Ashamed

Ashamed. It is one of my least favourite words not only for its literal meaning, but also for how it makes me feel. The thing about shame is that once you’ve felt it deeply, you will never again do what it is that made you feel that way in the first place.

A few days ago, a friend of mine gave me a hard time for posting a picture online of her family member (and rightfully so). This wasn’t just any friend, but a close friend who I respect and care about dearly. After our conversation, I had this awful feeling in my stomach like I had completely broken her trust and infringed upon her privacy.

Then it got me thinking, why am I sharing so much of my “life” on the Internet? And more importantly, what gives me the right to share the lives of other people online?

What it comes down to is consideration of others. With such public forums like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I think we (including myself) tend to lose sight of how our actions online will affect others, and not just in the short term, but over the long term. A few words and innocent photos can spread so quickly over the Internet, and in unexpected ways, yet we often don’t give such posts a second thought.

In terms of online activity, I can honestly say my intentions are good and genuine. I’m someone who loves photography and takes great joy in sharing photos online with friends and family. I also work in the communications industry, which makes it near impossible not to use social media  in some form or another, as either a creative outlet or means for networking or sharing information. But in a digital world where nothing is private and everyone knows your business, it’s important to keep some things sacred and to recognize and respect the privacy of others.

A part of me is relieved that my friend got upset with me, otherwise I don’t know if I would have learned such an important lesson. Like a bucket of cold water in the face, that tough and somewhat uncomfortable conversation is exactly what I needed.

Since then, I’ve made the difficult decision to de-activate my Facebook account and spend as little time as possible on social media channels. As it stands, I rarely use Twitter and I post on Instagram sparingly. Even my blog (which you’re reading right now) is constructed with care and anonymity with the mention of specific people.

Hopefully my experience will encourage some of you to reflect upon your time online and how it impacts not only yourselves, but the people you care about.

Ashamed kitty

 

 

 

Me Time

There’s something I haven’t been doing a great job of lately. It may be apparent in my lack of recent blog posts or by the fact that I’m lying in bed right now with covers, Kleenex and a mug of tea. And since I don’t have the voice (literally) to talk about it, I’m going to write about it.

In short, I haven’t been taking care of myself. My mind is always on other people, places and things, but rarely do I stop for a minute and occupy my thoughts exclusively on me.

The truth is, I don’t think you can be the best version of yourself, whether at work, at home with your family, or in your relationships if you don’t dedicate the time you need and deserve on yourself. I read this article a few weeks ago, and it made me stop in my tracks. I thought to myself: “Oh my God. I’m turning into that person.”

I don’t get nearly enough sleep. I become way too absorbed in my work. And I have a hard time living in the present, especially with distracting devices like smart phones that seem to make everything instant. So in an effort to steer myself in the right direction, I’m making a list of all that I’ve done (or am planning to do), to make “me time” a top priority:

1) Join a Corporate Challenge team. I won’t even deny it: I’m NOT active. Or at least not to the degree I should be. For that exact reason, I joined a badminton team this month as a part of Corporate Challenge. We’ve had one practice so far, and I’m already hooked. It feels awesome to participate in a sport that I actually enjoy and to be getting my body back into shape.

2) Cook more meals from scratch. Did you know that there’s daily recipes on the last few pages of the Metro News? And that the newspaper is free? Anytime I’m on the LRT, I pick up a copy. Last Monday, I saw a recipe in the Metro News for grilled chicken burgers and was inspired to make them that evening. They were easy to prepare and super healthy. Without fail, when I’m eating better, I’m feeling better.

3) Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. This one is tough. Especially for a night owl like me. But honestly, it is the reason behind half of my struggles. I know a good night’s sleep is key to a productive day and a strong state of mind. Also, as someone who suffers from a chronic illness, I know how important sleep is to my health.

4) Stop feeling guilty about saying “no.” I love my friends and family, but sometimes I just need to chill at home with a bag of chips and my favourite TV show. When you lead a busy life, it’s hard to please everyone, but I think it’s essential to carve out some time for yourself, even if it means giving up a fun night of socializing.

5) Don’t let work consume me. I’m very career-driven and find it incredibly difficult to achieve work-life balance. Part of that is my strong work ethic and the other part is anxiety from past experience. I’m scared that if I drop the ball (work-wise) for even a moment, I may not have a job to come back to the next day. What I’ve come to realize is that you can’t control everything, and that those other aspects of life, within your control, deserve just as much, if not more, attention than your job.

6) Leave my phone alone. It’s not necessary to pull out your cellphone when you’re out for coffee with a friend. Or out for dinner with your husband. Or at a birthday party for your niece or nephew. I’ve been trying to make it a goal to leave my phone alone when I’m out anywhere in public. Really, I should only be using it for emergencies. It’s hard to enjoy your life when you’re always plugged into a piece of technology.

So there you have it: my little action plan for self improvement. I figure if I document it, I have to follow through. And at the end of the day, it’s not at all selfish or wrong to to put “you” first.

Self improvement

It’s All Relative

About a month ago, I made a quick stop to Remedy Café downtown to grab some lunch. The first thing I noticed was how busy it was despite it’s small size, and that it’s clearly a popular place to eat.

The first thing the lady behind me in line noticed was a family of three (husband, wife and baby) seated in the restaurant. In fact, it caught her eye to the extent that she said to me: “Doesn’t that family look just perfect?”

Yes, the husband and wife were attractive. And indeed, their baby was well-behaved. But aside from those two factors, there was nothing particularly remarkable about them.

I responded to the lady’s question with a nod, but inside I was thinking: since when did being married and having a family become the ideal? And how can you possibly know what’s “perfect” just by looking at it?

Don’t get me wrong, I love being married. I can honestly say it has brought me happiness and fulfillment I had never known before. But that’s not to say I didn’t value my time as a single woman—the specific kind of freedom and independence that comes with it. And I adore kids. Every day that passes, my maternal instincts grow stronger.

That being said, I think too many people search for their “ideal” and don’t appreciate the current phase of life they’re in. Sometimes I wonder: does anyone ever look at me through rose-coloured glasses and think, “Hey, that girl’s life is pretty damn awesome.”

Just over the long weekend, I caught a plane (by myself) to New York to visit my friend. One of the best trips I’ve taken in awhile! If I didn’t have a laid-back husband and a kid-free household, that trip simply wouldn’t have been possible. Every other weekend, John and I have full control over our schedules and what we want to do with our time. We can drink a bit too much one night, and sleep in far too late the next morning. Again, the kind of behaviours that wouldn’t be possible if we had kids.

Personally, I’m soaking in all the great moments and luxuries I have with my husband before we take that next big step of starting a family. I also look back fondly on my past (before I was even married) and appreciate how far I’ve come over the years.

But we’re all guilty of it. That is, looking at others and comparing lives. This is especially true when we’re feeling down about our own. To me though, it’s all relative. A great life should be defined by you only, and it’s much easier to do when you’re focused on yourself rather than a superficial view of life you’ve created for someone else.

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Too Good

About a month ago, John and I moved into a beautiful house, far beyond our wildest dreams—the type of house we’re both accustomed to seeing and touching, but not having.

It takes me back to my days working as a hostess for Landmark Homes. Every shift, I would be tantalized by the stunning displays of architecture, furniture and decor in front of me. The moment I would step into a showhome, I would feel as though I was in a designer clothing store way out of my league.

Fast forward to March 2013, and there I was with John, sitting on the other side of the sales desk, making the most important purchase of my life. In the same way I thought I would never get married, I also never expected to have enough money or patience to buy a new house. Even now, I’m still feeling the excitement and disbelief that comes with owning your first piece of property and home.

So far, our house has brought us nothing but joy. We hear faint sounds of traffic at night rather than police sirens and drunken yelling. We smell fresh and new instead of old and musty. We have an entire basement for our cats to play in rather than a cramped apartment. Overall, we’ve been really happy with the house, and no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I always look forward to coming home.

That being said, I’ve also been feeling a bit guilty. Especially now, around the holiday season, I can’t help but think of the less fortunate who don’t even have a roof over their heads. Some questions that come to mind are: “What on earth did I do to deserve such a nice home? Am I too materialistic for making it a priority? 

The pessimist in me also thinks that it’s too good to be true—that because I now own a wonderful home, I’m going to be riddled with bad luck. It doesn’t help that I lost my previous job a few months ago—right before I was about to start paying a mortgage.

I suppose I should stop overthinking it and just be proud of what John and I have worked tirelessly to have. There’s no such thing as too good, too perfect or too much if you’ve been rewarded entirely based on your efforts.

I’d like to toast to my friends and family who, like me, are blessed with health, happiness, and of course, good fortune.

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Moving On

You know that gross curl you get in the pit of your stomach when you’ve been through a really bad break-up? That anxiety that seems to last for days on end? Yeah. That’s how I’m feeling at the moment.

Except, the difference is that it has nothing to do with my husband. In fact, his overwhelming love and support, along with that of my close friends and family, is about the only thing that’s keeping me going.

It’s hard to notice you’re in a toxic relationship, of any kind, until you’ve left it. And it’s even more difficult to realize that you’re unhappy until you’ve been freed from that person who has been making you so miserable.

The signs have been there all along. For months, all I’ve been talking about (indirectly) is this person, and how frustrated I’ve been feeling as a result of our interactions. Yet, I’ve tried to hold onto something that clearly wasn’t working, and that was causing me unhealthy and unwarranted amounts of stress.

At the end of the day, your worth should never be defined by another person, place or thing. You should be strong enough on the inside to ward off any darts that get thrown your way. You should accept no less than the full respect you deserve.  And you should be able to move on, when you know there is something or someone far better for you out there.

So, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m moving on. As impossible as it seems, I’m picking up the broken pieces and putting them back together. Here’s my toast to new beginnings, and to making life the best it can be.

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Insomnia

This past week, for the first time ever, I’ve suffered from true insomnia. And wow, do I ever sympathize with those who experience it on a regular basis.

I honestly don’t know how I’ve been able to function since Monday, but I’ve felt like a walking zombie with a nagging headache. And let me tell you, the lack of sleep certainly hasn’t done me any favours for my work, relationships and overall health.

You don’t realize how much sleep affects your life until you’re not getting enough of it. According to WebMD, insomnia is a disorder characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep.

In my case, I would get jolted awake, like clockwork, every night at 4 am — which in my opinion, is the worst possible time to get disrupted in your sleep (too late to go to bed, yet too early to stay awake). The following morning, I would wake up with dull pains in my head and an intense hunger for anything terrible for me (ex: greasy or fattening foods, sugar or coffee). Then, to make matters worse, I would be grumpier than a bear by evening, which forced me to take naps, resulting in a vicious cycle of insomnia all over again.

Aside from those issues, the changes I noticed most from my lack of sleep were the ones that affected my behaviour. Like every married couple, John and I have  occasional disagreements, some more heated than others. But yesterday, I picked an especially bad fight (over computer problems, of all things!) that I’m 100% certain was caused by my sleep-deprived lack of patience.

Only today, did I realize how irrational I was being, and how easy it is for a small argument to spiral out of control when you haven’t been sleeping well. Along with my irritability, I haven’t been able to concentrate on any sort of project or chore of value. At work, I’ve had to push myself harder than ever to complete the simplest of tasks, and at home, I’ve had to put off doing things that are a regular part of my regular routine, such as dishes and laundry.

At the very least, I’ve tried to take actions, within my control, to help me get a better sleep. I’ve left windows open to let in fresh, cold air. I’ve changed my sheets from silky ones to a cotton pair that I thought would be more comfortable. I’ve gone to bed earlier than ever before.

And yes, by last night, my sleep patterns finally started to improve — but there’s no guarantee those measures will work again, or that I won’t suffer from insomnia in the future. Also, sleep-aids/medications, to me, are always a last resort.

To all my friends and family: what do you do to not only get to sleep, but stay asleep until morning?

Insomnia

Getting Along

Sometimes, I forget how lucky I am to be a part of a family that gets along. It seems like such a simple and normal concept, and it’s not something I think of often (because it’s always been a given), but tonight, I was painfully reminded of just how fortunate I am.

How many people can say that they spend every Sunday night visiting with their parents? And not because they are forced to, but because they want to.

How many people willingly go on trips, all over the world, with their siblings? And not because it’s a convenient option, but because there’s genuine companionship and enjoyment of each other’s company.

And how many people know that, no matter what challenges life brings their way, their family will be there to love and support them unconditionally?

No, my family is not perfect. I’m pretty sure such a thing does not exist. But at the end of the day, I can say with complete honesty that we respect one another. And that there is no dispute more important than keeping us together.

I hope ten years down the road when my parents are starting to get older, my sisters are continuing to build their careers and families and I’m heading off in my own direction with my husband, that my family will still remain as close.

Not necessarily by physical distance, but by the type of bond that is near impossible to break.

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