Weirdmaste – the weirdness in me honours the weirdness in you

Full definition of weird

  1. of, relating to, or caused by witchcraft or the supernatural: magical
  2. of strange or extraordinary character : odd, fantastic

From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary

A few weeks ago I was served a scalding hot cup of contempt liberally laced with scorn. My crime? I had “gone all weird” and that was weirdmaste“uncool and unacceptable”. Hmmm….

Why all the hostility? What’s so wrong with being weird? Not a thing. And weirdness is plenty of things that are oh-so-very right.

Weirdness – being strange or extraordinary – as the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition defines it, is the very thing that has pushed individuals and society forward.

Weirdness challenges the status quo. That of course is scary for people like my contempt-pouring barista. But challenging the status quo also means pushing boundaries, taking risks and asking difficult questions. Those activities are the wellspring of innovation and I for one am very grateful for all the mod cons that innovation has brought me.

Weirdness is a bold leader. So many of the most fundamental ideas and values we espouse today were introduced to society by so-called weirdos. A round earth that circles the sun? Crazy talk! Women’s suffrage? Those were some pretty strange ladies chaining themselves to the railings. Smallpox vaccine? Riiiiight. What kind of kook could convince people to be injected with dead viruses? We need our weirdness to fling the door of progress open and shout “Hey, follow me!”

Weirdness gives us the audacity to be authentic. Sure, sometimes authentic people are a little frightening. Their honesty and integrity can cast too bright a light and therefore too long a shadow on individuals or groups who prefer a less candid existence. But authentic people are also honest, respectful of themselves and others, and nonjudgmental. Works for me.

Weirdness is your touch of divine madness. Audacious, authentic and daring, weird people are willing to explore their passions and creativity and give them a voice. Name me an artist or thought leader from any society or era who wasn’t considered weird for his or her time. I don’t think you can. Weirdness pushes us past conventional thinking to embrace new ideas and new modes of being. Whether you love their ideas or works or not, isn’t the world richer, more diverse and simply more intelligent for having had the likes of the Buddha, Hildegard von Bingen, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Elizabeth I, Newton, Wordsworth, Kandinsky and John Lennon and all their weirdness?

Am I weird? You bet! It’s one of the most beautiful things about me. Your weirdness is one of the most beautiful things about you too. It’s your authenticity. It’s your originality. It’s your unbounded joy. So you be weird. Wave your freak flag and shine your weird light so I can find you in the dark.

Permission from a pig

EstherAnyone who knows me knows that I have fallen in love with Esther the Wonder Pig. This social media superstar is a real pig – who, just three years ago, as a tiny piglet, somehow escaped the horrific factory farm system and made her way to Steve and Derek, two men with hearts as wide open and big as the sky.

Steve and Derek quickly realized a couple things:
1) Esther was no family-pet-style mini-pig. She was a commercial pig, bred to grow quickly and become food.
2) Esther was not food. She was family, part of the brood of pets in Steven and Derek’s Toronto home.

Because she was not food, Steven and Derek questioned what else they had considered to be food.
They knew the dark side of the world’s industrialized factory farming, but had never really delved into it. Now they did. Within weeks of Esther joining their clan, Steve and Derek became vegan. Esther and all animal-based foods were literally no longer on the table.

And then Steven and Derek, affectionately called the Dads, did all manner of brave and outrageous things.

Esther became the “spokes pig” for their message of veganism and kindness to all creatures on earth. The Dads began to share photos of their giant house pig (Esther is now 700 pounds) along with witty, heartwarming and engaging comments on social media. Esther now has an ardent global following of almost half a million people and has inspired many people – me included – to adopt a vegan diet.

Keeping Esther in her Toronto home was a municipal violation. So the Dads decided to open an animal sanctuary called Happily Ever Esther. They crowdfunded the purchase of a farm and raised far more than the $400,000 they were asking for – all from strangers.

Esther and her dads have been in the news and on the news all over the world. Celebrities have come to visit her. People flock to see her, make donations and passionately share her story.

I’ve wondered often what has made Esther the Wonder Pig such an incredibly popular phenomena. After all, there are loads of cute animals on social media. There’s a ton of funny stuff too, and vegan recipes and calls to action against animal cruelty abound on the internet. So what is the magic of Esther and her Dads?

I believe it’s the permission they give us. The permission we rarely are given (or take!) to be ourselves.
To love openly.
To be vulnerable.
To ask for help.
To be kind and generous.
To care desperately.
To be authentic.
To be different.
To be brave.
To dream.
To challenge the status quo.
To embrace and welcome others.

It’s a marvelous gift. And when you receive it and open it up, you automatically pass it on to others.

So wave your freak flags, love and shine on!

Miracles for all

StormSept52014This is the full definition of miracle according to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary.

  1. : an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
  2. : an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment
  3. Christian Science: a divinely natural phenomenon experienced humanly as the fulfillment of spiritual law

This definition explains a traditional view of miracles as something supernatural and divinely generated, belonging only to the theists in the crowd. But what about people who don’t believe in a deity? Don’t they get to experience miracles too? I say they do.

Here is my full definition of a miracle.

  1. And explosion of awe (often accompanied by a feeling of joy) upon experiencing something beautiful, wonderful or inexplicable
  2. The awareness of the complexity of life and everything in it
  3. Deep gratitude for the privilege of being alive in this time and place knowing that you could have just as easily not been.
  4. Extending this sense of awe, joy, awareness and gratitude to everything and everyone you encounter

Miracles belong to everyone. You only need to be willing to recognize them.

Creating positive change (a/k/a how I quit smoking)

SmokingTen years ago I stopped smoking. It was one of the hardest of things I’ve ever done. For three days I suffered every physical symptom and craving possible – anxiety, sweating, insomnia, dry mouth, headache, even constipation. Everyone around me suffered too! Mentally though, I was tough. In my mind, I had already moved on from being a smoker.

I wasn’t “giving up” smoking or even quitting. That thinking underlines an attitude of lack and deprivation. I was getting rid of a bad habit. I was shedding the shackles. I was moving on to something better for me – a healthier, cleaner, free-er way of living.  Because I wasn’t giving up anything, I certainly didn’t need nicotine replacement gums or patches or vapor cigarettes to fill the void left by cigarettes. There was no void.

With every craving that came and went – and they always went – I breathed, ate ice and said “I’m getting rid of a bad habit” then smiled and celebrated inwardly. I have never smoked since and can’t imagine ever smoking again.

Very often we only change when it’s more painful to not change. Even then, the old way is familiar and comfortable. It will whine, entice and manipulate you to try and keep you where you are.

And that’s when it helps to know, not what you’re running from, but what you’re running to.

Turn your back on what you’re leaving behind. Cut the cord on what was. Don’t be nostalgic and glamourize the past. Understand why you’re changing and what you want for your future and then look forward. See the new way of being and you in it, doing it, living it, reaping the rewards. And then just keep moving forward.

That last time

When I was a little girl, my father moved to Germany. Before the Internet and cheap long distance calling, letter writingairmail was our chief way of keeping in touch. How I loved and dreaded seeing those familiar, thin, blue, air-mail envelopes with his spidery handwriting in our mailbox. Dreaded because he wrote increasingly morose or chiding messages as his own unhappiness and alcoholism consumed him. Loved because he was my father and I wanted to love him.

My father died in Germany more than 11 years ago. We never had a service for him and I don’t even know where his grave is.

For months after his death, I would go to my mailbox still hoping for a card or letter from him. As seasons and milestones passed with no message, the finality of his death sank in.

Last night I dreamed that I received a stack of letters from my father. The letters had somehow gone astray and were finally reaching me these many years after his death. My dream self shuffled the letters, hesitant to read what was in them. Then I said aloud:

Sometimes it’s best if you don’t know it’s the last time. It’s best if you don’t know it’s the last time you’ll see someone. Or the last time you’ll go to a favourite place. Or the last time you’ll do something you love. If you knew it was the last time, it would break your heart and you couldn’t enjoy that last time. If I read these letters, I know it will be the last time I ever read a letter from him.

I cannot remember the last letter I received from my father. I am glad I didn’t know then that it would be the last. It would have broken my heart.

One hand washes the other

Twice in my life I’ve spent some time with one-armed men (and a one-legged man but he was dead and telling no tales). Both times the question that burned for me was “How does he wash his hands?” I even screwed up the nerve to ask one of the men. He looked at me stonily and answered “I manage.” That answer neither cleared up the mystery nor give me any confidence in his hand hygiene.

Meeting these men conjured the memory of my mother announcing “one hand washes the other” with cheery satisfaction as we completed a task together that was exponentially easier to do as a team than solo – think folding fitted bed sheets.

handwashingThat expression coupled with my mother’s contentment as she said it invariably induced a lucid visual of soapy hands sliding over each other, cleaning and being cleaned, engaged in a mutually rewarding exercise. Then I’d wonder, “Well, is there any other way to wash one’s hands?”

Apparently there is, but I don’t know the answer and the one-armed men are not telling.

Help! Help me please!

Last week something suddenly popped in my knee. The pain was debilitating and frightening. But most troubling for me was feeling out of control – I didn’t know what was wrong or what to do.

I have always done things for myself. When I was a child, my mother was distracted and busy trying to do it all herself – raise three children alone, work full time, go to school, maintain a household. I learned very quickly to not ask for things and to rely on myself.

That self-reliance is a blessing and a curse. I’m proud that I’m capable and resourceful. But, more than any knee injury could, I hobble myself because I do not want to ask for help. I don’t want to be rejected. I don’t want to impose. I don’t want to need people.

But sometimes I just cannot do it all myself and this was one of those

I phoned a neighbour and asked if I could borrow a cane from his collection. He promptly brought me a selection of canes and walking sticks to choose from.

I called another neighbour and asked if he was free to take me to the hospital. He was and on the way to the emergency room he even arranged a later date to run errands for me.

The next day, I phoned the office to ask if someone could unlock my laptop and have it waiting for me at the security desk. I said I’d send a cab over to pick it up. The response was “Oh no. We can’t do that. We’ll bring it over. And do you need anything from the pharmacy?” The laptop and Tylenol were delivered within the hour along with best healing wishes from our security team.

And so it went. I soon realized that every time I asked for help, I got it – and more!

We all like to feel needed and useful. People want to help. But sometimes we need to be helped. Admitting  when you need to ask for help and receiving it gracefully is just as important as giving help; helper and helpee need each other.

p.s. I had a Baker’s cyst rupture in my knee. It’s healing nicely and I’m up and walking around again.