Connecting The Dots

Discussing the threads of my own passions which have culminated in my work as coach, mentor, presenter in my own business.

Be all I'm not

Mary Johnson - Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday is an extra special reflection time for me. I have some questions I pose to myself at the end of each week to capture the essence of what the week has been. Every once in a while there's a loud Bingo! While doing a stream of consciousness writing about 'My Joyful Life', I wrote to be all I am followed by to be all I am not. I stopped (not what you are supposed to do with this type of writing). It hit me. Hard! I don't go near the things I am not! They are weaknesses, not 'positive', can pull you down. Focusing on them dooms you to be buried there in the mud fixing something that can't be fixed. Or so say the current wisdom. 

The Bingo was what if I embraced the things I am not as heartily as the things I am? Rather than skirt, hide or diminish them,  I loudly declare who I am not! It felt like a missing piece for me. That whole other side of me that is not acknowledged for fear of not showing up as positive, chipper, go-getter. Yet all I am not defines me too! So here goes.

I'm an Extrovert and tend to love being with people. Yes! And now a days many people are not to my liking, crowds energy sucking and it turns out I often rather like my own company.

Generally I see or work hard to see the good or other possibilities in situations. And sometimes what shows up is just wrong, stupid or just not my worth time or energy so I turn away and don't engage. Turn off inane TV, unless expecting an emergency turn off your phone when we are having coffee. Please don't ask me to 'Share if you agree'.  

I  care about my family. A lot! But sometimes it's just all too much and I don't care - for a time.

Been married 40 years and have been a pretty good partner for the most part. The other part - I can be a bitch!

This isn't the whole enchilada but you get my drift. Saying any of this isn't something I want to debate. This is, well, 'is' stuff. The world doesn't always show up nice and either do I. Declaring there's a cranky, don't care, disengaged gal in there sometimes means I have a chance to make peace with her. Something I have been loath to do. I'm thinking this might just be a good thing.   

   

   

Baby toes

Mary Johnson - Friday, November 02, 2018

What brings you joy? .....

This is a question Kathleen and I have on our Life Review for our women over 60 program (Offerings). When we invited the participants to complete the review questions before session 2, the difficulty of answering this particular question came up. It had struck a nerve. Almost everyone at first blush was having trouble naming what brings them joy. I too remember struggling with the whole concept of 'joy'. The picture in my mind's eye was of a one thing that propelled me into a constant state of happy. That somehow I was to be in a place of perpetual joy. Silly me! of course there is no such thing. Of course if someone has an idea of what would this, do share! 

So a good while back I sat myself down and redefined for myself what 'joy' was to me. It range from breath taking moments like driving through red maple country this fall to quiet times of deep contentment like at the end of a productive and meaningful day. Plus a whole lot of stuff in between! Watching the squirrels cavort in the green space behind my home, a juicy conversation with a friend, meeting someone with an unusual take on life, drinking a cup of coffee in the quiet of the morning. With this I understood it was an internal marker vs an external check mark. This too opened up possibilities! With this new context my noting of joyful activities and moments came easily. With some of this discussion the women were sent home with the 'homework' of coming up with their list of what gives them joy.  

Session 2 began with them putting up their ideas, one per stickie note, one a wall. The seed had been planted. Up went the beginning of a listing of wonderfully joyful experiences. One of the items took my breath away. Baby toes the stickie said. I was immediately transported to a time of wee, wee ones and the wonderful smell, feel and look of baby toes. In that moment it became a whole body experience. So incredibly simple and oh how joyful!      

Walls vs Doorways

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Last evening marked the first workshop in a 4 part workshop series on 'Life's Third Act' or life after 60 and our fourth offering of this program. Gathered was a group of 11 women transitioning, for the most part, away from traditional work and looking for 'what's next?'. Many expressed the frustration of feeling stuck. Most of our lives we look at life as a series of obstacles to be tackled, dominated, worked around, climbed over. Goals are set. We march out to accomplish them.

As we find ourselves contemplating our Third Act, the whole goal thing becomes blurry. We don't know what we want to achieve, do, contribute. We can't see beyond the walls, barriers we erect around our not knowing. Not knowing is darn uncomfortable! So we rail and fight against the wall in front of us. 'I want to know!' 'I hate being stuck.' 'Tell me what I am supposed to so.' The more we argue with the walls the more we feel stymied.

What if those walls in front of you aren't walls but doorways? That going over, under, around them is not what you are to do. You need to go through them. This means making friends or at least a truce with 'not knowing', 'feeling stuck', 'no goals', 'no clue'. A most uncomfortable place to be!! Perhaps THIS is what this time is about. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Not having all the answers. Allowing what's next to arrive without man handling the whole situation personally. Trusting 'Life' a little more. Oh this is not easy. Especially for high achieving, capable, competent women (and men). 

So consider befriending 'the wall' so that the doorway through appears. This quote showed up for me today. Bingo I say! It from one of my favourite human beings and coach extraordinaire Doug Silsbee.  

"Presence requires us to stay with even what is uncomfortable, so that it becomes tolerable and so that we can organize ourselves towards what matters, rather than away from discomfort." 

     

Excellent adventures

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, October 10, 2018
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As I sit looking out at the grey skies and trees blowing in a cold breeze, it's hard to adjust to being back home. This wonderful collection of friends finished up our 7 week sojourn across Canada last Friday. The photo is taken on our last evening spent in Kenaston SK. I have written a few blogs along the way (Our big old countryLayers of rhythms , Challenging timesTime flies ). Mostly there was too much to see and do to spent time in front of the computer. 

We finished our Canadian leg of the journey in Niagara Falls. The Falls were spectacular**. The city not so much. After Quebec City it seemed rather cheesy. Still all part of the adventure! It was also the last of our amazing weather. We took a day off before we hunkered down into some long driving days. Wine, reading in tank tops and shorts. Oh how I miss that sun!

Our trip along hi way 2 through Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota was like a travelogue. Virtually no traffic, amazing fall colours. The reds, oranges, yellows an oh did I mention the reds! We were blown away by the scenery. Drove along the north shores of Lake Michigan and the south shores of Lake Superior. Our lakes around here are quaint by comparison! People were great. Lots of mention of Trump. :) 

As we got closer to home the talk turned to just how quickly this time went, the amazing take aways each of us had, how much we enjoyed  the sights and each other while exploring them. One of the fellows said, 'There are very few we could do this with. Lots of folks who are fun for a night or two. But we just travel so well together.' It's true! 

One night I realized we have been having 'Excellent adventures' that go back to nurse's training. That was where it began - excellent adventure #1. Then our first jobs after graduation were in Prince George B.C together. #2. We backpacked around Europe together. That's #3. Then came marriage and babies. We made a commitment to meet regularly - husbands, babies included, to share this rich and busy time with each other. #4 Then ten years ago the 6 of us went to England, Ireland and Wales together. It was an incredible time we still talk about. That's #5. The next ten years saw kids grow up, leave home and begin families of their own. Being Grandparents and sharing these times was a whole new, wonderful ball game and a big #6. Now this. #7. Our trip across Canada. 

Somehow we have become our own version of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Thank you Joy and Charlie, Don and Elaine and Neil the navigator! Here's to our next excellent adventure!

** A water fact. The amount of water in 1 tide cycle in the Bay of Fundy is equal to the amount of water that travels over Niagara Falls in 1 year and 9 months. Yes you read that right!     

Time flies

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Ah some reliable Wifi I don't have to hike somewhere to use! One of those things you take for granted at home .......

Now what started out as a long time is now feeling very short! We have closed the Maritime loop and are now winding our way back to Alberta. Let me just say, if you haven't taken the time to check out any of the Maritime provinces - Do! They offer so much in terms of new landscapes, hospitality, delightful food and an easy going way of looking at life. There is a history here that we didn't really know much about before we went. It was so interesting to connect new dots all the way through the three provinces and how what happened there has influenced the shape of our country. 

 After my last blog we made our way down to Fundy National Park. Now is that something! The amount of water in 1 days tides at the Bay of Fundy are equal to 1 year and 9 months worth of water over Niagara Falls. Seriously! That's some amount of water. We got to see the Hopewell Rocks and walk the sea floor. The guide from the park was amazing! The almost 2 hours walk about flew by! All included in the $8.00 price of admission. As I like to say, our tax dollars at work for a most worthy experience! Saint John, N.B., is a city stepped in history and cool street scapes. It had a wonderful vibe and is on the list of 'come back to's'. 

I can't even say enough about Quebec City!! Honestly what a beautiful place and just how much fun were the many patios and funky shops. The city is of course chock a block full of history too. The stuff we took at school and promptly forgot about. How wonderful to have it recalled in the place where things happened. Quebec City too is where virtually all my grandparents landed. What a sight it must have been with the old ramparts up on the rocks and the old town down front. It too would be grand to come back and spend more time soaking up the ambience!

We continue to enjoy each others company, make allowances for each other's foibles and appreciate what each of us brings to this journey. This continues to be one of the greatest delights. We have been shaking our individual and collective heads that towards the end of next week we will be home. The journey talked about and planned for years all over. The mental breaks are being applied and there's a glass of wine calling to savour all of this!


 

Layers of rhythms

Mary Johnson - Sunday, September 02, 2018

Week two of our cross Canada sojourn under our belt. We 'broke through' to New Brunswick today**. Our ultimate destination reached! Other than my husband who has travelled this land, no one had any idea how big Ontario is. Wow! And the rock. Rock as far as the eye can see. Ancient mountains worn down with time. The mighty forrest we saw grows on a very thin layer of dirt made over millions of years. Lake Superior blew us away. It's like an ocean! Our capital city Ottawa was amazing. We had too little time there. I wasn't thinking I wasn't fussed to tour the Centre Block of our Parliament. Wrong! It was quite something to see. The parliamentary library blew me away. The books and documents in there, if stacked, would be more than twice the height of Everest. Seriously! The wood carvings, the light, shape and ornateness were stunning. Turns out after this year the Centre Block will be closed for needed updating and renos. It will reopen in 10 - 15 years. If I hadn't of said yes to lining up for tickets likely would never have seen! How fortunate am I! 

All this said none is more interesting than 6 individuals, 3 couples - all very different traveling together and finding our groove. 2 who are happy to go along with whatever is shaking out! Then 2 who are really uplifting and don't let the wear and tear of the days or anything get then down. 2 who are planners and organizers of the high level schedule and stopping spots. These 2 are a bit more anal by nature. (I'll let you decide where I fit!! :))

We switched up the schedule a little yesterday and landed early in the farming country outside Quebec City. As we kicked back after 14 days travel and the road weariness began to fall away, the conversation came around to how things are going and how we are all doing. Turns out quite well! That's not to say we all haven't had our days of testiness. Of not wanting to get back into the saddle for another few hundred kilometres. But our long standing friendships and deep caring for each other means we can dance around each other's moments knowing this is just that - a moment and not who the person is. 

Pretty special wouldn't you say?!

** This was written a couple of days ago. We are in a National Park and WiFi is 12 kms away. 


Our big old country

Mary Johnson - Sunday, August 26, 2018

I am sitting here in Pukaskwa National Park on Lake Superior. It’s a thick forested oasis of quiet and nature. 7 days ago Neil and I, along with dear friends, left on an adventure we have talked about for 40 years. It’s a multi week, cross Canada trip to the Maritimes. We are pulling the trailer. Yup I am doing some of driving! The days have been steady movement across this big old land. Parkland, vast prairie, no fences all the way to the horizon, full of grain that feeds us and the world, the Canadian Shield with it’s ancient rocks and dense forests. It’s only been 7 days as I said and it feels so very much longer. 

You can’t drive mile after mile and not have it affect how you engage with time. It stretches before you like the land itself and you begin to move in a less structured rhythm. Yes you want to be places but if it’s today or tomorrow it really doesn’t matter. You are invited into Kairos vs Kronos time. Something with more ebb and flow and a spaciousness. Less linear and relentless. Your breathing eases and your belly relaxes.

On our daily evening walks, as we shake off the effects of long hours in the car, we have  wondered what it must have been like for the early settlers, to have come from so far traveling very much slower than we, to wonder if they would ever arrive at their destination. What courage it must have taken to leave everything and everyone one you knew behind for what you hope is a better chance for you and your children. Women in particular must have endured great loneliness being away from sisters and friends and miles from neighbours.

Something else has made itself known in this space we are enjoying. A habit of thinking we have caught ourselves in. It’s looking at the newness before us and relating it back to something familiar. ‘Oh this is just like ______.’ There is always something we are reminded of. I have been gentle calling my friends and myself out. This is new. To see it with it’s own beauty and characteristics. Not to shape it into our familiar. Isn’t that why, or one of the reasons why we set upon this adventure? To see new. Not more of what we have already experienced. It’s not easy. Unfamiliar is uncomfortable. It’s hard to be uncomfortable. 

The rain is dancing on the roof. There are no other real noises out there. It’s like a lullaby calling me to rest.

I think I will.


10 years

Mary Johnson - Thursday, August 16, 2018

July came and went in a flurry of activity. Summer months seem to go by faster than say, November! It was just yesterday that I realized it was 10 years ago in July I headed out on my own. Left the comfy nest of a corporate position to fly solo. Most years I have remembered but not this year. In the corporate environment there is usually some sort of prize for hanging out that long. It's a bigger deal these days as churn is encouraged in many businesses. 10 years is a milestone. 

So it's easy, being on ones own, to have an anniversary simply pass. No one comes up and congratulates you. There is no cake or coffee with colleagues. You really need to create your own celebration. Well I am passing on cake (well most days!), I'd like to recount what the last ten years as been for me.

~ In 2008 it was a now or never proposition. My work had ended and other opportunities offered at my workplace did not appeal. Had always entertained the idea of being my own boss. Now was the time.  

~ 2008 was the huge downturn. This required me to really have to put myself out there in ways new to me. I relished it often and actually had some fun as well!

~ With my husband working long shifts up north, I was required to find a new rhythm to my life at home as well. And I did!

~ Wonderful colleagues supported me personally and with work. Grateful, grateful to you all!!

~ I developed some darn good material of my own. Was successful in facilitating it in business.

~ As I experienced shifts I saw in workplaces and within myself, a reinvention or two took place. That kept things interesting for me.

~ I have been a regular blogger averaging a blog every couple to three times a month in excess of 10 years. I'm proud of this. 

~ I have let go of work I felt I 'should' do and have gravitated towards work I like to do. This has been a harder process than I would have thought.

~ And I am, to quote my friend Carol, gliding ever so delightfully towards 'retirement'.

~ In these past ten years I have continued to grow professionally and certainly personally. It's been a real adventure! 

So I bow to what this past 10 years has afforded me and to all of you who have been so incredibly generous with time, support and your love. Thank you! 

     

It's taken time

Mary Johnson - Thursday, August 09, 2018

Got together will a woman I used to work with. Over the (10) years since we both left the place where we worked, we have maintained a regular coffee schedule and developed a wonderful friendship. It's always enlightening to periodically give pause and consider where you have come from. Today's conversation was one of those times, ......

We were talking about my upcoming workshop series (Offerings) which looks at the personal transition side of being 60 - 65+. The last 30 years of your life come with some angst as well as much freedom. Though it takes awhile to come around to that. Loy told me about a meeting she recently had with a woman approximately 9 years younger than her. This woman was all over the map in terms of what will she do, how will she manage, was retirement the right decision. Not because she was a flighty individual but because as work recedes we have no real idea what this time brings. The biggest question at the root of it all is 'Who Am I Now?' We rush to fill the space left by the route of work because sitting for a time empty scares the crap out of us! We feel the deep need to describe ourselves as a something or still doing. I am still coaching, working part time, volunteer _ days/week, look after my grandkids, have taken up pickle ball, etc etc When we make these statements to others the "I" is still attached to a recognizable something. The "I" still exists.

Loy saw this process happening with her friend. She reflected that this was what she too did when she was at this gal's age/ stage. Didn't see herself as 'wandering the desert'. That's something you don't want to even consider, .... that you are really for a time lost. We laughed. I remember our visits from back then. It was not an easy few years. One is truly in the grip of the bottom of the change curve solidly in 'chaos'. It can suck! :) 

My good friend though actively engaged this time. Fast forward 7 years down the road. There is a deep contentedness with her life. She's does the things that genuinely suit her. Is able to say 'no' to the asks that don't suit. She's comfy with who she is now and in her skin. It's taken time, .... but then doesn't it usually?  

Bravo Loy! 


Dancing with the Now

Mary Johnson - Monday, July 23, 2018

It's been a lovely summer so far! I am at the stage of my life where I want to savour what has begun to feel like shorter and shorter summers (and correspondingly longer winters!) . Of course they aren't technically but summertime seems to go much more quickly these days. Now the counterpoint to this is a long anticipated trip down to the Maritimes. Seems that for we Westerners this is a bit of a pilgrimage, a right of passage as a Canadian, to travel and experience the breadth of our country. This can't be a spur of the moment proposition. At least not for me. There are things that need attending.

My challenge has been to deliberately stay present - as often as I can remind myself and to plan our trip a number of weeks hence. My head feels like it's in a ping pong match. Oh the ever present list is on hand as I think of one more thing to add. Then I work on pulling myself back to the present. My default for years has been to live off in some imagined future. The bright shiny possibilities are endless and fun to get lost in! :)) And I have often missed the joy of Now. Now of course is our summer with all it's delights. To add to all of this, a large aspect of me is Ms. Organizer. This Now business has her just twitching and running around in my head projecting great mishap if I don't spend more time with her - in the future. This way of thinking and being has run the show for a long time. It's been harder than I thought to try and tame it. 

So I am learning, albeit slowly, the dance steps of planning and preparing while remembering to pause often to smell the roses. Wish me luckl!