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I have been thinking about connection, that invisible but powerful thread that binds us to the people we don’t see on a regular basis and miss immensely. I have also been thinking of the love that unites us forever with the people who may no longer be in our lives. My paternal grandmother and I share an incredible bond that stems from having spent the first 7+ years of my life with her. When I wasn’t with my parents, I was with my grandmother. It’s my grandmother who shared little secrets with me, who told me stories about her childhood that validated my own mischievous personality. With her, I felt understood and comfortable, free to be myself. Now, continents apart, we are always in each other’s hearts. My day is that much more joyful when I arrive at home to find an envelope with my address written on it in her beautiful hand.

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Wild Thing pose -- my favourite yogic expression of an open heart.

I have also been contemplating the connection we share with our loved ones who are physically in our lives today, whom we see every day. We often treat strangers with more kindness than we show to our own family members. And yet, when we don’t see our family for several months, we feel the tug at that gossamer thread. Love can feel both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Yet, I want to cultivate that love, with its many faces, right here, today. I want to make more time for the connections that matter to me.

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This summer, I vow to cultivate true connection. No empty words! I want to weigh each syllable carefully, speaking mindfully, saving energy for what I truly want to say, instead of allowing my frivolous Ego to dominate. I’m doing so through new methods, reaching out and daring to invite my loved ones to new experiences, without any expectations. I’m replacing expectation with open space, clearing out clutter and making room in my heart to experience real connection, cultivating love. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to the people we love. Human connection can be complicated, but only if we allow it to be. I choose courage — courage to simplify, to let go, and to let love in. Will you join me?

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Whoosh! Almost six months have flown since the start of 2015. If you’re like me, you might enjoy taking inventory at the start, the end of the year, its midway point, and on your birthday. The past Sunday’s Summer Solstice marks the year’s midway point, so here is a brief update on what we have been into:

Running

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I never thought I would enjoy running. Several years ago, I decided to embark on a training schedule akin to a typical 0 to 5K program. However, I quickly became bored, experienced joint issues, and probably came up with myriad other excuses that I can no longer recall. This summer, however, I found that I was becoming bored with my indoor HIIT cardio. I wanted to start moving out of doors, in the fresh air. I felt called to explore various routes in our neighbourhood. I have been spending the majority of my days in an office and have not had a chance to take daily walks with my kids to and from school. I miss being outside.

I’m still at the point of training that requires me to alternate running with walking, gradually increasing my running time, but I must say that I have fallen in love with running. Some days feel more challenging than others, but I am excited at the prospect of maybe, possibly, one day soon becoming a dedicated runner. Summer is a perfect time to reconnect to our passions and to try something new, like running. It’s still out of my comfort zone but continues to become increasingly familiar.

Reading

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Image courtesy of Starz.

At the recommendation of a good friend who knows all about my admiration of all-things Celtic (as in Ireland and Scotland, fairies, the Highlands, folk music, etc.), for Mother’s Day in May, Mr. Wanderlust gave me a box of the first four books of the Outlander series. I know the books may be dubbed literary candy, but I am shamelessly obsessed with the story and its characters. I am in awe of Diana Gabaldon’s brilliant character development and have joined the millions of readers who can’t get enough of the story of Jamie and Claire. I wrote recently that I do not watch television, making an exception for the rare good movie or short TV series. Having heard incredible reviews of the Outlander TV series, I borrowed the BluRay first half of the first season from my friend. Mr. Wanderlust was coaxed into watching the first two episodes of the show with me, after which he also was hooked. And now we both want to learn Gaelic. Maybe that’s a future project.

Writing

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Toasting marshmallows by the fire in the backyard. A summer favourite.

The memoir writing continues. Thank you to everyone who reached out to me last week with words of advice, as well as the reminder that there are others who second-guess their writing motives and plans. For now, I have decided to stop overthinking. I’m following my heart and curiously watching the story unfold from the tips of my fingers.

Knitting

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I am working on this delicious pair of watermelon-patterned socks, using Zauberwolle. Some knitters take a break from working with wool in the summer, but I’m not one of them. Besides, look at these colours! Do they not whisper ‘SUMMER’, in a giggly sing-song voice? Thus far, the summer weather in the Toronto area has been warm and breezy, and I happily spend my evenings with this yummy project.

Celtic Harp

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This picture is not recent, but we like it.

I’m currently learning to play Scotland the Brave. My favourite place to play in the summer is on our back patio. The wind carries the notes with it through the trees and I feel I can serenade along with the birds. Running and yoga at 5:30 a.m. provide me with the right jolt of energy, but reading, knitting and playing the Celtic harp allow me to slow down at 8 p.m.

Woodworking

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Double-dyed stabilized maple burl. We think it’s gorgeous.

Mr. Wanderlust has been at work on new goodies, to be revealed soon. He has also been experimenting with a laser etcher, which translates into wonderful possibilities.

Article Recommendation

I will leave you with this article: No Guilt Allowed! Why Parents Need Time for Themselves. As a working parent, I often find it challenging to be away from my children for long hours on weekdays. However, having also been a stay-at-home parent, I know how exhausting that role can be for an introvert. As an INFP, I cherish my quiet time, my alone time. With two very spirited young boys, that quiet time is often tough to come by. The noises at work tend of very different nature from the ones I hear at home. Both present their challenges and both leave me with the need to spend some time, every evening, alone, unwinding from the day that has passed. And that is why I make the time for reading, crafting, or playing a musical instrument. That’s why Pawel makes the time for woodworking. When we feel calmer, recharged and relaxed, we are better people, better parents.

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Your turn! What have you been reading, crafting, playing, learning, or exploring? Are you an introvert parent? How do you make time for yourself? 

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I saw this picture on The Writer’s Circle page on Facebook yesterday, and chuckled to myself. It fits very well with this week’s blog post, below.

Each year, in late December and early January, I take inventory of the challenges I had set for myself 12 months ago and whether I met the challenges. More importantly, I prefer to ask myself what lessons I learned from either meeting the challenges or abandoning them. At the start of 2015, I didn’t step specific goals for myself. Instead, I chose to greet the year with an open mind, inviting new experiences to arrive at my doorstep, instead of searching them out. My only criterion was that this year, I was to undertake a challenge that would take me far out of my comfort zone.

In February, after several serendipitous events that nudged me along the path, I began working on a memoir. I have always been very private about my life, only sharing my stories with close friends. I was brought up with constant reminders by my family to remain under the radar, to not publicize my successes or failed attempts. Many events were swept under the proverbial mat, never to be discussed again. I later found out that this is a very popular viewpoint of many Eastern European families. To maintain our dignity, we must never share our stories with others. Modesty is valued higher than self-publicity. While I agree with this valuation, I have a story to tell. Its whispers move through me until I know that the words must be written.

For the past few years, I have gone back and forth on the idea of writing a memoir, exploring an important theme in my life and in the lives of many women who surround me. Yet, to write about myself and my family would put us in a position of vulnerability. The stories my parents worked so diligently to keep to themselves would suddenly be open for anyone to read. Interestingly, those stories are not different from the stories that many other people carry with them. There is more that unifies us than that which divides us. That is precisely why I chose to move forward with the decision to write, to share my experience with others who might feel that they are walking a lonely path.

For me, the process of writing is not only healing. It also allows me to make a connection with many others who are seeking the validation of belonging. Even as an introvert, I seek to cultivate a sense of community, which can so easily slip through our fingers with the thinning of the unifying thread. I am not a go-getter who will readily get up and plan a massive party to create a cohesive group and build connections. Instead, writing is my tool of choice.

The task of maintaining the privacy of my family while telling my story is not an easy one. However, I can’t easily ignore my itchy writer’s fingers and the longing in my heart. So, I am facing a decision and it’s been setting me back, stifling my progress. The memoir will be written. Will it be published?

If you have any advice to share with me, I would love to read it in the comments below. Many thanks.

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I have always been and believe I will forever remain a people-watcher. This habit has gotten me in trouble in the past. I remember a particular unpleasant situation when a very pretty girl felt offended that I had been ‘staring’ at her. When her friend confronted me about this, I was taken aback and felt embarrassed at having made someone feel uncomfortable simply by being curious.

I used to bring a notebook and a pen on the subway train with me, then sit and jot down notes about a particular passenger on the same train whom I found interesting. I would spot an older well-dressed gentleman and create a complete story about him, including what clothes his wife wears, how many children they have – and their ages – and what he had for breakfast today. This observation has two benefits, providing me with material for fiction stories and teaching me about myself. I realize that some people find this voyeuristic behaviour unconventional and perhaps inappropriate.

Have you ever met someone incredibly fascinating? This fascination could be positive or negative. There might be someone whose behaviour is absurd and utterly revolting, yet strangely fascinating and we find ourselves unable to look away. Of course, we could also become enchanted by a person with otherworldly beauty, from whom we can’t avert our eyes. Those are the people I enjoy studying.

While out for a walk at the zoo with my family last weekend, I found myself observing other families around us and reflected on how they might appear to someone who doesn’t share my tendency to study people. To some, they might look ordinary, but to me, most people are far from that. I get lost in the stories I weave, creating a film reel.

I am inspired by interesting people, those who speak kindly, patiently to one another, who hold the door for people walking into a building behind them, by people who have a kind smile to offer a stranger. Those are the people I am naturally drawn to and whom I like to study in order to learn more about myself. In fact, I often observe them in order to learn to be more like them when I grow up.

Do you enjoy people-watching? 

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I caught myself playing a game my Ego used to enjoy: “I wonder what would happen if I had only…”

In my version of this game, I jumped back to various scenarios from my past, wondering how my life would have changed if I had made a different decision than the one I made while standing at the proverbial fork in the road.

The irony of this is apparent. Here I am, writing a mindfulness blog about living in the Now, when my mind travels back to visit a different version of me, one that I no longer recognize. I remind myself that I was a different person all those years ago, that I trusted my intuition to make the decision that was right for me at the time. No, I cannot call this regret. This feeling is fueled by curiosity and expansion beyond the palpable world that we know, propelling me to question, to seek.

The mind loves to play games, to weave stories. It doesn’t want to be silenced. Ego thrives upon loud conversations, but most of them do not come from a place of love. Regret can be replaced by trust. After all, an intuitive decision is the best decision we can ever make. … Or is it? Self-doubt can be helpful sometimes, allowing us to be logical, cerebral when we are at risk of losing ourselves to our emotions. Overindulgence in such thoughts, however, is the antithesis of mindful living.

I’m taking the concept of minimalism and decluttering to a whole new level, purging my mind of thoughts that do not serve me. Who has the time for all that, anyway? Instead, I remind myself of my focus right here and now. I press a bit more firmly on an invisible stamp that will mark my goals, as though etching them in the firmaments, imprinting them in the dense fibres for which I grope in the dark. I allow myself to be with the feeling of unease, recognizing it for what it is. And I trust that I am making the right decision for me at this time, armed with past experience and my greatest ally: my intuition. Forward!