Do You Have One Soulmate or A Dozen?

I don’t mean a dozen as in 12 different people on this planet who might potentially be your soulmate. I mean a dozen as in – it may well take 12 different people – with very different attributes – to make up that one perfect entity called “soulmate”.

We all grow up thinking that our missing puzzle piece is out there somewhere, just waiting for us to find them. And when we do, we will magically understand what all this “soulmate” fuss is about and gallop off into a fairy-tale sunset, happily ever after. We shall be complete. Completed by another human being. Just one.

Holy fuck … the pressure.

I myself waited a very long time to find that soul-dude. 48 years, I believe. On the way, I settled, I maneuvered, I complained and I made-do. I reckoned it just wasn’t going to happen for me. I saw couples all around me (and still do on social media), purporting full-on blissful soulmate-hood and lifelong gratitude that they had found “the one”.

When I finally did think I had found “the one”, it turned out that he was only “the one” for a very short period of time before he decided he was in fact not “the one” and trotted off to sew some oats and leave me wondering what the hell had happened. Because if “the one” I thought (after 48 years) was “the one” and it turned out he was not “the one” then where the heck was “the one” and how was I ever going to find him?

Turns out I didn’t.

I recall a conversation with my highschool pal T who maintained that we probably all have several soulmate options in our lifetime. Sure, his wife was his soulmate but so was his teenage girlfriend, a few lovers after that and potentially even someone yet unknown (should his marriage fail which, at last check it has not).

Wow. What a pragmatic approach, right? Not exactly Disney but I am quite sure every bit (if not more so) plausible.

Then there is M and B. They met in college, became best friends, married other people, divorced other people, married each other and are now mated soulfully. So what took them so long? Why did they have to test-drive other models before realizing the Ferrari was right in front of them all along?

I have no idea. I do love seeing them happy though.

D and W took another route. They were sweethearts at 13, had babies at 18 and got divorced at 49. Were they soulmates for those 36 years? I expect they were. But something happened that weakened that bond. That frayed that rope. That ultimately altered their soulmate connection. And they were compelled to reevaluate and move on … with new soulmates.

On the flipside of that coin, R and G fell in love at 17 and that, as they say, was that. They are still in love after 51 years of marriage and so obviously soul-mated you want their photo stamped on a Hallmark card.

So … back to me (hey, it’s my blog).

I still absolutely and whole-heartedly believe in soulmates. I just do not believe I am going to find one all stuffed handsomely into a single package. When I subscribe to the theory that such a person exists I am invariably devastatingly disappointed. When I place ALL that pressure on one man, HE invariably shrivels, balks or bolts. It just never works out.

I have decided that my soulmate is a puzzle. A puzzle with as many pieces as I need to make it work. And when I put all those pieces together they make a beautiful picture.

Piece#1 – my beloved. We cohabit, we travel, we entertain, we watch Netflix and sunsets and we raise our dogs joyfully.

Piece#2 – my dear friend J. We discuss the issues of the day and the issues of our hearts, we pick up each other’s pieces when we are shattered and we celebrate each other’s victories joyfully. Truth be told, I have several amazing girlfriends who fall into this category. And I call each and every one a soulmate. Especially as I mature and allow unnecessary “friendships” to evaporate. I just don’t have the time or energy when my “Soul Queens” are waiting.

Piece#3 – my friend C. We fell in love the moment we met. Girlfriend love that was so profound and so immediate it has flourished, floundered, weathered a hurricane and survived. Our souls are mated, this I know. Even if we do not speak for months (or years).

Piece#4 – the musical men in my life. Three in particular who I could love no more if I bore their children. There is something absolutely magical about making music with a man (or woman, for that matter) who not only sees your soul but can then translate what he sees to music.

Piece#5 – my son. I know, it’s weird to classify your offspring as “soulmate” and I was certainly no soulmate to either of my parents (as much as I loved them). But we are. Who knows … maybe in our next life he’ll be the parent and I’ll be the child?

So yes, I guess I DO need a dozen soulmates. I need every piece of that puzzle to fit perfectly. I don’t need perfect people. I need puzzle pieces that fit perfectly.

Am I sad that Prince Charming never actually showed up?

Of course I am, for fuck’s sake, I grew up on Disney movies!

Am I grateful for my puzzle pieces?

Of. Course. I. Am.

Eternally grateful.

My life would be unfinished without them. Like an incomplete puzzle, languishing for eternity on the cottage table.

My advice is this – sure, go find your soulmate. That soul may, however, exist in a few different bodies and that’s okay.

Acknowledging the soul is hugely important.

And so is finding your mate.

Or mates. However many it takes.

There are no rules. This is your life and your puzzle.

Just do it.

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Well Maybe You DO Need a Romance Checklist? Men – (and women) please do weigh in …

A few days ago I was chatting with a friend about Jordan Peterson, the Canadian celebrity psychologist/author. We were chatting specifically about Dr. Peterson’s take on romance: “Work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationships. People love attention and rewards more than anything. So, an extraordinarily positive thing that you can do for your partner is to pay attention to them throughout the day; reward them with your words or with a gesture when they’ve done something good. Be inventive. As long as you do that, you’ll see that they’ll return the rewards in kind and your romantic connection will thrive.”

Amen, sir. Amen.

It all seams pretty simple, right? Kinda like the 5 Love Languages which, when studied even briefly, make perfect (and logical) sense. So my question is – IF it is all so simple, WHY do so many couples lose the romance when they get a few years in?

I am reminded of my former beau T. Even at the beginning of our liaison, T wasn’t what I would call a “professional romancer” but as the months wore on, his efforts dwindled to virtually non-existent. Rather than get stroppy and petulant about it, I decided to take a more pragmatic approach. The one thing I knew about T is that he loved checklists. What chores do I need to accomplish this weekend? What must I pick up from the liquor store?  What needs to be purchased at Canadian Tire? T was fastidious and didn’t want to forget anything.

Except romance. He frequently (bordering on always) forgot romance. He forgot to say, “I love you” (unless I said it first). He forgot to hold my hand when we were sitting on the sofa watching a movie. He forgot to randomly (as in, for no reason) bring me flowers. He forgot to check in during the day because he either forgot or was “busy working.”

Now don’t get me wrong. T showed up on the big occasions (Christmas, birthdays and Valentine’s) with cards and gifts and some of them were quite inspired. It was the everyday romance that dwindled to the point of extinction.

So I (in my ever-astute brilliance) decided a checklist was in order. If a checklist helped with everyday life, why would it not help with romance?

  1. Please every now and then tell me you love me … like, out of the blue.
  2. Please send me a little text every day, just to let me know you’re alive.
  3. Please bring flowers (or chocolate or anything unexpected) every now and then just to let me know you care about me and like making me smile.

There were a few other simple (and inexpensive) gestures on that checklist and I thought it was all pretty straightforward and “manly”.  As in “You don’t have to read my mind about any of this stuff, honey … I’ve made it super easy!”

T blew a gasket. T told me in no uncertain terms that the reason he was NOT romantic with me was that he absolutely would NOT subscribe to some checklist! Romance should never be pressure! It should be born of free will and desire and spontaneity and passion! NO WAY was he going to be checking anything off my list anytime soon, thank you very much!

Oh.

Okay … except T, honey, you haven’t been checking anything off ANY list that I am aware of. I mean, in the romance department. We’re just living like roommates who share a bed and have sex sometimes.

That relationship did not last.

So my question is – what is better?

  1. Silent desperation and futile hope that your beloved will suddenly read your mind and sally forth with romantic gestures galore?
  2. Quiet (yet obvious) sulking that you are feeling ignored?
  3. A checklist to make everyone’s life easier?
  4. An abandonment of all thoughts and gestures romantic because, after all, we are old and those days are behind us?

I believe that since we only have one romantic connection in our life (at least that is the norm), we should WORK to make it thrive. Just as Dr. P suggests. Romance left to the fairies will probably end up residing in fairy-tale land. As in – NON-EXISTENT. I’d like to believe I have always been willing to do the work. Maybe because I am a romantic.

What about you?

Do you want to pay attention? Do you want to reward kind gestures? Do you WANT romance to thrive? And if a wee checklist helps with that, are you okay with the assistance?

Please do weigh in … truthfully. I’m all ears.

Well, that’s not exactly true either. I’m all heart … but my ears (and eyes) are wide open.

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Truth, Transparency and Cellphones

A very wise man said to me recently – “There are two secrets to a successful relationship. You have to work very hard and you have to lie very well.”

Well. Now you know.

And if you’ve read my book “Confessions of a Potty-Mouthed Chef: How to Cheat, Eat and be Happy”, you already know I am an accomplished liar. Expert. A pro. Olympic gold-medal quality.

I know. Not my greatest source of pride. Which is why when I got honest, I GOT HONEST. I mean, I tried to get honest. I tried to conduct myself with honour. I tried to make choices that did not lead to lying or keeping secrets. I tried to negate all the damage I had done with a newfound zeal for truth.

But does truth equal full disclosure? Is it a secret if we do not divulge information which might be pertinent but wasn’t asked for? Is a lack of transparency as good as a lie?

My friend L thinks so. She recently found some weird and unusual evidence that suggested her husband was perhaps hiding something. And so she naturally confronted him. His full answer was (and I quote) “I don’t know”.  L was incredulous. How could he not know? The evidence was right there. He made a few lame attempts to twist it around like a pretzel and then, after days of dialogue and pain and fear, reiterated his initial defense. “I don’t know.”

So L countered, “Can we at least try to find out? Can I look at your phone?”

His answer was a resounding NO. His phone was personal, he said. We all have a right to our privacy, he said. He would never dream to scroll through her phone, he said.

L reminded him that she never used to keep her phone locked and now that she did, he knew her passcode. Why was it that in their entire relationship HE always kept his passcode secret?

Because of privacy, he reminded her.

At least he didn’t say, “I don’t know.”

And so I put the question out to a panel of experts (Facebook). Do we have the right to keep our phones and passcodes secret from our partners? I’m no mathematician but I would say the answer NO galloped in at a resounding 85%. “Unacceptable!” someone clamoured. “What do they have to hide?” “There should be no need!” someone exclaimed. “No secrets!” someone bellowed. “It all boils down to trust!” someone argued.

But then K chimed in: “Nowadays your phone contains almost everything. It’s like a diary. So I believe it’s acceptable to keep it private.” Fair point. But K is 18 and not married. That said, S is much older than 18 and married. And she echoed that sentiment. Without permission, she said, it would be a violation of ethics to scrutinize your partner’s phone.

Which brings us back to L. Because she asked for permission. And she was denied. So does L have something to worry about?

As that wise man also said: “The only time I don’t want my wife to see my phone is when there is something on my phone I don’t want my wife to see.”

Let’s hope it’s a new diamond surprise. Unlikely, right?

According to my Facebook poll, yes, L most certainly does have something to worry about. And the concern is twofold. Number 1 – the mere fact that she feels compelled to peruse hubby’s phone indicates a bigger problem in the relationship ( a trust issue, obviously). The mere fact that she is so desperate for reassurance that she feels the need to do something she has never done before (ask to see his phone) … well, that is a rather large concern. She never needed to ask before and she never cared that his passcode was private. The Number 2 concern is that HE is apparently not able to assuage her current fears with logical and reasoned explanation and this just might indicate that her fears are grounded in some truth.

I almost thought the jury had reached a verdict.

And then, as G so eloquently stated (by the way, G is a dude) – “If the relationship dynamic is good then yes, we can all maintain an element of privacy. It’s something we all need to own. However, if the dynamic is flawed then secret passcodes will definitely cause trust issues. The bottom line is this: both parties have to decide if they can trust their own decision-making process. Obviously if they are struggling, the relationship is not on solid ground.”

Nothing is ever simple, is it?

I think I’m going to run with B. B stated that in a committed relationship, trust and transparency are paramount. She also offered that if you really want to go digging around in your partner’s phone, “let the buyer beware!” Whatever you may find is knowledge you must then find a way to live with.

I have always maintained that “I’d rather suffer with the knowing than with the wondering.”

But I also can admit that there are “things” on my phone I’d rather my partner not see. Private conversations ABOUT him (and us). Somewhat flirty texts from old flames (which make me feel good and are completely innocent but who knows how he would react?). Old emails that have nothing to do with us that I have saved, nonetheless.

I guess my conclusion is this: if there is something on your phone that might break your relationship, your relationship is already broken. If there is something (or nothing) on your phone that can solve a dilemma, then by all means share it. If you are entirely unwilling to give up your “privacy” TO YOUR SPOUSE perhaps consider becoming a monk. Or at the very least a swinging single.

And if you want a truly successful relationship, only lie when asked, “Does this dress make me look fat?”

THAT (to me) is “lying well”.

Everything else smacks of selfish dishonesty. Dishonesty designed to save your ass from accountability. Dishonesty designed to help you get away with something. Whatever that something is.

Given my history, I strongly counsel you to try anything but. Because truth (and transparency) are SO MUCH EASIER than lies.

And you will sleep so much better too.

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A Love Letter for Marlene

(aka The Way to a Woman’s Heart)

Now, why are you writing a love letter for Marlene, you might ask? Who is this Marlene, you might ponder? Why is she so deserving of her own personal sonnet, you might query? You rarely use real names, Vic, and you rarely make things blatantly obvious. So what is up?

The answer is this. I am writing a blog for Marlene because Marlene likes my singing.

Huh?

You’re writing an entire blog for some broad just because she likes your singing?

Huh?

Yes. Yes I am.

You see, I have enjoyed a vast and colourful career history, from musical theatre to road-bands, to office work to radio. The problem is the radio career is the one that stuck. The one that has been sticking for over 30 years. But I have not only made a career ON radio, sharing my dulcet tones and the smoothest grooves (or country croons). I have made a career out of supporting Canadian artists. I have made it my mission to freely, joyfully and without payola extol the talents of singers and songwriters alike. Guitar players, producers, horny guys (and gals) and piano fortes have all been heaped with praise. Showered with publicity. Glorified to the unwitting masses and even invited to my home to perform where THEY make all the money and I clean up all the mess.

I have done this out of love. Out of love for music and out of what I feel is a sacred duty in fellowship to support my fellow artists.

And therein lies the rub.

Because I have been a “radio chick” for so long, many of my fellow artists forget that I am also a … fellow artist. They forget to extol my talents. They forget to support my recording projects. They forget to invite me up to sing. Indeed, at one auspicious occasion, when I was tagged to host (not perform at) a gala, the two powerhouse female performers who were on the bill both asked, “Why are you not singing tonight, Vickie?”

The answer? I had not been asked. I had only been asked to host. The organizers had two female powerhouse performers. They didn’t need me (except to host).

Now, please don’t go thinking I’m throwing myself a personal pity party here. I learned long ago to find my self-esteem in my own soul. I no longer seek nor do I need affirmation from anyone. About anything.

And that is exactly why I am writing this love letter to Marlene. Marlene is a relatively new friend but one who has surged quite rapidly to the upper echelons of my friendship totem pole. For many reasons (geography, her open heart and mind, her positive disposition, her zest for life and love and her desire to expand her horizons) but the one that really tickles my fancy the most is this:

She likes my singing. She honestly likes my singing. She likes to hear my voice produce musical tones. She has not stuffed me into some “DJ” category or “host” category or “former singer” category or even “writer” because she has never known me in any of those roles. Marlene takes me as I come and she really, truly, honestly enjoys hearing me warble live and listening to my recordings.

As a matter of fact, this past Christmas when I took it upon my self to send her a new Christmas song every day for a month, she ultimately responded, “These are all nice, Vickie, and I appreciate you sending them but I’m just going to go listen to your Christmas album now because it is my favourite.”

She did not say this to be sweet or to butter me up or to return some imagined favour. She said it because she meant it.

And that is why Marlene gets a love letter.

I believe that no matter how we navigate this life, through career changes and  relationship upheavals and various triumphs and disappointments, we ultimately define ourselves. And we hope that the madding crowd will accept that definition and celebrate it with us. As I mentioned, I’ve done (and been) many things. Perhaps even now I consider myself more of a writer than a singer. But singing … singing is in my soul. Singing was in my mouth before I could even speak. My mother heard me hum “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in perfect pitch long before I spoke a word.

I would never purport to be a “great” vocalist. I am a chanteuse. A conveyer of musical emotions. A deliverer of truth via lyrics and melody. A sharer of human frailty and fear and hope and longing. And Marlene gets that. She gets me … the singer.

So thank you, my friend. This is my most heartfelt and gratitude-filled love letter to you. I haven’t written a song in years but who knows? Maybe the next one will be yours.

Oh. And before I forget …

Happy Birthday.

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The Secret to Staying Young Is …

I have a rather large birthday coming up later this month (yes, I am finally turning 40) and it’s got me to thinking. Even with the years piling up faster than snow in northern Ontario, how does a person who “feels” young actually “stay” young? I mean, I know we can’t stop the clock (or the wrinkles, gray hairs, brown spots or sagging jowls) but how do we keep a young mentality? A fresh frame of mind? A sprightly outlook?

I finally figured out the answer. In order to “stay” young you have to “DO” young.

Do.

It’s a verb. An action. A conscious decision to perform tasks typically associated with young persons. This is how we stay young.

Now I don’t mean we should go to raves, get high, sleep our way through a football team or join TikTok. Unless of course we want to. What I do mean is we should DO things associated with youth. With energy. With vitality, curiosity and maybe even a little devil-may-care!

Like get a puppy. Yes, that is exactly what I did to mark this upcoming milestone. I got a puppy. While still cherishing my senior puppy who is now older than I am (in dog years). Two puppies/same house. Tons of fun.

So why is this keeping me young?

I think as we get older we settle into “routine”. We learn to love our routine. We crave the sameness of daily life. It brings us comfort and even serenity.

When you have a puppy all routine flies out the window (much like having a baby). You get up in the middle of the night so Puppy doesn’t have an accident, you never sleep in because Puppy wants to wake up, you rush home from grocery shopping so Puppy isn’t too long in the crate and you start playing with toys again because when Puppy isn’t napping, Puppy wants to play! Preferably with you.

I am exhausted. But I do feel mentally chipper and delightfully juvenile.

I’m not saying you must get a puppy to stay young. What I am saying is it helps to DO something that gets you out of the rut you may not even know you are in.

Like what?

Take up a new hobby (figure skating, anyone?) that requires physical effort.

Read a different kind of book than the ones you typically gravitate to.

Stay up to date on what is happening in the world AND with technology. Allow your children and grandchildren to teach you so that you can communicate with them on THEIR level.

Don’t dress old. Have fun with your appearance, your clothing and your style. YOUR style. God, how I hate those articles that start with “What a woman over 50 should never wear … “

Fuck off.

I’ll wear whatever I damn well please. At whatever age.

Which brings me to appearance. Yes, physical, old-age appearance.

Before I had my child and was a glamorous, professional gal, I used to get my nails done (professionally) every two weeks. They were really quite stunning. When that child was born I cut off all my nails and learned to go au naturel. In the ensuing years I have had pedicures, manicures, shellacked nails and naked nails. But what I have learned is that EVERY time we relinquish our youth to a spa, we start sliding down a slippery slope. And it doesn’t work. Because that spa can give you pretty nails and Botox and fillers and blonde highlights and plucked hairs and a billion other fixes but I can guarantee that spa will NOT make you FEEL young.

Nope. If we want to feel young we will have to DO something. On our own. Getting “done to” is lovely and pampering and absolutely a good thing but it will never alter the inner you. And if the inner you wants to be young, the outer you is going to have to DO.

Something.

This big birthday doesn’t scare me one bit because I have been “doing” young for a very long time. Don’t get me wrong … it’s not always easy. When I drag myself out to walk 3K in a blizzard it’s not because I wanna. When I climb into my cut-off blue jeans and look in the mirror, I sometimes think “Geez, Vic, maybe it’s time for grownup pants?” When I look in my (10X magnifying) mirror and see all the things I would rather not see, I long for cosmetic intervention to match the outside with the inside.

But I now know that the only thing that will actually make me feel young is doing young. So I will keep doing. And doing. And doing. Until the next big birthday. And the one after that.

They may well bury me in these cut-off jeans. Ha!

I just made myself laugh. 

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When It Is Time To Anthropomorphize Your Emotions

Anthropomorphize: to ascribe human form or attributes to (an animal, plant, material object, etc.).

My beloved uses this term a lot when discussing biology (his field of expertise). Specifically, when I try to accredit our dog with human feelings and responses. I actually do this with all animals, birds and fish. Even some humans who don’t deserve it.

In recent years though, I have learned (thanks to author Liz Gilbert) to do it with my emotions. If you’ve read “Eat, Pray, Love,” you may remember that time in Rome when she is visited Depression and Loneliness. She artfully describes them as quite human (I believe she references Pinkerton detectives) and she proceeds to talk with them like they are very much alive and present in her Italian flat.

I love this.

I love this so much I have started doing it in my everyday life. And I have counseled my friends and family to do the same.

Take my pal P. P is nearing the finale of a long, painfully protracted divorce. The light is there, beaming at the end of the tunnel, but she is still too often plagued with anxiety. What will she do? Where will she go? Might she ever love again? These questions used to compel her to the couch for days on end.

Not anymore. These days, when Anxiety rears his most unwelcome head, she chats with him like an acquaintance she has (mostly) outgrown.

“Hello, Anxiety,” she mutters cheerfully, pouring herself a glass of wine. “I know why you’re here and I know you’re not leaving anytime soon so sure, feel free to sit on that stool in the corner. But you are not welcome in this kitchen and you are not staying overnight, got it?!”

If Anxiety refuses to listen and lurks beyond bedtime, P will try again. “Okay, buddy, this is the sofa. You wanna sleep here, this is what you get. You will not disturb me in the bedroom and you will NOT be here when I come down in the morning. Got it, Buster?!”

Typically, by the time P pulls up the comforter and turns out her light, she is giggling. Because she has taken control of Anxiety. She has read him the riot act. And she falls asleep in good faith that her sofa will be empty in the morning.

My other pal D anthropomorphizes her Melancholy. Melancholy has been a fairly constant companion to D throughout this Covid craziness. She is not afraid, she is not lonely and she is not full-on depressed. D is just cheerless. Downcast. Sad. Maybe she needs some sunshine and a big fat dose of vitamin D (named after her, of course)? Maybe she needs more hugs than have been allowed? Maybe she just needs the damn vaccine?

What D no longer wants (or needs) is for Melancholy to follow her arounds like a lost puppy. So D has given Melancholy a name – Miserable Melanie. And when D becomes cognizant that MM is shadowing her, she marches to the bathroom. She runs a glorious bubble bath, lights a candle, turns on some music and slams the door in MM’s face. “You’re not allowed in this room, kiddo!” she yells. And it works.

But sometimes only for five or ten minutes, when D realized there are tears streaming down her cheeks. MM has somehow slipped into the bathroom through the cracks. So … instead of capitulating and inviting MM into the tub, D gets out, dries herself off and flushes MM down the toilet.

Bu-bye Mel!

And yes, now D is laughing … at herself and her eradicated emotion.

See how it works?

We are neither trained nor taught how to deal with our feelings. Our thoughts. Our demons. Our sensitivities. And so they attack us willy-nilly, sometimes out of nowhere, sometimes right on schedule, and we just lie back and take it because we don’t think we have recourse. Options. A battle plan.

But we do.

Just make those damn frailties “human” and treat them like you would a living entity. Like my friend H. Whenever H wants to talk with me deeply, she prefaces the conversation with “Do you have time and space for this right now?” Sometimes I do and sometimes I do not and we are always honest with one another. So the other day, when H confessed that she was overwhelmed with waves of despair, I reminded her to put Despair in the freezer. He was trying to burn her alive with his incessant blistering and it was time to turn him into a popsicle. See ya later, pal!  And pass me the ice cream while you’re in there, buster.

H (and her Haagen Dazs) went to bed happy.

Now before you go writing this all off as simplistic and accuse me of not recognizing the vagaries of human emotion, I urge you to just try it. I’m no psychotherapist but I know what works on me. If I am swirling in a vortex, brought on by extraneous circumstances AND by own responses to them, well damnit, I can create a conduit to get myself out of that vortex. And if that conduit requires the humanization of my feelings, so be it.    

I’ve yelled at enough humans in my life to know that I am perfectly capable of yelling at my own damn emotions. Joy, Contentment, Bliss, Harmony and Gratitude – all welcome anytime. I do know that the rest of those fuckers will attempt to darken my door regularly and I can accept that. When they show up I’ll be ready … to acknowledge, converse and ultimately …

… ask them to leave.

Now … go try to pronounce anthropomorphize five times in a row.

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The Incredible Reinvention of BB!

BB is my friend. BB retired a few years back and, what with a grown child and no grandchildren (yet) plus a husband who still works, BB had to figure out what to do with her days. She is a creative gal so soon she was making jewelry. Really nice stuff. Then she took up photography with a good camera and everything. And now … well  now BB is painting. She hand-paints gorgeous cards and beautiful pictures. I buy her stuff all the time because it is REALLY good.

This is the incredible reinvention of BB. A woman who never did any of this stuff BEFORE she retired and now she is a veritable smorgasbord of creative delights. BB is on fire!

I would like to be like BB. I would like to find something new and exciting to tantalize my spirit and fuel my days with passion and commitment. I just don’t know what that something might be?

Now don’t forget, the operative word here is NEW. I haven’t exactly been lazy. I mean, I wrote a book and then published it, I recorded a jazz CD, I write blogs regularly, I’m editing a book for a friend, I have moved a lot and redecorated a lot, I love helping my pals with interior décor, I’d like to think I am a creative (and willing) cook and still sing every now and then.

But none of that is new. Not new like BB’s new stuff.

My beloved has his “new”. I gave him guitar lessons for Christmas and he has embraced this new pursuit with zeal! He practices every day and seems to enjoy it. He even enjoys showing off his callouses. My friend L has her “new”. She is knitting up a storm (and lots of blankets) because she wanted something to “calm her nerves” during this pandemic. And J has found his “new” too. J has purchased a snowmobile and is determined to conquer the trails of northern Ontario.

Go team!

So what is my “new” going to be? I do love taking photos and considering I pretty much live “in” a postcard, that might be the obvious choice. Problem is I have no interest in buying a fancy camera, learning about apertures and speeds and creating a dark room in my home (because film is berts, right?). I have a phone and a view. I’m good.

My friend S says I should learn to paint. I mean, I have the view so I should learn to paint it. I seriously cannot draw a stick man. I have zero artistic talents and zero interest in painting a picture … or a wall. My father took up watercolours in his 60s and he got good! I have three of his works proudly displayed in my living room. I did not inherit that gene

My beloved would be thrilled if I learned to dive. As in scuba. Not a chance. I love to snorkel but trusting my breathing to some apparatus attached to some sticky suit is not my idea of fun and will NEVER happen. The fishies and I will just have to commune closer to the surface.

Sewing, knitting, quilting, crocheting, needlepoint, rug-hooking … you name it, it ain’t me.

Doing a puzzle? Also not me (I got one for Christmas … want it?).

Learning to bake? I’m really not much of a baker (read my book) but the real reason I will not learn to bake is that if I bake it, I eat it and I already have a gold medal in that sport. Besides, my new neighbour K is a baker and she delivers!

So what does that leave me with? Downhill skiing? Oh, I want to SO BAD but the slopes are closed (phew!). Cross-country skiing? Oh, the agony. Upgrading my piano skills? Yes, but that’s not “new”. Learning to sing opera? Fat (as in lady sings) chance. I was considering doing another jazz CD but decided the world has heard me warble enough … at least for this lifetime.

Learning Italian?

Now that is something I would consider IF I could live in Italy for 6 months whilst doing it.

The upshot is this – I have decided that, in order to find your “new”, you first have to find your “passion” and then you have to find your “desire” and finally you must find your “commitment” to implement them both.

Okay … here goes:

I have a passion for wine and I have a desire for blonde highlights in my hair. Should I become a sommelier or a hairdresser?

I don’t think so.

I will, however, sponsor a winetasting for two in my kitchen this weekend and I just might buy a box of Clairol and figure out how to get blonder.

Then I will gaze fondly upon my new BB paintings and raise my glass to her! Who knows? Perhaps there is more “new” waiting for me just around the corner?

Now that I know that I want it, maybe it will show up.

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Are You Willing To Be Led By The Universe?

In my last blog I wrote about signs from The Universe. Do you believe in them? Are they real and true? Are you paying attention?

But what about being “led” by The Universe? And by that I mean tossing away your well-researched and thoroughly vetted LIFE PLAN and allowing The Universe to guide you to your next destination … and the one after that?

We North Americans live in a rat-race packaged and parceled into handy boxes. We plan everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – until nothing is left to chance. We like order and predictability, structure and parity. We DO NOT like surprises. Unless it’s a birthday party (and some of us don’t even like those) or a big lottery win. We like to know where we are going, how we are going to get there and exactly what time it will be when we arrive.

Blech.

I gave up on that shit decades ago.

In my teens and twenties I KNEW I was going to be a musical theatre actress or a singing star.

In my thirties I came to the realization that neither was going to materialize in a life-sustaining manner so what did I do? I floated. I assessed. I took on some creative projects and eventually, a job doing radio promotions landed in my lap. I didn’t crave it nor did I plan for it. But it was a fun job so I took it. Did I have any idea where it would lead? Nope.

Two years later I was offered a job in radio. On the air! I had no formal training and no college degree (I did have a University degree in drama, somewhat helpful but not exactly a requirement for on-air work). Had I been planning for a radio career? Longing for one? Devising a scheme to get me from all-nights to weekends to middays to the morning show?

Nope. But it sounded fun so I took it. Four months later I was doing the morning show at the #1 country station in Canada.

MY point is – NONE of this was ever part of my great life plan. But I went with the flow and here I am, 31 years later, still working on radio.

But I think that allowing The Universe to lead us goes even deeper.  I believe we must be open to the knowledge that we may not actually know what we need. We may think we know what we need but that might just be what we want. What we need might be something entirely different.

I left Guelph in 2011 because I WANTED to live near water. I WANTED Southampton but I couldn’t afford Southampton and when a chance visit to my cousin in Meaford introduced me to that lovely town, I changed dreams.

When I moved to Meaford I never thought in a million years I would return to Guelph. But then I met my beloved and he was offered a job at HIS dream University (Guelph) so back we went. Was this what I wanted? What I had planned for my dotage? Was this my dream?

Nope. But I went back for him.

And my mother too, as it turns out. She was aged and declining and being that much closer to her was a blessing. I didn’t understand at the time how much of a blessing it would be. But in hindsight I realize I was brought to exactly the place I needed to be.

Also because of my son. Living in Guelph brought me an hour closer to his new home In Toronto. It allowed me to help him through his first major heartbreak, his first record release and every “Mom, I really need to borrow your car” moment.

I also “needed” to be there for my friend C. She was in a relationship that “needed” to end and she “needed” a bit of help getting there. Had I still lived in Meaford (instead of five blocks from her house) my help would have been so much harder to access. Also there was M, my new next-door Guelph neighbour. I “needed” to be in Guelph on HER street so that she and I could become friends. We “needed” each other (and still do).

Five years later, when we left Guelph and headed back to Meaford, I understood completely how The Universe had led me to exactly where I was meant to be.

So, was I meant to be back in Meaford? At first I seriously had no idea. We had purchased a trailer at Hope Bay and I KNEW I loved it there in the summertime but where was I meant to live? Meaford, on paper, met most of my requirements. We had a lovely home that we could rent out on AirBnB all summer long if we wanted to. We were just a bit over an hour from Hope Bay. We had friends. I could do my radio shows from home. My beloved could probably find work. Our dog had a big back yard and we were close (enough) to water.

Yes, on paper it all looked good. In my gut it all felt wrong. Hope Bay was feeling more and more like home and Meaford was just some nice house we visited.

I determined (without any help from The Universe) that we were DESTINED to move to Hope Bay! That was it! The master plan! My favourite place on this planet was DESTINED to be my forever home! How could I not have seen it all along? It was right there in front of my eyes!

Nope.

There was nothing to buy at Hope Bay, not land nor new-build nor a fixer-upper, that we could afford or liked. Our Meaford house sold and there was still nothing. What the heck? The Universe was letting me down!

One month before closing I was forced to widen my real estate scope. We looked at three properties NOT at Hope Bay (but still on The Bruce). The fourth was the winner. We walked in, we fell in love, we purchased, we moved, we began to settle. For a moment I guess I thought we were “settling”.  It wasn’t Hope Bay after all.

Then we discovered the sunsets. We always knew they were here but we had no idea they would actually grace our living room window for several months of the year. We met P, our new neighbour, and quickly learned that having a neighbour THISCLOSE to you is actually nice – when the neighbour is actually nice. We met B and K (and their dogs) and discovered insta-besties I know we were destined to know. Our fabulous Hope Bay friends were less than half an hour away. Our new home was beyond a dream come true – it was the home I never knew I wanted (or needed) until we were in it.  J, one of my Hope Bay friends had said (before we moved) – “Maybe it’s your forever home?”

I think J is right.

I hope when you read this travelogue you will understand that I NEVER planned any of this. I am an accomplished organizer, a fastidious administrator and a diligent facilitator. ONCE I know what is happening. But I have learned to let what is going to happen, happen. I have learned pay attention, be open and most importantly, be FLEXIBLE. I follow the signs, I listen to my inner voice (difficult at times because my outer voice is pretty damn loud) and I allow The Universe to lead.

Do I have any idea what’s going to happen next?

Not a clue.

I am not going to worry about it. I am going to go watch the sun set in my living room window.

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Do You Believe In Signs From The Universe?

One morning last week on my walk, I saw a fox. Not once but twice. The first time he strutted right in front of me (crossing the road), turned to me and smiled, like “How you doing, baby?” and kept on his merry way before I could even think about taking a photo. He was beautiful.

As I marveled at this rare occurrence (and turned around to make my way home) I glanced toward the water and there he was again, galloping across a snow-covered lawn. That time he ignored me completely.

Please know that even though we live in the woods, I never see anything unusual on my walks. I mean, I see crows and seagulls and squirrels and chipmunks but that’s about it. So to see this red beauty twice was pretty special.

I immediately reached out to my friend T who is in touch with all things native and symbolic. She told me the fox was telling me to “observe the acts of others rather than heeding their words.” Foxes are cunning and adaptable, with swiftness of thought and action.

Hmmm. I just filed that into a mental pocket. Because I do believe that sometimes we get a sign from The Universe which may not instantly be understood.

I was, however, reminded of another fleeting (flying) symbol that I witnessed shortly before Christmas. Again I was walking and listening to Vince Gill sing “It Won’t Be The Same This Year,” a song about the first Christmas after his brother died. And I immediately thought of my friend E who lost both his wife and his father in 2020. And I sent off a “prayer” asking for angels to comfort him. At which time a hawk flew out of the woods, circled around my head and disappeared back into the trees. “Oh, Hi N,” I whispered (N is E’s wife), “and of course I know you’re an angel so you can take care of this one!” It was a glorious, big-smile moment (and E really loved the story).

And then there’s opera. I’ve been adding some new (old) music to my phone, including some songs from La Traviata (my favourite opera). My parents dragged me to countless European opera houses, hoping to instill  in my 11 year old brain a love of their favourite music. I didn’t actually think it worked (I fell asleep more often that not) until many years later I found myself glued to the television watching Verdi’s work and then begging my then-husband to get tickets so we could experience it live.

Now this music is on my phone. And last week on my morning walk, an incredible aria showed up on shuffle. It was one of those weird cloudy morning where the sun was playing hide and seek. As I listened to the soprano with chills on my spine, I looked up and said, “Mommy and Daddy, are you listening too? Do you understand this gift you gave me?” And just as the violins crescendoed magnificently, the sun burst out of the clouds in an intense blaze of glory. Talk about a sign for The Universe?

I just about fell down.

I did fall down a dew days later, only because I was zoned-out (listening to music) and I tripped over a blob of snow. I staggered home all achy and sore, only to discover that our furnace had died.

Were these signs from The Universe?

I believe they were. Because even achy and sore with no furnace (we have a gas fireplace and an electric heater so no one froze) I was reminded that my problems are first-world. Eminently manageable. That evening I baked and cooked happily. Even with a stiff neck. Because I had been reminded to count my blessings, even in this land of Covid-fatigue.

These signs don’t just arrive when I am walking in paradise. Memes show up on my Facebook feed that I KNOW I must share with friends. I will come across a random news article I KNOW my son should read. I will meet someone new and know instantly we are meant to be friends. A stranger will reach out to me and I will understand the BIG reason why.

You want a sign … just be available. They are everywhere.

So back to The Fox. I would like to believe that I am “cunning and adaptable, with swiftness of thought and action.”  I’m not so sure, though, that I am so good at observing actions. I am a word-girl after all. Too often I get lost in a beautiful sea of eloquence. Too often I can forgive an action (or lack thereof) because the words have soothed my soul. Too often some clever shark will “lawyer” me with just the right argument to win the day. Those succinctly-articulated seemingly-measured words will lull me into acquiescence. Oddly enough, sometimes no words at all will have the same effect.

No more.

I’m still not exactly sure what I am meant to wake up to.

But thanks to that fox, I am awake and ready. I will henceforth be adjudicating actions. Not just words. Yeah, okay, maybe some words … but mostly actions. Because The Fox said so.

Because I DO believe in signs from The Universe.

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Do You Believe In Unconditional Love?

After many weeks of pondering this question I have come to the conclusion that my answer is …

No.

I do not believe there is any such thing as unconditional love. Unless you are Mother Theresa (only alive). Then there might be. Short of that, I have decided we all place conditions on our love, the offering of our love, the maintaining of our love, even quite possibly the inception of our love. Turns out we are greedy little humans and we want what we want when we want it the way we want it.

Now I know right now somebody is slamming down their wine glass yelling, “Now wait just a minute, Vic! What about the love a parent feels for their child? That’s pretty damn unconditional, right?”

Yeah. Sometimes. And sort of. I know my son would have to do something pretty darn dastardly for me to stop loving him. That said, the annals of history are filled with stories of estranged parents and offspring. Even murderous parents and offspring. I can attest to the fact that at times (not recently), my darling son treated his beloved mother horribly. Much more horribly than his beloved mother deserved. Perhaps there was a moment or two when beloved mother returned the favour? Who knows? I do know that even that most sacred of bonds can be tested to the breaking point.

I once dated a man whose mother refused to speak to him for a over a year. She refused because he had been an asshole to her one too many times and she was fed up. In his defense, he was 18 at the time and most of us were assholes when we were 18. When they finally rekindled familial relations, and many years had passed by, she became increasingly wracked with guilt. How could she have disowned her own son? What kind of mother does that, she queried? The kind whose son is an asshole, I answered, ever a beacon of sage and uncommon wisdom. But she was inconsolable. Didn’t matter what I said, she could not forgive herself. (For the record, he had no trouble forgiving himself for being an asshole). This Momma believe that her love SHOULD be unconditional and she had failed.

Now if my son did something really vile like, say, vote for Trump or storm the Capitol wearing bearskins and horns, there is a good chance my conditions would come screaming to the surface. I would probably even turn him in to the FBI. After which I would visit him weekly in prison and bring homemade cookies. But damn, I would be pissed!

Which brings to me to unconditional friendship love. I would like to believe that I am a nonjudgmental pal. I would like to believe that, over the years, many pals have come to me for honest, uncondemning counsel because my friendship was and is indeed unconditional. I’ve made way too many mistakes in my life to chastise others for doing the same. And it is not my place to tell anybody what is right and what is wrong.

But then …. (there is always a but) … a very old and dear friend of mine became a vocal supporter of Trumpism. She actually used the phrase “Drain the swamp!” on social media. She reposted “articles” that made my blood boil.

And just a brief aside – I have lots of friends who do not share my political beliefs and we have been known to engage in spirited, adult dialogue. We have ultimately agreed to disagree. But we are talking Canadian politics here; not the dangerous circus that has been escalating daily south of the border.

At one point, I felt that Miss Trumpster and I had truly reached a crossroads. How could we continue to be friends when she had joined a cult (my blog, my opinion)?

My inner voice whispered: What about unconditional love? Just live and let live. Concentrate on her good qualities and ignore the rest. Prove that you can do it, Vic. Prove that you do have unconditional love in you.

To date, my inner voice has won the battle. This friend and I are not in daily contact and, when we do touch base, we fill our chats with love (and no politics). But I will confess that, should push ever come to shove, our friendship will find that drain. Because when it comes to the American horror show that sadly demonstrates no signs of abating, my love is not nor can it be unconditional. I truly believe the future of our planet depends upon it.

So what about marriage? We all take vows hoping to honour them but we also promise to love unconditionally. This, to me, is a bit of an oxymoron. IF you are choosing to love unconditionally, why are you taking vows? Why not just say “I’ll do my best and I will love you if you do your best even if you fuck up but as long as I know that you’re trying I’ll be here because I love you unconditionally and I’ll try my best too I hope.”

Yeah, no. I don’t think so.

We want guarantees. And if the guarantee isn’t met, all the unconditional love in the world doesn’t add up to a hill of beans. (Who wants a hill of beans, anyway?) You know why? Because we are all greedy little human beings and we all want to BE loved unconditionally. We just don’t want to return that unconditional love when it doesn’t suit our conditional agenda.

An old friend of mine recently showed up on social media with a new name. “What the heck?” I asked. She responded that she and her husband had parted ways because he cheated on her. BOOM! Gone. She was moving on. Even after thirty-plus years.

“How is HE feeling about this?” I asked.

“He feels wretched,” she replied. “He is desperately sorry.”

So, now we take it to the jury, ladies and gentlemen. What say ye? Does she attempt to love him unconditionally and take him back OR does she stand by her ‘one strike you’re out’ rule and just gallop off running with that new name?

You’ll have to answer that one for yourself.

And then – briefly – there is the dog thing. Yes, they say a dog is the only creature that will love you unconditionally, guaranteed!

No. A dog (unlike a husband, say) has very few needs. Feed me, walk me, pet me, play with me, give me shelter. For most of us, those needs are easy to fulfill so we therefore feel unconditionally loved when we fulfill them and get licked on the face. But I am willing to wager that if you starve that dog, leave it outside in inclement weather, beat it, ignore it and starve it again, that dog will not love you anymore. It will probably eat you.

As you can see, the more I break it down, the less I feel convinced that unconditional love is possible. So why do we long for it? Strive for it? Insist upon it? Desperately hope for it?

I think it’s because we are so damn afraid of accountability. When we examine our personal ledgers we see lots of loopholes and digressions. We see errors and lack of judgement and gargantuan mistakes and tiny blunders we wish with all our hearts we could do over. As we gaze into that horribly unforgiving mirror we are fraught with doubt and then yearning. Doubt that we are worthy of love and then yearning for love in spite of our worthiness.

Yearning for unconditional love.

I am quite certain that both of my parents loved me. But as my mother so eloquently stated that one time I left my husband, “I love you, Vickie. But I don’t like you very much right now.”

Ouch.

In hindsight, and with the benefit of almost 30 years of parenting myself, I REALLY wish she hadn’t said that. I really wish she had said, “Vickie, I’m having a hard time understanding your choices,” or “Vickie, I can’t say that I agree with your decisions but hey, I’m not actually IN your marriage so maybe we should talk about this further …”

Yes, I really wish.

I think (hope?) that before she died, my mother realized how she had hurt me. How her “unconditional” love had actually been so VERY conditional.

I think that is all any of us can hope for.

Realization.

Awareness and understanding that, although unconditional love may well be impossible, we have opportunities to strive for it every single day. We have a chance to set aside our greedy little human-ness and just love without expectation. We do not need checkpoints and a ledger. We do not need promises and guarantees.

We need open hearts. Open hearts WILLING to love. Unconditionally.

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