The Gods Must be Crazy

Everyday Is the Best Day

From a long time ago, that movie title – The Gods Must Be Crazy- came to mind this week. I sat down to write an article for Thirty Thousand Days and I called it Everyday is the Best Day. My first few sentences went like this:

Dr. Shoma Morita proclaimed that every day is the best day. And Dr. Jinroh Itami proclaimed that this expression best describes Meaningful Life (MLT) concepts. I happen to agree and consider that it also fits the program Living Fully/Well with Illness. Although a noble sentiment, this is difficult to apply in daily living.

I knew this idea would be provocative and require unpacking, which I won’t do today. However, I didn’t know I would be put to the test almost immediately. Imagine my shock when I went to save my draft, later that morning and discovered that my entire folder was gone. This folder contained six years of work for an organization, including workshops, previous articles, webinars, and drafts of articles… I even had it in a red folder on my desktop to spot it easily.

On my desktop, was the first mistake. I knew better than to store important documents on my desktop. My son hounded me each time he visited, but I continued. In all these years, nothing had disappeared from my many different desktops.  So, I couldn’t quite believe it and kept staring at my desktop as though it might reappear as magically as it disappeared. My mind was already spinning out a  story of great inconvenience and wasted time while chastising myself. (despite my self-compassion program.) I was fully aware of the irony of my topic and this cosmic joke. Except it wasn’t a joke. That folder was gone.

Do what needs doing.

And so I began to do what needed doing while hearing the words – every day is the best day.  I had Google at my fingertips to search for what I might do. I followed all the suggestions, unhid hidden files, and looked in every obscure corner of my directories, all to no avail. And as much as I was distressed about what happened, I couldn’t help thinking that life was somehow teasing me. Not the idea that my article would be a hard sell, but the reality, right here and now, that my folder was gone.  So I had to shake my head, laugh, and turn over stones.

Next, I thought of my backup system. (You may have thought of that first.) And with my fingers crossed, I went to the cloud and signed in. I come from an era where backup systems were often complicated and a pain in the neck, particularly to restore one folder. But Backblaze came through. I had to reset my password and type in a code, and there it was—a simple and well-designed menu to select from.

Everything was there, and within minutes, I had my folder with files intact downloaded: no glitches, hair-pulling, or tech angst. I was beyond grateful to get my work back.

The next step was to move the rest of my important files off my desktop. Done.

The truth is that life gives us challenges regularly. It is normal. We use our wit, skill and all the help we can get to act on the things we can do something about. And when we have done that, it can also be revealing to notice all the help we received to overcome the obstacle or to lessen its impact.

Let me make a partial list in this case.

  • I was in my study, when this happened, which made it easier than if I were out of town.
  • I am relatively tech-savvy, although storing essential files on my desktop shouts loudly that I am not.
  • I can follow instructions and know where to find them.
  • I had a backup program – untested to date, but it worked like a charm.
  • I did not lose my mind over this.
  • I wasn’t on a fixed and immediate deadline.
  • I have had training on how to struggle without agitation. (Nothing works all the time.)
  • As I fretted, chuckled and worked, the sky was blue outside my window.
  • My fretting was interrupted by a call from a dear friend.
  • And I was alive and well and capable of managing this, whether I got that red folder back or not.

In a certain way, we live with the false notion that things should work for us. And that if we work diligently and do the right things, well, things will turn out. Many times, they do. But not always. The advantage of living long enough is learning that life is full of the unexpected. Change is inevitable.  We also learn that we can manage the things that fall apart. Not necessarily all at once. But one step after the other. And even in the darkest hour, we can count on our ability to do the hard things and/or ask for help. We don’t like disappointments, changes in plans, or getting sick. Some things are much harder than others, yet there are moments of goodness, beauty, meaning and joy if we pay attention. (without ignoring or pretending that our life feels like it is going to hell in a handbasket, so to speak)

My lost folder crisis was hardly earth-shattering, yet it was a tiny whack on the side of the head to remind me that when I blithely make a statement that something is hard to do, I must be prepared to experience it.

Be the Calm One on the Boat

When the crowded refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked, all would be lost. But if even one person stayed calm, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.

–Thich Nhat Hanh  (I love this reflection of Thich Nhat Hanh.)

Notes

1:) “We can make ourselves miserable, or we can make ourselves strong. The amount of effort is the same.” Pema Chodron

2:) A poem

Light and Dark by James Crews (I saw this on Instagram)

Half-awake, I lose myself in a pool
of late morning sun and leaf-shadows
flashing on the floor outside my bedroom,
what the Japanese call komorebi ~ light
and dark held in the same container
of a single moment, as we hold them in us,
learning to love equally a burst of joy
welling up like wind in the crowns of trees
and a sorrow that still weighs us down
like stones in the shoes, like swallowed clay.
Today, I stand here at the edge of both,
knowing that if I want to walk in the light
I’ll have to dance with the shadows, too.

3:) A beautiful 12 min film, Love at First Sight, for those who haven’t watched this.

4:) Thank you for your courtesy and your time. You can do so many things, and I am honoured that you chose to spend a few minutes here. All my best wishes, Trudy

PS All the photos are from Gabriola Island. The banner photo was thunder and lightning at Berry Point – a favourite spot. Thanks to Gottfried.

 

 

Start Where You Are

Self-Criticism

One of the ways I beat myself up is when I haven’t done something I love for a long time. Or I should say that is how I used to treat myself. I would hardly criticize you, but it is very easy to criticize myself. Actually, it is a bad habit, to criticize and browbeat ourselves for our very human flaws, held in common, with all humans around the world.

Everyone disappoints themselves from time to time. It is natural. Some of us become critical and shrewish to ourselves rather than offer a little solace, as we would for a friend. I suspect this comes from our North American cultural conditioning that goes all the way back to the Pilgrims. We may have been taught that to be a better person, we must avoid self-pride and moral complacency, so it is best to blame and punish ourselves for something. We can never be good enough.

The truth is, just as sure as our death, we will fail, make mistakes, say the wrong thing, forget a birthday, be late and any number of other things. Offering some self-compassion to ourselves is not about an anything-goes attitude. Instead, it is about joining hands with the rest of the flawed humans who are doing the best they can, and understanding that things go wrong.   I can suggest that when we notice our self-criticism, we can treat ourselves the way we would treat our best friend – extend a hand, suggest what to do now, and offer words of comfort. We don’t make ourselves or others better people by using a stern, blaming and critical language.

Take today:

I went with a friend on my first bike ride of the season. I felt apologetic and slightly embarrassed that September 20 was my first outing on my bike. However, I looked at the facts. I was away for four weeks, and it was way too hot for me when I was home. Yes, there was the odd part of a day that I might have gone, but there were other reasons why that time didn’t work. The truth is that today, the weather was perfect, and we were both free to go,  even though there were reasons not to.

We started where we were by getting air in the tires, plotting an easy and newish route that would take us to a brand new refurbished rail bridge connecting Ottawa with Quebec. It is now a pedestrain bike bridge and it’s great. And we went! Sixteen km of joyful riding, stopping in Little Italy for lunch and passing through gorgeous public gardens for the last 3 KM. With promises to do this again next week and every week until the snow flies.

It is easy to stop doing something altogether when we get out of the habit. We start a drawing course and never draw. Why? We criticize our work? We compare it to others. And our harsh judgements up the chance that we won’t continue. If we could be encouraging instead, we may continue and enjoy the act of drawing or painting or learning a musical instrument. Furthurmore James Clear, author of Atomic Habits states, “The odds increase the more you try.

Sketching – Yikes

Take my Tuesday art journalling program I am doing this month. I am shocked that I have no self-judgement about my whimsical sketches. I actually like them. They are for me, not the world and I look forward to my class.  After all these years, I can enjoy this rather than dread it.

September has been an exceptional month of fresh starts – some new, some old favourites revived, and a different way of looking at things – not dividing them up between good and bad or better and worse. Experimenting with the freedom to learn things I believed I wasn’t good at, and I don’t need to be good at, and I love it anyway—so much joy.

Notes

1:) I hope you will reconsider brow-beating yourself.  Self-compassion is simply showing some kindness to yourself. (nothing to do with self-esteem)

2:) Stanford Medicine on Self Compassion for those wanting to learn a little more. Click Here There is so much information on this topic now and Kirsten Neff is often quoted as an expert, in the articles you read.

3:) Some lively music to get you moving on the floor or in a chair.

4:) This year, the autumn equinox will begin this Saturday, September 23rd—my favourite season. 

5:) Thank you for reading my scribblings. Warmest wishes, Trudy

PS thanks to Rob for this photo.

My Palindrome – 77 – Birthday

It has been a sweet and loving birthday day. It started at 7:00 AM with a cappuccino – an invitation from my 13-year-old grandson. And it is ending now with my jotting down a few words on this page before I go to sleep. I woke up grateful, and I will go to bed thankful. So many kind and unexpected word gifts all day long.

There were walks, flowers, trees,  monarch butterflies, delicious food, cards, Japanese watercolours, messages and joyful video calls in between. So much tenderness- laughter, too. So, I am ready to call it a day and drift off to dreamland.  I will, of course, be back next week. Thank you for all your kindness. You contribute significantly to this rich and meaningful life.  May you enjoy and celebrate your birthdays as much as I do. And my undying gratitude to my family and friends – outlaws, inlaws, family of my heart spread around the world, and 42nd cousins once removed.

It is breathtaking to stop momentarily and realize how we all got here. Here, is where we are right now, including the whole catastrophe, as Zorba puts it.

 

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offerings

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in. 

(Thank you Leonard Cohen)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See you next week. With so much appreciation, Trudy

Let’s use the good dishes

Living and Dying

A fascinating thing about humans is that we all agree that our final destination is death. No one will contradict this. We just can’t grasp the truth that it may happen to us today. That thought is rather incomprehensible, if not plain ludicrous, for most of us.

I am glad that I get it, even though I don’t really get it. But it does remind me of special occasions, last words, and not putting our life on hold.

Clearly, it is my birthday month and I like reminding myself about these kinds of things. As of today, I have lived 28,117 days. For a Canadian woman the statistical life span is 84.4 years. However, since I reached my  75th birthday, two years ago, my longevity has moved up to 89.4 –  a whopping 32, 631 days.

So, let’s see, for fun, how many days do I have left? (statistically speaking) 4514.

Since I think seasonally, that gives me another 12 years’ worth of seasons. So far, I have had 77 fall, winter, spring and summer seasons. Do I have favourites?

Yes – fall and spring.

The desire for life is strong in most of us, and I desire as many seasons of reasonably healthy living as possible.  Let me be clear, however, no one knows our expiry date. The statistician included. What we all do know is that day will come, so in the meantime, we don’t want to put our lives on hold, even if things aren’t perfect.

What if you considered today and every day to be a special occasion?

Truth is, we woke up so that already makes this day special. And since today is special, how will we treat it? Maybe we can make a special meal and serve it with a candle, music, and a few flowers from the garden. Maybe we call a friend we haven’t talked to in a while, and enquire about them. Perhaps you wear your favourite shirt just because.  You will have hundreds of ideas.

How many of you like me have untouched beautiful journals sitting safely in a drawer? My friend Patricia insists that the only thing to do with a special beautiful journal is USE it. “Write your to do lists; recipes; doodles; anything at all but use it,” she says.

What about being generous with your words?

Not last words as in a proclamation of wisdom. No. No. Rather I’m speaking about my last words to whoever gets to hear them: the coffee barista, the janitor at my grandkid’s school, the Shaw repair person who came back to fix a problem, the cashier or the cleaning people or the bank manager or my spouse or a friend.  If I am lucky, someone will hear my last words, and  I just want them to be kind.

This understanding helps me, at least some of the time, to be aware that it isn’t always best to let the first thing that comes to mind, leave my lips. Words can be used as gifts and words can be used as weapons. We witness both, every single day.

Just like the good dishes rarely used, we often save our best words for a funeral. Why not jump in today and tell those people in your life what you love and admire about them, while you still can, and while they are still around to hear your words.

We all need encouraging words from time to time. Let’s be generous and send out our word gifts to those we love and admire. The great thing about word gifts is that we never run out. We can afford to be generous.

And not putting your life on hold?

When you have things you want to do, have fun doing, including learning something . . . jump right in and do it. You, too are unique in all the world. Use your gifts. Have fun. Make bad music. Do bad art. Be bold and vulnerable at the same time. Contribute to making the lives of others joyful and meaningful. Create wonderful memories.

Give up on saving the best you have to offer, for some imagined particular time.

The joy of living is knowing how precious and tenuous it really is to be part of the whole human experience. And what a fantastic gift we have been given to participate in a plethora of capacities fully. Let’s do what we can do, while we are able.

 Notes

1:) School is back. Grandkids are engaged. Plans are made.

2:) Oh yes, it is my birthday next week. haha. You must wonder why I make such a fuss over my birthday. It is not to get attention. (ok – that is nice too:-)) The true reason I love my birthday is because I feel so lucky and so grateful to have another one. This is a privilege denied to many. I don’t take it for granted so I love to celebrate the joy of being alive.

3:) We wake up and get another day. How will I spend the next 24 hours? There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It is always what you/I  think is best at that time and in our circumstances. Joan Baez says: “Action is the antidote to despair.” I don’t take that to be only political action, but it could just as easily mean, cleaning off my desk,  sketching a tree, reading a book and so on. And of course, there is this: “I’ve learnt that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.” – Maya Angelou

4:) A maxim from Dr Shoma Morita: “If it’s raining and you have an umbrella use it. Example: we are in another heatwave in Ottawa so I am calling it a day and going to my daughter’s air-conditioned house to sleep now.

5:) Thank you for stopping by and I will see you next week on my birthday. Warmest wishes, Trudy