Archive for ‘Spiritual Growth’

August 1, 2011

Show Me Your ASS(ets)

Caution, Roadwork Ahead

Lately there has been real focus on my Health bucket, with good reason. The saying “if you don’t have your health you don’t have anything” is a pretty accurate one. If I don’t have my health I am no good to anyone. For the first time in my life I feel like I am truly heading down the right path in this area, physically, mentally and spiritually. I know I have a long way to go, but I am ok with that. I am enjoying the journey.

Looking at the MEbucket’s today, there was a flashing beacon around one bucket in particular – finances.  Action in this bucket has been sparse, for good reason. It’s hard to work on finances when you don’t have any. Being off of work has produced a very black and white approach to money for the short term. Money comes in, money goes out – period. That said, I have taken some steps to shore up my foundation. My spending habits and my expectations on what I need to be able to live happily have both contributed to growth here.

Does This Foundation Make Me Look Dumb?

I will use the analogy of a house. If my life is a house, and I have been refurbishing from the inside out, my financial foundation has been decrepit for years. Initially, when I started to refurbish, cash flow was non-existent so instead of bringing in an expert to professionally repair my foundation, I just patched it up as best as I could myself.

Now is the time to bring in the experts. Like many other areas of my life, circumstance and poor execution have inhibited my success. I believe that I have a very solid understanding of how finances work and what I need to do improve my results in this bucket. I have done this with great success professionally, but not personally. Like other areas then, I need to ask for help and be willing to try new things, as well as add a level of accountability that I have not had in the past.

Here Ye Here Ye!

To that end, I am a man on a mission. I am on a mission to find new best practices and to find out what works for others.  If you know me, expect an awkward phone call when I probe into your financial practices. If you don’t know me I will be the one who stops you on the sidewalk to ask if you are ready for your retirement.

I would love you to email me your thoughts. You can also comment right here on MEfurbish. What’s your favourite book? Who is your most trusted financial adviser? What golden nugget are you willing to share? Expect to see more on this topic in the weeks ahead on MEfurbish.

Peace,

Leslie

July 5, 2011

30 Days Later – Part 3

Are You Mental?

If you had asked me 3 years ago how my mental health was I would have probably “top shelf”, or “fit as a fiddle.” Looking back in hindsight I can see now that this couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Why, you ask would have said such a thing then? Well that’s a tricky answer. Mental health is a taboo subject. People don’t walk around saying that they are not mentally healthy. People would look at you like you had three heads, literally.

In my experience, as soon as the topic comes up people shut down. They either want to change the subject or get the heck out of dodge as quickly as possible. I don’t blame them, in the past I have been in these situations and it’s hard to know what to do or say. The other thing that comes to mind is a genuine fear of judgement. Not just the awkward moments or weird looks but the possible impact to your work and career. Would I have been tapped to give the next big presentation or take on the next big project if I was the head case guy? Who knows.

Are You for Real?

We live in a society where being vulnerable is a sign of weakness. There seems to me more dialogue at a high level about mental health, but when you get right down to the nitty gritty, in the trenches with the people who hold your livelihood in the balance, there is not a lot of education or awareness. I have been met with sighs, eye-rolling, sneers, anger, confusion and outright disbelief. A common reaction seems to be that I have done something wrong.

What’s going on here? Isn’t this supposed to be an update on how I am doing after 30 days? Yes, but it’s important to know where I was to be able to measure how far I have come. I also want to make the point that recovery in this area is huge for me and needs to be called out. I need to be as willing to share my successes in this area of my life as well. So, with that, let’s get to the good news!

Lookin’ Good!

I wish I could say that I have gained 427 units of positivity or my confidence is at an all-time high of 624. Unfortunately there are no blood tests for these things. We need to cover things that my gut tells me, and talk about feelings. Those of you who can’t take it, please feel free to run away screaming! Hehe

  • I have always been an idea guy. When I was working, I often came up with very creative solutions to problems that would impress clients and colleagues alike. This is something that I have missed while not at work and was diminishing considerably in the later years of my recent career. Finding a pool to use through a Kijiji classified ad post has given me a taste of that satisfaction. I feel proud of the creativity that I used here, and it has definitely added to my overall happiness and confidence.
  • If you asked my colleagues and friends, many would say I am confident. This too was waning in recent years. Taking the steps I have taken in the past year to prioritize my health and more specifically the swimming portion of my recovery, has helped considerably in this area. Solving the problem of the pool, putting myself out there on the radio, and here on MEfurbish has all helped my confidence considerably.
  • Acceptance of who I am and what I have or have not accomplished in my life is another area that has seen a dramatic shift for the better. Part of this has come with my ability to be less of a people pleasure that I have been in the past. When I stop looking for you to accept me, I begin to accept myself more. Getting in the water each day, because it’s what I want to do for me, regardless of how crazy some people think this whole thing is has really helped me to accept more readily where I am, who I am and that only I can really get this done. No one else can solve this problem for me.

The reason I started on this path to MEfurbishment and that I get my butt in the pool 4 times a week in the first place is to improve my overall happiness. This is the real barometer of success and I can say without a doubt that I am happier than I have been in a long time. Things just seem more manageable. For today, I am going to embrace that happiness and keep doing what I think has helped me to get here. I know that I have a long way to go, but you know what? I have no doubt today that I can do it!

Peace,

Leslie

June 29, 2011

Me You and the World

Get Out There!

The coolest things that have come my way as a result of my effort to swim are the changes that I see in some of my current relationships as well as the gift of some new relationships. Putting myself “out there” has fostered a real sense of community in me. I have talked to absolute strangers who have seen my picture on the CBC website and are excited for me and just want to show their support.

I have now had two interviews with Hallie Cotnam and she is not just a great broadcaster and journalist but a really cool person that I have met and feel like I have a connection with. Spending time discussing my story, both the challenges and rewards, makes me feel a bit more understood, a lot more heard, and certainly more connected to the community at large.

Getting emails, blog comments, voice messages, text messages, status update feedback and messages of support and encouragement from across the nation has further connected me to the world around me in a way that is indescribable.  There is a level of honestly and sincerity present that is not typical with people I find. I have opened up, and put information about me out there that I had previously kept mostly to myself; the result is that many people have related to that, and to what I am going through. With the exception of a few jokesters out there, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

I have noticed that some of my most important relationships have shifted slightly as well. This experience has opened up lines of dialogue with friends and family that haven’t been open in a while due to my depression. Let me be clear, these are lines that I myself closed off, in many ways out of necessity, but slowly I can see them opening nonetheless.

The most important relationship I have, the one with my twelve year old daughter, is perhaps the one that I am most excited about. On the surface there haven’t been a lot of differences, but there is a level of confidence and pride on my part that has been eluding me as of late. I am proud of what I am doing. I feel like I am a good example to her in all of this. I am hopeful that she sees that she can ask for help when she needs it too. One journalist I was recently speaking with used the expression “grabbing the bull by the horns” to describe my effort to put my health first. As a proud vegan, I would never grab a bull that didn’t grab me first, but I get her point!  This is something else that I hope my daughter can glean from this situation.

As is the case with the physical changes I have witnessed, it is a miracle to me to be able to observe the depth of change that has taken place in such a short period of time. Tomorrow I will look at some of the more subtle changes that are taking place in my life, those in the area of my mental health. Until then, I will just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

PS. Today was a significant milestone in my swimming. I swam for a total of 60 minutes!  This is a good 12 minutes longer than any other time I have swam but it is also important because it is the goal I set for myself when I first got into the water, and the amount of time I will settle at moving forward. This week I have let go of counting laps, and will just focus on the 60 minutes. Moving forward, my goal will be to maximize the number of laps I can do in an hour, pushing myself to better my lap time gradually. Wish me luck!

Peace,

Leslie

June 21, 2011

Gratitude Attitude

In One Ear

We’ve all heard it before, how important it is to have an attitude of gratitude. It’s one of many slogans and quotations that tend to resonate with us for the moment, and then dissipate quickly.  For me this has a lot to do with practicality. When we hear things like this they usually make us feel a certain way but they do not necessarily produce action of any kind.

How can we take a concept like this that we want to embrace and take steps to incorporate the ideals into our daily reality? There is no easy answer to this question except to say that with each, we need to stop for a moment or two of reflection and determine a practical course of action.  Being grateful for what I have in my life has been something that has eluded me in the past. Not because I am not grateful for these things but because I tend to put more focus, more effort and more resources into what I don’t have.

Gratitude List

The idea here is to just give the things that we have to be grateful for room to sit with us, an equal share of real estate in our brains or in our day. To that end, a tool that I try to use as frequently as possible is to create a gratitude list. While this may seem trivial or silly, those of us who have subscribed to the idea can say without a doubt that it makes a considerable difference in our happiness and ability to live in the moment.

This morning as I was listening to a follow-up interview that I did with Hallie Cotnam on CBC Radio One I was overcome with gratitude for the situation that I find myself in. I needed help, I asked for it, I received it in overwhelming quantity and I am now reaping the rewards of putting myself out there. So it goes without saying that when I was writing gratitude list this morning, all those who continue to offer love and support we featured prominently including Amy and Erik, the down to earth couple who have opened their home and their pool to me.

Thank you Amy and Erik!

If you would like to hear the follow-up interview, you can click on the play button below. The original post and initial full interview can be found in my recent post called The Universe Came Through.

Take a few minutes before bed tonight or when you rise in the morning to think about how much you have to be grateful for. I am sure you will surprise yourself, no matter how bad you think things are in your daily grind, as you write you may even notice a little smile or a lower heart rate. Its well worth the five minutes that it takes, trust me.

Peace,

Leslie

June 6, 2011

Weekend For The Soul

What a great weekend!

Friday was a PD day for the school kids in Ottawa so that meant a day off and in essence, a long weekend spent with my daughter. Awesome! The owner of the home where I swim suggested my 12 year old was welcome to join me at the house swimming and even cooler, invited us to come out later in the weekend to show her the horses as well. I gladly took her up on both of these offers.

Play Like A Kid

After some much needed rest and a lazy morning sleeping in, we headed out to the pool and hit the water. I had explained to my daughter that I needed to do my laps first and then we could frolic about after that. While it was a slight distraction to have someone in the pool while I was doing my laps it paled in comparison to the fun that we had when I had finished the “exercise” portion of the swim. Once I was done we grabbed a foam football and started to toss it back and forth to each other making dramatic dives for the catch. We invented our own little game had a best 2 out of 3 series. What a blast! I thoroughly enjoyed myself. We laughed hard and made fools of ourselves for about an hour, but it felt like only minutes has passed. The focus was not on the exercise but we were getting some nonetheless. It was a great start to the weekend.

Just Say I Do

Friday evening I had the pleasure of witnessing some dear friends of mine “tie the knot.” It was a great wedding and the entire evening was filled with more laughter, moments of intimacy, and a real sense of what is important in life. Family, friends and time spent connecting and celebrating with those that are important to us. While the numbers fell as the evening progressed there were several of us who kept the party going. We were further rewarded when we were able to be a part of some even more special moments during the after party at a local pub, and the late-late night or early-early morning breakfast at a local diner. Highlights included the father of the bride showing up at the pub unannounced to fanfare, and who will ever forget the spontaneous applause in the jam packed diner when the bride arrived in her stunning dress. Unforgettable!

Horse-Play

Sunday brought moments of joy that any parent can relate too. As my daughter and I drove out to the ranch to meet the horses and the awesome family who lives there, I could sense her anxiety. Understandably, meeting new people at the best of times is can be awkward and stressful. Throw in the circumstances by which our two families have met (my swimming pool ad), and finally the apprehension about perhaps sitting on or riding a horse for the first time and you have a potpourri of emotions tugging in all directions.

Our hostess did a fantastic job of easing my daughter into the process. She started with introducing the horse, explaining a little bit of his history, then moved into the grooming of “Spider”. Together they cleaned the coat, the hooves, and saddled the horse with a focus on safety, both for the horse and the rider. Next, sitting on the horse, feeling Spider’s movements and tendencies, being lead on the horse with myself and another on either side of the horse, and then finally actually riding, steering, starting stopping and instructing the horse on her own. I was completely amazed in the transition. What I witnessed was a microcosm of how gaining confidence works. Her demeanour from beginning to end was truly night and day to see as an outsider. By the time she was done, she was beaming, sitting tall with confidence and looking each of us in the eye just a little bit more.

Leave it to a twelve year old to reiterate to me what continues to need being reiterated. When we come upon a challenge in life we have two choices, the safe easy way or the challenging, sometimes stressful path that is inevitably more rewarding. She reminded me that I have been doing that myself! When I say to her “you must be so proud of yourself for putting yourself out there,” it reminds me that I too should be proud. I am proud. I can only hope that along the way I will try to continue to take the next step in putting myself out there. With that, there will continue to be substantial rewards and endless learning.

Last night our weekend wound down surrounded by family and extended family enjoying a meal together. A fitting end to a weekend for the soul. A glass of wine, a cold beer, some great conversation and the sound of kids giggling in the background.

It really doesn’t get much better as far as weekends go. I need to remember that it didn’t take a flight, a reservation, or a new gadget to bring the contented feeling that this weekend brought. There is no reason why I can’t do it again next weekend.

Actually, there is no reason that I can’t find a way to do it today, right now.

Peace,

Leslie

June 4, 2011

The Ride of Your Life

Article first published as The Ride of Your Life on Technorati.

This Too Shall Pass

We’ve all been there. One minute things are chugging along like a well-oiled machine and the next, it seems like we’re spinning our wheels in mud. This is part of life and it always will be, just part of the natural order of things. Many of us are cursed with a short memory when it comes to self-awareness. When we are in a high, we forget that a low is just around the corner and the same is true in reverse. We can just as easily be stuck in the mud and forget that we will eventually find our way out. We may have to try again and again, we may need to ask for help, but “this too shall pass” as the saying goes.

Our good friend Forrest Gump said “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get.” While I would never dare to counter Mr. Gump, I would add that there are times occasionally that you have a pretty good idea what’s coming next. When things are a struggle, there will inevitably be a shift, even if only in perception or acceptance and then for a time, things will be better. The opposite is true as well. You can be sure that if you are kicking butt and taking names, there is mostly certainly a challenge of some sort just around the corner.
Roller Coaster Climb
Let’s use the much used analogy of a roller coaster. When we are working our way up the incline at the beginning, taking steady steps in our daily lives we can see progress. We are working towards our goals and dreams and have a clear destination in mind. Once we reach the top, the view is absolutely amazing; it feels like we are floating for a time, gratification and joy are in abundance as the car slides through a few little exciting dips and turns. What you can’t see at that point is that there is a dramatic drop ahead. One in which you will lose all sense of yourself, and around you there will be noise, emotion and confusion. During this fall, things seem unbearable for an instant that seems like an eternity -a seemingly endless plunge. Finally, eventually you reach the bottom and are thrust back upwards in relief. It’s quite a ride isn’t it?

Hold On Tight

The thing is, once we have been on this ride a few times we do start to become familiar with it. You’ve seen the caution signs though; you need to stay seated even during the uncomfortable parts. It’s not advisable to try and get off the ride. In fact it could mean disaster! We can prepare ourselves though for some of the turbulence that we are not looking forward to. Just taking a pause to be aware and in the moment can mean all of the difference. Not being caught off guard seems to help keep things more manageable. When we’re in the midst of our fear and the wheels seem to be falling off our carts, we can take a moment to remember that this feeling always happens and invariably it is followed up by some reprieve.

Chill Out!

We need to chill out and enjoy the ride for what it is. We can’t control it. The ride will go where the ride will go. We convince ourselves that we have it under control with our Day-Timer’s and iPad’s and Blackberry’s but what we are really doing is making a best guess. We can only control our own attitudes. We can do our best to anticipate then have fun with the unexpected, or we can convince ourselves of a fantasy and be disappointed at every turn.These are the only choices we have.
 
What will you choose?
 
Peace,
Leslie
May 27, 2011

Swim Day 1

Can You Say Lap Pool

Wow what a busy couple of weeks! I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since I last posted. It feels like so much has happened on my road to MEfurbishment. This week I took a huge step forward in my bucket for physical health with the start of my new swimming practice.

With the overwhelming response I received to my ad to use a pool in exchange for cleaning it, I met a great family just 15 minutes from my home. They have a wonderful 60 foot indoor lap pool which was a great way to get back into the water after years of avoiding the deck of a pool like the plague.

I swam for the first time after doing my allotted service of vacuuming the pool. What a treat! It was so great to be back in the water. I am going to track my progress on what else, another tab called MElaps.

Don’t Try This At Home

To start I did some warming up by just walking the length of the pool and back a few times, then I started my laps. I was pretty discombobulated at first, flopping around like a fish on a hook, but gradually I found my stride and settled on what used to me my favourite stroke, the breast stroke.  I ended up doing 20 laps total for a swim time of almost 20:00. It was a totally different experience for me than other types of exercise that I have undertaken. The nice cool water made me feel like I could go forever! Thankfully I listened to my intuition and stopped exercising after the 20 minutes and just goofed around for a bit after that because using those muscles to that extent had me pretty stiff the next day.

I am cautiously optimistic that I will be able to continue to keep a consistent swimming practice as a form of fun and pain minimizing exercise.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Hey check me my new favourite pool out below!

Peace,

Leslie

May 21, 2011

Someday Soon

My Motivators

It’s a beautiful day in sunny Ottawa today, the kind of day that just screams, use me! Occasionally on days like this I think of the many things I could be doing, if I had other parts of my life in order. These are things that I can’t do due to physical or financial limitations.  I decided that I am missing an opportunity to use these things as motivators to push forward in my MEfurbishment.

To that end I thought I would use a little bit of time this morning to make a list of some goals, things I would like to be able to try at some point in the future. This will help me with my MEbucket’s as well. When looking for things that will foster and develop a certain bucket, it is helpful to have a master list to draw from. This is also a great tool for looking back to see progress. A year from now, when I look back over the year and see some items crossed off my list I can feel a sense of accomplishment and gratitude.

Below is a list of things that I would like to bring into my life at some point in my journey. I would love to hear from you about some of the things that are on your list. Things that you have been putting off, preparing for or just haven’t got to yet.

Someday soon I will…..

Peace,

Leslie

May 17, 2011

Couldn’t Ask For More

Great Response

The CBC has posted an article about my ad on their website now as well and I am getting email after email with offers to help and great words of encouragement. I really cant say how grateful I am to get this kind of response. Responses are coming in from all over the country.

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to send a personal note.

You can read the CBC Article here

Peace,

Leslie

May 17, 2011

The Universe Came Through!

Putting Myself Out There

I’m sitting here in the well-worn seat of my Starbucks home office and my mind is racing.

As many of you are aware, I have posted on my attempts to get more active and a big part of MEfurbish is my sharing of this journey with you. I have had limited success with MEcycle and MEactive and the reality is that this is direct result of my current size and some of my physical limitations.   The Wii Active 2 has been hard on my knees within the 90 day challenge that I was doing. I have had to put this on hold for a while. Cycling has been better on my knees, but harder on my back and other joints.

On May first, I posted an ad on Kijiji looking for access to a pool in exchange for me cleaning the pool. Kind of a win-win was my thought. You can read that Kijiji ad here. Perhaps not surprisingly, I had not seen a reply of any kind until late last week when Hallie Cotnam from the CBC Radio One Ottawa Morning show contacted me with an interest in my ad and story. She in fact asked if she could interview me for an eye towards a program CBC is running called Live Right Now and I obliged. We met yesterday and had a great talk and our chat was broadcast live on the morning show today.

Ask And You Shall Recieve

Ironically, I actually received another reply to my ad late last night prior to the interview even being broadcast with an offer to talk about my barter proposal. Since the interview was broadcast this AM I have also received many emails of general support and a couple from folks in similar situations who are eager to see how this works out.  I have also had several responses from other interested in offering me their pool.

What’s the lesson here? Ask and you shall receive. You may even receive more than you asked for which is the case for me today. I have received a show of support that I could never have imagined and that is priceless!

You can listen to the CBC interview with Hallie Cotnam here:

Peace,

Leslie