped laughing when my best friend, Leah, got her older brother to have a word with them.)

Experiences like that followed me to the mainland when I was told in Grade 3 to “Go back to Pakistan, you Paki!”  Well, that really threw me because as far as I knew, no one in my family had even visited Pakistan on a holiday.  My roots are in the state of Gujarat in India and we had a three generation stopover in Kenya before making Canada our permanent home.  My parents and I came to Canada when I was less than a year old so it really was the only home I’d ever known.  So when someone left a note at our front door telling us we weren’t wanted in Canada with our devil-worshipping ways I began to wonder where I truly belonged.

In the tween years, that gulf between my Canadian and South Asian identities widened as my ‘Canadian’ peers (those whose parents were born and raised here) were enjoying sleepovers, co-ed parties and hanging out at the mall or going to the movies unchaperoned.  The few Indian families I knew who allowed that kind of behaviour were categorized as trying to be ‘too Canadian.’  Within my home, there wasn’t just a generational gap anymore, but also a cultural one.  This gap only grew in my teen years.

What was difficult for me was that I truly identified with both cultures.  I could wear either hat and feel the part.  I have always held in high esteem particular values from each system and felt they fit me.  But neither side seemed to accept me as one of them.  And that’s because, as Anne so eloquently put it, I was pinned in a space, dangling sometimes by a sad, lonely thread, between the two cultures.

I’m bringing all this up now because of an inaugural event coming to Vancouver on April 28, 2014 known as G Day for Girls.  This modern day rite of passage is for girls between the ages of 10-12; it’s a day to celebrate their individuality as well as arm them with wisdom about how to thrive in their uniqueness.  I could have used a day like that, a group of women mentoring me, making me feel like I could navigate the years ahead with support and understanding.  If you love a girl in that age group, please check out their website for more details.

I’m going to tuck this article away now – maybe I will even try to find Anne Bains and tell her that her words made a huge difference to me when it really mattered, and that I looked up to her without having ever laid eyes on her.  I was lucky.  I had a strong connection to my Self through my writing and found hope in hers.  Let’s all work consciously to be that connection for our girls.


“Before I Die I Want To…”

“Before I Die, I Want To…” is the title of a beautiful TED Talk by Candy Chang from New Orleans.  It’s a short 6 minute window into the beautiful heart and mind of a young woman who understands the power of community, communication and the gift of life.  Watch the video and then come back – I’m going to share with you my thoughts on this topic.  I hope you share in the comments some of yours.

There were 3 points that Ms. Chang made that resonated with me:

1.  That it’s easy to get caught up in our daily lives – our schedules, our routines, our autopilot behaviour – and forget what is really important.  Occasionally, we have wake-up moments.  Maybe a death, an illness, or some other sort of trauma will give us a shake and remind us of the fragility of life and the importance of using our time in big and amazing ways.  And then time goes by, we go back to work, back to our responsibilities and fall asleep again, so to speak.

In my own experience, I see how this happened to me though I can’t actually pinpoint timeline.  In high school, I was well aware of the work that I could do in this world to serve others.  I had plans to raise awareness of issues that mattered to me.  I wanted hands-on experiences changing lives and bettering the world.  And then I went to University and all I could focus on was not failing my classes!  And I couldn’t figure out how to make a viable career or secure life by doing the things I initially knew were important to me, so I forgot about them and got swept away by the current of the mainstream.

When my mom died at the age of 55 in 2009, something inside me went OH MY GOODNESS…the clock is ticking and I can’t put my life on hold anymore.  I had already started journalling again months prior to her death but afterward, my writing became a platform for who I truly was inside to leap up and say, “I’m here!  And on purpose!” 

And then one day in early 2010, a situation came to my mind that I was dealing with that made me crazy angry.  Because I was pregnant and concerned about the baby’s reaction to my anger, I knew I had to take a step back and remember what was truly important to me.  And that same night, when I found myself journalling about serving the world, I was brought back to my Centre.

It’s important to me to share that with you because it was an exercise and an experience in snapping out of something that was leading nowhere and remembering what my purpose was here.  And purpose is so much more healthy than falling asleep at the wheel.

2.  Ms. Chang talked about how her fill-in-the-blank wall was filled up by the next day; her neighbours and passers-by were so eager to share with the world what they wanted before they died.  That told me how much every one of us wants our voice heard.  Everyone has something to say.  Everyone has something that they want before they die…and when they are asked what that is, most people will actually think about it and share it.

I’ve asked you to look at your death here.  Not to be morbid, not to put fear in you.  Let’s face it, none of us gets out of this life alive.  The question isn’t “Am I really going to die?”  The question, I think, is “Am I really going to live?”  And how?   When you are 90 something years old, warm in your bed, what are you going to wish you had done?  What would you regret not doing?  And why aren’t you doing it?

3.  Ms. Chang talked about the two most important things we have being time and our relationships with others.  I completely agree.  Time is obvious – when it runs out, so do our opportunities.  Relationships with others, I think, tends to slip down the priority list these days.  Everyone’s idea of what it takes to cultivate a relationship is different.  Whose idea are you living by?  Are you doing everything you want to be doing with the people who you truly care about?  These are important questions and not just to be evaluated at those wake-up moments that I described earlier.

If you have a response to Ms. Chang’s TED Talk, or if you’d like to fill in the blank: Before I die, I want to…, please leave it in a comment here.  I totally agree that getting to know each other in public spaces helps reduce distance between us and can bring about opportunities to help one another and ourselves.


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