Embracing Off Days

I chose this picture because it spoke to me.

I felt stuck in a brain fog all day.

I wanted to be productive but I was unfocused and I just gave up.

Sometimes breathing, eating, being me is all I can do.

There are thousands of topics that I could touch upon but my heart is not in it.

So here’s to embracing my off days.


I wonder what is the best thing to do when it happens. Should we muster up all our courage to do sub par work or just give up and start up again tomorrow?

There’s a fine line between acknowledging and embracing our feelings and being led by them.

I accept that not all days can be as productive as I want them to be but doing nothing because I feel off seems like selling myself short.

Pushing ourselves beyond temporary feelings is bound to produce more results.

What we do when we don’t think we can do anything is something nonetheless.

There’s a strong wave of “let’s cut ourselves some slack” defenders.

Proponents of self-love and self-care are all about embracing off days.

I tend to fall in their camp but I don’t know if it’s always right.

I want to believe there’s some value in what I say even in my off days.

Not writing anything because I’m feeling unfocused, boring, not myself and all those ultimately subjective feelings is akin to telling myself my thoughts are not worth anything today based on an nonfactual attribution.

Where is the self-love?

What do you do when you have a off-day?

I’d love to read your insights in the comments.

Thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far!

*Photo Credit: Trevor Leyenhorst flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Openness and Vulnerability

I take the same bus everyday. I pass by the same houses and street corners.

Seasons change and make the experience different.

In winter the windows get dirty and grey, there’s not much to see. Spring and summer are more interesting.

When fresh air can enter through the open windows, we get a plethora of sounds that is otherwise inaudible.

Street chatter, cars passing by, honking and music. There’s this man on the corner of the busiest street that plays the violin everyday during the warmest months. He always stands barefoot on the sidewalk.

I realized today that I missed him.

I would be sad if he wasn’t there next spring.

As a city dweller, I’m lucky.

I get to hear all sorts of music everyday.

There’s the nice older gentlemen with his guitar on the metro around 5pm. He plays Beatles songs and Christmas melodies these days.

There’s the young guy with his flute in the underground tunnel downtown.

Sometimes I wonder why they show up day in and day out.

People pay little attention to them. A handful of change, a couple of smiles and nods is all they do it for.

The kids often ask me if the musicians are poor. Why do people play in the metro?

I always tell them that audiences are hard to come by. Artists don’t want to stay home and play for themselves.

An artist creates an experience that is meant for an audience.

Without a public, readers, listeners, eyes to contemplate, our work is meaningless.

It is impossible to be an artist without a willingness to be open and vulnerable. Every piece, every performance in its very existence says to the recipient “I made this for you”, “I’m creating this experience, this present moment, for you”.

In extending this gift to others, the artist is making a statement of his willingness to reach people no matter who they are, where they are in time and in life.

It’s putting a hand out into the world and telling everyone “I am here if you need me. I am here even if you don’t know you do yet”.

I think back to the sweet sounds of violin carried by last summer’s breeze and I say thank you for providing me with something I didn’t know I needed.

Even if he’s not there on the corner next spring, I can say that the notes he played still haunt the space.

Their echo resonates in me every time I pass by, reminding me how important it is to be open and vulnerable.

Just like him.

An artist, standing barefoot, among the crowd of passersby.

*Photo Credit: Kunal Shah flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Believing In Magic

This is the best time of the year. The only point in time where we make it our duty to encourage children to suspend their disbelief.

While it’s true that most kids have an imaginary friend and like to partake in pretend play, they are a lot more rational than we give them credit for.

When in doubt or uncertainty, they turn to the person who they know to be the most knowledgeable and critical about the world. Grown-ups.

Honestly, it’s not a laughable strategy. We look up to doctors, lawyers, professionals of all types.

I was made to believe in all sorts of magical things as a child. Santa Claus was not the most prominent figure by any means.

I was.

I made a potion when I was 6 that changed my life forever. It was a sub par version of the green slimy bubbling mixture from a real witch’s cauldron. For one, I had no grimoire. Secondly, the only green came from my dad’s mint flavored toothpaste.

I knew deep down that my bowl of water with bits of condiments and personal hygiene products was a total sham.

However my dad disappeared in the shower after tasting it. My mom freaked out. He came back and told me he was sent back to his previous life.

I had powers.

I truly believed I did for years.

I couldn’t explain why my parents would go out of their way to create such a charade for no reason that I could see.

It was easier to see myself as a witch then to fathom the idea that my parents could invent such a lie.

I continued on in my belief in magical things for a while after I found out the truth about Santa. He wasn’t real but I sure was.

It all came crashing down on me a few Christmases later.

I was in my bedroom when my mom stormed in.

I was 10 years old if I remember correctly.

She opened my closet and proceeded to throw all my unorganized mess all over the place.

Clothes and toys were flying and I was being put on the stake.

My own witch trial.

I was the mean old witch that ruined Christmas forever in our house.

Except I wasn’t.

My younger brother found Santa’s gift stash unbeknownst to me.

I was being accused of luring him into the secret hiding place.

I was indignant of being wrongly held responsible but mostly I was stunned.

Why was it so bad if nobody in our house believed in Santa anymore?

I didn’t understand.

However I saw clearly for the first time how important it was to my mom that we held on to believing in magic.

I had no witchy powers at all except those she wanted me to believe I had.

The following year I invented that Cupid came every year for Valentine’s Day and hid gifts with clues all over people’s houses. I made my brother believe in it with a surprising facility.

The Valentine’s Day treasure Hunt was my mom’s new way of creating magic for us.

Maybe I didn’t have powers but I helped create magic for years.

Maybe this is what the large scale deceiving is about; finding the bit of magic in ourselves and judging it important enough to spread it.

*Photo Credit: Javcon117* flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Jack of All Trades, Master of None?

I was told all my life that I should go to school. That I was smart and could do whatever career I wanted. That a degree would lead to a good job. That I’d have financial security.

I’d be all set for the rest of my existence.

So I did.

I’m not going to tell you the rest of that story. Honestly, it’s getting old. It’s exactly the stereotypical millennial “get out of university and face the void of a jobless future” kind of sappy existential crisis story line that we have all heard too many times.

I’m personally over it.

I’m over feeling sorry for myself and pretending I don’t feel sorry for myself.

Truth is, we all feel a little sorry for ourselves when our bank account overdrafts once, twice, too many times.

 I got asked the question of all questions last week.

“What is your career?”

She didn’t quite put it that way but that’s what she wanted to know. I can decipher a 7 year old’s between the lines inquiries really well now after 2 years on the nanny job.

She wanted to know what my “real” job is.

I had to say the dreaded words, “I have no profession”.

“I do many things”.

I don’t know if my answer was satisfactory but for once I felt more than okay with it.

I’m still not so sure what these things are that I actually do but I’m happy.

I want a life of unprofessional doing of many things.

Ultimately, this is the story of not being tied down to a particular path.

The one I want to tell instead of that old cliched millennial trope.

It goes something like this:

I got out of university with a degree in psychology. I learned so much about the world and most of all myself.

I realized going to grad school wouldn’t make me happy so I didn’t.

Being around kids always made me happy so I took a part-time job as a nanny.

Having time for myself makes me happy.

Writing makes me happy.

John Lennon famously said that when he grew up he wanted to be happy.

That’s what we all want in the end.

I feel like that’s the story I want to tell, over and over again.

And I don’t care if this one becomes a millennial cliché.

Maybe I’ll be a master of some trade one day but it sure won’t be in trading happiness.

*Photo Credit: Elizabeth Hahn flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Don’t Step Down From Your Fortress

Montreal is a total winter wonderland right now.

Well it’s more of a “I wonder where the land is” and “I wonder how to step over this mountain of snow to get on the bus”.

Either way it’s not fun. Except for kids.

They find entertainment everywhere, don’t they?

Even in the coldest of places.

I wasn’t a big fan of snow even as a kid but I did enjoy it a lot more than I do today.

Why?

Forts.

I’ve always liked building fort and fortresses. Inside and outside. That’s not really unusual.

I think most people can relate to that.

However, once they were nice and tall and people started coveting them, I gave them up.

I surrendered my fortresses at any slight provocation.

I liked building a space for myself but I didn’t want the responsibility of protecting it against intruders.

 We may have forged the best defenses around our fortress but if we’re not willing to stand by while we’re being attacked, they’re useless.

Even though I haven’t been constructing fortresses out of snow lately, I’ve realized that I am still attempting to make one.

I like to stay alone in my own fort, stating all sorts of projects, trying to build myself up.

And you guessed it, I want to give it up anytime something comes up.

Today I want to tell myself, and that kid I was back then:

Don’t ever step down from your fortress again!

 

*Photo Credit: Eden, Janine and Jim flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

I ate veal once in my life.

It was at this fancy restaurant that I could only afford with the help of a site like Groupon. You know the type.

I don’t remember much of that meal except that I filled myself up with the far too delicious bread rolls and butter.

I don’t remember feeling anything besides being stuffed and happy.

That’s a sad, hard truth that I like to remind myself of from time to time.

Humans, we do things that are mind-boggling.

Both good and bad.

I always wonder which way it goes however.

Is it more good than bad?

More bad than good?

Glass half-full or half-empty, it doesn’t matter.

There’s still a glass on far too many tables.

*Photo Credit: Martin Abegglen flickr Creative Commons 2.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Up, Not Apart

I liked her room better than mine. She hated the red floor with its weird mosaic but I found it original and nice to look at.

I can still picture the two-toned blue walls and the bird tapestry.

We spent so much time in there together, dreaming, talking, envisioning the lives we would have as grown-ups.

I don’t remember what we imagined so I can’t say if any of it came true. Except for one thing.

We saw our friendship existing outside of the confines of our young naive years.

If we planted a tree the day we met, it would be tall. Old and solid.

People say that relationships are like plants, they must be tended to and given regular attention to make them grow.

We never really talk about what we’re supposed to do once the plant gets enormous. Once its foliage is rich and vibrant, its flowers blossoming.

Childhood friends are special. Not only are we rooting ourselves in this life on earth as we grow up to discover it but we go through it together. We chose to plant our feet on this soil with this other person. We come to share a common grounding in life. We support each other for years and one day we realize the roots we made for ourselves on this planet are interwoven.

If our friendship is a plant, then its roots are definitely tangled up together deep in the earth.

What we see above the rich soil is nothing compared to what lies below.

Our roots may be intermingled but it doesn’t mean the tree will flourish forever. Leaves turned brown overtime, some fell to the ground. Over the years we’ve trimmed some branches. Others grew out.

 It’s crooked and an undisciplined mess of greenery but it’s alive and standing.

Somehow we made it happen.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll have the courage to take care of it as long as I live but when I look at it, tall and majestic, I know I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s one of those trees that always provides you with shade when you need it, whose leaves swishing in the wind make you feel peaceful and quiet inside.

And most importantly, if you climb on its branches you can see the stars up close.

 

*Photo Credit: Bruno Cordioli flickr Creative Commons 2.0