Make A Friend Day

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February 11 is Make A Friend Day. How cool is that? I’m serious. Where are you reading this post right now? The bus/ metro/taxi, a coffee shop/juice bar/gym, in the car/waiting room/porch while your child/friend/parent finishes a piano lesson/taking a shower/chatting with the neighbor? Is there someone you can approach in your vicinity? Someone you’ve been meaning to approach, but have been too busy or don’t know how ? How busy can you be that you can’t take the time to say, “Hi, I’m Catherine. We always end up in the same elevator in the morning. I thought it might be nice to introduce ourselves.” Once the possible awkwardness passes, you’ll probably get a laugh and “It is nice! I’m Jess and I’ve been meaning to tell you that I love your new haircut!”

Yup, it’s happened to me and it can happen to you. Just slap on a smile, walk through the coals of fear of rejection, and be your friendly self.

Human beings are social animals. We are meant to live together: couple, family, clan. A newborn child cannot survive on its own. From the day we are born, we seek to be understood and so we learn to  interact with others and form relationships. As babies, we communicated with cries and giggles, as small children with hand signals and single words, as teenagers with appearance and actions, as adults with hopefully well-thought out words. We are constantly learning to be with others and to be ourselves. From the beginning, we seek connection and belonging.

So how is it that the one-person household is rising around the world? In developed countries, solo living ranges from the mid-20% to just over 40%. In developing countries, the statistics show about 5%-15%. According to demographers, the numbers will continue to grow. They suggest financial independence, fewer children, changing cultural/religious views on marriage are some of the contributing factors. A good thing then that some created Make A Friend Day.

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4 Benefits of friendship

  • People with friends and family handle stress better, therefore feel more at peace which allows them to be healthier.
  • People with friends take better care of themselves which points to having higher self-esteem. Meaning: they feel more in control of their lives.
  • Sharing with friends implies trust and alleviates loneliness. This increases a sense of belonging.
  • Two other benefits of sharing are a more grounded perspective toward problems and the ability to ask for a trusted opinion.
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4 Ways to make new friends

  • Pursue your interests. Volunteer. Join a sports team, a book club, a cooking class. These place you amongst like-minded people. The interaction that comes from participating will help you discover who would make a good fit for you. Or, you could do what I do: smile and say hello to everyone. In time (and it will come fairly early on), the group will separate into two: those who step closer and converse and those who politely reply while making minimal eye contact then quickly move away.
  • Online groups are another way to make friends, if you are active in a group. Whether it’s photography, writing, or politics, the more exchanges, the more we get to know how people think and feel, where they are from, and their day-to-day lives.
  • Surrounded by people, but don’t know them? Try approaching someone with the elevator conversation above.
  • Whether you are in university or working full-time, networking events abound. I’ve always had a hard time with them. I want to pick the right person to talk to. I want to say the right thing. I want to see understanding in their eyes. I want to impress. The pressure of that single opportunity either keeps me at home or in a corner, where no one except the guy who thinks he’s funny, gravitates to. An entrepreneur told me about her brilliant strategy. (Thank you Chantal.) She forces herself to go and allows herself to leave after speaking/delivering two business cards. That’s it! How easy is that? I can totally speak. As long as I’m on topic, I don’t have to be terrific. The business card serves as an ice breaker and avoids all that messing around with the phone’s contact list.

Remember true friendship takes time and commitment. Don’t freak out because I didn’t say marriage with kids and in-laws. So, coffee or a meal once in a while, a text or call on a birthday, a card at the holidays, a visit when your friend is sick, an invitation to an event of shared interest. And share and listen, listen and share, share and listen, listen and share, etc. Those are the little things that allow care, respect, trust, loyalty to grow.

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4 Quotes on friendship

  • “There are no strangers in the world, just friends you have never met.” –W.B. Yeats
  • “Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.” —Ed Cunningham
  • “One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” —Seneca
  • “Remember: No one’s more important than people! In other words, friendship is the most important thing–not career or housework, or one’s fatigue–and it needs to be tended and nurtured.” —Julia Child

Happy Make A Friend Day!

Who will you approach on February 11? How do you make new friends? Have you ever tried to make a friend and it backfired? Do you have a friendship that surprises you? Tell me about! I love hearing from you. Leave a comment

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Tidy VS Messy In Fiction As In Real Life

In my current WIP Covers, the two main characters have roommates. Janet, who’s emotionally stressed due to drug and alcohol abuse is a bit messy although she’d not so far gone in her addiction to have lost complete control. She still feeds her cat, showers, wears clean clothes. She lives with Diana. If you read Secrets, you know that she created chaos in her bedroom regularly to anger her father after the housekeeper cleaned. Away from her father’s house, Diana’s become the almost perfect roommate. She’s organized, she cooks, and she keeps Janet updated on her whereabouts.

Then there’s the Russell brothers: Danny and Nate. Danny is the older, more responsible one which means that Nate is the wild young brother. Danny keeps on top of the day to day chores meanwhile Nate is more of a social director. Danny starts the grocery list, does laundry weekly and hounds Nate about cleaning. Nate is all about trendy clothes, the hottest places, and the most fun. To Nate, home is the place where his clothes live, and he hangs out when there’s nothing going on.

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If you have family, you share living quarters. In my case, my darling daughter and I are opposites. I’m an organizer by nature. Everything has its place, whether in my mind or my surroundings. When things get too messy, I become agitated. I feel my heart pounding. My throat goes dry. Anxiety hums through my veins. The chaos normally elicits two reactions: flight or freeze. In other words, I either avoid that area of my life/home/workstation or I sit with the chaos and all the physical and mental emotions it affects (not good). The more I think about fixing the mess, the stronger my instincts to run from or sink into the mire. It can take a really long time for my fight instinct to kick in. And then I’m all, “In your face mess! I’m gonna beat you into shape now!”

Wow! I know, right?

My child, on the other hand, can live with messes like a lion in the savannah. It’s all good. Life goes on. She may comment, “We should sort that out.” Or ask, “When will this get organized?” Rarely, does she say “This really needs to be taken care of Mom.” If it comes to that, I know it’s truly out of control. I may not have realized it because my tolerance threshold is low-medium(?) and hers is normal(?). No matter what, she appreciates tidiness. She actually sighs in relief when she notices that something has gone from mess to tidy.

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We were shopping on Sunday when we saw some small plastic baskets on sale. She said, “I could use those.” I didn’t even ask how, I just thought, If the child wants to organize, let her organize.

Well, the mess that was her “beauty” station has now been separated into three lovely baskets.

Ta-da!

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By the way, today is Bell Let’s Talk. For those who are Bell subscribers, there’s lots you can do. See the full list. For those who have other mobile providers, here are three options.
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  • Twitter: Each time you tweet using #BellLetsTalk or watch their official video, Bell will donate 5¢ towards mental health initiatives.
  • Facebook: Each time you use the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or watch our official video, Bell will donate 5¢ towards mental health initiatives.
  • Instagram: Each time you watch the official video on Instagram, Bell will donate 5¢ towards mental health initiatives.

Are you a tidy or messy person? What’s your tolerance level like? Even messy people have one. I love reading your comments so leave one.

Turning 45

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My birthday is coming up in three weeks. It’s the big 4-5. As we continue to settle into our new life in Montreal, I’ve been taking care of the administrative side of life lately. I feel like things are progressing in a positive manner. While there have been moments since August when I’ve felt overwhelmed, I’ve been relative steady which has me re-evaluating my forties.

Taking Inventory

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I’m not thrilled with my soon-to-be age. Mid-forties. Middle aged. How did that happen? And yet, I’m the best version of me that I’ve ever been. I started to realize how much I’ve grown in my fifth decade. Growth that I had sought out for years but couldn’t attain because I didn’t know how or wasn’t ready for.

I got lucky in 2014. I had an epiphany. I realized that while I could own a home, drive a car, hold a job, have a child and basically present an adult to the world, there was a part of me which was stuck. I ached to be the woman I knew I could be. I hadn’t noticed until then that parts of me were stuck in childhood. I needed to work on those parts so they could grow up and join the rest of me.

Some of the things that plagued me might be familiar to you:

  • Fear of public speaking
  • Being overly sensitive and reacting in extremes like anger or tears
  • Being selfish, cold, stubborn, and unable to empathize
  • Low self-esteem which led to a lot of self-shaming, self-loathing, self-doubt
  • Huge FOMO (fear of missing out) so bad I would avoid sleep

Those are the subject lines. Under those, I could list example after example. When I looked at myself from the outside, I saw a winner. I had a family, friends I could count on, enough money to live and travel, and two careers. As a person, I was smart, funny and capable. Notice the mask. No coincidence that I called my first published story Masks. The face we present to the world is sometimes so different from the truth we live.

From the inside, I was a total mess. I carried so much fear and anger. It had gotten to the point where I felt like those were my two main emotions. This is where I was at age 40 in 2014. I hated it. It was no way to live. How many more years could I keep hardening? I already felt so brittle and ready to break. I had to make some changes and decided to seek out some help.

Journey Vs Destination

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I joined a self-help group. I talked to my doctor. I started therapy. I read books. I spoke to the people around me. Early on, I finally clued in that one of my main beliefs about life was completely wrong. I would never arrive because life is not about getting to the destination. Life is about the journey and how we live it. Up to that point, I had lived it in confinement. I had to release myself from that stifling environment and recognize that I was free. Whether slow or fast, constant growth and development were of the highest importance.

It wasn’t easy facing my fears. After all, they are there for a reason. I had so much proof that they were valid that it was hard to find proof that letting go of them would give me a better life. And who would I be without all the fears and defects? I would be the woman I wanted to be. That was scary too. What if that woman turned out to be someone I didn’t want to be? What if I’d spent my time wishing for the wrong thing?

I wasn’t alone on my journey. I’ve met so many people with the same fears and questions and with different fears and questions, but we were all changing because we had hope.

I still work on myself every day. It’s easier now. I’ve let go of so much baggage that I can more easily unpack an old suitcase because I have the room if you will. I now have the capacity to handle more and change more and even accept what I can’t change. I guess I’ve been building resilience. So my forties have been great. I’ve worked on myself so much and yet, I am so much more energetic than when I stood rooted in my mire of fear and anger.

What have been some of your best years? What made them so good? I love to hear from you. Leave a comment.

Reframing My Ultimate Body Image

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A new year. A new start. A new list of goals. For some, a new list of resolutions. For me, most of last year’s goals have carried over to this year:

  • Find a full-time job
  • Buy a house
  • Publish Covers
  • Lose weight?

To Lose Or Not To Lose

That question mark is not a typo. Do I or don’t I want to lose weight? I don’t know. I’ve put on ten pounds per year over the last four years. From what I can tell, I eat the same amount of food as I did five years ago so what the heck is going on? Great question.

I’ve tried cutting back on food. Very little difference. I thought it might be a health condition and got a blood test. Nothing showed up except that my reproductive hormone levels are changing. At my age, not so unusual and it could account for some of the weight gain. I work out at least three times a week. No problem building muscle, but can’t shed a pound. So what’s left?

My best guess is medication. I’ve been taking scripts for the last three years. Since the prescription is not for life, I’m hoping that soon, very very soon, I will no longer need it and that the weight will disappear. But what if it doesn’t?

What If What Now

What if it’s not the meds that caused my weight gain? What if this weight gain is permanent? Worse, what if I keep gaining weight? I’ve been struggling with self-acceptance for a while. After years of being the same weight year after year, I’ve suddenly ballooned. And it seems like this balloon is out of my control. Do you know The Serenity Prayer? It starts like this: “God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” After searching everything else, I’ve been looking at exercising my serenity.

Netflix: My Road To Self-acceptance

I was lost until the holidays during which I decided to devote a little time to my Netflix list. I watched a couple of documentaries that opened my eyes. First there was The True Cost, a doc by Andrew Morgan about the impact of fast fashion on society and the environment. I concluded three things:

  1. Buy only what I need
  2. Buy from sustainable brands
  3. My body image is not in the hands of an industry, it is in my hands alone.

The last one struck me because I hadn’t expected that lesson to come from a documentary about the fashion industry.

My stars must have aligned because the next documentary I watched was called Embrace. A few years ago, Taryn Brumfitt decided to stop worrying about her weight and enjoy her life. She also started The Body Image Movement. In the film, she travels the world and meets up with like-minded women.

Like her supporters, I love that Brumfitt isn’t perfect, yet she loves herself and it truly shows. The more I watched the movie, the more I wanted to be her! Or should I say, the more I wanted to be accepting of my body in the same way that she accepted hers. I’m going to sit with Acceptance for a while and see how we can work this out. Because really, the amount of time I’ve wasted worrying about those new pounds, where they’ve landed and how they look, would have been better spent enjoying my life.

What challenges have you faced lately? How did you overcome them or accept them? Or are you still working on it? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment!

My Daughter Does My Makeup

My 10 year old daughter loves playing with makeup. This week she asked me to be a model for one of her videos. She did a great job. Check it out.

When did you start playing with your mom’s makeup? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment!

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