How was your summer?
What are you most looking forward to this year?
I am looking forward to a trip to Berlin – I have to go for a meeting so I decided to take some time to see the city as well.
What is a typical day like in your life?
Ha! Each day is different. Being a mother means you need to multi- task constantly. I usually meet with 1-2 clients through my work with the Health Authority. Some days I teach classes on mindfulness, aging and cognitive behaviour techniques. And I am a bit addicted to social media so I check Instagram and Facebook alot. What else? I hang out with my kids, call friends, talk to my parents, plan projects. I always make time to read something pleasurable each day.
What was so lovely about this project was that it came together so easily on many levels. Teaming up with Britt made it great! There were some difficult parts to it too – as with every project. Getting permission from the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority was a lengthy process for instance – I think I wrote 7 versions of a proposal in order to get permission from all the stakeholders. The insurance was difficult as well. No one wanted to give us insurance. Luckily, I am extremely persistent when I feel strongly about something, so it all worked out in the end. The best part of the project was meeting some incredibly passionate and wonderful people who care about the ocean and who care about creating community, so it made all the tedious parts worth it.
What inspired you to bring this to Victoria?
Last October I did this wonderful week long retreat with Thich Nhat Hahn down in San Diego. He is an 88 year old Vietnamese Zen monk who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in the 1960’s by Martin Luther King Jr. He is incredibly inspiring and during the retreat, he would walk with us in the hills around San Diego and give talks. He emphasized the connection to oneself, others and the environment. I came home from that and felt inspired to facilitate a project with those ideas in mind. The next day I serendipitously discovered JR’s TED talk “My wish: Use art to turn the world inside-out.” It was the perfect catalyst for the “Communities for a Clean Coast” initiative.
How do you find balance between work, being a mom, having a social life and organizing fundraisers/events?
Balance? What balance? I think balance is over-rated. I’ve always had a tendency to follow ideas passionately, often in an extreme kind of way. At the heart of balance is accepting who you are. This is who I am: I am a busy person and I enjoy it. I have to say, since having kids, things are even more full. But having kids is not about balance – it’s about presence. I know I need to keep my spiritual practice front and centre to stay present. So I try to meditate or do something quiet every day. Really coming back to my breathe is it. That’s the goal.
This idea of having everything controlled and prepared so that you can avoid “stress” isn’t realistic. I guess I am talking about routine or a perceived perfectionist way of living which sometimes we are taught is balance. Balance, I think, is about managing diversity, and finding my centre within that. It is not about staying safe or comfortable – which feels stagnant to me.
What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced in the past few years?
Four years ago, I hit an all time low. I ended up in a hospital in Venice California for a few days emotionally, physically and mentally spent. I had this moment in this dingy hospital bathroom where I thought: this isn’t working. From all outside appearances, things should have been wonderful: I had a beautiful home in a beautiful part of the world, two healthy children and a committed husband and a meaningful career….but I was not happy. I thought: This is my life, I can’t go around trying to please everyone all the time, and not listening to my heart. My heart was saying “I need to start over”. It was the hardest thing to listen to, but when I got home I ended up selling my house, leaving my job, separating from my husband and moving back to the island. I don’t recommend that route for everyone but it was what I needed to happen for me.
What is a common misperception about yourself?
People often remark on how comfortable I am in social situations and probably wouldn’t believe it if I told them I often experience social anxiety. I have actually dealt with this all my life – which is why meditation is so important to me. In the past, I used to get ready for some event, drive there, go to the door and then turn around and not go in, because I was so anxious. That doesn’t happen anymore.
Where would you like to see yourself in the next five years?
Well we all know the joke: “How do you make God Laugh? Tell her your plans!”
So my dreamy vision looks like this God: I would be in a home that I designed and built on the ocean, writing and traveling to conduct classes and retreats, going to my son’s soccer practices, playing tennis and surfing lots with a killer partner at my side. Ta-Da.
Truthfully though, I have been guided these past years by a treasured motorcycle patch that I have on my dresser which reads: ‘Set no path, never lose your way’. With this is mind, I would answer: I’d like to see myself content and fully embodying who I am. I am slowly learning that when I do that, all else falls into place.
What cause is closest to your heart?
Hands down, mental health. If people are mentally and spiritually healthy, life is good. One of the moments I am most proud of in my life is when I helped organize an event called ‘Papalooza’ with another nurse, on the Downtown Eastside. We had services donated to the cause, and encouraged sex trade workers to come into a clinic to get pap smears and to be in a safe space to get their hair / make up done. We wanted those ladies to feel good about themselves. I walked around all day, with a t-shirt saying: ‘I Love My Vagina” on it, inviting these women to participate. I felt great!
Another cause close to my heart happened last week: I organized a Robin Williams tribute night for Suicide Prevention day with Kuba Oms at Fort Commons outdoor space. We wanted to bring people together to talk about depression and suicide. It was actually a very fun evening!
When are you happiest?
I am a natural doer. I love to be active but I also love to listen. I am very happy facilitating the mental health groups I run, which requires a lot of attentive listening. And I truly love hearing their stories. People amaze me, what they go through and how they evolve and grow. I love witnessing that. I love the feeling of empowering others to make shifts in their lives.
What are you afraid of?
I am afraid that I will walk through this life and miss the point. I was in a really bad car accident when I was 18. I was driving too fast and blasted through a red light. I wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The car ended up going through the brick wall of gas station bathroom. I fractured a few vertebrae in my neck. I should have died then but I didn’t. It wasn’t my time. It left me with a strong sense that our time here is valuable and to make it worthwhile in whatever way you can. Because of that I sometimes stress that I am not doing life ‘right’.
When you feel afraid, how do you keep going?
I feel less and less afraid as I get older. And I would rather move towards love than fear, so I do. Which isn’t to say that I don’t feel afraid, but as ‘they‘ say, feel the fear and do it anyway….
A book that inspired you?
As a late teen: Franny and Zooey JD Salinger and Start Where You Are By Pema Chodron
What has been the most valuable thing that you have learned about life so far?
Stay open, trust and let go….
First of all, let’s say cocktails (plural) and I would like several people…. Simone de Beauvoir, Mother Teresa, Patti Smith, Frida Kahlo, Joan of Arc, Hildegard von Bingen. Of course, Bill Murray and Carl Jung for a bit of male energy. If I had to pick one, Rumi. He seems like he would be a good lover and who knows after a few….
Last thing that made you smile?
About a half hour ago when my son was telling me about a picture he drew of me and him.
Last time you shed a tear?
About two weeks ago, I was imagining my life without my father alive. He is 85, very healthy and wonderful, but life marches on and one day he/ me/ you will all die, despite good health. That thought just made me sad, my heart softened and I just started crying. It was this bittersweet sadness. This is reality: we are born and we die. Sometimes it hits me. By keeping that thought/ feeling fresh, I try to appreciate this moment.
Best remedy for a bad day?
I go to the beach and sit near the ocean or I like to read Mary Oliver poetry. If I am feeling feisty and angry, I go to the tennis court and hit the shit out of the ball. (In one incarnation of this life, I was a competitive tennis player in the States. Now I just use tennis as therapy.)
Can you tell me a secret?
Well, I don’t believe in secrets, a lot of shame and pain can lie behind “secrets” but I do have things that I hold close to my heart and I use discretion with whom and when I share them. For instance I can tell you that I was the president of the Kevin Bacon Fan club in Grade 5….
Seriously though, people earn the right to hear and witness private things. I try to treat people and their stories with that level of respect. I have especially learned this through my work as a nurse, where you listen to lots of stories and “secrets”. I may be a very friendly person but I can also be quite private.
Why did I decide to do True Grit.
Because I trust you and I like you
Someone I know with grit?
Rose Henry… I hope you interview her…