Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

My life, today February 11, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 11:49 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

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.



April 2, 2012

Filed under: Inspiration,life — wakingupincanada @ 12:49 pm
Tags: , , ,

After a beautiful breakfast at Bruno’s, my friend left for work and I sat back to savour the last of my morning coffee. In the corner, a tv played golf with no volume. I don’t follow golf and my knowledge on it is purely what I have gleaned from polite conversational questions when sitting with those who have a strange passion for the slow walk around a beautiful park while hitting a ball in front of them.

Despite my limited knowledge, it seemed like a countdown of sorts; golf’s near misses or strange incidents. In one, a golfer putted the ball up a small steep slope just off the green, only to have it narrowly miss the summit and roll back down to him. In another, a fantastic shot brought the ball just to the tip of ground above the hole, and no further would it drop.

Why is it the closer we get to getting it perfect, the more painful it is to miss at the final second, final inch, final putt?

Nobody clapped these men on the back for almost making a hole in one, for almost putting a difficult shot, for almost winning it all. Obviously when they have their shots screened on television, they are not simply Sunday morning golfers but tops in their game.

When I went golfing, or rather to play pitch and putt, which I may add I hated, I danced up and down when a) I hit the ball b) it went in the direction of the hole and c) when it ended. Barr c), which may be considered unsportsman-like, the other 2 seem to me like perfectly legitimate reasons to celebrate. These were successes in my world of golf.

When you look at it, the bigger the stakes, the more damning it is to fail.  The better you are, the less forgivable it is for you to mess up. It makes me wonder, why do we even try?

How often when we really work at something, a great meal, a 5km run, yoga 4 times a week, bigger sales, we play down the effort and motivation behind it. We make out we aren’t really trying: “It’s just a few things I threw together”, “I usually just take it easy”, “I skip runs all the time”, “I’m still unfit”, “it was just luck”. We have every excuse ready to whittle away any evidence we are actually trying, trying to get better, be better, do better. We don’t want to try and fail, or rather, we don’t want to be seen trying and then failing.

It makes me appreciate those people who put themselves out there. I will run this marathon, I will lose this weight, I will get an A in this test. When you put yourself out there, when you show the world that you are working your ass off for something, you should be applauded from the get-go. These are the people who we need to get behind, to support and to motivate.

It never is easy. It is never easy to manage a team, a diet, an exercise regime, a new skill, a country. I am behind those who try. Not those who explain how well they can do it by making it sound easy but those who admit to all the challenges ahead and instead tell me how they will manage the obstacles, the slopes, their own weaknesses, and what they will do right after they miss the final shot by an inch. Because the person who can admit that they may fail, but will try anyway, that is the person I want to be behind.


The walk home April 1, 2012

Filed under: life — wakingupincanada @ 9:03 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I turned right instead of left when I walked out of work this evening. It is a welcome oddity that I finish at 7 on a Sunday. It is made even better by the light; the long evenings coming in. I used to laugh when  my Grandmother would say that; I’d begin mentioning it once the shortest day of the year passed on December 21st.

Now I know the feeling; the end of winter, the sign of hope, the beginning of something fresh. In Banff, the snow is melting, leaving slush and ponds of water across the sidewalk. It is getting warmer and I only wear my snow jacket skiing now. The streets are getting a little busier. New staff are coming and old staff are leaving.

Summer is coming.

I walked along Banff Avenue and called into Lululemon, where I was inspired and motivated; to run better, work better, plan my future better. Not a bad pep talk for a Sunday evening, without spending a cent. I walked along the Bow River to the spot I spent New Year’s Eve and watched the fireworks in between the water and the mountains. My brown suede boots filled with bits of snow and water from the melt. I sat down and looked at the bridge, the mountains, the forests, the blue sky and the white moon, the frozen river and the water in the middle still flowing. Simply beautiful:

It is the unplanned that can amaze us, the simple act of walking home a different way, a longer way, that can find us amidst nature and love unexpectedly. It reminded me of where I am, right here, right now. It reminded me that the best things in life are free.

I walked home with a spring in my step and took off my wet boots, feeling more energised than if I’d come straight home.

When I looked out the window, it was snowing.


The firmness of friendship March 29, 2012

Filed under: Friendship — wakingupincanada @ 6:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

When I was 16, our English teacher, a cheery, wise and happy man with a smock of white hair and thick black eyebrows commented that for our final exams, our poems would largely be based on transience, a mis-balance he believed, as in life, poems were mostly about love. I have become to wonder if he was wrong.

Banff is a transient town, and the lives of people like me are built upon hellos and goodbyes. Much revolves around the workplace here. In Banff, living space is everything, and many employers provide subsidised accommodation to their staff. The people I work with, I live with, ski with, eat with and socialise with.

Every week, people walk into our store, resumes in hand, and we don’t know if this is our new best friend standing in front of us. In our team, we have a plethora of characters  – the high energy people, the super-organised individuals, the laid-back crew, the super sellers and the super helpers. This mesh of personalities is like a microscopic view on the world and all that it takes to make it go around every day.

And just when you fall in love with it all, it is time for another goodbye. This week, we have a double dose of departure, with 2 beautiful people heading home. Unlike before in my life, when treasured companions move on to a better job or better home but stay in the area or at least the friendship circle, the international melting pot that is Banff sees possible Best Friends Forever fly off to the far reaches of the world, to a different career, a different lifestyle.

Somehow here, you connect with the transience that is life, the constant ebb and flow that is people. With every changing staff member or housemate, there is a change in the balance, the routine, the atmosphere. Sometimes it is a little shift barely noticeable, other times, for better or worse, a sudden movement occurs forcing ripples out in all directions. Sometimes the only thing is to stand firm in yourself and allow others the same courtesy. Other times, it seems to me, it is about learning from them, trusting them and enjoying them for as long as you have them.

It has been 7 months and many friends now. As 2 of my BFFs move on, I see all that they have given me: 6 mile runs through the mountains and gym workouts; pyramid hill sprints and scrabble in Tim Hortons, indulgent breakfasts and cheap cinema nights, wine and crackers and double dates. Only a true friend allows you to swear at them at the beginning of a 3 minute hill sprint or shares the joy in playing scrabble over good coffee at Tim Hortons, and offers to share the car she will win in Roll Up the Rim. A BFF gets lost with you and enjoys the views regardless.

It strikes me at these times, not how tough it is to say goodbye, but just how brilliant a good friend is. As we move through life and all its phases, a good friend grounds you, wherever your roots may be.




The love of falling March 24, 2012

Filed under: life — wakingupincanada @ 11:44 am
Tags: , , ,

Skiing this week, we were ploughing through deep powder. The hill looked different, the snow re-designing the trails we knew well, re-shaping the landscape. Knowing our days are numbered as we enter Spring,  we were also trying some unfamiliar runs.

3 runs in, we aimed to avoid a questionable portion, and headed down a simple slope.  Without warning, I was deep in a hole full of snow, with my legs somehow tangled beneath me, one ski inexplicably intermingled with the other, and my mouth full of snow. I laughed, my friend laughed, and with some exaggerated gesticulating of my legs, I managed to eventually get out.

Further down, we decided to give a black diamond a go. We did a bit, did a bit more and then saw the cliff and opted out. We hiked back up to a green run, collapsing in the snow bank to catch our breath and cool down. Ski boots are not made for hiking. When we saw the cliff from the bottom, one of us thought no way, one of us thought maybe, none of us wanted to try it again.

When you fall, it is best to just let go. If you tense up, you can do more harm. Falling in fresh powder doesn’t hurt really, and after the first fall, you lose the fear and enjoy the ride instead. You might lie a little longer than necessary and get your breath back, you might jump right up and on, or you may have to untangle yourself, work out a way out and do your best to make it through.

It seems to be love is very much the same.

If you are happy to fall, and know that falling is part of it, then it becomes about the journey, not seeking the destination. The falls might be playful or they may see you land awkwardly or hard, head first. Seeing love as fresh powder gives a soft landing, a cushion, a resting place.  One of my friends believes that if you don’t fall, you are not trying hard enough.

There are times it is easier and more relaxing to take it easy down a simple green run, enjoying the scenery around you. However, there is a sheer excitement in upping the stakes, in mastering a tough run that works your legs, your balance and your courage.

We are surrounded by risks. There might be an easy way and a more difficult way but often we can only either hike back out carrying our stuff, or we  face the cliff.

I’m going to face the cliff.







March 1st March 2, 2012

Filed under: spring — wakingupincanada @ 8:19 am
Tags: ,

Since I was a child, March 1st meant Spring.

It may not be according to the meteorologists or the farmers or anyone else, but every year in primary school, our teacher gave us an essay to write on March 1st: Spring. We were always told the crows begin building there nests on this day. Looking out the window, I’m not so sure about that. Here in Banff, snow lies on the ground and we are expecting and hoping and praying for more soon. Yet in my heart, it feels like spring. I guess after 30 years of Ireland, their seasons are part of my psyche.

March 1st was also a Thursday and that means Ashtanga Level 1. I love that our teacher often brings us right back, back to basics. Leaving the class, I decided to take ten minutes and sit with a coffee. Reflecting on the season and my practice, I came to seek lightness.

My feet had felt heavy on my mat, every twist of my foot squeaking. I felt a little bloated from a dinner party the previous evening. I was concentrating on plans for the weekend, making timetables to fit in everything I wanted to do. Somehow every so often a heaviness steeps in; I get clogged up with too many crackers and cheese and pizza and lattes, weighing me down, both on the scales and in my reactions. Yoga feels like work, as if gravity was pulling me to the mat from the crown of my head rather than radiating from my breath, deep and slow. I see my time and work to maximise it, struggling to see a way to get everything I want done jammed in. In return, my patience was becoming shorter, my reactions snappier, my face a little more stern.

To be lighter, in mind, body and spirit, seemed a fitting way to embrace Spring.

Spring is the lifting of the heaviness of winter, coming out of hibernation and smiling at the sun. It is about walking a little taller, a little brighter, with ease and effortlessness. Spring is a fresh start, a clean out of the old. It is hopeful, expectful, a time of wonder and newness. It is when the buds start to grow and slowly a shoot peeks out or a daffodil pops its yellow crown above the ground. There is no written plan and yet the birds know to build, seeds know to germinate and grow towards the sun, animals prepare to birth and the sun in the sky stays up each night for a little longer. No deer looks at the clock and worries about the time. No snowbud looks to his left and wonders why his neighbour is a little taller, a little stronger.

They trust in the masterplan, the Higher Power, the turning of the earth, that things will turn as they always do; in God’s own time.

To embrace the wonder of the season is to give over the weight of the day to day slog and follow instead the natural instinct we all have to do what is best for us, a moment at a time, and embrace the lightness of living in the now.


Listening to the music January 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 12:20 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

A friend is making me more interested in music. It’s a hard task. I am tone deaf and the culture part of my brain skips over music. I was told I couldn’t sing when I was 9, and my music teacher quit trying to teach my guitar when I was 15.  I enjoy music, it can calm me on my mat, it can motivate me to run faster on the treadmill, it can be a welcome distraction in a nightclub. After hearing it though, even before the last note, I will have forgotten it. I texted him a line from a really good song I heard at yoga, thinking he was someone who would understand. He asked who sang it, I didn’t know. What was the name of the song? I didn’t know.

So I’ve worked a little harder. The songs I love I’m trying to listen to more, to understand why I love them, to hear the words and the melody together, not just the lyrics alone which is what I usually do.

One song is by Adele, Make Me Feel My Love. I loved this song, loved the soft melody and the deep honesty. I thought she was a little crazy though: “I know you haven’t made your mind up yet, but I would never do you wrong, I’ve known it from the moment that we met, no doubt in my mind where you belong”. At best she’s being a little cocky, at worst, desperate and clingy. I listened and re-listened and maybe it’s about timing. Now I see someone who is confident in her own feelings, and trusts the person she loves regardless. You’ll never do a handstand if you’re afraid to fall over.

A new entry in my favourite list was Heather Blush’s Not Gonna Settle. This one to me is more about the music. The words tell me of someone who won’t settle for less, and won’t let him settle either, but it is the sounds that I love. The music reminds me of home, of a pub, not one of the so-called-Irish pubs around here. It sounds Irish, it feels Irish.

I flick through my I-pod at songs from my past; my friend played Step By Step by Whitney Houston the day I left my first “career job” to start working with young people on a daily basis. Kryptonite will always be Sunday night Karaoke in Banff and Ego by The Saturdays will always bring me to the Donegal Youth Council Advisors. I Will Always Love You reminds me that sometimes love comes in different forms and you have to bow out gracefully. Wind Beneath My Wings will always be my big sister and Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad will always bring me back to cleaning bedrooms with my best friend 13 years ago . Christina Perri’s Jar Of Hearts will be my baby sister helping me get ready to leave for Canada. Don’t Stop Me Now will always have me sprinting as will Katie Perry’s I Kissed A Girl, despite me prudish self disliking the lyrics at the beginning. Yer So Bad will be the sweetest gift I have ever been given. There’s a lot of work to do, but I am trying. I listen and keep with the music and not write, dance and talk through it. I am following up on good songs and downloading them and see what I make of them. I’m also trying to listen to older stuff, the “cooler” stuff, the stuff the newbies build on. This will need to be based on trusted references. I’m trying not to get caught up too much in the words but feel the music too.

I realise as I write that there is already a soundtrack of my life building and growing. I guess right now I’m just allowing someone else to advise me on how to improve it, enjoy it and feel it.