In Praise Of The Skinny Mirror

I am a proud owner of a skinny mirror. It took me a while to find the perfect one but find it I did. It wasn’t expensive. It was pretty. And it was skinny. It’s probably my favourite piece of furniture.

Okay that is perhaps not true. My bed is my fave. My baby grand is a close second. But damn, that skinny mirror is way up there. I love my skinny mirror.

I love it so much I actually have two. The first I discovered in my mother’s flat. It was gilded (not really my thing) but holy moly was it skinny. Every time I visited and was sure to steal a quick glance and I was always delighted. I mean seriously, who doesn’t like a skinny mirror?

Now if you’re a dude you’re probably shaking your head in exasperation, thinking “what the heck is a skinny mirror? Isn’t all reflective glass by its very nature thin? What the heck is this broad talking about?”

Well, if you’re a chick you already know what I’m talking about. This is a chick thing.
In my new home my one skinny mirror stands at the end of the upstairs hallway. I was recently giving a girlfriend a tour and when she saw herself she immediately exclaimed “Oh my goodness – a skinny mirror! Look at my legs!”

Now this girl is slimmer than slim and the last thing she actually needs is a skinny mirror. But there it was! And she recognized it right away.

My other skinny mirror – the one I inherited from my mother, gilded and all – is in my front hallway. There is method to my madness. The upstairs mirror is just outside my bedroom. When I get dressed I check myself out (come on, we all do it).

Then when I leave the house, there’s another opportunity to review if I so choose.
I will tell you, when I leave my home I typically feel pretty darn fine.

And that, dear fellows, is the point of a skinny mirror.

A skinny mirror makes you look thinner than you actually are. At least that’s what THEY say. But really what the hell do THEY know? I choose to believe that my skinny mirrors are telling the truth. All those other fucking mirrors are FAT mirrors. They are the big fat liars. THEY are the ones who set out to hurt our feelings and undermine our confidence. They are evil and horrid and seven years bad luck be damned deserve to be smashed.

Skinny mirrors are our friends.

I have recently made acquaintance with a shop owner who sells lovely clothing. I visit her several times a year and invariably make a few purchases. But here’s the problem. In her shop there exists a fat mirror. I’m not talking a “regular” mirror (IF such a thing exists and who really knows?). I am talking FAT. Now to me this seems counterproductive to her business. Who is going to pop in, try on a dress, look into that deceiving speculum and say “Sure I’ll take it. It makes me look fat!”

No one. That’s who.

She and I have chatted about this. I suggested a skinny mirror might work more in her favour. She replied that she simply could not mislead her beloved patrons. I retorted (or was that snorted?) that she was already misleading us because that fat mirror was a liar, plain and simple. Get rid of it!

(for the record, her other mirrors were acceptable)

So here’s the point (of course I have one) – mirrors, much like people, come in ALL shapes and sizes. It’s like a fricking fun-house. Every time you look at your own reflection it’s a crap-shoot what will look back at you. If I knew anything about physics I’m sure I could weigh in here on WHY this is the case but I don’t and the bottom line is IT DOESN’T”T MATTER! There are a million mirrors and a million reflections. HOW you allow those reflections to define you is what matters.

Let me repeat – HOW you allow those reflections to define you is what matters.

Whether those reflections are in mirrors, ponds, a store window or someone else’s eyes, how YOU allow those reflections to define you is the ONLY thing that matters. The only thing that will carry you through the day. The only thing that will feed or diminish your self-confidence.

And THAT is why I have not one but TWO skinny mirrors. They are my friends. They make me happy. They help me leave the house smiling. They reflect not only my body but my heart and my soul. They bring me joy.

I truly have no idea which mirror is telling the truth. How do we actually know the skinny mirror is not real and the regular mirror is not fake and the fat mirror is just the devil’s work?

I don’t know. Again, I don’t care.

Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Choose a career that brings you fulfillment. Live in a place that delivers joy. Listen to music and read books that fill your soul. Eat and drink well and with gratitude.

And buy a skinny mirror. Or two.

You deserve it.

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What Exactly Does “Luv Ya” Mean?

I have a very dear friend who I know loves me. I know this as surely as I know birds fly and fish swim. But for many years this friend had an immensely difficult time saying the words. Or even writing them. She wasn’t in any way afraid to love me. She was just weirdly uncomfortable with communicating that love in words.

I have another friend who refuses to say I love you to anyone but her partner. End of story. For her these are romantic words saved for her one and only. Fair enough.

I have yet another friend who has no trouble at all yelling I love you across a parking lot, saying it to me privately or even posting it on social media. This dear friend is a love warrior, heart on her sleeve, no hesitation whatsoever kind of gal.

And there are those sweet pals who simply say “love you.” These two words are somehow less ‘romantic’ than I love you. Less formal. Less committed. And I get that. I get that we protect our hearts and express our feelings at the same time, simply by removing the word “I”. It’s almost like hey, the planet loves you and I am a citizen. It’s not like I love you in a singular and special way. I get it.

But there’s this new favourite which I quite frankly do not get at all.

Luv ya.

Luv ya.

Luv.

Ya.

Did you know that the word luv is actually accepted in Scrabble? I play a lot of Scrabble and yes it is. Did you also know that my spellcheck does not like luv. Nope. It’s not there in my dictionary. if I want luv I have to add it.

Interestingly, dictionary.com defines luv simply as “love”. Apparently luv = love.

So why then do so many people replace love with luv? If luv = love why not just say love?

And while we’re at it if ya = you why not just say you? Who the hell is ya? I don’t much like being called ya. It’s almost as bad as yous. Which as I’m sure you know is often utilized to express more than one you. As in ‘yous guys’. I mean, come on, we all know the proper word is ‘y’all.’

Kidding.

I recently received an email signed ‘luv ya’ and that’s what got me to pondering this conundrum. Why? Why did the writer of that email sign off in such an oddly colloquial manner? This friend is articulate and intelligent. Well spoken and well written. So why?

Best I can guess is ‘luv ya’ is the new ‘love you’ taken to a lower level. And by lower level I mean there is quite literally less love involved with ‘luv ya’ than ‘love you’ which is of course far less than ‘I love you.’

I wonder if ‘I luv ya’ is on the horizon?

But honestly, if you love why not just love? And if you like why not just like? What is this new middle ground?

Many years ago I online dated a guy who always signed his emails ‘loving you.’  Eventually I inquired to his meaning and he responded “I am loving you. I’m just not in love with you.”

Terrific. I mean I wasn’t in love with him either but geez, way to burst my Disney bubble thank you very much.

But I get it. He had feelings for me. He felt affection for me. We were great friends and there was definitely a sexy spark. But it wasn’t love. It was luv.

I am most definitely a word girl so excuse me if I pick this stuff apart more than most. There are many new expressions that have become established forms of communication. LOL comes to mind. I can only surmise that when we use LOL it’s because we’re not quite sure we’re as funny as we think. The reader may not get that we’re attempting amusement and so we clarify it for them.

I guess it’s the same with ‘luv ya’. We’re not committing to any big emotion. We’re just saying you’re kind of special.

And ya know what?

I know, I know. I did it on purpose.

I’m okay with that. At first it kind of riled me a bit. As in if you love then please for Pete’s sake just love. There can never be too much love in this world. Platonic, romantic, familial, friendly … whatever. Just love.

But I’ve thought it over and I am now fine with luv. I’m fine with its intent and its distinctiveness. Contrary to the dictionary luv is not love. Luv is luv.

Not sure I’ll ever be fine with ‘ya’ but hey, one word at a time okay?

Luv you, dear readers. Thank y’all always for checking in.

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What Do You Want Most – Contentment or Magic?

Now don’t go shaking your head wildly saying “Both!”

You have to choose.

Well that’s probably not true either. Perhaps you CAN have both. Maybe not a lot of both. Maybe mostly one with the odd glimmer of the other?

Maybe.

I just think that as we grow older we are often faced with the choice. And the choice we must make.

I was quite the roller-coaster girl in my misspent youth. More than willing to slog through the lows in abject desperation in order to experience the abject exhilaration of the highs. I craved the Adrenalin rush and I was willing to crash repeatedly to have a shot at getting it again.

Now? Not so much.

But not so much doesn’t mean never. Not so much doesn’t mean I am willing to give up ALL quests for magic in order to achieve contentment. Even though I REALLY want to be content. My blood pressure really wants me to be content. My doctor really wants me to be content.

So how do we reconcile the search for magic with the desire for contentment? Can we actually create magic within the confines of contentment? And is contentment really SO confining that we are forced to look outside of it to find magic?

Ask the guy who is having a mid-life crisis. That stereotypical dude who is feeling his age, longing for his youth, hankering for a younger woman to make him feel virile and forgetting the contentment that comes with family, a true partner, nights in front of Netflix and Sunday barbecues with the neighbours. Maybe not even forgetting. Just willing to trade those things for magic.

And for the record, that mid-life crisis guy could also be a girl.

Because the reality is most magic comes from NEW. Not from ‘been there, done that’ but from ‘I wonder what might happen?’ and ‘I wonder how awesome it will be?’ And then the tingling begins and the anticipation becomes a drug and the QUEST for magic becomes as addictive as the magic itself.

As my son wrote in a really good song – ‘Are you my heroine or my heroin?’

He also wrote “Those who dare not grasp the thorns should never crave the rose.’

You see seeking magic can get very bloody. Especially if you’re giving up contentment to do it.

That said, sacrificing blissful contentment in order to seek magic can also be a terribly messy sport.

And quite often trying to facilitate both will make you crazy. Because it usually means lying to somebody.

Unless of course you do whatever is necessary to conjure up some magic in your contented relationship. And yes of course that is what we all SHOULD do.

Problem is we don’t. We allow lethargy and boredom and taken-for-grantedness to rule the day. We surrender to magic-less contentment and then, when surrender no longer sates us, we look for magic elsewhere. Why the heck do you think 50% of marriages end in divorce?

But how do you circumvent that seemingly inevitable outcome? And I say inevitable even knowing that there ARE couple who are magically content well into their old age. I just don’t know that many of them. So how do you actually facilitate magic and contentment AT THE SAME TIME? Like, with the same person.

Therein lies the dilemma. Because the search for magic and perhaps the subsequent finding of it almost automatically diminishes the possibility of contentment. Doesn’t magic boost all those endorphins or hormones or whatever those things are that elevate our senses and literally turn us on? I mean physiologically the sensation of magic literally destroys the possibility of contentment. But damn we love that feeling. We become addicted to the magic and the pursuit thereof denying ourselves any possibility of contentment.

So now what?

The best scenario I can come up with is you learn – and this is huge – you TEACH yourself to find the magic in the contented moments. You change your definition of magic.

I just looked it up. Magic – the art of producing illusions as entertainment.

Well golly gee and holy fuck.

Illusions as entertainment.

I swear on everything that is holy that I did not know that definition when I started writing this blog.

Illusions.

Entertainment.

That is what magic is. Romantic magic is Disney, rom-coms, Harlequin and Hallmark.

Even Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (yes, I took English Lit at University).

It is make believe.

It MAKES us believe that IT is possible and so we settle for nothing less. When in fact we should be settling for so much more.

Because (in my experience) contentment – TRUE contentment – brings with it a different kind of magic. The kind that comes from trust. And solidarity. And most importantly TRUTH. It comes from believing and then KNOWING that you ‘re loved. Even when you’re horrible. Bitchy. Fat. Stupid. Whatever. Those are fleeting moments.

But THOSE fleeting moments – WHICH ARE THE VERY CORNERSTONE OF MAGIC – become EXACTLY WHAT THEY should be. Fleeting.

They dissipate, dissolve into another moment (or day) at which time with full presence and not an ounce of taking-for-grantedness you SEE your beloved as who they truly are. Your partner in life. Your co-adventurer. The yin to your yang. The Abbott to your Costello (that may just be me). The Sonny to your Cher (also just me).

Not Houdini. And sure as fuck not Disney.

And suddenly you are aware of the magic IN the contented moments. You do not feel slighted or empty or melancholy. You feel grateful and hopeful and …

Content.

And guess what? You don’t have to choose.

Because as it turns out, you actually DO have both.

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And The Secret To Happiness Is ………

My son is a big Jordan Peterson fan. So big, in fact, that he gifted my with Mr. P’s new book for my birthday.

“12 Rules For Life.”

I haven’t really tucked in yet, what with having the plague for almost three weeks and now preparing to move. But my son was excited to share a sneak preview with me a few days ago.

“This guy is truly brilliant mom,” he exclaimed eagerly, “and according to him the secret to happiness is setting goals and achieving them!”

And I’m like Oh really? I thought it was a nice cold Pinot Grigio and a puppy.

But then I got to thinking (but not too much)  because my astute son went on enthusiastically (saving my somewhat mushy brain from further contemplation) – “You see happiness comes from fulfillment. And it order to get fulfilled you have to achieve something. And then best way to GET fulfilled to set a goal that’s important to you and then achieve it!”

Seems reasonable, right?

And yes, think I (unscrambling the mush to the best of my plagued ability), I DO feel happy when I have fulfilled a goal. Not just the everyday goals like say getting out of bed or brushing my teeth or not dropping the F-bomb more than ten times a day (never happens). I mean BIG goals. Like orchestrating my Christmas CD ten years ago. Wrangling talent and sponsorship and writing a few new songs and then making it happen and then ultimately raising over $10,000 for charities. THAT was a big fat bucket of fulfillment. And fun. And ultimately …. happiness.

When I did it (on a smaller scale) again last year with my latest record the feeling of gratification was no less profound. So far the beneficiary of my project has netted over $2,000 with a lifetime of proceeds still to come. It might only be another four bucks but I AM HAPPY. I crossed something else off my bucket list AND helped a worthwhile cause in the process.

The night we launched that CD at local jazz club I was exhilarated! Sure I was also exhausted and hungry but mostly I was happy.  And the charity was over the moon.

“That’s how it works, Mom” continues my son. “Because the more you achieve your goals and the more you find your own personal fulfillment the more you are able to help others do the same. Which just adds to you own fulfillment and happiness.”

Well dangnabbit if that isn’t just the darnedest thing. Because I have actually long suspected that fact. I take great delight in helping other people. Sure, friends and family but also musicians and struggling artists; people who have chosen the most difficult career path on the planet (The Arts!) and face rejection and disillusion and exclusion daily.  If I can help, I will. And if their product (never them, their PRODUCT) isn’t up to snuff (in my professional opinion) I will try to gently convey that info and then offer constructive criticism how to get it there.

And when I have achieved that goal, that goal of helping or guiding or tenderly telling the truth I feel blessedly happy. As opposed to when I lounge on the sofa reading a magazine eating bon bons. Sure we all need those moments every now and then – let’s call them RECHARGE opportunities – but I don’t think they really make us happy. They just fuel us up for the next goal. And the next achievement.

Sure, I know a lot of folks will say “Wrongo Buddy, I am perfectly happy sitting under a palm tree accomplishing nothing and sipping a rum punch!” Yep, I get that, but you probably worked hard and saved money and accomplished many things in order to give yourself that luxury. So I offer that your ultimate euphoria stems from THAT accomplishment as much as from the tropical breeze.

My son finished our conversation by sharing with me his most recent personal revelation. As an emerging artist himself, struggling to break out of the pack, make a living and still have a life, it seemed like 25 hours in a day would never be enough. But suddenly he found himself with a couple of open mornings. No work, no meetings, he had clean clothes and the house was tidy enough. “I’m going to sleep in!” he thought with glee. Two days of sleeping in will make me SO happy.”

They did not. So on the second day he woke up early and started building his own website. From scratch. And he spent 10 hours in a row tapping into his high school graphics curriculum and ya know what? For a first stab my boy built himself a damn fine website. One that will only get better with tweaks and refinements and fine-tuning.
And that morning at 4am he sent an email to his father and me and said “Work ethic is good.” And he was happy.

Holy fuck (oops, that’s one) I was SO very proud of my boy. For the goal that he set, for what he accomplished, for what he realized and for what he taught his momma too.

When I looked at the clock today at 4pm I thought “Hmmmm … whatever shall I now do? Pour a glass and start cooking? Pour a glass and just drink it enjoying some music? Pour a glass and chat with my beloved?”

No. I decided to write this blog.

Okay, okay … with a glass.

But the truth is I always feel good when I finish writing. When I clarify my thoughts, put them to paper and share them with the world I always feel BETTER. It matters not if only 3 people read my musings. The “ripple effect” can be energizing and satisfying. But on a personal level it’s all about me creating an intention, discharging it and … tasting the result.

Goal accomplished. Fulfillment achieved.

Happiness earned.

Cheers!

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Is It Coincidence, Random or Perhaps … Destiny?

When you look back on your life and do the math on people you met, events that transpired, opportunities that arose or just places you visited, do you ever wonder what percentage was actually “meant to be”? As in destiny? As in it was your fate, inevitable and unavoidable?

Math has never been my forte but lately I have realized that the numbers are pretty astonishing. Not just recently but over decades. Things happened in a seemingly innocent way. Except now I believe just maybe the gods were doing their thing.

Back in my country-band days we happened to be performing at a club in Moncton when a renowned family act showed up for a one-nighter, relegating us to opening act. We opened and then immediately split because Kim Mitchell was playing in town and we had backstage passes. When we returned to the club (and our stellar accommodations) several hours later, we had the chance to mix and mingle with these young performers. And when I say young I mean really young. Like the eldest was at least eight years younger than I and it when down from there. We didn’t have much in common with these wee whipper-snappers. Indeed they had already reached a level of fame far beyond our own. But they were cute. And as talented as they were, they were kids. And weirdly awe-struck by us old folks.

Fast-forward a few years and I met up with them again at the annual country music convention. They were all “deer-in-headlights” so I took them under my wing for an evening and shepherded them around. (I know … too many metaphors). The thing is they all kinda looked alike so I never really figured out who was who. But they were cute.

Fast-forward a few more years and I am off the road, working in the music biz in Toronto. And who walks in looking for a job but one of these wee whipper-snappers, all grown up. I still didn’t know which one she was but she remembered me. We got to talking, we got to lunching, we got to friending and now – 30 years later – we are besties for life.

So I look back and think – random meetings (all in different provinces) or divine intervention? Were we “meant to be” or did we just luck into opportunity and then “make it happen?”

When my ex and I separated and I found myself in a townhouse in south Guelph with very few leftover pals (people do love to pick a team) my son decided to host a birthday party with all of HIS new pals. One of the moms called up and said “Just checking because I don’t know you and I need to confirm that the children will be properly supervised.”

“No”, said I. “In our house we encourage them to play out in traffic.”

I know. Sarcastic bitch.

Of course they would be and why don’t you just come on over and drink some wine with me and help with the supervision? And she did. And we have been bosom buddies ever since.

But I moved away, we stayed connected but had little actual contact and then suddenly I found myself back in Guelph so my beloved could pursue his career path. We looked at lots of houses near and far but where did we end up? A few blocks from my old pal. My old pal who was going through big relationship problems and facing a breakup of her own.

Oddly enough, we had put offers in on two properties in a neighbouring town. Nowhere near my old hood. Both deals flew until the inspections kiboshed them. And now here we were – exactly where I needed to be to be close to her and her family.

Was it providence? Or dumb luck that two other homes failed inspection and this one became “the one”?

Well there’s more. Because the first night we were here I was out in the backyard and the neighbour woman and her two kids were out in theirs and I, being the friendly gal I am, started chatting them up. And a few hours later they all showed up at our front door with a plant and a card and big smiles and wide-open hearts and well … that was that. The beginning of beautiful relationships that I know will take me to my grave.

So yeah, even though I ended up back here for my beloved, I in turn ended up in this neighborhood not only for my old pal but also for my new pal. They both needed me and I still need both of them.

I could go on and on about friendships both old and new that have blossomed in the most unlikely manner. My former workmate with whom I was cordial but never really friendly. Perhaps even a bit competitive. And then all of a sudden years fly by, we find ourselves working for the same company again, something clicks and BAM – beautiful friendship.

Why? Why did something click now and not then? Time? Maturity? Choice? Or were we led back to each other for a reason? A reason we maybe don’t even understand yet? But a profound reason nonetheless.

When my mother was in hospice for the final week of her life, we brought in photos and memorabilia as instructed and I also brought along her beautiful and compelling memoir. A tome she had composed for my sister and me so that we might understand her and her life from its beginning. I had found a treasure trove of old photos and inserted them into this blessed recollection so that we could read and see and reminisce and learn all at the same time.

One afternoon I walked in for my second visit of the day and one of her support workers (already my favourite truth be told but they were all amazing) was sitting in the window box perusing these memoirs. She jumped up as if caught doing something naughty and said “Sorry but I am just fascinated by your mother’s musings.”

And I replied “Please be fascinated. That is why they are here. To share with the world what a fascinating woman she is.”

We had a nice long chat and I assured her she could read to hear heart’s content. We would be honoured if she did.

A few nights later my mother died. And when I showed up in my blubbering state to say farewell who was in the room but that very same PSW. We hugged, I cried, we hugged some more. And finally, as I was leaving I blurted “Email me and we’ll get together and I’ll lend you the memoirs so you can finish!”

And she jotted down her email and handed it to me and I cried my way out the door and all the way home. Where I promptly lost her email (my head wasn’t exactly screwed on straight that night).

I felt horrible. I REALLY wanted to connect with this girl. But I had blown it.

The next day I went to a local shop to buy “funeral clothes.” The owner was a casual friend of mine and as luck would have it she was there. Even though it was her day off. There had been an emergency and so there she was. She got me situated in the change-room with a bunch of stuff and I said “hey, you don’t need to hang around. I know you have stuff to do. I’m good here.”

And she replied “No. I need to stay here with you.”

And she did. And it was more meaningful than I could ever explain. I didn’t need her to help me choose an outfit. But I did need her. Didn’t know why. Just knew.

We stayed in touch and some time later she found herself in turmoil. I invited her up north to “decompress” and a true friendship was born. One that continues to blossom to this day.

So back to that lovely PSW and the lost email. A few months after my mother died I attended a fundraiser for that same hospice. There was a silent auction and I, not being one to compete at these things, found the prize I wanted, chose the “buy it now” option and proceeded to complete the business with the volunteer standing behind said prize.

The volunteer who was that very same beautiful support worker who had held me the night my mother died.

The volunteer I SO wanted to connect with.

The girl I already felt connected to except damnit I lost her email.

She was standing behind MY prize. Of all the gin-joints in the world, she walked into mine.

Coincidence? Random? Dumb luck?

I don’t believe it anymore.

She and I are now embarking on a new friendship. One that I do believe we both find weirdly special. Not really sure why. Not yet. But we’ll find out.

Because we just learned that we both have summer places on The Bruce Peninsula. We both find our true selves there, more than anywhere else. That is our happy place. And maybe this summer it will be our happy place together, a time or two.

So yeah I don’t believe in random anymore. Pay attention and you will find less coincidence and more WTF?

My mother had a hand in this one, of that I am sure.

And the others?

Not really sure. Hopefully one day I’ll find out.

In the meantime I am grateful to the gods and I am grateful to destiny.  I have allowed them all to lead me to exactly where I am right now.

Truth be told I have no idea where that is.

I just know I’m on my way to where I need to go.

I will follow. Always with gratitude.

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Freedom 55 … Could You Do It … and Truly Be Free?

On our recent trip to Mexico we had the good fortune to meet Flor, a fascinating 55 year-old Mexican woman who happened to be dining in the rooftop lounge as we enjoyed sunset cocktails. We got chatting and I, being the nosy girl that I am, eventually learned her story.

Flor is 55 years old and single. She has two grown daughters. She is a psychologist and a teacher. Or perhaps I should say she WAS those things. Until one day, as she sat in a huge traffic jam coming home from work, she decided she didn’t want to be either of those things anymore. Her work wasn’t bringing her enough joy, her daughters were independent, there was no romance going on and she was decidedly in the mood for adventure.

So what did Flor do?

She quit her job and set out to be a travel-writer, photographer, adventurer and free-spirit. She set out to truly discover Freedom-55.

At our hotel/hostel she was a “volunteer”. What this means is Flor helps out around the place, is given room and board in return and is then free to satisfy her adventuresome soul in any (inexpensive) way she desires. Oh, how I was beguiled by her life!

She joined us several nights for barbecued fish and tagged along on our scuba/snorkel expedition. Her photos are breathtaking, her travels are exciting, her company is delightful and watching her trying to get into the boat after snorkeling was comedic entertainment at its finest.

So I got to thinking … could I do that? Could I give up my home, my comforts, my privacy (to some degree; her bed is in the hostel part of the complex. Our 2 bedroom apartment was fully private) and my home? Could I scale down my life to backpack size and be content with new experiences and zero acquisitions? More importantly, could I be content with ‘vagabond’ as my identity? I mean sure she is a travel photographer (and a damn good one) and I could probably write up a storm whilst traveling but would that be enough?

Many years ago I found myself in a rather unpleasant work situation. My son was still young (like 6) but in school full-time. I had worked my entire life so when my darling then-husband suggested I quit and just stay home I was incredulous! Whaaat??? I am allowed to do that? I don’t have to quit and then immediately rush out to find a replacement job?

Nope. Apparently I did not. So I quit.

For the next year and a half I enjoyed many creative pursuits, totally dug being a full-time mom and wife and discovered that I didn’t really require an “identity.” I didn’t really require a job description or a fancy title or fame or prestige or outside affirmation. I wore overalls and t-shirts almost every day and relished my new role as … me.

Then came a sweet job offer and 20 years later here we are.

Now the difference between Flor and me is that I had a fab husband supporting my new adventure. But that adventure did make me realize that I am not defined by my career. I am quite happy living a creative life with no remuneration required. I’m never bored and I always find some new pursuit to keep those juices flowing.
So yeah, think I, maybe I could be a full-time vagabond.

Then I remember that in Mexico Flor shares a room with any number of other vagabonds and I’m like … um, nope. Couldn’t do that. I like to do my snoring in private. But the traveling with just a backpack thing? Hell, yeah, I think I could do that. Well I could do it for a while. A good long while. In the sunshine.

But then, much like Joni Mitchell in her song Carey “I’d miss my clean white linen and my fancy French cologne.”

Yep. Probably would.

But that’s the thing. I’d miss my creature comforts. But I have learned as a proud summer-trailer owner that I don’t need much to satisfy me. I don’t need big square footage and fancy furniture and even water frontage. What I need is to be in my happy place with people (and dogs) that I love. And I can meet people (and dogs) all over the world.

I think on some level it’s different for dudes. I think men are far more defined by their work and their titles. That’s not to say that some women don’t also fall into that category. I just thing that more men tend to fear ‘retirement’. They are SO used to achieving and producing that a life of experiencing and savouring with no end-game and no acknowledgment or recognition is actually terrifying. I think it’s a bit of a cavemen mentality. A woman can still feel useful at home, tending to children (and grandchildren), cooking and nurturing and administering. A man is more likely to “need” a dragon or two to slay. Some “bacon” to bring home. Some affirmation from his “people” that he is still vital and viable and dare I say it … virile.

I could be wrong.

I just know that my friend J is actually dreading retirement. Freedom 65 or Freedom 75 be damned, J needs a purpose! Sure he has many hobbies and passions but it is the WORK purpose that has defined him all these years. And he is terrified that without that purpose he will become … a ghost. Unlike my other friend T who is a woman. A woman with a highly successful career which she abandoned the moment her pension topped out. Sure, she worked part-time for several years thereafter, just because it was now just fun (and maybe a bit challenging) but even she got tired of that grind and eventually embraced retirement and all its perks with gratitude and gusto!

But J cannot. He has more money than he could possibly ever spend and still he cannot.
I don’t ever want to tell anyone what to do but I think J needs to tear a sheet out of Flor’s new playbook. Open up the oyster that is the world. Vagabond the crap out of this planet. Meet new people and share experiences and be defined by WHO YOU ARE as opposed to WHAT YOU DO.

For a living.

Because ‘for a living’ implies making money. And yes, of course we all need income to survive.

Flor goes home every now and then to tend to her aged mother and to earn some money. Doing ‘whatever’. Whatever in takes to help finance her next adventure. This intelligent, articulate, classy broad does ‘whatever’ to sustain herself and her dreams.

I love that.

So the question remains – could you really do Freedom 55? Or 65? Are you actually ready to embrace the next chapter of your life? Maybe even create a new identity? Maybe be content without any identity at all?

You can follow Flor’s travels @TravelwithPOwer on Instagram and Facebook.

And then decide.

Or not.

Because Freedom always gives you the right (or opportunity) to choose. And then act on that choice.

Just like my courageous friend Flor.

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Why You Should Pay It Forward … Again and Again and Again.

I’ve always been pretty good at paying back. When I say “pretty good” what I mean is if I borrow money I pay it back (except for my parents – sorry about that) and if I borrow a book I give it back (except for my sister’s copy of “Eat, Pray, Love” which she is never getting back) and if I receive a dinner invitation I reciprocate and if someone invites me to spend a week with them at their villa in Italy I bring lots of wine and cook all the meals. For the record, this has not yet happened but I’m just putting it out there in case the Universe is listening.

Paying it back seems natural and honorable. But what about paying it forward? Honorable yes but perhaps not quite so natural. As children we are not “trained” to do good deeds with no hope of compensation. It is something we must experience, enjoy, teach ourselves and then do it again … and again.

Why?

Well … karma can be a wonderful thing. But that’s not the real reason. We don’t pay it forward in the hopes that something magical will befall us due to our selfless altruism. Indeed I might purport that is the opposite of benevolence that leads us to pay it forward. We do it because it makes US feel good.

And then if karma shows up to bless us, even better. But this is no bargain with the gods. There is no guarantee. So we do it just because we can.

As I prepare to move house yet again I am reminded of my first two moves. Move #1 was into a new build so the place was contractor-clean. But even though my sales agreement stipulated no such thing, I left my townhouse professionally polished. Down to every shelf and cupboard. I also left a bottle of wine on the kitchen counter with a card wishing the new occupants well. It felt nice and it felt right.

Weeks went by and my vagabond cat kept wandering the five blocks back to our former abode. The new tenants eventually did the math, called the realtors, got my number, called me and said “We think your orange cat wants to live with us.” Turns out he didn’t. He was just … um … mentally and directionally challenged. Now they could have just said “Shoo!” and ignored him but they did not. They went above and beyond.

I’d like the think karma was at work here.

When I left my second home and moved to a new city I again left my place sparkling. Alas my new (old) house was anything but. Not only had it not been cleaned, the owners had actually left junk behind. Baby formula. Jars of pickles. An old sleeping bag, some sticks of furniture and a garage full of crap.

I refused to get upset. I simply informed my lawyer, held up closing until they ponied up $500, loaded up a truck and carted all the stuff to the dump. Sure it was a hassle and sure it wasn’t my responsibility but I had every intention of starting my new life in my new town positively.

So now you may be saying “Well, see! Paying it forward doesn’t always work! Sometimes you do good and get kicked in the shins!”

No doubt true.

But Move #4 was also into a pristine property. As was Move #5. Both times what I left behind was what I entered. Hotel-room clean homes.

So I got to thinking … maybe paying it forward doesn’t always reap immediate rewards. Except of course for that “Damn, I feel good!” reward. But maybe when we pay it forward by habit we set the stage for it to habitually be paid back to us? Maybe that’s how the Universe works? They say it’s an echo. What you send out, you get back. All I know is I won a lot of super-clean houses and only one notsomuch.

So now we ready ourselves for yet another change. We already have possession of the new property and I can tell you with great glee that when we took said possession said new property was immaculate. Not only was it hotel-room clean, the former owner left us paint. And flooring. And other gizmos and thingies that we might need. Everything was labelled and beautifully presented. Plus he left us the three bar stools that had shown with the house and which we desperately needed.

Yep. He sure as heck paid it forward big-time.

So now we do the same. Years ago on one of those moves I gifted a friend with my funky kitchen table. It didn’t work in my new place, she loved it and needed it so it was a no-brainer. I also gifted another friend with my custom-made leather sofa. Again, didn’t work for me, she was in need and so she got it.

A few years ago sofa-girl sent me a note telling me that she had finally bought the sofa of HER dreams and had therefore paid my sofa forward to a young couple starting out. She knew I would appreciate the gesture. And I did.

Then a few weeks ago kitchen-table girl told me she had finally purchased the table of her dreams and did I want the old one back?

Well golly gee, just a few days before another dear friend had informed me that her son was looking for a kitchen table. Bingo-bango and he’s got the table and three old broads are happy.

Today a lovely woman came to buy a day-bed we no longer require. When she realized we were moving she told me she loved ALL of our stuff and asked if anything else was for sale. I replied “Sorry, no, the rest is coming with us.”

As she was leaving, filled with gratitude for her sweet deal (hey, I’m a soft touch) I looked up at the huge bouquet of fake flowers that adorns our front hallway. Now if you’ve ever put together a HUGE bouquet of (good quality) fake flowers you know it ain’t cheap. But I looked at her and said “Do you like those flowers?” And she answered with a big grin “I love those flowers!”

And so she took them home. For free. Incredulous. Thrilled. Grateful.

And I spent the afternoon smiling. Because it felt so good.

Will it come back to me? How will it come back to me? When will it come back to me if it ever comes back to me?

Who knows? Who cares?

Today it felt really damn good.

And just so you know I’ve already lined up an amazing cleaning service to leave this house unimpeachable when we depart. Even though the sales agreement says “swept clean”. And yes, there will be a bottle of wine on the kitchen counter.

Because paying it forward is how I roll. And you just never know what tomorrow will bring.

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