Accidental collisions of the human kind.

Last weekend, my closest friend Rhonda married her best friend Amit. It was a hallmark occasion in our epic friendship and my heart was bursting with joy to witness their union. I write this post in celebration of their special day.

Back in the spring, Rhon asked me to speak at her wedding. To say I was deeply touched is true, but I also felt a profound responsibility to convey the joy I felt for my friend after 20 years of monumental ups and downs in both our professional and personal lives.

Those who know me, know that I can be entertaining, witty and relatively eloquent with little preparation on various topics but few know that I tend to shy away from expressing my inner feelings and thoughts publicly. I much prefer to discuss intimate matters only with those closest to me. So to speak publicly about my love for Rhon, in conjunction with the perfectionist pressure I put on myself, I felt nervous, in the truest sense of the word. Rhon tried to reassure me on Friday by saying my speech would be great even if I winged it, and though I knew this to be true, I still desperately yearned to get it right.

Unbeknownst to many, I had written two versions which I completely hated. A core essence was just missing, they felt generic and empty. Luckily, inspiration came knocking on Friday night at 2am. I woke up with a start, got up and started typing, words flowed magically from my hands onto the keyboard. Satisfaction came after 20 minutes. I went to bed, awoke hours later, read it aloud while recording myself, got verklempt and knew I had a winner!

So in honour of Rhonda and Amit (and with their permission), I would like to share my speech in celebration of their beautiful wedding last Sunday, September 10th 2017.

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“The life we all lead is a result of timing, circumstance and accidental collisions between humans. As social beings, I am often dumbfounded by the serendipitous nature of events that lead to coincidental meetings that change the course of our lives forever.

Nearly 20 years ago today, good fortune brought Rhonda and I into each other’s lives as Freshmen at McGill where we definitely Gert’s Til it Hurt. In the decades that have followed, to say we have supported one another through life’s hard knocks is to undervalue the magic and mystery of our relationship and what it means to me. We have helped one another mature into wonderfully accomplished individuals both professionally and personally; we’ve learned immensely from the school of hard knocks and as we like to say often, “this too shall pass and if it doesn’t kill us… it is making us stronger, right?”

Rhonda is undoubtedly the hardest working, clever, funny, smart and beautiful person that I am blessed to call my friend, she is the sister that I got to choose for myself. And seeing her follow the right career move to Toronto was hard but we both knew it was the right decision to turn the page on Montreal. And as life is often about accidental human collisions, her move brought Amit & Miki serendipitously into her life, in the same magical way that Charlie arrived and I can’t remember seeing her so joyful.

Over the years we have borne witness to many life events, we have travelled the world, loved hard and fallen even harder. We have been blessed with one another and an incredible circle of friends & family that help us get back up again and shine on.  And as her friend, my ultimate desire is for her to find contentment and joy in her everyday life. And I know today that she has found this in her relationship with Amit.

What I love about this couple before me is that they don’t complete each other, they didn’t have gaping holes in their spirits before the other arrived. Both of them are strong, brilliant independent people that are whole in all of their beauty and imperfections. Their coming together just compliments each other. It’s incredible how their shared light shines brighter than the mere combination of two stars into one.

In a lifetime there are magic moments that get burned into our memories and my fondest one is a moment of pure joy emanating from Rhon as we drove with windows down, high above Santorini’s volcanic coastlines. As I hugged the curves of the narrow road in our little stick shift rental car, she had her arms extended out of the window facing the sea and she just bellowed out WHEEEEEEE so spontaneously, gleefully and free, over and over into the great expanse, all while the sunlight danced on her smiling face. I honestly don’t remember a moment where I have seen Rhonda as happy. That is until I saw her with you, Amit.

Rhonda, I am overcome with joy to see you so content, full of life and just plain happy. Thank you Amit for giving Rhonda lots of WHEEEE moments to date and also in all your future years together. I am grateful for you, and love you for bringing such joy to my dear friend, who means the absolute world to me.

So to conclude, I would like to ask you all to join me in celebrating Rhonda & Amit with the most joyful WHEEEE that we can all muster because as we have all lived through many dark moments, these moments of light and love must be celebrated.

So let us raise our glasses and on the count of 3, let us shout out WHEEEE to celebrate the happy couple.

1…2….3….WHEEEEEEE”

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Thank you Rhonda for being my pillar of strength over the last 20 years and for decades to come. I feel blessed to walk down the road of life with you by my side, because as we both know, it is the journey that counts, not the destination.

I am eternally grateful for the accidental collisions of the human kind that brought you into my life and for the serendipitous collisions that brought Charlie, Amit & Miki into yours. I am so happy for you both. Mazel tov!

I love you.

Kindling the flames of epic friendships

Last Saturday night I spent the evening catching up with old friends and was struck by the beauty of friendships that span decades. I have personally enjoyed the pleasurable company of 3 extraordinary ladies for just over half my life’s journey. Since 1998, we have borne witness to each other’s lives. From trips abroad, nights on the town, new jobs, weddings, sickness, disappointments, heartbreak and even the birth of a beautiful baby girl who is now almost a woman – we have shared our lives openly and unapologetically over the years; with care and support radiating from a place of love.

Laced with life’s ups and downs, our friendship has evolved, stretched and repaired itself like a beautiful spider’s web – it’s resilience has enabled us to capture magical moments and bridge many of the obstacles that life sends our way. At times, the strength from our bond has helped me cross the darkest of valleys when I had no strength of my own to continue.

When I step back, I marvel at the serendipitous circumstances that brought us together during very different life milestones. Luck led us to work at the same retail store –reasons varied from a part-time stint while in university, to a full-time career in retail, and as a stepping stone during a brief career break – it is unlikely that any of us foresaw the creation of such a random, positive and long-term comradery back then. The uniqueness of our friendship lies in how incredibly distinct each of us are, all with careers in industries miles apart; to passions, lifestyles and friend networks that overlap but slightly. Yet the ties that bind us stem from our shared values –a thirst for living a life of kindness, generosity and love fueled by endless curiosity and self-discovery – and ultimately a desire to laugh and celebrate joy in our lives.

As we continue to grow older and life runs its course through habits and routines, I invite you to step back and marvel at the delicate yet resilient friendships born long ago, the ones you yearn to rekindle or maintain more often. I welcome you to look at them from a fresh angle, one where the light reveals the sparkle hidden in that old spider’s silk, which until perceived differently, had blended into the background, completely transparent. Perhaps it is time for us to see the beauty in what we may take for granted to always be there.

I encourage you to reach out to your beloved old friends – those with whom you’ve shared significant life milestones – those whom have drifted, not due to a lack of commonality but due to a lack of action on both sides. Because life moves quickly and we sometimes lose grasp of important connections when our hands get too full.

The truth is that it will always be harder to connect with friends in different circles, life stages, time zones and industries. Why? Because it requires more effort and coordination. Because there are no happenstance occasions to bump into one another at the cafeteria, day care or local park – it requires planning. But with just the tiniest bit of planning and desire to step out of our routines, we can choose to deepen these longstanding relationships with just one surgically-precise scheduled dinner. One that will reconnect and strengthen the strands of friendship so that the revitalized web can continue capturing new memories for us to cherish over a lifetime. There is great joy to come from reviving these relationships, I urge you to fight the divergence borne from inaction in order to rediscover the joy of each other’s company.

In 2018, we will be celebrating 20 years of friendship and our web is certainly more beautiful now than yesteryear. I am eternally grateful for the circumstances that brought these lovely dynamos into my life and enthusiastically look forward to our next 20 years together!

Cheers ladies!! Love you to bits!

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Mental rumble-strips. Using the past and the future to stay in the present.

Since returning from paradise, I am slowly re-plugging myself back into the Matrix of everyday life. Fortunately, the Tico magic still lingers, continuing to gift me with profound reflections this week. Akin to fruit ripening after being picked from a tree, many ideas planted during my time in Costa Rica are slowly taking shape. One such idea is the notion of emotions being guideposts to keep our state of mind on the path of joy and contentment. Let me elaborate.

Most of us know that living in the present moment is a tremendous source of joy. The tricky part has always been how to keep the wandering mind in the present. Therein lies the rub.

Let us start by analyzing the moments when we are not joyful. Often it is when we are worried about the future or looking back into our past.  All the mental energy we spend wishing this or that had happened differently or thinking about the future generates stress. And we all know stress is a joy killer.

Since stress is a joy killer, and being present is a way to counter stress, then finding ways to keep us consciously present will connect us to more joy and happiness. “Wonderful!” you say, but how can I be more present? The answer lies in self-awareness. In our ability to catch ourselves mentally drifting.

In addition to experiencing emotions mentally and physically, they can be used as powerful indicators, showing us the state of our mind. When we can ‘step out’ of the emotion itself, we come into meta awareness, which is the difference between being angry and realizing that we are feeling angry. With this awareness, certain emotions can be used as the ‘painted lane lines’ on our happiness highway, helping us to drive within the lane of joy more easily.

On the lane’s left shoulder lies feelings of anger, resentment, inequity, guilt, remorse and regret – these are all emotions generated when the mind thinks about the past. When we mull over the would-have, should-have, could-haves, our minds have veered off the lane of the present onto the shoulder of the past. On the right shoulder are feelings of worry, anxiety, apprehension and fear – these emotions are signs that we are thinking about the future. We contemplate scenarios of which 99.9% will never occur, we roam the land of what-ifs, exploring all possible outcomes – successes and failures – with failures getting the lion’s share of our attention. Whenever we feel uncertain or nervous, this is a sign that we have drifted off the lane of the present, onto the shoulder of the future. And unless you have installed rumble-strips to warn you that you’ve drifted to the left or the right – the past or the future – you will have no awareness cues to get you back on track.

So with this knowledge, let’s install some mental rumble-strips. Let’s use emotions as cues to help us realize that we have veered off the lane of joy. The next time you feel the emotional suites of the past (anger, regret, remorse) or the future (anxiety, fear, worry), take action, grab your steering wheel and bring your mind back into the present, back into the center of the happiness lane.

Using these emotions as guideposts means we understand that the Present lives delicately between the Past and the Future. So don’t sit idly by letting time turn your tomorrows into yesterdays. Make sure you spend quality time on the smooth road of today because life has enough twists and turns in and of itself, that you don’t need to be driving on the bumpy shoulders of the past or the future until the end of days. You deserve to drive in the happiness lane for as much of the journey as possible. And hopefully installing these emotional rumble-strips will increase the amount of joy during the ride!

PastPresentFuture

 

Snap. Click. Capturing the moment.

Point, shoot. Snap, click.

I love pictures. I take hundreds if not thousands of them. I even pay for cloud storage so they can automatically upload themselves from my devices. Yet, in my desire to capture the moment, I have come to realize how often I unconsciously cut short the magic of the moment itself in order to snap a picture, or two or five…

While in Costa Rica, the irony of pictures really struck me. In wanting to create a memory for my future self to look back on, I actually step out of glory of the present moment. Funny, yet true.

This habit is even more apparent when I travel. I see tourists exert incredible effort or expense to arrive at a prime spot, pose for the perfect shot, to then leave immediately afterwards. It’s as if obtaining picture proof became the primary goal over the enjoyment of the experience itself.

Could it be that in our hyper-connected culture, the quest for likes has distracted us from living fully in every moment? Is instant gratification now all about achieving the ultimate great pic for others to acknowledge? Luckily no, we can all consciously take actions to keep this tendency at bay and strive for balance.

So the next time you are at an awesome place, I invite you to kick it old school and take some mental pictures. Savour the moment through your five senses. Taste the air, feel the sensation of the sun on your skin, hold your loved one tight. All without being in front of or behind a lens.

And then leave with the memory of it all captured in your mind.

…but if this sounds a little extreme, here are some baby steps for a happy medium.

First, savour the moment wholeheartedly, then create your digital memories after. Since most of our favourite memories are driven by emotions, taking the time to cherish the greatness of the experience will increase the quality of your pictures when you look back at them in the future.

So cheers to us living fully in each moment. And cheers to us capturing it on camera after experiencing the glorious emotions generated by being fully present.

And with this awareness, cheers to us snapping to our heart’s content.

Roxilla - Playa Hermosa - April 2016

Roxilla and I enjoyed a beautiful sunset walk at Playa Hermosa in Costa Rica. After the ride, she jumped wholeheartedly into our selfie session, pushing her way into the camera 😛 , I loved it. Then we walked into the ocean together. It was magical and hilarious.