Category Archives: Life 101

Man relaxes on a Croatian sidestreet, photo by zolakoma on Flickr. (Creative Commons.)

Here Yet So Far Away: Dreaming of Distances

I vacillate. Often. Back and forth, back and forth.

“Why wait?” I ask. “Why stay? Why keep banging my head on this wall?”

A part of me wants to cut and run tomorrow. Today. Now. Zippity-doo-dah, gone like the wind.

But the pragmatic part of me clears her throat and says no, we stay. We see the summer through. Turn 42. Celebrate Thanksgiving with my whole family together. Vote out Stephen Harper. Leave two days later, either in victory or defeat. That’s the ideal situation. See another shoulder season, enjoy another summer. Ensure I’ve laid solid freelance ground beneath my feet before I plunge.

Then, poof, off to Europe and chase the dream.

Prague's celebrated St. Charles Bridge, by Max aka Max Tim Tom on Flickr.

By Max aka Max Tim Tom on Flickr.

The Nutshell

Five years abroad. 89 days or less per country. Working my way through — keeping my job, my writing, all of it. Writing books. Photographing. Plodding the land, meeting the folk, noshing the foods. Write it from a first-person living-the-dream perspective. A literary treatment given with my voice.

The world through my eyes. Not travel guides, not tips. You want that shit, go read Lonely Planet. My journey will read as a mashup of Elizabeth Gilbert and Anthony Bourdain — a weird lovechild / hybrid of edgy, insightful writing set in the here-and-now of someone trying to figure out where in the world she belongs.

[INSERT DREAM HERE]

When I go to bed, I don’t know where to dream of. Should I dream of two weeks on the hills in Tuscany, a writing/reading/eating retreat, growing fat(ter) on cheese and wine as I trudge the verdant slopes?

Maybe I should dream of working on a new ebook in a seaside port on a lesser-seen part of Portugal’s coast, where fishermen persuade me to get over my fear of seafood and eat fresh-from-the-sea local specialties, laughing at my timid ways and shoving wine at me to wash it down with?

Perhaps I should instead fall asleep imagining a bucket-list check-off of shooting Prague’s St. Charles Bridge in early autumn morning fog as steam rises from the river below, hatching a plan for eggs in some underground cellar joint for breakfast as warmth returns to my chilled photographer’s fingers?

Tonight, it’ll likely be dreaming of dining on Croatia’s Pag Island, drinking local wine to accompany the famous island cheese made from the milk of sheep who spend their lives roaming seaside cliffs eating salt-dusted wild herbs daily.

I’ll do all of these things, and many more. Someday. One day in the next six years, I will.

My dreams, they’re not outlandish. No five-star hotels or crazy excess. Not my style, never has been. My dreams are like people I favour — a good way to spend a little time. Filled with intrigue and wonder, appreciation and simplicity, lively and fun. That’s how I roll.

The salty-herbs-eating sheep of Pag Island, Croatia, shot by Dimitrij Mlekuz on Flickr.

The salty-herbs-eating sheep of Pag Island, Croatia, shot by Dimitrij Mlekuz on Flickr.

You Gotta Ask Yourself One Question…

Waiting for these times ahead, so hard. Especially knowing I can do this lifestyle less than I pay now. I can improve my quality of life while living my dream, and yet it’s on ice ten more months. The idea of the wait is killing me already. I’m not sure I’ll last that long.

Just weeks ago I asked myself: Can I be this person? Am I cut out to spend five years abroad? Am I willing to just up and sell my belongings to do this? Have I got the guts?

At that time, I had to convince myself. The part that said I can wasn’t as loud as the part that scoffed at the notion.

Now, it’s not about if I can do it — it’s that I have to do it. I have to take this chance. I need to sell everything. I need to get the fuck out, live the dream. I need to know I tried. And one country isn’t enough. Five countries isn’t enough. Five years, that may be enough.

The hills are alive with wine and cheese. Tuscany, photographed by Konrad Jagodziński on Flickr.

The hills are alive with wine and cheese. Tuscany, photographed by Konrad Jagodziński on Flickr.

The Little Traveller Who Could

When I took this apartment, I increased my monthly rent by 25% in one jump. It was a risk. Only a year before, I sold my bike just to buy groceries. Could I hack the increased expenditure? Was I capable of working that hard, seeking out opportunity? Could I up my game? Could I commit?

I decided I could. Sure, I doubted myself and had a lot of fear, but I decided I wanted to make it work. So I would do just that.

I’ve done better than I hoped. I’ve really led the good life in this apartment. My standard of living is better, my dreams are bigger, my confidence higher, my focus sharper. A year ago, I didn’t have the guts to tell folks about this travel dream of mine. Now I can’t shut the hell up.

That’s not to say I’m fearless with this adventure. I have a lot of fear. Lots. And I should. There’s so much unknown. There’s new cultures, places, risks, threats, adventures, mistakes — all just sitting there, waiting for me. I know that.

But I also know of what I’ve toughed out — all the misadventure and adversity of my thirties. And I kicked its ass.

I don’t know what gauntlets await me, what struggles might come. I just know they’re there. They’re always there. But so is the knowledge that whatever else I might be, I’m a survivor. I make it through, and I come out better. And sometimes I have fun during the mindfuck of it all. Because that’s who I am.

So, yes. Just weeks ago I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this. If I had it in me. Now I know I do. The more I learn about the places, the more I know I can hack it. Besides that, I’m smart enough, savvy enough, and I’m good with strangers. I have rarely-fallible intuition on folks that will serve me well.

Fishing boats in Portugal, shot by salvadorveiga on Flickr.

Fishing boats in Portugal, shot by salvadorveiga on Flickr.

To Dream a Vivid Dream

I may not know what specifically to dream about when I lay myself down, but I’ve inklings of experiences I want. I want this craving I have right now, coupled with the heart-exploding anticipation of being amidst the travel zeitgeist. The brighter-than-bright saturation of moving fast or slow through worlds previously unknown to me. The kaleidoscope of color, places, and people swirling together around me. The feeling one gets from stopping to just be of a moment, in some strange great place. “I’ll never be here, like this, again.” And knowing it.

I dream of being confused by things like trying to buy vitamins and toothpaste in local shops, never knowing the same bed for longer than two months, shaking my head in confusion at foreign-language street directions, wheezing from running to catch planes/buses/trains, and always finding a new spot to see a sunset.

I long for the day when the boredom and routine of me being a hermit in my character apartment here/now seems like a great and distant fantasy. I think of the people I might meet who’ll indulge just a moment, or maybe for a stolen hour over coffees, to teach me their language.

I don’t need to dream of specifics. I dream of moments. Tiny moments I’ll remember for a lifetime. These vague and fleeting seconds will fuel me. I don’t want planned travels, just organic and whimsical detours. Dreamlike and surreal. Fed by impulse.

And with that, I have some wine that needs some drinking, and more travel shows to get lost in, as I tab through AirBNB listings and cost-of-living comparisons. Because this is what I do, these days. Haphazardly living in the present while stuck in the future.

I’ll be writing ebooks about these journeys. Sign up for my mailing list. I won’t be spamming you.

Victoria's Dallas Road. Sun, storm, turbulent ocean -- it ain't clear sailing, but isn't it fucking beautiful? And that's life.

For the Love of a Storm

The Pacific is a vast and daunting thing. All the world’s continents can fit inside it with more room leftover for an extra Africa. 99% of the Pacific is water. 1% is land.

Living on its edge means a constant barrage of weather rolling in over the winter, all that turmoil brewing over those high seas. Today we’re warned of an “incredible series” of subtropical storms that have set sail and will land here shortly, the first of which is expected dump within the hour.

The novelty of incoming storms never grows old for me. Inside, I completely understand the unbridled rage and joy with which Lieutenant Dan screamed into the hurricane from the crow’s nest of that Bubba Gump shrimping boat.

There’s a primal sense felt by those of us who are storm fanatics. We feel a storm brewing on the wind. We can read it in the ripples on the water. We smell rain on the breeze. The stormfront’s pressure throbs behind our eyes as the changing, charged airmass nears us. In the day leading up to it, a dull pain hits the joints and we creak like the Tin Man before he got his oil.

It comes. Slowly, but it comes. The skies are blackening and a strange eerie calm has descended. These are the moments when one turns and sees a spider scurrying up a wall. Nature understands nature. Even dogs can feel an earthquake before it comes.

We humans, not so much. We invented clocks and then we let machines do our natural thinking for us.

Still, there are those who do feel and see nature like the animal world does. Like natives who listen to the wind and smell the earth. They can tell you when a storm comes. We can see it in nature — the bugs skitter, squirrels panic about nut-gathering, birds seem to vanish from the skies. Nature knows when the skies are due to unleash fury.

Us, we fall into ruts of Westernized life. Clock-watchers, weather-forecast-readers. So plugged into the digital world that we’re not in tune with things from nature that our forebears could read for generations before us.

So few people notice when a first gust of wind rises, signalling a shift in climate. They don’t see when clouds appear menacing all of a sudden or their direction seems to change. They don’t feel a sudden drop or rise in temperature that signals an onslaught of wind or rain.

But some of us do.

Weather, for me, is something I feel in my bones. My head throbs, my throat gets scratchy, my eyes grow heavy and pained. And yet I watch out my window like a kid on Christmas, for I know, when that storm hits peak and rages like a woman scorned, I’ll feel an utter release of all those barometric head systems and I’ll be sharp and alert and happy again.

“Weather migraines” are a curse for some folks. I’m usually not fond of them myself, but I am deeply grateful to be one of those people who “feels” the climate.

It’s satisfying when I feel like I’m of the Earth and privy to what it’s going through. I love this bursting sense of anxiety that pulsates under my skin as a storm draws near. I understand the skittishness and apprehension of the natural world — the squirrels who panic, the birds who take cover, and the ants running for their hills — because I feel it too.

Unlike them, I have the luxury of knowing my phone and flashlights are all charged up, and the noodle house is a short walk away. I have a nice comfortable home and warm socks and blankets. For me, a storm is a chance to bundle up and be witness to something greater than us.

And so, like Lieutenant Dan, I say bring it. I promise you, at least once tonight, I will shout out my window into the wind and rain, “IS THIS ALL YOU’VE GOT?”

Then, like a pussy, I’ll batten down the hatches, bundle up, pour a whiskey, and watch Netflix until the power craps out. If it does. And then it’s book time.

Because: Storms.

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.

Is Happiness a Place?

photo 1I’ve watched three episodes of Bourdain’s Parts Unknown since last night and now my thoughts are consumed by food and culture.

It surprises me how much I’ve been thinking about food, culture, and the next phase of my life — in which I sell most everything I own and take up the wanderer’s lifestyle for hopefully the next five years.

I had to write a foreword for my cookbook last week and it made me more contemplative than I expected. What did I value in life? Why? What did I want more of? And I found myself echoing in the words I was writing. I too was lost “in the whizz-whizz/whoosh-whoosh pace of city life” I’d been writing about. I work too much, live too little. But I have a goal in mind: Five years abroad, and a year to go before I want it underway. The clock is ticking. The end is in sight. The race is on. Yada, yada.

Watching Bourdain wax poetic about the timeless lifestyles of Granada, Spain, or Ecuador, or Peru, or Croatia, or… It all makes me realize how far off the mark life is here in North America, or where I’ve been living. Or how I’ve been living. Life here, though, is all about the Benjamins. Or would be, if we had American currency.

With one of the most costly lifestyles in the English-speaking world, Vancouver (and therefore Victoria, where it’s only marginally cheaper) has suddenly become a struggle to live on a budget. A lot of people I know, if they can work from home and aren’t tied down, are taking the risk of living abroad. Some have made permanent ventures of it. And why not? If one can tap into a different lifestyle in a place that, after so long hamstrung in Vancouver, where life feels like a vacation because everything feels new and shiny for a year or more — well, why not? And if it’s 30-60% cheaper? Fuck, yeah.

I understand that we have it pretty good in Canada, and that’s where our money goes, but I also think it’s pretty ethnocentric to make bold claims like “best place on Earth.” After all, there’s a lifestyle in places like Spain and Ecuador and other fantastic places where they do have long vacations every year, and they focus on life first/work last, and they celebrate real food and wine and nature, and they do it all for cheaper than we do here, while still having a nice social safety net for the citizens.

We don’t have a monopoly on lifestyles. In many places, living really is pretty good, and they’re honestly too busy living life to bother trying to sell an image of it. Here, it feels like it’s so fast-paced and distracted that we’re constantly being reminded of just how GREAT everything is and how WOW SPIFFY our world is so we don’t start questioning how ridiculous it is that we have among the least amount of vacation time in the world, with the longest hours.

It’s like that time a friend read The Secret and told me what a powerful thing it was, and I should read it, blah blah blah. And I said, “Dude. You’re not happy with your job, where you live, and your relationship is in tatters. Prove to me that The Secret works by fixing your fucked-up life and oozing happy-happy/joy-joy, and then maybe I’ll buy the book.”

If life here was so sensational and happiness was the natural byproduct of it, do you think we’d be selling Xanax and Prozac like it was going out of style? Do you think self-help books would be so endemic? If life’s so amazing here, why do we need to keep being reminded about it?

When I was living in Vancouver, I kept telling people I wasn’t happy there anymore. Everyone said I was nuts, it’s the best place on the planet. Well, I can tell you wholeheartedly that selling the dream ain’t the same as delivering the dream, and for me, Lotusland just wasn’t delivering.

photo 2But maybe I’ve just got a restless heart. This time and place, it’s not right for me. I don’t know where is, but it ain’t here, not now. Not today. I think, for me, the joy will come from looking. From going to one place and being blown away and thinking “Nothing can ever top this,” and then, boom, next town, next country — “Nothing can ever top this.”

What if there is no place better than where I am today? What if, for the rest of my life I remember about the magical two years I lived in a magical neighbourhood?

Well, that could happen. Sure. But it’s a pretty big planet packed with a lot of wow, and I’m pretty sure things get amazing anywhere there’s mountains, trees, ocean, good wine, beautiful food, and kind people.

Happiness, for me, is a state of being. Having the time to be in the moment, not distracted, not paying a ton of money for an experience. A quiet place, a few kind people, the ability to speak my mind (or stay silent), a great glass of wine or a tall lemonade or strong coffee, some nature near me or surrounding me. Usually many of these criteria get met when I get to feel “happy”. It’s the recipe for happiness we hear so much about. Or my recipe, anyhow.

But to get there, to have that, I need to spend another year working like a dog to set my plan in play. Taking moments like this to think about the what-ifs of living abroad, the potential that life might hold, it makes knowing I’m working through another Saturday and Sunday all worthwhile.

That balance will come. For a little while, it means I have to prove how much I want it. And so I shall. With that, it’s time to do some work.

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.

A Big Thinky Post About Not Thinking

They say these early days in the new year are among the most depressing.

Mental, emotional, financial hangovers from the holidays, and even the “bottom of the hill looking up” perspective of the year to come — tons of factors affect our moody new year days.

This morning, it’s nearly 8:30 and should be lighter than it is. A storm front has parked over the city, dumping rain on the morning’s commute. The sky’s so dark my desk lamp isn’t enough to light the room with, and it’s daytime.

Today, I had planned to write some kind of optimistic “New Year/New Thoughts” type post about my goals and such for the year to come, but morning brings a weary world-view and a pensive state.

Part of the new year thing: I’m reading again. I want to read in bed for a few minutes every night.

Guy having a moment at Vancouver's English Bay.

When I was at coffee last week, in one of those weird chance encounters we sometimes have*, the book The Power of Now came up. Eckhart Tolle’s new-agey classic was born here in Vancouver, and people have mentioned it to me at several points in my life, but I’ve never capitulated and read it.

The thing is, I knew about it in ’97, when I was 24. My mother got it for Christmas that year. She’d been friends with some new age bookstore guy named Brock Tulley, and friend-of-a-friend thing, got the book, read it, and was trying to implement it in her life.

It’s one thing to try and change your mental state, but you can’t imagine away making only $25,000 in the two years before your death from cancer.

Times were very hard for her then. I watched her read this book and try to be “different”. She died broke and with cancer. What can I tell you? That was different.

So, yeah. The book’s been a hard sell on me.

But I’m reading it now.

[deep breath]

I suspect this will be a mind-blowing read on a few levels.

First things first, I’m not a spiritual person in the standard way. The beliefs I have, well, I couldn’t nutshell them for you if I tried. I’m in transition there. New age is not my bag, really, but trying to explain what I do/don’t believe would be a mess.

On Facebook, my religion is “It’s complicated.”

Raised in the Catholic Church and exposed to their duplicitous behaviour, my beliefs come from my life experience and not much else. So, forget “God” and all that. Let’s talk about us and our world-view.

As I age, I see what our thinking and perspective does for us, and I believe we’ll probably never have a clue about the brain’s full capacity. I believe many of us let our thinking cloud who we are, and that it takes a long time to muddy ourselves up.

This book talks about mindfulness in ways I’ve been thinking about lately, so it’s perfectly timed.

I’ve been remembering how I used to think about the world, and ways I used to look at the world around me, and questioning when I lost my wonder, and how I can get it back.

Wistful writings on the “girl I used to be” crop up here from time to time, and I suspect I’m not alone in the wistfulness.

There’s who we want to be, and there’s who we become. For most, somewhere between there and here, we derail. Every now and then, though, we get a chance to right the way. I can’t help but think I went off track somewhere.

People can lose their focus after seeing wrong so long that they can’t see straight when the light comes on.

If given the chance to “fix” what’s wrong in their lives, I imagine most people couldn’t tell you what the actual problem is. Why aren’t you what/who/how you want to be?

For three or four years I’ve tried to figure out what was going on, and in the last year I’ve sort of figured out that it’s two different things. One, my headgame’s all awry. Two, this city’s life comes with too many built-in obstacles and I got no room to breathe.

This year’s about putting my money where my mouth is. It’s about moving to a place that reduces the obstacles, culls the distractions. It’s a little cheaper, but it’s a lot more livable for me. Jumping on that wave of change ain’t enough. I need to get my headspace into the flow too.

There’s so much mental clutter from recent years, it’s in my way. I can’t undo my past, wouldn’t want to. I’ve earned my now-showing grey hairs.

But this overthinking is hurting me.

For a long time, I’ve had to try to be conscious about how I walk / sit / stand / sleep, because a long-term back injury does that to you. I’ve thought so hard about it that it now turns out I’ve been overthinking and overcompensating, possibly sustaining the injury as a result.

For example, I have long contracted the wrong muscles at the wrong time, standing that way too, and it’s destabilized me. Standing up and breathing, it’s second nature to us. It’s not something we’re “taught.” But when that second nature goes awry during an injury or illness and we never correct it, what’s the fall-out?

Well, now I know what it is first-hand when we unlearn who we are at the most basic level. For me, I’ve unlearned a lot of myself, including life basics, like breath. (And apparently 75% of adults are doing it wrong.)

That simple advice on “breathing through the belly” and “walking one inch taller” might actually be changing my life.

Long story short? I haven’t even been “being myself” properly.

Three years on the other side of trying to “understand” my injury, and dumbing it down — just breathing and learning how to hold a neutral back, just being — might be all my back really needs.

And it blows my mind that I’ve thought myself into ill health.

I’ve stopped listening and feeling. I need to focus on what my body feels like, not its symptoms. I need to see the big picture — how posture and breath affect everything I do in my life, because they’ve been crippling me.

The Power of Now seems about connecting to the moment and being really present. If I were, then what would life be like? Would I have let things go this long, this far?

It’s great timing, because I’ve had one episode after another lately that affirm this need to focus on my breath and be mindful of my posture, and live completely in the moment with awareness of the little things I think and feel.

I’ve been killing myself to improve my back and all I need to do is breathe? Crazy shit.

Oh, dear readers, don’t worry — I won’t become some Zen happy-la-la girl who signs her blog posts “Love and Namaste” or anything. I’m a smart-ass at DNA level and that’ll never change.

Laughing more, though, I could handle that. Having more fun. And this is part of the journey to getting to that, I think. Should be interesting.

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*I’m a big fan of the idea of serendipity. If you run into someone you like, but don’t know well, like I did, at my acupuncture session last week, and it happens to end at the same time, and you both happen to have a free 30 minutes, then go to coffee, because maybe — just maybe — there’s something greater afoot, and you might have something to learn from them. Naturally, I bought the book 10 minutes later.