Thursday, January 26, 2017

Become a Lion

www.emilysquotes.com

Need a Sign? Look up.


It’s five weeks until my TEDx talk titled, Playing with a Lion’s Testicles at the historic Queen Elizabeth theatre in Vancouver.

It’s been a long selection process: six months so far.
They started out with dozens of awesome and inspiring speakers, speakers who deserve the stage more than me, seriously.
Then they narrowed it down to 13 of us.

The process looked something like this:
1)    July, 2016: Written proposal outlining the tough, tangible, universal problem you are addressing.
2)    August 2016: TEDx Panel Interview, in the ‘hot seat’.
3)    September 2016: Draft 1 speech submission.
4)    Late-September 2016: Draft 2 speech submission (which was really draft 200).
5)    October 2016: Live reading before the panel.
6)    Late-October 2016: Notification that I have been selected (Holy Snap!).
7)    Late October – Now: 1,763,248 drafts of script written, stomped on, cried on and shredded. A marshmallow addiction is born (wtf?), they are gluten-free!
8)    November and December: Two live rehearsals before the panel. Coaching by three talented and tough TEDx coaches. (This made it worth every tear, the coaching was first-class and a huge learning curve).
9)    January 1: New Year’s Resolution to lose the extra ten pounds of ‘marshmallow’ weight before March 4.
10) January 23: Deadline to submit FINAL speech script and Power Point slides after seven months of eating, breathing and sleeping TED.
11) January 24: Still haven’t lost an ounce of marshmallow weight.
12) January 24: Doubt and Public Humiliation ‘ghosts’ start to surface.
I want to write draft 2,345,971 of my script but it’s too late. It’s been submitted to the producer, deadline has passed.
Butterflies have overtaken my stomach and while I am sitting at a red light having a wee-bit of a panic nervous attack. I look over and see the billboard pictured above. It’s HUGE. There are no words. Just a lion (remember my speech title?). I don’t know if he’s saying,
“Come, play with my testicles.” (Which means have COURAGE) or if he’s just saying, “Roar”.
Either way, I take it as sign, a reminder to have the courage to have the courage, to remember that this talk is not about me. That I’m not perfect and that’s OK, but I do have courage to battle my ghosts.
I’ve spent the last seven months writing this talk for the person who is in the dark and lonely valley battling their ghosts, who is perhaps on the verge of giving up on their dreams because it’s too hard, or they have ghosts haunting them: public humiliation, doubt, failure, or even success.
We’ve all stood in the shadow of ghosts, but the problem with ghosts is no matter the type, they all eventually become ghosts of regret.
This is a universal problem.

Have the courage to have the courage, play with a lion’s testicles and ROAR – I’m right here with you, we all are.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

I was Inspired by the Inspired Victoria Group on January 5th, 2017


On January 5th I presented a 'Sneak Preview' of my TEDx talk titled, Playing with a Lion's Testicles, to the wonderful people at Inspired Victoria in the beautiful downtown Victoria harbor at the Coast hotel.

The best part of the night was connecting with everyone afterwards and hearing their stories of courage and change.

Thank you for welcoming me to your town and event my soul sisters and brothers at Inspired Victoria. 

Deborah LeFrank created a gorgeous visual story of my speech. She is a sketch artist and owner of www.visuallifestories.com 
Deborah LeFrank and David Knapp-Fisher


View all the photos and commentary here.
All photos courtesy of Andrew Kielbowicz. 

Hope you bring in the new year with a R-O-A-R and play with a lion's testicles every day in 2017.

XOXO
Judy holding a Lions Testicles



Saturday, December 24, 2016

Playing with a Lion's Testicles at TEDx Stanley Park

Join me (and 2600 others) on March 4, 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth theatre in Vancouver, BC to play with a lion's testicles.

View the trailer here.

Happy Holidays!

Let's all make a new year's resolution to play with a lion's testicles every day!

https://www.tedxstanleypark.com/



 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

...



Playing with a lion's testicles: The ability to summon the courage to do something that scares and thrills one.

Courage: the ability to do something that you know is right or good, even though it’s dangerous, frightening, or very difficult.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Remembering New Moms who Suffer in Silence





In mid-October, a young, new mother named Florence Leung left her home in New Westminster and never returned.

Her family made pleas to the public for help in finding her as she was suffering from Post-Partum Depression. Her husband said,
“Please come home Florence, let me hold you again, everything will be alright.”

The next day footage emerged of Florence buying a banana and Gatorade from a convenience store on Denman street, downtown Vancouver and the family was hopeful asking the public to look for Florence in the area.

When I saw this footage it told me that Florence was utterly exhausted because of what she was buying. It also told me there was hope.

PPD and PPA reportedly effects 10% of women. Bullshit. The truth is, it effects a lot more women than that – some informal reports say as high as 80% of women are effected but only 10% ever ask for help.
The rest suffer in silence for a number of reasons, but the biggest being that they feel guilty for what should be one of the happiest moments in life but it isn’t.

When in reality having a baby is the most difficult thing a women’s body and mind will ever go through. Physically, emotionally, hormonally, mentally – it’s chaotic yet we have these beliefs that if we’re not beaming with gratitude and have bouncy, perfect hair and can get back into our pre-pregnancy jeans by the time we leave the hospital (if we don’t home birth), then we must be monsters. 
A retired maternity nurse told me that 50 years ago they use to tell women it takes two years to recover from having a baby: one year to recover from pregnancy and another year to recover from the first year having a baby.
Imagine if we were still told this today how much less pressure we may feel?

Florence did everything right, she was a nurse actually and she told her doctor she was suffering and started taking anti-depressants.

The day after the convenience store footage appeared, Florence’s car was found at Prospect Point in Stanley Park, a well-known lookout point that stands over 300 feet above the sea below.
Inside her car the banana and Gatorade untouched.

Opened on July 27th, 1939, the Prospect Point Signal Station helped alert vessels about tide conditions, winds, and other potential hazards, it was a beacon, that would help lost souls find their way safely home and that’s what it did for the strong, beautiful yet fragile young mother named Florence Leung, it helped her find her way back home.

Two weeks later her body was found off the shores of Bowen Island where presumably the current had carried her from Prospect Point.

I went to Prospect Point today to leave purple carnations for Florence and there still remained a tattered sign from the family, pleading for help to find their Florence, the young mother who was suffering from Post-Partum depression. The tragic ending to the story now written.

May her soul rest in peace, may her family, her husband and her baby boy find peace and solace. There are no words for such a tragic and heart-breaking loss.

So what can we do? How can we help new mothers who are suffering? Well, I know what we can’t do. We can’t let this be another tragic story that ends here.

But what we can do, is let Florence’s story change the way we view new moms and how we treat them.

First, if we know the new mom, drop off food: a prepared meal, and easy-to-eat healthy snacks. New moms are energy deprived and often don’t have time to eat, grocery shop, let alone prepare a meal for their family. So forget that baby-sized Tuxedo you bought for her four-week-old, drop her off a meal instead.
Ask her to go for a walk, walk with her, let her talk. You don't have to have answers, just an ear.

Second, acknowledge new mothers, especially the ones you don’t know but see on the street. When you see a new mother, look in her eyes and ask her,
“How are you?”
You don’t need to ask about the baby – trust me, the baby is well looked after. But the mom probably isn’t. She’s just trying to make it through the day. Just being able to get out the door with a baby was a huge accomplishment and she never takes a second to check-in with herself.

And when she laughs and says,
“I’m fine,” you say,

“It’s OK not to be fine when you’re doing the toughest job there is but one-day you will feel like yourself again.”

View from Prospect Point



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Joy is free and everywhere


Lesson 891,762 from the Universe



Someone else always has a bigger problem than we think we have.

I’ve been going to the same drycleaner for many years now. Owned and operated by an elderly couple, he’s usually in the back, cleaning and pressing the clothes while she greets the customers and, if needed, takes you behind the counter, draws a small curtain and does measurements and alterations.

Neither speak much English but they both speak the universal language of kindness.
When taking my clothes, with a big smile she would say,
“What day you need?”
“Tuesday?’

With a freshly sharpened HB pencil she’d circle the day on a slip, placing a copy in her wooden rolodex.

They’ve been in this same location for decades, the small desk in the back corner must be 50 years old, the small wooden shelf is covered in old ceramic coffee cups patterned from the 70s, a rice cooker and small bowls evidence they eat lunch, and maybe even dinner at this small desk every day.
That’s the other thing, the neon ‘OPEN’ sign in the window always seems to be on. Not unusual for a mom and pop run business.

A few weeks ago, on a Wednesday I rushed to the dry cleaner to drop off some things I needed for a flight on Monday. Running across the parking lot I noticed the husband outside taping a notice to the door at 12:30.
I thought it was odd as there’s never a sign on the door. He turned around and began walking away but saw me and quickly pulled out his keys and unlocked the door to let me in. I didn’t read the sign.

            “Are you sure?” I asked.
He just smiled and nodded.
Once inside I looked around for his wife but she wasn’t there. In fact, the place seemed eerily dark and quiet. He took my items and asked,
            “When you need?”
            “Is there any chance I can pick up on Friday? I’m going away, need to pack…”
            “Afternoon is OK?” he said.
            “Sure. Thank you!”

He handed me the slip and I forget about it until Friday 4:00.
I race over there and notice the neon OPEN sign is turned off.
What?! How can they be closed so early? It’s not even 5:00 yet.

I race to the door and sure enough it's locked. About to turn away I notice a sign near the door, 'Vacation notice'

Vacation! Vacation? They're on vacation! Why didn't they tell me on Wednesday?! Why didn’t they say get here early because we’re going on vacation? I’m going on vacation too and now I don’t have the clothes I need!

Under the vacation notice it reads,
In case of emergency contact our son at X number and he will come and meet you.

Well yes this is an emergency, I. I begin to dial the number to tell son to come meet me and open the door.

As the phone is ringing I continue to read the sign,
We will be closed for vacation from Friday until Tuesday.
I am saddened to say that my wife’s battle with cancer ended on Wednesday.

That's where he was going on Wednesday when he stopped to open the door for me and take my clothes. My stupid, unimportant clothes. 
Ashamed, I quickly hung up the phone and continued to read.

She thought of you all as her extended family and loved you all very much.
We are sorry for the inconvenience of having to close but will reopen again in a few days after the service.

I returned to the drycleaner a couple of weeks later. Now it was just the gentleman and a dark, heavy feeling inside the shop. I handed him my drycleaning slip and said I was very sorry for his loss and that I missed his wife’s generous smile.

I asked him how he was doing, OK, he said.

The coffee cups, rice cooker and even the vintage alteration mannequin looked sad.
And I was reminded, by the universe, that whenever I think I have a pressing issue, or a problem, it’s insignificant compared to the problem the person standing right in front of me has. The person who is putting on a brave face, who is being kind to me.
And this man, despite losing his wife that very day, who was maybe even on his way to the hospital to say his final good-bye, stopped to help me.

It’s usually in those times when we think our needs are so important that the universe gives us a reality check as to what’s really important.
A reminder to always be kind and to always remember that everyone is dealing with something.





Monday, August 1, 2016

Alive: Just out of View UPDATE!



There is an update on Rufus at the end of this post!

It’s been ten days since I lost my best friend. Caring friends have offered advice to ‘get out and see people’ and ‘keep busy with distractions’. And that’s what I’ve done. The last ten days has been full of parties, work and seeing people. Even in the quiet moments late at night I’ve filled the space with mindless TV. I’ve done everything they said to do. I was wrong.

This isn’t my first time meeting grief. I know better. I know that avoidance and distraction are the worst things to do. Grief needs our attention otherwise it patiently wait for an unplanned space between the fillers then it pulls us into the darkness, knocking us on our ass in the process.

It’s better to make an appointment with grief instead of being caught off guard. 
Today I made the appointment.

I went to Rufus’s favorite walking spot. A marine hiking trail deep within an old growth forest. My eyes stung with tears with each step as I walked alone. Soon guilt became my companion. That’s normal. Guilt and grief usually travel together.

I sat on the sea cliff where we had sat hundreds of times before. In front of me an ugly, dead tree – a stark reminder.

They say those things that cause our suffering are just illusions, even death, they are not real. But in this time of suffering it doesn’t feel like an illusion, like Houdini’s magic tricks, it feels very real. Painful. Unnecessary. Unwanted. 
It was the promise of these human emotions that lured us here in the first place. We so desperately wanted to feel something other than, what, pure love? bliss? divinity? I don’t know what’s on the other side, I don’t remember. But I’d like to think that’s what it is and that we came here to be an active participant in the greatest magic show in the universe with illusions so great we believe they are real, especially when they make us feel these emotions so foreign to our true selves.

Being willing to sit with grief is terrifying. It hurts like hell. It sucks. The blackness is hollow. The loneliness deafening. It doesn’t feel like a magic trick. It feels very real. But it’s necessary. To feel all those things I don’t want to feel. 
Release the resistance. Sit in the darkness. Look in the familiar eyes of grief instead of looking away.

And just like when we search the newly black sky for a star, a dim light soon appears.
Grief is not a monster. It’s a deep, intense, powerful emotion that reminds me of my humanness, this temporary and fragile condition that was gifted to you, and me.

Soon I hear the gentle lapping of the waves on the rocky cliff. Slowly coming back to the moment, to the magic. A curious ant scuttles across my hand and I laugh at the creativity of the magician. Up above the honking chorus of Canada geese catches my attention and that’s when I notice that the dead tree is not dead after all.
For up above, just out of view, it is alive. And so is Rufus, up above, just out of view, he is alive.
Update
I had asked Rufus to give me a sign that he was OK, you know, after he passed. I think most of us look for a sign. I said, 'a beautiful sunset is not a sign, I want something really specific, I need to know it's you Rufus'. The days went on and there was no sign. 
Well, this morning I brought my three-year-old to McDonald's for breakfast (I know, I know) and she asked for a toy. I said,  
"No, they don't give toys at breakfast, (I know, I know), feeling like a schmuck I quickly said, “yes they do give toys at breakfast”, and the cashier let her choose a toy. I didn't pay much attention.
After breakfast she asked me to open the package and inside was a stuffed dog equipped with a blue wheelchair. Rufus loved kids so it makes sense he would give us his signal via a toy, a gift for a child.
My daughter screamed,
"Why does he have a wheelchair like Rufus!? Is his name Rufus too?" 

I said, "I don’t think so, this is just Rufus's way of telling us he's alright." 

And he is alive. He’s just out of view.  

 





Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ruby: The Fearless, Unscathed Creative Genius



Creativity Takes Courage - Henri Matisse
 
Walking through Kitsilano neighbourhood on this Sunday morning, my dear friend Penny and I happened upon a courageous young girl seated at what we thought was a lemonade stand.

But this little girl was not selling lemonade, she was an eight year old self-published author selling copies of her books, greeting cards and stickers.

My friend purchased two of her lovely cards but I gravitated to the books she was selling for $2.50.
The books were still wet with glue, because she had bound them together by hand. She is the author and illustrator and as you will see by the photo below of her ‘about the author’ page, Ruby is eight years old and got the idea of writing these books because she has two pet rats: Wilfred and Twitcher, who happen to be the main characters in her book series. Yes, she has written a series. She has written a series. A series. A %&@^$ Series!!!!

I bought the books because:
a)    Gotta support other starving writers (but Ruby is not starving because at $2.50 a piece she is making more than double what I do as a traditionally published author!),
b)    They are absolutely adorable and so is she.

But what I didn’t expect was how well written these books are. She followed Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey monomyth almost to a tee. 



Wilfred and Twitcher started off in their ordinary world where we learn they both come from poor families who struggle to put food on the table. Twitcher is bored, and tired of his circumstances, the rumblings of an adventure to come.
The call to adventure came when Twitcher asked Wilfred to go find the magical blue berries that his Dad had told him about.
The meeting with the mentor came in the form of a magical red bird named Scarlet who took them part way on their adventure, but then, this was as far as she could take them…
They met enemies and allies, went through tests.
There was a central ordeal in the BEAR-LION cave where they nearly died at the midpoint but managed to escape.
They seized the sword i.e. the magic blue berries.
Made the road back home with the help of a raccoon where they returned with the elixir – magical berries that produced non-stop food that would last them a lifetime so they’d never go hungry again!
All this in a 10-page self-published book of an eight year old creative genius named Ruby.

This creative genius has not yet been tainted by doubt, fear and nay-sayers; in fact, her mom and dad were out there with her helping her count change (and controlling the crowd that had gathered). She is an inspiration to the rest of us who ‘know too much’

I was thrilled to snatch up two copies of her books, and have the author sign them because, as her mom said, this is the last sale of the season as Ruby will be taking a year-long sabbatical in Berlin starting next week. No doubt she will find lots of inspiration for the further adventures of Wilfred and Twitcher. Go Ruby!

Check out the questions and answers page at the end of the book and the preview of book two. 




Thursday, July 21, 2016

I Lost My Best Friend Today



I’m writing this post in memory of my baby boy, my best friend but I’m also writing it for anyone else who lost their best friend today, or is faced with the painful question of whether or not they should let them go.

Rufus found me nearly 14 years ago when I was living in Cabo San Lucas. He showed up on my doorstep in the middle of the night, he was only a few weeks old. He chose me. He must have known how much I was going to need him.

He’s been the strong, steady, silent presence through the passing of many loved ones including my parents, and with it, my innocence.

You are not alone in your deep sadness. In your sorrow, in the darkness so black that you can't even find yourself right now, you, like me, are seeking solace. Something to take away the unbearable pain.

There is no magic answer to your question; how do I survive this grieving? But there is an answer to know if it is time to let them go.

I knew it was time to let Rufus go because he told me it was time. His hind legs were weak. We got him a wheelchair. But then his front legs went today. He looked in my eyes and I knew it was time. I thought about giving it a few more days, not for him, but for me, for my own selfish need to hold on. But that wouldn’t be fair to him. The best way to love our pets at the end is to let them go, with dignity and peace and comfortably, without pain.

I laid on his shoulder and cried one more time, soaking his fur, as I had many times before. He was steadfast and strong, comforting me, as he had, many times before. I can never give him all that he gave me. I have tried. I have tried. But he always gave me more. Your reserves of love, unlimited. I love you buddy. I am so sorry I couldn’t do more. And I’m sorry I let you go.

As I write this my tears soak this keyboard. The pain of death never gets easier, only more familiar.


We have to let them go. Hold him through his last breaths, if you can, and if you can’t that’s OK. Rufus laid in my lap those last few moments, I held him tighter and tighter even after his last breath, clinging on to what was no longer. But I know, I know I felt his love fill the room and it will never leave my heart.

How do you survive, how do you fill that huge, empty, hole in your heart? You don’t fill it with guilt, guilt will only turn that hole into a bottomless pit. When you brought an animal into your home, you saved him. He has spent his whole life trying to pay you back. And he did. Many times over. Even though you never wanted to be paid back. Even though you still feel indebted to him.

So you do it by remembering all the love you shared, the walks, the road trips, the sad times and the good ones, the one-sided conversations that were always met with big, floppy, listening ears and the unconditional love that always greeted you at the door, and then you say, I’ll see you soon buddy. I’ll see you soon. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Problem with Politeness: The Gritty Lily


April. Dusk slips into the city almost unnoticed as a spring shower tiptoes across the collied sidewalk.
The rush from Point A to Point B races against the clock.
There is never enough time.

Impatiently waiting at the crosswalk I hear a man yelling. I can’t make out his words but he’s loud, obstructive perhaps even desperate.
What’s that guy on?

His voice is getting louder. I look down the sidewalk to my right and you see him. He’s a young man, maybe 30, wearing what appears to be pajamas, stained with dirt, rain and who knows what else. His eyes are wild. His hair disheveled and even in the fading light I can see his fingers are blackened. He runs from one person to the next, holding up something in his hand and every time he does the person quickly turns away.
When is the light going to turn? I hope it turns before he gets to me. I don’t want to deal with this shit.

Now he’s heading straight for me. What is in his hand that’s making everyone else run away?
A knife?

The light turns but it’s too late. He’s made eye contact and now he’s right beside me. He raises his hand with a desperate look on his face and in his hand is…
a flower. A flower?
He’s going to try to sell me that flower.

“Do you know what kind of flower this is?” he pleads.
What’s the con? Is he going to ask me to buy it?

In his hand is a torn, dirty, yellow flower; but despite its condition he cradles it ever so gently.
            “No, sorry I don’t.” Because I really don’t know.

            “OK.” he says and continues walking with the green light beside me.
Is that it? He’s not going to ask me to buy it?

Walking beside me, he asks every person he passes the same question he asked me. But every single one of them does what I almost did.
Looks the other way. Holds up their hand in disgust. Crosses the street to avoid him. Some even tell him to ‘f’  off before he can even ask. 

Walking alongside him I can’t help but begin to feel the same things he feels.
Rejection. Judgement. Condemnation.
I may have been polite in looking at his flower, but I wasn’t kind and therefore was no different than even the ones telling him to ‘f’ off right now.
This is wrong.

            “Can you please tell US what kind of flower this is?” I suddenly find myself saying to the next person who passes us.

I am met mostly with mistrust as they look at him, then me in my sharp blazer and matching hat.
But he continues forward, and so do I, forgetting about time or the importance of getting to Point B. For this, this is more important. This is a calling, a calling for kindness amidst the judgement and indifference that only moments ago I was a part of.

Slowly some begin to at least look at the flower now. But not everyone does, some give me the same treatment they gave him, but this just adds fuel to my passion for humanity. I meet their judgment with laughter, a reflection of the irony of their blind condemnation.

I don’t know the purpose of this mission, it just feels like the right thing to do.

The man with the flower looks at me and I see hope in his bloodshot eyes as he realizes that he is no longer invisible. No longer alone.

            “Good evening! Have you ever seen this type of flower before, madam?”

And then it happens, a small crowd of three or four people has gathered around us when a man peeks above all our heads and in a thick foreign accents says,

            “This is a lily!”

            “What is it?” screams the man holding the flower, spinning around to face him.

            “It is a lily. I am sure of it.”

The young man crumples to his knees and begins to sob. The small crowd quickly scatters.

            “Are you alright?” I ask.

            “Am I alright? Am I alright?” he is nearly screaming again, “This flower is a lily. A lily. A beautiful lily. This was my mother’s favorite flower but I never thought to ask her what it was called. And now she’s…gone.” His voice trails off as he gently strokes the lily.

            “I’m sorry. But glad you found your answer.” I said, beginning to walk away feeling changed in some small way I can’t quite put my finger on.

            “Wait!” he screams, “Take it.” He holds the wilted lily up for me to take.

            ‘No, that’s OK, thank you.”

            “Please!”

I notice a twinkle in his eye that I’m sure wasn’t there before and accept the lily with the same gentleness he offered it to me.

As I’m walking away he says,
“Do you know what it means when someone gives you a yellow lily?”

            “No, what?”

            “It means you’ve been kissed by an angel.”

Yes, yes I have.