On your life’s report card, are you seeking all A’s? Do you spiral downwards when you run into a C? Or worse, a failing grade? Are you after the highest praise for the efforts you put in?
If so, pull up a chair.
I’ve been that girl. It’s got to be all A’s or nothing. Up until now, that is. Because I’ve finally decided that mediocrity is not the end of the world. (Quite frankly, neither is outright total suckage.)
Case in point: I had the opportunity to better understand how my brain works when I attended an experiential leadership program in Wales this past March. I was thrown into five days of crazy-intense projects, each one becoming increasingly more complex than the last. It became clear mid-week that when under stress, Sam was incapable of digesting large volumes of technical information. Nope. Gross. In the words of Alexis Rose, “Ewwww, David!”
So, I melted into a puddle of tears when my desire to perform was met with my inability to function under those conditions. I also knew my performance hurt the team; talk about a humbling moment for the ego!
Despite the epic failure that was the task I led, understanding my weaknesses, and my zero interest in trying to learn how to be more technically savvy was a victory. I finally got it! Light-bulb moment… Sam Plavins’ brain is not optimally wired for this kind of thinking! Nor does she need it to be!
As long as we’re human, we’re going to suck at many things.
Some of them will be due to the effort we put in; maybe we underestimate what’s involved. (Low effort usually yields a low result, unless you’re exceptionally skilled in that area and can execute a win when seemingly asleep at the wheel!) While some paltry grades stem from a complete lack of interest. I mean, if you asked me to spend an afternoon in your basement putting together Ikea furniture, there’d have to be some killer prize at the end of that madness for me to say yes. Because nuts, bolts, screws, diagrams — not my thing! (Note: I really enjoy Salt & Vinegar Pringles paired with a nice Cabarnet and will feel your Ikea pain right alongside you if these snacks are are involved.)
But like my belly-flop at the Leadership Trust, we also net poor results when we’re put into a situation to perform and we just don’t have the skills to pull the thing off. Period.
So the question becomes: does it matter? Do we care? We don’t need to be good at everything. I’ve given up in the culinary department… myself, my family, friends — we all just accept that Sam’s idea of an appetizer is to crack open a bag of Tostitos, dump it in a chip bowl, pour some salsa on the side and voilà. Hospitality at its finest! There’s no point in me boo-hooing about this, because it’s just not in my wheelhouse as a skill, nor do I need to be tearing my hair out to whip up something more impressive. (Agreed. That is a very low bar I’ve set there.)
I could try harder. Yup. And I have. But I will always be that girl who shows up to the party with a store-bought container of mini cupcakes. Why fight it? Now, if you need someone to write and perform a Sam-style rap à-la Will Smith’s Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It? THAT I can do. And you’ll probably love it.
I’m learning that my efforts can also exist without fear of analysis. Without concern for the toughest critics. Even without achieving the highest possible outcome. I’m finally understanding that sometimes mediocrity is the best you’re going to get when simultaneously meeting the needs of the people who rely on you. And sometimes, you’re knowingly limping along. (Hello, Covid-19 fatigue anyone?)
Human beings are born with free will and this means we can choose. How much meaning we assign to something is fully up to us. We need to work on giving up this idea of a constant stellar performance. It’s far too much pressure, and we do it to ourselves.
So I’m gonna take my half-baked, half-assed efforts, marry them with my best foot forward and let the chips fall where they may. I already know I’m worthy. Someone once told me that God doesn’t make mistakes. We are all here for a reason.
Let’s ditch the A-only mentality. It’s killing us! It’s not sustainable. It’s not real. What matters most is our truth and the pursuit of it. If that truth equals a weekend of chocolate binging and general lying around, then let it. If it equals a weekend of hustling and getting your shit done, then so be it.
On January 17th, 2020, I lugged the last remaining boxes from my office and sat in my frozen car, stunned at what had come to fruition. The “be careful what you wish for” adage poked me in my tear-filled eyes. I didn’t even try to hold them back… Months of stiff-upper-lipping-it meant the floodgates were now safe to open. Whoosh!
No more client meetings. No more financial plans to construct. No more market-fluctuation counseling sessions. No more proving I had a client’s best interest at heart. No more rigorous compliance audits. No more feeling like an imposter. And, I hoped, no more stomach-aches.
It had been a ten-year financial slog to re-acquire my client base in exchange for majority share ownership in the family business. And that decade of payments ended the day I chose to exit stage left. The “house”—if you will—was finally paid for. But it was too late. I was done.
Guys, who does this?! I mean, who puts in all that time and abandons the rewards right when they’re finally accessible?
Apparently, I do! As the reality of my situation took hold, I continued to sit in the car like a statue, staring at the door I would never walk through again at will. I had surrendered my key, my clients, and my livelihood. At forty-six years old, I walked away from that little goldmine.
Some thought I had gone completely bonkers—a midlife crisis unfolding before their curious eyes. “Don’t you still have bills to pay?” “The girls are so young!” “You’re throwing away sixteen years!” But my reasons for leaving will become clear as I outline a few life lessons I’m taking with me on my new path. Most of these insights have come directly from helping my clients.
Lesson #1: Life is short.
Insert eye-rolling, and yawn! Yes, we all know this. But do we really?
The gift of life is a miracle. That you exist defies all odds—about 1 in 400 trillion, according to Google. While you let that sink in, know that your life also matters. Greatly. And whether you feel the magnitude of that statement yet is immaterial. One day it’ll tap you on the shoulder when you least expect it.
You were put on this earth to have an impact that only you can have. Because, there is no other you.
But what if I told you that vast potential could all be wiped away in one catastrophic, single-engine plane crash? You might say, “Nah, I don’t make it a habit of getting in those things!” Or that you’d soon find out you have an inoperable tumor that will rob you of the chance to see your daughter walk down the aisle next year? “Dude. I’m a vegetarian with no family history of Cancer, so stop with the Debbie Downer sh*t.”
If this sounds dramatic, I get it. Realistically, we all face life and death at any given moment. The above are the kinds of situations I dealt with all the time in my practice… Walloping, unexpected curveballs that changed everything.
None of us has sorted out the business of living forever. (Except maybe that Wolverine guy. My twelve-year-old says he kicks ass at immortality!) Yet, some bank on the illusion that if we work tirelessly now, we’ll get to enjoy the good times down the road. You know, like, in retirement.
This is fool’s thinking!
My clients showed me the fragility of life. The idea that tomorrow is promised has set us up to live as though we’re in rehearsal, just practicing for the grand event that will eventually be our life. It plays into the “I’ll be happy when” mantra, where we chase an elusive carrot on an ever-turning treadmill. (Only to find we’re going nowhere but around in circles.) We magically expect that once we hit that golden age of retirement, we’ll have made it! Phew! Now, I can really live!
One time, I delivered a life insurance cheque to a young widow whose husband was taken from her at the precise moment she was on the phone with him. Can you even imagine? His truck literally exploded while they shared a routine conversation. Thanks to this level of extreme perspective, I’ve come to a place where I’m not interested in practicing at life.
I’m going to live it. Every day, and on my terms. Not on the assumption that tomorrow will stick around and wait for me. Note: even in saying this, I recognize the privilege and know that many people are just trying to survive, let alone thrive.
Life Lesson #2: You can’t take it with you.
Some of my clients had more money than they could spend in three lifetimes, but they wouldn’t spend any. The truth is, it gave them a sense of security. Most of these people grew up in a time of austerity or came from parents who served in one of the World Wars. They fought hard for every nickel, and their values around money were simple: accumulate and save. I’m not judging, and I understand where the mentality comes from.
But added to this was often a desire to leave a legacy to their children and grandchildren. “When I die, I want to leave all this to the kids.” I found it fascinating that these clients were sacrificing so much of themselves, even though they didn’t see it that way. I always believed that money doesn’t mean anything until you trade it for something. Their altruism for the future generation touched me.
It also bewildered me. I wondered if there wasn’t an opportunity to impact their next-gen-kin while these folks were still young and impressionable? Parcel out bits of that nest egg and play a role in teaching them how to handle money? Or, relieve some of their financial pressure while they duke it out with education, finding jobs, and getting established. It’s not easy being twenty-something today.
And yet, forget that! What about spending some of it on yourself? Get out there and make a bucket load of memories with the people you love! Put it into the world and watch it come back ten-fold, especially when it’s invested in more than just funds. Which brings me to my next life lesson…
Life Lesson #3: Diversify your investment portfolio. Make deposits into your Memory Bank. These will pay dividends that can last a lifetime.
I confess I had a slightly unconventional style when it came to dispensing advice in my financial practice. Sure, I subscribed to the importance of shoring up risk and planning for tomorrow. (None of us wants to eat cat food in retirement!) But you’d never hear me tell a client not to take that trip with their kids just so they could max out retirement contributions.
Screw. That. Noise.
Investing is an interesting phenomenon. You dump the energy you’ve earned (that’s money) into something you hope will make it grow. There’s a headache of upfront homework required, including assessing your risk tolerance, understanding what it is you’re investing in, and then paying attention along the way through the ups and downs of market performance. It takes discipline and patience.
What I think we can all agree on is the end-goal of our investing: to make money on our money. (Let’s not split hairs about feeling good for supporting young entrepreneurs and other social enterprise start-ups. This isn’t about that.)
But what about investing in your Memory Bank? Is that even a thing? Because if it is, boy does it sound hokey!
Guys, it’s a real thing. Four years ago, my husband and I came into a bit of money, giving us the privileged opportunity to get thoughtful about what we should do with it. The options were endless— including, but not limited to, fixing our roof (not sexy), topping up our girls’ education funds (boring), or paring our lives down to one backpack each and hitting the road for a South American adventure. Winner, winner; chicken dinner!
We called ourselves The Traveling Gong Show, because, quite frankly, we were a disaster at the best of times. A family of four: set to bicker and bumble their way through Ecuador and Peru! Our only goals? Slow our lives down, bond hard with the kids, and show them a piece of the world that offers a new cultural perspective. (They were thirteen and eight at the time.) Again, peeps thought we were a little crazy—“Wait, you’re going to be on a bus for fifty-two hours? Are you nuts?!”—but that didn’t stop us.
I’ll admit that we even wound up taking on a bit of debt by the time the three months were up. See, when you don’t work there’s no income (go figure), and, we didn’t know if we’d ever have another chance like this, so we embraced as many opportunities within reasonable proximity as we could.
But the money spent was a fair trade-off for all the memories we made… Hiking the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu. Dune-buggying in the Peruvian desert. Swimming with sharks in the Galapagos. These investments were far more epic than reading the Fund Facts for a medium-risk growth portfolio! And while it’s true we short-changed an opportunity to save more for their educational future, we actually wound up shaping their lives in ways I couldn’t have dreamed possible.
Thanks to this experience, my eldest daughter’s goals for her future now include how she could make a difference on a global scale for some of the inequities in the world. Who knew that our bebopping around on a shoestring adventure would inform her budding ideology about life, culture, and social responsibility?
Life Lesson #4: A career you don’t like—but one that offers a great pension plan—could equal years of misery.
I counseled dozens of clients who were hanging on by a loosely woven thread at their jobs. They were miserable, but the carrot at the end of the treadmill was a guaranteed pension. And that does count for something. A lot, these days, in fact.
As far as lessons go, this one is sensitive. Job security is important. Planning for our futures and self-reliance is important. But churning out eight to twelve hours a day, five to seven days a week at something that kills your soul is not a fair trade for a future life that isn’t guaranteed. At least, not in this girl’s honest opinion.
Even as I type this, I can think of a number of people I know who are virtually miserable in their places of employment, but they’re banking on that guaranteed pension once they hit the age-factor of retirement.
And I can speak with some authority on this. These pensions are called Defined Benefit plans. The employer takes on all risk and future income is a combination of years of service, your top five years of earnings, and their own market investment performance. You just have to show up and work. Every day. Until you hit that magic number.
But pensions like this are concerningly underfunded today, and thus going the way of the dodo bird. People who have access to them (usually those in some sort of civil service) are told over and over how blessed they are.
And, they are.
Only, guess what? If you are literally TOILING and only living for tomorrow, you’re not really living now, are you? I know some people in this situation. Fabulous skills. Talent wasted in a job they loathe, but it offers them a better financial tomorrow than they could likely get anywhere else. So, it’s the age-old today, or tomorrow?
Look, I’m not here to convince you to leave your job. That’s not it. I do believe in challenging the status quo, however. And I believe in remembering that today matters. Today deserves a shot.
Speaking for myself, after sixteen years as a financial advisor, I could have easily stayed in the career and metaphorically cleaned up. Most established practitioners do extremely well if they have the stick-to-it-iveness for the long game.
But the trade-off of all this future money, for me, was control. So much of what I thought, valued, and wanted to pursue in my personal life was distilled down to regulatory policies of what was and was not acceptable. And I’m all for regulation –geez, there are crooks and *ssholes out there! The honest guy pays a price, however. Incessant scrutiny. A feeling of Big Brother watching you. It all became a little too much for my free-spirited, ethical self.
And? There was something else, too. Which leads conveniently into my final life lesson for today.
Life Lesson #5: Being true to yourself is critical to (genuine) happiness.
I consider my time as a financial advisor a massive blessing, but it began to feel disingenuous with my soul. I had poured myself into the career through my thirties and early forties, but along the way lost a bit of who I really was.
There is a much bigger problem at play when you feel like a square peg in a round hole. It can manifest physically, showing up in the form of stomach aches and a chronically watering left eye. (Had this for two years). It’s also a quiet erosion of your spirit—but this is only noticeable when you step completely away from your situation.
Thankfully, I decided to do something about the growing unease I felt in an industry that had been mostly good to me. Once again, I distilled my belongings down to a backpack and set out on a pilgrimage to gain some clarity.
For thirty-three days, I put one foot in front of another, following the famed Camino de Santiago trail in Spain, walking a total of 800 km. With each step, I tuned closer into the frequency of my soul, until it was no longer garbled static, but a loud, booming voice: Samantha! You need to make a change in your life! This career is killing you!
What I discovered was that being true to myself was vital to my growth, my purpose, and the peace I craved. I didn’t want to waste another moment not being the woman I had found on that trail.
So, what now? There’s a pandemic—cue another curveball—and mass global uncertainty. But I’m choosing to plug away at a new dream, one fueled by passion, not wealth. I remain grateful for all of life’s blessings, and even the struggles. For they have taught me that chasing money and status does not ultimately fill a person’s happiness bucket. And that’s gold to me.
This post was originally published on tinybuddha.com on Sept 2nd 2020. You can find the original piece here
Excuse me, I seem to have lost my sh**. Have you seen it anywhere?
I’m guessing the three wooden engine boxes my husband stuffed in the boot of my car could be classified as casualties? Yesterday, I hurled them clean across the driveway, praying they’d shatter. They did not. And this disastrous outcome kicked my grown-ass tantrum into a whole new orbit. Indignant, I slammed the car door, cranked the tunes and gunned it to Safeway. Because, doesn’t everybody decide to go grocery shopping in the midst of losing their sh**?
By the time I pulled into the parking lot, I had done little to calm myself down. I decided to just go with it and let the voice in my head have top billing at this pitiful sideshow.
Damn those kids. Damn the constant, bloody mess in the house. Damn the folded laundry, still sitting at the bottom of the stairs. Damn the clusterf*** dishwasher that’s never emptied. Who are the assholes that fill it up with pots? F*** the chronic lollygagging of the pandemic. F*** my period that no longer shows up in a timely fashion. F*** the four jars of empty peanut butter in the pantry. F*** the dog who refuses a walk unless it’s me! F*** me for procrastinating on the school supplies. AND … F*** me for not having the foresight to realize I don’t have the patience to be at home 24/7!
It was then that I started to sob. I had crossed into frightening territory some ten minutes earlier, screeching at the top of my lungs to the ungrateful hoodlums — I mean precious children — that take up residence in our humble abode. I was still shaking from the volume I’d been able to drum up. Here is a friendlier version of my meltdown:
“I am done catering to you people! Get off your duffs! Get off your devices, NOW! I want a list of all the ways you’ll be contributing to this household, and you’re gonna present it to me in the next ten minutes! MOVE!! MOVE!!! MOVE!!!!”
Sh** lost. Shrapnel all over the place. But I couldn’t tell if that volcanic eruption ought to be deemed a relief? Like, I just needed to release some pent-up steam? Or was it actually more a warning sign… and peeps best be taking cover for the REALLY BIG BLOW UP. Be ready, be very ready.
Look, I know I’m not the first to lose her sh**.
But what I hate the most, is (a) admitting that I reverted to my six-year old self (b) knowing my eldest took me on a fishing expedition and I instantly fell for her bait and (c) realizing my kids have seen me lose complete control. I’m sure they wondered what in the Sam H-E-L-L was happening while their mother yanked these unfamiliar crates from the car and launched them into our hedge. Note: if you’re wondering why said engine boxes were in my car, that’s another triggering story involving my husband, some ideas he has, his obsession with picking up random things, storing them in our garage and “one day” upcycling them.
Here’s the deal. My social working friends have informed me that kids don’t feel safe when parents become dysregulated. (Excellent. Mine will be in therapy for years!) So what am I going to do about this sh** that I seem to have lost?
I’ve decided my only course of action is to forgive myself.
That’s right, I’m conjuring up some good ol’ fashioned mercy on this middle-aged Mama. She doesn’t deserve to beat herself up any more than she already does. Because it takes time to transition from one world to the next. And this one has had a decent amount of weirdness to stickhandle.
My old world was regulated, controlled, and stuffed to the brim with structure. I’d leave the house at 8:30 and get home circa 6:30 or later. I’d walk through the door feeling depleted from the grind, but grateful to be back in my safe haven of comfort. HOME. There’d be a wiggling bum waiting to greet me (please know this is the sheepdog, and not my hubby). The kids would seem reasonably pleased at my arrival and may even get off their devices long enough to come give me a hug. But if I’m being honest, even back then I belly-ached about the same overriding theme.
And that would be, never enough hours in the day to complete all the competing priorities, or at best to execute them above the bar of half-ass. To combat this, I used to employ the strategy of squeezing seven minutes out of every five whenever I could. (That got me nowhere but a reputation for always being late, so don’t get any good ideas here!)
But this new world is a definite contrast, over which the pandemic has layered a cutesy little twist. Read: horrifying, annoying, get these dang kids back to some sort of routine. STAT! There’s been zero structure. Only chaos, and confusion. As much as I try to plan my day, there’s no getting around the blurred lines of home and work life when your office is in a bedroom. The constant niggling of all the things left undone in the house scratch at my desire to be that GOOD MOM. That GOOD WIFE.
It’s not that I’m trying to emulate perfection. More, that I aim to please. And I see this renaissance of motherhood as a wonderful opportunity for me to serve. To really be there for my kids. Granted, they’re not wee ones anymore. At 12 and 17, they’re completely self-sufficient-ish. But I’m aware the clock is ticking. One day these sweet girls will have flown the nest. That day is coming soon, and part of my goal in starting over was to try and strike a balance so I could participate more fully in their young lives. While I can.
It seems, though, that I haven’t been functioning optimally under these current conditions. I’ve been feeling inadequate as a mom when I need to focus on my new business. And sucky as an entrepreneur, when I settle into the worry that my 12-year old is entering hermit-like status. (She’s barely ventured out of her room this summer.)
I need to be better. To try and level up. The corporate world and I have had a divorce and this IS my new reality. I’m open to all suggestions! So many of us are facing these same blurred lines, where working from home can SOUND like a dream, at first. And then I wonder why I can’t be more like those *other people*, who seem to be THRIVING at home. With commuting shelved, they’ve got the freed up time to sit in peace. To just chill with a ham sandwich on their back deck in between all that Zooming.
To end this tale of sh** losing, there’s one other thing I lost yesterday. I realized it only after heading into the grocery store, and mid reaching for the laundry detergent. It occurred to me that I didn’t have my wallet.
I may have stomped my feet in the center of Aisle 4. REALLY?
Today is a new day.
So I’m starting with a clean slate. It’s the girls’ first day back to school. It was with mixed emotions I sent them off. Where have the years gone? My eldest finishes high school and my baby has entered middle school. And while I can’t change yesterday’s shenanigans, I can try to be a little kinder to myself. The rogue engine boxes have been neatly stored in the garage for “some day” and looking around, it seems I’ve got most of my sh** together. I’ve a roof over my head. People that love me. My good health.
When Danielle closed her eyes and began to shuffle the deck with the oddest combination of care and confidence, I knew I was in for something special. She had warned me that it might feel weird to watch her, but instead I found myself drawn into a mystical, inviting kind of energy. I could feel the anticipation building. (This stuff is definitely my jam!) And then a card fell on the floor.
Without opening her eyes, she reached for it and informed me that “THIS one has a message the universe is screaming for you to receive.” Alrighty then! I could hardly wait to hear what critical communication lay before me, as our session began at her coffee table in the forested mountains of Squamish, B.C.
To rehash where I’m at, you may recall I’ve been working towards launching a new business, having ditched the financial advisor role this past January. And when it comes to what the frick I’m doing with my life, I’ve been an outward hodge-podge of both evasiveness and openness. This is mostly due to a bundle of insecurities. I consciously try my best to keep them at bay but we all know it’s not easy.
Well, I’ve never had more time than the last week to practise speaking out about my new business, She Walks the Walk. See, I dragged the kids on a cross-country roadtrip to the West Coast of Canada. Our idea was to get the hell out of dodge and immerse ourselves in quality, outdoor time with my sister and her family. They live in the most epic of towns — Squamish — in the most beautiful of provinces — B.C. If I could teletransport my friends and parents, along with my kids’ friend circles here, I’d move tomorrow. Mountains… ocean… the largest, lushest forests I’ve ever seen. It’s literal nirvana for an outdoor gal like me.
Anyhoo, while out here, I’ve been introduced to some phenomenal women. They’re all friends with my sister, so by default I already knew they’d be cool (and, that quite possibly, I’d NOT be cool enough). By the grace of my exposed silvery hairline and worn-in hiking shoes, it seems I’ve been accepted into her posse. And of course what always comes up is, “So, Sam, what do you do?” Insert a tic-like response to reach for that glass of wine accompanied by a flush of red creeping up my neck.
I promise I’m getting to the Tarot reading. Taking a bit of a detour for context.
One particular occasion for practising my new spiel arrived during an e-bike adventure with some two dozen other women (socially distanced, don’t get your knickers in a knot). It was an annual, dual birthday thing that my sister never misses, modified due to Covid. The whole lot of us made our way through winding roads and pedestrian bridges to get to Fergie’s, where tables awaited us out back, all spaced apart and complete with river and mountain views surrounding us.
My sister and I wound up at a table with these two awesome ladies, Cassandra and Johanna. Apart from my fascination with both these women having a history of dating Olympians, they also blew me away by seeming super into the dealio of my new biz. (Note the continued shameful vaguary, now a deliberate strategy so I can do the whole LAUNCH thing with a bang. I’m hoping.)
Nearing the end of the evening, we all gathered into spread out groups down by the river bank. Someone MacGyver’d a fire and the conversations continued well past sunset. By then I had run out of steam about my new gig. In fact, I was so daunted by the amazingness of these ladies — firefighters, physiotherapists, pilots, Crossfit champions, an actual spy and general all-round Bad Ass Babes of the Outdoors — I began to crumble inside my slightly dressy romper. (It also screamed, *trying too hard*.)
So, Tash — my sister — took over the role as PR manager and continued to trumpet my She Walks the Walk offer, while I stood by feeling like a noob for getting overly liquored up with just two glasses of wine and a margarita. I became a wordless sloth, if you can imagine such a creature.
I should tell you that we did e-bike back to my sister’s place. In the dark. With nary a reflective piece of clothing on either of us. Did I mention we were half tanked? Fully, maybe? And no lights on our rented bikes. Yeah… I know. I don’t endorse this sort of reckless behaviour! Yet we rolled back in after 10 k’s on that dark and daunting road and both proclaimed, “But did we die?” (The new theme of my West Coast adventure.)
With all that practise explaining my new business, you’d think I’d then be brimming with confidence and vigour! Ummm, not really. In fact, my very real anxiety over “what will people think” and “this isn’t even a thing” lingered with me for the following few days.
That is, until I met Danielle.
You can now all congratulate me for finally getting to the damn point.
Danielle is a kindred spirit my sister introduced me to. She’s also an inspiring, warrior woman who had the courage to change her life when she realized it was no longer making her happy. And possibly hurting her health. (It’s worth noting that a difficult decision like this is compounded when you succeed at your craft so brilliantly, which she did in spades.) You should check out her website to get a flavour for the talent this woman has. She’s been entrenched in the male-dominated industry of bike racing for years, specifically working for the illustrious B.C. Bike, where she travelled all over the globe, photographing athletes, scouting locations, taking on PR and marketing a sport she revered.
But some tragedies happened in her life — namely, the passing of her father, among others — and instead of giving herself the grace to grieve, she continued to grind harder on her chosen career path. Well, burn-out arrived with a bang, and she knew it was time to make a drastic pivot. So Danielle left the under-appreciated role she had carved out for herself in the bike industry and decided to be a kinder, gentler version of herself. This included getting back to some of her roots, which had previously involved Chakra/Tarot readings. Her specific gift honed in on our current physical, spiritual, emotional and mental health. I want to mention that at one point, she abandoned this gift in favour of trying to fit the mould of a ‘normal women,’ whatever that is, lol. She’s now embracing her own brand of ‘weirdness’ (her words) and in my opinion, has nailed it.
Needless to say, as I watched her lay the cards out before me, I felt I was in the presence of someone who genuinely gave a shit about me, the words she chose in communicating the reading and the ensuing feelings it may evoke.
Is it fate or just random? Are our souls meant to do certain work?
At the explanation of the first card, I found myself welling up inexplicably. Apparently, my Root Chakra — the earth energy associated with the feeling of safety and grounding — is embedded in “The Hanged Man.” Danielle interpreted this to mean I was on the cusp of moving into new perspectives but needing to fully surrender. That I’d come to see things in a new light. The Hanged Man (depicted beautifully by a bat just chilling in his upside down mode) suggests a choice in the matter. He is not struggling with being upside down, but rather is there because he wants to be. This is a Major Arcana card, which suggests an element of fate in the matter. That I was perhaps destined to come to this place of being upside down, and seeing my world through a new lens. I couldn’t help but think of all that I’d gone through to come to the place of peace in deciding to turn my life on its head and leave my career.
And then she moved onto the Sakral Chakra, that area within that shifts from us obeying tribal, familial authority and allows us to discover satisfying interests of our own. Enter, the “World Card”… as Danielle explained, it is though the literal world is at my feet. I thought about this in the context of my new business and began to sit in a feeling of both peace and excitement. Not knowing anything about Tarot, this is the last of the Major Arcana cards, which, again, means our deepest soul work. In other words, she told me that even if I would not have left my career, I was somehow destined to do this upcoming new work. That its been part of my soul’s journey all along. And that I should trust in that knowledge.
As we worked our way through the other Chakras, Danielle seemed unfazed by what she had pulled from the deck. Prior to meeting with her, she and I had had a Zoom call where we chatted in depth about our kindred reinvention stories. Though she had the gist of what I’d decided to do with my life, and what my motivations were, she certainly didn’t know everything. And yet there we were, engaged in this beautiful dance of seeker and seer.
At the risk of boring you, I’m not going to go through each card — because, who cares, right?! The whole point of this post is to contrast two themes that kept coming up for me in each of the cards. Because these are likely the same themes that play out in your own lives. Every day.
The Yin and Yang of Fear vs Faith
She told me that while my fear was definitely a thing (namely, some scarcity fears, and worrying about what others think), I was blessed with a solid grounding of faith. There is a presence with me (Son of Pentacles card), guiding me and protecting me. Is it God? Is it a guardian angel? Maybe both? As we moved through each Chakra I couldn’t help but think of the role that both of these forces play in our lives.
Look, fear serves a legit purpose. We are literally hardwired to spot the danger lurking in the bushes… that thing that could jump out and eat us. Oh look! A saber-tooth tiger! I think I’ll just hide out here for awhile. We needed this survival mechanism to keep us alive. But as evolution progressed, our fear has turned into this heavy security blanket that often keeps us from progressing. It’s become the thing that leaves us stuck. Uh-oh, I’m sensing a Mike Wrenshall baseball analogy — wait for it… and, thank you Dad!
We hesitate to steal second base. Will we get caught out? Will we let the team down? What if it’s the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs already? So we just stay on first base. Waiting to see when conditions might be right for us to take that step.
The thing about waiting for conditions to be right, is that you might wait around forever. But what if you believed that no matter what decision you made, everything works out in the end anyways? Isn’t this what faith is? That idea that we are always going to be ok? Could we come to peace in knowing that any step forward would lead us to the place we’re supposed to be? Even if it turns out to be a big fat bust, it might just be the lesson we needed to learn. The one that takes us to another place. An even greater one.
We don’t have the map. But we do have the compass.
Since walking the Camino, I’ve viewed my faith as an old-fashioned compass that keeps pushing me forward on the path that is unknown. There have been days where I’ve felt lost and panicked — choked by things I have zero control over (hello, pandemic??!). These are the moments I long to have a map in my hands. Something that could show me the entire picture — you know? That place where X marks the spot, and the fastest, most accurate path to get to the treasure! But where would the fun in that be? And the fact is, as much as we try to predict the future, life has shown us that we’re not in charge and we can’t always know.
So, in the absence of that map, I’m learning to listen to the whispers in my soul. They’re my own personal compass. And I’m starting to trust that they know what’s best for me.
Where will your faith lead you?
Danielle ended our session at the Crown Chakra, where the Major Arcana (soul card) of ‘Wheel of Fortune’ turned up. She explained to me that this card is about risk and timing. On the wheel of fortune, we can all have that moment at the top of the wheel, feeling lucky and abundant, but we can just as easily be on the bottom — one of the unlucky. The trick is to detach and see every part of the wheel, or each risk that we take, as our chance to be true to ourselves. We must not compare our spot on the wheel with anyone else. We must know that everything is always going to be alright. In this space, we can claim our own divinity.
I left her house feeling invigorated. Validated. Full of hope. I received her words and messages with my whole heart. And I desperately wanted to pay her (she refused payment). At my insistence, she offered me the chance to make a donation to a friend who at 28, is struggling through very costly Cancer treatments. Perhaps I could donate to her.
A gift comes full circle.
Of course I donated, but it didn’t feel like enough. I had to do something more. Something profound, to show this remarkable woman what a gift she had given me: a literal stranger basically told me I’m meant to do this new work. That I should trust myself. That I’ll be supported along the way.
The only thing I could think of was to give her something that meant the absolute world to me. Perhaps if I gave her that, and if she understood the meaning behind it, she’d then know how grateful I was. So before I left B.C., I looked down at my wrist. I’d been wearing the most special bracelet since arriving in Santiago on June 1st, 2019. It was given to me by one of the most special people I know. Her name is Karina. Our paths crossed entirely by fate along the Camino in a tiny town on day 10. We wound up walking most of the Camino together, united in our wonder over all the miracles and beauty we’d been seeing along the way. Here she is below. The most joyful, giving, enlightened, crazy-beautiful spirit I know.
The bracelet came in this envelope, and was meant to remind me to always follow my intuition.
I’d never taken the thing off. It was dirty and slightly tattered. But full of so much collective meaning, from all that we’d endured together in finishing our personal Camino journeys. I questioned whether or not such a gift would resonate. And whether or not I would hurt Karina in letting it go.
But as fate would once again have it, this decision became a no-brainer when Danielle told me, unprovoked, that her good friend had just called to download the terrible news of catching her husband cheating. And that she and her friend would boldly walk the Camino together as soon as the world resumed some semblance of normal. Well, if she was going to walk that same journey of healing and epiphanies with her dear friend, I wanted her to have something sacred to take along with her. So, I paid it forward.
What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim
As our paths parted, Danielle and I exchanged Instagram handles. In perusing my curated collection of posts, she saw one of the books I had read pre-Camino. I guess I was so effusive about it, that it became its own Instagram post. Who knew that one day, this book title would come to have a literal meaning in my life.
It’s no accident that I met Danielle. There will be more on this to share later. In the meantime, I encourage you — no, I IMPLORE you — to seek out the moments when you can choose faith over fear. You just don’t know what riches lay on the other side, unless you take that step out into the unknown.
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