I held the earrings in my hand and turned them over and over. They were only $25, but I’d no intention of buying anything and was just there to keep my mom company. We’ve been trying to fill her interminably long days. It’s still hard without my dad. But maybe a local craft show would pick her up.
The TEA TIME MOSAICS table oozed delight. And that’s not a word I throw around casually! It took a beat, but soon I understood this artist’s modus operandi: handcrafted jewellery from broken dishes. Now this is something I could really get behind! (And God knows my clumsy self could donate to her cause: ask me about my infamous ‘Breakage List’ from my early serving days…)
I studied the pair in my hands; it’s rare to find china with ivy. You see lots of pine combs and twirly flourishes, but these little chunks were special. A finely-woven gold hoop offset the dangly earrings. “But will I actually wear them?” I thought to myself.
For some reason, I then asked the woman if this was her full-time gig. She replied, “it is, and it isn’t.” She’s hoping to get back into the world of mental health and addictions counselling, something for which she went to school and spent years doing.
My curiosity unravelled further and I asked her how she got started:
“I loved collecting old teacups, and one day, I broke my favourite. I couldn’t bear to throw out any of the pieces, so I kept them.”
“Well, I saw something new in the shattered bits. I thought I could smooth out the rough edges and maybe create a pendent or some earrings.”
“So you did?”
“I’m here, now, aren’t I!”
Her table of offerings glittered under the massive chandeliers of the ballroom. Quirky and fun, all original work. No two pieces ever the same.
I realized my jaw was wide open while she continued to pour out her inspiring story. It reminded me of someone but I wasn’t sure who, until fuzzy dots began to slowly connect in my brain. Here I am, trying to make something from nothing (the short version of my She Walks the Walk story!). And here I am, picking up the pieces of my shattered heart.
I hate admitting this, but when my dad died, I lost a pile of confidence. He was my number one cheerleader, my go-to for advice and he understood my blindspots intuitively. On the inside, we were almost the same person.
I bought the damn earrings. They will never go with my mostly-hiking-attire wardrobe. But they’ll remind me that we all have choices when our worlds come crashing down. We can pick up the pieces and try again. We can find something new. We can use our creative energy to begin again. We can make something beautiful out of our frustration.
I hope to make 2023 just that. And, I’m inviting you to join me!
Pictures can be deceiving. Like the one above… You’d never know that a few hours before I was a crumbling hot-mess-of-a-Sam. It was one of those uncontrollable sobbing moments… I’m talking can’t dam the tears / ass glued to the couch with the Kleenex seeming five miles away and my pyjama top taking on the role of glorified snot rag.
If you’ve never had a moment like this, lucky you.
But, I call bullshit!
I used to be Stone Cold / Oversharing Sam.
A true maven in the Sucking-It-Up department. My approach was proudly lauded anytime I needed to push through challenges. Adding to this reputation, a propensity to narrate every explicit detail of my life online. I’d post it all, too. From the seemingly innocuous double entendre of “finally eating a pickle” to paragraphs-long tributes for my kids (who, laughably, were not even on social media).
But if you’ve ever read anything by me, be it a status update, an overshare or a blog, then you already know — I am hardly Stone Cold. In fact, I am the biggest pile of mush, drama, emotion, fear, angst, insecurity, complexity and confidence to walk the earth.
Now, I hear what you’re saying. I can’t possibly lay claim to being the Mostest with all those biggie things rolled into one succinct ball. Because all of us exist simultaneously in two realms: we are the happy and the sad. The excited and the angry. The hopeful and the jaded. The yin and the yang.
We are human beings.
So, this morning I had to finally surrender. And I’m still processing what triggered me, and why my near-animalistic purge of feelings has bothered me so much.
Hey, Facebook? It’s not me, it’s you.
An internal vomit of insecurity started rising in my throat when I decided to wander onto Facebook while drinking my morning coffee.
For the record, I do not have the App on my phone, but I’m aware that sneaky little Google is smart enough to remember my log-in deets. Not exactly the Fort Knox embargo I thought I’d engineered. I can log-on whenever I’m feeling the need for news.
Within two minutes, I learned that my niece and nephew crushed their respective swim meets, both making provincial times and qualifying for something undoubtedly huge. That I wouldn’t have known this otherwise made me feel immediately left out.
How could my sister not have shared this with her own family? Does she assume that putting it on Facebook is good enough? What if we’re not on FB? Or what if we’re taking a break? Was it me that just didn’t care enough to ask? Or that famous standby excuse of mine, “I’m too busy for FB.”
I also learned a former client slash acquaintance lost her father yesterday. A gush of tears fell the instant I’d read that, because I, too, am losing my father. I did the thing where I leaped ahead in my brain to imagine what I would share on social media when the day inevitably comes.
Sobbing chokes. I shut it down and stared out the window. Don’t need to be reminded of anyone’s fragility. I already know my personal hero is on borrowed time.
Then, like some masochistic, Pavlovian response, I go back for more good times:
Someone’s anniversary I’d forgotten.
Four birthdays I gaffed on.
Someone’s kids performed on a main stage event. Seems like it was a big deal.
And because I care what those people think of me, I commented. I mean, it was a legit comment “You must be so proud!! They’re killing it!!” But really? Why that post and not any of my true friends? (One of whom sustained an injury of sorts — but do her legs ever look “svelte” — which I also learned about in a group chat on Messenger.)
Truthfully? I cannot handle all this information!
As an empath, I implode into a pile of dysfunction in my wired desire to support, encourage, validate, and acknowledge. This is a losing (and impossible) game to win.
While others appear super successful at it, I gave up a few years ago and should know fucking better. My internal flogging at my own overwhelm triggers every insecurity I have.
But wait, there’re more! Then I read an update my husband put out into the cyber world; something about should he ever “find himself at a bar staring at someone in a ponytail with wrapped sunglasses, to please shoot him.”
Sam’s old wounds from that one time she gutted her husband by nearly stepping out on her marriage immediately ooze pus. (Sorry.)
He was out at a bar last night? News to me! And who was this woman? What was he even talking about?!
Pause for some irony: The Happy Server Persona
I proclaim to anyone who asks that my new serving gig is totally my jam. That I’m the Happy Server… The one who loves making people feel special, revelling in the idea of no post-work stress to carry home with me while enjoying the abundance of tax-free money.
Let’s get real: working six nights a week until midnight, barely seeing my husband, running on fumes (the thing I preach against) is not exactly where I saw myself a few years ago.
As I tried to rationalize my ridiculous feelings about my husband’s post, it occurred to me that this pace of work, this “two ships crossing in the night” situation, does not a happy marriage make.
What if he drifts from me? Am I drifting from him? Whenever I come home, he’s long been asleep. Our only hope of any real communication is to get up at an ungodly hour for coffee with him. Which I usually try to do but is made more challenging by my own need to “unwind” after a 7-hour serving shift on my feet.
Turns out, the post was about him witnessing some cringy dude in a ponytail trying to pick up these young girls. So why does my brain immediately assume something else is going on? Hello, LOSER? This is REALITY calling: if he was into said ponytail “chic” he would not be posting it on FB!!
“But he’s been wearing the good underwear lately!”
“And he’s stopped drinking!”
“And he’s lost weight!” (Hmmn. What’s THAT all about?)
Welcome to my morning (and yes I know I’m a Freak Show)! Where I went from burying my father (who is still alive, btw) to marriage falling apart in all of ten minutes. Thank you, Facebook.
What I’ve learned
If I’m someone who can’t handle the intensity of everyone else’s lives let alone my own at times, I should probs steer clear of social media. Other than Instagram which I am using to try and propel She Walks the Walk, I need to maintain my boundary and STAY the FUCK OUT. Like, please. Someone just lock me out of my account already.
I’m also embracing my All-or-Nothingness and just accepting myself for who I am. I’m a lousy “dabbler.” Like I told a new friend the other day, I’m either “in” or I’m “out.” There’s very little half-assing that goes in my life. Meanwhile, the advice I generally receive is to try and live in the grey. If I want to keep up with the world, just do a little bit of Facebooking every day. Like, half hour. No harm, no foul.
I think we all know by now that doesn’t seem to work for me, either. So here are the conclusions I’ve arrived at:
Keeping my circle small makes me feel safe and confident that I can give what I get
I don’t need to be everyone and their damn dog’s BFF.
If I miss your birthday, or fail to realize you’ve moved across the country, it doesn’t mean I don’t wish you well. Of course, I wish you well.
My bandwidth, as I get older and contend with aging parents among other super fun milestones, is shorter than it was in my thirties. Mic. drop.
Most of the stuff on there is CRAP as it is.
Forget FOMO. There’s nothing I’m missing out on. My true loved ones know what’s going on in my world and I there’s. They accept me and my absence.
So if you, too, have a “thing” that’s not working out on Facebook, or Instagram, or freaking TikTok or — good Lord, there’s a shit ton of these — Linked In… cheer up. You’re not the only one. Give yourself permission to suck at social media. Take a long break and enjoy the extra real estate in your brain. Watch what happens when you aren’t analyzing everyone else’s situations in comparison to your own.
Now, please excuse me while I share this little piece. Yes, on freaking Facebook!!
But then I’m going outside. Where I belong. Where any overwhelm is related only to the stirring of my senses. A rustling wind in my hair. The faint scent of leaves beginning their journey to decay. The warmth of the autumn sun on my back.
We don’t have handles on our doors upstairs right now. In fact, if you wanted to shower, you’d be doing so in a room minus an actual door. It makes for exciting choreography when company is here.
Well, the doors are slamming.
Without handles to keep them shut, they’re just swinging in the breeze. I must have the windows open; I can hear them banging from down here on the couch. I’m annoyed, but not taking action. Just trying to close my eyes…
I have hit a wall of exhaustion—afraid to sleep for some bizarre reason. I don’t know why, but it’s got to be anxiety or overwhelm or something. Kind of feeling ripped off, to be honest! Things in my life have started picking up. Got that manuscript finally drafted. Planning for my first Global Walking Adventure. And it looks like my daughter’s tuition is cheaper by $1,000! These are all reasons to celebrate.
Plus, I’m healthy. That’s better than a winning lottery ticket.
I’m having a hard time acknowledging the fragility of my mental state. It’s like, if I own it somehow, it could expand. The worry of it worsening only begets more worry. (Love me a Catch 22!) Or that I’ll morph into a full-on basket case. I’ve been one of those before. I’m not interested in trodding that road again.
My fears burble up when I try to look too far down the chain. I get so ahead of myself that I can’t breathe. Yes, I know we have meds for that; but sometimes, it’s smooth sailing around here.
Door slamming again. Gawd!
When I get in these mini funks, I have to force myself to rethink my driving tendencies. Ambition. Productivity. Tangible Progress. These are my usual buzzwords. Have you met a Type-A before? Maybe you are one? I have decades as a branded “worker” fighting against me. My reputation for this warranted a boring “Mom is such a hard worker!” when we’d play that dinner table game. The “Say-Something-Nice-To-The-Person-On-Your-Left” thing.
I have to find new ways to see my worth these days. I’m not contributing to the bottom line the way I used to. Back in the day, I knew my job. I knew it well. And I brought home the bacon. (Important distinction: did not cook it, just brought it home.)
Now I’m a Hopeful Wannabe. I say that with loving kindness towards myself.
My kids are also letting go. The latest example, an unfollowing on Piper’s Instagram account. What do you call reverse unfollowing? I’m told this is age-appropriate and not to take it personally. Who wants their mother looking over their shoulder when trying to spread those wings?
I find myself super triggered these days. Identity is a cruel motherfucker when all the rollercoasters collide: hormones…empty nest…your own self-imposed reinvention.
Sometimes I’ll escape my “worst-enemy” anxiety by popping on some New Girl episodes. Or drugging myself with Neo Citran in an effort to rediscover that elusive thing called sleep. Last night, neither worked. I clock-watched until 4:30 and almost got in the car to blast out of here. I’m not sure how I thought that would help. But it was an option I’d considered.
A wise old man once told me not to fight it when we’re feeling messed up. Denial is not just a river in Egypt, as my husband would say. It’s a cruelty you can easily inflict on yourself. The fact is, we are all entitled to experience moments of overwhelm. How we cope with them is another story.
Since I know I’m not the only one in the world to go through moments like this, I ask you—what do you do?
I just googled “what to do when overwhelmed” and didn’t learn anything new. I know to meditate. I know to count my blessings. To phone a friend. To exercise. To sleep—ha! Good one, google. The thing the article never said was to just invite it in and let it pass. Have a cup of tea with your overwhelm. Stare at the laundry with it. I guess that’s what I’m doing right now. Giving myself permission to sit in its company.
Slam! Why can’t my child block the doors from banging? How is she tolerating this?
I think in a way, I know too much. My background as a Financial Advisor makes me stew about money. I also know that life is short. I mean that isn’t just some trope we carry around with us. It is, literally, short. Time is ticking. I’ve lost people I didn’t expect to this year. At young ages, too. I’m seeing more and more cases of cancer. It’s an inevitable reality of getting to a certain age.
Why don’t we talk more about our vulnerabilities?
Have we normalized “crushing it?” Maybe I’m the only one who feels a sense of shame when I’m not knocking it out of the park. And by that, I even mean existing. Like, loading the dishwasher, getting a bloody shower and giving your dog that extra lap in the graveyard. These are not Nobel-prize winning goals. It’s called life, lol.
I know for a fact we all get exhausted and disillusioned. Nobody wants to talk about it, though. Okay, maybe some close friends. And family members with the bandwidth to let us vent. If we took the temperature of every single human being at some point during their day/week/month, there’d be feelings of malaise.
Somewhere along the line, I’ve been hardwired to believe that my privilege in life has put me in the category of “don’t you dare.” Don’t you dare feel lost or sad or worried. You have it good. You have it made.
Although these things may be true, they’re damaging. I think I’ve been fighting this my whole life. And it’s probably one reason why I wound up having that breakdown at 27. All the shoulds…you know the ones. You should feel this, you should feel that.
Well, what if you don’t? How ‘bout that?
I recently told a friend that it was okay for her to crumble. I resisted the urge to say, “stay strong.” She was grieving; she’d damn well earned her crumbling. And all those little shards—they’re still her. When she’s ready, they’ll fit back together. She’s still a whole human in all her brokenness.
So, boo to the “suck-it-up” mentality. Boo to the “get over it already.” Boo to the “take a chill pill.” Yeah, we know. Don’t you think we’ve done that?
I say yes to being honest.
Yes, to letting the doors in our lives just bash about when we’re too tired to get off the couch and do anything about it. We are living in a dreamworld if we think the standard should be 100% happiness 24/7. That’s an emotion we chase. We are also prone to sadness, disappointment, fear, anger…healthy parts of the fulsome human experience.
Just know, that out in the world is another soul like you. She’s thrilled to be alive. She’s also scared of the future. She has exceptionally, wonderfully, amazingly blessed moments. And dark days.
That door slamming haphazardly is aligned with my mood. I am too trashed to do anything about it. So I’ll wait for the winds to pass. Then it will stop.
I started a new journey this past week. It’s been ripping into me emotionally and mentally and the irony is, it’s meditation. Who’d have thought a practise I used to do faithfully would suddenly upset my equilibrium so drastically. Yesterday, I was yelling at everything. The fridge. Some part of the doohickey is on the fritz, so it makes a ticking sound. But not a regular one like a clock. More of a, “there might be a bomb about to go off” type of sound. It always kicks in when the bird is also yapping out of his mind. I told him to fuck off and immediately felt like a jerk. The poor little Pi. I later apologized and he just looked at me. He’s a sentient being. He must think I’m off my rocker.
The thing is, I might be.
I seem to have nothing left in the tank. I want to be the person people come to, the one who gives empathy and kindness and an ear. But I’m done, in a way. Or maybe I just need a rest. Then I think, rest? There’s been more than enough lolly-gagging around. At least, that’s my perception when I have nothing tangible to show for my day owing to frequent interruptions and my inability to draw boundaries for myself.
I believe there is a massive shift happening. My body, mind and spirit are in chaos while I try to sort through the pieces. What is what. What fits where. Where is my life going. What have I done to myself. What does the future hold. The questions are unending and so are the tears these days.
I’m annoyed by the tears, but Deepak says it’s the body releasing stress. I’ll buy that, I guess.
So I try to plaster on a reasonably chipper face. This is a failing proposition, however. I’ve always been a lousy poker player. I can’t lie to save my life — my left eye twitches and I sigh too much. (Direct from my playbook should you ever wish to try and catch me in a tall tale.) When it all gets to be too much, I shut my phone down — like on airplane mode — but that feels like a betrayal to the people who might need to call me for something. And I’ve been needed a lot lately. It’s a privilege to be needed. I think I’m just depleted, myself.
Life can’t always be full of stupendous insights and blogs that people will rally behind. It’s not always green grass and butterflies and ice cream and cotton seed floating in the air. Sometimes it’s tumultuous and dark. Sometimes it feels like an exercise in madness. Intellectually I know this is the process of being turned inside out, which is what always happens when we try to take a new approach. Such as — “quiet your damn mind, girl. Allow space for things to come up. Process the garbled feelings of this last year. Of the last many years.”
But didn’t I do that on the Camino, I think?
Why yes, I did.
So why am I not done?
Why are there tears streaming down my face even as I type this?
I feel like a little beetle who’s been trapped in a glass dome. I keep bumping up against the edges and not getting anywhere. I can see outside the dome and desperately want a slice of that. This is my natural state — out in the world. Perhaps at some point soon, someone will come and lift the lid. And then I can breathe.
I have one hundred percent under-estimated a bunch of shit. I thought it would be easier. I thought “feeling free” would be a welcome trade-off to kissing goodbye financial independence. And sometimes it is. Lately it’s been a swirling compost of old fears drudged up by my meditations. Same old themes: what if I fail. What if it goes nowhere. What if I just want a simple, boring life where I cut fruit all day. Would that be so terrible? Why do I need to be extraordinary. Who even gives a flying fuck.
I’m not feeling sorry for myself.
I’m just — feeling. I am a human being, and a human doing. I am accustomed to making things happen when I want and when I need them to. I am not in control and trying to surrender is my constant achilles heel. And these feelings are getting in my way.
The older I get the louder the question becomes “what is the point of all this?” It’s shaking me and nattering in my ear 24-7, amid the incessant chirping and chaos of 1430 Broadway Ave. I know it will get easier. Soon, I hope, I’ll be able to head out to a coffee shop and maybe experience the peace and quiet of Starbucks din. Or get in my car and drive across the country, far away from all the things I’m not tending to around here, because I no longer give a shit. And yes the laundry is piling up in all corners of our house these days. If you need a clean face cloth, best throw in a load yourself. Oh, you don’t know how to do laundry? Let me show you. You’re 13-years old. Why have I never done this before?
I need to let go of any expectations and stop having faith selectively. I do this so well in some areas of my life. My dad’s health? Pass the faith. I pray on the nightly and trust it will all work out. Whatever we’ll be called upon to do will be the path that is supposed to unfold. So why can’t I have faith in this new Sam Plavins path? What’s the dealio with that? On a soul level I know everything will work out. I just need patience and further clarity and to get going on planning these extraordinary journeys I’ve imagined.
And the book. Insert a whole bunch of procrastination right here. I need solid concentration time and that stuff is a luxury these days. June is always like this. Piper turns 18 and she graduates, then she’s moving back out west. Then she comes back and goes off to university. Am I just experiencing the gradual unfolding of letting my baby go? All these things bubbling to the surface, the top of which is where the last 18 years of my life have gone. And feeling the sands of time slip through my fingers.
I’m under no illusion about this piece. It’s a brain dump — be that crow who picks away at my garbage bag left uncovered at the end of the driveway. There might be a bone in here for you, but mostly, I’ve written it for me. And if you want to send me a message inquiring about my sanity, that’s cool. I think about it daily. I take nothing for granted. It’s quite possible I have lost the plot thank you very much. I’m sure I’ll find it again. It’s got to be somewhere in this pile of towels …
Salutations! (Thought I’d try out a new greeting.)
How’s your 2021 going so far? I’m gonna get really personal here, so bow out if you must. But first, I acknowledge everyone is wondering if Mercury might be stuck in retrograde. So this is by no means a “just me” thing.
I consider myself one of those glass-is-half-full chicks. Sure, it gets me in trouble from time to time, but mostly it’s remained one of the steadiest coping mechanisms in my Adulting Toolkit. I genuinely believe if you can’t find the hope in your day/week/year/life, your best bet is to stay under the covers until you come up with something. Anything. Is it above zero today? Winning. Has that zit on your back disappeared? Awesome. Did you get all the green lights this afternoon? The universe adores you!
However. This hope-seeking strategy is annoying for the realists in my life — “can’t you just come down to Earth for one quick sec” — and damaging for the people who are actually suffering and need my support — “I’ve been burned too many times before.” Accordingly, it seems my usual attempt to find the sunshine is rubbing up against the reality that sometimes, life just sucks.
I know you know this to be true, and here we all are, pushing ourselves forward another day. (Isn’t it amazing the world keeps turning?)
So this afternoon, I leave my cave to run to the kitchen and nuke a cup of coffee. Enroute, I pass the usual evidence of sloth that would ordinarily trigger me. Items piled on the stairs waiting to be ferried upwards. Laundry in a state of semi-folding, taking up most of the family room perimeter. Dishes from God knows when, begging to be transformed to their natural state of cleanliness. But the icing on the cake is the dog vomit. Impossible to ignore, and spectacular in its presentation.
I hop over it. Twice.
Then, with my heated-up coffee in hand, I head back to my computer and stare at the screen before me. I decide to count the number of tabs I have open. Thirty-eight — possibly a new record? I fetch a pen off the floor and write down the word motivation on my moleskin notepad. Circling it ten times makes it seem more in reach. Where did it go? I wonder. I glance up at my calendar and observe that it’s only Wednesday. And then, I cry.
In between finding out there may not actually be the chance to provide a life-saving chunk of my liver to someone I love dearly, and my husband spending the afternoon at emerge for his ticking-time-bomb heart, I seem to have lost my way. What I mean is, I can’t find the sunshine. And it scares me. Because I’m running low on effective coping mechanisms.
Almost three weeks ago, I made a decision to stop drinking alcohol in an effort to cleanse my liver and clear my head. I confess that wine has been the ‘other’ trusted resource I’d reach for when needing to shield myself from life’s suckage. Now that I don’t have access to it, I’m confronted with myself on the daily. There’s nowhere to run and hide. Everywhere I go, there I am. Same old me. Same old feelings.Same old reality. The highs, the lows, the in-betweens all wrapped up in some kind of Hope-Despair-Hope-Rollercoaster.
The thing is, that ride I’m strapped into tightly? It’s wreaking havoc with my motivation. And yes, I know, I know. January can be tough, as far as months go. But as a Capricorn, I don’t just value productivity, I demand it. In fact, I really love getting shit done in a day! Right now, I should be editing that Podcast I promised to have out to you all. Instead, I’m burying my head in ridiculous distractions. Yesterday, I chose to watch three shows on airplane disasters. What in the Sam hell is wrong with me? It’s like I’m seeking out curated misery to keep me company in my complete and utter lack of control.
Here’s the deal. I — we — must be kinder to the person in the mirror. We’re coming through a weird-ass time in history, I think it’s okay for us to behave a little weird-ass. (Read: do what you need to do to get through the day.)
So, rather than chasing that missing motivation, maybe we ought to recognize the victory that is getting up from under the covers. Instead of panicking because we don’t see any immediate signs of sunshine, maybe we can still chill under grey skies.
Maybe, we can even hop over that dog vomit and let it sit for a while.
Sam ❤ p.s. It’s the night before my 47th birthday. I’m counting both the blessings and challenges in my life. I just want you to know that I’m right there with you. We’re all in this mess and it feels long, hard, repetitive, head-banging, daunting, confusing, uncertain and problematic. But we can do this. We are doing this.
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.
Ok guys. I’ve shut the news off and finally put a bra on. It’s time to get off the Wallow Wagon and move into the acceptance phase of this current normal! For our own sanity, self-preservation and the legit reality that one day we’ll all be back to our regularly scheduled lives and wonder why we weren’t more conscious of how we spent our time…
Before I begin, let me clarify: I’m judging nobody during this weirdness (unless you’re overtly ignoring Public Health recommendations, then I’m full on soap-boxing it in my head!). If you’re glued to Netflix right now? Party on. If you’re baking up a storm and eating one too many brownies? No worries, those calories and that coveted bag of sugar won’t last forever. Sitting around flicking back and forth from Facebook to Instagram to your Safari app? Yeah, so am I. My thumb literally has a clicking sound as a result of all this working out.
Today I feel a strong urge to re-frame this Pandemic bullshit, because I haven’t been completely right in the head these days. The great irony is I used to be so busy that I’d regularly run out of gas for lack of a moment to fill the old tank; and now, gas is practically free because nobody is going anywhere. Truthfully, though? This Pandemic has become an excuse. A carte-blanche, get-out-of-jail-free card to stew in anxiety and get nothing done. Understand, I’m talking about myself, ok?
I see all you people posting your at-home workouts and doing push-up challenges and yet I, I continue to mostly sit around, half-ass start a project, move onto another one, laze about in bed waiting to hear from our Prime Minister who mostly says stuff we already know. I’ve consoled myself with Hey, girl! These are unprecedented times! Chill the F*** out! And while this is true, I’ve simply GOT to change my outlook or in the words of my teenage daughter, I’ll literally become more bonkers than I already am.
Hence, I’ve made it my mission to come up with Good Things in the Time of Covid-19. I’m not leaving the table until I’ve reached 100.
Disclaimerville: Be assured, I’m not minimizing our global crisis. No, I see you crisis. And I raise you! I’m gonna attempt to go all in on choosing to see things differently. Yeah, it’s difficult to do. Sure, I get sucked in on the daily. And YES I have vulnerable people in my life and health-care worker friends/loved ones… so AGAIN, I’m not downplaying the serious tone we all ought to have.
100 Good Things in the Time of Covid-19
A chance to re-discover long lost hobbies.
Your pets will look back on this time with gratitude!
Flex that creativity muscle you know you have.
A few months with no chemical on the hair or face?
Discovering the power of walks.
Getting to see the inside of celebrity houses.
Covid is unselective in the hosts it latches onto.
Relive the days of yore through our old diaries.
A chance to teach your kids about curveballs.
Knowing your colleague is also “business on top, pajamas on the bottom”.
Greater compassion for health-care workers.
Global awareness… there’s a world outside of us.
Collaborative ingenuity; what else could we do?
Chance to pare down those kitchen junk drawers.
Greater appreciation for local businesses.
Considerably less wastage of toilet paper.
Increased awareness of loneliness and isolation, and how it affects people.
Better hand hygiene for the win!!
Catching up on all that sleep you’ve missed.
Rediscovering family meal time.
Less chauffeuring of your unlicensed teen driver!
Wants becoming needs.
Reprioritizing household expenses.
Increased clarity on your political choices!
The chance to help others in new ways.
Increased gratitude for the things that really matter.
A chance to become more self-sustained.
Rediscovering the power of music.
Finding out about meditation.
Learning new ways to budget.
Time for a time capsule?!
Finally opening those mysterious kidney bean cans.
Teaching the kids about supply chains.
Teaching the kids different ways to approach a crisis.
Having more time to try and procreate!
Understanding your dog. What DOES he do everyday?
No pressure for high-end lady maintenance (interpret as you see fit).
Taking stock of which companies have rallied to help the most.
Your house will never be so clean (possible farce here?)
Blaming the Government when you have to say “no” to your teenager.
Creating a new economy of trade (music lessons online for brownies?)
Getting your Netflix money’s worth.
Less pollution in the skies.
Discovering the forest behind your house.
Feeling connected to a global consciousness fighting the same enemy.
Becoming more judicious with what we read on the internet.
A chance to rebuild — maybe your old life needed to go?
Impetus to test your marriage — maybe you needed this?
The chance to become part of the solution.
Giving what you can to where you can when you can.
Knowing you’re not the only one who looks a little unkempt.
Giving your kids an alternative way to learn.
Rediscovering REM’s “It’s the End of the World, and I Know It”
Free online concerts.
Saving money on concerts your kids were lobbying for (sorry, Harry Styles).
Less roller coaster deaths.
Less mileage going on your leased car.
Loads of time to keep up with yard maintenance.
The chance to live through something that will be in our history books.
Rediscovering your faith. Religion. Spirituality.
Revisiting where you donate your money.
More time to file your taxes.
Greater emphasis on cleanliness in public places.
Heightened compassion for small business.
Opportunity to live more in the present (tomorrow isn’t the same).
Appreciation for the freedoms we regularly enjoy.
A chance to contribute to the colossal volume of global memes.
Less teenage pregnancy?
Plan something out of your comfort zone for when life is normal again.
An appreciation for the need to have a Financial Advisor.
Free online learning through Ivy-league institutions.
Working on your skill of adaptability.
Life-changing epiphanies that may happen as a result of this pandemic.
Work-life balance will become priority when all of this is over.
Potential for less division in the world.
Potential for less division in our country.
Cataloguing your old CD collection.
Finishing those family scrapbooks.
Continued procrastination with dreaded dental visits.
Animated debates about what is considered “essential” service.
Family WhatsAPP chats.
Social Distancing driveway parties.
Reading those books that collect dust on your nightstand.
Purging your paperwork, filing cabinets and closets.
Impromptu snuggles with nervous kids.
Less freaking out over last minute school projects.
Increased efficiency and speed with internet when this is over.
Camping in your backyard.
Increased time to plank.
Virtual movie dates.
Learning the names of other global leaders.
Finally deciding that Trump is a D-Bag.
Omg this is so hard.
Running out of steam.
The bird is screaming for his food.
The kids are still in bed and it’s 11:17am.
Just three more. Come on. You can do it.
Bulk shoppers have never felt more validated.
Liquor considered essential service. THERE!
Phew! Eat that, Covid-19!!! In all seriousness, my simple goal for today is to get off my duff and help my kids get off theirs. Shall report back on how THAT all went down. I’m wishing you well… there are signs afoot that this won’t be a forever thing. So for now? Try and find the few positives that might fit in with your life. I know the list of BADS is also exhaustive — but none of us need reminders on that.
With love, from Sam… reporting to you in my husband’s ripped, long underwear.
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