Category Archives: Uncategorized

Committing to something

Turns out a daily cycling plan is harder to stick to than expected.

What I’ve noticed since setting up this plan and not really sticking to it:

  1. I think about riding every day.
  2. The weather matches my available time only about 50% of the time.
  3. It is shockingly easier to fill of up that time with chores than to commit that time to myself.
  4. Time always feels like it’s in short supply and with the changing rules of the pandemic, time seems to be shrinking even more.
  5. Riding around the neighbourhood with the 30 minutes I have available to me each morning gets boring really fast. Going farther necessitates a major rework of my schedule that doesn’t feel feasible right now.

What I’ve learned in the last two weeks:

  1. I miss riding and I need to find a way to spend more time on my bike. I feel guilty taking more time away from family (which is the only flexible time I have right now) because I’m already committing a good chunk of time to writing and meditating. Maybe the lesson here is that I need to focus on one thing and not 10 things for myself and the guilt will fade.
  2. It’s hard to keep a steady habit when you’re counting on outside forces to fall into place. It has been very windy of late and whenever I have time to sneak in a ride, it’s raining.
  3. I have learned that if I have been putting off chores that need to get done, I should plan to go riding. Suddenly, those chores become a priority. Why is that? If I want to go cycling as badly as I think I do, why do the chores take priority?
  4. As things open up and the pandemic gets more under control, I have less time because I have more commitments to the outside world.
  5. Long rides down a winding trail are my preference and that’s not feasible right now. This inability to ride exactly how I want is affecting my riding all together. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. I have to keep reminding myself of this.

Gratitude on repeat

Some people just seem to get it. They easily recognize the things that don’t serve them and they adjust their energy toward things that do.

I have a theory that this starts at birth. If you have to spend a lot of time crying and screeching for attention from caregivers who mostly only meet your basic physical needs, you grow up seeking that deeper connection everywhere. It’s a built-in-at-birth negative pattern. And it can take a lifetime to change.

I’ve been recognizing it more and more in my life since, oh, let’s see, I spread my wings, flew the family coop and moved out on my own some twenty odd years ago. And most days, I feel no closer to changing that negative pattern than I did on those first few lonely nights in my new apartment.

But then two very tiny things happened recently. The first: my sister told me she was no longer engaging in a seemingly small behaviour that has kept her locked in negative energy. A lightbulb went off in my head shining light on that exact behaviour in me. Now that I recognized it, it was time to let it go.

The second: I came across a new gratitude affirmation meditation one morning (not unusual for me because I’m always searching for different meditation audio tracks that help me with my daily experience) and it started with this:

Our thoughts create our world.

That’s it. That’s the second tiny thing. It seemed inconsequential. I’ve heard this before in a variety of different forms, but it never really landed with me. But this time, it was different. It was like all the writing and reading and meditating about creating a more positive life experience and trying to find a way out of a negative behaviour that had recently been highlighted in me all culminated in those five words: Our thoughts create our world.

I’ve been getting better at creating that positive energy on the cushion and for the first hour or so off the cushion each morning, but then life takes over and I forget or get bogged down and don’t do the work of raising my positive energy levels. I now know that it’s not that I forget or get too busy to do the action of the intentions I’ve set. It’s because my brain has spent most of its existence bathed in negative energy.

Anxiety is my brain’s default setting. So I’m not forgetting to practice my positive intentions, I’m just not wired for it. The deep grooves that have been carved into my brain since childhood are the trails where anxiety runs. I have to pave over them with positive thoughts and create new paths. My thoughts create my world.

But how to change the thoughts? I’m always looking for that one thing that I can do to be better and to raise little humans who start from a better place, but I’ve always taken on too much, tried too many different things at once to get better, and I’ve never settled on any one thing that works. (There a lot of things I do in combination, but what’s the anchor? What’s the one thing that glues it all together? It’s easier for a brain that’s trying to change to have one thing to focus on. If you’ve never exercised before, you don’t start the most complicated exercise regimen available. You start by putting on your running shoes and going for a walk. Same with re-wiring the brain.)

Human brains are conditioned to function in a repeated way. So, if you worry too much about bad outcomes, you are subconsciously re-wiring your brain to process negative information only. But, the brain cannot focus on positive and negative information at the same time. So, if you practice gratitude constantly, about every little thing (and there’s a lot to be grateful for, so you won’t run out of things), you will re-wire your brain to process positive information and thus raise your positive energy level.

That’s what I discovered from those two tiny things:

  1. I have a negative behaviour pattern that needs to be changed.
  2. My thoughts create my world, so my thoughts need to be positive.

What one thing can I get my brain to do that simultaneously raises positive energy and prevents me from thinking negatively? Gratitude.

But what if everything is going wrong in life and there is nothing to be grateful for? It sometimes feels like that. But I know now that it’s only because my brain is wired to look for the negative and that wiring is dug in deep. It will take major excavating to dig it out and rewire, but it starts with gratitude.

Gratitude for tiny things: I am thankful I opened my eyes this morning (this is harder to be grateful for on really bad days). I am thankful for my pillow. I am thankful for the fan on hot summer nights. I am thankful I can walk. I am thankful for the breath that fills my lungs at this moment. I am thankful for flyers in my mailbox because it gives me something to browse while I eat lunch. I am thankful for my mostly unicolour wardrobe because I don’t have to think about what to match stuff with.

You get the idea. Gratitude on repeat. Aloud or silently. Re-wiring in progress.

Lessons from the ride

Day 3 of my commitment to ride every day, I struggled to get up a hill that I had basically been cruising up the first two days.

I thought to myself that the hill was a good metaphor for life. Some days, climbing a hill feels good; you’re feeling strong, ready and it’s hard work, but it’s exhilarating. You get to the top and you’re on top, not just of the hill, but on top of your game, on top of life, feeling good.

Other days, that same hill can feel too hard to climb. The pot holes and bumps that were always there and the gaping cracks around the sewer grates that you easily maneuvered around on those other days seem to gape even wider or rear up even higher in the asphalt, making them hard to get around no matter your prowess on the bike. The going is slow. It hurts everywhere in your body. You’re tired. You just want to give up. But you don’t.

You’ve done this before. Your brain, your muscles, they remember. It’s only a vague memory, but it’s there: the feeling when you get to the top of the hill and the road levels out. You can do this.

Life is full of ups and downs. It’s like that hill. Some days you’re up for it and it’s a challenge, but you face it head on, feeling strong and good, things falling into place the way the potholes on that hill seemed to move out of the way on their own. Other days, life can be too much and even a small effort feels excruciating, every pothole opening wider to swallow you up. But you keep going. Because that’s what life is. Inch by inch you move forward, closer to the top, closer to leveling out. Sometimes it feels more like millimetre by millimetre, but that’s ok. You’ve got this.

Post-secondary students and composition

I’m an editor, so maybe I have an unfair advantage. But I keep having these mind-boggling experiences when asked to edit a paper written by a post-secondary student.

Years ago I considered going back to university to pursue something for the sake of learning rather than to train for a job. I talked myself out of it at the time because I thought, after so many years out of the education world, I’d be off my game. And so the idea died on the table.

But it has stuck around. Perhaps it only fell to the floor and did not get swept away entirely, so each time I get up from the table, I trip over it and have to think of it again.

And then I edit another paper for a post-secondary student and I’m reminded that if I thought I was off my game after years in the working world and away from academia, then what are these students?

Is it that the education received before post-secondary is so poor? Is the school system really failing us?

Employers have been complaining for years that every year’s new crop of graduates are not qualified for work. And some industries are scrambling for viable candidates where there are none.

So what am I waiting for? I’m no genius, but it appears that I may have a fighting chance.

(Also, apparently, short-form texting is hurting our ability to communicate in full, written sentences. Shudder.)

All over the map

It’s #BikeMonth and I got back on my bike today.

Took a short ride (just over 4 km); nothing extreme; just around the ‘hood in no particular direction. Up some streets, down others. Around the block several times. On some new streets. Pretty much all over the map, which is how I’ve been feeling lately.

At a few tougher points in my ride, I drew on mindfulness and my meditation practice to sit with the exhaustion and ache in my legs (I’m really out of shape).

On the cushion, I get the concept of sitting with uncomfortable emotions. I haven’t really been able to transfer that to a practice off the cushion. I haven’t tried very hard.

But this morning, I got it. Rather than wishing the ride would be over soon or trying to talk myself out of stopping for a rest, I went down yet another street, taking me farther from home knowing that I was going to be more tired AND that I could do it because I wasn’t afraid of the discomfort.

It was great to get back on my bike. The ride was good. But what I discovered about myself and how my meditation practice translates to life was better.

It is my goal to do this every day from now until the end of June. (I’m not even thinking beyond June 30 at this point. It’s self-defeating.)

Here’s to more revelations on my bike.

P.S. I’m logging my rides at bikemonth.ca. It’s fun to see my progress and be part of a group doing the same thing.

Do you have to be special to start?

I often wonder if people who write books about getting their life in order are special people to begin with. Some of them are, no doubt, special. But what I want to know is did they start out like me? A nobody. A scatterbrained overachieving mom, a wife, a mother, an employee. Or were they already reaching for the starts as a kid?

Reading the bio blurbs of authors on Goodreads or author websites, they all seem to start with the same, “So and so has been writing and reading since she was young enough to recognize letters…blah blah blah.” That’s me. I’ve been writing stories in my head and on paper forever. The biggest complaint my teachers had was that I was always reading and they could never get me to pay attention to anything outside the book in front of my nose. (Not a bad complaint about your kid if you ask me, but my parents hated that I read all the time.)

But if most writers start out the same, why do some go all the way and some (like me) never move past their daily journal or pages upon pages of story ideas?

Sure, there’s plenty of research and theories out there about goal setting and what to do to get your book written or project accomplished or whatever your thing is. It feels like I’ve read all of them. Putting them into action…well, that’s another thing.

So my burning questions is: Do people who put the theories into practice start from a different place? Are they wired differently? Are they “better” people? Or are there slobs out there; lazy, procrastinating slobs, who hate themselves for not reaching their goals sooner, or for not setting goals and plans in the first place who actually get off their behinds and accomplish said goals? Is there a turning point for those people? A rock bottom from which they bounce? (I can’t imagine a bounce off a rock bottom is too pleasant. Sounds more like something that would make me curl up into a ball and categorize as a nice new low in which to get comfortable.) A major turning point that doesn’t let them turn back like a fork in a mountain road right when the road behind them collapses in a rock slide?

Maybe a little experiment is in order.

There’s a screaming monster in my head

I can’t run away from it. I can’t get it to be quiet. Every little thing pokes it and makes it angrier.

Today is not a good day. The monster inside my head is old but no less powerful when she’s thrashing about.

I’m reading a book about the art of loving. I’m practising loving kindness meditation. I’m writing about gratitude in my journal. I’m doing all the things that I should be doing to escape the monster.

Maybe it is not the escaping that I should be focusing on. Maybe it is the loving, the meditating, the gratitude.

These are all just items on a checklist. My daily Things To Do To Get Through.

What’s that saying? “The only way out is through.”

Or the other one: “You grow through what you go through.”

Maybe I should love the monster; offer her some loving kindness; fill her with loving presence; extend gratitude to her for sticking with me, for making me hear her.

Maybe she’s not a monster. Maybe she’s my greatest protector, my strongest voice, my biggest defender…and I’ve rarely listened to her. No wonder she’s so angry.

I’ve ignored her wisdom about us. I’ve taken on too much. I’ve told too many stories to myself and about myself that don’t match up with values that I haven’t yet solidified.

I’m in a valley right now on my journey. I’ve come down a hill and now I’m facing another climb. It feels hard. But knowing that life is all valleys and hills and rarely a flat road helps.

I will sit with my monster for a while and build up strength for the climb.

Humans are amazing

So, I’m all over here, like, lying in my own way, asking: How do I motivate myself? What’s a good book to read on motivation this week? How do I make myself do stuff? Why is it so hard to open a Word document and start typing all the words that are whirling around in my head? Why can’t I get out of my chair and go to the bathroom seven feet away (I really have to pee)?

And then I open Instagram and see how freaking amazing humans are and I’m not the least bit upset that I’m not that amazing because I am so amazing in my own way.

I mean, check out this human:

And this one:

A-FREAKING-MAZING!

I love humans. Makes me want to hug my kids and make a special dinner for them.

Hugs all!

Recently finished the 4% Fix by Karma Brown

The 4% Fix by Karma Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My review on Goodreads: Useful information. Very similar to other books on the same theme. I like her delivery. And I’m a Torontonian, so it never hurts to support a fellow Canadian, especially from the same city. Worth a read if you’re looking for motivation.

View all my reviews


9 days to listen to the audiobook version on my way to and from drop-off and pickup. (15 minutes each way)

Her 4% Fix theory motivated me to get out of bed earlier by 15 minutes. (I already rise at 5am.)

Some great tips in this book. It was an entertaining delivery. I’ll probably read it again in the future if I’m needing a little fire lit under me.

The beginning of the last week of school

What worked and what didn’t

We have made it to the end, my kids and me.

This time of year always makes me a little sad.

This year, with everything that has happened, I’m not really sure how I feel. Relief that we can take a break from screens and get on with the business of being in the world, yes. But sadness at not saying a proper goodbye to teachers and friends are with me, too.

And the uncertainty about the next school year… That feels nervous and scary.

Three months ago, when we started this learn at home journey, it took some time to get up and running and familiar with the Google platform the schools use. Once we got going, the tech was the easy part.

Staying motivated was more challenging. Feeling like I was good enough to support my kids, wondering if I might be pushing too hard at a time when the world had gotten a bit scarier and my kids might be feeling things they never thought they’d have to contend with, those aspects attacked my motivation and left me wondering what the point of it all was. Those were hard days.

Knowing that the work didn’t count towards marks unless it improved your standing after March 13th was a welcome relief on those days, but it also made us feel like nothing mattered anymore on the good days.

I learned more about myself and my kids than I thought there was to know. Like, there are two kinds of people in this world: those with patience in abundance and those who need to learn to have patience.

That’s the catch, the learn to have patience part. How do you teach that if you haven’t mastered it yourself?

Not too long ago, kids (and adults) had very little in their lives that provided instant gratification and entertainment. Stories came in the form of books and they took a while to read. Hot summer afternoons were often spent figuring out what to do to stay cool and entertained, which involved a lot of downtime just lazing around with nothing to do until you figured it out. Nowadays, hot summer afternoons are spent inside scrolling Netflix or TikTok on digital devices, searching for the next dopamine hit.

My patience wore thin quite a few times over the last few months. Between working and supporting the learning my kids were doing, I was spread thin. I was tired and torn between competing priorities daily, and some days my kids needed more from me and I just didn’t have it to give them.

Early mornings are best. The will power is strong, the mind is sharp. Unfortunately, children who do not do learning in an environment with morning bells and late slips tend to sleep later and work at their own pace. Ironically, this is something that I’ve always wanted for my children. And as far as their learning went over the last few months, allowing that “get up when you wake up naturally and work on something until you master it” was the right thing to do. My stamina and patience may have worn out by mid-morning, but my kids were just gearing up and doing great work.

But the patience still must be practiced. The kids and I both have to stretch that skill. We have to become people who can focus and wait.

What comes next

As we head into this last week of the 2019-2020 school year, we have some reflecting to do. There is a chance that the schools won’t re-open in September, or they will open only in a partial way. We have to wait and see. In the meantime, we have the summer to practice our patience, read books, brush up on our tech skills and get ourselves ready for whatever the future holds.

I hope you have a wonderful summer full of the things that bring you joy and that you are recharged for whatever the world hands us in the next season.