Necessity Is The Mother of Invention

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“I had to make you uncomfortable, otherwise you never would have moved.” —Universe

The ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, said that ‘necessity is the mother of invention”. As someone who has been fiercely committed to building a better world in my own personal way through the creative work that I do, and the lifestyle that I’ve chosen, the need for invention, innovation and new, creative ideas to spread has been forefront in my thoughts for years. If that desire is to be birthed through necessity, then what sheds light on what our necessities are? How do we get down to the bones of what it is that we really need, in its most basic form? In my experience and observation, it’s adversity that highlights for us what our necessities are. It’s the dark shadows of doubt, fear, anxiety and helplessness. Those supposed negative, inferior, or low-vibe feelings are at the heart of unlocking what makes us tick as individuals, and as collective human beings. We have those feelings for good reason. They help us to survive and evolve, until we are capable of thriving. Fear and the possibility of threat, puts us in touch with our instincts and intuition, which are essential to our understanding of ourselves and have an uncanny ability to immediately shed anything that is frivolous or extraneous from our lives, and help us zero in on what we value. Those uncomfortable feelings shine a light on our vulnerabilities and what we need to work through within ourselves and as a collective human family, and we have most certainly all been steeped very recently together in a significant dose of adversity, fear, anxiety as we continue to navigate the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Fear, just like grief and sadness, are to be moved through, not around, so we should never allow anyone to mock us or make us feel shame for experiencing fear, especially when facing the unknown. Those who can still feel deeply, despite a world that has worked hard to thicken our skins and make battle-hardened warriors of us all, will very likely be the ones who change everything for the better in the long run. They are a rare breed and have a perspective that few can see. Stay sensitized if you can, or reclaim it, as I have done after years of hardening my heart in order to soldier on in difficult circumstances. Our softness is where so much power resides, and yet it has all but been forgotten by our culture. Nothing shows us our power, like the thought of having it taken away. And when I say power, I do not mean the false sense of power that is fuelled by feelings of superiority or specialness disguised as leadership, in that hero-saviour variety that patriarchal structure so loves to perpetuate these days. I mean true power, that comes from humility and compassion, and that humble confidence that commits to raising up all people as equally important no matter their belief, or lifestyle, and with no agenda to get anyone “on-side” with the God that they deem correct, but raising people up just because its the decent human thing to do. No strings attached.

Our difficult feelings also show us where we’ve been waisting our time and energy, and how we’ve been distracted and scattered so effectively from our most essential selves.  Before we can reach a new level of invention and innovation that’s necessary to build a better world, we must first acknowledge where we’ve become comfortable, complacent and apathetic about the world that is. In my own experience, if we don’t take the initiative to evolve ourselves as individuals, circumstances tend to arise in our lives that push us out of our comfort zones and make us evolve, like it or not.

Before I had ever heard of Covid-19, I had thought that I had a pretty good understanding of what “necessity is the mother of invention” really meant. I had experienced adversity in my life, and been nudged into a new level of survival and creativity to cope in the past, but as it turns out, 3 months into a worldwide pandemic where my life has been substantially altered, I now realize my previously comfortable life and innate privilege and entitlement kept me from fully grasping the weight of what that statement really means. I had already gone through many alterations in my life where I significantly simplified and culled the meaningless, the wasteful and the consumerist values from my existence. Skimming down to what really matters to me and shedding the rest. But even still, the truth is, I rarely thought about necessity, because we live in a time and culture of excess and as a middle-income, healthy, white, straight cis-woman who’s married, I have a bubble of protective privilege around me that needs to be acknowledged and understood. The fact is, I am not as vulnerable in an emergency, like a global pandemic, as someone who has health issues, suffers from depression or anxiety, doesn’t have universal health care, is trying to raise a family without a living wage, or is discriminated against, underprivileged or marginalized in any way. A significant lesson, and the beginning of the many silver lining gifts gleaned from this difficult experience. This honest look at my own privilege and the resulting humility and massive influx of sudden understanding of the adversity being experienced by the vulnerable and underprivileged comparatively to how I have been effected, has been eye and heart opening.

“We are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat.”  -Emery D. Haley

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This was just one of so many veil lifting epiphanies that have come to light for me and many thousands of people through the adversity of this pandemic. I have most definitely been negatively impacted personally, as a Mother of two young boys who are now home 24/7 and need to be homeschooled. I’ve struggled these past weeks as a small-business owner who’s seen a huge drop in income from my vintage shop sales, even though I sell online, and I’m the Wife of an Author and Illustrator who had every single book signing, convention, speaking engagement and work trip cancelled indefinitely since March. Our livelihoods have been hacked down to shadows of their former glory and that’s been heart wrenching for two people who have worked very hard and made many sacrifices in order to build a life around our creative endeavours being our sole source of income. There is no denial or downplay of our personal hardships here, but, it pales in comparison to what more vulnerable people around the globe who were already experiencing adversity have had to deal with. If this doesn’t teach us compassion and empathy for one another, and help us see the inequalities within the systems we uphold, I don’t know what will.

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We live in a time of over abundance, gluttony and greed with a small percentage of people getting extremely rich off of the consumerist culture that keeps middle and lower income people trapped in a cycle of wanting more and believing that if they just work hard enough, all their dreams will come true. So many have become slaves to that belief and that system, which is stacked in the favour of the already rich and powerful. It is designed for us to want desperately to climb the ladder towards the rich and famous lifestyle, and to reach endlessly for it, but never get there. The falseness and emptiness of that dream is coming to light for many, and that is no harsh truth to scoff at. The youth in particular are bombarded with the messaging that this is precisely what they should want for themselves and encouraged to strive endlessly for it. It’s a damn hard reality to realize its a lie.

When 2020 unleashed Covid-19, the world was thrown into a chaotic shit-storm of epic proportions. Lockdowns, border and school closures, daily death tolls, curfews, medical face masks, mass business shut downs and long-term social distancing measures. I need not go on, you were there, we all were, and still are navigating these new waters, globally. What an incredibly profound thing to experience in our lifetime. Especially in the digital era, when we can watch it unfolding real-time on our friends’, colleagues’ and strangers’ social media feeds from all over the world. No need to even tune into the news, when it’s so easy now to connect with real people and their lived experiences, live around the world. The unity of that global experience should not be taken lightly. For many people, that may have been the first time they really understood how connected we all are on this planet. Not just conceptually, but literally. We live on a sphere, an island brimming with life and possibility, floating in the cosmos and every single thing we do as individuals effects and impacts everyone else that walks this planet with us. It may not be immediate, or feel substantial when it happens, but what we choose in each moment sends a ripple out like a tiny stone in a pond that extends out from us continually. We have impact as individuals. Covid allowed us to see that with clarity and certainty, and if we can have a negative impact on one another, we can most certainly have a positive impact.

So many people are now beginning to understand concepts that had been floating around them for decades, but their busyness had kept them from grasping it fully. The wealthy 1% getting richer during a crisis, while the rest of us struggle to get by. The hypocrisy of minimum wage workers being determined “essential” and revered as “front line heroes”, while not making a living wage. The truth about how many goods we rely on that are imported from other countries that are produced in sweatshops, and how incredibly neglectful we’ve been about supporting local businesses and small, family-owned shops in our own communities. How much non-essential crap we buy and support that does not in any way make the world a better place to live, in fact it just contributes to more garbage and plastic waste in our landfills and oceans, and loss of hard-earned income with nothing to show for it. One of the most important epiphanies I witnessed people grasping worldwide was the realization of how little they know about how to actually survive in an emergency. People began to ask themselves, what if this was like a world war, or the next Dirty Thirties and goods and services become difficult to get access to? The sheer shock of realizing that they don’t know how to grow their own food, keep their family’s immune systems healthy and strong, or cook hearty meals from basic local ingredients, was a major eye opener for many. Hence the significant increase in veggie gardens popping up everywhere this spring and people living in the suburbs learning to bake their own bread for the first time. So much so that Robin Hood flour ran out of their standard yellow packaging and had to start packing in basic brown paper bags in order to keep up with production in North America! The most important discovery I feel for many, was watching the smog and CO2 emissions clear up in the skies all over the world as traffic and industry screeched to a halt. Wildlife emerged and was rejuvenated as people stayed close to home, and people, with no place to go and many with less to do, started watching the skies, listening to the birds and re-connecting with nature in ways they may not have in years or possibly ever.

These little seeds of thought, these epiphanies, thought experiments and self-evaluations are the silver lining during these dark times. The gifts that come from adversity and are born when we face fear and have the courage to move through it, grasping the lessons as we go. I understood it philosophically, but not experientially, because life has afforded me far more than I actually need. Facing the truth of that and admitting it to myself is a lesson in humility and gratitude, something I feel is sorely needed in these times.

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“I don’t want to wait anymore I’m tired of looking for answers
Take me some place where there’s music and there’s laughter
I don’t know if I’m scared of dying but I’m scared of living too fast, too slow
Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I’ve got to go
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on
And you’ve just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road
Can’t worry ’bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road
I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to do right what is wrong
I try to keep on keeping on
Yeah I just keep on keeping on
I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road
I’ve woken up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon
Having no idea who or what or where I am
Something good comes with the bad
A song’s never just sad
There’s hope, there’s a silver lining
Show me my silver lining
Show me my silver lining”  

                                                                               – First Aid Kit (Song: My Silver Lining)

There has been so much emotional baggage to unpack over these past few months, and truly difficult realities to face and not look away from that many have suffered deeply and profoundly as a result of it. This is a collective pain that history has shown us, will most definitely result in transformations we can only imagine for our world. There are deep lessons to be learned and healing to experience through the discomfort.

I have been so incredibly fortified and heartened by what I have seen transpire within the creative communities around the globe as a result of this pandemic. A new and profound creativity has emerged, birthed from necessity. People being isolated and un-able to create in their normal ways have risen to the occasion and innovated ways to thrive in adversity. I’ve seen incredible works of art being made with minimal resources, musicians and performing artists finding inspiring ways to continue making music for themselves and the world. Writers penning some of the most heart-wrenching articles and poetry, small businesses adapting and adjusting from brick and mortar to online shops and delivery services in record time in order to continue meeting the needs of their customers and save their businesses. Photographers making absolute magic with their cameras in their own homes and backyards, grounded airports converting their lots into drive-in movie theatres, and families spending more time together than they have in years. Communities coming together to sing from balconies, support one another emotionally and financially online and continue to grow and learn in adaptive ways through changing tides. This experience has proven to me that when the going gets tough, the creatives get going.

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“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” –Toni Morrison

In my own family, my Husband, Gregory and I at home with our two boys, 11 and 9, have ridden the waves with the rest of the world and have done our level best to stay within the eye of the storm and continue to do what we do best, to love one another fiercely and stay creative. That is our contribution to the world and now I know it with certainty. We will do what we do no matter what. We too planted a garden, starting from seed in our house and taught our sons how to grow food in their own front yard in the city. We cooked together, baked buns and muffins, devotedly supported small local grocery stores and businesses for our basic needs, joined a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) Farm to door, and we grew closer and bonded in new and impenetrable ways. We talked a lot about the state of the world and where to go from here and how to use our individual gifts and talents to contribute to positive change as we watch old paradigms fall and burn around us. Some days we slogged through the weight of the world, but we continued to work, to teach our kids, even if it was just one baby step at a time. We cultivated joy where we were, rather than desire it from the outside world that we didn’t have access to. That in itself was a massive shift in consciousness.

Of all the things I was missing, the thought of not being able to continue doing creative photoshoots was what I was grieving the most. So, with the mantra “bloom where you’re planted”, firmly held in my heart, I decided to work with what I had, where I was. I decided to do a photoshoot at home. No professional photographer, no fancy studio lighting or perfect location, just a reason to get creative with what we already had. Gregory and the boys helped me set up, Finnley, my youngest asked to model and Lief, my eldest was our photographer. Both Finnley and I modelled clothes from my online vintage shop (Patron of Dreams Shop), and a creative editorial shoot about family and planting seeds, metaphorical and literal, was born. About a month later, as isolation restrictions relaxed a little in Winnipeg, Joey Senft, our good friend and neighbour who happens to be one of the best professional photographers in our city, went out on foot in our own neighbourhood, social-distance style, to do a photoshoot together. This blog post is a result of making art in the time of Covid-19. A snapshot in time to serve as a reminder that we are only as limited as our perceptions and bravery allows, and that our desire for perfection or a certain standard can be limiting and paralyzing instead of inspiring and expanding.

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So what’s next as the world continues to be ravaged by the direct and indirect effects of a pandemic? How do we continue to go through profound awakenings and transformations, a revolution, as hard truths and adversity continues to unfold? Well, I hope a commitment to self-evaluation, and an honest acknowledgement of our individual contributions to both the problems and the solutions. It is my greatest wish that each person begin to understand what it is that they as individuals have to offer to the world to improve it, and to figure out how that can be done for the greater good of all of humanity in a holistic way, not just for the already privileged few that are benefitting from the existing capitalist patriarchal systems. I see a great need for people to get comfortable with unlearning what they thought was true and stepping into the humility of not knowing, not having all the answers, or attempting to be a saviour to others when what is truly needed is our continued improvement of ourselves.

I live in excitement about the future, despite the hardships and difficulties that I know still lie ahead of us, and I’ve come to accept and appreciate the diversity of roles that are needed to be played by different types of people as old paradigms are disassembled and new ways are built. Some people will fight to tear down old systems and be warrior activists for change and accountability. Some people will use existing political platforms and rock boats from within political rings, some people will continue using their healing arts and modalities to help the collective heal through the process, and some will focus on building the new through their work, their art, their writing, and their creativity. There is room for it all, and all of it is an important contribution. Through it all, as a community, I wish for each of us to carry a fierce hope in our hearts, as we continue to peel the layers back over the coming months and with openness and non-judgment, uncover all the silver linings just waiting to be understood from this dark cloud.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY:  

  • Seed planting at home, photos by Lief Chomichuk , Edited by Joey Senft.
  • Apple blossoms in our neighbourhood, photos and edits by Joey Senft.

MODELS: Finnley Chomichuk (my son), and Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

STYLING BY: Tara Cole-Mccaffrey, Patron of Dreams, from Patron of Dreams Shop

VINTAGE FASHION: Vintage 70’s green dress, 70’s large collar printed polyester shirt, navy blue adjustable suspenders, vintage white with pink floral button-front dress, and vintage black slip, all from Patron of Dreams Shop.

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We Are The Dreams of Our Ancestors and The Dreamers For Our Descendants

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“Our relationships with the places where our feet are planted are everything. In the physical sensory world, and the imaginal world which envelopes and penetrates it. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in these places forever, or for just a little while….All that matters is that, wherever we find ourselves in this world, we connect deeply there. For as long as we’re in a place, with as much love and respect as we can muster. That’s where the virtue lies, for me.”

‘The land carries its own memory, and a rich, earthy, planetary wisdom. The memory and wisdom of the ages. And we’re made up of it. At some very deep level, each one of us participates in that wisdom borne by the land.
‘Because we’re made of the land. Every cell in our body. There’s not a bit of us that isn’t created and then forged from the various places we’ve lived in.’

‘And what treasures we can uncover, if we remember it. If we learn how to dig deep, how to stop paddling about in the shallows and penetrate beyond the superficial into those deeper, older, planetary – cosmological, even – layers of the psyche. If, to use a phrase I coined many years ago now, we choose to let ourselves fall into the land’s dreaming. And so learn how to truly participate in the land’s psyche. In the world psyche – the anima mundi, the world soul.’

Sharon Blackie

“Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.” – Rumi

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I was born,  raised, and have lived my entire life in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I am a 4th Generation Canadian, with a complex, mixed heritage, including at least eight nationalities that I’m currently aware of, running through my veins. Celtic, Central and Eastern European, and even Indigenous to name a only a few, although you’d never know it if you judged me solely based on my appearance. I am a cultural hodgepodge, and I’m sure a DNA test would likely reveal that it’s even more complicated than all of that. I am a child of the world, and that is reflected in my diverse cultural interests, where I have chosen to travel, and what I choose to learn and share with the world. The embracing of diversity and desire for global connectedness runs deep in my genetic lineage. I have continued to let my heart and soul be my guide, despite these interests often being misunderstood, over-simplified and criticized based solely on how I look.

The truth is, my complex cultural background means that I don’t identify with just one place, people or culture, but many, and as a proud Canadian, I regularly feel immense gratitude and comfort, living in a country that is so culturally diverse and welcoming, for the most part, of that diversity. I have, as of late, been re-connecting with my heritage and the knowledge of my ancestors. How better to understand ones-self than to understand who and where they come from. I have been reading and learning about Matrilineal DNA, which is now used to trace family trees, because unlike DNA from fathers, a mother’s DNA is passed un-changed from mothers to children of both sexes, along the maternal line until all female lineages converge. Ultimately, what that means in simplified terms is, we can trace our DNA in a clear line through our mothers, and our mothers’ mothers, back through many generations, but we cannot do this through our father’s and our father’s fathers. I was contrastingly, both utterly flabbergasted and notably underwhelmed by the obviousness, when I learned the matriarchal nature of the very building blocks of humanity. The irony of learning this truth while at the same time becoming more and more conscious of and infuriated by the oppressive nature of our Patriarchally constructed society, was not lost on me. More on this another time! Science, in its purist form, is our friend, because it opens us up to question things and be open minded to theoretical possibilities. That said, our instincts and intuition are equally important, sometimes more so, in the short term in particular. I’m sure I’m not the first woman to say that on a deep-seeded (pardon the pun) internal level, I already knew this fact, but it took scientific evidence to convince me. Note to self, once again, you’re intuition is usually ahead of the curve. Trust it.

I have also been learning about the quickly growing study and theories around Epigenetics, and the mind boggling evidence that so far suggests our genes can in fact change based on external stimulus, such as traumatic experiences, or repetitive thought patterns and emotions, and in turn, those altered genes can then be passed down through generations. The implications around curing genetic diseases, the nature versus nurture debates, or limiting beliefs based on the genetic lottery we are born with, the good and the not so good, are incredibly exciting to consider.  It would appear that we are so much more than the physical characteristics and pre-dispositions of our ancestors. We are also their dreams and their fears. Their gifts and their traumas. We carry not only their blood and tissue, but their experiences within us, as well as the potential capacity to transmute the parts that do not serve our greatest good or personal evolution.

All of this information together, for me, peaks my curiosity and begs the question, are we not then, on more than an experiential level, but on a cellular level, also made up of the places that we live and the places that our ancestors have lived? And in particular, are we not deeply connected and informed by the land in which our mother, grandmothers and great-grandmothers have walked? Is it possible, that we carry knowledge of the lands of our ancestral grandmothers lived and visited inside of our genetic coding? Even though I am fourth generation Canadian, I find a deeply rooted connection and attraction to places in the world that I have never set foot on. Places, that the ancient stories and pictures of, sing a song within me that transcend my limited ideas of my culture or borders and draw me towards them for some reason or purpose. There is knowledge within me, my blood and bone, that seems disconnected from my blonde hair and blue-green eyes, and yet other parts of me that are deeply connected to my appearance. Why, when I visited Turkey, in the Middle East, did I feel a deep sense of being a hop-skip-and-a-jump from home, when in reality, home was on the other side of the world in Canada? Why do depictions of ancient Egypt and endless seas of golden desert make me weep with longing? Why did this white girl feel every fibre of her being come alive with familiarity when she began to study bellydance? Time for that DNA test maybe? Or, maybe there’s even more to it than that. Humanity is not stationary. Scientific evidence traces the birthplace of humanity to Africa. There is innumerable evidence of cultural interconnectedness through travel, trade and marriage throughout the world for millennia. Viking symbols and runes etched with ancient knives into stone structures in the Middle East; jewellery, fabric and weapons being found all over the world in the graves of people not native to those cultural artifacts; the ancient Celtic triskele being used in the U.S. Department of Transportation, a coat of arms in Germany and national flag of Sicily. Our democracy here in North America is based on that of ancient Greece, our letters are Latin and our numbers are Arabic. Unless you are Indigenous to North America, every single one of us are either immigrants ourselves, or fairly recent descendants of immigrants. The bottom line is, that most of what we have come to know as Canada was built upon foreign ideas with an entirely different land and culture, and that past information is stored within our DNA, according to current science. My familial experience being in Canada is less than 150 years old, which within the measure of genetic lineage, is a relatively short time.

So what does all this mean? Well, for me, it is an inspiring seed of an idea that warrants further investigation. It is a reminder that we are far more complex in our make-up than we may currently understand, and we do ourselves a disservice when we over-simplify one another into cultural boxes, borders and surface appearances. There is so much more to an individual than meets the eye. This thinking inevitably leads to an us versus them mentality, and history has shown us time and again what horrors the implications of that can turn into. These new scientific discoveries and theories suggest possibility for our future, and it nudges me towards better connection and understanding of my own personal heritage, but more than that, it encourages me to enquire about the places my ancestors came from, where they travelled, settled, and what may have been going on in those places at that time in history? All of it, would potentially have an impact on my make-up, and that of my children, according to current modern science, and quite frankly, according to the long-time teachings of Indigenous peoples all over the globe.

As a central Canadian, living in a province with a significant population of Indigenous First Nations, might I suggest that maybe it’s way, way overdue for us European descendants to listen up and learn something about the stolen Treaty 1 Territory land we are all standing on? I did not personally choose to come here from Europe, but I do live here now as a result of my ancestors, I am raising my family here, and with every choice I make, I am setting the tone for future generations. If I apply the ideas about matrilineal DNA and epigenetics not just to myself and how my ancestry has impacted me, but to how I in turn will impact my descendants, wouldn’t the connection, understanding and knowledge of this land that I walk on every day, it’s history, it’s geology, it’s plant medicines, it’s animals, be an important responsibility? I love the idea that we are the manifestation of our ancestors wildest dreams. If that is so, what can I do to make them proud? Well, that leads me to an obvious question, what are my wildest dreams? What do I hope for, for my own descendants? I want them to know that I worked for a better world, that I cared about people and that I loved this planet and all her mysteries deeply. I want them to know that I dreamed and worked for unity, diversity and global community. That creativity and connectivity of people and land was deeply important to me. I want them to know that I loved this place that I live, it’s intense and extreme seasonal changes, and the hearty, incredibly creative people that our long, cold, dark winters produce. Above all, I want them to know that I did my best to become the soul of this place where I was born, while reaching for my dreams. That I listened to my heart and my intuition and let it be my guide in all things. If it is so, that I can pass on my experience to my descendants, it is my wish that it brings comfort and hope that I did not just live in this place, on this land, but instead, I allowed myself to connect deeply to it and become a part of it, as I believe nature intended.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

WARDROBE BY: Patron of Dreams Shop

WEARING: 

 

 

 

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

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Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
Blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
Rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

-Pink Floyd, Shine on You Crazy Diamond

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There is something about you that is different. Even if you have convinced yourself that you are average or blend into the backdrop of the mainstream. I am here to tell you, that you are indeed different, because the concept of normal is a complete fabrication designed to keep us feeling trapped in a cage of our own creation. This disillusionment of normal keeps us disempowered and willing agents in perpetuating a system that serves only those very few at the top, while the rest of us waste away in the land of average and sameness, always feeling like something is missing and never reaching our potential. It is possibly the most important task of your life to discover what it is exactly that sets you apart, defines who you are, and then surrender to it fully with all of your heart. If you can make this a priority, your life will change forever and you will wonder why in the hell you never did it sooner?

Who are you? The question of questions, and one that I ask myself every day to ensure I don’t slip back into complacency and a false sense of self, designed by my ego when I was young in order to help me survive and navigate a painful world, plagued with conformity. We are not our family, our job, the city we live in and the society that has shaped us. These are just the effects of nurture, but they are not your nature. We came into this world with something that is uniquely us and our life experience has either helped to steer us towards ourself or away from it. So really, the question is, who were you before the world got a hold of you? Who were you before you got talked out of following your heart and your bliss and all the things that ignite your fire and make your soul smile and cheer? Who were you before you integrated the message that if your interests don’t make you money they should not be a priority? Who were you before security, practicality and responsibility steered you away from who you actually are and what you want for yourself?

When I see people struggling within the life they have created because somehow, along the way they have ended up filling their days with way more ‘have to’s” than “want to’s”, I have nothing but compassion because I’ve been there. I, like so many others was programmed by social conditioning to keep putting the things I loved aside in favour of socially accepted and understood choices that would ultimately make me money and provide me with security, social status and respect. I went into sciences at University because I had been told repeatedly by many sources that I was more likely to get a job in the field of science, and nothing was more important than a secure job. I then ended up in a very practical Environmental Technology program at College. A couple of years later, I moved out from my childhood home into my own apartment, got a part-time job to pay the rent and gas for my car and then graduated soon after. By the time I was 21 I had started my career at an Engineering firm and began a 10 year climb up the corporate ladder and into a well respected position in a glass sky-rise at a large Corporation downtown. During this climb, I bought a house with my then boyfriend, now husband at age 24, got a dog, bought my first new car, and went on a warm vacation annually. By all socially accepted measures of success, at only 28 years of age, I had made it. While some might have found that life comforting, a deeper, more intuitive part of me found it deeply disheartening. I was only 10 years into being an adult and there were very few rungs left on that corporate ladder I was climbing. I had landed directly in the middle of average. I shot for the middle instead of the stars and landed there more quickly than I had expected. This life was taking up all of my time with very little left over for my interests or passions. Was this really going to fulfill me for the next 35 years of my life until retirement? And then what? Then I get to do what I want? Was I living for the weekend, the next holiday, the golden retirement years? I had a constant nagging feeling within me for something more, that money and vacations and marriage was not fulfilling. Then, I checked the next milestone off my well laid out and organized life. I got pregnant, and everything changed. I was faced with the hardest and also the easiest decision of my life. Would I stay in my extremely demanding career and try to juggle being a Mother, a Wife and a career woman, or would I give up the career I had been building and working towards since high school? That’s when I started to question everything, mostly myself. That’s the first time I had dared to ask myself “who am I?”, and allowed myself to be brutally honest. After quieting the opinions of others and finally listening to my inner knowing, I knew that this life I had built so diligently by following the rules and playing the game, was not in fact who I was. So I gave up my career, and all the money and status that came with it and devoted myself to raising my babies, all the while, doing the soul searching work of getting back to the core of who I was before I got onto this well trodden mainstream track. The isolation and solitude that being a stay-at-home Mom provided me, while lonely and alienating much of the time, was the best gift I have ever given myself. I had a legitimate excuse to get out of the rat race, be separated from the constant reinforcement of popular opinion, and come back home into my own heart.

Often, people who are experiencing that nagging, that inner turmoil that tells them they aren’t living their authentic life, get stuck, because when they ask themselves “who am I?”, “what do I want?” they honestly don’t know the answer. My humble advice for this common experience is to go back to the beginning and start from there. Who were you before other people’s influences, projected fears and scarcity mentality got the better of you? What were you like as a child? What did you do with yourself when boredom led to self-directed creativity? When you were told to go and play or entertain yourself, what did you gravitate to? What made time stop for you, that you lost yourself in completely, that you returned to again and again? All of those things, no matter how trivial or silly they may seem to you now, are the clues to your bliss. They are where the essence of who you are resides.

When I asked myself these questions, it was very clear to see who I was, and I was definitely not being true to her anymore. I was dishonouring that little girl who loved to dress up in elaborate costumes and create characters in her Grandmother’s wardrobe and then come downstairs and ad-lib in character to my Grandparents delight. I was not being true to the little girl who loved to sing and dance, create costumes and perform dance routines to Mini-Pops songs on my portable record player and microphone that connected to our radio. Thank you 1980’s! I had suppressed that pre-teen who dressed her friends up in our Mothers’ clothes and created sets and themes riffing on popular advertisements. I’d take their pictures on an old camera, taking the time to get them developed and putting them into photo albums. I had polished and wiped clean that wild child with the messy tangled mass of hair, who was strong and athletic, wore a camo sweatsuit, painted mud on her face, hiked in the woods, communed with nature and built ramps to jump her BMX bike on dirt trails. I had silenced the teenager who wrote poetry and short stories to process her emotions, played guitar and piano, adored thrift shopping for vintage and cutting up and sewing new clothes out of thrift store finds. There was almost no sign of the girl who read countless books on astrology, spirituality and mysticism, learned to read tarot cards and burned incense daily in the solitude of her room. I was no longer honouring the young woman who chose theatre as her extra curricular activity in high school and Bellydancing as her twenty-something after work hobby that she squeezed into her work schedule. Dance led to teaching, performing and producing Vaudeville-estque productions, and eventually training with world-renowned Bellydancers. Aside from keeping a small fire lit in my heart with dance, I had somehow completely suppressed the girl within me, my soul self, my essence and she was screaming to come out, and making it harder and harder to ignore her dissatisfaction as the years ticked by. I had been waiting for permission to be myself, to be told by someone, anyone, that the things I loved were worthy of my time and focus, and that they deserved to be the centre of my life, not something I pushed to the sidelines in favour of money and security and conformity. I had talked myself out of myself. Everything in me wanted to believe that if I followed my bliss, my interests, the things that made my heart sing, I would be ok. I would be able to take care of myself in this world that had convinced me that the things I love carry no value and have no place here.

I have spent the last decade, re-claiming myself. Gathering up all the ways in which I gave myself away, spread myself too thin and replaced my soul self with an imposter out of fear and the very human need to belong, even if it meant I’d end up surrounding myself with people who would never fully understand or genuinely encourage the real me. I gathered that young creative girl up in my arms and I told her she has my full and complete permission and undying support to unleash herself fully un-encumbered. I started to take chances again. I re-aquainted myself with my creative spark. I re-connected with the wild, natural, mystically inclined warrior woman I always was. I dove back into my passion for vintage clothing, began fashion styling, creating fashion editorials and working with photographers to create visual art. I started writing again and embraced art, philosophy and poetry. I started this blog for the shear joy of mashing all my passions together and birthing them out into the world. I continued to dance and teach and learn. The more of myself I accepted, the more layers of false reality about the world started unravelling and revealing to me. The more honest and authentic I have become with myself, the more confident I get and the easier it is for me to reveal my truest nature to others. I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy, or that you won’t lose people along the way. Being true to yourself at all costs takes an immense amount of courage and conviction and can be challenging for those around you who would prefer you to not rock the boat so they can stay comfortable inside the paradigm they’ve accepted. People who uphold mainstream values will see your choices to live alternatively in favour of your own truth, as a personal judgement on them, not as the brave and honest thing it is. People will see your personal sacrifices of monetary gain and non-attachment to titles and material things as an affront to a lifestyle they are trying to justify to themselves daily in order to have the gumption to hit that alarm clock every morning and go to a job they complain about all the time. You have to be willing to allow those people to fall away from your life and open yourself up to all the new beautiful souls who will begin to appear in your experience.

There is almost always a period of isolation and loneliness in the process of un-learning your social programming and embracing your true self, but I can’t even begin to explain to you the incredible freedom that comes with self-acceptance. Pursuing the life that matches your values and attracting like-minded individuals who will come into your life to teach you new things, cheer you on, support and encourage you and celebrate your victories along with you is incredibly fulfilling and vindicating after facing your fears and conquering them. These new advocates will not only not be threatened by you or want to compete with you, they will hold you up and inspire the hell out of you! The mutual respect will be that which you have always deeply desired. The angst and judgement you felt towards people because you gave your power away by blaming them for robbing you of your vitality, will start to become beautiful to you in incredible ways and you will begin to love the world again the more you love yourself and honour the things that call to your heart and soul.

Remember. Remember the creative genius of a soul that is you. Remember who you are and don’t give your power away. No one can take it from you, it has to be given up freely. Make yourself a priority and get back to that joyful being you were so freely as a child. Peel away the layers of false messages that have been keeping you down and re-claim your potential. And Shine. Shine on you crazy diamond!

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When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily
Oh joyfully, playfully watching me
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable
Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical
There are times when all the world’s asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am
I said, watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical
Liberal, oh fanatical, criminal
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re Acceptable
Respectable, oh presentable, a vegetable!
Oh, take it take it yeah
But at night, when all the world’s asleep
The questions run so deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am, who I am, who I am, who I am
‘Cause I was feeling so logical
D-d-digital
One, two, three, five
Oh, oh, oh, oh
It’s getting unbelievable

– Supertramp, The Logical Song

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, MODELLING and ARTISTIC DIRECTION: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams Shop

MAKEUP: Kitty Berns, FreshHair Boutique and Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams Shop

HAIR, & MASK DESIGN: Kitty Berns, FreshHair Boutique

FASHION:

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