And now for the choice

This is the final post in the Career Cornerstones for a Lit-Up Life series ūüôā If you didn’t catch the other three, here they are: Values, Tools and Purpose.

It’s summer 2001. Cell phones flip open and don’t have cameras. AOL is the most popular website. Social and media are just two words. Britney and JT are an item.

It’s a while ago.

I’m living out of two Rubbermaid bins, moving between tiny plywood structures with no electricity on a weekly basis. I’m showering irregularly but swimming often. I’m singing my heart out every night at campfire.

I’m a camp counselor in a place where I was an overnight camper for a decade prior. Meaning all my dreams have come true. I’m a role model for kids, I’m responsible for their wellbeing (including supervising dangerous activities like water trampolining, ziplining, developing grit and independence from their families). It’s silly, it’s creative, it’s demanding.

I’m trusted. I’m growing into it.

I’m the most alive I’ve ever been.

More than once, on “night out” from my cabin (note to self: immediately implement regular night out policy in parenting life), I experienced a lapse of consciousness. I felt as if I was completely alone at camp. For just a few moments, I would see myself standing there under the huge sky, surrounded by trees and nature and all the camp buildings, but with no other soul for miles.

Like it was all there just for me.

Perhaps it was the silence, the expansiveness of the brightly lit sky. Perhaps it was an invitation to come into oneness with the higher power that brought me there, that united that community. To let all the distractions fall away.

I mean, it was eerie.

But it was thrilling too.

Have you ever felt that?

A while ago I took an inventory of all the jobs I’ve had, and it’s a lot. Retail, food service, garden centre, telemarketing, customer service, tutor, church musician, yoga teacher. And those are BEFORE I started my HR career as a consultant, manager, director of programs, educator and coach.

But that camp job. Until now it was THE ONE that led me closest to a lit-up life. All the cornerstones were there – it aligned with my values, it made use of the tools I had to offer, it gave voice to my purpose and – it had me walking down a path that felt right.

The fourth career cornerstone is the path you choose to walk. Your values are well established, even your tools are largely your natural gifts. Your purpose is your unique contribution to the world.

Your path is different because it’s a choice. It’s the context. It’s the wrapper. It’s the industry and workplace and job that usher your offering into the world. It’s the scenery around you while you’re making your magic.

So what’s been the job that gets you closest to a lit-up life, and how do you know? Was there a sign? Like the vast wilderness holding its breath just for a moment, just for you?

And now for the choice: what path do you belong on now?

Me, I’ll take what I’m doing right this minute.

…with a few more starry nights and campfires thrown in. ‚ô•

 

 

This is my why

I want to say hi, if you’re new here. If you’re wondering “what is this all about?” I’m going to explain.

I am an extrovert – an intuitive and empathic one (qualities often associated with introverts), but still an extrovert. Which means I get energy from extroverting: externalizing my thoughts and ideas.

Even after “testing” as an extrovert multiple times, I’ve only started to identify as one more recently. I was raised in a family of intense introverts. Lovely, quiet, complex, low profile, introverts. I have memories of being a small child and being told it was quiet time (legit request by the way, children don’t really read the room well). But all I wanted was to share my thoughts – desperately! – and all my mother wanted was to clean the house in silence.

Silence?? Noooo!!

I’ve made total peace with silence now, by the way ūüôā

From an early age I was really creative. Music, visual arts, fashion, design. I loved all of it. In high school I picked up a guitar, taught myself how to play it, and started writing music. I remember making a myspace page one day (remember myspace?) and putting up four or five original songs I had recorded. I didn’t tell anyone, didn’t connect with anyone, just went there sometimes to listen, for myself.

I thought “these songs are great “. But I didn’t dare go further.

On a volunteer trip in Spain shortly after graduating from my first stint at business school, there was a music night and I played one of my songs. They were blown away and loved it, and some people came up to me after and wanted to know whose song it was so they could find out more about the band. I did not say “thanks, it’s my song”. I told them the name I had given my myspace page… and then wondered nervously if they would check it out.

This is what not working with the universe looks like, by the way.

What was happening was that I didn’t have the awareness yet to know that I’d been imprinted at a young age with values – stay under the radar, other people aren’t safe – that didn’t really work for who I am.

I am an extrovert. I’m wired for sharing. Under the radar is not my optimal position.

Fast forward a few more years – I’m deep into my corporate career and craving some form of creativity so much that I decide to start writing a blog. But once again, I don’t tell anyone, don’t connect, because that doesn’t feel safe. I love creating, and the pure creation is a huge charge for me, but then tiny lights of feedback would happen –

One reader who also happens to be an accomplished writer herself commented: “You write so beautifully. Loved this.” when I wrote about loss. And when I wrote my it-still-makes-my-cry-when-I-read-it account of FL’s birth, a reader commented that she “found it incredibly real and inspiring and teared up the 3 times I‚Äôve read it this morning. Thank you so much for sharing ūüôā”.

Seeing that what I had to share had an impact gave me so much joy. This is the currency of an extrovert – giving something imperfect to the world and in return knowing that it meant something to someone.

So I feel called to be in the world at a higher volume. And quite frankly, I’m just going to do it. For many people, finding their voice isn’t a struggle. They’re like, “hi internet, hi social media, this is cool” or whatever, and keep moving forward.

For me, it was scary, unsafe, insane to even consider putting something so personal, so authentic, so flawed and true, into the world. And then claim it as mine.

And yet it feels so right.

Over the next few weeks I’m sharing a series on Career Cornerstones for a Lit-Up Life. Number one is simple but if you don’t don’t nail it, things just won’t feel right. Examine, unpack, challenge and define what matters most to you. In other words, get to know your values.

This is me doing that. What about you?

Courage, my love.

Ever since I had my chakras opened, I’ve been keenly aware of a presence in my hundred year old home… So ya, that’s happening. And I’m thinking about how the same space transforms over time, depending on the energy contained in it.

For some reason this got me thinking about Kensington Market in Toronto, and this vintage shop there Courage, my love that I used to visit in high school. To me at that time the whole neighbourhood felt like freedom, escape and grown up sophistication, with racks of old leather jackets, incense, and an enticing level of grit you didn’t get in suburbia.

I remember going to look at the beads in Courage, always with no or very little money, imagining in detail the beautiful things I would buy if I had more to spend. Raised with not a lot of extas, I was always good at saving my money and getting fun out of imagining instead.

Years later I learned about a whole other side of the market when I married a second generation Canadian whose father has made his living there for some 50 years. He came from Portugal in the sixties as a teenager, barely conversant in English, and started working in a fruit and vegetable shop. The market was a hub for immigrants at that time, many financially poor but rich in spirit, hustling hard, raising livestock in tiny urban yards, engaged in a total metamorphosis, breaking away from the old back-home ways to create a new future.

Same neighbourhood, different time. And a whole different kind of grit.

This week, something shifted. It could be all the time I spent making funny noises with two tiny people. It could be Jen Sincero’s badass audiobooks. It could be the fact that I’m finally making room for some creativity in my life. Or dare I say the chakra opening?

Before, I had been thinking about fear a lot. I’ve been thinking of fear as this omnipresent obstacle that we need to power through. As in, feel the fear and do it anyway. In this narrative though, the key word is fear. It’s something to overcome – hold your breath – and endure.

And seemingly out of nowhere yesterday, the shift came: Courage. Courage is the ticket through the fear. Courage is the positive, courage is the hope, courage is the power position. Fear is no match for courage.

This is the new narrative. Having courage, feeling courage, living courage. Courage to face the unknown, do the undone. Even befriend the ghost.

A new kind of grit again.

Now go forth and be courageous.

Breathe. Shift. Breathe. Repeat.

How to recognize your child’s strengths… and position them for success in life

First, I listened to this. From Good Life Project, the podcast that turned me on to podcasts.

It’s a discussion with psychologist Lea Waters about her work in positive psychology and her new book The Strength Switch: How The New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish.

I feel so empowered as a parent, to give an(other) amazing gift to my children: helping them to know their strengths.

As parents we have an incredible opportunity to be a mirror for our children. Before they are conscious of the world around them, before they are influenced by social phenomena, before they are exposed to¬†irritating cultural lies like “artists don’t make money” or “athletes get girls” or “kindness is weakness”, etc…

Meeting their incessant needs as tiny people means that we are uniquely positioned to identify their strengths for them. We are literally¬†right there¬†when they are¬†plainly becoming who they are. In Lea Waters’ strength research speak, we see what they:

(1) exhibit above-average performance at,

(2) are energized by, and

(3) really LIKE doing.

And that true-strengths test defines the talents and character traits that are the secret sauce for their individual success.

 

For my part, I see that FL has a good memory and makes connections easily. She is determined and strong-willed. She is conscientious, taking pleasure in putting things in order. She is empathetic, friendly, sensitive, and funny. And she likes to sing in the morning when she wakes up.

If you are a parent, be on the lookout for your child’s strengths. And share your findings with your child as they grow!

Doing this simple thing can help them avoid beginning a process of self inquiry when they’re in midlife and unsatisfied with their careers, and instead give them a shot at a much happier, more fulfilled life.

 

 

 

 

Recommended this week: release your words and share your shirt

I get this feeling in my legs when I don’t get enough exercise. My whole family is like that, we get agitated when we can’t physically move. We’re like those dog breeds people feel sorry for in condos.

It’s super weird, especially in a world where so many people can’t get motivated to exercise. It’s like we can’t NOT exercise.

I get the same jumpy feeling when I can’t find a place to put the thoughts in my head. Sometimes sentences weave themselves in my brain and just stay there, spinning, crowding each other out.

They’re like “LET US OUT OF HERE”. Tapping loudly on the inside of my eyeball.

The sentences are usually about my babies. How I can’t stop kissing them. How we are still one body, somehow, even though there is open space available between us.

We have no use for it. We choose to sandwich up against one another most of the time. Baby F (FL now… my almost-preschooler) usually has at least one limb INSIDE my shirt. Arm up a sleeve, arm down the neck hole, whatever. My body is her body.

RD is still nursing. We cuddle up lying next to each other and he drinks and falls asleep. His expression is so peaceful, open, distant. A saint, a sage.

I lay them down side by side on the bed after their bath, wrapped up in towels. I ask FL – “who should I moisturize first?” and she says “Baby”. So I unwrap him and distract him with tickle-me-elmo in one hand while I put lotion on him. Then I put lotion on FL, and she escapes to sprint up and down the hall naked, squealing with delight.

 

What a moment to myself looks like

Baby F is sleeping and I have a moment to myself. I finish folding laundry. I think about cleaning the kitchen counters but instead I brush off the bits of dirt that came loose when I unwrapped the potted tulip that’s sitting there. All red with yellow insides, opening coquettishly.

Last weekend a friend told me about how tiny dogs are being bred to fit into purses but are developing terrible health problems in the process. I already knew this but she seemed pretty rocked so I went along.

“That’s terrible”.

It is though, actually. These dogs are just not meant to be that small.

Did you know that human newborns are the most vulnerable, under-developed mammal at birth? Our little brains are only 25% developed when we come out of incubation. It’s because of the mother’s physiology – as upright walkers, we can only grow the baby so much and still be able to safely birth it.

No other animal needs to care for their young in the way that humans do.

I want to love my red and yellow tulip, but I have this ominous feeling it will die in here. My Valentine’s day roses fell and wilted in a matter of days. This¬†can’t be good.

I’ve become comfortable with the untidy mess of my house. On account of I’m caring for a human infant twenty-four hours a day. And I’m used to disappointing my partner who will come home and see the counter I brushed off but didn’t clean and he will just see a slightly dirty counter. I imagine that he imagines this is some negative reflection on me, but to be honest I don’t know if that’s true.

Another¬†friend recently told me about her experience getting on anti-anxiety medication. She’s been on it for about eight months. Is that past the honeymoon stage? I thought so, but I don’t know. She¬†says the meds have profoundly increased her enjoyment of life.

She’s a mother, by the way. ¬†I wonder how I would do¬†with a little medication…

I wonder how it went as we evolved to upright walkers – as our physical bodies put limits on the development of our babies, did our emotional intuitiveness expand so that we could care properly for our newborns? Or is it possible that we gradually developed this immense capacity for caregiving, and that meant we could start to stand on two feet?

I googled “are tulips naturally two-toned?”. Nothing but ads for tulips.

You know what? I will keep this tulip alive because it might be a genetically modified mutant. And that seems unfair. I’m going to water it for all those poor tiny dogs.

I can do this because I’m the master nurturer of the animal kingdom.

Even when unmedicated.

And for this, I don’t know whether to say thank you or you’re welcome. I think both.

Young hearts run free

 

Teaching mama and baby yoga has had me questing to discover the best yoga postures for energy. Because sleep is hard to come by when mothering a baby. I’ve learned that¬†back bends, twists and deep breathing can help.

Inhale. Exhale.

And time apart.¬†Which is why I’m camped out at my local independent coffee shop. Alone with my americano and my words. Blending in with the regular crowd, I think.¬†And all of a sudden a swarm of moms and babies are entering. Unkempt, earthy, tired. Noisy. I feel like I’m undercover¬†– I’m one of you but you can’t tell. My baby is at home with her granny. I miss her. But I love being here on my own.

Inhale. Exhale.

I’m so excited to talk about things outside of baby. To scale my life in a bigger ecosystem. To say we’re ordering in and not feel like I somehow failed to fulfill the duties of Home Life President. As defined in a different time, for a different woman. A job I’ve learned is not for me.

These Mondays though, they come with pangs. A pang of future Mondays. What will it feel like? To get dressed and leave the house without her? To leave her in the care of another? Another who doesn’t love her like I do. Who won’t sing her our songs. ¬†My eyes sting.

Inhale. Exhale.

I have often remarked, if it was the 1950s we mothers wouldn’t sit around planning our childcare, agonizing over daycare wait lists and nanny shares and transitioning back to work. I have said this out loud to rooms of new mothers, in these safe sisterly communities we are always trying to create, for me in vain. No one¬†has picked up the conversation. Is it too painful? Confusing? Overwhelming? A foregone conclusion? A stupid comment?

I don’t wish myself back in time. Not for a second. The fight for gender equality has barely started in my view, and I won’t give one inch back. But sometimes these choices don’t feel like choices. To spend the bulk of the week working outside of the home, or, caring for my young child. Now my job is to make an impossible choice I can live with.

Inhale. Exhale.

Podcasts, walks, fatigue, anxiety, cuddles and overwhelming love. These are the ways I will remember maternity leave. A warping, tinting, melting, of the glass walls through which I see this world. They say the years are short but the days are long. At ten months Baby F astounds me. She knows her home, her toys, the best vents to bang on, where the baby monitor is kept (favourite thing to throw across the floor). I let her because I secretly want it to break, its random beeping for no apparent reason one of the most elusive and frustrating mysteries of these past ten months.

The greatest mystery of these past ten months though, remains: what does the future hold for me? Unsolved.

Seeking strength and wisdom now and always. To lead a life I can look back on with pride and joy. And that I can embrace and exalt in along the way.

Inhale. Young hearts. Exhale. Run free.

 

Get your blossom on

Ya, I know it’s fall not spring. You know something I’ve learned since writing this blog? That season names are not capitalized. I guess I talk about seasons a lot, which is appropriate seeing as we’re discussing radical evolution here…aka change. And seasons are the ultimate symbol of change.

It’s fall and everything is dying ( I exaggerate – many things are ¬†just going dormant for a few months). But today’s message is to get blooming, because, well, we live ¬†in a globalized world and you can procure flowers any time.

That, and I’ve started an exciting journey. Reading You are a Badass by¬†Jen Sincero.

And the day came when the risk to remain  tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. 

That’s a quote from the poet Anais Nin that JS shares in the introduction of her book.

And I think I’m epiphanizing here. A very obvious truth, but one I maybe haven’t seen until now because I’m just too close to it.

I’ve been seeking most of my adult life. I’ve been reading and meditating and seeing therapists and looking for ways to blow up and radically evolve my life for so long. And I recently looked at a friend of mine who’s been with me for a lot of it. And I thought: how come my friend isn’t on this journey too? This friend doesn’t want to read You are a Badass with me. Not interested.

Now, ¬†truth be told I’m a personal development enthusiast. ENFJ that I am, no surprise there ¬†(just ask the one and only Ops Win).

But there’s something else. I need more. I want more. Whatever it is that I’m doing, this is not it for me. Because if it was, well, I wouldn’t still be looking to change it.

I would be like my friend. I would do other  stuff, read other books.

SO simple,  right?

Well, admitting that is huge. It means that if I don’t get things in motion to really create and live the life that I know I’m meant to live, ¬†then I’m knowingly holding myself back.

Like an enormous non badass. Like a scared, tame-ass, withering, weak little puddle.

Versus a bold, badass, thriving, big strong  tower.

Signing off now to go and, you know, get started with that.

As for you, thank you for reading this.  And get your blossom on,  too!