Category Archives: Living life to the fullest

Groundhog Day: Life themes that need repeating

Groundhog Day is one of my favourite movies. Clever writing and perfectly timed edits build a humorous, poignant, and challenging story that unrolls three of my favourite themes:

Photo © 2004 by April King

Photo © 2004 by April King

1. Long-lasting happiness doesn’t come through material things or self-indulgence; it comes from making a valuable contribution to society.

2. Life-long learning enriches the self and society.

3. People have to true to themselves, and they can’t control other people’s actions or emotions.

At the beginning of the movie, Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a self-centered, cynical jerk. Through an unexplained circumstance he finds himself reliving February 2—Groundhog Day—over and over and over. Every day after his clock radio clicks over to 6:00 a.m. and he hears the same Sonny and Cher song, he meets the same people and re-lives the same events, trying to figure out what he has to do to escape the repetitive loop. Goofing off on the job doesn’t do it. Eating every creamy dessert in sight doesn’t help. Suicide attempts don’t work. When he falls in love with Rita (Andie MacDowell) he tries to make her fall in love with him. He pretends to be something he isn’t. He plays tricks, and he pushes too fast, too soon.

1. Eventually he begins to notice people he can help: women in a car with a flat tire on Main Street, a choking victim in the restaurant or a homeless man in the alley.

2. Eventually he decides to learn new things: he becomes an excellent piano player, a master ice sculptor and learns to speak French.

3. Eventually, he evolves into a compassionate, interested person who allows others to be who they are.

That is, of course, when the cycle breaks.

If I were to mention the three themes above in casual conversation, most people would nod in agreement. True, long-lasting happiness doesn’t come from a store. True, learning new things just makes life so darned interesting. True, we can’t control or other people’s actions or emotions.

But those commonly accepted rules aren’t so easy to live.

1. No matter how much we know that material things or self-indulgence won’t bring us long-term happiness, we still pine for a new car, Häagen-Dazs Dark Chocolate ice cream, a designer bag, a 52-inch flat screen, the latest electronic gadget . . .

2. We come up with excuses to avoid new challenges. We’re too tired, too old, too young, or we have no time, no money, no proper equipment . . .

3. We pretend to be something we’re not just to try to impress others. We try to shape other people according to our expectations. We push them to quit smoking, get fit, wear different clothes, change their hair, get higher grades, quit drinking . . .

If you never watched Groundhog Day, or if you dismissed it as a mindless lark, I invite you to visit it, or revisit it, over and over and over.

It seems the themes need repeating.

 

Elsie MacGill: Flying under the radar

How did I not know about Elsie MacGill? 

There we were on Parliament Hill last September for the commemoration of the Battle of Britain. As if to belie the horrors of war and the sorrow of lives lost, brilliant sun shone down on Ottawa, Canada that day. Gentle breezes rippled the Governor General’s standard flying from the Peace Tower.

 width=

Vintage aircraft, including a Lancaster Bomber,thundered overhead.

lancaster-bomber

The Snowbirds flew in missing man formation. Chills.

missing-man

And then we strolled by the Hawker Hurricane aircraft on display on the vast lawn and read this sign.

elsie-macgill

Elsie MacGill, a Canadian, was the world’s first female aeronautical engineer, and a woman who supervised Hurricane production in the 1940s. How did I not know about her?

I did more research. As a child growing up in Vancouver, Elsie took drawing lessons from Emily Carr. Talk about inspiration. Elsie earned degrees from the University of Toronto, the University of Michigan and MIT. In fact, she was the first woman in North America to earn a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering.

Before her graduation, she contracted polio and was told she would never walk again. She was determined though, and she learned to walk with the help of two metal canes.

While using those canes, she went on to become the world’s first female aircraft designer. She co-authored the report from the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada. She became a member of the Order of Canada.

How did I not know about Elsie MacGill? Somehow she managed to fly under the radar.

I imagine her in the Canadian Car and Foundry factory in Thunder Bay (then Fort William) surrounded by metallic clanging, blazes of welding and the haze of smoke that hung in offices in her day. I picture her making her way to meetings with the help of two canes, somehow managing to command respect despite her gender and a physical challenge. I cannot help but feel awe and respect for doing what she did at the time she did it.

She wasn’t on the curriculum when I went to school. She needs to be. She’s my new Canadian hero.

Training ourselves to be kind

If you want to spend your day in despair over the state of humanity, the fastest route to that sentiment is through the comments section on YouTube or any other internet site.

Comments sections put the meanness, pettiness, ignorance, judgment and narrow thinking of some members of our society on full display. I simply cannot read them, or I have to spend time after giving myself a chin-up pep talk.

unfoldingSociety needs a kindness injection. And there might be a way.

Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggest we might be able to enhance our tendency toward kindness. All it takes is some meditation, some training and some practice.

Participants in a study worked at building their compassion “muscle.” Those who did responded to others in need with caring and a desire to help. They became more altruistic.

Goodness knows we need more people like that.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is not the first to propose physical, spiritual, mental and emotional benefits of meditation; it has been shown to lower blood pressure, increase serotonin levels, reduce pain, and increase creativity and mental sharpness. Their study adds another motivational level to begin the practice.

Okay everyone? Let’s change some brains.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2543812/Can-train-KIND-Just-seven-hours-meditation-rewire-brain-claims-study.html#ixzz3xcdrISBE

Steps to nowhere: Climbing aimlessly

steps-to-nowhereI attended a public event not long ago, and while there I noticed these steps . . . to nowhere.

Placed along the edge of a raised shrubbery bed, the steps serve no purpose that we could discern. The shrubbery bed hugs the brick wall of a building, so even if a person were to climb the steps and machete through the greenery, a brick wall would all that would be gained for the trouble. The pathway beside the steps leads the other direction, so these steps don’t follow the natural conclusion of any journey.

What really struck me though, was the effort required to place these cement steps. Those things are heavy. Someone expended tremendous time and energy to hoist them into place.

Whatever for?

The steps did come in handy for me. I climbed to the top of them and enjoyed a better view of the event, head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd.

Do your steps serve no purpose? Do you climb and climb and machete through, only to encounter brick walls? Are your steps leading you away from the natural conclusion of your journey? Are you expending tremendous time and energy putting things into place for no reason? Are other people the ones who take advantage of your hard work?

Questions prompted by steps to nowhere.

 

 

Laughing through misfortune: Don’t cry over spilled drinks or broken plates

Laughing over spilled drinks.

Laughing over spilled drinks.

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.

Laugh through the misfortune and move onHappy Holidays.c10148

 

 

Some Christmas perspective: Letters from the 1930s

I wrote this post three years ago, but I decided to post it again as we wind down our holiday preparations. A reminder of what is really important at this time of year.

____________________________

Correspondence from an earlier time helps us to gain perspective about our own circumstances. These letters, written by my husband’s ancestors, span the years between 1928 and 1936. The mood changes from comfortable and optimistic, to worried, to discouraged, to desperate.

In 1928 times were good. People had no inkling of the challenges to come. They proudly made use of electricity as they gathered around their radio in the evenings.

letter-jan-1928

By October 1930, people had started to feel the pinch, but hope did not elude them. Reading this now, we know the long, lingering hard times that lay ahead of them—the Great Depression and then World War II—but back then, they were certain it was a short-term dip.

letter-oct-1930

In 1933 many people were out of work. Lay-off notices were dreaded but common. Without a social safety net, no work meant no food or shelter. This lay-off notice came just before Christmas.

letter-dec-1933

At Christmas 1934, this letter was sent:  “. . . we find that it will be impossible to send any gifts this year, and therefore we would rather not receive any gifts this year.”

letter-dec-1934-part1

letter-dec.1934-part2

By comparison, we are wealthy beyond all imagining. Our social safety net is not perfect, but it helps.

Rest easy. Enjoy our luxury. Happy Holidays.

Sourav Adhikari

Live Positive Read Positive

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Aging Abundantly | Women Over Fifty | Empty Nesters | Caregivers | Aging Gracefully

Finding Joy at Every Age with writer/philosopher Dorothy Sander

Wanderings of an Elusive Mind

Where it goes, no one knows

Plain and Fancy

Marian Longenecker Beaman: Former Plain Girl Meets Fancy World

Spread love not hate

Everything under the sunshine

View Pacific

The View of, from, and around the Pacific

Wire Dog Stories

Imaginary Adventures that Entertain and Inspire

Words By Montgomery

Sharon Montgomery: Author - Playwright - Lyricist

On Point Writing and Editing

Professional writing, blogging, editing, and proofreading

anansi2050

Deep Thoughts and Ideas

Notes Along the Path

A Lighter Way of Being

Ethereal Nature

The interface of the metaphysical, the physical, and the cultural

Ba'slan shev'la

A strategic disappearance, for the purpose of regrouping and recovering from extended engagement with one's quarry.

Enjoyable Living

Putting the JOY back in life

A Small Act Of Kindness Can Bring Smile On Million Faces

Kindness Like a Boomerang Always Comes Back!!

LORIEB

My passions: health & wellness, current events, gardening, wheat allergy, parenting and more...

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 882 other followers

%d bloggers like this: