Monday Musings: life lessons from the driving range

This weekend, we went to the driving range. Usually, this is not a happy experience for me. More often than not, I hack away at the ball and never seem to make any progress. Even when I try, my balls veer hard left or scuttle across the ground only to settle about 20 yards away. On this latest occasion, however, I hit ten times better than I ever have, most shots dead straight and even several good shots in a row (note: by “good”, I also mean good for me, which is still terrible by actual golfing standards).

When I considered what could’ve contributed to such a marked improvement in my shots, I knew it was more than just using my new hand-me-down clubs.  What really seemed to make the difference was slowing down my swing. In the past, I’ve tried to power through my swing as quickly as humanly possible, assuming that the faster my swing was the better my shots would be. As it turns out, the slower my swing is, the better the contact with the ball, and the better the shot. I was hitting balls higher and farther with less effort.

It occurred to me that perhaps I should give thought to what else in my life might improve with slowing down. Lately I have felt like I am constantly running from thing to thing. I get up, rush to get dressed and to the gym, rush through my workout, rush to get ready to go to work, work all day, battle rush hour, rush to throw together dinner and lunches and breakfasts for the next day, rush to pack my gym clothes and work clothes for the following day, rush to write a blog post, and then go to bed. Weekends aren’t always much better. That’s a lot of rushing. And it’s exhausting. I constantly feel exhausted.

How can I bring some of the benefit of moving slowly to my life? I need to feel like my life is less harried and rushed.  With a golf swing it is easy; it’s all about being slow, methodical and focused. In life that seems more challenging. However, I do believe that part of my feeling so rushed and overwhelmed is the mental clutter and chatter surrounding all the things I believe I need to do quickly.  What would happen if I were to pause, to focus on one task at a time? What if I could close myself off from the 9000 other thoughts that I have and just get that one thing done first? What if I weren’t always trying to do two things at once because I assume it’s faster? Would I actually get more done? Would I actually get it done faster? Would I feel less overwhelmed?  I don’t know the answers to these questions for sure, but I do think it’s worth testing this theory out.

Monday Musings: never say never

I’m occasionally a fan of being overly dramatic. I have a particularly high tendency to say things like “Ugh! I’ll never {insert any totally plausible action here]!”  The expression never say never is designed for people like me. More often than not, I do exactly what I say I’ll supposedly never do.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m with you on this one Bieber.

Over the last few years alone, I have a lengthy list of never-do’s that have turned into my reality:

  • I’d never be interested in golf and I’d certainly never choose a round of golf over hiking
  • I’d never date someone in the suburbs (it’s true! my entire relationship right now is based on a major oversight on my part)
  • I’d never live anywhere but in the city centre
  • I’d never move to the Okanagan
  • I’d never quit my job without something else lined up
  • I’d never buy real estate when I could just rent
  • I’d never go back to working in a traditional, corporate environment
  • I’d never be willing to do the rush hour commute from the ‘burbs

See? I told you it was a long list. This is the danger of saying never. What I’ve realized for me is that “never” really means “not right now”. I could never (see? there’s that word again!) have predicted my circumstances would shift so dramatically over the last couple of years, and how much that would impact my priorities. Everything from my relationship to my injury to my career insights to the real estate market have caused major ripple effects.  Suddenly the things that used to be never’s seem not only perfectly logical but also overwhelmingly exciting.

There’s so many other never-do’s that I still live with, yet I’m considerably more cautious with them than I used to be. I cannot predict how my priorities and goals will continue to shift. What seems like  a never-do today may once again be the most compelling of choices a year or two from now. So while I may still utter the words from time to time, I’ll do so knowing that it’s pure drama and maybe, just maybe, I’ll do just that thing when the mood strikes me.

Mid-Week Tangent: the bitter truth about trail tuesdays

Every week when I sit down to write posts, I am reminded of the fact that my Trail Tuesday posts have all but disappeared. Why? Because I haven’t hiked a single damn trail the entire month of July. That’s right, me, the so-called hiker, hasn’t hiked a single step for an entire month. I am as surprised as anyone. This kind of hiking hiatus hasn’t happened since my pre-Banff days, which was a whopping 8 years ago. Even last year when my sacroiliac was barely holding it together, I managed to hit the trails at least weekly.

I had all sorts of plans for getting back to trail shape in time for summer, for hitting the trails regularly. The weather’s been gorgeous. I live closer to some of my favourite local mountains. My nagging injuries have been staying (relatively) at bay. All the necessary ingredients were there for the taking, and I partook not even once.  I can rattle off a list of excuses a mile long, many of which are totally legit. I was away house-hunting two weekends of the month. I had my birthday weekend. We had a community garage sale. All of this is true. But the real bitter truth, the toughest pill to swallow is the actual truth: I haven’t felt like hiking this month, nor this season in general.

When the thought of hiking crosses my mind, instead of being excited, instead of madly researching what trail to explore next, I quickly squash the thought altogether. I’m tired from starting a new job.  I don’t feel fit enough to navigate the types of trails I love. I don’t feel like getting in my car and driving after dealing with rush-hour commutes Monday-Friday. It feels like there’s a million things to do related to moving. The allure of fresh air, epic scenery, unobscured vistas, none of these currently competes with my desire to be still, to relax, to be totally and completely sloth-like lazy.

I don’t know if my hiking mojo will return this summer. Maybe once the chaos of new job, house sale, finding a temporary home and finalizing all the small details for our new home dies down things will change. I still have a couple of months to seize the hiking season. But if I don’t, if my mind and body continue to tell me to chill out, I’m going to try not to beat myself up every Tuesday when I have no trail stories to tell.

Monday Musings: Change, change and more change

Pull up a chair and let me tell you some of the big things on the horizon that I’ve subtly alluded to over the past couple of months but never really talked about. Behind the scenes, we’ve been quietly working away at some big-time moving and shaking. It’s been exciting, exhausting, stressful and, at times, utterly overwhelming.  But mostly it’s exciting.

We are moving! To the Okanagan! The heart of wine country (in Canada, at least)! Lakes! Rolling hillsides! Slower pace of life! Yes!!!!!

I don’t even know when or how it all started. At some point while I was still on my work hiatus, we got the crazy thought “what if we sell our house and move to the Okanagan?” It seemed like a pipe dream at the time, but slowly we started investigating the situation. On a wine weekend, we hopped into an open house smack dab in the heart of wine country. While that particularly property wasn’t the right fit for us, it was the small action that set us off on a path to full-blown can-we-actually-do-this research.

Now, not even two months later:

  • I’ve started a new job for which I had to negotiate a trial period of working in a different region.  The jury’s still out on whether it will actually work, but we’re going to give it a whirl.
  • We’ve staged, listed and sold our current house and have to be out October 1st.
  • We bought a new house that won’t be ready until February 2018, which means…
  • We’ve been on the hunt for a temporary rental to carry us between our move-out and move-in dates.
  • My partner in crime has resigned from his job and will wrap up work in two short weeks, at which point he’ll start looking for work in our new ‘hood.

There have been a lot of stressful weekends driving up to the Okanagan on a moment’s notice. There’s been a lot of last minute cleaning in preparation for showings (thankfully the real estate market is ridiculous here and our house sold lightening fast). There’ve been a lot of mid-day phone conversations about upgrades and offers and counter-offers. There’ve been flurries of emails to mortgage brokers, realtors, relatives, rental agents, and prospective employers. So yeah, we’ve had a lot of stuff on the go in a short period of time.

Chances are things won’t slow down much for the foreseeable future. While it’s tiring a lot of the time, and certainly gets in the way of consistently blogging, it all feels like the right move (pun intended) and I couldn’t be more excited for the future.  Change is rarely easy, especially when you combine multiple major changes all at one time, and yet sometimes it’s exactly what you need to align your life with your priorities.

We’ve wanted a number of things to shift in our life. We’ve wanted a slower pace. We’ve wanted to have a life that doesn’t revolve around stressful jobs that pay well but don’t necessarily hold personal meaning.  We’ve wanted to be closer to some of the things we love (golf, wine, new trails for me to explore, etc.). We’ve wanted to get as close to mortgage free as possible so that we have more time and need less work to do more of the things we love. We couldn’t envision any of that happening here in the Lower Mainland. While the move isn’t going to instantly satisfy all of these wants, it will get us considerably closer in the short term. In the long term, it creates the ideal conditions for a life we’ll both love.

So for now, even in the midst of the stresses and annoyances of moving (ugh, moving, am I right?) I am trying to remind myself of all the positives on the other side.  Bring on the change!

TWIR #68: work trips and tiredness and hotel gyms, oh my!

Before I get to anything, happy national junk food day! I heard about this on the radio this morning and wanted to jump for joy. I’m not normally one for these ridiculous “national [insert something random] day”s, but this is one I can get behind. I don’t need to justify eating extra ice cream, but it’s somehow still comforting to know it’s virtually an expectation today.

In other news, this was a week of two trips, a lot of tiredness and a really shitty hotel gym.  As with every week since I’ve started my new job, I can’t say my workouts were all that great, but I tried to keep consistent. I give myself an A for effort…and a C- for execution. Here we go!

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: mini road triiiiiip! (i.e. a lot of sitting on my ass)
Observations: We hit the road at 6 am and had a full day of activities so I pretty much knew a workout wasn’t going to happen. It could have, actually, as we were done the bulk of our real activities by 2 pm, but at that point it was about 35 degrees outside and a craft cidery sounded like a much better plan. It was. We left with a case of cider.

Activity: unplanned rest day/”mountain” walk
Relevant Stats: 45 min. trail walk
Observations:  I thought we’d get home early enough to work out, but we left later than planned due to the 45 minute trail walk. It was called a “mountain” on the trail sign but I assure you it was just a nice hill. Sure, we walked up it and down the other side, but I hardly consider it a true workout. Still, considering I spent the rest of the day on my ass in a car, I suppose it’s far better than nothing.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 30 min.
Observations: Words cannot express how bad my hotel ‘fitness centre’ was. I tried to articulate it yesterday so that when I wrote about my meagre 30 minutes of exercise you would understand that 30 minutes is all a reasonable person would be able to tolerate in that space. I tried, I really did. It was heinous.

Activity: cardio warmup + strength training
Relevant Stats: 20 min. run + 25 min. strength
Observations: Against my better judgment, I ventured into the company gym where I was pleasantly surprised to find windows (!), kettle bells (!) and a cable motion machine (!!) along with an assortment of other solid equipment. The trade off was working out around fellow employees, but since it was my first trip to this particular location no one knew me anyway. Worth it. I was rewarded with a home-cooked meal by one of my best friends who just so happens to live 20 minutes away. That made the work travel a little bit better.

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: successful walk to grocery store for ice cream
Observations: I had an early afternoon flight which meant the only time to work out was first thing in the morning. Lately, I’ve been pretty good at morning workouts, but I felt pressure to be in the office extra early because I was leaving so early. In other words, I couldn’t drag my ass out of bed early enough to fit in a workout and arrive at the office by 7.

Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 4o min.
Observations: I cannot remember the last time I survived on a spin bike for 40 minutes. Lately I hit the 10 minute mark and am ready to move on to the next thing. I seized the moment and stuck with the spin bike for my entire workout. I wish I could’ve rode longer but work was calling. If only I could get up just fifteen minutes earlier every day, but somehow getting up that extra fifteen minutes early feels like getting up two hours earlier by about lunch time. Sigh.

Activity: cardio warmup + strength training
Relevant Stats: 5 min. spin + 40 min. strength
Observations: Oh man, those pushups today were not feeling so great. I’ve backed off my full tricep pushups lately and it showed.  I fit in some solid leg and glute work, though. It’s all about balance, like when I work out and then convince myself I can have a giant bowl of ice cream as a reward (and because it’s national junk food day, of course). Balance at its finest.

And now we have reached Friday and I am so, so, so incredibly excited to do absolutely nothing this weekend. There will be golf, there will be watching the Open Championship final, there will be wine, there will be recently acquired craft cider, and there will be hearty celebration of national junk food day. Happy Friday!

oh yeaaaaaaah, it’s a remarkably wonderful day!

Monday Musings: my thoughts on being a temporary “homemaker”

I go back to work this Thursday after a luxurious stretch of time off, close to four months to be exact. And actually, I was also off work from late November until mid-January, so when you do the math, I’ve had the extreme privilege of being able to take six out of the last eight months off. How was it, you might ask? Let me tell you, it was glorious.

I never considered myself a homemaker. In fact, I only use that term because one of our friends who was applying for a mortgage while between jobs was classified as a ‘homemaker’, not by her own choice but by the mortgage broker. I realized that, were I in the same position, I too would be considered a homemaker. At first, I found it a bit of an antiquated and mildly offensive categorization, but as I reflect on the last four months, I see that it’s really rather appropriate.

In all honesty, most of my time was devoted to various domestic jobs. I did a lot of laundry, a lot of cleaning, a lot of cooking and a lot of running errands related to all those things.  It really wasn’t as bad it as it sounds. There’s something different about domestic duties and chores when they’re not crammed into the few hours of free time you get between work days.  Cooking is fun when you’re not tired from a day of work. Laundry isn’t quite so annoying when it’s interspersed with daytime talk shows or reading.  Grocery shopping is entirely more civilized when you’re not out there with all the other post-work grumpy shoppers and weekend warriors.

There were other perks too. I had the luxury of working out whenever I wanted to, choosing at what point during the day I would accomplish tasks, and opting for a late afternoon nap when the mood struck. Hell, I could even table an entire day’s worth of chores if I was feeling lazy and turn it into an epic Netflix binge day.  My time was mine. I was almost never bored and almost always had more than enough to occupy my time.  If it sounds like I’m going to miss it, I am, but I always knew it was only temporary.

The overall verdict: being a temporary homemaker was pretty fantastic and, as I close off this brief chapter, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to take so much time off…and incredibly hopeful that my return to work goes a little more smoothly than last time!

Monday Musings: feeling of value

Lately, I have started to feel guilty for doing absolutely nothing to further my career exploration nor job search. The guilt has compounded to the point that I’ve even had moments when I’ve felt like I’m doing nothing important with my life simply by virtue of not being in the workplace. I often feel unproductive and like I might just be the laziest human on the planet. And yet, when I look at my days, I’m rarely just sitting around.

In fact, this morning as I entered into what I consider my hyper-productive-domestic-mode, I had a moment where I realized ‘holy crap, I am a productivity machine!’.  Just look at what I accomplished before noon today:

–took out the garbage
–washed dishes, ran the dishwasher, unloaded the dishwasher
–cleaned and prepped lettuce and kale for this week’s salads
–made a batch of farro to put in this week’s salads
–started our slow-cooker pot roast. Granted, slow cooker recipes are     supposed to be easy, but that’s not entirely true. It’s just that all the work is at the front end. I still had to sear (and that beef got a mighty fine sear, I might add), chop, sauté, make a roux, chop some more, and combine. It’s a bit of an ordeal, particularly when I have to avoid setting off our uber sensitive smoke detector.
–swept the floors
–washed and dried bedding and made the bed (no small feat for a king-size bed)
–cleaned the bathrooms
–applied for two jobs (for the first time in two weeks! hurrah!)
–went for a run

I dare say that’s more than I accomplished any morning at work in the past year and a half. In fact, I am willing to bet that, during that timeframe, at least 75% of my work mornings involved me doing nothing more than talking to my colleagues, going for coffee, working out, sneakily writing blog posts, and responding to a few emails.  Despite the fact that, objectively, I’m often doing a lot more with my time now that I’m out of work, what I’ve struggled with most is feeling unproductive and far from useful.  I’ve realized that my senses of both contribution and value have become inextricably tied to my career.

Apparently being a domestic wizard, (almost) daily writer, errand runner extraordinaire and champion mid-week cookie and buttermilk-waffle maker has not been enough for me to feel of value. I get a lot of shit done these days, all of it needs to get done, and I am happy doing it.  This is a stark contrast to my last couple of years at work where was I doing a lot of work that felt unimportant and unnecessary and, largely by virtue of this, left me incredibly frustrated. Should that make me feel more valuable than what I’m doing now?

While I have no intention of remaining out of the workforce forever (nor, sadly, the financial ability to do so), I still want to pay attention to my sources of personal value. I certainly don’t want to feel like my only value comes from my career, especially when it’s not like I’m saving lives in my profession. It’s time I start asking myself the types of questions I used to ask my clients and colleagues: what currently gives you a sense of value? where do you want your sense of value to come from? are those two things aligned?  Perhaps in the answers to these questions I’ll even spark some ideas for a new career direction.