In our household, my partner loves to watch Entertainment Tonight. We only have one TV, so he learns how so many people are heeding their calling (or at the very least who’s divorcing whom). But as soon as the credits start to roll, I flip the channel. Now he must ‘suffer’ through the last half of Murder, She Wrote. Compromise? Maybe. [Read more…] about Will You Heed the Call?
Something ‘magical’ happened a year ago. Then, however, I didn’t know how much it would change my life, how much it would change the script.
On 17 January 2018, I stopped drinking.
I need a moment to let that sink in. I’ve been sober for one year. 365 days. 8,760 hours. 525,600 minutes.
“Why?” many of my friends asked with bewilderment as much as curiosity. I stopped drinking — not because I was pressured to, not because I didn’t know my limit, not because alcohol was ravaging my life — because I had to get my house in order.
Call it an aha moment, a day of reckoning, an epiphany. Naming it isn’t important. But to fulfill my calling and be of service, things needed to change. To keep moving in the direction of my dreams, I had to clean up my own backyard.
Hitting Rock Bottom
Sometimes life speaks to you, yet you purposely ignore what her advice. That was me. By the end of 2018, I’d spent the previous two years on autopilot. Doing the same things over and over again, moving forward yet never feeling like I was getting ahead. Then ending up exhausted and tired of being in my doctor’s office, wanting to know why I wasn’t just sick but still sick. Tired of complaining of fatigue. Tired of the long bouts of insomnia.
Headed for some type of breakdown, it was time for an intervention because I wasn’t ‘happy’ with my life. I wasn’t where I wanted to be or living the life I’d imagined. And if I wanted to bring that vision to life — and not end up stranded or stuck in the same old patterns — something had to give.
Going sober was the first step towards becoming the best version of myself. Oprah Winfrey put it this way: “All of us are seeking the same thing. We share the desire to fulfill the highest, truest expression of ourselves as human beings.” 1Oprah Winfrey, The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations, Flatiron Books, 2017, p. 82
A State of Grace
The past year without alcohol has been like living in a state of grace — honouring who I am and not who others wish me to be. I’ve been, more than ever, committed to the thing that has called me into service: writing. Every day I write, show up to practice my art and hone my skills. Every day I’m being true to who I am.
Beyond living out my calling to write, going sober has helped me to take better care of myself both physically and mentally. I’m more present, more aware of who I am, what I want to achieve and what I must do to accomplish my goals. I have more energy to get through the day. I’ve lost just over 20 pounds and, through a more challenging running schedule and by paying attention to what I eat, I’ve kept the weight off.
Simply put, there is more clarity — of purpose, of what I’m seeking to do and give back to the world. The journey forward may still not be easy, but I’m in it for the long haul.
Therein lies the why.
Sober, I have the greatest chance of living my best life.
Sober, the world will see the truest expression of who I am.
Sober, I’m headed for my best year ever.
Is there one change you could make that would set you up to live your best year ever? Can you commit to making that change now? Click Reply, or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you!
If there is one thing in this life that we must do, it is this: Do What You Love!
Do What You Love is not just a trite adage. When used as a powerful guiding principle, it can transform your life. I know.
I spent a good chunk of my adult life running away from what I love, from who I am. I did what I was ‘supposed’ to do. I went to university, earned a degree and then found a job. I didn’t exactly work in my field of study, which was French Literature. But living in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, being bilingual made the search for decent work easier.
I worked in what was, for me, the grizzly world of nine to five. Policy Analyst. Executive Assistant. Proofreader. Program Coordinator. Project Administrator (Consultant). No matter how fancy the title or good the pay, boredom quickly set in. I never adjusted well (and I don’t think I have yet) to doing the same tasks over and over again, in a tiny cubicle, with the same people. It didn’t inspire.
Maybe, too, I didn’t subscribe to the idea of the Canadian dream — owning a nice house, having lots of money, fame and recognition. I believed, and still do, that we should hard work, be determined and live a happy and fulfilled life. So, whenever the nine-to-five world became too ‘restrictive,’ I saw a simple cure: Change jobs. I did. Frequently. But it was never long before the excitement of the new job and work environment waned. Then I’d reach the point of loathing the work and taking regular ‘mental health’ days.
Diagnosing the Problem
The problem was simple. When it came to Do What You Love, I was failing miserably. Well, I was and I wasn’t.
I’m a writer. It’s what drives me, gives me a reason to get out of bed. I’m always excited to begin each day by setting pen to the page as I write my Morning Pages. I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. But for a long time, I let myself be shamed out of writing. People — family, friends, colleagues — told me I’d never make it as a writer. That all artists were drug and/or alcohol addicts. Have it as a hobby on the side. Get a real job.
When I kept writing on the side and got a ‘real job,’ I was mis-er-able. Looking back at the three most difficult times in my life — when I was actually clinically depressed and on medication — I was barely writing. I was doubting my work, doubting my talent, doubting my dreams. I’d lost sight of what mattered … and that had to change.
In 2003, I stopped being ashamed of my writing dreams. I started to submit my work, and it was published. I made time for writing — before my soporific day job, during my lunch hour and before bed. Jobs came and went, but my writing held steady. That was when I noticed the shift. Making my writing a priority, I wasn’t miserable. The good days were like being on the open water when it’s smooth sailing, the winds are calm, and your destination is clearly in your sights. And on the bad days — when the tempest roared, and it felt like I had to fight for my very survival — writing took the pain away.
I still have a day job, but it’s not nine to five. Do I love what I do as much as writing? Absolutely not. But I’ve found a way to ‘love’ it because it lets me do what I love. Write. If I’d been in any other job over the past five and a half years, it would have taken a lot longer to have my books published.
Do What You Love + Courage = Hope
Maybe you want to be the mayor of your city, found a non-profit that focuses on creativity for adolescents with mental health issues, open your own B&B… Whatever your dream, doing it takes courage. Taking that first step in the direction of your dream — despite the odds or what others say — gives you hope. Hope for today. Hope for tomorrow. Hope for the life you’ve always dreamed of living.
Let’s make the choice to walk through life with our eyes wide open, with our hearts tuned to what makes them tick.
Are you doing what you love? Click Reply and let me know. I’d love to hear from you!
I didn’t always want to be a writer.
Actually, that’s not true. I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a writer. Growing up in a fairly religious household (staunch is, perhaps, the more apt word) and possessing a natural talent for the piano, I was encouraged to use my gift for the ‘Glory of God.’ So, I did … use my ‘gift,’ and spent my childhood and adolescence playing in church. And much to the dismay of the church elders! When I sat down at the piano, I could almost hear their moans and groans of disapproval before my fingers touched the keys. I had a penchant for doing the unthinkable: rearranging classic hymns like ‘How Great Thou Art,’ ‘Amazing Grace’ or ‘There’s Power in the Blood.’ I was doing something that — to my parents’ chagrin — came naturally to me. I was breaking the rules.
Although music dominated my formative years, I was a closeted writer. I wrote stories in notebooks and journals, which I hid under my bed. Returning to Canada after studying for eight months in Nice, France, that was when I realized writing — more than music — was my passion. And I gave myself over to it.
I quickly discovered that writing is a messy affair and that the road to success is paved with many obstacles (and rejection letters) along the way. But I wouldn’t be dissuaded. Despite how daunting the writing life could be, I knew it was my calling. And I had to heed the call.
So, I wasn’t surprised when, in the early part of 2005, I sat down and wrote a story about rules that mirrored my own life. My late teens to early twenties were turbulent years, and I needed rules to govern my daily life and to ground me. Those rules were … unbreakable. And that story, published in September 2005 and entitled, “Malachi and Cole,” later became my first published novel, Freestyle Love.
When Freestyle Love hit the electronic bookstores in 2011, I hoped for a bestseller. That didn’t happen. And that disappointed. I thought I’d written a good book. After all, I’d worked hard on the manuscript — editing, reediting and editing some more. The publisher told me they loved the story and asked for very few changes. The reviews — some good, some (many) not so good — had me doubting my talent as a writer. The book limped to a slow death, and was pulled from online when the rights reverted back to me five years later.
During those five years I kept writing, working to hone my skills. I read books on writing to find anything of value to help me become a better writer. I had also written another novel, and began researching what it would take to self-publish. So, I decided to go the self-publishing route with The Flowers Need Watering, which is available on Amazon.
I learned a hard lesson with Freestyle Love, one that I wouldn’t repeat with The Flowers Need Watering: the importance of a professional editor. In reviewing the manuscript for The Flowers Need Watering, my editor hit on all the big-ticket items — character and plot development, structure, continuity, story arc, theme development, repetition and plot holes. He didn’t only point out what wasn’t working, but also what worked well. Through that process I realized something else. Maybe Freestyle Love, despite what I thought at the time, wasn’t my best effort. Now I knew I could do better. So, I decided to try.
Taking it to the Next Level
Everything He Thought He Knew is a complete rewrite of Freestyle Love that has been through two rounds of vigorous editing by Dave Taylor of thEditors.com. I am eternally grateful for his insights and wisdom.
Throughout my writing journey, I’ve often felt ‘caught’ (Caught was the original title of Freestyle Love before publication) between the life expected of me and the one I imagined. Malachi Bishop and Cole Malcolm may or may not be caught by something more sinister: the idea of true love and its sure path. Malachi, a writer and professor of creative writing, is a rigid — even awful — man paralyzed by a long-held grief knotted around his heart. He is, perhaps, not the most likeable protagonist, but it’s my sincere hope that he is a real one. Cole, a successful management consultant, is older and unafraid of the things that love is all about. Everything He Thought He Knew tells a story of two men caught by love and betrayed by it. It is a journey of self-discovery that forces Malachi and Cole to confront their present and their past, bringing into question the larger fantasies of home and their place in the world.
Everything He Thought He Knew doesn’t guarantee the normative happily ever after ending of the romance genre. My hope is that it transcends it.
Sometimes in life there are things beyond your control. You have to learn to roll with the punches. And that’s not always easy.
I know. I’m in a kind of precarious situation at the moment when it comes to my health. I’ve been in my doctor’s office three times since 6 August — first to discuss the symptoms that presented, then to follow up on each round of testing and decide the next course of action. There’s still no ‘clear’ indication of what’s happening or why. So, I wait. Wait for the next test, scheduled for next week, and then I’ll wait for those results. Waiting is the worst because, when I’m stuck inside my head, I imagine the worst of all scenarios. What if it’s this? What if it’s that? How will I react to whatever it is? Because maybe, after all is said and done, it’ll be nothing.
Still, I want to know what I’m dealing with, no matter what it is. The first diagnosis and course of treatment seemed to ‘solve’ one issue, then unearth another. What I love about technology is how it’s made accessing my healthcare reports easier. Through the Patient Portal, I can see when my results come in and my doctor’s instructions, like File or Contact Patient. I made the mistake on the weekend of checking to see if the latest round of test results were in. They were, but my doctor was on vacation, so I didn’t know if there was an ‘urgency’ — like the last time — for us to discuss them.
Returning from my doctor’s appointment yesterday, I know that it’s all beyond my control. Knowing that doesn’t stop me from brooding over what’s happening. I try to stay focused, but I know my productivity has taken a hit. Despite everything that’s happening, I’m trying to roll with the punches … take it all day by day.
But there’s a lesson in every situation. My takeaway is this: be sure that, wherever we are on our life journey, that we’re doing what we love. Now is the time to do it, because if we keep putting it off, we’ll never achieve the thing we feel we must do. We’ll never — and I love how Oprah Winfrey puts it — “[…] fulfill the highest, truest expression of ourselves as human beings.”1
Now is the Time
Yes, now is the time, if you haven’t already, to strike out. Don’t wait until tomorrow to start training for that half-marathon. Don’t wait until you retire to write the book you’ve always felt was within you. Don’t wait until the beginning of the month to start that diet you’ve been talking about since 2016. Whatever you want to do, whatever you feel you can do … begin it. Now.
Let me give you an example of what can happen if you decide to wait. My father worked hard to provide for his family. It wasn’t until I was an adult, living on my own, that I understood the cost of raising a family, of living in this world (and that money didn’t grow on trees). We weren’t rich, we weren’t poor, but we never wanted for anything. We had the opportunity to travel — not extensively or luxuriously — but enough to not feel sheltered or uncultured. My father loved to travel and play golf. As his retirement neared, he said that travelling and playing golf would fill his days. A year and a half into his retirement (he was fifty-five when he retired), he was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer and given about six months to live. He fought, fought hard to live … to travel, play golf, and do what he loved. My father passed away at age fifty-eight, eighteen months after his diagnosis.
Strike Out Now
Yes, strike out now … just because you can, and that can yield fantastic results. Let me give you an example. At the beginning of 2018, I didn’t make any resolutions. I haven’t done that for over a decade. On 1 January, I woke up sick — sore throat, nasal congestion, and upset stomach. The cold lasted for about two weeks. Tired, feeling crappy and unusually irritable, I decided on 17 January that I was done with alcohol. No more drinking (I didn’t drink much, anyway). No more cooking with alcohol. My goal was to quit cold turkey. And I’ve been sober for more than 223 days. Together with running and paying closer attention to what I eat, I’ve lost twenty pounds. My energy level is up. I’m sleeping better. But I didn’t wait for the beginning of the next week or month to go sober. I started that day, a Wednesday, and didn’t look back.
Yes, I can’t stress it enough. Now is the time to begin. Do it. Now!