Manifesting Miracles: Cheltenham Badlands

It started off like any other Saturday.

I woke up in the comfort of my warm, cozy bed, my mind instantly on the frequency of gratitude. I was grateful for seeing another day. I was grateful for the coffee that would be coming my way. I was also grateful to be able to see the Cheltenham Badlands later on with a friend.

It was only days before that I had even heard of this place. A coworker of mine had been sitting next to me during lunch as we chatted about the current news playing in the background, the latest movie we saw, and things to do around town before the storm of 2018 hits the city.

“Have you ever heard of the Cheltenham Badlands?” She instantly shoved her phone in my face, showing me her Instagram. I took the phone from her hand and stared at the image on my screen.

It was beautiful. People were standing on, what looked like, Mars. Like chocolate marshmallow, it was a natural phenomenon. In reality, it was a geological formation that developed over a course of the past 450 million years.

All the people in the photos looked like they were having a blast and I also wanted to experience that. Without a second thought, I immediately texted my friend, Sidney, one of the photos.

ME: Can we go here?

SID: I’ve always wanted to go there. Sure!

And like that, it was a done deal. I knew the following weekend, I would be visiting the Cheltenham Badlands. I was happy that I would have the opportunity to experience some of the beauty my province had to offer.

Plus I was really stoked on the idea that it was called the badlands because I legitimately felt like I was going Into the Badlands.

Only I wasn’t. As I laid in my cozy bed, and Google mapped the address that Saturday, I got the following words float across my phone screen:

CLOSED PERMANENTLY.

Excuse me?

I went to the website link and my heart sank the more I read about not being able to gain access to the badlands due to “massive overuse” and “failure to follow the rules”.

I understood the need to preserve nature and not have outsiders, humans, ruin it all, but it sucked. Like that, my day was over before it even started. There would be no me standing atop the badlands feeling badass, like The Widow defeating all the other barons. Nope, not in the cards.

And if you are bent out of sorts about not understanding my context, please, go watch the first episode of Into the Badlands on Netflix. It’s there.

At least, on the Canadian Netflix.

(Disclaimer: Please don’t watch if blood and violence make you squeamish.)

So the idea of going to the Cheltenham Badlands evaporated from my mind. This left Sid and I in a pickle. What were we going to do this fall morning instead?

ME: So where else can we go that isn’t a million miles away?

SID: There’s a Hop and Harvest festival going on at Kelso Conservation.

I was okay with that but it seemed more of a food spending expenditure, something I wasn’t particularly in the mood for. I started doing my own search for things to do in the area and I saw there was something similar called Terra Cotta’s Fall Festival. Seemed more up my alley.

Sid agreed and the day was reset. No Cheltenham Badlands but Terra Cotta here we come!

So I drove us the half hour it took to get there and I even conquered my fear of heights on the way. The roads were so up and down. I felt as if I were literally on a roller coaster!

Not my scene.

Anyway, we finally reached, successfully parked, and made out way to the festival. Forgot to capture pics of the festival but check out this awesome fall view below.

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Terra Cotta Conservation Area, Terra Cotta ON

There was a little store that sold items like maple syrup and pastries but that’s not what caught Sid’s attention. She turned to me.

“You want to go on the wagon ride?”

I shrugged. “Sure.”

So we quickly paid for our tickets and found ourselves on a wagon, exploring the area and learning the type of wildlife that lived in the conservation area. It was fun, a simple ride where I got to experience the beautiful fall day. One of the tour guides toward the end of the wagon ride mentioned a free bus that would take us from Terra Cotta to the badlands, and back to Terra Cotta.

Sid and I looked at each other, instantly on the same wavelength. That would be our next item for the day.

I was excited. I may not be able to see the Cheltenham Badlands like we had planned, but I got to see another badlands to make up for being cheated with the former.

So we got off the wagon and made our way to the info booth.

“Which way to the bus that will take us to the badlands?”

The poor guy had no clue so we walked back into the little store. One of the girls stationed there showed us a map. All I heard was Parking 3 and 45 degree angle but I knew we’d figure it out.

And we did, as we made our way to this yellow school bus in the parking lot, like it was waiting for us and only us.

I forgot to mention I had brought my camera. However, said camera was not auto-focusing and I was disappointed that all my photos for the day would be a midst of out of focus, blurry shots.

Blah.

The bus driver was pleasant to speak to but as he turned on the ignition, the bus decided it was not in the mood to cooperate. So as our new friend, the bus driver, tried to get the bus up and running, I felt it was the perfect time to attempt at getting my camera working.

Good news: After some time, I did manage to get my camera working.

Bad news: The bus wouldn’t start, no badlands 2.0.

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On the broken bus in Terra Cotta as I capture a shot of Sid.

So we went home after that.

I’m lying. Our great bus driver radioed another bus driver and like that, we were on another functioning bus. I took in the beautiful scenery as we past by, this magical bus taking us to God knows where.

But as we inched closer and closer to the badlands, I had a revelation once we reached our destination.

I was at THE Cheltenham Badlands.

It was one and the same. And I felt like a complete fool for not realizing until it was staring me right in the face that I was at the one place I wanted to be this entire day.

 

Cheltenham Badlands
Cheltenham Badlands, Calendon ON

Isn’t that amazing?

And no I didn’t get to jump on the mountain of brown marshmallow.

But I got a lot of perks out of this day.

Perk 1: I didn’t have to pay the $10 parking fee to get to the badlands, take a few pictures, only to turn around and go back home.

Perk 2: I got to experience the beauty of Terra Cotta and go on my first wagon ride.

Perk 3: A free magic school bus drove me straight to the badlands where I got to relish in my surroundings.

What’s the whole point of this rambling story, you ask?

Sometimes all you have to say is yes in order to experience all that life has to offer.

And sometimes, life has a way of giving you exactly what you want, even when you least expect it.

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My Happiness Equation

I used to think happiness was something you strived to become, like a profession.

When I was in grade school and my teacher would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer wasn’t the standard, doctor, teacher, engineer. No, my answer was to be happy. I think I may have even written a blog post a few years ago about my goal in life being that of happiness.

Now, even at that young age, I knew happiness was the key to living a great life. But by stating I wanted to be happy, that must have meant that I currently wasn’t.

On the outside, my family, peers, and friends may have perceived me as happy. On the inside, I was anything but. I was already battling self-acceptance, faced with the notion that you had to be X, Y, and Z to be “accepted” in today’s standards of beauty.

Qualities I thought I had none of.

I grew up in a time where there was no body acceptance or embrace your natural hair communities. At least, none I could recall. I vividly remember my mom relaxing my hair as I sat in front of her, crying my eyes out because my head felt like it was on fire, being burned by the chemicals that would solve all my hairstyling problems by making it bone straight. But I had to sit still to make sure she got all the kinks out. It wasn’t like I could blame my mother. Her own mother did the same. That was just the way things were.

Same shit, different decade.

I remember going for jogs with my older cousin, might have been ten or so, wondering why she was so thin and yet I was so fat. I mean, we generally did and ate the exact same things. Why did life have to be so unfair?

My daily internal thought was that I was not acceptable. I went through life with the whole woe is me mentality. Yet I told no one. To everyone else, I was the girl with the resting bitch face but if you got to know, was actually quite nice (and shy).

My defence mechanism was to show that I didn’t need anyone. That everything was fine, and life was something that you just had to suck up and do. That it was difficult for everyone, and we all needed to get over it.

Work your butt off at either school or your job (or both), pay your bills, and enjoy the weekends. Two blessed days just relaxing at home, unless you were working your second job, of course.

Then someone close to me died and life blew up like a bomb detonating inside my head. I don’t know what it’s like with other families but in mine, the solution to the loss of a loved one is to “stay strong”. In my family, crying is something you do not do.

So I didn’t. Unless I was in the privacy of my own space, of course.

I began to go through the motions of life again. I got up, went to work, came home, slept. Got up, went to work, came home, slept. Got up, went to work, came home, slept.

You get my drift.

I was on autopilot, and even though I didn’t want to admit it, I knew I could drown in my sorrows if I wasn’t careful. I stopped going out–not a difficult thing to do when you’re inherently an introvert. I stopped writing. How could I when the stories I love to write so much were pretty much a grief-fest of tragedy? Instead of writing, I transferred all my anxiety and heartache by focusing on the art of decluttering my life.

Oh, and I decluttered. Threw out, donated, gave away items like nobody’s business. It felt good to just let go of everything, like having less stuff translated to less stress and less things to worry about.

So I released it all.

And I relished in my introvertness. I mean, now I had a legitimate excuse to not see anyone. I started to feel okay about saying “no”. But then weeks past, months past, and more months past, and I remember talking to one of my friends on the phone. I recall her saying something and being 31 years old, and in her trail of thought–

I froze.

Because the age she was saying she was didn’t make any sense to me. I was that age, and I’m a year older than her, so how could we possibly both be 31 years old?

While she continued to ramble, I took out my iPhone and calculated my age as I stared dumbfounded at the screen.

I was 32 and didn’t even know it.

Almost an entire year went by and I remained stagnant, just going through the motions of so-called life. Not actually living at all.

This was then followed by a mini mental breakdown in front of my mother.

I feel like all this had to happen, though. All these emotions had to come up in order for me to realize that I was in charge of my life. I was responsible for how I felt. And that I couldn’t continue to feel like I was this victim in this tragic story of my life, like all the characters I like to create so much.

It was okay to grieve but I had to move on. I had to take ownership.

So enter the world of YouTube and the art of self-help books.

I started binge watching videos about motivation, positive affirmations, meditation, and the law of attraction.

I re-read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Read The Four Agreements. Put a crap-load of self-help books in my to-read pile.

And I slowly started to practice what I was learning. I meditate. I get up at the crack of dawn to relish in me time. I sip on a cup of coffee and think of all the things I’m grateful for in my life. My family. My friends. My cozy bed. My future dog. Instead of just rolling out of bed as the alarm sounds and rushing to get ready for work.

I belt out to awesome music while driving to work instead of complaining of the traffic, or the asshole that just cut me off. I walk outside, appreciating the beauty of nature. I give myself a break and try not to be so hard on myself. Like damn, we’re our own worst critics. We all need to get over that because if we don’t love ourselves, who the hell else will?

I smile more, I hug more. I show my appreciation for the people in my life more. It’s more about seeing things as a glass half-full mentality as opposed to the dreaded near-empty glass. It’s about living in the moment and appreciating the things I have in my life, and doing all the things that bring me joy.

If I want to have bubble tea, I’ll have bubble tea.

If I want to rock out to Black Velvet or lip sync to Imagine Dragons or Drake songs, I’m all about that life.

If I want to go on a hike to see all the nature’s wonders, damn hell I will. I will pant my way up any trail, name the time and place.

And through it all, I started to feel good. Dare I say, happy? And I started to realize that you attract the things you focus on, and that happiness is something you choose to be. You either are or you aren’t, that’s up to you.

I choose to be happy.

That statement is huge for me, and the years that have gone by have only made me that much stronger and appreciative of this precious thing we call life.

So this space is a fresh start. A place to script out my life, a place to share my stories, both fiction and real, and a place to just ramble about whatever comes to my head. Because it’s what makes me happy, and I hope you enjoy being along for the ride.