Self-care: I’ve heard it often enough to understand that we live in a culture where we keep too busy. Many times ‘we’ don’t even make it on our very own to-do list. Serving the demands of our agendas is more important than slowing down to allow time for introspection. It is much easier to disregard self-care since it doesn’t yield the same reward as a clean kitchen, a mowed lawn, an empty inbox or a home-cooked meal. Self-care is not just putting your name on the to-do list – it’s slowing down enough to listen to what you truly need. It means being vulnerable and not just the one in charge of checking-off a list.
Worry, like a string of balloons tethered to your hands carries you far from reality.
Detached from the earth below, you spend endless hours constructing scenarios that address every “What if?”
You devise multiple plans – solidifying certainty and safety at all costs.
Every situation controlled. Every outcome calculated. Every question answered.
Nothing is unpredictable and everything works in your favour.
The seal broke releasing the past.
Its sentence was up and like an uninvited haunting it was making its arrival known.
Wanting to hide in fear it chased me down.
Like a child I hid under my blanket pretending that if I couldn’t see her, she couldn’t see me.
My protective force was faulty.
I peeled back my cover, slowly exposing my face.
There on my bed sat Past.
She was innocent, honest, weathered and bruised, having a lifetime of memories.
My backyard, small but perfect – a place to lounge mid-afternoon during the summer months. Two new turquoise-blue muskoka chairs make backyard lounging perfect. Everyday I would sit with my bare feet touching the grass or crosslegged on the chair studying, reflecting and writing. My studies were often interrupted by my curious little dog playfully pouncing on grasshoppers, a squirrel running along the fence line or flying insects. Butterflies were plenty. They were unlike the buzz or crawl of the other insects. Their descent into my backyard was like royalty, gracefully fluttering to the sound of trumpets and strings. I could not help but stop what I was doing to watch them – moving from blades of grass to flowers until their final ascent up and beyond my yard. I was mesmerized by their beauty and elegance.
Having lost my grandmother at the beginning of July, I was contemplating the idea that butterflies are a sign from God. Continue reading
I buried her beneath waters.
A buoyant sail once purposed for adventure, shipwrecked.
Drowned by currents of ‘acceptable norms’
She could no longer stay afloat.
She sank. Her beauty. Her purpose. Her destiny. Gone.
She was ‘put in her place’ on the ocean floor.
A vessel repurposed for others.
I was on a search for connection. I hadn’t had time to grieve the loss of my grandma or soul-search until vacation. Time away is more than indulgence in delicious foods and drinks – it’s an intentional practice of stillness, purging the mind of everything that ‘needs to be done.’ I guess you could say it’s an ‘emptying’ of one thing and a ‘re-filling’ of another. Maybe even a re-calibration.
My mind is always busy. I am constantly taking stock of every social exchange, looking for ways to be productive and feeling overwhelmed when I don’t have time to get ‘life’ in order. It took a few days of a beach vacation to settle my busy mind.
It was one late-afternoon in the middle of my vacation, right before the magical hours of sunset. Immersed in warm, salty ocean water, my body relaxed and my mind set at ease, I noticed a child-like hunt for treasure. Wading in the water a short distance away vacationers reached below the surface to the bed of the ocean. Each plunge un-earthed rocks and shells from beneath their toes. Sifting through their findings by holding each rock and shell up to their eyes for approval, the treasure-hunters let go of the less precious ones and kept the best ones close. For those who seemed as if they could afford expensive things these natural treasures appeared to hold great value. Even more than the rocks and shells themselves, it was the child-like hunt for treasure that appeared valuable to them. Maybe only kept for a day by their beach chair, or taken home and placed in a decorative dish, these rocks and shells would become a reminder of sun-kissed skin, salty ocean water, letting-go of less-precious ‘stuff’ and discovering nature’s treasures.
Fear like shadows cast on sunny days cloud my outlook – shifting my attention from warm rays to cold pavement.
My shadow distorts my image, stretching the truth until it becomes my only reality.
Turning my beauty into an illusory outline void of colour and detail.
It walks proud as it is tethered around my feet like chains.
“I own you.”
“Where you go I go.”
It muscles its way in crushing my self-esteem.
I stopped going to church when I couldn’t answer the question “How are you doing?” honestly.
When a nice outfit couldn’t distract people enough from the anguish I was experiencing inside, honesty became involuntary. Sure, I let a few trusted individuals know that life at the time was quite stressful – heck, everyone these days understands stress! Unable to find the words that could accurately explain the toll that stress was taking on my body, I finally broke down. No cute outfit or casual talk could cover up the wretched results of unaddressed stress. I was a mess. Even weeks after regaining some strength, I just couldn’t put on a face for the church folk. The act was over.
Dressed in a red top (my grandma’s colour) she was an unexpected blessing. Looking to purchase gifts to bring home to family and friends, I shopped around through piles of slightly organized souvenirs as my husband stood at the entrance of the beach hut. A British shopper asked him for a price of an item. He politely replied, “I don’t work here.” Patsy, the owner, tucked away towards the back of the hut heard the conversation and joked with my husband, “You’re not very good at your job. If you hope to make a living, I’ll have to teach you how to price the items.” We had a good laugh.
The souvenirs didn’t spark my interest like Patsy did. A lively 66-year-old local to the island had a mesmerizing tone to her voice. It was the kind of voice that makes you want to curl up on the couch and listen for hours. Her voice was wise and motherly.
She told us to face the ocean and glance across the waters to various sized landforms. From where we were standing we could see four different countries. She pointed to Montserrat, the largest of the islands where the volcano erupted in 1995. “A lot of people suffered.” There wasn’t a couch to curl up on but we knew Patsy had more stories to tell us. Wearing our casual beach attire, we stood with our feet in the sand listening to Patsy. She tackled the problem of evil, God’s distance to tragedy and poverty. She was much more than a simple shop owner – much like our ‘vacation reads,’ she made sense of life by examining the deep inner desires and struggles of being human.
Without realizing it she acknowledged a concern we’ve had for years and why we aren’t quick to share pictures from family vacations on social media. She said, “You know, people may not see how long you’ve saved for this vacation – how many nights you had to eat noodles for dinner so you could put money away.” She went on to say, “Your co-workers may even say, ‘We make the same amount but why can you go on vacation and I can’t?'” With her sharp sense of humour she said, “Don’t bother with them. Enjoy!”
She went on to say, “People are quick to judge but don’t see how people struggle.” Isn’t that true? I know social media is a showcase for highlights. Sure, I could post a nice beach shot and yes, that was one of my many highlights. However, my trip also involved quietly suffering through an anxiety attack on the plane with passengers around me glancing as I tucked my tear-soaked face into my husband’s neck, some much needed soul searching and of course, taking in all the joys of a beach vacation (including wise words from a local).
As our conversation came to an end, Patsy pointed up at me and said, “Don’t let others get you down!” I understood it as, “Stop worrying about what others think of you. Enjoy life!”
I went looking for souvenirs and found Patsy. A wise local that closed the miles between us – turning strangers into friends.
Unbeknownst to me, I found myself searching for all that makes me Me. I realized this interest came to me after spending time at my childhood home. Unlike my current city, my childhood neighbourhood bears a rich catalogue of memories that are uniquely mine. Each block of pavement a playground: directly to the left of my home we sat on the pavement collecting and trading stickers. The scratch and sniff were the most sought after ones (my favourite the buttery popcorn one). Just a few houses away, my best friend’s house – a place of adventure where science and math were put to the test. Sliding down the staircase at record speeds in a cardboard box and crashing into a barricade of couch cushions.
A five minute walk away was the community pool. A place of endless hours of summer fun. I’ll never forget the day the whistle blew, “Everyone out of the pool!” A summer rain shower was on its way. Gathering our things we began our walk home. Half-naked in our swimsuits and sandals with our towels draped over one shoulder we found ourselves caught in one of the most magical storms. Nature opened its window with an invitation to experience its splendour through and through. The pavement was steaming hot and gave off a smell of earthworms. Our walk home turned into a dance. Joining the rush of pitter patter, our bodies moved to and fro. Our feet moved in unison with the bursting droplets. Opening our mouths and stretching out our tongues we tasted its wet drink one drop at a time. We lifted our heads in surrender to its artistry. With shuttering lashes we watched the droplets descend upon us. A vision of heaven. A symphony of senses. A magical moment. Washing, cooling and massaging our summer skin.
A childhood memory so vivid and consuming. A memory that revived my adult curiosity. In a search for ‘Me’ I discovered that nature has not stopped handing out invites to experience childlike magic. The next time nature catches your attention, let the glance become a gaze. Let the background become the backdrop. Take a seat. Prepare your senses. The play is for you.