Going Coastal – Week Two

IMG_0250.JPGThis week was the first stage of settling in. And a lot of cycling. A lot. I wish that I’d Strava’d it all. I’m getting used to the hills, and the gravely shoulders, and the way that traffic works here. I actually biked to Davis Bay to see maybe the most adorable beach cottage ever to potentially rent. It was an hour long ride along the Sunshine Coast Highway, which was mostly fine, but every now and then felt a teeny tiny bit treacherous. There were just moments when the generous shoulder narrowed to almost nothing, and this was usually only if there was a very sharp turn in the highway. A little scary. I found out later that I could have taken the Lower Road, for most of my journey, which is less busy, but that is not what Google suggested. LESSON LEARNED. Regardless of minor treachory, the bike ride was still very very beautiful (surprise!) as everything is here. Also, when I biked home after dark, I got to test out my reflective backpack cover, which was amazing, and there were only about 5 cars the whole way home. Woo!

I said no to the beach cottage, because Davis Bay is just a little too far up the coast for my first home up here, but oh god, did it ever hurt my heart to turn it down. I’m not even going to bother sharing photos or it, or the view, because y’all will die. It is magic.

Moving on…

I’ve looked at a few other places this week, and they’ve all been really amazing, with wonderful landlords. I should be hearing back about them in the next day or so, so send me all of the posi vibes you can muster.

Other things.

Made trip to Hopkins Landing with Jac, Theo, and Jess Robson. Then jumped in the ocean for the first time this year.

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Popped into the Gumboot, and the Roberts Creek Legion.

Had some pal dinners.

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After dinner fam walks.

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I also took my first trip into the city for meetings, and it was pretty great. I had meetings with a few fellow freelancers, and a potential client, and then were all pretty lovely and just motivational, and good feeling. They felt really organic, and supportive, and exactly how you want meetings to feel. Also, just in case I hadn’t made it clear how beautiful it is out here. There’s this…

These are some photos from my ferry commute and then when I got stuck in Horseshoe Bay because the ferry was late. Like, are you kidding me? I wasn’t even mad that the ferry was late, because I got some sushi to go and then sat and ate it on the waterfront. Yes, I was home pretty late, and it was a super long day, but like, whoa.
Things continue to be really nice, and I have a very good feeling that I’ll have a place to call my own by the end of next week.

Oh, I also did a bunch of yard work, like lawn mowing and weed whacking. This might not seem like a big deal, but it has been a really long time since I’ve done this kind of physical labour, and like everything it’s really novel and satisfying at the moment.

Also, one more thing. This morning I walked through the forest to go to a roadside farm stand to pick up fresh eggs for bfast. NBD.

The end.

Going Coastal – Week One

IMG_0204Without thinking about it, I inadvertently picked just about the best week ever to move back to the coast. Months and months of rain finally gave way to summer sun. It’s also the long weekend, so the days have been filled with pal hangs and long table dinners. It’s pretty much been a perfect week. So it’s been a nice welcome home, but it’s also not 100% reflective of what life will be like all the time. Or maybe it is? So far, it’s certainly been how I imagined/described it in all of my best versions of what I thought that coastal life would be like.

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I’m staying at a friend’s house at the moment, which I am super thankful for, but it also means that it doesn’t quiiiite feel real that I’m living here yet. I’ve spent a month at a time visiting these pals, so part of my brain is probably still viewing this as a vacation, rather than a new permanent place to be. I’m going to see a few apartments this week, and I think that once that’s sort of settled, it will all start to actually feel real.

A few observations so far…

Hills
Holy moly are there ever hills. It’s good. But also, like, holy shit Toronto is super flat, and I am v aware of how out of shape I am at the moment. The good thing about it is that I can already see how cycling here is going to just whip me into super shape by the end of the summer. My foot/ankle is still an issue, but I’m starting to incorporate little 3k runs into my routine a few times a week. It’s a humbling, but good feeling.

Singledom
Most people that I know here are couples. And the majority of those have children. Which is fine. I’m comfortable being the only single around, but it’s also kind of a weird feeling when literally everyone that you meet is in a long-term, stable partnership. I can definitely see how if I don’t break it up every now and then with single pal visits from/to the city, that it could start to feel a little isolating and lonely. It’s also definitely a lot more apparent that I don’t have kids. (Aside – as if they internet knew, it sent me this today) Again, it’s fine, but just one of the most striking shifts from the city.

Rentaldom
I’m also pretty much the only renter. I can’t help but feel tiny pangs of anxiety over not being in a position to buy something, and the ever-rising cost of real estate on the Sunshine Coast. It’s the next hot spot, and the cost of housing is sky-rocketing accordingly. It’s funny, because owning has never been something that I’ve wanted. But suddenly it seems like something worth wanting. That being said, there are options. I’ve had a few offers from friends to put a tiny home on their property, which is so kind, and makes me feel very loved and welcome. It’s also kind of ideal, because in reality, the idea of taking care of an actual huge property or proper sized house of my own is still just not appealing to me. At all. In fact, the only reason I have interest in owning anything at all now, is just the dwindling rental market. It’s scary to be at the whim of other people when it comes to your housing. A tiny house of my own seems to be a good in-between solution.

Dating
I reactivated Tinder when I got to the coast, just out of curiosity. There are definitely 500% more photos of dudes holding fish that they caught. There are also 500% more outdoorsy photos. I’m definitely curious to see what dating will be like in a small town. I put dating on the back burner during my last year in Toronto, but I think that I’m ready to make it a priority again.

New hobbies
Before coming to the coast, my list of desired new skills/hobbies included biathlon, shooting guns in general, more swimming, riding a motorcycle, gardening, trail running, and all of these things seem well within my grasp within the first year. I actually know people who do, or are interested in all of these things. Maybe I’ll also take up canoeing? And definitely sailing at some point. And I know that I already write quite a bit,  but there’s something about being out here that is especially conducive to more writing. I’ve never really considered fiction as an option, but I’m thinking about it more and more these days. I’m also considering longer projects that I’d never considered before. And that’s really exciting.

Walking
When I say that I’m going to walk somewhere, I have to remind country folks, that I’m from the city and a 20 minute walk is really no big deal. That being said, I had a good reminder last night to always carry my headlamp in my purse just in case, because it really is SO DARK at night. Also maybe I should get some bear spray just in case of dangerous wildlife?

Kindness
Every person that I have met out here so far seems to be super interesting, self-driven, generous, and kind. Generous with their skills and time and knowledge, and just willing to help out another human finding their way on the coast. Everyone has the shared goal of building a nice community and life that is healthy and thriving and doing cool shit. Not a bad place to be!

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Many more observations to come.

A few more things to share for this week that were v typical beautiful coastal vibes moments.
Foraging stinging nettles.
Buying fresh duck eggs from an unmanned roadside stand.
Going to the dock to hand-pick freshly caught spot prawns direct from the fishing boat.
Outdoor wood-fired pizza oven party, including crab that was freshly caught via crab trap and paddle board (not by me) that day.
Bonfires.
Views.

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More photos from Week One

Day One

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Yesterday I finally hopped on a plane with my bike, and the kitties, and trekked on back to BC to live on the Sunshine Coast. It feels both completely brand new, and like coming home, all at once. I’ve spent a lot of time here. I’ve got friends here. But there’s so much newness in actually living here.

The journey itself was a little hectic – bumped flight, delayed bumped flight, amazing airport >> horseshoe bay rescue by my pal Matt Milligan, ferry ride, and late evening pick up by Jac, but made it with the kitties and all of my things in one piece, and it’s so nice to have this feeling of home.

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I spent the day getting settled. I got some things for Rosemary and Thomas, answered emails, put my bike together, touched up my roots, and did laundry.

Before dinner, I biked to the store to pick up beers, icecream, and salad things, and riding my bike out here felt so nice. I’m sure that over time, there will be things about cycling on the side of a rural highway type road that will irk me, but for now I am just relishing the lack of city traffic. I am relishing the extreme chill West Coast vibes in such stark contrast to cycling in Toronto.

It is beautiful here, and it is magical, and I know it’s gonna’ be just great.

 

Why adults should be watching 13 Reasons Why

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I started watching Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why yesterday afternoon thinking that it would be another teen drama. A day later, I’ve binged the whole series, and I can say conclusively that it is actually like no other teen drama that I’ve ever seen.

13 Reasons Why is based on a book of the same name about a girl named Hannah Baker – Hannah commits suicide, and leaves 13 tapes behind, one for each person who contributed to her ultimately killing herself.

It spoke to me in a way that I did not anticipate. I’ve dealt with depression on and off for my entire life, and I struggled with suicidal thoughts often in my youth. I have never seen a show or movie that dealt with depression and suicide so honestly. 13 Reasons Why does an incredible job of exploring the interplay of depression, peer pressure, harmful gender roles, sexual assault, bullying, grief, and the loneliness and confusion that one can feel as a teenager. And I think that sometimes people forget this about adolescence – yes, it can be fun, and exciting, and carefree in the days before “real” responsibility, when everything in life is still brand new. But it can also be lonely as hell. It can be hard. And too often, adults can minimize the overwhelming feelings of adolescence. It’s easy for us, on the other side, to overlook the very real struggles that teenagers deal with. It’s also easy to gloss over things. In my time working in health communication this has happened so many times. I pushed and pushed to create brutally honest resources for parents and teens on issues like sexuality and mental health. I remember once talking to a team who wanted to create a resource on teen suicide, and one of my supervisor’s felt that even saying something along the lines of “to prevent them from committing suicide” was too graphic. Too horrible. It would make people uncomfortable reading it. I wanted to write a piece on talking to teenagers about sex and consent, but was met with the same pushback. We don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. But here’s the thing – we are not doing teens thinking about killing themselves any favours by sitting in our comfort.

Suicide should make us uncomfortable.

The teens in 13 Reasons Why frequently skirt around having awkward conversations with their parents and each other. They say that everything’s fine, despite how incredibly obvious it is that things are not. They avoid. And in the end, their avoidance of discomfort leads to tragedy.

Every parent I’ve ever talked to has said that they “want their kids to be able to talk to them about anything” even things that are really hard. But how can we expect teenagers to open up these conversations when we’re so afraid of them ourselves. It is too horrible to imagine that our own children could do horrible things, and so we avoid even openly acknowledging that these horrible things exist. It is not helpful to simply tell a depressed teenager that “things will get better”; but it might be helpful to open up to them about a time when you also felt hopeless and alone, and how one day things changed.

13 Reasons Why tells a story of teen suicide without talking around it, or romanticizing it. It’s beautiful and compelling. Some scenes are very hard to watch. It’s a little slow in places. And it has a really amazing soundtrack. But more than a good show, I think that it’s an important show. And especially for parents of kids coming up on teenagehood, people who work with teens, and teenagers themselves, it’s a show that can open up those difficult conversations, and take us out of our comfort.

 

Hello, from your friendly neighbourhood writing coach

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It’s interesting the way that life evolves when you start out freelancing. You think that you’re going to be offering one set of services, and then it slowly evolves into something slightly different. I knew that I would be working as a writer, or mostly long-form work for clients (whether articles, blog posts, internal communication docs, or proposals), and I knew that I would be doing some research, but the branch of work that’s evolving that I didn’t anticipate was writing coaching.

I’ve been running these writing workshops to help people get their writing off the ground, and doing writing on behalf of other people, and along the way people started asking if I could help walk them through writing that they absolutely need to do themselves. Not everyone wants to hire a writer (or ghost-writer), and not everyone should. While I don’t think that everyone should try to write professionally, I do believe that writing is something that everyone can do.

I think that one of the biggest hang-ups when people first start writing, even just for themselves, is that they worry too much about perfection. They worry about voice, and sounding smart; they have all of the voices of other writers in their heads, and they are comparing their very new writing practice to the writing of all of their favourite professionals, and wondering how they stack up. The best advice that I can give anyone just starting out is to just start writing. Brain dump. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about your voice. Don’t think about grammar. Don’t think about your use of similes and metaphors. Don’t think about sounding interesting. Just write whatever comes into your brain without judgement. Write until you think that you’ve gotten everything that you need to get out of your head onto the page, and then stop.

Then walk away. Get up, shake out your hands and feet, and go for a walk around the block; go for coffee with a friend; run an errand. Then, when you’re feeling refreshed again, come back to your desk and read over what you just wrote, WITHOUT JUDGEMENT. I know that this is hard. Especially if you’re not used to writing, you’ll probably have some pretty negative self-talk going on when you read over your first few pieces. “This is so repetitive” “Ugh. I used ‘very’ 7 times in that paragraph” “This is so boring” “What was I thinking when I wrote this?”

I urge you to try your very best not to listen to these thoughts. You wouldn’t expect to run a marathon your first time out for a run, and you shouldn’t expect your first attempt at writing to be a Pulitzer winner.

When you sit down for the second time, think about the things that you’re really trying to communicate with this piece of writing, and start to edit out the parts that aren’t in line with that. You might have to cut some sentences or paragraphs that you really like, and that’s fine. Keeping a sentence in that sounds pretty but doesn’t really add to your mission is kind of like putting on a beautiful wool coat in the middle of summer. It might look nice with your winter outfits, but in this context, it’s out of place and anyone looking at you can see that.

With each consecutive re-read, you’ll get a better sense of your piece, and structure will start to fall into place. Don’t be afraid to edit.

Finally, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Perfect is the enemy of good”. This is very true in writing. The ability to edit is essential, but it can also be your worst enemy. At some point, it’s important for a piece to just be done. Decide that it’s finished. And then put it out into the universe. I know that sharing is scary, but it’s how you’ll get better. And eventually, it will be less scary.

The more you practice, the better you your writing will be, and the closer you will get to finding your own voice. Eventually, your fear and apprehension will lessen, and you just might find that writing is something that you relish.

But getting back to where this post started. Writing coaching. You need it? I offer it. Let’s get writing together.

(www.altairanorthe.com)

 

The Virtues of Journaling

Obviously writing is a big part of my life. And I’ve taken steps in the past year to help other people bring more writing into their lives too. The workshops that I’ve been teaching so far are mostly about overcoming your internal barriers that are keeping you from writing, and the focus is generally on writing that you one day intend to share with others.

But recent conversations have led to a new series that will focus on writing just for you.

Since I can remember, I’ve kept a journal. Most of these were real, physical, paper journals. There were also years and years where I journaled on computers, and sadly most of these years were lost. There is one particular summer of fervent journaling in an attic of my first real home away from home; I was 19, and I journaled each and every day. I think about these journals often, and am so sad that I didn’t make more of an effort to preserve them permanently.

Journaling is a lost art. But I think that it’s making a comeback. Journaling might at first conjure images of a pre-teen girl scribbling , “Dear Diary…” in a flower covered book with a tiny gold lock on the cover. And this is a 100% valuable experience for that girl, which should in no way be diminished. But journaling is also a whole lot more – from helping with creative thought, to mental health issues, there isn’t a lot that journaling can’t help with.

If you dig back in time, you’ll find that most, if not all, great writers, inventors, runners, academics, and dreamers kept journals. Albert Einstein kept a journal. Virginia Woolf kept a journal. Earnest Hemingway kept a journal. Obviously and famously, Anne Frank kept a journal. Google “famous people who kept journals” and you will find list upon list of famous journals, and words of wisdom from famous journalers on the virtues of journaling.

A journal is a way of documenting the present, but it is also a tool for reflection. It’s a tool for working through the backlogs of your subconscious mind, but consciously and on paper. It’s a way of sifting through the fog of your dream state and turning it into something real.

“’There is physicality in reading,’ says developmental psychologist and cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf of Tufts University” (via Scientific American). And so, there is to writing as well. I’ve tried different journals over the years, of varying size, and level of fanciness, but my go to favourite is a 5 dollar hard cover 5 ½”x 8” sketchbook that you can find at pretty much any art supplies store. It allows for writing, or doodling, or whatever. There is no imposed format. It’s big enough to write a full page, but not so large that it’s cumbersome. My go-to pens are the Classic Poppin Ballpoint and the Staedler Triplus Fineliner. There is nothing worse (ok, there are a lot of things worse, but whateveeeeeeeer) than trying to write with a pen that you hate, or in a book that you have no desire to keep writing in because it’s not quite right. Find writing implements that you love. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend hundreds of dollars on a custom, monogrammed, leather-bound journal, but don’t feel like you need to use a Field Notes or MoleSkine journal because they are “cool” even though you don’t derive joy from them (full disclosure – while I don’t write in Field Notes, I DO use the Field Notes Original Plain Memo Books for my every day ongoing to-do lists, and they are great).

ANYWAYS. If you’re stuck on an idea at work, or in a creative project that you’re working on in your own time; if you are going through something personally and need somewhere to vent; if you’re trying out writing again for the first time in years and years, and you feel rusty as all hell and just want to practice; if you’re planning out your dream trip/project/life, and need somewhere to document your thoughts on how to make it happen – give journaling a try.

Even if it feels awkward at first, keep at it; after a time, you just might find that you love it.

 

 

 

 

Road to Recovery

After months of resting, icing, not getting better, not knowing what was going on, I have finally FINALLY figured out where my stupid foot pain is coming from and what I need to do to start to recover.
Just to review how my injury happened, and what’s been happening since, about 2-ish months ago I was walking down the street minding my own business, when I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in the ball of my right foot. I hobbled the rest of the way to the coffee shop, thinking that the pain would go away if I gave it a moment to rest, but two hours later, I still found myself hobbling home. When I took off my sock to examine my foot, my second toe and the area behind it was red, tender, and swollen. I RICE’d the shit out of it, but the next day, the red had turned to purple and the swelling had gotten worse. I went to the doctor who told me it was either a bad sprain or a mild stress fracture, but either way, REST. Try to stay off the foot as much as possible for at least 6 weeks. This at a time when I had just ramped up my training again. This was about a week out from a 2 and a half week trip to BC where I had planned to spend at least part of every day trail running through the forests of the Sunshine Coast. I tried to find other activities to occupy me. I tried yoga, and that hurt my foot. I tried swimming, and that hurt my foot. I tried pilates, and I hated it.
7 weeks in, my foot wasn’t improving, so I went and had an x-ray to confirm that it was not a stress fracture so that I could start physio. I’d been going for 3 weeks, and it was helping a little, but what had actually gone wrong was still a complete mystery.  I was pretty sure that there was some kind mechanical weirdness happening in my feet, but it as just a strong inkling on my part, with nothing concrete to back it up.
Well, this week in physio there was FINALLY a breakthrough. I kept talking about how things weren’t improving, and how my other foot also has similar but different issues. And this week my physio started remarking about how the callousing on the bottom of my feet is really unusual (the middle of the ball of my foot has a heavy callous), and pulled in the foot expert from their practice to take a look. He remarked that not only is my medial arch fallen, but that my anterior transverse arch is also 100% not there. WHAT. I didn’t even know that this arch existed. And suddenly everything made sense. After more exploration, my physio and I realized that I was essentially using only my second toe to stabilize my entire foot. We tested out the strength on my outer toes, and they are basically ornamental at this point. What the hell?!?! I can’t actually even begin to express how exciting it is to finally have an explanation for the weird pain I’ve been having in my feet (left starting 3 years ago, and right starting 2 months ago). I’ve talked to GPs, Sports Medicine experts, osteopaths, and other physios, and they have always done some exploring and then given me a big ol’ shrug when nothing showed up in my scans.
I’ve still got a lot of work to do, and mindfully trying to walk while focusing on my arches and how they SHOULD be working rather than how they HAVE been working is really really difficult. It’s kind of like I have to relearn how to walk all over again. I’m continuously baffled by bodies, and how we seemingly have to teach ourselves over and over again how to actually use our own bodies properly to keep us from injuring ourselves. Shouldn’t something as simple as walking just be intuitive? Apparently NOT.
ANYWAYS. Mystery solved! While I’m still in pain, I now have a plan, and can actually see my road to recovery. Can’t wait to be hitting the gym, and road, and trails, again very soon.

PS. Giant thank-you to Ossington Chiropractic and Rehabilitation for helping me to finally solve this horrible mystery.

PPS. As an aside takeaway from this whole ordeal. You know what is going on with your body. You have intuition. You have feelings. And never doubt that you should listen to them. I’m very lucky in that I’m assertive, English is my first language, I’m extremely health literate, and I am fortunate enough that I was able to afford access to physiotherapy. If even one of the pieces of this puzzle was not in place, I would likely still be hobbling around in the dark in extreme pain. I would likely have an incredibly frustrating couple of months ahead, before finally being told that I should probably just not be a runner, and should try to find something else. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be an advocate for your own health, and to trust your gut 100%.