We Can Easily Abdicate Personal Responsibility For the Basics

There’s a lesson here, I’m sure…

Nasruddin was working as a laborer, and each day he ate lunch in the company of his fellow workers.

“Nothing but bread and cheese,” Nasruddin would say each day as he looked longingly at the food the other men had for their lunch. He saw dolmas, kebabs, tabbouleh, yogurt, pilaf, all kinds of food.

“You complain like this every day,” one of the men said to Nasruddin. “You should tell your wife to make you something different for lunch.”

“I’m not married,” said Nasruddin.

“Who makes your lunch then?”

“I do,” Nasruddin admitted, staring sadly at his bread and cheese.

I found this story on a free-use Creative Commons site and for any of you who are interested, please click here. It was #189 and posted by Laura Gibbs.

For my regular readers, you know that I enjoy the incredible Mulla Nasruddin – an ancient Sufi mystic known for his crazy wisdom. This simple little story makes me chuckle, yet, it also points to the trap of how easily we can slip into wishing things were different while waiting for someone else to make it happen. In some ways, we can easily abdicate responsibility for the basics. Let’s take lunch as an example.

When I was working full-time, I often ignored lunch. I knew better. I had all the information I needed to instruct others on the importance of taking a break. Attention, productivity, creativity, and decision-making all improve when we take time to sleep, eat and move our bodies.  Not to mention, cheerfulness, patience, and kindness both at work and at home.  I was on my soapbox about these things but I rarely did it because I was always busy. This is embarrassing, to say the least.

As Oliver Burkeman, reminds us, we will never get it all done.

When we think about it, to neglect the basics over a continuous period of time, is to abdicate personal responsibility for our life.  And, I agree, there are always exceptions. When a new baby arrives home; we sell our house; a family member is ill; we take a new job;  go back to school… (so many things) many of the basics get neglected for a time.

The problem is when neglect becomes the norm. Our body/mind/heart/ will let us know that it needs our help unless we have neglected our bodies for so long that we no longer hear or see or feel the feedback.

This is not easy to take responsibility for. We live in a culture of more. There is pride and reward for ignoring everything except the grindstone. And, there is also the fact that for some of us we also loved, loved, loved our work and it was good work and there was no end to it. A physician friend told me the best advice he was ever given from his mentor was this:

Take a lunch break and a walk every day. Make that your rule, not the exception. “You will never have time to do this so you need to take the time anyway.  Do not kill yourself trying to save your patients.” 

We can apply this to caregiving and every kind of responsibility we take on.  Sustainability is the key. We can always do short bursts of the “all nighter” so to speak. However, to sustain productive and creative work we need to be cautious of the arrogance that allows us to ignore our mortality.  We are not invincible and furthermore  the world will not stop if we take regular planned breaks.

It’s worth a try to create the conditions for rest and restoration so we are able to faithfully take care of ourselves and our obligations.

Generally speaking as wonderfully creative humans, anything we read we can immediately think of someone else to whom this applies. The best advice I received was to take a different tact. I was told when I read something that caught my attention or that was a common sense reminder I should ask only one question.

How does this apply to me?

Then I have something to work with since all of our other favourite humans aren’t controllable by us.

In the spring and fall, I remind myself of the basics. Whether we are healthy, ill, troubled, lonely, overwhelmed, afraid, or uncertain…it can be helpful to reassess where we are at. I had a recent health scare because I had inadvertently neglected to drink enough water. This is a common problem especially as we live longer, or have certain medical conditions. It’s easy to neglect, and it has consequences. In my case, I remedied the situation and my body went into full cooperation mode. I now consciously ensure, and I have a system so that my minimum water intake is  1 and 1/2 litres a day. That seems to work for me, and I feel lucky that such a simple solution fixed a problem.

The Basics

When we take care of the basics, it is the best self-care we can do. Maybe one or more of these items could use a little tune-up in your life. This is not a formula – so you can modify or create your own.

  1. Spending time even 20 minutes in Nature every day
  2. Sleep (there is so much info on sleep hygiene available – see a link in the notes but consistency and a dark room seem to count)
  3. Water – drink
  4. Taking time to eat good food ( we all have the information we need; it’s important who you chew with;  use your good dishes; moderation is a reasonable approach along with extra veggies and vitamin CH (chocolate))
  5. Moving our bodies especially outdoors  (the best exercise is the one you will do) (hard to beat walking)
  6. The company of others (learning, laughing, enjoying, confiding, planning)
  7. Doing something that you especially love to do each day (the sum of small joys add up to a meaningful life)


1:) The banner photo is a Ginkgo Tree – a symbol of longevity in Japan, and a display of beauty, here in Ottawa. I took this photo last Saturday morning while strolling with a friend. Interesting facts: the tree can live for a thousand years; even more, four ginkgo’s survived the blast at Hiroshima and are still growing today. I am charmed by the fan-like shape of their leaves.

2:) My grandson created his own stress reducer this year in the midst of rowing (the season ends this weekend with a regatta in Sarasota Springs NY) and a heavy load at school. He is using the piano for breaks. Works away for half an hour or so and plays the piano for 5-10 minutes and goes back to the books.  I see that this works great for him. This is an example of fitting in a small joy, a few times a day, for the love of it.

3:)Info on sleep Click here

4:) A short lovely poem from Gratefulness.org


Essential Gratitude – by Andrea Potos  (on Gratefulness.org site)

Sometimes it just stuns you
like an arrow flung from some angel’s wing.
Sometimes it hastily scribbles
a list in the air: black coffee,
thick new books,
your pillow’s cool underside,
the quirky family you married into.

It is content with so little really;
even the ink of your pen along
the watery lines of your dime store notebook
could be a swiftly moving prayer.

5:) I am happy you stopped by; grateful too. I wish you a lovely last October weekend. We have been beautifully spoiled in Ottawa with spectacular weather. Warmest wishes, Trudy






Let’s Splurge with Words

Not expecting applause

There are so many people working in the world in service to others whose names we will never know: scientists, artists, poets, humanitarians,  physicians, firefighters, ambulance drivers, cleaners – the list is endless. And yes, some get paid to do their work and some do not.  Regardless, so many do it wholeheartedly because they want to help not because they are looking for applause.

I’m thinking of poets tonight. With the exception of the top sellers, a poet and writer’s life and body of work are seldom acknowledged, in the broader world. And if you only write to get recognition, you will soon quit. Thankfully, so many wonderful poets and writers keep on writing, one word at a time, and we are the beneficiaries.

As some of you know, I think it’s important to splurge with our words while people we admire are still alive. Let’s not save our best words until after they are gone.

Tonight, I want to recognize and give applause to my poet friend Janice Falls. Some of you, like me, follow her poetry blog

Click for Heart Poems

Janice goes quietly about her writing life: reading, writing and helping others through poetry. (that is just part of what she goes through her life doing:-)) She faithfully stewards her weekly poetry blog, which is amazing, and many of my favourite poems have originally come from her site. And yes, she has poems published, but this week, coincidentally her birthday week, she received a lovely surprise and I want to cheer her on and congratulate her. Her essay, “Poetry As Medicine,” was selected for publication in Braided Way. If you are interested, in the power of poetry, I invite you to read it.  Here’s the link

Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, writes:  “You can get a lot done in the world if you don’t care who gets the credit.” This is a powerful statement when you stop and take the time to consider all the implications. I consider Janice one of those people.

Speaking of Rachel Remen, I attended a live webinar with her last week and the most important message I took away was what she calls, “generous listening:” “The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention… A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.” It also means listening where we stop our own chatter about what we like and don’t like, or what we think the problem is. We simply accept and listen more with our hearts than with our heads.


1:) May we all fling our kind and loving and appreciative words out into the world and make someone’s day.

2:) Photos: Gabriola Island and the sketch is Patricia Ryan Madson from her series on Improv Wisdom

3:) May you have a lovely week with lots of opportunities to notice and to listen. So many thanks for stopping by. Warmly, Trudy






Fall in the Gatineau sometimes this Sometimes That

Lost and Found

At one time or another, everyone loses something.

We lose loved ones. We lose our health. We lose our glasses. We lose our memories. We lose our money. We lose our keys. We lose our socks. We lose life itself. We have to come to terms with this reality. Sooner or later, all is lost; we just don’t know when it will happen.

“Loss is a fact of life. Impermanence is everywhere we look. We are all going to suffer our losses. How we deal with these losses is what makes all the difference. For it is not what happens to us that determines our character, our experience, our karma, and our destiny, but how we relate to what happens.” Lama Surya Das

A few years ago I wrote about this topic on a crazy morning when I couldn’t seem to find the most obvious things I needed: keys; gloves; glasses; jacket; my black shoes. And this was all before breakfast. Clearly, I had gone to bed the night before in a frazzled state.

Truth is, what I had misplaced was minor and simply inconvenient compared to the losses of the really tough stuff. But the other truth is when we get better at not losing our cool over these little things we build habits that will serve us well when we are hit with major losses in life.

The reason I was stressed was being in a rush.

And it was also due to not putting those items where they belonged the night before. Once we start rushing and are concerned about being late we get stressed. When we get stressed it is harder to remember. This isn’t just my opinion, rather, it is a well-researched topic in the field of neuroscience and psychology. Dr. Heather Palmer, PhD in Neuropsychology has worked with seniors and with people going through chemotherapy about what she refers to as brain fog.

Brain fog is a type of loss that we all fear, although I notice my grandkids, have no qualms at all about losing gloves, forgetting backpacks etc.

And sometimes we find what we lost

I’m a good finder, as my family will attest because when something goes missing and it is not where it should be, I look in the places where it would ordinarily not be. Plus, I’m persistent. And I am so grateful that my watch, ring, keys, etc have not vanished. I had misplaced them and I have them back.

What a surprise to be found

However, last week I experienced a different kind of finding and losing. I was found, by an old friend, whom I had considered permanently lost. Imagine my surprise, to open an email from my website and learn that it was written by a childhood friend. The dearest of unforgettable friends, who was in my life only from the ages of 11-15. It was an unexpected finding that included a loss that I hadn’t fully realized. (if that makes sense)

I am so often surprised by the beneficence of others. In this case, it was a trail of breadcrumbs involving an obituary sent to X, who when he read it was reminded of my family and went searching. And because of his efforts, he discovered my website and asked his Aunt, if this was “our Trudy Boyle.”

Taking Action

And his Aunt, my old, dear friend, wrote to me. And what was lost was found, after more than 60 years.

I tell you this story because it was such a surprise and so deeply moving for me. And once again,  a reminder about taking action. We honestly never know where one curious thought might lead and what delight it may uncover for someone else. So I thank my friend’s dear nephew for taking the trouble to turn over a few stones to see what might turn up.

Human beings need each other. We are wired for connection. And we cannot count on tomorrow. Today, the present moment is the only moment we can confidently act from. Let’s continue to live with our curious, flexible, and loving minds along with our outstretched arms. And perhaps, when you have a sudden thought of someone from your past, you might even follow up on it. These special gifts that arrive “out of the blue,” may seem ordinary and simple. But for meaning-makers like myself, they are treasures.


1:) On the topic of finding, I had another surprise, from long long ago. Last summer, in New Brunswick, my granddaughter overheard me speaking about going to camp in the summer, and for 25 cents I could buy, at the canteen, (after what seemed to be an endless hike) one small bottle of Lime Ricky, one Jersey Milk chocolate bar, and one small bag of chips. The thought of such bounty for one quarter astonished her but it didn’t stop there. Since that conversation, without my knowledge,  she was on the hunt for a Lime Ricky, even though I don’t drink any kind of soda pop. To my surprise, she found one and presented me with it on Thanksgiving. (quietly and behind the scene) So, of course, I was going to drink it and share it with her. And with that first sip, a cascade of memories flooded my being of hot, long, and delightful summer days from my childhood.) Thank you, Sophie.

2:)  This epic Playing for Change video was the result of two years of work across ten countries. The Weight with Robbie Robinson. It’s possible I posted this link a few years ago but I enjoy it every time I listen.

3:) Thank you for stopping by and reading these musings. I hope you find precious people in your own lives whom you may have lost too. Or they find you. Warmest wishes, Trudy






Joy and Not Joy


I couldn’t be more delighted with these amazing days: blue sky; crisp air; warm to hot afternoons and an exuberance of colours so breathtaking that I nearly fell off my bike, today.

This is the time before Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, my favourite celebration of the year. So much to be thankful for! And yet…

People are suffering. Deaths; illness; war; accidents; typhoons; hurricane’s; flooding- the list goes on.

Some readers of this blog, including friends and family, live in Florida and others in Nova Scotia and PEI where recent storms have taken a toll. Yet, when I hear from them they address the brutal facts systematically and quickly move into how grateful they are. “It could have been worse,” is the common refrain.

No one is grateful for a flood or beautiful trees uprooted, or a destroyed home. No one is grateful for a diagnosis of cancer, auto immune disorder, or heart disease, yet even in those moments there is always something to be grateful for: the emergency response team, the hydro workers, the neighbour who shows up bearing a care package; the life-saving medicine. We can not be ok and still be okay.

The Greeks have a word to describe the paradox:


According to the School of Life, “it is eminently possible to be fulfilled and – at the same time – under pressure, suffering physically or mentally, overburdened and, quite frequently, in a tetchy mood. This is a psychological nuance that the word happiness makes it hard to capture; for it is tricky to speak of being happy yet unhappy or happy yet suffering. However, such a combination is readily accommodated within the dignified and noble-sounding letters of Eudaimonia.”(more about this in a later post)

And of course, there is a poem, thanks to my friend Jan Falls, Heart Poems blog. When I read this one, I found that it perfectly described so many situations where we are asked, “how are you?”

A Poem:

For When People Ask by Rosemerry  Whatola Trommer

I want a word that means
okay and not okay,
more than that: a word that means
devastated and stunned with joy.
I want the word that says
I feel it all all at once.
The heart is not like a songbird
singing only one note at a time,
more like a Tuvan throat singer
able to sing both a drone
and simultaneously
two or three harmonics high above it—
a sound, the Tuvans say,
that gives the impression
of wind swirling among rocks.
The heart understands swirl,
how the churning of opposite feelings
weaves through us like an insistent breeze
leads us wordlessly deeper into ourselves,
blesses us with paradox
so we might walk more openly
into this world so rife with devastation,
this world so ripe with joy.

The subtleties of our lives are no small thing. I was not grateful for my cancer diagnosis but I was deeply grateful, since I had it, to be diagnosed early. Both are true.

Thanksgiving is the annual feast day to count our blessings and give thanks and it can also be hard. For people whose beloved spouse, friend or other family member died all of these celebrations can be made more difficult, especially the first such occasion without them. So I think about those people putting forth an effort to find grace at a time of immense pain.

My family’s practice

Each year at Thanksgiving dinner we have a practice where each of us speaks about what we are grateful for. In the last ten years or so we added a small metal tree (some years it was paper) and a stack of handmade paper leaves where we each write out what we are thankful for and attach our leaf to the tree.  Before dinner we each read what we wrote. It is a special ritual that our family and friends look forward to.

 If we want to decrease suffering, gratitude is pretty much a fool proof method of doing so.

My friend Patricia recently sent me this quote from one of her artist friends, and I think it is perfect for just this occasion:

I want to spend the rest of my life rejoicing in the beauty of this world and finding a million ways to say thank you.” by  Anne Schrievogel


Note 1:) A special thank you to Dr. Jinroh Itami, thanks to whom I have something to offer and to live by. Always to Wellspring Alberta, The ToDo Institute, my family and friends, and all the wonderful people I am so honoured and grateful to spend time with through this work. And especially to you dear readers. I am most grateful!

Note 2:) A little something from the well-loved Brother David Steindl-Rast A Grateful Day

Note 3:) The banner photo is a spot on my bike ride today with a friend, although I took this photo a few years ago. The second photo was taken on my recent blissful weekend at a friend’s lake house.  Much to be grateful for.

Note 4:) Finally, I wish all of my Canadian readers a very special Thanksgiving weekend. It is my  favourite holiday and gives us a chance to formally count our blessings. You, dear readers, keep me company as we navigate this tender, wondrous, and oftentimes difficult life.  Your encouraging words are heartfelt and appreciated. Please accept mine, as we cheer each other along. (I say this often, I know, but it is simply true and I want to remind you)   A deep bow. Warmly, Trudy