The Empress of Ease

Affirmation 11 Ease

You might recall that I declared 2014 the Year of Ease. You might also recall that I err on the side of Over-Achievement and that I have an unfortunate tendency to make things way more complicated than they need to be.

Well. As it turns out, Ease plus Achievement is a remarkably counterproductive concoction. Recipe fail! It’s like mixing caffeine with melatonin and praying for sleep. It’s like pairing white cats with black velvet and hoping that one of those things won’t rub off on the other thing. Wishful thinking, my friend! It ain’t gonna happen!

Try pairing spaghetti sauce for dinner with wearing a white shirt. Recipe for disaster, no?

Or try pairing spaghetti sauce for dinner with wearing a white shirt that day. Recipe for disaster, no?

January was a short-lived but powerful experiment in Ease Gone Wrong. On one hand, I was yearning for the warm waves of Ease to wash over my existence like a soothing, amniotic balm. Passively sinking into Ease. Letting Ease embrace me gently like an angel. On the other hand, I wanted to Excel at Ease and to be the bestest, ease-iest* woman on the face of the planet (and in the history of the Universe). Lifting up the Trophy of Ease! Competing for the Blue Ribbon in Ease! No pressure, though. Ease into Ease, right?

Accepting the Ease Award with a starfish jump!

Accepting the coveted Ease Award with a starfish jump!

Ha. I started off with good intentions. At the beginning of each new week, I would think to myself, “What can I incorporate into my days that would feel dreamy and ease-filled?” Each Monday morning, I would sit and ponder this question with the most earnest of hearts and, after a few minutes of relaxed contemplation, would write down a handful of things that would feel like silky and luxurious pockets in my otherwise frazzled schedule.

  • Drink my morning elixir before breakfast
  • 10 minutes of divine decluttering!
  • Get together with girlfriends over tea
  • Attend a group EFT session
  • Phone my mom and sisters

The first week of January felt Ease-filled, indeed. Granted, I was recovering from a terrible flu at the time, so I didn’t have the strength to be Empress of Ease just yet. “Luckily”, by Week 2, I had enough gusto in me again to ramp up the Ease and to start packing my schedule with a plethora of Ease-y Things To Do. In between inputting expense receipts and calculating sales tax remittances for our art business, I would barrel through items on my Ease List, feeling adrenaline and whatever hormone makes Over-Achievement feel so dang good chorus through my veins.

Yes! I just read a chapter in that Numerology book. CHECK!

Oh ho ho! I can put a big ‘X’ through that “walk outside for 10 minutes” item, NOT TO MENTION I WALKED OUTSIDE FOR 30 MINUTES. I AM AWESOME AND I WIN!!! [insert graceless and over-exuberant End Zone Dance here, made all the more awkward by the fact that I don't even watch football]

Like this. Only awkwarder.

Like this. Only awkwarder.

Sadly, whenever I would “run out” of things to do from my Ease List, I would add more items.

By the end of January, I was so flush with Ease Accomplishments that… I was exhausted. (Slow. Learner. Strikes. Again.)

At least I was able to recognize my Defeating the Purpose-ness early this time (or at least earlier than usual). So, together with my coach and dear friend, Kathy, I set a new standard for February. This month, Ease will mean carving out tiny chunks of time each day (even if it’s 5 minutes to start) and literally doing nothing. Because as much as I enjoy reading, writing, knitting, tapping, tea-drinking, cooking, brainstorming, walking, hiking, cycling, hanging out with friends, staying connected with my family, and taking the odd photograph– SERIOUSLY, WOMAN: SIT. DAMN. STILL. DO EET. FOR REAL. LIKE, NOW.  (Nothing says “Ease” quite like BOLD-FACED CAPS, right? I thought so.**)

It’s taking awhile, but I’m learning. At least there are still close to 11 months left in this Year of Ease, right? Maybe by November or December, I’ll have “achieved” Ease… in the non-achievement sense of the term, of course. ;) In the meantime, I’d love to know:

Are you a slow learner, too?

What life lessons do you need to ‘learn’ over and over again?

How do you incorporate Ease into your lives?

*Ease-iest: Not to be confused with Easiest. If you know me at all– and I assume you do if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time– you should be certain by now that I’m as far from loose as one can get. This here lady is wound tighter than a top!

** Tangential anecdote: I took piano lessons for about 3 or 4 years when I was in grade school. My shoulders were always tensed right up to my ears during my lessons, and my piano teacher would ream on them during warm-up. “RELAX. YOUR. SHOULDERS!” she would bark, while heaving her entire body weight onto my shoulders and yanking them down, presumably to detach them from my neck altogether. Surprisingly, I never became a concert pianist, nor did my shoulders ever learn to loosen up. What gives?

The Year of Ease

Although I’ve always identified more as “book smart” than “street wise”– by a long shot– periodically, I rise to the occasion and learn important life lessons through doing. Most of what I know is largely theoretical in nature (bless you, Communication Studies degrees), but 2013 definitely proved to be the Year of Doing Things… The Hard Way.

This might as well have been the Official Logo of 2013, too.

This might as well have been the Official Logo of 2013, too. Dinosaur mauling seems about right.

I invested most of my energy into “making things happen”, “figuring things out”, bumping against self-imposed rules and limitations, striving, straining, reaching, yearning, and basically mastering the art of swimming upstream in 2013. Midway through the year, I was completely and utterly exhausted– which, when you think about it, is pretty remarkable, considering I had been on holidays for three full months to ring in 2013. Way to excel at pain and suffering on the fast track, Dana! Kudos to you for being the star student in the ‘Making Things More Complicated Than They Need To Be’ Class! (Once on the Honor Roll, always on the Honor Roll, right?)

By August, I had already made resolutions for the new year. (Like I say, I’m way ahead of you guys!) These weren’t ordinary resolutions, though– no. These were solemn promises sworn to myself, borne out of necessity and sheer fatigue.

I promised myself that the new year would be different– that I wouldn’t neglect myself to the point of bottomed-out depletion, that I wouldn’t covet an empty energetic cup like I might a shiny trophy, that I’d turn down the competition dial on my behaviour radio (a whole lot), and that I’d try to max out the present moment, rather than always chasing something in the indeterminate future. Tall order, much? Maybe, but in a flash of genius, I also resolved to open myself up to teachers who could show me a different, more ease-filled path to abundance and prosperity. No more “finding the answers all by myself” or “getting a virtual Ph.D. by reading the entire self-help section of the library” for me! (Brilliant, really.)

Being receptive to something different.

Being receptive to something different.

The first Way-Shower* to cross my path was Leonie Dawson. I had heard Leonie’s name for a few years prior but hadn’t really resonated with (what I assumed was) her goddess-heavy, mama-slanted philosophy. I figured that since I was neither a mother nor a sandal-clad, patchouli-scented goddess, Leonie would have nothing of value to offer me. For the record: I was wrong. Super, duper incorrect. She is a true delight to behold! Something** nudged me to sign up for her newsletter late this summer, and when I did, I made the astounding discovery that Life Did Not Have To Be Hard! I had always– mostly subconsciously– equated capital-S ‘Success’ with boatloads of hard work and a great deal of toiling for good measure, but here was Leonie, frolicking on her gorgeous property with her family, making art, and raking in mega-abundance like it was falling naturally from the trees. Leonie taught me, right quick, that not only was my pipe dream of doing things differently possible, but it was also probable– if not absolutely, 100% essential!

And if Leonie can frolic in a field, I can sure as heck frolic in fog-covered Seattle. (IN A PENTHOUSE, AT THAT!)

And if Leonie can frolic, all carefree in a field, I can sure as heck frolic in fog-covered Seattle, right? (IN A PENTHOUSE SUITE, AT THAT!)

Then came Brené Brown. Again, this was a name that I was familiar with– I had even watched her TED Talk on vulnerability back in the day– but I didn’t really know her like any A-student worth her salt should. That all changed when I read her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and felt like it was written as a personal text book for my life. She even had an entire chapter with the subtitle, “Let Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth”. Ah-mazing! [And cue the Twilight Zone soundtrack, right?] Brené’s book gave me (personal, explicit) permission to stop chasing my own life on a never-ending treadmill of achievements and accomplishments. After reading her book, I felt emboldened to be… less productive. (In a good, non-slacker way– I promise!) Specifically, Brené taught me that we are all so much more than what we do. Sure, it’s great to have goals and to make contributions to the world, but it’s also important to make space for being. (It’s like Ovarian Cyst-er wisdom, all over again!)

Praying Mantis says "Less Doing and More Being Is The Secret To Life!"

Praying Mantis says “Less Doing and More Being Is The Secret To All of Life’s Mysteries!” Seriously. Would I lie to you?

Finally, in waltzed Danielle LaPorte. God, I love Danielle! Danielle is an electric, laser-focused, live-life-the-way-you-really-want-to pioneer. I devoured her Fire Starter Sessions book and promptly chowed down on The Desire Map right afterward. It was a full-on, Danielle LaPorte feast. (And by god, I was a piglet!) Danielle set the goal-setting process straight for me, and by that, I mean she stood it right on its head. No messing around! After reading The Desire Map, I morphed from setting traditional (lame) goals like “I will lose 10lbs!” or “I will buy a house!” to pointing my north star towards what she calls Core Desired Feelings. So now, instead of starting with “goals”, I start with my feelings. What can I do that will help me feel ___________? (In my case: what can I do that will help me feel Radiant, Centered, Magical, Abundant and Free?) I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty revolutionary to me. Life-changing. Soul-Altering. Way-Showing, indeed!

My Core Desired Feelings

My Core Desired Feelings

So. Finally. After a year of energetic toil and spirit-depleting strife, I’ve set a new, one-word intention for 2014: Ease. (Doesn’t that sound enchanting? Ease. Lovely!) I want to feel radiant, yes– but I don’t want to ‘earn’ radiance by laboring up a mountain of discipline and suffering. I want to feel abundant, of course– but if that means shackling myself to a back-breaking work schedule or neglecting my family, friends, or ‘real’ life, then I’m not interested. Ease into The Year of Ease! My life doesn’t have to be easy (at least not all the time), but I will welcome ease with open arms. Enough with imitating the salmon run in my own life– I’m ready to float like a leaf on the river towards my biggest dreams and highest potential. You in?

***

If you want to get concrete about your own Core Desired Feelings, I really recommend reading The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. This book used to be offered as an audio-visual program through Danielle’s website but it will be released as a regular book on Amazon (and in bookstores everywhere) as of January 1st. I’ve also loved completing Leonie Dawson’s 2014 Create Your Amazing Year Workbook & Planner (Life Edition) for the first time this December. 100% converted to Leonie-ism now! It was through this particular workbook that I set the word Ease as my North Star for the upcoming year, and I can’t wait to see what other dreams of mine manifest and unfold as 2014 progresses. The workbook can either be purchased as an e-book here (less than 10 bucks!***) or bought in hard copy (under $30) via Amazon (.com– not available to us Canucks via amazon.ca, unfortunately). Two words, though: Worth It.

***

*The term “way-shower” was introduced to me by Barbara Stanny in her book, “Secrets of Six Figure Women”.

**And by “something”, I mean it was the knowledge that she runs a $750K business per year working 15 hours a week from her isolated, rainforest home in the middle of nowhere. That got my attention!

*** E-book link is an affiliate link. Like Google Ads… only not at all. I’ve actually used this workbook and actually, personally, cross-my-heart endorse it.    

Ovarian Cyst-er

(Heads up! I’m talking about the female reproductive system in this blog post. If this raises all sorts of red flags in your brain, or if you’d rather not be subjected to seeing ME and MY OVARIES in the same sentence, this might be a good time to check out something else on the internet. Ah, the internet. So many things to see! So many ways to waste time!)

And yes! I'll be using stereotypical "flower" images in this post to represent my blossoming femininity. Feel free to let out a collective groan now. "OBVIOUS!"

And yes! I’ll be using stereotypical “flower” images in this post to represent my blossoming femininity. Feel free to let out a collective groan now. “OBVIOUS!”

Eight years ago, while I was in the midst of an angst-ridden Masters Degree program, I experienced blinding pain one evening when a large cyst on one of my ovaries ruptured. This had never happened to me before, and yet I knew it was an ovarian cyst, and I knew that it was bursting open with the glory and fanfare of ten thousand royal weddings. God save the Queen!

I had been reading a text book on my bed at the time (nerd alert!), and suddenly I was overcome with stabbing pain in the vicinity of my right ovary. I couldn’t stretch out, I couldn’t curl my body into a ball, I couldn’t sit upright, I really couldn’t stand up, and I couldn’t even cry out loudly enough for Marty to rush to my assistance. Thankfully, he happened to be coming back to the bedroom on his own accord anyway, and when he saw me doing an oddball version of Twister by my lonesome– my face contorted in agony– he insisted we head to the hospital.

Here’s the thing. I knew that there was nothing the hospital could do about this pain, and a tiny part of me also worried that I would get to the ER, only to be told that it wasn’t a cyst but rather a nasty case of gas. Inner wisdom aside, that would have sucked. (And in case you were wondering about my intimate knowledge of triage/ovarian cyst protocol, my sister had suffered from PCOS symptoms for years prior to my own incident, and one time she landed in emergency due to a particularly brutal rupture. There, she was unceremoniously sat down in a wheelchair to endure the pain in the waiting area. After 45 minutes of cramping and kvetching in public, she decided to head the eff home and suffer in privacy. Hospitals…)

Two delicate flowers... just like my delicate ovaries. "PAINFULLY OBVIOUS!"

Two delicate flowers… just like my delicate ovaries. “PAINFULLY OBVIOUS!”

Anyway. I never made it to the ER that evening, and the pain eventually subsided. I didn’t think anything further about my ovaries until last week, actually, when Marty came home from his training camp. We went to bed, everything was fine, and then I was woken up by incredible pain in the area of my right ovary about 2 o’clock in the morning. My first thought this time was “painful gas?” (so sad), but once again, my inner knowing quickly told me it was my ovarian cyst-er, back again and bursting like ten thousand tiny flowers in bloom– flowers of PAIN and SUFFERING, though.

The flower of PAIN and SUFFERING.

The flower of PAIN and SUFFERING.

This time, I managed to roll over onto all fours like a cat, and my pitiful whimpering was enough to rouse Marty from his earplug-ensconced slumber. What do you do at 2 in the morning when a cyst has suddenly ruptured on your ovary? In this case, Marty immediately started doing Reiki on my body, and I initiated a round of EFT tapping on myself, just like you’d imagine from a hippie granola couple like us. Ha. I breathed through the pain, tried to relax my body instead of tensing up in a cocoon of suffering (way easier said than done), and eventually managed to drift back to sleep. Same thing happened the next night, though– went to bed just fine, was woken up by anguish and general teeth gnashing, and fell back asleep after beaming love and golden sunshine to my right ovary with the awesome power of my mortal hand.

What gives, body?

Well, just like you’d imagine from a hippie granola woman like myself, I consulted Dr. Christiane Northrup (she of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom fame), and I also Googled Louise Hay, the Mother of Positive Affirmations. (Yes, I also read up on standard medical explanations for ovarian cysts, but let’s be honest– the woo-woo stuff was way more exciting. I love me some new age stuff!)

You can feel free to roll your eyes now if you wish, but I happened to be struck dumb by the cosmic significance of ovarian cysts. For one thing, they are supposed to symbolize an imbalance between masculine and feminine energies (i.e., leaning towards masculine energies like competition and achievement, sort of like what my trusted psychic told me back in June.) Secondly, they represent a need to prioritize rest, relaxation, and self-care– not like that applies to me at all. Whatever, Universe! (Ha.) Finally– and this is what really got me– ovarian cysts remind us that it’s just as important to love who we are as much as we identify with what we do. If the emphasis is always on doing things– working, exercising, cooking, cleaning, even fun things like reading, writing, knitting, or watching movies– we don’t leave any space for simply being ourselves. And as improbable as it seems in our go-go-go culture, we really do need to balance ‘doing’ with ‘being’ in order to be at our best.

The perfect balance between being and doing.

The perfect balance between being and doing.

As you might have guessed by now, I have a really hard time with self-care, simply ‘being’, and prioritizing rest for myself. Especially because of the Harbour and all the craziness it entails. Yes, I have a solid understanding in my mind that all of those self-care things are important (and essential!), but when it comes down to my actions, you’d be hard pressed to see any connection whatsoever between cosmic wisdom and what I actually do.

My mind says: You should really take some time off.

My actions say: I’ll only take time off if it rains non-stop for the whole damn day! Even if I have to work FOREVER!!!!  

My mind says: Maybe you should treat yourself to a massage or something!

My actions say: Self-care is for wimps! I barely have time to brush my hair.

My mind says: Don’t you think you should prepare meals for yourself more often? I mean, you love to cook, and you know exactly which foods your body craves.

My actions say: Meh. I’ll start cooking again in November. Until then, bring on the oily salad dressings, heavy pasta dishes, and the Frappuccino IVs! Stat!

Perhaps my body has had enough with my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine. It’s like I’ve been promising myself, ‘yes, yes– I’ll get to that self care thing… soon.’ And now my ovaries are like, “What were you saying about self care? That you’ll be doing it NOW and FOR REAL this time?” [Picture cosmic arm-twisting; cysts bursting like fireworks; tiny sacs breaking open with gusto; cymbals crashing in a feverish symphony. And make sure you picture lots of PAIN and SUFFERING. Mercy, Universe, Mercy! Tiny-ness aside, those cysts HURT when they pop!]

This must be my wake-up call? My urgent call to action? My cosmic ‘FYI, let’s end this suffering once and for all’?

Must be.

Or maybe it’s just gas…

A Serious Case of Serious-itis

I’ve always been a serious person. Even as a young girl, my default facial expression was “Furrowed Brows”, followed closely by “Deep in Thought”. When other kids my age were scampering on the playground and skinning their knees on the gravel, I was off to one side of the designated jungle gym space during recess, contemplating everything from how to pronounce “Chevrolet” properly to how best to display my growing collection of city bus passes on my bedroom wall. I often found myself thinking extensively about alarming topics– like why God would ever want to send anybody to hell FOREVER or what the real difference was between murder and suicide.* I was a pretty serious fourth grader.

This is me in sandstone form: stoic, unwavering, maybe even a bit intimidating to the uninitiated.

This was me in sandstone form: stoic, unwavering, and intimidating to the uninitiated. All that, and I was only nine years old.

*’Say what? Suicide? What sort of Grade 4 class did you attend?’, you might be wondering. It came up in class discussion once, when Billy asked the teacher if people who committed suicide went straight to hell. I had never even heard the word ‘suicide’ before and thought it must be a synonym for murder… which I instinctively knew made no sense… because how would somebody go straight to hell if they had just killed somebody else but were still alive themselves? Maybe God was just marking them down right away for hell in the future, via divine Note to Self? Smote that bastard, ASAP! I was too shy to ask for clarification on this and many of the other burning questions I had. Hell, if Billy knew what suicide was, and he was a terrible speller and couldn’t even finish the Mad Minute quizzes on time, then I should definitely know the answer already. I wouldn’t dare let on to anybody that I didn’t. Hence, I contemplated, ruminated, furrowed, and reasoned on my very own, off to one side while the other kids played. Serious vs. Silly. Story of my life.

I know this dog is probably trying to be serious... but doesn't he look silly?

I know this dog is probably trying to be serious… but doesn’t he look silly?

Even today, I tend to take the world seriously (and literally, all too often). I take other people seriously. Worst of all, I take myself way too seriously.

June ushered in the Summer of Serious for me. Yes, I had recently returned from a 3-month holiday in which fun and games had surprisingly (for me) prevailed over lofty topics and capital-B “Business Matters”. However, being back at home meant it was time to re-install my factory setting– seriousness– and I was taking this matter of seriousness very seriously. I contemplated everything from how to boost subscribers to Marty’s art newsletter to My Definitive Soul Purpose: No Revisions, Add-Ons, or Mind-Changing Allowed. Deep thoughts. All-consuming topics. I read marketing books like a demon. I checked our sales numbers obsessively. I watched in horror as my svelte frame started to pack on harbour weight, and then I feverishly started reading more books on diet & nutrition, all the while imagining myself (in slo-mo nightmare mode) as the only chubby person in the history of Holistic Nutrition School. After some serious and extensive soul-searching, I eventually changed my mind about going to Holistic Nutrition School altogether but then panicked when I didn’t have anything definitive or “serious enough” to slot into its space. How could I justify “chilling out” as a legitimate off-season pursuit? How could anyone take me seriously if I was waffling through life instead of taking the bull by the horns and mapping out every last detail of my planned existence between now and infinity?

Nothing is more serious than a profile shot. Profile shot + lighthouse in the background = boom!

Dear Future: I am mapping you. (Nothing is more serious than a profile shot, right? Except profile shot + lighthouse in the background = boom!)

So I developed a serious case of Serious-itis this summer. On one hand, I’d gently chide Marty for trying to control the weather patterns (because controlling weather = impossible), but on the other hand, I found myself unwilling or unable to do anything that wasn’t explicitly harbour-related myself. I stopped working out. I stopped writing. I stopped reading other people’s blogs. I didn’t even knit! Everything that had kept me somewhat sane in previous years was abandoned for the sake of “The Business”– not at all at Marty’s beckoning, to be clear– but based on my own, hyper-aggressive commitment to setting personal records and blowing our sales targets out of the water. My feminine/masculine energy meter was totally out of whack. Stuck in the “Danger, Will Robinson!” mode (also known as the “THIS. IS. SPARTAAAAA!!!”, brute force mode). I was exhausted, literally bawling some mornings as I rode my bike to work– ugly tears streaming down my face and blurring my vision– and yet I refused to rest or take a day off. I convinced myself that I was the sole reason why our business was booming. Forget Marty actually creating the artwork– it was my commitment to the business that was paying off in lucrative sales, and we would most certainly falter and suffer without me there all the time, overseeing every transaction and personally engaging every single customer and potential customer. Ack.

The art business depends on me like this ratty dog depends on the dude who is holding him on the tractor wheel. Seriously.

Our art business depends on me like this ratty dog depends on the dude who is holding him on the tractor wheel. Seriously.

Needless to say, I engineered quite the punishing experience for myself this summer with the skill and cunning of a military strategist. Despite posting some impressive numbers, sales-wise, I emerged defeated after Labour Day like a crisp of my former self– albeit a puffy crisp, 25 pounds heavier in body and approximately 18 million pounds heavier in spirit. (I was like a human version of those puffed pork rinds, as revolting as that sounds. Crispy and greasy on the outside, hollow and cavernous on the inside. Not that I eat puffed pork rinds, mind you. Thank goodness I didn’t have to start school the very next day on top of everything!)

And thank goodness I discovered a top knot bun right after Labour Day, too. I feel like I'm downloading poise and positivity from the heavens itself whenever I style my hair this way now. I can't believe it took me so long to figure out that Big Hair = Big Fun!

And thank goodness I discovered the top knot bun right after Labour Day, too. I feel like I’m downloading poise and positivity from Heaven itself whenever I style my hair this way now. I can’t believe it took me so long to figure out that Big Hair = Big Fun!

As crazy as this sounds… I have to become serious about having fun now. (Doesn’t it even SOUND fun to become serious about playing? Ha. I’m a natural at this! Right?) Self-care, relaxation, and even a little bit of pampering are of the highest importance to me this off-season, and I’m starting off my recalibration movement with this very blog post. Writing again? Check!

Operation: Dress-Wearing, Phoenix-Exploring, Depeche Mode Concert-Attending FUN. (Notice top knot again. I have a sneaking suspicion that wearing my hair this way will become like wearing overalls was to me in junior high, i.e. all day, every day, much to the chagrin of my non-1990s self.

Operation: Dress-Wearing, Phoenix-Exploring, Depeche Mode Concert-Attending FUN. (Notice top knot again. I have a sneaking suspicion that wearing my hair this way will become like wearing overalls was to me in junior high, i.e. all day, every day, much to the chagrin of my no-longer-1990s self.

Welcome back, dear readers. Your off-kilter hostess with the mostest is back, albeit a little worn for wear.

What do you do for fun?

How do you stave off those serious cases of serious-itis?