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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Encounters of the homeless kind

November 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

A man rummaging through a skip at the back of ...

Image via Wikipedia

Over the summer I spent some time with someone who lived on the streets for a few months of his youth. Talk about time spent expanding my comfort zone. That experience challenged me to look at the streets of Calgary in a new way, and at the people who currently occupy them, from people in suits walking to work to people pushing shopping carts from one dumpster to the next.

It’s true that we’re afraid of the things we don’t understand. I don’t understand the world of the homeless, and admittedly, on the whole, it frightens me. I have a hard time even beginning to wrap my head around how they got there and why they’re choosing to stay there (there’s an entire other argument to be made, I’m sure, on whether or not it’s a choice).

Today I met one of the nicest, most friendly people I’ve ever met on the streets of Calgary. Yes, on the streets–that is, after all, where he lives. Well, technically he calls a city park home.

I’ve spoken with him before. Last time he was telling me about how lucky he felt because someone thought to drop off a new blanket for him. I didn’t think to ask him his name at the time.  Just politely conversed in return while I finished transferring my recyclables from my car to the large green bins. I remember him also saying how he had found a radio. The music was playing from somewhere nearby where I imagine he had found an outlet to power it. When I was done, he bade me good day and off I went without another thought to this man by the recycling bins.

I was out for lunch at Local 510 one day over the summer with some colleagues. We were eating on the patio and this guy walked up to our table and asked us for some money. He was near tears and told us he had HIV and that his parents had kicked him out onto the street. He was trying to raise enough money to find shelter. Skeptically, we all fished out some money for him. After he left, one colleague leaned in and said “I’m pretty sure I recognize that guy. He hangs out around 17th Ave a lot.” Is his story true? Who knows. Maybe parts of it are.

There’s also the guy who sits on a crate downtown day in and day out. I’ve passed him several times, but I’ve never stopped. The last time I walked by him, I spotted a loaf of bread tucked under his crate. Is that what this man eats every day? Where does he come from? Where does he go at nightfall? And why does he do nothing more than sit on that crate? Only in my last couple of trips by him did I make eye contact and smile. Why was that such a hard thing for me to do?

Today, I was back at the recycling bins. As I opened the door to my car, I heard a radio playing. I stepped out and saw someone rummaging around the bins like last time.

As I approached with my recycling he turned around and said “Hello! How’s your day going?”

“Fantastically! Thank you. How is yours?” I replied.

“Oh, I’m having the most amazing day! I slept until 2:10 this afternoon.”

“Really? That must’ve felt nice! I haven’t been able to sleep that long into the day in quite some time.”

“I don’t usually get that much sleep either. This was the first time in five years I’ve slept that long! And man did it ever feel great!”

And so on we conversed while I finished unloading my car. Another fabulous thing about his day was that one of the garbage men had given him a garbage picker. It was a metal rod with prongs attached to the end and a handle he could squeeze to bring the prongs together. He even did a demonstration of it for me, picking up bottle caps, bottles and bits of paper from the ground. Works wonders for reaching inside the bins too.

It was at this point that he paused long enough for me to ask him an important question.

“What’s your name?”

He looked up and said “My name’s Bart.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Bart. I’m Wendy.”

He smiled and kept talking. I learned that the park is his home. He takes great pride in keeping it clean. “You won’t find any garbage around here, no sir! I make sure I pick up every last bit of paper to keep the area looking clean. I hate dirty things. It’s not like the recycling centre over by the grocery store. That one’s a mess! People put stuff everywhere,” he paused. “Well, actually, it’s not the people bringing the recycling in. It’s all the pickers. They just don’t care. But me? I care.”

Last summer I went to find a geocache with another friend of mine. The one we picked to search out was in this very park. As we explored the shrubbery along the backs of the houses, I remembered seeing a sleeping bag up in a tree. I wondered now if it belonged to this gentleman.

After a spell, he said, “Well, you’ve probably got other places to be. I’ll let you go. Have a nice day!”

I got into my car, drove home, and haven’t stopped thinking about the whole encounter all evening.

I can’t get it out of my head just how happy he was to have a tool that made his job easier and how proud he was to be keeping the park clean. As I was pulling away, another man drove up to bring in his recycling and Bart started up again and asked “Hello! How’s your day going?” All with the same warmth and another big smile.

*Names used in this post are fictional… well, except mine.

The Retirement of Excellence

October 17, 2011 § 5 Comments

I was once moved and inspired by the excellence statement that circulated through ATCO from RD Southern, the company’s chairman. It goes a little something like this:

Excellence
“Going far beyond the call of duty.
Doing more than others expect.
This is what excellence is all about.
It comes from striving, maintaining
the highest standards, looking after the
smallest detail and going that extra mile.
Excellence means caring. It means
making a special effort to do more.”

I left ATCO nearly a year ago, and the spirit behind this quote sticks with me. But, I heard someone else recently talking about a commitment to excellence. And I couldn’t help but feel the term is losing its significance. If you remember way back when David and I started this blog, we were talking about the meaning of words and which ones to ban from our vocabularies. I am hereby banning the word “excellence” from my vocabulary. Instead, well, instead.. I’m just going to be awesome.

Blasphemous! I know. Here’s the thing. Excellence to me has come to mean perfection and perfection is unattainable on a large scale. The perfect mix of life’s ingredients for me is not the ideal mix for you. It’s just not applicable when it comes to a larger picture.

Awesomeness, on the other hand… well, now we’re getting somewhere. Awesomeness isn’t stodgy, it’s more fluid. And it’s a word I use all too often. But it rings true with me, and it’s the first word out of my mouth when I thoroughly enjoyed something. Speaking of enjoyment, there’s another key word. Excellence is a measurement. Awesomeness is an experience. We’re not looking for the destination anymore, we want to LIVE every part of the journey.

Life is nothing more than the sum of our experiences… and at the end of mine, I’d like to look back with a smile and think “Holy shit, that was AWESOME!”

If I may:

Awesomeness…
Living life beyond the mundane of the everyday
Doing everything you can to stretch your comfort zone.
This is what awesomeness is all about.
It comes from an open mind, and open heart, maintaining
The highest commitment to self and to community and family,
Looking upon every day as a new adventure and thinking the stars are within reach.
Awesomeness means living for today. It means
Being with those you love, doing what makes you happy
And approaching everything not only with a commitment to service and quality,
But with a desire for joy, fun and life.

Live long, be well, be loved.

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