Your Label

These words, out of my mouth, often:‌ I’m a selfish person.

In my head, even more often.

I’m an only child. I‌ don’t show the people I‌ love how much I‌ love them. I’ve complained about errands requested instead of cheerfully seizing an opportunity for kindness. I’ve holed up inside of myself, kept contained, not warming, not opening. And many more things big and small.

My mother puts others first, easily and naturally. She finished cleaning off the garden for me the other day – an hour of hard labor – and didn’t even mention it until I was about to go finish the job. “You did what?”‌- me, surprised. Her – a shrug as if it truly was nothing.

With my mother as point of contrast, a selfless person, I‌ conclude that I, then, am selfish. The kid on the stage, the performer, it’s all about me.

This self-appointed label (among a wide swath of others) has been with me for years. I keep it in my front pocket, a scrap of paper, a reminder, a mantra.

What if I‌ could throw it away.

What if the mere act of thinking I’m selfish makes it true.

What if, instead, I thought I‌ was a generous person? If that word was the scrap in my front pocket? I‌ could even support it with evidence. There have been many moments where I’ve been generous. It’s just as applicable as selfish. I’m not whitewashing the truth.

And maybe by identifying with being generous, I’ll then be more generous. A generous person sends a note in the mail, a little reminder of love. A gift given. An errand. A solution. Kind words amply given. My full, undivided attention.

If selfish is my label, maybe I’ll then be more selfish.

If generous is my label, maybe I’ll be more generous.

Maybe labels are just labels. Maybe they evaporate when we stop telling ourselves the same old stories, and come into clear focus when we tell ourselves a new one.

Maybe I’m fluid, not fixed.

I’m not going to be selfish anymore.



You can only go as deep with someone as they’ve gone within themselves. You can only see the territories they’ve uncovered through deliberation and reflection. No one is accidentally self-aware; it’s a labor. Perhaps you can help them plumb new depths and make a discovery; but you’re limited by their limits.

I‌ crave depth like water. I‌ crave understanding: myself, my loves, the universe. I‌ seek it out: I‌ dig, sweating with a shovel, uncovering my soul.

Just as I want to know and understand, I‌ want to be known and understood. It’s not your fault that it’s not your craving. That you’re not drawn to the labor of introspection. You have other ways, different ways, of enjoying life. You dig too, in a different direction and for different reasons. You dig for treasure and I dig for the ocean.


Five-Year Plans Are a Bad Idea

I’m a huge planner. I love sitting down to a blank page to dream up scenarios and make lists. I plan my week ahead. At the end of the year, I like to plan my year ahead. And I‌ love daydreaming about my future self and all the things she’ll have achieved and tried and experienced.

Problem is, it’s a bad idea to make plans based on what you’d like to achieve in five years.

The logic goes like this:‌‌ In five years, I want to be a traveling and performing musician. So then I‌ work backward and figure out what I‌ need to accomplish this year, and then break that down further and figure out what I‌ need to accomplish in the next quarter. Makes sense, right?

This is how I’ve always done it. But life doesn’t work like that.

The universe is really interesting. Some of the coolest opportunities that come to us are totally unexpected, things we could’ve never predicted. We meet new people. We receive a job offer out of left field. A friend tells us they’re working on a creative project that sounds fun, but is completely outside the realm of anything we’ve done. So why plan for a future you can’t predict?

I’m not saying don’t plan at all. And I’m certainly not saying to submit yourself to the whims of the universe, floating goallessly through life.

But there is an approach that makes more sense. It’s in two parts.

1) Take action now. If I‌ want to be a performing musician in five years, that means‌‌‌ I’m really interested in music right now, at this very moment. Therefore I should ride that wave, and take advantage of the energy that this interest in music creates. If I‌ write some music, maybe play with friends, maybe try an open mic night or other type of performance, then I’m already a performing musician. If I enjoy it and keep at it, perhaps I’ll end up a higher-level touring musician in five years. Or perhaps, after taking action on it for a little while, a totally unforeseen opportunity for something else comes up. Maybe I play a show, and meet with someone who’s making a film, and end up collaborating on a film score. You really never know.

But you need to take action on what seems fun and interesting. We often get stuck in research/analysis mode. There’s nothing wrong with research, but it can be a way to delay taking action. You spend three months reading about writing music instead of just writing and experimenting, and you’re no closer to being that performing musician. Whereas in the first example, maybe you’ve already gone up on stage in front of others.

2) Instead of making 5-year plans, consider your 5-year character. We can’t predict the things that will happen in five years. There are way too many wildcards, and life would be boring if you could. What IS worth thinking about, and working toward, is the kind of person you want to be. The character traits you’d like to develop.

Is your five-year-from-now self more courageous? More emotionally expressive? More organized? Honorable? Forthright? Energetic? Fun? Creative?‌ Intuitive? Self-sufficient? Loving?‌ Kind?

Sometimes opportunities arise that allow us to upgrade our character. Perhaps you go through a devastating experience that ends up making you a more compassionate person. Perhaps an experience with being swindled makes you develop more honesty in your own character.

Even though we can’t control the things that happen to us, we can control what happens within us. The kind of person we are right now, and the kind of person we become.

Taking action now on those crazy-exciting ideas is going to make your life immediately better – no waiting for five years. And thinking about how you might improve your character is also something that can happen today.

Who is the person you want to become, and how can you be more like that person right now?


Too Little, Too Late

How many hot cups of coffee do I‌ have left to savor?‌ How many books will I‌ be able to read? How many gorgeous winter sunrises do I‌ have left to witness, driving on the highway, all the whites and blues and piercing cold sunlight?

Hopefully many.

How many times left to watch my daughter fall asleep, in this stage, so small, still a baby even though she’s no longer a baby? She was a baby, and then I blinked and she wasn’t. It goes by so fast.

How many songs left to write, ideas grasped out of nothingness, a tune from another world that becomes mine?

How many more plates of okonomiyaki, or mac and cheese with collard greens, cabbage rolls and perogies on the holidays with loved ones?‌ How many times will I‌ connect with my grandparents, my parents, aunties and uncles and all the rest?

How many more days like this one?

I‌ live like I‌ assume I’ll live forever. I take it for granted. There will be a million more, a million more.

I don’t want to forget to cherish you. To wake up in 50 years and realize it was wasted. It all went by and I‌ was blind to it. Like a dream, a life that evaporates.

I want to wake up tomorrow, and really wake up.


Journaling Expands Your Life

I‌ was having a conversation with a friend this past weekend. I love talking about ideas; it’s a way to clarify thoughts I have in my head, to test them in the real world, to bounce them back and forth with someone who brings their own ideas and experiences, which elevates my own.

We were talking about journaling and writing. “Why,”‌ I‌ said, “should I‌ even bother with blogging every day, the way I have been for a week?” I told her that I didn’t have a goal with it. It wasn’t for any reason, except perhaps my own pleasure. I find writing fun. I find journaling fun.

She said that writing is a way to expand your life. How when you write about your life, it causes you to think about your life like a story. You crystallize ordinary moments in your memory. Having sharper memories gives you the experience of time moving more slowly. Instead of a week, a month, a year racing by with you saying, “Where did the time go?”, you know where the time went, because you’ve been thinking about it and observing it all along.

You start to notice recurring themes. You start to pay attention to the small things. You notice what’s happening in your daily experience. The beautiful lighting just before sundown, the perfect blue sky, the funny thing your daughter did, the strand of an idea you have. It all starts to mean more.

When it means more, you pay more attention. Life expands.

I don’t journal so that I‌ have an artifact to look back on, though that’s a nice side-effect. I do it for the immediate and long-term benefits of improving my memory and having more richness and depth in my days.

Once you start to see your life like a story, with you as the main character, you start to think about moving in more interesting directions. About making more interesting choices. Taking more risks. Pushing yourself further. Because after all, do you want a boring life story?

I’ve been journaling 40,000 words or more every year since 2015, and it’s one of my favorite habits. Before that, I‌ would handwrite in notebooks, but I‌ find the process too slow now. Some people love writing by hand, but I’d much rather type my journals. I reserve handwriting for lyrics and poetry, which by default require slow thinking.

Some of my earlier years are distinct and memorable. 2004, 2005, 2009. These years stand out to me clearly, with obvious themes that I‌ can recall in great detail. Other years blend together, with nothing of significance standing out.

Since 2015, I can easily identify themes. Some of them are based around life milestones – getting married in 2017 and having a baby in 2018, say – but others are more inward-focused, such as 2016, where my theme for the year was‌ “zest” and I made a point to start wandering outside my comfort zone in work, friendships and hobbies.

Sometimes my journal entries are just a couple of sentences. Sometimes they’re long and sprawling. Sometimes they’re anecdotes, other times detailing plans, goals and dreams. Anything goes. I‌ treasure it all. I want to live my life fully, and journaling is one important piece of that puzzle.


It’s okay.

I’ve been thinking about acceptance. How, in difficult situations, my tendency is to fight the difficulty, to reject it. Like I’m saying to the experience, “this is not okay”.

But sometimes things are difficult. Why reject an inevitable part of life?

This isn’t the same thing as passivity, of sitting back and being punished. The attitude of, “things suck, so why try?”

Rejecting a part of life is like rejecting a part of yourself. This life, it’s full-spectrum.

It’s okay when things are difficult. It’s okay to be lost, to not know the next steps.

It’s okay to live in your heart. Feel it all. Let in the light with the dark. Let in the sun with the storm.

That’s where the love is.


Dress like you’re in love with life.

When I‌ was a teenager, I‌ was fearless. Insecure and a bit of an idiot, but fearless. Isn’t that true of most teenagers?‌‌ Isn’t that why it can be dangerous – you take unnecessary risks – but also why you have such clear, vivid memories of those days – because you were really alive?

I used to dress like I was fearless. It seems like such a small thing. They’re only clothes, after all. Who cares?

But how you present yourself to the world is a pretty accurate model for how you live in the world.

I went through a hat phase. Not ball-caps. More like old-school cloches, bucket and bowler hats. I‌ had a lovely Panama hat with a pink ribbon. I‌ wore a lot of pink back then.

I wore a bag was that was a gift from my friend, a talented seamstress and artist. One-half was pink, and the other half was a cloth-printed page of comic from my favorite manga series, Ranma 1/2. I stuck on a series of band pins for good measure.

My hair changed with the seasons. Each time my uncle would see me, he’d jokingly exclaim, “So this is the new flavor of the week?” Black, bleached, auburn, pink, short, long, bangs, it was all an open playing field.

I liked tights. Standard stockings like fishnets, but also multicolored or neon ones. The weirder the better. I loved to wear them under a simple skirt, or my cut-off jean shorts (which I cut off myself).

Not a nail-painter then, since I always chewed them off. Nails need to be short when you’re a piano player. Back in the early 2000s, when I‌ was in teenhood, the metalhead boys would paint their nails black, and wear black from head-to-toe. The baggier the clothes, the better. Band shirts, chains, dreadlocks, piercings. Of all the high school groups, they were the silliest and most fun to hang out with.

Why does any of this matter?‌ Who cares if I‌ wear a Panama hat, or mismatched clothes, or lots of pink?

It matters because of what happened when I became a “real adult”. Conformity, an idea I stood in diametric opposition to as a teen, became an attractive and useful concept in my twenties.

Some of it was fear. Fear of standing out and being noticed. It’s normal to be a weird kid. It’s weird to be a weird adult. Who’ll take you seriously?

Standing out can be problematic when you’re a young woman. You get unwanted attention. People say things. It can get scary. What better way to be left alone than to look like you’re on the frumpy side of bland?

I was a creative spirit as a teen. As an adult, I swapped out creativity with pragmatism. Bills, earning a living, being a role model for children (and not freaking out their parents), getting into serious relationships, all of those things required being practical and pragmatic and grounded and. Not. Weird.

My clothing choices reflected that. I donned the jeans and tee (or hoodie) uniform. Plain shoes, some plaid here and there, nothing too wild. Hats, but only toques and beanies to hide my floppy unstyled hair. I just didn’t care. I‌ was comfortable.

That’s exactly how some people would best express themselves. But it wasn’t me. I spent a decade not dressing like me.

I’m noticing something magical about being in my thirties, though.

I’m not insecure anymore. And I’m way less of an idiot (at least that’s what I‌ tell myself). I’ve got this adult thing figured out – I can pay the bills and do work I‌ enjoy and support and love my daughter. It’s easy.

So I don’t need to focus on that adult stuff so much anymore. It’s a learned skill. Put it in the bank, it’ll run on autopilot.

Time to put that focus toward something more fun. Discard the fear that’s been holding me back. And lean back into that creative spirit, the person I really am.

Maybe I’ll be dressing a little different in 2020.




I’m feeling optimistic.

It’s a 45-minute drive from my parent’s place to Jane’s daycare, which is an improvement over the 1.5-hour drive from my house. When we loaded up the car this morning and drove off into the countryside, the sky was black. By the time we reached daycare, the sun was a sliver away from the horizon. I watched the transition, from black to blue, as we meandered down back roads and highways. Watched as night gave way to deep grey, the frozen fields a silhouette, outlined in shadow. Then a lighter, dustier shade, traces of clouds appearing. I blinked and the pinks appeared, purpling the brush-stroked clouds. Like a light-switch was flicked on and the world went from monochrome to full color.

Saskatchewan isn’t known for much. It’s a flat, sparsely populated prairie province, only 1.8 people per square kilometer. People usually just drive on through, seeking a bigger city like Winnipeg or Calgary. Manitoba is flat, but it’s filled with lakes. Calgary has the mountains a short drive away, always in view from the city. Those traveling here note the endless abundance of prairie grasses – wheat, rye, canola, flax, lentils – and declare it boring. Where are the trees, they say? The rivers, the rocks, the mountains, the hills?

But they’re making a big mistake, and that mistake is not looking up. Saskatchewan’s ground-level landscape is flat farmland (unless you venture north, where you’ll find unspoiled forests), but there’s one major advantage of flatlands. The sky is always with you, and the skyscape is superior to any landscape. Land is finite; the sky is infinite. Land is a story that’s been written, words set in stone, an idea that’s been had; the sky is a possibility, unnamed and untamed.

I take comfort in wide open spaces. Driving this morning, the sky an unfolding and ever-changing panorama, I felt safe. My spirit was free. In the city, buildings feel like boundaries to my soul. Mountains, though lovely, quickly become claustrophobic. But there, on the road in the black of morning, the whole universe was opening just for me.


100 bad ideas.

Today’s video is a discussion on art, songwriting, and how most of what I create is garbage…but it’s worth it for the rare times I strike gold. We talk about getting the ego out of the way, what makes an idea good or bad, and much more. Come hang out with me!


100 Dreams: A Running List

I recently finished listening to Laura Vanderkam’s new book‌‌ “I Know How She Does It”, and in it I was reminded of her “100 dreams” idea.

A little while back, I made a list of 100 dreams. It’s what it sounds like – basically a bucket list. But instead of putting on a bunch of arbitrary “shoulds” (I don’t need to skydive or see the coral reefs), it’s a list of 100 things that sound awesome to me, big and small. Things that I’ll actually make a point of doing, whether this year or in 30 years.

The last time I created such a list, I‌ got stuck around number 60. It was frustrating, but then something wonderful happened – the frustration evolved into an existential crisis. What am I doing with my life?‌‌‌‌ What’s it all for? The list pushed me to excavate to the truth. What‌‌‌‌ do I really want? Not just what looks good to want on paper?

So I‌ pushed for bigger ideas and ended up with 107 dreams by the end of it. It felt great and allowed me to re-examine my priorities. It gave me tremendous clarity in my day-to-day life and with my longer-term goals.

But the dust settles; the profundity of such an experience fades. That’s why, after listening to Laura’s book (excellent in the audio format), I decided to give the “100 dreams” list another go.

No existential crisis this time, but a surprising amount of my ideas changed in the year or so between lists. Things I wrote on the first list no longer mattered much to me (what do I‌ care if I‌ have a Stella McCartney handbag?). New ideas hopped on the page that I couldn’t have imagined the first time around‌‌‌ (build an energy-efficient house on several acres of land).

If you’re interested in creating your own list, here’s how I‌ did it:
1)‌‌‌ Divide your list into categories. These are the ones I‌ used:






 -Personal/professional development


 -Health and food

Once you have your categories, start coming up with ideas! You might discover additional categories along the way – use whatever headers and themes matter to you.

2)‌ Make a note beside each of your 100 dreams on where you’re at with it.

  -In red, I‌ wrote anything that I‌ wasn’t actively pursuing.

  -In yellow, I‌ wrote things that were on my horizon or that I‌ wanted to do, but wasn’t doing.

  -In green, I‌ wrote those things that I’m already doing.

3)‌ Come up with a secondary list, “Dreams I’m actively pursuing”.

Put this list in a prominent spot and revisit it at least weekly, if not daily. Here’s where you put all your green ideas, and whichever yellow ones you’ve decided to take on and start integrating into your life.

When I created this secondary list, I‌ also craved more clarity. Instead of writing, “Learn about gardening”, I‌ drilled down and wrote, “read at least 5 books‌ on permaculture and take notes‌‌” (I have a notebook dedicated just to this).

Here’s an example of how I condensed the “home life” dreams section:
Home life

Purchase several books each month (use my Indigo card in Nov)
Purchase land and build house (huge ongoing project; broken into next steps on Nozbe)
Research at least 5 books on fruit and vegetable permaculture

4)‌ Put your projects or habits into your daily task manager

I’ve talked about Nozbe before, which I’ve used and loved for years. It allows me to arrange some of my dreams/goals into projects, and also create recurring habits (such as “meditate every day”).

This means that, as long as I’m checking my to-do list on a daily basis, habits I’d like to incorporate pop up on my daily list – no mental energy required to remember to do something. I like to review the secondary list weekly, in order to look over some things that might not neatly fit into my to-do list, but this process takes away most of the ambiguity around my goals. I see them every day; I know if I’m moving toward them, or not.

I want to restate that this is not a bucket list – at least not in the conventional way bucket lists are used (and ignored). This is a list of things I‌ really want to do, but things that I might not do without some long-term consideration and a little bit of planning.

For example, I want to meditate every day for an entire year. I‌ find the idea of creating a 365-day streak inspiring (and intimidating). At the end of it, I’ll have a well-established habit of meditation, which is great, but I’ll also have the experience of having meditated every day for a year – also great. Or maybe after a year I’ll say, “that was fun but I’m done with this meditation thing”. That’s fine too – it’s all part of the learning experience.

A long-term goal that I‌ wouldn’t be able to achieve without careful planning is getting a licentiate diploma in piano performance. I am a long, long ways away from that point. But I‌ like to keep it on my radar, and take tiny steps in that direction in the meantime. Maybe I‌ don’t get there for another 30 years – that’s fine. But I’d like to keep it in my head, and move toward it slowly but surely.

This process has been enormously helpful to me both times I’ve gone through it, and highly encourage you to do the same if you have a feeling of fuzziness, a feeling that you’re aimlessly drifting. It’s challenging, but it’s also quite fun – and what’s more important than that?