Category: Lists

It’s ok to be ok

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It’s okay to be okay.

Is it vulnerable to confess that I am happy, content, that I feel cherished and full of gratitude? It feels that way sometimes. Or it feels like I’m tempting fate. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone or it will get taken away. I wonder why. I wonder why there is pressure to confess only the misery and pain and missteps, as a signal of vulnerability and openness and being human, rather than the joy? But both are true of being human: we know joy and contentment too. I wonder why I would ever feel guilty for or superstitious about being content? Yet, it’s there. Like I’m bragging, maybe? Like I’m setting up a comparison that might make someone else feel less than? Like I deserve to be taken down a notch.

Well.

Be that as it may, I want to spread the word that it’s okay to be okay. It’s okay to be okay with all the feelings. It’s okay to ask for what you want. It’s okay to declare that you need a personal time-out to cool down. It’s okay to look around and say, hey, this is pretty sweet.

This morning, I created a word-storm. I invite you to do the same. The prompt is: WORDS THAT FEED ME.

Useful, worthwhile, care, purpose, value, meaningful, attention, calm, observant, responsive, kind, fun, joyful, clear, open, wonder, curious, grace, gratitude, improvisation, generosity, spirit, longing, prayer, adventure, trust, serve.

To each of these words, an image or images attach.

USEFUL: I’ve struggled with this word, yet it comes to mind first. It’s connected to WORTHWHILE, VALUE, SERVE. My Mennonite words. Is spending a year drawing cartoons useful? Well, who is to say it’s not? I’m beginning to learn with my whole body that useful is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe I drew cartoons for a year in order to become the person that I am right now: someone who values PLAY and creativity in others, and knows how to make space for it. It’s okay to be okay — I don’t need to apologize or explain to anyone why something is or has been useful to me. TRUST.

CARE: I love this word. I have a friend who always calls me “Care Bear.” It was my childhood nickname too, bestowed on me by my brother, who is the king of nickname-bestowing (it’s a gift!). CARE is connected to MEANINGFUL, ATTENTION, WONDER, CURIOUS, GENEROSITY, SPIRIT. I’m learning that it’s okay to be okay with caring deeply; but I’m also learning how to set boundaries, so my care doesn’t swamp me, or burn me out. CARE can be expressed in so many ways. I don’t want my care to burden the people about whom I care. That’s where boundaries come in: knowing what’s mine to offer, and what’s mine to leave be.

PURPOSE: Here’s where PURPOSE comes into it. I am beginning to accept that my PURPOSE is most mysterious. It’s not for me to decide or drive toward or push into. What I’m making isn’t CLEAR while I’m making it. This is true of any writing project — I know this is my very bones — but it’s also true of the project of being alive, being human. You don’t know what you’re making while making it. When I’m writing, I lean into the mystery, I let myself be led, I follow what makes me WONDER, what makes me CURIOUS. I chase the energy that’s playing with me. What I’m making is not static, and it doesn’t require me to bring it to life: it’s animating me in return, or animating my imagination. Why not apply this sensation of ADVENTURE, of exploration, of following where you’re being led to real life too? When something brings me energy and delight, when I revel in what I’m doing, then I know: this is my PURPOSE.

It’s funny how we tell ourselves that we need to know our PURPOSE in advance — to set goals, and be useful, and climb the mountain, and use our gifts to the fullest. When no — we need to be comfortable not knowing. As in writing, we don’t get to decide the outcome. Leave that to someone else. Or leave it alone altogether and don’t give it another thought.

GRATITUDE: This is the this. But I don’t want to force it. I can’t really force it. To be in a GENEROUS mindset is to know GRATITUDE. Then it’s impossible not to give thanks for the GRACE that speaks in many voices. I do think this can be a practice, though. I notice myself saying thank you more and more frequently, in funny ways, too. Thank you, plant, for not dying even though I’ve forgotten to water you! Thank you, weary body, for getting me through this day. Thank you, brain, for keeping me safe in busy traffic. Thank you, heart, for beating all these beats. You know? And then this thankfulness spills everywhere, over everything and everyone.

KIND: Hey. It’s also okay to not be okay. That’s the kindest thing you can say to yourself, and to those around you. Let yourself RESPOND to the situation that’s unfolding, and you will be KIND.

FUN: For me it’s so much fun to be CURIOUS, to WONDER, to IMPROVISE, to PLAY, to RESPOND. Your FUN recipe will be totally different from mine. It’s WORTHWHILE experimenting with your own ingredients. You’ll know it when you feel it. It feels easy, light, delightful. You will laugh at yourself a lot. You will be patient and relaxed and gentle. You will be JOYFUL. Those around you may sense your joy and feel freed to respond in kind. It’s possible.

It’s okay to be okay.

xo, Carrie

Somethings …

2022-12-11_01-31-21looking back at 2022 …

Something I’m proud of is … interviewing for this new job and showing up and doing it

Something at which I crashed and burned … keeping my sanity post-book-launch despite ample prep

Something happy … dinner at Asmaa’s with my boys

Something sad … not finishing Grandma’s book (writing it, that is)

Something big … publishing Francie; years of pressure and angst and trial behind it

Something small … all the walking I did with friends — but it added up to something big

Something funny … lord in heaven have I had no fun this year?? Maybe trying out the secretary’s under-the-desk foot pedal exercise device at [school name redacted], looking silly, feeling free

Something that surprised me this year … still surprised I got 2 tattoos!

xo, Carrie

List of somethings

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Do you enjoy doing reflective exercises at this time of year? If so, here’s a short one to commemorate the year that was, as you step into the year that is becoming. (I made friends do this last night — actually a longer version; our new year’s eve gathering was LIT!).

Think about the last year (2022), and then write down whatever pops immediately to your mind in response to each question. One line or two at most. When you’re done, draw a self-portrait with someone you love, if you want to make this extra.

  1. Something you’re proud of
  2. Something at which you crashed and burned
  3. Something happy
  4. Something sad
  5. Something very big
  6. Something very small
  7. Something funny or silly
  8. Something that surprised you

That’s it. Should take about 5 minutes max. I’ll post my somethings later. Please feel free to post anything that comes to mind in the comments below, should you feel so inspired.

xo, Carrie

PS Happy New Year!

This is where I begin

2022-08-15_12-41-51I want to write about how to be, how to get through the days when I’m feeling weak, discouraged, overwrought (or perhaps under-wrought?), weighed down, anxious. I want to know how to be the kind of person who can experience such emotions and somehow surf atop the worries and fears and enjoy the day, nevertheless. There are many things to worry about, after all. The details may change, but there is always a list, available for the mind to scroll through, no matter the season.

Why are some days harder than others? Is it what’s happening externally, or is it how I’m framing things, seeing things, inside my own mind?

I don’t know.

But there is no perfect day, no perfect hour; that I do know. There is no reason to wait.

I lay out the template for survival, for dressing for the weather, for putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again. I step into it.

What am I missing? Can I fill a gap, answer a need? Is there something on my mind that I long to say to someone, a message I long to share that is waiting for the right moment to be spoken out loud … or let go of, maybe? Is the sense of fear or worry based on something real? And, if it is based on something real, is it something over which I have control? Would the problem, whatever it may be, be solved or helped by my immediate attention and focus?

Or, is everything actually okay, right now? Or, is it both? Not okay and okay.

How to clear a pathway for the mind to do its work, with clarity? How to be not okay and okay at once?

Not okay: The house smells like skunk and mothballs, the kitchen is somewhat torn apart, there is an excess of cucumbers and zucchini in the refrigerator, someone I love is in pain, I woke every hour last night.

Okay: The dog doesn’t smell too much of skunk, the neutralizing paste mixed up at midnight was quite effective, there is an excess of cucumbers and zucchini, the stove works, I walked with a friend this morning, yoga felt amazing.

The details of our days matter. It’s where we live, after all. Not in some theoretical place, but here, now, with whatever our bodies are telling us. I haven’t cracked the code for how to enjoy every bit of it; that bar is too high. So I tell myself: bring the bar down a bit lower … lower … lower yet … and appreciate what you’re doing on a small scale, how you broached a tough conversation, or bit your tongue, how you looked up new recipes, got creative, took a nap, did what you needed to be more kind.

How can I be more kind? To myself, to everyone else? This is where I begin, over and over again.

xo, Carrie

Fifty fun things

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  1. barefoot in grass
  2. climbing a tree
  3. riding a horse
  4. playing piano (and singing)
  5. running (when nothing hurts)
  6. dance!!!
  7. writing retreat (organized by me)
  8. fancy meal out with drinks and appetizers and coffee and dessert
  9. road trip
  10. live music, concerts
  11. getting dressed up
  12. a massage
  13. exploring on my bicycle
  14. standing around a campfire
  15. camping with friends
  16. sibs nights
  17. star-gazing
  18. floating in a lake (preferably warm)
  19. seeing the ocean again
  20. Omega getaway (preferably Lynda Barry)
  21. acting, performing, being onstage
  22. throwing a party
  23. writing things I find funny and energizing
  24. one-on-one conversations with friends
  25. sabbatical in beach town, anywhere
  26. cooking what I want to eat
  27. being impulsive
  28. yoga outside (or anywhere, daily)
  29. going to the movies
  30. drawing (cartoons or otherwise)
  31. trying new things
  32. date night with Kevin
  33. a good night’s sleep (sleep sabbatical)
  34. surprising friends with small gifts
  35. planning events
  36. making TikTok videos for my own amusement
  37. tattoos
  38. driving late at night, listening to the radio
  39. playing games with family
  40. walking to city cafe for a treat
  41. memorizing a poem
  42. talking with my kids
  43. backyard drinks with friends
  44. dreaming, brainstorming, envisioning, imagining
  45. going with the flow
  46. reading for fun
  47. achievable adventures (like going to Nina’s farm / train to Toronto)
  48. shooting the shit
  49. inviting people in, keeping a welcoming house
  50. being entertained by podcasts, shows, music

I did it! I finished making my list of 50 fun things! (Although it’s the kind of list that should be infinitely added to, right?) Most of the things on my list are within reach, or pleasant just to dream about. It’s also a list of things I want to do more of, or as often as possible, like a map, or a way to stay oriented to what matters, which is really personal and would be different for everyone. (51. making lists of fun things). With thanks to my friend Marnie for the inspiration.

What’s on your list?

xo, Carrie

June reflections

2022-06-30_04-01-09I’m on day 91 of my 100-day creativity project. Mostly I’ve drawn cartoon versions of myself, capturing transitory moods-of-the-moment, and I’ve written lists, based on a prompt called “Things that are true about me.”

I like these lists. They’re a simple way to gauge what I’m feeling, and often they’re ruthlessly honest. Also: sometimes things that are true in the moment don’t hold, and that’s useful to record and recognize too.

2022-06-30_04-00-43Here are some true items from recent lists.

1 I used to run long distances and call it fun — and it was fun for me. Now I seem to want to suffer less, I accept the easier paths to altered reality.

2 Change the state of my mind — it’s what I long to do, to be transported from pain into ease — and the gentlest, least harmful way to do so is not always obvious or easy.

3 I am more confused than ever.

4 I see myself in the world as this intransigent lump behind glasses, but glowing and appealing and maybe even dangerous; I see that everyone is lonely. I see myself more consistently as observer than participant.

5 Started the day with a run and felt like a different person. Felt strong. Magnificent posture. Powerful. Beautiful. Alive.

6 The songs on my playlist were all my favourites. I listened to music even after my run, walking Rose, then walking uptown to get my errands done early. Having a soundtrack changes things up.

7 Doing yoga every day for more than two years has changed me — I have better posture, stronger core, I can drop into key moments smoothly; but I wonder whether it’s given me anything else? I don’t need it to — to be clear, excellent posture is a genuine gift — but I think I thought it would change me more fundamentally.

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Here are my reflection questions for the month, answered in brief.

What felt good this month? Running pain-free and smooth and fast. How is this even possible, when I ran less than usual this month? Reading terrifically fun and engaging books. Going to parties in my skintight, not flowy, possibly age-inappropriate brightly patterned dress paired with Birkenstocks and blue toenail polish.

What did you struggle with? My inner life. My purpose. My usefulness and worth; or maybe I mainly struggled with my compulsion to tie usefulness to worth.

Where are you now compared to at the beginning of the month? Four people in this house have had covid this month (two have it right now). So that’s been a rather endless, slow-moving parade of care-giving and mild worry. I feel somewhat aimless. But also more celebratory.

How did you take care of yourself? Friendship. Journaling. Daily yoga. Being outside. Letting my hair down. Doing things I enjoy, like cooking and riding my bike. Letting myself feel what I was feeling, even when it wasn’t great. Letting myself off the hook. Being part of the X Page workshop.

What would you most like to remember? I loved seeing my youngest dressed up for his grade 8 grad, and I loved debriefing with him the next day, when we drove to pick up pizza together. I loved walking uptown with Kevin and listening to an outdoor concert on a warm Friday night; spontaneous and relaxed, and pretty much perfect. My mood went from blah to wow what a beautiful world.

What do you need to let go of? I’m holding on to some stuff really tightly right now, I can feel it. That makes it hard to imagine letting go. I need to let go of a childhood version of my dreamed-of life. I need to let go of imagining there’s a perfect version of me out there, a perfect version of what I can and should accomplish. But also: I need to let myself hold on if that’s where I’m at. I’ll let go when I can, it can’t be forced, or willed, just observed, noticed. (Yoga has taught me that.)

Let me leave you with this very on-the-nose cartoon. I laughed.

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xo, Carrie