Hot damn! How do I sign up to quarantine with Shawn Mendes?
The other weekend, this sexy stud-muffin and his girlfriend Camila Cabello teamed up for for a live rendition of “What a Wonderful World."
And with all kinds of dramatic hand gestures, scrunched-noses and closed eyes..…it was….an entertaining performance.
But let me tell you. My first thought was…..(see above).
I immediately started daydreaming about what would go down.
He’d wrap aaalllll his muscular deliciousness around me every night. He’d wake me up every morning by softly biting my earlobe and signing me a love song. We’d go for long walks. We’d have intimate jam sessions. And he’d beg me to stay in bed….just one more time, baby.
Sigh……(long sip of cold water….ok I’m back).
But then I got thinking.
Too much of a good thing? Not good.
As much as quarantining with Shawn Mendes would mean a KILLER 3 days (maaaybe 4), I’d quickly normalize to it all. And then get sick of it.
I am convinced that you can OD on anything. No matter how delicious.
Which is exactly what many of us are feeling during this pandemic.
We are so used to spreading ourselves thin…..stretching our figurative dough to the ends of the earth….running here there and everywhere. A mere two months ago, many of us were desperate to spend more time at home.
And now, we are. But…..a little too much.
We are now spreading ourselves thick. And every aspect of our lives is crammed into a mere 1200 square feet.
The conference calls we have.
The push-ups we do.
The people we love.
It is a pressure-cooker version of our lives.
And although I am currently cursed/blessed with single-dom, the company I do keep (two children under chin-height) is waring.
And it’s not that I don’t love them. It’s just that…..I don’t love THIS MUCH of them.
And so there’s this contradictory clash of feeling lonely….and smothered with company….all at the same time.
The physical expression of love
For me, physical touch is my love language (check out the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman!!). If I love you, I’ve no doubt clung to your arm as we crossed the road…..needed to hold your hand when I was anxious……or hugged you when something excited me.
Some of my very favourite memories are grounded in touch.
Getting my make-up done for dance recitals.
Holding my best friend’s hand as we rode The Wild Thing together at Valleyfair.
Breast-feeding my babies.
That kiss. Oh god that kiss.
I love the tangible experience of love. Evidence of closeness.
And so, you can bet your bottom dollar I am all over the morning kiddo cuddles, and bedtime snuggles right now.
But at the same time…..damn, I am definitely OD-ing on this one particular flavour of physical touch.
I miss hugs with friends, fist bumps with cronies at the gym, and the experience of sitting shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers at a coffee shop.
I’ve even gone on a few virtual dates…..and let me tell you….when I can’t caress your arm, rub my foot up your leg, or brush the hair out of your eyes….something is definitely lacking for me. No matter who you are.
And don’t even get me started on the science of touch. There is so much evidence out there around the benefits of hugs, cuddles, and hand-holding. Oddly enough, physical touch actually boosts your immune system….sooo…….huh.
My body aaaccchhhes for contact. And I can feel the effects of this massive void in my life.
It just plain sucks.
And I KNOW I’m not the only one.
And so what? What can we do in the meantime?
Find new ways to experience and express love beyond physical means.
Which….is actually an incredibly beautiful opportunity.
3 ways to explore love (beyond physical touch):
And no, I don’t just mean buying peoples’ affection with diamonds and pearls. I mean thoughtful, personal gifts. Like a hilarious t-shirt delivered right to your buddy’s door, that says, “my pen is bigger than yours.” An audiobook for your sister that can be downloaded right to her phone (might I suggest a comedy, like Trump: The Art of the Deal). Or leaving a bottle of wine on your lover’s doorstep…..like an abandoned baby.
Something to remind the ones you love (and can’t touch), that you’re thinking about them.
Offering your services
There’s gotta be something you’re good at that other people suck at. To this day, I’m still looking for someone with mad topiary skills. Google it.
Maybe you’re a comedian and can do a stand-up bit in someone’s driveway. Maybe you’re wicked at raking….and can incorporate Michael Jackson’s Thriller routine into the job. Or maybe you play the accordion, and can serenade your neighbours.
Do you. Share you.
Lending your voice
All too often, we simply text. Try calling (or Zoom-ing) instead. Record a hilarious Dear Diary confessional voice memo, that you then send to your bestie.
Write a letter. Something beautiful. Something smile-worthy. Something that will make-them-cry….in a good way. Mail that letter with an old fashioned stamp. And revel in anticipation.
The silver lining
During this chaotic time, when our lives are like a pressurized bottle of champagne ready to pop, many of us are feeling the tension.
The silver lining? Those of us who usually depend upon physical touch to show and feel love, are being forced express that love in new and different ways.
This is truly one of those experiences that can broaden your understanding of love, if you allow it to.
But trust me. Once this is all over? You better WATCH yo’self.
I’m about to run-and-jump hug you. And I ain’t holding back.
When I was 10 years old, my parents let me plan our family road trip.
I mean…..they gave me the itinerary.
But it was MY responsibility to pick out which hotels we’d be staying at along the way.
And let me tell you. To this day, nothing beats The Medicine Hat Lodge….complete with 2-story waterslide.
I LIVED for hotel swimming pools. And The Medicine Hat Lodge was the be-all-end-all.
On our trips, my sisters and I would cram into the backseat of our silver Honda Accord from dawn until dusk. Battling for elbow room. Cross-country.
Sure, my dad’s cassette tapes of Elton John and Don Henley would help to pass the time. But it was a test of endurance, like no other. And it was the hopes of a killer swimming pool at the end of the day, that kept me in it.
My ability to endure was built, one summer vacation at a time. And I’m convinced that those experiences as a child, are a big part of why I have so much patience. So much stick-to-it-ness. So much stamina.
I see happiness, off in the distance, and I ride it out. No matter what.
I put up with hard stuff to get to the good stuff.
And as a child, there was no greater happiness than a swimming pool.
The power of fluidity
This, I feel, is what children are incredible at doing. Envisioning happiness. The dream of playing on NHL ice. The goal of walking with the penguins in Antarctica. The idea of an epic water fight.
It is where we all begin. Dreaming of happiness.
And at first, our dreams are boundless.
Then, we apply the filter of what others tell us happiness looks like. A wedding dress. A power suit. An apron for making baby’s home-made organic pea puree.
And so, when people start asking us…..“what do you want to be when you grow up?” we start spouting off roles, identities, and labels (a wife, a mother, a teacher). Rather than simply responding with the answer that speaks to our soul…..“I want to be happy.”
And while specific goals can be helpful in providing us with clarity…..they are also extremely limiting.
And in my experience, the more fluid we can make our goals, the better.
Because I’m all about dreaming big.
But the thing about dreaming big, is that there’s a pretty big gap between here and there.
And by the time you GET from here to there, you’ve likely shed a few layers, shape-shifted a bit, and become a slightly (if not dramatically) different person than when you started the journey.
Redefine what it means to be happy
Take love, for instance.
When I was 23 years old, I was all in on marriage. I was psyched about settling down. I was set on the idea of growing old with someone. And I wanted to start a family.
12 years later, my identity had evolved and shifted so much, that my vision of happiness was at odds with my current reality.
I reassessed my definition of happiness.
And I realized that, as a woman, it was important for me to learn how to build a life of my own, separate from anyone else. So that if shit ever hit the fan, I’d still have my own identity. I’d still have my own life.
I felt a deep desire for independence. And I knew that my own happiness depended on it.
And so this……recalibration. This detour. It has not been an easy one to navigate.
And at the same time? It has been the greatest gift I have ever received.
Because in the biggest way possible, it has allowed me to see that WHO WE ARE, is in constant motion. And that our ultimate goal should ALWAYS be happiness. Period. No strings….no labels assigned.
And so what does that look like? I think it looks like…..allowing ourselves to recalibrate. To refine. To reform.
It looks like a continual redefinition.
Because we are all in a constant state of figuring out who we are. Becoming more ourselves.
And it is only ever FEAR that holds us back from pursuing our own happiness.
The 3 KEY questions to ask yourself
And so in this current season of COVID-19…..this season of paired-down priorities, slowed time, and simple pleasures…..I invite you to ask yourself 3 questions. 3 questions that I ask myself…..and re-ask myself…..on a regular basis, in order to make sure I am in HOT pursuit of my own happiness:
1. What is my definition of happiness?
2. Does my current reality reflect that?
3. If yes, amazing! If not, how can I recalibrate my trajectory, so that it does?
For me, my definition of happiness is to live and love deeply. With passion. With joy. And with true authenticity.
It is a glass of red wine.
It is travelling to Bali.
It is writing.
It is running.
It is reading a good book.
THIS is my definition of happiness. And THIS is what my current reality reflects. For now. And that's the important part.
As I evolve and change, so too does my definition of happiness. AND THAT'S OK!!
All too often, we are expected to stay in our lane. To choose an identity, to define what makes us happy, and to live there. But life ain't that black and white.
Who I was last year, last month, last week…..is not the same person I am today.
And although I can safely say, I will always be down for a Cadbury Cream Egg…..I can’t safely say that I will always love being a woman who “rides the wave of love” without desire or need to get married again (just wait….some incredible guy will pop the question by hiding a ring INSIDE a Cadbury Cream Egg....oh the quandary).
Mind the gap
So as the British say.....mind the gap.
The gap between here, and there…..our reality and our dreams. And know that in journeying towards our goals.....our definition of happiness....WE change and evolve as well.
Walk towards greater happiness. Always.
But allow for detours.
“It does not serve to dwell on dreams, and forget to live."
I hear the words come out of my own mouth.
My mind is blown.
They’re not my words. They are the words of Albus Dumbledore.
And I am reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to my 7-year old son.
“What, mom?” says Liam. “Why’d you stop?”
“It’s just…..he’s very wise,” I say.
All of us are SO used to planning.
We plot. We map. And we control the shit out of everything. Or at least….we think we do.
Which is exactly why this pandemic is taking a HARD toll on so many of us. It’s the level of uncertainty we are all dealing with. The unknown. The unanswered questions.
Nobody has been down this road before.
And it feels a bit like the blind leading the blind. In which case….can we please hire Stevie Wonder to do the job? He’s SO fucking cool.
(Wait a second….is Stevie Wonder still alive? Quick Google check. Yesssss. He is. My man!)
Everyone is anxious, because we don’t exactly know how this is all going to unfold. When it’s going to end. And whether or not we should drill a hole in our ceiling to mount that chin-up bar we ordered from Amazon.
Nobody can prepare for the future. And everyone is being forced to live one day at time.
Just the other day, my mom confessed to me that she likes to read the last page of a book before she gets to the end. She likes to know how it all turns out. And she wants to get a feel for where the whole thing is headed.
It is human nature to want to be able to predict things. We crave certainty.
But to what end? And does it actually serve us?
The dangers of future-tripping
We all do a little future-tripping every now and then. We imagine the future and we anticipate the outcome. And for the most part, we do it in one of two ways:
We worry. And we play out nightmarish scenes of our own lives, imagining the very worst.
Like chocolate, wine, and good porn…..these things are of benefit to us …..in moderation…..under the right circumstances.
Goal setting can be a glorious activity that provides much-needed focus, clarity, and motivation.
However, it also has the awful ability to distract us from enjoyment of the present moment. It spurs on the “I’ll be happy when” curse. And it can prevent us from experiencing and appreciating true joy, right here, right now.
Fear, too, has it’s plus side. Just a few weeks ago, I was leaving the club by myself at 1 am in downtown Winnipeg. I could literally SEE the headlines in the newspaper:
“WINNIPEG TREASURE” GONE TOO SOON, MURDERED IN DOWNTOWN WINNIPEG
Better idea? Pop into the Radisson and get the hotel security guard to walk me to my car.
The down side of fear? Well….THIS one is the kicker. Sleepless nights, shoulder knots, and a host of stress-related illnesses. Anxiety. Depression. And entire lifetimes devoid of joy, happiness and fulfillment. THIS, my friends, is where 90% of us reside on the regular.
Fear is a pandemic, in and of itself. And it is ruining lives.
And so, if we are to trust the guy with a beard that goes all the way to his belly-button (and let’s be honest….you’d be stupid not to), it’s proooooobably a good thing to start practicing “presence”…..rather than constantly distracting ourselves with “what if.” Especially when it comes to fear.
But how do you do that? How do we override fear?
It’s time to start taking risks
When learning a new skill, practice is key. And this, my friends, is no different.
It’s about unlearning our engrained mindset…..and filling that void with a fresh new way of thinking.
Instead of practicing fear, we practice it’s counter-part. It’s opposite.
I mean, think about it. What better way to stop fear from ruling our lives….than to deliberately invite it in, and show it who’s boss?
It’s like those crazy people who take cold showers every morning, just to practice “getting uncomfortable.” On purpose.
And for me? I like to practice taking risks in small ways…..playing Monopoly, and going hell-bent on scooping up aallllll the properties. Trying a new shade of lipstick. Taking a gamble on a new flavour of ice-cream.
But I also do it in big ways. Starting my own business. Ending my marriage.
I will never forget the experience of telling my parents I was getting a divorce. My dad, hearing me out, acknowledging my desire for freedom…..but at the same time, asking the question….. “but what if you leave, only to discover that it’s incredibly lonely?”
It was a valid question. And a fear that was definitely in the back of my mind.
But what was I to do? Listen to fear, for the rest of my life, while ignoring the deepest desires of my soul?
Think about the experience of riding a roller-coaster. The thrill of climbing that first hill. It’s a risk. But one that pays off in shrieks of happiness.
The more we practice risky business, the more we realize.....it's not so bad to "not know" what's gonna happen next.
It’s about embracing uncertainty.
And taking the wheel, when it comes to the “unknown.”
Don’t forget to live
OK. So practice taking risks.
Really? Is it that important?
Yes. It is.
And not to sound overly dramatic.....but.....our lives depend on it. Literally.
We are forgetting to live. Because we are afraid of what is around the corner.
And so, during these crazy, unpredictable times, I invite you to let go of your grip on "needing to know what's coming next." Needing to know the end of the story.
The quality of your life depends on your ability to get comfortable with uncertainty.
And what better way to challenge your fear of the unknown, than to bathe in it.
Now, who's got Stevie's number. I want to call him. And not just to say "I love you."
In this current season of life, many of us feel robbed.
Robbed of our work. Robbed of our hobbies. Robbed of our hugs. And robbed of the dream of what our apocalypse outfit would be…..realizing, it’s just pyjamas.
COVID-19 has stolen a great deal from our lives. But one of the things that has been gifted to us, is time.
I know I’m dealing with waaaayyy less go-go-go. And while for some, this void is being filled with an overindulgence in CNN and Netflix (is there a Tums for Tiger King-bloating?)….for others, it is an opportunity to reflect, and grow.
The choice is right there, up for grabs.
And depending on your perspective, this time is either a prison, or a palace.
For me? My relationship with time has always been a bit like…..trying to squeeze juice from a lemon. Determined to get every ounce of liquid gold out of that puppy.
I am efficient. And productive. And I multi-task the fuck out of cooking, podcasting, wine-ing, and homework helping.
Some days, I think my 30 minutes = someone else’s 4 hours.
Over the past few weeks, my death grip on time has loosened.
But something I’ve learned about myself, is that I have a severe hatred…..or maybe it’s an intense fear…..of wasting time.
The fear of wasting time
Sure. No one likes wasting time. Waiting in line anywhere, sucks (especially if you left your phone in the car). As does arriving to the Genius bar, after a 30 minute drive, without the laptop you were supposed to be getting fixed. Cough cough.
But for me, wasting time is excruciating. In fact, it is the hardest thing I have had to come to grips with, when becoming a parent.
“Playing” is challenging for me. And what usually ends up happening, is I force my kiddos into designing an elaborate mini-golf course. Or an obstacle race. A project. A goal.
Do not ask me to play “puppies.” For god’s sake. Do not ask.
And also, don’t expect me to fix the broken trunk on my car, anytime soon. Such a bother, and a huge waste of time. Especially when I’ve rigged up a rope that pulls it open manually. For real.
Mediocre movies make my skin crawl.
And driving 30 KM/hr around Kildonan Park makes me vomit.
But along with this newly allotted gift of time, is an awareness of my relationship to it. And a deliberate willingness to risk “wasting it.”
Why NOW is the perfect time to risk wasting time
You see, what I’ve realized, is that my extreme distaste for squandering time has actually led me to hesitate in starting new things.
There is risk involved in new endeavours. Because I can’t be certain they will pay off.
The potential for wasted time is huge.
But right now? This? It is the perfect moment to risk time, because we have been gifted with more of it than ever before. The supply is rich. So even if I do waste some of it….I’ll still have more than I normally do.
And so, in this Alice-in-Wonderland, upside down world we are living in right now, I have made it my goal to embrace the gift of time I’ve been given, in 3 ways:
1. Try new things
I want to challenge myself not to simply do more of the same. Not to simply invest in what I already know. But rather, to use this time to expand, in new ways.
Learn how to bake an apple pie, with crissy-cross lattice. Play my guitar, and write an original song. Write a hot and steamy romance novel. And learn how to embroider so I can make obscene tea towels.
2. Deliberately do things that aren’t “productive”
There are so many things out there that I cast judgment on, as time sucking wastes of time. And yet, I know deep down, these things would also breathe life into my soul.
Yoga. Slow and twisty. Reading fiction (not Dan Brown….don’t worry….I’m not that crazy). Listening to brainless podcasts, and standup comedy.
Fuel for joy. A worthy pursuit in and of itself.
3. Scratch things off the “to-do” list that don’t belong there
After years of wanting to do a deep clean of my house, but lacking the time, I discovered this week….that wasn’t the reason.
I will not be learning how to garden.
Nor will I be making jewellery.
And something that this gift of time has truly taught me, is that we can absolutely convince ourselves that a lack of time is the reason we aren’t doing things. When in reality, we simply do not want to do them. Period.
Lack of time is one of the biggest excuses people give for not working out. And while some people are drenching their living room carpets in sweat….others are still lying on the couch.
You want it, or you don’t. And right now, those priorities are being put to the test.
It’s time to be honest with myself, and cross things off my to-do list that don’t belong there.
The gambler’s trap
All of us cringe at the idea of “sunk costs” that cannot be recouped. It’s the very reason many people stay in shitty jobs. And shitty marriages. Driving shitty ass cars with broken trunks.
Once we’ve invested time and energy into something, we hesitate to drop it and back out. Because, well, we’ve come this far. Might as well keep going.
But just as the risk of starting new things has its just rewards, so too does the risk of ending things we’ve already begun, that no longer serve us.
When I quite my job as a librarian to become a fitness coach, I could have very easily lingered in guilt over the 6 years of higher-education that went into earning my bun and glasses.
But what I’ve come to learn, is that life has a funny way of bringing the puzzle pieces of your life together.
I wouldn’t be nearly as good of an instructor, without my practice as a storyteller to a group of 3-year olds.
I wouldn’t be nearly as a good of a marketer, without my practice as a wordsmith-ing essay-writing student.
Time is never truly wasted
And so, the zen master in me realizes that time is never truly wasted.
There is meaning in everything, if we allow ourselves to see it.
Risk wasting time.
Lie on the hood of your car, and do some star gazing. Just for the hell of it.
But if I’m with you, and it’s my car, you’re gonna have to be the one to pull the rope, and get the wine from the trunk.