Category Archives: Living life to the fullest

Adjustments and appreciations

I have started a new writing contract, and this one requires me to make some adjustments.

My home is my usual base of operations. I wear comfy clothes, I take frequent breaks, and when I read my writing out loud to myself no one around me questions my sanity.

But for this contract, I need to put on nice clothes, walk to a bus stop early in the morning, and commute to downtown Ottawa. I don’t have access to my email at my office, so I feel untethered. It makes it more difficult to do things I love to do but don’t get paid for, like this blog.

Shock. To. My. System.

I know, I know—what’s the big deal, right? People do this every day. True, and I’m making the adjustment.

And I look for things to appreciate. The work is interesting, my boss is fantastic, and my co-workers are positive and supportive. The experience allows me to build my writing skills in a lucrative area. I learn to juggle domestic duties more effectively.

Best of all, I don’t have a work life like the one described by a woman on the bus. (Yes, I was eavesdropping.) She said:

“I break my day up because it’s the only way I can deal with it:

8:30 to 12:00 is work;
12:00 to 1:00 is waiting for lunch;
1:00 to 1:30 is lunch;
1:30 to 3:30 is work;
3:30 to 4:30 is waiting to go home;
4:30 is home.”

Wow.

I’ll adjust, and I’ll appreciate. And I’ll try not to let the blog slip . . .

stanley-park

What is The Divine?

Last year I was part of a group that drafted a new mission statement for our church. One of our biggest questions? What word to use to describe the “awesomeness.”

God? A turn-off to too many people. The Holy? People said to us, “What does that even mean?” Spirit? Conjures up images of ghosts. Source? Doesn’t quite cover it. Creator? Edges into the whole evolution/intelligent design controversy.

We settled on The Divine. This did not go unchallenged. Grammar purists argued, “Divine is an adjective.” Others thought it too vague. It’s not perfect, but it was as close as we could come to capturing the elusive, thin-place feeling of Perfect Moments.

And what is a Perfect Moment? 

It’s different for everyone, and never the same twice. If you try for it, it escapes your grasp. But you know it when it descends upon you unbidden. It doesn’t have to be in an Ashram or in deep meditation, although it can be. It happens in grocery stores, restaurants or (often) on a walk in the woods. Usually it is deceptively simple, so that when it’s over, people wonder, “Did that really happen?”

We celebrate New Year’s Eve with a group of friends. One New Year’s Eve, many years ago, we met as usual, relaxed together, and our children entertained each other in the play room. We gathered around the kitchen table. Through ceiling-high windows that lined one wall of the room, I watched inch-wide snow flakes drifting down and settling into fluffy banks. Christmas tree lights reflected in the glass. Children’s laughter wafted to us from a distance. The moment began to take on a special quality of timelessness, almost a buzzing. I felt part of the scene and apart from it. A witness. I looked at the snow, the lights, my friends, and I thought, “This is a Perfect Moment.”

I savoured it until the special quality dissipated with that noticeable shift back to reality and then moved on. I thought the moment was mine alone.

Later, one of my friends told me, “You know, I remember one New Year’s Eve, we were in the kitchen and the snow was falling, and the kids were playing and for a short time I was struck by how perfect the moment was.”

I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t believe that we had shared the Perfect Moment, the thin place, the awesomeness, together.

It might have come from God, Spirit, Creator or Source, and it felt Holy, but it was above all, Divine.

_______________

Read our mission statement here: http://www.trinityunitedottawa.ca/about-trinity/momentum-for-mission/

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Morning pages: Dredging out of a creative primordial soup

Lots of people ask me where I get my ideas.

Stephen King answers the same question this way:

“. . . good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, interviewed the American poet, Ruth Stone. During that interview, Ruth Stone spoke of feeling poems:

“. . . coming at her from over the landscape like a thunderous train of air.” She said that when this happened, she felt the poem coming, it shook the earth beneath her feet, and the only thing she could do was run like hell to the house, chased by the poem. She had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Sometimes, she said, she wouldn’t be fast enough and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and it would continue on across the landscape looking for another poet.”

Wouldn’t that be exciting?

I’m helped by Julia Cameron’s morning pages. In The Artist’s Way, she recommends the daily practice of writing three pages every morning. Weird and wonderful stuff comes to me on those pages. The ideas feed this blog and my other creative writing. The ideas arise out of a creative primordial ooze; I dredge them out of the muck, and they rise to the surface with a sucking sound, brand new and unevolved.

Without fail, something comes up. Almost always I think: “I could never have thought of that on my own.”

Out of the empty sky, barreling across the landscape, or rising out of the primordial soup—however we choose to describe it—the ideas come from somewhere, someone, someplace, something outside of us.

We just recognize them when they show up.

drop-off-zone

 

 

Good or Bad? Rose is Rose Comic Strip

rr021012

Rose is Rose Comic Strip, October 12, 2002 on GoComics.com

“Why, then, ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.” —from Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Don Wimmer and Pat Brady, creators of the Rose is Rose comic strip, must have studied Shakespeare at some point in their lives. Their work on October 12, 2002 reflects their philosophical reflection on Hamlet’s statement.

Perspective certainly does play a role in our “thinking” about the goodness or badness of an event. My Ottawa Senators NHL team lost their game last night: Bad. For fans of the Carolina Hurricanes: Good.

Rachel Homan’s curling team lost by one point in an extra end at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts curling event last night. Rachel is from Ottawa: Bad. For the Manitoban fans of the Jennifer Jones winning team: Good.

Time also dabbles with our “thinking”. A lost job: Bad. A better job comes along as a result: Good. An ugly divorce: Bad. A happy, stable relationship later in life: Good.

But when our tails get stepped on, like the cat in the comic strip, it doesn’t feel good. And in the time immediately after the stomping when the tail still smarts, we are entitled to enjoy the pain. To Hamlet, Denmark was a prison. To me, every Ottawa Senators loss hurts and every Rachel Homan team win is a joy.

So be it.

Love locks: One part of a love regimen

Amsterdam Love Locks Photo courtesy of Anthony Dalton

Amsterdam Love Locks
Photo courtesy of Anthony Dalton http://www.anthonydalton.net/

Last summer, Marie-Danielle Smith reported in the Ottawa Citizen that our Corktown bridge would not collapse under the weight of love. Phew.

The Corktown Bridge is our Ottawa, Canada version of a “love bridge.” Hundreds of people symbolically lock up their love and thrown away the key there. So far our sturdy bridge is holding steady, unlike the Pont des Arts in Paris that caved under the expectations of so much sworn love.

What do you think when you see these locks? Do you think, “Oh, how lovely.” And do you also wonder, “How many of those loves are still locked?”

I’m an optimistic person, and I’m into my 26th year of a strong marriage, so you might not expect me to be cynical about this, but I can’t help thinking, “How many of those loves are still “locked”?

Locking love is a lovely gesture, but lovely gestures alone do not make solid foundations for long-term relationships. Like Valentine’s Day, love locks inject a “one-time-only” dose of good medicine into partnerships that need a daily vitamin and mineral regimen.  

This weekend, enjoy a dose of chocolates, flowers, champagne or romantic dinners, but don’t forget to return to the daily regimen of respect, patience, acceptance and compassionate words.

 _______________

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/shes-so-heavy-love-locks-wont-break-the-corktown-bridge-professors-say

Being “sticky”

Who are your sticky people? Who are the people who glue your life together when it might otherwise blow apart?

For many of us, our first “sticky” people are parents: mothers or fathers, or both. A father who hugs away hurts, a mother who coaches a team, or parents who hold together a brokenhearted teen after that first shattering break-up.

Sticky people also act in community organizations. Volunteers are hard to come by in this “I’m so crazy busy I can’t breathe” world, so a very few carry the load that many used to. They stick with it so that festivals run, mouths get fed, or refugees get settled into safe situations.

Sticky people don’t bail when times get hard; they work even harder. They take on extra duties when those with less adhesive peel away. Sticky people have fortitude in times of adversity and loyalty when disloyalty might be easier.

They don’t say, “It’s just too hard.” They say, “It’s hard, but good will come of it if I stick it out.”

Sticky people are happy. They blossom. They know that if they were to avoid suffering or difficult challenges, they would take away their growth opportunities. They are proud of themselves because of the hardships they overcome. They grow. They evolve.

They glow because they haven’t left anyone hanging. They haven’t been the ones to disappoint.

We find joy in unexpected places, and sometimes, paradoxically, we find a healthy dose of it awakening in our steps along the hard road. Sticky people know this well.

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