My Year of Lightening Up

I’ve been thinking about how well (or not) our brains actually handle metaphors.

For instance, there’s this study that demonstrates that individuals holding a warm beverage were more likely to rate the person that handed it to them as warm. If they were handed a cold beverage, they were more likely to rate them as cold.

It’s an interesting thought that maybe our brains aren’t as good as processing metaphors as we’d like to believe. If someone is wearing sparkly jewelry, am I more likely to describe them as having a sparkling personality? If my office is dark, am I likely to start thinking of myself as being in a dark place in my life? If I see someone sitting half on half off their chair would I also view their work as half-assed?

Well that’s the experiment. I’ve always seen myself as a person of some weight. At best I have gravitas, at worst prone to worry and catastrophizing. And although I know I can be funny on stage, in my writing and at least one of my friends describes me as impish, I view myself as heavy, weighed down, burdened.

And truth be told, there have been a lot of weighty things going on in the last few years: I lost both my parents to cancer within a year of each other. My mother had been ill for 2.5 years—2.5 years of doctors, tests, surgeries, waiting rooms, medications—heavy stuff. We lost my Dad in a brief six weeks between his first symptoms and his death—it was awful, like watching someone be hit by a train in extreme slow motion. Those were the biggest boulders in the mountain, but there were other things, like my daughter being hit by a car resulting in a broken femur and a helicopter ride to the hospital. I have 2 kids with special needs diagnoses that mean an ever present need to “deal with stuff” lest they never become contributing members of society and it will be all my fault. Plus a job loss due in the family due to a restructuring that meant I took a second part time job and went from working 3 days per week to 6 days per week. I am so lucky to be employed in the field I love and both my employers are wonderful and flexible, but the work isn’t going to be do itself and there’s a lot of it.

I want to honour these important challenges. The traumas happened and they are done now. I don’t have to live by my parent’s grave (actually their grave is less than a mile from my house – metaphor gone awry again?) or fear that every time my kids get on a bike they have a 50/50 chance of coming home alive. It’s a bit like living with a sub-clinical PTSD. I don’t end up sobbing in my bed, but I find myself triggered by everyday conflicts and challenges into feeling at that life and death crossroads of fight or flight (usually choosing flight [avoidance]).

And there are aspects of weight that I like: gravitas, power (in the sense of having personal powerful), groundedness, wisdom, strength. And I don’t think I need to give those up. But I am too weighted (ha!) in the heavy side of this ying-yang duality.

My point, and I promise I’m getting to it. My life has been heavy metaphorically and now I’m also physically heavier. And yes, I get that it’s not metaphor. That it’s behaviour. At its root, I’ve been habitually taking in more than I’ve expended. But my hypothesis is that it’s my belief and narrative about it that’s driving my behaviour. I get home and I’m fried. I’m tired. I can’t move. I feel low energy so I look for energy in food (literal energy) but I don’t have the energy to workout. I need to sleep so I don’t workout in the morning. I have too much work to do to take a break so I eat at my desk. I don’t have time to meal plan, shop and cook and blah blah blah, you’re getting the drift ya?

So, my hypothesis. What if I lighten up? What if I start building a relationship with the quality of lightness: levity, inspiration, enlightenment, energy, effervescence, humour, sparkle, glow, radiance, luminosity, exuberance, unburdening, pleasure, joy. All those qualities that are in the neighbourhood of light.

Will changing my focus to the light instead of the heavy also shift my story and shift my behaviour?

That is indeed the question.

So, starting on the Vernal Equinox (March 20th), as we start heading into the light, I’ll embark on my year of lightening up.

I don’t quite know what that means yet. I’ve made my hypothesis and now I have to create the experiment to test it.

Stay tuned.

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All the Res

I am away on retreat this week in a cabin in the woods–a long overdue few days away. I need to retreat, re-energize, reorder, reboot, renew, refill–all the res. I need them.

It’s been quite a time since I last posted here. Throat surgery in January for a benign lump on my thyroid, performing in Shrek The Musical two weeks later, fundraiser and workshop for Classic Chic in February and March. I took on a second part-time job in March changing my 3-day a week working lifestyle to 6 days a week. That was change enough right? Oh, wrong. Because we had our inaugural production of The Winter’s Tale this summer. So for a long while when I wasn’t at work, I was at rehearsals, meetings, or a performance. I’m somewhat surprised and humbled and yes, proud to say it was a great success. We’re currently plotting our second production (details soon!).

But having a schedule this full takes its toll. I guess the experts would call it conflicting priorities: 3 kids (2 with some special needs), 1 husband, 1 dog, a home, 2 jobs, a theatre company and a production plus a creative impulse and you have a recipe for one muddled Christina. Too many needs to attend to, be aware of, help facilitate, connect with. My to-do list is a constant source of anxiety and shame and accusations of procrastination and failure from my inner monsters. My life is a bit like living with 20 toddlers all pulling on my shirt and saying “Mom? Mom! Mom? Mom!” all the time. (I’m not calling my husband and kids toddlers, they are all functioning capable people, but they also have needs and potentials that I don’t want to ignore).

I can’t figure out how to make this puzzle work. Is it better habits? Is it running a better calendar? Is it simplifying things? Do I just need a personal assistant or five?

What do I know? I know I must go in the direction of creativity because that fires me up instead of drains me. I know I must build some better habits around nourishment and activity for both me and my family.  That will also energize me (us) and reduce the amount of decision-making I need to do on a daily basis because then it will be routine and I need my decision-making capacities for more important areas rather than “Shall I go to the gym? Yes or no?” I also need to make time for wandering creatively speaking. Not mindlessly watching tv, clicking on Facebook or Twitter or playing Candy Crush. I know I need to unplug, but I need to unplug a little more mindfully.

So a clearer target (living a creative life with a happy family) with better systems (habits that will support a creative life with a happy family) might be the answer.

It also might be time for some other res. Reorganizing my life. Reorganizing my thoughts. Releasing things I don’t need and that don’t work any more. Relinquishing responsibility for things I don’t need to be responsible for. Rejecting the zillion voices clamouring for my attention claiming to inspire, and have me believe they have the answer while just making me feel guilty that their answers are theirs and not mine. Relaxing my grip on it all–there’s only so much order you can bring to the chaos of life, and that’s a grand thing.

For now, I’m setting the coordinates and plotting the course.

I am returning to myself. Writing is one of the ways I do that.

Posted in Observatory, Wonderment | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts on a Sad Anniversary

The last two weeks of my Mom’s life were very hard–for me, my Dad, my siblings, her grandkids, and I suppose hardest of all for my Mom. Not that she was very lucid anymore. What started out as breast cancer had metastasized to her brain making her appear for all intents and purposes as one who had advanced alzheimer’s.

The last few months of her life she had celebrated some milestones. She and Dad celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary on September 25th. It would be her last really good day. In October, she went to Ottawa to receive the Mother Theresa award from an organization to which she had dedicated a good part of her life. That would mark her last public address (and despite the brain cancer, she spoke without notes). In November, she got a tour of the new School Board building–a project which she had a hand in initiating in her time on that board. That tour would mark her last time leaving the house.

After that it was a quick decline to a hospital bed in the living room, visits from palliative care workers and round the clock bedside vigils. She hung on for an improbable, impossible 2 more weeks. It reminded me of the time I spent about 10 days going into false labour with my middle child. It would seem like now’s the time, and then, oh wait, it wasn’t.

We learned a few things about bad signs during that time. These are signs that things are not going well:

1) When you find yourself googling “death rattle.” (Folks, it’s a real thing, not just something in gothic novels.)

2) You become part of some mysterious lasagne/casserole chain

3) Mouth swabs make their appearance

4) The doctor gives you his cell phone number and says call anytime

5) There is a do not resuscitate order stuck to the fridge.

But there was beauty amidst that pain too. There was a care worker who was so gentle and loving with Mom as she bathed her and who we found crying as she left the house. There was the morning after a night we were sure she wouldn’t make it through. She was able to sit up, eat a boiled egg and drink some hot chocolate. When my sister tried to gently give her some more hot chocolate my Mom affectionately pointed at her and said “Bugger off.” It seemed like high comedy to us.

suet-feeder_800And then there were the birds. We placed her bed by the window and put the bird feeder and suet cage on a branch that was easily viewed. We watched the chickadees and finches in the bright cold of that winter while we listened to music and visited with each other and the people that came to pay their last respects.

And then on December 3, 2010 at about 5pm she died.

I missed the event itself, as I had gone home for some reason and then lay down for an exhausted nap. Apparently it was full of the regular chaos of family coming and going and I’m sure she wouldn’t have had it any other way than at her beloved home full of the life that she had created.

The birds have remained a beautiful reminder of her and her life. Both my Mom and Grandma were people that noticed the small things, the blooming of the crocuses, the cat that would follow at a subtle distance, the small bird hopping through the branches.

Sometimes the birds seem to have indicated her presence. For instance, there was the time I received a phone call offering me a part–a part for which I had not even auditioned. Let me set that scene for you. I was at a cabin in the woods, got a phone call on my cell, and while I was on the phone with this person trying to understand that I was being offered this incredible opportunity out of the blue, a chickadee lit on an empty suet cage that was hanging outside the cabin. The suet cage was the exact make and model of the one that hung outside the window of my parents’ house. And to top that coincidence off, rehearsals started on my parents’ anniversary. Thanks Mom.

My new company, Classic Chic Productions, has a bird theme too. We’re an all-female ensemble dedicated to performing the classics. So we’re the Classic Chicks. Get it? It’s a kind of happy accident. My Mom is a woman who made things happen, and that’s what Classic Chic is all about, making things happen.

So, today, I’m noticing the birds and all the signs of birds–feathers, wings, and eggs–and I invite you to do the same in honour of an incredible and incredibly missed woman.

Posted in Gravity, Mothership, Winter Solstice | Leave a comment

30 Things I Love Right Now

Inspired by the ongoing series by this guy, and in late tribute to Canadian Thanksgiving here are 30 things I love right now:

(1) Hot, hot, HOT baths in my new soaker tub especially when also accompanied by… (2) an entire bag of the Body Shop’s Soya Milk Bath. | (3) Salted Caramel Mochas from Starbucks. | (4)  Climbing into my bed for a mid-day nap on my days off and … (5) having my feet warmed by the early autumn sun while I do so. | (5) Returning to SFU twenty-two years after I graduated to watch my sister do the same. | (6) Remembering how much I love the architecture of SFU (even if it puts me in a minority). | (7) Intense, ridiculously sweaty workouts. (Well, at least once I’m about 10 minutes in, then I love it. Really!) | (8) Watching Downton Abbey | (9) Watching Downton Abbey when it makes me gasp out loud (GOL is the new LOL) with an unexpected plot twist. | (9) My fuzzy orange socks. | (10) My oh so soft fuzzy orange sweater. | (11) Roasted Turkey skin. | (12) Seeing my new thing being born. | (13) Realizing with not a little bit of shock, that I have community to help mid-wife my new thing being born, and it’s community I built myself (with a little bit of luck and happy coincidence thrown in). | (14) Making things happen. | (15) Pruning. | (16) Shredding. | (17) Mopping. | (18) Having a guy come and take away the ugly pile of stuff in our back yard. | (19) Emma, whose graduation photos turned out lovely. | (20) Calvin, whose brain I can see re-wiring itself daily. | (21) Lloyd, to whom I will have been married 20 years tomorrow. (Maybe he should have gone first–ah well, too late, I’m not renumbering.) | (22) Sasha, who is getting me up every morning to get walked and showing me the value of consistency. | (23)  Griffin, who loves Lego and still cries over the death of his grandparents. | (24) My large, colourful, family. | (25) Tomorrow Salad | (26) What I Wouldn’t Do by Serena Ryder. | (27) My new glasses. | (28) A return to normal of my iron levels. Ah, this is what having energy feels like. | (29) Opening nights. | (30) English muffins with butter and honey. |

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Lost and Found

Let me tell you the story of my hat.


This hat came into my life on my birthday, March 15, in 2010. The day before, on March 14, at around 8:30pm or so, my husband casually said to me “So, you should be heading off to the airport. Silvie’s flight comes in at 9:30.” He had booked one of my best friends in the world to come up from Los Angeles to Vancouver for my birthday weekend as  a total surprise to me.

The weekend was extravagant and magical. It was the Paralympics in Vancouver, so there was still lots of Olympic fever in the air. We wandered around downtown, I bought my first pair of Fluevogs. We ate cupcakes. We got caught in a flash rainstorm, as customarily happens with Silvie and me. (Sidebar: One of my best memories with Silvie is watching a lightning storm outside of Radcliffe Camera in Oxford. Probably not one of our smartest moments, but spectacular, wild, and cathartic.) And we went to Granville Island where I purchased a hat from the Rose Hip hat kiosk.


Later that year, my Mom’s cancer took a turn for the worse. It spread to her liver and then her brain. Her last real good day was her and my Dad’s 45th wedding anniversary on September 25, 2010. But in October, even though she could no longer tell time, or be certain what day of the week it was, she wanted to take one last trip to Ottawa to receive the Mother Theresa Award, a lifetime service award from an organization and a cause she was passionate about. My youngest sister accompanied her. Funds had been donated in a 48-hour window from her long-time colleagues to pay for first-class seats since she could no longer sit upright for more than an hour.

On that trip, she wore my hat on her poor chemo, radiated head. And she rocked it. She made her last public address without notes and rocked that too.


When Mom died a few months later, we talked about burying her in that hat, but, maybe selfishly, I wanted to keep the hat myself.

Fast forward to October of this year (2012), I was walking out the door to go to a rehearsal and noticing it looked like rain, I quickly jammed the hat into my bag. It was days later that I realized that the hat was no longer in my bag and I didn’t actually know where it was. I kept thinking it would just show up as these things often do. But I checked at home, the rehearsal hall, the office, my car all to no avail. I was starting to have dreams where I was looking for my hat, sometimes finding it, sometimes not. Because, of course, it wasn’t just a hat that I paid too much for. The hat had a story. A history of good times, of bad times, a connection with Silvie and my Mom.

On Monday, out of a last ditch effort, I called Granville Island administration and asked if they had a lost and found. They did. I asked if they had found a green hat with silver buttons on the rim. She checked the log. There was a green hat noted. She went and got it and described to me my beloved hat. I was at their office within 2 minutes to retrieve it. And then I came back to my office and cried on my office mate’s shoulder while I told her the story of the hat.

I don’t know who the person was that found my hat, it might have been a parking commisionaire that noticed that some idiot had dropped their boutique property without regard and handed it in as was their duty. It could have been a Granville Island shopper that thought better of keeping it for themselves. Whoever it was, I thank you so very much and am very grateful that it’s with me again. If it was just a hat I wouldn’t care. But it’s a hat with a story.

Posted in Gravity, Mothership, Rainbows | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In which I get Salty

So, I am really unforgivably late in posting this, but I am doing a thing. It’s kind of hard to explain so I’m going to give you a lot of links.

The event is called Fourplay. It’s basically four episodes in a relationship from meeting to marriage. It takes place at Salt Tasting Room in Gastown. I play one half of the couple in question. Okay, maybe that wasn’t so hard to explain. If you go, you get food, you get to keep your cell phone turned on, and there’s always some other entertainment. Last week we had a lovely musician, next week a magician, the third week some (ahem) burlesque and the fourth, a brass band.

The first night was great fun if the faces of the audience were any indication, (and believe me, I was right up close to see ’em). As a performer, I have to say, it is one wild ride.

Okay, here’s the link-a-palooza:

Posted in Performance, Stardust | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Today I Love…

My inadvertent collection of orange sweaters…

Orange Sweater Happiness

Posted in Star Catalogue, Sun | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment