Coincidence or Kismet?

piano

Do you every think that things are just meant to happen when they happen? That the universe has a plan and you just don’t know about it? Today was one of those days for me. At a time when I was lacking motivation, questioning my decisions and wondering if the direction I was going in was leading me the right way, I had an Oprah moment. You know the one. The quintessential “aha” moment. I wasn’t unhappy, I was just unsure of where things were going or if they even needed to go anywhere. Should I soldier on or reevaluate and make a change? I felt I was lacking a focus. Then I had lunch with a very wise and lovely friend that I had been trying to connect with for months. Coincidence?

A classically trained pianist who grew up in, of all places, Prince George, Stephanie and I met when our kids attended the same pre-school. She started playing the piano when she was two and her piano teacher recognized her talent early on. By the time she was fourteen she was flying down to Vancouver once a month for lessons. She was accepted to Juliard, Peabody and Eastman – the creme de la creme of music schools in the US. After choosing and studying at Eastman she was destined for a career as a concert pianist. She, however, had a defining moment when her panic attacks started to get the best of her. She also never felt the pull that many performers feel for an adoring audience or a standing ovation. Many performers continue for the ego boost, but she realized that the direction she was heading was not meant to be. What was meant to be, was to bring the pure joy of music, that she felt, to others. As a teacher.

Her approach to teaching is truly organic. As I ate the delicious spicy Mexican soup she had made us for lunch, I listened to her explaining how learning music is not just about the notes and the technique, but the feeling you get from playing. She has been known to tell a student to “go and watch water”. The point being, to teach the lightness and finesse of playing the notes. To mimic the way the water flows and bubbles. “Some kids get it, some don’t”. She went on to say, that teaching young kids comes with a unique opportunity to mold the way they approach playing and practicing. Most would start with the easy stuff and go on from there. She encourages them to start with the most challenging part. That is a difficult thing for anybody to do at any age.

water

The most important thing she tries to instill in her students is that music should come from a place of happiness – not from a place of ego. You could win a hundred music competitions and still not understand the meaning of the music you have played. Some of the best musicians play for the pure love of it. If they are able to make a living doing it, then it really is just icing on the cake. The need for a gold star or, in my case, verification that somebody is reading my blogs and that I am making a difference, is a huge stumbling block for me. She reminded me that perhaps there was somebody out there reading my blog and thinking “wow, that’s exactly how I’m feeling too”. I could be making somebody think a different way or see a different side to something. Maybe I’m just allowing somebody to steal a few minutes from their day, read a story and enjoy the way it makes them feel.  Like a piece of music.

As usual I went into this situation with one idea and came away with a completely different point if view. I started out being envious of my friend’s passion for music and the way that she had been able to take that and use it to teach children and left feeling like maybe, just maybe, I too had a path to follow. An opportunity to catch up and learn about her music career turned into a life lesson for me. Go figure. I left her house feeling inspired, rejuvenated and happy to have reconnected with such a kind and insightful friend. Even if nobody is reading my blog, I am doing what makes me happy. Perhaps I am not “over achieving” but my family is happy too. I need to live my life for the joy and not for the gold star. The Best Thing in Life is just letting things happen the way the universe wants them to happen and enjoying the kismet.

I Made A New Friend Today

group of friends

“I made a new friend today.” A normal thing for a seven year old to come home and say, but what about a fifty year old? As we get a little older it isn’t as easy to meet new people and really connect. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be as open and carefree as a seven year old? This summer I spent a week in the Okanagan with my daughter. Each day we would go to the lake and set up our chairs. She would look around, find somebody close to her size (smaller or bigger didn’t seem to matter) and go and play with them. Sometimes it worked out and the day was spent with her new best friend swimming and building sand castles. Occasionally, it didn’t work out and she would move on to the next small person. So easy and so unassuming.

A few years ago I was having dinner with a group of old friends. Our conversation turned to a women we had all met at a party a few weeks before. She seemed nice and one of us suggested we invite her to our next dinner. At this point one of my girlfriends said “Sure invite her, but I’m not interviewing for any new friends right now”. I didn’t think much of it at the time and we all laughed at her, but it has sort of stuck with me over the years. When you make a statement like that, don’t you close yourself off to so many new experiences, opinions and well, joys? Who’s to say that the person you met at the event you went to last night isn’t going to be your best friend in the next few years and bring a new perspective to your life. New ideas, fresh outlooks and perhaps even another new friend. Sure, they could be a total nut job, but wouldn’t it be better to find out first before you block them on Facebook?

I feel that the best thing to do at this stage in my life when starting a new friendship is to not have too high of an expectation. I know that may sound a bit cynical, but hear me out. I do not expect to have coffee with you every week. I do not expect to chat with you on the phone every day. I do not expect birthdays present or even a card. I don’t expect any of those things from friends I have known for years, or are particularly close to, so why would I expect them of some body I just met? I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to friendships. My friends have pissed me off many times over the years and I’m pretty sure I’ve done the same, but you get over it. In a solid friendship there is no judgment and there is no “Did I offend you”? Of course you did, but that’s okay, we’ll move on.

I met two great women this summer. In my opinion, both are strong, independent women with big hearts. I could see being friends with both of them; for completely different reasons. I also got to know some women who I didn’t know very well, a little better. All of this happened very naturally and easily. Again, there is no expectation that we will swap spit or have slumber parties anytime soon, but could I call them if I needed a friendly chat or some support? Absolutely. How do you know if the person you meet is potential friend material? It’s one thing to be able to carry on a conversation with somebody, but to feel like you could spend the day just hanging out and talking means that you have shared values and interests.

Maybe that’s why it is so easy for our kids to make new friends. They are without judgement. They see only a person who likes what they like and can build a mean sandcastle. The Best Thing in Life would be to open ourselves up like a seven year old and make some new friends. At any age.

Wendy

Not many people would disagree with me when I say that one of The Best Things in Life is a really good massage. The kind that leaves you rejuvenated and yet melting into your car seat on the drive home. The kind you get from a true professional. Just thinking about it is making me want to pick up the phone and make an appointment. You see, I’m lucky enough to have a massage therapist on speed dial. Not because I’m a diva, but because she’s my friend.

Wendy has known since she was in grade 9 that she wanted to be massage therapist. A competitive rower for a prestigious private school, she was always giving her teammates massages after long days on the water. The feeling of satisfaction she got from that, hooked her in. She loved that she was making other people comfortable and easing their achy muscles but most importantly, she was making them happy. If there is one thing in life that Wendy strives for, it is to make others happy, sometimes to her own detriment.

After a year working at a job she didn’t like, she returned to college to get her prerequisite classes and then in 2002 started the three year course to become a registered massage therapist. “Three years of hell” is how she described it. And at the end of those three years came three written Board exams and then a hands on, live exam. Imagine doing an exam with an instructor as your client and three other examiners standing around watching. Holy crap, talk about intimidating. Massage therapy is a physically and mentally demanding job. Many therapist burn out after 5-7 years, I’ve learned.

She passed, of course, got married, moved to the Sunshine Coast and got pregnant. So, sometime things don’t go quite as planned. Anyway, once things got back on track she set up practice in Gibsons and built up a healthy clientele. Another baby later and Wendy and her family found themselves back in North Vancouver. She currently works at a practice in Lynn Valley. “Choosing where you want to work is a lot about being comfortable in your surroundings and finding the right fit with the practice” she told me. What she likes about the practice she works at, is that it is a multi-disciplinary practice. This gives her the opportunity to consult with other experts in physiotherapy, homeopathy and pre-natal, just to name a few.

“Does the line ever get blurred between massage therapist and just plain therapist?” I asked. “Absolutely”. She often gets people on her table in really difficult situations looking for some relief through massage. And they start talking. Without going into any detail, lets just say that Wendy has had some horrific and traumatic things happen to her in her short life. As horrible as that has been, it has given her a certain perspective on life. That perspective allows her to be completely open and honest with her clients, in the hopes that they can use her experiences to help themselves. The expression “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” has never been more evident to me than in my friend Wendy. Her passion is to truly help people and that doesn’t just make her a great massage therapist it makes her an exceptional human being.

Few times in my life have I talked to somebody who really loves what they do. Who honestly enjoys their job. What a concept. But it’s not just that. When we talked about how Wendy’s past effects her work, the conversation, at times, became emotional and difficult, but when Wendy talks about the joy of helping somebody feel better and improve their life through massage therapy, you can hear the sincerity and caring in her voice. There is something unique about the way the she approaches her craft. It’s honest and vulnerable; just like her.

So the best things I see in Wendy? Knowing what your passion in life is, overcoming life changing obstacles and using them as a powerful tool to take that passion to a whole other level.