About 10 years ago, my husband and I ended up hosting a family friendly, impromptu New Year’s Eve party in our home. We had friends with kids, friends with no kids, and friends of friends just pop in and out throughout the night, and our annual event was born. During that first annual, a friend of friend and I were chatting in the library and he asked what I did for a living…
“Oh, I’m a Business Analyst for a large telecom company,” I responded.
“You know that means absolutely nothing, right?” he replied.
“Oh, I know that,” I surprised him (I think) with my response, “but I define the value of what I do by the fact that I make other people’s lives happier. The work I’m doing 9 to 5 doesn’t make the world a better place, but I make the work day better for the 200+ people that I support each and every day. And when their day is better, their experience with their customers, and therefore my company is better, and the health of my company continues, and we all get bonuses at the end of the year.”
He practically fell over himself to apologize and mitigate the insult of the way he responded to how I spent my 2500 hours a year.
That’s the average number of hours that a 9to5er works in a year.
I assured him it was okay because, I get it. I had often thought of the work that I did then, and I knew it had no worldly impact per se, besides being a part of the Canadian GDP. I often lamented, like most people, “What’s thepoint!?!” and I didn’t have an answer besides supporting my family. So, I learned to frame the work that I was doing in a way that brought value, a more intrinsic value than just my annual salary to those 2500 hours.
Having an impact.
It’s the one thing that’s motivated me most in my life. Whether it is with my family, my friends, my community, my chosen kin, the political discourse, my readers, or the organizations that I choose to work for and with. I want to have an impact.
In my last role, I did a little math before I left in late September of this year. Over the last (almost) three years that I worked there, I realized that I had commuted over 3200 hours.
That’s about 133 and 1/3 days.
That’s 3200 hours of either being on a VIA train, or driving along the 401, the busiest highway in the world. In. The. World.
It was exhausting, but I did it because I love the organization. I love their mandate, I love the impact that they continue to have on BHAGs, dissecting systems issues, and have had on the startup community, and the businesses that they’ve supported and helped launch and grow. Some truly, remarkable stories.
For me, what matters most is feeling valued, engaged and respected.
So, since I’ve moved on from that last place, I make every decision now based on where I’m going to find value in my next 3200 hours. Not just the work hours, but the hours that I spend commuting, volunteering and engaging with people all told.
What art will I create? What mandates will I support? What dialogue is worth my energy and my fight? Which companies have a culture that I can support ? Which people are authentic enough to stand alongside and get behind?
These questions matter the most.
As I get older, it becomes easier to decide where I spend my hours and my energy, because I know that I can’t do it all. What I can do is proffer my expertise, my experience, my knowledge and my passion to those that value it, respect it and want to engage with it. It really is that simple.
Our hours, all of our hours, are too few and precious. We shouldn’t spend those hours on bad books, too long commutes, dull TV, people who roll their eyes behind your back, work without value (whatever that value is to you), or those that suck the lifeblood out of everyone around them.
Six years ago, I went through a 10 day Vipassana silent meditation course. It was easily, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Not the silence mind you. That was easy. The hard part is sitting in your own emotional shit in meditation for 11+ hours a day. That shit, that shit is hard.
I learned many things from that experience; things have never left me (even if I’m not actively practising my meditation daily). One of the most important lessons I took away from those 10 days is that the bravest thing you can do, is be vulnerable. That shit is hard too.
Being open, honest, flawed, prone to judgment; an uncomfortable place for many of us. What I’ve experienced in my own life though, is that when I’m at my most vulnerable, I’ve felt the most loved, the most alive, and closer to who I am, right from my soul. Since that realization, Brené Brown’s work and writings have received massive exposure since her brilliant TEDx talk and subsequent appearances with Oprah, and I was so grateful to find someone who was able to articulate so well the experiences that I had had by embracing that modus operandi.
Last week, I spoke to a group of women at a Women in Communications and Technology event in Toronto. Speaking in public is nothing new for me, It’s something I enjoy, and I’m good at it. I spoke about how to#BeAYesWoman without saying yes to everything, about believing in your own value, and I shared a lot of personal stories about how I got to this place in my own life, both personally and professionally. What I wasn’t expecting was the response that I got from the audience after my talk.
Never before had I been received with so many hugs, and most surprisingly, tears. It was both touching and enlightening to me, that what I had shared was not only touching others emotionally, but inspiring them. And what was inspiring them? My bravery to be vulnerable. I shared some of my struggles, and doubts, and insecurities, and failings, and wins, and successes, and judgments, and…well, you’re getting the idea, I’m sure.
So, I had this idea. What if I actively tried to cultivate my mindfulness of sharing when I’m not at my best, but know better (of course, because we allknow better); when I’m petty, jealous, sad, insecure, needy, brazen, cocky, arrogant, assholish, any and all of the above? What if I helped myself, and others, by letting others know that they’re not alone? What if…? I love what ifs….
So, I’m going to post here my posts from Twitter and/or Facebook, and I’m going to update this page daily. They may be creative outlet attempts (like Day 1), or just observations (like Day 2), and I’ll expand on the intent or meaning behind the post.
I hope you’ll follow along on this experiment in vulnerability, and trust enough to share your own trials too. I promise, I won’t judge. I’ll just be here to listen…
May 1, 2014: Day 1
“You know those 100Days campaigns? I’m trying a new one, something that I’ve been saying & exploring for a while now. #100DaysofVulnerability. Today’s submission…finally breaking open the wonderfully, inspiring gift from Gabriella & sharing this masterpiece… “
My girlfriend Gabriella, once hosted an amazing night where she brought together a whole group of very different people that she knew and called it a Table of Inspiration. At the end of the night, she had a whole pile of wrapped gifts that we got to choose from and I ended up with642 Things To Draw. I’ve alwayswanted to be an “artist”, but have never felt that I had the talent to be one. I took a drawing class once at Homer Watson House & Galleryand the instructor said to me, “everyone can draw, we just don’t all try”, so here’s me trying.
May 2, 2014: Day 2
“Sometimes I’m competing with my sangha at yoga. And those days, my balance is a struggle. #100DaysofVulnerability”
I love Moksha Yoga, and I love my studio in Stratford, Ontario. It’s a safe place for me. Nonetheless, some days, I’m just a judgey little asshole. “I can sit deeper, I can twist further…”. It’s not how to be in a yoga class, I know that, and I too often look outside of me for validation of how I’m doing overall.
For nine years, I was a single mother, raising an inquisitive, bright daughter while I concurrently attempted to get a university degree and/or worked full-time. This meant that I was on duty, all the time. Rare breaks, constantly doing, and often overwhelmed. And some days, I sucked as a mother. I was short, curt, angry, reactive and my poor girl took the brunt of it because she was the only one in the room at the time. I learned early how to apologize to her, because I wanted her to know that I knew that my behaviour wasn’t who I wanted to be, and not what I wanted her to learn as acceptable either.
She used to say to me “it’s okay Mummy”, until I taught her very early on that if it was okay, then I wouldn’t be apologizing. So, in our house, when someone apologizes, we say “thank you for your apology” so that everyone’s integrity remains intact. My boys, who were born 12 years after their sister have learned the same lessons from me, because some days, I still suck as a mother.
May 4, 2014: Day 4
“Might as well try to drink the ocean with a spoon as argue with a lover.”
― Stephen King, The Drawing of the Three #100DaysofVulnerability
I remember reading this line about 27 years ago, and writing it down in my very stylish Daytimer back then. I’ve never forgotten it. And it still rings true. Some days, you’re able to resolve issues with your partner smartly, respectfully and intimately. And some days, not.
Growing up, I was always called “skin and bones”, “skeleton”, or “bone rack”. I was a tiny thing, always, and even did a stint drinking Ensure trying to put weight on. I was once in the mall with a friend who was struggling with anorexia. Her psychiatrist happened to see us and said to her afterwards, “Oh, I know why you hang out with that girl, she’s anorexic too.” I wasn’t, I was just naturally very svelte. After I had my daughter (at age 22), I weighed less 2 months after I had her than I had when I got pregnant with her. That all changed when I had my twin boys at 34. My body’s never returned to my pre-pregnancy weight, or look.
I know it’s not about the numbers; when I was at my most fit, I weighed the same as I do now, but I was much slimmer and fitter with an 11% body fat athletic build. What’s weird is having a body image issue for the first time at 44. Thing is of course, that I’m right in the healthy range for a person my height (5’9″), but I still struggle with not looking, and feeling a certain way.
May 6, 2014: Day 6
At 44 this is the 1st time I’ve ever worn dark nail polish, because my hands were never pretty enough.
I had a boyfriend once that asked me if I would consider wearing fake nails all the time. “Sure,” I said, “if you ‘d like to pay for them.” Shockingly, he didn’t want to do that.
I’ve never liked my hands, and never wore dark polish because I didn’t want to draw attention to them. My ring finger nail, when it grows a little, looks exactly like my father’s and my grandmother’s.
Good enough for me, really.
May 7, 2014: Day 7
Some days, you feel right on the mark. Some days, you feel like you’re spinning in circles. #100DaysofVulnerability
I’m in a new role at work. One that didn’t exist until I advocated for it, and then was given the opportunity to define it and frame it. Some days, I know I’m doing the right things; reading the right content, building my knowledge of the right industries and verticals, connecting with the right communities of people, learning from the right, bright minds.
And then somedays, I feel like it’s all there, in my head, and I’m not able to execute on any of it…yet.
I used to follow celeb tweeters so I could keep up on current events. It’s not worth the negative impact on my soul, and only feeds my very real FOMO problem.#100DaysofVulnerability
I suffer from FOMO, seriously. It’s one of the perilous infirms that us social media types suffer from. It’s why I have a veritable dashboard of social streams running on my desktop or second monitor at any given time.
When I teach people how to use Twitter, I often show them my lists and how I use them, including one titled “Celebrities”, which I refer to as my “brain-fart” list. I generally don’t follow celebs, unless of course they’re smart, funny people like Ricky Gervais or God, but I include the Perez Hilton and TMZ accounts in that list too. More and more, I’ve been eliminating these accounts from my purview. They’re essentially the basest of the human experience; trite, sexist, repugnant headlines, and lazy click bait content. I could go on.
The more I pay attention to where I’m expending my limited resource known as energy and attention, the more I know that I just can’t avail myself to this kind of shite any more. I can no longer stomach playing any kind of complicit role by following or liking these brand pages and accounts that profit from putting people down, or judging them, and basically preying on them. I just don’t want to play in that world any longer.
It’s still a bit of an addiction though. I’ve not turned it off entirely…yet.
I’m a designer. That’s the word I keep coming back to; my whole life. Now I need to learn the tools that’ll help me execute. #100daysofvulnerability
Years ago, I was going to see my psychotherapist in The ScotiaTower in Toronto. I was in the elevator and this man turned to me and said, “Artist!”, namely because I was wearing this beautiful hat that I’ve had for years. “No,” I responded, “Sales, actually”.
I’ve never really felt congruent with the professional titles that I’ve held (which is one of the reasons I titled myself ‘Curator of Dialogue’, and others (apparently) have seen that incongruency also.
As I get older, and continue on my path of learning, discovery and engagement, I’ve realized that the idea of the title “designer” is what speaks most clearly to me. Designing dialogues, relationships, connections, my living space, whatever it may be, I feel that that moniker fits my soul, even though I don’t have the typical skillsets that someone needs to be called a “designer”.
I can’t innately draw; I have to work at that. I can’t build a website; that takes great effort from me. I can’t build complex systems instantaneously, but I can design workflows and processes; I used to do that, and I did that well. Maybe those were my first steps into this new moniker? I’m on that trail of learning the skills and the tools that will let me fully own that title, but I’ve also decided to not wait until I have them all down pat before I use that title evermore. Why not now?
Tomorrow will be the tenth Mother’s Day without my Mum. I miss her more now than I did when she first passed. I empathize with her more, and I think, understand her a bit more too. I wish she knew that. #100DaysofVulnerability
My mother took her own life. Go ahead. Settle into that; I have. It’s never an easy conversation (mostly for others), and something that I wrote about a couple of years ago and recently posted on Medium on the day before Mother’s Day. I talk about it (or write about it) for a few reasons, but predominantly I think it’s important to have an open dialogue about mental health and suicide because I believe by doing so, we help take the stigma away from the whole experience and help either the sufferers or the remaining loved ones.
My Mum was an extraordinary person, and one day I’ll write her story for her. Even writing that sentence makes me cry a bit. I wish she were here to share her story herself. I wish she was here to be able to fill in some gaps of my knowledge, or help me understand who she was and what she went through.
As I get older, as my children grow, as my purview broadens as a mother and a woman I can certainly understand my mother more now than I ever did. That’s the beauty of aging and the wisdoms that come along with it. My sadness comes from wishing that I’d had this knowledge and insight when she was here. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.
May 11, 2014: Day 11
Today, I had no expectations, and was spoiled and treated with love, regard and patience and it was good. All good. #100DaysofVulnerability
Mother’s Day always has a tinge of sadness for me, and some years it’s been a struggle to just enjoy the day. This year was different for me. I was woken up with snuggles and cuddles and kisses, and then presented with all kinds of bits that make me happy…
I chose to have no expectations this year, and I was treated to a lovely, quiet day with my beautiful children, and my loving husband. It was a simple reminder of how much I have to be grateful for in my life.
It’s pretty simple for me. If I don’t feel connected to the work I’m doing, or the people that I’m working with, it just doesn’t work for me. I’m not one of those people that can fake that. It’s such an intrinsic motivator for me. I’m not driven by the almighty buck. I need to feel like I’m a part of something, and I like to feel that the people that I’m spending all my hours and energy with have my back, or in the least, care about my well-being and want the best for me.
It certainly doesn’t always happen that way. We all get along with or connect on a deeper level with some people more than others. And I don’t expect everyone to be my cheerleader, or celebrate my successes or accomplishments with me. But the day that I feel that I’m not a part of something, or that I’m not valued as part of a team, then that’s when I gotta go.
May 13, 2014: Day 13
The amount of energy I expend on prepping for a fight that never comes to fruition, is remarkable. #100DaysofVulnerability
Oh, I live in my head, I live in my head, I live in my HEAD! I need to get out of my head…
One of the things that I learned at that 10 day Vipassana course was about “being present”; you know, living in the here and now, and not lamenting about a past that you cannot change, or a future that is yet to be. I learned that I spend an exorbitant amount of time and energy thinking about, or prepping for a future that hasn’t happened, and about 100% of the time never turns out the way that I anticipated 100 times over. I’ve also realized that in that future, I’m usually prepping my emotional self for a fight; one that never actually happens. What an exhausting waste of energy.
Did you ever notice that that’s how soap operas work? It’s all about “what will happen when so and so finds out about this and that?!?!” which never turns out that way anyway, and the character that moved mountains to ensure that that future didn’t happen ends up getting caught in the mire of their own web and it always turns out badly for them. Yah. That.
In 2004, I took a photography course with an amazing local photographer, Terry Manzo. One of our homework assignments was to do a piece on “reflection”. I did the typical kind of response like these; reflections from the mirror of a parked Vespa in downtown Toronto.
But then, I took an entirely different slant and interpreted the assignment this way; I hid myself behind a column at Union Station in Toronto and watched as people walked by a bank of windows in front of an empty storefront.
I’m clearly not alone in my actions of staring at my reflection. Recently, atFITC, one of the speakers shared the story of a woman who paid an investigator to follow her around and take pictures of her while she was unaware. She was doing it as part of a project about privacy. I had thought of having someone do the same for me about 20 years ago, obviously well before social media, so that I could get an idea of how I looked and appeared when I wasn’t aware of someone watching me; I wanted to know what I looked like to someone else. That’s the insecurity part, I suppose.
Not too long ago, I did a Myers-Briggs type of assessment and had it interpreted by a gentleman who did his doctoral work in this this field. I’m apparently an ENFP, and when I asked him what that meant, he told me this:
You’ve already won the universe, as an ENFP. You’ve fought every alien, and won every fight. Can’t you just enjoy that? Do you have to continue to obliterate every opponent? Stop validating yourself to everyone you meet. That saps you of your energy. Just…enjoy it.
I awoke early this morning from an anxious dream, and in that dream, for only the second time in almost 11 years, I saw my Mum’s face, vividly. Her hair, her eyes, her smile. It was a terrible dream, except for that moment. And when I awoke, my husband held me as I cried.#100DaysofVulnerability
My husband will look at me & say “you’re so beautiful” and my response is always “I’m glad you think so”. He gets so mad at that. It’s the best that I can do. I AM glad he thinks so. I don’t see what he sees. #100DaysofVulnerability
Another one of those posts that garnered a ton of commentary.
My Mum did a good job in instilling a sense of confidence in me as I was growing up, and I always heard “you’re beautiful” and “you’re gorgeous” from her, and that just made me feel good about myself in that way. As an educated feminist, I am 100% behind my friend Bo’s commentary on that stream. I too rail against the almighty photoshopped image; I am vehemently opposed to those Dove commercials about everyone’s “real beauty”, especially when Unilever still sells skin bleaching creams to women in India (hypocrisy!!), and I worked really hard to teach my daughter (now 22) that physical beauty does not define someone, nor is it something to be proud of when mostly, you’re just born with “it”, not being something that you have to work at.
Still, with all of that knowledge and critical thinking behind me, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that just once, I’ve really wanted to know what it feels like to be the prettiest girl in the room.
When I was a girl growing up, I ran cross country for my school team. I was good at it, too. I was never a top finisher overall, but I was usually the top finisher for my age group for my school. I loved the power of running, of feeling light and swift.
My husband signed us up for a Tough Mudder this August, and so I’ve been really earnest about getting back into shape, committing to running more often and building my core strength again. A colleague of mine just qualified for Boston. I think of him often in my runs.
My problem is that my knees never recovered from me carrying twin babies at the age of 34. 10 years on, and my knees are swollen and achy after each run. Really achy. I’m trying not to give up on it yet. I’m hoping the longer I continue to run, the stronger my legs and quads get, and the less taxed my knees are.
May 19, 2014: Day 19
The wife of a friend of my husband’s clearly doesn’t like me. It makes me a bit sad & irritated, but I respect her honesty. #100DaysofVulnerability
I see this woman guaranteed twice a year, at the gatherings where our husbands meet to celebrate the ending of their annual sports events. Whenever I see her out and about in town, she’ll ignore me. Once I even saw her abruptly turn her back on my husband and I so she wouldn’t have to engage us at all.
This afternoon, I saw her at my yoga class and it was one of those moments where she looked right through me, didn’t acknowledge me or say hello (even though she was standing literally right beside me), and so I chose to do the same.
Admittedly I was irritated off and on throughout my class. It wasn’t until I was laying in meditation at the end that I realized, “hrrrrmmm…you have to respect her for not faking it” and just like that the irritation went away. I do judge her general lack of social graces, but I can’t admonish her for being authentic. You know, I celebrate that authenticity, even if it doesn’t work in my favour….
May 20, 2014: Day 20
My intuition is informed by a million data points. When I know, I know. I’m working hard on not feeling like I have to validate myself all the time.#100DaysofVulnerability
The same person who helped me understand my motivations as an ENFP also spoke to me about my intuition and how it rules my life. He was entirely right, of course. My intution is informed by so many data points. I literally read 10-15 thousand words a day; blogs, articles, research, tweets, and social platform posts. It is sometimes difficult for me to quickly articulate why I know this is the right trend, or that this is the right company, or this is the right person, but I knowand my instincts are usually very good.
The advice I received from this gent whose doctoral thesis is in analytic psychology was to stop validating myself all the time. Without knowing me, this man knew me (shit, am I that predictable?). I do have a tendency to spend a lot of energy validating myself; “see, I know this because I’m a mother of three/a 44 year old woman/had two addicts as parents/was living on my own since I was 16/insert qualifier here”, all before I go into further detail. And I have to stop qualifying myself because it saps me of energy in a very real, very tangible way.
I am learning to let my credibility stand for itself, and have trust in the fact that I am trustworthy and credible because I just am.
There have been a few times in my life where I’ve tried to a part of a community, a place, or a collective and I’ve felt decidedly unwelcome. And that shit stings, oooh it can hurt.
I’m currently reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, and one of things she writes about is the feeling of belonging (as being tied to the feeling of love). Belonging. It’s such an important feeling. It’s one of those fundamental elements of life for me, for sure (and according to Brown, to everyone). When I feel like I don’t belong, I just want to run, run, run far far away.
When I feel this way, it reminds me of a time when I was five, and I was at a day camp and playing in a sandbox. There were two other little girls who would not let me play in the sandbox with them. The camp counsellor, who must’ve been all of 16 herself, thought she was doing the right thing by kicking those girls out of the sandbox and letting me play in it by myself, but of course, it didn’t fix anything because I was in the box by myself still feeling as though I didn’t belong.
So, I’ve learned to slow down and just hold my five year old self when these moments happen. I don’t just put on a brave face. I acknowledge to myself and to my trusted that I’m sad, disappointed and hurt, and then I continue to search for where I belong.
May 22, 2014: Day 22
My father, who’s always done SFA to have a relationship with me, incenses me with his casualness. #100DaysofVulnerability
This could be an entire book, so I’ll keep to the essentials in regards to this current context.
My mother died 11 years ago this June. Last year was the 10th anniversary of her passing. On that day, my father called me and was casually updating me that he wasn’t coming to visit me and my family, not until his wife joined him a few days hence.
Here’s the rub; well before my father married his wife, I had told him explicitly, numerous times, that I wanted to be at the wedding. It was to be a casual affair, but he’s now living in Los Angeles and it was important to me. I told him I would couple it with some work objectives and make it work. He called our home one day and told my husband the date; 10 days out. Ten days. Entirely not possible to join him at his wedding, and he couldn’t care less. My attendance at his wedding was simply not important to him, and that just reinforced for me how little I’ve mattered in his life. It makes me innately, and intensely sad, to which I respond angrily.
A month after his wedding, he was casually making plans for me and my family to come to visit him and his friends back here in Ontario to celebrate their nuptials. No inclusion, no invitiation to help be a part of the celebration, just you know, show up. All on the 10th annivesary of my mother’s death, a woman that he spent 40 years with up until the day she died. A day that he didn’t remember or care to remember. It wasn’t important to him.
I decided not to go to the party. I didn’t feel like I belonged. I still don’t. He continues to act as if everything’s cool. I’m not over it yet. Not by a long shot.
I often relate to other people’s experiences through stories of my own. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a narcissist, or it’s just how I show camaraderie.#100DaysofVulnerability
I was 19 years old, connecting with a new friend, and just about every time she said something, my response was “Me too! I did ___ too!” or “…this one time, I also ____”, until she turned to me and snapped and said something like, “Geezus, do you have a response to everything?” .
“Well, yes!” I thought. Her comment hurt my feelings then, to be honest. I was trying to relate to her, to show her that I “got it”, that I understood.
Still, one of the best lines I’ve ever heard was this:
A sign of maturity is when someone talks about their major surgery, and you don’t mention yours.
Still trying to figure out if it’s narcissism, how I relate, the whole validation question I’ve written about above…or…?
When I hear great news about a friend’s accomplishment, there’s always a little voice in my head that says “damn” before I say “yay”. I know it’s not always about me, so why is my first reaction as if it’s a competition? #100DaysofVulnerability
When I was 17 years old, my mother came to me to show me the engagement ring my father had bought her, even though they had already been together over twenty years. She was really proud of that ring, and my response was
Wow, I’m engaged and I don’t even have a ring.
Nice, eh? (I was “engaged”. I know, I know, long story…moving on.)
My mum gently admonished me then and told me how hurtful it was to her that I couldn’t just celebrate her ring, but that I’d made it about me. Of course I felt ashamed, and I apologized, and totally saw things from her pov. I was being self-centered. I seem to forget that lesson periodically.
I am literally surrounded with highly intelligent, articulate, successful people every given day. They’re my friends, and colleagues. I am proud to know them, and honoured that many of them consider me a peer in a variety of different veins, and they receive much deserved recognition for their work on pretty much a daily basis. Much like Brené Brown has written about, there’s this feeling I get that someone else’s recognition somehow takes something away from me, or that there’s only so much recognition in this world to go around. Ridiculous, of course, but I can share that that’s often my first reaction too. I remember reading that in The Gifts of Imperfection and thinking “thank gawd, I’m not alone and that it’s not just me”. No. I know. It’s not just me.
May 25, 2014: Day 25
I was equally aware of the negative impact of snapping at my children today to both them, and what the neighbours think. #100DaysofVulnerability
I remember once being on the bus in Toronto with my daughter when she was just about five years old, and we were having a conversation about “gay”. Some boy in her class was calling her gay like it was a bad thing, and so I took the opportunity to discuss it with her:
“What does gay mean to us?” I asked her.
“Gay is when two boys or two girls love each other.”
“So, what’s wrong with gay?” I asked her again.
“Nothing!” she said, “gay just means love!” she responded.
This woman on the bus near us turned to me and said, “Excuse me, is that your daughter? Well, I just love the way that you’re talking to her about this issue.”
I thanked her, and in the retelling here I can share that I was fully conscientious of the fact that others were listening. I was supporting my daughter, being true to my moral compass, and ensuring that anyone that was around us was either being admonished for not having our beliefs, and ensuring that they would see what a good, progressive parent I was.
So, when I curtailed griping to my boys about the fact that they hadn’t progressed enough on their independent studies’, which meant that I had to give up a beautiful Sunday to ensure that they got caught up, I stopped myself from going on or raising my voice mostly because I knew the neighbours were outside and listening.
Years ago, I was sitting on a patio in downtown Toronto with my two best friends, and we were wasted. Blottoed. As people would pass us on the street, I kept calling out to these passing women and telling them how beautiful they were, or telling the guys they were with how lucky they were to be with such a gorgeous woman; old or young, it was all to just watch the smile erupt on the women’s faces as they passed us by. One of those friends told me that she hated it when I did that. I just didn’t understand that reaction at all.
My reality is that I am a very effusive and loving person, and I like to share that. As I’ve gotten older, and feel less of a need to get blottoed each time I’m out for a social, it’s gotten easier for me to tell people that I think they’re awesome, or that they look pretty that day, or that I was impressed with their work, and all just to watch that smile of appreciation erupt across their face.
Some people aren’t going to like that about me. Some people are going to approach that kind of thing with suspicion. Me? I’m just going to continue to make the world shine and feel the love whenever the moment takes me, because that is one of the best parts of my most authentic self.
And still, when I have indulged in a bit too much wine, oh brother, I justLOVE EVERYONE and everything is awesome!! ☺
In February 2011, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. It’s a disease of the lower intestine and bowel system. What it means is that I can digest my food and get all the nutrients out of it, but I can have a hard time expelling things properly. It’s mostly manageable through medications, but when I get stressed, things go south pretty quickly.
Let me just tell you this; when your ass isn’t working properly, nothing else really matters. Nothing. And if you want to really experience the feeling of humility, let your body be negatively affected by the most banal and fundamental part of being a living creature.
When you go in for a hug, and then you realize that that person really doesn’t like to hug. Yah. x2 today. #100DaysofVulnerability
I love a strong handshake; in fact, I taught all my kids how to handshake before the age of four. It’s served them well, and a good handshake has always served me well too. I judge people based on their handshakes. Fishy, limp, too strong. It says something about them, I judge. I’m also a hugger and a toucher by nature. I also think you can tell a lot about people by the way that they hug too. One-armed, the pat-patter, the leave-a-foot-in-between-us-hugger, the bear hugger, the get-in-close or the hang-on-too-long hugger.
Going along with the effusive part of my personality, I’m going to continue hugging, and I’m thankful for those that don’t shrink away. Or in the case where someone recently told me (albeit in a rather heightened way) that it made him uncomfortable when I touched him, I actually respected it so much, because it’s hard to tell someone when you’re uncomfortable when you know they mean well.
May 29, 2014: Day 29
First pair of steps in. Ever. According to my bike guy, I’m going to fall three times. In front of people.#100DaysofVulnerability
I love cycling. When I was a single mum, I bought my first real bike for $700 and that was a big deal. It was a 23 pound KHS mountain bike, and its colour was rootbeer. I loved that bike. It was my car. I also bought my daughter her own mountain bike and they opened up our world and allowed us to explore our city like never before. Once I moved to a smaller city, it was stolen right from our garage. It still makes me so immensely sad to talk about it.
This week, I bought my first road bike. It’s from a friend, and it’s a thing of beauty. I’ve never had a road bike, and I’ve certainly never had step-ins. They’ve always scared me a little. I’ve fallen a number of times on my mountain bike, but there’s something about being connected to your machine that’s just…different. Got my shoes yesterday. Towanda!
May 30, 2014: Day 30
Knowing I was cranky, accepting it, then reading an email warning that I may be cranky allowed me to just embrace it. #100DaysofVulnerability
A friend of mine is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and she runs seasonal cleanses, or as she calls them, DUMPS! They’re amazing events that she manages online with people from so many different places, and I highly recommend her. The prime reason I participate in her dumps is really about being more mindful of what I’m eating, and how it affects me, both emotionally and physically. I also thought that this time around would be doubly beneficial since I’m going through this process of mindfulness regarding my vulnerabilities, as well as battling a recent flare of my ulcerative colitis.
Being in the midst of a 10 day cleanse, each day’s emotional response can be quite different. You’re coming off caffeine and sugars, and those are two pretty powerful drugs.
I laughed in the morning of the fifth day of the cleanse after reading Sara’s daily email of encouragement and recipes as it was titled: Hear me ROAR! Day Five: Emotional Dump.
Gawd, don’t we hate to be so predictable? What made me laugh was the realization that I’m so not alone, that my experience is not so different from everyone else’s.
It was also very reminiscent for me of a lesson I learned when I took that 10 day Vipassana course. At the end of each day, I felt like what I had gone through emotionally was so unique to me, and then as we’d listen to the daily messages of S.N. Goenke, he’d say things that clearly spoke to me, and of course, to likely most others also going through the same experience at the same time.
There’s a levity that comes from thinking that you’re all alone, when indeed, you’re not at all.
I’m an aggressive driver. I can admit that. I’m awful to be in the car with. While some of my beefs are entirely valid (slow drivers in the fast lane, not using indicators), some of them are not (people in white cars and vans cannot drive; it’s a fact). I don’t always manage my frustrations well, either. I swear, cuss people out, call them names. Yah, I’m pretty exhausting to be around when I’ve got to get somewhere. Long drives are different…well, maybe…
My husband was driving us to a friend’s wedding this day, and there’s so much traffic heading into Toronto (there are three seasons in Toronto; winter, filming and construction) and it’s exhausting just getting in and out of the city. Now, granted, I drive this particular route far more than my husband, literally up to 1200kms/week sometimes, and this day there was a collision with a fatality ahead, and I was relentless in my pursuit of the fastest lane, the fastest way to get to the wedding so we weren’t late.
I stress him out, I stress myself out. It’s not healthy. So, recently I’ve begun carrying this piece of Tree Agate in my hand when I’m driving into the city. It’s a physical reminder to ease off on the gas, that everyone’s heading to their somewhere and that it’s not my lane. It was serendipitous that I picked that piece out of a huge basket recently. Serendipity indeed.
June 1, 2014: Day 32
When people are slagging your organization, where you spend 104 of 168 hours in a week, it’s hard not to respond with “Oh yah?” & give them a piece of your mind.#100DaysofVulnerability
My organization has spent the last week heavily profiled in the news, for entirely political reasons (seriously, we’re being used as a pawn in our current election). Some people from our eco-system have also taken this as an opportunity to question our mandate entirely, so it’s been a bit of an emotional ride, to say that least. The volume of invective, misinformation and inaccuracies has been astounding, and disappointing. And because this is a highly politicized situation, everyone internally has had to sit on their hands and keep their mouths shut and not respond, at all. As you probably know, being the “Curator of Dialogue” this is not a strong suit of mine.
And most of that has to do with the fact that of course, everyone that speaks about our “organization” in a negative way, is criticizing the people that are inside that place, including myself. How can we not take this shit personally?! We’re the ones that are being belittled and belied. So, of course I want to be able to rail back and say, “Are you kidding me?” (amongst other things), challenge the dialogue intelligently, set the record straight where it’s wrong, and also defend not only myself, but the amazing people that I work with.
When some decisions are taken out of your hands, it’s a good lesson in just giving over. I’m leaning on lessons that I’ve learned from managing social media accounts and streams which is don’t feed the trolls, and watch your community go into action to support and defend you, and other lessons about rising above and being brave enough to take a good hard look at yourself (or your organization) from a more objective perspective. Mind you, through this I’ve certainly reexamined some relationships, and the word integrity keeps creeping into my forethoughts. To be continued…
I speak my mind. I do it often, and (mostly) unabashedly as well. People often call me brave for doing it. I’m not doing it to be brave. The joke has always been this; my father’s from Brooklyn, my mother was from Liverpool…direct is my middle name.
In my experience from teaching adults for 10 years in a corporate setting, when someone asks a question, there are at least a few other people in the room that have the same question but are too afraid to ask it. So, I know that if I’m feeling something, it’s likely that there’s at least one other person that’s feeling the same way too.
This day, I let some of my vulnerability show in an entirely appropriate, professional way, in a setting that I had hoped (and really, should have be able to reasonably expect) would’ve elicited some support. Instead, I was met with re-direction and silence. And that really disappointed me.
I have a tendency to judge others, in this case, the “less enlightened”. That judgment is an ongoing core issue for me, so I wasn’t surprised to find it front and centre after the fact. Trying to remember that others are on their own path, on their own journey and trying to judge less often. That’s a really, really hard one for me. It’s not where I want to be, so I begin again…
I’m a freeaholic, I’m afraid. If there’s free booze and free food, I’m all over that shit like a cheap suit in the rain. I just can’t say no. I’m trying to figure out why that is, exactly. A carry over from the days when I was 17 and living on my own and squeezing packs of ketchup from McDonald’s into my old bottle? Do I feel entitled? Do I feel like I’m in a way saving myself some money because I’m not spending that cash myself? Am I greedy?
Especially coinciding with my cleanse, I’m working on delving into the motivations here. Twice during this cleanse I was in a situation where there was free wine, spirits and food. The food, I was good with making choices that were mostly aligned with the cleanse, but the booze was definitely not a go, but I partook anyway. Why is it so hard for me to say no to it? Hrrrmmm….
Many times in my life, I’ve felt like the smartest person in the room. At work though, that’s not the case. Where I work, on any given day, I am literally surrounded by the best and brightest in the province. Easily. It’s not humbling as much as it is grounding, because I know that of course unless I was also smart and talented and capable, I wouldn’t be there in the first place. But…
I hate it when I forget that and I feel like I have to prove myself when someone else is being passive aggressive or being a topper. It would serve we well to remember that these scenarios all stem from a place of deep insecurity, and that it’s not reflective of how I really feel about myself. Except, apparently, some days, it does.
June 5, 2014: Day 36
My gut instinct is never wrong. The only wrong thing is when I know it, and I disregard it. #100DaysofVulnerability
“When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”
― Maya Angelou
I’ve been reminded this week that people’s reputations are built on some truths. Not all truths, but there’s usually elements of truth there. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt though, because I don’t like to take rumour or gossip as fact. I like to make up my mind for itself.
Sometimes though, in that quest, I overlook behaviours or character traits that I find troubling, or that go against my own core values. I’m trying not to admonish myself for overlooking those red flags as the truth continues to show itself, plainly. Lessons learned. Again.
June 6, 2014: Day 37
Not knowing what comes next is often an uncomfortable place for me. A beginner’s mind is hard to cultivate. #100DaysofVulnerability
I love to start my day with early morning hot yoga classes. They set a great tone of acceptance, power and openness for my day. The early classes though don’t follow the same sequences as other classes that I usually attend. Sometimes, if I’m finding a pose or a series of poses particularly difficult, and I don’t know what’s coming next, I’ll really struggle with maintaining and will pull myself out to give myself that reprieve until I know what’s coming next, only to see that the next pose would’ve relieved that pain or pressure if I had just stuck with it.
This is why we call it a yoga practice. I keep on practicing being open to not knowing what’s coming next, and sticking with it, and working through it, and having faith that what’s coming next, is just what I need.
I have three children. A 22 year old daughter, and “9 3/4″ twin boys. The experience of raising them has been very, very different. Granted, I was a single parent for nine years with my daughter, so our entire dynamic was quite different, but I will state for the record just how different raising boys are versus girls.
I used to be able to set my daughter up in front of an easel, and she would paint for hours. My boys, I’m lucky if I get seven minutes of focus for any activity that’s not screen based. Admittedly, I am quickly losing patience with their insistence on telling me how to evolve their characters, or which combination of buttons makes their characters power up. I keep asking them to tell me about the storylines or about the characters themselves so that we can find a common ground on communicating about something that they care about, and really, it’s hit or miss, which means that my reaction at times, notably in my most tired moments is “Stop. I just don’t care”.
I realize it must hurt their feelings, because they’re so excited to tell me allabout what excites them. Often, I’m able to engage them and feign interest in what they’re telling me so that in the least they feel heard, but behind my “oh yeah?” responses, I am using my Jedi mind tricks to willfully move them along in their development, because the conversation is boring. Now I feel like I have to validate them here, because my boys are smart, funny, and engaging. And right now, their conversations are really, really boring.
I spend a lot of energy confronting things; injustices, misinformation, lazy pundits, and just bad behaviour. No scenario is immune. It’s not a calling, but it’s my visceral reaction to the world and I firmly believe this…
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [sic] to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke
…and I just live a most truthful life. It’s my default, and no, it’s not always easy. Some days though, it’s all just too much. Some days, there are too many assholes, too many egos, too many rights to defend, too many awful people getting away with awful behaviour. Those days, I need to nestle myself away, put my head down and take a day off of the fight. Less social, less news, less engagement with the assholes. Those days, the Shift Disturber needs to let the rest of the caped crusaders take over. Thankfully, there are more out there than I even know, and the ones I do know have got my back. I bank on that.
June 9, 2014: Day 40
I cannot abide being interrupted & continually spoken over. If you don’t care to engage in a conversation, why go through the motions? #100DaysofVulnerabilty
This is my crazymaker. CRAZYmaker!! I just cannot stand being interrupted. It makes me spitting mad. MAD! Besides the fact that it’s just so fuckingrude, what it clearly shows me is that whomever’s doing the interrupting is just not interested in hearing what I have to say, or (like my husband) assumes that he already knows what I’m going to say.
I know that for me, this stems from me spending an entire childhood (and adulthood) waving my arms in the air yelling “lookit me, lookit me”, desperate for my parents to pay attention to me. That I know. I just have to look at my boys with that look when they start to interrupt me, and they’ve learned already to respond with “sorry Mum, sorry Mum”.
As an adult now, what I find unacceptable about this behaviour is how so many people spend their time waiting to speak, and not actually listening. I’m guilty of this myself, sure, and I do actively and continually work on that. We lose so much when we’re only speaking, when we’re only sharing our experiences and pov’s and fail to listen, engage and build on others thoughts and ideas. I miss the idea of salons. That’s one of the things that I love about Stein’s Parisian salons in the 1920s, when people would examine, discover and deconstruct ideas with one another, rather than being the proverbial, continual topper (although I’ve no doubt they existed there too).
Now, we’re all seemingly the smartest person in the room, and learning from one another couldn’t possibly be more important than informing others. I feel like we’re missing so much. Are we all so driven by our fragile egos and massive insecurity? Of course we are.
Big theme of “gift of honest feedback” for me lately. At home, and at work. I would say that I generally live by the above saying.
Truth of course, is relative. I’m evolved enough to know that objectively.
And I think dialogue is alwaysnecessary. Profoundly so. Communication is so fundamental to the human condition, that I’m not surprised in the least that I’ve made my profession in the realm of communications.
What I’m struggling with lately is “Is it kind?”. Not always, not from me. Nope.
I’m not contrary just for the sake of being contrary. I don’t challenge people just because I want to feel superior, or because I feel entitled to do so. I’ve articulated what my motivations are above. What I do realize though, is that as much as things are truthful or necessary, I’m not always kind in delivering that messaging.
One thing I know is that that’s one of the things that many people love about me. My directness, my lack of patience for sycophantic placation. I play that role for many. They’re happy to let me be the one that does that. Internally though, it can feel complicated. Partially, I resent their passivity, and I resent bearing the foisted upon attributes that allow them to wrap me up with character definitions that make them feel better about themselves. Partially, I love that my reputation precedes me and I am that person.
What I wish was that more people also saw the intent and motivation behind such actions. And I further wish that I didn’t feel like so many interactions were a fight versus that dialogue that I vie for so much.
Don’t be a hard rock, when you really are a gem. ~ Lauryn Hill
When I was 16 years old, my boyfriend, the first real love of my life, had gone away for the entire summer and then moved away to Montreal. A few months after he had left, we were still trying to keep things going long distance (this is way before long distance phone plans, let alone social). I remember one day turning to my best friend and saying to her “I don’t think I love him anymore” to which her response was, “Of course you do! You just miss him is all!” to which I nodded and nodded and said, “You’re right, of course, of course…”. Another day, not long later, my mother abruptly opened my bedroom door, looked at me and said (seemingly out of the blue), “It’s okay if you don’t love him anymore”, to which I immediately burst into tears with the relief that someone knew what was really going on.
It’s easy to surround ourselves with friends and supporters that nod in agreement, or tell us what we think we need to hear. They mean well, and we mean well when we do that for others. It’s what we see as being supportive and positive.
What we really need though are those friends that call bullshit on us. Because that’s real love. Those are the ones that really care about our successes, and hold us accountable for when we falter to do it for ourselves. I’m ever grateful for those strong, loving, supportive friends in my life that do that for me, and for my willingness to not continue with my excuses and just sit in it, own it and then, do something about it.
June 12, 2014: Day 43
Progress is seeing your kids’ work stacked against dozens of others and not judging it, just celebrating it. #100DaysofVulnerability
My boys were both designated “gifted” last year, so they’ve been in an enriched program one day a week this school year. They’ve loved the programming, but they’ve struggled with the extra work that they’re expected to do. Bare minimum is their modus operandi. Anything more, and it’s big sighs, and pulling teeth. I had to give up a few Sundays this year to focus in on their school projects and that’s not an enjoyable place for either them, or me.
The year end project is called Dream Makers, and culminates in the kids all presenting to their class, and then to the visiting parents, in character.
We all want our kids to succeed. Admittedly, I was anxious during those Sundays thinking to myself, “their projects are going to suck compared to the other kids!” and “if they get kicked out of gifted, I swear…!”
And then I don’t know what it was, but I just…gave over. What if they did get kicked out of gifted? Then that means that they weren’t intended for the program. What if their projects sucked? In my line of work, we talk a lot about failure and the value of that. I knew that if they were going to fail, that ultimately, it had to be theirs. Motivation to achieve or succeed cannot be imprinted. It must be innate.
So, it was in that vein that I attended their year end event, and just watched them in action, and it was…awesome. Their projects were clearly in the middle of the pack, and I chose not to fret, lament or admonish them for any of it. I just let it…be. And we were all happier for it.
At 21 years old, I had moved from Toronto to Vancouver with the wrong guy. Although I have been on my own since I was 16, I was still running away from my family, searching for…something. Eight days after I moved out there, I got pregnant. That’s not what I was intending to find.
At the time, I really didn’t know what I was doing, or how to live for myself. I didn’t know that I could make real decisions for myself, and that I was worthy of those decisions. What I did do was make the right choices, “for my daughter”. I left the guy, moved back in with my parents, went back to school, and got on with it.
Of course, I was doing it for me, but she was my reason. Every step I took got me closer to where I wanted to be. Because of that baby, I changed my life’s course. She allowed me to become the woman that I wanted to be (mostly), and through her, I’ve learned more about myself (good and bad) than I would’ve ever done on my own. She is my mirror, my strength, my weaknesses, all rolled together. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My husband’s from a large family. We had a wedding this weekend (I really don’t like weddings much), and I was fine, right up until we were leaving for it. I’ve never felt a real part of the extended family. Sure, there are some family members that I feel closer to than others, but all in all, I feel like an outsider looking in. We’ve had some historical conflicts, and while I try not to hold grudges, I also feel markedly removed from most of them. That’s a big barrier for me to overcome.
I’ve gotten good at letting my husband know when my anxiety is high so that he can help me navigate and also help me manage it. I don’t want to be an interference or a burden to him in his enjoyment of his family, and it’s a tricky line for him tread. It’s not about loyalties mind you, because he supports me in whatever I need in these circumstances. I’m so grateful for that.
In my own childhood, the conflict between my mother and my grandparents and other extended family members was monumental. So much so, that the family gathered for annual vacations for over a decade, and my family was never invited. To say the whole issue of familial conflict is a massive, tentacled, elaborate, painful and deeply entrenched issue for me would be a gross understatement.
See, I really want to be closer to them, but when I feel that I’m not important enough for others to make an effort, it chips away at my sense of worth and value. This time, I actually had a good time in spite of myself.
He made sure to take the boys back to the hotel room at the end of the wedding, so I could play out late at the casino. He took the boys down to the pool so they could enjoy their time before we left for Niagara Falls. At Clifton Hill, we went on the rides the kids wanted to. At dinner time, we went to Niagara-on-the-Lake because I suggested it, and he even invited me to stop off to buy a new hat. And it was all on Father’s Day.
That’s my husband. He eats the burnt toast, uses the chipped plate, offers to have the shitty light on his nightstand. He tells me often that he’s happiest when his family is happy. I worry that there’s a breaking point. Is saying thank you enough? Is there an underlying resentment that he masquerades? These are the fears that make me deep down inside think that one day, he’s just going to up and leave because he’s had enough.
And then other days, I celebrate that I married the good guy.
One of those typical scenarios….you build something up in your mind based on fear. It becomes “a thing”. You brave it, you broach it…and you wonder why it was ever a thing. Sigh. Can’t help but lament what feels like lost years with chunky ass pedals and cages.
Moving on…next step, the road bike!
June 17, 2014: Day 48
At 9 years old I was caught in my one & only tornado in Nebraska. It was terrifying. I still can’t watch Twister without being all anxious. #100DaysofVulnerability
A tornado touched down in Angus, Ontario this day, and there were tornado warnings all throughout southwestern Ontario for hours.
My family was on an epically horrible motorhome vacation across Canada and the US (I still get tics when I think of it, but that’s another blog), and we had stopped in Ogallala, Nebraska for a few days. We were staying right on Lake Ogallala, and my sister and I set off to explore. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we were traipsing around a marshy part of the lake, when all of a sudden, the wind picked up, the sky turned dark and it sounded like a train was behind us. I remember looking around for the train tracks, sure that I had missed them when we arrived. My older sister grabbed my hand, and we ran for the motorhome. Johnny Fever was right; God doesn’t like mobile homes in a tornado. They get very mobile.
I remember a lot of rocking and rolling. My father went to help a family pull in their boat from the lake, and we had another family that we had met the day prior come knock on our door…
“Welcome….” BAM! The door slammed shut on them…my father opened it again. “…to Nebraska!” they cheered.
I’ve always been a wannabe stormwatcher. I love sitting under the protective arches of my wraparound front porch and watching the torrents of rain and cracks of lightning, but there’s nothing like a tornado. They’re simply terrifying and dangerous. This is why I pay attention to warnings. I don’t travel, and I get prepared, even if it’s just mentally. Nothing is worth risking your life for during tornado warnings; no meetings, no networking, no showing up. Sometimes you need to choose to just hunker down.
I once had a woman say to me, “Karen, you’re the classiest woman I know.” What a compliment! I asked her, of course, why she thought that and she told me,
“You’re as comfortable with the people that live on the street as you are with the upper echelon of society.”
I grew up with a parent that smoked pot as an everyday thing. It was something that I knew of from a very early age. It also of course, availed me to a view of “counter culture”, one in which I was very comfortable, namely because it was all I knew. Because my parents were young, hippie-like, fuck the establishment, non-activists though, I always felt that I was coming up from behind against the rest of the world. Not rich enough, not good enough, not “right”. Of course, it’s the typical other side of the tracks story, right? My references growing up being Some Kind of Wonderful, and Pretty in Pink.
And truth be told, I always wanted to be that kid on the other side of the tracks; the rich one, the right one. Sometimes, I wanted it very, very badly. I wanted to wear the right clothes, be in the right crowd, have the right boyfriend who drove the right car. More importantly, I wanted to be the kid that didn’t have the alcoholic mother, and the pot smoking father. Because, then maybe I’d be right. What an awful burden that was to grow up with and under for so many years. I’d work hard to come close to experiencing that other side, but of course, I was never right in those contexts. No matter how gracious and polite I was, the boyfriend’s parents never liked me. No matter how much I tried, my clothes didn’t quite make it. It’s no wonder why the feeling of being judged is just a huge trigger for me still.
Then as I grew up, I realized that there really was no one right. Sure, there are those with more education, more opportunity and certainly plenty with more money than me, but what has made me right is that I’ve learned to see through so much of that because of the experiences and people that I’ve opened myself up to along the way. Literally, boys who worked the stroll on Grosvenor St. in Toronto, to people that celebrated Oscar Peterson’s 75th birthday with him. All of these people, they all had things to teach me, and humbly, I them.
I feel that there is more than choosing one side over another, or one lifestyle over another, which is why I so happily and successfully float amongst them all. Long ago, I unabashedly embraced the parts of me that my childhood of experiences gave me, and I celebrate them. I also strove to experience other things that, if I had chosen those childhood experiences as entirely definitive, I may never had known or realized. If that’s class, then I’ll happily wear that hat.
June 19, 2014: Day 50
I can drink 10 fingers of whiskey in an evening and not make as ass out of myself. It’s called being seasoned. In more ways than one. ;p #100DaysofVulnerability
Growing up with an alcoholic parent, overindulging in booze is a dangerous ripple that in my life has sat right underneath the surface of my consciousness. There were a couple of times in my life, in my late teens and 20’s, where I knew few boundaries and just couldn’t say no. One drink would always lead to eight.
Remember my entry on Day 34 about being a freeaholic? Well for three days from the 18th to the 20th of June, I was availed to a bevy of really good free food and drink and it was…bliss. If there was a time to overindulge, that could’ve been it, and it felt good to be aware of the fact that just because the whiskey was free flowing, I didn’t have to be. I drank and ate my fill, enjoyed the crisp, light caramel tones of the Forty Creek Barrell Selectwhiskey (a delicious, happy plug for this local, Canadian purveyor of spirits) and happily walked away dancing that fine line between sated and settled, instead of sloshy and blitzed. FOMO is a real thing, and it’s something that I certainly strive to balance in my life and in my line of work. Walking away is powerful. I learn that more and more whenever I choose that path.
This is my personal calling card. I had it made up a few years ago now when I started moving away from my career in telecom towards digital and social media, and every time I hand it over to someone, the response is some variation of “Wow!”. Literally, every time.
I designed this card for a few reasons, but most importantly it was because of this; this is me. This picture was taken by my talented friend Elizabeth Davidson when we were working on a project together. This picture was taken at six o’clock in the morning, and was not photoshopped. I wanted it just the way it was. Glamour shots are fun, but as authenticity is one of those key things for me in my life, I am proud to represent myself earnestly, wrinkles, imperfections and all. I also know the exact thought I had in my head at the click, and I’m so chuffed everytime I get that positive reinforcement from others.
So, when I was IdeaCity this week and met with a leading expert ininnovation and design, who looked at my card and said “now, this is ergonomic!” (his reference point for something that is designed well, immersive and provides an experience), I was literally over the moon!
I am getting closer, and closer and closer to embracing design as a fundamental part of what moves me. In the arts, in the experience of life, in connecting people to one another, and that feedback made me feel…right.It’s a great feeling knowing that something that I feel innately and intrinsically is also recognized by thought leaders in their space. It gives me the encouragement to continue to move forward.
June 21, 2014: Day 52
Brought the family to summer solstice yoga in the park. 108 sun salutations. Each broken into groups of 27. Struggled with setting my intent during the 2nd series to my little men…who were burping & making noises. Made it half way through. Not as serene as I had hoped. #100DaysofVulnerability
Yesterday being summer solstice, we joined my happy yogis from Moksha Yoga Stratford at the first Yoga in the Park. I wasn’t expecting my boys to actually do all the salutations, but I was hoping that they’d make a good showing. And they did. Amongst the burping, and child’s poses and “psssstt Mummy…Muuuummmmyyyy”.
I forgot to just enjoy my own practice alongside all my boys (hubby included), be present, and just let them be who they are.
June 22, 2014: Day 53
I prepare. I prepare so well, that sometimes I never even get started. But boy, am I prepared! #100DaysofVulnerability
I have this favourite comic from Julia Cameron on how to avoid being an artist.
I love to prep for things. I have everything for scrapbooking, candlemaking, gardening, drawing, painting. I am ready!! And then, sometimes, I just don’t start. It’s the renaissance woman in me. I love so many things, and am intrigued by so many things, that I’m always wanting to startthings!
I only have so much time, so much energy, and so much bandwidth to take on new things. My unread book list grows almost exponentially, weekly. “One day” is so close, yet so far for so many things.
This weekend though, I planted my first vegetable and herb garden.
I’ve had all the ideas, parts and bits for years. Years. And today, they were all used, including the compost that I’ve been sending my husband to empty into our two bins for the last five years. Today, today I was prepared, and I did it. #FTW
June 23, 2014: Day 54
Days ago surrounded by world’s leading creatives, technologists, scientists. Today, in Sudbury. This. Is. My. Life. #100DaysofVulnerability
I spent June 18-20 at IdeaCity, deep in the heart of urban Toronto, with some of the global leaders in their fields. It was my second year at the event, and it takes me days to actually process everything. The speakers, the people that I meet and connect with, and the possibilities that come from those meetings are just beautifully, positively overwhelming.
Speaking at NORCAT in Sudbury, Ontario.
And then, days later I’m in Sudbury, Ontario, a city with a population of about 158K, as a guest of former colleague, connecting with local educators and influencers, and presenting a talk and a workshop on social media for startups.
The juxtaposition is seemingly striking, but amazingly similar. And a thing of beauty in my life. I am, at times, so proud of me; and that’s hard for me to say out loud.
My husband has often remarked that I’m “one in a million”. Not because of course he loves me, but because he knows so much of my story, my history, my childhood, my challenges. I tend to peshaw this, but his more objective point of view reminds me that sometimes, we ourselves are not a good gauge of what is.
I’ve a million good reasons as to why I could have curled up and done nothing with my life. Excuses for me to be wallow in self-pity, lament my lot in life, persist in the woe-is-me narrative…but I never have. And I never will.
I remember years ago, my mother was watching Oprah (before she did the major transformation on her show and she was still all Jenny Jones-like) and some woman was on the show lamenting her lot in life along the lines of,
“my mother was an alcoholic, my father was a drug addict, and that’s why I’m on welfare and have four different babies with four different baby daddies.”
“Bullshit” my mother said aloud, and since those were the days before email and social media, she called the show to tell them so.
If anyone had the right to call bullshit, it was my mother. A woman who had been the victim of outrageous childhood abuses that would crush 99% of the world’s living souls. She was a survivor. A survivor with many failings and pain points and troubles of her own, but someone who never, ever let circumstances dictate her life. She did that all on her own. So, she called the show to call this woman out, and they invited her to come on the show and tell her story and essentially confront this woman on live TV, but my mother would have none of it.
“No thanks”, she said, “not interested”.
See, it wasn’t about my Mum, for my mum. It wasn’t about confronting another, or comparing herself to another. It was just about doing for herself, and her family, to the best of her abilities and not accepting circumstances as limitations.
When I can look at my life from a more 10,000 foot view, see where I’ve landed, who I’ve met, the opportunities that I’ve created for myself, I don’t inauthentically sit in disbelief. I can chuck myself on my shoulder and quietly say, “good for me”! Good for me.
Being an immigrant to Canada, my first flight was when I was not quite three years old, when we left Wales and landed at Toronto International Airport (now called Pearson). Growing up, my sister and I were put on the plane by my parents to be spoiled rotten by my grandparents in Rockaway BeachNew York City every summer (yes, it’s a real place and not just a Ramones song). Just getting to the airport was part of the adventure for me.
We always dressed for flying.Always. I suppose we were still living under the 60s mystique of flying being something rather unattainable for the vast majority, so we felt it was a special experience. And of course, my sister and I were two well dressed, polite little girls whom were spoiled rotten by flight staff. We got cards, and wings pins, and just about everything we wanted for that short one-hour flight, including checking out the flight deck. It was delightful.
I still feel like flying is something special, even when it’s viewed more as a commuter function than it ever has been before. Jumping onto a Porter flight in downtown Toronto this week is just like jumping on the subway, save the security pat down and free almonds.
Nonetheless, just like that schoolgirl, I still marvel at everything about flying; takeoff and landing, the landscape sketches below, navigation, and the ability to experience an entirely different part of my province in the matter of minutes. It’s that sense of marvel that keeps me appreciative of the life that I lead. (And it makes me recall Louis CK, over and over again.) That marvel keeps me grateful, allows me to sit in some wonder, approach the world with that beginner’s mind, and that keeps me open.
Straight out of Daring Greatly, which my husband reminded me of when I texted him this same sentiment. This is something that recurs for me, and which I can clearly recall learning from my mother.
My mother didn’t trust happiness; in all fairness, it wasn’t her fault. She was conditioned that way. So, instead of just letting the world unfold in front to her the way it was going to naturally, she would often ruin things herself, either by drinking too much, or emotionally sabotaging a situation. This way, in the least, she had control of the situation.
I don’t respond to the world in the same way, but I do have a certain level of distrust of a succession of great days. Obviously, I’ve also been conditioned that way, somewhat.
That unbelieveable week included attending Idea City, speaking in Sudbury, seeing my best friend from high school while I was there, and seeing my name in print in Wired Magazine.
That quote in Wired is such a small thing, but such a big thing for this geek;I have reached geek mecca. All of these examples are relatively simple things, simple experiences that cumulatively speak to great work, great decisions and serendipities that work out for me. And still, I wait for the disappointment to set in. Manifest destiny?
I have a hard time letting go of certain things, like passive-aggression, bad drivers (‘cuz they’re SO oblivious!), overt slights and being disrespected. I sit in them longer than I should. I just don’t get people that play that way. It’s infuriating to me. Oh, and I judge the hell out those people too, which I’ve mentioned is a core trigger issue for me, so that just opens up a whole can of emotional worms.
I know I’m going on a bit, but one of the remarkable things about Idea City is the ability to connect and talk to the speakers throughout the three days.Wade Davis (got to shake his hand and thank him for his work), Edward Burtynsky (who I missed, dammit #fangirl), Jodie Emery (passionate, articulate, activist), Rick Smolan (photographer, storyteller), Stephen Koch(pioneering mountaineering snowboarder), Laura Dekker (youngest person to sail and circumnavigate the globe solo), Tanya Jones (startup CEO of Organ Bank), Bryce Rutter (world renowned designer); just a smallsmattering of the immensely talented, global leaders in each of their fields…and the most humble people that I’ve ever met. Truth. Not one bit of guile amongst them. People that were all earnestly happy to connect with anyone that would walk up to them and shake their hand and say hello. People that were keen to hear about the work that I do and where I do it. Engaged, earnest, interested. So, clearly, those people inspire me. They speak to my soul. They share of themselves and they deeply participate in the world. It is a dialogue. It is a free exchange of ideas, and spirit.
Then there’s this whole dichotomy between those kinds of people, and others that aren’t that way. People that know you, and who purport to support you, but can barely crack a smile or celebrate an achievement (like getting a quote and a mention of your organization in Wired Magazine). I take that shit personally. It disappoints me, hurts my feelings and truly perplexes me. I simply don’t understand people that cannot celebrate the achievements of others. I don’t understand people that take every single opportunity to disregard something that matters to someone else. To me, to do it purposefully and mindfully is the worst example of spite there is. And those kinds of people get under my craw. And maybe that’s what they want. There are times when I’m able to put those people into context for being the petty kind of people they are, and leave them to their own devices because there is one truth that I really do know…
It’s all about me, and it has nothing to do with me.
When I was in that 10 day Vipassana course, my roommate and seatmate (so aptly named by a dear friend and fellow meditator as “SexiYogi”) was someone that was so trying for me. She tripped every single trigger I had (check out that link for further understanding). There were some days where it was literally emotionally unbearable for me.
The first nine days of Vipassana are called “blessed silence”, and the last day is known as “blessed chatter”. During the last meal on the ninth day of the program, I remember sitting alone at a picnic table during the last meal, and I was amazed that most of the other women in our cohort were sitting at the same table as SexiYogi. I immediately went into panic mode; what had I done? Had I offended them? I must’ve! Why was I on my own? Whywere they sitting with her? Oh, how I panicked. Oh, how I wanted to flee! What would happen the next day? What if no one wanted to talk to me? What if I was left out? I was right back to being that little girl in the sandbox by myself. So, I fled. I walked the grounds for ages, panicking, readying myself to leave early, running through every moment of the last days trying to figure out what I had done or not done to warrant being seemingly ostracized. It was exhausting. I barely slept that night.
The next morning, after our last group sit, I left the group hall dejectedly and headed back toward my room. As I reached the dormitories, the bells struck signalling the start of “blessed chatter”, and myself and another woman reached for the doors at the same time. “Thank you”, she practically whispered as I held the door for her, “you’re welcome” I giggled in response, and we looked each other in the eye, and smiled. Within moments, the hallways were filled with the other members of our sangha, and we were alla twitter with our blessed chatter. I met women in those moments that are still friends of mine today, and what I learned in that moment was the truth behind it’s all about me, and it has nothing to do with me.
The women sitting at the other picnic table the night before, it couldn’t just have been that they had chosen to sit more directly in the sun, could it? Of course it could have been. The reasons that they chose to sit at that table has absolutely zero to do with me. What had everything to do with me was how I reacted to the situation. That had everything to do with me.
People make decisions about who they are, how they’ll act, and what they do, and those decisions have nothing to do with me. The only thing that I have any control over is how I react to those decisions. When I forget that it’s about them, and not me, is when I get hurt the most. Even though it’s one of the most important lessons I ever learned at Vipassana, it’s still one of the hardest to recall easily when the ego is taking a hit. I need to work at holding my five-year old self a little in those moments, and shushing them away, where they mostly belong.
June 27, 2014: Day 58 I can rush through intimate moments or conversations because I forget that I’m worth the time. I am worth the time. #100DaysofVulnerability
I’ve been called ‘motor mouth’ since I was in junior kindergarten. Miss Simmons gave me that moniker, and it’s always been accurate. I’ve always been a fast talker, and my line has always been, “it’s just my mouth trying to keep up with my head”. That, and our capacity to listen runs at about 400 words a minute and the average person speaks at about 125-150 words per minute, so you know, I’m just challenging you….
While that’s partially true, of course it’s not the whole truth. It’s also me trying to rush to get to the point before I’m interrupted, ignored, dismissed or the other person just walks away, showing me that listening to me, hearing what I have to say is just not important or worth the investment of their time at all.
When I was in grade 9 the song “Lean on Me” had just been released. I remember walking through my apartment one day and the video had come on TV and my parents happened to be in the living room, watching. Of course, I didn’t know then that it was originally a Bill Withers song, I just knew that I liked it. Bopping away, I said in passing, “you know, it’s like an anti-suicide song” in that profound and flippant grade 9 way, and I’ll never forget both of my parents turning to look at me, derisively, and my father said,
What the fuck are you talking about?
They went on to admonish me and tell me how ridiculous that interpretation was, and I walked away feeling chided; that my ideas, my thoughts, my opinions didn’t matter. That I wasn’t worth the discussion, or the time to examine those ideas. I was 14.
How fucking tragic.
That feeling of not being worthy has imprinted my life in so many ways.
I can feel absolutely apoplectic when I’m interrupted (interpretation: I’m not worth listening to, my ideas don’t matter, my opinion is not important).
I often still rush through true intimate moments with my husband, shortchanging my experience (interpretation: I’m not worth the time it takes for me to reach climax, he’s getting bored, I’m too much ‘work’, hurry UP, Karen).
I speak quickly because if I don’t, my ideas or opinions won’t see the light of day (interpretation: hurry up, so the other person can get to their point).
Admittedly, I can be a hypocrite and have been known to interrupt my husband, assuming I know what he’s going to say, or purposely rushing him along, frustrating the hell out of him. It’s a method that I’m guilty of using when I’m angry and want to dismiss someone. Learned behaviour. It’s a powerful way of gaslighting and ensuring that you’ve just made the other person feel useless and unimportant.
June 28, 2014: Day 59
I worked hard to be “the cool mum”, which I was. And which my daughter loved & resented, and which was rewarding & a failure.#100DaysofVulnerability
My 22 year old daughter was visiting us at home recently, and her two best friends from high school, whom she’s still close with, joined us in the backyard for a fire one night. I love those girls, and they love me too. They all went through so much together.
While they were growing up, our house often became the the safe haven for them. My daughter’s second room was the “drunk room”, where they all slept in after a night of drinking and not being able to go to their own homes, and I was the mum that they could talk to when they didn’t feel like they could talk to their own parents. My daughter played a fairly typical “come here, go away” with me and that role. She wanted me close, she wanted to feel safe and have her friends feel safe, but not so close that she felt that I was one of them, because that would be just weird.
Being that accessible parent is such a fine line to walk. My mother told me clearly as I was growing up, “I’m your mother, not your friend”, and I took very much the same tact with my daughter, mostly.
Even though I was a friendly mother, I was still a mother. When I saw the Facebook posts about some other parent buying our 14 year olds booze, I got in touch with those other parents. When I felt that one of the girls was in peril, I made sure to sit down and have those difficult, open, challenging conversations in private. If one friend wanted to have a beer when we were having a social, I made them call their parent to check in first, and when they said no, it was no.
Nonetheless, that “cool mum” factor also led to failure, for sure (and hindsight is a beautiful thing). There were times I should’ve intervened sooner, and more frequently than I did. I should’ve stopped being so accepting of the drinking as simply just part of the growing up process. I should’ve challenged some of their decisions more overtly. I should’ve picked up the phone and called some of the other parents directly. I should’ve grounded her more often. Maybe if I had done some of these things, I could’ve saved my daughter from some very real hurts and humiliations. Maybe… #shouldacouldawoulda
June 29, 2014: Day 60
Although in general I do best when I can anticipate what’s next, I absolutely love the feeling of driving around new spaces, discovering new vistas & seeing something new. #100DaysofVulnerability
During my last pregnancy, I said to my midwife when we first met, “I can deal with anything, as long as I know what’s coming”. It was my way of setting expectations with her, and telling her how to communicate with me.
Then we found out I was pregnant with twins.
Because it was twins, my pregnancy was immediately deemed ‘high risk’ and I was to be assigned to a OB/GYN. But, because I had planned on using a midwife, I was allowed to continue to see her and have her as one of my primary caregivers. She was a blessing. She knew exactly how to help me along. She would call me prior to my next appointments with my OB and say to me, “Okay, you’re going to do a test for …. next appointment” or “Okay, he’s going to start talking delivery dates with you”. This was immensely helpful for me, and her approach entirely put me at ease.
I like to think that I’d be great at The Amazing Race, but I think my husband probably knows me best when he says not a chance would he ever do that race with me. I’m really great dealing with things that I can anticipate, or have anticipated. It makes me feel prepared, ready and in control. I’m not entirely comfortable with not having my bearings, with just getting lost, and not being in control to some degree. It’s more in relation to the big issues of life, mind you.
On the other hand, when things aren’t so dire or important, I do so love the feeling of discovery, even if it’s in my own backyard. It’s still something I tend to approach fairly apprehensively. I like the feeling of security, of knowing, to be able to track back, know my starting point, have some idea of bearings.
This day, I took my family on a Sunday drive to investigate a conservation area and a small city that’s not too far from our home. I drive and ride by these two places every day whenever I commute from home to work. So, we jumped in the car, and set our sights there. And it was lovely, and pastoral and enriching.
When I went to Paris, France four years ago, I spent a lot of prep time reading, viewing maps, planning sights to see, and I thoroughly loved my first trip there. What I am looking forward to as I get a bit older, and a bit more secure in my abilities to adapt, is to just get enjoy the feeling of getting lost.
I’ve not been looking forward to expanding on this post, because the feelings behind it are quite simply, sad and hurtful. I’ve been spending some time holding my five year old self.
It seems that what I thought was a most dependable, and precious relationship has come to a crossroads. A friend, someone that I’ve considered my family for 20 years now has stopped engaging with me. Full stop. No explanation. No blow out confrontations, no blaming or flaming, just nothing. And it’s breaking my heart.
It’s breaking my heart because what I’m feeling is that after 20 years, I’m simply not worth any effort. This isn’t the first familial relationship that has left me feeling this way, either. Other beloveds, chosen kind and family have also chosen this path with me, so this isn’t the first time. What I hear, and what I feel, and what I am sitting deep within right now is the knowledge that I am…
Not worth the honesty.
Not worth the five course meal.
Not worth the invitation.
Not worth the uncomfortable conversation.
Not worth the engagement.
Not worth standing up for.
Not worth swallowing your pride for.
Which leads me to feel that it must be me. And that is painful.
When my daughter was a teenager and was in the midst of conflict with her family and friends, I would challenge her by asking her, “What’s the common denominator?”. It’s a fair question that we should all ask ourselves; so I’m asking myself; why have my beloveds all left me? Why have those all closest to me, and all those that have supposedly loved me most, why have I not mattered…enough? I’m listening, quietly and intently…
Perhaps it’s really not about me, and it’s all about them. In a sense, I want to believe that. I want to believe that they are so wrapped up in their own that they can’t even consider me. Sadly, that’s the best case scenario. And, if that’s not the case, are they simply more selfish than me? And if that’s the case, then how could I have given my love and trust to souls that don’t tread as gently on mine as I’ve (thought I’ve) done with theirs? What is it about me that does not compel them to consider me? Include me? Fight for me?
So, the second part of that truism…it’s all about me. It’s all about how I take this information and respond to it. I’ve tried hard to reach out, to no avail. Do I let my basest response win (“Fine! Fine…bye then!”), or do I continue to try, to only be shunned and ignored? I’m not going to go into some self debasement mode here. I know I’m flawed. I know I fail. I also know that I love deeply, show gratitude, am considerate and will do-for another, sometimes to the detriment of myself.
I know that some relationships go through ebbs and flows. I know sometimes we need to leave to come back. There’s a part of me that’s feeling just too tired and too old to be a part of that kind of interplay any more. And the other, shrugs my shoulders and says, “whenever”….
I’m wavering, pretty much daily.
July 1, 2014: Day 62
I’m a tyrant when it comes to my children & table manners. I’m afraid I’m ruining their relationship with food.#100DaysofVulnerability
There are a few things that I’m crazy anal about, and table manners is right up there. I was raised by an English mother who taught me the very English way to hold my knife and fork, meaning there is always a knife and fork in your hand, you do not turn your plate or your utensils around, and you never, ever, ever put your knife down, switch hands and scoop food into your mouth. Egads, no!
I remember my Mum telling me stories about how during the second world war, spies were found out by the way they ate, and that always fascinated me (think Inglourious Basterds and Michael Fassbender’s “three fingers”).
I’m rigid about these and other table manners; don’t talk with your mouth full, don’t start to eat until the cook is also sitting down (unless asked to start by the cook), don’t clear the table while others are still eating. So, I realize that sometimes sitting at my dinner table for my children is quite simply, a drag.
I have yet to learn how to impart the import of something without it being delivered in a threatening (you’d better!), demeaning (do you want to look like….?), or undermining (you have no idea how important this is!) way. I tend to be on my boys especially, all the time. Sometimes, I leave the table disgusted with myself, more than I am with their behaviours.
For me, this also speaks to an element of grace, which is something that none of my progeny seemingly come by naturally. Or so it seems…because, of course grace is something that is a learned behaviour. Let the self-loathing begin…
And of course, one reality is that whenever my children are observed by others, the reaction is always “they’re so polite, they’re so well behaved, they have such great manners”! So, when is good enough, good enough?
July 2, 2014: Day 63
I used to think that knee problems, back pain & pressure headaches were more about mind over matter. What an asshole. #100DaysofVulnerability
Here’s the asshole thing; you don’t think that something’s real or really matters until it happens to you.
My mother suffered from chronic migraines. Literally, they would last three weeks at a time. I can remember watching her physically wince and recoil from sound. I dismissed it a lot because a) I didn’t know if it was really migraines (and I had no idea what that really meant) or a hangover and b) because I thought it was mostly hangovers, I secretly wanted her to suffer. So, I was rather unrelenting in my sound-making; slamming doors, bellowing through the house and the like.
Then, one day when I was about 25, a single mother and a student at University, I experienced my first migraine. My daughter was about three, and I begged my friends to please take her outside to play so that I could just rest. The pain was relentless, and there was no reprieve until finally I rushed to the washroom to throw up. Once that happened, the constant pressure relented, I flopped onto my bed, and I reached across for the phone, called my mother and begged for her forgiveness through tears.
“I’m so sorry Mum!”, I sobbed. “I had no idea…no idea!!” I could practically hear her smiling gently. “It’s okay, love, it’s okay.”
What is it about the human experience that we think just because we haven’t experienced something that it doesn’t exist or that it doesn’t matter? How condescending! How narcissistic! Think #YesAllWomen or #EverydaySexism.
Or this story, too…
During my time at University, I was very involved politically. My education in the realm of real politics, political parties and the power of ideologies grew exponentially after I got involved in student politics. I spent a lot of time with other engaged students from right across the political spectrum, which was it’s own special kind of education too.
I knew a lot of Young Tories and we would often get into heated debates in the offices of YFS, especially about social programs and the like. I was literally told by a leader of the Young Tories at York:
“…we like single mothers. It means you put out.”
Yah. My politics got cemented pretty early on. To be fair of course, not every person that was affiliated with that party were so vulgar, crass or base, but I struggled with those that held so close to an ideology that was so insular, so self-serving and so willfully ignorant to the notion of the greater good.
After I had left school, I was attending a leadership debate for the provincial Liberals in Toronto (back in 1996). I was shocked to see a vocal and devout member of the Young Tories standing in the convention centre at the doorway of the one leadership candidates’ offices. We smiled, and shook hands and I asked why he was now walking that “red, Liberal line”? He told me that he had a sister who had to flee an abusive relationship, and that she was struggling to find support because the Conservative government had shut down funding to most second-stage support centres at that time.
I remember looking at him, not wanting to chide him or admonish him in any way. I was just happy that he finally “got it”.
This is why storytelling is so important. Everyone, every single one of us needs to tell our stories because they help inform, they create empathy, they create a shared moment between human beings. And hopefully, one day, that storytelling will stop us from feeling the need to say, “oh yah, prove it!” and instead, we believe and we trust, and we support because it’s just so.
July 3, 2014: Day 64
At 44 yrs old, this is the first time I’ve ever had long nails. Ever. #100DaysofVulnerability
It may seem like I’m obsessing a bit, but growing my nails has been this “thing” for me for oh, my whole life. As a kid, my mother bought me that nail polish that tastes horrible to help dissuade me from nibbling at my fingertips, and of course, it never worked. I never, ever thought that I’d be able to have long nails of my own.
It was my girlfriend Jen, who also has short nails, who recently inspired me to start wearing nail polish, which is why I had posted earlier about wearing dark polish at all. And lo and behold, here I am, mere weeks later, with nails!
I know it seems like a trite, incidental thing, but what I’ve learned from this is if I try something new, and just do it without worry about judgment, something can come of it. So, now I’m a little bit obsessed with not their length, but with choosing fun colours and keeping them cared for. And this trite, incidental thing brings me a little bit of happiness every time I look down as I’m driving and see the sun shining through the tips of my nails, or scratch my nose and feel their length. Look ma, I did it! Oh, and that ring, is the one my mother gave me for my 21st birthday, so now I feel a little better every time I show it to an admirer.
July 4, 204: Day 65
I stopped apologizing for me a long time ago now. When others do, it’s about them, not me. #100DaysofVulnerability
I was recently at a gathering for a friend’s birthday and was introduced to someone new by a mutual friend. As we were chatting away, I made a seemingly innocuous statement about something (and I honestly can’t remember exactly what it was) and this mutual friend made some sort of statement with the intent of either excusing me or apologizing for me.
Piss. Me. Off.
I know that he really meant nothing by it, and if he reads this, he’d be likely upset that it upset me so. At the time, I immediately made a retort about not apologizing for me thankuverrrymuch as a quick admonishment of his actions, but it’s still sitting with me.
I get it. I can make some people uncomfortable, either because I have an opinion which I’m not afraid to state, or because I tend to swear, or because well…state whatever reason here. That’s not a new experience for me. As I get older though, I have less tolerance for other’s seeming need to apologize on my behalf. I am, simply, who I am. I know that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and if I’m not, I’m not going to go out of my way to curry favour with them. You know why? Because there are plenty of other people that would share that tea with me. I can speak for myself, and I abhor others speaking for me. Serious trigger.
I feel somewhat betrayed in those moments too. You don’t get to say that you love me and choose only those parts that make you most comfortable, to love. I’m a package deal, man.
I’ve known ‘difficult’ people in my life, and some of those that I’ve loved the most are the ones that have challenged me, or challenged my ideas of what’s (especially, socially) acceptable. I love those envelope pushers, because they’ve taught me how to just accept and love, unconditionally. I don’t want to be told ‘I love you’ by someone to have it feel conditional. Not anymore.
July 5, 2014: Day 66
Addiction is an awful, shameful thing. No matter how well you do, it’s still there. #100DaysofVulnerability
I’m an addict. Or, in the least I have an ‘addictive personality’, whatever that means as I’m not a clinician. Smoking is an addictive thing for me, and it’s so ladened with so many contributing elements as to why I keep smoking, it’s hard to break apart to really examine. Or rather, it’s not it’s that hard, it’s merely exhausting.
I’ve been smoking since I was 12 years old (for the mathematically challenged that’s 32 years). This is not something I’m proud of, it’s just my reality. I’ve successfully quit for stretches at a time, but I always find myself cheating and going back to smoking. My husband’s a nationally certified oncology nurse; imagine how well that goes over in our house.
He once said to me in a moment of trying to encourage me to quit, “it’s not like smoking defines you” to which I responded, “Of COURSE it does!”. In high school, all my friends smoked. My boyfriends smoked. I met boyfriends because I smoked, I found opportunities in life because I was hanging out in the smoking section (think “Friends”; it’s true). My best friends still smoke. It’s something that is intrinsically tied to me. I never had a chance, really. Both of my parents smoked, as did my older sister, as did all my closest friends (except the rare one).
Thing is of course, when I’ve quit, I love it. I love not smelling of smoke, I love not spending the money on them, or hiding it, or feeling like a real athlete again. And still…
I struggle with giving it up for good. Even when I’m ready to quit again, I never say to myself, “this is your LAST cigarette” because that scares me. I know intellectually that smoking is a terrible thing. I know. And still…
My daughter has tried smoking, but is not a smoker, so I did well in that messaging. And still…
It’s an exhausting exercise breaking down my reasons for smoking.
Habit: totally. When I’ve had a drink too many, I’m eager to find a smoker in the crowd and bum one. When I’m seriously stressed, easy go to. Familiarity, I suppose.
Culture: come on, all the cool kids smoke. They do. Being a part of that non-conformist clan is a comfortable place for me, and a culture that I know well. And there’s of course the weight gain that comes along with quitting. Ugh.
And still…I hate it. Every time I smoke, I feel like a failure. It’s a dirty secret that I cover with hand washing, body sprays, and mints. I live in the shame of it, every single time. And I give over, and I just smoke to relieve whatever stresses or slights or pain that I find myself sitting in.
And still…I love it.
July 6, 2014: Day 67
When I hear others talk of their work & they use words that are ladened with emotion, I’m glad to know I’m not alone in really giving a shit. #100DaysofVulnerability
I really, really, really hate the expression “have no expectations, then you’re not disappointed”. I can’t think of a more terrible way to live. It actually reminds of one of my favourite quotes by Goethe:
Nothing is harder to bear than a succession of fair days.
When my husband and I first moved to Stratford, I was working in Toronto and I had earned a promotion at work. I called to tell him and our conversation went like this…
“Congratulations love! That’s great news! Oh, does this mean we’re going to have to move back to Toronto?”
“What?! Are you on drugs? No. No way. Babe, you’re a professional. This…this is just a job.”
And it was just a job. It was also the kind of place where they let me go the day before my maternity leave ended. I promised myself that I would never avail myself to working for a place like that again.
I care. I care about my work. I care about where I spend so much of my time. I care about the hours I’m away from my family, because if I don’t care, then what the hell’s the point? I’ve never understood people that just show up and do the work and get paid and go home. To me, it’s never been “just a job”. To feel as though I’m not wasting my intelligence, my creativity, or my passion, I must feel connected to something, to a group of people creating something to make me get up and hustle every day.
Every time I read an article about someone that’s done something remarkable, created a great company, changed some part of the world, it’s because they care. Their language is rich with passion; love, hate, moved, appalled, inspired, motivated. It makes me feel as though I’m not alone; that when I speak of my work and my milieu with passion, that there are indeed more people out there like me, instead of the seeming majority of game players, time watchers, and clock punchers.
And it’s those same game players, time watchers, and clock punchers that will gaslight to try to make me feel silly, or “too emotional”, or put me down, or raise that eyebrow, and the reality is, I’m okay with that. I’ll be that person. I’ll carry that burden. It took me a long time, and this #100DaysofVulnerability has really helped too, to accept the fact that I am one of those people that gives a damn. I care about where I spend my hours. I care about the impact of the work that I do. And you know what? I really do feel sorry for those that don’t, because I know that there are more like me out there, and when we’re together, we’re a force to be reckoned with. You can’t fake that.
July 7, 2014: Day 68
I used to make sure I was the last person to leave after shavasana, as if it was a competition. It is. With myself. #100DaysofVulnerability
When I first started going to Moksha Yoga, I would lay my mat by the door and crave the brief reprieve of cool air that would rush over me as people would leave the room after practice. It was the only way I could stay in the room at the end of class for any extended period of time. And I would force myself to stay there, to be the last person to leave the room to show how committed I was to “the practice”.
I’ve certainly changed my approach to my practice since then. There’s a reason why yogis will tell a class that shavasana is the hardest pose. As I’ve written about regarding my 10-day Vipassana meditation course, sitting in meditation is hard. The real competition with myself is to not judge myself for where I am that day. I’ve often said that “every day on the mat is different” because it is. Some days, I’m strong and flowing. Some days, I’m tight and restricted and every pose is a struggle. You never know what kind of day it will be on the mat until you’re on the mat.
So, some days, I am the last person to leave the room because I’ve been able to quiet my mind and be present. And other days, my mind’s racing and I’m all a-chatter, and I’m building to-do lists as I lay in the warm room. And those are the days that I’m okay getting up and walking out early, because, every day on the mat is different.
July 8, 2014: Day 69
Nothing worse than the post-game review. #right? The criticism is thorough. #100DaysofVulnerability
Oh, we are our own worst critics, aren’t we?
I’ll tell you what I know. I know that I’m a great teacher and public speaker. As my mother taught me a long time ago, when you’ve heard enough compliments on something, you stop saying “oh peshaw!” and you just say “thank you”. I’ve been teaching and public speaking for long enough, and the feedback’s been consistent all along that I don’t have to be shy about making that claim about my skills in that regard. And still….
Being captured on film, and doing the post-game review is utterly…painful.
I had a great time recently delivering two social media workshops in Sudbury, and the team at Norcat and the Innovation Mill did a first rate job of filming and editing my first presentation and incorporating my slide content. I watched it twice. The first time, I was pretty pleased, happy with my overall flow. And then, I watched it again. Here’s what my internal dialogue sounded like:
“Could my hair look worse? Wow, my makeup looks lacking. Could I say “right” enough times? Slow down for gawd’s sake, Karen. Oh, you really could’ve explained that better.” And on, and on, and on…
Now, there’s nothing wrong with reviewing one’s performance so that you can continue to improve, in fact, it is what athletes do all the time, right? When is good, or great, enough? I know that when I deliver workshops that people leave the room feeling inspired, better educated, more prepared, eager to start something new. I’m working on letting that be the dominant tape in my head versus the critical self view I tend to play>rewind>play>rewind.
July 9, 2014: Day 70
When in a place where many are running solo, it’s not hard to find a kindred. You just have to say hello. #100DaysofVulnerability
It’s not often that I attend an event where I don’t know many people in the room, or where someone hasn’t heard of me or my organization, so usually social settings are a breeze for me. Once in a while though, I do attend events that take me outside of my usual element and industry, and while they’re not unsettling per se, they do require a different approach.
Attending an event where I don’t know anyone starts this way for me. I head straight to the bar, grab a drink, then seek out a high spot and people watch for a while. You can see a lot from that point of view. Recently at an annual summer party put on by an agency that really knows how to throw a party, I sat perched at said high point and spent a good twenty minutes just watching. There were a lot of people running solo at that party, and who spent a lot of time pretending to not look like they were running solo. Funny that.
I get that. It’s hard to be alone in a crowd of people who are busy chatting away, engaging, laughing. It feels like you’re left out. You want to be a part of the conversation, you’re just waiting for someone to say hello and invite you in. Instead of waiting though, I’ve learned to take that first step. The look that I see on many another solo person’s face when I say hello first is most telling; gratitude, relief, and often an audible sigh that says “oh, thank you”. And that exact thing happened at this summer party this day.
I really can’t stand Dr. Phil, but I will acknowledge that there are two things he’s been known to say that I fully agree with:
We all want to be liked. And we all want to feel like we belong.
So, rather than leaving that other solo to flail in the wind, I choose to reach out with a saving handshake. More times than not, it’s a mutual save, and that’s a good thing.
July 10, 2014: Day 71
Nothing like a professional diagnosis to let you know that your body has totally betrayed you. #100DaysofVulnerability
Fuck. Fuckit. Fuckityfuckfuckfuck. Today, I received a diagnosis after X-rays et al that I have osteoarthritis in my knees. Not that I am surprised. I was 34 when I gave birth to my almost fourteen pounds of twin boys, and I broke 200 pounds. That kind of pressure on my knees had a devastating effect on my mobility. Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to get back into running consistently, but each time I start I find that I’m waylaid with swelling and pain in my knees.
Sigh. Well, at least now I have a diagnosis. Sad thing, is that I’ve been told that running is a definite no go. No impact sports for me, not if I want these knees to last me the rest of my days. This makes me angry, and I am feeling a great sense of loss.
I’ve always been a runner, all the way back to elementary school. As I get back to the more active part of me, I had this vision of myself as some lithe, lean, powerful runner, coasting down a road, moving myself along, both figuratively and literally. And now, that’s not going to happen. That vision will never be realized. There is a limitation to my body that my mind is working to accept and overcome.
I know that I have alternatives; cycling (which I love more than running), yoga, snowboarding (no moguls), but it doesn’t erase this sense of loss. And it’s also triggering a strong memory that I have about my Mum.
My mother was one of the first people in Canada diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and one of the first to receive support benefits because of it. It was a brutal fight for her to get the recognition and the support that she needed to just survive her every day. I remember asking my Mum was CFS was like, and from what she told me I envisioned this vicious cycle that was both mentally and physically taxing. First, your body betrays you; you just can’t get up and do what you want to do, and there’s no outward rationale as to why. Then, it becomes a mental game, because you’re angry at your body for betraying you and you don’t understand why, and then it’s exacerbated and amplified physically because that’s how depression ultimately manifests itself, and around and around and around you go.
I feel like I’m in the midst of this cycle somewhat. I’m aware, so that’s half the battle, I know. Still, I am experiencing a sense of loss that I know most people just look at me, shrug their shoulders and think, “get over it”, which I will…just not yet.
For those of you old enough to remember the show Ally McBeal, Courtney Thorne-Smith’s character asks Ally once,
“why are your problems so much bigger than everybody else’s?”.
“Because they’re mine.” she said.
True ‘dat, sister.
July 11, 2014: Day 72
Accepting that it’s okay to take a day or so to lick some wounds. I’m not going to be kickin’ it every day. #100DaysofVulnerability
When I was a single mother and my temp job ended, or a contract was closing, I immediately went into action mode; what do I need to do to ensure there’s a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, clothes on our back. Bam. Immediate. No time to waste. Move forward, or reap the consequences.
I’m not good at wallowing, or crying for that matter. It feels so indulgent to me. For sure, based on conditioning and a less than ideal childhood. I will cry about something for about 10 seconds before I hear that voice inside my head that says, “alright, ‘nuff of that. Let’s move on, shall we?”, and then I just…do.
I’m uncomfortable simply sitting in the depression and let down of something that I’d wanted not coming to fruition. Reality is, in my life there have been a lot of pivots from original ideas or thoughts to execution, and I’ve not been 100% successful in everything that I’ve ever wanted or set out to achieve, but I’ve not usually failed at getting what I wanted. So when that happens, instead of dismissing things, I’m learning to just sit it in. Sit in the disappointment. Sit in the hurt. Sit in the rejection.
Difference between now and then is that I have a support system that didn’t exist for me before. I have a husband and friends that allow me to just…be, who don’t tell me it’ll all be alright, yadda yadda. They just let me…be. And I don’t have to worry about always being on, or moving forward immediately.
So, even though it still feels somewhat indulgent, I’m learning to just sit in the hurt and just let it be…for a while, anyway. Stasis is not my comfortable place.
July 12, 2014: Day 73
Calling out someone before they’ve done you wrong, is just the fear that they’ll do you wrong & hurt you. #100DaysofVulnerability
Oh, that whole living in a future that never comes to fruition, again…
I’m honestly just grateful that I do this mostly in my head rather than out loud. We live in such fear at times, don’t we?
July 13, 2014: Day 74
Not so much pissed at someone for stealing my idea. Pissed that I didn’t move on it sooner. #100DaysofVulnerability
You know how just about everyone has a favourite scene or quote from a movie? Well, years ago, and I do mean years ago, I had this idea for a picture frame that would replay your favourite movie scenes over and over again on demand. It was just an idea, and then lo and behold, along comes digital picture frames. They may not do exactly what I had envisioned, but they’re pretty damned close.
This is the lament of every entrepreneur, non? Great ideas that don’t get executed on, only to be done by someone else. There is a lot to be said for first to market.
I’ve had this idea for a while now, and I’ve been toying with it, and then recently I saw someone else capitalizing on a similar notion.
Gawddammit. Time to stop thinking. Time to start doing. (And no, I’m not going to share it here. Not yet, anyway.) #justshipit
July 14, 2014
Gawddammit. I didn’t post this day. I posted updates on the commentary, but not my actual #100DaysofVulnerability post. Working on letting that go, but I’m still really disappointed in myself. So, I’m extending this by one calendar day, because this day, doesn’t count.
July 15, 2014: Day 75
The thought of losing the ability to wear these makes me sad. I love how they make me feel #100DaysofVulnerability
I have a thing for shoes. Shoes and purses. Ever since I was a wee girl. One of my earliest memories is of me wearing a pair of red Buster Browns; I couldn’t have been more than three. I loved those shoes. It must’ve started then. And my mother had an outstanding shoe collection. I always coveted her shoes.
I love how a good pair of shoes makes me feel. At 5’9” (and shrinking) I’ve always been regarded as relatively tall for a woman, and I love to wear a great pair of heels. I love how they make me feel. Powerful, notable. And I love how others will comment on a great pair of shoes, men and women, completely unprompted.
One of the great laments that I have about dealing with my new diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the knees is that I have to be ever mindful of what I’m doing in a day to determine which shoes I can wear from here on in. Will I be walking a lot? Will there be a lot of stairs? How long will my day go? These are every day considerations for most women, and now it also mean that some shoes I’ll likely never be able to wear again.
And it may sound silly, but that’s impacting my sense of self somewhat. My shoes are a reflection of my style, my choices, my voice. When that is hampered, and requires a new definition, with new boundaries and considerations, it does impact how I present myself to the judgmental world at large every day. And no one, of course, is as judgmental about me, as I am.
I am not one to believe in a whole lot of of Astrology, but I am definitely Piscean in the sense that I am ruled by my feet. If my feet aren’t happy, I’m not happy.
July 16, 2014: Day 76
I love being undersold, undervalued, undermined. #100DaysofVulnerability
I’ve been working full-time since I was 17 years old. I have had many, many roles at many different kinds of companies, and that variety of roles has provided me with an excellent range of experience, skill sets and knowledge.
One thing that I’ve never been good at is playing politics in all of those places. It’s one of the reasons I call myself a professional elephant hunter.
Whenever I use that moniker with a senior leader or an executive, they respond with a big smile and say, “Oh, I like that!” to which I respond, “Oh, sure you do, until I work for you”, and if they’re being honest their response is pretty immediately “rrriiiggghhttt”.
I’m not good with going along with things, just because. To me, that’s politics. Either fluffing up someone else for strategic reasons, or waiting and hoping for them to fail, for other strategic reasons. If someone puts forth a proposal, I’ll be the one to say, “are you sure that’s a good idea?” and it’s not to be contrary for the sake of being contrary. I want to know that I’m spending my time, skills and energy doing the right things for the right reasons. So, often my colleagues love me, and my managers, not so much sometimes. I like to think that at the end of the day, my questions bring out the best in all members of a team. It provides the proposers the opportunity to articulate their vision, and it allows the receivers to garner a better understanding of intended outcomes.
I’ve never gotten those people who talk out of both sides of their mouths, or single others out in a negative way to somehow make themselves feel better about themselves. And the older I get, the less patience I have for that type of behaviour. That’s the worst kind of politics, as far as I’m concerned.
Have you ever noticed that those that are truly exceptional, are the humblest, kindest and most generous of all? They don’t play politics, because they don’t need to play politics.
They’re not the untalented, petty, biting, sniping, wannabe frauds whom speak in platitudes to hide their ignorance and failings and participate in the kind of behaviours I just noted. I try to recall that whenever people act that way, as my husband so rightly reminds me, I should thank for showing me who the real asshole is in the room.
I won’t expend energy talking negatively about others behind their backs. I won’t feign friendships, or laugh along with others to make them feel better about themselves. I simply don’t suffer fools gladly, and I will never, ever, ever allow someone to treat me poorly, especially right in front of me, without it being called out.
I have to remember that the opinions of those people are no reflection of me, who I am, and the talents and skills that I have. It’s not always an easy road. It’s hard not to want to be validated and celebrated by others. It’s too easy to just be dismissive and say, “well, they don’t matter!”, because like sticks and stones do hurt bones, those slights, they do hurt you. They have an impact. The trick is remembering that they, the source, don’t matter.
I’m working on remembering which others matter the most, and allow those people and those interactions to nurture and impact me. The negative, sadly, is just so easy to get sucked into and at times is easier to believe than “the high road”. It’s the stuff that keeps me up at night, formulating those zinger comebacks. Another exhausting waste of energy, I know.
July 17, 2014: Day 77
He’s a great husband in many, many ways & a total failure as a romantic. I miss romance. #100DaysofVulnerability
I can count on one hand the number of overt, romantic gestures my husband’s committed in our (almost) 13 years of marriage.
I know I shouldn’t complain. In the grand scheme of things, I lucked out in the husband department. He’s loving, in an entirely practical way. He’s very involved in our home and in raising our children. I don’t have to negotiate for him to split the housework; he takes on most of it (especially since I commute 5 hours a day to work). He takes care of all the dirty jobs, and he takes care of his family. He’s patient, kind, supportive and an awesome father. And still…
Romance. He mostly shrugs his shoulders and asks forgiveness for lacking in that way.
“You know, I could be the beer guzzling, hand down my pants, porn watching douchebag, but I’m not!” he’ll throw out defensively once in a while. And he could be, but I wouldn’t have married that guy in the first place.
Romance. It tells me that I’m on his mind. It tells me that I’m worth the extra effort. It tells me that I’m worth the work of being creative, and being rightfully sneaky and that he still desires me as Karen, the woman he couldn’t bear to leave in those early days, not just partner that he reviews the monthly bills with, or goes over the weekly shopping and to-do lists with.
Have you ever noticed when someone wants to bitch, it’s not enough to bitch about just one thing? It’s always much better to bitch about multiple things.
“I was on my way into work this morning, and I woke up late, and then my hair looked just awful AND it’s so hottttt out.”
You can hear the whine. What is it about bitching that just feels so good sometimes?
It’s lazy. It’s indulgent. It’s easier to be indignant. Why are you not thinking of me? Narcissistic, perhaps, but also, a smattering of woe is me too. We’re all allowed a little woe is me though once in a while, aren’t we?
My bitching usually happens around and geared toward my husband (poor guy). I’ll tell you why though, if only to make me feel a little better about it.
My husband’s a nationally certified oncology Registered Nurse. He’s also a palliative specialist in our region. Yes. He’s that guy. He’s special, in many ways. He does the most incredibly difficult work and he loves it. He rarely complains. We’re often stopped while out and about town shopping etc. because people are so grateful for his thoughtfulness and his care, they are happy to see him, and they’re happy to share with me how special he is. Here’s where the disconnect happens for me.
Once, we were driving down a fairly busy road near our home, and he glimpsed one wheelchair and three people in front of a house. One person was on the ground, and two others were standing there, looking rather perplexed. He turned to me (as I was driving) and asked me to stop. “They need my help,” he said, and he was right. A woman had fallen out of her wheelchair and the other two people were trying to figure out how to pick her up and help her back into it. We stopped, he took the time to help the woman back into her chair and then educate the others so that they could continue to support their loved one. He knew all that, in a glimpse.
But I recently get needles under my knee caps and on this day he parks our vehicle right in front of a 65 degree slope with no space for me to reach non-sloping ground and a hill for me to climb, and doesn’t wait for me or extend a hand to help me up the hill.
Yes. I wanted to admonish him.
“Why were you so thoughtless?! Goddammit.”
I realize that many of my laments regarding my relationship with my husband are pretty much driven by this same theme; not being top of mind for him. These 100Days have helped me see that pretty clearly. Why is it a vulnerability? Because if I’m not top of mind for him, then who the hell else in this world would give a shit enough about me? If not him, then it really is just me alone. That’s why.
July 19, 2014: Day 79
I love the outdoors. I also love my comforts of home. Working on leaving other’s judgments of that behind. #100daysofvulnerability
This is our first trip with our new trailer, a hybrid (hardtop and pop out sides). Our first trailer was a pop-up one that my husband had to convince me we should buy a few years ago now. I’ve always camped with tents and portable barbecues. Nothing elaborate, just totally functional. And now that we’ve upgraded, there’s no going back.
I’ve always loved camping. I started going with friends when I was in high school to Sibbald Point, because the closest that my parents got to camping were day trips to the same park, where they forgot to bring stuff for us to drink so beer it was! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I’ve done the hard core camping too; portaging in to a secluded spot with no roads, hauling gear, sleeping in a tent throughout a whole night’s rain storm, waking up in puddles, riverside winter camping; I’ve paid my dues. I have a ton of friends that love to camp too and some of them are real purists. I totally applaud them.
Now, I’m way okay with being able to enjoy my Bodum coffee after I’ve poured in the water from the plug-in kettle, and having an always on, always working, no draining required freezer is 100% pure luxury. Yes, I’ve put up artwork & am fashioning it with some IKEA bits to make the most of the tiny space. This trailer is so ridiculous, it’s even got heated mattresses. BUT, those heated mattresses just kept the dampness at bay when we slept after traveling in a rain storm so we could actually sleep…and wake up to enjoy where we were and what we were doing.
I’m the first to point out the silliness of the comforts of our new travelling abode, just the same way I was the first to make the joke about my double major in University (Economics and Women’s Studies; so I could be a feminist bitch with an attitude about money…TOO!). You know, defensive posturing.
There’s usually two responses to stories about our new trailer; those who abhor it, and those who nod their heads and totally get it. I too judge those people who drive around in Fifth Wheels that have living rooms bigger than mine at home; there’s nothing resembling camping going on there. And I also understand those that judge me for not being truer to Survivorman ethics while in the pines.
Here’s the thing though; we’re all wired to find the pleasure principle. I don’t agree with Freud on many things, but I do agree with him on one: in all that we do, we seek the pleasure principle. Our food, drink, work, friends, experiences…everything. Everything we do is driven by some desire to bring us pleasure.
Why does the collective “we” insists upon foisting our own definitions of pleasure on others? Why can we not just celebrate others seeking their pleasure?
You know what I love? I love being in the pines. I love the smell of the forests, I love the look and feel of wind on the water (except when I’m paddling into a headwind), I love knowing that I’m an infinitesimal part of something so much bigger than me. Hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking across our beautiful forests and lakes keeps my woes and laments in perspective, and I still love to settle into a warm, comfortable bed at night, with my husband at my side and not wake up immobilized by back pain or a rock under my hip bone all night.
So, I’m just going to enjoy the ability to wake up in the middle of the night and not have to head to the comfort station to pee. Having my own personal little outhouse, with a door, inside my trailer is a luxury that I’m going to continue to take advantage of while I spend two weeks in the trees and waters of Temagami and Algonquin and elsewhere in our stunning province, and imma let the judgers, judge.
July 20, 2014: Day 80
Earnest conversations filled with vulnerability with my husband have left me sad, melancholy & knowing I’m loved. #100DaysofVulnerability
The best part of this vacation for my husband and I were the first six days; as he put it, more relaxation than recreation. Oh, we still got out on our kayaks and tooled about on our bikes a bit, but this is the first time we’ve had more than two consecutive days to ourselves in about ten years. Our boys attending their first overnight camp about 40km away in the depths of Lake Temagami gave us the opportunity to sit in quiet, read, and talk in hushed tones about more than just laundry and bills.
This #100DaysofVulnerability has been a wonderful exercise for me, albeit exhausting at times. It’s not easy to open yourself up to the gift of honest feedback. I know that I’ve needed this, for myself, and so has our marriage.
Marriages need to be cultivated and maintained with conversations that are honest, sometimes painful, and done in a way where both partners feel like they’re in a soft place to land.
I’ve said before that I don’t know if I could live under my own kind of honest feedback, and a few of you wrote to me to say, “of course you could” and they were right. Of course I can. Of course I do. That feedback, that insight into what it’s like to live with and engage with me is a good way to remind me how to be gentle, considerate and caring of others’ souls when the feedback is going in the other direction.
July 21, 2014: Day 81
Hitting open Lake Temagami facing a headwind, sans skirt in my kayak. Choosing to abandon a set goal & face it another day.#100DaysofVulnerability
Pivoting. In the world of startups, the world in which I live professionally, it’s a big word. You have a direction. You have a goal. You have a vision. You are on course, and you’re moving along, chugging away, heading to your goal…and theeeeeeennnnnnnnn…..PIVOT!
Hard right, hard left, 180 degrees. Some inner voice or external pressure pushes you in a new direction, and you just have to accept it and keep on moving.
The inlets on Lake Temagami at Finlayson Point are quiet, gentle spaces to glide along the water and I spent plenty of time paddling amongst the nooks and crannies. Coming out of the inlets and heading into the open winds along the northeast arm of the Lake was hitting a big wall of different. The headwind was unrelenting. I had my eyes on a buoy bout 700 metres from where I was, and I was heading there. Focused. Talking to myself. Managing the churning water and waves. One stroke at a time. Correction. Pause. Stroke. And then I had to rethink my strategy.
I realized about 250 metres in that I needed to turn back. Without a skirt on my kayak, any broadside hit of water would’ve compromised my safety. So, I turned my kayak around. Carefully. Purposefully. I needed to let the wind and waves take over for a bit. I needed to not the fight the elements, but let them take the lead. I needed to swing and sway with the winds and steer myself back to the inlet so that I could tackle the same waters better prepared.
You know what a pivot is? It’s humbling. It’s disappointing. And it’s smart.
Some goals aren’t well thought out, because we don’t have all necessary inputs of information before we set them. Sometimes, we don’t know what we want, what we need or where can dare to go until we’re already underway. I don’t look at it as a failure on the water that day. Instead, I embraced the pivot on the lake that afternoon, and that gave me another opportunity to tackle the waters again from a more informed, more prepared stance.
When I was about 25, I really wanted to learn how to kayak. I didn’t have a kayak, and I didn’t have many opportunities to use one, but I really wanted to learn. I had been white water rafting a couple of times by then, and each time I had done that trip, I watched with fascination the kayakers taking on the whitewater and the churning chutes of the Ottawa River.
At the time, I was a single mother, and it took me some time to save enough cash to head down to Queen’s Quay in Toronto and take lessons from a local outfitter. For an entire weekend, I learned how to get in and out from a dock, navigate the power boats in Toronto Harbour, perform emergency saves and attempted the Eskimo roll. I didn’t have a ton of opportunities to practice my new skills due to no kayak of my own and limited means to get to sites with access to one either.
A few years ago, my husband surprised me by purchasing a small, recreational kayak that was a perfect starter. And it was mine! I had my own kayak!! It wasn’t a great boat, but it was a good starter. It took some effort to steer her, but I was in my happy place whenever I was in her for a quiet tour.
Then, last summer at our annual Algonquin trip we saw a used kayak for sale at the Portage store, and before I knew it, we had slid her inside the mini-van, pushing all of us against the windows as we hauled her back to our campsite. My first ride in her was on Canisbay Lake, the day before our departure. I figured I would take her out for a quick run. The entire lake is about a 10km paddle, and I figured I’d be just over an hour to test her out.
About half way around the lake, I felt the wind pick up and looked over my shoulder to see storm clouds approaching. I turned the kayak back toward shore, and started paddling home as I watched those clouds and the rain they brought with them head straight toward me. I kept hoping that they’d pass to my right, but no such luck. Within moments, I was completely drenched. My sunglasses only helped to keep the pelting rain from injuring my eyes, and I had to shake my head every couple of strokes to be able to see even a few feet in front of me. And I was laughing. Laughing out loud, hooting and cackling. There was a definite camaraderie between me and the canoes that I passed as they raced for their paddle-in sites, all of us nodding and acknowledging our collective struggle and current state with grins as wide as they could be.
Of course, about 100 metres from shore the rain broke and I glided into shore, just as my husband was calling me on the walkie-talkie.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Great!” I panted. “That was the best worst paddle of my life!”
I called my kayak Carys that summer because Carys means love in Welsh. (I named my house too. Some people think it’s pretentious. I obviously don’t. People used to name their homes, homesteads and beloved items all the time. Think Tara and Rosebud.) I love Carys, but we were still in the discovery part of our relationship. There had been no real trials as of yet. We were great in smooth waters, and a brief storm helped me test her, but I was still learning how she, and I, responded under stress.
After an afternoon tour on Lake Temagami with my husband, we were heading back to our site when the wind picked up and ripped my ‘50 Mission Cap’ from my head and landed it in the water. I’ve had that Eco-Challenge hat since 2000, and there’s no way I could leave without it. As I turned to catch sight of it floating in the lake, I felt Carys tip too far to the right and as I tried to correct, I overcorrected and out I slid.
And even though I uttered “No!” as I was sliding into the water, it was a relatively smooth and uneventful spill. Everything that I do to prepare for a tour on the water made it a good, middle of the lake exit. All my belongings were either connected to my safety lines and my precious cargo was all safe within my wet bags. I was wearing my life jacket, and as I righted Carys only a little water was trapped in the cockpit as I grabbed my hat and then started to tow her to shore.
I could see my husband pick up his strokes with urgency, racing toward me. “It’s okay, I’m okay!” I yelled. And I really was. Together, my husband and I turned her and emptied her, and I climbed back in wetter and actually happier than I had been most of the afternoon, and headed back to camp.
In retrospect, what I realized is that there is an element of fear that runs as an undercurrent to just about every sport I do; cycling, snowboarding, kayaking.
I’m good, I’m capable, but I’m not fearless, nor am I an expert. In fact, I’m downright tentative. I feel as though I don’t get to my edge often enough.
Falling out of Carys reminded me that we only get better when we meet certain boundaries, fail, fall and then rebound. That sharp intake of breath every time I tipped a little too much kept me from trying my edge, and that fear of falling kept me too rigid and uptight in my cockpit. Funny how I found a bit more sway once I was soaked and paddling back to our site.
July 23, 2014: Day 83
Making it not halfway up the Fire Tower killer hill today on my bike & walking it the rest of the way. Yup. #100DaysofVulnerability
When I was a single mother living in Toronto and my bike was my car, I was the most fit I ever was in my life. I was riding 50–60km a week, mostly to and from work, with plenty of jaunts with my six year old daughter cruising full out down Post Rd. en route to Cherry Beach for my weekly dragonboat practice. Both of us had quads to kill, and I loved the freedom that my bike allowed me. I was working out 4–5 times a week and had 11% body fat, but more important, I felt strong. I used to love that feeling of trekking home on my bike, straight north up Bathurst St., hitting Dupont and knowing I had that serious climb to go before a reprieve. I would tackle that hill, every day. Ready myself, gear down, head down and get that ass outta my seat and just climb. Strong.
When we moved to Stratford, I had to get my driver’s license because it really is a driving city. Everything may be five minutes away, but everything’s spread, out and running errands on a bike with twin boys just doesn’t work out so well. Since I also commute up to 25 hours a week my time at home is precious, and one of the first things to go is my ability to ride my bike as much as I’d like. And the bastards stole my beautiful 23 lb KHS bike. It’s colour was rootbeer. I still feel the pain over losing that bike.
So, not a surprise that my physicality has taken a huge hit the last number of years. In a typical day, I can walk less than 2000 steps. 2000!! That’s almost criminal. I get up, I get into my car, I drive to the train station, I sit on the train for 2 hours then I walk to the subway and arrive at my office. I hate it. My body hates it. It’s all kinds of bad for me. My knees, my hips, the constant tingling in my joints because of the lack of exercise is a constant reminder of where I used to be and where I am no longer.
My husband has said to me many times,
“it took a long time for you to fall out of shape, it’s going to take you a long time to get it back.”
I have to keep reminding myself of that reality. To not get discouraged and let down when the scale and my mobility don’t rebound like I hope they will. Aging is humbling. Mobility, or lack thereof, is also humbling. When your body just stops responding the way you’re used to, it’s, well…a total mindfuck.
So, there’s Fire Tower hill. A short ride along the highway from our campsite to the road up. In stages, I was okay. I got to about the second stage, easily. But. The last stage of Fire Tower hill is straight up. I’m talking like 50 degrees straight up, and wearing my steps ins for the first season means I was not feeling secure or confident in my ability to ride without falling over. There’s that fear factor, again.
So, I stopped at about the one third mark, and dismounted, and breathed heavily and slowly walked my bike up that goddamned hill, while I yelled encouragement after my husband who took it with aplomb. Eventually, I sat at the top catching my breath and hated the way I felt, and performed. It’s going to be a long road back.
I went to two summer camps growing up. Light and Life Day Camp andMarygrove. Both of which were amazing, and which were church sponsored camps for city kids whose families had zero money. My parents had nothing, but they were always resourceful; especially my mother. I loved both of those camp experiences, and they hugely impacted my desire to send all my kids to summer camps.
When it was just my daughter me and in Toronto we lived in Forest Hill, the second most affluent neighbourhood in the city, and many of my daughter’s classmates ended up going to Camp Walden. We were living (mostly) happily hand to mouth, I could not afford the camp fees, and I totally judged the parents for sending their eight year olds away for an entire summer anyway. I knew she wanted to go too, but sending her to that camp was entirely impossible (still is). What was important to me though was to give my daughter a different experience than I had growing up in that way, and I was determined that she would be a camp kid.
I grew up and started working at the age of 12 at fast food joints at Fairview Mall for $3.15/hr. It was partly out of necessity (I needed my own money) and it was definitely an escape from my home (if I was working, I had somewhere to be after school until late). I spent almost every day after school, and almost every weekend, winter through to summer working at the mall, and I was going to be damned if my daughter spent her summers inside and working those kind of ridiculous hours.
That damnation stemmed from the fact that I never wanted my kids to feel as though there were of the ‘have nots’. I felt like a ‘have not’ my entire childhood.
It was a typical After School Special scenario. There was just never any money for clothes, or vacations. My parents just weren’t wired that way. Any designer labels we had were because my grandparents took us shopping whenever we visited them in New York City or they came to visit us, and the one family vacation we did take was a disastrous, torturous cross country motorhome trip that still leaves me with a physical tic whenever I recall it.
No. My children were not going to be of the ‘have nots’. My children were going to see what is possible. It’s one of the reasons that all of my kids have been camping and traveling with us since they were all toddlers. Whether close to home at Sibbald Point, or across country to PEI and Newfoundland, it was so important for me to show my children the possibilities of whatcould be. They could climb mountains, scale cliffsides, discover back woods, cross lakes and oceans, if they want to. And the one thing I did takeaway from that motorhome trip was that Canada is a most extraordinarily beautiful country, one that must be seen.
When my husband and I married, sending my daughter to camp was one of my first priorities. I wanted her to figure out how to get paid to play being a lifeguard or a counsellor. We worked hard to get her there, and she worked hard to become a counsellor, and she was rewarded with great experiences, great friendships, and great skills and trips. Those summers and those friends are still some of the best times of her life.
This year, it was my boys’ first overnight canoe tripping camp experience at Camp Wanapitei I spent weeks researching and talking to friends in order to decide which camp to send them to and this one stood out. Pushing personal boundaries and comfort levels is part of what camp is all about. Testing one’s abilities and resolve is another. At camps like this, they get to find out what’s possible for them, and spark something in them to reach for those possibilities.
I am proud that they’re growing up knowing that they’ll never know any differently. They’ll go back next year, and for all the foreseeable years to come. And we’re doing that for them. And I envy them.
July 25, 2014: Day 85
So, I may be a bit overly ambitious at times. Like planning a 50km canoe trip; for one day. #100DaysofVulnerability
Yes. Yes. YES! I say ‘yes’, a lot. It’s pretty much my default. It aligns with ‘why not?’ I’m 100% not a ‘yes woman’ though. If you’ve been reading from the beginning, the catalyst for this whole series of posts came from a talk I gave titled “Be a Yes Woman, Without Saying Yes to Everything.” I am a critical-thinker, and require examination of most subjects and incidents. But. I can be a bit spontaneous with my yeses.
I remember being about four years old, in the back of a car (with no seat belts then) that my parents had borrowed from a friend. My mum turned to my dad and said,
“Stephen, let’s go visit your parents in New York!” We live in Toronto. Almost 800kms away.
“Ok!” he said, and we hurried home, got our pillows and a change of clothes and about 8 hours later showed up at my grandparent’s door at about 2 a.m.
So, I’m spontaneous in my yeses. Because they’re fun, and they’re adventurous and sometimes, they’re totally unrealistic.
My husband has learned how to navigate (sorta) my spontaneous yeses. In today’s case, he asked our local outfitters if my plan for our trip down the northeast arm from Finlayson Point in Temagami to Temagami Island was a good idea.
Instead, we were encouraged to head to the Lake Temagami Access Road so we could still get to Temagami Island, but cut off about 40km of paddling. Much better. Always trust the locals.
My parents; they didn’t mention their road trip to the friend they’d borrowed the car from, so he reported it stolen.
Sometimes that sober second thought is a really good thing.
July 26, 2014: Day 86
I’m a total, hardcore, outdoor lover; without the body strength to really do what I love. That’s gotta change.#100DaysofVulnerability
The summer I was 28 years old was the first time I tried waterskiing. I remember turning to my daughter and telling her
“you’re never too old to try something new”
and I’ve pretty much kept to that tenet since. That same winter, it was trying snowboarding for my first time, and that same year I bought my first real bike and started taking on trails.
It was about 1996 when I discovered Eco-Challenge and adventure racing on TV. My gawd, those competitors and that competition were entirely inspirational to me. As my daughter got older, we would watch the profiles of the teams and the races on Saturday afternoons and talk about how we’d compete one day. I became a lot of a fan girl. I watched the blogs, followed teams online (again, way before social media) and even won a contest through Explore magazine where I obtained my 50 Mission Cap; a baseball cap with the official 2000 Sabah race logo on it. I’d actually put a goal out there that by 35, I would compete in an Eco-Challenge race (and was a bit crushed when the event was shut down).
One of my proudest moments as a mother happened when my daughter was about seven and we were on a run along the Belt Line trail. I saw a group of three guys up ahead running toward us and I told my daughter to watch them as we passed. The runner in the centre looked our way, looked at my hat, nodded and kept running. As they passed us, my daughter asked me who they were, and I said, “well, the guy in the middle is Dave Zietsma; captain of Team Subaru Outback at the last Eco-Challenge.” She stopped dead in her tracks and almost shrieked, “I just saw an ECO-CHALLENGER?!”. Oh, she made me laugh that day. When I was re-telling this story to a friend of mine that runs marathons and triathlons, she’s the one who said to me, “What great role models you’ve given her” and she was right.
These were also the role models I had also set up for myself. Perseverence. Toughness. Strength, both physical and mental. I wanted to be like those people. I worked hard where I could, but have always felt that I’ve fallen short. Especially now.
Last December, my husband signed up himself, me and our daughter for theTough Mudder this August. He completed the event it last year and totally loved it. As much as I want to do it, I knew then that I wouldn’t be able to. I kept putting off telling him definitively no because I was really hopeful, and then one day of golf, only nine holes and the use of a cart reinforced for me that my knees were in no way going to be able to survive a 3.5 hour gruelling event. So, this past weekend (at this writing, August 16–17) my daughter and my husband went to Barrie, and by all accounts they totally crushed the course. My husband was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be going. Me?
I feel like I let them both down. When on the phone with my daughter wishing her luck, my voice hitched and caught in my throat. The tears welled deep in my chest. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t strong enough to do it. My knees aside, I wasn’t ready.
Then again, my knees wouldn’t allow me to do it in their current state.
My husband says he wants me there next year, with plans to walk the course if need be, but still…I can’t imagine actually doing the race where I’m holding them back. Vicious cycle.
July 27, 2014: Day 87
I have a visceral reaction to excuses, hypocrisy & passive aggressive bullshit. Purely banal. #100DaysofVulnerability
I’ve written before about having two main triggers in my life, both of them realized after five years of good psychotherapy; the first is judging and being judged. The second is people not taking responsibility for their own shit. I. Just. Cannot. Abide. It.
I’ve learned that whenever I have a negative reaction to something, I can trace it right back to one of those two things being triggered. This day, it was certainly the idea of a person not taking responsibility for their own shit.
Those people, I feel, are just simply lazy.
I’ve been lazy too, so I recognize it.
There’s something that someone posts either on Twitter or Facebook and I don’t agree, but I’m tired or don’t have a lot of time to articulate my point, so instead I ramble or I just get curt or at times even dismissive. I get it. That’s when we’re not at our best. We’ve all been there.
In this day’s case, this person was just simply outmatched in their argument, and instead of perhaps taking a step back or agreeing to disagree, they turned to personal slights and in the most passive aggressive way possible. If you’ve been reading along, you know that that’s another thing I respond horribly to. Boy, I do appreciate the Facebook block function. It’s better than punching walls.
One thing’s for sure; if you want to debate me, you’d better bring your A game. It’s not that I just talk a good talk, or can overwhelm people with my knowledge. It’s that I expect people to be thoughtful, and respectful. A beautiful example of how this is achieved is here between myself and another friend, especially noteworthy when my friend wrote: “I accept the responsibility of responsibility” (seriously, check it out, it’s a thing of beauty).
So, back to this other scenario, yah, I should probably go ahead and recognize their vulnerability, which I do try to do. I can admit that I immediately lose my will and my patience, and my empathy goes right out the window the second I’m attacked personally. That shit just don’t wash with me. Some fights are worth the fight. Some, clearly, are not. And because I’m not the jackass whisperer.
My mum was horribly bullied the whole time she was growing up. First by her parents, then by other girls in her neighbourhood. She was bookish and quiet, and never retaliated until, she told me one day, one girl grabbed her library book and ripped it apart. Books were always my mother’s refuge. That was the last straw for her. All of her pent up rage released that day and she told me how she grabbed this girl by the back of the hair and threw her face first into a wall, after she had ripped the hoop earrings right out of her ears. She was 14. Clearly, you did not fuck with my mother.
When I was 14 years old and in grade 9, I was going out with one of the best looking boys in grade 10 at the brother high school to my all girls Catholic high school. He was good friends with a number of girls in grade 10 and they didn’t like me, so they were planning on beating me up. As a minor niner, I was terrified. I had, up until that point in my life, been in one physical fight (if you didn’t count my sister). It was brief, and I had won, so my experience in brawling was little to none.
My mum was really intuitive and knew something was wrong, and she relentlessly harangued me until I broke down and told her what was happening at school.
So, like no other mother out there, she took the time to teach me how to fight.
The two of us stood there in my bedroom, and she showed me step by step how to get someone in a headlock, how to swing my body around to defend myself, and how to not give a damn if they had a fistful of my hair in their hands.
“Okay, okay,” I said. “I’m good.”
“You think so?” she asked. And then she shoved me in the shoulder. “Bitch. Slut.”
“Okay, mum,” I laughed. “Okay….”
Poke. “Come on you slut, come on…”. Poke.
“Okay, muuuum, I get it. I get it.”
Harder shove. “Come onnnnn…slut!”
And I snapped. I punched her in the stomach, and as she doubled over I grabbed her by the hair and brought her head down as I brought up my knee and it connected. The horror of what had just happened hit me and I let go of her, and I burst into tears as my hands flew up to cover my face.
My mum grabbed me and hugged me, and assured me she was okay, as she congratulated me on my response. It was simultaneously awful and awesome.
What my mother did for me that day has stuck with me my whole life. She refused to allow me to be a victim. She taught me that taking a punch may hurt, but that you have options. She taught me that being prepared helps to alleviate anxiety, and she taught me that sometimes, you have to respond with your fists.
Ever since though, I’ve had to work hard to learn other things, like you have to choose your battles, and not every fight is worth it.
I’m very much still on that learning path.
And those girls in high school? Of course, those tough little bitches became my friends and we never had that fight…but I was ready.
July 29, 2014: Day 89
Arthritis. Addiction. Tribe. Relationships. Forgiveness. Acceptance. My greatest challenge is still loving myself. #100DaysofVulnerability
When my daughter was about six or seven years old, I remember us walking to school one morning and she asked me this question, out of the blue…
“Mummy, who do you love the most?”
“Oh! Me!” I said.
She gasped, “you don’t love your daughter the most?” she asked me with a dramatic and almost farcical sense of hurt.
“Well,” I responded. “I have to love me first, because if I don’t take care of me, then how can I take care of you?”
She accepted that answer. It was a great lesson for her to hear. Love yourself first, take care of yourself first, so you can take care of others around you that you love.
And it was a total lie.
I did not love myself first. But I wasn’t going to tell her that. I really wanted her to have a fighting chance of loving herself. I was willing to lie to her because I wanted her to do as I say, not as I do. As a young girl, I wanted her to feel that self-loving and not self-loathing should be the norm.
Reality is of course, I did not love myself first then, or now.
I know that I’m not alone, and I think that it’s likely that 99.9% of the world really don’t love ourselves; certainly not first, if at all. I’ve struggled with even liking myself, although that’s an easier spot to get to, or feign. Accepting who we are to ourselves is so difficult, isn’t it? I’ve stopped apologizing for who I am (well, mostly), yet I still spend a lot of time validating who I am, to both myself and others, and I know that I spend a ridiculous amount of time in my own mind admonishing myself for being a failure, too emotional, not smart enough, challenging, not fit enough, not thin enough, not educated enough, not further ahead, not, not, not, not…just not enough.
When we love ourselves and are kind to ourselves, do we accept ourselves then? Is there anyone that really, truly loves themselves? Have you ever met that someone? Are you that someone? I want to know what that feels like. I can logically and pragmatically accept limitations and failures, oops’ and gaps, in myself. I like a lot of things about myself, I love my children unconditionally, and I love others in my life somewhat conditionally, but I don’t know if I could state that I actually love myself…at all.
My head is far too busy. Faaaaar too busy. That’s why meditation is called a practice, because it takes work to quiet the busy mind. That one of the things that I loved about that 10 day Vipassana course; we spent days on paying attention to the breath coming out of the nose and how it lands on the upper lip. Focus. It often eludes me. There are a trillion to-do lists, slights, want to’s, memories, ouches, ideas, and tangents, tangents, taaaaangents that are running in my head at any given moment. I once read that a woman’s mind is like having 52 browser tabs open at any given moment. I’d say triple it, and that’s a close representation of where I am throughout a typical day.
To be clear, I’m not celebrating this . Nor am I an advocate of holding up the “busy” life as one to emulate. That’s one of the reasons that I love going away to Algonquin so much. I need to be offline more, so as to minimize the distractions in my day. I’ve been working on this for years, obviously, and the need for this seemingly comes around cyclically for me. Have I ever mentioned that I hate feeling predictable?
I struggle with not doing enough, not being enough, not accomplishingenough. I forget how to just take pleasure in being. My night stand pile of books grows and grows until I feel like a loser for not reading through all of those necessary and demanding texts quickly enough (26 books in a year? Do websites count?). And I admonish myself for wasted moments that can turn into hours on the social platforms. Sitting down to watch a TV show and cuddle with my husband on the couch feels so indulgent.
Purposeful. I feel like every single one of my movements needs to bepurposeful. It should either further my education, my career, my opportunities or it should support my husband, my children, my friends, my colleagues, my work, my ideas, my missions.
Fuck. I’m exhausted.
And still, I strive for #inboxzero, that first chapter, that content review, that feedback on that project that I said I would help with, those moments for mentoring, fixing my body’s flexibility, strengthening my knee’s support systems. See?! There’s always something to do. Balance. There is no such animal in this modern definition of lifestyle.
Mother. Employee. Mentor. Friend. Wife. Partner. Advocate. Volunteer. Connector. Karen. Those are a lot of hats to wear.
I can’t live like a buddhist monk. I have desires. There are things that I want, and that I want to experience and they will not happen when I’m not working every single day to get there, either in big leaps or in small steps. I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me. These are all good problems to have. I have options. I have choices. I have amazing connections to wonderful people that keep me alive, engaged, stimulated and most importantly, liked and loved.
What I look to focus more on, is quieting that busy mind of mine so that I can be more present in my moments. When I’m not present, I’m easily flustered, agitated, and quick to snap and no one wants to be around that. And that’s where my mind goes to in those quiet moments…peace, focus, acceptance, love, forgiveness. It’s all wrapped up together. Entanglement.
Oh, it was awful. Truly, truly awful. We were preparing to head out to Canoe Lake for our annual trek over to the Tom Thomson cairn and to do so some fishing toward Joe Lake, and it was raining rather heavily when we arrived, so we were all wearing our rain gear. Anoraks and rain pants kept us dry, but obstructed our views as we walked up to the second floor of the Portage Store’s deck. That’s when a chipmunk ran right into our path, and under the foot of one of my sons, and we all heard the crunch. A gaggle of teenage girls gasped and one said, “Oh, it’s bleeeeeeding” as her friends all shushed her and said, “Don’t say that, don’t say that!”
My son has a chipmunk stuffy at home. He calls him Chippie. He and his brother were inconsolable with their faces buried in my chest.
The chipmunk was in distress, and I am a total city slicker; conditioned after too many years and incidents of my cats bringing home their treats to share. I’m just not good with dead or dying critters. I couldn’t leave my boys who were both in tears and my husband, who was raised on a farm and is the “manage the critters” designate in our house, was down a flight of stairs. Thankfully, a young man about 15 years old coming up from behind my son immediately reached down, grabbed the little chipmunk and carried him away to try to find something to do for it. He sought out staff at the outfitting door, and I frantically waved for my husband to go, go,go to try and help.
So, my husband did what he does best, and he helped this young man help this chipmunk pass as best as he could. As the young man laid the chipmunk in a flowerbed and stroked its fur, my husband let him know that it was dying and stood by. He spoke with this caring soul’s father, a family visiting from Europe and we all stood by, waiting for it to take its last breath.
The staff helped find a shovel, and my husband took the chipmunk, this young man and my boys a little ways away to dig a hole and cover it with heavy stones, and we all had a quiet moment to say goodbye to Chippie, and all three of those young men cried. And I was so moved.
There’s so much talk these days about the harm we’re doing to our boys by not allowing them to be the naturally emotional, emotive creatures that they are. My husband, a totally empathetic and loving man was still surprised by this older boy’s tears and when he and this boy’s father chatted about their “sensitive boy” there were almost rolling eyes as to that reality.
It’s just not the way that boys are “supposed” to be.
As progressive as my husband is, he still somewhat rankled when I overtly talk about how I’m purposefully raising my boys to be feminist. By all accounts my husband’s a feminist, but there’s something uncomfortable still about that tying that title to a man, let alone a boy. I get it. It’s hard to unlearn ingrained inferences, connotations and behaviours.
As I was recently purging my home office of 15 years worth of “stuff”, I was organizing old binders that my daughter used when she was in high school readying some for donation, some for storage for future use. In the pile to be donated was a large, pink binder.
“Keep it for the boys” my husband suggested.
“No,” I responded. “I’m not going to subject them to bearing a political, gender defender banner on my behalf.”
So, no matter how staunch a feminist I am, I’m still trying to figure out how to balance ensuring my boys are aware of sexism (which they totally are through ongoing discussions and examinations of current culture, like why the hell do you have to pay to be a female character in Minecraft, when “Steve” is free?), and not set them up for ongoing threats and ridicule from another set of boys whose parents aren’t interested, aware or care about sexism as we are.
I’m sorry. I really am very, very sorry. I blew it. I have a bit of a problem, and it’s been a lifelong one.
I am great at starting things… and lousy at finishing them. Not the things that I get paid for; I may procrastinate, but I hit my deadlines, every time.
What I’m lousy at doing is finishing things I start for myself. Books, projects, scrapbooking, learning ukulele…
I am a great starter. But I often fail to follow through.
And I did that here too. I got distracted, because #100DaysofVulnerability fell right in amidst my family vacation, and then I was back to work, and things got stressful, and I got distracted, and I gave up.
What I forgot was that although I wasn’t getting paid for this work, this writing, I did commit to this…to myself and to you, my friendly reader.
So, I’m sorry. And I’m here to close this out.
August 1, 2014: Day 92
I always leave Algonquin feeling melancholy. The lakes, trees & breezes speak to me, deeply. #100DaysofVulnerability
Packing up and leaving Algonquin is a bittersweet day for me, every time. I look forward to enjoying my own bed, seeing my cats, settling back into home, but most of all, I hate to leave the pines. I’ve written before about how it makes me feel when I’m sitting in my kayak in the middle of Canisbay Lake; like I truly have it all. That’s because I have made choices in my life that have put me right here, right where I want to be. And regardless of barriers, lack of opportunities, some poor choices, I’m proud of myself, because I’m the one who did it.
See, when I was a girl, no one ever showed me how to get somewhere else from where I was. I didn’t know what school could do for you. I knew that it was a goal, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know studying certain things could lead you to a place or a lifestyle. I just never knew that direct connection between these two things. Archaeology? Anthropology? Recreation? Public Policy? Living a life of travel? Living a life that meant you were on the water every day? Whaaaaattt?
I have lamented and wallowed in those lost opportunities, but I don’t any more. I wanted to learn how to kayak, so I did. I wanted to go to university, so I did. I wanted to be active, so I bought a bike and changed my lifestyle (and mine and my daughter’s life at the same time). I’ve worked really hard to ensure that none of my kids are caught unawares, just like every generation of parents wants better for their kids.
Now I know that if I want to retire amongst the pines, I have work to do. The only real “goal” I’ve ever had in my life.
August 2, 2014: Day 93
When you share your vulnerabilities in a space of love & acceptance, the benefits are entirely palpable. #100DaysofVulnerability
I used to balk when my husband would talk about us being best friends. In my inside voice, I thought it was a bit trite, and then I also thought that Ihad a different best friend. Well, I was wrong.
My husband has always been my best friend, because he’s always been the one that’s treated me with regard, respect and love. We’ve had moments when we’ve failed each other immensely in those regards, but more times than not, he’s got my back. He’s on my side. He’s my greatest champion, and he’s my soft place to land. That is a best friend. And I know that he’ll always be that person for me.
Nonetheless, sharing the worst parts of my self with him is usually a minefield, for him. Whether it’s me opening myself up, or it’s him sharing an observation, I want to be brave, and open, and strong, and resilient, and I’m usually okay at first, but then afterwards (sometimes hours, sometimes days) my pain and fragileness bubbles to the surface. So, I often fail at that, being open and vulnerable…ongoing. I’m still actively struggling with placing those mines.
I live in my head, far too much. When I’m frustrated, angst driven, feeling slighted, my head just goes a mile a minute. Like when you first break up with someone, and you struggle to fall asleep, and then the moment you open your eyes, they’re the first thing on your mind. I have a hard time quieting my mind.
I know I’m not alone in that reaction. I can sometimes put things in perspective and meditate or put thoughts aside, but just as often, I just fail at that miserably.
When I’m at my best, I can readily focus on how much wasted energy there is in that future that never comes to fruition (see above). Today, I’m not at my best.
I knew this guy in university who was the perfect definition of a troll. He was like five years out from attending school, but would still hang out around campus trying to bed all the young women. Before I knew that, we hung out once with a few other people after pub night, and sitting in my apartment he made what he thought was an innocuous statement. What he didn’t realize is that this homey don’t play that way.
“What am I an asshole, I mean a Jew?” he said.
“You use the two words synonymously?” I asked…
“Sure, they’re one in the same aren’t they?”
“And what do you think Schulman is, asshole? Irish?”
His face dropped, and he tried to backtrack and I wasn’t having any of it.
“Get the fuck out of my house, asshole. Shut your mouth, and just get the fuck out of my house…right. fucking. now.”
For months, I would see him around campus in different circumstances, and twice he tried to shake my hand and fix things. I refused. I wasn’t shaking that hand, simply because I didn’t want to know that person. Ever. That’s not holding a grudge, as far as I’m concerned. That’s simply holding a moral line. And I have a long memory.
I know the saying;
Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
I’m not this guy, but I know I’m pretty good at holding a grudge. For a long time too, if I want to. It’s definitely a learned, manipulative behaviour. “Oh yah? Well, I’m not going to play, or talk to you, or…I’m taking my ball and going home.”
My emotional conflict arises because there’s a part of me that wants to be entirely beneficent all the time, and a long time ago I was that overtly altruistic person who gave over my own wants and needs for the sake of another, but what ended up happening was that that intent was terribly used and abused.
So, I know that I’m not a monk, and a certain degree of selfishness is right when it helps me preserve my own dignity and integrity. It’s along the lines of being vulnerable that I’m learning how to just let go, of the negative, the grudges, and all the sadness and anxiety that gets wrapped up and associated with that.
Even now, I’m not not talking to people because I’m trying to punish them. I’m not talking to them because they bring no joy into my life. And that’s a line that I need I need to stick to, for my own preservation.
Gawd, we women really are ridiculously hard on ourselves, aren’t we?
August 6, 2014: Day 97
When you’re “off” it’s sometimes better to just remove yourself from all you love for a while.#100DaysofVulnerability
Whenever I get a flair with ulcerative colitis, the only thing that can help calm everything down is a high dose of steroids. I’ve learned first hand that there is this real thing called “roid rage”. Entirely irrational behaviour feelsjustified and rational, but the reality is, it’s simply not.
I’ve learned through those times that I’ve had to actually remove myself from my work and home environments because I can turn quite vicious if I feel justified and triggered in any way. Clearly, it taps into something deeper within me, and that becomes the excuse to let the floodgates open; zero filter.
I’m glad that I’m aware of that tendency now, because often I recognize it before someone else has to tell me, and I just need to go away for a little while, for everyone’s sake. And you know, instead of being ashamed for being in that place, I’m actually proud of myself more often now for being at least that aware, regardless if I’m on steroids or not. Especially when I’m not.
August 7, 2014: Day 98
I’m an angry, impatient driver. Only mitigated when traffic is stopped to let a family of ducks cross the road.#100DaysofVulnerability
The 401 in Ontario is the world’s most traveled highway. On any given day, it takes me 2.5+ hours to drive 150km. It’s enraging, frustrating, and demoralizing wasted hours (and don’t even get me started about white cars). I’m not a patient driver either. My family may be from NYC, and in a sense I may come by it honestly, but I know I’m zero fun to be in a car with.
I was so indignant this day with the stopped traffic ahead of me on Lakeshore Avenue as I was just coming off the highway, seemingly for no apparent reason. Cursing, cussing out loud to myself in the car… “What the…?!?!…”
Gotta appreciate the mother nature moments to put your world into perspective. A reminder that you may not see what’s ahead, but that doesn’t mean that things don’t make sense to others.
I’m actually pretty good at apologizing, and taking ownership of my shitty behaviour. Much better than I ever was. And I’m getting better about not repeating destructive behaviour. Most of all though, I’m working on not holding my family members, especially my children, to some standard that I fail at regularly too. Hypocrisy as a parent is hard.
I didn’t go through this experiment to curry pity or empathy, bemoan my lot in life, rail unnecessarily, or get Brené Brown’s attention (although I do appreciate the tweets and shares from you in that direction too).
I went through it because I’ve always been a very honest writer. At times, I’ve been admonished by others for sharing too much, or being to open. I know that that says more about them, than it does about me.
I wanted to bring mindfulness to the forefront of my every day, and being beholden to a project like this does that for you. I know that when I am vulnerable, when I am my most authentic and genuine self, the world rewards me in plenty of ways. And I’m still not there every day, but it does happen with more regularity than it used to.
I want to sincerely thank every one of you for reading, and for your comments and tweets. I’m so glad that my sharing has resonated with some of you, and your time and commitment has been invaluable to me.
This blog was originally published on Medium.com on November 4, 2013.This is a call to action.
As a professional woman, especially one in digital communications and marketing, I spend a lot of time attending conferences. This year’s been no different, but I’ve become a lot more discerning about which events I attend.
I’ve written before about disrupting the conference model, but there’s another reason for me to write today, and sadly, it’s not a new subject either.This morning, I participated in a long twitter conversation regarding a tech marketing conference in Waterloo, Ontario that had no women speakers or panelists. Zero. Nada.
Now, when you consider that this was a conference about marketing, that makes no sense. Marketing is an industry that is heavily populatedwith women. Women CEOs, Directors, Managers and contributors. Lots of smart women, talented women and creative women work in the industry, but for some reason, conferences like this come up empty when it comes to finding women to speak on their panels, or be their keynotes.
Here’s what they usually do, and what their responses mean:
1. Get defensive: “We tried!” they claim. “We asked “lots” of women, but couldn’t find one.” Not a resounding vote of confidence on the calibre of their work and their curating abilities.
2. Abdicate responsibility: “Feel free to send us any recommendations” was the response I got from @theartof when their most recent conference in Toronto also had zero women. What that means is “I’m too lazy to do the work, and so I’m going to ask YOU to do my work, and then ignore you anyway.”
3. Censor/ignore the conversation: a participant at the event in Waterloo shared that any critical tweets were censored from the tweet wall at the event today. No one at the event would’ve seen them unless they were watching on their own devices. I refuse to support any event or organization that isn’t transparent. Trust and respect are two big considerations when I decide where and when to spend my time, energy, and money.
So, what should women do in these cases so that we can start to influence change? Here are my thoughts:
1. Don’t go. That’s it. Period. Make a statement with your time and your dollars. You know that women make something like 85% of all purchasing decisions in households. We control the mighty dollar there, so you can control the mightiest dollar in this realm, too.
2. Call ‘em out. Go ahead, use the power of your social network to call for action. Let organizers and attendees know that you’re not going, and why. You’ll find that there are a lot of supporters of both genders on this issue.
3. Stop being an apologist. “They meant well.” “They tried.” “It’s not their fault.” “It’s reflective of society.” Uh, bullshit. I’ve put together conferences and events, and to make them successful, I’ve engaged people within and beyond my particular purview. That’s what a good curator does. They seek out people that are not just like themselves so they can speak to an audience that is not just like themselves.
…and finally, but certainly not least: Be a yes woman.
I’ll be speaking at a breakfast panel and a conference panel this week, as the guest of mesh marketing in Toronto. I’m following in the footsteps of a lot of talented and wise speakers, and I was glad to be asked. But. That only came after I purposefully put myself out there as someone to be considered.
Shortly after they’d announced the conference (and I’m not on the conference team, so in their defense, I had no idea if they had more women planned or not) there were no women on the keynotes/panel lists. Their prior conference only had 17% of women represented in keynote/panel roles. Even less than the paltry 20% that most tech conferences set as a target.
So, I tweeted about it. I was upset about it. I was extremely disappointed by it. And they responded. Not only did they respond with an invite, but now at this conference, there are 39% of overall speakers/panelists who are women. The two keynotes are men, so excluding them, the rest of the conference is represented by 42% of women.
That’s how you do it, right. They stood up, responded, and improved their agenda. I applaud that.
On twitter, Julia Moulden and I have been having the #BeAYesWomandialogue for a while now, and we’ve been engaging a few, but very powerful women in the conversation as well.
I get it. As a gender, we’re not taught to draw attention to ourselves that is about anything besides our appearance, so this is hard, and new for a lot of us. There is no better time than the present though, women. There are plenty of pundits that believe the future of work belongs to women, so now’s your chance to embrace #BeAYesWoman, and here’s some advice as to how you do that:
1. Are you good at what you do? Stop listening to the crows that tell you you’re not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough. You are.
2. Do you deserve to get paid? Yes. You do, actually. Not all conferences pay their speakers or panelists, and that’s cool (sometimes the trade off for exposure and audience is worth the effort of showing up), BUT if others are getting paid and you’re not, walk away. That’s outright discrimination and you’re not giving it away for free if no one else is.
3. Is there value in your experience? Absolutely. Stop thinking that you have nothing to add. It’s been proven over and over again that organizations, companies, or conferences that are homogenous are not nearly as successful as those environs that embrace and support diversity. And I’m not talking about for diversity’s sake, I’m talking about for the betterment of the whole experience.
So, a “failed investment banker” decides that his grocery store survey of the impulse rack is where, how and why women are not being fulfilled in their quest for in-depth conversations on politics, business and technology, ooooh AND makeup tips and gossip too, and decides that he can do it better. Of course.
“Hey, you guys?! Women are the future!! They’re the leading demographic of online users and they’re so underserved, I can do it better! Give me a few mil, wouldya? I can fix this!”
And guess what. They did. Seriously. And so Bustle.com is born.
Oh. My. Fuck. I don’t even know where to begin.
Reading through Goldberg’s piece on pandodaily, is an exhausting, exasperating, would be laughable experience if it wasn’t such a sadly true testament about the incestuous, celebutante state of startups, and the systemic bias toward the homogenous worldwide fraternity known as VC.
Before we get there though, let’s start where he did…
The fact that this guy states in his press release, which also apparently passes as “news” on pandodaily, that
“Politico, Bleacher Report, TechCrunch, Business Insider, Mashable, Grantland, TheVerge, Break, College Humor, IGN, Thrillist, and Gawker”
are written for men is a great indicator that this navel gazer doesn’t actually get publishing or journalism whatsoever. Wait, then again, maybe it’s just me? I wonder why when I met Jordon Crook of TechCrunch last year and we talked about the startup scene in Toronto why she didn’t tell me to hike my skirt and push up my boobs on camera, you know, for the guys? I guess I must pass the biometric testosterone sensor they have built into their sites when I login, or something. Ya, that’s it.
Further on Goldberg writes,
“Women’s publishing has long served as a symbol of “old media” stagnancy.”
You mean, that “old media” that’s just the same as the “new media” don’t you?
“What about a site that takes an introspective look at the celebrity world, while also having a lot of fun covering it?”
You mean, like JEZEBEL?! Hey Goldberg, just because you haven’t a clue about the huge number of sites that speak to women, through a woman’s lens doesn’t mean that those sites don’t exist.
Oh wait, they do exist! You know, “women’s sites” like Cosmo, and Vogue. They’re online, but of course they’re doing it all wrong, and that’s because “women publishers” have
“completely lost sight of which decade their readers are living in.”
I am so glad that Bustle is going to have paid “20 somethings” that are still in school writing on deep political issues like what Anthony Weiner said on BuzzFeed today, and “male nurses”! Phew! I can’t wait for more “awesome” “wow” and “Twittersphere” too! This is a way better business model than HuffPo. Who wants to read all that in-depth stuff on politics, business, culture & society, gaming, and tech from women, who, you know, may actually use the word feminist and not just since Caitlin Moran’s awesome missive. Clearly, Goldberg’s figured out that the writing on Vitamin W is just too, you know, male, I mean serious, for us women (or is that girls?), and who wants to hear from anyone that’s got any real life experience anywho? Definitely not enough eyebrow plucking reports included for my liking.
I am most excited that bustle.com is “ not just a publication either”, they’re investing in “technology” with “responsive design” on their site. Ooooooh, how 2010!
For the record Goldberg, “responsive design” nor “CMS” are “technology”.
Okay, enough mocking. That’s just too easy. Now let’s get a bit more serious on the real issues here, and why this is really pissing me off.
Let’s start with the word “feminist”. Oh, you opened the door Goldberg, so let’s go there.
“Is this a feminist publication? You’re damn right this is a feminist publication.”
Let me simply say this; anyone that uses quotes around “income gap” is NOT a feminist. It’s not an “income gap”. It’s a fucking income gap. Your air quotes don’t make it a fairy tale, it’s a real thing. You sir, are no feminist. You’re not even a shadow of Hugo Schwyzer. You’re just a mansplaining asshole.
And speaking of assholes…
If you don’t think that there’s a bias in women led ventures getting VC funding, then you’re being willfully blind. It’s documented, ad nauseam that women only receive 4.2% of VC funding in the US. I seriously cannot think of another more perfect example than this one to animate how horribly wrong the VC eco-system is, and how every single one of the players that gave @BGoldberg money should be ashamed of themselves.
And you know why?
If a woman led initiative had come to any one of these VCs and pitched their business as piss-poorly as Goldberg obviously did, with this kind of tepid writing, and storify-ing stealing interface, they would’ve been laughed out of their offices. Soundly. And with good reason.
When sites like Bustle get $6.5 million in funding from multiple VCs, it is a glaring statement that as long as the same old same old exists in VCs, then the same old same old shit will get funded.
Enough of the conference pablum. Where’s the real meal?
Conference season is well upon us, and my advice is always this; choose wisely.
Seems that every industry, and every vertical is awash in the great calling of its pundits and practitioners to gather and….? Well, that’s just it. Dowhat, exactly? What is the intent of all of these conferences?
Wikipedia’s definition is that a “conference is a meeting of people who “confer” about a topic” and a business conference is “organized to discuss business-related matters”. Seem too ambiguous to you? Me too.
I’ve had it with conferences that have no real purpose or intent. There’s just too much talk, and truly, not enough action, especially for this action oriented culture. It’s time to put our collective feet down until conference organizers show us that there is going to be some tangible outcome from attending their thousand dollar shindig, rather than just:
hanging around with industry people that we mostly know already
hearing from speakers that are often irrelevant, we often know more than, or whose video we could view at our leisure because their exact same speech has been delivered umpteen times so far, and
being loaded down with a bunch of swag that will be immediately recycled, or handed over to our children for their imminent destruction
Even though I’m a huge proponent of the power of connecting with people IRL, and supporting the social in social media, my biggest lament about conferences is that they have become watered down, networking opportunities that serve no real value, besides perhaps the odd fan/icon photo op.
Far too often, these conferences are led by a fraternity of creators that keep inviting their closest circle of friends, or those that they’d like to be friends with, as keynotes (read: heavy male contingent on the speaker’s lists, even in female dominated industries). In their attempts to be everything to everyone, they end up really only being valuable to a small percentage of attendees, and often the speakers’ book publishers.
It’s even worse if the food is bad, the WiFi is sketchy and there are no charging stations, forcing those of us waiting for our Everpurse to arrive to stalk the seats by the walls or the back nearest the electrical outlets.
So, rather than entirely boycott, I’m choosing to engage, here. There needs to be a new approach to conferences.
I have a solution that I believe will actually provide real value and ensure that conferences do more than just provide an opportunity to over indulge in food, spirits and ego-stroking.
Let’s try this on for size, at least as a start. Instead of trying to be all things to everybody, why don’t conference organizers start creatingstreamsin the following way:
FNG’s: this isn’t separating the wheat from the chaff. This is separating total newbies from seasoned practitioners, so we’re not all just a bunch of bobble heads in the room nodding approval at the most rudimentary elements of “how to do your job”. You want to keep people off their smartphones and laptops and truly engaged? Stop throwing us all in the same mix. Oh, and really, this is the ONLY place that you should ever be discussing “how to get in the industry” stuff. Otherwise, you’re just boring us to tears.
Practitioners: the meatier part of any conference should focus on developing the “middle managers” to the next level. After all, isn’t that the whole purpose of a good leader? Elevate the conversation, friends. Give us the thought leaders, show us the cutting edge technology, ENGAGE US for chrissake. Stop feeding us conference industry pablum! Go ahead, speak in acronyms, we get you!
Thought Leaders: let these events be a true gathering place for our industry elites. Let them gather, meet, and discuss the most pressing or topical issues. Ask them to actually tackle one real, tangible problem. Then, invite them to share those ideas and solutions with the masses. Let’s break down silos and hierarchical fronts. People are happy to do the work, as long as we give them a starting place. That’s what our thought leaders are for.
Purposeful Networking: help those that don’t know how to help themselves yet. Put investors in front of startups, newbies in front of practitioners, strategists beside creatives, creatives beside operations specialists. Bring the people together in the most purposeful way, instead of crossing your fingers that your hashtag will trend.
Conferences should be a place where we learn, network and connect, and then move forward in our chosen industries.
Oh, and if I have one last request, it’s this; no one, and I do mean NO ONE is allowed to ask any speaker, “what’s the one piece of advice that you’d give to (insert beginner in your industry here)”. No, no, no, no! I realized that I was even guilty of this recently when conducting an interview with a highly regarded, highly successful CEO. Reality is, it’s lazy interviewing and shows you haven’t done your homework. Shame on us if we hear that again…
…andthen let’s celebrate what we’ve actually learned and created with that over indulgence in food and spirits, because if we’ve done things right, then in fact, we’ve earned that right.
I admit it. One of my indulgences is watching reality TV. One of the shows that I used to watch was Celebrity Rehab. It wasn’t to participate in any schadenfraude, but having a family with a history of substance abuse, it’s something interesting for me to watch, safely removed.