Do I Really Have to Get Rid of My ‘Stuff’ to Be Happy?

I’ve been traveling more than usual lately and I’ve realized that I drool with envy at those put-together women at the airport that glide through customs in their beach hats. You know, the ones in neutral capris pants and not a whisper more than a small purse and a matching chic carry on suitcase?

But alas, it’s not for me.

I clunk into the airport with a larger than average bag in relation to the size of my trip. I pay the extra fees, I wait the extra time to check my bags in and then wait at baggage claim again to pick them up on the other side.

When I’m packing, I feel like I simply won’t enjoy my trip if I leave anything behind. I can’t imagine how lonesome and ill at ease I’ll feel. I don’t mean forget things, as we all do. I mean, I want to feel like home wherever I am. I want to be me, even though I’m far away. I’m the woman who takes more books than clothes and always always slippers.

But what do I really need? Can I make it on this trip without all this “stuff”?

I’m not interested in that book about getting rid of all your stuff and becoming a breatharian. But as I get older, I feel like I’m evaluating more closely what I bring into my life, my space, my bag, man.

My bag holds lots of stuff to do like reading, writing, drawing and nice pjs for getting a good night’s sleep. My bag is heavy – rich and deep. Not cluttered, just full.

If I look at adulthood as a journey, I wonder if I’m bringing the right stuff too. How do I make it full, rich and deep? I pray to know the difference between a full life and one that’s cluttered with things I don’t love or need. Or worse, “stuff” that holds me back.

There seems to be  another category of stuff we keep around us that is loaded with fear.

I wonder, what am I always “carrying” ….

Just in case something bad happens

Just in case I get bored

Just in case I’m not enough.

Alone, am I enough? …Oooh. Now we’re getting somewhere.

What are the lies I keep telling to keep me safe? What are the buffers and “ah wells” I hold onto that stop me from getting to close to sadness? What are the thoughts I just won’t think?

As a first step I’m starting to de-clutter my travel bag list, not so much in the Marie Kondo way but in the, “I can just be enough on this trip” way. And if I forget something or get bored, it’s on me. It’s on me to just be okay with it and find a way to feel at home wherever I am, without anything but me. I’m sure I’ll find a way to live without it. Which means, of course, I didn’t really need it at all.

Down to one small bag. One small suitcase and the thoughts I choose.

That’s all I need, really.

Just me against the world – or with the world? On this journey, this adventure.

I am enough ( and so are you ).

__________________

What would you take with you if you were packing a bag to leave forever? Whose picture? Which books? Which thoughts, friends and memories?

Which of those things are you taking because you think you’re supposed to? (Decide and then take them out. How do you feel?)

It’s not just about the possession  – think of it as paring down, becoming choosier – defining you and what you’re about just a little bit more.

The concentrated, bald and naked essence is all we want here, people. (Scary almost chicken-like image aside). It’s all you really need anyway.

Don’t forget to come grab more at ashewoodward.com

Tom Hanks’s Special Message to Thirtysomethings

One of the greatest lines from Tom Hanks, in my opinion, is in A League of Their Own when he’s coaching a woman on his team who complains that baseball is “hard”.

“It’s the hard that makes it great,” he booms.

I shiver. I shudder. I feel the urge to grab my glove and hit the field.

It’s a great line made even greater by the fact that it’s not really about baseball at all, but everything in life, including life itself.

“Nothing worth anything comes easy,” they say. I’m revved up again.

But I’m not quite ready to grab my glove, so to speak.

See, in the case of baseball, I know what the challenge it and what glory looks like when I get there – cheering fans, a golden glove, a pennant, a world series ring, a bubblegum card.

But when it’s my life, I’m blindly aiming at a target most days.

New job? Different hairstyle? Swipe right? Go back to school? Ignore colleague’s wandering eyes? Vacation or staycation? Retirement savings?

Why can’t it be as simple as hit and throw well. Run as fast as you can. ? .

I don’t have the answer. Life is just hard sometimes. Hard to predict, hard to get through certain days (even certain hours). It’s hard to imagine it getting better and easy to imagine worse.

But “the hard is what makes it great”. Hmmm.

And let me be completely honest – I’ve been watching that movie for years; it’s one of my top favourites of all time. But it’s only recently that I’ve embraced this Hankonian perspective.

Since I turned 30, life has pretty much been a not-so-great box of chocolates. Surprise after disappointment after struggle after a brief bout of delight and repeat.

And now, in my mid-thirties, I finally get the joke – without the hard, there is no delight. And, most importantly I see that without the unknown, there is no hope.

I don’t know if I’m ever making the right choices and I worry about the outcome.

I don’t know if I’m giving the best advice to my friends.

I don’t know if I just paid too much for house insurance.

I don’t know if this time, this yoga will save me.

I don’t know any of it.

But I just hope. Close my eyes and click.

And just when you may be thinking that this is a depressing way to live – directionless and all that. Consider this:

We’re all floundering along, doing our best and still f-—king up and making a mess. Sometimes hating ourselves, sometimes forgiving.

Dropping kids off at the wrong school (hi, Jill) and standing in awkward silence at your first stand-up gig. Keeping it secret that your marriage is a sham, secretly liking one kid more than the other, and spending over twenty-one hours streaming Netflix instead of going to your cousin’s wedding.

Point is, screwing up and acting immature and being embarrassed about our foibles is all part of the game.

My friend Jillian drops off the kids she babysits every day. I don’t know how many days are in a school year, but it’s a lot. But she’s never told me a specific story about it until the day she left the wrong kid at the wrong playground.

And we laughed. OH, we laughed!

We laughed until we cried.

There may be no crying in baseball but there are plenty of tears in life – happy and sad. And I love them both. I’m a cryer so I have no choice but to embrace it if I stand a chance of loving myself fully.

So cheers to hope. Cheers to the struggle. It’s real, so they say.

Life is hard, so play hard. Screw up, and then laugh. Together.

Laughter and hope make it great.

__

I’m opening my doors again for personal coaching now for a limited time. If you’d like to see what coaching is like and if you’d like to work together, send me an email at ashewoodz@gmail.com so we can set up a time to talk.

For more on me and what working together is like, visit ashewoodward.com.

😉

When Only Your Weird Will Do: How Keeping It Real Has Been My Secret to Success and Happiness

Y’know, in my late twenties I was sure I was on my way to being a success. I was teaching full time and I had my own successful hypnosis business. I was serious, no nonsense, go go go! On top of of that, I really dressed the part: super corporate chic, lots of black and brown (you know the type). BO-RING!

Fast forward to me discovering my gifts as a writer and life coach and realizing that my mindset (and my wardrobe) were so out of sync with who I really am. It was all just a part I thought I had to play to be successful.

But when I figured out that I am still the same funky and free girl I was waaaaaay back in high school, I truly found success. Weird, eh?

Turns out I wasn’t just innocently attempting to grow up, be mature and responsible; I was crushing my true soul – the one that so effortlessly and generously showed up when I was younger.

This is when I also realized that I wasn’t alone. I started to ask the people around me if they felt like this, or if I was the only weirdo. They actually all had some pretty unreassuring things to add, like:
You have to grow up some time
You can’t make money being in a garage band
It’s not like we can all be artists 
You have to be responsible and have a real job that pays the bills

UGH! Depressing!!

What makes us think that what we would love to do or BE isn’t WORTH doing?

I for one couldn’t live one more minute without reconnecting with my true self. I threw out those stuffy clothes, got rid of the boring hair cut, and threw myself at the questions I had about what and why people were okay living with a ‘just because’ and ‘good enough’ attitude. I was ready to be me and find out how I could help others shake of their imposter costumes too.

And now, the work that I’ve done since has always lit me up and never let me feel like I have to be anyone besides just me.

And don’t get me wrong – I still have more layers to peel off and BS to sift through but I have committed myself to doing that – that is actually what feels the BEST! 

 

 

Lately, I think I’ve sifted out yet another several layers of BS that was blanketing the real me, and it feels amazing. I’ve been saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ like a pro, and I’m so much choosier when it comes to my choices – not picky, just … choosier – listening more closely to what I really want and not what I think I should say or do.

Sometimes I have to close my eyes behind my sunglasses to hear that I actually don’t want to get a drink just cuz it’s Friday, after I said I’d go. Sometimes I catch myself saying, “It’s fine if there’s no vegetarian option, I’ll have a salad,” and then I regret it.

And slowly, I know, those responses will build up another blanket fort so heavy that it will crush that true soul once again until I can’t breathe and I have to start all over again, listening more carefully to the voice.

It’s not easy. Actually, it’s really f***ing annoying that it’s such a quiet voice. It’s so hard to hard to hear under the pressure of the moment, or the buzz of and whirl of the Internet, the ALL CAPS on social media, your screaming child, your angry partner, your angry self, traffic, juicers, weird yoga music, etc. But it is under there.

Close your eyes if you have to (I do).

What would it feel like to say no (politely) more often and do what you want? Freedom?

What would it feel like if we all did this more, all the time? Would honesty and trust become words we could depend on?

I’d love to hear what happens for you this week by taking on this habit of listening carefully first before you say yes or no.

Leave a comment here or with the Facebook community to share your experience with other thirtysomeones (and me).

And check out what’s new at my site ashewoodward.com, where you can also find my contact info and how to get in touch for personal, one-to-one coaching calls.

 

What 35 REALLY Feels Like (and how to deal)…

Today is my birthday!

I’m 35, I keep repeating in my head, waiting for a shift, a boom, a bolt of lightening as maturity and endless wisdom kick in. But so far? Nothin.

I don’t quite know how I feel yet. I don’t know if I’m totally freaking out or if I’m really as cool as I say I am about being officially in my mid-thirties.

One thing that always haunts me is the phrase, Age is just a number. I’ve never really understood the whole reassuring aspect of it. Age is a number, yes, but how long can I go saying I’m in my thirties but feeling like I’m still eighteen? Eventually, shouldn’t I feel like a grown-up?

It reminds me of when the news tells me it’s going to be 10 degrees but feels like 15. The next day it could be 10 degrees again but feel like 8. There could be a whole week of 10-degree weather where not one day actually feels like 10 degrees, so we lose our baseline and start to forget what 10 degrees is actually like!

Okay, I’ll fess up, these digressions and rantings are all just a facade – a cover up because I don’t know how old I feel and I don’t know how I feel about it. Man, birthdays have a ways of making us oddly contemplative, don’t they? I guess I’ll just leave it alone until I’m sure.

Any time I start to go on these tangents I know I’m just procrastinating or distracting myself from a mess of feelings that I need to untangle. To do this (you can steal this technique too for when you catch yourself avoiding the BIG questions) is to start with what small things you know for sure.

For me, what I do know today is that I am truly grateful for all of my family and friends that came out and celebrated with me last night (and the impromptu animal balloon-making contest that topped it all off). The best part of the night for me though was when I looked around the room and totally blissed out at seeing all of my favourite people in one place.

I also know that I’m humbled, grateful and extremely privileged to have lived thirty-five years. In that time I’ve been surrounded by love, enjoyed endless opportunity and I’ve been blessed with good health and well-being; I’m a pretty lucky duck and I know it.

Some may say that this technique helps you go back to basics but I’m seeing now that I don’t see any of these things as basic at all. Love, health, family and friends are perhaps good fundamentals of a great life, but they’re not basic. Their fully enlightening, supercharged presence in our lives is a supreme and ethereal gift.

Talk about birthday reflection…Woah.

And on that note..time for cake!… (and more avoidance until the real impact kicks in…)

 

If you’ve got  some reflecting you  need to do, we should chat in a FREE consultation session. I’ve done my  fair share of reflection and gotten off-track, so I’ve developed proven ways to help  anyone get down with their bad (and good) self.  My one to  one coaching is about how in our thirties especially we are learning  to identify our true feelings and emotions and only  taking  action that speaks to our personal value system (AKA, the stuff people are talking  about when they say, “Just be yourself!… as if it’s so easy!)

Get in touch at support@ashewoodward.com

Or find more info at ashewoodward.com/coaching

Cuba Libre – My Vacation from WIFI

My husband and I got back from our vacation in Cuba on Tuesday. It’s a beautiful, laid-back place and so nice to get away from a piece of Toronto winter. But let me tell ya, instead of feeling refreshed and re-energized, I’m still riding the Caribbean-style, laid-back train. Cuba’s residue is still with me – the warm sun, no cooking for myself and most especially NO WIFI.

That’s right, you heard me – no WIFI at the hotel. It sounded scary to me at first too. I thought, will I go crazy? Will I really be able to really shut my business’s doors for a full week?

Having no choice kind of makes the decision for you but it also turned out to be such a blessing. I let go of my phone and emails to let my mind go blank – almost to the point where I couldn’t care less when the hotel staff was less than forgiving of my Spanish skills or our bus was more than 40 minutes late.

I really haven’t been able to reach this state in a while since I’m sure we all feel is near impossible when life is going on a mile a minute with text messages and social media posts to get to.

Letting go in Cuba was an amazing reminder of what life before technology was like. People actually just sit around and talk! They draw maps or they physically walk with you to show you their favourite place to eat. There’s no Uber. There’s no Yelp. And no one on Instagram is going to LIKE my seafood dish except me.

Then one day while we were in beautiful Havana, we came up to a park. I knew something looked a little ‘off’ but I couldn’t quite pinpoint it until I stared, bewildered, just a little longer. Then I realized it- everyone was on their phone. Every single person in the park had his or her head down and wasn’t talking to anyone around. It was really creepy. Apparently this was one of the ‘hot spots’ in the city that are few and far between.

After days of being without any connection I felt sad at first for what could be a very social and lively park. I almost shook my head with judgement.

Luckily, I caught myself because I realized that I almost didn’t notice how this picture stood out among the rest of the city. I almost didn’t catch it because it’s so commonplace at home.

It was such a quick moment but it made me realize how much I depend on technology and maybe even have a bit of an addiction (or maybe a big one…). But it also made me realize how lucky I am to have Internet in my home and be able to do business online.

Interestingly though, after only having to live about four days at that point without Google, I judged these people in the hot spot who were just trying to enjoy being connected to the world at large like anyone else.

It’s a strange feeling. And I think it’s a debate we are all having with ourselves more often . On one hand, if you’re in your thirties, you probably remember land lines and pen pals. I remember watching the entire countdown on MTV just to see my favourite Michael Jackson video at number one.

Without YouTube, we had to sit through all the other music too, which sometimes took all afternoon. And then when I wanted more, I would put on my MJ album, but be bursting at the seams to dance harder, knowing I couldn’t because it would make the record skip.

Ahhh, the good ol’ days.

There are the memories and there are the things I’m glad are in the past. I’m grateful for technology but I’m also grateful for vacations from it so I can get some perspective.

For me right now, I think I’m still trying to hang on to a little more of my disconnected life. Cuba reminded me so much of life before technology and social media ruled my time. And while I have no interest in going backwards or cutting out social media out completely I am making a commitment to be more aware of when I choose to have my head down.

Are you having this debate? Are you condemning technology on one hand but addicted to its conveniences on the other?

I’d say, before condemning technology, see what your experience as a thirtysomething can bring to it. For example, online dating may seem unnatural, so how can you add some good old fashioned charm to the conversation or make her feel like you can transport her to a simpler time? Go with the flowers or the mixed tape (or playlist), call instead of text, know where you’re going so you don’t need GPS.

What are your beliefs about social media? Does it make us more or less social? Does it make  YOU more or less social? When are other times you could make a phone call instead of sending a text or email?

OR, when could you send a personal email instead of resending a meme?

I’d love to get a personal email for you about your thoughts and questions. Contrary to what I said about technology, I AM ready to get to work with new clients, starting next week.

If you’re ready to get your priorities straight and start being the success you’ve always wanted to be, get in touch today! We’ll chat about where you’d like to go this next year and create an action plan to get you there whether it’s in your career, dating or spiritual life.

Let’s chat today – support@ashewoodward.com

For more info visit ashewoodward.com

How to Love When Dating Rules Have Changed

This past Friday night I got talking with a friend about how excited I am for an upcoming vacation to Cuba with my husband. Naturally, I expected him to be excited for me and give me some advice on things to see, but instead it struck a surprisingly different chord with him.

He started talking about how he’s been traveling so much on his own and how much he’d love to be able to go somewhere and share the experience with someone. We both agreed that sometimes it is nice to travel alone but there are some places and some times, like Valentine’s Day and special occasions, that it’s nice to be with someone you love.

This lead to a discussion I can’t seem to have enough of lately which is why it feels like it’s getting harder and harder to find love.

Some say everyone’s standards are too high, others say the Internet is to blame for our lack of integrity and ability to dismiss possible connections with a ‘swipe’. There’s also the common belief that generation x and millennials are lost when it comes to love because many of them are children of divorce and the fear of getting into a relationship is clouded by the possibilities of where it inevitably leads.

Sigh.

I have a lot of friends who are trying or have tried online dating, some successful, others not. I hear so much frustration with finding people online to begin with and then being disappointed when meeting face-to-face.

I hear a lot of confusion about this hook-up culture we’ve created, where we get together ‘for the moment’ (if you know what I mean…), but nothing more is expected or considered.

Not only that but sexuality and gender roles are in flux and being experimented with and explored. Not only could this be confusing for potential partners but even to ourselves, becuase it can put us in an unbalanced and unconfident place – not the greatest head space to be in when trying to find an ideal partner.

What we do know is that it never comes down to one thing. There’s no one thing or one group of people to blame for what dating is like in the 21st century.

And let me remind you that it’s especially unfair to only blame ourselves for not having found the right person yet. But it’s equally unfair to say that it is everyone else and not you. We’ve all contributed to this and if we don’t step it up or change the behaviour ourselves, we have no right to complain.

Not being out there and experiencing it all myself, I certainly would never look you in the face and say that “Just give it time for the right person find you,” or some other positive outlook crap – and I hope you aren’t saying this to your frustrated friends either – it’s condescending and terribly unhelpful advice in every way imaginable.

I may not be in the trenches but I certainly hear and feel this pain that’s everywhere I was heartbroken to look into my friend’s eyes across the table as he describes how sad he feels when he comes home and there’s no one there to greet him.

But I gave him my hand and I shut my mouth. I just listened, every once in a while reminding him to not be so hard on himself.

None of us can deny that the rules of dating have changed. No more are we taking as many chances with asking someone to go out in a face to face situation – that’s what texting is for, right? But are we losing our nerve?

If the world was only filled with Matthew McConugheys and Sandra Bullocks, maybe we’d all catch each others’ eyes easily and swoosh our hair behind our ear as ‘the signal’. But to catch someone’s eye nowadays we have to cut through a lot of noise and so it takes patience and maybe a little more creativity.

We have to find a creative way to make him or her look up from the smartphone.

We have to dare to interrupt him even if he’s got earbuds in.

We may have to let our guard down a little more so that she sees you’re not ALL about your bros, ironic beards and craft brews.

And let’s not let technology rob us further by being the focus of your date. Turn off your phone and turn up the charm. Give him or her your attention – phone is not only off, it’s away and out of sight. I can’t promise your date will follow suit but at least you’re setting your standards. If all else fails, you could point out how much nicer it is to have your phone off so you two can really chat.

Take risks. In the online dating world, people are answering a lot of the same ‘getting to know you’ questions. While these are great and small talk is necessary before you go for the intense questions about your parenting style, there are still ways to make things more interesting.

Where are you from? (good) 

Where’s your favourite place in the city? (better)

What are your hobbies? (good…ish) 

What’s the next thing you’re going to cross off your bucket list ?(getting better)

Do you have any brothers or sisters? (ugh!)

Do you have a weird family too? What are some of your family traditions?

(You can use this one after the delightful anecdote of your crazy uncle and what happened at last year’s Christmas in July barbecue).

I personally think that the best advice in all of this is that you have to roll with the times. Smartphones, Online Dating and a general unease in the romantic world are part of our lives now. Knowing this, we have to find ways to get a little creative to push out the fog and the noise that can cloud people’s judgments.

We also have to remember that in real life we deal with more frustration in dating than we see between lovers on TV or in movies.

We may also have to deal with the fact that we may not get married by the age we always thought.

But the one great thing about things being in flux is that we can refine a lot of the crap that wasn’t really working anyway. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that dating was any easier twenty or thirty years ago. Back then, meeting someone in a bar or at work were really the only two options. At least we have the entire world at our fingertips!

And if you’re sick of travelling alone? Well, there’s an app for that.

Seriously: travelmates.com.

😉

So, yes, I’ll be taking an ‘off the grid’ hiatus this week but I’ll have space for new clients starting February 26th. If you’d like to have a chat about where you’re heading this year, get in touch at support@ashewoodward.com with the Subject line : COACHING 2017

Go to ashewoodward.com for more info

Avoiding bad news lately? Here’s what it could cost us all.

So the last thing you may want to read is another article, post, blog meme, tweet, headline, status about Trump, right?  BUT WAIT!

Before you ignore, hide, sigh, cancel or avoid social media, I wonder if you’ll do something for me…

Ask yourself really why avoidance is sometimes our first reaction to “bad” news.

 

I’m hearing a lot of people talking about cancelling their social media accounts lately, at least for the time being.

Is this you?

Do you feel like it’s all just too negative? Too heavy?

Do you maybe feel like you don’t know enough about politics or the situation to actually comment?
Are you sick of how all this news makes you feel (helpless, vulnerable, angry)?

When Trump was elected, I tried to stay positive, saying that maybe this will help us wake up to many problems. Looking back, this may have been a little too light-hearted as far as approaches to politics go, especially now that we’re faced with executive orders that fill us with a whole range of mostly intense emotions.

But the favour I ask of you is to consider what this avoidance attitude can mean for us all. If we avoid social media and try to ‘keep positive,’ what are we missing? I’m not talking about FOMO (fear of missing out), but the larger conversation of our times.

We’re being asked to really examine our thoughts on race and religion in particular. Can we afford to ignore what we might really be thinking, feeling or the ugly side of what we’ve been conditioned to believe?

Is there a reason Trump’s comments and actions create a stir in us?
Is something being reflected back?

I have no political background. I’d even go as far as saying it’s scary how little I really know about politics and I’m Canadian. But I still have an opinion.

And it’s this.

In the last election, Americans were faced with deciding between 2 less than desirable options. And instead of making a choice, many chose to avoid and not vote at all – in fact, around 95 million voters did not cast a vote.

Even with my limited knowledge in American politics, I know there’s more to it than that. However, we can’t ignore that the votes of 95 million people would have made a difference. Maybe the same outcome, maybe not. But it would have been a different conversation in America.

But I get it.

I mean, how many times have we all been in the same place where there are hard decisions that need to be made, but we do nothing instead?

I get it. I’ve done it. It’s just easier.

But know this: taking no action, is an action. Make no mistake – you ARE making a choice; indecision is a decision.

We may not all need to take action and march and protest. Some of us do and that’s good and important; it’s such an amazing freedom we have the right to express. But there are other ways to be heard.

We can be aware of what’s happening, have an opinion, but not let it ruin our day; not let it steal our hope; not let it leak into our mood at home or work.

And if it does, let’s agree to reflect on what these feelings mean for us and not shy away from the lessons we could learn.

How do we really feel? Angry, sad, hopeless, sexist, racist?

Right?

Wrong?

Or, it may be making us question the role of leadership completely. Who we choose to follow says a lot about us. We’re saying that we like where this leader is taking us and we share that vision.

But when we question certain decisions made by our leader, our own identity comes into question. And that can be uncomfortable. And that makes us want to hide.

If it’s all getting to be too much, take a time out. Sometimes we really nee a break from it all. But use some of that time for reflection. Get your opinions sorted, without the help of the media.

You may also find you become more reflective in other areas, or more decisive from now on. You can let the lessons from all of this leak into, or even saturate all areas of your life.

The worst thing isn’t the situation that we’re in. The very worst

would be letting it all be for nothing.

Click the link below or shoot me your thoughts at support@ashewoodward.com or start the conversation here or on the Facebook page.

…Start the conversation indeed…

Get started with the power of personal coaching. Check out my site and packages available to get down and dirty with your ugly thoughts and all their delicious lessons. ashewoodward.com