A Change of Pace – What If?

What if it all works out? Let’s Imagine that for an hour or so.

Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
the sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

I happened upon this poem over a decade ago, during the time I was undergoing chemotherapy. The poem gave me a lift and I thought, “why not?” Why not enjoy the thought of beating the odds. A stoic by nature I think of myself as a realistic optimist. I’m aware of what can go wrong but, still, I know I can find a way to live with what is, and I am often surprised by the unexpected gifts from life.

So I took some time and pictured my treatment working, side effects under control, outliving my Mother, and going to Japan. I am not a proponent of “positive thinking;” rather,  I used my imagination to picture realistic possibilities that would put me on the long tail of the median graph and included a trip for good measure. Of course, I went to work implementing the things I could do to up my chances.  We aren’t in control of outcomes but there are many things we can do to help ourselves.

I was lucky. Those things I described did work out. And I call it luck or grace or some other mystery that I am still here, while others I know who did all that they could do, are not.

The Median Isn’t the Message

Do any of you remember the Harvard paleontologist, Stephen Jay Gould? “Gould was diagnosed with a terminal cancer, mesothelioma, a particularly nasty cancer that has a median survival time of only 8 months from the first diagnosis. After the first shock, Gould remembered that if the median survival time was 8 months, then while 50% of those diagnosed would die in 8 months or less, the other 50% could – with treatment – live for much longer.”  (for those of you interested in statistics and longevity, read my favourite essay by Gould on statistics and his illness  here.) Gould dove into the literature, to see what he needed to do to help himself end up on the long tail of the curve (survival) and went on to live for 20 more years.

We all know that things don’t consistently work out but every now and then they do so let’s not forget that. We might take stock and see what is working in our lives.  I woke up today and so did you, if you are reading this. We already broke some odds. So let’s  dream a little:

What if I:

Learn to play the keyboard?

Get to do work that I love?

Mend that old friendship?

Write a book?

Go to Italy?

What do I need to do to turn my “what if’s” into action? That’s worth sitting up straight for, and doing a little brainstorming. I actually did this today. You may want to give it a try too.


1:) A great Paul Simon song called Rewrite  We so often want everything to turn out right the first time. That seldom happens. Simon knows rewrites are necessary.

2:) Lots of ice in Ottawa today. Looking forward to the thaw, and reining myself back to the here and now.

3:) May you have a few glorious end-of-February days, wherever you are. And know how much I appreciate you taking the time to read my weekly blog. Warmly, Trudy

PS the banner photo is from my friend’s yard on the Gulf Islands and the second photo is my Japanese friends in the Canadian Rockies. All of them are impacted by cancer, caregiving, and aging and they continue to explore, learn and make plans to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zone. And they have lots of fun. :-))




Snippets – A Little of This and Some of That

A Little Bit of Everything

Let’s begin with something different. A poem by Nitin Das set to video. Nitin Das is a filmmaker and founder of  Healing Forest Project currently working on an international project called Healing Forest. For his work he was selected as an Asia Society fellow, being one amongst 21 people chosen across Asia each year. Many thanks to Emma Rooney for introducing me to Nitin Das.

This lovely little video is less than two minutes and definitely looks best on a computer.

Wild Soul

Arriving back in Ottawa Friday night we were feted with a second Lunar New Year with family and friends, followed two days later, by Valentine’s dinner and crazy as it seems,  two birthdays, immediately on the horizon.  I realize that leaving Vancouver and returning to Ottawa had a common thread – LOVE! In fact, this quote caught my attention: “In the midst of uncertainty, love is certain.” Susan Moon  Daily Dharma, Tricycle.

“In the midst of uncertainty, love is certain.”

This is not the Hallmark love. This is the stand by me; come back anytime; welcome; what can we do to help kind of love. The love that sees us through, warts and all. Love that makes sacrifices for the one who is in need. Love that heals us. We may not believe this to be true when we have been personally betrayed by a particular loved one. Yet, when we look at the grand scheme of our lives we can find example after example of loving hands and hearts rising to the occasions when we need them most. Love is certain.  However, to realize this we need to pay close attention and put on our wide-angle lens.

Circuit Breaker

A brief note to say this: there are times when we, or those we love, are deeply suffering. We may feel helpless that there is nothing to be done. It is worth considering the unusual, the extravagant, (this doesn’t necessarily mean financial) the generous impulse, the dare to be different, and the out-of-character moment or event. Sometimes, we need to take the reins in our own hands and gallop off to do or to see something different from our ordinary daily living.  Sometimes we need to stop doing what we always do and go have an adventure. Safety is important, yet, sometimes saying YES to that impulse can give us breathing space and restore our spirit. Sometimes that requires a calculated risk.

Sail boat Trim tab“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section: John A. Shedd, Page 705, Yale University Press, New Haven.

Leonard Cohen

Many of you know that I use this anthem as my email signature.  I have posted a link to the song from Leonards’ 2008 Live in London Tour. He was 74 and took up a demanding tour, with no rancour, having lost almost all his fortune to an unscrupulous financial manager. “I have several people who count on me,” he explained, “so I need to make up these losses.” I love this entire performance and want to share this one song with you, once again. Click on the highlighted anthem to watch and listen.


Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

there is a crack, a crack in everything

that’s how the light gets in

And a concluding poem I could not resist

This Moment by Howard Olivier (thanks to Gratefulness.org)

I’m smiling because
a million possible alternatives
which would have precluded
this moment we’re sharing
didn’t happen.

Safe passage through countless intersections
this week;
the absence of calamity
since breakfast;
a thousand breaths received in the last hour,
delivered right on time.

The tapestry of the present moment is
complete and continuously refreshed,
courageous, wholehearted, raw & alive.
Look – here it is, again!


1:) A deep bow of gratitude to all the helping hands and loving hearts in my life from day one. I would not be here without you. And to all of you who come to visit each week. How lucky am I to have such good company.

2:) I am thinking of several people I know, and those I don’t know, who are newly diagnosed with a serious illness.  Please don’t hesitate to get in touch anytime. Strength and courage to you all. You can do it!

3:) Sending all my best wishes to each of you. May you have a week with many wonderful moments and may you sing while there’s voice left. Warmly, Trudy

Things Are OK Even When They Could be Better

Good Enough

I hope we can settle for good enough. I know high expectations are, well, high.  And it is easier to stick with that point of view when everything is going well. We meet the right person; we succeed in our work; we stay relatively healthy; no accidents; car starts; dishwasher does its job; our kids get the gold medal.

Yet, sometimes, we do our best to do what’s right and, still, we do things wrong. Things didn’t turn out the way we expected. We plan for the unforeseen only to discover that what we thought might happen did not. And the problem we are now facing was never on our radar for even one second.

There is no escape from the uncertainty of life.

By now, my readers know that I love Oliver Burkeman’s book, Four Thousand Weeks. Maybe because he is often on the same page as me but can express the ideas so brilliantly and poetically.

As an illustration, here is a story from his book: Part 11 – Beyond Control

It goes like this:

“A friend was attending a talk by philosopher Krishnamurti when ‘partway through this particular talk,’ recalls the writer Jim Dreaver, ‘Krishnamurti suddenly paused, leaned forward, and said, almost conspiratorially,’ Do you want to know what my secret is? Almost as though we were one body, we sat up… I could see people all around me lean forward, their ears straining, their mouths slowly opening in hushed anticipation.’

Then Krishnamurti said in a soft, almost shy voice,

You see, I don’t mind what happens.

Burkeman continues: “I don’t mind what happens. Perhaps these words need a little unpacking; I don’t think Krishnamurti means to say that we shouldn’t feel sorrow, compassion, or anger when bad things happen to ourselves or others, nor that we should give up on our efforts to prevent bad things from happening in the future.

Rather, a life spent not minding what happens is one lived without the inner demand to know that the future will conform to your desires for it—and thus without having to be constantly on edge as you wait to discover whether or not things will unfold as expected.

None of that means we can’t act wisely in the present to reduce the chances of bad developments later on. And we can still respond, to the best of our abilities, should bad things nonetheless occur; we’re not obliged to accept suffering or injustice as part of the inevitable order of things. But to the extent that we can stop demanding certainty that things will go our way later on, we’ll be liberated from anxiety in the only moment it ever actually is, which is this one…

The real problem isn’t planning…we treat our plans as though they are a lasso, thrown from the present around the future, in order to bring it under our command. But all a plan is—all it could ever possibly be—is a present-moment statement of intent. It’s an expression of your current thoughts about how you’d ideally like to deploy your modest influence over the future. The future, of course, is under no obligation to comply.”

I love this line:

we treat our plans as though they are a lasso, thrown from the present around the future, in order to bring it under our command.”

As I consider my hopes and make my plans I can now picture myself sitting upright on a magnificent steed, lasso at the ready, hurling it perfectly around the future and reeling it into my life. And I can laugh and enjoy the moment as, instead, I get down off my high horse and make my way steadily on the ground. One foot after another, minding the potholes, eyes open wide to respond to the circumstances that arise. Confident that my lassoing techniques aren’t required to take care of this moment’s surprise.

Makes me think of my favourite Haiku:

Little snail

slowly, slowly,

climbs Mount Fuji  –Issa


1:) Another haiku I love from Issa that has nothing to do with today’s post goes like this:

Don’t worry, spiders,

I keep house


2:) We are on the last bit of our 21 day respite and will wend our way across the continent on Friday. Re-entry can be tricky and I have put my lasso down and happily return with warm memories and fresh eyes. Knowing full well that everything changes, and we aren’t exactly the same people returning as we were when we left. Furthurmore, there are bound to be surprises of all kinds. The wondrous adventure of being alive.

3:) An enormous shout out to the people who welcomed us and cared for us on this adventure. The seen and the unseen. Thank you is not anywhere close to adequate but my wholehearted thanks, nonetheless.

4:) May things be good enough with all of you, dear readers. Always, my warmest wishes, Trudy

PS Photos:

Banner thanks to Shelly A. from several years ago in Austin Texas. Wonderful memories.

Silhouette and bamboo on Gabriola and Japan respectively by me.

We All Need Something to Look Forward To

Hope is not a simple minded concept.

Hope is an essential part of being human. As I have said here before, hope is being open to surprise and hope has no deadline.

I am writing this blog on Feb 1st, the start of the Lunar New Year and like all new year’s this one is about fresh starts and new opportunities. The Tiger year offers hope along with challenges – while the tiger can be hot-headed it is also a symbol of energy and courage.

As most of you know, per last week’s blog post, I am on Vancouver Island with my granddaughter. As we made our way from Ottawa- Vancouver- Victoria- Gabriola Island, each step was something a little different to look forward to.

A reader kindly brought this to my attention:

“I was listening to a therapist on the radio who works with young people, and she  mentioned that she sees a change in the outlook of people experiencing burnout simply by asking the question of where they would go on holiday if they were given a plane ticket.

If that question can lift our spirits I can only imagine that actually going away can be so helpful. After reading your post, I actually booked myself a weekend up at an eco centre for the Family Day weekend, and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it.” (thank you Emma)

Morning has broken

Good medicine

And yes, this sojourn has been good medicine. I am grateful to have this chance to be in a different place. A change of scenery, weather, people, and things to learn and to do. At this very minute I am on the second floor typing away on my laptop looking out into the trees and looking down into the Coast Salish Sea. My eyes look across the water to UBC and then look to the right and see the golden sun hi-lighting the reddish bark of the arbutus trees. I can lose myself in this beauty.  My spirit, furthermore, is revived just being in this place.

And yet, friends who live on this beautiful coast also want a change. As they described their upcoming trip in March, their faces lit up with anticipation. And they added, we all need something to look forward to.

Many trips have been cancelled and postponed this past two years but no reason to abandon them. A Cornell study showed how planning a trip positively impacts our mental health, much like the psychologist  mentioned in the previous quote. So we can go ahead and make a plan – one day we may get to go.

So here is a question for you?

Where would you go if someone gave you a plane ticket? We all know that Covid is a factor, but for fun let’s assume it’s all systems go by this summer. How about posting your choice in the comments or send me a note. It can just be a place with no explanation, or you can tell us more.

What took your breath away this week?

Please answer this question for yourself or put it in the comments. What took your breath away this week? And if you live in Ottawa the “cold” is not what I am referring to. ha ha

And if nothing took your breath away, be alert this next week for something wonderful that warms your heart, grabs your attention or brings a tear to your eye. Best not to be too fussy at first. There are so many wonders in the world that we simply fail to notice. We can start right where we are.

Once we start noticing we will always have something to look forward to from the moment we open our eyes in the morning. A practice pretty much guaranteed to improve all of our lives. (even though I can’t abide formulas I like that one. We all need exceptions to our rules)


1:) Gong hei fat choy which means ‘Wishing you happiness and prosperity,’ in Cantonese. I wish this for everyone and especially for my readers who celebrate this special time. We will get to celebrate this event with friends on Sunday night. Grateful.

2:) Here is a link to an inspiring  morning ritual that helped one Canadian woman and eventually  inspired many, around the world, to get through Covid. Thanks to Liz, one of our readers. Worth watching through to the end.  CBC

3:) We have a treasure trove this week thanks to our readers. This time from Janice K. A CBC interview with Matt Galloway and Kathryn Schultz. Kathryn has a new book Lost and Found and I suspect you will want to read more after you listen here. You may know Kathryn as a writer with The New Yorker and a previous book I loved called “On Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margins of Error.”

4:) With heartfelt thanks for your kindness and encouragement. See you next week and all my best wishes, Trudy

PS I wrote my blog early as this Wednesday will be a beautifully packed day. I was going to wait to send it out but now that it is past midnight in Ottawa decided to go for it.