What's Your Excuse?

Whatever your excuse is, it's time to stop believing it.
~ Someone

My mom hates my to-do list.
I wish I hated my to-do-list as much as she does.
Maybe then, I would actually do something.

I am an excuse-maker.
There, I said it.

I write out these long, never-ending lists, and regularly chip away at mundane tasks instead of doing more important things. The things my heart really wants to do.

Like writing.
Like photographing.
Like growing a garden.
And cooking.
And singing.
And dancing.
And really living.

My list is full of so many dumb items, I should actually just call it what it is:
My Excuse List.

I will find any excuse not to do any of the things that are important to me, and will instead find every reason to do all of the little things that don't matter.

I will forego writing my next epic poem so that I can go to the store and "Run An Errand" that needs to be done absolutely immediately. I will skip out on writing my next great blog post so that I can scroll through facebook searching for the next Really-Important-Status-Update-I-Couldn't-Care-Less-About.

Basically, if there were a PhD in Avoidance and Procrastination, I wouldn't have it because it would involve doing something to get it!

Don't pretend like I'm alone in this.
You do it, too.

We all have this grand dream of The Things We Want To Do In Life. The things we don't need to write down on some endless list because we will never forget them. These are the things that are innate to us. They are our calling.

And they're calling.
But we have mastered the art of not listening.

I am a poet. And yet, in the past few years, I have cultivated an entire life of excuses as to why I'm not writing poetry anymore.

I don't have time.
I'm not inspired.
I have writer's block.
I don't have anything to write about.
I have to figure some stuff out before I start.  
I need to do [insert excuse here] first.

But the truth is, I just refuse to do it. I choose not to.
I refuse to commit to the most important thing in my life. 

And every day, every hour, every minute I choose not to do the thing I love is a day, hour, or minute that I fail myself.

And I am tired.

So this morning, I made a to-do list of things that will nourish me. Things that I want to do. Things that are calling out to me. And today, I'm making the choice to focus just on those.

And when that little voice started up with the list of reasons I shouldn't pursue my dream, I told her to shut up and write a poem about it. And then read it to someone who cares.

I'm done believing her excuses.

No, YOU change!

Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.
~ Jacob M. Braude

It was 11:15am, and we were sitting in our car in a much-longer-than-anticipated line at the border. My train was at 12:05pm. We hadn't factored border traffic into our travel time.

It was tense.

I was anxious, but silent. I tried to label my emotion and let it be and eventually move through me, but the longer we waited in that line, the more my stomach churned.

The two people in the car with me were also worried I would miss my train, and kept making comments about the whole affair. I was getting frustrated that they wouldn't stop talking about it, when my inner voice was complaining just as much as them. This was making my brain and mouth tell them things like, "It's ok. Whatever was meant to be will be. There's no point worrying about something we can't change." and all those logical and enlightening comments that were only adding to the noise (even though they were true!).

And though I was saying these things to them, I think I was also trying to say them to myself.

That's when I realized I was trying to change their reaction.

I was feeling just as nervous as everyone else in the car, but I was silent about it and trying to deal with it all internally. They were expressing their emotions and trying to deal with them externally.

There was no right or wrong way of handling the situation. But I became so focussed on their complaints, consumed by their comments, caught up in their moment, and trying to change them that I wasn't even paying a nudge of attention to me.

I think that happens to a lot of us in a lot of situations.  We try to change someone else's thoughts or actions instead of taking a good, hard look at our own. We look to others to adjust their ways, without even thinking to look at ourselves.

So I finally decided to let them deal with the event in their own way, and focus on contemplating my own feelings about it, instead.

And I had a nice long train ride to do just that.

I can do it if I twy

I can do it if I twy. I can do it if I twy. I can do it, do it, do it if I twyyyyy.
~ Reya Amel Davis


And so can you.

Believing In Magic Again

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
~ Albert Einstein

I recently watched an online video of a magician doing an amazing show with cards. It was great. One part of me was in awe the whole time - amazed by his skill and the wonder of it all. But there was another little part of me who kept saying, "It's all sleight of hand," and looking for the loopholes so I could uncover his secret.

I wanted to smack that part of me and tell her to shut up so I could enjoy the magic show.

Adults kind of suck.

We see magic, and we know we're being duped (albeit in an entertaining way), so our critical mind kicks in and we try to figure out how it all works, where the cards are coming from, and we search for the secret compartment.

Children, however, are awed by everything. You tell them it's magic and they think it's incredible. They don't feel the need to understand how or why. They're happy to be in awe. They watch the show and feel like there are mystical things in the world that they may never understand or be able to explain and that's the amazing part of life.

Because there are.
And that is.

As adults, we don't just let the magic happen anymore. We don't appreciate the awe.

I have watched my nieces and nephews grow up. I remember when they were younger and I would show them a trick and they would eat it up and believe that there was something called magic in this world and it was inexplicable and amazing.

Now, when I show them a trick, they look into my eyes with that desire to believe - with that "could it be?" glint in their eyes. But there is a difference. They have been taught that magic doesn't exist, but they still think it might. They still want to believe it does. Like maybe there is some secret community of magicians who know the truth about magic - and the fact that it is, indeed, real. And they look at me hoping  I will confirm what they truly believe: that magic and miracles are real. That beautiful, inexplicable, unbelievable things still do exist.

(Because they do.)

So I smile at them with that sly look that says, "You'll never know."

And a part of me hopes they don't - that they don't ever find that secret compartment, that they never figure out the sleight of hand, the flick of the wrist.

When I look at my older nieces and nephews, I don't see that shine in their eyes, that belief in something awe-inspiring anymore. And I don't know when the shift happened.

But it did.

I wish I could give them back their sense of disbelief. I wish I could make their awe last. I wish I could explain to them that there is so much time to be cynical. That they will spend the better part of their lives like that. But that there is such beauty in believing. And they should hold on to that for as long as they can.

When my husband and I travelled around the world last year, we rediscovered that awe. We started believing in magic and miracles and beauty and the universe again. Because the world is full of it. We have just trained our eyes to look past it all.

And sometimes, when I find that awe in myself again, I hope with all my might that it will stick around. Even if it's just in the background.


So I want to start living as if everything is a miracle again. Because if you think about it:

Everything is.

The Out-Thanking Game

If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. 
~ Maya Angelou

Yesterday, I was on the train to Montreal, and this little old couple was sitting behind me. I couldn't help but hear their conversation from time to time, as the man pointed out the lily pads in the water as we passed by them, and the herr that was flying next to our train, and the yellow dock flowers he so loved that were growing wild on the way. The woman would softly respond and they would talk about whatever he was pointing out. It was very sweet. I intermittently fell asleep during their conversation, but I am so glad I was awake for what they did next.

It started slow. He thanked her for accompanying him on this trip. She thanked him for carrying a bag. He thanked her because he said he couldn't have done the journey without her. She thanked him for something else. He thanked her for something. And they just continued like this - thanking each other for each of the little things they could think of.

Out-thanking each other, over and over again.

And it wasn't a game. They were genuinely grateful for each thing they mentioned. You could feel it in their voice.

This made me think about how our lives could change if we engaged in gratitude like that all the time with the people we love. Instead of complaining about the little things, the annoyances, the everyday quibbles to everyone, what if we appreciated every little thing about those in our life?

I already told you the story about my gratitude journal and how it changed my perspective. And in my Awakening Joy course, one of the first main lessons was for us to try to cultivate gratitude daily. To just notice and give attention to the things we are thankful for. Gratitude seems to be an essential ingredient in so many uplifting and life-changing practices.

So when I was lugging my heavy suitcase up the subway steps - step by painful step - and two guys, on separate occasions, helped me take it to the top - I was so grateful for their help. And when the guy in the subway station stood up and gave my sister his seat instead, I was so appreciative of his kindness. And when the girl in the train gave me her seat because I couldn't fit my bag anywhere else, I was so thankful for her considerate gesture.

It's the little things.

And noticing them makes me smile.
And then remembering them later on makes me smile again.
And there can't be anything wrong with that. 

But it's not just the little things that strangers do - we should appreciate all the little things our family and friends do for us, too.

We often give our best face to the public. Scowling at home but then stepping out into the world and being particularly pleasant and nice to the people who cross our path. Yes, we are more comfortable at home and don't have to put up a facade, but if we try to be our best us with our favourite people, maybe our joyful facade would become truth. And then maybe we would no longer need a facade because we would be truly happy and grateful. And then, maybe we could change the world in our small little way. And then maybe the world would be at peace.

(Ok, ok, I'm getting ahead of myself.)
But you get the point.

So my goal is to start being happier and more grateful with those closest to me, not just to strangers. Because if I give my lone smile to the ones I love, I think I'll find I have a well of smiles to draw from for everyone else who crosses my path. Including myself. 

And hopefully, I can start a ripple effect of out-thankfulness in my own life.

So I'll start here:
Thank you. I really appreciate that you took time out of your day to read my words. It is humbling, and truly makes a difference to me.

Ok, your turn.

The Sky isn't Falling

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
~ Chicken Little

Yesterday, they were announcing major storms in our area. The kind of storms where they interrupt your favourite TV show to send three beeps that mute out the dialogue at the most critical moment, and then proceed to tell you that the world is going to end.

Or at least that there is a "severe thunderstorm warning in effect" for your area.

The weather-woman's diagrams were bright, scary red in the danger areas (where we live), and a deep, impending burgundy in the surrounding zones.

It was as if they were announcing the apocalypse.

So, we decided to fire up the barbeque and eat our dinner outside.

After all, if it was the last storm of our life, like so many before it, we might as well enjoy a nice home-cooked meal and the beautiful weather one last time before we were to become human toast.

After dinner, it came. The skies darkened like night, the mile-high trees thrashed and swayed with the apocalyptic winds, and then it began to rain.

This morning, I woke up to find I had survived. Outside my window were calm trees, a blue sky, and the glorious shining sun. I checked around, and everyone else in the house had survived, too. Our neighbours were cutting their lawn, driving off to work, or taking a walk. The world hadn't ended, after all.


The storm felt like a cliché metaphor for our life. So I obviously had to write about it.

When a seemingly catastrophic event arises in our life and we get thrown around, the warning signals are often more dramatic than the actual storm.

There is no doubt that we go through periods of immense sadness, torturous regret, or overwhelming anger in our life. We are, after all, only human. But before those moments happen, we tend to worry agonizingly over things that we think are to come. Often way more than is necessary. (Though we could get in to how none of it is necessary, but that's a whole other blog post.)

We fear the potential relationship breakup; we fear the doctor's potential diagnosis; we fear the inevitable loss of our loved ones. And we try to brace ourselves against the impending doom. And then, when the disaster comes, which it always does in some form, we fear we will never be whole again. We will never smile again. We will never know love, or light, or happiness again. And we get caught up in the spiral of "my world is over."

In the Awakening Joy course I am taking, and in the books I am reading right now, one constant lesson appears: This, too, shall pass; but while this is happening, we should pay attention.

One of the exercises in many of these books is to identify an emotion when it arises, instead of getting caught up in it and fighting it. We often get so confused about our tough-to-deal-with emotions that we lump them all into the "negative" basket. And then we try to shoo them away so they'll leave us alone.

But when we do that, we are not giving them a chance to process, so they get stuck. And we get stuck. And that's when things start spiraling into the danger zone.

But when we label our feelings, and then give ourselves the opportunity to actually feel them without calling them positive or negative, we realize that they are just a passing field of energy through our body.

Just like happiness is.

When we feel something uncomfortable, or that we label as "bad", our thinking brain, which is like the media of our body, tries to tell us: This is not a good feeling and I want it to stop, and what if it doesn't stop, and this may be how I feel forever and ever, and the world is going to end.

But if we would just sit quietly and listen to what our body is saying, the feeling - whether "good" or "bad" - would come, and then it would go.

And the world wouldn't end.

There may be some debris, but we would survive.

So the next time there is a severe storm warning in effect in your area (whether actual or in your own mind), turn off the media (external and internal), and remember:

The sky is not falling; it's just a little rain.

My Birthday

The fragrance always remains on the hand that gives the rose.
~ Mohandas K. Gandhi

Today is my birthday.
32 years ago today, I came into this world.

In most of the world, birthdays are a time of taking.
Receiving wishes, getting gifts, being treated like royalty.

But when I was in India, I learned that in many parts of the world, birthdays are actually a time of giving. The children at the school where I volunteered had the opportunity to be out of uniform for the day so they could  wear their best outfit, and they handed out candy or sweets to all of the students and teachers.

The most beautiful part was that, since this was a school for underprivileged children - from the streets, the slums, or orphanages - they had nothing, and yet, on their birthday, they still gave. Even though their families may not have enough to feed themselves some days, they gave.

It was humbling to be in an environment where, even in the midst of perceived nothingness, there was so much generosity. And here, we have so much, and in the midst of all this too-much-ness, we often still want more.

I read an article about a young guy who, instead of doing a "bar crawl" on his birthday - where you and your friends jump from bar to bar and drink yourselves silly - he invited his friends to do a "service crawl", instead. And they walked the streets of Manhattan doing good things for people.

What an inspiring idea.

To take your day and show the world exactly why it is better with you in it.

Definitely an idea I can ascribe to. 

So today, I ask you this:
Celebrate my birthday with me. Do something nice for someone else. And as a birthday gift, tell me about what you did.

Holding a door open, smiling at someone, or volunteering at a shelter. There will be no better birthday gift for me than receiving messages of random of acts of kindness around the world.

I hope this is my best birthday ever... for all of us, and for everyone we meet.

For it is in giving that we receive.
~ St. Francis of Assisi

Just in case it's my birthday

Just in case it's my birthday...
~ Reya Amel Davis

For months now, my little niece, Reya, has been obsessed with the idea of her birthday.

The other day, my sister and Reya were leaving the house for the day, and when they got to the car, my sister noticed Reya was carrying a dress in her hand. When asked why she was taking the dress along with her for the day, she scrunched her nose, nodded very seriously, and said, "Just in case it's my birthday."

Reya is two.

Clearly, she hasn't yet exactly grasped the concept of a birthday and the fact that it doesn't pop up unexpectedly when you were looking the other way.

But she's ready for it, just in case it does.

After my sister told me the story, I realized that as much as we think we know - Reya's actually got life all figured out. She's excited about the possibility that there may be something awesome right around the corner. What a way to live!

And I realized that the older we get, the more we get entangled in fear. Fear of the unknown, of the unexpected, of all the bad things that could happen if we're not paying attention. And we forget that it's not just bad things that can catch us off guard. Amazing things could be eagerly anticipating our arrival, too. Happy surprises could just as likely be waiting for us around the bend.

She taught me that life is not just about preparing for the worst all the time. It's about being prepared for the best, too. Like Reya, we could all use a little enthusiastic anticipation at the possibility of the great unknown. The fantastic unknown. The unknown that's going to knock us off our feet, laughing.

So the next time I head out for a day of unknowns, I'm going to carry a dress...

Just in case it's my birthday.

Towards the great unknown

The Rules of Defeat

We are not defeated when we lose:
we are defeated when we quit.
~ Paulo Coelho

I have a story I tell people about all the things I quit in my life.

Piano lessons after 12 years, right before I passed the exam to college-level.
Swimming lessons right before I got my final badge to go to lifeguard classes.
Bharat Natyam lessons because of my teacher.
Skating lessons.
And I can go on.

These are the things I choose to remember. 

I almost tell this story as if I should get a badge of honour for having lived it. And then I feel crappy about myself. Every day I carry this story around with me, it reminds me of all the things I failed at in my life. All the things I never completed. All the things that, when it came time for that final oomph to succeed, I dropped, as if success were a hot coal and I couldn't bear to carry it any longer.

There is a fine line between the fear of failure and the fear of success.
But if you let them, both fears end in defeat. 

There is a comfort in staying right where you are. A warmth in being surrounded by what you know. I know this place I'm in. And the places I could go scare me. So I stay here. In this place where I am comfortable, but not exactly happy and not exactly unhappy.

We all have a story. And we can change that story whenever we decide to. But we often choose to stay exactly where we are because it's what we know. And what we know is so much safer than what we don't know. Safer than all the things out there that could go wrong. What we know is the lesser of the two evils. Because what we don't know is a scary place full of the monsters we tell ourselves are out there. We're scared.

We're scared of being defeated, so we stop trying.
And when we stop trying, when we quit, when we let that fear win, we are already defeated...
by our own Self.

I think, in the back of my mind, I am scared of succeeding, of being completely happy, and then having it be taken away from me. I've had and I've lost. And I think I am scared that if I do have again, I may lose all over again, too. And I think that's a bigger torture than not having at all. So I stay here. In limbo. Where I neither have nor lose.

But the truth is, every day I stay here, I lose.

This is not a comfort zone, it's armour. A shield against the bad stuff. Be careful. Watch out. Don't get too successful or you won't be able to handle it. Don't love too much because you might get hurt. Don't get too happy because the universe might suddenly feel the need to balance things out.


But there is a little voice inside that says

I think I'm going to start listening to her.

Caution: Speed Bump

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
~ Jalal ud-Din Rumi

Every day for a few months, I would pass by a sign that said

The thing is, there was no speed bump there. It seems there used to be, but it must have been removed, and someone probably forgot to take down the sign.

This made me think of our own lives and how, when we are hurt - which we all are at some time - we begin to build speed bumps in our heart. These speed bumps remind us of what people have done to us, the ways in which we have been failed, the things that have gone wrong in our lives. These speed bumps tell us that we should be careful with love, that we should not trust easily, that we should be wary of the world.

But when these hurts pass and we learn to love and trust again, we keep that sign up.

Just in case.

We think it will help us to be more wary in the next situation. That we can learn from the mistakes of the past and tread more carefully throughout life so we don't get hurt again. But that's not the way it works.

Yes, getting hurt is not fun. But it is part of life. And it will happen again. Trust me, it will. There is no barrier against it. And if we want it to, it can make us stronger and better people. But what it shouldn't do is make us shut down. We should let love and friendship in, enjoy every part of it, and maybe even get hurt again.

Because we know we can heal.
If we choose to.

And I think that's the thing with love. We start building so many barriers in our heart against it, so many conditions that must be met, so many "rules of engagement" that we forget that love is something that is meant to be done freely, with an open heart, with no speed bumps and no signs to tell us to slow down.

So for those of us living every day with caution signs up, who slow down when we don't need to, remember:

The speed bump is gone.
Take down the sign.