Category Archives: How do you define success?
My daughter’s birthday is Christmas Eve. This means a lifetime of both (a) feeling a little special, and (b) being cheated out of a full day dedicated to her birthday and her birthday alone.
When she was a child, we had big, fun family gatherings for her birthday. She thought that was great. But when she became a teenager, she realized what a difference a date makes. “Hey, wait a minute,” she began to say to herself. “My friends get to do birthday dinners with friends and go to movies on their actual birthday. On my birthday, everyone is doing family stuff.”
Last year we realized that, as a result of all that “family stuff” we do at Christmas, she had never had a birthday lunch or dinner out at a restaurant on her actual birthday in her whole life. We resolved to fix that.
We chose the restaurant—one that was newly opened and about which we had heard good things. We appeared on the day, happy-happy. We ordered drinks to start. She and her brother ordered iced tea. My husband and I ordered beer. When the server came to the table, she set the iced tea down. The imbalance made her tray wobble, and she spilled an entire very large, very cold beer all over my daughter. It made a spectacular mess.
So much for a special birthday lunch.
The next day, we hosted Christmas dinner at our house—a lovely turkey meal with my family and our neighbours. At the end of the meal we stacked up the plates. I picked up the pile and turned to head toward the kitchen. One hand caught on the edge of a chair and the entire stack of plates flew out of my hands and smashed into thousands of pieces. It made a spectacular mess.
A shattering end to a Christmas celebration.
Two unfortunate circumstances. No one died or was permanently injured, so not tragedies. But they are the kind of circumstances that make you want a do-over. An opportunity to rewind life like a VHS tape to the point just before the event and then to alter the outcome. Alas, all we can do in such situations is shrug and acknowledge that things didn’t go according to plan. Let it go.
Given the back-to-back mishaps in our family last year, I’m hoping we bought ourselves a reprieve for 2015. But if my plans go awry, I’ll try to shrug and let it go. And in all the many holiday gatherings going on around the world this time of year, some things are not going to go according to plan. I hope people will be able to shrug and let it go.
In a conversation at my office, one co-worker shared a story about his son-in-law who was born in England but has been in Canada for the past ten years. My co-worker reported that when his son-in-law returns to Great Britain now, the people tell him he speaks with a Canadian accent, even though his accent sounds decidedly British to Canadian ears.
As he spoke, he turned to another man who came to Canada from Beijing. He asked him, “When you return to China, do people say you sound Canadian?”
The man thought for second and then said, “No, they don’t comment on my accent, but I do find myself saying ‘Sorry’ a lot.”
Our compassion is contagious. It makes me proud, and not the least bit sorry.
I am writing this post early in the morning on Monday, October 19. It’s federal election day here in Canada, but I don’t know yet what’s going to happen. The polls haven’t even opened in my region. When I finish writing, I will pre-schedule this post to run tomorrow morning when the results are in and people will either be mourning or celebrating. I don’t yet know what’s going to happen, but I do know this.
“The arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
All shall be well.
No matter what happens, all shall be well.
If you invested your whole being in the Conservative party, and they will not form the next government, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you believe that Justin Trudeau is the sure and certain leader for our country, but the Liberals did not win enough seats, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you live and breathe the politics of the New Democratic Party, but Thomas Mulcair’s NDP candidates did not show well, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you believe that Stephen Harper is a megalomaniac who holds too tightly the reins of his ministers and the public service and does not respect human rights, but the people of Canada voted his party back into power, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you believe that Justin Trudeau is just not ready, but the votes carried him into the footsteps of his father as prime minister of this country, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you believe that Elizabeth May is a fine candidate and her Green party has the potential to re-shape our country in a positive way, but the Greens still didn’t manage to gain any political headway, it’s okay. All shall be well.
I have close friends in all of those camps. Close friends of mine live and breathe the politics of vastly different parties. I love all those people. Not a one of them is evil incarnate.
That’s how I know that all shall be well.
Since confederation, this country has been led by either Liberal or Conservative prime ministers. Collectively they shaped this country into, what I believe is, the finest democracy in the world. Each one of them changed us for the better in some way. Each one of them made mistakes.
In between elections, the parties not in power raged about the travesties of the governing party. They ranted about what they would change. After all the bluster though, when changes in government happened, the new governing party kept what worked—even if they had raged against it—and changed what didn’t.
My diverse friends, although they approach it from different directions, are all driven by the same ideal: the building and maintenance of a great democracy.
I believe that Martin Luther King Jr. was right. Events which, at first blush, appear horrific or unjust, often lead to a greater good.
“The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” All shall be well.
Lesson One: The last shall be first.
For the past two decades my husband and I have spent our time and money on family, so renovations to our house didn’t make it on to our to-do list. Now that our children have fledged and left the nest, we have begun to have conversations about renovations. We have talked about our master bathroom and the kitchen. Of all the possible renovations, the bathroom in our basement would have been last on the list.
Not any more. The toilet down there sprang a leak and we enjoyed the fun of cleaning up after a significant flood. It’s almost like our toilet down there said, “Oh yeah? You think you can forget about me? I’ll show you.” So the last renovation we would have considered has now become our first. Jokes on us.
Lesson Two: 60 is the new 25
My husband celebrated his 60th birthday on the weekend. The news of this event caused many of our friends to fall into stunned silence. 60? They could not believe that a person as active and as fit as my husband could be 60. But it was true.
He puts many 25-year-olds to shame. We look around at friends of the same age and it is the same story. 60 is not the new 50, or the new 40, or even the new 30. 60 is the new 25.
Lesson Three: You never know what’s going to happen, so make room for random events. (All you non-sports fans out there, bear with me.)
My goodness, but that was a barn-burner of baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night. So many flukes! Russell Martin—a professional baseball player for more than a decade who has played in four all-star games, and won a gold glove and a silver slugger award—made a Little League mistake at a turning point in the game. The odds against a player of his calibre making a careless throw that ricochets off the bat of the player in the box are astronomical. In baseball and in life, you just never know what’s going to happen.
Lesson Four: Respect is earned.
Such strong emotions between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. Intense. After the debacle of Russell Martin’s errant throw, José Bautista hit a home run to give the Blue Jays a comfortable lead. (He has a reputation for doing that, so it shouldn’t have surprised anyone.) After he hit the ball really, really far—a certain home run—he admired his work and flipped his bat. The pitcher for Texas, Sam Dyson, didn’t like this, because according to unwritten baseball “code,” batters are supposed to respect the pitcher. They aren’t supposed to watch a home run or, worse, flip their bat.
I think we’d be hard pressed to find any baseball player anywhere who would not have shown emotion in that particular circumstance. Could the Texas Rangers admit that if one of their players had hit a home run, there might have been some celebration?
And José Bautista earned his celebration. I remember when he first joined the Toronto Blue Jays. He was a question mark. No one gave him any credit. People didn’t see his potential. But he worked and worked and worked. No matter what people might think about him personally, they have to respect his hard work and his talent. He earned it.
And Sam Dyson? He responded to the circumstances poorly. He gave up a home run, and that happens to pitchers. They have to learn to wear it no matter the circumstances, and no matter what the players on the other team are doing. He didn’t. He left his mound. He taunted the batters. He accused Bautista of doing what kids would do. Instead of accepting the loss with grace, he groused about the other team, just like kids would do. He didn’t earn my respect. In baseball and in life, no matter what the “code,” respect is not automatically granted; it is earned.
The managers of baseball teams in the post-season probably don’t want players on the field to be quite as relaxed as Snoopy, but they do want players who stay calm and focused no matter what mayhem surrounds them. May the mayhem be minimal and the focus maximal.
“If you get a piece of cake and eat the whole thing, you will feel empty. If you get a piece of cake and share half of it, you will feel both full and fulfilled.” —Haitian saying, as told by Lynne Twist in The Soul of Money.
When Lynne Twist referred to the Haitian wisdom above, she did so in a book about money. She used it as her way of saying that a person who hoards surplus wealth—money that, like cake, is not necessary for survival—will never feel like he has enough, and his days will echo with lonely dissatisfaction. But a person who enjoys the benefits of surplus wealth and shares some with others who might not have any “cake,” will remember that she has more than enough, and her days will ring with shared joy.
I believe that to be true, but today I’m talking about actual cake. I don’t eat sweets often. I don’t care for them, really. Instead of dessert, give me another piece of pizza or an extra helping of steak and I’m a happy girl.
Of all the sweets there are in the world, the kind I can most easily pass up without a blink of regret is cake. In fact, I usually eat it reluctantly (people are often insulted if you don’t eat their celebratory cake) and I don’t find it satisfying. In my opinion, cake is wasted calories. What is so darned appealing about a rather tasteless foundation topped with sugary goo? I don’t get it.
But it’s my birthday this weekend. Like it or not, there is extreme societal pressure to have cake at a birthday, even if the person celebrating the occasion doesn’t care for it much.
So, cake I will have. I will eat it, I will happily share it. (Please, take as much as you want!) I will feel both full and fulfilled because I know that cake makes the people I love happy, and that’s the best birthday present I could have.