Blind Faith

“I really admire your blind trust in the universe,” said a friend I was with Saturday night.

She meant it, though the words themselves don’t pack much punch, the look in her eyes and how she said it definitely did. I laughed and took a sip of the bourbon that I couldn’t afford.

Indeed, many of the decisions I’ve made recently, and in the far away past, probably look quite blind from the outsiders looking in.

I don’t know that we ever get to an age where we have to make less choices, but right now there seems to be a lot. And they all feel BIG. And detrimental. And…important.

The older I get, the more I can start to weave together the impact even the tiniest of choices can have. To say yes to that date and no to another, to break up or stay together, to say yes to that job and no to that one. 

To walk away from something or someone with no certainty that something greater is around the corner.

It’s hella scary.

Choices, of any kind, used to paralyze me. I’m that person who has to order last at brunch. First I can’t decide if I want sweet or savory, the classic breakfast dilemma. Then, just when I think the painful decision process is over:

“How would you like your eggs done?”

UGH.

A trivial decision yes, but how you behave at OJs on Sunday afternoon is likely very similar to how you behave elsewhere. Consider that how you do anything is how you do everything.

I read this “motivational” quote by some guy named Michael Josephson: “The choices you make in your life will make your life. Choose wisely.”

That didn’t motivate me Michael; it stressed me the fuck out.

I feel very lucky to have grown up in this generation where our choices seem endless. We’ve thrown the straight and narrow out the door. We are no longer looked at funny if we’re 25 and without child. Reinventing ourselves five times before our 30th birthday and having numerous careers is totally cool.

But is anyone else feeling overwhelmed?

I used to have this deep rooted fear of aging. And not the getting wrinkles kind of fear. It was more of a, “I’m running out of time” kind of fear. That, coupled with the fact that there are lot of things on my bucket list, was causing a lot of stress. As if I had to get it all crossed off, like, now.

To know which impulses to follow, and to know when it’s time to pull the trigger. To know which ideas still need time to blossom, and which you should just go for. To know when changing your mind is just that, or when it’s actually just giving up when you might be three feet from gold.

The tug at your heart, the impulsive decisions, the well thought out plans. When to choose and when to sit on it.

I may have written about this before, or I may have just uttered this lesson to friends and colleagues, but here’s a teaching from a friend and mentor that changed everything for me, and is likely the reason why it looks like I have blind trust.

I assure you, it’s not blind.

We always think that it’s about whether we choose A or B, but the most important thing, and the thing that actually propels our lives forward, is making a decision.

Mind not blown? Consider this: That place of indecision sucks. Wavering back and forth between moving, quitting a job, or leaving a relationship, is so much worse than just making the decision and pulling the trigger.

In Edwene Gaines’ Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity, Maxwell Maltz says, “A step in the wrong direction is better than staying on the spot all our life. Once you’re moving forward you can correct your course as you go. Your automatic guidance system cannot guide you when you’re standing still.” (p.38)

So, just go out there and choose, and trust that you’ll be able to course correct.

And trust that you’ll get what you need one way or another.

Last Friday night I was having coffee with an old friend at a quiet cafe. One way to look at it is we were discussing our latest choices. Choices like: sleeping with guys you know deep down are fuck boi’s, moving cities, and quitting jobs. Giving things up for new experiences, or giving things up for one night of fun.

Mid conversation an older man came up to our table with two plates, a dessert for each of us.

He said, “These are for you. I have 5 daughters and you two sitting here chatting reminded me of them and how much I miss them.”

Hopefully he didn’t hear the details of our conversation, for his sake.

His sincerity took away any initial reaction I had that screamed, “Don’t take treats from strangers!”

Then he said, “The world is good to us, it’s not always as bad as they make it seem.” 

I think the difference between reckless blind trust and the kind of faith my girlfriend and I were talking about this weekend, lies in the difference between being impulsive (which has its place) and having your eyes wide open. When you know yourself well enough and have your eyes (and heart) open, making those choices gets a little easier. You don’t get attached to one outcome over another. You trust that the world will be good to you, because your eyes are open to all the ways that it already is.

Oil & Grain Collab

Read this post on Oil & Grain

[“the first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are” – John Pierpont Morgan]

July 18, 2013. I’m not good with years or dates. I only know this was the day because I found the piece of paper I had scribbled on during an afternoon with three coworkers. Mid summer. Mid twenties. A couple hours before I had to go to work.

I was kind of lost. I was standing still.

The big question was posed – What one great thing would you dare to dream if you knew you could not fail?

I had heard that question many times before. But for some reason that afternoon the real honest answer came up – or maybe it had been there all along and I was finally ready to listen to it.

lululemon will call this kind of work goal setting. Danielle Laporte might call itDesire Mapping. [Read that book!] My writing mentor would call it intention setting. This particular question is Brian Tracy’s; he calls this work thePsychology of Achievement. My dad has a bucket list. My mom has a vacation planner. I dabble in all of the above.

The truth about me is that I’m as into personal development and making my life as rad as possible as I am going out on friday nights. I guess you could say I found a way to blend the two.

I say yes to out-of-body spiritual woo-woo stuff on yoga retreats. I say yes to doubles on Thursdays. Yes to personal development seminars and the self-help section at Chapters. Yes to making terrible decisions and laughing about them later.

So July 18th. Two summers ago. I got really honest with the question I mentioned above. “I would be our generations Candace Bushnell. I want to be recognized in a magazine as our generations Carrie Bradshaw.”

I had also heard the follow up question many times before. “What’s one thing you could do that would be a step in the right direction?”

Here’s my two cents on that question: I don’t think it so much matters what small step you take – it’s just the act of taking a step.

My favorite university professor who I met in 2006, and now my writing mentor and as I like to call her, my life coach, taught me a really important lesson: So often we get stuck in a spot where all we’re doing is debating to take path A or path B. We weigh the pros and cons, second guess ourselves, and let fear [of a million things] stop us from making a choice. We think that the big decision is whether we choose A or B. But the truth is, the real decision is just making Adecision. Any decision. What matters is pulling the trigger.

Because nothing is going to happen if you stand still. At least if you choose B, and it turns out to be shit, you can course-correct. You learn something. You’re going somewhere. My small step was sending my university professor an email to see if she was still teaching writing workshops. [She is – http://www.languageofyoga.com/%5D

There were thousands of other tiny choices and steps along the way. But what amazes me is how much ease there was in all of this. As soon as I took that first step, things started rolling.  I was just published for the first time, I write for Swagger Communications, I’m a regular contributor to Branded Magazine, and someone from the Sun just contacted me about freelancing. Last night I started to put together a portfolio. Things are rolling, one step at a time. Branded Magazine called me “Calgary’s Carrie Bradshaw.” That’s pretty close to what I scribbled down two summers ago.

And all I’m doing is being me, writing about what I want to write about, and saying yes to people, opportunities and connections. It can be that simple.

Someone else who is chasing dreams and taking tiny steps is my friend & photographer Nina. @ninavis www.ninavisphoto.com

We got together this winter because a) I was freaking out and feeling really self conscious about a magazine photo shoot I had just done and b) I wanted to capture this time of my life with more than just selfies. I wanted photos that felt like me, in my condo, in my belongs-on-a-beach wardrobe.

I have a mini freakout every time I hit “publish” on my blog [including right now] and Nina has a mini freakout every time she puts her images out into the world. Of course we do. We’re human. We’re girls taking paths a little less traveled and a little more risky.

Judgemental voice inside my head every day that I’m getting better at ignoring:Your dream is to be a writer? Good luck with that one.

But being able to express who we are creatively, and that feeling I have right now which I’m pretty sure is my heart going YES YES YES … these things make it all worth it.

An Old Love Story

Originally published October 2013

My summer ended in southern Germany around the Lake of Constance, driving through tiny old German villages separated by only a few kilometers of apple trees and vineyards. It sounds peaceful, but add in a little 84 year old German lady with a big to-do list and what it actually was was busy, exhausting, and incredibly special.

“But Oma, what did he first say to you?”

She’s sitting at the kitchen table in our little apartment; one of many in what used to be an old farm house. I’m sitting up in bed typing a note on my iPhone and wishing I had brought my laptop. I know I should let the old lady go to sleep, but after another long day I have so many questions. The busy days that my Oma planned gave me a tiny snapshot of the life they had before they were the grandparents that I knew.

We arrived in Germany Tuesday afternoon and by Wednesday afternoon it felt like I had already seen a weeks worth of history, met a handful of old ladies whose relation to me was too hard to keep track of, and eaten more bread than I normally eat in a week. On Wednesday afternoon Uncle Pete, Oma, her old friend Marelene & I went to Meersburg. This is what I had been waiting for. A few Christmas Eve’s ago Oma had told me how she met my Opa. Now I was getting to set foot on the very same pier, sit on the same bench, and stand outside the restaurant of their first date. And Marelene happens to be the friend who sneakily set up their meeting. Meersburg is beautiful enough on its own. You can see Switzerland on the horizon. There are ships and ferries taking people back and forth across the lake that shimmers the way Shuswap does in the sun. There’s an old castle on the hill above us, and palm trees scattered along the cobblestone sidewalks. I can only imagine how nervous and cute my Oma would have been 60 years ago, standing there waiting for him.

The Christmas she told me the story was quiet and small; we all fit around one table. I was in my early twenties and it was the first time I didn’t have to sit at the kids table. What I’ll remember most about that year is driving my grandma home. It was around 8:30pm; she goes to bed early, even on Christmas Eve. The roads were wet but clear, the sky was a blueish black and the city lights were sparkling. I had never asked her how she met my Opa. The story she told me in her little German accent made me think that not so much has changed.

The war was over and she was a little older than I am now. One of her best friends, unbeknownst to her, put a picture of my Oma in the paper responding to a personal ad. Shortly after she was surprised to be contacted by Mr. Hans Sauter. My Oma was painfully shy, but it must have been written in the stars because she reluctantly agreed to go meet this guy. He set up a date and a time, and off she went. She said she can remember it so clearly, him walking down the pier towards her with a sparkle in his eye. My Opa still had a mischievous sparkle in his eye until the day he left us. They went and sat on a little wooden bench to talk. My Oma tells me they always had so much to talk about, even on that first day. It was like they were long lost friends. He visited every Sunday and in the summer they took a motorcycle to Switzerland. It was the first time he ever yelled at her, probably to calm down. My Opa was a yeller and my Oma is a worrier. They married one year later. Oma tells me that communication was their strength, and lectures me about how important it is in a relationship. I think their ability to stay married for 56 years had a lot to do with the sparkle in his eye too. They went back to Germany in the 80s and took a picture on the same bench.

She says, “So that’s our story”…and I’m holding back the tears. A few years ago when we had to put my Opa in a home she was upset and cried to my mom, “This is the end of our life together.” In their old age they both often went on about how fast time goes. She could tell me the story about how they met like it was just yesterday, and all of a sudden it’s six decades later, and the first Christmas they weren’t spending together.

On boxing day after work that year I went to my Oma’s and she showed me the picture that her friend had sent into the paper. Then she showed me a whole photo album of pictures taken before she had met my Opa and it made me think that we’re not so different from our grandparents. She laughed with her friends, went skiing, traveled, and had a big grin on her face standing beside her best friend. The world is different in countless ways compared to the world in which my Oma met my Opa, but the feelings are the same and the stories we share all have similar beginnings, dramas, and endings.

In Germany this summer, I want to know exactly what he said to her. But she sleepily says she doesn’t remember his exact words. Only that they talked like long lost friends. It was easy, she says. “There’s this feeling you get when it’s right”

On the way home my Oma and her friend were giggling in the back seat while I was trying not to let my eyes shut. Uncle Pete picked up on something they were saying and chuckled so I asked Oma to translate. When they were growing up they had a very strict curfew. When my Oma would get home too late, she would wait at the bottom of the stairs until the train sped by. When it was noisy enough to muffle the sound of her footsteps she would sneak into bed. It’s not very often Oma will tell a story that paints her in this light, but they are my favorite ones.

And that was the coolest part. Walking or driving through another tiny village and my Oma pointing out a set of stairs where she got in a fight at school because she was bragging about already knowing how to cross-stitch. (She would.) Or showing us where her and her family had to run to when their village was about to be bombed. Or the hill she sled down in the winter. Or the bench she first sat in to talk with my Opa.

Oma then tells me she can’t help but wonder what her life would have been like if they had decided to stay in Germany. “I could have grown old with my friends”. But she didn’t say it in a regretful way, because she tells me that the best thing they ever did was purchase a lot on Shuswap, which is the source of so much of my friends & families happiness. They could have never had that if they had stayed in Germany. But she ponders how her life could have been different had they made a different choice. And don’t we all do that from time to time? Our actions and choices have huge ripple effects.   A tiny decision, like the one that got my Opa out of the war safely, creates a life that otherwise would not have existed. And at 84 I can only imagine what retracing your life must feel like. I wanted to know her happiest memories and her saddest. There was something about being in those places where her moments became memories that made the history of my family and where it all started gigantically more interesting.