Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bienvenida a Cuba!!

Every time I take a trip out of Jamaica and fly off to somewhere, it represents a personal conquest. For the entire trip, I sit in planes and airports with an inanely gargantuan grin plastered across my face. And nothing (except maybe gas masks falling in the plane) can get that smile off.

So I'm off again. This time to a close Caribbean neighbour. I've been curious about Cuba for longer than I can say. Maybe especially since high school, when a dramatic influx of Cuban teachers to Jamaica left me with four of eight classes being taught by Cuban natives. Two became instant favourites who have permanent soft spots in my heart. Another - my grade eight form teacher Mrs Douglas - was the subject of a juicy scandal that rocked the school for months after she and her husband disappeared and were declared wanted by police in connection to a work-and-travel scam that fleeced hundreds of money and personal documents.

Now that I think of it, that's probably not the best backdrop from which to develop a curiosity about a country. I'm not particularly curious about what it feels like to be scammed. But the memory stands out as my earliest encounter with Cubans (and to be honest, at the time, for my little rural high school where nothing ever happened, it was all scandalously scintillating).

Ms Douglas and her crooked ways aside, there have met Cuban lecturers at university, as well as various doctors and nurses over the years.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

How to Have a BIG WIN Year (Or What I Learned in 2016)

First of all, big breakthroughs are precipitated by years of hard work and developing good habits. None of it happens by chance. I live with the intention to be better than I was yesterday, to learn from every situation, and to mature into the best possible version of myself. This is the basis of my beliefs and actions. So even when I seem to make drastic changes to my beliefs and actions, the underlying motivation remains constant (someone needed to hear that).

At the end of last year, I decided to engage people. That was it. I decided to have a people-centric year. I set the intentions of (1) more effectively and consistently serving the ones I love, and (2) forming more meaningful connections with people of like passions. The result was a BIG WIN year. Here are the principles that stood out most:

1. Spend time with people you love and who love you. 

I spent 2016 giving more TIME to people whose company infused me with energy, who I was sure genuinely cared for me, who consistently made time for me, and with whom I shared similar passions and interests. I just gave them the lion's share of my time and consistently chose to be with them. The result was that I spent less time with people who didn't meet that criteria, and had many more moments of joy and genuine connection, and much less awkwardness, discomfort and angst. I had unwittingly found and chosen to be with MY TRIBE! These were the people to whom and with whom I truly belonged. It gave me loads of energy and encouragement and peace. There was less dissent and doubt and fear. These people believed with me and sometimes FOR me, and pushed me when I was just drained and exhausted, because they love me (for real reals).

2. Look for connection.

This is so important. I chose to just trust my gut and go after the people with whom I felt deep connections. It worked. I would go to events, talk with lots of people, and follow up closely with the ones with whom I'd felt some kind of spark. I ended up making lots of new friends with whom I share plenty of common interest. And I ended up strengthening relationships that had been casual for years. I found people I could help, and who could help me, and who were running in the same direction as me and were willing to join me on the journey. My people knowledge database expanded drastically in one short year. It was great!

3. Do what you love.

Because it's your life, and if you don't enjoy it, who will? I just threw out the burdensome, tedious tasks I had felt obligated to do and, as often as I could, did the things I was really interested in and excited about. I went to more art exhibits, book readings and launches, parties, self-improvement seminars, dance concerts - anything I already knew I loved to do that filled me with zest and joy, I pursued that. The result was more connections with people of like passion, and plenty bliss. Pure bliss.

4. Express self less and listen more.

When I made the decision to engage people more, I chose to be an active listener and encourager. My focus became: 'how can I be present for this person right now?' I made serving others a priority, and I learned something from that: people want to be heard. Often, lunch and a listening ear was all it took to turn a casual friendship into something more solid and intimate. I just listened and let them know that I really cared (because I really did). That was a definite game-changer. People appreciate honesty and genuine concern. But if you think about it, of course they do! We all want that.

Listening more also gave me many nuggets and insights that I had missed before. I re-learnt a lot of my friends last year. I heard them. You can't become a better listener without also becoming more observant overall. So I picked up on certain cues and expressions. I heard the story beneath the words. And I learned to appreciate these people, and love them so much more.

5. Learn to let go.

I didn't realise it at the time, but deciding to more actively engage people I felt strong connections to automatically meant less engagement with those I didn't. Some friendships just faded. When I went after connection, I realised how many people were sorta just there ... in my life because I had picked them up at some point, and they just kinda stuck over the years. We no longer shared common interests or passions, we just had common history. But this history was no longer relevant to where or who I was. And I had to learn to let those go. When a friendship no longer has a certain kind of intensity, allow it to become casual. Don't be afraid to let go of the people you've known all your life who you no longer relate to. If you've grown apart, admit it, love them, but don't stress about it. Allow the relationship to grow where it's growing. Don't see it as loss. See it as evolving.

6. Get the good exhausted. 

The kind of exhaustion that comes from doing so much of something you love with people you love and thoroughly enjoy, that you are just all worn out. What's the point of agonising over things that do not serve you at all? Why get tired doing things you despise with people you really don't belong with? Find your tribe. Find your passion. And then go for it with all you've got. Take the risk. Work superhard! And get the exhaustion that fills you with joy and satisfaction and fulfillment. Get the good exhausted.

Monday, February 20, 2017


I use the Sagicor SIGMA Run to gage my aging process each year. My time, how I feel when I'm running, how many young whippersnappers breeze past me ... All of these are the non-scientific indicators I use to determine whether or not my body is still up to the fitness challenge.

This year, I saw a proliferation of tiny primary schoolers whizzing past me, my calves were on fire, my stomach was churning bile, my breathing was very halted, and I felt like a very tired 50. Meanwhile, some little upstarts were just blazing past me with all their hype and energy, and I realised that my not-yet-30-year-old body was threatening to jump into the nearest AmbuCare ambulance and just stay put.

A thought occurred to me this year, though, that had me chuckling and crafting a poem in my head while I walk-ran. It was after seeing a madman standing on the side of the road watching the passers by, and the women in particular. He inspired this poem:

SIGMA 2017

Mad man standing at half mast
Eyes bump-a-bumping
To rhythmic rotund rumps
Jouncing down the street
Drumming time

To the patter of running feet

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Is it time to get a life coach?

I'm considering getting life coaching for 2017. Partly because I'm curious to see how that works first-hand, and partly because I think I would really benefit from it. I'm already driven and determined and pretty disciplined ... but the mantra for 2017 is DOUBLE EVERYTHING, so I need to double my energy, effort and impact. Life coaching can probably help with that.

What made me start to consider life coaching as more than just a fleeting fantasy was the fact that I met a phenomenal friend online. (Yes. I do that. I have met great people online: awesome movers and shakers who are also wellsprings of wisdom and knowledge about a variety of things that matter to me in life.) I find like-minded and like-spirited people wherever they are. And I embrace them and the roles they play for however long in my journey. Sometimes the meeting is fleeting - an ephemeral connection. And sometimes ... sometimes the connections stick and those strangers become friends. Long-distance friends, yes. But still, friends.

This one woman has been dropping emails in my inbox for years now, freely sharing about her life and her journey. I usually drop her a one-liner or so in response. But some time earlier this year, I made the decision to actively engage the people to whom I feel a genuine attraction/connection. (I should do a post about how that one decision, consistently applied to every new relationship, has transformed almost every single aspect of my life. It has resulted in a love explosion. My friendships, family life, work life, volunteerism ... game-changing decision, I tell you).

So I've always been able to relate to this lady's posts. They are usually of the bare-your-heart variety. Her writing is direct, yet open and vulnerable, and I have a really big appreciation for the principles she usually lands on by the end of her emails. They resonate with me in a big way, and one day, I wrote a somewhat lengthy email telling her so. She responded. I responded. And we've been dialoguing ever since.

Here's why I call it a friendship: there is an honesty in the conversations that allow us both to be frank and pull from and learn from each other. I have grown from those dialogues. So much so that I am now considering trying a life coach for 2017. Imagine: we didn't make a commitment to connect or help each other, or anything. We just talked freely, and it has transformed me. I have gained so much insight and applicable solutions to various problems ... That's the power of connection.

It makes me wonder how much more growing and learning I could do if I had one person who was devoted to that cause alone: helping me see my blind spots and triggers, teaching me the best and most effective ways to deal with certain things ... it might accelerate the growth process significantly. It could change the game -again- in magnificent ways. It might be the missing ingredient to make 2017 a real double-up year. Who knows? I just might do it.

Friday, November 4, 2016

I've learnt to love people

Aren't you happy that life doesn't leave you in default mode? And that it sends you what you need to discover your best self? I'm happy, because life has taught me to let go, live and love; and I think I've finally caught on and found a flow that has more of that in it than anything else ... and it is golden.

I've learnt to love people. I know that may sound weird, or sappy, but it's so true. If you're reading this and you're one of the people in my life, chances are, I'm talking about you. I've learnt to love you. And let you lean on me. And be honest with you. And let you into my very full life. I've learnt to see you as gifted and beautiful and precious and flawed and human, and I LOVE you!

Before this, I think I was more an anthropologist than an active participant in your life. I was there because I was there by default and I was more interested in what was going on in my head than in yours. Sorry.

I wasn't aware that this wasn't a natural or beneficial state of affairs. Timeless truth: you don't know what you don't know until you find out. But 2016 has been a game changer year for me. I don't know when or how. I could pinpoint many moments. There has been a progression into acceptance that has been ... for want of a better word ... beautiful. My life has become part of a flow, and this flow is ... almost magic it's so good.

I think it comes from truly appreciating people for who they are, and from intentionally becoming a person who allows others to relax because they know that you represent a judgement-free, supportive, genuinely caring zone, although sporadically crazy space where they can just be ... . And I like when I find that in others too. I love when I meet someone who is just chevere. Peace really does come like a river.  And it really does reside in your soul.

I don't know if this is a season. I hope it's a permanent state of being ... but I love it. I love the me I am. And I love the you you are. Truly. I've learned to let you be and just love you ...


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

To be, or not to be ... my #Bitmoji?

I might be jealous of my #Bitmoji. She has more swag than I do. And the way she changes outfits - in the click of a button? Oh how I wish it were that simple! My Bitmoji has clothing choices from Calvin Klein, Alexander McQueen, Bergdorf Goodman, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs ... She can go from casual to formal in a heartbeat. She has the perfect outfits for her body size, and accessories come with them all! SMH. Lucky, lucky girl.

She doesn't have to worry about social awkwardness and angst. She's been programmed for expression perfection. No matter the situation, she has a quip, a line, a look, or something that will usually provoke the right reaction ... especially from MY closest friends and family. And she comes with a built-in disclaimer: if something she does or says doesn't go over well with her audience, they don't blame her, they blame ME! She gets away with expressing herself HOWEVER she wishes - anger, sadness, annoyance, boredom, joy ... she says it all and doesn't care. I'm the one who has to be paying attention and ensuring that what she says is appropriate and inoffensive.

I love her fearlessness. She's not afraid to say 'I'm sorry', or 'I love you', 'I miss' you', and 'wish you were here' - and even 'you stink!' She has no qualms about telling it like it is, and even if she is afraid, she expresses that fear with fierce boldness - she's not afraid to be afraid. Or vulnerable. Or wrong and foolish and quirky.

My Bitmoji is also enviably adventurous - flying off ropes, swinging on trellises, popping out of cars, cakes and boxes, throwing on all sorts of disguises, quoting flicks like a real movie buff, celebrating every holiday on the planet  ... she's everybody's favourite funny girl.

It makes me think about the reservations we often carry with us through life. It can be so easy to start to live on 20-25% of your personality, to somehow just morph yourself into the mundane patterns necessary to get through the days, and to forget, as a result, to claim, express or develop the other  75-80% of who we are ... or could be. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were all unafraid and crazily expressive like our Bitmoji selves? (Although, truth is, some of us are!) What would our relationships look like if we were that honest with each other? If we said what we meant and felt: I'm sorry; I love you; I miss you; I'm proud of you ... ?

Maybe Bitmojis and emoticons are our way of 'safely' expressing the part of us that wants to connect  with people and be vulnerable and open without actually being all of that often uncomfortable stuff ... maybe they enable us to express the things that would otherwise be difficult to say. Or maybe they give us a cop-out, feeding our tendency to avoid genuineness and authenticity, and helping us hide behind funny faces and quick quips that ultimately mean nothing at all.

Food for thought.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Here comes the new ... JOB!

It's amazing how, when you have a little free time, sometimes you don't appreciate it. One month and one blog post ago, I must have had free time. I know I had free time because I was able to sit down and write whiny little blog posts about how I 'wasted' a day and waah waah waah ... . Now? Not so, little grasshopper. I don't have time to whine and pontificate. That season is done and over with. Goodbye, au revoir, and sayanora.

By now I should know the pattern. Life comes in seasons, and they alternate in extremities. So I've glided out of got-time-to-Netflix-binge (which I thought was a pretty hectic time for me) into get-to-work-get-to-work-get-to-work. I have so many things to finish, a big side load of things to throw myself into, and a host of future things to think through and plan properly. This is for real, real, real. But you know what? I LOVE IT!!! I am never so pumped as when I have a lot of things to do and my brain is just ticking, ticking, ticking with ideas and tasks and stuff ... it makes me come ALIVE!! I am so HIGH right now, marijuana can't touch me! I came home, sat down, and thought: so this is what it feels like to come home after a day doing work you love ... hmmm ... I could get used to it.

I'm just saying ... I've got a new job, I already love it, and I am SUPEREXCITED about it!