Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Warning: Canadian Thawing

I feel like I’m being a shitty person for saying I’m over the summer.

I probably am being a shitty person for saying it. But, I am over it.

I’ve loved every minute of it. The sailing, the hiking, the beach days, the patio beverages – I took advantage of every opportunity made available to me to soak up the sunshine. And I know there will come a day very soon when the rain in this city feels never ending, and the humid cold will give my bones goose bumps. And I’ll probably start daydreaming of warmer climates and reminiscing about the good ol’ beach days of the summers past. People are quick to say “Don’t complain about the heat because you’ll be missing it soon,” and “Enjoy it while it lasts!” And I know that’s true. It happens every year – I did grow up in Canada after all. 

And being “over” summer, isn’t the same as saying I’m being ungrateful for all the beautiful weather. My meaning is simply that I’m ready for the fall. And quite promptly, the winter. 

I’ve spent many afternoons in the past few months sweating on the patio with a cold cider - I want cozy nights at home with a good book, a fireplace, a rum toddy, and the sound of raindrops on the windowsill. 

Then, I want to strap on a snowboard and soar over fresh powder in Blackcomb. And I want to run the bridges in the rain. I’m looking forward board game nights indoors and roasted (not BBQ’d) dinners. I’m excited to use my oven again without it over-heating my apartment. 

I think in the same way everyone longs for summer when the winter cold wears on their patience, I long for all the seasons. Appreciating each of them fully, and then getting excited for the next. Maybe that’s just part of growing up in Canada and always being aware of the rotating weather; it becomes a positive expectation. 

Or, on a more realistic note, I spent the majority of the last five years hopping my way around tropical climates and North American Summers. My Canadian blood needs to be reconnected to the cold every so often. You know, to recharge. Like our Canadian core needs to stay frozen and mine is on the verge of completely thawing.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Piano. Poetry. Patio. Pinot Grigio. Peace.

There is a piano in the park a block away from where I’m living. (There is a number of pianos around Vancouver this summer, painted bright colours or with polka dots, free for people to play whenever and however they like. A beautiful concept.) Someone is playing it right now, at midnight. And as I sit here on my patio drinking a glass of wine, completely enveloped in my book, there is this incredibly romantic mood that sets in. A warm summer evening, piano keys chiming in the distance, a mystery novel, my feet up in the lounge chair on the patio, and a cheap bottle of Pinot Grigio. And within seconds, this mood transforms me from a frustrated server, to a character in my own book.

 I write this not to describe how I feel, but in wondering if others feel the same way. In the simplest appreciation for a star-y night sky and a good book to help unwind, that it can capture you and take you away - take you from frustration and doubt into a new world of beauty and peace. And this is the moment I choose to remember about today. This is the moment I will hold onto when I lay in bed tonight collecting my thoughts to put to rest. This moment, is all the reason I need to get out of bed in the morning tomorrow. To know, and love, that life is fullest when its simplest: after a struggle, unplanned, and when I’m completely alone.

Corny? Romanticized? Say what you will. These are the moments I live for.

Maybe the piano is a more important concept to me at the moment because I’ve recently started taking lessons. I have a number of goals and dreams of what I will do with this skill once developed. But right now, there is this little daydream playing out in my mind: I will be the one sitting at that piano at midnight on a warm summer day, playing my favourite tune, and somewhere nearby will be a frustrated individual needing to calm down. And they will hear me playing. And hopefully, if my daydream comes true, the mood that instills upon them will make their life a little fuller.

I await an encore.

Monday, 5 August 2013

The Whip Vs. The Carrot

Let’s do a little exercise: picture a quiet, calm place.  

Take a couple deep breaths. 

Think about how your body feels. 

Release any tension as best as you can. 

Now, I’m going to throw a term at you and I want you to think about how it makes you feel: 


Did you cringe a little? I did. (If you didn't, feel free to stop reading.) 

The term leaves an after taste of self-doubt, self-criticism and a bitter dash of guilt. I only noticed this negative connotation a few weeks back. It is possible I’m the only one, but that I don’t believe. 

Despite these feelings, I do consider myself a more motivated individual than the average population (No - I’m not being facetious.) I might change my mind fairly frequently, but when I pick something, I dive in head first, put all my energy into it, and in most regards, make it happen. This is why I find it interesting that the term “self-discipline” should resonate such a gloomy undertone. 

With further digestion of the term, I came to see that many people, myself included, view self discipline as the simple act of either not allowing something you want, or forcing something you don’t want. A synonym to will power, in a way. 

Essentially, self-discipline, is a constant “no,” when you want to say “yes.” 

And every failure to say “no” brings about a guilt in realizing you are the cause of your own demise, a criticism of your strength as a person, and a doubt in your ability to be successful. I am being a bit mellow-dramatic on the concept, but it is in hopes that you grasp why the term can carry so much unwanted weight. I think it’s time to shed that weight – for myself at least. 

 Self-dis-ci-pline [self-dis-uh-plin]
(Noun) Discipline of oneself, usually for improvement. 

This definition only provides me with one new piece of information: the idea that you are saying “no” when you want to say “yes” is completely the wrong outlook! Self-discipline is about saying “yes” to a much bigger picture. It’s about “yes” to your goals, “yes” to your future, and “yes” to a life you have chosen. 

You are not saying “no” to that second helping of cake, you are saying “yes” to fitting into your new jeans and living longer. It's not “no, you can't have those new golf clubs”, it's “yes, you can buy a new house in 5 years." You are not saying “no” to sleeping in, it's a “yes” to running that marathon in 4 months. You are saying “yes” to breathing pain-free in your eighties, not "no, I can't have that cigarette." Essentially, I'm describing an exercise on positive thinking and maintaining a vision of the big picture. And possibly, a way of never having to say “no” to yourself again. 

But how is one disciplined by definition? I mean, in action? 

Dis-ci-pline [dis-uh-plin]
(Verb) 2. To bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control. 3. To punish or penalize in order to train and control; correct; chastise. 

Fear of punishment or fear of failure does not motivate me; I’m more likely to chase a carrot than run from a whip. So, to visualize self-discipline as punishing myself in order to control and correct myself, sounds… ineffective. But when I break this term down one step further, I discover something that does work for me: 

Dis-ci-ple [dih-sahy-puhl]
(Noun) 1. A person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; follower.
(Verb) 1. To teach; train. 

Hmm… To be self-disciplined, therefore, can simply mean to teach or train myself. 

... Through saying “yes” to the bigger picture...

... By remembering that failure is a part of learning (and the point of self-discipline - even when I fail at it - is to learn. And you should never, ever feel guilty about learning...) 

... Because self-criticism is about self-growth (and can come from a caring place...) 

... And self-doubt, is as normal as it is unnecessary.

"Discipline is remembering what you want." - David Campbell