Holding Pattern

Photo by Leonardo Yip on Unsplash

Life these days reminds me of the film, Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray’s character becomes stuck in a time-loop, and he is forced to live the same day over and over again. There is so little variance in daily life under COVID; it all feels the same. Our social circles are tiny, if not non-existent; we meet with colleagues via Zoom or Teams and rarely see people in person. Many of our activities occur within the walls of our own homes. I sometimes feel like a passenger gazing out of the window of a plane, circling above the airport, waiting for permission to land: waiting for “life” to start again.

We recently marked one year of living under COVID restrictions, and despite the many challenges, I have been reflecting upon the unexpected benefits. I can take my daughter to school in the morning and I am here when she arrives home. I no longer make the commute twice a day; and it is an easy transition from ending work to beginning our evening routine. My workplace has fully adapted to online collaboration, something which normally would have taken another decade, or more, to come to fruition. Our lives generally move at a slower pace. Less driving. Less commitment. Less rushing.

My main source of joy at the moment is spending time outside with friends and family in nature. We cannot currently do any of the things that we would normally do, such as travel, gather for dinner, or attend events, so the outdoors has become our playground. There is something so nourishing about being outside together. We hike and explore in sun, rain and snow. All it requires is a pair of waterproof hiking boots, a warm jacket and a trail app. My daughter has also become quite the little walker, so it is something we now look forward to doing together. There is so much beauty to discover in our local area, surrounded by trees, water and sky.

I have also discovered the joy of cold swimming. This global phenomenon gained traction at the start of the pandemic when people sought new ways to connect and combat depression. Coldwater therapy is known to support a range of health benefits, such as promoting good mental health, boosting the immune system, enhancing circulation, reducing stress and inflammation. I am hooked. I regularly meet with my friend for a weekly plunge in the ocean and it is always a fun and memorable experience. Not only is it a wonderful opportunity to catch up but my body feels electric all day after a swim.

Although “regular life” currently feels like it is on hold, I am grateful for the opportunity to discover new ways of spending time with loved ones, despite the restrictions. Nature is a remarkable phenomenon that should not be taken for grated. This pandemic has taught me to appreciate each and every day and to seek joy in unexpected places. I have also been reminded of how precious our natural surroundings are and how we all need to work together to actively protect these gifts: both for ourselves and for generations to come.

Strong not Skinny

For most of my youth and early adulthood, I struggled with body image issues. I consumed a lot of popular culture; and I wanted to emulate the women that I saw idealized in television, movies and magazines. I held myself to an impossible standard and I believed the lie that being skinny guaranteed access to happiness, love and success.

Over the years, I have learned that this is far from the truth. If you do not hold peace and acceptance inside, it does not matter what you look like on the outside. No one else can make you feel worthy and valuable. This belief needs to come from yourself.

As a forty-three year old woman, my focus is now on cultivating strength and joy within, rather than trying to fit into any external ideal of perfection. I aspire to be of service to my family, friends and community; and my aim is to age with grace and dignity. I can only do this if my body and mind are strong, fit and healthy.

Living in this stressful and busy world, it is extremely helpful to have daily practices that anchor and ground you. In order to do this, I follow a low inflammation diet and I practice a range of strength practices every week. Here are some of the ones that I enjoy the most:

Meditation: Meditation is a practice that spans across cultures and it takes many different forms. It is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being. The basic premise is that you create the space for your feelings and thoughts, allowing them to come and go: observing them with curiosity and not hanging on to any one thing. The timing varies on what works for you. You can do it in as little as five minutes a day and in almost any place: while sitting, walking or washing the dishes. The key is to use your breath. To explore how to meditate, there are great free tools available, such as Headspace app.

Walking: I love to go for long walks. I walk for an hour or more, a few times a week, to get my heart rate up and to build muscle. I love being outside, breathing in the fresh air and spending time in nature. Even in an urban setting, there are often trees and greenery to enjoy. This is the time that I most enjoy listening to podcasts. Some of my favourites at the moment are: Rich Roll; Marie Forleo; The Tim Ferris Show; and Coffee Break French.

Yoga: Yoga is not only good for the body, it is also nourishing for the mind. It is an amazingly versatile practice, which offers everything from restorative to power-based options. You can do it in as little as ten to fifteen minutes a day. I love the idea of growing into a ninety year old woman who can bend over and touch her toes. Yoga is my anchor and I highly recommend that you explore it. The great thing is you no longer need to find a studio to try it out. There are some fantastic free resources online that you can now access at home. A few that I like are: Do Yoga With Me and Yoga with Adrienne.

Bootcamp / High Intensity Training (HIT): Muscle density is important for healthy aging. After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade. Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults. Less muscle means greater weakness and less mobility, both of which may increase the risk of falls and fractures. Building muscle does not mean bulking up; it is about creating an overall lean body structure and maintaining a healthy, stable body weight. I really enjoy taking a bootcamp class in my local community. The trainers are fantastic, kind and encouraging; and there are participants of all different ages and abilities. I am in and out of there in forty-five minutes; and the class is different and varied every day. If you do not want to go to the gym, there are also some great free resources online that you can follow at home, with a mat and some hand weights. I enjoy Christine Salus’ HIT workouts.

How you you like to stay strong? Tell me in the comments below.

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Walking and Podcasts

Close Up Woman Walk In To The Wild With Sunset And Sunlight Back

I have started walking during my lunch hour at work. I like this new routine. It feels good to stretch my legs, reset my brain with some fresh air, and spend a little time in nature: if even through an urban lens. I especially love to watch the seasons change through the leaves and trees.

My sister has always encouraged me to explore the wide world of podcasts; she is a big fan and listens to them voraciously throughout her day. I have always liked the idea but never made the time. Walking at lunch is now providing me with the opportunity to try it out as a new hobby.

I am mostly exploring podcasts focussed on creativity and innovation.  A few of my favourites so far are: TED talks; CBC Writer’s & Co.; and Magic Lessons. This week, I listened to interviews with artists and writers like: Glennon Doyle Melton; Elizabeth Gilbert; Sharon Olds; Zadie Smith; and Leonard Cohen. All of these talks have been very inspiring. It is wonderful to listen to people talk about pursuing their passions. Each and every one of them knew what they were born to do. To create. They then pursued this path relentlessly: despite facing much opposition and many odds.

A thread connecting each of their stories is the fact that a creative life is not an easy one. Even the most seasoned artist or musician has experienced years (and sometimes decades) of rejection and disappointment; but they. kept. going. Not for fame and fortune. They are all simply compelled to create their work and then offer it out to the world. And then create more and do the same again.  Over and over and over.  It is such a raw and vulnerable choice to make. To put your innermost thoughts and expressions on paper and then place those new-born thoughts and ideas into a public space for critique and discussion.

And this brings to why I started this blog. I, too, am driven to create. It makes me feel alive and connected.  I enjoy observing the world around me and sharing what I see through the written word. I always have: ever since I was a little girl. When I was seven years old, I wrote and illustrated a book. It was not my first book; but it was my favourite and I was very proud of it.  I worked on it for weeks on end and I then took it into my school library. I asked the librarian to add it to the collection. I wanted my work to sit on those shelves; and I wanted other children to read my book. It was my dream. I wanted to be a writer and create beautiful things with words.  But as the years passed, I stated to waiver. I believed what I heard around me. That is not a career path. Pursue something more stable. Be realistic Lora.

And so I did. I listened to everyone else and I followed many long and circuitous roads. They all led me back here. To this place and this passion. Thirty-four years later, with the same dream beating strong in my chest. So now I must write and stop being afraid of failure. I will write and write and write to see what happens. I will try to create some magic on these pages and to bring people together through my words and my dreams of beauty, love and light.