Autumn, day 41. One boring post.

Friday morning I’m wide awake in the middle of the night thinking about all of the changes that hopefully will happen over the next few months. Snow has arrived and yesterday was the first day this season that I started the morning in the dark.

I worked hard Thursday and felt like I got nothing accomplished whatsoever. The same piles were on the desk at the end of the day as at the start of the day.  So what did I do?

  1. I wrote a newsletter to all of the customers of Sunworks and let them know that we would be having a two week clearance sale. Then, Terry and I worked with Kathryn for a bit to hang up the clearance banner and decide on the discounts to apply to everything in the store.
  2. I met a friend for coffee and offered encouragement as they find stability after some very troubling times.
  3. I set up a time to work with the realtor about the sale of the building.  That is moving so slowly. I’d just like it to be done already.
  4. We had our wrap up meeting with our new insurance broker and signed the documents to consolidate the nearly 10 policies that we have. It will save us literally thousands of dollars. Some of the policies were reduced by over half. That felt like it was a piece of work that is finally coming to a close. As I think about it, it may be the highlight of the day. The feeling of having something completed, organised, and back on track.
  5. I chatted with a possible tenant for the book room at the back of Sunworks.
  6. Oh yes, I spent a couple of hours downtown today at the media event for the RCMP. They launched a new downtown initiative with a dedicated downtown unit. I really think that will be help and I’m glad that City Council supported this change. It’s long overdue.
  7. And I guess it was the first of the month, so there was endless banking and accounting that needed to be done. Not very fun tasks to be sure.

That was Thursday in a nutshell. The task list that I wrote at the beginning of the day had only a couple of these things completed. Although the day was full of the stress of unaccomplished and urgent tasks, I handled it rather well I think. I admit that I’m concerned about the darkness and all the changes that will happen during the winter months which are just arriving. Friday, was spent almost in its entirety working on the back log of accounting and paper work, which seems never ending but surely I’m starting to make headway.

And, one last thing today. I really want to write things that are useful and inspiring here and feel like most of the posts fail to inspire. As always though, there is a spot for comments below, and also to subscribe to updates.

Autumn, day 40. The aesthetics of identity and living.

My time away was really beautiful and I made some good personal progress. I’d committed to some self care, and so travelled free-form with few plans. My friends put absolutely no pressure on me to plan too far in advance. Patty and I went to Thermea spa and relaxed on Monday evening. Some time to chat with Patty is always engaging and inspiring, and thought provoking.  We were both a little tired and so didn’t make any major decisions in the if-we-were-in-charge-of-the-world sort of way. Lots of silent and reflective moments.

Jenny’s quitter’s party on Tuesday night was lovely. Just the right amount of speeches, food, and laughs. It was good to see some of my political mentors and friends. I met friends for late breakfast or lunch each of the three days away, and in-between-times walked around the city and sat in my flat at Alt hotel reading a novel – which I finished on the way back. I didn’t desire drinks while I was there, although I did have some wonderful repasado, there were no runaways or hangovers. This trip was very good for my soul and body. A nice balanced time alone, with old friends, and some new friends. Thinking, walking, reading, playing.

This time away gave me time to think, but not about the things that I planned on thinking about. I had thought I would work on the projects from home. Do some business writing required for bank proposals, leasing arrangements etc. Instead, I spent quite a lot of time thinking about a book that’s been rattling around in my head for years trying to get out.

Over lunch with Jenny on Monday a lot of my thoughts spilled out onto the table between us. I suppose as we both make major decisions about the future of our lives the conversation flowed easily. My thinking over the past couple of decades about identity and societal change seemed clear and it was fun to explore concepts using the things on the table in front of us – glasses, water jug, bottles.

Later, in a text conversation with my friend Alan, I roughed out some chapter ideas and some thoughts about about the content. This month, I’ve been challenged to write 50,000 words this month by Kathryn but I’ve decided that this may be too much additional pressure given all else that I need to accomplish in this season of communication and change. Last night however, Fran, another colleague, mentioned that she’s appreciating these posts and suggested that I lift some of things that I’m writing here for the book. I’m not sure there is anything useful so far… but I could write some of the chapter ideas here over the next month, and perhaps that will help me begin to get the concept onto paper.

A working title: The aesthetics of identity and living. It may be a framework for personal, organisational, and societal change that helps us understand who we are and how we can gently transform ourselves and the world around us.

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Autumn, day 37. Hoping for a future sighting.

I’ve left town for a couple of days to see a friend quit in Winnipeg after 20 years on their City Council.  I can only imagine the questions that they have about the future.  I was only on Red Deer City Council for seven years and still the chaos that I’m dealling with is incredible.  As I said, I had no idea the amount of life that had been put on hold.  Let me also say that the experience was worth it.  I met some of the most lovely and beautiful friends that life has to offer.  I also came face to face with the darkness of society, and our different ways of being in the world.

I’m glad to be here in Winnipeg to celebrate a change, life after politics, but also because it gives me a chance to sit and reflect on my own future.  

While I’m here I’m hoping to experience a ‘future sighting.’  This is a glimpse of oneself in the future, doing and being.  Almost like a guide that beckons you to come hither and enjoy. 

Here’s the draft of the question that I’m playing with:

Here’s the draft of the first question that I’m going to work with.

Dear past self,

It’s February 2020, and I wake up today, look around with awe on all that has changed since Autumn of 2018 when I made those brave decisions to make positive changes in my life which would take me toward the future I enjoy now.

Let me tell you about my life now after all that the end of a wild decade, and the truly creative and forward looking effort that brought me to this new place.  In this letter I’ll tell you where I live, what it’s like here, who’s around me, what new interests that I’ve discovered, how my soul feels and what it means to be me in the world now.

I’ll share how I made sense of the journey that brought me to this place where change was needed and became possible…

With love and admiration for the work you are doing and are about to embark on.  

— Future self.

In my meditations and wanderings this week, and as I explore future possibilities,  I hope that this future self will call to me and help guide me past my fears toward better times.

Autumn, day 35. The magic and chaos of life changing decisions in relationships.

Let’s start with my anxiety levels.  Interestingly enough they have been up and down for the past few days but I haven’t hit many debilitating patches that have forced me to make evasive manoeuvres.

After we made the decision to sell the Sunworks building, and to turn over the operations of our other businesses, everything is in a state of flux.  We suspected this would happen, and perhaps this is why we’ve put off the decision until now.  

We are entertaining new business arrangements with some folks that want to move to our location, all of whom we believe will benefit the existing businesses and add new life to the street.  We’re very excited about these connections.  I wish we could say more but until things are formally known, and it’s time for them to announce their plans, we will work to find the right match for the street and the neighbours — for the benefit of all of downtown.

We’ve hired a realtor and he is working on the valuation and listing.  More will be known next week.  What feels certain at the moment is Sunworks will move to the Metropolitan Block.  This will be a fresh start for us.  We’ll focus on product and services that you just can’t, or don’t want to, buy online.  We are thinking about the move in January/February.  This will depend on the work our realtor does and the decisions of new tenants.

It’s a crazy activity for the dead of winter.  Yikes.  I’ll need a warm break after that for sure.  Thailand or Greece perhaps.  Hmmm.

My goal at this point is to do a little every day to keep all of the changes moving in the right direction and to quickly address any issues that arise as a result of our decisions — course correcting will be needed… as well as communicating as best we can through the entire transition.

I may have mentioned this before… the strange part about the anxiety I face is, if at the beginning of the day I have energy, I don’t know when it will run out and when I’ll want to hide under a rock.  In the past couple of weeks that’s sometimes been a few minutes, or a few hours, or a couple days.  It’s a mystery, and I’ve noticed that any emotional turmoil sinks me quickly.

As a result, I’ve closed my complaint department.  I chatted with Roman this week about the nature of complaining.  He suggested that complaining could be purposeful and involve action, perhaps even be healthy.  I really am not sure.

I used to be a positive person, and want that back.  I used to believe in humanity and want to believe in goodness again.  Part of that for me is to stop my own complaining, letting my bitterness go, and embracing some new possibilities.  These changes and decisions may be part of that.

I’m not sure what complaining is but I feel badly when it’s coming from me, and when I’m hearing it from others.  There has to be a time and place to be critical without being toxic.  Since what we say alters our relationships, and as a result our own identities, it’s important that what we choose to engage with strengthens what is good and hopeful.  How to distinguish complaining may come down to tone, and motive — why are we saying something, and how are are saying it.

To those of you that did very nice things for me this week, hugged me, said hello, shared your support and encouragement, invited me ahead in the grocer’s queue — thank you.

I continue to share this journey with you this autumn, in as brave a way as I can muster, with the hope that I might find a way to connect with you in a real way, and that you might find ways to connect with the world as well even as it faces more fierce chaos.  It’s not my best, shining self, that I share, all polished-up and glistening.   Instead it’s a journey, that I as a middle-aged human, of a certain background, with a certain set of relationships, undertake in which I try to figure out how to get to my preferred future — hopefully I can do this by shifting my relationships with friends, colleagues, ideas, places, and things.

Autumn, day 32. Growing clarity.

It’s hump day and I’m up early.  I lay in bed at 5 a.m. this morning thinking about the day and how difficult it is to overcome habits (or maybe addictions in this case).  I really wanted to flip on the news, check my iPhone, etc.   You’ll perhaps recall a post at the beginning of this season where I am attempting to shut my phone off at night, then in the morning, do my planning and morning tasks before checking the news, or email, or bank accounts etc.  It’s hard to change this.  As, I’ve said before, once I engage with the world outside then it’s really difficult for me to have clarity on what needs to be done during the day, and to prioritize the right things.  My dreams were forward looking last night, no scary monsters.  When I woke this morning I had that feeling of being able to accomplish the day well.

I stuck to my guns this morning, left the phone and news off, did my planning and prioritization.  Three pages of tasks today.  Yikes.  I’m going to have to be very efficient and organized… and also know that I probably won’t get through everything.   I’m feeling good today.  My anxiety levels are lower than they were a week ago, and I feel like I’m making progress toward the goals Terry and I have set to divest and start a new chapter in our lives together.

Yesterday a friend shared news that they had that takes them toward their goals, perhaps in a dramatic way.  The conversation we had strengthened my own resolve to carry on the path we’ve chosen.  I feel inspired.

Yesterday I also met with the, soon to be, realtor and the leasing agent for the Sunworks building.  Soon the building will be on the market.  He offered great advice and helped me find clarity in our decision.  It’s looking more and more like we will move Sunworks into the Metropolitan Block after the holiday season.  Our agent suggested that renting out the Sunworks space to a new tenant may be very attractive to some Red Deer businesses, particularly those who want to be owner operator. Sunworks itself is on the brink of recovering from the past two years of economic downturn.  Things are looking up but we sure do need the holiday sales to hit the mark.  We need to be in the black this year.  The red ink is tiresome.

And so the day begins.  Clapping and cheering are always welcomed.  

Autumn, day 30. Charting the week.

Where will the week lead?  How can I be in relation to this week and steer it toward success?  How much ability do I have to chart this course?  I suppose that much of this has to do with planning and properly following through on my plans. There are so many moving parts right now.  I’ve started to design a planning tool to keep track of all of my projects … courses for horses perhaps.  It’s a play on the Brits saying horses for courses.

My idea is to document each of the various projects that I have on the go, and to define the next step to take on each. I’m hoping that what I’ll be able to accomplish is more than a list of to dos, but a way to hold a space open for multiple things to happen at once and to perhaps recognise the interconnectivity of the projects themselves. With each of the projects I’m thinking about who, and what, I need to be in relation with in order to give the project energy to move. These ideas are not fully developed but I’ve started to put together the bones of what I think could help me, and perhaps others.

This morning it feels good to have let the world know about our plans to divest and explore some new opportunities. I’ve heard only good things about our decision from friends and customers.

The weekend at Tribe was okay. We had some new patrons and we had some returning patrons. It was fun to work with my friends this weekend. Several people chatted briefly about getting the Sunworks newsletter and hearing our plans to move the store, and hopefully sell the building.

This week we interview the third realtor who has expressed interest in helping us sell; perhaps this one will go somewhere. Terry and I really want the path to open up soon so that we can take our next steps.

So how about that anxiety? The last four days have been pretty good. No long blue patches. Some moments here and there but that is to be expected. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep on top of the work this week and make progress toward healing. Today, I’m back to the doctor for the complete check up. I’m hoping for good results.

Next Sunday, I head out to Winnipeg to see my friends there, and to celebrate Jenny’s retirement from politics. It’s an exciting time. I’m looking forward to spending some time with her and my other friends and also to relaxing a little bit. It will be good to have space away to think and plan what happens after the Autumn is over, and to make sure that it is successful.

Autumn, day 25. Standing sort.

One of the techniques that I’ve used to help others organize their spaces I call a ‘standing sort’.  It’s very much big picture and can help create clarity for the tasks that need to be done by creating some order even if it’s rough.

It goes like this. Go into your office, pull the chair back from the desk, and begin to make sense of the space. Sort things into piles that make sense. Use sticky notes to indicate what needs to be done later. DO NOT DO IT NOW. Resist the temptation to start dealing with individual tasks. Use lots of notes, and labels. Pay attention to ideas that emerge that could help you organise the space, and list these for later. Perhaps some wall files, file folders, binders, clips etc.

Throw out things that should be discarded. Remove things from the office that don’t belong there. This is not a store room. Catch yourself saying…’I’ll just put this here for now’.  Note what should be done with the item.

Put on music if you like. Dust, sweep, tidy, annotate, etc. Spend 30 to 60 minutes doing this standing sort. Think about three major categories as you work 1) discard 2) give away and, 3) deal with. The ‘discard’ and ‘give away’ piles need to be removed from the office during a standing sort. ‘Deal with’ items just need to be sorted into piles that make sense, tucked into action folders, and/or annotated with instructions for doing later.

Once you’re done, you may pull in your chair and sit down.  Until then, standing helps keep the mind away from details, and only noticing things within reach of the chair.  When you’re done you’ll notice how much more inviting and less intimidated the work feels.  You might even feel new energy to tackle the work.  

I took my own coaching and I did this on Monday. It makes a difference. Other days, I can’t think big picture and it’s all I can do, to deal with one paper at a time. We’ll see how much progress I can make this week with some new order.

Today has been tough. Thankfully I got to my doctor, thanks to the appointment a friend made for me. After eight months I got there. He sent me for blood tests etc… I bucked up, went and did those right away. I’ll be all set for my official check up on Monday next. Let’s hope I’m in good shape. I fought the blues most of the day but am hanging in there.

Autumn, day 22. Trusting help.

‘Maybe just share the news,’ I think to myself as I sit down to write on a blank page with a scattered mind.  I’d like to write something useful and perhaps even wise, and the act of writing itself often brings clarity that I need in the moment.  Today is suppose to be a ‘day off’, as if I can actually ever do that.  Instead, I’m just thinking of it as free form activity with hope that I’ll write some, perhaps paint, enjoy companionship, and find some laughter along the way.

Terry and I did some work down at one of the apartments in the Metropolitan Block – the suite that we both think of as our home away from home.  It was nice to be downtown but not really doing much.  We went for coffee at Chronicles Comics and Cafe and had a great chat about the direction our lives are taking.  It’s so nice to be able to just sit and visit with one another.  We only seem to do that when we are in Maui.  Drug dealers tried to sell us drugs on the way for coffee … blatantly – so we lost some time dealing with that when we called it in to the RCMP as usual.

Getting the new smart television installed, under the watchful eye of Martha “I bet you think you know everything”

This week, we meet with various realtors about selling the building that houses Sunworks, and also do some serious marketing for the vacant commercial spaces we have available.  We’re considering moving Sunworks into the Metropolitan Block and leasing out the current Sunworks space to various tenants.  If this twigs any thoughts or ideas, call or write me.  I’m inviting a strong week of communication and concerted effort.

Last week I suggested that I needed someone to hold my hand or mentor me through the catch-up work, decision making, and associated anxiety being created.  My colleague Kathryn offered and we started on Friday.  It was a lumpy start for me, my anxiety was on triple overload and ready to blow.  (Yes Todd, I will go this week and see about getting some CBD oil from Gord’s.  It’s on my list. Thanks for the recommendation).  

I made it to my office as I’d planned and nearly the moment that I sat down I began to shake, thinking about the tasks ahead.  I made it only about five minutes before I had to leave.  My second attempt was better and I worked on and off for about four hours.  Rather than doing sorting or organising (which often helps), I realised that I could only deal with the paper on the top of the pile, then the second, etc.  I could only cope with one thing at a time, not anything that tackled the big picture.

This week I will also seek some professional help for my anxiety, and am open to suggestions of a good therapist.

Kathryn joined me later that morning, had a look at my list and ticked off a few things over that day that she could do without much input from me.  Some of the items had been on my list for several months.  One thing was just to make a doctor’s appointment.  How ridiculous to have put off for this long — especially with my high blood pressure issues.

Only so much desk work before I was saved by needing to go to the restaurant for the evening.  Tribe was moderately busy this weekend, and it felt that we were getting ahead rather than going behind.  I really loved the customers that came in both nights.  It was inspiring to have some philosophical conversations.  I’ve really missed that part of my brain being active.  It’s so much easier to make sense of the world when I’m not just talking to myself…. we all know what a trap that can be – a house of mirrors for sure.

I enjoyed working both of those nights and am looking forward to next weekend.  The change in hours has made some people sad and disappointed, but has certainly removed a big chunk of stress.  I’ve been spending so much time running operations that I’ve had little time to deal with administration – hence the festering piles.  As Terry, Chris and I work through the winter months I really believe that we’ll make great improvements in Tribe that will make it much more viable to be open longer hours.  We’ll get there. Where to find the capital funding?  I’m sure we’ll have lots of work-bees along the way.  Tribe is at a place in its development where we can host larger functions and have room to dance even.

Tomorrow, the plan is to do another solid four hours of administration in my office and to see if some order starts to emerge. I hope to be down to the muck soon. I have a sense that, with some companionship and dedicated quiet time, I will feel good at the end of the day.  I hope my first attempt tomorrow goes a bit more smoothly.

I’m leaving last week in a better place that I started, with some glimpse of hope and optimism for the future of the businesses and the change in direction our lives are taking.  This next week will need to be about slow and steady effort, letting others help me find my way, not doing too much alone, and of course communication … the theme of the season.

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Autumn, day 19. Just news and ramblings.

Weirdest dreams last week.  In them I try to hold my ground in a decision that I’ve made that seems to have disappointed everyone, and yet the decision I had to take was a result of the others meddling in my affairs which caused weeks worth of work to be undone and lost.   The actions that others took caused me great anxiety.  I reached out to those in my dreams the next morning to ground myself in the physical world, so that the feelings I had in the dream world can be faded.  I checked in on those relationships, I certainly do not need any leakage from dreaming to reality except to analyse what it might have been all about.

My Dad made an appearance in my dream and that was nice.  He was healthy, bigger and taller than me, and was doing his best to bring harmony. I woke before I changed my mind or he convinced me to change my mind.

It’s October 11th now, and I’m awake in the middle of the night.  Not unusual for me.  Since last week, Terry and I have taken two major decisions.  Firstly, we will sell the building which houses Sunworks.  I’ve spent this week working with a realtor and hope that we can make short order of the process.  Of course, we still need a buyer.  Secondly, we’ve had to reduce the hours at Tribe to the same that we did last year, only Friday and Saturday evenings from 3:30 to 11:00.  Snow fall came early, and the City once again took out the patio on Ross, our business vanished.  Some days only a half a dozen people through the restaurant.

We both are realizing that the constant pressure of dealing with the economy, financing, staffing, tenant troubles, vacancy rates, and downtown crime is more than we have the capacity for, or want to deal with.  It’s taking a toll on our creativity and relationships.  However, we believe that the downtown is on the cusp of change for the better but it’s going to take younger blood and new ideas.  We’re spent and it’s time to pass the torch to others to carry on the vision of a vibrant cultural hub.  

At day 19 into the fall, I don’t have a lot of days left to make the changes that I want.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be doing a lot of desk work in an attempt to catch up so many things that have fallen aside during my time on council.  I still hope to have my energy back for the new season.  

I could really use a mentor and coach to help me through all of the steps that I need to take.