A Million Things are Going Well…

How are things?

This morning I wrote to a friend in answer to this query by writing “a million things are going well and a few things have been disconcerting.” Is that not the case with many of us?

Yesterday I was on the road again after a wonderful two week holiday in the Maritimes. So many wonderful things went well from safe travels, time with my wonderful relatives, good things to eat and drink, laughter, love and the beauty of nature.

The Unexpected

And the unexpected can happen. It is not unusual that we can ignore certain difficulties in life (you are free to insert yours) until they become personal. But when they do, they loom large and are layered with emotion. At those times we may notice how our minds tend to create one scenario after another, each worse than the one before.
And yet, if we stop for a few moments and assess the facts as they are, we can see that our brain machine has gone off the rails and is stuck in the groove of worst case scenario. Still, it is important to look ahead, especially if there is some preventative measures we can take. If  we get stuck in the catastrophe groove we may forget to focus on “facts as facts” or even overlook what we can and need to do.

Experience

At times like this I try to remember to look back. What actually happened when the sky fell for me? In the end did things work out? Was there something I learned? Is there a takeaway to do something different the next time?
Every action or non action we take in life has consequences and ripple effects. We can’t move or speak without leaving a trail. Some of those ripples are heartbreaking. Some are mind blowing. Some are brilliant. Some are life changing. Many are selfless. Some ripple with regret and remorse. This is how life is for humans.
However, once we take action, each one is written in stone. We can’t change the past. Yet, we can change the future by what we do today. We are learning machines and we ourselves can learn from our own mistakes. And the next time something similar happens, we can do something different. Going forward we can do what we can to remedy a situation and than use our precious lives to reconsider what we will do differently, the next time, under similar circumstances.
Life is not linear, from my experience. Things come and go. As Pema Chodron says, “they come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting their be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery for joy.”
Take heart! As long as we are still breathing we have the chance to influence our ripples.

Notes

Note 1:) Here is the sound of the Atlantic ocean from Duck Pond Beach in New Brunswick.

Note 2:) A wonderful poem, thanks to Janice Falls that I found on my favourite poetry site Heart Poems

 

 

 

Safety Net

This morning I woke
thinking of all the people I love
and all the people they love
and how big the net
of lovers.
It felt so clear,
all those invisible ties
interwoven like silken threads
strong enough to make a mesh
that for thousands of years
has been woven and rewoven
to catch us all.
Sometimes we go on
as if we forget
about it. Believing only
in the fall. But the net
is just as real.
Every day,
with every small kindness,
with every generous act,
we strengthen it.
Notice,
even now, how
as the whole world
seems to be falling, it
is there for us as we
walk the day’s tightrope,
how every tie matters.
– Rosemary Wahtola Trommer
Note 3:) The photos are from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
Note 4:) Yesterday was my travelling home day and we arrived safely back in Ottawa. Thank you for continuing to kindly read my blog. I feel very lucky to have such wonderful readers. No more travelling on Wednesdays. See you next week. With appreciation and warmest wishes, Trudy

Something to Think About

Travelling Day

Today is another travelling day as I move on to Nova Scotia, to visit, in particular, my 97 year old amazing Aunt Ruth. I will find her at her cottage on Brule Beach, most likely riding her golf cart to the nearby bakery for her supper. Feisty, kind, smart and full of life she lives independently and without complaint. Furthurmore, if any of you dropped by and told her you knew me, you would be invited in for a cup of tea. Warning – be prepared to have your ear talked off and to fall in love. If I am lucky, a few of my cousins who have cottages nearby may also be around. Lucky me.

Since there is no WiFi at Aunt Ruth’s cottage I am writing a short post before I leave, so I can send it from my phone, in the morning.

Wake up Grateful

Coincidentally, I am reading a book called Wake Up Grateful, by Kristi Nelson. Kristi is the executive director of the Network for Grateful Living and has her masters in public administration from Harvard. she is also a Stage IV cancer survivor and near the end of her book she writes these words.

“Surviving cancer taught me to notice all that is available here and now, to see beyond the myth that more is better, and to make a practice of not taking life and love for granted. The harbinger of joy is to focus on noticing, appreciating, sharing more of what is already given and present. Absent that capacity for appreciating what is, more of anything ultimately ends up neglected or as landfill. It was clear to me: life is meant to be savoured, for as long as we are able, as often as we are able, in relationship to as many experiences as we are able…life is a gift. Everything is a surprise. The ordinary is extraordinary…it is never too late…say yes to life.

Notes

Note: 1) Now I will soon be off. Thank you for tagging along  on my summer holiday. I appreciate your company. I hope you too are having some magical moments this month: moonlight, stars, fireflies, sunflowers, gatherings with loved ones, forest walks, swims, kayaking, laughter and love. Don’t miss these days.  Warmest wishes, Trudy

PS Even when things are going wrong there is always something to be grateful for. Kristi writes something like – gratefulness doesn’t protect us from the vicissitudes of life but it really helps us to navigate them.

 

A Song of Praise to White and Yellow Lines

If I were a poet I would compose an ode to the road but since I’m not I will make a list instead. Why? Because it is thanks to those white and yellow lines on the highways that I got to drive safely for 1112 km yesterday. I landed in the small and charming town of Hampton New Brunswick, where I was welcomed by my  wonderful cousins.  During the last 18 km, which seemed to be the longest, I thought about what it took for me to be able to do this:

My List

  • Those white and yellow lines, for sure.
  • The actual people who did the work.
  • The thousands of drivers I followed, passed and met, who stayed on their side of that line.
  • Signage
  • Google maps
  • Divided highways
  • Construction crews improving and also building better roads, while working in the hot sun and dust.
  • Pull off rest stops for food, water and gas and a place to stretch my legs.
  • My Toyota, which has reliably traveled 116,000 km with me.

Perks of the trip:

  • Ground mist, on the fields, early in the morning between Ottawa and Montreal.
  • Magnificent green fields, rolling hills, and stunningly beautiful skies in NB.
  • The ease and speed of correcting a missed exit.
  • The company of my son in law in the morning who was the morning driver and a great conversationalist.
  • The podcast we listened to by Lisa Damour on her book Untangled. About the seven transitions of teenage girls into adulthood. This description does not do justice to the depth, breath, science and heart of this matter.
  • The company of my daughter/passenger for the afternoon. Road trips are great places for talking.
  • Improved directions, over google, from my cousin Shannon just in the nick of time.
  • Arriving at last light – not complete darkness.
  • The warm welcome of love, food and a glass of chilled white wine from Sonya.
  • A warm cozy bed in a beautiful room, complete with hot water bottle for my feet when she noticed my hands were cold from fatigue.
  • Memories of my mother.

My Mother

A year ago on July 26th my 100 year old Mother died. And her love of the maritime provinces and all her nieces and nephews who live  here is well known. As I entered New Brunswick I noticed the landscape through her eyes and could imagine her commentary as we drove along.

Last year during her last two weeks several of these cousins longed to be with her but could not due to Covid. So it is particularly poignant for me to arrive here on her 1st anniversary.There will be many Mom stories during this time.

This is the thing. When we die, we leave people behind who love and remember us. And we remember them best through the stories we tell. I see shades of my Mother in all of her relations and I treasure them all.

While I am here I will have a lobster roll, a cone of grape-nut ice cream, wild blueberries, strawberry shortcake and with each bite I/we will remember her love of family and summertime.

What are some fun and ordinary everyday things that you do, in the summer, which remind you of your loved ones who are no longer with you? I would love to hear about them.

Stay safe and enjoy this end of July/beginning of August weekend.

NOTES

Note 1:) Here is the poem I like to dedicate to my Mother. Her photo was taken a few days before she died.

The Gift of a Smiling Face

With just your being there,

The atmosphere somehow brightens.

With just your being there,

Everyone feels at ease.

I yearn to be just like you.

This is my favorite poem by calligrapher Mitsu Aida.

Note 2:) The banner photo was taken in New Brunswick a few summers ago in a garden of beauty.

Note 3:) The walking group photo  is of a crazy family paying no attention to the yellow line whatsoever. This was taken in Ottawa, three years ago, during race weekend when my 98 year old Mother flew in from Vancouver Island and we (cousins and all)walked the 5 KM together. 

Note 4:) Thank you for coming by here. I love these virtual visits with all of you who take time to read my blog. You make my life better. Warmest wishes, Trudy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We are born and we die…” John Tarrant

An excerpt from the poem

In Blackwater Woods

by Mary Oliver

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Today

Today death came to the husband of a reader of this blog. It came suddenly but not unexpectedly. There is sadness, yet, there is gratitude to see the end of suffering. Furthurmore, we know so little about the end of life. But those who remain grieve and cry and will  live with sadness for awhile. “Awhile,” is different for each of us.

It has been my experience that story telling, about our loved ones who die, is one of the loveliest things we can do for each other. And we don’t need to only tell the great things. It seems to me that there is great humanity, joy, love, laughter and truth in being able to talk about foibles, quirks, eccentricities…the whole gamut of what makes each of us unique. We can even tell stories through memorabilia. What were the things our loved one collected, would waste money on, treasured. Hearing stories through the lens of others can warm and soften our hearts as we all know too well that no one is perfect. (well, maybe my Mother) :-))

There is no way to avoid death, and the longer we live the more often we will face death. This is hard.

I extend words of solace and comfort to all of you who are grieving the loss of a loved one. When the time comes, life will be there to  gently move you forward. Don’t you think we are all life’s helpers…  we are in this together and are here to help and to be helped.

Always know you can reach out if you need a hand. If you like, you are always welcome to write to me and tell me a favourite story of your loved one. I would be honoured to hear it.

Some of you know by now that I love this little poem by Rumi. He speaks words of comfort to me, and I hope he does for you too.

Meaningful Memories JapanThe Window by Rumi

Your body is away from me
but there is a window open
from my heart to yours.

From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.

Notes

Note 1:) Knowing we will not live forever can help us treasure the precious moments we have.

Note 2:) We all have regrets because we are humans not robots. There is no need, however, for our regrets to hold us back.

Note 3:) The banner photo was taken in Hawaii by Gottfried, who has kindly donated a library of photos for my use, and the one of the water and cosmos, I took in Japan, while on a five day walking trip.

Note 4:) I am grateful for your confidence in me. Showing up; reaching out; staying in touch. Thank you. My heart is with you and I extend warmest wishes to each of you. Trudy

 

 

 

 

A Hot and Humid Summer Night – Life is Good

This evening it is exceptionally hot in my study. So I see it as an opportune time to share a poem, an excerpt and a short video. The poem is a favourite of mine and I put a link to its online home.

The poem

 

Any Morning

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can’t
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won’t even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

By William Stafford

 

Perfectly OK

“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.” We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.”  W. Timothy Gallwey – The Inner Game of Tennis

I discovered this on James Clear’s (author of Atomic Habits) weekly newsletter.

A new discovery this week is Dr. Edith Eger

An amazing woman in her mid 90’s who still works, writes, and gives numerous interviews and keynotes around the world.

“I don’t want you to hear my story and say, “My own suffering is less significant.” I want you to hear my story and say, “If she can do it, then so can I!”
Edith Eger, The Choice: Embrace the Possible

The Video

Finally, a short joyful video with Desmond Tutu wishing the Dalai Lama birthday greetings last week on his 86th Birthday. When I see these two together I am beaming from ear to ear with joy. I just can’t contain myself. Their affection is self-evident. Recently, a new movie was made about their friendship called  Mission: Joy – Finding Happiness in Troubled Times. At this point I have not been able to find a way to stream or rent it in Canada. Please send me a note if you spot its availability.

Notes

Note 1: You will notice a new link to my book on the right hand side. I created a page with the help of my amazing webmaster, Margaret Rode. Also, on that same page is a link to the podcast where I was recently interviewed. (for those who are interested)

Note 2:) I took these two flower photos in two different yards, in the next block to where I live. How lucky am I to stroll around in the midst of  such blooms. 

Note 3: Thank you for all your warm notes and comments. I wish you a lovely July week and thank you so much for continuing to show up here. Warmest wishes to you all, Trudy

PS I just discovered that if you read this on your phone you don’t see the right hand margin where the link to my book lives. In the meantime, here is the link.

 

cherry blossoms Gabriola

Thinking about Kokoro

Mind and Heart

Yesterday was the Dalai Lama’s Birthday, July 6th.  It reminded me of when I heard him speak, in person, back in 2004 in Vancouver.  One of the important messages he delivered at UBC,  was to not focus exclusively on educating the mind. As he said, North Americans do an excellent job of educating the mind but not so good when it comes to the education of the heart.  This memory started me down my Japanese word list because I knew there was a word for mind/heart.

I recall  postponing a difficult decision years ago because my mind and heart were not in sync. And taking another because they were. The longer I live the more convinced I am that good decisions necessitate both the mind and heart. When they come together and I act, unexpected doors open. It doesn’t take away the hard work but the struggle has less agitation.   When I don’t listen to my heart but overrule it with my mind, I soon regret it.

I want to clarify that I am not speaking of fuzzy thinking or positive thinking. Rather, I am talking about a sincere process of investigating both mind and heart to see if they are in sync.

I couldn’t remember what the Japanese word was to illustrate this so I went looking. My Japanese readers are welcome to add any nuances to the translation. Luckily, I found an interesting  article on the topic and include an excerpt.

Let’s start with the idea of heart.

In Japanese, there are three words for “heart”: shinzou, which refers to the physical organ, ha-to, which is the Anglicized word for a love heart, and kokoro, which means… well, that’s more difficult to explain.

Kokoro is well understood in Japanese, but difficult to explain in English,” says Yoshikawa Sakiko, director of Kyoto University’s Kokoro Research Center. Conceptually, it unites the notions of heart, mind, and spirit: It sees these three elements as being indivisible from one other. “For example if we say, ‘She has a good kokoro,’ it means heart and spirit and soul and mind all together.”

One of the problems of discussing kokoro in English is that by linking words—heart and spirit and mind—with “and,” we imply divisions that simply don’t exist in Japanese. But in this Eastern culture, the three aren’t intrinsically linked as one: They are one.

Researchers are beginning to break down conceptual barriers and explore what artists, writers, mystics, and dreamers of many cultures have long acknowledged: the mysterious tie between heart and mind, a.k.a., kokoro. For example, scientists in Japan consider this concept while working on computer simulations, robotics, primatology, and more; it has allowed Japanese researchers to explore and discuss spiritual matters in a way that’s otherwise impossible in an academic environment.

We should take the interrelationship of our thoughts, feelings, and desires into account in order to understand human experience.

American Scientists

American scientists have also explored the connection between body, mind, and spirit. A 2015 article in The Atlantic, “The Brains of the Buddhists,” highlights the work of neuroscientist Richard Davidson, who studied monk brain activity at the behest of the Dalai Lama. Davidson concluded that compassion activated positive emotion circuitry in the brain and that Buddhist monks were extraordinarily mentally healthy as a result of a cultivated spirit of generosity. “The systems in the brain that support our well-being are intimately connected to different organ systems in our body…compassion is a kind of state that involves the body in a major way,” he said.

But you don’t need to be a specialist to understand the implications of kokoro. In fact, you probably already have a sense of it, even if you had no word for it before. Take a moment to reflect on the interconnectedness of all things, and you’ll feel your heart—the shinzou one—flutter in response.   Excerpt is from this article in Quartz, for those who are interested.

Practical Examples

I have experienced and met several people who had cancer, where the tests didn’t detect it, but where their heart and gut was certain something was wrong, only to discover after much persistence they did have cancer. Now, this is not for one instant a criticism of medicine.  My medical team and all of the medical teams I have been involved with have been remarkable, brilliant, caring and life saving.

What it is, is a reminder to each of us to also trust that inner voice that isn’t satisfied with the test results. Sometimes, we may be over anxious under the circumstances but if a sense of foreboding  persists than check it out. Get a second opinion. Turn over every stone.

This works with love too. We may be crazed with romantic love and refuse to acknowledge the warning signs from our mind. Best to take those into consideration too.

I love the word kokoro – “heart and spirit and soul and mind all together.”

Notes

Note 1:) Thank you, thank you, for all of your encouraging words and downloads of my small book. Also, I am not a Facebook user and I was surprised by joy at all the lovely greetings I received as well. I am  fortunate to know so many wonderful people around the world.

Note 2:) A friend sent me a good news video of one woman’s creative gratitude/art project. Here is the link. It is 8 minutes long and lovely.

Note 3:) For my poetry readers I think you will like this. Months ago I told you about the poetry pharmacy and here is an update. For anyone who is in need of a poem, please write to me and I will send you one. In the meantime, the link.

Note 4:) I wish you another lovely July week. Be bold and brave and cast your smiles far and wide. We all need them. warmest wishes, Trudy

Ikigai and Illness: A Guide to Living Fully with Purpose, Meaning and Joyful Moments

The Time Has Come

The time has come, the Walrus said,

To speak of many things:

Of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax –

Of cabbages – and kings –

And why the sea is boiling hot –

And whether pigs have wings.  by Lewis Carroll

I have written a small book, (55 pages)  the title of today’s post. It is now up on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca and in a few months it will be a small print book as well. I mention the latter because a few people who knew this was coming want the paper versions to give away. The ToDo Institute published the book and I thank them. Truthfully, if it wasn’t for their director Gregg hounding me, there would be no book.  However, now that I did it, I’m glad I did.

I’m not exactly sure how this works, but it appears that Friday is launch day, and so far one 11 year old grandson, in the know, proudly told me that he bought my book and will read it.  Just in case you want to download the book the introductory price is $2.99 on the US site and  $3.69 on the Canadian site, and you don’t need a Kindle. You can download the free app for your phone or tablet. In fact I like it better on my phone, so far. Before I forget – there will be a special weekend price that’s even cheaper.

So that is it. That’s my news.

I want to say that it is actually scary to write a book, even a small one, and put it out there. It is easier to hide our light rather than to let it shine. But time is short and everyone reading this has their own gifts to share with the world. Our circles of influence may be small but if we can be a light to even one person than let’s do it. Let’s be bold, and brave and write, paint, draw, sing, build, quilt, cultivate,  create, cook for the neighbourhood, and care for…that thing that you love that makes you YOU. That something that may help someone else.

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”   ― Guillaume Apollinaire

Notes

 

 

 

Note 1:Canadian Site  Ikigai and Illness

Note 2: American site Ikigai and Illness

Note 3: This is the longish weekend that stretches between Canada and the US July 1st and July 4th. It seems to me we all have much to reflect on with the hope and the resolution that as we go forward we can make a better world for all. 

Note 4: And let’s not forget that in the midst of sorrow there are always helping hands, points of light, humor and joyful moments.  When we can’t see the light, let’s turn our own up and be the light for someone else.

Note 5:) Good grief, it is time to say goodbye, Trudy. Thank you, dear readers. My deepest gratitude to have such wonderful people showing up here week after week.  Don’t miss summer. OK. See you next Wednesday.

 

 

Summer – Another Reason to Celebrate Joyful Moments

A Wonderful Morning

Today is the Birthday of one of my readers who is also a dear friend. Lucky me, I got to go on a 30 K bike ride with her, first thing this morning. Blue sky, sunshine, light breeze and the heat was just right. I love Birthdays, as some of you know by now,  and treat each one as a great privilege. It is an added bonus to be strong and healthy and I don’t take it for granted for one moment. Furthurmore, I will celebrate with delight these days and  bike rides and special moments.

As of tomorrow, I will be fully vaccinated. I received my 2nd shot two weeks ago, which makes my immune system at the ready to rebuff Covid 19 and its variants. At the least it should keep me out of the hospital and at the best I should be able to visit my wonderful cousins in the Maritimes, by the end of July. I look forward to the drive, the chaos, laughter, and love that always accompanies these joy filled reunions.

Joy

It seems everyday I have something to celebrate from the time I wake up. For instance: my grandchildren’s convocation (virtual), end of terms, and generally speaking making it through this challenging time. The beauty of nature. A note from a friend. A moving piece of music. The radiance of a tree;  a stone wall covered with a rambling rose; a glimpse of a yellow finch or the red-winged black that streaked through the air at eye level in front of our bikes this morning. And my weekly retreat hour in Emma Rooney’s Forest Bathing Studio. It takes me immediately to a slow and gracious time.

Coincidentally, I also read an article in Tricycle about the complications of joy –  celebrating, taking joy in the joy of others and enjoying the good things in our own lives, when so much is wrong with the world. Is this selfish and thoughtless to readily love the world and its inhabitants, when so much misery exists?

Daisy Hernandes:

wrote an intriguing article on her own struggles with joy, especially around the term mudita, which means taking joy in the joy of others. She suggests that if we can’t take joy in our own lives right now that it may be worth practicing mudita- taking joy in the joy of others.

 

The complicated relationship we have with joy came to mind last year when so many people were dying from COVID-19 and when so many Black lives were lost to police brutality. Friends repeatedly said a variation of the following: “I’m good. I feel so guilty saying that. I know everything is awful, but I’m well.” Their voices would drop in volume by the end of the sentence as if to say I don’t deserve to have you take joy in my joy. I might even be a terrible person for enjoying my life in the midst of so much pain.

Jill Shepherd, (a Buddhist teacher) though, insisted that mudita was necessary right now. ‘It’s precisely because there’s so much suffering in the world that I’ve needed to make the effort to turn toward non-suffering, toward gladness or joy, in order to restore myself so that I can face life’s challenges.’ She was right. Joy can be restorative. It can be akin to a good meal: nourishing and necessary. This made me reconsider…”

Life is full of difficulties. It comes with being alive and there are no exemptions. Or at least I know of none. My experience shows me that when I can notice the joyful moments that are also  in the world, I am better able to manage the challenges.

This poem offers a good reminder of things to remember.

Go into this week
with the attitude that
your peace,
your health of mind,
and your heart
mean more than
getting everything else done.
That your smile matters,
That feeling rested matters.
That holding the hand
of your loved ones matter.
So pause lots,
function at a pace
that doesn’t pull you apart.
Honour the things that
make you feel good inside,
the things that make you feel alive.
Give time to those things this week.
Make time the gift it is,
by giving it to what really matters to you.

— S.C. Lourie of Butterflies and Pebbles

Notes

Note 1:)  The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful. Brother David Steindl-Rast

Note 2:) The summer season is short. I find it beautiful with a certain carefreeness that I don’t experience at any other time. Let’s not miss it and only notice summer after it is gone. I invite you to notice something beautiful each day of this summer season. You might jot it down. Your summer treasures of 2021.

Note 3:) Thank you for clicking here and reading this blog post. I am honoured and grateful to each one of you. May you have a lovely week and if it is a difficult one may you give yourself a tiny break by still noticing one beautiful thing each day. This does not mean by any stretch of the imagination, to be a “positive thinking” person.  Rather, I see it as realistic thinking. The truth is, life can be devastating and we must  face that head on and do our best to work with what is, and grieve our losses. Yet, it is true that there are  many beautiful things to notice everyday and by teaching ourselves to pay attention to one of them we may rediscover our grit, a moment of joy, and even the wonder of being alive.

Note 4:) Thanks to Robert-Collins on Unsplash for the joyful image of the children.

How Might I Do This One Thing Now, if I Knew It Was the Very Last Thing I Would Ever Do?

A Few Musings on Mortality

Let me start by saying that I love my life and I want it to keep going. I am in no rush to die.

Nevertheless, life and death are a matter of great importance to most of us.  We get it- that we won’t live forever but what we rarely get is that you and I will also be one of those people, who don’t live forever. We absolutely understand when someone we know and love undergoes a devastating illness that they might die before their 30,000 days are up. Yet, it is much harder to experience that someone you love leaves the house healthy, fit, and full of life and they don’t return at the end of the day.  Accidents of all kinds happen on a regular basis and people die. What is even harder to imagine is that it can happen to us – you and me.

Death and dying are trending, after being in the closet for decades. Not just the reality but the conversations. There are workshops and books, blogs and articles, webinars, and chat rooms, where we can go to discuss this significant end time of every life. But I don’t think we really get it until it touches us.

Sometimes when it comes close,  we make bucket lists. What are things you want to do before you die. We reflect on what matters most and attend to our behaviour to see if it is in sync with our values. We get our affairs in order and go through the checklist of the right things to do so we don’t leave behind a disaster when our turn comes. Still, life and death seem like so much more than a bucket list.

There’s an old joke where a patient sues his doctor. It goes something like this.

“I’m suing you Doc. You told me I only had a year to live, and I blew all my money. Look at me. I’m still alive well past my expiry date and now I’m broke. This is your fault.”

I have always wondered about that deadline (pun intended) My specialist wouldn’t offer up his opinion on expiry dates. “Nobody knows for sure, “he claims. “I have seen it in my own patients in both directions.  I say, live your best life now, while you can. Noone knows how long you will live. So, if you get a prediction, here is my advice:

Don’t believe it.

We all need to get our affairs in order no matter what.

But is there something we can do even though we don’t know our date of death. Something that won’t leave us poverty stricken because we went crazy. Or some way to come to grips with our mortality and not live-in constant angst.

I think there is. We don’t have to drain the bank, but we can assess our circumstances and see if we do have  dreams and see if we can find the means to do it. Not waiting until we retire, but soon. Is it possible, without abdicating all our responsibilities?

But the thing that is really in front of me these days is this:

If I can remember that at some unexpected time, unbeknownst to me, I will be doing and or saying the very last thing I will ever do, how might I do it?

How would I use my words? Would I use them as gifts or weapons? And whatever I do, whether it is humble or revered by world standards, what quality of attention can I bring to that act, even something like doing my taxes. Most of our moments are ordinary ones. So, it makes sense to me to do my best with everything. And to become conscious of my words. Pause, before I say the first thing that comes to mind.

For example, someone I loved died. And a close family member’s last encounter with that person was a terrible argument. This became a painful human suffering.

Look, we are all humans and suffer from a variety of short comings along with all of our astounding traits. We can’t be at our best all the time. Who doesn’t say hurtful things now and then or do a careless job?? There is no cure for imperfection and who would want one. Human Being’s aren’t robots.

I am just thinking out loud here.  One extraordinary thing we can do is to strengthen our attention skills so that we notice more. To cultivate a conscious awareness of myself and others so that I can activate more of my best self in this next decade. Especially my words.

I don’t want my final words with a loved one to be an argument. Sure, we can argue but I can develop some intellectual and emotional humility and avoid needing someone to agree with me, to prove I am right. I can say I’m sorry first. I can love more.

This is one of the things I appreciate about living for 75 years. There is so much that I can overlook now. So much I don’t need to prove. Many new things to learn.  And I can relax and enjoy the ordinary every day ups and downs of life without agitation.

I can be more generous with my words. Who cares if I look a little foolish? We are all on our way out so for this last stretch I want to be say YES more and I am hoping to leave more useful and kind ripples than the other type. And when I don’t, I hope to catch myself faster and try again.

Life is short. So, let’s live fully while we are here and never take tomorrow for granted. Sing while there’s voice left and remember our friends and relations are GOLD.

Notes

Note 1:) This is a wake up poem  by Marie Howe. She wrote this after her last dinner with her brother, before he died. The Last Time

Note 2:) This morning I cycled 30 k with two 11 year olds and one 12 year old. One of those boys is my grandson Rowan. They did a fundraiser for helping to build wells in South Sudan. I am so glad I said yes to the invitation and didn’t miss this memorable but ordinary moment chance.

Note 3:) It’s an amazing gift to have a chance to live. Enjoy it. Our minds are always dividing the day into what we like and what we don’t. A favourite yoga teacher suggests we adopt a more neutral position. There will always be both in our lives and we can resist becoming too attached to either. Enjoy someone else’s garden without having to own it. Wonder exists on every corner and we can point it out. That’s a lovely legacy.

Note 4:) Thanks for reading my musings today. I am so keen to reexamine how we can live fully, knowing we are mortal, and not throw sticks at our own hearts for what we consider our failures. Kindness may well be the medicine. As we treat others with kindness we may well treat our self with more kindness too. Nothing wrong with leaving a kindness legacy. Warmest wishes,Trudy

PS The banner photo was taken by Gottfried on the west coast of Canada. And the sweet bouquet by Sonya, on the east coast.

“Take a Second to Bask in Vaccine Serenity”- Emma Rooney

 Today  is the day

that I received my 2nd shot, and I am over the moon grateful. In Canada we had a supply issue and therefore chose to get as many 1st shots in arms as we could.  In most cases we delayed our 2nd shots for up to 16 weeks. Now, our supply is consistent, plentiful and the 2nd shots are coming earlier than anticipated. As a consequence we do not take this opportunity for granted. Of course there are delays and booking problems – nothing is perfect. However, when I got up this morning I knew whatever else may happen,  I was full of joy and appreciation.

The morning, however, continued to get better as our heat came down enough to be beautiful and bearable. When I arrived at the hospital,  looking for parking on a side street, a stranger flagged me down. He gave me his parking space, his ticket with plenty of time left on it, and a sparkling eyes smile. That’s where we find smiles these days, in each other’s eyes. Once I walked the two blocks to the entrance, I was greeted, and welcomed straight in. No line-up.

The clinic

The highly organized system they use at the Ottawa Hospital – Civic Campus – was impressive both times I visited. I was ushered to my spot 12 minutes early and had a lovely visit with nurse Mary who told me she had returned to work six months ago to help with the vaccine rollout. After I thanked her and let her know how thoroughly delighted and grateful I was, she said this:

“This has been the best place to work. Everyone who shows up is happy to be here and in the past six months I have received more thanks and words of appreciation than I did in my entire career. I love coming to work and being part of this team to get everyone vaccinated.”

If it were not for my mask, every single person who saw me would have noticed my beaming smile. I could not contain it. However, earlier, when I parked my car and was walking towards the clinic I was startled to notice the depth of my emotion as  tears welled up in my heart and a few sprung loose through my eyes. It was clear to me how completely fortunate I was to receive this vaccine when most of the world has not received a first shot, and many will never have one.  I thought about the scientific miracle that these vaccines were developed so quickly and with such collaboration from scientists around the world. And my heart was overflowing  to every single person who had a hand in this. And to every single person who had a hand in getting the vaccine into arms.

Forest Bathing Studio

I was back home before noon and had a chance to pause and quietly celebrate this occasion by attending my second Forest Bathing Studio event. When it was recommended to me by a lovely woman who had attended a program I facilitated at Wellspring Calgary, I wondered how this could be possible. Forest Bathing indoors?? To my surprise it is a beautiful, mindful, and gentle program  designed and delivered by Emma Rooney, a Creativity Facilitator who is inspired by art and nature and informed by many years of formal study.

Yesterday I sent  a note to Emma letting her know that I might miss her session today, because of my vaccine appointment. The title of this post is part of her reply.

“Don’t rush,” she said. “Take a Second to Bask in Vaccine Serenity.”

It struck me as a beautiful prompt – to take a pause. To not miss out on the extraordinary ordinary, by quickly getting on to something else.  I chose to take that second or rather 3,600 seconds to mark the occasion, by visiting her gentle Forest Bathing Studio. I did get back in time. I knew I would find poetry, meditation, an invitation to pay attention to what is outside my window. As well as enjoying a sensory experience through that small window. A little scribbling, book suggestions, something to think about and the lovely company of a few others. No performance pressure whatsoever.

I hope you will all spend some of your moments basking in the serenity of a special, although ordinary, event. Taking the time to take it in, and even wondering what your life might be like without it.

Notes

Note:1) Emma Rooney’s website  has a great deal of information, but for starters here is the Forest Bathing Studio and a little about Emma.

Note:2) I am fortunate that my study is on the third floor with a north facing window, with French style window doors that open in. Light, shadows, rustling leaves in several shades of greens, along with bird songs are my workspace. And today, when I stood at the window, the most incredible fragrances wafted upwards. There is so much to enjoy even when life isn’t going according to plan.

Note:3) Please accept my deep appreciation for taking the time to read my blog and sending me such thoughtful and kind words. May you enjoy these precious days. Warmest wishes, Trudy