The Year Of The Internal Me

December 31, 2012 § 5 Comments

This year started out as… well, I can’t remember exactly what it started out as. It ended up being the year of the internal me. I worked long and I worked hard to uncover many of the beliefs that have been holding me back from being the person I so desperately wanted to be. The result? Self acceptance for everything I am, everything I want and permission to make it all come true.

The first of the indulgences I’ve allowed myself was getting my very first tattoo just last month in Saskatoon. I’ve been talking about it for the last four years. I quite literally wanted to put my heart on my sleeve. I had begun researching tattoo parlours in Calgary, but hadn’t gone so far as to visit them yet. I wanted the right person, the right opportunity. The “right” things in my life just seem to fall into place when it’s time (like how David and I met and began this blog). I had a feeling this tattoo would follow a similar path.

Photo credit: Reginald Tiangha

Photo credit: Reginald Tiangha

Back in September, my friend Dan got his first tattoo, his parrot Baub. I made a promise that I would follow through with mine before my 31st birthday, which is in March. Wouldn’t you know it, Dan and I planned a road trip to Saskatoon in November and he mentioned he was going to add some foliage to Baub while we were in town. His friend Baillie owns a long-standing tattoo shop called Eye Of The Needle.

“Do you think Baillie would have time to slip me in too?” I asked Dan.

A quick text message to Baillie confirmed that she thought she could do it.

I found an image of the anatomically correct heart that I wanted. The “real” shape of the heart reminds me to keep at least one foot planted in reality as I have a tendency to spend my time with my head in the clouds. We emailed it to Baillie and a couple of days later showed up for our tattoos. The heart took about an hour and a half to ink onto my upper arm. It didn’t hurt exactly, it felt more like many incessant and annoying mosquito bites. Every chance I got after that, I’d peer down at my arm. Yep, it was still there. It’s been over a month and it hasn’t washed off yet. I think this thing might be permanent.

I haven’t worn a long-sleeved shirt since the day my heart appeared on my arm. I didn’t want to cover it up. I’ve been doing that most of my life. Hiding my emotions. Pretending I don’t feel strongly about something when really I do… I feel strongly about a lot of things… but always trying to be the peace keeper. Trying not to rock the boat.

Now it’s out there. It’s out there for everyone to see. It’s my reminder to check in with myself regularly. To ask myself what my true feelings are about the situation I’m in, the decisions I’m making, the people I’m hanging around with. And it’s my opportunity to speak up for myself, to say what’s on my mind and to stand firmly in the person I am.

Now, with another New Year on my doorstep, I can proceed with creating even more of the life I want. Without a lot of the BS I used to tell myself along for the ride, it will likely come my way a whole lot faster.

May you also find the courage to be honest about what you want, where you want to go and the inner strength to make it your reality.

Happy New Year!

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Resolving To Keep The Good Things In Mind

December 10, 2012 § 6 Comments

As 2012 draws to a close, many people will be thinking about their New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve already written that I avoid doing so. It’s more important for me to consider a given year in its totality rather than honing in on successes and failures.

Resolutions can have us concentrating on individual goals and milestones and if we don’t meet them, we tend to dwell on the negative. That is why I focus on striving to improve overall, personally and professionally.

To that end, I came across an idea that would help us look back on a year and celebrate the good things. It can take various forms but the version I saw was posted on Facebook by friend Jody Clark-Kettyle. You find a jar and each time a good thing happens, you insert a note recording it.

On Dec. 31, you open it up and reminisce about the awesome things that have happened over the past 12 months. I’ve also seen the idea referred to as a Blessings Jar. Blogmate Wendy has her own spin on it. She has a jar to insert notes to keep track of things she loves about herself when she’s feeling down.

We’ve all had setbacks in our lives in any given year. Some have been unsuccessful pledges to lose a certain amount of weight or stop smoking, exercise regularly or have better eating habits. People have lost jobs or precious people in their lives and these events can certainly place a cloud of gloom over you for months.

The jar suggestion made me wonder how full my jar would be from the past 12 months.

For example, I think back to April and attending the Elton John concert right here in Grande Prairie. The Rocket Man is one of my favourite performers ever. This joy would be added to by attending a John Fogerty gig in Dawson Creek in September. The latter ranks as one of my favourite shows ever – and I’ve been to my share of concerts.

In May, it was Anniversary Number 26. Although it was not the milestone of reaching the quarter century mark like last year, it did mean I’ve been married half my life. The better half!

In June, I attended a great Canadian Public Relations Society conference in Victoria where I connected with some great friends and colleagues and made some terrific new connections. This was followed by a fabulous holiday on Vancouver Island, a place Joyce and I love to explore. It was awesome catching up to family and friends.

In July, I had surgery on my right eye to address cataracts. This eliminated the need for glasses, except for reading. Shortly after, I bought my first “real” pair of sunglasses ever!

In August, my visit to the doctor revealed my best blood sugar results in some time. It’s three years since Doctor Muwonge chided me for less than stellar readings.

At that time he told me, “The first step to wealth is health.”

Also in that month, our son, Peter, returned to live with us while doing construction work for a few months. Although he has a busy social life, it’s a blessing to have him around for time we didn’t think we would have.

This was also the year I returned to volunteering in a big way, joining the boards of the Volunteer Services Bureau and the Council for Lifelong Learning.

On the professional side, we learned in late summer the City of Grande Prairie was the recipient of a Municipal Excellence award for its annual Municipal Government Day, an annual community barbeque and information fair that attracts about 4,000 people.

A significant career event occurred on Nov. 5 when we launched our Citizen Engagement Program, activateGP. This initiative has already had successes, including residents signing up to volunteer for City boards and committees right on the spot at the kickoff event.

These are the major occurrences I thought of off the top of my head. If I wracked my brain, there would be a lot more. I’d be able to include many everyday things that have made my day.

Friend Mindy Bush plans to implement the jar into her life in 2013.

“I think I would do the jar to remind myself of how I feel or view myself on a good day to build up confidence on days where it lacks,” she says.

Mindy is also considering separate jars for feelings and kindness she come across daily as mood boosters on bad days.

Grande Prairie resident Jennifer Upshall began using what she calls a Gratitude Jar two years ago. Here’s her take on it:

“It’s a large old mason jar with the glass lid and old silver ring from my Grandma, something and someone else I have gratitude for. The first thing that went into it was a thank-you card from a woman I’d helped. I know that maybe wasn’t the original intended purpose for it, but it feels good to be thanked for helping someone, and I liked seeing the little note in there. I think some days we all feel insignificant and it’s nice to be reminded that at least once we made even a small difference to someone!

“There aren’t as many sticky notes in there as I’d hoped there would be by now, but even the few that are, remind me that maybe things aren’t so bad. I start each note with ‘I have gratitude for…’ Most of the little sticky notes are about my kids making me laugh, or my husband doing something to help. Sometimes it’s about a hard life lesson. Regardless, when I see the jar with pretty bits of bright-coloured paper, I remember that even though I maybe don’t feel gratitude for something today, I did yesterday and probably will tomorrow.”

What great perspectives from these ladies! I look forward to keeping track of the great things that occur in 2013 and checking back with everyone to see how they fared, too.

Embracing Culture Enriches Community

December 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

I love my job with the City of Grande Prairie, but rarely touch on it here. That’s mainly because this blog is intended to develop content toward an inspirational/motivational book(s) and part of my work-life balance – exploring my creative side.

This time, I’ll make an exception.

Two amazing experiences this past week underline why I love promoting my community and working to make it a better place to live while on the job and as a volunteer.

First my colleague Chelsea Lewis, our Communications and Research Co-ordinator, and I met with the Grande Prairie Centre for Newcomers.

The agency wanted our input on how it can help immigrants get more involved in the community. What a joyful group to connect with – people whose native lands are as diverse as Lebanon, Bulgaria, Rwanda, Mexico, and our own homeland.

We’ve already been working with this organization as part of our Citizen Engagement Program, activateGP. Earlier this fall, we also had the delightful experience of speaking to an English-as-a-second-language combined class through the Council for Lifelong Learning where we encountered a veritable United Nations of students.

Our meeting last week with the Centre for Newcomers was truly inspiring. While we were there to help them assist their clients, a lot of the richness of the discussion was really around how connecting with the traditions from other countries will add a special flavour to our community.

This will be mutually beneficial in a city represented by at least 100 cultures.

We heard about how having celebrations involving music, food and dancing would resonate with people from other parts of the globe.

My favourite part was when the Centre’s employee from Lebanon spoke up and said, “In my homeland, you don’t need music to get us dancing, you just have to start clapping.”

The next day, it was off to the Grande Prairie Aboriginal Circle of Services. We were using this organization as a focus group as part of our research for the Citizen Engagement Program.

Although I have lived near First Nations reserves almost my entire adult life and have worked with various Aboriginal leaders, I’d never participated in a smudging ceremony. It was a first for Chelsea, too.

Smudging is the use of smoke to cleanse the mind and create a positive, peaceful mindset. Various herbs can be used. In this case, it was sage. I chose to accept the smoke so that I could truly share in the learning and reflection of the moment.

I was honoured to connect with members of the Aboriginal community in this manner. How could you not feel at home when you exchange hugs as part of the welcoming ceremonies.

I had the privilege of sitting next to Darlene Cardinal, who led the group in prayer. I learned there is even a right way to hold hands with the people next to you during this ritual.

It was also interesting participating in some of the other Aboriginal traditions during the session. One notable aspect was how a feather was passed around and held by each speaker in the circle.

This demonstrates respect for the person talking at the time.

During the meeting, we had a lot of great dialogue on how the municipality can benefit with a stronger partnership with the Aboriginal community.

Reflecting on the outcome of both sessions left me with an incredible feeling of excitement.

On one hand, I saw how Grande Prairie has much to gain by embracing the traditions of other countries. On the other, we have much to learn from the descendents of peoples who have occupied this land for thousands of years.

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to embrace the cultural fabric of the city as part of promoting citizen engagement. Knowing what makes its people tick will help me do a better job of connecting to all people.

Maybe I’ll be an improved dancer to the music of another nation. On second thought, I’m better off sampling different cuisines!

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