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.


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?!

Behind the mask

June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ever stopped, during that almost imperceptible pause between your inhale and exhale, and just for a sec, caught a peak at yourself?

I mean the Real You. Not your ideas about how or who you are; nor your notions of how others see you, or imagine you to be.

You know: the full, unabridged, unfiltered, raw, wild, pure, essence that’s you – a totality far greater than all of its constituent blood, bones, consciousness, blooms, scars, unopened buds, thoughts, feelings, philosophers, faith. Emptiness.

The you on the toilet … in that split-second after waking up … on the other side of a closed door … as a sun sets … or while watching credits roll at the end of a movie before house lights go up.

That guy or girl you see staring back at you from behind a mask; the all-knowing unmask-able eyes that call you Home.

You hear – a strangely familiar soundless voice – and before you can think a thought, speak a word, or even exhale …

You just are; seamlessly. Kansas.

Read more @YegNews

Happy 101

June 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Happiness is not happenstance.

It’s a conscious choice, an attitude, a practice, a way of being in the world.

And anything worth doing is, usually, a little more difficult.

For example, it’s hard to be super-elated and grateful during the low times. I know, ’cause I’m wading through the muck of a separation. I won’t dredge you through the drama or details … but I do have to say, that if you put in a little effort, you’ll find lovely bits of joy and grace everywhere.

I am looking for lotus flowers, ’cause I hear they thrive in dung heeps.



Take the rain, for instance: Isn’t it beautiful how so much grey can give rise to so much green? Last weekend a girlfriend and I went to see the new Woody Allen flick Midnight in Paris at the Garneau. I was wearing a blue-and-white knit beret for the occasion. (Mais, oui!) It was raining and I didn’t have an umbrella. I don’t own an umbrella. And I don’t ever intend to.

A stroll in the rain is oh-so-Parisian. The puddles and showers are a cool summer soak for your sandalled tootsies. A torrential downpour sweetens sadness.


So does friendship. If you let good people get close to you, they are usually there when you really need them. It’s so simple, but exquisite. You don’t have to be alone, unless you want to be.

The love I’ve received recently in the wide-open arms of my own make-shift Ya-Ya Sisterhood is like ‘some kind of duck’ cuddling up in the swells of a heaving Atlantic. Not my analogy. Wish it was. It’s from the amazing poem The Little Duck by Donald C. Babcock, which appeared in the New Yorker on Oct 4, 1947.

So I guess the moral of the story is: when life sucks, bob like a duck in Earth’s bathtub – and you’ll be peachier than keen. And clean.



Sweet solitude can’t be replaced by a stadium full of Ya-Yas. We can reach out to others to help ease the burden, but unhappiness is a pain that you cannot give away. My dad told me that. Isn’t he smart? Our pain is all ours –  and it sticks around, whether we face it, or not. Don’t let pain harden and set before dealing with it. Denial and avoidance can eat up days, months, years.

“Understanding and self-acceptance are the way to real happiness,” says guru-papa.

Sit with your pain while it’s still soft, if you can. You can.

And have faith in sunshine.

Salvador Dalí, Woman at the Window (Muchacha en la ventana), 1925

Magic moments

May 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

This Hail to Kale Salad is so good … I could cry.

Nothing like replenishing your Vitta-mins and crawling back on the health & balance bandwagon, especially after a few too many Hail Caesars the night before.

Nothing like a good garage sale – or three – on a bummed-out Friday afternoon, beating the after-work rummage crowds to the best, used loot.

Ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha.

I found a big $1 old-school chalkboard at a garage sale that had the words “I love my family,” etched by a child’s hand into its wooden frame. Got a little misty.

Also bought two old, beaten wood vintage crates for five bucks a piece that I plan to fix up and stain, then use for flowers or magazines.

Projects. Holy Mother of Martha Stewart … I love projects. And projects love me; I know, because I feel the love – and lose myself in gluing, sanding, painting, planting; emptying, the love floods in and bathes and licks my wounds like a sweet, loyal puppy.

Love the love. And love those little laughs, light moments, random joys that pop up unexpectedly in your dark day – like the one I had at my expense this morning at the gas station:


Domo Attendant: Good morning. What will it be?

Jenn: (Sleepily) Can you fill it up halfway? (Yup. Halfway)

Domo attendant: I’m sorry, I can’t do that. (Bemused smile).

Jenn: (Looking a little stunned, as the blinds go up.) Right. Okay.  (To self: It’s not like you can see inside my tank … and know how much is in there!) … so… could you put in … uh … about $20?

Domo attendant: (Smiling, and starting to double over laughing): That, I can do! (Running with the joke, while gassing up) … Yeah, it’s not like I’ve got x-ray vision or something … like I know how much gas is already there ….

Jenn: oh-my-God … that’s so funny … total blonde moment … bet you’ll enjoy telling that one to people today;)


To me, it was priceless. Laughed until … I cried. Magic moments like this make everything okay  …  if for a moment or two.

Today, wrote on my new, old chalkboard this William Blake quote: “He who kisses the joy as it flies lives in eternity’s sunrise.”

Disembodied voice: “And a moment or two are no small thing, Chicken Wing.” (In case you’re wondering, that’s my “Highest Self” talking; she likes to call me “Chicken Wing.” Don’t ask.)

As I drove away, with a full tank, I took a sip of my giant two-litre Gatorade and, as I glanced in the rear-view mirror, I caught  a glimpse of a sparkly, wet glimmer in Domo Girl’s eyes too.

Here’s the thing…

May 26, 2011 § 5 Comments

Happiness… is paved with some kinda hybrid mix of poly aggregate filling, that some people might be tempted to call waste. But it’s not waste; it’s just part of the mix, part of the cycle – or recycling of things. Other people might call it karma, or the sum total of our (best and worst) choices.

That would be responsible. And green.

No. Happiness … if I’m really honest with my self… and true to the nature of this project – called My Life – is not glamorous or idyllic, in the least.

For better or worse (as the vow goes) the noble pursuit of  … whatever you think that might be …. is paved with no finite dose of socially awkward, unacceptable unhappiness. You’re just happier when you can admit it.

There are imperfections in (most) diamonds, as sparkly as the naked eye can see. Polish is just polish. The raw constitution of a gem can’t help but consist of its past and essential nature. The future of a diamond, on the other hand, is always up for a debate.

Today is not a good day. There, I said it.  I wouldn’t burden a check-out clerk or a casual acquaintance with the conversation-killing truth that I am not “fine.” But to you, dear reader, whoever you are, I couldn’t pose and posture on this one, even if it were positively in vogue.

I am unapologetically unhappy. And the clouds aren’t helping matters. This is not a pity party. It’s just the truth. A door is closing, and – thank god – a window is supposed to be opening.

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

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