A little goes a long way

What if we started to break up the big, heaping chunk of love we felt we had to give into little bite-sized pieces? That way, we wouldn’t feel like we needed to exhaust ourselves to the maximum limit every single day and fall into bed at night feeling we have nothing left.

What if we were to simplify and watch what beauty can unfold when we put the most attention (and INtention) into the smallest (and seemingly most insignificant) things?

I had a great heart-to-heart yesterday with the two lovely women who work at the front desk of my dentist’s office. Even as they were both dealing with clients making payments and booking appointments, they would always (sometimes in tandem, which was making us all laugh) lift their eyes from what they were doing to smile, wave and acknowledge any new patients who were coming in for their appointment. I could see the look on the patient’s face light up — even though they may have just been coming in to get their teeth cleaned or a crown fixed, there was a knowledge from the moment they walked in the door that they mattered.

Acknowledging the existence of another human being out in the world is the simplest form of kindness and love we can give to a friend or stranger alike. In acknowledging someone else, we silently acknowledge our own humanity and the ways in which we are all connected in this life.

The little bits of love you think won’t have an impact have the power to grow a heart the most.

xo A.

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Ugh, I GET this. Do you?

Ok, BIG “Honesty Moment.”

And to be fair, someone else probably coined that term, and probably says that they made it up.

I’m not going to claim that I did or that I didn’t since, really, it’s the most unoriginal (and literal) thing to call a moment of truth.

But sometimes “literal” is brilliant — that’s just what it is, a moment of honesty; those are the two words that genuinely come up when I am about to say something that I feel to be gut-wrenching-and-heart-gushing truth, or when I see something that draws up a neglected file of haphazard, half-processed materials from the recesses of my brain; from the messy file room of EVERYTHING that I have been thinking, worrying, musing, sorting, contemplating as of late…

And this is when the worry comes that I’ve ALREADY written about something to this effect (see Nothing Is Yours), and perhaps I am only triple underlining the fact that, no matter how hard we try to be original in this big, bold, creative world, we still find ourselves coming up short and re-inventing someone else’s wheel. And maybe I’m being unoriginal or predictable by drawing from a beautiful writer who I consider, at afar, to be someone who teaches me a great deal more about the world within and without us than she probably will ever realize (or ever intended to when she wrote her wildly successful memoir unveiling her journey into wholeness after heartache).

Today, on the good old Facebook, this torchbearing warrior goddess of truth shared this:

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It hit me so hard that all I could bring myself to comment back to her was “Yes. This. Yes. Ugh. Yes.” Or something to that effect.

Original!?

NO!

Eloquent!?

HARDLY!

Authentic?

HECK YES.

Even our speechlessness can be the most truthful response of all.

I am certain A LOT of you will get this too, so naturally, I’m sharing it.

And now, trusting in my own words, I’d like to share something else:

Navigating this world from the space of my heart (and trusting my intuition) has made my life richer, more colourful and more meaningful. It has also made things both clear and confusing in equal measure. There are stretches of the journey where I feel well-equipped, strong, confident, hopeful, and absolutely in my stride. On others, I feel like I’m missing a shoelace on one shoe, short on snacks, tired, losing daylight, and needing to pause for an indefinite period of time to gaze up at the perceived Summit and wondering how on earth I ever thought I could get up there. There’s also the part of me that gets much joy out of seeing other awe-inspiring people succeed, witnessing them finding that place of flow and meaning in their lives, the space and clarity where everything is clicking. After all, they have earned it. I’ve seen them struggle and press on to be where they are, to realize their dreams, and they deserve every single second.

Another of part me just wishes I was up there with them already, bypassing the part that I’m working with, and coming up with mere scraps of clarity. It can feel like I’ve been asked to solve a Rubix Cube to proceed, and I ain’t NO master of the Rubix Cube!

The compass that guides me in my life will never direct me wrong. I know that to be true. On some legs of this journey, though, the needle begins to spin every which way, pulling me between what I know within myself to be more valuable and more lasting, and the realities of the material world. I have already answered The Call; I can’t un-answer, nor would I want to. I am 7 (maybe even 8) years deep into this particular answering and there is absolutely no turning back. I have chosen my work, and I would never wish to undo anything that has unfolded, or bypass the mysteries and beautiful surprises yet to come. For everything that I ever feel is unclear or uncertain in my life, there are many more things that I know in my bones to be true, good, and purposeful.

You can’t put a price tag on those.

We’ve probably all heard at some point that we are here to offer our unique gifts to the people of this world and to the planet we live on. I am fortunate to know some incredible people who have the best intentions to make lives healthier, happier, brighter, and more easeful… Lucky me, I am surrounded by this kind of light a lot of the time. But what if, by job description or title, what you do isn’t unique?

The other night, I had the immense privilege of helping out at Mastin Kipp‘s ‘Growing Into Grace‘ event here in Calgary. It got my week off with such an epic bang that I am reeling to piece together everything I learned and all the questions that have come up as a result… which are really an extension of all the questions I have been asking since I leapt to find greater purpose in my work life 3 years ago. I’m going to bet that the vast majority of the people in the room that night want to do some variation of what he does — write/blog, teach, speak, inspire, mentor, lead, and ultimately, change lives for the better around the world while having financial wellness that not only allows them to take care of themselves, but also to make contributions towards the betterment of others.

And if I’m even more honest, I would love nothing more than that myself, in my own unique way. (“Unique” meaning in knowing for certain what my capital-S Service is that I enrich the world with, and how I offer it. We’ve already acknowledged, even silently, that this world is practically being taken over by blogging yoga teachers. ;-))

Mastin told us that, before he began this ever-growing venture that became The Daily Love, he checked to see how many people do something to the effect that he does:

90,000 people (!!!!)

Later on, when I heard one of the ladies there mention this kind of work was something she felt she could/wanted to do, I felt any fragments of a dream I had created for myself start to dissolve. And why, WHY, would I do that to my own dreams, just because someone else was showing a sliver of confidence in their desire to create something more meaningful for themselves?!

I know in my heart that everything is here, that you can only truly be THERE by being HERE, and that THERE is really just HERE. 

Read: The treasure you are seeking is in this moment.

You are already living your purpose, whether it is your ‘job’ or not.  

HERE is IT. THIS is IT.

And then, some days, I feel like I couldn’t be more far away from where I feel I need or want to be, and HERE just seems to be a puddle of uncertainty and fog.

I am also learning that what falls away in our lives is just as important as what falls into place.

Grace.

What was never ours is giving us the gift of something greater…an opportunity. I wouldn’t call myself a religious person, but I’ve got my eyes on the bigger picture through it all. One definition of Grace is “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration.”

Regeneration. Re-inspiration. An opportunity to dig deeper, burn brighter, dream bigger, see clearer.

When you’re navigating rough seas, nothing feels better than knowing you are not unique in your seeking, that you are not as alone in your storm as you may feel. Being “unoriginal” never felt better than when you are facing life’s trials.

Be that as it may, what we DO need to know is that, though each of our situations may not look much different from the outside, our ability to be authentic about it, to summon our courage and tell our story… IS.

The steps along the path may be smaller some days, but they are still steps worth taking… And I’m going to let Liz close this one, because hey, I’m not going to re-invent the wheel, and her authenticity speaks loud and clear to me this morning:

“So whatever it is that you dream of doing (creating, traveling, loving, inventing, transforming) just do it. Don’t worry if you’re the 100th person to do it. Just do it, anyhow, and be sure that you bring the highest purity of intention to your pursuit. Act from a place of your deepest authenticity, and the rest of it will take care of itself…
And trust me, if you are authentic, you WILL be original.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Why Shiny People Should Lose Their #@*%

Dear Jeff Brown,

You are the hero of the day. Did you write this (below) knowing that SO many people would feel like it was written specifically for them?

“I know we often want it all happy and positive, but that’s just not where much of humanity is. Many of us are overwhelmed with pain, undigested sadness, unexpressed anger, unseen truths. This is where we are at, as a collective. So we have two choices. We can continue to pretend it’s not there, shame and shun it in ourselves and others, distract and detach whenever possible. Or we can face it heart-on, own it within ourselves, look for it in others with compassion, create a culture that is focused on authenticity and healthy emotional release. If we continue to push it all down, we are both creating illness and delaying our collective expansion. But if we can just own the shadow, express it, release it, love each other through it, we can finally graduate from the School of Heart Knocks and begin to enjoy this magnificent life as we were intended. Pretending the pain isn’t there just embeds it further. Let’s illuminate it instead.”

~ JEFF BROWN 

When I read these words on Jeff Brown’s Facebook page today, they hit me hard. Everything in me wanted to share it.

Maybe it sounds geeky and hippity-dippity, but I have ‘rules’ for my Facebook ‘shares.’ I ask myself:

– Will this somehow make the world/someone’s life better?

– Will this help to forge deeper connections within the self and/or with others?

– Will this make people laugh (for all the right reasons)?

– Will this inspire people to be more honestly connected to their own humanity and the humanity of others?

If the answer is ‘YES’ to any of those questions, I’ll share the nugget.

When I witness what I did today — an instant surge of online connectivity simply through identifying with a powerfully worded & universally shared sentiment, an outpouring of honesty that says ‘I GET this’ — I know that “The General We” have touched on something huge and human.

Moments like that just can’t be swept under the rug and traded in for the newest funny cat video (oooh, I love those too…)

Let’s be honest: we’re not ones to share much less than our ‘best selves’ on social media. We have all done this, and we will continue to do it because, if you think about it, it has a really stunning way of showing us the overarching highlights of our life — the things that we’ll remember (and will want to remember) at the end of the day. Plus, it makes us look like we have perma-happy lives or are full of really unique ideas, which, for some reason, is really important to us. 😉

We do this in real life too. How many of you have been asked that all too common question “How are you?” and have answered with, “I’m a lost, god-forsaken, blubbering piece of mess and I have no clue how to get untangled.”

Yeeeeeah, probably not many, and if you did, the person who expected you to reply with sunshine and rainbows oozing out of your pores was most likely flabbergasted.

How many of you have said you’re “good!” “fine!” “great!” and the perennial favourite, “really busy!”??

(Remember, I say this, because I am guilty of ALL of this.)

In a recent friendship-as-mutual-therapy conversation with a dear friend, I saw how those of us who strive to show our ‘shiniest selves’ as much as possible have a very hard time when we fall short of our own expectations of being, well, shiny. Even worse, when we fail to show anything less than that shiny side to others, we feel like we’ve let everyone down.

What happens when the ‘shiny, happy, steady people’ feel tarnished? Worn out? Confused?

 

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‘WAIT’ by Vancouver artist Kelly Clarke.

In sharing our less-than-perfect moments, opening up our own vulnerabilities and truly hearing the vulnerabilities of others, something amazing happens:

BOOM. Connection.

The inspiring Brené Brown has devoted years of her life studying vulnerability, but it never ceases to amaze me how real this idea is until I see it come to life right in front of me.

When we share our imperfections, what we perceive as our ‘failures’ or ‘shortcomings,’ we create the space for the most honest form of human connection.

Now, I’ll admit I’m pretty new to the process of living compared to, say, a centenarian who went through world wars. At the end of the day, my life could be touted as being fairly uncomplicated and not nearly as riddled with past deviance as the guy smoking the joint at the bus stop admitted to me today. (Such a nice guy! That’s another story for another time.)

The thing is, I’ve felt old since I was a kid. My 8 or 9 year old self was VERY much looking forward to being in the vicinity of my current age one day, and in this particular phase of life.

Case in point, my childhood best friend and I (we are still friends to this day, which is a true gift) didn’t play ‘House…’

We played ‘Mothers.’

Yup, two 10 year old girls pretending to be happily married to our respective ‘husbands,’ then spontaneously pregnant and contentedly rubbing our bellies, then giving birth to our plastic dolls, and once that was done, having ‘coffee’ together as we rocked our respective babies in our hand-me-down Snuglis (once inhabited by us as infants) or child-sized doll carriages.

At age 8 or 9, with our childhood games of being a wife and a potential mother aside, I wouldn’t have anticipated that my vulnerable, ’emotional’ moments at age 31 would feel not too far off from that of, oh, a 9-year old.

This weekend, my husband and I went over to my in-laws’ place for dinner. On the way over, I acknowledged that I was feeling a healthy combination of tired, borderline anti-social, mellow and just not quite up to snuff. (I love people to bits but I’ve gotta start owning my Introversion!) We had barely been in the front door not more than 60 seconds when I broke down, and let’s face it, there’s no graceful way of breaking down…

Why the insta-tears?

Well, it was because my mother-in-law eagerly suggested that we should pop across the cul-de-sac to meet the sweet little 3-year old girls that live across the way.

In the most polite way I could muster, I lost it. The way I dissolved was as if I had been asked to take care of newborn sextuplets with explosive diarreah on the eve of the apocalypse. And you know what I said? (Here’s the kicker.)

“Sometimes, I just need to not meet new people.”

Great, I thought, so now on top of coming a bit unglued, I am being unfriendly AND unwilling to meet new people…who are 3 YEARS OLD. We used to play MOTHERS!! I LOVE KIDS!

I may have felt for a split-second that I was showing ‘weakness,’ but I knew in my heart that I was 100% being true to EXACTLY where I was in THAT particular moment. Not everyone is comfortable with breaking down in front of their family — this wasn’t a cushy moment, and this wasn’t even the first time I’d ever cried in front of my in-laws! I took myself for a long walk and reminded myself to detach from the mental process of why I was feeling the way I felt. Instead, I shifted my focus to all the messy, vivid sensations of how utterly uncomfortable and undeniably right it had felt to ‘come apart’ the way I had — not the story of “Why” 20 minutes ago or 5 years in the future, but the realness of what was running through me NOW. In reality, I knew that I hadn’t come apart. I was claiming my honest feelings in order to become more whole. Who I was in that moment may have looked less than shiny, but I had been, and was being, totally and utterly true to myself, tears and all.

What I am grateful for now, 3 days later, is that instead of being flabbergasted at this unexpected unravelling, my mother-in-law hugged me, followed by my father-in-law… then my husband hugged me and kissed me on the forehead. They all met my feelings with compassion and promptly scooted me out the door for nature therapy.

No one made me go meet the 3 year olds that day, even though I am sure they are adorable beyond measure. Instead, I sat and stared at the subtle shifts of the clouds that hovered in the bright, blue Sunday sky, and felt the sun wash over me.

They say ‘in every life a little rain must fall.’ Sometimes, it’s a deluge, and not even a sunny day is immune to a downpour.

Where I live, we like to talk about the weather. So in meteorological terms, here it is:

Even the shiniest of people need these clouds. We need these clouds to break wide open to even begin the process of getting a piece of our sunshine back. No cloud ever withholds the rain. And if those you love can see YOU clearly through all forms of weather, then, by golly, it’s your lucky day.

Shine on.

Use [insert scary phrase here] today and find more love

Ah yes, Valentine’s Day.

It’s no secret that there isn’t just ONE day to celebrate Love. If we lived for one day of Love out of a whole year of days, chances are we’d all shrivel up, our hearts reduced to puny raisins in our chests. Love has the power to turn an ordinary day in the direction of extraordinary, a blue day into one of sunshine (even if it’s cloudy out). In fact, it has the strength to fuel a lifetime of days, and the infinite power to expand all of our horizons and hearts…if we let it.  

Maybe this is just me (though I’m pretty sure it isn’t), but I find there are 3 small-yet-scary phrases that sometimes require near-Herculean effort to say:

I’m sorry.

Thank you.

I love you.

Further to the point, they may fall out of our mouths effortlessly with some, and with others, they may stay in the holding bay of our hearts as yet another feeling left unexpressed.

Saying you’re sorry means you have to admit you were wrong, made a mistake, or maybe said (or did) something you didn’t mean that caused hurt. 

Saying Thank You means you fully accept someone else’s generosity of spirit or otherwise… (It’s easier to say thank you when a stranger holds open a door for me than when my mother-in-law decides to drop a bunch of groceries on our doorstep.) 

And then there’s one of our faves… I Love You. 

Three words with a myriad of different meanings depending on who you are and what life experience has shown you so far. I will fully admit that ‘I love you’ falls out more easily with my closest girlfriends than it does with my dear parents. (I love you guys more than I could ever say, by the way.)

Think of a time where you were just falling in love with someone. I bet you reached that semi-awkward point where, every time you parted ways, with wistful gazes, hearts pounding and violins cinematically underscoring the whole scene (naturally), the only words you felt expressed the beautiful butterfly-storm inside were “I love you”…

But you didn’t say them. It was too risky. It might ruin things. It might scare the person off. There was a time in the beginning of my relationship with my now-husband where that awkward silence, and the fear of risking saying ‘I love you’ too soon (is 1.5-weeks in too quick??), was filled with the next best thing I could think of:

“You’re my favourite.” 

Cute, but did it REALLY mean what I meant?!

Sorta. Kinda.

No, I guess not.

I have a lot of ‘Favourites’… things that I really love a whole lot, like Pho, Yoga, dark chocolate with sea salt… hugs, babies, peanut butter on a spoon, Downton Abbey, pancakes (ok, pretty much ALL food), the mountains, wearing Pjs as much as possible, and John Mayer (yes, despite his shortcomings, he is still one of my favourites)… 

I think Mary Beth Bonacci said it best:

“What am I saying when I say I love pizza? Am I saying that I care deeply about pizza? Am I saying that I have a relationship with pizza? Am I saying that if pizza had a problem, I would be there for the pizza? (What? Not enough pepperoni? I’ll be right there!) Of course not. When I say I love pizza, I’m just saying that I enjoy eating pizza until I don’t want any more pizza.” 

Yup, ‘You’re my favourite’ had a quickly-approaching expiry date, because what was hiding behind it wasn’t the ‘Pizza’ kind of Love. It was Big Love, the kind of love that I knew I would always want more of, even when I was full.

Naturally, it was terrifying. Sometimes, it still is. Knowing that it’s about ‘forever’ can feel like both the biggest safety net and one of the biggest assignments you’ve ever given yourself. Being your ever-changing, ever-growing, imperfectly perfect messy self and trusting that another person will love and accept you for all of it…that’s kinda scary shit.

I’m sure you’ve heard that much of the gold in our lives lies on the other side of Fear. I guess what I’m trying to say is that what exists on the other side of these ‘terrifying’ phrases is Love — a depth of Love we often yearn to experience, but that is held back by our own self-created fears of surrendering to what that might mean for us, and how it might change the status quo. A kind of love that requires us to put our own BS to the side or just wade through it, throw away our pride, put our ego in the kennel for a while and eat a heaping slice of vulnerability pie…together. It means that we admit that we were wrong, or sorry, or confused.  It means acknowledging that we are human. It means taking out the filter that keeps us from experiencing wholeness and letting it ALL in.

So if you’re a cynic who thinks Valentine’s Day is yet another commercial holiday to make people who don’t have a ‘special someone’ in their life feel like they should hole up in their apartment and eat take-out alone, try this on for size. If we’re all living in the same world, I’m pretty sure each 24-hour day gifts us with at least one opportunity to use one of those ‘scary’ phrases, right?

Maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t just about the chocolate (though we do love the chocolate). Maybe it’s a good excuse to use [insert most-feared phrase here] and see a beautiful unravelling of one, love-filled day that reminds you why Love isn’t just something you have for a spouse, or a friend, or your pet gerbil, or how Love isn’t always what you get from somebody else. It comes from inside.

One taste of that and you may just find yourself reaching for more. 

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