It’s fall and all this gray and rainy weather is so very conducive to writing. Instead of longer pieces, I thought of writing a few shorter bits, “shorts” as youtubers would call them, just to share some slices of life, in bite size format, like tapas!
Here’s my first one. Starting strong with a cold tapa!
“Death does not apply to me.”
A statement that is both a cruel joke and a comforting lie all at the same time.
It creeps up on me quietly when I find myself enjoying the little things in life. When I am sitting in the passenger seat of the car and my husband is driving. We are going to see friends for dinner. The music playing hits just right and I latch on to my rêverie and let myself drift away as I look out the window. I feel at the summit of it all. For seconds that is all I know and I think I am eternal and that nothing can stop this. This life and this magnificent feeling.
Death does not apply to me.
The words actually land into my consciousness and with their meaning, instantly pierce my lucid dream as I am reminded of just how many friends and family members death has plucked out of my life.
The truth is, I think of death every day. Or rather, I think of our mortality and how temporary our stay here really is. I always have, ever since I was little, I have despised the passing of time. Unlike many, I never wanted to grow old, already knowing somehow that a great childhood is one of life’s greatest gifts. That is where my obsession with photos and film stems from. Being able to freeze moments in time is still something that baffles me today.
But continuing on with our theme, knowing my impermanence and that I am only getting closer and closer to my end with each day that passes, has given me great motivation to live according to a strong sense of purpose and to limit regrets as much as possible. Not to compromise and betray myself. This was put forth even more with the pandemic that blazed through us, the ongoing conflicts that have taken over Ukraine and now Israel and Palestine and other unfortunate events that are not represented in the media but that are very real. Yet, here I am, peacefully going about my day. Sipping my coffee while a load of laundry is being done and my diffuser peppers the air that I breathe with the chosen essential oil of the day. Sandalwood.
Death does not apply to me.
Last Friday I took the day off and booked a hair appointment. As I sit in the chair with the toner doing its magic on my mane, I pull out my book to read yet another historical fiction story based in WW2 and, as I look at my new Nikes, I think how lucky I am to be able to walk. How energetic I feel and powerful to know that in 20 minutes, my hair will be splashed in golden tones of blond. I can do as I please.
Death does not apply to me.
The thought momentarily robs me of my power as I think – why am I even doing this? Why do we all bother with such futile activities when we know very well how many more important things we could or should be doing? We will all die anyway, why am I sitting here?
I am sitting here because my appearance and how I show up to in this world matters to me and affects how I feel. Investing in hair coloring is not futile, it is powerful act in some sense. I contribute in building my outer shell, my armor and consequently, my inner workings as well. I plunge back in to my book and in my comforting lie that at the moment, death does not apply to me.
Thinking about death constantly would also be quite wasteful and would feel like I don’t actually want to be here. The complete opposite of who I am. I plan on staying as long as possible, so I am definitely pro-investing in activities that elevate my experience as a human being. Be it highly cultural or seeming insignificant to some.
“I’ll tell you a secret, something they don’t teach you in your temple. The Gods envy US. They envy us because we are mortal. Because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful BECAUSE we are doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again."
I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and see those laugh wrinkles around my eyes and am humbled that I have been here for some time now. I know one day we will meet, death and I. I don’t know the date and it is better so. But until then...
Death does not apply to me and may the gods envy us. *fist bumps death*
Bee living with intention, every day.
P.S. Hopefully I will not “accidentally” be struck by lightning today ;)
My husband and I had come to see a Montreal band play in a local bar downtown. It had been a lovely summer evening of strolling in the Quartier des Spectacles and nibbling on apéro. We had arrived early for the show, and, thanks to our punctuality, we snatched a table that gave us a nice view of the stage. As I perched on one of the bar stools, Phil returned to our table with our order of drinks and we awaited the opening act. A crowd was slowly forming, and I let myself indulge in some people watching. While all sorts of folks were attending, I recognized the youth right away. Of course, you could be thinking that merely by physical appearance, one would know (even though in my mind, I am eternally 30 years of age) yet, it was the way they greeted each other that struck me and plunged me into nostalgia.
The way they all smiled and mostly, hugged each other. The closeness of the groups of friends that was forming in front of me was striking. I’ll take it one level deeper: the familiarity in those greetings and in how they looked at one another, revealed to me that they most likely had seen each other just the night before and still, they could not get enough of their time together… and my heart sank a little.
I reminisced to those days when your friends were all you ever thought about. They were the pillars of my world and I could not wait until my next hang out, my next class or better yet, my next show. Those carefree days when truly, the future was unwritten, as it still is, there just seemed to be more of it back then, and that feeling was reassuring. We would call each other without having to first text “can I call you?” or just show up at a friend’s front door unannounced to say hi or hang out…wild.
Strong friendship can weather any storm and always remain (and so do hugs). It is the proximity and place you occupy in a person’s life that changes over time, naturally so.
The waves of changes
In my perspective, as of elementary and high school, I compare friends and classmates as soldiers in one giant battalion, splitting into different companies. Some are in the same platoon or even squad but we all cross paths inevitably given we are in the same school or live near each other.
The first wind of change comes with the end of high school and the beginning of CEGEP and university studies. Some of us chose to continue on the road of education versus others who entered the work force quicker. Some friends moved and lived in other parts of the world! And still, we kept in touch writing letters, long phone conversations and meets ups that kept those friendships alive and well! And while the battalion of soldiers that was once held together by the regiment of our private school and geographical positions began unravelling with the newfound freedom, I never felt alone. That battalion only shrank ever so slightly and moved. Also, it was quite expected as a result of the end of high school, so the surprise effect was absent. The sense of fraternity was just beginning through the obstacles that we all went through on our own respective paths.
A second wave of change usually occurs when careers are launched and I felt this when I continued to graduate studies as many of my fellow comrades joined the work force. Once again, friendships are tested as we jumped from one trench to another, from one base camp to another, trying to achieve our respective goals. Naturally, we do not all have the same endeavors, it is only normal for soldiers to switch squads, platoons or even battalions. We cheered each other on from our stations and though we saw each other a little less, the fraternity was alive and well. Besides, I had always known my road was going to be longer than most and I enjoyed the student path more than I realized.
A third triage takes place with the traditional milestone of marriage. As many were stepping into this new realm, I was only just beginning the launch of my career. Yet, even so, this wave was not significant as I still saw many of my friends regularly. We participated in each other’s events and activities and I also joined the married coupled world later on. My soldiers were very much within reach, as was I, to them. If anything, it felt like the battalion had increased in size. The freedom and availability we had with life and with each other was, relatively speaking, at a peak. The end of my twenties all the way through mid-thirties were just phenomenal. I was working in the practice I had studied so hard for, I lived in the city with my awesome husband, and had an army of friends to share the joy with. Whether I was riding my Vespa in the busy streets of Montreal, sitting on the rooftop of our building by the pool with a drink, or devouring a beef tartar with girlfriends on a Tuesday night because, why not? The reality was simple: my friends were the main characters in my life story. No antagonist or plot twist was in sight to defeat us. Nothing was missing. That feeling of being young and invincible and having so much time ahead was the vibration I lived on.
The same vibe I saw in that group of friends greeting each other at the show that summer evening.
Every now and again though, a pirate thought would come about, bust my defense line and steal my pixie dust. The pirate voice said, “this will all come to an end, you will see…”. I chased it away, but I knew very well that all good things end. This was no exception. However, I would cross that bridge when I got to it and not a fraction of a second prior.
The fourth wave is the one I was unprepared for.
It consisted of another traditional milestone that many close soldiers sought to achieve, the logical next step that society usually dictates: parenthood. Soon my socials were filled with baby announcements, gender reveals, baby showers, birth announcements and more. While I basked in my fellow soldiers’ happiness, it was the first time I felt a true separation. The world that my friends and I lived in was changing one baby announcement at a time and each time, I would congratulate the parents to be with a huge smile, turn around and shed a few quiet tears. Unlike marriage, parenthood involved a massive change of priorities and availability. While it certainly did not mean we would never see each other again or that the friendship no longer existed, one cannot ignore that things would never be the same as they were.
I admired the speed and certainty these soldiers went into this new parenthood mission as they experienced a world I was not yet a part of. One that unknowingly, I never would be a part of (by choice). Slowly but surely, many if not all of my friends transitioned to parenthood. Suddenly, the battalion shrank to a platoon, which inevitably reduced to a thriving squad, and just when I was certain I was solid on my feet, the squad became a one-man army. The ground shook hard and I found myself alone in the trench.
Never had I felt lonelier on my mission. One that not many chose nor understood.
In addition to that, I lost some important soldiers in my family squad, some that life decided to pluck out earlier than anticipated. My mother-in-law lost her battle with cancer, as did my aunt and not long after, my grandparents, the true veterans of my life, both hung their life uniforms, months apart from each other. All of them left an immense void in the team. To add more bombs to my trench, a childhood comrade of mine quit her life mission altogether. Unknowing of the horrible battle she was facing, this was a blow I never saw coming and that haunts me to this day. It is one thing to leave this world against your will, quite another to welcome the exit.
Those were not easy times. Handling loss in all of its shapes and forms was a challenge. My compass also lost its north for a while but I never lost sight of the light. When you see ALL of you friends choose parenthood, the pressure of joining that mission is all too real.
While the entire battalion was going towards parenthood, it just wasn't my mission. It never was and I had to accept that I was different. I also have to constantly fight against the default narrative of society’s constructs to honor my integrity in that choice.
I seized the wonderful opportunity the pandemic offered to dig a foxhole and process all this and myself in it. I shifted my focus to the real main character of my story: me.
The me I knew wanted to write, take music lessons and just keep enjoying my practice at work. I wanted to live a life of creative purpose in my way and unlock my full potential. This is my goal, every day. The reason I am so happy and energetic is thanks to me following my own wishes, even if it sets me apart. I know I am fulfilling my own contract, the one I made with myself before I was born most likely. I feel it in everything that I do and all that I am. That is the sparkling Ivana you know and love and I would not trade it for anything in the world.
Writing my first novel had taught me so much and I came soaring out of yet another shell.
If your goals set you apart, stand alone and enjoy your company!
I discovered that going against society’s current and leading an authentic life is far easier than going against my heart. Besides, I relished the time spent with myself and the peace that came with it. As I continue to evolve, I realize I need more pockets of alone time, now more than ever before. Writing a manuscript made me dangerously fall in love with long periods without social interactions or distractions and I cherish those moments as they calm my nervous system. I strive to find an equilibrium between the city life vibe and the tranquility of my backyard. I need both. A cool combo is being alone among strangers in the city!
I no longer chase. I attract…
While I salute my old self, the one thriving in the battalion of the thirties, I now find myself in a new place. One where I no longer feel the need to chase and repatriate old comrades. Lately, I have been fortunate to meet new allies on my path. Soldiers who share the same interests, goals; the same mission as I do and together, we run. The more experienced I grew, the more a tightly knit fire team outvalued the battalion, platoon or even squad. The moment I stopped worrying about keeping groups together, which was unrealistic, I made room for kindred spirits.
Now, as an experienced foot soldier whose battalion no longer exists, I carry a few battle scars, a couple of wounds that are still healing and, in my heart, a wisdom that time inevitably imposes. As I was riding my Vespa the other day, I waited at a red light and I realized I am still here, alive and healthy, doing what I love with my true partner in crime come what may, Phil. I felt so much gratitude for each day as it is a blank canvas that awaits me. The light turned green, and I buzzed away, leaving a cloud of pixie dust...
Bee, at ease soldiers!
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Hello Beeple people,
Three months into the new year, Spring is here, and I hope you are well on your way to accomplishing what you set out to do for 2023, with conviction. And if you haven’t yet, this is your sign to get to it.
I have been meaning to write this piece for a while as I have witnessed the youth slowly take on the workforce more and more. I dedicate this to those who are growing up thinking some have it made on Instagram and Tik Tok, as we only reveal what looks good.
Know that it isn’t so.
Many show the good, the positive and in my case, the funny (or at least, I think it’s funny), and I am here to say that while those sides are true, they required time and work. And if they didn’t? then those constant victories are fake. That is, there are truths that are not shown behind the curtains. For example: the individual has a media and makeup squad to spruce up their posts, filters, a nanny, etc. and then pose as accomplished professionals. If they can sleep at night doing this, that’s on them.
Of course, I do the same in the sense that I share positive content to inspire or cast an uplifting ray of sunshine to whoever visits my IG page and blog. While I openly destroy my own accomplishments verbally all the time (and try to bask in a bit of glory here and there), it occurred to me that I never really shared some of my own major obstacles. As I was having apéro with a friend a few weeks ago, I was praising his musical abilities as he openly shared that the thing he hated the most was to practice. This surprised me, and then he mentioned “not giving up is one of the most underrated skills” and that strung a chord deep within me. I am all about not giving up.
Some people are naturally smart. I on the other hand am outstanding at not giving up.
Which got me thinking that perhaps disclosing of a failure with you and how I overcame it would counterbalance my sunshine posts and show the dark side of the force. Most importantly, it would demonstrate the underestimated value of valour.
Let’s start with a bang.
FAILURE : a certain university, we'll call it McJill, REJECTED ME.
*Audience gasps in disgust*
I know...It was brutal, I won't lie. Yet, I would not be who I am without that double slap, that set back, that FAILURE to make it through admissions. Yes, that’s right, I used the F word. The way I overcame this obstacle and adapted to find solutions gave me the chance to develop tools I still carry with me today.
Let’s set the records straight: I am a Concordian all the way (and have nothing against McJill, don't come at me with spears), but given McJill was the only university to offer the graduate program I desired, I ignored everything else and directed all efforts towards it. I was blinded by optimism, knowing the program only held about 27 places. I firmly believed that armed with my grades, letters of recommendation all written by highly regarded professors and a little luck, I would be admitted. Back then, applications were in print and to make sure it made it on time, I took no chances and, in the middle of winter, dropped my huge brown enveloppe off at the admissions office on McTavish Street (I curse that street every time I see it and avoid it to this day). A few weeks later, I got a letter in the mail and on it was something like this:
“While meritorious of the program, we simply cannot admit everyone who applies…”
Ouf, that was rough.
That meant that all those efforts and hard work did not suffice for me to make it through. The worst is the absence of a debrief in the aftershock you are left with. There is no phone call and no more explanation apart from the contradicting you deserve it but didn’t get it speech. I was left with so many questions:
I was discouraged and massively disappointed, but then, too determined to quit. I wanted to practice in psychology in one form or another and one cannot do so with a bachelor’s degree. Graduate studies were a must and I always knew I was going to push my studies further. I was not ready to enter the workforce, nor did I desire to interrupt my path. Most importantly, I didn’t want regrets i.e. “Perhaps if I had tried once more, I would have gotten in…”
In my quest to succeed, I unfortunately also found out that kindness and empathy was NOT a prerequisite in becoming a Ph.D. graduate. Many of the professors who were part of the admissions committee of some of the other universities I approached for advice, snubbed me and offered no guidance as to how I could eventually get through. One woman in particular shot me down quite tactlessly and I got so fed up, I challenged her merit:
“I see, and yet, you’re a psychologist?”
In other words, you are at this very moment destroying a student’s dream without mercy and yet even YOU made it as a psychologist. It was unbelievable to me that she was so high up on the social status horse that the primary skills of needed to be a psychologist, listening, and demonstrating care for the other person’s well-being, has nearly vanished.
Needless to say that the look on her face was priceless.
Something in me changed that day though. I turned my back to her office door AND the world of psychology. Or perhaps, its stupid politics and the way it was being run by contradicting concepts. I promised myself that I was not going to ever become jaded like that. If one day I could enter the world of graduate studies, I would handle it with care.
I gave myself time. Time to enter the war room and think of a strategy.
I decided to stay one year extra in my psychology specialized bachelors’ program. I would boost my grades, get extracurricular experience in volunteering for the Douglas Institution and spend an entire year in a laboratory research project. That was my action plan to spruce up my candidacy and continue learning as I applied to McJill’s Masters in Counselling Psychology program once again.
As that extra year began (2005), I soon found out a good buddy of mine (Hi Rich!), was also taking on the same research class and I convinced him to join the same lab I was in. We were great partners and were there every other day to tend to the rats and carry on the study (Olfactory Conditioned Partner Preference Blocked by Opiate Antagonist Naloxone – say that three times real fast). I also had the smartest research psychologists and veterinaries colleagues who were so kind to share their wisdom. I had a blast! Not only that, Rich and I got mentions in two publications which, for undergrads, was phenomenal. And after all this, I applied yet again to McJill’s counselling psychology program, walked up (damn) McTavish Street again and dropped off my brown envelope, on my quest to be a graduate student. How I longed to join those ranks…
Alas, it was not in the cards. Again.
And to make matters worse, the second time around, I found out on a Friday late afternoon after refreshing the page of my online candidacy profile one last time online. Careful what you wish for. I wanted an answer and I sure got one.
REFUSED. Black on white.
No explanations, reasons, nothing. Later, I got the same letter in the mail I had received one year earlier. This time though, I KNEW it wasn’t because I had failed at anything: my grades were good, I had more extracurricular experience and more letters of recommendation than the year before…so, it was my turn to cross McJill off my list. After all, I wasn’t about to wait for them to “see” me.
That summer, when I didn't quite know what to do with myself, I found out about Yorkville University, based in Fredericton, NB. It had just launched a new ONLINE curriculum in Counselling Psychology and I was just in time to apply for the fall. I was admitted upon first application. Back then, online classes were quite new and this journey launched me in being one of the first to complete graduate studies online in my entourage. I pioneered it and got so much out of that experience. It tested me in every which way. From writing my master's’ case to finding a supervisor that would take me under their wing. Never have I understood how our province is the exception to all the rest of the country in a deeper fashion. There was so much red tape and complicated details to assess as I wanted to make sure this degree would lead me to the door I wanted to open: being a Conseillère en Orientation. The road was so tumultuous that anyone who wasn't certain of their goal would have most likely given up or decided to "cut their losses" at some point.
Yet, to me, stopping meant I was giving up on my dream to practice psychology. So I jumped into the trenches armed with nothing but determination. Come what may, this was happening. I was going to kick open that door once I got there.
Giving up was never an option. I never even contemplated the idea. Not once.
Yorkville University’s curriculum is recognized by l'OCCOQ (Ordre des Conseillers et Conseillère en Orientation du Québec), and I successfully completed the Master’s degree. Yet, as time passed, I couldn’t help but ask myself what did McJill students who had been the “chosen ones” do differently? What internships did they have? What activities were they part of? I was curious...
One day, while the clinical psychologist who kindly took me in as his apprentice and I were hosting a small conference for the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, we began with the famous ice breaker routine where everyone introduces themselves. To my astonishment, the two last attendees at the table were Counselling Psychology students from McJill University, coming to hear the psychologist, who was my mentor, speak.
Well I'll be DAMED! We have come full circle folks.
And THAT, my friends, is was what FAILURES are for. That is what OBSTACLES are for. If you really want it, and I mean, REALLY want it, you’ll put up with just about anything to find your way to it. It is but a question of time.
You can have a great support system (parents, friends, loved ones) who provide helpful resources, but in the end, it’s all up to you.
I graduated and moved on to my next goal and until I got all I needed to practice counselling psychology. Which I do, every day.
So, while social media glamorizes “the good life” and gets most people struggling to find shortcuts to success, you can decide to do the actual work to get to where you want to be. This means:
Mastering a skill takes discipline. Discipline means hard work. Hard work means not giving up. Think you can handle it? I am willing to bet you can.
I leave you with inspirational quotes that feed my own perseverance:
"La responsabilité est indissociable au pouvoir d’agir"
"What you don’t change you choose"
"If you have time for social media, you have time to invest the efforts in that dream"
-Ivana, the twice rejected black sheep of counselling psych program.
As Another Christmas comes rolling in, I picked up A Silent Hero and read a few of my own words and found myself smiling at the fact that my grandparents are very much alive in there. So, I opened my laptop and decided to summon them back to life again for this Christmas and invited my aunt (La Zia!) to join my imaginary party as well! Here is what I think it would be like to go over at my Nonni's place if my aunt and nonni were still alive!
Nota Bene: If you read my book, you'll appreciate this even more ;)
It's Christmas day around 11AM and Phil is driving as my parents and I talk incessantly in the car. The wheels make the scrunchy squeaky sound in the snow as he turns right on Rousselot street. He pulls into the narrow driveway and we all get out of the car, my parents busying themselves unloading loads of food and gifts. I am too excited so I run up the snowy steps leading to the front door of my grandparents triplex in Villeray. I ring the doorbell and knock with enthusiasm as I have not seen them in a long time. as I wait, I shake my boots against the balcony railing to get the snow off of them and just then, the door swings open and La Zia, my favorite aunt (the only one!) appears.
Her thick and short brown hair with caramel highlights fall around her face in a perfect ball, as always. I have always loved her hair that way but there is something you must know about my zia, she is in an eternal love-hate relationship with her mane. No matter how perfect it is, there is always something not good enough about it, which became a running gag in our family. She is wearing her classic gold earrings and a white slim fitting blouse and dark trousers. She looks stunning. I jump at her neck to hug her “La ziaaaaa! It’s so good to see you!”
-“I missed you pupetta bella!”
“J’adores tes cheveux! Ils sont tellement beaux!”
-“Ah! Ne m’en parles, je retourne chez la coiffeuse le 4 janvier pour les arranger! »
« of course you are! » she takes my coat and I slip out of my big boots and into my loafers and get out of the way to let my parents and Phil in.
All the lights are on and as I walk down the corridor, I peer into the living room and see the traditional very small and very cute Christmas tree my grandma always put up through the year and I smile as I see it. She has had this thing for years. Close by, old pictures of my sister and I when we were little. The smell of chicken broth and prosciutto fill my nostrils, announcing my grandmother before I see her and as I enter the kitchen, there she is in her usual favorite spot: the right burner of the old stove. The television is on and “Home Alone” translated in French is playing on low volume as she stirs a wooden ladle in a giant cauldron.
She turns around and I see her smile lovingly, her eyes framed by her immense glasses and her old apron are trademark looks that only sweeten with age. I embrace her from the back and peck her cheek, not wanting to disturb her stirring but she surprises me by turning around for a full hug. That’s when I notice the multiple bowls chock full of chopped cheese, tiny meatballs and cheese balls for the “soupe à la santé” dish she makes every Christmas, another family tradition. I am so elated to see the soupe à la santé, I could cry.
-“Mi sei mancata cara Ivana” she says and my heart tightens…
“Anche tu nonna, ti penso sempre, lo sai”
-“come no, ho letto il tuo libro. Grazie, stupenda sta storia…”
“ma davvero?! Ti è piaciuto?» her eyebrow lifts as she places her glasses lower on her nose to dart her eyes at me in a I have a bone to pick with you way, and right then I know what’s coming.
« Si, pero…quella Hannah, non mi piace troppo. Scostumata…» as she is referring to the character in my book who has a crush on my grandfather.
“Yes I thought you might say that. Sorry about that. I will let you discuss that with papanonno for the second edition, si?” and this gives me an exit “Where is papanonno Rinaldo?”
“Oh he’s downstairs getting the wine.”
I turn on my heels and hop down the stairs. I see the super long tables have been set up for the entire family coming and the basement kitchen has even more delicious food dishes, some of which I see are new and creative with out-of-the-ordinary ingredients, and I immediately grasp my sister had something to do with those! Wow, so much work! I never realized how much time my grandparents put into the preparation of this day…I appreciate it so much more now. I head towards the garage and down the corridor to the right is the furnace room, rumbling and keeping the house warm. Furnace rooms, I now realize, always remind me of my grandfather because he has all his tools there and while most people say the kitchen is the heart of the home, I personally think the room with the engine is the actual heart of the home. Past that area is the cold room, AKA the cantina with all the backup homemade tomato sauces, prosciutto and capicollo hanging on strings and of course…the home made wine.
I see him, he is bent down looking at something and rises as he hears me. He slips his pocket knife in his front pocket as he always does.
-“Ahaaa! Eccoti! C’è l’avete fatta!” I hug him and take in the soapy aftershave he wears, a classic. “Sono felice di ritrovarti. Allora, le strade non erano troppo scivolante?”
“Non c’è male…Filippo è stato bravissimo a guidare!”
He picks a white and red wine bottle, and we make our way out slowly and I hear him click off all the lights behind us. I am dying to know if he finished my novel…As though he reads my thoughts he suddenly pierces his the silence between us.
And my job drops, but I do not dare make a sound to interrupt his pace.
“Ho letto tutto e…è troppo...”
My pulse quickens.
Uh oh, what does he mean? Too bad? Too much? Too crappy? Too fake? Oh god he hates it. I have written a book, about his life and he hates it and now it’s a disaster. Great…Good job Ivana. The ONE person you really tried honoring is disappointed.
We exit the garage space and re-enter the warmth of basement. We can both hear the upstairs commotion as more guests start to arrive, but my mind is focused on one thing and one thing only, my grandfather’s grey eyes. I cannot seem to read them.
“Cosa c’è che non va con la storia? Forse non l’ho scritta giusta? What is wrong with the novel?” I take a breath and discouraged, I sit down on one of the many chairs at the long table. Without a word, Rinaldo does the same with an inquisitive look on his face as he sets the bottles on the table.
“Volevo scrivere la tua storia per eternarla. Tutto quello che avete vissuto, nonna, mamma Emilietta, Antonino, Assunta…sono cose incredibili.” I spot a fork and start nervously playing with it.
“Most importantly, I wanted you to know that I understand, or perhaps tried to understand" I correct "what you must have gone through…I tried, I really did. I researched, I recorded nonna’s voice, I read her journal, I interviewed mom and dad multiple times, I even contacted the Italian military archives to know more about your route in the army and the concentration camp. I read so many books. But you’re right, it was too much of an endeavour for me to even capture any of the…”
And then I notice it. Rinaldo’s silence. I look up and see his eyes have turned into crescents, the way they do when he smiles. He may be the only person I know who is capable of silencing others with silence.
“…volevo dire che, è troppo bello.” he finally finishes his thought. His eyes are slightly welling with tears “Non avrei mai potuto scriverla come l’hai fatto tu. Siamo rimasti sopresi, anche la copertura con la foto di Rizia, è bellissima.”
I feel my face break into a huge smile as I realize he was actually complimenting me and I interrupted him in trying not to. He lifts my chin with his index finger “Siamo fierissimi di te Ivana e di Oriana, siete brave nipote.”
Now I feel my eyes glass over with tears. “Grazie papanonno! Sono felice di sentirti. La tua storia sarà sempre viva in questo libro!”
-«Si! Pero, non è la mia storia.»
I look at him and his crescent eyes are filled with joy before he says “È la nostra storia! »
Behind him, I see the famous organetto sitting on a corner table, gleaming, awaiting. Just then, la zia comes rushing down the stairs announcing “papà, dai suonaci qualcosa, quel mazzolin di fiori!” and officially ignites Christmas.
I smile to myself seeing everyone else coming down the stairs. Everyone is oozing with the festive vibe and hunger for celebration and food and I think what a great Christmas this will be.
Buon Natale a tutti!
Bee dreaming x
A few weeks ago, I went to see an aura reader. That is, a woman who specializes in seeing a person’s aura as well as entities. I had completely forgotten about the fact that I had put my name on the waiting list and finally, a year later, I got a phone call schedule an appointment.
I came to know of this special person through a book she wrote. In it, she explains her understanding of entities, vibrations, metaphysics and more. A friend of mine first lent me this famous book when I told her about the visitation dream, I had experienced with a deceased friend. I had described it exactly as the aura reader does in the book and my friend’s eyes widened as she said, “you have to read this book then!” she immediately ran out of my office to fetch the book she happened to have on her and, after not being able to put the book down, she ended up gifting the book to me, merci Solange ;)
Needless to say, I connected with the notions of karmic relations, how she presents entities and their level of vibration and especially, the concept of our initial contract (AKA that which we are meant to fulfill while we are in this incarnation). This energetic, benevolent lady is not a crystal ball reader but once again, she sees entities (aka ghosts) and reads auras, which means she can access information of the individual’s past going back many lifetimes ago (aaaand I’m sure I will lose all the hyper-rational readers right about now). It was such a divine experience that I wished to share a few highlights of it with you and perhaps quench a bit of your curiosity.
The entire session lasted 90 minutes and I left with the printout of the narrative that was spoken to me and felt so empowered I was almost sparkling.
A bit of context on my state of before mind going in...
Having reached 40 years of existence *dramatic gasps with a view of the world*, I've grown tired of battling my imposter syndrome and I stand far more confident with all the choices I have made thus far. Like everyone, I have had my share of obstacles, but throughout, I have succeeded at remaining that zestful person while growing and accomplishing the things that I wanted to, one after the next. Whether it be in my studies, my career aspirations, my passion projects, my physical and mental health, my friendships, my lifestyle and who I am. Given that viewpoint, I sought the counsel of the energetic healer for additional guidance, one that would aid my intuition and confirm I was aligned with my mission here.
I arrived 15 minutes in advance, ready as I held her book that I wanted her to sign and a notebook in which I had questions like:
1. Am I well aligned with my reason to be here?
2. Why was I visited by my deceased friend versus other friends who were much closer to him than I?
3. I have always felt different, like I do not belong with the rest…
4.What have I been in my past lives?
The energetic counsellor sees me and greets me and the ease and kindness of this individual is palpable. There was a strong connection right away. Personally, I was thrilled to finally meet her, like a little nerdy book club fan.
We enter a room which is quite literally draped in blue and filled with beautiful crystals, most likely to assist her in her healings and protect her from negative entities as well. The strong and delightful smell of Champa incense fill my lungs as she gestures for me to take a seat. She sits across from me on the other side of the desk and to my right, a computer monitor with a blank page faces me with the small vertical line blinking, waiting.
“I will start by reading your aura…” she says with a huge smile. I nod thinking “absolutely, I can’t wait!!!” She closes her eyes for just a second and starts typing away at what she apparently sees of my aura. Nodding and saying “mmhmm” every now and again as if receiving information from a group of people. Knowing full well I have this blog post and information on other social media available for her to have researched me, I keep an open mind and am curious to know the information she will reveal to me.
Well…Lemme tell you!
“It is always interesting to see such auras. The layers of your aura are very large, demonstrating just how much you have learnt in your many past lives…an old soul. This explains why you easily assess people’s hearts and the genuineness quite rapidly. You also have very sophisticated compartments in your brain, information that is organized and stored in different files, which enables you to make links between one event and another and the whys of their circumstances. This also explain why people are drawn to you and open up to you as they know you listen well and provide so many different solutions to help them there where they need it.”
I could not help but smile and laugh as I saw the words appear one after the next…quite accurate, even though my LinkedIn profile and other sites indicate my field of studies: behavioural sciences.
“The colors of your aura are magnificent because there are so many.”
the compliment I get most often is the following: “you are such a sunshine person” or anything to do with the sun really given my energy and zest for life. Could this also be tied to my zodiac sign of leo which is ruled by the sun and fire? And since I dress the way I feel, even my wardrobe reflects this. I have so many flashy colors and I hardly own or wear any black (don’t get me started on MF black leggings which I despise except for workouts and dance class.) She continued…
“There are also geometrical configurations, indicating that you have projects in the backgrounds that come into manifestation ONCE they are COMPLETE, fantastic. You have a natural ability to create a bubble around yourself and not let distractions come through”.
Sure, the aura reader could have seen I have just published a book too, however, the ‘bubble’ comment is beyond accurate. That is exactly how I roll. For many of my choices or projects, be them big or small, have been untrending (AKA against society’s current) and I have managed to steer clear of the waves of judgement and temptation to self-sacrifice simply to feel part of the crew thereby renouncing to my own mission. I need to live my truth and well, be that sunshine person!
The Third Ear
“The third ear is very developed.”
Ok, HOW does she know this? I have indeed mentioned music in some of my way older blog posts but, she took it to the next level as she continued typing.
“We often speak of the third eye when the same is true for the third ear…the intuitive ear. The one that hears beyond what is spoken. Once the second side will be fully developed, your intuitive hearing will take charge of only letting the positive come through. It will filter the rest, and this will help you as you are quite sensitive. The tone of voice of certain people affects you still. A negative work may also disturb you.”
Annnnnd my jaw proceeded to drop. This is too precise for her to know.
The combination between the different bits of information she was reading is what moved me the most. There was a lot of discussion in between her reading/typing since I asked a lot of questions to understand but for simplicity, I am sharing the gist. She then proceeded to draw how it looks like when the ears are fully developed (there are apparently three phases, one of my ears has all three, the other is at the second phase).
When you were little, you had periods of intensive dreaming which brought you a lot of information applicable to your reality. These gradually ceased as you applied what you learnt. Now, the quality of your dreams goes forward into the future. That is, what you dream of can fix the future that has not yet occurred. This is considered quantum physics! Listening to dream bits to prevent things from happening and tells us what we need to adjust, behaviour wise.”
She is so right. I pay attention to the messages in my dreams and look them up and stay highly alert to this. I believe in astrology as well (if you don’t, then you deny the moon has any effect on earth and same goes for the sun…it’s a package deal y'all). I was bewildered as I realized I have in the past written entire poems which came to me in my dreams (one in Italian, published in my novel).
“You have been in MANY wars. Most recently in the 1800s as a nurse who worked in the frontlines, replacing doctors who consistently declined, one after the next. You reacted well in emergency states and you knew the human body well, even in those times in which people were ignorant the body’s mechanics. It was very natural to you.”
I don't mind blood and am fascinated by the human body. I asked about my obsession with uniforms and how I adore jumpsuits.
“Uniforms…you have also been a soldier in multiple wars. You were once convinced you were fighting for the right reasons and were proud to defend your people until you realized that the other men were also defending theirs. In your eyes, their intentions were good too, wanting to protect their people as well. You dropped your gun and walked away.”
I knew it. Matters of justice and integrity are quite intense. Also, I am fascinated by past wars, battalions and the sense of fraternity which must have existed between men. The part and specific choice of wording with good intentions was all too much. In my world, it’s all about intentions. I often say the worst thing you could do to me is accuse me of having bad intentions. Now I get the connection.
“This may seem strange, but in another life, one of your daughters went far in her dancing career. At first, you both danced together, and she took off as a dancer and you have kept this connection to dance to try and find this daughter who is not in this incarnation. You have also dance in another time and you had it in your bones. You have played piano, the harp and another instrument which no longer exists, it resembles a mini flute which sounds like a transverse flute, the sound is like it.”
Wow! So interesting...I have always felt at home in dance studios. I mentioned that it was indeed funny and that these are ALL subjects and activities I have deep interest in and have invested time in to try and develop as much as possible. It also explains my deep interest for music, on top of my third ear…no wonder I have always renounced to solfeggio to play everything by ear. As we were discussing, I casually mentioned I had no children in explaining my story to which she replied "That's right, you wrote '0' for children in your initial contract. You can always go up, but you can't usually go down." she said with a huge smile. That could not have confirmed my alignment to my mission better and why motherhood never really appealed to me. The way she said it so matter of factly and warmly without judgement was liberating. Empowering. I am who I am supposed to be, thank you third ear and energy reader woman.
I stood grateful as she poured information on the page and in my heart, the same way I do when I write, it’s like taking dictation only she was taking dictation from a much larger source than I. It felt like receiving the list of ingredients that composed the pieces of my soul that I always knew were there but that I couldn’t explain. Just when I thought it couldn’t get clearer, the rabbit hole got deeper when I saw the following words appear on the monitor:
“You have always known you were not from here…since you were little. You never fit in with humans in your environment. Your thoughts surpass those of humans. It is still the same today. You see the clash between your form of thinking and those from people your age versus your REAL age, the age of the ancestral hierarchy you come from…”
My heart fell. How but HOW did she know this? Remember how I told you I had written in my notebook how I have “always felt different” or that I didn’t belong with the rest? I have always felt apart since I can remember. Like there was a physical distance between me and everyone (which fed the imposter syndrome). Like I belonged to another group of beings, but I have never been able to explain it. There was no other way for her to know as I have never written about this anywhere or told anyone, ever, and nothing could prepare me for what she was about to say…
The end ;)
When someone dies...
P.S. According to her experience, the deceased aren't always available to us, the same way friends and family are not free to hang out this weekend, they're busy doing other things! Our passed away loved ones are working on themselves, their consciousness and, depending on their evolution and our openness to entities, they can come visit us or give us signs. That is why, when someone has recently passed away, the soul of the deceased individual needs more support than we do! Now that the trend is host funeral services in a strange place (i.e. not at home), the soul can be lost, trying to find their body in more familiar places likes home. Lighting candles, praying for them, sending them our laughter when reminiscing over good times helps them greatly. They receive all that we send them energetically. Furthermore, it is not a good idea to ask them to "protect or watch over us" as they are already burdened with their own journey. Eventually they could become available and come visit, like the powerful visitation dream I had. When I asked why I was so fortunate to have had this divine experience, she said "Picture yourself inside the dark belly of an ancient boat without windows. Suddenly, someone opens the trap door from the top and the light floods in. That's how it is for spirits, they go towards the light. He came to you because you felt like the light and were available."
Hello dear bee readers,
Not quite sure who is even reading me at this point, given I have been absent from my blog the past year.
Well hello, it's me ;)
Did you think I had given up? That I let my blog die? Why I never…
I wouldn’t do that.
Or at least, not without a dramatic and never-ending goodbye.
December 21st and here I am, back at my battlestation, AKA home office, AKA studio which houses my triple monitor setup complete with a rainbow-colored keyboard and let’s not forget my loyal drum kit, silently sitting behind me. I am back from a great beach vacation (the airport? What a shit show) and couldn’t be happier to be home in my cozy and illuminated office, tucked in the corner of our basement, away from the cold and away from the madness that is ripping through the world at the moment. I sip my coffee and listen to yet another great Christmas jazz ambiance video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW5-QMnF6PY , a war could be breaking out and I wouldn’t know of it. I really am in another world down here.
Partly because it is underground, partly because I feel for the past year, I have been focused on a special writing project. 82 000 words to be precise.
Which explains my MIA status with the bee blog. I had to set it aside to concentrate on this enormous endeavour of mine.
Those who know me well or, if you ever bothered to read my homepage introductory spiel, know I have always wanted to take my writing to the next level and actually write a book. A semi-fiction novel, that is. And while I have been publishing on this blog for years and writing poetry on the side, I realized this has all been a great warm up for the endeavour of scripting the story that had been percolating in my mind for years.
November 2020, I signed up for the 50 000-word NANOWRIMO challenge (National Novel Writing Month, it’s a whole thing and community which provides a fun platform, tools, and all for free, I recommend it) and used the momentum to start this unbelievable undertaking. I realized just how deeply I enjoy writing…it turns out I am a bit of an Alice in her Wonderland. I jumped into the rabbit hole without questioning how far it would go. I spent hours writing and not seeing the hours fly by.
Writing is quite a solitary thing and I learned that I am quite happy being by myself. Although I was developing imaginary characters who were very much alive in my head, so really how alone am I? (said the weird hermit).
The story line, set in the 1940s, and the research required to better know this period made me travel in time for free. I created 37 characters that were very real in my story and that I came to know and love. Ideas of plot twists and cliff hangers fought for first place in my head. I became completely immersed by this project and spoke of nothing else, and while I only hit 21 000 words at the end of NANOWRIMO, I blew past that deadline and kept on going. I soon realized 50 000 words wasn’t nearly enough to encompass the story I was writing.
I would need more. WAY more.
While the world around me was either crumbling into pieces or finally reopening, I was like a sniper on its target, I kept my focus and worked silently on hitting my writing milestones, one after the next. The pandemic moved slowly but surely and so did I.
Forward and onward.
Perseverance is one of my strongest personality traits, so I gave myself up to it entirely. Locked and loaded with coffee (or wine), I typed away, day after day. Writing as though the story was already finished in my head.
To be clear:
This was pure writing. From thoughts to keyboard. Swording through the self-publishing jungle, one chapter after the next.
In fact, I did all the work: the research, the recording of my nonna’s voice (circa 2005!), the reading of her diary, contacting the Italian military archives, taking writing workshops and God knows what else. The intensity was both grueling and addictive. There is nothing quite like the delicious satisfaction of creating something of your own and expressing it is like a thundering yes to being alive. And it’s yours, no one can touch it. The vision of me holding my very own book, the one I had written, in my own hands, kept me going through many battles.
In the world of me, writing a novel is a bucket list item. So this is huge.
I contacted Canada's oldest independent publisher and things got real. I submitted my synopsis and my first four chapters and a few weeks later, I agreed to a deadline (which was moved three times because I was never quite finished) Finally, in August, I wrote the following two words “The End” and submitted my first draft for editing (I have been incredibly lucky to have been paired with one of the most fantastic editors out there! You’ll have to wait and see to find out who she is!) and after seven rounds of editing, I have finally come to the finish line. Or at least, it’s in sight and I wanted to update you all on that or, the few that still care about the tiny bumblebee.
Everyone has been up to something during this pandemic. We have all survived in our own ways. I am happy to say this was my way, my path. The one I consciously chose over everything else. A passion project that grounded me while making me soar in a parallel universe of people I never met, family members I wasn’t born to ever know but that I somehow brought to life, with the written word.
If you have read up until here, you have picked up on the cookie crumbs of clues as to what I have written about.
I have written untold Second World War stories. The ones where my grandfather is the main character.
This is is my legacy.
To anyone out there who longs to write a manuscript here's my unsolicited advice on how to get started: read a lot but most importantly, just write.
Stay tuned !
Hello beeple people,
As I humbly step back up on my little soap box after many months of silence, I want to ask
how are you...?
What a journey this pandemic situation has been. I am 100% certain that many of you have also been through the ups and downs of these circumstances, and knowing that, I do truly hope you are all OK.
My brain has been swirling with what seems like millions of thoughts and ideas ranging from small to grand themes to write about and share with you.
To share a few "slices of life" (tranche de vie as we say en français!) of this past summer, I can definitely say I have had a few hurdles. Situations that have challenged the trust and energy I so generously invested in them to say the least, much of which I am now grateful for, as they have been great learning opportunities.
...it's not to say that the student here (me!) didn't pay. It did come with significant cost: deceit, shock, betrayal, anger (fur real), and sadness.
In exchange however, I got transformation.
One of the recurrent themes of psychology 101 I can't help but circle back to these days is: adaptive coping mechanisms.
Darwin did have a point...
In the face of change though, my first reflex is to resist. Like I want to hang on to what's there and keep course. Intuitively and theoretically though, I know better. I know I need to take a step back and assess before latching on to resistance. For example, I know that in some situations, my determination, optimism and discipline do not serve me well. To the contrary, they are exhausting my resources. Sometimes, I need to realize that not all situations benefit from my grit and that I must do what feels like *DRAMATIC GASP* quitting and let go.
Determination, Optimism and Discipline: "Wait, what?! Really?! Well this is weird...we are NOT used to this. Where the HELL do we all go now?"
Reason and efficiency: "Why! towards OTHER rewarding goals, of course!"
Seriously though, this was a revelation!
I am learning to let go of and sometimes legit quit on some situations that did not merit my time anymore. Emphasis on the word merit here.
A little like George Costanza in Seinfeld, I had to unlearn some of my reflexes which are to persevere, look up and try and try again. So, if my first reflex to persevere is wrong, then the opposite, in this case letting go or quitting, should be right!
And so, when facing these unfortunate events, I did allow myself to wallow in pain, but I had also reached a point of no return. I reoriented my determination and discipline towards another vision. A more adaptive one and one that was sure to have a return on my investment instead of a huge withdrawal leading to foreclosure, or so to speak.
This enabled me to save time, energy and good vibrations for myself first.
Consequently for this, yes, I am grateful. It was tough, I will not say that it wasn't, but I have grown out of yet another shell that was restricting the evolution of me. Blocking me, even, from moving forward. Want to know the most absurd part of it all? For one of these events, my intuition had warned me all along, but I decided to go against it and try harder. Always listen to that inner judgement, it never fails.
How about you, reader ? what kind of learning or growing have you experienced lately? Any thoughts are welcome here, I would love to read your comments and feedback.
On that note, I share a bit of pandemic poetry, a few words that have been simmering in my mind for a while. I have named it "remnants", inspired by the clash between the pre and post Covid worlds. I hope it speaks to you!
Special thanks for my mother for the title inspiration
Standing in a deserted office space
With a pen in my hand and a mask on my face
6 months in and on a totally different pace
A new reality is shifting and taking place
Time has stopped for a moment or so it seems
As I look at a world that used to be
Our back-burning selves, we gently redeem
Seeking the purity of nature and its authentic beauty
Empty stations and parking lots, I wonder
We have stopped running from one thing to another
Reclaiming time spent traveling to a tower
Is a four-fold source of individual power
Confinement reveals the deeper truths
Strange how we needed it to see
No longer sitting in our favorite bar booth
Grateful we are for homemade tea
Cleaning out drawers of the past and of darkness
Ridding our souls from the dust
Breaking free from a tight and rusty harness
Stepping into a renewed self-trust
Alone, we face ourselves and our demon pet
Who first was kept at bay, now surfaces, you bet
Whip thy demon hard into good use
Halt the domination and ban the abuse
And you may at first fear the inevitable battle
Yet you are the owner and shall not need to rattle
At the tenant’s temporary stay, tis over I say
Touching more keyboards and screens than human beings
We came close to forgetting what human means
Racing through life as though we are eternal
Perhaps it is best to remember that we are mortal
The yellow rose that blooms on the front lawn
I savour the sweet scent of my silent friend
Let us enjoy our stay from dusk until dawn
These petals of wisdom to you I send
Ivana M.A. Lemme, 2020
It was probably 1991, I was very young sitting in front of a computer monitor in my parents’ basement office. The same one I would eventually study in and complete my master’s degree in, but I did not know that then. My father was showing me the basics of the Microsoft world and one of the first cool tricks he showed me was: CTRL+ALT+DELETE “when you're stuck, you can press all three, the computer shuts down and reboots” said my father.
“cool!” I responded.
MAN did I abuse of that feature whenever a program would no longer respond. It served me well to restart quickly.
Back to today. March 2020.
Our worlds have been saturated by the repeated following words: quarantine…voluntary isolation…hand sanitizer…cleaning wipes….coronavirus…COVID-19…pandemic…fear…lowering the curve….and last BUTT not least: toilet paper.
In one single day, Friday the 13th to be precise, we all saw our city shutting down. One event at a time, one school after another, all arenas, gyms, parcs, bars, coffeeshops, one after another…until almost complete shutdown of the city. Apart from the ice storm back in 1998, this is a completely new and unusual time.
A time that forces into our homes and out of our daily routine. A time when social gatherings of any size are forbidden. And if there is something human beings thrive on, it is definitely the predictability of their schedules and goals, however little or futile we think they are. Psychology 101: knowing what is coming, gives us a perception of control and COVID-19 did a nice job at destroying that perception, erasing all existing benchmarks and leaving us no choice but to cancel our plans and rituals.
I can still hear COVID-19 laughing...
Quite the creature of habit I am and my daily interactions with my colleagues fuels my stamina, motivation and creativity. Far from being alone in these strange circumstances, the workforces rapid moved into slow-motion pushed all businesses to their limits. Having now been in this isolating situation for a little over a week, I find myself asking:
What have we done? How blind have we been to our existing? It seems the planet needs to reboot and stop us from what we were doing to gain perspective. Surely, the world we will return to will not be the same as the one we left behind B.C. (Before COVID-19). What are we learning from this?
It turns out that being confined to your home leaves you dealing with…well….yourself. and your home too.
That is when all those awesome hobbies and self-actualization activities come in handy! If you don’t keep tabs on yourself, you’re probably in for a big reality check.
Who am I without my going out? Do I know myself without my daily rituals? Lucky me, I do J That’s pretty much my life moto. While employment is VERY important and defines much of who I am, I also invest a lot of time in other artistic and cultural interest: music, dance, work outs, reading and writing (my current read: REBEL TALENT by Francesca Gino, Harvard Business School professor, I highly recommended especially in these times) What about you? This confinement is the perfect time to:
READ THAT BOOK or
WRITE THAT BOOK
TAKE AN ONLINE CLASS
PRACTICE THAT SONG ON THE PIANO/GUITAR/TRUMPET
COOK UP A STORM
PLAY BOARD GAMES
The world is rebooting and updating by giving you time to re-center and up-skill yourself.
LOVE YOUR HOME
The second and important element is your home. Household. Personal environment. Call it what you will, the place where you live is a representation of who you are. No matter how big or small, rental or owner, uptown or downtown. If you are stuck staying there for weeks or even months, you need to feel a high connection to your surroundings. Setting up shop at home so that you feel happy to be there is, for me, of the essence. Every piece of furniture, art and photo is carefully selected and placed. Every room has its purpose. How about yours? If not, now is the perfect time to take care of things:
FIX THE BROKEN
The world is resetting and updating by giving you time for manual labor. The freedom of immediate and tangible results to honour your home.
If there is something that was tested from the beginning, it can definitely be said that it is everyone’s capacity to work from home. When employees are called upon by their prime minister to stay home to protect their own lives and that of others, any technological deficiencies an organization has will surface, and fast. The ability to continue running a business away from the office is imperative, like the lifeboats on the Titanic. Unfortunately, the same goes for individuals being ill-equipped at home. By the time some realized they couldn’t go back into the office, they rushed out to buy monitors and laptops, but some suppliers were out of stock. Nightmare.
Lucky me, I cannot remember a time when our home did not have a space solely dedicated for work with a computer and a printer (loud and gigantic back in those days). My parents (yes, they are quite amazing) have always taught me to be self-sufficient in that sense. While For some task silence is best, I sometimes miss the noise and buzz of the city. To quench this neurotic social need, I have a few youtube background tracks to suggest. I often play these as I work, depending on my mood and the actual task, they inspire me to focus:
Rainy Coffee shop/ fairly quiet lovely visual: https://youtu.be/dx3GxpitvbY
Rainy coffee shop/jazzy ambiance : https://youtu.be/iD4dMdpNe_I
Jazzy bar ambiance: https://youtu.be/lzQ3IS1Xq2s
Fan of Hobbits? Enjoy this Spring time and visit a hobbit’s home: https://youtu.be/izJCnRS7yqU
A cozy lounge with lovely snow falling and the sound of a fire’s crackle? https://youtu.be/2Rfcp3c0WNo
The world is restarting and updating by giving you time to create a workspace at home and develop new reflexes.
BREAK THE OLD CYCLE
Sometimes I don’t get us humans. We are in 2020 not 1920. While we ARE called to distance ourselves, we could not be more socially equipped to do so.
All week long we work hard and look up to the weekend to do those things that we “never have time” to do. To go on vacation and break our routine. This generation is fighting to balance work goals and personal goals and we have been blessed with this disguised opportunity to stay home for an undetermined period of time. We literally have to STAY home and limit all travels, errands and gatherings in order to eliminate a pandemic. This is THE ultimate excuse to cancel ALL plans and shift our focus to what we want and... we still find ways to complain?
The universe is stopping us. Breaking our cycle. Pulling us out of our traditional course. The way I see it? There’s a nice white canvas for us all to take and start rewriting our goals for 2020.
Counting out of course those who truly are in a dire financial situation or stuck in another country trying to come home (there’s hope guys, hang tight), you will suffer the consequences of your state of mind if you cannot cope adaptively. To quote Darwin, those who adapt develop characteristics that increase our chances of survival. If you cannot be your own sunshine at this time, it’s back to KNOW YOURSELF. Let’s show the world what we are made of.
How many of us have reached out to help? Numerous individuals and organizations have donated in either time, expertise or financially to help alleviate the stress that this unprecedented situation is imposing on everyone.
If your business is hit, hang on: you’re not alone in this boat and help is coming. Besides, the people working in it should come first, before corporations. The world is resetting, rebooting and cleaning its slate once again. It is throwing us back into basics to appreciate the little things, as there is nothing bigger than the little things in life. If you have your health and your freedom, you’re already rich! The rest is gravy. Unfortunately, some aren’t as lucky and have been affected by the COVID-19 and fighting for their life. If that is not the case for you, rejoice and continue to actively kill the virus by staying inside and not spreading germs of any kind.
Italians singing and playing music from balconies. Spanish trainers hosting exercise sessions from rooftops. Uber Eats now removing delivery fees if you buy local. Couche-Tard and Tim Hortons offering free coffees to all front-line workers. Comedians and musicians streaming entertainment online for free to keep morale up. People creating hilarious home confinement jokes to laugh at ourselves in all this. We, humans, are being connected in a way that’s never seen before.
The world rewriting personal and work lifestyle.
We are being pushed to certain limits we had not anticipated; it is only normal to have to accept a new reality and to readjust our expectations. I’m thinking of parents working from home while maintaining their children’s education or mental stimulation in line. The workforce is adapting and demonstrating more flexibility, as it should. Parents hear me: if your children are fed, happy and you are still getting your job done? All hail! You’re doing great.
I am currently working from home full time, keeping regular contact with my friends, seeing my parents in limited increments of time and Zoom with my colleagues, even just for 30 mins to chat and have a coffee so as to keep my social sanity in check. The extra time I don’t spend traveling to work, I invest in other activities. So far, so good. Even pollution and smog levels have significantly reduced since the worldly shut down or deceleration.
We have it all to make it through.
This is just the beginning, as the new habits and reality we are creating are sure to leave their marks on both households and the workforce. Now that businesses had no choice but to allow for more flexibility, the workforce is greatly changing as we are developing new muscles and realizing that working from home can be just as productive, if you trust your employees. How will companies adjust A.C. (After COVID-19) has yet to be seen.
Until then, let us, humanity, adapt. Reset. Reboot.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and CTRL+ALT+DEL…
P.S. If anyone reading me is struggling at this time, needs to talk or a good laugh, please reach out to me.
Hello good old bee-readers,
There was no way I was ending the year without one last post. I have been longing to write since my last post this summer, however, as you know, life happens. As 2019 wraps up, I look back on it and cannot help but see a dominant theme: endings, departures and finalities.
Certainly, endings and beginnings are part of life and to be expected. It seems however, as I had noted in a past blog post, in my case events or moves come in extremes: strong stability and calm waters or back to back waves of madness and sadness…the latter is what 2019 brought me. It’s as though the universe knows how bad I am at letting go of the past and saying goodbye and decided to throw a bunch of events that forced me to do so, back to back. I really started to feel like a ship riding through a storm, crashing into wave after wave.
While some endings I expected and saw coming from far away, others were much more violent and plunged my head back under water, just when I was starting to catch my breath. Read me well though: ALL of these endings were significant. All of them tested my entire toolbox of coping mechanisms without exception.
Without wanting to make this post a negative or depressing one, I simply want to share what I learnt from this and express gratitude for many friends and family members who offered their support. I also want to share a more vulnerable side of me and that yes, I absolutely do feel down sometimes, scraping the bottom this year apparently.
Before I start rambling on forever, I will limit myself to the three life changing events that truly marked my year, and these were the passings of three individuals:
In between of course, there’s the regular crap that continues to pile up: colleagues leaving, a friend battling cancer, career shenanigans, my father losing his childhood friend a few weeks after losing his own sister, and the list goes on. And we all know that even when you think shit has royally hit the fan, it can always get worse… so with every bit of bad news, I tried my best to go back to basics: I can eat, walk, talk and do my job daily, shut up and don’t complain Ivana.
I was just starting to slowly sew up the La Zia wound when I learn on a Monday night that one of my best friends had put an end to her own life. I literally screamed when reading the message that her sister sent to me as my heart shattered and played back our childhood and teenage years like a film without sound. I truly did not see this one coming.
It was tough.
Another strong punch in the heart. Another final departure I can do nothing about. I was starting to lose hope, my energy tank was already on its reserve as it was. Even Phil, my stable force of truth and of calmness, poured me a Scotch, before I was even able to ask for one that night. Something I rarely do.
How the hell was I going to get through this?
Well, in my daily activities as a career counsellor, when supporting my clients, I often present the “Stress is N.U.T.S.” concept, a tool developed by Dr. Sonia Lupien, director of the Center for Studies on Human Stress, to help us grasp the triggers that activate our innate fight or flight response in this day and age. We are more likely to stress when a situation has:
N - novelty; something new
U - unpredictability; no way of knowing it could occur
T - threat to the ego; feeling your competence is questioned
S - sense of control; feeling you have little or no control in a situation
While some situations have one or a few of these, some, like a job loss, gather them all and pressure you to the max. I can easily say that Véronique’s departure encompassed them all: novelty, unpredictability, threat to my ego (how was I not there? How did I not know?) and complete loss of control – I was definitely not behind the wheel here, this happened and I had to deal with the repercussions. Unlike my auntie and grandfather, I could never have imagined that Véronique was battling demons and that she had been doing so for many years. So much so, that life had become unbearable. Lucky me, the concept of life coming to an end through my own decision is unknown territory; my brain and heart never venture there. Consequently, her decision, though it deserves to be respected, is all the more difficult to comprehend.
To adaptively cope, I focused on...
WORK AND DAILY ROUTINE
For each one of these losses, my work routine saved me. I got up the next day and clung to my morning ritual, business as usual. Instead of taking a bereavement day for any of these losses actually, I kept my schedule and daily appointments on, which helped me focus on those things in my life that I do control. I shed many tears on my train ride to work that Tuesday morning following Véronique’s sad news. However, seeing my clients and my colleagues at the office helped me cope. In these cases, I don’t think staying at home would have been a good idea for me. Doing my job reminded me of my sense of purpose and unconsciously so, my clients were the ones keeping my head out of the water. (I did obviously take bereavement days but for the actual day of the service and ceremony)
LAUGHING AND POSITIVE PROJECTS
Work definitely helped keep my mind off of the haunting reality that was surrounding me. Fortunately, I had just launched ideas that required me to create video montages for our Christmas cocktails, both of which were meant to be funny. I plunged myself into these projects full force. They made me laugh as I was capturing comedy like scenes and was essentially forced to goof around for the sake of the mini film we were creating. As we were filming though, I’d often stop and think, these are the moments I live for. Working hard but also being able to take a step back and laugh at our silliness, at ourselves in this life. If we don’t stop and do it, what is life about then?
The projects turned out to be a success and most importantly, increased the sense of belonging with everyone which filled my heart with joy and gratitude.
We all know people in our life who are energy providers and others who deplete us from it. And then there are some who belong to both categories. I also noticed during my whirlwind of emotions, that I was very unstable with my energy and mood. I felt like during the same day, I could reach peaks of happiness and then crash into sadness and anger. I realized I was probably tapping into adrenaline at times to keep going.
At this point, I cut off all activities that I just didn’t feel were providing me with joy or energy. Including people who tax me of energy. As much as I love them, if they can’t understand that even Ivana has a limited amount of time and generosity, it is no longer my problem. I think I am kind and very giving, but I can’t pour from an empty cup can I? I need to regroup and focus on what I’m going through before I can help someone else. Oldest rule in the psych 101 book.
With that cleared, I was able to just say no without giving a reason and set boundaries. Something I have a hard time with but that I will keep practicing. If people really care, they will understand and not judge you.
Most of all, my friends, colleagues and family members have thrown me countless life jackets and helping hands to keep me from drowning, and I thank you all for that. Those who wrote me cards, who called, who hugged me, who shared even just a glance and a nod…thank you. Without you, this would have been even more difficult. Without Phil anchoring me, it would have been an even rockier ride...
IN THE END
In the end though, it is mainly up to me and how I perceive all of these events and this entire year. I see now that 2019 was one of gigantic life chapters coming to an end and closing, forever. With these three big ones coming to an end, I welcome new ones and can’t wait to see what is in store for me! If change is the only constance, then surely crappy news has to stop too.
I am switching gears to see that I want to attract in the new chapters and projects? How am I seeing this next year unfolding? À suivre!
Given I have already dedicated posts and poems to La Zia and Alfredo, I would like to leave with a word to Véronique Ledoux:
Ma très chère amie Véronique,
Comme je suis heureuse de t’avoir retrouvée ce jour-là, au Carrefour Laval tandis que tu travaillais au comptoir MAC. J'avais rêvé à toi deux jours auparavant et je cherchais à reprendre contact avec toi après tant d’années et te voilà devant moi en train de maquiller une cliente. Quel miracle que nous avons eu la chance de se revoir et quelle belle manifestation de l’univers! Ce que je cherchais me cherchait aussi.
J’aimerais tellement de serrer et te dire que je ne savais pas pour ton mal de vivre…je vivais ma vie pensant que de ton côté, tu faisais la même chose. Clairement, il y avait des combats qui t’habitaient depuis longtemps et j’aurais aimé pouvoir t’aider (comme plein d’autres personnes l’ont très bien fait et ce pendant longtemps). J’espère que tu sais l’importance que tu as eu et que tu as toujours dans ma vie.
Avec qui aurais-je partagé mon casier au secondaire?
Qui d’autre m’aurait laissée tapisser ce casier de photos des Beatles (et de Bush)?
Avec qui aurais-je partagé mes secrets d’adolescente les plus précieux?
Avec qui aurais-je, sans trop le vouloir, forcé mes parents à payer des factures de frais interurbains sans cesse suite à nos heures de conversations téléphoniques? Car il ne suffisait pas de se parler toute la journée à l’école et de s'écrire des lettres
Avec qui aurais-je ri aux larmes toutes ces fois? Et que dire de la fois ou je suis venue vous voir à l’AMP, après avoir changé d’école, et nous nous sommes pris dans nos bras en plein milieu de la cafétéria alors que tout le monde s’est mis à applaudir? Ces camarades connaissaient la profondeur de notre amitié et ont partagé nos émotions en même temps que nous!
…Et si je n’avais pas changé d’école à mes 15 ans? J’avoue que c’est une pensée qui revient très souvent.
Nous avons fait des choix. Nous avons vécu notre vie selon nos convictions…je dois te laisser partir et je continuerai à vivre ma vie selon les miennes. Tu as quitté avec une partie de moi, mais je t’emmène avec moi de mon côté aussi : dans mon cœur, et là, tu y vivras aimée avec tous nos souvenirs qui continuent, eux aussi, de vivre avec une force plus grande que jamais.
Je vous souhaite à tous une SUPER année 2020, remplie de bonheur, de bonnes nouvelles et d’une énergie positive!
May all your wishes comes true and celebrate life until further notice!!
As always, thank you for reading me and don't be shy to comment and offer me some feedback, it means the world to me.
Hello there blog. I have missed writing you.
While some of you may know me personally and know perhaps why I have been away, I will inform those who do not. I have lost one of my loyal readers, my precious Zia (auntie in Italian). Some people are close to their aunts others not. I am one of those who are close. Extremely close. My direct family is a small circle of six and we just lost one of our main pillars.
I won’t embellish…it’s tough.
First, I want to thank everyone who has kindly shown their support. Whether it be a phone call, a text, a card, a facebook like or comment, your thoughts were all received and helped me during this difficult time. The presence of all of you at the St-Joachim church was overwhelming : every single bench filled with family, friends, members of the Italian community, colleagues, neighbours and more. While overwhelmed, I was not surprised to see the herds of people paying their respects as my aunt was (is) a breath-taking person. An individual who went out of her way to make you feel special.
To put it simply: if you are a friend of mine, you automatically inherited La Zia.
La Zia who would spoil everyone with thoughtful touches and gifts. La Zia who was a strong presence in my life since I was born and who became my godmother through baptism, and a precious soulmate through life.
La Zia who saw me in another light, as aunts usually do. The one who came to my dance shows, sent me a clown for my 5th birthday (who scared me at first but then I liked it), laughed at my silly interpretations and sounds effects. The auntie who tried new recipes, kick boxing classes and flax seeds and make those things cool before everyone else got to them. The person who listens without judgement and offers advice that gently challenges your preconceived beliefs and makes you a better person for it. The one who came along with my mother and I to Cuba for 7 gajillion times. She was always there with a smile. She was always thinking of us, of me. She was….
No amount of words, I know, will give her enough credit or enough honour.
I will later share the poem I wrote and read to everyone.
She had been fighting cancer and, while bravely winning a few battles, they just kept getting more uphill. Grateful for life until the end, she left us June 25th and my life as I knew it changed forever.
She did not want to inform everyone of her illness and so, we respected her wishes and kept quiet. Consequently, the news of her passing came as a much deeper shock to everyone who did not know the struggle and nightmare we, the smaller circle, had been living. How can La Zia Emilia, the beautiful, funny and life of the party be the one leaving the party early?
A question I try to rationalize with spirituality every day.
In preparation for her ceremony and life celebration, I have scanned her photos, created a video montage (two of them actually), wrote a poem that I read at the ceremony, wrote another text for a little pamphlet we were handing out and still…I can’t call her up for apéro. I have days where all is fine and I blissfully live in denial. And there are other days where I violently crash down the roller coaster with a frail safety belt and I am struggling to stay on.
Those days, everything gets into turmoil and the emptiness she has left is all too real.
I already am one to live by the philosophy of « life is now », I am familiar about not settling for situations that are not honouring my desires or what I want in life. It seems though that my aunt’s passing has heightened all of the things in my life I am putting up with that I don’t quite need anymore. Even if there aren't very many, there are no reasons left for me to tolerate them.
Energy that I give to situations that simply will not resolve into what I want, even after years of investment for example. And so, I am examining certain situations to validate if they still provide me with joy and good energy. These come under the form of a variety of things : relationships, hobbies, projects, etc.
This is particularly hard to do for me as I am one to feel a lot of guilt.
Yet guilt is not a good place to manœuvre from. It prevents me from acting freely and only taxes my energy in the hopes of pleasing others. Others who more often than not will not bother to worry if I was pleased with their actions, rightfully so (of if they do feel guilt, they conceal it well).
But I’m working on that.
Aside from feeling guilty, I am also very loyal individual. Should I not be loyal to myself first?
Yes. Because in the end, I am living my life for myself.
What do I want?
What to I believe in?
What is MY style?
It seems as though the world judges us from not following social constructs, but never bothers to ask us : “Hey, are you happy?”
And so, I take it upon myself to ask myself, and if I cannot answer yes, it is I who needs to find a solution. No one else.
La responsabilité est indissociable du pouvoir d’agir.
So while this is a far more serious blog post, I know, this is where I am at in this journey we call life. I will return with my regular pop psychology every day material. But in the meantime, it would not have been authentic of me to share anything else. I think that what some of you seem to appreciate the most is authenticity and the author’s ability to be transparent.
La Zia, if you somehow can read me, know this : I have loved you. I love you still.
I will end my post with one of many moments I shared with my aunt many many moons ago. I must have been nine years old, sitting on the booth side of the restaurant table for a family gathering. While my cousins and other kids were all hanging and playing together at one end while I was somehow on my own drawing on my placemat, quite taken with what I was doing. Suddenly, I look up to see the kids closer in age having a good time while I, the younger one, sat alone drawing. While I was looking at them, La Zia must have seen my thought process of “I want to be with the cool kids” and without a blink said :
“Tu sais Ivana, les artistes sont souvent solitaires”
Which makes complete sense to me now as a 36 year old more than ever. While my super social personality needs people at a high level, there is a side of me that requires alone time to let my mind drift into creative thoughts. Without which, I would not be able to do most of the things I love, like writing.
I get that now.
For that and things you don’t even know you have done to love me La Zia, I love you forever.
Ever Bee your Goddaughter,
Ivana AKA Lunella
poem for la zia
À ma tante préférée
Someone once told me, if you want to make god laugh, tell him you have plans...
I had plans...
Plans of you and me
Taking another trip to the sea
Laughing with our feet in the sand
You and I with our similar hands
Everyone has a crazy laughing auntie
The one with style and too much creativity
The life of the party who takes the chance
Leading you on the floor for one more dance
Je me souviens de ta forte présence
Une qui influença l’évolution de mon enfance
Ton regard absorbé quand je jouais de la musique
Ton support encourageant pour mon côté artistique
Une femme qui afflue de générosité
Tu donnais de ton cœur sans jamais hésiter
Tes gestes affectueux et tes tendres câlins
Les biscuits, le prosecco et toujours le vin
La tante plus que cool, à l’affût des derniers cris
La seule qui comprenait mon amour des pantalons hippie
Ta chevelure abondante mais toujours à refaire
Ton talent pour trouver le beau, pratique et pas cher
Les follies de tous nos voyages de plage
« Ivana tu es rouge » quand tu surveillais mon bronzage
Celle qui allait se baigner à la mer vite car il faisait trop chaud
À cause de toi, je vais maintenant un peu plus souvent à l’eau...
J’avais des plans mais je n’ai pas validé
Avec ce que l’univers avait de planifié
Il m’est difficile de comprendre pourquoi
Il y avait ce rendez-vous pour quelqu’un comme toi
Non sono daccordo e mi lamento
Perche forse adesso capisco l’appuntamento
Tua canzone preferita Di Ornella
Troppo triste ma sempre bella
N’ayant pas connu un monde sans toi
Il m’est étrange de savoir que tu n’y es pas
Et qui rira de mes imitations et de mes effets sonores?
Comme toi, je n’ai pas peur du ridicule, je l’adore
Mon cerveau devra se défaire de certains réflexes
Comme de vouloir t’écrire un texte
Ou de t’inviter pour l’apéro
Sans toi, qu’est-ce vraiment le prosecco ?
Merci pour ta présence dans ma vie
Sans laquelle je ne serais qui je suis
Tous les anniversaires, les voyages et les soupers
On ne peut pas dire qu’on n’a pas fêté!
I had plans...
But It has been a privilege to have you as my aunt
And another, to be your god daughter
Don’t worry, I’ll remember everything
Love this strong is a forever thing
Mais pourquoi ce poëm ne veut-il pas se terminer...?
Pour les adieux je n’ai jamais été très douée...
Je préfère savoir qu’ensemble nous allons continuer
Car de ton amour inconditionnel je vivrai comblée
Il n’est donc pas surprenant que le nom Emilia
Rhyme si bien avec le mot famiglia
Et qu’il sera toujours l’équivalent de La Zia
By : Ivana Lemme June 2019
My name is Ivana. I love photography and meeting people. I hold a Master's in counselling psychology and work as a career consultant. Music is my fuel and an important source of energy in my life. I drive my vespa around the city and I love what I do! :) About this blog: me on my artistic soap box!
My first novel!
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