Hey There Lonely Girl …

I spent a lot of time alone this past summer. As a matter of fact I’ve spent quite a bit of time alone this past decade. One of the side effects of working from home is that, apart from my trusty canine, I’m pretty much alone all day. And when warmer temps arrive, I transport that canine and my computers to my bay-side happy place and I am alone once again.

Well … as alone as you can be in a park full of people.

The thing is, when my beloved is working or otherwise engaged (read: home improvements or familial obligations), I spend days on end alone. I may be just a shout away from lots of folks, and social interaction is usually just a quick text away, but I spend days on end alone.

Because I like it.

I have learned to enjoy my own company. I find myself to be quite entertaining, quite frankly, and the dog is a great conversationalist. He never bores me with mundane chatter and he’s typically pretty content to just laze around, something I’m also quite proficient at. I mean I like loud music and cooking and movies and writing and reading and walking. But I am quite content to do all of these things by myself.

This was not always the case. I used to HATE being alone. I avoided alone-ness at all costs. Especially in the evening. And overnight. I recall one occasion when my darling ex-husband was called away last-minute on business and I was a wreck. I didn’t have a chance to line up a babysitter. You know … for me, the 35 year old. I was such a wreck that hubby’s boss actually offered to come for a sleepover.

Um … weird, I know.

When I started working from home (and my child was in school) I once again discovered aloneness. This time it wasn’t so bad because I knew that both my son and husband were at some point coming home. I still wasn’t a big fan of those solo overnighters but hey, I was a MOTHER and that lioness thing kinda took over. Plus we had a killer attack dog who would have annihilated anything that messed with my son or me.

Fast forward to the demise of my marriage and the subsequent demise of my post-marital relationship. Suddenly I found myself truly alone. No man, no kid, no friend, no dog … just me. It was super weird and I was super lonely. Like loneliness of the torturous kind.

There’s a wonderful Canadian singer/songwriter named Lynn Miles and her song “Loneliness” describes it beautifully:

Loneliness is an envelope you can seal yourself into
And send off to a stranger in a town across the sea
Loneliness is a tired old friend who carries your baggage
Through airports and train stations for free
Loneliness wears a suit and tie on busy city streets
And makes you cry at parties filled with people that you know
Loneliness will take your hand and lead you to the shoreline
On foggy days to find the undertow

“And makes you cry at parties full of people that you know.”

Wow. Just wow.

Because that was me in my marriage. I was the ultimate social queen, the queen of distraction, the queen of fake smiles and the queen of party-giving. Anything to keep that hollow aching at bay. Trouble is that hollow aching didn’t cooperate. It followed me into empty bathrooms in the midst of rousing revelry. It liquefied me onto the kitchen floor when music was playing and so was the rest of the family (downstairs). It sat next to me on plane-rides overseas, it kept me awake every night with its nagging arguments and it forced me to up my social game even further, in a noble yet futile attempt to shut that bastard up.

Loneliness was never my friend. And sure, I could be lonely at a rip-roaring shindig but I also equated being alone with lonely. And so being alone became the enemy.

But then there was that fateful night. That night of true alone-ness. And I was forced to have a good long look in the mirror and ask myself what the fucking problem was? Was I alone? Was I lonely? Lonesome? Solitary? Companionless? Dogless?

All of the above, I reckon.

My friend K solved the one problem by gifting me with a kitten that Christmas. But the rest of the problem I was forced to solve alone. Because thereafter arrived many “alone” nights (and days) and the hits just keep on coming!

The difference is … I learned. Through practice and repetition and experience and desire, I learned to be alone. And I learned that being alone no longer equates to loneliness.

Being alone can be a gift. An absolute joyful, self-indulgent, awe-inspiring gift. To dance around the kitchen, listening to the music you love, cooking the food you love, wearing the cut-off jeans (and no bra) you love and loving every minute … THAT is a gift. No fake smiles. No crying in the bathroom (or on the kitchen floor). And most importantly, no FEAR that you are a loser. No fear that no one wants to enjoy your company. Or even that the “guy you loved” doesn’t want to enjoy your company. Because the reality is that YOU enjoy your company.

This past week I have been enjoying my happy place for the final week of 2019. I’ve had a bit of (wonderful) social interaction but for the most part I have been pretty much alone.

I have not been lonely.

I have been grateful. Grateful for gorgeous sunny days and cool, snugly nights (yes the dog is here). Grateful for long walks close to the water which bring me so much peace. Grateful for chick-flicks and wine and candlelight and yes … solitude. I mean there’s an army of fruit flies living with me (just smacked another) but yeah, the serenity of my assistance has been palpable.

I am alone. But I am not lonely.

And now, as the park begins to spring to life, with this final thanks-giving weekend upon us, I am grateful for that too. A child’s voice, a dog’s bark, friends arriving soon and revelry to be made … I am ready. There will be no private weeping in the bathroom. That girl does not exist anymore. Loneliness will not “take my hand and lead me to the shore.”

My dog will. And there will be a Frisbee in his mouth.

And we will both be smiling.

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Reinventing Yourself … Could You Do It or Would Your EGO Get In The Way?

Today I counted up the number of times I have reinvented myself. If I’m really nit-picky, that number comes in at lucky 7. And I’m only counting post-schooling because I don’t think we really begin to formally invent ourselves until we hit the real world.

I started as a musical theatre/pop singer. Then I was a cocktail waitress. After 6 months of that I became a country singer. And when the road life no longer appealed I fell into a job doing independent record promotions. That gig found me chatting up radio folks every week which led me to my own gig on radio. Forget the two years at radio college. I had one day of training and BAM – I was on the air. Fun times.

After ten years of live country radio I morphed again, this time into a full-time mother and wife. I had never anticipated those shoes but when they arrived all shiny and new I slipped into them like a comfy old pair of slippers. Until a year and a half later when I was offered another radio gig (this time in Smooth Jazz). There I sit today, these 19 years later, augmenting my on-air shenanigans with a little singing and this wine soaked blog.
Lots of hats over lots of time. Some big moves, some small ones, some sideways and some full left turn. Yes … lots of hats.

But what if you wore the same hat your entire life? Or maybe only two hats? And through dumb luck or a mischievous Universe or even just plain old passage of time, you found yourself faced with a brand new and completely unfamiliar future. You found the need to reinvent yourself. Could you do it?

When I came off the road (the first time) after 6 years of touring Canada and singing my little heart out, I immediately procured a waitress job. I had a long-range plan (start my own country band) but the short-range involved rent and groceries and gas and the occasional beer (wine came later). So there I was in this cutesy pub, slinging brews and chips and the odd whiskey and this guys comes in and says “Hey, wait a minute. I know you! Didn’t you used to sing at Ruby’s?”

And I’m like “Yep. That was me. Sang at Ruby’s a lot, actually.”

And he says “So what the hell are YOU doing here?”

Well, I had a couple of choices at that moment. Slink into the woodwork or own my situation. I chose #2. “I’m paying the rent, thank you very much sir, so a really big tip would be much appreciated. I’ll even sing for it if I must.”

Yes, I was a gutsy young thing but I will tell you I was also more than a little mortified. Here I was, a girl with a university degree and a performance career and I’d even had a record out that got played on radio and there I was … SERVING.

In hindsight, I’ll tell you that little serving job paid more than any singing gig I’d ever done and it was fun, easy work. But it wasn’t exactly chock full of cache. Prestige. Accomplishment. It was just a job.

My pal G experienced the same thing but to an even further degree. Because her musical act won a Juno! Did some big honkin’ international tours. Were famous! But she still had to pay the bills when the music wasn’t, so she waitressed. And got recognized.
And owned it.

I love that about her. She owned it with a big fat smile on her face and a plate of pasta in her hand. She owned the need to reinvent herself “when required” to navigate life and all its demands.

Over the years I was privileged to work in radio with some formidable human beings. A few of them are still at it but many have moved on. Now whether they moved on because radio can be a cold, harsh bitch or because time was not their friend or because they just got tired of being poor – I don’t know. But move on they did. To Real Estate or IT or entrepreneurship or sales. They moved. They reinvented. They took ownership of their lives and changed lanes.

Because really there are so many damn lanes available to us. You may enjoy one for a great many years and then decide, or be forced, or just be curious to try another one. And ya know what? If that other one doesn’t work out there is yet another nother one to tackle. Life’s lanes are infinite.

So what then is the obstacle? The big fat stumbling block that so very often hinders reinvention.

EGO.

Ego is the obstacle. Because if you have allowed yourself to be defined by one thing and only one thing it’s pretty damn hard to let that signature go. Especially if your signature has been something “prestigious”. Something with glamour or fame or social cache or whatever else may colour your self-worth. And if your ego wins the day reinvention can become darn near impossible. Unless say you are reinventing from a Countess to a Queen. Then it’s probably okay.

That was the dilemma with T. You see T’s husband was a big-wig investment dude. And when he traded T in on a younger model she was forced to reinvent herself. She still had money (and a good lawyer) and a country club membership and a Jaguar. What T didn’t have was a husband. And for some strange reason that lack of husband changed her social currency profoundly. For a few years T wallowed in misery and Chardonnay. And then she smartened up. She started volunteering. Anywhere and everywhere. She made new friends. She found new meaning in her life. She sold the Jag and bought a Prius. She stopped wearing diamonds and gobs of makeup and let her hair go gray. And she loved it! She loved herself. She totally fell in love with the newly reinvented T.

Well that’s easy, you’re gonna tell me. It’s easy to reinvent yourself when money isn’t an object. It’s almost like going on a cheap and cheerful holiday.

Fair enough.

R wasn’t quite so fortunate. R didn’t get a big fat divorce settlement or even a younger wife. What R got was notice. Notice that is his career-defining job (the one he loved most) was coming to an end. Funding was done. Money was (more than) spent. Times had changed. whatever the reason, his services were no longer required.

Was R sad? You bet? Did R wallow? Only a bit. Did R reinvent himself?

With amazing gusto.

R moved two hours away and found a gig that had virtually nothing to do with his PhD, his history or his wheelhouse. R found a job that will require a huge new learning curve and lots of hands-on training. R found a job that will tap into his love of working with his hands and make him a few bucks. Even if it is not his dream job R found a job that will further his dream. His dream to live a contented, happy life doing something fun and productive. Sure, he’s going to have to work damn hard to figure out this new reality. But he is up for the challenge. His ego is not dragging him back to “What if? or “I shoulda!” or “It’s not fair.”

R is in full reinvention mode. And digging it.

Just so you know … R is my beloved. And the above is a true story.

And I am just so damn proud of this man.

He left his ego at the door and is facing a “new” life head on. He’s wearing a new hat these days and it looks damn good on him. And his re-invention has just begun. Who knows where it will lead?

I can’t wait to find out.

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Just When You Think You Have All The Time In The World …

We’re all just so darn busy, right? Busy with work, busy with family, busy with hobbies and sidelines and responsibilities. Busy, busy, busy. And then something comes up and we’d like to do it and it sounds like a great idea and we think we’d enjoy it but all that busi-ness intrudes and we just can’t seem to get there. Get to that thing we’d like to do. We keep saying we’ll get there. We tell ourselves we’ll get there. We tell others we’ll get there (to them or that thing or whatever). But then weeks pass and months and maybe even years and we don’t. We don’t get there.

And then it’s too late. And getting there is no longer an option.

This past week I lost a very old, very dear friend. Unexpectedly. R had a massive heart attack and died. He’s not much older than I am and one morning he kissed his wife and that night he died. Pretty much just like that.

R was a seminal part of my teenage party years in cottage country. If there was a cottage available (as in ‘no parents’) we partied. If there was no cottage available we found a campsite on the Bruce Trail and we partied. One night a big gang of us got ourselves to a different campground one bay over and when the cops arrived to bust up our little shindig we ran for our lives. Especially those of us underage revelers. I don’t exactly remember how I got there but I sure as heck remember how I got home. There was R (not exactly a tiny dude) driving his MINI bike, and W, my bestie who clocked in at almost 6′ and then me, hanging on to her hanging on to R for dear life. That’s right. Three of us on a MINI bike high-tailing it out of trouble. For about 25 kilometers.

And yes, trouble we did evade. We made it home safe and sound (and probably neither straight nor sober) and laughed our stupid heads off with glee and relief.

That is just one of my many memories of R. To this day I cannot hear the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song “Almost Cut My Hair” without thinking about him. Because his absolute signature line was the first – “I will now proceed to entangle the entire area.”

I still have no idea what that (spoken) line has to do with the rest of the song. All I know is that line is R’s. Always was, always will be.

In subsequent years, with me spending less time at the cottage, R and I would see each other in passing, always wave with a cheery smile and on occasion have a quick chat. He got married later in life and I would then also chat with his wonderful wife. When I once again became a “regular” at my beautiful bay we would always talk about getting together. You know, for a proper visit. Cocktails, maybe a barbecue … something more than a passing greeting. Last summer we even tried a few times. Just not enough times I guess because it never worked out.

And now here we are in September, with summer threatening to fade into fall, and once again the season escaped us. We never got together. I would see R almost every morning when I did my daily walk and he drove past on his way to work. His smile was truly so large it lit up his truck. I hope mine was too, because it DID make me happy to see him. Every morning I was so very happy to see him. And every morning I thought “Yeah, we really do need to get together.”

But we didn’t. And now he’s gone. These past few mornings I keep looking for that white truck and that big smile. But the road is eerily empty.

I know you’ve heard it a million times. Don’t put things off! I know you even understand it on an intellectual level. I am here to remind you that on a very real and emotional level putting things off – important, life-affirming, heat warming things – can have dire and disheartening consequences.

We do not have all the time in the world. And even if we do, someone we care for may not. If you want something to happen MAKE it happen.

Next summer we will have R-Fest here at the lake, to honour this lovely and much-loved man. I’m not exactly sure what that will look like but I am sure we will all gather in love and friendship to honour a man whose impact was profound and perhaps not quite fully understood. I mean, I hope we’ll all gather. Who knows? Next summer is a lot of months away. Maybe we should have R-Fest at Thanksgiving? Maybe we should have had R-Fest while he was still alive? Heck, maybe I should have just tried harder to have my own personal R-Fest while he was still alive?

Live and learn. Die and learn.

Rest on a beautiful bay up high, my friend. Watch down on us, smile that gorgeous smile, join us next summer for your party and know that are sorely missed. And greatly loved.
Maybe one day we can try that mini bike thing again. You know, from cloud to cloud. I mean honestly, I’ll put THAT off for as long as I can. But one day …

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I Am Naked.

Now before you go getting your knickers all in a knot, rest assured my knickers are still exactly where they should be (under my cut-off jeans). I have no problem being naked (literally) but I don’t make a habit of lounging around sans clothing on a daily basis.
When I say I am naked what I mean is I have finally (and I do mean after a long, exhausting, sometimes brutal haul) come to a place of absolute, comfortable, fully transparent vulnerability. I have shed my armour. I am a turtle without a shell. To the best of my ability I speak and act my truth. And here, with these musings, I write my truth. As a matter of fact, when I started this blog I discovered the phrase “The drunken tongue speaks the sober mind”. And I altered it to “The drunken pen writes the sober truth.”

Sure, I’ll freely admit a glass or two of wine always helps the truth shake free. And as long as you still have the wherewithal to share that truth succinctly and eloquently what is the problem with a bit of liquid courage?

The trouble is most people tend to drown their truths in gallons of alcohol. And then if anything escapes their drunken tongues it ends up being blitzed babble.

So let’s get back to me being naked. I did not coin this metaphor myself. It came to me last week from one of my dearest friends. We were discussing a text conversation I’d had with my ex. He’s great at sharing snippets of our son’s life, news of mutual friends and occasional family doings. But as soon as I say anything personal he shuts down.Immediately. And I’m not talking personal as in “what you used to do to me in bed”. I’m talking personal as in my health or my opinions. Shuts the conversation down like it never happened.

And my pal says to me “He can’t handle your nakedness, Vickie. You have long owned your shit, good, bad and horribly ugly and he can’t handle your willingness to bare it all to him even now, all these years after your marriage concluded.”

Maybe.

Maybe he just doesn’t care and I’m boring.

But I do see her point. Can you imagine if you were enjoying a nice dinner at a lovely bistro and suddenly your waiter appeared stark naked to take your order? Yeah. Might be a tad uncomfortable.

And that’s what I have discovered most people are like when metaphorical nakedness arrives on the scene. When someone is willing to share their whole truth damn the torpedoes no matter what the outcome of that outpouring … well, we get antsy. It’s awkward. And distressing. Because we as a society are unfamiliar with that amount of skin. We are unfamiliar with dealing with armourless humans. We have built a very civilized culture around acting correctly and saying the right things and not divulging too much and playing our cards close to our chests. We don’t dare bare our souls but to a few sacred few. Or anyone. Certainly not just about everyone.

Okay, so when I say I’m naked I don’t mean I run around engaging virtual strangers in discourse about my deepest secrets. What I am saying is the fear of getting hurt is no longer a driving force in my life. I’m going to repeat that because I think it is monumentally important – THE FEAR OF GETTING HURT IS NO LONGER A DRIVING FORCE IN MY LIFE.

Think about it. Think about your own life. Think about the last time you did/said/wrote anything that was not YOUR complete truth because you were protecting yourself. Protecting your heart, your soul, our facade, your veneer. Protecting the “public” you from humiliation and indignity.

Think about it. And then think about how often you actually fudge on the truth in order to protect your hard-won disguise. And before you clamour “I don’t wear no fucking disguise!” think about that too. Because we all do.

When I used to sing in public regularly, I painted on my disguise the moment I walked into the restaurant. I was charming and fun and super friendly and convivial with everyone and sometimes damn hilarious on stage. But then I found that more and more I was getting very emotional by the end of the evening. The music would really get to me. The smiling faces would overwhelm me (with gratitude). The wine would kick in and ultimately “Moon River” was more than I could handle and I would be singing with tears streaming. I mean, c’mon. “We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waiting round the bend, my Huckleberry friend, Moon River and Me.” How can you not weep?

Okay maybe that’s just me (or the wine). The point is, I could no longer manage my armour. And when it melted on the floor in a flood of tears I was done. Done.

Except I wasn’t. I was just done for that night. And the next month I’d go back and do it all again. BUT … for the longest time I was TRYING to keep that armour in place. Sing the damn songs, readjust my cloak and go home. And when I could no longer do it, I gave up singing in public. I’d like to believe my fans had got used to my nakedness. Maybe on some level they even found it endearing. But at that time I just couldn’t keep stripping down regularly. IN PUBLIC. It was too painful.

As with most things, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. And in recent years I have practiced nakedness with fervent regularity. I am not afraid of the repercussions because the fact is … there are none. When we own our vulnerability NO ONE can hurt us. Because we have already stated “OPEN TARGET!” You don’t shoot a guy in the back, right? And most humane souls will not further torture an open wound.

(and trust me, those who would are not worthy of your consideration or anxiety)

I truly believe it is WHEN we guard ourselves fiercely we become exposed. Assailable. Unsafe. We are so busy maneuvering we can’t even see the next hit. Until we are felled.
Try figuring out your truth. Then owning it. Not just in your mind but in real life. In real conversation. On paper. In a text.

A few evenings ago I was alone listening to music and a Michael McDonald song showed up. “I Can Let Go Now”. It is heartbreaking in its honesty and simplicity. And it has long spoken to me of my broken heart 15 years ago when “the love of my life” ditched me for the fourth and final time. It’s the song I kept longing to sing. To live!

On that night it brought me to my knees.

Because I realized I had not. Let go. For many reasons, none of which are important here. But the truth is I had not let go.

So I pulled myself off the floor and listened to that damn song 15 times. I guess one for each year. And then I sent that old love a text. I thanked him for the love that “tossed me so high I almost never came down”. I was grateful. I was sad. I asked him not to respond. And I wished him well.

I let go.

In all my nakedness I made a choice to let go. Not just in my head but FOR REAL. I chose vulnerability and I chose honesty and I CHOSE to make a conscious effort to abandon old hope and old pain. I made a choice to abandon some strange old power that boy still had over me. Well, maybe not him per se but the magic we made. The fairy tale we shared. The dream that was so difficult to let go of. But I did.

I let go.

And I did it officially. On paper. Un-take-backable.

Because THAT is important. You can do any number of things in your head but seriously they do not count. As my friend Tom Wade says – Don’t think it or imagine it if you’re not going to say it or do it.

So what happened after, you may be wondering.

Well … nothing.

I called my friend and she said “Oh my goodness GOOD ON YOU! You got naked again!”

And we laughed. And then I had a most lovely evening and slept like the babiest baby who ever babied.

Turns out nakedness is freeing. Immensely so. And now I am free.

It’s also really fucking heard, just so you know. Armour is way easier. Way more automatic. Way more manageable.

Nakedness however is freeing. It is blessed freedom at its finest. Please give it a go.

Who knows … if YOU do maybe tomorrow … I’LL go commando?

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The Two Arrows … Or Why Do You Keep Shooting Yourself AGAIN?

I’ve just finished reading a marvelous new book written by my old pal Thomas Wade. When I say old I mean we go back over 30 years, to that delightful time that we toured Canada together in a country band. Shenanigans, drunken debauchery, boredom, bedlam and broke-dom … we experienced it all together.

If you had told me then that Tom would go on to write a book like “Singing In My Sleep” I think I might have guffawed. At the very least I would have been incredulous. I love Tom and always have. He was (and still is) an amazing singer, hilariously funny guy, one of the best songwriters I know and cute as a button. Would I have believed years later he would write an inspirational yet scientifically fact-driven, keenly researched and beautifully presented tome documenting his journey through a little-known disorder called Dystonia?

Nope. Not in a million years.

I’m not going to tell you Tom’s story, fascinating as it is. I urge you to buy the book. What I would like to do is share some of the philosophies I personally earned from the author , tenets I did not previously know and nuggets of wisdom that are (or can be) life-changing.

I’ll begin with “the two arrows”, apparently based on an old Buddhist parable. It goes like this:
You get shot once. This first arrow comes from an outside source. Something happens to you that seems pretty much out of your control. You slam your finger in a car door. Some idiot cuts you off on the highway. You get lost in Toronto trying to find your son’s new apartment in a maze of one-way streets all going the wrong way and you drive around for what seems like hours, your temper bubbling over at every turn, and when you finally get into the parking garage you bang your car door into the cement wall at which time you grab the homemade muffin that your child’s stepmother has lovingly gifted you with but which has now left cream cheese all over your car seat and drill it into that same evil cement wall.

Is that just me?

You see THAT is the second arrow. And I shot it myself. AT myself.

Getting lost in Toronto was the first. Happens to everybody, right? Especially when traffic lights and the one-way streets don’t cooperate. Yet even as I was driving in circles, talking to my son on the phone (you were allowed in those days), and he was begging me to calm down, I did not. Sure, I allowed that first arrow to penetrate as deep and as painfully as it could.

But that second arrow – the self-inflicted one that shot out of my quiver when I slammed the door and then the muffin – THAT was all me. I did have a choice at that moment. I could have opened the car door more gently in the tight space. I could have cleaned up the cream cheese later. I could have eaten the damn muffin instead of annihilating it. I could have taken a few deep breaths, calmed my head and gone to enjoy a happy visit with my son.

But noooooooooo. I chose the 2nd arrow. I chose to shoot it. At myself. How stupid is that? I chose to have a temper tantrum in an underground parking garage in downtown Toronto and I chose to murder a poor defenseless and probably delicious cream-cheese covered muffin because …

Yeah. Good question.

Because why?

Because I had not learned how to control my mind. My thoughts. My base (and by base I mean lowest of the low) reactions. I had not taught myself to do that.

And teach ourselves we must. We must learn by conscious effort and then practice, practice, practice. We must stop ourselves just as we are readying that 2nd arrow for attack and we must say (quietly) – what the fuck? I just got hurt! Why do I want to hurt further? Doesn’t it make more sense to overcome the first hurt and move on with my lovely life?

I have managed a better (or more peaceful) response on occasion. On the first Christmas morning after my ex-husband and I split up, he came to my house to share the day with our son and me. I was also preparing for the family dinner and at one point, while he was using the bathroom, I tried to move a table and ended up shattering a full bottle of red wine on the ceramic floor. When he came into the kitchen and saw red everywhere, there I was, calmly cleaning up the mess.

“What happened?” he exclaimed in disbelief.

“I broke a bottle of wine,” I sighed and carried on wiping.

There was a brief silence and then “Who are you and what have you done with Vickie?”

My darling ex was vaguely familiar with my short fuse and somewhat vocal reactions to negative stimuli. But there I was, all Zen. Hey, I was involved with a yoga instructor at the time and that shit rubs off!

On another occasion I had just arrived at the radio station where I hosted a midday show. Somehow in the exiting of my sporty little vehicle, handbag, paperwork and large Tim’s coffee all in hand, with the lid on said coffee not securely fastened by the lovely lady who had passed it out the window, I managed to squirt scalding coffee all over my new Gap blue jeans. Literally all over.

I was livid. And in a bit of pain. But mostly livid at that broad’s ineptness and livid that I would have to spend a full day in wet, stained jeans. My comfort and my vanity were both supremely compromised!

Until I walked into the station and realized that me having a tantrum was not conducive to A) my fun-loving radio show or B) my fun-loving relationship with my colleagues. So what did I do?

I got creative. I got on the phone, called the Gap which happened to be in the mall next door and asked if they could pretty please deliver a pair of size 10 boot-cut regulars (or something like that) to the radio station across the street, after which I would give them untold kudos and love on my show.

They did. And not only did I have an okay normal day I had a fine fantastic extra awesome day. I had conquered the demon 2nd arrow and got myself out of wet jeans at the same time!

So maybe the trick is to THINK twice instead of shooting twice? Maybe when you become AWARE that the 2nd arrow really wants to see some action you’ll respond “Sorry buddy, not today.” Because the beauty is YOU are in charge of the 2nd arrow. Always. The universe might shoot at you willy-nilly with nary a rhyme or reason and you’re gonna have to take it. But that 2nd arrow is ALWAYS in your control. And the more you control it, the less often it will shoot you.

Guaranteed.

One more story – Most people think my friend W is a sweetheart. Lovely. Nice. Accommodating. Even mild-mannered. He comes across that way.
What most people do not realize is that he can also be Robin Hood on steroids. That 2nd arrow is never too far from his trembling hands. He shoots it often and with glee. Except that glee is always laced with resentment. And in my opinion, resentment will always turn cancerous. It eats you up from the inside.

Several years ago W and I were on the golf course. I used to be a pretty good golfer but don’t play much anymore due to back issues. W was new to the sport but, as an accomplished athlete in other arenas, expected to be Arnold Palmer within months.

That ain’t how golf works.

So there we were, and he was having a bad hole, and so was I, but I actually don’t care. And we got to the green and he attempted a pitch and it flubbed and guess what? He threw his club. Apparently there was no arrow handy so W threw his fucking club.
In all my years of golf (I started when I was 22) and all my years of temper-tantrums I have never ever thrown a club.

And so I very calmly looked at him and stated without hesitation “If you ever throw another club ever I will never play with you ever again!”

Because I now know that we don’t need to throw clubs, muffins or arrows. We don’t need to throw anything. One arrow is enough, thank you very much. That 2nd missile can stay put.

That’s our job. Our job is to stifle that 2nd arrow.

It’s work. And then more work. And worth it.

Thanks, Tom and … more to come.

p.s. If you want a copy of Tom’s book email him at thomaswade@live.ca

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How Much Work Are You Willing To Do ON YOUR MIND?

We are a society of achievers. Only in North America do we consider 2 weeks vacation A YEAR acceptable. We work long hours for success and we work enthusiastically for money and we work diligently for status and we work hard simply because we were brought up to honour a hearty work ethic. Then when we’re done work we go to the gym and work on our bodies. We work on our muscles and our heart/lung capacity. We work on our hobbies in our spare time. We work on sporting activities and we work on bettering ourselves at them. We may work on music and the making thereof because it brings us joy. We work on raising good kids, we work on taking care of our pets, we work at looking after our people and we most certainly should work on our relationships.

Work, work, work.

And we do most of it with conviction and acceptance. Sure we may on occasion fudge here or there but we are well aware that we must work to live. To thrive. To survive.
But then, after bank accounts, physical bodies, relationships, hobbies and responsibilities have been attended to with the most conscious of efforts, do we THEN work on our minds?

I’m not talking about reading or learning or exploring new things or even teaching. I am talking about working on our own minds. Our personal sanctuaries of chaos, bedlam, pandemonium and the occasional burst of clarity.

In my experience most people don’t spend much time working on their minds, they do not work on consciously controlling their thoughts and more importantly they do not even understand how their thoughts control THEM because they don’t believe they can. They DO NOT believe they are in charge of what goes on upstairs.

But they are. YOU are.

Yes. You are in charge of how much weight you lift, how may miles you run, how many hours you put in at work AND what is going on in the old noggin.

Let’s try a few examples (just in case you’ve decided I’ve truly gone off my rocker this time).

L was ditched by her beau. Many years ago B left her for another woman. L still has “conversations” with B almost every day. They just happen in L’s head. L creates almost daily an entire intricate dialogue between B and herself. What she should have said to him, the lying bastard. What she wished she could have said to him when her heart was breaking. L even invents B’s portion of the program. She invents what B should have said. She invents what B would say if he saw her now. She invents what she would say to B and his new love if she ran into them and she even invents her new lover Brad Pitt who would of course be on her arm when she met B and his new lover.

Seriously, we’ve all done it, right?

I know I have. I still do. But ever since my friend and guru Thomas Wade told me to stop doing it guess what? I have stopped doing it. Sure I start doing it and the moment I realize what I am doing I STOP!  Just like that. I remind myself that these imaginary conversations are a) stupid b) pointless c) unrealistic and d) stupid.

Did I mention stupid?

They are a waste of the limited space in my mind. My imagination is much better served writing a song, redecorating a room or creating a fabulous dinner. Every moment I waste (WASTE is a big fat operative word here) is of my own doing. Remember that. I am wasting my brain on delusions. And those delusions keep the Ferris wheel spinning. The Ferris wheel of my past and its hold on me.

Another example:
K lives in a constant state of anxiety. K worries about money and getting fired from his job and hating his job and K worries about not succeeding in his career or life or relationships and K struggles with getting older and being surpassed by his peers. K is anxious a lot. So K drinks. Probably too much. And when K gets tipsy these concerns multiply and overwhelm.

Perhaps if K could learn to control those ever-present thoughts, and I mean control as in tell them to fuck off every now and then, K could get on with life. Instead of being paralyzed with fear K could make a plan. K could make a plan with conscious steps that he could implement daily so that perhaps K could actually get where he wants to go without giving in to drink far too regularly.

Oh come on, Vickie, “No one can control their thoughts!” you are now shouting. We can’t all control our anxiety.

I know. Control is a big fat impossible word.

We can’t control.

What we can do is manage. We can manage our thoughts.

When L realizes she is manufacturing yet another dialogue SHE can shut it down. SHE can nip it in the bud. SHE can turn her thoughts to something else. ANYTHING else but this ridiculous mythological conversation that never was and most likely never will be.

K can also train himself to manage his thoughts. What’s the old saying – “If you’re depressed you’re living in the past, if you’re anxious you’re living in the future. If you’re at peace you’re living in the present.” K can train himself to BE present. Present in a crappy job, present in plans for the future, present in enjoying the moments and present in gratitude for life. K can still be cognizant of his challenges and K can still make plans to overcome them. What K is not obligated to do is live in chaos while he does this.
And by chaos I mean the chaos of the mind.

I’ve been called “a handful” more than once in my life. As a matter of fact I have been called “a handful” so many times I started to believe it must be true.

It’s not.

The reality is my brain goes a mile a minute, 1440 minutes a day. Okay, that’s not true because I do sleep. I will say I have some pretty crazy dreams but I’m sure there must be a few moments every day that my mind actually shuts down. So IF I am a handful I think it’s because there is always SOMETHING going on upstairs that I feel compelled to sort out and then possibly share. Why do you think I write a blog?

But here’s the reality. Whatever is going on in my blonde head is under my jurisdiction. If I allow it to seep out, it shall. If I choose to let it gush so be it. And if I choose to render it silent for all time THAT too is my choice. MY jurisdiction. MY control.

I get to choose my thoughts, I get to choose (or exile) my make-believe communications, I get to choose to acquiesce to my overwhelming fears or I get to choose to tell my brain to shut the fuck up when it is not serving my best interests.

My brain does not get to choose. I get to choose.

So do you. So does everyone.

It’s not simple or easy or natural. You know what it is? It is work. It takes practice and practice and then more practice, just like tennis, playing the guitar or brain surgery.
So I urge you to try it. And then practice it. And then practice it some more.

Juts like going to the gym, giving up white sugar and quitting smoking – it won’t be easy. Not at first. But you WILL get the hang of it. It will become more natural. Pretty soon it won’t feel like work at all and you’ll just be doing it.

YOU will be controlling your thoughts.

Not all of them, but enough. Enough to give you dominion and a modicum of government.

Trust me, it’s work. Mindful (pardon the pun) HARD work.

But worth it. You wouldn’t want your pancreas running amok, would you? Or your liver?

Take charge of your brain. You are the General. Your thoughts are your soldiers.
Just start with basic training and see what happens …

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My Personal Choice To Purge Passion

Yep. I’m doing it. After years of pursuing passion, pondering passion, pontificating about passion and even performing passion … I have decided to purge it from my life.
Now I must tell you there are a lot of different definitions of passion but this one I particularly like: a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.

Oh yeah. I’ll tell you right now my strong and extravagant fondness for a few things has got me into some pretty passionate pickles in my life. And while those predicaments could be perplexing even whilst being potent, they were also invariably pressing. They pressed upon my heart and my soul. To this very day I find that passionate pickles typically yield more problems than peace.

And that is why I have decided to purge passion. I am now intent upon pursuing peace. Placidity is no longer the enemy. Pining for passion has become a problem. And so I now seek serenity.

Sorry. The Ps are done.

Now how might you accomplish this Vickie?, you may ask. How does one consciously and effectively remove passion?

Simple, my dear readers.

Remove red.

Yes indeed, I have recently removed the colour red from my decor scheme.
There was a time I was a huge fan of those flaming pops or crimson rose. Red reverberated throughout my residence with great revelry. I even bought an old house with a red stripe running over the original hardwood floor. I painted front doors red. I bought red furniture. Coffee mugs were red, toasters and kettles were red, and even my kitchen counter boasted black with a red fleck.

I then added lime (or maybe it’s more like apple) green to the mix and boy oh boy did the passion quotient ever proliferate. Those kicky bold hues just brought passion aplenty to every part of my planet.

How the heck did those Ps get back in here?

A few years ago I decided that blush pink was the new red so all the red in my home was banished. The lime green went too. As a a matter of fact it all went … north. To our new trailer/cottage. The passion palette found a new palace and I found – at home – calm and tranquility. The blush pink coupled with black and gray created an entirely new mood. And that mood was decidedly calm. This was a good thing. For me and my blood pressure.

So here we are a few years later and the white leather sofa that was grounding all that red and green at our summer abode completely (and very quickly) gave up the ghost. The leather disintegrated. The white sofa was fast becoming a blizzard of tiny leather flakes.

So off I trundled to the local furniture store where style is always secondary to price. This is cottage country after all. I gotta tell you the pickings were kinda slim. And the colours? How do YOU spell BORING? Everything was either gray, blue, beige or brown. Not even black, which I can totally work with.

I was seriously contemplating giving up the search and throwing a blanket over the blizzard. Until I discovered, in the bargain room, a totally funky brown and black zebra-striped chair. I knew that paired with the chocolate brown fake suede-leather sofa I could make this work! Everything was on sale and it was “Oh Happy Day”!

Until I got home and remembered that my sweet little abode is still chock full of red.

It ALL went. The red blanket, the red pillows, the red candle, the red kitchen stuff and the red leather dining chairs. Gone. Bu-bye.

In came white chairs, black and white pillows, a black throw, regular stainless kitchen appliances and a few pops of green.

I sat back, sipping my Pinot Grigio, and stared in wonder. Our lovely little living space was now a dispassionate delight. An oasis of calm. A gentle and alluring area of restraint.

Restraint? Who me?

Yes. Me. I love my new passion-less living room. I love my new passion-less kitchen. I love that this big open space is still and serene. It brings me comfort. It leads me to quiet. It soothes my soul. I have purged that passion with no regret! The time for peace has arrived!

Well, at least in the living room and kitchen.

There is still LOTS of red in the bedrooms. Both bedrooms (always mindful of my guests, I am). And in the bathroom too, go figure. All those red towels had to go somewhere.

I guess what I am trying to say is perhaps as we age (or is that evolve?) the need for non-stop passion transforms into a desire for quietude and peace of mind combined with the occasional POP of brightly coloured combustion.

What do YOU think?

Decorate as you will. Fill your home with gray and beige if it brings you tranquility. Add some black and white for contrast. And as for red …

Maybe save it for the bedroom.

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