it’ll shine when it shines.

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I didn’t know that ‘It’ll Shine When it Shines’ was one of my brother’s favourite songs until after he passed away in 2011. Since that time, I’ve listened to the song many times. I understand why he liked this tune so much. Just like my brother, it’s ‘shoot from the hip’ on the surface. But, if you care to have a look, there are layers and layers of elegant truths that sit just beneath that surface.

My brother was far from perfect, but I think that posthumous reflection should stray toward the ‘best of’ side of people. There is no peace to be had in focusing on imperfection.

He was an enormous man with a gruff exterior. But then you’d see him smile. Chances are he’d take your hand, say ‘Hey brother/sister’ and maybe even pull you into a bear hug. If you looked closely, if you accepted him as he was, you’d see the love literally spilling out of his eyes. If you gave him more than 10 seconds, looked beyond the obvious, what you got was gentle, tender and incredibly good.

He held my babies in his enormous, gentle hands and wept at the sight of each of them. As they grew, he loved them fully, just as they were. His face would light up whenever he saw them and he saw only the best in each of them, even when I couldn’t. He always got up to hug us hello, even when his body ached. And he never failed to say ‘I love you’ at every departure.

In his own way, he was always in pursuit of peace. He’d seek it in his relationships with those he loved and through quiet time spent tinkering (he called it ‘Louis-ing’). He’d look for it in stashing cash, finding bargains and in showing up for people when it counted. An avid fisherman, he also sought it on the banks of rivers and lakes, his rod in one hand and a can of beer in the other. 

Life didn’t always go the way he hoped it would, but he lived it with a simplicity that I find myself longing for lately. A true ‘it’ll shine when it shines’ philosophy that goes something like this: ‘Get out there, live with your heart wide open. Look for goodness in the little things and stop getting bent out of shape about the things you can’t do anything about. Just be. It’ll shine when it shines.

Thinking on all of this, I totally get why my brother loved the Ozark Mountain Daredevils and their sweet, philosophical tune. There is an exquisite truth to their poetry that’s got me feeling pretty reflective. There are a great many things in this life that are rip-out-your-heart hard. These are things I can’t do anything about. Things that happen to me or to the people I love. There are much bigger horrors that happen every day and in every corner of our world. Things I can never understand or control.

What I can do is live my life fully. I can be kind and grateful for all of the goodness I get to experience from dawn til dusk. I can be accepting. I can be forgiving. I can let love flow in all directions. I can be still when life hurts and trust that all will be well. It will shine when it shines.

Bit of an aside before I wrap ‘er up. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I bought ukuleles. Playing and singing together every day is the most fantastic thing for me. The first song we’ve tackled is in honour of ‘Uncle John’. This means that I get to experience ‘It’ll Shine When It Shines’ with my beautiful girl every day. I’m not a very good ukulele player and we forget the words and we’re out of tune and don’t always know which chord to play. But, as my brother might have said, it’s all in the experience of living, loving and letting things be what they are. The Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ spin on this is:

It’s in your heart, not your head. And you’ve got to sing and sing and sing.

And so I shall.

p.s. If you haven’t ever heard the Ozark Mountain Daredevils perform ‘It’ll Shine When It Shines, have a listen here. It’s pretty sweet stuff.

woman of a certain age 2 (thoughts on being 50)

I made a promise to myself around this time last year that I would not allow negative stereotypes about being a middle-aged mama frame my future revolutions around the sun. I can say that promise felt 100% doable on the day that I turned 50. And not so easy in the year I spent actually being 50.

I’ve had to work harder than I’d thought I would at keeping this promise to myself in the past year. Societal ageism has snaked around the corner in unexpected ways despite my determination to smite that nasty little sucker. My own biology waged war on me for months. My natural Pisces sensitivity morphed into rapid-fire crankiness at the strangest times. My usual ‘live and let live’ demeanour was stealth-shadowed by a ‘come at me, bro’ attitude, followed by a chaser of regret/fear that I wasn’t ‘nice’ anymore. I was also surprised to experience with some intensity the growing perception that I was quickly moving into past-my-prime time.

All of this in a year? Yup. It’s been an interesting journey. It was a struggle at times to keep my head above it, to find the silver linings. Now – at 51 – I can look back and recognize a few lessons I’ve (re)(re)(re)learned during my year of being 50.

1. Don’t go there.
I believe that we teach people how to treat us. So when I make fun of my various wrinkles, achy joints, flabby this and greying that, I am telling people that it’s okay to laugh at my vulnerability. So I’m really trying not to go there because it just sets me up to feel shame. Instead, I’ve been working on the self-affirming practice of taking a like in the mirror. When it works, it’s a beautiful thing.

2. Go ahead and wear purple. Add some pig tails while you’re at it.
Jenny Joseph wrote a poem a while back called Warning that included a great line about wearing purple and rocking red hats. What has this meant for me in the past year of ‘being 50’?  To stop wasting time on what I think other people might be thinking. ’Cause they’re probably not thinking anything at all. If they are, I try to practice #4 below.

3. Protect this house.
This is what happens at middle age’. More than one health-care practitioner said this to me with great sympathy in the past year. The implication is that I need to accept that there will be a train of ailments chugging by, doling out arthritis, osteoporosis, frozen shoulders, failing vision, hotter flashes, mood swings, weight gain, etc. Gah. Get OUT of here. You won’t see me waving the white flag. Geez, I’m only 50! I can live vibrantly. I will exercise, eat well, hydrate and push myself out of my comfort zone. Not while I can, but because I can.

4. Let.It.Go.
I simply do not want to ruminate on things that I can’t control or that truly have nothing to do with me. So I’m working on practicing loving detachment every day and in every part of my life. Let it Be (thank you, Beatles) and Let it Go (thank you, Frozen) are mini-mantras that remind me to focus on what matters and, more importantly, to be a better version of myself.

5. Shoulda-coulda-woulda can take a hike.
There’s very likely more road behind me than what lies ahead. This caused me to feel THE PANIC rise around all of the things I could/should/would have done with all of that lovely road. Gentle self-reflection has (re)assured me that regret of this kind is pointless. Who knows what’s ahead? In the absence of a crystal ball, I might as well believe that it’s going to be sweet.

The most important truth that has come to me is that happiness is an active choice. It isn’t waiting for me to arrive at a certain age. It’s something I get to choose every day. It’s something I want to choose every day. It’s what I’m for, always.

Take a like in the mirror: selfie-reflections on beauty

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I took these photos this summer, trying to capture an especially heartfull moment with my daughter. We were in Wateron Lakes National Park, truly my favourite place on this earth and possibly one of the windiest places on the planet. It was so windy that my nine-pound pup was in a continual state of lift-off. We were walking head-first into gusts that were easily 100+ km an hour. Even the trees were groaning. We could hardly breathe. It was ridiculous to be outside in that weather but we couldn’t stop the laughter. It was THE awesome.

My heart was bursting with it all. I hadn’t had a lot of those kinds of moments with her in the past year or two. I wanted to hold onto its sweetness, put it in a bottle and cherish it. In the absence of a bottle, however, I used my phone. I took these selfies. Joy captured on a  4-inch screen. Hilarious, wild, perfectly happy, savour-it-forever joy.

In the weeks that followed, I would occasionally look at the photos and smile at the memory. From my phone screen, they were the loveliness to me. I loved our smiles, our squinty expressions bringing back the memory of the wind that burned our eyes and took our breath away. I was moved by our mother-daughter similarities. I loved everything about it.

A few weeks after that, as fall settled in and I felt myself longing for the easy days of summer, I decided to make one of the Waterton photos my Facebook profile pic. But on a 15-inch screen, the image evoked a different feeling. Instead of joy, I felt shock. And these thoughts:

Ack! Look at the wrinkles! And the bags under my eyes. The chins!
What’s happened to my face? I don’t want anyone to see this.
Think! Quick! Delete! Delete! Delete!

I quickly swapped in a different photo as my profile pic, but before I could delete the McWrinkled version of me, people had ‘liked’ it. They were commenting on it, offering really lovely words. How could I delete this monstrosity now? Oh, balls. 

How could this photo, which moments before had made me smile now fill me with such utter embarrassment? Instead of seeing our similarities and remembering our joy, I saw only evidence of my daughter’s obvious beauty and confirmation of middle-aged, wrinkled me. Now instead of wishing I could hold onto that moment forever, I was cursing myself for sharing it.

Sounds incredibly vain, I know. Forgive me. I was a little disappointed in myself, too.

What was all this self-inflicted shame about? I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m 50. I’m good with it. Right? It’s just a number. Blah-dee-blah-blah. Based on my vain reaction, I obviously am not as good with it as I’d thought. Crap.

As I reflected on all of this, I was reminded of a program I’d listened to years before on CBC Radio. The interviewer had spoken with women at various decades in their lives, from their 20’s to their 70’s. All of them, without exception, admitted that when they looked back on photos of themselves taken in the previous decade, they saw their unmistakable beauty. Whereas when they’d looked at the same photo when it had been taken, they’d wanted to burn it or bury it at the bottom of a trunk somewhere. 

The pearl of wisdom for me at that time was how important it is to appreciate your beauty as a woman today, right now at whatever age you are. This is clearly easier said than done. But the truth is, I do look back at photos of myself that had filled me with confidence-busting doubt at the time and think, ‘Wow. You were really pretty back then.’ Back then. Isn’t that sad?

So I have decided to turn this whole photo she-bangness into something I’m for rather than something I want to delete from the annals of my digital footprint forever. I also want to model something much healthier for my daughters, who are already looking at themselves in the mirror and telling themselves that they are either too much or not enough. 

We may live in a looks-obsessed and ageist society, but I don’t have to embrace it. This starts with telling myself a different story about myself. I want to go beyond looking in the mirror. I want to go beyond acknowledging my superficial appearance. I want to look in the mirror (or at a photograph) and recognize in myself what is easy for me to see in others: beauty. And I want to like it.

I want to make it a daily practice to say ‘Hello beautiful’ when I see myself rather than ‘Ugh. What’s happened to you, you wrinkly old broad?’

I think I’ll call it liking in the mirror. It’s going to take work, but I’m totally for it.

blaming the blamers

I always know it’s time for some reflective writing when I find myself focusing on what I don’t want rather than on what I’m for. It’s typically a thin line between the two, but when I’m pulling at my hair and asking ‘why are people so (fill in the blank)?’ I know I need to take myself by the shoulders and point myself in a different, more positive direction.

So here I am, ready to reframe something that continues to present itself in my life: blame. Not blame directed specifically at me. I’m talking about blame that hurts others. People I admire or love or even perfect strangers, for that matter. Blame that’s a narcissistic excuse for doing whatever blamers want to do. Blame that’s an abuse of power and a smokescreen for right-fighters. Blame that serves to make one person okay at the price of someone else not being okay. That kind of blame. As my daughter used to say when asked to eat her broccoli, or brush her teeth ‘I don’t love it.’

Okay. While I am 100% certain I will never love blaming, I clearly need to find a way to better handle people who:

  • point the finger without holding themselves accountable
  • can’t genuinely apologize without attaching a ‘yeah, but’ on the end
  • create a s&*t storm of blame-shame then stand back and let the painful chips fall where they may

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, which I know means it’s time to:

  1. Let it go.
  2. Look for the humanity in people who cast blame.
  3. Do nothing and see what happens.

Obviously, I’m not able to let it go. I don’t want to. Because I think I like blaming the blamers. Crap. As a self-described non-blamer, I’ve got to own that. So I guess it’s on to option 2.

Here’s the problem with option 2: I don’t really want to view blamers with compassion. Because I think they’re wrong to do what they do. Therefore I’ve been choosing option 3 – the path of least resistance. Which clearly hasn’t worked, bringing me back to options 1 or 2. Argh.

I think those first two options could actually work quite well together, but only if I start with looking for the humanity in people drawn to dwell in the blame frame. I’ve long believed that compassion is the flip side of judgment for me, so I know that my path to truly letting go lies in something more along the lines of Namaste than ‘You are a big old Blamey McBlamer!

In a most fortunate and unconnected turn of events, a very dear friend of mine told me about a book called ‘Daring Greatlyby Brene´ Brown. My friend didn’t know that I was struggling to understand how the blame theme was showing up in my life when she recommended it. But let me tell you, Dr. Brown – an American scholar who studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame – beautifully articulates the compassionate reframe I’ve been looking for.

I do most of my reading in the bathtub in the early mornings. TMI, I’m sure. Sorry if that image doesn’t sit right with you, but there’s a point to the context. I was having my morning bath, trying to open a neural portal to help me better absorb Dr. Brown’s wisdom and along comes this pearl about blame. And shame:

‘If blame is driving, shame is riding shotgun’.

Wowzers. This struck a chord! She went on to say that, ‘In organizations, schools and families, blaming and finger pointing are often symptoms of shame.’ And that ‘shame-bound people’ are very systematic about how they dole out the blame. Because finding someone else accountable spares them from feeling shame about themselves. No matter that it rolls downhill, leaving others in a murky pool of hurt. Pointing the finger discharges their own pain and discomfort in moments when they themselves are most vulnerable (aka angry, hurt, disappointed, etc.).

Those words stirred something profoundly deep in me. I had to write them down. Or underline them. But I was in the bath, see? (context). There was nothing to be done except get out of the bath, search for a pen while dripping wet and make notes in the margins. I’d found my way to Namaste the blamers. Huzzah!

In another section of her book, she deepens my understanding by writing that when she looks at [blame] through the vulnerability lens, she sees: 

“… the shame-based fear of being ordinary. … the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be loveable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.”

Here’s the fragile and very real element of humanity I’ve been struggling to see in people who blame. But because of its raw vulnerability I can summon compassion around what’s driving the behaviour. And get myself disengaged from the blame-shame game and reframe it in a much healthier way. There’s a lot of relief in that changed perspective for me.

The question of why I take these kinds of things to heart is easy to answer if you know me even a little. I am ridiculously protective of people. I know it’s not my job. I know that people have their own journeys and that I am not equipped or necessary to help them learn their lessons. But for my whole life, when I’ve seen someone being treated badly, it has bothered me. I’ve hurt on their behalves, seethed quietly, stepped in occasionally and worked hard to let it ‘not be my problem’. But my pal Brene´ helped me see that maybe my protective nature isn’t such a bad thing. She says:

“If you want to make a difference, the next time you see someone being cruel to another human being, take it personally. Take it personally because it is personal!”

I do think blaming is cruel. But my new perspective – which I shall spend time on every day until it becomes a real part of my commitment to compassion – helps me understand that the greatest cruelty that blamers inflict is to themselves. So next time, rather than raging and judging, I will see their vulnerability. And I will send them love and hold them in my heart with compassion. At least I will try. It’s what I’m for.


the box of cards

Depending on our pack-rat personality type, most of us hold on to one thing or another that binds us to the miles we’ve travelled so far. As a sentimental human, there are a number of these things for me. Among these are some of the cards and notes I‘ve been given over the years, saved because they stirred something in me at the time I received them.

They sit in a box on a high shelf in my closet. A few times a year, I open the lid and add a few more. The odd thing is that I don’t look at them very often. They just sit there. A patchwork heartbeat stitched together by my history.

A couple of months ago, for reasons I can’t even recall, I decided to go through the box of cards. What I thought would take an hour filled instead the better part of an afternoon. I looked through beautiful Crayola renderings of ‘me’ through the eyes of children I’d taught. I read notes of gratitude from parents, people I’ve worked or performed with. I looked at love-notes I’d saved from years gone by, including the very first letter I’d received from the man who would later become my husband. I re-read words from friends inside carefully chosen cards.  – many of whom are still in my life and many of whom I have lost touch with – sharing laughter during good times, lifting my spirits during difficult times and offering their appreciation for our connectedness.

I relived my children’s youngest years through mother’s day and birthday cards and precious notes and artwork they’d spontaneously created for me. I found letters written by my sister that chronicle the sweetness of our relationship. I read notes from my brother and my mother, my nieces and my nephews. And felt a twist of sadness as I rediscovered gems from my father and two brothers, all of whom who are no longer living.

It was a tender afternoon of remembrance. As you might expect, I laughed, cried and sighed with gratitude as I travelled this hand-written road map of my heart’s history, so grateful for the wisdom that had guided me to keep all of this.

But it was as I was putting the cards away that an odd grace descended. A mental Venn diagram began to form, the words from the cards overlapping in a most affirming way, painting a picture I recognized as good, kind and wise. Loved. Loveable. And I thought, ‘Huh. Maybe all of those qualities are actually what people see in me.

I don’t have a negative self-image but I wouldn’t say that’s always been true. Faced with nine compliments and one negative comment, I’ve always felt a magnetic pull to believe the negative to be true. About myself. Not others. Isn’t that weird? Who would stand before nine glorious bouquets and one offering of judgment-yuck and choose the judgment? I would. I did for years. I believed the bouquets were false niceties and that the ‘yuck’ was the true reflection of how the world saw me.

I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me. We all have our personal challenges. Thinking the worst about myself has been part of mine. I squelched genuine feelings of self-confidence for years. It was my choice, but to be fair, I did have some ‘encouragement’ to do so along the way. Over the years I’ve gradually shed that self-deprecating skin and grown increasingly comfortable with just being who I am. A decidedly quirky gal just doing her best to live a full and whole-hearted life.

What does all of this have to do with a box of cards? My afternoon of sifting through 20 years of hand-written memories provided me with a piece of my puzzle I didn’t know I was looking for. Sitting amongst a small personal sea of kind words, I felt a new wisdom lock itself into place. Here is it:

Since I get to choose what I believe to be true about myself, why not align with the good stuff rather than the … well … other stuff.

Even from a sheer statistical perspective, this wisdom makes sense. The cards provided me with prevailing evidence that I am and have always been pretty ok. I’m not asking you to agree with me. It’s alright if you don’t. The power for me here at long last isn’t about what others think. The power lies in the choice. When some event/person produces a feeling of judgment (perceived or real) about who I am, how I approach my life or what I do, I can circle back to my box of cards and have my self-worth affirmed by the evidence that I choose to believe is the real McCoy.

Let the clouds part. Let the trumpets sound and the angels sing. What an exquisitely simple truth.

Here’s the other thing that has really moved me about this box of cards:

Don’t hold back on words of praise, written or spoken. They hold so much power.  Clearly, however (in my case at least), it takes a continual expression of kind words to penetrate the thick and insidious skin of self-doubt.

I want my words to be among someone’s ‘box of cards’ that s/he takes from a high shelf in her/his closet one winter afternoon. I want my praise and appreciation to be part of a person stepping into a knowing that s/he, too, is good, kind, wise, loveable and loved.

This is what I’m for. Seeing the best in myself. Seeing the best in others. And saying it all out loud. Because it matters.

Psst …A few weeks after reading my box of cards and roughing this blog entry together, I turned 50 years young. In typical goof-ball fashion, dubbed myself ‘KFiddy’ – a shout-out to Caucasian, middle-aged mini-van driving wanna-be-gangsta mothers around the globe. A joke that I continue to find hysterically funny.

As a gift, my husband asked people to use a ‘digital pen’ to write birthday wishes to me in a blog he and one of my lovely friends created for me. This will forever more be my digital box of cards. You don’t have to read it … but if you’d like to, check it out here.



woman of a certain age (thoughts on turning 50)

So I am 3 weeks shy of wrapping up my fourth decade.  Yup. I am turning the big five-oh. Big deal. I’m not bothered by the idea of ‘getting older’. I don’t look back and wish I was younger or that I’d made more of my youth. As far as I’m concerned I’m still youthful. So is my mom. And she’s 78.

There is something about approaching this milestone that does bother me, though: other women who are also approaching this milestone who aren’t happy about it. This sounds aggressive, so please let me explain.

There seem to be two primary schools of thought on ‘getting older’ among my female compadres: the school that finds incredulous hilarity in chin-hairs, bifocals and hot flashes and the school that shrouds the whole experience in shame.

I am mostly closely aligned with the former group. In fact, at my ‘book club’ we are far more likely to share side-splitting stories about our various girly-journeys than we are to talk about the book we’ve chosen. Even the gals in their 20’s and 30’s pee their pants a little at how funny life can be when you’re approaching 50.  Which tells me that a leaky bladder is more about a good laugh than it is about aging. Turning 50 is the farthest thing from tragic and planets away from shame.

But more and more frequently, I find myself being sent not-so-subtle invitations to adopt a more fatalistic view on ‘getting older’. While I might (maybe) expect that of someone much younger who has yet to hone his/her sensitivity chip, I find it mind-blowing when other ‘women my age’ include me in their passive-aggressive, ageist insults. Here are some recent examples.

I was making a purchase but couldn’t find my debit card. Flustered, I pulled out a different card, muttering something about being disorganized. The gal processing my order smiled sweetly and said, ‘It’s hard getting older, isn’t it? We’re just losing our marbles.’ We? Getting older? Marbles? No. I just left my debit card in my car.

I was doing a little shopping in a clothing store. I happened to look up and caught the eye of a woman on the other side of the rack. I smiled. She smiled back. It was all perfectly pleasant until she said, ‘Look at us. Shopping for old-lady clothes.’  WHAT? First of all, what are old lady clothes? And second of all … well, there are no words, really. What a ridiculous thing to say.

I went to a  birthday gathering for a friend. She might be mid-50s. I don’t know. Who cares? She was talking about how hard it is to be getting older. I was listening sympathetically as she listed her aches, pains and general ailments. The sympathy came to a screeching halt when she told me to prepare myself for the worst of it: ‘After you turn 50, you pretty much disappear as a woman. It’s like you become irrelevant.’ She punctuated her story with a laugh. While I am deeply sorry that this has been her experience, I don’t really believe that as of March 11th, 2014 I will cease to be interesting or visible to the entire world.

I was having lunch with my beautiful pre-teen daughters. A woman at a near-by table mentioned how lovely they were. I smiled in agreement and then froze as she added: ‘You’d better enjoy them now before all of your various hormones kick in.’ All of our various hormones kick in? Nice. I looked back at her with my most emotionless ‘passport face’. But inside I seethed with hurt and humiliation. Why was it necessary for her to say that to me?

I’ve left my favourite to the last. Hold on to your hats because you’re going to love this one.

At the close of a recent public event that I happened to be leading, a member of the audience waited around to talk with me. She was complimentary about the event and thanked me, etc. Then just before walking away, almost as an afterthought, she lobbed this my way: “Hey, you look really pretty in that dress. Quite sexy, actually. I thought you might like to know that. Because women of our age don’t get complimented on our looks very often any more.’ Ummmmm. Seriously? Wow. She hit her target because I swam around in self-doubt for days after that conversation.

In spite of these beseeching invitations to approach ‘middle age’ with fear and shame-cloaked stereotypes, I’m not gonna do it. Because it is NOT what I’m for.  Allowing other women’s negative experiences to frame my journey into ‘middle age’ makes me feel small and fearful of the future. It makes me uncertain of my role as a woman, a professional, a wife and a mother. I reject the stereotypes completetely. In fact, I heartily fling them into the abyss. Good riddance.

I am going to approach fifty with joy and aplomb – with glee, even. Yes, I know  I’ll have a growing number of chin hairs to pluck but time isn’t my enemy as a woman. It may give my body the patina of age, but all of the experiences that will carry me into my fifth decade have made my mind richer, my heart warmer and my view of my fellow humans much gentler.

Way (way) back in the day when I was a mere 39 years old  (a pup really) I read this quote by Carol Matthau in an ‘O Magazine’: ‘There is no old age. There is, as there always was, just you.’

Yup. I am just me. I am exactly what I need to be – chin hair, bifocals, hot flashes and all. And that is what I’m for in every decade. Well maybe not the chin hair, etc. But being ‘me’ isn’t such a bad deal, whatever age I happen to be.

getting to ‘just right’

In my humble opinion, Goldilocks was more than just another pretty, fairytale face. Setting aside any moral dilemmas I may have around entering someone’s home and using their stuff without permission, I admire how Goldi approached the whole ‘just right’ thing. She assessed her options and chose the porridge, chair and bed that suited her fancy. She owned her choices without apology. Like a boss. Until the bears came home, at least.

Man, I wish I’d had that kind of moxy as a girl. But I didn’t. I grew up fretting about what people might think. Was I obnoxious? Or boring? Was I bossy? Or a door mat? Was I too opinionated? Or too daft to have a valid point of view? Was I a show off? Or a fake? Sigh.

My self-doubt funneled me down an ever-narrowing path that led me to believe was simply easier to play small than to live the glory of what I really wanted. My 20-year-old version of Goldilocks would have gone inside that little cottage and made everyone’s porridge, chair and bed ‘just right’.

No one ever asked me to play small. But I did. And it worked brilliantly for a time. It also made it possible for me to exalt the twin of small playing; the almighty ‘put others first’. I was so nice. You would have adored me. I was so nice it would have made your teeth hurt. The problem was that I ‘niced’ myself into virtual disappearance.

A variety of things nudged me off the planet of nice. Thank goodness. The birth of my  son was the first and biggest nudge. For him, I wanted to be a source of constant strength and light, not an Edith Bunker flickering flame. Other nudges included the end of a troubled marriage and living independently for the first time, among many other things. I also befriended some fabulous women who’d chosen not to play nice anymore. They played kind instead of sweet. They lived big instead of small. Their examples were stunning to me. STUNNING. Like Goldilocks seizing the moment and enjoying what her heart desired.

Even with 20+ years of practice, I’m still not always that great at that kind of carpe diem. Somewhere along the line, the message that I was both too much and too little was deeply planted into my emotional DNA. I still strain against the ancient voice that tells me to keep quiet, be sweet, retreat to compliant shadows and play nice.

But I know that those words are only masks that keep me from being my ‘just right’ self. Those masks served me for a long while, but they don’t anymore. That kind of cover up isn’t at all what I’m for.

What I’m for is simply discovering the best version of myself every day. Sometimes that self is too big and too loud and downright inappropriate. Sometimes that self is introspective and shy and sometimes she laughs out loud at words like ‘Uranus’ and ‘colon’ and the farting sounds that the ketchup bottle makes. Sometimes she wants to be all by herself or with just her family and sometimes she wants to be surrounded by people who make her laugh or think about bigger stuff. Sometimes she’s in tune with others and sometimes she’s completely clueless.

I am all of these things. All of these things are me. My hope is that every day, the self that people meet is the real deal.

This hope aligned with some very powerful words I came across the other day on one of my favourite sites:. My Beautiful Words. They were written by Marianne Williamson (although they’re often wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandela – another guy I’m pretty much for). Here’s an excerpt:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world … We are all meant to shine … and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. 

We are all meant to shine. I want my life to reflect that. For me and for my beautiful husband and children. For those that I teach and for those that I learn from. For my heart-tethered friends and for those I have never even met. This is something that I really and truly am for.