Is This Really Necessary?

Is this really necessary?

Is this really necessary?

This year, the New Year Eve festivities in Paris will be a laser show from and on the Arc de Triomphe.

One Parisan lady, obviously not impressed, expressed her dismay by simply stating, “Is that really necessary?”

My daughter and I both laughed and it has become our touchstone quote throughout our whole Christmas trip to Paris. And it got me wondering, what a fabulous way to live, always asking if something is really necessary.

Think about it – how streamlined and efficient your whole life would be and become, only by using four simple words.

Buying something new? Is it really necessary?

Spending money on frivolity? It is really necessary?

Have someone in your life that is more effort than they are worth? Are they really necessary?

Name brands? Are they really necessary?

The amount of food/snacks you are about to eat? Is that really necessary?

A full cart at Costco? Is that really necessary?

That bottle of supplements? That new exercise fad? That diet book? Are they really necessary?

Adding to your debt? Is that really necessary?

Another glass of wine? Yes.

And so on.

By removing the unnecessary from your life, you allow the necessary more room to be useful, pleasurable, and balanced.

In debt? This question alone will help you magically return to sanity, help you to stop spending, using the extra money to pay down your balance and then to stay out of debt.

Overweight and out of shape? Is it necessary to eat so much, rely on the magic diet/gizmo, taking the escalator/elevator or vehicle everywhere? Even ask yourself if the gym membership is necessary.

Stressed to the max? Is it necessary to work so much, take on so much, get involved so much?

In a bad or one-sided relationship? Is it necessary to keep this person in your life?

House full of stuff and cluttered? Is it necessary to keep buying more? Is it even necessary to keep it all?

Who needs resolutions when you have one guiding question all year around?

Using the “Is this really necessary?” as the first and most important question for everything you do, you will find that when it comes to yearly New Year’s resolutions, they won’t ever be necessary.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Here comes Christmas. The third Christmas with my family blown apart.

It never gets easier; you just learn to cope with it healthier.

I’ll be alone on Christmas Day, but I’ll be in Paris, so I’m good.

I received an early Christmas gift this year. One I wasn’t expecting nor asked for. I didn’t even know I needed this gift.

Sidebar – Never surprise people; you don’t know where they are at and the surprise could turn to distress. [And believe people when they say they don’t like surprises.]

The boundaries of what I thought were my contentment were tested and shaken. Sobbing and reverting to old patterns, I failed miserably. Or did I?

After one night of a solid pity party, the next day I shook it off.

The day after the day after, it slowly it came to me that I shook it off quite easily and quickly. I got right back on that path of being appreciative and joyful but without a lot of thinking or effort. It felt like the most natural thing in the world; to carry on without feeling distressed.

What a fabulous gift to receive, a gift of testing your strength, without having to lose anything. Learning that you can, and will bend, but you won’t break.

Just knowing that my strength is still there, no matter what life throws at it, makes me feel even sturdier. And happier.

Thank you for the best Christmas present you ever gave me.

Why I Give #Selfies

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I take a lot of selfies. A lot.

I don’t share them all, of course.

Due to unfortunate circumstances, I have less than 20 photos of my whole childhood. And 12 of those are school photos.

No family vacations, no birthday parties, no standing by the TV photos and no Christmas photos. The only photo I have of myself with Santa is when I was 21.

In 27 years of marriage, I was the photographer in our family. At least 90% of our family photos are three or fewer people. [Once in a while this blonde shows up, standing beside the children. I’m sure my grandchildren will think my children had a nanny growing up.] The majority of our family vacations, birthday parties, standing by the TV and Christmas photos are of my children and their father. Very few include me.

Since I’ve been single for the past two years, and travel solo, who else to record my adventures? The dog? Selfies it is.

Thanks to selfies, I finally get to record my life, my way. So, I’m taking a lot of selfies, proving I was here, there and everywhere. I’m chronicling what remains of my life. Because if I don’t, no one else will.

And no one can take those selfies away from me, they are mine.

Besides, the first 50 years of my life are barely visually documented. I have a lot of catching up to do.

I don’t publicly post selfies for adoration or comments. I do it as a self-confidence booster. The first selfie I posted publicly took me hours of self-talk and a trembling hand to click the ‘post’ button. Actually, the first twelve to twenty were mostly like that.

Now, I don’t care, I post away, proving that I’m still here. Proving that I exist, existed, and I am living, doing, smiling. I’m posting my selfies for me. Not for comments, admiration or ego.

These days, I don’t take selfies, I give selfies. For me.

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Know the Difference

My knowns have disappointed me far more than my unknowns ever have.

What I thought was reality, was an illusion. A construct of so-called knowns that came slamming down on me, one painful block at a time.

I don’t care for knowns anymore. I don’t care for routine or structure, either. They scare me because they can all be taken away, and without my wanting nor permission.

I am more comfortable with unknowns and not knowing where I am going. Nothing can be taken away from me. Nothing is ever cancelled. Everything is changeable. Everything flows from better to better.

I can’t get anxious about what I don’t know. I can’t be worried about missing out because I don’t know what I’m missing out on.

And you know what? So far, so good.

When I let go of the oars (or house, or job, or partner, or stuff), and quit trying so damn hard, the flow is more enjoyable; it brings me to places I would have never contemplated stopping for a break.

The most tedious travel I have ever encountered are trips that were carefully planned out, researched and on a schedule. I wonder how much I missed by seeing it all? [Site-seeing should be reworded to site-glancing.]

How many sunsets did I miss because I had to be somewhere?

How many people didn’t I meet because I didn’t have the time to chat?

Have I met – and passed over – the true love of my life because I was on a schedule?

How many hole-in-the-wall authentic restaurants did I miss because I was told where and what to eat? (Along with hidden gem wines!)

How many smiles, connections, nuances, details, doors, paths, smells, sights, colours, observations, mysteries, experiences, wanders and emotions did I miss because of shoulds, must-sees and preplanning everything down to the last minute?

My favourite travels have been journeys, where I didn’t know where I was going or what I was going to see. The unknown pleasantly surprises at every turn, when you don’t know what you think you should experience.

The unexpected has created fabulous memories; and indeed, those are the best kind of souvenirs.

How else could have I dreamt up a pyjama party in the main lounge in one of the most luxurious hotels in Japan, if I had bus tour dinner plans? The opportunity to encourage everyone to come to the lounge in his or her pyjamas (wearing the hotel provided housecoats), to drink champagne with me would have not presented itself. We all joked and laughed and laughed and laughed and co-created so much joy and we grew to such a size the hotel actually ran out of champagne! I’ll never forget that evening, and I’m sure they won’t, either.

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My favourite conversations when I return from travelling are, “Oh, I was there as well. Did you see Blank Museum/Church/Tourist Trap?”

“No. But I did see the last eight remaining wild rhinos in Zambia.”

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Or “No. But I did have an authentic hours-long Egyptian lunch with an Egyptian family in their home, just off the Giza Plateau. Then we watched the sun set behind the pyramids, right from their balcony. They called me their sister. I’ll never forget it.”

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Or with my daughter, stopping for a break in Vienna for a ‘quick glass of wine’ at 3 p.m.; by 11 pm and three bottles of wine later, slurring to everyone in the elevator, using a fake British accent, “Please don’ t make me laugh. I’ll pee my pants.” If we were on a tour bus, we would have missed that golden runaway – a memory that we will giggle about the remaining days of our lives.

I don’t know where I’m going, what’s next, who will be with me, when I’m going (if at all) and why my life has turned out the way it did – and that is so exciting.

Admittedly, it took a while to get to this podium. I clutched, cried and fought hard for my knowns, as if I’d die without them. How was I to know I was already dying with them?

My known life was full of problems verses possibilities. My unknown life is full of possibilities verses problems. Know the difference.

Life is one big wandering adventure when you think about it. You can either grab the oars, and make it full of what you think are knowns, musts, pressures, schedules, commitments, bad food, less wine; only to leave a bunch of crap for your children to throw out (or fight over) after you die.

Or you can embrace your life as overflowing with unknowns, living in the moment, and making memories -leaving a legacy with the most amazing obituary.

I know what I’m leaving my children. And that’s the one and only known that I’m comfortable with.

Your Greatest Strength is Also Your Greatest Weakness

I didn’t know what she meant when she told me, “Shanta, your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness.” I didn’t understand what she meant, nodded but I didn’t comprehend. I knew there was a nugget of great truth in there and for me to get the most out of it; I had to figure it out on my own.

Roughly a year later, one day walking the dog, I realized I was happy. I was smiling, and happy for no good reason. Content. Relaxed. Cheerful. And the only reason I could come up with why I was happy was because I simply didn’t care anymore.

I didn’t care what people thought of me. I didn’t care what they were nattering about. I didn’t give a rip what they were doing this exact moment. But mostly it was because I didn’t care what people were saying or thought of me.

 There is no moment in time that defined when I stopped caring. Or a death. Or an ah-ha moment. Or an argument.

I was happy. And I didn’t care anymore. Then it came to me: My greatest strength was that I cared too much. About everything. My husband, my children, my house, my volunteerism, my passions, my everything.

 If there were ever a poster child for The Overachievers Society, it would be me.

If I was going to be a wife, I was going to win Wife of the Year. Every year. I was going to care for him so hard, he couldn’t live without me.

If I were going to be a mother, I’d put every other mother in the history of the universe to shame.

If I were going to volunteer, I’d be Chairperson and make record-breaking years. (True story – when I started helping with Girl Guides in Fox Creek, within two years I was running the whole district and we sold record-breaking number of cookie boxes. When I started as a driver for wildlife rehabilitation, within a year I was chair of the fund raising and five years later, they still haven’t broken the record I set. I sincerely wish they could.)

And so on. Above and beyond what was expected. Insisted by me and me only. Like I had something to prove. Or maybe I was hoping that if I cared so much, it would be returned. (Spoiler alert – it never was.)

The problem was, I assume people wanted my caring. I assumed it would be nice to have someone help. I assumed they needed my help. I assumed my blow-it-out of the water attitude was appreciated.

They didn’t and for the most part, it wasn’t.

 My greatest strength, caring, became my greatest weakness.

I over care. I hurt when people hurt. I tried to relieve their hurt to relieve my own suffering.

The problem was forgetting to alleviate my own hurt. I was forgetting to put ME first. I was getting lost in the over-caring. I was losing myself because I never got to myself. By the time everything and everyone was looked after, I was too exhausted to look after me.

And no one was caring for me; especially in the way I was caring for others. When disaster hit, I stumbled, and hard. I had nothing to give myself. I gave it all away. Every last drop. I collapsed because there was nothing to hold me up. I had no foundations on how to look after myself.

It’s been over two years now since that terrible day I was told I was no longer loved, needed or wanted, and I am finally content. Genuinely, smile on my face before coffee, happy. Joyful and positive. And it’s all because and for me. There is no one else here to make me happy.

 And the best part is, because someone else didn’t bring in the happiness, no one can take that happiness from me. It’s all mine.

I gave the keys to my happiness away once and they lost them. I’ve rekeyed and no one is getting these ones. You can play with them but you’ll never get to keep them. They’re precious and they’re mine alone.

have turned my greatest strength on myself. And now I don’t care. And it’s fabulous.

I haven’t lost my empathy, I’ve gained my self-preservation, but without being selfish. Au contraire, generosity still pulses through my veins, maybe even more so now. It’s just altered.

I’ve turned my greatest strength back into my greatest strength. And I can’t imagine living any other way, ever again.

Lion

Divorce hardens you

Divorce hardens you.

I don’t think divorce changes the core of your personality, the process of divorce only emphasizes personality traits that are already there.

If you value money above all else, your actions of fighting for the last penny or crock pot will speak louder than your words.

If you are a control freak, this will show up in co-parenting situations.

If you are a nutbar level 7, this will show up in stalking and other crazy behaviours.

And so on. Those behaviours are not new to you, you didn’t change, you now have the opportunity to express them without excuses. Release the hounds, if you will.

But no matter how you choose to deal with your divorce, divorce hardens you.

According to many psychological tests, on a scale of 1-100, 100 being the most stress you can ever experience, divorce or death of spouse is a 100 stressor.

I disagree. Divorce is more stressful than death.

As tragic as a death is, the widow(er) doesn’t have to ‘fight’ for half their life accumulations. They get it all, without question.

They get the house. Moving is a choice, not a necessity.

They get all the money, no need to wonder how to survive in retirement on half of what you saved or half of your pension.

They never have to wonder if this is the month the support payment is late or doesn’t show up at all.

They also never have to see their former spouse kiss another partner. Or hear they are remarrying, noting the new wife has a bigger diamond than you were ever given.

They don’t have to share the children at Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, or vacation.

They don’t have to fend off rumours, lies and gossip.

They never have to defend their actions and choices.

They don’t bring a shitload of baggage (trust issues, lying issues, money issues, ex issues) to the next relationship.

They don’t have to compartmentalized their friends and family into 1) Here for me, 2) Wasn’t here for me, 3) Never have to deal with again and 4) GFY.

They get meals brought to them and invited to people’s homes for Sunday dinner, out of sympathy.

They don’t have to hear of your family inviting the ex for Sunday dinner because ‘we’d like to stay friends’ as you quietly note you haven’t been invited over.

They don’t have to deal with dividing lines in any way, shape or form.

They cry just the same.

They miss them just the same.

They find it difficult to move on, just the same.

If you have children, the ripple effects of divorce last your whole lifetime, until one of you dies. After raising the children, you will be sharing the weddings and the grandchildren. It never goes away. Divorce moves sideways in your life, laterally along, forever.

Losing a spouse to death, using time as the great healer, one day the sun will shine a little brighter, the songs will start to get happier and food tastes better once again. Yes, you miss them with all your being but the death is the rock bottom, you can only move up from losing a spouse to death.

But they don’t get hardened. If anything, they eventually soften, learning how precious life is and to embrace love, life and happiness every day and in every which way because they know it can all be taken away by death.

They don’t get hardened. They don’t learn to hate their partner and wish them dead.

Divorce hardens you, in ways you never see coming. In ways you never imagined. In ways you would hope it wouldn’t. It colours everything you do. But it doesn’t change you.