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

“Jupiter Ascending”…Not really

I’m going to be honest, I’m a Trekkie. (ˈtrekē/ noun-informal: a fan of the US science fiction television program Star Trek.)

I vividly remember practicing Spock’s Vulcan salute with the famous line “Live long and prosper” until my hand hurt. Oh, and how can I forget the Vulcan Mind Meld…”my mind to your mind; my thoughts to your thoughts.”

Super cool…

So, when I received an email from Netflix saying “We just added a movie you might like”..and it has the name of a planet (aka Jupiter), I’m intrigued.

Jupiter Ascending. Catchy name.

It is a movie about a young lady named Jupiter (so, not the planet!) who helps her family clean houses. Little does she know that she actually comes from a long line of intergalactic royalty and she holds the future of Earth in her hands.  The movie is mishmash of aliens, a genetically engineered bodyguard, a youth serum trade, and bees and other out-of-this world ideas.

I’m sorry to say that I would give this movie 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Well, that’s 2 hours I will never get back but this movie did give me pause….

As I was watching the movie, I could not quite understand why Jupiter didn’t seem to relish the idea that she was SPECIAL!

I mean, you are from a long line of alien royalty, you get to go into outer space, be in a space ship….you even OWN a planet!

Wow!  Except for bad aliens trying to kill you, what’s not to be excited about?

There are some days when I wake up and think “there must be some mistake…I AM destined to do great things, right? So, how come my life seems so boring?”

It’s like when I saw a trailer of the new movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them”.  Jacob,the Muggle, sums it all up when he wistfully says  “I want to be a Wizard.”

I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a wizard or own a planet?

In thinking about this some more, I think it’s not about being grateful. I wake up grateful everyday and I thank my lucky stars that I am alive, I have a roof above my head and food to eat, have a family who loves me, I live in a country which doesn’t have a bully as its leader, I could go on and on…

No.  This is not about being grateful.

This goes much deeper.

It is about feeling SPECIAL.

BEING SPECIAL.

Hmmmm…Interesting.  I’m thinking there is some deep deep insecurity buried somewhere in my psyche that I need to look at the next time I meditate.

…or maybe, I am again overthinking everything and as I learned in my mindfulness practice that this feeling shall pass…impermanence.

It was just a silly movie, after all.

At any rate… Live long and prosper.

Have a good weekend everyone!!

Debbie.

PS:  I STILL wish I was a wizard….

The “I Wish” Game of a monkey mind…

I played that dangerous game all last week…

It all started on Tuesday morning and  was trying to snuggle deeper into the duvet covers since winter has finally arrived.  I did not want to get up and even as my toes braved the cold outside of my cover’s protective shield, I immediately pulled them back in the comfort of my warm and toasty cocoon.

I whispered to myself, “Self, don’t you sometimes wish that you can sleep in a little while longer and not worry about catching the train to work…?”

“….or even going to work?”

“Could you imagine if I won the lottery and l don’t have to worry about money and work and….I could go on these lavish vacations in some sunny exotic locales…..where I could sample local cuisine….and not worry about getting fat…”

I think I could have gone on and on and on….

…and I missed the train and was late for work.

That was Tuesday…

Then, I think around the time Thursday came around, I was in a meeting with all these smart talented people talking about some issue…and a random thought popped up…

“Wow, they really know their stuff…don’t I wish sometimes that I could sound half as intelligent and confident in front of a conference full of people and not bat an eyelash when someone asks a really complicated question that I’m sure no one really thought of before and…Wait, I’m great too so let’s forget about that wish….I wonder what they do for fun or if they have time to go for a run maybe or maybe just goof around…I wonder when this meeting is going to end since I am so tired and I still have to do the laundry when I get home…wait, is it Wednesday already…no, it’s Thursday…”

I think I could have gone on and on and on…..

….and I missed the next topic of discussion.

It’s a new week and I am still playing it.

Yesterday, I had a coffee with a very good friend of mine and she was talking about her plans for the future. She sounds so confident and so sure about what she wants to do and another random thought popped up…

“Wow!  She really knows what she wants to do…I wish I knew what I want to do in a few years….what do I really want to do? How the hell do I know…I can’t even decide what coffee I wanted …or was it tea?  What am I drinking anyway?  Didn’t I want a hot chocolate? Dang, this tastes like crap…not getting this beverage again…”

…and I could have gone on and on…

…and I think I missed new gossip about how someone did something idiotic….

I realize that really what starts as a wishing game (“I wish I bought vanilla ice cream, I wish can retire now, I wish Hillary won…”) morphs to a totally unrelated topic that sometimes I don’t even remember what started the whole train of thought.

This is what my first mindfulness teacher calls my “monkey mind”…it jumps from one topic to another and before you know it, you are in a trance and people look at you funny…

Anyway, I am thinking that I am not the only one who goes through this…I certainly hope not.

At any rate…

…” I wish I could have a nap right about now since I had a super late night last night… it’s probably that coffee I had…shouldn’t have coffee too late in the day since it keeps me up…maybe I should try decaf instead…maybe organic decaf…I wonder how organic coffee tastes like…does Starbucks sell organic coffee?  Forget Starbucks, my former boss drinks it, I wouldn’t want to run into her, she hates me…”

Hahhaha!

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!

Debbie.

“Under construction…”

I hit a raised maintenance cover today. You know the one that is almost always spray painted orange?   The road to the train station is under construction and being repaved…

It actually gave me a quite a jolt.

My first thought was “Dang, I hope I didn’t ruin the car.”

My second thought was “Where did that come from?! I didn’t see it..!”

My third thought was “I wasn’t really paying attention, was I?!”

My last thought gave me a shocking revelation…I was not fully present when I hit it head on. I don’t even recall what I was thinking at that moment…

I remember a story my first mindfulness teacher once told…you would be driving along and you don’t really realize how you got from point A to point B until you get there. But even then, you are already on the next item on your mental list…

That’s the tough part, isn’t it?

It’s hard enough to stay present…but to be present ALL THE TIME…is almost impossible (well, for me it feels insurmountable!)

The “old” me would have berated and admonished myself to nauseam such that my whole day would have been shot. The words of the day would have been “fail, fail, fail.”

The “newer” me did something that would have given the “old” me an ulcer….I gave myself a break. The words of the day were, “this is not a big deal.”

…and you know what?  It really is not a big deal.

Sharon Salzburg (she is a mindfulness teacher who focuses on how we can practice loving kindness–and no, it’s not the mushy kind of stuff!  Google her. She is awesome! ) says give yourself a break. Be kind to yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

So, there you have it. My secret weapon. I have learned to give myself a break.

I also realized that I will probably be “under construction” for a long time…things ultimately will break down and I would have to rebuild…

Come to think of it, I like “under construction” better than “work in progress” since some days, I don’t feel as if I’m progressing at all…but I’ll save that for another blog…

Have a great week, everyone!

Debbie

It is a sad day…

I shouldn’t have gone to work today. I was off kilter, off balance, off centre…just off.

I went to bed the night before with the voice of my husband echoing in my mind’s eye…

“Deb, if I were American, I would vote for Hillary but I believe Trump will win because we should not underestimate the power of the blue collar….we are not all doctors, lawyers or accountants, or read the New York Times, or have an education past high school.”

I recall that I actually wanted to retort back and say…

“Nope…

…Hillary will win. She is the better candidate.

…History will be made.  Madame President.

….Remember when Justin Trudeau (our Canadian prime minister) said “Because it’s 2015″ when someone asked him why his cabinet has an equal number of men and women?

…It’s 2016 and we have LGBT washrooms, same sex marriage, women’s rights have made great strides;

…there is no room for someone like Trump who will set our American friends south of our borders back 100 years….”

Yet, it seems the American people were not in the same wavelength as I was. Along with the rest of the world, I turned out to be wrong and my husband was proven right…partially.

Trump did win but not because of the blue collar vote but because of the “white” vote. “White-lash” against a changing country, against a black president…63 percent of white men and 53 percent of white women voted for Trump.

Wow…the words “racists, “white supremists”, and “bigots” came to mind when I saw this statistic…

On the way to work, I was in a daze ( I even let in a familiar looking white Honda Fit into my lane –read my previous blog please).

I got on the train and started texting friends and family trying to figure out..WTF?!?

Some snippets of conversation during the ride to work echo the fear and panic (my comments in blue):


Even though I am Canadian, I don’t think we will escape unscathed…

I even fear for my visible minority friends living in the US:


My mindfulness practice was tested today as I went back and forth between disbelief and anger. My mediation session was difficult…chaotic thoughts of how people could have voted for a bully, a con man, a sexual predator, a liar, and the list went on and on and on…WTF?!?

One positive thought did somehow manage to squeeze through all the negativity…

Impermanence.

Don’t despair, my American friends…four years is not forever.

Today may be a sad day but I’m hoping tomorrow and the day after will be better.

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!

Debbie.

Being taken for granted …

I let someone into my lane this morning. It was 7:30 am and I was trying to catch my train to work. But traffic was unusually bad this morning and everyone seemed on edge.

I see a car signal go off on my right and I thought to myself:

“Self, someone wants to go into our lane.  Do we let them in or not?”

“Perhaps we can just ignore it and let the car behind us deal with it…”

“But, good deed for the day, you know? What do we have to lose?  A few seconds? A minute?”

“Fine. Just one car.”

So I slowed down to let the little white Honda Fit in…and waited…

….and waited…

…for the obligatory wave.

No wave.

“That’s gratitude for you”, I mumbled.

Was it selfish of me to expect a little wave of thanks or even a small acknowledgment?

At 7:31 am, I was already in a terrible mood.

The good thing about my mindfulness journey is that I am getting better at not getting carried away.

I knew I had to pause and take stock of what I was feeling.

I noticed that my shoulders were tense and had started to hunch up…so, I took a deep breath and at the exhale, relaxed my shoulders.

I noticed that even my face felt tense…deep breath and massaged my brows a bit.

I noticed my hands were clenched almost into fists…deep breath and shook my hands and fingers.

When I got to the parking lot, I put on my headphones and put on Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”.

By the time I got on the train, my internal grey sky was starting to clear….and my day was back in balance.

It is really unnerving that one little thing such as a wave for letting one into my lane can matter so much…but for me, it just does.

It is probably because I always give a little wave when someone actually lets me in because it shows that I am not taking them for granted and that I really appreciate the gesture, however small.

I’m hoping tomorrow starts off better and if someone wants to go into my lane again, I get that small little wave…

…or maybe I should leave the house by 7 am…

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!

Debbie.

A little change goes a long way…

I took down our Christmas tree on New Years Day. I actually felt a little sad.

No.

“Sad” is not quite the right word.

I think it touched on a more basic instinct…

More like FEAR.

Well, brand new year, clean slate, new expectations…you know the drill.

I feared that 2016 will be more of the same 2015 crap. I knew I was not keeping in the moment but I could not help it.

Yes, I enjoyed the little break between Christmas and New Years…went down south to get a break from the cold, got a nice tan, went snorkelling, had some tequilas.

However, there always seemed to be an undercurrent of unease that when I go back to reality, it’s as if I never left. Work will still be work, family life will always be family life, winter days will turn to warmer spring days, then the heat  of summer will be replaced by cooler autumn breezes, then before I know it, I will be setting up the Christmas tree again.

Of course, accusing thoughts that I should be more grateful rushed up…..”At least you have a job; at least you have a family who loves you, at least you can enjoy the passing of the seasons…AT LEAST YOU ARE ALIVE!!”

I am grateful, yes, but I had this nagging feeling that I needed a change…something different, something new.

I went to get a haircut.

As I saw my long hair fall to the floor, I realized, yes, this is good. This feels good.

Went from below the shoulder length to a boy-cut in a matter of 5 minutes.

My daughter said I look like Katy Perry in her “Part of Me” video.

Well, that’s not so bad…

…or perhaps she was just being kind.

No matter.

I like it. I love it.

I realized then that one simple thing as a haircut can change one’s perspective.

Yes, the undercurrent of unease is still there and when I went back to the office after the Christmas break, and sure enough, it went into overdrive. Many changes are expected to happen this year and we are all bracing for it.

At any rate, I keep reminding myself that it is out of my control and that things will work out. Somehow.

So, if you feel that perhaps you are in need of a change, get a haircut. At least, if you don’t end up looking like Katy Perry, you have the rest of the year to grow it back….

Here’s to 2016, everyone!

Debbie.

Work does NOT define you…

…these were the words that stayed with me as I left my doctor’s office a few weeks ago.

I had to keep repeating it in my head since it was so profound, so mind blowing, so true. I did not want to lose the sense of wonder of this eureka moment.

Of course, I always knew that work is supposed to be just that, WORK….. but the fact that it was uttered out loud made it so earth shattering.

“People underestimate the power of having a hobby.  Find something you enjoy. But don’t overthink it.”

A hobby.

Don’t overthink.

Well, I like running…but somehow, I would not consider it as a hobby.

Don’t overthink.

Well, I like painting…again, I did not feel as it qualified.

Overthinking!!??

I thought that it should be something I can sink my teeth into and actually enjoy learning something new.

Definitely.

To make a long story short…I did discover that I like doing little home craft projects. Peter had some cedar planks and some travertine tiles left over from when he built a sauna for me in the basement.  I thought I could make something out of them.

First, I had plans for the cedar planks to make it into cedar planters.  Would be a nice addition to my garden in the spring.  However, Peter did not trust me around power tools.  He did say that I should just give him the dimensions so he can cut it down to size for me.  I did not like the sound of that since he will likely end up doing all of it.  It’s supposed to be my hobby .

So I until I know how to maneuver around with a jigsaw, I had to revert my focus on the tiles.

After a bit of research, I found out I had travertine tiles.  I also found out that the Romans used travertine to build the Colosseum. Cool, huh?!  Last but not least, I found that I really liked how heavy, how solid these tiles felt in my hand, and that each tile is different with its own unique holes, textures and colours.

I also realized that it would be a good way to practice mindfulness. Especially for a recovering perfectionist, I had to get used to the idea that “it is what it is”. I cannot change the holes in the tiles that I felt were too big, too small, or in the “wrong” place.

So, these past few weeks, I have been dabbling with these tiles with different techniques of transferring ink to stone, experimenting how one type of ink responds to heat, to moisture, to everyday use ( I’m trying them out as coasters).

Here are some of my favorite pieces.

This vintage bike was inspired by a good friend who rode her bike to work each day.  I once confessed that I fear for her life all the time since she had to share the road with people whose main concern was to somehow trick the “traffic gods” and not hit a red light!  At least with this type of bike, no one could ever say…”I did not see her!”

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This next piece was inspired by another good friend who I thought played the violin.  So when I told her I had her in mind when I was making this tile, she looked at me curiously and said “Debbie, I don’t play the violin…I play the flute!” I got a hearty chuckle out of her. I’m sure she will never let me live that down. Maybe the next time, I will make a coaster with a flute!

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I love owls.  Perhaps because my middle name is Minerva.  She is the Roman version of the Greek goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom, trade, art, and strategy/war.  She is always associated with her sacred animal, the owl.  Someday, I hope to visit Greece and check out the Parthenon, Athena’s temple.  I think I would have to wait until the economic crisis in Greece gets better….
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So, I have been busy these past few weeks in a creative mood.  Working with these tiles have been partly frustrating due to the fact that sometimes the combination of ink, acrylic, gel and stone does not turn out to be what I expected.  Although, I am getting better at not being too judgmental and critical…

I am getting better at saying “Meh…..no biggie.”

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Debbie.

A Lesson on “Distribution Lists”…

Yes, I have gone back to work. I have been back for two weeks, in fact.

“How am I?” you must be wondering ….

It is good to be part of the working population again.

Yet…

Also not so good to be back with the working population again.

I was telling a good friend and colleague of mine that this time, I came back a little more  jaded compared to when I first went offline a few years ago.  I was reminded that when I came back after being diagnosed with anxiety back in 2012, I came back to work full of enthusiasm and energy.  I had all these ideas on how to make work more enjoyable, less stressful, more fun.  I looked forward to going to work; I was quicker to forgive and make concessions and excuses when something or someone pushes too hard.  I felt connected and optimistic that things will be ok.  It’s all uphill from here on in, I used to say….

“It’s ok, she is just having a bad morning”…or “he does that to everyone so don’t feel too bad..” or ” Let it go, it’s not such a big deal…”

However, I realize now that these little things, these little concessions here and there, were  silently and relentlessly chipping away at my enthusiasm.  It’s like waves crashing on the shore…mental and emotional erosion.

In my first week, I resolved to integrate slowly and stick to the plan.  Come in, turn on my computer, change my shoes, walk to the washroom and wash my hands, say hello to everyone I see, and come back and start my work day, taking little breaks here and there.  Good safe plan.

Catching up was easy as I was not gone that long and all the issues that may have come my way had already been dealt with.  The team I work with is comprised with very smart people…our little world continues even when you go offline.

I thought I was doing okay…well, until someone from another team came to my cubicle and “scolded” me sending out an innocuous email and including someone who he thought did not need to be copied.  “Scolded” does not seem to capture the moment.  I knew he was upset as his posh corner office was on the other side of the building and he actually took the time to walk to where I was sitting.

My brain was reeling.  “Upset over the distribution list?!!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!”

He talked to me through gritted teeth…a passerby would have mistaken it for a smile but the tone was clear “Don’t mess with me, I’m more senior than you.”  However, with an open concept office, voices travel and people hear.  They knew that something was off and were curious.

At any rate, I recall that my cheeks started to burn for holding up my forced sunny smile while my lesson in choosing my distribution list continued.  All I could say was “Noted”. It took a Herculean effort not to add “JERK”.

He was gone as quickly as he had come.  I had to shake the negativity off.  I felt dirty to have seen such rage over such a petty thing.  Good thing it happened on a Friday afternoon and the idea of going home was like a lifeline.  I had to tell my boss what happened as some people heard and may have been drawing their own conclusions.  I sent a quick email saying I had to leave before I do anything stupid…like copying his boss. Shock-horror!!

On the train home, the concessions started….my practice on compassion and loving kindness came to the fore as I searched my brain for my mantra when people irritate me (although, it did have a rocky start)…

“May this JERK be safe, be happy, be healthy, and his daily life be at ease”.

Ok, try again.

“May this silly person be safe, be happy, be healthy, and his daily life be at ease…”

Again?

“May he be safe, be happy, be healthy, and his daily life be at ease…”

Better….

I repeated this mantra several times and by the end of my train ride, I was feeling ok.  It was the weekend, anyway.

What stayed with me throughout the weekend was not that I should be mindful of who I copy (that’s garbage…I’m smart, I know who I should or should not copy to get things moving!), but rather that I felt I had given a small concession once again.  My boss used to tell me if someone was rude to me, to be rude back.  Dish it all back.  Sigh.  Perhaps I need a lesson on Confrontation.  I just find it so hard.

No.  Can’t quite bring myself to be like that.  I would probably botch the confrontation anyway and end up in more of a mess than when it started….

So, I resolve to build thicker and higher walls so I can slow the erosion.  I will have to.  My field of expertise is full of people like that…full of overinflated egos and insecurities and I have to learn how to walk through the minefield, taking care not to blow myself up.   I think it is the same in all other professions.  We just have different ways of dealing with our own erosions…. That’s just how it is, I guess.  My first mindfulness teacher would say, “Accept.  It is what it is.”

But, this episode has hardened me.  I feel it.  I came out jaded.  I broke my rose coloured glasses.  It was probably a good thing.  A good reality check that however hard you try, you cannot control everything…people, most of all.

Anyway, I had a good break from the stresses of the world.  I am grateful for this little respite.  I wish everyone had this opportunity….I guess that is what vacations are for….of course, without visits to the doctors office.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Debbie.