The love in a name

The newel knob of our banister is a catch-all for items of clothing, headphones and strappy purses. Yesterday, those items coincidentally fell into place so it looked like we had a new family member.

I posted the picture on my Facebook feed and immediately received suggestions to give our creation a name. All of us picked up a “he” vibe even though the scarf and hat belong to my daughter. Stumpy, Lanister, and Billy Bannister were some ideas. A clever friend suggested Roger to pay homage to the runner.

Cows with names make more milk, so there must be something to the idea that to be named is to be worthy of love. We name or pets, cars, boats, and stuffed animals. When we name them we make them part of our family, and we love them.

If we number things things—or people—on the other hand, it deems them unworthy of love, dehumanizes them. The Nazis knew this. 

When we bestow a name, when we take time to ponder possibilities, filter through meanings, and find just the right feeling, it is an act of love.

For some reason, I found the name Philip hilarious. Welcome to our family Philip Banister. I can tell you’re the kind of guy who has never relied on looks to get by so you developed a killer sense of humour. I expect we’ll have lots of laughs together.

I’d love to hear about the named things you love.

 

 

 

 

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Surprise memory, surprise visits

Near the end of my lunchtime walk around Parliament Hill last week, I felt called to take a closer look at a monument I had passed many times but never really looked at.

 

The gold sphere balancing as if by magic on the edge of a white stone wall grabs the attention.

I had to see what that balancing act was all about. I crossed a small bridge to a piece of land that juts out into the Ottawa River. The first thing I noticed was a shallow wall into which the names of Canadian naval vessels had been carved. My brother served in the Royal Canadian Navy on the HMCS Terra Nova, so I took a picture of the engraved name.

From my new angle on Richmond Landing, with Parliament Hill in the background, I got a different perspective. From there I could see the naval overtones of the prow of a ship, ocean waves, and the gold orb as the sun. 

 

Up close I could read the Navy motto: Ready, Aye, Ready.

I stood there and wondered how it was that I never knew about The Royal Canadian Navy Monument, something that has a personal connection for me. I wondered, “Why did it come to my attention today?”

I thought about the date and realized it was the anniversary of a surprise visit I made to Halifax, NS to welcome my brother and his ship home for the first Persian Gulf War. He had no family in the area, so he didn’t expect anyone to be there when the ship pulled in. Surprise!

My brother’s ashes were committed to the deep six years ago, but I felt he had paid me a surprise visit in return.

Surprising my brother in Halifax, 1991.

 

 

 

 

Put a happy face on it

On Tuesdays when I work in downtown Ottawa, Canada, I get out of my office at noon and go for a walk.

Ottawa is a beautiful city for a walk. I pass the tremendous Parliament Buildings that never fail to awe me with the power of their structures and the peace and freedom they represent.

Centre Block, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

I stroll down by the Rideau Canal locks and along the Ottawa River.

The locks on the Rideau Canal.

I walk by green parks and look up at rugged rock cliffs.

The cliffs behind Parliament Hill

No matter what’s happening in life, the sights of my noon-hour walk lighten my spirits, re-place events into proper perspective and bring me joy.

Everything in life might not be perfect, but I can smile regardless.

The bicycle path where I walk along the Ottawa River flooded last year in the mighty spring flood. The concrete developed potholes that repair crews later patched. Someone who enjoys a touch of whimsy added a smiley face to one of those potholes.

Even though we occasionally get flooded, even though we need to get patched up from time to time, we can smile and know that all shall be well for moving forward again.

All is well.

The weight and clutter of beliefs we carry

“When we carry a belief, it has a certain mental weight attached to it . . . The heavier the investment—such as religious loyalty, abortion, politics, patriotism, good versus evil—the heavier the weight of belief.”  —Neil Kramer in The Unfoldment

In my work at a local library hundreds of books pass through my hands every shift. Most times I don’t pay too much attention, except to note where to place the book correctly. Sometimes a book stops me and says, “Made ya look!”

This week it was The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, by Margareta Magnusson. I have not read the book yet (if only I could read every book) but I gather the principle is this: clear out your crap before you die and make someone else clean up your mess.

I’m sure Margareta is more polite about it.

Speaking as someone who has had to clear up some such clutter, I endorse the idea. And I think we can go a step farther and clear out some of our mental and emotional clutter too.

In his book, The Unfoldment, Neil Kramer talks about the cluttery weight of beliefs we carry around with us. Some beliefs weigh more than others depending on how invested we are in them. Casual or lighthearted beliefs, like believing a four-leaf clover might bring us good fortune, are light and don’t bother us much to tote around. If we add on a lot more of those little beliefs (knock three times, don’t turn the calendar page until the new month starts, don’t step on a crack, don’t shave during playoffs, don’t wash your lucky socks . . .) the pack gets lumpy and awkward.

Big problems arise when we lug around sandbag-heavy beliefs. Those become a real burden because, even though carrying the weight is hard work, we don’t want to set those burdens down.

“Strangely, the heftier the belief, the more proudly people will sometimes bear its weight. If someone has carried a belief-anvil for 40 years, she is not going to react too kindly to someone telling her that it’s been totally unnecessary. All that effort and martyrdom would have been for nothing. So people hold fast to their own obstinacy, mentally staggering around under this peculiar encumbrance.  —Neil Kramer in The Unfoldment

And a disbelief can be just as heavy. “Disbeliefs require the same maintenance, egoic investment, and channeled consciousness as their positive counterparts,” Kramer writes. (So that’s why so many atheists look like they are a day past a good bowel movement.)

I think we need to think about death-cleaning our minds, clearing out the clutter of beliefs we shouldn’t pass along for someone else have to deal with.

Lately I have found myself avoiding conversations with certain people on particular topics if I know they carry a heavy belief, or if I know I do: Politics is a mine field, the #metoo movement has pitfalls galore, and even Easter has potential for controversy. I’ve started to think, “I need to lighten up.” The weight is getting heavy.

The benefit of death cleaning, I suspect, is keeping only that which serves life, for the benefit of health and happiness and the good of others. Sounds good to me.

four-leaf-clover

It was fun when my daughter found this four-leaf clover, but I don’t REALLY believe it brings us good fortune.

 

 

Our responsibility not to be thoughtless jerks

More than four years ago I read a post on the Matt Walsh Blog entitled, “If I can’t accept you at your worst, then maybe you should stop being so horrible.” I made note of it and set it aside as a “someday” topic.

Someday has arrived.

Matt’s post is long but it boils down to, we have a responsibility not to be thoughtless, hurtful jerks. He refers to the quote: “. . . if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”  

I picture in my mind a person speaking that line.

I see an indignant person off-loading responsibility onto others. I see a person unwilling to try harder to accommodate and collaborate. I see a person who doesn’t believe she needs to give her best because we’re all supposed to accept the hurt and confusion caused by her actions because, well, just because. I see a person who doesn’t believe he needs to think before he acts, speaks or writes.

More than ever our news sources, our social media feeds and our conversations with each other need a healthy dose of thoughtful foresight. More than ever we all have a responsibility to ask, “Is it kind? Is it necessary?” before acting, speaking or writing.

More than ever we need to stop being horrible.

http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/01/23/if-i-cant-accept-you-at-your-worst-then-maybe-you-should-stop-being-so-horrible/

 

 

What is success? Let us Celebrate

What is success? Cars? Money? An interview with Oprah?

Or could it be moving a finger, or taking a shower? 

The definition of success changes with every person, or even with every person on a different day. We have the challenge of learning to see our own version of success and celebrate it without comparing it to others, to be proud of each accomplishment.

Here is a link to a reflective talk entitled “Let Us Celebrate” presented by my friend, Lynne, who has a mental illness and has had to redefine success for herself. The fact that she stood up and made this talk in front of a large crowd is something HUGE for her to celebrate. Preparing for it and processing it after took a lot of effort. Please do yourself a favour and listen.

Let Us Celebrate

And here is the short video she refers to.

 

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