The Talking Stone

As my daughter enters adolescence, emotions and hormones are starting to run high in our house. There are tears and slammed doors, raised voices and words thrown. But at the very heart of it, my child’s core desire is to be heard and listened to. A few months ago, out of the blue, she came up with the most amazing idea; and I wanted to share it with you.

After a particularly difficult exchange, she brought me out to the living room and pointed to two chairs. “These are going to be our talking chairs,” she told me. “When we are having a fight, I want us to come out here and sit down with one another.” She pulled a palm-sized labradorite stone off of my mantle piece. “This will be our talking stone. Whoever has it, gets to talk and the other person has to listen. We can’t leave these chairs until we are ready to say sorry and hug.” Amazing. This proposal came from a ten year old child.

We have been using the talking space for a few months now and it has been very impactful. It is interesting how, when emotions are running high, it is easy to want to speak over another person in order to get your point heard. But, of course, then no one is really listening to the other: everyone is just competing to talk.

When you are compelled to stop, and really listen to the perspective of the other person before responding, it shifts the dynamic. Now there is the opportunity to really hear them and to be heard. It becomes a human exchange, rather than a boxing match, and all kinds of solutions are born.

We have been practicing this approach for a few months now and it is working really well. We always walk away from the space with a renewed sense of love and connection, which is the objective in a healthy home environment; and I am once again reminded of how my child is also my greatest teacher.

Coming Home

In my journey towards inner healing, I have been learning from my friend and mentor Tamara about Dr. Richard Schwartz’s theory of the Internal Family System (outlined above). He believes that each person’s internal system is made up of a number of different roles, with only the core self reflecting our true inner essence. Although one can strongly identify with the other roles (manager, firefighter, exile), these are essentially learned responses or coping mechanisms, rather than a true reflection of self.

It is important to start to recognize which part of the self is coming forward and engaging at any one time. This provides the opportunity to observe, listen and tend to its needs rather than simply moving into automated response mode. You can identify when you are acting from your differentiated, core self if your behaviour meets the eight c’s: calm; curious; compassionate; connected; confident; creative; courageous; and clear.

In order to reconnect with the core, it is essential to start to cultivate awareness through the body. This is done through the act of nurturing a loving connection with yourself on a daily basis. You can achieve this by intentionally taking time to pause throughout the day, sit and feel the emotions that are coming up, without judgement or resistance. This helps you to start recognizing when care and attention is required, and offer it to yourself, before slipping into an automated pattern of habitual response.

Connected to this practice is the theory of healing the inner child. Many of the behaviours that manifest for the adult self are reflective of unresolved issues from childhood. Reparenting is the act of giving yourself what you did not receive when you were young. This concept is captured well in these short videos by the Holistic Psychologist:

In order to offer yourself the deep care and nurturing you require on a daily basis, it is helpful to adopt the four T’s: time; touch; tone; and tenderness.

  1. Time: Cultivate your relationship with yourself by making time to regularly check in. A good opportunity to do this is when you first wake up in the morning and when you are falling asleep at night.
  2. Touch: Place your hands on your body: heart and belly. This helps to establish a point of contact; and it bring your attention to the physical and energetic sensations that you are experiencing.
  3. Tone: Become mindful of your self-talk. How are you speaking to yourself? Try to adopt a gentle, soothing tone: think of how you would address a child or a close friend.
  4. Tenderness: Offer loving kindness to yourself, as you would any other. Tend to your needs. Recognize that when you are coming from a place of strength and wholeness, there is so much more that you can give to others.

You can start by exploring this menu of simple but powerful tactics outlined by the Holistic Psychologist. She recommends cultivating a daily practice of setting boundaries, building emotional awareness, offering self-care and exploring what give you joy.

Image courtesy of the Holistic Psychologist

A Season of Giving

The holiday season is upon us. From the end of October onward, the stores are packed with merchandise, and we are bombarded with the message to buy more, more, more. Expressing love has become synonymous with gift giving.

A few years ago, I stopped to think about how I wanted to intentionally cultivate my own family traditions; and I spent some time reflecting on some important questions. What values do I want share with my child at this time of year? How can we meaningfully experience this season together? How can we give back to our community?

For me, quality time is very important. I want to fill my child with love and lasting memories. This is a gift that she can carry with her forever and it does not end up in the landfill. I also want her to learn the value of community and the importance giving over receiving.

To try to achieve these goals, we have established some traditions that we look forward to sharing.

Giving:

  • Santa’s Anonymous: There are so many families who need help during the holiday season. If you visit a local mall, such as Hillside or Mayfair, between November 25 – December 6, 2019 you will find a Tree of Wishes. Low income children from across the CRD have requested a special gift to make their holiday season bright. Food hampers are also provided to their families.
  • Donations instead of gifts: Instead of giving large gifts to the adults in our family, I make donations in their honour to charities close to my heart; and I ask them to do the same for me. I also like to choose special books for each person, purchased from independent booksellers, like Munros, Bolen Books or Ivy’s Books. This not only supports authors and publishers but also local businesses.
  • Volunteering: There are many local not-for-profits looking for help at this time of year. In our family, we volunteer with a local chocolate maker. She raises money for Connections Place, a supportive drop-in centre for people facing mental health issues, through her annual fundraiser. My daughter and I help with the packaging and assembly. I also order her delicious chocolate for stocking stuffers.

Home Activities:

  • Baking: It is really fun to spend time together in the kitchen. There are so many delicious treats that you can bake at this time of year. We enjoy shortbread and sugar cookies. Decorating them together is the best part! You can gift your goodies to friends and family.
  • Host a Gingerbread Party: Invite a few of your child’s friends over to the house and decorate gingerbread houses. If you do not want to make them yourself, there are simple prepackaged options available at the grocery store.
  • Trim the Tree: We love to pick our tree together and spending an afternoon decorating it, while enjoying festive music and hot chocolate. My daughter loves putting the star on top at the end.

Community Events: There are so many great events taking place across the city and many of them are low cost or free. Here are a few events coming up this year:

  • Christmas Lights Across Canada: Celebrate the lighting of the provincial Christmas tree and the Parliament Buildings. Enjoy festive performances, music and seasonal treats. December 5, 2019.
  • Gingerbread Showcase: The Parkside Hotel & Spa hosts an annual Gingerbread Showcase in support of Habitat for Humanity. It is free to visit and you can enjoy exploring a wide range of creative and festive entries, in support of a good cause. You can vote for your favourite one. It runs November 16, 2019 – January 5, 2020.
  • Light Village: The Downtown Victoria Business Association is hosting a light maze in Centennial Square this holiday season. It will run from December 13, 2019 until the end of the month.
  • Christmas Movie Nights: Oak Bay Beach Hotel is hosting screenings throughout December. Holiday films are accompanied by light dinner, popcorn and house-made sweet-treats. Partial proceeds of all sales go to the David Foster Foundation. Films include: Love Actually; Elf; Home Alone; and the Polar Express.
  • Christmas at Butchart Gardens: Colourful lights and festivities are on offer at the world-famous gardens. It is hosted from December 1, 2019 – January 6, 2020. I like to take my daughter in the days following Christmas, as it is quieter, and it is nice to have something seasonal and bright to look forward to after all of the holiday fanfare is over.
  • The Peak of Christmas: Every year, we make a special trip to Vancouver to visit Santa at Grouse Mountain. It is a lot of fun to take the gondola up to the top. Grouse does an amazing job create a winter wonderland, with ice skating, a light maze, live reindeer, crafts, movies. Santa Claus has his own cottage in the snow. It is at truly magical experience.

Celebrate Diversity

  • Learn and Grow: There are so many wonderful celebrations taking place throughout December in addition to Christmas. In our family, we enjoy learning about how this season is celebrated by cultures across the world. A few of them include: Hanukkah; Winter Solstice; St. Lucia Day; Kwanzaa; and Ōmisoka. You can do this by taking books out from the library, researching information online, and/or speaking with friends in your community who celebrate these special holidays.

Every year we add new traditions to our list. It is fun to try out new things, spend quality time together, and explore this beautiful season in our own special way. It is the greatest gift we can give to one another.

Hold On

My daughter is nearing eleven years old. I am starting to see signs of adolescence on a daily basis. Her body is metamorphosing. She is more reactive when conflict arises. We are entering into a phase of rapid brain development, which cause larger than life emotions and irrationality, similar her early years.

I have been taking notice of how triggering it is for me when she yells or explodes about an issue. It is so easy to fall into the reaction trap. Someone is yelling, so the automatic and primitive response is to yell back. But she is a child, not my peer. What is is doing is not based in logic. It is a cry for help, love and guidance. And as I always tell her, no one can hear you when you are yelling. You need to speak softly.

In taking a moment to step back and reflect, I understand that my daughter is struggling to manage the brewing storm inside of her. My work is to create a container for these emotions: to guide her in learning to express herself in a positive and respectful way, without taking any of it on personally. This is easily enough said but harder to achieve in the heat of the moment.

This is when I remember to hold onto myself. To use my belly breathing as an anchor. To allow the storm to blow around me and trust in the strength of my roots to hold me fast. Sometimes it is just a matter of not saying anything when I desperately want to lash out. To take a moment to breathe and create space for reflection. To remember that none of it is personal. It is just a difficult and uncomfortable phase of necessary growth. Although it does not always work, it is a good starting point as we navigate uncharted territory together.

#NewYork2019

I just returned from a spectacular seven days spent in New York City. I visited my sister, as well as a very dear friend from art school, who I have known for over twenty-five years.

It was a fantastic trip. From the moment I arrived, it was go go go. Every day was filled with fun and adventure. I was fortunate enough to experience the city through the eyes of two natives and it provided a unique view into its many, diverse cultural offerings.

Some highlights included:

Aside from the joy that it gave me to spend quality time with two women that I cherish, I was amazed by the reminder of how friendship and connection can be maintained and cultivated despite geographic distance.

I see my sister a few times a year, and every time we are reunited, we pick up from where we last left off. My lovely friend Elise and I only have the opportunity to visit in person every five years or so but it is equally as effortless. This speaks to the resilience of deep heart connections.

This trip was a gift that I will always hold close: both for the unique and wonderful things experienced as well as for the reminder of how lucky I am to be loved and to love deeply.

Making Choices

With aging parents, the responsibility for care often falls upon one child; and it is usually the one who lives close by. In the case of my family, it is me. My siblings live away in other cities, some far and some near; I am the only one who lives in our home town. As the situation amplifies on the ground, I have been struggling with feelings of disappointment and frustration when help does not show up in a way that I hoped or expected.

It is interesting how the brain desperately wants to categorize things into right and wrong, black and white. In reality, there is often no clear right or wrong. There is just the choice that you make with its reverberations; and the choice that the other person makes, with its own separate impacts.

In a chaotic and stressful situation, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to control the uncontrollable. To date, I have been trying to micro-manage the choices of my siblings, by asking for specific assistance. When it did not show up in that form, I have struggled. It recently dawned upon me that I need to get out of their lane and back into my own. My focus needs to be on tending to my own relationship with my parents and leaving my sisters them to do the same. How do I want to show up for this situation? What can I willingly contribute? What can I give from my heart? The rest is none of my business.

As a recovering over-functioner, I have slowly come to the realization that there will be gaps: things will fall through the cracks, or drop, from time to time. It is not on me to hold together all of the pieces. It is for me to hold onto my own pieces and leave the others to tend to their own. This does not mean that I will not continue to be there for my family members. It is just an acknowledgement that I am only responsible for delivering my own part. I cannot do it all and, in reality, no one is asking me to.

Never Walk Alone

When my marriage ended almost four years ago, I was emotionally devastated; underlying all of the pain and heartbreak, there was a deep seeded fear that I would always be alone.

I have since discovered that this is a common fear many of us share: often leading people to enter into a new relationship, not because it is the right one, but because it is available.

I was determined that if I had to go through the unwanted experience of a marital break-up, I was going to turn it into a growth opportunity; and I made the decision to remain single until I could do some inner healing and rediscover solid ground and connection within myself.

It is interesting how, if you have been in relationship from a very young age, much of your identity is tied up in the other person, and in being part of a couple. It is hard to answer the question – who is at the core of me?

I set about trying to discover the answer to that question for myself. Through paying close attention, I began to identify what gives me joy. Personal joy. And what saps my energy. I also learned how to befriend my emotions: to sit with them when they arise and give them space to breathe, rather than pushing them away, or distracting myself with activity. To closely listen to what they have to say.

How am I feeling? What is my body telling me? What do I need? What is the next step that I need to take? It is in asking these questions, over and over again, that leads to more intimate connection with self. The quiet small voice at the core of my being who offers gentle guidance, clarity and loving support. My most constant and committed companion.

The other day, I realized that I can now clearly hear my inner guide. The noise and inner chatter of my mind remains but it is turned way down. If I need support and grounding, she is always available to me. It provides me with great strength to know that I can tap into this source of love and wisdom whenever I need to. I simply need to ask.

This benevolent, knowing presence has always been there. It is a kind and trusted friend. Since the day I entered into the world, she has been by my side; and she will remain there until I take my last breath. It is just a matter of listening and tuning in. I can never truly be alone, as she is always close at hand. That simple but profound truth gives me great peace and confidence as I walk this path of life.

A Celtic Heart

“Now is a time to lay down your tools, the symbols of your productivity, and light a fire to honor not only what has been done throughout the past year, but also all that has preceded you — in this life, and in all the lives lived before. Now is a time to make space, in your heart and in your mind, for the stillness and silence of death.” ~ Teo Bishop

Irish and Scottish ancestry roots runs deep and wide in my family; and I have always been drawn to the magic and mystery of Celtic traditions. One of my favourite books growing up was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I still love it to this day. I recently discovered a wonderful book, Walking in the Mist, by Donald McKinney. It reflects upon on the subtle nuances of Celtic spirituality.

The Celtic Fire festival of Samhain (a Gaelic word pronounced “sow-win”) is commonly known as the Celtic New Year. Samahin is a time of growing darkness and introspection. It is usually celebrated from October 31 to November 1 to welcome in the harvest and usher in the dark half of the year. Celebrants believe that the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world are thin during Samhain.

Ancient Celts marked Samhain as the most significant of the four quarterly fire festivals, taking place at the midpoint between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. During this time of year, hearth fires in family homes were left to burn, while the harvest was gathered.

Since the emergence of Christianity in the British Isles, the festival of Samhain became overlaid with the Christian festival of Halloween or All Hallows Eve, on October 31, followed by All Saints Day on November 1.

Although I do not formally celebrate Samhain, I like to practice simple rituals to acknowledge its presence. I burn candles and keep my fire lit. I create a small alter on my mantelpiece, with seasonal items such as: colourful fallen leaves; interestingly shaped sticks and twigs; nuts, gourds and mini pumpkins. I meditate and journal. I rest. I remember loved ones who have passed on. I feel their continued presence in my heart.

Samhain is an opportunity to pause and reflect: to grow a practice of stillness, silence and listening. It marks the transition of the seasons and helps to prepare the mind and body for the winter ahead. There is something powerful in marking the transition of the seasons and reconnecting with one’s ancestral knowledge. I enjoy the quiet introspection of this time of year and the chance to open myself up to the unknown.

A Lotus Blooming

“If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.” ~ Masaru Emoto

This week, I have been paying attention to feelings of expansion and contraction. There are days where I feel open, joyful and a part of an energy greater than myself. I easily connect with other people and I make great progress with projects. I am creative and full of ideas. Everything feels streamlined and fluid. I experience ease and flow.

And then there are days where I feel small, vulnerable and afraid. I second guess every decision that I make. The world around feels large, frightening and menacing. I cannot see solutions. I am stuck in the mud and I cannot move forward.

There is little tangible difference between the two kinds of days in terms of form: I wake up; I go about my business; I return home; I sleep. The cycle of activity is essentially the same. It is the outside situation that changes and my perception along with it.

On the days where I feel expansive, things are going my way. There are little wins or moments to celebrate. I receive praise or acknowledgement. I am facing no obstacles. On the days where I feel contracted, I am reacting to a situation or a person that is unpleasant. There is an issue to be overcome. I am grappling with a challenge or inner battle. The common thread is that the outside factor controls the inside response.

Equanimity is defined as a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind. It refers to the power of observation and the ability to see without being caught by what you see. When well-developed, such power gives rise to a great sense of peace.

“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom. Your struggles with the world will have come to an end.” ~ Ajahn Chah

In Buddhism, equanimity is a protection from the “eight worldly winds”: praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute. Becoming attached to or excessively impacted by success, praise, fame or pleasure can cause suffering when life changes direction. 

There are seven qualities of mind that are recommended to help cultivate a sense of equanimity:

  1. Integrity: When you live and act with integrity, you feel confident about your actions and words, which results in the equanimity of blamelessness. 
  2. Faith: If you have confidence in your own abilities, then you are more likely to meet life’s challenges.
  3. A well-developed mind: Much as you can develop physical strength, balance, and stability of the body in a gym, so too can you develop strength, balance and stability of the mind. This is done through practices that cultivate calm, concentration and mindfulness, like meditation.
  4. A sense of well-being: It is easy to overlook the well-being that is easily available in daily life. Taking time to enjoy a cup of tea or time spent with your child can be a training in well-being.
  5. Wisdom: Wisdom is an important factor in learning to have an accepting awareness, to be present for whatever is happening without the mind or heart contracting or resisting. Honest awareness of what makes you imbalanced helps you to learn how to find balance.
  6. Insight: One of the primary insights is the nature of impermanence. In the deepest forms of this insight, it becomes apparent that things change quickly that you cannot hold onto anything: eventually the mind lets go of clinging. 
  7. Freedom: This comes as you begin to let go of reactive tendencies. 

There is power in knowing that I can break the cycle of expansion and contraction. I can live more intentionally and cultivate an inner peace and equanimity. The first step is to take on the role of observer in my daily life. What is triggering me and causing a reaction, both positive and negative? How can I start to sink beneath the waves, rather than riding on top of them? How can I locate my centre and stay grounded, despite what it taking place around me? These are some of the questions that I will be investigating in the weeks and months ahead.

Financial Freedom

Financial literacy was not a topic that we discussed in my family. There was always a core value of “spend less than you earn” but I did not received a lot in terms of practical tips and tactics for how to lead a financially strong life.

As I grew into adulthood, I made a lot of mistakes. Many of them to do with credit cards and borrowing money that I could not afford. I learned the hard way about the realities of compound interest and how it can either be your greatest ally or enemy: especially when it is working against you, at 18%.

Three years ago, after my separation, I became the sole financial provider in my family; and I realized that I could not continue to live with my head in the sand. I had to learn how to be financially strong and strategic: especially if I wanted to be a good role model for my daughter.

I started to ask questions of friends and family who seemed to have it figured out. Some of them did. Many of them did not. In Canada, we are a country of citizens living with an extremely high level of personal debt. Financial literacy is not a common strength. It is a common weakness.

Over the years, I have read a number of books to try and raise my level of financial acumen; and, so far, I have landed on two that are my favourites. Combined together, I think that they provide a well rounded picture of what you need to know in order to take control of your financial future.

Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach

David Bach has written ten consecutive New York Times bestsellers with more than seven million books in print. Although I dislike the flashy title, the basic principles of his approach are incredibly practical and helpful. His underlying message throughout the book is that you do not need to earn a lot of money to be wealthy. You just need to be smart about how you allocate it. The book is designed around a seven step plan for achieving financial security.

Step 1: Learn The Facts – And Myths – About Your Money
There are three primary myths that he takes apart in this chapter: make more money and you’ll be rich; someone will always be there to take care of you; and the government has inflation under control. All of these are false. You need to spend less than you earn and plan for the future, no matter what situation you find yourself in.

Step 2: Put Your Money Where Your Values Are
Bach describes an aspect of personal finance that many people skip over and do not think of as important. He encourages the reader to get very clear and identity personal money values. This is done by asking yourself the question, why is money important to me? For example, it could be that you value security, freedom, confidence, helping family, and independence. The answers are very personal and they will be different for each person. Why do this? When you are crystal clear on your core money values, they will drive your short and long-term financial goals.

Step 3: Figure Out Where You Stand Financially … And Where You Want To Go
Although this step can feel overwhelming at first, Bach boils down to “just get started.” Collect as much financial paperwork as you can and organize it by income, debts, and assets. This step is absolutely vital. Why? Being organized financially and knowing where you stand allows you to plan for your future. Once this is achieved, you can set specific and measurable goals, mapping out steps towards achieving each one.

Step 4: Use The Power Of The Latte Factor … How To Create Massive Wealth On Just A Few Dollars A Week!
This chapter lays out Bach’s theory of the “Latte Factor.” The basic idea is that if you trim out unnecessary spending (such as a morning latte), you can save a huge amount of money over time. For example, saving $5 each weekday could result in $100 for debt repayment or savings each month (or $1,200 a year).

Step 5: Practice Grandma’s Three Basket Approach To Financial Security
This is the longest chapter in the book, but it boils down to a very simple concept. Each month, pay yourself first. Set up automatic contributions to your security basket (insurance, emergency fund), your retirement basket (401(k) or RRSP contributions) and your dream basket (a trip, a renovation).

Step 6: Learn The Nine Biggest Mistakes Investors Make And How To Avoid Them
Most of these mistakes are either psychological (“giving up”) or debatable (30 year mortgage). In a nutshell, the best way to avoid most investment mistakes is to be informed, to set up automatic contributions, and always think about investing from a long term perspective.

Step 7: Follow The 12 Commandments Of Attracting Greater Wealth
The final step is some basic career management advice. Bach outlines the twelve steps to finding clarity in your work, securing fair compensation, and giving back.

The Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam

Millionaire Teacher is written for those who are looking to enter the stock market for the first time. It is designed for a reader with little to no knowledge about investing. Hallam is very skilled at taking complicated investment concepts and boiling them down into easily understood, digestible advice. He outlines the benefits out playing the long game to build wealth through compounding returns and establishing a portfolio of passively managed index funds, rather than actively managed mutual funds.

I like this book as a companion to Smart Women Finish Rich, as it provides the tools to take action, once you have your financial house in order. It demystifies the world of investment and provides simple steps for taking back control of your financial future through making informed investment decisions.

Rule 1: Spend Like You Want to Grow Rich
This chapter covers what it actually means to be wealthy.  Hallam provides his own definition of what it means to be ‘rich’ or ‘wealthy’ beyond houses and cars. This section also looks at how to buy a car as an appreciating asset (hint: DON’T BUY BRAND NEW) and how Hallam achieved early retirement through being strategic with his money.

Rule 2: Use the Greatest Investment Ally You Have
This chapter talks extensively about the benefits of compound interest and the power of combining compound interest with long term investing. It clearly makes the case for starting early (a good lesson for our kids).

Rule 3: Small Percentages Pack Big Punches
Hallam makes the case for why actively managed mutual funds are a terrible investment. He demonstrates how the fees you pay add up and how they will ultimately put you behind when seeking to grow your investments.

Rule Four: Conquer the Enemy in the Mirror
In this chapter, Hallam demonstrates how our own behaviors work against us as investors. This chapter highlights how to not get caught up in emotions and how to remain patient when investing in index funds.

Rule 5: Build Mountains of Money with a Responsible Portfolio
This chapter clearly explains the difference between stocks and bonds.  Learn about level of safety or risk that comes along with investing in either and the importance of diversifying your index portfolio between different markets.

Rule 6: Sample a “Round the World” Ticket to Indexing
Learn about specific examples of index portfolios from different countries and the variety of ways to build an index portfolio.  This section provides helpful information by providing examples of specific index funds and how to start investing.

Rule 7: Peak Inside a Pilferer’s Playbook
Banks and financial advisors will actively try to guide you away from investing in passively managed index funds. This chapter provides some tips on how you can respond to a financial advisor’s advice. He also outlines how you can now take your money and directly invest in index funds through online platforms, such as Wealth Simple or Modern Advisor.

Rule 8: Avoid Seduction
Hallam details mistakes he has made over the years and he describes how easy it is to be seduced into seemingly ‘easy-money’ investments.

Rule 9: The 10% Stock Picking Solution…If You Really Can’t Help Yourself
This chapter is for those people who want to venture outside of index fund investing.  Hallam provides basic information on how to make decisions when picking singular stocks and indicators of a smart buy.

Taking the time to read these books, along with other blogs, articles and resources, has proven to be a really empowering experience for me. It may sound strange that learning about finance can be fun but it is true: especially when the penny starts to drop. There is nothing better than feeling in control: to make plans for the future and dream about what is possible, rather than worry about the unknown. Do you have any books or resources that you recommend? If so, would love to hear about them.

The Perfect Fit

Trying to figure out the world of online dating reminds me of shopping in a crowded outlet store. The vast warehouse stretches before you, with its aisles and aisles of clothing, intimidating in its size and scope. You are there to find a perfect pair of jeans. First you wander around for a good long while until you finally locate the right section. You are then faced with daunting task of sorting through piles and piles of mismatched pants, mounded high on the bargain table.

Too tight. Too long. Too retro. Too wide. Too acid washed. It is overwhelming and exhausting. From time to time, you look up at yourself in the mirror of the change room, sweating under the fluorescent lights, pulling off another ill fitting option, and you wonder why you are bothering. But then you remember that all you need to find one perfect pair, just one, so it is worth the effort of trying them all on.

As I have written previously, I am currently testing out the world of dating. More specifically, the world of online dating. As you get older, there do not seem to be the same opportunities to meet potential partners through the regular channels: friends, colleagues, work, social circles. Everyone is paired up. You really need to search further afield.

There is something very intimidating about putting yourself out there in the virtual space: writing a short biography, adding photographs, posting it and waiting to see who responds. It requires a willingness to both expose yourself and allow for vulnerability. You need to remain open to what shows up: both the good and the bad.

Through the relative anonymity of the internet, I have noticed that people often lack the manners that they would normally have in a face to face encounter. They do not respond. They lack curiosity. They do not ask questions. They drop off in mid-conversation. They do not respect boundaries. They ask for revealing photographs. They expect sexual promiscuity. They do not show up for scheduled dates. It goes on and on and it truly boggles my mind.

The lesson I am learning throughout is how to hold on to myself during this challenging experience. To trust that I can be my most authentic self, staying rooted in my own values and beliefs: to not lose myself in the process of trying to find a partner. What I am realizing is that it could take a long time for me to find the right fit; and that is ok. I am content on my own. I have created a good life and I enjoy my own company; I am surrounded by a loving community of friends and family. Romantic companionship is not a must but it would be a lovely addition to my life. In the meantime, I will try to remain open and curious about this strange and unfamiliar journey, and welcome growth along the way.