Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

Reading, deliberately February 13, 2013

Filed under: Books,Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 6:23 am
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Some of you will know about my love of reading and books; those underestimated resources of knowledge, emotion, inspiration and escape. Standing in a second-hand bookstore on Saturday, I realised the amount of books I have at home, unread. I also realised the amount of books I am reading, right now. I have 3, that I was occasionally picking up, more of one, one day, a little of none the next day. I was grazing on words.

I don’t usually have so many books on the go. I take a taste from a few maybe, until one just cries out to me and I must keep reading as if my very happiness depended on this story unfolding. A book I cannot get into today may sing to my soul in 2 weeks. A good book is not just about the story but about where you are, body, heart and mind, when you read it. However, my 3 books right now is a perfect synopsis of my head right now: all over the place. I am flicking from thought to thought, project to project, book to book. The Dalai Lama may classify it as undisciplined. So I am taking his advice, and injecting some discipline into my book-reading. First, I sorted them into spaces. By my bedside now, sits Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, a fantastic story of the search for the secret of eternal life in a conflict between traditional books and ever increasing technology. One night, I got so enthralled by the late night secret scanning that I stayed up to the early hours, which for me, old before my time, is a true wonder. On my Kindle, in my handbag, for waiting situations, is Samantha Power’s A Problem from Hell, a tough read that takes an honest look at our world’s lowest moments and our own responses to them. The third, on my office desk is a reflection from the Dalai Lama on Happiness, for early morning coffees and after dinner tea. It inspires and soothes me.
With the Dalai Lama’s, I have begun taking chapter end notes, just a few words or sentences to summarise my understanding of what I just read. I want to give those great pages the respect they deserve. With the amazing Twenty Four Hour Bookstore, I want to slow down, read deliberately, take it all in. I want to pay attention to Samantha Power, so that I don’t close my eyes to the worst of our world. Regardless of what we do in life, when we pay attention to that which we do, right now, in this moment, it is a moment well spent.

Books give me inspiration, information and escapism, so I want to give them the time and the space to work their magic. Not a bad investment, I think.


My life, today February 11, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 11:49 am
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I started this blog in a small room I rented as part of my work package, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, in the town of Banff, Alberta. I was alone, but with a team in Ireland keeping track of me and an international squad of salespeople, ski instructors, rock specialists, musical stars, party animals, yogis and snowboarders and lawyers-in-waiting, even an ultra-marathoner to get to know, I was kept from falling.

In having little I recognised it is in simplicity, we have abundance. In being  alone, I opened up to having company; that solitude can be too much. I would eventually realise, no woman is an island either.

It was an amazing experience.

I am now building a home with a beautiful man in the Alberta Prairies. Instead of a ring of mountains I have fields as fas as the eye can see. My horizon has never been so far away. Back then, in my small room and small world, I was finding out what I loved and who I was. I stopped looking at the future and lived in the here and now. Now, I am with he whom I will spend the rest of my life with. I becomes we.  This is my home now, my future, my world.

I wash the dishes, knowing how much I love having a clean kitchen to wake up to, but then spend an age inside my head, working out if it was my turn, if it has become my chore, if I am compromising my feminist values or satisfying my inner need for order. If he washes the dishes because I have asked him, does that count? Nobody wants to do dishes, but should he not want to do them so as to please me. Then I wonder why it is about me, when he benefits just as much from washed dishes and clean laundry and a full fridge. When he does wash the dishes, I cringe at the running water, the deep attention to detail and a 5 minute task taking 15. I often leave the kitchen and distract myself. 30 minutes of chores sometimes become a full weekend of a life dilemma, but in the morning the kitchen is clean and that is good.

His laid back attitude gets on my last nerve when we are grocery shopping or late to a party but it is heaven to go camping with or walk by a river or hike a mountain with. His attention to detail kills me as he rinses a knife after washing, but I am delighted that he keeps my car in great working order.

He brings out the best and worst in me, and he loves me, for them or in spite of them I am not sure.

It took me 30 years to work me out and find my voice. Now, one year in, I am coming to terms that I am someone’s other half. I am in a real and proper relationship which involves finances and dishes and underwear on the bathroom floor. I am working out who I am as someone’s “other half”.

I often wonder, how does he put up with me? God love him.



Hello, walker February 10, 2013

Filed under: life,Run — wakingupincanada @ 10:14 am
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A lady sits across the cafe, and her long sleeved cotton t-shirt reads, “Running is Cheaper Than Therapy”. I smile, longingly. I agree; the roads and paths and trails and beaches that I have run on are strewn with my issues, worries and concerns and I picked up instead humour and perspective and peace.My hip is sore and it has been 2 weeks and 3 days since my last run and I miss him, my run. I miss my out of breath-ness and my rhythm, my focus and my time out. I miss him, my therapy called Runner.

I walk now. I need to do something, it doesn’t hurt (much), and it gets me moving. I am trying the slower pace of life. I have to work harder to stay focused or I lose speed and then I am just dandering around the countryside. I only like dandering around the countryside when I’ve planned to, and I don’t plan to. Not as an intention, I am not sitting here thinking, I will never dander around. Simply, it is something I don’t make plans to do. Perhaps it would be nice to.

In my 4 walks, I have managed to knock almost one minute of my mile, quite an achievement but not really, it’s more about oiling the wheels and remembering to push it, and now a runner with her blue headband comes in, purchases a coffee, or a green tea to go, and leaves.

I am sure there is a lesson in this. “Life is not meant to be run through” perhaps, or “slow down and savour the journey”. Perhaps it is simply, “Do not run 8 miles on a Saturday when you have barely done 8 miles in the past 2 weeks”. That, though, isn’t likely to make it on wall hangings or fridge magnets, but it should: more practical. Maybe it is, “Even when you can’t do it all, do some”

So I am a walker now. It is more empowering that injured runner. He is not quite the therapist my runner was, but maybe we will become friends.


Breathe February 9, 2013

Filed under: life — wakingupincanada @ 10:11 am
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Sometimes it is enough, just to breathe.

Sometimes, the day is long and your head is full and your mind is racing, and it is just enough to take a few deep breaths.

Sometimes, the world seems too big, and you too small, and so you just breathe to keep going.

Sometimes, the world seems so big and you so small, and you breathe, just to take it all in.

When those around us need more than we think we have, we breathe to relax, to remember love, to re-energise.

When we fall short of our own expectations, in the midst of our own disappointment at ourselves, we breathe, and realise, we can.

In the midst of chaos and collapse, we breathe to survive.

In the pause of the waiting moment, we breathe to use the time.

In the moment of utter happiness, we breathe to drink it all in.

When alone and lonely, we breathe to remind ourselves, we are.

In the midst of being lost, I breathe and remember I am here.


Sometimes it is enough just to breathe. Sometimes, it is our everything.




My quickest stress reliever January 26, 2013

Filed under: stress — wakingupincanada @ 12:13 pm
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My guilty pleasure is a love for O magazine, my monthly treat, pure indulgence. I get snide comments and strange looks and my boyfriend definitely doesn’t understand but files it in his “stuff I don’t get about girls” folder.

I start with the Take Five page, which asks 5 people, who in some way contribute to this month’s magazine, to finish 4 sentences. I read them and work out my own answers, sometimes after I read, but sometimes before.

Today, I am stuck on question 1. “My quickest stress reliever…”.

I knew when I sat here in the coffee shop that I was a little frazzled. I am not sure whether it is city driving, Saturday morning grocery shopping, or the ice-cream for dinner last night, and the Twizzlers for dessert. I ordered a latte, regardless.

Stress relievers I can list: a massage, a spa, a run, even if its far from my favourite trails, yoga, writing.

I struggle with the word “quick”.

I am slow. Unless it’s a fast approaching work deadline, I dwell in the stress for too long. I tend to dwell there with food for company.

I remember, once, I was involved in a car accident and it was all my fault. There wasn’t much damage, but a dent to my bank account and my ego. I came back from work and ran. I felt better. I promised to respond likewise in future. I rarely do.

I read through the responses: ginger tea, yoga, bubble bath, children, old episodes of a favourite tv programme. The 3 initial responses, I nod my head to. I agree. I don’t do them though. There is something about that moment, that when I wonder whether to sink or swim, I sink.

Sometimes, sinking is bliss. It’s hibernation, it’s a pause, it’s downtime. To stop is sometimes to recharge. Stress is exhausting and sleep and rest can genuinely help. Sometimes, though, it’s laziness. I notice that right now, I am letting the big TO-DO list halt the little to-do list. I am stressing about filing taxes for the first time, but I cannot do them until March. In my stress and frustration to just get them out of the way, I cannot manage to sort the paperwork sitting on my desk.

There are wise words I once heard; “When you don’t know, what to do, do nothing”. Perfect advice, except we sometimes think doing nothing is watching television. Watching television is watching television. Doing nothing is doing nothing, sitting in the silence and letting go. Doing nothing is probably more productive than 6 hours of television. I have been watching too much television.

Having these tools at our disposal is great, I’m sure. Tea, baths, feet for walking, books for reading, bodies for yoga-ing. The point is that exact point; the choice to dwell or move through it. That is where our characters are built.


Alex in Starbucks November 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 5:32 pm

I read in a newspaper today the dilemma an English Starbucks regular faces in choosing between the comfort of the familiar and lack of paying taxes on Starbucks part. I always feel a little uncomfortable when talking about taxation and religion: I am deeply opinionated on both, but also am not confident I know all the loopholes and reasoning to comment publicly.  I leave both (for now) to the powers that be and one’s own sense of conscience.

But he made a point that Starbucks ask for the customer’s name for their cup, apparently to induce familiarity and, I suppose, from that, loyalty. I always chalked it up to dealing with a long queue and many tall skinny vanilla lattes. “Is this mine?” “I’m not sure, were you here before me?” And then the boisterous one stands forward, “No, it’s mine”, when really he only ordered 30 seconds ago.

So today, in preparation of my name being asked, I thought I’d be different. You want to know my name? I’ll show you! I am here for the anonymity, to sit and watch the world go by. Unknown stranger. I said I was Alex. I love that name, especially on a girl. She wrote it down without fanfare, no “oh that name suits you!” or “cool name”, but I felt great. I am Alex, if even just for the 60 minutes in Starbucks. I waited for my name to be called, glancing over books and trying to work out the name of the fifth Game of Thrones installment. I was excited; would I remember I am now called Alex? I waited anxiously. Would they see me as different?

” Tall Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate”. I turned. I was the only one waiting and that was my drink. She didn’t even call my name. Familiarity? Disappointment.




Snow Sunday Starts November 11, 2012

Filed under: snow — wakingupincanada @ 10:24 am
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The sound of the shower signals the start of the day proper; an end to this quiet morning time by myself, my time of contemplation and wonderings, newspapers and Sunday morning communication from the British Isles and my scattered siblings.

I watched as darkness moved slowly into light, breaking through fog, to a blue sky and pale sun. The thick snow is now a bright white and the grey trees are glistening white in the sunshine. My iPhone tells me it is now -30, an increase of 1 since 7am. It predicts that is should now be -14. Somehow, to me, the variations in sub-zero are not at all obvious. I wonder where Apple gets its

The front yard is cut through with tyre tracks. The back yard is untouched. The summer deck chairs, one pink, one green sit covered in snow, sheltered by the white branches of the Caraganas. The green lies on its side, strewn over by a storm a few weeks ago and never lifted. The coffee table sits alongside them, a tablecloth of snow where once I sat my strawberry daiquiri and watched the men play horseshoe. Perhaps we should have taken them inside. I had forgotten they were there.

The snow blankets my world, and somehow silences it. Snow gives time to breathe, to stop and listen to the silence. It cotton-wools my life; stress and tensions and plans don’t seem as important, as big, as imposing.

Footsteps come plodding towards my window seat, the coffee pot is lifted, the fridge opens. The day begins.