Spring has sprung

I am feeling RENEWED this week! Spring has finally arrived in Winnipeg and along with it a new sense of optimism has opened up in my mind and heart. I recently wrote about feeling a bit like I’ve been floating in limbo. Uneasiness has lingered around me like a fog for the last few months, sometimes light and other times dense, but always more or less present.

I think change presents those foggy feelings. It’s just like when you start a new job and have to learn things all over again. You might be excited for the new job but the transition part always more or less sucks. It takes time to settle into it and find your mojo. I was expecting that I was going to make this huge life change (leaving 9 to 5 to work p/t for our family biz) and have immediate mojo. Insta-mojo, if you will. I was wrong.

The good news is that this week everything shifting and the fog feels lifted. I can see sun beams shining through again and, let me tell you, it’s a relief.

This shift is no accident. Although it coincides with spring’s rather late arrival in Winnipeg, it’s also being escorted in with a new attitude I’ve been fostering. I know from years in a recovery program that when I open myself up to the universe, willingness and openness collide with opportunity and it’s no coincidence.

I’ve learned that it’s important to remember that nothing is permanent. Whether floating on a high of good feelings or struggling with discomfort and restlessness, you can always count on things changing whether you actually want them to or not. And I was getting pretty uncomfortable in recent weeks with that heavy, dense fog that followed me around with only intermittent relief. I started to worry that my discomfort wasn’t going to change.

Turns out, what was actually needed for the sunlight to burst through the fog was an inside job. You know that old saying, nothing changes if nothing changes. It was up to me to open myself up to create some space for opportunity and light to find me.

So, today I have a renewed sense of optimism and hope for a bright, meaningful future where passion collides with opportunity and output.

Happy long weekend!

Habits: the bad, the good and the better

Do you have any bad habits? I do. Several, actually. None that are necessarily harmful or that I worry too much about. I feel I also have good habits and so it all balances outs. I work out and run regularly, and I eat fairly well. So, I’m all good, right?

Almost… but there is one nasty habit that I have to break. Part of me doesn’t really WANT to break it, but I know I NEED to break it.

I spend too much time on my phone.

There, I admitted it. I’m sure it’s probably an addiction (but I prefer to call it a ‘bad habit’). My guess is that I’m not alone with this phone habit, am I? We live in a society of fifteen second videos and perfectly curated Instagram feeds constantly bombarding us with ideas of how we can be better, thinner and more stylish versions of ourselves. And, unfortunately, it’s got me hooked. Part of me figures since we are all basically hooked on our phones, then why should I have to bother changing anything.

The answer is, I think it’s bad for my mental health and stunts potential opportunity for growth. And I don’t want to be stunted.

Moreover, I find myself CONSTANTLY negotiating and putting limits on my kids’ screen-time (I’ve also been known to nag Jason about picking up his phone while we are talking or eating dinner together). In reality, I’m probably the worst for this in my family and (shame on me) if anyone dares to police my phone habit, they’re likely to get a quick snipe back at them! So, I’ve decided it’s time I police myself a little and start building better screen-time habits.

In order to put limits on my bad habit, I know I need to replace it with good habits. With that in mind, I’ve come up with three tactics to put into place to switch the bad to good.

1. Put the phone in a drawer and put on some good tunes.

One of the times of day I am particularly bad for mindless scrolling is after the school/dinner-making hour. Juliette and Miles will usually be playing or watching a show and eating a snack around this time. I tend to enjoy some time chilling out and scrolling my phone before I start to pull supper together in the kitchen. Isn’t that awful?? I could be spending quality time with my kids but instead I’m wasting time on Instagram. I feel a little gross just admitting it!

This time of day organically starts to change as the weather warms up, and we naturally start spending more time playing outside with our neighbours. But until that happens (spring weather can feel free to show up anytime…), we tend to stay indoors more between the hours of 4 and 6 pm. So, rather than stick my nose (and theirs) in a screen, I’m going to put on some music, pull out some puzzles or colouring, and enjoy some time with the kids. Maybe we’ll have a little dance party or handstand contest! I can leave the tunes playing while cooking dinner and maybe even get the kids to help in the kitchen. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that children learn from what they see, not what they’re told. If I want them to have less screen time, I need to set that example. It starts with me!

2. Morning meditation

I doubt that spiritual gurus and wellness coaches have been spreading the word about the benefits of meditation and setting intentions for the day because it’s a BAD idea!

I’ve dabbled with meditation on and off over the years but rarely stayed committed for any length of time. My excuse is always that “mornings are crazy with the kids,” yadda, yadda… But honestly, I spend twenty to thirty minutes upstairs blowdrying my hair, putting on makeup, and looking at my phone every morning. During that half hour, the kids rarely come upstairs. With that in mind, I know I can definitely dedicate five minutes daily to a morning meditation. Five minutes may not seem like much time but it feels like a manageable starting place for a beginner.

In the past, when I’ve played around with meditating, I used the Headspace app on my phone and found it super helpful. My plan is to start using that app again to get me into the habit and to acquire some helpful meditation tools. The narrator, whose voice is so calming and gentle, presents guided meditations of any length you choose. You can also set up the app to send you notifications throughout the day with mindful messages and little bits of wisdom.

3. Read a book

Finally, I am going to start reading BOOKS again, dammit! I used to read every night before bed and now I lay under my covers, comfy and cozy, and I scroll. For far too long, I scroll and peruse images of people I know, and many don’t, doing random things that have nothing to do with me. I waste SO MUCH TIME scrolling! I don’t want to be that person! I want to be the Ali that reads again!

It’s not for lack of reading material that I wind up scrolling. Frankly, I’m just being lazy. I have a stack of books just waiting for me to pick them up. Good books, too! Becoming by Michelle Obama is first up on my list. I started reading it a couple of months ago and set it down after two chapters with the intention of picking it up again the next night… and then, I just didn’t.

On the plus side (and in my defense), I have been reading an excellent novel with Juliette for the last month. Every night we read a few chapters of Wonder. Have you read it? I cry almost every night while reading it to Juliette. Technically it’s children’s literature, but I think it’s a beautiful book for readers of all ages. Highly recommend! They made it into a film with Julia Roberts that we are going to watch when we finish the book. I’ll be sure to have a fresh box of tissue nearby…

My reading goal at one book per month. Maybe I’ll even start a book club here on the blog! Would you join? Leave a comment below and if there’s interest that could be something fun to roll out in the coming months.

There you have it! I am consciously committing to spending less time on my phone and MORE time doing things that are actually good for me. Here’s where the accountability comes in: I am going to report back to you on the blog how I’m doing with my commitment. I promise I’ll be honest! I plan to write quick weekly updates on my progress and, thanks to that awful little iPhone feature that reports your screen-time, I’ll have actual measurables to tell me if I’m succeeding or not.

Wish me luck!

In between

I have found myself in a bit of a funny place lately. I feel confident in my core I am on the path I’m meant to take but the future feels a bit unclear. It’s as if I’m in between where I was and where I’m going.

Being in between can feel exciting because the possibilities are seemingly endless. It can also feel hopeless for those exact same reasons. Even though I have clear deliverables on my plate right now which are to help out at Keener Jerseys (the family biz) and have more time with the kids at home (something I’ve been longing to have for years), I also know that there is more out there for me. My motivation for shifting out of a regular 9 to 5 office gig and into working flexible hours for the company was a desire to explore what a non-traditional work life could mean for me. Can I carve out a path that is my own?

Last week, I heard someone speak on making career choices (and life choices) motivated by what their greatest contribution could be to the cause at hand. Not by what they could gain or achieve, whether in monetary or status terms, but what they could meaningfully contribute. It seems so simple and yet so rare that this is a person’s greatest motivation when decision-making.

Here’s something I haven’t mentioned on the blog yet, I am a member of a 12-step group and have close to 13 years of sobriety. I am grateful everyday for all of it. I bring it up only because it’s relevant to this topic. SO MUCH of what I have learned over these last 12+ years pertains to this exact topic: what can I contribute rather than what can I gain. How can I be of service?

You see, this thought process is not second nature to me. I have to work at it. My nature is to jump to the “what’s in it for me?” Instead of “how can I help?” Embarassing but true.

Reflecting on this over these last few days has reframed my thoughts and feelings on carving out my path. I have been focusing so much on what I can GET that will bring me happiness and fulfillment rather than what can I GIVE. Not intentionally, this is just the way my brain was unpacking potential opportunities.

When I focus on what my contribution can be rather than what I will receive because of it, it almost feels like a release from pressure. Like today, right now, my greatest contributions are helping the business in whatever capacity I can, whether that be writing, editing, social media or administration duties. When I make a contribution that has a positive impact at Keener Jerseys, I feel good. Really good, actually. And truth be told, there are ‘other duties as assigned’ that have popped up over the last few months that I’m not crazy about doing. Someone has to do them though, so why not me? I’m filling a void and making a meaningful contribution that’s resulting in getting shit done. That right there is a reason to be grateful.

Aside from Keener Jerseys, my MOST important contribution is holding down the fort at home and being present for our kids. Let’s be real, Jason works long, hard hours and is often up and out the door before anyone is awake and there are many late nights, too. It’s tough and frustrating sometimes but it’s the season of life we’re in. My newfound flexibility allows me to drop the kids at school and pick them up at 3:30. It allows me to volunteer on field trips and be home for sick days. It’s kind of invisible work that has no monetary gains and just goes as unnoticed for most of the world but it has significant value for our family.

Both of those ‘jobs’ are important, however I also know that this is not where it ends for me. I trust that more will be revealed and that I am on a path of discovery. It’s kind of like, I know there’s something coming up around the bend, I just don’t quite know WHAT yet. (Either that, or I’m just having a midlife crisis. As I said, more will be revealed.. ;)

I spent the better part of my 20s partying and having fun (until it stopped being fun) and then quit that lifestyle at age 27. I spent the next few years focusing on recovery and getting healthy. At age 30, I went back to school and spent the rest of the decade checking all the boxes I wanted to check. Education, husband, kids, career. And I managed to get all the boxes checked – which is awesome, and I’m so grateful for all my blessings… (do you feel a ‘but’ coming?)

Here’s the thing, because I wasted so much time in my 20s, then felt the urgency to get shit done in my 30s, I never really paused to consider what my passion might be. I felt the need to catch up to my peers and become a ‘grown-up,’ so I didn’t really ever stop to consider where my heart would lead me if I let it. I just had to hurry up and getter done. Once all boxes were checked, I was left with a feeling of ‘what now?

That brings us to today…

As I continue to navigate my path and uncover opportunities, I will keep my focus on what I can CONTRIBUTE rather than what I will receive. Being involved in something that fires me up is still of utmost importance but my motivation is just as (if not more) important.

How did you discover your life’s passion and work? Did you know from a young age where you wanted to land or are you a late bloomer, like me? I’d love to hear.

You are stronger than you think you are

Over the course of the last few years, I have taken up running (if you know me at all or follow me on social media, this is not news). For many years prior to becoming a runner, I found a fitness routine through walking and practicing yoga (although I was never a totally committed yogi, I did have spurts of commitment along the way). Generally, I enjoyed lacing up my runners and going for a brisk walk down Wellington Crescent. I also consistently used walking as my mode of transportation to/from work, school, etc.

I always WANTED to be a runner but running was just so frigging hard. I never really knew how to start and whenever I did start, I wound up hating it. So I stuck to walking (which is fantastic exercise in its own right!). Then in 2013, when Juliette was nearing the age of two, a few of my girlfriends took up running and were killing it at some local races. They all had young kids at home, just as I did (do) and here they were making time for themselves and their health by lacing up and hitting the pavement. I felt so inspired! And I wanted to get in on the action, too. So that fall, along with some of those gal pals, I signed up for a 10K at the WFPS Run.

All us girls cheered each other on during training and kept each other motivated along the way with upbeat text messages and kudos. It was so fun! When I finished that 10k run, I felt so proud of myself. I also felt motivated to keep moving. The following year, I ran the WFPS 10k again while I was about ten weeks pregnant. That following May, I had Miles and running took a backseat.

Okay, fast forward to 2016. After some on and off spurts of running, Jason and I relayed the Winnipeg Police Half Marathon in May and then, after some strong encouragement from a dear friend, I registered for my first half at the Manitoba Marathon.

Real talk: I was undertrained. It was a hot/muggy day. I felt awful. It took me two hours and thirty one minutes to run it… but I finished! And as soon as it was over I knew I wanted to do it again. That’s what a race finish line will do to you!

Since then, I have run three more half marathons each with increasingly faster finishing times. Last year I finished the season with a 2:04:43 at the WFPS Half Marathon just three weeks after running Seawheeze, the lululemon half, in Vancouver. I would say that 2018 is the year I felt I became a bonafide runner. It’s the year I actually started enjoying running and began to feel strong out there while pounding pavement.

My mantra became, “you’re stronger than you think you are.” I would repeat that line in my head over and over during long-run training days, speed workouts, and especially on race day.

Through my relationship with running, I’ve learned I really AM stronger than I think I am, both mentally and physically. I was never and “athletic” kid growing up and therefore never felt comfortable in the realm of sport. It intimidated me, and I felt out of place. Truthfully, I’ve always felt a little out of place in a lot of places…

What running has given me is a new sense of confidence that previously wasn’t there. The fact that I can lace up my shoes and run ten miles on a Sunday, as I did this weekend, is so gratifying to me. My body can push through fatigue and discomfort and become stronger for it. My mind helps to keep pushing me along which helps me build my mental strength and resilience.

I am stronger than I think I am.

The voice that tells me it’s too hard or too fast or that I can’t do it is slowly but surely being silenced by the voice that tells me, “You are stronger than you think you are. You are strong.”

And I believe her.