Seeking Value

After watching a minimalism documentary on Netflix and rereading The Minimalists first book, I’ve become obsessed with the role things and people play in my life. If something or someone doesn’t add value to my life, what’s the point of keeping it around?

I’d been playing around with the idea of getting off of Instagram for almost a year but I couldn’t pinpoint why I didn’t actually need it until I thought about what it did to or for me. When I would ask people for advice they would say things like:

You’re a writer, you should definitely keep your account active (I recently got an essay published and it wasn’t because of my social media. None of my accounts were even linked to the post)

Aren’t you like a blogger? Don’t they need Instagram? (I’m a writer who happens to have a blog. I am not a interior designer, artist, fashion blogger or influencer. I don’t need Instagram.)

You spent years acquiring those followers (And? I don’t interact with any of them. If they need to get ahold of me, they can find my website OR they’ll already have my contact information.)

How will you connect with people? (I will email, call, or text. I will stay in the “know” by reading magazines, blogs, and by experiencing since I’ll have more time to do so.)

Are you crazy? (If feeling alive, unburdened, and in control for the first time in years is crazy then yes.)

I’ve been battling anxiety for a few years now and it’s become blatantly clear that some of this anxiety is due to my use of Instagram (and social media in general). I start my day scrolling through news feeds over my morning coffee, check them again several times during the day (even while driving), and spend my evenings with one hand glued to my phone. I couldn’t go to bed without one final look at Instagram.

Every so often I’ll log onto my Rogers account to see how much data my husband and I have left until our next billing cycle. Last week I noticed that we only had 3 GB to last us fourteen more days. 3 GB for some people is a lot but as my husband is always on the road for work with little to no access to wifi and my office space doesn’t have wifi, it isn’t a lot for us. Since I really didn’t need access to social media while at work I decided to turn off the cellular data for my two most used apps, Twitter and Instagram.

It didn’t take long for me to see how productive I could be at work without social media around to tempt me. I decided that I would keep the cellular data off while at work; it made me more present and exponentially more focused. On the Friday evening of that week, we went to dinner with another couple and I actually didn’t need my phone. I was fully present and took an active role in the conversations being had. Yes, I took a few photos of the food but I didn’t post them and then continue to look at my phone to see how many likes I got. When we got home that evening, I checked Instagram before bed and the more I scrolled the faster the feeling of happiness left me. The high I had from great conversation and a delicious meal was practically forgotten.

Fast forward to the next morning and I decided to delete the actual apps from my phone. This would mean no social media on my phone at ALL. I spent my Saturday actually writing, reading, talking to my parents, and playing with my nieces instead of saying I would and being glued to my phone. My mind didn’t feel as heavy or cluttered as it normally did and I was able to write a blog post, finish a book, and continue planning out my novel. It felt amazing to be doing things instead of looking at what other people were doing.

The more I thought about Instagram the more I realized that it wasn’t adding value to my life. It wasn’t helping me find a new job, it wasn’t giving me time to pursue my passion for writing, it wasn’t connecting me to people in a way provided growth or change, and it certainly wasn’t making me happy. So what was the point? That Sunday, without hesitation I quickly deleted (and not just deactivated) my Instagram account. I’d keep Twitter so that I’d still have a platform to connect with writers and share my work.

Although I know it won’t be easy, I’ll have pangs of regret surface and I may even feel like I’m missing out, I will eventually stop reaching for my cell phone for no reason. I will get used to life without feeling the pressure to post a picture or taking it personally when someone does something that I don’t have the funds to do myself. With the promise of minimal distraction I will be able to put more time and energy into the things I really enjoy and that will add the greatest amount of value to my life.

Yours,

Vanessa xo

The Bride’s Diary – The Bridal Shower

 

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Words I never thought I would put in a sentence (and actually mean them):

I loved everything about my bridal shower.

Let’s be clear, this is not because I didn’t think we could pull it off, but because I have never been a huge fan of bridal showers. Although I’ve had fun at all of the showers I’ve attended in recent years, I never quite understood the point of them. In fact I’m sure I mentioned once or twice that I didn’t want to have one. They’re A LOT of work, and super time-consuming; especially when your mother and florist are keen on the littlest of details. From making Mad-Hatter hats to cutting the corners of every piece of paper, to flowers and cookies, no detail was left out.

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The theme I chose for my shower was Alice in Wonderland – it’s a book, one of my favourite Disney movies, and after looking on Pinterest I realized that there was so much that could be done with the theme. Over the last year my mom and aunt (who is also my florist) scoured all kinds of stores for the perfect props. With boxes and boxes stacked in the basement I nearly forgot how much was collected until we had to lug it all out again.
After months of planning, collecting, and prepping for the shower I asked my bridal party, mother, and aunt if they could decorate the restaurant without me so that I could see everything put together for the first time. And so they did…

Needless to say I was floored and completely overwhelmed by how nicely everything came together. They created my own version of Wonderland where everything is beautiful and just a little bit weird. As the guests made their way into the restaurant, they were handed their very own hat and asked to play some table games. All of the guests obliged and seemingly enjoyed all of the décor, food, raffles, and games throughout the afternoon. I made my way from table to table to welcome everyone and have a chat or two. I have to admit that I cried. More than once.


When the dessert table opened and everyone was full, I got up to say my thank-yous. Halfway through my written speech, I broke down. I felt such an incredible amount of love and joy in the room that I couldn’t contain myself. All of my family and friends showed up to celebrate Alex and I and the love we have for one another – it left me with a feeling a can’t quite describe. It’s somewhere between undeserving and ridiculously thankful, mixed in with utterly happy and exceedingly overwhelmed.


Thank you again to everyone who attended, to everyone who was there in spirit, and to everyone who helped out. It was a blissful day in Wonderland and I couldn’t be happier.

Madly yours,

Vanessa xo 

she rhymes

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She adored the busyness of the city streets even more than the quiet found when nodding off to sleep. She needn’t go away to long for home – she can stay quite put and still feel alone. On and on the days go by; the leaves will change and flowers die. In her heart she feels  the same; her love and happiness are the only game.

There was a time she felt confused, questioned herself, convinced she’d lose. Suddenly, suddenly she’s standing tall, back straight up against a wall. She knows herself and walks with pride through the fear she tries to hide. Her confidence is blooming wide, you can see it in her face that she has nothing to hide.

She says her piece and doesn’t stutter even though her heart may flutter. Perspectives shifted with loads at stake – her mind has strengthened. Her ground won’t quake. She feels like a woman, no longer girl, she feels fucking ready to rule her world. She forgives herself for past mistakes and forgets regrets that have laid their claim. She cares not for foes, drama, or fame: words are her passion, Vanessa is her name.

Rhymingly yours,

Vanessa xo

 

Blank Slate/White Space

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What if she said no? No to the past, to the comments or emotions felt and said out of fear, insecurity, and self-loathing. What if she decided to draw a line in the timeline of her life and never look back? What if she allowed herself the freedom to change perspective and shy away from negative thoughts? What if she realized that good things come to those who work for it and even though her dreams look slightly different than her reality, she’s in a good place.

What would that feel like?

It would feel like the whole world in front of her spread out like a blank canvas and only she held the assortment of paint in her hands. It would feel like freedom. Freedom to create friendships and harness old ones based on nothing but the present. It would feel like she finally got out of her own head and allowed herself to think clearly. It would feel a lot less lonely. It would feel like she’s finally able to grab all of the light in the world and carry it with her. The warm light that melted the chip on her shoulder, a chip so big she was beginning to walk lopsided.

What if she decided that this would be her new life?

That would be grand.

Optimistically yours,

Vanessa xo

It’s Okay

My niece’s personality blooms every time I see her. She is becoming so smart and beautiful that sometimes I forget I’m talking to an almost three-year-old. Her latest thing is exclaiming “it’s okay, it’s okay” with her hands up in surrender whenever she does something naughty (does anyone still use that word?). Her tone is always incredibly reassuring as if she truly believes that no matter what things will always be okay.

I know that she is practically still an infant; she wears diapers on long trips just in case. But I swear she understands the world better than I ever will. She knows that what she did was wrong but also understands that there are worse things out there, that we can clean/mend/wash/replace/fix this. And she’s right.

Too often I place importance and effort on meaningless failures or problems. This causes more anxiety and stress than necessary. When you give people, gossip, or drama more attention than it deserves you create a dark cloud over more important things, like happiness and love. You forget that it really is okay because at the end of the day bullshit doesn’t matter. The world is filled with enough pain, suffering, and torment (just watch CNN) without creating your own bubble of misery.

Spilled milk can always be wiped clean.

It’s okay. 

It’s okay. 

Thoughtfully yours,

Vanessa xo 

Push the car 

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My morning commute is generally uneventful. I drive down the same road, turn down one or two streets and I’m already sitting gingerly in front of the office. Since the drive is short, it’s rare that I see something interesting enough to pull me out of my daydreams.

Yesterday I sat patiently at a red light when I noticed a car across the way with its hazards flashing. A frantic-looking woman sat in the front seat. Behind the car was an older gentleman in a bright orange t-shirt and jeans. He looked about my father’s age but a little more worldly. He was pushing the car (which I can only hope was in neutral). His muscles beneath his shirt bulged but his eyes remained incredibly focused on the task at hand.

I drove by slowly as the light flashed green and wondered if he would be late for work; if his boss would believe his story. I wondered what other cars he had to push in his life, what battles he had to fight.

I wondered how many people drove by without stopping to lend a hand. Then I felt like a complete jerk for not stopping either. Worrying instead about getting a coffee and to work on time. I probably wouldn’t be able to push the car but I could have offered to help, to call a tow truck. 

We all have a battle that we’re fighting, a goal or a dream to conquer. Some of us shy away or cower, some of us ignore the problem and sit down with a cappuccino as if nothing is wrong, while others..

…others push the fucking car until it gets to where it has to go. 

Cowardly yours,

Vanessa xo

 

To be influenced…

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Recently I’ve been thinking hard about my current situation, my career, and my place in the world. I’ve wondered about the future and tried desperately to picture what my life will be like in a few years. I’m evaluating my goals while simultaneously taking a good look in the mirror. In doing so I’m realizing so much about who I thought I wanted to be and who I’ve become.

I wanted to be an Influencer; a Toronto blogger attending events, reviewing products, networking, and sharing my adventures. I looked up to my mentors shamelessly and tried to follow in their footsteps. I tried to BE them. There is one pixie-sized blogger in particular who I tried to emulate. My voice began to sound like hers, my blog even started to look like hers. The problem there is that I stopped living my own life, I stopped focusing on my own goals, and I wasn’t being authentic to who I am.

I made my way into the blogging world little by little but never gained the status that I craved. The truth is I will never get to that status because it’s not what I really want, nor does it work with my lifestyle. My ultimate goal is write a novel and with all of the time I spent on Twitter and social media, trying to be something I’m not, I could have written a novel two times over. I think it’s time to leave the Influence/Toronto Blogger game to the pros and focus on my current status, my career, and my writing dreams.

In a world full of constant noise it is so easy to lose sight of what you want and who you are. I have a crazy amount of respect for every blogger and influencer that I follow on social media. It takes a huge amount of gusto to be online all day, every single day, and still hold onto who you are. My Pen, My Voice wouldn’t have existed in its form without these influencers, nor would any of the opportunities I gained in those five years have been possible without them.

This doesn’t mean the end or goodbye when it comes to my blogging. It simply means that I’ll be harnessing my voice once again and going back to my roots. The goal is to stay true to both.

xo,

Vanessa 

 

She Counts


She counts on people. Counts the days until Friday; the minutes until five o’clock. She counts on the flowers to grow and the seasons to change. She counts on consistency and perfection. She counts on time to be good to her, to not disappoint.
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She counts other things too; the swipes of deoterant she applies to her underarms, the number of times she’s pulled to door handle to ensure that it’s locked. The number of beeps her car makes when she presses the lock button – hearing it three times ensures safety and security. Her mind is a kindergarten classroom. Repetition keeps her head straight and focused; on the straight and narrow.

one. two. three. four.

She doesn’t remember when she began to count things or why it soothes a startling itch buried deep inside her. She knows that it gets worse when she’s stressed out, when there is something plaguing her mind and her heart. When she feels out of control.

one. two. three. four.

For a woman obsessed with words; she’s encountered so many numbers.

one.

two.

three.

four.

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Love Story from the Rearview Mirror

 

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There are moments when deep in thought or crazy in love that we forget how visible we are. We create a space that is undeniably our own. We don’t think about who can see us nor do we care. We simply love and exist.

On my drive into work the other day, I looked up at my rearview mirror and happened on a moment so private I couldn’t look away. A young couple on their way to school (I assume), were parked behind me at a red light. He was in the driver’s seat, staring at her like she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. She looked upset, her blonde pigtail beneath a baseball cap swayed as she shook her head.

He smiled at her and reached his hand toward her face. He let it rest there until she lifted her own hand to hold it. A hint of a smile reached her lips as she turned her head and kissed his hand; then leaned over and kissed his cheek, once, twice, a third time for luck.

As I placed my coffee back in its holder I realized that I was still driving. The light blared green and I stepped on the gas in the hope that the young couple wouldn’t start honking me.  I looked up every once in a while to see if they were still behind me. For a little while they were, smiling and laughing in their own little bubble. I lost them at some point but couldn’t seem to shake them from my mind.

I focus on the negative things in life. The days and weeks where everything goes wrong and the world appears to be a heaping pile of crap tend to weigh me down. I don’t think often enough about the many beautiful moments filled with love that I’ve witnessed or experienced. I guess sometimes all you need is a glance at your rearview mirror to remind you of how important those moments are.

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Dinner at Bar Isabel

Open your eyes. If you walk too quickly you just might miss it but once you see it, it’s difficult to pay attention to anything else on that side of College Street. Thick wooden panels frame a gorgeous wooden door illuminated red by the signature Isabel scrawl.


When you walk into the restaurant your eyes need a few minutes to adjust before the warmth of the venue washes over you. Authentic Spanish tiles bring the floor to life, rustic mirrors covering the length of the restaurant make the room feel bigger, the dimly lit space and candles on each table create an oasis for every guest. If you find yourself looking up you’ll notice an array of different light fixtures, adding even more character to an already charismatic space.

Thanks to my current position as Customer Service Coordinator at an importer of Spanish cured meat and specialty items, I’ve become pretty well-versed in the world of Spanish tapas. So while other couples Googled their way through the menu, I comfortably and casually ordered the Lomo Iberico, Chips & Boquerones, the Jamon Tasting (featuring the Trevelez and Iberico de Bellota), the Half Octopus, Jamon Croquetas, Manchego Cheese, and the Bread. I was stumped by a few items and was thoroughly impressed by the staff’s product knowledge and their ability to help us navigate our way through a pretty amazing tapas meal. Our waitress ensured that she would bring out the dishes that went best together until we made our way through the entire order.


What I’m noticing about Spanish tapas is the need for quality ingredients. Since the dishes are small and simple, there has to be enough flavour to bring the dish to life. Everything from the bread to the olive oil to the thinly sliced pieces of Lomo Iberico had its own distinct flavour. A memorable flavour that tickled the palate and ignited the taste buds.

So I guess the ultimate question is, would I go back? Would you go back to a place with great food, a warm atmosphere, and wonderful service? Exactly. I would love to go with a group of people next time, I love the idea of having a few drinks and chatting as we share a few dishes on a warm Toronto evening.

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