Learning To Ask For Help in Servitude September

My entire life I have had strong female role models. Well just strong role models in general. So much so that when my cars clutch goes to the floor at midnight on the way home, I drive it to the mechanic shop like a rally car driver with no clutch, park it out front and then start the hour and a half walk home because it doesn’t occur to me to call my house mate and ask for help getting home because it is my problem, not theirs. So much so that I will still be attempting to haul my own bags down the street 400m and up the stairs for an hour after just being released from the hospital after 5 days with pneumonia. So much so that I would crawl my way home after getting hit by a car and walk an hour and a half to get to the hospital for an x ray to make sure my arm isn’t broken.  The thing is, I never, ever ask for help. Like EVER. In some ways I have been taught that it is like admitting defeat that you simply cannot do things yourself. It is an act that has made me an incredibly strong and independent person, but in many ways it has also made me quite inaccessible to others as my walls are too impermeable.

So my good friend laid me out a challenge for the month of September that she calls “Servitude September”. She feels that “acts of service is one of the ways that people show love.  The theory is that you do things for people all the time, and it makes you feel good.  By allowing people to help you, it will create a space for people to start showing you love” and thus will help me become more open to others.

The challenge set is as such:

You must ask someone for at least one favour a day building up to five a day by the end of September. I must record what I asked for and how I felt about asking for it. I must ask a mix of genders for different things in equal amounts, so half men and half women for such favour. These things that I ask for must be things that I can do by myself without help from anyone else. This is the most important of the rules. It has to be something I can do for myself. If not it defeats the purpose of the whole idea.

To be honest, I am terrified. The idea of asking people for help makes me more vulnerable, regardless the size of the favour. I fear that people will see me as being less capable.  I feel like I will owe people and be in their debt. That it in many ways will strip down the strong and independent woman that I am. I am also terrified of the doors it may open up with regards to allowing other people in and letting them to not only help me, but to love me. I guess we just have to wait and see what happens. But I accepted the challenge. My friend in London is holding me to account on a daily basis and is super excited to watch me squirm while I do it. And as such, let Servitude September and all of its helpfulness begin…. with a bit of luck, it might just change my life!

The Challenge of Moving To London

When I was working the Taste of Calgary last week, I met a German psychologist who uses his skills to read people’s auras and then purchases art for them. At the end of our two minute conversation he told me that when he looks at me he sees a lot of internal happiness, and someone that spends more time looking forward than back. I found this to be incredibly insightful for someone who had met me for two minutes. I have always said that you create your own happiness from within and truth be told, I always look forward instead of backwards. Sometimes too quickly. And this is how we wind up moving ourselves to London on a whimsical decision made in a state of unhappiness.

Most other people who probably should know me a little better ask me what it is that I am running from. But then maybe that’s unfounded as well. I prefer to see it as “running to”. Life is too short to spend time on things that aren’t working and moving on seems to have become a life skill that I am far too good at. So my job sucks. Find another one. People don’t like me or have issues, find different people to hang out with. Don’t like the city you’re in? Time to move.

This is all well and good for the most part until I was challenged in thought by a saying I came across a couple of days ago. It went something like this. “The hardest decision you will ever have to make in this life is knowing when to stay and fight for what you’ve got and knowing when to walk away”. For the most part, I always walk away…. (with the odd exception of trying to stick it out with rubbish boyfriends, in such cases I probably should have walked away). But anyway the point is, I have gotten so comfortable with walking away that my own personal challenge from here is to stay and fight for what I have and what I can gain. For the first time in my life I look at London as a long term challenge. Not somewhere to set roots for all of five minutes and then move when something goes wrong or upsets me. My challenge is to stay and fight for what I can build. My challenge is to create a life for myself.

So here I go… I’m in my last week here in Calgary and I face the ever difficult and horrid task of saying goodbye to people I know and have come to love. I face the notion that I am leaving my safety blanket of Canada. One that I have lived in on and off for over five years and that has challenged me immensely for the good and the bad. And most of all, I walk away from who I am now as a person and I start again in a way that is more tantamount to the person that I want to be.

It is time to tackle a meaningful job in which I can change the lives of young people. It is time to develop stronger relationships with the many amazing people I have in London that I am proud to call my friends. It is time to develop new relationships with work colleagues, new friends and even maybe a romance or two. Most of all, it is time to soften and be less hard and more approachable as a person. It is time to find my way in a world that is more real than the bubble of travellers’ life. Because if I constantly run and don’t fight to stay for anything, I will miss out on some of the best things in life. If I don’t open myself up and let the love, the disappointments, the excitement and the whole spectrum of the emotions of living into my core, then I will never have anything real or anything worth keeping.

So here I go! Bring it on!

Keys to the Streets Vancouver

I arrived in Vancouver approximately ten days ago really flat and a huge part of my turn around has been all of the pianos that I have found from one end of the city to the other. The Keys To The Streets program has been running for the last two summers in Vancouver and has bought much joy to the locals,  myself included.

The first I saw of this was when my friend took me to a park in Coquitlam and there was a piano on the dock for people to play. Small children gathered around and thumped on it gleefully. I sat down and played a couple of songs and then was on my way. This was the first time I had sat down and played at a piano in many years given that they are not very portable for travel. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the piano. While I love my ukulele, there is something within my soul that awakens when I sit at a piano and I play and sing.

Science Centre Piano

So when I got to Vancouver and found my first piano in Chinatown I was super excited. I sat down and started to play a few songs and felt immediately calm and happy. People crowded around from the surrounding businesses and stopped along the street to watch me play and for the first time in a long time I felt the performer within me coming back. And thus began my quest of the ‘pianocrawl’.

Piano along the river walk. It got wet one day in the rain and the keys expanded and got stuck. After a couple of hot days it was back to normal

Along more of my walks, I found a piano at the Science Centre, a piano along the river front and one underneath the Cambie Street Bridge. This piano was my favourite and the best sounding by far. While sitting along the waterfront, I observed some of the most amazing musicians sit down and play this piano. From classically trained pianists, to jazz pianists…. there were some amazing talents. Not only was I fortunate enough to witness some of the magic, but I was also granted the ability to play music with some of them.

My favourite piano under the Cambie Street Bridge. Many an awesome musician was seen playing this piano, even in bands.

The first time this happened for me, I was playing for a while and when I was done a guy asked if I wanted to jam. He was a piano player and we tried to figure out what songs we both knew and harmonized and ad libbed things. It was a whole lot of fun and I remembered how much I loved jamming with other musicians.

The second day this happened, a group rocked down to the waterfront to use the piano with their other instruments. While they were getting things organized, I played a couple of tunes with the drummer and double bass player. People crowded around and were excited about the music in their streets. When they were ready, I relinquished up the piano to one of the best jazz pianists I have ever seen sit down and play music with the band. I sat and listened happily. The music had gotten into my body and my soul and I felt alive.

Sitting under the Cambie Street Bridge playing the piano.

Over the course of the week I was in Vancouver, every time I walked past a piano, I sat and played it. I played five pianos in total and I made videos of many different songs that I have played. You can find them on my Facebook music page at following link. There will be more uploaded over the coming weeks.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Danni-Thomas/319464336076 Danni Thomas Musician Page

This whole activity has inspired me to find a band and start working again as a musician in the coming months when I have settled into my new life. It has also inspired me to start writing more music again. For more updates, join and follow along with the music Facebook page, otherwise I am sure there will be more updates coming about through the blog when it starts. To check out some more of what is happening in Vancouver check out the hashtag, #keys2streets. There have been some incredible musicians recorded around the city!