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Ten Thousand Days

Gratitude, Gratitude Practice, Ten Thousand Days

YouTube Famous

January 15, 2020

Photo: Jon Tyson

Day 1971 – Day 1978

I’ve been v-logging on YouTube for less than a fortnight and it’s exhausting.  Unless you are already a filmmaker with a great eye for set design, an ear for sound and an eye for lighting, unless you have natural flamboyance and great skills in public speaking and unless you studied marketing in college, there is bound to be a very steep learning curve, indeed.

Let’s face it, friends.  YouTube is saturated with gratitude videos.  Thinking of trying to position the channel to stand out in that crowd is giving me a headache.  If I had started this journey in order to write a book or become YouTube famous, I would have chosen a much less saturated niche.  But, I didn’t start this to be famous, to prove anything to anyone, or even to spread the word about gratitude.  I started this to bring positivity into what felt like a broken life.

I was burned out from a job where facilitating redundancies and outsourcing suddenly became an unexpected and key part of my job description.  When I finally left that job, the emotional toll and the physical toll of the stress and unsustainable workloads meant that if someone coughed in the next room, I would get pneumonia.  Throughout the final months at the job, I tried to maintain my humanity and to give support to the hundreds of lives that were being radically changed, even though my job was to help with the plan to put them out of work.

I know that air traffic controllers have the most stressful jobs in the world, but I think teams that are tasked with managing people out of their jobs must be pretty high up there.  I hated what I did, but I did my job as well as I could and while I didn’t much like myself for being a part of it, I had, at my own initiative, been covertly spreading hope and kindness with a career lunch and learn series, using principles that I had learned in my own privately funded coaching sessions.  Nonetheless, the whole thing had taken a toll on me.  I left my job, not certain what was next.

My friend sent out a 7-day challenge for a version of the 3-things gratitude journal on Facebook.  It sounded positive and I was holding on to anything that would lift me out of the tar pit into which I had fallen.  And that’s how I began writing publicly on gratitude.  It is a rather ignoble and mediocre start, and I’m not sure it makes me a poster-person for gratitude, but I can certainly speak to the healing power of this simple practice.  My gratitude for the life changing power of the practice was what drove me to continue to write about it and to make a long-term commitment to documenting my journey.

While there is the writer’s ego involved in wanting to write about it, I do feel that there is value, for others, in documenting this journey.  If it falls flat, okay.  But, I feel compelled to at least give it my best effort.  I’m not an athlete who is breaking records for outstanding physical prowess.  I’m not even doing something that takes outstanding spiritual strength.  My ancestors were martyred by the Cossacks for standing up for their beliefs.  That takes spiritual strength.  I’m just doing something that takes a little effort, done consistently, over a long period.

How do I position TTDOG to be distinctive?  What is TTDOG’s unique selling point?  These questions have plagued me all my life.  Give me a product or another person and I’d probably be able to answer that question but when it comes to oneself, or something closely associated with oneself, it’s much tougher to answer.  All I know, for sure, is that I would love TTDOG to inspire others to take up and be faithful to this practice, because I know that it leads to improved wellbeing.  On the way to doing this, I draw a hard line at authenticity.  If, to be YouTube famous or break the blogosphere, I compromise on my authenticity, then documenting my journey of Ten Thousand Days seems pointless.  I’m not selling authenticity, but, if promoting these practices creates choices that compromise my authenticity, I’m not doing it.

The idea of “fame” has never sat comfortably with me, and I recognize that being so closely associated with TTDOG, this may be a concept that needs challenging, lest it unconsciously put the brakes on any efforts, before they have a chance to start.   I value my privacy and already, I’ve stretched beyond my comfort zone.  Vlogging threatens to make me snap, under the strain of stretching.  Rather than turn my camera towards my home, which is my sanctuary, I turn the camera to the wall, with a minimal bit of decoration.  This leaves the burden on me to be visually appealing and captivate with my storytelling.  No pressure there, then.

Right now, in this early learning phase, I’m simply filming a daily gratitude journal.  I think I can stretch this to the end of January with this format, but beyond that, I think a new video format will be needed, to engage viewers.   I can tell stories – sometimes successfully and sometimes not – but I’ve not been an improvisational on-camera storyteller before.  I might flop, and I think the value proposition of Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude deserves better than that.  To create content for this blog, a YouTube channel, and perhaps a podcast that would be complimentary without becoming repetitive is a challenge.

I need some time to strategize and I’m wide open to receiving advice.

I’m grateful for the support of family and friends who have been cheerleading my leap to diversify the outlets for Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude.  My niece encouraged me to reach out to creators that were successful, and far ahead of me.  Sure, some of them might not give me the time of day, but some of them will.  After all, she said, you never know what’s going to explode on YouTube.

Looking at the hate that circulates on the internet, and the cat-plays-a-piano videos that go viral, I said to her that I would be surprised if these videos on gratitude or my gratitude journals exploded.  And then a thought dawned on me, and I was grateful, once again, for the revelation.  None of this is about me.  It isn’t really even about my personal journey.

What if GRATITUDE went viral?

Photo: Park Troopers

 

What a glorious world that would be.  (Feel free to click and then hit subscribe)

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

A Face for Radio and A Voice for Print

January 7, 2020

Photo: Rachit Tank

Day 1951 – Day 1970

I wish you the most wonderful year ahead and I hope that you had a delightful holiday.

My holiday was made more delightful by my decision to dive head first into the ocean of YouTube.  I have been toying with the idea of podcasting but missed the obvious: starting a YouTube channel on Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude.  I am a smart woman but sometimes I can be a really dumb blonde.  Since I moved back to North America, I have missed the bounty of Freeview that a UK TV License provides and so I’ve been watching BBC documentaries and clips from my favourite UK comedians on YouTube.  When I had to suddenly change my diet, I turned to YouTube for cooking channels.  Needed to learn how to build a box cradle for a painting I’d done on a wood panel? YouTube.  How to grow my first garden? YouTube.  How to get over heartache? YouTube.

You may be beginning to sense a theme here.  I had to be hit over the head with it, before I did.

I’m grateful to the creator Amanda Bealle at the Fundamental Home for demonstrating that ordinary folks can create channels that draw an audience, and to creator Frank James for planting the seed of starting my own channel through his secondary channel the College of Tuber Studies.  Amanda has been supportive of my efforts so far, and Frank James’ excitement over YouTubing has given me the confidence to throw Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude‘s hat in the ring – at least as a Beta test. I realize that I spend at least as much of my leisure time on YouTube as I do reading material posted on the internet.  It seems only reasonable that I expand to a YouTube channel as another outlet for reaching people and possibly inspiring them to begin their own journey of grateful living.

I’m not certain why I didn’t think of it till a few weeks ago, but I think it may have something to do with my reluctance to see myself on film.  I studied at the T Schreiber acting school in New York so ‘performing’ is nothing new to me.  However, I simply refused to study acting for the camera.  I hated how I appeared on film.  I hate being in photographs and I hate being photographed.  My voice? Does anyone like the sound of their own voice?  Having trained as a yoga and meditation teacher, I have a special knack for putting people to sleep.

Wow. Now, isn’t that an interesting opportunity for growth?

I’ve been frustrated with my post-surgical recovery or more specifically, with the rate of my recovery.  To keep me from becoming negative, in the autumn, I replaced my recovery updates on Facebook with the daily gratitude posts that formed my first year of writing about the practice.  When, a few weeks ago, I decided to launch a channel on YouTube, I migrated my 3 Things practice to the channel.  How much work could it be, to speak to a camera and say the 3 things, instead of writing them?

HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA

What I forgot was that I often write my posts in my pyjamas, with bedhead and no makeup.  I didn’t realize how challenging it would be to turn the camera on myself and record that process, warts, pyjamas, bedhead and all.

I have body positivity issues that have become really clear, in just the first week of filming.  I like to say I have a face for radio and a voice for print.  My self-deprecating humour barely disguises my desire for image management.

I suppose one way to manage this insecurity and self-loathing would be to lose weight, keep my hair perfectly coiffed, have plastic surgery to hide the signs of ageing, and go back for more speech therapy to minimize my speech impediment.  I could spend time and money and mental energy making myself into the ‘acceptable’ YouTube influencer image (if I even had the raw materials of genetics to pull that off), or, I could just focus on the why of what I do.

I write about my journey and now I’m making video content about my journey because I fundamentally believe that gratitude is a gateway to spiritual, mental, emotional and even physical wellbeing.  Wellbeing doesn’t come from focusing on how to be more acceptable on camera and it isn’t about being a beautiful influencer.  It’s about accepting oneself in all one’s aspects and letting that beautiful person shine.

I’m grateful for the awareness of this issue that even a week of filming has afforded me, and for the kindness and love I am able to give myself as I begin to let go of the conditioning of self-loathing and body shame that I’ve carried with me, all these years.

And, I’m grateful that it is my nature to dive into new ventures and fly by the seat of my pants.  A month ago, I had no inkling I’d be creating YouTube content about Gratitude.  I hope a month from now, I will have learned basic online video editing, gotten my DSLR set up for filming and purchased a mic that will be suitable for this type of blogging.  I don’t know that I will have the stamina to v-log every day for the next 20 years, but for January, I will do a daily gratitude post, and if only one person is positively impacted and their wellbeing improved by my videos, my work will have had meaning and purpose; even if I am the only one whose wellbeing improves in the process.  I trust that if I do the work, with diligence, to the best of my ability and with sincerity, the people who need it, will find it.

Welcome to Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude on YouTube.

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Winter Renovation

December 18, 2019

Day 1942 – Day 1950

From my previous post, you will know that I’m looking to renovate this website over the next month or so.  It will be a DIY project so please bear with me.  As it is coming to the holiday season now, I’m also doing some deep personal renovations.

I’m grateful for the year I’ve had.  I came close to dying in the summertime and I cannot overstate how much this impacts one’s perspective on things.  Already a soulful person, I can see that I’ve been taken deep into myself and I am still processing it all.  I don’t expect to be able to communicate what this looks like except that I feel that I am being held still, so that I can experience a more profound depth with riches I hope to bring to the breadth of my life.

Gratitude is often linked to the positive psychology movement these days because – at first glance – it works in our lives by changing the way we think.  Replacing the negative with the positive helps to build new neuro-pathways in the mind and we open up to seeing more positive things in our lives.  This is very much an act of the Spirit, ascending to the heights of experience.  But, a life fully lived does not simply rely on the call to Spirit to feed our yearnings for communion with that which is beyond ourselves.   For a fully lived life, we also need to spend time tending to our Soul.

I say this is a time of renovation but first, I am being called to go within and really look into the dark corners and see what is there.  I think I’ve been doing this all my adult life, but there are junctures in life where we are called downward and inward to do the work of the Soul.  Being in hospital took me to a new and deeper level of this journey and where I am and where I’m going isn’t something that is easy to put into words.  Art and music are better expressions of what is being processed, though I will try to send postcards from the Soul, with this writing.

On that note, I intend to do more singing in 2020 (yes, bad pun intended), and I will be updating my artwork section of the website.  I haven’t updated it since I first started painting.  I’m happy to say that I have over 100 artworks now and I will find a way to share many of them with you.  I’ve experimented with style a lot in the last few years and the work reflects this.  I see a real change in my painting, since I left the hospital.  Hopefully, in 2020, I will be creating a body of artwork that has a cohesive sensibility, as I work from this ineffable place, within me.  I’m grateful for your continued patience as I fix the bugs on my website, become a better painter and musician, and figure out how best to link the written word with my other forms of creative expression.

I have some goals for the coming year and exciting new ventures that I hope you will find enticing.  Having come through 2019, I am more committed than ever to spending my time in ways that add Meaning to my life and help make Meaning in life, for others.  If I had a blueprint for 2020, it would be, simply: Making Meaning.  We often talk about wanting to ‘find’ meaning in our lives.  I think perhaps this is the first step on the journey and one I had intended for 2019.  Meaning can be found anywhere through connection, or what I call Oneness.  Once we’ve learned to make connections, perhaps the next step is to add value to those connections in a way that matters.  This is one way to live purposefully.  And, perhaps my experiences were necessary to humble me enough to get it: we only have this moment.  Let’s make it meaningful.  I’m grateful for coming so close to death and still finding in that, connection.  I’m grateful to be alive to use what I have learned.

I ask your indulgence if I post irregularly during this holiday season.  I want to prioritize time with family and friends, and with reflecting on the meaning of this year.  I wish you all wonderful winter celebrations, whatever holiday causes you to congregate at this time of year.  Even as we become more social, I want to remind us all that it is okay to go inward during these long nights.  Soon, we begin the journey back to the light.  Let’s do our inner work to get ready!

For what are you most grateful, right now?
What is your blueprint for 2020?

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

Mistrakes

December 9, 2019

Photo: Estee Janssens

Day 1936 – Day 1941

I was saddened to learn, this week, that the Apostrophe Protection Society has been disbanded.  One of my pet peeves is poor grammar, punctuation and spelling.  I had the opportunity to be an editor for a couple of literary magazines, in college.  In my early career, I worked in book publishing and in filmmaking, as a script reader and story editor.  I have read many manuscripts in my time, and when something is rife with errors, I blame the editor.

On this website, I am both writer and editor.  The buck stops with me.  Lately, you’ve been getting 75 cents on the dollar.

When WordPress updated its software earlier this year, my spelling and grammar check disappeared.  Regular readers will know that these posts are meant to be a first draft.  I try not to spend more than an hour or two writing a post and I usually don’t do much editing.  I do move, change and delete words, and sometimes a stray word or letter will cling to the screen, where it was meant to be gone.

This week, I went back to rewrite my previous post. I wanted to use it for another purpose but was sure that my first draft would need serious re-writing, given my self-imposed challenge to write more frequently.  I was dismayed – trypos and stragglers are were everywhere! Browsing my past posts, I see at least one error in each.  If I were clever, I’d call it my “style” and do some branding around it.

It is difficult to edit one’s own work.  The brain fills in what it expects to see, rather than what is actually there.  I take responsibility for my work, as I do my actions.  I apologize for the errors in my posts and am grateful that my readers overlook my mistrakes.

Like many people, I suffer some humiliation whenever I make a public mistake.  As a child, I learned that mistakes were bad.  Going to school was like going to war and bringing home less than straight A’s meant that my errors, rather than my achievements, were highlighted.  I became identified with my work and my worth became dependent on being perfect.

That’s quite a setup.

I can still be hard on myself now, failing to recognize an accomplishment if it falls short of my own ideal.  For years I answered compliments with that old classic: “Yeah, but….”  I succeed, in some measure, at pretty much everything I do, but I don’t know if that is because I’m truly gifted, obsessively driven or because I edit from my life those things that don’t come naturally, and where I might make a mistake or fail.

As a child, of around 5 or 6, I received a damning comment on my report card: “Does not handle scissors well.”  From that point, visual art was out; Math and English were in.  My recent efforts to paint are a departure from my comfort zone and long-held self concept.  There are two exceptional people for whom I’m grateful:  my friend, and artist, CMF, who encouraged me – at this point in my life – to skip the long route of classical training, if what I really wanted to do was paint, and the artist Jesse Reno, who dared to tell me, and then show me, that even I – who still struggles with scissors and can’t draw a straight line – can paint.

As an intuitive artist I am not aiming to be a good technical painter. I aim to step out of my own way and let the elements of design create form for whatever wants to be born and when I’m at my best, I’m not the painter; I am the conduit. That detachment makes it easy for me to put my work out there, to be seen.

Unfortunately, I’ve been writing since I could form words.  The baggage of my perfection-dependent self worth clings to every phrase.  I wrote a play in college that was produced and was a hit.  When I submitted it to a “Modern Day Monsters” contest, I was rejected (I almost edited that but left it; I am still too closely identified with my work).  The reader sent back notes that I imagine were meant only for the judges’ eyes because they were truly unkind and assessed me as needing psychological help.  The reader made the mistake of not recognizing that my piece was a dark comedy about the way humans can be monsters and that the worst monsters are often those closest to us who have the power to devour our souls.  I was crushed by the feedback and I don’t think I’ve submitted a piece of writing to a contest, producer, or magazine since.  When I left college, I quit ‘creative’ writing for a very long time.

There have been other times in my life when I have failed.  I often think of a time when I worked for years to position myself into a particular job.  Once in the job, I misread the unwritten culture of the department (which contradicted the official culture of the organization) and it became impossible for me to stay.  After only 4 years in the position, I left the best job, under the worst circumstances, I’d ever known.  I haven’t recovered from that and a dream that was more than a decade in the making simply died.

Am I, then,  a success or a failure?  That is a judgement call.

How helpful has judgement been to me, really?  I think my disdain for grammar and spelling mistakes comes from a secret fear that I will be caught out, making one, myself.  I want more courage to take risks for the yearnings of my heart and soul and if I am to stretch beyond my current limitations, mistakes are inevitable. I must edit  my conditioned fear of mistakes from my life.

I ordered the WordPress for Dummies book and I will try to figure out how to re-install a spell check, because I respect you, my readers.  The truth is, I’m going to continue to make mistakes and I trust that those who are meant to walk with me on this journey of ten thousand days will accept me, waart’s and all.

Thinking back to my early career, I’m grateful to an award winning film producer, MJ, for whom I worked.  I was anxious about not reading fast enough, about being measured in my reader’s notes (for fear they might end up in a rejection letter), worried about missing the gem of a manuscript in the slush pile (I did) or recommending a stinker (which, I also did).   MJ modelled for me the idea that mistakes are not bad; they can be opportunities for development.  “Relax,” he said to me.  “We aren’t curing cancer, we’re just making movies.”

If I misspell a word or leave in an extra letter, nobody is going to die. Some good, even gratitude, may come of it.

Language Warning – PG 13+

For what are you most grateful, this week?

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

What’s In a Name?

December 3, 2019

Photo: Jon Tyson

Day 1925 – Day 1935

It is said that everyone has 3 names: the one that our parents give to us, the one which we are called, and the one that we go out and claim for ourselves.

What is in a name?  A name defines us, in ways that we may not even realize.  I was named Tania after my mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother.   I lived among French Canadians with a Russian name that was difficult to pronounce and harder to spell.  And when I visited my cousins, aunties, uncles and grandparents for whom Russian was a first language, I was an odd English speaker.

Although an outsider, I was an ultimate insider, too.  My name created a strong maternal bond that was like an anchor in a life where I was tossed around on the seas of parental aspirations, moving from house to house and having to make new friends and to fit in somewhere new, every year or two; sometimes, twice in a single year.  Of my siblings, I became the one who spent serious time researching my heritage and working to live up to the high ideals of the women from whom I came.  My mother passed away just as I was reaching womanhood.  As my translator, her absence left only a thread of connection to my grandmother and to the women who were strong as oxen, who pulled the plough, who were One with the land, and who stood up to the Cossacks, with love, and refused to bear arms. I didn’t know it at the time, but the subtle vibration of my name carried these Spirit Wrestlers with me, as I made my way, alone, into adulthood.

Some believe that we ought to name our children based on qualities that they appear to possess.  Others believe that the greater power is in being named for qualities we lack, in the hopes that we will grow into our names.

I was born on a spiritual path.  Having wandered for awhile, I was given a Sanskrit name by a Guru, and I became known by that name.  My stars are pretty awful, whether interpreted by Western or Vedic astrology.  With those stars, I grew up with a fear that my destiny was to be forsaken by fate.  My spiritual name, however, means “greatly auspicious.”

When I first heard my new name, I hated it.  It was harsh and aggressive, and not at all sweet and feminine sounding.  Although fiercely independent, I was yearning to be like my peers: married and a mother. Projecting feminine charm seemed important to fulfill my yearning.  The Guru had known of my longing, and reassured me that I could pronounce the consonants in their softer form.  And, so I did.  When I traveled to India, I was quickly informed that I was mangling the language with the mispronunciation of my own name, and was requested, politely, to stop.

In South India, I learned, my name also means “a well married woman.”  The Guru, in naming me, had reminded me of the marriage to which I had promised myself, before my birth. It was the unio mystico. Like Hildegard von Bingen or Joan of Arc, I was called to birth something more than offspring.

Hard consonants, mystical union and great auspiciousness; such was my name to bear.

While others have recognized and sought to siphon my spiritual power,  I struggle with a lack of belief in the gifts of my own potential.  Perhaps without my second given name, I would have married some doofus from Match.com, never joined the seminary, never found my spiritual teacher, and would never have been inclined to practice deep gratitude.  When the good favour of the universe precedes you, follows you, surrounds you and calls you by name, how can you fail to feel blessed?

The name that matters most, it is said, is that which we give to ourselves.  I remember playing outdoors as a child and a stranger, who mistakenly thought I was lost, demanded to know my surname.  I was frightened by him, and frightened that I would get in trouble for playing where I shouldn’t have been, so I lied.  I told him my surname was Pink. I became Tania Pink.  Pink was my favourite colour.  It is joyful and full of vitality. Pink is the colour associated with the heart and with the feminine, both symbols of the spiritual path which eventually found me.  While dismissed as passive, pink universally symbolises female sexuality and power.  Before I could intellectually understand it, I had bestowed upon myself the energy of the warrior woman.   When I became a Swami, it was the name that I chose.

Every name I’ve had – the one given by my parents, the one I became known by, and the one that I chose for myself – have been neither frivolous nor always easy to bear.  Each name continues to teach me to be the woman I was born to be and reminds me of the woman I am to become.  I am grateful for each of my names.

In what ways are you grateful for your name(s)?

Ten Thousand Days

Waiting

November 22, 2019

Photo: Ashim D Silva

Day 1915 – Day 1924

I’m trying to get back to a more regular posting schedule, but if you’ve read my last few posts, you will know that I’ve been through hell and back this past year.  This summer, I had come to a point of awakening – from what, I do not know – and I was ready to leave 2.5 years of shock and disappointment behind me.  It was time to clean up my life and move on.   Just as I stepped out to begin to cross the street of my life, I was hit by the truck of medical errors.

Nobody knows what anyone else is going through.  Certainly nobody can tell how well you are by looking at you.  I know that some of those close to me, or in positions of power over me, think that I should be back to normal following my medical traumas of the late summer.  I find there is compassion fatigue in the world.  When someone is grieving, for instance, people swarm around and compassionately care, for the initial period of bereavement.  After the first few months, and certainly after the initial year, compassion is missing.  It seems that this is human nature, in our fast paced and self-focused world.

The same applies to anyone who has been through a traumatic event – medical or otherwise – and who is in the long and gradual period of recovery.  In my case, even though I’m up and trying to get back to normal, I look pretty awful, if you have eyes to see.  I look forever tired, my post-surgical hernia is bulging above my horizontal incision, and my hair (as expected, given all the anaesthetic) is falling out.  Not a vision of wellness, but I am a vision of recovery.  I still require at least one more surgery for the post-surgical hernia, and nobody wants me to be fully well again, more than I do.

Other people’s expectations need to wait. I am learning to live with my own waiting: waiting till I’m well again, waiting to make plans, waiting to move on with my life.

I have been humbled, beyond what I thought was possible, this year.  I don’t like to talk about most of what’s going on with me, because it brings me down.   I am at the mercy of something I cannot control, and the waiting is sometimes nearly unbearable.  It leaves me feeling vulnerable, alone, exhausted and powerless.

I always think that there has got to be something of value in every tribulation.  I don’t know what the value here will be because I’m still so much in the middle of it.  I feel that it is an opportunity and a crossroads and only I can discern what my choices will be, let alone what choice I will take.  I am guessing that when one is powerless, vulnerable and alone, the best – if counter intuitive – thing to do is to surrender.  And so, I surrender to the state that my life is in, to the fact that there can’t be anywhere out but through, to the fact that the amount of time that this will take is not within my power, and to the fact that my attitude and my choice to have faith are the only things that appear to be in my control.

I get up every morning and give thanks for what I have.  It doesn’t make the situation change, but it helps me to navigate what has been the loneliest, most serious and sacred time in my life.  Gratitude and my faith have been my companions as I sit alone and I watch and I wait till I have agency once again.  What others think of this is really their own business.  It is hard to be impervious to what others think, when there is an element of disapproval in it and the person is of importance, in one’s life.  But, as Maslow theorized, self actualization requires one to be independent of the ‘good opinion of others.’

For whatever this unbearable period of waiting is teaching me, I am grateful.  For the reminder that it is important to be impervious to the opinion of others, I am grateful.  For some sage advice on this, I am grateful to my friend, TP.

By choice or not, something deep within my spirit is growing quietly more indomitable from the very experience of waiting, watching, and being watched.  As lacerating as it is, I am most grateful for it.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

When Good Things Happen To Bad People

November 12, 2019

Photo: Peter Forster

Day 1881 – Day 1914

Recently, a friend said that my life lately has resembled a page from the Book of Job.  Now, if you’re not big on knowing the books of the Bible, you might just want to know that the book of Job is where a Christian is directed to answer the Question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  I’ll leave it to you to look at the Book of Job if that is something that interests you or read some summaries that can be found all over the internet.  One example is here.

I don’t often fall into either thinking that the Universe is against me or that I’m to blame for everything bad that happens to me.  I get disappointed, and, I get discouraged.  But, this is where gratitude practice really helps me to keep going, even when life isn’t going as smoothly as I’d like.  Instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I try to focus on what I do have.

I struggle with finding the ways to be grateful when a person has done me wrong.  I get angry at the injustice of it.  I find this particularly frustrating when it seems that all good things seem to follow the person who did me wrong.

I am thinking of someone in particular who did me wrong.  He is handsome and charming and a very good liar and, as I later found out, was involved in criminal activity.  He has loads of money, and he never has to work.  He seems to be doing marvelously.  Everyone believes that he’s a great guy.

For a long time after my experience of him, I found myself wondering: “Why do Good things happen to Bad people?”  It’s a simple turn of phrase and I won’t call him ‘bad’ because I think most people are not bad people but many people do bad things.  His antisocial, cruel behaviour towards me was bad.

When I thought about the guy who did me wrong, I got angry that he and his siblings had so many breaks in life because they have wealth and connections that seem to have been accumulated in a not completely ethical manner.  As a friend pointed out, the fact that the guy has never struggled also accounts for his cowardice, his haughty sense of entitlement, and his other character flaws.  And, she’s right.  The guy seems to have no gratitude.  Even in the face of what others would call a bounty, that guy could always find something to complain about.  I remember that I once took him canoeing at my parents’ cottage and I asked if he had enjoyed himself.  He said it was ‘alright’ and then complained that the boat was not a very nice one because it was made of fibreglass and not of wood.  He complained about my cooking, when I was feeding him, in my home.  He complained about the traffic when I drove him, two hours out of my way, to take him home.  He complained about being hard-done-by in several different settings and I found him tiresome for never being happy or grateful for anything anyone did for him.  He once complained to me about growing up wealthy and that he sometimes wished that he was poor.

Yeah.

Well, be careful what you wish for, I guess.

Maybe abundance really does come at a cost that we cannot see.  If one has never had to rely on other people to survive – as those of us who have to go to a day job to pay our bills do – this hinders one’s development of empathy, which in turn hampers one’s ability to build relationships.   If you’ve never struggled, it is hard to develop grit, and if you’ve always had everything you wanted, it can create a sense of entitlement and paranoia that can destroy meaningful relationships.   Empathy and gratitude are qualities that lead to developing a wish to be of service.  Service, in turn, is the key to living a purposeful and meaningful life.  Money and status – beyond a basic level – contribute little to increasing our happiness.  Most things that contribute to individual happiness – strong relationships, trust, gratitude, purpose, and meaning – may be hard to achieve if good fortune has always been heaped upon you, from an early age.

Maybe having everything you ever wanted is as much a test of character as having had to struggle. And, maybe who is tested in any instance is not so obvious.

I am grateful for every challenge that I’ve faced, albeit more grateful once I’ve come out the other side.  My struggles have made me who I am, and I like the person that I am. I’m even grateful for the months of anger and resentment that I once felt towards the guy who wronged me and whose life seemed to be platinum-plated.  Those months of soul struggling taught me a valuable lesson.  My concern for a “just” outcome took my eyes off of my own journey and all of the things for which I had to be grateful.  It pitted some of my precious life energy in opposition to another person, rather than pursuing those life affirming moments of being in the flow of Oneness.  It fueled my bitterness at injustice, instead of stoking my wish to be of service.  It sometimes kept me out of the present moment and stole my joy.

If you read the book of Job or even the summary, you will see that the Christian story concludes that we are not to judge the distribution of blessings and tribulations.  In the story, only God has the whole picture.  A secular approach would argue that unless my job was fighting crime, it was not my right or my business to worry about anyone’s share of the distribution of life events and fortune.   I’m not a cop, a judge or a jury.  Justice was not my job, and it was I who was choosing to be in handcuffs, energetically shackled to a guy that I disliked.

My job is to choose how to approach this life that has been given.   I freed myself from those chains by firmly resting my attention on my own practice.  Good fortune is largely a matter of attitude: If you can’t find gratitude within yourself, no amount of abundance will help you find it; and for the attentive and grateful heart, even a simple life, with ups and downs, is a contented life.

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

And Yet, I’m Still Here

October 9, 2019

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

Day 1757 – Day 1880

It has taken me a long time to even begin to put words to this post.  I have had a lot to process, and I have a deep well that is yet to be examined and re-ordered.

I had a life altering brush with death this summer.  Despite how daunting that is to say, I found myself in hospital with immense gratitude on a daily basis.  In brief, I went into emergency at the start of July with what I thought was food poisoning.  A minor surgery was indicated and performed.  It went terribly wrong, and my organs began to shut down.  In total, I had 4 surgeries to correct what had gone wrong and in the end, I was with the best liver specialist in the country.  For that, I’m grateful.  My belly looks much like the incision in the photo although I also have one that traverses my body horizontally as well.  The words on her body resonate with me as well.  In such stark moments, they will resonate with us all.

Farewell, bikini body, I like to joke.  But you can bet that I wear these scars as my badge of courage, of will, and of strength.  I have one more open surgery to go, in 2020.

I remember a friend once told me that when she left hospital, she sat on a park bench and had a heightened sense of awareness of everything.  Likely that was the drugs, still in her system.  I can attest to that, after 30 days of high doses of intravenous morphine.  But, I didn’t have to wait till I left hospital.  I learned many things about myself, about being a good patient, about being one’s own advocate (thankfully, I was conscious, most of the time), and about the people in my life.  The petty stuff had to go.  This displeased some people some of the time, but I had one focus…getting through this and being alive at the end of it.  I learned a lot.  My learnings are too private to share here, and I hope you will understand, my friends.  But, I hope that we will all see the learnings applied in my life, in the months and (hopefully) years to come.

I am grateful for my doctors at Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital.  They saved my life.  I am grateful for my nurses and their 24 hour care.  They eased my pain and helped me with the little daily tasks like bathing that make a person feel human.  I finally felt I was in safe hands.  I am grateful for the visits from my family who brought me things like boiled eggs (when, after 10 days of no food or drink, I was able to eat once again), headphones and freshly laundered clothes.  I’m grateful that they kept my deck garden alive while I was in hospital – although nobody actually expected me to be in hospital as long as I was.  And I’m grateful for the many friends and relatives that came to visit on a daily basis.  They did not take offence when I asked them to come often and come for short visits.  I tired (and still do) very easily.  I’m grateful to the kayak buddy who picked me up from hospital, drove 2 hours to my house and helped get food for my house and my medical equipment to help me to recuperate.  I’m particularly grateful that she was able to spend the night and helped the next day when others came to move over 20 plants off my deck because my landlady needed to do construction commencing the day after I was released from hospital.  That particular situation is not something I welcomed but I’m grateful to those who helped get me through it and to those who stored my plants for an entire month while contstruction stretched on.  I’m grateful for many people in my community garden that took care of my plot while I was in hospital and even after I was released, clearing the plot, and cleaning it up for winter.  It was beyond anything I could have hoped would happen.

And, being a person of faith, I am grateful most of all to the Divine.  I both surrendered to and co-created with my concept of the Divine all the time I was in hospital.  I believe this deep sense of faith has always been the source of my strength.  I’m sure that those who are not people of faith will have their own reservoir from which to draw.

As difficult as some of the lessons were, and some of the things I recognize that I want to change, I’m grateful for the wake-up call that this has given me.  I’ve been granted a second chance at this life and whatever time I have left, I intend to use it well albeit, in some ways, differently.

I will leave this post with a singular focus on gratitude.  I know that there were moments of oneness, and joy and even a few moments of service.  When one is faced with their mortality and must put all of their will and energy into fighting to survive and heal, one is truly in the moment, nothing but authentic, and extremely mindful of everything that is important, and equally, that which is not.  What became very important for me was the concept of purpose and meaning, and being aligned with them in all that I do.  Life is short and I intend to live it even more purposefully than I ever have, before.

I have a lot of words in this post and yet, I haven’t really said much.  Good writing comes in the detail.  But these details are among the most private one can have.  Let me just say this:  I’m altered and yet, I’m still here.

For what are you most grateful?

Ten Thousand Days

Summertime

June 7, 2019

Photo: Matthew Schwartz

Day 1728 – Day 1756

When I lived in the USA, Memorial day was always the official start of summer.  Now that I grow a vegetable garden, I know that the rule of thumb is that the end of May is also the ‘safe bet’ for having all your summer crops planted.  This year, Memorial Day happened to fall on my birthday.

I am incredibly fortunate that I was speaking to a friend and she suggested that I fly out to see her in Cape Cod for the weekend.  There was an incredible seat sale and the airfare was her gift to me.  I jumped at the chance.  I had to get my garden planted before I left, because I knew the tomato seedlings would not last in the hot temperatures that were predicted for the weekend that I was away.  All of my patio plants went into as many buckets and barrels of water as I could find, to keep their roots wet and I tried the old water bottle inverted in the soil trick to keep the soil moist.  This, plus a shade cloth meant that I came home to lush and thriving patio plants.  All things aligned so that I ran into a fellow gardener who agreed to water my plot while I was away.  With 4 hours sleep in the 48 hours before I flew, I planted my garden, packed my things and set off for Cape Cod – a coast to coast adventure.

I’m so grateful that my friend offered me this gift and that I decided to be spontaneous and take it.  I’m also grateful that I could get a few days off from work at short notice.

We had a great time.  My friend had to work every day for a few hours and while she was at work in the wee hours of the morning I went to the beach, explored her town, and did some necessary grocery shopping considering my vast array of food allergies.  We visited Martha’s Vineyard, Provincetown, Mellerton for raw oysters, Truro Vineyard, the National Seashore, Race Point Beach at Provincetown and spent time on the beaches around Hyannisport.  I went to art galleries, exotic food markets and to the Kennedy and Korean war memorials as well as spending a morning at the Kennedy Museum in Hyannisport, where the Kennedy Complex is still actively used by the family, to this day.  It was a whirlwind and we ate out, cooked in and had takeaway and watched movies.  For 4 days and 5 nights, I got to spend time with an old friend that I’ve not seen in over 15 years.

For me, the beach was supremely relaxing and enjoyable. I’m delighted we got to spend a whole day together just hanging out on the beach.

We drank our fair share of wine, as well.  However, for those of you that might have had the same impression as me – Martha’s Vinyard is not a winery.   It’s a pretty vacation island off the coast of Cape Cod, with an interesting history.  Imagine my disappointment when I didn’t get to have a good glass of wine and a tour of the non-existent vineyards.   Instead, I learned about the Methodist Summer-camp Retreat that drew 30,000 visitors back at the  turn of the century and that welcomed the African American slaves during the civil war.  No wine, but an interesting time and some very cute gingerbread houses, as well as some lovely beaches.  We took a ride on one of America’s oldest carousels and got our fortunes spat out of the Zoltar machine. (If you are old enough to remember Tom Hanks in Big, it was Zoltar that granted his wish).

And, I had a bloody Mary on the ferry to make up for the lack of wine.

I have grown up with a difficulty accepting gifts, particularly a sizeable gift such as this, because there were always strings attached.  I’m grateful that I could overcome my challenge through the generosity of a dear friend who financed my flight.  It was not only a joy to have the holiday but a joy to break down some learned beliefs.  Of course, I also treated my friend to a few treats as well.  What would be the point of going if we didn’t have the chance to have a few adventures?  After all, with our time on earth, we only have the choice of a good time, not a long time.  It was a wonderful way for us both to be in service to the other.

If you ask me how I am, these days,  I’ll say come si, comme ca.  Some things are going okay and some things are very challenging.  But, that is a big improvement over how I’ve felt for several years.  What is different, as I begin another trip around the sun, is that I have been the recipient of a truly selfless and loving gift, and this has both refreshed me and renewed my faith in humankind through a loving connection.

I really needed a mini holiday.  I have not been enjoying my life much lately.  The dynamics under which I spend much of my waking hours are hostile, abrasive, and soul destroying.  My trip was an exception and, I hope, the start of a new phase of my life.  The trip revived me enough to start thinking of how to change some of that and make, yet a new way, for myself, in this world.

It has given me hope.

These feelings are delicate and fragile and in a world that is often hostile to my fragile improvements, I’m keeping it locked in a tower, beaming light out above the heads of those who would like to tear me down, and out across the horizon.  Is it to remind people of my presence so far away and affirm that I’m ready for a new adventure? Or, is it scanning for risks and storms that may be yet beneath my radar?

After the past few years, I’ve had, let’s be honest – it’s both.

But hope reminds me that it is Summertime; People are out at sea more, and my light will travel farther in the clear of the night.  Perhaps the living really can be a little more easy.

Photo: Kelly Sikkema

For what are you most grateful, right now?

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

No. More. Excuses

May 9, 2019

Photo: Analise Benevides

Day 1721 – Day 1727

When I was a  girl, I was bullied on the playground.  My mother taught me to try to overlook bad behaviour and with empathy, see what might be driving people to act so badly.  ‘Maybe there is something going on in their life that you don’t understand and it is making them behave in a mean way’, she would say.  I suppose that my mother did this to help me see that being bullied by a kid on the playground was more about them and their issues than it was about me.  But, as an overly empathetic young person, I grew up always trying to understand the psychology of people who treated me like dirt, rather than getting out of the way of their abuse.

Empathy is a great thing.  It is, in fact, one of the core underlying practices (along with mindfulness and authenticity) that makes practicing gratitude, magnifying joy, being of service, experiencing our oneness and living a life of meaning, with purpose possible.  Empathy and pro social behaviour are requirements for belonging to society.  Without empathy, I don’t think it is possible to actually be happy, because empathy is key to forming relationships.  Those lacking empathy, as far as I understand it, are often diagnosed with Cluster B personality disorders that include psychopathy and narcissism.

Empathy is a good thing.  Too much empathy, to the detriment of mutual respect and self-preservation, is a very bad thing.

Someone treated me badly recently and I was recounting the story to a friend.  The first thing she did was jump to hypothetical reasons why they might have behaved so badly “Maybe they think this or maybe they feel that.”  My feelings were not acknowledged.   I’m sure she had good intentions, but this is not empathy.  It is looking for rationalizations of bad behaviour.

I notice this is common with some women – at least women over 40 –  and I notice that my male friends do not bother to try to understand, rationalize, or find excuses for bad behaviour.  They say it like it is.  The behaviour was unacceptable.  Usually, they use more colourful words.  I also notice that those women who tend to look for excuses have stayed in situations where their potential has been limited or where their needs aren’t being met.  I put my hand up as one of them.

People of my generation were raised in an era where women were working full-time outside the home, en masse, for the first time.  My mother was a stay at home mom and while many of my friends had mothers who worked outside of the home, it was rare that they were ‘career women’.  We were the first generation who had no expectation or hope that we would ever be taken care of by a partner who was a breadwinner.  We were the first generation who would have to make our own way in the world, a world that was ruled by men.

Our mothers had no idea what it would take to get along in the world, for their daughters.  Our mothers had to practice the subtle art of persuasion and ego stroking, and they had to learn to overlook the flaws of their husbands.  They had to do this, no matter how bad his behaviour was, at times, because it was a matter of survival.  And for their part, some of our fathers – used to having their bad behaviour overlooked – modeled, for their daughters, that this was what men expect of women.  Many men of that generation still expect to be obeyed, no matter what their behaviour.

Mine is the first generation to make her own way in the world.  And, our parents did not prepare many of us to do that.

Even at my ripe (rotting?) old age, I have tended to still make excuses and try to be understanding of people who aren’t always pro social and in control of their mouths or behaviour.

But, something has changed in me, and it is growing stronger.

I wrote about germinating ideas and the need to change my life.  One of the first things I’ve found myself feeling is that I no longer want to make excuses for bad behaviour.

My life took a very hard turn in 2016.  I think about the young man who said he loved me and with whom I fell in love.  He had a charming and gentle exterior when we met in 2015.  That was who I believed him to be.  Who he turned out to be was a man who was self involved, opportunistic and exploitative, who had no empathy for others, and had a moral compass that was strongly anti-social.  I had believed his lies.  Like my mother, and her generation, I stood on my head and turned myself inside out for months that turned into years, trying to make sense of his treating me with disdain and cruelty and then vulnerability and sweetness in turn.  I tried to find a reason why the sweet and vulnerable man was lying to me and hurting me.  Like my mother, I chose not to see what was right in front of me if it meant I could not rationalize his anti-social ways.  I had clocked what was either embarrassment or disdain, towards a bouncer who didn’t want to let him into the pub for dressing shabbily, on the first night we met.   That was a red flag.  But, I gave him the benefit of the doubt on that first night and every night after, for over 2 years.   The bad behaviour was who he really was, and he had pegged me for a gullible target.  He exploited me, betrayed me and broke my heart, and when I finally got pushed to far, I reacted, in kind.  All that did was allow him to alleviate his own self hatred and position me as the bad guy.   While I am not victim blaming, I must admit that up to that point, I had made the excuses that let him continue, for years.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.  He likely lied to and exploited the other women who were, unbenownst to me, in his life, as well.

His sweet exterior was a necessary mask he wore to disguise his anti-social self, in order to make his way in the world.

I went through the worst time in my life, and I sort of sleep walked through 2017, but I’m awake now.

I have forgiven him, not because he is remorseful or because his behaviour is excusable.  Whatever made him the way that he is, whether nature or nurture, it was not in his control.  I don’t feel any joy in knowing that he is probably still stuck in a spiral of anti-social behaviour and shame, but Il struggle with the knowledge that his shame is not remorse.  I feel sad for what has become of him, but don’t mistake me – he is still accountable for his behaviour.  He could have behaved differently.  He’s certainly capable of being charming and likable with those who aren’t particularly close to him.   He can behave pro-socially when he wants to, he just chose to lie and behave badly with me because he didn’t care how his anti-social behaviour would hurt me.

Empathy is good, but not everyone has our best interests at heart and deserves our efforts to understand their less than shining moments.  I’m grateful for this lesson, though I wish it had come earlier in my life, and I wish it had come at a much lower personal cost.  But, we learn when we learn.

And I do feel joy that I am free of it.

Having come through that I’m working on forgiving myself for making the wrong (overly empathetic) choices with him.  A part of forgiving myself for letting it go on too long is to have zero tolerance for disrespectful behaviour being directed at me and to resist the need to rationalize, that I learned from my parents.     Yes, sometimes we can’t completely end toxic relationships (example: co-parenting) but we can enforce our boundaries with people who do not have our best interests at heart.  We are all One at the level of the soul and spirit.  At the level of the mundane, where most of us live our day to day life, we must honour the light of our own soul by protecting ourselves against abuse.

To let anyone dump on us is to dim our own spiritual light.

No. More. Excuses.

Photo: Sandeep Swarnkar

For what are you most grateful this week?

Ten Thousand Days

A Good Time, Not a Long Time

May 3, 2019

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?

Ten Thousand Days

Germination

April 12, 2019

Photo: Marcus Spiske

Day 1662 – Day 1700

It has been so long since I posted!  I have been thinking of you and wanting to sit down and post something but it has just been such a busy time.  I thought about it yesterday and I’m happy to say that although, in the past, a long gap in writing was associated with a period of grief, this gap has been associated with so much good stuff (and a little of life’s irritations) happening!

I’ve been planting seeds.  Not in the garden, yet, because it has rained every weekend that I’ve been well enough to garden, but I’ve been planting them in my life.  I had a very busy work year this year and have been working on a project since January that wrapped up three days after I was supposed to leave to be on annual leave.  So, I had to curtail my annual leave to make sure we had a successful conclusion to the project.  As soon as results were in (I’m still wrapping up the paperwork), I jumped in my car and zoomed down to Portland, Oregon to spend a couple of days in a class with the man who I credit for unleashing me on the world of acrylic painting, Jesse Reno.  I’m so grateful to have met him in 2017 and to have been able to continue to study with him every year, since.  I had a tiring but joyful trip, meeting old friends and new, and producing some great new works that I’m hoping to exhibit this summer.

As soon as I returned from Portland, I had to rush to my drawing class at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.  My relationship with drawing is a complicated one and teachers have tried to press me to spend years learning to draw before I learned to paint.  I’m not willing to do that.  And so, I was delighted to meet Jesse Reno who told me that I didn’t need to draw to learn to be a good painter.  He’s right.  And, this year, I decided that my painting would be helped with better drawing skills.  It’s been a humbling experience because I struggle with drawing in a way that I don’t with painting.  But, it was MY decision to improve my drawing skills and so I was happy with each little improvement.  My teacher, Keith, has been amazing, encouraging even my worst efforts and through his positive approach as well as technical knowledge, I’ve seen my skills improve.  There is still nothing I would want to show anyone, but I learned to use new drawing tools and got a bit of theory under my belt.  It was never ‘work’ or a ‘chore’ and I never felt like I wasn’t doing it ‘right’.  He worked very hard at helping us to not judge our work and I’m very grateful for that.  My classmate were wonderfully supportive as well.  The class finished last night and I’ve got two projects that I’m going to continue to work on, to help me continue developing until I return to classes in the autumn.

I also took a great class with some street artists in Vancouver this month and created some collaborative works with them one sunny Saturday.  Again, it was great to develop and reinforce old skills and to spend time with like minded people, making a new friend or two.

In the past few weeks I’ve also been to a thrilling, joy-inspiring couple of workshops with Moira Smiley in Seattle at Frontier Home.  I was very tired that weekend and, in hindsight, I was coming down with the flu, but I had a blast at the workshops and I hope to study with her again in the future.  Moira has a real joy in singing and in teaching and the group really came together as a supportive environment even though most of us were strangers to one another.  I love the sense of community that I get when I attend events at Frontier Home, and Moira was a particularly wonderful facilitator.

Of course, I did what we all must do at this time of year – I spent ages working several nights into the wee hours, putting together my tax paperwork for my annual tax return.  It’s been a busy time.

And, yes, I got run down from all the work, and yes, I had the flu.  Last weekend I slept for 4 days and missed the annual general meeting of the Garden, which made me sad.  I’m still not 100 percent well, but I’m getting there.  I’ve got some of my lettuce and spinach planted and I hope to get more planting done before dark tonight as its set to rain all weekend again, but little by little, I hope to have my garden planted by end of April, save for the hot weather crops.  I’m doing some service again this year by leading the Greenhouse volunteers, and I’m really looking forward to a new growing season.

Since I’ve had to change my diet so radically, I’ve been working on watching loads of YouTube videos of cooks who cater to my skill level and dietary needs.  I should be a chef by now, with the number of videos I’ve watched!  I’m looking forward to growing my own vegetables and using them in new ways this summer and autumn.

All of this has happened on top of more than full time work load.  So, as I said, it’s been busy.

But, part of my purpose is not only living this journey of ten thousand days of practice, it is also documenting it.  And in that I have been remiss.  I’m grateful that today, I could drop my wish to have a wonderfully meaningful epiphany and simply sit down and spend my lunch hour putting a few words to the gratitude I’ve been feeling.

Last night, on the drive home from my final drawing class, I noticed that most of the time, I’m feeling pretty wonderful, emotionally.  Yes, when I was sick, I felt a bit isolated, but frankly, I wanted to just sleep anyway.  I’m in a good place and I believe a lot of this happiness has been down to really making an effort to focus on the things for which I’m grateful, and noticing the really sublime moments like being conducted, with my fellow workshop attendees, by Moira Smiley.   I haven’t been posting my gratitude, but its been overflowing in my life.  When it comes to writing, a former creative writing professor once told me that sometimes you write and sometimes you are immersed in living and gathering the raw material of writing.  But, it’s good to keep coming back here and I’m working on re-setting some of my commitments to align with my deepest priorities,  so that I will be more regular, again, in my posting.

I’m grateful that you’ve come back again to witness the journey.  Lots has been germinating over the winter and particularly the past few weeks.  I’m looking forward to working with it all in the coming months!

Photo: Melissa Askew

For what are you most grateful, today?