Wednesday, July 22, 2015

the crabs in the bucket

Back when K'os first emerged on the western Canadian music scene in the early 2000s (I imagine he was already known in eastern Canada before then), I thought little of his song 'Crabbuckit' other than 'It's got a good tune and I can dance to it' (some of you are too young to get that reference; get offa my lawn).

It's still a catchy tune, but lately I've been more and more aware of the metaphor - it seems in a bucket full of crabs you don't need a lid because any brave crustaceans that try to rise above will be pulled back down by the other crabs, or so the story goes. 

I like crabs. They are intriguing, adaptable, tasty creatures. But you wouldn't want to be in a bucket with a bunch of them. 

Ever since I returned home from Jamaica, I've been slipping around, having trouble finding my feet. I was light and glowing when I returned - the experience, the sunshine, the healthy diet, the fabulous friends, the freedom, the opportunity to make a visible difference. It all had an effect I thought would last. 

In fact, much of the growing and learning I did in Jamaica has lasted and will last, though the glow has gone. For the last two months I've been in one of the deepest depressions I've experienced in years -  it's acute and circumstantial. It's a lack of sunshine and freedom and pineapple and clarity. This too shall pass and is already lifting. 

But in the midst of that were the crabs. Those people who wanted to downplay my experience. Those whispers of 'oh shut up about Jamaica already.' Those accusations of narcissism and self-obsession and expressions of disinterest. And the crabs in my own head asking whether I have any worth back here in Canada, whether I'll ever be able to break out of the bucket again, whether any cute crab will want to join me on the outside. 

I was talking to my friend Mr. C a week or so ago and explaining to him how the slide had started, and what had accelerated it. What we were really talking about was my lack of writing since I've come home - here, there, or anywhere. When I relayed some of those whispers, at first he was indignant on my behalf. Mr. C is a great encourager of mine - he reads and responds to my writing, and he and Mrs. C kept me good company in Jamaica via Skype and Facebook. I like to tease him, and I love that he's in my corner. 

And then he interrupted me, as he is wont to do, and said, "and how DARE you listen to that bullshit?!" 

He has a point. 

Crabs are good for eating. And watching on the beach. And taking funky pictures of. They are not good for conversating with.

You can stay in the bucket if you want, but I've got more adventures to have. And if you're not interested in them, feel free not to read what I write. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

my dad

Happy happy Father's Day xo

My dad is not the man I think I know.
He is a mystery - a much cherished, little understood ideal.
Like love.
Or what makes a joke funny.
Or how many raisins make a bran muffin perfect.

He is why my sons and I have
blue eyes and
long legs and
flaring bouts of righteous indignation.
He is a model few men since have measured up to.

My dad is not a photo I can find of us together.
Those are a few frozen moments - not even the most important ones.
He was most often behind the camera, both making and preserving the stories for us.

My Dad is not a memory of tangled fishing line on a riverbank.
Or a pink Jeep on a hillside.
Or holding hands to pray around the dinner table.
Or car trips of just us and miles filled with quiet or deep talks or Sunday School songs.

My dad is not a monolith or bunting made of adjectives.
He is superlatives and caveats and contradictions in balance.
He is as soft and as strong as leather.
He is "oh, Shan" and quick tears and being heard and "that's enough."

I have worn proudly all my life the honour of being his daughter.
I have rarely felt up to the role.
I have known to my bones he feels otherwise.

Friday, June 19, 2015

a quest for plenty: my list of 100 dreams

Well, that was more difficult than I expected. When it came right down to it, coming up with 100 things that made my eyes light up or my heart beat faster took a little thinking. I got to 50 pretty quickly, then another 10 here or there, and finally took to reading other people's lists to find my final 10. And then, because some of those lists are awesome, I ended up with 102.

One of the things that strikes me is how limited the 'Nurture Romance' section is for me. I don't know if that's because I am resigned in that area or because so much of what I do dare to dream about romance I'm too chicken to commit to paper/blog. Little of column a, little of column b and lots of room to grow, I guess.

So, here it is - my list of 102 dreams. And now for the fun part - making them happen!

I turn a-shocking-number old on January 30, 2018 and am determined to make that decade sizzle!
  • Reach a BMI <25
  • Maintain a BMI <25 for a year
  • Maintain a BMI <25 for 5 years
  • Master all 26 postures in Bikram Yoga
    • Standing Deep Breathing (Pranayama)
    • Half Moon Pose (Ardha-Chandrasana)
    • Awkward Pose (Utkatasana)
    • Eagle Pose (Garurasana)
    • Standing Head to Knee (Dandayamana-Janushirasana)
    • Standing Bow Pose (Dandayamana-Dhanurasana)
    • Balancing Stick (Tuladandasana)
    • Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose (Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Paschimotthanasana)
    • Triangle Pose (Trikanasana)
    • Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose (Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana)
    • Tree Pose (Tadasana)
    • Toe Stand (Padangustasana)
    • Dead Body Pose (Savasana)
    • Wind-Removing Pose (Pavanamuktasana)
    • Sit up (Pada-Hasthasana)
    • Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
    • Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
    • Full Locust Pose (Poorna-Salabhasana)
    • Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
    • Fixed Firm Pose (Supta-Vajrasana)
    • Half Tortoise Pose (Ardha-Kurmasana)
    • Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
    • Rabbit Pose (Sasangasana)
    • Head to Knee Pose and Stretching Pose (Janushirasana and Paschimotthanasana)
    • Spine-Twisting Pose (Ardha-Matsyendrasana)
    • Blowing in Firm Pose (Kapalbhati in Vajrasana)
  • Thigh gap (standing straight up, assessed by someone else – ha)
  • Michelle Obama arms
  • Bubble butt
  • 32” waist
  • Complete a silent retreat

  • Be debt free
  • Create a generated-from-anywhere income of more than $80,000 net/year (in 2015 CDN dollars)
  • Write a novel 
  • Complete the ‘Ultimate Canadian Book Tour’ promoting my novel at independent book sellers in all 10 provincial and 3 territorial capitals
  • Win a short story or essay contest
  • Write a book with Nathan - Hungry Ghost Mom or other
  • Be paid to sing
  • Sing a song while accompanying myself on the piano at an open mic night
  • Take a week-long solo writing retreat during storm season in Tofino
  • Attend a writing course at The Banff Centre
  • Create a cozy, inviting, dedicated writing space in my home 
  • Take a year of shmita
  • Have my picture taken with Alan Thomas Doyle
  • Have my picture taken with Michael Bublé
  • Learn to scuba dive
  • Master a second UN working language (French or Spanish) 
  • Earn a PhD
  • Spend a day in the British Museum
  • Visit the Smithsonian Institutes
  • Take a photography course
  • Earn my own media pass to Jamaica Jazz Festival
  • Take a painting class 
  • Take a trip with Josh and really listen to who he is
  • Learn to social dance 
    • swing 
    • waltz 
    • two-step
    • others? 
  • Attend the World Domination Summit
  • Present at an official TED event
  • Be an invited (paid) speaker at a writing conference
  • Teach at a college (again)
  • Be a writer-in-residence
  • Get 20,000 Twitter followers
  • Have 5,000+ blog visits/month 
  • Be kissed atop the Eiffel Tower
  • Get married on a beach
  • Trace my lover's laugh lines as he ages
  • Make love under the Northern Lights
  • Ski Whistler
  • Ski in the alps
  • Ski a black diamond run (on purpose ;-)) 
  • Swim with a whale shark in the wild
  • Land a jump on a mountain bike
  • Drive a convertible from Los Angeles to Las Vegas
  • Ride the Rocky Mountaineer
  • Stand up on a surfboard for at least 15 seconds in Hawaii
  • Play craps in Vegas
  • Sleep in a working lighthouse
  • Take a glamping safari in the Rift Valley
  • Watch silver back gorillas in Rwanda
  • Crew a sailboat
  • Go salmon fishing on the ocean with my Dad
  • Live in a float home (or on a boat) for a year
  • Drive the entire Pacific Coast Highway 
  • Ride a roller coaster that goes upside down
  • Be Secret Santa to a children's shelter
  • Work with Habitat for Humanity somewhere in the tropic zone 
  • Work for the UN
  • Volunteer with a literacy organization
  • Teach creative writing to people in recovery from addiction/mental illness
  • Serve on the board of UNBC
  • Sponsor a bursary for single moms studying the arts at UNBC
  • Give a stranger $100 
  • Pay for the groceries of the person ahead of me in line
  • Own a pair of Louboutins
  • Fly first class 
  • Stay at the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort
  • Stay at a 5 Star hotel on Central Park
  • Live in a downtown loft condo in a major city
  • Buy a scarf at the flagship Hermès store in Paris
  • Have more original art than prints
  • Ride a gondola in Venice
  • Attend the Academy Awards - inside the building! 
  • Complete a 7-day kayak holiday in the Salish Sea
  • Take my mom on a trip of her choosing
  • Take Nathan on a history tour through Germany, France, Ireland, & Scotland 
  • Travel on a round-the-world airline ticket
  • Visit the Galapagos
  • Attend Bachannal in Kingston
  • Hand feed a sloth in Costa Rica
  • Have a ‘just us’ holiday with Shan - no kids, no guys, lots of wine and laughter and tears
  • Visit all of the ferry-accessible Gulf Islands
    • Saturna
    • North Pender
    • South Pender
    • Mayne 
    • Salt Spring
    • Galiano
    • Penelakut
    • Thetis
    • Gabriola
    • Bowen
    • Hornby
    • Denman
    • Texada
    • Quadra
    • Cortez
  • See the autumn colours of the eastern seaboard
  • Live one year in London
  • Tour the White House
  • Live one year in New York City
  • Live one year in Kenya or Tanzania
  • Visit Zanzibar 
  • Take the ultimate Gospel road-trip through the Southern U.S. - (Where would that take me? Atlanta, Nashville, New Orleans?)
  • Live beside the Caribbean for AT LEAST a year
  • Visit Yellowstone Park 
  • Visit Stonehenge
  • Attend Carnaval in Québec City
  • Soak in a natural hot spring in Iceland
  • Swim [or perhaps just dip a toe] in all of the oceans & seas 
    (It turns out the International Hydrographic Institute recognises 66 seas, oceans, straits, channels and bays and the list hasn’t been updated since 1953, so I’m going with my own abridged version): 
    • Pacific (north and south of the equator)
    • Atlantic (north and south of the equator)
    • Arctic
    • Indian
    • Mediterranean 
    • Caribbean
    • China
    • Bering
    • Baltic
    • Japan 
    • Arabian
    • North
    • Red
    • Dead
  • Visit the ‘New 7 Wonders of the World
    • Great Wall of China (China)
    • Petra (Jordan)
    • Christ the Redeemer (Brazil)
    • Machu Picchu (Peru)
    • Chichen Itza (Mexico)
    • Colosseum (Italy)
    • Taj Mahal(India)
    • Great Pyramid of Giza (Egypt - only remaining original Wonder)
  • Visit every Caribbean Island nation/territory
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • (The) Bahamas
    • Barbados
    • Cuba
    • Dominica
    • Dominican Republic
    • Grenada
    • Haiti
    • Jamaica
    • Saint Kitts and Nevis
    • Saint Lucia
    • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
    • Trinidad and Tobago
    • France
      • Guadalope
      • Martinique
      • Saint Barthélemy
      • Saint Martin
    • Netherlands 
      • Aruba
      • Curaçao
      • Sint Maarten
    • Britain
      • Anguilla
      • British Virgin Islands
      • Cayman Islands
      • Montserrat
      • Turks and Caicos Islands
    • U.S.
      • Puerto Rico
Since I'm already undeniably middle aged, I've marked off the few dream elements I've completed - it's not much, but ... time's a wastin.' I don't like the effect of crossing out a dream, so the completed ones are bolded. :) 

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Happiness of Pursuit: Review & Reflection

I've gotten away, of late, from reviewing the books I've been reading. I have a considerable back-log of reviews waiting to be posted, but I wanted to get this one up first since I have a feeling that finishing this book is a line in the sand of what life looks like moving forward.

The book in question is Chris Guillebeau's The Happiness of Pursuit, the second of Chris' books I've read since returning home from Jamaica clear that my sleepy hometown isn't going to be enough anymore. In The Happiness of Pursuit (THoP) Chris hangs a framework of lessons from his own quest (to visit all 193 recognized nations of the world by the age of 35) and the quests of many others. Within that framework Chris inserts questions and lessons that have you pay attention to life for what your (my) own quest might be.

Amazon associate link

THoP is a relatively quick read that I purposely slowed down. I wanted each lesson to sink in. I wanted to really learn from Chris, from the woman who created a meal from every country in the world, from the man who refused mechanical transportation for 22 years, from the other creators and explorers. What about what they did called to me? What in their stories was inspiring? What might my version of that look like?  

Chris is a very readable writer - intelligent, self-deprecating, pleasantly insouciant, and very very relatable. He often answered my questions just as they were forming, and he leaves plenty of room for people to create their own lives rather than imposing his ideas of life on his readers. 

As I read I was repeatedly reminded of something that I've often felt is a weakness of mine - not having one singular passion that pulls me forward. I like variety. I am interested in many things. And the idea of hitching my chariot to one questing star feels limiting rather than inspiring. As I read THoP I paid extra attention - what in life holds my attention? Where and when do I feel myself getting excited about an undertaking? What activities make time disappear? What circumstances outrage me? The answers are a mixed bag. 

Obviously, travel is and will continue to be a theme for me. But as I pondered the various forms a quest can take, travel seemed like - pardon the pun - the vehicle, not the focus. I'm going to travel anyway, but what can that travel be about? What happens in the life I have at homebase? Where do my sons, my parents, my health fit in in a life focused on travel? 

And then, I came across this blog post on  Facebook: Don't make a bucket list; make a list of 100 dreams. I was on my iPhone, and I don't enjoy reading articles on that screen so I simply saved it and moved on. I had pondered the headline the last few days - a list of 100 dreams. I detest the concept behind bucket lists, but a list of dreams inspires me. In his books Chris calls these kinds of lists "Life Lists" and while that's an improvement, it's really the dream list idea that moves me. So imagine my surprise when I finally went back to see the article I'd saved and it links to Chris' website. Oh, serendipity, you charmer. Of course the ultimate link is not Chris' blog but this sample list.

Which is all just to say: 

  • read any and all of Chris Guillebeau's books. They are accessible and inspiring and there's something in there for everyone (review of The Art of Non-Conformity coming soon). 
  • I found my quest not in the book itself, though reading the book plowed the earth so that finding the list of 100 could land in fertile soil - this week I'm working on my creating my list of 100, and then I'll begin crossing things OFF my list of 100. A quest of plenty - what fun! 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Shmita, or easing into peace

I no longer believe in the cult of busyness. When I hear people ranting about how busy they are, I feel sad. I know I used to do that - I used to take pride in the amount of activity I undertook, not the results that activity produced. 

Jamaica was a huge opportunity to see something different. My experience of Jamaicans was that people work very hard - those in poverty have to hustle just to survive, and they sell their wares for as many hours of the day as they can in order to get up and do it again the next day. Of course I spent more time with middle-class Jamaicans, who I found similarly hard-working and with the same sense of 'hustle' about them - not the hustle of a con artist, but the hustle of a star athlete. Maybe it comes from living in a society where you don't expect the anyone to step in and rescue you. 

The flip side of that was that I never heard a Jamaican complain about being too busy to enjoy life. When it's work time it's work time, but there is still room for family, for getting together with friends, for dancing and music and playing in the water. Of course my knowledge is limited by time and selective exposure, but it was enough for me to see how false and empty our claims of busyness are. 

Since I've been home - and not going to work every day - I've had a lot of time to reflect on what I want in life. I want more of some things and less of others. I have a plan for accomplishing both the more and the less, and I believe it's necessary to have one to have the other. 

I read once that having crammed bookshelves meant I had no room for new knowledge/wisdom to come into my life; that was when I began letting go of books. I still hold on to ones that I find value in, but my practice before had been to hoard every book that came through my doors. After selling off/donating the ones I knew I wouldn't look at again, new books began to slide in - different books. Books I might not normally have read. Books that showed me something new about myself or the world. Having less meant having more. That was a valuable lesson.

Havi Brooks' blog recently introduced me to the Jewish agricultural practice of shmita, which I know as letting fields lay fallow for a year. It's essential to the health of the land, and - for a commercial farmer - it's good business. It allows a period of refreshing. Just like the sabbath, shmita occurs in a rotation of 7 (on the seventh day God rested, and that practice has been instituted by most major religions). One year in every seven a field is to be in shmita/fallow to allow it to rebuild, renew, stop output and be refreshed. Generally when the field is replanted it produces more than it would have without the year off. I've been following with fascination Havi's experience of instituting a shmita year in her life. 

I landed in Jamaica physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. I'd had few days of rest, let alone reliable periods of it, in months/years. Even 'play' felt exhausting. That is not how I want to live my life. When I have space in my schedule for the people I love I also want to have the energy and the clarity to be truly with them. 

While I think about what it might take to create a shmita year like Havi, I've decided to take it on in bite-sized chunks in the meantime. I'm reinstating the sabbath. To me it is a similar idea - to be consciously unproductive and allow space for renewal, reconnection, growth, rest, peace. 

Starting tomorrow and until September 5 when I'll reassess, from 9 pm Saturday to 9 pm Sunday I am going to be offline.* I will not do work. I will not 'just fit this one thing in.' I will not do research related to a client task or a work project or a story I'm writing. If I create, it will be strictly for the joy of creating and not with another end in mind. I will not purchase anything during those 24 hours. I will only drive if it furthers recreation and connection. These are not laws and commandments - these are dams built to keep the swells of busyness and striving at bay. 

I can already see that this is going to take something. It will require a bit of thinking ahead. Instead of putting chores off until Sunday I will need to remember to do them during the week or on Saturday. I have a lot that I want to do and be and create in my life - for that to happen I'm going to have to make a little more space. Shmita/sabbath is part of that. Not that it is a means to an end, but because it is an access to living at a pace that makes sense to me. 

I'm grateful to Jamaica. I'm grateful to Havi. And I'm looking forward to the fun, challenge, and opportunity of my summer of sabbaths/shmita/peace. 

* Offline as in not browsing aimlessly, not blogging, not Facebooking, not tweeting, not instagraming, not watching TV, etc. Offline as in call me, or text, and let's be together without distraction. 
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