Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

April 2, 2012

Filed under: Inspiration,life — wakingupincanada @ 12:49 pm
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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
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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
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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 lesson outside the church December 18, 2011

Filed under: faith — wakingupincanada @ 11:45 am
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Today, a week before Christmas, we were getting into the good stuff: the Angel has visited Mary and so it begins. Again, we were reminded, this is Christmas not just a Happy Holiday and it is our role to bring what we hear within the walls outside, all through the week.

As I met my friends for breakfast, I reflected on this. Or rather, was challenged by it.  As I sat and discussed an awkward situation with someone, I was reminded of talking behind someone’s back. This was not the angel in my head but rather my friend, who does not go to Mass on Sundays. Her voice pulled me back. To talk in spite is wrong. I know it is, despite how good it feels to vent my anger and have others validate my negativity. I do not trust those who talk behind people’s backs, a lesson my mother long ago instilled in me. Why is it easier to complain to those who can do nothing to improve the situation that to talk it through with those who can? The friend keeps pulling me back. Just being in her presence reminds me about loose tongues and helps me to be a better person, a person I want to be.

I go to Mass every Sunday and yet, the lessons I learn often come from those who spend their time elsewhere. I think it’s God’s way of teaching me humility. Just like He preached against those who parade their generosity or their fasting, He is showing me that going to Mass doesn’t make me special. I just go because I know He is special.

There are many people I know this year that I didn’t this time last year. Some have come and gone, people I have shared hostel dorms or train journeys with, some who have moved on on their own journey. Some surround me now. Each has been a gift. They may believe in different things, different ways, but they are helping me through my flaws, to stand on my own feet, to live my own faith.

 

 

To Kill A Mockingbird in T17 November 16, 2011

Filed under: Books — wakingupincanada @ 8:07 am
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Our topic of discussion at the book meeting was prize-winning books. I looked through the lists and there were a handful of books that I had read, and very few I had actually liked. Maybe I’m just not smart enough for high literature. I flicked back through the pages and I finally scouted one, a gem of a book that I utterly adored. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.

I was 11 years old I think when I first read To Kill A Mockingbird. My older sister was studying it in school. I struggled with the first few pages. Scout was a girl and Jem a boy. The story of the Finches arriving in the County was hard to read. The I settled into what would become a heart-wrenching, loveable, sweet, sad story and a young girl making sense of an unfair world. 3 years later, it was my turn to study To Kill A Mockingbird. I was delighted, one of the few who was, as the Snapper by Roddy Doyle was the favourite choice. I used my sister’s book, giving me an unfair advantage: all the chapters were summarised briefly at the end and the key quotes underlines. I learned early the advantages of second-hand. As I read through it again though, I had my own observations to make, my own preference for quotes.

Tied forever to this book, is my experience of studying it in T17, a room at the end of the school corridor. It was the room with the most natural light, with windows facing 2 directions. It was a large spacious room, without clutter. It was the English teacher’s room and his calm and happy presence grounded that room, even when he wasn’t there. On my first day at secondary school, he recognised my brother in me, and I wondered what my brother had done that made him smile so. He led us through poetry, prose and plays that somehow largely encircled messages of fair play and justice, or at least that is how I remember it. There were days he would allow us to lie on the ground and he brought us though guided meditation. Maybe it only happened a few times, but it was a few times more than any other teacher. It was in his class I learned to debate. He dressed like an English gentleman, though his accent was very much Irish. He walked often with his hands behind his back, never rushing, taking life in his stride.

On one occasion, I remember him getting really angry with a girl, for what seemed like little or no reason. It shocked me, it shocked the class. His temper was rarely unleashed and when it was we had no doubt it was justified. That outburst was unusual and it was an indication of how highly we thought of him, that we wondered if he was ok today.

In my mind To Kill A Mockingbird took place in the American South within the walls of T17 and Atticus Finch was our English teacher, advocating truth and justice in a quiet, subtle way to change hearts and minds.