Category Archives: Living life to the fullest
I will be stepping away for a few weeks of down time in the Ottawa summer sun.
May you also enjoy a time of respite wherever you are and whatever season you are in. Carry this thought with you into that respite. I will.
“When is the last time you physically hurt yourself? What did you do to get the pain to stop? And how long did you wait to do something about it? When we’re in physical pain, we’re usually extremely proactive about figuring out how to make it go away immediately because, you know, it hurts . . .
When it comes to our emotional pain, however, we’re apparently way more game for seeing just how much torture we can endure, wallowing in our guilt, shame, resentment, and self-loathing, sometimes for our entire lifetimes . . .
Forgiveness is about taking care of you, not the person you need to forgive.”
—Jen Sincero from You Are a Bad Ass”
A few blocks from where I live, this flag flies on a neighbour’s house.
I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago, and I my instinctive reaction to it surprised me. For the first time in my life, the stars and stripes made me feel uneasy.
The United States has been many things to me—fun, powerful, demonstrative, advanced, swaggering, egalitarian, right-seeking, loud, over-the-top, and occasionally a little insensitive—and it has made me smile, scowl, throw my fist in the air, cringe, celebrate or roll my eyes, but it has never made me uneasy.
But the sight of our Canada flag combined with that of United States right now does not sit well. It is definitely not a “great again” feeling.
Especially when another flag that flies right behind that first one would not be welcome in many parts of that country.
America, I’m worried about you, is all. I’m worried because that flag really does represent the truth of our situation. No matter how we feel about it, we are interwoven with you. The fates of our two countries are so tied together that we Canadians really need you and want you to succeed. Your place in the world is such that your actions have global impact, and we need you and want you to keep moving forward, upward, outward.
What’s happening now feels like the opposite: backward, downward, inward, like a balloon that has developed a slow leak.
I guess what I’m saying is, in the words of one of our Canadian icons, Red Green: “Remember, I’m pulling for ya. We’re all in this together!”
In my earlier post I wrote about a weekend when time slowed down. I relaxed at a friend’s cottage, and the leisurely dawdle in time allowed me to notice images of wings that came to me.
Immediately after that weekend, time accelerated from dawdle to flash and I rushed from activity to activity: social events, my daughter’s graduation from university, travel to the Canadian Writers’ Summit in Toronto and the launch of an anthology that includes one of my short stories. Whoosh.
I did my best to stay in the moment for all those fun and meaningful moments, but I had little time to luxuriate in noticing. Except once.
During a writers’ summit poetry session held in a marquis tent at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, one of the leaders asked us to notice something in our immediate surroundings: one unusual or interesting aspect of the setting. I looked up, around and then down. On the paving stones beneath my feet I noticed something that would have escaped me otherwise: bright platters of colourful paint. The stones beneath my feet were the setting for poetry at that moment, but in the not-too-distant past children had played and created with paint there. I imagined their laughter and playful shouts.
The workshop leader gave me the gift of time to notice.
I’ll pay it forward. Take some time to notice. What gift is there for you that you might not have appreciated otherwise?
The Blood Is Thicker anthology, published by Iguana Books, includes my short story, “Beating the Odds.” Available here: Blood Is Thicker
A surprising lesson from a kids game:
I played musical chairs with my Sunday school kids in two ways. First the traditional version with chairs numbering one less than the players participating arranged, music played, and when the music stopped the children scrambled to claim a chair. One sad-faced child did not find a seat and skulked away, excluded to watch forlornly while the other children played. One more chair removed, and so on.
For the second version, we started out with one less chair at the beginning, same as always, and we removed one chair on each round, same as always. The difference was no child was ever eliminated or excluded. When the music stopped, the children found chairs BUT everyone had to have a place, even if it meant sharing.
What warmed my heart more than anything? The kids shared their chairs even when they didn’t have to.
They didn’t evenly distribute themselves to claim space and only share when there were no more empty chairs. We removed one chair per round and when the music stopped there would be two or three left over. Kids reached out to take other kids by the hand to say, “Sit with me.” They were smiling and laughing and hugging. It was wonderful.
Including everyone was happier than excluding and rejecting. Sharing was more satisfying than staking out space alone.
The first time the kids played they did as they were told and followed the rules of the game. They didn’t question the dog-eat-dog nature of the game. The second time they also followed rules, but they were better thought-out rules, and it was way more fun. Inclusion is important in our affirming church. The kids lived that intuitively when playing a game.
How often do we follow dog-eat-dog rules without question when we could easily change the rules to a much more fun, satisfying option?
We must be careful and mindful of the rules we teach our children. What an awesome responsibility.
We have an art gallery in our church. A recent display featured the work of Leonard Minni, an artist who lived in Rwanda before during and after the 1994 genocide.
He visited our congregation to tell us about the theme for his exhibition: Time.
The crowd listened in awed silence as he told us that many of his pieces involve sunsets, because when he watched the sun set during the trauma in 1994 he wondered if he would live to see the sun rise, and would he live to see another sunset?
One never knows what life holds.
Savour moments as precious. Soak up those sunsets. Be mindful with your Time.
Our car pulled up at the end of the long rural driveway that leads to the farm I lived on for the first sixteen years of my life. As I looked over the property, the nooks and crannies of the place felt both intimately familiar to the marrow of my bones and foreign at the same time. I can’t believe I used to live there. That feels like it happened to someone else, I thought. As those unspoken thoughts ran through my head, my mother said out loud, “I can’t believe I lived there for 24 years.”
That was on Easter weekend when we drove the hour up Highway 417 to visit my mother. On our way back from our lunch together, we did what people used to do as a form of entertainment: We went “for a drive.”
We drove by my old high school. Memories, fresh and distant at the same time, popped around my head. In high school I was a shy girl who followed every rule and never challenged authority. That girl is so different from me now she feels like a different person. (The one time I got kicked out of class was when I rolled my eyes at a history teacher for showing yet another film instead of actually teaching us something.)
We stopped at the corner of that rural road beside the former one-room schoolhouse where my mother used to teach. I missed attending that school by one year. It was still open when I was five, but there was no kindergarten in our area at the time. That school closed and I started Grade 1 “in town.” I remember the building as a school and my own start at education, but it’s so long ago and far away and different that it feels like it happened to someone else.
The trip triggered memories of other phases of my life: university years, when the things I did had to have been done by a different person; the early working years, when I managed to have a lot of fun with no money; and the thrilling exhaustion of new motherhood, a time that turned me into a different person more than anything else could have ever do.
Statistically I have thirty or forty years ahead of me.That’s a lot of room for new phases for me (the one that I am in any given moment) to live to the fullest, and for me (the future me) to look back on someday.
What will those phases will be? I can’t wait to find out.