The sun is gone, but I have a light

The older I get the more life experiences my friends and I gain both good and bad. This is a beautiful blog by a dear friend about living one of those bad life experiences.

Firefly Beat

We all have our thing; we’ve all been through something we didn’t want to or didn’t think we could handle. Or at least that’s what I think.
We’ve all heard some form of an “I can’t imagine” statement.
I’ve had my share of these statements over the last year.
“I can’t imagine what you’re going through”
“I can’t imagine what you’re feeling”
Some days the flood of feelings and emotions I go through are enough to leave me wondering what I’m feeling. Today I’m feeling brave, terrified, and, for some reason, willing. Willing to open up, willing to share, and willing to help you imagine what I’m going through. So here goes…

Imagine a piece of your heart being stolen and you can never get it back
Imagine that piece of your heart being stolen for no reason; your baby died and there was nothing anyone could have done to…

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Single: spouse not guaranteed – part 1

I am a 30-something, single woman living in Toronto. I am also a Christian who, until recently, had not attended church regularly. This makes me somewhat of an anomaly to just about everyone in my life and I often find that they don’t know how to categorize me.

You see, it’s not uncommon for 30-somethings in Toronto to be single – in fact it’s the norm. Most people I’ve met in the city don’t get married until they’re well into their 30s or 40s and have established their careers. That’s if they get married at all because for many dating and/or being in a committed relationship is enough. Most single women in the city are dating and most single women who are dating are sleeping with their dates. I don’t, so I don’t fit into that box.

On the other hand when you’re a single christian woman who attends an internship at a prominent Christian ministry for two years before attending Bible College in the Bible Belt – there’s an assumption that you will meet your husband somewhere along the way. I did meet a lot of great men during those years; I even dated a couple of them. But although I was open to the idea of marriage I never felt it was a possibility with anyone I knew so I don’t fit into that box either.

My life is unique and for that I’m grateful. I don’t want to be married but I also don’t not want to be married (excuse the double negative). It’s just not something I give much thought to until I hear someone use the phrase “until you’re married” or “when you meet your future husband/wife.” I hear these phrases a lot in Christian circles, at churches and from pastors. I know that they mean well and the reality is that most people will get married some day so no one really thinks twice about it. The problem is that God didn’t promise you a spouse and language like that reinforces a false sense of entitlement.

There are a lot of verses in the Bible about marriage that if we’re not careful can lead us to believe it’s something we will all get to experience one day. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and gains favour from the Lord.” But this, and verses like it are not a promise or a guarantee and we must be careful not to interpret it as such. The truth is you and I are not promised a spouse. It’s not something we deserve or to which we are entitled.

If you’re single I encourage you check your heart expectations; if you’ve been living in a state of waiting for marriage, start finding a way to live as though you’ll be single forever. Come to terms with that idea, embrace it and make the most of it. Your circumstances might change later but if they don’t you won’t be any worse off. And if they do you will have made the most of your time.

If you’re married I encourage you to check your perspective towards singles. Don’t assume they will eventually get married and please don’t dismiss the idea of a lifetime of singleness is nonsense. Encourage your single friends to remain open to a lifetime of singleness and remind them that there are pros and cons to both being married and remaining single. One is not better than the other.

Whether you’re married or single I would challenge you to use language that will promote a well-rounded view of marriage. Change your “whens” to “ifs,” don’t downplay or criticize marriage or singleness – both have value. Let’s change the stigma around singleness and take the assumption of marriage off the table for all our sakes.

 

 

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Starting Over

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 12.50.29 PMIf we’re always starting over
every brand new morning
Then we’re always starting out
with the end in doubt
We can leave life for tomorrow
or grieve all that we thought we’d do
or make each moment new
– Idina Menzel

Those lyrics are from the musical If/Then. It’s song from a woman to the man she’s divorcing which I have no frame of reference for because I have never been married let alone divorced and my parents are still married after almost 40 years. But this song resonates with me for a different reason; it’s about accepting that life doesn’t go the way we think it will.

If you had asked me at age 25 where I would be in ten years I would have said with 100% conviction that I would likely be married and living in Cambodia working to rescue and rehabilitate women from sex trafficking and forced prostitution. That was the plan, it had been since I was 17 and it’s why I was going to college, to get the education required to land a job with a foreign NGO.

It’s only a few weeks until my 35th birthday. I am single, living downtown Toronto, and working as an Event Program Manager. If success were based on 10 year plans I would be complete failure.

There are a lot of different things that led me here and my path has taken some unexpected turns but here’s what I know. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. I could grieve over the things that I thought I would do or I can choose to make each moment new.

This month I am making each moment new by indirectly fulfilling my 10 year plan from 10 years ago. I’m participating in a campaign to bring hope to women around the world whose freedom and dignity has been stolen. I’m doing this for all of those girls in Cambodia that 10 years ago I dreamed about rescuing. I’m making this moment new through the Dressember campaign.

If you want to stop grieving what you haven’t done and make each moment new for women around the world please consider partnering with me. You can do that either by sharing my webpage with friends and family and/or making a donation to the cause. Check it out by clicking here.

Here’s to making new moments. Cheers!

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Broadway Vulnerability: Part 2

I meant to write this blog a while ago but in all honesty I didn’t get around to finishing the book (Without You by Anthony Rapp) until the holidays. If I’m perfectly honest I lost interest about halfway through when it seemed to become a tell-all of the  sexual exploits of an adolescent teenager. Maybe I’m too much of a prude to appreciate it but I couldn’t help but think that Rapp’s story is enough to stand on it’s own without the graphic details. That aside, I really did get into the emotions that he was trying to portray, especially sensing the disappointment he felt from trying to belong but often feeling different, we’ve all been there at some point or another. Rapp describes a few scenarios that tugged at my heartstrings but perhaps none as strongly as his catholic confirmation.

When the priest of my confirmation had leaned over and anointed my forehead with oil, intoning, “Do you accept the Holy Spirit?” I’d tried with everything I had to experience the Holy Spirit entering my bode, to imagine a shimmering being floating in from above, enveloping me in light and warmth, But as much as I’d tried, nothing had happened. I’d said “I do,” anyway, and as I took my seat, I knew from that moment on I was no longer catholic.

As someone who has a faith in God it breaks my heart a little each time I hear of anyone giving up their faith because it doesn’t fit with their preconceived notions of what it should look or feel like. Nevertheless as I continued reading I was rewarded with heart-warming memories of family and friends that were like a second family to an actor living so far from home. Rapp shares his memories of the off-broadway cast of Rent, the strengths each individual brought to the production and about his admiration for Jonathan Larson, the composer of Rent who died the day before it was scheduled to open off-Broadway. A large portion of the book is dedicated to the loss of Jonathan Larson as well as the loss of Rapp’s mother. While his mother’s death was expected after a lengthy battle with cancer, Larson’s death was sudden and unexpected; it rattled everyone involved with the show. I appreciated Rapp’s conflicting but honest reaction to the news:

I hung up and sat staring at the phone. Everything was shifting in me so quickly, I felt wildly crazy and perfectly calm at once. Jonathan’s death made bizarre sense; he’d not been well, he’d gotten this show out of him, which was the most important thing he’d ever done, the biggest expression of himself he could ever put out into the world, and when he was done, he died.

When I read that I couldn’t help but wonder, “what is the biggest expression of myself?” I’m sure a lot of parents would name their children, artists would name a specific project, or entrepreneurs would name their business. But I’m none of those things and although there are things in my life that I’m proud to have accomplished, nothing immediately comes to mind as the biggest expression of myself which makes me think that perhaps it is yet to come.

Overall a good read with a little bit of food for thought.

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Broadway Vulnerability

Without YouI recently began reading the book Without You: a memoir of love, loss, and the musical Rent by Anthony Rapp. For those of you who don’t already know this, the author played the part of Mark in both the original workshop and Broadway production of Rent. He also revived the role in the movie adaptation years later. To be perfectly honest I usually don’t enjoy memoirs very much so I wasn’t particularly excited about reading this one but when a friend lent it to me and I found myself in a situation that required a lot of waiting and nothing else to do I opted to start it.

I’ve just finished the first chapter and have thoroughly enjoyed having an insider’s view of the early days of one of Broadway’s biggest hits. But what I am enjoying the most is Anthony’s ability to be completely vulnerable about his insecurities without being completely self deprecating all while painting a beautiful picture for his readers of life as a gay actor living in the East Village in the 90’s. In one of the most honest passages I’ve read in a long time Anthony shares one of the many commonalities he and his character, Mark have in common:

Once again, the correlation between myself and my character was remarkable: I sometimes wondered if my love of acting was an escape of sorts. I’d been doing it since I was a kid, and it felt natural to me to be onstage, inhabiting other characters’ skins and souls, but offstage I often felt like a small, pale dork. I had always been comfortable while performing, never having to battle stage fright or getting overwhelmed by nerves, whereas offstage, I often retreated into the background. I enjoyed time by myself—I especially loved to read—but while I had a lot of friends and also loved hanging out with them, I often had a low-grade anxiety, a fear of doing or saying the wrong thing, of offending someone, of not being witty or sexy or cool enough, all buzzing in the background of my thoughts when I was in a social situation. My confidence grew enormously when I performed, probably because I had received nothing but flattering feedback from the first time I had set foot onstage (at the age of six, playing the Cowardly Lion at Island Lake Camp), while offstage I had often borne the brunt of teasing—from my brother, Adam, and sister, Anne, not to mention older kids all through junior high and high school. Like Mark, I hid behind my work; in my case, by transforming myself again and again into other people, funneling any of my own anxieties and fears and emotional chaos into my performances, rather than really experiencing and expressing it all offstage.

Perhaps it’s because I too share many of these same anxieties or perhaps because I love musical theatre that I found the first chapter to be so engaging but I’d like to think that it’s just because Rapp seems to write from his heart. He doesn’t write to be a great writer or to sell an exclusive point of view but simply to share with whomever is willing to take the time to read.

I am now one of those people. I’m not just willing but I’m excited to read the rest of this book and to be encouraged that someone who has been a part of such a profound production is just like the rest of us.

I’ll be traveling for a few more weeks and I’m looking for more new reading material. Do you have any recommendations for books that I should consider?

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The Simple Life

I’m back. I took a break from writing this summer for two reasons. First and foremost I was dealing with an overwhelming amount of change and uncertainty which caused an onslaught of emotions. I don’t know about you but my emotions tend to have their own idea about what’s appropriate to share on a public forum. Rather than risk the fight between my emotions and my rationale I thought it best to avoid writing altogether. The second reason was that I was actually busy changing my life or at least some parts of it. Let me explain.

My last post was written in April shortly after I’d been given the news that my company was putting me on a temporary layoff. The timing was ironic because just a few weeks earlier I had started the Storyline workbook that a dear friend had brought back from the Storyline Conference for me. Working through this book led me to this conclusion: nearly every successful event in my life has been the result of a surprise opportunity that God showed me in the eleventh hour and the ones that failed were the ones that I tried to plan ahead on my own.

I’ve always struggled with the balance between maintaining a forward momentum and allowing God to lead me so to say I felt lost about what to do next would be an understatement. My options seemed limitless and yet limited at the same time. Feeling overwhelmed and desperately wanting some clear direction the only idea I kept coming back to was this: I need to simplify my life.

The challenge was figuring out what a simplified life would look like for me. Not knowing where my next paycheque would come from or where I would be working I decided the first step was getting rid of my downtown apartment. The timing worked well since my lease was ending on July 31 and my parents graciously agreed to let me move back home. Next I considered the fact that the Lord has been known to move me long distances (i.e. Texas, Georgia, etc.) so I figured I should plan on that possibility. It didn’t make sense then to pay for a local storage unit which meant that my only real storage space would be my car and an already furnished room in my parents house. With that in mind I started sorting my material possessions into two groups: things I use regularly that could fit in my car and everything else. I had a yard sale and sold as much of the “everything else” that I could; what didn’t sell I donated to charity. I sold some of my furniture to friends and posted the rest for sale online – it’s almost all gone. I have no idea what’s next but what I do know is that living a simplified life is just as much if not more freeing than I expected it to be. No matter what happens next, whether I stay here or move far away this is the life I was meant to live.

Transitioning to a simplified life can be a difficult process especially if, like most North Americans, you have an emotional connection to material possessions but it’s not impossible. If you or someone you know wants more information about my experience or encouragement to simplify your own life leave me a comment, I’d love to talk to you.

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A Beautiful reminder

My beautiful friend Lindsay shares her thoughts on our annual trip to NYC.

Choosing Butterflies

Last weekend, I went back to New York. I saw three Broadway shows in two days, ending the musical marathon with Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

Why yes, we did do the "get the playbill signed" thing at the stage door for the very first time. Why yes, we did do the “get the playbill signed” thing at the stage door for the very first time.

To say I was pumped for this show is an understatement.

When I was 16, I off-handedly mentioned I liked the intro song to Gilmore Girls, Carole King’s “Where You Lead”. My dad was thrilled that his daughter actually liked songs that weren’t sung by boy bands. And the next day, the Tapestry CD was sitting on my dresser. I adored that CD.

So when they created a Broadway show about Carole King’s life featuring her music? I. Was. Seeing. It.

I poured over reviews, videos, and vlogs. Then when the leading lady, Jessie Mueller, won the…

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The Goldilocks principle

I have never been very good at thinking outside the box. When it comes to completing tasks I typically do things the same way each time unless I’m given a reason to try something new and even then I don’t often enjoy it. I like consistency but I also need change. I’m constantly rearranging furniture just to change things up and I haven’t lived in the same place for more than four years since I left home at 19. When it comes to work I like to take on new challenges but only if I know what I’m doing or if there’s a proven method that I can learn. Forging ahead with no plan is definitely not my style. I would make a terrible entrepreneur but I’m not satisfied being a workhorse doing the same thing day after day either. I want something in the middle, it’s the Goldilocks principle.

goldilocks

Several years ago I remember my dad telling me that he thought I was adventurous. My initial response was laughter. I thought “I’m not adventurous, I do things by the book, I don’t like anything extreme, I’m the girl all of my friends parents want their kids to hang out with because I’m the ‘good influence’ who always does what she’s told”. Then he started reminding me about a few things. When I was in high school I went on a two-week missions trip to Mexico without knowing anyone on the team and the next summer did the same in Kenya for two months. I moved to Texas for a year-long internship I didn’t know much about then stayed on for a second year living on a bus and touring North America. I chose to go to a college in Georgia and moved there, sight-unseen, for almost four years which included a six-week internship in Cambodia.

I guess I do have a little bit of adventure in me.

I’ve been back in Canada for eight years; in that time I’ve lived in four different places (five if you count my parents house when I first came home), had five different jobs, traveled to Bahamas, Dominican Republic, GA, TN, FL, CA, WI, NY, and NJ, most of those a few times over and I’m now unemployed for the second time. When I look back I realize I’ve done quite a bit but there’s a part of me that’s looking for a new adventure and what better time to do that then when I’m looking for a new job?

Don’t get me wrong, I love living in Toronto; being close to my family again is great, especially since I have a nephew who is getting bigger by the day so I don’t really want to move. As an event planner I love getting to work behind the scene; seeing people enjoy their experience and watching months of hard work all come together into one event is incredible so I don’t really want a new line of work. Yet even though I like where I live and the work I do there’s a part of me that thinks maybe this is my chance to think outside the box. I’ve always gone about job hunting the same way but this time I think I’m going to try a new approach. I may end up doing the exact same work in the exact same place but I’m hopeful that thinking outside the box might just help me find the happy median between consistency and adventure.

Stay tuned.

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Unintentional Accountability

If you haven’t read my last blog this one may not make sense so allow me to summarize it for you; it was a painfully honest account of how I wasted my time when I was unemployed last year. I had finished writing it a couple of days before I decided to post it on Monday morning. On Monday afternoon everything changed.

My boss called me into her office along with her co-owner of the company, closed the door, and told me that they were really sorry but because of changes in the business they had to let me go. The good news is that they put me on a temporary leave so I can still collect benefits and if things turn around I will be hired back. The bad news is that things are unlikely to turn around anytime soon so once again I am unemployed with more time-wasting potential than ever.

To say I was caught off guard would be an understatement. I packed up the few things that had accumulated on my desk and left without saying a word – I just needed to process what had happened and what I would do next. I think I went through every human emotion in record time and then it dawned on me – I just told the internet about my ability to waste time when I was unemployed. I unintentionally set myself up for accountability this time around.

So here I am, one week later, proud to say that I’ve cancelled my cable, applied for unemployment, filed my taxes, updated my LinkedIn profile, found a few potential job opportunities, written my first cover letter, made up one new dinner recipe, backed up my computer for the first time since I got it in 2008 and spent some great time with my family for Passover & Easter. Not bad for the first week. I think I made pretty good use of my time if I do say so myself.

Today begins week two and I’m guessing that the temptation to waste time is only going to get stronger so I’m inviting each of you to keep me accountable. Whether I like it or not I need it because I’m determined not to waste my time.

 

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I am an expert at one thing

I am an expert at one thing. Sure, I’m good at a lot of things but I’m an expert at only one.

Wasting time.

Most of you remember that I was unemployed for almost six months and if you somehow forgot, you must not have been reading my blog because it’s come up in nearly every post since. Now that I’ve been back in the workforce for a year I’ve had some time to reflect on things from a different perspective. It’s been in this time of reflection that it dawned on me; I’ve always been really good at wasting time but being unemployed gave me the opportunity I needed to master it.

According to Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, the key to success in any field is 10,000 hours of practice. That may be true for the average Joe but I’m obviously a savant. I was able to master the skill of time-wasting in about 2500 hours. You’re probably wondering how I did it and it just so happens that today I’m going to share four of my secrets with you, lucky reader. Here they are in no particular order.

1. Make social media a priority. Spend as many hours as possible reading tweets, scrolling through Instagram pics and reading Facebook posts about the wonderful lives of your friends and family. Keep in mind that your life is not worth sharing so just troll these sites. Don’t bother posting or commenting, that may encourage others which would be productive and productivity is the enemy of time-wasting.

watching-tv2. Discover the joy of television. You’re probably not committed to watching as many shows as you could be right now. If you really want to master time-wasting you have to invest in as many as possible. If you’re home your television should be on. Quality is irrelevant. If all else fails? Channel surf.

3. Feel sorry for yourself and play the victim. Find something in your life that is challenging, even slightly and focus on it. No matter how tempted you are to see a silver lining, you need to remind yourself that life is fair to everyone but you. Watch out for those World Vision commercials when you’re channel surfing, or anything else that might give you some perspective. Perspective might motivate you to action and that would not be wasting time.

4. Live in the moment and do not plan for the future. Sure, go ahead and dream about what you’d like to do, where you’d like to work, and what kind of person you want to be but whatever you do, do not make a plan. Don’t make a five-year plan, a five-week plan or even a five-minute plan. Planning ahead creates a sense of purpose, purpose leads to motivation and motivation will kill your ability to waste time.

I’m sure there are many other ways to waste time but I’ve found these four will get you started faster than anything else. If you have more suggestions on how to successfully waste time please feel free to share them in the comments below but keep in mind that posting a comment is helpful to others, there productive and not a waste of time.

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