Photo: Sharon McCutcheon
Day 1701 – Day 1720
In my last post, I talked about things germinating but since then, I’ve been thinking about the other end of the life cycle and how quickly life passes by. In any garden, the germination happens quickly but the seedling takes a long time to grow into a mature plant. Then, all of a sudden, with the warmth of the summer sun, the plant shoots out flowers, bears fruit and dies in a rapid display of the full and glorious cycle of life.
Last week, I had some banking to do and I realized that I’d held my bank account for 30 years…no, wait, I thought…40 years(!) I feel like I’ve gone from the age of 30 to the age I am now, in the blink of an eye. I still think of myself as 30 but I’m really, really not.
Life is so precious and as we get older, it feels as though time speeds up. Our finite time here is the fact of our human existence and we might as well acknowledge it. To fail to do that is to risk squandering our lives over petty little things. As I was making a deposit at the branch and marveling that I’d had done anything for 40 years, I thought about this, and realised that since life is so short, we have to make sure we live it to the fullest. I don’t mean the whole ‘quit the job and travel the world’ major mid life crisis act (but maybe that is the right thing for you or somebody out there to do, right now).
I mean, simply this: I want to make sure that I am enjoying my life, each and every day.
I’ve been dealing with some toxic people who I’m unfortunately exposed to, on a day to day basis. It makes life not enjoyable, when I’m interacting with them. And so, I’ve decided that even if I have to be ‘around them’ every day, I don’t have to interact with them more than is absolutely necessary. We all have challenges and toxic situations that we sometimes can’t escape. Loads of people have toxic relationships with their ex spouses, who happen to be the parent of their child. Many of us just need to learn to limit the damage that this situation causes, and to never let it rob us of our peace.
That is easier said than done, I know that.
As I reflect on my return to Canada, it has been one hell of a tough ride. At least, I am grateful to be able to say that the toxic relationship with the young man is over and that is firmly in the past. It is forgiven, but it will never be forgotten. I’m grateful to be far beyond that crazy-making lunacy, now.
I’m in a better place but yes, it is still far more challenging than I would like it to be. We all have challenges. I get sick quite often, and I have a chronic something in my body, making it turn against me and perhaps it is food allergies, but perhaps it is something more challenging. We just don’t know yet. I have toxic people in my life that I cannot currently escape. And, I’m not being utilised to my fullest skill level and I am underpaid for my skills and experience in the local marketplace. I’m aging and facing changes in my body, mind and soul that impacts all these things. And, I’m single when I thought I’d have a life partner to grow old with. I’ve had my heart broken in a more devastating way than I could have ever imagined another person of being capable of. I live in a town that I really don’t like but it is where I need to be, right now, for other goals. And, I miss my friends and my social support in London, desperately. I have no social circle where I live and it is hard to build one. Family dynamics are a challenge, and the man who hurt me terribly and his ‘other’ lover keep cropping up in my extended circles because it is a small art and music scene. I’m not feeling creatively fulfilled and I struggle to find the time to do the things that I really love doing and that I feel will be my life’s legacy.
Yeah, that is true.
And, I have a roof over my head. I’m not in the hospital dying of an illness. I have food in my cupboards and in my fridge. I’m not living on the streets, I’m not eating out of a refuse pile. I’ve seen people facing all of that. In the grand scheme of things, I’m fortunate and I’m grateful.
Sometimes I feel that people race to the bottom complaining and imagining they have it worse than anyone they know, when they’re actually just as fortunate or more fortunate than I am. At times, I want some empathy. I had a very painful fall that was not my fault over the weekend. My leg hurt like heck last night and after 1 am, I couldn’t sleep any more. I am working on 2 hours sleep today and feeling in a lot of pain. It would be nice if folks were empathetic about that and didn’t ask me to walk more than necessary. But, I do not want to race to the bottom and be awarded the medal for being the best martyr I can be, and having the ‘worst problems.’ Be careful, what you wish for. I wouldn’t wish that award on anyone. Know what happens to martyrs? They die. Usually painfully.
I’d rather get on with working on my challenges and having the energy to do that by staying positive.
Most of my challenges are able to be changed. Maybe, not overnight. And some may never be changed, so, a process of acceptance and mourning is needed. I’ll probably never be able to eat wheat or cheese again. I may never fall in love again after experiencing a total betrayal. But, I’m learning to cook new foods that can excite me and distract me from that fact. And, I’m loving myself more than any man could do.
We either adapt to life’s circumstances and make the best of it, or we rot in our own stew of bitterness.
Someone this week said to me: I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes. I just wouldn’t stick around, with all those challenges. And, it didn’t really feel like empathy. I wondered what was the point of that comment. We don’t climb mountains by counting how far away from our goal we are. We climb mountains by tracking how much progress we have made. The first approach makes us miserable, overwhelmed and depressed. The second approach gives us a sense of accomplishment and hope. In both cases, we are standing in the same spot, with the same distance between ourselves and the summit. But only in the second case, are we enjoying the journey.
Life is short. If we aren’t enjoying our lives, we need to change that. Standing in that bank, I had already realised that, in a lot of ways, I’m not enjoying life.
And, that needs to change, but the only place it can change is inside of me.
I think that people focus on their circumstances to the exclusion of our attitude about our circumstances. In the aftermath of moving to Canada, I got caught up in that. But believing that our happiness is found in our circumstances is why we have such high levels of personal income, nutrition and education but people are still reporting anxiety and depression. Yes, I want to change some things about my life and I have some dreams that I want to fulfill. I can be frustrated about not being in a position to immediately change these things. Or I can work steadily towards my goals, treating my waiting room like a classroom, and reflecting upon all the good in my life.
A few days ago, a fellow gardener was lamenting that the sunshine had turned his clay soil into a patch of cracked earth. He was beating himself up for not tilling his soil better before he had planted. And yet, from where I stood, all I could see where 6 inch tall pea shoots that had managed to find their way through the clay and to the light. Some things grow terrifically in clay soil. I kept reassuring him that what he had planted was going to survive and that he learned some new things for next year. And, I reassured him that there were remedies that he could use, over the summer. He marvelled: You’re always so positive. And he also said, in the same sentence, that he was envious of my bumper crop of tomatoes, last year. I had a horrible plot full of weeds. But I tilled the soil, weeded the garden and planted tomatoes. And then, I talked to my tomatoes and gave them encouragement and thanked them for their fruits. Things grow better with encouragement, with gratitude, with love and with that wonderful sun. I’m sure his garden will work out. And, I’m going to keep telling him that. His peas are listening.
Gratitude is the one choice we can make in every moment that will help us enjoy exactly where were are, and be happy, even if it’s not where we hope to be a year or five years from now. As the old (truly Canadian) Trooper song goes….we’re here for a good time, not a long time, so have a good time, the sun can’t shine every day.
….And, the sun is shinin’, in this rainy city….
Photo: Court Prather
For what are you grateful, right now?