Am I officially middle-aged?

Me, a woman in her 40s and feeling pretty okay about it 🙂

Just writing out that title feels weird. Middle-aged? Me? At 40 years old, I think I can safely say I have arrived in the middle.

A couple of days ago, I was driving around running errands and listening to Q on CBC Radio. Tom Powers was interviewing Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20, and they were chatting about that song Smooth that he did with Carlos Santana in the late 90s. Remember that one? If you don’t, you clearly lived under a rock because it was everywhere. Listening to it, I was immediately transported back to being 20 years old and dancing with my then boyfriend at bars and parties surrounded by friends and having loads of fun. (Back in those days, the partying still WAS fun until I took a real nose-dive later on and eventually got sober at 27.)

The song has really stuck with me over the last couple of days, mostly because it’s so damn catchy but also because it represents a moment in time that will never relive itself. I will never be in my twenties again. I mean, this isn’t news but it also kind of IS news…

It sort feels like we just go along in life and do our best, right? Choosing left or right turns, buying a home, making career changes, having babies (or not having babies), and all the rest of it. And then BOOM, you realize it’s been 20 years since you were 20! When it really only feels like it’s been about five.

Truthfully, I wouldn’t want to relive my twenties. They were hard and I struggled a lot. As mentioned, I wound up making transformative changes that would redirect my life and steer me in a better direction. But in the earlier part of that decade, before it got tough, there was such a sense of carefree living and fun to be had. Old enough to live on my own, travel and be adult-ish but young enough to also still be kind of a kid. This was especially true for me because I reeeally took my time before eventually deciding to grow up.

I actually met my husband at right around age 20. Obviously, I didn’t know that we would wind up together (we didn’t start dating until five or six years later) but sitting here today with the perspective of having lived through it, it’s so interesting to me that that 20-year old Alison had NO IDEA that she met her future husband on that night. Funny how life works. Twenty-year old me had no clue that 40-year old me would marry that guy and even have a couple of kids together.

My mom, who is in her 70s, tells me that her 40s is how she pictures herself in her mind’s eye. She tells me that this version of me is the one that will stick with me the longest. The honest-to-goodness, grown-up, 40-something me is who I will think of when I am older and close my eyes to sleep at night. The middle-aged me.

I’ve told the following story to so many friends on so many occasions, but I am going to tell it here, too. A few years ago, while on maternity leave with Miles, I was on my way to the hair salon and stopped in at Starbucks along the way. As I entered the coffee shop, I caught my reflection in the window and was taken slightly aback by what I saw. “There’s a woman firmly situated in her mid- to late-30s,” I thought to myself. At age 37, that was accurate, but I had never seen myself that way before. For so many years, I looked a bit younger than I actually was. I think I handily pull off 27 until I was at least about 34 (okay, maybe 32). Catching my reflection that day was the first time I realized that was no longer the case. I definitely did NOT look 27 anymore. And it felt…strange.

Today, the creases and wrinkles in my face continue to take me by surprise. It seems that at age 40, I’m really starting to look and sometimes feel older than I ever have before (which I am, duh). I notice, sometimes with a touch of resentment, that the deep laughlines around my mouth show my age long before I have a chance to utter it. I privately curse all my years of smoking and sun-bathing as though my twenty-year old skin would remain that way, unchanged, forever. Yes, the creases tell a story of a life well-lived but damnit, they sure do take some getting used to.

Here’s the upshot though, and it’s a good one. I also feel so much more in tune with myself than I ever have before. I really know who I am today and have confidence in my abilities. It’s a confidence that has taken decades to solidify. I’ve got the benefit of time on my side and a track record to look back on to see where my past experiences can help guide my future choices. My heart and my gut lead me today, and with the benefit of having history to look back on, I know that when I trust them they always steer me down the right path.

It’s true, my days of dancing in bars as a 20 year old are done. But isn’t that actually a huge relief? I’d way rather curl up in bed next to my husband at 9:30 pm with a cup of tea and a good book. I know that today because I know who I am, and I know that simple pleasures are what make me feel content. That 20 year old me? She was fun, but she really didn’t know herself very well at all. It makes me wonder what 80 year old me will look back on and think of 40 year old me. And just as I couldn’t have imagined being 40, today I can’t imagine being 80!

How do you feel about getting older? Does it sneak up on you, too? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! 🙂

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.

On Fear

Photo taken on a flight from YWG to YVR last September when I was on my way to run the lululemon Seawheeze half marathon. Scary and exciting – my favourite combo!

In my first post, I touched briefly on leaving my 9 to 5 job to help out at my husband’s company and explore what a life with more flexibility might look like. What I didn’t mention is how absolutely terrifying going through with that was. Terrifying and exhilerating all at once.

The day that I gave my notice at work was legitimately one of scariest days of my life. And for about a solid week afterward I felt like I was soaring, or maybe freefalling, through the sky without a net. There was a lot of “ohmygodwhathaveidone?” going through my mind and on more than one occasion I asked Jason “is this okay? will we be okay?”

A lot of friends and family applauded the courageous move (although there’s a good chance a lot of them also wondered what the hell I was doing!). It’s been an uphill battle for the last four years growing the business (startups are no joke), so leaving my secure paycheck and going all-in with him was pretty bold.

The thing about doing something courageous is that it’s actually very, very scary. Here’s what Queen B (no, not Beyoncé) has to say about it:

“Daring greatly is being brave and afraid every minute of the day at the exact same time.” ~ Brené Brown

Preach, Brené, preach! This quote has come to my mind almost daily since shifting careers. I find it so reassuring to know that the feelings of fear and excitement that are happening simultaneously within me are normal and expected.

Here’s what I knew when I decided to do the scary thing and leave my job: I knew that I had to. Okay, maybe I didn’t HAVE to, but I had been thinking about it for a long time. The thing was, even though I actually had a pretty good job and worked with great people, I felt unfulfilled. I felt uninspired. Now, I know that not everyone who feels unfulfilled and uninspired can just jump up and quit. I also know that I am sitting in a priveleged position to not only entertain that idea but also follow through with it. And let’s be clear, it is certainly not without risk. However, a series of events unfolded before me in such a way that felt like the universe saying, “it’s okay to take that leap now, Ali.” So, I did.

It was a leap of faith I took in hopes of not just contributing to our family business but also carving out my own path. I think I kind of love uncertainty, if I’m being honest. A few years ago when I went back to work after my maternity leave with Miles, my now almost-four year old son, I felt completely deflated. Not just because my year of mat-leave was done (and I had to send my baby to daycare everyday) but also because I had nothing new or different on the horizon. In the five or so years leading up to then, I had finished school, gotten a job, had a baby, gotten another job, had another baby, and now here I was, back at the job with nothing exciting – or even scary – to look forward to. I know we can’t live our lives jumping from one whirlwind experience to another. That’s just not feasible. I also truly value stability and routine, but I think for me stability/routine also needs a bit of variety to keep it interesting. Does that make ANY sense??

I believe that no matter of how many times someone needs to drum up some courage to do the thing they want to do but are scared to do, it gets never gets un-scary. That butterfly in the tummy, leap through the air without a net feeling still pops up. What also starts happening is trusting the process. That gut instinct that you’ll figure things out and tackle obstacles that arise continues to get stronger with practice.

I spent so many years of my life scared to change or make changes and it wasn’t a very fun or fulfilling way to live. I can’t predict the future or outcomes, but I can trust in my abilities to take a calculated risk and put myself in new situations. Today, I have the opportunity to walk through my fear and find faith on the other side.

What a gift.

Post One

A recent photo after a haircut because shouldn’t I have at least ONE photo in my first blog post?

Here we go, blogging again! Does anyone still read blogs? I mean I do, and I’m sure some of you reading this still do. But overall, have blogs fallen victim to the mindless scroll and 15-second videos that I seem to consume in copious and probably unhealthy amounts? I am starting this blog in hopes that this is not the case and in general people still enjoying reading content that is longer than three or four sentences.

This feels good, by the way. Writing. It feels nice and I’m realizing how much I’ve missed it. When Juliette was a baby/toddler, I wrote a ‘mommy blog’ and loved it. But of course things got busy… Work, life, baby #2 and my husband’s new business all took priority and left me with no time and no energy to write, so I stopped. I kept the URL for a while but eventually let it go and now if I want it back I have to pay hundreds of dollars. You, as readers, can no longer see the content online. Which is kind of too bad. I can see it, which is kind of nice and nostalgic. Anyhoo, I’ve decided to make time to write again now. I think it’s my thing, you know? I think I’m good at writing and it seems to make me feel good. So, I’ll make the time. For me… and maybe for you, too (if you decide to stick around and read it).

Recently, I left my job to work with my husband at his business to help out with marketing and comms. I was feeling discontent and seeking a life with more freedom and more time to get creative. It’s been a month and it feels like the time is right for me to start bending that creative muscle within. Hence, this blog.

I realized that the icky feeling of discontent was seeping in and a pity party was starting to form. That scared me. I mean, if leaving my job wasn’t the answer to solve my discontentment then WHAT THE EFF??!

Then it dawned on me… I was looking to external solutions for an inside problem. What I was seeking was creativity and joy. And I know from experience that only I can create my own joy. Then I better get creating, right??

So, I write. I write because I love to write. I write because it helps me feel connected to myself and the world around me. I write in hopes that someone will read it but if no one does that’s okay, too.

p.s. I actually do hope someone reads it.