The big 4-0- A decade in review

 

When I thought of turning 40, my inner voice said “I want to be in the best shape of my life”…. And that manifested itself as looking a certain way that meant “the best” to me. What I’ve come to realize in the last 6 months is that what I SHOULD have been aiming for is to be in the best MENTAL shape of my life.

We live so much of our lives online. I do at least. I am there as a mentor, a businessperson, a private citizen, and as a voyeur. We watch others, we watch them watch us…it puts us into places mentally, physically and emotionally that 15 years ago didn’t exist. We compare ourselves, a lot.

In understanding my own struggles with being happy with whom I am, I am dedicating my online efforts to the truth – cool or not. I am dedicating this year of 40 to finding my spiritual, emotional, mental health, whatever you want to call it. Making the stuff between my ears make sense, lighten up and really LIVE.

2008 – I turned 30

October 2008 I turned 30 in Las Vegas. I was a jellyfish. I can clearly (ha ha) remember this.

I was hopeful, but jaded. I had a LOT of friends…who later turned out to be {mostly} horrible people. I was living with my fiancé in a condo in Yaletown, working my job in Commercial Real Estate, making money but working 7 days a week & all hours for people who didn’t really care about anyone really.

I had been moonlighting with my health & wellness business for about a year and was on the fence about where my heart was in terms of going all in or giving up.

My father-in-law was dying of Cancer, my fiancé was goalless, my friends were high or drunk most of the time……so I dove deeper into training & yoga to try and make some sense out of my life.

I started collecting certifications in Thai Yoga massage, Herbalism, Vegan cheffing….I needed to find my way – I was finally NOT a 20 year old anymore and to me that meant it was time to grow up.

2009 – I turned 31

This was a year of happy endings and harsh awakenings.

I was living in a great condo in Yaletown with my 2 Shiba Inu’s and my (then) boyfriend. I was working at a job I mostly hated but I was making a lot of money. And I thought that would make everything better.

I traveled to 100 Mile Ranch for our annual Thanksgiving trip, was also in Toronto Italy, New York and Hawaii to name a few.

I got married, for the second time

2010 – I turned 32

Grown up and ready to take on the world I decided I needed to have the house of my dreams. So, with a lot of searching and fighting with my husband, we found the perfect little blue house on Charles Street off Commercial Drive in East Van.  It was such a gorgeous home. Decorated with the original stained glass windows, interior renovation, yard, white picket fence and a steal at just $1.02MM.

This same year my husbands’ father died and that created a tectonic shift that we couldn’t ever recover from.

In my mourning for the lost family, the lost love I dove into things that could feed my soul. I pursued both my Permaculture & Herbalism certifications that year.

I held the first Halloween/birthday party at Charles street that year. My birthday has always been somewhat of a “thing” for me and I just love being surrounded by happy friends having a good time…with the help of some amazing witches brew that appeared on both years.

I did a great hiking trip to the Kootenays, completed an over night at Golden Ears summit, a snowy summer hike up the Lions, Cypress & the  Stawamus Chief.

I decided that in honour of my husbands father we should travel to China to see where his life began as a doctor.

2011 – I turned 33

This was a transitional year and my marriage was suffering. I thought that a fall trip to Spain & Morocco might ignite some lost feelings of the way life was when it was “good”.

This year was also a holding pattern for me. I didn’t realize that my husband would become a distant drunk. That I would grow to hate him, that everything I thought growing up was, for me, was a lie.

I didn’t have the ability to give anymore of myself to anyone. I didn’t want to work for the sexual predators I had been. I quit my “day job” and went full time into educating on plant-based nutrition and healthy living. I was so happy.

My husband was devastated by my choice to quit a 10 (plus) year career in commercial real estate. “But you used to make so much money”…was one of the last things I can remember him saying to me.  I was gutted by the lack of substance in my life.

2012 – I turned 34

The onset of  2012 was supposed to be great. A family trip to Russia & Scotland…but I knew in the fall of 2011 that my trip was shadowed with my impending split from my husband.

We had spent months living in separate bedrooms, working opposite schedules, having no days off together. Enough was enough after a year of alienation at least. I truly believe to this day I was used as a pawn to gain access to a trust fund. I think our marriage was a show of maturity to his ailing father.

By March I had filed for divorce. It was all too much. We agreed to separate amicably; I’d take less than my share in cash and our dogs. Nothing else. I slept on couches at friends houses on weekends to clear my head.

While the separation was happening I reconnected with my (now) husband Jeff. It was just good to talk to someone who actually gave a shit.. We had known each other for 10 years and though he was in Calgary and I was in Vancouver, we always stayed in touch.

I went to visit him at the start of April, with no expectations at all. We were both getting divorced at the same time and needed company we could trust and be ourselves with.

In July, after returning from Russia & Scotland, I moved to Calgary to get out of the sad place that Vancouver had become for me then. We spent my 34thbirthday in Waterton lakes at a cabin, played cards and hung out and hiked with the Sheebs.

2013 – I turned 35

We bought a house, together in Bragg Creek., the Canadian Rockies. We were part of a 100 year flood that devastated the rural Rockies and Calgary. I became a stepmother to Anastacia who was battling Cancer and finished chemo that year. We threw her a big party at an Equestrian Center that I planned.

We took an amazing family trip to Disneyland and California theme park.

We spent my 35thbirthday in the most incredible place – The Resort at Pedregal. We talked about life and goals and I decided on that trip that I definitely would NOT be having children.

We brought Frieda Montgomery Jane our beloved German Shepherd home from up north. My sweet angel Tetsuo was taken by something wild in December of this year.

I felt like a princess in a dream this year – we had everything we wanted.

2014 – I turned 36

We made a LOT of money this year in our business. We spent HEAPS of it on child custody wars. We were busy in business, in court, just really fucking busy and times were going by so fast.

We traveled a bit through Nicaragua, bought a few nice things but mostly worked SUPER hard and tried to spend time together as a family hiking , camping, snowboarding and quadding. Things felt STABLE and I just kind of leaned in and took on that life.

We spent my birthday at Capella resort in Ixtapa, Mexico.

2015 – I turned 37

This was the year I became fired up about bodybuilding contests. We traveled to San Franciso, made our first trip to Pittsburgh for work and we made a final trip down to Cabo to The Resort at Pedregal for my birthday, we spent Christmas in Panama as a family.

This was also the year that we arrived home on December 24th to -25 temperatures and started to let the reality of an economic collapse sink in. Our people were being laid off, we were bailing on an office lease, still embroiled in lawsuits and child custody woes, we were overwhelmed.

I’m still shocked we didn’t implode.

2016 – I turned 38

We really dug deep this year. January we spent 3 weeks traveling through India by motorcycle while trying to cling to what was left of the clients who were surviving the blows being dealt by the oil and gas industry.

We got engaged in Philly that year after a second recon trip to Pittsburgh. We were married in August at home in Bragg Creek  and let everyone know we’d made the decision to move to Pittsburgh Sept 30th.

We spent our Honeymoon driving from Las Vegas to Denver…hitting the “four corners”, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe bend, Aspen…SO many beautiful sites.

There were a lot of lawyers this year, for immigration and child custody. We had been fighting and swimming up hill for going on 5 years.

We drove across Canada. We saw friends along the way, parts of the country we’d never seen and parts we’d not want to see again any time soon. We spent a week in Montreal on an immigration delay that was intensely stressful and costly but, by October 17thwe were crossing the border at Niagara Falls to Pittsburgh.  I celebrated my birthday with no running water in a run down house we rented in the Hill District.

We traveled to Orlando and had a great time being kids at Disneyworld, sat by the sea and got really excited for the future of our business.

2017 – I turned 39

2017 turned out to be a pretty so-so year for business, which is always worrisome but we really pulled through alright.

We still had some major legal battles with custody but those were getting sort of stale and really poisonous and covered in lies. Anastacia contracted another Cancer during the winter of that year.

We traveled to Georgia and Vancouver for bodybuilding contests and to visit friends and family. I spent 7 entire months out of Canada – the longest ever in my life. We ran off to Cozumel for a week to recharge our batteries.

I decided to take a year off from competing that spring and aimed to enjoy my family and all the sights of the tri-state area.  I felt I was coming into my own…and I blogged all about it – which I’m grateful to have to look back on.

We drove my motorcycle 3000 miles from Calgary to Pittsburgh stopping in some pretty amazing places and some really gross places too.  In my opinion, Mt. Rushmore and Deadwood were the best part of that trip.

We went to Chicago for Riot Fest and my parents came to visit us in PGH.

By October we had to wrap up our next pack of legal plans to cross back into Toronto to apply for another Visa – this time for 5 years. Of course, it was a bungle and we were stuck in Toronto with our fur kids for nearly 3 weeks.

I celebrated my birthday in Toronto, downed a bottle of champagne at George restaurant. We got our Visa approval on November 1stor 2ndand were right back in the jeep heading home to Pittsburgh.

2018 – I turned 40

 Ahhh, this year.

This year we gave up the fighting. We had conceded to the child custody war, our legal tangles with the government for Visas was on pause for almost 5 years and there was some breathing room created.

Our renters moved out of the house in the spring and we decided to sell our house to cut down on liability and free up our cash. It was such an emotional undertaking but needed to happen.

We got in the jeep and did a two week family trip down to Hilton Head, SC and the Outer banks in NC while work had died down. We really fell in love with the countryside we were getting to explore. America is so vast and multi-dimensional I’m sure you’d never see it all in one lifetime.

In the spring my Granny died and we raced down to New Mexico via El Paso Tx, to try and sort out her affairs. It was sudden and she planned for nothing. That made for five days of sheer confusion. But New Mexico is absolutely stunning and we were happy to see a new side of life – the full time RV community. Wow what a shocking eye opener. You see, my Granny had been living in an RV for nearly 10 years I think – at first we were appalled, but then intrigued.

We went to Maui for a couple of weeks to meet up with my parents for a get away.

We headed back to PGH, put the pedal to the metal and started to win US clients over, not as quickly or as many as we would have liked, but there was real progress that we could measure.

Our friends came to visit in the Spring which was exciting. We went boating, sent a container of all our things across the border from Canada, sold our house, sold our things in Canada and started the importation process of our Jeep.

My parents came again in the summer and we went to D.C. to check out the city and catch the Stanley Cup parade.

After a summer trip back to Calgary and Vancouver we talked a lot about what our future was going to be. We felt locked down in PGH as a lot of our potential clients offices were located in Texas, Kansas, etc…we knew the cost of doing business development by plane was going to be far too costly to commit to.

We had to make some clear business and life decisions with the 4 years we had left on our visa as there are benchmarks we need to meet in order to be eligible for another 5 years.

After a few months of research, planning, consideration and dreaming, we decided to move into an RV. Since we had stopped the insanity of child custody we were free to travel full time to see clients, staff, complete field trips and adventure when we weren’t working.

In August we purchased an RV, we headed to Lisbon for our anniversary to celebrate and when we came back we headed down to Maryland (more than we wanted to) to pick up “Evgeny” our new home.

Now, here I sit,  on my 40thbirthday on the beaches of  the Dominican Republic reflecting on all that I’ve done over the last decade.

A LOT. By anyone’s standards, even my own. I’m totally uncertain how everything in life will roll out. I’m not entirely sure I haven’t lost my mind. But as death creeps closer every year I AM sure that I am living my life, balls to the wall and (mostly) loving every minute of it.

 

 

Love in many places

There are a lot of times when you can doubt yourself. Doubt your choices and even doubt your friends. Not everything has a deep dark and hidden agenda, but some of us choose to go to that place with life. Some people cannot be trusted and don’t have your best interests at heart, but we may be cosmically connected to them anyway.

Life is a tough nut, and going at it alone may be one of the hardest things to do.

Being a very independent person myself, I rarely put a hand out for help, advice or comfort. When I do, it’s usually in a critical time of need. I’ve learned through the years that going to certain people to hear certain messages is futile at best. Do we stop going there? Probably not. Why? Well, lately I’ve discussed this at length with friends and it seems to be because we are ever hopeful that perceptions change, lights go on, attitudes shift, veils lift. Do they for everyone? Not a chance buster – but that’s ok too.

I’ve had the pleasure of making a lot of friends in my life, they represent vastly different pieces and parts of me. I am made up of so many people based on my experiences, at times I have tried to reject rather than embrace the octopus of my being – out of fear of not be accepted I am sure.

Hitting 33 pushed me into a different dimension, one where I wasn’t willing to make excuses, take less than I deserved, accept being treated like everyone else, tolerate being made to feel like less of a person, agree to shut up and be part of the machine. I woke up, I took that pill and I decided that from that day on there was no going back.

I’m causing rifts, shaking the ground I stand on and in some ways, lighting fire to my old “do what the man says or else” self. My future is bright, my outlook is positive and I’m at the most vulnerable place I’ve ever been in life.

At the end of a day where I manage go back and forth on the opinion I hold over my own choices, it’s nice to know that there are people out there thinking about me. People who find real depth in my character where I myself have only noticed a shallow, muddy and uninviting pool of person.

Today, I thank and honour one of my friends, who sent me this beautiful email out of nowhere, right when I needed it. I value every day you are here my friend, thank you for seeing what my spirit needed – without me having to ask!

Via an email entitled: WTF is in Sasha’s Future?

Dear Sasha, I have been thinking about your situation and have come up with the following silly thoughts.

1/ not sure if you realize how lucky you are. To be in your shoes right now. Think about the fact that you are one of the rare few who actually has ” Choice” . Seldom does it happen that one has a choice , at your age of 30 , about which direction you take in your career. Treasure this as there will not be many more opportunities like this.

2/ Whatever happens, happens. It does not matter what you decide because no one is going to die or starve or be homeless as a result of your decision. One gem I picked up year ago…..
” It’s not so much that you make the right decision, it’s making the decision be the right one”
Meaning, if you go out on your own new path, it will be up to you to make that the right decision, something I truly believe you can do. Again, you are so lucky to be surrounded by safety nets.

3/ review the negatives. Look at the list you sent to your head hunter. If, and it’s a big IF, they come up with solutions to every one for you, would you still want that ” job “??………maybe it’s time to do a Positive/Negative scenario that applies to a new career, a career of Raw Food/ Workshops/ Massage/Rocket Science / yoga……do that list and send to me. ( ok, you might substitute pole dancing for the rocket science one )

4/ I think you are a kind , intelligent , level headed ( when you try ) person. You have a huge heart hidden inside. I have seen you happy….mad…..sad…frustrated…..and frankly, my vote is for the happy Sasha.

5/ Values. What are your core values? Honesty….Integrity….Family…..Relationships…..Think of all of the things you hold dear, things that you can’t live without and which career path serves those values the best.

I remember the day after you quit your job, your face said it all, the glow in your eyes and smile on your face, something I hadn’t seen for a long time. The hug you gave me was full of purpose. That day, in Meghan’s class, you were on fire, you had the energy back that your job had sucked out of you. And I thought to myself, my god, even I had not noticed what your job had done to you.

Trust in your instincts, success will follow.

Not sure if any of this drivel was of much help, happy to discuss more in future.

I wish you the best of luck in whatever you do, Your friend, Paul

To flake…or not to flake

Frosted flakes….nuff said.

 

Here I sit crafting this particular post because lately the theme around the wellness industry has been FLAKES. Loads of ’em. Making alliances and bailing at the last moment, looking to get something for nothing, failing to understand business relationships…the list goes on and on.

In being a part of so many of these {negative} experiences I realize that being direct may be difficult and I know that I’ve definitely been judged for it however, it’s all in the delivery – so make your decisions count and always make them from the heart.

“There are no regrets born of telling the truth – truthfully.” – Mark these words. 

I would like to share with you all some thoughts on when and how to flake (or not to flake), and what said flaking may be interpreted as by those who are the beflaken.

I also tend to make up my own words as they suit me……kind of like those people who say things like: Nucular, irregardless, expresso, expecially,excetera.

#1 – If you’re not feeling it – don’t do it. Don’t kid yourself, take one for the team or whatever you want to call it. Go with your gut, feel your feelings, be real. Letting people down is so much worse because then you know you’ve doubted yourself, leading to MEGA second guessing in the future which then leads to an emotional = Ugh. Don’t agree to meet someone for a coffee when you know you’re going to bail later. This usually leads to making up a lie or just NOT showing up. Not cool. Pull up your big girl/boy panties and decline gracefully from the start.

#2 – If you have questions – ask em. Just like your teachers (hopefully) taught you, there are NO STUPID QUESTIONS. If you are getting into something you’re unsure of, clarify it. Don’t join a movement, a fitness class or a congo line without knowing that you’re into it at least 100% of the way.

#3 – If you’re only in it for the money – get ready for some let downs. I don’t know how many times I get asked – “so how do I get paid?” or “what’s my share?” when talking about new business co-ventures like retreats or special events. I get it, we all like to make money. You need it for things like food, shelter, entertainment and other necessities. But if the first thought in your head on any collaboration is “when do I get mine?” you may be in for some rude awakenings. Money isn’t everything – there are experiences in life that may cost YOU physically, emotionally or financially…but in the end, you’re better {AND RICHER} for it.

#4 – If you are working in the health industry (or looking for a mentor who is)- be sure you (they) practice what you preach. Nearly every one of the health, wellness and fitness elitists I meet can’t keep up with their own labels let alone be a “guru” to people who are looking for a leader. A leader should be a shining example of a well rounded and functional person (faults and all). How can you truly provide knowledge, understanding and empowerment to others when you don’t empower yourself with those same things? Be aware. There is nothing more false than a person who stands on a soapbox professing to be the next best thing since sliced Ezekiel bread by day,  who secretly hates themselves in masked Facebook/Twitter posts by night.

Be true to you. Warts and all. It is more motivational for the world to see you as a real whole person than someone who is trying to be the next Ghandi and failing miserably. Be a leader, be a living being with feelings, failures and fears.

Summarizing, if you are about to get involved in a life journey that doesn’t feel right. Stop and ask yourself a few questions before giving the big thumbs up and flaking later. The last thing anyone (including you) needs to question is your own integrity, truth and self-awareness.

Harness your power to be real, and leave the flakes to the nasty breakfast cereals of the 80’s.

NAMASTE!

Slouch Socks & Fanning Old Flames


Some mornings you wake up ready to take on the world. Other mornings you begrudgingly hit the snooze a few times, drag your ass out of bed and begin your dull and painstakingly monotonous morning rituals.

This morning, this snowy, mucky chilled and grey morning I found myself in a place of regression to hilarious proportions. At first attempt in pasting together a blog on this I feared telling the full truth of the matter. But THAT my friends, would not be human or setting any kind of example. I’ll always stand firm in my belief that all we have is the truth, our honesty. So here she blows.
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Bundled up in my mis-matched version of a (stained) grey 80’s track suit, I slip on my husbands dingy and well worn white tube socks OVER the bottom of my sweats and march down our narrow wooden stairs to release the hounds. This morning started off with a broken promise from my car dealership – irk #1. So after giving up the only sleep-in morning this woman takes per week, I make the very responsible decision to walk the dogs in the falling snow to let off some steam and wait for a tow truck.

I have two dogs. One of which is food obsessed and maniacal about it at best. Save for dog fur, there is NO need to sweep, swifter, mop or dust the floors in my house. I wouldn’t recommend you eat off of them, but his sniffer catches even the tiniest speck of food imaginable. Wasted talent.

Our walks usually begin with me reminding myself that the “black one” will pick up something disgusting and eat it on our walk and that will be just fine. I resolve NOT to recussitate if he eats poison, or street drugs. For THAT will be his punishment for sloth and gluttony. Letting him get swiped by an angry cat through a neighbouring fence the other day was also some perverted lesson in “minding your own”…..which once again he did not learn from.

Anyway, galoshes on, toque, ridiculous white 15 foot woollen scarf gifted to me from an ex-friend (a constant reminder of the past that should go in the Sally Ann box STAT) tied around my neck we trundle out into the muck to clear our collective minds.

Breathing deeply we cross the empty streets, not one tire whirring through the wet slush, just the steady clomp clomp and click click of my boots and their claws on the sidewalk. Peace, wonder, zen, ohm….good idea Sasha, really, this walk is a great idea. I dream ahead to the day of meeting new people at this hula hooping workshop I’m headed to (heckle if you must, I’m preparing for Burning Man people, character study…gah!) and how it will at least be an amazing work out and a people watching experience, networking…tout c’est possible.

Turn the corner past the old bottle returning depot on Victoria Drive, we’re walking and peeing and clicking and tension is being released. My mind wanders, I’m pondering the sock to sweatpants combination I’m currently rocking underneath my wellingtons and I instantly return to the land of the slouch sock. 3 pairs stacked could make for a sweet rainbow ankle effect, or a simple single slouch could accompany any “Get in Shape Girl” outfit magically. I find myself believing it may be a great idea to bring these back, wool knee socks have been a great winter accoutrement after all, what about their lazy cousin the charismatic slouch?

YOINK

I’m pulled from the middle of my 80’s day dream to find “the black one” feverishly digging under a pile of browned oak leaves nestled up to a condemned building. In a flash he fishes out some foodstuffs, can’t say what it is, but it looks to be bread-like and partially eaten, protected from the elements by it’s leafy mulch. At once I hit the red zone! A place I haven’t visited in many many months since leaving my conventional life behind.

FURIOUS!!!! I whirl the dog around the leash, scream for him to “drop it” – with which he complies – and pick up my pace to make for home, closing a very small loop on the already shortest ever dog walk. I trip over the potholes littering the alley behind my house, cursing out the dog in my mind, gritting my teeth and splashing muddy oily water up and over the edges of my boots, to the pseudo-slouch below.

Entering the final stretch home I have this overwhelming urge to have a coffee. A coffee???? I left that stuff in the dust ages ago. Gives me anxiety worse than any conventional drug out there (that I know of) and though its flavour and aroma are still intoxicating – as much as the smell of bacon (yes abolitionist vegan nightmares I said it. I don’t EAT it, I just have to give the smell a high 5), but the smell alone is not enough to make me trade in the feeling of dying a slow death – or is it?

I push through my back gate, let the dogs off their leashes and find myself rattling around in my kitchen cupboards for my grinder, my percolator and some ethical beans. Coffee bubbling to perfection on the stove I reach into the fridge for a slice of homemade Strawberry Rhubarb pie (vegan thank you very much) and wolf this down before the coffee has brewed.

As I sit here. Belly full of dessert, coffee in hand, a hint of clove from my medicine making of yesterday, I realize I have had an impromptu visit from some of my old flames. Nearly all at once, kind of like at that uncomfortable party I was at once in the early 2000’s – ugly, ugly night.

Today I basked in the slouchnitude, I devoured the sins of the pie and I revelled in the power of a morning coffee – all before 9:30am. Guilt? Not anywhere to be found. The anxiety from a coffee – I’ll have to fill you all in.

My revelation today came for me to share with the world, because you too have left behind a bunch of old flames. Some (like cigarette smoking) you can look back on with shear wonderment and disgust. Others, like a strong black coffee and a piece of pie you can shake hands with, catch up on the street and let go until next time. It’s all human, it’s all healthy and it’s all good – when the timing is right.

Yours in health, and playful life intoxication,

Sasha