Category Archives: Life

Time Consuming and the Creative Process

I’m a consumer. So are you. We all are.

I’m not talking about shopping here. I’m talking about consuming time. Using it up for things that we love to do and things that we don’t love to do so much but that have to get done.

I’ve always kind of wondered where my time goes. It seems like I’m busy all the time, even when I’m not busy.

Then it hit me while I was doing eight things at once and three of those things were just happening in my brain. I hadn’t yet started to actually do them.

That thing happening in my brain? That’s the creative process.

I’m doing the family banking, organizing some files and tidying up the desk. And those are the tasks that I’m physically doing.

But all while I’m doing those things, I’m planning dinner, planning crazy hairstyles for the kids for Crazy Hair Day at school, and making a mental list of all the other physical things I have to get done before I leave for a meeting with my daughter’s teacher in the afternoon.

And time is just slipping away.

I consume it like a greasy cheeseburger from a favourite burger joint; quickly slopping into it, hunched over, eyes darting back and forth as if watching for some predator to come and steal the meat from my very hands. I lurch from one bite to the next as if starving, fully enjoying but never really savouring every bite. And then I am full. Filled with the burger that I didn’t slow down to enjoy. I’m no longer hungry, but I am not filled.

That is what time is like. Unplanned, unchecked, time slips away from us as we check off our To-Do lists and add new items to be done soon. We are never really satisfied with the consuming of time unless we can slow ourselves down to savour the time that we have.

We may enjoy checking off that endless To-Do list, but did we enjoy the task that we did? Did it fulfill us? Do we even remember doing it?

Slow down and savour each task, no matter what the task.

This will mean that there will be less time for more tasks, but there will be more space for savouring the task and therefore more understanding about what tasks should be on our To-Do lists and what tasks don’t belong there.

When Everything is Going Wrong

That’s a big title. It’s a scary way to start a post. To reassure you, everything can go wrong and all of the everything can still be small things. Everything doesn’t have to mean a catastrophe. it’s often all those little things just coming together to make for a bad day.

Big Sister’s birthday was this week. She was sick on her birthday and the day after her birthday. She missed celebrating with her friends at school. (Thank goodness her party was on the weekend, just before she got sick.)

We made the best of it. I did what I could to be present for her given that I was sick, too. I think we both ended up sleeping almost all day.

Anyway, we mostly got over the colds and we starting to get back to normal. The kids have bible club and Big Sister wants to take cookies to her group. Which means I have to bake cookies…and I’m still not feeling 100%.

Now, cold virus aside, I know I’m better in the morning. My ankle is all rested up and I can stand to be on my feet for a bit. As the day wears on, I get tired and the pain returns. By the end of the day, I’m mostly forcing myself to keep going. If it weren’t for my kids, I’d give in and go to bed at like 6pm everyday. But evenings are family time. The kids are in school all day and evenings are the only time we get to spend together (assuming they aren’t going out to one of their activities).

So, I started off really well in the morning, with great intentions to get those cookies baked and ready to go for when Big Sister comes home from school.

Best.laid.plans.

I forgot to take the butter out of the freezer, so I had to defrost the block in the microwave, but that was taking too long and I was working with quickly dwindling time, so I tried heating the butter. That worked a bit, but not enough so I hacked off the amount that I needed, put it in a bowl and put it back in the microwave, but I forgot to pay attention (very important when heating butter that you don’t want to actually melt). Guess what? It mostly melted.

So the butter’s in the bowl in the freezer getting hard again. (Must remember to pay attention so that the butter doesn’t freeze again, because frozen brings me back full circle.)

Then I boiled the kettle for tea because, well, I have a cold and tea is good for me.

But I got distracted with warming up some roasted leeks for a quickie lunch and by the time I poured the water for my tea, it was cold, which is very disappointing to a sick person.

Onto the cookies. The not quite frozen butter can now be creamed with the sugars to create the beginnings of a cookie dough.

Just looking at it I know it’s not going to turn out as delicious as the recipe claims. I know better than to bake when I’m in a bad mood.

Ah, there it is. The admission.

A bad mood. But I didn’t think I was. My day was going along swimmingly. Where did this bad mood come from? Maybe the incredibly dreary sky that is glaring at me through every window? Maybe I’m trying to distract myself with busy-ness to get out of the bad mood that I didn’t know that I was in? I’ve done a lot today. I was feeling accomplished. Guess I was fooling myself.

But then the mindfulness.

You can’t bake or cook or craft or create or do or enjoy anything when you can’t get out of your head and into the moment.

And getting out of your head means being mindful of you, mindful of the moment, mindful of your surroundings and feelings and self.

So there I was, in the middle of my kitchen, chewing on a piece of roasted leek with my eyes closed and my focus on the soft, crunchy sound the leek made each time my teeth came together on it, breathing deeply (as deeply as one can with a stuffed up nose and a mouth full of food). My focus drifted to all the other things I had to get done: the unbaked cookies, the dinner prep, the tidying up, the crochet project for my daughter. I brought my mind back to the moment, to the soft but crunchy leek, to the feel of standing without crutches, to the silence in the house, to the sound of the rain on windows. Two more deep breaths and I open my eyes.

I am calmer. Ready. More centered. I think I can bake those cookies now without ruining them.

Living by Intention

“We need never be bound by the limitations of our previous or current thinking, nor are we ever locked into being the person we used to be, or think we are.”
― Allan Lokos, Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living

Intention and simplicity have been two big themes in recent months for me. I’ve not necessarily done much along the lines of these themes, but they keep popping up, tapping me on the shoulder and making themselves known.

I think, with my surgery recovery, I’ve finally made some space to just be, to just listen to the undercurrent of my life, my rhythm, something I haven’t done in a very long time—if ever.

I’m going to back to work soon, and I’m fearful that this slight peace that has drifted into my life is going to disappear in the madness that was my life before surgery. I have been hoping that three months away from the rat race and stress was enough time to set me on a new path, but I fear that I did not do enough to cement this path. No pun intended, but when I think about traveling a new path, the last thing I want to do is put my feet to concrete and walk a road that to me seems so full of stress and anxiety.

The path I want under my feet is strewn with fallen leaves and green moss; it’s a dirt path for sure, maybe a few wood chips, but not the man-made kind, the kind that happen because a tree has fallen and small animals have chipped away at the rotting log and left their chippings and shavings all around the openings to new homes where new little creature families will be born and will grow up.

But to have that mossy green, soft, forgiving path and not the hard cement, man-made road of my previously too busy life, I have to intentionally choose it.

I’ve let it choose me over the last few months and it has been a simple, enjoyable beginning to a journey that I hope to continue. For that to happen, simplicity and intention must be my guides. I know I’m going back to work and I know that life can take over if I let it, but I would like to at least feel as though what I am doing is being done purposefully rather than just as it comes up and needs to be dealt with.

My goal for my return to the “real world” is to set an intention of simple living and purposeful living so that, at the end of my day, I feel that my day was one that was guided by my beliefs and core values rather than a day that just sort of happened to me.

Because that’s what a lot of the days fee like. Life takes over and the days just kind of go by.

There are plans, of course, and moments of connection and happiness. But for the most part, up until very recently, my days just sort of happened.

We had our family routine, and every morning we would get up and press play on that day and everything just moved along as if it were a recorded episode. The odd time we would press pause, but for the most part, we just moved along in the recorded manner.

When I return to work in a few short weeks, I want to do it differently. So I have begun to do more with intention.

One intention that I have been working on is writing. I want to write with a more regular rhythm. I’m always saying I don’t have time to write. But I don’t ever set aside that time, and writing is something I love to do. If I don’t value it enough to make time for it, then maybe it should not be part of my life. It’s harsh to think of it that way. But it’s refreshing, too. I know that I love to write, so I will have to be more intentional about it. And when I think of making time for a thing that I love, it creates in me a dedication to the enjoyment of that thing.

So, my intention has been to build a habit that supports my writing and my enjoyment of writing. I did this with one simple change. Rather than waking up at 6am and lying in bed enjoying the quiet before the rush of the day hits, I wake up at 6am and write.

Sometimes, I am interrupted by my littles who want to snuggle. And my intention for that is to let them in. I enjoy them more than I enjoy writing, and making time for them solidifies my dedication to enjoying them, interruptions and all. And since I was never writing with any scheduled regularity or intention before, why not let them in? Writing can happen anytime. Littles grow up and grow out of snuggles. But I do want to write and I do relish that time alone with my thoughts and my keyboard or pen and notebook.

So, I invite them into my writing and we make up stories; they dictate while I type. We play word games on my laptop or draw silly pictures in Microsoft Paint and learn about shapes and colours and patterns.

I may not get that hour of quiet writing time where I get to write whatever I want, but I get so much more. I get to teach and learn and inspire and be inspired. And when they are off to school and I’m alone, I get to write that story that we started while we snuggled in my bed at 6am.

Because, after all…

“We need never be bound by the limitations of our previous or current thinking, nor are we ever locked into being the person we used to be, or think we are.”
― Allan Lokos, Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living

Who Says Women Can’t be Cabinet Members?

At my house lately, we’ve been reading books about real life people and their stories of courage, hard work, and determination.

The first book we read was Who says Women Can’t be Doctors?Book cover

Big Sister’s reaction? (Keep in mind, she’s not quite eight.)

—”Why wouldn’t women be doctors?”

I explained the history of it to her. But she didn’t get it. She just didn’t.get.it.

In her world, girls can do anything they set their minds to.

I grew up with a similar understanding, but I learned it. My daughter just knows it. I understood that there was a time when girls had fewer opportunities, fewer rights. My daughter doesn’t get that. Girls can do and have the right to do what boys do. And in her mind, that is how it has always been.

I didn’t watch our new Prime Minister get sworn in. But I have read a few of the articles, the headlines and news briefs that have come out since he chose his cabinet, half of which is represented by women. And in one small, succinct statement, he summed up why his cabinet was equally divided between genders:

“Because it’s 2015.”

And that, just that.

This man, this new Prime Minister straight out of my generation, gets what my soon-to-be 8-year-old daughter gets at a level that is instinctive.

How can it be any other way at this point on our timeline?

It’s time to move on from the past. Everyone, regardless of gender, has something to offer. The kids know it. It’s time for the adults to really know it.

We’ll see how things play out with our new Prime Minister. But it certainly seems to me that, ideologically, he’s the guy to get us to 2015, because—you know—it is.

 

Hope and Holding On

The emotional side of surgery sneaks up on you. You rarely see it coming.

Until recently, I was doing fine. I kept waiting for the emotions to catch me off guard, for the fear that I’ll never walk properly again or that something went wrong with the surgery and my problem is now worse, or that the pain is worse because my problem couldn’t be fixed. But nothing came.

I have been waiting for those lonely, shut-in days everyone warned me about, and how horrible it would be for me, a very active and busy person, to be stuck inside, alone.

The emotions never came.

It could be that I’ve had great support. There haven’t been many lonely days because there have almost always been family or friends around to take me out for a bit or to sit with me at home. (Plus, what mother of young children wouldn’t relish a little quiet and alone time? Sure, I miss my kids when they’re not home, but it sure is nice to just sit alone and read or focus on something without interruption.)

I have not had too much pain throughout this recovery. I have not been too uncomfortable. Inconvenienced, yes, but not even that much if I balance out the  inconveniences with the amount of time I’ve had to catch up on things that I haven’t touched since my oldest child was born.

But as I approach the final stretch, I feel a discontent that was not there earlier in my recovery. I feel sad that the phase that I had deemed “easy” was coming to an end and that now the hard work of recovery was upon me. This frightens me.

Chronic pain has been part of my life. For the first time in years, I have been mostly pain free. And certainly, in my limited mobility state, able to rely heavily on others when pain does strike. There was little reason to feel guilt on my part when I would announce after dinner that I was in pain and just needed to move to the couch to rest while my husband cleaned up dinner and washed the dishes and packed the kids’ lunches and got the kids ready for bed. At the beginning, it was obvious to everyone that I was disabled and suffering and so they did what they could to make things easy on me.

When your disability is not so obvious, it’s harder to ask for help and it’s harder for people to recognize that you need help.

But when the pain you suffer doesn’t actually take you off your feet and you can push through (to a point), it can become a matter of pride to get things done yourself.

And when you are suffering inside, others may know that you’re hurting, but they have their own pains to bear and may be able to convince themselves that you are OK unless you ask for help.

Well, the emotions did come. I grieved the end of the “easy” phase of my recovery. I felt down for days and I worried incessantly about facing the next step.

But the next step could not be avoided. And so I took the next step and pain accompanied it.

A new set of coping skills will be needed to get through this and whatever comes after. Thankfully, an open mind and grateful heart are the keys to learning new coping skills.

And I’ve proven to myself before that I can cope.

Maybe the burning pain that keeps me awake at night won’t last long. Maybe the swelling will ebb away. Maybe after the predicted 9-12 months of recovery, I will walk better and with less pain than I did before. That was the hope when I set out on this road.

I will continue to cling to that hope. And on the bad days, the days when I am in pain and I cry out of fear and pain and discouragement and I want people with me to help me and in the same breath I don’t want anyone around and I just want to be left alone with my misery, I will remind myself that it is OK to be upset when things looks bleak. Grieving is part of the process. But I still have hope, and I read somewhere recently something that I thought was very fitting for my situation, and that is that hope means Hhold Oon Ppain Eends.

So, I’m holding on.

Rethinking Weight

In an effort to be healthy, I poured myself a bowl of dried fruits, seeds and nuts.

I was starving. Having eaten breakfast at 6:00 am, and not a very big breakfast at that, I was running on fumes. Which, of course, resulted in my eyes being bigger than my belly.

NutsandSeeds

And since my life is full of rush rush rush right now, I poured a bunch of stuff into a bowl, grabbed a spoon and sat down at my computer to work (and not really pay attention to what I was eating or how it was making me feel, because, really, who has time to savour their food anymore? Certainly not me.)

After about six tablespoon-fulls, my tummy and my taste buds were making me sit up and take notice. Continue reading