Scattering Seeds…

This evening is the end of a good day. It began with a reminder from one of my readers about the 2nd anniversary of a special meditation class I previously attended. The timing is such that I am no longer able to participate, but by chance, today I could. It was a gentle and joyful experience and restimulated my original attraction to this group.

Reminders of heartfulness were popping up in several corners. Wendell Berry’s poem The Peace of Wild Things is a favorite and I have used it here a few times. However, today, at the Forest Bathing Studio, Emma played this short video created by the On Being program and featuring Wendell Berry reciting his poem in an animated backdrop. I found it delightful.

The Peace of Wild Things

It was comforting to be outside and to notice and feel the warmth of the sun and listen to the ice melting. Sparkles everywhere lifted my spirits and I was inspired by a profound James Crews poem, featured on my friend Janice’s website.

Heart Poems

I suggest you click the link on Heart Poems so you can see the commentary. You won’t be disappointed.

Losing Heart by James Crews

It’s not like misplacing the car keys

or forgetting your mother’s address.

You know it’s impossible to actually lose

the heart working so hard in the chest,

resting for only the slimmest of instants

between beats. Yet you wake some days

patting empty pockets, digging through

every drawer in the house, searching

under the bed and couch. In the space

of a night, the hope that burned bright—

flowing like a medicine in your veins—

can drain from the body, leaving you

bereft in bed and getting up only

to bathe yourself in the sickly light

of the fridge, the glow of screens.

Yet you can trust that the heart never

goes far, never abandons you for longer

than you can handle. You might be

driving to work one stormy morning,

scowling at every car that passes you

when it happens again—that sudden

leap in the chest as you see the rain-

slick blacktop shining blue in places

where it gives back the sky, and then

you’re anchored again in that faithful

rhythm by which you love the world.

Spreading Seeds

Today I am simply scattering seeds on this page. True, mostly poetry, but look below and see the luscious spring flowers from Gabriola Island, and also what May Sarton has to say about idleness, or what I prefer to call restfulness or moodling time.

 

Importance of rest:
“I always forget how important empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. A day when one has not pushed oneself to the limit may seem a damaged, damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room.” May Sarton,   Journal of a Solitude

Notes

1:) I invite you to look for flashes of beauty this week. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe suggests: “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

2:) It is shocking to me that I have encouraged my Ottawa family to get my granddaughter Sophie a dog. I know nothing about dogs and I didn’t want a dog but here I am, looking forward to meeting Sasha, in April. She is a  medium Australiandoodle and will be about 40 pounds, for all you dog people. Looks like a great companion for Sophie and I suspect a wonderful asset for the entire family. In fact, we are all excited now.

3:) Speaking of dogs, I am now blushing thinking of what I am about to post. A short video called So God Made a Dog. This is thanks to my friend Nancy who is a dog lover and who has a beautiful dog, Levy, whom I grew attached to in spite of myself. Enough already. That’s it. No more talk of dogs on this blog.With the exception of the video. haha So God Made a Dog

4:) Thinking of you all, wherever you are, and sending all my best wishes, hopes, and love across the miles. Thank you for coming by here and for all your lovely emails and comments. Warmly, Trudy

5:) The banner photo is from a small tropical greenhouse I recently discovered in Ottawa and the pink flowers are Japanese double cherry blossoms, from Gottfried on Gabriola.

6:) Links for Ikigai and Illness print copy. Amazon.ca  Amazon.com

Glimpses of Spring

What I noticed today:

  • The early morning light
  • The dripping sound of icicles melting outside my study window
  • Birds chirping
  • Dirty snow banks are no longer being cleared
  • Lots of water at the intersections
  • Potholes on residential streets
  • Interesting trees
  • Sunset is now 6:00 EST
  • The sun is beginning to work again…
  • A clean car after a head light replacement thanks to Toyota

What I look forward to this month

  • Daylight saving time March 13th  (I understand not everyone is excited to lose that hour of sleep but I LOVE it)
  • The first day of spring on the 20th this year
  • Wellspring Calgary Fridays
  • TD Institute Creativity Cafe
  • Open studio  Saturdays (sketching, painting, doodling in the company of a few others)
  • Study Group Sundays
  • Two writing projects and one video
  • Time with my family and friends in person and online
  • Taking more photos (less cold)

Possibilities

  • Spotting the first tiny sprouts on the sunny sides of the street
  • Receiving a new poem
  • Meeting the family’s new puppy
  • Making plans to see loved ones this summer
  • Walks with friends (depends on the slippery factor)
  • Completing my taxes by March 31st one month early
  • A little more time for making things
  • Removing my winter tires (far fetched)
  • A train ride to Montreal (dreaming)
  • Swimming twice a week (realistic and 100 % up to me)

When the world is in chaos it is a good time to pay more attention to our surroundings and the small things in our daily life.

A number of years ago, in March,  a lovely woman of my acquaintance, who also loves poetry, sent me a poem written by Ted Hooser, while he was recovering from cancer. This poem is from his collection Winter Morning Walks: one hundred postcards to Jim Harrison.

 

Gusty and warm – Thank-you Ted Hooser

I saw the season’s first bluebird
this morning, one month ahead
of its scheduled arrival. Lucky I am
to go off to my cancer appointment
having been given a bluebird, and,
for a lifetime, having been given
this world.

Notes

1:) Many people are in despair right now, if not for themselves, for their loved ones. There is so much that we can’t do because it is totally out of our control. But there are small things we can do so let’s do that. I just heard on CBC radio this evening that an ice cream shop in Calgary raised over $100,000 for the Ukraine relief fund in one day. An ice cream cone for all these people and in winter. Amazing!! A good news story as reported on CTV

2:) I also hold in my heart the 13,ooo plus Russian people who are in jail for speaking out in protest against the war. And they may never get out. May peace come soon.

3:) Take nothing for granted. Every breath is a gift.

4:) I invite you to take note of three specific things in nature every single day that catch your eye (eventually, go beyond the obvious) and jot them down. An experiment.

5:) With the deepest gratitude for stopping by here once again. All my best wishes to you and yours. Take heart. Warmly, Trudy

6:) Links for Ikigai and Illness print copy. I was chastised last week for no links. :-))

Amazon.ca

Amazon.com

In Times of Trouble

“For centuries, leaders throughout the world have turned to poetry for solace and for a call to action. Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who was jailed 27 years for his activism and in 1994 became President of South Africa, regularly recited the poem Invictus during his imprisonment. Invictus, meaning unconquerable or undefeated in Latin, was written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley.”

I, like many people all around the world, am shaken by the events in Ukraine. Inspired by their unconquerable spirits, I am dedicating this poem to President Zelenskyy and all the people of Ukraine during this reign of terror. And to all my readers who have family and friends in the Ukraine. May peace come!

Invictus by English poet William Ernest Henley (U of North Carolina)

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.

 

What Do We Do

There is little that most of us can do about this situation in Ukraine. Yet, it is encouraging that so much of the world seems to care. Although we can do little, we can take care of our immediate surroundings. We can intentionally be kind, extra kind, to everyone we meet. It takes effort to create an oasis of calm, in our immediate lives, but it seems to me we can and need to do this.  A bouquet of tulips for the table, daily walks in nature, listening to music or reading a book. A TV news fast can be helpful and making a donation. Being fully aware of who we are with. And creating occasions for laughter. Laughter and singing, friends and families and neighbours, is a time worn antidote for getting through anxious times.

I’m not talking about happiness here. Rather, I am thinking about life and humanity and how it has always been. The full catastrophe that comes with being born. The crowd of sorrows and the outpouring of love. And the pure chance of where we were born.

Treasure those who are here

Several years ago an old friend had two people he love die in a short period of time. I asked him how he was managing and he told me this. “I have used this loss to become fully aware of how a life can come to an end in an instant. And how I grieve my losses is by treasuring, even more, the ones who are still alive. I now know that I will lose them too, at an undisclosed time. I no longer take my own life or the lives of my loved ones for granted.”

The paradox of not liking, and feeling helpless with what is going on in the world, yet also loving and managing the daily life we have been given. Responding to the needs of our own situations as best we can. It is a mystery – a koan – our life’s work. There are things that only each of us can do.

Thich Nhat Hanh, wrote: 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. It seems to me that President Zelenskyy is that person in Ukraine. A deep bow.

 

Notes

1:) Sunflowers are Ukraine’s national flower. I took the ones here in Ottawa at the Experimental Farm.

2:) My son-in-law’s Mother, Barrie,  captured this surprise rainbow, today. With thanks.

3:) I found a lovely BBC site with nature documentaries and short films. Here is a link to Nature’s Larder- Coral Reefs. 4 min

4:) Music Play for Change- Playing for Peace

5:) Take heart through these challenging days. I am grateful to you, for showing up here week after week. All my best wishes, Trudy

PS I forgot, but adding it now – my small book is now available in print at Amazon. I am sorry it took so long

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.

Notes

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.

Anthem

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!

Notes

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

Notes

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

casually

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)

Notes

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.

It Feels Like Home

Do you have places that feel like “home?”

It may not be the place where you currently live. There are several places I know I could live – but the one where I consistently feel most at home in Canada is Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

Saturday morning my granddaughter and I woke up in Vancouver. We left -35 Celsius and stepped out into +6 Celsius. Now I know that for those of you living in places where the sun actually works,  plus 6 C is nothing to brag about. But for us, we were over the moon with no snow, no boots, no sheepskin mittens plus signs of spring.

Signs of Spring

As we walked down the hill towards Olympic Village and Burrard Inlet we spotted snowdrops in bloom, daffodils and tulip shoots; buds on a magnolia tree…even a pansy. I could feel spring fever sneaking up on me and brightening my spirit. The air was amazing, the coastal mountains were glistening and I was sure I could walk all day long, so great was my delight.

Everywhere we looked we saw walkers, runners and cyclists of all ages.

It has been a decade at lease since I was here in January and I had convinced myself that grey and rainy days were all one could expect. Not true. Grey and overcast with fog in the morning followed by sunshine and blue skies in the afternoon. However, the  forgotten memory was the ease in which we could step outside and go for a walk with the magnificent  backdrop of coastal mountains. This is not to be taken for granted.

21 Days of Hopefulness

Sometimes in life we all need a lift. Returning to a place that feels like home, can work its magic. Naturally going to a brand new place is exhilerating but during these times it is easier to stay inside our own borders. And although familiar, we see it as if for the first time. Seeing new sights, hearing new sounds, doing different things, interacting with new people all inspire a fresh look at the world, and each day something to look forward too.

Travel

Travel is one of the recommendations for people struggling with cancer, in fact, most illness. It’s not always easy yet it is almost always rewarding. Our immune systems, as reflected in our spirits, get to light up and shake off the dust of inertia and weariness.

I love being with my granddaughter on this adventure and intentionally noticing the beautiful gifts of nature. We are creating memories that will be with us for our entire lives. It’s a bit like playing hookie or colouring outside the lines. And we get to do this with our wonderful extended family and friends who are all eager to play with us.

Making Memories

Sometimes life invites us to put aside the practical and to revel in the beauty, love, and fun that warms our hearts. Reminders of the wonders of life and why it is necessary to cast off, now and then. I have regrets in my life but this won’t be one of them.

Making memories with my beautiful granddaughter for 21 days is the reason I am here. Let’s not postpone important things.

“Time is not money. Time is life, Time is love.” Thich Nhat Hanh (October 11, 1926 – Jan 22, 2022)

Notes

1:) Photos – banner photo Sophie; yellow frog and Tree Top Walk Uncle Rob; Water taxi -me

2:) “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh, 

3:) Thank you for visiting my blog, week after week. With deep appreciation and all my best wishes for your health, restfulness and moments of joy. See you next week, Trudy

Anything Can Happen to Anybody at Anytime

When I was going through my treatment for cancer there was an evening when my spouse told me about an unusual sensation in his right leg. For several days it had felt as though cold water was being poured on his foot and calf. It sounded like some form of neuropathy to me and I told him so.

Unfortunately for him, I chose that moment to climb up on my soapbox and announce, “the one thing I have learned since my cancer diagnosis is that ANYTHING can happen to ANYONE at ANYTIME.”

I then went on to list the possibilities, all of them bad: car accident; stroke; heart attack; cancer; ALS; financial ruin; being caught in a hotel room as a cyclone goes through. You get the picture.

He begged me to stop and added that he thoroughly regretted mentioning his leg to me. And then we laughed.

It is however no laughing matter, because it is true. It is life, and in a single moment we go from this to that. It’s not always so dramatic as the items I mentioned and it can also be worse. Our life can change radically in one moment, through no fault of our own.

I believe that part of the shock and the pain we suffer from goes beyond the event itself, which is already enough to cope with. The disbelief we are left with is often that we could never have imagined “this thing” happening to “us.”

To me.

We can imagine them happening to others. We know that is true. But in our heart of hearts we believe ourselves to be exempt from the unacceptable.

The important thing to add to this very universal experience of life, however,  is this:

You can handle it

As Oliver Burkeman (my current favourite writer) says: “you’ll cope.”

“I Will Never Do Chemotherapy”

The Stoics are known for thinking through the worst possible outcomes in life so they won’t be taken by surprise. As Burkeman points out, however, there are limitations in what all you include:

It risks implying that nothing catastrophically bad could ever really happen. Whereas the anxious person knows, if only subconsciously, that it could. Public humiliation won’t kill you, but in fact it’s always the case that the next hour or week or month could contain a bereavement, a terrible accident, or a shattering medical diagnosis. So the attempt to reassure yourself that nothing too appalling is coming down the pike will always run up against the gnawing realization that actually you can’t be sure.”

Take an unexpected cancer diagnosis. I had thought through many possibilities that could rain down on me, but breast cancer wasn’t one of those. No family history, no lifestyle factors, no symptoms, no risks that I could see. I did forget the two top risk factors, however, being a woman and being over 50.

So when my daughter said, “Mom, you always said that if you got cancer you wouldn’t do chemo, and now you are doing it. Why?”

My answer: “I never thought for a moment that I would get cancer. So I guess it was easy for me to make that proclamation.” I then added, that with my own research and advice from my medical team it was clear to me that my best chance of staying alive was chemo. This didn’t negate other non-medicaL things that I could do, but I also needed chemo. So, with new information, I changed my mind.

And indeed I could cope! And coping has nothing to do with ease or learning to like it.

There Can be Worse Things Than Cancer

It slips off the tongue too easily even if it’s true- you can cope. Unfortunately, sadly, there are things that will take a lot more time to learn how to cope with. I am not in favour of comparing suffering. We all suffer from the misfortunes of life in our own unique and common ways. For me, nonetheless, there are things that I can imagine to be worse than what I went through, without minimizing my own suffering. My heart goes out to EVERYONE suffering.  The sudden death of a loved one; prolonged death of a loved one; serious accidents; mental illness; loss of sight, hearing, limbs, and a devastating diagnosis of any illness…so many things. Coping doesn’t mean getting over something. Rather, it can mean learning to live with something. We never get over the death of a child. We learn to co-exist with it as we continue to live our lives.

Each Other

Part of coping and part of learning to live with requires others. I know I sound like a broken record but we cannot live in isolation. When we are impacted by the burdens of our lives, one of the ways we cope is getting help from each other: family; friends; professionals; strangers…and we need to let them know we need help. We also need to be discerning and pick and choose who we get help from. Not all help is helpful.

No one is exempt from suffering.

We are all in leaky boats going out to sea. Some of us have bigger boats and finer equipment. Yet, in a small group of friends, a wise and wealthy friend startled us with his reply to this question.

Q. “What would you buy if money were no object?”

A. If money could buy it, I would have it. The problem is that what I want most, money can’t buy.”

There was a sudden silence in the room and I think all of us received a wake-up call. No one is exempt from suffering.

And so, here we are. With things to be thankful for alongside all of our sorrows.

And I suppose Michelle Obama is speaking the truth of her own experience when she writes, “grief and resilience live together.”

Notes

1:) The banner photo was taken a few years ago on Gabriola Island on an “anything can happen to anyone” kind of day. Not photoshopped – just how it was. A magical moment. The title of this blog post can also mean good things can happen too, even though that’s not what I focused on.

2:) TED X The Three Secrets of Resilient People with Dr. Lucy Hone, Christchurch, New Zealand. This talk is important. It is from lived experience not just academic research. It is about 16 minutes and I recommend you all listen through to the end. Dr. Hone is the Director of The New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience.

3:) For any of you who are currently struggling please know that I bow to you in your pain and sorrow and my hope is that step by step you make your way through and alongside in whatever ways you can, to hold on to life.

4:) With boundless gratitude to all of you. You are simply the best readers of a blog, anyone could have. Warmest wishes, Trudy

PS If you haven’t read Oliver Burkeman’s latest book, Four Thousand Weeks, I would fix that as soon as possible. (and no, I don’t get a commission) haha Thought I better say that as I talk about it so much.

 

Salutogenesis – an old and neglected word

Salutogenesis

The word salutogenesis comes from the Latin salus (meaning health) and the Greek genesis (meaning origin). The word caught my eye in an article by Nigel Crisp, in Prospect Magazine,  How Aristotle Can Teach Us  to Build a Better Society:

There is a long (but often neglected) western tradition of interest in salutogenesis, the origins of health, which is concerned with understanding the causes of health as opposed to pathogenesis, the origins of disease. This is in some ways the precursor to what is today called “social prescribing,” an approach which sees clinicians prescribe gardening, swimming, singing and other activities instead of (only)pharmaceuticals, making use of the health-creating benefits of each. This is not about prevention of disease but the creation of health—the causes of health not the causes of disease. It takes the positive, not the negative approach to creating the conditions for people to be healthy.

Nigel Crisp

I had not heard of Nigel Crisp so I looked him up and stumbled on this introduction at Harvard:

Lord Crisp is an independent crossbencher in the House of Lords, where he speaks mainly on issues of international health and development. Lord Crisp was chief executive of the National Health Service in England between 2000 and 2006, and permanent secretary at the UK Department of Health. The National Health Service is the largest health organization in the world…Previously he had been Chief Executive of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital NHS Trust, one of the UK’s leading academic medical centers. Lord Crisp chairs Sightsavers International—a charity which promotes quality of opportunity for disabled people in the developing world; is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement; a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Harvard School of Public Health; an Honorary Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and an Honorary Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge.

Health-creating activities always pique my interest. As you know from reading my blog these are the kinds of things I love to promote. The non-medical things we can do to support our well-being in conjunction with our medical treatments.  Furthermore, I naturally gravitate to studies of what works rather than what doesn’t work. I confess the article sent me sailing down the rabbit hole to Crisp’s most recent book Health is Made at Home and Hospitals Are for Repairs. (It arrived today.)

Up Our Chances

It seems to me, in life, with all of its difficulties, joys, and sorrows, health and otherwise,  focusing on what we can do to enhance our daily lives is our best bet. It’s why playing an active role in our own illness is the first guideline of Living Well with Illness.  We can’t get along without medicine but medicine needs our active engagement too. Whether we are talking about cancer, heart disease, or mental health when we do things that are health-creating we up our chances of reducing unwanted side effects and improving our condition.

I don’t use the word prevent because it easily becomes a blaming word. It implies we can actually prevent X if we do y and z. And since I know so many people who did do y and z and still got X, I no longer use the word. I absolutely believe, however, that we can reduce our risks when we engage in health-creating activities. For myself, I experience an improvement in the quality of my everyday life when I move my body, get enough sleep and eat reasonably well. Not to mention the many creative activities that absorb and relax me/us.

And I observe that we can’t wait for the perfect time. There will never be time left over nor a time when conditions are perfect for us to implement some life-giving opportunities. We need to take charge of ourselves and figure out what makes our lives better. And the important thing is to do it even while life is throwing us curve balls. By now, you know I am never talking about utopian visions of how to live. Rather I am talking about the messy, stressful, sometimes dysfunctional and ordinary and amazing lives that we all have. And working with that. Changing what can be changed. Creating joyful moments. Learning something you have longed to do.

Noticing

Noticing the things you do that make you feel better, is a good place to start. And with things as they are in your life, taking action to do the something you can do. Only you can figure this out. Take a step back from yourself and see what is working. Who are the humans in your life who fill you up rather than drain you? You may want to make more time to keep the company of those who are health-producing for you. Laughing is a sure sign.

I am convinced that we are all doing the best we can, with what we know, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  And we may need a tiny nudge, now and then to enjoy new possibilities.

Blessing – by  Carrie Newcomer on Gratefulness.org

May you wake with a sense of play,
An exultation of the possible.
May you rest without guilt,
Satisfied at the end of a day well done.
May all the rough edges be smoothed,
If to smooth is to heal,
And the edges be left rough,
When the unpolished is more true
And infinitely more interesting.
May you wear your years like a well-tailored coat
Or a brave sassy scarf.
May every year yet to come:
Be one more bright button
Sewn on a hat you wear at a tilt.
May the friendships you’ve sown
Grown tall as summer corn.
And the things you’ve left behind,
Rest quietly in the unchangeable past.
May you embrace this day,
Not just as any old day,
But as this day.
Your day.
Held in trust
By you,
In a singular place,
Called now.

Notes

1:) A snippet from a beautiful book for children and adults called The Blue Hour by author Isabelle Simler.

2:) Health-creating activities are often small pleasures. Here is a lovely 4-minute video from The School of Life in London called Why Small Pleasures Are a Big Deal

3:) A hundred thank-yous for stopping by here. I feel like the luckiest person every Wednesday – another thing I do that does not feel like work and revives my spirits. Let’s sing while there’s voice left. Warmest wishes, Trudy