Tag Archives: Busy

The White Spaces

Merry Christmas 2017

“Open Your Heart and Look Around

Listen. Listen.

Hear the Song within the Silence

See the Beauty When There’s Nothing There”

~Idina Menzel~

This quote is of course from the incomparable Idina Menzel and her song December Prayer.  It has been the song that I find myself looking most forward to this Christmas – the one I relate to this year – the one that gives me pause and reflection.

As I was driving the other day I kept repeating the above verse in my head. I thought about how busy Christmas can be and I thought of our old fashioned calendar that hangs on fridge at home.

It probably surprises none of you that our entire lives are on that calendar.  The kids have been well trained (haha) over the years to put all their happenings there (Craig is less trained, but we laugh and forgive him as we sigh and go mark in his appointments and activities for him).  We have different color sharpies for each of us and we have become a well-oiled family machine of organization. (Albeit a machine that is maybe a little ancient because it still uses paper and pen – but alas it works for us).

At this time of year I often use that calendar to help me write our Christmas newsletter.  I pour over it and it helps me remember all the things that the past year held for us.  Looking at it I’m reminded of amazing trips and camping adventures, new jobs and new schools, sad endings and exciting beginnings.  This little calendar holds so much of our wonderful history over the past year.

But also, especially in months like December, the calendar can seem overwhelming. At first glance it is a sea of green, red, blue and black.  A constant reminder of all the things that need to be done, that we need to drive to, that we need to make time for.   There are times it’s easy to get anxious about the December page and how many boxes are filled in – not only with one color but with all four.  And yes – they are full of fun things we all look forward to – but still they are commitments that come with preparation and that often take us in four separate directions.

But then I take a deep breath and I look again.  And it is there I see my favorite thing and I smile.  All throughout this colorful, marked-over, tattered piece of paper there actually are some blank spots.  Beautiful blocks of emptiness. White space I have become fierce about protecting.

It is this white space that I have learned is sacred. These are not boxes ‘to be filled up’. It is here – in the space where “there is nothing there” – it is here where there is everything. Because it’s here where we are all together and unscheduled.  Sure there are lots of times we are together with green pen – times when we have family events & dinners at friends.  But these white spaces – this unplanned openness – those become the most beautiful days and evenings at Christmas. Times for us as a family.  Days and nights filled with ease – when we don’t have to get out of our pajamas, where we sit around the tree, watch movies, read, eat chicken bbq nachos and play games. Together. Those times are the most precious to me.  Those times don’t get penned into a calendar. Those times are found in the white spaces.

So when someone calls and asks if I am free on a certain date this holiday season, and my answer is no, it may not be because the box is filled with pen – but instead because its empty and I’ve learned to “Hear the Song within the Silence. See the Beauty When There’s Nothing There.”

So here’s to 2018 ~ I wish you all a year filled with health, happiness … and many white spaces on your calendars!

Merry Christmas,

Karrie-Ann

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Sometimes Self Care is Hiding the Last Bagel

I woke up this morning at 5:15 am. Some of you may be thinking “if this post is about self-care this is not a good start”.  

But as a morning person, this actually is one of the best things I do for myself. And it’s nothing I really “do” it’s more who I am – how my internal clock is just built into me.

I’m usually always awake by 5:30 am. In good weather I come downstairs and cuddle up in my Papasan Chair on the deck and read or take photos. It’s alone time. 

But don’t get “alone time” confused with self care. It’s true there is sometimes about half an hour of self care in there – but the rest is this: my mind running non stop with the list of to dos and schedules for the day for all the people in my life (of which I am last on the list).

Today I had a busy day ahead of me – like most of us do ofcourse. It’s June – and in my house that bookends September with a ferociousness that spans the kids, their school, their activities, my work, Craig’s work, and nearly each and every aspect of our life. Time is a precious commodity at the best of times – but it’s a different beast in June and September.

It just is.

So the notion of self care kind of makes me laugh. Like out-loud laugh.

Especially the way our society “sells” the notion of self care. Our culture screams at us from every magazine cover and talk show and best selling book that self care is of utmost importance. But at the same time it is also saying “and THIS is what self care must look like”:

It’s adventures to find yourself – to places none of us can afford (unless you are the author of the book these adventures are written about and just sold 1 million copies).

It’s massages and pedicures and mountain top retreats. 

It’s going to the funky little shop where you can “be seen” buying the “right” candles or oils which are over priced because they are the flavour of the month.

It’s running half marathons and making leisurely suppers from the organic vegetable you have tended to in your own vegetable garden that you take time to weed daily as you practice the simplicity of life.

And finally it’s taking the perfect picture of the perfect simplistic day with our lululemon yoga pants on while drinking our Starbucks Coffee. 

(Please follow the instructions above in order to meet the expectations our culture has around self care.)

Isn’t there enough expectations out there in the world we are bombarded with every day?

Ugh.

Ok ok. I get it.

Taking care of yourself is good.

I believe in it. 

But my self care doesn’t come close to these visions that are planted in our society.

My self care mostly looks mostly like this:

Phone a friend at 7:30 am – the worst possible time when both sets of our kids are getting ready for school and we are getting ready for work. But need to connect if only for a few minutes. Talk about “nothing really” but “everything real” … time allotted – 4 minutes.

At lunch grab a friend or go for a walk on my own. No jogging, no taking pics and posting them. Just walking. Pretty much the same place every time. 20 minutes. Race back to work.

In the mornings give my husband a peck on the cheek before we leave for work – try to spend the rest of the day trying to remember which Province he is working in that day, and if he can help out with “kid pick ups” later that evening.

And then there are times when my self care takes a deceitful but hilarious turn like this morning. This morning as I got up, came downstairs to the quiet kitchen and saw that there was only one bagel left – in a household of 4 people.

It was 5:30 am. I wasn’t hungry for the bagel yet. Everyone was asleep. But I knew in two hours I would be. And I also knew that by then that round beautiful bagel would be gobbled up by someone in my loving little family.

So this morning my self care looked something like this: I went over to my kitchen Island, I picked up that last bagel, and I deftly hid it from my children and husband so I could defiantly enjoy having it later in the day. 

Yup. I hid the bagel. What am I? Four years old?

But really, that’s it. Self care a la Karrie-Ann. Not fancy. Not trendy. Not expensive. Sometimes deceitful. 

Whatever works I say!

I guess my point is this: Don’t get caught up in what you think self care is supposed to look like. 

Find the moments. Even if they are fleeting and imperfect and nothing you would ever take a photograph of. Even if they are things you may be embarrassed about! 

Self care isn’t about what others are doing. We do enough comparing don’t we?

It’s about what you are doing – in a way that works for you – when you can do it. 

And yes – maybe sometimes it is the perfect mornings on my verandah taking sunrise photos that I post on Facebook as I get ready to read that self help book I’ve been waiting to dive into.

That’s not wrong. I did that just a few weeks ago.

But it’s also really important to acknowledge that sometimes … sometimes … it’s simply hiding the last bagel. 

And that’s ok too.

‘Busy’ is Not an Emotion.

Over the last few years, and most especially the last few months, I have taken notice of something that has become very interesting to me.

I can’t tell you how many times I meet a colleague, a friend, an acquaintance or even a stranger, and I will ask “How are you?”

And more often than not their answer is … you guessed it … “I’m so Busy”.

In this crazy world we live in that hardly comes as a surprise does it?  We are all running in five different directions wishing for extra hours in the day, extra days in the week, and extra months in the year (especially ‘this’ time of the year).

I get it.  I really do.  I’m busy too.

But here’s the thing.

“Busy” is not an emotion.

You see … the question I asked was, “How are YOU?”

And let me be clear.  When I’m asking how you are I am not asking how many basketball, curling or hockey games your kid had today.  I am not asking how many deadlines you have at work this week or how many volunteer commitments you have on your plate this month.  I’m not asking about your list of things to do, nor am I asking about how many miles you have driven in the past 48 hours.

I am asking about YOU.  About how YOU are.  As a person.

I know many of these things certainly impact on how you are feeling … about where you are emotionally … but they are not YOU.  These things on your checklist and on your fridge calendar and on your blackberry … they are not you … they are not how you are … and they are certainly not emotions.

Maybe you are overwhelmed.  Perhaps you are at your wits end.  Perhaps you are ready to cry you are feeling so buried by everything.  Or maybe you are thrilled with how busy your life is.  Maybe you are fulfilled and overflowing with gratefulness about how many rich and rewarding experiences you are participating in right now in your life.

Either way … THAT’S what I want to know.  Say that.  Own that.  But don’t say you’re busy.  Busy is not an emotion.

Busy is the easy way out.  And somehow it has become what we, so called good parents and good citizens of the world, are ‘supposed’ to say.  If we are busy, well then our life must be very important and fulfilling.  If we are by contrast not busy, how can we possibly be leading a rewarding life?  If our kids are not doing six difference activities how can they possibly be growing into amazing young people?  (She writes with heavy sarcasm).

But that’s not what this post is about.  Right now in my life our family happens to be in fact very busy.  We have two kiddos in middle school who want to be part of every opportunity going, we are two working parents and we have pretty robust social lives with friends and extended family.

But “busy” is not how I choose to define myself.  “Busy” is not who I am.  And it’s certainly not a status symbol of any kind in my life.  I admittedly look forward to March when I am less busy … but this is the life we, as a family, have chosen for the months of September to March.  I try and recognize my “busy” for what it is … and I try not to complain about it nor do I wear it as a badge of honour or glorify the fact that my life right now may happen to be busy.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that words matter.

I know we don’t always express ourselves as well as we could.  I can’t tell you how many times I wish that I had the perfect words for a grieving friend or an awkward situation or the perfect answer for a difficult situation.

Our words can’t and shouldn’t be perfect.  But maybe we can be more thoughtful about them sometimes.  Because they are how we portray ourselves in the world.

So the next time someone asks you how you are … remember what the question is … that maybe they really do want to know about YOU and how you are feeling … not about your to-do list.

And then if you still want to say busy, then by all means, shout it from the rooftops … but at least be thoughtful about it and don’t use it as a crutch, a glorification, a go-to, an excuse …. or an emotion.

Because it’s not.