Be Present

In an attempt to clear up some space on my hard drive, I’ve been sifting through old files. I’ve found a lot of pictures and writing that I forgot about from the past couple years. Some fun stuff, and some that I rather I hadn’t have found, given the times weren’t as rosy as they might have appeared to onlookers. Nonetheless, I like to reflect on what I’ve learned and experienced through things I’ve captured and written.

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Lately, I’ve been focusing on living by the 4 agreements. A principle laid out in a book I’ve not read, yet feel it is very useful for living a good life. The 4 agreements being…

Be impeccable with your word. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t take anything personally. Always do your best. 

Along with the practice of those things, being mindful and present as much as possible has been a game changer for me. In my digital digging tonight I came across a song I wrote last year that talks about the negative impact living according to your past (which you cannot change) or future (which you cannot predict) has on your present health and happiness.

“Can’t breathe—can’t breathe

The wind is too strong on these seas

Can’t sleep—can’t sleep

For flashback or forward

Both betray my peace”

Whether you are too focused on your past mistakes (or the mistakes of others in your past) or your eyes can only envision an ideal, future life situation that you haven’t attained… you will be robbed of your peace. You will be robbed of the joy of connecting both in relationships and to yourself. I was. For so long I was.

The idea of self and being present is so interesting to me. For one, I accept that I am unable to see myself as others see me. Even in the mirror, a reflection can easily be changed with lighting and angles and state of mind. I can look myself in the eye, and still only see a perspective of myself.

If I look in the mirror and see my failures, that affects my perspective as well. Or, I could look in the mirror and think of my potential for the future that I have to look forward too. Both scenarios don’t allow me to know my present self, or engage in my present world with peace and mindfulness.

“It’s your imperfections that make you perfect.” 

My boyfriend said this to me a couple weeks ago. Maybe it’s a little corny. Maybe we were talking about my legs that I hadn’t shaved. Regardless, it’s a perspective I’ve never been able to adapt on my own. The thought that in this moment, I’m my best self– the only self I have, the self I should be thankful for– had never crossed my mind. There was always something to be regretting or something better to be looking forward to.

What obstacles prevent you from living in the moment? How could you align your mindset with an attitude of thankfulness for the precise moment you are in? What benefits do you lose out on because you are looking forwards or backwards too much? What distractions could you eliminate that take you out of the moment?

I hope this was a helpful read for someone. I know as I practice being present I feel less anxiety, less fear… more love and more gratitude. Life is never perfect, but you’ll gain nothing by trying to fix something that is past or trying to reach something that isn’t here yet.

Do your best. Be yourself. Allow yourself to think only of the current conversation or task you are in.

Enjoy the moment. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not guaranteed.

West Coast vs. Arctic

I’m continually having to reconcile what I thought to be “true” or “right” with what I see on a day to day basis in this new environment. This is a journey of continual adaptation.

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West Coast…. 

The ocean, mountains, forest trails, bioavailability, and cultural diversity all contribute to a rich and busy life. The streets are all named and the numbers make sense. Most people complain about not having enough, though they have more than most in the world. A place of animal activism, endless petitions for third world crises, yoga posers, lean runners, mountain climbers, casual hikers, beach goers, world travellers. Rain, veganism, organic, recycling, composting, thrifting, mindful, pseudo-cultured (ie. keeping up appearances on social media) … all buzzwords that come to mind when I think of the home I left. Here I am one of 123,000 people. There’s so much beauty, many people I miss and convenience that I definitely took for granted until this point. There are a lot of people I know in BC doing things that inspire and excite me… It’s a booming place that will keep you in motion.

Arctic…

A frozen bay sitting below an ever changing sky. It begins as a soft glow in the morning when the clouds block the sunrise but still a pale yellow mingles with the grey. Before long it becomes layers of fiery orange, blue, and grey. Before sunset pinks and purples streak along the horizon. There aren’t any trees here, and the tallest building in town is the 6 story. There are two grocery stores, a few restaurants, a few schools. Local artists walk through restaurants selling their work. The air hurts my face sometimes and don’t think about going outside without a coat on. I can sit down beside anyone at the bar and not feel out of place. It’s something I never experienced in BC. Whether this is an indication of personal growth, or of the difference in sense of community(here) vs. competition(west coast) in public settings, I’m unsure. But I like it. Here I am one of less than 7,000 people. People can tell I’m new in town, that I’m not from around here, but aren’t bothered. I’ve never met so many people willing to open up a space in their life for me so quickly. I get to practice my french here, and pay way too much for orange juice and basically all groceries. I know all the faces when I go to the store or take the kids to hockey practice, and I’ve only been here 4 months.

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I can’t paint either place as being better than the other. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Both hold a different charm for me.

I will definitely continue to reflect on what this place has brought and what it can teach me before I leave next summer.

Perhaps it’s the new start that has been the most refreshing. I feel like I have always been a very neutral person. Not remarkable enough for people to either love or hate. The new space and connections formed here have changed my mind about that. Iqaluit and the people I’ve met and the things I’ve done thus far have led to greater self-knowledge and renewed joie de vivre.

Peace. More to come soon.

Bliss and Chaos

A whole month has slipped by without a single peep from me on here!

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Life is full right now- blissfully and chaotically so. The days are full of laughter, tears, new people, fresh challenges, a different job and my continual exposure to the particularities of living in a small community. I let people go and reconnected with others… I am discovering who I am in this moment in time and place in the world.

“It’s all what you make it, and you’ll make it through.” 

I haven’t been as diligent with the goals that I set for myself as I would like. In all honesty though, I’ve learned more about myself in 3 months away than I ever could have back in my West Coast comfort bubble. It’s a trade-off that I don’t feel bad about. Relationally, mentally and emotionally I’ve been challenged to change my way of thinking, reacting and problem-solving.

For me, connecting with people here has been the biggest blessing. I’ve lived the past couple years most of my life worried about making lots of friends and fitting in. Being popular and all the rest of that garbage. Having a fresh start and knowing no one’s opinion of me matters more than my own, made all the difference. I’ve been here a short time, but already I have many people who have opened up about significant parts of their life, and allowed me to do the same with them.

It’s like the saying goes- the days are long but the years are short. Hindsight comparisons of your prior and present self reveal how each little thing we do changes us.

As I was drawing in my sketch book I came across something I had scrawled on a random page.

“YOU MAKE YOU.”

My life is a constant striving for the ideal and for interesting experiences and people. I really believe that you create your own reality and that your present is a culmination of each choice you’ve made and experience you’ve had to this point. I want to make my life a magical, beautiful thing.

I’m working on it.

Are you? Do you agree that you can control how your life plays out? What used to be important, and what is important to you now?

“Whatever you do, do it good.”

Lucky you, Murphy

In this cold, cold tundra (though today I was informed, “it’s only chilly, wait until winter…”) every bit of colour and positivity counts. I have yet to encounter a blizzard, a long power-out, or the days with 20 hours of darkness, but it won’t be long. I’m working to forge friendships and build personal strength that will get me through the winter.

In my last post featuring positive graffiti, I featured a local artist and someone (unknown) who had changed F*** the police to Hug the police. I found some more today on a photo walk that made me smile and that I wanted to share with you.

Murphy’s law is something that you come to expect and anticipate here. Staff shortages, unpredictable weather, losing your internet if the wind is too strong or it rains. I really like the graffiti I found that says “Lucky you Murphy” because Murphy’s law never leaves you feeling lucky. Things go wrong up here, and you just have to deal with it and keep going. I hope you enjoy these pictures and that you remember that you can get through whatever is going on in your life right now.

If you are clever, you can probably see what the word graffiti used to say before it was changed to something more positive.

“I wish you didn’t have to fly away”

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“Shucks, you’re #1″

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“Lucky you, Murphy”

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“Cook’n peachy” – on a second glance, I realized this probably says “Look’n peachy” … guess I had food on the brain.

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“<3″

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“you kno you luff it”

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I’m not done making mistakes and taking chances.

“NOTHING GREAT IS CREATED SUDDENLY.” It was just a kitschy plaque I saw at the grocery store, but it stopped me in the aisle. If you read my blog here regularly, you know I am passionate about constantly improving and about following your dreams.

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When I was introduced to secular music for the first time, I was very influenced by Jason Mraz’s early albums like Waiting for my Rocket, Selections for Friends, and Mr. A-Z. His lyrical prowess was unlike anything I’d encountered in my sheltered musical experience. His flow, storytelling and impressive range in vocal skills made Mraz one of my favourites and remains so to this day.

I’ve been in my new home for two months (a 3,555 km move from the West Coast to an arctic island). Just before I got here I downloaded a bunch of Ed Sheeran’s stuff. Immediately, I experienced the same love of his mastery of words and sounds to tell stories. I might be late to the Sheeran party, but if you look at my iTunes you will see many of his songs show 27-35 plays (and that’s not counting any of the plays on my phone, only my computer). I listen to his stuff one at a time on repeat. There are several songs that have hit me with chills or brought me to tears on the very first listen. There have been songs that have spun me backwards and made me deal with things in my past. There are songs that give me total hope for my creative future.

Why do I love these guys?

They have lived.

I heard Take it Back for the first time today while I was out running errands. I set it up for repeat. I went and bought a coffee and walked down the rocks of the beach over faded yellow ropes and discarded seal skins to the very edge where I could feel the wind hit my face and I was as close as I could be to the water. Me and my black coffee, I closed my eyes and I could feel it all. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It just hits me. I was not discouraged by how inadequate I feel in comparison to his song writing. I feel inspired and I know the more I listen to people who are great, the closer I will get to creating something worthy of further inspiring others.

But it’s not just practice. It’s living. My favourite artists have taken chances, had rough times, had great times, they’ve gone to the university of life and that appeals to me so much. I’m 5th child after a doctor, nurse, teacher and business man. Both my parents have worked at a university. I just want to go places and meet people and keep saying yes. I’m done three years of uni, but it’s hard to think of going back when I have so much I want to do outside of expensive books and minds that are learning so much but reach the world and have no idea what they are passionate about or value. They wrap themselves in their degree and face the world, find someone who likes what they’re wearing and take a safe job to pay for their new condo and pay for the normal life they have always been expected to live.

I don’t know if I can take this route. 

I want to make more mistakes. Learn more through the people I meet. I want to get lost. I want to stay up all night talking to strangers.  I want to buy a ticket and leave with no luggage. I want to write and sing and draw everything I see. I want to extend my heart to those in need. I want to drive until I run out of gas. I want to busk. I want to photograph things that no one but me sees. I want to notice the small details of the world and bring attention to them through art and music. 

For me, there would be nothing worse than turning 30 and feeling like I settled. I am 8 years away from 30. Jason Mraz is 37, Ed Sheeran is 23. I don’t necessarily aspire to fame, but I aspire to create big things. Important or at least meaningful things. Music, writing, art, maybe movies. I want to make stuff that touches people and changes them. That makes them think, like my favourite songs, books and films have made me reconsider my assumptions.

Back to the quote I found in the grocery store at the beginning.

I found extreme joy and hope in this quote. “Nothing great is created suddenly.” There’s no pressure. It’s up to me to remain driven and focused, but I can rest in the fact that I’m on a journey that can lead to greatness with each choice I make. I can achieve what I desire with time and hustle.

What choices do you wish you made? Is it really too late to make them now? What’s holding you back from taking the risks that could change your life?

Here’s the full quote: 

“Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig. I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” -Epictetus

What is the proverbial fig in your life? Are you rushing too much in hopes of ripening it faster? How are you developing your passions and skills to harvest a sweet fig at the end of your hard work?

When I Grow Up

The plan was always to become a writer and an artist. 

I am reminded of this as my nephew who I nanny tells me his dreams for the future. The NHL, an olympic speed skater, American ninja warrior (even though we’re Canucks), NBA… and finally, an artist who sells his work.

chalkAs a nanny, my job description is diverse and ever-changing. My sister did a back to school photo shoot with her boys last week and I got to be the chalk artist for her.

So, technically, I got paid to make art. I didn’t sell anything but my time and talents were valued enough for her to ask me to do it for her. It was an a-ha! moment for me.

I want to keep doing the things I love always. Whether I am paid to do them or not. I must create; I must absorb and learn from other people’s creations; I must keep asking questions.

Now that I am working two jobs, my time to create is somewhat limited. But I try to play some music, do some drawing or writing and some reading every day. It keeps me sane and feeds my soul.

Today, I was off nanny duty, so I started my #radicalselflovebible.  It was great to just curl up in bed, put on an audio book (Harry Potter again, of course, what else?) and create something of importance to me.

I hope you hold on to the dreams of your youth and pursue them with gusto. And if you are having trouble finding what you want in life, hit the rewind button and look at what you spent time doing as a child. What did you want to be when you grew up? 

Developing Confidence to Pursue Your Peak

Four important steps developing self confidence. 

  1. Eliminate the fear that is holding you back. It only takes 30 seconds of bravery to step out of your comfort zone, into the new terrain that will lead to growth. 
  2. Align your actions and your desires. If you make the small choices on the daily that reflect your goals, you will reach them. Remember the saying: “what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”
  3. Unplug. Get away from the game of false projections and the comparing that happens online. Engage fully with people by putting away your phone and making eye contact during conversations. Realize that whatever someone appears to be on Facebook, or other social media, they have insecurities just like you. 
  4. Practice… practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect! Be intentional about improving your confidence and seeking the life you desire.

For more about this, check out my latest video on YouTube, in which I go more in depth into the above points.