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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Growing up in 2013.

Wow - What a year 2013 turned out to be! This was the year that I found out who I really am and finally admit to growing old up.

Last year, when my indicators of success were in the red - the money, job security, relationships exploded in a grandiose failing flop - it was really a blessing in disguise. I found my breaking point! (Yes, you can imagine me writing that in a positive excited tone not sarcasm and not negative) Instead of wasting more time on a downward spiral that wasn't beneficial to anybody involved - I had reached ground zero. The free falling had stopped and there was no way dig deeper. I'm sure that without the extreme circumstance I wouldn't have known the following: When you find out how fragile you really are, how your life could end in an instance, and how little or no control of everything and everyone else you have - it was quite clear what the only option was. Focus on yourself and regain control of yourself. The great thing about being on the bottom is that the only way to go is up.

The only things that are in your control are your thoughts, feelings and actions - not much else. Just like you can't force your body to digest that Christmas Turkey dinner without packing on the pounds, you can't command your body to stop growing cancer cells or to stop being intolerant to glucose. I hope that other people don't also have to go through extremes to know, take care of yourself - you're the most important person in your life.

I've had trouble writing this blog post for about a month now, and I think it's because when I write the words growing up, taking responsibility, being self aware and grounded - it sounds like I've mastered it. But in truth, I haven't, I have just started to understand what these words and behaviours really mean. I think the more you think you know, the more there is so much more to learn and understand. It's just like when you start getting the travel bug and make it your life's goal to reach every continent or country, and think you've set foot on quite a few number of places. If you sit back and count, you realize how many places you've yet to make it to and people you haven't met.

All year, I feel that I have all gained all these insights, and yet all year long I continue to make a ton of mistakes. I'm new on this path of self-awareness and the fact that I'm still attempting to write about it, makes me know where I stand, according to Lao Tzu: "Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.”  Although, another quote from him is quite encouraging:

 "Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment."

I take pride in being a connector - in being able to relate to others, read them, pick out their strengths, accept their weaknesses, and set up situations to help them learn or succeed. It's much easier to help solve other people's problems than tackle my own and it's also easier to be rational and focus on truth not emotions when it has to do with other people. My hobbies include reading autobiographies, learning about psychology, loving frameworks of how to classify people through Myers Briggs, Strength Finder and even Numerology. I love trying to understand people's beliefs, religions and political views. I've spent so much time getting to know other people and putting myself in their shoes, and I thought that to be a better connector, I had to continue being a bigger sponge to absorb it all.

However, this year I realized that to become a better connector, I actually need to work on me. When you interact with other people but are not aware of what your own thoughts, feelings and what you're projecting outwards, you can be quite ineffective. A common reoccurring problem for me was that I would immerse myself in other people's emotions and problems, inheriting them as my own. I wouldn't rest until I made their problems go away and we'd both feel good. (That never worked out to well :)  I couldn't distinguish the boundary of what was my own problems/thoughts/feelings and what were others. What a relief it has been - the more I'm getting to know myself, the less I need to inherit other people's problems and actually the more effective I have been at helping and connecting.

Look it up, you'll find a ton of articles about how self-awareness is a key to success, but the funny thing is, unless you're already on the path of self-discovery and self-awareness you glaze over it just like I did.

I've also realized that everyone learns and works through life at their own pace. It's so tempting to turn on the preaching/lecturing mode especially when you see clearly what mistakes someone else is making or about to make. But if I have learned anything, it's that you can't assume anything. The person you see in front of you is complex and ever changing - there may be cycles they're stuck in from childhood or trauma. There may be lessons that they've yet to master. And really, there is no such thing as common sense. Rumi says it best,

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

I've tried and failed this year on multiple occasions to "help" others by dishing out my new found wisdom ;) Of course, it never worked on anybody. So of course, the old proverb was right, "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear". You can't force anybody to change or learn anything, they need to be ready to find their own motivations, or breaking point. Ironically I'm probably writing this to try to reach people who don't yet want to read it.

When I finally realized I needed to change, the right people appeared. It's like you open your eyes to a different subset of stories and resources on your newsfeed and more importantly, you realize that you're not alone. I'm really optimistic about the future, as more and more people become self-aware, the support and resources are definitely there when you need it. It really does take a village to raise a child - and in this day and age all villages are tightly connected across the globe. We benefit as a whole to support each other in our journey to grow up, discover who we are, and contribute our own unique gifts.  The Dalai Lama summarizes it best,

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”

As eventful as 2013 has been. I can't wait for the adventures that 2014 will bring as we keep practicing self-awareness and living authentically.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My one year road-trip

Last year, I felt like I was in that scene from the intro of Mad Men - free falling out of a building. I had $0 in my bank account and unemployed, no plan, had moved back in with my parents, was obese, had diabetes, pre-cancer and depression. I was convinced that I had nothing of value to the world, helpless, a complete failure and thought there was only one plausible ending to the free fall.

It wasn't my time to go though - exactly a year ago, two old friends (I call them Team Doprah - Deepak and Oprah) ended up returning to live in Toronto (one from Mexico and one from Pakistan) and reconnected with me. They showed nothing but love, compassion, imparting wisdom and support through the year. At the same time, I landed a job in which my (seemingly random) experiences are valuable and I get to keep learning and being creative.

I'm unbelievably fortunate for these two lifelines that were given to me last November. They were the pillars that not only let me live through the past 12 months but become the person I am today. And the timing of it all feels like I was thrown a parachute to put on and coached through to landing safely.

So what happened in the past year? There were unfortunate and scary emotions dealing with a near death experience, fears of cancer and implications of not having biological children, went through PTSD and dug through childhood issues, watched with horror at myself burn bridges, repeat cycles and hurt people to make me feel better. But, it wasn't all bad - I was able to spend quality time with friends, learn lots and meet new people. Most importantly, I spent time with myself and became more self aware.

Now - my bank account is no longer at zero, I've got a great career, my own place, overcame diabetes and depression, my health hasn't gotten worse and I've never been happier and at peace. The future still isn't clear, but it definitely looks a few shades brighter. I landed from my free fall on two feet and am now experiencing daily life like everyone else in a metropolitan city.

All I can say is that it's been a really tough yet probably the most fulfilling year in my life. I can't really say I have more control over my health, relationships, career or life. I can't say I've figured out how to resolve all my problems. I can't say I have anything wise to tell you that you don't already know. 

So maybe I'll talk about cars.

Life is like a road trip. You never know who you're sharing the road with and can't control when you get stuck in traffic, when you get pulled over and when exactly you'll arrive. Accidents happen, construction, detours and roadblocks happen. Sometimes traffic jams will happen, and you can either be the jerk that honks uncontrollably or you can take a deep breath and be patient. Sometimes people will cut you off, and you also have the free will to choose how you want to react. The key is that, we aren't ever on the road alone, you have to share the road with others - your actions do affect others around you.

You can't be so focused on the end destination that you forget to enjoy the ride, the rest stops and the loved ones in your car. Right now, what I'm learning is that taking risks to speed and not maintain your car only costs you a lot in gas, fines and more emergency repairs. Sometimes obeying the law and properly pacing yourself on this ride of your life and taking your time to have a comfortable ride may be a better strategy. It also helps to do a bit of planning ahead so that you have a rough idea and budget of what to expect. And when there's a poor car stuck in the middle of the road, pull over and lend a helping hand or give someone a lift - traffic will flow better and you never know how a single act of kindness will affect that person's life

Let me end this by saying thank you - for being part of my road trip and especially for the kindness, patience and support over the past year. I've been driving an old beater car with the check engine light always on and overdue on an emissions test. I've broken down many times, asked you for a lift at inconvenient times, or let me crash for the evening and borrow your car. Then I  honked at you or tried to run you off the road sometimes. And if you were in my car, the music was probably on too loud where I tuned you out instead of listening to your advice. I'm very sorry for my actions. Thanks for not giving up on me.

I also probably ate a ton of McDonalds Big Macs at the rest stops on this road trip rather than salads but that probably just affects me and horrifies my doc ;)

This year has definitely been a memorable ride. I was able to make the money to afford all repairs and tune-ups needed. I cleaned out the trunk and threw away as much junk and garbage I could find. I've even got everything I need in the car to make it a comfortable ride.

So let's see what happens this year on this epic road trip and what we end up doing!

Monday, September 2, 2013

How to survive for 3 nights in NYC with $100

To be honest, I was really proud of myself for planning a long weekend getaway to NYC, getting a day off, booking flights in advanced and even planning out in advanced with my sister what to do and where to eat. This was my first time seeing my sister and step mom where I had a job and money to afford some of the restaurants and shops we would hit.

Then at the last minute, I found myself rushing out of work, packing, cleaning and showing up at the ferry to the airport with 30 min to spare. The ferry took more than 15 min to come, leaving me way too late to check in my luggage packed full of ice wine gifts. I was given an option to check the luggage into the next flight for $150. While deciding, I did scrounge around for my wallet and realized I had left it at home. Double fail. 

There was 1 minute until boarding...I had to think fast...what do I do?

If I got on the next flight I could run home and get the wallet but my family was waiting for me to land for dinner. I couldn't keep the ice wine if I wanted to make my flight and I would also have no money.

Always up for a challenge and a good story to tell. I rolled with it.

So I asked them to contact my friend who works as a flight attendant to see if she could hold it for me until I got back. If they weren't able to arrange something, the poor ice wine would end up in the garbage that evening. I ran through security and rushed right on the plane that was in its last call for boarding. I hurry to send a few last minute texts before I need to turn off my phone - to arrange my ice wine pick up, to tell my sister that she'd have to be my sugar mamma for the weekend and to Facebook to tell the world about my fail :)

When I opened up my passport, I found $100 USD bill. Great, at least I had enough to get myself out of the airport to the hotel.

During the flight, all I could do was grin at my predicament. I had been telling my step sister and her family how stable my life had become over the past year since they'd seen me last. That my simple life was uneventful - just consisted of working out, working and meditating. That my previous poor vegabond hobo life as a food&travel writer and startup junkie was a stark contrast to the life I lead today. But here I was, flying to NYC, practically empty handed and would definitely need a helping hand for the weekend. Why in the world would they believe me :) I had also promised ice wine for the hard work they had recently done for me. My poor ego didn't want to show up empty handed and ask for help.

As an aside, If you're here because you want to get tips on how to get around when you want to visit NYC on the cheap. Your itinerary needs to include walking thru central park and anywhere and everywhere you need to go. If you enjoy window shopping and taking photos in front of Apple stores and with Abercrombie models, that's free too. Also, you can spend whole days at the "suggested price" paying museums (like the MET) and spend hours at the gift shop in both the Museum of Natural History and the MET. Water fountains are abundant and cheap eats like Halal chicken and rice stands can feed you for days. Trader Joes offers cheap healthy tasty groceries and the pop up fruit/veggie stands are pretty affordable too. You can also sit outside of Starbucks for Free WiFi which could pass the day.

But if you think thats all I did this past weekend, you might not know me very well. There may have been a porterhouse steak, sushi, foie gras, a broadway show and shopping involved in my trip :)

What this blog post really is about what I learned this weekend.

1) After my post on FB, I received countless private messages on FB, email, texts and wall posts from friends & acquaintances offering their help or hooking me up with their siblings, coworkers or friends or wiring money if I needed. Even found out that a friend was coming to NYC the next day and could probably bring my wallet. It was amazing and heart warming to see that as long as I had access to FB and a phone, not having my wallet wasn't the worst thing in the world. I'm really truly grateful for the great friends I have.

2) I thought about my friend who just started working for Porter who helped rescue my ice wine gifts. I had met her in school ten years ago in Singapore, saw her in Australia five years ago. She ended up in Japan for years while I was on the west coast and last year we were unemployed together and even found jobs the same week in the same building. You really never could predict where the two of us will be and what we're up to, but by some miracle she now works for my favourite airline :) You just really never know who will stay in your life for a reason, season or lifetime.

3) Mostly, I thought about how lucky I was that I was meeting my sister and stepmother and how they'd probably be the only two people on earth that I knew wouldn't blink an eye in paying for the weekend and not judge me (much). :) How lucky I was to be meeting two people that I love dearly. My sis even brought over a whole bunch of stuff from VN that I asked for for which I didn't bring any money to pay her back. Triple fail. :)

To give you a background, I only got to know my sister in 2011 when I decided to travel through Vietnam and write my book. She was graduating high school at that time and became my best friend and chief editor for my book. It felt like reconnecting with a cooler, smarter, more talented version of me :) Her mother and family showed me such kindness and love that I had never experienced before. Ever since then, I had a real sister and best friend to gossip with, complain to, and share all our happy and sad moments. It's one of the things I'm most grateful for. It's also amazing I had a second mom full of knowledge, wisdom, insight.

It struck me that, if not for my urgent need to write a book about Vietnamese sandwiches, I never would have reconnected with my sister and her mother. Even more significant than that is if not for all the decisions that both our parents made in the past, we wouldn't even be in this situation of scheduling a reunion in NYC and living in the same time zone. Not only that, we share the same love of food and love of life. You can't really pick the cards life deals you, nor do you get the pick your family, but I can't help but be grateful that life let me connect with a second set of family.

What I thought about on my flight home is, money really isn't an indication of wealth and value. What's of value is love. Love and positive friendships and relationships can help you through whatever situation you find yourself in.

You don't get to pick the cards but you do get to choose how to play your hand. Focusing on the money exchanged from hand to hand isn't the point. It's getting to know the other players, having the motivation to step up your game and learning from others and collectively having spent quality time with each other. (Or maybe that's what I tell myself because I'm horrible at poker :)

Its important to recognize when you need help. Once you're willing to accept your vulnerability and ask for help. You realize that nobody is ever truly alone and it's really nice to know that when I need help, there's someone to lend a helping hand.

To make a long story short, I believe in Karma. Open up your place and call it Hotel 2 no matter what country or city you happen to be in. Welcome friends to your couch and let them rest. Treat people with respect and love and once in a while you get a free trip ;) 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Project 2: Dating Myself

In the past few months, I've tried hard to look inwards and get to know myself. This was not so easy or pleasant at times but at other times, it was priceless. And don't get me wrong...I'm still scared I might end up with 9 cats and living by myself for the rest of my life. But I wanted to share some of my learnings.

1) It's scary to become an outcast and not be accepted.
A change in beliefs or diving into self help or spirituality or alternative healing (choosing to take the red pill over the blue pill) is scary is because you may not fit in with your previous social circle and support network. (Read: people might think you've jumped off the deep end of crazy) Usually this fear is just in your mind and it is highly unlikely that people will disown you for having opinions as you learn with curiosity and an open mind. Maybe you have superficial friends who are only there to judge and make themselves feel better. Let's be real now, anybody that likes me because I was "normal" might not really know anything about the real me :) When you change from being available 24/7, ready to jump in to any situation to offer help, and thrive from being an extrovert and crave other people's attention to mostly spending time by yourself and enjoying introvert's a drastic change.  (FYI: this is how to interact with introverts) You may sometimes feel guilty about being so selfish or disappointing people. Take note, anybody that expects you to behave a certain way or demands that you need to change (back) before accepting you, doesn't really deserve a second of your time.

I've learned to do what's important for myself - you're never an outcast if you accept yourself. And it's fine when people feel offended or disappointed at the shift in priority - It gives you more time to spend by yourself or meet new people that have the same interests, awareness and passion as you. It's never a waste of time if you're doing something important to you.

"How you treat yourself sets the standard for how others will treat you" 

2) Someone loves you.
Maybe more than one. Maybe hundreds. But the most important person that needs to love you is yourself. Yes okay laugh :) But I seriously lived for 31 years not knowing this.

I read Dr Eben Alexander's book: Proof of Heaven this month and the thing that resonated with me in it was when he described his near death experience,  he was filled with this knowing that he was loved unconditionally - that there was nothing he has to fear because there was nothing he could do wrong. That was really powerful for me because I feel like not knowing this was the cause of my suffering from a young age :)

I've always struggled with the polar opposites of low self esteem and an inflated ego (that was easily bruised) because I never thought I was good enough. I always tried to do things with an extra bit of over the top effort to prove get feel be accepted. Brene Brown calls this behaviour: Shame. Anyway, it's a big relief to just simply start with the understanding that I'm pretty awesome and unconditionally loved, just the way I am.  I'm not gonna lie; my experiences, my friendships, my career, my travels, my learnings and my stories are awesome and unique and memorable. And once I accepted myself for all my strengths and weaknesses and not just the moments I can show off on Instagram, but the everyday mundane quirks, it's like a big weight was lifted!

When I took this step to essentially date myself, I thought that I was going on this path alone...forever.  Why wouldn't I be? I was: prioritizing myself and my needs before anything else. Doing stuff I wanted to do. Sitting still meditating and getting to know myself. Not making any plans to go out on the weekend. Opting to read rather than chat in the evening. I would take walks by myself on lunch breaks. I even signed up to run, bike and train to walk 60km (which means more time alone!).   Maybe I'm doomed to spend the rest of my years alone. But thank goodness...It seems that the more I prioritize myself, the more pleasant, positive, present and supportive I am around other people. So you can insert your favourite cliche here. Here's a few:
"You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection." – Buddha 
"You cannot be lonely if you like the person you`re alone with." – Wayne Dyer

3) Authenticity earns credibility.
I think that the deeper you know yourself, your limits, your buttons, your wishes, what you prefer, what you dislike, what is in or out of your comfort zone - the easier it is for you to communicate authentically (which is Sheryls Sandberg's message to the Harvard graduating class) I had recently attended a career development workshop on Strengths Finder and figuring out how your strengths fit in with your situations in: current job, career ambitions and relationships. Someone asked, "What if I'm a completely different person outside work and I use completely different strengths in my own projects, volunteer work and personal life? What if I can't be myself at work?" The instructor answered that perhaps, you don't get to use any of your core strengths at work and make up for it in other outlets. But that you may be happier when you find that you can use your strengths in all aspects of your life, including work.

I also used to make the mistake of thinking that what you do personally has nothing to do with how you are at work. Realistcally, we all have just one body/mind and how in the world can you be two different people by day and by night? It's kind of like thinking that something that's happening in your heart is not related to your stomach or your feet or your can you isolate and treat just one specific ailment without any regard for the rest of the body?

Anyway, I digress. I'm just saying that once you know yourself, and are comfortable being yourself, the rest happens automagically. People can see right through any facades of yours anyway. Authenticity earns credibility and trust. And also, I think the younger and younger generations have a better BS filter and won't accept anything but authenticity.

Communicating authentically at work as well as outside of work is definitely my work in progress with lots of positive results so far.

To summarize my learnings, I think what I'm trying to share is my new definition of beauty. When I see it, I'm in awe...move over hunks with six packs, cut arms, chiseled jaws, and dimples.  True beauty is being comfortable in your own skin. I went to a hippie music festival this past weekend and realized one thing everyone there had in common. They were comfortable and happy in their own skin - dressing the way they wanted, dancing however their body wanted to move and speaking their mind. It was really amazing to be immersed in true beauty, if only for a few days.

Through my new lens, everybody has the potential to be beautiful. Do you know how easy on the eyes and mind this is? An added bonus is when you get jealous of someone because of their beauty, you can actually do something about it that doesn't require plastic surgery - start getting to know yourself and start loving yourself. Yeah, I know it's easier said than done. I can't even offer any advice on how you start this journey except maybe take on the challenge to date yourself. I can just say for myself, these are the lessons I needed to learn to not only survive but improve the quality of my life.

PS. Oh wow...when did I become a hippie!?!?!?!? 
PPS. Yes, I'm still dating myself but don't currently own any cats.

Friday, June 28, 2013

How to live a good life

Unfortunately an old friend from University passed away in an accident this week. Thanh is one of the nicest guys I've ever met in my life - he was always positive and accepted you just the way you are. You could always count on him to have a big smile or make you laugh. I always thought he was a special and an anomaly - an unlimited source of positive energy and warm light and it's so unfortunate to hear of his sudden passing. Even when we'd lost touch after school ended, we resumed our BBM chats exactly where we left off. I can only hope that he was needed elsewhere urgently...that maybe he's served his purpose and graduated early to heaven.

I always felt that he was wise beyond his years. And I was right. There was this quote today at his visitation:

What a guy, Thanh and his family just provided the single most important parting gift, a special recipe to show me how to live a good fulfilling life.

You always have a choice in every situation, in every moment:
  • to live a life inspired by love or fear 
  • guided by faith & integrity or doubt & dishonesty
  • motivated by loved ones or self preservation or money or materialism
  • advance through knowledge & wisdom or hearsay & ignorance
  • have a positive or negative attitude. 
It's really amazing he always made an unwavering decision to live a good life. He really aced the life test with flying colours and finished early. I feel grateful to have seen someone personally living this recipe of life and it really is a beautiful thing to see the positive impact he's been as the glue for the KW Vietnamese community and world.

His untimely death has really pushed me to really truly accept how important it is to live and cherish every moment. You really can't tell what will happen tomorrow or next week or next year so focus on making the most of right now and stop fretting about the past and the future.

Thank you Thanh, may you rest in peace and best of luck in your next mission.

PS. Sigh, looking at our friendship on Facebook, you never missed a beat wishing me a happy birthday every year, supporting whatever cause I was passionate about. You'll be truly missed Thanh.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

You don't have to find out you're dying to start living

I woke up today to a video shared on Facebook which resulted in 20 min of tears. It's a last days documentary on special boy name Zach Sobiech who just passed away yesterday after a fight with Osteosarcoma.

He really hit home on a few things I've been learning recently. I really like how clear his thoughts were for this documentary and for how he lived out his last days.

He starts off saying that we all think we're invincible, but not the superman kind of invincible, but "invincible like - I'll see you in 5 months".   Then realizing, that some of the plans you have, "it turns out, that sometimes you can't do that." That the only moment you have is right now and that you really need to live this moment to the fullest. And it isn't about the destination, it's about the journey. Maybe there isn't a final destination afterall.

It's really true when you are pushed to your limits and know for certain that your time is numbered, the unimportant issues and distractions float away and what you're left with what's important to you. He  eloquently summarized what the purpose of life is:
"It's really simple actually, it's just try to make people happy. Maybe you have to learn it with time or maybe you have to learn it the hard way. But as long as you learn it, you're going to make the world a better place."
I've been really lucky that I've not been diagnosed with a terminal condition but have been battling diabetes and cancer. The hardest lesson for me on how to cope was accepting that you can't control anything except the present moment. Tomorrow, next week, next year, death, after death are all unknowns and that's okay - it doesn't mean we have to be scared of it or spend this moment fretting about it or resolving to do nothing because the end result will be the same. I'd say my biggest fear in life has been uncertainty - I've always been driven to stack the odds in my favour and "predict the future". I've even opted to rig my own demise and failure for at least I'd get a certain outcome instead of embracing the unknown. It's a pretty silly endeavour when you actually recognize it. Zach addressed it at the end of his documentary:
"Death is just another thing on the agenda. You're scared because you don't know what's next or if there is a next. So it's kinda like sitting in the dark so you can either choose to be freaking out or you can relax and fall asleep"
That's the thing, really looking inwards to knowing and accepting yourself (all the strengths and weaknesses and quirks and embarrassing things) is probably how I dug myself out of a deep dark hole.
When you do listen to yourself - your body, mind, soul - will tell you what it needs at this very moment. I gotta say I'm still learning this - and in a few rare moments when I'm able to get rid of the noise of everyday life and try and listen to myself and what's important to me, the answers that come back are always insightful.

What I really have come to realize extends Zach's advice, is that the best gift you can give yourself and the world is to be fully present and acknowledge yourself and other people. I had gone to an Oprah talk last month and she said, that the universal question of every one of her 30,000 guests on the show was, "How did I do?" Everyone wants to know:
"Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?"
So to make people happy, you have to truly mean it when you give someone this validation: Yes you are important to me. And at the end of the day I'd dare to say that this is the universal tried and tested gift that keeps on giving.

I bet Zach didn't realize when he expressed himself through his music on YouTube and shared his story through Soulpancake he would inspire the whole world (at least 3 million and counting).

Even though there are so many negative connotations of the hyper connected Internet we have today: creating a space for internet witch hunt for wrong suspects, social media addictions where people share only glamourous moments that will generate likes rather than authentic moments (guilty as charged of food photos), and the mass spending time making Harlem Shake parodies, I can't help but think about one of the positive things: the ability for Zach's story to reach the world. Think about it, this video has the ability to trigger tears with almost every human being around the world and get each person to reflect on whats really important to themselves and how they can relate to Zach. With this video that we can play on repeat daily, we have a reminder that you don't have to find out that you're dying to start living.

My creative outlet has been in my writing. And the support that you've (yes you, reading this :) given me has been tremendous and helpful. I'm truly grateful to take this opportunity to tell you that against all odds, I've reversed the complex atypia hyperplasia growth in me and have now reduced my chances of cancer from 30% to less than 1%.

It's a blessing to have reversed diabetes and cancer within this past year and you'd think it makes me more aware of every moment and live each like its my last. It would make this blog have such a happy ending :) However...I'm finding that I forget! We all still have to experience daily life and interactions and stresses which could slightly cloud and derail our focus from only the important things. And I try and remember not to be so hard on myself that I forget or fall off the wagon every now and then and just try and hop back on. I find that surrounding myself with a loving support network and reading books from Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra has really helped me get back on the right path.

Stories like Zach's today serve as a good reminder to remember that we don't need a crisis to know what's important. Zach, may you rest in peace, I'm really grateful that I got a glimpse of your light.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Fighting for my life

fighting  present participle of fight (Verb)

  1. Take part in a violent struggle involving the exchange of physical blows or the use of weapons.
  2. Engage in (a war or battle).

So today was a perfect Saturday - started the day bright and early reading, working out, cooking and spending time with loved ones. I even got to go for a stroll in my neighbourhood along the waterfront and end the day with an epsom salt bath. It was a peaceful day that reminded me that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. And how different things were only a few short months ago.

I know what you're thinking - there's no point during today's day that was violent or involved physical blows or use of weapons. Thu, why are you wasting my precious attention span making me jealous of your relaxing day? Where's the fighting? Get to the point.

Ok, please read on :)

Six months ago, I was a mess. Obese, Diabetic, Depressed, Excessive Drug/Alcohol use, Broke, Unemployed, Angry and Lost. I was in a dark place and it was a spiralling mess that I didn't know how to get out of. My body had taken a beating from my actions over the past ten years and reacted in all ways to tell me that it wasn't going to tolerate anything else. (Diabetes, severe Menorrhagia and Endometrial Hyperplasia though I didn't know any of it at the time). I had walked the line with health years ago but my rocky unstable life as an entrepreneur in the past three years really didn't help my health in any way.  Thinking about this phase of my life still brings me to tears.

It all changed when I met a friend who had it worse than me. He introduced me to this concept of there's nothing that's definitively good or bad which really went against my lifelong hedonist view - that I valued and searched for pleasure (delicious food, laughs and fun) because I thought that was what was intrinsically good. Suffering and pain and happiness and love all happens; it's not good or bad. You need one to appreciate the other and that you just have to accept both. He became my teacher, guide and confidant as we worked on a mini project together. He introduced me to Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer and this whole world of self help, self awareness that I used to dismiss and scoff at.

By chance, he accompanied me one day to meet a random acquaintance from school who became a Naturopath and had just returned from Pakistan to set up her practice here. Having only been introduced to spirituality recently my mind was blown as the conversation spanned spiritual and supernatural experiences and learnings that they both had in their worldly travels. It was the first candid conversation where I was assured that reincarnation is true, that there was a shared field of consciousness in the universe, and that pharmaceutical drugs were not the only way to treat ailments. She became my doctor shortly after.

About the same time I landed my dream job combining all the skills and experiences I've ever had plus my interests. Funny enough, Deepak Chopra ran a 21 day meditation challenge that started on my first day of work and ended on my birthday. I had never meditated before and the theme was Creating Abundance - the timing couldn't have been more perfect.

What I had written off as random events I later learned was called Synchrodestiny - that the universe heard my cry for help and sent me a teacher and healer that I desperately needed as my guides and a career path that allowed me to support myself and afford the healing that I needed. My guardians were my triangle of support and love - and we called ourselves Team Doprah. This has been instrumental to the past six months of transformation.

Funny how things work out - the second 21-day meditation challenge with Oprah and Deepak called Perfect Health started the weekend that my gynecologist recommended a hysterectomy based on the results of my biopsies. It's been a struggle to come to terms with the risks I'm dealing with and the fate that could be mine. On the positive side, the timing couldn't be any better as each day's meditation is showing me that I'm taking steps in the right direction (or somehow my naturopath has been conversing with Oprah and Deepak what lessons to focus my attention on everyday :)

Right now I am in an all out war and fight for my life. I'm trying to break the cycles of bad habits and self abuse and disconnect between my mind and body as I dig deep and understand myself. My motivation is to get rid of diabetes and cancer for good. I really don't think I should pass away before my parents or grandparents. I absolutely love life and everything it has to offer - it's not time to go yet. I'm going to give it my best shot, trying to not have attachment to the outcome - just making sure that I make the best of every waking moment.

I now realize it, that unlike buying cars, you only get one body as a vehicle in this lifetime. There's no trade-in, there's no leaving it at the junk yard after it gets totalled to buy a brand new one. Your body gets manufactured in your mother and you keep the same one your entire life. The good news is, as I've recently learned, that each organ and cell in your body does regenerate and grow and have its ways of healing (if you cooperate), so you do get facelifts and repairs as time goes on - but at the core of it, you can't trade in your body for another. So treasure it - like a temple that holds your spirit. Without a healthy body, it's like a broken car that can't really take you anywhere that your mind and spirit want to go nor safely give any passengers a lift to where they need to go. The only person you can transform is yourself.

I wanted to describe my day to show you that fighting doesn't have to be painful or violent. It's carving out time to yourself to do what is most important to your mind and body. Easter and the start of spring, to me, signify transformation and I'm grateful to say the least about the turn of events.

I'm grateful for all the support so far for my fight. Thank you for continuing to read my long posts and giving me such unconditional love and support. It's become clearer to me that the only reason I've survived this long is because of my strong supportive relationships, as Deepak and Oprah spoke about this week:
We are social creatures, who thrive in community. Connecting with one another allows us to express our most heartfelt hopes and dreams and be of service to one another. Our supportive relationships enhance the positive messages we send our bodies each day and invite better health and wellbeing into our lives. Take a moment to be grateful for the many individuals who contribute to your life and in whose lives you make a difference.
What has transpired and still unfolding can't be captured in just one blog post but at least it's a start. It's great that in this upcoming month, both Deepak Chopra and Oprah are coming to Toronto. I'm tempted to use the word random and luck - but I know there's no such thing. I don't think they know how significant their meditation challenge has had on my transformation hope to have an opportunity to thank them in person. This time I'm hoping the universe reads blogs ;)


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Milestone Accomplished: Goodbye Diabetes!

So, it happened - back in November, my blood test absolutely confirmed that I had slipped deeply from pre-diabetes from years ago to full on diabetes. To me, it was upsetting that I had been given warning years ago that I was teetering on being insulin resistant and now I landed smack in the thick of trouble - having gained back significant weight and adopting a very unhealthy lifestyle. When the doctor told me the news, he then proceeded to tell me to eat less sugar, to eat whole wheat and to cut down on the sugar in the coffee. He then proceeded to tell me..."Well dear, if these rules are too hard to remember...let me prescribe some pills and then you can eat whatever you'd like. You also need to get a machine to prick your finger. Get used to it, diabetes is for life."

The words really struck a chord with me. It wasn't one of grief or sadness that I had a chronic disease. It was of anger at the doctor in front of me. Luckily I've been trying all kinds of diets and reading all about diabetes for the past 4 years....enough to know that without a doubt, diabetes can be reversed with diligent healthy eating, working out and adequate sleep. No it's definitely not easy to change your routine...but it is possible. And here, was a M.D. telling me not to worry, I can keep doing whatever I was doing as long as I took Metformin and monitor my blood sugar everyday. Lucky me, for a brief moment I considered what a great blessing that was, to be able to eat McDonalds everyday with a pill...well I guess until I had heart problems or developed cancer or died early. On second thought...what is behind door #2?

After politely ignoring these prescriptions, I proceeded to improve my life. First is understanding exactly the problem and involving the right people to help me understand the root causes. There were so many things wrong with me cumulatively, I didn't know where to start so I tried out multiple things. I started going to Good Life Fitness classes almost everyday and getting friends to go along. I started understanding myself holistically with the help of my awesome N.D. I started cooking. I started self reflecting and working through all skeletons in my closet. I stopped smoking. I stopped drinking. I started spending time with myself, listening to myself for guidance on what would cure me. I started doing what was important for me. I started living my life.

I was determined that diabetes as a chronic lifetime disease was complete bullsh*t. When I talked to other diabetics on Metformin (while watching them eat big bowls of carbs) they told me, don't be silly and hopeful, diabetes can't be cured - it made my blood boil. And even gave me more determination.

Just sit here and wait til diabetes makes me go blind or lose limbs one day?  No thank you. You know, if the current trends continue, 1 in 3 US adults will have diabetes by 2050 (and exactly the same trend in Canada). A person with diabetes has about twice the risk of dying on any given day as a person of similar age without diabetes. Lovely. Think about that for a second. Let's assume you're the most antisocial person in the world, and you could count on your fingers how many people you knew and cared about. Yes you probably care about at least 2 people...and one of you will have diabetes...for life.

Count me out.

Another lovely doctor kept writing prescriptions for Metformin and called me stupid for being so idealistic. Apparently my body was past the point of normal and that its broken, it needed drugs to regulate the sugar. Nice try.

So okay don't get me wrong, if I was diagnosed later in life where I wasn't able to go to the gym at least 3 times a week and walk and run. Ok sure, maybe some drugs will help as a last resort. But going to the gym classes are fun! And physical activity actually uses some of that energy from all the fat that you're carrying around. Our body wants to survive and has so many built in mechanisms to heal. Why not make use of it? And yes, I'm just talking about Type 2 Diabetes - the resistance to insulin. Not being able to make insulin (Type 1) requires drugs.

Anyway, 3 months later, I took another blood test. Guess what?
My fasting blood sugar is normal. It's not even close to pre-diabetes. Yes, you heard right, I don't have diabetes! 

Thank goodness :) Now the next milestone is staying in the clear for a year. then two, then three. A little stubbornness, listening to your gut...and most importantly following through are keys to success. Having a supportive community around you helps as well.

But I'm not gonna lie, the most important part of reversing health problems is to be completely open and honest with yourself - to dig deep and find the real root problems, truly listen, learn all you can,...then set clear, measurable goals to dig yourself out of the mess and stick to them. Be humble, this means admitting that you really f*ked up and made some bad choices in the past. It's okay, it's not too late to start over. Forgive yourself. I'm a firm believer that if you don't attack and resolve the root problems, those problems will come back and attack your body in multiple any time. My focus has been and continues to be my health and peace of mind. Nothing else really matters. And gosh, the positive reinforcement that the recent blood test has given me is great.

Which chronic disease or terminal illness or virus will I have to fight next? Hopefully they take the hint and forfeit soon. Between my Paleo recipes and new juicer in my kitchen I'm ready to fight for my life.

And genuinely, friends, Thank You for your support!

Update: I found this article which echos my opinions:

Experts hesitate to talk about "curing" diabetes, given the medical complications it can cause that will require lifelong monitoring. But the American Diabetes Association says that maintaining normal blood sugar without medication for at least a year could be considered a "complete remission."

It's not a message you hear very often if your information about type 2 diabetes comes mainly from TV commercials for the devices and medications used to manage the disease. Diabetes is a big business, worth tens of billions of dollars to the health care system and the pharmaceutical companies that hold the patents on those devices and medications.

Another reason you don't hear about remission is it takes a great deal of effort. Even the health care system seems content to prescribe complex lifelong treatment regimens instead of equipping people with the tools they need to effectively manage type 2 diabetes, possibly reverse the disease or, best of all, avoid it completely.
Don't be fooled: Diabetes kills. And maims. This year alone it will kill 3.2 million people worldwide. It's the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. As many as 80 percent of people with diabetes will die from heart attack or stroke. Half will likely experience damage to the nerves in their limbs. Diabetic foot disease, caused by changes in blood vessels and nerves, often leads to ulceration and eventual amputation. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower-limb amputation. Ditto for kidney failure. One of every 50 people with diabetes will become blind within 15 years.
"It starts with nutrition," said Spollett.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


I've never been one to care about material possession - I lived out of my suitcase over the past few years. I've always thought I could just survive with the bare essentials. And yes, I did survive...but why just aim to survive? My new aim is to build a strong foundation to be able to make a difference. To be able to help others reach their goals. It's funny, the paradox that I've been grasping, is that in order to help others, you need to help yourself first. So that's what I'm doing right now, helping my physical body get into tip top shape, feeding my mind of challenges and learning new things, and helping my soul build its spirituality and tap into higher consciousness.

I know that when I did Deepak Chopras 21 day abundance meditation in November, I didn't even know what abundance was (nor did I know how to meditate). I thought it was a bad thing - to have more than you need. I am not sure where I learned to associate abundance to selfish hoarding of stuff but thats what I truly thought. Deepak showed me that abundance is to be, do and have a life filled with love, joy. harmony, peace, health and vitality. And I also learned that abundance is not something that ever runs out...that everyone has the opportunity to create their own abundance (from an unlimited source). Abundance isn't a bad thing. It's truly knowing what you need, and getting it. And now when I look back at the past few months and the goals I had set for myself, I'm really living it.

As I look around, a Tchaikovsky symphony is playing on my TV...beautiful pots and pans hang in my kitchen on the new shelf I installed...and my view is of the CN Tower as I type on my thin macbook air. I'm in my pajamas with the heat blasted and smells of my italian wedding quinoa soup I made for the week is fading away replaced with my vanilla scented candles.

In a blink of an eye it seems...just over the past few months that I decided that the best thing to do for myself is to live on my own...I've accumulated stuff and did just that. Thank goodness for my generous friends who gave me furniture and helped me move in and get settled. And thank goodness I've been a pack rat - saving beautiful pictures of my past lives and loved ones and mementos to scatter all around my place.

And you know what, every single item in here I'm truly grateful for. I mean...I think if a hurricane were to come or a thief to take any of this really would suck. But considering that it took me only a few months to move into a home with nothing...I will always remember that starting from scratch again...won't be that bad.

I feel comfortable. Everywhere I look triggers a great memory. I feel motivated here to see the perks of stability and plugging into the abundance bubble that is Toronto. Never have I felt at home and want to spend time at home before.

I feel lucky. And you know what? This time it's well deserved.

I still get nightmares of last year or moments in my life where I was completely lost, not knowing what was in store the next day. How I was going to afford life. What I was going to do to make a living. How to stop sleeping on other people's couches. Not knowing if I was going to bleed to death when I went to sleep. Waking up tired or having crazy migraines. If my health would ever allow me to have a family of my own. If it allowed me to live another day. Who I was going to trust not to steal from me. Survival has some interesting challenges but in general its not a fun game. It's no longer a game I want to play. I know, it's true that life is a game. And you really never know when the game is over, it still could be tomorrow or next week or next year or later. Make every moment count. And fill it with abundance.

And really, whats helped me, is to realize that it is in the world's (aka the universe's) (aka everybody's) benefit for you to be a productive member of society and that you have to be the one who wants to take care of yourself. Everybody and everything around you will do anything in their power to help you get where you need to be, standing on two feet. On most days, it's easy to focus on the bad and selfish things that people do to each other. I dare say that it's part of human nature to want to help someone suffering or struggling. That thought alone makes me smile. Because at the core of it, we do want each other to live in abundance.

Now that I'm living in abundance ... I gotta say its not bad.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Letting Go

I can't seem to sleep so I figured I'd write something. I've been starting blog posts but never able to finish them lately - unsure if it's because I lose interest before typing out a thought. Anyway, let's try again!

I feel the theme and lesson I'm grasping now is to stop forcing my will or expectations onto a situation for a desired outcome and being disappointed afterwards. The lesson was really clear last week in improv class where I saw first hand what happens when two people are on the stage and the conversations always lead down a very random/funny/awesome path only if the two people actively listen and support the other person, not steering the conversation their way or disagreeing. It sounds easier than it actually is. Only through this I realize how much of a control freak I am :) But not only me but most people in my improv class struggled with this. When you're put in the spotlight with a very vague subject suggested, the default instinctive way to "succeed" is to plan out your train of thought in your head of how to drive the conversation. However, since both of you are instinctively following the same strategy, you get into a mess if you aren't both on the same page off the bat, each trying to derail the other person and go back to their own train of thought. So ironically, the best way to succeed in improv...and perhaps to actively pay attention to the moment, and decide to work together and support each other, in other words, letting go.

For example, we did an exercise called "Yes and...". Try it out with your partner. Say a sentence, your partner will HAVE to respond with "Yes and..." Not "Yes but" or "Yes, and I don't agree", And you're not allowed to resort to asking questions so that your partner can respond with yes...and any other questions doesn't make much sense to respond with yes. Try and have a 2 minute conversation like this. You'll see quickly how many times you want to say But...or No. Then try again :) My conversation went from houdini to rabbits procreating to reincarnation when I finally learned to let go.

I think the reason why I never understood this lesson before was that I thought Letting Go meant giving up. That you are lazy, not going to try and leaving everything to fate...that you've thrown in the towel. Letting Go simply means, you don't attach yourself to the results. You still have to work really hard. You still have to focus. You still have to learn and improve. You still have to know yourself. You still have to share. Things just might not turn out exactly like you pictured in your head.

I think something else that's valuable to really allow me to start Letting that I've been through the worst possible scenarios I've ever imagined. Failure, or what I perceived as failure: things not going my way, people not acting the way I wanted them...really hasn't been that bad. Well okay the feelings of disappointment really do suck. far, there hasn't been anything that has killed me or completely destroyed me that I couldn't bounce back from. Hitting rock bottom teaches you one thing - that you know how to get back up on two feet. I have the confidence that I can try and play whatever hand I get dealt. This helps detach from expecting a certain outcome.

Know the other benefit of being able to let go? So much time goes into worrying and anxiety and stress over things you can't control. You really do free up a lot of time when you just do your best and let the cards fall as they will. You actually get time to enjoy the moment instead of worrying about the next moment.

Especially in a beginners improv class, you realize, that everybody is funny or quirky in their own way. The more genuine, relaxed and themselves they are - the better. The more in the moment you are and able to let go and participate in the current topic, you end up enjoying that you have no idea where the conversation will lead. And not knowing where it'll end up is perfectly okay because everyone else is as interested (and laughing) and supportive of the same discovery process.

I'm now convinced its all about the journey not the destination.