A shared agreement to keep going


Photo by Jamie Taylor on Unsplash

I’ve always loved friends.

As a kid, my first thought each day was wondering who I’d call to come over and play (or “hang out” when I decided I was too old to play).

I was shy, but made friends easily. I had neighbourhood friends, school friends, friends from soccer and dance and gymnastics. I played with my mom’s friends’ kids, my dad’s coworkers’ kids and my brother’s friends’ older sisters. I saw any girl as a potential friend.

In high school, my group of friends was my everything. There were nine of us who spent waking (and sleeping) hours together – at school, playing euchre, renting videos, swimming, talking, gossiping, crying, laughing…figuring out boys and the future and life together. 20 years later, these girls are still very present in my life.

But I always thought friends were a thing kids and young people have. I thought I would do life with my friends until I had a husband and kids to do life with. It’s not that I didn’t think I’d have friends when I was married, but they’d be more of a frill than a foundation.

That Lindsay also thought she’d be married with kids by the time she was 34. She’s not.

And it’s okay. In fact, it’s kind of cool. Sure, marriage and kids is something I wish for and wonder about…but right now, my life is deeply full and meaningful. And that’s all because of high-stakes friendships.

“I wasn’t after low-stakes friendships or people who felt safe to hang out with while I regrouped and tried to figure out the marriage thing. I wanted my friends to consider me as necessary as they had become to me. I wanted them to know that these were long-term relationships and that I’d be there for them, too, in any way they might want. The emails, texts, weeknight dates and weekend outings, secrets, jokes, and tears all rolled into a big ball, giving my female friendships weight and importance that they’d never had before in my life.” – Kayleen Schaefer, Text Me When You Get Home

I read Kayleen’s book while on vacation (with girlfriends, appropriately) earlier this year. It completely validated my desire to invest in and elevate the friendships in my life.

“[A friendship] was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going.” –Hanya Yanagihara, quoted by Kayleen Schaefer

The shared agreement to keep going.

This is what makes friendships uniquely fragile. They only keep going because both people want to keep going. That’s it. There really isn’t anything else on the table to keep both of you sitting at it. In reality, you can walk away from a friendship without much consequence.

We can’t do that in a marriage or romantic relationship. We can’t do that in work relationship. We certainly can’t do that in a family relationship. Yes, we may walk away from all these relationships, often for very real and good reasons. But we also stay in these relationships because walking away is too complicated and painful, and the consequences are too much to face.

I would argue this isn’t the case in a friendship…because it’s happened to me. I had a very close friend who walked away from our friendship without an explanation. She simply didn’t share the agreement to keep the friendship going, so it ended. As much as I tried to reach out, I eventually had to respect her decision. No matter how much it hurt, or how guilty, rejected or confused I felt. That shared agreement wasn’t there anymore, and I couldn’t force it. So I had to accept it.

I’ve learned that this shared agreement is fragile. It is so valuable, but can shatter quickly and without much fanfare. So I hold on tight to the friends that do share the agreement to keep going…

They are my spontaneous adventurers.

They are my quiet moments.

They are my difficult conversations in the pursuit of deeper connection.

They are my encouragers and my safe places.

They are my check-ins and rememberers.

They are my inside jokes and laughing to the point of tears.

They are my listeners.

They are my belonging just as I am.

And I hope, I try, to be these things to them.

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Hurry and slow


Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash

As a kid, I never did anything quickly.

I was born a month past my due date.

I didn’t learn to walk until I was almost 18-months old.

And once I learned to walk, I still took my time. I have distinct memories of my mom hurrying me along by saying “quick like a bunny.”

In high school, I still hadn’t figured out how to hurry. My friends mercilessly and lovingly teased me for my sauntering pace…taking in everything around me as they all rushed to wherever we were going next.

My natural tendency is to move slow. But our world is not conducive to slow, so slowly, I became a hurrier.

Now I pack too much into most days. I forget things and have to retrace my steps which is inefficient and irritating. I’m very familiar with the moment I switch from “I have so much time” to “holy cow I’m going to be late”. I get annoyed when other people get onto my elevator and press floors that I don’t need to go to. I’ve come to value efficiency – I want to get things done quickly and with minimal extra steps.

I recently listened to a podcast from the Meeting House with guest speaker John Mark Comer. He talked about ruthlessly eliminating hurry from our lives. He talked about the poison that hurry seeps onto our lives, our relationships, our creativity. It was so incredibly convicting, I wanted to write about it.

I’m writing this on a Sunday. This morning, I was incredibly efficient. I went to the grocery store before church. After church, I ran some errands before coming home to put dinner in a slow cooker. By noon, my only obligations for the day were complete, so I decided to drive to Starbucks to do some writing. On my way down to my car, the elevator stopped on the 11th floor and that familiar twinge of elevator annoyance bubbled up.

An older lady got on and pressed the “G” button, which meant one more stop before I would get to my floor. Even more annoying.

Then to my surprise, she apologized.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m going to delay you.”

Could she read my mind? Or was my for-no-reason annoyance actually filling up the elevator?

And really, she was going to delay me from…what? Getting to Starbucks to write away the afternoon? Because the 30-second delay was going to make a huge difference to the rest of my day? No, not even a little bit.

I sighed.

“Please don’t apologize,” I told her. “I’m not in a hurry, and I needed to be reminded of that.”

She smiled knowingly. Like she knew she actually didn’t need to apologize for getting on the elevator from the floor she lived on, and off on the floor she was going to. Like she knew that her apology was just to make a point. A point that I really needed to hear.

I feel like I’m so used to being in a hurry, that when I’m not, I still go through the motions and emotions like I am. I run a yellow light. I pass the car moving too slowly. I get annoyed at the couple using coupons for every other item in their grocery cart. Because I think I have things to do, because I think I’m busy.

“It’s easy to confuse a lot of activity for a purposeful life.” – Bob Goff

This quote kicked me in the stomach when I read it. Isn’t it true? Don’t we equate activity with purpose? We assume that when we’re busy, it means we’re important. And we want to be important, so we find ways to be busy.

And I think making ourselves busy is so much easier than digging deep to find our purpose.

But I don’t want to live a life full of activity, but empty of purpose.

I think I do that by choosing to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life.  I need to figure out the difference between efficiency and hurry, and the difference between activity and purpose.

I’m working on it.

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Vacation brain in real life

I haven’t posted anything on this blog in four months. I swore I’d never let that happen. For almost four years, it didn’t.

It’s not that I didn’t have things to write about in those four months. A lot happened.

I became an aunt and am completely smitten by my sweet baby niece. Even three months in, I see the sacredness of the niece/aunt relationship.

I’ve read a few books that I can’t stop talking about, books that have made me examine my habits and relationships.

I just wrapped up a work project that consumed every part of me and stretched me in surprising ways.

I could’ve written about these things and more. It would’ve been so good for me to explore these topics in a blog post, and maybe they would’ve been helpful for other people too.

But I just couldn’t open the laptop to write about them. Though I did start a few posts, I convinced myself they were self-serving or boring or that I had no right writing about these things. Sometimes the feelings were too much to put to words. Sometimes I felt completely insecure about what people would think, especially about things that felt really raw to me.

So I distracted myself. I became a consumer instead of a creator. It was easier for so many reasons.

I did all the things I could do instead of writing, all the things I’ve said I shouldn’t do on this very blog. I watched TV, I scrolled through social media. I went to the gym, put in extra hours at work, and met up with friends.

But then I hit pause.


I went to Cuba. Where the internet sucks and the TV sucks. And I couldn’t go to the gym or work, and the friends I was with were busy reading or people-watching or napping to constantly entertain and distract me.

So I read a lot. And I underlined and took photos of phrases and concepts and sections that made my eyes linger. I typed notes on my phone, my fingers trying to catch up to the thoughts in my brain.

I took away all the distractions, and the desire to create, to write, tapped me on the shoulder and said “remember me?”. I let myself get inspired and my brain began processing through story and blog posts.

I like my brain when I’m on vacation. Apparently my creativity sweet spot is when there are no obligations, no reasons to rush, no schedules. No distractions.

But that’s the opposite of my non-Cuba reality (though, for the record, I could definitely live that reality long-term).

So how do I replicate that in my Canadian, distraction-filled reality? How do I train vacation brain to activate in real life?

I think I go back to all the things I wrote about a few years ago – that I have to be disciplined and find a writing routine. That I have to be louder than the (incredibly loud) voices in my head that tell me I’m terrible at this and that this is self-serving and that I have no right to write publicly.

And I need accountability. So I’m posting this for that reason too. I’ve put it out there, now I need to do it.

Here’s to making room for vacation brain in a real-life world.

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Butterflies aren’t always sexy

When I first started thinking about choosing butterflies—choosing things that take me out of my comfort zone and give me butterflies—I thought about things that were exciting and inspiring. Travelling the world, volunteering in an exciting way, quitting a job to pursue a passion.

Things that would make others stop and say “wow”. Things that would be hard, but worth it. Things that would make me feel bold and brave and proud.

These were sexy butterflies.


Photo by Nathan Shipps on Unsplash

But sometimes, choosing butterflies means doing something you really don’t want to do, something that is the opposite of everything you feel capable of doing. Something that forces you to dig up those deep-rooted roadblocks that you’ve been doing a great job of driving around for such a long time.

That happened to me last week.

I had to be the person to deliver some hard news. And in turn, that meant I had to be the person to handle the backlash.

This was hard for me for a few reasons.

  1. I hate confrontation. Want me to do something I don’t want to do? Raise your voice, just a little, and I’ll concede.
  2. I am a chronic people pleaser. I’ll tell you the dress looks great, or very politely tip-toe around the fact that maybe, possibly, there’s a dress that would look so much better than this one, but if you really like it, then it’s beautiful and you should wear it. (Sorry to anyone that’s reading this and has had this conversation with me)
  3. I don’t do well in reactive situations. I want to be thoughtful and strategic and put in a lot of work to plan and execute. I have a hard time on my feet, reacting in the moment.
  4. I have an overwhelming fear of making a really big mistake.

This task forced me to face these issues head on.

I would probably be yelled at.

I wouldn’t be able to please anyone because there was no way around this hard news.

I would be reacting in every single interaction.

There was the possibility I’d make a big mistake when I was in reacting-mode.

These were butterflies I’d have to face and nothing about it was exciting, inspiring or remotely sexy.

I could’ve said no. I could’ve said, “I’m not doing this.” But that wouldn’t have been professional or a team player. So I chose these hard, anxiety-ridden, unsexy butterflies.

And because this is what I do, I told people that this was stressing me out. I was open about the struggle. And people listened and spoke into that. They helped me see the big picture and how this fit into it.

(I can’t say this enough: don’t hide your struggle. Tell people, or at least someone, when you’re struggling.)

So we shared the hard news and the backlash ensued. And it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be…at least it hasn’t gotten there yet. This is likely due to the fact that I was convinced this was the worst thing that I could possibly have to do. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t, and it won’t be). So with that mindset going in, anything would be better. It also wasn’t as bad because I was prepared as I could be, and I was well supported.

And how do I feel now? Happy that I had the opportunity to do this and grow? Proud of myself? Seeing the bigger picture and the lesson learned? Ready to tackle this again?

Nope. But I am okay.

I still would’ve preferred to have not had this responsibility. I don’t feel as though I’ve grown. I’m certainly not ready to tackle it again.

Maybe that’s because I’m actually not really finished with it, so I’m not quite ready to say I’m on the other side of it. And the anxious anticipation is still fresh in my mind.

But maybe it’s also because choosing butterflies can be painful and those lessons take a long time to be uncovered and digested.

It’s not always sexy.

But I have to believe that, in some way, it’s always worth it.

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Sejal is special

I have no idea if I should be posting this. I have no idea if it’s for you or for me (…it’s for me). I don’t have an objective here or a lesson I’m learning. It’s not even really about choosing butterflies. But it’s late and I’m sad and I’m processing. So here it goes.

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 6.30.17 AM

Photo by Sejal (Instagram), taken March 30, 2017

“She’s gone.”

That’s what I heard when I came around the corner, after being pulled out of a meeting. Those are the words that will always remind me of that day, that moment.

Sejal was gone.

This isn’t how it was supposed to go.

Her husband still needs her. Her incredible kids still need her. Her parents still need her. We, her friends, still need her. We’re not done with her.

But cancer doesn’t care.

Sejal was special. I think that gets said a lot when someone dies, but with Sejal, it’s different. It’s not just a cliché or a phrase we use because we don’t know what else to say.

Sejal was special.

Sejal was introspective. She thought a lot and she thought deeply. She read and processed and shared what she was reading and processing. She loved deep conversations. Her and I had different views on a lot of what we both read and processed, with just enough overlap to have a starting place. Generally I’d shy away from deep conversations with someone who viewed the world as differently as her and I did, but never with Sejal. Sejal wanted to hear what I thought just as much as she wanted to share what she thought. We never debated (shocking if you knew us both…and by that, I mean not shocking at all), we listened and respected each other’s views and backgrounds, and always managed to find a common ground and a deeper appreciation for each other.

Sejal was professional and respectful. Except for the one time that she wasn’t after she was diagnosed and really didn’t care anymore. Maybe this makes me a horrible person, but that made me love her even more.

Sejal was an All-Star Mom. I know all moms are all-stars, but Sejal was an All-Star. Her kids are driven, kind, respectful, funny, thoughtful, creative and resilient. At one of our visits, they stayed in the room with the adults for hours, showing us artwork from school, playing musical instruments they were learning, telling us story after story after story. Sejal sat quietly and watched. Sometimes encouraging them to share more, sometimes encouraging them to leave so she could have girlfriend time. More than anything, my heart breaks that cancer has taken her away from them.

Sejal worked hard. She was driven and did her work well. She was instrumental in a giant, multi-year project, and was sad when she realized she wouldn’t see the project through – mostly because Sejal finishes what she starts. I’m so sad she’s not going to be here to see the fruit of her hard work.

Sejal loved beauty. She loved the beauty in nature, especially. She loved clouds – her Instagram feed is pretty much just pictures of family and clouds. I learned after she was diagnosed that she painted. She made beautiful artwork. She loved creativity and was a big reason why I finally read Big Magic, which changed everything for me.

Sejal was brave. Mostly because she wanted to be, and in the last seven months because she needed to be. She read this blog whenever I posted something, and would make a point to chat about what I wrote and what she thought. We talked a lot about choosing butterflies and doing brave things.

Sejal was passionate, strong in her convictions, she was always working on herself, to be the best version of Sejal for her family.

I really could go on. And I’m sure there are people reading this that would have so much to add, and please do. Because Sejal was so many things, and it’s good to talk about those things.

It’s so weird to me that just days ago, Sejal was “is” not “was”. Just days ago, I’d say “Sejal is special. She is introspective and is professional and is an All-Star Mom”. And now it’s was. I hate that.

I’m not sure how to wrap this up. I’m not sure what else to say. When I took the class that started this blog, we were supposed to always have a take away for the reader. I have nothing. Maybe in a few weeks or months, but not today. Today I’m just sad.

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I take a village

It had been nearly five years since I felt that way.

I sat paralyzed in front of my computer. The email notification box fading in and out over and over, my phone ringing, people scurrying outside my door. My to-do list wasn’t so much a checkable list, but a series of problems I didn’t know how to capture on paper, let alone solve. My thoughts raced faster than I could ever catch them.

Chaos swirled around me and inside me. And all I could do was stare at my computer. Sitting very still felt like the only way to restore balance.

I called my mom that night and sobbed. I told her that I couldn’t do this, that I was bad at my job. I had an overwhelming fear that I’d make some kind of massive mistake. After all, the last time I felt this way, I made a mistake that I thought would lose me my job.

She told me that I was capable and could do anything – just as any good mother would. I told her to stop. To stop saying I was capable, because I wasn’t and I didn’t want to hear that I was. And then she cried, and I cried harder, and…well…it wasn’t good.

This was anxiety. Not the anxiety that we loosely throw around when we try to make a point. This was crushing, confusing, overwhelming, panicky anxiety. It stopped me from sleeping and from eating. It made me cry on the phone, in the office, in church, at the grocery store, and in the car a lot. It made simple tasks feel like mountains. It told me I was incapable, that I would make mistakes, and to just give up because I wasn’t providing any value anyway.

Thankfully, the project that was causing this reaction was just that – a project. With an end. I just had to get there. Having felt this way before, I knew that once I got to the finish line, I’d be okay. But I knew I couldn’t get to that finish line on my own.

Because I take a village.


Here’s the thing. When I told my people I was struggling, they wanted to help. They didn’t like seeing me upset, they wanted to make it better.

So I was honest. I was honest about everything that was happening and how my reaction to this project wasn’t “it’s stressful”, but “holy crap I can’t stop crying, and this is not normal, and I’m really not okay.”

And whenever I did that, I was lifted up.

Friends at work saw what was happening first-hand, and also understood the intensity of the entire situation. They found a balance between checking in and giving space to tackle this. And they made me laugh at just the right moments.

One friend prayed with me and gave me concrete ways to “cast my burdens on God” (1 Peter 5:7). She knew that’s what I needed – practical ways to invite God into this pain, while gently challenging me and encouraging me along the way.

Friends who have experienced anxiety gave me coping mechanisms – deep breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques.

My mom forgave me for making her cry, and let me vent at the end of the hard days. My cousin stopped her busy life when I called or stopped in, I felt like her only priority in those moments.

Whenever a friend asked how I was, I was honest: I’m not good, I’m struggling, but it will be over soon.

And because I was honest, my people followed up. As we got closer to the end, and the intensity was piquing, I would check my phone and there’d be a list of encouraging text messages. It was the most beautiful thing to see in those crazy moments.

I take a village.

We all take a village.

It’s okay to say you can’t do this alone. It’s okay to say you’re struggling. It’s okay to say you’re not okay.

Your village will surprise you. Your village loves you.

Let them surprise you. Let them love you.

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Today was a good day and here’s why

It’s almost midnight on a Sunday, and usually I am sound asleep right now.

But not after the Tonys.

After I watch the Tonys, I’m wired. I’m excited and happy and I have so many thoughts and feelings and emotions, and all I want to do is gush.

So bear with me…here goes.

For the first time ever, I had seen not one, not two, but three of the four nominees for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book – which all happened to be the same four shows this year. So watching the Tonys this year, I actually had opinions and thoughts based on more than just YouTube clips.

And that made it So. Much. Fun.


Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

I waited in the TKTS line in the pouring rain during spring break (#badtiming) to get tickets to see Sara Bareilles in Waitress. But it sold out before I got to the front of the line. So as a runner-up, we got tickets to Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.

I honestly can’t tell you the plotline. But I can tell you it was an EXPERIENCE. There were people dancing on tables above my head in the balcony while playing fiddles. An ensemble member threw me a perogy and an egg shaker. I didn’t know where to look because there was something happening everywhere. Some of the audience sat on the stage, some got brought into the show. Josh Grobin sang and played the accordion and the piano. I loved the music and the acting and the dancing, and just the whole thing. But I seriously have no idea what it was about. And I’m okay with that.

It won the Tony for Best Set and Best Lighting, and I totally understand why.


Come From Away, Mirvish Productions

I got to see Come From Away twice when it was in Toronto. To say I loved it is an understatement. Its message of kindness and hospitality and resilience was so…big. I was afraid this baby bird of a show wouldn’t be embraced by the Broadway audience like it was embraced in Toronto. It’s so incredibly Canadian and so different than anything else I had seen.

I’ve never been more happy to be wrong. I was really wrong.

Broadway people I admire started sharing how amazing it was. The New York Times raved about it. It was nominated for everything. I have no right to be proud of this show, but I am SO proud of this show.

And although it only won Best Direction (but in a super tough category this year!), the fact that it was nominated and was neck and neck with the powerhouse musical that did win (more on that later), is so much more than this show had initially hoped for. And that’s a big deal.


Dear Evan Hansen

And Dear Evan Hansen. Oh this show. I actually wrote a really long, gushing, winding blog post right after I saw it (kind of like this one), but didn’t post it because I didn’t feel there were any words I could write that would do it justice.

But tonight, after watching the show win almost every major Tony Award, all I can say is this:

I feel so lucky to know just how well deserved these awards are.

Rachel Bay Jones tore my heart out in this show. So Big/So Small was one of the most painfully beautiful, cathartic performances I have seen. I didn’t know what to do with those emotions.

Pasek and Paul’s score is new and smart and fun and painful and oh-so-layered. I exerted more self-control than I knew I was capable of, and only listened to three of the 14 songs on the cast recording before seeing the show. I was so grateful that I got to hear the songs for the first time on the stage. And I now have the album memorized.

And Ben Platt. I walked in having read the seemingly hyperbolic accolades he had received – just Google his name and you’ll see. But there was no exaggeration in these reviews. He deserved every single one. As much as I tried to stay in the moment as I watched this show, my mind kept going to “how is he doing this??” And he’s only 23. Twenty-three. Good grief.

Tony season is always fun. It’s fun to see the thing I love so dearly getting wider coverage. But this was definitely a special year.

Yet again, I feel so grateful to have found something that brings me so much joy.

By the way, it’s also so fun to have a Broadway Best Friend Forever (a BBFF, if you will), who is just as nuts about all this as I am. Lyndsay and I have made annual pilgrimages to NYC to see shows for the past few years. We trade YouTube clips, articles, tweets and jokes that no one else in our world appreciates more than each other. Watching the Tonys with her is one of my favourite traditions.


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My relationship with “should”


I have a complicated relationship with “should”

Recently, someone told me to remove that word from my vocabulary. It’s a word that our “self-critic” uses to judge ourselves.

I should eat better.

I should invite that person over.

I should say hi to that person I kind of know sitting at the other end of the coffee shop (which is happening as I write this).

I should work more, volunteer more, exercise more, read more.

I should feel more empathetic, more passionate, braver.

The list of things I should do or feel is long, and never exhaustive. It would never end if I didn’t consciously make myself stop adding to it.

I should stop making that list.

So I get what she was saying – the list can make us crazy. It can make us feel guilty and down on ourselves. We shouldn’t be doing things because we think we should do them, we should do them because we want to do them. The drive should be more than obligation, it should be a deep desire or need to do.

And there’s the “should” again…this is making my head hurt.

But actually…I’m not sure that I agree. I’m not sure it’s realistic. I’m not sure we can live in a world where we only do the things we want to do, or only do things because of a deep desire or need.

A few months ago, a coworker’s father-in-law passed away. Myself and another coworker went to the funeral. Not because we wanted to (does anyone ever want to go to a funeral?), but because we felt we should. And the second she saw us sitting in the pews, she smiled and teared up. She was there to support her husband, her son and her in-laws, but those two friends in the back? They were there to support her. No one else. She knew that, and that felt awesome.

I have another friend who is sick. She has asked us to call her…not just text her. So we do. And it’s hard every time. I’m not a phone person, and it’s extra hard to be a phone person when you’re on the phone with someone who is facing really hard things. But I call her because I should. And each time, it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing when we laugh and tell each other about our days. And it’s even a blessing when it’s hard and we both just cry on our ends of the phone. I call her because I should, and each time I’m grateful that I did.

I’ve gone to parties because “I should go” and met wonderful people. I’ve gone on runs because “I should exercise” and felt strong and healthy afterwards. I’ve said no to the fries and yes to the salad because “I should eat better” and I’m proud of myself when my meal comes.

We don’t live in an entitled world where we get to do what we want. We need to do things out of obligation. That’s just how this works.

But those “should obligations” that lead to meaningful experiences? Maybe they do actually come from a deep desire.

I want my friends to feel supported and loved. I want to meet wonderful people, and feel strong and healthy, and be proud of the decisions I make.

Those are deep desires that appear as should obligations.

I’m still not sure where I land with all this. Honestly? I posted this because I hadn’t posted anything in awhile and thought that I should. So I did.


I have a complicated relationship with should.

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Boxes, labels and shelves


My condo is usually at least a little bit messy. Right now, two empty water glasses sit on the end table beside my couch amongst nail polish bottles, earbuds and a plate from last night’s dinner. My kitchen counter is evidence of a busy week…a mix of lunch containers, shopping bags, mail and dishes sprawl across it. All the shoes I’ve worn this week messily line the hallway in front of my door.

I’ll clean it up, but for the most part, a little bit of mess doesn’t bother me (sorry mom). I’ve never been a neat and tidy kind of girl. As much as I try, the “a place for everything and everything in its place” lifestyle is not my MO, and I’m okay with that.

But mentally? The way I process and figure out the world? I desperately want “a place for everything and everything in its place”. I want to put concepts and experiences and situations in a box, carefully stick a label on them, and place them on the shelf next to similar concepts, experiences and situations. I want to keep a log of all the boxes and cross-reference them.

However, much to my dismay, this isn’t how it works.

I can’t have a shelf for happy experiences and another for sad experiences. Because happy experiences can have twinges of sad, and sad can have twinges of happy.

My friend’s husband died five years ago. It was horrible and heart wrenching and one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard. But when she was ready to date again, we bonded over being in the trenches of online dating, of awkward first date stories, of balancing loneliness with independence. We became really close friends.

Something really good came out of something really bad. It doesn’t mean I’m happy the sad thing happened – it still breaks my heart and I wish it didn’t happen. But I’m so happy for the friendship that developed in the years since he died. Those two opposite feelings can exist in the same box. It’s taken me a long time to reconcile that and package them together, and I’m still not sure how to label them or what shelf to put it on. But that’s okay. Maybe that box can be on the floor, with items spilling out of it. Something I trip over and, depending on the day, smile or cry when I do.

I also can’t have a shelf for “vital” and another for “Not vital”. Because sometimes what makes something vital is the fact that it isn’t vital at all.

Like writing or our own form of creativity. For me, writing isn’t vital. I will certainly still be healthy and be able to pay my bills if I didn’t make time for writing. But the fact that it’s not a vital part of my life makes me want to do it all that more. Making space for things that aren’t vital is actually a vital thing to do.

And this makes my head spin.

But if I try to put the writing box onto a “vital” shelf or a “not vital” shelf, it would keep moving back and forth. Because it’s not vital, it becomes vital. (I’ve now said “vital” so much, I’m not sure it’s a word anymore…)

I think I need my mental space to take a lesson from my physical space. I think I need to be okay with a little bit of mental mess. Where things don’t necessarily have a place, and if they do, they’re rarely in them. Where things are on the floor, out of boxes and don’t spend a lot of time on shelves. And where I’m okay with this.

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What family looks like


Recently, I was talking about the idea of “family” with two friends who were roommates. Both women were single. But if one of them met someone and got married, the other would move out.

“But why? Why couldn’t we keep living together?” Someone said. We played around with that concept for a while. It would certainly involve upfront communication and some ground rules, but if it works for those involved, why not? It’s certainly not conventional, but is that enough of a reason to shut the door on the idea?

“I think we need to use some imagination when it comes to what family looks like,” one of them wisely said.

I recently came across this CBC article about a brand new kind of family that recently set a precedent in Canada. A single woman found a sperm donor and got pregnant. Her best friend offered to be her birthing coach, and quickly fell in love with this child – who was born with profound special needs. Long story short, both friends now have equal legal parenting rights of this child.

Two straight friends who are not in a romantic relationship with each other have equal legal parenting rights. #mindblown

“I think we need to use some imagination when it comes to what family looks like.”

I had always assumed I would meet a nice boy, we would get married, and we would have children. But as I’ve recently officially entered mid-30’s territory, I’m starting to use my imagination when it comes to what my future family might look like.

Maybe I’ll still meet the nice boy and we’ll have kids.

Maybe I’ll meet a nice boy who already has kids and I’ll embrace being a stepmom.

Maybe I’ll meet a nice boy and we’ll adopt kids.

Maybe I won’t meet a nice boy and I’ll still adopt kids.

Maybe I won’t meet a nice boy, and instead of having my own kids, I’ll keep being a fun aunt to the various kids in my life. Which are some of my most treasured relationships right now.

Maybe there’s a whole other possibility that I haven’t even dreamt up yet.

And while I sometimes mourn the idea of a “traditional family” in my own life (though it could still happen, I know that), I’m slowly becoming okay, if not a little excited, about how a non-traditional family might exist in my future.

We just need to use a little imagination when it comes to what family might look like.

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