Monday Musings: 4 weeks to go

Ever since we bought our place in Vernon, it’s seemed like something so incredibly distant.  We bought back in July knowing that our place wouldn’t be ready until January at the earliest.  That seemed a lifetime away. Even as we sold our old place and moved into a rental in October, January still seemed like a million years away. Then our possession date got pushed back to March and I really started to feel like we were never going to make our move. Long story long, it’s never felt like our move was coming any time soon.

Now we suddenly find ourselves just four weeks away from a scheduled possession date. That’s four weeks to get our place packed and reorganized, get everything organized to move into our new home and, most importantly, to say goodbye to the people and place that have been our network and home for the vast majority of our adult lives. As we start to make lists of things to do and people to see, and slot those people in to dates, it’s clear that there’s really not much time left at all.

I’m generally pretty pragmatic about such things in life. I’ve moved a lot, left people behind a lot, managed the logistics of big moves more times than I want to remember. There’s steps to be taken and things to be done.  In some ways it’s old hat to me, but what never gets familiar is that sinking feeling when you realize: right…things are actually going to change in a really big way. 

A move to a new city shakes up all the comfortable, routine patterns of your life. It’s little things, like your local grocery store, the place you go to get a bottle of wine when you realize you’re out of wine, where you find the best coffee, who makes the best donuts, or where you go when you want an ultra satisfying dinner out.  But it’s also the big things, like being able to call up a friend and see her at the drop of a hat, like realizing the Sunday family dinners (which, ironically, were mostly hosted on Saturdays) that you used to have monthly are at risk of never happening again or at very least will require some serious logistical masterminding, like realizing we’ll have no family closer than a four hour drive away from us, like absolutely everything being new and different, even if only a little bit.

Don’t mistake this as second-guessing our decision to move. I couldn’t be more excited to go. I’m excited for the potential positive impacts to our lifestyle and to our careers, and incredibly excited to be so dangerously close to all of the wine. But one can be excited for the future while still experiencing a feeling of heavy loss for all the good I’ll leave behind, of which there is a lot.  Amidst the excitement of leaving, and all the waiting and having it feel like it took forever to get to moving day, I carry a bit of that heaviness and grief with me every single day. And I know that feeling of loss will continue to grow over the coming weeks as I start to realize that every time I see friends or places I love, it’s one visit closer to not seeing them in person as often.

In some sense, it is beautiful, this conflict between excitement and sadness. It tells me that this place and its people matter to me and that I need to make sure that I stay connected even if at a distance. It tells me that, even though I am leaving, there is a lot of potential to expand the people and places I love once we (finally!) get to Vernon.

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Monday Musings: on trial by fire

I have a love/hate relationship with trial by fire. My reptilian brain sounds alarm bells at the thought of being thrown into the deep end without a life preserver. My experience, however, tells me that when I’m thrown in the deep end I actually tend to learn the most and the most quickly. Not only that, they’re the times when I’ve been forced to come up against and change some deeply held beliefs about myself.

The thing with trial by fire is that it forces you to figure something out quickly. The alarm bells are fleeting because you simply don’t have the luxury of time to slowly think through your options and extensively weigh out the best way to respond.  You’ve got to figure it out. Right now. And then you have to come to terms with the choices you made in that moment.  More often than not, my game time decisions are just as good, if not better, than ones I’ve agonized over.

I am a homeowner, a designer, a career coach, a facilitator, and a strength training enthusiast, all because of trial by fire. I was thrown into all of these roles thinking ‘that’s not me’ but by virtue of being forced to disprove myself, I have come to realize that these things are all very much me. Sometimes trial by fire is the fastest route to seeing new possibilities in ourselves. But it’s not the only route.

Ultimately I’m starting to see that trial by fire is actually just about trusting my gut in moments that require immediate action because the answers and ideas are already there. I’ve been working with a coach lately who flies against my conception of conventional coaches–which I love–and the more I work with her, the more I’m seeing a powerful pattern: when I’m forced to do something, I find a way. Even when it’s uncomfortable, even when it goes against what I believe to be true about myself, even when I think I have no idea how to do it, I will get it done.

While I like to tell myself that I need time to think things through and  to process information before making big decisions I’ve also noticed that the more time and space I have to think about things, the more likely I am to experience immobilizing anxiety and fear.  The end result: I’m stuck in the same place with the exact same story. And the pattern repeats.

As I’ve been digging into this pattern, I’ve realized I’ve spent years asking myself the wrong question. I’ve been asking myself how can I light a fire under my ass to replicate the trial by fire feeling as a means of forcing me to challenge my stories.  What I really needed to be asking myself is how I can question my stories and trust my gut in the calm of comfort. All along, I have been missing the fact that I would be better served to rewrite my story out of want rather than necessity.  I don’t need external pressure or the replication of external pressure to get stuff done. I need to quiet the noise, open my heart and listen.

Onward and upward I go.

Monday Musings: on ending 2017 and moving into 2018

Happy new year everyone! I hope you all had as wild and crazy a new year’s eve as we had over here, and by wild I mean barely making it to midnight and spending most of the evening attempting to complete an infuriating puzzle that claimed to be for ages 6+. I want to know who these 6 year old puzzle wizards are, because we are 38 and the struggle was real. Visual-spatial perception is so not my jam.

Alas, that is not the point of today’s post. Today is New Year’s Day, which likely means no one is reading this. For many, like me, today is the last day of holiday vacation glory and tomorrow signals the return to work. Ugh. But before that, it’s always fun to take a look back at 2017. I mean, where did the year go? I had more career low points than I’ve ever had in one year, which were thankfully balanced out by many high points in my personal life.  My injury continued to plague me, but the upside is that I’ve finally (I think) wrapped my head around my new definition of fitness. In other words, 2017 had a lot of ups and downs for me, which mostly balanced out in favour of the good.

If I had to describe 2017 in three words, they would be: change on steroids. I moved to the suburbs, started a new job, quit that job, took four glorious months off of work, sold a house, bought a house, started another job, moved into a temporary rental, contemplated quitting the new job many (many) times, recognized that the new job is serving its purpose right now, and completely revamped my approach to fitness.  I’m exhausted just reading that.  And that’s just it, although there was a lot of good in 2017, I can also say that it was a tiring year. Change is tiring.

What I’m about to say is probably going to sound contradictory. Even though 2018 will be another year of big changes, I’m super excited for it. Bear with me on that one. Yes, I just said change is tiring, so why would I want more of it? Well that’s the weird thing about change. Whether change is good or bad, it’s equally tiring to me.  But at least the changes on the horizon are ones that I’m excited about. So bring on the change, 2018. I’m ready for ya!

Mid-Week Tangent: how the other half lives

I’d like you to imagine a world in which you roll up to the airport a mere 15 minutes before your flight, and in which you walk straight through a quiet and empty terminal without any thought to removing liquids and laptops and shoes and belts, boarding the plane with only a cheerful introduction from the pilot (with a handshake to boot). It sounds like a fantasy world, doesn’t it? But my friends, this world exists, but only, and this is an important only, for the other half.

This week, I took my first and likely only trip on a private jet. In a word it was brilliant, and such a stark contrast to commercial aviation.  I would include a picture of the magical vessel, but realized that the picture I took might give away the company I work for. Suffice it to say, if this is how the other half lives, perhaps I should have worked about 1000 times harder in my career.

At first I thought I was super fortunate to step foot onto the corporate jet. As a relative peon in the corporate machine, I have no business being there. I am merely fortunate that my role occasionally requires attending meetings with senior executives, and sometimes those senior executives don’t have time to dilly dally with commercial air travel when those meetings occur in Minnesota. I now realize that there was nothing lucky about this experience because from this point forward I will be plagued by the memory of idyllic private jet travel whenever I suffer through commercial air travel’s laundry list of unpleasantries, such as:

–arriving at the airport 1-2 hours before my scheduled flight time, forced to kill time surrounded by screaming children, loud talkers and seat hoggers. Did you catch that earlier when I said you can arrive 15 minutes for a private jet? Even for an international flight. 

–suffering the indignity of airport security with its rules and formalities and tiny liquids bottles stowed only in regulation-sized, clear plastic bags, and hand swabs and pat downs.  You better bet you can carry liquids of any size on a private jet. Family-sized shampoo? Go for it!

–rushing to fit in one more visit to the bathroom before boarding time because you know that it’s not worth it to take a chance on the washrooms on board. Guys, do you know how big the washrooms are on private jets? I could turn around without hitting a wall or sink or toilet. I mean, I could’ve done a full lunge in there. And we had a real towel to dry our hands on. Contemplate that level of civility for a moment.

–jockeying for position during pre-boarding by corralling myself into the appropriate zone like some of sort of cruel caste system.  How can I forget being personally greeted by the pilot as I waltzed onto the plane without line nor formality?

–needlessly turning my phone onto airplane mode, stowing my bags under my seat, or putting my laptop away during take off or landing. Imagine the liberation of having your purse casually tossed on the couch directly adjacent to your chair (yes, as in a standalone chair).

–snacking on nothing but a tiny bag of pretzels and some club soda instead of a custom-ordered meal eaten with actual cutlery and cloth napkin. Ugh.

–walking through multiple and seemingly endless wings of gates to find your way to customs only to be greeted by an agent I’ll tactfully describe as no fun, who will ask you a million questions in a way only customs agents can (i.e. the way that inspires total anxiety even when you have done nothing wrong). I didn’t even have to leave my cushy, on-board chair to clear customs. They came to me, and I didn’t have to answer a single, damn question. A simple glance at each passport sufficed. That’s the sign of power and wealth which, to be clear, I had only by association in that moment.

I’m sorry if I’ve just ruined commercial aviation for you, especially as we near the holiday season when chances are you, like me, will be hopping aboard a plane with the masses, crammed into a middle seat between a crying baby and chatty Cathy. It wasn’t my intention. I just needed to open your eyes to a world of air travel beyond what you and I are likely to experience and, yes, it is every bit as incredible as it sounds.

Monday Musings: putting the time in

Today’s post is really just a thought, but one that’s been nagging at me this week as I continue to drag my feet on putting any real time into my career exploration.

I wouldn’t expect to get better at anything without practicing or putting the time into it. I don’t expect my golf game to get better this Winter as I hide from the rain and cold (i.e. binge-watch Netflix) instead of hitting the greens. I don’t expect my running to get better any time soon given that I’m doing no more than running isolated laps in between sets of plyometrics. I don’t expect a book to read itself; I know I have to sit with it and digest page after page of the written word.

I also know full well that career exploration takes time. I was a career counsellor for years and I work in career development. The first thing I tell anyone who asks “what should I be doing?” or “how do I develop in my career?” is that there is no replacement for putting the time into really defining what matters to you, your financial goals, what you’re good at, etc. etc. etc. It is not quick work and it can also be very challenging work, but it’s work that only the person can do for herself.

Still, I seem to be sitting here more days than not expecting an answer to magically fall from the sky of an alternate universe where one doesn’t need to put in the time. It is hurting no one but myself, of course, and yet that is arguably the worst person to hurt. There is no replacement for putting in the time. I’m talking to myself when I say ‘repeat after me: there is no replacement for putting in the time.’

Monday Musings: problematic patterns

I recently wrote about how wherever you go, there you are. That post and its sentiments have followed me around like a dark cloud since putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as the case may be). At its heart, that post is about patterns. This past week, I attended a Neuroleadership Institute Summit and, as one would expect with a conference about neuroscience, I heard a lot about how our brains form patterns, and how challenging it can be to reprogram our brain to form new patterns.  For the record, patterns aren’t always a bad thing. In fact, many serve us well and free our mind from needless clutter. It’s just that not all of them do.

Herein lies why that post has sat so heavily with me. Among my many patterns, one is continuing to move into new jobs only to become quickly and intensely frustrated, at which point I become incapable of seeing anything beyond the negative. I get the flight syndrome, the sudden urge to escape and move on to greener pastures. And yet, when I start to look elsewhere, I look at the exact same types of roles, as though somehow a new organization or new colleagues or new mission, vision and values will somehow change the work itself. It makes no sense.

Except that it makes perfect sense. Because our brains are wired to keep us in a state of homeostasis, we will automatically choose the path of least resistance when faced with the discomfort of change. Change is perceived as a threat by our brains, and our brains cannot actually distinguish between real and perceived threat.  It’s fascinating, until you’re the one stuck in the pattern and seemingly unable to kick yourself out of the rut. Then it’s a pain in the ass, and then I get stuck in yet another job that frustrates the hell out of me and I’m left asking myself why I keep falling into the same pattern when I know it yields the same troubling results time after time.

I’ve broken problematic patterns in the past: the urge to pick up and move as a means of changing who I am (yes, I’m moving again in a few months, but no, this time it’s not to be a different me in a new place), dating essentially the same (wrong) person over and over again, or continually making friends with flaky people who aren’t there for me the way I want friends to be. I’ve broken all those patterns over time. What I’m not clear on is what was the impetus for change in those scenarios? Was there a straw that broke the camel’s back or was it just the recognition that the pattern needed to break and a willful intention to make things different? I suspect it was the former, which is troubling because it seems the more emotionally exhausting and less direct way to break a pattern. Either way, this current pattern needs to be broken. I need to trick this little brain of mine to stop sounding the alarms every time I contemplate a career change. I don’t know how to do that yet, but when I do, look out world.

Monday Musings: on the return of relaxation and its enormous power

It surprised me how much weight I was carrying from this move. It wasn’t that we weren’t organized. It wasn’t that we didn’t have a lot of time to deal with it. It wasn’t that I’m not overly skilled at moving (because I am, care of 10+ moves as an adult. and that’s not even counting all the dorm moves in university). In my experience, moving is just one of those things that is all encompassing. It eats up your life for weeks on end as you fill your precious leisure time with unglamorous tasks like…

…purging junk you’ve been clinging to for a decade…

…trying to list shit to sell online to absurd bargain-hunting flakes…

…packing in waves so you aren’t living in an empty house for too long but not leaving too much til the end…

…and trying to clean years of filth from the darkest reaches of your home (hello, under the kitchen sink, I’m talking to you)…

As if I weren’t feeling enough like a shadow of my former self with the new job and the heinous commute, adding moving to the mix took my monster status to the next level.  There has been no fun, or at least no fun that hasn’t been overshadowed by nagging feeling that shit still needs to get done. Then, this weekend the clouds parted (literally and figuratively), and we were blessed with a true Sunday Funday and I had forgotten how significantly true relaxation alters one’s state of mind.

For the first time in months, we weren’t weighed down by the mental stress of feeling like we should be doing something else. We leisurely and carelessly strolled the streets of our new neighborhood without that nagging feeling that we should be packing or cleaning or organizing. It was glorious. We played at the local Pitch & Putt course, which ended up taking a full three hours thanks to many, many beginners slowing our roll (as a sidenote, never have I felt so good at golfing), and I didn’t once think “oh crap, this is taking too long and now we’re going to be f*$%ed later on.”

I cannot tell you how much lighter I felt without the stressful weight of the move. Relaxation truly is a miracle worker.  It didn’t take a major vacation or even wildly elaborate plans. We did what we always do: walked and golfed and drank some wine (not at the same time), but we did it without the burden of a million unfinished tasks. This feeling may not last long, but I’m going to enjoy the peace of relaxation while I can.