Nine of the best things I ever did

9 of the best things

ONE
Reading everything (EVERYTHING) as a child.
I became the protagonists of the stories ~ Heidi and Harriet the Spy and Anne of Green Gables and Nancy Drew and Joan of Arc ~ and had the grandest adventures. Books nurtured my imagination and curiosity which turned out to be the twin-keys to the magical-world-doors that have have, one by one, swung open as I was ready to walk through them.

TWO
Doing, literally, whatever craziness was required to complete my undergrad, my teaching degree and my Masters. None of it was easy. I put myself through school so I worked the entire time. I dropped out of university after the first semester, worked retail for a year and a half, and then got my minimum-wage-earning-ass back to Carleton where I took five more years to complete my undergrad. It was worth every single difficult post-secondary moment to have the freedom and confidence to create this life.

THREE
Damien. Best friend. Best partner. Best choice ever. Period.

FOUR
Saying no.
(She whistles!) Who knew you were allowed to say no? It’s just not how the women-folk of my generation (and all those before me) were raised. Although I don’t think of myself as a particularly passive person, I’ve said yes to a lot of things that took me off my true path and, as a consequence, I’ve spent too much time course-correcting. Not so much now; I have moved into the era of The Transcendent No.

FIVE
Becoming a Counselor.
Training and practicing. Moving from the question, “How can I help you?” to “What kind of life do you want to create?” Expecting that the students with whom I work actually want to change and not feeling responsible if they don’t or cannot yet. Asking hard questions because the questions will help the student and not because I am curious. Listening with my whole being.

SIX
Moving to Japan.
For harmony and peace. For fascinating people-watching on trains that always arrive on time. For the intricate choreography of umbrellas on rainy days. For ramen. For cherry blossoms and other celebrations that mark the four seasons. For delicate manners and shoes left at the door and artful floral arrangements. For safety, Mount Fuji and an abundance of cute things. For the blustery way the wind blows off the bay in April. For quiet-joy.

SEVEN
Dyeing my hair red and then purple and then red again ~ after a lifetime of absolutely safe hair choices. A student at our high school died and the universe whispered to me, “So what the hell are you waiting for?” There was no good answer. I’m learning that being worried about what other people think is never a good reason to do, or not do, anything.

EIGHT
Creating Geography of Now, Poet Laureate and The Sunday Reader. Identifying the intersection of creativity and thriving, that exact radio frequency, that makes me hum… and then sharing it with other people. Writing and encouraging other people to write and make things. Gathering up a tribe, my own tribe of wonderful humans. Growing, learning, noticing.

NINE
Paris.
We first visited Paris (and Europe) ten years ago when we lived in Mexico. I researched for months. I learned that Parisians only drink cafe au lait at breakfast and that whenever I entered a shop, I should always say, “Bonjour, Madame” (or Mademoiselle or Monsieur) and ask for permission before I touched anything. And I learned not to dilly-dally on the escalator. These were good suggestions but all the books in the world could not have prepared me for how I would feel about The City of Light. Arriving in Paris was like landing on another planet ~ the planet I was always meant to live on. At the end of our vacation, I cried in the shuttle on the trip back to the airport. In April of 2016, just a few weeks ago, we visited Paris for a week and, again, I cried in the taxi on our way back to Charles de Gaulle. Paris is the place where I feel most alive.

This idea came from Danielle LaPorte’s Facebook page and I thought it would be fun.

What are nine of the best things you ever did?

If you feel inclined to share, please comment below or leave me a message on Facebook.

Cheers,
Monna

Inspiration Instead

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{Unboxing a painting by Ruth Shively}

It’s the first week of February and, in Yokohama, it’s finally winter. The days are short and the news from America seems more reality tv than reality. It’s easy to become cynical but the truth is that the pay off isn’t good.

I’m choosing, instead, to be inspired by and grateful for:
*When We Were Young from Adele’s album 25
*Gate A-4 by Naomi Shihab Nye
*The kindness of Scottish taxi drivers {also Scottish shortbread}
*Ruth Shively’s paintings which you can see on Facebook and on her website
*High School students who ask for help for their friends
*This photograph taken by Jessie Voigts
*Snow days
*The way that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to Canadians when they speak
*Cashmere sweaters and scarves
*Lisa Hsia’s writing about her pregnancy
*The gorgeous love that a young friend has fallen into
*Scrivener ~ an amazing tool for writers
*Downton Abbey. {I’m know I’m late to this party… but wow!}
*The noticing poetry of Samantha Reynolds
*Ramen
*Cynthia Erivo’s performance in The Colour Purple on Broadway

What’s been saving you lately?
 

Noticing Poetry with Naomi Shihab Nye

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Poet and joyful person Naomi Shihab Nye visited our school this week and asked students two questions that I can’t stop thinking about:
*Do you ever feel like you are living inside a poem?
*Do you have access to the poetry channel in your mind?

Yes. Yes I do.

 

Your life as a house

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*This post was first published in The Sunday Reader.
**Soundtrack for this post: Ólafur Arnalds’ Living Room Songs and Adele’s 25.

We humans believe many things about ourselves that are not true or useful.

Round women, in particular, and women who perceive themselves to be round, are in terrible danger of creating for ourselves a too-small life. We apologize for ourselves, we slouch to take up less space and we embark on fewer physical adventures for fear of what other people might think about how we look as we cycle/swim/hike. Where our heart yearns for colour, polka dots and pink tulle skirts, we choose black. There are many photographs of our children but we’re not in them. We may even begin to believe, to give into, the story about fat people being lazy, unsuccessful and stupid OR we may work like crazy to demonstrate the ways in which we are not those things… and become workaholics and perfectionists instead. We say yes when we should say no. For me, the most damaging of all is the idea that we are not in the same “league” as the wonderful man or woman we might love, the toxic notion that somehow we are not good enough for a multitude of lovely life-things.

This silliness is a construction. I will repeat. It is all made up.

If we round women examine our own life as a house, many of us will see ~ upon VERY close inspection ~ that our dwelling (not our physical body but the way we’ve been living) is not structurally sound. This house will not hold the life we want. And once we’ve seen that truth, we can’t not see it. We’ll know, in our very bones, that we need to make changes in our lives but the way we proceed can’t be prescribed; the way forward will depend on our personality, our support network and our unique perspective on life. Some of us may feel crazy with anger about the condition of our home. We may want to burn the damned thing to the ground and have a bulldozer remove all evidence that particular house ever existed. Those wise souls who have, for some time, been aware that their house is no longer adequate may opt for a gentler dismantling and a recycling of materials in the building of their new home. The windows, for example, might be used in the construction of an arboretum, a warm peaceful place to grow orchids, drink tea and read novels. Perhaps some women will build their new house up around the old one which will live on as a storage space or a museum. The speed and method of construction is ours to decide but the important + challenging + magical bit lies in the recognition and understanding of the ways in which our current life-house does not meet our needs. When we see our house as it really is, we can mourn what’s been lost and begin to create a glorious new dwelling.

Yes. That’s it exactly. Glorious.

I’m working on a new project about life design for round women (and women who think of themselves as round). I’m not yet sure if it’s a book or a course but I know that I’ve been waiting a long time to write this, to share these thoughts, to encourage my fellow round women to get out into the vast beautiful world and LIVE the life you were made for, the one you desire with all your heart. This is not a small thing… to leave your old house after years of living there. Especially if you believed the only way you’d have a right to ask for something better was if you were thin.

Finally, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this project. You are invited to share your story with me… and/or tell me what you’d like me to include in this book/course. Please email me or leave a comment below. Thanks ever so much!