Archive for November, 2011

Step One–Pirate for a day

Once upon a time there was a woman who was fearless. She jumped at every opportunity to live life to the fullest. She didn’t worry about what everyone else thought. She was willing to risk failure to try something new. She used the creative gifts she’d been given to the best of her ability. Her heart was open to experience everything life had to offer, willingly accepting the highs and low with equal passion. She didn’t worry about being judged as "less than". She never hesitated to ask the questions that were burning in her heart. She understood her own worth and didn’t let anyone steal her joy. Her life was fulfilled and she had no regrets.

Oh, how I wish that described me!

It’s not that I don’t enjoy my life.  I do. But it could be more. I so often chose the path of timidity instead of following the path that would truly bring me joy. I chose to hide in the background. It feels safer there.

There, I don’t have to admit to feeling less than competent, afraid of my own shadow, uncomfortable in my own skin more often than I would care to admit, worried what people will think if I don’t meet their expectations, protected by the walls I’ve built around me to keep my heart protected. Safe, no risk required.

Sure, there are plenty of reasons why I make the choices I do. There are probably more blog posts in those stories than I will ever have time to tell. But the reasons behind those choices don’t have to be the end of the story.

I get to choose each day, sometimes each moment of each day, which story I want to live for my life. I don’t always make the best choice. Retreating back into the corner is a habit that’s hard to break but I’m working on it.

Each step into fully living my life is worth celebrating, no matter how big and momentous or small and silly it may seem to anyone else. Baby steps are just as important as giant leaps … and I’m much more likely to actually make the small steps forward, rather than getting stuck pondering the giant leaps. So here we go …

Step 1 – Pirate for a day

Birthday Cake HatThe office where I work makes a big deal over Halloween. The office is decorated from top to bottom and we host a charity fundraiser. Last year, I did my usual. I stayed in the background. I did bake cookies to sell, but when the costume day came … I totally bailed. Buying a hat that looks like a birthday cake doesn’t really cut it, even if you are know as the office cake decorator. I did my best to avoid drawing attention to myself.

This year, I’m on the team that organizes this kind of office event. Clearly I didn’t think ahead to what that role was going to mean when Halloween was coming close. I’ll admit it, I agonized over the costume thing. Could I get away with something lame and very uncostume-like? No, not really. That didn’t help celebrate the effort so many people had invested. I completely put off the decision until almost the last minute, but the Friday night before Halloween, I found myself at the big Halloween specialty store. Have to say the options are rather limited for pre-made costumes for a "plus-size" woman. Really who actually thinks that 18 counts as the largest "plus size"? Not this woman! The universe must have been smiling at my decision though, because there was one female costume that fit perfectly … and I even liked it!

Pirate Halloween 2011Was it a big step? Not really. I totally could have invested more in being the character throughout the day, but I didn’t try to avoid notice. I even let pictures be taken.  I walked proudly … though I did get a ride to and from work so I didn’t have to deal with the bus. I can only step so far at a time =)

One of the best moments? The look of surprise on my team member’s face when she saw that I’d actually gone for it with a full costume.

It was a good first step.

Stay tuned for Step 2 … it’s already in progress. I just need to write about it.

What about you? I’d love to hear your steps forward. It’s always good to know we’re not in this alone.


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What Does Your Umbrella Say?

Rain from SumcensuvittFriday, lunchtime, it poured rain. I’m not talking a light drizzle. I’m talking sheets of water pouring from the sky.  I’m talking “the drowned rat” feeling even with an umbrella. The bottoms of my pants got wet from the puddles and how high the rain was bouncing as it hit the sidewalk. If I’d been willing to risk my phone getting wet, I’m certain you would have been able to see the blur of the rain over the downtown streets.

I live in a city where it rains a lot, we don’t get much snow … at least not in a normal year…but we do get plenty of rain. People who live here seem to either have no umbrella — they just tough it out and pretend they’re not getting wet … truthfully it’s often more like drizzle or mist than the downpour of Friday. Or they have multiple umbrellas — the full size one for when they know it’s going to be raining when they leave the house, the small one that permanently lives tucked in purse or knapsack, the slightly broken one that still lives in the car just in case and maybe even the corporate logo’d one that never made it home from the office. I’ll admit to being a multiple umbrella sort. I don’t like getting wet while walking in the rain. I enjoy the rain, just not the wet part.  I prefer to keep my showering as an “at home” activity.

As I sat, eating my lunch, watching the people scurrying past in a futile attempt to stay at least somewhat dry, I began to notice the umbrellas they carried. The functional black ones, large, strong enough to deal with the wind. Built and carried purely for function. The small, flimsy, barely stopping the rain ones, grabbed quickly from their hiding place to try to keep even a small portion dry. The bright coloured ones adding life to the dreary sky. The broken ones, one side dangling, that should have been replaced several storms before.

Some of the umbrellas looked like they belonged to their owners. The business man in his suit and tie with his sleek, black umbrella. The flamboyantly dressed young woman with her equally brilliant umbrella demanding just as much attention. The adorably cute Asian couple with the equally adorably cute pink and white striped umbrella decorated with little black bows. The hipster with his jacket collar pulled up, still trying to look cool and unaffected by the rain pouring down his neck. He’s a no umbrella sort.

But some? Some seemed contradictions with the external costume of the person sheltered below. The professional business woman still looking perfectly coiffed while everyone else is bedraggled? You’d expect her to have either the functional black or perhaps some designer umbrella that perfectly complements her ensemble (I’m certain one of those must exist). Instead she carries an umbrella with a sense of humour in its design. It’s clear from how she carries umbrella, that it is truly hers and not some accident. Makes me think I’d like to work with her. Then there’s the slightly frazzled looking man, he wasn’t counting on this amount of rain. The only thing close at hand, well, I’m guessing the umbrella belongs to his daughter. He looks embarrassed, but determined to keep his files dry.

Then there’s the woman who looks completely closed off.  Her extra large umbrella provides an added barrier to contact with the world around her.  Is she having a bad day or is it a defence mechanism?  Maybe it all means nothing, and maybe it’s a silly question to ask, but I wonder what my umbrella choices say about me.

Pansy UmbrellaI have two umbrellas. The full-size one lives in the rack by the front door.  It’s covered with vibrantly coloured pansies and it’s beautiful. It was a gift from family who knew that pansies are my favourite flowers.  I love it on grey, rainy, winter days.  I love that it makes me smile and clearly I’m not the only one whose day has been brightened on a “Rainy Days and Mondays get me down” kind of day. I can’t count the number of times complete strangers have paused with a great big smile on their face and the head down scurry of avoiding the rain has been broken by the words "I love your umbrella!"

My other umbrella, the small one that lived in my bag in case of the unexpected, was a rather ordinary burgundy.  It was still reasonably functional.  Purchased in the midst of a rain storm while travelling, burgundy was better than black from my perspective, but it’s not like I ever liked that umbrella.  It did it’s job, but it didn’t make my heart sing. 

That might seem an odd thing to say about an umbrella, but it’s true about my other umbrella.  Carrying my pansy umbrella makes me happy.  It makes my world a better place. On days when I’d rather hide under the covers, or tend to grumpiness because I can’t stay indoors, that umbrella it reminds me that beauty exists even when the sky is grey and it seems like the sun might be hidden forever.

The Umbrella ShopThe burgundy umbrella was nearing the end of its useful life.  The wind from the ocean can be hard on a cheap umbrella.  When I saw The Umbrella Shop on Saturday, I decided it was time. 

My new pocket size umbrella?  It’s a perfect pale blue with blue and white butterflies winging their way across its expanse.  It was the first one that caught my attention, and though I looked at others, I knew this was the one.  It made my heart smile … and that’s a very short step to singing! 

Blue Butterfly Umbrella


Today, when everyone else at work was grumping about the sudden rain, I grinned quietly to myself.  I couldn’t wait to set the butterflies free.  Good thing it was still raining when I left work =)

What about you?  Does your umbrella help change your world on a rainy day?

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