Saturday, October 25, 2014

i remember it like it were yesterday.

weeks before my friend and i were taking a team of girls with us to africa, a - let's call him a know it all - kindly let us know that we were going to die in malawi. if that statement wasn't bold enough on its own, he felt the need to write it in caps, and leave it as a comment on one of our blog posts for the whole internet world to see. [do that here and i will delete you] =)

now, the rational side of me could, and did, disregard this comment at the time, but i'd be lying to you if i said that it didn't stay in the back of my mind leading up to the trip.

so here we are, making our descent into the malawian airport and what pops into my head but this stupid comment. to make matters worse, it took the pilot a couple attempts to land, only to bring the plane back up, and down, and around and around before doing so successfully. i was going to die in malawi alright. on the runway.

we landed safely [thanks, captain obvious], but as i'd soon find out, the know it all's comment had its grip on me until i stepped foot back onto canadian soil weeks later.

my team and i spent a considerable amount of time at one of my favourite places in the world: the village of hope. this little community consists of about ten homes filled with beautiful orphans and their 'house mothers', who by the way, treated each child as if they were their own. beautiful, simply beautiful. any ways, we step into a small building on their property only to see a gigantic picture of a man's face hanging on the wall. soon after i find out that the very building that i was standing in was dedicated to this man because he was, get this, trampled by an elephant. naturally, thoughts start racing through my mind faster than i would run if there were an elephant chasing me. [which would have to be faster than 40 km/hour, i may add, and this girl wasn't going to zumba back then].

less than two weeks later, i faced my first wild elephant head on during a safari, and one too many after that.

our safari guide, george, or george of the jungle as i liked to call him, was an adrenaline junkie. not only did he like to get as close to the wild animals as possible, but he equally enjoyed hearing girls...okay, one girl in particular, scream. and that girl would be me, because, well, i was going to die in malawi. in the middle of nowhere by an animal that weighs a cazillion times more than i do after a delicious thanksgiving dinner.

so here we are, driving around what seemed to be a deserted park, and BOOM - out comes an elephant. it stops, turns towards us, blocks the road, and locked eyes on what could possibly be the biggest meal of his life. [i'm pretty sure i saw him licking his lips]. while i'm biting my sweater - hard - like hard enough to chew a hole in it, george of the jungle proudly announces that there's 'an elephant on the road' [looks like i'm not the only captain obvious here] as my team instagrams this gigantic road block and most likely my shredded sweater along with it. #myleaderisasissy #elephantonroad

the elephant, after winning the scariest staring contest of my life, turns around and continues on his way. and thankfully, we do, too.

i wish i could tell you that this was the last encounter i had with a creature far too huge for my liking, but it wasn't the case. i could sit here and recount each one to you, like the time our boat died in between a family of hippos, alligators, and elephants [the bermuda triangle has nothing on this malawi one], or the countless arguments a stressed out leader had with her team about the zoom feature on a camera being just as effective at capturing pictures of elephants than being up close and [too] personal is, but then you'd miss the point of this blog.

and my point is, fear can be crippling.

in light of the recent events in ottawa, the articles circulating the internet because of it, and the conversations i've had or overheard since, i think it's fair to say that fear is becoming more and more prevalent as time goes on; people, and maybe even you, are worried, on edge, and just plain scared.

i get it. admittedly, i had to talk myself out of the nonsense i was thinking as i traveled to work this week, and as i walked through busy malls and transit stations. but i refuse to let fear control my life like it did when i could have been instagramming sick pictures of elephants instead of chewing through my sweater and planning my own funeral.

but hear this, friends - fear, though it can have some truth to it, is often irrational.

i heard of one man dying of an elephant trampling - one! - and all of a sudden i thought thirteen of us were destined for the same thing. i see a surreal and devastating news clip about a guard getting shot, and i keep my eyes peeled for gunmen in my own backyard.

you see the same and don't let your kids out of your sight, or maybe hear about a life-altering disease going around and start washing your hands as if were about to 'scrub in' on an episode of grey's anatomy.

could any of the above situations happen? sadly, yes. many could. but are they going to happen? to me? to you? that i don't know. none of us do. but what i do know is that there's no sense worrying about things we can't control. be alert and wise, yes. but worry, no.

because really, we don't know what tomorrow holds or when our time on earth is up, and personally, i would much rather experience life to the full than to let fear rob me of what could have been a fascinating journey through an african safari, and an even more exciting one through life.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

the drummer in me is embarrassed to say this, but i feel like i have two left feet on thursday nights as i try and keep up with my zumba class. sure, i rock at some of the dances, especially those of the hip-hop nature [i have more soul than both of your shoes], but the salsa type dances? apparently the ladies who are dancing circles around me have hips that don't lie [shout out to team shakira], but unfortunately mine do, in fact, they barely co-operate. like someone get this girl a hoola hoop.

even still, zumba class has very quickly become one of the highlights of my week, and here's why.

1) no matter how many dance moves we have, or in my case, don't have, we're all on the same page.

i was talking to some of the ladies before class this week and we were all sharing our weaknesses. for some, it was the amount of rice that was accessible at home after class, or the 12a.m. cravings, and for others, it's pumpkin spice lattes, which will very soon turn into egg nog tazo chais, or cheggnogs as some of you know them by [speaking on behalf of a 'friend' here]. regardless of what we struggle with specifically, we all struggle; getting [and remaining] healthy is no easy task, and surrounding ourselves with people who are on the same page is almost as important as putting the work in ourselves.

2) you can't get anywhere if you spend all [or any] of your time comparing yourself to another.

it would be easy, and even natural, to stand at the back of class and compare myself to the other ladies' body types, but what good what that do? i'm still the size that i am, i'm still paula, - you're still you - and as i mentioned on facebook the other day, nothing good ever comes out of comparing yourself to another; there will always be someone thinner, smarter, stronger, richer, and more beautiful than you. so be YOU; be your YOUnique self.

3) and lastly, music is powerful, and the music they play in zumba class makes me happy.

i'm not going to belabour this point, but i don't think we realize the effect that the music we listen to has on us. of course, the same can be said about what we watch on TV, the books we read, and dare i say, the friends and family we choose to listen to, but whatever the means, i'm a firm believer that what goes in [your mind and your heart], will come out [of your mouth and actions].

so ... here's to zumba [raises 'my friend's' pumpkin spice latte].

Monday, October 13, 2014

there are a lot of perks that come with living where i live; i'm within walking distance from a major shopping centre, i have a killer roommate [not in the literal sense, of course], access to a gym and a pool, and, get this, a subway at the base of my building, so i can always 'eat fresh'.

the veggie sub lover in me used to frequent this particular subway three to four times a week, but recently stopped due to the overly rude man that was prone to serving me every time. [please note: this blog isn't about his bad attitude, but mine, as you will see below].

a few weeks a go, however, i had a sub craving that couldn't be satisfied by just any sandwich.

i go downstairs, and as expected, this particular sandwich artist was being ... himself. 'um hello? you are not ordering properly!" he kept saying over and over, after yelling at me because he didn't hear me say that i wanted a six inch sub and not a twelve. i kindly [at this point] told him that he didn't have to be rude to me, twice in fact, which just ended up making him more aggressive. after telling him i no longer wanted a sub, he mumbled something, and i, in response, ... called him an asshole - like to his face - and left his store for the last time.

for a minute, i felt proud. "i showed him", i thought. "yeah paula, STICK IT TO THE MAN. STICK IT TO THE SUBWAY MAN".

but then, minutes later, i felt like the asshole. a hungry, sub-less asshole.

this one moment alone sent me into deep reflection.

1) i obviously had/have some misplaced anger.

chances are, though he was rude, the subway man wasn't the root of my anger that day.

for the past two or three months, i've been harbouring bitterness towards people i felt abandoned by during one of the hardest seasons of my life.

my mom's been on quite the medical journey over the past year. i won't go into too much detail because it's her journey, but she got diagnosed with cancer a while back, had an operation, and recently spent six weeks undergoing treatment at princess margaret hospital in toronto.

let it be said that she displayed nothing but courage and optimism throughout this whole process, but admittedly, this was one of the scariest and loneliest seasons of my life. it should have never been about me, i know, but part of this was my journey, too, and i struggled through my part of it each and every day.

i struggled with the commute almost every night after work, wrestled with fear, felt loads of compassion for my mom and the other patients who did nothing but inspire me throughout this whole process, found myself missing my dad more than ever, and struggled through deep bouts of loneliness when my friends appeared to be nowhere in sight. if i'm being honest, i'm still carrying the latter, which still serves as a huge burden on my heart and shoulders to this day, but is something i am trying to work through even now as i type this.

2) i needed/need a healthy outlet.

believe it or not, i was having a hard time coming up with the words to express what i was going through to the point where i couldn't even bring myself to blog or journal, which is weird for me. so i found an alternative outlet: the gym.

i joined good life almost two weeks a go now and soon after realized that while working out has obvious physical benefits, the fact that it's helping me de-stress and relieve some anger is helping me even more. a few days a go, a certain song came on as i peddling away on the stationery bike, and tears started running down my cheeks. [if anyone asked, i planned on telling them that i was working out so hard that sweat was coming out of my eyes haha]. i got off that bike feeling ten pounds lighter [figuratively speaking, that is].

3) at the end of the day, life is a journey, and i'm grateful for the process.

i adopted the word 'ameliorate' as my word for 2014, which means, "to make something unsatisfactory better; to become better" and i am happy to report that i am making much progress with this. in the midst of working through some of my above issues, which is all part of becoming a better me, i've been doing a lot of reflecting about this past year alone, and choose to celebrate how far i've come and how better my life has been since i made some significant changes, and continue to.

i thank God that i'm not who i used to be, and for the hopes of being an even better me tomorrow.