December 31, 2016 § Leave a comment
Sometimes, we won’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone. However, for me on the other side of loss, it’s a different story.
I’ve loved and I’ve lost. I’ve hurt. I’ve numbed. I’ve retreated into isolation. I’ve fled. I’ve explored. I’ve come home.
Somewhere along the line, the numbness receded. I went from unfeeling to living again.
Throughout 2014-2015, I accomplished a life journey through 18 countries and across 5 continents that I hadn’t dreamed possible until well into my retirement.
Much of my 2016 was spent wondering, “What now? Why am I here?”
Many of my travels were done solo. As I explored, I grew. I learned so much about who I was and the woman I wanted to become.
I typically spend my time between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day reflecting on the previous year and planning for the year to come. This year, I’m focused on the people in my life today and how to share more moments together.
My co-author on The Muse and Views, David, once posted a great post about friends for a season, a reason or a lifetime.
We all have important people in our lives, friends, family and spouses who think the world of us and who continue to support our dreams and our journeys.
In 2015, three different people, one of whom I had just met, a close family member and a family friend all had the same comment… almost word for word, they each said to me: “You’re surrounded by people all of the time… and yet you’re alone.”
They saw the results of my isolation, my being numb.
I’m hopeful in 2017 we’ll see the efforts I’ve made to open my home and my heart this year.
Consciously choosing to open myself up again is how I appreciate the people – friends, family and otherwise – that are in front of me today, while they’re here.
Friends, family and otherwise… I love you. Thank you for everything you bring to me now and every day.
Happy New Year.
November 30, 2015 § 2 Comments
During the first month of my travels in 2014, I spent close to 2 weeks in Bali on a tour with a group of women from across North America – many of whom I had never met before. Nearly two years later, we are almost all still connected. We check in on one another, sometimes manage a visit if we’re in another’s part of the continent… and over this last weekend, I’m sure all of our thoughts have been with a member of our group in particular.
Before I landed in Bali, I had no idea who Montina Rose Moffett was. But after two short weeks with her, she is someone I will never forget.
When I met Montina, she had already been undergoing treatment for cancer. She had accepted it and was living every moment more fully than I’ve experienced any one else do. I admire how up front and open she was about what she was going through – this is something I continue to struggle with on my best day with the people closest to me.
I have many fond memories of Montina, but there are two in particular that stand out:
The first was while we were staying in Kuta. We split up to visit different areas of Poppies Lane. We had all been talking about some of the spas that we saw with the little fish in them that would eat dead flesh off your hands or feet if you put them in the water (your hands or feet, not the fish. They, obviously, remained in the water). As I walked down the lane with a couple of the other women, we spied Montina and two other tour group members sitting outside of one of the shops with big smiles on their faces, their legs and feet dangling into a pool of the little fish! Laughing, because the nibbling tickled more than anything.
The second memory is of our visit to Tirta Empul in Ubud. Tirta Empul is a Hindu Balinese water temple famous for its holy spring water. We waded through its waist deep pools from fountain to fountain participating in a purification ceremony. Each of us had a different feeling coming away from the cleansing waters, but watching Montina go through each fountain was beautiful. She soaked it all in on a level of profoundness I’m not sure many of us could fully appreciate.
Less than a year after she returned from Bali, Montina passed away. The anniversary of her passing was over the weekend.
Montina, I only knew you for a short time, and there’s so much more I would have loved to know about you. Wherever you are, I trust you’ve found peace. Thank you for being such a shining example of having the courage to live every single one of yours days to its fullest. I think of you often and your spirit and energy continue to shine through as guides on my own journey.
Sending you my love and light.
March 16, 2015 § 3 Comments
I’ve been back in Canada for nearly two months after my year long adventure through 14 countries on 5 continents. I’m having a hard time grasping that year, it’s almost as though it didn’t really happen, like I kidnapped myself from my surroundings for just a brief second and then inserted myself back into my life–but with one difference.
All that baggage I held on to for so long, a lot of it isn’t there anymore.
I’ve come home and Calgary feels different. As I lay in bed this morning pondering what it’s become, it occurred to me that it might not be the city that has changed so much, the Wendy who left for Bangladesh in January, 2014 is not the one who returned from Costa Rica in January, 2015.
Somebody (me) messed with my insides last year, or rather, cleaned them all up!
The woman who has returned is a sharper version of myself, and one who’s developed a knack for standing up for herself and not putting up with my bullshit.
The biggest piece of me that’s missing (not to say that I miss it), is the guilt of being the sibling who lived after the accident that killed my brother. I grappled with that for many months, in fact I still have a lot of emotion tied into moving forward, but that’s more sadness and remorse for my former self, that I let her suffer with that guilt for as long as she did.
I know I’ve made a change in the way I take on guilt because I’m not switching one guilt only to shoulder another. I allow myself to feel emotion and find ways to move through it, sometimes that’s journalling, sometimes it’s giving myself a pj and junk food day, other days it’s treating myself to exercise and as many vitamin-packed foods as I can handle.
It also took me some time to figure out my process of letting go. Moving past the guilt involved feeling it first, and I mean bringing it right up close to me and embracing every ounce of it. Those are not my favourite moments, I can assure you. What drove me at first to stick it out was just being fed up with the way I had set up my life, the lack of support I nurtured for myself and trying to make up for a life that held so much promise, but that wasn’t even my own. I didn’t know if where I was headed was any better, but I knew it would be different. That was enough.
I spent time watching what happens when I physically let go of something. I’d hang on to a pen from my bag and let it drop onto the table or the bed, just to give my mind a visual of what letting go looks like. It’s quite literally a decision to relax and open up.
“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
– Mark Twain
Letting go in an emotional sense for me involves forgiveness, and has a lot to do with the tattoo I got in Bali last year. When I visited my step-sister, Laura, in Costa Rica, she shared a mantra that’s helped me take this further. She strives to simply meet people where they’re at, and wherever that is is just dandy.
Laura also shared a video interview of Wayne Dyer with me. The interview is about EFT tapping and has a lot of great points, but I found a different message in the video as Nick Ortner and Wayne Dyer talk about what emotion they’re beginning to release as they complete the EFT tapping:
Wayne Dyer: “I was thinking about someone else who has done some things that I’ve felt upset about…”
Nick Ortner: “You mean you still get upset at people?”
Wayne Dyer: “Absolutely.”
Nick Ortner: “I thought you had reached enlightenment.”
Wayne Dyer: “I have! Enlightenment is part of it.”
Woah, Wayne Dyer still gets annoyed with people? I drew a new conclusion and direction to my healing–and it’s made all the difference. Eradication of the emotion or the issue is not the way through. I will always have experiences that bring me happiness, sadness, guilt, pleasure and a plethora of feelings. But they’re just that, experiences to be lived through with as much of myself as I can muster and when they’ve ended, it’s time to let them go and to make room for more life to move through me.
December 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
My countdown is on for one last trip this year. I’m two weeks out from a 5 week journey to Costa Rica. After nearly a year on the road living out of my backpack, I don’t think I’d be making this trek if it weren’t for the family involved.
Woe be me, I know, to be embarking on another trip this year. It’ll be my 14th country in 2014. I am incredibly excited (and grateful and fortunate) to take this voyage. It will be with my dad and step mother to visit my step sister and her family. They took a 6 month sabbatical to travel to Costa Rica with their 3 kids. I haven’t seen Costa Rica since I was 17 on a school trip.
It’s a family trip of a lifetime. An opportunity for memories I just won’t say no to. However, the yearning that sent me out the door around this time last year is now yearning for parts of the life I put on hold.
A lot can happen in a year. I look at the people I’ve met during my travels, the experiences and friendships I’ve forged, as well as the ways in which I will never be the same. When I left, I told people it was the perfect time to go. No house, no dog, no debt, no husband, no kids… nothing to answer to. And it was perfect. It was exactly what I needed.
But while I’ve been away, your lives have continued on too. You’ve met new loved ones, lost friends, made your way through your own happiness and sorrow. I’ve experienced your lives at a distance. While I wouldn’t trade this year for anything, I’m not looking to make the same exchange in the future.
A year is a long time.
It’s long enough to show me what kind of trade I’m making if I keep a completely nomadic lifestyle. Though there’s a balance to be struck somewhere I’m sure.
They say home is where your heart is. Mine lies in my connections. Although they are becoming scattered throughout the globe, they’re still concentrated most in one place.
There is nothing quite like the friendships and relationships I come back to in Alberta. It’s each of you who bring me home.
Doesn’t matter where I go
This place will always be my home
Yeah I’ve been Alberta Bound for all my life
And I’ll be Alberta Bound until I die
– Paul Brandt
October 16, 2014 § 1 Comment
Remembrance Day hasn’t meant as much to me in past years as it does today. I would pay my respects at a local ceremony, wear my red poppy on my collar, observe my moment of silence for those who’ve given their lives to give me mine… I knew in my head that it was a significant day, but my only connection to why came from textbooks in school, articles I read in newspapers or magazines or stories told through TV shows or movies. It’s difficult to grasp the heart of why we remember when it wasn’t something I had experienced first hand.
This morning, my first read was from Peter Mansbridge on why he remembers on November 11th. I thought about the many sites I’ve visited during my travels this year that have caused me pause.
In May, I spent two weeks in Malaga, Spain. One day, I took a walk out along the beach and followed the path on past the city limits and along the coast. After walking about an hour I looked up to see a sign that read “Paseo de los Canadienses.” It’s a promenade in tribute to the humanitarian aid Canadian Dr Norman Bethune provided during the Spanish Civil War in 1937.
In September, I found myself in Germany. A walking tour through Hamburg brought us to what had once been an impressive cathedral, now left in ruins after it had been hit by a bomb. We also visited a chocolate factory that was once the location where the gas for the gas chambers in the Nazi camps was made.
A week later, through the vivid storytelling of my tour guide Kate with Fat City Bike Tours, I visited the Berlin Wall and the Cold War era of Berlin.
The tour took us through the division of Germany and Berlin after WWII, the tensions between East and West that lead to the creation of the Berlin Wall in 1961, many of the stories of families separated and its unforeseen fall in 1989.
The Cold War is said to have ended in 1991. I never realized how close I came to growing up in a world entangled in another World War.
We also visited the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum, a concentration camp a short train ride outside of Berlin. It was a heavy day, retracing the footsteps of WWII prisoners, standing within feet of a gas chamber used in the last 80 years for mass murder.
In early October, I walked across a pontoon bridge in Antwerp with thousands of other Antwerpians. It was the 100th anniversary commemorating a pontoon bridge that was built that same weekend in 1914 to help the Belgian King and many of the city’s inhabitants escape invasion by the Germans in WWI. More than 1.5 million people fled the city–many thousands via that bridge, waiting in a lineup a lot longer than the one I was in to cross the 370 metre temporary flotation.
I imagined having to leave many of my belongings behind, not having the weeks to go through them that I had as I prepared to pack up my house and put what I wanted to keep in a storage unit.
Also in Antwerp, around the back of The Steen Castle, the oldest standing building in the city, I came upon a plaque commemorating the role Canadian troops played in the liberation of the city during WWII.
The plaque reads:
On 16 September 1944, 550 soldiers of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI), 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Denis Whitaker, DSO, advanced into Antwerp to prevent the enemy from destroying the port facilities. For the next three weeks the RHLI, supported by the Belgian Resistance under the command of Colonel Eugene Colson, fought a number of actions to secure the harbour’s vital equipment. Accompanied by the Resistance, the Canadians then began the advance to Woensdrecht and Zuid-Beveland (The Netherlands) as part of the overall offensive to free the approaches to Antwerp.
On 28 November 1944, a Canadian supply ship became the first vessel to steam up the river Scheldt into Antwerp harbour, bringing the essential materials that contributed significantly to the Allied victory. Of the almost 13,000 allied casualties in this campaign, 6,500 were Canadian.
4 September 1944-4 September 2004
When you turn a corner and find a tribute to one or many Canadians who’ve given their lives to impact that part of the world for the better; when you sit in a centuries-old cathedral that is nothing now but shattered walls and rubble and still wears the black marks from an exploded bomb; when you walk in the footsteps of people who only 100 years ago were fleeing a city under fire; when you encounter a wall that came down in your lifetime but you were too young to understand what was happening and what it meant at the time; or when you read the more recent headlines about the targeted attacks on Canadian Parliament and military, the reason why we remember becomes crystal clear.
I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the country in which I live, for every person who has stood up to protect the rights and freedoms that support the life I’m fortunate to lead and for the past and present roles Canadians play in protecting those rights and freedoms beyond our borders.
September 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
It’s Labour Day and I just achieved an epic feat of following an incredibly long line of traffic through dark, foggy, rainy mountain roads. I was in Vancouver finishing off a road trip through BC. I had planned to stay until mid-week. But there’s something about the Labour Day long weekend that sets my wheels in motion, it’s the marker to the end of summer and feels like the right time to dive into new ideas–after a summer of fun and dreaming, there’s now just so much to DO.
That transition from thought to action is an important step for me. I don’t come by it naturally.
I spent a few days with my aunt and uncle on their boat on Vancouver Island this last week. They were teaching me about the tides and the waves and sailing their 45 ft sailboat across various types of waters. They talked about how much planning and work goes into manoeuvring their dream home through peaks and troughs of various wave cycles. They’ve got to watch the height of the water to ensure there’s enough for the 7 ft of the hull to pass safely over any rocks or other objects in the water.
All of that work and care they take to plan their journey through the depths, that’s the kind of strategy I take with moving myself from thought to action. If I left my mind to its own devices it would quite happily float up there in the clouds dreams are made of, bouncing from rosy dream to rosy dream.
Thankfully there are days like Labour Day. Ones that remind me to pause for a moment, come back down to earth and do some work in this realm.
And so, this day marks for me the first day of transition. The one where I rally my energy and my focus, carefully align my stubborn nature with my dreams and set sail towards creating what’s been simmering on my back burner for the last few months.
What am I up to? Well, a few things, but my main focus will be on exploring some pieces of history closer to home (think Prohibition and Canada’s role in smuggling alcohol across the border) tied in with a 4 week bar tending course I’ll be taking in Amsterdam in October mixed with my talent and love of the online social sphere. You can only begin to imagine what will come out of that, right? Me too! But I’m jumping in feet first!
I’m so very excited for the “doing” half of this year!
On that note… what do you know about Canadian locations where alcohol smuggling may have taken place? I’m going to need all the help I can get on this one!
June 9, 2014 § 2 Comments
I’ve been on the road for 5 months to the day. My explorations have taken me across 9 countries and 5 continents, I still have just over a month to go before I’m home for the summer.
When I was leaving, one of my friends commented on Facebook, “I hope you find what it is you’re searching for!” I hoped so too. An epic trip like this had been my only real end goal since I came back from a 4 week trip to Italy and southern France in 2004… and now was the time to do it. I was lost.
Back in 2010, I had a moment. A moment where, like a ton of bricks, the reality of my brother’s death came crashing down on me. I’ve never had a moment that dark before (and thankfully haven’t since). In the days after that moment, I found myself reaching for my friends. Emails, messages, phone calls and notes, apologizing for being a “horrible” friend for feeling like I hadn’t been present for them in a long time. Most everyone just gave me a hug or an encouraging note back, except for two long time friends. They were hurt because they felt like they had lost a friend.
This point is only important now because I’ve been circling on our conversation a lot, trying to understand their perspective, looking through their eyes, remembering.
In these last 5 months, I’ve been clearing out a lot of lingering cobwebs like old beliefs come back for another go and nooks and crannies I hadn’t quite gotten to on my last internal sweep. But I’ve also been able to take a full step outside of my life and do a proper evaluation on what happened. My diagnosis–I suffered from a really, really, really broken-heart.
I’m on my own out here. Being on my own has given me ample time to feel, to reflect and to heal. I circled back to that conversation with those two friends to help me understand that part of me (my feeling heart) disappeared for a long time. It wasn’t lost exactly, it had just buried itself so far away from everyone that I had to go looking across continents for it.
The good news is that I found it somewhere back in Spain and today, looking back at all of my old photos and reconnecting with the person I was in them, I think I’ve convinced it to make the trek back with me this summer. I miss me and the friends and family I’ve surrounded myself with too!
I promise to keep a closer eye on it from here on in… and to let you help me by bringing it out more often!