Category Archives: Dimestore Philosophy

It’s Not Just Where I Go, It’s What I Leave Behind

This is a whopping 2,200 words. I’ve written it more for me than you, but I hope you too can enjoy it.

photo5When I leave on a jetplane to my unpredictable life abroad, I see myself doing a few things to officially close the door on my past.

Chief among them will be editing those who cast influence upon my life. I don’t want to ruffle feathers now, but I suspect many people who are loosely termed as “friends” of mine through social media will find themselves excised from my digital life, while I’ll choose others to be amplified and omnipresent.

I’ve made some big, long sacrifices to find myself on the road upon which I’m travelling. I’ve set goals, I’ve accomplished them. I’ve changed my worldview and fought through a lot of personal doubt. I’ve removed some excuses from my realm and have fought hard to overcome all kinds of odds. Some of those in my life are a large part of why and how I was able to beat those odds.

A Dream Takes Shape



If you’d asked me three years ago whether I thought I could do what I’m about to do — sell everything, travel for five years — I would’ve laughed at you. My health was bad, my debt was choking me, and I barely had faith I could hack it in Victoria, let alone in worldwide travelling.

But then I started demanding more of myself, convincing myself I had the power to change my situation from the unfulfilling, scary life it was, and instead fashioning something amazing from it. At the time, I was only hoping to pick a cheap country and move abroad as a desperate means to get some retirement savings in the bank.

But then it seemed like that wasn’t enough. It was a big world, how could I pick one country? Maybe I could see more of the world while still saving money.

Then some friends of mine were all out there travelling the globe. Duane was living as a digital nomad — short trips home, then back out around the world again. Jason was on a more-than-a-year trip, doing everything from looking for bats in Austin, Texas, to making the trek up to Everest Base Camp. Nadia was scuba diving her way through oceans all over the planet, creating magical marine photography.

These weren’t famous folks or celebrities, people with major Instagram accounts or book deals. They are simply friends who decided to go a different route than your average bear.

These are some of the people who inspired me to think I could do more than just escape for a while. I could drop everything, get the hell out, and cross off items one after another off my bucket list. Now on the horizon is the dream of not only travelling the world, but the possibility of doing so debt-free. What? That’s insane, but this week I’ll have finally paid off nearly 75% of the debt choking me when I moved here.

Recognizing Regret — And Ending It

Haruki-Murakami-Famous-QuotesMy birthday will fall in the week I leave the country, and this is for deeply personal reasons that I can sort of give voice to, but you’ll never understand it the way I feel it.

I’ll be 42 the week I leave. When my mother was that age, she had 15 years left to live. She had no idea of that, then. Nor did we. This weekend, two acquaintances in my age group are in hospitals battling cancers that could claim their lives. Now that’s a fight that takes everything you got. I know — I watched as the days ticked away to my mother’s cancer death.

Much of what led me to Victoria in the first place was reading the posthumous blog post by my friend Derek Miller. It went viral the world over, thanks to the simple, clear way he explained he was sorry he was dying, sad he would miss so much to come, but that, given his choices and his family, he had left this life with no regrets.8469916ee4caece12e76d122b77d8c32

I knew, reading his words, that my Vancouver life was clouded with regret. In the year that followed, I chose to end that regret by moving here. In my new Victoria life, that regret is lifting, but it’s because I’ve done the hard work to make it rise, and also only because I’m leaving on this trip soon. My travels will end a lot of the regrets I’ve had — because it will mark me becoming the person I’d dreamed I’d be, as far back as when I was 15.

How Our Friends Define Us

People tell you that success in life is often about “who you know,” and I suspect many people interpret this to mean that it’s about whether you’ve got an Elon Musk or Bill Gates in your phone as a contact, but I think it’s much more than that… while also being much simpler.

I think “who we know” translates to what we see as humanly possible, demonstrated by those in our lives. It’s those people we’re friends with who defy odds, challenge assumptions, or conquer obstacles. They’re folks who show us the realm of our possibility, our strength. If we allow them to inspire us, then we can change who we are simply because of who and what they project.

1e6063aa328c2793401ab2c5857007faAs my time here draws to a close, I’m trying to be patient with some of those in my digital world. They’re not really “friends” but they’re also not people I’m quite ready to kick out of my online life yet. Maybe some only because it’d complicate business/other friends. For some, it’s because I’m hoping they finally realize they can CHOOSE to change their life. Thing is, it means first getting over the sense of being powerless under adversity.

But come that day I’m leaving on a jetplane, the only folk I want left are the dreamers. Those who might not think everything is possible, but a hell of a lot of it is. I want people who aren’t defined by limits around them but instead are inspired by potential.

Feeling The Fear, Doing It Anyway

I can’t for a moment pretend I’m not completely terrified about my journey. I get mini-anxiety attacks even now, if I’m being honest. But then I get heart flutters of giddy excitement.

how-to-make-your-travel-dreams-come-true-by-Natasha-von-Geldern-world-travelerStill, I know there will be weepy nights when I feel a million miles from all I’ve loved, when I miss everything from the smell in the air and seasonal weather through to the cracks in familiar sidewalks. I know I’ll sometimes cower under covers, hugging the only comfort item I’m bringing with me –my Quatchi teddybear – as I fight back tears and rage with PMS in some unknown city in a foreign land.

But then I’ll wake and put on pants and steel myself to face another day, and something spellbinding but small will happen — maybe just an old man with a cart offering me a flower or a pastry as he waves off my money, or I stumble into a five-centuries-old church not “grand” enough for an admission price, or some quiet night as I’m perched on a rooftop in some city’s Old Town, staring out over rooftops that barely changed since the Renaissance, as the sun sets, as it has hundreds of thousands of times since.

And I’ll realize then what I know now: Everything in life is a push-pull. Sacrifice feeds accomplishment, and accomplishment requires sacrifice. I can’t have one without the other.

I can’t have the dream of seeing the world and philosophically transforming myself down to the core of who I am, unless I’m prepared to walk away from everything that has shaped me into who I am today. That, my friends, is the price of admission for the big show.

The Price Worth Paying

There is nothing I want more in life than to survive off writing what I want to write. Not client work, not web copy. But things like this filled with thoughtful pauses found in the myriad moments which comprise who we are.

Whether I do that through a monetized blog or it’s by way of writing a monster best-seller, it doesn’t matter. That’s what I want to do — survive solely off my writing.

ef13506c37c8141725f610c91cb8538eFor that, I cannot have the “But how will you do that” type folks who sort of believe it’s possible but doubt that they could know anyone first-hand who’s capable of eking that existence out, as if it’s some superhero-esque feat . I cannot have those folks around me, the ones I see constantly wondering why a Bad Thing has happened to them, when they could instead simply choose to accept it while they learn something about themselves in the process.

I need the dreamers. The believers. The inspirers.

For a long time, I was lost in the “why” of adversity and never understood how to learn and grow from it, that fires forging me would temper me in the future versus ever again being so badly burnt by misfortune.

Today, I’m blessed by the gift of adversity. Nothing but struggle for over a decade served to teach me that life is a constant fight but it’s the magic of the moments in between that make it so worth fighting for.

Lessons Are Gold

B782gkuIgAAIt39I’ll never be an optimist. I’ll never not fear or worry about life. I don’t believe that’s viable. Not for me. It sets people up for disappointments, I find. Instead, I favour pragmatic realism. I understand that both good and bad befall us. I know struggle often sucks. I accept bad moods and depression when they find me, because they’re valuable tools in the human condition.

But that crap’s on a clock, man. Tick-tock, start moving past it and fast. Like when I blew out my knee at the end of February. I allowed myself to be angry, depressed, and scared — for a couple days. But then I tempered that with determination and resolve. Somehow, I’d make it work out.

In the end, that injury has taught me two things that might become massively instrumental in preventing back and knee blow-outs when I’m travelling.

How much is a lesson like that worth? A month of inconvenience? More? Arguably, yes.

Who Am I? Who Are You?

In the end, there’s no way to clue other people into those epiphanies that transform us from naysayers to unbridled dreamers. There’s no surefire trick, no guaranteed route. Somehow, something unlocks that for you, and you figure it out.

45b04566ef8d638140f813c822e578dfFor me, it had to get darker and harder after my move to Victoria before I found a way to claw out of that. But I did that. I had the support of friends, but I was the one with the heavy lifting.

Years ago I heard a quote — “It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.” It is the single most important quote I have ever, ever heard.

For a long time, I saw world travellers as being a specific kind of person. Luckily, I’ve learned there is no one kind of traveller. I have my friends to thank for that lesson.

When I watched my friends Jason, Duane, and Nadia circumnavigating the globe, I realized something important: None of them did it the same way. None of them did it the way I would, if I could. And none of them would travel the way I will.

I realized I didn’t have to follow their model. I didn’t have to be an adventurer of the Patagonia-wearing mountain-climbing ilk, or a big-city fan. I didn’t have to challenge nature, confront extremes, or embrace big fears.

I could eat, drink, meander my way around the planet. I could stop in strange places and simply be a part of them, if only for a day or a week. Take a piece of it with me, leave a piece of my soul behind for the next traveller. That, I could do. And I could share it with readers back home.

Look to the Little Stars

An ex-lover once told me his favourites were the little stars in the sky. The ones you squinted hardest to see, often outshone by the big ones nearby. I always liked them too.

These days, I have what I call “The Park Bench Theory” about life. In it, any day including a moment of pause (often found on a park bench or a seaside log or a museum step) is a fine day well-lived. I don’t need the big fancy days. I don’t need the black-tie events. For me, the best of life comes in the simplest moments.

david-glaser-quote-if-only-there-were-a-longer-time-between-epiphanyHere in Victoria, I’ve learned to understand what makes me tick. What I love. What I crave. Where I dream of. Knowing that, well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s essentially the secret to life, after all.

Some people go their whole lives without ever finding th passion or want that makes them tick. I’m lucky. I not only know what my passion is, but I will have a five-year master class that will help transform me into the kind of writer I’ve only ever dreamt of being.

And I can hardly wait, even if it’s a road I’ll journey alone.*

*But no traveller is ever alone. It’s a voyage made possibly by endless strangers all conspiring to get us where we need to be. We are, indeed, shaped by who we know. Even strangers.

Hobbling Through Enlightenment

Note: Yeah, I have a new shiny travel blog, but I’ll still turn back here for slice-of-life postings I like to do that are not about the travels.

Crutches. Painkillers. Icebags. Elevation. These are the cornerstones of my weekend and the week ahead. Maybe the next two. God forbid it last longer than that.

Meniscus issues, it seems. I say “seems” because x-rays loom. My crazy-ass former-rugby-team-doc chiro tried a (painful) trick of pushing what seemed like a meniscus flap back into where it belonged. Two days later, I can bend my knee 90 degrees again. Not any further, and not without strain, but that’s a start. (Pro tip: If it’s a “rugby team cure,” expect to cry like a baby or punch the doc. Guy’s lucky I didn’t belt him.)

This gimp knee means that, for now, Netflix is my god.

elevated and iced

Today’s viewing includes the VICE doc “All This Mayhem” about the Pappas brothers and their skateboarding rise to glory and drugs/crime-fuelled crushing defeats. It’s about a blend of tragedy and redemption. Angst, attitude, and all the inevitable pitfalls that come from confusing being a student in life with being a victim of it.

We lived on the cusp of hoods and lifestyles when I grew up. A former vacationing area for the big city became an early suburb, filled with new families and financially-challenged folks who were living on the outskirts. It was an area made of equal parts the gentrifying invading forces along with the mainstay white trash.

I was offered my first drugs at 8 years old, but somehow I stayed on the fluffy-angelic line of the divide in the years to come. My brother toyed with the angst and everything else that came from the disenfranchisement of the suburbs. We were equal parts the product of our upbringing.

We were never in the leagues of those who really went astray. I remember a lot of those in my youth who were really, really angry. Some went on to crime and drugs, others went on to bleak places that were more internal than external. Some just died young.

I dealt with enough stupidity in my teens, just like a lot of other folks did. These “happy family” types piss me off sometimes even now because I’ve never really experienced that. It’s a weird world, tight-knit families.

I love my family but it was a broken family, still kinda is. Divorce, bad communications, everyone’s got their issues. The North American Way. But good, fine people, and I love them.

I didn’t really become angry until later, and I don’t really know what started it. I just got there and stayed there. I had all this stupidity happen where the easy reactions were bitterness and blame. Year after year of bitterness and blame.

These people who tell you they had some brilliant moment where it all made sense, I don’t really understand ‘em. For me, enlightenment is a gleaming of insight that takes me time and time again. The anger and confusion sort of wear away in the constant adversity like a river carving away at rock. Epiphanies make for better writing, POOF MAGIC, but I suspect most of us don’t have that change-of-state moment and instead we learn through time and repetition.

I learn more all the time, daily. Constant growth. Life is school, man. Like this knee thing right now. I’m reacting and responding better than I expected.

I mean, this is the sort of thing that throws a wrench in the travel-the-world plan. This was NOT an adversity I expected added to my list as the seven-month countdown begins. Yeah, I cried. Then I got over it. Later this week I need to find a course of action. That’s how it rolls.

That resilience, I’m not the only person who’s got it. There’s a lot of us who rock it, and I think for most of us it’s because we’ve been shit-kicked by fortune one way or another time and time again. Eventually we just realize it ain’t personal, it ain’t malicious, it’s just life.

BOOM, adversity. BOOM, overcome it. BOOM, onward. That’s life.

It’s funny, you know. A lot of the people I know who were once angry as a way of being, a lot of ‘em have gone on to become the mellow, easy-going people I like to know. They’ve been on the “dark side” and realized that perspective was a lot of the problem.

Yeah, my leg’s fucked up. Oops. That really sucks. Know what’d be worse? Being broke with a fucked up leg. Or having it happen when abroad. That’d be bad. Maybe it happening now means I change something, improve myself, and reduce the odds of such a thing happening later. Who knows. Maybe this is a catalyst for changes I need in fitness and health. I suspect it is, because I’m feeling motivated.

Adversity is the biggest teacher there is. Necessity of change is the mother of invention. Those are truisms for a reason.

I feel sorry sometimes for folks who have these smooth-sailing lives and then BOOM, some huge thing happens and they just crumble. It’s a hard road through it for them. Sometimes I see them becoming bitter and hardened as a result.

Everyone needs to open their eyes and see how hard others often have it. They need to look for examples of the extremes we can overcome when we focus and ditch the victim complexes.

Shit happens to us all. We’re allowed to cry a little and get a bit angry, but odds are we learn more about who we are as a result of those fluctuations. The trick is in the bounce-back.

So I have to bounce now. I gotta weather this little patch of suck-ass luck with my knee, find a few positives, make a plan to overcome it, and do everything I can to avoid feeling sorry for myself or acting like a victim.

If you think that’s easy for me, or for anyone else, you’re a moron. It’s not easy. But it’s doable, and it’s a choice. It’s a lot of self-talk, deep breathing, and weathering through periods of feeling like everything’s hopeless. Because that happens to us all. That’s the mindset. That’s the challenge.

It’s also where the victory comes too, though. So, yeah, this blows a little, but methinks I’ll get past this. I have something to prove to myself.

I also have the fortune of knowing it’s my own stupidity that caused my injury, from when I heard the little voice in my head saying “No, don’t sit like that, you know your knee hates it–” and chose to ignore it.

I caused this. Now I have to solve this. That’s the school of fucking up. It’s also “Success in Adulthood 101.” It’s called responsibility. Like my favourite saying goes, life’s tough — get a helmet.

(Or a crutch. Check.)


Dark & Beautiful: The Brain & Creativity

brainsbrainsbrainsThe human brain is a marvelous and terrifying thing.

I once heard that science knows as little about the deep sea as it does the human brain. The last frontiers. Is that true? Really, the only thing that matters is that I can buy its truthiness. Science can’t even really explain why some PMS makes me want to club a baby seal, but other times I’m fine. Hello?

Yesterday, for instance, I managed to be productive and focused, but inside I was terribly, terribly depressed and angry.

Fortunately, logically, I knew it was just hormones and weather. I realized there wasn’t an actual reason I should be either depressed OR angry, and I knew where I was in my cycle. The way I was feeling wasn’t rooted in reality, and I understood that, come morning, odds were highly likely the mood would vanish.

And poof, just like that, it’s gone. Today I’m hopeful, creative, charged, and just bought the domain name for the creative and existential project to consume the next half decade of my life. If that’s not optimistic, even at the low, low price of $8.99 per year, I don’t know what is.


I mean, how many people have the opportunity to point at Planet Earth and go “I want that,” then set into motion the mechanics of taking on the whole wide world for five years with no roots, anywhere, no limits? One in 100,000? One in a million? Lucky, indeed.

It’s knuckle-cracking elbow-greasing time when it comes to this little going-Full-Nomad project of mine. A friend has offered to help me set up my blog. I’ve decided not to host that content here on The Cunt. This place has been great for me, and I’ll likely still use it to unleash my wrath and rail at the gods from time to time, but I’m in a different place now. I’m a different person now. I need a new creative home.

Despite my older, mellower ways, it’s pretty safe to say I’ll never be Mary Poppins. Nor would I want to be. I like my wrath and fury, my joy and faith. I like the mix of pathos that swirls in my brain. My yin to my yang is right there. I may tilt and pivot, vacillating from seeming extremes, but I’m usually able to hold onto a small measure of awareness that, whatever the tempest, life is generally a smooth-sailing place for me. Or at least a place I manage to navigate without peril.

Storms are Genesis

Chimp_Brain_in_a_jarEarlier, I saw a quote from Kurt Vonnegut about how it’s impossible to be a serious writer if you don’t suffer depression. I’m sure if he were to expound, he might have said something like it’s the variations of emotional themes which make great writers what they are.

They’ve loved, they’ve lost, they’ve lived to tell another tale.

Throughout history, writers have been the teller of the tales. They’ve kept the legends alive, passed the records of humanity from one generation to another. It wasn’t until humans began to write that we really had a record of not only the social structure but the emotional worlds in ages long past.

Writers record the human condition. We try to grasp what happens around us, record how it affects us, and inspire the next step. Today, different mediums allow for writing/recording/inspiring to happen visually, in audio, and of course on the page/stage/screen.

But all of it starts in the brain, when someone sees something and has a thing or two to say about it. Poof! A synapse fires, a thought is born, a project springs forth.

That inspiration and the ability to create something of where there was nothing, it blows my fucking mind.

The human brain is a marvellous and terrifying place, indeed.

The Psyche and the Fulcrum

Surviving nearly a year of dark, fearful deep depression baffles me. Survival didn’t seem an option then. I’m grateful my forays to bleakness are seldom now, rare even, and I’ve the faculties to buckle up and hang on until it’s over, which is never more than a day or two.

I have no illusions. Once I’m gone “Full Nomad,” there’ll be days where I find myself fatigued and homesick, wishing I had a bed all mine. But it’s days like today after I’ve told myself “It’ll be better tomorrow,” and I wake up, and it really is better, that convince me I’ve got this. I’ll have brief downs and see myself through them.

Done and Done

That’s another funny thing about the brain. The more we realize and act upon our strength, the more our brains can sell us on our toughness when needing a pep-talk down the road.

It’s fantastic we’re as resilient as we are. One of the greatest gifts ever given is adversity. It never feels that way at the time, but no matter what the loss or the price is, a healthy person will become better, stronger, more resilient as a result. I know I’m grateful to have proven already I’m “tough enough.”

Like the saying says, we don’t know how strong we are until we have to be strong.

That part is inspiring and comforting. What’s terrifying is the brain’s ability to shut out all hope and languish in darkness. Science needs to unlock mental illness. I’m glad it’s getting more attention.

And Now, More Mysterious Than Ever Before!

Strength and resilience aside, the flipside to the possibility of that terrifying darkness is the jaw-dropping experience of creation. Some brains conceive rocketships to the stars, incredible food combinations, cures for disease, life-changing books, or soul-charging songs. Poof! Magic. Inspiration, creation. And so the creative cycle continues.

With every new experience, a new creative door might open. I can’t begin to imagine what seeing the world and blowing my perception wide-open will do for my brain. What will I create? What will I learn? What will I experience? How will it influence my thoughts for the rest of my life? My creativity? How much will it increase my resilience?

I’ve already lived through incredible extremes of the human brain. Or like to think I have. In less than eight months, I start the project that I hope will shake me to my foundations and awaken me from my white middle-class life, and change my world-view for the rest of my days.

Waiting will be a bitch. Luckily, Trusty Brain shows me positives in proceeding slow and studiously, while laying proper groundwork for a long, successful journey.

Way to go, brain.


Stumbling Upon Epiphanies

Some moments hit us right in the feels.

For the first time in weeks, I took a morning coffee into the harbour and sat by the water’s edge, simmering in the moment before the inevitable descent of the day’s tourists. Sun dappling the water caused a hallucinatory disco ball effect as I sat lost in thought, bobbing on a wharf in the wake of early harbour traffic.

Somehow I sat for exactly long enough that I wound up stretching my calves on the stairs just as a couple in their late-50s, early-60s were walking past with their dog. The spaniel fell in love with me and wouldn’t budge, staring at me, smitten.

Naturally, Louie’s owners and I fell into chuckles and conversation, and soon she let slip they’d just found their land-legs after docking last night, the end of their six-month sail from New Zealand to here, Victoria.

Bucket list: Check.

photo 2 (1)

A gorgeous August sunset on Victoria’s Dallas Road.

And maybe that’s not on my bucket list, maybe it will be one day, but I allowed myself to kinda vibe off them. They oozed this surreal afterglow of “We Did It.” He told of how they had a humpback whale pod following behind them, playing in their wake, swimming alongside them. Humpback whales! A pod! Thank god for Go-Pro cameras. Coming to a Youtube near you.

They looked happy. A picture of contentment.

And that’s not me. Not today. I’m not a picture of contentment or happiness. I’m not deeply unhappy or sad, either. Just longing for something I can’t put a finger on.

Get Busy Livin’

It comes back to age and experience, living life. These people get it. It’s not about the money, the fame, the glory. It’s about where you go, how you get there, and what you see along the way. I think my age, 40, is when you start understanding those truths — if you’re lucky. I understand life comes with a “best before” date. I’m aware.

My mother died at 57. She didn’t get a retirement. There are no guarantees.

I know too many people my age working for their “retirement.” I want my work to be my life, and to feed my life. Travel, exploring, writing, photography. I get it now. Something looms for me: The anniversary of when I nearly died a decade ago, my head injury and scooter accident. It was Labour Day weekend, 2004. I learned then how precious life was. I wouldn’t say I squandered the next eight years, but they weren’t the years I’d have chosen if I could.

The last two years, though, I wouldn’t change much. They’ve been what they needed to be. A coming to terms, of sorts. A reprioritizing. A slow and steady waking. I can tell you now, the discontent of those first eight years fuels my growing reluctance to compromise now. I know what unhappiness is, and I don’t want it again. For me, contentment is a choice and I choose it more often these days.

I know we’re all works-in-progress. Some people are more focused on progress than others. Some know where they’re going, some don’t. I didn’t. Now I do.

Sufi mystics sitting in mountain caves will tell you it can take years of silence to find wisdom. They’ll tell you clarity isn’t a flick of a switch. It’s not being in darkness and opting to turn on a light. It’d be a pretty amazing world to live in if it were that simple. You don’t walk into a forest meadow and pronounce yourself ready for enlightenment.

Epiphanies just ain’t opt-in.

photo 1 (2)

Even doggies like the sunset. From Victoria’s Dallas Road.

A Serendipitous Intersection

So somehow I spent the exact amount of seconds sitting there and staring into sunlight dancing on the water, and plodded the causeway precisely slow enough, that I was there, stretching my calves on the steps, and just happened to meet Louie and his owners, provoking a conversation that led me to understanding exactly what it is I want, where I want to be, and how I want to get there.

It helped me strip away all that bullshit in between. The noise of obligation, the drain of a hard working schedule, the tasks that lie ahead.

If that windswept look of contentment, that be-here-now look of absolute satisfaction is something that comes from me staying on this path, working as hard as I have been, and keeping my eye on my goal, then I’m ready. I can do that. I can be that girl.

Like them, it’ll never be about the money for me. Obviously there’s a certain amount of money needed for an epic adventure like that, but there’s also a new world out there. A world where work is anywhere I need it to be, as long as there’s the internet and a computer to do it from. The world can be my office.

Times will come when I forget this clarity, this awareness. It’s in stopping to write about it that I hope I preserve it for just a little while longer.

I’m writing an ebook about the adventure leading to my life abroad and the evolution taking place inside me along that journey. Are you on my mailing list? That’s where you’ll get excerpts. (Or if you’re into my cooking, there will also be some recipes along the way.) Please sign up to follow along.

One Month Down, Eleven to Go: The State of the Steff

Why, hi there, you.

I’m just checking in. It’s a nice morning. My coffee cup is full. I thought, “Why don’t I go say hello to my minions?”

Yoo-hoo, minions! Hallo-o-o-o-o, minions.

Your friendly neighbourhood blogger is doing just fine, thankyouverymuch.

My year of Being Better is underway. I promised myself I wouldn’t make New Year’s Resolutions, and I didn’t. Instead, I would become a better version of myself by the year’s end. In, well, hopefully every way.

A better writer, a better exerciser, a better eater, a better sleeper, a better relaxer, a better coper, a better friend, a better daughter. You know. A better me.

We get so hell-bent on timers in this digitally-powered world we live in. We have reminders to set reminders. From iCal date-planning to the extreme, to actually CHOOSING to get Facebook and Twitter notifications, as if life wasn’t full enough of micro-management.

You know, if y’all like that shit so damned much, you can keep it. I set reminders for when missing something would cost me money. Otherwise, I roll with it. And I’ve never, ever had any smartphone notifications turned on besides texting. Because life is meant to be lived, not full of alarms.

On this quest of betterment, I’m not micro-managing myself. I’m not setting a timeline and measuring my progress constantly. Instead, I find myself now and then remembering where I was a year ago today (packing and panicking ahead of my move to Victoria), maybe 4 years ago today (just beginning to make progress after my first back injury), even 8 years ago today (recovering from a head injury).

What was life like at those times? What were my goals? How would I stack up now?

Uh… everything is better now. I’m better now. I have far to go, sure, but don’t we all?

I’m in a lucky place because I know exactly how far I’ve come on the inside. I need to be in a place now where that shows on the outside.

I need to eat better and exercise better because it’s not an option. Either I feel good and enjoy life again, or I continue hiding out in the Cave of Mordor (what I call my apartment).

I’m much further along both those paths than I expected to be just one month into the year. How very exciting, minions. Do you see my excitement? I see my excitement. Yes, I do.

Soon to be my shiny new bike.

2012 ended with an incredible gift: The complete, final realization that my bike is continuing to be the main reason my back issues exist.

There’s a point in chronic injury where pain or discomfort (whether a livable level or something debilitating) is so omnipresent that you just lose your ability to discern what improves it or hurts it. It’s when you’re so unable to tell what the spikes are from that you just don’t know what to change to move beyond that.

I rode an upright hybrid bike recently, and better yet, one fitted to my measurements taken by a great bike shop. This was like a Dutch-style bike with a step-thru frame, suspended front forks & seat, nice big tires with semi-slick tread, and elevated close-to-body almost-wrap-around handlebars, and it was almost a religious experience. All this pressure inside my back kind of fell away, the strain on my shoulder and neck reduced.*

To imagine cycling, that thing I love, being comfortable? Even painfree? Or… dare I even think it, beneficial?

This weekend, it looks like I can buy this bike. Let’s see.

Today, I’m showing my old bike, Mighty Murphy. (Named, of course, for Dervla Murphy, the old Irish travel writer who cycled Africa’s Ukimwi Road in her 60s.) Hoping it sells. It feels like I’m breaking up with my past. Like I’m stomping my foot and pulling a Gloria Gaynor moment. You’re not welcome ’round here no more!

And it’s kind of like that. The painful breakup of a relationship. That bike is two worlds for me. It’s the thing that makes me one of the rare people who can say I know what it’s like to lose 80 pounds through nothing but hard damned work and powered by ME, but it’s also the thing that makes me one of those rare people who can say they know what it’s like to live with chronic pain for more than four years.

Love/hate” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Had I not gotten sick at Christmas and laid low with a massive marathon of three seasons of The Wire plus an endless tirade of overrated TV on the PVR, my back wouldn’t have gotten the rest it needed so I could get on my bike in the new year and actually discern what was really going on inside me.

Then I had pain again, and I saw how I couldn’t stand straight when walking, and finally everything made sense.

Some might think the solution would be getting off the bike. But that’d be like telling me to live life without writing or photography or cooking. It’ll never, ever happen. I need that to be myself.

So. The new-ish me, the bettering me, the under-progress me is pretty pleased to be starting a new phase as “the urban cyclist” this weekend.

A shiny bike, a clean slate, and roads I’ve never seen before in a town that’s been my home for less than a year.

Being better, becoming better shouldn’t be an ordeal. You shouldn’t be punishing yourself for failing to meet expectations or demanding greater than what you’ve done. All progress is progress. Our lives are long. We can always keep becoming better. Growth has no end-point. Stop thinking you need to be the person you dream of being tomorrow, and be present in the moment while you’re getting yourself there. Maybe you’ll never be this person, this version of you again. Remember the moment.

Relax, grasshopper. Enjoy the ride. Like I am. Or soon will be.


* Buying a bike isn’t a “Ooh, shiny. Look, it’s green!” thing. You need to get FITTED for it. The right bike for ME could be entirely wrong for YOU. I not only have been fitted by a fantastic bike shop, but I was referred there by my Ironman-competing masseur and I got my bike style approved by my physiotherapist. The last time I bought I bike, I bought what I thought was pretty. It’s cost me thousands of dollars in lost income, pain, and more. Do your research. Don’t listen to anyone except professionals. Period.

Enlightenment! Get Yer Enlightenment Here!

My friend Monica Hamburg posted a hilarious daily-deal from Ethical Deals on her Facebook page today. Oh, how I laughed.

Dude’s selling basically spiritual enlightenment for $129, a savings of 84%, you lucky motherfuckers. Act now or forever live in the dark. Free shipping.

You know why he’s selling “awakening” for 84% off? Because you can’t BUY ENLIGHTENMENT, chumps.

Shot by me. You’ll find enlightenment faster here than in a classroom.

It’s not a “Oh, shit! Wrong aisle! I was looking in aisle 7B, next to the Mexican food” scenario. Enlightenment doesn’t come with a t-shirt and a money-back guarantee. It’s not something you take a course for then suddenly you got ALL YOUR SHIT FIGURED OUT.

Are you kidding me?

You think THE MYSTERY OF LIFE comes in a 2-DVD pack with a bonus Afterlife pamphlet? You think it’s just that easy to understand? You think that’s why people have been asking “What’s the meaning of life?” since the time of Socrates and Plato? Because asshole on a Daily Deal site IS HOLDING ALL THE SECRETS, and you gotta pay $129 for that shit?

I heard someone say the average IQ is 85, so it suddenly makes sense why I want to slap people so much, but let’s see if I can overcome that and write this anyhow.

You don’t need no fucking enlightenment course. Anything you need to know about life has been written already. Hell, you can stick to 50 years of creative content in the 20th century and answer anything you need to know about life. For the price of a library card, you can attain Nirvana.

Ken Kesey, one of America’s greatestest writers EVER, once said something to the effect of, if you can’t find God in your backyard in Kansas, you won’t find him at Egypt’s pyramids either.  (“God” there is whatever you want it to be — enlightenment, awakening, meaning of life, whatever, man.)

Okay. Don’t gotta go to Egypt. And don’t live in Kansas, but I’ve got Wizard of Oz on the PVR, so I’m set, bitches.

The secret to life isn’t out there, it’s in you. Just like Jack Palance’s gravelly old cowboy mutters in Billy Crystal’s City Slickers, that the secret to life is, “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that, and everything else don’t mean shit.”

That “one thing” is different for everyone. For you, maybe it’s butter chicken.

I won’t pretend I’ve mastered my one thing, but I’m closer to it now than I’ve ever been. And, like everyone should know, it’s not about attaining it, it’s about the chase.

Like Will Smith says in The Pursuit of Happyness, the constitution doesn’t promise finding happiness, only the pursuit of it.

For me, I find that’s the secret of life. Never stopping the search for more, never becoming stagnant, always trying to be better. Like a snowball rolling down a hillside. As long as it doesn’t stop, it just keeps growing.

I get that some people feel unhinged and lost, and that feeling overwhelms them. I get that others feel there’s no point to life, that they’re a cog on some wheel of stupidity and nothing matters, and they’re desperately hoping to find anything that will change that perception.

I kinda think accepting and embracing those bitter truths are a part of enlightenment too. Feeling small is good. It makes problems less traumatic. Feeling like the world will go on without you should free you from your panic, not increase it. Knowing it all comes down to you finding meaning in your own life is an empowering thing. If you’re not living for a reason, then that’s your choice, and either you accept that choice or you change it ASAP.

Enlightenment can happen in a parking lot, on a beach, in the dark of night while you’re in bed, staring at the ceiling in bed. It probably ain’t happening in a classroom or in front of a computer monitor, though.

Enlightenment” is also about relinquishing some control and understanding that the good and bad come in waves, and living in the moment makes it less encompassing.

And that sounds easy but it’s not. There are a lot of factors in life that we can control — being in a place we like living, having the time to do things that make our heart feel full, choosing to live in the moment rather than What-If Land — and there are many that we cannot. No matter who dies on us, what tragedies befall us, there is always, always, always a life beyond that experience, and we have to dial up the courage of ancient explorers in order to travel to those new, scary lands of change. That ain’t easy to do, either.

But that’s what it’s about. That’s life. Constant change. Not all of the happy-happy, fun-fun variety, but all of the relevant, educational variety.

If you ain’t on the move and having new experience, you’re not living. You’re avoiding death.

There’s your enlightenment. On sale for 100% off, with free shipping and handling, all thanks to a blog and a library card, man.

Namaste, motherfuckers.

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