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Thursday, November 30, 2017

My choice

Happiness.  We read blogs about how to achieve it.  Shelves are lined with endless books on the steps to reaching such a state. Conversations are riddled with questions about ones state of mind. Essentially it is what each and every person desires.

This was something that I have not struggled with personally.  I looked at the fact that it was a choice, and mine was clear.  Then life got busy.  I found myself in the company of people who struggled with stress and unhappiness.  Although also feeling the stresses of life, I tried to look at the good stuff and focus on that.  Then something happened; I began to feel guilty about feeling good when my companions were feeling to low.  I started to share my unhappy feelings too.  It made me feel like we were bonding better.  Time went on and I continued.  Then came a day when I found myself literally feeling unhappy all of the time.  I was arguing with those closest to me over the most foolish of things. 

Basically I had transformed into a person that I was not even fond of - not a nice realization let me tell you.  I realized, being unhappy had become my new habit.  My happy friends had been replaced by my stressed and dissatisfied circle.

So yeah starting today I am done with endless time talking about how stressed we all are, or how horrible things may or may not be... I am done with the inward focus. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Running no longer

Transformational.  A cheesy word, but the only one that comes to mind appropriate enough to describe the past couple of years.
One of the challenges with being a single and independent female is that we know we cannot rely on anyone.  We fiercely defend our independence.  We hide our emotions.  At least that was what it was like for me.  I ferociously protected myself to assure that the life I fought hard to build would not crumble around me.
My lifestyle was fast.  Not in the "wall street" sense, but more in that I had no idle time.  Work, gym, friends.  My refrigerator contained a yogurt or two if I was lucky, my desk drawer a bag of nuts or something – eating simply did not fit into my routine.
I felt restless all the time.  Even in my sleep.  The couple of relationships I dallied in soon left me feeling bored and caged. 
But I was happy.  My life was full.  Friends a plenty.  A magnificent family.  A son who touched my life daily.  There however, was always that restless feeling.
On a trip to Zurich a few years ago my ever-wise son sat me down and told me it was time to slow down a bit.  Maybe try to get eight hours of sleep a night.  I listened and did give it a good try. 
The next thing that happened was I ended up in an executive assessment.  Ten hours of brutal testing.  Some parts I did well in, but one part I was weak.  At least per the panel assessing me.  They said I was "too cold". 
"Do you know how to have fun and relax?" they asked.  "Our panel cannot emotionally connect with you.  You are calm and controlled, but we want to also connect with you."  The all-male panel later shared that this was often a problem with career driven females.   
Hmm…  
I mentioned this response to some of the friends I spent time with; "ridiculous" was their reply. I also shared the feedback with the man I was dating.  "Yes, I can see what they meant." 
Before I go on, I want to say that I don’t care much for status quo.  The need to please people is not something for which I strive.  But I do want to be the best version of myself; therefore, when I added up these things, I knew there much be something I could possibly do better.
After some time, I realized that I was so busy proving to no one in particular, that I was fine.  That I needed no one, that I could do it all.  I was ready to battle in a moment's notice.  This resulted in relationships filled with power struggles and me making sure he understood I didn’t need him.  No matter where I was, I took on more than everyone.   People complained about stress – not me.  Bring.  It.  On.  I was happy though.  Up for pretty much anything, and this made me popular amongst my friends.
I decided to start investing my energy in different way.  My guy got me into cooking.  Regular sleep routines.  Netflix series.  Mountain biking and mountain hikes.  I tried to let my guard down with people; sometimes successfully, often not.  I started to eat better.  My refrigerator is usually full.  I can even cry on occasion now, something that was for years completely allusive.  I no longer feel restless.  Finally.
These two years have been a challenge for me.  Modifying a long-standing behavior pattern is not easy.   But what I have learned in this process, was that the façade of absolute control and independence is a fragile one.  It takes constant awareness and an exhausting investment of energy.  It also leaves one feeling restless and searching for something to satisfy. 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Texting a Life Away

The couple of times I have joined my colleagues for lunch resulted in them grabbing my phone and keeping it for the duration of the lunch.  "You're so bad with that thing," they said.  I just put it down to them giving me a hard-time, something they do somewhat often.

A visit with my son and he stated "do you think you could be more present mom?"

Still I was able to justify both my actions and their comments.  Then I met a friend for dinner, it had been a while.  I placed my phone on the table, soon we were clinking glasses, chatting and laughing.  A few pings from my phone and I broke from the conversation and quickly responded to the incoming texts.   It was the next moment where things changed for me.  A look of sadness and disappointment radiated from my friends  eyes. I made some excuse, like I always did. "Do you think we can have dinner without your phone tonight?"

My heart broke a little right then.  It broke because it was in that moment that I realized I had a problem. It broke because I could only wonder how many times I made people I cared feel less than happy. 

I don't want to be that person. 

It happened to me the other day too. I was enjoying a nice afternoon with a friend. We were canoeing on the lake on an incredibly beautiful and sunny day.  He started to get texts from friends about an event he was interested in.  Excitedly he texted them back telling me about it also. It continued.  His messages back and forth. I paddled. I paddled alone while he texted.  I enjoyed the beautiful sunny moment. Alone.  I also watched him. I felt pity.  Disappointment.  It was okay for a short while to see him share his excitement for something that was not happening here and now, but then it shifted.  I thought of how beautiful this moment was and that I was unable to share it with the person I was for all intensive purposes supposedly sharing it. 

Then I also thought of how nice it would be to share that moment with someone who might appreciate it.  I wonder, how many times did people have the same thought about me?  I don't want to allow for that opportunity again. 

Life is about the people and the moments you share with them. At least in my opinion. I know I will never for one moment regret not grabbing my phone and breaking a beautiful moment to respond to an inconsequential text. 

I fight the urge to pick up my phone sometimes.  If I were to be really honest, I would have to say that I have good days, and better days.  But I am trying.  I want to be present.  And frankly, I don't want to keep the company of someone who isn't present either.  Next time I go canoeing, or set out to enjoy a moment, I won't be sharing it with the texting friend. He was able to justify why he wanted to text. I was also in the past.  We all can.  But in the end, if we are having to justify - then it's time to take a hard look at what's happening.  I did, and it wasn't pretty.  


Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Guy, a Tram and the Giant Baguettes

After another long day at the office, I was headed home.  Since it requires a bit of a tram ride home, I was passing the time with some mindless surfing on my iPhone
For those not familiar with tram etiquette, you simply get on the tram and sit in any seat that is available.  You don’t ask for permission, nor do you acknowledge the person who happens to sit beside you.   Antisocial?  Perhaps, but after a long day, you sometimes appreciate not having to engage in conversation with a stranger.   I have to admit however, this was difficult for the chatty Canadian within me.  Initially when I moved here, I tried to engage my seatmates in conversation.  It didn’t work.  In short, it was unwanted.  Perhaps they thought I was crazy, I don’t know. 
So back to the end of my very long day.  The tram came up to another stop.  People were getting on and off the crowded tram and I happened to glance up and notice a particular guy.  He was weighed down with a bunch of groceries while also embracing the longest baguettes I have ever seen.  It somehow amused me.  I wondered what the story was with the cute guy in front of me, and why he dragging around half a grocery store and where he found such massive baguettes.  I guess he caught me looking at him, and seized the moment to sit down beside me.  My iphone once again regained my undivided attention.  That was until he placed the armload of baguettes across my lap.   At this moment I glanced over at my seatmate.  He met my gaze with a look that I will never forget and with it his eyes pleaded with mine, “I know my baguettes are on your lap, but do you think we could just manage to live through this awkward moment?  I would really appreciate it.”  Amused I went back to my phone.  I could feel the eyes of others on the tram trying as well to make sense of the situation. 
So we continued.  My stop came first.  As we pulled up, I signaled my seat partner that it was now time for me to leave, and that he should probably gather his baguettes.  He did.  No words were spoken – but somehow, that shared moment touched me.  It lightened the weight of the hard day I was carrying and pulled me from the completely self-absorbed moment.  I could feel the guy’s gratitude that I didn’t create a drama – both of us well aware of the ridiculousness of the situation.  
I don`t know if there was a particular lesson from this odd experience – other than this moment made me happy in some weird way.  Perhaps only that sometimes being nice can somehow make the day for everyone involved.



Saturday, August 15, 2015

Passion and Complacency

I woke early this Saturday morning.  Instead of embracing the luxury of being able to sleep in, my mind woke me racing with the details of my impossible to do list not to mention a bit of anxiety resulting from various uncertainties in my life.  As I was laying there, I received a text from my son, "watch this," he wrote "it is insanely inspiring."

We all receive these videos.  They come by on Facebook, friends and colleagues send
them around - I must confess, I can't be bothered to watch 
them.  Generally speaking, I think we all know deep down what we should and should not do, we do not need a stranger for that.  But, since I had nothing pressing to do and a distraction was most welcome I clicked on the link.  It was an interview with Elon Musk on space travel.

Damn it was inspiring.

Of course I know of this man and his achievements.  Of course I respect immensely what he has achieved.  The man is clearly a genius.

What I did not expect was the person who made the man.  I was completely moved by his determination and passion.  His willingness to pursue a passion even though he knew the odds of success were sometimes stacked significantly out of his favour.  

I must admit, I had fallen into a horrible routine lately.  The hurdles of life of late had distracted me from my view of the horizon.    My vision had become shortsighted.  No wonder I was feeling tired and uninspired.  I even blamed others for this colourless position I now found myself.  How boring and sad was that?  How incredibly pathetic and powerless of me to base my own happiness on the actions of others.  How did I fall into this state of acceptance?

For certain I could sit here and list the countless reasons on how I ended up here.  However, at the end of the day it came down to a decision that I and only I could - and can make. 

Why would I choose to live in a way that lacks passion?  Why would I let my determination waiver?  

During the interview I watched Elon openly share his passion and witness his determination.  I also watched him tear up.

That to me is living.  I am so grateful for this reminder that I received today.  Why the heck would I chose to exist in a zone of complacency and acceptance?  That isn't me.  But then somehow these days, it was me.  Today I am done with it.  I think there is more to fear from living a life devoid of passion than avoiding it.  Sure passion makes us vulnerable, well, it makes me vulnerable anyway.  But it also makes me feel alive, happier, lighter, more authentic - and that to me is well worth the tears along the way.

If you are curious, here is the interview to which I was referring...




...and in keeping with the music theme...









Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Halfway in and Halfway out

I knew it was going to be difficult, but I had no idea how difficult, difficult could be.  It was a Wednesday afternoon, the temperature was 4000 degrees outside, and 4001  inside.  The day was as long it was hot.  The only good things was that this hot day was turning out to be a beautiful, hot evening.  I was looking forward to meeting some friends and enjoying it.  First thing I wanted to do was get home and change.  Although my nice-enough summer dress kept me as cool as it could the day long, I was ready to move on to something different – and that was exactly when the problem began.
I got stuck in it.  Really.  I was halfway in and halfway out with no way forward or back.  As I worked to get out of my self-made jail, my teeny-tiny flat got warmer and warmer.  My WhatsApp was buzzing with my friends inviting me to share the perfect evening with them.  I tried to explain the situation I was in, but I think that it was so unbelievable that my friends didn’t know what to do think.
Did I mention it was hot?  It was so hot and the amount of gymnastics being performed to either get in or out was substantial.  I needed to cool down, so into the shower I went, the perfect place to contemplate the situation.
I couldn’t help but think of what a friend mentioned to me the other day.  They said that a friend of theirs, after meeting me and finding out I was “still single” felt certain there was something wrong with me.  As I stood in the shower halfway in and halfway out, I wondered too.  It sure would be easier to have someone around to help get me out this rather awkward situation. 
But alas, there I was.
Memories of the people and places long gone popped into my mind.  My life could have been different, but it never felt quite right.  My heart longed for something that until now, had not presented itself.  I thought of my bestest friend and her one-time outburst “why do people think being single is like a disease?”
Though there I was – stuck.
After cooling down, I decided I had few options.  I was going to have to figure it out, or call one of my friends to assist.  In the end I figured it out,  though it took a while.  My BFF and I giggled on the phone as I shared how my evening plans had turned out.  I shared also my reflective thoughts.  “Love the metaphor,” she added.
Truth is I was damn proud.  It was so not easy, but I did it.  As I struggled, I knew that I had friends who would hurry to my side.  Today I shared the story with another of my favorite friends.  “I knew that you would drop everything to come help me,” I stated.  “Of course,” my other BFF said, “but not until I finished rolling on the floor with laughter for an hour or so!”
I know my life isn’t perfect.  I also know that it isn’t the life for everyone, but as I sat there halfway in and halfway out, I knew that my friends would be there for me – whether to get me out, or share in the laughter.  Frankly speaking, that is something that would happily make me give up singledom.  Some people have succeeded in finding that, unfortunately, I haven’t.  I could have settled for something close, but I didn’t.  I am holding out.  So are my BFF`s.  And I cannot help but feel a bit proud of us all.  Just like getting out of that damn dress, it isn’t easy, but what is in life?  Are we different?  I don’t know.  Maybe.  But I gotta say, I am pretty okay with that…  
Still love this song, and somehow fitting for todays blog...




Friday, June 5, 2015

Still here thanks to you...

Would you believe that I just celebrated my third year anniversary here in Zurich?  Before that it was two years in Austria.  It is really a bit difficult to comprehend. Never in this life of mine did I long for a life that involved me leaving my family for an overseas local.  

On a recent trip to Canada, a sales clerk asked me where I was from because I spoke "good English".  I was mortified.  "I am Canadian!" I protested a bit too loudly.  In hindsight I get it. Her friendly Canadian manner was just making conversation after noticing my weird accent. I hear about it enough at home.  My Canadian accent is gone.  Abroad people still laugh like heck when I say "about" and the fact that I sound so Canadian. My British pal whines that I am ruining her accent.  My BFF has perfected my Canadian accent so well, that everyone thinks that she is Canadian, even over me.  

As thoroughly Canadian as I am, it is changing.  Accents, mannerisms, habits, routines - even the way I think has changed.  For instance, in Canada I don't believe I ever made a meeting on time, it was deemed too keen to arrive right on schedule.  Just this week I found myself apologizing for arriving 3 minutes after the scheduled meeting time.

Now for the 5 year look back.  It has not been easy.  My family has in moments suffered in their willingness to support and love me from afar.  I sometimes crawl into bed missing them so much that it literally takes my breath away.  

So why am I still here? Why leave the ones you love most of all? This is a question that I am often asked.  It breaks my heart a little when it happens, but I understand why people ask.  It is weird. Seemingly counterintuitive even.  

It is an answer that is so difficult to explain.  I felt restless.  It was a way of being most of my life.  I was always searching for something.  When with my son and family I felt contentment.  Happiness.  So there I focused my energies even more.  I absorbed them.  As my son pulled away in his eagerness to build his own life, I struggled.  The restless feeling became more prominent.  When the opportunity came up to move - they pushed me to leave.  It was not I that sought it.

But they were right.  The restless feeling eased.  

So on this third year (Zurich) anniversary, I want to thank my incredible family for being who they are - how incredibly lucky I am.  I love you.

I also want to thank this beautiful country for letting me call it home, and the people in it that accept and love this displaced Canadian.




...and it seems fitting to wrap it up with this Canadian song...