Measuring

The list of my city's Top 40 under 40 came out this month and I know about eight people on the list. Young, ambitious, go-getters, doing good things for our city and for the world, and all that jazz. And as I read the write ups on all of them, all I could feel was, "SHIT! Most of these folks are 10 years younger than me, what the heck have I done with my life?" I had to stop for a minute and think of what I have done with my life.

I put myself through university, paid off my student loans (eventually), had a successful career in the Pharmaceutical industry, jointly saved up and paid for our destination wedding, designed and built THREE houses in the past 10 years, birthed two children, started my own business, helped to create a community of and for like-minded parents online, (re)discovered my love of writing and embraced my feminist self.  And all of this life experience, I am using to continue to write and opine and educate (myself and others) through my blog and on social media. It's really not that bad of a list... so far.

So much of what we do and see and say these days is so outwardly focused. We are online throughout our days seeing what other people are saying and doing, waiting to find out what the "right" response should be about world events and news, what charity to support, whose bandwagon to jump on this week, what new fandangle all the cool kids are doing (um... hello Ello!). It can get a bit overwhelming and sometimes even depressing, especially when we start feeling like we don't measure up to the these standards of success or status or "coolness" that we have given credence to.

One of the major lessons that I have learned in my life, and to be honest, probably just in the last few years (so, that would be AFTER 40) is that making a difference in the world or in someone's life, is not about doing the "volunteer all your time, give all your money, go to al the GALAs and do all the FLASHY things" stuff. It is about finding what speaks to your heart, being true to yourself, setting healthy boundaries and not living within a framework of fear, shame, and scarcity - which too often seem to be the default settings for many in our world.

It's the scarcity one that gets me all the time though. You may be more familiar with it as, " I am not ___________ enough.". And it is statements like these that can send me into a tailspin of self-doubt and negative self-talk faster than a room full of toddlers an hour after eating red-icing covered cupcakes. It is what happened as I was reading all the Top 40 nominees and their long lists of accomplishments. It's what happens when I read bios for other bloggers and presenters at social media conferences and yes, it even happens on the playground or school yard when I start hearing about all the extra curricular activities and programs other families have their kids enrolled in. I get out my imaginary measuring stick and it all goes downhill from there.

I sometimes feel like the scarcity issue is a double-edged sword too. One doesn't want to seem too cocky about oneself either and be all, I am enough, I have enough, I DO enough. Especially if there are those around you who actually don't have enough. There's this feeling that lurks around telling us that if we are TOO happy, then there must something wrong with us. This results in conversations that turn into a competition for who can out-misery the other. "Your kids won't eat their lunches? Well, that's nothing, MINE will only eat peanut butter, from the jar, with a special spoon."  "You think you are busy with your two kids in hockey? HA! I have to balance hockey, piano lessons, KUMON classes AND gymnastics for three kids." In the end, there really are no winners in a misery war.

The thing with these imaginary measuring sticks is this. One - they are IMAGINARY! And two - there is no standard length for them. Everyone's is different and all of these things that we feel the need to measure: happiness, success, business, balance, etc..., they are subjective. Someone having a REALLY good day and saying so on Facebook, doesn't mean that your day is bad. Someone getting a writing gig with a magazine, while you still trudge away writing on your little blog doesn't mean that your writing sucks. And someone whose kids do ALL THE THINGS, doesn't mean that their kids are any happier than or are "getting an edge over", your kids. What all of this means is simply, different strokes for different folks.

I am sitting here looking over the Top 40 list again and doing so from a slightly different angle. One where I am not in the picture. One where I can be proud of the young, vibrant voices of the women and men that live and work in my community and my city and that are putting it on the map for the world to see.

Avenue Top 40 Under 40

 

I am putting away my measuring stick. Or repurposing it. I think I'll make it into my new walking stick and I'll take it with me along this path that is MY life. One in which I really am enough. One where I will walk beside my fellow humans, who also have their own walkings sticks. Some taller than mine, some made of a different wood, some decorated with fancy inlayed beads. And all the while, while we may admire each other's sticks, I'll know that my own stick is the one that keeps me upright, helps me navigate my footing in this world and is the one that is perfect, that is ENOUGH, for me.

 

 

 n~

 

 

 

 

how many joy units is that?

The Consort has been hounding me for months (or possibly years) to read a book. Not just any book, because I do read a lot of them, but one particular book. This one.

TWBR

And this weekend I caved. I had just finished a different book and was looking to start another and he, ever so nonchalantly, went to my bedside table, grabbed this book and placed it beside me on the couch.

OK, dude. I get it. I'll read the damn thing.

We all have those books that transform us or speak to us in ways others do not. When my husband was leaving his family home and taking off to the adult world of undergraduate studies at the ripe age of 17, the original "Wealthy Barber" book was given to him by his father. This is HIS book.

I am pretty sure when TC is doing anything financially-related in any way, the voice he hears in his head is David Chilton's. "Is this worth it? Are the joy units going to last long with this purchase? Have you saved FIRST?"

I fully admit that I am the spender in our family and The Consort is the saver. I do the clothes shopping for most of us, all of the grocery shopping and I am the one who buys the gifts for all the birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Yes, we do have a family budget, that I stick to - about 87% of the time. It's that other 13% that gets TC's knickers in a knot and why he wants me to read what Mr. Chilton has to say about finances.

The funny thing is, that in the past year, I truly believe that my spending habits have changed. Or more specifically, my shopping habits have changed.

I know that part of the change has been a response to the life-altering time we experienced this past summer and from that has come much reflection on the things that truly matter in our lives. And you know what? More stuff is not IT. Another part of why my shopping habits have changed, is that I am much more aware of the influence that marketing has on us as consumers. Years of being a breastfeeding advocate and seeing the ways that infant formula is marketed has rubbed off and has me looking a lot more closely at the way ALL products are marketed. Being a blogger and a mother, I've also seen the way that marketing has taken hold in this age of new media and I am VERY sensitive to this in the blogging world. I am more aware now about the message I am hearing and who that message is coming from as well.

~~~~~

This past weekend, we were supposed to go away for a short little mountain getaway. That didn't happen, mainly because  it snowed and I have crap for tires on my car and we couldn't even get out of our little neighbourhood, let alone make it 300 kilometres to the lodge in the mountains. For the next four days we had to use my husband's compact car (which thankfully has AWD and all-season tires) for all our outings. What we both noticed over the weekend is how surprisingly easy it was to function with less car. And this included multiple errands, grocery shopping, and hauling all four of us around to various activities to make up for our missed trip to the mountains.

I have also recently purged every single closet in this house. My wardrobe alone is roughly HALF of what it was a month ago (if you know me at all, this is HUGE!). I am not quite down to Capsule Wardrobe numbers, but the philosophy behind this concept is guiding me right now in regards to what I keep, what goes and how I look at clothes shopping now. It's definitely a change. Especially for one like me, an admitted shopaholic, who gets greeted at Anthropologie BY NAME!

All of these things - reading David Chilton, surviving a week as a family of four with one compact vehicle, minimalizing our wardrobes - have happened at the same time and have caused a kind of cosmic convergence in my mind about how I want to live my life and about the lessons about money and spending and the value of what we HAVE versus the value of what we DO, that we are modelling for our children.

My family lives a very comfortable life, one that I am so very grateful for each and every day. It's just time for me take stock of all that we have, not get caught up in the game of keeping up with the proverbial Jones's and resist the messaging that we are bombarded with each day that we need MORE! More car, more house, more toys, more clothes, more STUFF.

Because we really do not.

My kid is not going to remember the expensive brand name winter boots he was wearing when he was eight years old or what kind of car I drove him to school in. He is more likely going to remember that his Mom bought new snow pants for herself that year, so that she could play outside and build a snow fort with him.

And trust me Mr. Chilton, the "joy units" from that purchase will never depreciate!

n~

 

Welcome to my guest house.

FairyDoor Sometimes life is hard.

The news is not good. People are awful to each other. Fear and hate seem to be winning and love and compassion become afterthoughts to feelings being expressed in 140 characters or 1000 word blog posts. There seems to always be a "spin" being put on the information we receive and deciphering this coded language is enough to make even the most hardy of folks weary and tired.

When life is hard, when the world feels like it is going to hell in a hand basket, I tend to curl up in a ball like a southern three-banded armadillo and wait for the "threat" to pass. I shut myself away from everyone and everything until I feel like I can come out and deal with it all again.

But today, I didn't.

Today was an odd day for me.

Today I looked outside of myself and tried to really see others around me and let them see me. Just regular people that I interact with in my day to day life. And yet today, because I opened up my shell a crack to let some of them in, they let me into their lives a bit too. Today was filled with moments with these people. Moments of clarity, of love, of acceptance. Moments when, for just a second, we recognized in each other that same scared little child, that hopeful kid, that barely-holding-it-together adult and said a silent, "I see you. You matter. Right here. Right now."  to each other.

In yoga class, my friend Mandy shared this Rumi poem with us:

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

~~~~~

So be hard World.

I can take it.

I will welcome the pain and fear, because beyond that is healing and courage.

Take all you want from my house, so I can make room for new guests, new thoughts, new paths to forge ahead on.

Spin all your news however you think it will matter. I won't let it spin me, or my conscience, or my convictions.

Today I learned that curling up in a ball may protect me for a time, but opening up and letting people in, that is what is going to really change my world.

And maybe,

in some small way,

eventually,

I'll change the the Big Bad World out there too.

Peace,

n~