Freedom on the Other Side

It may have been that one moment when I was seven. As a young child, I was forever cold. I always needed a sweater even in the warmer weather. It was a cool day in early June when we went down to the lake for gym class to do our test for pre-beginner swimming. The lake was only a few blocks from the school and we could easily walk. The teacher was our regular gym and health teacher and I didn’t particularly care for him; there were many reasons. That day was just more of the same with that teacher. That day at the lake, the water was particularly cold. I was shivering and I couldn’t warm up. We all stood in chest deep water and we had to put our heads under and I was shivering and just couldn’t do it. I failed. But, my uncle had a solution a month later. He figured he would pick me up and throw me into the water and I would learn to swim because that’s how he taught his boys. I didn’t learn to swim; I freaked out. I may have been that moment. It may have been years of trying and failing.

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Freedom is on the other side of your fear. I have heard it and read this phrase countless times over the last 4-5 years. It’s one of those sayings that once you have heard it so many times, it begins to lose its meaning. In fact until we live through a situation where this becomes completely apparent, do we even unwrap the meaning? Usually when we hear it or read it, it is in reference to doing something different or big, like starting a business. “I don’t know how to do that” if used as a reason to not do something is often fear based, and is followed by the the adage of freedom is on the other side of your fear. Once you have tried the new thing and succeeded, you are set on a course where you are free to continue with comfort. Sounds great except the part where you have to get on the other side of your fear and then do it again and again. And that’s not easy. That takes work and sometimes we don’t want to do the work. I have not taken the initiative nor time, to buckle down and do private swimming lessons.

When we were in Mexico we had one excursion booked for our group. We did a catamaran/sailing trip. Not being able to swim does not cause me fear of boats or being in the open water. I can control my thoughts of going overboard, crazy storms and sinking ships. It does keep me from going in water where I cannot touch the bottom. When I can touch the bottom, I feel I have control should my body become the sinking ship. As with all those excursions, there is a time in the trip where they stop for people to play in the water for an hour or more. There are people who stay on the boat for various reasons and one of the guys from our group didn’t go in.

But I really wanted to go in the water; I was just too afraid. I had all the thoughts… not of drowning, that is not a conscious thought creating the fear; the fear just is. My conscious thoughts were “Freedom is on the other side of fear, your fears are just something your subconscious mind is telling you, you can do it, you are going to regret not trying” along with the arguments to the contrary that countered those thoughts. I really thought about how I am not free to enjoy water or to go in the water when on the excursions because of my fear. Sometimes in life there is a pivotal moment or something that changes your course. It may be there is that one friend who dares encourages you strongly and promises to hold your hand. That happened, and being a follower/people pleaser, someone who just argued with herself with all the thoughts, I went to put down my phone, and my hat and glasses and walked to the edge without further thinking. Of course I went to the edge where the steps were and got a life jacket, and I went in the water with my friend on one side and my husband on the other holding my hands. And I lived.

This past couple weeks we have had a lot going on in the world and it is ever changing. As we practice social distancing and/or self-isolation, we may be feeling a need to keep up with what’s going on in the world, to watch the news or be on social media more. We may find a sudden cough from aspirating our spit causes a mental alarm to be activated, not only in yourself, but your family members. If you have read or watched how the Covid19 virus can devastate the body, you may have some real fears of getting it. For myself, I have a fear of not being able to breathe (hmmmm). It’s been a thing as long as I can remember, a fear of dying because I can’t breathe. Others may fear something completely different when facing the weeks or months ahead. The fear of the unknown is a big one. The fear of losing everything we have worked for. The fear of losing loved ones. Fear can cause people to react in strange ways and do strange things…like overloading on toilet paper. When this has passed, when life gets back to normal, or the new normal, we will have a different outlook. Some of us may have lost some or a lot, but we may have gained something as well. When we are on the other side of this we will have other worries, but we will have the freedom of knowing how long it lasted, how we coped, how we made our world a better place during it, or how we didn’t need some things we thought we did. When it’s done, the hindsight will be 20-20. Until then we can just work on the things we can and have confidence gained from the times we faced our fears and succeeded.

I did not learn to swim when I took the steps from the boat into the water, I didn’t overcome my fear of deep water in one fell swoop. I received help, I received encouragement, I did the scary thing (for me) and I got on the other side. I got to the other side that one time, which means I can do it again. And really, that’s the practice we are going for; that’s what gets us through the next thing and the thing after that. That’s what makes us realize we need others sometimes and it make us resilient. And we will make it through and become stronger.

 

Happiness in Adventure

Who knew a year and a half ago that when we started talking about going to Mexico with our four friends that it would be timely when the plans came to fruition? Who knew that our friends would have milestones to celebrate as well? Funny how things work out that way.

In August, after months of planning, we booked the trip. There were a number of stressors in our lives over the last four months we didn’t anticipate at that time. The obstacles and stressors seemed to peak at the end of December and were resolved a few days before we were scheduled to leave.

We left with a lightness that can only be recognized and appreciated after a period of heaviness. We arrived there traveling with one couple, and greeted by the other couple who had been there for a few weeks and were waiting outside our accommodations when we arrived. After settling in, the fun began and the cares of home felt far behind us. We stayed at the first place for a few nights before switching to a nearby resort where we had a two bedroom suite and access to other amenities.

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Each trip is different. The excitement and enjoyment of going somewhere is not knowing exactly how it will look. When we are at home, we tend to fall into a routine of doing the same things, going to the same places and we take the same routes to where we are going. Our routine can become a drag and often times we don’t realize the drag coefficient until we start feeling lethargic in our thoughts and feelings. Going on a trip can knock you out of the routine and give you new experiences to reflect on and create some happiness. This is not limited to vacations or trips, but can be accomplished through any number of ways.

I am reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin this year. I read it a couple years ago and it’s interesting how many things I put into practice at the time without realizing it. Like they say, one percent change over time will put you on a new course to becoming who you want to become. Her project was divided into months for which she wrote a chapter and through the year I am reading the corresponding monthly chapter. For March, the focus is productivity and work. She talks about aiming higher and doing new things. It is in challenging ourselves and learning that we become happier. We are happier when we do new things, when we work on things that are difficult and we accomplish them. Even if we don’t accomplish something we set out to do, we can be happier in knowing we tried and learned from it. We don’t know how things will turn out and that can create some angst or even fear, but working through it and coming out the other side is what gives us the most joy.

For the most part with a vacation, we anticipate the best and look forward to the fun times, but when we go to a new place there can still be some apprehension deep down. What if the room isn’t what we expected, what if I eat something I shouldn’t, what if I get sick, what if…they may not even be conscious thoughts but our senses are heightened when we are doing something new. It could be an adventure near home, a day trip to somewhere you haven’t been, or trying a fun activity you haven’t tried before, like our time in Calgary at the iFly.

For us a number of happiness factors came into play for our trip. Having gone through a difficult and challenging situation and coming to it’s conclusion was the beginning, Going on a vacation to a familiar place, but staying in a different place, going with people we are good friends with and doing life with them for a time, were new experiences. We couldn’t anticipate all the tiny little moments that happen along the way. That’s no different than at home when you have a traffic jam that makes you late.  Life would be boring if you could know everything beforehand. The little things that take you to a Farmacia in Mexico, or to the market that gets you the thing you have been looking for, may be the thing you talk about for months to come and create lasting happiness. The time spent doing new things and tackling challenges like a crowded bus although not always pleasant can give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that luxury and comfort can minimize.

We had a great time on our trip and love our friends even more with living life with them in Mexico. I would say, what happens in Mexico stays in Mexico, but I have a few stories to tell and will write more in the next couple blog posts. Until then, do something different, take a different route, put your pants on with the other leg first, move your furniture (unless your dog is old and blind), open the windows for a couple minutes to let in the fresh air. Do something that is different or new and see if it makes you a little happier.

 

Where In The World?

There are things in life that look like a good idea and then you do them and maybe not so much. You know the things, sometimes they start with “Let’s do…” and end with “Hold my beer”. Then there are the things that are “Wow…I would love to…” and when you finally start living it, well…it’s not as much fun as you thought it would be, or worse yet, disappointing. I have, on occasion, avoided pursuing something with the idea of “what if I get there and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be”. Have you ever held back on a dream because of a flimsy (in retrospect usually) excuse? Yes, it seems valid at the time but then you realize at some point it was insecurity or something else holding you back.

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I have always thought I would like to be one of those people who get on a plane (or road trip) every couple of weeks going somewhere to discover new things. I got to travel via road trips as a teen with family and friends. I went to Australia before getting married and with our kids we did a few road trips and camping trips. Then, seven years ago, we received a gift of flights to Palm Springs for our 25th anniversary that got the fires burning for flying to warm places in winter.

I am one of those people who loves flying. I love airports. Even when I go pick someone up at the airport, I love the energy of the airport, the energy that exists as a result of people coming and going on, or returning from, adventures. Of course there are those who are tired and haggard as well, but the energy of adventure outshines the dullness of exhaustion.

I love it so much, I thought it would be cool to have a job where you travel regularly visiting new places, but let’s get real, I want the lifestyle, not a JOB. And…what if it gets old. It sounds like it would be fun until you really just want to stay home and be with the people you know and love, to be in your own home, with your own stuff and sleep in your own bed. There is an element of comfort and security at home. It’s great to go away and it’s great to get back home too.

We, my husband and I have had the opportunity to try it out the last few months. Of course we made our own opportunities as well as recognizing and taking advantage of some that we may not have in the past. One thing I have found in life is that unless I plan something in advance, it doesn’t happen. It’s all well and good to think, “We should go…” but until there is a ring and a date, plan and details, like bookings and arrangements, it just won’t happen. And sometimes you need a reason.

In May, we went to a weekend workshop that was a three hour road trip away. when there, we signed up for a year long mastermind which includes 2 retreats, the first was in Ottawa in July. In February, we signed up for a Tony Robbins event which meant a road trip just before the August long weekend, to which we added a little more driving and seeing someplace new. We got to do that with our oldest daughter. In July we found out a family member was having a celebration, which meant a twelve hour road trip, so a few days after that August long weekend, I got in the van, spent a couple days with a friend and then the celebration on the weekend. Lorne flew out and we drove back on the Monday, and mid August was upon us. The beginning of September was a trip to Columbus OH which was set in motion in December (and September last year) when I signed up for two conferences that ended up both in Columbus. Just before that trip, in late August I was comped a ticket to a Real Estate conference in Los Angeles and we used air miles to attend it the last weekend in September. This past weekend was a daylong interactive workshop by Julia Cameron, that I was gifted by my friend from out of town and we went together; and even though it was in our city, felt like a day trip.

Here is what I have discovered. I do like the traveling every few weeks to month. I might consider freelance opportunities as far as working goes but that is because I like to set my own schedule and I wouldn’t be working all of the time. I like the idea of going on business trips, I like the idea of real estate investing elsewhere if it is a good fit, and traveling to work on things with people we know and trust. I like the idea of guest speaking in other places. I would need to focus on something important to talk about haha. I have discovered I like to go away and come back.

I don’t want to be a snowbird, leaving here for winter and returning in spring. I don’t want to have two homes to personally take care of. I don’t want to have roots elsewhere. I want to be like a one year old. Toddlers go away from their parent and come back, they go out a little further and come back. They stay grounded in the security of their parents being there and are able to explore their world. I want to go out and explore regularly but also come home regularly to my own bed, my home, my family and friends and to the traditions I have come to know and love.

As far as where I want to go? I have a few at the top of my list. Our daughter is in the Netherlands so I see that in our future. Also, in three years it will be the 50th anniversary of writing to the penpal of my childhood who lives in Australia so when we are planning to go there. We have a few other trips planned, coming up, one with friends started in the works last year, one we won part of the trip and there is the retreat for our mastermind which will be a road trip. I think I may fit another road trip in over the next 6 months too. Why not?

So what about you? Do you like to travel? Do you like to fly? Do you have some trips coming up? Where in the world would you like to go?

 

Somewhere In Colombia

Somewhere in Colombia, someone will buy a pretty pair of boots not knowing that one of those boots made a trip to Canada and back. This is a feel good story about boots. Boots and shoes have natural feel good properties (in my opinion). I mostly focus on sports shoes but have taken to all sorts of pretty shoes and boots over the years. New boots and shoes make me feel good. I think the next time I go to Colombia I will take a suitcase to bring back shoes 🙂 .

For those who are not in the know, one of the places I wanted to visit when in Colombia was the shoe store of my friend Martha’s cousin, who has a shoe making business with a storefront. Five years ago when Martha came back from Colombia with really nice boots it became one of those bucket list things. So, when we were in Colombia that was on our list for must go places. Once there, I was a little overwhelmed; I deliberated for a long time on what to get. Do I get a pair of shoes I will only wear once a month, or every day shoes or boots. I settled on a pair of boots for me and a pair of sandals. We were there for a very long time and I tried on the black ones first but at the last minute decided to get brown ones after realizing the black ones were not too different than some black ones I already own.

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Together again, my Colombian boots that traveled to Canada separately, one boot in front of the other so to speak.

As can happen when 6 Canadians converge on a small store trying on so many shoes and purchasing a whole bunch (I got shoes for my daughters also), there was mass confusion. There were other customers there as well, probably seeing the commotion and being drawn in to the excitement of shoe shopping. In a couple hours we had seven pairs of shoes picked out, some were getting stretched and others were packed and ready to go. Martha and family had a pile of shoes as well. The footwear went to the house and we picked them up the next evening along with the other bag of shoes from the store. We took them back late to our room, where we packed our shoes with our luggage and prepared for our flight early in the morning.

When we arrived home Sunday evening, we unpacked and gifted our daughters with their items. I showed them my pretty boots in the clear plastic bag, continuing to put items away from my suitcase. It was an hour or so later, my daughter was looking more closely at my boots when she noticed one boot was a size 38 and one was a 37 (the right foot boot). My right foot is my larger foot and it did not fit. Not that it would have mattered; it was noticeably a different size. That was kind of the beginning of my “It has been a week” from my last post. I messaged Martha right away since she was still in Colombia although she had flown out of the Medellin where the shoe store is because she could contact her cousin and communicate better in Spanish than me.

Back track an hour or so before the discovery of the shoe situation, we had learned another friend was leaving for Colombia on the following Saturday evening and I had decided to give him the Colombian pesos we had left over (about $5 worth). After messaging Martha about the boot, I messaged him to see if he would be going to Medellin where the shoe store was. He wasn’t, so we still didn’t know how to manage the shoe situation.

Fast forward to Tuesday when I messaged Martha about what to do. She sent a message back and said she had my boot and to send the small one with packaging with our friend to put in the mail anywhere in Colombia.

We picked up Martha and family at the airport late Friday night and she handed me my one boot from her carry on. The next day, I wore my boots and took the small boot in it’s bubble envelop with the Colombian pesos to our friend who took it that night to Colombia.

So somewhere in Colombia, some time in the near future, someone will buy a pair of brown boots, in size 37 that look just like mine and she will wear her boots, not knowing that the right boot on her foot, set foot in Canada in a small home on the tiles you see in the photo. She will never know the travels her boot made, and even though I won’t know her, I will know there is a boot in Colombia that came to visit me for a week.

Further, I know that even though something that seems like a difficult situation to remedy can work out perfectly and like I said in a post a couple weeks ago, money isn’t the only currency we deal in and nothing is better than the help of great friends who are at the right place at exactly the right time.

 

Dream Bigger

I woke up in Colombia this morning. It has been 6 days of waking up in another country. Many years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined coming here for a visit. It’s funny how life takes on a life of it’s own and yet, it needs some energy behind it. How often does a person get an idea, a dream in their head and they push it away as a ‘dream’, a ‘whim’ a ‘notion’ that ‘just isn’t possible’? How often are we chided by that little voice in our heads that says ‘it can’t be done”? I have learned to dream big, to dream bigger than that little voice is comfortable with. I have learned that dreaming big and dreaming bigger makes those dreams a reality.

Almost 10 years ago we met a lovely family who started coming to our church. Within a short time we were good friends and had a group of couples that got together. We met more people from our church who were from Colombia and they were quick to tell us we need to be learning Spanish. Over the years we have remained friends with this group of people and those friends ended up in our home school circle as well so we spent much time with similar interests together. Five years ago they went to Colombia. When they returned they told us that when they were here they thought of how they would like to show us places they love.

At that point it was a conversation and fleeting comments followed although they were not part of a dream at that point; but the seed was planted and watered. My husband and I did not travel much while we were raising four kids. I stayed home with them and he worked really hard to make that happen. About 5 years ago, we were gifted (by my family and our kids) with a flight that sent us on our first ‘warm during the winter months’ vacation. We went on a few more because, well, it’s cold in Canada and it’s warm other places. I also decided to learn Spanish (after a trip to Cuba) using the Duolingo App. Of course I had friends who were more than willing to have me practice. I worked on it almost daily for a couple years and then last year didn’t spend time on it because of time spent on other things.

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A view of downtown Bogotá and beyond from Monserrate.

Then last year happened. I finished my personal trainer certification. I started my Monat business which happened to be with my dear friend. My husband’s job was iffy and we started a house flipping business with these same friends (and a brother). Then said brother became engaged and the wedding was in Colombia and now here we are, attending a Colombian wedding in a couple days, traveling around Colombia with our friends who are  patiently translating for us and helping us at every turn. However, I know enough Spanish to understand some of what is being said, I can speak enough broken Spanish and sign language to get a black, no sugar coffee special made for me at a street kiosk and tell people I have one son and three daughters, their ages and that I have 2 grandchildren and one more in 3 weeks.

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We walked a lot in Bogotá and when it was raining hard we stopped at a grocery store and learned about the fruits and vegetables here.

I have added a couple photos but this post really isn’t about our trip, it is about dreaming big. It’s interesting how there are little snippets of things that pop up when you are thinking of a post. I have been planning this one for a couple weeks but in preparation for the trip was unable to sit long enough to write it. This morning a friend posted a Facebook post about following your dreams and one of the lines was about waking up in another country. On the way from Bogotá to Ibague, I was listening to a couple podcasts. To be fair, I listen to inspiring podcasts that talk about dreaming big in business and in life, but the person interviewed was a young lady (26) who travels the world and has amassed riches through business after living a terrible teen life at the hands of others. The thing take home message along with others was, “Money is not the only currency”. When we are serving others, and being genuine in caring and help to others, we can receive the same from others…not always the same others but still receive.

We have been so blessed in all our travels to have the gracious help of others, to have accommodation, to be given food, to have transportation, and tour guides and advice from people. We have experienced the generosity of friends, new friends and strangers. We have been overwhelmed with kindness.

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The time spent with family and friends is the greatest of riches.

The currency of relationships, of connection and goodwill go far beyond what money can buy in enriching an experience. Yes, money is needed too. That is one of the reasons we work. But money isn’t the only currency. Dreaming big isn’t about money either; it is about doing things that you didn’t think you could. It is about, instead of saying “I can’t”, saying “How can I?” It may not be about travel for you, it may be something you want to do in life, go to school, have a bigger house, live somewhere else, have your own business, have more time for family and friends, run a half marathon, or lose weight. Whatever you dream, amp it up–dream a little bigger, then dream a lot bigger. You may wake up in another country one day and it will be good.

 

 

I Am Sparta

I ran my first Spartan Race (Sprint) last weekend.  I was invited by my friend to join their team. My friend has been working out hard for the last couple years, after making the decision to improve her health and have more energy and strength.  She was supposed to go in it last year with her son but due to circumstances they were not able to do it, so this was the year.  She signed up a team with her–her son, her daughter, her niece, and invited me.  I wasn’t particularly interested in doing the event but I am competitive enough to realize I didn’t want my friend to do a Spartan before I did. So in a moment of weakness late one Saturday night a few weeks ago, I signed up…and the next morning the panic set in.

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My friend Holly and I before the race, hiding our fear, still naive to what we were getting into.

I have not been training for a Spartan.  I have a weak upper body.  I have extra weight to carry and to lift.  I have a weak upper body.  I haven’t run in a couple of months and certainly not 5 km…and I have a weak upper body.  Thankfully after announcing it in one of my classes that I had signed up (and clarified I hadn’t even been drinking at the time), our trainer gave me some pointers and upped the ante in some of the arm exercises.  Or perhaps I was just more focused on getting some upper body strength. I only had 2 boot camp classes and 4 kickboxing classes between sign up and race day.  I also did some yard work in which I incorporated some lifting, pulling, pushing and anything else I thought might help.  Then the day arrived.

The Spartan race was both easier and more difficult than I imagined. Let’s get the explanation of easier out of the way.  I thought I would die.  Okay, maybe not die, but I really wasn’t sure I could do it and if I did, I would surely die…or something a little less drastic but really bad.  I also thought I would be running a lot more between obstacles so my heart rate would be more elevated.  That didn’t happen.

I didn’t sleep really well the night before.  I went to bed at a decent time for an early wake up but I was awakened by the rain on the skylight.  It rained a good portion of the night and was still raining in the morning.  It was raining when we left (my husband came to cheer and take photos) and I was cold because that’s how a non-morning person feels when she has to get up early to do something, in the rain no less, she is not looking forward to doing. It continued to rain.  We arrived and it was raining and we got our packages and body marking.  I was planning to wear my thin jacket because I was cold.  We stayed indoors for the hour we had to wait for our time to start.  When we went out to start, it felt warmer and I ditched the jacket, a decision I was very happy with.

There were 5 or 6 groups that went out before us.  When our time group went out, there was a well-worn mud path and the rain was coming down pretty good.  By the time we got past the first obstacle we were going slowly because it was quite slick.  By the time we reached the 3rd or 4th obstacle, we were in mud all the way.  I slipped sometime around then and the front of my thigh hit a cut down little tree stick in the path.  It was sticking up a couple of inches and I happened to land on it. It brought back memories of the similar (but bamboo) one I had stepped on hiking in Hawaii.  Speaking of hiking in Hawaii, I was glad to have had that little bit of practice in January with scrambling and slippery slopes.

There was a lot of scrambling up and down and the slopes were very slippery and many of the paths were on the side of a hill and it seems we were usually walking on a slope with the left foot up.  My feet were sliding in my shoes and I had to tighten them a second time due to the mud.  The mud…the MUD, the slick mud, the sticky mud; I was prepared for the mud portion of the obstacles, I wasn’t prepared for the mud between all the obstacles.    Sometimes we had to walk in the dryer mud to not slip and other times we could walk through juicier mud which was easier to walk in but was deeper and risked a slip or stepping on something. The drier mud stuck to our shoes in thick layers on the bottoms, the sides and some on top. And then there were the actual obstacles.

There were quite a few walls.  We could help each other over the walls which is the only reason I got over most of them. Then there were the dreaded upper body things like monkey bars which I could not do at all.  I did burpees.  We had to do 30 burpees for every obstacle we were unable to complete.  I did burpees a few other times too.  I also avoided burpees with some help from friends. Another person helped me out and I helped her out on the parallel bars, because we could do piggybacking.  Some of the obstacles were so coated in mud and slick that it was impossible to do them without help even if a person could do it normally.  Burpees became more and more difficult.  Really, everything did as we went along; exhaustion has that effect.  I was getting hungry too because it had been so many hours since breakfast.  But success is built on carrying on.

There were things that weren’t so bad, things similar to what I do working on the acreage, like carrying the sandbag down the hill and back up, carrying the bucket with mud up and down the hill, and dragging the cement block. I was stoked about the spear throw (not that I do that on regularly, but I was pretty good at javelin back in the day), then the rope caught on my foot just as it was about to go in.  The high climbs were scary but doable.  The water hazard wasn’t too bad; I just didn’t want to fall under.  The mud crawl was pretty easy for me and being near the end made me more motivated.

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Crawling through the mud pit near the end, a smile on my face because I was actually finding it rather easy compared to other obstacles.

It felt good after the event to use a hose to wash off some of the mud.  I changed into some other clothes and was happy to shower when I got home.  The mud in the clothes took quite a bit of work to remove.  I was pretty exhausted through the day.  It was a similar feeling to our long bike rides.  Except for the bruises that slowly started appearing over the next 24 hours.  Most of them were from the edges of the two by fours that the walls were made of, one was from the fall, nothing major but they look pretty bad.

During and after the course, I was quite absolute in my thoughts that I would never do another Spartan or similar event.  It looks like fun on TV but it isn’t as much fun in real life.  Having recovered my sore muscles and my bruises phasing out, I am a little more objective and may consider the torture again.  Training for it specifically would be helpful.  At this point I am not making a commitment either way.