There is a lot happening in the world that inspires, especially how, in different communities across the globe, we’ve come together to support each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are also things that cause us to pause and show the worst of man’s inhumanity to man, and, consequently, sends people marching into the streets to demand change. George Floyd’s death reflects the latter. Enter hope… [Read more…] about 2 Things You Can’t Take Away from Me…
When I moved to Toronto in March 2013, life overwhelmed. New job. New love. Figuring out how to make this new city feel like home. In an unexpected way, I found comfort reading Rhonda Bynre’s The Magic. Writing a daily gratitude list is a lesson and practice from that book that has stuck with me. When you count your blessings at the start of your day, it’s hard to be grumpy, cynical or pessimistic. Like writing, it’s an act that anchors me to the present moment.
Life is busy. I know. Building a career as a writer around a day job and other life responsibilities isn’t easy, especially with so much pressure for us to be ‘connected’ 24/7. But sometimes the greatest gift we can give ourselves — one that offers perspective and the possibility of unforeseen insights to move us and our dreams forward — is to step back and give thanks for the blessings in our lives.
Turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper, log in to your social media accounts … you’ll witness a startling truth. We live in an age where it’s not just easier, but more the accepted norm, to criticize, insult and belittle each other. Instead of working together to build each other up, we’d rather tear each other apart. We focus more on what divides us than what should unite us. We’re constantly separating ourselves into camps — liberal/conservative, republican/democrat, vegan/carnivore, introvert/extravert — convinced that one is better than the other. And worse, still, we show little or no willingness to understand the other point of view. It’s become an unattractive state of being.
Yet there is so much more to life, and we should relish the very gift of waking up each morning to see a new day. Cutting through the noise, my daily gratitude list reminds me of that. In this life, I’m grateful for my partner, family, friends, and job. For the people working to improve the lives of others. For the positivity I welcome into each day, doing my best to bring joy wherever I go. Grateful, yes, to see the beauty that is this world.
Doing What You Love
Everywhere you turn, someone is offering advice: Ten Ways to Maximize Your Instagram Engagement, Five Simple Ways to Advance Your Career, Eight Tips for Effective Time Management, et. al. We scramble to take it all in and sign up for multiple newsletters, online training/webinars, or search for the next great app promising to improve productivity (I’ve done it all). And the next thing you know — badda bing badda boom — you’re living someone else’s dream.
And that’s why I’m grateful for having had the courage to listen to that ‘still small voice’ that encouraged me to follow my heart’s true desire. Writing. It’s the one thing in this life that makes my heart sing. So, every day — no matter where I am in the world, no matter the challenges life throws at me — I write. It’s how I know, as my friend Adrienne reminded me, that I’m doing my best to “stay grounded in your conviction that you’re doing what you want to do and feel called to do.” And best of all … I’m doing it my way!
When you dare to declare your dream to the world, there’s bound to be people who’ll tell you you’ll fail. They’ll laugh or ask if you’ve been drinking. They’ll be a family member, friend, or colleague. Some will even stop talking to you. Why? You have something they do not: the courage to act, to imagine what is possible and go after it.
That’s why I’m grateful for my friends who’ve been with me from the beginning of my writing journey. Not sure how to proceed after receiving the umpteenth rejection letter, they encouraged me to keep writing. Sharing the news my first book was accepted for publication, they cheered, “Yay, you!” When a reader posted a harsh review, they told me to keep writing. And on the days I doubted myself and my talent, they told me to keep writing.
These are my personal cheerleaders who believe in me when others don’t, and that makes all the difference.
As Melody Beattie reminds us, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
That’s why today, and every day, it’s important to take a moment to count your blessings.
What’s one thing that you’re grateful for today? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.
I’ve learned to take nothing for granted. Each day brings new lessons, new insights … if we are open to life speaking to us. We are vulnerable, delicate and easily bruise. Among the billions of other humans inhabiting the planet, we’re hoping to make a mark, stand out from the crowd, leave a legacy to the generations that follow. And we meet people who change our lives.
This past Halloween, I spent the afternoon at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre visiting a friend. My friend is strong. She’s fighting hard to live, to get back to the people and things she loves. She’s not naïve, though. She admits that, right now, she’s not in a good state. Her breathing is laboured, and just repositioning herself in the bed leaves her winded.
I see the pain etched in her face, hear it in her voice. She’s in a fight for her life.
Serve a Greater Good
The visit with my friend reminded me of an expression I heard a long time ago. It went something like this: People come in and out of your life, to serve a greater good.
My friend only recently came into my life (in the last two years). And, no doubt, to serve a greater good.
Seeking to live a healthier lifestyle (in January 2018, I gave up alcohol, started paying closer attention to what I eat, and began exercising more), she shared her story. How she lost 80 lbs. Her breast cancer diagnosis. Through my ‘difficult’ period of change, she’s been an inspiration. Her knowledge, life experience and encouragement helped me get to, and stay, where I am.
At the end of the visit, I sat down on the edge of the bed and hugged her. I said, “Thank you. For being who you are, for inspiring me to do better and be better every day.”
Yes, there are people who change our lives.
Now my friend knows: she changed my life.
Is there someone in your life who’s had a major impact on your journey? Who are they? And have you told them lately what they mean to you? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.
Beginning a new habit is, perhaps, one of the most difficult things to do. It’s easy to give up on it in the first few days or weeks. Missing one or two days in a row has the power to challenge our commitment to it. We say, “I’ll try again tomorrow,” but we never do.
When I realized I wanted to be a writer, I knew I had to write every day — no matter where I was, no matter what was happening in my life. And now, for almost twenty-five years, writing every day has kept me grounded. Especially on the days when it feels like my world is being turned upside-down and inside out.
Back in 2013, shortly after I moved to Toronto, I read Rhonda Byrne’s The Magic. If you’ve read this book, you know that Byrne believes “the magic of gratitude will change your entire life.”1 And the first lesson is, “Count Your Blessings.” Byrne asks us to, as early in the day as possible, write down ten blessings for which we are grateful.
I’ve been writing my Morning Pages faithfully since 1995. It’s the first thing I do in the morning. And after reading The Magic, writing a gratitude list — counting my blessings — became part of my Morning Pages ritual.
Every day I begin counting my blessings this way: I am grateful to God (the Universe, that force higher than me … whatever you want to call it) for waking me up this morning and starting me on my way. That acknowledgement of my gratitude for having another day to enjoy the beauty that is this world has transformative power. It reminds me to stay focused on the present, to let go of anything negative that came before that moment. And when I stay present — and let go of all that is beyond me and my control — I am free. Free from the negativity trying to pull me down. Free from the naysayers who believe I’ll never succeed. Free from everybody else’s version of who I should be.
It is then that I’m living in a state of grace.
Honour Who You Are
Let me be clear. When I talk about living in a state of grace, I don’t mean it in the religious sense. I don’t think about it as being free from mortal sin. Living in a state of grace is about honouring who you are, not who others think or wish you to be. You, the abstract painter. You, the master chef. You, the fifth-grade teacher. You have unearthed the thing that has long poked at your heart, called you into service … and you’ve heeded the call.
It took me a long time to embrace the writer in me. That’s because growing up my parents (my mother especially) weren’t too keen on the idea of me pursuing a life in the arts. I was a talented young pianist, and my teachers told me I could go far if I wanted to and applied myself. The only music career my parents wanted for me was that of church organist because all artists were “druggies and alcoholics” (my mother’s words).
So when I started writing, I didn’t talk about it. I hid my journals and notebooks (when I still lived at home) to not be found out. The worst of all was that I let someone else’s vision of what an artist looked like (drug addicts and drunks) skew my own perception. I started to believe that I couldn’t succeed, and that maybe it was a world I didn’t deserve to belong to.
Things began to shift when I entered university. I spent most of my time writing instead of completing course assignments or studying. That was when I realized writing was more than just a hobby. Writing was what I was passionate about, what brought me real joy. And it would take several more years of peeling away the past before really committing to it — to be willing and feeling free to live my own life.
Oprah Winfrey, writing about fulfillment, reminds us that we must “[…] find the courage to tune out the negative voices telling you all the reasons to give up. Make the choice to turn up the volume to your unique calling, the glory that is your own life.”2 That is, undoubtedly, the best way to honour who you are.
Turning up the volume to my own unique calling, I started living in a state of grace.
This Is It
If you’ve been reading my blog since the beginning of the year, you know I’ve been “in crisis,” so to speak. Something has been shifting underneath my feet, and it’s left me feeling restless and anxious. In an otherwise happy life, I didn’t feel at home in this world. I didn’t feel like I was in a place of belonging. And that’s what scared me the most.
This journey to connect with the deepest part of myself — as scary as it feels (it’s terrifying, actually) — reminds me that this is it. Whatever I want to do, who I want to be … now is the time to act. I’m a writer, and I dream of writing full-time and being free of my day job. So what can I do today to work towards that goal? Write. Every day. And take risks, like publishing my next book (it’s back with my editor). Finish something else (I’m currently revising another novel-length manuscript). I must write every day and be grateful for my day job, which allows me, through my writing, to be of service. That also means I must be mindful of my thoughts and actions. Constantly checking Twitter, Facebook or my sales rank on Amazon won’t help me finish my next book or get to that place of belonging. Now, right here where I am, is the time to focus on what matters so that I can make the life I want.
That’s when I’m living in a state of grace.
Paulo Coelho said, “You are here to honour something called the miracle of life. You can be here to fill your hours and days with something that is meaningless. But you know that you have a reason to be here. It is the only thing that gives you enthusiasm.”3 And he’s right.
Writing is the reason I’m here, and it is the thing that gives me enthusiasm. And I’m grateful every day for my talent and gift … to be of service.
Every day I write, every day I accept that I’m enough, every day I honour who I am … I’m living in a state of grace.
Do you know the reason you’re here? Are you living your own life? Are you honouring who you are? Let me know in the comments section below.