How I Learned To Let Go

March 16, 2015 § 3 Comments

Flickr Photo Credit: Randy Heinitz

Flickr Photo Credit: Randy Heinitz

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.

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

Bucket List Or A Game Plan?

September 15, 2014 § 3 Comments

hotairballoonBeing on vacation recently, I had a chance to talk to a lot of people – family, friends and even some new contacts.

Some of my older friends and family are in the throes of determining how their futures should unfold. Often, they have been busy caring for others – children, spouses and elderly parents – and have never really carved out their own niche.

A few younger friends are also busy charting their own courses, trying to weigh all the possibilities and capitalize on opportunities. One young marketing and communications professional has a small business sideline. Another is employed in the restaurant sector contemplating how to parlay her post-secondary education into a relevant career. A third is exploring human resources related prospects in between positions.

I noted that while decades separate the people involved in these conversations, one thing is common – bucket lists include some similar themes: world travel, seeing favourite entertainers live and even pursuing new hobbies or interests.

This got me thinking of my own bucket list and I determined that in order to qualify, entries must be achievable – without intervention of circumstances such as lottery wins or acts of God – thankfully I don’t cheer for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For brevity, I have narrowed my list to 10 and there are some commonalities with friends, young and old. These are in no particular order:

  1. Bruce Springsteen is a favourite performer and I’ve seen him do a solo acoustic show but now I want to see him play with the E Street Band.
  2. Like my friends, global travel is on my list, but I will be specific: I want to travel to Belgium and Luxembourg – my grandmother and grandfather on my dad’s side were from those respective countries. I have no links there, but would love to see where the Olinger legacy began.
  3. I also want to travel to every region of Canada. I have yet to visit Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, and the Yukon so I have a great start.
  4. Now that I have begun going to the gym, I want to get rid of the pot belly.
  5. Eliminating my dependence on diabetes medication and pills for related afflictions, for that matter.
  6. To ride in a hot air balloon.
  7. For blogmate Wendy and I to complete a book(s) from the content of these blogs.
  8. My short story on my dearly departed furkid Jasper will be published as a book.
  9. Retirement to Vancouver Island. Joyce and I have travelled there four of the last five years and a few times earlier. It appeals greatly to both of us as a place that has it all.
  10. Finding another #furkid for our home. This is not just a matter of getting another dog. Both of our previous pooches and their personalities have been an integral part of our family life.

Now, of course, achieving any goal means setting realistic action steps.

In his Book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey referenced the second of these as:  Thinking with the End in Mind.

Completing a book, for example, takes investments of time, money and courage – we need to be certain others will be as excited about our writing as we are. Similarly with Jasper tale, I have to take the necessary publishing steps, most importantly, completing the task of converting the short story into book form.

Committing to bring another dog into the home, likely a puppy, takes a lot of time and energy since we truly believe pets are part of the family.

Taking on diabetes with a plan of eliminating medications means a daily commitment to exercise, managing diet and controlling stress (the heredity factor is already there). Admittedly, the necessary dedication has not been there.

I must admit that health-related items really shouldn’t be on a bucket list. They should be musts to pursue. However, having them there helps to set priorities.

So, the question I have to ask myself or anyone else, what are you willing to do to cross items off your list?

Since most of us have multiple things we want to achieve, maybe we should view our bucket lists as an action plans.

A Successful Cross-Continental Search

June 9, 2014 § 2 Comments

tmavThere’s nothing quite like a series of old photographs to remind us of places we’ve been, friends we’ve been there with and the person we were ourselves at the time.

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!

They Call Me The Wanderer

September 23, 2013 § 4 Comments

Photo credit: divadsci1

Photo credit: divadsci1

There’s something about being on the verge of the next big thing that gets my blood pumping. Three years ago it was launching an incredibly vibrant community of urban explorers when I began my adventure as the Yelp Calgary Community Manager. Now, I find myself saying goodbye to the community I’ve built of some of the friendliest and coolest people I’ve ever met and embarking upon a new journey, one I’ve been dreaming up for more than a decade.

I’m a wandering spirit. I have been ever since my first trip overseas to Indonesia when I was 14. Multiple trips throughout my teens and early 20s shaped my young world views and inspired me to achieve my Bachelor of Commerce in International Business from the University of Alberta. I wanted to travel.

Many twists and turns and detours have brought me to where I’m at. Deaths in the family; the thrill and naivety of my youth that subsequently had me spending the last four and a half years paying off nearly $72,000 in debt (final payment last week!); various people and positions and jobs that have shaped my views on how the world works and brought some incredible people into my networks along the way…

David and I talk a lot about following our passion. I love to inspire people to choose their dreams and live them. The only effective way I’ve found to accomplish this is to follow that same mantra myself.

And so last week, I tendered my resignation in pursuit of my big hairy dream. Come January, I’ll be a wanderer, a wayfarer. I’ve fulfilled any commitments that once prevented me from going. Now, I wander.

It’s fitting that the first trip on my books is back to the land that first inspired my desire to travel. I’ll be headed on a “bucket list” trip to Bali as I do some work with a local tours company, Spices.

Stay tuned… I’m sure I’ll have many insights and inspirations to share as I make my way!

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