You Have All the Time You Need

Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.

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Ever have a quote pull you in like a magnet?  I saw this quote show up on my Facebook feed last week and I can’t get it out of my mind.  It goes,  “Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.  This quote is by Laura Vanderkam, Wall Street Journal writer and author of several time management and productivity books.

This quote has made be super conscious about the way I think about time. So when I say, “I don’t have time to do the laundry (because it is not a priority), or “I don’t have time to watch the latest episode of the Young & the Restless (because it is not a priority), I can live with that.  But try this:  “I don’t have time to work out (because it is not a priority)”, or “I don’t have time to floss (because it is not a priority)”. Or, something I heard from a friend of mine recently, “I don’t have time to get a mammogram (because it is not a priority).”  Very jarring!

Time is a choice and each one of us has the exact same time to spend each day.  Yes, life is infinitely fair in this matter; it is an equalizer.  We have the same time as Beyonce, the same time as Oprah, the same time as our hero or role model.  It is what we choose to do with this time that makes things interesting.   Equally interesting is the phenomenon that time is elastic.  We can always find time to do things that matter to us.  Think about it.  While time is finite, there is always time to be had for what matters to us.  It is when I finally absorbed this concept, that I started to see time as a friend, and not as a  competitor.   It’s no longer about time management, rather it is about time abundance.

How do we know what matters to us?    Again, Laura Vanderkam, in her Ted Talk: How to gain control of your time, suggests that we spend a few minutes every Friday afternoon making a priority list, in three categories: professional, relationships and self.  Professional is about improving in our career or school.  Relationships could involve having a coffee with a friend.  Self is about doing something that fulfills you, like playing golf or having a pedicure.  She suggests putting 2 or 3 things in each of these categories and making a conscious effort to schedule that into your calendar for the week.  Simple, yet impactful.

As I put this into practice, I am realizing that sometimes it means giving up something in my life (that is of little value) to make time for something else.  Not always easy but so satisfying at the end of the day when I see the impact on my work, my relationships and my self.  No longer am I going to use the excuse that I am too busy.  I now know that I have all the time I need, I always have.  I simply need to decide how to use it.

Cheers!

Things To Be Happy About

There was a book on the table outside The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre’s store that winked at me.  It was called, “14,000 Things To Be Happy About.”

I immediately picked it up and started leafing through it.  The book was written by Barbara Ann Kipfer over a 40 year period, starting when she was in Grade 6.   Some of the entries created wonderful images for me (the sound of an ice cream truck), some made me reminisce (the smell of freshly baked bread) and some I could not relate to (mugs of soup).

https://www.thingstobehappyabout.com/

So I started to think about all the things that make me happy – the little things, the big things and everything in between.  Within minutes, I exploded with 10 things that make me smile:

  • St. Petes/Clearwater in Florida makes my belly-button happy. There’s something so whole and healing when I step into its warmth.  My heart, my body and my spirit feel connected when I walk on the beach, feel the sand in my toes and marvel at the emerging sunset.  These moments are as close to heaven as I can imagine.
  • Saturday morning dates with Nagib. This is my all time favourite weekly activity and a sacred time for the both of us.  It is time that we use to reconnect, talk, share, eat, make plans, share perspectives, argue, agree, discuss life.  Each Saturday, we try out a new breakfast haunt courtesy of Yelp.
  • I am the Queen of Gadgets, except I don’t always know what to do with the new toy after I buy it. My Instant Pot is an exception. Every day, I enthusiastically tackle it and try a new dish –  sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – but it gives me a sense of achievement when I can start cooking, and have something edible at the table in 30 minutes, without breaking a sweat.
  • Good books and podcasts sustain me. In the past month, I have been transported into the world of princes and princesses, sword fights and giants.  I have slipped into the mystery of Arabia, dived into questions around why the world has turned its back on migrants, explored the topics of perception and misconception and learnt the fascinating story of Instagram.
  • Waking up each morning at 4 am to meditate. Just magical!
  • Connecting with Shayne, Sabrina and Afzal on WhatsApp. Waking up to delicious messages and voicenotes from them almost every day. Being so connected with them and being part of their lives, in spite of being a continent away.
  • Stephen Colbert makes me happy. He is my guilty pleasure and I am addicted to his late night show.  I love how he confronts hypocrisy; how he helps to make sense of the craziness in the world and how he does all this with humour, sarcasm and an elegant grace.  One of my bucket list items is to see him live in New York.
  • Technology thrills me, even though I have a long way to go to become technologically savvy. My laptop, iPhone, wireless speakers, wireless phone charger and Fitbit are my favourite tools at the moment.
  • Music takes me to new heights. Shayne bought me a one-year subscription to Spotify and now I have all this incredible music at my fingertips to love and explore.  I listen to old favourites that move me; to the familiar sounds of Sade, the Beatles and Michael Buble; to the classical flamenco guitar sounds of Ottmar Liebert.  As I become more adventurous, I am downloading music for sleep and working out.
  • Spending time with my mom makes my heart happy. My mom is the centre of our universe and I revel in the time I have to learn from her, to cook with her, to be around her energy, to delve into her wisdom.  I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have time with her.

And as I finish this post, I can easily think of at least 10 more things that make me happy today.  That’s because gratitude begets gratitude.  And when we choose the path of gratitude, in spite of difficulties and challenges, the gratitude meter inevitably expands and there is even more to celebrate in life, starting with the blessing of being alive.

My Personal Brand

Every year, I explore my own personal statement which is an expression of who I am, what is important to me and how I want to live.

As an HR Practitioner, I work with organizations to help them create their mission, vision and values.  This defines the purpose of the organization, the reason for its existence,and creates a common sense of purpose.   Every year, I explore my own personal statement which is an expression of who I am, what is important to me and how I want to live.

This year, my mission statement is simply, Health and Vitality!

For me this is fundamental to my core.  After 3 cancers, I recognize the value of health.  When you have health, you have hope and energy to live your life fully and fearlessly.  Without health, your options are limited.  And while I can’t go back and change my life, I am certainly doing my best today to work on being healthy, eating right and working out.

My vision is to be an infectious light of love and joy.  To relentlessly learn.  To inspire others to bring their best selves forward.

I have learnt that when I do this, I feel on top of the world.  When I am loving and joyful, I am able to cope with life’s vicissitudes and be resilient in the face of challenges.  Everything just feels better.  When I am learning, I am at my happiest.  I read a book a week.  I listen to podcasts every day and work hard to keep current in my field of work so I can be ahead of the game.  And when I am true to myself, I am able to connect with others authentically and soulfully.

My values are governed by my faith.  As an Ismaili Muslim, this means working within the ethics of Islam and embracing the values of generosity, of compassion, of diversity and inclusion, of acquiring and sharing knowledge, of employing best practices, of service, of living joyfully.  I measure everything I do and say against these values.  Every interaction, every decision is framed against these values.  Every act I choose is based on these values.

Every 6 months, I revisit my personal statement to see if it still makes sense.  And when it does, everything is aligned.  There is certainty about the direction of my life.  It is like an inner compass that gives me access to a deeper wisdom.  And the universe beautifully conspires to make things happen with renewed inspiration.

Exploring your personal statement is work in progress and takes introspection and exploration.  Each one of you has a personal statement inside of you; a story about who you want to be and how you want to live your life.  If you were to write it down, what might that look like? It does not have to be perfect.  It just needs to reflect the essence of you.

Into God’s Light

Serena Printer

Incomprehensible.  Unfathomable.  Unconceivable.

How else do you explain the untimely death of someone so young, so innocent?

Serena was 12.  Innocence personified.  A child who spoke little, yet who spoke up about things that mattered.  Things like collecting funds for the World Partnership Walk or selling chocolates for her school.

A girl who had the biggest smile ever.

A smile that gave you a glimpse into her clever mind and beautiful soul.

A smile that captured her feisty personality and mischievous demeanour.

A precious child with dreams and hopes.

A child who loved coming to Jamatkhana and serving as a volunteer.  In fact, she was there until 10:30 pm on Monday night, when her dad reminded her that the next day was a school night and it was time to go home.

Her dad brought the car closer to pick her up and Serena was nowhere to be seen.  So her dad went into Jamatkhana to look for her .  As her parents describe it, Serena seemed reluctant to leave Jamatkhana. For many moments, she stayed inside, glancing this way and that, looking around until she contentedly  exclaimed, “This is my favourite place in the whole world!”, before going home.

The next day she was gone, no longer with us.  Just like that.  No warning.

Her passing shattered her mom Salima, dad Ashif and sister Karina.

Serena, with her big sister Karina

How do they even begin to come to terms with what happened to their younger daughter, and beloved sister and confidante?

How do they carry on?  And yet they must, because that is what Serena would have wanted.

And they will find their way with God’s grace, the blessing of time and the love of the community.

They will indeed find their way when they sense that Serena has gone home and is bathed in God’s love.

Serena’s passing shattered the community because when you lose a child, it is as if you have lost a part of you.  It is in these moments that you hold on to your children and everyone close to you to express what they mean to you, because tomorrow may be too late.

Life is a cycle of life and death.  There is no life without death.  There is no death without life.  When we are born, we begin the process of dying.

Perhaps this is the time to confront death head on, regardless of age.  To live life knowing that there is the certainty of death, and that’s okay.  And while we are alive, to live in wonder, in joy and in love.  To live in service of the other.  To live in humanity and inter-connectedness.  To celebrate each other.  To listen, to love, to laugh and dream with our children and people we care about.  To nurture and forgive.  To live a life of purpose.

Perhaps now is the time to be kind to ourselves.   To do all the things we aspire to do.  To live in balance of our material and spiritual lives.  To honour the gift of life, for however long we have it.  Life is not a dress rehearsal and we live on borrowed time.  And when it is our time to go – – or to let our loved ones go – – let us do this with grace, with the certainty that another journey awaits.

For little Serena, the doors of heaven have opened.  She has been released in love and carried by angels into God’s light.

Happy Valentines Day 2018

Squeeze you so tight and never let you go!

It was on February 14, five years ago today, that my doctors gave me melphalan, a high-dose chemotherapy drug to kill the remaining myeloma cells in my bone marrow.  In layman terms, this chemo was like a “CTRL-ALT-DEL” function on the computer.  It rebooted the system and killed all cells – good and bad.

The next day, February 15, 2013, I received a stem cell transplant and my system was upgraded to Version 2.0.  I have so many memories of the next three weeks I was in hospital post-transplant:

My neighbour was this beautiful woman from England who moved to Canada many years ago for love.  I used to watch mesmerized as every day she would put full make up on her porcelain skin; first the foundation, then a heavy dose of mascara, lipstick.  This would take her about 30 minutes. Following that she would put on a stylish covering on her head.  We introduced our families to each other and promised to always stay in touch.  Sadly we did not keep in touch and I often wonder how she’s doing.

The second week of the transplant was the worst, when all blood levels go to zero and you are kept alive by transfusions and medicines.  There were a couple of days when I just sat in the corner of the room.  Literally.  It was my way, I think, of expressing that I wanted to be alone and disengaged from the world.  Then there were happier days in week three when I befriended my IV pole and used it as my dancing partner.  Another time I got other patients to bring their poles and dance with me to the hokey pokey.

You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out…
…and you shake it all about.

That was fun!

Another memory I have during Week 3 (as my blood levels were rising and I was feeling stronger) was when I wanted to watch a movie and had to convince Dr. Franke to allow me to leave the hospital for a few hours.  I threatened to break out if he would not let me go.  With a smile, he said I could go provided I was back by a designated time.  Nagib and Shayne took me to Les Miserables, where I clapped periodically during the movie to their utter embarrassment.  We stopped to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant where I was able to take a few bites of food.

Five years later, here I am living happily with my new stem cells.  At some point, the stem cells will choose to misbehave and I will need another transplant.  It is inevitable.  But right now everything is in alignment and pretty awesome!

I remember these moments, especially on Valentines Day every year.  On that particular Valentines Day in 2013, at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Nagib brought me flowers with a flourish.  They could not be real flowers because of hospital policy and Nagib had to repeatedly convince the nurses who entered the room that the flowers were indeed, fake.  We spent Valentines Day in the hospital, holding hands.   Each year we continue to celebrate Valentines Day and say thanks for the advancement of science and the miracle of life.

Today, I taught a course at a client’s office on “Conflict Management”.  Oh what irony on this day of love.  Then I met Nagib at his office and we shared chocolated covered strawberries and a decaf Americano.

And I whisper a quiet thank you to the universe for bringing Nagib into my world because he is my home, my adventure, my love, my friend, my teacher, my privilege, my heart, my connection, my prayer.

Happy Valentines Day, my love!