Wild About WildFlowers

No matter what else is going on, whether I am tired, feeling flat, grumpy, or anxious when I see the incredible beauty and carefreeness of simple wildflowers my heart bursts. If I were a deer I might lie down on the ground and start munching. This unsophisticated, unmanicured, splash of randomness does me in.  I cannot feel anything but pure unadulterated joy.

There are other things that also impact my spirits. Take this boathouse, otherwise known as the Ottawa Rowing Club, where my grandson goes to rowing camp this summer. If you examine it closely you see it is a little shabby and probably needs sprucing up. However, all I see is the blue, and yellow, the open door, and the familiar design from somewhere in my childhood memory. It leaves me with a sense of comfort and ease. Twice a day, I drop off and pick up Rowan, and I receive this gift of the ordinary and the mundane. Lucky for me, it stirs my soul.

Tapestry

Recently, I heard an interview on CBC Tapestry with Cynthis Wallace, speaking about the concept of moral distress, and finding respite and beauty in the mundane activities of life.

(Moral distress is a term first used to describe experiences of health care workers and nurses back in the 80’s. “It is a feeling of exhaustion or concern or fatigue, or even anxiety and depression that manifests when a person sees something wrong but doesn’t have the power to fix it. And maybe they have a sense of what would fix the problem, but they’re not the one with the authority to make that happen.”)

 

A Balm to the Soul

She goes on to describe that a balm to the soul can simply be making something beautiful or doing something just for the sake of beauty. Dr. Wallace, an English professor, tells how following a health incident, she returned from  hospital and “…ordered some embroidery kits. And they won’t make anything useful. But in the evenings, I’ve been cuddling with my kids on the couch and just stitching images of flowers on cloth. And that activity has been so soothing- both the activity of making something and the activity of making something that’s only purpose is to be lovely…and her husband makes sourdough bread that feeds them. Healing can be found in these kids of acts of creation and making.

I invite you to mosey around these July days and take a moment to breathe in the beauty that catches your attention. Don’t take any of it for granted. Just notice what causes a little flicker in your heart and for once in your life, stand still and stare. Or make something just for the love of it. Play a little.

Notes

1:) Here is a little something that anyone can do – a splash of colour- called Breathe With Me. I learned about this from Emma Rooney at Blooming Caravan, where you inhale a breath and on your outbreath you paint a line. Take a look at the video and scroll down the page to see more. I took a few minutes this morning to play with this idea, on a sheet of paper with a brush and some colour. You can use markers or whatever you have on hand.  Breathe With Me  And here is a separate link for a video that was made at the UN and Central Park in the fall of 2019. I include it because I find the website slightly awkward to find your way around.

2:) A song for you A Beautiful Day by Joshua Radin

3:) A sweet story: On a fairly regular basis I do “test kitchen” at my daughter’s home. In other words, I try a new recipe and invite honest feedback. I know it will be edible but I want to know who likes it, shall we repeat it, or never try it again? My grandson, the rower, recently suggested that I only trust his feedback, because he will be truthful.  In fact, he said, “never trust dad.” (my son-in-law) “Why not,” I asked, my curiosity piqued. “Because,” Rowan explained, “Dad will always tell you, ‘I love it, Trudy. It’s the best!'” “So, Nana, you just can’t trust that kind of feedback.”  I suspect there might be a teeny bit of self-interest in his caution.haha

4:) Here we are in a new month and I thank you for coming by. A special shout out to Rob for many beautiful photos of Allison’s wildflower garden. Warmest wishes to you all and please bear in mind that the sum of small joys adds up to make a beautiful life.

The Cure For It ALL – Julia Fehrenbacher

My regular readers know that I would never say this – the cure for it all. However, I LOVE this poem by Julie Fehrenbacher, found on the Gratefulness.org site, and you will soon see why.

 

The Cure For It All by Julie Fehrenbacher

Go gently today, don’t hurry
or think about the next thing. Walk
with the quiet trees, can you believe
how brave they are—how kind? Model your life
after theirs. Blow kisses
at yourself in the mirror
especially when
you think you’ve messed up. Forgive
yourself for not meeting your unreasonable
expectations. You are human, not
God—don’t be so arrogant.
Praise fresh air
clean water, good dogs. Spin
something from joy. Open
a window, even if
it’s cold outside. Sit. Close
your eyes. Breathe. Allow
the river
of it all to pulse
through eyelashes
fingertips, bare toes. Breathe in
breathe out. Breathe until
you feel
your bigness, until the sun
rises in your veins. Breathe
until you stop needing
anything
to be different.

What do I love?

There is so much about this poem to love but the last line explains the title: Breathe until you stop needing anything to be different. It also reminds me of a favourite excerpt from Professor Art Frank who wrote At the Will of the Body. It goes like this: The ill and impaired may, in the sense of fulfilling life, be far more free than healthy people. The healthy require health as an affirmation that their will is still effective and they must continually prove this effectiveness. The ill accept their vulnerability as an affirmation that the world is perfect without any exercise of their will, and this acceptance is their freedom…we are free only when we no longer require health, however much we may prefer it.”

Oliver Burkeman

My friend (we don’t know each other but I feel like Oliver Burkeman and I could be fast friends) recently wrote a blog post called It’s Worse Than You Think. This title sounds the opposite of what we are talking about here but it’s not. He makes several points and this is one:  (I invite you to click on that title and read the whole article)

…maybe your issue is feeling anxious about what the future holds, in your life or the world at large. You feel as though you need to engage in constant planning, or reassurance-seeking from others, or some other form of psychological self-defence, in order to cushion yourself from the worst of the uncertainty. But it’s worse than you think! In fact, anything could happen at any moment. The future is always entirely uncertain. And while planning has its uses, it will never do the slightest thing to alter what the spiritual author Robert Saltzman calls your “total vulnerability to events… you get the picture…

…and you probably get the point, too – which is that when you grasp the sense in which your situation is completely hopeless, instead of just very challenging, you can unclench. You get to exhale. You no longer have to go through life adopting the brace position, because you see that the plane has already crashed. You’re already stranded on the desert island, making what you can of life with your fellow survivors, and with nothing but airplane food to subsist on. And you come to appreciate how much of your distress arose not from the situation itself, but from your efforts to hold yourself back from it, to keep alive the hope that it might not be as it really was.

This might sound like doom and gloom to you, but for me, it has the opposite effect. It is a sigh of relief. Burkeman concludes his essay with these words…In short: we can’t ever get free from the limited and vulnerable and uncertain situation in which we find ourselves. But when you grasp that you’ll never get free from it, that’s when you’re finally free in it – free to focus on the hard things, instead of the impossible ones, and to give this somewhat preposterous business of being a human everything you’ve got. 

And this is why these contrarian views appeal to me. They free us up both psychologically and physically to fully live our lives and not delude ourselves that one day conditions will be just right to do those things we wanted to do but didn’t begin. And this, dear reader, is how The Cure For It All is a twin of It’s worse Than You Think. (at least for me)

Notes

1:) A short video of a butterfly on Gabriola Island. Thank-you Gottfried for capturing a summer day. It is only a minute and 20 seconds.

2:) I suggest you take a few minutes and read Oliver Burkeman’s article, It’s Worse Than You Think, you will get an even better picture of the point he is making and it is certainly not mediocrity or hopelessness, but the exact opposite. 

3:) I have been answering the three questions from last week’s post and discovering surprising results. I even said YES to an invitation that I would ordinarily have turned down, and to my surprise thoroughly enjoyed myself.

4:) The beautiful photos today are thanks to Gottfried and Rob. (Son Rob contributed the orange poppies.)

5:) May you enjoy your 1st weekend in July and within reason, I recommend saying YES to summertime invitations. Thank you as always for stopping by. All my best wishes, Trudy

Finding New Eyes

“Taking in the good, whenever and wherever we find it, gives us new eyes for seeing and living.” – Author: Krista Tippett. The On Being Project

When we get caught in a rut and become discouraged and demoralized with ourselves, it is no simple matter to talk, think, or climb our way out of it. When we hold all the aces it can be “relatively” easy to brush ourselves off and start again. But if we are suffering from devastating news and one loss after another, it is a different matter. Many of us know what to do, or what we could be doing, (there is no shortage of information) but there are days when we can’t rise to the occasion. We don’t even want to. And if we aren’t aware, we can then start chastising ourselves for everything under the sun.

The Art of Living Every Minute of Your Life

As I was thinking about these things in my own life, and the many lives of people I know, I recalled a recording I listened to from one of my teachers.  The recording is called The Art of Living Every Minute of Your Life by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen. Lucky me, I got to hear it in 2008, the year I was diagnosed with cancer. Coincidentally, a friend mentioned it to me this week who thought  I would like it so I went looking to check it out once again.

There was one section I remembered that stood out for me – three questions. Dr. Remen called it a heart journal and she had designed it for medical students and doctors as a psychologically sophisticated way to way to rediscover meaning in their work, a reminder of what they were capable of doing and a sense of gratitude for being here to do it. In truth, it was transformative.  Her books with the humble titles of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings along with her curriculum, The Healer’s Art, are now taught in more than half of all medical schools in the US along with several European schools.  Thousands of people have been impacted by her devotion, expertise, vision, and generosity.

Three Questions

Like myself, many have found the three questions a gentle way to end each day and provide ourselves with a new lens to view our lives, even when things are not going according to plan. They go like this:

  1. What surprised me today?
  2. What touched my heart today?
  3. What inspired me today?

What you do is take ten minutes at the end of the day and reflect backward with the first question until you come to “what surprised me?” Write it down and start over with the second question “What touched my heart?” Write it down. Finally the third question, “What inspired me?” Once you find it, write it down. Close your book and go to sleep.

I found it interesting to begin the reflection for each question at the bedtime hour working back towards morning. Although it has been years since I last did this exercise I will go ahead right now and try it. (it is close enough to my bedtime)

My Review

What surprised me today? -Reflecting through the hours I go back to the early morning hour and notice I was surprised that I got Wordle in 2 lines. This has only happened three times before. I realize how much I enjoy doing this delightful and uncomplicated word game each morning and then posting it to our Family Wordle Group. It’s fun.

What touched my heart today? – Scanning backward, once again, I stop at 10:30 AM when I had the privilege to listen to President Zelenskyy addressing the University students across Canada. This was hosted by the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. What touched me deeply was the President’s response to a student’s question about who and what inspires him to keep going. He responded gently and movingly with stories of ordinary Ukrainian citizens, the unsung heroes, giving examples of their courage and strength. My heart was touched.

Who inspired me today? A beautiful woman who has lived for several years was on a zoom webinar with me and other lovely people during the noon hour. To see Elli with her radiant smile that lit up the room, a beautiful bouquet of hand-picked peonies at her elbow, and to hear her expression of gratitude for life with nary a complaint was a gift. I felt inspired just to be with her in our zoom room.

It was interesting to hear Rachel Remen discuss how hard this exercise can be for overworked and exhausted physicians. She indicated that it can take several days if not weeks before some can respond to the questions.

Having just done this publically with you I can say that I feel good going to sleep tonight. How lucky am I to have had these three experiences, and now they are lodged in my hippocampus, temporarily.  Maybe the recall and the writing will move them into longer-term storage. We will see. But it doesn’t matter, because I  had the joy of remembering these three occasions once again.

It is always an invitation to you, to give it a try. I am starting with two weeks and will re-evaluate. We are storytellers and each day is a new page in our story.  Another chance to find meaning and gratitude and love.

Notes

1:) In case you want to listen to Rachel’s slow and gentle speaking voice here is a link.  And a link to Commonweal for more current information.

2:) For those who have hard things they need to do. You can do it! A music video by Carrie Newcomer You Can Do This Hard Thing

3:) It is officially summertime, so bring out your bathing suits and focus on sand castles, hammocks, hiking,  and ice cream. In other words, make time for fun.

4:) Thank you once again. I appreciate every one of my readers. That means YOU. Warmest wishes and see you next week. Trudy

Taking Time To Be a Friend to Yourself

Being a friend to yourself is good self-care. It costs no money and you don’t have to get on a plane. There are times to pay the money and take the holiday, go to the spa, or take out a gym membership. But what if funds and even time are short?

I’m seriously practicing with this notion. For instance, last evening I had commitments that lasted until 10:30. However, I knew it was the night of the beautiful, June Strawberry Moon and there were clear skies. It would have been easy to tumble into bed, but I didn’t want to miss it. So, I chose to take a walk down to the canal, and coincidentally, my friend arrived home just at that time and joined me. Honestly, it was delightful. A warm summery night where the air felt like silk and the sky was clear. The walk was refreshing and fun and the moon took up half the sky. (a slight exaggeration) Coming back along Bank St, shortly after eleven, was a rare experience and not only was I not tired I was refreshed and had a great night’s sleep.

This is the thing. I really wanted to see that supermoon and it would have been easy to let it go. There will always be another moon, a common refrain. But will there? Beyond our mortality, it was a friendly thing to do for my own heart, on a special night in June. Just for myself and just for the beauty of it. And now I get to tell you.

This morning I had an appointment at 9:00 in a different part of Ottawa where I had not been before. I chose to leave earlier than usual because it is peony season and I guessed there might be some beauties in that neighbourhood. As it turned out  I got to spend 15 minutes admiring peonys and taking photos. Here is one of my favourites. I like the three different stages of the flower. And my appointment went exceedingly well too. No rushing.

On the weekend My granddaughter Sophie, the puppy Sasha and I visited Rockcliffe Park, a fifteen-minute drive from home. This is a park I kept saying I would like to visit but never did. As we drove along we reminisced about other childhood outings we had taken in that neighborhood and I felt that little flood of warmth from the good memories. And we agreed to return, this summer, perhaps with a picnic lunch. It was a simple joy on a Saturday afternoon.

It is so easy not to do things. Especially when we have lots on our plate.

When we are dealing with a serious illness, and other difficult matters, our own or a family member’s, so much of our life is out of our direct control. In fact, we may never have imagined that we would face such a challenging set of circumstances.  It is way too easy to ignore our own well-being.

These are the times when we are even more in need of each other, as well as beauty, laughter, a few good words, imagination, curiosity and possibilities. And we can learn to be a friend to ourselves and say, yes, every day to something quite ordinary but special to us. It is a mistake to wait for things to improve or be less hectic. That doesn’t happen. We make time, and we take time every single day to do one thing that revives our spirits. This includes seeing our friends. Our circumstances may be such that we ask another friend to free us up an hour or two, in order to do so.

What goes around, comes around. We are here to help and be helped. It is easier, at first, to be the helper but it is a wondrous gift to learn to ask for help when we need it. Step back a little and ask what you could do to be a friend to yourself. I see it now as a practice. I am not always good at it but this month I am more conscious.

Let’s face it. When we take a little care of ourselves through the good times we are better equipped to do so through the challenging ones. So, no matter what, it’s best to get started. A guide to befriending yourself is to treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend. It is as simple and as difficult as that.

Notes:

1:) No, that moon photo is not mine. Capturing the moon is challenging and this one is thanks to Soly Moses and Pexels, a free source of photographs. I hope you get to see it too.

2:) Consider starting something now for your future self. Maybe it is a daily walk, growing a plant, meditating, flossing your teeth, or changing your sheets before you head off on a trip. How nice it will feel to return to a freshly made bed. So many ways to be a friend to yourself.

3:) We are coming up to the longest day of the year – next Tuesday. I wonder what you do, if anything, to celebrate this interesting day.

4:) Thank you for stopping by. Warmest wishes to you all, Trudy

 

The Power of Just Showing Up

 Pandemic of Love:

 

Shelly Tygielski, just showed up at the beginning of the pandemic. She was concerned about the people in her community and decided to try a simple, free, and easy way for people to ask for help and for people to give help. At various times the same person was on each side of that equation. She went on to social media with this post:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please select one of the options below:

I Need Help  Necesito ayuda                                  I Want to Help Quiero ayudar

The response was immediate, and before long  Pandemic of Love, started by one person in March of 2020, became a global movement.  It is now a grassroots, volunteer-led, and formalized mutual aid community.

Mutual Aid

 “Mutual aid” is a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services based on the principle that members of a community should feel responsible to care for one another and aspire to develop a community safety net where no individual goes hungry, no individual is without shelter and no individual feels alone.

The organization was started around a kitchen table on March 14, 2020 by Shelly Tygielski, a Florida meditation teacher as the COVID-19 pandemic began to force closures in communities across the world.

While Pandemic of Love was initially formed to take care of the financial needs that people in need faced due to pandemic-related income loss, the organization has been expanding through local micro-community chapters to meet the different needs that are arising in this unprecedented time that we are living through.

Teams of volunteers are partnering with brands and organizations, assisting communities in need, and joining forces with global movements with the intention of creating sustainable, formalized mutual aid communities all across the world, long after the pandemic is over.

What started with a simple post has become a worldwide movement of Pandemic of Love, with more than 1200 volunteers, over one million five hundred matches and over $40 million dollars in direct help.”

AMAZING

I recently listened to Shelly Tygielski being interviewed. She caught my attention when she spoke about the importance of just showing up.  We don’t need to know what to do or say or have a plan. Showing up is what matters. We figure out what needs doing on the job. It reminded me of when people go through catastrophic illnesses and other challenges. We sometimes hesitate to jump in because we feel unqualified or afraid of not knowing what we should say or do. And yet, time and time again, when we brave the unknown and make that call or send a note or knock at the door…we learn that it was the perfectly imperfect thing to do.

My friend Patricia Ryan Madson who wrote Improv Wisdom recommends just showing up. “Showing up is the key principle when we offer service to others. So often it is our presence alone, rather than some special ability, that makes the difference.”

Sometimes we fail to show up for ourselves. We know what we want or need to do but we aren’t in the mood, or we procrastinate or we are afraid. It’s super easy not to do anything. Consider pushing back against that inertia. If a walk is important, show up outside on the sidewalk where you live. Keep it simple. A friend going through a hard time comes into your mind – pick up the phone and say hello.

Many of our good ideas do not see the light of day because we don’t take the first step or the second. Most regrets on our death beds are about what we didn’t do. Not what mistakes we made.

 

 

Poem:

“Yes”

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could you know. That’s why we wake
and look out–no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

–  by William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems © Graywolf Press, 1998.

Notes

1:) Link to Pandemic of Love if you are interested.

2:) This word poem is linked to the site where I got YES – one of my favourites.

3:) Some team work from the little clown fish BBC

4:) We keep showing up here, every Wednesday. Thank you! Warm greetings to you all, Trudy

 

When You Have Nothing Give it Away

Years ago I came across an inspiring message about a six year old girl. The story was re-told in Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s  book The Art of Possibility.

I heard Rosamund deliver the opening key note address at the Health, Work and Wellness Conference held in Vancouver October 2006. She is a gifted artist, family therapist and visionary in leadership, creativity, human development and effective action. Her husband Benjamin has been the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic since its foundation in 1979. Besides his stellar musical career he is sought after as a speaker to major organizations for his presentations on leadership and creativity.

The story follows:

Inscribed on five of the six pillars in the Holocaust Memorial at Quincy Market in Boston are stories that speak of the cruelty and suffering in the camps. The sixth pillar presents a tale of a different sort, about a little girl named Ilse, a childhood friend of Guerda Weissman Kline, in Auschwitz. Guerda remembers that Ilse, who was about six years old at the time, found one morning a single raspberry somewhere in the camp. Ilse carried it all day long in a protected place in her pocket, and in the evening, her eyes shining with happiness, she presented it to her friend Guerda on a leaf. “Imagine a world,” writes Guerda, “in which your entire possession is one raspberry, and you give it to your friend.”

This story touches my heart.   With love to you dear readers. Trudy

 

Notes:

1:) Allow me to clarify: I don’t give you this story as some kind of moral suasion to give everything away. (I’m sure you know that by now) I pass it on because it illustrates the  amazing beauty of a child’s intrinsic human nature. Viktor Frankl writes about these kinds of experiences he witnessed in concentration camp, in Man’s Search for Meaning. And it also reminds me that it is the little things we  do that can  make a big difference. Ilse inspires me and keeps me hopeful.

2:)Our nature prescription:  The sound of the loon from the Cornell library. I recall the moments when I first heard the call of the loon. Summertime –  a lake in the interior of BC and the quiet of the evening. Haunting and beautiful. I was awestruck.

3:) An invitation to find an unsung hero in your life and tell them so. Let them know how they make your life better, while you can.

4:) I am grateful to be able to  write these posts every week and over the moon blessed that you kindly read them. Thank you! May this new month hold many lovely surprises for you all. Warmly, Trudy

Ikigai – The Sum of Small Joys in Everyday Life

Ikigai and Illness

Ikigai and Illness is on my mind. This makes sense as I love the subtlety and depth of this word and it plays a central role in my life. Last month I was part of the Speakers Series at Wellspring Calgary and invited to give a talk on this subject. This month  Nick Kemp in Australia, invited me to his podcast, Ikigai Tribe, and we had a lovely conversation (see the notes) on Ikigai and Illness. Nick is a western expert on Ikigai and a kind, generous and hospitable host.

One of the things I love about ikigai is its relationship to everyday life.  We can have many things that claim ikigai status. For instance, it might be hearing the birds when you wake on a spring morning, or your first cup of coffee while you do wordle, your family, gardens, sunsets, a walk in the park, or being part of a choir, running, cycling, poetry… for each person their ikigai is unique because we all experience joy in different ways. There is no list as to what qualifies.

Ikigai might be your work, as it is for me, but not necessarily so. Traditionally it is a much broader concept and is more focused on our daily lives so will include hobbies or a special group of friends who you love to spend time with, grandchildren, story telling…  It isn’t for another to describe your ikigai rather it is for you to become aware of what interests you, and what brings out the best in you. Where you experience delight and meaning is where you will discover your ikigai.

Reasons to get up in the morning

When we have a purpose in our lives, and reasons to get up in the morning, it strengthens our resilience during difficult times.  And since ikigai doesn’t rely on the peak moments in our lives it is always available and forms a significant part of our resiliency. We do not rely on just one thing but on many smaller things.

Ikigai also changes over time. We may do less of what was important in our forties and discover new aspects of ourselves as we live longer and experience the trials and tribulations of life. It can provide us with a soft and solid place to land. Things and people we can count on.

A call to action

I often say that ikigai is a call to action. It is something we do. If you love lying in a hammock it is still something you need to do. Get the hammock out and take the time to crawl in and read or nap. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to neglect things you actually like doing and fail to begin. It’s not a criticism, just human nature. It takes small steps and a little discipline to take the first step.

Definition

We can’t express certain words by a simple translation.  The word ikigai is made up of two parts: iki meaning life and gai meaning values/purpose/meaning. Simply put, a reason to get up in the morning. As much as each person’s ikigai is unique there is also a subtle meaning to how we use our ikigai to contribute to others. How do we connect with the outside world? I see my love of poetry as part of my ikigai and passing poems on to another is a contribution that brings me great joy.

It is easy to put our lives on hold when we get a serious illness or we are going through a difficult time. Or even when we have become comfortable and see no need to change the status quo. Yet, when we take steps to do something we may have yearned to do in our youth, or act on our secret desire to sing or play the piano and we actually do it – the side effects of this can be transformative.

I recommend staying curious. Be willing to try something you have longed to do and better yet, be prepared not to be good at it. Enjoy it for its own sake, because it is something you want to do. There are many ways to discover small joys in daily life even when the big picture looks bleak. Let’s not miss out on those small things. Those are often the things that when we look back on our lives bring coherence, ah-ha’s, love, meaning, and our reasons for living.

My ikigai friends in Japan have just had another hiking adventure. Most of the people in this photo came to Calgary in the summer of 2019 to hike in the Rockies. 13 in all. I smile when I see their delightful faces.

Notes

1:) Here is a link to Nick Kemp’s podcasts. Scroll down a little and you will find the Episode List with photographs” I am  # 039, the one in purple. These podcasts are long so you won’t want to listen to it all. I am not listening to myself since it is now written in stone and can’t be changed. Yikes! What’s done is done. For anyone interested in ikigai, however,  there are some amazing podcasts in this collection and I intend to make my way through several.

2:) Can you believe that my next blog is on June 1st. I am now working my way through the task of getting all my logins and passwords written out for my family. One day for sure they will need this list. Since I talk about this and resist doing an updated list myself, I am using  15 minutes a day to just do it. It is working, no matter how hard I resist. In fact, as soon as I publish this post my 15-minute task will get done.

3:) May you have a good last week of May. There are many things going wrong in the world. However, there are many things going right too, thanks to our fellow humans. Let’s never forget that. And take comfort in the vastness of the sea and sky and mountains. Look for beauty.

4:) A hundred thank-you’s to you all, dear readers. For certain, you are one of my reasons for getting up every Wednesday morning and beyond. With gratitude, Trudy

A Short and Sweet Holiday

Today is day three out of five in Vancouver and it has been three days of bliss, walking in one magnificent garden after another under perfect conditions.

Imagine waking up three days in a row and spending hours simply exploring a beautiful city, with lovely people, and on foot. Moodling, oohing and ahhing, taking photos, sitting in the sun and smelling the salt air. Not to mention the amazing coffee and delicious food.

For the first time I am writing this short blog post on my phone. Of course, I have no idea how this will turn out, but I often suggest trying new things and made a conscious decision to leave my laptop behind. We will discover together how this goes.

Coincidentally, I am celebrating four years this week in May of weekly blog posts. Please allow me to thank you profusely for your care, kindness and attention as we accompany each other through the seasons and I share my musings.

“We are born and we die and in between we have the chance to keep each other company and that’s the thing that counts the most.” John Tarrant.

See you next week. In the meantime May you find and create moments of beauty and joy. Warmest wishes, Trudy

Making Sense of It All

Seasons

Ottawa went from winter to summer in one fell swoop, which makes no sense at all. Suddenly, overnight, the trees leafed out, and the tulips were in bloom. Furthermore, the temperature is a high of 29 Celsius, which is 84.2 F and the next two days are 31C (87.8 F) This feels like summer to me. I suspect only Canadians love to talk this much about the weather.

There are always things that don’t make sense in our lives. Life is not fair. We can do everything right and still get cancer. We can be fit, get a clean bill of health, and end up at the Heart Institute three months later. Tragedy strikes every day: accidents, bankruptcies, loss of all kinds, early death, intractable mind/body illnesses. What about natural disasters? Not to mention wars. Some things are intrinsically senseless.

And the inconveniences: the car won’t start; a flat tire; internet down; misunderstandings;  a broken foot; a missed appointment; a wrong word. and of course the rule of three breakdowns (first the fridge; next the dishwasher, and finally the dryer, one following closely on the heels of the other.)

Every Morning

Yet, here is my truth: every morning when I wake up I am beyond grateful to get another day. I don’t fear for my life, personal safety, or going hungry. And I have many good things and wonderful people to see and be in touch with. Still, in spite of my gratitude, I, like you, need to deal with my own share of problems both large and small. They are my (you have yours) specific problems we try to make sense of. How did I end up in this particular situation, we might ask? We can compare and all we do is find people worse off and better off than ourselves.  But our problems remain and are sometimes accompanied by cognitive dissonance – the flabbergasting reality that X has happened to me. Unbelievable.

The making sense out of  X often goes unanswered. What we learn whether we like it or not is that we are not in control of our lives. Things happen. We absolutely can take preventative measures to reduce negative impacts and increase the favourable ones. But if you have lived awhile you know there are no guarantees. Life can change in a moment. Plans don’t always work in the end. Anything can happen to anyone at any time.

We know this when we look around at others. It’s harder to accept when it happens to us.

X, however, is a call to action, whether it makes sense or not, whether we like it or not, and whether we consider it fair.  There is usually something we need to learn, do, put in place, stop, start or continue. By focusing our attention on the what if’s and the why me’s and the unfairness of it all we simply increase our suffering and spend our limited energy on what we can’t do anything about.

Musings

As I was musing about these things a few days ago, sitting under a blue sky and looking up into the fresh, newly minted leaves on an ancient tree, I had every reason to be confident and hopeful. My life’s experience is proof enough that I have weathered many storms, just like you. We do not have to throw up our arms in despair when something doesn’t make sense. If nothing else we know that we can survive and our ancestors before us did survive adversity or we would not be here.

Coincidentally, I also got to listen to an interview with Dr David Sinclair, professor in the Dept of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, author of Lifespan. I found him totally engaging and fascinating even though I am personally not interested in living for 150 years. (For one thing, I would not be able to afford it.) Nevertheless, I liked him and was keen to learn more about his research on adversity as it pertains to aging, illness, and health throughout all stages of life.

“There’s no way to be successful without massive amounts of adversity, criticisms, failures, and mistakes,” claims David. Raised by his grandmother, who knew that life was unfair, yet encouraged him to make the world a better place. Grit; generosity, gratitude, and kindness while shooting for your goals and achieving them. Suffering many setbacks, criticisms, and failures during his career, he was listed in  Time Magazine as one of The 100 Most Influential People in the World. And again in 2018 as one of The Top 50 most important people in health care. (learned this from an interview with adversityadvantage.com)

Setbacks never stop.

Plans can go awry. Interruptions and disappointments happen and yet we never get to give up. The truth is, along with all the awfulness that can happen we can cultivate a practice of expanding our awareness to look for the good. The things that work; beauty; truth; joyful moments; loving people. One reason for having hobbies and going outside in nature is so we can lose ourselves in the fun and satisfaction of making something or being awestruck by the natural world. Just for the joy of it. Not for pay or prestige or reward of any kind. Just to enjoy. It fills us up.

Today, for a few moments I lost myself in the sights, sounds, and smells of our verdant landscape. We can consciously remember highlights from our own history where we were successful and things worked out.  And times, when it seemed like the world was crashing down, and it was, but later on new doors opened and we entered a wonderful  chapter we hadn’t even imagined.  Remember that golden thread that is stitched through our days. It ultimately creates a tapestry and makes meaning from all the strands and frayed threads. It is a gift to take the time to recall those people who made a difference in our lives. Reviewing our personal triumphs where we stretched ourselves, struggled with adversity, and achieved our goals can give us a sense of meaning and coherence, no matter what else is happening.

There comes a time when it all makes sense: things do work out and we can step back and know why we are here. Our precious lives. “The full catastrophe” as Zorbra says. Let’s continue to respond to life with YES!

Notes

1:) The tulip festival begins this weekend celebrating its Platinum Jubilee marking the 70th anniversary with one million plus blooms of gorgeous colours and varieties. This festival began thanks to the Royal Family of the Netherlands who took refuge in Canada during the Second World War, and her Royal Highness, Princess Margaret was born here in 1943. Two years later Canadian troops liberated the Netherlands and in gratitude, the Dutch government has sent a gift of tulip bulbs every year since 1945.

2:) Gratitude is the capacity to stare doubt, loss, chaos and despair right in the eye and say, ‘I am still here.’ Diana Butler Bass

3:) Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I warmly send all my best wishes to you. See you next week. As always, Trudy

A New Word – Ajuinata – Never Give Up

My favourite Haiku, as many of you know

Little snail

Slowly, slowly

Climbs Mt Fuji – by Issa

 

Last month I learned a new word from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary May Simon. Her Excellency is Canada’s first Indigenous governor general.

The Word is Ajuinat

Ajuinat is an old Inuktitut word but brand new to me, and it “is roughly pronounced  aye-yoo-ee-nah-tah.” It roughly translates to “when you are confronted with adversity, or things that are difficult, you keep going.”

In the article I read in CBC news, they say that ajuinat means “you don’t give up and you need to make a commitment to continue to make changes.” Mary Simon uses this word to recognize the perseverance of those in the Indigenous community who persevere against the odds –  to right wrongs, and make changes.

She also uses the word for something she does – making random calls of kindness, to leaders and change makers who might be able to use a pick me up or a word of cheer.

Other languages

Like many of the Japanese  words I love and write about here: eg – ikigai, arugamama, wabi-sabi, ichigo ishie, sumimasen, they are so steeped in culture and the language of the culture that it becomes impossible to transmit the true essence with a simple translation. We only scrape the surface.

Another example is the German word gemutlichkeit. According to Wikipedia, “It conveys a feeling or state of friendliness, warmth and good cheer… coziness, peace of mind and a sense of belonging.” I heard the word often in Austria when someone suggested we go to a certain place for dinner or a coffee, or to someone’s home. It wasn’t about the food (food was always good) and it meant more than being cozy. Rather, it was an immediate sense of well being that you felt just being in that place. The atmosphere exuded something you couldn’t name in English, but you could feel it.

When I read about ajuinit I knew it was a word for me. Although it was associated with survival in the harsh climate of the Canadian north many situations came to mind where we can apply it today.  However, I will need to dig a little deeper to get the full import of what the word means and how to  work with it, in the right spirit. There is no one English word to convey the wholeheartedness of ajuinata.

CBC article:

In the CBC article written by Alistair Steele, he quotes Manitok Thompson, ED of the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation. “Today, it’s something that needs to be heard across the board for nurses, for doctors, for children, for youth, for our mothers, our fathers –  these words are very powerful in our culture because we are survivors.” 

I think we have important opportunities to pause and take in the meaning when we learn a word or a concept from another culture. Language is powerful and we can use words as gifts or as weapons. For myself, I have received many gifts from the language of others. And I will hopefully take the essence of ajuinata into my own struggles and dreams.

Thanks to CBC for publishing this article. You can read it in full  here.

Notes

1:) How other languages inform our own:People speak roughly 7,000 languages worldwide. Although there is a lot in common among languages, each one is unique, both in its structure and in the way it reflects the culture of the people who speak it.

Stanford professor Dan Jurafsky said it’s important to study languages other than our own and how they develop over time because it can help scholars understand what lies at the foundation of humans’ unique way of communicating with one another.

“All this research can help us discover what it means to be human,” Jurafsky said.

2:) Short video celebrating the Dawn Chorus Festival

3:) Wishing you a beautiful May weekend. It’s Mother’s day on this continent and with a little luck we will have sunshine and flowers. Even without we will have heartfelt warmth and love. Many thanks for stopping by. Warmly, Trudy