Alone memories

Sometimes “alone” memories are the best ones, the ones where you were the only one who experienced something; it’s all yours and yours only. Just recently I was telling friends about the time I was in Chicago for Lollapalooza in the summer of 2013. It was near the end of the day, and my friends and I were tired as we hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep thanks to the non-stop fun on the trip. Jess had fallen asleep on the grass, so Bergie said he would stay with “grandma,” and I set off to find a show.

I wandered down to the far end of the park and had just settled down on the grass, my body tired, the neverending stream of people walking every which way. I tucked my legs up and wrapped my arms around them, glad I was wearing a hoodie. It was dusk, there was just a slight chill in the summer air, and since it was the last day of the festival, there was a mood that people knew the weekend was coming to an end, like when you’ve just met a new friend you totally clicked with, but you knew one of you had to go home soon and the party was going to be over.

I was far back from the stage on a grassy slope to the side, overlooking the open field filled with people where I could see the screens and hear the music. The airy, soothing opening notes of the song coming from the stage fit the melancholy vibe in the air, and I immediately recognized it. It was The Cure, opening their set with Plainsong. I had never seen The Cure live before; I was so happy I had unintentionally ended up in this very spot.

Although I was surrounded by thousands of people, I was all alone in the moment, happy and peaceful, in Grant Park, in Chicago, Illinois; far from home, from my family, from my daily life. One tiny person in a crowd of many, loving the music and basking in an hour of pure joy. (I could not have described an introvert’s dream any better, no?)

Want to see the show? I’m not in the video, obvs, but here’s the footage:

What are some of your great “alone” memories?

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Smudging My Home

Have you ever saged your home before? I just did, for the first time. I was given a little bundle of sage several months ago and after being in my new home for two months now I felt it was time. 2018 has started to show signs of changes in my life, so I feel like a big regeneration is on the horizon, and I want to do anything I can to help it along.

Saging or smudging your home is meant to clear negative energy and bring good energy into your space. Given the past few years I’ve been through, and some recent frustrations I’ve had, I didn’t want to bring any negative energy here, and judging by the mail that is still arriving for the previous person who lived here, there was some negative energy here already.

So today I cleaned the whole place, lowered the lights, opened the door to the outside, put on some music, lit the bundle, and went through each room, letting the smoke waft around the room and into the corners (walking quickly past the smoke detectors – eek.) I initially was going to choose soft piano music for the background, but I decided to choose something else that made me feel good – so I played You Make Me Feel Good by Satin Jackets, since I want this home to make us, and anyone who visits, feel good.

Then in each room, I envisioned and set intentions what I hoped for in that area of the space. In my office I pictured security, wealth, and success; in the storage room, security; in the kitchen, health, family and friends, and happiness; in the living room, family, friends and fun; in the bathroom, happy mornings and happiness with seeing myself in the mirror (although the mirrors were covered during the process as per the instructions that came with my bundle of sage); in my bedroom, love and security. I asked my daughter if she wanted her room saged as well, she responded, “That’s some hippie bullshit mom,” to which I replied with a smile, “I don’t care, even if it’s for the mental clarity, it’s not hurting anyone.” She agreed to let me do it, haha. For her room I envisioned motivation, peace, and success.

The door to the outside is open and the smoke is wafting out. I have taken the garbage out and have some mail from the previous tenant ready to be sent back. Quiet music playing, lights are low. Hippie bullshit or not, this is what I needed.

If you have ever saged your home, what did you do, and how did it feel? If you haven’t done it but you’re curious, check it out.

Freedom

Freedom ’90 by George Michael came out in 1990 when I was in high school. I remember playing it in my basement bedroom at top volume and singing as loud as I could; it has a gospel flavour to it that makes you want to sing loud and free, and it feels good.

George Michael wrote this song about breaking free from the oppressiveness of a pop music career that wasn’t who he really was. The video featured famous supermodels of that time, instead of himself, and included scenes blowing up icons of his earlier career (goodbye leather jacket and jukebox from the Faith video!) He didn’t come out as gay until eight years after releasing this song, but I can only imagine the ways he felt confined into living life in ways other people expected of him. I loved the message in this song of breaking free from other peoples’ expectations. I struggled with that my whole life too, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that this all became so much more relevant and real.

The last several years, as I’ve mentioned before, have been really challenging ones for me. There have been a lot of changes, a lot of struggle, a lot of disappointment and heartbreak. There was time in court and lots of time in therapy. There was time with friends hashing out what was happening, and thank god I had good people to support me or I don’t know where I would be by now.

Over the past two years, I listened to this song on repeat MANY, MANY times, to remind myself that I needed to live life on my own terms, because no one else was going to stand up for me or my happiness. If I wanted to be able to do what I wanted, I had to make that happen.

Freedom has been an underlying theme in my life in a lot of ways. It’s a fight to get there sometimes. If you’re fighting to get there, don’t give up.

I’ll hold on to my freedom / May not be what you want from me / Just the way it’s got to be / Lose the face now / I’ve got to live.

Clearing out, letting go

New view.

I started out the new year in a new home. There were a lot of reasons why I decided to move after five years in my last home, the biggest one being that my neighbourhood- while beautiful and I loved my house – was too far away from…well, everything. It was a gorgeous, natural area full of trees and wildlife, but with lots of residential development, no amenities and very little local services. To get a cup of coffee, I had to hop in my car and drive nearly 10 minutes. The closest store was a gas station convenience store a good 20 minute walk away. The neighbourhood just got a transit route this past fall, and up until then my kids had to walk 20 minutes to the nearest bus stop.

I also had to make this move for “heart-centred” reasons. I needed some mental and emotional space from that area, as a lot of change and negative experiences have happened over the past few years and I needed a fresh start, a chance to give my soul some time and space to heal and recharge.

But in preparing for this move, I noticed some major clearing out and letting go happening. I got rid of A LOT of stuff. I made three trips to the local charity thrift store with 3-4 boxes of items each trip. I got rid of about eight garbage bags of trash. I made several trips to the recycling depot with a ton of stuff, and my recycling curbside pickup day had my curb piled high. And it felt SO good, but also very transformative. I realized I was letting go of a lot of things that I owned because I had young children, and my children are not so young anymore. When I moved into my last home, my kids were 10 and 13. They are now 15 and 18, and a lot has happened since then. I noticed that the framed photos I had were all of them as babies or little kids, and I felt it was time to change that. I had things that reminded me of when they were small, but that served no purpose anymore, like their childhood comforters for their beds with sweet little cars and trucks or bright polka-dots on them. As much as I loved these things, I realized they were not needed anymore, and many of them could be replaced if needed. I also felt that I needed to honour the place my children are at today, and that the things in my home needed to reflect who we are now.

I sold some furniture that I bought with my former husband for our home when we were a young family, and I sold my kids’ childhood bedroom furniture. The modern-style black leather sofa I loved so much went to the cutest little hipster couple with a three-year-old little boy. When they came to pick it up, we talked about how the sofa had seen many sleepovers and movie nights with my kids, and they said they were thrilled to get it and be able to enjoy it in their new home too. I was so happy to see it go to them. My son’s old dresser went to another couple who bought it for their young son, another nice little family starting out. (Sidebar – apparently the Ikea Hemnes dresser is pretty high in demand! I posted it online for sale for $40, and I was inundated with messages. I had a buyer who picked up and paid within the hour. One person who messaged told me the dresser usually sells for at least $120 – kind of kicking myself now, but I really just wanted it gone, and I liked the little family who got it, so I was happy to see them get a deal!)

While I kept a box for each of my kids that contains their baby items – their hospital bracelets, going-home-from-the-hospital outfit, first blanket, first stuffie toy, etc, I let go of a lot of things in my home that defined me as a young mom with a young family. Goodbye, snow sleds. Goodbye, plastic dishes. Goodbye, Disney-print sleeping bags.

As I packed these things into boxes to be donated or thrown away, I realized my heart hurt a little. It was a little painful to pack away those things and acknowledge that those days were over and life is different now. Many of those things also reminded me of the happier times when I was married, a time that seems so far away, and I was a different person then. I felt a little pang of jealousy for those young families who bought my things for their children, remembering how wonderful those years were. Although I am happy and looking forward to moving on, it was a little bit of a surprising revelation just how much has changed, how much we have changed, and how much my home was changing to reflect that.

My new home, while smaller, is cozy and organized. Instead of making plans for new years eve, I stayed home and unpacked boxes and made my new home. I didn’t want to wake up to a giant task ahead of me on the first day of the new year, so I dug in and worked all afternoon and evening. It seemed fitting that right at midnight, as the clock ticked over into a new year, I finished the last room, my bedroom, and had just put fresh, clean bedding on my bed.

I’m now in a neighbourhood where I can walk outside and get a coffee next door. I can walk to the grocery store, and even to work. There’s transit on my block, and my friends are excited that I’ve shaved off 15 minutes of travel time when they come to see me. The view from my balcony looks west and I’ve been treated to some pretty beautiful sunsets already.

It was touching to see how excited my friends were for me to make this move. Many people sent lots of messages of encouragement and true happiness for me and the changes I’ve been making. It was a leap of faith, and I’m not done here. There’s more to come, but in a major way I’ve let go with love, said goodbye to a closed chapter, and made room for new things and experiences to come. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

One last word on decluttering: I’ve joined a month-long decluttering challenge, From Chaos to Peace 2018 taking place in February. If you want to declutter your home, your business/paperwork, your online life and offline life, check it out and join the challenge!

Dumping Facebook (sort of)

I quietly decided to dump Facebook for the month of January. I wanted to see if and how my habits and routines changed, and I felt like I was getting dumber every time I scrolled through my feed and saw either ads, more ads, dumb videos people had shared, boring status updates, and more ads.

So on January 2 (rebellious Aquarius never starts anything on January 1 when everyone else is doing it!) I just stopped. My original intent was to delete the app from my phone, but I have to log in via my personal account for work purposes sometimes, and I just finished a magazine project with a great team (more on that in my next post), and I knew we would be sharing and posting during the launch, and I didn’t want to be AWOL during our big moment. So instead I just decided that I wouldn’t mindlessly scroll through the timeline, I wouldn’t like posts, and I wouldn’t post anything.

It was surprisingly easy. I did notice how often I reached for my phone just to mindlessly scroll, and had to stop myself. Sometimes when I logged in, the top story or post was so interesting I wanted to comment, and had to stop myself. This actually forced me to think, what is the value you’re adding here by posting this? Of course, by keeping to my commitment, I didn’t post comments, but I was also surprised at some of the comments I was going to post, and realizing how little value or little thought went into them. Posting a comment is like a knee-jerk reaction. It doesn’t always add value. (Does it have to every time? Probably not, but taking the time to think about what you’re saying before saying it, especially online, is a sadly lacking skill these days, would you agree?)

Ok, full disclosure, I actually did forget one time, because my friend Berg had PVR’ed the Bills’ playoff game and had posted that he was about to watch it and didn’t want any spoilers. Knowing the Bills had suffered a pretty solid beating, I couldn’t help but comment, “Enjoy the game!” When I realized what I’d done, I briefly thought about deleting it, but I didn’t and decided to carry on with my Facebook embargo.

Within the first week I discovered one of my main issues with Facebook: I follow too much junk. Too many businesses, too many stupid meme pages, too many news outlets. I realized if I cut down on the clutter, I would see more of what I want to see, which is interesting and relevant news, and discussion and sharing with people I know and care about.

Then as we headed into the second week of my embargo, Facebook itself made an interesting announcement: they were changing the algorithm to make it so users see more content from their friends and family and less from marketers. And Zuckerberg was willing to take a loss to do it (and did, by 4.4%). This was exciting news, and I couldn’t wait until month end so I could see how my newsfeed would change. I also decided I would “slash and burn” my list of pages I follow, and start unfollowing friends I didn’t want to see stuff from in my timeline.

Now I’m rounding the corner on week 2 and headed to week 3. I’m noticing I’m searching out my news elsewhere. I usually listen to CBC Radio’s Early Edition in the morning while I get ready, but I have the National Post app on my phone and I look at that for news, or I ask my Google Home, Maxine, “what’s the news,” and she plays me the recorded news from the previous hour for news outlets I’ve chosen (CBC, Global, National Post, and BBC News.)

There’s still a good two weeks to go. I’m sensing February is going to bring a decluttering of my online life, which is fortunate, because I signed up for a Decluttering Challenge in February that includes this very thing!

Dumping social media altogether isn’t necessary. Make it work for you, make it what you want and what you enjoy. Clear the clutter!

Are you planning to change how you use social media? What do you like about it and what do you not like?

Thinking about comedy, art, and creativity


I have been watching Jerry Seinfeld’s show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. It’s so entertaining, and I laughed out loud many times during some episodes, especially with Chris Rock (one of my favourites), Brian Regan, and Patton Oswald.

I think the episodes I liked the best were the ones where Seinfeld and his guest talked about their careers, and about comedy and some of the common things they all faced when they were struggling, or getting started. This often led into some interesting conversations about creativity and being an artist. In the episode with Fred Armisen (Jerry meets him in Portland, and wow, I’m dying to visit there again!) they talk about how the word “art” is reserved for finer arts like painting or the symphony, but people don’t use it for comedy. And comedy really is an art. You have someone who creates something, (usually from their soul, whether it’s apparent or not,) and present it to an audience. Sometimes it gets appreciation, and sometimes doesn’t, and sometimes it’s misunderstood.

After watching more episodes in one night than I care to admit, it got me thinking a lot about creativity and the insecurities about creating something and then setting it out into the world. You as the artist are baring your soul through your art, hoping people like it, and like you; sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.

In another episode, Jerry meets up with Margaret Cho, and she shares about a show she did that went really badly. She is candid about being a sexual abuse survivor, and she made some rape jokes in her show that went over pretty poorly with the audience, resulting in a fight, and the club even had to shut it down. She talked about how comedy is supposed to be where you can laugh at things that are heavy and awful. She said, “But there’s an idea, ‘Oh, I can’t laugh at that. I’m not supposed to laugh at that.’”

She and Jerry later appeared at a follow-up show at that same club, and invited the audience to come back to talk about what happened. (My civic engagement hat on – my soul was thrilled so see that face-to-face dialogue, with the audience members telling her what they thought about it and she explaining her challenges and what she had faced that day that affected where the show went that night.)

I could see where Cho was coming from. When you face awful things in life, one outlet is laughing about it. I think comedy is one of the last places where you should be allowed to say anything and laugh at it; our world is too difficult, too sensitive, too offended. Comedy is art. It’s looking at things in different ways, expression of self and experiences, and challenging your audience, and sometimes making them uncomfortable. That’s what art is, and in any other form, no one would question that. But to make people laugh at difficult subjects is somehow taboo, because it’s comedy.

The other thing that really struck me while watching (*cough* several *cough*) episodes, was that comedians are sensitive artists. Even the ones who seem rock solid, you can tell they have a raw soul somewhere. I think art comes from that raw soul, because that person has seen or experienced something, been through some struggle, and are willing to put that art out there, and even if it isn’t received well a few times, they love it enough to keep trying and keep going back and risking it again and again, just to get that appreciation for that piece of their soul. How raw is that?

As I’m working on my creative soul this year as an “artist,” I saw some themes throughout the show that I’m recognizing in myself. Getting to that raw soul is hard and scary. As I’m working my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I’m seeing that that is the heart of every artist’s struggle for creativity and flow. So here goes – I hope if you are an artist starting out, or maybe a successful artist who has seen or learned some things, you will post your advice/challenges/kind words and join me on this journey. Welcome 2018!

Bex.