Making my Adventure Miracle!

I am about to land in Tokyo – I am about to be in Japan. For real. The miracle of that…the straight up miracle of the fact that 14 hours ago I stood in my friend Karen’s groovy Vancouver kitchen! 14 hours ago we said good morning and I pressed a button for a latte to make itself and now JAL flight 017 is on its final descent into Tokyo…in JAPAN! ME!!

We are still above the clouds…landing in about 15 minutes, says the careful voice of the Japanese flight attendant over the PA. When we lifted off in Vancouver I found myself suddenly, unexpectedly in tears… wet surprising trails of surprised delight across my cheeks. The reality of this… this trip i hardly dared trust would really happen…rushed in on a wave of gratitude and joy.

The wheels are lowering beneath me now…groaning in anticipation of our return to hard pavement from this blue sky miracle highway.

I am so thankful. This is real…I am landing in Tokyo. I am making an adventure. Yes.

And now I am here in Tokyo airport…girls in kilts and people in face masks, talking robots and news about….Trump, Clinton and Cruz. Smallish world, still miraculous!

She found herself – alone, in Vietnam…

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I am leaving for Vietnam in 23 days. I’ll be travelling solo into an entirely new and different landscape, soundscape, smellscape.  I am excited and nervous and eager and anxious all at once. I want to strike a comfortable balance between seeing and experiencing as much as I can AND… relaxing, enjoying and taking in experiences as they present themselves to me.

I’m trying not to plan this trip. I know roughly what I’d really love to see and do but I am not booking or planning anything beyond my first two nights’ accommodations. I’m not sure if that is wise or pure folly but it feels right to me somehow. When I arrive in Hanoi, I’ll check into my gorgeous hotel and delight in the fact that my daughter was there last spring… I’ll love having that shared experience. I’m going to love knowing that my youngest daughter and I are in the same time zone, as she is travelling SE Asia on her own with her friend. We won’t meet up, but I’ll feel close… close-ish?

Travelling solo is something I had never really planned. I mean I’ve done solo trips to attend conferences and so on but not… travelling, alone. I’ll be carrying a backpack… like a kid. Me, my degenerative discs and a backpack full of Advil… ! I’m an absolute novice at this. I did travel through Mexico a few times as a young’un with the same kind of planning scheme; knowing where I’d stay the first and last nights, winging it the rest of the time, but that was (ahem) some time ago.

I’m kind of proud of myself…either that or I’m certain I’m foolhardy . My own sweetie states categorically that he wouldn’t do what I’m doing. I asked if he meant going to Vietnam or travelling alone… he said Yes.

But hey… it’s easy to be proud of myself ahead of the fact; booking a plane ticket takes no bionic cohones, after all. It’s the actual follow through that will be the test. It’s going to be me, a hotel reservation and a guidebook downloaded to my kindle app. I’ve got a few blog posts saved and the names of a few tour companies, cruise operators and trekking guides. I know of a few interesting places to visit in the middle part of the country… beaches & mud baths. I am sure I want to trek through the northern rice terraces and spend time on Catba island, spelunk a few caves and kayak up to a lady selling cold beer from a raft in a floating village beside the karsts in Halong Bay. But who knows. Worst case scenario? I get freaked out and hunker down in Hanoi or I get myself to a beach and stay there for 2 weeks. Not so bad…

Oy. What have I done?! I wish I could approach this with only exhilarated anticipation but there is an element of fear. Maybe that’s good. I made a list for myself of the things I wanted for 2016. It’s a list of challenges…more than any resolutions I’ve ever made, I want to keep these:

2016     Travel… OFTEN! Big trips, small trips, overnight escapes or camping  Do it. Just GO.   Purge… excess! Go through cupboards and closets and get rid of it. GET RID OF IT.  Minimize… expenses. Spend less to TRAVEL MORE!   Explore… my own limits. Try things I’ve never tried, go where I’ve never gone. Dare.  Laugh… A LOT! Relax and let go of how I think things should be and enjoy the comical, farcical nature of life as it is. Spend time with people who laugh…they lift me.  Nurture… FRIENDSHIPS, myself, those I care for. Take time to be with friends, make time for easy and challenging relationships. Make that time important.  Have Courage… FIND IT! Do what scares me. Be alone, travel alone, push my own boundaries, go places, say what I feel, own my shit.  

Life is short. Life is stupidly, terrifyingly short. Don’t waste it! GO!!

And so I’ve had my immunizations, I’ve borrowed a backpack and I’m getting myself ready in so many ways. In October I went rappelling… canyoneering in Zion National Park. I’d never done that before. I guess I should have been scared but somehow, it was what I’d been waiting for. I’m ready now, for this new adventure. Kind of. I’m kind of ready for this adventure.

I chose Vietnam, this trip, because it is so many miles outside my comfort zone you can’t even SEE my comfort zone. I’ll be out of my depth. I won’t have any familiar points of reference, anyone to lean on or anyone to blame. All. Me. Make or break, it’s going to be on me.

Here goes…!

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Dear Friends who live in Cities

IMG_2143Dear friends who live in cities, in urban centres with concrete and towers and suburbs… how do you do it? How do you live without berries underfoot and hills to climb and rivers to dip your toes in? How do you pass your days without escape?

How do you make your way from 8:30 am Monday to 5pm Friday without a climb, a walk, a deep spruce tip infused breath? How do you navigate a week without air too big to gulp and skies too large to see?

I love your cities. I love the fast and the bright and plentiful, the rich and delicious. I love the available and the nearby and the best… but I long for dirt. I long for air and odour, unexpected fungus erupting from moist ground and moss.

My too long week is eased, aided, tempered by yellow leaves and spongy ground. My bad days are righted by rain on lichen and the snap of dead branches underfoot. My therapy is a walk alone in the woods.

Dear friends who live in cities, where do you go to breathe? How do you live without a berry patch?

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Frenchish, Spench & Voice Mail Punctuation

 

shut-up-siriI can no longer leave a voice mail. I am not kidding you. If you have received a voice mail from me in the last two years it probably sounded something like this:

Hi comma this is Deborah period.  Thanks for getting back to me about that project semi-colon there are lots of details to be sorted out period Why don’t we meet for coffee this week to discuss question mark SHIT I did it again oh crap ignore this message!!  jeez ahhhh… SORRY!  I don’t even know how to leave voice mail anymore shit (I hang up red faced).  If YOU have been the bewildered recipient of such a message please comma accept my apologies exclamation mark

Seriously.

Damn you Siri! I have figured out precisely how to tell Siri what to text on my behalf. She and I don’t always speak the same language (even without the enriching cab-sav) but we do okay.  I used to be a medical transcriptionist (data entry of patient notes verbatim from dictation cassettes recorded by doctors not gifted in penmanship), so I am well versed in the need for oral inclusion of punctuation (comma) when dictating (period). Clearly, that advanced skill is not working in my favour when it comes to real life communication.

I can speak Spanish fluently… when I’m drinking. At least I think I am speaking Spanish fluently, but hey… it’s hard to be sure after the third glass of red. It’s the same with French… you should hear my Merlot fuelled Francais… c’est incroyable. No, vraiment, c’est incroyable.  What’s really fun is when I get the languages mixed up… I’ve heard of Franglais and Spanglish… what is a word for a grape infused language blend of the two languages of love? Fromantish? Spench? Frenchish? I like Spench… how about Siri influenced voice mail messaging though… do we need a name for that? Surely I’m not the only one who’s doing this…and now I’m doing it all day every day, dead sober, on voice mails I can’t take back.

So as you can plainly see, I have a gift for languages… for learning and incorporating new languages into my life. I also think maybe me and Siri need to take a break Period. Shit. Sorry.

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Pursuing Radical Silliness & Becoming Myself

IMG_5045 I think I’m getting closer to being who I am. I’m starting to listen to the voice inside more, letting myself do things I used to put off or talk myself out of that bring me joy. For reasons I don’t understand, I spent many years not really swimming much; I’d go in the lake if the kids did, but rarely just to please myself. Reading through previous blog posts I’ve come to realize that somehow, swimming and connection with water has become a kind of touchpoint for me. So this summer I guess it’s all about the water. Every opportunity I can find, I’m in. I’ve started travelling with my swimsuit and towel in the back of my car. If I forget to bring it and the opportunity presents itself? I guess I’m going commando.

Do women do this more than men? Hold ourselves back from what makes us happy because of some crazy inner voice or fear or sense of propriety? Maybe it’s just me… I recently read a fabulous quote by Anne Lamott and it grabbed me by the throat. I’ve had it on my fridge since the day I read it.

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day and you’re 65 or 75 and you never got your memoir or novel written, or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy, or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.”

I’m 48, soon to be 49. That gives me a bit of time between today and 65 or 75 but based on the last few decades, it’ll be here before I can say Huh?  My mother is 70, and she’s 21 years older than me. Doing the math left me a bit stunned when we celebrated her birthday. That means I’m only 21 years from 70. Holy…. To me, that means I’m on a mission now. I’ve got a lot of experiences that have been waiting around for someday. I want to go to the night market in Chiang Mai,  to Vietnam,  Positano, Provence… I MUST visit the Caves of Cappadocia in Turkey. I’ve always wanted to, in fact. Now it feels a bit urgent.

I know I may live another 40 years, happy and strong and sassy but I’d better get a move on. I’m not waiting… I’m not waiting to have the right person to travel with. Not waiting for a new partner, a best friend with the same travel style and vacation days and budget as me… I’m going to go. This summer I’ve camped on my own, swum on my own, gone hunting for cool new experiences on my own.

This fall, the universe willing, I’ll be travelling to South East Asia. On my own. That is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying… fingers crossed it’ll be one of the biggest adventures of my year. I’m not going to lay money that it’s going to be the biggest though; of the 365 days 2015 has to offer I’m hoping to create some pretty spectacular memories. I’ve already tucked a few into my “to be reviewed later” folder… can’t wait to add a few more. Wanna go for a swim? IMG_5073 FYI, these photos were taken a couple of years ago at the summit enroute to Skagway Alaska. That lake… it’s brisk. We’ll call it brisk. But it was glorious and I’ll be forever glad I jumped in.

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Time to get busy again? The value of volunteering…

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They say if you want something done, ask the busiest person you know. I’m not sure if I’m the busiest person you know, but I seem to have reversed my decision of last year… the one where I decided to step BACK from taking on extra curricular challenges. Hmmm.

I am loving (seriously freaking holy awesome) LOVING my day job; it is different every day, challenges me on many levels and is near infinite in its possibilities. I have grown kids who need me very little these days, and my youngest is about to graduate. I am single again, so have time on my hands too. That all adds up to energy to spare and a willingness to bite off a bigger chunk of challenge. Either that or it adds up to a whole big pile of crazy… maybe they’re the same thing?

I have found myself on a board. Or two. Or three, now I think about it. I am really excited about this, despite the fact that I am somehow chair of one board and co-chair of another. The co-chair job is already a big bucket of work but I’m really excited and eager to start moving forward. The other boards are low output, but engaging in different ways.

So why do I do this? Why do I take on excess work? I am trying to figure this out; is it out of boredom? Maybe… to a minor degree. I know some people take on board roles to pad their resumes, gain experience and exposure, “network & leverage connections”. I think I do it because I have too much electricity running through my body and too much work gives me a productive place to put it. I’m also a creative person with more big ideas than I can find places for without the kind of forum that volunteer work provides.

The funny thing is that I somehow manage to keep board work and volunteerism separate in my head, how weird is that? I consider time spent helping out at the Food Bank or serving lunch at a soup kitchen as volunteer work, but board work is its own category in my mind. However I categorize it, I’m glad I have opportunities to stretch my mind and work with such diverse groups through this kind of activity. And how cool to be part of SOMETHING BIGGER (that deserves capitals, no?).

Crazy. I seem to step back from boards every few years; in hindsight perhaps I do that only so I can catch a second wind and hit the ground running again, with increased capacity.

Hey… join a board… it’s rewarding! You’ll meet new people, experience new challenges, have exciting adventures, learn Roberts Rules of Order… And if you want, you can even network and leverage new connections (wink). But mostly you’ll do good work for a cause you believe in. There are many not for profit groups and organizations seeking committed, talented people.

Learn who needs the skills you have to offer by contacting Volunteer Yukon or offer to serve on one of the boards highlighted on the Government of Yukon’s Boards & Committees page. And if you’re reading this and you’re not in the Yukon then find a group wherever you are that needs all the special you-ness you have to share. You’ll be glad you did. Seriously!

My stilettos, my choice. Your Hijab? You’ve been brainwashed!

c1492d1b9a40d95336eb738d895c9ae2Ever hear anything like this? “It’s shocking that Muslim women have so little say over what they wear. They say it’s their choice to wear the Hijab. They’ve been brainwashed! Their free will has been corrupted and they have no idea what real choice and real freedom is. Not like me. I know real freedom.”

You stand there in your size 9, 4 inch stilettos crammed with your size 9.5 feet, toenails painted and cuticles trimmed, leg hair ripped out by the roots with hot wax applied regularly. The shoes hurt but they make your legs look great.  You know you could wear flats… you choose to wear heels.

Your $12 ultra sheer super control top pantyhose do their best to contain that tiny tummy bulge but what it can’t hold in is managed by your Spanx. Your dress is exactly the right mix of professional and sexy so that your meeting today will go well; if your ideas don’t dazzle them, they’ll be hoping for a peek to determine of the colour of your $65 underwire push up bra and wondering if it matches your thong and whether you’re landing strip or clean. You choose to wax because it makes you feel sexier…

Your skin glows… it should, after being religiously scrubbed, buffed and exfoliated. You moisturize twice daily of course, to stay smooth and silky. Your makeup only takes a half-hour now, and you’ve narrowed the routine down to about 15 steps and products. The cost is alarming, but that’s how it goes. You choose to use good skin care and cosmetics; they are much more expensive, but they make you feel prettier…

Your hair… well, it continues to be a struggle. You are going grey and would like very much to let it go, let it happen. In your profession though, grey hair is an invitation to the younger, bolder, hipper folks to step in. You’re not quite ready to let that happen so it’s cut, trim, dye, streak, highlight, foils… you name it. You choose to colour your hair because you know it makes you look younger and sexier…

You pull on your exercise gear and go for a run a few times a week. You hate it hate it hate it and it hurts your knees but you only have a little time to exercise and you seriously don’t want to gain any weight over the winter. Your body needs to be bikini ready when you head to Mexico for a winter break. You may be getting older but you sure don’t want to seem like you’ve given up! And your man, well he likes you looking slim and hot and you want to keep him looking…

Women in the west are the most brainwashed in the history of the world, I would wager. I’m one of them. I have bought into the Virginia Slims, Coca- Cola-Calvin Klein-Betty Crocker-Cosmopolitan femininity construct as much as the next woman. I have no place, no right and no authority on which to judge the choices of any woman anywhere. My choices are the result of the brainwashing I’ve undergone my entire life. Here in the West, that’s celebrated as personal freedom.

There are lots of reasons to be angry about the treatment of women in other countries, under other regimes and political or religious systems. Squawking over women’s lack of choices is hypocritical at best so long as we continue to be pummelled with messages about how to be prettier, fitter, sexier so long as we keep making dolls for our daughters that look like little anorexic prostitutes. We can’t keep offering our own women the choice between being being blow-up doll bitches or perfect Pinterest moms while condemning the choices of others. We need to think about this…

Moral authority? We don’t have it.