Run your own race…

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The first time I heard this was when I was training for my first half marathon.

Makes perfect sense, right?

However, try sticking to that in the middle of the race when everyone is speeding past you and you are trying to keep up.

I realized then that it is not really just “run your own race”…it should also be “RUN AT YOUR OWN PACE!”

Needless to say, I did finish my very first half marathon at a half-decent time (no pun intended!) and went on to run many more races after that.

However, lately, it seems that I have to keep reminding myself (and others) that I am “running my own race and at my own pace.” when it comes to my own career.

“You could make more money somewhere else…”

“You are so smart; you should ask for more money.”

“You are already doing more anyway, why not get paid for it…”

Money, Money, Money.

In a fit of impatience, I had blurted out “I don’t want more money!”

In my previous experience, more money, meant more work, more expectations, more stress.

No thanks.  Been there, done that.

The best decision I have ever made was to leave my high-stress job, take a step down the proverbial corporate ladder, and take a significant pay cut.

“But you still get stressed in this lower-paying job, so why not get a promotion and get more money?”

But somehow, the stress is different.  I leave it all behind at 5:30 pm and I look forward to spending more quality at home…

Walking through my garden and seeing if the squirrels left me some strawberries…

Having a beer in the front patio and count the number of white cars that go by…

Getting the mail from the mailbox and actually sorting and reading the flyers that came with the bills…

Work should not be just about money.

But for some people, it is about the money…. which is unfortunate. I guess for them, their race is to amass as much money as possible, as soon as possible.

Wrong race for me…

I think next time, I will not feel the need to justify that my race is to find what makes ME happy and it may take me a while to figure it all out. My happiness is worth more than a million dollars in the bank.

So, when you feel that someone is pushing you to do something that you know is not for you, tell them:

“I’m good.  I am running my own race at my own pace.  Thanks though.”

Have a good week, everyone!

Debbie.

 

 

S.T.O.P. –A refresher…

 

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I had a little argument with Olivia on our way to school this morning.

I didn’t have time to make her lunch and I was a feeling a little vulnerable since I knew I have not been a model parent these past few days. I was on a training course and we were off our usual routine.  Although I get home earlier than usual, I do not seem to have enough time to do laundry, put away the dishes, or go for a run.

Although…I seem to have time for two glasses of wine and cheese, check the Raptors game, do some Amazon surfing for some retail therapy, sleep later than usual, etc…

At any rate, some consequences have certainly been felt the mornings after….I’ve been oversleeping, Olivia scrambling for clean jeans, no time to sit down and have breakfast (or even packing lunch), and both of us grumpy and testy in the morning.

I knew she was going through a rough patch too…she was worried she didn’t study enough for her Spanish test, she has a history project to work on, a finance test for DECA Ontario (an extracurricular finance club for young and upcoming junior executives), a math test to study for  (trigonometry, as I recall) and she was having some trouble prioritizing which one to deal with first….

Anyway, she said, “I’m hungry.”

For some reason, I took this negatively.  I immediately responded that we should really do better at planning our mornings or even consider laying out our clothes the night before and she should give me some ideas on what she would want for breakfast or lunch instead of relying on me to read her mind…and how late did she stay up last night that maybe she should be waking up earlier in the morning?

…all in my “pissed off” and “accusing” tone.

Silence on the passenger side.

Then I realized that with all the mindfulness practice and mantras I have in my arsenal, there are still times when I fall off the wagon and I revert back to old habits of mindlessness.

Anyway, I dropped her off and said, “Have a good day, honey”.  At this point, I was hoping that she had forgiven me for my outburst.  As I was waiting for the train heading downtown, I remembered one of the simplest techniques in my arsenal that I should have done:

S.T.O.P.

S–stop and take a time out; pause

T–take a slow breath in and out. Take another one, for good measure.

O-observe what is happening inside you. Were you holding your breath? How about your shoulders–were they tense and up? Just notice. No judging.

P-proceed; having checked into what is happening, continue with whatever you were doing.  Maybe, just maybe…you are feeling calmer and clearer to deal with the present situation.

Anyway, as I write this blog on the train on the way home (the course finished early! yay!), I remind myself that there will be times when I will fall off the wagon, but it is okay.

I can always begin again.

Next time, I hope that I remember to STOP… before I blow things out of proportion.

Hopefully, you will too….

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!

Debbie.

 

 

 

It’s a nice sunny morning…

I missed my 8:17 am train to work today….

As I climbed the stairs to the platform, I thought “It’s okay if I miss the train. It’s a nice sunny morning and I will find a sunny spot on the platform and drink the coffee I made at home.”

As I felt a blur of people rushing past me, I thought “It’s okay to miss the train. It’s a nice sunny morning and I wouldn’t want to be stumbling on the stairs…”

As I reached the top of the stairs, I saw some people were not as fortunate as the sprinters…

As I caught the eye of a lady who seemed out of place with such a heavy coat on such a nice morning, I said out loud “It’s okay, it’s a nice sunny morning and…the next train is in 10 minutes.”

As I saw her pause, I realized that somehow she didn’t realize how rare these mornings are after our brutal ice storm just last week. She replied happily “You are right! It IS a nice sunny morning! It’s okay to miss this train. There is always the next train.”

As I walked away to find my sunny spot and enjoy my coffee, I thought “What a beautiful sunny day….maybe tomorrow, I’ll miss my train again…”

Have a wonderful sunny day, everyone!!

Debbie.

Meditation 101: Meditation for Beginners

images-3.jpgHave you always wanted to meditate and did not know where to start?  If so, then you are certainly not alone.

Before my mindfulness journey, I believed that meditation was just for Buddhists and monks in monasteries in some mysterious far away mountain.  I also held this misconception that people who meditate generally exude this aura of unshakable calmness and serenity and at any moment, they are going to say something transcendental like…”Do or Do Not.  There is no try” (Yoda).

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In reality, meditation is not as complicated as I made it out to be.  In fact, meditation can be done with just a mat/chair, an attitude of openness, and your breath. Meditation is actually a simple yet life changing practice that can reduce stress, increase the feeling of calmness and promote happiness.  Anyone can do it and the benefits are endless.

In this blog, I offer you simple steps to start a meditation practice that hopefully will serve you during the good times…and more especially, the more turbulent moments.  I have also included some tips I call “Get Real” based on my experiences since I can’t be perfect all the time…..

The Basics:

1.  A quiet time and place

If possible, have a dedicated space exclusively for your daily sitting.  It also helps if you set a regular time to practice.

Get real:  However, if you are like me and you set an intention to always meditate in the morning but somehow end up sleeping in or got busy preparing lunch for Olivia and getting her ready for school…don’t worry about it.  I learned to just “chill” and just meditate at night or on the train on my way to work.  The important part is actually realistically committing to meditate at some point during the day.

2.  Posture

Sit cross legged on a meditation cushion or on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.  Don’t lean back.  Instead, sit with a dignified yet relaxed pose.  Place your hands, palms facing down on your thighs.  Let your eyes close, or if you prefer,  keep your eyes open, softening your gaze.

Get real: 
I started my meditation practice sitting on a chair.  I initially thought “aren’t I supposed to be sitting on the floor in a lotus position?” and “should I go out and buy a meditation cushion (zafu)?”  Nope.  Basically, you have to throw out all the misconceptions you may have heard or read about meditation.  Go with what works for you.   If you don’t have those pretty zafus and zabutons, or you are not able to do a full lotus (or a half lotus, for that matter), or if you want to close your eyes rather than keep them open (my eyes feel really dry so I keep mine closed)…it’s ok.  Work with what you’ve got and what you are comfortable with.  There is no right or wrong way to meditating.
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3.  Notice your breath…AND FOLLOW THEM.

Place your attention on your breath as you breathe in and out.

Get real:  “Wait, what? How do you do that? “–that was the question exploding inside my head when I first started.  It had to be explained to me that if you pay close attention, you will notice how cold the air is as you breath it in or how your belly goes up and down.  You don’t have to force anything or think about how you are breathing.  Just notice……

Did you also notice the smallest of pauses between the in-breath and the out-breath?

4. Notice your thoughts….and DON’T FOLLOW THEM!!!

At some point, you will notice that your mind will wander and your attention is taken away from the breath.  Just acknowledge that you are “thinking” and congratulate yourself that you have caught yourself ….and once again begin on focusing on your breath.  No need to judge or belittle yourself.  Just say ” Oh, I’m thinking.”..and begin again.

Get real:  I congratulated myself a lot.  I still do.  I find that in the first few minutes, my mind is really on overdrive and there is a lot of chatter.  Sometimes, on really stressful days when there are so many thoughts that are clamouring for my attention, I scream inside my head… “SETTLE DOWN!!!”.  Interestingly enough, this works for me.  Figure out what works for you.

Remember….be kind to yourself.  No need for be so hard or angry with yourself when your mind starts to wander.  You can always begin again.
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5.  End your session

After your allotted time, you can consider your meditation period complete!  Congratulations!

Get real: I started with a 20 minute meditation practice.  However you can start with just 5 minutes a day and you can increase as you get more comfortable.  I also chose a little gesture that gave me closure…I take a deep breath, put my hands together in front of my heart and say “Namaste” quietly.  Find one that resonates with you.

Congratulations, you just finished meditating!

In future blogs, I will cover other aspects of how to improve your meditation practice using helpful tools like what apps and meditation accessories I found useful (and those I did not!) and questions that I had such as “how long should I be sitting?” or ” am I doing this right?”.  I’m thinking you would probably have the same questions I did!

As always, thanks for stopping by and if you would like to join me in my journey of healthy and mindful living….don’t forget to click on the link and follow me!!!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Debbie.

It started with an offer of Kleenex…

I caught a really nasty cold this past week…it may have been the flu but nonetheless, it devastated my whole entire week.

I even missed celebrating our Canadian Thanksgiving. I am not a big turkey fan but hey, I didn’t get to enjoy the long weekend it came with.

I think I caught it from the person who sat beside me on the train on my way to work.  It started with me offering her a Kleenex. In fact, I even texted my good old friend Joya the dilemma I was going through…

 

Joya suggested that I should move…

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I should have, now that I think about it…

Would you have taken a Kleenex from a total stranger?

I mean, I look like a perfectly respectable person, I take a shower every morning so I’m sure I smelled alright, and I had the obligatory Starbucks mug…and I was offering a brand new Klennex packet!  Brand new!!

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The “Debbie smile” as my dear friend alluded to has been known to create confusion. My former boss had once asked… “why is Debbie smiling that weird smile…there is so much to do!…and she’s smiling??!”. Needless to say, she hated it when I smiled my lunatic smile…as if I’m going to lose my marbles…

Anyway, at this point, I was clucking like a lunatic after Joya reminded me about “the smile”…

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Well…I caught the cold..img_3382

So there you have it, folks!  It all started with an offer of a Kleenex to a complete stranger who was in grave need of one…

So what have I learned from all this?

You probably think that the moral of this blog is never offer a Kleenex since it will just be rejected and forget about being all martyr-like and sticking by your window seat since you are comfy and you got there first…

Nope.

The moral of my story that I got from this is…

I am grateful to have very good and dear friends like Joya who would stick by me even when we have inane and silly text conversations like how an offer of a perfectly good tissue morphed into the flu…and actually remember to check up on me.

She is who I am thankful for.

What are you thankful for?

Happy belated thanksgiving, everyone!

Debbie

Birthday wishes

It was my birthday a few days ago.

Another year older.

One year closer to retirement.

I didn’t get a lot of birthday well wishes and even my mother forgot. She’s 86 so I couldn’t really blame her.

My sister almost forgot and she admitted it on a text at 8:30 that night while I was getting ready for bed. She asked me what I did for my birthday and I replied, “Nothing. Just went to work. Had dinner at home. Cheaper.” I had a smiley face somewhere in those sentences for added effect.

My brother forgot and tried to cover it up by sending me a text the next afternoon asking nonchalantly “What did you do for your birthday?”

My reply was the same.

Then we talked about one year closer to retirement and what I need to do to make it a reality. We are both accountants after all and investment strategies are infinitely more important than whether I had a birthday cake and whether it was chocolate or vanilla…

If I sound a little disappointed that my birthday was really nothing special, not really. It’s just that I seem to have come to a point in my life where birthdays have become just another mundane day of the week. I don’t expect any special treatment or presents or even a day off….

Is that sad?

Actually, I don’t think so. I quite enjoyed not having to dress up and think about where to go or even consider what to eat since a birthday dinner must somehow be more special than any other meal.

Too much effort.

Have I become lazy in my old age?

Actually, I don’t think so either. I think I have just realized how much more I enjoy a glass of wine at home than going out to a bar and having decide whether one glass of wine is enough or should I get the bottle instead…and who will be the designated driver.

Too much effort.

At any rate, I quite enjoyed my birthday–I had a quiet dinner at home with two glasses of my favourite wine and had combination of chocolate and vanilla ice cream cake with little icing flowers.

I got a hugs and a kisses from my daughter and hubby…and that is the greatest birthday gifts I could have!

So, for all September birthday celebrants out there…happy birthday!

Hope you had a fabulous birthday too!

Debbie

Additions to my bucket list…

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I spent Canada Day with my sister-in-law and over a cold beer and some sour and not-nearly-so-ripe cherries from their cherry tree, I told her that one of my pipe dreams is to rent a villa in Tuscany, complete with a pool and a housekeeper who will come once or twice a week to make me an authentic Italian dinner and who won’t laugh when I practice my Italian.

It made me think that I should add this Tuscan dream to my growing bucket list….

To date, my bucket list looks like this:

1.  Learn to tread water

person-treading-in-water-clipart-13I can swim…well, okay, maybe I should put a caveat on that one.  I can swim for 2 minutes and then I get tired and I stand up.  So, I’d better be able to touch the bottom and stand or else I’m in trouble!

My daughter, Olivia, swims like a fish.  I think it’s because of the fact that I am not a swimmer that I put her in private swimming lessons the minute she turned 2!  She can tread water like it is no big deal.

Well, I think it is a big deal….

So, now that I think of it, perhaps I should take proper swimming lessons and work myself up to treading water…?

2.  Go on a week long silent retreat

Imagine not speaking for a week.

Enough said.

3.  Go to Fiji or Tahiti 6f97f9d2b3a8028c3e1a8f6ed2e2ff13

I’ve always loved to be around water.

Dang.  I really need to get going on those swimming lessons ….

I wonder how many years it would take to say “That’s me in the picture”….?

4.  Learn Tai Chi

Actually, I was so close to signing up for tai chi lessons a few years back….then work got in the way.

If you haven’t heard of Tai Chi, it can be best described as a moving form of yoga and meditation. It is actually quite fascinating, especially for someone like me who tends to rush around…Tai Chi forces you to slow your movements down.

I should start looking at this again….maybe I can strike this off my list sooner rather than later!

5.  Go on a road trip

images  I once asked Olivia if someday she would want to drive across Canada with me and along the way, stop and learn what our wonderful country is all about…from Halifax to Vancouver Island and perhaps see the Northern Lights in the Yukon.

She said NO.  “It costs a lot of gas and is bad for the environment”. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to convince her if we get an electric car…?

Be that as it may, I will keep this on my bucket list…

What is on your bucket list?

Have a good weekend, everyone!

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Debbie

 

 

 

Yes, I Remember….

I remember when my family was still living in the Philippines, I used to run and dance in the rain…with not a care in the world. The kids in our street always came out and played tag when it was pouring out. Running around with squishy shoes added just the right balance of chuckles and moans of disgust! I also remember when I used to just stand outside under one of the banana trees that my father planted around our house and listen to the raindrops as it hit the leaves and fell to the ground.

Nowadays, my days are so filled with hurrying around, catching the train, getting in and out of cars, sitting behind glass walls…that I haven’t really thought about how it feels to be outside in the rain. I think the last time I was outside in the rain was when I was training for a marathon and I got caught in the rain during a Sunday long run. That was 10 years ago. I remember thinking “I hope it doesn’t stop raining…”

Yes, I remember that I used to be just like that girl in the picture…and yes, she is still somewhere inside…

Let it rain.

 

Debbie.

Searching for Happiness

Someone recently asked me “How are you?  Are you happy?”  I actually had to pause since those are some loaded questions.

I replied with the obligatory “I’m doing well!  Thank you for asking!  How are you?”

I somehow skirted around the “Are you happy” question but it stayed with me.

Am I happy?

What is the definition of “happy” anyway?…still skirting the issue.

Some definitions of happy are “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment” or “fortunate and convenient”.

Somehow, I don’t think I could have said, “Yes, I am feeling fortunate and content..so yes, I’m happy.”

Therefore, I am starting a new journey and I have dubbed it “Searching for Happiness”.

So, come join me as I search for what it means to be happy…along the way, you may also discover what makes YOU happy! 

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!

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Debbie.

The 5 ways I practice SELF-CARE….

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I remember literally cringing when my therapist first told me that I have to practice “self -care”.  For one thing, I have never heard of that term and it didn’t sound like a medical term to me.  Somehow it didn’t have the same razzle-dazzle as other medical terms I had recently come across like “cognitive behavior therapy”.

“What is self care, anyway” I remember asking.

“It is really just taking the time out to take care of yourself.  Debbie, give yourself permission to relax, to play, to watch grass grow….whatever you want.”

Well, fast forward to present day…I must admit it is the best prescription I have ever received.  In fact, I will share my 5 favourite ways I practice self-care.

 1. Wear comfortable clothes

Gone are my days of high heels and tight shirts/skirts for work, as well as those skinny bootie jeans that always made me rethink whenever I want to sit down.  Of course, this required a cold and heartless examination of my wardrobe.  Items that I know I haven’t worn in the past year (ok, 2 years–I’m not exactly made of money) or those that makes me itch after 5 minutes go on the donation pile.  I am also ruthless when deciding on new clothes.  I have to very honest with myself that I will be comfortable in them and that I am going to end up wearing it for a long time.  A classic and elegant look never goes out of style.

Try it.  You’d be surprised how good you feel afterwards–both mentally and physically!

2. Outsource

Not all of us are made of money, but sometimes, just sometimes, it is nice to actually have someone else do the cleaning.  I’m talking about having a cleaning person come once in a while to actually clean your house from top to bottom.  I still have to do most of the cleaning but once a month or once every two months is just enough for me to have a break and it doesn’t break the bank.

The feeling of walking into a clean house after the cleaners have left is ….indescribable.

3.  Take a “mental health” day off

Most companies nowadays offer personal days off as part of their compensation package–two or three days to deal with personal obligations, dentist appointments, or waiting for that errant cable guy to finally come.  I know that I used to just take them when I needed to do something during normal business hours like taking my car in for an appointment or renewing my passport. Then, forget about using the remaining days.

No longer.

I have learned that taking a day off for no apparent reason other than for “just chillin” (as my daughter always says), really helps me refocus and rebalance…again, both mentally and physically!  Don’t let those personal obligation days go to waste!

4.  Buy something small and inexpensive.

Remember when I said that I was going to learn how to play the ukulele ? (see my previous post here A New Year’s Resolution…?).  Well, I got past “You Are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine” and now I am learning “Riptide” by Vince Joy.  I bring this up since I’ve been mulling that perhaps something like a guitar pick could help improve my strumming abilities ( check it out! ).  I am by no means ready for “Canada’s Got Talent” (in fact, I don’t think I can call myself a musician anytime soon!) but my point is, if you have something you are interested in, buying yourself something small and inexpensive (and hopefully, useful!) to help in your quest for greatness, may be just the ticket to bringing that little smile to your face.

5. Play tourist

Did you know that I have lived in Toronto, Canada for almost all of my life but have never gone up the CN Tower?  I pass the CN Tower almost everyday while riding on the train to Union Station, but have never gone up it.

There was once a time when my family decided to have a “staycation” and we played tourist in Toronto.  We stayed overnight at a downtown hotel and did the normal touristy route (ok, except for the CN Tower!).  It was so much fun!  I decided then and there that I would do it again. So, to that end,  I have visited the Royal Ontario Museum,  the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Ontario Science Centre…all on my own and at my own pace.  I do relish the fact that I can stand in front of a painting for 5 minutes and not care….

So, there you have it, some of my favourite ways of taking care of myself.  How about you?  Do you have any other tips for practicing self-care?

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Debbie.