Taking care of the pond Anne Lamott post

Show Up With Hope: Anne Lamott’s Plan for Facing Adversity

Today’s post is not my own. I was fortunate enough to read an article in National Geographic, this morning, by popular author, Anne Lamott. It has been a long time since I read something so inspiring and realistic on hope in dark times. I think most of you if not all, will find this article a keeper. (sadly you will encounter snippets and blocks of ads, but just keep scrolling past them.) It really is worth it and I had to pass it on.

This is about a five minute reading time. To go to the article, just click on the big bold title.

Show Up With Hope’: Anne Lamott’s Plan for Facing Adversity

Here is a snippet that speaks to me.

We take the action—soup kitchens, creek restoration, mentoring—and then the insight follows: that by showing up with hope to help others, I’m guaranteed that hope is present. Then my own hope increases. By creating hope for others, I end up awash in the stuff.

Note 1: May things be the best they can be for each of you, in this last week of November. I hope you enjoy this article and I will see you next week. With thanks, Trudy

The one who is not busy rowan

The One Who No Longer Rushes – thinking of those who are too busy

After many decades of living I now aim to reclaim the spirit of “no rushing.” To become more like my Grandmother who worked hard every day but seemed like the one who was not busy. How did she do that, I wonder. She, who had no modern conveniences, prepared all of her own food, after planting, weeding, harvesting and canning the fruits of her labour, still had time to entertain her grandchildren with rollicking stories of the “olden days,” while she finished knitting another pair of socks or crocheting a new runner for the hall table.

I don’t believe in unnecessary comparisons. Times are different now, and I get that. We don’t organize our lives by the seasons or the setting sun anymore. However, I do believe there is wisdom to be learned, through the experience of those who have gone before us. And I now believe that my Grandmother gave herself wholeheartedly to whatever she was doing, in the circumstances in which she found herself. I believe that her life had meaning.

In other words, when she was picking wild strawberries, she wasn’t wishing to be doing something else. She didn’t expend energy wishing things were different than they were.  She had no notion that life should be easier or designed just to make her happy. It seems to me in retrospect her main purpose, beyond providing the basics, was to make sure she was adding to the joy, beauty and happiness of those who were in her circle of influence. And lending a hand whenever she could.

I am a busy person. I have many things I want to finish while I can, and I have a wealth of interests. I will never get to read all the books, or finish all of my tasks. I have no idea how long I will be around. When my expiry date arrives, I will leave unfinished business behind. What I do know is that I want to do what I can do now, without being frantic and without demanding the impossible  of myself in the way I use to do. I want the people in my life to know that I have time for them in the here and now. I want to know that I have time to moodle.

I am experimenting, especially, as my own energy is at a lower ebb and Christmas is coming, along with other deadlines. You may consider designing your own experiment.

  • What are three most important things that need doing today? Do them.
  • Lower my standards in two ways:
  • -1- Perfection is an idea and a myth and can keep us from doing something we would love to do, for fear that we can’t measure up. Give up on perfection and finish the work.
  • -2- Do less of everything. Example: Instead of 10 things, do half.
  • -3- TIP: Lowering your standards isn’t about sloughing off. It is about being realistic. You don’t have to do it all. You can’t do it all. It is about picking and choosing what is meaningful to you.
  • Instead of the gourmet meal for 20, do a simple delicious meal for X. (unless the feast is what you love doing)
  • Ask for help. We all like to help. You are not alone.
  • My daughter likes to, or, is willing to iron the table cloths and wrap the Christmas gifts as long as I give them to her early. And so I do.
  • Can’t face cooking the big turkey dinner. Order the entire meal from a hotel or grocery store who specializes in creating these delicious dinners. We did this at Thanksgiving and everyone was happy. We shared the cost with friends and there were leftovers for everyone to take home.
  • Gift giving is a wonderful tradition if you keep it simple and feasible. I sometimes give away a possession that I own and love, to someone else, whom I love. It is a lovely way to continue to enjoy something precious, when you view it from a different angle.
  • Writing a few cards: it is evident to me that we all love getting especially chosen and hand written cards, from people we care about. The gift of expressing our admiration and affection while we are alive, is not to be overestimated. These gifts are treasures.
  • Start early. Everything takes longer than it seems. Avoid the last minute whenever possible.
  • Take time to dream. Allow the mind to wonder. Moodle. Every 60 seconds does not need to be filled with productive activity.

In the meantime, when we can start letting go of our own self-imposed constraints and open up to the wonder that is this moment, and can still do something for others and for ourselves, we are free. We are free to love and laugh and wholeheartedly engage with life on our terms and in the manner within which we find ourselves now. We are free to make mistakes. We are free to start over. We are free to learn new dance steps.

Fighting with what we cannot have and regretting what we cannot change adds to our suffering and angst. Living, fully living, giving our time to what we can do now, gives us unparalleled freedom to flourish in this moment. And guess what, when we stop doing so many things out of habit and custom, we are free to do more of the things we love without rushing. Freedom indeed.

Note 1: This is the latter part of November. The last two months of the year are always busy. And why I suggest that we “lower our standards,” is because I don’t want you or me to be criticizing ourselves and beating ourselves up for all that we couldn’t do. “No throwing sticks at your heart,” as the poet Hafiz writes. Make time for joyful moments.

Note2: As I write these posts, I am always aware that I don’t know the circumstances of each reader. I do know that the world is trustworthy, even when it seems like it is falling apart. Any suggestions I ever make or imply are done with the complete understanding that you know best what you need to do. Take what you want and discard the rest. Thanks for reading these musings. See you next week, Trudy



Ichigo Ichie – Once In a Lifetime Chance

These two words are one of my favourite Japanese expressions. It means something like – this encounter can never be repeated. This is it. A once in a lifetime chance of you and I to be together, in this particular way. The implication is that every such occasion is a treasured moment, and treated as such. Nothing is taken for granted.

This morning I met with a neighbour who I hadn’t seen for awhile, and she told me about the sudden death of her good friend. Out of the blue. It reminded me of a talk I had attended on Monday night, where the author spoke about the fundamental truth that we will all die, whether we are healthy or ill. There is no escape and we have no idea when or how this will transpire.

What he was getting at, is the fact of how unlikely our own demise appears to us or the sudden demise of someone we love. And here is the thing. If we can view death on the horizon, it can prompt us to treasure the moments of our daily living with all those flawed others that we have grown to love and been annoyed with too.

I am still thinking of the strangers who helped me in New York 10 days ago. I will not see them again. I don’t know there names, with the exception of George, from Cohen’s Optical. And yet their unexpected appearance in my life was not just something to be grateful for. It is a recognition that I actually needed them, right then and there. It reinforces my trust in life and in the truth of this Japanese concept of ichigo ichie. I speak of them one more time because I do treasure them.

In times of trouble we sometimes feel, at least initially, that whatever is happening is too much to bear. Cheri Huber, author of “When You’re Falling, Dive,” offers sage advice:

We often react as if life is attacking us. “I’m not going to be able to stand this,” we fret as life pushes us beyond our snug little ego comfort zone.

But we have no evidence of not being able to handle anything life brings us.

How do we know that? We’ve handled everything so far.”

Part of that handling appears in the hands of others. It is thanks to others that we learn to be humane. In Africa, there is an expression, Ubunto, that basically means “my humanity is inextricably bound up in yours. We belong in a bundle of life.” Desmond Tutu

Not everyone gets better; not every illness can be beaten; some of us won’t see next year. And the truth is, we kind of all take it for granted that it won’t be one of us…this earth shattering thing that happens every day. But it might. So let’s live and love. Let’s honestly understand that life is truly precious. Let’s get it once and for all, the impermanence…let’s not wait to save our best and kindest words for the funerals. Let’s shout them out now, while we still have voice left and those dear ones still have ears to hear.

I have no idea whether there is deep meaning in suffering. I do know there is deep meaning in living, and suffering is included. And that’s not all. What is also included is laughter, love, accomplishment, joy, friendship, family in a variety of combinations, coincidences, learning new things, stories, memories, seeing the sunset, hearing not just the first bird song of the day but all of them, spotting the first crocus or bud or blade of grass…resting, walking, eating, saying hello and good-bye, contributing, comforting…And suffering, disappointment, and loss are also included. The meaning is in noticing it all, nothing excluded; giving and receiving; doing our bit. Life is a precious gift, each and every moment.

Note 1: Update for those who have been enquiring: on face plant-my superficial injuries are healing quickly and the fractures and internal swelling will be another 4-5 weeks now. I am medically grounded until then, and as a consequence, have had to sadly cancel my semi-annual programs at Wellspring Calgary,  for this week. To my Calgary Wellspringers, I am disappointed to not see you this week. I look forward to our April time together.

Note 2: I am finding it challenging right now to “not rush and try to catch up.” It is not easy to practice what you preach. I keep on learning. Thank you for taking the time to read this and see you next week, Trudy

kindness of strangers

Good Luck Bad Luck and the Kindness of Strangers

I am in New York City with the mother of my two oldest grandchildren. Nancy just ran the New York City Marathon on Sunday and while she was running through the five Boroughs, I was walking in the charming West Village. The day was beautiful – clear skies, sunny and warm. Shortly before noon as I was close to a café for lunch, I tripped, on I know not what. The outcome was that I was sprawled, partially face down, on a New York City sidewalk with broken glasses, shattered screen on my I-phone, in shock, scraped and bruised in various places and not sure if my limbs were still working.

I looked up and two young men in their 20’s were bent over me, kindly checking to see what they could do. Someone else had called an ambulance, which I asked to be cancelled. I knew I was not in a life threatening situation and I needed to get my bearings. In the meantime others dashed over with offers of assistance. Even in my shocked state I was surprised at all the offers of help.

Once I caught my breath and moved my legs I breathed a sigh of relief. My two helpers assisted me to sit up and we assessed the situation. Another woman ran out of her shop to invite me inside for a cup of tea.

In the meantime, 50,000 runners were running; 1,000,000 people were cheering them on; twenty bands were playing in just one of the five Boroughs, and I was being cared for by strangers in a city of almost 9 million people.  It was surreal. When I decided my best bet was to go back to my hotel and ice my face for the afternoon one of my helpers ordered an Uber and would not allow me to reimburse them. “It’s the least we can do,” the smiling and generous pair said, practically in unison.  As I climbed into the Uber I overheard one of them giving instructions to the driver regarding my well-being.  It was a huge comfort at a vulnerable time and I will never get to see them again.

Later on when it became obvious that I would need to go to the hospital, a similar string of events unfolded. Nancy, walked in the door from her arduous run – tired, sore and hungry, quickly changed and came with me. My travel insurance contact, Kelly, was kind, extraordinarily helpful and reassuring. She went out of her way to research where I should go and how to navigate the system. Every single encounter at the hospital over the next day and a half followed suit. I was amazed at the entire experience. Being in a New York City emergency room on a Sunday night and witnessing the tragedy, competence and the kindness of all the medical professionals and policeman towards their fellow human beings has inspired me for the rest of my days.

It turned out that I do have two tiny facial fractures and that my broken and scrapped glasses had saved my eye, as told to me by three different specialists. How fortunate was that. I am scary to look at right now but I will heal and I can see again thanks to Cohen’s Optical.

Here’s the thing. Beyond the injuries, the difficulty of impaired sight was the biggest challenge as it affected everything I needed to do and mightily disturbed my equilibrium. I had called around to several optical stores and no one was going to be able to put together glasses for me in the short time I was here. I was imagining how I might make my way through airports, changing planes, customs etc. when Nancy once again came to my rescue.

She found Cohen’s, and to my complete surprise they were able to help me out, and last night at 6:00 I got glasses. So this morning, I can see again to travel home. George at Cohen’s went way beyond expectations to make this happen, and I thank him.

Why do I tell you this story? Not for sympathy. It could have been so much worse. But to remind all of us that for all the dark news that we are flooded with, in times of trouble, helping hands are there. This has been 100% my experience of living. It doesn’t mean everyone is helpful. It means that when things go wrong, kind people always appear on the scene, wherever you are. Even in the middle of bustling and busy New York City. Even when we are by ourselves, we are not alone.

This incident reminds me of all of this once again. So to all the kind strangers who reached out to me, and to others I owe a debt of gratitude. And it is my privilege and obligation to pass it on, whenever possible  My confidence, at a time of uncertainty in the world, remains intact and thoroughly renewed and I am grateful for that.

Note 1: Since I have turned this into a personal post I will add that last night I also got to see the Broadway play Come from Away. If you want to see the breadth and depth of human compassion and action, don’t miss a chance to see this wonderful true story, when it goes on tour next year. Good timing for me.

Note 2: When I was going through cancer treatment I wrote a piece called Good Luck Bad Luck – Who Knows? You are welcome to read it here.  Now off to the airport. Thanks for stopping by and see you next week, Trudy