Summer of YES.

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There are many times in life when we ride the crest and the fall of waves and tides. From utter bliss to complete devastation. As I grow older, I see more and more that there are deep troughs of challenge, peaks of ecstasy and the sigh of reprieve before it all begins again.

I can say I’ve had a few shit years of health. No, it was not cancer, war, world atrocity, injustice or slavery. So who the hell am I to talk. Yet we all have our challenges depending on where we live, culture, age, and country. Highs and lows, ebb and flow.

But you know what? I just had my summer of YES.

What can I say? I was a hooligan. This last summer, I turned 43 and maybe had the best summer of my life. I don’t recall saying no, sleeping in much and definitely pushed the responsibility envelope.

After almost 3 years of a disabling back injury, topped off with a .01% case of Zika that turned into a mad case of encephalitis and migraine brain change, I was finally pain free and illness free. Able to work again in all my industries and play like a kid.

I realized early on in the summer that I had the inherent potential to overdo it physically. It was the hottest summer in the Canadian Rockies in years, I was healthy, working, no kids, had a super active dog and a stoked husband.

Finally, I embraced a bunch of life lessons and chose to not climb, bike and over hike, as I would normally do. I learned to fly fish, to ride paved or gravel trails in town, to wander with my pup. And it felt amazing to be pain free and have my brain back.

I took a lesson in a soccer field how to cast and put my rod together, and marched into the woods searching for quiet mountain pools dappled in sunlight. Oh I caught fish! The joke is – none of them were more that 5 inches long! “Kiss and release,” a fellow female angler calls it. Did it ever bring me Joy.

I remember one day biking trails around town, fishing rod in the backpack, tunes on my mobile speaker blasting and a beer in my water bottle holder, thinking “This is living!”

I tell you I was worn out by October, exclaiming, “Thank god I can have a break!” when the rain and snow rolled in.

These are the lessons of the highs and lows of life.

I am very thankful I can celebrate life. Make decisions consciously. I had all intentions to work on my business, work more in all modalities, write, and be focused with the new return to health.

Then the sun rose again. It swept the stars twinkling over mountaintops and the morning alpine air called me to a new day. Get outside. Be a kid, explore, and that was that. It was worth every moment.

Boat dancing was my other sport. Thankfully we have great friends with fast boats and massive speakers. Being a personal trainer, all the crew wanted me to put them through workouts or join them in stair runs before the day’s shenanigans on the lake got started. My standard reply this year was, “ I will tell you what to do from the hot tub with a mimosa in hand.”

I swam hard, danced, surfed, and hugged myself with glee under a blazing star filled sky,  feet in the lake and not a sole around. I hiked a few peaks, mountain biked a bit, floated in the lake on my floaty chair by myself many a day, sun on my face and heart full.

Now I reflect on health, after having it for almost a year. I am baffled at the incredible amount of brain space and energy that pain and illness consumes. I am in wonder at all the things I can achieve with a clear mind and healthy body. But then again, how does it get any better than just taking time to really live and enjoy our life in all moments? Perhaps those are the greatest lessons and gifts.

The Art Of Reinvention

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Cartwheeling over one of life’s inevitable speed bumps and landing in a ditch, is the perfect time to hone the art of personal reinvention. We lick our wounds, shake our head and hopefully keep moving forward with a few curses streaming in the wind behind us.

Some people will continue trudging, head down, feet dragging, oblivious to the lessons at hand. The wise will stop, assess the scene and adjust for variables. Most of the time this is done with some foot stomping and a growl or two, but “Oh that moment!” when you surrender, adapt and look for new qualities within to reveal.

This is a beautiful rite of passage that comes with the human journey. The incredible fact that we can always become something else and find joy or satisfaction in new ways. What an amazing moment to savor, emerging from one form of yourself, shaking your wings and taking your first breathe from within the new you.

This is the time for new eyes, new opportunity and endless pathways ahead. Who will you be now?

I am always inspired by those souls who can be in a chrysalis of suffering, pain or loss, and emerge with new understanding or a new plan. To be the athlete turned painter, the builder turned angler, the scientist turned gardener. To see the possibilities spiraling out within any circumstance is true power.

How will you approach this new horizon? How will you reinvent and rediscover other aspects of yourself for the joy of moving forward and thriving in a new way?

Your Pirate Coach & Inner Peeps.

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Many people ask me what kind of coach I am. I can say life coach, business, relationship or communication facilitator; all those are true.

My latest response is, I’m the Pirate coach. Here to stir up the pot, climb around your spars and rigging and sniff out the treasures. To inspire you to take charge, sail your own ship and make your life an adventure. (Not the cutting off limbs and walk the plank kindJ) I’m unconventional, authentic in all my wildness and a relentless seeker of joy.

When living my dream in Northern Nicaragua, I may show up for coaching in shorts, sun bleached and salty tangled hair, tank top, and my dog. While coaching in other parts of the world and in my Canadian home of Canmore Alberta, I can be in anything from jeans to active wear and a toque (wool hat for those of you outside of our boarders). Or dressed up all fancy if I feel like it.

I’m a meat eating beach bum, surfer, rum drinker and angler, bumping around in my sand filled truck. I eat healthy most of the time, but love beer and a burger after surfing two sessions in the am. I suck at Yoga and traditional meditation but that’s ok. It’s not me. I dance to the sunset blasting my IPod, I walk under the stars at 4:30 am, breathe; ponder my life and the world. I stretch what’s tight, train when the waves are flat or just lay in a hammock and bet on what gecko is going to get the big bug first.

We are all such individual universes. Ones crazy is another’s sane.

We each have our own rituals that heal us and guide us, if we allow ourselves to be all that we are, both light and dark. We continually reinvent ourselves throughout our lives, we change, we grow, and we lick our wounds after hitting the rough sections and hopefully celebrate with utter abandon when we are standing on the hilltops.

While leading group coaching workshops, as well as with private clients, a common theme that almost always arises, is the war with the inner self. The insecurity or the lack of self-worth, the inner negative dialogue, the discontent that sometimes rules our lives. Sometimes it’s the ignoring the dark that bubbles just beneath the surface.

We all have inner voices, an inner team if you will. Call them angel and devil, assign them a color, a name, we have parts of ourselves that make up the whole. Oh how they speak, act, and push you in crazy ways!

This subject has a few names in clinical psychology known as Voice Dialogue, Voice work, or Parts Work. During my first foray into this topic, I found the conversation utterly profound. It has given me tools for governing not only my inner world but I also continually introduce the concept with coaching clients, resulting in very cool self awareness and insight.

Who are your inner people? Do they come to mind right away or does the question make you pause and wonder?

I immediately knew that I have 4 inner people that sail my ship. (This may make you laugh, as I am a 42-year-old woman.) At the head of the helm, for random periods of time, is the Pirate. As you can imagine he can cause a bit of a ruckus. He’s wild and loud, says inappropriate things, and gets me into the occasional pickle. He does not like rules.

Yet he is also the adventurer, the fighter, the inner voice that drives what I call my male “grrrr”. He stood by me through many crazy world travels; he provides raw mental strength, passion and is a risk taker.

I used to be ashamed sometimes of when he was sailing my ship, yet when I looked at all he brings to the table I would never try to push him down, just have a different conversation or utilize him in a different way.

Shoulder to shoulder, I have the 18-year old boy. Needless to say they both get into trouble. This hooligan keeps me youthful, adventurous, a decent surfer and athletic accomplishments come from this part of me.

I have the soul on a holiday, a 5-year-old girl. Life is grand and she is here to savor it all and celebrate every day. Not wanting a plan to follow, just needing to play her life away. Not wanting to tidy up, wash her feet or brush her hair. She is the master de-motivator when work is to be done, as she just wants to have fun. But does she ever bring joy and absolute stoke with everything she does.

Last, I have the wise woman. She brings me quiet grace (although that does not seem to come over me much, as she is usually busy wrangling the other three). She can be vulnerable, self-judging, she is calm and reflective. She is intuitive, has her hands in the earth and is filled with nature and sunlight, but can also be a pain in the ass matron when the rest want to get out or she can be the only tether for acting properly in public. Sometimes she is face down in the dirt with the other three sitting on her back, yowling and cackling and planning an adventure.

My point is this. If we can reflect on our own inner light and dark, accept with love the voices that govern us, feed them or don’t, celebrate all that they bring or take away and then learn to harness what you need from them, so makes the inner war easier.

I have had a few times in my life when the Pirate and 18 year old were taking over. Then I realized I needed more ground, grace, and stability. So I mentally asked them to be my crew, as hey – they are great at that. I put the soul on a holiday and the wise woman at the helm. This helped me reel in a bit of the wild and harness the positive qualities to achieve certain goals in my life.

When I ride my short board surfing and its overhead high, I take the 18-year-old boy and pirate with me. When I ride my long board on a small wave and sunny afternoon, I take the wise woman or the soul. My body moves differently, my language changes, my cloths change. This results in a different experience in my world and in interactions with others.

Leading up to a tough conversation at work or with a loved one, I may take the pirate and the wise woman, for they bring different strengths to the table. One calm and reasonable, one with a strength and fire, who is not going to be pushed around.

Loving and accepting everything within you does not mean you have to accept and never change the dark parts of your personality or never toss the things you want to get rid of, but harness all parts of you, to live a more balanced and self-governed life.

I love hearing what comes up with clients when they ponder their people. Who needs to drive the bus for a while? Who needs some quiet time?

I had my own epiphany recently when a client asked me what the inner people were doing now? I realized for perhaps the first time in my life they all had one hand on the helm and are having a quiet rum together, balanced and all taking part.

Who are your inner people and what strengths or challenges do they bring? How can you use them differently, or put a different one in the drivers seat? What would change for you?

The Hamster Sleepeth.

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My husband and I had been enjoying an incredibly beautiful fall, walking in the woods with our pup and biking around town on days off. I barked out a laugh. “You know what I’ve been thinking? Absolutely nothing. Blank space. The hamster in my head is laying face down in the curve of the wheel, back arched, one leg dangling off the side, snoozing and drooling.”

This was a strange place to be. Especially for the personally motivated life coach, trainer, striver, traveller and seeker that I am. The status quo is for my brain to be in overdrive and at it’s peak at 3 am, stars twinkling as I plot and plan and dream of the next whispering horizon yet unseen.

This unknown territory began in the spring of last year, before I ended up in bed for two and a half months with a case of Zika turned into encephalitis. Five months of migraines and the stupids followed. The brain was turned to mush, ending in a slow drawn out recovery; hardly full of brilliant and complex thoughts.

I realized that for quite some time before that, I had been in between the chapters of my life. A space of unknowns, of questions, and a lot of the time – nothing. A moment of clarity bubbled up, that me (the usual loud mouth) had nothing to say and oddly enough had come to that elusive place of living completely in the moment and with no plan. Savoring the cup of tea, having an extra pint and listening to loud music on my Ipod into the wee hours of night, to choosing my new hobby of fishing and hanging out with my dog, over reading or growing my mind.

I found myself lying in my hammock pondering the width of my feet, to enjoying dinners of mixed languages with kids yowling with laughter at wrong words in different languages. To that moment when the only clear thought was “I don’t know.”

I spoke of it with friends and smirked at myself in my own quiet time. My husband smiled at me and a typical wise statement escaped his lips. “Vanessa, you realize that most of the people in the first world can only dream of attaining a place of the quiet peace you live in day to day. They dream of retiring and seeking the moment of the slumbering hamster. Yet here you are.”

Only a month ago I realized my brain had sped back up and THUMP, the pages dropped me over into a new chapter of my life. Even though lately the hamster is hot footing around the wheel of my mind, I now realize the gift of giving him snoozing breaks from time to time. I allocate siestas for him, and have somehow compartmentalized his workouts. Even though I embark on a new chapter, I take time breathe deep and feel my pups ears draping over my toes as I write this. I have to lift the computer off my lap just to watch her for a moment and take in the gift of a crazy animal that seeks out the comfort of drooling on my foot from time to time.

The reminder was that sometimes in life we need to allow for a break, to not know, to let the tides wash in and out of our minds, to clear space for new thought, and to rest up for the next segment. It really is OK not to be running full tilt all the time, and a blessing to have the “Hamster” take a good long nap.

The Return

 

Traveling is sometimes easy and sometimes a complicated dance ranging in varied levels of difficulty. From the minor headaches to the challenges that leave you shaking your head while marching for the nearest beer to slug down, followed very quickly by another one.

Our return south was challenging, yet after a few cold ones and a night panting in front of the fan blowing an inch from our faces it feels as though we had never left!

In our latest stint away from our heart home of Nicaragua, we had been to Canmore Canada, Spokane WA, Cache creek BC, Pennsylvania, New York City, Washington DC, Holland, back to DC to pick up the dog we had left on her own short vacay, threw her on a plane to go south. Dragged ourselves onto our flights and in what felt like the blink of an eye we found ourselves enjoying a rum cocktail while floating on paddle boards on a lake. The setting sun leaving brilliant streaks of pink and gold across the sky, content in the company of lifelong friends.

I keep shaking my head at how time can seem so irrelevant, as well as how much a person can fit in a short period of time if motivated. I enjoy a peaceful morning at the keyboard, savoring the moments while others still sleep. The first few days in a new location have me way too excited to sleep for long. Picture the hyperactive and overexcited five year old that ate too much sugar, minus the meltdowns.

Morning in the historic city of Granada, is filled with tropical birdsong, the breeze off the lake rustles the leaves on the mango trees above. Roosters announce the new day, although I am curious where they actually live, now that I think about it. A massive iguana blinks at me from the roof above, as the dogs pant at me feet; tongues as wide as they can go, and bellies pressed into cool tiles.

Heat and humidity opens the pores wide, allowing a person to sweat profusely from strange places like ones scalp. I recommend a cloth handkerchief or in a pinch a folded piece of paper towel to dab the upper lip and occasionally make a full swipe of the forehead, under the breasts or the classic sternum or belly wipe catching the rivulets making their way to the belt line.

During the acclimation phase little is worn in the home, shirts are off and shade with a bit of a breeze is a coveted piece of real estate.

Time slows down, as it just seems too hot to complete anything at a fast pace. Already I have slid into the lazy flip-flop walking pace of the tropics. Time in town is fun, but the sea murmurs in the back of our minds.

We heed the surfer’s call for the salt on our skin and waves beneath our feet.

Our return to the beach is filled with warm smiles, and many days of bumping down the dusty back roads at 5 kms an hour to greet old friends after almost 9 months away.

For the first time we truly feel home. All errands that used to be arduous due to lack of translation, extreme heat, and figuring out the ropes, now are performed as old pros.

We know where to go, how to keep cool, how to negotiate the chaotic streets in the city filled with bike taxis, horse and cart, and a plethora of wild dogs and people.

We retrieve our stored car, that although has a coating of dust and bird droppings, needs air in the tires and new paperwork, runs like a dream, and has us mobile once more.

Coquita Muneca, our Nica dog/world traveller, has arrived safe and sound and has slotted into beach life with few hitches. She has quickly learned the ropes of how to guard the house, fit in with the other dog packs in the area and has become a swimming fiend; a fun way to cool off in the afternoons.

Our own adaptation is to the surfer’s life. Needing to drop Canadian winter weight and go through the beat up feeling of the first two weeks, groaning with exhausted shoulders, sore ribs and taking lots of siestas.

As I wander down the beach in the early morning light, Coco chasing pigs and horses, I am mesmerized by the artistic hand of the tide. The sea is a master at sculpting sand twice a day on the endless beach. The San Cristobal volcano commands the horizon, salt and pepper smells of the tropics mingle with the ever present smoke in the air of burning cane fields. We are home.

Goals and Play-Doh

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As a life coach I highly value the decisive act of goal setting. It not only draws an outline for your life but the act itself makes an individual look within and take stock. I do not mean the casual thought of this is where I want to go, but a play-by-play segmented plan.

Many people find goal setting daunting. The fear of failure peaking over one shoulder or the giant end game crushing the other. The key is to make soft and attainable goals to go along with the big ones, as well as medium steps that are malleable.

A wise woman once shared with me her approach of goal setting: One month, three months, one year, and five years. I personally would take that a few steps further, by first approaching this exercise with a sense of lightness and possibility. Not overthinking the initial process, but writing your dream goals from the heart not with your hard lined reason – that can come later.

For those in relationships, the second step I would offer would be to rewrite your goals if you were completely on your own. JUST YOU. Not with a family, children, parents, pets, friends or a partner. See what comes up, you might have a surprise waiting for you.

At a pivotal time in my own life, I sat down to think of my goals. I first wrote things with reason, with my husband, in our current life. I hacked through it and came up with a decent roadmap, yet when I decided to unleash my innermost goals of what I wanted for my future I realized I had been compromising the life I truly wanted to live. Not because I was forced to, but because I had been caught up in a community, a marriage and a lifestyle, without realizing my inner needs had changed and were slowly eating away at my current happiness.

This was an insanely life altering process. When I wrote what I would do if I was on my own, a bomb went off in my heart and mind. I had written a completely 180 turn, as well as how I would pull it off.

This process was a thunderous reminder to never let life get away on me, as many of us know, can easily happen. It was a reminder for my husband and I that we were in a marriage, a union that takes compromise. Yet underscored was the absolute necessity for communication with each other about changing needs, as well as the act of taking chances within ones life. To pursue dreams as not only a unit, but to keep the passion alive within the individual we each fell in love with.

That crossroad in our lives sent us on a crazy ride building the next dream. The other major nugget I was reminded of recently? The dream changes. Due to necessary adaptation when the curve balls come flying in, or because of time and it’s continuous and eroding march forward.

Attaining those big goals doesn’t happen overnight, and usually through the process of trying to get there, we are morphed in the fire of our own journey. Time passes, we hit potholes or canyons and need to constantly adapt to the fluctuating ground we are scrambling upon. Hence the need for goals that are not carved of stone to crumble when life’s inevitable quakes shake our world, but objectives we can remold time and time again. Sure sounds better than dangling in the air by our claws as another dream falls away.

What if we approached goals with a childlike sense of wonder, of possibility? What if we shaped them with Play-Doh and let our imagination run wild. Color them with crazy hues, stick pipe cleaners out of the top, or roll them in the dirt. Goals that are in a distinct shape yet pliable enough to add on, take away or just plain reform into our changing needs and desires.

My invitation for you is to carve out, schedule, or set aside an afternoon or day in the next week or two to dream up or remold the next shape of your life. Sit down with your heart and mind and get your hands dirty.

Rock your inner youth!

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I don’t know about you, but as a 41 year old woman, I seem to be in denial that I am actually getting older. Until I look in the mirror in the right light and exclaim “What the #$@!%!, where did all those wrinkles come from?” Incidentally my father in his seventies also has the same shocking moments of wondering who the old guy in the mirror is.

I am in a smaller class of women that chose not to have kids, my number one passion is still surfing, and I am occasionally still seen ripping turns around our mountain neighborhood on my electric Skateboard while listening to Eminem.

While talking today to a “sister of the cloth”, meaning a great friend who is as much of a punk as me, I exclaimed the frustration of societies expectations for people at a certain age. While yes my husband and I are incredibly successful in our own hand crafted world, we still seem to be swimming against the tide of others following the accepted norm.

As people in our forties and above, we seem to have to behave a certain way, reach the bar of an accepted level of success, or be at a certain phase for us to “fit in” to a mold. This expectation piles on the ever-building weight of being an “Adult.”

How can we retain our weightlessness of youth?

Stop caring about what other’s think of you for one. I am reminded of my most valuable lesson fitting this topic. Be all that you are and the other black sheep will find you, before you know it you have a tribe of like minded people, that celebrate you and all your quirks.

My invitation to you today, is to ask what are the small stories you can let go of in your life that trap you in your age?

Can you shift a mindset here and there, to one of a child and play? To create a lightness of joy and simplicity, even for an hour a day? Are there things you gave up over the years that brought you such joy in your earlier years, and would you want to add them back into your life? Think of the shift of mindset or step of action that would allow more freedom to explore happiness, connection, and possibility.