just. keep. writing.

Writer’s block is an enigmatic phenomenon. I could be out for a walk, on the bus to work, heck even at work doing my job, and in under a minute I’ll mentally write an entire blog post. The words and ideas stream in so fast I can’t possibly record them, but I promise myself I will later. I’ll remember this, I think. But when I sit down to write – nothing.

Earlier this week, my colleague – an amazing poet and teacher – spoke to a group of high school students visiting our university to learn more about our creative writing program. (A post on ‘worlds colliding’ should follow this one, as the students’ teacher is coincidentally my best friend, who now lives south of the border.)

I attended the session, but didn’t expect to be so personally impacted. When I was in high school, ‘creative writing’ wasn’t a thing. I remember English classes and learning about form, structure, and grammar…and we did do some writing…but for the most part, creative expression wasn’t truly nurtured or celebrated.

Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Italy.

I can’t help but wonder how different my younger years would’ve looked, had I been encouraged to experiment with all forms and genres in writing. If studying the craft had been presented as a valuable, worthy calling.

Of course, there’s no real point in going there. It’s easy to get carried away with the ‘what if’s, thinking we were somehow shortchanged in our past. But we can’t really know how things might’ve otherwise turned out. Maybe in the end it wouldn’t have made much difference.

My poet friend was so inspiring in encouraging the students to express themselves, and I ponder why writing – a process that can literally be a life-saver for some – often remains so elusive for those who love it most.

Is it vulnerability? Putting ourselves ‘out there’ in any capacity can be intimidating…but with writing, it feels heightened. It’s our heart and soul we’re baring, opening ourselves to others’ perceptions and projections. We tell ourselves not to get caught up in likes, follows (or unfollows), and comments…but how can we not be impacted by those things?

Is it perfectionism? We might think we don’t have time, or that we’re too stressed, to write. But maybe it’s fear: fear that our written word will never look as great as we hope and envision. Fear that someone will make a negative comment, or we’ll sound pretentious or get it wrong. Or, maybe worst of all – that we’ll be exposed as an imposter.

Blogging breaks are sometimes necessary…but I am feeling the creative muse’s call – no, order – to keep writing. It doesn’t have to be blog posts; it doesn’t have to ‘be’ or look like anything. It can just be for me.

When it comes to nurturing our passions, there is always time. But it is on us to carve it out. Fortunately we now have the world of WordPress, where everyone can express themselves to their heart’s content! It’s not too late.

For all those sensitive people so attuned to the reactions of others, I say… I get it. Express yourself anyway. It doesn’t matter if you’re not experienced or published or getting paid for it. If you’ve found something that gives you even the smallest hint of joy, DO IT. Don’t even question why.

It is meaningful, it does matter, and it is making a difference. Just keep writing.

neuroses of a north american diner

I recently found the following in my WordPress drafts folder; I wrote it during my first week in Italy last summer, but for some reason didn’t publish it.

With all the activity and transition of late, I’ve been really missing Italy…but reading this post makes me look forward to the day I will visit again. And I remember what I had promised myself back then: instead of focusing on the ‘negatives’ of my own city, I would bring home those aspects of Italy that I loved most.

Fortunately, I still know how to linger over a good glass of wine. 😉

breakfast of champions!

breakfast of champions!

[August 2013]

I’ve only been here a few days and already I can tell that dining solo in Italy is going to be one eye-opening experience. I knew this before I arrived; in fact it was one of the things I was most nervous about. Am I going to be the only single gal amongst tables full of amorous couples? How do I order food in Italy? How much do I tip? Do they even serve dinner at 6pm?

In Eat Pray Love, Liz Gilbert writes of a leisurely lunch during one of her many long walks in Rome: “I eat my lunch in a quiet trattoria here, and I linger over my food and wine for many hours because nobody in Trastevere [Rome] is ever going to stop you from lingering over your meal if that’s what you would like to do” (chapter 25).

I’m so glad I’m re-reading this book as I travel, as many of Liz’s insights resonate with my own experience. Back home, when I dine solo (or even with people), I’m usually aware that others might be waiting for my table. Though I’m a slow eater, I often feel I’m on a time limit. Lingering is generally not encouraged in North American establishments!

This morning, my ‘do not dawdle’ conditioning revealed itself. I was at my favourite cafe in Villasimius [Sardinia], having just finished my now-standard breakfast of a cornetto di chocolat and cappuccino. As I ordered some water, tables began to quickly fill around me. One man stood at the cafe entrance, looking for a free spot. I felt a mild sense of anxiety that I must hurry up and leave, as I was clearly finished.

Another man then asked if he could take one of my extra seats. He seemed extremely apologetic for interrupting me, which I thought was sweet. I then saw the first guy’s grandchildren (I presume) rush up to him, and they all walked away together. Turns out he had just been chilling, waiting for his famiglia.

It was then that I started to relax. Maybe no one was impatient and waiting. Maybe it didn’t even cross their minds to rush someone while they were still dining. Maybe the servers take a while in asking me what I want next, or bringing me my bill, because I’m supposed to savour every minute of the experience.

I’m not in ‘hurry-up’ culture anymore.

snacks in sardinia

snacks in sardinia

Later, at a bar having a glass of wine (or two) as I wait to catch a bus back to my villa, the server brings me dishes of peanuts, pretzels, courgettes, and yummy potato crisps. I look at all the food in front of me and again a mild neurosis arises: all this, for just me? I didn’t ask for it. Should I eat it all, or is that inelegant? If I don’t eat enough, is that rude?

Fortunately, it doesn’t take me long to realize that it doesn’t matter to them what I do with it.

I relax (again), put my book away, and stare off into space for a while. Because you know, that’s what they do here.

I love this place.

musings from cinque terre

It is now the end of my second week in Italy, and each of the three cities I’ve visited so far have been very different. Week One was the small, beautiful beach village of Villasimius, Sardinia. Many Italians spend their summer holidays here and so, this being the last week of August, the beach and town center were packed. I think I heard English spoken only twice the entire time I was there!

me chillin' in sardinia

me chillin’ in sardinia

sardinian waters...

sardinian waters…

Then it was off to Rome. Talk about a 180! My friend and I only had three days to explore the city, which we filled with: a bicycle tour of numerous monuments (too many to name here); proper visits to the Colosseum, Forum, Capitoline Museum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and Vatican; and, of course, shopping. (Though I didn’t go too crazy with the latter, as I still have four weeks of Italian travel ahead of me!)

While in Rome I sensed that I would feel the ‘real’ power and history of the city only after I was gone, and this is holding to be true. It’s been a few days since I left, and now that I’m not immersed in its frenetic pace, I can feel Rome’s haunting, pulling energy. It was amazing and slightly incomprehensible for my senses to grasp the true magnitude of how ancient the city is. One thing I know – I will be back.

view of corniglia, cinque terre, on my hike

view of corniglia, cinque terre, on my hike

And now I am in stunning, gorgeous, Cinque Terre, staying in beautiful Monterroso al Mare….the perfect balance between the cruisy, slow pace of Sardinia, and the extreme bustle of Rome. Visitors to Cinque Terre can usually hike the coastline between five of its villages (Monterroso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) but, unfortunately, the last two trails are currently closed! At first I was a little bummed, but I’ve done the first two hikes a couple of times, and it’s been so beautiful (and hot!) here that I really cannot complain.

It’s my last morning here in Cinque Terre, and now begins a new phase of my journey: my friend and I part ways, and I continue on solo for the rest of my time in Italy, soon off to Lucca, Tuscany. While it has been great to discover Italy with a friend, I’m looking forward to this next stage of my journey, experiencing the insights and discoveries that only travelling solo can provide.

To be honest, I haven’t taken many photos so far, which is quite unusual for me. This is partly because my friend has been getting some amazing shots with her SLR camera – much better than my point-and-shoot! But it’s also because I’ve generally been finding the picture-taking a little distracting. I’ve come to Italy to absorb its beauty on many levels…to let Italy imprint my heart. And while of course I want to capture this journey, in a strange way, taking pictures is getting in the way of that. We’ll see, though. Perhaps things will change once I am on my own. Maybe I’m just being lazy!

my typical breakfast - so much for gluten-free!

my typical breakfast – so much for gluten-free!

Of course Italy has been having a deeper impact on me, going way beyond the sights I’ve seen. I can’t quite articulate it just yet; all I can say is that this adventure is exactly what my soul had been asking for – crying for – and I am in so, so much gratitude that I can experience every second of it. My heart is full and words (for now) just won’t do it justice.

Ciao for now. xo.

i could get used to this…

Day 3 Diet:
Chocolate croissant, two cappuccinos, spaghetti with pesto, pizzeria pizza, red wine, and pistachio gelato.

Viva Italia!

now i get what she was talking about

now i get what she was talking about

ode to my royal abode

Well, the time has come for me to vacate the little jewel I’ve been residing in these past few months.

I spent most of yesterday cleaning, de-cluttering, laundering, gathering boxes, and packing.

And bawling.

siwash

my next door neighbour

This is the first time I’ve felt truly sad leaving a place.  A close friend has been travelling overseas for the last four months, and I’ve been subletting her beautiful top floor/corner suite/adjacent-to-my-favourite-park apartment.  I’ve moved around my city many times, but it’s always been my decision when to leave, and the timing has usually felt right.  And though I knew this date was coming, I didn’t expect it to happen this fast, or hit me so hard.

This sweet suite has been a blessing in so many ways.

Living here has helped me appreciate, and cherish, the peace, power, and necessity of having a personal sanctuary to come home to.  Because I’ve generally been so transient, I’ve never invested a lot of time and energy into creating a perfect and sacred living space.  Buying furniture just hasn’t fit into my temporary lifestyle.  But having spent four months in this little suite filled with carved deities and plants and yoga books and pillows, my formerly “zen and uncluttered” style now feels a bit sparse and sterile!

My friend has lived in her apartment for about twenty years, and I can feel her steadfast love and energy imbuing its every corner.  My max in any given place has been about a year and a half!

I also re-fell in love with my city in these months.  This is not hard to do – it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world – but nevertheless this was no small feat. Over time I’d become very jaded and could see only the ‘negatives’ in my environment.  Being nested in this oasis of calm in the midst of relative chaos brought me much joy and gratitude as I explored my surroundings, as if for the first time, from this quiet centre.

I hadn’t felt this way in a long time. It’s really not a nice feeling to be so disconnected to – to want to escape from – where you live. And strange as it sounds, as I began seeing with new eyes, I felt like my city was responding to me positively in kind.  I have been feeling an underlying and energetic symbiosis in this deepening relationship, and it feels really good. (And, interestingly, my trip to Europe became revived only after I’d come to this place of peace with my surroundings.)

Oh, and the ducks.  Let’s not forget the ducks. 😉

these guys haven't seen the last of me

these guys haven’t seen the last of me

So what happens now?  My friend is back in two days.  I leave for Italy in five weeks, so the next little while will be hugely busy with housesitting/cat-sitting duties (I intend to live rent-free till I’m back!), preparing for my leave at work, and, of course, planning my trip.  Everything seems to be happening on its own momentum and I’m just going with it while doing what needs to be done everyday.   All the while trying not to get too overwhelmed!

It sounds dramatic, but its apt to say that my spring/summer abode has been a godsend.  I had a feeling it would be a powerful stay, but I can’t believe how much has changed in four months.  Actually, I do believe how much has changed, because my desire for change was so strong at that time.  In fact, reading the post I wrote when I first moved in is a little eerie.  In a really cool way.

Maybe it’s good that I’m leaving now, when I am still so in love with the ‘princess pad’ (as my dear friend G likes to call it).  In my heart it will always be the space in which I grew leaps and bounds and really saw the beauty around me, on a very deep level.  And though I am sad to leave, I know that change is inevitable and, more importantly, the desires and realizations I’ve had here are now leading me somewhere else, where they will unfold in a perfectly different way.  Right on schedule.

***

After writing all this, I wonder: is it really about the apartment or the city?  Or were they simply the positive catalysts (and reflections) for the growing love and connection I’m experiencing within?  Hmm…

I’ve asked for change, and change is certainly what I’m getting.  And I’ll tell the universe what I’ve told it many times before:

Bring it on.

musings on blogging

Is anyone else experiencing time flying by at warp speed?  I haven’t blogged in a while, but a niggling internal voice has been reminding me daily…It’s time for your next post!

Actually, I don’t know if ‘niggling’ is the right word.  Blogging has been an awesome addition to my life these past few months. So maybe it’s time to reflect on this wonderful WordPress world, and muse on the questions it’s raised for me.

First: Why does a private person want to share their innermost thoughts so publicly?  I consider myself quite introverted, so it’s interesting that I’m relatively comfortable expressing myself so openly in this forum. Sure, there is some detachment on the web, in that it’s mostly ‘strangers’ reading my words.  But even this is changing as friends and family discover my blog, and strangers become friends. As my worlds merge, I question why I’m not very forthcoming with those supposedly closest to me. Why have I been resistant to them knowing the ‘real’ me?  I guess I can’t hide for much longer!  The word is spreading.

the blog station

the blog station

Inspiration strikes when I’m not near a computer.  And that’s ok. I like to walk.  Everywhere.  And ideas often stream through me during this time.  I’m not one to whip out my iPhone to take notes (it majorly interrupts my flow), so I’ve come to enjoy the feeling of being inspired, and allowing it to imprint upon me…trusting that I can tap into it when needed.  When I stress about losing ideas, it introduces resistance to the whole blogging process. And then it becomes less enjoyable for me.

Blogging makes me accountable.  But not too accountable. There’s something about declaring your hopes and dreams to the entire world that makes them more real.  This is a great motivator, but also requires patience and compassion for myself.  If I change my mind, or don’t follow through with something I write, it’s okay. Things are always in flux and, especially as I refine and tweak my desires, I must allow myself that flexibility.

Redefining blogging etiquette.  For example, how often should I blog?  There are lots of great blogging resources out there, many of which stress the importance of regular, frequent posting.  But I need to develop my own protocol (i.e., one with no rules).  Some weeks, the inspiration flows mightily and I have so many ideas I can barely keep up. Other times – I got nothing.  I know this is pretty common amongst bloggers…but I personally don’t have a stockpile of posts ready to draw on when my writing well runs dry (as the experts recommend)!

But there are dry spells, and there’s procrastination.  Even when I have a great idea in mind, and time to write, I’ll sit on it.  Why?  The possibility – the potential – that something amazing is within me is sometimes more preferable than attempting to articulate it, and not properly capturing its essence.    In other words, it’s the fear of failure – a pattern I see operating in other areas of my life.  Thankfully, this tendency is shifting as I shine more light on it (with some help from Abraham-Hicks, of course).  But it prompts me to ask:

Who am I writing for?  I started this blog as an avenue of self-expression.  I’m happy others have discovered, and found resonance with, my words.  But at times I’m very aware that others are reading.  And I have to remind myself of the primary reason for my writing: to authentically express myself.  Not to write what I think will make me likable, not to gain stats, not to make sure the post is the ‘right’ number of words so as to not deter readers.

this has nothing to do with this post; i'm just obsessed with taking pictures of ducks

this has nothing to do with this post; i’m just obsessed with taking pictures of ducks

I sometimes view blogging as a conversation between me and my higher self (something I read on another blog), which has its own value on my journey of self-discovery and speaking my truth.  As soon as I stray from authenticity – when I slip into ego, when I make it about others and not me – I’m not in integrity and alignment.

And yet – it is undeniable that the interaction with others is what makes blogging so great!  Which brings me to…

Why I am I doing this?  Quite simply, because it feels good. And it’s fun.  After years of over-analyzing/processing/questioning, and generally feeling very stuck, I’m learning that life is about cultivating more fun, joy, and lightness whenever and wherever I can.  And when I focus on all the amazing people I’ve ‘met’ all over the world, and the ideas that have been generated and shared, I see blogging as one creative means for achieving these positive states.

***

I imagine Earth as a globe with little points of light everywhere, more being lit every second, with like-minded bloggers connecting and networking and charging up the whole planet.

Consciousness is exciting.  Writing is exciting.  Connection is exciting.  Self-expression is exciting!

I’m so glad I took the plunge and wrote that first post (almost) six months ago.

Thank you for reading!

re-wiring my connectivity

I would love to be one of those people who really doesn’t care what others think.

Take my sister, for example.  It never ceases to amaze me how two siblings, from the exact same parents, can be so totally different.  She is three years older than me and, for the most part, has never cared what others think. (I’m sure she has her moments, but I’m speaking generally.)  She seems to have been born with a strong sense of self, a core knowing of who she is.

I, on the other hand, have been the ‘softie’ of the family. Permeable boundaries, super sensitive, feeling what others felt – whether I wanted to or not.

Our familial roles can cement early in life, and we often play the part well into adulthood, unquestioningly accepting it as who we ‘are’.

All this is on my mind as we sisters, in a rare double appearance, recently attended a large family gathering.  In fly-on-the-wall mode, I watched our respective interactions with family members.  I felt the little girl inside me surface: afraid of hurting or offending others, viewing them as authority figures, and worrying about how they perceived her. My sister, on the other hand, seemed completely unperturbed by anything around her.

This makes me wonder: is it really possible to stop caring what other people think of us, if we’ve cared for most of our lives?

My answer to that is Yes.  We are capable of any change and transformation we desire.  But when we’ve trained our system to respond a certain way for so long, it may require more than a mental decision to just ‘stop caring’.

On a subtle level I feel many little wires and threads connecting me to others.  This has affected my ability in the past to make clear, self-authoritative life decisions.  And while the thought of severing these ties gives me great freedom, it’s also unfamiliar.  What does it feel like to make decisions completely independent of the thoughts and opinions of others?

It feels like trusting myself.

Of course.  It has nothing to do with other people.  It’s all about my relationship with myself.  When I’m good with myself, when I’m clear with myself, when I’m solid with myself…what others think doesn’t even factor in.  There is no need to seek external validation or distraction. My energy is directed within.  And it feels good. Genuinely, authentically good.

But do I want to disconnect completely?  I am wired to feel, and though this might include others’ pain or discomfort, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That is empathy, a quality I consider very important.

This is the art of fine-tuning my feelers: knowing which connections strengthen and serve me (and others), and which drain and fragment.

So perhaps this isn’t so much an issue of caring what people think, as becoming more aware of who and what I attune to.  This requires being clear on my own truth.  The discovery of that truth is a priority.  When I really know it, it doesn’t waver in the presence of others’ truths.

So how do I do this?

By stopping.  Getting still.  Breathing.  Moving all that energy circulating in my head down through my solar plexus, and letting it build there.  Creating a new home and sanctuary.  A sturdy place for truth to rest.  Letting that knowledge take the reins.

The true place of power is in my gut.

It overrides the ego’s investment in what others think. Ego wants to look good, to be in control.  It wants to please people, and seeks their validation and approval. (Often resenting them at the same time.)

Maybe my sister was born with a strong third chakra. Perhaps my Piscean sun set me up to be a feeler.  A million theories could explain our differences, but it’s irrelevant.  The question is, how would I like to live now?  What traits in my sister inspire me to cultivate similar traits in myself?

Self-trust.  Turning to my own inner guidance first and foremost.  This doesn’t mean switching off from others.  It means unplugging some of those wires, and connecting them inward, to my source, to my greatest knowing.  This is where my power is recharged and replenished, and from where I serve life in full integrity and alignment.