Friday, June 16, 2017

If You Ask Them ...

I pushed myself out of my comfort zone yesterday and it was a beautiful thing. I was instantly transported back to a time when I started inviting people into my world and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

This is where one must never keep score. I could tally up the invitations sent and the response rate. But I won't. What I must remember and focus on, is the immediate response of those who were ready to simply say "Yes!"

It was intoxicating. I asked. They said yes.

Unfortunately, "yes" came too quickly to one person and they had to rescind their initial answer. So we are presently in the mode of trying to find the best date for the most people. This is where it gets harder.

I set a date, a place and a time. I was concrete in my invitation. Then when the votes started coming back, I turned all wishy washy. I am being reminded of the reason why I stopped sending out these invitations. It gets hard when one tries to please everyone.

I believe that is part of the reason I started preferring to live life spontaneously. "Do you want to go out for coffee right now?" That is a very easy yes or no answer. "Do you want to meet for coffee a week from Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.?" My immediate thought is "I don't know. I don't know. I don't know!!"

Unfortunately, when you attempt to gather more than two people (or even meet up with one one busy person), spontaneity is usually not a viable option. In order to feel success in your mission, you must cast a wide net, provide options, tally the responses then pick the place, the date and the time according to those answers. It gets complicated.

I like options.

I issued another invitation last week. It was an invitation with a few options. It was a "let's pick a date and give ourselves a few choices and back out clauses". Setting the date was key. We set the date and let the rest of our plans fall as they may. Our plans were contingent on good weather so we made a "Plan B". Our "Plan B" was a flexible and last minute option. I just received the call back on that very plan and it is a go.

We will head out today and our outing has a feeling of "being where we are meant to be". I like that feeling.

In the meantime, I will sit back and tally up today's responses and reissue a revised invitation at the day's end.

It was almost intoxicating to read those initial responses. "It's so nice to hear from you! We have been thinking of you lots recently..."; "Yes!!!!!"; "I'm soo glad you reached out..." Even those who were unable to make it were grateful for the invitation.

I must focus on the gratitude, the excitement and the mutual desire to reconnect and stay connected. It isn't about keeping score. It is about maintaining connections.

Whew! There for a while I was focusing my energy on the wrong things. I felt defeated. Now that I've sat still and started remembering how good it felt to read those initial responses, I think it is time to try hone in on doing that which terrifies me.

It is time to invite more people back into my world. I will cast a wide net and focus the positive energy generated by simply opening myself up to the possibilities. It is hard. But it is necessary. I can do hard things.

If I ask them ... they may come. If I don't ask, I can be quite certain that they won't.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Need for Acknowledgement

I posted a family photo on Facebook a few days ago and was quickly reminded why I have tried to avoid that addictive little site.

Moments after the picture was posted, I received a few "likes". Comments, more likes and several more comments followed shortly thereafter.

Like an addict who just needs one more "fix", I was drawn back into the site to see if I had heard from any more of my friends.

I use the term "friends" rather loosely in the context of Facebook. Yes, I do have a few of my very good friends, close family members and people who truly matter to me within my group of friends on Facebook.

I also have mere acquaintances and a few people I don't even know (thanks to my inept scrolling abilities on a new phone one time, I accidentally hit "Friend request" while reading some of my friend's posts and they politely accepted me).

There is a lot I like about Facebook.

I have found a few friends from school who I used to be close to. I have a friend who has (on the rare occasion) posted a cryptic status update and I knew I had to call to check in with her. It is nice to keep up with family and friends via pictures and follow the happenings of their lives by what they post.

It is the addiction factor that turns me away from this site.

I removed the app from my phone so I wouldn't be tempted to scroll just for something to do. I unfollowed everyone on my page so my Facebook feed isn't filled with updates. I have to manually go in and check in on my friends.

I enjoy finding inspirational quotes and sites within a Facebook feed. I love when an animal video brings a smile to my face. I enjoy when a positive following becomes a show of support and an online cheering section spontaneously ignites.

I like that I can message and follow my son when he heads off for his solo winter vacations across the world.

I am eternally grateful for the Facebook auction sites which helped me sell of excess daycare and household belongings around here. Facebook, you have more than paid for yourself in my eyes.

I like more than I dislike about Facebook and that is the reason my account remains active. I am chiming off a list of that which I don't enjoy in my mind right now but I refuse to give the negative its due and spend my energy there.

But personally? For me and me alone? What I do not like is Facebook's addictive quality. The need for acknowledgement is not something I want to encourage within myself.

I have spent a lifetime learning how to reach out to people. The times of great quiet serve a purpose. It is sometimes good to sit and stew with one's inner demons. In the old days, I would be rescued from myself by a making a phone call, writing a letter or a visiting with someone.

I miss those days. I know it is so much easier now to reach out and "phone a friend" so many ways. Sending off a text, an email or a cryptic Facebook status draws people into your world. Sometimes it is too easy. I've pressed the panic button one too many times. Premature texting is not a good thing.

I miss the face-to-face connections but I'm grateful for the ease of reaching out and touching base with someone. I just don't want to start score keeping. I don't want to base my own personal happiness on how many friends or likes or comments I get on Facebook. It is like a quick fix. It feels good in the moment but the emptiness is more hollow in the aftermath, thus you go searching for more.

I stopped "writing out loud" for these reasons. My writing became less about writing from the heart and more about writing for acceptance. I need to find that acceptance within myself, from a place where it can't be counted or seen by the masses.

The question I am now asking myself is "If this is the way I feel, why am I writing here?"

I am writing here because it makes me accountable. It makes me show up (almost) every morning. It forces me to just write, even when I think I have nothing to say. Writing out loud helps me focus on the positives and keeps me from whining and complaining.

My inner thoughts have been rather whiny lately. I'm trying to change that. It's not as easy as it once was. I don't know if it is because I'm in new territory or if it's because I'm lonely or if I'm just plain tired. I don't know much these days. All I know for sure is that I am not going to keep score through Facebook. There must be a better way!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ready, Set, Go!

I'm geared up and ready for the week. After an extra long weekend, I should have so much more to show for my time off. But all I can say is I rested, relaxed, mowed the lawn and vacuumed the house. That is it. That is all I have to say for myself.

I seem to be living life in a "Ready, Set, Go!" mode this past long while.

I've been keeping on top of the my own and the cat's needs and supplies, the house is as maintained as one week allows, my suitcase is perpetually half packed and ready to go, I've been keeping on top of the car's maintenance, meters are read and I'm always on top of  the bills and obligations.

I am as ready for "life" as one can be.

I look to each week ahead of me as yet another week simply to be endured...

This isn't living. This isn't a life. Living in a state of preparedness is okay. But there must be more. There has to be more.

I'll go and put in this week and see what I can find at the end of it. The light at the end of the tunnel. The weekend at the end of the week.

I think I used to feel happier than this. I must be missing something in my "Ready, Set, Go!" state of mind.

I miss counting ladybugs for a living. Little people were exhausting. But they were so life affirming. Youth and energy. I miss it more than I ever thought I would.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Changing of the Tides

The tides are ever changing within the little world we build ourselves and the bigger world around us.

My youngest son turned nineteen yesterday. Our entire little family unit met at a licensed restaurant to celebrate the day he turned old enough to drink. Not that any one of us had a drink, but it was a favorite restaurant in the past so the day the youngest member of our family was old enough to join us, we stepped back in time. Back to a place we have visited many times before.

Only you can't step back in time. The restaurant didn't feel the same. The food didn't seem to taste quite as good. The magic of discovering and enjoying something new together didn't translate well when we tried to recreate the scene.

Earlier in the day, my youngest son and I went to see a movie. Going to the movies together is something we did often when he was young. We don't do it so much any more. His birthday themes often revolved around a super hero, a movie theme or going to see a movie. We walked down the corridor of the theatre and I had a flashback of a time when I was taller than he was. When I was the one who drove us to our destination. When he looked to me for that which he was not old enough to do on his own.

Those days are gone. But we still walked down the same theatre corridor, we cashed in on our movie coupon which included popcorn and drinks. We watched "Wonder Woman" together and I looked to him to hear his take on the movie.

Gone are the days when he was a young, innocent little boy who was easily impressed by any super hero movie. These days, he looks to plausible plot lines, directing, special effects and forms his own opinions according to all he has learned along the way.

I refrained from "passenger seat driving" as we made our way to our destinations yesterday. It seems like only yesterday when he was learning to drive and my coaching was required. He hasn't been driving that long, but I now feel relaxed in the passenger seat and my purpose was simply pointing out a parking spot and directing him down a new road to a new destination.

He is a working man now. He drives his own car. He pays his own bills. He has his eye on a future which includes further education so he may backtrack a little before he moves towards a future of complete independence. But the tides have changed. I feel it with every step I take.

Before we parted ways, we took a family picture. The first picture was typical of our family. Each one of us standing close together, but independent of the other. Hands in pockets or hands at our sides. Each one of us a separate entity, but there is a feeling of unity. The second picture, my middle son grabbed hold of us and pulled us close. There is a true sense of joy in each and every one of our faces as we nestled in together and felt the physical closeness of a family united.

Two pictures are worth two thousand words.

Yes, we are strong and independent on our own. But united, we are stronger, more resilient, happier and I do believe we each feel a little more secure knowing we have each other's back.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Need to Dream

June 9, 2016

"Kids playing together and simply getting along, going with the flow, challenging their limits, inventing their own games, singing their own songs and turning drab little pebbles into something beautiful in their minds is what "being a kid" is all about. Yes, it was a blissful kind of morning."

Those were my thoughts at the end of my daycare day exactly one year ago.

As I read the paragraphs that preceded and followed this moment of bliss, I was reminded of the challenges we were facing on a daily basis. I was wearing out. But I still found these "heaven on earth" moments within our chaotic days.

It has been seven months since I worked my last day of daycare. Seven months to refocus, restructure and recreate my life, my goals, myself and my dreams.

That sounds a little more romantic than the reality.

I have been lost more often than I have felt grounded. There is a conflict between feeling over-committed and underwhelmed all at the same time. I need to live a life where I feel like I am making a difference. In doing so, the self talk within my brain is over critical, harsh, demeaning and I am about the worst boss I've ever worked for.

I need to rebuild my reserves by carving out quiet time to recharge my battery. Yet when I have extra time on my hands, I waste it. I am not making effective use of the time I crave so much.

My most favorite place to be has become on the highway between my home and Mom's. I am forced to sit still with my thoughts, stay awake with them and not numb them with any form of technology, food or sleep. I am wide awake, alert and conscious. I love that feeling. I may have become addicted to driving in order to keep my focus "in my own lane".

I miss being home.

Thus, I have started romanticizing about days gone by. I loved having my work come to greet me in my home each and every day. The dress code was right, my feet were comfortable, extreme weather conditions didn't affect my day. As long as the furnace was working, our roof sheltered out the elements of the weather and we had food in the fridge, I had everything I needed right within these very four walls.

I miss my walls.

I have often walked through my life feeling immense gratitude for "my walls". A home where I felt safe, happy and protected from the harsher elements of life and the world around me has always centered me and made me feel whole. Even during the toughest days at daycare, I found my solace within these very walls.

I am hopeful summer will lessen the load I've carried throughout this past winter. I am starting to look up more these days. Up towards the sky, as I watch the birds. And out towards the great beyond as I keep my eyes open for wildlife of the four legged kind. Unfortunately I have spending far too much time looking down, in an effort to avoid the tent caterpillars which invaded our world the past several weeks.

The tent caterpillars are almost at the end of their season. They are spinning their cocoons and entering a phase of dormancy before they come back to life as winged creatures with a whole new vantage point.

Perhaps my need for solitude is my way of cocooning myself so I can find my wings again. Maybe my focus on birds and their young families is nature's way of reminding me to look up and be aware. It may be that my attention is being drawn towards new life as a reminder that there is something new and exciting ahead.

I have lost my ability to dream. I miss my dreams. I may have walked around with my head in the clouds as I dreamed my little dreams but those very dreams propelled me into living a fuller life and a happier existence.

I see a quiet weekend at home in my future. I do believe I need to find my little place in the sun, grab an empty notebook and dream a little dream.

I miss my dreams...

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Just Write

In an effort to rekindle my brain to fingertip connection I am trying to reformulate my morning writing habit. In an effort to keep my brain from going to mush, I replaced writing with word and number puzzles. Puzzling isn't the worst thing I could do but formulating cohesive sentences out of the meandering thoughts in my brain is probably where I need to concentrate my efforts. So here I am. Again.

I'm feeling the wear and tear of my week. It has been a short work week but it is still taking a toll. It isn't awful. I'm heading off to work this morning without that pit in my stomach so that is a good thing.

Why the pit? Is it because I'm walking in new and unfamiliar territory within a familiar job? A little bit.

I do like the challenge of learning something new, applying what I know and expanding on it is exactly how I like to roll. It isn't the learning that is getting me down.

Is it the job? A little bit. I like numbers well enough. We get along fine. Errors can be found. There is right and wrong. I like balancing to zero. I love solving a number puzzle. There is a challenge there that I enjoy.

But I don't love numbers. They are too calculating. They are demanding at times. I like to walk away from that world and walk into the real world where life is many shades of gray and every color under the rainbow.

I like looking up and out into the world. I like developing relationships with people. I like knowing a little piece of my day has made a difference to someone outside my own tiny little circle of "me".

Perhaps that is the part of my number job that has me hooked. I do like the person I work for. I would never abandon her. But there are many times when I would just like to walk away from a day and return with a fresh new slate on a brand new day.

Perhaps that is why I took the opportunity when I found it yesterday.

I finished my coffee and was dealing with a nasty bout of "coffee breath". I had some gum in the car AND I had some shredding to take out to the garbage. I took a quick work break and ran out to my car for a piece of gum. I literally walked away from my day and it felt good.

It was when I was walking back to the building when life tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of how quickly things can happen.

A couple in a car were coming out of the parking area and were waving me on so I could walk pass. I didn't need to cross their path, so I happily waved them along as I tried to indicate I was going the other direction. I was cheerfully waving when WHAM! Down onto the pavement I fell, as I literally fell off the curb.

I went down. Way, way down. I landed on the heels of my hands and my elbow. I wasn't flat out but I was close enough.

I jumped up and immediately started laughing at myself. The poor lady in the car was aghast that I had taken a nose dive right in front of them. Again, I merrily waved them along assuring them I was just fine.

I took a several steps before I dusted myself off and headed back to work. Later in the day, I noticed I had scraped up my knee. I was over-the-moon relieved when I realized I could have ripped my new capris in the tumble. My skin will heal. Finding a pair of capris that fit is a whole other story.

In the matter of one nanosecond, things could have been so different. My mom and my sister recently broke a wrist in a similar but different kind of situation. One innocent tumble and "snap". A joint was broken and their mobility was limited by a cast for the next six weeks.

One second, a person is grumbling about their lot in life. The next, "anything" could happen.

Accidents are called "accidents" for a reason. No one plans for them to happen. Then POOF! Life can change in an instant.

So I will pack up my tender knee and haul it off to work today. The day's challenges aren't pounding in my chest before I walk in the door. For that, I am very grateful. The person I work for has things coming at her from every direction and this is not a relaxing and easy time for her. I can relieve some of that burden. Just by showing up. So I shall.

I guess I do make a difference at my "numbers job" after all. And this is why I would choose to work here no matter what my bank balance is.

I'm very fortunate. Not only did my wake up call result a mere skinned knee, but I go to work each day with the knowledge that I'm quietly making a difference. That's more than money can buy.

Now, if only I can reduce my work week to three days I'll have it made in the shade! I am feeling rather "rich", after all...

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

In Memory of a Mother Duck

The wonders of nature have been forefront in my mind this year as I have travelled through the months. I've spent a fair number of miles behind the wheel of my car and the landscape around me has evolved from frozen and white to the various stages of spring. My last trip, Mother Nature was really outdoing herself. The trees had come back to life, the grass in the ditches was waving in the wind and the birds were out in full force.

I love watching the birds. It starts with those V-formations in the sky as the Canadian geese head northward, spotting ducks swimming and diving in the sloughs, the hawks as they soar in the wind and even our hardy birds that weather our Canadian winters seem a little more playful as the summer weather starts to return.

I was on the road bright and early this trip and the birds were out for an early morning stroll across the highway.

I was reminiscing about an unfortunate incident from last year when I was driving home on a busy summer Sunday. I was going highway speed when I noticed something long and low to the ground in the distance. It looked like something akin to a big garbage bag wafting across the highway when I first noticed it. By the time I drove up and saw it was a mother duck and her ducklings crossing the highway, it was too late to do anything about it. I had cars coming up behind me and the only thing I could do was take my foot off the gas and not make any sudden moves.

I felt ill as I looked in my rear view mirror to see the mother duck went down behind me. Her young little family was little more than a blur when the next round of cars came upon them as quickly as I had. The feeling and visual of that little duck family is still vivid in my mind a year later.

I was thinking of this little family on my quiet morning highway drive when I noticed something on the highway ahead. Having the highway to myself, I had the luxury of slowing down before I approached whatever it was. Sure enough, it was a pair of ducks. Two adults this time. They were walking along the highway in the lane I wasn't in, so I had the opportunity to appreciate them as I coasted past them. As I got close to them, they simply flew away. They flew.

Yes, of course! Ducks can fly. When these two adult ducks had no one else to consider but themselves, they simply flew away. My mother duck from last year didn't fly away. She didn't abandon her family to save herself. She stayed where she was, at the head of the line of her family and "took the hit". She sacrificed herself for her children.

At no point since my duck accident last year, did I even consider the fact that the mother duck could have flown away the moment she realized her life was in jeopardy. It never even dawned on me. Until these two adult ducks, without a family in tow, simply flew away when I got too close.

I was still in awe of the wonder of "motherhood" in all shapes and forms when I saw something off in the distance. This time, it was a goose family. They are taller and stand out much better than a low lying duck does and this time I (once again) had the luxury of a quiet highway to slow my pace and even brake as I got closer.

A mother goose, four little goslings and a father goose bringing up the rear crossed the highway safely. When they had made it to safety and I drove past, the father lifted his wings and swooped up off the ground in what I feel was a "thank you wave".

I may not have realized what was on the horizon if it had not been for that mother duck and her duckings last year. The mother duck who lost her life for the love of her family last year has made a lasting impact within me.

I think of that mother duck often. I still quietly mourn the loss of her and her family. If only she had known not to cross the highway during peak hours, she may have been saved.

She did not die in vain. A mother will literally take a bullet to save her child. Whether they are human or a bird or many other living creatures.

I was telling my mom this story and we both marvelled at the wonder of motherhood. As our visit progressed, we started talking of mother cats and Mom mentioned that the tom cats will kill the kittens. "Once the mother has kittens, she will have nothing to do with the male so the tom will try to kill the kittens to get her attention again." "Hmmm..." I replied. "I'm even more like a cat than I realized."

I think I'd rather think like a duck.