The Thing About Red

July 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Purge continues.

I’ve been silent for a while in the WordPress blogosphere but that doesn’t mean I’ve fallen off the Buy-Not bandwagon.

On the contrary, it’s been almost eight months! Eight months since I stopped shopping like the duds on a runway model’s back were going out of style while she strode the Catwalk. Imagine!

My track record isn’t perfect, but I did manage to clear my Visa and balance my books – which felt stupendously liberating – and if it weren’t for Tax Time, which kicked me like a proverbial gutter rat back into the red, I’d now be enjoying beautiful solvent freedom from encultured debt and throwing all kinds of cash toward my favourite charities and future retirement. (That’s the goal anyway:)

Okay, it’s confession time: back in February I saw a red sweater in Banff that I thought would be just PERFECT for an upcoming Groupon photo shoot which I bought almost a year back. Of course, because I couldn’t buy the sweater, I wanted it even more. Yet strong-willed as I am, with all the might I could muster, I put it back on the rack and hung tough. Then my beloved boyfriend saw the anguish in my face and bought it for me anyway. I seriously doubt I’ve ever loved a sweater more.

Then March was my birthday month and Mom sent me cash to buy “something nice for myself” and didn’t this just ever-so-sweetly circumvent the game rules for my year of spending austerity?! Before I could figure out what to do with the money that wasn’t self-serving or indulgent, I spotted a red summer blouse in a Whyte Ave. boutique that spoke to me with hypnotic legalese, and, well, that was that.

I have worn it a ton, and feel devilishly unprincipled and libertine every time! Regrets, I have none, ’cause don’t you know it’s my favourite go-to blouse in my closet, and since it’s summer and I love dressing up for a dinner or drinks on the patio that’s no small, frivolous thing. ♥

And then, finally … there were the Spanish Mary Jane shoes, in April … which I fatedly set eyes on one Tuesday, when against my better judgement I accompanied my fashion-forward friend Trish on a shopping expedition for her new spring wardrobe.

Do you know what it’s like to have the image of a pair of sweet little wedges WEDGED in your brain, day-in and day-out, in the midst of a politically and morally imposed period of SHOPPING ABSTINENCE??

Needless to say, I coerced my boyfriend into being an accomplice to my iPurge transgression on the grounds that I would spend the exact same amount on him if he’d only swipe his plastic and buy me the damn pumps already!

Amused, and silent, he played along with the little ruse, and although I feel unconscionably cute in my new red shoes every time I wear them out, I do recognize that this time it was plain, old, unmitigated cheating, and I feel terrible about it. Kinda. Sorta.

But what do they say about quitting smoking? Sometimes you have to butt out a few times before you’re truly through with the filthy, addictive habit. I’m all about second tries. Practice, practice!

And besides, a girl doesn’t see shoes like that everyday. So sometimes a shopaholic diva needs to preemptively strike, make a deal with the Devil and pay penance by discarding a few pairs of shoes at home later. (For what it’s worth, I donated six or seven pairs of old summer pumps to Goodwill). So I am absolved.

Now, let go of your judgement, Dear Reader. Aren’t my shoes lovely, and won’t I just wear them for yeeeeeears to come??

But what’s with all the RED?!

A psychotherapist would have fun with that one – although it probably doesn’t take one to figure it out.

RED is a colour of passion and creativity. My favourite colour. And part of who I am, folks, is a girl who loves expressing herself through fashion, and, in case you hadn’t guessed, through words:)

It’s taken me a while to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, but now I think I’ve got it: sometimes we buy to make ourselves feel better; to fill a void, quell a loneliness, boredom or sense of inadequacy and separation.

Other times, though, it’s an honest-to-goodness well-earned reward or treat; a celebration of who we are, a way to articulate outwardly to our selves, and the world, the personality that shines within. I guess I shine red.

The real sin, anyway, I think, is not wearing what you already have. These days I can actually push hangers apart in my closet, and I truly enjoy what’s there.

So, now that I’ve cleared my conscience and survived half of my summer holidays without loading up on senseless souvenirs and succumbing to token binge shops, I am ready for the home stretch.

Yes, I fully intend to continue my iPurge until the end of 2012, and next weekend I will even be “giving back” to the Edmonton and Area garage-sale community by hosting my very own official iPurge garage sale. Come on out! I’ll be selling lots of junk and treasures cheap, so if you want to check out my hoarder’s heap ‘o’ stuff email me and I’ll send you the deets. As always, thanks for reading. It is a joy to write.

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The Blues: Reprieve

April 13, 2012 § 2 Comments

Last week I wrote this piece for my Writers Croft course:

“Anyone who knows me well, and many, no doubt, who do not, has seen me do at least one of the following: 

• arrive somewhere late or at the final hour, breathing heavily, looking agitated, sheepish or stressed out;

• upon arriving somewhere, promptly drop my head and get real busy digging around the vortex of my purse, searching intently for some ultra-important item I don’t even need.

The easy explanation for these behaviors is that I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants creative type who lives, most days, off the grid of conventional time and space; who is wrapped up in so many and varied artistic, enterprising and/or experimental pursuits to be able to consistently adhere to such common social courtesies and survival practices of the civilized world as arriving anywhere with precious time or attention to spare. 

The hard truth, is that I’ve been hiding behind the off-beat cachet of this easy explanation for a very long time. The hard, dark, arrogant, unattractive, cringeworthy truth, is that I’ve been chasing the clock, racing through halls, stairwells and corridors; dodging people and eye contact; ditching the socially awkward dance of open-ended conversations which precipitate so often during waiting moments, probably since I was old enough to go places alone.

Anyone else jive with this?

 So why publicize or draw attention to such perceived deficits in social grace? Why highlight a happiness quotient in recession? Who wants to know? And don’t such awkward or troublesome truths belong in the dust and stuffing of psychologists’ couches; in locked diaries and shadowy, hidden corners of hearts and minds? 

As a society, our cultural capital is too often a measure of our appearance, social status, bank account, membership, Facebook Newsfeed or Twitter following. Will disclosure or sharing of lacklustre leanings not give someone else a comparative edge, massage another’s ego while diminishing my own; make shiny, happy me look a little worse for wear, dull, unenlightened, pathetic or even mentally unstable?

I say: “So what?” To all of the above.

At the end of the day , do you really want to be happy, or just look like you are?

Yikes. That’s downright controversial stuff, in some circles.

Image

Here’s what I’m learning:

• The coolest people I know are comfortable (or at least look like they are) in their many, varied and shifting states of Human Beingness – which just so happens to include love/fear, light/dark, wisdom/not knowing, sanity/neuroses, balance/wobbly-pops, bliss/utterly unconscious listlessness. They accept others and circumstances as they are instead of resisting, posturing or launching battleships. Without losing themselves, they make peace with the present moment, for, to them, it is more important to be happy than right. (One of them even wears a t-shirt that says “I Don’t Know.”)

• That no one will ever be as hard on you as you.

• That laughing regularly at yourself and not taking life so seriously is probably just as good as getting sunshine, eight hours rest and taking your multivitamins, and it’s either something you were born with, or the most important skill you’ll ever learn;

• That I am tired. Of watching the shiny, bright veneer that my ego built, crumble; of fearing that today will be the day that I am revealed as a fraud; of choosing drama, consumerism, road rage or emotional self-battery over conscious communication, unmitigated self-inquiry, radical acceptance and enlightened non-spending. It would be so much easier to go shopping, buy some new shoes, get a pedicure, go for pints, build a case, ignore the signs or hide in plain view.

• That when I am happy, I can easily embrace myself as a spiritual being. But when I am unhappy, and have travelled light-years away to shadowy places, I often forget that I am that same spiritual being, whole and intact, who is just temporarily residing in anti-gravity, on the Dark Side of the Moon.

This reminds me of that Old Cherokee Tale of Two Wolves I recently heard again:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil; he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good; he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather which wolf will win? The old Cherokee simply replied, the one you feed.

Here’s the thing: We all have two wolves inside of us. Deny this reality in the name of pride, politics or appearances, and you feed the wrong wolf. Face the bitter-sweet dichotomy of our complex human experience, here on Earth, and there are still two wolves, but one drops down to a slinking Size Six. The other is a comfortable Size You.

May we experience the truth of our Yin/Yang nature from a place of forgiveness, surrender and more raucous deep-down childlike belly laughter. For isn’t there inherent humour in the angst of growing up in the midst of a Self-Help Revolution? I mean, didn’t we learn anything from the free loving ’60s & ’70s?

All We Need is Love, “a little help from our friends” … and a window-seat view on the Peace Train, back to Here and Now – where nothing is perfect, but everything and everyone are exactly as they need to be. Quite imperfectly.

Flowing with Flow

August 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Among the 1000s of Ways to be Happy, here are a few – from my vacation, so far:

1. Dipping my newly pedi’d toes in mom & dad’s backyard fountain. Ahh, how cool water cleanses …

2. Photographing water bubbles, autumn leaves, swimming algae, rocks … and more rocks … on Lake Ontari-ari-o;

3. Hangin’ with a bunch of awesome ladies at The Canadian Cancer Society’s women’s cancers fund-raiser, Hope and the City, at Zu Bar in Burlington, ON;

4. Visiting my friends Bry & Carrie and their little sweet pea, Airlie Leah Jones:

5. Yoga on the rocks on the shores of downtown Oakville;

6. Afternoon patio lunch meeting with my friend and client, Rob Price, working on edits and ideas for his irreverent blog, Bob’s Etiquettes … to be published in book form in Summer of 2012! Seriously cool;

7. Downtown Oakville squirrels, shamelessly dining on Garbage Day detritus … ergo delights;

8. Blueberry Cheesecake French Toast Casserole. Found the sin-less little recipe in Clean Eating Magazine. It was love at first bite:

9. Family time with Rod, Dad, Suz, Mom – and Misha;

10. This beautiful day – may I flow with it, and be free from attachments, longing, and – always – loving. Grace first. No matter.

Epi-blog: Yoga Deck Play

11. Holy-sh%*-I-can-do-it!-asana … but how did my arms get sooooo much more tanned than my legs?!

Sweetness

July 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve been meaning to post this photo I took of a little yogini and her grandma at my Holy Trinity yoga class last Friday.

It’s so super-sweet.

Meet Abby, 5, and Janis, 61, hanging out in Child’s Pose (Balasana):

I’ve never seen a pint-sized person so quiet, focused and absorbed for so long (90 minutes!) … much less, on the mat!

A great reminder that, no matter our age, the child within is ever-present, ready and willing to share … if only we will grow silent, still, tune in, trust and listen – to the offerings of that under-rated timeless little game of Show ‘n’ Tell.

What is your heart whispering?

MUG ‘O’ LOVE

My friend, Ciara, however, topped my sweet charts last week when she gave me this amazing gift of a ceramic “Namaste” travel mug with spill-free Silicone lid.

Apparently, she was losing sleep over thoughts of me driving around all the time with an open mug of hot coffee, destined to one day scald me.

Sometimes we have to learn things the hard way; other times, we have great friends who make it their business to save us before the fact;)

I love her times a thousand icing-heaped cupcakes and steaming Americanos.

MEET SALLY

Sally Vaughan-Johnston is my former Sun editor from back in the newspaper days, when I used to work as a Lifestyles reporter … and sex columnist (gasp!) … for the Edmonton Sun.

A few years ago, she decided to follow her longtime dreams of becoming a chef and best-selling cookbook author. (Read her story, Best of Bridge, Baby!) Soon after, I also got antsy, jumped ship and went full lotus, baby – becoming a certified yoga instructor and freelance writer. It’s been all opening and unfurling ever since.

So, what’s my point?

This fall, Sally will be joining us at the Third Annual Fall Soul Yoga Retreat and I’m so excited that she will be channelling her exceptional culinary talents, skills and exuberance into creating the menus and soul food to inspire our transformational weekend of yoga, relaxation, play and pampering.

Stay tuned for my retreat posters around town – coming soon! Registration is now open. Deets here. Hope you’ll join us on the soul train, Sept 16-18.

Choo-choo. Choo.

Bubble girl

June 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

For the first time ever, I roamed the Super Flea Market this weekend.

I just love me a Saturday afternoon of sneezing and hacking through a musty maze of ecclectic booths in search of cheap things that speak to my mood and aesthetic.

I told the vendor who took this photo that his finger was in the way. He apologized for "wasting a picture." I told him he hadn't wasted anything, 'cause the camera's digital. He didn't reply. Too much time spent in flea markets, maybe?

I got six-for-five $1 records – Glen Campbell, John Denver, George Jones, The Charlie Daniels Band, Colin James Hay, Neil Sedaka. Ate a bowl of steaming poutine. Hemmed and hawed, bargained then bought an extraordinary lamp whose shaft is a near-naked statuesque hottie hoisting a bare buxom jeté-ing goddess up to a globe of light.

Most people would consider it tacky; I think. I have big plans for it … which may involve painting, crackling, antiquing, gilding, glazing and faux-finishing. But first I’ll hide it in my closet awhile, to avoid any flack.

Tonight it’s jogging pants, my duvet, tea, records … and a big bowl of popcorn that I don’t have to share. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to pick myself up for anyone. I am taking my band-aids off to let the rawness breathe. In a minute, I’m even going offline.

Into my bubble.

I think, if I’m quiet, and just let things be, that the smiles and optimism will naturally rise again from inside.

When the well’s dry, it’s dry; and the drop is deep. Ain’t nothin’ you can do abowd it. Tether yourself. Sit in the shade, quietly, with your thirst. Don’t go running in the midday heat, and make things worse.

Dehydration can, allegedly, lead to illuminating visions … and death. So keep bottled water on hand to quell your sweet suffering, until your metaphorical well o’ joy spillith over again.

This being sad deal ain’t just leaving me parched; it’s digging a hole in my social life. Dear friends, don’t think me self-absorbed and aloof, for retreating to somewhere between here and China. Forgive me, but tonight I have another date with solitude.

I miss him; parts of him.

And those parts of me that fit like puzzle pieces with those parts of him, feel displaced, lost, somewhere on a pebbly road; shoeless; miles from the closest Payless.

But pesky blisters are actually a good thing. They are formed from lymphatic fluids to protect the skin beneath.

Just let the bubble be. Let it do its job. Roll with it.

“But it hurts,” my heart whimpers, child-like.

I tell it: “Roll, softly, anyway.”

Retreat, re-enter, unfold

May 19, 2011 § 3 Comments

You know how the day after Christmas or your birthday can feel like a big, fat let-down?

For days, weeks, often months in advance, you make wish-lists, shop, decorate, plan, primp, fuss, prepare. Then it’s suddenly over – done and past – and the plain, old next day somehow feels empty, anti-climactic, wayward.

This is not how I felt after last weekend’s retreat.

In its lead-up, the two-day yoga getaway at River Lodge kept me happily planning, organizing and busy in my test kitchen for several weeks. My guests said they’d counted sleeps to the much-needed time away to relax, rest, reconnect and come home to their practice.

The weekend came and went – delightfully – and now we’ve all gone back to our jobs, families, challenges, stresses and unfinished business.

But it didn’t end. Something began.

As unambiguously as a short, green sprout pushing its way out through the muck, something grew.

It is growing inside of me, and I can only speak for myself, but if the joy and ease with which this motley group came together and gelled in under 48 hours is any indication, then I suspect, as I write this, that it’s growing inside them too.

It’s magical; sharing a space with others who are reaching out – and reaching deep within – to commune with the world – and themselves – more authentically.

I feel honoured and overjoyed to have waded a mile or two, heart-deep, together.

Life is busy. Pain, stress and loneliness are rampant. People build armour to protect themselves and many of us live shields-up just to survive. But to thrive, takes risk, vulnerability; a vision or faith in … more.

When we are open and unguarded with our hearts, then love can truly flow forth and nourish us. And it is this love, whispered and echoing through our cells, that cradles and carries us into the Great Unknown of each breath, each moment.

When I close my eyes, and look inward, I can hear it singing me home.

This sweet song is gallant green, filled with sunshine, blue skies, bright buds and the unparalleled beauty of unfolding.

Flickr Photos of the weekend

Escape to Here

April 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

If you do a Google search for “escape to here”  you do not, ironically, find a picture of the place you are.

Instead, you are invariably flooded with images of some paradise or other with palm trees; or an endless menu of other-worldly commercial hideaways and accommodations, both decadent and inviting; or drool-worthy real-estate listings for multi-million-dollar single-dwelling island properties that you can’t afford.

The Great Escape, sub-text says, is away from Everything, Everyone, and Everywhere.

So, basically, the poor people of India and China, living in cramped countries with populations into the billions, are totally screwed.

Even in North America, where plenty of land, bordered by white picket fences, abounds – we’ve been altogether Nimby-cized. And “Not-In-My-Back-yard” is often still too close for many people’s comfort.

I am not an island. You are not an island. But in this day and age, how many of us, some days … most days, even maybe? …  wouldn’t just LOVE to escape alone (or maybe with just one or two of our favourite peeps) to a tiny mass in the middle of the sea that we could call our own?

We crave peace, solitude and quiet – and, yet, so often we run from it. Like agile predator and prey, we scramble to escape the moment – getting lost in a crowd, paperwork, video games, television, love affairs, drugs, compulsive worry, regret, fantasy, fear and self-loathing … and we don’t even need to run away to Las Vegas to do it! (Although many people do.)

If you are not Here – you are Nowhere.

But the great thing, is that in any moment or in any milli-second of your life, you can instantly travel from No-where to Now-Here. But you have to make the conscious choice – again, and again, and again. No vacations from the Now EVER pretty much guarantees the best stay possible!

And whoever thinks time-travel is impossible obviously hasn’t yet explored the well-worn wormholes inside virtually every human heart and psyche. We’re shape-shifters, time travelers and escape artists, all rolled into one.

Here, Now, right where you are … without changing a thing or spending a pretty penny … is really where it’s at. Isn’t that cool?!

So I think the real Grand Escape, my friends, is the death-defying escape back to Here.

Make peace with the moment – and it will set you free! No passport required.

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