It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day so Let’s Talk and … Tell The Truth

Many years ago I went through a period of feeling pretty darn depressed. Like sad to the point of crying – or actually weeping buckets – for weeks on end. Finally a close friend dragged me to my doctor to get help. My good doc suggested anti-depressants.

I thought umm … no. I don’t need chemical help. I don’t want meds. I want to know WHY I am so perennially sad. I’m quite sure it had to do with boys and loneliness. I wanted to work on the WHY so that I could manage it without tears and angst.

So my good doc suggested counselling.

Okey doke, I thought. Let’s give that go.

You know what? It worked. A few sessions of honestly discussing my shit and I finally understood it, I accepted it and I was able to move forward. Talking was good. Talking with a professional was good. Sorting through shit was good. Making a new plan was good. It was all good.

Since that time I have become a therapist. Armchair therapist, I know, but I did take a coaching course and I learned that I could help. I learned that I could listen and actually hear (big difference) and maybe even point in a new direction. Man, did that feel good!

I’m still an armchair therapist but last fall I found myself back in the patient’s chair. There was an avalanche of stress in my life and the weird thing is, most of it was the stress of those I love. My own personal stress was actually quite minuscule. But handling all the stresses surrounding me was beginning to choke me. I was incapable of saying “No” because I never say no to those I love. But my health took a hit, my blood pressure rose to dangerously high levels and my headaches were off the chart.

Back to the good doc I went. Except I have a new doc now. Loved my old doc and love my new doc who actually takes the time to listen to me and HEAR me. He’s young and super cool and up on all the latest and the first thing he did was prescribe a sleeping pill.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? I don’t need no fucking sleeping pill.

“Are you sleeping well?” he asked gently.

Umm … nope.

“Then just take it for one week. One week only. You need to get some rest to even start getting these numbers down.”

So I took the damn blue pill. Yes, I did. Not only did I take that blue pill, I fell in love with the blue pill. I mean Holy Shitballs! Who knew a little blue pill could do more than spice up your love life? This little blue pill allowed me to shut down. And in shutting down so completely I was able to bound out of bed before the birds, bright-eyed and ready to tackle the day’s traumas.

A week later I returned to my good doc and said “I am in love with this blue pill. I want to marry this blue pill. Pretty please can I have a prescription ad infinitum?”

Umm … nope. No you cannot. Nope. These blue pills are highly addictive and we’re not going down that road.

(aside: since then I have learned that a lot of people I know are highly addicted to these blue pills and loving every long blessed sleep … but that’s another story)

As I hung my head in sorrow, wondering how ever I would cope with life again my good doc said “I’m going to put you on a little yellow pill”.

Up my head perked! Yellow pill, you say? Oh do tell.

Please know that although I do take prescription meds (remember that blood pressure) and Tylenol for the occasional pain I am not a pill popper. I’ve had some pretty painful surgeries in my life and all that Oxycontin and Demerol and whatever else I was prescribed went down the toilet.

The new yellow pill did not. He called it a chill pill. Just a little something to take the edge off. Absolutely non-addictive and hopefully helpful in the long run?

Long run, I asked? My short run is pretty messed up right now.

Just take it, he countered. In 6 weeks its effects will plateau and you will see and feel the worth.

I did.

And I do.

You know what I feel? I feel better. More able to take on life’s challenges. More able to navigate through mucky bogs of stress and more available to help those around me, the sources of those mucky bogs of stress. I do sleep better (although am still available at 3am if you need me) and I am … wait for it … much more content with my circumstance. I am grateful and optimistic and realistic and … content.

God, how I love that word.

Now some my call this an anti-anxiety medication. I honestly never though I suffered from anxiety and even if I did I knew it was my poor estrogen-deprived soul kicking and screaming and I was able to quash it. But here’s the thing – the yellow pill quashes it now. So now I can deal with all of life’s slings and arrows.

I can assure you that all those stresses that led to autumn’s meltdown still exist. I am just handling them better. Maybe one day I’ll stop the yellow pill? Maybe not. Right now I am loving the new me.

So … let’s talk.

Because I never ever thought I would be a pill-taker. And here I am, madly in love with my little yellow pill. Much like I was madly in love with the therapist who hauled my ass through that previous crisis.

We all need help. Sometimes we ALL need help.

Get it. Please get it. Whether it’s a conversation or a medication please get it.

And by the way I do think I’m a pretty decent life-coach and I’m absolutely free. As in NO COST. I made that decision years ago when I passed my course with flying colours. I am just a phone call away. And as much as I am grateful for the help granted me, I am more than willing to offer it back. I can’t prescribe those yellow pills but I am here to listen … and to HEAR.

So yeah. Reach out.

Let’s talk.

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Are You Taking Care Of Yourself?

We read about it all the time, right? How self-care is important. How we (women) must learn to set aside time for US. How we spend so much energy and effort caring for others – children, husbands, parents, friends – that we often end up at the bottom of our own totem poles. We neglect our own needs because we are so tired from tending to everyone else’s needs that when we get a moment to ourselves we crash on the bed. THAT is our idea of self-care. Grabbing some sleep so that we can do it all (for others) tomorrow.

Okay, so that’s the spin. I will admit right here and now that it’s the spin but it’s not really my personal truth. I am one of the fortunate ones who has time for self-care. Yes I have a son who requires attention on occasion and I have a man who does as well. But they are both adults and quite capable of tending to themselves. I have friends who need to talk and sometimes drink some wine (and that of course is never a hardship) and I have family to cook for (also not a struggle) and a part-time job which I enjoy immensely. Oh yeah, there’s also a dog that needs walking.

But I am in no way run ragged. Which is why I have the time and opportunity to muse on this subject. Because I do see so many women who ARE run ragged. And that’s why I have decided we need a self-care handbook. Something quick and easy to remind us how important WE actually are.

Years ago I had a friend who was a single mother, working full time to earn a living and raise her daughter. I often tended to that daughter after school until mom would stop by for some wine and dinner (and to pick up her kid).  She always said to me “Oh, I wish I had time to work out. I want to lose 20 lbs and feel fitter but I just don’t have time.”

In those days I was still working full time and my job involved a 40 minute commute each way and I still got up early so that I could log 20 minutes on the treadmill before I hit the road. And so I asked her “Why not just get up a bit earlier and log 20 minutes on the treadmill?”

And she replied “Oh God no. I’d much rather sleep.”

Aha. There’s the question. What speaks more to self-care? Working out or sleep?

You decide.

Then there was another friend. who rarely took a sip of wine. She couldn’t because she was always driving her kids somewhere. Sports, music, school activities and then there were appointments and full-time work to boot. That girl was always running somewhere. She never seemed to have a moment to breathe … or sip.

Until that rare night occurred when she did. And that dear girl would sip so enthusiastically she’d be blind-drunk in two hours.

Now I understand that we do need to tend to our kids but I also understand that sometimes we have to tend to our own needs. Breathe. Sip. Chill. Take care of self.  And I don’t mean once a month when a rare moment arrives. I mean weekly. Even daily.

My favourite time of day is 5pm. The music comes on, a glass of wine gets poured and dinner prep begins. My beloved knows that this is the perfect time for him to get lost. I don’t mean out in the big bad city, I mean go to your office and DO something. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to hear about your day (yet). I want to listen to music (loudly) and create something delicious for us to share. THAT is my daily therapy. THAT is my daily self-care.

I am fortunate that he takes nothing personally and happily escapes to his lair.

But my self-care is not all wine and Carole King.  It also takes discipline. That dog gets walked every morning no matter what the weather or my disposition. I have to be really sick to forego that walk. And it’s not so much because the dog needs it. it’s because I need it. I need to zone out, commune with the Universe, get my heart rate up and hopefully even work up a bit of sweat. Yes even this morning in -10C I came home somewhat damp because I walk hard. I walk hard because my high blood pressure and mental well-being demand it.

And that’s the funny thing. I’ve been walking hard for over 20 years. It is no longer a chore. It is my joy. My happy addiction. It is the self-care I never knew I needed and now can’t live without.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it?  You’ll never really know what your daily joy is until you live it daily.  Until you find the time to discover it, practice it, make it a priority and then do it again tomorrow. We can all be disciplined in what we eat or how much alcohol or water we drink or less caffeine and more green vegetables and blah blah blah. But what about joy? Daily self-care joy?

There is a moment in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Eat, Pray, Love” where she is in Rome and walks past an upscale lingerie store. This is not a familiar place in her shopping repertoire but she goes in nonetheless, spends a fortune on lacy underthings, goes back to her apartment and lays out a picnic. A picnic for one.  And then in her very expensive silky new nightie she sits on the floor and delights in that beautiful repast. Alone and content. She is no longer shackled to a man or his needs. THIS moment is ALL about her desires.  HER sensual pleasures. Spending time (and money) on herself simply because SHE is worth it.

I love that moment. And yes, I get it.  Those expensive lingerie picnics are a one-off.  But most magical moments are, right? Why not create one just for yourself?

Many moons ago when I was profoundly broken-hearted I was finding it difficult to eat dinner, much less make it (just for myself). But one night I decided that LACK of self-care had to stop. So I put on some very loud music and danced around my kitchen.  Like crazy dancing, the kind we did back in high school. Once I had completely exhausted myself I set out to cook dinner. I don’t remember what I cooked but is was a true grownup meal, not just cheese and crackers. I lit a candle, put on some jazz and sat at the table like a proper adult enjoying my creation. Alone. Not even the cat joined me.

And that moment made me laugh. And then made me proud. Because I had spent so many years cooking for men and kids and friends and family I didn’t even know what it felt like to cook just for me. I learned.

We learn in increments. By trial and error. But the word trial involves TRYING. We have to at least try to feed our bliss, walk off our stress, bathe in lavender serenity or listen to music loudly while cooking. Whatever it is that leads to our caring of self, we must practice regularly.

Without guilt.

There it is – your self-care handbook. Figure out what makes YOU happy and then do it regularly.  Yes, even if those around you suffer with the loss of your ever-available selflessness. They’ll figure themselves out eventually.

You figure yourself out. Care for yourself. Love yourself.  Make yourself a priority.  At least sometimes.

Because you know why?

You’re worth it.

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The Beginning Of A New Journey

Do you know when a new journey begins? Every day. Every single day. THAT is when a new journey begins.

This magnificent revelation came to me this morning when I was vacuuming up evergreen needles from our living room floor. It hit me that, as much as I love Christmas and all its fancy finery, I also love January when life gets back to normal.

If you know me at all, you know that I love the festive season. I start decorating in November, at about the same I start listening to holiday music. By December 1 it’s pretty much all holiday music all the time and our home is fully festooned. I mean I even decorate the powder room and my son’s bedroom!

And I can honestly say this past December was one of the best. As in … ever.

Why?

Because I stopped trying to be all things to all people and I stopped accepting every invitation and I stopped fighting for relationships that no longer serve me or my well-being and I stopped sweating anything that was even vaguely small and I stopped expecting a “magical Christmas.”

Instead I just took it as it came. I loved on old friends and new ones alike. I saw (almost) everyone my heart requested and was thus blessed with family time, son time, girlfriend time, yoga time, couple time, puppy time and music time. I ate well, drank well, laughed well and still kept walking.

And you know what happened? When I stopped expecting a “magical Christmas” I actually got one. Because I discovered that magic doesn’t come from the perfect gift (given or received) or the perfect party (hosted or attended) or the perfect romance, friendship, family dynamic or even song.

Magic comes from embracing every moment with people you love. Even yourself.

But magic also comes from not hanging on. Not hanging on to perceptions, notions, approaches or expectations. Magic comes when you let go of anything or anyone that is counter-intuitive to your own well-being. Magic comes when you prioritize YOUR people without apology.

But hey, magic also comes when you are vacuuming balsam needles and looking forward to a new month and a new year. Magic comes when relishing the changing of the season, whether from summer to fall or spring to summer or even, dare I say, Christmas to January. Sure, people talk about the January blahs and I suppose they may show up. But today on this first day of a new year I have January excitement! January optimism! January intoxication!

Not from the wine, honest. From the anticipation of what this new year will bring. This new journey.

I have long been a morning person. And I finally figured out why. You wake up, you pour that first cup of coffee and you wonder with childlike anticipation what the day will bring. It could be anything. It could be everything! It’s a blessed marvel just waiting to unfold. Kinda like Christmas morning.

That is exactly how I felt this morning. The antique ornaments were lovingly wrapped in tissue and stored away. The twinkle lights (well, most of them) packed up. Our most beautiful tree out back, naked yet noble, awaiting the charity pick-up this weekend. The needles vacuumed away for another year.

It is January and we are ready. I am ready. Ready for the new journey which begins today.

And will begin again tomorrow morning. And the next and the next and the next.
It doesn’t require tinsel or twinkle lights or shortbread or champagne.

All I have to do is wake up tomorrow morning and pour that first cup of coffee. Whether January 2 brings magic or mundane is yet to behold. I can hardly wait to find out.

Happy Journey, my friends. Happy Newest Day and Happy Newest Year.

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So Why Exactly DO We Have To Put The “Christ” Back In Christmas?

Sorry folks, but I am really tired of watching that meme float around my social media universe. Really tired.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for anyone and everyone having an opinion. I’m all for anyone and everyone LIVING their opinion (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else). I just have difficulty with sanctimonious drivel. I have even more difficulty with people who are incapable of opening their hearts and seeing a bigger picture.

See the thing is, I don’t think you have to say “Merry Christmas.” But if you want to say Merry Christmas please, by all means say it. And if you want to say Happy Holidays or Season’s Greeting say that. I simply do not believe that the actual spirit of Christmas is served in any way by narrowing down our salutationary (yes, I just made up that word) options. What? We’re only allowed one? Because of course Christmas is a Christian holiday marking the birth of Christ (who of course we all know was a Jew) so we better make damn sure we get his name in there somewhere, right?

Wrong.

Because to me Christmas is something so much more than a religious event. To me it is a time to be a little kinder. A little gentler with yourself and those around you. A time for generosity. A time to be reminded that giving is a good thing. Giving to the poor, the homeless, the forgotten, the disenfranchised. A time to include EVERYONE in your circle of love. No matter what their religion and no matter how they greeted you on the street.
I mean seriously, wasn’t that Christ’s mandate? To love and accept everyone? Like, even Conservatives?

Kidding.

Kinda.

That’s what I don’t get. Why was it cool for Jesus the Jew to love and accept everyone and not give a flying hoot if there was Christ in Christmas? But now I am supposed to. I am supposed to proclaim loudly that I am a CHRISTIAN who insists that two words and ONLY two words be used during this festive (oops … bad choice of word) season?
Um … nope. Please be festive. Even if you’re not a Christian please be loving and kind and generous and festive. The spirit can exist amongst all of us, regardless of our personal beliefs.

Years ago I happened to be dating a lovely Jewish man and come holiday (oops again) time I invited him to my office soiree. It was Hanukkah and he had to light a candle first but he did show up (late) and we had a marvelous evening. Celebrating Christmas with my colleagues. I didn’t care and HE didn’t care that he was an orthodox practicing Jew. What we cared about was each other and sharing the season (I’m not saying oops again).

My son, whilst becoming a rock star, works in the hospitality industry in Toronto. He doesn’t have a hard time getting Christmas Eve, Day and even Boxing Day off work (he loves Christmas and being with his family) and you know why? Because the hospitality industry in large cities is populated with non-Christians. And they are more than happy to work the holidays. And to those fabulous folk I say “Thank you and God bless!” (you pick your deity). I am SO grateful to you because YOU are the reason I get to celebrate with my son.

Do I make a conscious effort to say Happy Holidays to those wonderful people? Ya know … cause they don’t believe in Jesus?

Nope. I say Merry Christmas because that’s what I say. That’s what I’ve always said. Even in England (where I have spent many holidays) where everyone says Happy Christmas I always said Merry Christmas. It’s how I grew up. It’s what makes me happy. Yes, Merry makes me Happy.

But please know beyond any doubt that I don’t say Merry Christmas because I am keeping the Christ in Christmas. I know far too many people who haven’t been to church in decades (apart from weddings and funerals) who have posted that stupid meme. No offence my friends, but walk your talk or please embrace silence. Because here’s the one thing I do know – the God of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians ALL preaches love. And that should be enough.

That should be ENOUGH in December and it should also be ENOUGH in January when the tree is down, the presents are unwrapped and the carols are no longer sung. Love, acceptance, inclusion … should be enough.

I think Christ would have agreed.

So please … say what you want, believe what you want, celebrate what you want and love who you want. Just don’t ask me to blindly be a sheep, simply because you re-posted a meme. The truth is I don’t think that meme is Christian at all.

I don’t think that meme is anything.

I think the Grinch said it best (I wonder what religion HE was?).

“What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”

I’m pretty sure it does.

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What Is Your Type … and Why Do You Even Have One?

I have a bunch of single friends and I, aspiring to be cupid when and if I can, am always attempting to fix them up. More often than not, however, after I’ve offered up a descriptor or a photo, I am rejected firmly with a “Sorry, not my type.”

This reminds me of a story from back in my band-on-the-road days. Our keyboard player was very talented but a bit of an odd duck socially. He was always trying to find a girlfriend so I once asked the bandleader what A’s type was. He responded with a laugh “His type? Two arms, two legs, that’s his type!”

So when people now talk to me about type I think … why? Why do you have a type? Why have you narrowed your pond to just the goldfish and the angelfish? Have you ever tried a different school? Oh my Cod, if you haven’t then please let minnow why not? Did you lobster and never flounder? You hate shrimpy dudes? You’re not interested in a crab with no sole?

Okay I apologize.

But I just don’t get it. And so I want to float this idea by you.

Okay sorry again. Please … don’t tuna me out here.

Why have a type? Why limit yourself before even starting? Why not approach every prospective suitor as the individual they are, get to know them and THEN decide if they are your type?

My pal G definitely had a type. Tall, thin, pretty – that was his type. When he met F he liked her immediately. They shared interests, ideals, passions and senses of humour. And she was damn pretty. But F wasn’t tall or slim. She wasn’t fat either but he described her as “chunky”.

So even though it was obvious she was totally into him and he totally enjoyed her company he back-burnered her completely when R came along. Because R was his type. He was SO going to explore a romance with R because she was tall and slim. That was his type.

What G didn’t factor in was that R was also haughty, self-absorbed and demanding. Like seriously demanding. And when, after a few months, all of those delightful traits came to light G hoofed it out of there as fast as he could and guess where he ended up? Yep … back with F.

Guess where he still is 6 years later. With F. He is happy as a clam (oops, sorry again) with F and they are making a pretty fantastic life together.

I say “Yay G” because he learned an incredibly valuable lesson and for most dudes past the age of, say, 35, that is virtually impossible. He learned that his “type” was not the be-all and end-all. Sure it might be a starting point but it can just easily be an ending point if your “type” doesn’t factor in at least a hundred variables.

P also had a type. Back in high school P only wanted to date the good-looking dudes. The popular boys. The jocks. She was a damn pretty girl and she had her pick. Never mind that M totally adored her and was pretty much her best buddy. No way she was going to date M because he had a big nose. And he was super smart and maybe a little geeky. Nope … she was going to date the super-cute dude and in fact not only date the super-cute dude but marry the super-cute dude. See ya later, M!

Until many years and a few children later she discovered that super-cute dude was cheating on her. Pretty much all over town. But not before M had resurfaced. After a couple of decades and a burst of newfound technology M showed up in her inbox. What a surprise! His nose was still big. So was his bank account. And his lifestyle. His job. M’s world was fucking huge because he had made a huge success of his brainy geekiness.

They never did end up together even though P did leave super-cute dude. M too was married and that was that. But P told me wistfully that it would always be a regret. She would always regret choosing her “type” over honest exploration and discovery.

And then there’s me. Yeah, I know, there’s always me.

I was playing at a bar in my twenties, middle of August, deathly hot. It was an old hotel so not much AC. During one of our breaks I was chatting with the bartender about the heat and I said “You know what I need up in my room is a fan. I need a fan!”

And the dude sitting alone a few seats away started to clap. He just started to slowly clap while his eyes remained glued to the television.

I was feeling pretty bold because I had just spend exactly 7 minutes chatting with the best-looking dude in the room who had turned out to be not only extremely handsome but extremely boring so I strutted over to clapping-guy and exclaimed “Why are you clapping?”

“You said you needed a fan,” he replied sardonically. “Here I am.”

Hilarious.

Long story short we spent some time talking, he invited me out to dinner, I accepted (hey, I was a poor musician and free dinners were magnificent!) and we ended up dating for almost a year. I can assure you clapping-boy was not my type at all. Best-looking dude was my type. Until I actually got to know them both.

Can you spell tables-turned?

So if you are single and still searching for your type, I ask you to write down ALL of those attributes and then … throw that paper in the trash can. Because trust me, you truly have no idea what the heck your type is until you fall in love with him.

I’m 5’6″. I still like high heels so the possibility exists that on date night I will be 5’9″. For this very reason, back in my on-line dating days, I never even considered anyone under that height. Ever. Even the guys who said “Hey it won’t matter in bed!” … hugely funny and please read that with sarcasm dripping.

This was a ridiculous choice when I remember that one of the great loves of my life was 5’8″. Well he would argue 5’8.5″ but whatever. He was no basketball player and yet I adored him. And since then I have adored other vertically-challenged dudes. Oops … was that politically correct?

What I mean is I thought my type was “tall” but maybe it is not?

I also enjoyed (sometimes) a 2 year relationship with a tee-totaling vegetarian. Yes me, the certifiable lush who delights in ripping barbecued flesh from the bone learned how to drink tea and cook tofu.

Sorry. That was a lie. I did learn how to cook tofu. Whilst drinking wine. Because as we know, in every relationship compromise is key.

My point is that dude was tall. But he wasn’t other things. And eventually other things got in the way.

And then there’s my darling ex. Of British extraction and I spent so much time in England, a country with merit but not exactly my soul’s home, visiting his family and wondering if our child would also have bad teeth, I vowed my next lover would be Italian! British is just not my type!!

Guess what? My current lover is …

British. And I mean the real deal with the accent and everything. And guess what else? We go to England every year to visit family.

And guess what else?

I like it. I like England and I like his family and I like visiting and then, well sometimes we … hop over to Italy.

My point is … I gave up. On types. I gave up on criteria. I logged on to exploration and discovery and POSSIBILITY and I gave up on any other guidelines.

Henceforth I solemnly swear that the only type I shall entertain is the type I type when I type this blog.

The ocean is FULL of fish.

Please do not carp if you can’t reel in your type. Expand your net. Adjust your perch. Scale different heights. Don’t trout …

Okay … you know I meant pout and now I think I’m done with horrible puns.
Seriously … try something different. Something new. Something against type.

Just for the halibut.

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