Farewell Valentines Day

September 2009 to March 2010-18

It’s one day after the love fest of February 14. My better half was away at work this week. It was for the best. My peri-menopausal hell decided to torture me with a wakeful sleep, so I was up at 4:00 am making heart-shaped gingerbread cookies. Later that morning I dropped off cookie care packages for the neighbors, and my sister and her family. My last stop was my daughter’s house to see the grand-girls. It was the highlight of my day. Kids can always make a person feel special. It’s the way their faces light up when they see you. It’s how their little legs sprint forward to greet you. It’s the best moment in the world when they complete their connection to you and leap into your arms squeezing so tight. Wow! That moment in time is an exploding firecracker of joy in the heart.

After partaking in a great deal of playing horsey and talking figurines, I went home. The rest of my Valentines Day was an orgy of leftovers by the light of my computer watching a romantic movie. I trusted the movie’s rating of 71% inspiring to view by rotten tomatoes. It was a 99-cent movie. I didn’t want to rent a full priced movie for only one set of eyes. My tendency to be frugal has recently been intensified due to the tax burden. After watching it, I decided 99 cents is how much it cost to produce it. The show was a total dud. I found myself wishing for a spring house fly to hatch, so I had something more entertaining to watch. There was more drama in my morning bowel movement than there was in the entire movie. I know, I shouldn’t complain. At least I have a computer. I could have shut it off. But I spent a whole .99 cents on that movie and I needed to see it through. IT’s money. I could have bought a can of vegetables, or can of tomato paste with those 99 cents. I suppose I could have purchased something else at the dollar store, but since I boycotted China, I don’t shop there anymore.

Anyway, I hope your Valentines Day consisted of at least one exploding firecracker moment in the heart. And I trust it wasn’t a heart attack, and it’s love.

Fresh Start

September 2009 to March 2010-76

Welcome 2018

Screech! I hope this isn’t a sound you hear this year, with the exception of driving of course. You want to hear a healthy screech when you slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a pet, or a child, or three adolescent lynxes running across the road. Oh, and maybe an adult human, I guess you might want to brake for an adult  human too. Unless you’re an asshole, and then all bets are off. What I am trying to say in a rambling sort of way is stop hitting the brake pedal on your dreams. Ignore the hesitation within yourself. Smash the desire to toss those bright and shiny dreams in the garbage just because they might be hard to accomplish.

Seriously though, this is your fresh start. Begin. Make your wishes a priority. Do you want to travel? Maybe you can’t do it today, but you can start by planning for it today. Is it the cost of travelling which is stopping you? Begin by budgeting your money, read blogs and articles on how to save money, buy stuff at a second hand store, shop the deals in a grocery flyer, and cook your own meals. There are infinite ways to tighten ye ole purse strings.

Maybe this year is the year to lose the extra jiggle on your middle? It’s probably the number one New Years promise (lie). And do you know why people fail? It’s because they cut out everything they enjoy doing and eating on January 1 and replace it with gut wrenching gym programs, and tasteless food you need to chew for an hour before swallowing. The reason people can’t make it past week three of the program is because they are pure misery and still have the jiggle. Not only that, but they are feeling unsupported because their significant other is MIA. What they don’t realize is their significant other is probably hiding in the closet or under the couch. They are avoiding the swoosh of the fun Dracula which sweeps in when you enter the room. Please, for the happiness of those people around you, go slowly into the big life changes. The only thing shock starts are good for, are for jolting your heart when it stops beating. Begin your get fit program with a fifteen minute work out and build up to an hour. Change your diet a little at a time. Wean yourself slowly off the sugars, fats, and breads and gently incorporate healthier food choices. Have one food cheat day, and one exercise free day once a week. Be nice to yourself, changing your body takes time, tiny steps evolve into going the distance with less discomfort. And lets be honest, most people don’t enjoy discomfort.

Maybe this year you are dreaming of a gershnoskel upgrade? Maybe you have one of those snot collectors which have begun to look a little lumpy in a mushroomy sort of way, or it sweeps everything off a shelf when you turn around. If it bothers you fix it. There are people who are trained to deal with the genetic whoopsies in our personal form. Maybe this is the year of the nose job?

As you endeavour to change yourself this year don’t forget you have the ability to change the world as well. Recycle, buy local when you can, and if you can’t purchase something you need locally then please consider what type of country you are supporting with your money. Continuing to purchase “Made in China” products supports human rights violations, suppression of human expression, and death sentences for those people who dare to challenge the injustices in their country. I am so grateful to live in a country where I am free.

Whatever you choose for yourself in 2018, I wish you the most honest effort. I wish you foot off the brakes oodles of dedication. I wish you the simplicity of kindness towards yourself and then towards others. It is an important practice as you’ll soon discover travelling to your dream destination. On the plane they will inform you it is necessary to put on your own oxygen mask first before you are able to help others. This is often the case in life. Your dreams are personal. If you are focused — Anything is possible. All you have to do is to commit.

Have a blow your mind, bloody amazing New Year!

Your Christmas Wake Up Call

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I slapped her hard across the face.

The sound echoed with a satisfying smack.

I wanted to see the fog lift from her, to see her sunlit eyes glisten with awareness once more.

Her eyes watered,

I don’t know exactly what I was hoping for— I did it out of desperation.

Maybe it was clarity?

I needed to see a realization that she understood without participation we are all doomed to die.

Not just one, but all— all the picture perfect babies with their soft sweet features, each shielded by their own skin of different shades of color.

Born into our arms of care.

Doomed to die,

All the children, our most beloved representation of affection and celebration of life.

All of our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandmas and grandpas.

We, as supposed civilized beings sit busily clicking on our computers and phones consumed by consumerism, ignoring the Earths signs of distress.

Who can see that the complete and utter extinction of a species has begun?

Click, buy a second TV, click purchase another piece of clothing, click, click, click,

The sounds of humans eating up the Earth

People— complex organisms torn between love and hate, creation and destruction, greed and generosity, sickness and health, fear and security, war and peace, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain,

An unwittingly apathetic mortal too self focused to see the unraveling.

I’m not sorry I slapped you,

Give your head a shake, wake up.

We cannot afford to pretend anymore.

Just because we had yesterday and today doesn’t mean we automatically get tomorrow,

Our lives are far from a Hallmark movie,

We need to think beyond the sparkle and shine of our lives, and really understand who we are supporting with our existence.

To whom does our money go?

And what are we supporting with that buying choice?

If we don’t change the way we purchase and consume, soon—

Click, click, click,

Sorry kids

We are close to our expiration date.

I’m usually such a jolly elf, but there comes a time for serious action, and that time is now. Please read, How Humans Are Driving The Sixth Mass Extinction.

Best Road Ever

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Right or Left?

Fasten your seatbelts and take a moment to tumble into this line from Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken’,

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—“

In the past I have finished this sentence by cavorting along the path of life tossing confetti into the air and watching it fall around me. I confess to chasing small forest creatures into the bush and losing my way. Today I realize I am at a fork in my road. And I really hope I don’t fork this up. This year I decided to forgo flitting down the trail and becoming distracted by things such as the light filtering through the trees. I decided I am picking my path with purpose. No more darting off into the trees to chase squirrels for me. I think I may have been a Canadian cur in a previous life.

How about you? Do you have insight as to why you choose the road you’re currently on? Do you stay focused on your route ahead? Do you believe the choices before you are vast and open? I hope you can recognize your potential and brilliance.

You are unlimited.

Continue moving forward, one foot in front of the other, pause to catch your breath, do a little cha cha cha, and keep going. A sure fire strategy to fulfilling your aspirations is to keep travelling. Maybe there will be more forks in your road? No worries take a break consider your options and go. Refuse to halt your progress, balk at becoming a stagnant pool of decomposing sludge. Sometimes fear will whisper in your ear, “Stop, you’re making a fool of yourself. The only thing ahead of you is ridicule and failure. Don’t listen, return your focus to your goals. Move! Dance along the road of existence with a smile on your face. You know where you are going. Simply wrap yourself in the clothing of possibility for the journey. As you continue forward, you will soon find the momentum of your decision will carry you into your future with ease.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—”

Purchase With Your Heart

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It’s stunning; a human being has such a grand capacity to love, and yet a grand capacity to turn a blind eye when it’s uncomfortable. Human organ trafficking in China is one of those things. Despite all of our world’s brilliant technological advances it has done little to foster love and respect for our fellow mankind. In China, it seems supplying organs for a price is a convenient way to get rid of troublemakers and make a quick buck on the side. Maybe it sounds like I’m taking this lightly, but believe me I am physically ill and emotionally beside myself with disgust and sadness. How can this happen?

When this issue first came to light years ago, China denied it happened, and then when an overwhelming amount of facts supporting the claims surfaced they admitted it does happen, and then China quickly promised it would be handled. Recently more evidence has come to light that nothing has changed. The answers from China flow from yes to no depending on the amount of corroboration that exists to prove the organ transplants from unwilling donors continue. For all intensive purposes, bloody money isn’t something the Chinese government would voluntarily announce to the world. They are a savvy business people. They have their fingers in the business pies of most every country in the world.

When I first read the article The Reality Of Organ Harvesting in China , I felt nauseated. How can slaughtering people for their organs go on in this day and age? Most of the organs are harvested from prisoners of conscience, the Falun Gong , Tibetan, Uyghur, and select House Christians. Can you imagine being slaughtered for body parts simply because you hold different religious and political views than your government? I’d be dead by now. This sounds like something out of a science fiction horror novel. Yet it is happening.

Maybe you’re asking yourself, but what can we do? Well, I finally decided to stop buying products made in China. I’d seen the boycott China logo elsewhere, and I had already been humming and hawing about no longer purchasing from China due to their low quality items with the big ticket pollution tag. Did you know China tops WHO list for deadly outdoor air pollution, and 70% of their own companies break their own environmental standards. It’s not a place I want to support, but I’ll tell you, it’s tough not to buy from China. They have their fingerprint on almost everything. However, I will persist and find alternatives, learning of the forced organ donations is enough of an incentive for me to give China the middle finger. You get no more money from me— Sorry kids no more toys for you.

Let your dollars speak for you, pay for quality, pay to ensure people are treated with respect, and pay for the knowledge that factories are up to environmental standards regarding industrial waste and emissions. Don’t you want to know your product came from a country that had the Earths and peoples best interests at heart? We cannot regulate factories owned by another country halfway across the world but we can at home.

At this point I ask — Where are all these wealthy people who were protesting North American pollution? Why don’t they put their money where their mouth is and invest in caring for people with positive, well-paid work environments, and Earth friendly factories instead of protesting? You have the financial means to really make a difference. You will never be remembered by the amount of money you have— You will be remembered by what you did. Go make a difference, and then you can have verbal diarrhea about dirty polluting North American companies.

North Americans are magnificently practiced at having dramatic rant and raves about injustice. Now is a great time to put your money where your mouth is, and I’m not asking you to give it away. I am simply asking you to consider where your money is going. Is it going to a country which abuses it’s people, or empowers people? We can be the difference. Just think, one voice is a whisper, but many are a scream. Our voice is our purchasing power—Boycott made in China.

Consider Your Inner Monster

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We are each unwittingly our own rendition of Frankenstein. Maybe not physically, as the lumbering beast created with a multitude of mismatched body parts, but more so on the inside. Right from our tender beginnings, we are tailored into following, and adopting a mad scientists dogma and an Igor’s opinion as a guidebook for our lives. If we could only look in a mirror and see our inner selves we would acknowledge we are looking at scraps of philosophies and pieces of beliefs taken from this body and that body until we are nothing but a collection of others. We are without a doubt, a psychological representation of Frankenstein. The question I ask is, how do we redesign ourselves into a happier Frankenstein?

As Frankensteins, our personal patterns for functioning began from the first moment we were sparked to life. The bright light of the new world overwhelmed us, and we cried or howled aloud. Our first thoughts were tailored by our creators, parents, or caregivers. Then in a dreamlike state our friends, school, social media, co-workers, partners and news clips inserted little slivers and snippets of dogma into our internal structure. These soundbites either strengthened or loosened our stitching that bound our core beliefs. We were oblivious. While we were chained down upon our sleeping racks our subconscious wielded filaments of questionable knowledge like threadzilla. Sharp points ripped in and out of our patchwork of understanding inserting abstract information. Suddenly a thunderbolt cracked and our eyes jerked open. We were shocked to learn a positive change in ourselves could only happen when we were awake. Now we can view our  hodgepodge mess clearly chose the pieces we’d like to stitch into our Frankenstein self and those we’d like to tear out. This is our time. This is when we create our monstrously magnificent destiny— Mwah,ha,ha,ha.

The first giant step in a monster overhaul is to cut the crap and figure out what sort of beast we truly are and how it all transpired. We begin searching our past with microscopic detail. We ruminate on the origin of our fragmented parts and dissect the impact they had on our capabilities. The next step is to examine those parts of ourselves containing warning labels. Do not trundle close to other Frankensteins, they might smell your right elbow that’s starting to go off. Do not tryout for the Catch the Sheep team, you arise from a long line of lumbering creatures and your knees are an unmatched set. Or worse yet you may have been told by your parent, “Frankie, your teacher, Mrs. Lightning Bolt informed me that you’ve been playing with the werewolf pack. Is that true? You must stay with your own kind. They are freakin trouble, they are always ripping out other creatures stitches.” Or maybe you were instructed to shove everyone else out of your way on the trek to the voltage meter so you would be the first to arrive.  Or perhaps you were mistakenly told nobody was going to give you an eyeball, so you’d better damn well snatch one for yourself. Seriously monsters— To become the Frankenstein we want to be we must study the raising up we received.

So, who are we? Maybe we feel weighed down by an inappropriate choice of feet even though they came highly recommended. How about we simply use the instruments we have on hand to exchange them? Easy peasy, it’s called active-thinking my Frankenstein friends. And how are we progressing on a social level? Are we playing well with others, like vampires, werewolves and transfrankensteins? Recognizing that we are not responsible for capturing and fixing anyone else will go a long way in maintaining healthy relationships. Changing the way we operate in life won’t be an evening stroll in the moonlight, expect growing pains. The discomfort might even give new meaning to the phrase, it’s no skin off my back. Because in all truthfullness, transforming might require just that. It’s essential to recognize our built-in tendencies, and for us to triumph adjustments will have to be made. Be prepared to snip out a putrid patch of dogma in one place and sew a new plot in its place. Make no mistake, the whole process will be exhausting, possibly even backbreaking. But let’s face it, our backbones can be the most limiting factor in our ability to move through our current circumstances. Leave the fear to the villagers fellow Frankie— cut and sew baby— cut and sew.

After completing the final nips and tucks of our new design, we need to survey our stitching and check our extremities. Do we feel complete? Have we given Igor, and all the mad scientists in our lives their walking papers? Now allwe need is a few cosmic pointers to keep our heads held high in their proper place, well, besides the bolts of course. There are only a few rules to follow. Number one is — a seam ripper is a tool for our fingers only, don’t overindulge in spirits and loosely hand it off to somebody else for a try. We all know sharing is caring but not in this instance. We need to be our own best mad scientist. Rule number two is that our stitching is quality. We don’t need fancy pants sewing, ours does the same job as everyone else’s— stop comparing. And the third rule is, for the Mother of Pete we must attach a smile on our faces, pull our shoulders back and limber up our joints, nobody wants to meet a dark lumbering presence on the walk of life. Have some confidence, remember we are one of a kind. And if is is screaming like a banshee for confirmation on our successful transformation into a joyful Frankenstein all we need to do is observe how others respond to us. Are they moving towards us with a smile?— Or with a pitchfork?

Have Your Best Christmas Ever

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How are your Christmas preparations coming along? Between shopping and social obligations, a satisfying Christmas for the introvert can quickly deflate into a limp nob of disappointment during the orgy of holiday festivities. Let me ask you? Are you beginning to feel like you are fishing a dead pond for the energy to ignore the repetitive casting of Christmas consumerism? Are you one breath away from taking a punch at the next person, or advertisement that aggressively tosses you a sales pitch for yet another item you don’t really need? I’ll tell you what? The whole idea of dealing with the Christmas mobs at the mall only puts me in a festive mood for a brawl. Oh wait, a brawl is for the extrovert. The large box in the corner with flaps still on the top so I can hide in darkness is much more to my liking, toss in a cinnamon tea, and a book with a reading lamp, and I’m jimjam jolly. A word to the wise— If you’re an introvert, support your inner tendencies by shopping on-line.

The Christmas frivolities are a whole different story. Social gatherings with people I hardly know is a dead man walking way to shoot my introverted inclinations into overdrive. Why are there so many social gatherings throughout the holiday season? Can’t we spread them out over the year? Attending gatherings with no curtains to hide behind, and no empty boxes to jump into is a clearcut trail to exceeding my alcohol limit. From then on things are certain to go badly. It generally results in dancing like no one is watching— never pretty. Or it creates an opportunity for a bonding episode with the bosses wife, becoming in my mind at least #besties forever. Both regrettable actions promptly concluded with a bile driving night sleeping on a merry-go-round bed. This year I’m thinking of trying that multipurpose medical shrub with the buds instead of alcohol. What do they call it? Oh yeah, Lucifer’s lettuce, anxiety relief for some, salvation for introverts forced to socialize in large crowds. What do you want for Christmas? A bag of Cheech n Chong weed please and thanks, enough to get me through the holidays including New Years.

Seriously though, why are you celebrating Christmas this year? Are you religious? Or are you like myself and has it become more of a tradition? I know, horrors! I shouldn’t practice Christmas if I am not religious. Right? Wrong, thankfully I live in a free country and I can practice what I like as long as it doesn’t involve keeping anyone captive. Except for my audience— I have a deep dark desire to keep you.

So although I may not put a baby in the manger, I do enthusiastically admit to believing in good will toward mankind, peace on Earth, and condoms for all who need them. I also wish everyone the open heartedness to appreciate both the wondrous people, and not so wondrous people in their lives, because I believe everyone has value. (Sorry Trudeau. I may have given you the impression in the past that I wish you ill, but I don’t I just wish you would attempt another line of work.) I am on my knees hopeful that everyone finds gratitude for our Earth this year. It is the soul reason we have a body; we would not exist without the nutrients and air our Earth provides for our very existence.

This holiday season I wish all of you, the bliss of brisk walks along glistening winter trails, magical snowfalls, and rosy cheeks. I hope you can marvel at the sound of children’s giggles, and are in the vicinity to adore their sparkling eyes of wonder as they sit under the glowing Christmas tree. And may you all, even us introverts, delight in the comfort of companionship, as well as quiet reflective moments to appreciate all we are, and all we have been blessed with throughout the year.

Dealing With Depression

September 2009 to March 2010-18

The heaviness is daunting; your body weighs more than it should, even if you’re the size of a twig. The effort to accomplish anything in your day is like wading through chest deep water to get it done. You pretend to be fine but your emotions range from sad to numb. Hope is far from your heart, you think it is a magical feeling at the end of someone else’s rainbow. You wonder why you can’t rise up out of this dark funk. There must be something seriously wrong with you. Some fatal flaw, and if anyone sees it— they will walk away, and you will be even more alone than you already feel.

I’ve been there, on the edge of actually living, in the deep depths of personal anguish. It’s not something easily shared. It can be hidden from everyone who loves you. It’s both frightening and amazing that even as you toy with the idea of ending it all— no one knows.

Addiction and mental illness runs strongly through my bloodlines on both sides. So I am a well-bred pony for running the distance with alcoholism, depression, and bi-polar. I experienced depression on and off in my life. Thankfully I am well now and throughout my years of struggle with this very private affliction I discovered essential practices that hastened my healing dramatically.

Step one is to seek professional help. If you are reluctant to do so because you fear the stigma or other reasons, then try the steps I have listed below, they can be effective for mild depression. However, if you commit to the following steps and they do not help please, please, seek professional guidance.

Step two is by far the most important self-help step; this is like making sure you put on a seatbelt before you go on a roller coaster ride. Practice appreciation; find the time to feel reverence for life each and everyday. I understand the walls you have built up inside yourself might not allow the feeling of appreciation to get through at first, so practice on small things. Maybe a dazzling butterfly that landed in your garden? Or the sunlight shining down through the grey clouds? Maybe observe the perfection of the tiny fingernails on a baby’s hand? Or become mesmerized by the soft curved eyelashes on a sleeping toddlers face? The point here, is to try and find love and appreciation for something that opens your heart. If you begin to feel the positive flow of love and appreciation extend it to yourself. Then expand it to include other people, moments, and things. It can be a two-minute practice a few times a day. Or a longer practice once a day. The trick is to get your mind moving out of the negative thought patterns that inundate you when you are depressed. I came across a video on you tube quite a few years ago and if you are having troubles opening your heart to appreciation it may bring aid. You might need a Kleenex box beside you when you watch it, A good day with Brother David Steindl-Rast. (click on A good day and Shazam you’re at the video)

Step three is to withdraw from the news, and any sort of TV shows encouraging judgement of others. When we are depressed all we hear is our own negative judgement on ourselves and on our lives. Hearing judgement of others and seeing it on TV just reinforces our dark side if you will.

Step four is to engage in some type of exercise. Again, I realize this isn’t an easy task because the last thing you feel like doing when you are walking through water chest deep everyday is to exercise. Trust me and do it anyway, maybe go swimming; you’re in the water anyway. It will help. I promise. You don’t need to spend hours at the gym. Start slowly— ten minutes a day, five minutes? Whatever? Just do something and then increase the time you do it every few days.

Step five is to buy a herbal cleanse, of course check with your health care provider to ensure it is compatible with anything else you might be taking. They might pooh pooh the whole idea but poop, pooping can be very good for you. Think about it this way, our intestines are like long lines of curved pipes, over our life they accumulate sludge and chemicals from the food we eat. Just like the pipes in the house, depending on what you put in them, the sludge will build up to the point of affecting the septic system. It’s the same with your body. A cleanse will loosen up the sludge and clear it out. The chemicals in the sludge could be contributing to the way you feel. I have one word of caution for you if you begin a cleanse— toilet. Stay close to a toilet during the first few days.

Step six is to watch your diet. I know– now you’re thinking this blog sucks, not only does she want me to exercise, quit watching TV and destroy my bathroom with a ridiculous amounts of pooping, now she wants me to diet! What a bitch! Yes, I can accept that. I actually want you to call me every rotten stinking name you have stored away in your hostile little heart. Get it all out. You can even call me the C word, and I hate that word more than Donald Trump himself. I just want you to feel better. I want you to find that spark inside your heart and tend to it until you have a roaring blaze of life inside you. So back to diet, it’s pretty basic, eat vegetables, fruit, protein, whole grains, healthy oils and fats like avocado oil, olive oil, grape seed oil and butter, limit your sugars, use NON-GMO when possible, and go ahead and cheat occasionally. However, when you cheat be prepared for the addictive nature of sugar, once you have the chocolate bar your going to want more, same with salty snacks. Being forewarned is forearmed against food craving attacks.

Step seven is to limit your contact with people who push you into the spiralling dark hole of hopelessness. If you are in a close relationship with them they will notice your absence. That means you might have to take a couple puffs of a big gagger and give it to them straight. If you can do it without the puffs, all the better, but it doesn’t mean you get to be nasty and accusatory. Just be firm, this is your life. Tell them like it is, you are working on getting well and you need some distance. Anyone who truly cares for you will support your decision.

Step eight is to keep a journal and write whatever you want in it, and then burn the pages when you are done. It is an emotionally purifying exercise where you can vent and then release the emotions by turning them to ash.

Step nine is to meditate, or practice Reiki, or Qui Gong, these practices allow for a positive frame of mind. They all aid in letting go of damaging beliefs. Research each and see which one appeals to you. I practice Reiki myself because I can easily access love and acceptance for myself within the practice. Meditation and Qui Gong are excellent as well, and there are many free practices to be found on YouTube.

Step ten is to unplug from technology period. No social media, no checking status or messages. Who’s more important to your survival? Other people or you? Go for a walk without your phone, listen to music, have an epsom salt bath, whatever, just please, find out how good it feels to unplug. It’ll be difficult at first but I know you can do this. People had no technology for hundreds of years and they were much happier for it. An hour a day away from electronics will not kill you. That’s my mama talking.

So go ahead and kick depressions butt, it doesn’t have to rule your world. You can change your outcome. You can find joy again. The only thing you have control of in this entire world is you. So get hopeful, and practice the steps which make you strong. You’ve got this lovely person.

It’s Free! Or Is It ?

 

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Underwater can be a magical place.

Building a bucket list is a rip snorting way to remind you to step out of your comfort zone. It tears your focus away from what is and leads you into the possibilities of what could be. It can bring an energizing reflection of where you’d like your life to go. Creating my own bucket list proved an elusive creature on my radar. However, my hubby, Rick nailed one down a while back and he had scuba diving listed as one of his targets. So while it wasn’t a prominent idea in my thoughts, the idea of pretending to be a fish and swimming along the bottom of the Caribbean waters did hold some appeal for me.

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Pictures from snorkelling in the Riviera Maya, my camera is only good for shallow water. These are two different types of grunt fish.

Sometimes opportunities pop up that can’t be ignored, an occasion such as this happened to crop up on a weeklong holiday in the Dominican. There we were skipping along, well maybe not skipping because Rick tends to look quite silly when he skips along. We were strolling along the tiled pool area and noticed a sign for a free introductory scuba diving lesson. The key word here is Free. It’s like a magnet for my Scottish blood, Aye Laddie, I’m cheaper than a two bit taco on Tuesday. It was like a sign from God, maybe not God, but I think his name was Jesus. Anyway we trotted down to the scuba shack, well, maybe we didn’t trot because Rick looks silly doing that too, we ambled down to the beach area to sign up for our FREE lesson. At this point I’m still feeling excited about our underwater adventure. I still think I can be as graceful as a fish gliding about the coral. I was about to realize I was a fish afraid of drowning.

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An absolutely stunning parrotfish.

Upon our arrival at the scuba shack the sales pitch began, and before we knew it we had committed to a four-day Open Water scuba diving Padi course. This was far from Free. Our actions automatically kicked my Scottish blood into internalized dialogue, “What are you doing you couple of bawheeds, now you’ve gotten yourself into a scunner, and for quite a pretty penny ya pair of numpties.”

“Hush up you cheap bastard. It’s a bargain for a notch in the bucket list belt.”  I defend replying to my Scottish side.

Check! There goes one item off of Rick’s list. After all, life is full of opportunities and shouldn’t we jump in with both feet and give it a go whenever possible? Side note- If you’re jumping in with your scuba gear on make sure to hold your mask and regulator on your face.

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A bluehead wrasse, simply gorgeous.

It shouldn’t have been such a trial for me, I do love the ocean and I enjoy snorkelling. But it was a trial. The first thing I learned during our pool dive is that I was freaking terrified. I had no faintheartedness about seeing sharks, stingrays, or puffer fish, or any of the other amazing underwater creatures that could potentially kill. I was terrified of not being able to breathe when I wanted to breathe. The cause of my excessive trepidation originated from my childhood, where all good fears tend to spring forth. As a childhood survivor of chronic bronchitis and pillow smothering, I was quite concerned about not being able to get my air. I love to inhale and exhale at will. I enjoy breathing through my nose. I am not a mouth breather and I do consider that a good thing. On the other hand it is a necessity to scuba dive.

Rick breezed through the scuba course like he was a fish disguised as a human. As for me, it proved trying at the best of times and on my final dive before certification I had a meltdown. Throughout the course I had continually shoved my fears into a little corner of my mind. It had been no easy task to keep myself in the Zen state of mind while diving in the deep blue yonder where oxygen does not exist as air. And although I admit to enjoying the magnificent undersea, there was never a second when I didn’t feel like the petrified prude of the diving world. I was forever counting down the seconds left to surface and having the freedom to pull the regulator from my mouth and breathe like a human.

On our last dive the instructor and ourselves followed the tag line downwards towards the ocean floor. Rick quickly equalized and arrived at the bottom. He took a knee in the sand observing his dawdling wife and impatient instructor through the crystalline water.

I recall following the dive line downwards and suddenly noticing the water pressure on my body feeling uncomfortably constrictive. I pause on the rope. My breath becomes shallow and rapid. I know I need to slow down my breathing, but I can’t seem to relax. My Zen space is gone and I am tossed into my fears. I stare at my instructor with wide eyes and give him the signal I’m going to the surface.

He snatches my arm and glares at me, giving me the slow down motion with his hand.

I shake my head in a negative way. His grip on my arm increases as does my feeling of being trapped. Panic sets in and masses of bubbles are released from my increasingly rapid breath. I break free of his grasp and head up to the open air. No worries about equalizing, I wasn’t far down.

As I pop to the surface I keep my mask and regulator on trying to find the calm I had achieved on previous dives.

The instructor arrives at the top and gives me his death glare. It was the one I had gotten used to seeing because he wasn’t the most patient instructor in the world.

He gave me the thumbs down motion indicating I should follow him back towards the bottom.

I shake my head vigorously making the hand tilting motion to indicate something is wrong. My heart is still squeezing out terrified beats and they reverberate inside my chest. I inhale with focused breath wrestling with my alarm.

My instructor tugs on my jacket style BCD (buoyancy control device) insistently trying to bring me down beneath the surface of the water.

Panic absconds with my thoughts; they are a troop of monkeys leaping through the trees running wild with fear. I can’t do this. I hate the water pressure squeezing my body— I hate the thin dry air through my regulator— I hate breathing through my mouth. I’m a nose breather goddammit! I feel like I’m suffocating. I could die.

I smack his grappling hand off of my BCD jacket. I bob with the waves. I stare at him through my mask with immense eyes meeting his daunting gaze. I pull the regulator from my mouth, “No. I’m not going down. I can’t do this. I can’t breathe.” I gasp. I know it seems ridiculous to him. I’d already done three dives, four including the pool training. I was almost done my certification. He could see I was going to quit on him. He saw a skinnier wallet. All I saw was a potential watery grave, and yes I’m being dramatic, but fear tends to exacerbate emotions.

He pulls his regulator out and said, “But it’s so beautiful down there, you have to see it.” He grabs my arm again.

I growl, “Let go of me. Stop frickin grabbing me. Just give me one second, and I’ll try again. But don’t grab me again.”

He raises both hands to surrender.

It takes a couple minutes but I manage to recollect myself. We drop down to join Rick on the dive. It is a paradise below indeed.

We both got our certification, (mine questionably) and Rick checked an item off his bucket list. We’ve done more diving since, and I really have come to relax into it and enjoy it. But there are moments, times when it’s been too long since my last dive and my anxiety displays it’s dreadful grip. It’s one of those life choices where you just have to calm down and kick fear in the face.

I think it’s my turn to check something off my bucket list. What are you terrified of doing dear husband?

Swing Through

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Our Gramps made us a tire swing in the heart space between several old trees. The ancient poplars towered over us with white trunks and wrinkled limbs. They were a steadfast audience observing of our joy,  and the leaves applauded our play. These deeply rooted towers of living wood shadowed our eyes from the larger world. They enabled swings of limited height keeping us humble in our own right.

The trees, the swing, and our time within them brought us into the realms of peaceful delight. We held no worries other than the roughness of the rope causing calluses on our fingers and palms, and the odd bruises on our limbs at the occasional tumble to the ground.

It was years ago, and the memory still brings a smile to my lips. I fully appreciate those days with the trees, the swing, and the younger me. In those days of long ago we naturally stayed present in the moment, time had no meaning as we swiftly swung downwards feeling the wind lift the hair from the nape of our necks. We didn’t care what happened around us, our hands were fists around the rope when we hit the top of our swing, and we reveled in the blissful hang time right before we flew back down with our stomach in our throats. Those were the best of times, the times we lived in the moment.

As kids we could never swing the entire day, but those times of swinging stayed with us forever. If you’re older now and feeling overwhelmed, remember the simplicity of the swing, remember the freedom you felt. If you happen to be near a window or outside, look up at the sky, instead of your phone. Take a moment, a second, a minute and appreciate who you are, appreciate where you are. Simply rejoice in the lightness of being.