What Brings You Home?

December 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

Flickr credit: Nicolas Raymond

Flickr credit: Nicolas Raymond

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


Be Bold. Be Beautiful. Be Undeniably You.

February 18, 2013 § 3 Comments

It’s been some weeks since I started the Year of the External Me. Focusing on myself like that, on the things I want to achieve, the people I want in my life, it’s intimidating how quickly everything begins falling into place. Before any of it did, however, there was one key factor I was missing.

English: Charles the Bold

English: Charles the Bold (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last month was community manager appreciation day. It’s a day I love because, well, I’m a community manager! I was pondering community building and what it really boils down to. Building community is creating something that people want to be a part of. I brought that down a level further to my own life. How can I create a life full of genuine connection with people I love? By creating a life and a space that they want to be a part of. In that, it’s something I’ve got to love so deeply and so strongly that I never want to leave it and that I can’t help but want to bring more people into.

Though I’ve enjoyed many parts of my life to date, I wasn’t in that space at the beginning of the year. I had some work to do learning to love everything about who I am now and where I’m at. Meaning participating fully in the friendships and relationships (both personal and professional) that I’m engaged in and to just, excuse the language, but stop giving a shit what any of them think. Instead, I began operating from a space where my approval is the only one that matters. It’s powerful stuff!

Note: It doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped caring about the wants and needs of others, just that I put mine first. If I can meet theirs after that? Cool! But never to my detriment.

Almost as soon as I started focusing on internal rather than external approval, the domino effect began. The first result? I relaxed. Like, really relaxed. I remember a time last year where I’d wake up in the morning and my jaw would be clenched. Now, I still get tense, but I use that as a signal from my body that there’s something that requires my immediate attention. As soon as it’s taken care of, we’re on our merry way. Other noticeable changes? I sleep solidly. The time I never felt I had to spend with friends and family is suddenly there. The help I was looking for before is showing up. And I’m experiencing a shift in my relationships. The ones that don’t serve me are either falling by the wayside or evolving into something deeper and more supportive. I feel like I’ve become a part of something bigger than just myself. Like I’m contributing, but I’m not doing it alone.

And to think, it’s all because I’ve given myself permission to be bad at the things I’m bad at (like a perfect inbox. That’s just not in my cards) and to shine as brightly as I can shine where it’s easiest (writing and people!). So if you’re struggling or things in your life just aren’t falling into place like you keep wanting them to, I really have only one piece of advice for you:

Stop whatever it is you’re doing, whoever it is you’re trying to be. Instead, focus on who you actually are and accepting every single piece of you, whether you think it’s a flaw or a gift. Go for the glory, reach for the stars. Be bold. Be beautiful. Be undeniably you.

A Picture’s Worth 871 Words

October 28, 2012 § 3 Comments

My mom is magic. Really, she is. I haven’t given her nearly enough credit for the woman she is and the influence she’s had in creating the wonderful person I’ve become.

She’s recently taught me yet another valuable lesson, though I think I’ve expanded on it a bit further than she intended me to. (Such are the joys of an active thinker, trust that I will take any concept you give me and stretch it far and wide!)

The lesson she intended to instill in me is that I am wanted and loved.

I’ve been doing an incredible amount of work on relationships lately, with a much stronger focus since the spring. It’s one of the areas of my life I’ve seemed to struggle with the most and so I’ve been delving deep behind the scenes to see what can be done about strengthening the foundations I’ve built.

Last week, I called my mother in a moment of impatience and frustration. “I’ve been putting myself out there, meditating, making my lists, making space in my life both in my schedule and in my house… hell, I’ve even cleared out a drawer. Come on! What else is it I need to do???”

A little voice in the back of my mom’s mind told her that there’s something she’s been needing to tell me, something critical that would help me over this last part, but she didn’t know what that message was. Coincidentally, she’s been on a similar purge, preparing herself to let go of many of the items she hasn’t been ready to release for one reason or another. A couple of weeks back she got to her old photo slides. She tossed many of them without even opening the box to find out what was inside, but there was one in particular that she couldn’t bring herself to throw out. As she pulled out a sleeve of slides, one of them caught her eye. “I need to get a print of that photo made,” she thought. “No, I need to get two prints made.” One was for me.

She knew what the message was.

Just after I finished my little temper tantrum, mom told me about the photograph. It was a photo of her and my dad – before they had Wayne and I – and it was a picture of them just being really happy together. Her insight? Somewhere along the line, I became jaded about the relationship my parents had. The photo is a reminder for me that they started out in a happy place… that I came from a happy place. They wanted children together, they very much wanted my brother and I, we were a happy family for quite some time. But between what I viewed as them bailing on the relationship (I was 19 when they split up), and my brother leaving this planet for whatever is beyond a few years later, the family I was born into collapsed around me and I felt like the only one left standing, the only one who still wanted to be there.

As my mother told me more, like how my father was there in the room to hold me when I was first born and how he used to ride around Millet with Wayne in the truck beside him, tears were streaming down my face. My mom saw what I was in the middle of, but what I couldn’t see. My assumption had become that nobody wanted me or what I had to offer. And yet, as she painted the picture of the happy family I had actually come from, there was the belief, plain as day, staring me in face. It’s influenced everything I’ve done and every acquaintance, friendship and relationship I’ve had. I’ve entered each believing I wasn’t wanted in the first place.

After percolating on this point for a few days and deciding it was safe to send this belief out with the rest of the trash I’ve been getting rid of, I put on my new lenses and really took a look at each of the relationships I’ve had in the last few years. I had always believed the ending of each was a reinforcement that the entire relationship wasn’t right and a part of me thought it shouldn’t have happened at all. But my new lenses were showing me my next lesson.

The meaning and beauty I’ve attached to a particular person or moment needed be tarnished by subsequent actions or results. It can shine on with the same significance it previously held.

I find myself now enjoying this new space. It’s one where I can appreciate a moment independently of what is happening around it. Regardless of the final outcome of any given situation, I’m no longer allowing myself to diminish my significance or that of another in my life for the sake of defending an old belief that doesn’t serve to lift anyone one up anyway. Instead, I’m now surrounding myself with these happy memories. They are the soft cloak of love and support with which I move forward. They are my reminder, regardless of what’s happening, that a life full of joy and happiness is a choice I can make today and everyday.

Note: The photo’s still printing. I’ll share it soon!

Who Are Your Friends?

October 27, 2009 § 6 Comments

There is a saying that people come into your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime and once you figure out where they fit, you will know what to do.

I have always enjoyed the verse because it has helped me numerous times understand others better and made sense of situations, sometimes after the fact, even years later.

People who you think you may enjoy lasting relationships with, you don’t for whatever reason, perhaps differing priorities. Often these folks move to another community and time and distance take their toll. A falling out can end what one might have thought was a lifetime friendship. Other individuals linger in your life a little longer and you realize later that they had a definite purpose and helped you grow from your experience with them. Then, there are people who seemed inconsequential with little in common when you first meet them … individuals you thought were simply fulfilling a reason or, at most, there for that symbolic season, who’ve endured, not just as friends, but almost like family.

For me, those lifetime people easily fit the bill with words I expect to see in a true friendship or even a business relationship – trust, respect, honesty, loyalty, and dependability.

The verse came to mind on my recent holidays to Ontario.

I was reminded of it after my wife, Joyce, and I went for dinner with two couples in Sault Ste. Marie that we have known for many years. And as one year has led into another and then we returned to Alberta after 20 years away, nothing has changed when we get together with these people after two years living in Alberta. These are definitely in the lifetime category.

They are genuine people that you know you could always call on, no matter what, and vice-versa. All friendships are to be treasured, especially ones you have built up for years. But it really is priceless to just be able to pick up where you left off.

With some people, even family members, there seems to be a reaquainting you have to go through before you get into your visit. Not with these friends. It was like we had never left.

One of the couples, we had known longer and spent more time with than the other – in fact we’d become so close that every year for about 16 years, we took turns hosting Christmas back and forth between our homes. If members of our respective families happened to be visiting, they were welcomed in. Summers were never complete without at least one camping trip together at Pancake Bay Provincial Park, north of Sault Ste. Marie, on the shores of Lake Superior. Here’s to you, Jeni and Jim!

The other couple had invited us to their wedding and that was already a dozen years ago! Wow. Nothing had changed with Johnny and Maria Murtha. Always the same down-to-earth, kindhearted people. Cheers to you, too. Actually, it is more like good luck. With two precocious daughters, they will have their hands full in a short time, Dad with a shotgun.

How does it happen that some people just become these kinds of friends that you can so easily reconnect with after two or three years apart?

Technology will certainly help, whether email, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, to keep the ties strong. And we can even pick up the phone every once in a while.

Speaking of technology, it was my interest in learning more about enhancing our City of Grande Prairie website and examining the potential of social media that connected me with my now friend and blogmate, Wendy Peters.

We met by attending the Website Strategy Conference last May in Calgary and hit it off immediately while waiting for one of the presentations to start. More chat ensued after and we exchanged business cards and agreed to stay in touch. I was interested in the validity of getting into the use of Twitter and she encouraged me to try it out. The rest is history.

We intend to write books together and seek other business opportunities, so the status of our relationship has to be at least in the reason category. Perhaps we will go our separate ways after we make a few million dollars together. However, every time we talk on the phone or chat on Facebook, more ideas come out, so it seems more likely that further opportunities would arise.

In fact, what really got our partnership started was my noticing on Twitter how profound some of Wendy’s sayings are. I felt these should be in a book. Wendy immediately jumped at the thought. We decided blogging would be the best way to develop our material together, and faster.

What is really neat is how in sync we are, despite our distance. I live in Grande Prairie and Wendy in Calgary. A reader of The Muse and Views noted that Wendy and I clearly have a lot of chemistry. We both agree wholeheartedly with that statement. It seems comparable to being a figure skating pair who produces great results together. What we do away from the “ice” does not matter and we might have little or nothing in common.

As it turns out, Wendy and I have become great friends and talk regularly on the phone and online. But I was floored when she told me that she had been a figure skater growing up, feeding direcly into my analogy.

In fact, it seems that every time one of us says something, the other has a complementary experience or idea to relate.

How does such magic occur? Why do two people with very different circumstances work so well together and feed off each other so readily? At times, it has been freaky.

I am not going to question the magic. I just want to ride this train to success. On the other hand, just like with our friends Jeni and Jim, the relationship cannot be taken for granted, either. Good friendships and business partnerships are nurtured.

And when Wendy realizes her dream of working in Africa for a while, I better be ready to either go visit or have the ability to conquer even greater communication challenges.

I don’t think there are too many ice rinks in Africa.

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